Search

band annie's Weblog

I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Month

November 2013

As If…

November 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment

the people of Kafranbel understand the game far better than most professional analysts

the people of Kafranbel understand the game far better than most professional analysts

In an article for the National, the wonderful Amal Hanano writes against the illusion that perpetuating the Assad regime can lead to anything other than continuing and expanding war.

In Ambiguities of Domination, political science professor Lisa Wedeen examined the Syrian regime’s rule of domination under then-president Hafez Al Assad.

She noted a dual role for Syrians: both propping up the regime’s propaganda and at the same time subverting its power via the symbols and rhetoric of everyday life and popular culture. This seminal work, published in 1999, a year before Al Assad junior took power, explained to outsiders the inner mechanisms of an authoritative regime. Its relevance is significant today under the shadow of Hafez’s son Bashar and with the fate of a blood-soaked Syria, now in ruins.

In a particularly powerful chapter entitled Acting As If, Wedeen writes: “Power manifests itself in the regime’s ability to impose its fictions upon the world.” The complicity of the people within this imposition enforces the regime’s power of domination. In other words, the regime’s power is mainly constructed by the people’s enacted participation in that very construction.

According to Wedeen: “The politics of acting ‘as if’ carries important political consequences: it enforces obedience, induces complicity, identifies and ferrets out some disobedient citizens …”

Indeed, one of the fundamental ways the Syrian people functioned in the police state was by “acting as if”. Acting as if nothing was going on as Hama was pummeled in 1982. Acting as if they loved the leader even though they were terrified of him.

The tragedy of Bashar Al Assad’s rule is that his father’s construct of complicity has, over the past 32 months, bled far beyond Syria’s borders to encompass the entire region and international community.

As world leaders discuss the merits of the Syrian opposition attending Geneva 2 peace talks without preconditions, they flip the narrative of the revolution. A narrative in which Mr Al Assad is upgraded from a brutal dictator that deserves no more than a cell at The Hague to a potential “partner” in the transitional peace process.

The latest demeaning analysis offered to Syrians is to act “as if” Mr Al Assad maintaining power would end the brutal war that was unleashed by Mr Al Assad himself. Governments act as if dragging the Syrian opposition to the negotiation table without any preconditions will result in a political solution to a raging war. World leaders act as if Mr Al Assad’s cooperation in dismantling his chemical weapon stockpiles is reducing the amount of bloodshed, even as the cluster bombs and scud missiles continue to fall onto civilian populations.

 

Kafranbel amplifies Amal Hanano's words

Kafranbel amplifies Amal Hanano’s words

As the slated 2014 Syrian presidential election approaches, “Syrians will have their voices heard at the ballot box” is the current refrain of Assad loyalists. As if presidential elections can even be a possibility in a country where over seven million people are displaced. And Mr Al Assad himself acts as if his nomination is not even problematic, to say the least.

For what purpose is all of this acting “as if”? To save Syria from the very regime that created this catastrophe in the first place?

The act of “acting as if”, like the fable about the emperor and his non-existent clothes, twists lies into elaborate truths to the point where even well-intentioned people, including Syrians themselves, are left to wonder: “Should Assad stay?”

Faisal Al Yafai, writing in these pages, approaches the “unthinkable question” of Mr Al Assad remaining in power to save Syria, arguing “all of that could be worthwhile if it ends the conflict”. True, but the most important word in that sentence is “if”.

While Al Yafai rightly points out that no one has any good ideas to end the protracted bloody war, the idea of Mr Al Assad staying in power may just be the worst one.

Most Syrians are worn out by the gruelling violence that has taken a toll on all aspects of life. Most Syrians want peace and stability. If faced with a sincere choice – Mr Al Assad remaining in power in exchange for a ceasefire, the release of all political prisoners, opening humanitarian and medical aid corridors into Syria, and beginning the long process of refugee return – most Syrians would swallow the bitter pill and choose Mr Al Assad. This choice is the result of being left alone to fight two enemies armed by foreign forces with virtually no support. It is a choice of despair.

