My vent on carb counting Pakistani food

December 30, 2007 at 12:30 am (Culture, Personal)

I have actually started to take care of my diabetes the way I should. That means counting carbs, because the number of carbs in a meal will determine how much insulin I should inject. (Before this, I just guessed how much would work. Now I actually have a formula.)

The problem is that there is a ton of information on Western food. If one tries, one can get the nutritional information on practically any item by anyone and even information on how to determine the carb content of non-professionally-made stuff (such as at home) where such information may not be available from corporations or websites. (Mom doesn’t slap on a nutrition label when she makes something, does she?) But very little exists for a Pakistani cuisine. Read the rest of this entry »

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The unitary nature – or lack thereof – of the Pakistani government and military

December 29, 2007 at 6:31 pm (Pakistan)

We, Westerners and South Asians alike, are wont to make statements along the lines of “Musharraf should do this” or “Benazir should do that” or “It would suit Nawaz Sharif to do this” or, for that matter, statements such as “Why did the police do this?” and “Why doesn’t the Army do that?” such statements reveal that we assume that the Pakistani government and military are unitary. In other words, they act as one (whether the government and military together or each by itself). This assumption of its/their unitary nature is prompted by official statements and appearances by the concerned entities. (This is to be expected: no government would admit it holds less than total control.) Read the rest of this entry »

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What Pakistan needs

December 29, 2007 at 1:04 am (Amusement)

Paxil. Lots of it.

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The use of the United Nations

December 29, 2007 at 12:30 am (International community, The United Nations)

The United Nations served one major purpose so far in history. By providing an outlet for states to lash out at each other, it assisted in preventing a direct clash between The United States and the Soviet Union. A de facto balance of power could be maintained because The United Nations permitted national grievances to be aired without taking actual actions. Additionally, it provided both superpowers (or, rather, the superpower and contender thereof) an additional arena within which to wage their Cold War, thereby not restricting the Cold War to more military arenas.

Then and now, the United Nations dealt with another issue that other states have been unable or unwilling to deal with, and that issue is refugees (although admittedly the United Nations could do a far better job).

As long as we understand the actual rôle and clout of the United Nations, and correspondingly prevent any state from effectively using the United Nations in the real world, we can and even should permit it to exist. But once we permit the United Nations to have influence over us, the United Nations becomes an organization that is exceedingly dangerous to our national interests at home and abroad.

Every state that is a member of the United Nations is so for its national interests, not out of a desire to create a worldwide utopia. And so we should not be ashamed if we also use our membership in the United Nations for our national interests.

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Musharraf and The Assassination

December 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm (Military, News, Pakistan, World War III)

I would like to disabuse us of the notion that Musharraf was behind Benazir’s assassination. He was not, nor was the government or the military proper. Nor, I would say, was any major (or minor) political rival involved. The question of rogue elements in the military, now that’s a different question.

The blame falls squarely on the terrorists. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pakistan: in perpetual chaos

December 28, 2007 at 1:00 am (Uncategorized)

One element that is difficult for many of us in the West to factor in, when thinking about Pakistan, is that there is always chaos, violence, and turmoil in Pakistan. Like other countries where this is a fact of life, people learn to deal with it and move on.

I remember living in Karachi while it was in the middle of a veritable civil war. Life went on: my Dad went to work, we kids went to school, we visited our relatives all around Karachi, we went out for dinner. The civil war didn’t stop us.

When Musharraf declared emergency rule, the country shut down for a few days but then things went on as usual. I remember my mother talking with a relative in Karachi, asking about the riots and violence, and the relative asked, “What riots? Everything’s fine.” Pakistanis learn to file such aspects away and continue to live their lives.

So when Benazir is assassinated and we get into a panic of the impending chaos and civil war in Pakistan, what we should really do is realize that this is simply a temporary upsurge in the perpetual chaos in Pakistan. Sure, it will affect things, but a few weeks from now people will learn to move on, and things will go on until the next major event.

