intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Archive for April 2007

what I read, and what I don’t…. mon, 30 april 2007: the sinful necktie

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Baudelaire says in the early 20th century: “True modern artist is who succeeds in showing the epic side of daily life and to show how much poetic we are, even in the choice of neckties”.

On Sunday, 29 April 2007, I read that barbers in Iran now risk being put out of business by the police if they wait on customers wearing neckties or bow ties.

Rules against bad hijab had been focused on women’s headscarves and Islamic covering. Now, men are being warned not to wear short-sleeve shirts and boys with spiked hairstyles forcibly have had a stripe shaved down the middle of their head, the BBC said.hijab_fulla.jpg

It is reported that this year the police has been unusually harsh about cautioning women over their dress, some have been obliged to sign statements that they will do better in the future, and some face court cases against them.

Though the authorities want coverage internally to scare women – they don’t want the story broadcast abroad…

One shopkeeper selling evening dresses told us the moral police had ordered him to saw off the breasts of his mannequins because they were too revealing.

The ban on neckties was detailed in a police notice sent to barber shops telling them they could be closed or even lose their licenses if they served customers with ties. In addition, the police have banned any form of makeup for men, which is sometimes used by grooms on their wedding day.

So what is this fuss about, a “fabric worn around the neck under the collar and tied in front, with the ends hanging down as a decoration”, as most dictionaries declare?

History of the Necktie

The earliest historical example dates ironically from ancient Egypt. The rectangular piece of cloth that was tied and hung down till the shoulders was a very important part of an Egyptian’s clothing because it was showing his social status. In China, all the statues around the grave of Emperor Shi Huang Ti bear a piece of cloth around their necks, which is considered an ancestor of the modern necktie. In art from the Roman Empire, men are also depicted bearing neckwear that much resembles the contemporary necktie.

Croatta

The real expansion of neckties in Europe happened in 17th century. The necktie became a true mania when Louis XIV noted the band of fabric that Croatian soldiers were wearing around their necks . The etymological root of the word “necktie” comes from there (“Cravatte” – French) – from the Croatian word “Croatta”.

Symbol of individuality

In 1827, Honore de Balzac introduced for a first time the necktie into the literature with the treatise The Art to Bear a Necktie. Balzac described in it the aesthetical principles of bearing a necktie. Until the 19th century, European men were wearing neckties with various sizes and styles of tying according to the traditions of their native countries. They would probably look very strange today. The popular models of that time were wearing the sign of their country of origin, such as Russian, American, Irish and Italian neckties. In addition, they were tying styles that were symbolising interesting themes as Diplomacy, Loyalty, Travel, etc. The neckties were representing the individuality as well as the social status of the wearer through the different shapes and styles of tying. This still applies with the same force today.

Universal shape

The necktie accepted a more simple and universal shape in the 19th century. The custom was to wrap it once around the neck and to loop it into a knot. Between 1890 and 1900 the neckties had white, blue, red, yellow and green stripes on a black background. After the First World War, the black background was replaced with more vivid colours, which are still considered classic today. The modern necktie exists in its present shape since 1924. Before, they were tailored in the direction of cutting the cloth and the lining was made from various fabrics. In 1924, Jessie Langsdorf from New York designed a cloth for neckties, cut on the 45° bias and divided the necktie into three separate parts, which were then sewn up. He patented this innovation and later sold his invention all over the world.

Given a connotational meaning conferred to the fabric, as a symbol of western decadence , first of all the raid against it blends in a general crusade against “bad hijab,” which means clothing unfit for a Muslim. This attitude sees its role as restoring Islam from what is perceived to be polytheism and innovations, superstitions, deviances, heresies and idolatries.

There are many practices declared to be contrary to Islam, such as:

* Listening to certain types of music

* drawings of human beings or other living things which contain a soul

* Praying while visiting tombs (praying at Prophet Mohammed’s tomb is also considered polytheism)

* Blindly following any madhhabs (schools of thought) of Islamic jurisprudence in their legal expertise, “except for one who is under necessity and can not reach the Sunnah.

* Using non-literal explanations of God’s attributes exclusively in preference to literal explanations, e.g. rejecting that “hand of God” could mean the power or control of god, rather than hand.

* Celebrating the “mawlid” (birth of Prophet Muhammad)

* What they call, innovation (bid’ah) in matters of religion (e.g. new supplementary methods of worship or laws not sanctioned by God or his prophet.)

This thinking mainly overlaps with “Wahabism”, one of the most ultraconservative forms of Islam. Wahhabism (Arabic: الوهابية, Wahabism, Wahabbism) is an Islamic movement named after the scholar Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (1703–1792). Abdul Wahhab was influenced by the writings of scholars such as Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taymiyya. This theology is the dominant form found in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as some pockets of Somalia, Algeria and Mauritania.kitabtawhid.jpg

The term “Wahhabi” (Wahhābīya) is rarely used by the people it is used to describe. The currently preferred term is “Salafism” from Salaf as-Salih, the “pious predecessors” as earlier propagated mainly by Ibn Taymiyya, his students Ibn Al Qayyim al-Jawziyya, and later by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab and his followers.

Since Ahmadinejad’s win, all of a sudden Iran has become the country of praying old women in chador for the media? A few years before it was all about how young the population is and how this has affected the whole country in its values, behaviour and mood.

Nonetheless, despite the facts about raiding against neck ties, it is obviously something the media needs to publicise, together with copious evidence about the Iranian nuclear threat, as the US, Britain, the EU and others are trying to stop Iran from getting nuclear power.

It seems to me that this media presence of certain, well selected facts of an, admittedly, dark turn in Iranian societey, is far more likely to be about regional dominance. The US catastrophe in Iraq has handed the Iranians a fairly sizeable strategic gain on a plate, well fitting into a neo-conservative strategy of world dominance and control of energy ressources. The Iranian oil industry is crumbling primarily because of US sanctions. The amount of foreign direct investment needed to renew their infrastructure is just missing due to these sanctions.

What if all this is just another maneuver like Saddam’s WMD, intended to provide a rationale for starting a war with Iran, aimed at regime change.

Remember the “dead baby story”? Are we reading now a “persecuted tie story” as the luke warm preliminary stage of a heating campaign to “soften up” public opinion through the media in preparation for an armed intervention?

Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger, 1916, Ch.9

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Written by huehueteotl

April 30, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Tenet: Iraq targeted before 9/11

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Intelligence manipulated to support war on Saddam, former CIA director says in soon-to-be-released book

Saturday, April 28, 2007The Washington Post

WASHINGTON – White House and Pentagon officials, and particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, were determined to attack Iraq from the first days of the Bush administration, long before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and repeatedly stretched available intelligence to build support for the war, according to a new book by former CIA director George J. Tenet.

Although Tenet does not question the threat Saddam Hussein posed or the sincerity of administration beliefs, he recounts numerous efforts by aides to Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to insert “crap” into public justifications for the war. Tenet also describes an ongoing fear within the intelligence community of the administration’s willingness to “mischaracterize complex intelligence information.”

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraq threat,” Tenet writes in “At the Center of the Storm,” to be published Monday by HarperCollins. The debate “was not about imminence but about acting before Saddam did.”

White House counselor Dan Bartlett called Tenet a “true patriot” but disputed his conclusions, saying “the president did wrestle with those very serious questions.” Responding to reports on the book in Friday’s New York Times, Bartlett suggested the former CIA director might have been unaware of all the discussions. President Bush, Bartlett said on NBC’s “Today Show,” “weighed all the various consequences before he did make a decision.”

In their threat briefings for the incoming Bush administration in late 2000, Tenet writes, CIA officials did not even mention Iraq. But Cheney, he says, asked for an Iraq briefing and requested that the outgoing Clinton administration’s defense secretary, William S. Cohen, provide information on Iraq for Bush.

A speech by Cheney in August 2002 “went well beyond what our analysis could support,” Tenet writes. The speech charged, among other things, that Saddam had restarted his nuclear program and would “acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon … perhaps within a year.” Caught off-guard by the remarks, which had not been cleared by the CIA, Tenet says he considered confronting the vice president on the subject but did not.

“Would that have changed his future approach?” he asks. “I doubt it but I should not have let silence imply an agreement.” Policy-makers, he writes, “have a right to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts.”

New details about the origins of the current terrorist threat – and the way the Clinton and Bush White Houses dealt with it – add to a growing body of information about the tumultuous late 1990s and the first years of the new century. For the future, Tenet describes his deepest fear as “the nuclear one.” He is convinced, he writes, that this is where Osama bin Laden “and his operatives desperately want to go. They understand that bombings by cars, trucks, trains and planes will get them some headlines, to be sure. But if they manage to set off a mushroom cloud, they will make history.”

© 2007 The Birmingham News. All rights reserved.

see also former entry:

Ex-head of CIA accuses Bush over rush to war

Written by huehueteotl

April 30, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Supercomputer imitates mouse brain

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Scientists in the United States have used a supercomputer to replicate a mouse-like brain.

While it might not sound like much, the accomplishment by researchers at IBM and the University of Nevada was seen as approaching the enormously complex processes that take place in any living brain.

The BBC said Saturday that even half a mouse brain contains about 8 million neurons. The supercomputer required the use of more than 4,000 computer processors — each using 256 megabits of memory – to simulate the rodent cerebellum.

The experiment was complex enough that it could only be run for 10 seconds at speeds slow even by mouse-thinking standards. Still, the researchers hope to run further experiments that will speed up the process.

.. at least there is a dim light of hope for GWB and his likes 🙂

supercomputer.jpg

Written by huehueteotl

April 29, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Arts, Science

Report: U.S. turned down aid for Katrina

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WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) — The United States rejected millions of dollars in aid from other countries in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

U.S. allies pledged $854 million in cash contributions and oil that could be sold for cash, the news paper said. Only $40 million has been spent on helping victims of the storm.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a public interest group based in Washington, obtained diplomatic cables and other documents and gave them to the Post.

Some aid was wasted, the documents indicated. Italy sent a shipment of medical supplies that had to be destroyed after it was allowed to sit unused.

“Tell them we blew it,” an official said. “The flip side is just to dispose of it and not come clean. I could be persuaded.”

Officials rejected Greece’s offer of two cruise ships to be used for emergency housing because the vessels would not arrive in New Orleans until Oct. 10, 2005 — about six weeks after the hurricane. In the end, the government spent $249 million renting ships from Carnival Cruise Lines.

As if anyone could forget, but still: see

Incorrect thoughts about New Orleans and 9/11

Written by huehueteotl

April 29, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Drug makers courting doctors hard

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A voluntary plan to curb the U.S. pharmaceutical industry’s courting of doctors appears to have had little effect.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that 94 percent of doctors have a relationship with drug companies.

“We now know that virtually every doctor in the United States has some form of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry,” said Dr. Eric G. Campbell, lead researcher on the study and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. “They are common. A quarter receive honoraria or some form of payment for their services, and that was much higher than we expected.”

The guidelines approved by the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and other groups call for gifts that are modest in cost and primarily for the benefit of patients. Meals are supposed to be inexpensive and are not to include doctors’ spouses.

Several studies have found that the number of contacts between doctors and industry sales representatives has increased since 2000.


Another study shows clearly, that that the real effectiveness of pharmaceutical sales visits lies primarily in the “relationship-building” that occurs during those visits. Aside from free drug samples, the representative will often bring a gift —- lunch for the doctor and his or her staff, new pens and coffee mugs, offers to attend an educational conference. As a result, the doctor feels subtly, even subconsciously, indebted to the representative. This can lead to higher prescribing.


“manus manum lavat” – one hand washes the other, as the latin adage goes? Mind, the wash is our health!

N Engl J Med. 2007 Apr 26;356(17):1742-50.

A national survey of physician-industry relationships.

* Campbell EG, Gruen RL, Mountford J, Miller LG, Cleary PD, Blumenthal D.

Institute for Health Policy, Massachusetts General Hospital-Partners Health Care System and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA. ecampbell@partners.org

BACKGROUND: Relationships between physicians and pharmaceutical, medical device, and other medically related industries have received considerable attention in recent years. We surveyed physicians to collect information about their financial associations with industry and the factors that predict those associations. METHODS: We conducted a national survey of 3167 physicians in six specialties (anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, and pediatrics) in late 2003 and early 2004. The raw response rate for this probability sample was 52%, and the weighted response rate was 58%. RESULTS: Most physicians (94%) reported some type of relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, and most of these relationships involved receiving food in the workplace (83%) or receiving drug samples (78%). More than one third of the respondents (35%) received reimbursement for costs associated with professional meetings or continuing medical education, and more than one quarter (28%) received payments for consulting, giving lectures, or enrolling patients in trials. Cardiologists were more than twice as likely as family practitioners to receive payments. Family practitioners met more frequently with industry representatives than did physicians in other specialties, and physicians in solo, two-person, or group practices met more frequently with industry representatives than did physicians practicing in hospitals and clinics. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this national survey indicate that relationships between physicians and industry are common and underscore the variation among such relationships according to specialty, practice type, and professional activities. Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.

PMID: 17460228 [PubMed – in process]

Written by huehueteotl

April 29, 2007 at 12:09 pm

what I read, and what I don’t… sun, april 29: the Wolfowitz story continued

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Siegfried, son of King Sigmund, hears of the beautiful sister of Gunter, King of Worms, Kriemhild. On his way to Worms, he kills a dragon and finds a treasure, the Hort. Next to this, a few more minor hero deeds: he helps Gunther to win Krimhild, a mask that makes him invisible proves to be very useful. Now it appears that Paul Wolfowitz, not only started his untiring quest of universal happiness, by guilding his girlfriend’s financial situation, but also that he tried some of the old Siegfried tricks himself.

alberich_mime_of_the_dwarves.jpg

On Sunday, 29 April 2007, I read that the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, tried to cover his tracks after approving a promotion and substantial pay rise for his girlfriend, it has emerged.

Documents released by the bank’s ethics committee show that Mr Wolfowitz, controversially appointed to the World Bank from the Pentagon, where he was a leading architect of the Iraq war, tried to limit access to employee salary information after the bank launched an inquiry into the affair.

If it can be shown that Mr Wolfowitz acted improperly by helping his lover, Shaha Rizi, to a pay rise and a high-earning post in the US State Department, then he is expected to pay with his own job. This month, the bank ordered a committee to advise on Mr Wolfowitz’s future, and also to look into appointments of staff to his private office. Today, he is due to meet members of the inquiry committee.

It now emerges that in a letter written in response to a “brief conversation” and dated 13 July 2006, the bank’s vice-president, Xavier Coll, told Mr Wolfowitz that it was “virtually impossible” to shut off access to individual salary details, although some staff had had their access “revoked”. The news will come as a further blow to the embattled bank chief, who has been accused of acting with “reckless disregard” of his duties and offering “outlandish compensation packages to the people closest to him”.

This month, 32 anti-corruption officials said in a letter that Mr Wolfowitz was a liability and called for “clear and decisive actions” to resolve the issue.

It is obvious, that Mr Wolfowitz read the wrong chapter of the Nibelungen tale. What might have been a more fruitful teaching for him is the one with the dwarf Alberich, the Rhinemaidens and the lump of gold.

see also

Wolfowitz asked to resign from World Bank

and

Neocons and nepotism? Sex, money & the fall of Wolfowitz

Written by huehueteotl

April 29, 2007 at 10:38 am

Ex-head of CIA accuses Bush over rush to war

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Saulus turning into Paulus, if he is supposed to serve as a scapegoat for the bloody catastrophy of the Anti-Terro-War? Why not, if truth finally will be revealed. The row over how President Bush went to war in Iraq has re-erupted with a charge by George Tenet, the former director of the CIA, that a coterie of top officials pushed America into the conflict with no real debate as to whether Saddam Hussein actually posed an imminent threat to the US. cia-director-george-tenet.jpg

Mr Tenet’s angry indictment of his colleagues is the first of its kind from a top ranking member of Mr Bush’s once-vaunted national security team, and was instantly rebutted by the White House.

“The President did wrestle with those very serious questions,” Dan Bartlett, a senior White House adviser, said yesterday. The former CIA chief, he drily noted, though a “true patriot” was probably unaware of how intensely the President had discussed the case for war with Tony Blair and other allied leaders.

That dismissal, however, is unlikely to be the end of the matter as Iraq is at the centre of political debate here and Mr Bush is poised to veto a measure from the Democrat-controlled Congress that ties $124bn (£62m) of emergency funding for the wars there and in Afghanistan to a phased troop withdrawal starting later this year.

In a sense, the row follows a familar Washington pattern, especially in the second term of a struggling administration, when officials who have lost either arguments or their jobs tend to settle scores with their rivals, usually in the pages of a best-selling political tell-all.

Thus it has been with Mr Tenet, in his 549-page At the Center of the Storm, due to be published on Monday, but whose juiciest segments appeared in the US press yesterday. This time, however, the consequences could resonate far more widely, given the unfolding disaster Iraq has become and that Mr Tenet is confirming from the inside what has long been suspected by most outsiders.

“There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” he writes, nor “a significant discussion” about whether Saddam might have been kept in check without an invasion.

This last point will only strengthen criticism that Mr Bush did not give diplomacy a chance, nor the UN weapons inspectors enough time, to establish what after the invasion quickly became evident: that Iraq did not possess WMD.

Instead, Mr Tenet paints a picture of a small group, centred on Vice-President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon, who had made up their minds that Saddam Hussein’s regime must be removed within weeks of the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Its members include Mr Rumsfeld’s former deputy Paul Wolfowitz – now fighting to keep his job as World Bank president – and Douglas Feith, the Pentagon’s top policy planner.

Mr Tenet is also plainly furious at how Condoleezza Rice, then Mr Bush’s national security adviser, made him designated scapegoat for the debacle of the “16 words” that appeared in the President’s January 2003 State of the Union, claiming that Saddam had sought to buy uranium in Niger. The row made inevitable his resignation in mid-2004.

But nothing enrages Mr Tenet more than the infamous “slam dunk” episode, at a White House meeting in December 2002, three months before the invasion. In his 2004 book, Plan of Attack, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward claimed that Mr Tenet had assured the President that the evidence that Saddam had WMD was a “slam dunk” – a sure thing, in basketball parlance.

Mr Tenet now plainly believes the leak to Mr Woodward was another set-up to pin responsibility on the CIA. In his version, he uttered the two words with which he will forever be associated in reference to a strategy of improving public presentation of the evidence, not to the strength of the evidence itself. Since then both Mr Cheney and Ms Rice have publicly used his “slam dunk” statement to excuse their own pre-war belief Iraq had WMD.

For the CIA director, this was “the despicable thing I’ve heard in my life”.

“Men of honour don’t do this,” he tells tomorrow’s CBS programme 60 Minutes. “How it happened I don’t know, but [it’s] the only thing you have at the end of the day.” From that moment, “the trust was broken between me and the White House,” he added.

As literature and science are of no concern to the surveillance issues of the CIA, Mr. Tenet had sure no time to read Ottosen on key stages of a military campaign to “soften up” public opinion through the media in preparation for an armed intervention, his “trust” into the White House sure had to be shattered. Besides, neither literature nor science would be a bad field of research for a Central Ingelligence Agency, and it might even keep war mongery at bay…

(after Rupert Cornwell, Washington – The Independent )

The Bush Rogue Gallery […]

see also:

Bush’s long history of tilting Justice

and

What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico?

or

Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS

Written by huehueteotl

April 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm