Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Blues

The most useless person in that most useless of entities has given a useless statement to the press today. Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, told reporters after meeting with Lahoud that "(Lahoud) should stay until the end of his mandate, and his term should be respected".
In some way, Syria seem to want Lahoud to stay on not only to keep their tentacles firmly wrapped around the executive branch of government, but also to not let the world see what a mockery they make of all things concerning Lebanon.
If Lahoud is forcibly removed from office before the end of his "official" mandate, it would help negate the farcical amendment to the Constitution that made that travesty possible. It would effectively show that the Syrian regime has been pulling the strings. We all know that its true but in diplo-speak to the rest of the world, Syria can always hide behind bold statements declaring non-involvement in internal Lebanese issues and other such claptrap - remove Lahoud and Syria's sticky little fingers will be shown quite clearly behind the scenes. By rejecting Lahoud's extended mandate, we would be showing the rest of the world that he is a stooge and leave one less place for the Syrian apparatus to feel comfortable in.
Unfortunately, so many of our current leaders were involved in that process that it would take a great show of courage to pursue that....what was I thinking? Ah heck, it's just a theory....

The world's slowest coup d'etat continues downtown and shows no signs of stopping (or speeding up for that matter, which I suppose is a good thing). I went downtown and tried to look at it all with an unbiased, unjaded eye but found it very difficult. I'm all for camping and getting back to nature and even living in a tent for a while for something I believe in but after chatting to people down there, I got the distinct impression that no-one (apart from one or two really scary folk) knew what they were talking about except to repeat verbatim what came out of their bosses' mouths. A herd mentality isn't a pretty thing even on herds. No one knows what their leaders intend to do except "bring down this corrupt, illegal & ineffective government" (their italics). Cool.

The Patriarch alluded to improprieties committed in or around the tented city by high-spirited youths - apparently it's shocking to discover that if you put horny single young people by themselves for any length of time they may eventually end up getting some.

On a happier note, my lovely Chelsea took down Everton in a wonderful final 10 minutes last Sunday. We were 2-1 down and in the 81st minute Frank Lampard hit a screamer from 25 yards that Tim Howard could only scrabble at. Gorgeous AND 2-2.
3 minutes from regular time and Drogba found himself alone and in possession after a nod on from Shevchenko. He chested the ball, glanced around, saw no one to pass to and from 30 yards thrashed the ball up, over and behind the goalkeeper. 3-2 and that's why we're champions! I also thought I couldn't be happier until I watched Man Ure defeated by West Ham right after that.....oh, happy days.

So Happy Holidays everyone and cheer up because as always, next year will be better!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I really can't remember being so shocked by an assassination......
but I can remember saying the exact same thing about Bashir Gemayel, Rene Moawad, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir and Rafic Hariri and countless other acts of violence and terror in this country.
All these assassinations just become part of our social fabric, as no doubt this latest one will - none of them have ever been properly investigated let alone solved yet we still carry on as usual and what difference has it made to us at the end of the day? Point fingers all you like, construct conspiracy theories until you run out of permits, tear down, spit on and burn as many posters as you please and have demonstrations and marches and speeches from here to eternity because it won't change a thing.

That is why I ask does it really matter who killed Pierre Gemayel?

All we are going to get are more slogans and more faces to add to the posters for the next funeral.

We have all been outraged and disgusted and vowed to get our country back on its feet but the sorry truth is that nothing has changed. Nothing has changed since we handed the country over, under great fanfare, to Siniora et al.
It certainly seems that nothing is going to change in the near future no matter who gets to run it when our leadership pool contains nothing but war criminals, thugs, small-minded bureaucrats, the God-complexed and worst of all, the weak, the unprepared and the incompetent (and sometimes a fizzy combination of all).
Who is going to lead us? Who is going to lead all of us? I can see no leaders capable of anything but navel-gazing, no one able or willing to bridge the divide and doing nothing but drawing lines in the sand. Sadly, nobody is looking at a bigger picture.

It's a sad state of affairs. From this angle (and to paraphrase the vernacular), it looks as though we will always be in the sewer, only the depth may vary.

The Constitution itself, a seemingly collapsible and expandable document, has been used to attack and defend all sides. Even after reading it, I am still no clearer as to who has the best legal expert but I would appreciate an intelligent explanation.

At least the title race between Man Ure and my lovely Chelsea has the potential for some change, so if you don't mind I'll be turning my TV over to the sports channels.

