Monthly Archives: March 2006

Clueless Of Middle East Realities

This great article by Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke tells you why “western” governments “don’t have a clue about what’s really going on in the” Middle East.

It’s because “Once again, we’re being ‘Chalabied’”. That is “western” governments don’t talk to important Middle East players “Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Rather, “Western governments are dependent for information about the region on a set of clients who, as often as not, are mere reflections of what Westerners want the Middle East to be, rather than what it actually is:…. This clientism is not new; rather, it is a continuation of the misreading that led US and British officials to believe their soldiers would ride to Baghdad along flower-paved highways.”

What does it say about the USA foreign policy apparatus that the clients usually skillfully play USA policy makers?

The article is well worth a read.

Via Laura Rozen’s War and Piece

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Scalia DeVito

This photo, from the Raw Story web site, shows Scalia’s response to a Boston Herald reporter who, as the Herald put it, “asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship. “

Some say Scalia’s gesture is of an obscene nature. According to the photographer who snapped the photo Scalia answered, while making the gesture, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo.’ According to the Herald report “The Italian phrase means ‘(expletive) you.'”

Does anyone else think that Scalia looks like Danny DeVito in the photo?

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The Fun Folks at Chevrolet

The folks at Chevrolet have put up a web site where you can build your own Tahoe SUV ad. I suggest you hurry before Chevy pulls the sight down. Thanks to Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly blog for posting the link of the Chevy site.

Here’s mine.

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Jose’s Cantina Report

This evening at my favorite local cantina, Ricardo, whom I have not before met, was playing the guitar. After he played a number of songs in Spanish he came over and sat next to me and let loose with a beautiful rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”, in English. It was great.

I noticed that Ricardo had the hands of a mechanic and asked him if he worked as such. He explained that music is his love but that he repairs Pemex trucks during the day.

After Ricardo left Jose gave me a nod and put on the Beatles greatest hits CD that was playing the first time I visited his cantina.

I always get lots of practice speaking Spanish at Jose’s, as I’m usually the only English speaker there. However there’s always at least one drunk who dominates the conversation, as drunks are wont to do, and I have a very difficult time understanding inebriated Spanish.

None-the-less, I really enjoy my visits with the friendly folks at Jose’s.

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Rove Reportedly Flipped on Cheney

Rove reportedly clued Fitzgerald into fact that White House staff had deleted email records in Plame outint matter.

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My Personal Banker

I recently opened a banking account here, which one is able to do after receiving an FM 3 visa. The folks at the local HSBC branch where I opened the account have been very pleasant to work with and very patient with my often inadequate Spanish. Since opening the account I have made a number of visits to the bank to ask questions about procedures.

Last Thursday I visited the bank and asked Luis, one of the customer services folks, a question that apparently indicated to him that I needed help understanding how banking is done here. So last evening I received a call from Eduardo, an HSBC personal banker, who asked if he could come to my apartment and discuss banking procedures and options. I eagerly accepted his offer. After an hour or so of conversation about banking, and my particular needs, he suggested that I come to his office in the morning and meet with him and one of his English speaking colleagues. Another offer I gladly accepted.

So this morning I walked to Eduardo’s office and met for an hour or so with him and Sebastian who further explained banking procedures, security, and investment options. They then called a currency exchange house, in which they have confidence, to let them know that I had a cashier’s check I needed exchanged. Eduardo drove me to the office where Adriana took care of the paperwork and explained that the funds from the check will be deposited directly into my account. I also found out it is lots less expensive to have funds wire transferred in pesos from my USA bank to my bank here. Eduardo then drove me home.

I learned that HSBC offers a fund, into which I may invest, that buys and sells Mexican government securities, pays about 6% interest, and the invested funds are completely liquid.

So now I have a personal banker looking after me. One less thing to worry about.

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An Evening To Remember

Last evening I spent a thoroughly entertaining and informative evening with three really bright people, the Working Gringos and Kat of KATravels.

The evening began with a rendezvous at the Working Gringo’s colonial home, just a few blocks from my apartment, and introductions to URL (pronounced earl), their wonderfully friendly dog, which as a stray puppy the WGs serendipitously happened upon, rescued, and adopted. The WG’s home has been artfully restored, with lots of unpainted woodwork and furnishings, high ceilings typical of colonial homes, a babbling fountain, lovely floors, a beautiful modern kitchen, and a small court yard at the rear complete with a “plunge pool” and garden.

After a bit of interesting conversation and wine, we loaded ourselves into the WGs car and headed for a restaurant, neither the name nor location of which I remember, though I think it’s in Centro.

I do remember, though, that the restaurant was in a beautifully done colonial building, with columns, airy ceilings, and the kind of tiled floor in which the large angular patterns are formed by multiple tiles. The excellent, amiable service was provided by waiters in crisp white uniform shirts. The Bisstec Capricho, which I had and which I think in English would be Beefsteak Caprice, was good; the caballeros room was tidy; the company excellent; and the conversation was at turns jocular and serious, often political, and always thoughtful.

My only complaint with the restaurant was (and I’m sorry but I must rant on the subject) that the bartender minced the mojito mint. Mincing mojito mint is wrong, wrong, wrong. Muddled mint makes a mojito. The malignant malpractice of mincing, maladministers mojito mint making a maladroitly mixed mojito. The practice must be stopped.

Here’s the mojito recipe from the Bacardi web site. Is there a more authoritative source? By the way I checked Wikipedia, of which I learned a lot last evening, and found it has the recipe right. Muddle the mint, Wikipedia says; but it also says muddling lime along with the mint is “not authentic.” I’m going with Barcardi on the subject of the authenticity of muddling lime with the mint.

Muddle fresh mint leaves, lime and cover with sugar
(The accompanying illustration indicates muddling consists of bruising the mint leaves and lime against the glass with a slender, wooden muddler which looks like a tiny baseball bat.)
Top with ice
(The illustration indicates ice cubes)
Add Bacardi (1.5 ozs) and a splash of club soda.
Stir well and garnish with lemon wedge and sprig of mint

Mandy, a very colorful fellow in Trinidad, Cuba in whose home I stayed for a few days, would pick mint from his little patch in the inner courtyard and whip up mojitos for a buck each, though as I recall he used a spoon to muddle. After picking the mint he’d kinda of prance over to the muddling counter in a manner reminiscent of Dr. Joyboy dancing the roast pig into feed his immovably obese mother in the mid-60s movie, “The Loved Ones.” Mandy would also drive his early 50s Chevy through the cobblestone streets of Trinidad honking, whistling, and waving at his friends, which seemed to be all women. The guy was a complete card, which of course has nothing to do with last evening.

Someone in the midst of last evening suggested that we should each enter a report of the evening in our various blogs. Instantly, Working Gringa and KAT whipped their cameras out of their bags. The cameras came out so fast that I’m pretty sure I saw them smoking from the friction. I knew immediately that, to the extent the blogging suggestion constituted a challenge (and remember, I am male), I was a goner, for I had no camera. So for pictures of the restaurant and the salon you’ll just have to mosey on over to the Working Gringos and KATravels to view photos. They’ll also probably tell you the name and location of the restaurant.

All-in-all, it was an evening to remember. More Merida Magic.

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