Re-branding Ghaza

It's always refreshing when you read something as brilliant as this in the morning:

Let’s just face it: the “decency of the world” is relative. Perceptions and attention are all that matters when you want to tell/sell your story. If Israel, a mighty country which has brutalized the Palestinians for so long still manages to sell its story to the world, why is it that the Palestinians are incapable of selling theirs, although they are more deserving of sympathy and help?

What the Gaza Brand CANNOT be:

The creation of a sustainable core idea for telling Gaza’s story to the world, needs a thorough clean-up of the language we use to describe our tragedies. The clean-up needs to get rid of the language of exaggeration, of comparisons to past “epic” events and of generalizations, racism against jews and heroic Islamic/Arabic self-aggrandization.

In other words, it is not business as usual.

The brand cannot be the “Gaza Holocaust”: the “Holocaust” brand has already been taken by the world’s Jews. No one takes us seriously when we talk about Gaza’s Holocaust. Let’s acknowledge that suffering of the Palestinians today, although tragic and totally unacceptable, still is not directly comparable with the systematic annihilation of the Jews by the Nazi in World War II.

The brand cannot be “Gaza’s Epic, Heroic Battle of Victory”: If we keep talking about epic battles, the world might actually believe it and thus will fall into Israel’s trap of portraying its war on Palestinians as war of equals. It is NOT a war of equals and we should not claim we’re winning it.

The brand cannot be “Wipe Israel off the Map”: This sounds aggressive and, frankly, is not credible. Given that Israel actually has nuclear weapons, they can more credibly talk about wiping an Arab country off the map.

The brand cannot be “Hamas”: Political movements come and go. Gaza is not about Hamas. Gaza’s problem and Palestine’s problem was there before Hamas.

The brand cannot be about “glorifying death”: If all we’re saying is “we don’t care if we die” others will just shrug their shoulders when the bombs fall on our little concrete huts.

What the Gaza Brand SHOULD be:

The brand should be about defying mindless power: it should shame Israel for inflicting violence upon a population, resulting in the shameful ratio of 100:1 (killing 100 Palestinians for every 1 Israeli killed).

The brand should be about Palestine
and the dream of a people of life in a free homeland.

The brand should be all about Human Rights
as a universal concept that Palestinians seek to attain

The brand should have Global Appeal: it cannot have global appeal while being chauvinist or aggressive. It should also be connected to the suffering of people everywhere, not just people in Palestine.

It should be about Hope: without emphasizing hope and belief in a better tomorrow, you can hardly inspire people to support you. Remember, in a few days we’ll be living in the Post-Bush, Obama era. Hope is a word that has gained new currency.

Focusing the message to tell the world what happened in Gaza might only a piece of the puzzle. But in a media saturated world, we’d better start thinking clearly about what we want to tell the world.

About damn time too!

Everyone should read Lisa Goldman’s post

And yes, BY EVERYBODY I mean YOU, even if you are Pro the War or supporting Hamas, read it! Consider it an alternative prespective worth considering, if you will!

How AIG got into the mortgage crisis

Oh boy. This is beautiful:

The misadventures that AIG's silo architecture can create are sharply illustrated by the company's disasters in mortgage securities. These problems certainly were spawned in AIG Financial Products. But the fact is that FP had a moment of enlightenment in late 2005, when it began to believe that the housing boom was nearing an unfortunate end and decided to stop selling credit default swaps on super-senior tranches of CDOs. It had a few deals in the pipeline, however, so total "multisector" CDS – AIG's name for these spiffy items – climbed a bit further in early 2006, to a total of nearly $80 billion. Later, as 2006- and 2007-vintage mortgages turned toxic, AIG talked proudly to analysts about its wise decision to pull out before trouble hit. The company proved to be excruciatingly wrong in thinking it was safe, of course, since earlier vintages have been creamed too. But the point is that by August 2007 – the start of the credit crisis – CEO Martin Sullivan and FP's boss, Joseph Cassano, were saying to everybody who'd listen that FP had ducked the mortgage bullet by avoiding the 2006 and 2007 securities that were by that time viewed as poisonous.

Various other AIG silos, unfortunately, weren't listening. The regulatory statements filed by AIG's operating subsidiaries show that a raft of these companies, and particularly the life insurers among them, were still loading up on late-vintage residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in December 2007 – months after AIG had begun congratulating itself on ducking the mortgage bullet. Why, Liddy is asked, would one arm of AIG be buying mortgage securities while another is pronouncing them dangerous? As if there might be someone in AIG's empire he didn't care to offend, Liddy states his answer carefully: "You know, the company is a highly decentralized, far-flung enterprise. And different pieces of the company took different risks. Let me just leave it at that."

We won't leave it entirely, though, because the RMBS turned out to be connected by tunnel to the netherworld called securities lending. For many years, the AIG operating companies, like many other large holders of fixed-income securities, have lent these to banks and brokers that have reasons for needing them – maybe clients wanting to sell short. For this service, the lenders had received cash collateral that slightly exceeded the value of the bonds. Over the years, AIG's companies had invested this short-term money in conservative, liquid investments and thus been always ready to repatriate the collateral if their customers wanted it back.

