Saturday, May 21, 2005

Patti Davis 'Cells' Out

Dawn Eden blogged about Patti Davis's Newsweek article on Stem Cell research. Note, Newsweek automatically does a forward to its own article, to make it difficult for people to hit the back button and go back to the site that linked to them. If you go read the article, hit the down arrow next to your Back Button to come back here.

Dawn tried to link to this site for pictures, but there is an error in her link which causes a 404. This link should work.

Dawn objects, as I do, about the morality of what the Embryonic Stem Cell people are proposing, but I also object to spending federal tax dollars on something that a large number of taxpayers find immoral, and which is going to be done anyway, either in other countries, or here with privately funded research programs, or with programs funded with state money in a few states wanting to establish a new industry in their state, and who don't have the moral restrictions Dawn and I have.


The Anti-God Strike Again

Mark Noonan blogged Hey, Democrats, do you want to know why we keep winning? Because in the great political game of the United States, we're always coming down loudly on the side of this little girl:

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) A public school prohibited a second grader from singing a religious song at a talent show, prompting a lawsuit Friday alleging violation of the girl's constitutional rights.
There is no establishment of religion if an 8 year old girl voluntarily sings a song at school with religious content in it. Now, mind you, I'm not saying that it was the Democratic Party which stopped this girl from singing...but in the fight to allow her to sing, it will be the Democratic Party which will either be absent, or actually coming down on the side of the idiot school administrators who decided that if this girl sings, theocracy is imminent.

The American people are by and large Christian people. Here's the news flash for you: they aren't offended by overt displays of religious belief. Heck, even most atheists I know aren't offended by religious displays. After all, if you really don't believe in God, then the invocation of God is the invocation of nothing...only leftwing, securlarist dimwits are offended...and such are closely identified with the Democratic Party. You might want to think about that.

I agree with Mark. I am getting very tired of schools allowing displays of Jewish, Muslim, and Kwanza celebrations, and then insisting that we can't call the holiday in late December Christmas, and people insisting that we must treat the Koran with reverence, while our Bible is burned and people carry it dealt with seriously in Saudia Arabia.


Five Fingered Prayer

Deb blogged With all the recent talk of fingers lately I had to share this:

  1. Your thumb is nearest you. So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember. To pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a "sweet duty."
  2. The next finger is the pointing finger. Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction. Keep them in your prayers.
  3. The next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our leaders. Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God's guidance.
  4. The fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will testify. It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pray too much for them.
  5. And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others. As the Bible says, "The least shall be the greatest among you." Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.


Unmitigated Galloway

Christopher Hitchens wrote in Weekly Standard Every journalist has a list of regrets: of stories that might have been. Somewhere on my personal list is an invitation I received several years ago, from a then-Labour member of parliament named George Galloway. Would I care, he inquired, to join him on a chartered plane to Baghdad? He was hoping to call attention to the sufferings of the Iraqi people under sanctions, and had long been an admirer of my staunch and muscular prose and my commitment to universal justice (I paraphrase only slightly). Indeed, in an article in a Communist party newspaper in 2001 he referred to me as "that great British man of letters" and "the greatest polemicist of our age." No thanks, was my reply. I had my own worries about the sanctions, but I had also already been on an officially guided visit to Saddam's Iraq and had decided that the next time I went to that terrorized slum it would be with either the Kurdish guerrillas or the U.S. Marines. (I've since fulfilled both ambitions.)

Good for you.
Moreover, I knew a bit about Galloway. He had had to resign as the head of a charity called "War on Want," after repaying some disputed expenses for living the high life in dirt-poor countries. Indeed, he was a type well known in the Labour movement. Prolier than thou, and ostentatiously radical, but a bit too fond of the cigars and limos and always looking a bit odd in a suit that was slightly too expensive. By turns aggressive and unctuous, either at your feet or at your throat; a bit of a backslapper, nothing's too good for the working class: what the English call a "wide boy."

This was exactly his demeanor when I ran into him last Tuesday on the sidewalk of Constitution Avenue, outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where he was due to testify before the subcommittee that has been uncovering the looting of the U.N. Oil-for-Food program. His short, cocky frame was enveloped in a thicket of recording equipment, and he was holding forth almost uninterrupted until I asked him about his endorsement of Saddam Hussein's payment for suicide-murderers in Israel and the occupied territories. He had evidently been admirably consistent in his attention to my humble work, because he changed tone and said that this was just what he'd expect from a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay." It takes a little more than this to wound your correspondent--I could still hold a martini without spilling it when I was "the greatest polemicist of our age" in 2001--but please note that the real thrust is contained in the word "Trotskyist." Galloway says that the worst day of his entire life was the day the Soviet Union fell. His existence since that dreadful event has involved the pathetic search for an alternative fatherland. He has recently written that, "just as Stalin industrialised the Soviet Union, so on a different scale Saddam plotted Iraq's own Great Leap Forward." I love the word "scale" in that sentence. I also admire the use of the word "plotted."

Robert Clayton Dean blogged Christopher Hitchens has to be one of the premier knife artists currently working in the English language. Can't say I'm that big a fan of his post-mortem assaults on Catholic luminaries, but when he lights up a political celebrity, well, its all good. Hitch gets in a few licks on our own torpid Senate as well, and is pleased to report being characterized by George Galloway as a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay". Worth the read. We certainly have our fair share of odious idiots, craven lickspittles, and oleaginous opportunists here in the States, but is there, anywhere in the Anglosphere, a worse human being than George Galloway?

Scott @PowerLine blogged Hmmmm...Our friend Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics has kindly alerted us to this mash note to George Galloway from Scott Ritter in Ritter's Guardian column: "In the belly of the beast." Scott Ritter lauding George Galloway...perfect! Fortunately, the new issue of the Weekly Standard carries the antidote. The Standard's featured articles this week are "Unmitigated Galloway" by Christopher Hitchens and "Saddam's business partners" by Stephen Hayes. John adds: Hayes's column is an absolutely superb short history of the oil for food program and the current revelations about Saddam's bribery of foreign politicians and, apparently, at least one U.N. official--the head of the oil for food program, Benon Sevan.

Harry @HarrysPlace blogged As I hoped and suspected the appearance of Christopher Hitchens in the Senate last week has resulted in something more substantial than an exchange of insults with Galloway. Read it all in the Weekly Standard. Oh and this is rather timely. The Hitchens piece mentions something Galloway may have in common with Scott Ritter who by coincidence has a silly pro-Galloway puff piece in the Daily George today.


The Religious Left's Lies

James Watt wrote in WaPo The religious left's political operatives have mounted a shrill attack on a significant portion of the Christian community. Four out of five evangelical Christians supported President Bush in 2004 -- a third of all ballots cast for him, according to the Pew Research Center. Factor in Catholics and members of other conservative religious communities and it's clear that the religious right is the largest voting bloc in today's Republican Party. The religious left took note. Political opportunists in its ranks sought a wedge issue to weaken the GOP's coalition of Jews, Catholics and evangelicals and shatter its electoral majority.

Did they embrace the Anti-Christ?
They passed over obvious headliners and landed on a curious but cunning choice: the environment. Those leading the charge are effective advocates: LBJ alumnus Bill Moyers of PBS fame, members of the National Council of Churches USA and liberal theologians who claim a moral superiority to other people of faith. Their tactics are familiar. I encountered them more than 20 years ago as President Reagan's secretary of the interior, when I clashed with extreme environmental groups adept at taking out of context -- or in some cases creating -- statements that, once twisted, were attributed to me as if they were my religious views.
One of Satan's primary tricks.
Now political activists of the religious left are refreshing those two-decades-old lies and applying them with a broad brush to whole segments of the Christian community: "people who believe the Bible," members of Congress and "Rapture proponents." If these merging groups -- the extreme environmentalists and the religious left -- are successful in their campaign, the Christian community will be marginalized, its conservative values maligned and its electoral clout diminished.
They won't be, in more than the Muslims will be successful at taking over Europe and America (although I am somewhat concerned about Europe)
Last December Moyers received an environmental award from Harvard University. About three paragraphs into the speech, after attacking the Bush administration, Moyers said: "James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, 'After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate if a recent Gallup poll is accurate." I never said it. Never believed it. Never even thought it. I know no Christian who believes or preaches such error.
That does not stop the Left from saying you said it, and then attacking it.
The Bible commands conservation -- that we as Christians be careful stewards of the land and resources entrusted to us by the Creator. Moyers then attacked the congressional leadership, some by name, saying that "we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total and more since the election -- are backed by the religious right."

