Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Archive: A Month Away

A few eye-catching headlines scribbled during April 2004.

Aside from the temporary (and long term) rearrangement of priorities, the glaring insignificance of the body of work and a few other lame excuses (time, inspiration, risk,…), Abu Shreek must reaffirm that he does not cater to any specific group of people other than his own self, and hence, he felt free to take an unannounced one- month leave of absence. With all due respect to my dear four and a half readers (seriously folks, stop spending that much time reading ridiculously irrelevant e-stuff. You may want to consider a hobby and/or some friends), but if three years don’t make the slightest difference in the collective existence, what is the worth of one month in the marginal lives of the individual?

Looking at now and then one cannot but sarcastically wonder: where would we be now if not for the electronic revolution that allowed for every semi-literate computer user to voice out his/her opinion (and I use the term opinion loosely)?

For entertainment purposes, here are a few pages from the April 2004 news clippings, exactly as they were recorded then:

April 14th:

-Reports about Iranian diplomatic efforts to instigate talks between the Americans and “Al Sader” militias.

-The destruction of a mosque in Fallujah using laser guided missiles.

- Palestinian prisoner day. (More than 7500 Palestinians in the occupation prisons).

-Jewish lobbyist groups ask Google to take the website jewwatch.com off their search listing and Google denies their request.

April 15th:

-Bush meets with Sharon and supports all his plans: the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, maintaining and expanding the illegal settlements in the West Bank, the continuation of occupation of the West Bank and the decisive rejection of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

-Bin Laden offers Europe a truce and his offer is met with the ridicule it deserves.

-19th year on the assassination of Abu Jihad in his home in Tunisia.

-The U.S. accuses AlJazeera and AlArabiyya news channels of promoting anti-American sentiments that triggers violence acts against America forces.

-An Italian hostage is executed on tape by a random militia group, and they threaten to murder three more hostages.

-A rally commemorates April 13th as the day marking the beginning of the Lebanese civil war (which one?).

April 16th:

-The fierce American bombing of Fallujah continues, more than two weeks after the killing and the corpse mutilation of four American contractors. The international community had condemned the American operation a week ago, when the Iraqi death toll was at 400, and remained silent since.

-Various international reactions to Bush’s promises to Sharon: Arabic news papers describe it as the “New Balfour promise”, the Jewish papers describe it as a “Historic triumph” and Sharon describes it as the “Knockout”.
As a reminder, the Bush promises are:
No withdrawal to the 1967 borders
No right of return
Dismantling the settlements is impractical

-The Jordanian field hospital in Iraq was accidentally bombed by American occupation forces.

-A rise on the prices of Falafel in Jordan

-Bush in a press conference: “The WMDs could still be found in Iraq

-The Egyptian journalist union rejects an American fund of 35 million dollars intended to train 50 journalists in American universities, expressing their displeasure with the Bush promises to Sharon.

April 16th:

-Bob Woodward mentions in his book that Colin Powell has warned Bush that the invasion of Iraq will lead to a “you break it, you own it” situation.

-A Saudi man is arrested for participating in a talk show on AlJazeera news channel.

-An emergency landing of a plane, traveling between Doha and Casablanca after an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt without a weapon!

-600 reported cases of German measles in Jordan.

-The King of Jordan tours the United States and abstains from commenting on the Bush promises to Sharon.

-Libya remains on the terrorist states list despite apologizing and paying 4 million dollars to each family of the Pan Am Lockerbie flight victims.

-German police authorities thoroughly search two mosques after Al Juma’a prayers and check the identification documents of hundreds of those who were in the mosque.

-HRH princess Muna Al Hussein recommends Golf for Jordanians as a relaxing sport of many benefits.

-The price of a one pack of locally made Viceroy cigarettes is 85 piasters.

-The assassination of Dr. Abdul Azziz Al Ranteessi. The charismatic Hamas leader was the spokesman of the Palestinians who were deported by the occupation forces and remained trapped in “Marj Al Zohoor” on the Palestinian Lebanese border. The assassination comes after the unconditional American green light.

-Jordan announces that the capital was targeted by a chemical terrorist attack that was estimated to cause 20,000 casualties if the planners were not caught in time.

April 19th:

-The Spanish forces withdraw from Iraq, a month after the Madrid bombings. Total number of troops: 1432. The new Spanish prime minister fulfills his promises to his voters, and announced that Spain’s targets were the WMDs and not fighting terrorism. The country celebrates.

-Pakistan presents a request to the human rights committee in the United Nations to hold a special session to discuss the Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders especially the assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassine (March 22nd). 53 countries agree, the U.S., Australia and Eritrea reject the proposal.

- A rise on the prices of Electricity in Jordan.

-Is there a bottom to the hole we are sinking in?

April 21st:

-The king of Jordan suspends his meetings with the American president.

-The Zionist state invests 10 million dollars in expanding the West Bank settlements.

-An informal discussion in the America supreme court over the legality of detaining Muslims and Arabs in Guantanamo. Some voices claim that “The American bill of rights does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens”.

-Massacre in Gaza: Zionist invasion in Gaza results in 12 Palestinian martyrs within 24 hours.

-A bombing in Saudi Arabia, three terrorist killed in Jordan after they tried to attack the Ministry of local affairs, and the death of 69 Iraqis in Basra.

-George Bush insists on using the term “crusade” in describing his war on terror.

April 22nd:

-General Electric and Siemens suspend their work in Iraq.

-A study examining the family incomes of American college students reveals that the distinguished top-tier schools are dominated by those who come from high income families.

-Routine news from Iraq and Palestine: tens are dead, a 16 your old Palestinian dies after taking a bullet in the neck.

-Sudan is accused of committing genocide in Darfur.

-A Swiss bank returns 50 million dollars to the Nigerian government. The money is a portion of the treasury and central bank assets stolen by the Nigerian ex-president Sani Abacha. The estimated total amount that should be returned is 2.2 billion dollars.

-Reports that “Israel” posses 100-400 nuclear war heads and three German submarines capable of carrying nuclear arsenal.

-Bush: “The world leaders owe Sharon many thanks”!

-Reports of wide spread of mercenaries in Iraq, who are operating under the name: private military companies. They do not subscribe to the international war conventions, they are paid up to 10,000 dollars per day, and the majority of them are war criminals from Serbia (White Eagles) or from the remains of South Africa’s apartheid regime.

April 23rd:

-The contract of an employ at an American shipping company working in Kuwait is terminated after she takes a picture of rows of coffins wrapped in American flags carrying the bodies of American soldiers home. The pentagon bans the publication of those pictures.

-A group called “kata2ebb al 7aramain: The brigades of the two holy shrines” announces its responsibility for the latest Riyadh bombings.

-In an African state located between South Africa and Mozambique called “Swaziland”, the king relieved the prime minister of his duties by sending him a text message. The king of Swaziland is the administrative and spiritual head of state and he appoints the prime minister and a small numbers of representatives in the parliament whose majority consists of members elected every 5 years.

-The price of AlRai daily news paper rises from 15 piasters to 20.

April 24th:

-A partial lift of the economic sanctions imposed on Libya (lucky them).

-Sharon threatens to assassinate Yasser Arafat, three weeks after making the statement: “Arafat would be a bad investment for life insurance companies”

-Three Palestinian activists are assassinated in Jewish operation executed by a group of special army forces wearing civil clothes.

-Paul Bremer decides to rehire the so-called ex-Bathist in the respective civil service positions and the appointed Iraqi government council rejects his decision.

April 28th:

-A Saudi student is taken to trial for webmastering several internet sites that are considered to be “promoting Jihad”.

-70,000 Jewish settlers hold a demonstration against the withdrawal from Gaza. The population of Gaza consists of 7,500 Jewish settlers and 1.5 million Palestinians.