But this strategy didn't make much money. So in the middle of this decade, the AIG companies began both to greatly increase the amount of securities lending they were doing – the total hit about $90 billion in the third quarter of 2007 – and to invest the collateral in longer-term, seemingly safe AAA securities that offered good yields. The main choice for investment was, you guessed it, RMBS. That bit of elegant selection left AIG's operating companies not only using short-term money to invest long, which is known folly, but also putting this money into impenetrable securities poised to both tumble in value and establish new records for illiquidity. When news of AIG's problems spread in 2008, the banks and brokers came tearing back to redeem their cash collateral, and the AIG companies couldn't hand it over, because it was tied up in unsalable RMBS. This was a second vise that tightened around AIG. One company insider calls this whole investment plot "just one of the dumbest things I've ever seen."

And guess who bought those RMBS? The US government. And guess with whose's money?

Lovely, ain't it?

Not good

On the same day that I read the horrific account of the one North Korean who managed to escape from the North Korean prison camp that he was born in, and in which he was tortured, had his fingers cut off, saw his mother and suster get executed in front of his eyes, I read this piece of news on how Orascom is going to invest in North Korea, starting next week. For shame Sawiris. For shame!

A dissenting view on the Bailout

Godot Basha offers the counter argument!

The Bailout is Bullshit!

Ok, seriously now, y'all have to stop this Bailout from ever happening. This is the most ridiculous shit I've ever seen in my life. Let's review this for a second:

1) You have a consumer-based economy that relies totally on consumer's wealth, which means that it relies on home-ownership wealth, because that's where the american people have their wealth concentrated, in their homes.

2) You have a stagnating economy where everyone told you that the only safe bet is investing and flipping houses, and that one can make millions doing just that without much effort really. So many people start buying houses they can;t afford thinking that they will be able to flip them to other people and make a quick buck in the process, and they are aided in that with banks making mortgage taking very easy.

3) You have banks and lending institutions that wanted to raise their revenues, but no serious economic or manufacturing expansion was being sought out by the industry leaders (with industry moving to India and China and all) and thus no business loans, so they start focusing on giving out personal loans and mortgages. Realizing that there are so many real eligible homeowners out there, they start to give out mortgage loans to people they know can't afford it, hoping that most will eventually be able to afford them and that this will somehow diversify the risk and give them some method of hedging against any economic crisis that may occur if the bubble bursts. But just in case they can;t do that, they will lump a couple of those mortgages together, call them "financial instruments" or "derivatives", and then will sell them to Insurance companies, making the cash now, but with the gurantee that they will collect the money for them and cover the loans that fail to keep making payments. They figured, hey, how many of those could exist anyway? And then they took that money and gave it out as more bad loans, because, what's the worse that could happen?

4) The Insurance companies realize that they have a lot of money, and they need to invest it in order to be able to pay the insurance premiums for those customers who died, houses burned, whatever. So they take the cash they collect from their customers and decide that they need to invest it in something profitable, long-term and secure. Where to invest, where to invest? Oh boy, I know, the housing markets. And those Banks are offering to sell us those financial instruments comprised of hundreds of mortgages on a discount, and will promise to cover the loans if the customers failed to pay up. That sounds like a great deal, and a very secure one at that. And no, we won't check to see if those mortgages are good or bad, after all, the banks must've did their homework on this. They just don't dole out money to anybody who asks. Right?

5) And so far we have the making of the housing bubble: People who want to make a quick buck start buying houses they can't afford and sell them to other people for profit, who in turn buy them on mortgages they really can't afford, and take them and try to sell them to other people for profit, who in turn buy them on mortgages they really really really can't afford take them and try to sell them for profit, until that is no longer possible because the price has hit a ceiling and no one is willing to pay that much for that house anymore. So those plucky home investors find themselves facing one of two choices: 1) Either face foreclosure on the house, and thus lose whatever money you made on it, and the bank ends up with a piece of property that no one wants to buy at its current price anyway, and the investors's credit rating gets fucked and possibly affects all his other loans and mortgages, or 2) they sell the house at a loss, take a second mortgage on their own home, which they they really can't afford now, so they start getting behind on their payments, face foreclosure, lose their own house to the bank and become homeless. And when that happens, they will look at you with sad eyes and say "I don't know how this happened. They told me that house prices always go up".

6) And now the banks are freaking out, because they now have lots of overvalued property- thanks to all those bad loans- and little cash, so they start going after those who have been paying their mortgages on time and up their rates, cause, hey, we gotta make our money back one way or another. So those who have been financially responsible start getting fucked, many of them unable to make those payments now either, so they also lose their houses, and the bank ends up with more property no one wants to buy, and thus faces bankruptcy and possible shut down.

7) And now the insurance companies start to freak out because the banks are unable to collect the mortgage payments, and are unable to cover the price of the house and are entering the arena of going concern- i.e. they might just get bankrupt and shut down. So they start going through their books to see how many such bad mortgages they have bought in those financial instruments anyway, and low and behold, it's in the billions. They better start calling other financial institutions for help, quick. Wait, everyone did this? Fuck, I guess it's time to ask the government for help. They have money up the ass anyway.

