February 05, 2010
I have a vewwy gweat fwiend in Iswamabad named Biggus . . . .
Life imitates Monty Python's "Biggus" scene in Life of Brian as a proposed Pakistani ambassador to Saudi Arabia is rejected due to what his name sounds like in slang Arabic. Do you feel the need to titter when I say the name of my fwiend, Akbar..... Zeb? He has a wife you know, her name is Incontinentia. . . Incontinentia Teez. Sorry for the Python references.
February 04, 2010
The Occupation? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller.
Some memorable moments:
A) PM Stein and a panel of foreign affairs scholars judging an American Idol-style remake of Win Ben Stein's Money (scroll down for photo).
B) PM Stein explains the difficulties of settlement incursions to a Western aid official over a Starbucks.
C) Stein lets loose in Vegas for a last hurrah just before heading over to Palestine for his swear-in.
B) Of course, who can forget Prime Minister Stein's poignant narrative video of the Palestinian Nakba (refugee catastrophe) of 1948.
August 20, 2009
Lewistful Thinking Reconsidered: A Conversion Narrative
However valuable Bernard Lewis may have been as a historian, his influence on recent academia/military/political thinking vis a vis MENA, has always been horribly worse than useless, but nevertheless quite significant. This account of a former academic disciple's ditching Lewis when encountering reality is worth reading if only to hear that when he encountered reality on the ground "with Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington as my guides, I ha[d] no way to make sense of such an encounter."
August 17, 2009
Some old controversies: Morocco & Models, and Bloggy overreaction and preciousness
Rooting around I ran across this arty Morocco makes peace with its past. - By Anne Applebaum - Slate Magazine via Global Voices Online » Morocco: An Alternative to Iran? and the Poor Alternatives - Morocco Board News Service. Intrigued I thought I'd take a look at the arty from July on Morocco. Oddly, I found it not bad, not anywhere as much as implied by the fulminating against it.
Welcome to the kingdom of Morocco, a place that, in light of the last two weeks' events in Iran, merits a few minutes of reflection. Unlike Turkey, Morocco is not a secular state: The king claims direct descent from the prophet Mohammed. Nor does Morocco aspire to be European [NB Lounsbury: not any longer, although Hassan II had an amusing demarche to tweak the Fr. in this respect] Though French is still the language of business and higher education, the country is linguistically and culturally part of the Arabic-speaking world. But unlike most of its Arab neighbors, the country has over the last decade undergone a slow but profound transformation from traditional monarchy to constitutional monarchy, acquiring along the way real political parties, a relatively free press, new political leaders—the mayor of Marrakesh is a 33-year-old woman—and a set of family laws that strives to be compatible both with sharia and international conventions on human rights.Emphasis added: Constitutional Monarchy? Mmmmmm. Maybe. [edited to correct some systems errors]
The result is not what anyone would call a liberal democratic paradise. One human rights activist painted for me a byzantine portrait of electoral corruption involving "mediators" who "organize" votes on behalf of candidates. Others point out that if the demonstrators I saw at the parliament had been Islamic radicals or Western Saharan guerrilla leaders, rather than trade unionists, the police might not have been quite so blasé. Though women have legal rights, cultural restraints remain. A tiny fraction of the population reads newspapers, even fewer have Internet access, and somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of the country is illiterate in any case. As a result, election turnout is very low. Political posters feature symbols, not words.
May 07, 2009
Muslim Defiant Piousness Cures Swine Flu
In fact, the whole Muslim obsession with prayers or the length of women clothing gets on my nerves, particularly when actual issues are overlooked.
Quick notes to my fellow Muslims:
March 23, 2009
Sullivan & Overheated Blithering on about Dubai (Dhimmitude to ban nakedness.... really)
Dhimmitude In Dubai
The joys of theocracy, even in an international city-state whose population is 80 percent foreign:
Reading Andrew Sullivan's blog in between tracking financial sector meltdown and scheming to keep my little empire going, I ran across this absurdly overheated characterisation of the new rules for Dubai's vast commercial waste lands.
As I wrote in an email to him, this is absurd bollocks as an over-reaction.
January 09, 2009
Gaza: A Modest Proposal
At risk of delving into the Israel/Palestine issue, where people too often yell, scream throw things, and put words into my mouth, I'd like to see what the denizens of Aqoul think of this idea for a cease-fire in Gaza, and where to go afterward, which is part of a larger plan to eliminate conflict by addressing socioeconomic inequalities, and which would also address other conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
December 30, 2008
Gaza round, all ye clowns: Open thread
Try to keep the hyperpartisanship down in this more heat than light subject. Observations, etc. on the latest, have at it. But when in doubt, note sentence 1 here again.
September 17, 2008
Yemen Goes South: Open Carnage Thread
Latest news indicates 16 or so dead in an apparent attempted raid on the U.S. Embassy to Yemen. This account, based on Yemen insider sources who work hard to bring the discussion quickly around to the expected "you need to send us more money, dammit", indicates it was a successfully stopped large-scale raid, and likely it was al-Qaeda (now there's some serious sleuthing!). Comments on the event from Aqoulites, friends, enemies, etc. . . . have at it.
August 24, 2008
MENA Development and Investment: How 'bout just makin' stuff?
Moving back MENA-ward, I add a rant inspired by long-time discussions here and elsewhere regarding investment in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries. My amateur self keeps reading about Gulf or other money chasing things like real estate or hub port facilities, or digging out more of that Texas tea. Now, I hope I don't use too technical economic terms here, but here goes the rant: shouldn't the bulk of this fund dough, including money from superrich nations, be going towards activities where, you know, MENA regular folks will, like, MAKE NEW STUFF and then SELL THAT NEWLY-MADE STUFF TO OTHER PEOPLE for, um, HARD MONEY. That may sound a bit hi-falutin grad-school airy-fairy idealistic, development economics-y, but it needs to be said.
August 02, 2008
Arabic Translation Peeve, vol 200: Is this the Best the Army can do?
Check this out. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Mr. 9/11, provided in Arabic answers to questions in the trial of bin-Laden's driver. Here is what our competent Arabic translators of our front-line fighting forces in the war on terror, as edited by our leading media, in a trial under a global microscope, provide as one answer of his:
“As the American Army (we) have drivers, cooks, crewmen and legal personal,” Mohammed wrote. . . "We also, are human beings ... we have interests in life. ...You can not understand terrorism and Al-Qaida from 9/11 operation.”Rant below.
Random Thoughts on Quranism
An interesting Internet phenomenon that was not brought here on Aqoul as far as I know is the Qurani branch of Islam.
The axiom underlying this branch’s approach to Islam is the rejection of Hadiths. To make it simple for the non Muslims out there, Sunnis consider two main textual sources for Islam: The Quran, and the Hadiths (The Shias also have the same kind of sources, except they disagree on which Hadiths are authoritative – but I will leave Shias to those who actually know the topic). The Hadiths are those sayings and traditions attributed to the prophet, compiled two to three centuries after his death.
The rejection of the Hadiths is not something new. Long before Quranis (or Quran-Aloners) began having more echo, many Sunnis engaged in a selective rejection of Hadiths traditionally classified as authentic. Those are not conservative Sunnis usually, but few went as far as claiming a complete schism from the mainstream Sunni understanding of Islam.
August 01, 2008
His Hair Was Perfect: Werewolves of Gaza
(Apologies to the late Mr Zevon.) Turkey's so deeply meaningful war over hatwear nearly overthrew the government, and apparently its recent being sent to its room without supper is causing the AKP to temporarily write off the struggle, um, whole cloth. But those profound Turkish wars of meaning over hatwear give way to Gaza, where the struggle over the true hair of steadfastness has reached crisis proportions. It appears that Hamas is now shaving the moustaches off Fatah activists, in retaliation for the jackbooted debearding of Hamas loyalists by Fatah. An ominous development for a society already beset by settlers wielding sidecurls in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on Treatment of Follicles. Is history so soon forgotten, or are they just returning to their roots? Is it not time to get more bangs for the buck, and yes, rogaine one's freedom? And didn't Munich teach that even a small moustache needs to be stopped early? Turkey has stopped hair-covering, but hair itself remains appeased. Can anyone not see the civilization at stake in all this? What coiffure-textile combination do you feel best reflects optimal social values? Or is this person the secret key to global harmony?
June 07, 2008
For those of you wishing headaches, Pipes series on MENA
At the National Review, I haven't the gumption to actually go further myself. However the National Review's summary would seem to indicate he's losing the veneer on his pure bigotry to descend into batty land:
Daniel Pipes talks the odds. The chance that immigrant Muslims and indigenous Europeans find a way to live in harmony? Five percent, says Pipes. The chance that Europe becomes Eurabian, part of the Muslim world? Forty-seven-and-a-half percent. The chance that Europeans reassert control over the continent? Forty-seven-and-a-half percent, once more — and Pipes says it won’t be pretty.
Eurabia...well, I suppose if one gets that special combination of innumeracy and bigotry together, one can seriously believe that Europe is going to somehow become "Eurabia"...
[Crossposted from The Lounsbury]
April 02, 2008
A Brief Note on Zionism, Israel and the Nub of It
It being a little quiet around here what with all of us busy and/or lazy, I thought I'd spice it up by going against the usual, and quite healthy, distaste of most Aqoul principals towards wading into the Israel-Palestine morass. Especially as there are anniversaries and such coming up. Anyway, today's lesson comes from a column of Michael Gerson (not a fan, myself, usually) in the Washington Post. It tells of a speech at the Holocaust Museum by an old gentleman, a Mr. Traum, who was once a very young gentleman in Nazified Austria. He recalls various events especially around Kristallnacht in 1938-39. Below the break is a revealing nugget.
December 16, 2007
Competent Adults in Charge? The Iraq Surge's Non-Failure
Not often do I get to be more right than Jim Henley, but here I claim it though I can't document my earlier growing sense that The Surge would turn out better than we cynics first expected. (The last time he was wrong, which goes back years, so was I, as when he predicted that Ariel Sharon would not go through with the Gaza withdrawal.) But now he is surprised that violence has not rebounded in Iraq since The Surge in a way he has predicted. I am far less surprised however and, although I started as a Surge Cynic as shown here, I have come to feel after more information that there has been a good chance of some sustained suppression of the violence. More on why, below.
November 27, 2007
Hirsi Ali: Ideological Chameleon
First, I curse SP for pointing out this latest interview with the infuriating headline: Ayaan Hirsi Ali: My life under a fatwa. Boys and girls, we've been over this before. A fatwa is not an ummah-wide execution order, it is a ruling issued by an Islamic scholar in response to a specific legal question. I wrote about this distinction almost two years ago, when Wafa Sultan told the New York Times that Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli had issued a "fatwa" when he called her an atheist during a TV interview.
Listen, you credulous glurge-sucking Western journalists, just because some idiot Ayatollah lobbed one at Rushdie almost two decades ago doesn't make every random statement by a Muslim (scholar or fanatic) a fatwa. Nor is a fatwa binding across the universe (else a lot of Muslim women with plucked eyebrows are going to hell). Of course, the f-word does score a lot of publicity amongst the chattering classes, which is why every faux reformer wants one.
But let's get on to the actual article, shall we?
November 13, 2007
The Road Most Travelled
So I met up with an old friend of mine from home the other day. We had not seen each other for almost five years but had communicated regularly on email and the occasional phone call. I have a lot of time for her as over the years, she had not gone down that road which inevitably most of my childhood girlfriends trod, namely, marrying the first semi-respectable loser that came along and promptly disappearing into a world of children, family responsibilities and that slightly haughty smug security of not being talked about anymore (you know who you are).
September 07, 2007
Bin-Laden Versus Bin-Laden, same day
Osama bin-Laden on Sept. 7 2007* -- "19 young men were able, by the grace of [God], the Most High, to change the direction of [America's] compass."
Osama bin-Laden on, um, Sept 7, 2007 -- "burning living beings is forbidden by our religion, even if they be small like the ant, so what of men?"
In addition to terrorist, criminal, fanatic, and other filth-and-foul words, we can now add "what a fatuous dick".
August 25, 2007
Syria's Consideration: A Realistic Travelogue in A Surprising Place
I must say something nice about the Washington Times, which normally has MENA-related fare along the lines of FoxNews and this type of swill. I saw this story a short time back of a travel-writer's visit to Syria in the dead-wood version, but not online. Now I see it is online. Amazingly, the writer actually seems to have taken note of the place and reported it and experienced what normal travelers there would notice, although one might find it too saccharine for its non-comments on the ubiquitous Leader & Family photos, or the pervasive poverty. Still, entitled sincerely and without guile The Kindness of Syrians, it is well done and refreshingly rooted in relevant reality; excerpts for you link-avoiders below the break. (Elsewhere on deeper questions of wealth and poverty, AbuFares has this to say; more on that at another time. Now back to the W. Times.)
July 16, 2007
Eavesdropping on London Buses and Other Political Pastimes
In keeping with my uncanny ability always to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I ventured to London town just as various NHS doctors were ramming cars packed with explosives into airport terminals and parading about in the shape of human fireballs.
The queues in the airport were interminable, the interrogation at customs was agonising and in the time it took me to reach central London, I could have flown back to Saudi Arabia, picked up the Ipod that I had forgotten and flown back. However, since it was London, armed with a stiff upper lip and a spirit of the blitz mindset, I deposited my baggage, found a quiet cafe in the West of the city, and proceeded to catch up on missed nicotine time in Saudi by chain smoking myself into a coma.
July 10, 2007
Chanel and Shakira: Poor Alliteration and McDoomed Reporting
I have been meaning to write something about this for quite sometime but the bile clouded my judgement. In addition, part of me refused to give the article credence by commenting on it in any length while the rest of me seethed and wondered why this piece of frankly bordering on illiterate prose irked me so...I will try to be brief, as a dissection may spin out of control into an undignified meaningless diatribe.
The first lines read:
People often ask me how I can tie myself forever to Sudan, when I have covered the worst of this country in conflict zones like Darfur. I guess I finally understood the strength of love
June 30, 2007
UK apes Saudi Arabia, fears for your health
Maybe inspired by how there are no pubs in Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom decided to join this prestigious league and ban shisha, de facto sentencing shisha shops to closing business. The gullible souls could argue that while the UK government is motivated by public health concerns, the Saudis are trying to enforce some liberticidal moral code. The truth though is, alcohol does a lot more damage than shisha, and if the concern is really health, then alcohol should be banned in UK pubs and white baby milk should be served there instead. Don’t take my word for it; stand in an emergency department for a little while.
The opponents to this ban have approached it under the cultural angle so far. They miss the point. First, being perceived as a Muslim tradition, they shouldn’t expect much to be granted to the protection of this custom. Second, cultural or not, exceptions on public health issues aren’t made for cultural reasons. Try arguing for heroin on a cultural basis. Now, it should be demonstrated how the health concern is a fallacy, at least when other equally or more dangerous substances like alcohol are not banned.
June 05, 2007
USS Liberty: Error? Probably. Reinvestigate? Certainly.
