Friday, December 23, 2005

Arab answer to Barbie...

I received this story today via email; sent to me by my very good friend, Ed Papp ("Mr. Ed") and thought that all my readers would enjoy it.

Ed was the Operations Manager at the Saudi Investment Bank, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and I was his EDP guy. He was "Captain Kirk" and I was "Scotty". Thanks for the email, Ed, it's a perfect post at this time of year...

Fulla has the Mid-East doll market covered

By Ed O'Loughlin
Herald Correspondent in Jerusalem
December 23, 2005

Photo: ED O'Loughlin

SHE is the must-have toy this festive season, flying off the shelves. But the season in question is Eid al-Adha next month, not Christmas. Santa Claus means nothing to her.

Fulla, the Muslim doll, is now thought to be the best-selling girl's toy in the Arab world, two years after she first came on the market, displacing her Western rival, Barbie, in shops across her native Levant.

With thick black hair and large dark eyes, Fulla is the physical antithesis of Mattel's blonde, empty-eyed icon of Western consumerism.

Compared with Barbie's improbably pneumatic curves and lanky legs, Fulla's assets are modest, and never officially on display. Although she is marketed with a range of funky clothes, furniture, jewellery and grooming equipment, to avoid offending Muslim modesty, she has no swimwear.

And when she steps outdoors, she hides beneath a white hijab scarf and modest ankle-length coat, or even an all-enveloping black abaya cloak. Like the little girls who play with her, Fulla must learn to lead a double life.

The rise of Fulla, who is skilfully marketed by her Syrian creators, New Boy Toys, has aroused mixed feelings across the Middle East.

Many Arab parents are happy to see a local girl take on and defeat the might of Western myth-making. But some worry that Barbie, with her independent lifestyle and wide range of jobs, is giving way to a new role model who hides her hair and figure and - judging from the slick adverts on Arabic satellite TV - has little to do but shop, hang out with her friends, Yasmeen (suspiciously blonde) and Nadia (a coppery redhead), or pray on her optional prayer mat.

As for romantic prospects, Fulla has no male friends at all, "though she might have angry brothers", as one joke has it.

Fulla's role in shaping expectations is undoubtedly a selling point for some conservative Muslim parents.

"Fulla is one of us but Barbie is still a stranger," says Mohammed al-Sabbagh, a manager at Space Toon, Damascus's leading toy store.

"Fulla is my sister, my wife, my mother. She comes from the same culture. The other thing for me, as a parent, is about what I want for my child. Barbie has a boyfriend and a bikini and so on, which is not our style in the Middle East."

Space Toon has recently been running a special promotion: buy one "outdoor" Fulla and get two cartons of Fulla spreadable processed cheese.

New Boy's Western-style aspirational TV advertising has created a profitable buzz among little girls across the region, who - like their Western counterparts - compete to be first in the playground with the latest spin-off product.

For the vast majority, questions of religion and modesty play no conscious role in their choice of toy. Yasmin Bakr, 7, who comes from a liberal, non-hijab-wearing family in the Palestinian town of Ramallah, has Barbie and Fulla dolls. But if she had to choose between them, she would hold on to Fulla.

"Because she's nice. She looks nice, everything. I like her face so much."

Both dolls are of very similar size and construction, and some are even manufactured by the same subcontractor in China.

So successful is the Fulla range, selling more than 1.3 million dolls at about $20 each, that it has already spawned a Chinese knock-off, Fulah, sold in near identical packaging.

Fulla's connection with Syria - still at war with Israel - prevents formal distribution in Israeli-controlled areas like East Jerusalem, although they can sometimes be found in toyshops there.

Across the city, the three toy stores in West Jerusalem's Malcha Mall do not sell Fulla dolls at all.

2006 season White Sox Moves - Part 6

The White Sox continue to retool their roster for 2006. GM Kenny Williams has made several moves over the past week or so.

