Friday, February 20, 2009

25 things to say

Some friends on Facebook and on the blogosphere have been encouraging me to take part in the "25 things to write about yourself" tag. I decided, why not take a break from politics and world events and do this? I go!

1) I never like to stay in the same place for an extended period of time, such as a city, state, or country, I am always determined to travel :)

2) I played sports for the first ten years of my life before I realized I didn't enjoy playing them.

3) LOST is my favorite TV show

4) John Locke is my favorite character in LOST...his faith and determination inspires me in life.

5) I am trying to learn both Arabic and Spanish at the same time, and I am thankful that I have friends who speak both languages so I can practice with them.

6) I voted for John was my first presidential election to vote in.

7) Religion is complex for me..I consider myself a Christian, I would say, but I strongly embrace all faiths and I am always eager to learn more about the world's many great religions.

8) I have been to Friday prayers at a San Francisco mosque twice now

9) Sometimes, I have a tendency to be oversensitive and I overreact to the simplest of all things

10) Spending more than two weeks without going into downtown San Francisco could very well drive me crazy, since I really enjoy the atmosphere

11) When I go to SF, I visit Pier 39 often, even though it is an extreme tourist attraction and there's not much there for a native Californian.

12) I have lived in California for almost 4 years and I still have not gone over the Golden Gate Bridge! Although, I have crossed the Bay Bridge, which is almost the same size, dozens of times.

13) Last December, I stayed at a hotel on the California-Nevada border in Lake Tahoe and I ran back and forth across the border just for fun. I went about 50 yards each way. Of course, I went to dinner later on and got to spend plenty of time in the great state of Nevada.

14) My favorite singer is Bob Marley and I know many of his lyrics by heart

15) One time, I held a conversation in Farsi with an Iranian at Tehran University. It lasted for about a minute before my counterpart was able to put me through to an English language line. I had to use an online phrase list to help me through it ;)

16) I have visited both coasts of Ireland and spent a week and a half on each one

17) Even though I am non-Muslim, I have a framed picture of the holy city of Medina because I think it is a beautiful sight to look at. I also have a framed picture of Istanbul's blue mosque.

18) I am probably one of the last people my age to start using facebook and myspace.

19) I am not quite sure what my favorite country is outside of the USA...I suppose I might just have to say ALL of them!

20) I am watching 3 White Cloud mountain minnows swimming in a mini fish tank on my desk as I write this.

21) Many people tell me that I need to develop self-confidence

22) One day, I imagine myself traveling the world and having a very exciting career as a global correspondent. I will travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and countless other amazing people that few Americans will get to see :)

23) I am extremely thankful to blogger because it has helped me meet some of the nicest friends there are.

24) Math was my most difficult subject in school...come to think of it, it was really a miracle that I was able to get enough credits in math!!

25) I keep having this strange feeling that President Barack Obama is going to make a very good decision that will make me vote for him in the next election...hmmm, we'll see how that goes :D did that go?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paradise lost...

After a lengthy battle, Pakistan has agreed to allow the Taliban to introduce Sharia law, a deranged way of life backward enough to inflict punishment on rape victims, as my most last post pointed out. By all means, Pakistan is surrendering to the Taliban.

If the Pakistani Army does pull out and the Taliban moves into the once-beautiful Swat Valley, that leaves us with few options, except for maybe...

Air power of course...certainly no one deserves a missile up their ass more than a bearded scumbag who storms into a girls school with an AK-47 and burns it down, blows it up, or in some cases, throws acid on the innocent students. How sad is it to think of the young girls in Pakistan who, thanks to the Pakistani government, might lose the battle for their education.

President Obama needs to put forth a troop surge strategy in Afghanistan, but it will have to be more complex than that. Recent polls are suggesting that the people of Afghanistan are losing their trust of the United States and our NATO allies. For every girls' school the Taliban burns down in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the elected-government of Afghanistan, along with its western allies, should build 50 new ones on the Afghan-side of the border. Having their leaders picked off by CIA predator drones may be damaging to the Taliban, but the only way they will ever be finished off is if both Afghans and Pakistanis succeed in building successful democracies.

I have always defended Pakistan...there is little doubt that they have suffered far more than any other country in the region from terrorism, especially India and Afghanistan. But surrendering Swat Valley could be a mistake of historical proportions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The glory of democracy

Now to some news that is exciting and indeed a good development for the future of democracy. After the successful, landmark elections that took place in Iraq at the end of last month, Israel held a successful election on Tuesday. At the moment, it appears that Israelis are torn between two very respectable candidates--Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu. If Livni is named Prime Minister, she will become Israel's second female PM after Golda Meir. Hmmm...I wonder when Hamas-occupied Gaza will be electing a female leader.

Regardless of how one might feel about Israel and what has been happening in Gaza lately, its hard to dispute that Israeli citizens have more rights and freedoms than most countries in the region. I find it revolting whenever I hear that Israel needs to be "dismantled"--often a codeword by the Israel haters that they really seek to see Israel destroyed, as if a Hamas-ruled Palestine is going to give the Palestinians the freedoms they desire. Even worse are the frequent verbal assaults on Israel involving Nazi and fascist comparisons to the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli government.

Israel and Iraq deal a devastating blow to tyranny and terrorism every time an election is held. You can bet that the monarchs in Saudi Arabia or the mullahs in Iran cringe every time an Iraqi or an Israel-Arab casts a ballot and takes a step to decide on his or her future. Syria's Assad and Libya's Muammar Gadaffi probably feel similar. Yet this does not stop Saudi Arabia from feeling fit to criticize Israel, even as they lash rape victims , chop off heads for the most simple of all reason, and look the other way as terrorists who go on to kill innocent Arabs and Muslims are exported over their border.

Fedayeen Assault

I don't want to post back-to-back depressing news stories, but I thought this was very important to mention.

Afghan police in Kabul, outside the scene of the attack

The Taliban attacked government offices in Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Wednesday using coordinated "Fedayeen" assaults, the same tactic that was used during the Mumbai attacks last November, in which some 170 people were killed by a mere 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists wielding AK-47 and a small amount of explosives. Apparently, the attackers in Kabul engaged the Afghan police in a 3-hour gun battle after taking control of a government office. Its small compared to what happened in Mumbai, but its frightening nonetheless.

I find this particularly disturbing, especially considering that we have Obama in the White House now. I've been hearing from many of my friends that Obama is going to be tough on terrorism but I just can't get rid of the doubts I have.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Where it all began

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam--one of the world's most fearsome and aggressive (non-Muslim as well) terrorist organizations--proved its ability to continue its campaign of violence when a female suicide bomber blew herself up among Sri Lankan soldiers who were escorting civilians out of the war-ravaged north on Monday. The media has had a fascination with female suicide attackers in Iraq, but has put almost no emphasis on where the phenomenon originated: Sri Lanka.

Contrary to what may be a popular belief, the use of women as suicide bombers did not begin after the US invaded Iraq or during a stage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It originated in the dark jungles of a remote island in the Indian Ocean, and it continues to this day. The Sri Lankan military has made many strategic gains against LTTE rebels in the island's civil war, but unfortunately, this type of violence may never go away.

Sri Lanka bomber 'kills dozens'

From BBC:

A female Tamil Tiger rebel has blown herself up, killing 28 people and injuring dozens more in the north-east, the Sri Lankan military says.

A military spokesman told the BBC the woman blew herself up as she travelled with civilians fleeing fighting.

He said 20 of those killed in the attack in the Vishwamadu area of Mullaitivu district were soldiers. The rebels have made no comment yet.

Thousands of civilians have fled the fighting over the past few days.

Military spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told the BBC: "[The civilians] were coming to an area where there were security forces. A woman in that group blew herself up when she was being checked by female soldiers."

Brig Nanayakkara said 20 soldiers, including three women, were killed along with eight civilians. About 50 troops and 40 civilians, mostly women and children, were hurt, he said.

The injured, Brig Nanayakkara said, were being evacuated to hospitals in the area.

State television showed footage of the bodies of civilians lying on bloodstained ground in Vishwamadu.

The United Nations said it deplored the attack. Resident coordinator Neil Buhne said: "It's a blow for people who have suffered so much."

The rest of the story can be read here

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oil and gasoline nonsense

The other day I spoke to my grandfather about the current economic situation. He is very angry about the price of gas, as well as oil, mostly because it makes absolutely no sense at all. He explained to me that on CNBC, he couldn't help but notice the market watch in the corner, where oil was DOWN and gasoline was UP.

This is Arco, which pretty much has the cheapest gas in the Bay Area.

Chevron has always felt the need to be a few cents higher.

What exactly is going on here? Again, it doesn't make much sense. My grandpa likes to blame the oil companies, while I prefer to direct blame at the oil-producing countries who believe that $100 per barrel is a fair price (never mind that they were still building gold-placated palaces all across the Middle East when it was only $25 in 2003). Either way, I think both take the blame.

With the economic downturn and lack of profit, maybe the oil companies have decided to just start raising prices again to see how long they can do it until consumers start complaining again. If anyone else has a theory as to why gas is going up, I would really like to hear it.

This isn't just a local or a national issue. I remember last month when Russia threatened to shut off gas supplies to the Ukraine. Russia accused Ukraine of falling behind in payments, but I think that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev wanted to generate a crisis to boost the price of gas and provide some relief to Russia's faltering economy.

But that's that. Gas at $2.09 a gallon is a hell of a lot cheaper than what we were paying over the Summer. As of two weeks ago, gasoline at Arco was the cheapest I had ever seen it since moving to California from Boston. Notice all of this bad economic news is not stopping people from going out and enjoying their of the local cafes and the Subway was packed with customers all anxious to enjoy the beautiful weather after a couple days of rain.

Yes, I realize that this is turning into more of a multi-pronged ramble instead of a post, but I thought I should show this picture. There's been a lot of panic that California is undergoing a drought, but the recent rain is really beginning to green-up the hills. The view of the mountain is quite breathtaking, isn't it?