Raid on Egypt NGOs: The Old Regime is Back in Business

“Less than two weeks after the military violently crushed street protests leaving dozens killed and hundreds injured, some warned Thursday’s raids were a sign of a fiercer crackdown ahead of new protests planned for Jan. 25, the anniversary of the start of the 18-day mass uprising.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Egyptian soldiers and police stormed non-governmental organization offices throughout the country on Thursday, banning employees inside from leaving while they interrogated them and searched through computer files / AP.

CAIRO — “Egyptian security forces stormed the offices of 17 human rights and pro-democracy groups on Thursday, including several based in the U.S., accused by the country’s military rulers of destabilizing security by fomenting protests with the help of foreign funding” …  First thing first, so try and keep this “foreign aid” cliché aside now, and let’s focus on the allegation of “fomenting protests” because this is the main issue here … Inciting people to take to the streets in huge numbers in a country long ruled by an authoritarian regime that never witnessed protests or even allowed dissent during the last 60 years or so, that is certainly a crime and shame that need to be confronted with swift and decisive actions… “Among the 17 offices which were raided the U.S.-headquartered National Democratic Institute, Freedom House, the International Republican Institute, which is observing Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections, as well as Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think-tank with links to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party”

Timing is of essence here, so we have to ask why now, .. after almost a whole year since the Egyptian uprising erupted back in 25 January, why storm the headquarters of rights groups now? … Those NGOs have been operating for longtime, and some of them were founded during the rule of Hosni Mubarak… “A joint statement, signed by 28 Egyptian rights groups said that less than two weeks after the military violently crushed street protests leaving dozens killed and hundreds injured, this latest show of force against NGOs heralds a wider clampdown to target those who led the uprising and an attempt to “liquidate” the revolution” …

The raid on Cairo-based NGOs came less than two weeks of violent crackdown on Tahrir protesters and activists.

To put you into context, the raids on the NGOs headquarters which had to look intimidating in every way possible as Special commandos in full gear sealed office doors shut with wax, demanded computer passwords, carted away boxes of documents and searched the bathrooms, is the latest in a series of preplanned and systematically executed actions to abort and hijack the Tahrir square revolution … “The raids on the NGOs were the first since Mubarak’s ouster, though Egyptian officials have been levying accusations for months that the civil society groups are serving a foreign agenda”

… A foreign agenda, we have all heard this before by Gaddafi in Libya, Saleh in Yemen, by the prince of Bahrain and now Bashaar al-Assad in Syria and even Putin in Russia, “The foreign intervention card” is always there on their desks, meticulously folded and ready to be played out in time of need. “The Foreign agenda” …whenever you hear of it, be sure that the people in power are in trouble.

Who needs a foreign agenda to make people scream from the pains of poverty, injustice and brutality? You don’t need a foreign agenda for that; all you need is courage that can take you to the street and a voice that fears not to say you can’t take it no more

Egyptian military stand guard as officials raid one of the non-governmental organization

“The Interior Ministry said the raids on the nonprofit organizations were part of the investigation into foreign funding of rights groups” …

That’s fair enough, but then why we never heard of the military council doing the same and investigated the obscene and unmonitored funding of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis -the ultra-conservative Muslims- by the Wahabbi foundations in the Arab peninsula. “181mn dollars have been transferred last February to the “partisans of the Sunni society” a NGO affiliated with the Salafi party.” Declared a source in the Justice department … “The Cairo-based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said in a statement that the raids went beyond the type of Mubarak-era tactics that spurred hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to take to the streets demanding freedom and democracy during this year’s uprising”

10 months of dragging the military feet on the trial of Mubarak and his inner circle of high officials and business tycoons, ten months of dragging their feet on restoring order and safety to the Egyptian street in order to sustain the feeling of chaos and insecurity, 10 months during which the Tahrir square, the hub of the revolution, has turned into a battle field where the military joined by army of thugs and police snipers have been crushing the remaining die-hard protesters and activists

“By far the largest recipient of foreign funding in Egypt is the military itself, which has for more than 30 years received about $1.3 billion in annual U.S. security assistance” … The military generals want to put an end to the revolutionary tide on the Egyptian street and restore things to “business as usual”  .. and in doing so they are willing to strike secret deals with the Islamists and neutralize them, abduct 12000 protesters and activists and lock them away after trying them before military tribunals, promote the concept that the revolutionaries of the Tahrir square are but a bunch of rioters and vandals who dared burn the scientific institute of Cairo and were up to burning down the parliament building and that the political activists are just covert agents on the payroll of  foreign governments, and in fulfilling that aim Egypt military generals are willing to even anger the AmericansThe Obama administration demanded Egyptian authorities immediately halt the raids on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying they are “inconsistent” with long-standing U.S-Egypt cooperation” … Egypt military have all the time in the world to reconcile with Washington and make things look consistent again.

Deposed presiden Mubarak / Field Marshal Tantawy

But as we said, first things first, the military junta’s priority now is to restore control over things, demean the demands of pro-democracy protesters and taint the reputation of the activists and political rights groups, pave the way to pardon Mubarak and reinstall the disrupted system of policing the state and silence critics as the country approaches the first anniversary of the Tahrir revolution.

 … In short, the military council want to derail this revolution from its track and turn this whole thing into some coup-d’état that only managed to topple Mubarak but not the regime … and I don’t think that is something that would anger the white house.  Nevertheless Egypt military has assured the United States that it’s willing to stop the raids on US and other pro-democracy groups as long as all parties concerned clearly understand that “the regime is back in business.”

Time to Attack Iran

The council on foreign relations, one of the think tanks seen as a major contributor to the forecasting of the White House foreign policies, has lately published an opinion piece that says “Time to attack Iran”. In the piece the council downplays the fears of many skeptics who envision the perilous consequences of an attack on Iran tantamount to a WWIII scenario, and therefore refuse to subscribe to a preemptive strike of its nuclear facilities.

