Monday, January 31, 2011

Iran to Showcase New Weapon Technology

President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced today that, in conjunction with the 32nd Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Incineration of the Infidels (MoDII) will reveal new weapons developed exclusively by Iranian researchers and built entirely by Iranian technicians.

"The unlawful sanctions levelled against the peace-loving Iranian people cannot prevent them from designing and fielding weapons that will leave the entire world cringing and begging for mercy,"  said MoDII Minister Ahmad Vahidi. 

President Ahmadinejad, recently returned from a successful comeback tour of his rap threesome "Kronic Mo-Jo" said that the new weapons will revolutionize the balance of power in the Middle East/Perisan Gulf region.

Chief among those new weapons is the al-Fajr 5000 Intermediate-range missile, which is the first in the Iranian arsenal to make use of precision guidance.

Key to missile's pinpoint accuracy is the new Nooshejan automatic frequency-scanning radar, also developed by top Iranian scientists.
The radar's frequency-scanning capability allows it to cycle through constantly-shifting series of radar frequencies, which makes it almost impossible to jam.
Another important feature of the highly-sophisticated new radar is the fact that the transmitter can be powered by hand-crank, which is very handy in a country where the electricity grid is sometimes less than reliable, due to nefarious intervention by the criminal Zionist entity.

Among the world leaders invited to attend the unveiling of the new arsenal is North Korea's Beloved Leader-in-Waiting, Kim Jong Un, said to be a particular favorite of President Ahmadinejad, owing to the fact that, when hatless, he is entirely half an inch shorter than the President of Iran, even when wearing his hair in a pompadour. 


This never fails to put President Ahmadinejad in the best of moods, which sends him scampering joyfully to Tehran's finest retro clothiers.
As an added treat, it is rumored that the initial display of the weapons will coincide with a very rare public viewing of the lucky rabbits' feet of the Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs, which have not been removed from
their coffer in over a century. 



Said Bahman Shahnameh, curator of the relics, "They were a little stinky, but I sprayed them with Febreeze, and now they are suitable for public viewing."

 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lisbon Pavement

Often the streets here are paved with small cobble stones.  The same stones are used for almost all the sidewalks, but in Lisbon and the surrounding areas, the white stones are frequently offset with black ones, set in interesting patterns.  The cobbles aren't as easy to walk on as cement sidewalks, and they can be very uneven and slippery, but they're definitely nicer to look at.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Seascape

I thought I'd work on something peaceful, seeing how everything seems to be in turmoil these days.  This is the result. 

I also updated my painting website.  You can see all my most recent paintings of Portugal here:
http://stevengivlerpaintings.blogspot.com/p/portugal.html

Friday, January 28, 2011

Deported Imam Caught at Border

US Border Guards in San Diego, California, discovered Imam Said Jaziri trying to enter the country illegally by hiding in the trunk of a car.  Canadian authorities deported him in 2007 for lying on immigration forms (He failed to disclose a conviction for assault in France.) and possessing a falsified French passport.


Doubtless, his arrest will be hailed as a victory for homeland security, but the attempted entry only underscores how our porous border with Mexico facilitates the entry of something more sinister than people looking for jobs.

Mid East Anti-Government Protests - Talk Radio to Blame?

A protestor was shot dead in Egypt.  Others set fires and rioted as President Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, fled to England with his wife, daughter, and 100 pieces of luggage. 

It has been widely believed that, despite his denials, President Mubarak was preparing his son to take his place in the Presidential Palace, just as Bashar al Assad took his father's place as the President of Syria.

Dynasty-building, nepotism, and depletion of public funds by rulers' families have become the hallmark of Middle Eastern rule in recent history, which led to last week's overthrow of Tunisia's fat-cat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

In Yemen, an estimated 16,000 protestors took part in one of several demonstrations around the country, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to relinquish his rule.  He has led Yemen for over thirty years, ranking him in terms of longevity with Muamar al Qaddafi and the Sultan of Oman. 

Saleh too, has appeared to be positioning his son to take his place.  He has twice run for reelection after promising that he would not.  This allowed him to stay in office until his son, Ahmed Saleh, turned 40, the constitutionally mandated age of presidential eligibility.  He also backed a recent attempt at a constitutional amendment that would have done away with the limit on presidential terms, removing any legal barrier to his remaining president for the rest of his life.

Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen are all reeling from eruptions of anti-government sentiment that until now, their rulers have managed to keep pretty well under wraps.  Egypt's Mubarak is likely to follow Tunisia's Ben Ali down the spiral sluice.  What will happen in Yemen is yet to be seen.

