Monday, July 31, 2006

Problems with the Korean Education System: Education Minister Kim Byong-joon

Minister of Education
(Image from July 27th issue of The Korea Times)

In last Thursday's Korea Times (July 27, 2006), "Minister Admits Bungle: Kim Apologizes for Publishing Thesis Twice," staff reporter Park Chung-a informed us that:

Kim Byong-joon, deputy prime minister and minister of education and human resources development, on Thursday apologized for having published identical research papers in academic journals .... He admitted that he published identical papers in two journals as if they were separate papers under a government-funded research project, when he was a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul in 2001. This double publication of a single paper was not intended to get state research funding twice, he said. "Printing the same paper twice is my fault although I believe my assistant made a mistake in helping me process the research paper,'" the minister nominee told reporters on Thursday.

I don't know Kim Byong-joon personally, nor am I familiar with his work, but I suppose that anybody can bungle and publish a paper twice ... though I, for one, have enough trouble publishing a paper a single time. That's probably why I don't get much academic notice -- learning experts say that educators should make a point of repeating themselves to ensure that their students get the point.

I think that we must be getting the point by now, for in Saturday's JoongAng Daily (July 29, 2006), "Kim accused of cheating at least three more times," Park Seung-hee and Ser Myo-ja reported that:

Besides the one he already admitted, Deputy Prime Minister for Education Kim Byong-joon resubmitted at least three other research papers as if they were new works, a JoongAng Ilbo investigation has found.

For instance:

While serving as a Kookmin University professor, Mr. Kim published a paper in August 1998 with the Korea Regional Political Science Association on the civic groups' influence on policymaking. One year later, he published the same paper with the university's social science research institute, carrying a slightly reworded title. The two papers' contents were identical. Mr. Kim used Chinese characters in the title for the first publication, and Korean in the latter.

Kim should receive an opportunity to defend himself -- and I won't make any accusations since I know only what I read in the funny papers -- but I do want to focus upon the attitude of one official:

With mounting pressure, the Blue House held a meeting yesterday, hosted by the Chief of Staff Lee Byung-wan, where it concluded the issue was not serious enough to fire [Kim] .... "Mr. Kim denied he had committed self-plagiarism and he also apologized for the discrepancy," a senior Blue House official said. "Since it has been a common practice among scholars in Korea in the past, I don't think the matter is serious enough to let him go."

According to this anonymous "senior Blue House official," self-plagiarism -- which Kim Byong-joon denies having committed -- has not been considered a serious academic offense in Korea and is therefore no reason to bar an individual from holding the office of Education Minister.

Regardless of Kim's innocence or guilt, the attitude that plagiarism -- even if 'only' self-plagiarism -- presents no serious breach of academic ethics is very problematic. The younger generation of Korean scholars would not agree, and I suspect that the Blue House will soon come around to this younger generation's point of view.

But the point may bear repeating before the Blue House gets the point.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Milton's God: Ignorant or Deceptive?

Plate 12: "Towards the coast of Earth beneath, Down from the ecliptic,
sped with hoped success, Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel" (PL 3.739-741)
(Image Borrowed Directly From Wikipedia)

On the Milton List that I belong to, the scholars Peter Herman, Jeffrey Wilson, and Michael Bryson (among others) argue that Milton intended to portray a fallible God in his figure of God the Father and that he employed a sort of indirect method of calling our attention to the Father's inconsistencies in the hope that "fit audience ... though few" (PL 7.31) would note the inconcinnities and -- if I be allowed to phrase it this way -- attempt a quasi-Straussian, esoteric reading in which Milton does not so much "justifie the wayes of God to men" (PL 1.26) as critique them.

For example, they argue that the Father's words to the Son in PL 3.80-92 are untrustworthy, specifically when the Father states that Satan is flying "Directly" toward the "new created world," for Satan's flight from heaven and search for mankind have been anything but direct.

While the charge -- of either deception or ignorance -- against the Father has generated some interesting discussion, I haven't yet seen the force of the argument that the word "directly" implies that God the Father, speaking in PL 3.89, is either dishonest or mistaken.

We last saw Satan in PL 2.1034-1055:

But now at last the sacred influence
Of light appears, and from the walls of Heav'n [1035]
Shoots farr into the bosom of dim Night
A glimmering dawn; here Nature first begins
Her fardest verge, and Chaos to retire
As from her outmost works a brok'n foe
With tumult less and with less hostile din, [1040]
That Satan with less toil, and now with ease
Wafts on the calmer wave by dubious light
And like a weather-beaten Vessel holds
Gladly the Port, though Shrouds and Tackle torn;
Or in the emptier waste, resembling Air, [1045]
Weighs his spread wings, at leasure to behold
Farr off th' Empyreal Heav'n, extended wide
In circuit, undetermind square or round,
With Opal Towrs and Battlements adorn'd
Of living Saphire, once his native Seat; [1050]
And fast by hanging in a golden Chain
This pendant world, in bigness as a Starr
Of smallest Magnitude close by the Moon.
Thither full fraught with mischievous revenge,
Accurst, and in a cursed hour he hies. [1055]

We take leave of Satan as he hies toward the pendant world, i.e., the created cosmos hanging by a golden chain, but he still has some distance to go, for the world is far enough distant that it appears no bigger than a star.

We next hear of Satan, as described by God in PL 3.69-92, closely approaching the world:

... [The Almighty Father] then survey'd
Hell and the Gulf between, and Satan there [70]
Coasting the wall of Heav'n on this side Night
In the dun Air sublime, and ready now
To stoop with wearied wings, and willing feet
On the bare outside of this World, that seem'd
Firm land imbosom'd without Firmament, [75]
Uncertain which, in Ocean or in Air.
Him God beholding from his prospect high,
Wherein past, present, future he beholds,
Thus to his onely Son foreseeing spake.
Onely begotten Son, seest thou what rage [80]
Transports our adversarie, whom no bounds
Prescrib'd, no barrs of Hell, nor all the chains
Heapt on him there, nor yet the main Abyss
Wide interrupt can hold; so bent he seems
On desparate reveng, that shall redound [85]
Upon his own rebellious head. And now
Through all restraint broke loose he wings his way
Not farr off Heav'n, in the Precincts of light,
Directly towards the new created World,
And Man there plac't, with purpose to assay [90]
If him by force he can destroy, or worse,
By some false guile pervert;

As some have noted, "world" at that time was the usual term for "cosmos." Given that Satan is "Coasting the wall of Heav'n on this side Night / ... and ready now / To stoop with wearied wings, and willing feet / On the bare outside of this World," then the Father seems accurate in maintaining of Satan that "now / Through all restraint broke loose he wings his way / Not farr off Heav'n, in the Precincts of light, / Directly towards the new created World." At this point, Satan's movement is direct. He has had the newly created world in his sights since first spying it in PL 2.1051ff, where it appeared about the size of a star, knows from the 'rumor' in heaven that he will find mankind there, and has been hieing his way toward it since the moment that he first spied it.

