I am fucked.

I don’t really think I have an issue swearing on this blog. I mean so what? It delivers the point. I usually generally consider swearing and other such “interesting expressions” to be evidence enough for a total lack of mastery of the English language, however, when used with the appropriate intention, they can deliver the desired effect. I just returned this past week to the country of my birth – the United States of America – from the Republic of Lebanon, where I had spent the last 10 months living. I really have no idea who I am any more. I distinctly did not feel comfortable today wandering around Mecca-sized shopping mall or the cathedral-sized Lowe’s. There were too many white people. What’s wrong with white people you say? Well, despite a centuries of enslavement of others, this isn’t the America I know. The America I know is full of all of the planet’s races – even if this term has long bin overdue for departure from our lexicon. Perhaps I should say, nationalities and cultures. This is the American dream. The dream that anyone from anywhere can bring something new to this country and make a deal with it. In exchange for America’s promise of prosperity – of a lifelong liberty – one must also give something to this country, must add to the refreshing of its Constitutional principles, adding to its natural wealth experiences and stories and traditions from countries beyond America’s shores. This is the bargain that all immigrants must make. It should be a give-and-take relationship. This is what makes America unique in the world. This is the dream. One that is still unfortunately overshadowed by the chronically-materialistic one that stands unjustly in its place. To many people have forgotten this or just plainly refuse to see it. This returns me to my point, I don’t like white people. Well, wait, I never said that. Perhaps I don’t like other white Americans. Am I merely rejecting myself or do I really see something severely wrong with this country. Ask yourself why we haven’t had an ‘I have a dream…’ speech in so long. Perhaps some of Obamas do count. But ask yourself. What happened to the passion this country has always been known for. The passion to advance society through a historical refreshing of our founding principles. This is why other white American scare me. I see them at malls and in restaurants. Perhaps I am generalizing. Perhaps many of them volunteer in their local communities and give back to it. Perhaps many of them are politically and socially active. It’s even funny that I see them in the same places that I go. Buying the same clothes. Eating the same food. But I don’t know who these people are. Perhaps in my quest to generalize people I have picked my own society in a rejection of all that I know, that I was born into. But something troubles me at these social watering holes in our society. I am disgusted when I see people in the mall just talking about what they want to eat and buy. Then buying. Then eating. Then more eating and more buying. Why can’t we all gather elsewhere… perhaps on the field of our forefathers, marching to Washington to demand the truth of the dream. To ask where that dream has gone. To demand that those who concealed and enslaved it be held accountable for their treason against the state and their crimes against humanity.


What I’m Reading

Dear Readers – I’ve been swamped reading a number of articles this week and haven’t had time to post them all and parse them all individually so I’m just going to list them here for your reading pleasure…

On Iran:
Informed Comment: The Illusion of a ‘Limited War’ Against Iran
The Atlantic: The Point of No Return

On the Islamic Center:
NYT: Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site

On Lebanon:
Foreign Policy: The Real Deal for Lebanon

Here’s an outlier article I read on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WWII:
NYT: Manila, Hiroshima, and the Bomb

Thank You Juan Cole

Thanks to Juan Cole for posting an excellent piece on U.S. Military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces over at Informed Comment: Cutting off Aid to the Lebanese Army Hurts U.S. Interests. Money quotes:

For the US to cease supporting the strengthening of Lebanon’s armed forces will have the following effects:

1. In general, a weaker army means a relatively stronger Hizbullah paramilitary, and other non-state militias such as those in the Palestinian camps would also be relatively stronger

2. The army’s attempts to assert control in the Shiite south of Lebanon will be impeded, helping Hizbullah

3. If the US does not give military aid to the Lebanese armed forces, then other global and regional actors will, including Iran. Is that what the Israel Lobby in Congress wants, to push Lebanon into Tehran’s arms?

In contrast, if the US helps quietly build up the Lebanese armed forces, at some point they will naturally overshadow Hizbullah. It is not desirable that the army be positioned as anti-Hizbullah nor that it take on the militia militarily. But in the medium term, a strong army would just be able better to assert its prerogatives. And it is better if that army is close to NATO powers, not to Iran.

