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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Provinces

What is wrong in more provinces? Why should there be not more devolution of the power?

We cannot get rid of the tax base the feudal hold on power. Despite best of intentions the tax payer's roll cannot be increased. Agricultural income remains exempted. Minorities, and I am not talking of religious minorities, remain disgruntled. The disenfranchised remain helpless and powerless.

So why not think out of the box, and rename each division/district a province? This may be our last chance at eliminating the feudal-military-bureaucracy k(h)akistocracy.

Nawab and I: Follow Ms. Garmin

Adam Hochberg, NPR

At the Queenston crossing the line up was short. I stopped at the stop sign about 20 feet away from the officer's kiosk. The car's license plate, underbelly, occupant's faces were scanned and sent miles away to be checked and stored.

The officer asked for our passports, scanned them, told me one of them was expiring next month, and asked some routine questions - purpose of visit, for how long, carrying any food or live plants and waived us off.

Thanks to Ms Garmin, the drive was stress free. No more fiddling with highlighted CAA maps forcing M to act as co-pilot. Listen to the music, radio, stay focused on the traffic, talk, think, drink tea, and follow Ms Garmin.

The odd time we took breaks, or stopped off to admire the surrounding or the small towns we passed (Town of Wales in Erie County, upstate NY, inc. in 1818) or the windmill farm on E20A, or the village of Warsaw, Ms Garmin would gently slap on the wrist with 'recalculating....'

t: The advantage of not being human is you don't have to have a SIN or passport.
N: Borders are man made. We have no need for them.
t: Next you will say...
N: ....Gods are man made too. Stop invading my domain.
t: (smile).
N: You are happy to be driving.
t: hmmmmm
N: Shaikh Saadi going for Friday prayers.
t: Sometimes you are too vague.

(As the story goes, Saadi washed and mended his only pair of clothes for the Friday prayers and was walking towards the mosque. A rich man passed by in an open coupe, with a driver and a guard sitting up front and two guards standing up behind the cab, wearing gold embroidered robes. The Shaikh looked up and thought, 'O Allah, is this justice?'

A short time later Saadi came across a paraplegic who was sitting on a wheeled board, pushing himself towards the mosque. The Shaikh looked up and said, 'O Allah I thank thee for your blessings.')

N: You will understand this when we head back.
t: Hey look at the windmill farms

M: Stop muttering t, look at the windmill farms
t: That is what I was telling you..

N: I have told you to be careful when you talk with me.
t: We will drive through all the states in this Appalachian trail.
N: You will?
t: You brim with sarcasm. Why did I not leave you behind?
N: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine...
t: Yeah yeah and you forgot to mention Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
N: I was testing you.
t: Why? You are the wise one O Nawab!
N: Now who is being sarcastic? Drive on. You 'll be late for dinner if you stop by to visit the Corning Museum.

t: Yaar, shall we drive on? Maybe we'll catch it on the way back?
M: Yes, way back. You know this is the fourth time we have skipped this?

Ms G: Recalculating!

Chasing a Mirage by Tarek Fatah: Book Review by Ayub Khan

Tarek Fatah, claims to be an ex surkha, ex KU, came to Canada via Jeddah. He has written a book which is being reviewed here by Ayub Khan. He claims to be a Muslim and claims to have an understadning of Islam that has escaped others down the centuries. He also aims to become the darling of the western Islamophobes like Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji whome he has followed on a local radio talk show. Here are two excerpts~~t

It is a tragedy of the post-911 world that the field of Islamic concepts and terminologies have also fallen a victim to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and plain hysteria. Fuelling these fears among the masses are not only rabid Islamophobes but also those who claim to be nothing of that sort but whose actions speak otherwise. Canadian TV host and commentator Tarek Fatah belongs to the latter category. He has a history of mindless criticism of things as mundane as the aversion to music to more significant ones as the introduction of Sharia-based laws in Ontario. In Chasing a Mirage: the Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State he tries to show that the idea of an Islamic state is not only futile and untenable but outright dangerous.


Fatah sets out with a pre-determined objective and goes about attempting to strengthen it with all and sundry references. In his obnoxious attempts to display a secular than thou attitude, the ‘iconoclast’ Tarek Fatah has turned secularism itself into an idol; an untouchable beyond criticism. Thus, his opposition to the introduction of Islam based arbitration in Ontario despite its backing a former Attorney General of the province who wrote an exhaustive report in its support.

[thanks YA]

Do these lives matter at all?

Rahimullah Yusufzai's laments float like space garbage...noticed only when they hurdle in the path of a functioning space ship or rocket. He is right the Mayor of Kabul does protests while the co-chairman of the hand written will, the Prisoner of President's House remains mum. Or if he does open his mouth, it is to beg for aid.

Lives do no matter. Living do not matter. Dead do not matter. We are a desensitised, uncaring people. How we became one is for historians or sociologists to decide ~t

This reminds one of President Hamid Karzai, who despite being lampooned as the Mayor of Kabul' is brave enough to loudly protest civilian deaths at the hands of the US and NATO forces and demand an end to aerial strikes that invariably cause
"collateral damage." Like our leaders, there is constant threat to his life but this hasn't stopped Karzai from visiting the bereaved families in faraway places like Farah and Nangarhar provinces to offer condolences on the death of their dear and near ones and pay cash compensation. The US and its western allies have started taking note of protests by Karzai, the Afghan parliament and the civil society and are promising measures to avoid or at least minimize civilian casualties.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nawab and I: Take me to Lucy's

Nawab belonged to an Ozzie friend of mine Subroto who ran a radio show down under for eleven years. Nawab can talk, if you would listen. Not everyone could converse with him though. He is also a psychic and a mind reader: a trait that automatically invokes honesty in those who could converse with him. There was no way around that. One can coax, cajole, bamboozle humans, but not Nawab. We take pleasure in bringing Nawab here ~t

N: Woof woof!
t: Kiya baat hay Nawab?
N: Why are you the only desi who speaks with his dog in desi language?
t: hmmmm...never occurred to me.
N: And with desis you prefer English.
t: Why do you think it is?
N: Rajititis!
t: Raj-titis?
N: This time you are right.
t: Thanks. So what about Rajtitis?
N: Name the dogs your friends have.
t: Lucy, Charlie, Toto, Tommy...
N: There....where is Champa, Bijli, Pappoo?
t: (never talk to an observant dog)
N: Wrong. You know we can read minds.
t: Yes, sorry Nawab laikin tum ziyadti nahiN ker rahay ho?
N: No. You need me more than I do. Now you are using me too.
t: (He is right, without Nawab this post could not be written.)
N: Right! Now walk me to Lucy's...sorry to the Pitfields
t: Aha, so you like Lucy.
N: You men would never understand. A dog has to satisfy a bitch in heat.
t: are so right and so wrong.
N: Nawab is never wrong.
t: Kiya mutlub? We have morals.
N: Don't go there. Your morals have more holes than Swiss cheese.
t: And you will bring in Chechenya, Kashmir, Darfur, Fata, Palestine, holocaust, Edward, John, Bill...
N: No! I will mention Paul and Jenny, Ken and Sean, Paro and that Djinn...
t: Paul has been seeing Jenny? Does Josie know? And Ken...wish I had your psychic abilities.
N: Start barking and raising one foot.
t: Don't be nasty with me. I like you, but do not over estimate it.
N: You could never find another talking dog. And remove those thoughts of that dog house.
t: Achcha hum aap ko Lucy kay paas lay jaiNgay.
N: Woof woof. Check you cellular. She called.
t: She did. And you tell me now...
N: You bore me.
t: Things I have to put up with, let me get the poop n scoop bag.