At the time that God describes Satan in flight, he is winging his way directly toward the newly created world, i.e., the cosmos, if we assume that "World" in PL 2.74 has the same referent as "World" in PL 2.89, which seems to me a safe assumption.

Thus, "directly," as descriptive of Satan's direction at this moment in his flight, looks accurate to me.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ulleungdo: Retrospective

Sea Turtle Motel
(Image Borrowed From 바다거북)

I'm still recovering from the past week's vacation, so I'll keep today's entry short.

Although we didn't manage to visit every place that we had set out to see -- because of road construction, low clouds, recalcitrant children, and various unforeseenables -- we nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed our Ulleungdo journey.

We can thank our kind hosts at the Sea Turtle Motel (바다거북), located in the tiny seaside village of Tonggumi, for they generously gave us rides along the 8.5 kilometer route to and from the main port, Dodong, and even took us sightseeing. I can't guarantee that they would do all of this for everyone staying at their motel, but even if not, a bus service runs along the road from Dodong through Tonggumi and all the way around the coast until the end of the road.

Perhaps the somewhat unfortunate weather contributed to our good fortune, for many would-be vacationers had cancelled their reservations due to rain and flooding on the peninsula, opening up rooms offered at a discount. We paid about 50,000 won per night, but the usual cost would be closer to 80,000 (roughly 50 and 80 dollars, respectively). Meals were available at the motel's restaurant, and the prices were reasonable -- about 6,000 per meal, or 10,000 for a special meal. The food was good, and amounts provided were reasonable.

The rooms were spare but comfortable enough. Bedding was a sleeping pad on the floor, plus pillows and covers. A small refrigerator kept our beer and soft drinks cool. Free television entertained the kids during the weary evenings, when we aged, aged parents needed a break. A private toilet and shower provided convenience.

The rooms have no internet connection, but -- perhaps due to the paucity of vacationers -- the hosts allowed me to check my email and even to blog from their private computer. Obviously, no one should automatically expect this privilege, and I did see a sign in Dodong announcing a PC Room, so getting online is possible anyway ... even if you'd have to pay for it.

For those of you who are considering a visit to Ulleungdo, we can recommend it generally and the Sea Turtle Motel in particular. Visit the motel's website (바다거북) and click on various links for pictures of the motel and of places to visit.

Incidentally, you would do well to have along someone who can speak Korean, for the hosts at the Sea Turtle Motel don't speak English.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Ulleungdo: Saying Goodbye...

"squid reposing in their resplendent grace"
Words and Image by Dave the Wave

Yesterday, we saw the preparations for the Squid Festival in Jeodong, where En-Uk and Sa-Rah spent some energy throwing squid parts to the gulls.

When En-Uk saw the gulls circling overhead, his first words were: "A bird tornado!"

He was right -- that was precisely what it looked like.

Anyway, we're leaving this morning. See you in Seoul...


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ulleungdo: Dokdo Museum Visit

The Dokdo Islands
(As Viewed From Wikipedia)

Yesterday, we visited the famous Dokdo Museum that you've probably never heard about unless you've lived in Korea, in which case, you've heard a lot ... or at least about Dokdo.

Dokdo is an island -- actually, two rocks sticking up from the sea -- located midway between Korea and Japan, claimed by both countries, and occupied by Korea.

My official position is that Dokdo belongs to Korea.

Unofficially, I don't really know, and the museum didn't help me to decide one way or the other because the information was all in Korean ... except for a brochure written in strange English.

One crucial old map showed both Ulleungdo and 'Dokdo' (the actual name being different back then ... I think) in close proximity to each other, with 'Dokdo' being just west of Ulleungdo. The actual Dokdo, however, is in fact east of Ulleungdo, about 86 kilometers distant. A small island called Jukdo lies just off the coast of Ulleungdo, and I'd be tempted to identify this small island with the one on the map, but since the actual Jukdo lies east of Ulleungdo, identifying it with the map's mystery island founders on the same rock of directionality.

I give up, for now.

For those interested in what one blogger has to say about the entire issue of who owns Dokdo, go to the blog of Gerry Bevers, starting with his entry for May 1, 2006 -- What is the history of Ulleungdo? (Introduction) -- and following his investigation from that point.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ulleungdo: a crater island...

Nari Basin
(Image Borrowed From Tour 2 Korea)

... as we experienced it yesterday.

We had planned to take our children swimming in a little town on the other side of the island from our Turtle Rock bay hotel, but we arrived to discover that the owners of the pool had drained it dry for cleaning, which left us free to do something far more interesting ... for adults, anyway (though that turned out too interesting, in little En-Uk's opinion).

We hired a van driver to convey us up to the island's crater ... actually, to one of the two craters. I don't think we went to Nari Basin but to the other crater, which has a nature park, or so my wife said. We saw a couple of traditional Ulleungdo houses constructed of straw and still standing despite the big bad wolf. Here's what Tour 2 Korea says about the image above:
A crater has been formed in the center of this island by a volcanic eruption. The Nari Basin was the first of two naturally formed craters on the island. Standing at the summit of Seonginbong Peak, overlooking the basin, the second crater is visible just next to Albong Peak The Nari Basin is said to be the only crater in the world with a small village on it.

Since I don't recall seeing an actual village (just a few houses), I'm guessing that we were in the second crater, but I could be wrong. Whichever the crater, the place was surrounded by a rim of beautiful, rugged peaks -- unfortunately not shown in the image above.

At any rate, we started down a broad path from that crater and soon heard the crashing roar of falling water. A narrow, somewhat treacherous path led steeply down from our broad one, and we decided to chance it. En-Uk reluctantly started down, holding firmly to my hand but within three steps off the broad path, he panicked, started sobbing into my shirt, and begged to go back.

I said, "En-Uk, look into my eyes."

He looked up, and I swear that I've never seen a boy so terrified ... except for a photo that I saw once in the German newspaper Blick while I was living in Tuebingen. That picture showed the terrified face of a boy who had somehow fallen into the polar bear pit at an East German zoo and was being bitten by one of the bears. That's how terrified En-Uk looked.

Why? I'm not sure why. Perhaps he fell into his terrified state from a combination of factors -- the unfamiliar place, the steep, narrow path, a dark forest, the roaring water hidden somewhere below. We decided not to risk a trip down with a terrified little boy and returned to our main path instead.

As I told my wife, I now need to work with En-Uk to help him overcome his fear of ... of whatever it was that so frightened him.