Moyers is not without reinforcements. A liberal theologian and active participant in the National Council of Churches, Barbara R. Rossing of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, published a book titled "The Rapture Exposed." In it she attacks a large segment of the Christian community after attributing to me erroneous motives and beliefs on the basis of a fragment of a sentence taken out of context. Rossing contends that Christians who believe in the Rapture presume that there is no need for stewardship of natural resources because of the expected return of the Lord. She writes: "Watt told U.S. senators that we are living at the brink of the end-times and implied that this justifies clear-cutting the nation's forest and other unsustainable environmental policies. When he was asked about preserving the environment for future generations, Watt told his Senate confirmation hearing, 'I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.' Watt's 'use it or lose it' view of the world's resources is a perspective shared by the Rapture proponents." Rossing fictionalizes this whole scenario and neglects to finish the sentence, which was as follows: "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations."
No one knows
Moyers, to his credit, has made a personal apology to me.
How about a public apology?
But there has been no apology for the affront to major segments of the Christian community. Rather, the charges have escalated. On Feb. 14, the National Council of Churches issued a statement "in an effort to refute" what NCC theologians "call a 'false gospel' . . . and to reject teachings that suggest humans are 'called' to exploit the Earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God's creation. . . . This false gospel still finds its proud preachers and continues to capture its adherents among emboldened political leaders and policymakers."

If such a body of belief exists, I would totally reject it, as would all of my friends. When asked who believed such error, where adherents to this "false gospel" might be found, the NCC turned to its theological sources, Moyers and a magazine called Grist, which had also apologized to me. I then contacted the chairman of the NCC task force and asked him about the "some people" who believe this false gospel and the "proud preachers" advancing this false gospel. He could not name such persons.

Be alert. I learned this lesson two decades ago -- the hard way. Never underestimate the political impact of the twisted charges by extreme environmentalists now advanced by the religious left to divide the people of faith.

John @PowerLine blogged This would be shocking, if we were not so thoroughly accustomed to the mendacity of the left. A Lutheran theologian offers, as the key support for her attack on a former government official, a single sentence--from which she has removed the second half, thereby reversing its meaning. Is this really what they teach in the seminary? As a Lutheran, I hope not. Then, the National Council of Churches issues a press release attacking a purported body of theological opinion which is said to be associated with "emboldened political leaders and policymakers"--Republicans all, of course. Yet, when challenged to name a single person who holds these supposedly widespread views, the person who headed up the task force for the NCC is stumped. He can't name a single human being who holds the views he has so vigorously denounced. This is, apparently, the quality of scholarship we should expect from the National Council of Churches. Pathetic.


Exploiting a Misconception

WaPo reports President Bush's meticulously stage-managed presentations on Social Security have slowly shifted into a new phase, in which White House aides find misinformed young people to share the stage with the president and assert that Social Security won't be there at all when they retire.

They are right, it won't be.
And rather than correcting them on their misconception -- government estimates, after all, say that after 2041 Social Security will still be able to pay at least three-quarters of currently promised benefits without any changes -- Bush congratulates them on their perspicacity.
A 20 year old will be 56 in 2041, i.e. not yet eligible to retire, and that 3/4 figure gets even worse from that point on. If there is anything left when they are ready to retire they will be very lucky indeed.
Bush isn't saying much new at these events, and attention in Washington is currently focused elsewhere. But as he steadily pivots the focal point of his events from older people to younger, he is increasingly using hand-picked people under 30 as props in a scare campaign.
They are the ones that would be helped the most by persona l accounts
He's still telling seniors not to listen to all those unspecified people trying to frighten them by saying their benefits are about to be cut.
He is telling the truth. Current retirees and people about to retire, will not see any changes.
But he himself is forcefully asserting to young people that for them, when it comes to Social Security, the sky is falling.
Telling them the truth


The Muslim holy book

OpinionJournal publised a featured article

Newsweek and the Quran
The Muslim holy book isn't just a "bible."
It's far more sacred than that.

The Quran is not "the Bible" of Muslims. It is infinitely more sacred than that. To use a Jewish analogy, it is more like the oral Torah first revealed on Mount Sinai, which was later passed on orally through the prophets and eventually written down on scrolls for all to read.
Or perhaps like the Ten Commandments, written in stone by God himself, and which the courts say cannot be on government property.
Whereas Christians regard the Bible as written by human beings inspired by God, Muslims regard the Quran--the word means "The Recitation"--as the very words of God, revealed aurally to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic. To hear those words recited is, for Muslims, to hear Allah. If, for Christians, Jesus is the logos or eternal Word of God made flesh, the Quran is the Word of God made book, and every Arabic syllable in it lives as the breath of the divine.
And while our school children are allowed to have symbols of Jewish, Moslem, or Kwanza faith during celebrations in late December, they insist that Christ be removed from Christmas, and that the celebration be called Winter Holiday
In short, what Christ is for Christians the Quran (in Arabic) is for Muslims: the living Word of God made present in this world. Moreover, to recite the suras or verses of the Quran, as devout Muslims do, is to breathe in the very words of Allah.
When they select out phrases from the "very words of Allah" and deliberately misinterpret them to cause naive Muslims to commit violence in the name of Allah, what do you call it? Blasphemy?
Thus, recitation of the Quran is for Muslims much like what receiving the Eucharist is for Catholics--a very intimate ingestion of the divine itself. This, then, according to Newsweek's story--now retracted and "regretted" by the magazine's editor--is what some interrogators flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo Bay.


Hypocrisy Most Holy

OpinionJournal featured an article by ALI AL-AHMED:

Hypocrisy Most Holy
Muslims should show some respect to others' religions.

With the revelation that a copy of the Quran may have been desecrated by U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Muslims and their governments--including that of Saudi Arabia--reacted angrily. This anger would have been understandable if the U.S. government's adopted policy was to desecrate our Quran. But even before the Newsweek report was discredited, that was never part of the allegations.
I agree, IF it was official policy, but it was not.
As a Muslim, I am able to purchase copies of the Quran in any bookstore in any American city, and study its contents in countless American universities. American museums spend millions to exhibit and celebrate Muslim arts and heritage. On the other hand, my Christian and other non-Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia--where I come from--are not even allowed to own a copy of their holy books. Indeed, the Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately.
That is terrible, but I don't expect to see Christians rioting to complain about it
Soon after Newsweek published an account, later retracted, of an American soldier flushing a copy of the Quran down the toilet, the Saudi government voiced its strenuous disapproval. More specifically, the Saudi Embassy in Washington expressed "great concern" and urged the U.S. to "conduct a quick investigation."

Although considered as holy in Islam and mentioned in the Quran dozens of times, the Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. This would seem curious to most people because of the fact that to most Muslims, the Bible is a holy book.
Something I suspect very few people understand is that Muslims believe that God had previously revealed Himself to the earlier prophets of the Jews and Christians, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Muslims therefore accept the teachings of both the Jewish Torah and the Christian Gospels. They believe that Islam is the perfection of the religion revealed first to Abraham (who is considered the first Muslim) and later to other prophets. Muslims believe that Jews and Christians have strayed from God's true faith but hold them in higher esteem than pagans and unbelievers. They call Jews and Christians the "People of the Book" and allow them to practice their own religions. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the "seal of the prophecy," by which they mean that he is the last in the series of prophets God sent to mankind.
But when it comes to Saudi Arabia we are not talking about most Muslims, but a tiny minority of hard-liners who constitute the Wahhabi Sect.

The Bible in Saudi Arabia may get a person killed, arrested, or deported. In September 1993, Sadeq Mallallah, 23, was beheaded in Qateef on a charge of apostasy for owning a Bible. The State Department's annual human rights reports detail the arrest and deportation of many Christian worshipers every year. Just days before Crown Prince Abdullah met President Bush last month, two Christian gatherings were stormed in Riyadh. Bibles and crosses were confiscated, and will be incinerated. (The Saudi government does not even spare the Quran from desecration. On Oct. 14, 2004, dozens of Saudi men and women carried copies of the Quran as they protested in support of reformers in the capital, Riyadh. Although they carried the Qurans in part to protect themselves from assault by police, they were charged by hundreds of riot police, who stepped on the books with their shoes, according to one of the protesters.)

As Muslims, we have not been as generous as our Christian and Jewish counterparts in respecting others' holy books and religious symbols. Saudi Arabia bans the importation or the display of crosses, Stars of David or any other religious symbols not approved by the Wahhabi establishment. TV programs that show Christian clergymen, crosses or Stars of David are censored.
While Islam may actually be a religion of peace, clearly Wahhabi Islam is not.
The desecration of religious texts and symbols and intolerance of varying religious viewpoints and beliefs have been issues of some controversy inside Saudi Arabia. Ruled by a Wahhabi theocracy, the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia have made it difficult for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, as well as dissenting sects of Islam
Like Shia Islam
, to visibly coexist inside the kingdom. Another way in which religious and cultural issues are becoming more divisive is the Saudi treatment of Americans who are living in that country: Around 30,000 live and work in various parts of Saudi Arabia. These people are not allowed to celebrate their religious or even secular holidays. These include Christmas and Easter, but also Thanksgiving. All other Gulf states allow non-Islamic holidays to be celebrated.
I was not aware of that.
The Saudi Embassy and other Saudi organizations in Washington have distributed hundreds of thousands of Qurans and many more Muslim books, some that have libeled Christians, Jews and others as pigs and monkeys. In Saudi school curricula, Jews and Christians are considered deviants and eternal enemies. By contrast, Muslim communities in the West are the first to admit that Western countries--especially the U.S.--provide Muslims the strongest freedoms and protections that allow Islam to thrive in the West. Meanwhile Christianity and Judaism, both indigenous to the Middle East, are maligned through systematic hostility by Middle Eastern governments and their religious apparatuses. The lesson here is simple: If Muslims wish other religions to respect their beliefs and their Holy book, they should lead by example.

