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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman Goes to the Wall

High priest of globalization lashes out against the enemies of progress

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Republican National Convention made a joke of American democracy

In a pair of recent articles, “Web People Versus Wall People” and “How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times expresses deep concern that Clinton’s primary-season “lean” toward the politics of Bernie Sanders isn’t fake enough.

It’s been a whole week since the convention, and Hillary still hasn’t yet gone back to being the unabashed friend to big banks and staunch advocate for free trade and deregulation she just spent all of last year pretending she was not. This has Friedman freaked out.

Andrew Bossone  commented and shared this link

“Manufacturers just went abroad, to dictatorships and communist oligarchies, to make their products, forcing American workers to compete not just against foreign workers, but against their own history and legal systems.

People forget that when it comes to labor relations, America had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, in the direction of the civilized world.

Attempts to ban child labor in this country failed repeatedly, and we didn’t actually pass a federal child labor law that stuck until 1938.

Airlines in America were still firing flight attendants for getting married through the mid-eighties.”

rollingstone.com
Thomas fears Hillary is leaning in the direction of socialism, “the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor,” as opposed to staying true to the capitalist ethos of her husband, which would “grow our pie bigger and faster”:

I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth…

(Ever economic growth is no longer sustainable: Get out of this mid set and start producing what can be sustained)

Friedman is conceding that inequality and unfairness are legitimate concerns. He’s just saying that now that the people most concerned about these issues have been beaten at the polls, we can safely go back to ignoring them and letting the beneficiaries of inequality worry about how and when to fix it.

This “let’s grow our pie bigger and faster” column (does this make more or less sense than George Bush’s famous “we should make the pie higher” idea?) comes on the heels of last week’s “Webs and Walls” column on the same theme.

This remarkable article divided the world into two groups of people. Roughly speaking, Friedman is talking about people who embrace globalization (“Web people”) versus people who reject it (“Wall people”).

This is already a confusing metaphor because the campaigns of the two candidates Friedman identifies as riling up the “Wall” people, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, were heavily reliant on Internet media, i.e. the Web.

Meanwhile, Friedman’s definition of “web people” describes individuals who:

Instinctively understand that Democrats and Republicans both built their platforms largely in response to the Industrial Revolution, the New Deal and the Cold War, but that today, a 21st-century party needs to build its platform in response to the accelerations in technology, globalization and climate change, which are the forces transforming the workplace, geopolitics and the very planet.

That seems like a very specific and weird belief system, probably unique to writers for the New York Times named Thomas Friedman.

Friedman never explains what any of this has to do with “webs” – is it an Internet thing? Do they have webbed hands?

(Friedman adopts new technology lexical to bypass his mind-fix)

But whatever, we get it, sort of. “Web people” embrace the future and “open systems,” i.e. free trade, bringing us closer to the heart of what Friedman is talking about.

Friedman is right that this election, like the Brexit vote, has really been a referendum on globalization. What’s infuriating is the cartoonish way he defines the critics of globalization.

“Wall people” in his mind are either xenophobic Trumpites who don’t want a flood of dirty, rapey immigrants entering their towns, or they’re Sanders socialists who don’t want to compete with foreign workers and insist on government handouts.

(Has Thomas ever worked at a minimum paid job?)

With regard to the latter, what troubles Friedman the most is the way Hillary is cozying up to her critics on the left:

She is opposing things she helped to negotiate, like the Pacific trade deal, and offering more benefits from government but refraining from telling people the hardest truth: that to be in the middle class, just working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t cut it anymore.

To have a lifelong job, you need to be a lifelong learner, constantly raising your game. (At the expense of the developing people?)

Yes, to get by these days, working hard isn’t enough to keep a job. You need to be “constantly raising your game.” Either that, or you need to marry a shopping mall heiress and write books fawning over Fortune 500 companies.

Friedman’s glib definition of globalization goes virtually unchallenged in the pundit-o-sphere, which by and large agrees with him that critics of globalism are either racists or afraid of capitalism.

But this issue is infinitely more complicated than that.

We never really had a referendum on globalization in America. It just sort of happened. (The US being left unchallenged after the fall of the Berlin Wall?)

People had jobs one day, then the next morning they were fired, replaced by 14-year-olds in Indonesia or sweatshop laborers in Bangladesh, working in unsafe hell-holes without overtime or health care, beaten when they don’t make quotas.

What exactly does “raising your game” mean in the context of that sort of competition?

Globalization in the snap of a finger essentially erased nearly two centuries of America’s bloody labor history.

It’s as if the Thibodeaux Massacre, the hangings of the Molly McGuires, the Pullman Strike, the L.A. Times bombing, the Flint sit-in and thousands of other strikes and confrontations never took place.

“Friedman’s glib definition of globalization goes virtually unchallenged in the pundit-o-sphere, which by and large agrees with him that critics of globalism are either racists or afraid of capitalism.”

In the new paradigm, all of those agonizing controversies and wars of political attrition, which collectively produced a vast set of rules and standards for dealing with workers, were simply wiped away.

Manufacturers just went abroad, to dictatorships and communist oligarchies, to make their products, forcing American workers to compete not just against foreign workers, but against their own history and legal systems.

People forget that when it comes to labor relations, America had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, in the direction of the civilized world.

