Sunday, April 30, 2006

Aoun Lambasts the Parliament - But Why? and Naharnet report that Aoun has now blamed parliament for the current impasse in Lebanese politics, and has recommended that new parliamentary elections be held as his most preferred solution.

I hate being hard on Aoun because too many people already are, but what the hell is the point of new elections? Is parliament an active institution today? Or has it been replaced by this parallel political institution we call Hiwar el Watani, which completely neutralizes majorities, minorities and all the other institutions and processes that parliaments offer?

I seriously doubt a third of Aoun is sitting on that table, half of Hariri, a third of Nasrallah, etc... The only thing that Parliament actually contributes to the Hiwar table is that it prevented idiots like Arslan and Franjieh from attending. And that's it.

So let us assume, for Pete's sake, that we hold parliamentary elections tomorrow. Aoun gets a larger share, Hizballah and Amal get a little more seats, and Jumblatt and Hariri get smaller shares. Will the "Hiwar" table look any different? I don’t think I need to answer that question.

The simple fact of the matter is that Parliament is irrelevant. The first political institution in the country that was effectively liberated from the grip of Damascus has been shut down. Syria, Hizballah and the rest of them have done their best to discredit it, and bypass it in the political process. That is the reason our dear Nabih Berri (of all people) decided to shut down the institution he heads and come up with these pathetic Hiwar sessions.

Aoun, my friend, I don't know why you've made this recent political declaration. A more friendly parliament will not get you anywhere.

So now I’m left with the question of Why? Why have you made these obviously ridiculous claims?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Beat the damned woman into submission

Another article in the Dailystar about another woman beaten to death by her husband and brother.

So what was this woman's "crime?" Did she cheat on her husband? Did she "dishonor" her family in any way? Not even! The woman's only death-deserving crime was that she "frequently had disagreements with her husband."

She was 30. She brought two children into this world. The Dailystar does not even give her a name. She's just "a woman." I am going to call her Iman because, whoever she is, she deserves a name.

So what is the ridiculous twist to this story?

Iman's brother and husband were merely following the advice of someone they percieved to be worthy of offering it: a sheikh. The sheikh diagnosed Iman as "being possessed by demons." He then prescribed "beating her hard on the head until the evil spirit leaves her soul."

Tomorrow life will go on. We'll forget about Iman. Next month we'll read another similar story in the Dailystar. And life will go on!

Thomas Friedman has at least some good ideas!

I have to confess. I have never read any of Thomas Friedman's books. I know... I know... Some people argue that his writings are equivalent in importance to the Bible, Quran and Torah, combined. But, frankly, I was turned off by all the attention the dude got. So I never bothered.
True to precedent though, Friedman's most recent book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, is now the talk of town. Doha tells me that it is almost required reading at her work place, for example. Personally, I don't plan to read that book either. But, then again, I did attend a lecture Friedman gave at Hopkins, so I guess I cheated.
To be frank, the guy has some interesting thoughts. Most prominently, he is now campaigning to transform the alternative energy issue from a "green, tree-hugger" issue into a "national security" one. He points to countries like Iran, Venezuela, and to the fact that Islamic fundamentalism is essentially funded by US dollars that go to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to make his point.
The message seems to resonate over here. But it’s definitely not a new one. Who knows? Maybe Mr. Friedman’s voice will yield positive results by drawing it closer to the heart of political discourse, as opposed to the fringes – which is where it has been since the late nineties. His most recent contribution to his campaign is an article he wrote in the Foreign Policy Magazine, titled "The First Law of Petropolitics, Why the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions."
The article can be found in the May/June 2006 issue of the magazine (i.e. it just hit the stands). And yes, I did read it. A shame, yes… but, as I said earlier, he did present some good ideas, like this one about politics and development in what he terms as “petro-states”.
Very often in petrolist states, not only do all politics revolve around who controls the oil tap, but the public develops a distorted notion of what development is all about. If they are poor ... it is not because their country has failed to promote education, innovation, rule of law, and entrepreneurship. It is because someone is getting the oil money and they are not. People start to think that, to get rich, all they have to do is stop those who are stealing the country's oil, not build a society that promotes education, innovation and entrepreneurship.

I think Friedman hit it right on the mark with that one. The image of Jumblatt on Kalam en Nass "advising" the Gulfies to "share" their oil wealth a little more generously keeps recurring in my head. Most Lebanese would probably agree with him too – as if it were somehow their god-given right to get a share of petro-dollars.

Unfortunately, the thought of challenging society to create the wealth, and challenging the state to provide society with a suitable environment to do so, simply does not occur to him or the rest of our beloved people! In their eyes, there is nothing wrong with our behavior as a people. Noooo... Our problem is that we need more petrodollars so that we remain the way we are, but drive more BMWs and Mercedes-Benz’s and (we should not forget, lest we anger some of our more principled brethren) fight the Israelis 'til kingdom come!

They're Still Talking...

UPDATE: The national dialogue meeting was adjourned and guess what? They have postponed coming up with any definitive answers on the Presidency and Hizbullah's arms until mid-May.

The national dialogue is the best and worst phenomenon hitting our country after the Beirut Spring of last year. The best, because politicians are still talking and haven't pointed guns at each other yet. The worst, because it has killed any momentum towards resolving long-standing issues in the country, because it has killed many of the youth's willingness to participate (heck, we have no say and no role!) Time has no essence in our part of the world, but in reality, life goes on, students graduate from schools, youth get unemployed and search for jobs, others leave the country, others shut down their name it.


They're in there, still talking...

And according to the Tayyar website, Pierre Gemayel left the national dialogue meeting and told the press that the Presidency issue is still on the table being discussed. This is perhaps good news? Good news that the participants are still talking and have not given up yet?

This time around, though, the pictures don't show any coziness or smiles amongst the attending politicians. Since the dialogue started some two months ago, there were more high hopes about the outcomes. They kept on postponing the pertinent issues, until many grew apathetic (including me), until the rift grew larger amongst the two competing political blocs.