-“Israel announces that it will dig a “valley” across the length of the Egyptian-Palestinian border to stop the flow of weapons to the Gaza strip!

-AlGathafi tours Europe promoting Islam.

April 29th:

-The pentagon releases a report claiming that all the resistance acts against the American troops are conducted by “Saddam Hussein agents”.

-PBS broadcasts a documentary-“The Jesus Factor”- demonstrating the Christianity effect on George Bush decision making and his confusion regarding the concept of “separation of state and church”.

-The anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. 54 four deaths and a billion dollar in damages.

-The “Israeli” chess teams participate in the world cup tournament held in Libya!

-Jordanian press reports that Bush considers offering the king of Jordan written guarantees regarding the key issues of “final stage” negotiations :o)

- Saddam Hussein’s birthday.

April 30th:

-American occupation authorities considers turning over AlFallujah to Iraqis to be self-administrated after failing to control it.

-An increase in the American voices opposing the Iraqi occupation especially after releasing photos and videos showing American soldiers torturing prisoners.

-An annual American report defining the various aspects of international terrorism considers Iraq “A central front for terrorism”! The report congratulated Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Egypt on their efforts in fighting terrorism.

-Abu Mossab Al Zarqawi accuses the Jordanian government of fabricating the “chemical attacks” story and threatens the Jordanian government with serious operations over the coming few years.

-Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta join the European Union.

-A quarter million Jordanian from various parts of the country participates in the “Loyalty to Jordan” march.

-Merriam-Webster dictionary adds the following alternative definitions to “anti-Semitism”: Opposition to Zionism and the sympathy for the opponents of Israel.

Now what?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Profile: Must Speak Papers

A reluctant rant

Today marks the 12th day since the “historic” speech took place. A 25- minute Wednesday morning speech squeezed between House sessions discussing the Libby case and Sewage management (seriously). The historic “I Must Speak” speech that was filled with generalities (bordering superficiality) that one would think it was delivered by mother Teresa, not by the ruler of a country who hosts more than 2 million Palestinian refugees dreaming of return.

Well, the true effect of the speech and its place in history remains to be seen: maybe the American congress and the President were so moved by the conveyed picture of a starving Palestinian family or maybe they felt the anxiety of a Zionist mother while her kid mounts the bus (way to present a picture that have the Palestinians and Jewish occupiers at a similar suffering level), or maybe they were reminded that the American empire was supposed to, at least, act like it was built on justice and freedom for all, not on slavery, genocide and bloodshed from the Native Americans to Iraqis and all the murder in between. All of this does not matter and will not matter, but please do not tell the Jordanian printed media that.

For the 12th straight day (not counting the two weeks preceding the speech) every daily news paper had at least one editorial, column or an opinion section dancing, waving hands and blowing horns in celebration of the historic speech. The first-page columnists have already written two articles each. One (more liberal) daily took a shorter route and just permanently pasted a link to the full speech on its electronic first page. “Celebrating” the speech has officially replaced his majesty’s birthday as the longest celebrated occasion of the year (and that is no small feat). Just keep in mind that all this coverage is far from being an objective debate about the “positives” and “negatives”, or the “likes or dislikes”. It is a simply a non-stop festival of picture-waving, “dabkeh” dancing, “Hashmi Hashmi” yelling over an irrelevant event.

Here is what practically happened: all four editors-in-chief of the Jordanian dailies were invited to join his majesty on the historic trip and join the exceptionally inflated accompanying delegation (which despite all the coverage, one could not find the exact list of people joining the trip, or the names of the guests in her majesty’s box). On the way home, each of the editors-in-chief was issued a bag of party whistles and was instructed to distribute them to his employees (one whistle per so-called journalist) and keep blowing them until they all choke. And that is the first step in installing free independent press that will monitor all three branches of the government.(Of course, the next step is the infamous criminalizing publications laws).

Now, over the past few years (well, few decades) one got used to the local news papers being practically a press release of the palace. Here is a quick example: Pick a random day from the electronic archives of any daily and there is no doubt that the three opening headlines, at least, are king related (not that there is anything wrong with that). About a month ago the leading daily AlRai featured SEVEN “His majesty did..” stories on its first page!! On the bright side his majesty is not really involved in the political life and he maintains an honorary and advisory role that is not allowed to be questioned.

All of this is understood, after all this is not Sweden, and the papers are nothing but a reflection of the people. One can brush off the repetitive sucking-up waste of space articles. One can laugh off a cover page column entitled “Girls” that opens with seven straight paragraphs describing “school girls” in a borderline pedophilic overtone and closes with “long live the king”… repeated thrice! (Now that’s some creative writing). But reporting imaginary things as facts, assuming that people still live in the 19th century is unacceptable.

Here is an excerpt from the 2 millionth “historic speecht” article:

جلالة الملك حقق اختراقا مهما في السياسة الأميركية فلأول مرة يجلس الرئيس الاميركي جورج بوش مع جلالته وهو يضع ورقة وقلماً ويقول لجلالة الملك ماذا تقترح علي أن اعمل؟ ومع وأين؟ وغيرها من الأسئلة المهمة التي تؤشر
“His majesty the king has achieved an important breakthrough in the American policy. For the first time George Bush holds a paper and a pen and asks his majesty: What should I do? What doYou suggest? And many other important questions”.

Honestly whether this is another form of “creative” writing or not, I could not but imagine his majesty resting back, crossing his legs in Bush’s face and dictating some suggestions to him, while poor Bush is writing down the tips in confusion: (“So you suggest we pressure them into NOT demolishing the Aqsaa mosque? Mmm, interesting! So… Do you spell Aqsaa with one A or two AAs?”). The only reason that one may be skeptical about such an incident, is the fact that there was no reported official meeting that took place between his majesty and president Bush, at least according to the unreliable American papers and the white house press releases! “The President and Mrs. Bush hosted the King and Queen of Jordan for a private dinner”. End of story. His majesty and Bush were both in casual clothes, no ties, no press conferences, and definitely no pen or paper anywhere in sight. Well maybe that took place during another one of these historically notorious secret meetings.

Again, this should not be a big deal. From the Jordanian perspective Jordan is the center of the universe, while from the American perspective, not as much. From the Jordanian point of view his majesty is meeting with the CEO’s and the giants of the Massachusetts economy lobbying for investing oppurtunities in Jordan, while from the Boston Herald’s perspective he is simply promoting his 36,000 $ a year prep school.

What is more alarming is when the 1984-ish phenomenon of actively and retroactively distorting the truth extends to polish tainted characters of lesser stature than the king. When you get to a point where you are referring to the current Head of Parliament using the sentence: “I recall that he was always democratic, understanding of differences, and receptive to arguments”!! Because nothing screams democracy more than the guy who was the chief of the police department under extended periods of “Martial Laws”. That is the same guy who threatened to use violence and to arrest a journalist, under the parliaments dome, a month ago!(And by the way, that Audi police cars deal we always joked about, according to the above “distinguished” columnist, turned out to be a great investment deal that generated revenue since the cars were eventually sold at a higher price!).
I just can’t wait to see the articles written when (when not if) the convicted ex-head of the intelligence department is released from jail (Oops, I mean returns from London, Aqaba or wherever he is currently vacationing) and assumes the position of the “Head of anti-Corruption Department”.

