Monthly Archives: May 2013

Democracy, Backwardness and Tribalism

This week Bill Maher had Glenn Greenwald on his show to discuss amongst other things, U.S. foreign policy, Benghazi and how backward Muslims are. On this last point – what I consider the most interesting discussion from the segment shown above – Greenwald makes three very good points: First, that violence in the name of religion is not unique, second, even if they are acting violently, our responsibility as Americans is not to focus on their backwards but to assume our share of the blame.  I think that last point is crucial and is the one I try to live by, at least on this blog. My goal is to critique the societies and cultures to which I belong, not the ones for which I am either ignorant or simply have no ability to influence.

In this vein, I particularly agree with Greenwald’s when he writes in an older piece,

Beyond all that, I find extremely suspect the behavior of westerners like Harris (and Hitchens and Dawkins) who spend the bulk of their time condemning the sins of other, distant peoples rather than the bulk of their time working against the sins of their own country. That’s particularly true of Americans, whose government has brought more violence, aggression, suffering, misery, and degradation to the world over the last decade than any other. Even if that weren’t true – and it is – spending one’s time as an American fixated on the sins of others is a morally dubious act, to put that generously, for reasons Noam Chomsky explained so perfectly:

“My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it.

“So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

I, too, have written before about the hordes of American commentators whose favorite past-time is to lounge around pointing fingers at other nations, other governments, other populations, other religions, while spending relatively little time on their own. The reason this is particularly suspect and shoddy behavior from American commentators is that there are enormous amounts of violence and extremism and suffering which their government has unleashed and continues to unleash on the world. Indeed, much of that US violence is grounded in if not expressly justified by religion, including the aggressive attack on Iraq and steadfast support for Israeli aggression (to say nothing of the role Judaism plays in the decades-long oppression by the Israelis of Palestinians and all sorts of attacks on neighboring Arab and Muslim countries). Given the legion human rights violations from their own government, I find that Americans and westerners who spend the bulk of their energy on the crimes of others are usually cynically exploiting human rights concerns in service of a much different agenda.

Now with regards to Maher’s convenient assertion that Islam and its followers are uniquely backwards and inherently violent and thus incapable of living under democracy, citing the Arab Spring as his example, I would like to add the following: Continue reading


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Filed under Essays, We The People

Recent Books and the Horn of Africa

Here is the list of books that I have read since the beginning of the year, with a little bit of commentary on how it became so focused on the Horn of Africa:

Books 2013Q1

Nowadays when I browse for books, I generally look for different things: recommendations from family and friends, contemporary American authors, foreign authors who write about places and subject matters that I am unfamiliar with or wish to learn more about, what’s new from my favorite writers, and what is available for free on my Kindle. Also when I read a book that I like, I usually get excited about reading something else related to the topic.

My present list of books is a perfect example of this. Continue reading

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Filed under Literature

Me, Myself, and I

modigliani boyWhen I was growing up, I never looked anything like my father. Everywhere I went, everyone would say, “you look just like your mother”.  To which I – thinking I was clever – would respond, “no, she looks just like me.”

I remember back in sixth grade science class when we were studying genetics and DNA, we were supposed to make a chart showing what features we got from each of our parents. I had my mother’s blond hair and blues eyes, and both of my parents were tall, but I still needed to list something I got just from my father. When I asked my father, a physician, what physical characteristic I had inherited from him – and only him – his scientific response was my maleness. You can only imagine the look on my teacher’s face when I told the entire class of twelve year olds what feature my father had bestowed on me. Of course, I was insightful enough to have qualified my answer as having come from a medical professional.

A few decades later it really didn’t affect me at all when my son was born with a startling resemblance to his mother’s family, save for his cleft chin. He has dark, chocolate eyes, curly hair, and lush lips. I don’t need my child to look like me, and to be honest, he is probably better off looking like his mother. But, no matter how much I observe both his physical characteristics and his gestures, I simply do not see myself in him.

Nevertheless, when I look at myself in the mirror, and I can’t pinpoint exactly what is that I see, I always see him in my reflection, staring back at me.

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Filed under Married to a Moroccan, Parenthood

El Fracaso de Mourinho

MouSo I think it is a pretty simple analysis: Mourinho has been a failure at Real Madrid.

In three years, Mourinho was able to dismantle the club’s entire organizational structure to be given complete control over all sports-related matters. Mourinho became the team’s Manager in all senses. The only thing he didn’t have control over was the club’s finances, even though now it seems that he wants to claim credit for that as a consolation prize.

So, he was given total control over the wealthiest football club in the world and had his pick at the planet’s greatest players. But still what did Real Madrid achieve?

One League and one Copa del Rey. Let’s be honest with ourselves. No one in Madrid cares about either one. Madrid has a one track mind: Champions League. The Liga is what you want when you don’t win Champions, and La Copa is what you cling onto when you didn’t win the league.

Now some diehard Madridistas will say, look, we have had a tough few years because we were facing the greatest Barcelona in history, arguably the greatest team ever. And look, we were able to drastically cut the distance between us and them under Mourinho’s reign. Furthermore, we dominated Barça in our face-to-face matches all year long.

To that, the answer is easy: Barcelona was just manhandled by Bayern Munich 7-0 in the aggregate. No matter how well Real Madrid played against Barça this year, it never came close to destroying Barcelona the way Bayern did. Thus, we can only conclude two possibilities: either Barça is just that much worse than it used to be – meaning that Real Madrid didn’t improve, rather Barça has imploded – or both Real Madrid and Barcelona are child’s play compared to Bayern.

But more importantly, if Mourinho and Real Madrid’s huge impediment to triumph these last few years was the out-of-this-world Barça, then why was Madrid eliminated two years in a row – not by Barça but – by German teams? That’s because Barça has had nothing to do with Real Madrid these past two years in Champions.

The fact is that, especially evident this season, Mourinho simply has not been up to the task. He had everything that he asked for, yet he couldn’t beat Borussia Dortmund. How is it that the world’s greatest coach at the world’s most successful and wealthiest team, haven been given total control of the helm, cannot eliminate a team where not a single player would have started for Real Madrid. With all due respect, but there wasn’t a single internationally recognizable player on the whole of the Borussia squad.

Look, I admit that I like Mourinho. I think he is a special coach. But let’s be objective. Real Madrid had an amazing showing last year in La Liga, but if you are a real Real Madrid fan and honest with yourself, then who cares? No Champions in three seasons, and you’re a failure. Plain and simple.

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Filed under Football/Soccer