Anyways, we're still waiting for the outcomes ensuing from today's talks. What could come out of today?....Until then, check out this picture that speaks a thousand words:

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

cost comparison and price of oil ...

The cost of drilling Saudi oil in 2003 was around $1.5/barrel ... approximately four times below the world average. (sorry... no figures for today)

The cost of extracting the oil out of Canada's oil sands is around $20/barrel (key variable: cost of natural gas, which is key ingredient in extraction process).

At $70 per barrel, it is no wonder corporations such as Exxon Mobil are setting record profits, Gulfies have no idea what to do with their money, and Iran is so damn cocky!!!

Le Cost Killer Does it Again!!!!

After pulling off what some have termed a miracle by turning a struggling Nissan Corp into one of the most profitable corporations in Japan, Carlos Ghosn is now swinging his magic wand in the land of frog legs and stuffed goose liver!

Renault shares surged to a 10-year high on Tuesday as investors pointed to rising first-quarter revenues as evidence that the profit plan of Carlos Ghosn, chief executive, was starting to bear fruit.


Mr. Ghosn took over at Renault 12 months ago but it was only in February that he outlined a plan to boost profit margins from 2.5 percent last year to 6 per cent in 2009, add 800,000 car sales and improve quality. (Financial Times)


All you Renault drivers out there... you now have another reason to stick with the Brand!

Support Carlos!!!

The Lahoud saga reflects Lebanon's saga

Lebanese Politician A: "Well... if you don't accept my position on this matter, I'm perfectly willing to live with the current situation"

Lebanese Politician B:
"So am I"

Lebanese Politician C:
"Hey... if I don't get what I want, neither of you get change either!"

You know something... with attitudes such as these, it is a miracle that our civil war came to some sort of an end. In our society, if a plumber does not have an opinion about everything from cockroaches to god, then he's not worth the worn-out socks he wears every day to work! Never mind a politician.

I can't even fathom the number of times our "leaders" have decided to leave things the way they were because they could not find it in them to arrive at a consensus regarding how to move forward.
  • How many utterly useless Presidents and Prime Ministers have Lebanese had to live with because their leaders could not agree on a successor (or a more suitable alternative)?
  • How many projects have never left the drawing board? Projects like a new Beirut-Damascus highway, shelved in filing cabinets since the 1950s. Projects that could improve the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese.
  • For how long has Lebanon's energy sector been in crisis? For almost 2 decades, successive governments have been launching the same damn "rescue package" for EDL without any outcomes.

It would appear that Lebanese enjoy living with 12 hours of electricity a day. It's expected of us! We need to keep our leaders in positions of strength! So we should be willing to eat crap if they ask us to. Anything... so long as "the others" don't get what they want!

Sometimes... I wonder.

Monday, April 24, 2006

All it takes is a decision

I remember after returning to Lebanon in the early nineties, I was around 11 or 12 years old. Maybe during my first week in the country, I was in a car that my dad was driving, looking out the window and absorbing my surroundings... my country... the place I was going to live in for the next 13 years of my life. In a brave yet desperate attempt to shine some light into what was essentially a very gloomy picture, I told my dad

hey dad... you know what? at least the war had some good effects on Lebanon! Look at all the police cars. They're all brand new! I'm sure that wouldn't have been the case if the war didn't take place....
My dad looked at me. He was dumbfounded. After a long stretch of silence, he simply shrugged and told me that I had a point.

Looking back at that event, I now realize that a kid is able say such things. He can say them because he has his whole life ahead of him. He has not invested anything. Everything, to a child, is the future. The present is merely a fact he has to live with. The past is History... the History of older generations. Merely a curiosity.

Today, of course, I feel very different. When I first moved in, Traffic Cops would fire their AK-47s towards the sky to get traffic moving. Soldiers in Army checkpoints were only too willing to fire their weapons too.

I witnessed the first time trash was collected regularly in front of my grandma's house. Today... despite the innumerable problems that Lebanon faces, it now boasts a beautiful Downtown, and wonderful neighborhoods, such as Monot, Hamra, Jemayze, Verdun and more.

I literally witnessed these neighborhoods transform from shabby, colorless, emptiness into renovated, manicured and colorful quarters sprawling with life and activity. For a whole decade I painstakingly watched as street after street was paved... as sidewalks were elevated... street lights installed and trees planted. I always lived with the question: "so when will these guys finish this project?" And I looked forward to vacations, because I wanted to come back to Lebanon and notice real differences.

I am now invested.

Even though I contributed nothing material to those projects, I feel that the patience and anxiety I expended as I watched their implementation entitled me to some sort of ownership. You see... cement, asphalt and metal were not the only materials that went into those public projects. Anxiety and patience also went into them. And without a doubt, I was not the only individual who watched and waited as those construction crews diligently upgraded the services offered by our city.

Today, new police cars simply won't cut it. They would constitute a paltry bribe that would not even draw my attention – unless of course, a twelve year old points them out to me.

History is now my history... not my father's nor his father's. I can stake a claim to history. In that history I lived and grew. Today, I have something to lose. In fact, I have a lot to lose.

Yet, I feel powerless in the face of developments, and I am fearful that they may lead the country into the inferno once again. All it takes is a decision - a decision that all the politicians should refrain from making. As for Hizballah in particular. It should know that the PLO also claimed that its weapons were solely for the purpose of liberating Palestinian land. That assertion did not prevent the Lebanese civil war.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

And they say there is no such thing as a Mediteranean Culture...

As far as I'm concerned, the Italians picked Silvio Berlusconi right out of the streets of Beirut! In a little segment titled "Silvio's Best Hits," TIME Magazine presented Berlusconi's most memorable quotes.