But CFR refers to the skeptics’ attitude as a faulty assumption and concludes in the article “The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States”

 … But the council’s article lacked a great deal of transparency and impartiality when it intentionally failed to mention that striking Iran would only protect and serve Israel’s interests and not the United States’ nor the region’s.

Mainstream Media keeps al-Qaeda Myth Alive.

“Who’s going to object to referring to the Sunni insurgency in post-war Iraq as yet another attack by al-Qaeda?”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat 

Lost in a proxy war.

While surfing the morning news, Most people would indifferently glance at this headline “Al-Qaida in Iraq says it was behind Baghdad blasts” and fail to grasp the real story behind it. But then, how could they not when the story is presented to them with such a deceiving title to begin with.

Now that the boys are out of the Iraqi swamp, a smart move in Obama’s electoral campaign,why should any American care what happens in that remote area on planet earth called Iraq- a place most Americans failed to locate on the map in a National geographic survey in 2006.

The American military and the so called coalition forces raided Iraq in 2003 in a search for the alleged presence of military training camps for the so called al-Qaeda and hidden depots packed with tons of weapons of mass destruction(WMD).

Neither was found … Nevertheless the American & coalition troops dragged their feet before they finally left Iraq.

And as Obama was saying to his returning soldiers “welcome home .. welcome home” his inner circle at the white house and Pentagon knew for a fact that this diplomatic move is more of a strategic repositioning of troops in the region ( in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain) than a full withdrawal, and that Iraq is bound to stay under the American strategic and military control till at least 2020. That if Iraq managed to linger as one nation for that long.

Last week and as Leon Panetta, the American defense secretary was declaring that the American war on Iraq had finally come to an end and that the boys would be home for Christmas he somehow forgot to say to the Iraqis Sorry fellows for all the mess and the killing we caused. Hope you hold no hard feelings for us and that you’d understand that we didn’t mean to bring about that much damage and chaos … we were only fooled by the Israelis and blindly acted on their misleading intelligence … and yes, maybe we dumped too much Depleted Uranium on your heads .. and maybe the black water guys overdid it, any way this game is over now .. and we will leave you fellows to sort this old grudge between the Sunnis and Shiites on your own.”

While the civil war now raging between Shiite and Sunni in Iraq is sometimes cast as an extension of an age-old religious struggle, today’s conflict is about something slightly more political.

But that is not how the Zionist- controlled mainstream media define and report this struggle. Whenever covering the deadly confrontations between the two sects; the Shiites are referred to as Iran-backed sect and the Sunni sect is conveniently referred to as al-Qaeda front group.

Despite the fact that the American/coalition troops couldn’t find any WMD nor any link between Sadam’s regime and the so called al-Qaeda simply because the whole story of al Qaeda is nothing but a CIA/Mossad masterpiece operation.

Nevertheless, it won’t hurt anyone especially that Osama Bin Laden is now lying in the bottom of some sea serving as fish food, to keep this myth alive. Who’s going to object to referring to the Sunni insurgency in post-war Iraq as yet another attack by al-Qaeda? 

The Bush/Obama administration used it so did Gaddafi in Libya, Saleh in Yemen and now Bashaar el-Assad in Syria … so why not keep this myth alive, it will surely come in handy, in case Israel decided it is time they fooled the Americans once again into yet another and uglier war in Iran.

US soldiers board the last C17 aircraft carrying US troops out of Iraq

Al-Qaida in Iraq says it was behind Baghdad blasts

 BAGHDAD (AP) — An al-Qaida front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that ripped through markets, cafes and government buildings in Baghdad on a single day last week, killing 69 people and raising new worries about the country’s path.

The coordinated attacks struck a dozen mostly Shiite neighborhoods on Thursday in the first major bloodshed since U.S. troops completed a full withdrawal this month after nearly nine years of war. They also coincided with a government crisis that has again strained ties between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites to the breaking point, tearing at the same fault line that nearly pushed Iraq into all-out civil war several years ago.

The claim of responsibility made no mention of the U.S. withdrawal. Instead, it focused its rage on the country’s Shiite-dominated leadership, which Sunni insurgents have battled since it came to power as a result of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

“The series of special invasions (was) launched … to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed,” said the statement in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq.

BREAKING: Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger released from prison ‎

Egyptian Blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah released from prison, pending further ‎investigations into the Maspero clashes. Is it a cause for rejoicing, or is it too late to resuscitate a dying revolution?

Alaa Abd El-Fattah

Cairo: Prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been released on Sunday. His detention on 30 October on charges that included inciting violence during the bloody attack by the military on Coptic rights protesters, in what is known as Maspero rally, on 9 October sparked outcry and condemnation in Egypt and around the world. 

Alaa also faces charges of alleged vandalism at the Maspero rally in downtown Cairo which morphed into clashes with security forces in which 27 people were killed, most of them Copts protesting over the burning of a church in the southern city of Aswan.

The young activist reportedly refused to undergo questioning by the military prosecution on the grounds that the military itself was implicated in the case.

Coptic witnesses said they were fired upon by soldiers during the protest march and that several people were killed when armored vehicles ran over and crushed them.

“Alaa will be released” his sister Mona Seif, who is also a political activist, said on Twitter.

More details to follow.

Editor’s note:

 I was riding a taxi when I read the tweets of Alaa’s release from prison, and I was so thrilled I couldn’t hide the big smile that was suddenly drawn on my face. The taxi driver, who was peeking at my smiling face in his rear view mirror, asked me with sheer curiosity “Good news sir?”

“Excellent news actually” I assuredly replied   “The military released Alaa Abdel Fattah this morning after nearly two months of detention. His release couldn’t have come at a better time; it will surely boost the morale of all political activists who have been enduring through rough times lately in Tahrir square” I enthusiastically added.

“The release of any prisoner is good news especially if he is innocent, but sir, who is this Alla abdel Fattah” the driver ingenuously asked.

“Never mind, and pull over please, I’ll get off here” I responded

It is worth mentioning that the failure- up till now- of the Tahrir square revolution to produce strong and secular political leadership is one of the main reasons why the Egyptian revolution will remain to be seen as “unfinished business”.

In the lack of political cadres, proper funding and charismatic leadership the Tahrir revolution has been stabbed in the back and served cold to the Islamists and the military.

Meanwhile, the die-hard activists and revolutionaries can only find solace in rejoicing over the release of one of more than 12000 imprisoned activists and protesters detained and tried before military tribunals since last February.

An atheist at Christmas: Oh come all ye faithless

“If the nativity to you is nothing more than a fairytale, how do you handle Christmas?”

“Much of what is best about Christmas is entirely unrelated to the story of the birth of Christ. It revolves around themes of community, festivity and renewal which predate the context in which they were cast over the centuries by Christianity.

Alain De Botton

Alain de Botton: Our youngest has proudly been playing the innkeeper in the school nativity play. Photograph: Franck Allais

Christmas is inevitably a rather problematic time for atheists. Does one sour the mood, somewhere between the turkey and the pudding, and overtly declare the entire festivity is built on the naivety and, if one’s feeling particularly spiky, the blatant stupidity of one’s ancestors? Or does one simply fill up the stocking, sing Away In A Manger and go with the occasion in a spirit of politeness?

In this area, I wasn’t reared for compromise. I was brought up in a devoutly atheistic household, by a father who made Richard Dawkins look open-minded on the matter of there perhaps being a supreme being. I recall him reducing my sister to tears in an attempt to dislodge her notion that a reclusive god might dwell somewhere in the universe. She was eight at the time. If any members of their social circle were discovered to harbour clandestine religious sentiments, my parents would start to regard them with the sort of pity more commonly reserved for those diagnosed with a degenerative disease and could from then on never take them seriously again.

Christmas was a particular testbed of loyalties. At its approach, my parents would go into overdrive, stressing the absurdity of all its rituals, art, songs and traditions. They weren’t so cruel as to deny their children presents – but to make the point, they insisted on giving them to us in August. This wasn’t a problem. It was rather special. I went through childhood feeling rather sorry for people vulgar enough to have Christmas trees and advent calendars: hadn’t they understood?

Then, in my mid-20s, I underwent a crisis of faithlessness. It began with a re-evaluation of Christmas – and gradually spread to religion as a whole. My feelings of doubt began one year when I was invited to spend Christmas at the home of a Christian friend. He had evidently taken pity on me. At the time, I was single, professionally adrift and obviously lonely – and when he suggested I might like to test my prejudices and come for a bit of lunch (playfully promising there would be no attempts to save my soul, or at least not till after the main course), I didn’t even pretend to put up a fight. Needless to say, the occasion was eye-opening in the extreme. I felt I was doing something very taboo simply by pulling a cracker. There was warmth, jollity, music, even moments of faith that no longer felt especially alien or daft. As lunch spread out across a lazy afternoon, I began to face up to the full scale of my ambivalence regarding the doctrinaire principles with which I had been inculcated in childhood. I never wavered in my certainty that God did not exist. I was simply liberated by the thought that there might be a way to engage with religion without having to subscribe to its supernatural content.

Christams festivities

It should be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find occasions such as Christmas useful, interesting and consoling – and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain religious ideas into the secular realm. The real issue is not whether God exists, but where one takes the argument to once one decides he evidently doesn’t. We invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day: the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses; and the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise. God may be dead, but the urgent issues that impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the five loaves and two fishes.

In turning our backs on all aspects of religion, we allow it to claim as its exclusive dominion areas of experience that should rightly belong to all mankind – and that we should feel unembarrassed about reappropriating for the secular realm. Early Christianity was itself adept at appropriating the good ideas of others, aggressively subsuming countless pagan practices which modern atheists now tend to avoid in the mistaken belief that they are indelibly Christian. Much of what is best about Christmas is entirely unrelated to the story of the birth of Christ. It revolves around themes of community, festivity and renewal which predate the context in which they were cast over the centuries by Christianity. Many of our soul-related needs are ready to be freed of the particular tint given to them by religions – even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religions that often holds the key to their rediscovery and rearticulation.

For an atheist to make friends with Christmas is likely to annoy partisans on both sides of the debate. Christians might take offence at the selective and unsystematic consideration of one of their holiest festivals. Religions are not buffets, they will protest, from which choice elements can be selected at whim. However, the downfall of many a faith has been its unreasonable insistence that adherents must eat everything on the plate. Why should it not be possible to appreciate the depiction of modesty in portraits of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, yet bypass the doctrine of the annunciation; admire Christianity’s emphasis on compassion, yet shun its theories of the afterlife? For someone devoid of religious belief, it may be no more of a crime to dip into aspects of faith than it is for a lover of literature to single out a few favourite writers from across the canon.

Atheists of the militant kind may also feel outraged, in their case by an approach that treats religion as though it deserved to be a continuing touchstone for our yearnings. They will point to the furious institutional intolerance of many religions, and to the equally rich, though less illogical and illiberal, stores of consolation and insight available through art and science. They may additionally ask why anyone who professes himself unwilling to accept so many facets of religion – who feels unable to speak up in the name of virgin births, say – should still wish to associate himself with a subject as compromised as faith. To this the answer is that religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with practical involvement in a range of interests – education, fashion, politics, travel, publishing, art and architecture – which puts to shame the scope of the achievements of even the greatest secular movements and individuals in history.

At Christmas, without any naivety (without forgetting the Inquisition, the Crusades and those many very corrupt priests), it should be possible to sidestep religions’ more dogmatic aspects in order to be nourished by aspects of them that remain consoling to sceptical contemporary minds. I have tentatively been celebrating it for a number of years now. My wife (educated by nuns, theology degree from Oxford) and I began things very modestly indeed, with a metallic light-up “tree” from Habitat and a Marks & Spencer oven-ready turkey, sprouts and potato combo. The whole thing, with present swapping, was over in 40 minutes flat. We felt very special. But we’ve had children since and this brings atheists into line like nothing else. Our youngest has proudly been playing the innkeeper in the school nativity play. Both our children sing of Jesus’s love with gusto.

