Stuff you should read

Easter Attacks

Posted on Wednesday 30 March 2005

Okay, this just turns my stomach!

And what’s sad is, a lot of people i know wouldn’t mind if such a thing happend in Egypt.

Sigh..

The Sandmonkey @ 7:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Syrian heretics

Posted on Wednesday 30 March 2005

Go check out Amarji ‘s “The Syrian heretic” blog for some enlightening insight into the life and thoughts of a Syrian democracy activist. ( Hat Tip OrDoesit )

Also don’t forget to check out the post about his interrogation. It’s priceless!

Ohh yeah, and while you are at it, check out this other syrian blog.( Thanks littlewhy)

The Walls of Jericho are tumbling down people. Fun times ahead for everyone!

The Sandmonkey @ 7:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
What’s in a name?

Posted on Wednesday 30 March 2005

According to this website, my WU name is Respected Demon. (Nice!)

However, my US Name is Douglas Bryant, which I found rather surprising, cause I could never quite see myself as a Doug.

However, according to the same website, if I was a female, my name would’ve been Gail Freeman.

Now , is it weird that I like my US female name more then my male name?

Hmmmmm….

Oh well, I will just go with my PIMP name: Reverend Doctor S. Beautiful, yo!

Just keepin’ it real with y’all!

The Sandmonkey @ 7:41 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Shiavo effect

Posted on Wednesday 30 March 2005

The Terri Shiavo story and the debates and issues it provokes, like Terri herself, refuses to die. Read my post on it here, and Josie’s I-couldn’t-leave-comments-because-of-blogger-so-I wrote-my-whole-response-on-my-blog response post here. Josie in essence agrees that the whole thing is both fishy and shitty ( not in these words exactly), but believes that people should respect the court’s decision. Money shot quote here:

True, but Sandmonkey, the court has reviewed everything, taken testimony from friends & relatives, and made a decision. It happened to be the decision the Schindler’s didn’t like… and that we might not like, but the bottom line is that the court had all the information, and we don’t.

Now I agree that we don’t have the full information, but the only witnesses that Michael has to support his claim are from his own family and they were passing comments. I remember that I said one day 3 years ago that if I ever contracted HIV from someone I would probably just kill them and hope I would get capital punishment, cause my life would be over and I would be as good as dead. Now, that statement is stupid and immature and I really don’t feel this way now , nor did I really meant it back then. I was talking out of my ass. It happens, you know? And I hope that in the remote and highly unlikely case of me actually getting HIV from someone who wounds up murdered a few weeks later that that statement would not be used against me as evidence. Now I am thinking I should track down the person I said that to and inform them that I was “just talking out of my ass”. You can never be too careful these days!

That rant aside, what I meant to say is, sometimes courts get it wrong. It happens. The examples are numerous and well known. And when someone’s life hangs in the balance, there has to be absolutely no room for error or reasonable doubt, whichever the case maybe. This is why I was glad that Terri’s parents got a federal appeals court early Wednesday to consider an emergency bid for a new hearing on whether to reconnect her feeding tube. This thing wasn’t over yet!

Now the reason why i said “was glad” and not “am glad” is that unfortunately such hopes got crushed 15 hours later on when that same federal appeals court rejected her parents’ latest attempt to get the brain-damaged woman’s feeding tube reconnected. It almost seemed like a cruel joke was being played at their expense, which is why i would not be surprised that because of the high emotional appeal of this case, that as this article on slate argues, the judiciary may end up the big losers in the Schiavo mess:

Was Terri Schiavo’s piteous ordeal a victory for the rule of law? After all, interest groups and the politicians they pressured were trumped by the courts. The macabre circus that arose around Mrs. Schiavo’s case counted for nothing: Pinellas County Judge George W. Greer issued a steady series of rulings despite being targeted for electoral defeat and impeachment, compared to Joseph Mengele and other Nazis, and even threatened with death. The public didn’t buy legislation that sought to rig the case for Schiavo’s parents. “If nothing else,” wrote a New York Times analysis, “this series of decisions vindicated the one conception of American judicial power.”

But that isn’t quite right. In fact, the Schiavo episode spells trouble ahead for the courts that protect our rights. The judiciary is fast becoming enemy No. 1 in the culture wars—and the side wearing the black robes is losing. The anguish over Mrs. Schiavo’s nightmare is boosting a rising common culture of attacks on the independence and legitimacy of our courts. In Washington and far beyond the Beltway, this new war on the courts is being waged through legislation and political intimidation, fueled by special interest campaigns of rage. “Federal courts have no army or navy,” warned Rep. John Hostettler late last year. “At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce its opinions.”

Basically the article argues that lately a couple of laws and measures are being passed that would make the powers of the courts and their independence eventually extinct. I believe that independent courts are a good thing, and I agree with the author when he mentions that sometimes the courts have to take stands on decisions that are “the right thing to do” no matter how unpopular they may be:

The job of protecting our rights sometimes requires that our judges show a little steel. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision, lawmakers tried to impeach justices, abolish life tenure on the Supreme Court, and strip it of jurisdiction over public-education cases. When the court struck down laws banning interracial marriage in 1968, opponents pointed to polls showing that more than 70 percent of Americans disapproved. In 1943, at the height of the global fight against fascism, the court struck down laws requiring Jehovah’s Witnesses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

All this is well and good, but there is a flipside to that coin : sometimes the court’s decision is both unpopular and wrong. Judges aren’t infallible, nor is their reasoning always “the right thing to do”. To show a little steel, even when you are wrong, well, that would make you both stupid and stubborn. It’s why the government has 3 branches of government people; checks and balances: a nifty idea indeed. And it’s also why you have so many levels of courts in the judicial system, so you can appeal such a judgment. What the courts may not decide, the legislative branch can create laws for. The problem is, the judicial branch can strike down laws penned by the legislative branch, but not the other way around. It’s why the retiring age of the supreme court justices has become so important to presidential candidates: if one retires on your watch as president, you can put someone who will share your views in there till they die. It’s no longer about who is qualified, it’s about who thinks like me! But that’s also a different issue. Anyway…

