Sunday, May 28, 2006

Archive: American Scams

This article originally ran in a student publication on January 25, 2003, under the title " False Advertisement". Abu Shreek was trying to address those drinking the White House Kool-Aid.

In the wake of a natural disaster that wiped out 150,000 human beings, relief efforts from all over the world are gathered. But leave it to the so-called celebrities to capitalize on a massive human tragedy to gain some face time. From telethons featuring third-string performers to that basketball player who punched a fan in the face on the basketball court, the disaster presented an opportunity to improve image and show some compassion to real-life issues just like us normal people.

Which brings us to the question: Isn’t it about time to start a campaign to raise money for all these Iraqi victims? And no, I do not mean those who fought and are still fighting against the U.S. armed forces (Baathists, insurgents, terrorists, Saddam Hussein loyalists or whatever the president chooses to refer to them as). I mean those civilians whose homes were “mistakenly” destroyed, those Iraqis who were “mistakenly” targeted through air raids while in a wedding party, that wounded guy who was shot in the face while lying helpless in a mosque of all places, and all these people who were trapped inside the city of Fallujah and exterminated, away from the eyes of the world. (There were no press or media allowed inside of Fallujah during the recent American operation, but surviving eye witnesses reported corpses filling the streets).

American authorities are refusing to declare an official number of the Iraqi death toll during the Iraq occupation, but estimates range from 15,000 to 100,000, and these people’s fault was not that they threatened the United States by any means — their fault was that they lived under a dictator who was a long-time ally of the United States just like lots of other third world countries, the only difference being that Saddam overstayed his welcome. And as a quick reminder, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and did not have any association with al-Qaeda whatsoever.

What about starting a relief fund to repair, restore and retrieve the priceless ancient ruins and historic sights all over Iraq that were, according to reports, intentionally destroyed by U.S. armed forces and their “allies?” Actually, how about starting a relief fund for Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, who accepted a deceiving role in launching major military action against a country based on false allegations, without looking out for his reputation as a respected military vet?

Here is a little story on the side: (I) have a bottle of dental mouthwash sitting on my sink with a label that reads, “Now clinically proven as effective as floss” and in fine print, which I never neglect, “against plaque and gingivitis between the teeth.” Unfortunately, after I bought it in favor of other brands based on that claim alone, a court ruling indicated that this label is a public health risk and must be removed. I just want to thank the makers of dental floss who took the mouthwash manufacturer to court, fearing that the claim that mouthwash is as effective as flossing could affect the dental floss market and hence saved me from a possible health risk. You would expect that such protection is provided by the Food and Drug Administration. Obviously the FDA is becoming as sloppy as other three-lettered governmental agencies, which I cannot openly criticize because I do not prefer to spend my spring break in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The moral of the story here is that if you bought into the Iraq war and occupation based on obvious false advertisement — weapons of mass destruction, Sept. 11 connections and a safer America — you need to hold someone accountable for the fact that you have been punked. Now, holding someone accountable becomes a tricky business when you are stuck in a two-party system that does not offer a practical alternative, but this is your duty as an American, so good luck.

On the other hand, I understand that the United States is the 20th century empire with interests that need to be secured and a will that needs to be imposed on weaker countries, even if that requires the use of force. But please do not buy into the notion that military actions in Iraq or elsewhere are helping people of the Middle East by setting up examples of democracy and prosperity, especially when that democracy is installed at gunpoint.

The highly anticipated Iraqi election is going to be held under martial laws and under the supervision of U.S. armed forces. Even (President) Saddam himself thinks that elections held during his days were more legitimate. The expansive imperialistic approach that this administration is taking resembles the same greed and power trip that caused previous empires to collapse. Just keep the historic perspective in mind when you are buying your next yellow ribbon in support of the troops that are about to be deployed in Iran and Syria, because you owe them, yourself and your country more than that.

“Ya Saddam ya 7abeeb, othrobb othrobb Tal Abeeb”

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Profile: The Valet Driver

Overworked,underpaid and still broke.