Among the Mideast Six-Day War's 40th anniversary issues will be the June 8, 1967 attack by Israeli military forces on the USS Liberty, an American naval intelligence ship. In international waters near Egypt's Sinai peninsula, the vessel was torpedoed by Israeli Navy vessels, following repeated strafings/napalmings by Israeli Air Force planes. A special remembrance was held at the Navy Memorial (7th and Penn) in DC on June 8. Despite my own newer conclusion that the incident was indeed a result of Israeli errors, rather than an assault with foreknowledge of the ship's American nationality, I do think the incident should receive long overdue U.S. public investigation and hearings .
June 02, 2007
How Do You Say "Chutzpah" in Arabic?
The Department of Homeland Security, in a nod to the U.S.' long tradition of aiding those huddled masses who yearn to breathe free (or at least yearn to refrain from having their heads blown off), has announced that a whopping total of 60 Iraqis will shortly be admitted to the U.S. as refugees - but only if they pass the required security checks, of course.
May 10, 2007
On the failure of Liberals in the Arab World
I’ll use Liberal in both its classic and modern Anglo-Saxon meaning here. The previous thread’s comments gave me some neuron crunching about this issue. Socialism, from the 50s to the 80s, and Islamism afterwards, are perhaps the two ideologies which mostly shaped Arab thought during the second half of the 20th century.
The socio-economic variables are clearly an indicator on how radical one can be in support of those political lines. But it’s interesting to note that those ideologies enjoy support even among people who otherwise aren’t poor, are educated, and tend to be socially quite loose.
I’ll focus on one reason that has a huge weight in determining political orientations: national causes.
May 09, 2007
Why Israel is doing Arabs a favor by ignoring the Arab Peace Initiative
Because Arabs can score some PR points out of it, but would face the tough issue of dealing with it if they had to sit and really negotiate it. Or worse, find some formula about refugees that one of our duces would think is a face saving one and come to have to actually implement it. Of course, if we were smarter, it wouldn’t be a tough point at all. But see, in negotiations, we’re idiots.
I know this entry comes a bit late, the Arab Peace Initiative has been put back on the table several weeks ago already, but I felt inspired by a recent discussion of it with a concerned friend. At the beginning of the Oslo process, when Israelis were sending delegations of the finest international law and negotiations experts, Palestinians were sending teams of little bullies, thinking that the kafya military green wearing Sopranos would be as good with their brains as they are with their muscles.
May 05, 2007
The Forex Wall
I’ve hit it again. The Lounsbury and I have had a brief exchange about this some time ago, and I just discussed it with a Moroccan acquaintance. The guy’s an accountant. Morocco or Tunisia, to quote only those examples among many other Arab countries, impose trade restrictions when it comes to foreign currencies.
The argument I’m given in support for those restrictions is invariably the same: everyone will rush to buy foreign currencies, and the country will have a shortage of it. That such an argument comes from an accountant is puzzling. It totally ignores the fact that markets would automatically balance that demand. If some little buddy is ready to sell his house for a couple of euros, then he must be a moron of epic proportions. And if one’s worried about the resulting exchange rate, then there definitely are ways to control them through market mechanisms.
April 28, 2007
Maybe All is Not Lost in Translation
Apparently the U.S. Congress has taken notice that a grand total of fifty green cards per fiscal year was not going to meet the demand created by Iraqi and Afghan translators who have placed their lives in danger by serving as translators and interpreters for U.S. forces.
France reflections: elections, Beurs, MENA, economy
As per The Lounsbury's suggestion, and following Ibn Kafka's extensive coverage of French elections, here are my two cents about them, Beurs, France and the MENA region and related economic bits.
Sunday's [May 6th] second round will most probably bring Sarkozy to French presidency. I have to say I'm very mixed up about this election. This round's vote is a matter of either gambling on Sarkozy, and risking what happened with Arab Americans, who happen to have voted George Bush in 2000, or choosing an economically destructive but marginally more risk averse community-wise choice with Segolene.
March 20, 2007
Egalité in time of elections
Another damning study in France, which shows that discrimination isn't improving in the Terre d'Asile, Land of Equality. If you're an Arab or African French, your chances of receiving equal treatment are statistically an 11% of employers. The president will be elected next month and France is well into its electoral campaign. Segolene and Sarkozy have done pathetic attempts at fishing Arab votes by visiting Arab countries, but so far, this internal issue that hinders the development of at least 10% of the French population isn't on any candidate's radar. Even Sarkozy's affirmative action, a fuzzy social - not ethnic - based concept, is unlikely to ever concretize given how controversial the idea is in Jacobin France.
Not that affirmative action is a good idea anyway, since it would only serve in reinforcing stereotypes, devaluate real merit and maintain the nanny government tradition that reduces incentives to perform.
March 19, 2007
Encore Rock the Casbah: Casablanca Terror & Mohammed al Faiz - A Proposal on Aid
I should start by admitting that that when our Permanent Anon inquired about Mohammed Faiz, I had a somewhat (or even rather) dismissive reaction. A dismissive reaction that was utterly wrong and misplaced. Faiz for those who don't know, is the supervisor and by family, owner, of an internet cafe in a poor neighbourhood in the Moroccan city of Casablanca who stopped an attempted bombing there.
My original reaction was, effectively, yeah, he did a good deed and possibly for his own interest (e.g. frightened he might get in trouble), so what?
On reflexion and on review of international and domestic press that effectively highlight the recidivist takfiri suicide bomber Raydi, I have changed my mind. And indeed apologize for my superficial reaction.
February 23, 2007
Tarek Fatah on Little Mosque
For some more provincial comments from the Big North, Tarek Fatah's take on Little Mosque on the Prairie has some good points. While I disagree with his idea that there might be an agenda behind the lack of portrayal of liberal Muslims in the show, he definitely put his finger on something when stating that "the liberal, secular or progressive segments of the community – are conspicuous by their complete absence from the Little Mosque narrative."
February 14, 2007
Lost in Translation: U.S. Policy Toward Iraqi Translators and Interpreters
With an estimated 3.8 million Iraqis currently living as refugees, it’s not surprising that the U.S. might want to help by taking in a few hapless souls until Iraq stabilizes. So I wasn’t at all shocked to see that Washington has offered to provide refugee visa slots for its customary drop in the bucket. That’s right - 7,000 lucky Iraqis, or 0.18% of those who have fled during the current conflict alone, will be granted the opportunity to start over in the U.S. in the form of asylum.
January 18, 2007
Allah v. God v. G-d v. YHWH v. The LORD
On Lounsbury's journal, a debate I will now hijack has been going on. That debate suggests a more basic underlying religious vocabulary dilemma that goes back decades at least: the selection by many Muslims to use "Allah " instead of "God" when discoursing religion in English. I personally oppose it but as I am not Muslim I have no direct stake in the underlying religious taboos, if any. But I do find it linguistically annoying and highly misleading, for reasons addressed further on.
Update: Courtesy of commenter Dawud is this Islamic scholarly explanation of why the term "God" is a halal one for "Allah".
January 09, 2007
Wishful Thinking, Grasping at Straws, and Other Habits of Highly Effective Pundits
I know that taking Andrew Sullivan apart whenever he embarasses himself talking about Islam is old hat on this blog, but his recent post about the possible benefits of the Iraqi civil war for the war on terror deserves special mention. You see, by declaring victory and then leaving Iraqis to slaughter each other, we counter al-Qaeda's "West versus Islam" narrative with an "Islam versus Islam" narrative.
January 05, 2007
Saddam Execution & Recent Events: A Moroccan Perspective
The casual reader of Tel Quel, a trendy francophone Moroccan weekly, or, to a lesser extent, of Le Journal hebdomadaire, might be forgiven for thinking that the average Moroccan is more interested in the depenalisation of cannabis, the right to convert to Southern Baptism or whether algebra will be taught in Tamazight than in events in the Middle East. One Tel Quel journalist wrote "Je n’aime pas le Hezbollah" ("I don't like Hezbollah"), thus showing how disconnected this magazine is from the broad strands of Moroccan public opinion - fiercely pro-Palestinian, pro-Hezbollah and anti-US.
December 14, 2006
Attending Holocaust Denial Conference Might Be Career-Limiting
The Tehran conference has drawn widespread condemnation for its roster of infamous attendees and controversial position on the Holocaust. Certainly any academic with half a brain wouldn't be caught dead at one of Ahmedinejad's little soirees, as demonstrated by the brewing intellectual slapfight between Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein. Using evidence from a neo-nazi website, Dershowitz insinuated that his academic nemesis not only attended, but would fit right in because he "has allied himself closely with the Holocaust denial movement by trivializing the suffering of its victims and denying that many of them were victims at all." Our man Richard Silverstein summarizes the story and casts doubt on Dershowitz's conclusion by noting that a) Finkelstein's own parents narrowly escaped the Holocaust, making denial a bit difficult and b) he was testifying at a federal trial in Chicago during the conference.
The motive behind this accusation is clear: legitimate academics who attend Holocaust conferences with David Duke and his ilk may experience slight credibility loss among peers. Rather like evolutionary biologists presenting papers at a conference of Creationists, I suppose.
December 04, 2006
Fun with Labels: Protest, Opposition, Siege, and/or Coup d'Etat in Lebanon
Even if one man's protest is apparently another man's attempted coup, there's still something just a little bit off about the rhetoric surrounding recent events in Lebanon. Commentators are at pains to distance what is happening now from what happened when the March 14th movement (or Cedar Revolution, if you prefer) peacefully camped out in downtown Beirut. It would be impossible to track down every instance of the sort of rhetoric I'm talking about, but Abu Kais, currently guest-blogging for Michael Totten, is a pretty representative example, referring to the situation as an "occupation of downtown Beirut" and a "coup attempt". And, our own Lounsbury has already posted on similar framings over on ...Or Does it Explode? that amount to: "How dare people we don't like use non-reprehensible tactics? Bad people should only use bad tactics!"
November 29, 2006
US & Iraq: Imbecilic Navel-Gazing as Strategy
I read and was told that the major US media (or to adopt the childishly imbecilic Neo-Bolshevik speak of the American blogs, "Mainstream Media") has finally gotten around to calling the Iraqi civil war, a civil war. I rather foolishly thought that this might be welcomed among the more cogent and cogniscent corners of online commentary as a breath of fresh air and a good point of departure for actually bloody well tackling the disaster looming in front of the US of A, rather than childishly whinging on about terminology and pretending if only they don't bloody admit how bad it is, some magical intervention will somehow rescue them from the now inevitable disaster. I do say invevitable, for the Americans have already lost - as the Soviets already had two or three years before they could bring themselves to admit it.
But no. Rather, even into the center regions of the American Whankatariat, idiotic, droolingly cretinous idiotic denial, and simple minded self regarding idiocy is the result. The essential objection as far as I can tell (once I peel away the piss-poor half-informed and 1/4 understood history of Shia and Sunni, of Arab and Kurd - typical "they've always been" rubbish) - is that calling a spade a spade may lead the US to flee the field.
November 11, 2006
Arab Media: Al Jazeera Newspaper
Likely lost in the American elections noise and the Israeli Gaza invasion, an interesting item reported in the FT among other sources on Al Jazeera planning a competitor to the hoary old pan-Arab dailies, Al Hayat (my personal favourite), Asharq Al Awsat (All Saudi views, all the time...) and of course Al Quds Al Arabi (old school Arab nationalism, I found them shrill and boring when I bothered to read it).
A worthy concept, but I am afraid the very physicalness of newspapers make them too easy to ban (by the way, I remain puzzled why Hayat hasn't been found in Maghreb for decades) or pressure.
November 04, 2006
Who Let The Cats Out?
I spent the past few days ruminating on a post, part of me wanting to ignore it and frankly bury it in the recesses of my repressed memory pile, another part of me gagging and wanting to spew my last meal. Am afraid the bile won and the balanced pondered upon post is in the bin. There are times when one has enough, when one comes to the realization that the tempered non-agitational reasoned approach to life leaves you out of the idiot pile but also robs you of your rage. It’s not Neanderthal or ignorant to be angry and I am, fucking seriously outraged, and I will not look for underlying causes or phenomenal precedents. Scum the lot of them.
October 28, 2006
On Iraq & Pre-War Predictions: What Do You Mean "We", Paleface?
Apologies to the old Lone Ranger joke. Clive Davis writes this lament of the disaster unfolding in Iraq. "It wasn't just the Bush team that made mistakes, of course. Didn't we all underestimate the challenge?" (emphasis added).
Ummm, no. That sentence may imply a whole new set of meanings for the words "we" and "all", hitherto unsuspected. Even my own neglected blog in early 2003 quoted this far-from-rare Jason Vest article from the (annoyingly) lefty mag The Nation that got it right. That article (and even little old me) were among so many others -- from every walk of life, punditry, as well as civilian and military industry, large and small -- who loudly forsaw everything, more or less. Not to mention our very own Aqoul curmudgeon. To the time machine!
October 24, 2006
Sudan's North, East, South, West; Whose Peace Treaty is the Best?
Another day, another peace treaty. Eastern Sudanese factions signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government earlier this week ending the convoluted, if less bloody and less publicised, uprising in the east of the country. Since the Naivasha treaty, which ended the long-running war between the North and the South, there have been two more treaties, one with rebel factions in Darfur and the latest with Eastern rebels. But have any of these treaties any promise? Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir declared, very much reminscent of a mother who had given her children too much candy, "This is the LAST peace treaty!" and, after a short pause, "to be negotiated outside the country."
Judging from the inherent weakness of the agreements themselves, and the Sudanese government's unfolding willingness (I will stop short of 'eagerness') to accomodate the immediate demands of rebels, it is not unreasonable to expect more uprisings, and/or more importantly, the disintegration of the current peace treaties as well.
October 22, 2006
Spinning in different languages or proper adjusting of message to audience?
Following up on some small debates on MEMRI mendacity and accusations of doubletalk between English and Arabic on the part of Arabophone intellectuals, I found the following article from Reuters interesting, amusing and also thought-provoking: Diplomat acknowledges U.S. "arrogance" in Iraq.
The essence of the story, the head of US public diplomacy Near East bureau, Alberto Fernandez, apparently (I have been too busy to watch TV myself) acknowledged the US has bollixed up Iraq due to arrogance and stupidity. The US government has forthwith claimed (re the English) it is a misquote.
A moment to reflect on the problems of structuring messages and communicating between languages, based on the longer text of the same Reuters story from the NY Times Reuters feed.
[Update: Unsurprisingly this is showing signs of setting off, what was it called in comments, a stupid storm: I point to Bou Aardvark's note on the issue. I wonder if the stupid storm on the part of pornstarlet wannabes like Malkin will actually deprive the US of one its few capable interlocutors on the Arab Sats, in some cretinous recreation of Soviet style purges for not following party lines]
October 17, 2006
Iraq the Mortal: Lancet reports 800 gazillion slain
I'll probably update or followup as time permits (have updated now after the break), but we should note the recent study issued by The Lancet, which alleges some absurd figure for Iraqi deaths from coalition and other violence post-US invasion -- a followup to their earlier study (see below for link to abstract), which at least had a broad enough confidence interval to fig leaf the foolishness. When I begged my government in 2002-3 not to enter this stupid war and occupation with all the cruelty and foolishness it would entail, I neglected to leave out the fact that it would perpetuate mass gulllibility among those who think "Bush & Co." is Hitler, and that any accusation should stick. And those, like the media, who think peer-reviewed medical literature is face-value gospel. Thankfully, a responsible and serious set of critics of the invasion/occupation/budding civil war, the Iraq Body Count, who actually ask critical questions and document the same matters in real time, has issued a serious commentary listing enough red flags about the Lancet study to decorate a communist banquet.
