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it's not just about the ships

by the stormy present Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 01:47:36 AM EST

Sure, let's talk about the raid on the ships and whether it's a declaration of war. But let's also not lose sight of the reason those ships were going to Gaza.  The debate shouldn't just be about the boats, but about the blockade.

The International Crisis Group gets it:

the incident is an indictment of a much broader policy toward Gaza for which Israel does not bear sole responsibility.

For years, many in the international community have been complicit in a policy that aimed at isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas. This policy is morally appalling and politically self-defeating. It has harmed the people of Gaza without loosening Hamas's control. Yet it has persisted regardless of evident failure.

"The flotilla assault is but a symptom of an approach that has been implicitly endorsed by many", says Robert Malley, Director of Crisis Group's Middle East Program. "It is yet another stark illustration of the belated need for a comprehensive change in policy toward Gaza."

It would take a long time to list the "many in the international community" who have endorsed, supported or tolerated the blockade of Gaza -- a list that includes Egypt (which has kept its own border with Gaza closed to legitimate traffic for most of the last four years), the United States, most if not all of Europe....

If you plunked me down in a meeting of the entire world and asked me to point to those responsible, I'd feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz:  "And you were there, and you were there, and you were there...."

Read more... (160 comments, 655 words in story)

Lazy UK Journalists Parrot Anti-EU Talking Points (SHOCK!)

by the stormy present Thu Apr 1st, 2010 at 09:36:04 AM EST

From columnist Charlemagne at The Economist:

Spoon Feeding Lazy Journalists -- Open Europe: the Eurosceptic group that controls British coverage of the EU

Well, that got my attention.

WHAT explains the fierce hostility of the British press towards the European Union? It is a complicated question, and any answer must take account of things like the ferocity of the British press in general (a product of culture and competition between lots of national titles) and the real scepticism of the British political machine towards the EU, which trickles down into public discourse.

But I think people in Brussels ignore at their peril the impact of a small, but assiduous Eurosceptic campaign group, Open Europe.

Oh, them.

Read more... (21 comments, 603 words in story)

shutting it down

by the stormy present Fri Jun 13th, 2008 at 06:40:14 AM EST

In case you missed it, the U.S. Supreme Court has trashed the Bush Administration's Guantanamo policy.

The Court yesterday said Guantanamo detainees have the right to habeas corpus, which means they can challenge their detention in federal court.  This is huge.  The Bush Administration, which established the prison camp at Guantanamo with the express purpose of refusing the detainees access to the U.S. justice system, was apparently rather unprepared to have the very basis of that policy overturned.

Read more... (78 comments, 951 words in story)

aish balady

by the stormy present Fri Apr 18th, 2008 at 06:47:50 AM EST

Before there were riots, there was a bread shortage.  Plenty of bread here, but not for everyone.

Some time back, das monde pointed to what was, IMHO, a very excellent Washington Post article on Egypt's bread crisis:

In Egypt, Upper Crust Gets the Bread
Shortage Exposes Inequities

Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world's most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak has ordered Egypt's army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 -- some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line.

Economists and analysts say the crisis exposes the government's inability to fulfill the decades-old pact between ruler and ruled here: As long as the country's authoritarian system has supplied cheap bread, its people have put up with the squelching of political rights and economic opportunity. For Egypt's more than 30 million poor, subsidized bread means survival.

As I commented at the time, the Post article is really excellent, and not just because of the snappy headline.

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LQD: Fox News - Festival of Ignorance

by the stormy present Fri Feb 29th, 2008 at 05:55:51 AM EST

Thanks to Elco B for posting this video in last night's open thread:

There's just too much gold there, too much.  My irony meter is overloaded.  Such a witty comeback by the Fox anchor!  "You can get all the news you can at Fox News."  Uh, yeah.  And then cutting away to the half-naked Star Trek chicks.  I couldn't make this shit up.

Googling around to find out more about my new favorite comedian on the planet, I found his blog post on alternet about the Faux News "incident."  More after the jump.

Read more... (10 comments, 638 words in story)

the curse of lowered expectations

by the stormy present Tue Feb 26th, 2008 at 10:14:25 AM EST

Writing in The Daily Star of Lebanon, Michael Meyer-Resende of the Berlin-based group Democracy Reporting International draws an interesting comparison between the EU's responses to elections held in Morocco and Ukraine:

Why is the EU lenient on Arab Democracy?

