Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Disease of Double Standards

Let's see who did not vote for the bill condemning the Syrian arrest warrants towards Lebanese parliamentarians... because in Lebanon we have the right to freedom of speech and Lebanese parliamentarians have immunity against prosecution during their term serving in the Parliament.

Hmmm...we see MP Raad and MP Fadlallah of Hizbullah of course not raising their hands. Who else? Does it look like MP Hashem and MP Nabil Nicolas from Aoun's bloc have their hands down on this vote?

This is what I call transparency, a la Lebanon. Here in the U.S., you can easily track the "nays" and "yays" of members of Congress (unless they decide to run a vote without a roll call) and cross-match their promises with the way they vote on issues. In Lebanon, you need a newspaper and a magnifying glass to check how MPs voted on a certain bill.

Anyways, what strikes me the most is how Berri's bloc and Hizbullah's bloc abstained from voting on this important bill. Several questions come to mind: You are benefitting so much from your entitlement of free speech (and even freedom of deciding to launch rocket attacks), why are you indirectly denying others of this right? Would you like and accept to be summoned by the U.S. authorities to face trial in their courts for bashing them and then expect your fellow parliamentarians to turn a blind eye? How can we believe that you share with other Lebanese the importance of our country's sovereignty, when outright, and in front of the journalists' cameras, you abstain from voting for a fundamental issue that matters deeply to our sovereignty as people, and rush to appease the Syrian regime?...

Talk about double standards all the way. This is what Lebanon ails from. You see it happening everywhere, everywhere you go and turn. It's a disease!

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

I would like to see a letter from the UN to Premire Seniora

Have you ever heard of a sickly, short, school kid who goes up to a student twice his size, kick him where the sun don't shine in front of everyone to see, and then run to the Principal to complain about the humiliating beating he suffered as a consequence?

What would you do if you were the Principal? Or allow me to contextualize this scenario a little more: What would you do if the kid came to you, and with a straight face, told you that he really couldn't control his limbs? He tells you, teary eyed, that "every time I get near someone, either one of my legs or arms involuntarily swings at that person's groins or face. And then I get a severe beating because of my damn limbs!!!!"

I know what I would do. I'd tell him that if he repeated that stunt one more time, he'd suffer severe punishment on top of the beating he usually gets. If, on the other hand, I somehow figured that he wasn't messing around, I'd send him to doctor as quickly as I could.

On a more serious note however; this "letter-sending" by Fouad el Seniora is a tad worrying. First, let us take a look at some of the disclosed content. Both Ya Libnan and Naharnet quote the al Mustaqbal Newspaper (which for its part quoted a diplomatic source) claim that the text "emphasizes that as long as Israel continues to occupy Lebanese territory, the resistance, or Hizballah will keep up its operations against the Jewish state...."

My question is: what Lebanese territory? Whatever happened to the demand that Syria demarcate its borders with Lebanon so that it becomes clear which land is ours and which there's? That braniac of a man we call Berri, highlights land deeds showing that Lebanese are indeed the property owners in the Shebaa Farms area. Well, if I owned a house or 10,000 houses in London, would that mean that London should be under my sovereignty? So why now? Why is Seniora now stipulating that Shebaa is Lebanese? And if this is a favor he’s doing for Hizballah, why isn’t Hassouni reciprocating by publicly requesting that the Syrians demarcate their borders with us?

Fellow bloggers Abu Qais and Anton Efendi believe that we may be returning to the bad old days of accommodation. They suggest that Future is doing its best to return to the arrangement it had with Hizballah prior to the assassination of Hariri Sr. One can never be sure of such matters, especially considering UN resolution 1559 and all the ensuing UN resolutions that have passed over the past year.

Nevertheless, I find myself worried. If the Lebanese Army could not eliminate those pesky Palestinians carrying weapons in the South and the Bekaa, and setting up checkpoints (yes, I saw a Palestinian checkpoint on LBC the other night) how the hell are we supposed to expect them to take on Hizballah? I sense a compromise with Hizballah is around the corner - and this "letter" that Seniora just sent to the UN might be the first draft of a public document similar to that which Hizballah and the Tayyar concocted a few months ago.

If I were Kofi Annan, and I received Seniora's complaint, I would take it out in front of the world's cameras and rip it to pieces. Then I'd declare that, as the Secretary General of the United Nations, I urge Lebanon’s Prime Minister to control the loose cannons in his own territory before complaining about Israeli cannons.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ego - or rather a lack of it - may be our main problem as well

The following analysis totally resonated... despite the differences between the author and myself with regards to nationality and religion. Read on:


Anyway. You’re born and bred and raised to not see who you are for what you are, but rather for where you live, what family you come from, [what sect you're from, in the case of Lebanon], who your friends are, what school you went to…you get the picture. We consistently try to find comfort for our own failures either in God’s will (baree2 menkom ya kafara), the country, the government, Israel, the States, the devil, the neighbours, the ‘others’, the rich, the poor, the martians [... the Jumblatts, the Hariris, the Aouns, the Nasrallahs ...] age, grey hair, bad teeth or any combination of the above. It’s a natural by product of a culture that promotes a total and unabated and unashamed obliteration of the ego, or, in simpler terms, any sense of self. Arabs have no ego. They have a hyper-ego. An ego linked through a common language, culture, colour, region and religion.

And here is where we start having serious issues. Mainstream Islam is a convenient platform to promote and reinforce this hyper-ego. You get goodie points for telling others to obey God. God will love you more if you pray with them. Although Islam has an abundancy of guidelines and deliberations on the relationship between the person and his or her God, the cultural, climatic and historical aspects of Arabia pushed all of that into the shadows, simply because an inflated ego would be not only prove detrimental to the survival of the tribe, but also borderline suicide to that particular individual.


Read the entire piece...

Letter from LAU Prof who witnessed last weeks PSP-Amal fracas

Dear Colleagues:

My office is on the 3rd floor of Nicol Hall, Beirut, overlooking the
area of the Upper Gate.

Yesterday, at about 12:30 p.m., Friday May 26th, I observed the
following from my office window in the context of the student riot.

One LAU student was thrown to the ground in front of the Post Office.
He was stampeded and vigorously beaten upon the head and all body
parts by between 6 and 9 LAU students. He tried to protect his head
with his hands. No LAU security personnel even made the slightest
effort to interfere. Some students were able to rescue him. I hope he
will not suffer lasting consequences from the vicious attack that I

It seemed to me that Dean of Students Dr. T. Na'was was physically
manhandled or at least treated with extreme disrespect by students. No
LAU security personnel were on hand to assist Dr. Na'was.

At the same time, another LAU student was thrown onto the hood of a
car parked in the same area and he, too, was beaten up by a gang of
more than 5 LAU students. He, too, was rescued by a few big students.
No LAU security personnel made any effort to interfere. The hood of
the car was severely damaged.

At the same time in the same area, another LAU student was wielding
what looked like either a baseball bat or a metal pole; he was
obviously extremely excited and he came very, very close to actually
dashing someone's brains out, until he was forcibly led away by some
other big students. No LAU security personnel interfered.

At the same time, another LAU student threw the heavy, sharp-angled
metal lid of a trash can into a group of people, nearly hitting, but
clearly intending to hit, one person in the face as far as I could
see. He was led away by other students. No LAU security personnel

And LAU wants accreditation in the civilized world?

Referred to Lebanese Bloggers by: Hussein A.

Further evidence that Lebanon is doing well economically?

If you've been to the American University of Beirut's (AUB) Outdoors Festival you may think so. The main headline of Outlook, AUB's official weekly publication reads: Outdoors breaks all records - Outdoors 2006 attracts 11,200 people to AUB.

The article claims that the number of attendees (all of which paid entrance fees), was 4,200 more than the previous year. Most of the individuals interviewed attributed the higher turn-out to better planning, a higher level of investment (i.e. costs of preperation), and, believe it or not, a "Wild Wild West" theme in which organizers dressed up as cowgirls and cowboys (I wish I could see some pictures!).

Bilal Idriss, a member of AUB's Red Cross Club claimed that his club generated 1,690,000 L.L. on Saturday. "That is double than what we made last year."