Attempts to ban child labor in this country failed repeatedly, and we didn’t actually pass a federal child labor law that stuck until 1938. Airlines in America were still firing flight attendants for getting married through the mid-eighties.

Now all that work spent to get even past those most basic problems is at risk. In the global economy, employers can look at their business models as one giant arbitrage.

You do your banking in the laissez-faire havens of the Caribbean, build factories in slave-labor capitals like China or Indonesia, buy swaps in less-regulated financial atmospheres in London, sell your products in America and Europe, etc.

You also arrange your corporate structures so that you pay the smallest amount of tax possible, often by threatening to move until you receive subsidies and exemptions.

This leads to bizarre situations like Boeing making $26 billion in U.S. profits over a five-year period and receiving a U.S. federal tax refund of $401 million over the same time.

This whole situation has raised profound questions that nobody has ever bothered to try to answer for ordinary voters, as in: What are nation-states for, in a global economy?

What’s the point of all of our labor laws, or voting-rights laws, the first amendment and a host of other American legal traditions if large pluralities of American manufacturers do their business in countries like China, where human rights abuses are rampant, political freedom is nonexistent and speech is tightly controlled?

Friedman’s description of “Wall People” is probably somewhat true when it comes to Trump voters, many of whom do just want to be physically walled off from a confusing, racially diverse world.

But to dismiss the rest of globalization’s critics as communists who hate freedom and just want to curl up in the lap of government and hide from change is absurd and insulting.

Most educated people accept and embrace the idea of an increasingly integrated world. The problem is how to go forward into the future in a way that’s fair and doesn’t increase oppression, pollution, child labor, even slavery and indenture, to say nothing of the disenfranchisement of the ex-middle class in places like America.

These are very difficult questions. They’re ones that probably won’t have positive solutions without the determined leadership of the world’s bigger democratic powers, like the U.S. and the E.U.

The problem is that the major parties in the United States in particular seem almost totally disinterested in addressing the inequities of globalism. That’s because conventional wisdom is still stuck in the Friedman stage of telling people that if they’re troubled by the global economy, they’re just afraid of the future.

Because the Murphy’s Law tendency of American politics demands that we draw every conceivable wrong lesson from an event before accidentally stumbling in the direction of progress, the twin revolts in the 2016 presidential race will surely be misinterpreted for a good long while by the Friedmans of the world.

They won’t see the anti-establishment backlash as a reason to re-examine the impact of globalism on ordinary people.

Instead, as Friedman puts it, they’ll see an opportunity to build a single ruling coalition of “center-left Web People” (what a creepy image!) who will dominate the next generation of American politics:

My hope is that, for the good of the country, Republican Web People will, over time, join the Democratic Party and tilt it into a compassionate, center-left Web party for the 21st Century.

That would be a party that is sensitive to the needs of working people … but committed to capitalism, free markets and open trade as the vital engines of growth for a modern society.

Yes, let’s be sensitive to the needs of working people, unless they have complaints about globalism, in which case we’ll put our webbed hands over our ears and ignore them.

Are you loving this political season yet?

“Oh God! Here We Go Again” in Iraq

We marvel at the Big Brass Ones on some people who feel the need to offer their opinions about how the U.S. should conduct itself with regards to recent rise of extremist elements in the country and the loss of two of its major cities to al Qaeda.

David Ferguson published this June 13, 2014

The seven people who need to STFU about Iraq right now

These people seem to believe that their previous dire wrongness on everything about the topic of Iraq shouldn’t preclude them from opining about our nation’s current course of action, goodness no.

judymiller

Mika Brzeznski 

1. Andrew Sullivan, who has devoted any number of column inches lately to slamming the NeoCons and the war “they” advocated for. In a post today — the elegantly titled “The Neocons Get A War Chubby” — Sullivan roundly mocked and scolded re-interventionists, warning the country not to “sink the U.S. right back into the Iraqi quicksand.”

 

Sullivan has long-since disavowed the infamous 2001 column in which he said war critics might collude with al Qaeda to try and take down the U.S. from within, but it tends to linger on in the memory, much as forgotten sushi leftovers will leave behind their distinctive odeur to linger in that drawer in your refrigerator.

“The middle part of the country — the great red zone that voted for Bush — is clearly ready for war,” Sullivan wrote in the U.K.’s Sunday Times. “The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead — and may well mount a fifth column.”

We’ve got your “fifth column” right here, Andy. It’s in our pants.

2. Judith Miller, the Bush administration’s “humiliated and discredited shill” on WMDs was once thankfully banished to writing a household hints column for the West Egg Pennysaver — or something.

Nonetheless, on Friday, the reporter known as “the most infamous example of the press’s failure in the run-up to that war” was unflushably bobbing up on Fox News to discuss the media’s portrayal of Iraq as Irony let herself into the garage and started the car without opening the garage door and waited quietly for the end.

3. Thomas Friedman, the hot air specialist who rhapsodized in May of 2003 that American military might had rightly told the Iraqi people to “suck on this.”

When the Iraqis declined his offer and the occupation spiraled completely out of control, Friedman insisted over and over that the situation would stabilize in just 6 more months.

To commemorate this very special failure as a pundit and prognosticator, lefty wags created the Friedman Unit, a six month span of time in which nothing ever happens.

4. The New York Times seems to have conveniently forgotten how sad and diminished the Gray Lady looked locked out on the Bush administration’s porch in her bloomers, poor old thing.