When we lived in Pakistan, we would make fun of our friends and relatives in America who would call us asking about our safety when things got bad. “Bah,” we thought, “this is usual. Nothing special or out of the ordinary. Why are they making such a big deal? What funny Americans.” (These friends and relatives all were born in Pakistan and were living in America, so they should have known better.) And now that we’re here, we fall into the same trap. “Oh, how chaotic it must be!” In the meanwhile our relatives and friends there shrug their shoulders and go to work or the night’s dinner party.

I remembered when Zia-ul-Haq was assassinated. That was chaos. And shock. Benazir’s assassination, even though she was not prime minister at the time, brought the same shock to me. Except Zia-ul-Haq’s assassination was a complete surprise whereas Benazir’s was somewhat expected. The problem is how this changes the political equations and situations and potentialities: things have changed from bad to worse. But the inevitable chaos was inevitable. Deal.

I kept telling Dad he should wait until after the elections before going to Pakistan to deal with some business concerns. (Dad hasn’t gone yet because of more pressing business concerns here.) I reasoned that there is always violence or unrest in the period leading up to elections. Once the country learns to live with the results and calms down, things go on as usual. Mom later chided me: there’s always chaos, elections or no, and things go on. So, yes, for the next few days the country will be paralyzed. And how the country reacts will determine whether Musharraf or Kayani will have to step in and secure control. Otherwise, it’s the relative stability until the next big thing.

And there is always a next big thing.

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Marx, religion, and opium

December 28, 2007 at 12:30 am (History, Religion)

When Marx wrote that “religion is the opium of the masses”, he did not necessarily mean to disparage religious systems, as is popularly interpreted. Popular interpretation of that system is correct in that Marx is refuting or denying that any religious system is true. Popular interpretation is also correct in believing that this statement is regarding the rôle of religious systems. But popular interpretation is wrong in believing that this statement is inherently anti-religion.

Back when Marx wrote this, opium was used as a medicine, as a pain-reliever. And so what Marx meant was that people turn to and cling to religious systems because it soothes their pain or even dulls it. Indeed, one might express the same sentiment today by staying that religion is the morphine, Vicodin, or Tylenol of the masses.

That said, in later explanations and extrapolations of his theories, Marx placed religious systems squarely within the hands of the oppressive classes. The oppressive classes exploited the people’s tendency to turn to religion, exploiting it by using religious systems to enhance their hold on and control of the masses. This is seen as somewhat ironic considering that the oppressive classes established the conditions of misery and pain because of which the people turned to religious systems for solace, comfort, and relief.

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Al-Qa’idah responsible for Benazir’s assassination?

December 27, 2007 at 9:05 am (Islamism, News, Pakistan, South Asia)

This is interesting. (HT steveegg of AoSHQ.)

Pakistan: Al-Qaeda claims Bhutto’s death

Karachi, 27 Dec. (AKI) – (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) – A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda terrorist network has claimed responsibility for the death on Thursday of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen,” Al-Qaeda’s commander and main spokesperson Mustafa Abu Al-Yazid told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a phone call from an unknown location, speaking in faltering English. Al-Yazid is the main al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan.

It is believed that the decision to kill Bhutto, who is the leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was made by al-Qaeda No. 2, the Egyptian doctor, Ayman al-Zawahiri in October.

Death squads were allegedly constituted for the mission and ultimately one cell comprising a defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer succeeded in killing Bhutto.

Bhutto had just addressed a pre-election rally on Thursday in the garrison town of Rawalpindi when the bomb went off.

She had come to Rawalpindi after finishing a rapid election campaign, ahead of the January polls, in Pakistan’s volatile North West Frontier Province (NWFP) where she had talked about a war against terrorism and al-Qaeda.

Reports say at least 15 other people were killed in the attack and several others injured.

As news of Bhutto’s death spread throughout the country, there are reports that people have taken to the streets to protest the death of the leader of the PPP, which has the largest support of any party in Pakistan.

In the southern port city of Karachi, Bhutto’s hometown, residents reportedly threw stones at cars and burnt tyres.

If true, now is the time for the Great Northwest South Asian War to kill every one of these al-Qa’idah animals.

