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Preview: Jeha's Nail - مسمار جحا

Jeha's Nail - مسمار جحا

Updated: 2018-02-14T13:15:20.635+02:00


Caracalla's Dunce


With news of the antics of Lebanese "government" hackers, one can't help but look back a bit. We're not that organised... something else is at work here. The hackers supposedly stole hundreds of gigabytes, from thousands of people, and did so all over the planet. The tools appear similar to the Kazakhstan guys, suggesting the same "contractor" was at work...Indeed, something else is at work here. What strikes me is the time-line, this was initiated about 5 years ago, It was around the time the top security chief Wissam El-Hassan was killed (Oct 2012). Not sure if this was related to the earlier assassination of internal security's IT Specialist, Captain Wissam Eid was killed (Jan. 2008). Both were linked, politically, to Hariri and his "Future" movement. Around that time, a clown was in charge of the Ministry of Interior (July 2008 to May 2011). During his tenure, a few IT specialists were also disappeared, but he was too busy chasing after "valet parking" offenders... Nothing happens in a vacuum.  And it doesn't happen overnight. [...]



Ah, the legacies of our (many) mistakes... little has changed, really... except for, the economy. That has changed. It got worse. A divided country with a debt-to-GDP ratio around at least 140% and no revenues. Any shock can shake it, especially now that we've pissed off Saudi Arabia, loaded our banks's balance-sheets with 12%-15% in low-performance real-estate assets. And 2018 may be a year of economic shocks, regardless of all the high-priced consultants' and their "talk-talk".March 2018:Russian "Election": The United States may potentially extend sanctions to cover Russian sovereign debt → Bond sell-off on Russian Bonds → Rouble downturn. Not sure how this will play out in Syria. Italian Election: Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is in the lead, in part thanks to a coalition partner who's eager to tell the European Union to "go fuck itself"... It won't be much more polite if the "5-Star" movement wins, anyway... let's see what the Euro does. Not sure how our backers will like it. May 2018:Lebanon "election": The Saudis are hinting at new sanctions against a major Bank. Maybe even the central bank. The US is reviving "Project Cassandra", and may not renew the "Iran deal" past May. So much for Obama's "legacy"......beyond... all bets are off. ...Oh, one more thing. That high Debt-to-GDP ratio? Well, for our remittance-based economy, it's likely even worse, much worse. Unserviceable, even. Consider one key parameter: real-estate plays an excessively central role in the computation. It accounts for 20% of GDP, but is worth much lower... er...non-performing. [...]

Brave new world


It's been a while......but there had been nothing really, fundamentally new; Lebanon was on its path to a renewed civil war, and the world was just watching. Now, Change is Happening... FinallyLebanon is still on its path to a renewed civil war, but the world is no longer just watching. It's Getting Crazier In the US, an ignorant lunatic has just succeeded an arrogant amateur... At the very least, we can be in no doubt the US legacy of failure in the Middle East is secure; it did not start with Obama, and seems set to continue under Trump. If he makes it that far... The "president-elect" is already embattled; the election is barely over that there is already talk of hacking in some key states while his "base" is starting to revolt against him. In the meantime, the neo-cons are clawing back their position in the administration, and the media's getting ready to pin on him the upcoming Trumpcession and Trumpflation.Yes, Obama prepared him quite the "shit-sandwich", but he helped it make it so much worse.But Who Cares? We all do; what they do in the US affects the rest of us, in many ways, and there is little we can do.  O, for the emergence of a multi-polar world; we'd have some checks and balances to one country's ignorant arrogance.  Pres. Obama and VP Biden share an embrace: "I've lost elections before, Joe hasn't."— ABC News (@ABC) November 9, 2016Joy. At least, we have a new president in Lebanon. He may be the first "made in Lebanon" president for a long time, but he will be the last Lebanese President, if he fails to deliver. Much depends on how he works (or doesn't) with Hariri and his patrons, but more depends on how or if he can ensure the Lebanese Army is the only army in Lebanon...   [...]

Hallow Presidency...


Breaking Tripoli?