October 16, 2006
Backers of Dovish American Jewish Initiative Deny Opposing AIPAC
When JTA ran a story last week about an initiative backed by George Soros (or not yet backed if you believe Rosner's reports below) and other powerful dovish American Jewish leaders, it noted that one of the purposes of the initiative would be to present a progressive counter to AIPAC. All of this seems perfectly reasonable to any reasonable American Jew. But the 900lb gorilla Goliath has taken notice of little David standing beneath him and he's roared his annoyance. As a result, it's humorous to see the erstwhile progressives scurrying like ants to backtrack:
Jewish organizational officials who have participated in the meetings said JTA's characterization of their aim in a story earlier this week, as an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was wrong...
Those currently leading the effort say they're happy to work with AIPAC.
"My involvement is that Mort Halperin's an old friend," said Mel Levine, a former U.S. Democratic congressman who is now a high-powered West Coast lawyer. "Mort asked me to go to an initial exploratory meeting about a pro-Israel advocacy organization that would focus on a two-state solution, that would focus on Israel and was not in competition with anyone else."
That did not usurp AIPAC'S role of advocating for a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, Levine said.
Tarawih in the Kingdom, Part 2
Today I got the giggles.
We chose a small makeshift mosque that was close by as the big neighbourhood one was too far to walk after a long day and so we made our way to the small one round the corner. It was tiny, barely holding a hundred people and the women's section held barely a third of that number. The moment I walked in and saw that there was a curtain, a CURTAIN, separating the male and female section, all the piety I had managed to muster evaporated as all I could think of was that the billowing curtain might be blown high enough to expose the two worlds. There would be havoc.
As we began to pray an old woman a couple of feet away from me began whispering visciously in my direction. Alarmed slightly I edged away from her but this only seemed to infuriate her further. After a few more ignored hisses, she grabbed me by my cloak and dragged me in one surprisingly firm move towards her. As I staggered in alarm my mother looked at me barely surpressing a laugh and whispered "You were too far away from her, there shouldn't be any gaps between worshippers." This I knew but had never witnessed it so dedicatedly implemented. I managed to regain my composure and keep praying, bemused by the small, bent octogenarian's strength.
October 14, 2006
MEMRI Mendacity, brief thoughts
Following up on my Lounsbury comment about a fine illustration of MEMRI's mendacity with respect to its pretensions of providing a window on Arabic/Islamic discourse, as identified via this post at Dean's World, I thought I would blither on a bit about this and other nasty spin.
There is certainly an emerging and quite nasty strain of bigotted or at least xenophobic reactionary commentary in the West with respect to Islam generally - and let me insert here for the sub-literate that in noting this I am not intending to excuse the Islamic world of its own version of this nor deny there is a sad and often disgusting strain of violence-mongering as our own bint ash-shaitan illustrated in her note on Saudi mosque nonsense - and it strikes me that MEMRI is an agitprop operation that is specifically trying to feed that now.
October 09, 2006
Tarawih in the Kingdom
I stepped into the women's section of the neighbourhood mosque, my mother by my side and the imam's quranic recitations booming in my ears. The praying area was on the upper floor of the mosque, ornate, sweet-smelling and half full by the time we got there. The imam had already finished isha'a prayer and started on tarawih so we quickly joined the last line and started praying under the brilliant chandelier and, thankfully, an air conditioning vent.
One thing that has always moved me is the reverberation of the congregation as they say "Amen" after the end of a quranic verse. As women are not allowed to raise their voices in prayer if men are in earshot, the rising chant after each verse is a deep rich tenor. These moments always affirmed - as far as I was concerned - the virtues of group prayer and the significance of communal religion. A lone worshipper believing more in a personal spiritual relationship with one's Maker, I am not a fan of mosque prayer but taken with the spirit of Ramadan and not wishing my mother to go on her own, I found myself smiling at the familiar "Amen" that emanated from the (not overlooked) male congregation below.
September 20, 2006
Racism? What racism?
Allow me to bring your attention to a particularly poorly written piece of UAE agitprop. The UAE is quite heavily segregated socially - people of different national and ethnic origins tend not to mix together except for business. This has been exacerbated greatly by some rather flagrant racism.
I am not sure what legal sanctions exist regarding discrimination, but it is clear that if these exist, they aren't ever enforced. Housing ads can thus ask for Keralite Muslim bachelors, and job ads for Tagalog-speaking candidates only to apply for positions where these language skills are unnecessary, while nightclubs often turn away non-white people at the door on flimsy grounds. Pay scales differ wildly depending on one's skin color, as does how one is treated by all sorts of people one encounters, ranging from shopkeepers to immigration staff.
There has lately been some very slight movement towards recognizing this and doing something about it. Until now, that is.
September 10, 2006
They'll Estonia When You Try to Trade Some Goods: Transition Model?
Estonia, the Model? (Title apologies to Bob Dylan.) It seems everybody must get Estonia'd. In this excerpt of a behind-the-firewall op-ed by John Tierney in the New York Times, we learn of the transtion from an economically totalitarian society to a free market one in the ex-Soviet state of Estonia. Assuming -- and tragically some you don't, I know -- that a free market-based state and economy is a generally good thing, does Estonia provide an example for MENA (Mideast North Africa) states, and if so which ones? Alas, our main economics contributor in the region is currently bailing out sinking enterprises so the expert answer may be harder to come by. Meanwhile, I suspect Estonia fails as a model.
August 23, 2006
Do-It-Yourself Profiling and Islamophobia
Following up on Matthew's barbuphobia entry, I would like to draw attention to some relatively minor yet rather disturbing events. Mere blips, but indicative of a growing acceptance of Islamophobia as an appropriate response to the current situation in MENA and the West.
Via Progressive Islam, the media has reported two separate incidents where passenger hysteria led to the ejection of Muslims from a plane. On a Malaga-Manchester flight, passengers overheard two Asian men speaking "Arabic" and refused to fly until they were removed. Similarly, a Canadian doctor returning home from a conference in Denver was escorted off a plane because one of the passengers found his behaviour suspicious and reported it to the flight crew. He was reciting evening prayers.
Barbuphobia: Clerics, Beards, Pre-Judgment, Piety & Stuff
Egyptian author Mona Eltahawy confronts her own presumptions about Les Barbus, presumptions derived from her experiences growing up in Saudi Arabia. By les barbus, I refer of course to a nickname used elsewhere for those conservatively pious, sometimes Wahhabi, Muslim gents who tend to sport long beards. They are often presumed -- can we say profiled? -- to harbor intolerant or reactionary social and religious views (not to mention explosives). The author herself concedes holding such statistically valid presumptions presupposing judgmental viewpoints on the part of conspicuously beadred Muslim men. But she soon comes to discover that such presumptions aren't always a reliable guide to each individual, especially after encountering a new person of the barbus type who turns out to be worth getting to know as a three-dimensional being in his own right, during meetings they had in and around a conference in Copenhagen on modern Muslims .
August 10, 2006
More Death in the Levant: A Personal Note
David Lelchook was cut down by a Hizbullah rocket landing in or around Kibbutz Sa'ar, Israel on August 2. He was bicycling, unsuccessfully, to a bomb shelter. The rest of his family had relocated to the south for safety. He was hit by the explosive force of the random projectile. I didn't know him or his views, but I have known his sister for quite some time. Reading the latest news the other day, David's rare surname jumped out. A phone call confirmed the relation.
Of, by and for the Lebanese
Michael Young has an article in the upcoming New York Times Sunday magazine discussing Lebanon's politics, the rise of Hizbullah, and the nature of the conflicting visions for the country. It's a good piece, and very different from much of Young's output over the past couple years. There's a sense of humility to it, and a willingness to look at the warts on "his" side of the equation as much as on the other side.
The main thing that sets it apart from so much of the commentary on the war is a willingness to look at Hizbullah as a Lebanese phenomenon, run by Lebanese with a vision of what Lebanon ought to be, and responding to Lebanese circumstances. This is something I was getting at back at the war's start, and which raf picked up on in his analysis. And it's the kind of thinking that is the only way that Lebanon is going to be able to get itself out of the mess it will be in, even after the bombs stop falling.
July 25, 2006
Magical Thinking, Purely Wishful
North Korea. It lacks exactness, but that is the precise analogy to the utterly bizarre, divorced from reality, unrealistic and wishful thinking world in which US policy on Lebanon and Israel is occuring. Magical, wishful and eventually will be forced to meet hard reality. Sad that hundreds will die pointlessly in the process, but c'est la vie, ach ghdi ngoulek, larab fqet, hmir bla qma.
July 22, 2006
International Convention Needed on Blowing Off Little Girls' Faces
With little girls’ faces in the Middle East being blown off , and dangers of it continuing for a while longer, our clandestine correspondent has learned of a rare ultra-secret “face to face” meeting that has been going on to limit it. With the aid of an international mediator, an Israeli representative and a Hizbullah representative have gotten together to discuss the parameters of a Fifth Geneva Convention on Standards for Ripping or Blowing Little Girls’ Faces Off. Some of the text has leaked to ‘Aqoul, below. (This is not to be mixed up with little girls being encouraged to sign death messages on artillery shells that might blow off little girls' faces.)
July 13, 2006
Season of Migration to the West: Gulf London
Ah summer in London town, it wouldn't be the same without the Arabs parading down Oxford Street and patronising the cafes of Mayfair. Grossly made up Gulf women tottering in their high hooker heels buying perfume in Selfridges and Harrods and then finishing off a day of shopping with some strong coffee or even the illicit sugary alcoholic drink. The casual observer reels from passive amusement to sickening anger at the decadence and the smugness of the swarm that descends on the city and with its prams and shopping bags and Bentleys, generally getting in the way and giving the proverbial middle finger to honest nine to fivers trying to grab a quick lunch before they get back to their grind and contemplate the exorbitant taxes they have to pay for the privelege of living in Great Britain.
June 28, 2006
Putin Issues Hit on Diplomat Murderers in Iraq
Russian President Vladimir Putin is quite steamed at the moment over the recent murders of four Russian diplomats in Iraq, apparently committed in retaliation for Moscow’s behavior in Chechnya. In a further geographic expansion of his Chechen campaign, he has vowed to have Russian Special Forces knock off the diplomats’ killers , who had demanded that Russia withdraw from Chechnya. Some think Putin is but full of sound and fury on this one, but they may be forgetting his KGB past.
Iraqi sovereignty be damned, apparently - but then circumstantial evidence suggests that if Putin follows through, it wouldn’t be the first time that Russian nationals acted in their official capacity to violate a Middle Eastern country’s sovereignty in order to settle a Chechen separatist score.
June 27, 2006
Denouncing the 'Islamofascists': Ambivalence & Rhetoric
As any regular reader knows, I rather despise the idiotic term "Islamofascist" as both technically inaccurate (at least for Sunni Islamists) and aesthetically displeasing. A bad, clumsy and frankly dim attempt to dredge up the misty memories of WWII and the 'good fight' against the Nazis. I'd have preferred if its pimps (notably Sullivan, who is often dim in this area) had chosen say a Commie reference, which given Arab Socialist influences on Islamist thinking in areas like economics, would at least have had some relevance to reality.
However, I noted that the controversial Moroccan French language weekly, Tel Quel has in its recent edition adopted the same sort of discourse as illustrated in its cover "The New Fascists".
June 25, 2006
Muslim Europe - Silent or Not?
A quick note to draw attention to what struck me as a well written article on Muslims in Europe and silence (or not) with respect to recent radicals terror attacks in Europe: Muslims address silence on Europe attacks.
The core commentary may be summarised as "these Terrorists aren't our folks and we're busy with our lives" with an undercurrent of "speaking out gets one shunned as taking sides."
Overall, I think the arty captures the various streams of reaction in the European Muslim communities (at least those I am familiar with). The seperate question is, are the reactions reasonable. I'd say on some level yes, although there is certainly a weakness in not admitting the "circle the wagons" reaction is not good enough.
June 18, 2006
Somalia: Islamic Courts & Women's Progress
A quick note on a interesting arty in The Washington Post on the role of women in backing The Islamic Courts movement that seems to be well on its way to taking power in Somalia and displacing the "secular" warlords.
If there is one item that most at once irritates and amuses me about Western and American commentary specifically is the weird gullibility in the usage of "secular" versus "Islamist" - although in a sense it is relavatory of why secularism has or is failing in the MENA region and many parts of the Islamic world - where "secular" seems to mean "any corrupt bunch of idiots presently in power who are not overtly and ostentatiously 'Islamist' in political orientation."
If this is the "secularism" being offered, and indeed backed by the West and America specifically, does anyone think it should be suprising that, whatever bitter individuals like Hirsi Ali Magaan say for the consumption of the fearful Westerner, secularism is losing ground?
June 01, 2006
Rambling Thoughts on Public Space, Community, and Culture in Dubai
Dubai has long been the commercial capital of the Gulf. But much as it would like to pretend otherwise, most of what little culture it contains has been imported, and anything that looks historical only does so by virtue of a good façade. The rulers have always focused first and foremost on attracting business, and have been rather successful at this; most of the city's population has moved there from somewhere else for money. It thus differs in many ways from its next door neighbor Sharjah, whose ruler has put far more of an emphasis on retaining traditional and Islamic values, and where there is a 'decency code' and a prohibition on all alcohol.
May 29, 2006
On Iraq, Dinars & Informed Comment: Some Reflexions
Due to some misunderstanding, I thought I would make a follow-up comment on a semi-private email exchange on Iraq
The context then: I wrote Professor Cole of Informed Comment regarding a relatively tangential statement there regarding Iraqi dinars, monetary policy and some statement by Amer Taheri regarding the stability of the currency. Cole withdrew his original characterisation re Taheri, but then followed up with further comment, mentioning yours truly in both. Given the excuse, I thought I should correct some misapprehensions, as well as abusively ramble on, these being my core competencies, about currency valuation, Iraq and the like, perhaps secondarily some gratuitous abuse of various parties for my own personal entertainment.
Let’s Do the Time Warp, Part II: Russian Homophobia as Mainstream Political Culture
Some months ago, here at Aqoul I debunked Andrew Sullivan’s assertion that the Muslim mainstream is at the forefront of gay-bashing in the Russian Federation.
Well, it seems I was right – on Saturday the Moscow gay community did attempt to carry on with their observance of the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Russia, resulting in beatings and scores of arrests (including those of the demonstration’s organizer and some participants, as well as counterdemonstrators), as the Mayor of Moscow had prohibited the demonstration on the grounds that homosexuality is “unnatural,” and was backed up by a court decision last week. Even some members of the Russian gay community had opposed the demonstration, fearing the violence that would result - Russia just isn't in the same sociopolitical place as the handful of industrialized Western countries that have visible gay activist movements, but then those are largely a development of the past couple of decades in any case.
May 24, 2006
You Say You Want A Revolution? Chechen Sufism vs. Islamist Terrorism
In a hilariously ironic turn of events, it seems that the Russian Federation central government is now encouraging Chechens to return to observance of their indigenous flavor of Sufism , after 200 years of official anti-Islam policy ranging from denial that observant Muslims even existed to active persecution of believers. Well, I suppose that if you think your alternative is acceptance of a line of thought held by the charming folks who held a theater full of innocent civilians hostage, anything must seem like an improvement.
Iran & The Faux Law, Backtracking
The infamous Jews and Xians have to wear special clothes fiasco has now seen a full retraction, although for those looking for reasons to bash something, our dear Saudi cretins appear to be still in the business of producing hateful rubbish in the service of the Wahhabi hate mongers who so dearly love to dress themselves up in more-Muslim-than-thou clothing.
In other matters, Hirsi Ali - Magan has taken her US media campaign to a new level with a fine NYT piece of puffery about the poor oppressed media darling. Or as the phrase in the arty goes, "her daring approach to Islam, her arranged marriage in Africa, her exotic beauty." Sexy it is, Sexy.
A fair comment, however, from the arty goes:
"She irritates me deeply with her one-sided view of Islam," said Jan Beerenhout, a former Amsterdam municipal official and a convert to Islam. "But I feel ambiguous. She was offensive to the Muslims from rural areas who practice an archaic form of the religion. But if she had not spoken out, many wrongs would have remained taboo."
Certainly it does appear to the causal observer such as myself that Dutch society and social commentary suffers from a bit of constipation in re the Muslim minority - my impression is of little balanced convos, but rather black and white. Could be wrong, of course, relying on second hand knowledge.
May 23, 2006
Anger as Analysis: Part I
Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Why am I always picking on them?
Ostensibly, we have much in common. We are women born into faiths and cultures where gender inequality is widespread and can manifest itself in terrible ways. If anything, I should be able to relate to women who distance themselves from normative Islam (or renounce it altogether) and maintain a deep appreciation for the individualism, plurality and relative freedom found in Western societies.
Instead, I am appalled at how casually they draw conclusions about an entire religion based on narrow personal experience and the substitution of angry rhetoric for serious examination.
Morocco The Model! (Or Our Superficial Stereotypes Are Poorly Informed)
I stumbled across a funny (to me) "model" arty in the ideo-rag (I am not a fan of ideological papers) The Weekly Standard after stumbling across this attempt at writing on Islam, Elsewhere in Islam, itself deserving in comment (acerbic but fair comment, as I think the arty needs a whack in the side of the head on some factual and interpretive issues, but it's at least an honest effort): The Moroccan Model: A beacon of hope in the Islamic world.
I am sure regular readers are aware I am a fan of the Maghreb generally and Morocco in particular (although I have a warm spot in my heart for Tunisia as well, and why not Libya and Algeria as well?), so perhaps I should receive a fannish article on Morocco warmly. There is certainly something to be said for noticing that the Islamic or even the Arab or even the Mediterranean Arab world consists of countries besides Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And some of the article I agree with or perhaps better, some of the article did not lead me to think of running the author over with a car to spare the world further ill-informed bad writing.
May 20, 2006
Islamic Finance - Scholar Shortages
Some weeks ago one of your fine 'Aqoul authors raised the issue of Islamic finance, and its present situation.
While perhaps less sexy than the faux-reports of Iranian Nazi-esque clothing restrictions on minorities, understanding a bit about economic developments in the region is more useful to readers wanting to actually have a sense of MENA developments (as opposed to merely whanking on in general ignorance about the horrors of the Arab world, etc), and The Financial Times has been running quite a number of interesting articles on the region - well actually about the Gulf, but the confusion of Gulf with all of MENA/Arab world is so general I almost cannot complain.
Further to Ignorant Whanking: Agitprop and Iran, False reports on
Of late there has been a spate of fine Islamophobic whanking, about Ms Hirsi Ali and about the supposed perifidy of Islam qua Islam (about which I don't have the energy to devote at the moment, our friend Mr Schuler does a good enough job for all I would write something different). Also see Dean Esmay's note, again I would take exception to a number of things - as anyone following our long running discussion at 'Aqoul about what I call 'The Pious Middle' - but like I said, I lack the energy. Suffice it to say, even those on the right side of this issue - that is the anti-Islamophobes - are very, very poorly informed about in MENA intra-Islamic dynamics: in general mistaking the politics of percevied Western intervention with that of Islamic practice. Another time, however.
May 17, 2006
Ayaan and Lessons on the Blog Whankosphere
Some sad lessons pop up once in a while in "blogging" (I do hate the term), among the the written confirmation of the facile idiocy that passes for commentary online, above all "far away" things. The utterly idiotic, wrong-headed ignorant whanking about the supposedly "Islamic immigrant" "intefada" that popped up during the French minority riots last year. This largely among American commentators with fuck all of an any information about France, the socio-religious profile of "immigrants" (3rd generation French born 'immigrants') hysterically shrieking on about an Islamic radical 'intefada' (hello Andrew Sullivan et al -none of whom by the way ever corrected or retracted their... well distortions and outright lies).
May 16, 2006
Maghrebine Media II
Now that we have had our little side trip on Somali-Dutch immigration politics (fulfilling all desire on my part to touch on the same, although at Reason.com one can pursue one’s desire to comment on the irrational reactions) , I thought I might return to something rather more profound, that being media in the Maghreb and the recent Moroccan steps to liberalisation.
Census and Sensitivities: UAE & Its Minorities
Towards the end of last year, the UAE carried out its first census in 10 years. Given both the rapid demographic changes here and the promises to share the (usually classified) general data collected with the public, things sounded promising- the information gathered would be invaluable to any number of people. As my colleague SecretDubai has documented, things didn't turn out exactly as planned, not least because those being counted feared the enumerators might report them for any number of offenses ranging from cohabitation to various kinds of illegal occupancy, despite government promises to the contrary.
Odd - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
A very queer bit of reporting on Somali-Dutch MP and possible immigration services deceiver Ayaan Hirsi Ali aka Ayaan Hirsi Magan, who appears to have not been quite in the situ she claimed re forced marriage when she won Dutch citizenship. The article is perhaps a lesson in the madness that is immigration laws and debates at present across the Developed-Developing world divide. It may, if the facts are right, also be a somewhat sad lesson in media hype as well.
May 15, 2006
Maghrebine Media Makeovers: Morocco Issues Radio & TV Licenses - Liberalising or Potemkin Media
Following up on some prior exchanges with Issandr Bey of The Arabist, I thought I might take a moment to give a summary of the results of an item we touched on, liberalisation of the Moroccan broadcast market. Let me also try to do some value added original commentary as well, if only for the novelty value – I have terribly neglected such in my long-whinging on about tumours and the like.
The Conseil supérieur de la communication audiovisuelle (CSCA) issued the first approvals for private broadcast licenses (excepting some limited prior efforts), one television via satellite by the Médi 1 group, Médi1 Sat, and 11 radio projects.
May 04, 2006
Morocco, Journos and Media bis, a reply
This is a bit tardy, but Issandr Bey of the Arabist had a comment on my somewhat ill-tempered take on the Moroccan journal, Le Journal Hebdo libel case judgment as well as more generally on the media there and some related developments.
As a distraction from working on a market proposal which I haven’t got the proper information on regardless, I thought I might expand on my comment on The Arabist reply.
May 02, 2006
America's great "success"
Government spin is always a wondrous thing, but rarely can one enjoy something so blatant as this:
Washington -- Thanks to the successes of the U.S.-led multinational counterterrorism effort, terror organizations are now smaller and more sophisticated, and more challenging than ever to bring to justice, says Ambassador Henry Crumpton, coordinator of the State Department’s counterterrorism office.
"Successes" that make an enemy more dangerous and even harder to fight? Yep, we're all immensely thankful for those.
April 28, 2006
The Goatee of Enlightenment
When Michael Totten writes his next book, I hope someone blurbs him as "the rightful heir of Thomas Friedman". It would be true on so many levels.
This week, the Goatee of Enlightenment followed the Moustache of Understanding from Beirut to, well, Tel Aviv at least. While there, he demonstrates all he's learned at the Master's feet, passing along commonplaces as though they were wisdom. But then he rockets off into a stupidity that's all his own, as he finds a new source of hope for Israeli-Arab relations in their relationship with the Bedouins:
Bedouin also serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. The skills they learn as desert wanderers make them the perfect trackers.
Because, you know, they get +10 to their "spot" and "sneak" rolls, and can train Tracking to level 37. But I digress. Let's see the true moment of happy cultural exchange:
April 27, 2006
I thought that since the discussion has gotten longish, that a link to my comment on a recent quality Emily Wax Op Ed on Dar Fur and the muddled thinking on the same is in order.
April 24, 2006
Dahab: Why Egypt's anti-terrorism strategy just doesn't work
The first time I went to Dahab was in the early 90s. Back then it was the "Goa of the Middle East" - a conglomeration of hut camps on a 2 mile stretch of coastline, a gorgeous coral reef less than 50m off the beach, relaxed attitudes and plenty of hash to go around. It was the perfect spot to relax after the throngs of the Nile valley, the chaos of Cairo, or the religious zealotry of Jerusalem. Initially a place through which one passed on the way from Africa to Asia, or Europe to Africa (or the other way around), it soon became a destination unto itself, attracting Israeli and European teenagers and students who wanted to "get away from it all" but didn't have the cash to travel far.
April 12, 2006
At the risk of getting out ahead of consensus
April 11, 2006
Morocco: Pimping Pleasure or Stalling Out? (Economist)
The present Economist contains an intriguing article covering part of my brief, and a somewhat neglected corner of the MENA world, Morocco. Morocco attracts rather little attention in the "Anglo Saxon" world, despite having racked up some interesting political and economic wins in the past year, so perhaps a quick commentary then on the article, and the state of things in this rather strategically located country.
March 13, 2006
How to be a Muslim reformer
After reading an article on Wafa Sultan (the up-and-coming Muslim reformer) in the New York Times today, it occured to me that I should get on this reformer bandwagon before the market gets saturated. I'm articulate, telegenic, exotic (yet oh so fluffy and Westernized), not to mention female (oppressed by rigid Islamic paternalism, naturally). Too bad I've got so many other little schemes on the go and can't spare the time for this one. However, I've written a handy little guide for aspiring refuseniks, male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim. Hopefully it will inspire readers to lead the charge in enlightening the benighted Islamic world.
March 10, 2006
DPW, Some Round Up Thoughts on the Blow Back
I shall make this briefish note as the DPW fiasco continues to steam ahead. In many ways this is good for me personally as I expect increased in-region / non-US flows for MENA money. But it is bad for investment in the US, bad for US MENA policy and reveals as clearly as clear can be the deep vein of anti-Arab bigotry hiding beneath the surface in the United States. A loss for moderation, a loss for state security interests and a loss for economic efficiency and investment in key assets. Yes, bravo to ignorant know-nothing racist jingoism. This blows back not only to commerce, but also to our pious middle conversation, make no mistake about it.
March 09, 2006
Score One Own Goal for US Know-Nothing Nativist Bigotry & General Islamophobia
Well, the irrational forces of bigotted know-nothing nativism and bigotted Islamophobia won out, DPW has finally said fuck it, keep poorly run ports, we'll take the profitable parts of P&O , or as the statement went,
“Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the US, and to preserve that relationship...DP World will transfer fully the US operation of P&O Ports North America Inc to a United States entity,” Edward Bilkey, the company’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Only yesterday the head, Mr Sharaf,
acknowledged ... that the US facilities were a small part of the deal and less profitable than other P&O container terminals. His remarks came as the White House appeared to soften its support for the deal and the House of Representatives pressed ahead with plans to block the transaction.
It is also of note that private equity groups, smelling blood in the water,
have approached DP World about buying the US operations, people familiar with the matter said. Industry observers said logical candidates included Blackstone and Macquarie, the Australian bank.
Well, mark one of up for the forces of blind bigotry and irrational anti-Arab xenophobia with all the dark hand waving about "connexions" and "associations" and the utter inability to distinguish between Saudiyah and the rest of the Arab world.
March 08, 2006
Of pride and protest
The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research has this comment on the Danish cartoons controversy:
"The blame for the events cannot be placed on one party. Still one cannot negate the important fact that we are the party that needs to present ourselves in a better manner. We need to negate the tarnished image which many people project about Arabs and Muslims. Certainly, the Arab and Muslim behavior during this crisis will give credence to our false image of being a bigoted, narrow-minded people who have an inherent tendency towards violence and hatred for others. It is sad to note that the circle of enemies has expanded in the aftermath of the crisis. American and European media have started to support of the Danish newspaper that violated our religious sentiments, and this is an unwelcome development for our cause."
March 06, 2006
Poll: Oh My Iraq, Civil War (ho hum)
In the news today is the stunning, shocking news, that, ahem, Iraq is sliding towards outright civil war (according the sharply sensitive and informed American people) I simply thought this should be an opportunity to say, well, no kidding:
March 05, 2006
Bedfellows & Commerce: Israel's Zim Lines Supports DPW (Updated)
Sadly my work is distracting me from the fun of the ongoing Bigotted Know Nothing Nativist Ignoramus Mob Madness surrounding DPW's takeover of UK's P&O and the incidental acquisition of the operating leases for port operations at six major US ports (although in the UK and globally sanity has prevailed*), I wanted to augment my dear friend and colleague, Secret Dubai's post on Israeli support for Dubai and DPW with specific reference to the Israeli shipping line Zim's statement of support; I should say it comes as no surprise to anyone with experience in the region that some Israelis would step forward on this, even in a politically delicate situation - not so oddly it is the moderates on all sides trying to do business that know each other.
Quinquireme of Ninevah
For all the Americans wailing and flailing their arms over the Ay-rabs taking over their entire homeland security, here's one less reason to fret.
It appears that DPW is prepared to do business with the "Zionists". In fact, it already is:
Mohammed Sharaf, CEO of Dubai Ports World, told CNN on Sunday, "I have no problem doing business with Israelis; I do so on a daily basis all over the world. Zim and its subsidiaries, and their cargo, enter our ports and use our services.
"I don't deal with the political issues, I deal with the commercial interests. The other issues [boycott] are dealt with on the political level," he said.
This will surely go down a literal storm back home - if it's reported.
February 27, 2006
Lebanon: A Fairy-Story
Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time, there was a tiny kingdom where the people lived in freedom, prosperity and happiness. If they had any fault, it was that they were too busy enjoying their freedom to notice that the tyrant who ruled the neighboring kingdom hated them and was scheming to bring them down.
He schemed and built his armies, and one day he invaded, and his armies ground the nation down under the wheels of their fell war machines. The great nations of the world looked on, and made speeches about "sovereignty" and "freedom", and did nothing. And the tyrant's rule fell over the kingdom for a generation.
February 25, 2006
Customary Marriage and Paternity Testing Laws in Egypt
A recent landmark case regarding paternity testing in Egypt has brought the issue of customary marriage and the backwardness of Egyptian paternity legislation into the spotlight.
The reason the case caught the attention of so many is that it involved the young son of a famous Egyptian acting couple. Sumia al-Ulfi and Farouq el-Fishawi are now estranged but their son Ahmed upon reaching his early twenties was propelled into the limelight due to his parentage and good looks. The twist that made the case even more explosive is the fact that Ahmed, just as his acting career was taking off, rejected his Westernised background and career and instead embraced the principles of Islam, becoming the poster boy for the Amr Khaled (popular noveau trendy preacher) generation and the campaign to call Muslim youth back to their roots.
February 20, 2006
Let’s Do the Time Warp: Gay Pride vs. Islamic/Official Intolerance in Russia
It seems Andrew Sullivan’s rant of the week is that Chief Russian Mufti Talgat Tajuddin has called for the prohibition of a planned gay pride parade in Moscow, recommending that marchers be beaten – and in a rare show of solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Christian community, recommending that they join together in beating gays. Tajuddin was joined in his opposition to the parade shortly thereafter by Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar, though the Rabbi stopped short of recommending violence.
Before Andrew Sullivan leaps to the conclusion that Russian Muslims are at the forefront of homophobia and gay-bashing in the Russian Federation, he may want to bear in mind that the occasion for the parade was to be the 13th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexual behavior in the Russian Federation.
February 19, 2006
Ports, Prejudice & Cartoons: On Hypocrisy, Xenophobia and Danger
The emerging US controversy over Dubai Port World (an atrocious name I may add, even DP World is bad - hereafter at 'Aqoul, DPW) buying out historic UK port operator P&O - which incidentally includes a portfolio of US assets.
That unfortunate fact - a portfolio of US assets, which is to say management interests in six US ports on the United States Eastern Sea Board - has occasioned the exposure of a vein of ugly sentiment and public commentary, as well as typical for the "blogosphere" blind and ill-informed reaction. Another confirmation that Right and Left blog authors’ sneering with respect to the real media is badly misplaced.
(I note in the interim that the fine American habit of turning everything into a lawsuit has emerged already as Maimi "Firm Sues to Block Foreign Port Takeover" per the WP, which pimps the security fallacy.)
On Morocco, Investment & Islamist Promotion
Without further comment In Morocco, a Gray Area for Growth, by Hoagland, a not bad op-ed (if superficial factually) that at least poses challenges to some of the more simple minded phobia with respect to Islamism.
February 17, 2006
MENA Investment & FDI: Oh my, they control our ports (Updated: Dubai & US Ports)
Foreign direct investment often provokes among the less than economically literate frightened reactions about loss of control - sometimes justified but in general, not. That politicians exploit tribal fears of foreigners controlling the jewels of the nation (whichever nation) is perhaps not surprising. It is always depressing. As we pass through a small storm of Islamic versus Western tensions, it is not surprising that the forces of unreason, emotive fear sweeping MENA, etc. have had an influence.
[Update: related post chez my Lounsbury den of iniquity, with respect to blog commentary and xenophobia, a small obs and question posed.]
[Update II: My coyness aside, a discussion of the Dubai Port World - US Ports issue broke at at the above commentary linked at Lounsbury - after some obligatory beating of a sensless commentator sensless.]
February 16, 2006
Contrarian Cartoon Commentary: Mechanics in Politics and Boycotts
Reluctant as I may be to go against my own disdain for the silliness and misdirection of the cartoon protests, I must in good Aqoul tradition be a contrarian even to some trends here.
Well-expressed (though I have many fundamental reservations) is an older Tim Cavanaugh article at Reason on the subject, saying the controversy is on the whole a good thing. But haste and time-constraints make me wish to concentrate on one aspect – one where I feel I can make more of a contribution than my mere better-informed-on-MENA-than-average-Yank-whiteguy status allows.
The silver lining I see has to do with the centrality to political development of the “mechanical” process of politics, with ideology or substantive focus only secondary. In the cartoon reactions, there are real signs of change, potentially for the positive. (I should come back and add links but time constraints are really bad at the moment personally, please be patient.)
Propaganda, Iraq and Gaming - and Future Funds
Sadly I can not comment on this, other than to share the story and note that it confirms my observation months back that the Lincoln Group story was not a dark 'Neo Con' tale but one of dilletantes.
It is of course illustrative of the general problem with the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq and MENA. Clumsy cronyism with amateurish dilletantes. A bit of cronyism here and there will happen. Human beings are human. The sins of the Bush Administration lie in their lack of competence in executing even cronyism, not as the simple minded Left would have it, in dark Right wing plots. A pity, I would enjoy a competent if unpleasant US government in world affaires. An incompetent, bumbling, often cretinously self-deluded US Government makes me life harder, and I don't enjoy that.
At least I can add that the Fund for the Future, that much vaunted initiative announced at the G8 meeting in Dubai is in fact a quietly dead letter for the moment. Ms Cheney got her panties all wet too soon. Perhaps the idea may get reworked to something vaguely rational.
February 15, 2006
Maghreb & Rumsfeld (Updated)
Following up on my earlier post on Rumsfeld and his commenton the Maghreb, a somewhat clearer article from FT on the trip:
A bit of commentary on the idiocies (required in large part, but still idiocies):
Bungled Mideast Policy or Wrongheaded Criticism
I am not the biggest fan of the US Administration and its Middle East policy, that is certain. Indeed, I rather consider them a bunch of congenital and serial incompetent bunglers whose policies may be described with Talleyrand's "Worse than a crime, a blunder."
One might expect, then, I might be in agreement with the opinions voiced by the Democratic party opposition in this article from Reuters:
US bungles Middle East policy, lawmakers tell Rice
By Sue Pleming
Well, I am not. Sadly the criticism, rather than being well-founded, is largely based on the same kind of simple-minded magical thinking and wishful-thinking-as-analysis that has led the Bush Administration astray so very badly so many times. Criticism about Hamas rather than Fatah winning the elections in Palestine, for example. As if the US has a magic wand to wave to make the 'good guys' of the moment win (or forgetting that using such wands that do exist to achieve 'victory' for one's favoured side can be rather Pyrrhic, ending up with damaged goods).
February 14, 2006
Cartoons & Protest: Context, Hariri's Commemoration as a Benchmark
A brief comment if I may, on the cartoon controversy and benchmarking - in the context of the over-heated characterisations of the Islamic world and the protests against the Danish cartoons.
Among the items that have most annoyed me has been the lazy characterisations that had protests of mere hundreds or a handful of thousands as reflecting 'mass Muslim anger.' Mere hundreds is not mass anger.
I'd like to take Lebanon and the Rafiq Hariri Memorial demo as a benchmark for real mass movement: as one can gather from The Washington Post and better from the image with al Hayat's coverage, even allowing for large Xian and Druze participation, more than a few hundred Lebanese turned out.
I would hazard the opinion that one has a benchmark for what really is bringing people out, and what is not.
It strikes me that again and again, the largest demos one sees are not the ones supporting the radicals in the region. However, the radicals are good at turning out their troops more often, smashing things to get attention and generally bleating rather loudly claiming to speak on behalf of all. The squeeky wheel, as it were.
February 13, 2006
More Reasons Why Torture is a Bad Idea
The two Afghans were found dead within days of each other, hanging by their shackled wrists in isolation cells at the prison in Bagram, north of Kabul. An Army investigation showed they were treated harshly by interrogators, deprived of sleep for days, and struck so often in the legs by guards that a coroner compared the injuries to being run over by a bus...
But really, we can't blame the poor kids, can we, because how could they be expected to know what rules to follow?
February 12, 2006
Dim, Dim, Dim: Maghreb not an al Qaeda kinda place because...
Leaving aside the main thrust of the arty in question from The Financial Times (that being the US planning or considering to sell arms to the nasty little clique of generals in Algeria), the American Specialist in Idiotic Statements & Failed Occupations, had this to say about the Maghreb and al Qaeda:
Before arriving in Tunisia on Saturday, Mr Rumsfeld said he did not believe the Maghreb was a likely place for al-Qaeda to take root because extremism was not tolerated by the governments of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.
Bloody idiot. What a complete bloody idiot. Why has this completely deluded fucking incompetent egocentric bumbler not been axed? Or in the alternative, how long can the American policy establishment continue its deluded focus on States alone?
Cartoons: Reasonable Protest
An item needing little added commentary, but something that deserves to be highlighted here in connexion with our prior comments: Muslim Crowds Decry Cartoons, Violent Retort.
Men and women, some pushing babies in strollers, crowded into Trafalgar Square as speakers not only denounced the cartoons as an unacceptable insult to the holiest figure in Islam, but also condemned the burning of embassies in Syria and Lebanon, deaths in Afghanistan and other violence that has come in response. "We want to move on to positive dialogue," said Anas Altikriti, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, which helped organize the rally. Police estimated the crowd at 5,000.
Now, which is better, dialogue with the moderate pious middle, or juvenile gratitious mini-jihads to pointlessly offend more people (a la our fine little islamophobe, Andrew Sullivan) and pointlessly play into hands of the extremists?
French Sensibilités musulmanes
A brief object lesson on the ostentatious and willful blindness of the French elite
Combien Le Monde compte-t-il de lecteurs musulmans ? Je l'ignore, et, Dieu merci, la croyance religieuse — ou l'incroyance — ne figure dans aucune enquête statistique. "How many Muslim readers does Le Mond have. I have no idea, Thank God religious belief, or unbelief, isn't subject to any statistical inquiry." Yes, ignorance, willfull ignorance is a virtue in and of itself. Why then you can congratulate yourself on "repulican values" while simultaneously engaging in hypocritical discrimination.
Morocco: Democracy, Facile Journo Idiocy on Moderation and Islamism
As a general matter, English language materials on the Maghreb almost never fail to annoy me. Here The Washington Post manages to do so: Feud With King Tests Freedoms In Morocco.
Having long had ... how to put it? Contact? Yes, contact with the group in question (long story, goes back a long ways), Adl wal Ihsane and been familiar with the Yassines, I have rather mixed feelings about the conflict described in the article. On one hand, being generally in favour of bringing Islamist groups into politics, I am generally in favour of engagement with Adl wa Ihsane. On the other hand, this particular dispute and the disingenous spin the Yassines are using rather annoys - well more the gullible lapping up of the same in certain anglophone quarters rather annoys.
February 09, 2006
Open Discussion: MENA, Muslim Minorities & Moderation [Updated II]
Where Moderation? Which Moderation? What kind?
A short post, less of The Lounsbury banging on, and more some initial reflexions on the challenge of buillding moderation. Something I touched on in my little missive: Cartoon Outrage: Salafist Entrepreneurial Behaviour, Manufacturing Incidents & the Problem of Moderation, as have my colleagues.
The core problem is building moderate consensus, in the West - with or within a Muslim minority - and in the MENA region and Islamic world at large. There is much hand-waving out there (in the West especially) about "Moderate Islam" and the like by persons who seem to define moderation as being "just like us" - that is, being up to date the latest (newly acquired) socio-political fads in secular West with respect to religion, society and perhaps even economics (i.e. the cutting-edge values of the highly secularised commentariat of the West).
[Update: The New York Times features an interesting article of some relevance to reflecting on the subject of moderation and the cartoon controversy: At Mecca Meeting, Cartoon Outrage Crystallized. Have added to comment below]
[Further interesting commentary at our friend The Father of Aardvarks (I am inclined to agree with the Father of Aardvarks in re the media's poor performance as well as my lack of enthusiasm for the 'clash of civilisations' talk) pointing to this Egyptian blog post reproducing images from al Fagr that managed not to provoke great protest when first published in October 2005.]
[Further linking:our second favourite Frenchman, Olivier Roy, has a fine article very much in line with the 'Aqoul analysis, in grosso modo this again via Abu Aardvark, who also links to a somewhat boring Mona Eltahawy editorial that for me illustrates why liberal Muslims don't get a hearing. Moderation is boring. Lounsbury, 10 Feb 2006]
February 06, 2006
Cartoon Outrage: Salafist Entrepreneurial Behaviour, Manufacturing Incidents & the Problem of Moderation [Updated]
There seems hardly any reason to provide links to this ever-escalating cycle of utter contemptible idiocy, so let me make this more or less purely opinion and my own personal analysis. I would be remiss, however, if I did not pimp our very own summary page on the Danish – Mohammed Cartoon Controversy.
I also would like to point to a fine round up of online commentary as well as highlight our dear Raf Bey’s contribution: “Why do the Syrians burn embassies but the Iranians don't?” In addition, to return a citational favour well-deserved, I point to Clive Davis’ blog commentary, and in particularly this most recent summary of rational commentary on the riots. One has to agree with his observation that the commentary he cites is “more helpful than one of Christopher Hitchens' thunderbolts on "the case for mocking religion".” Juvenile exercise of expression, but then we should be used to Hitchens being a cretin with regards to the MENA region.
The Lounsbury Discussion on the Issue
[Update: reading Wikipedia I found an online link - no longer working - to the/an Arabic dossier on the cartoons written by the Denmark group of Imams. Having given it a speed read, it appeared to me that while the dossier was written post-facto to their official meetings, its Arabic text did clearly indicate the incendiary 'extra cartoons' were not published, but were ones received by certain unidentified protest leaders, post their public protests in Denmark. That makes the provence of the cartoons less doubtful to me. The dossier was not inherently unreasonable in tone, although certainly disputable, and clearly reflected an agenda, one which I continue to think reflects the Salafist extremist fringe]
[Update II: A very interesting note thanks to Clive's comment, Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons; they were apparently offensive and unfunny. Ahem. Well. In other notes re the same article, someone desperately needs to give Muslim activists a lesson in marketing: the European Committee for Prophet Honouring just sounds... silly.]
February 02, 2006
How not to pick me up: Lesson #1
I pass a number of upscale cafes and restaurants while walking home from work. Occasionally I'll duck into one of them and pick up a gourmet snack, the sort of thing that comes with blood orange dressing or gooseberry garnishes. Today I decided to try a little place that only served overpriced salad, no doubt on the vanguard of the silly raw food trend currently sweeping North America. The server chattered enthusiastically about various ingredients as he prepared my $8 takeaway dish, which is not altogether strange in places where customer service rules require you to be a talkative idiot. Not entirely unpleasant either, but I was only half-listening to the conversation because my thoughts were elsewhere.
At the cash register, he paused a moment with his hands protectively encircling the pretentious little salad. I waited for him to ring the bloody thing through, but he just stood there grinning foolishly.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
January 19, 2006
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 12, 2006
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.
January 05, 2006
Again, on the Cretin
Having more fun picking on my preferred cretin, Michael Totten, read on only for amusement:
January 04, 2006
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?]
January 02, 2006
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.
