Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect's Classmate: He Was A 'Nice, Funny Guy'

"Nice and Funny" is usually a facade for darker things lurking in the background.

Dhimmis in a Daze in Cambridge

It's a fashionable place for academics and others who fashion themselves as rebels against whatever is viewed as "the Establishment". Which usually isn't "the Establishment" but simply individuals who do not agree with the limits to freedom of speech that a place like Cambridge, MA has imposed on it's own. It bills itself as a "sanctuary city" and even though there are refugees and immigrants worthy of sanctuary it's rare to find those kind. You're more likely to find jihadi preachers and political cults like Code Pink and Marxist sectarians finding safety there. If anything, Cambridge is not a working class city in the least.

Now that the manhunt for the original suspects is officially over there is now another hunt going on for any associates of these two men. If there is a sleeper cell in the vicinity then let's not be surprised if there are other such groups in the bastions of such traditional American leftist locales such as Madison, Wisconsin, Austin, Texas and of course, Berkeley, California. Meanwhile, the residents of this town are in shock that such people live in their midst. So much for street smarts. Now the world has a chance to laugh at the pathological naivete of these people and maybe start to think critically about where countercultural influences in the West has taken them to.

Rindge and Latin, in a daze.

The Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev both went to high school, is not a private school and it’s not an elite school. What makes ­Rindge special, apart from the fact that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon went there (and e. e. cummings long before them), is that it is the only public high school in Cambridge, what could be the most tolerant and accepting place imaginable for two Chechen boys looking to find their place in the world. Tamerlan, the older brother, cycled through only briefly. He was an athlete, but also played in the jazz ensemble, a smiling, benign presence out of the boxing ring. Dzhokhar, six years younger and a wrestler, was more social and, by all accounts, assimilated into American culture. “He wasn’t them,” one parent told a reporter last week. “He was us. He was Cambridge.”

When the full story of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar is written, it will, at least to some extent, be about a tortured search for identity—an immigrant family’s struggle for purpose and meaning. But what makes that story all the more incredible is that for their formative teenage years, the brothers grew up where they did, in possibly the least plausible breeding ground for anti-American resentment.

There is the people’s republic of Massachusetts, and then there is conservative, de facto segregated lace-curtain Boston within it, and then there’s the still more exceptional nation of Cambridge, awash with Ph.D.’s and worldly, upwardly mobile intellectuals, living together in the most cultured, highest-I.Q. municipality in all of Greater Boston. The richest people in Cambridge have a number of private schools to choose from, but everyone else is welcome at Rindge.

There was nothing unusual about two boys from a Chechen family roaming the halls of Rindge. In the context of Cambridge, and this school in particular, they weren’t even considered foreigners.

Rindge is believed to be one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in the country. That diversity is a badge of honor, for the school and the city. “About ten years ago,” one old resident says, “Cambridge changed the zoning so you don’t go to your neighborhood school, because they want every school to look like the city of Cambridge.” They also rejiggered the “house system” at Rindge, a sort of school-within-a-school, to make sure that diversity ran all through the school. Today, some kids speak Creole in the hallways, some girls wear head scarves, and no one thinks twice. “I knew students who were from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, South Korea, China, Ethiopia, as well as some from France and Germany,” says Charlotte Petty, who overlapped with Dzhokhar. “I remember students celebrating Haitian flag day. I remember the Haitian cooking club selling food at lunch.”

White kids make up about a third of the student body, and blacks slightly more. “You wouldn’t find as much economic diversity there as you would at, say, Boston Latin,” says Charlotte’s older brother, Dan, who remembers Tamerlan as a goofy, gentle presence in the halls. Of course, all high schools have cliques. The smart kids were all tracked together, as they are at a lot of schools, only mixing with the general population for electives and homeroom. Rindge’s cliques seemed to resist ethnic lines. Dzhokhar wrestled on the school team for three years and was captain for two. His coach called him “one of the most well-adjusted kids on the team,” getting along with all the different subgroups.