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BREAKING: Benazir Bhutto assassinated

December 27, 2007 at 8:51 am (News, Pakistan)

Benazir Bhutto, whom many expected to become prime minister soon and whose cooperation with Musharraf could be said to have allowed him to ease up on Pakistan politically, has been assassinated. She was killed when shot after fleeing a suicide attack.

The future of Pakistan is now in the air. Again.

What is troubling is that this was in Rawalpindi, headquarters of the military. And adjacent to Islamabad, the capital. It has become more than clear that Islamist terrorism has become way too powerful and capable. Immediate, sweeping, and long-term actions need to be executed to eradicate this menace once and for all.

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Two grammar questions regarding the phrase “Our Lord Jesus Christ”

December 27, 2007 at 12:30 am (Christianity, English)

Isn’t “Our Lord Jesus Christ” grammatically incorrect on two points?

First, why are we capitalizing “Our”? It does not refer to Jesus but to us, so ought it not to start with a lower-case letter?

Second, is it not true that when specifying something, commas are used when adding additional detail to the modified phrase whereas commas are not used when the specification is truly a specification? For example, is it not true that “my son Karl” means “of my sons, the one named Karl” whereas “my son, Karl(,)” means “my son, the only one, whose name, by the way, is Karl”? Thus does not “our/Our Lord Jesus Christ” imply that other lords than Him exist, whereas “our/Our Lord, Jesus Christ(,)” means there is only one and we’re specifying His name?

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Achmed the Dead Terrorist

December 26, 2007 at 12:30 am (Amusement)

Something to amuse you: Achmed the Dead Terrorist, by Jeff Dunham.

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How I discovered the importance of Christmas

December 25, 2007 at 12:30 am (Christianity, Personal)

There used to be a time when I did not like Christmas. I wondered to myself: why all this commotion for the Lord’s birth when the ardor for the commemoration of His sacrifice is so much less?

I learned soon thereafter that the Christian ardor and celebration of Easter is quite significant indeed. There is not public build-up to it, as in Christmas, nor such a public spectacle, but for devout and committed Christians, Easter is a very significant and special and even holy time of the year.

Because a birth is joyous, there is nothing but mirth and laughter and happiness at Christmas. Easter is solemn as it is solemnly joyous: a great thing happened but at such a great sacrifice. We rejoice in the Lord’s sacrifice but sorrow in what He had to do to accomplish it.

The significance of Christmas came to me when I read, somewhere and now I have no idea where, that without Easter, Christmas would have been just another birth, but without Christmas, there would not have been an Easter.

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Charlie Wilson’s War

December 22, 2007 at 10:56 pm (Afghanistan, History, Islamism, Israel, Pakistan, The United States, War)

I saw Charlie Wilson’s War today. Now, it has been bashed, and some of that is justified, but it’s a great movie if you look over these bash-worthy elements.

In its fight against the evil Communists–and the movie takes quite some time making the case that the Russians were evil, evil indeed–it makes America and its cause for freedom and against Communism quite strong and powerful. Why, if one looks it at that way, this movie is actually pro-American. And it perhaps shows that only America is able to work out such complicated and seemingly impossible schemes to get what’s needed, what with Israel and Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperating to defeat the Soviets. (There’s a funny scene of a spat between an Egyptian and an Israeli; what makes it interesting is that they agree to cooperate nevertheless. There’s also a scene about Zia-ul-Haq and his concerns about receiving aid from Israel.) It also shows that Americans of various types–an ultra-rightwing ueber-Christian woman and a slutty, drug-using Democrat politician–can unite behind a good cause.

After many scenes showing how the Afghanis are simply being slaughtered by the Soviets, the scenes begin showing how the Afghanis take down the Soviets. Along with it is a most unexpected chorus in the background: “And he shall purify the sons of Levi that they may offer unto the Lord an offering of righteousness” (No. 7, Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah, a quote from Malachi 3:3). Here’s a YouTube presentation of that chorus.