On weekends, Rhadames worked for a valet-service agency. A decent and relatively comfortable college job, that provided supplemental income to his other two part-time jobs (Substitute teacher and little-league umpire).
His boss would call him during the week to assign the time and location of the coming event. Private parties, fund raisers, church masses, weddings, or any other crowded rich-folks gathering. Rhadames was getting paid around minimum wage plus tips, but the question was:

“How does your boss make his money?”

“He takes the reservations on the phone and charges 25 dollars an hour per driver.”

“WHAT?! So you earn 25 an hour, but he gives you six?!”

“Yeah, but he owns the agency.”

“What does he own? A phone, a few connections, and YOU?!!”

“He has to buy a big insurance policy to protect the cars.”

“You are driving at 10 mph max, What’s the worse that could happen? Do you realize that he is stealing your money?”

“I like the job, I can do some reading during waiting times, and it is better than flipping burgers.”

“But he is giving you six fucking dollars while pocketing nineteen!!”

“Actually he is a very nice guy. On slow-tip nights he pays us extra to make sure we are making at least nine an hour.”

“He is charging twenty five for god’s sake.”

“That’s business.”

“That’s theft.”

“You are a stupid commi.”

“Do you have ten bucks till the end of the week?”

Somewhere, K. Marx was listening and immediately began readjusting surplus value theories to accommodate small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Abu Shreek: The College Idiot

Abu Shreek's 4-year collegiate experience was so uneventful and so unproductive. His main activities were endless daily marathons of Trix and Tarneeb (cards), constant complaining and expressing of disgust, and wasted days around the Square (early in his career), Cafeteria il Handaseh (copying homework and lab reports), and (Koshk il Handaseh, bi idarett Nader Jdoo3: the engineering mini-mart under the management of Nader).
Abu Shreek convinced himself that by participating in every student demonstration, rally and protest, he is fulfilling his duties as a “college student”, and sometimes he actually thought he may be making a difference. Some of these events were more memorable than others:

The “Quds” Support Rally.
As most of the student “gatherings” to follow, this one was organized by the “Shyookh” (On- campus Islamic Party members; most of them are below-average academically, and they look much older than their fellow students (maybe it is the beard, maybe it is the late graduation), and in spite of the differences in ideology and agendas,in general they were very nice and "good peoples" .
As we marched towards Borj il Sa3a (the sight of the event), amazed by-standers observed curiosly from the square. The crowd’s count was respectable, thanks to the large number of sisters marching behind a much smaller number of male participants. In later years I learned that this phenomenon is referred to as “Sila7 il Mo7ajjabatt” or “the egg trays”.(With all due respect to the courageous sisters, the visual simile is very funny).
The event featured a number of speakers, until it got disturbed by a student who started reciting a verse of the poem “Al Quds 3aroos 3orabatikom”, opening with (abna2 al ka7bati la astathni minkom a7adan: Oh, you all sons of bitches with no exceptions (loose translation)). The event had to be stopped to explain to the disgruntled and ignorant crowd, who wrote the poem and to whom its harsh word were directed.
Abu Shreek retrieved back to his headquarters under the tee in the square,secretly wondering what would have happened if the speaker kept reciting till he reached the Syphilis part.

“The General Union for Jordanian Students” Rally.
This one was scheduled to leave campus (a big No-No) and head towards the close by “Ministry of Higher Education”. This was easily the biggest demonstration in terms of Security and anti-riot police outside of the locked main gate. Riot vans extended across the length of (share3 il jam3ah). The in-position, ready for combat riot police outnumbered the students by a ratio of 4 to 1. Water hoses and attack dogs with their handlers were positioned right outside of the gate. A fantabulous scene. As usual we settled for staying inside and after the whole situations were diffused Abu Shreek caught a scandalously-veiled girl talking to a journalist. (The scandalously-veiled girl: usually wearing a ton of make up, usually her name is (Mairvatt), and she is often covering her head but showing just enough cleavage). Abu Shreek was very annoyed to hear her jeopardize the students’ efforts by claiming that she does not care for the “Union” and she does not think it is necessary. Abu Shreek interrupted her, showed his displeasure with the excessive “crowd control” forces, and went home with a false feeling of accomplishment.

