Friday, August 31, 2007


It's not uncommon to stumble across articles ranging from lovable and quirky to downright bizarre during the week. TGIFF - Thank Geebus, It's Freakin' Friday - is an amalgamation of short blurbs dedicated to the oddities I stumbled across during the week.


Everything's bigger in Texas

They have their own national beer in Texas, the Alamo, and now they have a 650 ft spider web to brag about. Twice the size of a football field, the web is a dingy brown due to the massive amount of dead mosquitoes. Millions of little spiders have teamed up to create the sticky behemoth.

Stupid Human Tricks

Why is it that there are always some dumb schmo giving criminals a bad name? This week I stumbled across two inept criminal capers. What is rule number one in committing a crime, aside from don't get caught? Right. Don't video tape yourself committing the crime. It always comes back to bite you. Unfortunately for this English Youtuber, he missed that memo.

The second asinine
caper is just plain ridiculous. Okay, Bob here's the plan. In order to get free beer you'll run into the store naked and dance. The clerk will be distracted and we'll steal the beer... ready, break! As you might have guessed the criminals were foiled in the their plans as the clerk just called the cops as soon as a naked man started dancing in his store.

"Chickity china the chinese chicken"

In the shadow of the looming Olympic torch, the Chinese government is trying to clean up restaurant menus and dishes, or at least Chinglish translations of Chinese dishes. Scared that poor translations will scare tourists and/or give them the wrong impression of Chinese cuisine and culture the Beijing Tourism Bureau is reviewing and editing local menus. No longer will "virgin chicken," "burnt lion's head," and "steamed crap" be offered on the menu. Olympic tourists will have to settle for "crispy chicken," "pork meatballs." and "steamed carp."

After the menus, perhaps they should start looking at the back of disposable chopsticks wrappers. There are some horrid translations on those wrappers.

Generation Ninny

A Colorado school has banned tag because "it causes conflict on the playground." Between antibacterial soap and no dodgeball or tag, we're breeding a whole generation of ninnies.


It's been a busy week at work with getting a new office and some late night projects. Add in a sick puppy and mock trial recruitment and that makes for a quick and busy week. I do intend to post some Tawhid articles soon.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007


It's not uncommon to stumble across articles ranging from lovable and quirky to downright bizarre during the week. TGIFF - Thank Geebus, It's Freakin' Friday - is an amalgamation of short blurbs dedicated to the oddities I stumbled across during the week.


Attack of the Ex

An English woman was sentenced to 2.5years of prison for "wounding" her ex-boyfriend after he failed to respond to her advances. As if it wasn't bad enough that she ripped the body part off, she then tried to swallow it before choking and spitting the flesh out!

I would say more, but the article and actions speak for themselves. I wouldn't want to ruin it.

The Sexual Life of a Camel

This blurb takes it's title from a British drinking song. It seems an Australian women found out the hard way that the sexual life of a camel is "stranger than anyone thinks". Evidently, her pet camel may have tried to mate with her, unfortunately his weight crushed her. Having ridden a camel in Egypt, I don't understand why you would want to have such an ugly and smelly creature as a pet.

It's a further reminder of the movie Zoo. A movie I don't really need to think about.

The Meatball Defense

Move over Twinkie Defense, a former NYPD detective has put further the meatball defense. It seems his wife spiked his meatballs with drugs in order to get him to leave the force after 22 years on the job. She even passed a lie-detector test and toxicologists confirm the defense is valid.

Attack of the Vulgar Monkeys

The small Kenyan village of Nachu has been under attack my a group of nasy monkeys. Unforunately, the plight of the villagers isn't nearly as humorous as the gestures of the monkeys that they report. The villagers are in desparate need of aid from the government in order to have enough food. Mixed in with this tradegy, however, are some hilarious antics and gestures by monkeys that have researchers even puzzled.

Perhaps those TV censors that didn't like the hot fruit-on-baked goods action in the Curious George episode should read this to realize unprotected food fornication pales in the lewd imagery these monkeys are cooking up.

Dogs Get Back at Vick

An animal lover in Missouri is using the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal to get a little retribution for the dog-world. Tattered and mangled Vick cards were sold on e-Bay with all proceeds to go to animal shelters in the area. While little can be done to help the dogs that Vick and his co-defendants killed, tortured, and brainwashed to the point of being unable to re-enter domestic life - meaning all 54 dogs rescued will mostly likely be euthanized, at least some animals out there will benefit from a horrible underground culture. (If you want to read more about the dark world of dog fighting here is a BBC article)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tawhid: 23-Aug-07 ed.

Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


New Doses of ”Westoxification” in Iran

Iranian barbershops are the most recent target of anti-Western sentiment by the Iranian government. It seems that the barbers are being forced to close and under threat of license revocation because they gave "Western" haircuts, offered tattoos, and plucked eyebrows of their male clients.

It appears as if the Iranian government is intimating that Iranian or perhaps Islamic men must sport a uni-brow in order to remain true to their roots. They article doesn't expound upon what the Iranian government considers to be a "Western" haircut, and honestly I don't know that there is a single haircut that defines Western culture. While I was in Egypt the men's hair didn't differ greatly from the styles of men's hair in the West.

I have read no hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) or Qur'anic passages that forbid a man to pluck eyebrow hairs. While Muslims are supposed to practice modesty, is eyebrow plucking crossing the line into temptation?

Continued oppression of personal expression is only going to foment further resentment of the hardline religious scholars that rule the government. If the ayatollahs wish to rid themselves of everything Western then they should get rid of automobiles, computers, electricity... you get the picture. While religoius officials certainly have the duty to regulate the behavior of their religious community, splitting hairs over eyebrow plucking only serves to diminish any remaining legitmacy the ayatollahs claim (not necessarily a bad thing if it sparks a revolution). Moreover, stories like these only serve to further paint Islam as a backwards religion and social order. If the Iranians wonder why the West doesn't think they are responsible enough to wield a nuke, perhaps they should examine the money and effort they are focusing on whether or not their citizens are plucking their eyebrows.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oscar (not so much a Grouch)

My delinquency this week can be blamed on our newest member of the family, Oscar. He's a twoish year old Beagle that we adopted from the Humane Society in Cedar Rapids.

I hope to write a Tawhid tomorrow and I will definitely have the weekly TGIFF up Friday.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Sorry for the delay in posts to those that use this blog as a - even if brief - way to pass the time. I had planned to get caught up on some things this weekend, however my honorable plans were derailed when Melissa brought home her brother's Wii on Friday night. Between Wii, wedding invitations, and playing around with my fantasy team/"watching" online games for the Premiership, I've neglected my blog. Hopefully this week gets me back in swing of things.

Friday, August 17, 2007


It's not uncommon to stumble across articles ranging from lovable and quirky to downright bizarre during the week. TGIFF - Thank Geebus, It's Freakin' Friday - is an amalgamation of short blurbs dedicated to the oddities I stumbled across during the week.


Tough Love

A South African man was recently shot during a robbery. When he went to a local hospital for aid, he was told to "walk it off." And we thought we had it bad in the United States with HMOs?

I could understand the hospitals logic more if the man shot were the criminal, but in this case it's a 38 year-old security guard!


A Chinese couple has submitted a request to name their child the character "@". Evidently, the English word "at" that the character represents is similar to the Mandarin phrase for "love him." It is unclear whether or not the Chinese government will allow them to name their child "@" given laws that prohibit naming children using foreign languages.

The knee bone is [no longer] connected to the ankle bone...

A Japanese man rode on for a mile before realizing that he had severed off his lower leg after running into a median. He felt some "pain" but evidently didn't look down to realize his leg was missing. His friend collected the limb and brought it to the hospital. The leg was too crushed to be reattached.

More legal problems for Michael Vick?

At the end of July a hand-written suit was filed against Michael Vick claiming damages of $63,000,000,000 billion [sic] by a South Carolina inmate. Among other things, the inmate claims a violation of his civil rights, cruelty against animals, copyright infringement, theft, and a finding for the petitioner under a Bivens action (allows for remedy of damages for constitutional violations committed by federal agents).

My favorite part is the portion at the bottom of the complaint which explains why the form is hand-written. Read: Because they don't let me play with objects I could make into a shiv.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tawhid post delay

My Tawhid post will be delayed one day. If I get enough time to work on the "A Letter to..." series I will just cancel Tawhid for the week and begin that the "Letter" series.

U.S. Troops Iraqi Training Update

In an update to a previous post on the training received by U.S. troops in the past on the subject of Iraq, I wanted to let everyone know that instead of the 1940s slightly offensive manual, we now build mini-Iraqi towns for the U.S. troops as cultural training.

We don't just give them pamphlets with drawings anymore. Now they get their own summer camp.

Friday, August 10, 2007


It's not uncommon to stumble across articles ranging from lovable and quirky to downright bizarre during the week. TGIFF - Thank Geebus, It's Freakin' Friday - is an amalgamation of short blurbs dedicated to the oddities I stumbled across during the week.