8) The executive branch of the government realizes that the people paying their campaign contributions are about to go bankrupt, and shut down. So they freak out. They also freak out more when they are told that when this will happen, those companies will bring down the stock market, which will bring down the whole world economy, unemployment will rise and everyone will suffer. So those companies, regardless of their reckless behavior, need to get bailed out immediately. How much of a bailout you say? 700 billion dollars? That sounds about right to me. Send it to congress!

9) The nice people in congress are divided over the Bailout: Should they give it to the companies that were irresponsible in their lending, buying bad mortgages and not really checking them? Or should they bail out the people who knowingly took out mortgages they can't afford in order to make some quick profit and never saw this logical end coming? The question of the day becomes "Which irresponsible group should we help out?" , instead of "Why are we helping those irresponsible people anyway?" or "Ain't 700 billion dollars just a tad too much money to spend on failing irresponsible financial institutions, especially that this is the taxpayer's money we are talking about here?"

10) And finally, there is you, the good ole responsible working American, who didn't try to make a quick buck and who took only mortgages he/she could afford. Suddenly you find that the rates on your mortgage went up for no reason, so your house is in jeopardy, followed by an announcement by your bank that it is going bankrupt, and those savings you've put in there? Ehh, might not be there anymore dude. Oh, and the part of your savings you've put in the stock market or let those financial institutions invest for you in their mutual funds (part of which, naturally is invested in the housing market), well, that's going to shit as well. But don;t worry, the government will take the money you gave them, and give it to all of those people instead of spending it on government programs- such as education or road maintenance, or medicare- like they told you they would. And if they can;t afford to make such a payment, they will issue bonds to other countries which you later on will have to pay anyway. Don't you just feel blessed to live in the greatest country in the world now?

People, wake up. Fuck the financial institutions, let them fail. Fuck those people who gambled with your future, let them be homeless. And fuck the government that wants to bail them with YOUR MONEY, it's your money anyway, and having it used to reward stupidity and recklessness is surefire way to waste it. There is no averting this economic crisis, it's here to stay and it will be a while before it goes away. Deal with it, and move on, because all of this bailout talk is nothing but a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Just do nothing, and let the market correct itself.

Trust me, you will be better off, in the long run, that way!

Mahmoud Darwish dies, Hamas acts snooty

I have been at the beach for the majority of last week, so the news of Mahmoud Darwish's death didn't reach me until I arrived on monday. In case any of you are wondering who he is or what the big deal is, and it is a big deal, even for our fruity internet no-poetry-reading generation , well, his story is right here . Some of it anyway. Either way, our boy Darwish was an ardent communist, and god bless his heart, he wasn't like today's communists who cozy up to religious fundamentalists, so quite naturally Hamas hated his ass. They hated his ass even more after he published his recent poem lampooning them and Khaled Mesh3al, titled the Prophets of Gaza. Here is its text:

 أنبياء غزة

لولا الحياء والظلام، لزرت غزة، دون أن أعرف الطريق إلى بيت أبي سفيان الجديد، ولا اسم النبي الجديد
ولولا أن محمداً هو خاتم الأنبياء، لصار لكل عصابةٍ نبيّ، ولكل صحابيّ ميليشيا
أعجبنا حزيران في ذكراه الأربعين: إن لم نجد مَنْ يهزمنا ثانيةً هزمنا أنفسنا بأيدينا لئلا ننسى
مهما نظرتَ في عينيّ.. فلن تجد نظرتي هناك. خَطَفَتْها فضيحة
قلبي ليس لي… ولا لأحد. لقد استقلَّ عني، دون أن يصبح حجراً
هل يعرفُ مَنْ يهتفُ على جثة ضحيّته – أخيه: (الله أكبر) أنه كافر إذ يرى الله على صورته هو: أصغرَ من كائنٍ بشريٍّ سويِّ التكوين ؟
أخفى السجينُ، الطامحُ إلى وراثة السجن، ابتسامةَ النصر عن الكاميرا. لكنه لم يفلح في كبح السعادة السائلة من عينيه
رُبَّما لأن النصّ المتعجِّل كان أَقوى من المُمثِّل
ما حاجتنا للنرجس، ما دمنا فلسطينيين
وما دمنا لا نعرف الفرق بين الجامع والجامعة، لأنهما من جذر لغوي واحد، فما حاجتنا للدولة… ما دامت هي والأيام إلى مصير واحد ؟
لافتة كبيرة على باب نادٍ ليليٍّ: نرحب بالفلسطينيين العائدين من المعركة. الدخول مجاناً .. وخمرتنا لا تُسْكِر
لا أستطيع الدفاع عن حقي في العمل، ماسحَ أحذيةٍ على الأرصفة
لأن من حقّ زبائني أن يعتبروني لصَّ أحذية ـ هكذا قال لي أستاذ جامعة
أنا والغريب على ابن عمِّي. وأنا وابن عمِّي على أَخي. وأَنا وشيخي عليَّ
هذا هو الدرس الأول في التربية الوطنية الجديدة، في أقبية الظلام
من يدخل الجنة أولا ً؟ مَنْ مات برصاص العدو، أم مَنْ مات برصاص الأخ ؟
بعض الفقهاء يقول: رُبَّ عَدُوٍّ لك ولدته أمّك
لا يغيظني الأصوليون، فهم مؤمنون على طريقتهم الخاصة، ولكن، يغيظني
أنصارهم العلمانيون، وأَنصارهم الملحدون الذين لا يؤمنون إلاّ بدين وحيد:
صورهم في التلفزيون
سألني: هل يدافع حارس جائع عن دارٍ سافر صاحبها، لقضاء إجازته الصيفية في الريفيرا الفرنسية أو الايطالية.. لا فرق؟
قُلْتُ: لا يدافع
وسألني: هل أنا + أنا = اثنين ؟
قلت: أنت وأنت أقلُّ من واحد

