Thursday, February 22, 2007

Egyptian Blogger Given 4 Years for Anti-Islam and Anti-State Posts

Egyptian blogger Kareem Sulaiman was today (Thursday) sentenced to four years in prison for defaming Islam and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on his personal blog.

Despite a support site, petitions and demonstrations in Bahrain, London,
Stockholm, Paris, Rome, New York (twice) and Washington DC calling for his release, an Alexandria court found him guilty and sentenced him to four years in prison.

In his own words on his blog, 22-year-old Kareem describes himself and sums up his goals as follows:

I am down to earth Law student; I look forward to help humanity against all form of discriminations. I am currently studying Law in Al Azhar University. I am looking forward to open up my own human rights activists Law firm, which will include other lawyers who share the same views. Our main goal is to defend the rights of Muslim and Arabic women against all form of discrimination and to stop violent crimes committed on a daily basis in these countries.

Dreams and aspirations which will have to be put on hold for the time being I suppose.

From Global Voices Online

Sunday, February 18, 2007

US Visas, Not What it Should Be: Tough and Fair!

I have seen first hand the quality people turned down for a US Visa in the States. I am here in Ireland and I go to school with many people that for whatever reason could not get into the US. These folks picked Ireland as there second choice. Now they are appreciating Ireland's culture, not ours. Now they are spending tuition and expenses in Ireland and not the US. The process should be tough and it has to also be fair. Needless poking and prodding without cause should be done away with.

Fareed Zakaria's latest article in Newsweek details this problem. Perception matters. In fact, in most cases perception is reality. We do not need to be perceived as a closed state.


Hassle and Humiliation

The visa process is so cumbersome that many foreigners have stopped trying. Business travel into the U.S. is down 10 percent.


"...Arab leaders landed at John F. Kennedy airport. The first group of participants, mostly CEOs of large companies, were pulled out of the regular immigration lines and made to stand for two to five hours while Department of Homeland Security officials grilled them as to why they were coming to America, whether they had any experience using weapons, what they thought of the Iraq war and other such questions. Half a day into their trip, before they had even left the airport, they were angry and humiliated. So much for improving America's image in the Arab world...."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Obama's to lose.

I have been doing a little reading and listening about Barak Obama. Rhetorically this guys is as solid a candidate as the Dems have put forward since Clinton. Maybe, even more so. On substance he will have to do a lot more convincing. He lacks foreign policy experience. He is heavily leveraged towards strict democrat policies. And, he is a freshman Senator. Not really a Presidential resume. But, none of that counts as long as he is good on TV and stays on message in order to be elected as the Dem nominee.

Being elected President will mean that he will have to answer for his lack of experience. He will have to answer for being partisan. He will have to verbalize an actionable plan to the American people about Iraq. If he only says Iraq is wrong and we need to change like Kerry did he will lose. Because that makes you look weak on foreign policy.

The Dem nomination is his to lose. The Presidency will be a fight to the death.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Former Army Interrogator Speaks Out About Detainee Abuse

It is widely known that torture can have horrifying psychological effects on its victims, but in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, former Army interrogator Eric Fair relates his own hardship coping with what he did to Iraqi detainees in the name of freedom.

read more | digg story


Dear Former Army Interrogator,

First, thank you for serving. I am forever in debt to you for that.

Thank you also for speaking up and speaking your mind. I admire that.

But, ask yourself why your story is news in the first place? Because it is common or because it is uncommon. Is this a story about the one truck that did catch on fire on the interstate or the rare story about the thousands that did not? You made it to the Post because there is a hunger for anything that puts the US in a bad light.(the one truck that did)

Was the good that was done by the gathered intel edited out of your story? Because how could you in good conscience leave out the fact that sometimes that hard to get intel saved lives and was productive. How could you leave out the context and perspective of the enemy we are up against and how their training manuals detail it being the prisoners duty to lie and to always say he was tortured and abused.(Manchester Manual) Or the context of how the enemy treats its prisoners! Or the context and perspective of how our very own soldiers go through much worse at SERE school than the acts of "torture" you outlined.

Having said all of this I do agree with your overall premise about torture and its usefulness. I also think it emboldens the enemy. We should lead first as country by example. I also think that you saying it is systematic goes against everything I have heard first hand from those "down range" and those who just got back from Intel school at Fort Huachuca, freshly trained.