December 27, 2005
Dar Fur spillovers: Tchad and a State of War
Thanks to The Skeptic الشكاك (I rather like the blog name by the way, الشكاك, a new development in Dar Fur, one that might have been expected but regardless is interesting for potential implications.
Added: synthesis: My apologies, my initial posting I see is... ahem, somewhat hard to follow. I blame it on the various narcotics and the like for this bloody disease eating my lung. The executive summary is (i) the leader of Tchad declared his country to be in a state of belligerence with the Sudan, (ii) at the same time French General Henri Bentegeat visited French forces in the immediate area issuing a statement « La France condamne toute tentative de prise du pouvoir par les armes » (France condemnes any attenpt to take power by force of arms).
Taken in context, the French are clearly sending a shot across the bows of elements in the Tchad-Soudan border area that might get frisky.
It appears Idriss Idriss Deby, President of Tchad has 'declared' war on Sudan after a fashion. To quote:
In a statement, the government calls on Chadians to mobilise themselves against Sudanese aggression.
Relations between the two states have deteriorated since Chad accused Sudan of being behind Sunday's attack on Adre, which left about 100 people dead.
The strong language in the statement will alarm observers who have already warned that tensions along the Chad-Sudan border are nearing breaking point.
December 24, 2005
The bubble bursteth?
A Christmas crash for soaring sandland stocks:
Retailers dump UAE stocks
Posted: Friday, December 23, 2005
Dubai: Retail investors put the skids under UAE shares and drove the Dubai market perilously close to the 1.000 point level that analysts say could trigger an institutional sell-off.
The Dubai index, which has fallen steadily since hitting a record high on November 9, closed 4.79 per cent lower at 1,003.72 points. The Abu Dhabi index finished 3.03 per cent down at 4,984.21 points.
Brokers said retail investors were behind most of the selling.
'There is real fear among the small, day traders. This is a clear sign that sentiment has turned,' said Mohammed Yassin of Emirates Capital Corporation.
In Dubai more than 78 million shares traded hands, just above the daily average for a week that has generally seen moderate volumes. The focus next week will be whether the market can keep the index above the key support level of 1000.
'If the index falls below that level then some institutions will have to start selling. I don't expect panic but there will be a gradual sell-off, which could exacerbate the correction,' said one fund manager. [Reuters]
December 20, 2005
The Semi-Bogus Dilemma of Democracy versus Mosque & State
[A long and boring essay, written with all the arrogance I could muster out of being male, foreign to the region, and American.]
A "Semi-bogus" dilemma, I call it, because the issue of what type of rulers might emerge from real democratic processes in MENA is a fair question. My real target for discussion is more the Western progressive, since those are my own people (though I am more right wing “libertarian” than progressive). I speak about their fears and those of many MENA-ites as well, who express endless reservations about MENA democracy. They do so because democratic empowerment has a real risk of empowering retrograde Islamist/traditionalist forces, e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. To give away the ending, my message below is basically: shut up and get over it.
My more complex message directed towards MENA-ite advocates of liberal or social democracy is derived from reflections upon the insightful work of Mona Eltahawy regarding Egypt's last election rounds, and the harassment of the Coptic minority. This ugly American’s (meaning me) more complex message to MENA-ites is: don't shut up, but do get over it. . . for now, at least. The following is a look at why.
On Iraq, Elections, Spying and US Media Coverage
Being back in the land of tubby supersized people is reminding me what completely atrocious news coverage is available in the US broadcast media. The shrieking exageration that seems to be the baseline for any and all stories is painful to watch.
Truly painful. It doesn't seem particularly ideologically focused, despite the endless whinging I have read online in blogs and the like (which one may take, including I may add this one as mere navel gazing, and the pretension among some in the "blogosphere" that they are bringing new standards is absurd and laughable... although given broadcast media in the US of A....). Rather, it strikes me as simply bad professional practice.
December 18, 2005
Yemen, Democracy and Stupidity
U.S. Ideals Meet Reality in Yemen
By David Finkel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 18, 2005; A01
An interesting if excessively personalised article on the ludicrous Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) initiative and other US Gov "democratisation" efforts in the MENA region.
December 12, 2005
On Syriana (cross from Lounsbury)
Having just seen this film, I thought I might make a comment or two.
Overall, a very interesting film, I rather liked it. Somewhat on the dramatic side, as relatively large budget film has to be, but very nicely done overall. I shall not pretend to review the film as a film reviewer, but some thoughts on its MENA subject matter and small details that pleased me (as well as displeased), from someone who operates in this kind of world.
What follows will have direct reference to the film’s events, “spoilers” to use that silly precious little phrase. Don’t want to read them, don’t read on. For those who may want to see the film, my summary is I found the film to be a very nice rendition of affaires here in my region, although to be sure dramatised.
December 08, 2005
People who "objectively" blog on news/politics should better be careful with their assertions
I do read Nur al-Cubicle's blog on a regular basis. She (I THINK it's a "she" - but maybe I let the fact that "Nur" is a female Arabic name mislead me) is providing an invaluable service to all those of us who either cannot read French/Spanish/Italian or just don't feel like slugging through all the newspapers ...
But I find some of her slants to be cheap, petty, & based on ideological assumptions as opposed to solid reasoning. And what is worse - while in being cheap & petty she is merely putting herself onto the same intellectual level as the rightwing assholes against whom she is trying to write - by letting her emotion-based ideology getting the better of her careful reasoning she is giving them ample ammunition to invalidate ANYthing that she says, just like Cindy Sheehan's antics have done a grave disservice to all those involved in bringing the number of casualties in Iraq to the forefront of public awareness in the U.S.
December 05, 2005
Observations on Khartoum
A popular blogger based in Darfur has recently posted an entry from Khartoum. While generally her observations are well informed (she is a releif worker), reasonably dispassionate and genuinely involved without losing perspective, I found the post from Khartoum to be rather shallow albeit written with a rather refreshing fascination with the city.
The occurences in Darfur, although tragic, have diverted the spotlight from Khartoum, the emerging political culture, the deep-rooted corrpution and obscene social disparities that exist. One finds very little meaningful exposition of Sudanese politics and culture now outside the frame of terrorism and Darfur. While Sleepless's efforts I am sure are appreciated, the Khartoum she sees is a sanitised NGO/diplo/rich kids version that only a miniscule fraction of the population are fortunate enough to see.
November 23, 2005
Iraq, a quick set of refs to return to
And finally with dwindling lucidity, another fine article from Mr. Ignatius in The Washington Post on the recent Iraqi parties conference.
In Cairo, Clarity on Iraq, which gives almost a glimmer of hope.
I also draw attention to the al Hayat article, مؤتمر القاهرة: مخرج لانسحاب اميركي وتوافق على «شرعية المقاومة» ونبذ «الارهاب»
القاهرة , طهران - مشرف عباس الحياة - 22/11/05 which is worthy of a read as well.
I may add commentary later, but the essentials here are there may be an outside chance at a core consensus, on the basis of the Americans promising to fuck off in the foreseeable but not immediate future. My opinion, whatever it takes, mates, whatever it goddamned takes.
I rather think this is a likely still birth, but not to be dismissed either.
On Trade: Wolf & The Illiterate Mumbling of the Anti Globos
Martin Wolf has an excellent commentary on the idiocies of the anti-trade anti-globo Left and its ridiculous mumbo jumbo. Were I not half way to la la land, I might comment, but I do wish to draw attention:
Martin Wolf: Trade justice fighters are misguided
By Martin Wolf
Published: November 22 2005 20:34
Sharia Products: Market grows for Muslim investors
Laying in bed mildly delusional from anti-haemorrhagatic drugs and other items, I thought I might indulge myself in a reflexion on an interesting arty from The Financial Times on Islamic Finance and products.
The arty in question Market grows for Muslim investors covers some interesting territory even if it is a bit general.
As I can not think of a better time to indulge in commentary on sharia products than when slightly delusional from from anti-haemorrhagatic drugs, what follows are some comments on the text itself:
November 20, 2005
Items to Amuse: Morocco accounces an al-Qaeda network broken
Well, via the national media I am led to understand that Morocco has broken a terror network tonight (or very recently).
Perhaps this explains the wierdness with the 50th anniversary celebrations with last minute announcements and changed venues, and all that.
I have to suspect things might have been a bit tight.
On US Policy, Reaction and Present Circumstances
Taking a break from running through bank reports in Arabic (and trying to synthesize a document with such felicitious phrases as "مخصص الديون المشكوك في تحصيلها") I thought I might share an added thought with respect to the debate that has broken out in the United States with respect to Iraq.
My added thought is: "It is about bloody time some people saw that fucking happy talk is mere posturing and one got down to serious business." The idiotic pissing and moaning about 'supporting troops' or 'the President lied' (well, yes, he did, but that doesn't even have a novelty value, now does it) is empty posturing. The correct question is to address the scenario I raised in my prior post.
Surfacing on Iraq
Having begun this weekend with some fine work on valuation documents for Gulf area firms, a little bit of coughing up blood, and the tedious work of creating a matrix to figure out what the bloody hell I have among pile of bloody Arabic financial reporting, I thought I might take a moment to comment on the chatter about Iraq and the US policy optoins.
Frankly, most of the discussion rather strikes me as surreal navel gazing delusionally disconnected from the evident reality in Iraq.
As I have been indicating for a rather long time, Iraq long ago (say early 2004) entered into a 'Lebanese logic' which rather made the creeping civil war situation in Iraq, that is clear for anyone with eye to see, inevitable.
Now, the simple minded I suppose expect(ed) this to explode all at once. It has not and will not. Rather, as in Lebanon, it will creep forward in fits and starts until it is undeniably there for even the most deluded. The self segregation, the inter-community killings and hardening of lines despite decades of friendship, etc., that is already ongoing and there is frankly nothing substantial in terms of Iraqi dynamics counter-weighing this. Iraqi dynamics are all that count, not Americans running around claiming idiotic body counts, not hand waving pseudo-political excercises masquerading as democracy to please the gullible Westerners who think such things have meaning in such circumstances, not anything but Iraqi social dynamics.
There is, in short, nothing that is substantively running against the power dynamic of the hard men with guns. Nothing, period, regardless of the idiotic self-deluded happy talk I have seen now for three fucking years running. Good news from Iraq, indeed. Even in the depths of any civil war one can find "good news" - it's intelligent analysis that gets one understanding.
November 11, 2005
Last item on France, Muslims & the Maghreb
Sadly I have little time to devout to what is clearly an important topic at present, which is indeed the riots in France, their meaning and the storm of ill-informed English language commentary on the same. Unfortunately such trivial issues as valuing illiquid assets pledged as capital contributions, fund structures and other fine things require my time.
November 08, 2005
US Gov and Private Equity: Project is public [Upated with Arty Text] [Update 11 Nov]
The item I have refered to in the past is now public:
A Ludicrously Bad Idea
The key item here is this:
"The U.S. wants to see some success before further expansion. It envisions attracting board members with the clout -- names being bandied about include Jack Welch and Robert Rubin -- to get Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on the phone to complain, for example, that he needs to free up pharmaceutical prices if a private drug industry is to flourish in Egypt."
Fucking stupid ass concept. Getting your fund involved in these kind of politics is a disastrous way to invest.
UPDATE: Arty text below with extended commentary.
France, Riots and Online Commentary: Islamophobia Demasked
This will be a brief post, as unfortunately (or fortunately) I have mountains of work that must be addressed.
However, in the guise of a comment I thought I would, after reading Andrew Sullivan's ludicrously ignorant banging on about France and the riots as an Islamic intefada (and via Fist Full of Euros, Pipes' equally ludicrous assertion of the same, whanking bigotted fool that he is) as well as other comments, make an assertion.
The Anglophone commentary, essentially American on this subject I think is demasking a deep reservoir of fear and loathing directed at Muslims and Islam in general. Polite bigotry, if you will, dressed up in terms like "extremist Muslims" and Islamists versus "moderate Muslims" when the real meaning is "niggers/scum we fear and despise for their difference" versus "good niggers who know their place."
November 04, 2005
Frivolous Pontification on Threesomes Aside, Reflections on The Holy Month
As I look back upon another holy month spent in a non-Muslim city and compare it to the experiences of family and friends in parts of MENA I wonder what it is that keeps one going and committed to fasting, prayer and other respectful observances. Very fortunate to have an extremely understanding and tolerant non-Muslim partner (who printed out all prayer/iftar times from work), the extent of my observances was pressure free and left entirely up to my own personal application. Not that that made it any easier, if anything it was harder as I could hardy cite social or peer pressure for any deviation.
What I have failed to reconcile is society's all or nothing approach to Islamic religious practice and this is further highlighted during Ramadan. Somehow, leaping out of your bed at dawn when the fast begin in order to not be at too much proximity to your unwed partner strikes some as supreme hypocrisy.
October 29, 2005
Threesomes: Halal or Haram?
Last night, following a rather serious discussion on the root causes of gender inequality in MENA, Meph and I pondered the following weighty question:
Does Islam permit threesomes?
Neither one of us could recall any explicit ban on threesomes in the Qur’an or Hadith, but then again neither one of us had the vaunted expertise of a scraggy-bearded Islamic scholar. Clearly there was a need for further research.
Now, aside from facilitating high-minded discussion between two women on different continents, the internet is also a massive clearinghouse for fatwas, or rulings based on Islamic law. Burning questions can easily be answered by consulting any number of fatwa websites and searchable databases online. Opinions on everything from yoga to female tennis players are issued and posted on the internet by leading scholars, muftis, charlatans and utter quacks. According to Asharq Al-Awsat, more religious edicts have been published in the last decade than in the last 1400 years:
Even the Egyptian Grand Mufti has become exasperated with the soaring number of fatwas (religious edicts) and the confusion surrounding them in the media. He has recently called for increased supervision and the appointment off a specialist body as the sole authority to issue these edicts.
October 28, 2005
Ahmadinejad and Israel
What's going on in Iran? First the country's president calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Naturally, this doesn't go down well at all internationally, with the Israelis going so far as to call for Iran's expulsion from the UN. So Iran's Moscow embassy issues a statement saying the president didn't mean to "speak up in such sharp terms," and we are reminded that such statements are made all the time during rallies but don't really mean anything.
So the new president made a stupid diplomatic error, not realizing his new position makes his words carry more weight. And after his country's ambassadors are summoned to various European capitals to explain their government's actions, all this will die down, right? So then why is Iran stupidly upping the ante by ordering its diplomats in Western countries to launch protests there against Europe's attitudes towards 'Zionist crimes'? My own take is that Iran's foreign policy, more or less directionless since Ahmadinejad came to power a few months ago, is starting to go down the tubes.
October 24, 2005
On regional economies and competitive advantages: McKinsey & A Comment on the Maghreb (plus a perso reference)
McKinsey has published a short note in its Quarterly based off of its recent (and still secret) report to the Moroccan government on what it should do to stop being such a medoicre performer, entitled:
Morocco's Off-Shoring Advantage
More comments later, link is to the abstract, full content requires membership.
