Thursday, December 30, 2004
We have moved a long way from where we were. Communication's all embracing now, wireless telephony, blue-tooth, internet, GSP. Yet, when the big waves devastated those shores and took more lives than is imaginable, little could be done. Scientists in the Hawaiian tsunami research centre stood by helpless, not knowing where to turn to. In fact, the first warnings they gave was one of chilling reticence:
.......TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN .......
ATTENTION: NOTE REVISED MAGNITUDE.
THIS MESSAGE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING OR WATCH IN EFFECT.
AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS
ORIGIN TIME - 0059Z 26 DEC 2004
COORDINATES - 3.4 NORTH 95.7 EAST
LOCATION - OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATERA
MAGNITUDE - 8.5
REVISED MAGNITUDE BASED ON ANALYSIS OF MANTLE WAVES.
THIS EARTHQUAKE IS LOCATED OUTSIDE THE PACIFIC. NO DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS FOR THE PACIFIC BASIN BASED ON HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.
THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF A TSUNAMI NEAR THE EPICENTER.
THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.
Then, when it became evident that it was going to be a major disaster, they couldn't find anyone in their address book to contact. Yet these are the people who've been to oceanographic conferences throughout the world, attended by, among others, colleagues from the devastated area.
And the world has moved on too, with the landmass from India to Australia splitting in two, and the Indian plate pushing up the Himalayas, and the Australian, rotating counter-clockwise into the former. God knows what unsettling time's in store for us, with this dire warning from seismologists: that a region of seismic activity has become active in the South Eastern Indian Ocean now.
Krakatoa was the last memory of devastation in the area, in 1883, when the world exploded in Indonesia, taking 35,000 lives in Java and Sumatra in the ensuing 100- feet tsunami. In 1945, tsunami waves killed several hundred people near Bombay (now Mumbai), and even earlier than that, in 1762, tsunami waves lashed ashore with ferocity on what is now Bangladesh. So tsunamis aren't altogether that rare in the Indian Ocean area. One report says that there have been 7 records of tsunamis set off by earthquakes near Indonesia, Pakistan and in the Bay of Bengal.
Now, as Europe and the UN and the US are squabbling about aid programmes, the truth has dawned that it is easier in our age of communication and IT to wage war and to precision-bomb than to save lives in natural disasters. There's even more money for warfare than for healing, and leaders are more accessible to warfare programmes than to human relief. It took Tony Blair of Britain four days before penning a single note of sympathy from his holiday resort in Egypt for the devastated countries, and Britain, in the immediate reaction to the news, proclaimed the donation of a miserly £1 million — a figure revised to £15 million a day later when the miserliness sank in.
There's bitterness, grief and bodies everywhere. Now of course everyone's talking about a warning system similar to the one in the Pacific coastal area. Dr Tad Murthy, an Indian born tsunami expert at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg has often wondered why, with its record, and with such a high population density along the coasts of Southern Asia, tsunami warning systems had not been put in place at all.
In fact, as recently as last June, according to a report, experts at a UN-sponsored Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission concluded that countries in the Indian Ocean should have a warning network because of a significant threat from both local and distant tsunamis.
And this is what Dr Murty says about India, Malaysia and Thailand and other countries in the area: "They have never shown any initiative to do anything."
I'm grateful to Dr Lareef Zubair of the Sri Lanka Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology Network and The Earth Institute at Columbia University for useful information, though views expressed above need not necessarily coincide with his. In reply to my enquiry on the new area of seismic activity becoming active, he had this to add:
"It takes time for energy to get pent up — so don't expect a repeat of the current one any time soon in the same area...A new fault line is developing — so there will be potential for submarine earthquake in a line across the IO [Indian Ocean] that had not experienced quakes in past centuries."
Drowning, Not Waving
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa,
by Katsushika Hokusai(1760-1849)
"In Los Angeles, the head of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said U.S. officials who detected the undersea quake tried frantically to get a warning out about the tsunami.
"But there was no official alert system in the region, said Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Honolulu.
"'It took an hour and a half for the wave to get from the earthquake to Sri Lanka and an hour for it to get ... to the west coast of Thailand and Malaysia,' he said. 'You can walk inland for 15 minutes to get to a safe area.'
"'We tried to do what we could,' he said. 'We don't have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world.' "
§Asian disaster may affect two civil wars
§The true horror emerges
A Fable For Our Times
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Time Unveiling Truth, by Jean François Detroy, 1733
National Gallery London Collection
As yet another year's coming to an end, what's left for me to say but to wish you a happy, prosperous and safe 2005? Hope this outgoing year hasn't been too unkind to you if you're not in Iraq or Palestine, or Southern Thailand, or Côte d'Ivoire (where French soldiers are having a gala time at the expense of the natives), or Haiti, or Diego Garcia, or Darfour, to name but a handful. But if you are, then I hope and pray that for you, especially, this coming year will be significantly better. And for those thousands who died under the lashes of the tsunami, what can I say? They've gone out even before the year's ended, and for those who're left behind to grieve, any amount of sympathy we can offer is too little. What is happening to the world?
Then it's to the average blog-reader in the street that I turn: I hope the outgoing year has been fairly, reasonably well for you, unless you've been buying some honey for yourself from Singapura-pura or holidaying in Fallujah.