Thank you again for serving.

Kind Regards,

Benjamin Parrish Cook

The Palestinian Aid Myth

Every news story I read about the power sharing agreement/unity government agreed to in Mecca this week talks about lifting the "western aid boycott".

As for the rest of the world...I can't say. But, the US has actually increased the amount of aid going into Palestine during the "blockade" not reduced it. It just goes directly to the PA (
$600 Million vs $200 the year before) according to Former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk.

The US has given the West Bank / Gaza USA Aid program over $1.5 billion since inception. (that is just the aid program, not total aid.)

"President Bush also used his authority to provide $50 million in direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority, marking only the fourth time a U.S. president has used a congressionally
authorized waiver to channel aid away from USAID programs and directly to the PA."

Additional Reading:
US Ends Direct Aid to Palestinian Government, but Boosts Humanitarian Help

Martin Indyk

Summit on Palestine

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

To torrent or not to torrent...that is the question instead of ripping a copy of Battlestar Galactica I decide to go the respectable route. Download from Itunes. Here is the problem. The quality is crap. The audio is crap. The download time is crap. Where is the upside other than "doing the right thing?" I tell you, if the powers-that-be don't get their collective heads out of their asses my "issues" of conscience are going to go away!!

We are experiencing a paradigm shift in the way media is received. From napster to now the "powers" have done little except pay lawyers. Sony tried to hide spy software in its media. Apple overly "protects" its downloads. If these guys don't figure out soon that their revenue stream is going to shrink and eventually go away they are in for a tough ride. If I want to see Battlestar or "24" I need only log on to one of many places on the net, launch my P2P browser and load away. It is normally great quality. It takes a long time but that is the only draw back except that it is illegal. Speaking of which. What responsibility do the vendors, creators and distributors have to the customer to provide them a modern delivery system? Is the popularity of P2P a bunch of thieves and scoundrels or a market correction? A market correction that is happening to the media industry whether the like it or pay attention to it or not. It was after all the thieves and scoundrels that first showed these media giants the new path. (napster)

Now, viacom wants YouTube to nix 100,000 vids that they say infringes on their copyrights. Google has a system for paying for video. I have never used it. I don't foresee ever using it in the recognizable future. If I have to pay a $1.00 or more to see 5 mins of an episode of the Simpsons or the Daily Show I will just do without.

I don't get my media the old fashion way. I get it via the net. All of it. News, movies, TV, Music, etc. If the "powers" can't figure a quick way to get me quality programs and the thieves can...well I don't know how much longer I can accept the "law" as my guide. Eventually, the providers have to catch up to me. Not me to them.


UPDATE Steve Jobs agrees.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Gal Beckerman's view of the Middle Eastern Blogosphere from the Columbia Journalism Review.

Gal Beckerman's view of the Middle Eastern Blogosphere from the Columbia Journalism Review.

"...A tense and edgy delegation arrived in New York on August 8 to plead the Arab case.

Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, didn’t have to do much at those deliberations — simply listen to the complaints, appear to be the least obstructionist in the room, and restate his country’s position, as absurd as it may have sounded by that point, that Israel’s bombs were in fact helping the Lebanese people to free themselves from the “cancer” of Hezbollah that had metastasized in their midst. In this last task, he had an unusual ally: “I believe that one courageous Lebanese youngster was speaking for many when he wrote in his Internet blog, and I quote, ‘It is not only Israeli soldiers that the Hezbollah has taken hostage. It is us, the people of Lebanon.’”

This “Lebanese youngster” was, of course, a blogger, and maybe the first to have his words bounce off the solemn walls of the United Nations. And though he probably would not have appreciated being deployed as a weapon in Israel’s public-relations war, the presence of his independent voice, a counterintuitive opinion not filtered through any official source, said a lot about the power of Middle Eastern Web logs to expose a hidden trove of multiple perspectives in a world that the West often imagines as having only one perspective — that of the “Arab Street,” a place of conformity, of mass acquiescence to singular passions, be they blind support for a dictator or seething hatred of Israel.

Last summer was, in fact, a watershed moment for the Middle Eastern blogosphere..."


My view: