Syrian Actor Jamal Soliman Makes a Plea for Democracy: It Is a Culture, a Way of Life, Not a Magic Solution | MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute

It isn’t often that we hear from actual Syrians about their own perspective on the destabilization of the Arab world.  Western news agencies and Western politicians are all too eager to feed us their simplistic opinions clothed as “fact,”  ignoring the perceptions and lived experience of those who actually live there.

Mr. Soliman brings a fresh pair of eyes to the problems that not only the Western world faces, but indeed the actual people who live in the region.

The ethnocentric blindness of Americans assumes that everyone, everywhere must needs adopt democracy and democratic values.  As Mr Soliman so succinctly puts it, democracy is a product of culture, a way of life.  What he doesn’t say is that many cultures are not even compatible with democracy.  We have seen some horrible disasters (think Afghanistan) when the “Democratic World” has attempted to impose democracy on a culture that is living in the 7th Century.  It doesn’t work.

Certainly it must be possible for the Arab regimes to abandon such atrocities as torture, honor killings, and extreme “punishments” such as stoning and amputations, without insisting that everyone in the world adopt democracy.

Today’s Unsolicited Advice

When you stop to think………don’t forget to start again.

National Black Humor Day

Good morning!  Life is but a joke.

What’s your punchline?

The Subtle Arrogance of Good Health

A beautiful, deeply honest essay about the blissful ignorance of good health. It echoes my thoughts lately. I’ve been enveloped in pain from a fall that could have been disastrous, but as it is, I’ve come out of it with only some damaged joints. I think about the “old days” when I only noticed my body when I danced or ran or lifted weights or rode my bike. Even when the degenerative disc disease enveloped me in a cloud of pain, I rejoiced in my body when I swam, weightless.

Now it’s a dance, too: the dance of finding ways of doing activities of daily living, working around the injured and degenerated joints, working around the jolts of pain; the dance that I dance in bed all night, trying to find a position of comfort so I can sleep for a few minutes before the pain nags or jolts me awake again. I get more tired trying to sleep than I do awake.

It can get discouraging to know that this is what’s on my plate, for the rest of my life.

EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

The Subtle Arrogance of Good Health

Until my physical ailments began worsening rapidly in my late 40’s, I was a high achiever, proud of my “kick ass” attitude, thinking I was so competent I could surmount any challenge life threw at me. Life appeared to be straightforward and I didn’t understand why this didn’t seem to be the case for so many other less fortunate folks.

Though I worked hard for my accomplishments and sometimes struggled, there was never a question of ability, never a doubt I’d prevail if I made enough effort. Looking back now, I can see the consistent achievements that came so easily and so early in life instilled in me a subtle subconscious arrogance.

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Valentine’s Day Banned in Pakistan!

Yup, Pakistan banned Valentine’s Day.

In fact, that’s how it goes in theocratic states.  The holidays are dictated by religion and government, which, in some cases, are one and the same.

At the same time, why not click the link to send a Valentine to the Pakistani embassador?  Go on, show some love ❤

This Was My Life Before Arthritis

Pretty Little Dog:

This is my one and only CD, recorded in 2005.  It was a good start.  I have tons and tons more tunes!

I’m playing two different banjos here: the bright tinkly one is a 1910 A.C. Fairbanks Regent; the dark meditative one is an 1896 Fairbanks & Coles fretless.

Unlike the bluegrass-type banjo, my models do not have a resonator.  

In fact, you may notice that I’m not playing bluegrass at all here.

Bluegrass music, so named by Bill Monroe for the state of Kentucky, is known for its twangy volume.  It came into being as the radio made inroads into Appalachia and the mountains of the Southeast, which prior to the 1950’s were largely accessible only by horseback.

The music I play comes from the old-time tradition that predates bluegrass by 200 years and more.  It’s a music that is as hypnotic to play as it is to listen to.

My friend and teacher, Tommy Jarrell, used to say,

“When you get right, you will sound just like the rollin’ of a wheel.”

Jewish Students at UC Riverside Fear Spike in Antisemitism Will Follow Vote to Boycott Sabra Hummus

They’re boycotting the most popular brand of hummus in the United States.

…at that bastion of higher education, University of California, Riverside.

Why on earth are they picking hummus?  Don’t they know that in the Middle East EVERYBODY eats hummus, Arabs and Jews and everybody else who eats?

Let me tell you a secret.  Anybody who knows about this, raise your hand!

A number of years ago, Lebanon tried to get an international patent on hummus.  I’m not kidding!

This caper had to go through some international court.

Meanwhile back in Israel, there is a little Arab town called Abu Ghosh.  It’s in an area where lots of Jewish and Arab communities coexist.  There are tensions that crop up when “something happens,” but in general everybody rides the same bus to go shopping in the Shuk in Jerusalem, and takes the same bus home.

Now, Abu Ghosh is famous for its delectable hummus.  I mean, it is out of this world delicious!  It’s the only hummus I eat when I’m in Israel (except for the home-made hummus at the eponymous restaurant, “Hummus.”)