"We have worked a lot. Only Napoleon did more than me - but I am certainly taller than him.
"I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."
"Those judges are doubly mad! In the first place, because they are politically mad, and in the second place, because they are mad anyway."
"Mussolini never killed anyone... [he] used to send people on vacation in internal exile."
and my personal favorite, ON THE PERKS OF INVESTING IN ITALY
"Italy is now a great country to invest in ... Today we have fewer communists, and those who are still there deny having been one. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries ... superb girls."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Twenty Eight, and Counting

Samir Kuntar is the longest serving Lebanese prisoner in Israeli prisons. He’s been there for twenty eight years. On this day, As-Safir published an article by Samir.

You can also check this site:

"Any nation that thinks more of its ease and comfort than its freedom will soon lose its freedom; and the ironical thing about it is that it will lose its ease and comfort too."
W. Somerset Maugham

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ethnic Entrepreneurs

Sound familiar? Well try Sectarian entrepreneurs on for size!
... self-seeking group leaders, who encourage feelings of resentment and inequality amongst group members in order to justify maintaining control over them.... On this view, group elites have an incentive to keep members in a (real or perceived) position of disadvantage, since their clientele and fuding would dry up if group members succeeded in larger society. (Kymlicka 2002: 331)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

For You Aboudy, I Will Write!

I haven't been writing for a while now; I forced Lebanon down the priority list. I kept on reading everything, just like I do everyday, but the more I read about growing sectarianism and petty status-quo politics, the more I was afraid to write about them, lest they become an inevitable reality.

Not until my brother started popping up recently on this blog and asking us for thoughts on this or that. My brother of 20, who suddenly was interested in reading what we write on this blog, who wanted to discuss and respond and debate about politics in Lebanon...

I owe it to you Aboudy; I also owe it to this blog, and to Lebanon. I owe my optimism to all those optimists. For you Aboudy, I will write, because you represent this wild Lebanese youth, this youth that is just starting to be shaped and molded by the realities on the ground. If I can create a space for debate about Lebanon here, then I can say, I have paid a contribution somehow to Lebanon by promoting liberal ideas about governance and citizenship.

If I can touch one person, then I can say I made a difference.

You might ask: where did this renewed optimism come from? Simplistic as it may seem, it came from a reception I attended yesterday in honor of PM Fouad Seniora here in DC.

I took a break from the daily rat race, stopped a routine, to attend an event which helped me see that Lebanon is not yet a hopeless case. After Seniora's moving words in closing: You are Lebanon and Lebanon is you!, I looked around me and saw a group of Lebanese professionals, women and men, of high caliber, rubbing shoulders and talking. Interestingly, most of them are AUB alumni.

We were all there, not a sect, not a region, not a party...we were there as a class of educated professionals. Professionals who have an interest in a Lebanon that can host them back, a Lebanon that creates jobs for them, and a safe haven for them and their children. This is why we were all there listening to Seniora. Our Lebanese citizenship was not the only binding characteristic; perhaps what brought us together was a yearning for an "accepting" Lebanon.


And in the midst of all that big-picture optimism about what is and can be for our country, President Lahoud preached today on TV about his clean hand, about how because he's a clean guy, some corrupt groups are out there to get him...the rest becomes irrelevant. Then we see Aoun and others wasting air space to spew careless remarks here and there....

My political thoughts after this break? I personally have become sure that I would not like to see Aoun as president. He loves petty politics, loves the tit-for-tat dynamic and misses the big picture. Lebanon now is not about a presidency; it's about a way of governing, a vision for the future, a welcoming greet so all of us could flock back to contribute. Aoun reminds me too much of the past; a past that knows no stepping down after ruling, a la democracy, a past that is marred by blood, the rifle, and your sect.

In Lebanon, I realized, what is needed is not a strong leader who imposes ideas and policies on other Lebanese or simply represents the Lebanese through electoral politics, but a leader who acquires his strengh from channeling ideas and policy options from others, acting as a facilitator, bringing every asset Lebanon has and putting it on the table to bear.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Two regional blogs you need to read!

Okay, I know that some of you read the blogs I am about to highlight, but I need to point them out anyway.

Vox, I've seen you comment on the Egyptian Sandmonkey's blog, so I am sure you enjoy his work. As for those of you who are yet to check it out, you're missing a very witty, intelligent and active blogger. The Sandmonkey usually posts several entries a day pertaining to Egypt, regional politics, Islamic crazies and subjects that essentially run the entire gamut of issues.

Also, Abu Kais and I had a little discussion today, in which he pointed out another extremely interesting blog: Regime Change Iran. Now, I visited that blog for the first time today, so I really can't vouch for it too much, but it does seem active, and conveys a lot of news. Abu Kais mentioned that they publish around ten to fifteen entries a day.

Besides, any blog or website titled "Regime Change Iran" is definitely going to be high on my list of blogs. Thanks Abu!!!

Fossil Fuels Just Won't Go Away!!!!

Canada has recently been recognized as the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world. The reason: 176 billion barrels of recoverable oil from massive oil sands deposits in Alberta. By comparison, Saudi Aramco claims that oil reserves in Saudi Arabia amount to 263 billion barrels. Current oil prices make converting oil sands into oil economically feasible (and the technology is only getting better).

In the United States, private citizens and oil companies are beginning to look into converting "shale" into oil. Shale traps a compound called kerogen; and kerogen is an organic material that, when heated into a liquid, can be converted into synthetic oil.

Conservative projections of the oil recoverable from shale deposits in the states of Utah and Wyoming alone stand at 130 billion barrels. Similar estimates indicate that there are over 2 trillion barrels of oil trapped in shale in place in the continental US.

Commercial production of oil from shale has never advanced because it has always been cheaper to produce conventional domestic supplies and to import oil from abroad. But now, with conventional US production in decline ... and with seemingly perpetual geopolitical instability in major oil producing regions abraod, a reexamination of generating oil from domestic shale deposits has become a necessity.

