Sunday, June 29, 2008

Some Interesting Quotes

“The measure of prudence and resolution is to know a friend from an enemy; the height of stupidity and weakness is not to know an enemy from a friend.

Do not surrender your enemy to oppression, nor oppress him yourself. In this respect treat enemy and friend alike. But be on your guard against him, and beware lest you befriend and advance him, for this is the act of the fool. He who befriends and advances friend and foe alike will only arouse distaste for his friendship and contempt for his enmity. He will earn the scorn of his enemy, and facilitate his hostile designs; he will lose his friend, who will join the ranks of his enemies.

The height of goodness is that you should neither oppress your enemy nor abandon him to oppression. To treat him as a friend is the mark of a fool whose end is near.

The height of evil is that you should oppress your friend. Even to estrange him is the act of a man with no sense, for whom misfortune is predestined.

Magnanimity is to befriend the enemy, but to spare them, and to remain on your guard against them.”
- Ibn Hazm of Crdova (994-1064) from The Book of Morals and Conduct
(which I found in Bernanrd Lewis’s excellent From Babel to Dragomans)
“Translations are like women: some are beautiful; some are faithful; few are both.”
-a “French wit” (also of From Babel to Dragomans)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Week without News

Israel is diplomatically engaging Syria, and now, for the first time, Lebanon. Here’s an analysis from the Council of Foreign Relations.

Israel and Hamas have come to a six month hudna/truce. This may likely have little long term consequence as both sides will probably be prepping for the next round.

Israel conducts war games exercise with Iran and her nuclear facilities in mind. I take this seriously.

Hezbollah may be preparing terrorist attacks across the globe as a response to the February assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, the terrorist group’s operational chief. According to U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies, certain Hezbollah terrorist leaders have left Lebanon (nobody knows why) and Hezbollah members were seen casing Ottawa’s Israeli Embassy and Synagogues in Toronto.

Opec and the other big energy players are convening an impromptu meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this weekend to see what can be done about oil prices, currently over $130 a barrel.
-Don’t get your hopes up-
This is only a a minuscule summary of what’s happening in the world. But imagine if there were no news?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ireland: Treaty of Lisbon Treaty of Shisbon

Europeans conquered the world and were at the vanguard of everything in the modern era. Then came World War II. But why is the European Union- a rebuilt harmonious Europe of 500 million- not a real global power? Henry Kissinger summed it up best: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

The Treaty of Lisbon was to remedy this question. But last week, when the Irish voted down a referendum on the Treaty, the world found out Europe indeed may never be a global power. Rather, it will continue for the foreseeable future as a bureaucratic economic federation. But “the United States of Europe”? Unlikely.

The Treaty of Lisbon (O Tratado de Lisboa, as they say in Portuguese- sorry but I had to throw that in) was essentially a rewritten European Constitution that had famously been rejected in 2005 referendums by the French and Dutch publics. It was to (slightly) reform the European Union, and would have given it a real President and a Minister of Foreign Policy. In other words: people to call.

The Treaty of Lisbon had to be approved by every country of the 27 member EU, so the Irish referendum basically killed the Treaty (This time Ireland was the only country to put the Treaty to a referendum-which they had to do by Irish law).

Why did the Irish vote the Treaty down? Why did the French and Dutch do much the same with the proposed constitution three years ago? That’s what everybody is debating.

As a whole the EU has done wonders for Europe: it helped and continues to help bring peace, stability, and prosperity to the region (witness the histories of Ireland, Spain, Greece; and the newly integrated Eastern European countries).

Yet treaties and the like to further strengthen European Union institutions have been constantly rejected because, in my opinion, there is no real European identity. Countries and regions within countries have strong identities, but the idea of “Europe” doesn’t inspire passions. A man from Barcelona would die for Catalunya, and most likely Spain; but not for Europe. And that’s what these referendums and votes have really been about.