Demimasque @ChicagoBoyz blogged Indeed, good faith is the best way to peace and harmony. Each faith can be cordial and respectful of others without betraying its own teachings. Indeed, the late Pope John Paul II showed the world that this was indeed possible. There's already too much for human beings to quarrel over. Just one other thing: The West has alrady made several overtures to Islam. It is time for Islam to reciprocate, or at least resolve the problem of those who advocate war. Why? Because, Old Europe notwithstanding, the West has the balls to back it up, so if it must be the hard road, rest assured that the West is ready to rumble.

Dale Franks blogged It's about time we start sounding more like Mr. Al-Ahmed, and being more forthright in our criticisms of the patholigies that have run amok in the Arab Muslim world.

Scott Sala blogged A Muslim finally speaks out on his own culture's intolerance toward other religion

Marc @USSNeverdock blogged ALI AL-AHMED thinks he has the answer but it will never work. Why? Because the Koran teaches everything he says it shouldn't. And therein lies the problem, they can't for the Koran itself teaches the same things. The situation will not change until the Koran is changed.

Ace blogged Read the whole thing. Not just because what he says is eminently sensible, but because it's always important to remember there are a lot of Muslims on the right side in this fight -- both actual and ideological -- as well.

Cori Dauber blogged And some perspective. Again, none of this lets Newsweek off the hook or means the journalistic issues don't matter. It's just another angle on the story that shouldn't be neglected.

Dean Esmay blogged Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Saudi Institute in Washington, has an interesting take on religious tolerance in today's Wall Street Journal He has more to say about that, and about the allegations about Koran abuse in the U.S. I suggest you read the whole thing.

Andy McCarthy blogged From a brave WSJ op-ed by Ali al-Ahmed of the Saudi Institute in the WSJ this morning.


Satruday, May 21

This Day In History

  • 1542   Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto died while searching for gold along the Mississippi River.
  • 1832   The first Democratic National Convention got under way, in Baltimore.
  • 1840   New Zealand was declared a British colony.
  • 1881   Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
  • 1892   The opera ''I Pagliacci'' by Ruggiero Leoncavallo was first performed, in Milan, Italy.
  • 1924   Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb, two students at the University of Chicago, killed a 14-year-old boy in a ''thrill killing.''
  • 1956   The United States exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.
  • 1959   The musical ''Gypsy'' opened on Broadway.
  • 1968   The nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, was last heard from. (The remains of the sub were later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.)
  • 1979   Former San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk; White's argument that junk food had fueled his rampage was derided as the ''Twinkie defense.''
  • 1991   Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber.
  • 1998   A 15-year-old student open fired inside Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., killing two students and wounding 23, one day after killing his parents.
  • 1999   Susan Lucci, star of the ABC soap opera ''All My Children,'' won a Daytime Emmy Award for best actress for the first time in the 19th straight year she was nominated.
  • 2003   Christie Whitman resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1917   Raymond (William Stacy) Burr (actor: Perry Mason, Ironside)
  • 1921   Andrei Sakharov (physicist: produced first Soviet atomic bomb, also hydrogen bomb; human rights activist: formulated concepts of perestroika and glasnost; died Dec 14, 1989)
  • 1923 &nbs/ul>


Friday, May 20, 2005

Cox Broadband Blacks Out

Internet News reported More than 2 million Cox Communications broadband customers lost their connections Friday after the cable operator's Internet backbone went down, a spokesman for the Atlanta company confirmed. "We're still investigating the root cause of the problem," Bobby Amirshahi, a Cox spokesman, told Amirshahi said the outage affected all of Cox's broadband customers -- both consumers and businesses.

It certainly affected my blogging today. My blog stayed up, because it is not hosted on Cox, but I could not add new posts for a long time. I did some checking with online tools I have, and thought I saw something that might be the problem (their router table had a loop in it), and I tried several ways to get in touch with Cox to report what I found, and it was practically impossible. I figured their customer service reps would be busy, so I was prepared to wait on hold for a long time, but twice after waiting on hold for a long time they transferred me to a busy signal. Cox really needs to work on their voice mail system. They wont even give you the message that internet is down and they are working on it until you enter the last four digits of your social security number, and then if and when you get to speak to a technician, he/she still asks for the same information again. If they are going to make you give it again, WHY make you enter it via your telephone buttons?????


Personal Google

Google has released their personal home page, With access to your Gmail account, Stock Market (Dow, Nasdaq, NYSE, S&P 500, Add a stock ticker:), New York Times, BBC News, Google News, Weather, Wired News, Slashdot, Movies in your Zip code, Quote of the Day, Show quotes, and Word of the Day.

Dwight blogged While it's primitive compared to what you can do with Yahoo, AOL or MSN's home pages, it's classic Google -- simple, uncluttered, to the point . . . and in beta!

Ken Leebow blogged What, no more white space? Go ahead, personalize After playing around with it: Google, stick with the white space version. It's much cooler and the stuff you offer ain't that great. You've got a long way to go before you can match

I like Google as my primary browser, and I frequently look at GoogleNews but I really don't see the advantage of Personal Google.


Why Islam is disrespected

Boston Globe reported It was front-page news this week when Newsweek retracted a report claiming that a US interrogator in Guantanamo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. Everywhere it was noted that Newsweek's story had sparked widespread Muslim rioting, in which at least 17 people were killed. But there was no mention of deadly protests triggered in recent years by comparable acts of desecration against other religions..... But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion. It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to ''converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" -- and having only 50 people show up. Yes, Islam is disrespected. That will only change when throngs of passionate Muslims show up for rallies against terrorism, and when rabble-rousers trying to gin up a riot over a defiled Koran can't get the time of day.

Jimmie blogged One aspect of the story we’ve heard a few times is that the Federal government has a two year-old policy on how our soldiers must handle the Koran.... That caused me to ask myself why our self-appointed First Amendment guardians aren’t all over this? Where are Barry Lynn and the ACLU and the other usual suspects? I mean, it sure seems to me that a special set of rules that applies only to the Koran would seem like a pretty obvious violation of the First Amendment.

A very good point. The MSM complained about Christians objecting to the "Piss Christ" saying it was just art. I wonder what they would say if some artist came up with "Piss Mohamed"
And while I’m thinking thoughts of dogs that should be barking, where are our Theocracy Criers? Where are the bloggers who are quick to cry out that dreaded T-word whenever James Dobson so much as opens his mouth? Where is the outrage from Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, or John Cole on this story?
Could it be that they are just worried about a Christian Theocracy, even though what Christians are calling for is certainly not a Christian Theocracy, and they are not worried about a Moslem Theoracy, when they have admitted that is exactly what they want.
For all the furor about the “religious right” in this country, I can tell you that you won’t see an official directive from the Pentagon that demands that no one but a Christian soldier ever be allowed to handle a Bible in front of any prisoners who might be Christians. You won’t see a mandate that a Bible be treated with any more reverence than a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons. You can be sure that if we ever found out that such a policy existed, the hue and cry would be nearly deafening. Some power the forces of theocracy have that Islam gets preferential treatment and Christianty - whatever religion that is - can’t get a measly statue of the Ten Commandments to stay in front of a courthouse.

I went looking for some outrage and found nothing. I’ve not seen a single word of protest about the policy from the usual blogging suspects. I’ve not heard a peep about this on the nightly pundit shows. There has been no angry statement about how our religious freedoms are in peril from the ACLU or any other groups who would otherwise be flooding our airwaves with press releases and lawyers. Nothing. I can’t tell you for sure why this is so. You’re going to have to go ask those folks why they’re silent on the issue. I’d certainly be interested in their answers. For now, I’ll keep my suspicions to myself. It’s entirely possible that no one has realized what the Pentagon has done. It’s also possible that they have and that they don’t see it as that big a deal. I will tell you this, though. It’s surely seems like selective outrage to me and it makes me wonder if the real issue with most of these folks is with Christian religions and not with your Constitutional rights.

La Shawn blogged God tells us that the words in the Bible are written in the hearts of believers. The ink and paper are only a vehicle, how those words are transmitted, but the book itself is not a sacred object. God is the one who receives reverence, not any physical thing. Not a cross, not a crucifix, not a picture, not a book…nothing. Object worship is forbidden in Christianity. Physical objects are not to revered or worshiped, and they hold no “sacred” power. Islam obviously teaches something entirely different. I think it’s ridiculous for the United States to cater to prisoners of war in this way, no matter what their religion. But I don’t run anything except this blog. My God’s words live in my heart, and no one and no thing can remove or “defile” them. I’d probably cringe if I saw someone tearing pages from a Bible and stuffing them in a toilet, but my concern for the physical object ends there. The person’s spiritual condition is infinitely more important.

