These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 3, 2011.
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Al Qaeda members hide in Brazil, raise money - report
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Al Qaeda operatives are in Brazil planning attacks, raising money and recruiting followers, a leading news magazine reported Saturday, renewing concerns about the nation serving as a hide-out for Islamic militants.
Veja magazine, in its online edition, reported that at least 20 people affiliated with al Qaeda as well as the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, the Palestinian group Hamas and two other organizations have been hiding out in the South American country.
The magazine said these operatives have been raising money and working to incite attacks abroad. The magazine cited Brazilian police and U.S. government reports, but did not give details on specific targets or operations.
The United States has said Islamic militants have been operating in the border region between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Brazil has denied this, while saying it is aware that some members of Brazil's Lebanese community legally transferred funds to the Middle East.
Posted on 04/03/2011 4:12 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 April 2011
More on the Muslim siege of the Sri Mandir temple in Auburn, Sydney, Australia
I was alerted to this update on the story, which gives a fuller picture of the level of harassment involved, plus a pile of taqiyya from our leading taqiyya-artist Keysar Trad, by the Australian Islamist Monitor.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, this Sunday, Eamonn Duff and Natalie O'Brien reporting, with Leesha McKenny. Click on the link to see a nice photo of the temple.
'Gunshots prompt prayers for peace'
'Behind-the-scenes talks are trying to put a stop to terrifying, violent attacks on a minority religious community, write Eamonn Duff and Natalie O'Brien.
Talks won't work. Talks never work with Muslims. The only thing that will work is a stake-out resulting in a string of arrests. - CM.
'It began with minor acts of vandalism, including egg throwing and smashed windows, but instead of remaining periodic footnotes in the night log at Auburn police station, the incidents have grown so violent - and the issue so culturally sensitive - that even authorities are reluctant to speak about them publicly.
But they must. And cultural sensitivity be damned. The more violent the 'incidents', and the more 'culturally sensitive' the issue is, the more necessary it is for the whole thing to be brought right out in the open, and discussed...as publicly as possible. - CM.
'Australia's oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mandir in Auburn, is under siege and its devotees gripped by fear.
'On March 19, two men in balaclavas stood at the intersection of a nearby road, spraying the front of the prayer hall with eight rounds of bullets.
That is an act of war. - CM.
'The building was unoccupied at the time'.
'The busy Hindu temple opened in 1977. It is surrounded by a predominantly Muslim population, and it is no secret among locals that tensions have been simmering in recent years, caused by concerns about noise and parking problems at Sri Mandir.
'Tensions'. 'Tensions' always seem to be simmering when a large population of Muslims is in close proximity to a population of non-Muslims. And the temple was there first, so any Muslims who moved into the area knew about the noise and any parking issues before they made the move. I find it curious that Muslims should complain about 'noise' and traffic from a non-Muslim place of worship, when it is Muslims whose mosques normally produce lots of noise, for example by broadcasting the adhan at high decibels in the small hours, and who have a habit of causing disruption of traffic...with mass displays of 'group prayer' spilling out of mosques onto surrounding public thoroughfares. - CM.
"There is no excuse [for the gun attack]", the editor of Sydney newspaper The Indian, Rohit Revo, said.
"This was not the work of teenagers; neither was it a petty prank. This is part of a sustained and increasingly violent campaign to scare the temple devotees and drive them out. By definition, this latest attack was an act of terrorism".
Yes, Mr Rohit Revo. It was an act of Muslim terrorism, an act of Jihad. - CM.
'The Sun-Herald is aware the ongoing feud (feud? this does not appear to be a tit-for-tat between Hindus and Muslims. I do not hear that Hindu youths have thrown bottles and eggs at local mosques, nor assailed them with gunfire. Rather, this is Muslims persistently and ever-more-violently attacking Hindus, period. In a suburb of Sydney, in Australia. - CM.
has caused disquiet among some of the most senior police in western Sydney.
'In a rare move, details of the shooting were deliberately held back from the NSW police media unit through concern that publicity might inflame hostilities.
Covering up Muslim crimes, for fear of the rage of the Mohammedan Mob, such as we have seen on display in Afghanistan recently? So one refrains from discussing Muslim bad behaviour, for fear that they will engage in more, and worse, bad behaviour? This is very foolish. - CM.
'Auburn City Council claims the first it knew of the incident ('the incident'...two men fire eight rounds of live ammunition at a place of worship in suburban Sydney, and it's an 'incident'?? - CM) when The Sydney Morning Herald published an article on Wednesday.
'Since then, the chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian, has stepped in as an intermediary between Hindus and Muslims.
No. At this point an 'intermediary' is not needed. What is needed is for Australian law enforcement to enforce the law - with overwhelming force, if necessary - upon the Muslim bullies who have been violently terrorising their Hindu neighbours .- CM.