Something in this article seemed a lil fishy though: every single example it uses on how the courts independence being tampered with, it’s an example that involves right-wing politicians (i.e. republicans). This article aims to paint a picture of an America where republican politicians, not liking “good laws” and “independent judges”, resorting to sneaky bills and amendments that would make them laws useless. For some reason the good author forgets that part of the job of the legislative branch, is to make and pass new laws. Whether or not you agree with these laws ideologically, well, that’s a completely different issue. FDR , for example, muscled Social security on the republican minority at the time of the great depression when the majority in congress were democrats. Whether you are a fan or not, social security is something that the founding fathers of the USA would’ve probably never agreed on and considered illegal or unconstitutional, since it violates their principles of small government. Hell, people on the right back then hated its guts, and some still do till this day. But it was popular back then with the majority of people and the rest is history. Yes, at times the majority of people are on the wrong side of things (civil rights in the 1950’s), but at other times, they are also on the right side of things (Electing Bush for a second term). That’s how democracy works. It’s a concept that has many flaws and shortcomings, but it’s the best concept we have came up with so far. For some reason the left these days really don’t like it in action. Call me crazy, but maybe because unlike the 1940’s, they are no longer the majority.

So maybe now the outcome will be that judges may not always get their way and that people will actually try to change laws and decisions that they think the judicial branch got wrong. This may have its drawbacks, but it may not be so bad. Sometimes the courts pushes a right idea on the people way before its time or before people are ready for it ( civil rights for example), and that causes some of those people to never privately accept the idea no matter how much merit it may have. The effect of that seems apparent when the courts push their luck and try to impose an idea ( notice how I didn’t say right or wrong) that is so “progressive” and “ahead of its time”, like gay marriage, that the people may just right out reject it and go to extreme measures (constitutional amendment) to stop it. A Balance needs to be maintained between the legislative and the judicial branch, in order for people to have a society that’s anchored right in the middle; you know, a place where everyone can get along. And who knows, maybe that’s what the so called culture wars will eventually accomplish.

You never know!

Speaking of the “culture war”, check this out and tell me what you think!

The Sandmonkey @ 7:38 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Cairo Protests

Posted on Monday 28 March 2005

Driving in Cairo is usually a test of patience, personal tolerance and fast reflexes thanks to the high volume of traffic always present on its streets. The joke used to be that in Cairo there is no such thing as a Rush-hour, cause there is heavy traffic everyday from around 7 am till 11 pm. Some blame it on bad design and planning, others on the fact that no one follows the traffic laws, but it’s probably a bit of both.You really don’t wanna go through downtown Cairo unless you absoutely have to or unless someone else is driving. Otherwise you are just begging for your day to be ruined.

But yesterday was different. Yesterday traffic was backed up worse then it usually is, which is something most people thought was impossible. Part of the reason, as GM mentioned here, was the protest carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood. It wasn’t that the protest was very big, it’s just that for “security purposes”, the ratio of Riot Police per protesters avalible in such protests is usually around 5:1. Given that some estimate yesterday’s protest to be around 3000 people, we are talking an additional 10-15 thousend riot policemen surrounding the protest. And that was just in one part of downtown cairo.

Apparantly there was another protest going on at the same time, organized by the “Kifayah” (Enough) movement against Mubarak. Kifayah, unlike the MB, has no actual goals but to get rid of the current political stalemate and of Mubarak. Think of it as the egyptian equivelant of the “Anybody But Bush” movement and you will get the idea.

Luckily for me i didn’t get caught in traffic when this went down, but some of my co-workers did and now they are suddenly worried about Egypt. Some of them were actually mad at the protests for causing such a traffic jam, because “it’s not gonna change anything anyway”. I, personally, was excited about them, but no one else seemed to share my sentiment, and i think i figured out why.

Egyptians value stability more then anything. They only hope for an enviroment in which they can live in peace and not worry about their kids’ future. Some of them actually preferr dictatorship style rule because it’s less then a headache this way for them. They don’t have to be informed, they don’t have to be involved, and thus they are never responsible if everything goes to shit. They like to complain but not do anything about it. It’s easier this way for them apparently.

This is precisely why i share GM’s fear of the MB taking power, cause i seriously doubt they would ever relinquish it. America is the country it is today because its forefathers set the precedent of only serving one or two terms. They loved their country more then they loved power, which is a quality i am not sure the MB has. In fact, i truly believe that they probably love Islam more then they love Egypt, thus would do everything in their power to stop Egypt from ever being secular. It would be Pan-arabism all over again, Arabs concerns before Egyptian ones, only this time it will be Pan-Islamism and it will probably get us in more shit.

I still hold my opinion that the only way the MB should be allowed to practice politics is if Egypt follows Turkey’s suit and becomes a secular state. If that happens, then every idea presnted will be debated based on its merits and benefits, and not because it’s an islamic rule. It’s the only way in my opinion, cause otherwise you really can’t argue against “Cause GOD said so”. Just try to run against someone whose slogan is “Islam is the soloution” in an islamic country like Egypt and win. Just won’t happen.

I am still hopefull though. Just a litle scared, but still hopefull.

The Sandmonkey @ 8:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Right to Kill

Posted on Monday 28 March 2005

I have been following for some time with some interest the case of Terri Schiavo , although not with the kind of zeal some people , including Kender, have shown and expressed. I think partly it’s because the case isn’t being played or shown in the media over here at all, and partly because I was always seriously allergic to the real-live soap-opera quality that the American media makes of some of these legal cases ever since OJ’s trial.

My allergy developed the moment I’ve heard black people being happy about OJ being acquitted not because they thought he was innocent- most of them know he is guilty as sin- but rather because it showed white people that the legal system that imprisons so many black men is flawed and provided enough money can be beaten. That was the nature of their moral victory, and attaining justice for OJ’s wife’s murder be damned. From that moment on, I have chosen never to take a single hyped trial-starting with Chandra Levy, to Michael Jackson, to Scott Peterson, and ending with Martha freakin Stewart- seriously. And as far as I was concerned, the Shiavo’s case was in that same category, and therefore shouldn’t be followed. I know, its not fair to lump and blah blah, but whatever, sue me. Despite all that, some things in this particular case has been kinda urging me to break this rule and pay attention. Now , I have to admit I ended up giving in just this once.

