Thursday, 27 November 2008
ON PROTECTING KNOWLEDGE
They say to me that you are withdrawn, but they saw a man more humiliated and withdrawn.
I saw people who belittle any humble soul who drew near to
anyone who was exalted by pride they received with honour.
I gave not knowledge its due,
And every time a craving for the world came to me,
I used my knowledge as a staircase to attain it.
When it was said, “This is a fountain.” I said, “I see”.
I strove not in the service of knowledge,
Nor as a servant of the needy souls I met.
I sought, instead, to be saved.
Am I to be made wretched by the seedling I planted,
Harvesting only humiliation?
If this is so, it would have been better to have sought ignorance!
If only the people of knowledge had protected it,
It would have protected them.
If they had magnified it in their souls,
They would have been magnified.
To the contrary, they belittled it,
And thereby became despicable.
They disfigured its face with their craving for the world, leaving it frowning and dejected.
The manner of Woolworth's demise as a going concern was almost as shocking as the fact of its collapse into administration.
Although Woolworth had been one of the UK's weaker retailers for years - propped up by a decade of benign, debt-fuelled trading conditions which we now know to have been unsustainable - it was done in by a sudden deterioration both in the real economy and in financial markets that took hold four weeks ago.
And it's the suddenness of how everything turned bad that shocks - and means Woolies will not be the last casualty.
Up till then, Woolies sales had been broadly flat. Then, on an underlying or like-for-like basis, sales dropped off a cliff, falling by double-digit amounts in percentage terms.
Around the same time, many of its suppliers found they could no longer insure against the risk that Woolies would no be able to pay its bills. So Woolies was forced to pay suppliers in cash for all that important Christmas stock.
In the process Woolies maxed out its borrowing facility: its debt rose to the £385m limit imposed by its lenders, led by GMAC and Burdale (part of Bank of Ireland).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, GMAC and Burdale - each of which is owed around £70m - yesterday decided enough was enough, and pulled the plug. Other financial creditors include Bank of America, Barclays, GE, Wachovia and KBC, with GE owed the most of this bunch, or £50m.
Now what's significant is that Woolies is far from being the only retailer pummelled by the sharp contraction in Britain's economy and also by a sharp and painful rationing of credit insurance.
Many thousands of British businesses have had their insurance cover withdrawn for supplies to companies perceived by insurers as poor risks - and that's causing havoc on the high street.
Unless something can be done to persuade the big providers of credit insurance to reinstate cover - and that would probably require taxpayers to provide some kind of guarantee - Woolies will not be the last substantial victim.
Also, just because Woolies has been something of a lame duck for years, that does not mean its demise is somehow a self-contained episode, with little consequence for the broader economy.
The inevitable loss of jobs, perhaps 20,000 of them, will cause misery and hardship in itself.
There's a hole in the pension fund of £100m, so the Pension Protection Fund will have to pick up the bill for some of the group's pension liabilities - which drains the resources provided to the official protection scheme by other pension funds.
And then there's the knock-on to companies that supply Woolies stores with more than £1.5bn of goods every year. At a time when the UK economy is shrinking fast, the loss of these orders will be painful for hundreds of businesses.
Also Woolies owns a substantial wholesaler of books, music, games and DVDs, Entertainment UK, whose turnover is well over £1bn. Entertainment UK has also gone into administration, which has raised the alarming prospect for some big supermarkets and high street stores that they won't be able to get hold of vital stock during the all-important Christmas selling period.
The corollary is that publishers and music businesses are anxious they won't be able to get their stock on the supermarkets' shelves.
What's more, as Richard Fletcher points out this morning in the Telegraph (and on Tuesday night he made the correct call that neither Woolies or MFI could avoid administration), Woolies' collapse will probably spark a price war - since the administrators will probably keep the stores open for the next few weeks, and slash prices to shift all the stock.
That would be good news for shoppers, very bad news for weak competitors.
So perhaps we should all weep for poor, lost Woolies. As it happens, I love its eclectic mix of light bulbs, pic'n'mix and gadgets you never knew you wanted. And for many kids, it's a treasure chest.
But even if you wrote it off years ago as an anachronism, you can't be wholly insulated from the indirect damage inflicted by the manner of its end.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
They call me a megabyte
Because they think I am bright
The numbers on the page wave at me with delight
My literature continues to inscribe, my pen never stops; my literature points its pen at me
My cheeks are so very chubby
And my body is round
I get called fatty this makes me put on a big frown
What is the need to go to school?
