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April 2006
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The Cost of a Respected Cultural Practice

Democracy Frontline:

It is almost two decades since doctors at Sydney’s Auburn Hospital began to research a devastating pattern of birth defects among babies born to Lebanese families. Led by pioneering obstetrician Dr Caroline de Costa, the study showed significant increases in birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages among women who were married to blood relatives, particularly first from families who came and second cousins largely, but not exclusively from the Middle East.

Later in the article:

For most in the West, consanguinity is abhorrent but across the world it is a respected cultural practice. Globally at least, 20 per cent of people live in places where cousin-to-cousin marriage is preferred, and nearly 10 per cent of people have consanguineous parents. It is accepted in South-East Asia, Japan, Brazil and Africa, and is particularly common in the Middle East among Muslims and Christians. In Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, about half of all marriages are consanguineous while in Lebanon it is about 25 per cent.

One would think that this practice among such folks would decline after they come to the West. Sadly, their mistrust of the outside / infidel world leads to more marriages within the family.

There are no figures on how widespread inter-family marriage is in Australia, but among immigrant communities in Britain and Canada the practice is even more common than in their country of origin. Researchers say the trend is the same here. Families want to continue cultural traditions, and the small pool of potential spouses makes intermarriage more likely.

So, if you Brits and Canadians see a Pakistani couple in your neighborhood, then it is likely that they're cousins.

American Supremacy in 2030?

The Futurist:

One of the most popular dinner party conversation topics is the possibility that the United States will be joined or even surpassed as a superpower by another nation, such as China.  China has some very smart people, a vast land area, and over four times the population of the US, so it should catch up easily, right?  Let's assess the what makes a superpower, and what it would take for China to match the US on each pillar of superpowerdom.

I think that in the coming decades the more interesting rivalry will be between India and China. In 15-20 years, India will have a higher population than China. Both these nations have experimented with socialism and, of course, failed. So, now they are immersing themselves in capitalism. I wouldn't be surprised if in 2030 the overall GDP of India is greater than the economy of China.

Link via OPFOR.

Fuming in Toronto

Mezba didn't appreciate the strike by the Toronto Transit Commission:

This was an illegal strike. In the middle of the duration of your contract, you CANNOT go on strike. The transit workers decided to cherry pick an issue and stage a strike. They should all be fired AND jailed. *rant on* If this was Bangladesh people would be calling in the army, some would be grabbing a hockey stick and beating up the striking workers (well maybe not). I do not condone senseless violence under any condition, but it seems in some dictatorships you get better public/medical service than here in Canada. *rant off*


Retrograde Views

Umar Lee:

... many Muslims seem to be intimidated from condemning homosexuality, abortion, Western-feminism, secular humanism, anti-family views, and a host of other views promoted by the left.

For us in America it is not as hard as it for those in Canada or Europe. In those places, were the secular cultural elite has a strangelhold over most intellectual debate, the media and academia, you cannot state the Islamic position on these issues without be labeled a mindless bigot.

That's what happens when 7th century values clash with modern morality.


Day 6 of the trip started off at 3 am when we left the Bedouin camp in order to climb Massada. With daytime temperatures in the high 90’s, it’s usually best to make the climb (and very difficult descent) early in the morning. Thankfully, everyone made it in one piece and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise and detailed history of the fortress from our guide Offer. Afterwards we headed for a nice float in the Dead Sea and a therapeutic Mud Bath.

Mmm, mud bath.

A Thermonuclear Fisking

Walid Shoebat, an ex-Muslim, rhetorically obliterates Ramzi Sfeir. An excerpt:

Ramzi: We are VICTIMS!

Walid: Only racists claim victimhood when they ignore what they do to others.

We chased 850,000 Jews out of Arab lands. Are they too, not victims?

Suck it up. Grow up. Quit your belly aching, and stop that victimhood paranoia.

Arabs lost homes.

Jews lost homes.

Arabs want their homes back.

Jews don’t.

I have the ultimate solution for your “victimhood” problem:

No one has a right of return, neither Arabs who left in 48 and 67 have a right to return to Israel, and neither Jews who left in 48 have a right of return to Arab lands.

This should end all this mess.

Yet you will not agree to that.

Walid Shoebat knows about the culture of hate that exists in Islamic nations and he's quite frank about it. This is something that many Westerners can't comprehend. You see, in the West, the society is geared towards conflict resolution. Individuals, of course, will always quarrel over one thing or another but the overall Western culture puts a premium on law, stability and peace.