"Given the enormity and complexity of the issues (really? it looks quite simple to me. Muslims hate Hindu polytheists, just like the Islamic texts tell them to do, and are attacking them in order to drive them out, thus intensifying the Muslim hold on Auburn and increasing the size of the 'turf' held by the Ummah - CM), this is a classic example where we need to apply the principles of multiculturalism and get people to understand and accept that we are a religiously diverse community...we live together and we respect each other's religious diversity", he told the Sun-Herald.
Good luck with getting the Muslims to accept and practise that, mate. Read K S Lal on what Muslims did to Hindus in India, and then read Maududi, and V S Naipaul, and get a clue; oh, and Mark Durie's "The Third Choice' would help, too, because then you'd see the end-game, what it is that the Muslims intend for you and all the other non-Muslims in Auburn, in Australia, and in the world. - CM.
"We will be pursuing this through the commission and meeting people in the neighbourhood to discuss the issues. I will be very active in the area".
'Temple priest Jatinkumar Bhatt is praying for a peaceful solution for the sake of his three young children.
'Bhatt and his family live behind the temple and are too frightened to go outdoors after dark.
It might be interesting to find out what things are like for the various Christian churches in Auburn, and whether they are experiencing similar problems - CM.
"On the night of the shooting, we heard the noise, but every 10 or 15 days we experience the sound of firecrackers being thrown [over the fence] so we thought it must be that again", Mr Bhatti said.
Every ten or 15 days! This is appalling. How long before it is a molotov cocktail, or worse, being lobbed into the yard? - CM.
"Then the police came. They showed me the bullet holes in the walls and asked permission to come in and investigate. I am too afraid to say why I think this is happening".
But I think he knows. - CM.
'In an attack in November, four men wielding iron bars smashed their way through 10-millimetre-thick windows, showering the hall with glass while devotees were praying inside.
'The temple recently held a community open day in the hope of brokering fresh ties with the wider community.
Oh dear. - CM.
"Many of our neighbours are very friendly but sometimes it feels like we are in a different place to Australia", Mr Bhatt said. "The attacks are now always. It is like in Libya or Afghanistan".
Exactly. - CM.
'Mr Kerkayasharian has met the Bhatt family. "The teenage daughter says she feels like she lives in a prison", he said. "She said her younger brother doesn't know how to play because they are too scared to go outside to their front yard".
'The founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, Keysar Trad, said he had given a speech at the open day, in which he stressed the need to "respect religious places of all faiths".
Yeah, suuure. Public relations. The matter is becoming public despite everything, and some of the local Infidels are becoming alarmed, and although Auburn is 40 % Muslim the Ummah does not not yet have enough power to do exactly as it pleases, without dissembling. - CM.
"I am convinced these problems are not being caused by people who are religious (hmmm - he's dodging the issue - and hoping people won't remember that all over the world, both in the past and in the present day, Muslims have and have had a nasty habit of attacking the places of worship of non-Muslims - there was, for instance, Sita Ram Goel's book that listed the thousands upon thousands of Hindu temples, in India, destroyed by pious Muslims - and that it is often the most devout Muslims that are the ringleaders - CM) and would urge the Muslim community to show support and solidarity to their neighbours at this time", he said.
Suure they will...Notice, he doesn't seem to have said anything straightforward, like, "hey, Muslim 'youths', if you throw firecrackers into people's yards or fire guns at the local Hindu temple, or smash windows or throw bottles and eggs, you should expect to get arrested and punished, and serve you right". - CM.
'Flemington local area commander Superintendent Phillip Rogerson said police were trying to identify the attackers.
Just assign a contingent to stake the place out, and wait. The people with the bottles, eggs, firecrackers, iron bars...and guns...will be back, sooner or later, and then you can make the arrests. - CM.
'Auburn Labor MP Barbar Perry said: "I've got every sympathy for the Hindu community. This type of behaviour should not be tolerated".
Indeed it should not. - CM.
Posted on 04/03/2011 4:09 AM by Christina McIntosh
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer a Righteous Gentile?
by Richard L. Rubenstein (April 2011)
Presented at the International Bonhoeffer Society meeting at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Nashville, TN November 19, 2000.
On May 26, 1996 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum held a ceremony honoring Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi who helped to save Jews during the Third Reich. The ceremony was not without controversy concerning Bonhoeffer’s role that continues to this day. One especially harsh Jewish critic has called Bonhoeffer “the best of a bad lot.”[i] Anticipating the controversy, the Museum staff felt compelled to include the following statement in the invitation:
Although repudiating Nazism, Bonhoeffer also expressed the anti-Jewish bias of centuries-old Christian teaching. more>>>
Posted on 04/03/2011 7:06 AM by NER
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Defending Woody Allen
Unlike some of my colleagues at NER, I love Woody Allen. Not for his politics, obviously, but for his films. Sometimes, when flipping channels, the dial will land on an old Woody Allen movie and I find myself drawn in to a comedy or drama I’ve seen many times. And although I can often recite the dialogue along with the actors, I’ll watch it through to the end and come away touched by the sweetness and poignancy so brilliantly conveyed by this master filmmaker.
Yes, many of his films are less than stellar, but considering his output, this can be overlooked. He will leave behind at least ten first-rate films that reflect our times as well or better than any other filmmaker of my generation. Juliet Lapidos ranks Allen’s films according to her taste here. (Is she kidding?) Here are my top ten:
Hannah and Her Sisters
Bullets Over Broadway
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Broadway Danny Rose
Posted on 04/03/2011 10:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Sunday, 3 April 2011
A Cinematic Interlude: Alastair Sim (From "The Green Man")
Posted on 04/03/2011 7:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 April 2011
Joseph Stiglitz On The New Gilded Age
From Vanity Fair:
Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
THE FAT AND THE FURIOUS The top 1 percent may have the best houses, educations, and lifestyles, says the author, but “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.”
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.
Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.
Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.
Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.
Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs. Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12 percent.
But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest.
When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.
Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them. It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.
Posted on 04/03/2011 9:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 April 2011
The Iraqi Mess In Iraq
From Gulf News:
Iraq remains in state of paralysis
Mohammad Akef Jamal writes: Questions persist as to why criminals are not brought to justice, like officials of the former regime
April 4, 2011
Image Credit: AP
An Iraqi lawyer chants anti-government slogans during a protest in Baghdad in this February 2011 file photo. Lawyers called for an end to corruption and prisoner abuse in one of the biggest demonstrations in Iraq since the start of uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia The violence file in Iraq is far from being closed because the political crisis still exists.
Iraq has not seen stability since the downfall of Saddam Hussain's regime on April 9, 2003. The reasons may be attributed to many political, security and economic factors that have been studied intensively by analysts and used by officials as an excuse to justify their failures.
Violence in Iraq has not ceased over the past eight years, however, it ebbed and flowed and confused Iraq's security forces.
The region has also seen organised campaigns jeopardising security at both the individual and collective levels. We have witnessed the assassination of former high ranking army officers, the killing of professors, scientists, physicians and technocrats.
Ethnic minority and religious groups were also exposed to killings and displacement, which included Christians in Mosul and Basra, and the targeting of other religious minorities who have lived in Iraq for thousands of years, and were a part of Iraq's social fabric.
We have observed mindless sectarian violence by extremists which has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives after the bombing in Samara of the two Al Askari shrines.
In addition to that, we have also seen individual and collective abductions, the occupation of government buildings, mosques and churches where people were taken hostage by terrorist groups. We have also witnessed the interference of special forces, which only led to loss of more innocent life.
Lately, we have seen a new wave of assassinations of security forces' members and we continue to see an organised campaign to take out media personalities. On March 29 in Tikrit, the governorate's building was taken over by a terrorist group for hours. The operation ended only when special forces came from the capital Baghdad to end the siege which resulted in 150 people killed and injured.
This violence usually coincides with important political or community events, such as the Local Council elections.
They also take place when an important foreign delegation or personality is on a visit. Religious events are also targets, and as they are numerous in Iraq, the time separating terrorist acts is fairly short. Iraq has also become a battleground for different regional forces, warring against each other.
The latest violence in Tikrit comes as an additional proof of the fragile security situation in Iraq, and the inability of those in responsible places to correctly read the security and political scene in the country. The controversy can be seen clearly in Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's recent statement, claiming that Iraq has become the leader in security and stability among the region's countries, after being the most unstable and unsafe country in the region.
Reason for suspicion
Since the downfall of the former regime in 2003, Iraq has seen grave events that resulted in almost a million deaths, including those of prominent members of society needed by the community for their knowledge and skills. And whenever a major violent operation takes place, we hear that the Iraqi government is about to set up a high-ranking investigative body to look into the matter. However, the public is never informed about the results of the investigations.
After all these years, we still don't know who bombed the two Al Askari Shrines in Samara, or who was behind the assassination of Iraqi pilots, Iraqi experts and technocrats.
We still don't know who killed and displaced hundreds of university professors, doctors, and media personalities. The secrecy and cover up is a good reason for suspicion.
Moreover, if the investigative committees have discovered the identity of the criminals, why aren't the culprits brought to justice and put on trial in the open, like officials of the former regime were tried?
Aren't the crimes committed against Iraqi minorities a form of genocide and mass killings that need conclusive measures to expose the groups responsible? Or is the cover up a political necessity?
Who are the groups behind the criminal acts of today? Why are the security authorities unable to prevent these crimes?
There are many groups, inside Iraq and abroad, that are responsible for the bloodshed and there is no doubt the authorities have a lot of information about the criminals and terrorists, as they usually conduct huge numbers of arrests and investigations after every bloody event.
The big worry is that despite the number of security forces and their mega budget, they stand helpless in preventing the crimes. Furthermore, their intervention comes late and is insufficient.
The violence file in Iraq is far from being closed because the political crisis still exists. Solutions to these problems will not be easily found.
Posted on 04/03/2011 9:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald