Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Morning Reading, January 17, 2005

I should have reorganized my blogroll long ago. Bloglines folders have always been there but I have no excuse for not having used them. Kinda like putting off cleaning out the garage. Anyhow, I have read a lot of stuff in the last two hours and these two (unrelated) long pieces stick in my head.

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3 Quarks links to an in-depth article about Dubai in New Left Review. (Oops! Already I lost readers because the source has the wrong name. Oh well, ignore it at your own informational expense.) Very informative piece. Like reading about Hollywood or Disney World. Makes you wish you had unlimited discretionary income to go and see it. The part that impressed me was that Dubai seems to be crafting a revenue stream for its future that will continue after their little piece of the oil patch has, for practical purposes, gone dry.
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Dubai, in other words, is a vast gated community, the ultimate Green Zone. But even more than Singapore or Texas, it is also the apotheosis of the neo-liberal values of contemporary capitalism: a society that might have been designed by the Economics Department of the University of Chicago. Dubai, indeed, has achieved what American reactionaries only dream of—an oasis of free enterprise without income taxes, trade unions or opposition parties (there are no elections). As befits a paradise of consumption, its unofficial national holiday, as well as its global logo, is the celebrated Shopping Festival, a month-long extravaganza sponsored by the city’s 25 malls that begins on 12 January and attracts 4 million upscale shoppers, primarily from the Middle East and South Asia.
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Other cities in the region, of course, have free-trade zones and high-tech clusters, but only Dubai has allowed each enclave to operate under regulatory and legal bubble-domes tailored to the specific needs of foreign capital and expat professionals. ‘Carving out lucrative niches with their own special rules’, claims the Financial Times, ‘has been at the heart of Dubai’s development strategy’. Thus press censorship (flagrant in the rest of Dubai) is largely suspended inside Media City, while internet access (regulated for content elsewhere) is absolutely unfettered inside Internet City. ...
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In addition to these enclaved regimes of greater media and business freedom, Dubai is also famously tolerant of Western vices, with the exception of recreational drugs. In contrast to Saudi Arabia or even Kuwait City, booze flows freely in the city’s hotels and expat bars, and no one looks askance at halter tops or even string bikinis on the beach. Dubai—any of the hipper guidebooks will advise—is also the ‘Bangkok of the Middle East’, with thousands of Russian, Armenian, Indian and Iranian prostitutes controlled by various transnational gangs and mafias. The Russian girls at the bar are the glamorous fa├žade of a sinister sex trade built on kidnapping, slavery and sadistic violence. Al-Maktoum and his thoroughly modern regime, of course, disavow any collusion with this burgeoning red-light industry, although insiders know that the whores are essential to keeping the 5-star hotels full of European and Arab businessmen. When expats extol Dubai’s unique ‘openness’, it is this freedom to carouse and debauch—not to organize unions or publish critical opinions—that they are usually praising.
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3Quarks LINK

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Here is another long read by Carl Savich writing in Serbianna reflecting on cruel and unusual punishment in general and the recent grotesque hangings in Iraq. This is not for the feint of heart. And if you are politically sensitive, better skip this one. It might make you mad.
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A punishment is cruel and unusual when the victims are deprived of their human dignity. By videotaping and showing the execution to foreign journalists, indeed, occupation journalists, the hanging is turned into a media circus and Orwellian “spectacle”. Human dignity is not being respected. The victims are butchered like dogs or cattle. The hanging is like a racist lynching from US history. And then their sufferings and last moments before death are broadcast around the globe to show how the “global hegemon” has “won” in Iraq.
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Second, a beheading in a hanging is regarded as cruel and unusual punishment. The victim should not be decapitated in a hanging. In a long drop hanging, a careful calculation is made to avoid a decapitation, taking into account the weight and height and physical stature of the victim. A decapitation can only occur by plan and premeditation. A strangulation is also something that occurs through planning and pre-meditation. The problem is that it is difficult to prove that the hangman planned such a result. It is euphemistically termed a “botched” hanging. From the evidence, Hassan was allowed to drop at least 8 feet, the maximum being 9 feet in a long drop hanging. Based on his weight and height, the drop should have been much shorter. How do you “botch” something like this? The only rational conclusion is that the beheading and decapitation was planned in advance. What is the motive?
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This is clearly a sectarian lynching, an act of revenge against a Sunni Muslim victim perpetrated by a Shiite Muslim. The decapitation is meant to send a message to the Sunni Arabs: Sunnis, you are finished as a people in Iraq. You will no longer be in power. This is what we will do to you if you resist us. This was the message of the earlier hanging of Saddam Hussein as well. This is not justice, but revenge or vindictive triumph. The inevitable result is to fuel sectarian violence and to preclude a reconciliation. At the very least, an investigation should be launched to determine how this hanging was “botched”.
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There's more. Lots more. And it gets worse. But if you're into trying to grasp why the dark side of our nature has such a powerful hold on mankind, this can be an equally powerful antidote. If more people could bring themselves to reflect on their attitudes supporting capital punishment in light of readings such as this, widespread support for this barbaric practice might wane.

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