Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Night in tunisia, A Day in Palestine, A Weekend at the Border

"Dick Cheney predicts that President Obama will only last one term. This is coming from the same guy that predicted weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." – David Letterman
"Dick Cheney had to consult his physician today. Not for his heart. Every time the price of oil goes up more than $1 a barrel, Cheney gets an erection that lasts more than 4 hours." – Jay Leno
"New Speaker of the House John Boehner chose not to attend the dinner for Chinese President Hu. In China, they're calling him an orange chicken." – Jimmy Fallon

I was reading a background story in the NY Times about the Tunisian street vendor who sparked a revolution in that country, and realized that it was caused by the everyday casual cruelness that we often inflict upon each other. If someone had shown him a little more attention and sympathy and had tried to solve his problem with the authorities, life would still be going on under a dictator's thumb. Instead, when he complained, he got beat up in public, suffered the humiliation and loss of his livelihood, had no-where to turn: "Mohamed Bouazizi spent his whole life on a dusty, narrow street here, in a tiny, three-room house with a concrete patio where his mother hung the laundry and the red chilis to dry. By the time Mr. Bouazizi was 26, his work as a fruit vendor had earned him just enough money to feed his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters at home. He dreamed about owning a van.

Faida Hamdy, a 45-year-old municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid, a police officer’s daughter, was single, had a “strong personality” and an unblemished record, her supervisor said. She inspected buildings, investigated noise complaints and fined vendors like Mr. Bouazizi, whose itinerant trade may or may not have been legal; no one seems to know.

On the morning of Dec. 17, when other vendors say Ms. Hamdy tried to confiscate Mr. Bouazizi’s fruit, and then slapped him in the face for trying to yank back his apples, he became the hero — now the martyred hero — and she became the villain in a remarkable swirl of events in which Tunisians have risen up to topple a 23-year dictatorship and march on, demanding radical change in their government.

... In a series of interviews, the other fruit vendors, officials and family members described the seemingly routine confrontation that had set off a revolution. They said that Mr. Bouazizi, embarrassed and angry, had wrestled with Ms. Hamdy and was beaten by two of her colleagues, who also took his electronic scale. He walked a few blocks to the municipal building, demanded his property, and was beaten again, they said. Then he walked to the governor’s office, demanded an audience and was refused.

“She humiliated him,” said his sister, Samia Bouazizi. “Everyone was watching.”

Sometime around noon, in the two-lane street in front of the governor’s high gate, the vendor drenched himself in paint thinner then lit himself on fire. A doctor at the hospital where he was treated said the burns covered 90 percent of his body. By the time he died on Jan. 4, protests that started over Mr. Bouazizi’s treatment in Sidi Bouzid had spread to cities throughout the country."

Mohamed Bouazizi's story is commonplace, it happens every day throughout the Middle East and Asia, including being beaten up by the cops or minister's officials. We already are seeing manipulated attempts to get people to revolt in places like Albania, Algeria and Jordan, and the economies are only going to get worse for the next few years. If governments like Egypt and Iran would give their younger people more personal freedoms and ways to express themselves, they might be sticking around a bit longer. Instead, they are alienating people even more, making them feel less like citizens of their countries, more willing to turn to alternative forms for identity, because when you got nothing, you got nothing to lose...

David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways President Obama Celebrated His Two-Year Anniversary In Office"

10. Spelled 'Two Years' on the south lawn of the White House with cigarette butts
9. Romantic dinner with his favorite teleprompter
8. Loaded staffers on a party bus and drove to Pittsburgh
7. Surprised Joe Biden with an open heart necklace from Kay Jewelers
6. Watched Miss Arkansas and her dummies on Dave
5. Went on one of those staged 'I'm a regular guy' burger runs
4. Climbed into a hot bubble bath and read Snooki's book
3. Pardoned Brett Favre
2. Same way President Bush celebrated two years in office: invaded Iraq
1. Began his campaign to replace Regis

There is a resolution in front of the UN Security Council that would condemn Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. It's one trick that the Palestinians are using to go around the stalled negotiations to get themselves a recognized Palestinian State. The virtual state has already been recognized by Brazil, Argentina, and Russia... Barak Obama may let this one go up onto the floor of the Council, which means that they would have to consider it as a legitimate issue. Some results could be that: "... building on the West Bank and even in the forty-year old suburbs of East Jerusalem would become illegal, as would also municipal, police and military actions in these places." Or, he could always veto it, like every other US president before him has done. The Netanyahu government sees this resolution as trying to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. If deciding lines were to go back to the 1967 pre-invasion lines, then Israel would have no real secure border. But an emergency emissary from Israel has made a secret deal to seriously work through the borderline issue and have it ready without waiting for negotiations to resume. So, Obama can veto the motion, unless those pesky Republicans stop scurrying around trying to bring up new legislature onto the House floor... John Boehner having to lie with a straight face, no we really are bringing up all of this abortion and religious stuff because we really are listening to the American people... If the conservative Netanyahu listened to the Israeli people, they want this Palestinian state thing to already be over with so the damned bombings would stop, and maybe they could build some friendships again instead of killing people trying to cross borders...

Speaking of borders, the US spent a few million on building a border fence between us and Mexico. It's only partially finished because the Bush administration was in charge of building it without Haliburton's help, so it never got very close to being finished, they couldn't find enough Mexicans on this side of the border willing to work on it... and so the legislature took away the rest of the funding for it. And still, there will be drug cartels trying to dig tunnels underneath the partially built fence. Maybe it's one way they've found to launder their money by paying for labor; soon they will be cruising by every Home Depot parking lot, spreading their ill-gotten spoils. In fact, last year the only job sector that did better than being a Somalian pirate, was belonging to a Mexican drug cartel. Not only did profits soar, but the amount of innocent people they murdered and killed went sky-high, more than any year past...

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