I don’t mind in the least. I’m interested in the emotions underneath these rituals, not the specifics, and really what is at stake is a celebration of family and of love. One would have to be truly unconfident about the human capacity to mature to be offended by the credulity Christmas provokes in people under 10. Given our kids also believe in ghosts and their father’s dexterity at football, there is plenty of time to sort things out down the line. I have resisted a Christmas tree, though. I stressed to my children that almost half of Christians celebrate Christmas during a warm season – and so, at the suggestion of our eldest son, our presents are now arranged around a Christmas cactus, richly decorated with cut-outs of the holy family.

For an atheist, one of the most interesting functions of Christmas is its fostering of a spirit of community. We live in a crowded but lonely world. The public spaces in which we typically encounter others – commuter trains, jostling pavements – conspire to project a demeaning picture of our identities, which undermines our capacity to hold on to the idea that every person is necessarily the centre of a complex and precious individuality. It can be hard to stay hopeful about human nature after a walk down Oxford Street. Locked away in our private cocoons, our chief way of imagining what other people are like has become the media, and as a consequence we naturally expect all strangers will be murderers, swindlers and paedophiles. Solitary though we may have become, we haven’t of course given up all hope of forming relationships. In the lonely canyons of the modern city, there is no more honoured emotion than love. However, this is not the love of which religions speak, not the expansive, universal brotherhood of mankind; it is a more jealous, restricted and ultimately meaner variety. It is a romantic love that sends us on a maniacal quest for a single person with whom we hope to achieve a lifelong and complete communion, one person in particular who will spare us any need for people in general.

The rituals of Christmas reflect a deep understanding of our loneliness. I am a great admirer of carol services, of being crammed together with strangers in a warm communal atmosphere akin to that of a pop concert or nightclub when people sway their arms to the music and (for a brief moment) it feels almost possible to love everybody without reserve. The composition of a typical congregation at a service feels significant. Those in attendance tend not to be uniformly of the same age, race, profession or educational or income level; they are a random sampling of souls united only by their shared commitment to certain values. A service or mass actively breaks down the economic and status subgroups within which we normally operate, casting us into a wider sea of humanity. We are urged to overcome our provincialism and our tendency to be judgmental – and to make a sign of peace to whomever chance has placed on either side of us.

King's college chapel- East glass window

And it is one of the few times of the year that one can appreciate the sheer beauty of functioning ecclesiastical architecture. The crafted timber door and 300 stone angels carved around the porch signal to us that we have now stepped into a zone marked by relationships quite unlike those of the offices, gyms and living rooms of the secular world. I can never forget a carol service I attended at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge a few years ago: it was the closest I ever came to conversion. Until atheists learn to use architecture as well as religions, they will be missing a vital point about what seduces human minds. Books alone aren’t convincing objects, compared with a choir singing a Bach cantata in a gothic building.

It is no coincidence that food and its communal consumption looms so large in considerations of Christmas. Sitting down at a table with a group, some of whom will be strangers, has the incomparable and odd benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. However, the proximity required by a long meal – something about handing dishes around, unfurling napkins at the same moment – disrupts our ability to cling to hatreds. Religions know enough about our sensory, non-intellectual dimensions to be aware that we cannot be kept on a virtuous track simply through the medium of words. They know that at a meal they will have a captive audience who are likely to accept a trade-off between ideas and nourishment – and so they turn meals into disguised ethical lessons. They stop us just before we have a first sip of wine and offer us a thought that can be swilled down with the liquid like a tablet. They make us listen to a homily in the gratified interval between two courses.

The secular world often sees in rituals such as communal singing or eating a loss of diversity, quality and spontaneity. Religion seems bossy. But at its finest this ritual-based bossiness enables fragile but important aspects of life to be identified and shared. Those of us who hold no religious or supernatural beliefs still require regular, ritualised encounters with concepts such as friendship, community, gratitude and transcendence. We need institutions that can mine, harvest and mould precious ideas for us, remind us that we need them and present them to us in beautiful wrappings – thus ensuring the nourishment of the most forgetful sides of ourselves.

The wisdom of the faiths belongs to all of mankind, even the most rational among us, and, throughout the liturgical year, deserves to be selectively reabsorbed. Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone.

Alain de Botton’s new book, Religion For Atheists, is published by Hamish Hamilton on 26 January at £18.99. To pre-order a copy for £14.24, including free UK p&p, visit the Guardian Bookshop.

Editor’s note:

 I find Botton’s argument very admirable and relevant not only for the atheists’ dilemma of how big a chunk of the religion cake they have to relinquish and leave behind, but also for the believers of all faiths who subscribe to their religions only for the sake of mere spiritual gratification even if it meant buying into the religious fairy tales. 

king Hassan II mosque in Morocco, The eastern glass window and door

From my first hand experience, I could attest to the fact that the majority of ordinary Muslims when listening to the Quran they don’t focus on interpreting its verses or validating their historicity, rather they dwell in the pleasing and somehow tuneful recitation by the sheikh.

 And likewise in Hij-annual pilgrimage to Mecca, a ritual that has been practiced for centuries of paganism before Islam- Muslim pilgrims are captivated by the dissolving of their egos into a bigger entity of millions who come from all corners of the world and from all ages and walks of life and experience maybe what the pagans felt when they used to perform the very same rituals  around Kabba.

And as botton put it “Many of our soul-related needs are ready to be freed of the particular tint given to them by religions – even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religions that often holds the key to their rediscovery and rearticulation.”

Most Muslims are not experts on Sharia and many of them have no idea what the word means, but when it comes to celebrating the fasting month of Ramadan or Eid with all the entailed festivities and gatherings, something that all humans need and crave for, that is when they can unambiguously define and relate themselves to Islam.

