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City of Brass

City of Brass

the shoe-thrower is sorry

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

If this is sincere, then good:



An
Iraqi journalist arrested after throwing his shoes at George Bush, the
US president, has reportedly sent a letter to the Iraqi prime minister
to apologise for the incident and seek a pardon.

A spokesman for Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said on
Thursday that Muntazer al-Zaidi had acknowledged his shoe-throwing
during a news conference in Baghdad as “an ugly act”.

Yasin
Majeed, al-Maliki’s media adviser, told the Reuters news agency that
“al-Zaidi said in his letter that his big ugly act cannot be excused”.

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According to Majeed, al-Zaidi asked the prime minister to recall the
kindness al-Maliki showed him during a 2005 interview when he invited
the journalist to his home.

“I appeal to your fatherly feelings to forgive me,” al-Zaidi was quoted as saying by Majeed.

[…]

However, Dhargham al-Zaidi, the journalist’s brother, questioned whether the statement was genuine.

Of course, he is being held by the Maliki government, so it’s equally likely he’s been roughed up, in which case this is just making the whole thing worse (and kind of proving his point in throwing the shoes in the first place, actually).

UPDATE: Yes, looks like he was beaten while in captivity, quite severely. As Thabet at Talk Islam wryly observes, “Under Saddam he would have been killed. Under the Newly Liberated Government Of Iraq, he ‘only’ gets a beating. At least that’s progress.” No wonder al-Zaidi is an instant hero to the Arab world.

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Rick Warren makes freeper heads explode

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Steven Waldman points out that despite the lashing Obama is getting from the left about Rick Warren, there’s a lot of angst about it on the right as well. These reactions from Free Republic are illuminating:

Pray for them, yes! try to convert them, yes! Recognize their authority over you, yes!
Support them and give them credence, no! Rick Warren is their to just
cover up the smell. Front man and a shill for a corrupt presidency.
–by dirtymac

Methinks Mr. Warren’s pride is getting the better of him. Giving the
invocation at a presidential inauguration IS a big deal, but I’m sure
that standing before Jesus on Judgement Day will make it seem less than
trivial.
–by MrB

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Rick Warren is one of those new age, book author, get rich thanks to
Jesus like Joel Osteen – TV pastors. I thought Warren was decent but he
is a phony.
–by Frantzie

Geez…the False Prophet swearing in the Anti-Christ…how nice.
–by ravingnutter

What Obama has in mind is to use religious socialists to move his socialist agenda.
–by stockpirate

Warren is a symbolic loss to the progressive left, but will probably be a material, tangible gain to mainstream liberalism. Evangelicals will notice and they will remember. What the progressive left needs to remember is that Obama was a candidate for the left, but will be a President for everyone.

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Mugabe says, “Zimbabwe is mine”

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Robert Mugabe is not going quietly:

BINDURA, Zimbabwe (AFP) — President Robert Mugabe declared Friday
that “Zimbabwe is mine” and vowed never to surrender to calls to step
down, as his political rival threatened to quit stalled unity
government talks.

Addressing his ZANU-PF party’s annual
conference amid a ruinous political crisis and a deadly cholera
epidemic , Mugabe returned to the kind of defiance he has often shown
in the face of mounting criticism.

“I will never, never, never,
never surrender. Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean. Zimbabwe for
Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe never for the British, Britain for the British,”
Mugabe told his party’s annual conference.

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The veteran leader in the former British colony said he would remain until “his people decided to change him.”

There’s a powerful piece in the LRB about the lessons of Zimbabwe which provide an excellent history lesson as well as provides context to the problems facing the troubled African state. In a nutshell, Mugabe is a problem; but removing him won’t magically solve things, because the country still has to face its post-colonial legacy of land reform.

It’s hard to excerpt a piece as lengthy as this but I think it’s one that really merits a full read. Here’s the introductory paragraphs:

It is hard to think of a figure more reviled in the West than Robert
Mugabe. Liberal and conservative commentators alike portray him as a
brutal dictator, and blame him for Zimbabwe’s descent into
hyperinflation and poverty. The seizure of white-owned farms by his
black supporters has been depicted as a form of thuggery, and as a
cause of the country’s declining production, as if these lands were
doomed by black ownership. Sanctions have been imposed, and opposition
groups funded with the explicit aim of unseating him.