Protests there have so far, been peaceful, and if the government manages to restrain itself from responding violently, I expect they will taper off.  Yesterday afternoon the demonstrators set aside their signs and banners to indulge in the national pastime of chewing narcotic qat leaves.  That, and the fact that the opposition is hamstrung by internal feuding and is unable to mount a unified front to oppose him bodes well for Saleh's chances of staying in power.

Back-biting, intrigue, greed, and outrage - it's beginning to sound like the last two years of US politics.  The only difference, of course, is that when the citizens of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen protest their villainous leadership, nobody blames their indignation on Talk Radio or the Tea Party.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Enterprise

Two days ago, I was out at lunch time, photographing things that I wanted to paint.  I walked along the coast of Oeiras, which is just next to where I work.
I took a picture of this fishing boat, and noticed something in the background.  It was the US Aircraft Carrier Enterprise, on her way into Lisbon Harbor.


She was accomanied by helicopters, which flew search patterns around her, and a screen of smaller vessels.
It was strange to see something so enormous in the presence of what have become familiar landmarks.
She was joined by 3 or 4 tug boats, that would help her maneuver up to the port in the Tagus river. These weren't exactly the kind of pictures I'd expected to take, but still, I was glad I happened to have my camera with me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dutch now most-claimed faux nationality

Stolen from the Libertarian Republican

Everyone claims they’re at least partially Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, and most Americans claim to be at least a little bit native American (especially if being so entitles them to open their own casino) but with the surge in popularity of the new libertarian-leaning government in the Netherlands, we may all soon be claiming a Dutch uncle somewhere in the family history.

As for me, I've always maintained that the height of civilization is a nice pub where they'll let you smoke a good cigar.  One of the first acts of the new Dutch government was to lift the ban on smoking in pubs and cafes. 
 
Maybe I'll start spelling my name with two i's. 

United Nations - World's Largest Irony Footprint


For immediate release - UN Human Rights Council, subcommittee on irony production, Phoebe Hasselblad, Chairperson Pro Tem

*******************
While irony generation is nothing new at the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council is pleased to announce that this year we are already on track to not only meet our ambitious annual goals, but to outstrip all previous records.  We are breaking irony trends in terms of membership, and activities.

Membership:
With this year's membership selections alone, we set our course for previously uncharted irony production,  adding highly-ironic members such as China, Cuba, Libya, and Pakistan.  In and of itself, this helped us offset the traditionally low-irony states of the UK and the US, resulting in a boost in the average Irony Measurement Unit (IMU) production per nation of 8.34 percent.

Member states' Irony productivity rates are color-coded in this representation:

*Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Zambia

Maximum Irony
Highly Ironic
Quite Ironic
Not Really Trying
Not Sure This Is A Real Country
Irony Neutral

Activities:
Our new goals achieve maximum irony output by directing attention away from legitimate human rights concerns such as the exploitation of women and children, and ending persecution of Christians in the Southern Sudan and China, instead concentrating on issues that are sure to be ineffectual and unimportant. 

*For instance, the Advisory Committee at its fifth session will review the revised draft set of principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members with a view to submitting it to the Council for its consideration at its fifteenth session.
*Also, the Human Rights Council adopted without a vote, a resolution on the United Nations declaration on human rights education and training, which decided to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group to meet for a maximum of 5 working days prior to the 16th session of the Council (in March 2011) to negotiate, finalise and submit to the Council the draft declaration on the basis of the draft submitted by the Advisory Committee.


By calling the working-group open-ended while limiting it to 5 working days, we realized an extra irony output of 7.3 IMUs.  Just the notion, however, that the highly ironic member states would help produce a draft resolution to be voted on by the council doubled that already-high number.
*Also, the Human Rights Council requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a draft declaration on human rights education and training entitled “United Nations declaration on human rights education and training”. 

(Some member nations suggested that the title should be more ironic, but it was pointed out that first, a more ironic name might be confusing and second, it really IS ironic, since the declaration won't actually accomplish anything.)

*To this end the Council also requested the Advisory Committee to seek the views and inputs of Member States, relevant international and regional organizations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, national human rights institutions as well as civil society organizations, including non-governmental organizations, on the possible elements of the content of the declaration (para. 1 (a) of resolution 6/10).

(The idea that member states, especially those in the quite ironic - maximum irony ranges, would provide the inputs for a human rights declaration put us over the top for this year's irony production quota!)


Below is the Human Rights Education and Training Questionnaire addressed to Governments, (which has set us on a path to nearly double our annual irony production quota:)

*1. Is the right to human rights education and training considered as such in your national system?