“The Computer fees tuition hike”
The school implemented a JD20 increase in tuition as “computer fees” to start “the thousand computers project”. Nothing seemed wrong with the idea, but the fear was that once a series of tuition hikes begins, it will not be stopped, until the whole concept of “free education” is destroyed. One can understand how justified the objection to the new fee was, when you realize how the wealthy elite managed to sneak their kids into governmental universities, depriving poorer, yet more deserving, students from these seats. In addition to the injustice, the overall quality of education at those once-respectable schools is being compromised.
Anyway, we tried to break the locked front gates, but we were met with water cannons (very nice, I did not even know we had those), and out-numbering ganawee (crowd control devices). We backed off, and the situation was diffused by (Al Nae2bb Ma7mood Al Kharabsheh : Senator Gratified Doodles) a former internal intelligence officer!!
Abu Shreek took off his (highly invested in) sweatshirt and jumped to confront the water cannon and pushed against the gates. He never washed his pink-stained white T-shirt. it turned out that they use pink water to mark demonstrators, so that they can "collect" them later

The Second Intifada Series
As the second intifada erupted in Palestine, demonstrations were a daily occurrence inside and outside school. They could not lock the students in anymore, so they allowed us to march up and down (share3 il jam3a: University Drive). The most interesting event was that organized by “the lefty and progressive parties” in the university. It was apparent that no such thing existed since the number of (mokhabarat: secret intelligence personnel (loose translation)) embedded among participant outnumbered the participants 3 to 1.
Still the whole experience had some bright spots. The whole attitude was different and unique. A different collection of songs and yells. It was the first “mixed” rally, where we walked side-by-side to our (Rafeeqat; female comrades), all six of them. When we reached a key intersection we refused to be re-routed and kept yelling (3al safara 3al safara bidna ni7rig il safara: we are heading to the Israeli embassy to burn it down). When the riot police blocked our route toward (il safara) we lined up across the street and sat down, blocking traffic in one of the city's busiest streets. We barely formed two lines but we managed to cause a traffic jam.

The officer in charge ran out of patience within 30 minutes and ordered a limited “run”. Within 5 seconds we were running in 15 different directions, knocking down side-mirrors by the dozens. (When you are being chased, you really cannot afford to maneuver around cars, you run straight). When we regrouped the march leftovers we were 7-10 guys left.
Abu Shreek lead the remaining “crowd” in a free-styling, zaffeh-like song that featured improvised versus making fun of the riot police in a sarcastic, mildly confrontational way.
Abu Shreek felt stupid, hopeless and juvenile.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Profile: The Privatization

Selling Away a Country

As the morally deteriorating world continues its slide towards the ugliest form of capitalism, and following its inhumane principles, “the government” must lose its significance in favor of “the corporation”. The traditional “state” assumes a secondary role to the domination of market economics and the corporations that run and benefit from them. Even a totalitarian regime loses its historic edge, and (shrinks) from maintaining the interest of the population, (using the term interset loosely), to maintaining the profits of the so-called investors.

The problem is that the consumer (formerly known as the citizen) is the biggest loser. Third world countries in particular faces many challenges including :

- The complete absence of laws that provide any kind of protection to the population. (The corporate take over requires this absence of any laws that could impede their exploitation, yet not without maintaining a minimum set of guidelines and laws (anti-monopoly, anti- fraud, anti- white collar crime...) that remain necessary to guarantee a minimal amount of protection (for the corporate) and to create the illusion that things are running smoothly.)
Unfortunately, in our case the people we are depending on for such laws are the main beneficiaries of their absence (ministers, parliament members, royalties and their friends and acquaintances), add to this, the traditional lack of law enforcement (for the benefit of the above groups) and we are screwed.

-In order for the process to be justified, the main revenue from selling off the “country” and its main assets must be used to help in major developmental projects, which will eventually generate higher revenues and provide long term solutions to serious problems. Unfortunately, the revenues are deposited in suspicious over-seas bank accounts, while we are busy celebrating the “improvement” of the services, and the “modernization” of the country.