UPDATE: the crater was Nari Basin, as my wife confirmed, so I was wrong.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ulleungdo: land of misty mountain tops...

As Seen From Near Our Hotel
Tonggumi Fishing Place, Geobuk (Turtle) Rock
(Borrowed From

... in the brief time that we've been on the island.

We're staying in a hotel near big Turtle Rock -- which shoots up into the sky about 80 meters, I reckon -- and in the shelter of an even larger rock that forms part of a mountain that was rising precipitously into the low clouds hiding the island's summits on the wet day that we arrived. I haven't yet looked to see if mists blanket the mountains today, but I'm betting not because the sun is shining down much more forcefully this morning.

Yesterday after dinner, we hiked up the road that climbs the mountain beside our hotel, expecting to reach the misty part soon, but the further that we climbed, the farther the mist seemed to recede ... except that it wasn't actually budging an inch. My daughter, Sa-Rah, wanted to go on, but I told her that darkness would be falling soon and that we ought to go back.

I felt a bit like Bilbo Baggins trying to get over the Misty Mountains ... but failing.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Ulleungdo, we're now here...

... or 'nowhere' if I'm allowed to pun on the "no place" of "utopia."

The word "utopia" was coined in 1516 by Thomas More through combining the Greek words for "no" (ou, ου) and "place" (topos, τοπος), but punning on the Greek word for "good" (eu, ευ) as well, which makes this "no place" also a "good place," both fitting names for Ulleungdo.

The longer Latin title to More's book reads De Optimo Reipublicae Statu deque Nova Insula Utopia, which translates to On the Best State of a Republic and on the New Island of Utopia and makes even more fitting that Ulleungdo is an island.

What you see in the image above is an official utopian model of Ulleungdo, which you are welcome to compare with the official eutopian satellite photo of the real island in all its glory.

And don't forget to scroll down through Sung-il Jang's "Special Photo Gallery of Ulleungdo"...

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Ulleungdo, here we come...

Robert D. Neff, "Ullung - An Island of Contention"
(Korea Times, 3/18/2005)

Tonight, as I forewarned on June 27th, my family and I will be leaving for vacation on a piece of volcanic land protruding from the East Sea (Sea of Japan) that Koreans call Ullung Island (Ullungdo) or Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo), known in the West as Dagelet Island.

According to Wikipedia's entry on Ulleungdo:

Favorite activities for tourists are hiking, fishing, and eating raw fish. Sightseeing boats make regular three-hour circuits about Ulleung-do, departing from the harbor at Dodong and passing by all the points of interest along the coast, including many interesting rock formations and the tiny island of Jukdo. Other scenic sites are Seonginbong, the highest peak on the island (984 m); Bongnae waterfall; the "natural icehouse"; and a coastal cliff from which the island of Dokdo (known in Japan as Takeshima) can be discerned in the distance.

I hadn't thought of "eating raw fish" as a tourist activity, but now that I've been properly alerted to this, I'll make sure that my family and I engage voraciously in that typical touristy tasty thing. I wouldn't want to disappoint the natives. Oh, and if you're uncertain -- as was I -- just what is meant by those unfamiliar terms "hiking" and "fishing," why, Wikipedia has been kind enough to provide links.

I wonder if the tourists do any extreme hiking. Or extreme fishing. Or extreme raw-food eating.

All three of these extreme activities depend upon ... the weather. Speaking of which, what's the forecast? According to Yahoo's weather report (daily updated) for Ullungdo, the foreseeable weather pattern as of Sunday, June 23 is:

Today: Showers early, then cloudy in the afternoon. High around 70F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Tonight: Cloudy skies with a few showers after midnight. Low 64F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Tomorrow: Considerable cloudiness with occasional rain showers. High 71F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 40%.
Tomorrow night: Showers ending in the evening with partial clearing overnight. Low around 65F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
Tuesday: Showers possible. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 60s.
Wednesday: Showers possible. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 60s.
Thursday: Showers possible. Highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 60s.
Showers every day. And the extended forecast link shows more showers for Friday and beyond. Good. All that extreme hiking, fishing, and raw-food eating makes a body hot and sweaty. We'll each need a daily shower. Always look on the bright side of life ... like that Spartan soldier Dienekes, about whom was said by Herodotus in his report on the Battle of Thermopylae:
"Although extraordinary valor was displayed by the entire corps of Spartans and Thespaians, yet bravest of all was declared the Spartan Dienekes. It is said that on the eve of battle, he was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, 'Good. Then we'll have our battle in the shade.'" (Histories, 7.226)
So, undaunted, I say to this weather: "Good. Then we'll have our vacation in the shade." Just so long as no typhoon (hurricane) hits, I'll be happy.

A lot of you named "James" have asked if I'll bring back photos. I don't own a camera because those things take possession of your soul. But if you really want to see the extraordinary beauty of Ulleungdo's soul, you can find these vacation photos over at Lao-Ocean-Girl's blog.

Speaking of blogs, I might be away from this one until Saturday, July 29th ... unless Ulleungdo has internet cafes and Sun-Ae indulges my weakness.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Over at The Beiderbecke Affair...

(Image from Bix Beiderbecke Resources: A Bixography)

... where the jazz is always frying in the fat, Brendan Wolfe -- who spent a year or two in South Korea -- has posted a blog entry presenting observations on the Korean language by Westerners living in Korea and trying to master its subtle intricacies.

For those of you who don't know because you've never had to know, Korean is an Ural-Altaic language that functions in an agglutinative manner, gluing syllable onto syllable after syllable, but not in any order that speakers of Indo-European languages would find intuitively reasonable. Think of Mark Twain's remarks on "The Awful German Language," raise their value to an unbounded exponential factor, and you'll have an extrapolated inkling of the difficulty that Korean poses for us Western expats (excluding Hungarians and Finns, who are half-Korean anyway). Take, for example, this literal translation of a sentence randomly selected from a Korean text:

"I-subject just what-object meaning-doing-knowledge-object say-doing-topic thing-topic impossibility-to-do!"

I think that's J. Alfred Prufrock saying, "It is impossible to say just what I mean!" Which is ever my experience, too. Similarly, back over at Beiderbecke's, one commenter, David Boshko, writes of his experience with Korean:

Korean is essentially being caught in a syllable-diagramming exercise gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I heartily concurred, and responded:
I agree with David Boshko: "(Trying to speak) Korean is essentially being caught in a syllable-diagramming exercise gone horribly, horribly wrong."