N: Take the car. It will rain later.
t: Achcha, tell me what do you think about Obama's speech.
N: He's got too much on his plate.
t: You mean he talks the talk but...
N: You are a quick study.
t: Modesty is a human trait!
N: Woof woof!
t: You don't believe me? I know so many modest people.
N: And now you will name Kerty, Guido, Ravi...
t: Don't tell me you have been surfing Desicritics.
N: I would if you would leave the PC alone.
t: Now you sound like M.
N: She is right.
t: DO you think Bibi would blink?
N: I know why you changed the subject.
t: hmmmmmm
N: I know you are telling yourself, 'I would not bite.'
t: Nawab it is an honour and a privilege to...
N: Stop with your speech I would not talk about M.

(We arrived at my friend's place and Nawab ran off to the backyard. A little later, back in the car.)

N: Make sure you have your passport on you.
t: Thanks, I had almost forgotten.
N: It is the law since June 01.
t: You are lucky, you do not need a passport.
N: I am lucky because I am not human.
t: Why you don't like Americans?
N: Stop trying to read my mind.
t: I'll call it a night. Long drive ahead.

Todd Shea: The Improbable American -

[thanks RJ - the NYT article is linked. Click on the heading]

one eye on the road, one ear on the radio

photo courtesy spiegel online

the man who claimed
he lived on planet Michael
has moved there

one eye on the road, one ear on the radio
one eye on M and N, one ear on ms. G
do not ask me about the third eye!
cardiac arrest - rushed to hospital
and pronounced dead

somewhere between I-190 and QEW

between intermittent showers
and a thunderstorm
the visibility drops to ten feet
and at 70 MPH the faith is suddenly restored
as drivers slow down, pull over and hope
others on the crowded highway do the same

and i reminisce about the countless roads
and highways we traversed over past weeks
accompanied by ever helpful ms. Gerwin
Nawab and M

the road of life and the road to life
can be short or long

HuangPuTangJiaWan Lu
a small alley, not even a lane
down near the Lupu bridge
or long like the Yonge Street here
in Guinness at 1896 kms

fifty is neither young nor old
but just enough
to leave one's mark

the dead are free
living we assign regrets
- even to the dead

he lived and loved his way
disregarding norms
and left memories strewn
all over earth's moonscape

What happened on Friday night at Sohrab Goth?

In this mildly investigative piece Waqar Bhatti all but does not say that the five alleged Baitallah Mahsud accomplices were 'brought' here to be killed in cold blood. My questions would be:

1: Who handed them over to the cops
2: What were their motives?
3: Were they opponents of Mahsud or TTP or were they local businessman who have settled in Karachi and do not want the TTP encroaching on their turf?


The killing of five suspects in an alleged police encounter late Friday night on Super Highway near Sohrab Goth has raised several serious questions regarding the police claim of a crackdown on associates of Baitullah Mehsud from the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Many people, especially residents of the area, described it as an “engineered encounter” and an act of “extrajudicial killing”.In the alleged encounter, not a single policeman sustained even a minor bullet injury. They, however, managed to gun down five trained militants who had extremely sophisticated and lethal weaponry.

Milking the Cow: Lobbying dollars flowing out at super speed

Shaheen Sehbai has reported nothing new here. And in his Saturday show Shahid Masood's trademark child like bewilderment over the alleged fees paid to lobbyists was wearing thin. While lobbyist are registered and fees paid to them are kosher, what is intriguing is the "accountability" of their efforts and if they paid back any kickbacks.

Lobbying is an old game in the beltway. Let us see how the neoconzix chameleon in the embassy plays this brouhaha ~~t

At least 11 big and small, known and unknown, lobbying companies have been hired by Pakistan and state-owned Pakistani organisations in the US, paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars every month, some of them having mysterious names and almost dubious credentials.

All lobbyists are registered in the US as “foreign agents” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and have to disclose their activities and operations under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. All this data is then made available to the public through information posted on their official websites.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

An old-fashioned world - Review by Huma Imtiaz

Musharraf Ali Farooqi's The Story of a Widow, despite its title that makes one wonder if it is a raunchy tale of a widow (damn you Desperate Housewives for making widows sleazy), is a quaint, charming story of a newly-widowed woman in Karachi, and the trials and tribulations of her past and present, replete with family dramas, backstabbing relatives and more.

The Story of a Widow has no sarcastic phrases, no flowery language, and yet its matter-of-fact tone manages to endear one to the book. While it is certainly not a riveting read, Farooqi manages to make one empathise with Mona the protagonist despite the many flaws in her thinking and reasoning. Although one was torn between wanting to slap Mona silly and a minute later want to give her a hug, it is the contradictions in Mona's personality that make this book worth reading.

The Story of a Widow describes the twists and turns in Mona's life that befall her after husband passes away, the clichés and explanations used to describe widows in Pakistan by one's extended family (usually accompanied by a sigh and tsk-tsk), her meeting a new man Salamat Ali, and how her relationships with her daughters changes following Mona's coming of age, even at the rather advanced age of 50.

Salamat Ali's character is quite wonderful and without giving too much away, makes one wish that the book had been called The Story of a Widower, since his character has the essential elements in a cad: sex, sleaze and scotch, which one would want to read more about.

But where Mona and Salamat's characters are well sketched out, the daughters' characters leave much to be desired. Their characters' complexities go unexplained till the last quarter of the book, by which point no one really cares about them anyway.

The Story of a Widow paints pictures of a time and culture that is long gone and mostly forgotten. The older women wear saris as everyday wear, tea is still a proper social affair; a certain old-fashioned charm can be found in the description of the households and the characters of this book. What's not old-fashioned about the book is the way widows are treated by their relatives; even today, one finds real life Monas in their families, women who try as they might, are either not allowed to live the rest of their life peacefully, or are judged by any choice, as simple as the colour of their sari, that they may make.

The most interesting character, although only a photograph was the portrait of Mona's late husband's Akbar Ahmad, whose description and subsequent expressions throughout the book, delighted one. Farooqi was inspired to write this novel, after he saw a similar portrait hanging in another widow's house, who was about to embark on her second marriage.

So how does an image lead to a book? Farooqi says the rest of the characters were imagined like the story. "All fictional characters are composites of people we know, or impressions we have of them; while they are drawn from life, they are not of actual individuals."

Farooqi says he wrote the book in ten months or so. "I had the complete outline before I started writing. There were some changes made to it during the writing (in an earlier version Salamat Ali had a different fate) but the story did not change in its essence."

The depiction of family politics and scheming by relatives is perhaps something that most Pakistanis can empathise with. One wonders if they were based on real-life characters and events. "No, they weren't", says Farooqi, "All families, like all offices, are playing grounds for closet politicians. When seen from a child's eye the family world looks very innocent. Its layers of relationships and politics become noticeable when one grows up. A storywriter experiments by developing imaginary scenarios from these observations, and populating them with imaginary characters. The success or failure of the experiment depends on how credible it sounds."

Farooqi's claim to fame, at least in Pakistan, has been his translation of Amir Hamza, which generated rave reviews in both the local and foreign press. Hence one is rather curious how Farooqi went from translating epics like Amir Hamza and Hoshruba: The Land and The Tilism, to a book like The Story of a Widow. Farooqi says he likes the disparity in styles, but it doesn't dictate his choices in fiction writing." For me, the content of a work of fiction dictates its style. The language of the novel I am working on currently is more baroque. On the other hand, the language of the graphic fable Rabbit Rap, being written simultaneously, is very different from the baroque language of the new novel and the sparse text of The Story of a Widow. With a work of translation one is bound to the language of the original, although one still has to make choices of style."