The question is: can we use this annecdotal evidence to reinforce the popular perception that Lebanon's economic performance is improving? In the US, one of the most popular indices watched by economists are the Consumer Confidence Index and consumer spending. I doubt we have any such stats in Lebanon. I suppose the Outdoors Festival may serve as a "Lebanese" alternative.

Treasure cove of mouthwatering information

As I browsed the internet this morning I think I may have stumbled upon the jackpot with regards to information and data concerning Lebanon. What is so special concerning this website? Numbers. It is filled with numbers that describe Lebanon's demographics, its labor force, energy sector, environment and a slew of other topics.

I'll display a sample of this information for you below. It is Lebanon's top and bottom rankings relative to other countries in the Middle East:

Top Rankings:


  • Health > Spending > Private


  • People > Female population > Age 30-34 > % of the total
  • Terrorism > Terrorist Acts > 1968-2006 > Fatalities (per capita)


  • Health > Total expenditure on health as % of GDP
  • People > Female population > Age 25-29 > % of the total
  • People > Total population > Age 25-29 > % of the total
  • People > Total population > Age 30-34 > % of the total
  • Terrorism > Number of Known Terrorist Organizations Present
  • Terrorism > Terrorist Acts > 1968-2006 > Incidences (per capita)


  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Almonds (per capita)
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Broad and horse beans (per capita)
  • Democracy > Female ministers
  • Economy > Debt service
  • Economy > Trade with US > US exports of tobacco, manufactured
  • Health > Plastic surgery procedures (per capita)
  • Labor > Labor force (per capita)
  • People > Male population > Age 25-29 > % of the total
  • Terrorism > Terrorist Acts > 1968-2006 > Injuries (per capita)
  • Terrorism > Terrorist Acts > 2000-2006 > Injuries (per capita)


  • People > Male population > Age 30-34 > % of the total

Bottom Rankings


  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Lentils (per capita)
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Olives
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Olives (per capita)
  • Economy > Entrepreneurship > Hiring & Firing Workers > Rigidity of Hours Index
  • People > Chinese population
  • Transportation > Airports > With paved runways > Under 914 m
  • Transportation > Airports > With unpaved runways > Under 914 m

2nd last

  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Cucumbers and gherkins
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Fruits (per capita)
  • Economy > Trade with US > US exports of numismatic coins
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of agricultural machinery and equipment
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of other precious metals
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of steelmaking and ferroalloying materials-unmanufactured
  • Environment > Endangered species protection
  • Environment > Wildness
  • Health > HIV AIDS > Deaths (per capita)
  • Religion > Catholic > Cardinal electors

3rd last

  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Dates (per capita)
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Lentils
  • Economy > Trade with US > US exports of hides and skins
  • Economy > Trade with US > US exports of sorghum, barley, oats
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of engines and engine parts
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of military aircraft and parts
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of miscellaneous nonferrous metals
  • Health > HIV AIDS > Deaths
  • People > Child Protection > Child labour 5-14 years, % of female

4th last

  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Dates
  • Energy > Oil production
  • Labor > Economic activity > Both sexes aged 40-44

5th last

  • Currency > Terms of trade since 1995 (per capita)
  • Currency > Terms of trade since 1995 (per $ GDP)
  • Economy > Trade with US > US imports of iron and steel manufactures-advanced
  • Energy > Electricity > Exports
  • Energy > Electricity > Production by source > Other
  • Environment > Wetlands of intl importance > Area (per capita)
  • Labor > Economic activity > Both sexes aged 45-49
  • Labor > Economic activity > Both sexes aged 50-54
  • People > Child Protection > Child labour 5-14 years, % of male
  • People > Child Protection > Child labour 5-14 years, % of total

6th last

  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Almonds
  • Agriculture > Exports to USA > Fruits
  • Energy > Electricity > Production by source > Nuclear
  • Labor > Economic activity > Both sexes aged 35-39
  • Media > DVD region


Notice the number of bottom rankings relative to top rankings: 45 - 19. Remove the four "terrorism" points from the top rankings, and the picture will look even worse! But take into consideration that some bottom rankings are actually good (like HIV deaths)

Also notice how many bottom spots Lebanon enjoys in the agriculture and economics categories. I believe it is 10 and 11 respectively.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Palestinian mask of Hizballah and Syria

The news coming out of Lebanon over the past two days reminds me too much of the news coming out of the Palestinian territories. Israelis assassinate a Palestinian they believe is responsible for past attacks and/or for planning future attacks on Israel. Palestinians fire rockets into Israel-proper in response. Israelis retaliate in-force against Palestinian positions.

The one exception today was that Hizballah "retaliated" on behalf of the Palestinians and escalated the already deadly situation. Their motive? I can think of none except the exploitation of this event to improve their domestic political position (and maybe, to provoke the Israelis into more deadly strikes for obvious reasons).

In the sectarian game that is played in Lebanon today, Hizballah and Syria's wild card appears to have become Palestinian fighters. March 14's one accomplishment over the past year has been to relegate Hizballah into nothing more than a Shi'a militia. Whereas, at one point in time, most Lebanese living in Lebanon would mute their criticism of that militia in public forums; today, the situation is obviously different.

Under these conditions, Hizballah no longer has the luxury to launch attacks against the Israelis to the extent that it used to. Relative to the time interval between the Israeli withdrawal and the emergence of March 14, for example, Hizballah can now be said to be militarily paralyzed. For as long as I remember, and with the exception of today, the Southern border has never been quieter.

For this reason, I believe, the Syrians, in concert with Hizballah and Iran, have decided to introduce a Palestinian element into the mix. They figure that if Future can convince the "Sunni street" not to support open confrontation in the South by arguing that Hizballah is a Shi'a militia under the direction of the Shi'a "superpower," Iran, it would be much more difficult to do so if Sunni Palestinians were the ones fighting (or at least instigating the fights).

Today, for example, it was the Palestinians who launched the first attack, and Hizballah “retaliated in their defense.” If you watched Future TV's news coverage of the conflagration, you would have heard them revert to blasting the worn out language of “the Arab cause” with gusto!

The tactical move of introducing armed Palestinian elements outside of the camps definitely succeeded to a certain extent. It has put Future in an uncomfortable position with regards their constituency. It has given Hizballah an opportunity to improve its political position in Lebanon. And it has allowed Syria to spark up the Southern border with more ease. However, it can be countered.

It can be countered if the ruling majority

  1. Continues to foster a sense of Lebanese identity among all of its constituents
  2. Secures the border with Syria and prevents any more shipments of weapons by force if necessary
  3. Communicates a message that the "Palestinian cause" can and will be resolved more effectively through other means
  4. And finally, eliminates the armed Palestinian presense outside of the camps so that they are not able cause trouble on behalf of Hizballah and Syria.
It now seems that they are at least carrying through one of my recommendations (Yesterday, Lebanese Army troops arrested a Syrian soldier for crossing the border into our country). I hope that they go through with the other recommendations as well.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

An Invitation

I would like to invite anyone who is interested in writing a post on what they think about ADC by clicking on Admin.lebanesebloggers on the right hand side of this blog. This way commenters who would like to discuss the recently passed House Resolution 4681 or the upcoming Senate Resolution S2370 will be able to do so in the right place and commenters who would like to discuss ADC 's role can also do so in the right place. This will allow a better forum (and maybe even a broader one) on thoughts with respect to the role Arab American organizations play in the United States that will not overshadow other issues that are more specifically targeted.

Please note that the link was created by the gracious fingers of Raja Abu-Hassan in order to give LB readers a chance to voice their opinions post-wise, so treat it delicately and respectfully :)

In general, I hope this link will also serve as an opportunity for those of you who would like to write about or read other issues that me, Raja, Doha, Reem, Hassan, Firas and Hani G. do not discuss. The very reason this link was linked! :) (correct me if i am wrong Raja)...

Just in case: If anyone wants to send me a personal comment try

For those in the United States, have a good memorial weekend...!

Cursed - but by whom?

Even the witty Alanis Morissette could not have imagined this scene while writing her lyrics to the hit song "Isn't it Ironic?"!!! Rain during a graduation ceremony is pretty common - maybe as common as rain during a wedding.