As an aside, I may be looking to hire a translator, see the Lounsbury blog for details.
Bernanke: New US Fed Chief
While this may be of limited interest, the appointment I feel has more global importance than the bloody whinging on about judges as the like. Hot off the wire. My own thoughts, not a bad choice at all, although his global savings glut talk with respect to the dollar I found .... misplaced.
October 21, 2005
The Arab World's Least Attractive Feature
During my half-a year time in various Mideast countries, east of and including Egypt (and decades of knowing Arabs up close and personal), I found precious few Americans over there, and this was around the millennium, pre-9/11 and post-Oslo. I am not speaking of absolute numbers, I mean relative to other westerners/Europeans. And I am not speaking of tourists, but American would-be ex-pats of various types who hang out looking for opportunity and adventure. (But I do mean native-born Americans.)
I present my own theory why that is, and I think it is based on what is the most truly onerous aspect of most Arab MENA society, something which I think puts off Americans more than other issues. I will get to what that is only after saying what I do NOT think the problem is.
October 17, 2005
On Subsidies and Incompetence: How Social Solidarity Rings Hollow
In checking today's edition of the Moroccan business daily "L'Economiste" (most famous in my circles for having a bit back published an article on banking that included the inadvertent (or so one would hope) text: "My love I want to lick you everywhere.") online I was quite amused by the front pager on the inconveniences of the totally batty and absurd petrol products subsidies program.
The underlying article conveys the detials, which are essentially because the grossly incompetent (from a current planning perspective) Finance Ministry has refused to acknowledge the reality of USD 50/barrel prices and has planned its subsidies program (which was de-indexed from the market a few years back in a fit of stupidity) against (as I recall) 20 odd dollars/barrel, the government is 5 billion Moroccan dirhams in the hole to the local distributors and refiners. That's roughly 470 million USD at current prices.
A non-trivial sum.
The point here is the idiocy of the subsidies to begin with, which are boosting consumption at a time of accelerating prices, while doing nothing to help the country address conservation issues. At the very least they should be bloody indexed.
This entirely leaves aside the fact that despite the prattle about social solidarity, the untargetted subsidy actually is gives more to industrial users at the expense of taxpayers than to the poor. A targetted subsidy to say a certain size of butagaz (the weiner nat gas bottles the poor use to cook and do just about anything) might be rational.
However, this is precisely the sort of irrational economic policy that if the country is forced to lift it, the drooling morons in the anti-globo left will squeel on about oil companies and Big Business, etc. etc.
Dar Fur (aka Darfur): Round and round and round again
I see there is another “Dar Fur” attention thing going on, wherein bloggers who a year ago or two had no bloody clue as to where the bloody hell the place is or who the Fur are (of course they still don’t – for all that the history of the Sultanate of Fur is actually rather intriguing) pontificate about the issue.
At the risk of being the perennial naysayer – well actually why not? Naysayers are useful, we drag the deluded back to reality. – let me again comment on Dar Fur (or if you must, Darfur).
October 13, 2005
Two Jews, Three Opinions, Part II: Day of Atonement Thoughts on Jewish Culture, Subculture, and Prejudice
[warning: much anecdotal musing ahead]
So here I am on this fine Yom Kippur, engaging in a bit of anthropological fieldwork among my extended family, a bunch of relatively liberal, politically aware Reform-ish American Jews in South Florida. In some ways we are very typical of our subculture(s), and in some ways we are not, but to be sure, there is a wide spectrum of opinion around here, and most of it is expressed passionately and frequently. My family is warm, loud, always interrupting each other, generous, and all-around decent people, and make frequent attempts to be openminded. Mom is even loving the biracial grandchild, in spite of her various complaints over the years that my sister (who basically hasn't dated a white guy since high school) is a reverse racist.
However, if I have to have one more discussion about how all Muslims are not out to exterminate the Jews, I might do something very un-Yom-Kippur-like, and really have something to atone for. I try to cut my aunt some slack - after all, she has worked for the past 20+ years at a grade school affiliated with a Conservative synagogue, and she gets the pro-Israel, anti-Muslim propaganda during most of her waking hours. But sheesh, she was just mentioning that she'd been thinking of donating to Pakistan earthquake relief, until her good friend and co-worker (a rabidly Zionist Israeli; one wonders, indeed, why she lives in the U.S.) mentioned maybe she shouldn't do that, because, you know, we wouldn't want to support people who want to wipe out the Jews.
October 12, 2005
Regarding culture, sex and foreign policy
I thought my commentary might be a trifle too Lounsbury for the main 'Aqoul site, so I snuck it over into 'Aqoul - Lounsbury, but a comment on socialisation, expattedness, plumbers and afternoon apartment sex, videos and US foreign policy in MENA, from a personal perspective although I believe I may have neglected the personal perspective slightly.
October 11, 2005
Ramadan TV & Terror
Of interest to the media, terror and culture people here, a fine little story on a Ramadan soap that I have been following (or rather, am forced to follow unless I hole myself up in my office) on MBC: Syria launches terror-themed soap for Ramadan.
I caught this referenced online somewhere, but had actually been watching the series without knowing where it was going, although the last episode (10 September on MBC) gave the game away with the somewhat dime Khaliji character getting brainwashed by a ultra-Salafi takfiri type activist. That and the chica who is the implied wheel-chair bound narrator pulling or slipping back her hidjab to show nasty scarring.
October 05, 2005
Insomnia and Arab Singles Sites: Random Thoughts
Can’t sleep, so I’m surfing Arablounge.com, an Arab singles site.
It showed up on the bloody Google Ads bar, I swear.
The site appears to be aimed primarily at younger Americans/Europeans with Mideast backgrounds (Christian and Muslim) and seems to reflect North American online dating culture. Vastly different from the UAE section of Shaadi.com, a mega-personals site that I had the opportunity to…er…study in-depth some months ago. The most obvious difference between these two sites is that Shaadi.com is branded as a matrimonials site where people create profiles with the specific intent of finding a spouse (sometimes on behalf of a sibling or son/daughter). Unlike your average Western dating website, Shaadi profiles provide detailed information on religion, caste/subcaste, values (liberal, moderate, conservative), mother tongue, complexion (fair, wheatish, medium, etc) and most amusingly, residency status. I imagine that this might be particularly important for the large Indian/Pakistani expat population in Dubai.
Shaadi.com has a rather large selection of Asian Muslims, but hardly any Arabs or Turks (my personal preference, if I may be momentarily superficial). There is, however, another matrimonial site that focuses primarily on the Middle East and North Africa: Qiran.com.
October 04, 2005
And in other Ramadan related news, Al Qaeda goes for the "Yes we are bloody minded barbarians, thank you very much" award
On the wires, Al Qaeda in Iraq (yes, I know, it's very much a poorly controlled franchising thing, but hey, lessons in brand management - bad and good) has called for getting down to the really fun business of blowing up foreign infidels and Shia as well one should think.
I did like the cited slaves of the cross phrasing, it actually has a nice ring to it. Much more interesting than that ugly non-sense, "Islamofascist" the American Bolshy Right, its fellow travellers and assorted semi-literates have taken to using. They should take rhetoric lessons from the al-Qaeda people (who are actually, all things being equal, somewhat good at rhetoric - that and of course senselessly blowing up innocents, but can't ask for everything in the world).
Green Zone - Boom
Car bomb inside the Green Zone - boom boom.
October 03, 2005
Morocco-Spain: Mass Border Incidents again
I note from AFP another massive assault by hundreds of clandestine migrants on the Spanish border.
135 injured. Rather severe this.
Iraqi Oil Minister: Not Dead Yet
This morning we had the fine news that the Iraqi Oil Minister most unsportingly was not blown up, despire the increasingly sincere attempts on the part of the Sunni Arab factions. "I'm not dead yet" as he might say.
September 29, 2005
Earlier comments here have drawn attention to the surplus of liquidity in the region, and the resulting stock market bubble. So what happens when there's an IPO for a UAE company and no way to apply for shares in Abu Dhabi?
[T]he Dana Gas IPO brought chaos to UAE banks with would-be subscribers falling over themselves to pick up application forms. All flights from Saudi Arabia to the UAE have been booked solid for days and 33,000 people crossed the border in the past four days, according to local officials.
Several banks had to close their doors to control the crowds and some banks reported scuffles as the crowds struggled to get to the counters. At least one incident was reported in which a security guard was roughed up.
New laws regulating IPOs will soon be ready in the UAE. But I believe a stock market crash is inevitable regardless.
September 26, 2005
Gulf & the MENA Region Finance, Booms & Inefficiencies
Our friend and sometime contributor Waterboy draws attention to something obvious to all involved, and yet an item that remains out of control: overliquidity in the Gulf region and the consquent mad asset price boom in the Gulf. His observation is spot on, that there is
there's too much cash chasing too few investment opportunities in the region; too little oversight, regulation or transparency; too much exuberance - bear in mind, as Japanese bank Nomura pointed out, that Saudi Telecom's market capitalisation of US$74bn is worth more than BT (US$35bn), AT&T
(US$15bn), SK Telecom (US$15bn), and Telekom SA (US$9bn) combined - and far too many unsophisticated investors who think that having the names of a couple of ruling family members in the IPO prospectus is a valid alternative to a business plan - or, for that matter, an existing business.
No doubt about this at all. Some conversations I had over the past week painfully illustrated that. This aside, a key point of disequilibrium is the degree to which despite the asset valuations in the Gulf being absolutely looney to the point of surreal, the money is not flowing within the region to a reasonable degree.
(cross posted from Lounsbury - 'Aqoul)
September 12, 2005
Underdevelopment as Dilettantisme: Why MENA Does Not Attract Capital, Reason No. 5
While sadly behind on my ability to comment substantively, I thought a bit of a comment on dilettanstisme would be worth a quick intervention (and it being all I have time for, it's what one gets).
The comment is provoked by a series of convos over the past few days in regards to a certain MENA country (which for various sensitivity reasons shall remain unnamed) and its hosting of a MENA region investment conference. Let's say that our certain MENA country is not exactly a star performer in the realm of attracted FDI, per capita or in gross. Of course neither is the region.
There are multitudes of reasons for this. The one to be discussed today, dilettantisme.
September 11, 2005
Well, Secret Dubai Gets High Profile Mention
Nothing like fame for our colleague and friend.
Dubai Opens Door Wide to News Media, but Journalists Note a Catch
The quote: "More controversially, content that verges on the political has also been blocked: Secret Dubai Diary, a quirky blog about Western expatriate life here, was blocked for weeks this summer, raising howls from the blogger community. Etisalat says users can appeal to have a block removed."
Very nice. Quirky, though, irritates.
September 05, 2005
Willing. Unwilling. The Pretension of Interest in Democracy & The Middle East
From our dear friend Pratike, who made the error of going to Egypt and Cairo specifically to learn Arabic and thus condemn himself to speaking with a bufoonish accent for the rest of his day, a note on the 'elections' and the pretension that the US Administration is interested in democracy in the MENA region:
His quote from a Washington Post op ed:
Perhaps there is concern that too much pressure on Mubarak might produce a victory by the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular Egyptian opposition party that has been outlawed by the government. That's a risk, of course, but if the Bush administration isn't willing to let Islamists, even radical Islamists, win votes in a fair election, then Bush officials should stop talking so much about democracy and go back to supporting the old dictatorships. It was precisely that kind of logic -- that friendly dictators are preferable to potentially radical alternatives -- that helped produce so much radicalism during the Cold War and, more recently, a healthy movement of Middle East terrorists.
Well, welcome to reality children. What news.
Yorkshire Bombers - British Muslims shocked
An item worthy of attention:
Well, this makes the denial and the excuse making coming out of the mouths of what we might call "the usual suspects" unsupportable (although certain deluded and or mendacious elements will continue to do so, just as they do in regards to 11 Sep).
September 01, 2005
Colds, Fevers and Oil: US Gulf, Global Pricing
I think it worth bringing to others attention the following: Nadezhda on rather nasty scenarios regarding the impact of the hurricane that has apparently more or less destroyed the US Gulf Coast
There is plenty of electronic ink being spilled about this, I shall not waste time on that, however some reflexion on the problematic state of global oil markets and this event is relevant to the MENA region.
August 31, 2005
'Aqoul - Damned by Faint Praise
Me that is. Not 'Aqoul, just yours truly.
Well, here we are, well loved by Bou Aradvrak. I quote " Aqoul is a fun group MENA blog, and the home of Lounsbury (if you think that's a good thing)" in honour of New Blog Day.
Humph. If, he says, If!
Well, just wait until your next edition of Sheikhly Love Investigations comes out, eh? With charts and graphics.
That or my "Why its Good not to be a Belgian" magnum opus on sex in the Maghreb.
[adding a self plug: I may add in true The Lounsbury self indulgence that Gulf readers I have a purely perso question for here]
August 30, 2005
Public Service Announcement No. 1: aljazeera.com still not al Jazeerah.
A small note, one which I like to make whenever I run across someone in the English language world (online) citing to aljazeera.com as "al Jazeera(h)" clearly thinking it is the famous Arab TV Sat station. aljazeera.com is still not al-Jazeerah, which you can find online at aljazeera.net.
I will continue with this small public announcement until, at some point in a likely far distant future, the error is expunged. Or I get blown up. One or the other.
August 29, 2005
Iraq: Lessons from History
Wilson was a confident and bullish colonial official who was wrestling with a serious dilemma. How, under intense international scrutiny, could he control a well-armed society that had become increasingly resentful about the occupation of their country? Wilson himself never found satisfactory answers to this question. On July 2, 1920, a revolt, or thawna, broke out along the lower Euphrates. Fueled by a population resentful at the heavy-handed approach of the occupying forces, the rebellion quickly spread across the south and center of the country. Faced with as many as 131,000 armed opponents, the British army did not regain full control until six months later in February 1921. The cost in lives and money of the revolt made the continued occupation of Iraq very unpopular with British public opinion. It also cost Wilson his job. From 1921 onward the British continually strove to cut the costs of their presence in Iraq. Ultimately the decision was made to extricate themselves from he country as quickly as possible. The result was a failure to build a liberal or even a stable state in Iraq. (Toby Dodge - Inventing Iraq)
This passage gets creepier every time I read it. I’ve mentioned Toby Dodge’s book before, partly for historical value and partly as a cautionary tale for people who can’t grasp the complexities associated with “remaking” a region. The reason I am flogging this dead horse yet again is a recent Washington Post article about the US struggle to foster a liberal democracy in the face of strong ethnic and sectarian pressures:
Hijab Fashion, Getting Noticed in Your Slinky Little ....
In keeping with purient interests, as well as our commitment to rooting about the dark corners of the MENA world and its cultural off-shoots, I draw your attention to this amusing little article in The Washington Post entitled
While the arty actually deals with surburbanite sub-Con muslim girls in the Washington DC area, the actual issues therein are very familiar to the MENA region proper.
There is also a helpful little slide show to introduce you to Hijab sexy chic. Actually one of our young subjects is quite fetching in the scarfy hijab she chose. Fashion accessories...
