Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Pigs, Middle East Politics, and American Politics

"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig." Barack Obama
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Winston Churchill (well, he
said it)

Swine on the Nile
"Egyptian parliament votes to execute 250 thousand pigs..." The parliament, totally dominated by the ruling party, has shown one sign of life. A quarter million pigs are to be liquidated. This may worsen sectarian problems inside Egypt between Muslims and the minority Copts who probably operate most of the pig farms. In true Middle Eastern fashion, all the pigs in question are out of power, of course. So, a viral strain of flu starts in some pig farm in the Mexican state of Vera Cruz, but spreads through spreading only through humans, and Egypt's assembly votes to kill a bunch of pigs- all out of power pigs. Since the pigs are now neutral, they are not spreading the flu, why not leave them alone and go for the real culprits? Why not start executing people who are the real carriers? And why not start with political imbeciles who make stupid decisions about killing pigs for a disease spread by humans? I mean kill them politically, not physically, of course.
Speaking of a swine flu i
There are rumors, for now mostly spread by me, that the fully-appointed Saudi advisory council started a move to recommend killing all pigs in Saudi Arabia. It is quite plausible. Then someone mentioned that there are not supposed to be any four-legged pigs in the kingdom.

I wonder how the Iranians are dealing with the swine flu and with swines in general? I imagine they have four-legged pigs in the country even though the mullahs, like their Saudi counterparts, frown upon the jambon, even the Virginia honeyed jambon. So far Ahmadinejad has kept his cool (tres Obamaesque): not a word in public about pigs or swine. It seems suspicious to me, this silence of his. On the one hand he can't possibly say anything good about pigs, the four-legged kind. On the other, he can't say anything too bad about pigs either, because he doesn't want to be seen to openly agree with the Israelis, especially the religious extremists that dominate the current Likud coalition, on anything. That might offend his current Hamas fundamentalist friends who he remembers were originally close friends, nay the creation, of the Saudis before they took power and refused to toe the line. It is tough being pig-headed.

Speaking of a swine plot ii: "Did you see how Obama went to Mexico and right after that they got this terrible killer flu? He brings disaster to everything he touches..." Rush Limbaugh, biter and demoralized on the radio. Speaking of fat, stupid pigs.... I wonder what has Glenn Beck opined recently on this issue? I hear that he thinks it is somehow related to illegal immigration (what about Lou Dobbs?), although Sean Hannity seems to think it may be part of a plot to sneak in health care reform and universal coverage for all Americans, even those who do not deserve it. Others have expressed fear that it might help Obama turn the United States into a European country of the type where bitter people don't necessarily cling to their semi-automatic guns. This is especially relevant these days for people in places like small-town western Pennsylvania: for what would they do without their guns when the pandemic crosses the Ohio, the Monangahela, and the Alleghenny?


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of arms and fat cats:

“There was a significant increase in arms shipments to the Middle East….The UAE is the third biggest importers of weapons in the world for 2008…..It imported about 6% of total weapons exported in the world, while India imported 7% and China imported 11%.....The UAE, (with a population of less than 3 million) imported twice as much weapons as Egypt (with a population of some 80 million)……” SIPRI
I like to think that fat sales commissions to fat potentates are probably not an important factor behind these transactions. Even with the notorious example of the BAES-alYamama case a few years ago.

Iran, Israel and Orange diplomacy:

“Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak said that Iran uses a chess strategy in managing her nuclear portfolio. He said the Iranians are not playing domino, but the game of chess, since they are the ones who invented this game. They play chess in a very complex and they play in a very programmed way....” Middle East Online
“Ahmadinejad had been distributing Israeli oranges to his supporters….”
“The oranges came into Iran through another country, probably China, where the county of origin was changed…..”
“This is one example of the duplicity of Iran towards Israel and the Palestinian cause…”
“Israel and Iran are two faces of the same coin…” “Maybe it is part of a new rapprochement with the Obama administration…Would that leave the Arabs again out in the cold?” Various Saudi media columnists.

Actually, maybe there is something to all this. First he says that he would support the two-state solution if the Palestinians agree to it, and now he promotes Israeli oranges. What will come next? Will he recant and agree publicly with what he knows privately: that the Holocaust actually did happen? Will he rent Schindler's List from his local Blockbuster or Netflix? But what if the oranges are really Palestinian, as grown by Palestinian workers in Israeli orchards? Maybe he knows that too. Will we be calling this the beginning of the era of "Orange Diplomacy" between Iran and Israel? Of course his losing the June election will put an end to all this speculation.

Of swine flu and kosher Salafis:
“Egypt is considering executing thousands of pigs. Gulf Cooperatin Council States (GCC) have declared they have taken the total readiness steps to face the danger of the Swine flu that may be brought in by foreign travelers. GCC and Yemen will meet in Doha Saturday to coordinate….” Alarabiya
Shouldn’t they also include all regional countries? Israel already has at least one case of the flu. Shouldn’t they also invite Israel, Iran, Turkey, and other Arab states? Does the flu know when it is outside the Gulf region? Swine flu in the Mideast is further proof that we are part of the world: imagine some pigs in the scenic state of Vera Cruz have managed to spread fear so far away. But it was discovered in Israel, so far: that could mean that they are not as kosher as we are, even though they have as many religious nuts in their government as we do in the Arab/Moslem world. Speaking of which: expect some fun-dementa-list shaikh to come out railing against the West for eating pork and therefore causing the swine flu.

Hillary visits a shrine in Beirut:
“Secretary of state Hillary Clinton came to Beirut and met only with the president, and the March 14 (Hariri camp). She did not meet with her Lebanese counterpart, foreign minister Fawzi Saloukh, who is part of the March 8 group (Hezbullah and its partners). She brought along former US ambassador Jeffrey Feltman (who in the past some in the opposition have erroneously called the real leader of the March 14 movement)…” Aafaq
Lebanese media on the Hariri side are ecstatic that she did not meet with the minister. Media of the Hezbullah allies seem resigned to it, since they did not expect her to meet with the minister during this period of political fog. During her two hours in Lebanon, she also managed to visit the shrine founded for assassinated former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, something the Hariris treat as a mini-version of Yad Vashim. Or perhaps as their very own mini-Karbala. A better comparison may be to the Lenin mausoleum in Moscow: except that old Hariri is not embalmed in a glass box.
But what if the opposition, i.e Hezbullah and its Shi’a, Sunni, and Christian allies get a majority in the June elections? Would that tilt the country more toward Shi’a fundamentalism rather than Wah...wah...wah....(was that a habi?) fundamentalism?

Citigroup, Apple, financial innovation, financial stupidity, and greed:
Kuwait’s minister of finance has said that he expects to make profits from the deal whereby the country purchased shares of Citigroup a few years ago.....” Elaph
He was wise enough to add ‘Inshallah, God willing’, since I don’t expect him to see profits from the Citigroup investment in my lifetime, or in his lifetime even though I hope he lives long enough to see it. I know him: he is a really nice person and an improvement over the ministers before him. He is a simple man and hard working, not an empty dishdasha and bisht. But the Citigroup stake was probably bought at somewhere north of $25 a share, how much north I am not sure, could be north of $30 a share. It would take many many years to recoup that kind of a loss. At less than $3 a share, Citigroup is no Apple: it does not have innovators who can whip up desirable new products like Steve Jobs and his colleagues. Greed can be creative, but only up to a point. Financial stupidity disguised as innovation, of course, has no bounds, as we have found out in recent years. I still believe, firmly, that the guy in the KIA American Investments Dept responsible for that investment in Citi should be demoted to serving thick syrupy sweet tea and water.

Egypt, again:
“A new study from the Center to Combat Terrorism at West Point points out that the Egyptian government is encouraging the growth of extremist Salafi (Wahhabi) movements in order to block the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood (the main Islamist opposition). The government has released many followers of the Salafis, who tend to be extremely intolerant of people of other faiths (like Coptic Christians and Shi’as).” Aljazeera TV

“Egyptian authorites have released a Saudi doctor who was arrested on charges of possessing a picture of Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in his apartment. The suspect was held for about a week.” Al-Quds Alarabi, Rasid.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Northwest Epiphany: Muslims and Global Warming. The Governess and I: A Rain Prayer Or a Rain Dance

One day last week, at a point when we thought that we will never see a full day of sun again, after six long months of cloudy skies, rain, snow, and hail I made a remark to someone at home. I suggested that the monarch around here, may he lead a long life, should also lead an un-rain payer, or a sunshine prayer. Or maybe it should be called the stop-the-rain prayer. A sort of tea party against long weeks of damp, cold, dark weather.

She looked at me as if I was delivering another of my senseless suggestions, the kind I make in frustration and despair (doesn’t everybody?). I patiently explained that in Saudi Arabia the king leads what is called the istisqa’ prayer, the rain prayer. That they do the same in other countries of the Middle East, especially in the Arabia Deserta region. The mullahs in Iran probably don't do it, they have rivers, nor the Iraqis, nor Husni Brezhnev Mubarak in Egypt.

“No, you mean they do the rain dance….”

Now I was really getting into it: “Maybe they do the dance as well, like the Indi…the Native Americans, I am not sure. But I know they do the rain prayer every year, especially when things look dry. And you can’t get any drier than Saudi Arabia….unless you’re talking Afghanistan under the Taliban. If you get my meaning.” She seemed to get my meaning, but was not amused about the inevitable pun.