Imagine nervously walking up onto the stage to receive your diploma. And not only that, but doing so after a key-note speech, which dragged on for around half an hour despite a light drizzle that threatened all with the possibility of a full-fledged rainstorm. Imagine a situation in which, immediately after setting your foot on that stage, you hear a faint "boom."

At first you think nothing of it, and continue to approach the Associate Dean. But then, she reads out your name into the mike and nothing comes out of the speakers. She tries again, to no avail. And again.

You just stand there, right next to her, and ask her what the hell you should do. But she doesn't even look at you because she's as panicked and clueless as you are. Then a technician comes on stage and tells her that there's been a short circuit. She asks him to fix it... pronto!

You begin to think that this mishap is only a hiccup, and that all you have to do is stand on that stage for a while, and wait for the ceremony to continue. But after about two minutes of awkwardly waiting, the threatening drizzle finally gives in to a full-fledged deluge. Now, you’re looking out past the roofed stage, and you watch formerly seated parents, friends, significant others and fellow graduates run frantically for the nearest possible shelter.

At that moment a technician reports that the system is back on line. And then another one of the Deans who are up on stage says the following words into the microphone:

We are going to have to cancel this ceremony because of the storm. Please everyone; go into the gym, where we will be holding a reception for the family and friends of our graduates…

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I present to you my graduation ceremony. And I ask you: “Isn’t it ironic?”

So close... yet so far away!

Now the question is: which one of you bastards has put a curse on me?!?!?! Or was it Nasrallah and his little puppy in Damascus?

Either way, and in all honesty, it was definitely a ceremony to remember. Atleast, now I can say that I've left Hopkins with a BANG! Wohoow!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

House Resolution 4681

For the past week, I have been figuring out how to introduce the recently passed House Resolution 4681- The Palestinian Anti Terrorism Act- to this blog.

Since this blog actively called for action among its readers to contact the Egyptian Embassy against the arrest of an Egyptian Activist , I thought why not post an action alert that would serve as informative and is action oriented.

Below is an ADC action alert on HR 4681 and S2370. Though HR 4681 has already been passed, the Senate Resolution 2370- sponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) - is still on its way.

I hope to update this blog on this subject whenever i can.

For now, enjoy reading the House debate, who voted for and against the resolution, Congresswoman Betty McCollum's letter and what S2370 entails.

For those who are U.S. citizens...take some action! :)

Palestinian Bill Passes House
HR 4681 Passes, S2370 Now Under Consideration

Take Action!

Legislative Update on Palestinian Sanctions Bill

Washington, DC May 24, 2006 Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed HR 4681, The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 by a vote of 361- 37, with 9 members voting present and 25 not voting on the bill. As HR 4681 had 295 cosponsors before it reached the floor, passage was certain; however, a tremendous grassroots campaign against the bill showed the bill’s sponsors the enormous amount of national opposition to their efforts. Your calls and letters also brought on an unprecedented frank debate about our nation’s policies concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lasting over three hours on the floor of the House of Representatives. To read the full transcript of the debate click here.

To find out how your Member of Congress voted, see the roll call vote for HR 4681. Please take a moment to contact your Representative to thank them for voting against or present on HR 4681 or tell them you were disappointed they supported the bill. Contact information can be found here.

Members of Congress face tremendous pressure when voting on legislation concerning Palestine. A staffer for a congressional member on the House International Relations Committee who during committee consideration voted against HR 4681, was told his boss’s ‘support for terrorists would not be tolerated,’ by one interest group. Read Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) letter to that organization at: ADC encourages our members to thank Congresswoman McCollum for her courageous stand at (202) 225-6631 and those like her who support a more balanced approach to our country’s relations with Israel and Palestine, one that is truly in America’s best interests.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is deeply disappointed with the House of Representatives for approaching this conflict with punitive one-sided legislation that will do nothing to further peace between Israelis and Palestinians, will further isolate Palestinian moderates, and enhance the power of extremists. Increasing the impending humanitarian disaster in the West Bank and Gaza by adding more restrictions to American and international humanitarian aid will not change the results of a democratic election. Passage of HR 4681 will only limit options for the Administration, sever contact with moderate Palestinians, solidify anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, and add to another growing chaotic situation in the region.

ADC and its coalition partners, working for a just and lasting peace to the ongoing conflict, met with dozens of offices on Capitol Hill and delivered a list of over 300 national organizations opposed to HR 4681. Thousands of you emailed and called your House representatives about your opposition to the affect the bill’s draconian measures would have upon the Palestinian people and how it would limit America’s diplomatic leverage in seeking a resolution to the conflict. Despite the bill’s passage your efforts made a tremendous difference. As more Members of Congress learned of constituent and organizational opposition to the Palestinian sanctions bill they were able to speak and vote against this measure.

Attention will now shift to the United States Senate as it considers S. 2370 sponsored by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Although the Senate Palestinian Sanctions bill is not as draconian as the House bill, ADC still encourages our members to contact both of their senators asking them to oppose S 2370. Contact information can be found here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Iraqization of Lebanon

Some of the most coveted ministries in Iraq are those that have a military or security element attached to them. Why these security portfolios are in such high demand is no big secret. Parties like the Islamic Dawaa, SICRI and others seek to legitimize their militias by dressing them up as police, border guards, or army personnel without having to give up any authority over them.

Consequently, rather than a state, Iraqis are left with a police force that pays allegiance to at least one za3im or cleric, army platoons, companies, and commanders who pay homage to similar characters.... And the list goes on.

For a painfully detailed description of exactly what is transpiring in that country, I recommend that you read Dexter Filkins' Armed Groups Propel Iraq into Chaos, which was published in the NY Times today.

The reason for bringing this topic up is because of the implications these developments may have on Lebanon and its struggle with regards to Hizballah. True, all the other militias were incorporated into the state security services; but at least Lebanese Army units are mixed... and whereas individual soldiers and officers may have allegiances to non-state actors, you hardly have entire units that are cohesive to the extent that they are able to pay allegiance to one za3im.

Unfortunately though, the proposals to incorporate Hizballah into the Lebanese Army, differ significantly from what took place in the immediate aftermath of the civil war. Hizballah's military elements will not be disbanded, shuffled and incorporated into the Lebanese Army. It's Command and Control structure, for all I know, will remain in tact. The only difference between Hizballah today, and Hizballah (as a unit of the Lebanese Army) will be that it parades alongside the Army on our Independence Day. The militia already wears uniforms that resemble the Army's and, relatively recently, began carrying the Lebanese flag.

There is another element of the Iraqi situation that may have implications on the situation in Lebanon with regards to Hizballah. This element stems from the fact that there are several active militias in Iraq, as compared to only two or three ministries that traditionally control security agencies. In response, and with assistance from the (hapless???) Americans, several security apparatuses have been created for different ministries.

For example, a heavily armed "highway patrol" has been created, that reports to the minister of transportation. The Facilities Protection Service reports to several ministries and none simultaneously. It is even unclear which ministry controls Iraq's Border Guards.

So what does all this have to do with Lebanon? Well... think. Think about the most contentious issue the country faces and the solutions that have been proposed. If the Iraqi precedent can be used to foretell Lebanon's future, it would tell us that Hizballah's "integration" into the Lebanese Armed Forces would mean nothing but cosmetic changes.

However, the more likely outcome is that Hizballah's leadership will only accept such a proposal if it is guaranteed a ministerial portfolio that its military wing will fomally report to. This portfolio will either be the Defense, or an entirely new concoction, such as the Resistance Portfolio. The benefit of a "Resistance" portfolio could be that Hizballah would not even have to go through the motions of integration with the Army - however superficial such motions may be. Ultimately, Hizballah will retain both the integrity and cohesiveness of its armed wing. It would also retain complete control at both the military and political levels.

When I look back at the early days of the Iraqi quagmire, and recall how academics and journalists alike kept referring to the "the Lebanonization of Iraq," I smile. It now appears that there is a simultaneous process that we can label: the Iraqization of Lebanon! Hizballah may be the grandaddy of Shi'a militias in the Arab world, but it definitely appears to be learning a few lessons from its counterparts in what used to be Iraq. And what makes the situation even worse is that the entire Lebanese political elite (especially the March 14 bunch) is complicit in this process - this reversal in the integrity of what is left of the Lebanese state.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yes! I'm Holding You Accountable, Mr. Berri!