Every time that my wife sits down to teach me Korean, I find myself mentally diagramming syllables, sketching out cerebral lines, attempting to find points of linear intersection in a non-Euclidean langue-scape, a prison-house of language from which there is no parole.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.... But you're wondering what any of this has to do with the jazz genius Bix Beiderbecke. Well, I'll tell you:


Except that Brendan Wolfe's blog bears this jazzy name and has a logo that does not lend itself to copying and posting, so I pasted from another website about Beiderbecke, one with a more promiscuous logo...

Still ... here's to Brendan Wolfe and his ambixious blog.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Benjamin Myers on Milton's Freedom

Benjamin Myers
(Reflecting Ben's Image)

Benjamin Myers, over at his blog Faith and Theology, announces the release of his new book, Milton's Theology of Freedom, which I've been eagerly anticipating ever since he first informed us many moons ago that it was slated for publication.

Here are the chapter headings:

1. The Theology of Freedom: A Short History

2. The Satanic Theology of Freedom

3. Predestination and Freedom

4. The Freedom of God

5. Human Freedom and the Fall

6. Grace, Conversion and Freedom

Myers provides an excerpt from the "Preface," which you can read to get a foretaste of the intellectual feast offered. Here's a scent of the foretaste:
In two respects, ... this book is a study of freedom: it is a study of Milton's theological vision of freedom in Paradise Lost; and it is also a study of the freedom of Milton's own theological creativity as embodied in the poem.
I suppose that this sort of book doesn't appeal to everyone (and at a cost of $99.90, it won't), but Milton scholars will want to read it. I'm therefore quite interested, and as faithful readers will recall, I've discussed Milton's views on free will several times on this blog. I've also published a couple of articles on the issue, as some may have noted from my blog roll:
"Free-Will Theodicy, Middle-Knowledge Theology, Ramist Linguistics, and Satanic Psychology in Paradise Lost" (pdf)

"Economy of Damnation: Satan's Fall in Paradise Lost" (

My own work traces Milton's views on free will to the Spanish Jesuit theologian Luis Molina, but if I recall correctly from an email inquiry that I made, Myers doesn't look into this connection. Myers will certainly have dealt with the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, however, and Arminius is indebted to the great Spanish thinker, so I expect to learn a lot.

I've just got to convince Korea University's library to shell out US $99.90 for a book that maybe only I will read...

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mustafa Akyol: 'Deleting' Sexism in Turkey

Founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey
(As Depicted at Wikipedia)

If only deleting sexism were as easy as deleting hate email. Nevertheless, this is a good development for Islam in Turkey.

The Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, in his article "[Sexism Deleted] in Turkey," written for the Washington Post (registration required), reports on a recent "step toward reforming Islamic tradition ... [by] Turkey's religious authorities."

Reform in Islam? Isn't that considered innovation (bid'ah) and therefore a form of heresy? There is, after all, a report of Muhammad's words in Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 49, Number 861:

Narrated Aisha: Allah's Apostle said, "If somebody innovates something which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected."

For Salafist Muslims, who interpret this passage narrowly, the clause beginning with "which" would probably be set off with commas in the English translation:
"If somebody innovates something, which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected."

The comma before the word "which" would make the clause a nonrestrictive relative clause and thereby imply that every innovation is to be rejected. Not knowing Arabic, I'll have to leave this translation issue to the experts.

At any rate Turkish Islam is not Salafist Islam and might well be termed "Kemalist Islam" after the gentleman whose photograph you see above, Kemal Atatürk.

Atatürk was a Turkish nationalist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who emphasized Turkish tradition over Islam and who came to political power after Turkey's defeat in WWI and set up a secular state that tightly controls Islam ... although these controls have loosened considerably in recent years.

Despite the loosening, the Turkish state still controls Islam and official religious scholars have recently declared hadith such as the following to be inauthentic:

"Women are imperfect in intellect and religion."

"The best of women are those who are like sheep."

"If a woman doesn't satisfy her husband's desires, she should choose herself a place in hell."

"If a husband's body is covered with pus and his wife licks it clean, she still wouldn't have paid her dues."

"Your prayer will be invalid if a donkey, black dog or a woman passes in front of you.

One sees what is at stake here, namely, the denigration and control of women, and one must applaud the efforts of Ali Bardakoglu, the liberal Muslim theologian who has for three years served as president of the Diyanet Isleri, Turkey's highest Islamic authority, and who has led it to declare that a new collection of hadiths free of misogyny will be ready by 2008.

Concerning this reform, Akyol makes an interesting point:

These reform-minded Muslims [such as Bardakoglu] are not [extreme] secularists who want to do away with religion. On the contrary, they want to reinterpret Islam because they believe that its divinely ordained, humane and generous essence has been eclipsed by mortal man's erroneous traditions and ideologies.

This is crucial because only such godly reformists have a chance to appeal to more traditional members of their faith. Since the 19th century, traditional Muslims have felt forced to choose between their faith and modernity -- a dilemma that has been fueling a reactionary strain of radical Islam. The Islamic world needs an alternative -- a path between godless modernity and anti-modern bigotry. With its revision of the traditional Islamic sources and with its rising Muslimhood that embraces democracy and open society, Turkey may just be opening the way. The West should be taking notice -- and encouraging other Muslim countries to take inspiration from Turkey's moderate course.

In effect, Aykol is arguing that Islamic reform will only work if pious Muslims reform it through arguing that the innovators are precisely those who have accepted as authentic the manifestly inauthentic hadith such as the misogynistic ones quoted above. The burden of proof is shifted from the reformers to the traditionalists. In effect, the reformers as challenging the traditionalists by asking them how they can consider hatred of women to be something that Muhammad authentically taught.

The traditionalists reaction to this challenge should prove interesting to observe, and I hope that Aykol will keep us posted, for if this reform takes hold in Islam, so can other reforms.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poetry Break: "Dante's Odyssey"

Dante Descends the Flinty Steps in Canto 26
Envisioned by Paul Gustave Doré
(Descended at Wikipedia)

You occasional readers may not need another of my poetry breaks, but after yesterday's post, I deserve a break ... and it might as well be poetry.

In Ditch Eight of Hell's Eighth Circle, as recounted in Canto 26 of the Inferno, Dante encounters 'the fraudulent' Ulysses (Odysseus), encased in a flame that speaks for him, and the latter tells of his voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules and heading due west into the Atlantic with his crew, sailing fearlessly, eagerly onward until they glimpse the dim outlines of a distant mountain, whereupon a whirlwind sprang from the perceived land, striking the vessel and sending it hurtling into the waves, under the sea, and downward to Hell.
Dante's Odyssey

Those nights I often dreamt
of broken labyrinths
where black, black flames rise up
in resurrected death
to prophesy with no one's tongue
on what shall come, is passing, or has passed.
I wrote this brief lyric in late 1986, shortly after arriving in the old Swiss town of Fribourg, built on the steep sides of the Sarine river, a little village of long, steep steps and -- at the time of my arrival -- deepening winter shadows.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Abu Bakr Naji's Management of Savagery

Solitary Fireman Standing Amidst Rubble and Smoke
Ground Zero of Destroyed World Trade Center
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm currently reading a translation by William McCants (Fellow with the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point) of The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which The Umma Will Pass, by Abu Bakr Naji.