As a closer, some words of wisdom to live by:In my days in Massachusetts, I also learned something of New England virtues. There wasn’t actually a law against talking too much, but there was definitely an attitude that you didn’t speak unless you could improve on silence. Today, I must speak; I cannot be silent.”
Just wondering: “In the improbable case that some random Jordanian felt that his majesty did not represent him/her accurately in front of the congress for whatever reason, could this citizen “speak”, or is it a perquisite that he or she lived, currently lives or was able to afford the luxury of an education… in New England?”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCAA: March to Victory (I)

An intro segment to the NCAA 07 Basketball tournament

The NCAA college basketball tournament has been called the most exciting event in all of sports. This may not be very accurate but it is definitely a very intriguing event with multiple story lines and unprecedented drama generated by the single elimination format. Here are three reasons to watch the tournament:

-The talent level is just tremendous. With the NBA installing the “one year out of high school” draft rule many players who could have been acting like 16-17 year old immature basketball players in the NBA, are playing college hoops. Instead of draft class topped by Bargnani, Aldrige and Morrison (pedestrian players), we are heading towards the deepest NBA draft in years. There are NBA- level talents in the teams playing in NIT! Just check out this list and watch for some of these players during the games.

-The version of basketball played is much closer to real basketball than it is to street ball and (And1) mixed tapes. If you play basketball, you may learn something or two watching these kids. I was never a big fan of those who claim that college athletics are “better” “purer” and “more exciting” than professional ones, but one has to admit that while every now and then there is an epic instant-classic NBA game like yesterday’s Mavs-Suns, there are many extremely boring, isolation-based, ball-palming un-watchable NBA games. Take these two examples:
-College kids make their open shots. You cannot say that about the recent NBA.
-Big men play a fundamentally-sound low-post game. They may not be that quick but most of them has at least on or two low post moves.

-The college tournament is the only real high-stakes sporting event scheduled until early April. The NBA regular season is practically over but we have to sit through another month of meaningless games to determine which team, the Nets or The Knicks is going get bounced in the first round of the endless playoffs. MLB opening day is April first. And even the ridiculously over-hyped NFL draft is scheduled around the third week of April.

Now, I was planning on explaining the rationale behind my bracket selections for this years tourney until I realized that this is probably the only thing more annoying than someone telling you about their fantasy team. But last Sunday I got a good look at all four top seeds in their championship games, and I was convinced that this years tournament is a must-see event.

My notes from hoops Sunday [4 college games, and 1.5 NBA ones over 12 hours (I just could not finish the Lakers-Mavs game because it was over by the first quarter. That was the same game after which Phil Jackson announced: "we could sign Jesus Christ right now and he won't be able to help us.Terrence in Sierra Madre followed up on that by: "Let’s how they don’t try to recruit Mohammad, then the whole Middle East will go nuts, screaming bloody hell and burning Lakers jerseys")] are:

I like Greg Oden more than Kevin Durant, but my favorite Ohio State player is Mike Conley jr. Florida has three players that can be top ten picks (Noah, Brewer and my favorite Horford). I have no idea how good are Georgetown or UCLA.
North Carolina has excellent guard play and the third best player in all of college in Brandan Wright. Texas coach played zone defense on Kansas’ last possession of the second half and Kansas hit a three pointer to tie the game and win in over time.[And I am a stupid idiot to pick Texas to beat UNC in the Elite 8. I just hope Durant plays the game his life against UNC and I hope that Roy Williams did not watch tape of the undersized Brandon Rush shutting Durant down in the second half against Kansas]. More thoughts on teams (other than my final four) andsome excerts from Bob Knight's latest interviews may be coming soon.

Given the fact that the stakes are high than ever, and given the fact that this is the most important and most exciting tournament ever (for 1254 reasons), Abu Shreek may retire from public life and take a vow of eternal silence if he does not win his high-stakes pool.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Mailbag (VII)

A mini-mailbag precisely aimed at targeting many of the current tough issues surrounding the Arab and Islamic world from a bird’s eye perspective (where everything looks flat). (و يا محلى النصر بعون الله).

What ranks lower on the pathetic human-being level: The guy who sells his sperm or the guy who sells his blood plasma?
-Bum, weighing his options
P.S. If you are planning on going with a smart-ass reply like “a job would be your best option”, then please save me your hilarious sarcasm and forget I asked.

First, Abu Shreek always does his best to answer the exact question asked, and we are all sure that if getting a job was an available option, you would not have resorted to selling bodily fluids as a survival technique.

Now, that is one of the trick questions that may make you jump to a quick conclusion only to realize that you made the wrong decision. Just consider the following factors:

Time: The process of donating sperm takes a much shorter time than donating plasma. (Donating plasma usually takes about an hour for the blood to be withdrawn, the plasma centrifuged out, and the red cells pumped back in). However the application and the pre-screening process for the sperm donation may take a longer duration
Edge (One time): Tie
Edge (repeat donor): Sperm

Money: Plasma donations usually pay around $45-60 (for two donations a week), where according to (TSBC: The Sperm Bank of California): “You are paid $75 for every ejaculate that meets our minimum sperm count, a payment that increases to $90 after your first 25 acceptable ejaculates. You are paid $200 when you complete the exit blood test, which is required six months after you retire from the program.”
Edge: Sperm by a mile. (When you factor in the time as a (per hour “wage”), the discrepancy is even greater).

Frequency: You can only donate plasma twice a week, where you can donate sperm with a much higher frequency (up to three times a day). However, it also depends on the program you are enlisted in and their needs.
Edge: Tie (you are not in control in either case)

Pain and losses: The plasma donation includes being stuck with a big fat needle for every donation. You lay on a bed with your legs up like a patient and you may experience dizziness and dehydration resulting from the loss of minerals, water and more importantly protein (which you cannot afford in the first place). Sperm donation involves no loss of nutrients and no significant pain (except that pain you suffer to your dignity).
Edge: Sperm

Chances that you will have your numerous kids running around unaccounted for and since the world is a small village, there is a remote (but possible) chance that two of your unaccounted for kids end up marrying each other, among the other many social and moral complications: Enough said.
Edge: Plasma

The final decision is always yours. Abu Shreek does not get involved in life-changing decisions affecting his own destiny, let alone other people’s future.

I would like to believe that my physical abilities are constant and does not decline (by) age. However, witnessing super stars (ripe) in their sports and eventually retire (i.e. Andre Agassi) compels me to believe otherwise, or is it possible that these guys just get fed up with the fame and fortunes and decide to pursue other interests in life?
-Romel, Undisclosed location

Wow! Thos are probably two of the most misinformed statements that I have ever heard in succession. Well, let me first break out the bad news to you: If you even have any physical abilities (doubtful), they WILL decline with age (also, this is just in: water is wet, and the student is just like a pupil if he gets an (F) he will instantly fail the class). As for the second part I just want to tell you that Michael Jordan finished his career with the Washington Wizards averaging 20 points (10 full points below his career average) on a team that finished 37-45 in back to back years. Jerry Rice, the best wide receiver of all time and the holder of every possible record at the position, finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks catching 28 balls all year and was shutout in the last three games of his career. (He still returned the next year but could not make it out of training camp as the Broncos fourth wide receiver), then he “competed” in “Dancing with Stars”!

When Andre Agassi held the World No. 1 world ranking in 2003 he was the oldest No. 1 ranked male player ever at 33 years and 13 days. He held the No.1 ranking on that occasion for 14 weeks and never held it again, never won a grand slam again, and won his last ATP event in 2005 (trumpet: obituary music). Everything that followed in his career was running on fumes and hanging in too late (again, he was D-U-N- done four years ago). It got to a point where the surprise is if he goes deep in a tournament (like when he reached the finals in the ’05 U.S. open against inferior competition (his toughest win was James Blake!)).

Athletes live for the spotlights and competition and they can never quit. Most of them are not very unsuccessful in the “other interests” they try to pursue. They may tell you they enjoy spending time with the family and playing golf, but the minute a team expresses a remote interest they jump back in (Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller are both looking to play again). The problem is that they are oblivious to the fact that: yes skills do diminish with age (unless you are Roger Milla, Ricky Henderson, or Julio Franco).

