January 2006 Archives
January 31, 2006
More Comments on Complete and Utter Nonsense
As the good Lounsbury has recently outlined, a surge of hysteria has gripped the Islamic World in reaction to cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. Since he has done a superb job in skimming the Arab media I will limit myself to venting my spleen re grass roots Saudi and religious Arabic channel reaction. The gaggle of 'activists' (namely, bored housewives with no grasp or desire to grasp the fact that not all the world is actually under an Islamic monarchy, nor I would imagine, do they have a desire that their holiday destinations in Europe be run by The House of Saud) here in Riyadh have bombarded each other with text messages, e-mails and phone calls fanning the flames of a false sense of purpose and ironically manifesting a cultural arrogance and ethno-centrism equal to that which they are attacking.
January 30, 2006
Complete utter nonsense: "Offended by Cartoons" Muslim Pinheads Boycott the Danes
It is hard to know how to categorise this idiocy, however this arty at least gives some fuel Protests Grow Over Danish Cartoon of Muhammad, sadly for those who like to portray Muslims as fanatic cretins, as in fact there are a fine bunch of fanatic cretins to make the case.
The essential start point is a cretinous Danish paper ran months and months ago a rather idiotic competition to portray the Prophet Mohammed, and as I recall, a goodly percentage of entries were offensive nasty little Arab / Istlamic stereotypes. Frankly one got the sense of an undercurrent of bigotry in the entries.
But whatever, cartoons in a stupid Danish paper. Nothing to get one's underwear in a real not over. Danish Muslims protested and that should have been the end of it. But no, the International Ever Seeking Offence to Blow Up Issues for Exploitation Islamist Cretins Faction has gotten hold of this.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:46 PM
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Filed Under: Ethnic Minorities , Foreign Policy & MENA , Islam & Politics , MENA Region General , Op-Ed , Press Freedom , Society & Culture
January 29, 2006
France, Islam & Discrimination: Further to the idiocy of the "European Intifada"
Further to my ongoing comments of the situation in France, the riots that some ill-informed, bigotted or just plain stupid commentators blew up into a "Muslim intifada" in Europe, an interesting article on current French efforts on addressing rampant discrimination in France.
(A side set of reading by the way from 2003, note the prescient commentary, intifada my ass, I note there is a clear connexion with MENA directly, besides the issue of Muslim minorities in Europe and the potential echoes within the Islamic word, the parallels in terms of illiberal economies with severe labour rigidities leading to high unemployment and difficulties in findings jobs)
A few comments, then.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 06:38 PM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Ethnic Minorities , Islam General , MENA Region General , North Africa , Op-Ed , Religious Minorities , Society & Culture
Democracy, Liberalism, Consequences
The election of Hamas has set off quite a lot of overdone hand wringing with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and with respect to 'democracy promotion.'
I am going to ignore the I-P conflict as an endless toothache, although frankly in the medium term this is probably a boon as Hamas seems likely to be a more effective player than the corrupt and broken PLO/Fatah.
Rather, a few words on democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa.
The first words are, I am no fan of it, and frankly largely do not believe in it on the terms that it is pimped to the general public, etc. However, the handwringing post-Hamas victory requires some comment.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 02:03 AM
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Filed Under: EU Foreign Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , Islam & Politics , Islam General , Islamism , Levant , MENA Region General , Political Development , US Foreign Policy
January 27, 2006
The greatest delight, the greatest terror
Salman Rushdie's recent claim that fear of women's sexuality motivates Islamic extremism has sparked a range of reaction from agreement to derision.
While at first glance Rushdie's theory seems outlandish, it must be acknowledged that that there is a disproportionate amount of focus given to controlling women (and men) and their sexuality, and curtailing women's freedom among extremist Islamists. Which is comparable to mad US "Christian" policies that will only fund abstinence-based AIDS prevention programmes, attempts to prevent teenage girls from receiving STD vaccines, and the huge focus on gay marriage and abortion compared to jobs, welfare, defence spending, and so forth.
