Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For The Record

I have been to Damascus 5 times in my life. Once as a child and I do not recall meeting any Syrian officials. Twice as a young teen to renew my foreign passport and to travel through Damascus' airport because we had no access to the embassy in Lebanon and the Beirut International Airport at the time.

As an adult my flight from Beirut to Amsterdam landed in Damascus for a few minutes in 1999. I did not leave the plane. Finally, in winter of 2006 I spent a weekend as a tourist (fully equipped with a camera around my neck, short shorts, and high dark socks) at the infamous Sheraton which hosted thousands of visiting political pilgrims that frequented Damascus for their blessings. This was the closest I got to meeting with the Assads.

Just wanted to come clean in case I ever run for a Metni office.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Metn Book

An election is the process through which the people hire a parliamentary representative to work for them. It is imperative in any hiring process to thoroughly evaluate the candidates for the job. A one on one interview with the candidates would be ideal. Some might argue that it would be exhausting for the candidates to answer to thousands of citizens, but isn’t that the job description of the Member of Parliament? Anyways, in a more practical world a town hall meeting style debate should be the minimum required interaction between the candidates and the decision makers, but even that is absent in our democracy since that might be considered a form of accountability which is officially a sin in all 18 religions of Lebanon. This leaves the people only one way of judging the candidates which is by looking at their curricula vitae.

The 2 finalists for the Metn job are in order: Kamil Mansour Khouri M.D. and H.E. Sheikh Amin Sheikh Pierre Gemayyel.

Kamil Mansour Khouri M.D. has a relatively poor CV. He did some time for insulting his sister which will definitely hurt him among the family oriented voters. However his very limited experience does show signs of progress in his career as he was promoted from Prison to Med school. His medical background makes him relatable to the people as more than half the voters in Lebanon are Medical doctors. Kamil Khouri is definitely a candidate with potential. His successful transition from a jailbird to Doctor means he shouldn’t have many difficulties finding a real career eventually.

H.E. Sheikh Amin Sheikh Pierre Gemayyel’s CV dwarfs that of his rival. The Khouri family could be the largest Lebanese family, but the Gemayyels aren’t about quantity but rather quality. H.E. Sheikh Amin is a thoroughbred of unmatched pedigree. He hails from a stud that founded what would become Lebanon’s biggest party for decadess and his sibling was even more successful in a career cut short by his assassination. H.E. Sheikh Amin wasn’t content with what he inherited so he hurried to reform the Kataeb. He managed to clean up the party from the war criminals that hid under its umbrella. He also got rid of the corrupt bureaucrats and then most of its national following. The downsizing allowed the Kataeb to confine all its activities to a couple of streets in Bikfayya thus saving greatly on communication and transportation. A few top quality men. His revolutionary reform was also strongly present in his job as President of the Republic between 1982 and 1988. Lebanon today would be facing the same problems as China and India had it not been for the population growth control measures during Gemayyel’s tenure. H.E. Sheikh Amin has always been ahead of his time. Just wait and see how the Hair will eventually become the styling industry’s hottest look. In 1988, H.E. Sheikh Amin became the last President in the History of Lebanon to respect the constitutional limit on his term. Lebanon then struggled to fill the void left by his departure that it had to depend on 2 local governments and 2 foreign occupations to keep the vast reaches of the nation connected.

A man of this caliber settling for a job as a mere parliamentarian is a once in a lifetime steal, but Gemayyel is no stranger to unorthodox bargains. His unique concept of value made him well liked upon weapons manufacturers. Why pay full price for new helicopters when you can pay the same price for scrap parts?

I think it is clear who I would want to hire, not that it is any of my business. I don’t vote in Metn, I vote for Elie Beik Joseph Beik Skaff. As for Beirut, can someone tell me why Antoine Hamra has some books priced in Sterling Pounds?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

July 12

The war did not start on July 12, 2006. I have memories of war stashed away right next to the memory of my first electronic Spelling game that my parents got me to accelerate my learning of the alphabet in the pre-kindergarten years of the pre-Atari era. The war started in the year 12 b.h.n. (before Hassan Nasrallah) and it hasn’t ended yet. The July, Lebanon’s Second, or Sixth labels are just chapter titles to distinguish the 33 days of open military warfare as opposed to the covert military ops that preceded and continued after that period.

The problem is that Israel in its current version is not compatible with peace. Maybe version 2.0 will have that option programmed into it but until then it’ll be war. I will not start a dissertation on the topic of Israeli society being built by war for war. I don’t have the time or energy for the debate, but it is safe to say that 60 years of trying to force peace have been fruitless; except for a paper peace with an oppressive dictator here and a tea party there. Are the Arabs still begging for their peace initiative to be accepted? Well paper peace has accomplished the conditional release of 4 Jordanian captives, even if it was 12 years after said peace deal, and only so that Hamas and Hezbollah don’t get credit for their release but who’s counting.

The media is going crazy with the “anniversary” so I won’t bore you with more talk about it, but I will state that I have no problem with Lisa Goldman’s report for Israeli TV from Beirut. I shared a few minutes with Lisa last year on a TV debate during the war. Well it wasn’t much of a debate since we agreed on most points since she seemed to be part of that peaceful Israel 2.0 beta. She’s a journalist not an enemy combatant. Of course being a journalist did not vouch for Imad Ghanem who was used by the Israeli army for target practice as he laid on the ground pleading for help (Google for video of this incident). Anyhow spies and collaborators roaming the cities and mountains of the nation are a dime a dozen; a journalist roaming the pubs of Beirut (and she's Canadian to boot) and reporting that Hezbollah googles names a la potential daters is the last of my worries.

