Archive for the ‘as the world turns’ Category

Palestine Hotel

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

This revelation should only come as a surprise to those who slept through the early days of the American invasion of Iraq: An army whistleblower has revealed that the Palestine Hotel, where journalists were stationed in the spring of April 2003, was on an Army target list.


Mission Accomplished

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Never mind the Douglas Feith interview. The best part about yesterday’s Daily Show was John Oliver’s report on Jenna Bush’s wedding. You have to watch it.


Et Ça Reprend

Friday, May 9th, 2008

As pessimistic as it sounds, I think Lebanon is headed for another civil war before the end of the summer.


Eye of the Cyclone

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

When I was getting ready to go to work yesterday, the headlines said that a cyclone hit Myanmar, and that the death toll may be as high as 4,000. By the time I finished teaching, the headlines said 10,000. And this morning the number has risen to 15,000 (now 30,000.) It’s hard to fathom what that means for the survivors, for the families, for the country. But already the humanitarian crisis is being politicized. On both sides.


World, Upside Down

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Four million people have been displaced in Iraq, as many as a hundred and fifty thousand have been killed, food prices are causing riots around the world, the economy is in the can, crude oil is at $115 a barrel, and what do talking heads want to know? Why Obama doesn’t wear a flag pin on his lapel.


Iraq, Five Years On

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008


Photo credit: Mark Wilson/AFP/Getty Images


The Weight of Words

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Just a few days ago, I posted a link to Yonathan Mendel’s article in the LRB in which he discusses the media’s use of language in covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was quite au point, wasn’t it, considering the statement by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i that Israel would unleash a bigger “shoah” on the Palestinians.


Friday Fun

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I can’t quite decide if this is good political propaganda or some new form of child abuse:

Kids Support Obama, Part 2‘.


Arab Regimes Finally Agree On Something!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

…and they want more censorship.

At a meeting in Cairo called by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a charter was adopted allowing authorities to withdraw permits from offending channels. The only country to refuse to endorse the charter was Qatar, the home of leading satellite station al-Jazeera.

Correspondents say the satellite channels have thrived on controversy. The often privately financed stations give airtime to government critics and viewers, and discuss issues which state channels would never dare approach, says the BBC’s Heba Saleh in Cairo.

Qatar’s reservations, according to the BBC reporter, were more ‘legal’ than ‘political’ in nature.


Super Tuesday

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Don’t forget to vote!


(Photo credit: Getty Images)


In Kenya

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008


My knowledge of Kenya probably begins and ends with the novels of Ngugi, which is why I haven’t written about the growing conflict in the country at all. It’s been heartbreaking watching the violence spread while Mwai Kibaki persists on saying he won the (rigged) elections and Raila Odinga claims he‘s the rightful winner. More than a thousand Kenyans have died (as many as during the invasion of Lebanon in 2006) and both Kibaki and Odinga are tacitly condoning the violence by doing nothing to stop it.

In Ofeibea Quist-Arcton’s report for NPR, the novelist Binyavanga Wainaina echoes this sentiment. Kibaki and Odinga, he says, “are dancing on a stage with matches and gasoline” despite the vast, public pleas for them to stop the violence, despite their own agreement on Friday to a preliminary plan, despite the intervention of foreign mediators.


Why I’m Voting For Obama

Monday, February 4th, 2008


The primary reason for my choice is that Obama opposed the Iraq war back in 2002. I remember that year as a time when the majority of our politicians and our talking heads were falling over themselves trying to sound “tough on Iraq.” They led the country into a disastrous war that will affect the region and the rest of the world for generations. Obama didn’t have to say he was against the war, but he did. And that shows judgment.

In addition, Obama has said he would be willing to talk to the leaders of Iran without preconditions, while Hillary Clinton was agitating to have the Revolutionary Guard declared a terrorist organization. We know very well what happens when leaders use pre-conditions for talks (Ireland, Israel, etc.) and it’s time for a different approach with Iran.

In terms of domestic policy, Hillary Clinton’s proposals on health care are more precise, but I am under no illusions about her ability to turn them into actual legislation. The future president will have to work with Congress on health care reform, and I think Obama is much more likely to get the bipartisan support he needs to get legislation passed. The same holds true for the economy, and pretty much every other issue.