Friday, August 18, 2006

And The Beat Goes On

Walid Jumblatt came across as quite erudite and logical in his speech earlier today, two qualities I have been unable to credit him with in the past. He pointed out most of the things that many Lebanese bloggers have been saying for a while, namely that Syria and Iran have been behind all the troubles, waging proxy wars against Israel and the US - Iran for its nuclear ambitions and Syria because Assad wants to deflect attention away from his involvement of the Hariri assassination.
He also called for the integration into the army of Hezbollah fighters and for the respect of the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel. I had to look that one up.

President Emile Lahoud, who has Assad's arm so far up his backside that it's difficult to tell where he begins and Syria ends, stated unequivocally that Hezbollah should not disarm, thereby rendering the highest post in the land about as relevant as lips on a chicken. Way to gauge public opinion, dude.

The army has started its deployment to the south, taking over key positions handed over to the UNIFIL by Israel. The deployment itself is a great move, although the army's mission there is still hazy as they have no clear mandate as of yet. Even the French are getting a little jittery about sending troops in with no clearly defined mission, which, considering their history with Hezbollah, is not surprising.

The government is still messing around with words as Saniora has changed his tack towards Hezbollah's weapons.
In earlier speeches he stated: "There shall be no other weapons in the south of Lebanon except those of the Lebanese Army."
That has now been amended to "no other apparent weapons." Apparently, Hezbollah get to keep theirs albeit under their jackets.

Saad Hariri, for his part, lashed out at Assad saying that Syria is trying to "steal Lebanon's victory." Mr. Hariri, I don't know if you were here for the fireworks but if that is your idea of a victory, then I would suggest that next time you let Syria have it.

MEA, the Lebanese flag carrier, along with Royal Jordanian landed their first commercial flights today at Beirut International Airport since the war began. It was apparently negotiated through Prime Minister Saniora's contacts but for the time being only flights to and from Amman are allowed. No word as to why this is but Jordan, along with Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel and enjoys full diplomatic relations.
MEA chairman, Mohammad Hout said that any passengers turning up for the flight would travel to Beirut for free as well as not pay for the return leg.
No word on how many people turned up.

So far, so good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

His Master's Voice

Now Syria has added its thoughts to the Lebanese question, I'm sure we all feel much better. The beautifully choreographed show that was Assad's speech was reminiscent of good old pre-1989 Soviet politburo speeches - all show and no substance. He did, however, plant the seed in the masses' minds that the Lebanese government's attempts to disarm Hezbollah will lead to civil war, subtly trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy - more mind games from the masters. All that's needed is another speech by Midgeto the mad Iranian for a hateful hat trick.

At least the other idiots are still fairly quiet in Lebanon.....Aoun, Geagea, Gemayel et al. Although not a fan of his in any way, I am looking forward to Jumblatt's speech tomorrow even if it turns out to merely be comic relief.
"We will not surrender to Assad's & Nasrallah's conditions" is just a great title for a speech - a little long but there can be no wondering about the content. He seems to have become the government's pit bull, saying the things everyone wants to but diplomatically can't. Either way, it couldn't be more damaging than Nasrallah's or Assad's. And you know he'll certainly put a lot more flair into it.

So where do we go from here? What's the next step? Hezbollah has said that it would not leave the area south of the Litani river and that the issue of its arms is non-negotiable. The deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south could, if Hezbollah follows Syrian wishes to play on sectarianism, lead to if not civil war then to a split in the army, many soldiers possibly choosing to side with Hezbollah rather than be forced into a situation where they may have to engage their compatriots. A division in the army along sectarian lines is not something new and would play right into the hands of Syria.

Iran wants nothing out of Hezbollah except to use them as a proxy army in their ongoing nuclear ambitions. The Hezbollah threat will always keep Israel on the hook and under threat and by extension, Dubya, because of his paranoia of seeing terrorists everywhere - much like Senator McCarthy's seeing "Communists under the bed". So far, using Hezbollah to fight Israel hasn't brought any international repercussions to Tehran although that could possibly change. Osirak anyone?

I cannot see our government demanding that Hezbollah disarm but a strongly-worded statement of intent needs to be issued - the outline and mechanics can be worked out later. Bring the long-neglected Shia in the south back into the fold and under our government's care.
If we shout loud enough about it, Syria could be forced into making an ours-or-theirs decision on the Shebaa farms, then we could demand an Israeli withdrawal and in turn remove all of Hezbollah's stated "raisons d'être". The key is in removing all of the obstacles as fast as Hezbollah can think them up.