The case, if you are not familiar with it because you live under a rock in the states or happen to be a non-US resident, deals with the legal battle between Terri’s Husband and Terris’s parents to let him remove her feeding tube. In 1990 at 26-years of age, Terri collapsed in her home when her heart temporarily stopped, cutting off oxygen to her brain and leaving her severely brain damaged. She has been mentally disabled ever since, and in need of a feeding tube to feed. Her Husband , 8 years later, decided to petition the courts to have her feeding tube removed, claiming that Terri told him that she did not want life-sustaining intervention in the event of her incapacitation. He won the right to do so, and Terri’s parents have been suing and appealing a storm trying to revoke the court ruling that would cause Terri to dehydrate and starve to death.

Now, let me be clear about one thing before I go any further, and it’s something you may not know about me: I am pro Death. Let me explain before you jump into any conclusions: I am pro capital punishment, I am pro suicide, I am pro assisted suicide, I am pro anything that would keep the freeway moving faster. That’s just me. I can’t understand a Left that is against capital punishment but is pro euthanasia and can’t understand a right that is pro capital punishment and is against euthanasia ( Notice how I completely avoided the topic of abortion? Yeah, not going there at all). You are either for death or not, it’s that simple in my book. So naturally, the impulsive and stupid among you will jump to the conclusion that I am for Terri’s death. Wrong! Even though I am pro Death, I am not pro-Murder, and that’s the category I believe this particular case falls in.

You see, here is the thing: The whole Terri deal is suspect for many reasons. First of all, in 1992 her husband, Michael, won a medical malpractice lawsuit after claiming that doctors failed to diagnose the chemical imbalance that caused the heart attack. The court awarded approximately $1 million in damages with $300,000 to Michael for his loss and another $700,000 to Michael for Terri’s guardianship and care. Then, Instead of using the money for her treatment, he placed her in a nursing home where Medicare took care of the majority of the expenses. Secondly, all during that trial he never once remembered Terri’s desire to die. He only recalled it 8 years later, after dating another woman whom he now has 2 kids from. He also refused to allow her parents to gain legal rights to her care of divorce her, because it would mean that he would have to give up the trust money. Once the case became public and widely know, he was offered to divorce her and get to keep the money, but he naturally refused, because it would certify his status as a grade A scumbag. Finally, the man and the judge refused to do a single MRI test to scan her brain to certify that the severity of her brain-damage would have her labeled to be in a vegetative state.( A time line of the events of this case can be found here.)

Terri is not dying or terminally ill; she is not brain-dead or in a coma. She is an otherwise healthy mentally disabled woman. The diagnosis that she is in a “vegetative state” is disputed by many medical experts, including neurologists. Yet, Michael was able to get a ruling to remove her tube and starve her to death, even though there isn’t a single piece of paper or a single witness that would back up his claim that “this is what Terri would’ve wanted”. The man has gone to the extent that he won’t allow her to receive bread in her communion cause if she swallows it , it would mean that she has enough brain responsiveness in her that would rule out the theory that she is a vegetable. That’s just wrong.

But as much as I am sympathizing with her and think her Husband is a scumbag, I can’t help but be dismayed by how the whole thing is becoming a political circus. First Jeb Bush intervened, then the state legislators, then congress and now President Bush. There are people saying that this is part of the American culture war, the religious right jumped on the whole thing and vigils and prayers are held all over and people arrested. The whole thing is now portrayed as evidence of judicial power run amok and “activist judges” deciding things for the majority of the people. Some people say that this whole thing is a referendum on euthanasia, while some republican politicians are gloating over the chance to further eviscerate the democrats. As William Sleatan says here, the whole issue has stopped being about Terri a long time ago. And while I don’t agree with his conclusion in this article, I have to concede that he is right. The issue is no longer Terri, she has just became the poster child for a whole range of issues that starts from euthanasia, passes by the powers of the judicial branch and ending with how democrats are bad bad people. I , while can see how those issues relate to the event or how this case can be used to further the agenda of both the left and the right, would have to disagree that this isn’t what the Terri Shiavo case is about. It’s not about the judicial branch overstepping its bounds nor is it about euthanasia, no matter how much people want it to be.

The real issue here, if you are really interested, is disability rights. I could explain it, but Harriet Johnson , a disability right’s lawyer, has explained it so much better on Slate that I should just let her talk. What she wrote was an article of 10 points one should take into consideration while viewing Terri’s case ( I am using 3 of them, although I recommend you reading the whole thing) :

Ms. Schiavo, like all people, incapacitated or not, has a federal constitutional right not to be deprived of her life without due process of law.

In addition to the rights all people enjoy, Ms. Schiavo has a statutory right under the Americans With Disabilities Act not to be treated differently because of her disability. Obviously, Florida law would not allow a husband to kill a nondisabled wife by starvation and dehydration; killing is not ordinarily considered a private family concern or a matter of choice. It is Ms. Schiavo’s disability that makes her killing different in the eyes of the Florida courts. Because the state is overtly drawing lines based on disability, it has the burden under the ADA of justifying those lines.

In other contexts, federal courts are available to make sure state courts respect federally protected rights. This review is critical not only to the parties directly involved, but to the integrity of our legal system. Although review will very often be a futile last-ditch effort—as with most death-penalty habeas petitions—federalism requires that the federal government, not the states, have the last word. When the issue is the scope of a guardian’s authority, it is necessary to allow other people, in this case other family members, standing to file a legal challenge.

Get it people? Hmm, maybe I will let her quote a liberal democratic senator to support her case to further explain it:

In the Senate, a key supporter of a federal remedy was Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a progressive Democrat and longtime friend of labor and civil rights, including disability rights. Harkin told reporters, “There are a lot of people in the shadows, all over this country, who are incapacitated because of a disability, and many times there is no one to speak for them, and it is hard to determine what their wishes really are or were. So I think there ought to be a broader type of a proceeding that would apply to people in similar circumstances who are incapacitated.”

What this case really underlines is whether or not people with diasabilities similar to Terri’s have the right to keep on living. What this case argues, in essence, that even though Terri doesn’t need any form of life-support but a feeding tube ( she can control all of the other body functions), she should be placed in the same category as the people who need life-support systems like breath and heart regulator in order to survive for the next 3 minutes. While you could argue that they are similar in the aspect that they are both cases where the patients are brain-dead, Terri has survived for 11 days so far without food or water ever since they removed her feeding tube. There is a big difference between someone who is on a respirator in order to live and someone who just can’t eat or drink on her own, just like a person in a coma. Would you like for your doctor to starve you to death if you fell in a coma, because you are unresponsive and can’t feed yourself? That’s not mercy killing, that’s blatant slow-torture murder.

Look, I support euthanasia personally, but there has to be a better process to determine whether or not it should be granted, and there has to be concrete evidence that it is the will of the person who wants to die; and in the absence of that there should be at least more then one witness who would testify that they were told that this was what the incapacitated person wanted and there should be no reasonable doubt that they would have an ulterior motive but the fulfillment of that person’s will. That’s my own criterion, and i think it’s a reasonable one.

The facts in this case are that 1) there is no actual evidence anywhere that Terri- a devout catholic mind you- wanted that, 2) no other person witnessed her say that but her husband , 3) who has another girlfriend and two kids and 4) who is also using part of Terri’s care trust money to pay for the trial’s expenses and didn’t spend the money in any way to treat or care for her so far. The whole thing fails every logical test for granting euthanasia in my book. This is attempted murder with the court’s full sanction and legal protection and provides a precedent and a great opportunity and excuse for other people to do the same in the future. This isn’t a right to death case people, this is a right to kill case, and that right has just been granted.

The Sandmonkey @ 4:07 am
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Scorched Cedars

Posted on Sunday 27 March 2005

I came back home yesterday around 10 pm to my house to find my Granny sitting in the living room watching the news. The screen showed what seemed like the sight of a huge explosion with at least 2 buildings on fire. Before I could say anything, I knew what it was and what had happened, and my fears were confirmed by my granny saying “ you see what they are doing in Lebanon? This is really horrible? Who would do such a thing?”, and I looked at her , wanting to give her a different answer , but only one word came to my mind: “Syria”!

This is the third explosion so far in a Christian neighborhood, and thankfully the Christian Lebanese are being too smart to fall in the Syrian trap of sectarian violence. It seems that the Syrians were serious regarding their threat of leaving Lebanon a “scorched earth”. The Syrians know that their only hope of surviving is if they scare the shit out of the Christians and the opposition to make them believe that they need the Syrian troop presence or at least scare them enough that they don’t go voting for an anti-Syria government in the next elections. God knows that things don’t look too good for the current pro-Syria Lebanese government, especially with the new UN report on the Harriri assassination that seriously condemns the Lebanese and Syrian governments and accuses them of covering things up when it comes to Harriri’s death. ( you can read the whole report here)

The Syrians of course are denying it all and actually blaming Harriri’s death on- get this- the UN security council resolution 1559 that was drafted to get them out. That, of course, is bullshit, considering that it was Harriri’s connection with the French that has got them to draft and sponsor the resolution to begin with. The French know this and are so mad at the Syrians that they actually threaten to use military action against Syria if they don’t withdraw from Lebanon. You know you are in trouble when even the French wanna kick your ass.

I just hope that the Lebanese stay smart and not fall into Syria’s trap and keep their cool till the next elections, and then vote and proceed to send Karami, Lahoud and the rest of Bashar’s goons packing. Even if they succeed in scorching Lebanon as they withdraw, the rest of the world will help rebuild it and the whole world will know for certain what kind of pieces of shit Bashar and his peeps really are. I just hope it doesn’t come to that and that they stop messing with Lebanon and its people. They had to deal with enough shit already.

The Sandmonkey @ 7:09 am
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Phoney Mujahedeen

Posted on Saturday 26 March 2005

I mused previously over here on how the Iraqi mujahedeen -the suicide-bombing division specifically-did business and how some of those suicidebombers turned out to be mentally retarded( I know it sounds redundent, but i mean it in the actual sense) or actually tricked by the Zarqawi people. Apparently it’s not only the suicide-bombing division that’s phoney amongs the mujahedeen, and that thanks to an Iraqi TV show many iraqis are actually finding that out, as this Middle-east Times piece shows:

Looking cowed and frightened, a bruised young man looks into the television camera and stammers replies to questions from an unseen interrogator. Yes, he says, he was paid to kidnap foreigners in Baghdad. No, he was not a mujahid (holy warrior); just a common criminal cashing in on Iraq’s climate of fear.

The man, described as a captured insurgent, is making a public confession on a TV program on Iraq’s government-run Al Iraqiya television station called “Terror in the Hands of Justice”.

Twice daily, Iraqis watch fascinated as a procession of alleged Islamist guerrillas reveal the details of terrorist operations on what can be described as an Iraqi variation on “America’s Most Wanted”.

One man said that he had stalked 10 college girls who were translators for the US Army, then raped them and killed all of them. Another described how he had beheaded several hostages after first practicing on animals.

What’s the purpose behind this show you may wonder?

The program has a double aim of showing Iraqis their tax dollars at work: in other words, Iraq’s security services making headway in combating the mainly Sunni Muslim insurgency. The second aim is to undermine the mystique of a sinister force that had spread terror among ordinary Iraqis, and to embolden people to come forward with information.

The irony of the situation is that in true middle-eastern homophobic fashion, the show was able to portray a lot of those “freedom-fighters” in, ehh, gay light:

A report in Thursday’s Financial Times said that the television program has discredited the mujahideen and their professions of religious fervor by showing captured insurgents who said that they were homosexuals – still not a socially acceptable group in much of the Middle East. As a result the word mujahid “once worn as a badge of pride by anti-American insurgents has become street slang for homosexuals”, the paper reported.

