Society & Culture Archives


March 11, 2011

USA: The Muslim Hearings

I haven't much to say on this other than King is a clown and a terrorist supporter (his support for the IRA), but Ellison was in good form however much I don't particularly care for this general politics: Terror Hearing Puts Lawmakers in Harsh Light - NYTimes.com

But some opponents in Congress who are not committee members chose to warn those who are, notably Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is one of two Muslims in Congress. Mr. Ellison, who spoke as a witness, tearfully described the sacrifice of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a volunteer medical technician who died trying to help rescue victims in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 — pointing out that Mr. Hamdani was wrongly suspected of being part of the plot until his remains were discovered. After he spoke, Mr. Ellison pulled his statement up in front of his face to compose himself.


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March 20, 2010

The Moroccan missionary explusions

A brief note on this subject,  Morocco expels Christian missionaries

Morocco expels Christian evangelists
 
Foster parents deported in move that appears to be tough new stance on foreign Christians.

It's a pity the journalist used the last phrase, for the expulsions really have fuck all to do with "foreign Christians" in any ordinary sense. Missionary, and in particular evangalists are not synonymous to Christian. Having had the regretable occasion some ten years ago in the same locality as the missionary run orphanages (which raises some suspiciouns in my mind),  I immediately recalled meeting roughly ten years ago a bunch of Americans who were installing themselves.

They confided, incorrectly believing I had some sympathy it seemed, that they were creating a covert mission to convert the Moroccans “to the love of Christ” I believe they put it. I rather had an urge to report them, but business called.

I can’t help wonder if such characters were involved in this, and in any case, such shenanigans give others a bad name. Local law merely forbids proselytizing, and from what I have seen, one has to really try in order to run afoul.



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December 07, 2009

Lord of the Rings in Jihad style

This is amusing, although I don't know how accurate it is. الآراء من الغرب Views from the Occident: Cyber Jihadis' Lord of the Rings Obsession
Someone should, however, tell the graduate student that Views from the Occident would be better translated as "min al ghrarb" as he (or she) presently really reads, "from the Maghreb (or alt from Morocco)"

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September 18, 2009

Brilliant Danish Tourism Board Advert

I thoroughly disagree with the cirticisms levelled at the Danish Tourism Board, whose avant garde promos for Denmark seem to attract, ahem, much interest. Come to Denmark, have an illegitimate child | FP Passport

Having good friends in the area, I believe that

Come to Denmark, have an illegitimate child
Wed, 09/16/2009 - 1:34pm

This could very well be the worst tourist advertisement ever produced. In what looks like a home-made YouTube video, a young Danish woman appeals to the father of "August," a newborn baby conceived in a one-night-stand with a foreign tourist. The woman is actually an actress and the video was produced by the Danish tourist board, which has since removed it from their site after complaints that they were depicting Danes as promiscuous.

Believe me, I get what they're trying to sell, and they're hardly the first country to use the promise of vacation sex (admiittedly it's usely slightly more subtle) as a selling point. But did anyone really think this painfully awkward 2 1/2 minute monologue would be enticing to anyone? Then again, this is the country that produced Lars Von Trier, so you never know.
I would say that it's not hard at all to see how this monologue would be enticing to a certain kind of tourist profile. Now, the real question, which I suppose the special journo was thinking of is "does this video attract the kind of tourism that a Tourism Board reasonably would want to attract."

Probably not, but I find this hilarious.

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September 08, 2009

Morocco, Berber, ... Racism...

By chance in reading the links on Berber items after a link-back to my Berber Teaching posty, I stumbled upon this rather puzzling piece: Duncan Goes To Morocco: Racism as I see it in Morocco.

The author, I believe a Peace Corps volunteer, has a most peculiar take on ethnicity in Morocco, positing racism towards Berbers. It's worth a comment.

First, the use of the word and concept "racism" is utter bollocks. While there is certainly racism in the proper sense of the term in Morocco and the Maghreb - colour prejudice against perceived different "races" and in particular against Maghrebis of obvious recent sub-Saharan ancenstry, calling Berber-Arab ethnic differences racism is a bizarre misuse of the term. Perhaps American politics driven, but that aside, Berbers and Arabs in the Maghreb are essentially the same race, using race as an easy word for phenotype (although each may be divided themselves between 'black' and 'white.'). The poster perhaps means ethnocentrism and prejudice, but contrary to Americans usage, prejudice and racism are not synonyms.

As to his facts, while it may be there are strong Arab-Berber tensions in his area, as he argues below, calling this racial tension is absurd.

Continue reading "Morocco, Berber, ... Racism..."

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September 07, 2009

Ramadan & Economic Illiteracy (And exageratted Ftour tables)

This is sure to get me in trouble, but reading articles like this, (Citizens call for sit ins against rise in food prices [during Ramadan]) irritate me:
Des groupes de citoyens appellent à des sit-ins contre la hausse des prix alimentaires (Magharebia.com) (also see La hausse des prix se poursuit pendant le ramadhan en Algérie (Rise in prices continues during Ramadan in Algeria).

It's really quite simple. Despite being a month of "fasting," in fact Ramadan is a month of gorging. At night-time, but nevertheless. It's impossible to go to a Ftour / Iftaar and not find a table loaded down with an absurd amount of food, never mind the dinner that follows or the Suhour in the wee hours. I'd guess that consumption actually rises by about a third. And the law of supply and demand kicks in, spike in consumption means a spike in prices. I can't locate the article, but when I was just in Algeria last week, I ran across a particularly cretinous bit of idiocy written by a supposed business journo claiming there was no reason at all for such price rises, other than "speculation."

Of course part of this is few people want - in public - to admit the obvious, that Ramadan is effectively treated as a month long excuse to gorge oneself at night on sweeties, roll into work an hour late, malinger about and repeat. Now, this is not particularly news or a new development. But the whinging on about prices really gets on my nerves for its sheer illiteracy. I was just at a friends Iftar in Algeria (at least it spared me eating Iftar in the hotel, given the horrid standards of Algerian state hotel cuisine), and sadly my amigo whinged on about how Ramadan prices killed his pitiful little state salary. Salary is genuinely sad, although given my interactions with his division what comes to mind is "you get paid for your value add...." - the department if not him personally. But the other item that went through my mind was "for the love of God, then chill the bloody hell out with the Ftour table." Which was loaded down with enough sweets to keep Cuban sugar imports high for a decade, never mind the boureks and etc. etc. Of course the whole guest angle was there, but I've been to enough of these to know the lay-on was not really upped much for the guest.