Well, Fallujah is quiet now, quietly uninhabitable. The US-led invasion on Eid Day was memorable; people shot in mosques, minarets used for target practise, and soldiers fully shod resting against the minbar, then bodies left in the streets for dogs to chew. Just an ordinary day in the life of an invading army. Then, just to complete the tour, last Thursday they went back to Fallujah, to the Ar-Rawi Mosque, and targetted especially the library which housed books from the collection of Sheikh Hussein Awdah, a renowned scholar from Fallujah past. In it were priceless works by Ibn Taimiyyah, Ibn Kathir (famous for his exegesis of the Qur'an), and Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti. One priceless edition destroyed was said to be an autograph copy of a work by Ibn Taimiyyah. These works will survive, no fear, they've been printed and re-printed many, many times; but the Awdah library collection were extremely rare, and now they're just a heap of dust after they've been fed to the bonfire.
Still, I'd have liked to end this for you on a sweet note, but faltered, fearing that you've been shopping for honey in the Lion City. But don't spit it out if you have, just mull it over quietly until you've reached the safety of Johor, then retch. I only say this because Singapura-pura, a nation without two bees to keep in their collective bonnets, has been exporting millions of pounds of honey in recent years, making it the world's 4th biggest honey exporter. No harm in that you may well say, but you should be worried still because, chances are, the honey's been imported from China and Chinese honey has been banned by Canada, the US of A, and the EU. The reason for this is the level of chloramphenicol — an antibiotic — in Chinese honey, and the thing's been linked to aplastic anaemia, "a serious disease with symptoms similar to some cancers," according to Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, the magazine of American Beekeeping.
And to the gentle souls who submitted this blog for two categories of award, I am indeed humbled; and a big thank you. And to all those who've given Jalan-Jalan their votes, I love you all. Modesty prevents me from giving further details until it's all over. And then, when it's all over, we'll put it all behind us and proceed quietly into the new year.
A happy one to you all!
Fallujah Burning and Honey Laundering
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Since then Blunkett's left the cabinet, man and dog, and has been making emotional noises about doing it for "my little lad". The little lad being the son that he claims to have fathered out of wedlock in an affair with the Spectator magazine publisher Kimberley Quinn who was, and is, married to Stephen Quinn, founder of GQ magazine for lads.
It was not however, this affair with a married woman that unzipped Blunkett, but another matter concerning the speeding up of a visa for the Filipino maid of the Spectator lady. Work visa applications normally take months to process, but in this case it took just a matter of weeks. To what extent was this due to Blunkett's intervention to do a good turn for the lady he was besotted with? A recent inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Alan Budd didn't exactly clear Blunkett of wrong-doing, but it did not find a smoking gun that could put the blame squarely on him either. Blunkett, a man who'd hitherto been crowing aloud about his prodigious memory and attention to detail suddenly forgot what he did, and, rather fortuitously, the important fax that emanated from Blunkett's office (author unestablished) to the Immigration authorities, has been destroyed. No wonder then that Opposition leader Michael Howard is still trying to singe Blunkett's beard.
But the danger of Blunkett lay not in the fact that he was prone to bad judgment when faced with the lady publisher of a right-wing magazine, but in his constant love-affair with baying populists. As the columnist Roy Hattersley — once himself a Labour Home Secretary — put it, Blunkett's danger was that he was an outflanker par excellence, a man not unlike Robert Peel who, in Benjamin Disrael's words in 1845, "caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes". Blunkett has run away with most of the Conservatives' garb.
Blunkett saw everything that populism wanted - erosion of civil liberties, demonising of immigrants, ridiculing of judges - as opportunities to be grabbed. Which he did in the name of the Labour party, and won wide accolade from the raucous man in the street who'd been fed on a steady diet of fear and dread rustled by tabloid-sized scare-mongers. Under Blunkett the onus of proof began to shift in English jurisprudence, from innocent until proven otherwise to guilt at time of arrest. Indeed, Blunkett's law goes even further by putting on those arrested an onus so great that they're not even allowed to know the reason for their being detained, whilst their right to be charged and tried is denied. Just look at all those prisoners — all Muslims, sadly — who're languishing under harsh conditions in Belmarsh, Britian's equivalent of Guantanamo.
Blunkett in love and forced resignation may have tugged many hearts — a blind man, red in the face from crying, whose fault, as one tabloid newspaper put it, was that he loved too much. Blunkett in Court suing for access to the child he'd allegedly sired, and proclaiming to the world that he did it for his "little lad". The same Blunkett who caused grieving and heartache to those wives and children of people he'd Belmarshed without benefit of trial or charge.
"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. The real threat to the life of the nation ... comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory." — Lord Hoffman
So said an eminent Law Lord in England's highest court of appeal, when he and seven others ruled against the Government's anti-terrorism law which allows indefinite detention without trial. Blunkett's law was in strict violation of human rights, the House of Lords ruled, in a majortity of 8-1, even though they themselves could not do much about the law, leaving it to the Government to consider the implications.
Hard man Blunkett reputedly said that he did not care how many foreigners were detained without trial as long as Britain was safe. Though safety itself was a conundrum: was Britain safe because of the detention policy, or was there a danger to start with? In another case when the judges went against his asylum policy, Blunkett retaliated with this:
"I want the judges to reflect on this. We've got to be careful that it doesn't snowball out of hand, because if it does, the people will believe that they turn to the courts for satisfaction - not to MPs and democracy."
His argument here is that whatever the Government does is democratic, never mind that the reasoning here is so seriously flawed.