Following Ukraine's parliamentary elections last year, the European Union praised the polls as being "mostly in line with international commitments." But the EU also registered concerns over low-quality voter lists and underlined "the need to further strengthen the electoral and constitutional process in order to consolidate the democratic process."

Three weeks before the elections, Brussels had "saluted" the Moroccan government and its people for holding "successful and transparent elections, in particular through the establishment of a new legal framework." No concerns were raised, which suggested that the EU perceived Morocco to be more democratic than Ukraine. But is it?

Morocco has made some progress in democratization, but is ruled by a king whose executive branch of power dominates political life, while in Ukraine all layers of political power are contested through elections. Morocco's voter lists are at least as faulty as Ukraine's. And while some 60 percent of voters went to the polls in Ukraine, three out of four Moroccans stayed away. So why does the EU paint such a rosy picture of elections in Morocco?

Why?  Meyer-Resende gives two main reasons:  realpolitik, and (though he doesn't say it this bluntly) ignorance.

Read more... (23 comments, 613 words in story)

greetings from 1995

by the stormy present Fri Feb 1st, 2008 at 11:38:45 AM EST

The Internets have abandoned me.

Read more... (32 comments, 680 words in story)

your online self

by the stormy present Mon Dec 31st, 2007 at 04:55:15 AM EST

We haven't asked this in a while, so why not a little community-building on New Year's Eve?

Sometime over the last few days, afew and I had a minor exchange that involved his username and where it came from.  My question was sort of silly -- how do you pronounce it?  Although I guess online names rarely need to be pronounced out loud, for some reason it helps me to know things like that, and I'm sort of surprised I'd never asked before.

So anyway, my question is... where'd your username come from?  Some people here use their real names as their usernames, and Question Two (below the fold) might be more applicable to them.  But some of us use aliases.  So where'd they come from?  How and why did you choose it?

I'll start.  My username comes from Abraham Lincoln's 1862 State of the Union message to Congress, delivered the year after the start of the American Civil War.  (It's a very long message, and this part is right at the end.)

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

So -- how about you?

Read more... (194 comments, 279 words in story)

Benazir Bhutto killed in suicide attack

by the stormy present Thu Dec 27th, 2007 at 08:44:07 AM EST

Not a lot of info yet.  This AP story is in The Guardian:

Blast at Bhutto rally kills 20 | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

The Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has died after a suicide bomb attack that killed at least 15 people at a campaign rally.

The explosion took place today as Bhutto left a rally in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad, minutes after a speech to thousands of supporters.

The country's interior ministry has confirmed that the returned former prime minister has died.

She was critically wounded and rushed into emergency surgery. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, was earlier quoted confirming his wife was in a "serious condition" following the attack.


The Washington Post has more details:
Bhutto Reportedly Killed in Suicide Attack - washingtonpost.com

Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was reportedly killed Thursday at a political rally, two months after she returned from eight years of exile, officials here said.

Bhutto was apparently shot at close range as she was leaving the rally in this garrison city south of Islamabad. Immediately after the shooting, a suicide bomber detonated explosives near her car, killing at least 15 other people.

Bhutto was rushed to a hospital with extensive wounds to her torso, her supporters said. Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, officials came out of the building and told her supporters that Bhutto was dead.

Also Thursday, a rooftop sniper opened fire on supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at a different pre-election rally in Rawalpindi, leaving four dead and at least five injured.

Read more... (120 comments, 274 words in story)

Lebanon: a house divided

by the stormy present Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 12:37:22 PM EST

Lebanon has not had a president for more than three weeks.  It seems unlikely that they will have one anytime soon, no matter what Nicolas Sarkozy says.  (How petulant!  Issuing ultimatums to other countries, not even bothering to act like it's a sovereign country you're talking about.  More later about how fed up some Lebanese are with France....)

So anyway, they don't have a president.  They have actually agreed on who should be president, but they agree on practically nothing else, and hence they still have no president.  Follow me over the jump for a far-too-detailed discussion of Lebanon's political paralysis.