I'll admit that fasting all day, one has the natural desire to kick in a big of a sugar rush, and "compensate" for the annoyances as it were. Entirely human, and my general philosophy is Beni Adam, Beni Adam - people are people and one shouldn't expect magical variations in basic human nature. Nevertheless, I feel confident in opining that generally throughout MENA it goes far too far (and in many ways defeats the whole philosophy of the month, but that's religious philosophising, which I don't care to engage in).

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September 03, 2009

An Aside, interesting review, discusion re Irwin, Orientalism Etc.

A wee bit academic but worth a read for those of you interested in such things: Robert Irwin’s “Dangerous Knowledge” « The Moor Next Door

I am, but not enough to genuinely write about it.

Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents (Overlook, 2006) is a spirited refutation of the late Edward Said’s magnum opus Orientalism.


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August 31, 2009

Fascism

An interesting little post by  Andrew Sullivan re some rather nasty comments received on commentary he made relative to Cheney and Cheney's neo-fascist mindset:

This is the America Cheney loves. It exists, though thankfully, I believe, in a minority. It believes in no laws or treaties restricting the power of government to pursue, torture, mutilate and murder those deemed "the other," or simply "those we all agree are just not worthy." One wonders what classes of people qualify as those "we all agree are just not worthy." One remembers the antecedents to this mindset in slavery and lynching and internment (the latter defended by the woman who know stands atop the New York Times bestseller list).

It is a form of fascism, designating some human beings as sub-human and empowering the state to torture them in any way that can satisfy the need for revenge. And it is the end of the rule of law, and the inverse of any serious form of Christianity. This impulse, the impulse for vengeful, sadistic violence against the other, is what now motivates large swathes of what's left of the GOP.


It is indeed fascism.

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August 24, 2009

Censorship calls in MENA, equal opportunities

Ah, it always depends on whose ox is getting gored, but the poor Scandinavian sensationalistic press just never gives their foreign ministries a rest: Accusation of Organ Theft Stokes Ire in Israel - NYTimes.com

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel urged the Swedish government on Sunday to condemn an article in a Swedish newspaper last week accusing the Israeli Army of harvesting organs from Palestinians wounded or killed by soldiers
...
“We are not asking the government of Sweden for an apology,” Mr. Netanyahu said, according to an official who attended the cabinet meeting and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We are asking for their condemnation. We are not asking from them anything we do not ask of ourselves.”

Uhu. Well in any case, I will for the record characterise the allegations as improbable, silly and without fundamental merit.

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August 17, 2009

Mosques and Europe, FT Architecture Rev

Perhaps somewhat whimsical, but a semi-interesting arty in the FT.com on Mosques and modernity, somewhat harmed by the buy-in to modern (or whatever the fashionable term is for 1960s fwd) architecture (which I personally loathe). Aside from noting European popupulist opposition to mosques (at least obvious ones), it closes with a somewhat silly note

It is easy to attribute the lack of compelling modern Islamic buildings in western cities to poverty, to a lack of ambition or education or to conservatism. But is it also part of a desire to keep a low profile? ....  The controversy may, perversely, help. Ìt may force architects to design beautiful buildings in an effort to assuage opposition, to use architecture, as did the Ottomans and the Moors in Europe, to persuade through the sublime. Perhaps the future lies also in commerce. We are enchanted as tourists by the buzz of the bazaar and the souk, exemplary forums for commercial and social life. Surely there is still much to learn about the infrastructure of an efficient trading city, from the earliest metropolises from Damascus to Baghdad.
Not if modern European architects are building them to please fellow architects' sensibilities they won't.

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August 15, 2009

Algeria & Chinese in Algeria: the riot & fallout

I was somewhat bemused to find Global Voices Online post on Algeria & the Chinese incident  although the choice of contrasting blogs was.... interesting (insofar as one is just an ignoramus blithering on without a bloody clue and the other was Moor Next Door). The summary notes

The influx of Chinese immigrants to Algeria ignited a face off between the immigrants and locals in the Algerian capital Algiers. About 100 residents and migrants clashed, using knives and bludgeons, sparking a debate over whether this incident would impact Chinese investments in the North African country

Leaving aside the first blog cited, which is merely stupid, Kal's commentary deserves some further thought. I am going to leave aside the geopolitical relations side of this - which deserve comment as Kal's characterisation's has a slightly .... well I think too much focus on the macropolitics, which in most respects is not the interesting angle.

Also picked up in French:Global Voices en Français » Algérie : Après les affrontements entre Chinois et Algériens
L'opinion algérienne semble considérer que les chinois sont responsables des tensions : ils « ne respectent pas les mœurs locales », ils « boivent de l'alcool », et si l'on en croit Kimo, drogue et prostitution ne tarderont pas à arriver avec les « chinetoques ».

Au-delà de ces réactions, cet incident fait se poser la question de savoir s'il aura un impact sur les nombreux investissements chinois [en anglais] en Algérie.

Continue reading "Algeria & Chinese in Algeria: the riot & fallout"

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August 13, 2009

Gulfies - bad image or bad behaviour

It doubtless reflects pooly on me, but the story of a Gulfie visitor getting jacked in Geneva and the subsequent hysteria does not easily incite sympathy.  That is doubtless wrong, but given touring Gulfie men's non-trivial level of .... interest in engaging in rather high risk activities of a sexual connexion wherever they go (and the indusries that grow up around that - mind you this is not that different than a certain European behaviour in SE Asia...), I can't quite get upset about this as such:Polémique sur la sécurité des riches touristes du Golfe à Genève

At the same time, one has to ask if given wider European issues with Muslims and visible minorities, that if there is not a deeper problem.


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April 11, 2009

Self indulgent idiocy.

Death on the high seas as pirates put to the sword - Times Online

The Lemaçons were not to be deterred by the risks. In their blog they described the other couple’s account of being held hostage as “impressive” but also “reassuring” because it was clear to them that the pirates were motivated more by money than any interest in harming westerners.