So when Lebanon came up with their asinine scheme to patent hummus and prevent anyone else (read: Israelis) from making it, Abu Ghosh had a different idea: have a contest and invite various Middle East neighbors to participate, and may the best hummus win!

It was decided that each contestant would prepare a gigantic plate of their finest chickpea puree.  The judges would go around and taste, then the public, armed with pita, would devour what was left.

Abu Ghosh won.  The international court threw out the case.

And so, everyone in the Middle East still eats hummus.  Every day.  If you are under 25 and a student, or in the Army, you might eat hummus at every meal.

Gilad Shalit are nothing but hummus and pita for five years, when he was kidnapped by Hamas and kept in an underground tunnel.  He survived, but he looked very much the worse for wear when he was finally freed.

If Lebanon and Israel can agree to a hummus truce, what’s wrong with these students?  Don’t they learn history?

Apparently not.  Apparently they gobble up whatever nonsense they’re fed by the loudest and most militant factions, without checking facts or bothering to look at all the sides.  Because there aren’t just two sides in Israel/Palestine.

There are communities like Abu Ghosh that have integrated into Israeli society while keeping their own language, religion, and customs.

There are communities in Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) that have flourishing industries that provide thousands of jobs for Palestinians.  When Israeli employers are forced out of the West Bank, Palestinians suffer.  They lose their jobs.  Then they riot because they lost their jobs.  Way to go, boycotters!  You just did the opposite of what you said you wanted to achieve.

So if they want to boycott American made hummus, first they must think of the diverse American workforce that they would harm, just like the more than 600 Palestinians who lost their jobs after the Sodastream plant was forced to close and subsequently moved to the Negev Desert, where they now employ around 300 formerly unemployed Bedouins.

Hysteria is contagious.  Why not common sense?

Iranian Missiles Not Imaginary

According To Iranian Officials, Obama Administration Gave Unwritten Consent In The Nuclear Talks And In The JCPOA Negotiations For Iran To Develop Ballistic Missiles With A Range Of Only 2,000 km – That Is, Capable Of Striking Israel But Not Europe | MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute

It seems that our last President was talking out of both sides of his mouth when it came to protecting everyday Israelis–and Europeans, and Americans, and the rest of Western Civilization.  

Read the report for yourself.  All of it.  It contains information that shocked me to my core.

As far as the reliability of the source: MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) is an organization that simply translates media from the Arabic, Farsi, and other Middle Eastern languages (as well as African languages) into English.  Their website (link above) is largely geared toward the academic and institutional audience, so much of its content is not accessible by non-affiliated individuals; however, plenty of content is open to the public.

MEMRI translates television from Middle Eastern sources such as the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic State, and Iranian sources.  Thus we can learn what these entities are learning from their media.

Especially shocking are the children’s TV programs and videos made by the above sources, teaching children everything from hatred of America to hatred of Christians and Jews.  This stuff is not staged.  It’s simply what’s there.

If your mind is not open to plain reality, please do open it.  Look at the evidence.  

I find that the vast majority of Westerners get their information from highly biased news sources such as NPR, the BBC, CNN, and the New York Times.  These outlets do not present the facts on the ground.  I believe it’s essential to look at primary sources–what the Arab world is sharing, and I don’t mean the incredibly watered-down English version of Al-Jazeera, which is entirely different from the Arabic edition.  You can read translations of the Arabic Al-Jazeera on the MEMRI site.

Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself!

I’m Not A US Citizen or An Immigrant, But It Affects Me That Trump is President

A powerful commentary. Read it!

Cup of Contradictions

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
― Anne Frank

I chose the title not because I wanted to drive traffic to my website, but because it best explains this post.

I’ve hated Trump from the very first time I heard about him last year. At that time, it did not seem that a sexist, racist, misogynist orange like him would actually be sitting in the world’s most powerful office months later. As women who’d been abused by him spoke up and tapes of him speaking such disgusting and derogatory thoughts about women surfaced, I became sure that after seeing how characterless and disrespectful this person was, no one would vote for him.

Because I believed that with the surge in the number of feminists and social activists defending POC and the LGBT community, no one would tolerate such a…

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Article: Peter Thiel vs. the FDA

Peter Thiel vs. the FDA

See, the thing is, before a candidate drug is tested on humans, it’s tested for a very long time on animals, usually mice.  This tells us what the drug is likely to do in a mammalian system.  

It doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen in another species, namely humans.  We’re different from rodents (sometimes).

We can extrapolate that if a compound kills a mouse dead, it would probably kill us too.  But other things, like cognitive effects or things that might take years to appear, may not show up in rodents.

There are enormous risks to fast-tracking drugs.  And there is an alternative: compassionate use.  This is an exception that the FDA can use to release a drug from clinical trials early, if it performs brilliantly and is lifesaving.

As this article points out, the driving factor for forming the FDA in the first place was thalidomide, a very effective anti-morning sickness of pregnancy drug.  The only problem was that many of the women who took it gave birth to severely deformed babies.

Clearly, we must protect people from untested drugs.  Yes, we need solutions to pressing problems.  But we’re not going to get solutions by jumping the tracks.  Like it or not, science is an exacting….science.