Is the Syrian War spilling into Lebanon? No. Will Tripoli burn, as Homs and Hama did? Lilkely.What kind of Yes/No answer is this? Well, there are, indeed, some very obvious actors and actions... But the marionettes are never the only consideration here. There are two considerations; one "fundamental", and one "immediate".First, the Fundamentals: No, Syria's war is not spilling into Lebanon. Rather, the war in Lebanon has spilled over into Syria.The Syrian regime fell the day it left Lebanon, in 2005. It endured for a while, but the Assad Dynasty's needed the resources of Lebanon to survive as Masters of Syria. In their struggle to regain power, they made things worse for themselves:The Syrians will miss those supports on the long run, since few Americans can now seriously consider “engagement” as an option. And as they look for alternatives, pity the neighbourhood, and its weakest link; LebanonThis has always been a regional war among tribes and city-states. The veneer of nation-states that was applied over us was just that; a veneer. Nothing more. And the faulat was not merely in Lebanon. To be sure, Lebanon has many faults. But it was all in the open, "warts and all", contrary to all the hypocrites who surround us. While we struggled in the face of those contradictions, nearby dictatorships and pseudo-theocratic pseudo-democracy had fun with us... But now their chicken are all coming home to roost.  Yet, rather than focusing on their own ills, they did their best to kill of the Canary in the coalmine... And as they did so, they were putting nails into their own coffins. Ensuring Lebanon's war could spill over at their first sign of weakness. Second, the Immediate: We're on our way to a divided Syria. One in which Bashar will be lucky if the Alawites keep him in charge of their little Canton... But for now, the immediate aftershock will likely be felt in Tripoli. Why? It all depends on how crassly sectarian this conflict will be... In Syria's current sectarian perspective, much of the Alawite elite needs to secure its coastal enclave around Lattaqieh. This enclave has three vital economic links; Northward, towards Turkey, Eastward, though Homs, and South, towards Lebanon and through Tripoli. So it has three priorities:1- The North is closed off by the Turks, who do not want to see any linkages with Antioch... They may smarten up as the Kurds reassert themselves, but this will be a while. 2- The East is closed off by the takeover of the rest of Syria by Salafis and Ikhwans. But the control of Homs would allow them to split the rival cities of Aleppo and Damascus, and act as spoilers in the new "Syria".3- The South links them to their Shiite Allies is closed off by Tripoli. So, to secure a Alawite stronghold, the Tripoli lock needs to be broken. It must break. It may well break ...And this brings in an "interesting" sectarian sub-plot; as ever, the Christians are "in the way". ; the Christians are divided between Aoun and Geagea. Having failed to assassinate Geagea, will the Alawite Elite jettison Aoun and reconcile themselves to Geagea? Some notes / perspective: This blog is not inactive... But it is not "reactive". Rather, it is just tracking events from a perspective of history, not the news. I am no journalist, no political analyst who follows the "news schedule", nor do I listen to news much. I am just someone who's tired to see "big white chiefs" lecture us on how to live, and I have the arrogance to think I have something more meaningful to contribute to the understanding of the region... I just know enough history to see when it repeats itself, or when it rhymes. And for now, history rhymes.  And, If/when Tripoli falls, we will soon see epic fights among the Walis of Damascus, Aleppo, and Lattaqieh/Antioch... Time will tell how the Mohafaza of Jabal Loubnan will react, and if the Wali of Acca-Jerusalem decides to grow a brain. [...]

Stand in our shoes...


Welcome to Lebanon, Holy Father. As you wave to the cheering crowds from your PapaMobile, look closer at the people who are welcoming you, at the land they stand onThis land is sacred to us, not because of religion(s), but because it is all we have to stand on, because of the life our forefathers extracted from the hard terrain through toil and labour, allowing us to flower our modern gardens and live in (relative) plenty and (very relative) harmony among misery and bigotry. We are now at war and genocide, in all but name. There is no way Iran can come to term with the world's powers. There is no way Israel will grow past its land claims. There is no way Lebanese "leaders" will accept to be ever accountable. Would you commit to really help them? To really speak to the World on behalf of the Arab world, and, most importantly, to the Arab world on behalf of the World? Would you commit to more than speak, and actually do something about the rising bigotry and hatred that surrounds (what's left of) secular Lebanon? At the end of your trip, you will be back safely in Rome. At the end of your trip, the Lebanese will still be emigrating from there. You believe you stand in God shoes. We must wear our own. And we can only hope to remain standing up at the end of the day. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="228" src="" width="320">[...]



Exit the Baath, enter the Wahabis, Islamic “Brotherhood”, Salafis… More Falsifiers. Far from being “conservative” Moslems, those guys are past Tariq Ramadan's sophisms (Sarko happened to be right on this one), and have moved beyond an initial claim to "exclusivism", to evolved and become a different religion altogether.I am not a scholar of Islam, but those guys do not make sense. The simplest explanation would be that that those guys have hijacked Islam and falsified it, with dangerous implications for the rest of us. They do not emphasize the “salaf” as much as wipe out the predecessors. Does Big Brother even exist? - Of course he exists. No, I mean... does he exist like you or me? - You do not exist..To be fair to them, the hijacking did nothappen recently. My point is that this process started a long time ago, even before many of today's "strains". It started soon after the death of the prophet, when all but one version of the Koran were burned... This is not to say that the essence of the message was altered; only that the text is not exactly "as spoken"... Indeed, "most Muslim scholars believe" that this "Uthmanic Koran" is the entire revelation, but consensus is not proof... Remember the consensus on Aristotelian physics? ... So, from then on, what followed was nothing but the result of a long and slow process of destruction, a series of small steps that culminated in the falsified “new normal” that we face today. In the Beginning ...This happened in at least three major steps. First comes Abu Huraira… This guy claims to have known the prophet better than mos, and has 15.56% of the whole traditions in Sahih Bukhari traced to him. He knew the prophet for 2 years, yet managed to narrated 5374 Hadith. Compare this with the 142 Hadith attributed to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, who knew the Prophet for 23 years. I am no scholar (but I play one on the blog), but something is really wrong with this picture. Especially since many of Abu Huraira’s narrated Hadith contradict one another, and are contradicted by others, like Aisha, the Prophet’s Wife and “Umm al-Mu'minin”, with only 2210 Hadith attributed to her. Methinks she ought to be given precedence… ...The dude had a thing against women, tabla .... Doublethink: The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.Second comes the decision to equate the Hadith and the Koran. OK, I’m skipping the step where diacritics were added to the Koran; this goes to the root of Arabic’s peculiar form of script. But that’s one polemic too much… For now… So, back to our point; how can a Revelation be placed on equal footing with acknowledge hearsay? Then again, I am no scholar, and many will find that I missing subtleties. But this is beside the point.All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.Third comes the “no more ijtihad”. Now that’s a doozy. I am not sure of the deep philosophical reasons for this, but it does not make sense. Chiites generally do not accept this decision; maybe because they were in opposition, while the Sunnis were in power. Would be interesting to see how “Khomeini’s true heirs” view his Legacy, now that Shiites are on the ascendance. Orthodoxy means not thinking-not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. ...and to what End?Now comes the Stone Age. Or the “stoning age”, to be precise. We’re at a stage now where a new religion is flourishing:Wahhabism. At this stage, Muhammad Bin Abd El Wahab (or his entourage) could safely state that “this stick in my hand is better than Muhammad because it benefits me by enabling me to walk. But Muhammad is dead and benefits me not at all”. Their Falsafi cousins are not far away.The objectives of this new religion is not universalist, it is political. After the mid 1960'[...]