Broken Messenger blogged Two more questions: Where is Newsweek on the coverage of Darfur and of the Christians in India and China being persecuted, jailed and killed? What about the desecration of the Bible as an everyday occurance in Saudi Arabia? Today, we are being told that this is because the Koran is to Muslims is greater than what the Bible is to Christians. Hmm. In the physical sense of a Bible being destroyed as a mere thing, this is true. But in the context of the meaning behind these words on paper, what they represent and what is deemed sacred and precious to believers of Jesus Christ, the comparison could not be further from the truth.


Deal would allow 5

CNN reported A bid to end the Senate standoff over President Bush's judicial picks would let five nominees advance to a final vote while preserving the right of a minority of senators to block two others. A draft of the deal, which CNN obtained Thursday, would allow confirmation votes on five of the seven nominees Democrats have blocked -- including Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals faces debate in the Senate this week. The proposal would preserve the use of the filibuster for judicial nominees, but calls for its deployment only in "extraordinary circumstances.".... Nominees William Myers, a pick for the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Henry Saad, for the upper Midwest's 6th Circuit, would remain blocked. The draft agreement also calls on Bush to consult with home-state senators and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from both parties before sending up a nominee.

They started out saying they would let two through and kill the other five, and allow them to pick one to replace them, and have gone on from there, saying they would pick three or four (and now five) to go through. This just shows they were lying when they said the 7 were outside the mainstream. They just dont like them, and they know they can't convince a majority to vote against them.


Stem Cell Research

First Read reports On Wednesday or Thursday, sources tell First Read, the GOP-controlled House is expected to vote to loosen President Bush's restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The vote looms as South Korea's success in cloning human embryonic stem cells -- a double whammy of cloning and embryonic stem cell research -- continues to sink in, and it will mark the next stage in America's debate over science and the marketplace versus traditional values.

There is plenty of work going on overseas on this subject, as well as plenty of private research, and some states are even getting into the matter by appropriating state funds for embryonic stem cell research, in the hopes of having their state being the one where breakthroughs occur. Why is it necessary to appropriate federal tax money to further fund this research?

There is no law blocking any of that other research. But some people have moral qualms about funding such research, and why make them support it (through spending their tax dollars on the research?
As of yesterday, the bill had over 200 co-sponsors and no apparent obstacles in its path. Despite opposition from conservatives, Speaker Hastert is standing by his commitment to allow a floor vote. The Senate, which may take up the bill in June, is also considered likely to pass it with the help of at least one anti-abortion Republican, Orrin Hatch, and probably others. (Given Senate Democrats' support, it seems unlikely to get held up in a nuclear winter.)
Of course not. The "Culture of Death" is a Democratic program.
Observers are increasingly betting that this measure, rather than the overloaded highway bill, will merit President Bush's first veto.
I hope so. Bush was the first president to allow ANY federal funds to be spent on embroyonic Stem Cell research, and he did it after spending a very long time determining what could and could not be done, and ever since then people have been pressing him to relax his restrictions even more.
The measure splits the GOP down the middle once again on the question of when life begins and ends, an issue that so recently had House conservatives charging to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. But with some anti-abortion Republicans like Hatch supporting the measure, the dividing line is blurred. Also different from the Schiavo case: This time, it's GOP moderates who have the momentum. Ask yourself: When was the last time moderates -- who are, by definition, moderate -- got so excited about anything? Although social conservatives may be trying to hold the House GOP leadership's feet to the fire on this and demand that they derail the vote, NBC's Mike Viqueira suggests that Hastert and DeLay see the writing on the wall. Why not let the President deal this issue which so divides their ranks? One prominent GOP moderate tells Viq that the leadership has been stalwart on keeping their word and allowing the bill to proceed. Viq says the House bill could get 240-250 votes -- more than enough to pass, but short of veto-proof. "It is not a life-abortion issue," says Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which is running ads in support of the bill. "This is a science issue." Resnick tells First Read, "We certainly hope it won't come to a veto... We're not doing it against the President. We are doing it on science."


Saddam underwear

BBC NEWS reported The US military says it is investigating "aggressively" after a picture appeared in a British paper showing Saddam Hussein half naked. [As you can see, the photo was also run on the NYPost] The Sun newspaper's front page image showed the former Iraqi president in a pair of white underpants. Other pictures showed Saddam Hussein washing his trousers, shuffling around and sleeping. The US said the photos appeared to breach Geneva Convention rules on the humane treatment of prisoners of war. The conventions say countries must protect prisoners of war in their custody from "public curiosity".

Is Saddam still a prisoner of war, or has he not been turned over to the Iraqi government? I know they held a judicial hearing at which he appeared. He may still be in the custody of the US to protect him from injury that the Shia might wish to bestow on him.
The Sun cited US military sources saying they handed over the pictures showing Saddam as "an ageing and humble old man" in the hope of dealing a blow to the resistance in Iraq. "It's important that the people of Iraq see him like that to destroy the myth," the paper's source was quoted as saying. However, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad, Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Boylan, insisted "they were not released by the US military. So the claims in the Sun... are not correct".

Scott Sala blogged It's as if Abu Ghraib and Newsweek's Koran Flushing morphed into a bizarre middle finger to the Middle East everyone. No, Saddam is not a Holy symbol of Islam. No it's not abuse, but damn if it doesn't reek of humilation. It's just plain spite. I'm not for giving into overly PC treatment towards Islam, but come on. I despise this bastard, but even the lowest criminal doesn't deserve this.
Considering all of the terrible things Saddam did to his people, showing him in his tidy-whities is very minor indeed.
Jan Haugland blogged
"We thought long and hard about publishing, and took the decision that they're such incredible pictures of the world's most brutal dictator... they were a compelling image that any newspaper or broadcaster would publish," the paper's managing editor, Graham Dudman, told the BBC News website.
Yeah, they thought long and hard for all of three seconds.

Patrick Belton blogged THE SUN makes Saddam their page three girl. Circulation plummets.


Friday, May 20

This Day In History

  • 1506   Christopher Columbus died in poverty in Spain.
  • 1861   North Carolina voted to secede from the Union.
  • 1861   The capital of the Confederacy was moved from Montgomery, Ala., to Richmond, Va.
  • 1902   The United States ended its occupation of Cuba.
  • 1927   Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York on the world's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • 1932   Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland for Ireland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
  • 1939   Regular trans-Atlantic air service began as a Pan American Airways plane took off from Port Washington, N.Y., bound for Europe.
  • 1969   U.S. and South Vietnamese forces captured Apbia Mountain, referred to as Hamburger Hill by the Americans, following one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.
  • 1970   Some 100,000 people demonstrated in New York's Wall Street district in support of U.S. policy in Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • 1971   The album ''What's Going On'' by Marvin Gaye was released.
  • 1989   Comedian Gilda Radner died of cancer at age 42.
  • 1993   An estimated 93 million people tuned in for the final first-run episode of ''Cheers'' on NBC-TV.
  • 1995   President Clinton announced that the two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House would be permanently closed to traffic as a security measure.
  • 1996   The Supreme Court struck down a Colorado measure banning laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination.
  • 2002   East Timor became an independent nation.
  • 2002   Paleontologist and author Stephen Jay Gould died at age 60.
  • 2003   The United States banned beef imports from Canada after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada's cattle country .
Happy Birthday To
  • 1768   Dolley Madison (Payne) (U.S. First Lady, wife of 4th U.S. President James Madison; died July 12, 1849)
  • 1919   ‘Lonesome’ George Gobel
  • 1946   Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPierre) (singer: group: Sonny [Bono] & Cher)
  • 1958   Ronald Prescott Reagan (dancer; talk show host; son of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan)


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hate Message

Reuters reported A Muslim group on Wednesday demanded a public apology from online bookseller for its part in delivering a used copy of the Koran with the words "Death to all Muslims" scrawled across the inside cover. Los Angeles graduate student Azza Basarudin, who ordered a used copy of the holy book through from a third-party, said that when she discovered the message "I actually dropped the book."

I hope it did not hit the ground. I understand that is considered desecrating the Koran.

If she was upset at the "Hate Speech" written in the inside cover, I recommend she not read the Koran, because it is filled with "Hate Speech"
"I was taken back to after Sept. 11 and my fear of even leaving my apartment," Basarudin told a news conference.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) said Basarudin brought the matter to them about two weeks ago. The Council contacted who have apologized to Basarudin, refunded her money, sent out a new copy of the Koran and issued her a gift certificate. Amazon said it had also suspended Pennsylvania-based Bellwether Books, which packaged and mailed the Koran in question, from selling the Koran and had asked for an internal investigation.

But the MPAC said it wanted Amazon to issue a public apology and condemnation and establish a zero-tolerance policy toward sellers and employees.
That is stupid. Mose Zero Tolerance policies reflect Zero Intelligence, but despite that, it was not an Amazon employee that wrote it, or even a Bellwether Book employee, and it is stupid to expect a Used Book Store to go through every page of a used book to see if it has something someone might find offensive.
"It is important for business leaders to come out with a zero tolerance policy. Amazon has a responsibility to make a public apology and condemnation," said spokeswoman Edina Lekovic. Lekovic said the desecrated Koran was part of a "cult of hate that may exist and may be on the rise."

MPAC demands Contact to request that the online bookseller take decisive steps to resolve this case and ensure it is not repeated, including:
  1. Publicly condemn such desecration of a sacred text with hateful speech targeting Muslims,
    Will MPAC first publicly condem hateful speech and violence by Muslims
  2. Terminate relations with Bellwether Books, the third-party seller that delivered the desecrated Quran to Ms. Basarudin,
    That is stupid. If she wanted a new book, Amazon sells them too.
  3. Support and fund educational programs that foster religious tolerance.
    Will MPAC support and fund educational programs that foster religious tolerance BY MUSLIMS
    Charles Johnson blogged Yes, let’s have a full investigation, and find out who wrote those slurs. By all means, investigate the bookseller. But don’t forget to investigate this LA grad student shill for MPAC too; after all, it’s not unheard-of for victims of “hate crimes” to fabricate evidence. Azza Basarudin is a supporter of the “Iraqi resistance.”

    Arthur Chrenkoff blogged Thank God the dropping was accidental; if it was deliberate, Basarudin could have been prosecuted in Pakistan. I don't approve of sacrilege or desecration directed against Christianity, Islam or any other religion, and people who write "Death to all Muslims" have obviously been visited by the stupidity fairy –and deserve our scorn - but to turn some anonymous ignoramus' sribblings into a cause celebre and to speak in this context of a "cult of hate" is a sad example of rhetorical inflation at a time when another "cult of hate" that definitely exists and has been on the rise over the last few decades is flying passenger airplanes into skyscrapers, beheading hostages, and killing women and children with car bombs.


Muslim World Largely Anti-American

Yahoo! News reported Anti-American feelings are widespread in the Muslim world

I am shocked to hear that
and extend to U.S. consumer brands, according to a report released Wednesday. It suggested the U.S. burnish its image with a change in tone and by publicizing aid programs.
Should the taxpayers provide even more aid so that maybe they will be drinking a CocaCola the next time they fly airplanes into buildings?
The United States should emphasize its development aid to Muslim countries
Egypt gets as much foreign aid as Israel does. Do they give us as much support as we get from Israel?
rather than try to persuade Muslims to support U.S. policies in Iraq or in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the Council on Foreign Relations report. The report, by Charney Research, is based on 14 focus groups conducted last December and January among college-educated men and women in Egypt, Morocco and Indonesia. Anger at U.S. foreign policy and at the U.S. government dominated spontaneous reactions in all three countries.

Charles Johnson: blogged And here’s a lovely footnote from a “focus group” apparently composed of logic-challenged Jew-hating lunatics:
Anti-Semitic stereotypes also were noted. Focus group members saw the United States and Israel as synonymous and estimated the proportion of Jews in the U.S. population at up to 85 percent; it is 2 percent.


Newsweek dissembled, Muslims dismembered!

Ann Coulter wrote in Townhall When ace reporter Michael Isikoff had the scoop of the decade, a thoroughly sourced story about the president of the United States having an affair with an intern and then pressuring her to lie about it under oath, Newsweek decided not to run the story. Matt Drudge scooped Newsweek, followed by The Washington Post.

But that was about a Democrat

When Isikoff had a detailed account of Kathleen Willey's nasty sexual encounter with the president in the Oval Office, backed up with eyewitness and documentary evidence, Newsweek decided not to run it. Again, Matt Drudge got the story.
Again, it was about a Democrat
When Isikoff was the first with detailed reporting on Paula Jones' accusations against a sitting president, Isikoff's then-employer The Washington Post -- which owns Newsweek -- decided not to run it. The American Spectator got the story, followed by the Los Angeles Times.
Again about a Democrat
So apparently it's possible for Michael Isikoff to have a story that actually is true, but for his editors not to run it.
As long as it is about Democrats
Why no pause for reflection when Isikoff had a story about American interrogators at Guantanamo flushing the Quran down the toilet? Why not sit on this story for, say, even half as long as NBC News sat on Lisa Meyers' highly credible account of Bill Clinton raping Juanita Broaddrick?
Because if they can embarras the Republican President, anything is worth it, even the lives of 17 Afgans.
Newsweek seems to have very different responses to the same reporter's scoops. Who's deciding which of Isikoff's stories to run and which to hold? I note that the ones that Matt Drudge runs have turned out to be more accurate -- and interesting! -- than the ones Newsweek runs. Maybe Newsweek should start running everything past Matt Drudge.
Somehow Newsweek missed the story a few weeks ago about Saudi Arabia arresting 40 Christians for "trying to spread their poisonous religious beliefs." But give the American media a story about American interrogators defacing the Quran, and journalists are so appalled there's no time for fact-checking -- before they dash off to see the latest exhibition of "Piss Christ."

Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas justified Newsweek's decision to run the incendiary anti-U.S. story about the Quran, saying that "similar reports from released detainees" had already run in the foreign press -- "and in the Arab news agency al-Jazeera."
Were they any more true than the false one NewsWeak ran?
Is there an adult on the editorial board of Newsweek? Al-Jazeera also broadcast a TV miniseries last year based on the "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion." (I didn't see it, but I hear James Brolin was great!) Al-Jazeera has run programs on the intriguing question, "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" (Take a wild guess where the consensus was on this one.) It runs viewer comments about Jews being descended from pigs and apes. How about that for a Newsweek cover story, Evan? You're covered -- al-Jazeera has already run similar reports!

Ironically, among the reasons Newsweek gave for killing Isikoff's Lewinsky bombshell was that Evan Thomas was worried someone might get hurt. It seems that Lewinsky could be heard on tape saying that if the story came out, "I'll (expletive) kill myself."
No it was a Democratic President who could not keep his pants on in the Oval Office that might get hurt.
But Newsweek couldn't wait a moment to run a story that predictably ginned up Islamic savages into murderous riots in Afghanistan, leaving hundreds injured and 16 dead. Who could have seen that coming? These are people who stone rape victims to death because the family "honor" has been violated and who fly planes into American skyscrapers because -- wait, why did they do that again?

Come to think of it, I'm not sure it's entirely fair to hold Newsweek responsible for inciting violence among people who view ancient Buddhist statues as outrageous provocation -- though I was really looking forward to finally agreeing with Islamic loonies about something. (Bumper sticker idea for liberals: News magazines don't kill people, Muslims do.) But then I wouldn't have sat on the story of the decade because of the empty threats of a drama queen gas-bagging with her friend on the telephone between spoonfuls of Haagen-Dazs.

No matter how I look at it, I can't grasp the editorial judgment that kills Isikoff's stories about a sitting president molesting the help and obstructing justice, while running Isikoff's not particularly newsworthy (or well-sourced) story about Americans desecrating a Quran at Guantanamo.

Even if it were true, why not sit on it? There are a lot of reasons the media withhold even true facts from readers. These include:
  • A drama queen nitwit exclaimed she'd kill herself. (Evan Thomas' reason for holding the Lewinsky story.)
  • The need for "more independent reporting." (Newsweek President Richard Smith explaining why Newsweek sat on the Lewinsky story even though the magazine had Lewinsky on tape describing the affair.)
  • "We were in Havana." (ABC president David Westin explaining why "Nightline" held the Lewinsky story.)
  • Unavailable for comment. (Michael Oreskes, New York Times Washington bureau chief, in response to why, the day The Washington Post ran the Lewinsky story, the Times ran a staged photo of Clinton meeting with the Israeli president on its front page.)
  • Protecting the privacy of an alleged rape victim even when the accusation turns out to be false.
  • Protecting an accused rapist even when the accusation turns out to be true if the perp is a Democratic president most journalists voted for.
  • Protecting a reporter's source.
How about the media adding to the list of reasons not to run a news item: "Protecting the national interest"? If journalists don't like the ring of that, how about this one: "Protecting ourselves before the American people rise up and lynch us for our relentless anti-American stories."


Advertising in RSS

IonRSS blogged Slashdot, the hugely popular "News for Nerds" website, has also recently started putting adverts in its RSS feed.

I set up their RSS feed as a test, and I dont see the ads.
Joseph Scott investigated and found that the ads are being served by the Feedster Media Network, which is a partnership between RSS Search engine Feedster and AdBrite.

In a comment on Joseph's blog, Mike Rowehl noted that he's been "running the technical part of the RSS ads implementation at Feedster". Mike explained that "we actually have a slot to place an ad every couple of stories" in the Slashdot RSS feed. Mike writes more about FeedsterMedia on his own blog.

What's wrong with RSS adverts?

Dave Winer has posted a passionate plea for RSS users to "reject the idea" of advertising in RSS feeds. He wants RSS reader developers to "add a feature that strips out all ads," something that Charlie Woods has been actively toying with in his spare time (he works at Newsgator).

While there are already ways to hide advertising in RSS, this is only ever going to be a geek's way of dealing with the issue. Normal people won't go to such lengths.

