Saturday, December 29, 2007

You May Call Me V

"This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."

Movie scene from "V for Vendetta"

Hint: Try reading it out loud

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhibbak ya Lebnan!

I just read this article in The New York Times. It made me soooooo happy to see that Beirut is finally getting a break, even if it is for a very short and limited time. I love Lebanon and I pray that the people of this beautiful country as well as all the people of this great region, Palestinians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Yemenis, everybody find peace and happiness.

We all want a place to call home. And we all want this place to be home.

The Arab divide started with the Palestinian Diaspora and today we have a plethora of diasporas....wal habbel 3al jarrar. Funny how the brain drain is accelerating in the Arab world, while in Israel they are working on incentives for brain gain.

One's drain is another's gain!

Home on Holiday, the Lebanese Say, What Turmoil?

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Lebanon may seem an unlikely holiday spot: the government has collapsed, car bombs go off periodically and foreign envoys warn of an impending civil war.
And yet, so many people have been streaming into this tiny, embattled country in recent days that the flights are all overbooked, and some well-heeled travelers are driving 18 hours from the Persian Gulf. Beirut’s restaurants, bars and malls are all packed with revelers.

Why? The answer is that the Lebanese diaspora reverses itself on holidays, as the migrants who sustain the war-shattered Lebanese economy all year return from jobs across the globe to spend time with their families. Nothing will deter them — not bad weather, not interminable flights and certainly not the Grinch-like mood of Lebanon’s endlessly feuding politicians.
“My plane was full of Lebanese flying home, and when it landed we all shouted ‘Beirut’ and clapped,” said George Elias, 23, who works for an investment firm in Japan.
He and a dozen friends — mostly Lebanese who work abroad — were in the midst of a pub crawl in Gemayze, a fashionably bohemian district. All of them wore identical white T-shirts with “Free Hug” printed across the front, and they were hugging everyone they saw, in a puckish campaign of mass affection.

“Politics is causing problems in Lebanon, so we want people to think about something else,” Mr. Elias said.

When a Lebanese Army soldier appeared on the street, the group besieged him with free hugs. He obliged with a smile, his machine gun jostling at his waist with each hug.

Across town in western Beirut, the malls were packed with glamorously dressed shoppers, and even outdoor cafes were full, despite the 50-degree chill.
“Look at all these people — there’s a political crisis, but do they care?” said Ali Hasbini, a burly 30-year-old sitting at a cafe table with three other young Lebanese overseas workers in the Verdun district. “Of course not.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Recommneded Light Reading by: Rooney, Dowd, Rand, Jobs, Plato, and Voltaire

The recent holiday break allowed me to get lots of rest and to do some end of year winter cleaning, especially of all the papers lying around.

As I was doing the usual toss in the garbage routine, I noticed that some articles never ever make it to the bin. I also noticed that these were articles that I always like to read whenever I bump into them. I am sure that there are other articles lying around, but these are the ones that I happened to find this time. These articles can be classified into various compartments:

Compartment 1: Denial -- Older is sexier…and I have Andy Rooney to prove it

Compartment 2: Beauty -- Feminism is at the root of all evil.
Compartment 3: Love -- You’ve been dumped after one season and for no reason and you’ll be scarred for a lifetime
Compartment 4: Big Talk -- How to impress an architect even if you know nothing about architecture. (You could try this with non-architects – at your own risk).
Compartment 5: Ambition – odds versus luck

My favorites are:

Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" - I am told that this is where the term "thinking outside of the box" originated from.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Aliyah and the Brain Gain in Israel

The appointment of Stanley Fischer in 2005 as Governor of the Bank of Israel (Israel’s Central Bank) was both mind boggling and fascinating at the same time.

Who is Stanley Fischer? He is an economist who prior to holding the Governor post was the Vice Chairman of Citigroup and prior to that he was the First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, and prior to that he was the Head of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and prior to that he was the Chief Economist at the World Bank, and the list goes on. Mr. Fischer is also a Zionist. His appointment as governor was a last minute deal between two of Israel’s staunchest Zionists Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.

Fischer’s immigration to Israel should not be taken lightly. There are questions to be asked and lessons to be learnt from someone we might feel apprehensive about but still find impressive.

Fischer is an Oleh (Hebrew for immigrant) making the Aliyah (Hebrew for ascent - Jewish Immigration to the Land of Israel). His move to Israel cannot be seen in any other light except ideological. Why would such an accomplished economist take such a demotion and accept this position after having made it big in all the major leagues (academic, multilateral/public, private)? His resume speaks volumes; I actually had difficulty keeping track of his record.

What sort of culture breeds the Stanley Fischers of the world? More important, what sort of ideology and beliefs pull the Fischers of the world from the circles of the rich and powerful into the smalltimeville of the Bank of Israel? How could someone so accomplished like Fischer be a Zionist? Fischer’s work is all based on inquiry and deduction, how did he fail to deduce the injustice based on which his Zionist belief is built? I know I sound naïve; I sometimes have a tendency to simplify matters that are supposed to be “complex”. I would love to know what is so complex about understanding the Zionist movement that had no place in particular to settle the Jews in: it started with Argentina, then Uganda (offered by the British and accepted by Herzl and then later rejected by the World Zionist Organization Congress), then Cyprus, then Mozambique, then Congo, then Egyptian Al-Arish, until it landed in Palestine (Thanks to a fortunate coincidence of interest with the British who colonized Palestine starting in 1917 following the secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916) . Therefore, the mumbo jumbo that we hear about the religious and historical claims are nothing but justifications for an illegal and inhumane usurpation of Palestinian land and uprooting of innocent Palestinian civilians.

My question remains, how does all of this go passed someone like Fischer? In this regard, he is truly a paradox. On the one hand one cannot but have the utmost respect for him and and for what he has accomplished. On the other hand, a discerning observer can’t but question the intellectual integrity of any follower of a dogmatic and belligerent movement such as Zionism. This is especially true given the impact that Zionism has had on the life of Fischer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

3eedo ya 3eed!

There is something unusual about this eid. Amman seems awfully quiet. I was driving down to the Jordan valley this evening. I was rushing like mad thinking that I am going to be stuck in traffic. The roads were extremely quiet. There was little traffic on the road, and there was somehow a hint of sadness. I thought I would be glad to be cruising through the roads without the hassle of getting stuck in what is becoming Amman's usual suffocating jams. Funnily I found myself disappointed that this eid was nowhere to be found on the streets.

Why this calm? Is it my imagination? Has eid become the latest casualty (Dahiyyeh) of a life where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel? Have the the skyrocketing costs of living in Jordan claimed the joy that comes with festive occasions? Have the people become the very sacrificial lambs of this eid?

Whatever the mood is out there....and for whatever it is worth...Happy Eid Al-Adha everybody!