Musharraf Ali Farooqi started his career as a sub-editor for The News, and moved to Canada a few years later. His former colleagues say he was extremely popular, a non-conformist and quite witty. The wit shines through even in a simple question I put to him about his writing process and where he writes. "The first requirements for good writing are a good-sized piece of bread and a sweet cup of tea in which that bread can be dipped and eaten. I can write anywhere, on the buses, while sitting on a street corner -- although it helps greatly if one has a chair. But I cannot write near crying children even if I am given a chair."

Farooqi includes many of the great Urdu writers as his inspirations. "Among Urdu fiction writers, Azeem Baig Chughtai, Muhammad Khalid Akhtar, Shafiqur Rahman, Syed Muhammad Ashraf, Ghulam Abbas, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Naiyer Masud, Syed Rafique Husain, Manto, Ashraf Subuhi and countless other writers whom I read when growing up. Most of my reading in my adult years was in translations from foreign languages. My all time favourites among old masters are Alexander Dumas, Dickens and Victor Hugo-- reading them is always pleasurable."

Farooqi needs to be credited on three fronts for The Story of a Widow. First, for portraying and without using flowery prose, the difficulties married folks go through. From the lying to the penny pinching, husbands are not the princes that everyone makes them out to be. Second, for using a mere portrait on a wall as a tool to set the mood of each scene and succeeding in doing so. Third, for staying away from the clichés that seem to invade every novel in English that has been set in Karachi in recent years. And lastly, for writing freely about the way families, especially those in the middle and upper-middle class, function in Pakistan. Whether it is their reliance on their son-in-laws, or the way husbands are manipulated by their wives or how widows are treated in the Pakistani society, Farooqi bares all about the dynamics of relationships, especially complex ones involving a woman who marries for the second time.

"So does every woman" I ask Farooqi, "have a little bit of Mona, flaws and all, inside them?" "Someone may claim that The Story of a Widow is a universal story, but I neither claim nor disclaim that Mona is a universal woman," says Farooqi. "A story becomes universal if people from other cultures, other world views empathise with it. But I, as the author of a fictitious character, cannot make such a big claim about a character. If some people identify with Mona I feel pleased that I have presented a credible character. I really can't ask for more."

The Story of a Widow
By Musharraf Ali Farooqi
Publisher: Picador India, 2009
Pages: 249
Price: Rs950

Spirit of the 1973 constitution - The Premeditated Fraud Continues

The most important ingredient behind any action is the intent. When the intent is crooked it would render any action, any law weak. In this column the curmudgeon Cowasjee shows in detail how the spirit of 1973 constitution was hijacked, bent, distorted and manipulated.~~t

So, it was grandly promulgated at noon on Independence Day, with much joy and jollity. How many of our present constitutionalists and contortionists remember that the life of the original document was of four hours duration? At 1600 hours that same day, Prime Minister Bhutto ordered the president he had appointed the meek and gentlemanly Fazal Elahi Chaudhry to sign an order which was notified in the Gazette of Pakistan, Extra, on Aug 15, 1973, No.F.24(1)/73-Pub. By this order the proclamation of emergency issued on Nov 23, 1971 was declared to be still in force, the reason being that while in force the president was empowered to order that the right to move any court for the enforcement of the fundamental rights conferred in the constitution was suspended and would remain suspended for the period the proclamation was in force. No court could be moved for the enforcement of the rights of the people — they were rendered non-justiciable. Thus were the people deprived, within the space of four hours, of 10 of the major fundamental rights guaranteed to them at noon on Aug 14, 1973. It was all a matter of premeditated fraud.

My Capital Suggestion for Farrukh Saleem

It is not hard to guess who this man is. But my capital suggestion for Farrukh Saleem is to write about why this man has not acted yet on The Deafening Silence of the Roaring Supreme Court ? ~~~t

He gets up at 5:30 to say his morning prayers. His prayers go up and blessings come down. I suspect he goes back to sleep for a couple of more hours. He is always at his office before 9. His official office hours are from 9 to 1:30 but he is usually there till 8 in the evening. By 8, he leaves for home and the following two hours are almost always committed for quality family time. After 10 pm he goes back to work -- working out of his home -- and I do not know when the work finishes or when he goes to sleep; if he does at all.These days his office is inundated with some 4,000 applications a day everyday for suo motu. At 8 pm he takes them all home. At 9 am he brings them all back and each one of them has a tiny little note on it. Who writes all these notes? I don't know but I can tell you they are all in his own handwriting.Did he have more than two hours of sleep last night? I don't know that but I can tell you that sitting on that bench -- while his colleague on his right yawned -- he looked as fresh as either a daisy or a rose. I know he dreams morning dreams and morning dreams are always true.

Qaumi riyasat ka mazhabi riyasat tuk safar

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Spread the word: Obama says he digs Urdu poetry

If you want to make high-brow small talk at one of President Barack Obama’s cocktail parties, don’t bother brushing up your Shakespeare. Try reading Urdu poetry. As POLITICO’s Ben Smith points out in his blog, Obama showed off his intellectual flair by evoking a standard of Pakistani culture in a recent interview with Dawn, a popular English-language newspaper in Pakistan.

“‘I would love to visit. As you know, I had Pakistani roommates in college who were very close friends of mine. I went to visit them when I was still in college; was in Karachi and went to Hyderabad. Their mothers taught me to cook,’ said Mr Obama.
‘What can you cook?’
‘Oh, keema ... daal ... You name it, I can cook it. And so I have a great affinity for Pakistani culture and the great Urdu poets.’
‘You read Urdu poetry?’
‘Absolutely. So my hope is that I’m going to have an opportunity at some point to visit Pakistan,’ said Mr Obama.”

[thanks RJ & AC]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Oh, To Be In Error: A poessay on Errorists

Space is not the only final frontier. Space can be far out, or cranial. Space can also be the separation between two persons and the disconnect with reality

Spaceisimportantotherwisearunonlettersbecomesnightmarish. In speech, pauses do what spacing does in writing.

Much like other creatures, (sardines in tin cans will be considered another time) individuals need their space.

Ask couples how important is individual space for them. Customarily, this space is proportional to the time they have been together. The shorter the togetherness the lesser the space. Exception: some newly weds can spawn a mile wide space between them in a hurry. Exceptions move people closer or apart in nano seconds.

Both individual and collective shared spaces are prone to whip lashes.


To be in error is to be in ecstasy - for that night. The morning after if you forget the companion's first name, or mix it with a former partner's - that error, if not deliberate, could be painful.

To err is to be divine. To err is to be a Republican. To err is to be a neoconzix. To err is to be poetic.

We live our lives through a series of errors and course corrections - though some amazingly go through their three score and ten without any course correction. In some societies we call them professors, in others priests, mullahs and rabbis - even insensitive s-o-bs - the b is for brainless.

The more intelligent and sensitive amongst us repeat the same errors less frequently while the less gifted and resilient repeat the same errors repeatedly. You can bet and win again on replays with them.

The key to longevity, both at work place and at home is in timely error spotting and in timely corrective measures.

The survivors become more adept in error control. They become errorists par excellence. They rise to the top while the rest gravitate to the bottom.

In essence I whirl in error - from birth to the present - hence I qualify to be called a life long "errorist." I, therefore, humbly and solemnly declare myself to be an errorist - even though there is a inherent setback in this declaration.


Eavesdrop on a phone conversation:

First Person, "Have you heard t is an errorist?"

Second Person, "t errorist?"