And on that very same day, reports will emerge that Hell has frozen over.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Battle Begins

Hezbollah is on the attack. After it's self-proclaimed "victory" against Israel, it's PR machine is in high gear and it has again pre-empted the government by promising to shelter the homeless and rebuild their homes. Unfortunately, that is the best part of what came out of Nasrallah's mouth in this evening's speech - the rest of it was his subtle stirring up of sectarianism, declaring (in not so many words) that Hezbollah will never disarm and that the state is useless and weak and cannot protect its people. He even went so far as to issue thinly-veiled threats to all who dare oppose him. Proof that attack is the best form of defense.

All those who were pro-Hezbollah remain so, perhaps even more now that it has promised to rehouse them and feed them. Those who were against Hezbollah are now being subjected to threats and intimidation to stop them trying to disarm the militia, to delay any attempt to rid the country of this "state within a state".

Hezbollah sees that it is going to come under strong internal pressure to disarm and disavow any more military action. At least, that is the hope, although I'm prepared for the current government to show us it still has a yellow stripe down its back. At this juncture, national dialogue is useless and bound to fail as it did even when there was no war. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him and if we don't do it now, we're simply sending the message that we will allow Hezbollah to do whatever Iran and Syria want them to. As a governmental policy, appeasement has historically been proven to invite more aggression. Now is the time to stand firm and halt this insidious attack on what is left of Lebanon.

The country's real battle started today, the moment that unbelievable speech ended.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Day Before

As if plumbing new depths of incompetence, the Lebanese Cabinet has cancelled its meeting over disagreements over Hezbollah's disarmament and the Lebanese Army deployment in the south, this after "unanimously" accepting the UNSCR 1701. Moral fortitude and courage have been carried out the back door on a gurney yet again although not unexpectedly.

Hezbollah is again overstepping its boundaries with the Lebanese government, once again holding the nation hostage and Israel continues its massive bombardment even as I write this. With just over 12 hours to go before the ceasefire, both sides seem to be getting back to their old tricks - Hezbollah using the pressure that the Lebanese government is under to force things their way and Israel ratcheting up its tally of war crimes.

A Pyrrhic victory for all.

Weekend Warriors

It now seems that the mythical ceasefire is set to come into effect on Monday morning. Meanwhile, Israel is massing its troops in southern Lebanon for the last few hours it has left to kill, maim and destroy. Only hours left to commit a few more war crimes under the guise of national security. (I don't want to hear from idiots saying they are not war crimes - bombing Red Cross ambulances, aid trucks, a few convoys of civilians trying to get to safety and a building or ten packed with civilians are all war crimes, go look it up.)
Only hours left for them to get their demented jollies.

If the whole tragedy of the past month is going to end like this, with Hezbollah agreeing to move further north towards Beirut and allowing the Lebanese army to deploy across the whole of the south, what was it all for? What was gained? If they were so concerned about Lebanon and the Lebanese and about abiding by the Lebanese government's wishes, why didn't they do it when UNSCR 1559 was first floated?
What tremendous benefits did we gain by Hezbollah dragging us, kicking and screaming, into this unnecessary and particularly violent conflict? What do all the apologists for Hezbollah have to say?
Sovereignty? Yes, thanks a lot, now we have half the Israeli army encamped in half the country.

Honour? Again, kudos....we have half the Israeli army.....well, you know.

Dignity? I'm sure everyone who lost loved ones, homes and businesses will be honoured to know that at least they did so with dignity.

Freedom from oppression? Oh, give me a break.

We sure taught them Israelis a lesson or two.

Now comes more difficulty. What of our government and Hezbollah's part in it? Who can take the government seriously (as if that was the case before) after all this?
Beirut has become synonymous once again with violence, death and destruction. Fifteen years of rebuilding and rebranding our image abroad has been pointless. Fifteen years of rebuilding an economy have been worthless. Almost a generation spent trying to make use of Lebanon's manpower and brainpower has been an exercise in futility. And we as a nation have gained absolutely nothing except more dead citizens, more piles of rubble and scorn for letting Hezbollah run amok.

Pundits say that the unanimous government decision to accept the resolution was done for the sake of political unity. We've never had it before, why should it matter now? How about accepting it because this madness needs to end, to hell with your "political unity".
Maybe we could get a UN resolution passed that would give us a government that knows what it's doing, how to do it and the cojones to do it.

Either way, the resolution is flawed. It gives Israel the right to attack whenever they deem it's in the interests of national security (the interpretation of national security is left up to them) and Hezbollah said it would keep on fighting until the last Israeli leaves Lebanese territory (or maybe until we have no territory left). Back to the whole Shebaa Farms debacle, then?

