New Year’s Eve celebrations cancelled in Dubai

December 31, 2008 at 9:50 am (Middle East)

The ruler of Dubai has ordered that New Year celebrations in Dubai be cancelled, in order to usher in the new year with somberness in solidarity with the Gazans.

I suppose the fact that the Gazans’ suffering is their own fault is besides the point. (Hint: Shooting rockets into Israel for well over a year, hitting Israeli cities and forcing their citizens to live in worry and terror – not a good idea. Israel just might hit back.)

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Double Standard

December 31, 2008 at 9:39 am (Amusement, International community, Israel, Palestinian Territories)

By Michael Ramirez of Investor’s Business Daily.

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The Bad News of JuD: II of III

December 31, 2008 at 12:30 am (Islamism, Pakistan, World War III)

Jamaatu-d-Da’wah (hereinafter “JuD”) is quite adept at avoiding the attention of the government and at gaining public approval.

When Pakistan was forced to outlaw the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, the organization now known as JuD had a different name, which was to be listed in the list of banned organizations. Conveniently, just before the list was officially promulgated, JuD changed its name, thus escaping being banned. And so they – JuD, its supporters, and the Pakistani authorities – could say, “It’s not the banned organization. Look, it’s a different organization!” But the people aren’t stupid.

One of the challenges with banning the JuD was that such a move was not popular with the people. Various such organizations are popular among the people despite all the mischief they cause. No clearer example of this exists than the incident of the Red Mosque, when the Pakistani army raided and flushed out a mosque in the middle of Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan) where a radical group had established its operational center along with a vast weapons cache. The people, rather than being relieved that another source of chaos was eliminated, turned against the Pakistani army and accused it of attacking Islam.

So, the people support these organizations, despite the destruction and damage that they do. To take action against these organizations would be to invite the wrath of the people, who could become a mob and cause all sorts of trouble for Pakistani authorities. As such, Pakistani authorities do not often take drastic action against Islamist organizations unless forced to do so – whether forced through external pressure or due to internal security threats.

Why the people support organizations like JuD – and, because of this and other reasons, why Pakistani authorities are not motivated to taken them down – will be discussed day after tomorrow.

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December 30, 2008 at 10:55 am (Amusement, Islamism, Israel)


Michael Ramirez rocks.

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The Bad News of JuD: I of III

December 30, 2008 at 12:30 am (India, Islamism, Pakistan, South Asia, World War III)

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, it has been found, were carried out with the instrumentality of a Pakistani organization called Jamaatu-d-Da’wah (meaning “Congregation/Group of the Invitation/Proselyting”, hereinafter “JuD”). It is an organization allied with Lashkar-e Tayyiba (literally, “Army of the Pure”, note that it could also mean “Army of Muhammad” when “Tayyib” is one of Muhammad’s names/titles, hereinafter “LeT”).

This is not good news.

There are two obstacles: popular support for JuD, and a lack of incentive for Pakistan to crack down on them.

JuD operates mainly within Pakistan with eyes towards Chechnya, Kashmir, and other areas where Muslim extremist “freedom-fighters” are wont to obsess about. It is ideologically tied to the Ahl-e Hadith, which the Salafi groups (the most prominent one among which is the Wahhabi Hanbali movement) subscribe to or teach or practice the most. Thus, JuD is linked, even if only ideologically and theologically, with the vast multinational Islamist extremist movement under the the auspices of the Salafi movement. (Although not all Salafis are extremists, and not all extremists are Salafis, the momentum of Islamist extremism is mainly because of the Salafi movement spreading itself and its version of pure and purified Islam.)

Unlike some Salafi movements, however, JuD is a little different, which I will discuss in the following two days.

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The Complete Military History of France

December 29, 2008 at 11:14 am (Amusement, History, Military)

Something to keep you busy until 12:30 am CST, Tuesday, December 30, 2008.

The Complete Military History of France

H/T to The Hostages, I believe.