Back to the internal Lebanese political scene… well that’s if we can assume Paris is in Lebanon and that a gathering between Mahmoud Berri and Mirna El Murr constitutes a political scene. I am skeptical about any positive outcome coming of the Parisian Dhahieh as I do not see anyone stepping up to fill the void in the leadership of the round table with the absence of Elie Skaff. Although with Ahmad Fatfat out of town the army should be able to finish off what’s left of Fateh El Islam in Naher el Bared. I’m joking of course as there is no evidence of any recent involvement of Fatfat in Fateh El Islam’s activities.

Finally, Ahmad El Assaad launched the Lebanese Option Gathering as a Third option for Shiites in Lebanon. I won’t go into the sectarian aspect of this move as El Assaad is clearly nostalgic to his family’s Dynasty years. Some see that the problems in Lebanon are due to the lack of Shiite or Sunni or Maronite parties; and third, fourth, or seventeenth options would help. Fine, but El Assaad himself already heads at least one other political party: the Kafa’at party. So what does L.O.G. have that Kafa’at didn’t? See only a short sighted simpleton would ask that, El Assaad actually discovered a genial way of making up for the lack of popular support. The next time the sons of Kamel El Assaad and Sabri Hamadeh meet the headline would read “Heads of 37 Parties Gather at the Commodore in Support of Mufti Ali El Amin”, it sure beats “2 Loser Sons of Former feudal lords drown their sorrows at Hotel bar.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Extra, Extra

In a roundup of Beirut dailies we find these curious news items.

First of all, a look at the crime blotter shows that the tally of homicide victims falls short to suicide deaths for the first 6 months of 2007 (51 to 57). So for the paranoid amongst readers, now you have factual evidence that shows you that constantly looking over your shoulder just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The major headline in the sports page of one daily states that 13 Christians and only 2 Muslims make up the board of the Volleyball federation. Of course the news here is not that the Muftis will cry about the Christianization of sports but the fact that there are people that still play Volleyball!! Why isn’t there a Hide and Seek federation? It certainly is more deserving than Volleyball.

Speaking of hiding, the President of the Republic is still successfully guarding his top secret solution to the crisis. Unnamed high ranking sources say it involves red Speedos, Maryam Nour, and seven spices.

Finally, his feudal lordship Elie Beik Skaff suspects arsonists are behind the fire that destroyed his wheat harvest in Ammeeq. Good luck finding the perpetrators. Now if the fire was at the nearby Kefraya which happens to belong to another feudal land owner; the case would’ve been added to the other terrorist attacks and Serge Brammertz would’ve been on it. Maybe that’s why he is flirting with a camp switch.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Race to the Top

You won’t find this advertised in the Lebanese ministry of tourism brochures, but next to the usual attractions of nature, history, and the joie de vivre that only armed militants can possess; Lebanon enjoys rich reserves of deeply entrenched racism. Sadly, the excesses we enjoy cannot be exported in exchange of any material returns to ease the country’s trade deficit. While Lebanese racism is at its best when directed internally towards the “other” less gifted Lebanese factions (that is even constitutionally recognized as it states clearly in article 5 that you are only a first class citizen if you are a male conceived from a Lebanese sperm that belongs to one of the top 3 religious groups represented in Taef), I will just count down the top 5 foreign groups that suffer from racist discrimination in Lebanon.

5. Arab gulfies: Any Lebanese no matter what he or she has or has not accomplished in life thinks he or she can con a rich Arab. According to local logic, the superior Lebanese cab driver can trick the top Kuwaiti brain surgeon based on the latter not wearing Jeans.

4. Eastern European Women: While their western counterparts get treated as goddesses as they are the only race superior to the Phoenicians (plus holy matrimony with them leads to a kickass passport), the Eastern European Women can only possibly be in Lebanon on an entertainer’s visa which translates to belittling treatment from a dude who weighs onions for a living.

3. Syrians: the Macho Lebanese who idolized and worshipped the Syrian Mukhabarat goons, and didn’t dare look up when shining Syrian officers’ flip flops in pre-revolutionary times now try to earn their anti-Syrian stripes by abusing poor Syrian workers. In a way, this thuggish behavior displayed by officials and common folk alike makes the workers feel at home. From daily Sahsouh-packed interrogations, to random detentions when the authorities need terrorist suspects and home burning should be enough to make them the most discriminated group; but they aren’t seasoned enough to compete with the top groups.

2. “Sri Lankans”: Of course a Sri Lankan is anyone who hails from the domestic worker empire the stretches from east Africa to the Asian pacific region. You can purchase a Sri Lankan or more at any slave trader near you. As long as you keep them (the traders) happy you can do anything you want with your purchase and no one will stop you. Lock them up in a burning apartment, hang them as adornment off your balcony, let your teenage boy get his rape techniques down before he joins the local neighborhood militia; it is really up to you and your imagination. Laws don’t apply as their own embassies have approved the trade and will turn a blind eye.

1. Palestinians: All of a sudden, I have nothing to say. It must be the damn Palestinians’ fault, kill them all!