More madness in England. How these terrorists (mostly British-born of Pakistani descent) must hate the terrible hardships involved in living there, although I can understand it - cold weather, rain, social security, national health (ok, not the best system in the world but it exists), freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of worship.
It could drive anyone to strike out at the injustice of it all....if they were to actually live in the kind of regime they advocate, they would find that none of the above would exist there. Maybe that proves the inherent flaw in real democracies, that precisely because of those freedoms dissent is allowed and murderers can get away with planning atrocities.

The lawyer representing a couple of the would-be murderers went on the news to decry how badly her clients were being treated in prison. Apparently, they weren't given anything to eat or drink for 23 hours and that she had to send them warm clothing as they were cold.
I'll bet not half as cold as all those passengers would have been had they succeeded in their attacks.

Worst thing is that if they turned their ingenuity in committing murder towards a cure for AIDS or cancer, they'd probably find it.

On a more personal note, my lovely Chelsea play their first serious game of the season against LiverPoo on Sunday for the Community Shield.
2-0 for Chelsea
And here's me without their new strip.

Be safe.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Actions Not Words

The lemon that is the ill-conceived UN resolution aimed at ending the war has gone back to the garage for some tinkering and souping-up. A bunch of smug, self-satisfied waddling Arab Foreign Ministers decided that maybe they should get involved at this point and took a communal trip to New York to state their case - which, a month after the war started, is too little, too late.

Fundamentally, the resolution offers no strong and decisive action - it merely asks that Hezbollah stop all attacks and that Israel stop all "offensive" actions. So, taken to an extreme, Israel could theoretically rebrand all its aggressions as "defensive" actions and carry on business as usual.

The one thing that sticks in my throat about the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the south is that if Hezbollah continue their attacks after that, the IDF will have a legitimate target in the Lebanese state. As bad as things are now they could swiftly become so much worse. Hezbollah, although in supposed agreement with the decision to deploy the Army, is not reknowned for doing the honourable thing or for its restraint and Israel has proved over and over again that it doesn't even know what the word means.
So while the rest of the world is pussyfooting around with a piece of paper and making a show of decrying the terrible violence and loss of life, things here on the ground remain pretty much the same - more civilians dead, more of the country laid waste to.

Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah's voicing of the "settling of accounts" to take place after this war is over will have grim repercussions. As if more proof were needed of the direction we are headed in.

In an interview with Al Jazeera at the beginning of the war he said: ‘‘If we succeed in achieving the victory . . . we will never forget all those who supported us at this stage. . . . As for those who sinned against us . . . those who made mistakes, those who let us down and those who conspired against us . . . this will be left for a day to settle accounts. We might be tolerant with them, and we might not.’’

After living 30 years under the Syrian thumb(-screws), Lebanon and most of its diverse communities won't go back to living under more oppression. After the civil war ended, every community gave up its weapons as a sign of good faith. Everyone, that is, except Hezbollah.

Syria allowed them to keep their weapons and even gave bigger and better ones, ostensibly for the "resistance" but more likely as a way to keep themselves relevant in the rapidly changing political landscape.

If Hezbollah keep up the excellent job they're doing in screwing the country, both militarily and politically, and then go on to threaten everyone who wasn't waving their flag during this unilateral extinguishing of the nation, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if other communities started to pick up guns. You know, just in case.
Then, any threats perceived or real, will be dealt with on a whole new level - one where what is happening today actually makes sense.

It reminds me of some graffiti painted on a wall on the approach to the old Beirut Airport during the early 80's which I shall paraphrase:

"Would the last person to leave please turn out the lights."

Doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Monday, August 07, 2006

America's True Colours

Good article in today's issue of Britain's "The Independent" newspaper.

This draft shows who is running America's policy... Israel

By Robert Fisk

08/07/06 "
The Independent" -- -- So the great and the good on the East River laboured at the United Nations Security Council - and brought forth a lemon. You could almost hear the Lebanese groan at this draft resolution a document of such bias and mendacity that a close Lebanese friend read carefully through it yesterday, cursed and uttered the immortal question: "Don't these bastards learn anything from history?"

And there it all was again, the warmed-up peace proposals of Israel's 1982 invasion, full of buffer zones and disarmament and "strict respect by all parties" - a rousing chortle here, no doubt, from Hizbollah members - and the need for Lebanese sovereignty. It didn't even demand the withdrawal of Israeli forces, a point that Walid Moallem, Syria's Foreign Minister - and the man the Americans will eventually have to negotiate with - seized upon with more than alacrity. It was a dead UN resolution without a total Israeli retreat, he said on a strategic trip to Beirut.

