April 2008

Student ‘Twitters’ his way out of Egyptian jail

(CNN) — James Karl Buck helped free himself from an Egyptian jail with a one-word blog post from his cell phone.

Buck, a graduate student from the University of California-Berkeley, was in Mahalla, Egypt, covering an anti-government protest when he and his translator, Mohammed Maree, were arrested April 10.

On his way to the police station, Buck took out his cell phone and sent a message to his friends and contacts using the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The message only had one word. “Arrested.”

Sometimes it’s good to be wired..

More about Twitter and other apps like Jott and Phone Tag

Via the Australian: Esteem for US rises in Asia

…in a world supposedly awash in anti-US sentiment, pro-American leaders keep winning elections. Germany’s Angela Merkel is certainly more pro-American than Gerhard Schroeder, whom she replaced. The same is true of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.

More importantly in terms of Green’s analysis, the same is also true of South Korea’s new President. Lee Myung-bak, elected in a landslide in December, is vastly more pro-American than his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun.

Even in majority Islamic societies, their populations allegedly radicalised and polarised by Bush’s campaign in Iraq and the global war on terror more generally, election results don’t show any evidence of these trends. In the most recent local elections in Indonesia, and in national elections in Pakistan, the Islamist parties with anti-American rhetoric fared very poorly. Similarly Kevin Rudd was elected as a very pro-American Labor leader, unlike Mark Latham, with his traces of anti-Americanism, who was heavily defeated.

Even with China, the Iraq campaign was not a serious negative for the US. Beijing was far more worried by the earlier US-led NATO intervention into Kosovo because it was based purely on notions of human rights in Kosovo…

…Green cautions that a US failure in Iraq, a retreat and leaving chaos in Iraq behind, would gravely damage US credibility in Asia.

What is clear from Green’s analysis is how different the Asian environment is from the European environment, or even from the US domestic debate.

It is a form of Orientalism, but not quite what Edward Said had in mind.

Patrick Lasswell wonders: if Congressman Broun is so worried about harmful addictive masturbation, why doesn’t he focus his attention on earmarks?

In the NY Times, Barry Gewen describes the similarities and the differences between “Muslim Rebel Sisters” Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji:

Both Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Manji come from non-Arab Muslim backgrounds. By itself, this may be one reason for their opposition to Islamic orthodoxy, which they see as inherently Arab, or Arab-dominated. Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Somalia, and lived in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya before fleeing to the Netherlands when she was 22 to avoid an arranged marriage. When her family was in Saudi Arabia, she remembers her father’s complaining that the Saudis had perverted the true Islam. “He hated Saudi judges and Saudi law,” she writes. “He thought it was all barbaric, all Arab desert culture.”

Ms. Manji was born in 1968 in Uganda, but her family, part Egyptian and part Indian, moved to Canada when she was 4 to escape Idi Amin. She is even more insistent than Ms. Hirsi Ali in drawing a distinction between Islam and Arab tribal culture, its “dictatorship from the desert.” Who elected the Saudi monarch “to be Islam’s steward?” she asks. “We’re not in the Saudi sand dunes anymore.”

Ms. Manji has a broader and more flexible idea than Ms. Hirsi Ali of what Islam is and can be. Ms. Hirsi Ali says, “Saudi Arabia is the source of Islam and its quintessence.” Ms. Manji, on the other hand, is convinced that her religion can escape what she sees as its Arab domination. “We need a take-no-prisoners debate about Saudi Arabia, a cauldron of duplicity.” …

…No element more thoroughly informs the work of both women than feminism; its influence on their thinking can hardly be overstated, and in this sense they might be considered crown jewels in the history of the modern women’s movement. Yet because they are risking their lives for their beliefs — constantly, every day — they may have more in common with antitotalitarian dissidents like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn than with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. As feminists, Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Manji are demanding more than equality; they are very self-consciously challenging the foundations of an entire way of life….

…Clearly, this is a debate of importance not only to Muslims but to non-Muslims as well, and for a Westerner listening in, the best way to understand it may be to translate it into the language of European history. Irshad Manji sees herself as moving Islam into the 16th century; Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants to move it into the 18th. It’s as if Luther and Voltaire were living at the same time.

Comparing these brave women to Luther and Voltaire is more appropriate than comparing them to Steinem and Friedan. This is definitely an article worth reading.

[cross-posted at Solomonia]

Fighting terrorism by fighting terrorists. What a concept!

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) recently unveiled her “Wake Up America” agenda to a select group of media representatives, including Family Security Matters. Her agenda features a ten-point strategy to alert and educate Americans to terrorist threats posed by radical Islamic extremists here at home.

One of Myrick’s goals is to “explain to people what the roadblocks are” regarding the fight against terrorism in the United States. She also feels “very strongly about the infiltration” by those who would do us harm “that’s taking place in America.”

(and, no, she’s not talking about Mexicans crossing the border looking for jobs washing dishes)

A few of her proposals:

3. Will call for the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the selection process of Arabic translators in the FBI and DoD.

4. Will call for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) 501(c)(3) non-profit status which restricts “lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.”

5. Introduce a bill to make the preaching, publication, or distribution of materials that call for the death of American citizens, attacks on the United States Government or Armed Forces, or the financing of the means and/or operations to accomplish these acts, acts of sedition and/or solicitation of treason.

6. Will call on the Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit to verify the total sovereign wealth fund investment in the United States.