Naji is another one of those jihadist intellectuals like al-Suri, but he has a strategy for seizing territory (through fomenting chaos, i.e., "savagery"), establishing Islamic law (Sharia), and using that base to expand the realm of Islam (Dar al-Islam) yet further. He regularly contributed articles to the online magazine Sawt al-Jihad (The Voice of Jihad), which used to be published by the al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula until its publication ceased in October 2004.

Naji's book on managing savagery has garnered much attention since becoming available online, both in its original Arabic and in the English translation by McCants, as the following three online summaries indicate.

Stephen Ulph, in the online journal Terrorism Focus,Volume 2, Issue 6 (March 17, 2005), hosted by the website The Jamestown Foundation, offers a different translation of Naji's main title: The Management of Barbarism (Idarat al-Tawahhush), and he also offers a summary of the book's strategy, based (I presume) on his own reading of the Arabic original:

Published by the Center of Islamic Studies and Research (an al-Qaeda affiliate), the 113-page work 'Management of Barbarism' aims to map out the progressive stages of establishing an Islamic state, from early beginnings in defined areas in the Arabian Peninsula, or Nigeria, Jordan, the Maghreb [i.e., North Africa], Pakistan or Yemen, and its subsequent global expansion. The author is Abu Bakr Naji, a name familiar from his contributions to the Sawt al-Jihad [i.e., The Voice of Jihad] online magazine.

Naji's strategy -- as I noted -- is to begin by fomenting chaos, which he prefers to call "savagery" or "barbarism" (cf. Arabic Tawahhush). The pseudonymous blogger Quay Fortuna, at Armageddon Cocktail Hour (a blog name reminiscent of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe), summarizes Naji's conception of this first stage:

Naji's advocacy of causing chaos in weaker states in Africa [aims] to provide a foundation for world domination -- a scenario played out in Somalia, for example. By creating civil war, Naji aims to destabilize regions and then have jihadists enter and provide security for desperate peoples -- in essence, by employing a manufactured heroism strategy.

Fortuna nails it with his expression "manufactured heroism strategy": Islamists foment chaos, then emerge as heros bringing stability. They then reconstruct society on an Islamic basis. See also Bruce Tefft's March 8, 2005 report, "Al-Qa'ida Book on Managing Savagery," at Isralert.

On 2 March [2005], "Irhabi3," a new member in Al-Ikhlas forum, [an online Islamist site that takes its name from a Qur'anic sura on monotheism (sura 112),] posted a link to a new book "Managing Savagery -- The Most Crucial Period to Be Faced by the Nation," by Abu-Bakr Naji. The 113-page book was published by the al-Qa'ida-affiliated Center for Islamic Studies and Research. In the book, Naji presented an elaborate plan for the recreation of an Islamic Nation, starting in limited areas, and spreading worldwide. He called for scattered small attacks against "enemy interests" to cause security disarray, seizure of power by the mujahidin, and establishment of the Islamic nation.
These three summaries cohere with my reading of the book thus far. Let's see what Abu Bakr Naji himself has to say. On page 26 of the translation by McCants, we find Naji's definition of "the management of savagery":
As for a detailed definition, it differs according to the goals and nature of the individuals in the administration. If we picture its initial form, we find that it consists of the management of peoples' needs with regard to the provision of food and medical treatment, preservation of security and justice among the people who live in the regions of savagery, securing the boarders [sic: "borders"] by means of groups that deter anyone who tries to assault the regions of savagery, as well as setting up defensive fortifications.

(The stage of) managing the people's needs with regard to food and medical treatment may advance to (the stage of) being responsible for offering services like education and so forth. And the preservation of security and securing the borders may advance to working to expand of the region of savagery.

Naji will break this down into a list in a moment, but first, we should note his conception of "savagery," found on page page 27 of the translation:

[The condition of a region of savagery] is more nebulous than chaos, in view of its corresponding historical precedents and the modern world and in light of wealth, greed, various forces, and human nature, and its form which we will discuss in this study. Before its submission to the administration [i.e., the management of savagery], the region of savagery will be in a situation resembling the situation of Afghanistan before the control of the Taliban, a region submitting to the law of the jungle in its primitive form, whose good people and even the wise among the evildoers yearn for someone to manage this savagery.
Naji implies that "savagery" is a Hobbesian state where life is so "nasty, brutish, and short" that people will willingly submit to the security offered by Islam's absolutist rule. Next -- and also on page 27 -- Naji lists the ideal form for meeting the requirements for managing savagery:

- Spreading internal security

- Providing food and medical treatment

- Securing the region of savagery from the invasions of enemies

- Establishing Sharia justice among the people who live in the regions of savagery

- Raising the level of belief and combat efficiency during the training of the youth of the region of savagery and establishing a fighting society at all levels and among all
individuals by making them aware of its importance....

- Working for the spread of Sharia science (putting the most important aspects before those of lesser importance) and worldly science (putting the most important aspects before those of lesser importance).

- Dissemination of spies and seeking to complete the construction of a minimal intelligence agency.

- Uniting the hearts of the world's people by means of money and uniting the world through Sharia governance and (compliance with) rules which are publicly observed, at least by those in the administration.

- Deterring the hypocrites with proof and other means and forcing them to repress and conceal their hypocrisy, to hide their discouraged opinions, and to comply with those in authority until their evil is put in check.

- Progressing until it is possible to expand and attack the enemies in order to repel them, plunder their money, and place them in a constant state of apprehension and (make them) desire reconciliation.

- Establishing coalitions with those with whom coalitions are permitted, those who have not given complete allegiance to the administration.

Thus does Naji set forth his strategy for seizing territory, establishing Islamic law, and using that Islamic base to expand the realm of Islam still further. How might this expansion take place? See John B. Dwyer, in "Know Your Terrorist Enemy" (February 22nd, 2006), who reviews the translation by McCants for The American Thinker and provides a possible scenario:

The plan: conduct "vexation and exhaustion" operations such as bombing tourist sites and oil facilities. This will create a security vacuum as regime forces concentrate at those places, which will then be exploited by terrorist cadres moving into unprotected regions or cities to take over day-to-day administrative duties .... Once established, these cadres will network with each other and "move towards a caliphate [i.e., an Islamic empire]."