A close analysis of the American-French draft - the fingerprints of John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, were almost smudging the paragraphs - showed just who is running Washington's Middle East policy: Israel. And one wondered how even Tony Blair would want to associate himself with this nonsense. It made no reference to the obscenely disproportionate violence employed by Israel - just a sleek reference to "hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides" - and it made only passing reference to Hizbollah's demand that it would only release the two Israeli soldiers it captured on 12 July in return for Lebanese and other Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.

The Security Council said it was "mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging the efforts aimed at settling the issue [sic] of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel". I bet Hizbollah were impressed by the "mindful" bit, not to mention the "sensitivity" and the soft, slippery word "settle" - an issue which can be "settled" in maybe 20 years' time. Then came the real coup de grâce. A demand for the "total cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks" and the "immediate cessation" by Israel of "all offensive military operations". Bit of a problem there, as Hizbollah spotted at once. They have to lay down their arms.

Had the council demanded an immediate resolution on the future of the Shebaa farms, the Israeli-occupied territory which once belonged to mandate Lebanon - and for whose "liberation" the Hizbollah have fought - the whole fandango might have stood a chance. After all, Shebaa is the only raison d'être that the Hizbollah can produce for continuing their reckless, ruthless, illegal war across the UN blue line in southern Lebanon. But the UN document wished only to see a delineation of Lebanon's borders "including in the Shebaa farms area". There was even a wonderful paragraph - Number 9 for aficionados of UN bumf - which "calls on all parties to co-operate ... with the Security Council". So the Hizbollah are to co-operate, are they, with the austere diplomats of this august and wise body? Isn't that exalting a guerrilla army a little bit more upmarket than it deserves?

No one was fooled and few disagreed with Syria's Walid Moallem when he said the UN's draft resolution was "a recipe for continuing the war". As both the Hizbollah and the Israelis did yesterday, the former killing 13 Israelis and the latter bombing houses in Ansar - once an Israeli POW camp - which destroyed five more Lebanese civilian lives. Mohamed Fneish, a Hizbollah government minister - who scarcely represents all Lebanese but talks as if he does - thundered away about how "we" [presumably the Hizbollah, rather than the Lebanese] will abide by it [the resolution] on condition that no Israeli soldiers remains inside Lebanese land."

There were more Israeli air attacks on Beirut's southern suburbs yesterday - though heaven knows what is left there to destroy - ensuring that even more Shia Muslim civilians will remain refugees. Fearful that the Israelis will bomb their trucks and claim they were carrying missiles, the garbage collectors of this city have abandoned their vehicles and the familiar 1982 stench of burning rubbish now drifts through the evening streets. Petrol is now so scarce that a tank-full yesterday cost £250.

About the only gift to Lebanon in the UN resolution was the expressed need to provide the UN with remaining Israeli maps of landmines in Lebanon. But Israel has again dropped lethal ordnance all over southern Lebanon. Oh yes, and as usual, the UN draft on these ambitious, hopelessly conceived ideas "decides to remain actively seized of the matter". You bet it does. And so, as they say, the war goes on.

What the UN wants...

* A full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

* Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:

* Strict respect by all parties for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Israel and Lebanon;

* Full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;

* Delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa farms area;

* Security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces, and of UN-mandated international forces;

* Full implementation of the relevant provisions ... that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon;

* Deployment of an international force in Lebanon;

* The Secretary General to develop, in liaison with key international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions ... and to present those proposals to the Security Council within 30 days;

* The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), upon cessation of hostilities, to monitor its implementation and extend assistance to ensure humanitarian access to civilians and the safe return of displaced persons;

* The government of Lebanon to ensure arms or related material are not imported into Lebanon without its consent and requests UNIFIL, conditions permitting, to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;

* The Secretary-General to report to the Council within one week on the implementation and provide any relevant information in light of the Council's intention to adopt a further resolution.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Not Worth The Paper

The UN draft resolution over the hostilities in Lebanon , after being touted as a step to end the war, turned out to be not much at all. The original draft couldn't be worked out quietly either, both the US and France arguing over the wording of it, although I'm pretty sure that if France weren't involved it would have been a much flimsier piece.

Lebanon's knee-jerk reaction was to oppose the document as it didn't like the final wording, although this government is so desperate to show that it isn't as ineffective and powerless as it seems that it would have objected to the wording of a document blaming Israel for war crimes.

The Lebanese government sent an amended text to Acting Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri at the UN. Deserved title, as he is acting as though he has a clue.

The document basically says "do what we tell you, when we tell you, how we tell you.....oh, and Israel's allowed to attack you under any pretence." Anyone thinking that the US would ever put its hand to creating a resolution that would make Israel do anything is living the fantasy, especially with mid-term elections coming up. Gotta keep the Jewish vote happy as well and not forget the fundamentalist Christians (who are just as scary as any fundamentalists).