7. Will attempt to cancel scholarship student visa program with Saudi Arabia until they reform their textbooks.


NYC, 2008

Hillary Clinton wants to extend our nuclear umbrella over our beloved Gulf state allies:

Asked if “it should be US policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack against the United States,” Clinton astonishingly responded that she’d use American nukes not just to defend Israel, our traditional strategic ally, but also other neighboring states such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from an Iranian nuclear attack.

Hillary Clinton is willing to risk millions of American lives to protect the sponsors of 9/11 and the hub of world terrorism. This is a proposal that’s so stunningly drenched in idiocy, it transcends standard perceptions of logic and existence.

In contrast:

Barack Obama’s far more sensible answer was simply to commit to definitively and aggressively extend our deterrent protection to Israel – period.

Go Obama!

The latest food crisis news: Aid group to cut food ration to millions

In Haiti, where food riots forced a change in government last week, the next major food shipment is not expected before June, and that will not meet the need, Wolff said.

“Though we’re able to feed people, we’re not feeding people as we would like, and those people we are feeding are getting less than we would like.”

She cited two primary, interconnected causes: an increase in food prices and an increase in the need for food.

Wolff said the magnitude of the shortfall is unprecedented and predicted that the situation “probably will get worse as the year progresses.”

“What’s unique about this is that it’s happening all over the world,” she said.

Among the causes is the diversion of corn to the production of ethanol rather than food, she said.

The spiraling price of fuel has aggravated the problem by boosting the cost of fertilizer and transporting food.

Well, if high fuel prices are causing these problems, we can always ask our good friend, Saudi King Abdullah to increase oil production and bring prices down.

Uh, no.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, has put on hold any plans to further increase long-term production capacity from its vast oil fields, its most powerful policymakers have said.

In a series of statements, including one by the king himself, the kingdom has warned consumers it does not believe there is a need for further expansion, an assumption disputed by the world’s biggest developed countries

In previous years the Saudis didn’t want the price of oil to go too high, because it would encourage consumers to look for alternatives. Since we are now looking for alternatives, and since this food crisis threatens them too, it would make sense for them to open the taps a bit.

But they’re not. The only reasonable explanation is – they can’t. It’s becoming obvious that they don’t have the kind of oil production capacity we thought they had.

Since we were basing our estimates on what our terror-supporting allies told us (and the estimates of some guy in a little office over a grocery store in Geneva), this shouldn’t be a surprise.
On April 13th, King Abdullah dropped this bombshell:

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah said he had ordered some new oil discoveries left untapped to preserve oil wealth in the world’s top exporter for future generations…

“When there were some new finds, I told them, ‘no, leave it in the ground, with grace from god, our children need it’,” King Abdullah said…

Saudi production capacity stands at around 11.3 million bpd, and is scheduled to rise to 12.5 million bpd next year.

The King’s remarks seem to confirm a statement made last year by Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi who, when asked “How high can your production go?” replied, “We’ll get to 12.5 million barrels a day and then we’ll see.”

Of this announcement, Jeffrey Rubin, chief economist, CIBC World markets says:

“A far more plausible explanation for faltering growth in Saudi production and exports is that they are rapidly approaching maximum production. Given soaring rates of internal consumption for oil, they will soon be exporting less not more crude to world oil markets.

For years, Matt Simmons has been trying to tell the world that there was a looming oil production crisis in Saudi Arabia. For years, the KSA’s friends in the State Department portrayed him as a kook.

Of Abdullah’s announcement, Simmons says:

It is a reflection that Twilight set in on the oilfields of Arabia a few years ago.”

If the Sauds and other Gulf states have maxed out, they are in a very tight spot right now. People who have been living under unpopular regimes like the ones in Haiti and Egypt are rioting, mostly about food, but also about their hated leaders. The Gulf state leaders are more beloved by our government than they are by their own people.

The Gulf states are currently experiencing a tulipmania bubble. If workers apply pressure, or if they can’t keep oil profits steady, their economies will crash sooner than later.

With their depleted resources, their massive support of terrorism, and the fact that their bubble is about to burst, even the most determined realist must acknowledge that if we continue this codependent alliance, we will be flushed down the toilet with them.

I know it’s hard, but it is time to let go.

I’ve been offline for a while, taking a poorly planned cross-country trip, heading to Austin (but I only got as far as Nashville). I will never again plan a trip that involves traveling for more than 400 miles per day.

But I was encouraged to hear that it’s official – women drivers rule!


Danica Patrick

Britons fear race violence

…the poll, carried out by Mori, found three out of four people thought there was now a great deal or a fair amount of tension between races and nationalities.

And almost two in three feared tension was certain or likely to lead to violence, although it is not clear whether people are imagining full-blown street riots or minor scuffles.

Mr Phillips told BBC News: “What worries me is if that friction starts to catch fire – if people do genuinely believe it’s going to catch fire then we’re in trouble…

…Asked if they thought immigration meant their local area didn’t feel like Britain any more, a quarter of the sample agreed – double the amount who felt this three years ago.

Six out of 10 said immigration had made parts of Britain feel like a foreign country.

I love neighborhoods like Little Korea and the almost entirely Russian-speaking Brighton Beach neighborhood in New York. Traveling to these places is like taking a trip to a foreign country, for the low cost of one Metro-card swipe.

Being a fan of foreign neighborhoods and curries, I also sought out the ‘ethnic’ neighborhoods in London. The feeling one gets in those neighborhoods is different. Little Korea is open and lively, and despite some neighborhood clannishness, most businesses welcome anyone. From what I saw, there is prejudice in England, but the problem is with the immigrants’ severe prejudice against the natives.

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