Rindge’s proximity to Harvard lends it no special status, except maybe in its overrepresentation of Harvard volunteer SAT tutors and the Harvard student teachers cycling through to do their practicum. What Rindge has instead is a distinct pride of place. “The amount of cultural capital of growing up in Cambridge is so high,” Dan says. “And the level of appreciation of other cultures is also quite high, which is why I was so shocked. It didn’t surprise me that someone was capable of doing heinous things. But the fact that they came from Cambridge shocked me.”

A few years ago, when the school needed a motto, the principal asked the student body to come up with three words to describe what the school was. Over months, students were given time in homeroom to suggest and discuss the choices. Out of hundreds of words, the winning three were “opportunity,” “diversity,” and “respect.” 

The comments make for great comedy too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thoughts on Ogres & Fear

Just going through the stacks at the local public library is always an opportunity for thought experiments. Or thought linking if you want to call it that. The first book I took notice of is " A God Who Hates" by Wafa Sultan. Wafa blew the world away when she told the ugly truth about Islam right there on al-Jazeera TV back in 2006.

In her 2009 book "A God Who hates" Wafa makes use of the story of the Ogre on the Mountain to illustrate her own life experience of growing up iin a small village for decades living a life of fear. 

There was once a strong and inquisitive young man who loved to travel. In his thirst for knowledge , he moved from place to place and traveled from town to town, drinking in wisdom and recording everything thing that happened to him.

Eventually, he came to a beautiful village slumbering at the foot of a mountain surrounded on all sides by green hills where gentle winds blew intermittently, delighting the mind and and refreshing the heart. In this beautiful place, he was shocked to see the inhabitants of this village were sad. They moved sluggishly dragging their feet. To him they appeared no more then moving phantoms, without body or soul. The sight of these phantoms terrified him. he became determined to discover what made them so and set off to see a fabled wise man who lived alone, in a hut, cut off from the village and its inhabitants.

When he met the wise man, he asked what secret lay behind the great paradox. He asked why these people lived in a state of subjugation and dejection in a village where everything would seem to suggest that the people would be blessed with happiness and well-being. The sage came out of of his hut and pointed toward the top of the mountain. "Look at that peak. An enormous ogre sits up there From where he sits, he raves and shrieks, filling people's hearts with fear by threatening to gobble them up them up if they leave their homes or do any kind of work at all. The people, terrorized by his shrieks, can live only by stealth. Only their survival instinct keeps them going. They steal out like mice in secret to gather enough to keep body and soul together. they live day by day, waiting impatiently for the moment of their death. Their fear of this ogre has sapped their intellect and depleted their physical powers, reducing them to despair and hopelessness."

the young thought for a while and said, "I'm going to the top of the mountain. I will talk to this ogre and ask what makes him threaten and frighten these people. I will ask him why he wants to prevent them from leading their lives in peace and safety."

"Go to the top of the mountain? No sane person would risk his life by daring to meet the ogre. I implore you not to do it for the sake of your life, young man! But the young man would not be dissuaded. He was determined to do what he believed had to be done. And so, with slow but sure steps, he started on his way to the peak.

When the young man reached the peak, the ogre did, indeed large at first; however, what he found as he walked on astonished him. The closer he got, the smaller the ogre became. By the time he arrived he found that this great ogre who terrorized many was smaller than his littlest finger. The young man flattened his hand, held out his palm, and the tiny ogre jumped into it. 

"Who are you?" the young man asked.

"I am Fear," the ogre replied.

"Fear of what?" the young man asked.

"That depends on who you are. How each person sees me depends on how he imagines me. Some people fear illness, and they see me as disease. Others fear poverty, so they see me as poverty. Others fear authority, so they see authority in me. Some fear injustice, other fear wild beasts or storms, so that's how I appear to them. He who fears water sees me as a torrent, he who fears war perceives me in an army, ammunition, and suchlike."

"But why do they see you as bigger then you really are?"

"To each person I appear as big as his fear. And as long as they refuse to approach and confront me they will never know my true size."
For a real life example one only has to look at the story of the town of Azzan in Yemen.

The National : The police station in Azzan has been turned into the regional headquarters of Ansar Al Sharia, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda, to coordinate attacks and expansion opportunities, said Abdullah Baotha, who escaped Azzab last fall, and current residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Residents are forced to comply with Sharia. Most music is forbidden in public areas, with only Islamic songs with voices and drums given as an alternative.
Shop owners are told to grow their beards the length of a fist. Women are not allowed to work and those who need to leave their homes must be covered in a burqa at all times. Curriculum in schools focuses mainly on Islamic law and Quranic preaching.
“Televisions or magazines are not allowed. We know nothing of what happens around us,” said Mr Baotha. “People are scared but cannot express their fear.” He said hundreds of residents succeeded in leaving the district, but thousands remain.

Security forces have been replaced with veiled militants who are stationed at checkpoints throughout the district. The militants roam the streets and occupy every building that used to house a government institution.
Foreign fighters see Azzan as a safe haven. Anwar Al Awlaqi, the Yemeni-American cleric killed in a US drone attack in September, made the district a hideout for three months last year. Residents said at least 200 foreign fighters live in the district and train Yemeni militants. Fighters from Saudi Arabia and Somalia can frequently be seen roaming the area.
Located in the heart of southern Yemen, Azzan is near the oil and gas pipelines of Bahlaf, the country’s most lucrative investment.

Its mountainous terrain makes it hard for government forces to attack from the ground.
“We understand that residents of Azzan are suffering, and the government has them among its top priorities. We have not forgotten them,” said Ali Obaid, the spokesperson of the Yemen Military Committee.
The closest government military presence is in Ataq, the capital of Shabwa, where hundreds of security forces are stationed.
“Al Qaeda has been using Azzan as a stronghold for nearly a year now. They are in control of everything, and residents there are given the choice to obey orders or leave the district,” said a senior security official in Ataq, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Azzan is the launch pad for their attacks. It’s their strategic homeland.”

So what Dr. Sultan has written about and what is taking place (not only in the town of Azzan but wherever Islam takes hold) is the key element of fear.

                                                         Pounding back at the ogres

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Doing Dawa at the Pow-Wow

It's a clever stab at things and since it comes from a website with a Muslim audience as it's focus it's worth commenting on. Making use of the Palestinian - American Indian parallel is used by Muslims a lot in order to  further indoctrinate themselves ( as well gullible infidels) that their situation is really the same as that face by the First Peoples of the Americas. It further re-inforces and rationalizes blind anti-Americanism and extends to not just the proverbial "West" but the rest of humanity not insluded in the Ummah. You see . . . it's part of a daisy chain of interlocked narratives that should never have been conflated in the first place. Ironically, the one who provided this photo below is Jewish. How about paralleling the history of oppression against Jews with what the so-called "Zionists" are supposedly doing to the Palestinians? Oh wait . . . That schtick has already been done.

If there ever has been a better example of the pro-Palestinian movement making use of the shallow parallel between how they view themselves and what cruelties overwhelmed the native peoples of the America's (especially the USA's) this is it:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Beginning of the End of Islam: Ten Years Later

Pundits make a living writing about this date ten years ago. They just fail to realize  . . . .

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mysterium Substructio?

Cross-posted from All Things Counter-Terrorism. It's highly recommended and ,in a way, quite comical considering how many coffee shop converstaions tend to become games of one upmanship and utilizing the terms and conceptual brain farts listed in this article.

Al-Qa'ida is still a mystery

BEFORE the September 11, 2001, attacks against the US, few outside the academic and intelligence communities were familiar with the name al-Qa'ida. A decade later, it pervades the collective psyche. Almost every university, news outlet, government agency and think tank now has an al-Qa'ida expert. But what have we learned about al-Qa'ida in the decade since the towers fell?

A review across academic, military, government and media sources leads to a disturbing realisation. Despite a decade of intensified analysis, there is little clarity and even less consensus on the definition of al-Qa'ida. Of course, a secretive terrorist group is not exactly easy to research. Yet the line between opinion and evidence-based analysis is thoroughly blurred on this important subject. Rigorous research is certainly being conducted. It's just obscured within the avalanche of punditry and mutual reiteration that has developed around the subject since 9/11. To illustrate, I've sampled characterisations from respected commentators. Readers familiar with the field will recognise many sources, but for everyone else, Donald Rumsfeld's "known unknowns" might spring to mind.

