Category Archives: Media

The Casey Anthony Trial

Medea (about to murder her children) by Eugène...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, in the 102 degree heat, sitting on the easy chair with clicker in hand I took a tour of the TV nether lands.  An alien area where  people pick one crime, one incident, to re-enact all the social goo we love.  I would not be one to deny anyone their low brow entertainment, but there was something tragic and pathetic with the attention and the devotion to watching the trial.

I frankly know nothing of the case and the characters and do not care to find out. But, for sure, the accused has no chance.  The mobs outside have drawn and quartered her.  The TV announcer, in a sportscaster tone, spewed the highlights and the drama of the day in court.  If I was an alien from another planet, I would think this was the only murder of a child in America, ever.  Ninety percent of America fancies itself to be a forensic expert by merely watching some television shows such as CSI.  People across America are glued to this spectacle of  Roman Colosseum style justice.

Medeas have come and gone and they have alway grabbed our attention.  They offer one balm to the shallow thinker: ” Evil”.  A clear and true manifestation of all that is evil beyond the shadow of doubt, or argument.  It seems calming to offer up to the masses something they can all agree on:  an evil mother.  Annually about 1,400 children are killed/murdered, 60% of those deaths are committed by parents.  Yet, this woman is chosen for the drama.  This pathetic oddity who seems to have wanted to relieve herself from the burdens of parenthood.  So once again, we take our social problems and dilute them down to a melodramatic passion play.  A play that makes us feel superior and cleansed and united in a common social value system.

I am not making excuses for any parent who harms a child.  In fact, there are no excuses.  In the drama spectrum we have the Disney apotheosis of the orphaned child, the ultimate angel.  To the tragic cases such as this, the Medea, the mother that kills her child, the ultimate manifestation of evil.  As our moral compass is tested, time after time, we look for the easy black and white narratives to comfort us.  Our politicians have adopted this language of the grotesque to soothe our confused little brains.


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Filed under American Politics, Culture and Society, Media

Austerity Double Standard

Greece was bad.  Consecutive Greek governments spent way beyond their means, we are told.  Greece was scolded and put in the corner by the prudent and thrifty leadership of the EU.   It was the public employees, yes.  It was the graft, yes.  It was the corruption, yes.  It was the culture, maybe.  It was that they are not as wise as the Europeans, define wisdom.  The list is endless.

One area that stayed under the radar was the military spending.  Here is a sweet little picture of the Greek military spending:

Greece’s serious financial troubles are going to affect their military spending. The highest in the European Union and second in NATO only to the United States, the Greeks spend 2.8% of their GDP on defense, compared to an average 1.7% in the other European NATO countries. Defense personnel account for 2.9% of the active population against an average 1.1% in other NATO member states.

One little graph from the Economist jumped at me today.  It seems the scolders were right at the table gorging with the guilty Greeks.  Look, Greece is Germany‘s number one customer.  France‘s number three.  Now that we put Greece on an austerity program, reigned in the pensioners, the universities, the hospitals and the sick, maybe we should see how the superior elders of the EU add to the problem.  Just maybe.

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Celebrating The Egyptian Revolution

In the past 18 days, I have followed the struggle of the Egyptian people.  My interest is beyond the casual observer.  I was born and raised in Egypt, although I am Greek/Lebanese, ethnically, my family felt  Egyptian, first.  I watched a peaceful, non-violent struggle against the old order of tyranny, patriarchy and darkness.  A struggle for a democratic and  just society.  A society that respects the human rights of every Egyptian.   I watched as Mubarak and Suleiman used every trick in the repertoire to break down the spirit of the Egyptian people: brute force,  fear, then divisiveness,  paternalism.  None worked .  The game book failed.  The Egyptian people wrote their own playbook.  It was time to remove the tyrants who replaced the old foreign colonials.

The Egyptian people through a non -violent, home-bred “balady”, no charismatic leader and non sectarian revolution, toppled the regime.  Desperate voices from the outside  kept asking Egyptians:  “Who do you want” ” Who are the leaders of the revolution?”.  One after one the Egyptian people kept saying:  “We will see when we start the process of Democracy.”  “When we have parties; when we have free press.”  “We will see when we have a legitimate electoral process, constitution and we have choices.”