Biblical Action Figures

According to this article, beginning in just a few short weeks Wal-mart will carry a full line of faith-based action figures. Of course, by "faith-based" they mean Christian. Soon your child or young relative can throw away He-Man and replace him with Sampson or Goliath. My favorite part of the whole idea is that these toys are supposed to represent "God honoring toys" based on "Christian morality." [Which is probably why no David toy was mentioned, he wasn't the most moral of men] I'm sure when little Paul James Wellington III sits down to play with his toys he'll be thinking about God's providence or benevolence.

Tales of Glory toys are meant to provide the moral and loving alternative to the "toys and dolls that promote and glorify evil, destruction, lying [and] cheating." If these toys promote positive Christian values, then this can only mean that Goliath is provided as a toy for the sole purpose of being struck down as contrary to God's divine plan... nice, a promotion of intolerance and hate. But at least it's not promoting evil, destruction, lying or cheating, right?

The Ol' Monkey Out of a Hat Trick

A man on his way to New York from Peru surprised fellow flyers when a small marmoset appeared from under his hat. According to the article, the monkey was well-behaved during the flight after he vacated the man's hat. I wonder if the monkey had to wear a seat belt?

I feel bad for the monkey. It had to ride under a hat, then had to put up with crying babies and other airplane nuisances, then gets taken, put in a cage, subjected to tests, gets quarantined for a month, and will most likely end up in a zoo. If the monkey can handle a FL to NY flight without causing problems I say he should get his own place or go home with the guy. I mean that's better than most children.

A real-life Homer Simpson, almost

A German woman's personal trauma mimics that of cartoon character Homer Simpson. The 59-year old recently had a pencil removed from her brain after 55 years. Simpsons viewers will remember that Homer Simpson is the simpleton that he is because of a crayon stuffed into his brain.

The women had headaches and couldn't smell for 55 years. A part of the pencil couldn't be removed as it was too deep and surgery would be too dangerous. Evidently, her parents should have told her not to run with a pencil in her hand.

Killer Mahjong

Hong Kong doctors warn that the tile game Mahjong could be deadly. 23 people have had "Mahjong-induced seizures." The ailment is not just afflicting players either, the doctors say that watching the face paced game can also lead to seizures.

The design, sounds, and cognitive actions of the game can cause a seizure anywhere from one to eleven hours into a game for player or viewers. The only known cure for Mahjong-induced seizures? Don't play Mahjong.

How did you want your penis cooked?

Never had canine penis or bull perineum? Your only a plane ticket away from these delicacies. The Guolizhuang restaurant boasts itself as China's only speciality penis emporium.

The article speaks for itself. It is both slightly stomach churning and intriguing at the same time. I will warn you that there are pictures of penile dishes, so if you cannot handle seeing such things you may not want to click on the link.

Bad, Kitty, Bad

Bangkok police chiefs have decided to deter their police officers bad habits through shame. If an officer is found to have commited minor transgressions, they will be forced to wear a pink Hello Kitty armband for several days as punishment.

The officers will not only be forced to wear the armband of shame, they are also prohibited from telling their fellow officers what policy they violated. Did Bob come to work late or did he fail to timestamp his police report? Ooo the suspense and the shame of it all! Officers that are repeat offenders will be dealt with following more standard protocol as opposed to be forced to carry the Hello Kitty lunchbox, backpack, and cell phone clip while on the beat.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tawhid: 09-Aug-07 ed.

Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


We The People: The Democratic Dilemma in the Middle East, Part II

Overcoming anti-West sentiments will not be the sole challenge facing Middle Eastern democracies in the near and distant future. The Islamic world is currently struggling from Morocco to Malaysia on how to respond to globalization. Similar to the Christian movement called Fundamentalism in the early 20th century, many Muslims are resistant to the current direction of modern life. Technological, social, and cultural advancements are viewed to be temptations and are held to be responsible for the moral degradation of society. Accepting globalization, the Internet, and international agreements with non-Muslims are tantamount to heretical actions. Any Muslim that takes part in such activities is deemed a "bad Muslim" or at it's extreme, an apostate. The movement within Islam to return to the original umma - Muhammad's first nation based out of Yathrib/Medina - and to exemplify the lifestyle of the Prophet is called salafism.

