Thursday, June 23, 2005

No shortage of idiots in America

Someone sent me this picture. The idiots who made it apparently cannot comprehend how much they are HURTING thier country. Anyway, I thought of a caption for it, below.

Weenie too small? Have suppressed homosexual tendencies? Come kill a bunch of Iraqis and you'll feel much better!! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Best Magazines

Here's a list of my favorite news/political magazines for all my fans out there. Basically these are the magazines which I would like to have a subscription to:

1- The Economist: strong views, strong arguments, might better take themselves less seriously, but my fave mag all the same.
2- Harper's: I would love a subscription to this. High standards, from what I've seen lately.
3- The New Yorker: In depth reporting.

I was recently at the Ballard public library and happened across an old (2004) issue of Harper's which I literally could not put down. The main attraction was an article advocating the abolition of the US senate; I do not really agree with this view, but it was a compelling read.

I might also mention my 4th choice, for which I DO have a subscription:
4- PC Gamer: yes I am a gamer; eagerly waiting for the release of Civilization IV later this year.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Democracy and the King

We've been seeing all these articles lately highlighting the sorry state of democracy in Jordan. The main gist of all of these is: you think Jordan is so civilized? You think the Jordanian Monarch is a good guy? Well guess what, he might talk the talk (and speaks perfect English) but he doesn't walk the walk. Guess what, you wouldn't want to be a political opponent of the monarchy inside Jordan. Guess what, the Jordanian regime presides over increasing corruption and diminishing personal liberties.

Being Jordanian, I know all of this is true, but it has always been true and I wonder what exactly has changed to put the Jordanian monarch in the limelight. Its mostly been conservatives and neocons writing articles about this and, frankly, since I neither trust their scholarship, motives, or ethics. I didn't really care about all the noise that has been generated lately. (I think for neo-cons in particular and Republicans in general the end often justifies the means, and that they have a pretty massively efficient machine that defines what is true and writes its own histroy, bolstered by their 'frontman' currently residing in the White House). This whole neo-con project of bringing 'democracy' to the Middle East is mostly baloney that just happens to be the only politically viable way for them to proceed after they got themselves into the Iraqi quagmire.

For this reason my ears perked up when, an American friend of mine who lives in Jordan recently forwarded me an article from ' The Nation' criticizing the Jordanian Monarchy. For me 'The Nation' is a publication which has some credibility because of their reasonably fair treatment of the Palestinian question. The article can be found in the following link: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050530&s=glain

After reading the article I sent my friend the following commentary by email, and then thought I would publish what I wrote here:

"Well, I read the article and it made me really sad, because although I recognized a lot of the problems that it touched upon nonetheless I essentially like our king and think that in many ways he is doing a good job. I think king Abdullah is a visionary / futurist type; He has a vision of what Jordan might become and is going after it, "selling" the country to everyone from Bill Gates to gulf investors, and at that he is a good salesman. Unfortunately perhaps being a salesman alone is not enough for a monarch these days; Abdullah, after all, is a product of the elitist Amman society that spawned him, and I think that fails to understand that politics is not just the game of the elites.

What he needs is a good US-educated interior minister with a talent for egalitarianism and, possibly, a good western style public relations firm that would help package him to his own people (with the hope that he would learn a thing or two about THEM in the process, and not be so heavy handed; esp. towards the Islamists).

I remember one Friday morning I was painting in my studio and apparently there was a demonstration that was going to take place after Friday prayers at the Husseini mosque to protest Israeli heavy handedness in dealing with the 2nd intifada. The organizers had tried in vain to obtain a permit and eventually decided to go ahead anyway, and the security services were waiting. I had no idea and suddenly I head all this commotion and went to my studio balcony to see what was happening. Well, security people were clubbing people everywhere and people were running in all directions. I saw 3 or 4 plainclothes security people dragging a bearded Islamist type up the street to where the precinct was. He seemed resigned to his fate and wasn't resisting arrest, but suddenly the security people were joined by another of their colleagues in police uniform and suddenly they decided to spontainously drop the guy and beat the crap out of him for a few minutes before they took him off again. It was horrifying to watch, even for a non-Islamist guy like myself. I was seething with anger and I couldn't help but feel personally violated. I can imagine that if I was Islamist (or just looked like one) I would feel doubly angry and violated, and for good reason. I am not sure what it is about this regime that thinks its okay to be really vicious to Islamists. Maybe they mistakenly think that their 'civilized' friends in the west want them to do just that?

As for the article's endorsement of Hamza, well, I don't really buy it. Are we supposed to think that he is somehow qualified to be king because he is said to bear "an uncanny resemblance to his father and is said to have inherited his legendary charisma and body language"? One of the things that I actually like about this king is his pragmatism and deal-making abilities. Hamza, on the other hand, seems to me to be young, idealistic and annoying; to me, the Koran verse in response to his being sidestepped actually confirms this. On the other hand, maybe Hamza would be less extreme in his handling of the opposition and esp. Islamist politicos, and therefore be better suited to constructively deal with them. Perhaps his American mother would have bred more egalitarianism into him, as she influenced the late king, and therefore he would be more able to create real reform? We will never know now will we."

Just to finish that last thought: it seems that Hamza is mostly a convenient figure for everyone to project their wishful thinking onto.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Some thoughts on Strengthsfinder

I attend the meetings of a great networking group for jobseekers and self employed people which meets up in Lynnwood, and it was there that I heard about the book "Now, discover your strengths" and Strengthsfinder. The book is about a self-assesment methodology invented by Gallup after a study involving some 2 million people, and in my opinion is really a cut above other self-assesment tools, not least because of the scholarship and mass of data behind it.

Anyway, the Strengthsfinder self-assesment tool itself is administred online and takes about 40 mins. You can find my results on my website at http://www.samerkurdi.com/strengthsfinder.html

Overall I think this is a great self-assesment tool and the managerial principles derived from it are extremely useful. There are a few things about it which I found a little unsatsifying. For example the tool only presents you with your 5 strongest themes (strength areas) out of the total of 34, and does not tell you which ones come right after. It's methodology labels the first 5 themes/talents the 'signature' themes and proposes that they are the most relevant for an individual. Although why this magical 5 is chosen is never explained in the book, it sounds reasonable enough -- but what about those of us who, perhaps, have more talents or areas of potential than others? I'm sure such people exist, and it seems to me that the authors need to address the issue of whether individuals vary in their scope, with some simply significantly expressing more themes than others.

I might mention that there is no way to use the online assesment tool without buying the book (which contains a code). Do not buy this book used, as I did, because the code can only be used once and you will have to buy a new copy to use the online tool (as I did). Now we have 2 copies floating around, and the only way for me to re-take the test (to satisfy an urge to see if there would be any deviation from the results of the first) is to buy yet another one. And what if, say, my wife wants to try it? We have to buy another book; we cannot even PAY for the test alone, which is really just annoying and stupid.

I would nonetheless highly recommend this book. Great tool, great insights.

Perhaps I need an anonymous blog

This is in fact my third posting; I deleted the second after thinking it was way too personal and dealt with ideas/opinions that I do not wish to share with everybody that I know. I wonder if I should scrap this whole blog idea and create another anonymous one instead.