We currently observe this sort of disruption occurring in a number of areas throughout the world where Islamic insurgencies are taking place (e.g., Mindanao, southern Thailand, Kashmir, and Chechnya). While insurgencies have local conditions, such as the one in Chechnya, where the Chechen people have long had nationalist aspirations against Russian domination, we see that Salafist Islam (i.e., the puritanical Wahabi version of Islam that we find in Saudi Arabia) exploits the local conditions in its efforts to globalize Muslim insurgencies.

But just as local conditions vary, so will local applications. As Trefft notes, Naji himself "discusses the subject ... [merely] in general, and only goes into details when absolutely necessary ... [otherwise leaving] the minute details ... to the experts and to the actual leaders in the field."

I've been assuming that this jihadist process will be undertaken in areas of what used to be called the Third World, but how might local application work in Europe itself, where demographic trends project large Muslim populations by mid-century? Expect Islamists to press for autonomy in Muslim dominated areas, to demand the right to apply Sharia in their own communities, to put pressure on non-Muslims to move out of Muslim areas, and to use intimidation to destabilize neighboring areas. Expect Islamists also to use radical versions of multiculturalism and local elections for political office as legitimate channels in pushing their agenda.

Will the Islamists find success? Perhaps not, but even if not, their failure won't come from lack of striving.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Abu Musab al-Suri: An Islamist 'Trotsky'?

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)
(Image from Wikipedia)

The jihadist theoretician al-Suri, about whom I've recently become aware, seems rather a complex individual, even contradictory.

In Craig Whitlock's article of May 23, 2006 in the Washington Post, "Architect of New War on the West: Writings Lay OutPost-9/11 Strategy of Isolated Cells Joined in Jihad," we find this depiction (page 2):
"He's very intelligent and powerful in making his arguments," said an Arab dissident who knew Nasar well and also spoke on condition of anonymity. "But he is also a very difficult man. His tough attitude created many, many enemies for him, even in jihadi circles."

With his pale white skin and red hair, Nasar physically blended into British society more easily than many Islamic fundamentalists. But he sometimes struggled to reconcile his beliefs with his surroundings.
Whitlock gives a couple of examples (page 3):
For instance, friends said, he was well educated on the finer points of Western classical music and enjoyed talking at dinner parties about composers. But he refused to actually listen to the music, for religious reasons. And while he rejected the authority of secular institutions, he once filed a libel lawsuit in a British court against the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat.
I can add my own of al-Suri's contradictions. According to Dr. Brynjar Lia: "The al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri: A Profile" (pdf, page 18):
[al-Suri] defines a long list of targets to be found in most any Western or Arab city. Despite the wide definition of legitimate targets, al-Suri strongly cautions against operations in which many ordinary Muslims, or non-hostile non-Muslims, are killed. Such attacks will play into the hands of the Crusaders [i.e., Western military forces] and undermine efforts at mobilising the Islamic umma [i.e., worldwide Muslim community] behind the jihadist call.
Yet, al-Suri also expressed harsh views (Whitlock, page 3) after the 9/11 attacks:
[al-Suri's] theories of war also called for the most deadly weapons possible. In Afghanistan, he worked with al-Qaeda leaders to train fighters in the use of "poisons and chemicals" at two camps near Jalalabad and Kabul, according to the State Department. After the Sept. 11 hijackings, Nasar [i.e., al-Suri] praised the attacks. But he said a better plan would have been to load the hijacked airplanes with weapons of mass destruction.

"Let the American people -- those who voted for killing, destruction, the looting of other nations' wealth, megalomania and the desire to control others -- be contaminated with radiation," he wrote. "We apologize for the radioactive fallout," he declared sarcastically.

Perhaps he later had second thoughts when the American reaction was to go on the offensive, invade Afghanistan, destroy al-Qaeda's bases there, depose the Taliban, and begin hunting down Islamist terrorists worldwide.

Abu Musab al-Suri reminds me of the Marxist Leon Trotsky, a brilliant strategic thinker who combined his ruthless, focused revolutionary views and practice with a broad, even sympathetic knowledge of Western history and culture, unlike many of the Russian Bolsheviks with whom he aligned himself.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

More on Abu Mus'ab al-Suri: The Reason "Why"

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
(Image from

In yesterday's post, I noted that the jihadist theoretician Abu Mus'ab al-Suri argues for a jihad of individualized terrorism against infidels, and I wondered about the purpose of such terrorism since it cannot conquer territory from the realm of war (Dar al-Harb) for the realm of Islam (Dar al-Islam).

The Norwegian scholar Dr. Brynjar Lia had noted that al-Suri writes of terrorism as a means of "resisting the occupation," to which, I had queried, "[B]ut the occupation of what? The world? Withdrawal from the world would be rather difficult." I then ended my entry by asking, "So ... what's the point of the terrorism?"

A possible answer comes from Craig Whitlock's article of May 23, 2006 in the Washington Post, "Architect of New War on the West: Writings Lay OutPost-9/11 Strategy of Isolated Cells Joined in Jihad," in which we learn:
Counterterrorism officials and analysts see Nasar's theories in action in major terrorist attacks in Casablanca in 2003, Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. In each case, the perpetrators organized themselves into local, self-sustaining cells that acted on their own but also likely accepted guidance from visiting emissaries of the global movement.

The Madrid bombing, in particular, have been interpreted as punishment for Spain's participation in the American-led Iraq War and postwar occupation, so this might be the sort of thing that al-Suri means by "resisting the occupation." If so, then his strategic advice was successful in this particular case, for Spain's conservatives (Partido Popular) lost the election, which brought into power the Socialists, who withdrew from Iraq.

Ultimately, this won't much help the Spanish to avoid terrorism, for as we've since learned, the 'occupation' includes the Spanish occupation of Andalusia, the part of Spain once ruled by Islam.

Anyway, I now understand some of the "why" behind al-Suri's Call for a Global Islamic Resistance.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Abu Mus'ab al-Suri's Call for a Global Islamic Resistance: Why?

Abu Mus'ab al-Suri
(The Intelligence Summit, Copyright © IHEC 2006)

Back in April of this year, a friend of mine, Greg Rhoades, emailed me an article by Dr Brynjar Lia: "The al-Qaida Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri: A Profile" (pdf). I finally found the time to read it yesterday, and it presents a fascinating portrait of the brilliant jihadist strategist Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, better known by his pen name: Abu Mus'ab al-Suri.

A jihadist intellectual, al-Suri has written a history of recent jihadist groups around the world, a 1600-page tome, The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance (Da'wat al-muqawamah al-islamiyyah al-'alamiyyah), analyzing the weaknesses of these groups and proposing ways of overcoming these weaknesses.

In his text, al-Suri identified three types of jihadist warfare (cf. pp. 16-17 of Lia's article):

1. Tanzims (Organizations): secret, hierarchical, regionally based groups, e.g., Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

2. Open Fronts: large-scale insurgencies against an occupying power, e.g., Chechnya.

3. The Jihad of Individualized Terrorism, e.g., Ramzi_Yousef.

The tanzims, according to al-Suri, are outmoded because they can be so easily countered by attacking those states that provide sanctuary or by taking advantage of the weakness inherent in hierarchical organizations. The open fronts, as insurgencies, still have a role to play -- as the jihadist insurgency in Iraq shows -- especially for recruitment and gaining experience, but the real future of jihad, according to al-Suri, lies with the jihad of individualized terrorism. Jeffrey Cozzens, at Counterterrorism Blog, excerpts a passage from Lia's paper (p. 17):

Al-Suri's slogan is: nizam, la tanzim, 'System, not organisation'. In other words, there should be 'an operative system' or template, available anywhere for anybody, wishing to participate in the global jihad either on his own or with a small group of trusted associates, and there should not exist any 'organisation for operations'. Hence, the global jihadist movement should discourage any direct organisational bonds between the leadership and the operative units. Leadership should only be exercised through 'general guidance' and the operative leaders should exist only at the level of small cells. The glue in this highly decentralised movement is nothing else than 'a common aim, a common doctrinal program and a comprehensive (self-) educational program'.

The same goal of decentralisation is applied to financing and training. All cells should be self-sustained financially, with the possible exception of start-up money from jihadist activists termed 'cell builders'. The latter category include skilled jihadists whose primary task is to create new independent cells, without connecting them to any organisational structure. The 'cell builder' is an Achilles heel in the system, and various precautions are taken to minimize the risk associated with his role. He is supposed to disappear from the scene before any operative activity commences, either by going to another country, going completely underground, or participating in a martyrdom operation.

These cells need guidance, training, and money, which the cell builder supplies but which consitutes their weak point, as Lia notes above.

I want to note something else. Such a decentralized jihad cannot seek to increase the territory of the realm of Islam, which has traditionally been an aim of jihads, so what is its goal? Lia mentions al-Suri's concept of "resisting the occupation," but the occupation of what? The world? Withdrawal from the world would be rather difficult. That leaves conversion as a possible aim, but Lia doesn't speculate on this.

If the aim is to foment widespread terror, then the logic might be this: a terrorized population is already half in submission to "The God Terror." Yet, terrorism often has the opposite effect, steeling people's nerves against the terrorists, much as the wartime bombing of civilians has often raised morale and resistance. Moreover, "al-Suri strongly cautions against operations in which many ordinary Muslims, or non-hostile non-muslims, are killed" (Lia, p. 18).

So ... what's the point of the terrorism?

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Supporting the South Korean...

(Shining on at Wikipedia)

... "Sunshine Policy" ain't always easy, but I have my reasons.

First, I think that in the long term, having a South Korean policy that engages the North in high-level dialogue, invests in the North's economy, and encourages tourism to the North will gradually transform North Korea. The North may appear to have the upper hand because it has the loudest voice and acts in ways that embarass the South's political leadership, e.g., launching those recent missiles, but the South actually has the power in this relationship because its economy generates the enormous wealth that the North needs and wants. In short, the North needs the South more than the South needs the North, a fact that gives the South long-term leverage to gradually pry the North open.

Second, I worry that in the long term, having a South Korean policy that would attempt to isolate the North would have the unwanted effect of driving the North further into the arms of China, upon which it is already far too economically dependent. The long-term danger would be that a North Korea isolated from the South would be forced into ever-greater economic integration with China due to cross-border trade and Chinese investment. If China sees North Korean territory as part of its 'greater Goguryeo' province, then economic integration might lead to ever-closer political integration ... in the long term.

On the other hand, perhaps I worry too much, for Esther Pan, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, argues in "The China-North Korea Relationship" (July 11, 2006) that:
Pyongyang is not an ally Beijing can count on. Kim Jung-Il's foreign policy is, like its leader, highly unpredictable. "North Korea is extremely difficult to deal with, even as an ally," says Daniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Stanford's Asia-Pacific Research Center and a former longtime foreign correspondent specializing in Asia. "This is not a warm and fuzzy relationship," he says. "North Korean officials look for reasons to defy Beijing." Some experts say the missile tests were just one example of North Korea pushing back against China's influence. "It was certainly a sign of independence [and] a willingness to send a message to China as well as everyone else," ... says [Adam Segal, the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations]. The Chinese, who favor "quiet diplomacy" with North Korea instead of public statements, took the unusual step of making public the fact that Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, warned North Korea not to launch their missiles. The fact that Pyongyang did anyway has hurt China's image, other experts say.
I would venture to suggest that the North Koreans recognize the danger in drawing too close to China, and their willingness to defy China's publicly stated opposition to the North's threatened missile launch is the North's statement of its independence from China. In other words, the North may be launching its missiles in the general direction of Japan and the United States, but a message is being sent to China as well, as Segal notes.

A big hat tip to Robert Koehler at The Marmot's Hole for the link to Pan's article.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Poetry Break: "This Warmth I Feel"

(Glorified at R.S. McCain's The Art of Being a Redhead)

In the sultry heat of a Seoul summer, the poem below might feel inapt, but I wrote it in a chilly Berkeley during the autumn of 1985. I had just met a Russian Jewish woman with flaming-red hair and intellectual brilliance -- and found her passionately attractive.

Nothing came of that other than this poem.

For which ... I am immensely grateful. Otherwise, I might not have met my good-lovin' Sun-Ae (선애), who provides plenty of warmth and brilliance.
This Warmth I Feel

This smoldering passion that you bear,
Though hidden by your verbal grace,
Erupts by virtue of your hair,
Whose flames offset your sculpted face.

This warmth I feel beneath your skin
With every pulse originates
In racing fires that burn within,
And soft suggests your inner traits.

. . .

The chill night air has shivered me.
This cold, damp fog has swirled around
And in its vortex circled free
By stealth to steal what warmth it's found

That yet remains within my limbs.
My breath engages with the mist --
Ensnared, it's merged into that film,
Which heavy, finds itself condensed

To cool still more what heat has stayed.
I'm closer drawn to warm my bones
Beside the fires you generate,
Much better than to rub alone

My palms, or arms, against the cold.
Draw closer then, dispel this chill,
Lean close yourself within my fold
To share with me the warmth you feel—

You'll feel that I can smolder too,
Through passion radiate desire,
And shine with brilliance just for you,
Engendered by your burning fire.
Sounds enticing, doesn't it, but fire burns, even to ashes, as this other poem warns ... or also entices?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Everybody talks about the weather...