The vast majority of violent and extremist Islamists - "terrorists" in the American lexicon - are salafists; the vast majority of Islamists and salafists are also adherents of the Wahhabi dogma within Sunni Islam. Wahhabism is an 18th century religious reform movement - or sect, depending on whom you ask - started by Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in 18th century Arabia. Wahhabism is a very conservative sect/school of thought; Wahhabism has been the religious doctrine of Saudi Arabia well before it was established as a sovereign nation as it is the doctrine espoused by the House of Saud. It is now the doctrine followed by most of the Arabian Peninsula and some of Africa. Given the amount of money available to the Saudi family, Wahhabism's proliferation - even to America - has been vast in the last century.

The doctrine and beliefs of Wahhabism vis-à-vis "mainstream" Sunnism is well-documented and a topic at the heart of many books and articles. I won't go into it here, but suffice it to say that Wahhabism may be the wealthiest madhhab (school of thought), ultra-conservative, and the source of more media attention, it is not the only option available to Muslim scholars in their choice of law. The dilemma in allowing Middle Eastern countries to democratically elect their governments is rooted in the popularity of salafism in the Muslim world. The example par excellence is Palestine.

In 2005, the Palestinian people overwhelmingly elected candidates supported by Hamas. Hamas, much like Hizbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, have a social outreach arm in conjunction with the more well known militant wing. Fatah, the other controlling political party in Palestine, is known for looking after itself and it's supporters rather than the families in refugee camps. Hamas, Hizbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood maintain grassroots support through their social welfare programs. However, it is their militant wings that bring the ire of the international community. With international ire comes sanctions and refusals to open diplomatic channels. When Hamas became a major player in Palestinian policy the United States and other Western countries immediately cut funding, enacted sanctions, and refused to even talk with the Palestinian government because of Hamas' terrorist activity. Israel immediately ceased paying taxes to Palestine as well. The "will of people" lead their country to be ostracized from the international community, and more importantly it prohibited them from receiving vital funds and supplies.

The West fears that if an Islamist group or party were to gain control of a sovereign nation that another Khomeini-lead Iran or Taliban-run Afghanistan will emerge. A nation that is anti-West and will support terrorist activities against Western governments. Their concerns are not unwarranted as Hizbollah's continued existence is largely dependant upon Iran and Syria's funding. The Taliban ran an isolationist government and harboured al-Qaeda as the hid from the United States after their terrorist attacks in the mid-nineties.

The great dilemma becomes whether or not we "allow" the people of the Middle East to choose their own governments. If the purpose of installing democracy in the Middle East is to promote greater connectedness and increase regional economic growth and stability, then isn't it imperative to install democratic governments in the Middle East - that is, true democracies? Governments elected by the people, and for the people; governments based on the values of the people electing the officials. Doesn't installing more puppet governments or cooking-cutter Western prototype governments and constitutions stall true democracy in the Middle East? Shouldn't the bastions of democracy in the West allow the Middle East to experiment with democracy on their own terms just as we did? We've been trying to figure out how to run our government for over 200 years. However, I am not suggesting we treat the Middle East as some sort of pet ant colony, sectioned off from the world as we watch them develop or fail. Obviously geo-political and military policies must be in place to ensure regional and global stability while the Middle Eastern countries determine how to integrate Islamic society and jurisprudence with 21st century technology and international relations.

Allowing the people to elect Islamist candidates may not be as bad in the long-term as predicted by some doomsday naysayers. Salafist - even militant - groups may hold the public's heart as a viable and welcome alternative to a corrupt government currently in power. It's easy to criticize the government from the outside. However, once the salafists take power they now become responsible for running a nation. They're now required to have solutions to the public's plight. If economic stability does not come forthwith, then popular support for their socio-political agenda will fail. They too will be considered no better than their predecessor. Hamas' recent failure as a legitimate party is prime example; however, their recent coup is also a prime example of what may happen when diplomacy fails. If an Islamist government refuses to interact with non-believers, then they will quickly find themselves isolated in the global community and economically moribund. The best policy with respect to extremist Islamism and salafism may be to step back, allow it to gain power, and then fail spectactulary. The final blow to Communism was internal systematic failure, not victory on a philosophical battlefield.