Today, columnist Tyler Cowen lamented that the economy is suffering because we don’t have any major wars planned after forces come home from Afghanistan at the end of the year.  Peace, the libertarian fretted, is bad for business.

Funny they should endorse war as an economic engine right as Iraq appears to be shitting its bed and playing with matches in a fireworks store. I mean, what are the odds?

5. The whole of the so-called Juicebox Mafia. The lines of that particular claque have expanded and contracted to include Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias and a passel of other Beltway post-teens who were so excited they got to sit at the big kids’ table they forgot that they didn’t know jack shit about foreign policy and endorsed a war of choice in one of the most volatile regions of the world, wheeee! What could go wrong? We’re smart! And cute!

A big, preemptive “Shut it!” goes out to Peter Beinart who, in January, 2003, joined the National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg in a CNN panel discussion in which the two giggled and leered over accusations that U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter was a child molester because of allegations that he had communicated over the Internet with a 16-year-old girl.

“I think that he didn’t have any credibility to begin with,” said Beinart of Ritter. “I mean, this is the guy who never really explained, as Jonah said, why he flipped 180 degrees and became a Saddam mouthpiece. So for me it’s irrelevant. I never listened to what he had to say on Iraq to begin with.”

“He’s now just basically joined Pete Townsend on the Magic School Bus,” Beinart continued. “Pete Townsend of the WHO has also been implicated in child porn and things of that nature. But as everybody said, Ritter’s credibility, just on the basics of Iraq, was completely shot and now there’s even less reason to listen to him.”

Scott Ritter’s alleged crime? Pointing out that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMDs and that a U.S. invasion was a bad idea.

6. Ari Fleischer, one of the most pugnacious, pugilistic, and sometimes breathtakingly condescending White House press secretaries in history.

Fleischer functioned as a lying administration’s able mouthpiece both here and in the combat zone and served the unlikely function in life of making fellow Bush administration shill Dan Senor seem almost non-slimy.

Fleischer piped up on Twitter Friday morning to simultaneously absolve the Bush administration of blame and passive aggressively accuse the Obama administration of squandering gains made by his own masters. Trouble is, he got the year wrong.

“Regardless of what anyone thinks about going into Iraq in 2002,” he tweeted — apparently forgetting that the first bombing raids began in March of 2003, “it’s a tragedy that the successes of the 2007 surge have been lost & abandoned.”

Bush administration folks are still around, apparently, to remind us in the reality-based community that facts is HARD and stuff.

7. John McCain, you angry, corn-teethed fossil.

You’ve never met a foreign conflict that didn’t require MOAR U.S. TROOPS, have you? At least you’re consistent, after a fashion. Oh, who are we kidding, you’re not consistent at all about anything that might score you some political points and get you on TV!

Things didn’t go super well for you on Morning Joe on Friday, though, did they? Impeccably-coiffed refrigerator magnet Mika Brzeznski actually woke up from her boredom-induced coma and called you out right to your face, didn’t she, old man?

“What about going [into Iraq] in the first place, and what about churning the hate, and what about taking the Sunnis out of leadership positions in 2003, what about the fact that there might have been some parts of this that were on the previous administration that might be litigated as well?” Brzezinski said.

Then she went on to ask the question everyone in the country should be asking, why does anyone listen to you anyway? If we’d taken your advice, she said, we’d be knee-deep in Syria right now.

“So we’re going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then we’re also going into Syria, in your estimate?” she asked. “I mean, I’m just wondering how long can we do this? How long can we do this? How long can you ask this of American troops and think it’s okay?”

She’s right, John. You’re like a jumped-up rich boy with no real capital of his own who’s bellied up to the blackjack table blowing every single penny of his wife’s money just to catch that fleeting winner’s high.

Oh, no, wait, that’s exactly what you really are, isn’t it?

Or, as TBogg so eloquently observed, “Hush you guys. The guy who thought Sarah Palin would make a good vice-president is explaining to us what we should do in Iraq.”

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.

 

Egypt is turmoil: And Obama goes golfing, and Kerry goes fishing?