Is there anything essentially wrong with adverts in RSS feeds? In response to Dave Winer's post, I asked three questions in the comments thread:

1) Which is better: an excerpted RSS feed (where you have to click through to read the whole post), or a full-text RSS feed with some ads? Personally I'd prefer the latter.
2) Really, what is the difference between advertising in an RSS feed and advertising on a webpage? RSS is becoming the new HTML - why fight it?
I dont have to spend the bandwidth and cpu time to see an ad on a website unless I decide to view the website. The RSS feed just tells me the subject of the article, and I can decide whether or not I want to read it
3) What's wrong with publishers/writers/bloggers wanting to get paid for their work, just as software developers want to get paid for their work?
If I choose to read their site that is one thing, but if they are going to cram ads down my throat while I am trying to see whether or not I want to read them, I am going to delete that Live Bookmark
What's your opinion? Feel free to leave a comment here and also at his site

RSS feeds can be used several different ways, and it may be that ads in RSS feeds only appear when one brings them into a special reader program or something like that, but I am definitely opposed to them in the way I use RSS, which is in a Live Bookmark in Firefox. As this indicates, I have a problem right now, because I have so many RSS feeds that when Firefox refreshes them (once an hour) my computer locks up (with near 100% CPU utilization) for about 5 minutes, and this is EXTREMELY frustrating to me. Richard, I would be absolutely outraged if ads started appearing in those RSS feeds, making my computer lock up for even longer each hour.

You say Slashdot has recently begun inserting ads in their RSS feeds. Here is a copy of their RSS feed as I see it in Firefox

and as you can see from the fact that each entry begins with their FavIcon, I looked at each one, and they did not appear to be ads, but maybe I am wrong.

Nick Bradbury blogged Like many of us, I hate seeing advertisements everywhere I go. The problem isn't just that ads can be annoying: it's also that advertisers affect the content we see, and I don't wish to give them that power yet again. So, the question is, should FeedDemon strip ads? I've wrestled with this quite a bit, and I've seriously considered making it possible to apply your own filters to what you see in FeedDemon, so that you could filter out ads by choice. These filters could be shared with other FeedDemon users, much like newspaper styles are - and hey, wouldn't it be nice if these filters could be used by any RSS aggregator, and not just FeedDemon? But despite my personal dislike for some forms of advertising, in the end I've decided that FeedDemon should not strip ads, at least not by default. I don't wish to deprive income from those who rely on ad revenue - that in itself would shut out voices we might wish to hear. Plus, ads may give some people enough incentive to offer full-text feeds instead of excerpts, since a big reason people use excerpts is to drive traffic to their site where readers can view their ads. I'd prefer full-text feeds with ads over excerpts without them (and so would Richard MacManus).

Chao blogged While I think he's absolutely right that advertisers who provide rss of commercial information we are interested in will see a much bigger payoff than embedding their ads in other people's RSS feeds, I think the trend of advertising in RSS is unstoppable. Entrepreneurs like Jason Calacanis will ensure that. This feels like a rehash of people who tried to stop commercialism in Usenet. In the end, the web basically routed around usenet.

Alex Barnett blogged Nick rightly points out the potential hassle RSS ad blocking would bring to the party. But there is another reason I think the RSS advertising arms race is not worth the hassle, and it is to do with the power of markets. To set the scene, there are broadly three types of RSS advertising today:
  • RSS ad article
    Example is the Moreover feed, the RSS ad is an article. Free news service, comprehensive, it works. Don't want any ads? Unsubscribe.
  • RSS emebedded ad (within article)
    From the Slashdot feed, the ad is embedded within the RSS article. Are there droves of RSS subscribers unsubscribing because of the ads? I don't know. I do know this: if subscribers don't perceive the value of the content to justify the eyesore, they'll unsubscribe.
  • RSS ad feed provides a load of feeds. This is David Winer's view of what RSS advertising should be, where the RSS feed IS the RSS ad. This works. Fine. But should this be the only way?

bob wyman blogged We've recently received complaints about a large number of duplicate entries suddenly being published by PubSub. This has been a bit of a surprise because we normally get good marks on the effectiveness of our duplicate detection algorithms... On close inspection, it appears that the recent problems are being caused by DoubleClick ads which are being inserted in such a way that the duplicate detection code in our feed readers is tricked into thinking that the entries with DoubleClick ads are "updated" every time we read them.

SVW blogged The "RSS and Advertising" panel at Syndicate was fascinating because this has become such a hot topic issue. Internet guru Dave Winer has recently been advocating ad-free RSS feeds and urging boycotts of publishers that pollute their feeds with ads. Google, Yahoo, Moreover and others are paying no attention - on the contrary, they are rubbing their hands with glee at the fat cash cow they see in mixing ads into RSS feeds.

On Tuesday Google launched its public beta of AdSense for Feeds at the show, saying it would enable content producers to make money and plough that back into generating yet more quality content. Shuman Ghosemajumder, business product manager for AdSense, called this a "virtuous cycle" that would enable the production of larger amounts of high quality content - and lead to a better society.
And the destruction of RSS Feeds
That's a noble goal, and Google's AdSense network, which publishes content-related text ads on third-party sites, has generated more money for small publishers than anything else. Yet the modest revenues earned by most of the 200,000-plus AdSense network sites are under threat because of RSS, which allows people to read content without going to the originating web site.
It allows me to read the title of an article. Do you call that "content"
For many web sites using RSS, 50 to 70 percent of their readers subscribe to their RSS feeds and rarely see the web site itself. Since Google AdSense only pays if someone clicks on an ad, Google had to figure out a way to mix ads into the RSS feed and collect the clicks and usage patterns.


Blog Search

Blogspotting (a blog at Business Week that looks at the intersection of blogging and business) reports The CEO of Bloglines (now a division of AskJeeves) says that his company will release a blog search engine this summer which will surpass the likes of Technorati, Feedster, and PubSub. "The challenge," he says, "is to create world-class blog search, which we don't think exists now."

Of course, lots of companies, big and small, are chasing that vision. Fletcher says that with improved search, Bloglines will lead users to the relevant blogs, and then help them organize all the feeds pouring onto their desktop. He sees the technology automatically grouping the feeds, or perhaps ranking them according to the user's interests (as documented by clicks).

Jack Krupansky commented The ad thing is a big unknown, coupled with the business model. I use Bloglines and I have my own blogs; I'm not paying anything on either end. Google is now beta-testing AdSense ads that eventually I can put into my blogs and that users of Bloglines (and other aggregators) will then see. That will let me make a little money, but where's Bloglines going to monetize their infrastructure and services?

I just hope they don't think they can drop any little "surprises" on either publishers or subscribers without significant repercussions. Maybe they'll just put ads below the web feed publisher's AdSense ads. Meanwhile, we'll al be waiting for those shoes to drop.

I'm not convinced of the merits of a distinct "blog search engine". I just use Google and stick the word "blog" after my search terms and get plenty of interesting blog results. Maybe you guys at BW could prepare the case for how business users can get *significant* business value from blog search engines.

Greg commented How they will filter and rank blogs in the search engine will be key to how useful it is. You did mention using clicks as a way to rank blogs or blog entries. Does that mean they will weight blog posts with clicks instead of say incoming links or number of subscribers? Will they use tags? It would be interesting to find out more about this.

Hat Tip to Persuasion

Brian Oberkirch blogged This synopsis/a> of an interview with the CEO of Bloglines is interesting for a few reasons -- one, the goal of creating a Google equivalent for blogs. Real-time comprehensive search is a need for Web 2.0 info management, and we're just starting down that path with current tools.

More interesting, though, is that the writer, Steven Baker, posts up his raw notes and says, have a look and let me know if I missed anything that you find interesting. I love this approach & will be following what Steven does all that much more closely as a result.

I also commend Steven Baker for posting his raw notes for people to review to see if he missed anything we find interesting.


Thursday, May 19

This Day In History

  • 1536   Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England's King Henry VIII, was beheaded after being convicted of adultery.
  • 1588   The Spanish Armada set sail for England.
  • 1906   The Federated Boys' Clubs, forerunner of the Boys' Clubs of America, were organized.
  • 1921   Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, which established national quotas for immigrants.
  • 1962   Actress Marilyn Monroe performed a sultry rendition of ''Happy Birthday'' for President John F. Kennedy during a fund-raiser at New York's Madison Square Garden.
  • 1964   The State Department disclosed that 40 hidden microphones had been found in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
  • 1967   The Soviet Union ratified a treaty with the United States and Britain banning nuclear weapons from outer space.
  • 1992   Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the CBS sitcom ''Murphy Brown'' because the title character chose to have a child out of wedlock.
  • 1992   In Massapequa, N.Y., Mary Jo Buttafuoco was shot and seriously wounded by her husband Joey's teen-age lover, Amy Fisher.
  • 1992   The 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits Congress from giving itself midterm pay raises, went into effect.
  • 1993   The White House set off a political storm by firing the entire staff of its travel office; five of the seven staffers were later reinstated and assigned to other duties.
  • 1994   Former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in New York at age 64.
  • 2003   WorldCom Incorporated agreed to pay investors $500 million to settle civil fraud charges.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1800   Sarah Peale (portrait artist; died Feb 4, 1885)
  • 1890   Ho Chi Mihn (Nguyen That Thanh) (North Vietnamese leader: trail and city named after him; died Sep 2, 1969)
  • 1925   Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) (black nationalist and civil rights activist; assassinated Feb 21, 1965)
  • 1934   James Lehrer (journalist: co-anchor: MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour; novelist: Blue Hearts)


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Syria Heralds Reforms

WaPo reported Beset by U.S. attempts to isolate his country and facing popular expectations of change, Syrian President Bashar Assad will move to begin legalizing political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy, according to officials, diplomats and analysts.

