Archive for May, 2008

On Chelsea’s Ruthless Decision to Sack Avram Grant

May 26, 2008

[Avram Grant, Chelsea Football Club’s former Israeli Coach]

(BBC Football) — “It is a sign of the cut-throat nature of the modern game that a decent, dignified man is sacked three days after missing out on club football’s biggest honour by the width of a post and on the Premier League title on the last day of the season.

Chelsea will simply say – close but not close enough. Second is nowhere as far as billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is concerned and a man regarded as his friend has paid the price.

Grant took on one of the toughest tasks in football when he succeeded Jose Mourinho in September. He was a man in sharp contrast to the charismatic, endlessly quotable “Special One” who was the headline writers’ dream and loved by every Chelsea fan.”

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Bush pledges to Support Saudi Nuclear Power Program: Good Idea # 1,614,368

May 26, 2008

[BFFs: President Bush and Saudi King Abdullah]

(Democracy Now) — “You know, I’d like to know the insane asylum in which this policy was concocted. The idea of giving enriched uranium to the Saudis while threatening war with the Iranians for enriching uranium is astonishing. The idea that the Saudis are going to somehow lower the price of oil on the basis of possibly getting nuclear reactors in the future is just almost staggering to think about. It’s something, I guess, we’ve come to expect with the Bush administration…

We have to remember that when the Shah was in power in Iran so many years ago, he was in the process of buying thirty-six reactors, and had those reactors been completed before he fell to the Ayatollah, Iran would now have thirty-six reactors. So what the Bush administration is telling us is that this current Saudi government is always going to be in power and it’s perfectly fine for them to have nuclear reactors. We know that India and Pakistan built—both built nuclear weapons from their commercial atomic power programs, as perhaps did South Africa. And it’s just almost staggering to think about this prospect…” Click for full article

Comment: There was hardly a brouhaha over this story in mainstream media outlets, but it’s serious business. I don’t think even Bush opponents fully grasp the insanity of this administration. Harvey Wassermen, a Member of the anti-nuclear movement, hits all the important points in the above interview. Already 13 Middle East countries have expressed their interest in atomic energy programs, spurred in large part by their worries over Iran’s nuclear program, but also by long term energy fears and and Western governments’ reckless ambition to supply the nuclear technology to anyone interested. No matter that it’s the most volatile region in the world, or that’s its governments come and go, sometimes being replaced by highly unfavorable ones as seems to be the trend. Foresight: not a specialty of our foreign policy makers. The 21st century is going to be a juicy one.

WSJ: ‘Sex and the Sissy’

May 24, 2008

[One tough woman]

(Wall Street Journal) — “It is prissy. Mrs. Clinton’s supporters are now complaining about the Hillary nutcrackers sold at every airport shop. Boo hoo. If Golda Meir, a woman of not only proclaimed but actual toughness, heard about Golda nutcrackers, she would have bought them by the case and given them away as party favors.”

Comment: A good comparison of how other major female political figures have dealt with (real) sexism in comparison to Hillary Clinton and her supporters’ absolutely far-fetched cries of sexism on the campaign trail. I listened to some of them on the major news networks cite examples of “misogyny,” including that Barack Obama brushed off his shoulders (a gesture mimicking rap artist JZ’s song “dirt off your shoulder”) in response to a Hillary campaign attack, that Obama pulled a chair out for Hillary in one of their debates and that Obama told Hillary she was “likable enough” in another one of their debates. Sorry, but such “evidence” couldn’t withstand a critical test in any serious forum, perhaps not even in a feminism course. They do a disservice to women who actually suffer from sexism in the workplace by discrediting the word. I agree that there were instances of sexism in the media (for example they constantly made fun of Hillary’s pantsuits etc. while nobody ever commented on Barack Obama’s wardrobe) but this is not the reason she lost. And the irony is that if you talk to most Hillary supporters they will actually argue that she won by citing their own popular vote count as well as grievances over what happened in Michigan in Florida. It seems they want to have it both ways. There are many valid reasons why Hillary’s campaign faltered (dishonesty, polarizing personality, disingenuousness, negativity, voters preference for Obama etc. — and, man or woman, who is guaranteed to win an election anyway?) and by all reasonable measures, sexism pales in comparison to those things. They should be ashamed. They’re not.

Israel at 60: ‘A Prophet Perplexed’

May 24, 2008

[“If you will it, it is no dream.” — Theodor Herzl (Altneuland) 1902]

Comment: From Benny Morris, Israel’s leading historian, on the father of Zionism Theodor Herzl’s imagined reaction to the state of Israel (pun intended) at 60.