When you just get shoved and pushed around like a fool
This matter is so frustrating, that my nights are getting freightening
I am always thinking thinking
Till my brain is going to explode
This drains me and makes me feel very low
Suddenly I feel the freeze
My legs are jelly knees
What a way to the day
Cyber, physical and verbal
What do you care?
Just remember if you
SEE IT, STOP IT, REPORT IT
By Shakeela Sheikh, Age 11
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
That's how it was. That's the kind of environment that I was brought up in which made me feel, 'I've got to provide for myself'. It wasn't a case of the mums and dads didn't want to do anything. It's a case of, they can't. They're doing their very best, bringing up their children.
Wheeling and dealing came along from an entrepreneurial spirit that I had inside of me. I had a job in the morning going to work in a greengrocer's shop. You turned up at 6.30 in the morning, first thing you did was fill this metal bath up with water, chucked beetroots in, switch the gas ring on and off on to the next job. An hour later they'd been boiled, chuck 'em out on the front, get paid and go to school.
You can't learn business practices out of a book. The most important thing is what experience you've amassed and people have to decide what they want to do in life. I used to write articles for a national newspaper inviting people to write in. You'd get letters coming in saying, 'Hello. I'm John. I'm 16 and I want to start an airline tomorrow'. That is the naivety. It goes from that to very complex business plans.
There's nothing wrong in having those aspirations and being another Richard Branson (Virgin founder) or Stelios Haji-Ioannou (easyJet founder). But if he wants to do that, the first thing he needs to do is become a baggage handler and then become a check-in clerk at the airport and then maybe a managerial person in the airline and then up and up and up the ladder until he understands what the airline business is about. Or marry a rich sheikh's daughter and ask him to give him £500m.
I then sold them for a bit more money, then went out and bought some more stuff. Then I got an automatic packing machine which enabled me to make them a bit quicker. And then my grandfather died and left me £500m. That's how silly it can be. How to you become a millionaire? It's a ridiculous question. It doesn't really warrant answering.
Pressure's put to bear upon the owners of the clubs to perform, which make them do irresponsible and silly things because they're frightened of having their heads beaten in by a few yobs. Maybe it's more having their heads beaten in by the back pages of the newspapers.
It's a weird business. If you try and apply normal business principles in a football club, you end up getting criticised. Although that's what I did for 10 years in Spurs and that's why the club is still there, as far as a corporate entity is concerned.
But here's the point. Do the fans care whether it is financially stable? Not really. And why is that? It's because clubs have been allowed to go bust and then start again the next day. To the actual fan that turns up every Saturday, what does all this balance sheet nonsense mean? Nothing.
Monday, 17 November 2008
Once upon a time a man announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for Rs. 10.The villagers seeing there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at Rs. 10, but as the supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their efforts. The man further announced that he would now buy at Rs. 20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to Rs. 25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at Rs. 50! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now act as buyer, on his behalf.In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: ' Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at Rs. 35 and when he returns from the city, you can sell them back to him for Rs. 50. 'The villagers squeezed together their savings and bought all the monkeys.
Then they never saw the man or his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere!
Friday, 14 November 2008
'Before beginning my talk I want to tell you something about Moses. When he struck the rock and it brought forth water, he thought, 'What a good opportunity to have a bath!'
He removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water.
When he got out and wanted to dress, his clothes had vanished.
An Israeli had stolen them.'
The Israeli representative jumped up furiously and shouted, 'What are you talking about? The Israelis weren't there then.'
The Palestinian representative smiled and said:
'And now that we have made that clear, I will begin my speech.'
Saturday, 8 November 2008
The road will indeed be hard, not least because of the equivalent of improvised explosive devices with which the carriageway has been littered by conservative incompetence and ideological arrogance. The economy has been ruined by mortgage-sellers who hawked poor-people's hopes as a "product", and by smoother metropolitan salesmen sneaking out toxic loans disguised as sophisticated derivatives. Both teams of culprits, it should not be forgotten, were overwhelmingly Republican voters and funders. America's reputation has been seriously damaged by officials who took the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington as a licence to panic, to lie, to kidnap, to torture and to jeer at the ancient and modern guarantees of civilisation: habeas corpus, Geneva conventions, alliances, United Nations, common decency
The urgent need to arrest environmental damage before it is too late has been excused by one exceptionalist illusion after another. "We don't have to worry because of our biofuels. We don't have to worry because the higher the price of energy, the more we can avoid self-denial by offshore drilling in increasingly marginal waters or with Athabasca tar sands".
So, yes, it will be a long and a hard road.
President Obama will have a strong Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, but for that very reason he will meet division in his own party.
