Monday, April 21, 2008

Nimium Papa: Is the Pope Arab?
Embedded Military Experts, Muqtada, and Hillary's Blank Cheque.
Oddest new regulation: Extreme Red Light laws on the Gulf.

Nimium Papa:
The Pope is a good person. I am sure the last three Popes, at least, were all good, nice people. Things get a little murky as we move away beyond those three or four latest ones. Other Popes way back in history werre not so nice, especially the Borgia Pope Alexander the nth- according to Mario Puzo anyway. In fairness, the history of Islamic top banansa has not been any better over the centuries, most have died violently or suspiciously prematurely. I am not sure about the Jews: perhaps they were kept too busy over the past two millennia to develop an omnipotent and rapacious hierarchy like the two latecomers.

The Pope deserves a lot of attention on his US visit, since it is a rare visit, mercie a dieu, Gott sie dank!

But I can't turn on any news channel today without seeing His Holiness, or mediaheads parsing his every word as if he is running for the Democratic nomination. This place has looked, at least on TV, as fundamentalist as my homeland on the Gulf. It reminds me of the ubiquitous kings and presidents of the Arab world, those potentates whose every move is broadcast on state TV evey day. (Hey, he did reduce TV time for the Texas polygamists, which is not a bad thing).

The good news is that he will be gone in a few hours. The Arab kings and dictators, unfortunately, will be on television, haunting their peoples, boring them to death each and every day.

Embedded Military Experts, Muqtada, and Hillary's Blank Cheque:
Finally we learn that all those retired generals and colonels embedded with the cable news networks as experts are moles, planted by the administration to push its foreign policy, especially about Iraq and Iran. The exception may be the Fox News fair 'n balanced military "experts".

Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening all out our if his Mahdi militia are not left alone and US-Iraqi assaults on their areas not ended.

Hillary Clinton is doing anything she can to look macho, short of growing a moustache. She has just issued a blank cheque covering all moderate New Middle East countries, which on the face of it is welcome news to the countries concerned. But it complicates things in the region. Still, she will never out-McCain McCain.

Senator McCain says he will act "quickly and decisively" on the economy. How? Ba, ba, ba, bomb inflation...
He also said that "time for partisan debate in the United Sttes is over". I wasn't aware that the elections were over.

In case anybody has noticed: the Lebanese have not yet agreed on selecting a new president, not that it matters anymore. The country may be functioning better than a few months, or even a year ago. Perhaps all Arab states should pack their heads of state to a vacation somewhere in Europe, to their London or PAris mansions, and try to get along a la Rodney King?

Oddest new regulation: In one Gulf state, the Ministry of Interior (in charge of police and immigration) has ruled that all foreigners who drive through a red traffic light will be deported. The first two "victims" were Syrians.
Queston: what happens if a Saudi or an Egyptian runs a red light? What if it is a citizen mof the country? Will he be shot?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Oil Prices and Politicians:
Oil prices keep rising, days after Vice President Cheney departed the Middle East. Was my (direct) causality pop-analysis correct ? It is correct as far as it goes: oil prices HAVE risen for some time after each visit by Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney. Not sure about the (statistical) significance, though. There are dips, but the trend ratchets upward. When Cheny left, crude sold for about $100, today it is above $108.

Iraqi Game of Chicken:
News reports that Iraq's al-Maliki has given Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers an ultimatum to lay down their arms. Fine, but should he not also give a similar ultimatum to the equally bloody various armed Sunni militias of the Awakening Councils? Especially in view of the fact that they recognize his government even less than the Sadrists do.
AL-Maliki also threatened today to prevent al-Sadr and his followers from participating in the political process if they do not disarm. Did he just give a hint to one major reason behind the abrupt Basra campaign that was aborted? Are the October provincial elections involved as some have hinted?
It is not clear whether he has the "constitutional" right to do that, or if he is just reverting to Iraq's past and doing it a l'Arab. Th Sadrists today rejected the ultimatum.

Egyptians Restless, Finally:
Egypt's rulers have mobilized the security forces to prevent a national strike for one day. The streets of Cairo saw something they have not seen in many years, Egyptians protesting and resisting. I knew that the stoic Egyptians patience had limits, somewhere. People wrre on the streets, but so were the goons of the regime.

Meanwhile, the Number Two moderate country of the New Middle East has disqualified several thousand candidates of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, leaving only about 20 to run, according to Arab press reports. This looks suspiciously close to the disqualification tactics of the mullahs in Iran. (For those who don't know: Saudi Arabia is the Number One country of the New Middle East, but they have no election problems, none whatsoever. By that standard, Saudi Arabia is by far more of a Number Two in this case). The Brotherhood, the main opposition party, decided to stop playing in this charade and boycot the upcoming "selections".

Egyptians are hungry and desperate, the vast majority of them. Many of them are probably fed up with the prospect of having President Mubarak (80 years and in power for 27 years) with them for the rest of their lives in the person of his son Gamal, his Dauphin.

Two Tales of One City:
Speaking of Egypt and hunger: a daily columnist in the al-watan daily, published in Kuwait, yesterday covered the crisis in Egypt by recalling a recent visit to Alexandria with some potentate. He wrote with relish that they devoured pounds of fresh shrimp and calamari, as well as several lobsters each, among other exotic seafoods such as cioppino and grilled fishes. In view of the Egyptian protests about the price and scarcity of bread, he noted that the restaurant had its own bakery. The total bill came to about US $200- which is reasonable as far as that goes. Presumaby the man tactfully left out the wine bill.
He was probably trying to tell us about how good life can be in the New Middle East.

Demographics, Sectarianism and Lies in Bahrain:
Shi''a activists and politicians in Bahrain have been complaining that the government (controlled by Sunnis) has been issuing national identity to foreigners from such places as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan. The goal is to chnage the demogrphics of a country that is over 70% Shi'as, but whose economy and politics are dominated by ruling Sunnis.
The Bahrain government has continuously denied the charge. Some Shi'a parliamentarians have tried to question the relevant ministers, and to force votes of no confidence in them, but pro-government and Salafi members have managed to prevent that, so far.
Bahrain's rulers deny that any discrimination exists against its Shi'a majority, and have steadfastly refused to take measures to redress their grievances. Bahrain is too small for its resources to be shared by all its people.

The Economist noted this last weekend that the population of Bahrain has been increasing at an annual average rate of about 2.4%. Then, it noted, that total population jumped by 41% last year, and that the number of citizens increased by 15%. Fifteen percent! Which has made the down-trodden Shi'as go ballistic.
Still, the government of Bahrain continues to deny the charges.

Arabian Chuzpah:
An article in an Arab newspaper criticizes Raul Castro of Cuba for lack of freedoms in his country. It is a simple question of which kettle is blacker. But i think I know the reasom for this focus on Cuba. It is a symbolic call for freedom, but not in Cuba. The writer does not want to step on any local toes, so old Raul comes in handy.
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