The Last and Gloomy Pages of Egypt revolution.

“Take away fear, and the battle of Freedom is half won.” – William Ralph Inge: The End of an Age

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt” .. Thomas Merton

Warning: The video contains some disturbing scenes ..  also the footage shows military police officer shooting at unarmed protesters .. Till this moment Egypt military council denies using live ammunition against protesters .. while the new PM accuses a foreign third party for the killing of innocent civilians.

Egypt’s Activists Bid Farewell to the Revolution

“Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.”

 Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

“I believe our revolution is being hijacked” commented one of the Tahrir protesters “The army and the people is one hand” chanted the thousands of protesters in the iconic Tahrir square … Soldiers have stormed an anti-government protest camp in Cairo …Mubarak says he will not run for another term as president … violent clashes have killed at least Nine people and injured more than 350 others- and still counting …Tahrir square is packed with millions of Egyptians …

Tahrir square saga

…  Protesters set cars alight and threw stones at military police in the Egyptian capital …what inspiring scenes we are getting here from Tahrir square … a wounded activist said that he had been arrested and beaten by soldiers at a sit-in near the parliamentary building earlier… the United States calls for a peaceful transition of power in Egypt … the military attacked protesters who have been camping outside the Cabinet headquarters in Cairo for the past three weeks, protesting against the appointment of Dr. Kamal Ganzoury, who served for long years under Mubarak, as Egypt new prime minister … Mubarak has stepped down after 18 days of huge protests … The troops responded by firing shots in the air and using water cannon, before throwing stones back at the protesters from the roof of the nearby parliament building … Egypt military council pledges to protect the revolution and hand over power to a civilian government in six months

Egypt military abducting dissidents who had to be dragged out of Tahrir sqaure

…This sit-in has been going on for weeks in protest against the military…Two churches set on fire and 27 killed by the military violent crackdown on thousands of protesters in Maspero, downtown Cairo… PM in press conference denies army attacked Egypt’s Occupy Cabinet … Sounds of gunfire can be heard near the cabinet building. Protesters retreated. Some are falling from rubber bullet injuries. Men on motorcycles are rushing to carry the wounded to field hospitals

Activists chased out of Tahrir square

it is happening in Israel. Italy, Spain, Yemen and the United States, it is World Wide Tahrir Square movement now … Protesters in Qasr al-Aini Street chant, “kill Khaled and kill Mina, each of your bullets make us stronger.” They refer to Khaled Saeed, who was tortured to death by policemen last year …Egypt elections results show Islamists are winning… Egypt government will keep its promise not to use violence against protesters …  Egypt’s ruling generals appear confident that Islamist parties who swept recent elections will stay out of the fight while other pro-democracy protesters become increasingly isolated.… Egypt’s Military Police sets Tahrir Square ablaze and forcefully pushes away protesters demonstrating outside the Cabinet on the first anniversary of the Arab spring …Egypt’s Prime Minister says fighting since Friday between protesters and soldiers is an attack on the country’s revolution The army used live ammunition to disperse Tahrir protesters … Egypt PM described the demonstrators in front of Cabinet as “not the revolution’s youth.”

Tahrir square on fire

“restoring lost dignity and total regime change is what this revolution is all about” a political activist said…Minutes later, a full offensive was waged on the protesters, pushing them away from the cabinet and clearing and burning Tahrir Square …Israel eyeing reoccupaion of Sinai … a massacre is taking place in Tahrir square right now …a deal has been struck between the Muslim brothers and the military council behind closed doors … Groups of soldiers roaming square, Some people getting beaten randomly … Tents burning … Tahrir looks like a war zone … “we lost the square” one activist tweeted… president Mubarak is due to make a speech any minute now.

A revolution hijacked and raped

Islamic Cleric Warns Cucumbers too Sexy for Women

Cairo/ bikyamasr:  An Islamic cleric based in Europe said that women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any “sexual thoughts.”

The unnamed sheikh, who was featured in an article on el-Sawsana news, was quoted saying that if women wish to eat these food items, a third party, preferably a male related to them such as a father or a husband, should cut the items into small pieces and serve them.

He said that these fruits and vegetables “resemble the male penis” and hence could arouse women or make them think of sex.

He also added carrots and zucchini to the list of forbidden foods for women.

The sheikh was asked how to keep an eye on women when they are out grocery shopping and whether holding these items at the market should be banned for them. The cleric answered saying this matter is between them and God.

Answering another question about what to do if women in the family like these kind of food, the sheikh advised that a family male member would take the food and cut it for them in a hidden place so they cannot see it.

The opinion has stirred a storm of mockery and denouncement among Muslims online, with hundreds of comments ridiculing the cleric.

One reader said that these religious clerics give Islam “a bad name” and another commented “he is a retarded person and he must quit his post immediately”.

Others called him a fame-seeker, but no official responses from renowned Islamic scholars have been published on the statements.

Editor’s note:Though this story lacks enough investigative journalism, as the name of the sheikh was not specified, nevertheless, I decided to mirror it in Pyramidion … you know I’ve heard and seen such weird stories so many times before, I don’t find them unfamiliar anymore. But this sanctimonious silliness was too hilarious to pass unflagged.

Grab a Pen Mr. Gingrich, it’s Time for your History Lesson

“How did America end up in that humiliating situation, where its presidential frontrunners are but a bunch of clowns who are always willing to dance to Israel’s favorite tune?”

“The Israelite history is invented and therefore the Zionists could have settled somewhere else than Palestine, Uganda for example, as Herzl had proposed at the Sixth Zionist Congress

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

The United States for Israel

It’s elections time ladies and gentlemen once again. It is the presidential candidates’ time to line up and take part in Israel lovefest.

It’s time for Zionist-funded electoral campaigns and solid promises to do the utmost and maybe the impossible for the “United States for Israel”.