Yes! I'm holding you accountable, Mr. Berri! Yes!

And so big deal that some member of Parliament tried to hold you accountable by quoting you and questioning what you said. So? Big deal, Mr. Berri! You humiliated PM Seniora some two months ago, and held him harshly accountable for taking an independent path from President Lahoud back in Khartoum. Then, why can't someone question what you said one day? Are you above it all? Is your position as the Speaker of Parliament a holy, sublime position?

In a parliamentary session today, many members of Parliament criticized Syria's arrest warrant of Jumblatt sent to the Interpol. MP Bahij Tabbara asked Berri calmly: "Mr. Berri, you said upon your return from your last official visit to Damascus, that the gates of Damascus are open to the Prime Minister. Can you tell me if that means that the prisons of Damascus are open for the Lebanese politicians or the gates?"

Berri started interrupting Tabbara and asking him, "You want to hold me accountable? You want to hold me accountable? (baddak thasibnee?) Replace my position with someone else and I'll be happy to come and answer you!" And then he just left his seat and stormed out of the Parliament hall pointing his finger angrily at Tabbara and yelling at him, while Minister Ghazi Aridi attempted to hold him back.

So! Big deal, Mr. Berri, that someone holds you accountable for what you once said. Your words are not holy, nor is your seat.

And guess what? Mr. Berri just compromised his "pseudo-impartial" position as a broker on the national dialogue table. He walked out of the Parliament hall so the Parliamentary majority (including the FPM bloc, I speculate) would not vote for a condemnation of the Jumblatt arrest warrant and a reminder of Jumblatt's immunity as a parliamentarian. And by that, saving the pro-Syrian faction's face.

Mr. Berri: you do not own the Parliament and you have disrespected this institution and its parliamentarians by walking out of the hall without formally ending the session.

What a disgrace!

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

Guess who's getting a new newspaper, radio and tv stations!!!

The information dissemination representative [I love that title!!!] of Hamas in Tehran has said: The Islamic Resistance Movemement (Hamas) will set up satellite and radio networks as well as a newspaper in the near future.

Speaking to Fars, Ahmad Hamdan said: Hamas does not have a newspaper exclusively for itself, but many newspapers express its viewpoints and opinion. However, in the future, we will express our opinion in Hamas newspaper.

He said: We have specific plans for the circulation of Hamas newspaper and how to publish it. But in view of the current developments, we cannot reveal the financial sources of the newspaper now.


Source: BBC Monitoring/BBC Source: Financial Times Information Limited

Guess where this announcment was published!!!!

Iranian Fars News Agency

Hmmm... so Iran is the first country to announce Hamas' new "media wing." I wonder where all the money is comming from???

Okay, considering that the government Hamas currently oversees is utterly bankrupt and unable to pay the thousands of armed men who are on its payroll, I wonder about the party's ability to set priorities.

I have to admit though... if indeed these media projects are funded by Iran, then it is a brilliant move. During a time in which Arabs fear the "Persians" more than the Israelis, what better PR tool than Hamas could the Iranians ask for?

Not only is Hamas an Arab organization. But, unlike its Lebanese counterpart, it is Sunni! Iran will essentially possess Sunni-Arabic media outlets echoing its own message to the Arab world. Brilliant!

Flying high and in luxury!

Here's a bit of Lebanese gossip for you...

According to PR Newswire Europe, two Embraer Legacy 600 Executive jet aircraft (pictured below) were sold in the Middle East over the past couple of months. One of these jets was purchased by Adnan Qassar.

So if any of you out there are related to Adnan, or if the chap owes you money (for whatever reason), I guess now is the right time to cash in! Those jets don't come cheap, you know!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Another spin courtesy of our wonderful neighbor

Two or three days ago, Naharnet reported that Hariri was in Russia to "drum up support for UN Resolution 1680." Today, Lebanonwire links to an article that cites a Syrian Minister proclaiming the following:

The liberation of the Golan is a comprehensive Arab-Syrian demand, made by 20 million Syrians, and the leadership must take this demand into consideration. The Golan must be returned to the motherland, and there is no alternative but to liberate the Golan.

"Until now, we have been waiting, and allowing a short period of time... We are allowing the peace process to have its last moment...If the peace process does not come back to life, if it is not resurrected once again, our people will have no alternative other than resistance in order to liberate and regain the land,"
I love this! I absolutely love this!

Please Bashar... PLEASE!!!! give the Israelis a reason to show your placid Syrian subjects how impotent the "lion" of Damascus really is!

PLEASE!!! I BEG YOU!!!! Send your pathetic, antiquated, armed forces to the Golan so that they may rise against you in mutiny. Yes, send those hapless peasant-soldiers of yours to the alter of the "Arab Cause" so that they may be slaughtered as their fathers were in 1967!

In my humble opinion, the line between conceit, bombast and insanity has just been crossed in Damascus! I look forward to future developments on that front. (Maybe the line has not "just" been crossed, but rather, it is just becoming increasingly evident)

car for sale

The following has been making the rounds ...

Reem A.

Syria To Interpol: Arrest Jumblatt!

Just got note that the Syrian military court has issued an arrest warrant for MP Walid Jumblatt which was handed to the Interpol's Damascus office calling on the Interpol to detain Jumblatt by force.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Good Vibes

I told Eve about this song. Check it out. It really helps me improve my mood.

The Lebanese State - a catalogue of missed opportunities

I wonder what kind of responses one would get if s/he went around and asked Lebanese what their State meant to them - or rather how they perceive the Lebanese state.

A break down of the respondents into the following categories would be revealing:

- socio-economic status
- sect
- residence (urban/rural, geographic region - Jabal Aamel, Bekaa, Mt. Lebanon, etc...)

Dear Rami/Zeina/George/Fatima/etc... what does the Lebanese state mean to you? Not the Lebanese identity... not Lebanese food or history... not Lebanon's political elite ... none of these. I just want to know how you perceive the Lebanese state.

  1. First and foremost, do you believe a state exists at all?
  2. If yes, what do you perceive the role(s) of the state to be? Prioritize, if you can.
  3. Do you personally benefit from any service(s) that only the state can offer? Please list them.
  4. What services do you receive from non-state actors/institutions that you believe the state can deliver?
These thoughts regarding the Lebanese state developed in my mind as a result of my interaction with a Jordanian friend who works at her country's embassy in DC. Through her, I've learnt that the Jordanian embassy

  • has sent lawyers to represent detained citizens;
  • hosts concerts and exhibitions featuring Jordanian artists;
  • flies journalists and opinion makers to Jordan in the interest of encouraging a more nuanced view of the country;
  • etc....
From an ex-pat's perspective, the record of my country's embassy pales in comparison. I know Lebanese who live here in the States attend social gatherings, concerts featuring Lebanese artists, and other events; but hardly any of these are held under the patronage of the Lebanese state.

The question is: what happens to a Lebanese student who gets into a little fracas with a Syrian in George Washington University, and is detained by the police? Let's assume he does not have family in the country. Does this individual call the Lebanese embassy? And if so, will the embassy have the resources to assist him? I wonder.

Lebanon's civil society is vibrant with activity, and offers a ton of services to Lebanese individuals. For example, I am very aware that the Maronite Church's role over here in the US is paramount to the community. It brings Maronites together every Sunday, and provides a platform through which social events may be organized and launched, among other services. The problem with this arrangement, of course, is that it is an inherently sectarian one.

No one is saying that the Maronite Church should not play its role within the Maronite community... however, this role should be complemented with that played by a more inclusive institution. One that fosters a national identity as opposed to a sectarian one. It is here where the embassy can come in an do its part.

Hariri's, Fleihan's, Kassir's and Tueni's deaths brought all of us here in the DC - Baltimore area, together. For example, the first time I stepped into a Maronite church was during a commemoration of the late Hariri, that the Church graciously organized for all Lebanese. However, the man is not going to die again. And even if someone of his calliber was brutally murdered today, I doubt it would foster the same kind of response.