Whole countries are being auctioned and garage-saled. The vendors are planning a move-out to get joined with the bank accounts. “Expert economists” are congratulating the super companies who are buying the pieces.

Abu Shreek paid his water bill at French Lema, his phone bill to Kuwaiti Telecoms, rode the bus operated by the Sultan of Brunei, applied for a Visa to visit Aqaba, and realized he cannot afford a pack of Viceroy.

NFL: The "Football" Debate

Caution: High Sports Content

Between the years 1989 and 2001 I followed football (soccer) with the commitment and dedication of the true fan. If it is on TV I am watching. I followed that up by reading analysis, commentary and insider information to avoid being that non-passionate casual fan. From the year 2001 on, I was introduced to a new version of football, in which the ball is not round and hardly ever touches the foot.

In the country where I temporarily reside, all the attention is directed toward football while soccer is almost ignored. I would not be a true sports fan if I neglected this phenomenon that is capturing this population. For someone who follows anything from the Winter Olympics (especially Curling) to Jordanian under-17 ping-pong tournaments, I had to get involved.

Now, that the world cup fever is reaching epidemic levels, please accept the following points explaining why American football has better entertainment value than soccer, from an objective observer who continues to follow both sports with passion:

1.The Disappointment Factor.
The actual entertainment value of the game compared to the initial hype and anticipation. Soccer games never live up to expectations. In fact, the exception is for a soccer game to live up to its hype. Throughout the years, big tournaments finals, power houses head-to-heads and sometimes even complete tournaments leave us disappointed. Football games however, with the exception of the SuperBowl which is ridiculously over-hyped, live up to their billings at a much higher rate. When you watch a game offering two good teams you are guaranteed a high level, highly entertaining game.

2. Complexity of the Game
Soccer is a sport for the simple mind (simple rules and simple theme leads to simple watching). Following football with its complex playbooks and specific technical rules requires actual knowledge and sharper observation. As much as we like to mock the average American for his “ignorance” (because they do not care about the location of Iraq or the capital of India) their athletic entertainment requires more brain power than ours.

3. Specialization
Each position on the football field requires a different “type” of player with a very specific job description. Football requires 22 to 33 different specifically-trained athletes ranging between 170 to 400 lbs, performing highly specialized tasks. This is a product and a reflection of the highly specialized “American system” compared to the know-it-all, can-do-it-all attitude, popular elswhere.

4.The Game at the College And the High School Levels
While Europe has its sports academies and “junior” club teams, the U.S. has high school athletics that prepares kids for performing at the collegiatelevel and thereafter professionally. American colleges produce the best athletes in the world, proven by their medal totals in any international sporting event. Colleges produce professional-ready athletes by subjecting them to a very competitive and disciplinary system, while offering them a chance to earn an education, forming an ideal "farm system". Add to this the fact that the revenue from football finances all other on-campus sports through its phenonmenal revenure generation, and you van see how essential football is to American sports in general . High school football is religiously followed and attended to across the country, for its competeiveness and the collective effort the whole community exerts and the pride it generates .

5. The NFL Draft
While soccer trades and transactions are fun to follow, it does not compare to the pro-football draft. The annual influx of talent from the college game to the pros, keeps the game fresh with young athletes in their top physical shape (the average service time for a football players is 5 years). The two-day event featuring 300 of your favorite college players beingselected to play for the professional teams is must see TV, and is an unmatched event for the sport enthusiasts.

6.The Physical Nature of the Game
Soccer is supposed to be a contact sport. Soccer players are often being carried on a stretcher, to return seconds after reaching the sidelines. Football players are referred to as " the modern day gladiators". Those top notch athletes are colliding at full speed between 40 to 60 times per game. The apparent heavy armor seemingly protecting the players (a helmet, shoulder pads and sometimes thigh and hip pads) loses their significance when you realize the amount of momentum and kinetic energy exchanged between two 250 lbs plus bodies colliding at the speed of a world class sprinter. A typical football injury report (issued weekly) includes (concussions, torn muscles and ligaments in the legs, arms, chest, back, ruptured spleens, bruised internal organs and torn sternums).

