Apr 29, 2006

petra-opera - any more info?

Originally uploaded by yanaljr.
Amazing photo by YanalJr!
Does anybody have more info on this event? when is the next one?

Israel Lobby influence in Washington

Recently I came across an article titled "The Israel Lobby" (March 23rd, 2006), authored by professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt from Harvard and U Chicago. The topic is one not very foreign to many, the "influence of the Israel lobby on the American foreign policy'.

Apparently, and unlike several other books and articles on the same subject (see Findley, Chomsky, Finklestein, Shlaim, etc.), this one is making a lot of noise. Just go to news.google.com and you'll see.

Why? it seems to be the stature of the authors within the think-tanks in Washington and political thought in ivy universities. The authors are known 'centerists' and 'realists', thus they are harder to discredit than the 'socialist & leftist' authors. It'll be interesting to follow the 'sobre followup' (not the angry reactionary) posts on this subject. I found this recent article in The Nation to be very interesting:

Ferment Over 'The Israel Lobby' by Philip Weiss (April 27th, 2006)

Apr 27, 2006

Book review: Malcolm X: Autobiography

Malcolm X's autobiography (I listened to the audio book), is a very interesting piece of work - and MUCH more informative than the movie, but is also incomplete. The book leaves you with more questions about the history of Blacks in America, Nation of Islam, and Malcolm X himself than before reading it. Alex Haley's integrity, the co-author and editor and publisher of the the autobiography, is put under question because of his own agenda (pro-integrationist and pro-civil rights, the opposite of Malcolm X's early thought), and his relationship with the FBI. Furthermore, Haley has intentionally omitted 3 chapters of the book that are supposed to shed much more light on Malcolm's ideas during his last years. Unfortunately these chapters are still not publicly available (see Dr. Manning Marable's interview). I'm looking forward to Dr. Marable's biography of Malcolm X, which is due in the next few years.

Besides all that, the book is a GREAT read, and I have few thoughts about it:

1- Malcolm was an exceptional genius - he's one of those people who would have become Nobel Prize laureate if it wasn't for the circumstances. If Malcolm were to be born into a normal family of this age, he would have went to top schools and did great things. Just imagine what would have happened if Einstein was forced to leave school at age 15 and go live in the ghetto. That was Malcolm. Want proof? obvious things first: he was top of his class by end if junior-high. More, just read or listen to one of his speeches. Can you believe that this guy has finished ONLY 9th grade!? Malcolm was able to re-educate himself while in prison. He did so all by himself. He finished several long-distance courses, one of which was in Latin. Listening to him, one thinks he's a university graduate. Attaining that on your own while in prison... is very impressive. Another indication: his amazing success first as a drug dealer, and then, after conversion, to expanding the Nation of Islam following massively. I would love to see an educated IQ estimate for him.

2- The book paints a GREAT picture of the average African American's life in the ghettos and on the streets. The book does a much greater job than the movie on this point.

3- For example Drugs: I've always asked myself, how can somebody become a drug dealer. It seems so hard and a really big deal, at the same time, the kind of characters who do it seem so average - or even below-average. Malcolm describes in the book how he moved from using drugs, to selling them, to even creating an inter-state base of clientele, and finally the head of an armed-robbery gang, all while he was UNDER 20 years of age. 20 YEARS!!!

4- Nation of Islam (NOI) had a different interpretation of prophethood than mainstream muslims. They believe in a modern prophet, Elijah Mohammad, who learned Islam from W. D. Fard, who in turn claimed that he was God's incarnation on Earth. I say "had" and not "have" because I know they have changed afterward, however, I don't know how much.

5- One of the funny quotes from Elijah Mohammad, explaining why Muslims shouldn't eat pig, is "A pig is a graph between rat, cat, and dog." hm...

6- Charisma: I've learned about the gift of Charisma, but never met a person who had it. Not just affluence or influence, but great Charisma. I've heard that Steve Jobs, Clinton, and King Hussein had it. The story I usually get is that, in their presence, people feel like "water in their hands - they can tell you to do anything and you would do it." Malcolm X must have been one of those few people. His ability to 'feel' the crowd and say just the right words is amazing. He was the Nation of Islam dynamo. His job was to go to new cities, establish a Nation of Islam following, build a mosque, and then move on to the next city. Some claim that Nation of Islam was Malcolm X, and with his death, it became dormant.

7- The big picture of history: now I really want to read more about African American history in the US. I want to know exactly, and from an unbiased observer, what was Malcolm's real role with Nation of Islam? What happened to the 'orthodox muslims' organization he left behind? what was his relation to the civil rights movement? how did it go after his assassination? Is there a 'new Malcolm X' out there? people who accept Malcolm X's thought, where are they now? what are they doing?

I hope to find a worthy book to read on the subject... and then I would write another book review blog.

Apr 25, 2006

A trip to Mecca .... California!

Believe it or not, after driving for 7 hours only, we made it from Santa Clara to Mecca! :-)

We went on a fun-filled roadtrip to Mecca, CA to enjoy their Annual Dates Festival (www.datefest.org) ! it sounds surreal, right!
As we drove south in California, we were surprised by two things: it was hot and dry, a LOT like Jordan

and from the middle of the desert, this Oasis of tall green palm trees emerges

Apparently, the spanish missionaries brought few Palm Trees with them as they travelled north in California. The palms needed hot weather and lots of water - making Mecca, CA a perfect place for it. But nothing major came out of that. The story goes that around 1900, a plant scientist who owned a planeterium, sent his sons to Iraq and North Africa to bring palm trees. They brought a whole bunch. These palm trees grew so well they were enought os tart several dates farms.

Later, as the Medjool date tree was nearing extinction from North Africa because of a disease called "Mbeidin", the French & US governments sent and brought 9 healthy offshoots. These offshoots, to their amzement, grew so well in Arizona & California. The Medjool date soon became the most expensive and sought-after variety of date. And I don't exagerate when I say that some are as big as apples, and they are very sweet and succulant (not dry). I was surprised when I had them during my first Ramadan in the US (back in 1998).

In February of every year, Mecca, CA throws its annual Dates Festival! The festival is both a celebration of dates, (everything dates! date-milkshakes, date-icecream, date-cake, date-with-rice, date-cookies, etc.) ....

and a typical farm-land county festival, complete with cowboy hats and cattle!

they even have Camel, Osrige, Alpaca, and pig races!

It was also great to get a feel of real California there (San Francisco is very different). The people looked Jordanian (well, Latinos ;-)) - and that's not a coincidence, since California used to be part of Mexico until it was forcebly bought by the US in 1846 (along with New Mexico). Interestingly enough, shortly after the Mexican War, the US got into its deadliest, most devastating war - the Civil War between the Northern Republicans and the Southern Confederates. General Ulysses S. Grant (of the north) said (scroll down):
"The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."
Ah, if only they read history!

Is that a tree?

Is that a tree? look carefully...

I love it when I spot one of these every now and then, a well-hidden wireless phone antenna. I think this solution is very creative. The picture on the left is in Santa Clara, CA, and the other is in Mecca, CA.

Apr 20, 2006

Very nice lightening photo

lightning over the capital city
Originally uploaded by muha....
it's not just the lightening... the whole image, with the water reflection, and the glowing sky, it speaks to you...

good job Muha...