Arab Spring, Eh?


So now the “Arab Spring” is supposed to be an “Islamic Spring”? Well, not exactly… The whole thing is an over-simplification. And worse; it is a Disinformation with an Agenda… Or many intersecting agendas.And before you shout “CIA military coup”, accuse me of conspiracy-phobia “a al Nasrallah”… Maybe... But read on. IMH(BA)O, There are at least aspects to this lie, and each shows a different agenda, or a biased “vision” of the world.First, there is no Arab “Spring”. No more than we “knew” ours was supposed to be a “Cedar Revolution”, the rest of the Arab world did not think about its current upheavals as a “spring”. What is happening now is just the end of a normal rotting process. It is simply the natural evolution of regimes that had refused to evolve. Not merely change, but simply evolve.Rather than evolving, they just grew. Not up. More. The parasite was outgrowing the host. In most cases, the demands of the parasitic dictators got bigger just at the same time as the economies were slowing down. After all, each now had large families (and hungry) families to provide for. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />So, when the economic crisis hit, they had been ripe and lost big. Very big. Whether some “outside force” picked them up or whether they just fell down is irrelevant. They were just walking corpses of lies and failed ideas. No amount of police force could compensate for the lack or Panem, and Circemses… One more unintended consequence of the “formula that killed Wall Street”; our crooks fell victims to bigger crooks.So what if there was a ton of manufactured news in the prelude? There was a market for it since the people had gotten tired of the bullshit… And it’s just as well. Consider this nastiest of the nasties, Kim Un aka Trois. His regime has evolved. Not in the sense that we’d like. But the North Korean regime has kept up with the latest in technologies, and thus has grown ever more efficient at repressing people. Rather than pursuing an economic progress that would ultimately undermine him, Kim-Un-“Troisième du Nom” has starved his country into submission. Second, this is not an Islamist Spring. This is not a "War of Worlds". It is not an opposition between a “secular” regime and a “backward” Islamist clique. Egypt has been just as repressive to the Coptic Christians as any Islamist would be. And Syria’s not even misunderstood (with often bad consequences for us). It's not even a regime; it’s a family “Cosa Nostra”…It so happens that those Fascists have been the only organized force in many of the countries of the region… And that they have many powerful allies; some rich Arab Monarchies, some simplistic American President, and some very devious country whose claim to be the “only democracy in the Middle East” would otherwise ring hollow. So enough of that. We’ve been there already, even before this lie was ever proagated. This is one is not related to some agenda, just a relic of Western Arrogance, and of  Israeli chutzpah of claiming to be the "only democracy in the Middle East". Right. ...Moi-y-en-a-bon-blanc. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">[...]

Security Details...


“Bashar ilal iyada wa Maher ilal kiyada”In Syria, they shout: “Bachar to the Asylum and Maher to the Leadership”… Such is the new battle cry in many “pro-Regime” villages… Now that we’re smack into a Syrian civil war, expect more radicalism. You can’t choose your camp; it’s been done for you, at your birth. Lest we forget, the armed gangs on both sides of this conflict were both happily shooting us down in Lebanon… When they left, they learned all the wronglessons from us, and left with all our defects, and without our (legendary) sense of humour… This will leave the Syrians with no “exit strategy” from their civil war, unless they get really lucky. At this rate, the new borders will be drawn in blood, with hardly a way back. And if you think you can stay in the middle of this road to hell, remember that; “In the middle, there’s a Yellow line and a dead Armadillo”As for the other players in this conflict, the fire you’re dousing will burn you. Let me just say this. For Turkey, remember the Kurds? And the Armenians? As for Qatar, you’d like to think otherwise, but size does matter… As for Iran, maybe you guys ought to look closer to home, without resorting to Photoshop; maybe Iran tunest, after all. As for us in Lebanon, expect more radicalization of the “pro Syrians” as well… And more paranoia. They forget that others have bee there before, with bad consequences. And they will keep digging themselves into that hole. No one told them “you cannot fight geography”, I guess.Not sure, yet, what the way out is for them. Their current crop of leaders left no obvious alternatives; Hezb and Amal have really cornered the Shiite political “market”, leaving no alternatives… Till Iran’s money runs out. Then, maybe others, like the (few remaining) communists, pose a credible challenge to them.Till then, we’re condemned to keep on repeating and un-learning Ibn-Khaldun’s lessons. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">[...]

Son of a Rich!