First, experts tend to define al-Qa'ida in the abstract. Following September 11, the group was compared to the mythological Greek Hydra ("cut off one head and two more will grow in its place"). Variations on the Hydra theme abound. Al-Qa'ida is a wounded snake, a snake with the head of Medusa, a headless set of tentacles and a dragon with multiple heads. It is a Tasmanian earthworm and a cockroach (both of which can live without their heads, apparently). It is even a chicken (cut off the head and the rest of the body will run all over the place and end up dying somewhere).

Al-Qa'ida is also described as a cancer, a breach in the hull of a ship, a piece of knitting ("complex, interwoven, at times impenetrable") and a computer virus. It is a burst thermometer, a box of tissues and a balloon ("squeeze it in one place and it bulges elsewhere"). It resembles a fungus, a sand dune, a cresting wave and a virus ("when it appears en masse, it indicates something is wrong with a country's immune system"). It is a hive of bees that has declared war on a herd of elephants, a media brand, a tool, a plague and a shark that must continually move or perish. If that's not abstract enough, al-Qa'ida is a precept, , a way of working, a force multiplier and a modernist phenomenon.

Regardless of whether such comparisons accurately portray al-Qa'ida's mode of being, abstractions are by nature speculative. Only rarely are they accompanied by supporting data. Without that, regardless of the expertise of the writer, these kinds of comparisons are opinion, not analysis. Academic eminence is no reliable indicator of veracity on matters al-Qa'ida, either.

Creative abstractions aside, what is al-Qa'ida's organisational model, size, reach? Again, we can take our pick from hundreds of definitions. Al-Qa'ida is a corporation with Osama bin Laden as CEO, a terrorist Ford Foundation, a franchised social movement, a federation of Islamist groups and a global tribe waging segmental warfare. It is a decentralised network of regional affiliates, a monolithic, hierarchical organisation, a networked transnational Islamic insurgency and a globally distributed irregular army. It is a revolutionary Salafist mujaheddin terrorist organisation, the vanguard of a violent Muslim revivalist social movement and a death cult. Some opt for a conceptual bet each way, defining al-Qa'ida as four different kinds of organisation in one, combining features of military, criminal, political and commercial enterprises. It is even a universal enemy that exists everywhere but nowhere.

Some try to define al-Qa'ida by ascertaining what it isn't. It is not a militant religious group, but a cult. It is not a cult in the way a cult-busting organisation defines that term. It is not racist but Islamist, not Muslim but political, not a religious organisation but a terrorist group, not a terrorist group but an insurgency, not a group but a notion. Al-Qa'ida is not Islamo-Fascist but Islamo-Bolshevist. It is not like the World Bank, the Gambino crime family, the German army, the Viet Cong, the IRA, a drug cartel or O.J. Simpson. It is not part of the Arab Spring, not behind the insurgents in Libya and it is not Yemen. Apparently, it is not the first terrorist organisation to make terrorism its focus. It is a product of today's interconnected world and it is not going away, ever. Yet, it is not and never will be an existential threat.

Confused? So is the literature. Bin Laden's death has been hailed as a blow to the terrorist organisation, but is it really? Once again, headless chickens and mythological monsters pepper the analysis.

A decade after 9/11, the security landscape is forever changed. The war in Afghanistan endures and encroachments on civil liberties are justified by the terrorist threat. It's not unreasonable for the public to expect more than multiple choice answers to the fundamental question "What is al-Qa'ida?". Instead, much of the available analysis brings to mind another metaphor - that of a bird flying in ever-decreasing circles until it disappears up its own behind.

Joanne Lock is an independent writer and media consultant. A former member of the Australian diplomatic service, she studied political science and international relations at the University of Queensland

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Tale Of Two Male Lesbians

This is basically a story of how a hoax was also a case of "targeted marketing". Those viewing themselves as "open-minded" have been bamboozled by "exoticization of the Other again". Interestingly enough they come from the same sort of chattering classes that accuse people like me of having "Orientalist tendencies"

Kudos to the ict4peace blog for the best reading of this humorous calamity.

And further kudos to Mark Steyn who showed me just how humorous it really is.