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How Firm a Foundation

December 28, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement, Sunday inspiration)

One of my favorite hymns. The audio quality is not the best, but this is the best embeddable version I could find.

A better (but, alas, unembeddable) version is here.

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008 at 12:30 am (Christianity, LDS)

Christmas means giving. The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life. Without giving there is no true Christmas, and without sacrifice there is no true worship.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

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For the Grammarians

December 23, 2008 at 12:30 am (Uncategorized)

Dedicated to my grammarian friends Mrs. Peel, geoff, Sobek, et al.

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For my Jewish friends

December 22, 2008 at 12:30 am (Uncategorized)

For some laughs.

Chag Channukah Sameakh!

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O, Come All Ye Faithful

December 21, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement, Sunday inspiration)

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For geeks and nerds and those who love them

December 20, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement)

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December 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm (Personal)

I’m up to my neck in stuff to do for work, Church, home, and school. I was going to write a long rant but decided that doing so would waste too much time. I’m too busy to write a rant! Feh.

Sometimes, being diligent and productive and honoring one’s commitments is hard and time-consuming.


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The Principles of Economics, translated

December 14, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement)

Hope you got a kick out of it!

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Of righteousness and pride

December 7, 2008 at 12:30 am (Christianity, LDS, Personal)

Last week, I had an interesting yet troubling experience. I went with Shaw (not his real name) up to Wisconsin. We attended church there. The first speaker was a girl, probably in high school, who spoke about…something. I couldn’t pay attention. I couldn’t feel the Spirit, so I ignored her and tried to catch up on my Book of Mormon reading. But Shaw was paying attention.

At one point, I began paying attention as she was talking about her experiences in various Gospel Doctrines classes in her last ward. (As a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I pay attention, or try to, when people discuss their experiences, so I can improve my ways and understand what others have experienced and need.) She talked about this amazing Gospel Doctrine teacher who taught with the Spirit. Only for the ward to find out that he was living a double life: although married, he was having a long-time affair with another women. She made a statement along the lines of this: “I know we’re all unrighteous, but not that unrighteous.” This really bothered Shaw, and it’s bothered me a lot since then.

Those of us who try very hard to obey the Lord’s commandments, particularly to remain pure and chaste according to our station and situation, sometimes take pride in our righteousness, and end up puffing ourselves up with that pride, assuming ourselves as better than those who have fallen or who are engaging in unrighteous lifestyles.

This is a pernicious evil. I believe that this is a tool used by Satan to distract the faithful of God and to have them begin their journey onto a path that will lead them away from God, for the moment any of us is proud that we are “not that unrighteous,” pride has taken a hold of our hearts, our hearts are thereby filled with a uncharity, and we have begun to stray away from God. We become, in effect, no better than those who are reviled.

For my Latter-day Saint friends: how does this attitude make any different from the Zoramites (for more details, see Alma 31), who prayed with great pride about their being superior to their brethren? Does not such an attitude make us Zoramites indeed, and thus those who have strayed from the Lord’s way?

In “What God Hath Cleansed” in Faith Precedes the Miracle by President Spencer W. Kimball, President Kimball references a passage from scripture. Come, let us read the words of the Lord:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

(Luke 18:9-14)

For it is written: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilt of all” (James 2:10).

And so it doesn’t matter to what degree another has broken the law. He has broken the law. So have I. I have no grounds upon which to stand in pride before God. Without the sacrifice and grace of Jesus Christ, my faithfulness has no value whatsoever. We all need the Lord and His atoning sacrifice and grace, without which none of us, no matter how righteous, can enter into the presence of God our Heavenly Father. To puff ourselves up, that we are not as unrighteous as another, is to offend yet more against the laws of God. And if we do not repent, we put ourselves in spiritual peril.