Many commentators are saying the Irish are in essence hypocritical. EU membership has done wonders for the country. After the Irish joined in 1973 the emerald isle went from an impoverished place at the edge of the world known for getting their asses kicked by the English, emigration, potato famines, alcoholism, and leprechauns; to the “Celtic tiger,” an economic juggernaut with one of the best living standards in the world. People argue that because of this the Irish should be in favor of anything the Brussels leadership wants.

This criticism strikes me as patronizing. Yes, EU membership has been great for the Irish on the whole, but that does not mean they “owe” the EU anything and should back any proposal to strengthen the Union.

Just as Ireland (along with every other country to gain admittance) petitioned to be granted membership, the EU member countries in turn voted to grant them membership. Ireland is the equal of France, Germany, Italy, etc. If they prefer Europe in its current state that is their right and they should vote accordingly. If the Irish want to see changes, but not ones stipulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, it is their right to reject the treaty.
Der Speigel has a pretty good special on the whole issue. Check it out (in English).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Yorker Piece on Hugo Chavez

Latin America is the U.S.'s backyard (sorry, it's true). It's also geopolitically unimportant and is largely ignored.

But one figure from the region stands out: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Who is Hugo Chavez? What does he want? Answers and more questions in this long New Yorker piece.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Any American soccer fan knows that Mexican national team players tend to be sore losers. It’s always somebody else’s fault that they lost, no team ever plays better than them. But Mexican national team goalie Osvaldo Sanchez recently took classlessness to another level.

After Mexico’s win against Peru, American reporter Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Herald Tribune went to interview Sanchez in Spanish. Arroyave is of Latin descent and, while he speaks and understands Spanish perfectly, being American he naturally speaks with an American accent. Sanchez preceded to mock Arroyave by answering his questions in an exaggerated American accent (and the surrounding reporters laughed).

What a classless guy. I really feel for Arroyave and have suffered similar experiences when I was living in Chile. Where do some people get off? Once, upon checking into a hostel in Argentina, the woman working the front desk told me my accent sounded a terrible mixture of a Chilean and American accent. Really? How many other travelers checking in that day spoke any Spanish? One? Two? And not to toot my own horn but after a year in Chile my Spanish was pretty damn good, I can guarantee I spoke better than any other person in the hostel. So excuse me if I speak with an accent.

On that very same trip I took a long bus ride and put my bags in the baggage compartment below. Upon arriving to our destination a bus terminal worker began unloading the compartment. When he unloaded my bag I asked him to pass it to me. He heard my American accent and, as he gave me my bag, said, “I need teep.” That’s right, in making fun of my accent he mispronounced the word “tip.” Everybody else, who naturally spoke very little or no English, burst out laughing. I was going to say something to the guy but then thought better of it and just walked away.

But how much of a jerk off do you have to be? If somebody respects your culture enough to take the time to learn your language (and learning a language is far from easy), you should at least show them a modicum of respect and not make fun of their accent. It’s very simple really: I don’t speak like a native because, just like the aforementioned reporter, I am NOT a native.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Altidore to Villarreal

Josie Altidore, the latest great hope for American soccer, will soon be joining Freddy Adu –the other great hope- on the Iberian peninsula as he has just inked a deal with Villarreal of the Spanish league for $8 million. (Adu signed a little less than a year ago for Benfica, Portugal’s top club)

Altidore, an 18 year old forward for the New York Red Bulls, is one of the best prospects the United States has ever had.

Villarreal, known as the yellow submarine for their yellow uniforms, are a great team. They finished second in the recently 2007/2008 season and will be playing in the Champions League this fall. Altidore will probably find it difficult to get playing time as Villarreal are a strong team boasting players like Robert Pirés and Nihat. But he should learn a lot and it could take his play to a new level.

If I’m not mistaken Altidore will be the first American to play in the Spanish premier league (Tab Ramos played in the second division). American soccer sure is progressing, albeit not as fast as fans would like—did people really expect something other than a 2-0 loss to England at Wembley?

Here's a highlight reel of some of Altidore's goals courtesy of YouTube.