Since I am not going to translate this poem (I don't possess the english proficiency or literary prowess to actually do that), Let me just assure you that it's ripping Hamas a new asshole and making fun of its supporters and leaders, calling Mesh3el "the prisoner whose ambition is to inherit the prison", Lamenting the fundies insistence that the Mosque and University are equal in terms of education (the two arabic words describing them come from the same root) and expresses his deep anger at the secular and atheist supporters of Hamas, whom he believes only care about getting their faces on Television. So, yeah, our boy is no fan of hamas, and Hamas knew it, but they also knew how popular he is amongst the palestinian population, so they couldn't really go out and insult him, so they did it underhandedly: Mesh3el came out and said that Darwish's loss is a serious one for the palestinian people, but palestine can give birth to 10 Mahmoud Darwish's . So, really, not a big deal his death. Move along people. Nothing to see here. Don't get on our forums though: we call him an apostate there.

Ahh, I love me an angry fundie, and especially those who anger him in style.

RIP Mahmoud Darwish! 

ADHD as an evolutionary asset

I knew it wasn't a disorder. I have no disorders, just evolutionary assets not suitable for a city-life environment. Fuck you, Psychiatry! Oh and suburban mom and dad pumping your kids with Ritalin to get them out of your hair, FUCK YOU TOO.

Beyond Fucked up

Read this!

Shadowgames

On the History of Palestinian collaborators with Zionists:

In his groundbreaking book Army of Shadows, Hillel Cohen,
a research fellow at Hebrew University's Truman Institute for the
Advancement of Peace, exposes this particularly nefarious side of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cohen has spent years in numerous Israeli
and British archives gathering information that many would pre­fer
to forget, and in Army of Shadows he sum­mons his findings to
document the actions of a seemingly endless number of Palestinian
mukhtars (village leaders), land merchants, in­­formers,
weapons dealers, journalists, busi­nessmen, farmers and teachers who
collaborated with the Jews between 1917 and 1948. By focusing on them,
Army of Shadows chron­icles a tragic chapter in the people's
history of Palestine, one that many Arab scholars have refrained from
writing because it contradicts the dominant ethos of Palestinian
national unity. Zionists have ab­­stained from recording it as
well because it undermines their claim that the Palestinians were able
to unify and fight against the es­tablishment of a Jewish state
after the UN partition resolution of November 29, 1947. Cohen reveals
that many Palestinians signed pacts with the Zionists during the 1948
war and that some even fought with the Jews against the Arab armies.

Collaboration is a very thorny issue, primarily because of its
corrosive blend of betrayal, exploitation and deceit, so it's not
surprising that Army of Shadows created a stir when the Hebrew
edition was published in 2004. Both liberal Jews and Palestinians found
the book difficult to digest because each group found its side portrayed
in unflattering terms. Many Jewish readers were upset by Cohen's
revelation that the prestate Zionist intelligence agency, Shai, and the
Jewish Agency's Arab bureau exploited almost every honest Jewish and
Palestinian relationship to advance narrow Zionist interests. There
were, Cohen notes, many Jews who desired only friendship or good
business relations with Palestinians but were eventually identified by
the Shai, which used them to collect information and enlist Palestinian
collaborators. The Jewish Agency even helped establish and finance
Neighborly Relations Committees, which initiated mutual visits and
Jewish-Palestinian projects, ranging from pest control to the
sending of joint petitions to the Mandatory government. The rationale
for the creation of these committees was not only to enhance coexistence
but also to recruit informers.

[...]

Army of Shadows also disturbed Palestinian readers because
it reveals for the first time the extent of Palestinian collaboration
with the Jews during the Mandate period and the ensuing 1948 war. Some
Palestinians were opportunists who collaborated with the Zionists to
make money or advance their careers–these were primarily land brokers
and people seeking administrative jobs. Others were mukhtars who
wished to advance their regional or village interests or, in cases of
internal competition, to solidify their leadership with the Zionists.
Still others can be characterized as Palestinian patriots who simply
disagreed with the dominant national leadership. Finally, there were
those who had Jewish friends and did not view Zionist
immigration as a catastrophe. The problem, though, as Cohen
points out, is that regardless of the motivation, collaboration
contributed to the fragmentation of Palestinian society at a time when
its very fate was being determined.