One gets mixed feelings when one reads words that there is such a thing as “Lebanonization”. As if there was such a thing as a “Syrian Exception”. It’s as if our civil war was a peculiar disease that was for ever foreign to the Arab body politic. So the Middle East has no religious fanaticism, no oppression of minorities, nomass massacres of innocent civilians, noethnic cleansing, no disreguard for private property and human rights…...Gimme a freakin’ breakWe used to say that we’re the Switzerland of the Middle East. We are. It is just that the Swiss neighbour the French, the Germans, and the Italians. And then Napoleon came along to put some sense into them… We Lebanese have the misfortune of neighbouring Arrogant Baathists, Self-centered Israelis, and negationists Turks... And our own hubris... And we have Nasrallah and Al-Asir stoking fires that will burn us all… As a small country, we can only “resonate” with all the drumbreats around us… Yes, I know. The link makes no sense :)Yet we managed to endure in spite of all this…Syria would be lucky if it managed half as well/bad as we did. It would be lucky if its civil war slides into Lebanon mode. Yes, lucky. It’s simply because, throughout our own civil war, we Lebanese maintained a form of state. We kept some sort of minimal contacts. We kept some sort of perspective. How did we do it?No, we’re no better than any one else. There is no more Lebanon exception as there is Syrian exception. We’re just better deal makers.Even when we carp to foreign powers, we’re unreliable; we only follow those who pay last, not necessary those who pay more… In Syria, they have a long way down this road. The fact remains that the Baath was the only link between all the parts of country and society, since it controlled most large scale businesses across the country. The other links that remain are religious/ethnic, and often regional. Now, as the Baath glacis melts away, new divides will appear that Syrian have little experience in bridging. Today, the divide is between rich and poor. Tomorrow, it could be between Damascus and Aleppo, since the regime has all but broken the Homs node…. The day after, who knows? All the efforts of Bashar’s “allies” will not prevent this slide into hell. And all the efforts of Bashar aim at facilitating this descent… So, the “dialogue” that has began is being conducted with bombs and bullets… And chemical weapons, or is it just gas?… And this “dialogue” will soon spread South.[...]

Liars Ballet


The thing about lies is that they come back to haunt you... For the Syrian regime, it's endgame; they lied so much, no one would ever believe him, even if they were telling the truth... Which in this case they are not. 
Enter "Houssam Houssam", the so-called star witness in the Hariri Assassination. The "Free" Syrian Army now has him. Skipping the part of how he got there, he claims he has new revelations on his past revelations... Not that's a liar that I would never believe. 

Still, in Lebanon, we're so fed up with the Divine Idiots that he'll find an audience... At least, now the regime's chicken are all "coming home to roost". The only downside is that, when they will be done with this gang of clowns, the new clowns will get not just get rid of the bad, but also of any good that was left there... 
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Cher Nobyl...


Dear “Daktor” Bashar,So it’s endgame for you… What do you expect, when no one really believes you anymore, even when (if?) you tell the truth? So, you may last a year, you may last 10. But you’re basically gone. At this stage, forget about all the “praise”; your regime is bankrupt and all but gone. And forget about your Iranian paymasters, they have troubles of their own… All sorts of troubles. So you should be considering your options.So, at those last stages, what are your options? Well, you would normally have a few. By now, none will work… Consider this:Option 1: high tail it outta there. At first, the British may still find you an exit; they do have a soft spot for dictators and their cash. You once had a few useful idiots there, but now you appear to have pissed off even the stupidestand the most “grovelish” of them that they are actively trying to forget they ever knew you. Still, in this case, you’ve stolen enough cash to ensure that your children may survive, though I’m not sure if your son will live out the Legacy of his name; I suggest you petition to change his name back to… Al-Wahsh. Then (where else) you could have considered joining (what’s left) of Ben-Ali in Saudi Arabia or Qatar? You may get past the Salafis, but pity the shopping… And the regime there is not any more stable than you are… Thank providence for high oil prices. So, further away?Maybe China; for all its support, Russia may well be reconsidering some of its options.Option 2: You could try a “political rally”, in which case he will end “a la Ceaucescu”. Not a good idea; with Assef Shawkat gone, you may want to watch those who “escaped”the blast. Option 3: You could try to hold on to that “Alawite stronghold” of yours. But I am not sure how well Ghazy Canaan’s “suicide” (and that of his brother) was received over there. At least, stay away from the beach. And again, watch those who “escaped” the blast.Then again, you’re smart enough to find a way out of this… As long as your arrogance does not get in the way. It’s a pity that you wasted all your intelligence and the “good will” you had early on. You’ve only managed to keep Syria in the dark ages. Or maybe you had no choice; your own grandfather had predicted as much.[...]

фашистской силой


Best Hopes for a Happy New Year 2012. As I see my fellow Arab emerge from the slumber, I can only hope it’s a real awakening. The picture so far remains a bit blurry, but it is not hopeful. The danger is that Arabs may only awaken from the stupor of secular fascists to fall into the deadly embrace of religious fascists. Cave SemitiiI am fearful for the Arab people because of our Arab Nature. If we Semites have any redeeming qualities, it is our deep and spirituality and our passionate sense of honour and justice. If we Semites have any damning faults, it is our deep and spirituality and our passionate sense of honour and justice. So, when our prophets said it was “an eye for an eye”, this was not a licence to exact retribution from those who offended us (and more). Rather, this simple statement was meant to reminds us all of our humbling equality before the Creator. Yet we often forget it. And the clowns who (mis)ruled us forgot that while they acted as God incarnate. Some, like Gaddafi, may even have believed it. A few guys from Misrata reminded him otherwise. While no one can wish his end on anyone, but he who lived by the sword should expect to die by the sword (in the worse way possible). So, good riddance to bad rubbish. Or, if you feel hypocritical, may they rest in peace and let’s turn the page. And that was the easy part. Trouble is, we may have many more pages to turn before our story even starts. Like so many other people over the course of history, after we get rid of the Czar, we still have to deal with the dung heap on which he stood, lest this dung heap take over. While those nasty clowns repressed liberals, they fostered and empowered even nastier forces in their dark shadows (ok, all shadows are dark, excuse the “balagha”). Those are the Bolsheviks of yore, the Khomeinists yesteryear… and today, we have Islamic Brotherhood, the Salafists, the National Religious....Those secular fascists were only the first page. We now face those religious fascists. We need to turn many more pages before we get to the end of our story. And as we turn the pages, beware of our Semitic passions. With the easy enemy gone, we have to face the demons within us.So, best hopes for 2012. Better be careful what we wished for this year, we're on our way to get it... Unless we wise up.[...]