“The danger exists,” Lemaçon wrote in his blog, “and it has probably grown in the course of these past few months, but the ocean is vast. The pirates must not be allowed to annihilate our dream.”

Two friends came out to join them in Yemen as “reinforce-ments” for the dangerous part of the journey. Lemaçon was in regular contact with French naval vessels as they approached the Gulf of Aden.

According to the defence ministry, the Tanit was warned, in no uncertain terms, to stay away from the region. “They were told that it would be reckless in the extreme to attempt the trip down to Kenya,” said a defence ministry spokesman. “They were told that the threat from pirates was greater than ever. Frankly, it is baffling to us that the warnings were not heeded.”


Emphasis added.

Idiots. Putting themselves and the French forces in pointless danger in a fundamentally self-indulgent 'anti-consumerist' indulgence in consumerism. Very French that.

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September 14, 2008

No better illustration of how warped Saudi Land is

Found via Global Voices with helpful photos of retarded neo-Thobe wear, there are only perhaps a thousand things that illustrate the whackiness of the sand pit more than this highly amusing arty on the dangerous innovations of moving away from pure white Thobes. In looking at said designs, I can only be puzzled. One can pick up just about any of those (excepting the retarded I POD Thobe) in any Souq in Damascus, Amman, Fez, etc., and have been for the last... thousand years or so.

There is a reason why Aroubi is not a compliment.

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September 02, 2008

Lovely Leb Land & Khlije tourism

An amusing article, besides its value for the photo as contrasts typical of Leb Land (or Dubai...)

Okay the link doesn't bloody work, see comments for the same damned link but oddly going to the proper article
I rather liked this part, which is so true:

“Times were different back then and so were the guests. It was all more cosmopolitan,” Mr Kassis says. There was also more entertainment, something sorely lacking in Aley today. The casino was closed after the civil war. “Gambling is now illegal,” he says.

It is not as if modern-day visitors from the Gulf do not crave old-fashioned diversions. One restaurateur in Bhamdoun says most male Gulf diners order alcohol, even if they are with their families. “But they want it served in a teapot and in teacups,” he says.


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September 01, 2008

Nour, the Soap Opera that just keeps giving & giving to bored journos

Ramadan Mubarek encore: and for Ramadan, the month of overdone soap operas, too much sweets made by grannies with rather ridiculous expectations on sweets consumption, etc., another dumb arty on that bloody Turk Opera, Nour, whose end I celebrated having grown bloody sick of the damned thing. It certainly has pulled in even the non-typical viewer (i.e. even those who don't normally watch such rot, as I can attest by anectdote), but bloody hell, the overdone ink spilled over this thing (and frankly it ain't that different than the Venezuelan operas) has truly gotten on my nerves.

Bored Journos and summer season.

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August 20, 2008

Bikinis & Viels - Egypt and the Sexy Hidjab

Being more concentrated on the Maghreb than the Machreq these recent years, to my relief I should add, , reading articles such as this Veils swapped for bikinis amuses me.

Of course a visit to the public beaches of the Maghreb demonstrates a rather different take. But more seriously, it does seem that Egypt, and the pressure cooker of over population and growing poverty, is becoming more and more mad.

Pity I enjoyed watching the Parliament in Cairo burn today.

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July 06, 2008

Review of Amin Maalouf's "Origins..." & Hirsi Ali

An interesting note on Amin Maalouf's memoir, "Origins" but with a closing quote that goes beyond irritating to be truly stupid:

He is one of that small handful of writers, like David Grossman and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who are indispensable to us in our current crisis.
Why a Somaliyah chameleon is indispensable is a bit beyond me. Above all insofar as her commentary at once on her own past, on her former religion and even on her own specific culture is shot through with a rather nasty mixture of opportunistic posturing, inconsistencies, and a deep tainting of personal complexes assumed and writ large upon the entire body of Islamic culture and belief.

I would certainly give Irshaad Manji a higher place than Ayaan - although Irshaad I think mistaken in her reading of things, it seems more or less honest and the world is big. Ayaan.... Good faith lacks, and her commentary strikes me as opportunistic bitterness, and while that may be personally defensible, it hardly makes her commentary indispensable for the Westerner. Quite the contrary, I constantly run into Americans in my work who've read her works, and in the context of work come out to my part of the world expecting.... well some strange mix of backwoods Somali custom and Saudi Wahhabism. They generally leave bemused at how stark the contrast is between image and reality.

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June 23, 2008

Algerian Youth arties in New York Times

Of great interest to the Aqoul community as it were, an interesting (if flawed) article on Algeria, Youth, Employment and Radicalisation, and attendant Expert Commentary.

I shall try to generate some commentary on this.

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June 08, 2008

Ravaging Sheikhs

Ahem I do believe that some authors may find this arty of interest, given something written here in the past Such as this analysis, which I should say has much less whanking, much more data.

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June 02, 2008

Quick Reference - Roy and MENA Democratisation book review

An interesting book review at Fistful of Euros on Olivier Roy's work The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East of interest. I will expand later on my reaction.

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November 04, 2007

MENA Idiocies overheard

Actually - I do bloody swear - at my hotel lobby this evening:

Group of Americans (I presume given where I am business or American development assistance people) talking:

"You know there has never been a war between two countries with Mc Donalds"

[blithering on about McDo]

"We should work harder to get McDonalds in these [presumably MENA] countries, and the culture of getting along will improve [or grow, frankly I forget the precise wording]"

Ensued was a long, statistically illiterate discussion on the impact of FDI and peace, politics, pro Americanness, etc. which provoked a deep desire to jump and shot "Black Swan, Nassim Taleb" and obscenities.

As I have to suspect the American government subsidized or otherwise promoted this illiteracy, I give my condolences to those who tax payments are subsidizing sheer idiocy... (although frankly the understanding of the limited applicability of certain kinds of observations or stat analysis is not politically driven so I have to limit my ranting)

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October 07, 2007

US of A: Bizzaro World Provincialism

I confess I have never understood the shrieking fear of "foreign" that grips the US now and again: but above all in that strange mixture on the US right of Liberalism and Paranoia. The bizarre Ron Paul, "Libertarian" - sadly not really a synonym for classic liberalism in the US, but some strange mixture of Know Nothingism, petite bourgeois pseudo liberalism and just outright bizarre paranoia [fixed the bloody link you whingers]

Amero?