Truth about Egypt slips out: New York Times shocker

Have you noticed the silence, the casual indifference, of the Obama administration since the Egyptian army shoved President Mohammad Morsi from office in a military coup that gets bloodier by the day?
That is what you are supposed to notice. Barack Obama goes golfing as Cairo descends into violence. Secretary of State John Kerry goes sailing in Nantucket. Neither has anything of importance to say about the events in Egypt — the chaos engulfing the nation.
We’re just bystanders, and those poor Egyptians — we hope they can sort themselves out. These guys play a pretty fair hand a lot of the time, but they have overplayed this one.
Anyone who thinks the U.S. is not complicit up to its eyebrows in the Egyptian army’s unlawful coup needs a refresher in our history.
Enlarge David Brooks, Thomas Friedman   (Credit: AP/Nam Y. Huh/Zsolt Szigetvary/Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
It is now common currency to say that Morsi, who served just a year after he was legitimately elected in June 2012, failed some kind of democracy test. He did no such thing.
There was a test, but the failure belongs to Washington. (Not a failure, but a decision to fail the Moslem Brotherhood experience)
The US professes to like democracies all over the planet, but it cannot yet abide one that may not reflect America’s will. I have not written anything new just now.
Just in some of our lifetimes we have Italy’s elections in 1948 (corrupted) and many, many Japanese elections — generations of them. Then there’s the nastier stuff: Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Lumumba in Congo, Sukarno in Indonesia, Allende in Chili, and so on.
But to say it is an old story is precisely what is so disturbing, not to say disgraceful, about the coup in Egypt and America’s part in it.
The Arab world (a quarter of which abides in Egypt) is struggling toward a kind of democracy that will arise from Islamic culture and civilization.
This is why the Arab Spring, as it commenced in early 2011, remains so promising. One embraces the prospect of something new. Morsi made a thousand mistakes.
There was political immaturity (hardly surprising after three decades of U.S.-backed dictators), there was the seeking of partisan advantage, there was sectarian exclusion, there was the defensiveness and overcompensating of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s party, after long years of persecution.
Egypt’s first properly elected government was bound to be something of a dog’s dinner, as the English say.
But search as one may, there is nothing on the list that warranted a military coup. And this accounts for the cat-ate-the-canary bit the Obama administration is asking us to accept.
What Washington truly does not want is an elected Islamic government, and this is written all over what the Obama administration has just taken part in.
There is nothing so honorable as a statement of policy — Where is Edward Snowden now that we really need him? — but there are footprints galore. There is the nomenclature, for instance. When is a coup not a coup? When it is against U.S. law to support one, and when the White House and Congress want to continue sending $1.5 billion in aid to the Egyptian military.
So Egypt has not had a coup, somehow — never mind that the law is being broken. Americans are actually invited to accept this, and many do. It makes you think P.T. Barnum had it right all along. Now you have to listen to Obama.
Here is all Obama has had to say since Morsi’s July 3 exit: Egypt’s army should move “quickly and responsibly” to restore “full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible.” (Lately, Morsi should be set free…) Can you believe it?
Not “the Morsi government,” which of course was civilian and democratically elected, but “a government.” You see where the White House is headed on this? Hacks like me call minute-to-minute accounts of events “tick-tocks,” and the New York Times did one from Cairo in its edition last Sunday, four days after Morsi’s ouster.
I wonder if the commissars are upset. Buried in the details is a plain and simple re-creation of the moments during which Washington gave the Egyptian army authorization to move against its government. I read it, shocked by the momentary honesty in the coverage, and said, “This is a mistake that will not be repeated,” and it has not been.
We ought not get started on the journalism, except that we already have. The media’s cooperation in mystifying the perfectly obvious is not short of stunning, and much or most of the blame must fall, sorry to say, to the Times.
Here is a Times correspondent publishing on July 5: “But the flurry of White House meetings and phone calls served to underscore the lack of leverage the U.S. has over Egypt, once a crucial strategic ally in the Middle East but lately just another headache.” How do these people hold their heads up? It is entirely a historical.
The media reported Hosni Mubarak’s fall the same way two years ago — as if the U.S. had just realized its 20-year client was in office. We must treat the man to the history text of his choosing. Now we read that the Morsi government and the Muslim Brotherhood are making “claims to legitimacy” (the Times, July 8).
This kind of phrasing is handled like radioactive material at the Times. (I know; I once worked there.) There are no accidents. This is part of how the U.S. intends to Not legitimize a legitimate government. There is nothing personal in this, but we have to end with a consideration of the shockingly bigoted column David Brooks published in the July 5 Times.
Morsi, you see, represented democratic process, which I had always thought was a pretty good thing. But no, we must judge leaders on the basis of “substance,” which is to say their values, and they have to match ours. That is how it works. Morsi came up short on substance. He had the values wrong. These kind of people need to be “investigated” before they are elected. (By whom is not noted.) You see, people holding Islamic beliefs are not capable of governing themselves. Egypt, for that matter, “lacks even the basic mental ingredients” to swing a democratic transition. Breathtaking.
In all probability I would not like Morsi personally. But I am for Morsi. I am for his Brothers. They represent the best thing the Arab Spring has yet achieved — the start of an essential process — and the U.S. had no business tearing it down, especially in so underhanded a fashion.
(I strongly doubt it that Egypt army would have fomented the coup if the people refused to go out on mass to demonstrate their displeasure over the Moslem Brotherhood experience and brand of democracy. The US would have not dared this time around to order a military coup without the acquiesce of the Egyptian people)
Note 2: Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992.
During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications.                            More Patrick L. Smith.            

Beirut Metropolis: Orientalism with a surgical twist

For much of its contemporary history, Beirut has been characterized as the Paris of the Middle East, a cosmopolitan metropolis that misfortune has placed in the middle of a region otherwise hostile to the civilized pleasures of material excess, free-flowing alcohol and exposed female skin.

Beirut’s Parisian charm has tended to become less apparent during periods of mass sectarian slaughter.