2. If yes, which is the legal basis?
􀂾 International law
􀂾 Constitution
􀂾 National legislation
􀂾 Administrative practice
􀂾 Other
[If answer to question 1 is positive]

3a. Which practical modalities have been set in place in terms of implementing the right to human rights education and training?
[If answer to question 1 is negative]

3b. In the absence of an explicit recognition of the right to human rights education and training, what is done in the area of human rights education and training?

4. In the framework of human rights education and training, what are the:
a) Priorities?
b) Challenges?
c) Good practices?
d) Prospects for the future?

5. Comments and suggestions on possible new elements for a future declaration on human rights education and training.

Our technicians in the Irony Research and Development Laboratory are particularly proud of this questionnaire, as they should be.  They discovered that, by focusing questions on the so-called right to human rights training, instead of on human rights themselves, we would benefit from an 80% increase in irony. 
 
Above and beyond that 80% bonus, question 3a, which focuses on "practical modalities" yielded another 15% increase in irony, due to the fact that none of the nations participating in the survey understood the term, but responded to the question anyway, often generating answers that were highly-efficient irony-producers.
 
The UN Human Rights Council looks forward to even greater adventures in irony in the near future.  Thank you for your support.
 
* The questionnaire and bureaucratic language were taken from the UN Human Rights Council's website.
 
- Congratulations and good luck to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and other Republicans focusing budget-cutting efforts on wasteful UN programs that, more often than not, are contrary to US interestests.

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Soviets and Islamists

“To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”




Thus wrote George Kennan, under the pseudonym “X” in the July, 1947 edition of Foreign Affairs. The article was entitled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct.”

What’s most amazing about this is not the idea that a writer in a Foreign Affairs journal would refer to us as a great nation, although I imagine that would raise some eyebrows today, but rather the applicability of his analysis, which was focused on the Soviet Union, to the forces of Islamic conquest that threaten us today.

“Ideology and circumstances” Kennan said, formed the political personality of the Soviet Union. The ideology of Marxism, which provided the impetus to overthrow the Tsars, provided little sustenance for the period following the revolution. The Bolsheviks took power with ideas on running a nation that were, “for the most part nebulous, visionary and impractical.” In this, they were not unlike the Taliban, whose zeal for the fight has been proven, but whose ability to rule has not.

This unpreparedness for rule, a direct result of the inadequacy of their philosophy, was the circumstance that forced the Communists, who were a minority in Russia, to establish a security apparatus to ensure the propagation of the party. Security in short order became suppression, which was easily justifiable considering the grim opposition facing the system that must be viewed as the only source of all good things. “…organs of suppression,” Stalin said, must be maintained, for “as long as there is a capitalistic encirclement there will be danger of intervention with all the consequences that flow from that danger.” And so it is with Islamic governments. Whether it’s the Taliban or the House of Saud, suppression is the hallmark of their rule. Suppression of ideas, of speech, of the press. All, of course, for the good of the people – as long as they recognize that all good comes from their rulers.

But the problem with this suppression, even if one accepts that it is for the good of the people, is that it generates resistance, which in turn justifies not only the extant suppression, but increasing amounts of it, which must always grow to meet the actual or perceived threat from a population that struggles under its control. In the face of this resistance, the Communist Party, the Taliban, etc – each must address itself to what Kennan called the “perfection of the dictatorship,” which is to say, consolidation of power, both in a physical sense, and in the minds of those over whom they exercise authority.

This process works in two directions. First, it goes about establishing the infallibility of the rulership. Just as the Communist Party was free to rewrite history and recast even its most recent statements, so it is with the Islamist systems, each of which claims that its direct line to heaven places it outside the realm of doubt. Secondly, it must characterize all opposition as unacceptable, and even evil. Many have already forgotten how the USSR presented capitalists as evil beyond redemption, but those who remember may find similarities in al – Qaeda et al’s representations of the United States as “the great Satan.” This not only channels the resentment of the underclass in a manageable direction, but it also shores up the infallibility claim. If one side is perfectly just, after all, it must follow that the opposition is completely evil, and if so, must be fought without reservation, which demands the complete devotion and obedience of the population.

None of this is so very remarkable, given that all cults, whether they are religious or political, follow the same arc. The party that seizes power consolidates it, wields it against anyone considered threatening, and adjusts its doctrine/theology accordingly in order to justify its atrocities. A characteristic shared by the USSR and the Islamists that may lie outside the norm, however, is their belief in the immutability of their cause. The Communists, because they believed that Capitalism contained “the seeds of its own destruction,” and the Islamists, because they believe that Allah will ultimately subjugate the world, view history and events through a long lens. They can sustain setbacks and make tactical retreats without doubting their ultimate victory.