(The Guardian) — “Herzl’s dream has been realised, but with the kinds of conflict and society he never foresaw… Herzl would have been aggrieved at – though probably not surprised by – the ostentatiousness of Israel’s nouveaux riches (and virtually all its rich, and there are a surprising number, are nouveaux), and appalled by the roughness, verging on vulgarity, of Israel’s streets – where reprehensible, downright dangerous driving and a certain macho callousness is the norm, and where knife fights occur almost nightly outside teenagers’ discos. Perhaps the deeply secular, anti-theocratic Herzl would have been most flummoxed and incensed by the (burgeoning) numbers, and correlated political power of the orthodox and ultra-orthodox (some 20-25% of the country’s Jews). He believed that God was dead, and religious Jews a dying breed…” Click for full article

John McCain’s Crystal Ball

May 16, 2008

[Thus spoke the foreign policy expert of the U.S. Senate]

Yes, let’s trust the “foreign policy expert” of the U.S. Senate that all will be rosy in Iraq in 2013 after 4 years of his presidency, according to his look through the crystal ball. Sounds like a good idea to me.

This week McCain stated, “By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won, Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension.”

McCain’s followers actually think that his war-hero status, his great American story, make him so uniquely qualified for the presidency that things will magically fall into place in Iraq under his leadership even when he enthusiastically embraces the same failed policies as Bush before him. How exactly does that work?

This from the man who doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, and had to be corrected by Joseph Lieberman when he publicly stated on visit in Jordan that (Sunni) Al Qaeda operatives were going into (Shiite) Iran for training and then being sent back to the field to fight U.S. troops, when in reality Sunni Al Qaeda extremists and the Shiite groups are fighting on opposites sides of the Iraq war. Then he tried to play it off as a gaffe instead of ignorance, before repeating his mistake again in a radio interview with right-wing talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

The truth is, of course, nobody who knows better would make such a mistake. Not once, certainly not twice. Were it not for Lieberman to whisper in his ear, McCain wouldn’t have even known it was a mistake. So we’re going to trust this guy as the great oracle of Iraq’s future?

There’s a great article from Salon.com detailing how John McCain has repeatedly used his Vietnam credentials to justify — or oppose any foreign policy venture under the sun. But the grand irony is pointed out on the third page of the Salon article:

“Unlike all previous military engagements during McCain’s tenure as a politician, the Iraq war resembles in length and expenditure the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and thus would seem to provide the clearest parallel for applying the lessons of the earlier conflict. In fact, McCain has applied some lessons to Iraq that seem to conflict with earlier statements about Vietnam. He had previously said, in connection with Somalia, that staying in a war because chaos would ensue on American departure was not a good reason to stay. Last Tuesday, he said the U.S. needed to stay in Iraq because chaos would ensue if we left, as we learned in Vietnam.”

Context of the Lebanese Crisis

May 16, 2008

[Taking a stroll in downtown Beirut]

American media never pro-actively follow political developments in places like Lebanon, nor sufficiently explain the deeper issues even when crises breaks out. That is why Americans are left scratching their heads when violence erupts so suddenly and unexpectedly. And that is why I turn to British media. No gasket ever blows without simmering pressure, and there’s been a lot of that in Lebanon. For a very in-depth explanation of the situation in Lebanon, The Economist has a great article. Also see Patrick Seale’s quite informative piece, Lebanon Steps Back from the Brink of War.

Probably the most significant lasting fallout from the previous week’s events surrounds Hizbullah crossing the Rubicon by using its arms for internal Lebanese political machinations, which the militant group had previously vowed never to do. That, and the pro-Western Lebanese government may fall. The argument that their weapons are reserved only for use against Israel is now totally undermined. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah demonstrated in both words and actions last week that, “We no longer have red lines.”

Writing for the Daily Star, Rami Khouri believes the reconciliation talks going in Doha may lead to short term or even long term peace and quiet in Lebanon, but not before a new power sharing formula is devised, or before the country goes through some major soul searching about its place among the regional and global power rivalries.

It’s often said that Middle Easterners have long memories (there are people in my field who would call that an Orientalist cliche but I believe it’s true). So do Lebanese who remember the civil war years (1975-1990) really want to go down that road again? Did they forget it wasn’t pleasant? Ask Robert Fisk for his opinion on that