We know that Islam per se is not particuarly fearful of sex - quite the contrary. The Qur'an and many hadiths frankly shame Roman Catholic doctrine with their openess and encouragement of (lawfully wedded) marital pleasures. And yet at the extreme end we get scholars pronouncing that nakedness between married couples is haram. Why?
The question is perhaps this: why does the human race have this bizarre terror of free sexuality and empowered females, and homosexuals, that drives it to find ways to curb them through extremist religion?
And when we have answered it, if we can, how can we remedy it?
January 26, 2006
The results appear to give Hamas a strong electoral position, which is not surprising if one had one's ears to the ground - despite the Bush Administration apparently sad and Johnny come lately intervention on the side of the sick old man, Fatah.
Here is the rub made clear, really democratic elections are going to produce these kinds of results. If one is going to pimp simple minded democracy, than one has to ive with them. I have met enough Hamas people to suspect that they can in fact be dealt with. It's better optics in the end to try and fail, the exclude which merely feeds into Hamas cycle of popularity.
January 25, 2006
The Strange Case of Berber Language Instruction
Apparently Morocco is finally introducing instruction in Berber, the language spoken by the majority of the population, into the public school system. (For that matter, can you think of any other country where the absolute population majority doesn't have its language taught in schools? Not a discrete geographic region, or even an autonomous region, but a whole country? I can’t.)
Maghreb & Islamic Liberalism: Superficialities & Hope for a Liberalising State, Islamic Feminism, etc
Returning to commentary, although forewarning this is post chemo and may lack a certain clarity:
Via Daniel Drezner's post on That's some interesting Islam in Morocco, I found this article from Der Spiegel on Morocco - one of my favourite countries in the MENA region - discussing Mohammed VI's efforts to modernise the socio-political culture:
Compare, by the way, to this article from almost six years ago:
An interesting, but rather flawed article I would say.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 07:06 PM
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Filed Under: Economic Development , Economic Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , Gender Issues , Islam & Politics , Islam General , Islamism , North Africa , Op-Ed
January 23, 2006
Recrimination and Measures for Haj Safety
Faiza Ambah at Christian Science Monitor tells of efforts to create a longer religiously-validated time for the pillar stoning during the Muslim Haj in order to avert deadly crowd rushes like the one of this past year and others in the past several years. Meanwhile, recriminations abound, as different accounts from a pilgrim and a Saudi security official tell:
January 21, 2006
More Lurid Than Sex: Whither the Iraq Reconstruction Funds?
Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times takes a look at the fate of missing billions in Iraq reconstruction funding, much of which, it appears, was handed out in cash. Not knowing the on-the-ground actors, I cannot comment on the account, but the losses to corruption seem likely, given the nature of governments in general, the region, and the kind of knowledge (biased and absent) about the region by those who wanted to run the place.
Finding out what happened to Iraq's $37 billion in oil-financed reconstruction funds -- its stacks of plastic-wrapped hundred-dollar bills popping up all over the country like play money -- has taken investigators down many paths, including one to the Defense Ministry office of Ziyad al Qattan. Questions about what happened to the fund, once held by the United Nations and turned over to the Bush administration, are part of a broader story of how the United States has spent billions in American and Iraqi money after Saddam Hussein was ousted in April 2003.
Dr. Kapoor Explains Abu Ghraib?
There is nothing as reassuring as medical certainty, and indeed, our venerated Arabologist from Bombay, Dr. Kapoor, provides more the same for MENA's largest ethnic grouping.
One fact is certain that, the Arabs are fond of investigations— more so invasive ones—any test where slight pain or discomfort is involved is appreciated (except collection of too much blood which they dislike).
The gems just keep a-coming.
"Functional Arab Syndrome" Sufferers, Take Heart!
Having severe retrosternal burning and water brash? Perhaps epigastric or high epigastric pain not related to meals? Maybe even abdominal distension after meals and gases? And (gulp). . . Borborygmi (you don't want to know)? Well, dear reader, these and other symptoms could mean you are suffering from. . . .F.A.S.:
Functional Arab Syndrome!