For those brought up in the West, it's, thus, shocking to hear of a culture where the religious leaders (imams), religious schools (madrassas) and regular course ware pump poison into the young. "Don't befriend the infidels", "The Jews and the Christians loath the Muslims", and "Make war on the infidels" are just the tip of the black iceberg. To top it off, the Muslims have the chutzpah to say that they are the victims.

Walid wasn't fooled by that old canard.

Link via Discarded Lies.

Creeping Islamism

The Big Pharaoh doesn't agree with the idea of a hijab / head cover.

Several people accuse me of wanting Egyptians to stop being religious so I would have my dream country. This is far from the truth. All what I am against is this current form of religiosity that places so much importance on outer appearances and neglects everything that has to do with the core inner values. Today, mosques are full during prayers, the vast majority of girls cover their hair, and churches are full on Sunday. My question is: did this make us better people? No it didn't. Crime is rising, corruption is skyrocketing, sectarian strive is eating the national social fabric, and a girl can't enjoy the simple right of walking the streets wearing something she chose to wear without getting verbally harrassed due to the sexual frustration that this type of religiosity has inflicted upon the youth. So, no, this religiosity has not made us better people. As far as I am concerned, it made us more stupid.

That's very bold of him.

Flexible Quagmires

Woody on the Iraq War:

The MSM/DNC cabal has been focused like a laser beam on the negative since day one. Since before day one in fact. In past wars we've lost more men in a single battle than we have in the entire liberation of Iraq and yet somehow the American people think we are not winning.

Almost 62 years ago, the Allied forces began the liberation of Western Europe. On the very first day, June 6, 1944, the Allies landed approximately 156,000 troops in Normandy. In present times, the number of US troops in Iraq have numbered between 138,000 and 160,000. Thus, the numbers on D-Day and in Iraq are comparable.

How many Allied soldiers died on D-Day?

How many US troops have died in the Iraq War so far?

June 6, 1944 was three years of Iraqi quagmire wrapped in one day. Yet, we don't see a harmful portrayal of those twenty-four hours. Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives to annihilate Nazism. We, rightly, honor their sacrifice.

Perhaps, a few decades down the road, the vast majority of Americans will appreciate the men who fight the evil of our age.

Mocking Legal Aliens

"22 Problems With The Senate's Illegal Immigration Bill" by John Hawkins. The fourth one on the list is a gem:

According to Ed Meese, the current Senate bill would actually prevent police officers from arresting anyone based on the fact that they're in this country illegally. Does that sound like the sort of provision that people who are serious about enforcing our immigration law would add to the bill?

What precisely is the point of queuing in line, filling out a collosal amount of paperwork, waiting for years and years when American cops won't / can't even arrest a person for entering their nation illegally? In fact, American politicians are, in effect, attempting to forgive the millions of illegal aliens in the US.

What message does this send to the people who spend their precious savings in the hopes of coming to the US in a legal fashion?

Living Wage = High Unemployment


My hometown appears ready to institute a "living wage" requirement on employers in the city...

This minimum wage amounts to $13 an hour. Thomas Sowell:

Making anything more expensive almost invariably leads to fewer purchases. That includes labor.

Why don't people get this part? The minimum wage has negative consequences. One can't simply legislate poverty out of existence.

The Fallen Soldier

Do not weep:

"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.

I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die."

-- Mary Frye (1932)

The Famous Nazi Charm

Palestinian Media Watch via LFG!!!

"Even Adolf Hitler, who after the fall of Nazi Germany turned into a political horror for most of the writers and artists, during the last decades has started to return himself to his part of the picture. There are some in Britain who defended Hitler and tried to do justice for him. There are elderly people, among them Arabs, who still carry the name Hitler since their fathers, who were charmed by him, linked them [their children] with his name."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 13, 2000]

That's so sweet. Let's give these people more aid. And a state.


Ali Sina:

Islam is an ideology. Rejection of an ideology cannot be classified as phobia. To call the opponents of an ideology phobic is a fallacy. All ideologies have their critics and opponents but we do not hear Christians calling the critics of Christianity Christianophobe, communists calling their critics communitophobe or Hindus calling theirs hinduphobe. The term "Islamophobia" is both technically and logically incorrect and misleading.

Correct. Muslims in general can't handle any criticism of Islam. Small differences in beliefs and rituals within Muslim communities are enough to bring on discrimination and general rudeness.