It is also an unfairly framed choice for one simple reason: Mr Al Assad will never uphold his end of the bargain. Syrian history, old and new, is a reminder of how the Assad regime deals with the people’s dissent. Both father and son have displayed their relentless tactics of retribution. (See Hama, 1982. Or Syria, 2011-2013.)

Making a judgement call based on the grim Syrian present – well over 100,000 dead, thousands in torture cells, millions of displaced and refugees, foreign fighters and extremists battling for foreign ideologies and agendas, mass destruction of cities, towns and villages, an out-of-touch political opposition that is corrupt and impotent, and millions of exhausted Syrians who just want it all to end now – is simply a convenient and careless cop-out.

It’s easy to look at this list of tragedies and claim that saving what’s left of Syria should be the only priority and argue that preconditions to the negotiations will only ensure more stalemate and bloodshed.

Merely glancing at the present is not only naive, it’s immoral. History tells a different story. Stories of mass murder and destruction 31 years ago in Hama, stories of thousands of torture and rape cases, stories of boys whose fingernails where ripped out because they wrote “freedom” on their school walls, stories of enforced policies of “Assad or we scorch the country”, and more recently “Kneel or starve”. Those stories document the despicable and undeniable truth of this regime.

We live in dark times when tyrants are hailed as saviours and martyrs are called terrorists.

History repeats itself – as Hama did before Daraa, and Hafez before Bashar. History also bears witness to the simple fact that sooner or later, every tyrant’s rule ends. In fact, tyrants have fallen over the centuries of our collective civilisation, on this very land called Syria.

Perhaps we will not be able to rejoice soon (or not even for decades) that the Assad regime is finally finished. That will not change one fact: asking for him or his regime to stay will not save lives. Instead, this decision will take more Syrian lives. Thousands more lives.

Deceptive options and skewed choices can be framed as powerful persuasions, as the “last hope” and the “moral choice”. These “solutions for the Syrian conflict” mock the Syrian people’s heavy sacrifices, bloody history, and desire for a peaceful future of freedom and dignity.

If the world has now decided to act “as if”, this complicit world should know that the Syrian people ended that charade 30 months ago. That was their unambiguous choice.

Beyond the dead, tortured, and displaced people; beyond the destroyed cities and scorched landscapes; beyond all what we have lost; does the world really expect Syrians to go back to acting “as if”? As if they loved the illegitimate leader in Damascus? As if the tyrant’s clothes were not soaked with the people’s blood? As if the lies had become the truth? As if history had never unfolded in the terrible ways it did?

As if nothing had happened at all?

Amal Hanano is the pseudonym of a Syrian-American writer

On Twitter: @AmalHanano

source

Advertisements

6 videos that will make you glad you stayed home on Black Friday

                    By             Michelle Jaworski                         on             November 29, 2013

There are already enough Black Friday horror stories out to have some people reconsider going out next year.

Stores like Walmart are starting to implement different tactics, such as wristbands, to make sure that building limits are kept, a tactic Walmart Vice President of Communications David Tovar compared to the rope line policy at a trendy nightclub.

“We can make all the plans and run all the numbers, but you don’t actually know how customers are going to react until you see what they’re putting in their baskets,” Tovar wrote in an email.

However, for every calm store there are plenty of businesses that weren’t immune to the violence and chaos that has become synonymous with Black Friday. Police shot a shoplifting suspect in Chicago Thursday night, for example, after he tried driving away with a police officer’s arm caught in his car in one of the more serious reports to come out so far.

With many stores opting to open on Thanksgiving night, consumers are not only trying to get the biggest deals businesses have to offer with more time, they’re grabbing plenty of footage to upload on YouTube.

1) “Walmart Kicked Me Out For THIS video”

Brian Spain was visiting his parents in North Carolina when he drove past the local Walmart on Thanksgiving night. Planning to interview a few people about the experience, he instead caught one man pushing people on the ground for a new TV while the police watched and did nothing. Instead, Spain got kicked out of the store.