The 2012 White House elections has unleashed a fierce race amongst the presidential hopefuls- who come this year in all colors, sizes and IQs- to kiss ass and suck up to the Israeli lobbies in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Sleeping with the enemy

And since all the candidates have consumed almost all the usual tricks to tout their own “do for Israel” credentials starting from accusing the Palestinians of hindering the peace process and denying Israel’s right to exist …. Right down to calling them terrorists, the republican White House hopeful, Newt Gingrich has found himself in a position where he has to come up with a brand new trick that would enhance his approval rating in the race to the white house.

Newt Gingrich

Being an expert on solutions for winning the future, Gingrich didn’t waste much time and decided to not only do the utmost but also the impossible for Israel’s sake by calling the Palestinians an “invented” people who could have voluntarily evacuated their homeland and chose to live elsewhere.

While I could conceal my annoyance over Gingrich’s outrageous and deceitful statement, which lacks both the minimum historical awareness and political wisdom I find myself unable to hide my disgust of his disgraceful conduct.

Mr. Gingrich as a presidential hopeful and a longtime politician is supposed to be, in a way, representing the mainstream American diplomacy when he speaks to the foreign media- unless the Jewish channel is not considered that.

And if he as a person was not embarrassed to openly brownnose Israel in that unprecedented and degrading manner, then he should have uttered those nonsense comments in a less public session, like at his country club and amongst his circle of Zionist financiers of his campaign who certainly would have been ecstatic to hear him ranting that way.

But for him to publicize this hate speech in a televised interview and furthermore repeat it during the presidential debates is an affront to the whole American diplomacy and a dangerous indication for a paradigm shift of that diplomacy in the Middle East.

Who allowed this plumpy Gingrich to act as Israel’s advocate while ironically running for the presidency of the United States? Who told him that he can put on his racist mask, erase decades of peace brokering, albeit not entirely successful, and start messing up the politics of one of the most volatile places on earth while hallucinating about its documented ancient history?

The Arabs and the Palestinians, whom he likes to see invented and therefore movable or even invisible, will not take his statement as a twisted attitude of some republican candidate but another proof of the American flagrant biased policy in the Middle East.

The last thing the United States needs right now as its troops are pulling out of the Iraqi swamp and being kicked out of the Afghan-Pakistan Death Valley is another (needless)stir of the anti-American sentiments in that part of the world.  

Only Mr. Gingrich doesn’t think so. Appearing in his debates foolishly standing by his offensive remarks and apparently drunk with the encouraging feedback he gets from his Israeli friends, this former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives irresponsibly insists on sketching the landscape for the most dreadful political forecast in the Middle East.

It is ironic to see the millions of patriotic Americans rallying on the streets and literally occupying the country in protest over what they called the corporate greed and at the same time we find candidates like Gingrich so sick and blinded with greed they can’t feel the danger nor the shame in sleeping in the same bed with the real enemy.  

How did America end up in that humiliating situation, where its presidential frontrunners are but a bunch of clowns who are always willing to dance to Israel’s favorite tune?

I take a look at all the 2012 presidential hopefuls and I fail to find any hope in them as they frantically compete with each other to suck up to Israel as if the American presidential polls will be held in Tel Aviv.

Mr. Gingrich has every right to brownnose, kiss ass and suck up to whomever he likes, he has the right to relinquish his national identity and pride … but he has no right to strip the Palestinians of that pride and identity while doing so.

Obviously, for someone that historically ignorant, Mr. Gingrich must have been tipped by one of his aides that what really troubled Israel recently is the release of Shlomo Sand’s bestseller book “The invention of the Jewish people”

Let’s talk history, history will tell who was invented.  

Shlomo Sand

In that book, Prof. Sand attempts to prove that the Jews now living in Israel and other places in the world are not at all descendants of the ancient people who inhabited the land of the philistines in the late Bronze Age.

Prof. Sand is saying that the nowadays Jews who have been immigrating since over a century now to the land of Palestine are but varied peoples that converted to Judaism during the course of history in different corners of Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean Basin and the adjacent regions like in Yemen and Iraq.

According to Sand, the description of the Jews as a wandering and self-isolating nation of exiles, who wandered across seas and continents, reached the ends of the earth and finally, with the advent of Zionism, made a U-turn and returned en masse to their orphaned homeland is nothing but “national mythology.” And therefore the Jewish people, historically speaking and as Mr. Gingrich likes to call it, is invented.

But since Mr. Gingrich likes to see his ranting about the Palestinians as factually correct history …then maybe we should do it his way and talk history…only this time let’s do it right, but first I would like to introduce Professor Ze`ev Herzog to Mr. Gingrich.

Prof. Ze`ev Herzog

Prof. Ze’ev Herzog teaches in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. He took part in the excavations of Hazor and Megiddo with Yigael Yadin and in the digs at Tel Arad and Tel Be’er Sheva with Yohanan Aharoni. He has conducted digs at Tel Michal and Tel Gerisa and has recently begun digging at Tel Yaffo. He is the author of books on the city gate in Palestine and its neighbors and on two excavations, and has written a book summing up the archaeology of the ancient city.

Prof. Herzog belongs to the modern generation of Israeli academic archeologists who have been digging, in a truly scientific approach, all over the land of Palestine ever since the establishment of the state of Israel but more extensively after 1967, in an attempt to reach some sort of a historical proof that would legitimatize the ancient Israelite story and therefore could back up and maybe make sense of the current Zionist land grab of Palestine.

After decades of extensive and arduous archeological excavations and search, Prof. Herzog and many other Israeli archeologists such as Prof. Israel Finkelstein et al reached a robust conclusion that somehow resembled Prof. Sand’s thesis of the invention of the Jewish people. only in addition, they concluded that the greatest chunk of the Israelite story according to the Bible is a mere myth – the interesting parts of it copied out from both the Mesopotamian and the Egyptian mythologies and the remaining tedious details are just tribal narrative invented by the minds of the Hebrew scribes of the old testament.      