It also teaches us a lesson: consider the long run. It shows how we were reluctant to rebuild Afghanistan after the Soviets left. Part of it was understandable: we were quite busy rebuilding former Communist Europe as well, so Afghanistan was small fry. But that unwillingness cost us: it opened the door for the Islamist takeover of Afghanistan. And Wilson did make a good point: we could not claim victory for the Soviet defeat because our assistance was covert, and revealing our assistance would have negative repercussions for many players. Nevertheless, our strategy has changed dramatically, what with our major focus now in Afghanistan and Iraq being rebuilding along with killing the bad guys. So we learned our lesson, I would hope.

It’s rated R for good reasons, dealing mainly with sexuality. But it is a good movie, funny at times, and moving in what we can accomplish.

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Thanks

December 22, 2007 at 10:55 pm (Personal)

First things first: I would like to thank all who have commented on my last post. Your words, perspectives, advice, and wisdom are all appreciated. I need all that I can get. Taking time to write I also appreciate.

Things since that day have improved: my sister is in a program and my mother has improved dramatically. But there are still future storms: my sister does not know all her things have been moved home, nor does she know the apartment is no longer her domain. If she is attending this program to get her car and apartment back, she’s in for a big surprise. And a temper tantrum.

Interestingly, despite my mother’s insistence that we all stay home, my father has been helping my brother and me find an apartment close to home we can move into. So I may still move out soon. All in due time.

Again, thanks so very much.

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Coping with Trauma: a vent

December 22, 2007 at 5:13 am (Personal)

Warning: the following post is very, very long. It is also quite negative or down-bringing. It is also quite personal. This may disappear if I feel it should not be publicly available. It is my way of coping with what has been happening in my life recently. Read the rest of this entry »

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Where are the terrorists?

December 22, 2007 at 1:20 am (Afghanistan, Culture, Pakistan, World War III) (, , , , , )

Karzai of Afghanistan hints that the terrorists are from across the border; that is, they are in Pakistan. Musharraf (and others) of Pakistan hint that the terrorists are across the border; that is, they are in Afghanistan. The same goes for where Usama bin Ladin is: each country accuses the other of harboring him.

The reality is a little more complicated. The terrorists are in the border region area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are not in one or the other but, rather, in both. We consider it to be that they cross over the border with ease if not impunity. But that’s the problem: to the terrorists, there is no border. The whole area–the area of the Pashtuns–is one area, and its theirs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Boycotting in Pakistan: an act and pantomine

December 22, 2007 at 1:00 am (Pakistan)

An interesting element in Pakistani elections is boycotting or the threat thereof. Various parties or coalitions thereof threaten to boycott if certain measures are not met.

Some time ago, a political party threatened to boycott and went through with its threat. As might be expected, they lost all power and positions and clout in the political infrastructure of Pakistan (whereas before they enjoyed quite a bit of clout). It took them five years to return to some amount of clout and effective political involvement.

After Musharraf declared a state of emergency, when he scheduled national elections, many parties and political coalitions proclaimed that they will boycott the elections if Musharraf did not meet certain demands. (The exact demands varied by party but almost all included a point that he must revoke emergency rule.) What was interesting is that when the date came for parties to file their papers for running in the elections, many parties that were officially boycotting the elections filed their papers anyway. This was met with some opposition from more diehard political activists and members and from more insistent political parties. Read the rest of this entry »

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Of Pakistan

December 11, 2007 at 6:04 am (News, Pakistan, World War III) (, , , , , , , , )

Pakistan seems to be calming down.

Since Musharraf declared emergency measures, he has scheduled elections; his election as president has been confirmed (albeit by a Supreme Court stacked with Musharraf supporters); jailed activists and protestors have been released; Nawaz Sharif returned and is campaigning; Benazir Bhutto is campaigning; several political parties threatened to boycott the upcoming elections; most of said parties have withdrawn their boycott threat and are registering to take part in the elections. Also important, Musharraf passed on the baton of Chief of Army Staff (literally, he handed the guy a staff or baton) to to man of rural Punjabi origins (sure to elicit support from the soldiers) who is an avid golfer and a chain smoker (sign of the genteel, Westernized elite). The new Chief of Army Staff is a certain General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Musharraf has accordingly “taken off his uniform” and rules as a civilian president.

Lots of progress, and hardly the scene of chaos some were predicting. Nor the reign of tyranny others were preemptively condemning. Read the rest of this entry »

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