Monthly Archives: November 2010

Lebanon & Jordan

I returned yesterday from 10 days traveling in Lebanon and Jordan, and they were amazing. I will be extremely brief here, though, as I have a lot I need to do and much time to blog: I’m finished law school essays/applications, writing my next New Era article, writing something for the UK Alumni blog, hopefully writing something for the Kernel, studying for my last midterm on Wednesday (Arabic), making plans to see a soccer game & Harry Potter, and writing my Gaines thesis. I’m feeling pretty busy.

Lebanon was really great, although it was not my favorite place I’ve visited. Pictures are here. It is very small, and there is not too much accessible history in Beirut. I only spent 2 nights, and I’m glad I didn’t have much more time. Here is what I wrote in my journal upon landing: “ It seems to be a good mix of Arab and European cultures, closer to Arab. In the middle geographically too. Most obvious mix so far of ruined buildings with brand new, modern ones. It’s quite nice downtown. I saw the poster of Ahmadinejad within 3 minutes of leaving the airport.” I’m actually going to continue to copy from my journal.

On bus to Jbail, sea to one side and rising mountains and deep valleys to the other with big fields of crops. Very green. Everyone very nice and helpful. Better day than yesterday. Police officers just trying to talk with me. Trying to get around in service vans and taxis. Helpful drivers. Most western Arab city I have been to. Fewer police. Little call to prayer. Very nice downtown. Very fun too. I walked about the ruins in Jbail for a while, then found my way to the AUB and the corniche. Quite nice. Watched sun set behind Pigeon Rocks after climbing around the cliffs. The next day, I went to the Beirut National Museum- well worth seeing. Very cool artifacts and a good video showing its almost destruction during the 1975-1990 civil war.

Jordan was amazing! Pictures are here. I spent a week there. Only a few hours after arriving, I met a friend from UK completely randomly- how fun! We are both studying in Cairo, but we had failed at seeing each other so far, but we ended up in the exact same hostel in the same city at the same time. How crazy.

In order, I went to Petra, Al-Shoubek castle, Jerash, Amman sites, Madaba, Mount Nebo, Bethany, Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum. I hope to write more about them all later, but not now. Please look at the facebook pictures linked to above. I could literally write all night about my Jordan adventures, so I’ll save it for when I can give it more time.

Cairo definitely feels more like home now that I have returned here from a long trip abroad. It is good to be back and in my schedule again. 39 days until I come back to the U.S. It will go by before I know it!

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Eid al-Adha

This past week has been midterms at Cairo University, and I am finally finished. All my exams and papers went well, but I am glad to be done. Combined with applying to law school and writing my Gaines thesis, I have been quite busy (and honestly overwhelmed) recently. Also, this blog was picked up by the UK Alumni Association blog, and they posted some of my information there. You can see it here. I hope to contribute an original post to the Alumni blog soon; I am always willing to ‘get the word out there’ on what I am doing.

The upcoming week is a holiday for us; it is the celebration of Eid al-Adha. I’m using the week off to travel to Lebanon and Jordan, so I’m leaving in the morning for Beirut and leave on Saturday for Amman. I’m looking forward to seeing these countries, and I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on how my travels go. I’ll be back to Cairo on 20 Nov.

It’s hard to believe that, by that point, I will have only a month left here. Today, I believe, is the 50-day-out mark. Time is moving quickly, but I’m trying to live life to the fullest and enjoy everything while I’m here. Be back in touch soon.

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U.S. Election Reactions

First, let me make an unfortunate, but unavoidable, admission: I didn’t get to vote in the 2010 election, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. I left for Egypt on 10 Sept, too early to vote early, but I arranged to have an absentee ballot mailed to me in Cairo. For whatever reason, though, the ballot never made it to me, so I simply couldn’t vote. I feel terrible for that, though.

I’m just going to list a few of my reactions to the results so far.

1. A question: why are Republicans, the conservative party, red? In every other country I can think of, red is the party of the liberal or socialist parties (think the old Soviet Union or communist China, or the Social Democrats in many European countries, or the Socialist Party in France, or Labour Party in the UK). The nationalistic conservative parties are all blue (UMP in France, Conservatives in the UK)! Does anyone have an explanation as to why the U.S. is opposite?

2. This is good for Democrats in 2012. Now republicans will have to take some credit for (probably) bad results and (probable) gridlock. Voter anger will no longer be able to be directed solely at Democrats. Now, if the Republicans bring themselves to find principled compromise solutions to problems and work with Democrats to pass legislation and attempt to get our fiscal house in order, then I will give them all the credit they deserve. We’ll see what happens, though.

3. There are now zero African Americans in the Senate. This is both substantively bad and symbolically bad, and it is simply not representative of America.

4. My predictions- I was correct about Reid and Bennett defying the polls to win, but I was wrong about Feingold.

5. I was happy for Chafee and moderates in Rhode Island. Inouye in Hawaii was reelected; he has represented Hawaii in Congress for Hawaii’s entire existence as a state! Wow. No more Schwarzenegger in CA- moving on from that era. Blumenthal no surprise.  Rubio gives what may be the statement of the night: “We make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican party.” O’Donnell remained wildly dedicated to “our voices will be heard.” They were, and you lost. Although I may disagree with her, I think Nikki Haley is great for SC to get some diversity into a traditionally white male dominated southern state. I feel terrible for Feingold in Wisconsin; he actually stood up for his views, engaged in honest bipartisan efforts, and was an independent voter. Alabama elected its first black woman representative. Ridiculous story of the night- thank God that Oklahoma banned the use of sharia law.