The biggest one, of course, was the trade of El Duque, Luis Vizcaino and Chris Jones to Arizona for Javier Vazquez. With yet another proven starter on board, this may affect both John Garland and Jose Contreras. Both of them will be in their final contract year next year. Ken Williams may have wanted to use Vazquez as leverage/insurance if one or both of them bolt or demand a higher price than the Sox are willing to pay. With both El Duque and Vizcaino gone, Brandon McCarthy is the only pitcher remaining who can do long relief out of the bullpen. This is a curse for McCarthy as he wants to be a starter (and certainly looks like he can handle the role).

The bottom line is that the White Sox now have 6 solid starters, an unbelievable luxury. Does any other team even have 4? How many do the Yankees have? (and no, Johnny Damon doesn’t count) Personally, I’m expecting a move with at least one of these starters in the near future, certainly before Spring Training. I don’t know what chances the Sox have of acquiring Miguel Tejada (who wanted out of Baltimore, but now seems to have recanted), but starting pitching is the major “currency of the realm” and the Sox have it in spades.

The Sox have also signed AJ Pierzynski to a 3-year deal. I’m very happy about this as I think AJ was a true unsung hero this year, even with as much ink as he received in the playoffs. I think he is directly responsible for much of the success that the Sox pitchers enjoyed this year. He’s such a huge step-up from Miguel Olivo and is the best catcher the Sox have had, IMHO, since Carlton Fisk.

And finally, the Sox have non-tendered four players, Willie Harris, Timo Perez, Jon Adkins and Felix Diaz. Though Timo came through several times with clutch hits, and also played a very creditable outfield, the one I’m really going to miss is Willie Harris. As I’ve written before, I think he’s finally figured out how to hit major league pitching. And with his speed, he can bat leadoff, especially important to the Sox if Podsednik goes down. Yes the Sox can still re-sign him, but with his talent, I think he’s going to wind up as a starter somewhere else. I think the kid’s got a lot of talent and someone is going to get the benefit of it.

If the Sox carry 12 pitchers and 13 non-pitchers, they have a couple of holes to fill. Their signed pitchers include Buerhle, Garcia, Hernandez, Garland, Vazquez, and McCarthy ast starters, and Jenks, Hermanson, Cotts and Politte in the bullpen. They also have David Sanders and Jeff Bajeneru on the bullpen depth chart, but only as filler, I think, as they need at least one more lefty there.

For their 13 non-pitchers, they now have Konerko, Iguchi, Uribe, Crede, Dye, Anderson, Podsednik, Pierzynski and Thome as their everyday starters and Widger, Ozuna and Mackowiak on the bench. For that 13th spot, they have either Borchard or Gload. I think Gload has the edge because he bats lefty.

Any way you look at it, the Sox are, on paper at least, stronger than they were when they won the World Series. That’s saying a lot, but I don’t see how you can argue with it.

Only 101 days until April 2nd, Opening Day, 2006 – I can’t wait.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another blow to “Intelligent Design”

Fundamentalist Christians have been trying to introduce their religious dogma into Public Schools in America for decades. The latest effort has been to put lipstick on the pig of Creationism by renaming it “Intelligent Design” and trying to get it introduced as a “scientific alternative to evolution” in High School science classes.

In October of 2004, the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania became the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in its Public school science classes. Outraged parents, concerned about this Fundamentalist Christian attack on scientific discipline and intellectual honesty, struck back on two fronts. First, they filed suit against the School Board that had introduced this mandate, claiming that the mandate violated the separation of church and state. And second, they organized to oust the School Board members in the upcoming election.

They have now succeeded on both fronts. Last month, in a victory for local activism and common sense, all 8 of the School Board members who ran for re-election were defeated. And today, in a Federal Court in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, “Intelligent Design” was dealt a stinging defeat. Not only did the judge rule that the School Board was wrong to mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design, it ordered them to pay the court costs of those parents who filed suit. The opinion of Judge John E. Jones III, a Republican appointee of George Bush, is well worth reading;

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.

Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

John E. Jones III
United States District Judge

Game, set and match.

It would be nice to believe that this would signal the end of this debate, but it probably won’t. However, the forces of darkness and religious intolerance have certainly been dealt a major blow.

If one is interested in reading more about this debate, the Wikipedia entry about Intelligent Design is pretty comprehensive.

A belated “Hats off” to the good citizens of Dover, PA and a rousing cheer of approval for Judge Jones.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Merry Christmas – Take 3…

A few days ago, I posted some pictures of Santa Claus blindfolded and hung from a tree. A new picture has popped up, this one of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer, hung from a tree in a pose indicating that it has been shot and is being bled – what hunters do to an animal after they kill it. More details can be found here.


The United States is “stuck on stupid”…

Today, the United States told the organizers of the world’s first World Baseball Classic that, due to our continuing embargo against Cuba, a team from that country is not welcome to participate in the tournament. Details are here.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Our “Official Policy” towards Cuba sucks. There’s no reason why we should not have normal relations with this country. During the Cold War, there was some logic to our cold shoulder towards Castro’s Cuba, but that went out the window when the Warsaw Pact crumbled. Now the policy is just stupid. Cuban exiles, unhappy with Castro’s regime, allied with revanchist Neanderthals in our government, drive this policy. And all of us suffer because of it.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If I want to visit Cuba, I have to go through a third country. It reminds me of a similar situation in the Middle East. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, I was unable to visit Israel unless I first left Saudi Arabia for another country (such as Jordan) and then traveled to Israel from there. Also, I would have to careful not to have an Israeli Visa stamped in my passport or I could come to grief when returning to Saudi Arabia.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Hey guys, the Cold War is over. We won. Cuba is no longer a threat to us. I’m no fan of Castro, but what are we accomplishing by continuing our embargo? It hasn’t helped America in any way. It hasn’t helped Cuban citizens either.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Castro should offer to host the tournament in Cuba – then the shoe would be on the other foot as the United States would not allow players from this country to participate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tookie Williams – was Justice served?

I’m not a fan of the death penalty, but as I’ve written before, I think it’s OK under a limited set of circumstances;

1) We are 100% sure (not “beyond a reasonable doubt” sure but “100%” sure) that the person in question committed the crime.

2) The victim’s family/families want the person executed.

If both criteria are satisfied, then go ahead and fry the bastard. If not, he/she gets life in prison with no possibility of parole, unless, of course, new evidence comes in which exonerates them.

In William’s case, I don’t think the first criteria was satisfied. I will agree there seems to be little dispute about whether or not he committed the 4 murders he was convicted of. But he maintained his innocence until the end and no eyewitnesses to the killings have stepped forward. And, forgive me, but I live in Illinois, a state where the capital punishment system is a sick joke. We have had plenty of experience in this state with people being convicted of a capital crime, spending years (or decades) on death row, and then being exonerated because new evidence (usually DNA) has cleared them. I have little faith in prosecutors who say they are “sure” they have their man. Too often they have been wrong and, in a capital case, the consequences are too severe to allow any possibility of error to enter the equation.

I don’t think you should even entertain the possibility of executing someone unless there is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that this person committed the crime. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is fine for a conviction, but it’s just not good enough when it comes to taking someone’s life.

If there is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT, then you’ve satisfied the first criteria. At that point, I’d leave it up to the family/families of the victim/s. Some families will want the execution, and they should have this right. For many people, revenge (and let’s be honest – that’s what it is) is what they want and I say let them have it. But others may not believe in the Death Penalty. For them, the criminal’s execution would not bring “closure” but, rather, would be yet another crime. And if they don’t want the criminal killed, then why not just lock him/her up? They’re not going anywhere, and they can be studied, hopefully to find out why some people do these sick things.

So my answer is “No”, I don’t think Justice was served in this case.

What would I do if it was a member of my family who was murdered? I hope I would be honest enough to live up to the standards I’m setting. And, even more, I hope I never have to find out.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Road Kill

This picture, the results of the pickup truck hitting a deer (I'm assuming), reminded me of a rather scary moment I experienced many years ago.