He will face an acute dilemma in dealing with the economic disaster. If he allows the bankers to take the government's money and walk off with it in unconscionable bonuses for failure, he risks losing the political confidence of frightened millions among the voters he has recruited. If he is too tough with Wall Street, he risks damaging business confidence at home and abroad.
He will have to act swiftly. Lyndon B Johnson, the last Democrat to win on as big a scale, said "you only have one year". Yet he must avoid the temptation to go for quick fixes He must have the courage to risk structural change: in healthcare, in education, in replacing infrastructure, in shoring up the social-security pension, the greatest achievement of the last new deal. There will be many other dangers to be sidestepped, including those called by Donald Rumsfeld, the wisest fool in Christendom, the "unknown unknowns
He does however have considerable and even unmatched political resources.
He has, first of all, his own political talent, reinforced by the aura of victory, the "mandate of heaven", and the influx of talent to his campaign. He is more than an inspired orator, though he is certainly that - perhaps the most gifted since Martin Luther King. He has self-control. He understands timing. He can inspire those around him and offer hope to whole blocks of voters.
The very severity of the economic crisis may make it easier to slay some familiar demons. He can now, for example, stop talking about the war on terror, close the prison-camp at Guantánamo, move decisively on national health-insurance, help struggling homeowners and compel the banks to behave responsibly.
He has a chance to reconnect the presidency with the political nation, restoring the connecting-rods that have rusted away since they were so effectively used by Franklin D Roosevelt: the party, the government bureaucracy, the ness media and the Congress. To those atrophied limbs he can add new growths: the power of the internet not only to raise formidable sums of money without putting himself in debt to lobbies and special interests, but also to interact with the people in the way that the old party machines had long neglected.
Above all, he has created (in part thanks to the stupidity of the conservatives) a new national coalition to support him. With the exception of the deep south and Texas, this is a national coalition. Barack Obama has won Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Colorado, as well as New York and California. But he has also won the support of retired people and young people, white people, black people, Hispanics, WASPs and Catholic and Jews and Muslims. Only among the over-65s as he failed to break through. Like Roosevelt and John F Kennedy before him, he appeals to intellectuals and professionals, and to women in all these categories.
Not all Americans share his vision. There was no "Bradley effect", the name for residually prejudiced white voters who told pollsters they would support a liberal candidate only to vote the other way in the privacy of the polling-booth. But the Republicans did use a good deal of veiled racism in the campaign, even if John McCain personally (as opposed to the old pros he had inherited from the Bush machine) fought in the main honourably. There is residual racism in America, as elsewhere. But a society that has come to admire Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice is not scared by Barack Obama.
Every American presidential election has two functions. One can be called political, the other meta-political. The voters decide who will enjoy the power and emoluments of literally thousands of elected "officials" (the word is used differently in America from Europe). These go all the way up the country's administrative apparatus - from dog-catchers through the members of school boards and regulatory bodies; some judgeships; municipal, state and federal legislatures; some state governorships (others are chosen in "off-years"); the federal House of Representatives and one-third of the members of the Senate; and at the apex of this immense structure, the vice-president and president of the United States.
The other function is an equally vast but looser process of self-examination and self-criticism. This involves not only the politicians and the voters, but also a self-appointed commentariat. The election year is the opportunity for the American people to argue about what has happened, where they are, and where they want to go. Once upon a time this discussion was led by editorial writers. Then, because most of the 15,000 newspapers could not afford specialist commentators, and most editors were too busy getting the paper out to offer political reflections, a tribe arose of national syndicated columnists. Later, television pundits joined the fray. Now thousands of bloggers, running the gamut from the sagacious to the hysterical, have pitched in. The election becomes the occasion for something not far short of national self-psychoanalysis.
Once, the commentariat was overwhelmingly liberal. But conservatives and especially neo-conservatives have made a special effort to supply their arguments and their people, generously funded through conservative foundations.
In this diversifying media landscape, the new president will have the opportunity to build on his super-efficient and coordinated campaign that used all the tools of new media. The presidency and the American political conversation are set to combine in fascinating and perhaps surprising new ways.
The great issue of the campaign for me from the start was not whether the United States could elect an African-American president, dramatic as that was always going to be as a sign of how far the United States has changed and is changing in racial matters. I am, after all, old enough to remember signs on park-benches in the nation's capital forbidding persons with African blood from sitting on them. In my working lifetime sexual "miscegenation" was a felony in many northern and all southern states. (These were, it used to be said, the most frequently broken laws in all human history.)
The even greater issue in 2008 was whether this was to be what the political scientists call a "critical election" bringing about what is called a "realignment" of politics.