Simultaneously, Cohen underscores the Palestinian leadership's
failure to cultivate a unified national ethos. While disunity among a
people is in no way unique, in this case, as Cohen shows, it was
aggravated in two ways. First, a totally different and competing
national movement was making claims on the same territory, and this
movement knew how to profit from splits within Palestinian society in
order to undermine national aspirations. Indeed, the Zionists exploited
the fissures to recruit and deploy collaborators, and this ultimately
served to deepen internal Palestinian discord and frustrate
Palestinian nation building.

Second, and more disturbing for a Palestinian readership, Cohen
stresses that instead of capitalizing on the fact that Palestinian Arabs
shared a national consciousness and were divided mostly on pragmatic
questions about how to achieve their goals, the dominant Palestinian
group, led by Hajj Amin al-Husseini and loosely organized under the
auspices of the Arab Party (established in 1935), defined all competing
nationalist views and actions as treasonous. Collaborators, accordingly,
were no longer just those who aided the Zionists' military efforts; they
were local and regional leaders, merchants who traded with Jews,
journalists who wrote in favor of the Zionist project and, most
important, land dealers who helped Jewish institutions locate and
purchase Palestinian land. 

H/T: arabist 

The Mortgage crisis explained

This is beautifully spot-on and funny as hell!

Falling in love with a female assassin

A heartbreaking dispatch from the Columbian armed conflict!

The Changing Tide

"It's like someone owns a house, and then his neighbours come with guns and try to take it over."

A Taxi Driver yesterday on the Gaza situation


"It's strange, everybody, besides the Islamists and the leftists, watching it had the same attitude, one of annoyance at the protesters and the Gaza situation. The general attitude was 'Those people received better treatment from the egyptian government then we ever did and they receive more money than us, why protest over their rights? Shouldn't our rights take precedent?' "

A journalist friend of mine covering a Pro-Gaza protest at the Book Fair


"So yeah, we received a high alert warning. The Police said that they are looking for about 30 hamas and islamic Jihad elements that made it through and they are looking for them all over Egypt. Great being me today, huh?"

A manager friend of mine who works at a prestigious 5 star hotel. 


"Raped!"

An egyptian, Christian and very patriotic female friend of mine's response when I asked her how she feels about the Gaza Border situation. 


"You know what's going to suck about all of this? You will turn out to be right about this all along and we will never hear the end of it."

A Pro-Gaza friend of mine, his support wavering of late. 


"We have long sufferd from Having Egypt play ' the Big Sister', and we are against this humiliating role that forces on Egypt obligations and sacrifises without any compensation in return. On the contrary, in the  countries of his alleged brothers, the egyptian received an almost racist treatment apart from all the other nationalities. And we are willing to give up the role of the 'Big Sister'- which has caused us great poverty- to anyone who wants it, and we hold on to one principle only: Egypt is for the Egyptians! "

Ahmed Ragab, Al Akhbar Newspaper, yesterday 

For some Perspective

Shamelessly stolen from here:

In other words, Palestinians are about in the mid-average range for
third-world countries, and rank almost the same as Mexico (the USA's
bordering country and trade ally) on the poverty index. Interesting.

For some perspective

Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) 2004
Palestinians have a better time than:

Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Africa and most of South Africa, Central America and Asia

Probability of not surviving past age 40(%)2004
Palestinians have a better time than:

Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Africa and most of South Africa, Central America and Asia

Adult illiteracy rate (%ages 15 and older)2004
Palestinians have a better time than:

Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Africa and most of South Africa, Central America and Asia

People without access to an improved water source (%) 2004
Palestinians have a better time than:

Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Africa and most of South Africa, Central America and Asia

Children underweight for age (% ages 0-5) 2004
Palestinians have a better time than:

Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, Africa and most of South Africa, Central America and Asia

Zionists! *shakes fist in the air*

Check it out yourself here! 

The Bhutto shooting

The Video is here!

Kinda makes the government's official story look like shit, huh? 

On the rooftops of Cairo

Oh, the messed up and sad stories you will find!

Sandmonkey Tales: Abdel Monem and me

I never really met Abdel Monem. Never was interested to meet the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood..ehh..Brother?? or is it member? anyway…. But that doesn't mean we are not connected, nor that this story shouldn't be told. Let's just say that this is a testimonial, a cautionary tale without any heroes, a reminder so to speak to those who believe in freedom and support it that not all is always what it seems to be.

Let's rewind time a little, a few months back, to the day when I decided that I would stop blogging. Shall we?


It was 2 hours before the BBC interview began, when my farewell post was published. They were supposed to be here to talk to me about blogging, and whether or not it was making a difference in Egypt, and blah blah blabbity blah. I already knew all of their questions (those rarely change), the same way I already knew all of my answers to them. I have said them so many times they were etched on my frontal lobe, and I always gave them exactly the story they wanted without lying. They were perfect soundbites. And they should've been. I've had so much practice over the months. I even knew who else they probably interviewed alongside me. The List was always the same: Hossam , Elijah , Issandr, Wael , Nora , alaa or manal . Those were the ones comfortable with english you see. With the other ones you needed translators, and really, who wanted to go to the trouble? 