Source: Cedoz, Frederick, Thinking Beyond OPEC, The Journal of International Security Affairs, Spring 2006

From a political perspective, I couldn't be happier. More oil in the States and Canada means less money for the crazy dictatorships and regimes in the Middle East. Let the US deal with the "negative externalities" of drilling oil and having a rentier state themselves and let us develop without the weight of oil on our chests. I'd rather be a consumer of oil than a producer!

From an environmental perspective though, I couldn't be more disapointed. Are humans ever going to kick the habit?!?!

The Epitomy of Sectarian Politics

When a Lebanese Prime Minister declares that he would like to have a united, liberal and free Lebanon that is economically prosperous,
  • Maronites only see him as a Sunni, and support a Maronite leader who works against him simply to promote "Maronite Power" even though this Maronite leader is propped up by Syria.
  • Shi'as who share his views only see him as a Sunni and support Hizballah - an organization that seeks to turn all of Lebanon's Shia's into cannon fodder for "Holy" Iran.
  • Druze only see him as a Sunni leader and support him as long as their leader supports him.
Petty. Very petty. Very Lebanese. Okay... here comes a lament for Lebanon: If ONLY we could see through our sects.... If only we could come together based on shared vision of Lebanon's future, as opposed to bla bla bla.... We've heard this before a million times.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A tangent- International Movies

For those living in the Washington D.C. area and interested in the arts, you might be interested in the film fest D.C. A Washington D.C. Film Festival.

I assume those who have been living in D.C. longer than I have (i have been here only a few months really) would be more familiar with it.

This year, the festival is showing an Iraqi documentary called "Iraq in Fragments" and a Lebanese documentary called "Bosta." Both are a must see! as i was told.

My sister had a chance to watch Bosta in Lebanon last year and apparently it was a great hit. Below is a link to the description of the movie on the film fest website.

Find also a description of the documentary on Iraq on its website. "Iraq in Fragments" is also being shown this month at the San Francisco International Film Festival in San Francisco, Ivy Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, True/False West in Wellingham, Washington State and at the Istanbul International Film Festival in Istanbul, Turkey.

Other documentaries in the film fest you might be interested in are the myriad of movies on the role of Hip Hop around the world. If you look hard enough you will even find a little something on Palestinian Hip Hop.

Lebanese Back on the Streets


Lebanese are back on the streets... protesting injustice and cruelty! The banners are up... the drums are rolling... and the screams can be heard for blocks!
So, what is the new source of this injustice and cruelty?
Well... it is not Syria... nor is it Israel. Those two guys have been around for quite some time now! There is nothing new about them.
Neither is it the US or France... Somewhat confusing, I know...
So what is it???
My dear friends and compatriots… Lebanese have come together again and broken down sectarian barriers to protest against the cruel and inhumane behavior of that evil country known as Ethiopia!
So what has Ethiopia done to deserve universal Lebanese wrath? It has refused to export our maids and servants to us!
Rumor is now rife… a militia is being formed in Lebanon to defend its citizens from Ethiopian aggression, and to conduct raids against the Evil Ethiopian regime as a means of pressuring it to export our maids!

Residents of Beirut staged a demonstration in front of the Ethiopian consular offices on Thursday [13 April] to protest over the delayed arrival of Ethiopian workers who were supposed to be in the country in accordance with an agreement recently reached between the Lebanese and Ethiopian governments.

The Ethiopian and Lebanese governments agreed on 1 February 2006 for the export of Ethiopian workers to Beirut, Lebanon. According to the agreement, 8,000 Ethiopian men and 30,000 women will be exported to Beirut. About eight agencies have been set up and each of them has deposited 37,000 dollars in Beirut and 25,000 dollars in Ethiopia to effect the accord. Our sources reveal that four organizations have been established in Ethiopia to legally link employees to employers.

Although 1,250 workers were supposed to be exported to Beirut in February and March in line with the agreement, the Ethiopian Ministry of Workers and Social Affairs has delayed the process saying it would take care to avoid similar problems that occurred in the past.

Sources confirm that the agencies in Beirut complained over the delay after they had collected money from employers and deposited huge money hoping that the worker would arrive in time. Residents also staged a demonstration in front of the Ethiopian consular offices in Beirut and were dispersed by security forces.

According to the agreement reached between the two countries, the Ethiopian male workers would be employed in construction, guarding and driving; replacing Koreans who are leaving Beirut.

Following the agreement signed in February 2006, Lebanon has lifted a ban it imposed on Ethiopian workers on 1 July 2004 not to enter the country.

Source: BBC Monitoring International Reports - Translated from: The Reporter website, Addis Ababa

The Oppression Continues

"You are under arrest for Slander!"

No, no... this is not the Syrian Mukhabarat arresting a guy for saying that Bashar Assad was not God.

That little quote is what they told Mohammed Moghraby before sending him to trail in a military court for slandering the military!!!

It appears, my friends, that old habbits die hard. Poor SOB! This is a relic of the occupation. This type of arrest is what those stupid pro-Arab junkies are protecting! "You are under arrest for drinking Pepsi instead of Coke" ... And after a mockery of trial (if they even bother), you'll be sent to solitary confinement for the rest of your life.

Allah... Praise the Arab Nation - and Syria in particular for standing up to those Satan Worshipers across the Mediteranean and the Atlantic!

Allah... Thank You for Sending us Your Party to Earth to protect us from those Satan worshipers!

Bush & Seniora Taking a Walk in the Garden

BUSH: It has been my honor to welcome the prime minister of Lebanon to the Oval Office. Prime Minister, thanks for coming.
SINIORA: Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity.
BUSH: Well, we just had a really interesting discussion.
I told the prime minister that the United States strongly supports a free and independent and sovereign Lebanon. And we took great joy in seeing the Cedar Revolution. We understand that the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to express their desire to be free required courage.

BUSH: And we support the desire of the people to have a government responsive to their needs and a government that is free -- truly free.
We talked about the need to make sure that there is a full investigation on the death of former Prime Minister Hariri. And we'll work with the international community to see that justice is done.

We talked about the great tradition of Lebanon to serve as a model of entrepreneurship and prosperity. Beirut is one of the great international cities. And I'm convinced that if Lebanon is truly free and independent and democratic, that Beirut will once again regain her place as a center of financial and culture and the arts.

BUSH: There's no question in my mind that Lebanon can serve as a great example for what is possible in the broader Middle East; that out of the tough times the country has been through will rise a state that shows that it's possible of people of religious difference to live side by side in peace, to show that it is possible for people to put aside past histories to live together in a way that the people want, which is there for (ph) to be peace and hope and opportunity.
And so, Mr. Prime Minister, we're really glad you're here. I want to thank you for the wonderful visit we had, and welcome you here to the White House.

SINIORA: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
I would like to really thank President Bush for giving us the opportunity to
be here at the White House and to discuss matters of mutual interest to the United States and Lebanon, and matters that have to do with the developments that have been taking place in Lebanon. For the past over 16 or 18 months, Lebanon has been undergoing major changes. And Lebanon has really been committing itself that we want the change to happen in a democratic and a peaceful manner, but at the same time to really stay on course; that we are there to meet the expectations of the people to have a united, liberal, free country, and at the same time prosperous economy.
So [those] are the matters that we have discussed with President Bush. And I really would like to seize this opportunity to thank President Bush and the United States for t
he support that it has been extending to Lebanon throughout the past periods.
And with all the resolutions that were taken since the assassinations of Prime Minister Hariri. The United States has been of great support to Lebanon.
I am really convinced that President Bush and the United States will stand beside Lebanon to have Lebanon stay as a free, democratic, united and sovereign state. And the United States is really of great importance in this regard, whether this can be done directly or indirectly.

So I would like once more to express our great thanks for President Bush and then the United States for this.

BUSH: Thank you, sir. Appreciate you.
SINIORA: Thank you very much.
BUSH: Thanks for coming.

Source: Congressional Quarterly
Personal Comments:

Yesterday, I had a discussion
with Firas about Fouad Seniora's visit to the US.
Firas pointed out two things. The first was the fact that Seniora was given a solid 2 hours with the president. This amount of time is a privilege that is given only to heads of states who "deserve it."

Firas then pointed out a little nuance that was somewhat less satisfying: Salloukh was supposed to accompany Seniora in all of his meetings. Now, under normal circumstances, a foreign minister accompanying his Prime Minister to meetings with a foreign head of state, is not such a big deal. But in this case, Salloukh reminds me of the Political Commissars that the Communist Party used to impose on Officers of the Armed Forces to ensure their adherence to Party Doctrine.
That is why it pleased me to see the following picture o
n the Lebanese Lobby website!

Hopefully Seniora won't get a public spanking from Nabih Berri in Parliament when he returns to Lebanon - as he did when he returned from the Dictators' League Conference a couple of months ago.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ahmedenijad not as stupid as we think

Every time that maniac gives a speech declaring Iran's desire to "wipe Israel off the face of the Earth," he makes about a $100 million dollars a day for his country!!!


Well... It just so happens that markets react to those speeches, and raise the price of crude oil by five dollars a barrel.

If I could make a hundred million dollars a day by saying something stupid, I'd be the happiest man on this planet!

I hate oil!

Please Satan! Help those stupid Americans and Europeans find an alternative to oil soon!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Baabda Aley MP’s

Rumor has it that yet another Baabda Aley MP is dying. Druze representative Ayman Shokeir, whose father was the chief of staff of the Syrian army if I remember correctly, is dying of cancer. I heard somewhere that he is already dead, but that does not seem to be confirmed yet. As was the case with Edmond Naim, the vultures are already preparing their attacks. Will there also be a consensus candidate this time around? This seems likely, considering the paralysis of the February 14 team these days. Of course, the extreme case is if Aoun intentionally chooses someone like Talal Arslan or even Wiam Wahhab, to coerce them into having elections.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

FPM launches blog

Check out the new FPM blog.


We are sooo going back to the way things were...

We are getting screwed. Syrian hegemony over Lebanon appears to have returned. That disgusting omnipresent fear... that feeling that perverts your desires and your outlook... all of that, along with the rest of the baggage is coming back. Akh...

Hassan Nasrallah and his allies just sat down and refused to budge. They resisted the almost hurricane-force winds that were swirling around them. Today, those winds have ebbed... they've been replaced by utter stillness. Hassan is still there sitting down... with a big smile on his face. And all he had to do was sit!

Now we're back. Nasrallah is the new center of gravity of lebanese politics. nothing can get done without the approval of this new gatekeeper. we are all stuck. held on a tight leash.

I hope for something drastic to happen at the international and/or regional level. I hope it is not too late.

"Those Lebanese need to be delegated to Damascus. They're too difficult to deal with."

In the early 90s the first Bush Admin. paid his despicableness, Hafez, with coveted Lebanese soil for Arab cover of the first Gulf War. I am sure the Gulfies (and maybe even Americans) are thinking along similar lines today: "hey, ditch the Iranians, and we'll give you Lebanon." What a disaster!!!

Why am I so distressed?

  1. The US appears to have no options against the Nuclear Mullahs of Tehran.
  2. The Arabs...
  3. The Syrians are reportedly "cautiously optimistic" about the situation in Lebanon
  4. Karami, Franjieh and other Syrian lizards are starting to walk around like peacocks
  5. "The Opposition" is for all intents and purposes a non-entity
  6. Hariri appears to have forgotten that his father was murdered (and by whom)

Are there any more reasons for me to list?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wahhab assassinated Jumblatt!!!

No... not Wiam nor Walid. Three generations ago! The Jumblatt was Fouad (Walid's grand father). The Wahhab was Chakib (not so sure how he is related to Wiam). The year was 1921. The month, August. And the day, the sixth.

