Orientalist garbage .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Orientalist garbage. I've seen several reports before that interrogators at Guantanamo are using women interrogators in various ways to gain psychological dominance over the detainees. For instance a common claim seems to be that Muslim men don't know how to deal with women in positions of authority. My comment on this:

BTW, that comment about women interrogators is the stupidest thing I've ever read. These guys were never bossed around by their mothers? There are no henpecked husbands in the Muslim world? There are no MOTHERS-IN-LAW? If anybody seriously believes based on a sweeping generalization about Muslims that that is an effective technique, they must be deluded.

Here's the latest:

Female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood, according to an insider's written account.

A draft manuscript obtained by The Associated Press is classified as secret pending a Pentagon review for a planned book that details ways the U.S. military used women as part of tougher physical and psychological interrogation tactics to get terror suspects to talk.

British journalist Brian Whitaker analyzed a book called "The Arab Mind" that according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is being used by the U.S. military:

The book in question is called The Arab Mind, and is by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at several US universities, including Columbia and Princeton.

I must admit that, despite having spent some years studying Arabic language and culture, I had not heard of this alleged masterpiece until last week, when the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh mentioned it in an article for New Yorker magazine.

Hersh was discussing the chain of command that led US troops to torture Iraqi prisoners. Referring specifically to the sexual nature of some of this abuse, he wrote: "The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind ... the book includes a 25-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression."

Hersh continued: "The Patai book, an academic told me, was 'the bible of the neocons on Arab behaviour'. In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged - 'one, that Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation'."

Last week, my own further enquiries about the book revealed something even more alarming. Not only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.

According to one professor at a US military college, The Arab Mind is "probably the single most popular and widely read book on the Arabs in the US military". It is even used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special warfare school in Fort Bragg.

Reader Whitaker's entire article about this piece of racist garbage whose best use is as a doorstop.

The section of the news story about menstrual blood really jumped out at me because it's so glaringly wrong:

The interrogator left the room to ask a Muslim linguist how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God. The linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating, touch him, then make sure to turn off the water in his cell so he couldn't wash.

Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact with women other than a man's wife or family, and with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean.

"The concept was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength," says the draft, stamped "Secret."

The interrogator used ink from a red pen to fool the detainee, Saar writes.

The statement Strict interpretation of Islamic law forbids physical contact ... with any menstruating women, who are considered unclean is simply false.

Here's a page by conservative Saudi scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Munajjid that discusses in quite some detail what the rules are for a man and his wife when she's menstruating: Intimacy with one's wife when she is menstruating. Short answer: everything short of actual intercourse is allowed between a married couple. Rules regarding physical contact between men and women have to do with the degree of relationship with them, and do not change depending on whether the woman is menstruating or not, except that married couples should refrain from intercourse. Just to make this clear, Munajjid has another article called A menstruating woman is not impure.

Any kind of blood (not just menstrual blood) is considered ritually impure for prayer in that you have to wipe it off before beginning the prayer; here is what Munajjid says about ritually impure substances:

Touching blood or urine does not invalidate wudoo', ... But touching blood, urine or other impure substances does not invalidate wudoo', rather he has to wash them off.

("wudoo", also spelled "wudu", is the ritual purification that a Muslim undertakes before prayer).

The article mentions that they also took the water away so that the detainee couldn't wash off the "blood". Islamic law features a very well-known exemption allowing people to do tayammum or dry ablution when they can't find water. This reference also says that if they can't even do tayammum, they can pray as they are:

Whoever cannot get water or soil may pray in whatever state he is in, and he will not have to repeat his prayer later.

Assuming that the interrogators blocked the detainee even from doing tayammum, he could still pray in whatever state he was in.

In other words, the basis of this entire exercise is garbage and doesn't accurately reflect Islamic rules at all.

However, I suspect that most anybody, and especially men, would freak out if they thought a woman was touching herself to put menstrual blood on her hands then touching them with it. It's not limited to Muslims, I'm pretty darn sure about that.