LoL.

Now that’s a bit unfair, don’t you think? I mean, just because they hang out with men all the time, want women coverd and hidden from their sight because they might make some men horny, and have no problem killing women who wear revealing cloths that may entice their “brothers in arms” in maybe not hanging out with them, well, that doesn’t make them gay, right? right?

Ehh, apparently wrong:

Some of the captured guerrillas confessed to holding gay orgies. Recently, Abu Tabarek, a preacher, confessed that insurgents had held morally deviant parties in his mosques.

Hmmm……

Well, you can guess which iraqi ethnic group is not amused by this TV show. Here is a hint: their name starts with an S, and no, not that group that is in power right now. Get it? Awww, fuck it: The Sunnis man. The Sunnis are not amused by this TV show at all. Geee, I wonder why?

One indication of the program’s effectiveness is the anger of many Sunnis at the way “Terror in the Hands of Justice” holds up the insurgency to public ridicule. Even Sunnis who are not necessarily supporters of armed opposition to the United States and the fledgling Iraqi government object to the insurgents being portrayed as bloodthirsty, corrupt, venal, morally deviant and religiously hypocritical. Some senior Sunni politicians are pressing the government to take the show off the air, claiming that it is divisive.

The insurgants, bloodthirsty? NOOOOOOOOOO. Not the insurgants! They are as cute and cuddley as puppies. I mean, they are forced to kidnapp ionnocent bystanders and slaughter them like sheep. Not to mention, the whole suicide-bombing thing? Just their way of blowing off some steam. It’s not their fault that people insist on being around them when they blow themselves up. Right?

The best part about this article though, is the producers’ response to the complaints by the Sunni leaders. If there is ever a doubt that having americans occupying iraq influenced iraqi thinking with american culture, then there was never a better evidence of that then the producers second reason to not take the show off the air.

Reports say that the producers are sympathetic, but put forward two arguments for keeping it on. Firstly, it has made Iraqis less fearful of retaliation if they come forward with information about insurgent suspects. Secondly, it has something television executives dream of: it is a hit.

God Bless America!

The Sandmonkey @ 2:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Nour- Mubarak Squaredance

Posted on Thursday 24 March 2005

Recently I sat down with my friend A. , who happens to be the son of an MP that belongs to an Egyptian opposition party. Me and A. differ on many topics, like the role of religion in politics (he is for political Islam) or the US invasion of Iraq, but we always maintained a respectful relationship regarding one another regardless of how bitterly we fought over a topic. Not to mention, like me, A. loves to hear a good counter argument. He can’t stand people who can’t back up their point of view or talk about things of which they have no real knowledge of and immediately proceeds to rip them a new asshole. I like that about him. We need more people like that in the world. Anyway…

The topic of discussion was Ayman Nour and his announcement that he nominated himself for president in the next Egyptian presidential elections after his release from prison. I , while defended him and what he stands for, knew that I knew nothing of his history before the formation of Hezb ElGhad (Tommorw’s party), or how he managed to get that party approved to begin with. A.‘s father happens to be a good close friend of Nour, so I figured I would ask him for the straight dope. The story he told me is one that I can not personally back or verify, but what I can say is that it does make sense in its context and with the stories I heard of him from my own mother. So here I go, relaying what I heard to you and you can decide for yourselves if it sounds legit, or bullshit. Ok?

Ok.

Ayman Nour is a first time MP who ran originally on the Wafd party, the most prominent opposition party before Hezbelghad, ticket and won. He was a lawyer and a journalist, and he used to write a column in his party’s newspaper. Nour apparently wanted to become the vice–president of the party during the party’s elections and lobbied hard for the position claiming that no one else was more qualified for the post but him, which didn’t make him very popular amongst the party’s powerbrokers. The disagreement escalated and after he lost the elections they went ahead and expelled him from the party. Nour was still an MP, but he no longer had the support or the protection of being a member of a political party, which is why he wanted to create a new party.

Now, while he was trying to from a party and getting his application rejected, all of Egypt’s opposition parties- empowered by the US push for democracy in the middle east- got together despite their ideological differences and formed a list of demands from the government that stressed two main points: 1) Amending the constitution to allow for direct and open presidential elections and 2) creating a 2 –term limit for the presidency. They decided amongst themselves that they can concede on the second point and not stress running the elections this time around, if it meant that the first demand got met. Basically they said that they are willing to take on another 6 year term of Mubarak if it means that in 6 years they can have an open elections for the presidency. They figured it would be enough time for them to get organized, to start grooming nominees and setting party agendas and policies. They thought that Mubarak would have no problem agreeing to that, since it means that they will support him and his run for president for another 6 years. Mubarak, unfortunately, did not see it this way at all.

Mubarak apparently felt that the opposition were using American pressure on him to embarrass him and challenge his rule, but he couldn’t really do anything about it since it would look really bad in front of the Americans if he resorted to old tactics. Not to mention, the fact that all the opposition parties ( liberal, socialist, capitalist, islamist, Nasserite) managed to organize themselves and establish a united front got him worried, even if their alliance was in essence symbolic. Following the old machiavellian handbook, he figured that the best way to conquer them is to divide them, and in order to do that he needed an opposition party that would infiltrate them and cause problems and make them look divisive and weak. Since all of the opposition parties were already in that alliance and were dead serious about it, he knew that he couldn’t use any of the ones existing in the Egyptian political scene. He needed a new party, a party that would seem to oppose him but would be under his control. And that’s when someone suggested to him the name of Ayman Nour.

Nour was the perfect choice for Mubarak for many reasons, but mainly because he was alone and because he drove The Wafd people nuts. If his party gets approved, and then asks to join the opposition coalition, the Wafd people would definitely disagree, which wouldn’t be the same case with the remaining parties, who would see another opposition party joining them to be a good thing. The parties would disagree, in-fighting would start, the opposition’s coalition would crumble. End of story. Mubarak’s plan was perfect, except for a minor detail: he underestimated Nour’s intelligence and desire for power.