Dr. Kapoor, our esteemed Indian expert on Arab health from the Bombay Hospital Journal, has been doggedly studying this tragic condition, along with his reports on the Arab phallus, for some time. (More of Dr. Karpoor's boborygmi, after the break)
January 20, 2006
Media, Business & Problems
Our Dear Father of Aardvarks has an interesting posty on al Jazeerah's market position and some recent claims that al Arabiyah is beating it out that has interest from both commercial and socio-political points of view.
The Arab Phallus and Its Discontents: An Indian Perspective
Following up on earlier discussion of Western fixations on Arab sexuality, we can add to the mix ... India and Arab sexuality. Apparently in an exercise of intellectual/medical retaliation for the nasty anti-Indian racism of Arabs in the Gulf (don't deny it, I heard it there, often), comes this piece on chronic diseases in the Arabian Peninsula, published via the Bombay Hospital Journal. Choice excerpts on Arab sexuality, including "size issues" are below the break. These include the astounding "fact" that Arabs have no interest in sports.
Revised Select Bibliography
Finally posted the bibliography revisions submitted by raf* ages ago. I've added a few more categories because the purely chronological list was far too long and not entirely useful for someone searching by topic.
Comments? Suggestions? Not that I particularly care as it's quite late and my attention span is short, but feel free to go on anyway.
January 19, 2006
Book review: Why Fitz Lodd is a Ten Tola Twit
Dubai by Robin Moore (1976): A rollicking good read, and still extremely relevant thirty years since its publication, if one can stomach the cretinous American "hero".
Tola 1: Despite being a senior army officer with a couple of decades of service, with ample experience of the Middle East, Fitz Lodd manages to lose his cool in about thirty seconds when being needled by a partisan Jewish journalist known for "twisting words around".
Tola 2: When falsely branded anti-semitic, Fitz Lodd accepts all pressure to take early retirment and save the US army embarrassment, going quietly without any fight or any proper compensation.
Tola 3: Although he is popular with the Arabs solely because they believe the anti-semitic accusations against him, Fitz Lodd tries endlessly to publically refute the allegations, despite repeated cautions from other, wise expat businessmen.
Tola 4: Despite being given specific intelligence that Britain is going to redraw maritime boundaries and screw up "Kajmira's" oil rights, Fitz pushes on with his attempts to get a concession there.
Tola 5: Although he could make millions more dollars in business, Fitz Lodd decides to try for an ambassadorship, for the pathetically lame reason that he wants to impress his girlfriend.
Tola 6: When his girlfriend dumps him, Fitz Lodd loses all ambition, because none of his plans and "thirst for power" means anything "without Laylah".
Tola 7: The split second his ex-girlfriend get dumped by the man she dumped Fitz for, and sends Fitz a whingey little note, Fitz is back on a plane and into her arms.
Tola 8: Despite having nothing but vague hints that he may get an ambassadorship, Fitz makes a massive financial donation to the Republican party.
Tola 9: Despite still having nothing but vague information on the likelihood of an ambassadorship, Fitz sells his "treasured" Ten Tola Bar (his sole livelihood) to clean up his prospects. Readers will be unsurprised and quite delighted when of course he is doublecrossed by the US government (again) and passed over for it.
Tola 10: It takes Fitz until page 501 to actually wake up and smell the qahwah:
"Christ," Fitz muttered, "if that's what we've got in the Middle East Department, the Arabs were one hundred percent better off with the British power structure."
US Diplo Service: Out into the Field She Says
This is very good news for the US diplo service, and long over-due. Will make my diplo friends very happy.
The Washington Post arty reports:
Diplomats Will Be Shifted to Hot Spots
Rice Also Plans to Elevate USAID Chief
By Glenn Kessler and Bradley Graham
Thursday, January 19, 2006
My first comment is that all the US diplos ...no, sorry all the US diplos that I have respected over the years... have bitterly complained about the current US diplo service organisation and disincentives to "get out" and as well master languages (yes, learn languages to get little brownie points on the fiscal scale, but not master, and why with the bizarro rotation system that puts rare Arabic speakers in Beijing for years at a time, and vice versa).