For the uninitiated, every phone conversation is monitored and transcribed in the bowels of Langley, Va. the bee hive of Curious Interpretive Age.

This is where spacing becomes crucial. If the transcriber misses that space, am toast. And I end up at the exclusive, all-inclusive Gran Bahia Principe Guantanamo Bay.

Parveen Shakir: The Faustus in Us

In February 2007 I came across a poem by Parveen Shakir on Jahane Rumi. Alamgir Hashmi had also transcreated it in English. Here is the original and then his transcreation.

In current times, with the economic tsunami playing havoc all over the world, her poem has acquired greater relevancy.

We Are All Dr Faustus

In a way we are all
Dr Faustus.

One from his craze
and another helpless from blackmail
barters away his soul.
One mortgages his eyes
to trade in dreams
and another offers
his mind as collateral.

All that one may need sense
is the currency of the day.

So a survey of life’s Wall Street says
that among those with the buying power these days
self-respect is very popular.


And here is my attempt at transcreating Parveen Shakir's poem.


The Faustus In Us

in more than one sense
we resemble Dr. Faustus
some sell their soul for passion

or are blackmailed into doing so

others get away
pawning their eyes
to trade in visions
a few offer their minds
as collateral.
succumbing to the power
of crisp notes.
surveying life's Wall Street, we find
self respect is the object d'art
most in demand today

silence - is more

silence - is more
than the absence of sound
from the music of living
more than the bazaar bustle
that trickles down after dark
more than the incessant braying
of the politicians - and the driven
more than the righteous indignation
of pundits, bloggers, whiners
children, friends, ex lovers

silence - is more
than the still lull
before the tribulation
more than the fury
of the cascading snow
over roofs, trees, lines
more than the water
over flowing river banks
to submerge memories
and habitats of people
in its quiet wake

silence - is more
than the sepia smile
ensconced in worn wallets
smiles that ushered in
passions, hope, dreams once
smiles that refuse to fade away

silence - is also a whore
ghungroo ya mangalsutra
that can be bought
for an hour, evening, night
or even longer
for consideration
peace or survival

come, sit here beside me
my friend, let's witness
the segueing cacophony
of life unfurl before us
in silence

Friday, June 12, 2009

Company at table

Syed Saleem Shahzad: Pakistan fights for its tribal soul

By 2008, al-Qaeda had taken control of the 1,500-square-kilometer corridor - something it had planned to do since fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban were defeated by US-led forces in December 2001. Al-Qaeda decided then to build a regional ideologically motivated franchise in South Asia
to thwart the strategic designs of Western powers in the area. While US forces were vainly trying to hunt down al-Qaeda in the Tora Bora mountains, the group was focused on establishing links with organizations such as the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami and Jundallah in the Pakistani tribal areas and organizing the recruitment of Pakistanis and Afghans to those organizations. The underlying reason for doing this was to destroy the local political and social structures and in their place establish an al-Qaeda franchise. The plan worked. Today, in many parts of the Hindu Kush corridor, centuries-old tribal systems and their connections with the Pakistani establishment through an appointed political agent have been replaced by a system of Islamic warlordism. The old breed of tribal elders, religious clerics and tribal chiefs, loyal to Pakistan and its systems, has been wiped out, to be replaced by warlords such as Haji Omar, Baitullah Mehsud, (slain) Nek Mohammad and (slain) Abdullah Mehsud. They are all al-Qaeda allies, and allow al-Qaeda freedom of movement in their areas within the corridor.

Pepe Escobar: Poetic justice of a green revolution

The fight will be very hard. Employees of the Iranian Interior Ministry - which supervises the election - have warned that ultra-reactionary Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, aka "the Crocodile", Ahmadinejad's apocalyptic spiritual mentor, has issued a fatwa to ... turn the vote upside down. And the regime can always use the young - and very well-armed - Basij militias, the new generation of the revolution, to intimidate voters before the second round of voting. The plot thickens. Ahmadinejad may have lost the support of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps - according to insistent rumors in Tehran. Should that be the case, even if he won he would be absolutely toothless. And a secret state poll suggesting Mousavi will win the first round by a landslide may - or may not - be true. Many in Tehran do not forget the regime's back-door deals that led to Ahmadinejad's victory in 2005. Ahmadinejad has been soundly blasted by his utter incompetence in economic matters, his appalling foreign policy and the lack of civil liberties in Iran. But he was never more dangerous then when he was lying about inflation and unemployment in the Iranian TV debates, always with a straight face - a face the poor and disenfranchised in Iran identify as "one of us". But millions of young, urban, educated - and unemployed - Iranians would rather dream of "poetic justice". The promise would be fulfilled if Ahmadinejad in the end were defeated by an electronic intifada. Fight the power - with green power.

Is the Real Power in Iran ... Eastasia or Eurasia?

When a reformer occupies the office of the president -- as was the case during Mohammad Khatami's term, from 1997-2005 -- then one hears quite a bit about how the Iranian presidency is a toothless office that doesn't direct foreign or military policy. In that period, it was commonly argued that his moderate approach to governance was inconsequential because of the power of Ali Khamenei, the ominously-titled "Supreme Leader." But when a buffoonish hardliner like Ahmadinejad is in office all of that is forgotten, and he, happily playing the role of The Next Hitler™ for many in the West -- easily caricatured as a crazed Holocaust-denier with nuclear ambitions -- has been a convenient foil for his neoconservative counterparts in Israel and the United States.

PS: For a better understanding of Iran's political and social divisions, let me once again recommend Hooman Majd's excellent book, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran. We ran an excerpt from it a while back, which you can read here.

Muzaffar Iqbal - Quantum note(Part III)

Muzaffar shuld read his own words. How can a madressah reform he articulates help produce men and women who are well versed in "sciences?" ~~~t

The emergence of madressah as an extension of mosque is historically rooted in the times of the Prophet of Islam -- upon him be peace. Its function has been to teach religious sciences, produce scholars and savants rooted in the vision of Islam, and to generate knowledge based on the two primary sources of Islam: the Quran and the Sunnah. Its auxiliary function has been the cultivation of those branches of knowledge which are deemed necessary for the religious rites and rituals and for the essential needs of society. This has included sciences such as astronomy, and crafts such as the making of books.The contemporary state and governance is out of the realm of the madressah-trained persons. In the Muslim world, we have university graduates, illiterate despotic rulers, military generals, or self-proclaimed monarchs as rulers and decision-makers. Madressah-trained persons currently serve as imams of mosques or occupy the lowest ranks of state administration if they can manage to secure such a position. While there is no alternate to a madressah as far as the religious needs of a Muslim society are concerned, but it seems that in order to survive, it needs to take up new challenges of a world dominated by men and women trained in the secular institutions. In other words, a twenty-first century madressah cannot just remain a place which produces the lowest ranks of society; it needs to excel and produce men and women who can actually takeover the running of the state.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Obama America's First Muslim President? I Wish!

Yes, I mean it -- I really do wish President Obama was America's first Muslim president! (For reasons I'll explain below.)

However, I don't think that was the response that uber conservative commentator Frank Gaffney was hoping for when I read his op-ed in The Washington Times on June 9, 2009 posing the question: "Is Obama America's first Muslim President?" (By the way, Gaffney not only thinks Obama is a Muslim, but he contends that Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.)


So why do I truly wish that President Obama was really a Muslim? Because he is cool. In fact, he may be the coolest guy out there right now. Hence Muslim would equal cool. What Muslim wouldn't want that?!