In any case, I think my somewhat leftish centre friends at Fistful of Euros have a point linking this strange fear and paranoia regarding treaties with the current Administration's approach. I have to suspect (although this is really Hogan material) some connexion.

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September 28, 2007

Blonde Girls & Dark Moors

Laila Lalimi reminded me of something irritating from Euro TV as I am trapped in La Blanche in a soulless hotel (which strangely gets no Arab Sats). As Laila links to the Moroccan rag, The Matin of Every Kingly Move discussing the scandal of a blonde little girl in Northern Morocco mistaken for that tiresome British bondie that went missing.... it reminded me that I saw the discussed interview with the moronic Spanish tourist with her hick accent en direct.

The short of it is the idiotic Spanish bint went on about how the little blonde girl must have been kidnapped because Moroccans are brown and not blonde.

Bloody idiotic stereotypes, the idiotic Spanish bint bouncing around the Rif, no doubt acquiring Kif - at least I hope she was - should have noticed the odd number of rather European looking locals.

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September 11, 2007

Reflexions on Reform & Jordan, Education and Change

I thought I would bring attention to a small set of commentary I indulged in, and perhaps shall later reproduce and expand on The Cunning Realist who was sadly sold by your rather typical Jordanian Royal Hype on the latest cool thing the King is doing in respects to setting up an Andover like academy in Jordan.

As I noted in comments, while it is without doubt more useful that wasting billions on an idiotic war in Iraq, and incompetently at that, the hopes that the Cunning Realist were sadly sold on come from at once swallowing Royal Agitprop undiluted, and second fundamentally misunderstanding the challenges in the Middle East (as well as I presume having a rather narrow understanding driven by Friedman Source Jordanians - i.e. the Jordanians who serve as Tom Friedman's sounding board).

Pity Cunning Realist is a good sort, got sold some rubbish though.

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April 23, 2007

Elmer Fudd

I would observe that my hotel room is very, very big - clearly made for the Saudi visitors - and to date the only interesting thing on my mind is being startled in seeing a picture of Elmer himself, head of Hizbullah (Lebanon) and the fronting display of a cell phone shop in es-Seef area. That was unexpected (of course plenty of Shia around, but odd choice in my mind for the front display of a cell phone shop.....).

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April 16, 2007

French Political Tests, and relationship to MENA

Via Ibn Kafka (whose comments on the recent Casablanca bombings are very much following), a test for your Francophone political instincts.

Continue reading "French Political Tests, and relationship to MENA"

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March 06, 2007

Hijab et Football, FIFA et Reaction

While it doesn't surprise me that personages as fearful and ill-informed as Andrew Sullivan confuse the Hijab and the Niqab (a recent posting of his on the issue of the Hijab in Europe had a pic of a full out Saudi ninja gear woman), it does seem rather disappointing (if the blog got it right) that FIFA confuses the issue as well.

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Opportunity Cost

I just had an amusing, even hilarious for me, lunch with my attorney who was ranting on about how his local clients have to be brow-beaten (and we're talking corporates, name brand even) into conveying timely information, to him, their attorney, for work they've demanded.

I actually have the exact same experience. It's amazing, really, what it takes to get the simplest fucking things done in this region. Efficiency. What's most irritating and yet in some ways puzzling (in others not when you think about internal organisational structures and incentives) is the foot dragging raises their costs as much as mine (or the attorney's). Of course the constant whinging on about costs etc when they sit down with a bill makes this even more infuriating.

But there are clear organisation incentives to non-performance in the typical MENA company, nothing shocking that doesn't exist in the West of course - see Dilbert. But as always, these things are a question of degree, and indeed the weakness of countervailing incentives.

In some ways it's a good way to look at the failures of Iraq, since the American decision makers innocently assumed the exact same incentive structures, decisional processes and worst yet, reactivity. And being arrogantly blinded to the sometimes (indeed often) subtle differences - any one of which may be individually trivial, but cumulatively is fatal - were unable to react, to adjust and change at once tactics and conceptual strategy in ways that actually responded to the real incentive structures.

I've noted in places like our fool Andrew Sullivan (and even more egregiously chez the Moustache of Understanding) comments tending to indicate that Arabs (or Muslims, en grosso modo) don't value / want / desire Liberty, etc. etc. That's bollocks - but the operational incentives for making changes to achieve those things require different approaches, and realisation that the near term incentive structure is weighted towards avoidance of decisions etc. - nails get pounded down - unless one has a means to control - as in guns.

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March 05, 2007

Externalities: Some Uses for Scum

Externalities.

In haircuts. Now that the authorities have shut the Khaliji whoring hotel across the street from my overly expensive hair cutter, the visual quality of the support staff has noticeably declined.

Continue reading "Externalities: Some Uses for Scum"

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January 15, 2007

Razor's and Preciousness, or I'm so very Muslim posturing

Tardily, but I thought I would share this. Of course I am right, as always, but I am sure many will disagree with my viewpoint but frankly I am tired of reading Muslim [it seems esp. an Indo-Pak non-native Arab speaker disease] writing in English that pretentiously uses Arab-lish translits for religious terms that are perfectly adequately expressed in ordinary English.

Worse, the idiotic responses pretending to tell me how "Muslims" speak about such issues (amusing pretention that), or trying to imply a lack of familiarity - rather than grasping the unnecessary self-segregation and foolish pretentiousness of injecting such terms.

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January 14, 2007

Bikini, Burqa and Bollocks - Or Sex & Bathing

Via eerie I presumje, a profoundly annoying article from Down Under lands on a ridiculously and most unfelicitiously named "burqini" in a rather ham-handed bit of pious preciousness for what amounts to an old 1950s style suit with a funny hood/cap on it.

The item which most annoyed, this:

Before the Burqini, Muslim women either avoided swimming or tried to swim in full clothes.

Which is complete bollocks.

