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Posted 01-21-2006 at 08:59 AM by mephisto786

Hmn, Im as suprised as a number of other folk with the news that I have a blog.
Everyone it seems, has a blog.

I've been avoiding the whole issue because it seemed like some kind of Andy Warhol 15 Minutes of Fame, some kind of "you are special" dreck that things like Fight Club fortunately pummeled out of me. So a public promise, which simply means Im more likely to keep it, it being public and all....

I hereby promise not to give a running log of the daily minutae and fleeting thoughts stuffing so much cyber space.

Which probably means, if I keep this promise, that there won't be much written here.

Is it just me or does everyone feel slightly embarrased saying stuff like: Well, if you check out my blog..." Hmn. More as it develops....

For those who wonder: Present setup is Suse10 eval, Slackware 10.2, and a monster collection of Sid software running under Mepis 3.4 till I hose it, again. Oh, and a growing collection of live and mini distros I've lost count of...

Keep on rocking in the free world.

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  1. Old Comment

    It was only a matter of days before many of us were wishing it would fade away like most news stories. It seemed more fluff than substance; the dreck left over from a slow news day.

    The issue, after the burning of several embassies, riots which resulted in numerous deaths and property damage worldwide, death threat fatwas against those who created and published the cartoons , and a weakening of an already fragile relationship between a number of Western nations and their Muslim minorities, has not faded though. It seems to gain in momentum and drag into its wake issues of free speech, religious freedom, racism, Islamophobia, terrorism and hate crimes.

    The battle continues at fever pitch in much of the world’s media, and is a field day for Op-Ed writers and Think Tank pundits, headline writers and people on both sides of the divide with a vested interest in proving that a Clash of Civilizations is inevitable.

    Seems the only thing left out of the debacle is sanity. Having seen them, I can’t say I condone the cartoons, but to be honest, what Denmark has done in the past has seldom affected me. Why should a national daily suddenly rouse me to some righteous rage above and beyond what the ongoing occupation of Iraq, human rights abuses worldwide, the appalling levels of poverty stifling millions from America to Zaire, and a precarious eco-balance does?

    You could argue that the cartoon uproar is simply a symptom of a larger malady. The malady however, is not being addressed. The symptom is getting more than enough press time and seems to be eclipsing what should be addressed in its stead.

    As a Muslim, I find the cartoons blasphemous, bigoted and offensive. As offensive as the anti-Semitic cartoons of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher. What is hard to wrap the mind around (but very easy to wrap emotions around) is how this gives me license to torch embassies, attack people who feel differently and be judge, juror and executioner in demanding people be killed over them.

    The reactions in the Muslim world has done nothing more than to make most sane Muslims apologists for the more misguided ones. Do people realize that those who screamed for the blood of author Salman Rushdie were the ones who made him a leading celebrity of the last century? That - if those who were offended by his Satanic Verses had simply ignored the book, or at worst, banned it - there is a chance their arch enemy would not be as wealthy as he is, nor as toasted and celebrated as a martyr for free speech?

    Going into a local supermarket in Amman and seeing a sign that informed everyone that “no Danish products are sold here” left nothing more than a perverse urge to laugh. What do Danish dairy producers and food exporters have to do with this mess? Wouldn’t it make far more sense if those offended could make a concerted effort to do something intelligent? Like boycotting all the advertisers who run ads in the Danish periodical. The knee jerk, herd mentality of those driven to street fighting over this issue merely places most Muslims who have more important things to do on the offensive, to explain the demented behavior of rioters.

    The offensive cartoons were published in Europe. A sane response would have been an expression of anger through the appropriate channels. The media, the legislative systems and grassroots organizations could have done more to further the cause of stopping such biased and inflammatory content than all the destruction and panic that followed. Those legally protesting and seeking redress through such appropriate channels however, remain in the shadow of the more violent and unruly elements.

    Amid all the calls for banning hateful propaganda cartoons, for supporting free speech, for trying people on charges of blasphemy there seems to be one call not being made, and that’s the call to a sane balanced response from everyone involved. Granted, its not as much fun, its not flashy, it doesn’t grab headlines, but it tends to be more effective.

    If the “Christian” West can survive such irreverent insults as Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian’ or the Daily Onion with their faith intact, how much more should the very “Muslim” East be able to keep their heads about them over a spate of cartoons published six months ago?

    What becomes hardest to live with – in the face of offensive insults against ones faith – is when ones co-religionists behave like cartoon characters.

    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Mepis is just too Squeaky Fromme for me. Ran Kanotix with all them Sid packages instead, for a while. Then the latest reshuffle: Debian Sarge on the desktop (cause nvidia died and it lets me have one Debian box on call at all times) and Slackware and Suse 10's on the laptop.

    Question is what to do with all those recently acquired BSD cds? Hmn. So many distros, so few computers.
    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Going over the news dispatches for the last three weeks or so, it is pretty obvious that the Iraqi Civil War has unofficially begun.

    Tit for tat violence has now shifted the brunt of long suffering Iraqi rage from the occupation armies and politicians to fellow citizens; a rage falling conveniently along sectarian lines.

    Having comiserated with Iraqis of all sects and persuasions on days like the Ashura bombings, the UN blasts, the siege of Najaf and other black days, standing on a street corner in Central Baghdad; I can assert as surely as any single witness can, that a civil war was the last thing on peoples minds... especially given the amount of intermarriage and generations old family lines, the Sunni/Shia divide in Iraq was tenuous. Now it is being singled out and people are finding it necessary to declare on which side of the divide they stand.

    And much like the Lebanese Civil War, most of its root causes can be found in the appalling and heavy handed manipulation of the country by conquering armies and super powers, stacking the decks of ethnicity for a bigger, better multi-corporate payoff.

    If you asked Iraqis in the summer of 2003 who they wanted to see as "president" or prime minister or whatever it was that 'democracy' would allow them to vote for, and many answered secular Shia politician Ibrahim Jaffri. The only people who seemingly never heard of Jaffri were most of the Western media. Until that is, his election win last year.

    Which tells us there is a place for word on the street and eye witness views when trying to understand the death of a nation. In Iraq these days, there is a civil war. Ignore the pundits and talking heads and listen to what's coming up from street level. Reports there tell us that what now 'burns like a red coal carpet , mad bull lost its way' is the beginning of the end for any soveriegn Iraqi stability.

    Pity the Nation...

    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Notes from the Cyber Front

    Quality versus Quantity of Information
    By Jibril Hambel
    Released under the Creative Commons attrib-no commerc-no derivatives 2.5 license

    Can it be that anyone was surprised when news reports at the end of 2005 revealed vandalism on Wikipedia info sites? Op-Ed pages and newssheets began to doubt the veracity of Wiki pages. The real question is what took them so long In mid February, news stories uncovered another disturbing fact. The fact that Wikis can be edited online revealed a large number of wikis about Congress and the US government being edited by Congress and the US government. There are times when it pays to be a pessimist.

    When I first heard of Wikipedia and Wiki pages, I was impressed by the fact that there was another online info source. The concept behind it though, had me suspicious of its actual value for hard information. Why were people gushing over an online collection of facts, how-tos and general info about an endless supply of topics when they knew that these Wiki pages were open to the public. Everyone and anyone was free to add, edit or comment upon them. Was anyone seriously of the opinion that they would find incontrovertible facts and accurate data on a site open to the whole world to scribble on?

    When columnists complained, like a whining Toronto Sun columnist, that they could no longer “trust” Wiki facts, I thought I heard the soft squishy thump as the human race hit rock bottom.

    Pick a topic, any topic. Let’s say (since we’re discussing the web here) software. Web browsing software. Where do you go to get info? If you try the Wiki pages, do you stop there? Bits of generalized fact and blurbs and links to other sites and names of relevant topics. If you stop there, you have very low standards and are quite possibly an extremely lazy creature. If you then go around advising others which web browsing software to use based on your research, you are a buffoon.

    Wikis are quite valuable, make no mistake. It consolidates a wealth of opinions, links, quotes and errata on a vast range of topics. It saves us legwork, and prevents us from going places which have already been harvested for their maximum input. But, for reliable, accurate facts? Knowing full well that any number of people can use these pages for promotional reasons, prejudicial views, flame wars and to perpetrate cherished notions not even remotely true? Squish.

    There is a disturbing trend to popularize knowledge and disciplines that can bode no good. A wholesale democratization of thought and opinion merely reduces everything down to the lowest common denominator. A paragraph on a Wiki page doesn’t make anyone an expert , just as a phone cam does not make a photojournalist. Only a demented fluffbunny could claim otherwise. For the little benefit such technology provides, are we really ready to lay the responsibility on others to do our thinking, researching and reporting for us? Do we have any standards at all?

    Then came the allegations that government bodies within the US were actually editing and adding to the online "encyclopedia." More horrified gasps from the Peanut Gallery ensued.

    Now, it seems, Wikipedia is redoubling their energy in order to assure that Wiki vandalism, plagiarism and inaccuracy are removed. It really isn’t their problem, though, nor is it their fault. The fault lies squarely with the lazy slackers and lite-brained humanists who saw Wiki pages as some sort of progress. If the idea, now seemingly so prevalent, that blogging, citizen journalism, and wiki pages are trustworthy sources of hard facts then we really shouldn’t be so judgemental of those hordes of suicide bent lemmings throwing themselves in the sea. After all, when’s the last time you heard of an overpopulation problem among lemmings?

    And they don’t even have web browsers.