So Blunkett's logic and instinct is patently tabloid. When Lord Woolf, an independent minded judge who's been vociferous in his criticism of the various curtailments of civil liberties, criticised the Government, the reasoning used by a tabloid newspaper was very much Blunkett's — that the govenrment was elected and the Law Lord was not. The point here being that everything the government did was right, and everything here meant just that.
The sheer ludicrousness of it is breath-taking. That right and wrong, decency and morality are no longer constants but can waiver according to popular vote. How could one man cry foul when the Christians were fed to the lions by democratic choice?
Blunkett was so in love with that, and a large section of the public love him for that too; so mark my words, he'll be back.
§The Special Immigration Appeals Commission: why I resigned.
§Internment without trial in Britain.
§Judges' verdict on terror laws provokes constitutional crisis
§Journalist Admits Affair with Kimberly Quinn.
Affairs Under the Blunkett
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
The Sikhs' objection to Behzti, written by a Sikh, is that it portrays sexual abuse in a Gurdwara,
a Sikh temple. Sikhs find this objectionable, and so they should because, as Sewa Singh Manda, a member of the Gurdwara Council in Birmingham says, "In a Sikh temple, sexual abuse does not take place, kissing and dancing does not take place, rape does not take place, homosexual activity doesn't take place, murders do not take place..." And the Anglican Bishop John Sentamu also joins in. "The themes of sexual abuse and power manipulation are to be condemned. But what causes offence among Sikhs is not only that it is set in a Gurdwara, but it uses recitation of Sikh scripture as if this was the norm in a gurdwara when actually it isn't," he says.
Opponents of course say that the Sikh demonstrators were standing in the way of free expression, and to some of these people, the theatre is as sacred a place as Gurdwaras or Mosques. The issue of freedom of expression v.religious sensitivity is an intractable one, but thank God we're — most of us, that is — endowed with common sense. Absolutes don't exist, mind, but sometimes I'm troubled by this creature called symbolism. A recent BBC series on spooks, terrorism, the MI5 and all that dealt with bearded, turbaned men too. But in that, by happenstance or choice, the good Imam was a beardless man, never seen in a mosque, and the villains were volatile, perpetually praying, bearded ones. Accident or choice? Subliminal or coincidence?
A propos the above, here's an interesting letter from yesterday's Guardian:
"Why are Sikhs in Birmingham so upset about a fictional murder on a stage which resembles a Sikh temple? I don't remember the media reporting that any Muslims were offended when the TV news recently screened film footage of a real murder, committed inside a real mosque, in a town called Falluja.
— John Allman
Knaresborough, N. Yorks"
Ah, Fallujah, the face of Satan.
Our Daily Beard
Monday, December 20, 2004
Sampson was a close friend of Mandela, whom he knew from the days when he was editor of the anti-apartheid magazine African Drum. Mandela trusted him completely, and asked him to write his biography. When I saw Sampson on that train last summer he was going to a function at South Africa House.
He was, as he said in his preface to Who Runs This Place? an "independent and inquisitive journalist".
Another man who also made his mark in British journalism in the last century, David Astor, died earlier this month. Astor was, for many years, editor of the 'Observer' newspaper, perhaps the oldest newspaper in the country. Astor was probably one of the last of his breed, an editor from a distinguished background and an instinctive liberal, a person who was sometimes bigger than the instituion that he ran. Anthony Sampson wrote the obituary for David Astor and himself died before the month reaches its end. In it Sampson wrote about the old 'Observer' office behind the 'Daily Mail' (which has also since moved). I think I was then doing my apprenticeship in an office nearby, and, for reasons I've now forgotten, I was at the door of the 'Observer' building one lunch-time when David Astor emerged with another man I instantly recognised as John Profumo, former Tory War Minister in the Christine Keeler affair.
§ Anthony Sampson's Obituary of David Astor
§ Anthony Sampson: Obituary
Death of Anatomy Man
Sunday, December 19, 2004
The Morning Star reminds me of those Saturday afternoons when I used to trudge through the undergrowth of Highgate Cemetery examining the relics of Victoriana, and thanking those dewy-eyed Marxists who made part of my route that much easier to negotiate by their having beaten path to Marx. Oh, I did stop by Marx all right, to give the man a cursory look, and whenever I did that I also threw a glance at Herbert Spencer, who was at the opposite end from Marx, and who also looked very grave, if you'll excuse the word. But there I was, on a Saturday afternoon, at Marx & Spencer's, among men and women in ideological anoraks.
Here then, is the review. Enjoy it and have a laugh at the expense of the postmodernist, which, I hope, you're not —
The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom
Review by Chris Williams
There's a reactionary philosophy sweeping literature departments throughout the English-speaking world right now.
It's called postmodernism and, among other things, it claims that all ideas are relative, that all science is baloney and that pretty much any reality is just a "social construct."
Its practitioners are so anti-materialism that it's no surprise to learn that they are usually very well off, living comfortable lives made possible by the science and technology they despise.
It claims to be leftist, but, by denying that we can analyse the world rationally, it's against the very tools that successive liberation movements have used to fight their corner.
Most postmodernists couldn't write a straightforward sentence if you paid them.
They have elevated bad writing into an art form.
Some even claim that, because language is inherently flawed, merely by writing badly they are making their point. I'm not making this up.
A marvellous blow was struck against the purveyors of fashionable nonsense in 1996 by Alan Sokal, a left-wing physicist who was tired of all the nonsense that literary theorists were talking about science.
He wrote an article crammed with meaningless gobbledegook and sent it into the postmodern journal Social Text - which printed it.