Archeology and history of Palestine “Right or Albright”

Captivated Philistines (or the sea people) depicted on the walls of Ramses III temple

Apart from the Bible, the first mention in history of the Philistines dates back to the late Bronze Age 1150-1200 BCE. They are unmistakably mentioned in Egyptian texts as detailed on the wall inscriptions of “Medinet Habu“, the majestic temple of king Ramses III that documented the war with the Sea Peoples, the philistines is one of them, who inhabited the coastal land from Phoenicia down to Egypt. And the philistines appear once again in the work of the Greek historian Herodotus in the middle of the 5th century BCE.

The archaeology of Palestine developed as a science at a relatively late date, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The main push behind archaeological research in Palestine was the country’s relationship with the Holy Scriptures. The first excavators in Palestine were biblical researchers who were looking for the remains of the cities cited in the Bible.

Archaeology assumed momentum with the activity of William Foxwell Albright, who was convinced that if the ancient remains of Palestine were uncovered, they would furnish unequivocal proof of the historical truth of the events relating to the Jewish people in its land.  But it didn’t take long before “the spade and the Bible” school of Albright proved not right.

The biblical archaeology that developed following Albright and his pupils brought about a series of extensive digs at the important biblical tells: Megiddo, Lachish, Gezer, Shechem (Nablus), Jericho, Jerusalem, Ai, Giveon, Beit She’an, Beit Shemesh, Hazor, Ta’anach and others. The way was supposed to be straight and clear: every new finding should contribute to the building of a harmonious picture of the past.

Slowly, cracks began to appear in the picture. Paradoxically, a situation was created in which the glut of findings began to undermine the historical credibility of the biblical descriptions instead of reinforcing them.

The explanations became ponderous and the picture inelegant as the pieces didn’t fit together smoothly.

 Here is a summary by Prof. Herzog, from his famous article “deconstructing the walls of Jericho” published in Ha’aretz Magazine, Friday, October 29, 1999 that explains why the harmonious picture of the historicity of the Promised Land collapsed

Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and doesn’t want to hear about it

This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal territory. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai. 

Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people—and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story—now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.

Palestinian family from Ramalla 1900-1910

In other words, the Israelite history is invented and therefore the Zionists could have settled somewhere else than Palestine, Uganda for example, as Herzl had proposed at the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basel on August 26, 1903.

Indeed Mr. Gingrich, The British Uganda would have been a wiser choice and a better place to accommodate the influx of Jewish immigrants … it would have saved the Palestinians the unnecessary massacres and the ongoing ethnic cleansing, but most importantly it would have saved us the aggravation of listening to your pathetic tampering with the history of Palestine.

Class dismissed.

West Bank: Palestinian shot in the face with tear gas canister

 “A Palestinian from the village of Nabi Saleh remains in critical condition after he was hit in the face with a direct shot from a tear gas canister.”

***We apologize for the graphic photos, but the reality in the occupied West Bank is more horrible.***

Mustafa Tamimi after being shot in the face with a high-velocity tear gas canister from short range

Mustafa Tamimi, 27, was critically injured on Friday in the village of Nabi Saleh when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his head from a short distance.

A group of Palestinian men surround Mustafa Tamimi after he was shot at the village of Nabi Saleh

Witnesses say the soldier was less than ten meters away when he fired, causing severe damage to the orbital region of Tamimi’s face.

“Half of his face was destroyed, pretty much. It looked really, really bad and he lost a lot of blood,” said Lazar Simeonov, a photographer that was in the village at the time. “I am not sure he will make it.”

Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh. A larger crowd than usual had gathered for this week’s demonstration, including a delegation from the United Nations.

After more than an hour of tear gas salvos from the soldiers against the main core of demonstrators, a group of Palestinian youth had set up a small road block of stones on a main road, where they began throwing rocks at soldiers.

Nabi Saleh village -Two people console each other after the day's tragedy

An Israeli military bulldozer came to remove the hand-made obstacle with three Israeli jeeps to guard it. Palestinian youths began throwing stones at the bulldozer when Israeli soldiers emerged from the jeeps and began firing. One of the soldiers launched a tear gas canister directly at Tamimi. Other protesters ran over to help him before he was rushed away in a small ambulance.

The vehicle was stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint at the entrance of the village and Tamimi was removed from the ambulance, where he was treated on the spot by soldiers before being taken to the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Several people have been killed or injured by tear gas canisters discharged by Israeli soldiers in recent years. The crowd dispersal weapons were intended to be fired skyward, a directive often disregarded by the soldiers.

Mustafa Tamimi (left) a moment before his injury. Circled in red are the barrel of the gun and the projectile that hit him

Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village near Ramallah, has had much of its land appropriated by the neighboring Jewish settlement of Halamish. After a critical water well was taken by settlers two years ago, local residents of Nabi Saleh began organizing non-violent protests.

 IDF officer ‘mocks’ death of Palestinian protestor on Twitter

Mustafa Tamimi, the Palestinian protester who died shortly after he was shot by a tear gas canister in the head by IDF soldier

Maj. Petre Lerner, an IDF officer shared his reactions to the death of a Palestinian protestor on Twitter – and created a storm that reached all the way to the UK. IDF Central Command Spokesman Major Peter Lerner was quoted Sunday night in the British media as mocking the death of Mustafa Tamimi, who died of wounds he sustained when he was hit by a tear gas canister during a protest in the West Bank. 

The UK’s Daily telegraph quoted Lerner’s tweets from his personal account: “What was Mustafa thinking running after a moving jeep while throwing stones #fail.” The British media believes that the use of the word “fail” was meant to express mockery of the protestor, while Lerner’s intention was to use the word in its literal sense – as failure.

