Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, November 08, 2005

he example I used in yesterday's post to illustrate communist Chinese temper tantrums toward anything remotely linked with the Dalai Lama, seems to have another twist. Evidently, the claims which China had made to Microsoft -- graded by Gates as a "ship-stopper" on Windows new operating system -- are completely bogus.

Dzongkha is the Bhutanese name for Bhutan's own national language -- which is related to, but distinct from Tibetan. China complained to Microsoft that they should not use the term "Dzongkha" in Windows software, but should instead refer to it as "Tibetan - Bhutan." Evidently some sharp-eyed Chinese language scholars had detected the faint whiff of connection between the word Dzongkha and the exiled Tibetan leader. This was unacceptably offensive to China, memos were sent around the corporation, it was a "ship-stopper."

The Bhutan government had funded the Dzongkha Unicode project itself with Swiss assistance, as Bill Poser writes on his Language Log:
What adds insult to injury is that, according to the Bhutanese news site Kuenselonline, the government of Bhutan, with the assistance of the Swiss Development Corporation, paid US$523,000 to add support for Dzongkha. It didn't cost Microsoft a penny. Bhutan should have spent its money on free software. It would probably have been much cheaper, and they would have control over it.
Reading the Kuensel article, it looks like Bhutanese users will have the full functionality of using Dzongkha fonts and keyboard layout, national forms for date and time etc. (which are all different from central Tibetan) -- the only thing they won't have is the word "Dzongkha" in the language list. Oh, and they'll need to download the font, which Microsoft won't include. Having their language listed as "Tibetan - Bhutan" would be something like listing the Lao language (somewhat related to Thai with a similar but very distinct script) as "Thai - Lao People's Democratic Republic." A Lao user would not like that very much at all.

But the ridiculous thing about this, which illustrates even better the silly and childish whining from China when there's the slightest whiff of a lama around, is that it's based on a totally mistaken fear. The Chinese scholars who sussed out this apparently nefarious connection, were probably misled by their own language's inability to distinguish two different words. I had wondered what the basis of their complaint was, which was not specified in the news article. Evidently, they were worried about a Tibetan who died almost 600 years ago, founder of the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the four major schools and the one to which the Dalai Lamas belong. Bill goes on to quote Dr. George van Driem, Director of the Himalayan Languages Project, Department of Comparative Linguistics at Leiden University, cited in a comment to a Pinyin discussion board:
The language Dzongkha, literally "language of the fortress", is a South Bodish language related to Dra"njoke [a language of Sikkim] and, more distantly, to Tibetan. Tibetan, however, belongs to a distinct sub-branch and is a Central Bodish language. The word rDzong (pronounced Dzong) denotes the citadels which served as the centres of military power and higher learning throughout Bhutan since the mediaeval period. The word rDzong has nothing to do with the name Tsong-kha-pa, literally "man from the onion district" (1357-1419), who founded the dGe-lugs-pa (pronounced Gelukpa or Gelup) school of Tibetan Buddhism currently headed by the Dalai Lama. Such confusion could only arise in the minds of speakers of Mandarin Chinese or Tibetan who are not literate in either Tibetan or Dzongkha. Neither Mandarin Chinese nor Tibetan distinguishes phonologically between voiced and voiceless obstruent initials, unlike Dzongkha and, for example, English.
So there is no connection between the name Dzongkha, nor the language Dzongkha, and Dalai Lamas, Gelukpa Buddhism or Tsong-kha-pa. Dzongkha is a different language from Tibetan, though related (read other comments on that board, very enlightening). Gelukpa school of Buddhism had never even established itself in Bhutan. The Chinese - Microsoft formulation introduces extra misleading wrongness, where none previously existed. Hey -- and it's guaranteed to piss off the users as well! True to form for both parties.

Bill the Language Log guy again:
So there you have it. China objects to the language name Dzongkha because of an imaginary association with the leader of the legitimate government of its Tibetan colony. In order to please China, Microsoft refuses to use the generally accepted name for the national language of Bhutan. Now there's a company with principles.
But hey, they're consistent! Gates decides which words are not to be used on his Chinese blogging software -- stuff like "freedom" and "democracy" -- and now there's a Bhutanese forbidden word too. The funny part is, Chinese officialdom claimed authority to know about these things, exposing themselves as historically and linguistically ignorant -- and Microsoft bought it without even checking it out. But Gates is the King of Information Technology! And a handful of commenters on a specialist blog, who do know the history and the linguistics involved, sorted the truth out in short order.

I've written it before, and here it comes again: the power of the blogosphere is in its distributed intelligence. And here's another one: Technorati (which led me to Bill's piece on the Language Log) is our friend.


ere's something which some might find amusing.....

From the Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them department: Michael Moore is a Halliburtonazi corporate greedmonger:
"I don't own a single share of stock!" filmmaker Michael Moore proudly proclaimed.

He's right. He doesn't own a single share. He owns tens of thousands of shares - including nearly 2,000 shares of Boeing, nearly 1,000 of Sonoco, more than 4,000 of Best Foods, more than 3,000 of Eli Lilly, more than 8,000 of Bank One and more than 2,000 of Halliburton, the company most vilified by Moore in "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Heh, I don't know if that's a complete list, but I like it that Best Foods is his second biggest holding. If his holdings reflect relative importance to him, then it's the planet-killing oil company at the bottom, with aircraft and war profiteers coming in above that, drugs taking third spot just behind food, and capitalism itself right on top! MMmmm, Best Foods.... they make real good mayonaise, eh Mike? MMmmm, mayonaise...

Michael is flogging his latest flick now, hoping to be idolised again in Cannes next May. It's called "Katrina - the Wrath of Bush." The French press and "intelligensia" were really very snarky about Katrina, and America's venal and rotten racist society, so he ought to be a shoe-in for the Golden Palm. Maybe he'll have enough time between now and then to bang together a mini-doc opener for it, exposing Bush's role in France's brutal occupation of the Left Bank. He could interview the valiant hip-hop insurgent freedom fighters between car-b-q's.


ia NRO's Media Blog, comes the story of how CNN asked a couple of servicemen just returned from Iraq, what they thought of the way their home media has been telling their story. Cpt. Todd Lindner of the Kentucky National Guard responded this way:
...we did watch the news when we were back in Baghdad, and we had AFN, and we were able to watch CNN, but I don't know that they always had it right, and I don't know that it's anybody's fault, but for us, we understood our purpose for being there, and we just wanted to make a difference and have an impact, and we definitely did that. But it is kind of disheartening sometimes to see everything focused on just the, the death and destruction and the IED strikes and not focused on how well the U.S. and coalition forces are doing building up the Iraqi police services and the Iraqi army. It really is a tremendous effort being put into that infrastructure and building a self-sufficient government over there. And they're absolutely making progress.
There's a link on that page to the video, about 6 minutes. Watch it if you can.


n recent weeks a number of writers have noted quite a few examples of Muslim intolerance, which seem to border on the neurotic. A lot of this stuff is just so silly, that they really are in close competition with the neurotic and juvenile complaints of Chinese officialdom regarding anything that strokes them the wrong way. Readers are probably familiar with, for example, the British Burger King ice cream cup caper, where the rather abstract graphic swirl on the lid resembled (to somebody) the Arabic calligraphic for "Allah." Jihad was declared, and ice cream cups were withdrawn. Then there were the complaints about a cartoon "Piglet," who I understand was a compatriot of Winnie the Pooh. In other species-ist bigotry, porcine drinking cups and knick-knacks were banished from office workers' desks. Bacon cheeseburgers were removed from newly religiously-correct menus. There were also complaints (or perhaps just fears of complaints) from Muslim banking customers in some remote part of England, over certain banks' use of piggy banks on their advertising posters. These promotions were then changed, to avoid causing any undue offense to anyone. This stuff has not been going on in Muslim countries, but in places where Muslims form a part of multi-cultural, multi-religious but secular societies.

Last week, Tim Blair noticed that on a media-watch type program of the Australian television broadcaster ABC, that last story was "exposed" as a "myth" and "hogwash" (hogwash, cool). Blair tracked down the original source, The Lancashire Evening Telegraph, which stands by their story, and posted it in full. This part stood out for me:
Piggy banks are being removed from promotional displays in Blackburn town centre banks -- in case they cause offence to Muslim customers....

A spokesman for Halifax, which has branches in Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Blackburn, said: "We no longer have any advertising that features piggy banks or is piggy bank related.

"That has now been out-phased and we use 'Howard' for all our promotions and advertising.

"Customers will now see cardboard cut-outs of 'Howard' in our East Lancashire branches.

"'Howard is of race so we can hardly be accused of being racist. It is very important for us that we engage with all of our customers."
Didja catch that? "Howard is of race..." Bound to be the new PC catchphrase: "He is a person of race," instead of the old form, "He is a person of colour." Previously, whitish people would understand that when "people of colour" are spoken of, that they are not included (pinkness and shades of tan, notwithstanding). But are they to understand that, in the new construction, they are similarly not included as "people of race?" (Suspend for a moment, your understanding that races don't actually exist, but are social constructs which are merely pigments of some people's imaginations)

Does this mean that, in England for example, everyone who is not English is a "person of race," and that only the English have no "race?" Is a Spaniard "of race?" What about a Paraguayan who has no native American heritage? Or only just a little bit? Should an Italian immigrant be catered to as the exalted "person of race," and why not if he's likely to be darker than the immigrant from northern China? Maybe after all this is thought through by the PC police, they'll decide that some people have a lot of "race" while others have just a little, but everybody has some at least. And then we can all be graded, or something. I'd love to see a picture of this inoffensive "Howard" character.