We, all the faithful of God, should be full of love for all of God’s children, regardless of how they live. We are all broken, and so we should be thankful to God that He has revealed how, through His Son, we may return back into His presence. All, from the likes of Mother Teresa to the wanton fornicator, need the Lord and His grace and love. We should help others turn away from their sins and walk back to Heavenly Father by reaching out to them in love, and beholding them with love, and loving them with the love with which God loves His children. The Lord ministered to sinners, without excusing or accepting theirs sins, and thus we should do as well. Never, no, never, ought we at any point to feel any pride or satisfaction in that we are not as unrighteous as others, for our own faults condemn us enough, and thus we are no better than another.

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Cabinet or minyan?

December 6, 2008 at 12:30 am (Amusement, Judaism, US Government)

From a Jewish jokes e-mail list I’m on:

So far we have Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Ronald Klain, Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Tim Geithner and Peter Orszag. Maybe it’s just because I’m Jewish, but am I the only one noticing that Obama and Biden are not so much assembling staff, as gathering a minyan?

Warning: there’s a sermon-like post coming up on Sunday. Something that’s been on my mind.

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What to do at a stop sign? A Jewish perspective.

December 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm (Amusement, Judaism)

Suppose you’re traveling to work and you see a Stop sign. What do you do?
(Source unknown: see also “The Meaning of a STOP Sign” on February 25, 2008, by Izzy of Techno Yid)

An average Jew doesn’t bother to read the sign but will stop if the car in front of him does.

A fundamentalist stops at the sign and waits for it to tell him to go.

An Orthodox Jew does one of two things:
Stops at the sign, says “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast given us thy commandment to stop”, waits 3 seconds according to his watch, and then proceeds.
Takes another route to work that doesn’t have a Stop sign so that he doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the halakhah.

A Haredi does the same thing as the Orthodox Jew, except that he waits 10 seconds instead of 3. He also replaces his brake lights with 1000-watt searchlights and connects his horn so that it is activated whenever he touches the brake pedal.

An Orthodox woman concludes that she is not allowed to observe the mitzvah of stopping because she is niddah [menstruant]. This is a dilemma, because the Stop sign is located on her way to the mikvah.

A Talmudic scholar consults his holy books and finds these comments on the Stop sign:
R. Meir says: He who does not stop shall not live long.
R. Hillel says: Cursed is he who does not count to three before proceeding.
R. Shimon ben Yehudah says: Why three? Because the Holy One, blessed be God, who gave us the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
R. ben Yitzhak says: Because of the three patriarchs.
R. Yehudah says: Why bless the Lord at a Stop sign? Because it says: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’
R. Yehezkel says: When Jephthah returned from defeating the Ammonites, the Holy One, blessed be God, knew that a donkey would run out of the house and overtake his daughter; but Jephthah did not stop at the Stop sign, and the donkey did not have time to come out. For this reason he saw his daughter first and lost her. Thus was he judged for his transgression at the Stop sign.
R. Gamaliel says: R. Hillel, when he was a baby, never spoke a word, though his parents tried to teach him by speaking and showing him the words on a scroll. One day his father was driving through town and did not stop at the sign. Young Hillel called out, ‘Stop, father!’ In this way, he began reading and speaking at the same time. Thus it is written: ‘Out of the mouths of babes.’
R. ben Natan says: When were Stop signs created? On the fourth day, as it is written: ‘Let them serve as signs.’
But R. Yehoshua says: …” [continues for three more pages…]

A Breslover Hasid sees the sign and prays, saying: “Ribbono shel Olam, here I am, traveling on the road in Your service, and I am about to face who knows what danger at this intersection in my life. So please watch over me and help me to get through this Stop sign safely.” Then, “looking neither to left nor right” as Rebbe Nachman advises, he joyfully accepts the challenge, remains focused on his goal, even as the car rolls backward for a moment, then hits the accelerator and forges bravely forward, overcoming all obstacles which the yetzer hara [evil inclination] might put in his path.

A Lubavitcher Hasid stops at the sign and reads it very carefully in the light of the Rebbe’s teachings. Next, he gets out of the car and sets up a roadside mitzvah-mobile, taking this opportunity to ask other Jewish drivers who stop at the sign whether they have put on tefillin today (males) or whether they light Shabbos candles (females). Having now settled there, he steadfastly refuses to give up a single inch of the land he occupies until Moshiach comes.