Take for example the experience of the Ahmadiyya sect in Pakistan. The government and the majority public of Pakistan don't consider the Ahmadis to be Muslims. Those who call themselves Ahmadis can't call their place of worship a mosque. Pakistani passport applications and other types of documents specifically ask whether one is a Ahmadi or not which makes public discrimination easier.

Apostates by definition have rejected the faith and are thus treated with utter revulsion. The Afghanis openly called for the death of a Muslim apostate last March. Recently, an Iranian convert to Christianity was put in jail.

Yet, somehow, merely criticizing Islamic law and the atrocious behavior of the Prophet Muhammed is now "Islamophobic" and on par with racism and antisemitism. Instead of the physical bullying or death that accompanies an unfavorable judgment of Islam in the Muslim world, we in the West get rhetorical thuggery.

Mutaween in Indonesia

Ekklesia via Dhimmi Watch:

Recently a young Acehnese woman was allegedly publicly flogged for kissing her boyfriend in public, while another 23-year-old has been locked up in Acehnese jail for more than two weeks without access to an attorney after being caught drinking beer.

Shariah police are said to have barged into the lobby of a leading Banda Aceh hotel to arrest three women attending an international conference because they were not wearing headscarves.

What a wonderful way to use up precious resources. Arresting whores women for not covering their hair. Just as Allah wanted it.

Frasier is Lincoln

Eric really liked the new X-Men movie. I likely won't watch it in the theatre--I'm saving up for Kal-El.

A funny paragraph from Fox News:

"X-Men: The Last Stand" took in almost $45 million on Friday and landed in the history books. It is now the second highest opener of all time, right behind "Star Wars: Attack of the Sith."

That's not fair! Comparing X3 with the combined opening stand of two Star Wars movies. Nevertheless, an impressive showing for X3.

I predict that Superman Returns will make a quarter billion dollars worldwide in its first week. That will include a $100 million-plus opening in North America. Bryan Singer left X3 for Superman Returns and I bet he'll make it count.

Individualism vs. Tribal Mentality

A comment at Democratic Peace:

"What evidence is there that any sort of humanitarian aid will ever do any good in Africa? If you read books like Michael Maren's 'The Road To Hell,' it becomes clear that it's no use giving a man a fish or even teaching him to catch them if his fish are merely going to be taken away by the next gunman to come along.

This exchange made me think of a story told by friends who recently visited Africa. They stayed with an American couple who own a successful chicken farm in Zimbabwe. Most of the farm staff are tribal folk, and the American couple have, on several occasions, tried to set up the more promising staff members in their own chicken farming businesses.

Read it all. It's quite informative.

Skewering the Rich

I have had many discussions about income tax rates with friends and fellow acquaintances from my university. The overwhelming majority are in favor of a really high top marginal rate. Their reasons boil down to:

1. The rich can afford to pay the high tax rate. It won't hurt them to part with an extra million dollars from their fat bank accounts. Such statements are usually made with a hint of a sneer.

2. Most rich people haven't earned their wealth, they were born into it. It's not fair for them to keep all of "their" money.

3. The poor "need" the money. It's only compassionate to follow the sage advice, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".

Reason #3 is somewhat amusing. Why? These are university students who're dependent on their parents, knee-high in debt and yet they define compassion as voting for the extreme left-wing party, so that someone else is forced to pay for the welfare state.

I've never understood the point of having different income tax rates. A high-income earner will have to pay more money to the government than a low-income person if there was a single rate. So, why punish the well-off with higher rates?

It seems that the answer isn't rational. No wonder, the first two reasons are the most popular.

Conroe Before August

TG Daily:

It appears that Intel will be introducing its new Desktop Core 2 Duo E6000 series earlier than previously expected. While industry sources hinted to a September launch date at the beginning of this year, slides obtained by enthusiast website HKEPC Hardware indicate that the desktop processor, formerly code-named Conroe, will make its debut on 23 July.

That gives Intel plenty of time for volume shipping for the new school year.

American History Reloaded

Gene Weingarten:

Imagine Angelina Jolie, on fire, leaping out the ninth-floor window of a burning sweatshop, where she has to work in her underwear because of the heat. She jumps because Dennis Hopper, the evil owner, locked her in! Muhahahaha. In the end, she has sex with Jake Gyllenhaal, the New York City firefighter who caught her.

It, like, totally makes sense given the context.

Life in Jail for Beslan Terrorist


A Russian court sentenced the only surviving Beslan hostage-taker to life in prison on Friday for his part in the bloody 2004 school siege that killed 331 people.

He deserves the death sentence.