Plus Obama would be showing all Americans that being Muslim means being smart and articulate, that being Muslim means caring about other people -- about wanting to provide health insurance to Americans not fortunate enough to have coverage, it means trying to save hundreds of thousands of American jobs with his stimulus plan, it means working to bring peace and security to both Palestinians and Israelis, it means a person who loves America so much that he wants to return our country to it's rightful place as a beacon of justice, equality and fairness.

The Bond War

Paul KrugmanIt's fair to say that 10-year and 30-year Treasury bonds are not subjects that enthrall the American public the way, say, Kate Gosselin does. In the last six months, however, the state of those bonds has become the subject of feverish argument in the economic elite. The interest rate of the 10-year Treasury bond has spiked from 2.07 percent in December 2008, when the world was falling apart, to a recent high of 3.715 percent on June 1—a 79 percent increase. The 30-year bond has risen from 2.5 percent last December to about 4.5 percent today. Now factions led by economist Paul Krugman and historian Niall Ferguson are feuding bitterly about the import of these charts. In late April, Krugman and Ferguson squared off at a New York Review of Books/PEN panel, and they've continued with an op-ed war in the Financial Times and New York Times (Ferguson here and Krugman here).

In a nutshell, Ferguson and his allies believe that the rising bond yields prove that markets are worried about the inflation that will inevitably result from the fiscal policies of the Obama administration and the Fed. Given the large deficits and rising concerns about the viability of Social Security and Medicare, Ferguson writes, "It is hardly surprising, then, that the bond market is quailing. For only on Planet Econ-101 (the standard macroeconomics course drummed into every U.S. undergraduate) could such a tidal wave of debt issuance exert 'no upward pressure on interest rates.' " Ferguson's fears have been echoed by the planet's leading inflation-phobe German Chancellor Angela Merkel and by influential Stanford economist John Taylor. Turn on CNBC, and you're likely to hear talk about bond-market vigilantes, the mass of traders who sell bonds and push interest rates up in order to warn governments not to spend freely.

Is Your Newest Facebook Friend a Sleazeball Debt Collector?

When Michigan resident Paula Newland fell behind in her car payments, she found herself battling some typical -- and not so typical -- tactics used by debt collectors. In addition to repeated, harassing phone calls from three companies -- including 15 calls on one Saturday and claims that phone calls were "concerning a 'family emergency' " -- Newland was told that if she did not pay up, her car would be reported stolen, and she would be arrested. The company also threatened to deploy what they called a "shame automobile" and "camp out all weekend" in front of her house.

And then came a novel approach: As if all this weren’t enough, the fact there were overdue payments for her 2005 Chevy Impala were broadcast on her MySpace account.

Outraged and humiliated, Newland filed a civil suit earlier this year claiming "damage to her business and community reputation, extreme mental distress, aggravation, humiliation and embarrassment."

Carte Blanche for New U.S. Commander in Afghanistan

The new American commander in Afghanistan has been given carte blanche to hand pick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans, as he moves to carry out an ambitious new strategy that envisions stepped-up attacks on Taliban fighters and narcotics networks.

The extraordinary leeway granted the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, underscores a view within the administration that the war in Afghanistan has for too long been given low priority, and needs to be the focus of a sustained, high-level effort.

General McChrystal is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside the Special Operations community, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why My Vasectomy Will Help Save the Earth's Resources

Last year, I became castrated impotent sterile. That is, I had a vasectomy. While it's actually a very common procedure (nearly 500,000 are performed every year in the US), it raises eyebrows -- and a lot of questions.

The first one is always simply: Why?

Although this was a very personal decision for me, it was also a choice I made out of larger societal, political, and environmental motivations. I consider the environmental ones paramount. In an economic system that demands infinite growth with finite resources, not doubling my own consumption is one small stone in a big river.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spaghetti Bale

Any guesses?

It was for three years ...five years...oh ten years - Nawaz Taal-matol Sharif

According to the documents, on the basis of a four-page application signed by Nawaz, Shahbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif and Hussain Nawaz – then chief executive Pervez Musharraf advised then president Rafiq Tarar on December 9, 2000, to remit the sentences awarded to Nawaz under the constitution. The sentences were remitted.

Nawaz had asked the president to waive the sentences, to enable him to go abroad for medical treatment. It was also stated that the petitioner would not be prosecuted over any alleged past conduct.

The copy of an undertaking Nawaz and Shabaz signed seeking permission to go abroad revealed the Sharifs left the country for 10 years of their own accord. Nawaz’s lawyer said his client had ordered diversion of the plane carrying Musharaf to “protect the democratic set up”.

Documents reveal Nawaz sentence was remitted

"The world does not have a Pakistan nukes problem -- it has a David Albright problem"

Chellaney is just one of a handful of Indian and US analysts who periodically revive the campaign against Pakistan's nuclear weapons. The leader of the pack is David Albright whose histrionics against Pakistan have become so absurd that Peter Lee, a businessman who has been writing on Asian affairs for over thirty years, felt compelled to write an article entitled, "The world does not have a Pakistan nukes problem -- it has a David Albright problem" – the title says it all. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter not only exposed Albright's claims to being a UN weapons inspector in an article "The nuclear expert who never was", he also pointed out that "Albright has a track record of making half-baked analyses derived from questionable sources seem mainstream. He breathes false legitimacy into these factually-challenged stories by cloaking himself in a resume that is disingenuous." Incidentally it was Scott Ritter who also wrote that Holbrooke was the wrong man for the job when Holbrooke was appointed as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan and many of his arguments are now becoming more evident.

Rauf Klasra: Pakistan, Iran quietly sign gas deal in Turkey

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has finally signed the IPI gas pipeline deal with Iran in Turkey on June 5, in relative silence, days before the Iranian election and without any major discussion or debate within Pakistan on whether it was prudent to pay a high price compared to the one originally agreed by Tehran.

According to salient features of the gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA), Pakistan has decided to purchase only 750 mmcfd gas for 25 years, renewable for another five years. Delivery point of the gas will be at the Iran-Pakistan border near Gwadar at a minimum pressure of 55 Barg (800 psig). The project on completion will be able to support 4,000 MW of power generation capacity.The documents show Pakistan and Iran agreed in January 2007 on a gas price formula, which linked the delivered gas price at Pakistan’s border to Japanese Crude Cocktail (JCC), on an average crude oil parity of 45 per cent.Interestingly, the Pakistani document reveals that “Iran took the plea that its parliament had decided that the price of gas to be exported should match the price being paid by its other buyers, namely Turkey and Armenia. Accordingly, Iran offered a revised price having an average crude oil parity of 78 per cent”.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Green Weddings: The New Eco-Trend That's Gaining Popularity

Ideas for 'greening' a wedding

-- Replace cut flower centerpieces with potted plants that guests can take home and replant.

-- Rather than registering for china or pots and pans, dedicate a registry to a cause. The I Do Foundation ( lets guests donate money to a specific charity chosen by the couple.

-- Go paper-free. Websites such as,, and let couples create online invitations. Some brides are even using Facebook or regular e-mail to send out invites.

-- If you want to have a small ceremony to reduce carbon emissions from traveling, consider webcasting your big day. Websites such as and offer guests a chance to view the nuptials on the Net.

-- Give favors that can help the earth, such as a tree seedling or seeds to plant in guests' backyards, by using the website Brown-Selders gave her wedding guests lavender seeds in a small pot.

David P Goldman: The Mother of All Incumbent Advantages

Independent hedge fund managers, e.g. Raptor last week, are following me out of the business. In a market in which the government tells everyone what things are worth, the fine judgement of bond analysts is worthless. I used to manage a department with dozens of high-paid credit analysts trying to figure out the price of seniority or subordination down to the last basis point. After Chrysler and GM, the issue is moot. But there is money to be made, and it will be made by money managers tied to the federal government, through TALF and similar subsidies. As a matter of fact, the only sort of money that anyone will make in the US economy will come from things that the government subsidizes, or approves, or funds, or otherwise sponsors.

Howard Zinn: Changing Obama's Military Mindset

What is the mindset that got us into Iraq?

It’s the mindset that says force will do the trick. Violence, war, bombers—that they will bring democracy and liberty to the people.

It’s the mindset that says America has some God-given right to invade other countries for their own benefit. We will bring civilization to the Mexicans in 1846. We will bring freedom to the Cubans in 1898. We will bring democracy to the Filipinos in 1900. You know how successful we’ve been at bringing democracy all over the world.

Obama has not gotten out of this militaristic missionary mindset. He talks about sending tens of thousands of more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama is a very smart guy, and surely he must know some of the history. You don’t have to know a lot to know the history of Afghanistan has been decades and decades and decades and decades of Western powers trying to impose their will on Afghanistan by force: the English, the Russians, and now the Americans. What has been the result? The result has been a ruined country.

This is the mindset that sends 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and that says, as Obama has, that we’ve got to have a bigger military. My heart sank when Obama said that. Why do we need a bigger military? We have an enormous military budget. Has Obama talked about cutting the military budget in half or some fraction? No.

We have military bases in more than a hundred countries. We have fourteen military bases on Okinawa alone. Who wants us there? The governments. They get benefits. But the people don’t really want us there. There have been huge demonstrations in Italy against the establishment of a U.S. military base. There have been big demonstrations in South Korea and on Okinawa.

Pico Iyer: The Joy of Less

“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.

I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

‘It’s time to enshrine Hank Paulson as national hero’ WTF?

Hank Paulson is a national hero.
I said it last October and I’m sticking by it. And now, there’s actual evidence to back me up. The TARP bailout worked. The Wall Street crisis is over.
via Mean Street: It’s Time to Enshrine Hank Paulson as National Hero - Deal Journal - WSJ.
So here’s the letter I wrote to the Wall Street Journal after reading Evan Newmark’s paean to Hank Paulson last week:
Dear WSJ,
Just out of curiosity — did Evan Newmark ever work for Goldman, Sachs? And if the answer to the question is yes, don’t you think that might have been a good fact to disclose before he fellated Hank Paulson in his “Mean Street” column?
Sincerely,Matt Taibbi
I didn’t get an answer, which I guess is not surprising. But in the interim I found out that Newmark did, indeed, work for Goldman. I find it funny that a business journalist has to disclose if he’s invested in this or that stock, or short this or that security, before a newspaper will allow him to have an opinion about anything even distantly related to that company — but you don’t need to disclose anything if all you’re doing is kissing your former boss’s ass.
Can you imagine what a craven, bumlicking ass-goblin you’d have to be to get a job working for the Wall Street Journal, not mention up front that you used to be a Goldman, Sachs managing director, and then write a lengthy article calling your former boss a “national hero” — in the middle of a sweeping financial crisis, one in which half the world is in a panic and the unemployment rate just hit a 25-year high? Behavior like this, you usually don’t see it outside prison trusties who spend their evenings shining the guards’ boots. I can’t even think of a political press secretary who would sink that low. Hank Paulson, a hero? Are you fucking kidding us?

1984 thoughtcrime? Does it matter that George Orwell pinched the plot?

It is a book in which one man, living in a totalitarian society a number of years in the future, gradually finds himself rebelling against the dehumanising forces of an omnipotent, omniscient dictator. Encouraged by a woman who seems to represent the political and sexual freedom of the pre-revolutionary era (and with whom he sleeps with in an ancient house that is one of the few manifestations of a former world), he writes down his thoughts of rebellion – perhaps rather imprudently – as a 24-hour clock ticks in his grim, lonely flat. In the end, the system discovers both the man and the woman, and after a period of physical and mental trauma the protagonist discovers he loves the state that has oppressed him throughout, and betrays his fellow rebels. The story is intended as a warning against and a prediction of the natural conclusions of totalitarianism.
This is a description of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was first published 60 years ago on Monday. But it is also the plot of Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, a Russian novel originally published in English in 1924.
Orwell's novel is consistently acclaimed as one of the finest of the last 100 years – two years ago Guardian readers voted it the 20th century's "definitive" book – and it remains a consistent bestseller. Should it alter our respect for it that Orwell borrowed much of his plot, the outlines of three of his central figures, and the progress of the book's dramatic arc from an earlier work?
Orwell reviewed We for Tribune in 1946, three years before he published Nineteen Eighty-Four. In his review, he called Zamyatin's book an influence on Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, though Huxley always denied anything of the sort. "It is in effect a study of the Machine," Orwell wrote of We, "the genie that man has thoughtlessly let out of its bottle and cannot put back again. This is a book to look out for when an English version appears." He seems to have taken his own advice.

Paul Krugman: Gordon the Unlucky

What would have happened if hanging chads and the Supreme Court hadn’t denied Al Gore the White House in 2000? Many things would clearly have been different over the next eight years.
But one thing would probably have been the same: There would have been a huge housing bubble and a financial crisis when the bubble burst. And if Democrats had been in power when the bad news arrived, they would have taken the blame, even though things would surely have been as bad or worse under Republican rule. You now understand the essentials of the current political situation in Britain.
For much of the past 30 years, politics and policy here and in America have moved in tandem. We had Reagan; they had Thatcher. We had the Garn-St. Germain Act of 1982, which dismantled New Deal-era banking regulation; they had the Big Bang of 1986, which deregulated London’s financial industry. Both nations had an explosion of household debt and saw their financial systems become increasingly unsound.

Robert Fisk: No Victory for Hezbollah in Lebanon Elections; But No Pro-Western Win Either

There will be no Islamic Republic of Lebanon. Nor will there be a pro-Western Lebanese republic. There will, after yesterday's vote -- for the Hezbollah-Christian coalition and for the secular Sunni-Christian alliance -- be a government of "national salvation" in Beirut, run by an ex-army general-president with ever-increasing powers.Washington would have preferred that Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated ex-prime minister, came out with a clear win. But out of the shadows will come the same crippled, un-healable Lebanon; delightful, unworkable, poor old Lebanon, corrupt, beautiful, vanity-prone, intelligent, democratic -- yes, definitely, democratic -- and absolutely outside our powers to reform.

When Will Dick Cheney's Tower of Lies Come Tumbling Down?

Dick Cheney's statement to Greta van Susteren that "On the question of whether or not Iraq was involved in 9/11, there was never any evidence to prove that" is being widely portrayed as an admission. But it's less an admission than a PR move. Cheney has spent the better part of the last seven years doing everything in his power to convince the American people of the very connection he now says there was "never any evidence" of. In 2004, even after the 9/11 commission found "no credible evidence" of Iraqi involvement in 9/11, Cheney was still claiming the evidence that al Qaeda had a relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq was "overwhelming."

When he was asked in '04 if Iraq was involved in 9/11, he said, "We don't know." Three years after the attack -- and he still didn't know? Even after they had tried every trick in the black book -- including torture -- to find a link? nd while Cheney's gotten more careful with his words over the years, he's never really stopped insinuating that there was a connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Indeed, as recently as two weeks ago in his big speech at the America Enterprise Institute, Cheney was still banging the drum about Saddam's "known ties to Mideast terrorists" as part of his rationale for invading Iraq and using torture. Cheney's ongoing Forget Everything I Ever Told You Tour is historical revisionism at its most despicable.

What exactly did the U.S., Israel agree on settlement construction?

West Bank settlements have long been a bone of contention between Israel and the United States, which views them as an obstacle to peace. Over the past few years, however, Israel tried to reach a tacit understanding with Washington on settlement expansion, which is now put to the test: President Barack Obama demands a complete and utter construction freeze, whereas Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on building in settlement blocs, as his predecessors Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert during George W. Bush's term in office.

The settlement controversy reached its zenith at the twilight of Yitzhak Shamir's government in 1992. Israel had asked for loan guarantees to help fund the absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the recently collapsed Soviet Union. Then U.S. President George H.W. Bush conditioned the aid on a complete settlement freeze. Shamir was defiant, and Bush remained firm.

Yitzhak Rabin, who succeeded Shamir as prime minister, reached an oral agreement with Bush on the loan guarantees. Rabin promised that Israel would complete the housing units that were under construction and limit future construction in all settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem area, which Rabin dubbed "security areas." The New York Times reported that the construction would be for "natural growth" purposes, and would amount to building additional rooms in existing houses and infrastructure. In practice, Israel went far beyond that.

New Letter from Hamas to Obama Marks a Dramatic Shift in Posture on Mid-East Talks

His Excellency President Barack Obama,
President of the United States of America. June 3rd 2009
Dear Mr. President,

We welcome your visit to the Arab world and your administration's initiative to bridge differences with the Arab-Muslim world.

One long-standing source of tension between the United States and this part of the world has been the failure to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

It is therefore unfortunate that you will not visit Gaza during your trip to the Middle East and that neither your Secretary of State nor George Mitchell have come to hear our point of view.

We have received numerous visits recently from people of widely varied backgrounds: U.S. Congressional representatives, European parliamentarians, the U.N.-appointed Goldstone commission, and grassroots delegations such as those organized by the U.S. peace group CODEPINK.

It is essential for you to visit Gaza. We have recently passed through a brutal 22-day Israeli attack. Amnesty International observed that the death and destruction Gaza suffered during the invasion could not have happened without U.S.-supplied weapons and U.S.-taxpayers' money.

Human Rights Watch has documented that the white phosphorus Israel dropped on a school, hospital, United Nations warehouse and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza was manufactured in the United States. Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel's use of this white phosphorus was a war crime.

Shouldn't you see first-hand how Israel used your arms and spent your money?

Before becoming president you were a distinguished professor of law. The U.S. government has also said that it wants to foster the rule of law in the Arab-Muslim world.

The International Court of Justice stated in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories designated for Palestinian self-determination, and that the Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.

Not one of the 15 judges sitting on the highest judicial body in the world dissented from these principles.

The main human rights organizations in the world, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have issued position papers supporting the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and compensation.

Each year in the United Nations General Assembly nearly every country in the world has supported these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Every year the Arab League puts forth a peace proposal based on these principles for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have also stated that Israel's siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment and therefore illegal under international law.

We in the Hamas Government are committed to pursuing a just resolution to the conflict not in contradiction with the international community and enlightened opinion as expressed in the International Court of Justice, the United Nations General Assembly, and leading human rights organizations. We are prepared to engage all parties on the basis of mutual respect and without preconditions.

However, our constituency needs to see a comprehensive paradigm shift that not only commences with lifting the siege on Gaza and halts all settlement building and expansion but develops into a policy of evenhandedness based on the very international law and norms we are prodded into adhering to.

Again, we welcome you to Gaza which would allow you to see firsthand our ground zero. Furthermore, it would enhance the US position; enabling you to speak with new credibility and authority in dealing with all the parties.

Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Ministry
Former Senior Political Advisor
to Prime Minister Ismael Hanniya

Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators

In a leak that seems designed to gauge public opinion — and that of lawyers and other relevant parties around the world — anonymous officials in the Obama administration have told the New York Times about a proposal, in draft legislation to be submitted to Congress, which, as the Times put it, “would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty [in Guantánamo] to plead guilty without a full trial.”

Such a statement can only set alarm bells ringing, of course, as it clearly refers to the five alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash — and it indicates that, in order to avoid having to disclose distressing details of the torture to which these men were subjected, during their long years in secret CIA prisons, the Obama administration is wondering if allowing them to fulfill their stated aim of pleading guilty and becoming martyrs might be an effective way to dispose of what is probably the thorniest problem inherited from the government of George W. Bush.
It’s tempting to take this view, of course, because the Obama administration has already demonstrated its unwillingness to thoroughly repudiate its predecessor’s brutally innovative approach to detention and trials in terrorist cases; firstly by announcing its intention to revive the system of trials by Military Commission (the much-criticized “terror courts,” conceived by Dick Cheney and his legal counsel David Addington, which were mired in incompetence and corruption throughout their seven-year history), and secondly by proposing to push for legislation authorizing the use of “preventive detention” for 50 to 100 of the remaining 239 prisoners. As I explained in an article three weeks ago, “Fundamentally, Guantánamo is a prison that was founded on the presumption that the Bush administration’s “new paradigm” [in the “War on Terror”] justified “preventive detention” for life,” and “to even entertain the prospect that a third category of justice (beyond guilt and innocence) can be conjured out of thin air without fatally undermining the principles on which the United States was founded is to enter perilous territory indeed.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

Joaquin Sorolla's Re-discovered Painting

Nasrallah concedes election defeat

The secretary-general of Hezbollah, a Shia political party, has accepted that his opposition alliance has lost a parliamentary election in Lebanon to the ruling March 14 coalition.
Hassan Nasrallah made the acknowledgment on Monday, hours after official results of the popular poll were released.

"We accept the official results in a sporting spirit," he said in a televised address.
"I would like to congratulate all those who won, those in the majority and those in the opposition," he said.

Submitting to a Play’s Spell, Without the Stage

Not so long ago in America, keeping up with new plays was part of what it meant to be literate, and publishers did good business by stocking the drama sections in bookstores. New Directions published Tennessee Williams; Atheneum made a bundle from Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”; Random House issued many plays in hardcover, including “Oklahoma!” in 1943; Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” for Viking Press, was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

If you didn’t live near New York, or couldn’t afford tickets, you picked up the print editions if you wanted to be part of the conversation. Those days, sadly, are pretty much gone. Readers’ eyeballs have fled elsewhere. New plays are hard to find in bookstores. They are issued, if at all, mostly by university presses and boutique publishers.

The excuses for not theater-going are easy to list: it’s hell to find a babysitter, Netflix is a lovely narcotic, and it’s hard to commit to loading that much money onto a Visa card. You could just about fly to Dublin and back for the price of a Broadway ticket and a decent meal. But what’s the excuse for not reading some of these plays?

This year, with Sunday evening’s Tony Awards on the horizon, I decided to, well, act. I got my hands on all four of the best play nominees and sat down to read them, having seen exactly none of the productions. Three can easily be found on Amazon or elsewhere: Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” Neil LaBute’s “reasons to be pretty,” and Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate,” which is published in a volume of his work called “Three Plays.”

U.S.-Backed Alliance Appears to Win in Lebanon

An American-backed alliance appeared to retain control of the Lebanese Parliament on Sunday in a hotly contested election that had been billed as a showdown between Tehran and Washington for influence in the Middle East.

Preliminary results reported on Lebanese television showed the alliance, known as the March 14 coalition, had managed to preserve its majority in Parliament. If those results are confirmed, they would represent a significant and unexpected defeat for Hezbollah and its allies, Iran and Syria. Most polls had showed a tight race, but one in which the Hezbollah-led group would win.

