Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another clip of Obama's pastor

Now, up until now I've been ambivalently pro-Obama. I was just as moved as the next democrat by Obama's speech addressing racism earlier this week and would vote for him over Billary (little did we know that they were co-Presidents after all these years!!), and most likely take him over McCain as well.

But what to make of this clip?

This is Reverend Wright, Barak's "spiritual adviser" of twenty-some-odd years, clearly an influential guy in the candidate's life. Up until last week he was very much a part of Obama's campaign. What else has this guy said that we don't know about yet?

It gives me pause. It makes me "scurred."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Graham Greene Quote

How I should have concluded my prior entry on Iraq:

"God save us always...from the innocent and the good."

Graham Greene, The Quiet American

How Soccer explains Economic Globalization

Click here for a (shallow) take on the Globalization/Soccer theme.

Firstly- intellectuals, pundits, and Franklin Foer: STAY AWAY FROM SOCCER. Just because the sport is known as “the beautiful game” doesn’t mean you can use it to explain everything. Take the preceding op-ed. Yes, on the whole the Bosman Ruling (which the author doesn’t mention, but really is what he is talking about) has been good for players. But it has not been good for small clubs who use to survive by churning out young quality players and then selling them off for a tidy profit.

He also says that Egypt has positioned itself to take advantage of soccer globalization; his evidence is that they have won five African Nations Cups. What he doesn’t point out is that nobody gives a shit about that particular tournament. How many World Cups -the true barometer for national team progression- have Egypt qualified for? One, in 1990, where they were knocked out in the first round. Neither have they produced any world-class players.

He then contends that Egypt has a strong domestic league. I have no idea where he got this notion because the Egyptian league is not strong at all. How exactly has Egyptian soccer used globalizing forces to “enhance their domestic capacities”? If they have done this I would be very interested to find out how, but I just don't see any reason to argue that they have.

I have no problem with someone arguing that countries should prepare themselves to take advantage of globalization. But please do not use forced and illogical soccer analogies. It doesn’t make the argument more accessible. It only makes you look like a idiot.

Five Years in Iraq. Now what?

This week marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It’s really hard to believe it’s been that long.

Why did we invade? There was circumstantial evidence Saddam Hussein possessed WMD (we later found out the evidence was purely circumstantial), they were financing terrorism (indeed they were, but no more than any other Arab regime and certainly less so than our ally Saudi Arabia), and we thought we could turn Iraq into a flowering democracy (I’m speechless).

So, where are we now? Well, we didn’t have a thought out post invasion plan (again I am speechless) and the country basically fell apart. Tribal identities came to the fore, Iraqi Shiites (with links to Iran- how strongly is disputed) and Iraqi Sunnis began fighting each other. The Kurds up north look half a step away from declaring sovereignty (which would begin Iraq's official disintegration and potentially spark a fight with Turkey). And most people hate us.

Violence levels are certainly down with the surge (but to 2005 levels). The thing is, the surge was designed to keep violence levels down so that the Iraqis could gain breathing space to make political progress. Scant political progress has been made and not much looks likely in the future.

Militias formerly fighting against us are now our allies, but only because we pay them, not because they have any allegiance to the central Iraqi government. Sure, they are fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, but many analysts contend they are really just consolidating as much ground as possible for a future civil war once US Forces leave.

So what do we do now? I have absolutely no idea.

Nevertheless, I do not think we should withdraw. By toppling Saddam Hussein we knocked the cover off of Pandora’s Box (I like Greek mythology). We’re now in charge of the situation, we broke it so we bought it. Withdrawing from Iraq would open another Pandora’s Box, potentially more devastating than the first one opened five years ago. There’s a very strong likelihood Iraq could turn into 1970’s/80’s Lebanon. There could be a regional war, there could even be a genocide, and God knows what else. I’m not arguing these things will happen, just that we have to entertain the possibility. Whatever does happen will be on us.


The best book I have read about the war is George Packer’s The Assassin’s Gate. Packer, a staff writer at the New Yorker, traces the Neoconservative movement from its intellectual conception, the pre-war debate over whether it was the right thing to do, and the actual war and insurgency through 2005. He’s a very gifted storyteller and presents a nuanced picture, something hard to come by.


I have one request for people who were against the 2003 invasion. Can you please stop saying, “we never should have invaded in the first place,” when discussing what we should do NOW? It’s hardly relevant. The fact is that we did invade.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This Land Belongs to Who?

The Imperial History of the Middle East

What will this map look like in 20 years time? Will the Islamists have their caliphate? (I doubt it) How many countries will there be between the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates river? Four? Five? Six? Or will the map be exactly the same?

It's anybody's guess.

here's a (long) article published in the Atlantic about the Middle East's future by Jeffrey Goldberg- one of my favorite journalists.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Quote from Lula (Prez of Brazil)

"No Brasil tem uma coisa que eu queria que vocês compreendessem bem: tudo que a gente faz para pobre é gasto; tudo o que a gente faz para os setores mais ricos é investimento."

TRANSLATION: “There’s something in Brazil that I want you to understand: everything we do for the poor is ‘spending’ and everything we do for the rich is ‘investment’.”

-Lula, President of Brazil (quote taken from today’s Jornal do Brasil – see link here)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Arab Literary Prize

While the Muslims were erecting streetlights in Córdoba bathing was a once in a lifetime experience for the barbarians living in present day England. Yes, it’s true. The Arabs were once renowned for their culture and sophistication.

Although this might sound politically incorrect, nowadays when one sees the word “Arab,” literature isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. Sure, they produced The Arabian Nights (which is at the top of my list of books to read), but that was well over a millennia ago. Since then roughly 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic- the amount of books Spain translates in a year.

But this wayward story might soon change course with this year’s inaugural International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The prize is managed from Abu Dhabi (in the Untited Arab Emirates) with some sort of link to the Booker Prize Foundation, a prestigious British literary award.

This year’s prize- the very first- was won by Egyptian author Baha Taher for his book Sunset Oasis. Taher was awarded $10,000 (along with the five other finalists), and Sunset Oasis, along with every other book to win the prize, will be translated into English.

This bodes well for the future. I am a big fan of literature, not because I like to over-analyze everything, but because I think literature can (potentially) shed light on the human predicament and questions we ask- both individually and as a society. By reading another society’s literature we can begin to grasp who they are.

I’m looking forward to reading Taher, along with other authors to win the prize, in order to expand my knowledge of the Middle East- something I (probably we) know next to nothing about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

RIP, The Wire

The Wire, 2002-2008
Rest In Peace
Thank you for the memories Omar, Avon Barksdale, D’Angelo, Gus, Marlo, Bunk, McNulty, Rawls, and everybody I missed. But most of all, Thank you BALTIMORE for the tale of an American city.

Full opening quote from the Wire’s last episode on Sunday night: " I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings."
-H.L. Mencken, 1953

Saturday, March 08, 2008

When Moshe Dayan became a Hairdresser and Indiana Jones

A lot's been going on in Hollywood lately. The writers' strike, the slow motion ten car pile up that is Britney Spears, I could go on. But the twos most important developments.... Below are two summer previews.
Zohan was a decorated war hero. Zohan was a Mossad secret agent. Zohan wants to move to the States and become a hairdresser. (What type of name is Zohan? Doesn't really sound Hebrew to me)

What the Fuck? This new Adam Sandler movie’s coming to a theater near you this summer.

Indiana Jones (no intro here, pretty self explanatory)