Nour met with Mubarak, who informed him of his plan and how he will allow him his new party as long as he stays his lapdog and agent against the other opposition parties. Nour pretended to agree, and told Mubarak that he is his man and that he has no problem playing that role for him, since it would ensure him prominence and power. Mubarak thought all is well and gave the green light for the party to be approved, feeling very good about himself and his political suaveness. He stopped feeling this way when 2 days after he got his party approved and officially established, Nour jumped on a plane to the USA to meet with US congress members to inform them that he is the new opposition in Egypt and that he was their democratic alternative to the dictatorship of Mubarak. Mubarak, naturally , was not amused; but little did he know that his headache was just getting started.

Nour then proceeded with his next move, which was to give his party credibility with the Americans. He approached Mona Makram Abeid, a known Christian female politician and a descendent of an Egyptian heroic figure, to be his second in command. He then started approaching other MP’s and started convincing them to join his party and very quickly his party become the opposition party with the most seats in parliament. That’s when the Americans really started to notice him and take him seriously. A Pro-US party that has females and Christians in power has been nothing but a fantasy for many people in the US state department, and now , suddenly, it was real, it existed and it was the biggest opposition party in Egypt. “Holy shit people, we need to support those guys ASAP”, someone must’ve said, and support they did. Madeline Allbirght was sent as a special envoy to meet with Nour, the US ambassador David Welch had dinner with Nour at his house. Nour was making the right kind of moves, which is precisely what got Mubarak really worried of him. So he decided to take action and throw Nour in jail on fake forgery charges, thinking that the old methods might work to stop Nour from getting more prominence. Muabark apparently is getting stupid in his old age, because he miscalculated again in 2 aspects: 1) These were the days of Bush, where no US official is willing to look the other way in the middle-east when it comes to democracy; and 2) he underestimated how much the Egyptian people hated him and his government. Mubarak locking him up the way he did made an instant political hero and martyr of Nour in the eyes of the Egyptian people, not to mention gave him serious publicity and attention. Suddenly everyone knew of Ayman Nour and Tomorrow’s party. Things started slowly going from bad to worse for Mubarak: International exposure was cast on Nour’s arrest thanks to Nour’s wife who works as a correspondent for Newsweek in Egypt; a US Department of State briefing mentioned Nour by name; the European countries started exerting pressure on Mubarak to let Nour out; Condi canceled her trip to Egypt. Shit was seriously hitting the fan now and it was all getting propelled in Mubarak’s direction.

Mubarak tried to appease the Americans using, again, old solutions, like being a broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians and hosting the Sharm El sheikh summit, but it had little or no effect on the Americans. He knew that he had to let Nour out, but he had to also show that he was for democracy in Egypt, to score points with Bush. So he announced that he would allow for anyone to run against him in the Egyptian presidential elections. Of course, a day before his announcement he orderd that registration to vote in this year’s election to be closed. And after creating such a huge democratic buzz, he released Nour, who still in prison’s cloths, announced his run for the Egyptian presidency.

And that’s the story till now ladies and gentlemen.

What is the moral of this story you ask? Well, that Nour is a political snake, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. We needed someone who can play the game to get old Mubarak worried and give him a run for his money. Not to mention, the opposition parties are loving it, cause as long as the government is focused on Nour and his party, they are not focusing on them. If Nour loses his battle, it’s no skin off their back, but if he wins, they all stand to reap the fruits of his labor. So it’s all good as far as they are concerned. And I concur.

And that, my friends, is all I have to say about this topic today.

The Sandmonkey @ 7:03 am
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All Apologies

Posted on Thursday 24 March 2005

I am really sorry for the lack of posting this week, but I had a huge work load subjected on me in an attempt by my direct superior to make me look like the “incompetent fool” he claims I am to everyone else in top management, because he knows top management likes me and might replace him with me. You know, the usual song and dance of incompetent people afraid for their positions which they know they don’t deserve. Unfortunately for him, the nature of my job allows me to interact directly with top management and do jobs for them without my superior’s supervision and interference. So, in order to make me look bad and ruin my deadlines, he kept handing me “last minute assignments” of “extreme importance” to be my “top priority” to waste my time. Needless to say, he didn’t know who he was messing with and I ended up working till 8 pm everyday this week to finish everything I was given on time. And today its over, so now I can finally catch up on some blogging.

On a side note, thanks for everyone sharing their stories involving office politics, I am glad to know I am not the only one.

The Sandmonkey @ 7:00 am
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My question answerd

Posted on Saturday 19 March 2005

If you recall, i wonderd a couple of weeks ago here about who really controls things in Syria. I held the conviction that maybe Bashar is innocent of all of this and it’s just the old guard from the days of his dad’s regime. This NY Times story is making me think i may have been just a little naive about it all:

When Bashar al-Assad inherited the presidency of Syria from his father five years ago, there was talk of a new era. An ophthalmologist trained in England, the soft-spoken young Assad favored economic reform and openness to dissent. He shunned the personality cult of Arab dictators, declining to paper the country with his image.

Last week, though, his picture was on every street corner as Damascus held a well-orchestrated rally celebrating his rule.

The posters are the most visible and recent sign that Mr. Assad, 39, has shifted tactics, starting a campaign to consolidate power and shore up his position in the midst of the international crisis over Syria’s three-decade domination of Lebanon.

“Bashar is learning that his father did things for a reason,” says Joshua Landis of the University of Oklahoma and the Web site Syriacomment .com, who is spending 2005 in Damascus. “If you’re going to be a dictator you’re going to have to act like one.”

Beginning last summer, analysts and diplomats here say, Mr. Assad purged the ranks of the military, sidelined prospective opponents and wrested control of foreign policy, especially the “Lebanon file,” from his vice president.

More recently Mr. Assad’s vulnerability became a point of discussion in Syrian back rooms, diplomats say, and that was cause for alarm.