Lastly, this nation needs a fundamental change. When was the last time you saw so many voters overcome by emotion at a rally? Obama has that rare capacity to inspire. So: If you’re undecided, please consider voting for Barack Obama tomorrow.

(Photo by: Annie Leibovitz)


Si, Se puede!

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Even little kids support Obama:


And Then There Were Three

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

John Edwards announced yesterday that he was abandoning his bid for the Democratic nomination, which isn’t surprising in the least, but nevertheless disappointing; class, his most important campaign issue, won’t get nearly as much attention now, and we can all settle in for a long, bitter fight between the three remaining Democratic candidates: Bill & Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.


Artificial Membership Claims

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Elizabeth Alexander, the poet and professor of African-American studies at Yale, sets the record straight in Salon about that Toni Morrison quote, which has been repeated ad nauseam by the Clinton camp in Hillary’s campaign for the White House, so much so that it took the form of an actual question in the South Carolina Democratic debate. (“Senator Obama, do you think Bill Clinton was our first black president?”) Alexander went back to the New Yorker essay in which Morrison made the comment:

A look at the context of the words at the source is illuminating. Morrison began by describing a nation glued to unseemly details of Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky, as Kenneth Starr pursued his investigation and Republicans cheered him on. She questioned the pitch of Starr-fueled hysteria, and said: “Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime … The always and already guilty ‘perp’ is being hunted down not by a prosecutor’s obsessive application of law but by a different kind of pursuer, one who makes new laws out of the shards of those he breaks.”

Morrison was not saying that Bill Clinton is America’s first black president in a cute or celebratory way, nor was she calling Clinton an “honorary Negro.” Rather, she was comparing Clinton’s treatment at the hands of Starr and others with that of black men, so often seen as “the always and already guilty ‘perp.'” Even in its original context the comparison doesn’t quite work. African-American men have been demonized for centuries without having done anything but be black men, while people of all political stripes would likely agree that Clinton put himself in a compromised position with the Lewinsky situation, even if the political reaction was out of proportion to his alleged “crime.” Morrison seemed here to be making a dark admonishment about what it means to be tarred with the same brush that has punished African-American men throughout this country’s history.

In any case, Toni Morrison has made it clear whom she supports in this year’s presidential race, and it’s Barack Obama.


Meltdown, 2008 Edition

Thursday, January 24th, 2008


In between his carefully timed meltdowns (flushed face, wagging forefinger, et cetera) and his attacks on Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton had to take a rest. What better way than to take a nap during a speech about Martin Luther King?

(For something less somnolence-inducing, here’s Obama’s speech on MLK day.)

Cartoon Credit: Mike Lukovich


Reader Mail / Primaries

Monday, January 14th, 2008

My Friday post about the New Hampshire primary elicited a lot of emails from you, so rather than answer individually, I am posting a handful of them here. Reader Nomi H. wrote to say:

One theory I’ve read about is that people in New Hampshire were truly disgusted with the pollsters, and with the journalists “pronouncing” their decisions prematurely. It was NOT a resounding victory for Clinton, by any means…

I share this frustration. Clinton and Obama won the same number of delegates in New Hampshire, but the Clinton win was framed as “comeback.” A comeback from what? The month of December? If they hadn’t been so quick to pronounce her political demise, there would have been no comeback. Meanwhile, reader Joseph H. wanted me to know that:

There is a new and scarier interpretation of the results surfacing even in the mainstream media.

He is referring, of course, to the theory that the Diebold voting machines, which were used in bigger cities but not in small towns, somehow favored Hillary Clinton. Reader Linda M. concurred, and added:

If there were shenanigans in New Hampshire, I would like that exposed right now. I want the vast right winged conspiracy to steal elections to stop. I want my democracy back, dammit. I am tired of having amoral thugs tyrannizing this country and the world.

Amen, sister. The problem is that the state of New Hampshire won’t pay for a recount, so if Kucinich wants a recount, he’ll have to pay for it. Reader Jessica L. offered yet another explanation:

Liberal NH women were going to vote for Hillary no matter what. Pollsters certainly got it wrong. But there is a large bloc of very active women who were responsible for electing one of first women governors, had women in the state legislature very early on, and electing a woman is top priority for them.