Hot on Sokal's heels come two young philosophers Benson and Stangroom, who point out that the emperor has no clothes with this biting book, the Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense.
In a series of spoof definitions, they attack every fashionable intellectual conceit that they can think of, from Absolute Zero - "since there are no absolutes, it might seem unlikely that there is such a thing" - to Zarathustra via Class Up-Itself - "a social class when it gets really smug. See Charles."
This is a fine idea and worth a read.
This book's main problem, though, is that, in order to get most of the jokes - which mix parody, puns and over-egged description - you have to know something about the fashionable nonsense itself.
The people who are really going to lap this stuff up are those who are forced to encounter it in their working lives.
The people who ought to read it - the postmodernists who still haven't admitted that Sokal fooled them - will probably ignore it.
But it's nearly Christmas, so, if you are struggling to think of a present for the intellectual in your life, get them this. They'll groan, they'll cry, they'll laugh.
§Interview with Alan Sokal.
§Sokal by Sokal
Friday, December 17, 2004
I remember the spiral staircase well: it was metal and painted green, and clinging on its winding cork-screw hand-rail on the way up filled me with dread. We walked round and round its central pole as if on a journey to nowhere, then suddenly, before us, lay the well-lit dusty, spacious, drum chamber of the Masjid Abidin, with its elongated drum on props, lying horizontally, its hollow end facing out to the Kuala Trengganu rooftops. Our guide, Dolloh, son of the Bilal or muezzin was a street-toughned lad with a tougher nut to crack. Behind his back he was called Dolloh Ppala Besor (Dolloh with the big head), and he had a forehead that protruded out, straight jet-black hair, and a skull that had probably withstood many knocks. Like many a tough lad I knew, he was a softie when his heart-string got tugged; and he sometimes spoke wistfully to us of a love he'd left behind in Mersing on Johor's east coast.
Mersing was then the El Dorado of Trengganu fisher folk, a place they sought for gals and gold, and Dolloh was there all right, for six months he said. He'd been in many fights and had a side-kick known as Mat whom I never saw in the Masjid. I met him a few times though, in the street, and he indeed had a slight scar in one corner of his mouth, an adornment that gave him the Malay sobriquet of birat. Mat Birat reminded me of those characters in Malay movies who had the attention of the heroine for only a bit, and then spent the rest of the footage being trod upon by P. Ramlee or Ahmad Mahmud.
The mosque stood among a cluster of houses and little shops. My uncle had his house on one side of the mosque perimeter, outside a huge wall that fenced in the graves and the outhouse that was called the marja' where mosque hands adjourned to in between prayers and where the Imam often dropped in for a chat or a nap. The marja', I was told, meant a place for consultations but it always had the smell of left-over food, or the sweet scent of hair pomade that drifted in the air after someone's had a hair cut. Just outside the 'spear' railings behind the Mosque was a photo studio called Lay Sing, run by a stern man with a square jaw and a son who never wore a shirt, whom we knew as Ah Leng. When I was in upper primary at the Sultan Sulaiman School, it was from Ah Leng that I learned the rudiments of photography, from his diagnoses of my under-exposed shots, or those overlapping pictures when I forgot to wind the camera, or those dark ones taken against the light. He hired out cameras to me at, I think, just over a dollar a day, and took in the film to develop. I still have pictures taken in those days with the Lay Sing Rolleiflex — mother sitting on top of the stairs of our house, my old friend C.H.Lim who once told me in earnest while we were being trishawed to school that he once ended a prolonged blackout by singing O Jesus Loves me, and K.K.Soh, who caused much annoyance because, some days, whilst waiting for me to be ready for our early morning journey to school, my father would walk up to him to broach some of my slothful secrets.
Just before I left Kuala Trengganu I heard that my friend K.K.Soh had died in a road accident, and that one day, as Ah Leng was tending to his work in the photo studio, a man walked in and plunged a knife into his shirtless top. He died instantly in his father's shop.
The Masjid Abidin was very much the centre of my life in Kuala Trengganu not only because it was the only place Father went to after work — oftentimes with me tagging along — but also because of my uncle's proximity to it, and an auntie lived just a shouting distance away down the road. I knew the Mosque and its people very well, ate with them during the mosque feasts, listened to their adult talk in between evening prayers, and sometimes, I'd stay there to listen in to the Imams when they gave their long talks.
One day, after an afternoon prayer, while the leading preacher Imam Haji Wan Hassan was giving a discourse on some aspects of a kitab, a slightly unbalanced man sitting in the front row produced a wad of $10.00 notes which, with one mighty burst of strength, he tore to shreds. I was terrified as I feared that he'd soon run amok — which he didn't — but was equally impressed by the Imam who batted not an eye-lid. The police arrived soon afterwards to take the man away in a strait-jacket, leaving a trail of confetti money on the carpet.
Later in life, when we were all suited for adult talk, Father shared with us his observation from a life-time of mosque-going. It's a place, he said, that attracts many types: the devout, the wayward, the scrounger and the desperate.
Growing Up in Trengganu #12151
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Coming to grips with an Ay-rab
Somewhere in North Carolina, marine trainees are reading the Qur'an, eating pitta-bread and hummous and mahshi waraq 'inab, and perhaps even kissing camels to get into the soul of the Ay-rab. They say Alhamdulillah and Allahu Akbar, and take their shoes off when entering buildings, and wear the burnoos and wrap towels around their heads. And they call themselves Abu this and Abu that.