There is no easy answer. However, there are steps that need to be taken in order to ensure positive development.
1) Promote grassroots reform through Muslim voices not exclusively Western talking heads and pro-Western expatriates. Education and reform from within - Muslim voices - will hold more legitimacy. Their is a burgeoning population of Euro-Muslims that have experienced the benefits of Western government and society, while at the same time are rooted in their own religious traditions.
2) The proliferation of Salafist and Wahhabist dogma out of Saudi Arabia must be addressed directly. We cannot allow our money for petroleum to promote and finance terrorism. The more money we give Saudi Arabia the more money we're giving to anti-West sentiment and resistance to Western-style governments
3) Our presentation of democracy must be done in Islamic terms/paradigms. Islam in the Middle East isn't the same as religion in the West; there is no division between public and private life. Islamic law and Islamic values play a vital role in politics, culture, and everyday life. We must talk to Musliims with terms and values that are meaningful to them. The tools to communicate to the majority of the Middle East through Islamic terms exists. The more we can distance policies and philosophies from Western roots the more viable they will become.
4) We must look to the golden rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. It's time to start treating Middle Easterners as our equals. If we wouldn't allow ourselves to be ruled by corrupt leaders, why do we continue to trade with and invest in governments that are horribly corrupt and oppressive? Muslims and Middle Easterners are not inherently inferior to the West; they don't enjoy living in poverty any more than we do.

Ultimately, the battle between salafism and mainstream Islam is not the West's battle. Unfortunately, the Middle East doesn't exist in a bubble. Our best option is to encourage democratic and economic growth in the region that benefits the majority of the population instead of a select and corrupt few. Islam is not inherently incompatible with democracy, the first step is getting the umma to come to that realization on their own. Our efforts - however benevolent they may be - will always fail if salafists can easily turn the people against it merely because it is "Western."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

No. 756

Last night Barry Bonds broke, arguably, the greatest personal record in the game of baseball - and maybe all of American sports. During his third at-bat against the Washington Nationals, Bonds crushed a 3-2 pitch into left-center field to break the tie between him and Henry 'Hank' Aaron for total (career) home runs. Aaron held the record for 33 years after surpassing George 'Babe' Ruth's previous record of 714 career home runs. I was watching ESPN when they cut into Sportscenter to televise Bonds' at-bat live. A piece of sports history was made last night whether you like the man or not. I'll be able to tell my children I watched it happen (I have to thank Colbert for not being very funny last night. Otherwise I wouldn't have switched the channel to ESPN).

After Bonds completed his trot around the bases, a small ceremony was held in which his teammates, family, and godfather, Willie Mays, congratulated him on his historical achievement. Aaron was broadcast on the giant screen over center field with a pre-recorded congratulatory message for Bonds.

Much time will be spent over the coming weeks and years talking about whether or not an asterisk should be added to Bonds career home run total (whatever it will end up being) or whether it should even be allowed to stay on the books. The "steroid era" of baseball will always cast a shadow onto Bonds' achievements, regardless of his personal culpability. Steroids certainly make you stronger, but they don't make your swing fluid, they don't tell you whether to lay off the high fastball, nor do they allow you to identify and hone in on a hanging breaking ball. If Bonds did take steroids, I am undecided about the recourse available.

If baseball didn't have a policy prohibiting the use of performance enhancing drugs in place, then in my opinion Bonds' record should stand even if he admits to knowingly taking steroids. He didn't break any rules. Does it still leave a bad taste in my mouth? Yes. An asterisk should only be added, however, if he admits to knowingly taking performance enhancing drugs. David Oritz of the Boston Red Sox recently admitted that he doesn't know if he took performance enhancing drugs in his native Dominican Republic because there isn't a governmental institution that tests dietary supplements. He stated, however, that he no longer takes supplements from the Dominican Republic. The reason people are less angry with Ortiz, Gary Sheffield, Jose Conseco, Raphael Palmero, and Jason Giambi is because they have come clean. Bonds continues to shirt the issue and his trainer continually gets placed in contempt for pleading refusing to answer the grand jury's questions. It just creates the air of impropriety.

If Bonds did take performance enhancing drugs, it's likely the pitchers he was hitting home runs off of were also guilty of the same ethically questionable, but not officially illicit, activity. We'll probably never know the list of names of every player that took some sort of performance enhancing drug over the last decade or two. Major League Baseball would have to erase every record broken in the last 15-20 years just to be safe. Of course, that isn't to say that big leaguers from eras past weren't hopped up on substances that are no illegal but weren't during decades past. MLB needs to look at more than Bonds and this record; unless they do, then Bonds is right, he's just a scapegoat.

My personal antipathy for Bonds stems more from his pompous character and his constant need to make everything a racial issue. He was quoted (I'm paraphrasing) around the time he broke Ruth's record to the effect of: "Now we can forget this old dead white guy even existed because I broke his record." His argument is that Ruth's record is tainted, or even meaningless, because Ruth didn't have to play against the African-American players still relegated to the Negro Leagues. It's a valid point of contention, but certainly doesn't diminish the impressive career and stats of Ruth. Ruth may not have played against his African-American counterparts, but there is nothing to say that they were inherently better pitchers just because they were black. Moreover, Ruth didn't have the modern dietary and training benefits of Bonds. Ruth certainly got larger in his later years, just like Bonds. However, Ruth's girth was due to hot dogs, women, and alcohol not weight training, supplements, and strict dietary regiments. Furthermore, the ballparks of lore were generally deeper than the modern corporate parks (except of course for Yankee Stadium which has always had short porches).