A Conservative Jew calls his rabbi and asks whether stopping at this sign is required by unanimous ruling of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards or if there is a minority position. While waiting for the rabbi’s answer, he is ticketed by a policeman for obstructing traffic.

A secular Jew rejects the sign as a vestige of an archaic and outmoded value system with no relevance to the modern world, and ignores it completely.

A Reform Jew coasts up to the sign while contemplating the question, “Do I personally feel commanded to stop?” During his deliberation he edges into the intersection and is hit from behind by the secular Jew.

A Reconstructionist Jew reasons: First, this sign is a legacy of our historic civilization and therefore I must honor it. On the other hand, since “the past has a vote and not a veto,” I must study the issue and decide whether the argument in favor of stopping is spiritually, intellectually, and culturally compelling enough to be worth perpetuating. If so, I will vote with the past; if not, I will veto it. Finally, is there any way that I can revalue the Stop sign’s message so as to remain valid for our own time?

A Renewal Movement Jew meditates on whether the stop sign applies in all of the kabbalistic Four Worlds [Body-Emotion-Mind- Spirit] or only in some of them, and if so, which ones? Must he stop feeling? thinking? being? driving? Since he has stopped to breathe and meditate on this question, he is quite safe while he does so, Barukh HaShem.

A biblical scholar points out that there are a number of stylistic differences between the first and second halves of the passage “STOP.” For example, “ST” contains no enclosed areas and five line endings, whereas “OP” contains two enclosed areas and only one line termination. He concludes that the first and second parts are the work of different authors who probably lived several centuries apart. Later scholars determine that the second half is itself actually written by two separate authors because of similar stylistic differences between the “O” and the “P.”

Because of difficulties in interpretation, another biblical scholar amends the text, changing “T” to “H.” “SHOP” is much easier to understand in this context than “STOP” because of the multiplicity of stores in the area. The textual corruption probably occurred because “SHOP” is so similar to “STOP” on the sign several streets back that it is a natural mistake for a scribe to make. Thus the sign should be interpreted to announce the existence of a commercial district.

Yet another biblical scholar notes that the stop sign would fit better into another intersection three streets back. Clearly it was moved to its present location by a later redactor. He thus interprets the present intersection as though the stop sign were not there.

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Mumbai and Pakistan: Part I

December 2, 2008 at 12:30 am (India, Pakistan, South Asia, World War III)

The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were unprecedented on a variety of levels.

Most terrorist attacks involved a single target, whether a train, market, plane, or building. This time, multiple targets were targeted at the same time in a sophisticated, coordinated attack.

Most terrorist attacks involved a single incident, whether opening fire or exploding a bomb. This time, the terrorists took over two major hotels and a Jewish center, staying there for days.

Most terrorist attacks targeted random bystanders. Reports indicate that the terrorists singled out people from Western countries (particularly America, the UK, and Israel).

But the terrorists, I think, accomplished their goals, even though most were killed. They spread immense panic and unrest throughout the world.

I think it is a little difficult, perhaps, for some people in the West to realize what role, status, and stature hotels have, particularly in South Asia. Americans don’t often go to hotels unless they’re staying in one or are attending some grand function or gathering. In South Asia, hotels are often the gathering places for the elite, who dine there and go to see and be seen. They are very much a part of the local community’s life, not just those of guests or banqueters. Attacking the Oberoi and Taj hotels dealt an immense blow to the communities and elite of Mumbai.

More on these attacks, what they mean, and issues behind them, will be forthcoming.

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Straining at gnats, swallowing camels

December 1, 2008 at 3:41 pm (Personal)

The Lord said: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).

I know no better example than my boss, who will spend minutes poring over a bill for less than $20 for our bottled water, ending with muttering, “We need to monitor this guy,” after signing checks for thousands of dollars without a second thought or any examination.

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