Those few US diplos who have defended the system rather struck me as bureaucrats, although usually far more straight up than the delightfully corrupt ones I liked, like my EU colleagues
January 18, 2006
Al Hayat: Maghrebine - Euro -Iraq connexions, the new Afghan al-Arab?
al Hayat has an interesting article on what is described as something of a major network علومات تكشفها تحقيقات الشرطة في الرباط ... خلايا اوروبية تجند المغاربة الانتحاريين وترسلهم الى العراق ... قبل «خلايا الزوجات»
الرباط – محمد الأشهب الحياة - 18/01/06/ش
Sex And Vile Hints: Marlowe, Patai and Arab Sexuality
Being market-oriented, your Aqoulites have taken note of the sex-oriented subjects that draw readers and hold them (so to speak). In due honor of the libidinous motives and Aqoul's egghead pretensions, I turn attention to an interesting essay of several months back (you may have to watch an ad to get full content) in salon.com by Ann Marlowe, taking apart Raphael Patai’s 1973 book “The Arab Mind”. Patai's book, she suggests, is obsessed with a distorted view of Arab sexuality, hinting at the primary role of sexual obsession/repression in culture and personal development. (Marlowe notes the book has had particular influence on views of MENA that neoconservatives hold.) A look at Marlowe's writing requires considering such things as: a) the debate over the cuteness of Iraqi men, b) American journalists deriding "Fat, sexist Arabs" as a party line, c) gender and genitals in Arabic language and childrearing, d) what all that means. And sex and sex.
January 16, 2006
USAID on Iraq
An important little article from The Washington Post:
USAID Paper Details Security Crisis in Iraq
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 17, 2006; Page A13
Will comment further later.
Returning to France, Riots and 'Intefada' vs Discrimination - Discussions and Questions
Returning to a subject close at hand, the issue of the French riots in the Fall of 2005 and drivers or reasons. That is, over the silliness of such people as Andrew Sullivan and others blithering on about an Islamic uprising (intefada) in Europe.
This fine article from The Washington Post helpfully highlights in a current fashion the real issue, which while not unconnected with the issue of religious minority (indeed intimately in some ways, but not in the manner crudely drawn by idiots such as Totten and Sulivan), is most fundamentally economic. An obvious issue if one has something more than a passing engagement with France and generally the issues facing continental European minorities (that is those from outside Europe and its old colonies).
January 15, 2006
Pakistan, Missiles and Total Cost
Protests Spread Across Pakistan
Islamic Groups Stoke Anti-American Sentiment; Senators Defend Fatal Missile Strike
This article gives brief cause for reflexion on the utility of missile strikes on villages that may (or perhaps may not) be harbouring al-Qaeda leadership.
I am not ipso facto against such strikes, but the frequency of US blasting away from the air with apparently somewhat (understandably) weak intelligence and the cost of (likely) errors (or missed shots, an hour or two may make the difference) makes me think that the penchant for the low-risk (to personnel) options (force protection, penny wise, but perhaps pound foolish) is the enduring error on the part of the US.
Total cost of the policy. Is all being properly priced in? I don't know. However, not to be simple, there is the alternate total cost of doing nothing. Not easy questions, but the somewhat easy brush off of US senators I think reflects the problem of self-regard and inattention to total cost.
Iraq, Reconstruction, never learning lessons
Seen on The Washington Post:
Rice's Rebuilding Plan Hits Snags
Pentagon and Foggy Bottom Debate Funding, Staffing of Teams
While allowing the issue of limited resources on the part of the military and legit concerns about footprint, I did find this turn of phrase disappointing: defense officials are reluctant to take on new or expanded assignments, particularly those seen by some as having more to do with reconstruction than combating terrorism. The false dichotomy and the issue of the failed state rather bothers.
Now, as to the concept... well who knows? Getting staffing is going to be a problem, and the legit question as to the efficacity of creating little Green Zones hither and thither.