One night, when I was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (this was probably in 1984 or 1985), I was the front-seat passenger in a car driven by a buddy of mine, Craig K. We were heading back home after a weekend outing with the local Hashers. The road was pitch dark – no street lamps at all and Craig was driving like he normally did, i.e. quite fast. All of a sudden, a camel appeared in the headlights, standing right in the middle of the road. Craig swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting it, but we were going too fast and were just too close. We struck the camel on the passenger side front bumper, right in front of me. The camel flipped up, smashed into the windshield, again right in front of me and then up and over the top of the car. We didn’t dare stop as if we had been caught, two Americans having killed a camel in Saudi Arabia, it probably wouldn’t have gone very well for us.

We were lucky the car was drivable – Camels are pretty big creatures. The bumper and passenger front quarter panel were fairly well damaged, and the windshield in front of me had "starred" but did not, fortunately, break. I don't know how the deer in the picture could have gone through that windshied - perhaps it was a buck with horns which penetrated it somehow.

Our camel accident was not an isolated one, either. When my oldest daughter visited me in Riyadh, we took a road trip to Jeddah, Abha, the Asir National Park and Najran. We must have seen dozens of dead, bloated camels, lying by the side of the road throughout the trip. They were a very depressing sight indeed.

Merry Christmas - Take 2...

With all the snow we had yesterday, it reminded me of one of my favorite seasonal cartoons...

2006 season White Sox Moves - Part 5

The White Sox have made a few more moves, preparing for the 2006 season.

Most significantly and most sad (IMHO) was the cutting of ties with Frank Thomas. I’ve written about my feelings towards the Big Hurt before – I think he’s a great hitter, one of the best I’ve ever seen, and his ability to hit even the best pitchers on their best day was something that I’ve seen few others able to do. But with Thome on board, and Thomas' recent history of injuries, Thomas’ days were numbered. I’m not looking forward to games where Thomas, in another uniform, faces the Sox. I hope Big Frank makes it to the Hall of Fame – I think he deserves it, no doubt.

The Sox also cut ties with Carl Everett and Raul Casanova. Everett played hard and well for the Sox. He came through with many clutch hits, was a switch-hitter, and could play a decent outfield. But again, with Thome on board, there was just no room for him. Casanova looks like he has a bright future in front of him, but it’s going to be with someone else. With Pierzynski and Widger, the Sox already have a great 1-2 punch behind the plate.

Yesterday, the Sox traded their head case, Damaso Marte, for utility-man supreme, Rod Mackowiak. He plays every position but SS, Catcher and Pitcher. His left-handed bat and his fielding are very respectable. He’s an upgrade from Geoff Blum (recently departed) and, with all the positions he can play, I expect he’ll see 200+ at-bats this year. Marte had a tremendous year in 2003, but in 2004 and this last year he tailed off. He could still bring it, but usually didn’t. When he was on, he was absolute death to left-handed hitters and pretty tough on righties as well. But he doesn’t fit with Guillen’s style and probably won’t be missed.

In addition to their 9 starting position players; Konerko, Iguchi, Uribe, Crede, Dye, Anderson (penciled-in), Podsednik, Pierzynski and Thome (as DH), they’ll have Widger, Ozuna and Mackowiak as backups. Assuming they carry 12 pitchers, this leaves just one roster spot open. Of the three candidates, Ross Gload, Timo Perez and Willie Harris, the smart money says it will be Gload. Actually, he’s my least-favorite of the three. The Sox already have 3 guys who can play first, Konerko, Thome and Mackowiak (plus Jermaine Dye, in a pinch), so Gload’s glove isn’t necessary. All three are left-handed hitters. Yes, Gload has more power, but both Perez and Harris have more speed. And, after a weak start to his career, Harris was hitting very well at the end of last season. He’s also fast enough to be a lead-off guy, the importance of which was shown in how poorly (relatively speaking) the Sox played last year when Podsednik was out.. Timo Perez didn’t hit for average but he got some very clutch hits for the team last year. Perez plays only the outfield, while Harris can play the infield and outfield. If it was up to me, I think I’d keep Harris, and try to deal the other two for another left-hander for the bullpen. But there’s no doubt that it’s a luxury when your biggest decision is who to keep for your 25th and final roster position.

With the pickup of Mackowiak, the Sox feel that they can carry 12 pitchers, yet another luxury. On the mound, the Sox will need to make a decision between Hernandez and McCarthy for the 5th starter’s spot. If they go with McCarthy and put Hernandez in the bullpen, he would join Hermanson (assuming his back rehabs OK), Jenks, Vizcaino, Politte and Cotts. This, too, leaves just one roster spot open. They can choose between Bajaneru and Sanders or else go out and try and find another left-hander to complement Cotts.

All in all, they appear to be pretty well set. Barring injuries, there is no reason at all why they shouldn’t be a favorite to get to the World Series again. On The Best Damn Sports Show last night, Rob Dibble picked the White Sox and the Mets to meet in the 2006 World Series. Nice to have the respect now – it seems that the Sox have made believers out of a lot of people.

In other Sox news, Tadahito Iguchi has agreed to play for Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. This makes three Sox players in this new event; Mark Buerhle (for the USA), Freddy Garcia (for Venezuela) and Iguchi. I am truly looking forward to this tournament – I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Only 115 days until April 2nd, Opening Day, 2006 – I can’t wait.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Merry Christmas...

Somebody has either a very weird sense of humor or else is behind on his medication. Details can be found here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

'06 World Baseball Classic

I’ve always enjoyed the John Cleese (Monty Python) joke about the difference between Brits and Americans. As John puts it; “We like our tea hot, while Americans like it cold. When we have a World Series, we invite teams from other countries to play. And when we greet our ruler, it's on one knee, not two.” This was when Bill Clinton was in office.

His comment about the World Series, referring to Major League Baseball calling its championship tournament a "World Series" even though only teams from the US and Canada play, is spot on. As anyone who has paid attention to Major League baseball over the years can tell you, the percentage of foreign-born players in the Major Leagues has been growing rapidly. It’s no longer just an American game. And Americans are no longer the hands-down best at it.

This year, for the first time, an international tournament of professional baseball players is going to be held. The tournament, named the ’06 World Baseball Classic ('06WBC), will have teams representing 16 countries playing games from March 3rd through March 20th in 2006. These 16 teams will be divided into 4 pools. Pool A will consist of teams from Japan, Korea, China and Chinese Taipei. Pool B’s teams will be from Canada, Mexico, South Africa and the USA. Pool C’s teams will be from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama and the Netherlands. And Pool D’s teams will be from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and Italy.

The majority of the players in this tournament will be from the Major Leagues. Some of the teams are a real collection of All-Stars, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the United States (of course) in particular. Teams will play each other only once, with the winner and runner-up playing a maximum of 8 games, averaging a game every other day. Venues are Japan for Pool A and three different sites in the US for Pools B, C, D.

There are some interesting political dynamics here. In each pool, each team plays everyone else once. This means that in Pool A, teams from China and Chinese Taipei will be playing each other. If the United States advances from Pool B and Cuba advances from Pool C, they could wind up playing each other, also.

This tournament is also being held right in the middle of Major League Spring Training, so this will cause issues, too. Managers will be concerned that their players will have to get ready early and may injure themselves. We’ll have to see how it works out, but I’m sure it will in the end. Soccer has been doing this for decades; having professional leagues play during their seasons, but also having their players play for their country in the World Cup. This is the way baseball is headed, too. It’s a good thing.

I’ll want to spend some time thinking about the schedule and the match-ups before I feel comfortable making some predictions, but here are some initial thoughts.

Pool A – Japan should win this in a walk. They have a long history of baseball and Japanese players are increasingly found in the Majors.

Pool B – The United States should win this, with Mexico finishing second. The US is just too deep in pitching and hitting to lose in this bracket.

Pool C – A real toss-up. If you just go by Major League players, Puerto Rico has the edge. But Cuba has a long history of developing baseball talent, too.

Pool D – A dogfight between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. The Dominican roster is pretty awesome; Adrian Beltre, Bartolo Colon, Francisco Cordero, Vladimir Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Felix Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Tejada and host of others. Venezuela is nearly equally as deep. Such small countries (relatively speaking) and such large talent.