In short, there is at least one role that the Lebanese state can play for the Diaspora through its embassies. That role could, at a minimum, help bring the different communities that constitute the Diaspora, together. It is a meager role - especially considering the failure of the state in most of its fundamental functions back home. But who knows? Maybe the first baby steps (overseas, of all places) could prove to be successful precedents regarding the State's role back home. For all our private initiative and ingenuity, there is no question regarding the utility of an effective state. We need it. We have to help realize it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

ma main man does it again!

yup you guessed it! This is going to be another one of those pieces where I unabashedly worship Mr. Ghosn. Plus a bit more...

The man now adorns the front page of FORBES Magazine (US edition, at least) May 22, 2006.

Accompanying Title: Car Czar

Here are some notable quotes from the article preceded by some commentary:

You've all heard of B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Ano Domini) Have you heard of A.C.?
"But Nissan A.C. - after Carlos - is anything but fragile."
Did you know Carlos has gone where no man has gone before?
"No other auto executive has ever attempted such a double backflip, and this two-timing stunt was Ghosn's idea. (He is CEO of both Nissan and Renault)
The S.O.B. is a freaken' demigod!
Ghosn, 52, is an industry superhero for yanking Nissan from the precipice of bankruptcy and turning it around in just two years. In Japan a 160 - page comic book celebrates his success. "When I'm walking with him, I feel like I'm walking with a demigod, especially in Japan," says Jean-Baptiste Duzan, Renault's corporate controller. "People will touch his clothing as if to cure an illness."
He was educated in Lebanon too!
Born in Brazil to Lebanese parents - his father, Jorge, worked in the airline industry and was constantly on the road, just as Carlos is now - Ghosn moved with his mother and siblings to Lebanon when he was 6 and excelled at a Jesuit school there. (anybody know where?)
Aaaah, nobody is perfect...
When one student at Oxford University asks why Nissan lags behind Toyota in new hybrid vehicles, Ghosn shoots back: "When you have technology that costs $6,000 but the customer is willing to pay $2,000, you have a problem. ... We are not ready to mass-market a technology where you are losing your shirt on every car."
Well... what can I say? You have the idiots who constitute our political elite in Lebanon, and then you have guys like Carlos and others like him who make tangible contributions to humanity. Doctors, scientists, researchers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, etc..., etc....

All I ask from our political elite... and I mean ALL I ASK OF THEM... is to foster the political, social and economic environment in our tiny country so that Lebanese with the skills and ambitions of Ghosn can prosper there!

There are probably thousands of Ghosns out there, but the selfish bastard's already got 2 out of 10 CEO positions in the auto-industry. We need to be given a chance, damn it!

The Naharnet Spin!

I usually laugh at some of the things Naharnet publishes... however there was something special about the feature headline I read today morning:

Hariri Holds Talks With Putin to Drum Up Support for the Execution of U.N. Resolution 1680

Hariri??? Drumming up support for a resolution that the US, France, Germany and other powers are tierlessly shoving down Putin's throat! Who do these Naharnet people think Hariri Jr. is???

I wonder what Saad and his family are offering Putin as a carrot to "drum up his support" for the resolution? Does the Hariri family have a stick???

"Hey Putin, you'd better support that resolution, or else..."

or maybe,

"Hey Putin, BOO!"

or maybe,

"Hey Putin, I'll add $10 million dollars to your $1 trillion dollar fortune!"

Drumming up support ... uhuh!

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Secret Behind The Suicide

A couple of mornings ago, we woke up to learn that MP Mosbah Ahdab's apartment in Tripoli was shot on, while Ahdab and his family were sleeping. The investigation on this incident moved fast, first finding out the identity of the perpetrator: a security guard who works for Ahdab and of Syrian nationality. Then we learn that the security guard was arrested and placed in solitary confinement.

Today, Assafir reported that Jihad Al-Akleh was found dead in his jail cell; he has strangled himself to death with his suit (how? not sure, and the Assafir article does not explicitly say strangled, but I deduced it. how could then someone commit suicide with his suit?).

I hope in the coming days, the secret behind this incident would be revealed.

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


For those of you wondering, I haven't been blogging at my usual pace because I just went through my last couple of weeks of grad school. The pressure of final papers compounded with the urgency of finding a new job can sometimes be overwhelming.

Anyways, I am at least done with finals now.... So if you have any job opportunities just waiting to be filled, shoot me an e-mail! Who knows? Maybe this particular loud mouth can actually become a productive human being!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Yes, Abu Fadi, the Lebanese Army IS your enemy

Yesterday, Palestinian guerillas (who have been establishing military outposts left and right for god knows how long), shot a Lebanese soldier, Mustapha Moudlej, in his head. Moudlej was conducting a patrol on sovereign Lebanese soil. Palestinian gunmen shot him from a position that the Lebanese Army did not even know existed.

In response to this "incident," an official from the particular Syrian-sponsored Palestinian faction to which the gunman belonged, Abu Fadi Hamade, had this to say:
“The Lebanese army is not our enemy. The incident has been overcome in a brotherly spirit.... No one has an interest to disturb security.”

Brotherly spirit? I wonder where that spirit was when the bullet was fired into the head of a Lebanese soldier! I wonder where that brotherly spirit was when Abu Fadi's faction built a military outpost on Lebanese soil without even bothering with such frugalities as informing the Lebanese Army (or some official who would at least pass the message along)!

The Lebanese Army is the only institution in Lebanon that can legitimately use force. All other armed entities are illigetimate, and hence subject to whatever force the Army is able to muster. If that force proves insufficient, then it becomes the duty of the Lebanese people and their political representatives to ensure that the only institution created to protect all of them from all adversaries is equiped and trained to the extent that it is able to carry out its duties.

Such duties include wiping out armed bandits and armed foreign elements from the face of Lebanon's sovereign soil. Period!

Hiwar Results - Updated

From Annahar


My opinion is that this sketch is inaccurate because Berri (the dialogue table) and Lahoud (the chair) were on the same side and both won. Feel free to designate the other side.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Aoun Dismissed!

Despite the warmth in this picture ahead of today's "so-called" last national dialogue meeting, the consensus was not to agree on the Presidency issue, which really means that Aoun has lost this round, and his choice of being an observer in today's meeting did not help him in the Presidential bid.

Moreover, despite Aoun's incessant threats this past week to halt the dialogue meetings as of today, claiming that the government has declared war on Syria, the "February 14" bloc emerged as victorious in keeping the meetings ongoing, as noted by PM Seniora and Information Minister Hamadeh yesterday. Jumblatt has also returned from an official trip to Kuwait, armed with an Arab consensus urging the Lebanese to continue the hiwar and to support the decisions ensuing from these meetings.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 8, and will focus on Hizbullah's arms and Lebanon's strategic defense policy.

On another tangent, it was interesting to note that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of International Organizations, Kristen Silverberg, mentioned during her meetings with government officials and representatives from the February 14 bloc yesterday, that the government is debating a substantial portion of Aoun's "Orange" book (or the FPM's agenda), released last year during the Parliamentary elections. This statement challenges the essence of Aoun's latest political stands, let alone the last trip on the streets to bring down the government and support the economic rights of the "commoners" (al-shaab).

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

Sunday, May 14, 2006

One of Beirut's best kept secrets!

Hassan posted an entry that linked to an impressive database of civil war pictures. I post these pictures as a complementary yet contrasting entry.

Both our posts highlight the worst of Lebanon, yet these pictures could also point to the promise of our country. (pictures courtesy of al mashriq)

War Photos

I found this site with many civil war photos. Some are must-see, some are good reminders, others are ok. I think some captions are wrong. One such caption is that of a supposed Amal checkpoint, with a human skull hanging on a wooden log. Judging by the flag, I do not think this is an Amal checkpoint. Others are the captions designating some fighters as members of certain militias. Anyway, check and see:

Friday, May 12, 2006

Politics: The Same Everywhere!

"In politics, there are no right answers, only a continuing flow of compromises among groups, resulting in a changing, cloudy and ambiguous series of public decisions where appetite and ambition compete openly with knowledge and wisdom."

Doesn't that sound like a description of politics in Lebanon? But not only in Lebanon! This piece of "wisdom" was told by Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) at the National Press Club yesterday, describing humorously the current state of politics in the U.S.

Politics is the same everywhere!

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

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Chinese have invaded the Middle East!!!!