So last July Mr. Assad reached for power. He began enforcing a longstanding age limit in the military, sending some 440 senior officers into retirement. He also managed to push out his army chief of staff, Gen. Imad Ali Aslan. He kept his confidants and young friends on the margins of the government, awaiting an entry, while actively playing the last remnants of the old guard against the new guard.

Wow, someone has been doing their homework.

Best of luck Bisho, maybe you will gain total control papa Assad style and then maybe, just maybe, in a couple of years, you will be crawling out of your own spider hole Saddam style!

Keep it up dude, It’s a winning strategy!

The Sandmonkey @ 12:06 am
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A blast from the past

Posted on Friday 18 March 2005

It has begun!

With Lebanese politicians deadlocked over the formation of a new government as Syria withdraws its forces after 29 years, a car bomb rocked a largely Christian neighborhood in north Beirut early Saturday, injuring seven people and causing extensive damage.

The target of the attack wasn’t immediately clear but it added to the political turmoil after the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the subsequent withdrawal of Syrian troops to east Lebanon and Syria.

Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have been participating in demonstrations for and against Syria since Hariri was killed. Anti-Syrian opposition demonstrations have included large numbers of Maronite Christians.

The explosion played to concerns among some Lebanese that pro-Syrian elements might resort to violence to show, in their view, the need for continued presence by Damascus forces.

Bashar, Syria, honestly, Shame on you.

The Sandmonkey @ 11:59 pm
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Unforseen circumstances

Posted on Thursday 17 March 2005

Due to a huge workload that got dumped on me today and the fact that my superior is trying his best to make me look incompetent cause he is so threatend by me, i am gonna have to not blog today- and work till really late tonight- in order to ruin his nefarious schemes for him. It is unfortunate cause i’ve had a lot to say today, but this is office politics people, and you know how those can be war. Don’t worry about me though: while i am no fan of such underhanded dirty warfare, i am very good at them when i wanna be and i have been preparing my defenses and plan of attack for months now. The man will be toast as long as he doesn’t get anything on me. So in order for that not to happen, there will be no further posts today. Sorry.

PS: but here is a topic to discuss by either posting a comment -if you manage- or by sending me an e-mail if you wish: Dirty sneaky people in general. Some people think that interacting with such pieces of shit individuals to be something that they would rather avoid at all costs due to the kind of stress and bullshit involved; Me, i believe that dealing with such evil fuckers, while shitty, could be quite beneficial for you on the long run. It’s always good to be prepared and to know how to deal with such people, cause they are everywhere these days, and the only way to do that is by gaining experience through such confrontations. So, in a way, such experiences are good for you. That’s what i think, what about you? What’s your opinion on the matter? Please inform me.

The Sandmonkey @ 3:01 am
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Get them while they are young

Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

A lot of people- me among them- in the middle-east claim that arabs are losing the culture war with the west because we are illprepared with out own cultural alternatives. When it comes to movies, music, fashion or whatever, the western countries seem to be able to kick everyone’s ass in the department of exporting cultures. The protectionists- among the arabs- would always complain about the good old days when “music meant something” and ” movies were good” and frown upon today’s music and movies and quite naturally morals. I am not a protectionist by any means when it comes to the arts or cultures, but rather a purist. I am from the school that if a culture can’t compete with another in terms of values, presntations, richness and salesmanship, then maybe it’s time for that culture to whiter away and die. Not wanting that to happen to middle-eastern culture-egyptian in specific- i always lamented that if we could learn from western countries and borrow some pages from their playbook, then we would be able to bring our cultural beliefs into the 21st century and have it repackaged in a way that would hold an appeal to the younger generations and allow those beliefs and values to survive.Oh how I wished that some people would take the first step and produce something that would combine the packaging and salesmanship of the west and the ideals of the middle-east.

The old saying that reminds you that you should be careful what you wish for? I hate it when it rings true.

I seem to have gotten my wish, in a really twisted way, in a media forum i really didn’t think about: Comic Books.

Let me introduce you to AK comics ( hat tip: Jesse), which promises “Middle-east Heros” to its readers. It holds 4 differnet characters with 4 different universes in publication: Rakan, Jaila, Zain and Aya. In the words of the people who created the comics they are “four characters are destined to become the new household figures and their names will be synonyms for peace, justice and pride in the Middle East. Each hero is a unique blend of traditional, modern and futuristic qualities that symbolize and represent the Middle East nations.”

Sounds nice, no?

Well it depends on how you look at it.

Take for example Jaila: she protects “the city of all faiths” from the evil “Zios” army. Get it? City of all faiths? Zios army? wink wink nudge nudge.Ohh yeah, and Jaila parents died in the “55 years war” and she has two brothers, Raed and Khalid (hey jeff, jarrars anyone?), one of them became a drug addict cause of his parents death, and the other joined a terrorist group for the same reason. Gotta love the hidden moral of that story.

If that is not enough for you to get what i am trying to note here, then you might agree with the view that maybe it’s just a coincidence that almost every villian in those comic books holds a western or english name. For example:One of Rakan’s enemies is Ripper; Jaila’s archnemesis is called “Atom”;Aya enemies include Donga and José Darian. Isn’t that nice folks? I think it’s just dandy.

But hey, who knows, maybe it is a positive step after all. I mean, besides getting the kids when they are young and planting certain- let’s say- “ideological seeds” in them, those comics might actually get some people who might not be so ideologiclaly driven to produce their own brand of comic books. One that doesn’t have westerners and foreigners as the prime enemy for “Middle-eastern” heros. I know it’s an almost non-existant silver lining, but it’s all that i got for now.

Oh well…

The Sandmonkey @ 10:35 pm
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Putting my foot down!

Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

Okay, there comes a time when a blogger has to step in and interfere personally in his/her comments section. I usually prefer to not do that partly because I believe that people are entitled to express whatever opinions they hold- no matter how stupid or deluded or extreme- as long as they can defend them and partly because between my job, writing those posts, maintaining a social life, taking care of my mom and sleep, I simply do not have the time to leave or comment on the comments people leave. Today, I decided not to blog as much and do some responses instead, because it was brought to my attention that discourse over here has turned kinda ugly, so I am gonna have to put my foot down.