More information about the inaugural '06WBC can be found here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Winter mayhem

If you enjoy the sound of kids screaming in terror, click here.

Alex Haley and Roots

Several months ago, I posted an item on this blog mentioning that for my English Composition project, I was going to do a research paper on Alex Haley’s blockbuster book, Roots. I chose this project because author Jack Cashill, in his latest book, Hoodwinked, stated that Roots was a hoax and that it wasn’t the “true story” of Alex Haley’s family as has been widely portrayed in the media.

The point of my paper was to determine, at least in my mind, if Roots was a true story or was, as Cashill states, a hoax.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Cashill was right – Roots is a fraud, and a big-time one at that. In Roots, Haley claims that he is a direct descendent of Kunta Kinte (aka Toby), a slave brought to America in 1767, and says he was able to trace Kinte’s (and his) lineage back to a village in western Africa. But research shows that much of what he writes is either stolen, embellished or just factually wrong. To wit:

Haley committed plagiarism, a Federal crime for which he had to pony up a half-million dollars in an out-of-court settlement to one of the authors he plagiarized, Mr. Harold Courlander. At the trial, Courlander was able to demonstrate how dozens of passages from his book, The African, found their way into Roots. As an aside, Courlander is a white author – the irony is rich indeed.

Haley claimed that his alleged “direct ancestor”, Kunta Kinte, came to America in 1767 aboard the Lord Lignonier, a British slaver. Yet a check of the records available show slave ownership records for this same Toby as far back as 1762, five full years before he allegedly was brought to America. These same records also shred much of the oral history he claims was carefully preserved by his family.

Finally, Haley claimed that Kunta Kinte came from a village in The Gambia, a country in western Africa. In Roots, Haley writes about the tremendous emotion caused within him by his meeting with a griot, a village elder charged with keeping oral records of the local goings-on. This same griot “identifies” which village Kunta Kinte came from. But research shows that this meeting was a setup, controlled and primed by government “minders” who made sure that Haley “discovered” exactly what he wanted to discover and no more.

In short, little of Roots has any historical value as a non-fiction work. As a novel, it’s not bad, but I didn’t find it as riveting as its reputation would have you believe. Yet the legend of Roots lives on. As I conclude in my paper, it’s a little like the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree; apocryphal, but few seem to care.

I’m not the first person to “uncover” this hoax. In addition to the writings of Jack Cashill, other writers and columnists, among them Philip Nobile, Mark Ottaway and Stanley Crouch, have also written about this fraud. Even Wikipedia mentions the plagiarism, though they stay away from the historical errors. In addition, the BBC produced a documentary about this subject, a documentary that has never been aired in the United States. After a lot of sleuthing, I was able to acquire a copy of this program and its transcript and it is a fascinating look at this subject.

I turned in the Final Draft of this term paper today. While much of what I wrote about was previously covered ground, I do think I was first in offering a reasonable explanation as to why Haley did what he did and why he probably saw nothing wrong with it. If anyone is interested in reading it, you can access it here. Note that you’ll need Microsoft Word (97 or later) to open it.

This was the first academic research project I have ever done, and it probably shows. I have no idea what grade I’ll get on it, but I’ll let you know when I find out. There’s an art and skill to doing this type of work that I frankly hadn’t appreciated before. Doing research in the business world, in order to accomplish a specific task, is one thing. I’ve done a lot of that and was pretty successful at it. But doing academic research to gather facts and then writing up the results to prove a point one way or the other is quite different. As I match up my work with the previously mentioned ones by Cashill, Ottaway and Nobile, I can see I have a long way to go. But I found the process fascinating and absorbing and am looking forward to doing more of it.

I’ve also learned a new respect for Librarians. If you can get them interested in your project, they can be of immense help. I’ve also had the value of eBay reconfirmed for me. There is a lot of Alex Haley “memorabilia” available on eBay and I purchased much of it. This included a copy of the Roots DVD set, a 1977 Playboy magazine with an Interview of Alex Haley, a 1977 Ebony magazine with their interview of Haley, an LP containing a speech by Alex Haley (and then I had to find a record player to play it on) a PAL-capable VHS player so that I could play my copy of the BBC program about this subject, etc. There is no doubt about it, eBay rocks...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

French bashing...