This, like all of my other interviews on camera, was going to have my face hidden. I pondered the futility of doing that for a minute, since I was quitting blogging anyway. Maybe Giving the Sandmonkey a face would be a smart move, especially with that nice police car parked under my house for the third consecutive week. But I brushed off the idea completely, because 1) I knew they were following me since the day of that protest, so it might not have anything to do with being the sandmonkey , and 2) Maybe all they needed to indict me is a direct link to the blog, which until now I haven't given them, so why bother now?, and most importantly 3) I never did this for fame. I never knew this blog would be so successful, and I honestly didn't intend to have this as a full time project. Being the Sandmonkey didn't define me, and I had no intention to let it. I didn't want to be famous. I just wanted to be heard.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case with everybody. Others were in it precisely for themselves, to perpetuate an image, to create an Icon of themselves, to become "legends" of the egyptian blogsphere, which is probably the most pathetic of goals there is. But you learn to ignore. To let go. You, after all, had to work with these people. You maybe the illegitimate child of the egyptian blogsphere, but this was your family, whether you or they liked it or not. Their fights were your fights. That was the case, at least until they started to fight fake battles.

That's when Abdel Monem enters the story.


Abdel Monem was a journalist, and a politically active member of the muslim brotherhood. He was also a blogger. His blog wasn't really of any consequence to speak of, but he was friends with Alaa & Manal, Nora, Hossam, and the majority of the February 30th movement (February 30th, get it?). I never fully understood what was so special about him, except that he was a "moderate" voice amongst the Muslim Brotherhood, and by moderate they meant that he didn't want to see all the leftists dead. He was the MB member they could be friends with, and the kind of person they could show to someone like me and go " See, not all the MB members are bad. Here is one who shakes hands with unveiled women, and he talks about freedom for everybody and stuff. You are the one who is too narrow minded. You are the one who dehumanizes them. We are all in this together", while wagging their fingers in my face.

Except that we were not all in this together. And they were being useful idiots. But we will get to that part later.

Anyway, that sense of comradery that they felt for him, accompanied with some of them's desire to forge links and good relations with the "Inevitably-sooner -or-later-coming-to-power Muslim Brotherhood", made them feel as if they needed to do something for their friend. But they knew that no one cared internationally about a muslim brotherhood member getting arrested, even a so called moderate one. So they were like :"Wait a minute? Doesn't he have a blog? That makes him a jailed blogger! People internationally will care about that! We can help our friend that way!" Nevermind that he wasn't arrested for his blogging, nevermind that his blog was of literally no consequence or impact, there was a blog, and that makes him a blogger and therefore a jailed blogger. End of discussion, Honesty be damned.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Free Monem campaign got started!


Now before I go any further, here is a caveat: I do not think it is right for people to get arrested for exercising their political rights, nor am I against the MB getting their own party. And I am definitely not pro people getting arrested for merely being Muslim Brotherhood members (maybe pro getting their heads checked, just kidding), so I am not for Abdel Monem getting arrested and despite it all, I would like him to stay free. However, there is a fundamental difference between someone getting arrested for being politically active in an illegal group, and someone getting arrested for writing on their blog. That difference isn't exactly hard to distinguish I believe.

Two days after I stopped blogging, I was in DC, and all hell had broken loose.

Apparently my little goodbye post caused a lot of furor. I thought it would be just like a couple of blogs writing goodbye posts and linking to me and that's it, like dozens of others who quit before me. I was gravely mistaken. I underestimated the media, and their hunger for a sexy story. Blogs and bloggers, at the time, were sexy topics that made sexy stories. And apparently bloggers getting silenced was the story equivalent of Angelina Jolie sexy. Who knew?

So, the next thing I know, AFP wrote a story about it, and was then followed by AP. Then the AFP story got translated into arabic, and then it was syndicated into numerous arabic language publications that never had the name Sandmonkey in it before. My mailbox was flooded by requests for interviews, with reporters whom I am friends with demanding exclusives, reporters I used to know referring me to their friends and asking if I wouldn't mind talking to them, two e-mails from Charles Levinson, whom I refused to talk to after writing a story about me that was just short of disclosing my real name 2 years ago, begging for another chance, and not to mention the thousands of other e-mails from fans. It was insane. And then it got a little crazier, when I received a link to an article written by MB apologist and propagandist Ibrahim Al Hudaiby , declaring solidarity with "The Sandmonkey" that was published on Ikhwan Web. I was supported by the MB. Who could've imagined?

(Of course I understood that this was a way for the MB to harness the media attention to their own causes, which could've only been done by Ibrahim. He is, after all, their english language propaganda guy. AUC educated and one-time-Student government president, he knows how to talk and handle western media. He is also the translator for the MB supreme Leader Mahdy Akef with foreign Media, and you know what's funny? What Mahdy says in arabic, and what Ibrahim translates into english, are completely different things. But that's another story.)  

But through out it all, I maintained radio silence. I just wanted the entire thing to go away. The only interview I ever gave at the time was to Pamela from Atlas Shrugged, and that only happened because we were meeting for drinks in New York and she surprised me with her interview request, so I agreed. Plus, I figured it's not gonna be heard that many people anyway (was wrong on that one. never underestimate the blogsphere). But besides that, I kept my mouth shut. I gave no interviews to neither strangers nor acquaintances. Charles ended up interviewing Issandr for his story about me, which I thought was hilarious.