However, all this reminds me of the infuriating rotted pissing on when I tried to work with US Gov fools on creating financing vehicles for Iraqi sub-contractors (I do repeat I was always pleased with the realism of the on-the-ground State and related people, those with real emerging markets experience - at the same time the DoD fools and their ideological hangers-on with no sense of economics or business in emerging markets did not).
January 12, 2006
Democracy, red in tooth and claw
This is an excerpt of something I wrote elsewhere, a retrospective on the Egyptian elections.
"Democracy," said President Anwar Sadat after the suppression of the bread riots of 1977, "has fangs and claws."
In all, only 145 of the NDP's 432 candidates won their elections. But it would be wrong to see this as the mark of a party in crisis. Safwat al-Sherif and Kamal al-Shazli, the NDP's veteran fixers, were soon they were boasting that a further 166 ”independents” had been absorbed into the ranks of the party – just as they had in elections past – giving the NDP its crucial two-thirds majority.
While most have focused, understandably, on the vicious mêlées that marked so much of the voting, the elections provided a brief, illuminating glimpse into the complex dynamics at the heart of the Egyptian political system. The NDP's losses; the Ikhwan's successes; the jostling, hustling bargaining as “independents” were reabsorbed into the NDP: gone were any illusions of party discipline, of manifesto pledges or coherent policies. What remained was a tangled, shifting spider's web of influence, of wasta. Across the country, local luminaries called in favours, leant on allies, bullied enemies and paid hard cash to mobilise whatever support they could.
100 Dead in Mecca Haj, Maybe Many More [Updated 12 Jan, 2006: 345 plus dead]
Sad to hear of the unnecessary deaths of worshippers at the Haj in Mecca by a crowd crush, apparently. Reports indicate first figures of 100 dead may be exceeded by a factor of 3 or more.
At this point, we can ask: shouldn't the authorities be ready for this risk? This type of thing has happened, what, three times now? It is understandable that the growth of transportation in modern times may have made the city unprepared at certain stages for larger crowds, but this is not some economically deprived area, unable to create infrastructure or employ crowd specialists?
US Military, Cultural Blindness, and Iraq Failure [Updated 12 January 2006: excellent FT expansion]
This article seems to have attracted little attention, for all that it has some amusing observations as well as indicative responses from US Mil: Briton criticises US Army for cultural ignorance, moralistic self-righteousness, unproductive micromanagement, unwarrented optimism - in short, very typically American "can do" self delusion that typified across the board failure by CPA-Iraq.
However, backward looking is less important than forward. Forward is the US Army/US DoD/US Mil reaction to what I found to be well-placed criticism I heard (differently framed) from my US Mil amigos. Not for dislike of their troopies, in frustration of the lack of prepration of said troopies for the real problems - inability to pull out of the entrenched frameworks. I wrote early on that I feared this. Sadly, it came out as I thought.
Update: The Financial Times as a somewhat better article on the underlying article (which I have now skimmed in its original):
British officer blisters US Army in Iraq critique
Published: January 12 2006 09:15
While largely of the same thrust, it does add a few more easily accessible comments which I will add below.
January 11, 2006
On Media, Influence and Means: Agitprop, Iraq,
Via our dear friend, Father of Aardvarks 'a comment on Gerecht on Iraqi payola', found 'Hearts and Minds' in Iraq: As History Shows, Ideas Matter More Than Who Pays to Promote Them leads me to make a comment on influence and media from a business standpoint.
Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:30 PM
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Filed Under: Business, Private , Economic Development , Economic Policy , Foreign Policy & MENA , MENA Region General , Media , Op-Ed , US Foreign Policy
Free Trade? Oh, man! -- Event in D.C. on US-Oman Agreement
The US-Omani Free Trade agreement is the subject of this (free attendance!) meeting in Washington DC at the CATO Institute Wednesday January 18 at noon, followed by a (free!) lunch, for those Western Hemispheroids who are interested. I, if able to be there, or other readers, may pass along (free!) questions/comments volunteered. Speakers on (free!) trade include:
Maqbool Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry of Oman
Salem Ben Nasser Al Ismaily, Omani Center for Investment Promotion and Export Development
Fred McMahon, Centre for Globalization Studies, Fraser Institute
Subject: "Advancing Economic Freedom in the Middle East, The U.S.-Omani Free-Trade Agreement"
January 10, 2006
Kidnapped Reporter in Iraq: More Questions than Answers
The kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll presents many questions. (One can also deride her risk-raking but it was not of the foolish kind that did not know or understand the risks.) Several issues, some inane sadly, pop to mind, from things as far ranging as torture to the fact that it is the American/Western sufferers who get all the attention while Iraqis suffer fear, hardship, kidnapping and worse in uncontemplated anonymity everyday. Note the author of this linked article on that subject.