That means something more than even the most decisive a decisive win for a particular candidate for the presidency. It means a shaking of the political kaleidoscope, as has happened at fairly regular intervals: in 1912, 1932, 1968. In those years, and (so the learned argue) in some 19th-century elections as well, blocs of voters and interest groups abandoned one of the two historic parties and came together in different predominating alliances.
Such political cataclysms do not happen by spontaneous generation. They are forged by the hammer-blow of events in the heat of national perception of those events: the great depression (1932); the unrest of the progressive era (1912); and the triple impact of the civil-rights revolution urban rioting and the Vietnam war (1968).
For months during the primary campaigns and the early stages of the general election, I feared that a desirable and necessary realignment was not going to happen. The media focused obsessively on how much money the candidates had to spend. Often reports counted dollars without even mentioning policies. The conflict between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama split the Democratic Party and came close to losing the election.
The McCain campaign, once reinforced by veterans of the Karl Rove era and the "Swift Boat" barrage that sank John Kerry's campaign, lowered the tone and launched its own firestorm of unreconstructed political insinuation. After his choice of Sarah Palin as his running-mate, McCain even pulled ahead in the polls.
Then, in mid-September, Lehman Brothers, a true Wall Street thoroughbred, went bankrupt. The government thought it would be clever to let it go, to avoid what was called "moral hazard". That meant the danger that bankers might behave recklessly because they thought they could count on the government to bail them out. (The moral hazard of tempting people with unheard of salaries and bonuses to take reckless risks with other people's money did not trouble the "masters of the universe".)
Suddenly, people woke up to the fact that the presidential election was serious business, not gossip or farce. Suddenly, issues of policy were not just for wonks. The underlying issue, buried under a mountain of garbage (what did McCain call his wife? Was Obama a secret Muslim? Was Governor Palin's daughter pregnant? Was Michelle Obama sufficiently proud of her country?) surfaced again.
The question before the electorate now was: do we want an end to the conservative ascendancy?
The answer given by the American people on 4 November 2008 was: yes, we do.
It's true that many Americans, like many people anywhere, are and will remain "social conservatives". Many will continue to believe that abortion is wrong under almost all circumstances. Many hate the idea of anyone telling them they cannot own a gun. Many (perhaps more than elsewhere) are suspicious of government - though they certainly have more government than most other democracies. Many (certainly more than elsewhere) are prepared to pay unimaginable amounts for cold-war hardware. Most, indeed almost all, don't like to hear foreigners criticise their country.
That will not change. Senator Obama does not have much of a problem with that He is himself, as a matter of fact, a man with many conservative instincts. His Christian faith is important to him. His family is at the centre of his world. He is, in his own way, an America exceptionalist. His ideas on foreign policy, while a welcome change from the Prussian posturing of the Bush administration, are not outside the mainstream of traditional policy. And his domestic strategy does not seem to be anywhere near as radical as the Republicans have tried to claim.
What he stands for, he repeats on every occasion, is change.
It is right that we should all try to find out precisely what he means by that word. It is with words, not bayonets, that men are ruled.
I believe that what he means by change is the reduction of inequality, of injustice, of arrogance. In short, he means to end conservative ascendancy. That is what a decisive majority of the American people have said they want. Given the historic dimensions of his victory, can he achieve that? Yes, he can.
By Godfrey Hodgson
From the amazing http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/yes-he-can
QUESTION 1. EDUCATION AND THE INNER CITY One of the broad, common threads that runs through Zaytuna Institute, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and a host of other Muslim organizations in the United States is that of education. Organically grown organizations will necessarily have differences, one from the next, in substantive focus, instructional method and academic intensity of educational programs. Despite these organizational differences, what are the core elements of a successful curriculum that will (a) sustain and (b) empower contemporary Muslims?
SHAYKH HAMZA: The key element of any sound curriculum is to ensure that basic humanistic tools are imparted to help a student become a better human being and a critical element in the human process. By critical here, it is implied that someone is able to see what’s wrong, identify it as a wrong and then able to evaluate the steps needed to redress the wrong.
For instance, a major wrong in contemporary America is consumerism (i.e. the goal of life is to accumulate wealth and material goods). This disenfranchises the poor from a societal project and builds resentment, which leads to anger and envy, which are two of the seven deadly sins, ... and one alone is enough to kill you! When we assess the project of consumerism, we realize that as an increasing venture it becomes clearly untenable for large numbers of people. It is a selfish path and ignores the very reality that if resources continue to be exploited at present rates, we will exhaust the earth's plentitude. An example: the monitoring of areas in which have ocean fishing takes place has shown that in the last twenty years, over ninety percent of the fish have been decimated. The root problem is that fish are not allowed to replenish their numbers due to over-fishing of areas that once had seemingly inexhaustible resources. Much of the fishing is processed into cat food. In most cultures, cats live off the leftover food of families, but here, they are spoiled into tasty treats that devastate our ocean's supplies further upsetting the delicate balance of the natural food chains in the oceans. Due to the critical nature of this type of information, it may surface from time to time; however it isn't news that one finds in daily corporate owned newspapers.
A student must also be able to think critically about the world he or she finds himself or herself in. So teaching students to think is of the essence of any serious training. For Muslims this includes an ability to access divine or sacred tradition in his or her daily life – in other words, to make the message real through implementation. This can only be done in an environment in which people are helped to live the message of submission to God.
QUESTION 2. LEADERSHIP, ADVERSITY, AND GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS
IMAN's Taking it to the Streets is held in Chicago's Marquette Park, where Martin Luther King, Jr. marched, and was stoned, only decades ago. Many Muslims today have drawn analogies between the current state of Muslims in America and the state of the broader African-American population during the era of MLK, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall and others. To what extent are these analogies on point? How can a focus on the history of race relations in this country enhance or detract from a contemporary Muslim's consciousness?
SHAYKH HAMZA YUSUF:
Enfranchisement is a process that has been present in this country since the start. Many communities who have been here for hundreds of years, in the case of native people, millennia, are still struggling for full inclusion into America. However, we must not despair due to clear signs of improvement. To deny advancement in many areas is ingratitude. Minority communities are in fact majorities in many communities now and they are running entire cities in America for the first time in over two hundred years. There is an immense opportunity to realize the dreams of philosophers of the past today in this country. The idea of equality before the law has rarely been conceived in human history, let alone achieved, and yet it is an ideal that is accepted now by the majority of people in this country. It still has a long way to go before it is indeed a reality experienced by all peoples in all cases. The Muslims are at the end in a long line of people that have come to these shores or were already here, attempting to realize their rights as equal before the law.
Many people before the Muslims have struggled and many have died in order that we as offspring or migrants might enjoy the rights that we do today. Those people must never be forgotten; it is incumbent upon Muslims in America to know their stories. The stories have people of all colors as protagonists. There have always been people of color who have opposed the injustices of racism, sexism and intolerance but we should not forget that there have been numerous good white people who have opposed injustice and they should not be forgotten. The issue cannot be black and white but rather wrong and right. It is as simple as that. We stand not with our tribe but with our principles and should they be against our tribe then we must act as witnesses "unto God even against yourselves."
QUESTION 3. "PROGRESS" IN THE INNER CITY AND THE WORLD You have previously discussed the "myth of progress" and asserted that the highest level of spiritual progress was achieved over a millennium ago in the desert and oasis of Arabia during the time of God's Emissary, may He grant him His peace and blessings. While "spiritual entropy" may be a regrettable reality facing humanity (at least en masse), today's Muslims in and out of the inner city, and abroad, hold conflicting views about the extent to which achieving material comfort necessarily involves dealing with, or is equated with, embracing "capitalism" with all of its arguably negative aspects (exploitation of labor, riba, corruption of big business, environmental neglect, etc.) and thereby losing religion. Is there a confluence or a contradiction in attempting to achieve both spiritual and material success in the contemporary globalizing economy?
SHAYKHA HAMZA YUSUF:
The problem with poverty in America is that it deprives the poor of their dignity. This is so for a number of reasons: one, the Calvinist view, which affects many Americans, states that wealth is a sign of God's blessings upon the person. In that way, poverty is seen almost as a punishment. In essence, this perspective states that in this land of plenty, there must be something wrong with you if you don't have anything. This way of viewing the world permeates our culture and does untold damage to countless souls.
Islam teaches us that wealth is inner wealth. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said, "Contentment is an inexhaustible treasure." He also said, "Wealth is not a lot of goods but it is being satisfied with what one has." The endless pursuit of more is a disease, and as the hadith (prophetic tradition) states, "Nothing will fill the mouth of the child of Adam except the dirt of the grave. If someone had a mountain of gold, they would only desire another."
What we need to learn in this country is how to be poor with dignity. We need to learn to keep clean houses, clothes and bodies, to eat pure food, and to do this with money earned untarnished by illegal transactions. This is available to anyone willing to turn to God for support.
We must also free ourselves of resentment and envy of others and what they have. The Prophet, peace be upon him said, "Look to those better than you in your spirituality but look to those with less than you in your material reality. For indeed that will help you to aspire to be better and to be grateful for what you have."
Finally, poverty is "all my glory" according to the richest man that ever lived, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He chose to lower his standard of living in order that others might have more. That is his way.
See the video......on link below
or read the article ......