Jarvis on Zeyad and Iraq

October 23, 2006

Jarvis gave his mea culpa on the Iraq War today in response to Zeyad’s declaration of regret from earlier this week. It is a worthy post from someone who should probably stray more frequently from his media crit beat. I know I would welcome a bit more of this from him.

By now, after a few years worth of such public self-flaggelation/justification, the evolution of Jarvis’s position should be painfully familiar to many on the left. It certainly is to me. I, too, remember seeing very strong humanitarian and democracy-building arguments for invading Iraq in 2002-03. I remember making them at times myself. I also remember seeing those arguments made in the press by people like Hitchens and Beinart and, apparently, Jarvis.

However, I do not remember those arguments coming from the powerbrokers of the Bush Administration (those few instances when they did occur were more an afterthought, the exceptions that prove the rule).

Instead, they chose to pitch the WMD storyline. We could argue ourselves blue in the face about how domestic psychology influenced this political decision-making, but I don’t want to do that here. Suffice it to say that the Administration believed this storyline best and found it most believable (or, as Frank Rich might say, most saleable). They promised us WMD and WMD is what we would get. They meant to find WMD and prove to the world that they were right.

Intent is important, especially when it comes to a project as enormous as bringing democracy to the Middle East. That project was never the primary goal of the Bush Administration.
The left refused to take the Bush Administration at its word. Instead, the left chose to believe that Bush’s intentions, his real intentions, matched our own.

I think that is the real lesson that the left realized far too late. Bush truly is a straight-shooter, a walking talking wysiwyg. They should have taken him at his word from the beginning and weighed whether the argument he made for war was worth supporting. Hopefully, next time we’ll all remember to take our leaders a little more at their word.



October 21, 2006

Everyone should go right now to read Zeyad’s blog post from 10/16. Then go listen to his appearance today on “On the Media.”


October 20, 2006

I’ve been poking around in the Rocketboom archives in the past few days since they appeared in our class. I really wish that I had been more familiar with their product beforehand. If so, I would have asked them how they decide on the stories they run each day.

This week they ran a feature story on Fragrance Week. Today’s story, “Mish Mash,” is really more of a performance piece.

Rocketboom balances these pieces with more “traditional” newscasts like this one that starts out on North Korea’s nuclear test and moves onto CBGBs closing down.

I would have liked to hear a bit more of the behind-the-scenes stuff from these guys. Guess that comes back to the “be prepared” mantra.

Muslims in Europe

October 15, 2006

Earlier this week, the NYT gave front page coverage to the split between Muslim immigrant communities and “the political mainstream” in Europe. Lurking not too far in the background of this story is Pope Benedict XVI. His comments provoked some outrageous reactions, to be sure, but, more importantly, I think the controversy has proven how easy it is for two religious communities to talk past each other.

Muslims feel justified in condemning the Pope’s original statement as insensitive and in feeling that he was simply picking a fight. He has essentially confessed on both counts.

Christians feel that the reaction by some Muslims (firebombing churches in the West Bank and Iraq, the execution of a nun in Africa) justifies the Pope’s comments by proving his point.

Both sides are content to sit on those positions, without moving any further.

Now, the article above cites evidence that non-religious Europeans are crossing “an invisible line” in their feeling towards their Muslim immigrant neighbors. It makes an important point towards the end: if two religious cultures that worship the same god have so much difficulty discussing their differences, how can devoutly religious immigrants mix with godless Europeans?

Many Muslims say this new mood is suddenly imposing expectations that never existed before that Muslims be exactly like their European hosts.

Dyab Abou Jahjah, a Lebanese-born activist here in Belgium, said that for years Europeans had emphasized “citizenship and human rights,” the notion that Muslim immigrants had the responsibility to obey the law but could otherwise live with their traditions.

“Then someone comes and says it’s different than that,” said Mr. Jahjah, who opposes assimilation. “You have to dump your culture and religion. It’s a different deal now.”

Another article in today’s NYT looks at Islamic schools in the UK. The underlying question there being, what educational setting is least likely to result in the violent radicalization of its students? A culturally heterogenous, non-religious school or a homogenous, religious setting?

Given a that isolated individuals are more prone to radicalization, I would say that with teenagers, who are themselves susceptible to extreme positions, society should err on the side of a stronger sense of community – not on breaking the bonds of community. Successful schools are the best path to integration.

Muslims in the Military

October 10, 2006

On Saturday, the NYT published an excellent profile of Sgt. Cameron Murad, a native Iraqi who is now a recruiter for the US military.

The most salient point from the article for me comes here:

Of the thousands of interpreters working for the military in Iraq, most are civilians under contract, some of whom earn as much as $170,000 a year. But military commanders prefer uniformed linguists because they cannot refuse combat missions and are subjected to more thorough security checks.

They are offered a fraction of what many civilian linguists earn, with salaries starting at roughly $28,000, including allowances. The program’s perks, such as expedited citizenship, a starting bonus and medical coverage, are a major draw, military officials said.