Inane and serious thoughts to follow.
"It's got sex, of course it's bloody Aqoul material"
I shall link and say no more.
[Editor Lounsbury: Oh piffle, let's quote it, in full - re a quite stupid al Azhar Uni faculty member's fatwa against the evils of being naked while banging your spouse...]
January 09, 2006
Bremer Speaks on Iraq: The Buck Stops Over There Somewhere
The Guardian reports that "Paul Bremer, who led the US civilian occupation authority in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, has admitted that the Americans 'didn't really see' the threat coming from insurgents in the country." Shoot, I did, and I'm an American; and so did lots of others. Meanwhile, "he also criticised President George Bush and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying they had not listened to his concerns about the quality of Iraq's army, and that ultimately the White House bore responsibility for decisions that had led to the current violence."
I leave it to those with better inside and up close knowledge, some of whom are not far from this very blogspace, to evaluate the rest.
January 06, 2006
Stroke of Misfortune?
By stroke of a stroke, Israel has integrated itself further into the region by temporarily adopting a Saudi political model, namely having a morbidly obese head of government stuck in a coma on ventilation while factions, secular and religious, vie for power and succession.
Ariel Sharon, whose name is a near sound-alike for the Israeli-Palestinian peace dilemma ("A real share? Own?"), appears to be at death's door, a place of familiarity given his own past career stints as death's doorman. But now that his bloodthirsty vampire public image among many detractors has morphed from Nosferatu to that of "Grandpa" on The Munsters, is peace further or closer? Rafael Frankel of the Christian Science Monitor speculates.
George Galloway joins Big Brother
My disillusionment is complete. I welcomed his triumph over Oona King when elected MP for my constituency Bethnal Green and Bow on the premise that an anti-war twat was more favourable than a pro-war Labour arse licker. Now he has gone and made a laughing stock of the anti-war movement and the Respect party by craving the limelight and exposing himself to be the media whore and showman he is. George Galloway has joined Big Brother UK
January 05, 2006
Mecca: Saudi Building Codes
A horrible illustration of what corruption does for you: a Haj hostel collapses killing at least dozens.
Now not that old buildings don't collapse from time to time, but corruption in KSA clearly is a reason for this (and the constant problems KSA has with the Hajj and fatal accidents tied to poor infrastructure, although to be fair to the Saudis - why escapes me at the moment - one has to acknowledge that many moujahiroun on Hajj have no clue as to how to behave in urban circumstances).
Again, on the Cretin
Having more fun picking on my preferred cretin, Michael Totten, read on only for amusement:
January 04, 2006
New Month Open Discussion
Everyone should know the routine by now. This is an open thread for questions and comments about 'Aqoul, its contributors and any other pressing issues.
It's also a convenient place for me to post a drawing I just made of Lounsbury as he writes about Michael Totten:
(click to enlarge)
Stupid Fat Bastard
Sharon, bloody well could have gone on a fucking diet. No, now the ego maniac has fucked everything up.
On Leb Land and Leb Delusions and Gullible Fools (updated with small disclaimer)
Via our dear pratike, and his commentary, and because my meds induce me to blither on, I share with you some further evidence that Michael Totten is a gullible fool and dupe of the type that the Lebs have long exploited to their profit.
The commentary on Totten's latest facile idiocy is adequate as such, but some further thoughts on the particularly Leb Beiruti conceit that they are a "model" for anything. Of course, since Totten knows so very little, of course he can be duped into thinking such (if thinking is a verb that can be applied to his cretinous drivel).