One more thing, since you are a repeat e-mailer and you got me to do some sports research, during a really dead sports period, you are the winner of the prestigious email of the week award. Contact our offices and leave your mailing address. You will receive your award sooner or later (just ask the previous winners).

Do you agree with the following statement? “The most important thing about being alive is that one has the opportunity to do what is right, or to do what is wrong; and that one has the power to choose; and that one has not the power to refuse that choice.Second question: Seriously, why are men and women infatuated in understanding each other...who caaaaares?
-7aki Fadi, Canada

We usually do not allow for multiple questions per reader, but given the fact that: A. You are always saying nice things about my articles (Damn, it seems like I DO have a soft spot for compliments) and B. Your first statement is so inappropriate for this space, you are unfortunately banned from submitting any other questions for two months.

I read the first statement five times and every time I am starting to put something together I get completely thrown off by the last part that seems to be out of place. (Or, there is a distant chance that I am really challenged when it comes to philosophical statements especially those who have a “existence theory/humans and their lives” dimension to them. The most important thing about being alive is being able to enjoy food. Right and wrong is all relative (yet obviously clear!) (ballahi kaif? I feel like a philosophikker already) and no one can completely and freely choose, yet everyone has to make lemons out of the hand that is being dealt to them (unless one finds out about committing suicide by autoerotic asphyxiation).

As for the second part (and since I already have my philosophickization hat on): The desire to be able to penetrate the opposite gender’s brain stems from the need to experience certain incidents from the other perspective and hence to be able to relate to it, which eventually makes life easier for everyone. Women are able to read and interpret other women’s words, gestures and actions because they feel or understand how they feel. When a man see another man punching a wall because his favorite team lost ….Ahh screw it….You are definitely banned.

In light of the challenges of globalization, climate change and political reform in the region, and not withstanding the seriousness of the Danish insults to our beloved Prophet (PBUH), I found myself challenged by a new internal struggle about the proper way to eat Danish Butter Cookies.
It has long been established that Danish Butter Cookies, ( like trallali Tivoli baskot bil zibdeh), are eaten in multiples of four. However, the selection of the four cookies has always left me in bewilderment and moral dilemma: Do I eat four cookies of one kind that come in a single paper cup, or do I select one of each kind so that the can is consumed at a more even rate?
Each day we are forced to make tough decisions and I am turning to your wisdom for helping me make this tough decision once and for all.
Be Blessed.
-ka3ki, Sesame Street, Utah

As we express our appreciation to the confidence you show in our capabilities in targeting issues that are worth our time and effort, here is the best scientific breakdown we can offer to your dilemma:

-A tin package of DBCs that has the standard four cookies variety in their standard four per paper cup.
-The preferred number of cookies consumed is four or its multiples.

-The best way to distribute the consumption: One cup of four OR a collection of four different ones?

-The pretzel-shaped cookie and the rectangle cookie are assumed to have the same taste [approximation].
- The swirling-round cookie is the best [various references].
-This is a synthesis (design) problem that does not have a stand-alone answer, but rather an optimal resolution for a presented situation.
-No single individual living by himself/herself should consider purchasing a pack of this product, especially if he/she is under some psychological stress or depression. [This would offer the trivial case, where the whole package would be consumed in a single session (two sessions max)].

Case I: As a visitor.
As a guest who is offered such a treat by your host, be courteous: put your personal preferences aside and try to pick the situation that will keep the can “presentable” after you leave. Avoid the last cookie in a cup. Pick from the full ones. Your best option will be to limit your total to two cookies and give the excuse “I’m watching my weight”. (When your host leaves to get the drinks, stuff two more in your jacket pockets).

Case II: Raiding the kitchen.
Your number one target is not to get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, or at least create the illusion that would allow you to deny accusations if you become a suspect. If the can is relatively new, then a full cup of four is your best bet (do not forget to redistribute the remaining cups to cover for the empty space). If the cups have big spacings among them, then you go with the variety of four, but do not be too committed to all four different cookies of them: If your situation looks better (meaning: the can looks unchanged) with unbalanced four-cookie selection, go for it (i.e. say there is only one square cookie left, just go for two pretzels).

Case III: In a friendly family atmosphere.
You are sitting with your significant other or your parents trying to get some dessert after a good meal. That’s the situation with the most variables (that may need a small programming code (with some Do loops) to resolve), since most of the time you are under minimal outside constraints. Here is where the spouse or parents must interfere: some outsider regulations to assure that the total number of cookies consumed do not exceed four (that’s 23 calories and 7 grams of fat per cookie) and to assure that the can stays in decent shape in case some unexpected guests stop by and you have to offer them something to go with the tea.

There has been one of these chain letters circulating (I received it as recently as last weak!!) claiming that the man who drew the Danish cartoons was accidentally burnt to death and the Denmark is “hiding the news”! I just cannot stop wondering how come all the other depictions of the prophet Mohammad (from the one showing him as a little kid entitled: “The monk Bahira recognizing the prophetic mission of Muhammad [original in Jami’ Al Tawareekh (710A.D. currently preserved at the Edinburgh University library) to his appearance in South Park “Super Best Friends”] went unnoticed. Seriously who make those decisions: “Okay people, let’s go crazy. NOW”.
Either way, (قاطعوهم لعنهم الله : Boycott them god damn it).

Who are you anyway? Is Abu Shreek even a real person? Does anyone know who this person is? Are you even Jordanian or are you “Sri Lankan”? Are you being paid by foreign agencies to conspire against our flourishing country and to tarnish our legacy?
-Many Comrades, most of them who never even bothered to read Abu Shreek’s pieces, and who believe that singing “Hashmi Hashmi” twice in the morning, twice at night, and one time during the day is the recipe for success and an indication that the country is booming.

Here is a quick recollection of some of the previous points made in this space in order to cater for those who did not bother to read, because they either suffer from a short attention span, or most probably they do not care for such “nonsense”. This is a useless attempt to enable them to formulate a better judgment before feeling free to start tossing accusations around, creating their own definitions for “constructive criticism”, and questioning loyalties and devotion to our country.

-The history of the Hashemite family in Jordan may not be as “pure” as we were taught at school: King Abdullah the first may have struck a deal with the British and betrayed his own father in exchange for the piece of land east of the river. There is a chance that his father Sahreef Hussein of Mecca, on his way to exile, uttered the statement (الا ليت الفيصل فيصلان وليت عبدالله ما كان: I wish I had two sons like Faisel instead of having Abdullah). He may have had strong ties with the Jewish agency and may have had deals with them on splitting influence over the area west of the river. He ended up being assassinated. King Talal, the father of the constitution, was forced to abdicate due to an alleged mental condition. King Hussein single-handedly built modern Jordan. He was able to maintain a safe and stable country in a volatile area without resorting to murder and brutal assassination technique like his fellow dictators. However that does not mean that he was not on the CIA payroll under a code-name and for a few millions a year in direct payoffs (Bob Woodward: Shadow”- A follow-up Time magazine story from 1977), or that does not mean they he may have not had very close ties to the Zionists: he himself confirmed the allegations that he considered asking for their aid against the Palestinian organizations in 1970, and that he had secret talks with Issac Sahmir and others trying to reach a peace treaty as early as the 70s [50 years on the Arab-Isreali conflict]. He may have flown to meet with Golda Meier to warn her about a possible Egyptian-Syrian attack prior to the 1973 war. In appreciation of his efforts, the Zionists felt that it would be appropriate to issue a state stamp commemorating his death. He went from selling his tricycle as a kid to afford to eat [his autobiography] to being one of the richest rulers in the world, in less than 30 years! King Abdullah is doing his best to carry the country into the 21st century but he can barely speak Arabic (which is really not a big deal when you compare it to the some of his other problems like political inexperience and lavish spending). [Of course, if you consider speaking the official language of the country you rule an unnecessary luxury then you may consider this to be an unjustified personal/character attack. On a similar note, here is the kind of jokes that people whispered in the streets whether you choose to acknowledge them or not: “Why did the secret police arrest a man for yawning? They thought he was mocking the King swearing-in speech”. [reference: middle school kids ,1999].

