Friday, June 19, 2009

An Iranian Summer and GOP Family Values

Ayatollah Ali Khamenai seems to have opted for the hardline against the masses of protesters in the cities of Iran. Not sure how this will work out: historically, Iranians don’t like to be cowed by brute force and they have always returned to challenge those in power. This has always differentiated them from their Arab neighbors to the west.

The Shah’s security forces could not do it. Besides, the armed forces usually refuse to fire on their own people, as they largely refused to do so during the 1978-79 Revolution. It will be interesting what happens when the memorial for those killed comes around in a few weeks. Not sure how things will go now: it largely depends how the ‘opposition’ leaders lead now. Either way, I doubt things will be the same in Iran. As for Prince Reza Pahlavi, I wouldn’t start polishing that crown yet: remember the Romanovs never made a comeback, even after Yeltsin.

Interesting how Republicans have tried to capitalize on the situation in Iran for their political purposes. They are calling for more support for the Iranian people. The same people they were eager to bomb to oblivion until recently. They use it to score points against Obama, but it took Henry Kissinger, their foreign policy uber-guru to come out and debunk their argument. Next: expect Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft to wade in.

Still, all this probably will not take public attention away from Senator John (Family values) Ensign- it turns out he was doing some kind of four-some with his chosen partners, a whole family involved in either adultery and/or payoffs. Newt Gingrich’s own version of (family values) has probably faded from public memory. It turned out his values were worse than Bill Clinton’s, the man he criticized so much in public (they both fooled around with the help). Almost forgot that other stalwart of family values: Sen. Vitter of Louisiana- he of the hookers’ blackbook fame.
It almost looks like family values (Republican version) = screwing around, with females (and males if necessary), while married- without getting caught, of course. Once you get caught, it ain’t family values no more.
In fact the GOP has surprised us when it comes to sex: many more of their politicians are involved in/with adultery or prostitution than Democrats. It didn't use to be that way. It must be the many years of power, or maybe it is all these new enhancement drugs.

FYI-speaking of family values, Iran, Tom Daschle, and health care: in the semi-( or is it quasi)-democratic Iran of the mullahs they have both the public and private options in health care. of course in the Cuba of the Castor brothers, there is no choice: it is all public. That is what Michael Moore discovered: they would not accept his Visa.

Monday, June 08, 2009

American Sports, Arab Sports, Northwest Grog, and Uptight Gulf Potentates

This last entry is copied from web site:
Of Seattle Mariners, Potentates, and empty Gulf Stadiums. How a Friday night game watching the Mariners lose another one made me ponder the chasm of sports cultures. Of ballpark food and grog, bike rides, and the usual Arab ennui in public. Why escaping Arab politics into Arab sports can be a more depressing affair. Sfeir, Netanyahu, and Hezbullah may be preferable to games presided over by tense Gulf potentates:

Went to another Mariners’ game last night (Friday). Lots of fun, tens of thousands of eager fans, singing, dancing, and waving signs. A typical Friday night baseball scene. The food was tasty, and the Northwest micro-refreshments great. But we left at the top of the ninth inning: the game against the Twins was tied 1-1, but I guessed what was coming and we decided to leave early. Besides, we wanted to avoid the crush out of the parking lot. I heard the final score on the way home: I was right to leave.

Just came back from two hours of biking along the beach. We needed the exercise to burn off and sweat out all the food and grog at Safeco Field.
Browsing through the news, I started to ponder sports, and how they differ among nations. I mean how people deal with them. The ritual of watching the game, and the whole event. The contrast could not be different between a ball game in America and a sports game in most Middle East countries, especially Arab countries, especially on my native Gulf where I was born and raised.
In my hometown on the Gulf, few people go to local soccer games these days, even though they claim to be passionate about the sport and about their favorite teams. Local teams would not survive as private concerns: ticket sales are lousy. Most people watch them on television, and you can see the stadium nearly empty. Maybe a few hundred show up, maybe one thousand in some cases. And usually one or two potentates and quasi-potentates. I have always suspected that the few who show up are connected to the presiding potentates, maybe their employees or favor-seekers. Or maybe they are given free Lotto tickets- not sure

There is no festive atmosphere as at Safeco Field. Watching the few people and the presiding potentate can be disheartening, it is like a wake (‘azaa) for somewhat who had died. The spectators are nearly all male. They all seem to be overly concerned with their headgear (ghitra & agal), keeping them straight: I am not sure why- maybe they expect a scout to be around seeking new faces for a remake of Lawrence of Arabia. But I do the same when I am home.

All, everybody who is over 18, sit with grim looks on their faces, with the grim potentate and his flunkies taking up the first row. Rarely does anybody smile, there certainly is no laughter. Everybody steals occasional glances toward the presiding potentate- some of them do it so often, you’d think it is Carla Bruni, Angelina Jolie, or Nicole Kidman presiding (I thought I’d throw in Nicole because her tall blond looks are so un-Arab, mate). Certainly the schmuck up front does not deserve a second look.

A soccer game without a potentate or two is not considered worthy of showing on state television, also run by other potentates. There is no food and refreshments, no singing and dancing. Arab men are absolutely the most uptight anywhere in the world in public, and the men in my native Gulf hometown are the most uptight of Arab men. The most uptight of the most uptight: get the picture? Don't get me wrong: they can raise private hell with the best of them, I know that firsthand- but in private.

Not sure exactly what this has to do with politics or economics of the region- but I was taught early at school that "a healthy mind lies within a healthy body"- no, it is not a quote from Chairman Mao.

But writing this beats reading up on Lebanon, on Patriarch Sfeir warning Christians not to vote for Hezbullah allies (at least half of them will anyway), on a Hezbullah leader predicting they will get the majority vote tomorrow (maybe, maybe not, not that it would change much), on Netanyahu being miffed at Obama for calling for a two-state solution in Palestine (the only solution that will not make Israel into an apartheid regime). Not to mention on Iraq and Kuwait going back to a silly Saddam-era game of verbal escalation through the media and through irresponsible politicians. Not to mention Saudi media gloating that Obama visited their king before he went to see Mubarak in Cairo. Not to mention Iran’s Ahmedinejad and his opponents for next week’s election blasting each other in their televised debates (if he loses, the next leader will not be nearly as entertaining). Not to mention…….
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