One of them, just returned from Iraq, also attended the course. When asked by a journalist what he'd do if he were in charge in Iraq, this is what he said:
"I'd kill them all, they don't know what democracy is"
Well, that's one graduate from this "mirror-image" Jihadist training course where army personnel, intelligence interrogators, and everyone else involved in the defence of the free world are living Ay-rab, eating Ay-rab, dressing Ay-rab, and even facing Makkah to pray to Allah, just like a good Ay-rab. That's in between reading the Penguin Classics translation of the Qur'an, of course.
And when they're finished reading the Penguin they learn to negotiate with the bedouins and other desert dwellers, all in the name of getting into the minds of the terrorists. And they're also lectured on the history of Arab terrorism. Well, maybe if their lecturers go back far enough they'll soon discover who it was who created Saddam Hussein, armed bin Ladin to the teeth, had early negotiations with the Talibans, and backed most other unsavoury despots on earth.
Meanwhile I'm off to don a nifty suit, wear rimless glasses, a pat of brylcreem on my head, talk in nonsensical loops, be crass with human lives and grin like the Cheshire cat. Maybe, soon enough. I'll be able to fathom the nut that is posing for all as Donald Rumsfeld and understand what it's like to be a murderous idiot.
And I'm not making this up. Read it all here:
§Marines learn how to fight for Allah
Democracy In Action II
Monday, December 13, 2004
By Angry Girl
Did you know....
1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.
"Two voting companies & two brothers will count 80 percent of U.S. election."
2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry.
"Elections In America - Assume Crooks Are In Control."
"Two voting companies & two brothers will count 80 percent of U.S. election."
3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.
"Private Company Still 'Controls' Election Outcome."
"Two voting companies & two brothers will count 80 percent of U.S. election."
4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
"E-Voting: Is The Fix In?"
"Part One: Will Your Vote Count?"
5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.
"Diebold's Political Machine."
"Diebold, electronic voting and the vast right-wing conspiracy."
6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family, was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee.
"Ballot-Tampering in the 21st century."
"Hagel's ethics filings pose disclosure issue."
"U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel Now Admits Ownership In Voting Company (ES&S."
7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice-presidential candidates.
"The Maverick on Bush's Short List."
"Vice president Chuck Hagel?"
8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.
"Two voting companies & two brothers will count 80 percent of U.S. election."
9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
"Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."
"U.S. states using e-voting in Nov. 2 election."
10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.
"Diebold, Electronic Voting and the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."
"Diebold: We won't rest."
11. Diebold is based in Ohio.
12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as senior managers and developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in 30 states.
"Con Job at Diebold Subsidiary."
13. Jeff Dean, Diebold's Senior Vice-President and senior programmer on Diebold's central compiler code, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree.
"How to Hack the Vote: the Short Version."
"Company Information: What you won't find on the Co. websites." [pdf file]
14. Diebold Senior Vice-President Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.
"How to Hack the Vote" the Short Version."
"Company Information: What you won't find on the Co. websites." [pdf file]
15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.
"Election Officials in Ohio and Florida Fail to Give Poll Access to International Election Observers."
"Foreign observers banned by Blackwell."
16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it! (See the movie here.)
"California Bans E-Vote Machines."
"California official seeks criminal probe of e-voting."
17. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail.
"E-Voting: Is The Fix In?"
18. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.
"Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy."
"Media Blacks Out Voting Problems."
"Complete US Exit Poll Data Confirms Net Suspicions."
19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's brother.
"Jeb Bush's Influence in Fla. Inspires Awe, Rage."
20. Serious voting anomalies in Florida — again always favoring Bush — have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending further investigation.
"University researchers challenge Bush win in Florida."
"Tens of Thousands of Votes Lost, Stolen, Miscounted."
"Evidence Mounts That The Vote May Have Been Hacked."
"Bush's 'Incredible' Vote Tallies."
"Investigating the Accuracy of Elections."
The odds of some of these amazing voting anomalies were the equivalent of statistical miracles. Was it God? or was it Diebold...?
By the way, there's also word that Hagel is considering running for president in 2008! Imagine that....
LET THE FACTS BE KNOWN! Thank you!
Want more details? Check out
"Voting Fraud in the USA: A Tale of Two Brothers!"
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT
THE ELECTION FRAUD
Thanks, Angry Girl.
Democracy in Action
Saturday, December 11, 2004
A child remembers its cavernous interior, the massive pillars that reached great heights, and the depth of its mihrab in the inner reaches of its west facing front that was out of the reach to a young novice. This square forward position that jutted out from the vast rectangular body of the Mosque was the sanctuary of the Imam who led the prayer, local dignitaries when they graced us with their presence, and of men with flowing cloaks and heads wrapped in dangly-tailed white turbans, and a local learned with a head-gear that looked like it'd been made from reeds, a man we called Ku Haji So-and-So of the serban bakul, the headgear of woven basket; a Ku by title he was, scion of the local royalty. When he passed on, his eldest son came to the Mosque in similar headgear, so we took it to be the regalia of office of some esoteric order of local dignitaries.
In the quiet after the Friday congregational prayer I often wandered to the front of the Mosque, to the mihrab niche where the Imam led the prayer. It was a confined quarter without the wide ambience of the main back chamber, and in this limited space one could presumably focus better on meditation and prayer. From this forward position which projected out of the main body I could see — not through windws, but portholes — the tips of tall tombstones outside in the burial ground of members of the royal household.