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There is no
denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to tolerate and
even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters. His policies
have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though sanctions have
played no small part, while his refusal to share power with the
country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the trade
unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s crisis can
be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman,
but it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For
he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform
measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just
in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa. In any case, the
preoccupation with his character does little to illuminate the
socio-historical issues involved.

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I’m all for ousting Mugabe but people are treating him as the sole embodiment of evil. Zimbabwe’s problems go a lot deeper than that. As the intro asserts, Mugabe is indeed governing partially with the consent of Zimbabweans. The article has this to say about the recent (disputed) elections:

Despite the EU’s imposition of sanctions in the run-up to the
parliamentary elections of 2002, Mugabe polled 56.2 per cent of the
vote against Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC’s 42 per cent. There were
widespread allegations of Zanu-PF violence and last-minute
gerrymandering, with polling stations in urban areas – Tsvangirai’s
electoral base – closing early and extra stations being set up in rural
areas, where Mugabe’s support was assured. Nonetheless, it was clear
that support for Zanu-PF was higher than in the pre-fast-track
elections of 2000.

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And the essay goes into a lot of detail as to what groups support Mugabe and why. In a nutshell, Mugabe has given Zimbabwe’s land back to Zimbabwe’s people, confiscating it from the British white settlers, who had a grotesquely disproportionate stranglehold. Underestimating this and pretending that Mugabe governs as a Saddam-esque dictator at odds with the will of his people is a mistake, and does nothing to help the Zimbabweans conceive of and realize a better future ahead.

More importantly, the essay provides a lot to think about, with regards to the effectiveness of sanctions as punitive diplomacy, about the consequences of the colonial tactic of appropriating the best land by a foreign settler minority, and the intersection of ethnicity and class as internal forces that need to be reconciled. These questions have applicability to Iraq, to Palestine, and to Iran, and US foreign policy in general.

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Bush bails out the auto industry

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The Republicans are furious with President Bush for agreeing to use TARP funds to bail out the auto industry:

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), one of the architects of the $700 billion
Wall Street bailout, thinks Bush may be skirting the Troubled Asset
Relief Program rules.

“These funds were not authorized by Congress for non-financial
companies in distress,” Gregg said, “but were to be used to restore
liquidity and stability in the overall financial system of the country
and to help prevent fundamental systemic risks in the global
marketplace.”

McConnell said he realized the Bush auto bailout was coming, and is insisting more strings be attached.

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“I have strong objections to the use of Troubled Assets Relief Program
(TARP) funds for industry specific bailouts. And I do not support this
action,” McConnell said. “But since the administration has chosen to
use these funds to aid the automakers, it is important that the
date-specific requirements on all the stakeholders be enforced.”

House conservatives are railing against the bailout, but it’s clearly too little too late.

“Using TARP funds to bail out failing companies is incredibly risky and
poor public policy, and was not the designated intention of the program
when Congress approved it,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a
leading voice for House conservatives. “I fear that a devastating
precedent has been set that the federal government will now be
pressured to bail out every failing company in America — something that
taxpayers and future generations cannot afford.”

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Interesting how when it’s a middle class, blue-collar industry like the auto workers on the line, these Republicans fall over themselves to portray it as the end of the fiscal universe. But when it comes to big banks and financial executives, they sang a different tune.

At any rate, House Republicans have only themselves to blame; they could have worked to pass the auto industry loan package – a package that was VERY strict indeed and used no new funds only re-allocated funds that the automakers were going to get anyway for various environmental initiatives. Instead the GOP scuttled that deal for essentially trivial quibbles over policy: As Kevin Drum says,

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This is nuts. If you’re just flatly against the bailout, fine. Vote
against it. But if the wage cuts, along with the debt-for-equity swap
that was also part of the bill, were enough to bring you around, why
would you cavil at the cuts happening in 2011 instead of the end of
2009? It’s only about an 18 month difference, and cutting wages makes a
lot more sense in 2011 than it does in the middle of a massive
recession anyway.

Another shining moment in the history of the modern GOP. Ideology uber alles.

Given how petty their reasoning was in walking away from last week’s legislation, crying about using TARP funds now is just childish. This is why the Republicans are out of power and in the political wilderness – all they have to offer is mindless ideological obstruction rather than any coherent desire to sit down and make the compromises needed to move things forward.

Related – NYT article about the loan that the GOP refused last week for the automakers.

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