“(Kulayev) deserves the death sentence but because the Russian government has introduced a moratorium on carrying out death sentences, I sentence him to life imprisonment,” Aguzarov told the court.

8.3% Goodness

I attended a Pakistani school in Saudi Arabia. There were so many students that the institution had to offer two shifts during the day. The first one was during the hours of 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the next one was from 3:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Assuming my memory serves me correct, students in grades 1-5 and 9-12 attended the morning shift whereas those in grades 6-8 went to the evening shift.

This system presented a problem during the month of Ramadan. You see, the good Muslims didn't consume any food or drink during the day. They could only eat after the sunset and before the sunrise. The sun went down around 5:30 p.m. How could the students in the evening shift alleviate their hunger?

So, for Ramadan, the Pakistani school functioned on a different schedule. Those who were in the morning shift would attend school between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. The evening shifters would go to school during the same hours on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Thus, a 5-day academic week would turn into a 3-day week for all the students.

I tried to fast but miserably failed every time. I could handle not eating during the day but zero water was beyond my capability. Still, I never had a drink in school for fear of retaliation--both rhetorical and physical. Oddly enough, we continued to have our "lunch" break during Ramadan, even though the junk food shacks in the school were closed.

Another noticeable change during Ramadan was the transformation of behavior. Out of my class of approximately forty students, we had about five jerks. These guys were always in trouble: made noise, started skirmishes, lied whenever their lips moved. However, their obnoxious conduct ceased during Ramadan. These guys behaved like angels for a month. During that time, it was amusing to watch them talk. They constantly stopped themselves from fully uttering cuss words as was their normal custom. They often said something like, "It's Ramadan, we have to behave well." This meant that they were fully aware of their stinking habits during the rest of the year. They were simply content with being good only 8.3% of the time.

Ramadan also brought some respite from the teachers. The combination of conserving energy from the perspective of the teachers and "wholesome goodness" from almost all students meant that the number of beatings went down to almost nil.

The Muslim calendar is lunar. If the first day of Ramadan last year was October 15, then this year, the first day will likely be October 5. I gathered that as soon as I saw the first graph in this post.

Some things never change.

Lahiri and Rahman

India FM:

Bappi has taken to the mike, once again. He recently completed recording the title track of Mani Ratnam’s Guru, composed by none other than A.R.Rahman. Few people know that Rahman and Lahiri have known each other since a very long time. Lahiri was only too happy to work with the maestro. In fact, he is not hesitant to say that according to him, Rahman is the best from among his contemporaries.

No question about that.

A seven minute song, the lyrics of the title track has been penned by Gulzar.

Sweet! Gulzar writes divine lyrics. His songs stand out as deeply poetic. Only Mehboob and Javed Akhtar are in the same category in Bollywood.

Honor At All Costs


“I just wanted five minutes alone with the doctor, to give him a little money and get him to lie for me,” said Leyla, who at that time had slept with a boyfriend in Germany. But her plan didn’t work and the doctor confirmed her parents’ worst nightmare. Her mother went into hysterics, wailing in the doctor’s office, while her father stood there, unable to speak.

“It wasn’t until then that I realized what a shame I had brought on them,” she said.

Quickly, they arranged a marriage with a cousin, explaining to the family that she wouldn’t bleed on her wedding night as a result of a sports injury.

It's better than getting murdered by the family.

Slithering Smooth

Jay Nordlinger from the World Economic Forum on the Middle East:

The fourth and final panelist is one of my favorite Middle Easterners: Bassem I. Awadallah, of Jordan. When I encountered him last year, he was finance minister; now he is director of the king’s office.

His rhetoric here is noteworthy:

We must have political parties other than the government and radical Islam—people must have a choice, some space. Those must not be the two poles, in our societies.

True. Though, oddly enough, that's not how things played out a few months ago. The Egyptian regime clamped down on the liberals which allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to make significant gains in the legislature. So, now the regime can point to the Islamists and say to the West, "See, this is what happens when you ask for democracy. Isn't it better to keep on supporting us?"

Religious Freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraq The Model:

This story [in Arabic] from Radio Sawa brought some encouraging news about the state of freedom of faith in Kurdistan where hundreds of people have recently converted from Islam to to Christianity without facing the threat of being persecuted.

Of course it doesn't matter much if they converted to Judaism or Buddhism instead of Christianity or even the other way around; one's faith is one's choice and what we should care about is to see people practice this right without fear from being punished.

Indeed. In this sense, Iraq is definitely better off than Afghanistan and practically the entire Islamic world.