Around twenty four hours before the assassination, Fouad Jumblatt resigned from his position as Kaaim-Makkam of the Shouf because significant elements within the Druze sect, lead by the Sheikh el Akl of the time, Hussein Hamade (a member of the rival Yezbeki clan), protested against Fouad's handling of an insurgency that was lead by Chakib Wahhab. Fouad had resorted to arresting female members of the insurgents' families as a means of pressuring the men to hand themselves in to the authorities.

Wahhab was purportedly under the influence of Syrian elements who were resisting the French mandate. Accordingly, he did his best to incite the Druze against the French and the Maronites in Lebanon. His tactics composed of assassinations, and traditional guerilla techniques. His targets included high-ranking and notable Maronites, French officials as well as any Lebanese working for the Mandate government.

Jumblatt, on the other hand, assumed the responsibility of maintaining order and a state of peace between the Maronites and Druze in his jurisdiction. His relationship with the French was far from hostile - not so shocking considering they appointed him. The lion's share of his efforts went to maintaining a peaceful relationship between the Maronite and Druze communities based on a notion of justice that he vigorously enforced. His wrath was felt most by those Druze who he perceived to have transgressed his laws.

On August the fifth, after mailing out a resignation letter to the French, he got wind of news that Chakib Wahhab and his men had assassinated the Mukhtar of Za'rouriya (a village in Ainbal Valley), who was a Maronite. Immediately, Fouad sent another letter to the French rescinding his offer to resign. The next morning, on the sixth, amidst a gathering of Ba'aklinis,(one of his seats of power was the Serail of Ba'aklin) he announced his fateful decision to head to the scene of the crime. A number of gendarmes headed by Yousef Kasbaar (who was also on Wahhab's 'black list') accompanied him.

Chakib Wahhab and his men were lying in wait. They ambushed Fouad Jumblatt, on his way from Ba'aklin to Za'rouriya. Fouad was hit by a bullet in his chest while riding Yousef Kasbaar's horse. His own horse was in a stable in Ba'aklin because it was injured the previous day.

The rest is history.

Or is it?

SOURCE: Timoviev, Igor, Kamal Jumblatt, the Man and the Legend, Beirut, 2001, pp 27 - 28

SPECIAL THANKS: Doha. I couldn't have written this little post without her help.

Addendum: Wael Abu Faour claims that his grand father was among the civilians wounded by Wiam Wahhab's body guards in the not-so-little scuffle that transpired during a funeral prosession in Hasbayya a few days ago. The idiots fired their weapons when participants began expressing their displeasure regarding Wahab's presense. It appears that Wiam has some unfinished business he'd like to take care of!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mr. X Is Nabih Berri!

As I read through the Lebanese papers and newssites, as usual every morning, I came across this revelation: Do you remember the famous, controversial "Mr. X" in one of UN Investigator Mehlis's reports?

Well check out what Rustom Ghazaleh said in an interview with the Kuwaiti Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper yesterday:

The investigators, when Detlev Mehlis was in charge, have focused on recordings of calls made to Rafik Hariri and Nabih Berri...
No further comment!

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hypocricy & Multiple Personality Disorder - you decide which one is worse!

Yesterday, Hosni Mubarak declared on TV that "those Shi'as" living in Arab countries are effectively the source of all the Middle East's problems because of "their loyalty to Iran" as opposed to the ruthless regimes (I mean countries) they live in. Please read Abu Kais's powerful response to this hypocrisy at From Beirut to the Beltway.

But allow me to entertain you with one thought regarding Hosni's "profound" analysis:

Here is a dictator who's "sunni" subjects would vote to eliminate their "Arab state" and replace it with a Califate lead by Ayman al Zawahiri thanks to his pathetically corrupt and incompetent rule which has spanned what feels like a millennia!

I rest my case. Now go read Kais's!

But before you go, I would also like to direct your attention to the response of our favorite political party in Lebanon; you guessed it... Hizballah:

The fundamentalist Shiite movement, which has its own militia, described Mubarak's statements as lies meant to stir tensions between the Arab world's Sunni and Shiite sects.

"These are dangerous and false words that reveal fanaticism and sectarianism aimed at sowing discord wished for by America," said prominent Hezbollah member Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek.

"The Shiites respect Iran and Syria and but work for the good of Lebanon... We have never been anyone's agent and we will not ignore our nation's interests on account of
anybody else," Yazbek said. AFP

These comments come from the very same party who's leader said the following only a few days ago:

[They want us to] speak about Lebanon the country, Lebanon the people, Lebanon the entity, Lebanon the nation, Lebanon the history, Lebanon the geography, and if this continues, two or three years from now we will arrive at Lebanon the god…*
I think that our favorite political party needs to make up its mind or see a psychiatrist in the interest of curing a pretty severe case of multiple personality disorder.

*Translation Source: Abu Qais @ From Beirut to the Beltway

Belly Dancing Banned - in the effort to defeat the Israelis!

Sometimes, all I have to do is look over my shoulder to feel a little better about the Lebanese political class. For all their corruption, short-sightedness and egomaniacal tendencies, at least some of them refrain from crossing certain red lines.

In one of its first major, news-breaking initiatives to help the Palestinian people overcome Israeli aggression and economic hardship, Hamas has decreed that it is now illegal to belly-dance.

Bellydancing is naked women. This is not Islamic. The Egyptians come here and do it. And there are a lot of Russian belly dancers in Egypt and they come here too


If the phenomenon of belly dancing spreads our people might react against it by killing people. We don't want our people to become like the Taliban.


There's moral corruption. The blue films Israel sends us are quite corrupting. We have to resist them.

You know, I think we have all heard of the "religion is the opium of the masses" cliche... but when I see the "solutions" that some of these Islamist political parties propose for problems (some of which we all share), I feel like puking!