It might more profitably read, "highly conservative Muslim women, rather unlike the hordes of not conservative women Muslims [or Muslimahs to adopt the precious langauge favoured in certain circles where Arablishisms are taken to be a sign of peity] who head to the beach and swim without oddly named retreads of pre-bikini era swim wear."

I should note my irritation is not with any woman choosing to wear the queerly named thing, but with the blanket declaration.

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January 07, 2007

Parisian Serving Soup un-Kosher, un-Halal

A queer little article from the Financial Times on the Conseil d'Etat of France decision forbiding Solidarité des Français from distributing its soup containing pig ears, feet and tails to Parisian homeless

I have to say it has an only in France air to it, but gives one a moment to reflect on French approaches to "integration" and a tendecy to favour form over substance. It will surely be an occasion for the Phobics to rail on about "Eurabia" and their fevered imaginings regarding an Islamic threat in Europe.

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January 05, 2007

The Burning Issue in the Middle East That Will Resolve All Conflict

Properly designed public and quasi public restrooms that can (i) be properly maintained by sub-literate peasant cleaning staff with only the vaguest acquaintance with the restroom concept, (ii) be used for the various required abulatory pre-prayer functions without forcing said devote praying people into odd contortions such as washing their feet in the same sink I want to use to wash me face, (iii) for men, ideally with urinals that are at once functional, marginally water efficient and set a height that a reasonably constructed male can use without untoward events.

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October 29, 2006

France, Immigration: On Delusions & Ignorance

Clive Davis has drawn my attention (in some ways I curse him) to a new round of utterly idiotic ignorant American whanking on about the problems in the French immigrant and native-born ethnic minority ghettoes.

While the violence infesting the immigrant and native born ethnic minority ghettoes is clearly reaching grotesque proportions, I have to question the sanity (or in the alternative honesty and/or intelligence) of writers that can send off missives characterising this as an issue of "Islamic militias" or of mass (white) emmigration to North America (the later proposition rather clearly racist).

Posted by The Lounsbury at 03:16 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 22, 2006

Maghrebine Rap - Mashreqi Complexes

I was just listening to some Maghrebine rap sent by a friend and I have to say I was impressed - by the quality of making Maghrebine Derrija fit into the newest styling of Ragga style rap, of which I am generally a great fan of actually as it recalls my dissolute youth (which I suppose I can write as someone some of the last maneuvers of the Red Army as an adult) and my obsession at the time with Carribbean things, from the music to the clubs to the chicas.

I also thought of a conversation I had a number of years ago with a Jordanian friend who was quite the Rap fan and despite being a banker also spent much time working on his little Rap group. However, he refused to do it in Arabic. For which I constantly mocked him, with the prediction that the Maghrebines would adopt the form and nativize it into Arabic to the point that they'd be as good or better than its origins.

Indeed they have. And my amigo is still rapping in Arabo-English. (Of course he really is quite fluent in English)

Posted by The Lounsbury at 05:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

Soup Operas

Drawing attention to an amusing arty in the FT on the annual Soup Opera scandals. I previously was interested in the Tash Ma Tash Soup Opera, although initially for its sardonic imagery re the 'War on Vague Abstractions in the Place of Concrete Policy'.

Continue reading "Soup Operas"

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October 08, 2006

Introducing Ramadan

Amusing intro to Ramadan: Ramadan, When Less Is More - from the Washington Post, but evidently an Egyptian-American journo. Only an Egyptian would feature snot soup as a Ramadan meal.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 03:30 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 07, 2006

Mr Straw & The Niqab

It appears that For. Sec. Straw's comments on the Niqab, the face veil, have set off a bit of a storm. From The Financial Times to The Times coverage of his original comments regarding prefering women not wear the face veil as divisive through to coverage of The Poodle's craven and inconsistent pandering and on to coverage (the sooner he is gone the better, I await with impatience The New York Times (but British official, I am come on, how about Brit For. Sec.?).

I am not sure if that is good or bad, but it bears some commenting on. First, when I first saw the comments I wasn't sure if he meant the hijab, which would have been annoyingly tedious, or the niqab, which I agree with. I am pleased to see it is about the covering of the face. There is a vast and important difference between the ninja get-ups that are so very Saudi Wahhabite neo-Islamic rot, and a woman covering her hair with a scarf.

Continue reading "Mr Straw & The Niqab"

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October 01, 2006

Violence, Christians, Muslims - Fallacious Framing, bis:

I caught an interesting article in The Washington Post on Somali shopkeepers and violence which I think is a decent point of illustration of the easy, fallacious framing that often occurs.

Now, in this instance, the article focuses on the xenophobic reaction of Xhosa to Somali shopkeepers, telling known by a name derived from Islamic and Somali vocabulary - baraka, which as many readers know is simply the Arabic for "blessing(s)," although not as the journo incorrectly puts it "God's blessings" as a phrase, merely understood, as in English low church usage that it's God that does blessing. Somalis are known as barakas. Now, the article, aside from some ethnic superficialities, is quite good. However, in reading it and reflecting on how such stories get framed I rather thought it typical of, in particular, Western journo reporting in Africa and elsewhere on violence where an ethno-religious cleavage exists.

Continue reading "Violence, Christians, Muslims - Fallacious Framing, bis:"

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August 11, 2006

Amplifying A Review

Today our comrade Tamerlane put up a quick little review of the new edition of the classic survey of Islamic societies, Lapidus' A History of Islamic Societies, a highly readable survey and overview of the scholarship on Islamic societies' history from inception through the modern era, explicetely covering not only the core Middle East, but also giving effective and substantial attention to the 'fringes' in Africa and Asia.

I think it worthwhile to expand on his very brief note to observe that this edition greatly expands on 19th and 20th century history - the first edition effectively broke off with the 19th century although it contained some overview of materials on 19th and 20th century. This edition summarises the history and the scholarship right up until 2000 fairly effectively, and while in terms of the 20th century coverage one can complain of a tinge of the standard academic left illiteracies with respect to business and economics, this are faint and clear enough.

For readers seeking a single tome overview of the MENA region and its environs, they can't do better than this. It is a far better choice than either the favourites of the academic left or Bernard Lewis.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 04:55 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

Thoughts on Prejudice, 3rd World etc.