Kennan warned that when ideology and the circumstances make rapprochement impossible, treaties, agreements, pacts are all meaningless. The USSR, Kennan warned, would consider such formalities to be nothing more than “tactical maneuvers” to be disregarded as soon as they became inconvenient or no longer beneficial. In view of this, the US must apply a “firm and vigilant containment,” one that, “has nothing to do with outward histrionics: with threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward ‘toughness’.” I believe that this recommendation to a war-weary United States (You will recall that he was writing from Moscow in 1947.) would have borne significant fruit, had it been followed more rigorously. Yes, we employed a “containment” strategy against the USSR, but it was haphazard and feckless. It was marked by the uncertainty and disunity that Kennan said provided, “an exhilarating effect on the whole Communist world.” Imagine how different the world would look today if we had pushed the Russians out of East Germany before they’d had a chance to establish the Iron Curtain, or if we’d had the fortitude to confront China when she intervened in North Korea.

But we don’t need to waste much time in imagining a different past. We can direct that time and energy instead toward containing the threat of the present.

"This is not only a question of the modest measure of information activity which this government can conduct in the Soviet Union (Islamic world) and elsewhere, although that too, is important. It is rather a question of the degree to which the United States can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problem of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a World Power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time."

And here is what I find fascinating about this article, written, as it was, more than 60 years ago, in the wake of our victory in the Second World War. It seems prescient in its understanding that our nation would face the crises of identity and vision that it faces now. Even more importantly, it strikes me as encouraging that his advice would be for our nation to rely on “its own best traditions.”

Surely, the fact that we have forgotten many of those traditions, and are having to reacquaint ourselves with them would have come as a shock to Mr. Kennan. Even so, I doubt that would have caused him to change the words with which he ended his article, words that apply still today.

“Surely there was never a fairer test of national quality than this. In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American (Islamist-American) relations will find no cause for complaint in the Kremlin’s (the Islamists’) challenge to American society. He will rather experience a certain gratitude to a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear.”

Guess Hu's Coming to Dinner

By now, most sentient creatures are aware that the recent state dinner at the White House, in which the US fawned embarrassingly over a reserved and snobbish Chinese delegation, was a tragedy of US international relations. As if that weren’t bad enough, now comes word that the Chinese pianist who played at the event chose the occasion to mock the US by including in his repertoire a propaganda song that calls for the destruction of the US and refers to us as jackals. There’s nothing quite like begging your guests to like you as they’re smirking at you behind their soup spoons.

But it gets even worse. Your intrepid correspondent has gained access to translated transcripts of that evening’s event, which reveal for the first time the contempt with which Chairman Hu and his administration regard the United States and her people.

Entry to the White House Ballroom,

POTUS – “Welcome to the White House,” Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Hu – “Why does he keep bowing like that?” Does his back hurt?

Interpreter – “Thank you Mr. President. You honor us with your hospitality.”

Chairman Hu – “No really, what is the deal with that? He looks like one of those toy birds that perches on the edge of a glass. Make him stop. He’s making me seasick with all that bobbing up and down.”

Interpreter – “The Chairman expresses his humble hope that the evening will unite our countries as never before.”

POTUS – “May I present the First Lady, Michelle Obama”

Chairman Hu – “That’s the First Lady? I thought it was a water buffalo. She looks much smaller on TV. Tell the President that after we’ve taken over his country, she will find herself pulling a plow in the Peoples’ rice paddies.”

Interpreter – “The Chairman says he is very pleased to finally make the acquaintance of the charming First Lady.”

After the receiving line, the POTUS and Chairman Hu and their assorted hangers-on are seated at the dining table.

POTUS – “We hope you will enjoy the meal. We’ll be serving dry-rubbed aged steak and Maine lobster.”

Chairman Hu – “Serve whatever you like, round-eyed devil. Soon enough we’ll be living here and you’ll all be eating dog.”

Interpreter – “The Chairman says his tastes are simple, and that he is sure to like anything you are gracious enough to serve.”

Chairman Hu – “Look at him. He’s even bowing while he’s sitting down. I didn’t know that was possible.”

POTUS –“Is there anything you would like to see while visiting our country?”

Chairman Hu – “Hmm, let me think. We’ve already got people on all your military bases and in your research laboratories. There’s certainly nothing to see in your treasury. Can you arrange a private audience with Lady Gaga?”