The tentative victory may have been aided by nearly unprecedented turnout. The preliminary results showed that about 55 percent of the 3.26 million registered voters cast ballots. Lebanese television reported that the March 14 coalition, a predominantly Sunni, Christian and Druze alliance, held at least 67 seats out of 128 in Parliament.

Israel’s Premier Promises Major Peace Plan

Under mounting American pressure to define his intentions regarding peace efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Sunday that he would make a major policy speech next week mapping out the government’s “principles for achieving peace and security.”

The announcement came against the background of rising tensions with the Obama administration, which has demanded that Israel freeze all settlement construction in the West Bank. The Netanyahu government insists that construction within existing settlements should continue.

In another point of contention, Mr. Netanyahu has refused to endorse explicitly the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state, a cornerstone of American and European policy on the Middle East.

Haroon Siddiqui - At last, blunt talk on the Middle East

While the world is focused on his speech to the Muslim world, Obama has been blunt about where he's headed. He's trying to break the "Kabuki dance" of Arab and Israeli leaders "saying one thing behind closed doors and something else publicly." Setting an example, he himself is doing the seemingly undoable and saying the unsayable.

Start with his May 18 meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes both a two-state solution and a total freeze on Jewish settlements.

The hour-long meeting stretched to two. It was reported that Obama was so relentless on the two points that the prime minister told him:

"Nobody can say that you are not focused and determined to get what you want.

Before leaving for Cairo, Obama gave a series of interviews.

"Part of being a good friend is being honest with Israel," he told NPR radio. "I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests" (emphasis mine).

"The U.S. has to follow through on what it says."

Nicholas D Kristof: Islam, Virgins and Grapes

In the mosaic of America, three groups that have been unusually successful are Asian-Americans, Jews and West Indian blacks — and in that there may be some lessons for the rest of us. What’s the policy lesson from these three success stories?

It’s that the most decisive weapons in the war on poverty aren’t transfer payments but education, education, education. For at-risk households, that starts with social workers making visits to encourage such basic practices as talking to children. One study found that a child of professionals (disproportionately white) has heard about 30 million words spoken by age 3; a black child raised on welfare has heard only 10 million words, leaving that child at a disadvantage in school.

The next step is intensive early childhood programs, followed by improved elementary and high schools, and programs to defray college costs.

Perhaps the larger lesson is a very empowering one: success depends less on intellectual endowment than on perseverance and drive. As Professor Nisbett puts it, “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.”


In a SPIEGEL interview, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, 65, discusses the dramatic situation in Pakistan, where army troops are fighting Islamist extremists in the Swat Valley, his people's ambivalent relationship with the United States and his country's failures in combating the Taliban.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Musharraf, there's a bon mot that states that ruling Pakistan is like riding a tiger. You were in power for nine years. Are you bored now?

Musharraf: I recently was in Saudi Arabia, China and London giving lectures. I have engaged the famous Walker Agency ...

SPIEGEL: United States President Barack Obama has promised a new beginning. He wants to chase and fight the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and has enlargened the territory of operations. What do you think of this new strategy, which he calls AfPak?

Musharraf: I am totally against the term AfPak. I do not support the word itself for two reasons: First, the strategy puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan. We are not. Afghanistan has no government and the country is completely destabilized. Pakistan is not. Second, and this is much more important, is that there is an Indian element in the whole game. We have the Kashmir struggle, without which extremist elements like Lashkar-e-Taiba would not exist.




Obama 'Is Aiming at the Right Things'

In a SPIEGEL interview, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, 65, discusses the dramatic situation in Pakistan, where army troops are fighting Islamist extremists in the Swat Valley, his people's ambivalent relationship with the United States and his country's failures in combating the Taliban.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Musharraf, there's a bon mot that states that ruling Pakistan is like riding a tiger. You were in power for nine years. Are you bored now?

Musharraf: I recently was in Saudi Arabia, China and London giving lectures. I have engaged the famous Walker Agency ...

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: "I feel there is some kind of conspiracy going on."

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf: "I feel there is some kind of conspiracy going on."

SPIEGEL: ... which Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder all work with ...

Musharraf: ... In Prague, I am giving a lecture on leadership in front of high-level managers at a company which owns Pizza Hut and KFC.

SPIEGEL: Pakistan is in a major state of crisis. Close to 2.5 million people have fled the areas of fighting in the northwest and the Swat Valley. There are attacks almost daily. Is Pakistan on the verge of collapse?

Musharraf: This is wrong. Nothing can happen to Pakistan as long as the armed forces are intact and strong. Anyone who wants to weaken and destabilize Pakistan just has to weaken the army and our intelligence service, ISI, and this is what is happening these days. Lots of articles have been written claiming that Pakistan will be divided, that it will fall apart or become Balkanized. I personally feel there is some kind of conspiracy going on with the goal of weakening our nation.

SPIEGEL: Who do you believe is behind this conspiracy?

Musharraf: I won't tell you exactly because then you will ask me for evidence. I can only tell you that India, for example, has 16 insurgencies going on and nobody is making a big thing out of it. But the West always focuses on Pakistan as the problem.

SPIEGEL: United States President Barack Obama has promised a new beginning. He wants to chase and fight the Taliban and al-Qaida in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and has enlargened the territory of operations. What do you think of this new strategy, which he calls AfPak?

Musharraf: I am totally against the term AfPak. I do not support the word itself for two reasons: First, the strategy puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan. We are not. Afghanistan has no government and the country is completely destabilized. Pakistan is not. Second, and this is much more important, is that there is an Indian element in the whole game. We have the Kashmir struggle, without which extremist elements like Lashkar-e-Taiba would not exist.

SPIEGEL: This group is believed to have been responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Why should the US strategy also include India?

Musharraf: There are many Indian extremists who have links with extremists in Pakistan. So if the world is serious about combating terrorism, then don't leave India out. Originally, Richard Holbrooke was supposed to be the US special representative for all three countries, but the strong Indian lobby in America prevented that.

SPIEGEL: Are you disappointed by Obama?

Musharraf: No, he is aiming at the right things. He is showing intentions of improving the dialogue with the Muslim world, which is good. He is right when he says that more forces must be deployed in Afghanistan. There is an intention of increasing funding for Pakistan, which is also good. But he also has to understand the reality in Pakistan and I am not sure he does.

SPIEGEL: And how is the situation?

Musharraf: One of the realities is that the Indian intelligence service RAW is interfering in our country. For example in Balochistan, our largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. One of the most brutal insurgents against our forces, Brahamdagh Bugti ...

SPIEGEL: ... the grandson of Nawab Bugti, a tribal leader who was killed three years ago in a battle with the Pakistani army ...

Musharraf: ... he is sitting in Kabul, protected by the Afghan government and provided with weapons and money by the Indian intelligence agency RAW. He has his own training camps and sends his fighters to Balochistan where they terrorize people and damage the civil infrastructure. RAW is also interfering in the Swat Valley, I know that. Where do all these Taliban fighters in Swat get their arms and money from? From Afghanistan. The Indian consulates in Jallalabad and Kandahar only exist to be a thorn in the side of Pakistan.

SPIEGEL: Let us talk about the role of the ISI. A short time ago, US newspapers reported that ISI has systematically supported Taliban groups. Is that true?

Musharraf: Intelligence always has access to other networks -- this is what Americans did with KGB, this is what ISI also does. You should understand that the army is on board to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida. I have always been against the Taliban. Don't try to lecture us about how we should handle this tactically. I will give you an example: Siraj Haqqani ...