Well... not really, but I've been itching for the opportunity to convey this bit of information to you for a couple of days now.

According to Fareed Zakaria, "There are 6,000 Chinese soldiers in Sudan guarding the continuous, uninterrupted flow of oil from Sudan to China." (Zakaria, Fareed, "The Age of Petrostates," The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue II, Winter/Spring 2006, Pg. 17)

6,000 CHINESE soldiers... In Sudan?!?! Why haven't we heard al Jazeera broadcasters ranting against this new invasion of sacred Arab/Muslim soil??? Why haven't the Imams begun screaming for Jihad against these kuffar?


Considering these developments, I'm begining wonder when the Indians are gonna start sending their troops to the region to protect their flow of oil!!!

Such a pathetic region!

Universities' Organizational Force Missing!

An interesting article by Al-Balad daily wrote about how universities and university students were not a major organizationl force taking part in yesterday's demonstrations. The article ends with a thought on how in France last month, universities were behind the government backing down on a law that would loosen restrictions on hiring and firing French youth. There was something missing yesterday, indeed.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Slogans Out Of Your Mind!

Let me give you a glimpse of some of the slogans from today's demonstration:

"Ya General ma ti3tal ham, 3indak shi3a btishrab dam" (General, don't worry, you have Shiites who drink blood!)

"Allah, Nasrallah, w Aoun w Bass" (God, Nasrallah, and Aoun, only!)

"Ya Geagea, sabrak sabrak, il-Dahye badda tibhash abrak" (Geagea, have patience, the Dahieh will dig out your grave!)

"Il Shi3a w Aoun mittif'een, khalliyon yti'oo il hasoodeen" (The Shiites and Aoun agree, let the ill wishers die of envy!)

"Saad id-Din Harami" (Saad Hariri is a thief!)

That's what I have for now. Aoun has taken a dark turn and I doubt his followers will forge through with that. But we'll see.

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

A Crippling Force

I think for those March 14ers, Naseer Al-As'ad summed it up nicely in his editorial piece today.

He asked the March 14 bloc to act as a team; we used to boast that the March 14 bloc is a loose umbrella bloc and not a homogenous party. But now as the March 14ers are getting squeezed further into a corner by a quickly-mobilizing force, the bloc needs more unity and requires a commanding, strategic force. He urged the March 14 bloc to act as a majority that can change the "face of the state" (wajh al-dawla) through its parliamentary force and through its government mandate, by having a clear message and clearly-defined goals.

It has quickly become apparent that Aoun and Hizbullah/Amal have concocted a strategy for turning the table and reversing the roles in the national dialogue. And that's why Al-As'ad went to assert that perhaps the May 16 national dialogue meeting will take place, but it is sure to be the last one.

Hizbullah takes part in the government and its ministers handle important services portfolios, such as the energy/electricity, agriculture, and labor. How come no one is asking these ministers why nothing is moving forward in their ministries? I thought they are accountable for their portfolios. Why is Hizbullah taking part in a demonstration that at its heart is calling for the fall of the government, when itself is part of that government? Al-As'ad writes that the aim is to create a public outcry that would eventually call for the fall of the government and new parliamentary elections.

So...if Hizbullah and Aoun cannot get what they want on the negotiating table, they will take it down to the streets. And so they fulfilled their promise.

And where does this leave us? Where do we go from here? Is the call for the March 14ers to act as a team means to use the majority rules to their maximum? Is consensus as a decision-making mechanism effective in our country, does it get us somewhere or nowhere? Is the solution going down to the streets (Geagea saying that March 14 came about as a result of March 8)?...

I see no solutions. I see a crippled government with its half (HA/Amal) engaging in anti-government activity, shooting itself in the foot. I can safely say that HA has failed in its first attempt at taking part in governing. It quickly criticizes, still living in the past when it used to be always in the opposition.

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

The law of communicating vessels

During his London visit, PM Fouad Seniora had to address diplomats, businessmen, students and UK government officials. I had the opportunity to address 2 of his talks, one at the London School of Economics, and the second at Chatham House (the royal institute for international affairs). Although both speeches had common points, the LSE talk focused on the currently debated economic reforms, while the RIIA talk emphasized regional and domestic political challenges. The content of the talks did not present any groundbreaking announcements, however some points are perhaps worth highlighting.

Although both speeches tackled different issues, they both strongly stressed on (and ended with) the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Seniora used the analogy of the 'law of communicating vessels' to express the idea that anything that takes place in Palestine affects the rest of the region, the Arab world and the muslim world. He talked about the 'great injustice' and the 'great crime' that has been committed against the Palestinian people. He spoke of the humiliation and anger and helplessness felt everyday by 1.4 billion muslims, and which fuels ongoing tensions in Iraq, Palestine, and the region. Solve the Palestinian problem ('the mother of all the problems in the region and perhaps the mother of all solutions') he said, and most of the problems faced by the countries in the Middle East and Muslim countries will disappear...We , as Lebanese/ Arabs, no doubt understand the crucial role that the Palestinian issue plays in regional politics, and the extensive repercussions it has. Nevertheless, I couldn't but wish that he had emphasized more stronlgy domestic factors, or at least ended with domestic factors, rather than regional ones, which cannot be greatly helped by Lebanon.

Just to recount an anecdote: the Israeli ambassador to London was present at the RIIA talk, and following Seniora's insistance on Israel's responsibilities and the Shebaa farms, he sarcastically asked the PM whether he truly believed that Nasrallah would be satisfied with the Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa and would disarm, or whether, Nasrallah being a 'creative politician', it was not more likely that Hezballah would find other excuses to evade disarmement such as Iran, political prisoners, etc. To which Seniora appropriately replied that Hezballah was not an issue in this matter, and that the Shebaa farms were Lebanese territory, and that Israel should therefore de facto withdraw, regardless of Hezballah's stance. (some clapping in the audience).

Another 'challenge' mentionned was Lahoud's presidency...nothing new on that front. As for the economic reform program, it includes a mix of higher revenue (through higher taxes and privatization plans) and management of expenditures (focusing on reducing the fiscal deficit and debt servicing). These reforms are the usual ones likely to be adopted by developing countries, and seem reasonably feasible (let's hope the devil is not in the detail). Seniora's view was that 'it is not the government's business to be in business' -ie let the private sector do the job, except for limited state intervention in certain sectors like the social sector.

The National Dialogue was mentionned as an indicator that the government did not want to impose anything on anyone, and that negotiation is the favoured path forward. Unfortunately it has become increasingly clear that what is supposed to be a constructive dialogue seems in fact to be another instance of politicians going round in circles.

Seniora's purpose was to seek the UK's support (its support of the government and its efforts for reforms, its support for Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa farms) and to get the international community's vote of confidence, to translate into real financial support at the International's donor conference. Although essentially aimed at the international community, Seniora's visit and his speeches came accross as heartfelt, or at least as genuinely intentioned. Seniora and Lebanon may have won this round....all we can do now is wait and see.

By Reem A.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ahmadenijad proclaims the death of Liberalism - Run!!!

My favorite days of the week are when the Ahmadenijads and Bin Ladins of this world, all-knowingly proclaim the "defeat/end/collapse/etc... of democratic and liberal systems."

Wow. defeat? Defeated by what? By a theocratic state that has contributed nothing to this world except angst and repression? Or by a sexually repressed and frustrated man who lives his life in caves?

The Iranian regime is saved from the world's wrath, not because of its inherent strength... but rather because of the inherent divisiveness of the international community. Bin Laden, will die and leave nothing behind except the legacy of a deranged idiot.

Even the so-called nuclear technology that "Iranians" are developing has basically been bought and paid for from the Russians. It is so hard to listen to the Supreme Idiot in Tehran proclaim his country's "technological triumphs" when all he has to show for them are obsolete and purchased technologies, as well as the remnants of the Shah's economic/military legacy.

Death of liberalism and democracy indeed! I wish I could proclaim the death of the "Islamic revolution," (whatever that means) and of "political Islam," except, I can't.... Both these entities were never alive to begin with!

"Egyptian" Protesters in DC : 6

Including myself!

four were Americans from the International Socialist Organization,

one was an Egpytian who works with a nonprofit organization in Egypt and is currently in DC for some reason.