In the introduction to his Orientalism, the late US/Palestinian author Edward Said notes repercussions of civil conflict in Lebanon on the European consciousness:

“On a visit to Beirut during the terrible civil war of 1975-1976 a French journalist wrote regretfully of the gutted downtown area that ‘it had once seemed to belong to the Orient of Chateaubriand and Nerval [18th- and 19th-century French Romantic writers] ‘. This journalist was right about the place, of course, especially so far as a European was concerned. The Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences.” (See link in note 2)

Belen Fernandez published in AlJazeera on Nov. 6, 2012 “Orientalism with a surgical twist: Beirut”

The ‘New York Times’ advertised Beirut as number 1 out of 44 ideal travel destinations in 2009 [Reuters]
Can the representation of Beirut as a “Middle Eastern Paris brimming with wealth” function on behalf of imperialism?
“The civil war may indeed have upset a regional landscape constructed over time by European scholars, poets, travelers and other self-appointed authorities, who, as late Edward Said argues, helped institutionalize Eurocentric prejudice, deny agency to the actual inhabitants of the romanticized exotic lands and thus facilitate imperial and colonial conquest.

The civil war did not, however, halt Orientalist traditions – made quite clear in manuscripts like From Beirut to Jerusalem, unleashed to wide acclaim in 1989 by former New York Times Beirut bureau chief Thomas Friedman.According to Friedman’s account, civil war-era Lebanon was populated by “buxom, Cleopatra-eyed Lebanese girls“, whose presence threw invading Israeli soldiers for a loop:”This was not the Sinai, filled with cross-eyed Bedouins and shoeless Egyptian soldiers“.

That such caricatures were permitted to pass as insight, exposes the delusional nature of Friedman’s subsequent complaint that “a toxic political correctness infected the academic field of Middle Eastern studies“.

Paris revisited 

In recent years, Beirut has reclaimed its image as the Paris of the Middle East, outfitted with expanded shopping opportunities and a spiffy new downtown erected on the former dividing line between the Muslim and Christian halves of the city.

A spate of Times articles about Beirut’s various amenities offers such trivia as that “[i]n a city of many faiths – Christian, Sunni, Shiaa, Druze – at least one religion is universally practiced: sun worship“.

The New York Times has dutifully taken on the role of PR firm for the resurgent Lebanese capital, advertising it as number 1 out of 44 ideal travel destinations in 2009.

Given that the specified temples of worship are high-end beach clubs where “hordes of heliophiles absorb ultraviolet rays and cultivate their bronzed exteriors”, it would seem that said religion is not so universal after all

– either from an economic perspective or one that recognises the incompatibility of certain prominent faiths with public bronzed exterior cultivation.

On the new Zaitunay Bay waterfront promenade, a “luxury playground” where “tablecloths gleam white and bottles of wine sweat in silver coolers”, the Times observes that the boardwalk planks, “a nod to maritime authenticity, present a design flaw perhaps foreseeable in this city: Women with Louis Vuitton handbags are forever extracting their spike heels from the cracks”.

Additional sights at Zaitunay Bay, itself described as “Lebanon’s latest effort to recapture the prewar 1960s – when Brigitte Bardot was a regular and Beirut was a fashionable port of call”, include an Iraqi immigrant in “leather miniskirt, thigh-high boots and a fur vest and whose fire-engine-red lipstick and long yellow hair” would have appeared out-of-place in her native land but “were right at home in Beirut”.

In other Beirut-centric dispatches, the Times raves about gay nightlife and restaurants offering beef and duck flown in from France.

The point of taking issue with such idealised odes to money and fashion is not to deny the affluence that exists in the city or the comparatively liberal nature of its society.

However, the marketing of a Beirut brand of “joie de vivre“, so blatantly equated with material wealth becomes morally problematic when we acknowledge the glaring economic disparity in the country, visible in the capital itself.

Consider, for example, the aesthetic differences between the refurbished downtown and the overcrowded and neglected Palestinian refugee camps and primarily Shia southern suburbs.

In these areas, recent infrastructure projects have included the rampant flattening of apartment blocks by the Israeli air force in 2006.

Needless to say, less sanitary aspects of life in Lebanon – such as the enslaved status of many migrants employed in the domestic help sector – have no place in the portrait of Beirut as a paradise of wealth, where tantalising opportunities await foreign visitors and their pocket-books.

Cleopatra on Botox 

Three decades after Thomas Friedman discovered buxom Cleopatra in Lebanon, another Western voyager by the name of David J Constable has confirmed that the women still “look like Cleopatra”, and that they have acquired new methods for enhancing their appearances – becoming in the process veritable ambulatory showcases for “tucks, lifts, firming, lipo, implants, grafting, tightening, otoplasty, mammoplasty, rhinoplasty and many other physical manipulations”.

A member of the Royal Geographical Society, Constable approaches his anthropological subjects with Orientalist vigour, compiling his findings in a Huffington Post report entitled “Boobs, Botox, and the Babes of Beirut“.

Constable dispatch begins with the curious hypothesis:

“For a largely Arab country it’s a bizarre thing that in Lebanon (Beirut specifically), women care more about their appearance than men.

Males lead a rather sullied existence, priming their closely cut mini-beards and, from my own observations, eating rather a lot.

The formula in Lebanon’s capital for women is fashion-forward, from their choice of cloth to the decisions they make surgically.”

Non-experts on Arab grooming habits might of course be surprised to deduce that men usually spend hours preening in front of the mirror while women mope about in filth.

Undeterred, Constable rumbles on: “Muslim, Christian and Druze women in Beirut dress surprisingly skimpy. There are vests and silks and bikinis and cashmere and come-hither off-the-shoulder numbers.

Constable warns, however, of occasional inauspicious outcomes among operated females: “Some look as if a drunken Picasso has drawn a face on to a balloon”.