6. It’s important to realize that despite your opinions on some of the legislation that passed, the 111th Congress was incredibly productive. I don’t know the statistics, but I would assume it is one of the most productive in history. It passed the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act for women, credit card reform, student loan reform, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which tripled AmeriCorps, SCHIP re-authorization and expansion, Cash for Clunkers, the Clean Energy & Security Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and health care reform.

7. Other things of note- Independents, women, elderly people all shifted to Republicans, which is not a good sign for Democrats. Colorado did not define a “person” as starting at “beginning of the biological development.” Harry Reid’s son lost for governor of Nevada. Glad to see Manchin win in W.Va. Dislike Coats winning Indiana; I really liked Ellsworth.

8. Now, the Kentucky stuff. Conway did not do nearly well enough in Fayette County, it looks like, and he carried nothing in the south of the commonwealth. There is lots of blue in the east and even some in the west, but nothing south or north. I will give congratulations to Rand Paul (at least he will be entertaining for the next six years and will be better than Bunning)! Seriously, though, I’m interested to see how he governs. I agree with him on some issues and disagree on most, but I will give him an honest chance. Congrats to Jim Gray and Ben Chandler (as it stands currently!). And congrats to Ryan Quarles.

9. This election hurt an already endangered species, the conservative Southern Democrat. And where are Democrats in the middle of the country; surely they exist? We are squeezing out the moderates everywhere. Fewer blue dog Democrats. Fewer moderate Republicans. More tea party extremists. Chandler’s vote against health care probably saved him his job. This new class of legislators has much less experience than any other in the past. Is this good or bad? There will be fresh ideas, but lots of deserving candidates lost. Will conservative Democrats have more clout or less in an even more partisan body? 28 blue dogs lost. Without their presence in the middle, the House will be more polarized, if that’s possible. There are at least 39 tea party seats in the House now as well.

10. I’d like to offer a very brief defense of earmarks. Earmarks are not, as they are portrayed, additional spending. They are certain designations of specific project spending that come from already decided budgeted amounts. They keep bureaucrats from making funding decisions and let our representatives do it. The federal budget is roughly 50% mandatory spending (social security, medicare, medicaid, farm subsidies, etc), 25% defense spending, 10% interest payment on our debt, and 15% everything else. I have not heard a single idea yet from the tea party or anyone else on how we can actually get control of spending given the reality of our budget. Fundamental and unpopular changes are going to have to come to mandatory spending and defense for anything to really change. Can we possibly work together? Is divided government good? Or will we waste the next two years when we desperately need solutions to big problems? My generation is different I think, less ideological. Maybe just because we haven’t stood for election yet but i think we are more interested in results and less divided on social issues than the past.

11. People need to stand by the courage of their convictions. Democrats should have proudly stood by health care. There is lots to like in the law, but no one will defend it! Being middle of the road doesn’t necessarily keep you safe, as this election has shown. I’m sure Conway regrets not being more true to his beliefs after a big loss. If you’re going to lose, at least do it by being true to yourself.

12. I loved this from the Herald-Leader this morning: Gray’s was the aspirational campaign — the one that appealed to those who believe Lexington can and should do better and that open debate produces better decisions. Lexington elected an openly gay mayor. And it wasn’t even a big deal. That Gray’s sexual orientation never became an issue (except with a few anonymous mutterers on talk radio) goes to show that Lexington voters won’t brook that kind of bigotry. And that’s another reason to have high expectations for this city.

13. We need to stop these “waves”. I’d like a little more stability, calmness in our elections. I also hate plurality elections; we need runoffs. Republicans also picked up at least 18 state legislatures, having huge redistricting implications when census details come out. The Senate membership especially has undergone huge changes in the past four years (just think about how many senators have changed for a variety of reasons in such a short time!).

14. Foreign policy implications- Feingold was a big loss for a liberal foreign policy opinion in the Senate. Paul will be one of the only GOP lawmakers willing to call publicly for looking at the defense budget when trying to cut spending. His calls for less government spending might impact foreign aid and State Department funding. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen new chairwoman of house foreign affairs committee, significant by itself.

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A few readings

So, I didn’t travel anywhere this past weekend. I finally had to face the inevitable studying part of studying abroad. So terrible, right?! Sorry for the lack of blogging recently, but I’ve been busy with a lot of other work. That said, I want to share a few a few things I think you’d enjoy, all from CNN’s Inside the Middle East blog.

Turning Cairo’s trash into music. Here.

The new CNN in Arabic logo- I love it. CNN bilarabiyya. Here.

Controversy of the definition of a mosque in Israel. Here.

The mummies in the Egyptian Museum. Here.

Sexual harassment in Egypt- something I’ve witnessed many times and my female colleagues (and this article) say is rampant. I can’t imagine being afraid to go outside for fear of being harassed. Here.

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