The Dark Side of Altruism


... Long time no blog.Then again, there's isn't much to really report. Yes, we had elections, then a new governement under a very Sad Hariri, a newer government under Mi-Kati who's making a lot of noise, while his government is on its way to selling Lebanon's soul.Yet, Fundamentally, nothing has changedThe one change is the Arab Spring... Finally. Yeehaa. Allah kbir, Allah akbar. Yes, the bad ones are on their way... Now Bachar, Bibi, Nasrallah, the Mullahs: Almost done... Tunis Tunest, Iran Natunest... Yet.Well, it's a long way from the dreams of March 14, 2005. Bachar's only "Medium Well", and he still have some "game" in him, and a increasingly sophisticated communications monitoring system. So is Bibi, in spite of his similar performance, with Obama playing his usual speechifying figuring role, on home turf. It was even better than Bachar's; he even got more applause. More than the Knesset would have ever granted him. Nasrallah's still a bit "rare", and the Iranian clerics are only now marinating. But the natural (r)evolution that is taking place is ineluctable.But its not all for the good In his latest stupid rant, Patriarch Rai put his finger on it... But the concern extends beyond a few turbans, and in choosing among evils, he is only choosing evil. One would have expected Rai not to fall for such skewed choices... I'd like to see how he will "joumblat away" from all this...And one of the drivers is: Altruism..Fundamentally, however, his concern illustrates the dark side of altruism. His intentions are good. At first. Then something happens; it is reality? Is it hubris? Things take a life of their own, and intentions lead them... Well, elsewhere...Good intentions make excellent paving material. Like all things that are taken to excess, altruism develops into a pathology, and "society's most pernicious troubles arise under its guise". We should recognise the dangers of good intentions, lest they lead us to more of the same.. Robespierre came soon after Mirabeau, Hitler followed Bismarck, Stalin succeeded Marx... The Mutazailites are not too far away.Let's not forget that all those now shooting at Gaddafi were once cheering for him. Most of those now shouting down Bachar were once looking the other way when his father as pounding us. And most of us now cheering [Name of your favourite Lebanese Here] are all too happy to look the other way when he was comitting atrocities.Altruism is good. But it often exploited by unscrupulous leaders who make us commit atrocities. How can we guard against the dark side of altruism? In any situation where we feel impelled to help others, it is crucial to step out of our comfort zone and examine the arguments from the other side. We must be willing to learn, in as open-minded a fashion as possible, from those with whom we disagree. In some sense, this means applying the scientific method to our lives. Like scientists, we need to play devil's advocate and actively seek ways of disproving a hypothesis, asking ourselves if an act that seems unquestionably altruistic can have broader negative consequences Our better nature can, and will, lead us to do things that end up harming the very people we are trying to help. So let us get rid of those dinosaurs. But let us keep a close eye on ourselves. So, now that the Arab Spring is gearing up, yeehaa. Allah kbir, Allah akbar. If you're in Syria, more power to you... And to Thuraya. If you're in Palestine, God speed; you're caught up between your own flawed leaders and shrewd enemies. In Israel, wake up, dudes; Leiberman's not what you claim to be about...But if you're in Lebanon, enjoy the sidelines (for now)... So pass me the Arak, O wise one... Today we drink, for tomorrow[...]

The Pitfalls of Power


It is often the case that triumphant powers develop tendencies that make them vulnerable to weaker challengers. As they achieve repeated successes, they soon become to believe that, by constantly reapplying the same formula, they will continuously be able to achieve success by the same means. However, their once-novel methods soon become “conventional” themselves, and a form of “doctrinal complacency” sets, reinforced by the ever increasing success. Such was the case in July 2006, when Israel’s ossified, conventional thinking led to its defeat at the hands of a challenger who espoused novel, unconventional approaches. This is the case of Hezb’O today; its victory in July 2006 led it to an increasingly dominant position in Lebanon. This “new dominant” shows signs of increased confidence in the value of its past policies, since they led to so many successes. Indeed, after July 2006, their demonstrations and tent city led to the blockage of the country’s normal processes, allowing a continuous land grab and now a power grab. However, in doing so, Hezb is only exacerbating a “power dilemma”; the success of its offensive policy will create ever stronger incentives to strike first, since a successful attack will usually so weaken the other side that victory will tend to be relatively quick, bloodless, and decisive. This is what happened during their invasion of Beirut in May 2008, when it lead to cowing of Hariri’s, and more crucially, of Jumblat’s Druze. As it continued in this conquest phase, Hezb has consolidated “internally” by eliminating or sidelining “barons”, and is now expand “externally”. Its “external” expansion is now carried out as part of the elections, in which they are leading Aoun’s electoral offensive in the Christian. Whatever the final result, ShaterHassan’s allies would be sure to score quite a few points. But Iran’s power grab over Lebanon will be far from secure, and the downside will come soon enough; as the successes accumulate, Hezb’s doctrines will be increasingly informed by the rose-colored lens of previous victories. Repeated victories make this offensive approach an easier choice because of the belief in the possibility of quick victory as well as the belief that failure to act will expose them to unacceptable risk. This doctrine of action will become increasingly rigid, and the party will become ever less likely to change and adapt. As previous victories are celebrated, a culture of victory is increasingly emphasizing certainty in outcomes. Because this certainty belies the complicated sets of factors that allowed victory in previous engagements, Hezb is increasingly developing a “static conception” of political struggle that does not allow for change on the part of its adversaries. Soon enough, those adversaries will learn to exploit the weaknesses thus exposed, exposing dominants to defeat at the hands of inferior parties. Regardless of the result of this upcoming election, little will fundamentally change because of both the institutional dysfunctions of Lebanon and the contradictions of regional power equilibriums. But time may choose for all; not only will there be less Iranian cash in the future, but at the present rate of consumption and decline, Iran is facing oil shortages and may even become unable to export much more oil by 2014. true, Saudi Arabia is not doing much better, but they’re not the ones challenging the United States for regional dominance. However, we’re still a long way from Kansas; if time is the fire in which we all burn, we Lebanese are the ones closest to the flames.[...]