Now, whether these FACTS are true or not is irrelevant. All the above does NOT MATTER as long as we can move forward towards a situation more suitable for the 21st century:

Under the current situation there is no other option than the palace as the sole and only decision-maker (there are no practical and ready alternatives). The democratic process that started in 1988 has been constantly regressing to the point that journalists are asking for the King’s protection against the parliament (!) and the assigned members of the parliament are more interested in the public well-being than the elected schmucks who continue to seek their own interests (As evident by the municipality laws, the anti-corruption laws, and the press laws). BUT, here are some basic demands that any self-respecting citizen would agree with:

-A level of proportionality between decision-making and responsibility. It is impossible to tolerate a situation where the sole decision-maker who possesses the absolute power is subjected to zero questioning and completely immune to criticism.

-Since the palace is the main (and only) political power, it can use its dominant influence to change the landscape of the political situation in Jordan (getting rid of the old-guard, using academic institutions and educated research to formulate new parties and election laws, encouraging personal freedoms…) until the palace is gradually withdrawn from politics altogether, to reach the state of an honorary constitutional royalty.

-Along the same lines, the palace can do a lot in fighting corruption. The King can use his honorable status (not to say domination on every aspect of life) to stop sponsoring and encouraging such parasites, starting at the highest level. [There is no bigger word that resonates with corruption in Jordan than the word (Deewan: Royal court): Why is this car did not get a speeding ticket? Deewan. Why is the laziest graduate of our class studies in England? Deewan. Why did this firm get the catering contract? Deewan contacts: The owner knows someone who knows the personal driver of someone who works at the Deewan]. A constitutional monitoring of fortune and spending is a vital step in fighting corruption, while always keeping in mind that the king of Jordan cannot afford nor is he entitled to the lifestyle of the Sultan of Brunei.

-Reconsidering the relationship between Jordan and the Zionists. Given the fact that the so-called Arab-Israeli peace process has been on hold, the 1994 treaty has a very “solitary” feel to it now, since none of the other Madrid conference participants has reached satisfactory resolutions. Jordan has huge stakes in the Palestinian issue (just think of the millions of refugees) and hence it needs to reestablish itself as a negotiator and a party in the process (a role bigger than the advisory theatric role it is currently attempting). While withdrawing from the peace treaty altogether may be diplomatically impossible, a harsher approach towards the atrocities of the Zionists can be taken, by remembering that the majority of the people of Jordan still consider them the enemy, and that the people are not comfortable with the current “friendly”- normalizing atmosphere.[On a side note: it may be the time to free Ahmad Al Daqamseh: So the over- enthusiastic kid committed an unacceptable act of violence, well, in times of war there are some collateral innocent casualties (just ask our American friends). The late king sincerely apologized and “kissed the heads” of the families of the “victims”. Well, the guy is not a criminal, and we are STILL in war status with the Zionists. He deserves to be released by now].

-The relationship with the United States can use some balancing too. They are the superpower and we won’t be able to deal with them as equal counterparts: Fine. But we should be able to maintain a little dignity and the feel of an independent country rather than an American colony. How else would one explain Bush visiting Jordan, meeting with his Iraqi government mercenaries and agents on our turf and then taking off without even meeting with his majesty our king?! How is this diplomatically acceptable and when did Jordan officially turned into a rented space for America and its Iraqi mess! Jordan has a lot of stakes and risks as a result of the Iraqi crisis (the refuges, the terrorism influx, the feel of insecurity and turbulence resulting from living between two occupations,…) and it had the right to be able be a party in determining the future of the region. (And just as a quick reminder: most of the Jordanian population does not recognize the CIA agents and opportunistic militia leaders as a legitimate Iraqi government even if the Jordanian officials are forced to treat them as such and give them medical attention in our hospitals).

Another option would be the "regime" making the following statement: “This is a farm owned by the royal family. They are the owners of the land and everything on it and those who dare to disagree with this situation are not welcome among our herd.” This admission will clarify the situation for those who refuse to take their heads out of the sand and most importantly would make it evident to those who long for a legitimate country that they would be better off looking for a better life as citizens of Canada. The regime would also save itself the worthless effort exerted in trying to appear as a defender of freedom and the leader of prosperity.

Other than that, Long live the king and “Hashmi Hashmi” from dusk to dawn.

Why the (heck) all the idiots in this country deem the Abdoun Bridge a threat to their lives? And would an increase in the frequency of masturbation offer a solution to the brain-dead problem in our society?
Frustrated Reckless LoML (M3assbeh),

The reluctance to utilize the monumental and completely unnecessary landmark may seem ridiculously unjustified at first but you really cannot blame the people for being cautious. Maybe the size of thing is threatening to some simple (not to say naive) citizens, but that may also reflect the amount of trust those citizens have in the officials in charge. Let’s say a farfetched catastrophic accident happens to the “complex” structure, who is going to be held responsible?: The Amman mayor? The minister of constructions and housing? The prime minister? The current ones or the ones that preceded them in holding the revolving-door positions? Actually, here is the expected official statement: “Blame the Japanese contractors.” Or better yet: “This it is the people’s fault, they are unfamiliar with the proper procedure required to “use” the “service” properly.”

Judging by the multiple useless water dams spread around the country, the recent partial collapse in the housing towers (while under construction), the partial collapse in one of the traffic tunnels (a few years back while under construction), and the sloppiness, greed, and the shortcut-mentality expected from local contactors you cannot blame the people for being a little suspicious.

With all that said, one has to agree that there DOES exist a very high percentage of inhumane idiotic stupidity living among us. My friend Balfoot explains it this way: “I tried to maintain my faith in the general public intelligence, trying to convince myself that the idiots I come across in my daily life are the exception rather than the majority norm, UNTIL the Arabic news websites added sections for readers’ comments.” Add to this the level of ignorance exposed via personal spaces and forums (especially this particular space here) by the “educated” specimen of the society and we may notice a slight problem.

However I refuse to explain this problem based on sexual-frustration, since:1.Abu Shreek refuses to tackle any subjects that are deemed taboo or approach the redlines of issues that are considered national/moral security threats, since that may jeopardize his entrepreneurial career aspirations and subject him to criticism that he does not tolerate. 2. Abu Shreek is not interested in finding solutions for any problems, but rather concentrates his efforts on destructive criticism, trivialities and personal adventures. 3. An amount of stupidity at this level [اصيب عشرة مواطنين بعيارات نارية مساء امس الاول اثر مشاركتهم في حفل عرس في بلدة الروضة ـ لواء الشونة الجنوبية ، حالة اثنين منهم حرجة ،: 10 people were injured at a wedding party after someone lost control of an automatic weapon he was firing in celebration] would not be cured by 70 virgins, let alone a little self-relief.

If you’ve missed the last mailbag , email us at abushreek_jor@yahoo.com, with your name, email address and credit card number, and a copy will be delivered to your mailbox free of charge. (+$8.99 for shipping and handling. All major credit cards and Pen Pal are accepted).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Profile: The FaithMaster 2Kx

A computer program to comfort the human soul and save the world in the process.

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century it is becoming more evident that the close connection between human beings and the concept of “religion” is not going away anytime soon. On the contrary, many of the conflicts we are witnessing in the world today can be explained based on a religious background.

