Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lebanese Vacations In August, Relief Too Late For Fire and Floods,

Thomas Friedman
Omid Memarian
David Weigel

"Yesterday was President Obama's birthday. He turned 49 years old, if you believe the liberal media." – Jimmy Kimmel

David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways Barack Obama Celebrated His Birthday"

10. Sent troops to invade
9. Read details of his surprise party on WikiLeaks
8. Got a new fake birth certificate he wanted
7. Read 'Eat Pray Love' and bawled his eyes out
6. Asked birthday party magician if he could make Sarah Palin disappear
5. Fist-bumped with Snooki and The Situation
4. Went to Pizzeria Uno for their 'Shrimp & Crab Fun-Doo' with the guys from NORAD
3. Flew Air Force One to Party Depot to buy helium balloons
2. Sat alone watching 'Real Housewives' marathon on Bravo
1. Stuffed Tony Hayward full of nickels and beat him like a pinata

Michelle Obama took her daughters on vacation to Spain, and members of the conservative media have been trying to find a way to turn this event into a negative political asset for her husband. I say don't forget to visit the town where Pablo Picasso lived, and make sure to visit the museums in Madrid... So far, the pundits have left the Obama daughters out of the political mud, with only Glenn Beck having crossed that line...

So far the incident between the Lebanese Army and the IDF, which left three soldiers and a journalist dead, hasn't spiraled out of control. Tensions along the border remain high, but under control. Having the UN observers state that Israel wasn't "off-sides" helped cool things down. But, to be honest, why were the Israelis in a no-man's land area, taking a page out of the George W Bush playbook, and clearing brush? It does seem like a clear in-your-face act, with the Israelis counting on the uncontrollable emotional element to take things over the edge.

It has helped spark the bluster and threatening response from Hezbollah, who has said that they will no longer be idle if another incident occurs, they will come to aid of their Lebanese brothers-in-arms. They are trying to take the heat off of themselves, with the impending release of a UN investigation that links members of Hezbollah to the 2005 assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who also was father to the current one. In fact, Hezbollah also announced today that they have proof that Israel was responsible for the assassination, not themselves. And Israel fired the rockets from the Sinai desert that landed in Jordan and Israel because they wanted to insure future attacks into Gaza. Ahh yes, the old alternate conspiracy theories. While Israel does a lot of bad things that they need to admit to, they are not responsible for everything squirrelly that goes wrong in this region. And to make a mockery of my point, last night Israel fired upon a lone Lebanese fishing boat that was sailing in contested waters...

I have a better conspiracy theory: that Hezbollah and Israel are purposely trying to mind-fuck with the Lebanese government. By putting pressure from both sides, the rising tension will deter people from visiting Lebanon during the month of August. Lebanon has been touting itself as the premier tourist spot, with Beirut being written up as the hip new place to go in the New York Times. August is the biggest month, and many places count on the money they make during August to help get them through the rest of the year. Another skirmish, and people may end up canceling their plane and hotel reservations, the extra prostitutes imported from Damascus will have to go home, and Lebanon will suffer economically. With a weakened economy, the two entities who benefit the most are Hezbollah, who can turn that unrest into support for itself and maybe votes, and Israel.

The horrible severity of Pakistan's monsoon flooding, and the 800 wildfires raging in Russia both point out the problems with poor governmental response to something that they hadn't planned for - natural disasters. In Pakistan's case, where the local charities sponsored by the splinter Taliban groups offer better service than the official aid areas, it could mean the end of remaining confidence in the Zardari government. On the other hand, there hasn't been any suicide bombings this week in Pakistan, which has served to emphasize how often there are still bombings in Iraq. I don't know if the Iraqi police are still relying on those fake hand-held wands that claimed to detect explosives and truffles, but it may be getting close to the time that the Iraqis deport all of the Sunnis. then, they can either get their civil war out of the way, or have a good couple of weeks of peace and quiet, and a good meal out at a restaurant...

Russia usually has wildfires this time of year, but in the past many of them burned away from cities and villages, in the vast siberian wilderness. If a bear burns to a crisp in the forest, will the mothers in St Petersburg mourn? But, with this year's heat wave, things are a lot drier, and succumb to a flicked cigarette butt. The NY Times article stated that with many small villagers still living in log homes, surrounded by white picket fences, and large haystacks outside the garden, it's a scenario laid out by some mad arsonist...

Firefighting responsibilities go to the municipal governments, and the complete lack of firefighting crews, proper equipment, and trucks that would not start, has led to cries of corruption, laziness, and let's bring back the Communist Party... Many fires have burned unattended because there aren't enough trained firefighters to go around. Vladimer Putin has been making the rounds of burned out villages, making promises of help to rebuilding people's lives, but more often he has been getting an angry response: "Mr. Putin, visiting a village in the Nizhny Novgorod region where 11 people had died in a fire, got a firsthand view of the rising anger over the fire response. When he waded into a crowd to discuss a plan for monetary compensation, a woman yelled in anger.

You didn’t do anything, everything is burning, don’t make promises,” the woman said, according to a video of the encounter posted on the Internet. Mr. Putin said he could do nothing now, as the village had already burned. “We asked for help. We trusted you. Why didn’t anybody do anything?” the woman said." I guess that taking his shirt off while doing tricks on his Harley won't cut it with this crowd...

So far, the main difference between the intolerance shown by ignorant Americans towards the building of Muslim mosques and the intolerance by ignorant Muslims towards Christians in Pakistan is pretty stark.

So far, there have been protests, rallies, and people chanting rude things and holding up ugly signs in blatant displays of religious intolerance. But you can still wear a burka, if that is your choice, and even put medical marijuana in your hubbly bubbly...

Outside of the US, people are not so lucky, for example, recently in Pakistan, where: "... violent clashes broke out between Muslims and Christians after two Christian brothers — Rashid and Sajid Emanuel — were shot dead outside the district courthouse after showing up to face charges of blasphemy. Immediately, there were fears of rioters’ setting fire to the Christian neighborhood where the brothers had lived, Warispura, a poor suburb with about 100,000 people — as they had done in a similar episode last year in a district nearby.

Blasphemy is a capital crime in Pakistan, and rights activists say the allegations are usually spurious and used to settle personal vendettas or to score political points."

This is not to say that there aren't clashes between Muslims and Muslims, just try walking around the streets of Basra or Baghdad any night after 8 pm... One antidote to this seeming growing of intolerance, is embedded within our younger generation. There are now five times as many college students who spend a year abroad, studying in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Indonesia than there were a few years ago. Studying a language and culture, and especially making friends adds to the clout of the Internet.

And they bring their unique cultural events to the Middle East, like the rave. Dance parties, with European DJ's, play all night in the desert sands while hundreds of young folk dance till dawn near ancient ruins in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps one of the rockets fired from the Sinai peninsula into Jordan came from a stern parent warning his children that they could not attend that weekend's festivity...

But, so far, I feel safer living where I do in Colorado. We do have our share of ignorance, but they mainly come out in small groups and ask you to sign their petitions in front of the library. So far, I have only gotten a couple of emails from people who find me too rude and offensive, only been called out for a fight once. So far, I think that's pretty good odds, score one for myself against those nattering nabobs of negativity... But, if you wish to make a comment, or make a curse, feel free to click on the comment icon and fill in the blank...

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