Monsters, Inc.


Our Lebanese “Our leaders” have much to teach the Great Colbert about government; judging from the uproar they generate, they have improved on the idea that “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”. The amount of hissing is irrelevant if the geese are busy hissing at one another.For this reason, watching the Lebanese elections is discomfiting at first look. Almost everywhere political discussion appears geared “internally”, towards “consolidating” one's core supporters. Voting in that case becomes little more than a census, where real electioneering starts at conception, making sure the braying masses make enough voters, and guaranteeing that the economic system remains on the right side of failure to maintain them in a permanent state of patronage-enhanced servility. The only real debate is within middle class regions of Mount Lebanon, who happen to be mostly Christians. In that, they're leading the rest of the Arab world's elites. A deeper look, however, reveals a less pessimistic view; those who once claimed Lebanon as the Switzerland of the Middle East forgot that our region has nothing like the German's federative obsession, the French administrative zeal, or the British legal scruples. We can only be as good as one can be in this cesspool of dictatorships, where the only country pretending at being democratic is ruled by one ethnic group at the expense of others. And no, I do not mean Turkey. No wonder our search for consensus and internal stability is so elusive. At least, we're the only ones really trying, even if our model is far from perfect, or realistic. And so what if Nasrallah has missiles and Iran. Doesn't Lieberman have Tsahal, AIPAC, and a little more? I fail to see the core difference between those fine examples of Shiite tribalism and Jewish tribalism. For the time being, our only hope is to try and maintain some internal power balance, by voting our heads rather than our hearts, to maintain our local overlords as much on edge as possible. The pie is shrinking, and their old ways of goose-plucking will soon have to change lest they run out of feathers... Or Until they weed themselves out of here. Or, more probably, Until, that is, we're all emigrated from here. By “we”, I mean the middle class; the exodus of the Christians from Lebanon is only a symptom of the country's real tragedy, the absence of opportunities for the middle class, mostly made up of Christian, Druze, and Beiruti Sunnis. In the current state of affairs, there is little to do for all those who just want to earn a decent living, without the need to pledge allegiance to petro-mullahs or armageddon-evangelists.But there's still some hope.[...]

Spring Greetings


One Lebanese asks another; "Did you watch the solar eclipse yesterday". To which the other replied; "Oh, for us, it's going to take place Tomorrow".Alas, under this grand talk of "diversity", we Lebanese hide real divisions. It would not be so bad if they were limited to arcane matters of religion or taste. In our case, we've moved beyond absurdities of calendar, we've each managed to move to different planets while living in the same country.... I kinda like the part about numerous vacations, though.But I digress...I've had little to blog about over the past few weeks. I see little merit in either side of this sorry saga of ours... In the coming election, there will be no real debate of ideas, just a "conscription" of the electorate, as we're each pulled by the rival tugs of the regional giants; an Iranian-aligned "Shiite" party with money and "فهم", a Saudi-guided "Sunni" grouping with money and no "فهم", and a Christian salad of ex-warlords with no money and even less "فهم".As for whatever secular "center" remains, we hide our hard earned money, as the looming global recession challenges our limited "فهم" of the world. In any case, whoever wins the current election will be of little real consequence; the real fight's taking place outside this ring. The best we can do is continue our bloody jockeying for position within our little square in the regional chessboard.....March 14, 2005 is so far away ......Still, it's not all bad; we've got a few things going for us...[...]

Release the Hounds!