Problem: Occupation by a foreign power
Islamist Solution: ban belly dancing

Problem: High unemployment
Islamist Solution: cover women from head to toe and ban them from working

Problem: Lack of education
Islamist Solution: get kids to memorize koran front to back and in reverse

Problem: Economic Deprivation
Islamist Solution: force business to close during times of prayer

Islamic political parties are full of fluff. The only reason people vote for them is because they present themselves as honest, and they effectively articulate problems that we all know exist. When people ask them "what are your solutions"? We get: "Islam."

It will take time, but sooner or later, they will fail. True they are honest... but they are not yet in power. "Islam a solution?" Solution to what? Maybe to the problem that Islam is not as prevalent in society as they would like it to be.

My only fear is oil money. If a collection of 10-year-old kids were able to somehow control the oil money pouring into the Middle East, they could rule however incompetently they wished and buy their time in power - indefinitely.

That analysis applies to the Saudis today, and will apply to any group that manages to control the immense oil reserves in the Gulf - including Islamist groups who would take the entire region back to the 7th century.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Here is something to really be proud of

I am sure that most of you have read the article published by the daily star that reported new scholarships, which will be awarded to the top twelve students in Lebanon based on their Baccalaureate exam scores. In fact, I am a bit surprised that no one in the blogosphere has picked up on that story considering it really highlights an attempt (however small) to break the elite strangle-hold on AUB.

I have a couple questions to ask about this scholarship because the article does not answer them:

  1. What if all the students who got the top 12 scores could afford to go to AUB anyway? The article says nothing about "means tests."
  2. I wouldn't mind if all the winners of the scholarships were from one sect. However, I've been told by some that I am different from the average joe/jane in Lebanon. I don't think I need to even ask the question here.
And here is a list of "if only's" that I will go through as well:

  1. If only the best and brightest of Lebanon did not have to leave to make a decent living
  2. If only Civilization Sequence (CS) classes were taken a bit more seriously and taught more effectively. Technical degrees are not enough. Ideas are needed to beat sectarianism and religious fundamentalism - ideas that engineering classes do not teach.
  3. If only there were more than 12 scholarships going out per year
  4. If only the Berris, Jumblatts and Franjiehs of this world would keep their dirty hands out of this initiative and refrain from polluting it.

Here is something to be proud of

Out of 612 hotels managed by the InterContinental Hotel Group, InterContinental Vendome in Beirut, was one of four rewarded by the mother company for delivering exceptional guest satisfaction.

"Guest satisfaction" was measured by the Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS) Index. There were four winners; one for each of the brands owned by the hotel group:'

  1. InterContinental (Winner: InterContinental Vendome, Beirut)
  2. Crown Plaza (Winner: Crown Plaza, Dublin Airport)
  3. Holiday Inn (Winner: Holliday Inn, Kuwait)
  4. Express by Holiday Inn (Winner: Express, London Chingford-North Circular)

Here's a lame idea: let's have a CSS Index (Citizenship Satisfaction Score Index). How well do you think our politicians would perform?

Voting is supposed to guage their performance, but for some inexplicable reason, Lebanese tend to vote for all the wrong reasons! The CSS Index is our solution!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Groveling on national television

Yesterday, I watched Butros Harb on Kalam el Naas. First, I should congratulate Marcel Ghanem for a job well done. I mention that because last week, when he interviewed Jumblatt, rather than question and challenge him, Marcel uncritically listened and, despite all of Jumblatt's gimmicks, the show was below par. Yesterday was different. Marcel not only questioned and challenged his guest, but he even taunted him. It was nice to see Marcel back up to par.

Okay... enough about the host, what about Harb? Well it is quite sad. Yesterday, all who watched the show saw a March 14 politician groveling on national television and begging his old masters to help him out. A couple of weeks ago Jumblatt came to DC to make the rounds, yesterday, Harb did not even go to Damascus, but humiliated himself for everyone to see.

Marcel said it.

Bashar has proclaimed that the border issue in Shebaa is exclusively a Lebanese issue... Moallim has effectively said that no embassies will be established between the two countries... Syria will not budge on Lahoud or Hizballah... what is the reason for Seniora to go up to Damascus?

Butros weaved around that question but never really answered. In fact, the closest he came to answering was when he said that it is in the interest of both countries to see the tensions ease. He then went on to say that "both countries face similar challenges and opportunities" and it is best that they face these together, as a team!

Wow! Did this man simply take the initiative to say these things, or was it a coordinated message from at least some elements of March 14? It is really really depressing to see how the regional and international situation now favors Syria - and that Lebanon as a result is getting screwed.

When there was a window of opportunity to challenge and even destroy the Syrian regime, our political elite locked their horns and failed to take advantage of it! Now, we're back to groveling. Oh how nice. The house of many mansions! Those mansions are egos! mnitkabbar 3a ba3d, bas 3al "ikhwi" wil ajanib...

One question that Marcel Ghanem asked caught my attention because I heard almost the exact same question asked somewhere else. Marcel asked Butros,
Now that the Syrians appear to be so comfortable in their shoes, why would they do what Butros Harb is asking of them? What interests or incentives do they have to actually do what you are asking them to do?

Flynt Leverett asked that same exact question to Walid Jumblatt when Jumby gave his little speech at Brookings - only he asked the guest why the United States would do what he wanted it to do.

Well... I've heard a phrase before from someone - maybe a friend - but I forget who. It basically goes like this: "we are royally screwed." I don't know for how long this assessment will apply - but it definitely applies today. To see one of the main personalities in Lebanese politics grovel on national television to his most recent and brutal colonizers is not a good sign at all.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lahoud - the illegitimate criminal who won't go away!

Two major developments transpired over these past couple of days that highlight the uniqueness of the American political system in this world. The first pertains to a man who was once commonly referred to as the most powerful politician in Washington DC, Tom Delay. The second pertains to a high-ranking political appointee at the Homeland Security Department, Brian Doyle.