The Masjid Abidin as I remember it was a 'living' mosque that attracted people of many miens and disposition, and these were just those of my age. There was Ku Teng, who was reputedly born in a bottle ("beranok ddlang botol"), there was Pe'ee, who lived in Kampung Dalam Bata, and Cik Wa, whose father had one of the early motor cars in Kuala Terengganu. Some of the people I knew actually stayed the night there after the last 'Isha prayer, to be awoken again at the crack of dawn by the resounding beat of the Mosque drum or geduk as we called it, and the gentle lilt of the pre-dawn tarhim that was followed by the thunderous azan that bellowed out of speakers in the four minarets. There were people who worked in the mosque, people who slept in the mosque, and a brave, lone man who stayed the night behind a closed door in the annexe that housed the mausoleums of past Sultans and their close family members. His job was to tend to those tombs and offer daily supplications for the souls of the departed. Once in daylight, I saw the door slightly ajar and peeked inside to see him fallen among the pallisade of tombstones of the royal dead, fast asleep. Those supplications in the dead of night must've made him quite tired.
The muezzins were known to locals by volume and name. Bilal Sa'id, a handsome man with a mellifluous tone, lived in the vicinity of the Mosque; another, Bilal Haji Deraman, lived in the middle of a padi field not far from a romantic place called Paya Bunga, the pond of flowers. He was a bluff man with a gruff though not unpleasant voice that reached parts that other Bilals couldn't, even with benefit of the mike. Once on a Radio Malaysia play, I was listening to the nattering of Raffles' scribe, Abdullah, when Bilal Deraman's unmistakable voice boomed out in the background just as Abdullah reached the shores of 18th century East Coast Malay States. Father told me he remembered seeing the man from the Radio at the Mosque, recording Bilal Deraman for posterity.
My father set his daybreak routine by the sound of the tarhim in the morning when he rose for his ablutions, then, by the sound of the geduk he'd be dressed in his sarung and baju, to start his brisk walk to arrive just in time for the end of the azan. Regulars to the Mosque knew this routine very well, and timed their journey to the movements of the bilal, taking the gap between the sounding of the geduk and the azan to be roughly 8 - 10 minutes — the time the bilal took to walk from the loft of the Mosque, where the geduk was housed, to the foot of the stairs, where the microphone was placed. It worked out very well for Father unless it was Bilal Deraman's turn, for then he'd rush out muttering something about Bilal Deraman being at the helm. The reason was that Bilal Deraman had a muscle-rippling, silat practising son called Dolloh who did the geduk for him as he waited patiently at the foot of the stairs. As soon as the beatings of the geduk ended, Bilal Deraman went straight to the azan without pause, sending many a faithful scurrying and jumping down the stairs of their homes.
Picture Note: The picture of the modern Masjid Abidin (above), is completely different from the one I knew. Additions have been made without regard to the old architecture, and it has been completely modernised, even taking on the 'rocket' minaret of the Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
Growing Up in Trengganu #12150
Friday, December 10, 2004
Also, a couple of years ago, I was sent on an errand to a main shopping street to hand in a letter to a member — any member — of a widely recognised high street bank, but the more I walked the long street, the more I became flustered. There was not a single one of that darned bank that had a person in it, working for the bank. They were all taken over by machines that gave anything from aggravation to ackers to your statements of account. Whatever's happened to all those people who used to work in banks?
Well, one well-known bank in Queensway, West Londra, is now Tiger Lil's, a fry-before-your-eyes eastern eaterie. Another, once called William & Glyn's, vanished before my eyes, re-emerged under another name, and is now gone forever. I miss William & Glyn's because, impoverished though I was and am, it gave us much amusement. A friend of mine who used to live with his Mum in a huge Council estate across the road from where Mr William & Mr Glyn were, used to give me reports about the number of times desperate souls ventured through its portals to withdraw money without benefit of an account (but mostly with benefit of a shotgun). Many a time he'd look out of his bedroom window to see hooded men running out with bags of swag, and the bank personnel peeking out timidly after them. Alas, poor William & Glyn's now that they're gone!
But many banks, with even more famous names have gone too, wiped out of the face of these High Streets. Why and where are they gone?
I have a fascination with banks because they seem to be operating on a system of logic that is at once naive and charming. Many a time I have applied for an overdraft because, well, let's be honest about it: I need one. And many a time I've been turned down because, they say, I never seem to have any money in my account, so why should I get one?
Banking used to be friendly and easy: you walk into your local branch, deposit a pound, and your cheque book plops onto your doormat a day or two later, well, give or take a few crooked postmen. Now you need a letter from, at the very least, the Grand Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church, countersigned by the Archbishop of Limpopo and his various mitred henchmen. And still they'll refuse to give you one. And nowadays, if you overdraw by a penny, or if your money comes in late to honour your monthly orders standing, they'll send you a stiff letter of reprimand with an even stiffer footnote saying that now, because of their pain — not yours — they'll have to impose a stiff fine of say, sixty pounds. And I err on the side of understatement. A couple of months ago I had three standing orders unfulfilled for reasons of delay in my cash flowing, and for their letters and pain I had to pay them a mere £200. If they can make that amount of money from one poor man who'd got three letters from them, I'd like to know how many such letters they send out in an average month. And why feign to be in pain? If I were a banker with many Beta-blogger accounts I'd redraft my standard letter to my flock:
Dear Holder of A Dud Account,
We have pleasure to inform you that your standing order has failed yet again, for which we shall now be transferring £50 from your account to our coffers. But as, at the moment, you have Nil pounds in your account, we shall have to impose on you another surcharge of £50 for making us feel like Old Mother Hubbard. May I, on behalf of Mrs Mammon and myself, express our grateful thanks to you for your valued account? We hope you shall continue to keep your payments in default, and your account in the red as my staff and I are already looking forward to our rollicking office Christmas party, and then, afterwards, a New Year bash.