$28,000 vs. $170,000. Anyone who makes the choice to leave that much money on the table to serve should never experience the abuse that Murad’s peers in the military heaped on him.

New blog, same as the old blog

October 10, 2006

For my second blog, I want to start a group blog covering the neighborhoods of SW Brooklyn – Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Red Hook.

I suppose that I could go ahead and launch a blog on something non-threatening like sports or music or books. I’m interested in all of those things, perhaps I’m interested enough to even blog about them on a semi-regular basis.

Why do I say non-threatening? I don’t mean any disrespect to those subjects or the people who cover them. In fact, all of those people I’ve linked to above do a much better job at covering those subjects than I ever could.

I say non-threatening because I fear that blogging now may prejudice my future career. I feel that I am too new to this journalism thing to commit myself to a certain subject or to voice strong opinions in them.

Those pesky images

October 5, 2006

In one post, I was able to look like a genius and a moron at the same time.  A genius for being the only one to figure out how to post a full sized image of bait fish cut up on the pier in Bay Ridge. And, an idiot for not recalling how to do it a few days later in class.

So, here are the brief instructions, for anyone that is interested (perhaps I’ll post this to the CUNY wiki, too).

Upload the image in the multimedia box, which is located immediately below the text box – called ‘The Editor’ – where you type the posts. Once the image has been uploaded and the thumbnail appears, click on the image once. A small pop-up menu will appear, by clicking the top line you toggle between “Using thumbnail” and “Using original.” Select “Using original,” then click on “Send to Editor.”

Voila, your full-sized image should appear in the Editor box and, once you’ve save, in the preview screen at the bottom of the page.

Any questions?

A shortage of imams

October 1, 2006

Two articles from The Washington Post over the weekend point to a theme I’ve been picking up on in recent weeks. For many mosques in America, especially since 9/11, it is very difficult to find an imam.

An article on Saturday, “Seminarians Face Pulpit Shortage,” which reported on the shrinking number of positions for clergy in America’s churches and synagogues, very briefly noted that mosques in America face exactly the opposite problem. The article quotes Jalal Abu Shaweesh, president of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, which has been looking for an imam for over a year, as saying, “the hardest thing is to find somebody who can speak English well and is comfortable with American culture.”

Once the finding is over, though, the hurdles keep coming, as one mosque in Northern Virginia discovered recently. Two teenage boys are leading the Ramadan prayers at the Islamic Community Center of Northern Virginia because the imam who was supposed to do so detained at Dulles Airport on 9/22 and sent back to South Africa. The imam, Ismail Mullah, had led prayers at ICCNV the last three years.

I find this quote from Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, most interesting:

“Imams who come from overseas, sometimes they bring a different mentality. They come from Muslim-majority places. They have different cultures, norms and traditions,” Awad said. “I think it’s important that we develop our own.”

It is a very similar sentiment to that voiced by Sheik Hamza Yusuf in this book. Will the next generation of Muslims in America follow American-born imams?

Finally, these two graphs set off alarm bells:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is writing letters to politicians demanding to know why Mullah and other scholars were turned away at the last minute. Nationwide, at least four other Islamic scholars were denied entry, without explanation, Muslim community leaders said.

They are questioning why the government waited until the men arrived in the country instead of denying their visas early enough for the mosques to find replacements.


Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not say why Mullah was turned away but said more than 1,000 people are denied entry every day for a variety of reasons. Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman, said: “The State Department may issue a visa which allows someone to apply for admission into the U.S. It is not necessarily a guarantee that they will be permitted.”

5 years after 9/11 and our governmental agencies still aren’t on the same page? Why is the State Dept. so liberal in who it lets in? Does Customs/Border get better information than State? Why don’t they both get the same information? That doesn’t inspire confidence.

Update: My own reporting on this issue is now up at citylimits.org.


October 1, 2006

Photo of Bait Cut in Bay RidgeThis is a photo of bait cut on the pier in Bay Ridge.

Hillary for Voicemail Lady

September 25, 2006

I just got the most bizarre phone call. Hillary Clinton’s voice rang me up to ask for my support in November.

Okay, so that’s obviously not the weird part. Nor is it the timing, over a month before the election and her opponent…well, who’s running against her, again? She’s still got to run, even if the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

No, the weird part was the “interactivity” of the recorded call. Hillary’s voice made a pitch for three Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives. She asked if (I paraphrase) ‘you are able to volunteer, press 1. If you can’t volunteer at this time, press 2.’

Hillary went on to remind me that I could volunteer from the comfort of my own home. Then, within the same press 1 / press 2 schema, she asked for my email address and reminded me to vote “next November.” (Shouldn’t it be “this November”?)

I know it’s a new age and it’s the Clintons, so redefining a relationship is nothing new. But, does a Hillary 2008 campaign really want to have its candidate one small step from saying, “To continue in English, please press 1?”