Read more... (16 comments, 3057 words in story)

cultural exchange

by the stormy present Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 05:21:40 AM EST

So, these three cartoonists walk into a bar...  Two of them are Danish.  The third is Lebanese.  Heheheh.  

It doesn't really need a punchline, does it?

Read more... (6 comments, 189 words in story)

LVD: The Story of Stuff

by the stormy present Mon Dec 10th, 2007 at 03:55:29 AM EST

(Yes, it's a Lazy Video Diary... well, sort of.  Video and some linking and quoting.

From the people who brought you The Meatrix, it's... The Story of Stuff!

Read more... (7 comments, 1392 words in story)

National Review: justifying lies with racism

by the stormy present Wed Dec 5th, 2007 at 03:11:52 AM EST

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

So the National Review sent some raving rightwing American "patriot" to Lebanon to rip the lid off of... oh, I dunno, the great Iranian/Syrian conspiracy to take over a nation with nice beaches.

Said "reporter" is exposed as a fabulist by local journalists and others who are mystified by this totally unrecognizable portrait the "reporter" is painting.  He has claimed to be The First Western Reporter To Enter Nahr el-Bared Since The Fighting, which is patently untrue.  He talked about "an acid weapon" used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (?!) on somebody's car.  He talked about thousands of Hezbollah gunmen deploying around Christian areas of Beirut in a mysterious "show of force" that nobody else in town knew about.  He claimed the Hezbollah protesters in downtown Beirut are "heavily armed."   And he has claimed that the Dahiya, the semi-flatted-by-bombs southern suburbs of Beirut and Hezbollah stronghold, are so dangerous that he must have weapons with him as he drives around taking pictures of Hezbollah "installations" and otherwise acting like a spy.  He is rightly excoriated.  Weeks go by.  National Review does nothing.  A critical mass develops.  National Review must respond.

National Review's response to the scandal?  He didn't lie, he was "spun" by his sources.  Because, you know, Arabs lie a lot:

As one of our sources put it: "The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas."

Oh, that's much better.  A little racism makes fiction so much spicier.

Hat tip to friday lunch club.

Comments >> (16 comments)

Dying Young and Black

by the stormy present Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 05:01:06 AM EST

A sports star is dead.  You Europeans may never have heard of him before.  Hell, even though he played for the football team in my hometown, the team my father rooted for till his dying day, I'd never heard of him before either.  Not much of a sports fan.

But the death of Sean Taylor points to some ugly truths that have little to do with his talents on the field.  And they are relevant to us all, because it's about the world we live in, and the poverty and inequality and violence that plague it.

From the diaries - afew

Read more... (16 comments, 1044 words in story)

LQD - Privatizing Marriage

by the stormy present Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 04:28:48 AM EST

NY Times op-ed: Taking Marriage Private

WHY do people -- gay or straight -- need the state's permission to marry? For most of Western history, they didn't, because marriage was a private contract between two families. The parents' agreement to the match, not the approval of church or state, was what confirmed its validity.

Hmmm.  Good question.  

Let's think about it -- the right wing marketistas want privatization of everything, right?   Well, not really. Turns out less regulation of business is good, but more regulation of personal lives.

Read more... (9 comments, 705 words in story)

Stereotype-bustin' in the Arab world

by the stormy present Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 02:31:26 PM EST

Hardened feminist that I am, it pains me a little that I am about to post a diary composed almost entirely of pictures and videos of scantily dressed women.

That's Nancy Ajram.  And just the beginning.  Follow me over the jump for a little lesson in how the Arab world may not be exactly like you think it is.

Promoted by Migeru

Read more... (68 comments, 1752 words in story)

Death of a Mercenary

by the stormy present Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 06:54:40 AM EST

Bob Denard is dead.


   
   
For those unfamiliar with the name, he was possibly one of France's least pleasant exports of the last half-century.

The obituaries are all playing up what a "colorful" character he was, what with his repeated coups and coup attempts and conversion to some wacko version of Islam and six or seven wives.  Ho ho hooo... they don't make mercenaries like that anymore.  


Reuters photo via wikipedia

Forgive me if I fail to weep.