Too bad that they’re choosing a woman who’s so thoroughly without principle. (See for instance the kinds of attacks she’s been waging lately.) Lastly, my friend David wrote:

I think you are buying into the media hype, which represents some of the shoddiest reporting I have ever seen. (…) I read today that even in my (and Clinton’s) home state of NY, Obama has a shot at winning. So buck up. This election is the first political event in a long time about which I am actually optimistic.

And there you have it.


Health Days

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I had to take a day off from blogging yesterday because I was too upset about Hillary Clinton’s win in New Hampshire to be of much use around here. I think her win says something about this country that is deeply unsettling. The most common theory that has been put forward to explain the difference between the pre-election polls and the voting results is that Hillary Clinton did better with women voters, particularly older women voters, and that this was directly attributable to her emotional moment last Tuesday. But what does this say about these women voters in New Hampshire? That they saw themselves in a woman who seemed cornered and on the verge of defeat and whose ambitions were, in her view, thwarted by a posse of men who ‘ganged’ up on her?

The other theory is that Hillary Clinton didn’t win, it was Barack Obama who lost, because of the famed Bradley effect. (In 1982, Tom Bradley had a double-digit lead in the polls and looked poised to become California’s first black governor when he lost to George Deukmejian.) Again, what does this say about white people in New Hampshire? That, in the privacy of the voting booths, they didn’t dare pick someone who didn’t look like them? Either theory seemed too depressing, hence the day off. More soon.


Howard Dean Moment

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I normally don’t register a party affiliation, but when we moved to California, I registered as a Democrat because I wanted to be sure to vote in the Democratic primaries here. So I’ve been watching the campaigns very closely. As regular readers probably know, I dislike Hillary Clinton very much, and for many reasons. (She voted for the Patriot Act; she voted for the war in Iraq; she voted for the torture bill; she doesn’t appear to have met a lobbyist she didn’t like; she calls herself a feminist, but said her husband cheated because he had been abused as a child, etc.) But even though I dislike her, I felt sorry for her when I saw how this little video has been at the top of the news all day, played at least five times in one hour on CNN, and written about on the front page of the New York Times. What is going on here? Obviously, I was not planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, and I haven’t changed my mind but the way the media have been playing this, you’d think it was worse for America that this woman got a little emotional than that she voted for that immoral war in the Middle East.


Round the World

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

The two car bombs that exploded in Algiers yesterday have made anywhere from 31 to 60 victims, depending on the source. Gaddafi pitched a tent in Paris and signed billions of dollars’ worth of armament deals with France; Sarkozy and his government quickly forgot about Libya’s poor human rights record. Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to put pressure on Iran, despite the latest National Intelligence Estimate. One could go on all day in this vein, so here’s an uplifting story, for a change: A Muslim college student breaks up train beating of two Jewish youths.


All The Research That Fits

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, the esteemed (by Bush & Co., I mean) scholars of the Middle East have started their own academic organization, an alternative to the renowned Middle East Studies Association. Lewis and Ajami are calling their group the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, and they’re organizing a conference, starting a journal, and soliciting members.



Musharaf’s Mess

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007


Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria. Via Truthdig.


Deparment of WTF

Monday, November 5th, 2007

If you’re Muslim, the L.A.P.D. wants to know where you live.


Deparment of WTF

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

You just can’t make this shit up. President Bush celebrates Hispanic Heritage month by headbanging to the song “Guantanamera”:

I weep for you, José Martí.



Fires in L.A.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007


Many thanks to those readers who have emailed to ask about the fires. We are all fine here. This fire season very much reminds me of my last Indian summer in L.A., about 4 years ago. The sky was a dark pink color and it rained black ash throughout the day. It’s much the same now. It’s very hot, as you can imagine, and it’s a bit hard to breathe. But we’re alive, and we’ll get through this.

Photo by sundogg via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr.