Now, first of all, the Louise and Twosret beef: To clarify things, Twosret, what Louise said that men who have swaggering machismo make lousy lovers for the women they are with. She didn’t say that all Syrian and Lebanese are lousy lovers, just the really angry kind. Now, louise, it’s safe to assume that this might be kind of a generalization, cause let’s face it, most of the people at protests who are angry are usually angry at a certain incident or issue. They don’t all have anger management issues or machismo overdose. Not to mention it means they are passionate about things, and u know how important passion when it come to being a lover. Either way, it was a generalization to probably label all of them to be bad in whatever relationships they would get involved in. The same goes for you twosret: saying that all american lovers are lousy and that american women would be wowed by syrian and lebanese lovers is one hell of a generalization as well. What, did you try them all out and conducted a survey? Not to mention, we all know that there is only country that always produces studs in the sack and that country is of course EGYPT (Sorry, couldn’t help it), and I can’t believe I am even writing this or having this discussion on a political blog. How did it come to this? Anyway..

The point is, the two of you are two smart intelligent well read women who have been leaving comments on this blog since its inception; You shouldn’t be calling eachother sluts or shits or whatever. This adds nothing to the discussion. Twosret, Louise has actually said that she did find the US unflinching support to Israel over the year troubling and a big part of the problem, and she is a right-wing Bush supporter. This is one thing that the two of you seem to agree on. Louise thinks it’s a hopeless cause however, and Twosret doesn’t. Why not discuss that instead of calling each other names? Sure, call eachother’s views naïve, or deluded, or even stupid. But anything beyond that is crossing the line into personal insult category and only me is allowed to stoop that low on this blog ( because I am the writer and I could do as I please goddamn it). So please, if it’s possible, apologize to eachother for taking it that far and if not, at least try to play nice when you are at my turf. And if you have to insult something, then please insult the ideas, not the person. This goes double to you as well David. One more personal insult to anyone and I might have to take you on personally and believe me you don’t wanna be on the bad side of this sandmonkey.

Now moving on to Mr. James: dude, the thing about the splodyvest? SOOO NOT COOOOL when dealing with arabs, and with Palestinians especially. God knows I am not mr. PC in any way shape or form, but you are definately crossing the line for a lot of people there. My personal advice: don’t go there. I understand your point and what you meant, but any point you would’ve made in that comment got marginalized by adding that little statement. It’s kinda of ignorant and unrealistic, cause there are a lot of people over here sharing Twosret’s views and they are not blowing themselves up anytime soon. And to prove my point further to you : T. is actually a Christian, and a very practicing one, so let me assure you she is not gonna pull any jihadist stunts, ever. An apology might also be in order, just a suggestion.

Then we have Sheriene. Hi Shery. Personal Note: Just because people don’t think exactly like you doesn’t make them stupid, nor does it make you more intelligent then them. This blog lacks intellectuals? What makes you the authority on who is or isn’t an intellectual sweetie? I am glad you are here, I like your comments and I want you to stay, if for no other reason that Tina and Louise make such an effective tag team for their side that it would be good to have one from the other side and you and T. would be prime candidates for it. Not to mention, I always feel bad for T being the lone dissenting voice on this blog. She could use the support. Ya know? But yeah, you wanna discuss things intellectually, then raise intellectual topics and be prepared to discuss them with people who might not share your point of view at all. Unless you are prepared to do that sweetie, you have no right to complain about the “intellectuals” on this blog. You live in a glass house babe, you shouldn’t be throwing stones.

And finally, last but not least, Mr. Karim. Kimo, habiby, I want you to take a look at the pics that I posted today from yesterday’s protest against Syria in Lebanon. It seems that this is not just me who has got his wires crossed, more then a million Lebanese (Christian, sunni and druze-which one are you btw?) seem to have their wires crossed as well. Strange phenomenon, don’t you think? But answering your point and Highlander’s point before you (btw, highlander, I can’t access your blog anymore. What’s up with that?), I do recognize that Syria did come to Lebanon initially to keep the peace and I am glad they did that. But I also recognize that the Ta’af agreement, which was drafted in 1989 by the way, stated that a timetable for Syrian withdrawal had to be made, something the Syrians stalled on for 15 years and for good reason: They needed Lebanon. They needed Lebanon for strategic reasons: as a buffer zone between them and Israel and a spring board from which they can attack Israel indirectly, cause they can’t afford to attack it directly. They needed Lebanon for economic reasons: Lebanon provided a place for cheap Syrian labor to get jobs and get dollars that would be transferred back to Syria, which doesn’t have anything resembling a real economy anyway. So they need the Lebanese economy in order to survive. The Lebanese don’t like it because they suffer from unemployment and because Syria dictates what goes down in the Lebanese political scene. For the Lebanese people there these days, things are stable and the possibility of another civil war is the last thing on anyone’s mind. They feel like they don’t need the Syrians running things anymore, but the Syrians don’t wanna leave. Hence the current problem.

As for the wrong image to the west accusation, I am not gonna answer that. There are pics posted below. They will answer that for me. And yes , the Egyptians love the Lebanese, and I do for personal reasons (one of my favorite ex’s was Lebanese). I love Lebanon so much that I would like it to be sovereign and independent. I would love that for Lebanon and I am not Lebanese, I find it ironic that you are Lebanese and you don’t!

That is all I have to say today folks. We will resume our regular broadcasting tomorrow.

Have a nice day,

SAM

The Sandmonkey @ 5:28 am
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111087517022203494

Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

Will you look at that? Posted by Hello

The Sandmonkey @ 12:26 am
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111087512308327527

Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

I love his Fashion sense Posted by Hello

The Sandmonkey @ 12:25 am
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Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

hehehe Posted by Hello

The Sandmonkey @ 12:24 am
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111087467269570060

Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

In any language you want Bashar Posted by Hello

The Sandmonkey @ 12:17 am
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Posted on Tuesday 15 March 2005

wow Posted by Hello

The Sandmonkey @ 12:17 am
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