Read more... (22 comments, 733 words in story)

Happy Birthday, USA

by the stormy present Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 07:15:36 AM EST

or, America, a stream-of-consciousness birthday wish from your wayward daughter

I always looked forward to the Fourth of July when I was a kid.  My whole family would head down to the local park for the neighborhood fireworks display.  We'd sit on a blanket, and I'd get to eat cotton candy and hot dogs and ice cream and all the other stuff that was normally forbidden.  And most of all, the fireworks.  I have this vivid memory of being about five, and so thrilled by them that I could hardly breathe.  I kept turning to my mom and dad, Did you see that?  Did you see that one?  Oooooh... transfixed by the showers of color from the sky, the heart-thudding booms, the red-and-blue light flickering reflected on my parents' faces.

Now, Independence Day is a bittersweet holiday.  Fireworks make me flinch; they sound like mortars.  Most of my friends here, including (weirdly) not just Americans but Egyptians and Canadians and everywhereians, are all excited about the US Embassy Fourth of July party tonight, to be held in a grand old palace on the banks of the Nile.  I have no idea why someone would want to go to this thing, but people have been after me for weeks to see if I'm invited, and maybe could I bring them as a guest?

Independence Day.  Not what it once was.  I've changed, but has America?  Maybe that's the problem.

Fifty-one years ago, Allan Ginsberg wrote America.  Sixty-some years ago, Billie Holiday sang Strange Fruit.

Just a few years ago, The Coup sang this:

Read more... (31 comments, 703 words in story)

Iraq's Lost Generation

by the stormy present Tue Jul 3rd, 2007 at 10:28:35 AM EST

It's just so depressing that I don't really know what to say about it.

A new report (.pdf) by the National Association of British Arabs (a group I know absolutely nothing about) titled Iraq's Lost Generation: Impact and Implications has quantified the systematic targeting of Iraqi intellectuals, academics and professionals.

(All emphasis is mine.)

Problems facing the intelligentsia of Iraq have been neglected in the scale of that country's ongoing tragedy. Since 2003, the new phenomenon of targeted and systematic assassinations, kidnappings and threats to professionals and academics has surfaced. These are escalating.

Over 830 assassinations have been documented, victims killed along with their families. Numbers includes: 380 university academics and doctors, 210 lawyers and judges, and 243 journalists/media workers but not other experts, school teachers or students; neither professionals displaced internally and externally. All
aspects of life are affected.

The victims are often highly qualified, PhD or equivalent. Assassinations are not specific to sect or gender but victims are predominantly Arab.

Hundreds of legal workers have left Iraq in addition to those already killed and injured, thereby denying thousands of Iraqis their legal rights. Working lawyers numbers have decreased by at least 40% in the past year alone and hundreds of cases shelved.

The reported incidents are only the tip of an iceberg; many cases go unreported.

This is in addition to the huge exodus to neighbouring countries and, for the lucky few, to Europe.

Unless urgent action is taken to redress this situation, it will be too late to save Iraq's intelligentsia for the immediate and foreseeable future; a disastrous situation for Iraq.

We knew this was happening.  Now we know more about how fast and how thoroughly.

Read more... (11 comments, 780 words in story)

wiki and me

by the stormy present Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 06:00:46 AM EST

The NY Times Magazine this week has a long article on Wikipedia that I thought was really interesting, even though it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know.

It starts off with your standard "so-and-so spent all day refining and editing a page on a breaking story and then the next day went back to his junior year of high school."  Yeah, yeah.  And yet... it's still an interesting article.

Wikipedia's goal is to make the sum of human knowledge available to everyone on the planet at no cost. Depending on your lights, it is either one of the noblest experiments of the Internet age or a nightmare embodiment of relativism and the withering of intellectual standards.

Love it or hate it, though, its success is past denying -- 6.8 million registered users worldwide, at last count, and 1.8 million separate articles in the English-language Wikipedia alone -- and that success has borne an interesting side effect. Just as the Internet has accelerated most incarnations of what we mean by the word "information," so it has sped up what we mean when we employ the very term "encyclopedia." For centuries, an encyclopedia was synonymous with a fixed, archival idea about the retrievability of information from the past. But Wikipedia's notion of the past has enlarged to include things that haven't even stopped happening yet. Increasingly, it has become a go-to source not just for reference material but for real-time breaking news -- to the point where, following the mass murder at Virginia Tech, one newspaper in Virginia praised Wikipedia as a crucial source of detailed information.

Read more... (12 comments, 904 words in story)
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