I have consistently stood by the position that our interests are better served by fostering a defensive relationship with Lebanon rather than Israel, since arriving in Lebanon almost a year ago. Juan Cole is correct on all these points. But its not just about fostering a relationship solely based on military aid. On all fronts, U.S. interests would consistently be served better by forming close relationships with the political and economic aspects of the Lebanese state, in addition to its military. If the United States really wanted to catalyze a peace process in Lebanon, it should recognize the political arm of Hezbollah and its political integration within the Lebanese state, as other Western states have done such as Great Britain.

The silly allegation about Hizbullah and the LAF is a smear, and derives from Tel Aviv’s unease with not being able to have its way with Lebanon at will. In particular, Israeli hawks have long coveted the water resources of south Lebanon, and don’t want a strong Lebanese army and state that would put an end to that expansionist dream.

Yep. This is definitely right on target.

Sometimes what the Likud Party in Israel wants and what is good for United States interests just aren’t the same thing, and the US Congress will have to decide which it wants to represent.

We should thank all of those Congressmen and Senators in both our elected Houses, who sent that letter to President Obama imploring him to “fix” our relationship with Israel, for putting Israel’s interests first before our own.

Did you know?

I read this quote the other day and found its source to be quite shocking given the firestorm raging through our country against the right of Muslims to build houses of worship and the increasingly anti-Muslim sentiment of Republican Party as espoused by many of its leading political figureheads. Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan over at The Daily Dish.

“When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race — out of every race. America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect. Women who cover their heads in this country must feel comfortable going outside their homes. Moms who wear cover must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.”

– Former President George W. Bush

Muslim Americans have the same rights as any of our other citizens to practice their faith and build houses of worship, and the current backlash against them, going on in California and New York City does a terrible diservice to our country’s founding ideals and our current situation in the world. For those of you who haven’t read my post linking to the NYT article on Thomas Jefferson and the Middle East, I highly recommend reading it. Another little tidbit I’ve been wanting to post here for some time…

A bas-relief of Suleiman adorning the interior of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is one of 23 commemorating famous lawmakers throughout history.

For those who don’t know… Suleiman I also known as Suleiman the Magnificent was probably the most BAMF Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, which reached the height of its power and the flourishing of its art and culture under his reign. All the Sultans that came after him basically fucked everything up. I just find it pretty amazing that he is commemorated in our Capitol. Our founding documents were not just built on the ideas of Western thinkers but also great men such as Suleiman.

Video of the Week

I’ve definitely got to think of better title post than that… I’d love to make a category along the lines of “Whoever made this must have been high” but I recognize the “ahem” public nature of this blog. Not that I really care… but I think this video definitely fits the bill. Enjoy!

The Loss of American Ingenuity

Paul Krugman points out something real interesting in the NYT: America Goes Dark

Money quote:

The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.

Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

The rest of the article unfortunately doesn’t really discuss the bolded part – which I think is of key importance. I mean think about it… when was the last time you heard America in the news for the development of some massive industrial project? The prosperity of the late 19th early 20th centuries was built on these massive industrial projects like the Hoover Dam and the transcontinental railway. We should be leading the world in massive industrial development. I mean there are thousands of projects we could tackle at the national level through investment. Some of this has already started – with new energy investment and things like the high speed trains in California. But seriously, its just not enough. We need projects that galvanize national consciousness and that are continuously broadcast in national publications to remind us of our capability to create new things. This type of mentality is the spirit of the American identity. Anyway… more on this later.

WordPress for iPhone

I can blog from my iPhone, though apparently when I try to geotag myself here in Beirut it places me in Tokyo. I am not sure whether this is due to the iPhone 3G lacking integrated geotagging or simply the quality of Internet services in Lebanon. Something tells me it’s the latter though. This is actually not too shabby blogging froma mobile device, however the WordPress iPhone app seems to lack some of its web-based counterparts blogging features. It will e interesting to see how this works stateside, particularly on the new iPhone 4, which should have enough hardware power to really make the most of an app like this.

The lengthy approaches to seduction bored him almost as much as the subsequent mess of disentanglement. He found something grisly in the inevitability of the pattern of each affair. The conventional parabola – sentiment, touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the feel of the body, the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears, and the final bitterness that was to him shameful and hypocritical. Even more he shunned the mis en scene for each of these acts in the play – the meeting at the party, the restaurant, the taxi, his flat, her flat, then the weekend by the sea, then the flats again, then the furtive alibis and the final angry farewell on some doorstep in the rain.

– Ian Fleming, Casino Royale