(Shocking Image at Wikipedia)

From the depths of my heart and basement, I love powerful lightning storms and once wrote a poem, Ozark Spring Storm, to mythologize the experience of one.

I mention this now because from my 23rd-floor window about four o'clock this morning, I saw a powerful bolt come crashing down somewhere to the south of our place but still in Seoul, for its thunder shook our apartment about four seconds later. Subsequent bolts, which came infrequently, didn't strike with as much impact. Hurricane Ewiniar hasn't hit Seoul very hard and isn't leaving much meteorological disturbance in its wake, nothing like enough to wake the dead.

Unlike those Ozark storms.

Outside of Texas, where I've also lived, I've never seen electrical storms bursting with the dramatic intensity of those that I experienced growing up in the Ozarks. I recall storms there with almost constant bursts of lightning electrifying the night and regularly blasting along at that intensity for half an hour or more. As a kid, I loved the excitement. Now, realizing the grave danger, I'd probably be utterly terrified ... but I still think of those storms with nostalgia.

However, according to this science website, even the worst terrestrial storms don't hold a candlewatt to the serious lightning storms on Saturn:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted an electrical storm as large as the continental United States on Saturn, with lightning bolts that are 1,000 times stronger than those on Earth. They detected the charged storm in Saturn's southern hemisphere, an area labeled "storm alley." The storm stretches 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from north to south, and emits radio noise similar to that produced by thunderstorms on Earth.
A storm as big as the continental United States! Lightning bolts 1000 times stronger than our terrestrial ones! How freakin'-of-nature big would a Saturnine tornado be? Hurricane-sized?

And the weather doesn't get much better on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, which has methane rain at minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit! But don't think about moving to Neptune, hoping for better weather, for the storm winds there blow at more than 1500 miles per hour! Nor is Jupiter much better, with its Great Red Spot, a hurricane more than twice as wide as the Earth and powered by winds of as much as 350 miles per hour!

And that's just in the vicinity of Old Sol. Doubtless, the universe outside our solar system has even worse weather in store, so take along an umbrella ... just in case.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Emir of Andalusia

Assem Hammoud, aka Emir Andalusi
(Mug Shot at Wikipedia)

I can't cover all the topics that interest me, so my various interests can only occasionally surface here on this blog, sometimes becoming a series of posts ... as regular readers know.

Anyway, in my efforts to keep up with informed news, I receive daily emails from The New Republic, and in a recent entry on its blog, The Plank, Martin Peretz reports that:
Last week when the Department of Homeland Security announced that a Lebanese man had been arrested abroad on charges of masterminding a plot -- to flood at least two tunnels underneath the Hudson River that would engulf the PATH train service between New Jersey and New York and also spill out over Manhattan almost -- no one noticed his name. Or what its message was. Well, he had chosen himself a nom de guerre that told a big story. The name is Emir Andalusi. If you want to know what it threatens, click here for an extremely informative analysis by Shelomo Alfassa, publisher of the International Sephardic Journal. Incidentally, another terrorist, linked both to Mohammad Atta and the bombing at the Madrid railroad station, had taken on the evocative surname.
The name behind the emir title is Assem Hammoud, but as Alfassa notes:
Emir Andalusi ... immediately gives away his ideology to those who are students of history. 'Emir Andalusi' is a name which translates from the Arabic as 'Prince of Andalus.' It was not his real name, which was Assem Hammoud, but his pseudonym told something of his outlook on the world, it was a window into his political agenda .... 'Andalusi' is reference to the once Islamic strong hold of Al Andalus, the Arabic language name given to the parts of Iberian Peninsula that were governed by Muslims from 711 to 1492. Utilization of a nom de guerre is quite common in the Arabic world, but those which are in reference to old Muslim Spain are being seen as increasing common among jihadists who have set themselves against the Western world. Using 'Andalus' as a surname was already common in 2000 when Amer Azizi, an Al Qaeda member in Istanbul, re-named himself Othman Al Andalusi (Othman of Spain). Azizi was later directly linked to 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta. He was also connected to the Madrid train bombers that in March 2004 killed 191 people and wounded 1,741 in their desire to reclaim the land of Spain as an Islamic trophy .... Reference to the once Muslim empire of Al Andalus are common among Islamic terrorists because one of the goals of radical Islam is the stated desire to control the world, specifically and firstly with the lands they lost on the battlefield, this includes modern Spain .... The Lebanese terrorist with an Arabic-Spanish name arrested this week on plotting to blow up New York is no different than any other Islamic terrorist. He, like they, have declared war against the entire world. We need to remember that Islamic terrorists committing violence in Jerusalem, London, Madrid or New York see those cities as the centers of the lifestyle they despise. In their world ... there are only two concepts in which society exists, Dar Al-Islam and Dar Al-Harb. Dar al-Harb (the world of war) refers to the territory under the supremacy of unbelievers (non-Muslims), this includes Spain, Israel and other countries. Dar Al-Islam (world of Islam) refers to the lands and people under Islamic control -- or that will soon be under Islamic control.
But to return to Assem Hammoud, aka Emir Andalusi, check out the July 9th issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, "The new 'Prince' of terrorism," for a photo of a very Western-looking Hammoud, arms around three girls. Why?
He was told not to grow a beard, wear Islamic clothing or show any sign of religious devotion. During his recruitment as a soldier in the global jihad, Assem Hammoud was told to act like a typical young, secular Lebanese man and warned not to attract attention....
This shouldn't be surprising to anyone who's been paying attention. According to the Al Qaeda Manual's third lesson:
The photograph of the brother in ... [identification] documents should be without a beard. It is preferable that the brother's public photograph [on these documents ]be also without a beard. If he already has one [document ]showing a photograph with a beard, he should replace it.

The purpose of this ruse is to hide one's true allegiance to radical Islam in the war between the Dar Al-Islam and the Dar Al-Harb. "War," after all, "is deceit." The Emir, however, as the Sydney Morning Herald further notes, proved to be an incompetent soldier:

His frequent presence in militant chat rooms and on websites was his undoing. Tipped off by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that an alleged plot to bomb tunnels in New York was being hatched on the internet, Lebanon's internal security branch tracked down Hammoud. The official said a special unit that monitors internet and phone activity identified him through the internet protocol address he was using to access Islamicist sites. Lebanese officials monitored his internet activity and phone calls for several months before arresting him on April 27. While he might not have learned how to properly hide his IP address, Hammoud did allegedly pick up the jihadists' penchant for symbolism. He used the pseudonym Emir Andalusi, which in Arabic means Prince of Andalus.

Consistent with the Emir's mockable incompetence and ridiculous self-importance, we all belong to a greater Andalusia dogged by a derisory dystopian Islamist vision of 'history,' but the consequences won't always be so risible.

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