Your Gleeful Manager
No matter how pained your banker makes his tune, banking is nothing but fun, at our expense of course, yours and mine. Where do banks get their money from? Well, I've solved one part of the mystery above. And then, where else? Let's forget money-launderers for the time being, and what do you get? Nothing, zilch, nowt. And in this age of electronic money-creation, it's even easier to do that, and why not? So, you want to borrow five zillion zlotys for your little shop, well yes, why not, tap-a-tap-tap there it is, already there in your account. Look up fiat money if you like, to see how it works.
That is why, the more penniless I become, the more I'm attracted to the thinking of people like my friend Daud Musa Pidcock whose pronouncements on interest-seeking leeches and high jinks banking I find absolutely spot-on. Daud speaks partly from a Muslim perspective, and Islam of course looks at the treatment of money as a commodity as absolutely abhorrent. But there are others too nowadays who are slowly opening their eyes to the repressive and fraudulent nature of money making. There are many here, I'm pleased to say, who are Christians and many who have no faith at all except in human decency and the ability to live without exploitation.
In her review of Richard Douthwaite's book, The Ecology of Money, Patricia Knox says:
"Only about 3% of the money at present in circulation is notes and coins. The other 97% is debt money, ultimately owed to the banks, and borrowed into existence by people who take out mortgages and loans.
"The money system is fundamentally unstable, causes recessions and inflation, and is the driving force behind constant economic growth.
"Money is created for the profit of banks. In 1998/99, profits of the UK's twelve banks and former building societies was £22 billion, equal to about £400 for every man woman and child in the country."
§The Endangered US Dollar
§Alternative views about money
§The real story of money
§The Disastrous History of Money: English Wooden Sticks
Banking On It
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Makkah is a powerful, magnetic city that attracts saints and sinners, devotees and lunatics aplenty. I have lost track of the number of times I've read people — ostensibly sane — who urge the nuking of Makkah on the simple premiss that once this holy of holies is razed to the ground, then there'll be no more raison d'etre for Islam, as if Muslims worship Makkah. It's not the abhorrent thought that alarms, but the mere simplicity of it that is astounding. Islam will still be there even if the Ka'abah is gone, and I'll have you know that in its history, the Ka'abah has crumbled many times, and some believe it will, again, in the end of time.
The thinking that is slowly gaining ground now is that the battle now is against Islam. In the prelude to the attack against Fallujah, an eminent military person voiced this out to his troops, that Fallujah is the face of Satan. Many fire-bellied Southern preachers have been shouting this all along, and some of them have friends in the corridors of power in Washington. When seemingly respectable people start muttering things to similar effect it becomes even more worrying. The following was said by a columnist in The Washington Times:
"It is time we admitted that we are not at war with 'terrorism.' We are at war with Islam. This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran. The only reason Muslim fundamentalism is a threat to us is because the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to us. Every American should read the Koran and discover the relentlessness with which non-Muslims are vilified in its pages. The idea that Islam is a 'peaceful religion hijacked by extremists' is a dangerous fantasy — and it is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge."
Note the attempt at rationality, that this is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims stuff, because what all these ranters want most is for us to believe that they are all rational people whilst their rationalism is turd-in-a-sewage-hole stuff. And er, about this Washington Times business, isn't that a Loonie Moonie mouthpiece?
But soon after one Armageddonist pulls his head over the parapet another appears from behind the clouds, but thankfully it's just the cloudiness of his thought this time, not yet the nuclear aftermath that they're so in love with. Here's another gem from another, a man called David C. Atkins who, in his daily life, is President of ASA Solutions, an Arizona based contact centre technology company. You may have done business with him, so you may now want to know his views on the clash of civilisations:
"I propose that the U.S. immediately adopt and publish the following nuclear doctrine:
In the event of a WMD attack by terrorists on the U.S. homeland or U.S. military facilities overseas, the U.S will immediately and without discussion use its immense nuclear weapons capabilities to destroy the 100 largest Islamic cities on earth, regardless of state, and destroy all of the military facilities of Islamic-dominated states. This will include all of the capitals and at least the 10 largest cities of all Islamic-dominated states and the "holy" cities of Mecca and Medina. In addition, North Korean cities and military installations will be destroyed."
Yes, the MAD cold warriors are back with a vengeance, and how they love the bomb!
Who Loves Ya Baby!
Monday, December 06, 2004
You may find this picture disturbing. The baby is Iraqi — one of many born with congenital deformity caused by depleted uranium (DU). The depleted uranium came from weapons fired by the army of the mightiest power on earth who are there in the name of freedom and decency. DU has been used in Afghanistan, in the Balkans, and now in Iraq. It causes health problems not only to the local population who breathe in the aerosolized dust of this radio-active material, but also to the invading forces. Many US veterans are now suffering from radiation caused illnesses.
Depleted uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, so babies like this will be seen again and again, for a very long time. If you're brave enough you may want to go HERE now to see those already born. Or you may want to go HERE [Flash player required. Be patient while it downloads]. The preliminaries may now be out of date, but click on the second part — it will be current for a very long time. It has a shelf-life of at least 4.5 billion years.