Before turning to Lebanon and the continued idiocy, I thought I might draw attention to an interesting little note by FT columnist Sathnam Sanghera, racist customers who can take their custom elsewhere from a week back.

Sathnam, an amusing columnist from FT, takes a moment to reflect on a writer taking exception to one of his generally quite silly columns, who queerly wrote “spoilt snobby shite”, [Well, that's a fair cop re Sathnam, but it's part of his charm!] helpfully suggested I get back to “India or whatever filthy medieval country [I] come from”.

(I may add the following observation alone, however is worth the column: "“Northwest State Correctional Facility”, beginning with the improbable line “I am a prisoner and an FT subscriber”...." Well a quality paper gains readers in the oddest places)

Continue reading "Thoughts on Prejudice, 3rd World etc."

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July 28, 2006

Crossroad Cities: Tangiers & Topless Movie Stars

Taking a break from the All Leb (or Israel depending on jurisdiction) Massacres All The Time Media Frenzy, a quick comment on a well-placed (if sadly poorly timed for attention) arty in The Sunday Times on culture clash in tourism destination North Africa, specifically the historic city of Tangiers, long time city of sin, scum and other fine things that I like.

Continue reading "Crossroad Cities: Tangiers & Topless Movie Stars"

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July 26, 2006

Finding the amusing side to Leb Land crisis TV

Inappropriate but I was just cackling like a hyena over the truly silly interview that Al Arabiyah just had with a UNICEF official (Leb by accent) who rather gauchely praised the Qatari grants and aid to Lebanon (on Arabiyah after all, the KSA backed channel) the presenter rapidly interrupted her to mention the Saudi efforts as well...

It was pure gold. Well for those of us amused by such things.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

On lighter matters

I just caught what may be the queerest combination of music I have heard to date (that still merits the name music, meaning leaving aside the horrible clownish screeching that Cairo studios put out): Ragga-Rai.

Think a combination of Rai a la (ex-Cheb) Khaled and Shaggy.

Odd but compelling in a queer way.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 10:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

Updated References - Lapidus History of Islamic Societies, new edition

I just stumbled across this, and might even write something, but I thought a quick note that the A History of Islamic Societies (Paperback) 2nd edition (2002) is out. Well, okay, a few years late, but I hadn't noticed the updated edition. A quick review showed it's well-worth updating.

I also should share that this book is number two on the Amazon recommendations to me:

Distressed Debt Analysis: Strategies for Speculative Investors
by Stephen G. Moyer
Average Customer Review:
Usually ships in 24 hours
Publication Date: November 1, 2004

The robot is smarter than I thought.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 02:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 27, 2006

France. Zidane.

Rot. That was good. But now I'm really in a pickle as I liked the Spanish better on some level, and now I am faced with Brasil-France......

Bollocks. I'm faced with pain no matter what.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 10:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 22, 2006

KSA Spain

I am predicting utter destruction.

I think I will start singing "Ya Saudi....."

Posted by The Lounsbury at 01:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

June 05, 2006

Maghrebine Movies: Sex on the Beach & War in Europe

As I am on a Maghrebine roll at the moment, I thought I would draw attention to two Maghrebine films, Moroccan to be precise that deserve whatever puny attention I can bring.

Continue reading "Maghrebine Movies: Sex on the Beach & War in Europe"

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June 04, 2006

Deserving Further Comment: Muslim Women as Victims - Lalami's "Missionary Position"

In a rather longish piece in the American Leftist dinosaur paper, The Nation, expatriate Moroccan author Laila Lalami takes a whack at one of eerie's favourite topics, Muslim Victim Women Reformers in an arty entitled "The Missionary Position".

While I am not normally inclined to read such things as The Nation, the highlighting by The Arabist were enough to induce a read.

I cannot say that I am a fan of such hackneyed phrases as "supporters of empire", above when used seriously, but what can I expect out of literary types?

Continue reading "Deserving Further Comment: Muslim Women as Victims - Lalami's "Missionary Position""

Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 07, 2006

Bloody Annoying Whanking Morons

My dear friend and 'Aqoul quasi-colleague, as well as Dubai commentator extraordinaire, Secret Dubai has done a terrible thing.

Abusing her privs (well not really, but I indulge myself), she linked to a Totten piece on Libya on our main page via the 'Picks' function, without any warning or sign, leading me to innocently click through and afflict myself with my least favourite idiot's article on the country.

Now that I have polluted myself, I must purge. Which means a quick comment on this contemptible superficial git of a monolingual fool's typically impoverished comment on Libya.

Continue reading "Bloody Annoying Whanking Morons"

Posted by The Lounsbury at 07:38 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 13, 2006

Massaouie. Should be spared.

I am not often moved to comment on purely American matters, but the fiasco that is the Massaouie trial including today's latest bizarities move me to comment.

First, Massaouie is a complete loon. It strikes me as painfully clear Massaouie is clinically insane. He's a vile, bloodthirsty disgrace to his family, his people, and his religion, but he's also clearly utterly mad.

There is a common tradition across many legal traditions that one does not execute the insane. It strikes me this comes from a deep and profound sense of pity for the state of insanity, although not the individuals.

In the case of Massaouie, I personally have no regard for him at all. In many ways he's the very face of the Takfiri-Salafi incubus, the face of evil. In another way, he's a pitiful wreck of a confused loon. His latest antics on the stand, as reported by the Washington Post, confirm that.

I also find it .... more than moderately irritating that for many Americans, Massaouie's confused, rambling pretensions are going to be their first introduction to Islamic thought and theology. I suppose for the intelligent observer it is clear Massaouie's theology is a la carte, whatever works for his revence fantasies. For others, I fear, it may be "the" picture. Bloody minded monsters getting to put their sick views up as "the correct views." They win in a way through that.

Life in prison. An appropriate punishment for this sick, incompetent loon.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 08:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 28, 2006

Wikipedia, the game of obsessives

I passed - no wasted - some time this evening reading and arguing about several Wiki entries on the otherwise obscure conflict in the Western Sahara. This little remnant of the colonial era has found quite a little home among naive little American college students seeking causes.