Driving around Lebanon has been an increasingly interesting experience of late. In most coastal areas, traffic was a lot worse. This is not just because of an influx of Gulf tourists, but it appears mostly due to an increase in the number of “strategically placed” public works. With the election nearing, the increase in number of government mandated potholes is supposed too help the rival fortunes of the rival Hariri and Hezb’O camps. In addition, the number of beggars and street salesman in most areas of the capital has skyrocketed. This can only be a direct indication of an influx of Syrian Mokhabarat who came to “cover” our elections, and whose retinue those poor wretches tend to be part of. Alas, no Kaak yet… So it’s a good thing Minister Baroud is enforcing those safety belt laws and the cellphone ban.  I feel safer already…... Well, to be fair, the cellphone ban is nice. The seatbelt laws, however, for "personal choice" reasons only a libertarian could feel compelled to justify. But still, I would hope more could be done. But I digress. Still, thanks to LaLebanessa for  taking me to task. DoubleSpeak I see those little local developments in the context of the announcement that Britain's Foreign Office announced Thursday that it has contacted Hezbollah's “political wing”(WTF?!)”. At the same time, their American masters are reassuring us that they will still respect us in the morning after that little flirtation while they continue to withhold equipment from our Army. If you can call that “old equipment that the Jordanian kingdom wants to replace” military hardware; I’ve seen newer crap. Still, we may have a chance if the Golden Horde decides to ride again. Just maybe; they still make ammo for those M24/29, don’t they? I am not only surprised that there is such a thing as a “political wing” for what is little more than the Lebanese outgrowth of the Pasdaran, I am even more surprised no one yet considered contacting Ben Laden’s political wing? So what if his followers wasted a few limeys; isn’t our rag-head blood just as worthy as theirs? And furthermore, Ossama’s a far more reasonable man than Ahmadinejad and his kin; Khatami’s a mere fig leaf, and rather than an end in itself, America’s favourite troglodyte considers religion as a means to an end… … But I digress. again. In the context of all those shenanigans, I fear those will be tough days ahead for Lebanon. Regardless of which March you’re on, “only a sword can cut this Gordian knot” of conflicting alliances and rival interests. In the short term, I fear the hounds have already been released… And the longer term may even be worse. The Ugly Short Term On the short term, our election is set to be a very dirty affair. That the polls are all on the same day creates even more opportunities for the better organized party to play “under the table”, and I would not surprised to see those who claim March 8th to win the day. Indeed, the key players in the camp that claims March 14th, led by amateur-in-chief Saad Hariri, appear set to screw one another. Especially with “leaders” such as Amine Gemayel and Michel Murr, either of whom has yet to fathom a lie they could not utter. The Uglier Long Term On the long term, the Americans will re-learn the difference between talk and dialogue, as their little flirtation with Syria fails (again). On the longer term, Hezb’O’s conservative revolution will not prevail. By then, however, Lebanon may well have collapsed. Chances are there will be little left of the civil society that motiv[...]



Check out this excellent article by the Middle of the East, especially the part in which it refers to this piece in The National.


Was July 2006 a large scale Coventry?


Lost in Translation


So the election season is upon us. Each and everyone has started their specifying, and each in his/her own way.So Hariri, having had his Feb. 14th Groundhog day, is now mouthing of about the sweetness of opposition... And odd way to motivate his partisans, but that's just me. Methinks he has far too much hope in the tribunal, or is he making a few political deals too many? So Hezb'O'MyGodThereAreZionistsAmongstUs is, well, closing the ranks. Some see this as an the expectation of some tribunal-related questioning, and link it to tourists... Methinks the barbudos doth protest too much... Either way, it is all part of an early circling of the wagons around each community's sacred cows. So Aoun is now … well.. whatever he's doing, it may work. At least his ministers are doing a good job, especially considering the other incompetents around them.So the Syrians are moving their pawns around the chessboard, and making "come hither" gestures to the Americans, with those ever perspicacious Europeans in tow. But most importantly, consider the Americans. They are “engaging” the syrians. Or they are not. Or not yet... Methinks, with all this talk of "balance", they're going after meager returns, thereby showing again that they do not know their head from their ass. This is not a stretch, considering where their best "talent" is...What does it all mean? Nothing Yet. Or Nothing New... Or am I losing something in this "translation" of facts?Maybe AbuKais is right, after all...[...]



It is interesting how little news Middle Eastern newspapers really provide us with. As they feed us misinformations in the service of shady policies, one has often to read between the lines. In Lebanon, they more often serve us tired tirades disguised as real analysis. So we have to read “outside” the lines … Here’s a couple of little tidbits that we do not read about; 1- the February 12th kidnapping of Joseph Sader, the Middle East Airlines (MEA) director of information technology operations. Coincidence: he may have been related to the fact that he processed and prepared files related to the Hariri assassination case. 2- The February 18th assassination of Ghassan Miqdad, the MEA pilot, found dead in his own car in Beirut’s Ouzai district. Coincidence: he had transported the Hariri files to The Hague on Feb. 9. Coincidence: 2 months ago, his brother, Mohammed, was similarly assassinated, in the same area. Coincidence: 2 weeks before that, his house was burglarized. And the biggest Coincidence of all; both the Airport and Ouzai district are under the control of Hezb’O. So as they hide their head up their own gluteus maximus; Lebanon's great and good say it’s all personal. I say its just business as usual…Bring on the Salami......Paranoid, eh?Update: No. My source(s) are not Al-Siyassa, which I do not read anyway. And that's all I have to to say about that... For now.[...]