French Discover Their Immigration History (Not Really)

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

The French government has opened a National Center of the History of Immigration in Paris and Michael Kimmelman visits it for the New York Times. The result is a great, great piece that highlights the ways in which some French officials conceive of immigration. Here’s just one tiny excerpt:

“The history of immigration is one thing, and the history of slavery and the history of colonization are other things,” Jacques Toubon, the museum’s president, told me, somewhat defensively I thought. France “is very late in confronting the truth about its colonial history,” he said, but the purpose of his museum “is to tell the story of immigration.” That sounded to an American like devising a museum for African-American or American Indian cultures but skipping gingerly over slavery, segregation and Manifest Destiny.

Do read the entire piece here.

One thing Kimmelman could have pointed out is that the French name for the center is: Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration, which, in a very literal translation, means simply “National City of the History of Immigration,” and so the word cité is meant to suggest republican notions of unity, and of a single, indivisible, unhyphenated French identity. But cité is also the colloquial word in French for the suburbs around the big cities where immigrants live. This is a bit like building a museum for Mexican-Americans and calling it the “barrio museum.” And the worst part of it is: I don’t even think French officials realize the ambiguity.


Who’s Afraid of the Press?

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

This is the question posed by Khalid Saghiyyah in this opinion piece for Al-Akhbar.

الصحافة ممنوعة من دخول مخيّم نهر البارد، وكذلك آلات التصوير، على الرغم من مرور أكثر من شهر ونصف شهر على انتهاء المعارك. والجولات الإعلامية الرسميّة لم تكن أكثر من مسرحية لم يُسمَح للمشاركين فيها بتجاوز عتبة المخيّم.
من يخاف الصحافة؟ سؤال نجد الإجابة عنه عبر بعض الصور المهرّبة، وبعض الصرخات التي تصاعدت، على رغم الحصار، من الأهالي «العائدين» إلى المخيّم الجديد، ناهيك بالأفلام والصور الفضائحيّة التي بدأ تداولها على شبكة الإنترنت

A month and a half after the end of the fighting in Nahr el Bared refugee camp, the press has still not been allowed in.



Wright on Withdrawal

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

This week’s New Yorker includes a nice opinion piece by Lawrence Wright on American occupation of Iraq:

In the upcoming Presidential primaries, Americans will have the chance to choose among candidates who propose immediate withdrawal from Iraq (Richardson), rapid drawdowns (Edwards and Obama), open-ended commitment to the war (Giuliani, Romney, McCain), or a resigned middle ground, notably Hillary Clinton, who acknowledges that the occupation will likely endure well into the next Presidential term no matter which party occupies the White House.

The Iraqi people have no such choice, even though it’s their future that is at stake—and even though the creation of a democratic republic, one in which the Iraqis command their own destiny, has been a stated goal of the war. According to President Bush, American troops will leave whenever the Iraqis ask us to. “It’s their government’s choice,” he has said. “If they were to say, leave, we would leave.” But while the Iraqi government is divided and uncertain about the presence of occupying forces, the will of the Iraqi people has been clear from the beginning: they want the troops withdrawn.

Read all of it here.


Happy Eid

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim readers! This year, the Empire State Building will be lit up in green in honor of the holiday, and the illumination will continue through the end of the weekend.


On Clarence Thomas

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

I always enjoy reading Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post, and he has rarely been more incisive than in this op-ed about Clarence Thomas. Here’s how it opens:

I believe in affirmative action, but I have to acknowledge there are arguments against it. One of the more cogent is the presence of Justice Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you caught Thomas on ” 60 Minutes” on Sunday night, you know that he will probably consider me one of the many people who want to see him “destroyed” because he doesn’t “follow in this cult-like way something that blacks are supposed to believe.” That’s what he told CBS correspondent Steve Kroft — that he’d been persecuted for “veering away from the black gospel that we’re supposed to adhere to.”

The up-close-and-personal “60 Minutes” piece, timed to coincide with publication of Thomas’s autobiography, was compelling television. It was also a useful reminder that whenever my Bush Derangement Syndrome flares up to the point where I’m actually feeling nostalgic for the days when George Bush the Elder was in the White House, I need only recall that it was Poppy who put Thomas on the court. That snaps me back to my senses. Thomas is only 59; we’ll be saddled with him, and that gigantic chip on his shoulder, for decades to come.

And the rest of the piece is equally quotable. Check it out.

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