Go to

Type in "French military victories" in the search field.

Click on "I'm feeling lucky".

Laugh (unless you're French)...

Thanks, Pete.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Jay Leno’s interview with an Iranian astronaut…

On the Tonight show this evening, Jay Leno had his first interview with “Buzz” Mustafa, Iran’s first astronaut. This interview was done along the lines with the ones he occasionally does with “President Bush”. It was really funny, though definitely not PC. Some of the exchange;

Jay: “What are your plans in space?”
Mustafa: “We plan on having a hostage on the moon by 2020.”

Jay: “Are you going to plant a flag on the moon?”
Mustafa: “No, we’re going to burn the American flag that’s already there.”

Jay: “On your trip, what are you going to do for food?”
Mustafa: “I’m bringing a goat. Goat milk is very nutritious.”

Jay: “And what are you going to do for sex?”
Mustafa: “I told you, I’m bringing a goat. They’re very nurturing creatures. They’re good listeners, too”.

Really funny stuff. I’m looking forward to future interviews with “Buzz” (assuming the censors don’t stop them first).Iran really does have a space program. They’ve put one satellite in orbit (sent there by a Russian launcher) and have ambitious plans to do much more. The current status of their program can be found here.

They certainly have the capability as they’re rich and educated. Iran also is a country that feels very isolated and wants to do what it can to protect itself – satellite monitoring capabilities are high on their list of desires. They live next to a sea of Arabs, are at death-odds with Israel, have already suffered one unwanted change of leadership with help from the American CIA (many Americans forget this and wonder why Iran is so paranoid) and are deathly afraid of the 150,000+ American troops next door in Iraq. And, as Robert Heinlein pointed out many years ago, the laws of Physics work for everyone, not just Americans.

Anyway, here’s to “Buzz” – long may he continue to provide entertainment for us…

World AIDS Day

This is just an odd picture. The Obelisk of Buenos Aires, a monument that is approximately 220 feet tall, was covered in a giant condom to commemorate World AIDS Day.

According to a Reuters report;

The Obelisk of Buenos Aires is covered with a giant condom to commemorate World AIDS Day December 1, 2005. According to a report issued by ONUSIDA (UN AIDS), the number of people infected with the HIV virus in Latin America had risen over the last year from 1.6 to 1.8 million.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

2006 season White Sox Moves - Part 4

Hoorah – Paulie decides to stay with the Champs!

Great news today for White Sox fans as Paul Konerko announced he was going to accept the White Sox 5 year, $60 million offer to re-up. In a phone interview, he pointed to the recent acquisition of Jim Thome as a prime reason why he wanted to stay. Chalk up another one for Kenny Williams…

Konerko has been so consistent for the White Sox. A lot of players put on a salary drive; generating big numbers in the last year of their contract. For Paulie, last year (the last year in his old contract) was just a typical one for him. He’s practically a lock for 100+ rbi’s and 35+ home runs each year and he plays a fine first base. And his on-field batting and fielding performance during the 12 game run to the championship showed that he can do it when it really counts.

He’s such a rock for the team, too, never getting too high or too low. As I’ve written about before, he has shown tremendous grace under pressure. That presence of mind he displayed in the World Series, not getting upset at the fans for interfering with him when he tried to catch a foul ball and then having the grace to retrieve the ball from the field and take the time to find a child to hand it to, said everything one needed to know about his character. And if there was any lingering doubt, his handing the “World Series ball” to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf during the Sox celebration, should lay that to rest. He’s such a plus to the team in every way.

Now that the big signings are completed, we’ll have to wait and see if the White Sox are really going to go after Juan Pierre or will be content to have Brian Anderson join Podsednik and Dye in the outfield. Either way, I think we’ll be satisfied.

Only 123 days until April 2nd, Opening Day, 2006 - I can't wait!


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