The idea of Egyptians having choices has alarmed many  in the world:   “What if they make the wrong choices?”   This is where the hypocritical talk about enlightenment and democratic ideals fails.  How dare you ask such questions?  How dare you deserve an opinion?   It is the choice of the Egyptian people.  I heard an ex-American administration official giving advice on how we should influence the process for outcomes that are beneficial to American interests.  No, thank you.

Authoritarian states are not stable.

I hear rumblings from the American right, that if not for the Bush Iraq war and occupation may have incited the people of Egypt towards Democracy.  This type of thinking is on par with the Mubarak delusional thinking.   Iraq was just another part of authoritarianism.  Treating nations like children.  A policy steeped in violence, force and brutality.  Egypt was the polar opposite of what Iraq was and is in every form.

For now, the Egyptian people and the world need to celebrate the spirit and the strength of  the Egyptians and the Tunisians.

Who is next journalists  ask?  The answer is simple, the people of the various nations get to decide who is next.  Can the world really handle self- determination?

Just as the wall of fear fell in Egypt, I saw as many people around the world, and here in America particularly, realized the human face of the Islamic/Arabic enemy they have been slowly trained to fear.  18 days of seeing real Egyptian men, women and children.  Listening to Egyptian voices beyond the caricatures that we were fed for years, broke down the fear of the  demonized “Arabic Street”.  For the first time, we went beyond the simplistic binaries that separate us and Americans got a chance to feel the humanity of the other.  Now, how do we go to the next stage?   People got to hear the human aspirations of the Egyptian people and gosh darn it, they are not so foreign, or scary.  They are the same human desires and struggles.

Imagine how hard it will be for politicians to fool us if we break down the years of demonizing other human beings?   It’s not easy to choose to oppress and kill people if you see the humanity you share.

This song is by a wonderful young Egyptian singer, Hamza Namira.

( I found the videos via 3arabawy)


Filed under American Politics, Culture and Society, Media, Middle East

A Guide: How Not To Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt

The past few days I have heard so many stupid things from friends, blogs, pundits, correspondents, politicians, experts, writers that I want to pull my hair.  So, I will not beat around the bush, I will be really blunt and give you a handy list to keep you from offending Egyptians, Arabs and the world when you discuss, blog or talk about Egypt.  Honestly, I would think most Progressives would know these things, but let’s get to it.

  • “I am so impressed at how articulate Egyptians are.”  Does this sound familiar?  Imagine saying this about a Latino or African American?  You don’t say it.  So don’t say it about Egyptians.   Gee, thank you oh great person who is of limited experience and human contact for recognizing that out of 80 million people some could be articulate, educated and speak many languages.  Not cool.  Don’t say it.  You may think it, but it makes you sound like a dumb ass.
  • “This is so sad”:  No, sad were the thirty years of oppression, repression and torture.
  • ” I loved Sadat”:  Mubarak was made of the same cloth of Sadat.  Same repression, same ill-treatment of their people, yet you were all in love with Sadat.  Hmm, where and when do you think the repression started?  The State Of Emergency?  Sadat was not loved by the Egyptian people.   Why do you love Sadat?
  • “What they did to the Mummies is horrible”:  Yes, but who did it?  Think, Mubarak, for years has been playing the “I am the stabilizing force”.  The one thing you know about Egypt, the stuff that was underground and from the past, you will be distraught and find the protestors to be disgusting.  Yet it was not the protesters who did it.  In Alexandria, the young people protected the library.  Did anyone carry that story?  Statement from the Director of the Alexandria Library:

The library is safe thanks to Egypt’s youth, whether they be the staff of the Library or the representatives of the demonstrators, who are joining us in guarding the building from potential vandals and looters.  I am there daily within the bounds of the curfew hours.   However, the Library will be closed to the public for the next few days until the curfew is lifted and events unfold towards an end to the lawlessness and a move towards the resolution of the political issues that triggered the demonstrations.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. It renounced violence in the 1970s and has no active militia (although a provocative martial arts demonstration in December 2006 raised some alarm that they may be regrouping a militia.)

Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan Al Muslimun in Arabic, is frequently mentioned in relation to groups such as Hamas and Al Qaeda.