Interpreter – The Chairman is content to spend his limited time here in your gracious presence, working to solidify our nations’ relationship.

POTUS (To FLOTUS) – “See, he likes me. He really likes me. I don’t know what Hillary makes such a big deal about. This international relations stuff is easy.”

POTUS (To Chairman Hu) – “Now that we’ve eaten, I’d like to take a just a moment to broach the topic of the inequitable currency exchange rates that are one of the problems facing our economy. Is there any chance that the great people of China can meet with us on a more even playing field?”

Chairman Hu – “’Playing field’? What game does he think we’re playing? We’ve got his nuts in a vise, and he thinks we’re playing? Just wait till we start cranking up the pressure.”

Interpreter – “No.”

POTUS – “Well of course not. I feel silly for asking, actually, but you see, I kind of had to ask, just for, well, you know (unintelligible).

(long silence)

FLOTUS – “How do Chinese people manage to keep their children so slim and healthy? “

Chairman Hu – “What, the water buffalo speaks? That’s better than a panda bear any day. Stick her in a cage and we’ll take her back with us to the Beijing Zoo.”

Interpreter – Chinese schools incorporate rigorous exercise regimens in their curricula for the development of strong, healthy children to do the Peoples’ work.

POTUS – “Now, I hate to even mention this, but there is a certain amount of concern about the possibility of the perception that there is a slim likelihood that in some unlikely circumstances, (unintelligible)

Chairman Hu – “What is he mumbling about? Honestly, I can’t understand a thing he’s saying. Tell him to stop bowing and sit up straight so I can hear him.”

Interpreter – “The Chairman regrets that he does not understand the question.”

POTUS (barely audible) “human rights?”

Chairman Hu – “Ah, the decadent capitalist leader of the most exploitative empire in the history of the world wants to ask the humble servant of the Peoples’ Republic about human rights? The People find no common vocabulary with which to discuss such a topic with a running dog. Soon, however, from our deepwater port in the Bahamas, from our harbors at the gates of the Panama Canal, from our oil fields in Iraq and Sudan, from North Korea and from Iran, we will find the words you will understand, and we will initiate this dialogue at that time. Not before.”

Interpreter – “Yes, the Chairman shares your deep concern for human rights, and longs for the day when all men and women live freely.”

POTUS – “Let us work together toward that wonderful day. Thank you for honoring us with your presence this evening.”

Chairman Hu – “I figured it was time we dropped by and had a look at what we’ve bought. We needed to measure these windows for new drapes anyway.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bougainvillea

I've wanted to paint bougainvillea since I first saw them climbing over  garden wall in Tunisia, in 2000.  They grew in my garden in Riyadh too, and I always meant to paint them then, but never found the time.  Even after I started this painting, it took me forever to finish.  I began this in August, which probably makes this the longest-running project I've finished so far. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A photo and a painting

Today is cold and windy, but just a day or two ago, it was warm and pleasant.  So much so that Zach got in some skim-boarding at the beach.


I've been working on this painting for several days now, for about 15 minutes at a time.  Things have been busy lately.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Which I Become an Investigative Journalist Because Somebody's Got to Do it.


According to this story, police arrested 32 year old Oluwole Aboyade at Miami Airport on Tuesday, after he was observed photographing sensitive areas inside and outside of the airport. 

The story does not tell us where Mr. Aboyade hails from, but it does mention that he is in the country illegally.  It did not appear that he was in the airport trying to remedy that situation.  The story didn't tell us much of anything else, either, which made me kind of curious.  It reminds me (imperfectly, so I'll paraphrase.) of the Peanuts comic strip where Linus begs Lucy to tell him a story.  She is reluctant, but he is relentless, so she says, "A man was born.  He lived and he died.  The end." Linus finds the story compelling in what it doesn't say, and tells the reader, "I kind of wish I'd gotten to know him better."

I too, kind of wished I'd gotten to know Mr. Aboyade better.  Even though I was certain that we were told everything there was to know by the nameless but highly dedicated investigative journalist who wrote the story, I thought I'd have a quick snoop and see what I could find.

A 5 second Google search revealed a listing on LinkedIn.com by a man of the same name.  This Mr. Aboyade, (who has only a single link on his networking site) claims to be the sole proprietor of  "the first black/Nigerian owned film and production company in Miami Florida, United States of America." The site lists two awards for Mr. Aboyade's work, the "Vision 2005- Achievement award of the year," and the 2004 Full Sail University "Best Feature Film Award," each, strangely, for films that he fails to name.  Isn't that strange?  It seems to me that an enterprising filmmaker would tell you the title of his award-winning films, wouldn't he? 

And he does appear to be an enterprising young man.  In another profile site called Plaxo (on which he has count-em - five connections) he claims credit for work in about two dozen productions, among them videographer/editor of (unnamed) pieces in 2005 related to a United Nations Summit and the Bill Clinton Global Initiative Foundation.

For his education, Mr. Aboyade's Plaxo site lists Full Sail University, Orlando Florida, without further details.  His LinkedIn site says he has an "Associate of Science Degree Film and Video Production, Full Sail Real World Education," however, and correctly places the university in Winter Park, FL.  Winter Park is adjacent to Orlando, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt, but if he won an award for "Best Feature Film" from his alma mater, shouldn't there be some record of it?  Google returns no instances where his name appears in the same article as the name of the university. 

Also on his LinkIn site, Mr. Aboyade lists  Geography and Regional Planning at Delta State University, (Location unnamed) and "Associate of Art Business Management Harcourt College, Scranton, PA." His Plaxo site doesn't help us locate the mysterious Delta State University, but it does provide a timeframe for his tenure there.  The site says his association with Delta State was in 2008.  Interestingly, it claims he was also studying at Harcourt College in Scranton, and Full Sail in Orlando that same year.  See what I mean about enterprising?  I've had some bad commutes, but I can't imagine what time he had to get up in Florida to make an eight O'clock class in Scranton, PA. 

What about Facebook?  Ah, on Facebook it gets even wierder. 

On Mr. Aboyade's Facebook page, he posts a link to a site called "Satellite Surveillance and Human Experimentation, " where it alledges that  "Advanced surveillance and harassment technologies available to covert government agencies and connected criminals." Even more interestingly, he commented on December 7 2010, that "I am currently a victim of this."

On November 20th, he wrote, "people are using my profile to contact my friends acting as if they are me but they are not,any phone call or email comming from me in the last one year has not been me so just to let you know,in miami but homeless due to a group of people trying to steal my identity".



Wow. 

So what we have here is a genuine international man of mystery, possibly from Nigeria, living illegally in the United States who has worked in the film industry since at least the year 2000, garnering coveted awards and earning the privilege of filming such luminaries as Bill Clinton, but who, strangely, has only 6 connections on his professional networking sites, and is apparently the victim of satellite surveillance, human experimentation, and identity theft. 

Mr. Aboyade, call my people.  We have a movie to pitch to you.

This story seems to have dropped out of the news cycle since it first appeared on Tuesday, which is surprising, given all the little angles I was able to discover in about 10 minutes' worth of searching.  Were I to dedicate a little more time I wonder what more we could learn.  I'd contact the schools he claims to have attended, and see what the story is there.  I might even invite him to join my network on LinkedIn, just to help boost his numbers a little. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Naser al-Wahishi - Still Not Dead

Yemen Times – Al Qaeda in The Arabia Peninsula expert Saeed Ubaid says that, contrary to reports from intelligence services, AQAP leader, Naser Abdulkareem al-Wahishi was not killed in a 28 December missile attack in Pakistan.

Nor was he killed (twice) as reported in September of this year by the Yemeni government.

He was also not killed in the Hadramout counter terror raid of last month, nor was he killed when escaping from a Yemeni jail last June.

He was also not killed in November by American Idol judge, Simon Cowell. That was a misunderstanding.

Cowell, known for his acerbic critiques of American Idol contestants, evaluated al-Wahishi’s singing voice as similar to what would be uttered by a camel caught in barbed wire. To al-Wahishi, (stage name, Mr. Fabulous) who had hoped to trade the meager existence of a jihadist for the glamorous life of a pop star, the criticism was a stinging blow. His tweet on the topic said that he had been “slain” by Cowell, giving rise to the understandable confusion.

“How does it feel,” I asked al-Wahishi when I caught up with him at one of Waziristan’s toniest cafes, “to be the second-most not-killed pop star ever?” (number two with a bullet!) He scratched his beard absently for a moment before answering.

“I guess it’s better than nothing,” he began, “but to be honest, I really was hoping for more.” He paused and scratched again, and I began to wonder whether local hotels were bedbug-free.

“I know I can’t complain,” he continued. “I’m lucky to be where I am, but at some point you begin to add it all up, and you wonder if it’s been worth it. I mean, the voice lessons, the dancing lessons – have you met my choreographer? He’s an absolute dream. Those Pakistani boys are natural dancers, you know.”

He stopped talking and closed his eyes, a subtle smile on his face, and for a moment I was afraid I’d lost him.