It wasn't until I felt that the people definitely got the wrong impression from me quitting that I wrote the follow-up explanatory post (which of course was completely ignored by the media- who wants a story about a bloggers who were getting a big head because of media attention anyway?), and which also included the idea of that organization for protection of bloggers (which started nicely but ended up crashing, but that's also another story) and stopping the exploitation of their causes by other organizations (as was happening with the Free Kareem campaign at the time). For me this was the next step, a cause worth fighting for. Something pure, honest and that could bring people- from all political spectrums- together. And to think I actually thought it could work.

I am pretty naive sometimes.


* a few months ago* 

G: So, what do you think of that Free Momen campaign?

Me: I think it's the dumbest and most dangerous thing that any of us have ever made.

G: How so?

Me: Because they are campaiging for him as if he is jailed for blogging, and he isn't. And just the other day I was reading about another MB member that got arrested, and who also had a blog, and suddenly he is too "the jailed blogger blah blah blah". Now, all the Muslim Brotherhood needs to have people campiagn for their members is to ask them to have blogs, and suddenly everybody is a hero of free speech and has to be defended by us.

G: I swear to god that's what I told them. That this way we are breached by the Brotherhood and playing to their hand. But nobody will listen.

Me: But they are idiots. If they keep this up, Egypt will become known as that country that jails bloggers, and nobody will care. We will be like Tunisia in the eyes of the world. It won't be a worthy cause to release a blogger jailed in Egypt for his/her opinion, because it will be normal. It will be "what they do there in Egypt".

G: I know.


At the same time, the Free Monem movement was on full swing. Posts about "War on bloggers" were being written. Monem's name was mentioned in the UN's Citizen Journalists conference on the international day for free press in the same breath as Abdel Karim. And the Free Monem campaign got launched on that same day. It was PR blitz and it had Monem's name and face all over it. It was fantastic.

About a month later, Abdel Monem was released. He was now an internationally known face. a Hero of free speech. A blogger who was also a moderate member of the MB. A legend was created, and it had mass appeal to all kinds of intellectuals and so called Middle-east experts. No wonder when Marc Lynch came to Egypt last October, meeting Abdel Monem was on top of his agenda. After all, this guy was imprisoned for his views and opinions and is a moderate voice amongst the Brotherhood. That's street cred and legitimacy you just can't buy.


Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. The Muslim Brotherhood release the final draft of their Political Party's platform: The Platform is, as expected, anti-Christian and anti-women (Prohibiting both from ever becoming either President or Prime Minister). Oh, and also the chief moderate Ikhwan voice, Essam el Aryan, got sacked from the leadership. And guess what? Nobody said anything. Not a single person who participated in the Free Monem campaign even mentioned it on their blogs. Neither did Abdel Monem, but he didn't stop there.

See, there was a group of MB bloggers who were a voice of dissent amongst the Brotherhood, who didn't like the Platform nor the way some things were run and presented by the leadership. Some, taking special issue with the MB's official website, Ikhwanonline, for their blatant stealing of content from their blogs without giving them credit, created a counter website called Ikhwan Offline as a counter protest. Those bloggers all looked to Abdel Monem as a reformer and a leader, someone they can trust. They discoverd shortly how wrong they were.

Abdel Monem went to the High leadership of the MB and snitched on everybody . He gave them every single name of every single dissenter and what they are saying. The leadership immedietly cracked down on the dissenter, using with some the whip (threats of expulsion from the Brotherhood prompted the runners of the site to shut it down) and with others the carrot ( the ones with any talent were hired by Ikhwan Online as writers with significant salaries). When news of his betrayal of his so-called brothers reached MB member from Saudi and the Gulf and prompted them to give Monem furious phone calls for what he did, Monem's response was  : "Listen people. I am an internationally known blogger, and have a big name, and will not deal with your nonsense", and hung up on them. It was also found out that our "Hero" has been- and still is- on the Payroll of jailed MB financier and second man in command Khairat el Shater, and Khairat is definitely from the conservative part of the MB, so I guess it makes sense that those who are paid by him to follow his line, no?

Now, is anyone talking about that?

No.

Did any of those who were behind the campaign issue anything even close to a repudiation to Abdel Monem or the MB's platform?

No.

Did any of those who defended him apologize for making a star out of him, thus making him a trustworthy figure to those kids he betrayed?

No.

Did any of them even acknowledge, that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong about this guy and defending him in the first place? 

Hehehe. Right.

The Silence is- at the risk of sounding cliche- deafening. 

You see, I think they owe the world an apology. I think they should apologize for deceiving people about him. I think they should apologize for making an international symbol of him, and one that is dishonest at best. I think they should say that they were wrong about that. I think they should say that they were wrong about him. That they misjudged. That they miscalculated. THAT THEY WERE WRONG. That they acted like the Useful idiots I warned them of being, and that they were used by someone who claimed to be a moderate, but when push came to shove, he not only followed the MB line, he sold out his brothers who weren't, and who trusted him.That maybe, just maybe, they were responsible for this, and that they need to atone for it.  They gave this guy fame, They made him a hero when they knew he wasn't and now he will use that and milk it to his ends and those of the MB, and that will be all on their hands.

But of course they won't admit their fault or apologize. At best they will just ignore this post, keep their silence and hope it goes away, and at worst they will view it as a personal attack on them by me, and will wish to retaliate. Doesn't matter either way, cause whatever they do, they know that what I said here was the truth. And nothing they say or do will change that.

Whatever…  

Me and Abdel Monem don't know each other, and I am glad of that. I am glad to not know him, to not be acquainted with him, let alone be friends with him, because as I suspected, he couldn't be trusted. Just like Ibrahim el Hudaiby, just like every other single moderate face of the Brotherhood. At best they have no power nor influence, and at worst they are fakers and propagandist, preying on whatever media outlets and useful idiots from the left and the right who want to believe the Fantasy that the MB could become moderate and be the voice of the egyptian opposition. For the final time I will say it: It's not going to happen. They will use you as their defenders and their mouthpieces to their own ends, and then they will betray you, the same way they always did (Hey, remember the 2005 parliamentary elections? How many Kefayah members did the MB vote into power? yeah,thought so!). I don't fault Abdel Monem for what he did. It is to be expected from him. The fault lies on those who supported him, who should know better but chose to ignore reality, and then falsified it to help him. Even if they don't come clean for what they did, maybe, just maybe, they have learned their lesson out of this.

But I doubt it! 

Related Posts: 

Gemyhood 

Saudis on Facebook

Someone is finally tearing them a new one, and how appropriate is it for that person to be the sister of one of my good friends? I am soo proud!

You gotta see this one (Warning: contains excessive use of foul language, so if you are in the office, please wear your headphones, and if you get offended by foul language, boy are you reading the wrong blog buddy)!

Update: Here is another link for the video. Enjoy! 

The New Useful Idiots

Why actors and models like to hang out with Chavez.. ;)

The View from Pakistan

Ok, so let's get this straight: Musharraf declares a state of emergency, and shuts down the media and deposes a Judge he doesn't like. The Judge urges people to protest , the people go nuts and European nations froze aid and Bush can't make up his mind on what is more important: The War on Terror, or Democracy. In the midst of all that, my Pakistani Friend M. Chaudrey just sent me this, which gives you the view of how it's like to be living in Pakistan at the moment: 

Its so frustrating. Absolutely nerve wracking. You sit at home, you
switch on the T.V and all you can watch is fashion T.V, music videos
and Hollywood and Bollywood movies.

No news. The screen is just
a black void when you switch to the channels where news spoke; where we
learned about what was going on in our country. Our nation.

And no one in the nation has any real idea about what is going on.

My
father calls and asks whether the rumors are true. The rumors that
Musharraf himself has been the victim of a coup. A coup on top of a
coup?

As my brother puts it, thats Coo-Coo.

But rumors
are abound and we get our news from the time delayed internet websites
and from people living in Dubai who are still able to watch Pakistani
news transmissions. Musharraf has denied allegations of a coup. He says
thats the most ludicrous "joke".

I can think of a better joke than that.

It is so unbelievably frustrating sitting in the dark. Not knowing what is going on.

But
we all have conspiracy theories. Because right now thats the only thing
keeping us alive. Letting us believe that we DO know what is going on.

Benazir
Bhutto landed on Saturday night from Dubai to Karachi. She rushed back
here to tell the world and our nation (I don't know how she planned to
do that since we get no news!) that this was the worst move Musharraf
could make.

So, whats new?

But people are talking. And rumors and conspiracies are spreading like wildfire. The following is the one that i think is true.

Benazir
landed with a big smile on her face, as seen by people living abroad on
their T.V screens. Why is she back? She could've given her press
conference from Dubai right?

But if Musharraf wants to save face
with the American government-and the American people- he will make
Benazir his prime minister. And himself as President. And Chief of Army
Staff.

He will not give up his uniform and will remain the dictator. And she will become the face of democracy.

How will the American/World media spin this?

Mushi
made a mistake by declaring emergency rule. He will remove it. Martial
law will remain in place. But he will say that since Benazir's party is
the biggest and most famous party in Pakistan, she should be PM.

And he will instate her as such.

She will graciously accept it.

And the world media will say, okay look the people loooove Benazir, she
is the PM, so TECHNICALLY, there is democracy in the country.

And
then Benazir will have Musharrafs illegitimate child but the child will
turn out to be the son of Benazir's brother and not Musharraf's and
Musharraf's wife will kill Benazir by throwing her off a cliff but
Benazir will not die. She will live and go skipping in the fields with
Musharraf's twin brother who is her "real" lover and they will go and
sing "oh baby pomp up the jam," a song from a bollywood movie.

For once, I agree with what Musharraf says.

This is a "joke of the highest order." (www.geo.tv)

But this is our state.

Until the T.V. flickers back on to the "real" news. News that will no
longer be free. It is now going to be government controlled and
censored under more than 20 new "media regulation" laws.

Here we are now, taking two steps back.

And yes, no news is drivng me crazy.