Added: An Australian detainee reports that as part of his treatment, he was strapped to the ground while a woman he believed was a prostitute (see other article above) menstruated on him. Is this the image of our country we want to broadcast to the world? Is this the kind of thing that makes you say, "I'm proud to be an American"? [Al-Muhajabah's Islamic Blogs]

I think Al-Muhajabah is right--I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I would certainly be horrified by the kind of treatment these men are subjected to, and I'm not a Muslim. In fact, I suspect pretty much any civilized person would react the same way to this kind of thing, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

Get in Line for Sudafed .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Get in Line for Sudafed. Sens. Dianne Fein­stein (D-Calif.) and Jim Tal­ent (R-Mo.) yes­ter­day intro­duced a bill, dubbed the Com­bat Meth Act, that would allow sales of reme­dies con­tain­ing pseu­doephedrine only in phar­ma­cies, require that they be kept behind the pharmacist’s counter, force buy­ers to present ID and sign a reg­istry, and lim­it pur­chas­es to nine grams (about a dozen 24-packs of Sudafed) a month. [Hit and Run]

bq. There are two par­ties in Con­gress, runs the old joke: the Stu­pid Par­ty and the Evil Par­ty. When the Stu­pid Par­ty in the ascen­dan­cy it pass­es stu­pid laws, and when the Evil Par­ty is on top, it pass­es evil laws. But some­times they get togeth­er and pass law that are both stu­pid and evil. This is called bipar­ti­san­ship.


GENE HEALY: Interesting Poll Results .
Jan 28th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

GENE HEALY: Inter­est­ing Poll Results. Accord­ing to Tuesday’s Wash­ing­ton Post, the Pew Research Cen­ter recent­ly found that “66 per­cent of Repub­li­cans agreed that ‘We should all be will­ing to fight for our coun­try, whether it is right or wrong.’” (Only 33 per­cent of Democ­rats agreed with that state­ment.) In a relat­ed poll, 98 per­cent of neo­con­ser­v­a­tives emphat­i­cal­ly agreed that all those oth­er guys should be will­ing to fight for our coun­try. [Lib­er­ty & Pow­er: Group Blog]

Now if only those Repub­li­cans could tell the dif­fer­ence between fight­ing for their coun­try, and fight­ing for a gov­ern­ment.

I’ve seen the first three episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica series on Sci-Fi (along with the pilot miniseries), and it’s very good.
Jan 25th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

I’ve seen the first three episodes of the new Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca series on Sci-Fi (along with the pilot minis­eries), and it’s very good. The orig­i­nal series was my favorite TV show when it was on, but when I see reruns as an adult it looks pret­ty bad. This new series is a huge improve­ment, and I hope that it con­tin­ues to live up to the qual­i­ty it’s shown so far.

Maybe Bush really is a liberator .… .
Jan 24th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Maybe Bush real­ly is a lib­er­a­tor .…. Did any­one catch Pres­i­dent Bush’s endorse­ment of anar­chism today?

At least I reck­on that’s what he must have meant when he said “Amer­i­ca will not impose our own style of gov­ern­ment on the unwill­ing.”

As one of the unwill­ing, I was very hap­py to hear this. [Mis­es Eco­nom­ics Blog]

I would be too, but I know he means this about as much as he meant his pre­vi­ous cam­paign promis­es about pur­su­ing a more hum­ble for­eign pol­i­cy.

“Minister, what were ‘families’?” ."> Minister, what were ‘families’?” .
Jan 18th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Min­is­ter, what were ‘fam­i­lies’?”. I have always endured a dis­tinct­ly uncom­fort­able ambiv­o­lence on the sub­ject of the phys­i­cal chas­tise­ment of chil­dren. My ratio­nal incli­na­tions are to dis­ap­prove of it as a whole. The law pro­tects adults from being phys­i­cal­ly assault­ed by oth­er adults and I find the argu­ments that seek to exempt young­sters from this law to be flawed and unper­sua­sive. That said, I know that there are many good and lov­ing par­ents who some­times smack their chil­dren out… []

Arthur Sil­ber has writ­ten some excel­lent essays on child abuse and how it relates to the accep­tance of tor­ture, con­quest, etc. It’s inter­est­ing (in a sad sort of way) to read the com­ments to this post on a Cru­sad­er site. Many of the same peo­ple who have advo­cat­ed the con­quest of Iraq, pro­claimed their big­otry against Mus­lims, and their sup­port of tor­ture, are now argu­ing that it’s not only accept­able but desir­able for par­ents to assault their chil­dren.

House Paint Foils Wardrivers .
Jan 14th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

House Paint Foils Wardrivers. Ant writes "Security-minded U.S. decorators' supply outfit, Force Field Wireless, claims to have developed a do-it-yourself solution to the international menace of marauding geek wardrivers: DefendAir paint 'laced with copper and aluminum fibers that form an electromagnetic shield, blocking most radio waves and protecting wireless networks.' According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's report, one coat of the water-based paint 'shields Wi-Fi, WiMax and Bluetooth networks operating at frequencies from 100 megahertz to 2.4 gigahertz", while two or three applications are 'good for networks operating at up to five gigahertz.' However, there are downsides to this." Since it's a water-based paint, exterior use is only recommended for people who want more copper and aluminum in the soil surrounding their house. [Slashdot]

I wonder if this would be of any use as tempest shielding?

Chile: Socialism, Dictatorship, and Liberalism .
Jan 13th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Chile: Social­ism, Dic­ta­tor­ship, and Lib­er­al­ism. Despite years of pol­i­cy débâ­cle and dic­ta­tor­ship, writes Ryan McMak­en, Chile has tak­en a turn toward lib­er­al­ism that has gone large­ly unno­ticed. Unlike many Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, Chile is not notable for its strong­man pol­i­tics (like Venezuela) or its ongo­ing gueril­la wars (like Colom­bia), but is rather a place where peo­ple pre­fer to get on with the busi­ness of doing busi­ness. By Ryan McMak­en. [Lud­wig von Mis­es Insti­tute Arti­cles]

Cutting the Gordian knot .
Jan 12th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Cut­ting the Gor­dian knot. One of the cur­rent con­tro­ver­sies around the war on ter­ror is how to treat the pris­on­ers. Dale Franks at the excel­lent Ques­tions and Obser­va­tions blog gets it pret­ty much right, I think. My pre­ferred method of deal­ing with these ter­ror pris­on­ers would be to get two cap­tains and a major togeth­er as a tri­bunal, declare them to be unlaw­ful com­bat­ants, and put them in front of a fir­ing squad. Now, maybe, because we’re nice guys,… []

For any­one who thinks that the tor­ture and mur­der of pris­on­ers by the Feds is an anom­aly, and not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what Amer­i­ca has become, here we have a bunch of cru­saders open­ly advo­cat­ing the mur­der of pris­on­ers. Caveat: some of the mur­der­ous lunatics com­ment­ing on this post are British.

Gmail Messages Are Vulnerable To Interception .
Jan 12th, 2005 by Ken Hagler

Gmail Messages Are Vulnerable To Interception. Michael Wally writes "GMail messages are vulnerable to interception. An attacker has only to transmit malformed test messages to himself, and information left over in memory, from previous messages destined for other people, will appear with the test messages, in the attacker's inbox. Sometimes, this information may include usernames and passwords... Do you use GMail? Are you communications private? Should they be? Well, here's what we figured out about the issue, that may or may not help you - or perhaps GMail, if anyone can get ahold of their developers, to tell them about it." [Slashdot]

Of course they're vulnerable to intercept--all email is vulnerable to intercept. If your email is not encrypted, it is not private at all. All that web-based systems like GMail do is make it marginally easier to intercept messages.

I do have a GMail account which I use occasionally as a backup for my main account, but I certainly don't consider it private or secure. That's what PGP is for.

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