2) “Wal-Mart Black Friday fight for TV 2013”
read on here

Chanukah Message from Jewish Voice for Peace

But I Knew That He Knew That I Knew He Knew Too

 

Posted: 28 Nov 2013 08:32 AM PST

Iranians welcoming the Geneva delegation back home, Serat News, Nov. 25
Iranians welcoming the Geneva delegation back home, Serat News, Nov. 25
According to Sheera Frenkel, Israeli officials were made aware by Saudi Arabia of the backdoor talks between the US and Iran detailed in depth by Laura Rozen at Al Monitor this past weekend, which culminated in the interim Geneva agreement. In brief, the deal will see Iran recoup some US$7-8 billion in sanctions relief through 2014 if, in exchange, Tehran does not enrich any more uranium over 5%, allows for new IAEA site inspections, and downgrads its remaining enriched-to-20% uranium stockpile. Some outstanding issues, like the Arak heavy water reactor under construction and Iran’s “right to enrich,” remain to be discussed in talks down the road. Saudi Arabia would not have been a venue for these talks, of course – nor would its closest GCC associate, Bahrain, given the Al Khalifas’ mistrust of the Islamic Republic – but other Gulf states were. Namely Oman — which the US uses as a third party to approach untouchables like the Taliban and the Islamic Republic — and perhaps the UAE as well (unlike its Saudi neighbors, the Emirati Cabinet very quickly  welcomed the interim accord). News of the meeting went from these states to Riyadh and then probably got to Tel Aviv, obviously infuriating the Israelis because they were not told up front about the talks.

So, if the Israelis did know weeks in advance, that makes Netanyahu’s intransigence this past Fall more explainable. Appraised of the progress being made in the talks outside normal channels, he was nonetheless unable to make public Israel’s foreknowledge of the deliberations. He is not so reckless as to think he could get away with letting the cat out the bag like that; doing so really would cause significant damage to US-Israeli relations. He had few options to confront a process leading to a deal he opposed because it did not dismantle all Iranian nuclear capabilities. He and his supporters leaned on the most receptive audiences they had: the US Congress, the French Foreign Ministry, and the Sunday talk show circuit, making the case that no deal would be better than a “bad deal”.

Some officials gave Yedioth Ahronoth and Channel 10 details of US-Iran meetings that showed the backdoor to Iran was in place for at least a year. These reports, however, did not affect the pace of the negotiations or public opinion. Netanyahu now has to worry a lot more about the home front, where he faces members of the security establishment expressing support for the deal, politicians outside his coalition criticizing his criticism of Obama, and his reappointed Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, breathing down his neck. Even the Israeli stock exchange seems to be weighing in against him: its ongoing rally, which began days before Sunday, was not adversely impacted by the deal.

More importantly, though, is what this episode says about the response of certain American allies to the interim deal. The Saudis are unhappy, and Netanyahu even more so. But their leverage going forward is limited, even though it would not take much to trip up the agreement if Iran is found to be in non-compliance. The Obama Administration has thrown its entire political capital behind the deal, which will be very hard, even for AIPAC and Democratic hawks, to handle. There is very little the Saudis can do after already protesting the US handling of the Syria crisis with their refusal of a UN seat and their minister-princes’ complaints in The Times, Bloomberg, and The Wall Street Journal. As an al Quds al Arabi editorial put it, “[i]n order to reach this agreement, Iran has played the many cards it has been working to prepare for decades, and also the cards it has acquired from the mistakes of the United States and its European allies after the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and from the accumulation of the mistakes of the Arab regimes, which do not have a single balancing pillar that presents a real strategy for confronting the real danger surrounding the Arab region.”

But worst of all from Netanyahu’s perspective, is that in offering sanctions amelioration, Iran seems to gain legitimacy in international affairs (for Saudi Arabia, this fear is also felt, and directly connected to the outcome of the Syrian civil war). This deal is a stopgap measure meant to halt Iranian activities while negotiations continue, so it is not an economic godsend. Chip away at the sanctions regime, and Iran’s economy could start to see results, which is especially important for the leadership if this deal leads to a lasting agreement. But it is the prospective dilution of these sanctions (not their financial bottom-line) that deeply disturbs Netanyahu, whether you believe he is serious about it being 1938 all over again or not, because it raises the possibility that Europe and the US will defer less and less to his demands to keep Iran diplomatically and economically isolated.

The public mood in Iran is mixed between caution and acclaim. The returning negotiating team was feted, and did not seem to draw the sort of hecklers who came out to greet President Rouhani when he returned from the UN. As Golnaz Esfandiari reports, crowds waiting for Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Tehran chanted “Kayhan, Israel, Condolences, Condolences” (Kayhan is a hardline newspaper, which like other conservative outlets close to the Supreme Leader emphasized the “flexibility” aspect of the interim deal, downplaying Iran’s concessions – in part because the deal is  vague on recognizing the “natural rights” of Iranian nuclear work – and the impact of the sanctions thus far). But overall, the reception in the media was positive and the deal is a loss for the ultraconservative arm of the Islamic Republic’s leadership, which would like to pretend the Revolution is still ongoing. By agreeing to the terms of the deal, Iran is electing to participate in the international system on that system’s terms (unlike fellow nuclear pariah North Korea). And if economic relief can develop further, even more Iranians, perhaps, may begin to wake up to the fact that the sanctions have been exploited inside Iran to greatly enrich not just certain businessmen and politicians, but the twin pillars of the state itself: the Supreme Leader’s office, and the Revolutionary Guards.

source

PRADA presents “CASTELLO CAVALCANTI” by Wes Anderson

 

His next feature film, The Great Budapest Hotel, which comes out in March, takes place in its titular location. His new short film Castello Cavalcanti [seen above], too, takes place in its titular location, a hamlet tucked away somewhere undisclosed in Italy. Then again, hasn’t Anderson, aesthetically and referentially speaking, always enjoyed something of a European period? (Maybe we can call it European by way of his native Texas, which, for me, only adds to the visual interest.) This, combined with his apparent fascination with the objects and built environment of the early- to late-middle twentieth century, has won him a great many fans sympathetic to his sensibilities. (Along with, of course, a handful of detractors less sympathetic to them.) This brief but vibrant new piece should, for them, resonate on several levels at once.

Forrest Wickman has more on Castello Cavalcanti:

Starring Anderson favorite Jason Schwartzman, an American who crashes into a piece of his own past, the short is—like so many Wes Anderson ads—also an opportunity for Anderson to pay tribute to his cinematic ancestors.

Specifically, Castello Cavalcanti seems to be full of nods to the work of Federico Fellini. (Another director, by the way, who made commercials.) In The Wes Anderson Collection, Anderson cites Fellini as an influence for his work in caricature. Here, the caricatures are all over town, but the Christ statue in the center seems to have been air-lifted from La Dolce Vita, alongside the motorcycle-riding paparazzo, and the car race itself seems to be an homage to the car race in Fellini’s Amarcord. And it’s not just Fellini: The title character seems to be named after Brazilian-born director Alberto Cavalcanti, of whom Anderson is a fan.

Kristie Puchko isn’t bothered that Anderson made the film for Prada, remarking, “True to Anderson’s style, the colors are vivid, the dialogue is sharp, and the performances are brightly dynamic.” Peter Weber compares the Prada connection to Chipotle’s artsy, anti-factory farming “stealth ad” that went viral in September:

My bet is that, as explicitly stated by Chipotle, Prada is trying to reach a generation of young consumers who don’t necessarily sit through commercials on TV. And if you’re not going to shell out for a high-dollar spot during, say, the Super Bowl, you have a lot more money available to pay top directors and actors to make interesting, 8-minute films that people will go out of their way to watch. Isn’t that more fun?

Previous Dish on Anderson here, here, and here.

from here :

The Day the Earth Nearly Died

BBC Horizon programme on the Permian Mass Extinction

The Road

Could not help thinking of situation in Syria

Vote for Edward Snowden as TIME’s 2013 Person of the Year

timepoy-snowdentimepoy-snowden-vs-obama

TIME:

As always, TIME’s editors will choose the Person of the Year, but that doesn’t mean readers shouldn’t have their say. Cast your vote for the person you think most influenced the news this year for better or worse – in both a straight yes/no poll and a candidate face-off. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 4, and the combined winner of our reader polls will be announced on Dec. 6. TIME’s Person of the Year will be announced Dec. 11.

Screenshots @ 1AM EST, 11/26

timepoy-results

As Time Goes By S06E06 – The House Next Door

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