§ Depleted Uranium: Dead Children, Sick Soldiers
§A crime against God and against humanity
The BJP benefitted gloriously from their stoking of extreme Hindu sentiment, while the Hindu fundamentalists in India rejoiced in the reclaimed 'birthplace' of Ram. Nationally, the BJP rose from an insignificant party with just two seats in Parliament to win close to 180 seats, putting them into the position of dominant partner in a coalition that ruled India until recently. The man who whipped this fervour for the Temple was L.K.Advani, who went on to become India's Home Minister. Now out of office he will have plenty of time to ponder his record and replay in his mind the memory of his rath yatra religious caravan that went across India to whip up an anti-Muslim frenzy that left some 3,000 Muslims dead in its wake.
The Hindus are still adamant that the Ram Temple should be built on the ruins of the Mosque. Battles have been fought in Court, and excavations done (by Court order) on the Mosque site to look for any trace of the ancient Temple on which — allegedly — the Babri was built. Much was found there of course, including the foundation of an earlier Mosque, and Islamic inscriptions, and bones of animals that had been eaten for food. But nothing to show that the man-god Ram was born there, or that a Temple had been consecrated to him in ancient times. In fact, 26 of India's prominent archaelogists (only one of them a Muslim) came out to say that there was no evidence at all to show that the alleged Temple was ever there. Even the location of Ram's ancient Ayodhya in Shri Ramchanderji's (Ram's) day is disputed, with the most credible opinion saying that Ram's Ayodhyapuri was about 22km from present day Ayodhya.
There's very little to substantiate Hindu fundamentalist claims for this birthplace of their god beyond their fantastic assertions. They made a few others too along the way to show their absurd picture of the world: that the Taj Mahal, for instance, was the Hindu Tejo Mahalaya; that Jerusalem was Yedushayam, shrine of the Hindu Lord Yadus or Krshna; that St Paul's Cathedral of London was the Hindu Gopal Krishna Mandir; that Paris was Panneshwaram, and that the Ka'abah in Mecca was a Vishnu Temple. There's nothing in India's historical records, even those written by Hindu writers such as Tulsidas, a devotee of Lord Rama who lived during Babar's reign, that support this claim of the Babri Masjid being built on the ruins of the Ram Temple.
There is ample evidence however to dispute the claim and show that this myth of Ram and the Babri Masjid in fact came about only 220 years after the Mosque's construction, manufactured by British invaders who were then eager to split Hindu-Muslim resistance to their planned conquest of India.
The Babri was a historic building and a fine example of a school of early Mughal architecture. Many died prior to, during and after the Mosque's destruction, on the day which tarnished India's proud claim of secularism. To be fair, many Hindus too voiced powerful opinions against the Mosque's destruction, but their voices were drowned by the roar of the BJP-led insanity. In a strange twist, one of the Hindu fanatics who led the attack on the Mosque 12 years ago, Shive Prasad, was later so overcome by remorse that he found his way to Islam, and is now living outside India under his new name of Muhammad Mustafa.
In 1997, when he visited India, the then Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdullah al-Subayyal created a stir when he said that Muslims in India should hand over the Babri Mosque to the Hindus if archaeological excavation proved that it was built on a Hindu temple. There's enough evidence — after a court-ordered archaeological excavation — which show that there could not have been a Temple underneath the Mosque.
When the remark was made, BJP Hindus were cock-a-hoop with that. Now, in the quiet of defeat, they've forgotten the other half of what he said:
"But, if the base of the Babri Mosque was not over a temple, the Muslims must build a mosque at the same site, where the Babri Mosque was demolished."
§Digging up the past: a historian's view
§Mystery of the missing inscription
§A satire by Vishal Agarwal
Memory of Babri
Friday, December 03, 2004
Maybe it's rude to point this out, but David Blunkett is blind; and Johnson is a Hooray Henry sort of a guy who rides a bike to work, and is also a member of Parliament (recently sacked by Prime Minister wannabe who has something of the night about him. For reason of sacking, see previous paragraph).
As I said in a Blog in the past, the Labour Party used to come a-cropper when money came their way (Poulson, etc), and the Conservatives, with women. (Profumo, Lambton, etc). But nowadays, when New Labour and the new torch-bearing Conservatives are ideologically identical, they both now seem to be having troubles with women. And this vice can be versa too.
Blunkett seems to believe that he has fathered a child from his er, union with the married woman. Now he wants access, but the woman wants him out as does her husband who says that she's not the most sinful piece of work on earth (my paraphrase). And then Prime Minister Blair chips in and says that a minister's private life is private, ( though many now do wish that said minister would keep his parts private too.) Which is just as well, for, otherwise, many Labourites nowadays — both frontbench and back — would find themselves in some very hot soup.
But after all that, Blunkett has now started an enquiry into himself. Why? because there are other matters too which may make the Home Secretary in love look rather foolish. One, he's been accused of expediting a work-permit application for his former lover's Filipino maid; and two, he's been accused of lending her his official car for a trip.
Visa application and official transportation notwithstanding, there now seems to be a wide shift in perception. On Question Time last night, many were of the opinion that Blunkett should be forgiven for, er, planting his organ in other people's; and a well-known political commentator even suggested that it was the womans's fault. Which reminds me of something I read somewhere, about the film star Shelley Winters. In Winchester '73, which she made in 1950, she was told to shoot herself if captured by Indians; but in another film of hers, The Scalphunters (1968), she was captured by the Kiowas. And all she said was, "What the hell, they're only men!"
L'amour est Blind