  • “The Twitter Revolution”. No, this is the Revolution of the Egyptian people.  Egyptians resisted for decades.  They were tortured, jailed and repressed by the Mubarak and Sadat regimes.  Twitter and Facebook are tools.  They did not stand in front of the water canons, or go to jail for all these years to get the credit.  There were demonstrations all summer long and for a several years through out Egypt but they are rarely covered, because we are worried about what Sarah Palin said, or some moronic Imam saying something stupid.  Does it sound a bit arrogant to take credit for a people’s struggle?
  • “The women are so brave”:  Egyptian women have always been brave.  If you want to know about Sadat’s Egypt, read Nawal El Saadawi’s memoir while in jail.  Memoirs from the Women’s Prison
  • “Al Jazeera has come to its own”: Al Jazeera has been on it’s own, you just only noticed. .  Do you think you believed the Bush administration spin about Al Jazeera?  Just maybe you believed the bullshit?  They must be doing something right if all the factions on the ground want to shut them down.  The tyrants, the US and the Israelis.  Hmm, maybe they are speaking truth to power?
  • “Mubarak kept the peace treaty”: So, what do you think, if the Egyptian people choose another government, they will go to war with Israel?  Maybe they will demand a few more things from Israel in how they negotiate with the Palestinians.  Maybe Gazans will get better treatment?  Maybe the balance of power will not be tipped over to Israel?  Egypt protests: Israel fears unrest may threaten peace treaty.   Hmm, so we should support the oppression of 80 million Egyptians for a false stabilization?
  • “If they get Democracy they will elect extremists”.  Imagine if the world said that about America.  The Tea Party threatens world stability, as did the Bush administration.  How would you like if others used that as a threat to support an autocrat who made all opposing parties illegal?  In truth, US politics threaten world stability more than Egypt does.  Second, the implication is that democracy is not to be trusted in the hands of “certain” nations, people and religions is offensive, racist and ignorant.  You do not claim to value human rights, democracy and freedom and then you make exclusions based on race, nationality and religion.  Don’t say this shit.
  • “The people are so nice”:  Yes they are, it’s your ignorant self that assumed they are all terrorists and fanatics.  What did you think?  Glad you went to Egypt and found the Egyptians nice.  After all, they do have a cosmopolitan civilization of over 5,000 years, yet you reduced them to “rag heads” , “jihadists”, “ali babas”, “terrorists”, the list is endless.  Imagine saying this about African Americans?  Asians?  Nope.  Just don’t fucking say it.  It’s patronizing.

It’s time Egyptians were heard.  It’s time the pundits and “Egypt hands” (old recycled western diplomats) were retired. These people were as good at predicting the current events as our economists were in predicting the economic calamity.  I am glad you all got to see things from Egypt outside your comfort zone.  Maybe now, you can give Egyptians and Arabs some respect.  The people in Egypt are struggling for human rights, dignity and freedom.  Like the rest of us, they want the economic means to care for their families.  Break down those closed ideas that dehumanize the Arab and Egyptian people in general.  That is all I ask.


Filed under Media, Middle East, Uncategorized

Limbaugh Logic: Demonize Islam, Not Me!

Rush Limbaugh, after the Fort Hood attack, was ready to blame the Muslim faith for every violent act committed by a Muslim.  The logic is that the Imam’s preach hate and violence.

RUSH:  I mean folks, ought to read to you what my friend Andy McCarthy wrote about this at National Review Online: “After the carnage we’ve seen for two decades, and the high religious authorities that have endorsed it, it is simply astounding that an American president — at a solemn memorial service for soldiers killed just days ago by a jihadist acting on his rational, broadly accepted understanding of his religious duty — could claim that ‘no faith justifies’ sneak-attack murders, and that no religion teaches that ‘God looks upon them with favor.’ In fact, a widely held interpretation of Islam holds exactly these principles. No one is saying that all Muslims follow Hasan’s construction of Islam, but hundreds of millions do and they have scriptures to back up their beliefs — scriptures we could all read if we’d just pull our heads out of the sand. To deny that is to deny reality. A country can’t be protected by people who lack the will to face reality.”
And that’s what we have in president Obama.  I’m still struggling, does he face reality, is he this naïve or is he this cunning?  He’s got to know what jihad is.  He’s got to know of the imams that preach it.  He’s got to know that there are scriptures in these people’s book that suggests the way to get to heaven is to kill infidels.  This is not even arguable.  As Andy says here it’s not about all Muslims but clearly hundreds of millions of them.  Let’s listen to the next sound bite.