Moreover, when looking at the entire tweet timeline, something the UK newspaper, it is easy to see that as early as the day of the incident itself, after Tamimi was transferred to the Belinson Medical Center, Lerner wrote: “I am happy that it seems Mustafa Tamimi will survive the unfortunate incident. I would say that if you can’t stand the heat keep…” He most likely meant to say If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

*All photos by Lazar Simeonov.

* thanks to +972 website, Occupied Palestine & Ynetnews

Inside the Egyptian Revolution

Inside the Egyptian Revolution

An Interview with Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

By Angie Tibbs, Co-Editor of Dissident Voice / December 5th, 2011

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat joining the Egyptian protests in February 2011

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat, medical doctor and journalist (Pyramidion) was one of  hundreds of thousands Egyptians occupying Tahrir Square  in late January/early February of 2011.   Ten months later Egyptian people are once again back on the streets despite a deadly crackdown by security forces.  I interviewed Dr. Ezzat via e-mail about the revolution then and now
Angie Tibbs:  Dr. Ezzat, let’s start at the beginning.  In January 2011 hundreds of thousands of Egyptians began their Tahrir Square occupation; you were on the ground there as a journalist and as a medical doctor. Would you recreate the mood of the of the demonstrators, and, in fact, of the country?

Ashraf EzzatEgyptians still refer to those 18 days (January 25- February 11) as the glorious days of the revolution. Those days will undoubtedly carve their place in the modern history of Egypt. And contrary to what the mainstream media concluded, the Tahrir Square saga that captured the world may have been called for by some activists using the internet social media, but it was mainly fueled and triggered by …

Prostitution & homosexuality to prevail in Saudi if women drive

Pyramidion editorial note:

This post is not meant to ridicule the latest Fatwa- pious creed- by the highest legislative council in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia, albeit so ridiculous.  Rather we’re trying to reveal the absurdity and the obscurantism that result from embracing dogmatic teachings and beliefs that defy reason and modernity.


We also believe this to be a timely alarm bell for moderate Islamic states, like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, who came out of the Arab spring supporting the political Islam parties- totally loyal to and funded by Saudi wahhabis- whose agenda include the literal interpretation and outdated implementation of the Sharia strict laws. 

Overlooking the Koran’s golden rule of thumb “No compulsion in religion” is bound to strip Islam of the very essence of tolerability and would further enhance the post-911 Zionist depiction of Islam as the new global enemy to western values of respecting freedoms and women’s rights.

If women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, the result would be catastrophic and lead to “no more virgins,” said clerics from the Majlis al-Ifta al-Aala, the country’s highest religious council.

Women in the country have been pushing to drive, and a number of women have driven in protest to the ultra-conservative country’s ban on female drivers in recent months.

They face public lashings, jail and ostracism if discovered driving in the only country in the world where women are not allowed to take the wheel.

The report from the Majlis, in coordination with former professor at King Fahd University Kamal Subhi, reported their findings to the Shura Council, the country’s legislative assembly.

It warned that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.”

Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, it claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the Islamic kingdom.

The ‘scientific’ report claims relaxing the ban would also see more Saudis – both men and women – turn to homosexuality and pornography.

It comes after a previous report stated women should cover their faces in order to avoid showing off “tempting eyes” to men in the country.

Tempting eyes .. or scared ones?

According to the spokesperson of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) in the conservative Gulf kingdom, women may soon be forced to don a full-face covering.

Spokesman of the Ha’eal district, Sheikh Motlab al-Nabet said the committee has the right to stop women whose eyes seem “tempting” and order her to cover them immediately.

Saudi women are already forced to wear a loose black dress and to cover their hair and in some areas, their face, while in public or face fines or sometimes worse, including public lashings.

In the report Professor Subhi described sitting in a coffee shop in an unnamed Arab state.

‘All the women were looking at me,’ he wrote. ‘One made a gesture that made it clear she was available… this is what happens when women are allowed to drive.’…

Panetta: Israel & Palestine must ‘Get to the Damn Bed’

Leon Panetta, US defense secretary, has urged Israel to go back to the negotiating table with Palestinians and to address what he described as the country’s growing isolation- loneliness- in the Middle East.

In remarks made at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Friday, Panetta said: “The problem right now is we can’t get them [Israel's leaders] to the damn table to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences.

“We understand the concerns of Israel, we understand the concerns of the Palestinians.

“If they sit at a table and work through those concerns and the United States can be of assistance in that process, then I think you have the beginning of what could be a process that could lead to a peace agreement.

“But if they aren’t there, if they aren’t at the table, this will never happen. So first and foremost get to the damn table.”

One is obliged to say that Panetta’s statement reflects nothing less than sound and timely thinking. And I’m sure he is proposing this entirely innovative and unprecedented idea for the interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that the call for both parties to get together and work through their fears is not just one of the usual American stunts prior to the upcoming presidential elections.

But then again, what is the point of getting them together, no offence intended here, but what will they be talking about? Land for peace? Well, the Palestinians almost ran out of that item, they have no more land they can offer in exchange for peace.

East Jerusalem? Out of the question … West Bank? No, that is Samaria and Judea now. The refugees .. what about them? they will remain refugees. Gaza, that’s the junk yard of the region … who would want to live in a junk yard, crammed in dirty slums.

There is not much left of Palestine, except may be for some memories. Yes, this is it, memories … why they don’t get together to reminisce on the past.  The good old days of Nakba and the glorious 6 day war when Israel with the help of American friends really f***ed the Palestinians.

I believe the former director of CIA is to be commended here. The man is trying to break the ice between the Israelis and the Palestinians after that long history of exploitation, land grab and blatant ethnic cleansing. And indeed nothing could thaw the longtime chill in the Israeli-Palestinian relation like the warm and intimate ambience of face-to-face talks.

In that sense, I think Panetta meant the two parties should discuss this frozen relation over a dinner table when he said “the damn table”.

And judging from the sources that confirm the former CIA chief is a regular viewer of “Curb your enthusiasm”, I think this specific episode of “Curb” might have played a role inspiring Panetta with this ingenious idea.

Let’s watch.