Another domino at least tipping, if not falling.
Assad's five-year-old government is heralding the reforms as a turning point in a long-promised campaign of liberalizing a state that, while far less dictatorial than Iraq under Saddam Hussein, remains one of the region's most repressive. His officials see the moves, however tentative and drawn out, as the start of a transitional period that will lead to a more liberal, democratic Syria.
I'll bet his people see the period being a lot shorter than he does.
Emboldened opposition leaders, many of whom openly support pressure by the United States even if they mistrust its intentions, said the measures were the last gasp of a government staggering after its hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal last month from neighboring Lebanon. The debate over the changes comes during a remarkable surge in what constitutes dissent in this country of 18 million. For the first time in years, opposition figures and even government allies are openly speculating on the fate of a party that, in some fashion, has ruled Syria since 1963 in the name of Arab nationalism, and today faces perhaps its greatest crisis. The debate points to the most pressing questions in the country today: Can Syria truly reform itself and what might follow?

"We understand that democracy is a process -- a historical and political process -- but we are on the right track, and we have begun the mechanisms that will take us forward," said Imad Shueibi, who directs the Data and Strategic Studies Center in Damascus and says he is aligned with reformers within Assad's government. "This will be the first step." Dissidents are dismissive of the government's capacity to sincerely reform. They see similarities between government moves here and in Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, where President Hosni Mubarak has sought to introduce measured but controlled change.
But remember, the judges in Egypt are refusing to administer the election unless they are freed of control by the government.
"We have an archaic authoritarian regime, which is now a burden on itself. They want to streamline it and make it more attractive," said Yassin Hajj Saleh, a leftist dissident imprisoned for 16 years and freed in 1996. He calls the moves "the modernization of authoritarianism." "The old model has ended, it is outdated, its age has passed," he said, "and they want to renew it." Assad, who seems to remain popular in Syria, has pointed to next month's congress of the Baath Party as the centerpiece of the promised reforms. The congress, which has become the talk of the capital, was last convened in 2000 after Assad inherited power from his father, Hafez Assad. In the wake of the withdrawal from Lebanon, expectations were high that the congress might inaugurate a Syrian equivalent of glasnost. In past weeks, through the state media, those hopes have been steadily ratcheted down.

Most prominent among the reforms will be a recommendation for a new party law, said the officials, analysts and diplomats. It would envision the formation of parties as long as they are not explicitly based on ethnicity, religion or region. While this is potentially a dramatic step, analysts caution that even if the Baath Party recommends the change, enacting a law could take a year or more. Also, the party is not expected to surrender its constitutionally enshrined position as "the leading party of both the society and the state."
Parties in power are always reluctant to release that power; they must be given no choice.
Emergency law allowing indefinite detention of suspects may be suspended, except in cases of national security, and the government will likely ease rules that require approval from the security services for a host of activities -- among them opening a hair salon.

As part of the reforms, the government is expected to enact a law providing for free elections of 15,000 members of municipal councils in 2007. The congress is also expected to endorse the free market as the country's economic orientation -- a break from the party's slogan of "unity, freedom and socialism." The move would formalize economic changes underway for more than a decade. The Baath Party's 21-member leadership, still including many septuagenarian colleagues of Assad's father, will likely be purged, analysts and officials said. The number may be reduced to 15, with only a handful -- perhaps three or four -- carried over from the current leadership. It would mark another step in Assad's consolidation of power and could open the way for the inclusion of powerful relatives like his brother, who heads the elite Republican Guard, and brother-in-law, who heads the feared military intelligence.

Debate continues over other steps, analysts say: an amnesty for political crimes; the granting of citizenship to at least 100,000 members of the Kurdish minority; and suspension of Law 49. That 25-year-old decree stipulates the death penalty for membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic group that once posed the greatest threats to the Baath Party's hold on power. Less publicly, the government has permitted the return of some political exiles, including Amin Hafez, the former head of state, and Jassim Alwan, another former officer who led a coup attempt against the Baath Party in 1963. "It's a step forward," said Sami Moubayed, a Syrian analyst and writer. But he added: "It's minimal change. The steps should have been much more courageous."
I agree, and suspect they will be.
The changes will almost certainly fail to mollify the United States, which has effectively ended engagement with Damascus over what U.S. officials say is Syria's lack of aggressiveness in closing its border with Iraq to prevent infiltration by insurgents. Many of the government's critics -- and a substantial current within the ruling party -- will likely be disappointed as well, viewing the steps taken at the congress more as an attempt to ensure the government's survival than the start of real change.

"Unless the party comes out in favor of significant, deep political and economic reforms, it's going to leave a lot of disappointment and frustration," said Nabil Sukkar, an influential businessman and former World Bank economist. "If it's wishy-washy and comes out with only compromises, it's not going to meet expectations." Damascus is a far different capital from it was 10 years ago, when fear and dreary Stalinist architecture cast a pall over life. The endemic iconography of Assad's father -- building-size portraits and pictures pasted every few feet -- are gone, making way for advertisements for Chanel, BMW and Syria's mobile phone network. Freewheeling Beirut radiates its influence on the Syrian capital, evident in fashion, taste and restaurants and bars that vie for space in the once-neglected, cobblestoned Old City.

While the heavy-handed state media remain unchanged, Arab satellite stations such as al-Jazeera and pan-Arab newspapers enter freely. For those with English skills and enough money for a subscription, the Internet offers a sometimes startling window on Syrian politics written from inside the country. Nearly all Web sites are accessible, except for those that end in ".il," the domain for Israel. "There's no fear. People are not afraid to talk, and this is a tremendous change," Sukkar said.
And talk can result in major changes.
Assad exudes a far different style from his father, a former air force officer and committed Baathist who ruled Syria for 30 years. The younger Assad, a 39-year-old ophthalmologist, is seen as lacking his father's political guile, but well-intentioned and eager to curry acceptance rather than generate fear.

This year, some Syrians distributed a video clip via cell phone of a smiling Assad riding a bumper car with his oldest son, Hafez, at a popular park. (Those in other bumper cars noticeably kept their distance.) How far that style will intrude on the government's grip, though, remains a subject of fierce debate, with the June 6-9 meeting of the congress seen as perhaps the greatest indicator yet of the government's vision. The diplomats and analysts said the Syrian government appeared divided on how to cope with the U.S. threat -- will Syria remain a potential player in regional politics, giving it relevance to American policy, or is its very survival threatened, whatever policies it adopts? Under either scenario, some analysts say, the political reforms unveiled at the congress become less pressing for a party intent on maintaining its grip and a president who still relies on that party for his legitimacy and strength.

"I believe we are looking [at] a very, very dismal future for this country," said Ammar Abdulhamid, who runs a publishing house and related organization trying to foster civic awareness. "The Syrian regime is simply at a loss in how to play its cards or what it's going to do." The government, he said, is still trying to pull "a rabbit out of a hat." "But the hat is bottomless, the rabbit is long dead, and the president is not a magician," Abdulhamid said.

Roger L. Simon blogged I don't think too many people are really ready to believe it yet, but the fact that it is even in the air you would think would be sensational news, but as Jonah Goldberg points out, it only made page 10 of the Washington Post today. Is this because we have become so blasé about the spread of the democracy or because the WaPo is loathe to give more credit to the Bush Administration? If it's the latter - and I don't know that it is - I'm beginning to find some of my old allies pathetic. Look, guys and gals, (talking to old friends here- some of them don't talk to me any more) we're living in a big world here. There are issues far more important than which political party gets to pass out jobs on Foggy Bottom or gets credit for something. Sometimes good things happen under another name. William Morris (no, not your agent!... the Victorian) said it best: "Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes out not to be what they meant, other men have to fight for what they meant under another name."

Jonah Goldberg blogged It is just amazing how what would have been remarkable six months ago and unimaginable 2 years ago becomes boring today. This is from page A 10 of The Washington Post. Obviously, there's room for skepticism and pessimism. But sheesh

Dean Esmay blogged There were Pro-Democracy protests in Syria on Sunday, and now Syria's dictator-President Assad is promising to begin legaliz[e] political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy. He's also promising to do more to crack down on fascist thugs sneaking into Iraq to lead attacks on the new nation's people and government. Maybe he's full of it. Or maybe he realizes that once people see and taste freedom among their neighbors they want it for themselves, and won't brook denial forever.

Clayton Cramer blogged The Bush Theory of Infectious Democracy This Washington Post report suggests that it is working. Doubtless, leftists everywhere will be crying in their soup over this latest loss of control by thugs.