Human beings are weak and vulnerable by nature, mainly because they have not managed to explain or find an effective way to deal with the “death” phenomenon. Add to this the amount of injustice, risks and fears surrounding the daily life, and it becomes inevitable for people to hang on to an invisible superpower that provides answers, promises and protection. [Take for example the student who spends tens of hours preparing for a test (say a Physics test). He will feel an obligation to follow up his studying with a prayer hoping that “Everything goes okay” (fear of the unexpected) and hoping “This one problem he did not study well would not be on the test” (Covering for his shortcomings and laziness). (Of course nine out of ten times this problem WILL be on the test (like say for example: Prove that in a perfectly elastic collision the coefficient of restitution is equal to one.), and he will end up with a 68/80 despite the prayers ! (Yes, I am still bitter about it)).
(Late Caution: You should have skipped the last paragraph. It barely offered anything substantial).

Now, since all the signs clearly indicate that we are quickly approaching the “*acropolis*” [See “the Anti-Christ Conquers the World from the Bermuda Triangle” and similar references], and aside from the subscription to a religious group or not, every self-respecting individual should be wondering: “Am I am being a “good” human being?” and “In the case that there does exist a life after death (hypothetical assumption or deep belief) that features a “punishment vs. reward” system (based on the behavior on earth), where do I currently stand ?”.
That is when technology comes to the rescue.

A simple computer program will be the personal gauge and indicator. A user-friendly, multiple-choice, pull-down-menu based software evaluates the daily deeds versus the sins and converts them into points. The cumulative point total gives a rough estimate on whether a particular individual will end up in eternal happiness or eternal misery, (generally known as Heaven or Hell), in accordance with the guidelines of the particular faith he/she has chosen to follow.

Here is a rough overview on how it works: After installing the program you select your base religion (Anything from unitary religions to the Invisible Pink Unicorn). All the ensuing menus and selections are adjusted for the initial selection, awarding and deducting points accordingly. The first couple of screens are “General” and “Belief”: Generals may contain selections like “gender” or even “skin color” (Unfortunately, some religions do pay attention to such details), while the “Belief” menu is a survey-style questionnaire that will test your commitment to the selected religion (Do you believe in God? His angels? His book? His prophets?...Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior? ….Do you believe in spirits reincarnation?...). These will generate “constant points” that does not change on daily basis unless there is a change in the profile (like say you go through a near-death experience and you feel that you should change your answer to the “Do you believe in fate?” question from “agree” to “strongly agree”).

Next, you move to the daily activities section. With the carefully-designed and accurately guided selections this process should not take more than ten minutes to reflect on the day and sum it up (which is well-worth the effort given the fact that this will unveil your final destination. Also keep in mind that there will be PDA compatible version where the selections can be uploaded from a mobile device back to the main program). The daily activities will include: “Worship practices” (Did you pray? On time?... Are you observing the Sabbath?... Did you run the three miles? (There must be a religion out there that considers jogging a form of worship!). “Food and beverages restrictions” are the cornerstone of any religion (Did you eat anything that has a soul? Did you eat meat? Was it pork? Was it Hallal/ Kosher? …Did you drink alcohol? Was it beer, wine, or liquor? Did you get drunk? Did you pray while drunk? Did you drink blood? Was it human blood? Literarily or figuratively? ).

The most complex menu is the one dealing with “Human interactions” and “Integrity”, since practically this is the targeted end result of any religion. Those are probably going to need extensive work by sociological and philosophical experts to compose. (Did you Cheat? Steal? Lie? Harm?...Did you kill anyone? Was it for fun or in the name of religion?...Did you engage in any sexual acts? Same sex? Premarital? Visual ? Oral? Anal?). There could be an added section for “Charity” (Did you give to charity? What percentage of your daily income? Did you brag about it?...) and another one for “Conversion” (Did you try to convert anyone today? How many? How many converted? How many punched you in the face?...)

A few things to keep in mind:

- Before accusations of blasphemy starts flying around, remember that all the standards (all the menu selections and the points added and deducted accordingly) are set by a distinguished assembly of clergymen for each respective religion. Each council will use the necessary and approved references (religious books, historical incidents, contacts with spirits,…) to assure that the program is effective and accurate. It would be unfair to raise the user expectations for eternal happiness, only to send him/her crashing with the biggest disappointment of his/her life/afterlife.

-Within those same lines, and for a close estimation that prevents huge disappointments, the user has to have a very high sense of self-monitoring and be honest with oneself. This is a personal record and if you choose to lie and convince yourself that you are an excellent human being with a guaranteed direct pass to heaven, you will be unpleasantly surprised at the moment of the truth. [On a side note, this daily self-evaluation process may help restrain people’s evil behavior. One may be willing to practice more self control once he realizes that at the end of the day he will have to document confessions of the variety: “Today I prayed profoundly but then I fondled a little kid”.

-The program will offer multiple plug-ins and add-ins (for those less popular religions and newly invented ones) along with automatic updates, just in case some religions’ guidelines change (like say Islam making it official that Jihad and head covers are no longer considered main requirements or Christianity announcing that divorce has become acceptable). There will be also a technical support hotline with two departments: A “universal” department that deals with computer-related issues (installation, bugs, connecting to a mobile device,…) and a specialized (per religion) department that helps with the selection process and which will be operated by a clergyman (or an Indian pretending to be one): [If you are Muslim press 3. If you are calling about a food-related issue press 4… “Mmm yeah, I ate some meat that was not Hallal but I was really in tough situation. What should I select?”… “I can help you with that sir. Go to the food menu. After you select meat, not pork, not Hallal, the link that reads “special cases” will be highlighted and active. If you hit the button you will see that option one is “Afraid to starve to death”, option two is “I did not know”, option three is “It was slaughtered by a Jew or a Christian”, option four is “Hallal meat was of a lesser quality and highly overpriced”. Good luck sir and remember that each option has a different point situation associated with it. Salam Alaykom”. click].

-Note to the followers of some religions who believe that they are guaranteed a free pass to heaven simply based on the religion they selected and who may think that they do not need such a program: it would be a good idea to get your copy of FM 2Kx just in case that some other religion turns out to be the real “true religion”, or some other people are the true “god chosen people”, since there are multiple groups sporting the same claim. If you manage to collect a good number of points they will definitely help you out in negotiating your case.

-The most important upside of this program is that it will put an end to people’s arguments about religion. The point system levels the playing field and normalizes “faith” and “goodness” to the point where people can quantitatively compare their devotion and well-doings whether they are members of the same religious group or not:
Say a devoted Buddhist runs into an atheist. The Buddhist tries to convince the atheist to worship a statue while the atheist is arguing the irrationality of religion altogether. The resolution: “How many points do you have?”… The atheist smiles triumphantly and calmly says: “ I have 5821 points to your 3212, and despite the fact that I am pretty sure that these points are not taking me anywhere, at least I can confidently tell you to take your statue, get off of me, and try to be a better person”.
Two Muslims after a Friday prayer in front of the Mosque… “How come I only see you here on Fridays?”… “I know I am missing out on a lot of points by not coming to the Mosque more often, and I know I also give up many points by cussing and for having a short fuse, but at least I am not engaging in fucked up shady business deals and ogling the hell out of every female’s ass in sight”. He violently pulls out a print out: “I dare you to show me how many points you have Mr. Mosque-guy, huh HUH?”. Then they start punching each other in the face.

Now, that we have found this very practical concept, and given the fact that clergymen and software developers are a dime a dozen, all we need is a smart investor who will realize the potential of a program that will become a necessity to every human being and that is bound to protect humanity from self-destruction and create a perfect world.

Friday, February 23, 2007

NBA: Foul Shots

A few observations from the All-Star weekend and some other negative remarks on league related issues with less than 30 games to play.

-For the past seven years I tuned in for the NBA all-star game hoping for a basketball game to break out. Instead, I end up sitting through a mixture of a bad Harlem Globetrotters impression and one of these street ball mix tapes (but without the actual skills). How hard is it for the supposedly best players in the world to put together 15-20 minutes of solid all-around performance, playing “real” basketball, instead of the bad circus act that got people dozing off by the second quarter? Well maybe David Stern is right when he keeps repeating “The all-star weekend is a celebration of the game”, if by a celebration he means a reflection of what the NBA has morphed into on: A nice “show” at times, and a “popular” product molded into a pseudo-basketball format.