In the very least, Picasso’s inebriated doodles attest to the European role in literally shaping the Orient.

Indeed, in 2006, the Israelis were presumably just as pleased as they’d been in 1982:  They discovered that not all Arabs were cross-eyed Bedouins, and Lebanon is still inhabited by bikini-clad plastic surgery recipients (and their slovenly overeating menfolk).

Field notes 

The Orient’s existence as a spectacle for the Westerner to behold and interpret is meanwhile made especially clear during Constable’s expedition to a nightclub “to witness the dolls and their dates myself”.

A power outage interrupts the exotic display but is fortunately resolved:

“The lights slowly raise and the permafixed smiles return. The waxed, toned limbs of party women begin to pop and gyrate again.

They’re back on show, electrified so their surgical enhancements, botoxed-brows and designer names can bounce off my eyes, competing in a variety of silk-cut blouses, Louboutin heels and over-night handbags.

At another rooftop bar, Constable surmises that “there are benefits to marrying/dating/having sex with a plastic surgeon, since surely no one can afford to spend that much of their own cash on reconstructive surgery and blow-me-up operations”. Case closed.

As with the New York Times‘ fixation with Beirut glamour, the effect of essays like Constable’s is to reduce the Lebanese to a superficial existence in which personal concerns are limited to inflating one’s lips and breasts and not getting one’s designer heels stuck in boardwalk planks.

Never mind that many Lebanese are faced with more pressing preoccupations, such as a southern neighbour with a penchant for massacring civilians, upending infrastructure and saturating portions of the country with unexploded cluster bombs to serve as post-conflict population control.

Some may argue that the Times Constable approach is less detrimental than other reductionist portrayals of the country, such as Lebanon equals terrorist den.

These reductionist statements helps propagate an ethnic stereotype that has been exploited to justify more than one imperial project in the Arab/Muslim world.

However, the representation of Beirut as a Middle Eastern Paris brimming with wealth and cleavage – a place the West can relate to on account of its fervent materialism – can also function on behalf of imperialism, eliminating as it does all context legitimizing other aspects of Lebanon’s identity, like resistance to Israeli regional designs.

Note 1: Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Workreleased by Verso in 2011.

She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blogAl Akhbar English and many other publications.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/culture-and-resistance-by-edward-w-said/

Note 3: I think Miss Lebanon of 2012 is the one on the far left, the tall blonde one?

Around the World Social Event Miss Lebanon 2012 In Las Vegas Lebanon


So, who won? Israel or Hezbollah? Or are we asking the wrong question?

Note:  I decided to re-publish an article posted on May 14, 2007 in order to get a perspective for newer analysis of the situation

Thomas Friedman has written an article a few days ago claiming that Israel has won the July 2006 War tactically, strategically and politically. The Israeli daily Yedeot Ahronot is adopting this position in an attempt to win over the shattered Israeli morale. That Israel had won tactically by destroying extensively and hatefully the headquarters and the military and social installations and institutions of Hezbollah and weakening it temporarily is not a big feat, given the military imbalance in the kind of air and naval superiority with the full backing of the US and the treachery of the Arab States.  Israel foreign minister Sevy Livney declared that in the first two days all the targets in the Israeli intelligence “data bank” have been exhausted and she urged Olmert PM to end the war on the third day.  That Olmert felt emboldened to resume the war for another 30 days, and then, accepting a cease fire without effectively reaching the Litany River (two miles away) means that the purpose of the war was modified at the urge of external powers to eradicate the Lebanese Resistance and shatter the image of the invincible Hezbollah.

That Israel had won strategically because its northern borders have been very quiet for seven months after the war is a half truth; the international UN forces are there because Hezbollah allowed its deployment.  Fact is,  the borders have been very quiet since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 24, 2000.  The few encroachments were the results of Israeli incursions in Lebanon:  Hezbollah reacted only on these infiltrations or attacks within our borders. That Israel had to stop its incursion in Lebanon with all the backing it was enjoying from the US, Europe ans “moderate” Arab States proves that its strategy was foiled and severely checked.

Friedman claims that Israel has won politically because the Lebanese army has entered the south is also a half truth: Hezbollah didn’t mind the deployment of the Lebanese army which saved it from further escalations and unwanted pressures from the UN and the need to focus more on the internal political  affairs of Lebanon.  The immeasurable popular support from all the Arab and Moslem citizens for Hezbollah’s valiant resistance is by no means a political victory for Israel; it is a severe defeat because it rekindled the resistance spirit in the Arabs.  The inability of Israel to squelch the second Palestinian “intifada” is rooted in the rejuvenated spirit of resistance in Palestine as well as in Iraq.

Certainly, Hezbollah has been temporarily weakened militarily and that the “illegitimate”  Lebanese Seniora’s government has been doing its utmost to capitalize on that fact and dragging Hezbollah in the morass of Lebanon’s political quagmire. The “illegitimate” Lebanese government is deliberately re-opening tough issues that have been agreed on during the round table before the July War and giving them diabolical twists on the basis that the devil is in the details. The Moderate Arab States (a euphemism for traitors States who encouraged Israel to eradicate Hezbollah) are harnessing their widespread communication media to dissipate the popular support for Hezbollah and labeling it as merely an Iranian stooge and working against the interest of the Arabs who want peace and prosperity with Israel.