“But to work so hard, only to find yourself at the end of your dream. You know, I’ve never worked harder at anything in my life,” he said. “I mean, the jihad is all well and good, and when I’m not on stage, I’m all about killing the infidel, but nothing makes me feel so alive as being under those lights.”

Al-Wahishi paused to adjust his woolen pakol hat. It was interwoven with a pale blue thread that matched a delicate border on his sleeves of his tunic. His shoes were Italian. I’d always seen him wearing sequins previously, but he explained when I asked him about it, that ever since Pakistan switched to environmentally friendly chemicals, dry-cleaning bills were outrageous.

I was about to ask him about his next show – was it true he would open for Lady Gaga? when a rough-looking bunch of characters entered the café. They sat in the opposite corner and almost immediately began glancing our way, and holding an animated sotto voce conversation. Al-Wahishi paid them no attention, but I couldn’t help noticing that they were becoming more and more agitated, and that they kept pointing in our direction.

Just as I was beginning to think it was time to end the interview, the tallest of them, a fierce-looking man, whose dark turban matched his piercing brown eyes, strode to where we sat. Towering over us, he pointed to my companion, and in a breathless voice said, “Mr. Fabulous?”

Al-Wahishi favored him with the slightest of nods, such as one that royalty would bestow upon the least significant of peasants.

“It’s HIM girls,” the tall man said, “I told you it was him!”

Almost immediately, we were engulfed by giggling, squealing mujahedin who, while stealing jealous glances in my direction, fawned over al-Wahishi, saying things like, “We absolutely ADORE you,” and “What was it like working with David Archuleta? He’s so yummy!”

Another said, “I just despise that Simon COW-ell. Who does she think she is, treating you like that? Don’t worry about her, darling, we’re issuing a fatwa…”

It seemed as good a time as any to bring my interview to a close, so I nodded thanks to al-Wahishi, who waved a languid hand in my direction, and I headed to my hotel to pack and file this report.

I was happy to have seen the artist surrounded by appreciative fans, but even then, I could detect his disappointment. I found something so human, so vulnerable, in his desire to emerge from his jihadi chrysalis and don the sequins of a butterfly.

And that’s when I had an idea. Why should he settle for second best? Why can’t a poor cross-dressing Yemeni jihadist achieve something better? Why can’t he have a shot at the brass ring? The answer – with a lot of hard work on his part, and a little help from the rest of us, there’s no reason at all. He may not win American Idol, but he can certainly become the most-not-killed pop star ever.

Write to me about how you didn’t kill al-Wahishi. Tell your friends to write. Tell them that if they’d wanted to vote for him on American Idol but didn’t get around to it, now’s their chance for redemption. I’ll compile all your stories, and send them to Rolling Stone. Together, we can help realize his dream.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Islam is about the law, not about personal interpretation

The other day I got a great comment from a good friend of mine, nicely taking me to task for my last post, in which I criticize Dr. Qanta Ahmed for her most recent misrepresentation of Islam.  Bill reminded me that people have many different interpretations of Islam, and that some of those interpretations allow Muslims to live peacefully under un-Islamic systems of law.  The point that needs to be stressed though, is that while I agree that there are uncountable numbers of personal interpretations of just about everything (that is human nature, after all) Islam is primarily a matter of laws, and as it is the goal of a great many people to subject us to those laws, it is in our interest to know exactly what they are.  It's for that reason that I read Islamic law - so that noone, well intentioned as I believe Dr. Ahmed is, or not, as I believe CAIR and similar organizations are, can deceive me.  Here is my reply to Bill on this subject:

 Bill, yes, there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are adherents. That's indisputable. What I'm talking about is the law.

Dr. Ahmed says that there is a body of Islamic law taken from the notion of rendering unto Ceasar... She is mistaken. She and lots of other commentators one hears today, like to offer their personal interpretation of Islam as one that is worldwide, or supported by Islamic law. They are not being truthful.
There are millions of Muslims who would do not have a problem living under un-Islamic systems of law, but that personal accomodation they have made, while commendable, is not supported by their theology. The manual of Islamic law I use is certified by Al Azhar University and all the prominent centers of Islamic learning around the world. It gives opinions in the Hannbali, Hanafi, and Shaafi schools of jurisprudence, and none of them supports Dr. Ahmed's position. 
The problem is that Islam is not just a religion, as you know. It is a system of laws, many of which are related to religion. I am happy to let anyone live and practice their religion as they see fit, but when they start talking about the law, they have left the realm of ijtihad, and are now talking about something written and definable, and I will hold them accountable. That's what I mean when I talking about being able to defend ourselves against creeping Shariah - knowing what it actually is, instead of relying on peoples' personal interpretations of it.
So I'm happy that Dr. Ahmed encourages other Muslims to deny terrorists haven, and I commend her for taking that position.  But I object to her misrepresenting Islam as supporting her in that position, because it does not. 