-The tone of the game was set immediately after the tip-off. The first three possessions made it obvious that “Nope, there won’t be a basketball game this year, not when the game is in Vegas and the players (according to eye witnesses) are moving like they are either high, hung-over or both). Two minutes after LeBron James announced: “Buckle up and enjoy the ride” the players, the people watching at home, and even puff-daddy and Jay-Z on the sidelines were looking at each other like “is it over yet ? This is really boring”.

-Judging by recent games, even when the players are showing complete disinterest, there is always the potential that the last 5-7 minutes could bring some seriousness and excitement in case the game is still close. There would be a “crunch time” line-up, some attempts to play defense, some “pride” on the line ….Nope, not this year. The East trailed by twenty points early, and despite that, they kept on tossing alley-oops in the stands, taking quick impossible three-point shots, and miss exaggerated dunks. (How great was going to be if LeBron actually got hurt on that missed dunk?).

-Speaking of LeBron (prematurely-crowned) James, he is easily becoming an average star player in the mold of Vince Carter at best (when was the last time one heard “Vince Carter is taking over the game and carrying his team”). Here is what Bill Simmons wrote in his latest column , proving what we’ve noticed: “After talking to four different NBA connected people: LeBron isn't playing nearly as hard as he did last season; it looks like his only goal right now is to get his coach fired; he's regressing as a basketball player (especially his passing skills and his shot selection);…. he has an overrated sense of his own worth and his own impact in the sports world (as witnessed by the ESPN interview last week when he answered the "What are your goals?" question with two words: "Global icon")…”. Just listen to one of his post game interviews, especially one of those after he misses 15 free throws in a loss and you me get a feel of his current situation.

-You know it was a bad night when the highlight of the game is Shaq kissing T-Mac’s head after McGrady just stood there watching Shaq trying to dunk the ball for the third time after two uncontested misses. Speaking of the “Most overrated center in the history of the game”, he really looked embarrassing in the game. Now that he has lost his patented (butt push-off followed by the elbow to the chest dunk combo) and he lost the protection of the referees who (as usual) give preferential treatment to the league main attractions (recall that at that point Shaq was the only huge superstar in the league (maybe along with Allen Iverson)), it is got to a point where Mehmet Okur is more than enough to neutralize him. This year Shaq played in 13 games, and is averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. I cannot say I enjoyed the Shaq era.

-The rookie-sophomore challenge game was equally pathetic but it was definitely more enjoyable. It was only two halves with no unnecessary stoppages (one TV timeout per half). The whole thing took less than an hour and half. The sophomores kept pushing the ball on every single possession with Chris Paul (who was fun to watch) and Deron Williams. The rookie class looked clueless and had no idea how to manage the embarrassment they were subjected to (maybe a little defense and “basketball” could have helped), so they continued to palm the ball around and miss alley-oops and. I enjoyed taking a look at David Lee, Monte Ellis, and even Paul Millsap (Utah rookie big man out of Louisiana Tech averaging 7 points and 5 boards with increasing playing time and getting more involved). I still cannot tell the difference between Brandon Roy and Randy Foye (Is Rudy Gay also the same guy?).

-The local daily newspaper Al-Ghad ran an impressive pre-All-Star set of articles with features on the history on the game and the participating players (Of course without mentioning the name of the writer or the source!). However they put a big emphasis on the All-Star MVP winner which is a very insignificant prize that usually goes to a player from the host city, or to a player whom the coach decided to play more than the other ones. Kobe Bryant winning this year award is supposed to be the official announcement that the image-rehabbing process he went through is successfully over. Within two years Bryant goes from an adulterer, anal-rapist, a whining malcontent who is impossible to coach (according to the book his coach wrote), a selfish ball-hog who does not respect his teammates and who has not won a playoffs serious since Shaq left, to become a team player who makes his teammates better and gets everyone involved, the best player in the league, regains a lot of his lost endorsements and wins the All-star MVP, and all that because he averages five less shots per game than last year, and his team has a .545 winning percentage. Good luck against the Suns or the Spurs in the playoffs.

-The Dunk contest has to be put to sleep. (A plea that has been floating around for the past 5 years, or since Vince Carter officially killed it for good). Until someone manages to do a 720 dunk (Yup, it could be done) or takes off from the three point line (The dynamics analysis of projectile motion may be able to examine its possibility) there is nothing new. Tyrus Thomas kept his promise and did “whatever”. Nate Robinson did not need to show up again (especially that Andre Iguodala and his behind the board dunk was more deserving to win it last year). Gerald Green impression of Dee Brown was nice but even his final dunk was nothing beyond the ordinary. (Greens best dunk remains this one). Now, big men does not usually do well in this contest, but if you manage to come up with an idea that gets an instant nickname, you deserve to at least make it to the next round and Dwight Howard’s “sticker dunk” was just that.

-Charles Barkley is one of my favorite basketball players ever. He proved that being undersized does not prevent a player from being a powerful inside presence. At 6-5 he played with power and determination and dominated the boards. Even now he is insightful and funny an NBA analyst and his race with referee Dick Bavetta was a highlight of the weekend. He made it clear that “he is not a role model”, but he still needs to quit with that bragging-about-gambling stuff. Yeah he can afford it and he is not killing himself despite losing about $50 million, but having such a problem is nothing to brag about. As a candid voice who is quick to give his two-cents on everything and who is aware of the black community poverty problems, losing millions on the blackjack table is nothing to be proud of. Also, since he is still closely involved with the NBA and its players, how can you convince the casual outsider that this guy is not gambling on basketball games and maybe manipulating their outcome (as farfetched as this possibility is)!

-And from the world of the obvious:

True contenders: Dallas (the best and most complete) team in the league, Phoenix (the most exciting team. Steve Nash health and their defense are concerns), San Antonio (Not the usual depth. Francisco Elson is their starting center. They still have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and a decent supporting cast) and Detroit (The only functional team in the East even though they have a similar record to the West’s fifth seed).

Long shots: Utah (Impressive year. Good point guard. Good big men. Not yet). Chicago (Not enough scorers (the leading scorer is Ben Gordon averaging barely 20 a night).A young group with no-playoffs experience. Should have traded for Pau Gasol even if they had to give up Luol Deng).

Playoffs bubble: A team that misses the NBA playoffs is a team with big problems. With less than two months to go the only teams that have less than 20 wins are Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee and Memphis. The eighth seed in the each conference has 25 wins. Even Atlanta and Seattle still has distant playoffs hopes. With Dwyane Wade missing extended time for a dislocated shoulder (maybe the whole year) the World Champs Miami Heat has a legitimate shot at missing the playoffs altogether.

Surprise team: In a desperate attempt to change the negativity attitude here let’s give the Toronto Raptors some credit. A 0.537 winning percentage in the East is not a sign that they will win a championship any time soon, but they are leading their division (again nothing to be over joyous about), they won a total of 27 games last year (they already have 29 wins), and they have a nice young group. Chris Bosh is a superstar. The number one draft pick Andrea Bargnani looks like a successful pick, and the addition of Juan Dixon for Fred Jones (the highlight deal of the trading deadline) gives them another outside shooter. Just keep in mind that someone named Anthony Parker (out of the league since 2000) is their starting shooting guard.

Most regressed player: Between being bothered by injuries, distracted by fame and losing interest, Andrei Kirilenko went from being the do it all player to a fill-in. Numbers wise he went from (15-8.0-4-3) to (9-5-3-2).