[AHEM: Since my humourous banging away at Leb Land and Lebs seems to have offended some, let me add this note in advance.
Yours Truly, The Lounsbury is well aware that Lebs are not (all) the uber-corrupt evil genuis cartoons that may be taken from the following commentary (although I wish they were, it would be funnier).
However, my love of Lebs goes so deep that I can't refrain from pimping their stereotype(s) to the max when commenting on the fucked up little Leb Land homeland.
This is done out of love, as opposed to my senseless attacks on Egyptians, who I actually do despise and loathe to a level that some have called irrational. I would say that if you ever had to spend several years in Egypt socialising with the cretinous lumps, you'd hate them too - if you had any taste.
Not that there are not some nice Egyptians out there who are not cretinous lumps of faux jolliness, but where would we be without some abusive and cartoonish stereotyping now and again?]
On Morocco, Some Professional Observations for Liberals Against AKA Some Other Stupid Name
I noted in visiting the main pratike blog Liberals AKA something other ridiculous name a post on Morocco. Given my long connexion with the Maghreb and specifically Morocco, and ongoing professional ties, I thought some comments are in order, to educate.
January 03, 2006
Saudi Arabia, Lesbianism and Other Coping Mechan-'isms'
As my own season of migration to the land of Saud approaches and the prospect of interacting with several overeducated, intelligent and caged women looms, the inevitable concern of culture shock all over again rears its ugly head. In a recent conversation with a Professor of English literature teaching at King Saud University, I was told that she overheard the head of department and her members of staff (all advanced literature degree holders from reputable Western universities) bragging about how they would not recognise male members of family and male in-laws in the street. The conversation ran along the lines of, 'I have thirteen male cousins and other than in pictures, I have not seen them in real life, moreover, because they have never seen me, even in pictures, they wouldn't recognise me if I bumped right into them shopping without my veil'. 'Oh that's nothing, my sister has been married for twenty years and her husband believes that pictures are haraam and so I have NEVER seen him.' This exchange was then followed by pats on the back and self congratulation. The system has worked. How proud they were of their ability to fuse education and moral, social integrity!
And off they trotted to teach other females about John Donne, TS Eliot and Jane Austen.
Odd the Silence: Iraq and the End of Reconstruction [added thought]
Wandering around online I found it strange, peculiar, startling the silence with respect to the End of Reconstruction in Iraq.
Given the confident crowing on the Right in the US of A about Iraq being rebuilt into a bright shiny new Germany, shining new example to the Arab and Islamic Worlds, example of Bush's great vision, etc. ad nauseum (we should not neglect the incoherent flailing and whinging on the part of the Left in the US of A, which is so fundamentally schizophrenically incompetent as to be almost amusing), I would have thought The Washington Post's small note on the apparent abandonment of reconstruction would have provoked some small commentary here and there.
Instead, there seems to be a general silence.
Perhaps I have missed something, but I do have to suspect there is a bit of mumble and shuffle on with respect to both sides.
Plus ca change
"He couldn't help but feel, after ten years' service in such Arab countries as Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the Gulf States (he was always careful to think and say Arabian Gulf, not Persian Gulf, in Arab countries), that there was a very legtimate Arab point of view on the Middle East conflict between Arab and Jew. It was his observation that American diplomacy was weighted in favour of Israel and that the Arab outlook was either distorted in the American press or in American thinking, or it was ignored. He had seen all sides of the question in intimate, close-up detail. He had learned to speak Arabic well and Hebrew passably and he understood the grievances on both sides equally. And he still thought the Arab world, which to date had made little effective protest within the American power structure, was getting the splintered end of the stick."
January 02, 2006
Those Kazakhs Just Can't Take a Joke
At least not when it's told by Borat Sagdiyev, the alter ego of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (perhaps better known as Ali G). Perhaps it was less than sensitive for the sixth most famous person in Kazakhstan to use an Internet domain controlled by the Kazakh government to satirize the Kazakh government, but they in return showed an extraordinary lack of humor by shutting the site down completely. They even threatened to sue.