August 25, 2005
Water, Business & Privatisation
A fine comment in The Financial Times today on water services privatisation that has no small meaning for the MENA region.
A subject of long interest to me, as some know, dating back to my time in Egypt where I was appaled at the sheer madness of Egypt's water policies.
Well, actually I spent much of my time appalled by everything in Egypt, but that is another matter.
It is an abiding shame that the idiot anti-globalisation fools opposed sensible privatisation of water services under emotive and illiterate cries of "human rights" and the like, while all too typically ignoring the fact of real costs of water services which get borne by the poor one way or another.
August 24, 2005
Aqaba, some moderately ignored items
Oddly the Aqaba attack, no doubt to the sheer pitifulness of our fine rocketeers' aim (really no respect for the craft of rocketing these days), seems to have generated relatively little attention.
Yes, the usual bleating about terror this and that in the usual places, a rather typical and in my mind largely posturing claim on behelf of Zarqaouie via the internet.... but little attention to the idea of Aqaba as the first Iraq spillover event (although one might suggest the truck bomb "chemical threat" thing of last year which I very much enjoyed personally (emptied out my fav places in Amman, great seating to be had) was something of a spillover.
Pity, it should have been a point of heated speculation.
August 23, 2005
In the news of the Odd: Arab syn for begger
This little news item offered me a bit of bemusement insofar as it is just plain odd:
The primary question in my mind is not the 'pejorative' synonyms per se, but their.... well oddness. I mean if I ponder I am certain I can think of pejorative synonyms for Arab, but begger and 'welfare bum' certainly don't crop up.
Really quite peculiar.
August 22, 2005
Cole - Analysis of What to Do with Iraq
A bit pressed for time, so let me share this excellent piece from Juan Cole on Iraq. I am not sure I entirely agree, but I think his thinking and analysis is about as clear and grounded as one can get. Not defeatism, not simple minded self deception either.
This is why one should read Cole even though he tends to the annoying Left when commenting on economics and the like.
August 19, 2005
Annoying grey ships at Aqaba piss me off: Shall Fire rockets at them. (US ships attacked) - updated
Well, this news in the AM bemused me:
It reports two missiles (in fact, it appears mortars, not quite the same thing, Mr. Halaby, or perhaps Katyusha rockets..... well something explosive in any case) were fired at US warships at Aqaba harbor.
[update: 17h00 GMT below]
Suppose this will do wonders for tourism. Might clear out the harbor though, reduce the backlog.
August 17, 2005
It appears that the Sheikhly Love item has legs
I draw your attention to the Aardvark's The Desert and the Dancing Girls.
Perhaps more expert authors can add to this small note.
August 04, 2005
On Terror, Tea Cups and Jumping - Re Conclusions
If I may permit myself a snide aside based on this article:
London Bombers Used Ordinary Materials, and in partial connexion with my own note, Tempests & Tea Pots regarding a rather overdone, hysteric to an extent and generally ridiculous and poorly informed online debate on terrorism.
August 03, 2005
Fresh News: Coup in Mauretania (The Question: Will Anyone Notice?)
I leave it to the wiser among us to give the True Meaning. And, yes, that headline is the Financial Times' own misspelling.
Armed forces seize power in Mauritiana
Mauritania’s armed forces have set up a military council to rule the country and end the ”totalitarian” regime of President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, a statement broadcast on state media said on Wednesday.
August 02, 2005
Tsar Mubarek & Reforms for the Neo Mamlouks
An article that merits close reading and attention; in fact I believe it is deeply indicative of the real challenges in Egypt, and in some ways the wider Arab world in regards to transition costs - if in general with moderately less severity.
In Egypt's Countryside, Farmers' Anger Seen As 'Silent Time Bomb'
Recent Revolt Over Rents and Evictions Draws Support of Mubarak Opponents
By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 17, 2005; A16
I would cite this as something highly indicative of the real position of the Mubarek government as well as the liberal urban classes, what I might call the "kefaya" chattering classes in one of my less charitable moods (although one supposes one can validly ask if I have charitable moods). I mean by that, the generaly comfortable proper liberal opposition who rather uncomfortabley ressemble a similar opposition in the fading years of the tsarist empire in old Russia.
August 01, 2005
King Fahd is dead
RIYADH, Aug 1 (Reuters) - Saudi state television interrupted regular broadcasting with recitations of the Koran and one Western diplomat said he had information that King Fahd had died in hospital on Monday.
"Sources at King Faisal Specialist Hospital have informed us that he (King Fahd) is dead," the diplomat said. He did not give further details.
July 28, 2005
Fatwas Against Terrorism
From the State Department:
The Fiqh Council of North America has issued a fatwa against terrorism:
The scholars based their ruling on several Quranic passages, including the verse, “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]… it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Quran 5:32)
I mentioned this verse a while back, to make a point about terrorists in Iraq "justifying" their behaviour by using apostasy as a loophole. That loophole was closed by a group of clerics in Jordan, one day before the London bombings.
Terror & Ideology - A Resume
We've been talking quite abit about this, naturally given London, Sharm esh-Sheikh and the like. I think a small wrap up, as well as a compare and contrast, especially with some recent reports and editorials, may be useful. So, below the fold I think the expression goes, a longish commentary and perhaps a slight Lounsbury-ish rant:
July 27, 2005
On IMF, Populism, Yemen & Jordan: Populism as Self Defeat, or why subsidy riots are not wins
A small note in response to a note by our friend, the Father of Aardvark(s) (hmmmm, I believe that I should create an Arabised plural, and for the sheer fun of it, a broken one, so from now on, Abu Aardvark to me is Abu Araadvaraak (abusing grammar and presuming Ardvark is a compound word), or in Maghrebine form Bou Aradvrak). on the 'victory' of the Yemani street in reversing the revision of subsidised petrol prices.
July 26, 2005
Creating Opportunities - Liberalisation & MENA, The Micro Level
A small piece of news that I shall try to expand on, but after some little work on a Fund proposition. In the meantime, for comment and reflection.
The Moroccan business press reported an item that I would think most readers would pass over in boredom, but I find highly relevant to understanding why unemployment is so high throughout the MENA region and why liberalisation - domestic liberalisation even more so than to the global market, is so important for giving real opportunities to the populations here. And by doing so, providing alternatives to the ever more attractive nihilism of Salafist Takfiri ideology.
The Lounsbury Return: Iraq & Civil War
I'm back from a bloody long trip and quite beat. Regardless, a quick note to draw attention (via Juan Cole) to a New York Times article, cited at the billmon blog, discussing the new emergence of open discussion of the emerging civil war in Iraq. As longtime Lounsbury readers know, I called the "entry into the Lebanese logic" a year or so ago.
July 23, 2005
Another 9-11: Christmas for the Mojahedin-e Khalq?
According to former CIA agent turned journo, Philip Giraldi, Cheney has told STRATCOM to draw up a plan for responding to another major terrorist attack on the US with an assault on Iran. It'd be a full scale affair including "a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons." And, "As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States."
The piece is featured in Aug 1 print edition of American Conservative Magazine
Hopefully, this is what Senator Kyl would call "over the top bluster" on Mr. Giraldi's part. If not, if there's some substance to this characterization of the plans, another tragic attack on the US could be the opening the Sazeman-e Mojahedin-e Khalq-e Iran have been waiting for. They may be able to leverage tragedy and their not insignificant support among various US political actors into an expense paid trip to the remains of Tehran.
Combating Islamist Terrorism: Policy Approaches
Militant Islamist ideology is not a recent phenomenon, the concepts have been around for decades. It was popular with Muslim youth in the 1960-70s, particularly after Sayyid Qutb published Signposts on the Road, a bestseller in the Islamic world that continues to influence Islamist ideology today. At the time, enthusiasm for nationalism was waning and writers like Qutb were disgusted with the corruption of secular authoritarian governments and the perceived erosion of Islamic principles in Egypt and across the Middle East. The answer was of course a return to religion, and a firm rejection of jahiliyya, the state of ignorance and barbarism that occured in the absence of Islam (historically, this term refers to the pre-Islamic period).
So why has this sort of thinking been adopted more recently by a segment of young European Muslims? What is the source of their disenchantment and frustration and how can European (and North American) governments address this issue without compromising ideals such as tolerance and multiculturalism?
July 19, 2005
Oh NOES, it's teh SEE EYE AY!
Being back in Jordan after a two-year absence has proven to be quite interesting. The amount of newly opened American chain stores are quite large, as are the amount of 'alternative' locally-owned bars and pubs. I've frequented the latter group quite a bit this past week, and have noticed an eerie amount of American folks hanging out among the upper-class Jordanian youth.
For instance, I noticed a tall man with a shaved head and well-built body sitting down alone at a table. This man could have been taken straight out of the military had he not been reading a book, cross-legged, while quietly drinking a glass of wine. I walked up to him and asked him what he was reading, and invited him over to our table. He ignored the question but introduced himself and walked over with me anyway. When he sat down I repeated the question, and he said: "I'm a writer." Intrigued, I asked him what sort of stuff he wrote. He responded with a vague answer, something along the lines of: "I write different things, for papers and stuff, and other things too."
Another incident occurred at the Jordanian Film Convention I attended a few nights ago. This man, J., claimed to work with an NGO "dealing with Iraq". He didn't know what NGO he was working for, however, or at least, that was his reponse when I asked him. After talking to a friend I found out that this guy actually interviewed Iraqi prisoners, but again, not much was known about the actual organization he worked for.
Now this is not going to be an analysis so much as a personal observation, or perhaps a 'word from the street' sort of thing. Tonight, another friend mentioned the abundence of Americans "studying Arabic" here in Jordan. Funnily enough, however, it seems that even after spending months "studying", none of these people could speak more than a few words or sentences. Furthermore, young Arabs who live here find themselves casually questioned by these foreigners about what they think of the war, the government, or Islam.
July 15, 2005
In Defense of Ignorance: Pundita
The wise words of Pundita, noted moron and probable foreign policy wonk in Washington:
My position is don't try to understand by listening to the Europeans. The French went on and on about their experience in Algeria to explain why they were against the US invasion of Iraq. Hello, we're not the French...
And don't allow academics and well-meaning Europeans to terrorize us into thinking we require a scholarly grasp of the situation in the Middle East before we can formulate a correct approach.
Here is the full entry, for readers interested in seeing her "argument" in its entirety. Comments are not permitted on her blog, and if someone posts a refutation of her writing in their own journal, she quaintly refers to these entries as "letters", thereby escaping the obligation to link back to them during her own rebuttal.
The biggest irony I find in her writing is how much it resembles policy pieces written by British colonial officials, even as she complains about Europe's colonial baggage in the Middle East. Strong "Orientalist" slant, complete ignorance of subtleties in terms of religion, ethnicity, cultural/regional variations and recent history. Looking over Juan Cole's recent note on Iraqi casualties (an estimated 8,000 in the past 10 months, or 800 per month, likely excluding those killed by US military action), a ham-handed "screw research and/or informed decisionmaking, we're Americans!" strategy does not necessarily yield productive results in the short or long-term.
PS - Now that we're on the topic, watching The Battle of Algiers is useful for understanding both the French experience in Algeria and potential parallels with the US experience in Iraq. Lounsbury goes on about this film endlessly, even the Pentagon has screened it.
July 14, 2005
Islam & Terror - Profounder Reflections
As noted, I remain submerged in corporate flackery and spin, but I wanted to bring several items to everyone's attention.
First, the esteemed Abu Aardvark has two important posts up:
July 13, 2005
Muslims in Europe - London Bombings as Domestic Terror and Suicide
Being frightfully busy writing corporate propaganda (otherwise known as responding to transparency in quarterly reporting by - as the French rather wonderfully put it, putting heavy make up on the accounts), I am afraid this is as much an open post as anything.
Nevertheless, The Financial Times and other sources report that the identity of the actual bombers, who do indeed appear to have been suicide bombers, has more or less been established.
July 07, 2005
Father of Aardvaarks on London
I am about to piss off to the club to do my usual things, which include supporting the Great Cuban Revolution for Impoverishing the Countryside by consuming its products and writing either semi coherent rants, engaging in semi coherent rants with other club members, networking, and finally, incongrously whipping out the laptop in fits of inspiration (or desperation, very hard to tell the difference really).
In that vien, I wanted to share something serious, the quick comment by the Father of Aardvark(s) on London and its meaning:
An extended comment on IMF, Jordan discussion
As this is rather long for comments, a small entry on the IMF, Jordan and Liberalism discussion based on our esteemed co-author, ridemycamel, who again hopefully will pardon my poor manners, sharp tongue and the like.
I also note that due to popular outcry, I am introducing block quoting. I dislike it, but have to maintain some pretension to customer service or our financier will dump me. (Although it was such a pain to add I can't promise consistancy here)
July 06, 2005
Media, Reform, US Gov and Business
On US Gov and Media Reform, an email
I reproduce here an email from a friend of mine in private equity and media in the Middle East, located out there. And an Arab too, not some whinging expat (ahem).
It is lightly edited to scrub certain references and the like, but I share it for its interest. I note that some US Gov types wanted to meet with media actors, including from the business side. I made the introduction. Here is my amigo's note afterward.
July 04, 2005
IMF, Jordan and Hegemony: A Rebuttal of Sorts (Updated)
Let me engage for the first time a co-author, in particular ridemycamel in regards to his entry on the IMF.
I’ll say first of all it is intelligent, well-written, clear and concise. Incredibly wrong-headed and trapped in leftist twaddle, but well-written. I thank the author in advance for what I am sure will be an interesting reply and while I am going to whack him up side the head a number of times, it is with all due respect.
From the top then:
Financial Aid, the IMF, and Historical Structures: The Case of the Bread Riots in Jordan
Economic Growth, Media Modernisation and Competition in MENA
Given my abiding concern for seeing economic growth occur in this fine region – that is the MENA region – I thought I might return to some thoughts I have had following on prior comments on the business environment and the like.
First, a brief comment (or perhaps a rambling and extended comment) on mentalities, provoked by a conversation with one of the women who render my life complex (if interestingly corrupt and immoral) in regards to a local television effort to create a “star system” to promote local talent.
Rather like the Lebanese “Star Academy” it is an interesting way to bring up new talent and provide a public exposition of popular trends. As an added advantage, the local chicas who compete are quite hot with a distinct tendency to wear the latest inappropriate Leb Slut fashions, which is very hard to argue against.
The Lounsbury Introduction
As my opening post at this little blog, « ‘Aqoul » perhaps a word of introduction, and my own view on the purpose of this, a "group blog."
First, although I originated the name in a fit of archness two years ago or so in the context of another "project" to open a "Middle East" focused group blog that went nowhere, the motivating force was a one eerie who has both the technical skills and lack of good judgment to set up and finance this, which intends to be a group blog for commenting on the MENA (Middle East – North Africa).
Since good deeds rarely go unpunished, I am sure she will come to regret it, but in the meantime I hope we can make this slip in judgment worth her while, as well as ours. For the moment let me express my hope that this corner can contribute something worth the electrons it burns up (or at least she remains foolish enough to pay for these indulgences).