I used to think that the turn-outs to Lebanese events were low!!! Egyptians, it seems, have better things to do. I feel a bit saddened and proud at the same time.

Suffocating In A Pool Of Oppressors

Can someone tell me how in anyone's mind the March 14 and March 8 and free-standing Aoun will return to the national dialogue table on the 16th of May?

The national dialogue politicians thought that they can fool us by postponing their so-called final meeting to May 16, when in reality they failed miserably to agree on anything whatsoever. The national dialogue meetings only showed the depth of the ideological divide between the two contending political groups. And now we see all this semblance of consensus fall apart with tomorrow's mass demonstrations.

We are further fooled with things that we read in the news like that Berri's bloc is still contemplating whether to join the demonstrations tomorrow, when Berri himself went for a visit to Damascus on Sunday. And what kills me most is that someone from the March 14 bloc, MP Butros Harb, a presidential aspirant, was reported saying that he sees nothing wrong with Berri's visit, that it is paving the way for PM Seniora. Further, and Abu Kais pointed it out in his latest post, MP Saad Hariri expressed his appreciation for Berri, when he is the Mr. X in Mehlis's report, cursing the late Rafiq Hariri and promising Ghazali to enflame the streets with demonstrations to topple Hariri's government.

To add more fuel to the flames, Jumblatt is touring the Arab world, as Arab leaders press on him the importance of Lebanon's stability. What does that mean? It means that pushing to topple the Assad regime in neighboring Syria should be swept under the carpet and that publicizing meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood, Khaddam, and other Syrian opposition groups should be halted.

It's interesting how when we read the words "Lebanon's stability", we are immediately reminded of the Syrian era. I get the shivers when I read these words, not because I don't want Lebanon's stability, but because these words carry negative connotations of a certain status quo that is gloomy. A status quo that amounts to Lebanon becoming all that many don't want it to become: back to being pro-Assad's Syria, pro-Ahmadinejad's Iran, anti-Western, and a bastion for parochialism, religiosity, and sectarianism.

But why be so surprised? After all, Lebanon is trapped in the midst of a pool of oppressors.

Have we just turned back time?

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

Monday, May 08, 2006

Blogger Arrested in Egypt

Dear readers and fellow bloggers,

a blogger in Egypt has been arrested. His name is Alaa, and he is not only among the most popular bloggers in that country, but he has also set up an aggregator similar to Open Lebanon that includes almost all of the Egyptian blogs.

Alaa was peacefully demonstrating for the independence of Egypt's judiciary with around twenty other people when the Egyptian "police" swarmed down on them. He is now detained and is probably going to be unfairly tried in the very courts he was protesting to support.

Blogger Mustapha has contributed to the campaign to free Alaa by creating banners like the one you now see on this blog. I expect everyone who would like to see a democratic and free middle east contribute to this campaign as well.

Visit the sand monkey's blog for ways you can help, and for regular updates. The reality is that Egypt is our neighbor - and one of the most powerful countries in the region. A democratic Egyptian regime is a regime that does not support bashar el assad because it fears for its own existence.

So do what you can do to support one of the most influential bloggers in the region - who, by the way, calls for democracy and liberalism - just like the rest of us.

Update: Those of you who live and/or work in the Washington DC area, please attend a vigil in front of the Egyptian Embassy. Where? 3521 International Ct NW, Washington DC 20008. When? Tomorrow (Tuesday) at 12:30 PM. See you there!

Ready To Fight!

A peace sign or bam, bam, bam, guns?!

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

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"Maybe it's the contrast of making something beautiful out of something so ugly and destructive"

Going through my daily round of news (important) and blogs (not so important but addictive), i found a blog by Leila El-Haddad, a freelance journalist living in the Gaza Strip. I have found articles of hers posted on the Guardian Unlimited and Al-Jazeera (English version) and i have to say that I enjoy all of them very much.

She brings a new dimension to my list of blogs, and its great to read a little further than what is usually written in most newspapers here about the political situation in Palestine. More is always good.

One article (link below) of hers carries a personal touch, focusing on a family living in Israel's buffer zone. She even includes a little conversation with a young family member, which intrigued me quite a bit.

So, below is a link to the article i just recently read and a link to her blog. Check it out, you might like it.

Her article

Her blog


Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Empty Statement: Don't Kill The Momentum!

The March 14 blocs (or shall we say, February 14) shook things up yesterday when they revived the role of the Parliament and voted on two legislations, garnering some votes from even outside their blocs. I believe that the majority should have resorted to the role of the Parliament early on; not only is the Parliament a "transparent" institution, but it also takes us away from simple fiery speeches and "media wars" to real action.

That aside, building on this victory, all of the March 14 forces met yesterday evening in the Bristol Hotel. However, and the Al-Nahar daily pointed it out, the statement ensuing from the gathering fell short of what is aspired by the people; it did not spell out any strategy for moving forward from simply stated that the players within the gathering have discussed specific decisions which will be translated and implemented in the national dialogue meetings, in Parliament and the Cabinet, and on the popular level. these decisions are a secret? I was just talking about how the Lebanese are "thirsty' for transparency. Long gone the days when the Bristol gatherings spelled out the next moves and got everyone mobilized and prepared...

Moreover, what surprised me the most was when the statement read that the government's initiatives and papers (perhaps alluding to the economic reform paper) used by many factions as a political tool is not but a compilation of general ideas up for negotiations. (afkar awwaliyya 'amma matrooha lil niqash). Really?! All these important meetings taking place in the Cabinet to discuss strategies to solve the electricity, energy, economy, and other issues are just general ideas?

I believe that criticism comes when you care and my criticism of the Bristol gathering statement comes as a result of anticipating concrete and tangible steps that would get us out of the political rut that Lebanon is in right now, of reviving the role that the Bristol gathering played at one point not long ago.

We are so close to May 10, a day of large street movements organized by labor unions and sponsored now by all the pro-Syrian parties. What does the Bristol gathering have planned for that day, we are yet to learn...

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

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Plate Full of News

What can I say: in less than one day, we get a lot of news ground to cover.

Two prominent legislations were passed in Parliament yesterday, in a successful show of the parliamentary majority's clout, one was a law that organizes the affairs of the Druze community and the other bill was on "rescusitating" the role of the Constitutional Council.

We must give credit where credit is due: the fact that Aoun's bloc attended the parliamentary session shows that the bloc's MPs believe in participating in the process of political deliberation which is a right and a duty given to MPs by the people, despite Aoun's absence and their rejection of passing these two laws. And the same goes for Amal's bloc. Such move comes in contrast with Hizbullah's bloc which did not attend at all.

However, on Tayyar's website a headline reads as follows: The Parliamentary Majority Won the "Laws" Battle Over the Carcass of Consensual Democracy ('الأكثرية' ربحت معركة القانونين على جثة الديمقراطية التوافقية ) in a show of solidarity with President Lahoud's rejection of the two laws as requiring consensus agreement in the Parliament and not majority rule. FPM is indeed confusing. I thought Aoun is all about majority rules and talks numbers and poll results (70%, etc.) Plus, it is in the Parliament's bylaws that decisions are reached by majority vote.

On another point, Al-Nahar daily published a piece by Ibrahim Bayram which provided insider information on the four rounds of talks between Hariri-Nasrallah. Bayram revealed that Hariri proposed Nasib Lahoud as a presidential candidate; however Nasrallah voiced his disapproval of any candidate affiliated to the March 14 spirit, even though Nassib is a former MP and holds no political role, like that of Butros Harb or Nayla Moawwad, which represents the March 14 coalition.

And for those criticizing PM Seniora for his "accomodationist" stands, yesterday he asked Hizbullah, in response to Nasrallah's fiery speech which rendered the Syrian berms on the Bekaa border as a fabrication, "What does it matter if the berms were erected 5 years ago or five days ago? Isn't this Lebanese territory?"

Further, Geagea escalated the discourse on LBC's Kalam Innass by saying , "Yes, we are calling for Hizbullah's disarmament. Are we insulting someone's faith by saying that?"

And finally, Fortune magazine released an article with an in-depth investigation of the Madina Bank scandal. The article proposes that the late Hariri was assassinated before he was able to reveal the scandal implicating President Lahoud and his family, Syrian President Assad and his family, and tens of other influential intelligence officers.