Both cases revolve around the consequences of powerful men partaking in criminal behavior. In Tom Delay's case, we have a wrecked political career and a trial. In Brian Doyle's case, we have an arrest, a court appearance and a confession. Both these men have fallen hard on their faces because they erroneously believed that their seats in officialdom offered them protection from the law.

In Lebanon, we have a President of the Republic who, in all likelihood, is guilty of at least turning a blind eye to the assassination of the country's Prime Minister. The man has lost all legitimacy among most Lebanese - notice the Patriarch's recent (scathing) comments regarding his status. Yet, the bastard simply does not want to Let Go!!!

I cannot help but remember the Pathetic Yasser Arafat, quivering as gibberish spewed out of his disgusting mouth in the last years of his life. Every time that man appeared on television, I wondered to myself why that idiot could not fathom a dignified exit from politics such as that of Nelson Mandela.

There is no dignified exit for Lahoud anymore. It is such a shame that March 14 does not have the strength to shove him out. It is even more of a shame that Lebanese law and state institutions are not powerful enough to deal with him on their own.

Lahoud looks like he is going to remain in his seat of power. He will continue with his duties, and represent his new (or not so new) constituency: the Guardian Council of Lebanon and the Dictator of Damascus.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How to deal with masses? Encourage their apathy

Bernard Berelson lists the conditions necessary for the survival of democratic systems:
  1. intensity of conflict must be limited
  2. rate of change restrained
  3. social and economic stability maintained
  4. a pluralist social organization and basic consensus must exist
With these conditions combined, Berelson argues that political apathy amongst a majority of the populace [the masses] is actually good for the system rather than bad because "limited participation and apathy ... cushion shock of disagreement, adjustment and change."

If, on the other hand, you would like to flush the system down the toilet because you percieve it to be disfunctional or unjust, then you know exactly what to do: Practice your herding skills!

Masses vs. Citizens - ala Benjamin Barber

Strong democracy is not government by "the people" or government by "the masses," because people are not yet a citizenry and masses are only nominal freemen who do not in fact govern themselves....

Masses make noise, citizens deliberate; masses behave, citizens act; masses collide and intersect; citizens engage, share, and contribute. At the moment when "masses" start deliberating, sharing and contributing, they cease to be masses and become citizens.

So, Lebanese are...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Breaking News!

While the hiwar al-watani has been postponed until April 28th, Wi'am Wahhab has announced the formation of Tayyar Al-Tawhid Al-Loubnani (The Unifying Lebanese Movement). The movement's name is a spin on the Druze term Tawhid; Wahhab being one. (I thought he was against sectarianism!?...)

He claimed that this movement was a way of saying to others that erasing "us" is impossible; that there are red lines that should not be crossed, including President Lahoud, the resistance, and the affinity with the Arab Lebanon (Loubnan Al-Arabiy).

I am actually astonished to see that Lahoud is a red line that should not be could someone glorify Lahoud, I'm still amazed. And what does the "Arab Lebanon" mean? I did not see anyone preaching for anything contrary to that...(pathetic obsolete language of the 20th century).

Unfortunately, though, for whomever is interested to join, no further information was provided....I'm sorry.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

What is our response?

Mohammed al-Hujairi from the village of Irsal suffered four gunshot wounds while planting trees along with several farmers in the region of Zamrani that is five kilometers deep into Lebanese territory
In response, I wish to propose to fellow Lebanese a new Resistance....


Funded by the United States of America - The Shaitan-el-Akbar.

Deployed across the Eastern and Northern borders of Lebanon.

Hizb-e-Shaitan will be armed with intermediate ballistic missiles targetted at Damascus, and will be manned by only one sect of Lebanese - the Shaitan-worshipers. This sect will receive exclusive social benefits, schools, hospitals, and so on from the Hizb, on condition that they vote for it in local and national elections, and wear the recommended attire: 2-piece bikinis for women and speedos for men.

Hizb-e-Shaitan is necessary because the Lebanese Army is too weak to defend the Lebanese against the never-ending aggression of that bitch-of-a-sister, Syria. Besides, it is in the interest of the Lebanese state to allow the Hizb to operate because when it launches attacks, retaliations will be limmited to the Hizb's positions.

Hizb-e-Shaitan will only work for Lebanese interests. It's weapons will perpetually be pointed outwards. However, if...

Those in favor of this proposal, say Aye!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Thought from a Saturday breakfast

The x – March 14 group, now better known as the February 14 group – as dubbed by Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General Naim Kassem to separate them from Michel Aoun, are making one faux pas after the other. Will one of the "disposable" members of this team soon be conveniently assassinated as has happened the last few times they needed a political push?

UPDATE: On Lebanese Coincidences
Thank you, AbdulKarim for an intelligent, decent, and constructive comment. I stand corrected. I want to point out that I wished to communicate this thought to the blogosphere based on at least two coincidences where the “FM-LF-PSP” team needed more political leverage and gained it when some members of their alliance were targeted. The first time was when the local stakeholders were negotiating the issue of extending the UN Committee’s scope to cover the other crimes and explosions. May Shidiak’s assassination attempt took place in those days. The second coincidence is the fact that Gebran Tweini was assassinated on the very morning of the government’s meeting to discuss the international tribunal. In both cases, the assassination attempts, one of which was a failure, helped strengthen the political stand of what is now the Feb. 14 team.

A liberal conception of the state's role

The role of the state is to protect the capacity of individuals to judge for themselves the worth of different conceptions of the good life (self-determination), and to provide a fair distribution of rights and resources to enable people to pursue their conception of the good.

As opposed to two alternative roles:
  1. Do nothing as certain powerful elements within society violate those rights of the individual (very prevalent in Lebanon). Doing nothing may constitute, among other things, a failure to distribute the rights and resources that would enable people to pursue their conception of the good.

  2. Proactively violating those rights by choosing for individuals what ways of life are most worthy of fulfilling. In such states, people are not free to choose their own conception of the good life, at least not without being penalized by society (or/through the state).
Will Kymlicka