7. Parity
While football keeps trying to establish equality and maintain competitiveness among all participants, soccer keeps selling its soul to drug lords and corrupt politicians, allowing big-market clubs to spend money freely, allowing them to acquire every star or potential star. The result is a few dominant teams stacked with elite players rotting on the benches, while lower revenue teams are deprived from their talent. Football was aware of this problem and solved it through limiting college scholarships and installing recruiting laws for colleges, and by the successful hard salary cap for the pros.

One cannot deny the soccer advantages; the continuous uninterrupted action without the multiple stoppages and the commercial timeouts, the deep tradition, the simplicity, availability, and feasibility. Unfortunately for every (Senegal vs. Sweeden) 2002 second round game one have to sit through a thousand snooze fests (Go Greece Euro'04 champs) . From a technical unbiased, and an “un-Americanized” point of view Football is “miles” ahead of soccer. No wonder they stole the name.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Profile: Abu Shreek il Mikaneek™

At the corner that leads you into the endless “To All Departments” hallway, there was a big billboard. Every morning, some of our enthusiastic lady colleagues took on the habit of posting newspapers clippings on it, thus creating “Saba7 il Khair ya Handaseh: Good Morning Engineering”. Daily headlines, cartoons and articles were neatly arranged and it made for a very popular read between lecture breaks and dead waiting times.

One afternoon, during a “very interesting” lecture of “Science and Society” (An optional elective), Abu Shreek il Mikaneek composed his first contribution. Abu Shreek source of inspiration and annoyance was the official holiday announced on the day of the (first) solar eclipse. The highly productive work force and the relentless student body are to be awarded a day off on the day of a partial solar eclipse!!

Abu Shreek suggested that since the government is very concerned about school kids and their health (the official explanation and the main reason for the “eclipse holiday” was to protect kids kids against being exposed to the harmful UV rays. It caused some people to lock themselves in and block the openings under their doors,and spend the day in complete darkness, to prevent the fatal rays from penetrating their houses),then there should be a day off on (3eed il Faggoosseh) for the safety of the kids .

(3eed il Faggoosseh : a classic fun-generating practice in the schools of Jordan , very popular among kids between the ages of 8-16. It is mainly an exchange of surprising swings and blows to the head, using the outside of the two interlocked hands, while screaming (il yoom 3eed il faggooseh). Given the shock trauma, mild concussions and brain-cell damage it caused over the years, (il fagooseh) has definitely earned its own holiday on its (3eed).

After pinning his "scribblings" to the board, Abu Shreek was delighted to see a few comments under his piece of paper. A few agreements and a few mildly offensive replies encouraged him to utilize the dull lectures time for something productive. He followed up with (Ighdabb: get mad; with the theme “Fellow students your life sucks, do something about it”), (3abberr 3ann nafsak: if you do not agree with Abu Shreek, write your own articles) and (Al islam howa Al 7al : it does not mean that if I pray and you pray I should be voting for you and your lame party), among a few more, that generated reactions and some times were taken out by the school’s security.

Within a few weeks, “saba7 il khair ya handaseh” became a space for the students’ opinions on various issues. One morning there were so many articles, “writers” had to hang them on the walls next to the billboard. The next morning, we discovered that the school’s security had removed the board overnight and painted the wall behind it. Since then, Abu shreek il Mikaneek kept all his articles and the replies to them in his closet and never wrote again.

Disclaimer: Abu Shreek il Mikaneek™ denies any connections to a columnist bearing a similar name who happens to write for a Jordanian tabloid. Abu Shreek il Mikaneek™ and abu-shreek the blogger, denies any connections or suspicious relations to the office of the prime minister, and hence this notice. (litha igtada al tanweeh)

Profile : The blog

To Blog or not to Blog.
A Blog is created every second.
Is the Blog the next E-mail or is it the next mIRC?
Are Blogs too impersonal?
Blogger late than never.

A stage is available, and Abu Shreek has stuff to share.