    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    by Jibril Hambel

    ## More important than finding a scapegoat for the current violence, or patting ourselves on the back for being less brutal than our Zionist adversary, we should be using this crisis to come to terms with how quick we are to sabotage our future for more immediate gains and to turn our own backyards into killing fields.##

    The Plot Thus Far....
    For those of us on the sidelines of the escalating crisis in Lebanon, there seem to be a number of shared reactions. Primarily, a saddened “Not again!” mingled with a refusal to accept the facts we’re being presented with. Among regional players in the Middle East, the Hizbullah track record has been almost exemplary and certainly shows more restraint, wisdom and political savvy than more mainstream players like the PLO or the former Baathist regime in Iraq. Or at least it did till this week.

    Local and world news is doing little to dissuade us from the fact that this latest Israeli siege of Lebanon was spurred by a cross-border Hizbullah sortie that resulted in eight Israeli troop deaths and two Israeli soldiers being kidnapped. That Israel is responding with excessive force is not what surprises and perplexes us. That's just business as usual. What confuses us is why, given the tenous balance of power in Lebanon, and the Middle East in general, Hizbullah decided to kick a coiled rattlesnake and bring this current destruction back upon its own doorstep. The response in Lebanon is a reserved criticism heavily outweighed by a highly emotional support for all of the Party of God’s past struggles in defense of their nation. It wasn't that long ago you could find banners throughout Lebanon proclaiming Hizbullah as her national resistance in spite of its Shi‘a roots and support base. They did, after all, succeed in freeing South Lebanon from Israeli occupation where all others failed. That calculated war of attrition that taught Israel an ongoing occupation simply wasn’t worth it, left a debt of gratitude among most Lebanese that is still collecting interest. In the rest of the Arab world however, official statements from Saudi Arabia to Egypt and Jordan are less reserved about what they see as Hizbullah’s recklessness as they go on to condemn the Israeli overreaction.

    Even before most of Hizbullah’s communications infrastucture was shelled into flinders, the statements justifying the cross-border raid and kidnapping were sparse. General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah’s statements about Hizbullah motives for the kidnapping of Israeli IDF troops indicate the actions were an attempt to pressure Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and halt Israeli iron fist tactics against the new ruling Hamas administration in Gaza.

    What doesn’t quite gel in light of Hizbullah’s history and growth from Shi‘a resistance movement to vital political entity in mainstream Lebanese politics, is how contrary such acts and rhetoric are to the strategies which secured them a place on the regional geo-political map in the first place. The current successes of Hizbullah can be traced quite clearly to party infighting in the late 1980s, when the Party was riven by two contending factions. One faction, led by Sayyid Subhi al-Tufayli, was far more rejectionist and refused to dissociate the struggle for Palestine with the struggles facing Lebanon. Although the embryonic Hizbullah in the late 1980s tended – on the whole – to be extremist and exclusivist, the faction which gained ascendancy, led by Nassrallah, quickly learned from the mistakes of trying to inject Shi‘a hardline policies into such a heterogeneous environment as Lebanon. Rebranding the party as a Lebanese as well as an Islamic resistance, Nasrallah was able to entice other Shi‘a, Sunnis and even Christian and Marxist supporters into the resistance fold. An emphasis on Shi‘a sacred law that went so far as to shut down coffee shops and firebomb places selling alcohol gave way to a more socially proactive, multicultural Party, intent on focusing on Lebanon, and not trying to save Palestine at the expense of its homeland. Initiating scores of social programs and support in a country wracked by a grueling and interminable civil war allowed the former Shi‘a fringe players a place from which to influence Lebanese politics. Sidelining the Palestinian struggle for the time being, was a keynote in the Hizbullah platform and one of the key factors toward a wider cross-cultural acceptance on the Lebanese playing field.
    Of methods and madness

    It is possible that, with Israel finally out of South Lebanon, and the rise of the Islamic Hamas party in Palestine, that another shift of focus is taking place. Known as a well educated religious scholar, a sound tactician and a shrewd negotiator however, it is doubtful whether this latest move by Nasrallah was well thought out or entirely autonomous. What result a clearly antagonist and offensive raid on Israel at this time was supposed to accomplish could only be described by the actual result it did effect. That anyone would foolishly believe Israel would suddenly do an about face and decide to negotiate over the fate of Gaza to save two soldiers being held in South Lebanon is absurd. Israel has seldom done anything in its half decade history but respond to each and every provocation with excessive violence and extreme prejudice.

    So, there's the rub. While the op-ed columnists and Beltway Middle East “experts” duke it out and paint elaborate conspiracy theories there are only really two under discussion that bear any scrutiny at all. And the first is a bit of a stretch: Hizbullah willfully incited this mayhem in order to table discussion of disarming the Hizbullah militias still controlling South Lebanon. A catastrophe of this week’s proportions would certainly put such a dialogue on hold, but more importantly it would ignite a very real, but very emotion-based fervor towards South Lebanon’s “saviors.” Remember what September 11 did for Bush? Now multiply by ten. It would also illustrate the need to have a strong military presence bordering Israel given that Beirut is still not in a position militarily to deploy the Lebanese Defense Forces throughout the entire country. Thanks to Hizbullah, the South has been quite stable and running under its own steam for several years now. If it’s not broke, why fix it? That Nasrallah would gamble plunging the entire region into splintered alliances and expect the chips to fall into patterns convenient to any possible Hizbullah agenda is inconsistent with the past two decades of political adaptability and maturity he has thus far displayed. Although his detractors would love to believe that, it begs credibility in light of the facts at hand. There is always the chance that the Chairman is privy to some facts not yet apparent to other regional players and has seen variables to this gamble that the rest of us haven’t. But the evidence before us still whispers that this is not the behavior of the same man who led his party from being a rag tag militia funded out of Iran, to a contender in Lebanese politics.

    And then, there’s Iran. Forget for a moment that it has become unfashionable to mention Iran without Syria. These days, much of the Western based media is flooded with constant references to one, the other or both. This week’s events finally allow those entrusted with shaping public opinion to say them in one breath without breaking a sweat. Forget Syria for a moment. There is little at the moment that anyone except the White House would be interested in there. Despite the allusions and accusations following the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, there has been little in the way of proof and few reasons – at the moment – for Syria to rattle chains and point attention to herself. There has already been substantial deployment of Syrian troops from Lebanon, as Lebanon moves closer to true self-governance and it makes zero sense for Damascus to incite their Hizbullah allies to wreak sufficient chaos for Syria to reoccupy Lebanon in the name of “regional security.” As a ruler, Bashar Assad has been quite low key as local politicians go and like Nasrallah, has probably not suffered a sudden pathological mania of some sort.

    Which leaves Iran, as one of the few cast members with sufficient leverage to tamper with Hizbullah’s strings and a desire to divert world attention off Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.

    That Iran would have much to gain by recent events, is evident. If we ignore the Iraqi civil war and the continuing chaos in Afghanistan hemming in Iran’s borders, they are far enough from the epicenter of the Lebanese crisis that it could just buy them some diplomatic time and weight to throw around as possible referees in a Shi‘a-centric diplomacy match. That Hizbullah began thanks to handouts from Tehran, and linked Shi‘a aspirations in Central Asia to the Mediterranean by way of Lebanon, is ancient history. We would need a bit of proof, however, before laying the blame solely on Tehran’s doorstep and risk further aggravation of the always fragile Sunni/Shi‘a divide in the Muslim world.

    With few of the pieces in this fiasco falling into neat, convenient and comprehensible little boxes, we are faced with a number of disturbing questions about our corner of the world. The answers, when they come may not be what we wish to hear, but no matter how painful the self-analysis, it can never be as painful as the side effects of our calculated, habitual and willful avoidance of those same questions. Whoever said ignorance is bliss never lived in the Middle East.

    Options? When we try to make sense of this week, we need to keep in mind that accusations, militant bravado and threats can all too easily add gasoline to the flames, raise the already high paranoia quotient and add to the body count. When things go terribly wrong, the regional response is to lay the blame upon some nefarious secret plot, some arcane conspiracy. Anything but call ourselves to account and learn from our mistakes.

    This week could be a simple lesson should we choose to heed it. On some very fundamental level these events have nothing to do with Israel. Israel is simply doing what they have always done, and what we can reliably predict they will continue to do. It is our provocation of that Spartan military state, and the fallout afterwards that defines what we as an Ummah are capable of – and whether it is our capacity to establish a just peace and security in the region, or our capacity to shoot ourselves in the foot to teach our adversary a lesson, that we are exercising.

    (First published in Islamica magazine Online, released by a Creative Commons (Attrib-NoDerivs-Non-Commercial 2.5) license)
    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Slackware 11/ Debian Sarge / Ubuntu 6.06
    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Somewhat wary of the crash and burn of kanotix, i spent a day trying etch, and sidux when etch went stable.....and have to say, that Sidux is a fine piece of work. I had no choice but to wipe the neat, shiny, cute, anti-console ubuntu and its raving hsyteria and misplaced 'anti-geek' sentiments and plainly misleading answers in many forums......its a shame so many debian developers put so much work into something that has become the linux equivalent of Teletubbies.....

    Distro update: Slack 11, Sidux, PC-BSD......and a virtual etch 'stable' till I get another computer.......Kudos by the way for the new guys on the block PC BSD and Sidux.......far less headaches than ubuntu ever was, and not afraid to teach you if you're not afraid to learn.

    Posted 12-31-1969 at 07:00 PM by mephisto786 mephisto786 is offline


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