Kahane's own Yvette


Regardless who prevails to become the next Israeli Prime-Minister, he/she will have a heavy burden to bear. And no, it’s not “Palestinian Terrorism”; it’s Avigdor “Yvette” Lieberman. His rise to kingmaker has two main implications for the region, both of which are far reaching. In the Immediate... Whatever his merits(?), the home-made brew that this guy’s spewing is far more toxic than Kahane’s. Yes, the language is milder, but the undertones are the same, and worse, the whole venom is now accepted discourse in Israeli politics. Such venom has a uniquely corrosive effect; ever since its establishment, Israel claimed some form or moral right. Whatever the merits of the Zionist cause, this gave Israel a boost, especially considering the dismal record of the regimes surrounding it. Today, this may well be all unravelling; by welcoming their own Ahmadi-nut-job within mainstream politics, Israelis are losing whatever moral high ground was left. Even the stupid Gaza campaign does not carry the same cost. As Lieberman’s stature and influence grows, expect more comparisons to be made with Le Pen or Haider. And expect some unwelcome reactions. Externally, the rise of such right-wing racists will only feed western anti-Semites. But those nut-jobs hardly need an excuse anyway. The larger danger is Internal. Those being constantly accused of being a fifth column may finally decide to become one, especially as the Settler movement continues to act with impunity. And then Israel will find that a home-grown Intifada is a far harder challenge to face, an inconvenient “fact on the ground” that no “security fence” can hide away. On the Long run An additional effect of Lieberman’s rise would be on the regional “peace process”, whatever that still means. The current Israeli leadership will have to contend and growing dissent among Diaspora Jews, most of whom are not really too far from Hannah Arendt. In addition, the current Obama administration is far less Likudnik than the previous one. However, that does not mean that the current Obama administration will be much less tone-deaf than the previous one. As a result, the new Israeli government will be pressured to show some progress on the “peace track”. And rather than choosing the Palestinian track, it will buy time and "keep Obama busy" on the simpler "Syrian track", where it finds a far more accommodating partner. ...And so, for Lebanon... Interesting times, Ahoy!Update/Modification: It seems I'm not the only one feeling uneasy about Ol'Yvette, as there appears to be a similar mood south of the Mason-Dixon line.  The video is therefore more fitting than the one I had previously selected...Excerpt from Yvette's speech (H/T Lisa Goldman):Good Morning, Israel, Citizens, second-class citizens, third-class citizens - and Arabs. I declare the founding of a Jewish state called Yisrael Beiteinu. Applause. The elections were a marvelous experience and they were also a final experience. There will be no more elections. Mina [a famous pollster], your next poll will be called, ‘What do you think of the leader?’ And the answers will be: (a) He is excellent; (b) He is great; (c) He’s totally hot, I’d leave him nothing but his socks and do him right here and now;(d) All answers are correct with the addition of coconut oil. Applause plus whistles.Regarding the rest of the choices, I decide as follows. On planes, regarding chicken or beef - beef. For weddings, garden or[...]

Diou, Qué Marinade!


In France, the bananas of the nouveau regime are no smarter than the tired cabbages of the ancient. One of those legumes, Osif sénateur UMP de l'Oise, fired up a little gem: "President Assad told me he exerted his influence to ensure Hezbollah adopted a responsible attitude and showed restraint during the events in Gaza, Syria's role has been positive " President Nicolas Sarkozy's envoy Senator Philippe Marini told reporters in Beirut. after a visit to Damascus. Has Le petit Nicola really been convinced that his investment in Bashar was still worth it, he would have sent him a bigger banana. However, the rants of this second fiddle sound just like a stockbroker talking up some junk bond. But that maintains the link just enough, in case the Obama(-Clinton?) administration decides to keep Syria "showered with incentives to tempt it away" from Iran. Or maybe Le petit Nicola has assurances that Bashar will still respect him in the morning, too. But maybe not the morning after... Or will hassouna confirms that little tall tale?...Mais que diantre alloit-il faire dans cette galére! [...]



The news this past couple of weeks has been replete with drunkenness. Faced with the latest demonstration of Israel’s illusion of living without its neighbours, our local Saint Jihad Chrisosphobos decided to retaliate… So, unable to do anything south of Nakoura, he sent his partisans take over Churches. Turn the other Cheek, eh? This led some of his Ninjas, Modi Viarge Grises for the occasion, to deliver some esti de sacrament d'agrat, at the Church in Haret Hreik, with the full regalia of Ôstie and and tabarnak achalandé. And now he has manufactured a Modit Rosaire. What’s next; an Ostie with Saint-Ciboire de Nasrallo’s effigy on? Well, Khomeiny tried to emulate the Saint Charbel look, but Shater Hassan's pushing too hard. Even with all ClAoun’s support behind him, I am not sure that it would sell in Lebanon. The Lebanese may not have more than mere words to oppose him, but some can have subversive power… Modit Côlisse…!! Never before has religion been so enmeshed with politics as in Lebanon. Thanks to Nasrallah and his goons, we may be in the Middle Ages, but fear not; to everything there’s a season… … La Révolution Tranquille n’est pas loin. [...]

Ibn Khaldoun's Lesson


The middle is a hard place to be, and a harder place to remain. To some, I sound like a “Zionist Apologist”, to others, like a “Naïve Idealist”. I am neither. I am a realist. There is no such a thing as “Military Solutions”; it is a logical fallacy. The Military is a tool, and should be used in the service of a specific policy, itself the implementation of a longer term vision. The current situation is not new. The process we find ourselves stuck in has been described much earlier by Ibn Khaldun, the great Arab historian. Whenever a community united by ethnicity or common interest (“العصبيٌة”; or “Assabiya”), needs to reach power and maintain its hold on it (“المك”; or “Mulk”), it relies on a religious or political ideology (“الدٌعوة”; or “Daawa”). So, In countries like Syria and Iraq, clans founded their claim to power on a “Daawa” such as the “Popular Democracy” and “Socialist Equality”, co-opting Arab nationalism of the Baath Party. And today’s Israelis are not much better, having mostly moved far away from early ideals. Across the region, all those nice members of the “Assabiya” have now secured their “Mulk” well in hand, and are focusing on securing power by all means, focusing on narrow self interests. This was made easy in all our countries. We have all inherited from colonial times an apparatus that had invested many more resources in military-security apparatus than in civil-legal institutions to maintain control either over restive societies or unaccommodating neighbours. In some countries, the mokhabarat enforce the prevailing orthodoxy. In others, a common ideological groupthink takes care of that. Care to move on? Then Challenge your own mindset… Only there will you find the real “Infrastructure of Terror”....Before this BF mess moves north...[...]