Hezbollah must have learned a great deal from this unilateral stand against Israel but there is a most important message that Hezbollah failed to get.  It is extremely dangerous for Hezbollah’s charismatic leader Hassan Nasr Allah to swear on promises (Wa3ad) that are long-term in nature for their realizations and then,  feeling pressured to deliver them almost immediately. For example, the last promise to repair and rebuild what has been destroyed, almost instantly and with “pure halal” money, is too impractical and fraught with decisions that overextend the capabilities of Hezbollah beyond its limits and weaken it in the process.  The other example was a promise before the war to snatch a few more Israeli soldiers as prisoners in order to liberate the remaining three Lebanese who have been detained for more than 15 years; it is laudable to make such kind of promises but when it is uttered in a “divine” revelation by Nasr Allah himself it becomes very binding and communications with Hezbollah’s allies become tenuous. It is dangerous to rely on Nasr Allah to publicly force decisions, as if emanating from a prophet, and to clarify issues that should be left to the leadership and its allies within the political process.

It is inadmissible for Nasr Allah to appear during religious celebration to deliver political speeches that give the opposite results and reflect images of increased weaknesses for relying on the religious faith and passions of its supporters instead on the rational and deliberate mind that our society is in dire need to overcome a strong enemy.

I believe that people are asking the wrong question.  It is not whether Hezbollah has won the war because just by getting out strong and effective after 33 days of a savage war of eradication, with no serious support internally or externally, is a striking victory.  The question should be whether the US-Israeli-”Moderate” Arabs States objectives have achieved any tangible results.  Nasr Allah has claimed that not a single objective came out satisfactorily neither tactically, strategically, nor politically in Lebanon or in the “Greater Middle East region”. The response should be focused on refuting Nasr Allah’s claims, satisfactorily and convincingly.  So far, no one discredited Nasr Allah’s claims.

May 14, 2007

So, who won? Israel or Hezbollah? Or are we asking the wrong question?

Thomas Friedman has written an article a few days ago claiming that Israel has won the July War tactically, strategically and politically. The Israeli daily Yedeot Ahronot is adopting this position in an attempt to win over the shattered Israeli morale. That Israel had won tactically by destroying extensively and hatefully the headquarters and the military and social installations of Hezbollah and weakening it temporarily is not a big feat given the military imbalance in the kind of air and naval superiority with the full backing of the US and the treachery of the Arab States.  Israel foreign minister Sevy Livney declared that in the first two days the targets in the Israeli intelligence data bank have been exhausted and she urged Olmert to end the war on the third day.  That Olmert felt emboldened to resume the war for another 30 days and accepting a cease fire without effectively reaching the Litany River means that the purpose of the war was modified at the urge of external powers to eradicate the Lebanese Resistance and shatter the image of the invincible Hezbollah.

That Israel had won strategically because its northern borders have been very quiet for seven months is a half truth; the international UN forces are there because Hezbollah allowed its deployment and the borders have been very quiet since Israel withdrawal from the south in May 24, 2000.  The few encroachments were the results of Israeli incursions in Lebanon and Hezbollah reacted only on these infiltrations or attacks within our borders. That Israel had to stop its incursion in Lebanon with all the backing it was enjoying is a fact that its strategy was foiled and severely checked.

That Israel has won politically because the Lebanese army has entered the south is also a half truth because Hezbollah didn’t mind the deployment of the army which saved it from further escalations and unwanted pressures from the UN and the need to focus more on the internal affairs of Lebanon.  The immeasurable popular support from the Arab and Moslem citizens for Hezbollah’s valiant resistance is by no means a political victory for Israel but a severe defeat for the rekindling of the resistance spirit in the Arabs.  The inability of Israel to squelch the second Palestinian “intifada” is rooted in the rejuvenated spirit of resistance in Palestine as well as in Iraq.

Certainly, Hezbollah has been weakened and the Lebanese Seniora’s government has been doing its utmost to capitalize on that fact and dragging Hezbollah in the morass of Lebanon’s political quagmire. The “illegitimate” Lebanese government is deliberately rekindling tough issues that have been agreed on during the round table before the July War and giving them a diabolical twist on the basis that the devil is in the details. The Moderate Arab States (a euphemism for traitors States who encouraged Israel to eradicate Hezbollah) are harnessing their widespread communication media to dissipate the popular support for Hezbollah and labeling it as merely an Iranian stooge and working against the interest of the Arabs who want peace and prosperity with Israel.

Hezbollah must have learned a great deal from this unilateral stand against Israel but there is a most important message that Hezbollah failed to get.  It is extremely dangerous for Hezbollah’s charismatic leader Hassan Nasr Allah to swear on promises (Wa3ad) that are long-term in nature for their realizations and feeling pressured to deliver them almost immediately. For example, the last promise to repair and rebuild what has been destroyed almost instantly and with “pure” money is too impractical and fraught with decisions that extend the capabilities of Hezbollah beyond its limits and weaken it in the process.  The other example was a promise before the war to snatch a few more Israeli soldiers as prisoners in order to liberate the remaining three Lebanese who have been detained for more than 15 years; it is laudable to make such kind of promises but when it is uttered in a “divine” revelation by Nasr Allah himself it becomes very binding and communications with Hezbollah’s allies become tenuous. It is dangerous to rely on Nasr Allah to publicly force decisions, as if emanating from a prophet, and to clarify issues that should be left to the leadership and its allies within the political process.  It is inadmissible for Nasr Allah to appear during religious celebration to deliver political speeches that give the opposite results and reflect images of increased weaknesses for relying on the religious faith and passions of its supporters instead on the rational and deliberate mind that our society is in dire need to overcome a strong enemy.