(Borat's fans need not fear; he is up and running elsewhere.)
And in the area of economic illiteracy and policy foolishness
I read in the Moroccan business journal, L'Economiste (see here) that the drooling idiots in the government are looking at "reviewing" the concessionary contract with Lydec for the management of waste services, electricity, and other public utilities.
A Followup on the Iraq Fuel Price Fiasco
Lew Rockwell, a bit of a free-market fundamentalist, but that's not usually a bad thing, gives a 101 level explanation of why price controls and subsidies have a bad effect:
The mystery to explain is why a country that is incredibly oil rich – with the 2nd largest oil reserves in the world – would face a massive shortage of all oil products. If you knew nothing more than this detail, and you knew something about the history of economic debacles, you might guess: price controls. You would be right.
From what I can gather from public sources . . .what is unique [to Iraq in the region] is the combination of subsidies and price controls that led gasoline to be fix-priced at 5 cents per gallon until very recently. You don't have to be an economist to know what the results of this policy would be. Not only does it lead to overconsumption [but] the number of vendors willing to distribute the stuff in the open market collapses. What’s left is bought in Iraq and sold to neighboring countries at a profit.
Thus does a policy designed to make oil cheap for all result in the bizarre world in which a country full of oil underground would not have any of the stuff available above ground.
Iraq, some other observations on Left incoherence and sensless whinging on like stupid morons
As I am in a fine mood, given I am refusing today to take any narcotics at all, so I can fully savour the Chemotherapy experience, I thought I might rant on about another bit of senseless whinging on from the Know Nothing Whinging Git Left (this opposed to the Know Nothing Whinging Self Deluded Right), that with respect to the oil price subsidies being reduced in Iraq.
You can see this comment on Juan Cole's site with respect to 'IMF doctrinaire' polices, a piece of utter economic illiteracy rather typical of Cole and his coteria (they should stay away from economic commment).
There is, of course, nothing "doctrinaire" about the IMF urging the Iraqi government to stop pissing away badly needed millions on an utterly mad, wasteful and stunningly corrupted subsidy regime that is largely aiding oil smugglers (ah, what is the hard working oil smuggler to do without a good subsidy). Anyone with the slightest lick of sense should understand the gas price subsidies are mad, wasteful and doing nothing but enriching the mafias while contributing to chronic shortages. But no, for the drooling idiot Left, the IMF Big Baddies must be wrong.....
Lobotomised cretins, the lot of them. No wonder the Bush Admin mopped them up, despite the same Administration's chronic incompetence. The lot of the both are cretins.
However, in the category of idiotic Lefty knee-jerking
Another article on the Lincoln Group. I can't for a variety of reasons comment on the underlying issues, but the reaction among the whinging American Left is, rather typically, overdone.
The facts in question on this, that Lincoln Group, that foolish bunch of dilettantes, engaged "Sunni clerics" (there is no such thing of course, so we may presume that what is actually meant is some Sunni religious scholars) to consult on messages / agitprop.
It's hard to see what is "insulting" or contemptuous of Islam in seeking advice (unless by some dimwitted idiocy one thinks agitprop is not halal, for which I say see Bin Laden).
I love to hate the incompetent ninny-hammered dilettantes and self-deluding morons of the Bush Administration, but I like to do so on substantive grounds, rather than merely idiotic reflexive whinging on like empty headed blithering fools.
Contempt for Islam.... morons.
Walking Away: "We never intended to completely rebuild Iraq"
A fine article in The Washington Post mildly amused me, although also saddened (more for the personal reasons):
U.S. Has End in Sight on Iraq Rebuilding
Documents Show Much of the Funding Diverted to Security, Justice System and Hussein Inquiry
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 2, 2006; Page A01
The core observations:
The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.
January 01, 2006
Eyewitness Account of Cairo Police Raid on Sudanese Sit-In
An eyewitness account by Nora Younis of the Egyptian police raid on the Sudanese refugee sit-in in Cairo, complete with onsite photos and interesting commentary, including from other Egyptians, at bottom. So much for inter-African solidarity, I guess.