Rush Limbaugh, when his preaching is blamed for acts of hate and violence, protests:

Don’t kid yourself.  What this was all about is shutting down any and all political opposition and eventually criminalizing it. Criminalizing policy differences, at least when they differ from the Democrat Party agenda.  One of the more disturbing things about this incident is that someday the left will finally get their wish.  One of these days it’s going to happen.  This is all setting the table for it.  Groups are large.  Many people populate groups — and within any group of people, a sample is gonna find those who are unstable, deranged, and so forth like this kid.  You are eventually, at some point, going to probably find somebody who could be more closely identified with a particular political movement.  This kid is just a nut, and they’ve done their best…

Limbaugh, is getting a taste of his own medicine and he does not like it.  He wants to be given the benefit of the doubt.  He wants to be free to speak.  He does not want a whole group, his conservatives to be blemished.  Yet, each and every chance he and his band have they blemish every Arab and every Muslim.  A broad brush of blame he applies to millions of people, but he the “imam” of the right, finds a broad brush applied to him distasteful.

So, now Sarah, Glen and Rush want to be treated with respect.  They don’t want to be blamed as a group for the actions of one.  The tactic of demonization came back to bite them in the ass.  That is the problem with such public behavior.  It comes around and it bites hard.  The cycle of looking for demons, devils and the evil never ends.


Filed under American Politics, Media

Reading List Reductionism: Mein Kampf and Communist Manifesto

This is a reading list. This is the reading list  Jared Lee Loughner published on his You Tube page. This is the reading list that is being used to discern his politics and motives from both sides of the political spectrum.

Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.

Cable Networks, pundits, yappers, bloggers, and others, have tried to use this reading list to sort out this guy’s political leanings.  It seems, this guy only read Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, if you listen to broadcast news.  Each side, cherry picks one of the two to tell us whether he is a Lefty or a Rightie.

At the same time, each side is asking us to tone down the rhetoric.  Reducing a reading list to two incendiary  books is exactly the kind of demonization that has become the standard of our political discourse.  But if you go Loughner’s site, and if you choose to blog about it, how corrupt in your thinking do you have to be to pick out just these two books, or either one of the books alone?

I watched as MSNBC, FOX and CNN, cherry picked from the list these two books to project his political leanings.  The other books, are usually never mentioned by those who want to use the book to prove a point.

In the last few years as such events take place there is a rush to judgement and demonization.  There is a rush to demonizing entire religions, nationalities,or political factions.  Many of the people on my side of the political spectrum, are so angry, that they are poised to take on all the disgusting tactics of those they criticize.  Jumping to conclusions;  using limited information to invent a narrative that fits their political desires; accusing those who want the justice system to do its work as being wimps; calls for vengeance; calls to curb free speech, the list of retrograde thinking is endless.

My god, do we really want to behave like them?  It seems that wanting to wait for the facts and not jumping to the conclusion ” he is hard-core right/left winger”, that we are giving him a pass because he is white.  No you morons, this is the way we should act every time.  Instead of us reflecting back to them how we should behave in a democratic society of law and a justice system, we enter into the same frenetic hysteria that the right-wing has defined as the rightful behavior.   The only time democracy, justice and laws matter is when you can have the fortitude to allow the worse of us the rights our system provides.  Politicizing the tragedy is exactly the tool of the right.  The left is pissed that they should not be free to act like the fools of the right.  Really?

If you think that I give the brand of right-wing Toxic Populism a pass you are mistaken.   But, in order to stop the cycle, we cannot dive into the pool of toxic muck and get mad because now it’s our turn to do it.  The idea is to stop the cycle of blame, demonization and disregard for the democratic system of justice.

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Diplomacy, not so diplomatic. What a shock!

If you have a basic nature that is suspicious and cynical about politics and politicians, Cablegate/Wikileaks left you rather unsatisfied. Nothing in there that I did not suspect, or consider is happening.  Yes, diplomats from the beginning of time spied for their nation.  It’s their job, they are not there just for ribbon cuttings and wreath laying ceremonies on tombs.

I looked at the cables on the Wikileaks site, the Guardian, Le Monde, the Times and following the #Cablegate and #wikileaks items on Twitter, I am still looking for the world breaking news and frankly nada.  Of course there are over 251,287 cables with more to come.  Now I think you can understand the problem, we have way too much information flying around and way no process on how decision makers can digest or use this information.   To my surprise, at first glance I agree with Timothy Gordon Ash, from the Guardian.

Yet, from what I have seen, the professional members of the US foreign service have very little to be ashamed of. Yes, there are echoes of skulduggery at the margins, especially in relation to the conduct of “the war on terror” in the Bush years. Specific questions must be asked and answered. For the most part, however, what we see here is diplomats doing their proper job: finding out what is happening in the places to which they are posted, working to advance their nation’s interests and their government’s policies.

In fact, my personal opinion of the state department has gone up several notches. In recent years, I have found the American foreign service to be somewhat underwhelming, reach-me-down, dandruffy, especially when compared with other, more confident arms of US government, such as the Pentagon and the treasury. But what we find here is often first-rate.

For my point of view, I loved the gossipy bits.  The stuff that we all think and it’s so great to have experts, diplomats, put it in diplomatic language.

How to enjoy the cables:

1.  Start at Wiki Leaks, be careful, you will not find it there, these gems have their own location:  Cablegate.  On the left side, you can choose how to browse.  Date the cable was created, origin (which embassy), tags, classification.

2.  For a more interactive, not so raw data version, go to UK Guardian, Browse the Database Interactive. Der Spiegel offers another interactive Atlas in the German fashion, there are graphs, and numbers of all types.  If you love statistics and graphs with dates and incidents, this is the place for you.

3.  Then you will find a scattering of articles about specific cables, with different points of view.  For example, each nation obsesses on it’s own stories, and it seems that the Germans, are not surprised the Americans think that Merkel is not creative, courageous and is a Teflon leader.  Just browse the various papers and the level of outrage and panic is nation specific.  It does not seem that America is the boogey man, the Chinese of course immediately shut everything down.  The Iranians, think it was a plot by the US and so do the Italians.

4.  For me, I love the chatter:  Quadaffi’s Ukranian blond nurse who goes with him everywhere, his fear of long flights ( duh, he know that airplanes can explode in mid-air).  Putin and Berlusconi finding entering into a simpatico relationship of the corrupt mafiosi variety.  Prince Andrew being a total upper class English prig, or prick, you choose.  Andrew went on, the simpleton he is, claiming that Americans don’t know cause they have bad geography teachers.  A commenter on the Guardian site, said, of course England has great teachers, how else could they sort out their shrinking empire.

5.  In what I call the: “Duh, we knew this ”  the Arab dictators, Mubarek for example, advises US against Democracy in Iraq, “slap a military government and forget democracy”.  I guess I am shocked based on the long history of Democracy in Egypt.  Mubarek is not an advocate of Democracy.

6.  The right-wing, yesterday clicking through Fox, Dick the prick Morris, was accusing Hillary of betraying her personality of wanting to spy on everyone.  First, if you read the actual cable, it was a US policy/Law under all the security stuff passed by Bush.  She did not pull this out of her head, it’s an American law.  Second, everyone spies on everyone’s diplomats, are you effing kidding me?

Diplomats and nations gather gobs of information to support their national interests.  Their interests are usually economic interests that are supported via military power.  The rights of people, the value of life, the sense of justice, humanity and freedom, frankly do not matter.  It’s all about a group of world leaders filled with psychological and personality shortcomings, using their nation and its resources to stay in power.  This is the ugly history of human politics.

We of the cynical variety, always knew this and are therefore not shocked or upset. I hope the lesson that citizen’s of democracies learn, “YOUR LEADERS LIE TO YOU’.  Your press does not do it’s job, trying to figure out how and when they lie, (The NY TIMES, vetted the cables with the government, the people who brought us the Iraq war).  It’s all about power and how to keep it. I feel that there are many people who look like little children who were told that Santa does not exist.  Wow, our diplomats are human and they look at other nations through human eyes.

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Filed under American Politics, Media, Middle East