Among the things I "leanred" was that there is an "intefada" going on in Morocco of the "Sahraouie" - oops, Sahrawi- people against the "most oppressive nation in the region" - that would be Morocco.

Weird, intefada, I have to say, as I travelled down south in Morocco last year and noted nothing. But according to the little American activists, there's an intefada. Silly me, having been in the Occupied Territories and detained by Israelis at gunpoint once, I would have thought I would spot on an intefada.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 05:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 30, 2006

For the Language Nerd

I stumbled across this site, in fact I have before come to think of it, but for the language nerd out there, I share this fine small introduction to Maghrebi dialects, part of a longer excerpts on the Arabic language. For those of you who speak Arabic, and wondered why the Maghrebine dialects were such a pain in the ass, here you have a nice intro. Fascinating, I learned a few things, and there was much linguistics mumbo jumbo I did not follow.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 02:44 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Random Thoughts - News

Now that I have been back in the United States since a month and a half, a random observation.

That random observation is that US TV and in particular news has become atrocious, far worse than I recall. Bloody entertainment TV disguised as news. Even CNN and HN.

What is odd is international CNN has a rather better standard.

It renders, for me, ironic, the fulminations I read online from US bloggers about foriegn news sources.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 02:13 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 15, 2006

The Constant Gardner - Left Anti Global Rot

Now, I like the odd thriller and can put up with silly politics in my Hollywood films, but this film deeply irritated me.

The cartoonish portrayal of multinational drug firms working in emerging markets (yes, yes, for full disclosure I did once work for one of the largest pharma's in the world on such things, but I'm not uncritical) was deeply annoying, cartoonish and absolutely lapping up the most simple-minded empty minded anti-corporate anti-globalisation rubbish from the anti-globos droolers.

Pity, I liked the concept of the Ralph Feines character and a somewhat less cartoonish structure to the film (e.g. Syriana) might have made for some real lessons as I know full well from personal experience that my dear former pharma world can be idiotic (lawyers, I blame the lawyers in general).

Posted by The Lounsbury at 11:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 23, 2005

Wafa bint Yelsam Bin Laden (bint Dufour) [added link and de rigeur illustration, plus further reflexions]

An odd piece of news. GQ is doing a sexy spread of Wafa Dufour (Bin Laden) (also see the online partial arty at GQ)

GQfeature2v.jpg

Not sure if this is a good idea or not (probably not, although the facile like Andrew Sullivan will trumpet it), but it is interesting.

By the way, the arty says Yeslam spells his name differently. No, he transcribes it differently. Who can blame him, given even the looney Left has it out for his fams.

Continue reading "Wafa bint Yelsam Bin Laden (bint Dufour) [added link and de rigeur illustration, plus further reflexions]"

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October 30, 2005

An item to return to: the Maghrebine & Muslim diaspora in Europe and Jihad

Stopping by Daniel Drezner I found something of interest to comment on, notably The trouble with European Muslims...., based off of an arty in the European edition of Time Magazine, The Enemy Within

Rootless and restive, young Muslims in Europe are increasingly turning to religious extremism. An inside look at the threat from homegrown militants

Lacking time immediately to comment, I note that as is typical the comments section is tending toward the expected paranioa, but interesting questions are raised. Although with false dichotomies.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 10:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Press Freedom & Peevishness

The Moroccan business press carried an amusingly peevish reaction to the Reporters sans frontieres latest press freedom report (I confess I find it myself somewhat unconvincing as to methodology, but lack the interest to pursue further).

There was much whinging on about the unfairness of the rating, but the winning article closing I have to quote: "Morocco, remains, nevertheless, better placed than Palestine (132) or Egypt (143)."

I grant the writer my "Hey, but we're still better than the stinking Egyptians" award.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 09:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 12, 2005

Some observations on socialisation, expattedness, plumbers and afternoon apartment sex, videos and US foreign policy in MENA, from a personal perspective

Well, pratike is proving a good soucre of items to comment on in the past week, and since I do enjoy myself in this respect, let me present some comments on his comment, Why do they hate us? in my typically useful manner.

Our dear Man in Le Caire focuses on a snippet from a commentary in Foreign Affaires that I can not be bothered to read as of yet, but the snippet is quite good: "Forty-six percent of Egyptians polled identified U.S. policy as the source of their feelings, compared with 43 percent who stressed American values."

Well as the Man says, it is rather highish. The icky American values part that is. Leaving aside substantive questions as to the poll and the article, I prefer for the moment to entertain myself with pratike and commentators. More sporting, besides, I'm feeling ill.

Continue reading "Some observations on socialisation, expattedness, plumbers and afternoon apartment sex, videos and US foreign policy in MENA, from a personal perspective"

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October 09, 2005

On Arabic II: Training, Translation & Intelligence

I nipped by "Liberals Against Terrorism" (an atrocious name I may add that never ceases to irritate me) and found Pratike commenting on Arabic again, on indeed financing of Arabic studies by the United States.

That incited me to comment.

First on the financing issues, given what I saw when learning Arabic in the dark ages there certainly could be (and here I refer to the Anglo world not being in any way conversant with actual teaching materials elsewhere - except in terms of in MENA region, which are regardless of language (including Arabic), risible) better finaning of efforts to develop better pedagogical materials - preprepared texts, targetted vocabularies and all the sorts of things I recall from German (although this was wasted on me, after I decided I loathed German) and French (although in this case I was young and impressionable).

Continue reading "On Arabic II: Training, Translation & Intelligence"

Posted by The Lounsbury at 10:28 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

Queer Conversations

I had a most peculiar experience a few evenings ago, indeed it was unique in my experience to date in the region.

Continue reading "Queer Conversations"

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October 01, 2005

On Arabic, for Praktike

I noted the ever productive praktike has had a series of comments on Arabic that somewhat reek of the new learner.

I thought I might engage in a public service of a comment or two.

First, from this note

Incidentally, I'm now at the point in my Arabic studies where I can at least recognize who is and isn't a comfortable MSA speaker, and I'm beginning to understand As'ad AbuKhalil's snobbiness in this area. Gamal Mubarak speaks somewhat haltingly and melds Egyptian colloquial with MSA, whereas the Al Jazeera anchors and my teachers can prattle along like it ain't no thang, the latter with case endings and everything. I can imagine that being schooled abroad stunted Gamal's linguistic development.