“We don’t have a king. We have a governor.”

“Well the governor then…but Chris Gregoire is a woman. A governess? Like the south Asian and southeast Asians that run households and raise Arab children?”

That last remark managed to elicit some laughter, not without mirth: “Not a governess, a governor. She is the equivalent of a king or a shaikh here, an elected one. Our Arnold.”

“Ah. An elected king or shaikh… a female one at that. Not sure how the muftis and the ulema will look on that. Not sure how the tribes will look at that.”

Which for some reason led me to think about global warming, that gimmick created by liberals, progressives, and leftists of all stripe to undermine the business community, rabid talk radio hosts, and the American way of life. Not to mention undermining the major oil companies, Halliburton, and OPEC. Is it possible that it is an act, nay a process, of divine will?

Some U.S. conservatives believe in the phenomenon, the fact, we call global warming, but they do not believe that it is necessarily caused by man or woman or whatever. This line of thought has the advantage of accepting plain facts, yet disarming the main arguments of the left, the part about the need to d something about it and harming the oil majors and Halliburton.

Which led me to think: if not caused by man, then who made it? Other creatures on Earth do not have the potency and ability of man: not even all the cows and horses in Montana and Wyoming, throwing in the famous prolific asses of Jordan and Yemen, can together produce enough methane to account for the melting of the polar ice caps.

If we pray for rain, then maybe it is because we know the draught is caused by someone else. Ditto for global warming. So, ergo, global warming could be an act of God. It is his way of telling us he wants us elsewhere, either back where we came from, up there somewhere, or down there in that other place that Dante wrote about.

In the meantime: Our lawn is still soggy, after three days of non-rain, to the extent that it is like walking over a huge green sponge: water spurts up into your shoes and your socks as you walk, with sounds of noisy suction emanating around you. I still roll up my regulation Northwest jeans in order to go check the mail (I haven’t got used to the regulation Northwest outfit of shorts combined with fleece in temperatures below fifty).

Back in the Middle East: FYI-did you know that the head of Libyan intelligence is a gentleman named Musa Kusa? That would be Moses Kusa (Zucchini), or Moishe Kusa (Zucchini). Who knows, some day we may see a president Musa Kusa (Zucchini) at the Middle East summits. Then I can tell the leaders at the next summit what they can do with that kusa. I thought someone might be interested....



Monday, April 20, 2009

Roxana and the Mullahs, Disunited Police States of the Mideast. Pinning Their Hopes on Bibi

Rewinding Iranian justice: The Iranian kangaroo court, in true Middle Eastern style, took only one day to pass a sentence of eight years in prison on Roxana Saberi, former beauty queen from the frozen great state of North Dakota. It had to be a kangaroo court because no self-respecting judge would pass judgment in one day. In case you didn’t know: outside Iran and Saudi Arabia it takes days to bring in witnesses and have them testify and cross examine them.
She is held in Evin prison, often called notorious by the Western media, the same prison that gained notoriety under the Shah. Apparently some things don't change much in the Middle East no matter what the regime.

She was held for working as a reporter long after her credentials expired- not a smart thing to do in the Middle East. But apparently the authorities in Iran knew she was reporting, of course they knew: security services in the police states of Old and New Middle East know everything. They gave her at least tacit permission for almost three years.
She was sentenced for espionage after a trial that reportedly lasted one day. Even under the ancien regime trials lasted longer than that. This is something that would drive an attorney like Alan Dershowitz mad- although I would not advise him to show up at Mehrabad Airport (or have they changed the name?). It is not clear yet what specific charges or evidence the court heard- but even Saddam Hussein got three years to make his case in court.

Iranian mullahs, some elements of them, are good at shooting themselves in the foot. Or maybe they are good at derailing chances for improved relations with the United States, something that anecdotal evidence shows most Iranians welcome and many of the mullahs fear.

Speaking of Iran: some Arab media, especially in the Gulf region, which have been despondent lately at the dimming prospect of an attack on Iran, are perking up. They waited years for George W Bush and Darth Vader Cheney to get their act together in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they could make a similar case for an attack on Iran. The US intelligence community torpedoed that with its famous NIE Report of the fall of 2007.

With President Obama making peace overtures, the war camp had just about given up this year. Until Israeli polls showed Banjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud ahead in the polls. I suspect that many potentates and their media gunslingers prayed for a Likud victory. I would not go so far as to speculate that they vowed to make the usual 5-star Hajj or Omrah trips, putting up with such inconveniences as first class flights and 5-star hotels for the sake of the Lord. No, I certainly would not- but some may have slaughtered a few sacrificial sheep after Peres gave the nod to the Likud. Well, at least some kosher chickens.

Now they have it, and the editorials seem hopeful again of the prospects for an air attack on Iranian facilities. The airwaves carry waves of excitement reminiscent of early September 1980, when the potentates and their print media hitched their wagons to the Takriti star, their media egging him onward (Onward Ba'athist soldiers, marching as to war.....reminiscent of a favorite daily hymn at the chapel in my old Pennsylvania school). We all know how that one ended in 1980 and for long after that.

The partnership of Netanyahu and Lieberman (the thug Avigdor not the goofy-looking Joe) is making the right noises.
Of course Israeli planes must fly over Arab territory to reach Iran, and some countries are unlikely to give permission. Turkey definitely won't. And it is highly unlikely the assault will be sustainable enough to do serious damage. And the Israelis have not yet done their homework in Lebanon, where a heavily-armed Hezbullah lurks. But they are apparently looking for a way to bloody the Iranian allies in Lebanon before that. Egypt has been the focus of that with almost daily reports of uncovering Shi'a cells (sort of like uncovering Baptist cells in Massachusetts or Vermont). There is an intense and coordinated campaign by the Egyptian and vast Saudi media to soften public opinion for an assault by either or both (no, not an assault by these two Middle East wusses, they can't assault a crippled rabbi. I was talking about Israel and the US).

Aljazeera website, not yet a favorite of Arab ruling classes, reported yesterday a possible solution to the problem of crossing Arab-American lands on the way to Iran. It hints that some Arab F-16 jets may be repainted with Israeli marks to join the attacks (but the pilots will be Israelis, I assume, otherwise all will be lost).

“Israel learns empty boasting from Iran. For the nth thousandth time, we’ve lost count,…Israel getting ready to strike Iran” Middle East Online, apparently frustrated.

“Israeli strike could take place within hours…awaiting the green light…” A hopeful Alarabiya.

Editorials in the Saudi media like Asharq Alawsat, al-hayat, Alarabiya, and Elaph are almost solely focused on that Hezbullah-Egypt topic or something to do with secret cells spreading the Shi’a faith. Apparently every hired editorial writer and columnist is expected to contribute to the case, because they all have tediously. One chief editor and owner (alseyassah) has specialized in this: it takes up almost as much of his time as kissing prominent cheeks (if you are unfamiliar with the last term, look it up in the dictionary of vulgar vernacular, or is it a dictionary of human anatomy?).

Most of these editorials read like they were written by the same person and edited by the purported writer- after all how many different ways can you make the same point. Which reminds me: I should end this posting right now!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Rich Man’s Tea Party, Poor Man’s Tea. Can Republicans Tell Yellow Monkey From Zeitgeist ?

April 14, 2009:

I told my wife this evening as we watched the news that those Republican operatives and agitators should eschew the plebeian teabags and go for the real stuff: the Yellow Monkey. She did not seem to think that my idea merited a response, maybe she thought I was dissing her tea. I looked at Scooter, apparently speculatively, because Scooter gave me a don't-you-dare look, growled softly and man's best friend, my best friend, quickly turned to face the fireplace instead of me. So here goes:

Tomorrow the GOP will have its Tea Party. On tax day, apparently many people have been convinced that their taxes will go up soon. Most of them will probably get tax cuts, but perhaps they do not realize it. People who earn a quarter million or more are highly unlikely to join the Tea Party (unless they are politicians): they will encourage others to do so. The instigators, those who initiated the idea of the Tea Party know that they will have to cough up more taxes, especially when the Bush tax cuts expire.

Fox News will cover the events, just as it has been drumming up attendance for them. I will venture to guess that the most vocal media supporters, other than politicians, will not attend. The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, O'Reilly, and Medved will not be there: it costs them too much in money, many thousands of dollars per hour to participate in the silly things they urge other poor saps to join. Besides hardly any of them drink tea, not until they hit sixty and worry about digestive issues. It shows how out of touch with zeitgeist the Republicans are: they should at least be dumping $3 lattes and $4 mochas instead of these silly teabags that did not even exist in the eighteenth century.

Now if they want to dump real tea in Boston Harbor, which will not be as hospitable to them as it was to the original Tea-partiers, hey should go for the gold. Get some of the real stuff, get some potent Yellow Monkey. That should put some ideological hair on anyone’s chest, including Joe the Plumber who is a plumber no more. Well, not anyone’s chest: I can think of a certain governor in the farthest corner of the Northwest, farther than even I am right now.

In any case, they can afford it, even if those they have talked into the event cannot. And FYI: the Yellow Monkey is not something that one smokes furtively, contrary to what many Republicans might think. It is brewed in hot water and served in cups. And it is not related to the Orange Outang.

It is probably too late for me to go out for a cup of Zeitgeist, and it is ridiculous to cross the Lake just for that this late at night.

I don't believe any of this stuff has anything to do with the Middle East- not directly, not yet.


Blog Directory