Underachieving team: the L.A. Clippers have the same group of players that made it to the playoffs last year. Watching their Tuesday game against the Suns they seemed disinterested and simply going through the motions.

Worst off-season signing: Minnesota signing Mike James for four years (25 million dollars) with a trade clause that raises his salary by 15% if traded, then looking to trade him before the first year of the deal is over! No wonder Kevin Garnett is crying during every other interview and is about to go postal on Kevin McHale.

Best player who is not a leader: Gilbert Arenas is scoring a ton of points (with very few assists (how is he a point guard!), calling himself nicknames, calling out teams and threatening to drop 50 points on them (then goes out and scores 9). Good player, but if your own coach is calling out your act (especially questioning your team’s strategy by focusing on defense, which your team does not know how to play anyway), and then your coach complains that without Antawn Jamison the team has no leadership, then you are simply the latest version of Stephon Marburay or Steve Francis.

Random Thought: The other day I found a Denver-San Antonio game in its third quarter. The network shows a display at the bottom of the screen that read: “Currently on the floor: Blake, Diawara, Kleiza, Smith, Evans”, and then I thought: “Yup, looks like a playoffs team to me”. But seriously, Steve Blake! Anthony Parker thinks the league is so diluted with players that do not belong.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Archive: Weekend

A translation of a random thought that was inspired by the style of a friend. The original was written in Arabic at a time before joy and happiness flooded the world.

He opened his eyes at seven, then again at eight. At ten o’clock he made the long-awaited decision to “wake up”, still disgusted. He went through the motions of the human morning routine, and finished a chapter from “The Death of the Peace Process” while brushing his teeth. “Failure is a choice and a process that requires continuous build up and persistence. It is not a matter of fate or genetics”. He collected some items that need to be washed: a pillow case, a green towel, a pair of sweatpants designated for sleeping, and a colorful collection of underpants and socks many of which featured strategically- placed holes that made them relatively serviceable.

The laundry room reeked of cheap beer. He mumbled a few words in the direction of the group of juveniles scattered around the counters sipping from 32Oz cans. “Damn! That early!”, he wondered before remembering the forced extension to his sleeping hours. “Maybe eleven o’clock on an off-day is not a bad idea to proceed with last night’s activities”.

He rushed towards the TV and the computer, simultaneously. Quick and successive sprays of bullet(in)s: Attack, siege, trial, the third day of a Golf open. A column, an analysis, an Op-Ed, a luxurious apartment for sale. Deployment, arrest, assassination, a basketball team wins. “Damn! All that shit happened, even on the off-day! Do I have to care about everything happening everywhere! What is the acceptable minimum? How many critical events would I miss if I abstained for a couple of days?!”.

He conducted a few insignificant phone calls and headed towards a pseudo-grocery store to fetch two bad-tasting, ridiculously-overpriced meals. It is almost noon and his face still features a manufactured look of disgust. “Damn! It seems like today is going to be exactly like yesterday”.

He received a call from one of the last remaining friends. “How about we go….”. He interrupted the caller confidently: “No thanks. I’ve already have some plans scheduled and some very important commitments for the day. Check back with me in the evening”.

He went back to the two machines.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Profile: The State

In a volatile area, trapped between the two occupation hammers and the regressive regime anvil, is it acceptable to ask: “if the life we are living is not the life we have asked for, then what the hell are we holding on to?”

According to the United Nations General Assembly the world currently features (192) sovereign states. Many of them do not possess any basic characteristics of a state beyond a colorful flag and a sleep-inducing national anthem. There has to be something done to end to this chaos and uncontrollable expansion: (it has officially got to a point where every five people who speak with a slightly different accent and share the same great grandfather want to extract 5 squared kilometers, crown a king, and exchange diplomatic relations). Not only partitions of current states should be banned, but also current so-called states should be reevaluated: A simple re-qualification process to separate true countries who contributes to humanity from farms that does not deserve such a designation.

Aside from the Marxist definition of the State, (The state being an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed masses who will only be liberated through violent revolution and the destruction of the state power apparatus built by the ruling class. (say what!), but that’s a story for a different day), we are at a point where many of these “countries” have been “independent” for a while now (up to sixty years in some cases), and there should be very basic criteria installed which they have to meet to maintain such a status. Otherwise your state-recognition benefits are revoked, and whether you decide to merge, unite, integrate, join a federal or confederal union, get occupied, get under a mandate, get under a protection treaty, fold and go home, or practice your power trip on your own people without any international recognition (a different variation of your current status really) …it is all your choice until you get rehabilitated.

As usual this criteria is better left to a committee of experts at the highest international level, but a few guidelines can be expected: You may lose your state status: If your total area is less than 50% of that of the smallest American state. If your GDP is not at least 5 times that of the smallest American state. If you do not produce (manufacture) anything that benefits humanity besides pedestrian services (and oil). If you cannot provide a steady supply of water, wheat, and fuel to the population. If your judicial system treats crimes such as homicide, corruption and pedophilia lightly. If your definition of democracy is a ballot box (especially if it is intermittent). If the sole decision-making autocratic ruler has been in power for more than 30 years. If your definition of power transfer is heredity…[For more hints and suggestions the committee can just pick up a local daily newspaper. They are usually loaded with signs: “okay…here is another indication that they do not qualify”.]

Well, those who managed to read thus far may have guessed that Abu Shreek is subtly referring to his homeland. (In an attempt to cater to the below average readers, notice this serious attempt Abu Shreek is making to make his nonsense less ambiguous. As for the readers suffering from ADD and reading-disabilities, we offer our sincere apologie).

Honestly, scratch all the above. After all, size does not matter (some may disagree). GDP is overrated anyway (It is still relatively surprising that according to this 2005 list, Jordan trails economic superpowers like Kenya, Yemen and Trinidad and Tobago. Countries like Sri Lanka and Syria almost generate twice as much as we do in produced goods and services!). Bread is also overrated according to both Jesus Christ and Marie Antoinette. Water and oil can be “borrowed” from neighbors and enemies even if it involves contamination and humiliation. The political and judicial reforms are on the way (Just kidding). Even the national anthem tune can be easily replaced by a more energetic explosive version along the lines of “I have been working on the railroad all the long live day” (However, the lyrics have to stay)… There is one thing that matters: A country should be able to CATER to its people to the point that it will give them a sense of belonging and dedication that they would be willing to stand by it through the tough times. This sense of devotion and attachment does not come from the occasional gifts, giveaways or the precious royal visits, it comes from the feelings of dignity and security that would be impossible to find anywhere else away from home.

Let us put it in this simple way: Abu Shreek can confidently say that seven out of the top ten students from his high school and his college class are currently permanent residents of other countries. The other three are just like a very high percentage of the population (from all roots and origins) who are desperately seeking such a chance and “dreaming of the day when they leave forever”. They are willing to choose the retardation and arrogance of the gulf, the bigotry and the estrangement of the west, or a life anywhere from Kazakhstan to Alaska over living around their parents, around their childhood friends, and around the streets they roamed as kids!! At this point the statement (الانسان أغلى ما نملك:Human beings are our main resources) is so meaningless, it makes (نحو أردن أخضر عام 2000 :Towards a green Jordan in 2000) look realistic by comparison.

You want a state, start with a citizen. A citizen that can afford to live a basic life, without having to kiss ass, without being subjected to unending injustice, and without the fear of a short stupid idiot with a thick mustache in a trench coat, watching him through a newspaper (for security purposes) [One wonders if he looks at the computer screen through the same newspaper, simply out of habit]. A citizen living under the law “will go to war” with his county during hardship and tough times, because tough “periods” are much different than systematic enslavement. A country going through some “turbulent” circumstances have its appreciated/appreciating people rallying around it until they emerge out of it together. A (...-entity) in a continuous aimless downspin looks for a replacement population with a better purchasing power.