Abu Khalil is a snotty prat of an arch literary leftist snob with regards to Arabic; arch purists like him should be disregarded,

Continue reading "On Arabic, for Praktike"

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September 28, 2005

Sexy Abaya wearing Arab Women, Assumptions: US Pub Diplo Meet in KSA

Returning to a subject more or less dear to 'Aqoul, women in the Arab world, for a moment, I wanted to draw attention to this intriguing article from the visit by US public diplomacy director Karen Hughes to Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Women Have Message for U.S. Envoy

Let me first say little in the article was surprising to me (including Ms. Hughes surprise that the "Sisters" did not look at their cultural heritage and mores in the same light as she expected), but it is a useful one for reflexion. Thus some comments on the article:

Update: The Financial Times also has this story. Better done actually.

Further update: Daniel Drezner has comments on the FT article and in comments I was amused by the commentator thinking that Saudis would be driving other Saudis as a general rule (or that middle class Saudis would find it a financial hardship to have servants...).

(crossposted from 'Aqoul)

Continue reading "Sexy Abaya wearing Arab Women, Assumptions: US Pub Diplo Meet in KSA"

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September 05, 2005

On Sex & MENA: The Local Porn Industry

I have a longish reflection on this very subject, and on the issue of prostitution, general dress and the like. It needs editing (and has for months), but this week's report in La Gazette, a mainstream weekly, and some observations I made this weekend while shopping in my tres chic office-shopping mall complex provoke me to a small interim observation:

7383_1.jpg First, of course, I am not surprised that the article I cited, entitled "L’industrie du film X au Maroc" was published, given recent scandals in Agadir and hints of the same in Marrakech. Poverty combined with lack of opportunity combined with vast wealth differences always produces these kinds of things (although that has nothing perhaps to do with the Euro porn stars cited as having come to Marrakech).

I should note that the physical version of this article is rather more graphic and rather longer.

Continue reading "On Sex & MENA: The Local Porn Industry"

Posted by The Lounsbury at 06:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

New Orleans & MENA Coverage & Lessons (updated)

A number of comments and an email or two asked me about what I was seeing in regards to coverage of New Orleans.

A quick characterisation, with the following caveats: (i) recall, I am businessman, I consume media here for my own purposes, not as a full time media or political blitherer, (ii) I tend to consume only the useful mainstream media - the weird fringe papers and Salafi lunacy online is not part of my world, although I do not what I consume tends to reflect what "average Mohammed" might consume if he's not a loon or whatnot.

With those caveats, my note on coverage on New Orleans is that it largely was marginal until Saturday. The bridge massacre/catastrophe in Iraq, elections in Egypt, the grinding blithering on about Isreal-Palestine all (although especially the thousand odd dead in Iraq) tended to push the US off the radar.

On the weekend, as the astonishing incompetence of the US response to its own disaster became ever clearer (and the Iraqi catastrophe especially began to fade in the news cycle), New Orleans cropped up. I am chary to over-characterise the coverage as I had others things to worry about and did not pay terribly close attention, but the major themes from the Arab Sats struck me as (i) Incompetence, (ii) Racism - very much played up, (iii) Violence.

Unsurprising themes - note I refer here to the normal news and not to editorial content programs - which fit into the typical (and after New Orleans, perhaps one has to admit not baseless) stereotype of America as a racist violent society unable to control itself.

Nothing particularly new or interesting there. The incompetence angle - the feet of clay as it were - however is newish. Well, at least no one brought up how fat the average Louisianna resident appears to be.

[updated:]

I thought of a seperate post but rather than cluttering, this one should suffice as I hardly need to add to the New Orleans chatter any further.

Continue reading "New Orleans & MENA Coverage & Lessons (updated)"

Posted by The Lounsbury at 11:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

The Steven Vincent Tempest in a Tea Pot

I noted - by stumbling on Juan Cole's note in his Informed Comment - that there is a little mini-controversy in regards to some comments by Cole in regards to the journo Steven Vincent.

It's a queer little affaire, but seems to have set off the Right Bolshies a bit, as well as those easily offended, and the man's widow.

Well, like in the Nicholas Berg case, let me be my usual self and opine without regards to namby pambyism and faux concern.

Continue reading "The Steven Vincent Tempest in a Tea Pot"

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August 19, 2005

Entirely Because of Bou Aradvrak - Belly Dancing, Orientalism, Academic Cant and Pure Bemusement [And some added thoughts on Business Enviroment Data and Obsessive Charting]

I wish to share with my 'Aqoul compadres, cohorts, or whatever the bloody hell they are, the following:

Belly Dancing Resource of some kind and in particular, the Bellydancers and Harem Girls -- A[n] Historical/Cheesecake Gallery.

Continue reading "Entirely Because of Bou Aradvrak - Belly Dancing, Orientalism, Academic Cant and Pure Bemusement [And some added thoughts on Business Enviroment Data and Obsessive Charting]"

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August 03, 2005

Tempests & Tea Pots

In reading around the usual suspects I note a rather absurd and overdone debate has emerged due to the following posts:

First, Juan Cole's War on Terror Over at Bush Administration

Second, Glittering Eye's Critics - Neo Colonialists

Third, (and stopping there for sheer laziness in this unedifying circle jerk), Fisking Cole Photo Montage

My call, a bunch of absurd overreading, mixed in with the usual tedious American politics being fought via strained foreign policy pretexts. Also, confrimed for me Totten is a gullible idiot (not that his idiocies about the Lebanese intefada did not already), and a fool, as in the idiotic mix and match with Hizbullah, Dar Far etc.

Continue reading "Tempests & Tea Pots"

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July 01, 2005

Idiots: Marching in al-Qods

Stabbings at Jerusalem gay march
Attacker stabs marcher: Religious groups opposed the march going ahead
A religious protester has stabbed three people taking part in an annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4639731.stm

I had read about this previously, and thought it stupid, so let me say that organizing a gay pride march in Jerusalem is fucking stupid.

I have nothing against such marches as such, but in the context of Jerusalem, it is idiotic.

Posted by The Lounsbury at 07:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack