Huzzah. After weeks of wrangling, I was able to recreate the old style sheets that made B2I readable. Which is a good thing, as I plan to pick up the keyboard again.
To bring you guys up to date, I’m currently at Stanford University for the John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists. Back-to-Iraq was, of course, a major selling point for the selection committee, as the program is really reaching out to non-traditional media people. (You can see my essays, including the plan of study here.)
My colleagues in the program are exceptionally talented and smart and it’s an honor to get to spend a year palling around with such folks. My project here is to look at a way to scale the Back-to-Iraq model up to an institutional level. Perhaps it won’t work; perhaps what’s needed is a networked system of correspondents in conflict zones around the world supported by subscriptions, donations, licensing fees and advertising. Whatever. I’m here for a year to try to figure it out. Being close to Silicon Valley and all those venture capitalists probably doesn’t hurt. Oh, and I’m going to learn how to play the guitar.
But that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning commentary and analysis of Iraq. I’m still deeply attached to the place and, yes, hope one day to go back. Even as Western media organizations are dialing back their coverage. (Mind you, I think this is a trough in the staffing and coverage, coming as it does in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign. While the economy will continue to dominate the news, by spring of next year I suspect Iraq will once again be on America’s radar as military pullouts commence.) So I will endeavor to share some of the interesting things here at Stanford — many of my coursework and research is directly tied to the Middle East, terrorism, the usual areas of interest — and also look at developments in the war. It’s not over yet, folks. And neither is B2I.
“On the basis of your report, I have taken the decision to bring to an end the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace,” Medvedev told Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to a Kremlin spokesman.
The ceasefire proposal is apparently the one drawn up by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was signed yesterday by Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili.
Not that this will return the region to normal. NATO’s eastward expansion has now finished, and American promises of friendship are not worth the paper they’re written on. As the Georgians have complained, why did the help the U.S. in Iraq if Washington turns its back on them when they come under attack? (That it appears that Saakashvili walked into a trap set by Russia is almost beside the point.) And could President Bush have appeared less concerned as he yukked it up with volleyball players in Beijing?
The world has entered a both a new period, but one that looks very familiar to those of us who remember the Cold War.
Greetings all… Sorry for the site problems. I upgraded MovableType and the site went all sideways. I’m thinking of switching over to WordPress, but I’m worried that the old content would then be unavailable (as happened with a WP experiment I’m running right now.)
Does anyone have any suggestions?
And does the Journal really want a kinder, gentler al-Sadr? Paradoxically, keeping him an angry, violent outsider will go a lot further toward advancing the Journal‘s goals in Iraq than having him as a peaceful political player. Because if he’s on the outside, his unruly Mahdi Army will continue to act like thugs, causing Iraqis to resent them and cling to the Maliki government (which the neo-cons at the Journal like.)
Having him inside the process, while decreasing the violence, gives him a chance to win at Maliki’s own game of politics, however. And if al-Sadr wins, does the Journal think an Iraq dominated by Shi’ite nationalists will be very friendly to U.S. interests? Perhaps it does, but I certainly don’t.
Like most Journal editorials, this is a grunt from the reptilian cortex, in line with the triumphalist bullying so common to that page.
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap,” goes the joke, which dates from 1900 B.C. and which originated in what is now southern Iraq.
Now, I like a good fart joke as much as the next guy, but WTF? Does anyone actually get that?
No matter. Iraqi humor even today doesn’t quite translate into English, a fact that often left me feeling damn confused over gruesome tales that my Iraqi friends found hilarious.
Many of modern day Iraqi jokes deal with the Dulaimi tribe from Anbar and tend to focus on their perceived backwardness and sheer yokelry. One I remembered went something like, “A Dulaimi drove his cousin to Baghdad. His cousin sat behind the driver so he could take over the wheel after he killed the first guy.” Much laughter would then ensue, and no, I still don’t get it.
But the real genius of Iraqi humor was poking fun at Saddam and making word plays. (Too bad puns don’t translate well.) ‘Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the sickly vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council who today may or may not be part of the neo-Ba’athist insurgency (what’s left of it) often came in for humiliating jokes. The craven yes-man was often pictured impersonating a woman, for some reason.
Ancient humor was no different, and megalomaniacal rulers have always been good for a laugh. Some of the ancient jokes the researchers found poked fun at Egyptian pharaohs.
“How do you entertain a bored pharaoh?” goes one. “Sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile — and urge the pharaoh to go fishing.”
Put your favorite Iraqi joke — not jokes about Iraqis, mind you — in the comments.
To me, all of Scheunemann’s sins pale compared to his backing of Chalabi, a man who not only lied to get the U.S. to take down his nemesis, Saddam Hussein, but might also have given information to the Iranians that America had cracked their codes. Chalabi denies any wrong doing.
Josh Marshall and his team complain that the mainstream media (whatever that is these days) have ignored or glossed over Scheunemann’s appalling track record. Usually, when a blog complains about this, it’s hooey, but a quick Google News search comes up with no major coverage of his past errors in judgment. And since this campaign seems to be focusing on the very pertinent question of who has the better judgment on Iraq, this seems a valid press inquiry. And if Obama is going to take heat for his advisors, shouldn’t McCain’s be under similar scrutiny?