This continues to be the problem for those who want to live under a reformed, or moderated Islam.  Dr. Zuhdi Jassar's American Islamic Forum for Democracy is admirable, but gains little traction because of the inherent contradiction of his goals.  Democracy is completely un-Shariah, because according to the Koran, Allah is the only law-giver.  From that, it is an inescapable conclusion that the notion of establishing law by common consent of the governed is blasphemous.

I feel for Muslims who want "their Islam" to be compatible with democratic ideals, and I understand the conflict they must be feeling, but claiming, as does Dr. Ahmed that "her Islam" (I take that phrase from her book.) is compatible with democracy, or subjugates Muslims to American criminal law would be akin to me saying that "My Hinduism compels me to eat beef."  As a matter of definition, it does not work.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Wall Street Journal Whitewashes Islam

Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, says “There’s no reason we [Muslims] should object to Congress investigating Islamist radicalism.” That’s heartwarming news, but the problem is none of the Islamic theology she cites supports her claim.

Dr. Ahmed bases her claims on the notion that Muslims have a duty to the societies in which they live, and she quotes the Koran in order to make his point.

Similar to the Christian obligation to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” the Quran and the derived corpus of Islamic jurisprudence support Muslims’ engagement with those to whom power is entrusted. Chapter 4, verse 59 of the Quran reads: “Verily, Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice.”
This is a neat trick, but it’s a trick, nonetheless. Everything hinges upon the definition of that entitlement. As Dr. Ahmed must surely know, the only people entitled to the trust of Muslims are other Muslims. Aside from practicing Taqiyah, the tactical deception that allows Muslims to simulate submission to the authority of Kafirs, it is forbidden to accept the authority of any system of law or governance outside of Islam.

Dr. Ahmed continues taking liberty with the language, saying,

Muslims are instructed: “Let there be one community of you, calling good and commanding right and forbidding wrong” (3:110). Another instructs: “Believers, the men and the women, are friends of one another; they command right, and forbid wrong” (9:71). Impartiality is critical to fulfilling this duty. As it is written: “And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice” (5:8).
This is nothing short of intentional misrepresentation. Yes, Muslims are instructed to be one community, to befriend each other and to be impartial in their dealings, but that implies the exact opposite of what Dr. Ahmed says. Every verse she quotes is intended exclusively for Muslims in their dealings with other Muslims. They have no application outside the Dar al Islam.

Likewise this, also supplied by Dr. Ahmed:

The holy texts of Islam emphasize that one’s greatest allegiance should be to justice—superseding family and co-religionist ties. “Be strict in observing justice, and be witness for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against your parents or kindred,” the Quran says in chapter 4, verse 36.
But again, she obscures the fact that justice is defined within the narrow context of Islam, which requires the harshest penalties for defaming or slandering Islam, even if in doing so, one speaks the truth. This particular verse refers to legal cases in which one is called to testify within an Islamic system. It has nothing whatsoever to do with suggesting that a Muslim should testify against another Muslim in a Kafir’s court. There is nothing in the Koran or in Shariah that condones that.

Even in her summation, in which Dr. Ahmed recounts an anecdote from the Hadith, Dr. Ahmed implies that Muslims’ attempts to correct other Muslims are on parity with Muslims giving other Muslims over to an extra-Islamic legal system. There is no such parity. There are no conditions under which Islamic theology accepts the subordination of a Muslim to un-Islamic authority. The law is very clear in this, so much so, that it even requires the faithful to reserve the common greeting, “salaam aleykum” for Muslims alone, since Allah’s peace should not be wished upon unbelievers.

I join Dr. Ahmed in her call for Muslims to provide no sanctuary for terrorists who try to hide among them, but I cannot sit silent while she distorts the essential nature of Islam in order to do it. The nature of Islam is part of the problem, like it or not, and if we expect to defend ourselves, we need to acknowlege that fact.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The National Palace of Sintra

Quite a while ago, I posted a photo of the study I did in preparation for this painting.  That study was roughly 3 x 5 inches.   This painting is 15 x 20 inches.  It's not entirely finished; it's at the point where I'll put it up out of sight for a few days.  The next time I look at it, hopefully whatever I need to do next will be readily apparent.