Analysis of these news items will follow suit.

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

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Lebanon looses again, and as usual, priorities are all messed up!!!

Today, I read a particularly disturbing article on the Daily Star. According to a report, it now appears that one of the few things Lebanese used to be proud of is no more!

Recent evidence suggests that "Lebanese students are falling behind in the key subjects of mathematics and science," according to a report by the World Bank. The country participated in the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Society) 2003 assessment and the results make disturbing reading.

Five domains in Math and Science were tested and not only did students in Lebanon perform significantly below the international average in the subjects as a whole, but they did not perform higher than average in any of the 10 domains.

Furthermore, Lebanon was outperformed by all the other countries of the region in science. Still more disconcerting is that when achievement is divided into five levels - advanced, high, intermediate, low and below the lowest level - almost no students reached the advanced level in either subject.

In science, 52 percent were below the lowest level and in math 32 percent. This indicates that even the highest quality schools in Lebanon are not producing students who meet international standards.

You know... I used to explain away Lebanon's ridiculous teaching methods (rote learning, lack of creativity, etc...) by saying, "heck... at least the system produces students with good math and science skills." Now though, it appears that even in Math and Science, we suck!

Akh... it's such a shame! Education is going to be another "before the war" lament that I'm going to convey to my grand kids!

Me in 50 years: "You know kids, before the Civil War, Lebanon was the banking center of the Middle East... Lebanon was also referred to by some as the 'Paris of the Middle East'... And, before that damned war, Lebanese were some of the brightest people in the region...."

Grand children: So Grand pa... how did we become such idiots?

Me in 50 years:
Well children ... what can I say? We needed to fight Israeli injustice, occupation, colonization, expansionism, etc... and American imperialism, capitalism, corporatism, materialism, etc... and European chauvinism, secularism, liberalism, internationalism, etc ...

Everything else was just trivial ...

The education system, the economy, healthcare, etc... all these issues were not even worth discussion! We had to deal with what really mattered: Geopolitics! And more importantly, we needed to protect our culture from foreign influences! And no matter how dumb we got, the Iranians and the Saudis would send us some oil money to keep us alive.

Besides ... why reform an education system that worked well in the 60s and 70s? Why bother change it with the times? We even got all this money to make ourselves smarter... and rather than waste it in fixing a system that obviously worked, we invested it in advanced research and development! We were such geniuses!!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Energy: most prominent issue in American Politics

By the way... I just wanted to convey to you an experience I had here in the US.

For the past three days in a row, on my way to school/work and back, I tuned on to C-SPAN Radio and NPR. C-SPAN basically covers Hearings, and other events in the US Congress, as well as other developments related to the US Government in gerenal. NPR is the acronym for the National Public Radio - the US version of the BBC.

What was striking, and what I'd like to convey here, is that over the past three days, in relatively random times, and almost without exception, both stations were covering developments and events related to energy, and oil in particular! Republicans, Democrats, Think Tanks, Talk Show Hosts, etc.... Almost every body who's anybody is the DC Area is talking about energy these days.

The kind of discourse I want to hear!!! And the next steps I would take!

Yesterday, the acting Interior Minister, Ahmad Fatfat issued a formal request to the Syrian authorities to remove Syrian Army units from positions that are one to four kilometers inside of Lebanese territory.
"We have asked the governor of the Bekaa (in eastern Lebanon), Antoine Soleiman, to promptly engage in contacts with the governor of the suburbs of Damascus to ask him ... to remove the sand berms, which have all been placed on Lebanese territory," AFP
What tickled me the most was Ahmad Fatfat's following comment regarding the Syrian transgression,

"If these sand berms, which were probably meant to fight smuggling on the border, are necessary, then they should be erected on the border or inside Syrian territory,"

"The problem is that they are on Lebanese territory, and we do not want, after some time, to be a facing a 'new Shebaa Farms'" AFP
Go Fatfat!!!!

He should have also said: "We do not want to live with another "Security Zone" for the next 10 to 20 years."

Of course, nothing will come of this statement. Fatfat is known to be the loose cannon in the Hariri camp, and they do appear to provide him with some leeway to speak his mind. The frail Saudis are threatened by any signs of increased instability in the region, and the last thing they want is escalation on the Lebanon-Syria front. The Hariris have no choice but to oblige - or lose their income!

What would I have done if I was in control? Well... let me tell you what I would have done.

Do any of you remember that one international incident between Morocco and Spain that revolved around contested islands in the Mediteranean? Morocco basically sent troops to set up camp and create a de facto reality, and then Spain sent its own troops in retaliation. Ultimately, the Spanish troops "arrested" the Moroccans and sent them back home.

Well, if I was in Fatfat or Elias el Murr's shoes, I would do the same. I'd look for a unit of the Lebanese Army that is sitting around, doing nothing. Then I'd send them to that Syrian outpost to arrest the Syrians who have manned it.

Whatever the outcome of that move, I think Lebanon would win. If the Syrians fight back, then the Army unit would retreat. If the unit is able to complete its mission, then all the better.

The point is that the Lebanese government would have taken the initiative to bring the border demarcation issue back into prominence. Furthermore, if the Army sustains pressure on Bashar's regime by repeating this exercise in the different locations of Lebanon where "Syrian outposts" exist, then maybe the Syrians will get tired, and oblige to our demands. The Saudis may be weak, but so is Bashar. The last thing he wants, is to be in the limelight. He's happy living in obscurity in his Damascus cave.

Again, we don't need to have a strong military. We won't be invading Syria. All we'll be doing is asserting Lebanese sovereignty. And in the process adding fuel to the flame that Bashar is sitting on at the moment!

Frankly, Lebanon has nothing to lose; and this political/military move would hit two birds with one stone - both as a worthy end in and of itself and as a means to pressure an adversary.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Forgotten Lebanese Youth

May 1st, 2006: Where are we from the suffocating unemployment epidemic in our country?

Even today, on Labor Day, we will see the March 8 and March 14 groups gathering in separate venues to preach and/or rant about justice and equality. On every single issue, politics and empty slogans get their fair share of representation.

Would anyone bother to ask about percentages and numbers? If we are to ask these questions, I believe that everyone in the political sphere in our country will get an F. Because, there is nothing being done to date to solve the biggest and most entrenched problem in our country, which is unemployment.

Unemployment leads to apathy and emptiness, apathy leads to a fatalistic outlook on life, which in turn leads to youth that carry polarized and extremist world views…and of course we’ll witness from the comfort of our couches, a race to arms and confrontation.

The enthusiasm harnessed from youth on the eve of March 14, which was conveniently used by politicians, has been easily transformed from a peaceful enthusiasm to a monstrous enthusiasm to conquer, subdue, and win over.

And those young Lebanese who do not have an appetite for conquering, subduing, and wining over, have been packing their bags and leaving the country in search of better prospects, while their parents bid them farewell with a smile, happy that their children are out of the danger zone.

Beirut I, Aoun’s aspirations, Lahoud, Hizbullah’s arms, the Shebaa Farms, the Hariri investigation, Syria, Israel, Iran, the debt, the national dialogue, the Maronite representation crisis, the Shiite-Sunni rift….and nowhere do we read, see, or hear about a comprehensive strategy for workforce development and employment.

Let’s start first with those forgotten Lebanese youth who still live in Lebanon, and then those living abroad can return and bring their brains and/or money along.

But when I write "Let's", who is "us"? Does the "us" have any power in Lebanon at the moment? Perhaps instead of going around the country collecting signatures to impeach President Lahoud, a campaign that turned out to be useless and futile at best, Lebanese journalists, politicians, and wives of politicians should have toured the country to collect signatures for a petition that reads:


(Note: And for those who ask, I'm not in any shape or form advocating replacing market mechanisms, but advocating for a more "facilitator" role on the part of the state, within a public-private partnership framework, to help move the country and its people forward. Just think how simple it could be to install computers with internet access in some remote towns in Lebanon and provide access to Lebanese with a country-wide employer database, a job bank of sorts, to help facilitate job searches, and in turn, employers would be benefitting from that service as well by being matched with a pool of Lebanese applicants.)

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