But back to the Islam-offending porkers. As I was watching my favourite Indonesian broadcaster, Metro TV last week on Hari Raya Idul Fitri, the first day of the big national holiday marking the end of Ramadan, it was reported that throngs of holidaying families were flocking to various tourist and recreation spots around Jakarta. And there, bigger than life at the entrance to Taman Impian Jaya Ancol (Ancol Dream Park, the Indonesian Disneyland), families were greeted by characters dressed as cartoon characters, with huge costume heads. Sort of like the giant Mickey, Pluto Pup, Goofy and Donald Duck one might meet at Disneyland. And there, right in front, was a seven foot pig, shaking hands with the holidaymakers who seemed quite pleased to meet him. This is the largest population of Muslims of any country on earth, they didn't seem to have very many hangups about cartoon pigs -- even extra large walking and talking ones.

Undoubtedly, some Muslims living in predominately non-Muslim places are eager to flex their credit cards of victimology, and search out things that they can be offended by. Like Piglet coffee cups. Such people, I am confident, are small in number. They aren't doing any favours for the ummah. They may feel that they are standing strong for Islam, defending the faith. But what they accomplish is the diminution of it, portraying it as something neurotic and insecure. They are obstacles to understanding and respect, and as such are enemies of Islam itself.

There are also other, more powerful neurotics who can get more attention, do more damage, and are thus greater enemies of the vast majority of kind and generous Muslims whom I've had the honour to know and love during my past 15 years of visiting Indonesia. People like the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made himself extra famous with his recent pledge to "wipe Israel from the map." By the way, it isn't just Israel he wishes to to this to: check out the parts of his graphic prop which the media probably didn't show you. Wai Gateway Pundit for that.

In his speech, he said:
We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e. the West] and the Islamic world, and this war has been going on for hundreds of years. ...

The issue of this [World without Zionism] conference is very valuable. In this very grave war, many people are trying to scatter grains of desperation and hopelessness regarding the struggle between the Islamic world and the front of the infidels ...

Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved...
Mr. Ahmedinejad has a close advisor named Hassan Abbassi, regularly cited as his "strategic guru." Mr. Abbassi says things like this:
"We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization and for the uprooting of the Americans and the English. The global infidel front is a front against Allah and the Muslims, and we must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles. There are 29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West. We have already spied on these sites and we know how we are going to attack them."
Remember now, Iran is going through a seismic shift from the policies of the former leadership, and the new president has already recalled most of Iran's foreign diplomatic corps, who were seen by him as "too liberal." His "strategic guru" also had this to say:
Abbassi actually cites Great Britain as the "the mother of all evils," and her evil offspring include the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and the Gulf states -- "children of the same mother: the British Empire." France and Germany are "in terminal decline." "Once we have defeated the Anglo-Saxons the rest will run for cover."

Iran gives safe haven to al Qaeda, and has done since Afghanistan, also promises $10,000 US to Palestinian Islamic Jihad for rocket attacks on Israel (like Saddam did with suicide bomber rewards).
That's from the Iranian writer Amir Taheri, in the Arab News. The way I look at it, Ahmadinejad is one of Islam's greatest enemies. When an insecure neurotic has little power, he complains about piggy banks and ice cream cups. When he has vast power he can threaten whole countries and even civilisations. The neurosis is little different, but they are all generating ill will toward a lot of very good people who happen to be Muslims.

Condoleezza Rice gave a speech recently, in which she was quoted referring to Islam as a "religion of love and peace." She also said, "We in America know the benevolence that is at the heart of Islam." From my perspective -- and she took a lot of flack from opinion writers on this -- she is right. The Iranian president and all the "littler neurotics" are not representative at all. I have been honoured to be on the receiving end of a great many Muslims' kindness and generosity over the years, their absolute acceptance of me as a non-Muslim friend and brother. Many of these friends are very devout in their religious beliefs, and they have given me both love and peace, which I strive to return to them in equal measure. Some are no longer with us, but I will remember them always with deep gratitude. I am furious at the damage being done to them every day by a few small-minded, insecure bigots who just happen to share their faith.

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