Even Aaron didn't have the benefits of modern athletic technology like Bonds; hell, even his bat mechanics were different. Aaron hands were crossed when he swung, instead of on top of each other (i.e. if you are right handed - like me, switch if you're a lefty- you hold the bat with your right hand on top, your arms are fully extended and straight when you swing; Aaron's mechanics would place his left hand on top, meaning his arms crossed during the swing, severely effecting the power generated). Simple mechanics of a swing can make it that much easier to hit home runs, let alone the effects and benefits of weight training and dietary regiments.

In the end, it's hard to compare eras and career statistics, even if numbers are numbers. Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds are clearly three of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Bonds is 80 hits away from 3,000 career hits, a remarkable number in itself. I will reserve my judgment of his home run record until the allegations of steroids are admissions or findings of guilt. I may not like the man because of the way he presents himself in the media, but that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge his grand and historical accomplishment.

Congratulations to Barry Bonds.

A-Rod, you've got next. Go get 'em.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tawhid: 06-Aug-07 ed.

Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


We The People: The Democratic Dilemma in the Middle East, Part I

The democratic values of the United States of America start and end with the profound phrase "We the people." Our government receives its power to rule from the populace through the election process. The democratic model is supposed to produce a government elected by the people, for the people. Ergo, the democratic government of a pluralistic society should reflect the pluralism of its population; the majority groups control but minority groups are represented to provide a voice for their contingents as well. These elected officials work together despite their differences and govern with the best interest of the nation and its people in mind. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is the motto on the United States seal.

Most Americans comprehend the basics of a democratic government: the people vote to elect officials that in turn represent them and their interests during the law making and governing process. Fortunately for the United States and the American people a foreign nation isn't going to step in and overthrow our officials and put in place a regime or "elected" officials that are mere puppets of the foreign nation behind the coup d'etat. Other nations and American citizens may be critical of our polices or the actions and words of our officials, but the American government will hold steadfast regardless of its imperfections. In other words, the will of the American people is not a global threat, or at least our form of government - and policies - aren't viewed as an inherent threat to regional and global security. (While a case may be made that the Neocon agenda is a threat to global security, for the purposes of this article we'll assume the Neocon Middle East policy has good intentions and a bright future.)

While Americans can remain secure in the belief that when they take to the polls that the winner of the election will be put in office without opposition from the current government, citizens of Middle Eastern countries are not afforded that security. In many Middle Eastern countries minority groups - religious, political, and social groups - are not even allowed a place on the ballot. In those countries that a fringe group is allowed on the ballot their members are often subject to frequent arrests and claims of ballot fixing in the event they are elected to the government - see the current tribulations of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt. The will of the people is rarely reflected in Middle Eastern countries that claim to be democratic. Justification for the repression of the populace's views by Middle Eastern governments tend to be rooted in a struggle against "terrorism." The large majority of the groups selected for repression - from Turkey to Pakistan - by the current governments are Islamist organizations; that is, groups that wish to create an Islamic state - a state subject to the divine Shari'a law.

Secularism is seen as a Western plot aimed at making the Islamic world more malleable for Western designers in their continuing oppression of the Islamic world. Democracy is a tool of the West to install puppet governments to purchase oil resources at bargain bin prices. More importantly, democracy and secularism place sovereignty with the people and its representative government, placing the will of man over the will of the divine. The current democratic model is undeniably Western. Concomitantly, the secular philosophy Americans proudly vaunt - or revile - is undeniably rooted in Western-Christian philosophy.

After decades of imperialist rule, corrupt kingdoms, and pseudo-democracies the Middle East is justifiably wary of cookie cutter Western ideals and paradigms. The West has been telling the Middle East how to live and think since the Enlightenment - a period of great achievement and thought based on Christian morals, philosophies, and doctrines. It's not hard to understand the apprehension and resentment of the Islamic world with respect to the West's assertion that democracy - as used in the West - is the acme of political models. Especially given that their most current experience with "democracy" is exemplifed by the governments of Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, and the failing states of Palestine and Iraq. Hardly an outstanding resume for the greatness of democracy. Turkey's government is constantly under the threat of another coup by the secular military supporters of Ataturk. Egypt has been run under a state of emergency since the assassination of Sadat in 1981 and elections are regularly fixed. Pakistan is a military dictatorship under the guise of democracy. Iraq's government was almost completely hand-picked by the United States and is at the mercy of sectarian prejudice and strife. Palestine's government is completely unstable and powerless.

Democracy is the future of the Middle East and the global community. The questions are: How does it gain acceptance in the Middle East and what will it look like?

Part II will examine the recent expressions of the "will of the people" in the Middle East and the potential framework for a democratic government in the Islamic world.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hear the Roar of the Lions of Mesopotamia

Here is a BBC article on the celebration hosted by Iraqi leaders for the Asian Cup champions.

The victory earned the players a diplomatic passport and a $10,000 bonus. Three players were asbent, including the captain, because they feared for their lives.

Tawhid: 02-Aug-07 ed. Retroactive

Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


Rebuilding the Middle East

The Bush Administration has unveiled its latest policies regarding the Middle East. Since the Neocon "Big Bang" theory with respect to Iraq and democracy in the Middle East seemingly moribund, the Administration has decided to use broad military aid packages as it's new policy.

Included in this new agenda is a strategy to give almost $10b (combined) in aid to Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Israel, and Egypt annually. Needless to say, Israel and many members of Congress are not pleased with the Bush Administration's new strategy. Specifically, many are opposes to the vast amount of aid to Saudi Arabia. Some were even quick to point out that almost 4/5 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian.

The Saudi Arabian arms deal announcement comes during a time of great scrutiny and displeasure regarding the Saudi Arabian impact on Iraq's current sectarian strife and unstable future. Zalamay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the UN, accused Saudi Arabia of pursuing a destabilizing policy in Iraq.

Moreover, the deal is announced amidst great consternation over the amount - or lack - of progress politically and economically in Iraq by the Iraqi government. If the U.S. Defense Secretary is going to admit that the Bush Administration underestimated the level of mistrust among sectarian factions in Iraq, why do they think it's a good idea to give large amounts of military aid to the world's megaphone and grand supporter of Wahhabism, salafism, and anti-Shi'a dogma? Where does the Bush Administration think the Sunni factions are getting their funding? It's obviously not Iran or Syria. Is it Egypt and Jordan, presumed allies and co-benefactors of U.S. military aid?

The Iraqi government is corrupt, inept, incapable of withstanding heat - never mind the soldiers, police force, and civilians that must live and die in the heat, and unwilling to manage vital social programs - even programs and facilities started and financed by the United States. The Sunni bloc just resigned from the government amidst complaints of prejudice, slander, and corruption. Meanwhile, the United States continually fingers Iran and Syria as the reason for sectarian strife and instability.

It appears that the Bush Administration's great theory of current tyranny falling like dominoes to the democratic governments of the future of the Middle East has not only failed, it is being replaced by a strategy to arm everyone to the hilt à la Cold War v.2.0. Except we aren't protecting democratic countries, we're arming oppressive regimes and trigger-happy adversaries. What sort of message are we sending to the Shi'a government of Iraq when we arm Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States but in the same breath tell Iran and Syria the are not only the cause of the problem but cannot increase their military?

Asking the Saudis to be "more supportive" of the U.S. campaign in Iraq isn't going to stop the sectarian strife any more than the new policy to arm sectarian factions with U.S. weapons. Arming Israel and Egypt isn't going to remedy their unstable and violent region. Giving unstable and corrupt governments more weapons won't lead to greater and long lasting peace. It just leads to more violence, tyranny, and oppression.

I hope Congress rejects the "new Middle East" vision of the Bush Administration. The billions of dollars a year the Bush Administration wants to give to corrupt governments should instead be used to help the common man, woman, and child that are under-educated, impoverished, and dying of hunger, curable diseases, and sectarian suicide bombers. Arm the people with knowledge and a better life and the installation of democratic governments in the Middle East will happen. Offer the people a stable and bright future and they'll fight to keep it; offer them decades more of oppression and despotism and you'll only encourage more violence and poverty.

Tawhid: 30-Jul-07 ed. Retroactive

Tawhid is a semi-weekly series on the Middle East, Islamic jurisprudence, and Islamic theology. The word "tawhid" (TAW-heed) roughly translates to "unity" or "oneness".


Iraqi Victory

The great hope of a war-torn nation triumphed over the pride of an oppressive and rich regime. The Iraqi national football team overcame all odds and reason to shock the Saudi Arabian team 1-0 on a goal by Iraqi Captain Younis Mahmoud in the 71st minute (I had predicted 2-1). A fact that epitomizes the level of achievement reached by the Iraqi team through this Cup win: the Iraqi national team hasn't been able to play or practice at home (in Iraq) in over 17 years.

Iraqi citizens celebrated through out the country, just as they had done after upsetting powerhouses Australia and South Korea earlier in the competition. As they took to the streets, they celebrated as one nation, rather than as Sunnis, Shi'ites, or Kurds. The team and it's Brazilian coach were quick to dedicate their victory and jubilation to the Iraqi people. Hopefully the Iraqi government (on a heat "forced" sabbatical) can use this victory and common bond to their advantage in an effort to alleviate the pain caused by sectarian strife.

Homeland v. Global Security

Congress approved a Democratic bill to increase anti-terror grants for homeland security. The legislation approves the increase in funds for states at a higher risk for terror acts, while decreasing the funding for states that are not considered to be at high risk for an attack. The bi-partisan legislation seeks to answer concerns of the 9/11 Commission; the legislation also helps the Bush Administration fulfill campaign promises.

While it's comforting to know that the political polemics that dominate Washington won't stop Congress from spending money on U.S security, this legislation does little to actually rectify the underlying cause of terrorism. Congress is treating the symptoms, not the cause of the disease.

Foreign aid legislation for aid to Middle East countries designed to promote more stable economies and decrease poverty is the true anti-terrorism bill. Until young impoverished and disaffected Muslims have a viable alternative to the grand monetary benefits (to their families) of martyrdom, we will not win this "war." We have to give them a reason to live and means by which to take care of their families. The basic wants and needs of human life don't change just because they have a different religion or fly a different flag.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Yes, Yes, I know...

Thursday's editon of Tawhid is tardy as well. The dog ate it.

I will try to catch up this weekend. Between moving, work, trying to set up internet, and finding time to sleep I haven't had much time to construct decent articles. I wouldn't want to dissapoint my hoardes of readers out there, now would I?

Working on Tawhid updates and unpacking may also delay the "A Letter to..." series by a week. Luckily I am my own boss re: this blog and I approve the delay.


It's not uncommon to stumble across articles ranging from lovable and quirky to downright bizarre during the week. TGIFF - Thank Geebus, It's Freakin' Friday - is an amalgamation of short blurbs dedicated to the oddities I stumbled across during the week.


All of this week's articles are from Wired.

Life after 50

It's always a bit uncomfortable to read an article about the sex lives of senior citizens. Perhaps it's because it makes us think of our grandparents, usually figures of kindness, love, wisdom, and innocence, that we don't like the idea of this country's nanas and papas bumpin' ugly. However, someday it's going to be our generation with all the wrinkles, humped backs, and insane crossword puzzle skills. Realizing that your sex life isn't exchanged for AARP benefits is an important step in the ongoing maintenance of a healthy intimate relationship.

I found two points in the article to be of particular interest:
1) The shame and immaturity of our elderly regarding prophylactics
2) There are elderly Wii bowling leagues!!!

The article isn't smutty or filled with unnecessary details; I found it to be thought provoking - especially the Wii leagues.

"Hot Fruit-on-Baked-Good Action"

The title of this blurb is a hilarious quote from an article about censorship in cartoons. Censors are actually worried about sending subliminal sexual messages to schoolchildren via free-floating bananas and donuts.

This article confirms that the censorship committees are comprised of a bunch of namby-pamby overprotective parents whose children have no immune system because everything they use is anti-bacteria, wear helmets when they color, and aren't allowed to play even semi-violent video games or watch anything that has a minor sexual reference but are encouraged to read the Bible with verve. The words that the censors wanted removed - oops, my young readers won't understand such a complicated word, I meant to say "[t]he words the censors wanted scribbled off the paper" - do not require even a high school education to comprehend - at most the child may have to pick up a dictionary. Any complications with those words sounds to me more like poor parenting and poor education than innate child naivety. It seems more likely - given the panel's absurd concern over the word "beseech" - that the censors were instead remov... er... taking out words they didn't understand.

Perv Blockers

Leave it to Japan. Concerned your daughter is the subject of male oglers in her school uniform? Worry no longer, Cramer Japan has invented pervert-proof panties. Yes, that's right; this article discusses panties that are impervious to night vision equipped perverts. They hope to start a product line devoted to "voyeur-resistant" bras soon. (What does that even mean? Bras that don't show nipples? Perhaps the bras will also be resistant to infrared rays; so why are nipple oglers "voyeurs" and panties oglers "perverts"? Aren't they both undergarments aimed to cover areas deemed "private" by society?)