Bleed the Democrats badly

HughHewitt blogged The New York Timesincludes a few paragraphs on why this debate will ultimately bleed the Democrats badly:

"On Thursday, Dr. Frist will participate in another rally at the Capitol, by socially conservative African-American pastors who want to create support for Justice Brown, who is black. Organizers say Dr. Frist has agreed to appear.

This should really cut into their automatic support from the Black community
An online invitation casts the rules change in terms of racial justice, saying: 'Racial profiling, unfair sentencing and a disproportionate number of number of blacks in prison all spell racism and classism. But how do we fight against these trends?' It concludes by urging 'all American citizens to call their senators and demand an up or down' vote on Mr. Bush's nominees and says the pastors want to 'formally endorse' Justice Brown."

The Democrats are trying to defend minority rule, which has never been a principle acceptable to Americans who, from the time they start voting for classroom representative in the third or fourth grade, know that majorities matter. Majorities matter in school council elections, homeowners associations, American Legion halls, Junior League and faculty meetings. They matter on elder boards and booster clubs, Dartmouth alumni elections and especially in the United States Congress.
The Dems are so used to being in the Majority they think that they should still be able to run things from the Minority.
Trying to confuse "minority rule" with "minority rights" worked as long as no one focused on what the Democrats were doing and who they were doing it to. Now the stage lights are on and the Democrats seem to have missed the opportunity to retreat with something in tact: The Fortas precedent, for use and abuse in the looming battle over the Chief Justice's nomination. Had they not forced the issue now and done so with so much venom and obvious ideological motivation, their opportunity to filibuster a single or even two Supreme Court nominees would have been in tact.
That is why conservatives are pushing Frist as much as we are to get this out of the way now.
It might not have worked, because the Fortas filibuster was grounded in an ethical challenge to the nominee, not an ideological one, but the "bridge too far" campaign against the appellate nominees has stripped all the camouflage from the Democratic extremism. This is a great debate worth having, and we will focus on it extensively today and the days that follow.

If you are motivated, call 202-225-3121 and ask for the office of Senator Collins of Maine and urge her to support the Republican caucus and the president's nominees.
And tell her that if she doesn't, then to forget any hope of a position in the Leadership.
Then use the same number to call John Warner's office. Then, for safety's sake though his name is no longer mentioned on the wobblies list, put a call into Chuck Hagel. And if you have anymore time and energy, call John McCain and let his staff know that, in no uncertain terms, you will use all your time to assure he doesn't get the presidential nomination if he holds to his announced aim to side with the Democrats on this vote.

Rarely has a major American political figure contemplating a run for the presidency made such an unnecessary blunder on a policy matter as McCain has made here. He spent five years rehabilitating his image with the GOP base, and had made great strides, especially when he worked hard from the convention forward to re-elect Bush/Cheney. But he almost casually threw it away in a conversation with Chris Matthews. He could, of course, announce that he had to change his mind and vote with the GOP because of the intransigence of the Dems, which would be a very shrewd cutting of his losses, but the McCain stubborn streak may prohibit such a move.
I don't think he is capable of changing his mind, even though I agree he does not stand a snowballs chance of getting nominated otherwise.
And Lincoln Chaffee's vote will be interesting as well. If Chaffee sides with the Dems, it will end his career when the voters come around in next year's primary and general elections in Rhode Island. He has voted against the war in Iraq, didn't vote for the president's re-election, and now will side with the Dems on the crucial domestic vote of the past decade. Getting Bolton out of committee doesn't give him cover. Michael Crowley has a piece in The New Republic that suggests otherwise, but it doesn't mention the judges' vote. Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey will find my check in his campaign account if he challenges Chaffee, and if Laffey doesn't, then either Matt Brown or Sheldon Whitehouse --the two Dems in contention to challenge Chaffee-- will be getting some surprising dollar support next summer and fall. Paybacks are unpleasant, but a tent isn't a tent unless it has an inside and an outside. Chaffee is making his choice.

For more, visit ConfirmThem and BenchMemo throughout the day, and just watch C-Span.


Outrage and Silence

Thomas Friedman editorializes in the NYT It is hard not to notice two contrasting stories that have run side by side during the past week. One is the story about the violent protests in the Muslim world triggered by a report in Newsweek (which the magazine has now retracted) that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo Bay desecrated a Koran by throwing it into a toilet. In Afghanistan alone, at least 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in anti-American rioting that has been linked to that report. I certainly hope that Newsweek story is incorrect, because it would be outrageous if U.S. interrogators behaved that way.

I find it outrageous that you only hope it is incorrect.
That said, though, in the same newspapers one can read the latest reports from Iraq, where Baathist and jihadist suicide bombers have killed 400 Iraqi Muslims in the past month - most of them Shiite and Kurdish civilians shopping in markets, walking in funerals, going to mosques or volunteering to join the police. Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia.
They are afraid. They know they can issue fatwas against the US, and we won't target them, but they know that the terrorists have no compuction about targeting other Muslims.
The Muslim world's silence about the real desecration of Iraqis, coupled with its outrage over the alleged desecration of a Koran, highlights what we are up against in trying to stabilize Iraq - as well as the only workable strategy going forward. The challenge we face in Iraq is so steep precisely because the power shift the U.S. and its allies are trying to engineer there is so profound - in both religious and political terms. Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and are indifferent to their brutalization.

At the same time, politically speaking, some Arab regimes prefer to see the pot boiling in Iraq so the democratization process can never spread to their countries.
It will happen, whether they like it or not.
That's why their official newspapers rarely describe the murders of civilians in Iraq as a massacre or acts of terror. Such crimes are usually sanitized as "resistance" to occupation. Salama Na'mat, the Washington bureau chief for the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat, wrote the other day: "What is the responsibility of the [Arab] regimes and the official and semiofficial media in the countries bordering Iraq in legitimizing the operations that murder Iraqis? ... Isn't their goal to thwart [the emergence of] the newborn democracy in Iraq so that it won't spread in the region?" (Translation by Memri.)

In identifying the problem, though, Mr. Na'mat also identifies the solution. If you want to stop a wave of suicide bombings, the likes of which we are seeing in Iraq, it takes a village. I am a big believer that the greatest restraint on human behavior is not laws and police, but culture and religious authority. It is what the community, what the village, deems shameful. That is what restrains people. So how do we get the Sunni Arab village to delegitimize suicide bombers?

Inside Iraq, obviously, credible Sunnis have to be brought into the political process and constitution-drafting, as long as they do not have blood on their hands from Saddam's days. And outside Iraq, the Bush team needs to be forcefully demanding that Saudi Arabia and other key Arab allies use their media, government and religious systems to denounce and delegitimize the despicable murder of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq. If the Arab world, its media and its spiritual leaders, came out and forcefully and repeatedly condemned those who mount these suicide attacks, and if credible Sunnis were given their fair share in the Iraqi government, I am certain a lot of this suicide bombing would stop, as happened with the Palestinians. Iraqi Sunnis would pass on the intelligence needed to prevent these attacks, and they would deny the suicide bombers the safe houses they need to succeed. That is the only way it stops, because we don't know who is who. It takes the village - and right now the Sunni Arab village needs to be pressured and induced to restrain those among them who are engaging in these suicidal murders of innocents. The best way to honor the Koran is to live by the values of mercy and compassion that it propagates.
That is true
Dale Franks blogged If Islam does propagate such mercy and compassion, then aren't Muslim clerics vociferously criticizing the killing of their fellow Muslims at every opportunity? Why isn't this a constant refrain every Friday in Mosques? Indeed, while we're on the subject, why have women been forbidden to drive, own property, or vote—for all that voting is worth in an autocracy—in the Muslim world? While we're on the subject, what about female genital mutilation or "honor killings"? Then, of course, there's Sudan, where quite a lot of people are being regularly killed—although the UN assures us that it's not genocide—mainly for not being Muslim. I mean, for all this talk about the compassion and mercy of The Religion of Peace™, why does there seem to be so little of it in the Muslim world? If Islam "propagates" those gentle qualities of mercy why is the Mideast such a nasty, brutish place to live?

Clearly, there is something wrong with the propagation machinery. The two opinions that immediately occur to one are either a) that Mideastern culture is so backward and barbaric that the sheer brutality of the culture acts as a barrier for Islam's propagation of mercy, or b) Islam does no such propagation. Either way, it strikes me as inconsistent to complain that Muslims seem indifferent to Muslim terrorism, even when directed at Muslims, then to point out the compassionate nature of Islam. Either the people calling themselves Muslims are not, in fact, good Muslims at all, or Islam itself is not a significant force for compassion.

Dr. Steven Taylor blogged Certainly is the a remarkable disconnect here where a brief story about the desecration of a book, holy though it may be to millions, and the actual violence against people (and against mosques) does not evoke similar rage. The strategy to which he refers, and I think he does so in a somewhat vague fashion, is to find a way to apply cultural and religious to the problem. All true, yet also difficult to achieve. He does recommend, and I have to agree with him, that it is imperative to et Sunni politicians prominently involved in the constitution-writing process. This, too, may be difficult to achieve.