I believe that people are asking the wrong question.  It is not whether Hezbollah has won the war because just by getting out strong and effective after 33 days of a savage war of eradication with no serious support internally or externally is a striking victory.  The question should be whether the US-Israeli-“Moderate” Arabs States objectives have achieved any tangible results.  Nasr Allah has claimed that not a single objective came out satisfactorily and definitely, tactically, strategically, and politically, in Lebanon or in the Greater Middle East. The response should be focused on refuting his claims, satisfactorily and convincingly.

Book reviews:  Of controversial manuscripts? Posted in 2008

Many of the books that I have reviewed were written prior to 2008, before I discovered wordpress.com, and they might be categorized as controversial.  

It is not my job to fall into that trap of judging what is fine to read.  I simply reviews,  summarizes, and add my comments of what I have read that express deep feeling and personal reflections.  

I always give my “expert” opinions anyway:  It is your right to express your opinion.

There are books that I had to publish several posts on particular chapters, simply because topics are interesting and need further development.

1) “Life after Life” by Dr. Raymond Moody, (written in June 7, 2004)

2) “A Priest among “Les Loubards”” by Guy Gilbert, (written in July 22, 2004)

3) “We the Living” by Ayn Rand, (written in July, 24, 2004)

4) “Prophesies of End of Timeby Paco Rabanne, (November 15, 2004)

5) “Alexander the Great”, (November 20, 2004)

6) “The Lexus and the Olive Tree” by Thomas Friedman (July 28, 2006)

7) “Season of Migration to the North” by Tayeb Saleh, (August 10, 2006)

8) “The Princes of the Crazy Years” by Gilbert Gilleminault and Philippe Bernert.

9) “Carlos Ghosn: Citoyen du Monde” by Philippe Ries, (Septembre 27, 2006)

10) “Abbo”by Nabil Al Milhem, (November 23, 2006)

11) “Human Types; Essence and the Enneagram” by Suzan Zannos, (December 6, 2006)

12) “One hundred fallacies on the Middle East (ME)” by Fred Haliday, (March 2, 2007)

13) “Origins” by Amin Maaluf, February 15, 2007

14) “Imagined Masculinity” edited by Mai Ghoussoub and Emma Sinclair-Webb

15) “Post-modernism: the Arabs in a video snapshot” by Mai Ghoussoub,( March 4, 2007)

16) “The Joke” by Milan Kundera, (March 22, 2007)

17) “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, March 28, 2007

18)  “Biography” of In3am Ra3d, April 7, 2007

19)  “Al-Walid Bin Talal”, April 4, 2007

20) “The Gardens of Light” by Amin Maaluf, April 19, 2007

21) “Two old women” by Velma Wallis, May 1, 2007

22) “I heard the owl call my name” by Margaret Craven, May 3, 2007

23) “A woman of independent means” by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, May 6, 2007

24) “The Gospel according to Pilate” by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, May 9, 2007

25) “Les innovations du XXI siecle qui vont changer notre vie” by Eric de Riedmatten.

26) “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, July 3, 2007

27) “Liban: le salut par la culture” by Phares Zoghbi, August 19, 2007

28) “Finding Joy” by Charlote Davis Kasl, August 22, 2007

29) “Tadjoura” by Jean Francois Deniau, Septembre 6, 2007

30) “How to dance forever” by Daniel Nagrin, September 8, 2007

31.  “The Second sex” by Simone de Beauvoir, (September 21, 2007)

32.  “A short history of nearly everything” by Bill Bryson, (September 25, 2007)

33.  “The God of mirrors” by Robert Reilly, (October 1st, 2007)

34.  “The tipping point” by Malcom Gladwell, (October 9, 2007)

35.  “The social structure of Lebanon: democracy or servitude?” by Safia Saadeh

October 15, 2007

36. “Fallaci interviews Fallaci and Apocalypse”, by Oriana Falaci (November 8, 2007)

37. “Aicha la bien-aime du Prophet” by Genevieve Chauvel (November 19, 2007)

38.  “Tess of the D’Uberville” Thomas Hardy, (December 19, 2007)

39. “Le livre des saviors” edited by Constantin von Barloewen (December 22, 2007)

40.  Gandhi’s non-violent resistance guidelines (February 21, 2008)

41. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown (March 12, 2008)

42. “La reine de Palmyre” by Denise Brahimi (March 26, 2007)

43. “Culture et resistance” by Edward W. Said (April 18, 2008)

44. “L’Avorton de Dieu; une vie de Saint Paul” by Alain Decaux (April 23, 2008)

45.  “Down and out in Paris and London” by George Orwell (July 14, 2008)

46. “Why the Arab World is not free?” by Moustapha Safouan (July 21, 2008)

47.  “Igino Giordani” by Jean-Marie Wallet and Tommaso Sorgi (August 5, 2008)

48.  “Building a durable World” in “Science et Vie” magazine special issue of June 2008 (August 10, 2008)


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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