The Battle of Algiers

It’s a classic and seems strangely poignant these days when we are all reading about insurgencies and counterinsurgency.

The Battle of Algiers is a classic movie about the Algerian War.

The topics — insurgency, bombings, terrorism, counterinsurgency, torture — seem strangely poignant and current.

I rate the movie 8/10.

Plagiarism

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But copying whole articles without citation is not.

While plagiarism has been there forever, the Internet makes it really easy. At the same time, it makes it easy to find out if someone has copied and pasted your writing and passed it off as their own.

Recently, I found out that Paksir has copied my blog article about global gender attitudes without so much as a hint of where it came from. My comment on his blog to provide a link has gone unanswered for more than two weeks.

Let’s look at a more amusing example: Muhammad Imran Latif’s portfolio page. I was alerted to the similarities with my About Zack page last year. I tried contacting him, but got no reply. Since then, I have made some minor changes to my about page, so let’s compare his description of himself with mine from the wayback machine

Imran Latif Me
My name is Muhammad Imran Latif. I am usually known as Pomy & Imran. My name is Zakaria Ajmal. “Zakaria” is a biblical name and hence has different spellings and pronunciations in different languages. I don’t mind the different spellings that much, but to make it easy, I am usually known as Zack.
I am 27 years old and i am originally from Pakistan where I was born and raised. I was living in Daska, the beautiful city, before coming to the Islamabad. I am a Muslim. I am 35 years old and am originally from Pakistan where I was born and raised. I was living in Islamabad, the capital city, before coming to the US. Like most of the Pakistani population (97% according to the CIA World Factbook), I am a Muslim.
I came to the Islamabad 1 years ago and am currently a Web designer and Network administrator Computer field. I came to the US 9 years ago and am currently a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering (research interests: computer vision and graphics/animation, video and image analysis, telepresence, etc.) at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA.
Other than research and teaching, I like to plants and gardening. I am also very much interested in economics, information technology teaching, social work, politics and national affairs. Other than research and teaching, I like to camp and hike, travel and take photographs with my digital camera. I am also very much interested in science fiction, history, politics and international affairs.
I got married to Sofia (nickname: Bahaar) on September 5, 2005. We have had a lot of fun together and plan to live together happily ever after. I got married to Ambrin (nickname: Amber) on December 1, 1994. We have had a lot of fun together and plan to live together happily ever after.
On August 29, 2006, a cute Michelle was born to Baahar and me. Nowadays, she is the center of our universe. On August 12, 2004, a cute Michelle was born to Amber and me. Nowadays, she is the center of our universe. She has a weblog of her own on which we post her photographs, video clips and milestones etc. If you would like to read her blog, please email me.

How much do you want to bet that Imran’s daughter is not actually named Michelle?

For the record, here is my policy on copying stuff:

All original content, whether text, images or multimedia, on this weblog, Procrastination, is Copyright © Zakaria Ajmal, except for posts by other authors which belong to them.

You can excerpt the contents of this website anywhere else but you must attribute it to us and cite the location (URL) from which you are quoting. However, you are not allowed to copy our images without permission. Similarly, you are not allowed to hotlink to any of our photographs.

An exception to this policy pertains to the comments by visitors and readers, which belong to the commenters themselves.

Hat tip to the two readers who tipped me off about these two cases.

Juno

Juno is a high school girl who becomes pregnant. This is a comedy about that and is a fun watch.

Juno is a comedy about a young girl who gets pregnant and her travails during that time while she and her parents try to arrange an adoption.

It’s a fun film with the girl Juno, played by Ellen Page, and her dad, played by J. K. Simmons, doing great work and providing good comedic moments.

I would rate it 8/10.

Rendition and Torture

Rendition and torture have been official US policy since September 11, 2001. How can we find out all the abuses of the Bush administration and end these crimes?

Extraordinary Rendition is defined as:

the extrajudicial transfer of an individual to a country where there is reasonable probability he will be tortured.

Mother Jones (hat tip: Desi Italiana) recounts the renditions carried out by the United States, including those before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In our research we have counted 67 known cases of extraordinary rendition by the United States since 1995. While the details are often incomplete, they help paint a more complete picture of this secretive and controversial Central Intelligence Agency program.

[…] Then-CIA director George Tenet testified before the 9/11 Commission that there were more than 80 renditions before September 11, 2001. We found information on 29 cases of extraordinary and ordinary rendition prior to 9/11. Of the 14 that qualify as extraordinary renditions, 12 were to Egypt.

[…] We found information on 117 renditions that have occurred since September 11, 2001. When we excluded renditions to Afghanistan, CIA secret prisons (or “black sites”), Guantanamo, or American custody, we found 53 cases of extraordinary rendition. All individuals for whom the rendition destination is known were sent to countries that have been criticized by the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which document “torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Of these 53 prisoners, more than one quarter have explicitly claimed that they were tortured while in foreign custody; four claim they were tortured while passing through American custody either en route to or following foreign custody. Four others may have been tortured while in foreign custody based on secondhand accounts or vague descriptions of treatment in prisons in their destination countries. Sixteen of the 53 individuals have been released after extraordinary renditions, and half of them claimed they were tortured while in foreign custody; two claim they were tortured while in American custody.

These renditions, which started in the Clinton era, resulted in torture by states that were well-known to use torture in their interrogations.

For hours, the words come pouring out of Abu Omar as he describes his years of torture at the hands of Egypt’s security services. Spreading his arms in a crucifixion position, he demonstrates how he was tied to a metal door as shocks were administered to his nipples and genitals. His legs tremble as he describes how he was twice raped. He mentions, almost casually, the hearing loss in his left ear from the beatings, and how he still wakes up at night screaming, takes tranquilizers, finds it hard to concentrate, and has unspecified “problems with my wife at home.” He is, in short, a broken man.

Torture is not just something we have outsourced to countries like Egypt. Instead, after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration has issued legal opinions declaring torture okay. John Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel wrote a memo in August 2002 and another one in March 2003, basically declaring an imperial Presidency that had the power to declare torture legal if it felt like it.

Torture was discussed and approved at the highest levels of the government.

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

[…] The high-level discussions about these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed — down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

As the national security adviser, Rice chaired the meetings, which took place in the White House Situation Room and were typically attended by most of the principals or their deputies.

And Bush approved of these torture policies.

In a stunning admission to ABC news Friday night, President Bush declared that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. Bush reportedly told ABC, “I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” Bush also defended the use of waterboarding.

ACLU suggests that we should demand accountability from Congress and I urge you to send a letter to your Congressman right now.

The Bush administration is still using the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture and claiming that the CIA is allowed to use these methods.

The Justice Department has told Congress that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law.

The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees.

While the Geneva Conventions prohibit “outrages upon personal dignity,” a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments.

“The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,” said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public.

The rot in the state is widespread. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia likes to excuse torture for the purpose of thwarting terrorist attacks and Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain, while an opponent of tortute, voted against prohibiting torture by the CIA, despite the fact that he was tortured by using stress positions by the North Vietnamese when he was a prisoner of war.

May be Congress can get the 7,000 documents relating to torture and rendition that the CIA is unwilling to release and make them public and the next administration can untie the hands of the FBI and get it to investigate these abuses.

Seven

A good crime movie in which the killer is inspired by the seven deadly sins.

Se7en is a movie about a serial killer who is inspired by the seven deadly sins which are:

  1. Greed
  2. Gluttony
  3. Sloth
  4. Lust
  5. Pride
  6. Envy
  7. Wrath

It’s a good movie in which Kevin Spacey as the killer and Morgan Freeman as the retiring police detective are very good. Brad Pitt as the new detective is okay.

I rate the movie 8/10 despite the fact that I had a good idea how it was ending.

Why GPS is Better Than a Wife

While a GPS receiver doesn’t compare to a wife, it’s probably better for navigation purposes.

Here are some reasons:

  1. A GPS does not act all grumpy when asked to navigate.
  2. A GPS receiver does not take 30 minutes to tell you where you were half an hour ago.
  3. A GPS does not get directionally confused by the highway loop around the city.
  4. A GPS does not skip one page in the directions you printed out from Mapquest.
  5. A GPS does not refuse to navigate when you don’t take the route it recommended.
  6. A wife does not cheerfully recalculate a new route to your destination when you don’t take a turn.
  7. On the other hand, a wife will not suggest you cross a river. Instead, she’ll force you to stop.

Got any more?