You say you want a resolution
Well you know
We just want to change the words
You tell me that it's devolution
There you go
We all want to change the words
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know you can count me in

Don't you know it's never gonna be alright
Alright, alright

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well we pretend
We're doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don't you know it's never gonna be alright
Alright, alright....
(profoundest sympathies to Lennon/McCartney for having their song murdered)

More murderous Israeli strikes today, more vicious Hezbollah rockets lobbed into Israel and still no end in sight. At least nothing has changed, something has to be said for consistency.....that, of course, also includes the lack of a heartbeat in the Lebanese government.

I haven't seen anyone high-ranking out and about giving hope and encouragement to the people. No-one has even bothered for a photo-op, maybe going to visit refugees in schools at least somewhere as cosy as Achrafieh. Where's the leadership? Where are the people we elected to look after us?

If anything good comes out of this, it should be that all the MP's get stripped of their positions. A vote of no confidence would go down nicely. Put in some people who have a backbone that is capable of more than (barely) keeping them upright. Say the things that have to be said instead of wrapping yourself in the cotton wool of diplo-speak, covering your ass and any other exposed areas.
Are they worried about being arrested for "actions pernicious or detrimental to the State"? If Lahoud wasn't, I don't think they could be.

If you don't have the courage of at least your convictions, you're in the wrong job.
Hang on, that last sentence was a little misleading - unfortunately, their convictions only run as far as saying yes to everyone while simultaneously emptying the national coffers into their pockets.

It's a tricky job but someone's got to do it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cry Havoc

I've had enough of reading about and hearing and seeing this blind fervour with which people are supporting Hezbollah. I'm sick and tired of the same attitudes of people saying that poor, blameless Israel (a nation founded by people who were declared terrorists by the powers at the time) is just protecting herself from the aggression of the mighty military machine that is Hezbollah.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with our Lebanese government doing nothing and spouting inanities (hat tip Josey Wales). Mark Twain once said "It is better to keep quiet and let people think you are an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt."

Hezbollah dragged us into this mess. The insanity of poking the Middle East's sleeping, rabid dog is beyond me, as is the carnage inflicted by Israel (grrrr). Iran and Syria don't care in the slightest about what happens to Lebanon, about what their proxy war is doing to the whole region and the US would willingly drop Lebanon in favour of Israel. All that guff about how they must protect our "fledgling democracy" is diplo-speak, unintelligible and ultimately hollow.

How can we not see that we are now paying the price for our political disunity, corruption and lethargy? Where is the government now? Who is speaking on our behalf? Hezbollah certainly is whether we want them to or not. All this blind banner waving and chanting of death to everyone who aren't like us is doing nothing. Hezbollah says that they are fighting on behalf of all Lebanese.....well they're not because I, for one, don't want them to. Put a strengthened Lebanese army in charge in the south and there will never be cross-border raids or attacks in either direction.

Whether we like it or not, Israel is here to stay. That is the reality. I don't care about Israel's right to exist because it is not the issue here - what is at stake is whether we will be able to continue to exist.
Hezbollah, ultimately, does not have the interests of an entire nation at heart - if they did, we wouldn't be in the position we are in.

The Lebanese government has spent far too long filling the pockets of its various members. Politicians here don't become politicians out of a love of country anymore. They take that path through nepotism, feudal requirements, financial gain or just a base attraction to power. How nice to be driven everywhere in a late model bulletproof car followed by a jeepload of bodyguards looking suitably menacing. If you're really cool, you could even get a couple of police outriders to announce your arrival, sirens blaring and lights flashing. Must do wonders for the ego and make you actually believe that you're important.

Unfortunately for them, with great power comes great responsibility. You must do service to the country before anything. It is up to the elected government to make the whole population feel Lebanese first and foremost, not to pander to age-old sectarian whims and demands.
Someone in charge has to stand up and defend the country. Why was 60% of the population not consulted through their representatives before we went to war?
No to Hezbollah staying armed. No to war. No to being bullied internally or externally.

If that can't happen, we can hardly call ourselves a democracy.

"Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:

And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth

With carrion men, groaning for burial."

William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"

You Take The High Road & I'll Take The Low Road

The IAF has this morning taken out bridges linking Jounieh to the north. Jounieh is a Christian town about 30 kms to the north of Beirut. I'm not quite sure why they have done this as access can still be had by taking the coastal road although this is a lot more time consuming. Those roads remained untouched.

I can only imagine that they are trying a more psychological approach perhaps in an effort to get the Christian population, largely physically untouched by the bombings, to become more vocal against Hezbollah. This, of course, is only conjecture.

The strikes are becoming more & more pointless it seems. Although I'm no military strategist, taking out bridges and roads in a predominantly Christian area, with no Hezbollah areas or strongholds nearby smacks of desperation. Maybe some of the bombs have a sell-by date. Are fighters coming in through these roads to reach Beirut? Dunno, but there are still roads that could do the job just as well. Or maybe they are trying to push a little more business towards Maameltein, our famed fleshpot, lying on the coastal road below Jounieh.

More blah-blah from the Americans about getting a ceasefire from the UN.
"We're certainly getting close.", said Condoleezza Rice.

Well then, I feel much better now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Darkness At The End Of The Tunnel

A couple of years before the inception of the Jewish state, the British were controlling Palestine under a mandate. Their headquarters were in the King David hotel in Jerusalem. On July 22nd, 1946 the wing of the hotel housing the British Secretariat was demolished by 6 bombs placed there by a militant Zionist organization, Irgun. The attack was denounced by the British government and mainstream Jewish organizations as "a terrorist attack" and Irgun and Haganah (the group Irgun splintered from) were outlawed as terrorist organizations.

The leaders of these groups, Menachem Begin and David Ben-Gurion, went on to become 2 of Israel's most revered Prime Ministers and when the Jewish State was created in 1948, the members of these groups became the core of Israel's national army.

Ironic isn't it? One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

The devastation being visited upon Lebanon is nothing short of biblical. I was here in '82 when the Israelis came all the way to Beirut and I was here during the worst times of the civil war and I have never seen such destruction and death. The disproportionate retaliation by the IDF surely steps outside the limits of any rules of engagement. But for all their talk of securing their national safety, the Israelis seem to have underestimated Hezbollah.

I disagree with what Hezbollah stands for and with what it did to start this. I stand against their gangster tactics with the Lebanese government and their holding hostage of the entire country, but I am impressed that they have kept the mighty Israeli army at bay and even sent shivers down their spines. The Israeli military seems to view all Arabs as second-class humans. They like to point to Israeli Arabs as evidence against this but they only tolerate them inside their borders because they can control them better there.

The IDF will never beat Hezbollah, not from the air and not from the ground, and even their staunchest ally, the USA, is starting to think twice about what they have got themselves into. Israel knows this too. By doing what they are doing, the way they are doing it, they are only perpetuating (if not fermenting) the hatred of all Arabs towards them. You want a war, then fine, have your war but keep the innocents away from it - and I'm talking about both sides here.

I hope I'm just passing through a phase of pessimism. I've been reading a lot of other blogs and just reeling from some of the attitudes, bigotry and sheer ignorance in the comments sections.

MacDara has gone home to Ireland, sent back by the company he works for to wait for better times. Yet upon arriving home, the first thing he did was organize a protest.

Lebanon Profile has left as well. It is such a shame that the country is losing people like him, moderate, intelligent, educated and clear-thinking. But what have they got left to stay for?

Even Jamal has shifted his unique turn of phrase and point of view towards the war.

The only way out of this is through diplomacy and negotiation but in the end, the only loser will be Lebanon whatever the outcome. Our country has been bombed backwards some 20 years in terms of infrastructure and economy.
Hezbollah will only become stronger after this and make Lebanon an even worse place to live than it is at this very moment. Non-Shia's will find it less and less to their liking and the already weak government won't have much of a say in it. Moderates who just want to live their lives peacefully and prosperously will be outvoiced and outmuscled by militancy and the wonderful Beirut of last summer won't be seen again.
No, instead we'll be starting out in the era the Israelis have bombed us to and where Hezbollah wants us to be - the Stone Age.

Be safe.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Place In The Sun

I see nothing much has changed - someone is trying to kill someone, everybody is slagging off everybody and nothing has moved forward in our fair land. You'd think that taking a little time off to gain some perspective would actually, well, let you gain some perspective....unfortunately, the conclusion is that the view is the same wherever you're sitting, like some gigantic stadium where all the seats are the cheap seats, the game is pointless and the halftime show is crap.

The only good view has been my lovely Chelsea's return to form with a stunning display of class against West Ham. We won 4-1 when we started 1-0 down and only 10 men. Great stuff, makes me proud to be Blue. An even better view will be from Stamford Bridge next Monday when I shall be attending our home game against Everton, Tony Soprano's team - I shall even buy extra phone cards to be able to let him join in the fun and receive his fair share of abuse, live. Never let it be said that I'm not fair.
So if you want anything from London, you'd better let me know soon.

Expression of the week has to be "damn papists!". It is so fitting for any situation. Try it.
Last week's was "I'm losing the will to live" and it got plenty of use. Seriously, think about what's going on in this country and an almost genetically coded verbal reaction is that phrase.

Italy's elections seem to have given Berlusconi (damn papist!) the boot. Prodi (damn papist!) has claimed victory, a statement that was pooh-poohed by the Berlusconi camp. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out what with Berlusconi the flamboyant billionaire (still fending off allegations of corruption and conflict of interest) owning media outlets, banks and telecom companies fighting the lacklustre but accomplished Prodi, an ex-Prime Minister and former president of the EC.
It's almost tones of home.

Summer's just around the corner, it's getting warmer and some people are already going to the beach. In that spirit, here's what you can aspire to - such dedication.
Somebody please tell me that it's been doctored.

Enjoy yours.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Quicky

I'm actually happy to see the lack of entente, of dialogue and consensus because it validates all the negative feelings I harbour towards every single politician. There is not a single voice working for a united Lebanon. Not one.
Most of them are working hard for their pockets, some for outside influences, others out of sheer vanity but you won't find one solitary politico who really believes in any of their own slogans.
They take over downtown for a day, reducing the city centre to a no man's land and don't even bother to pretend to want to compensate all the cafes and restaurants who would normally be overflowing....all this while screaming about the importance of revitalizing the economy.
The worst thing is that I wouldn't care one tiny little bit if at the very least they did something constructive and concrete with all the confidence and hope they strangled out of the population. It's all smiles and handshakes and photo ops going in and then I imagine they just leave through another exit for all the good it's doing.
Their apathy is amplifying all of their shortcomings.

Weather's hot.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cheap Thrills

Can't say there has really been that much to post about in the last week or so. Well, personal stuff but that interests only me. On the local front, I seem to have lost interest in any headline or supposed news story - maybe it's just that there is absolutely nothing happening or I'm feeling thoroughly marginalized by the Olympian level of inertia practiced by the ruling class of our fair state.
On the resumption of our supercharged national dialogue , I guess the proper way to deal with problems is to pretend they don't exist and maybe they'll just go away - mind you, that's the way I would deal with things.....if I was 3 or mentally retarded, but I shouldn't cast aspersions.

Hezbollah says that the economy and a "sound electoral law" should also be added to the national dialogue. My own astute analysis of this would be "duh!" but I wouldn't trust Hezbollah to dialogue my lunch order.

General Michel Aoun has been uncharacteristically quiet these days but I assume he's busy counting the pesos unwittingly handed over to him by the orangeshirts through various dubious schemes. Playing on the loyalty of your partisans is fine if you're not a political group trying to portray some semblance of impartiality and transparency. For example, a Chelsea petrol card I would buy - but I would rather walk home than apply for an orange one.
*UPDATE*....Michel Aoun has in fact been very his latest Jumblattian outburst he's railed against all the "Rustom Ghazaleh's" at the conference table. Apparently, he's incensed that the Future Movement is spearheading a propaganda campaign aimed at denying him the presidency.

Hariri instills nothing but confidence in me as he stays out of the country unless his presence is absolutely required. Funny, I would have thought that being the figurehead of the country's leading political party would have required your presence, but ask me a question about music instead.
Rockets found near his home in Koraytem on Monday were not primed to fire but said to have "Hebrew inscriptions" on them.
Well, that proves it. He shouldn't be here, right?

Saniora's words of wisdom for the week have been that Brazil "may" extradite Rana Koleilat. Pfft.

Jumblatt. Who has he alienated this week?

Geagea is rapidly becoming just a mouthpiece for almost anyone. Mind you, just being noticed again must be keeping that Mona Lisa-esque inscrutable grin on his face.

I can't listen to Berri anyway because his arrogance makes me so damn angry & the less said about Lahoud, the better. And because I try to be fair, have I left anyone out?

I'm still reeling from the shock of all the sporting defeats (ah, the agony of defeat) of the past week.

Both the England rugby team and my lovely Chelsea were on the wrong end of stunning victories. England's pathetic 6 Nation's campaign was brought to a blundering conclusion on Saturday when Ireland rightfully took the Tri-Nations Cup by comprehensively beating all of the other British Isles nations. The real pain is the fact that an average French team took the 6 Nations title. Ouch.

My lovely Chelsea inexplicably lost 1-0 to West London neighbours Fulham who are currently languishing in 14th position compared to our top spot. But I would like to assure you all that being an England fan in all things means I am no stranger to disappointment and thankfully, the same applies to my being a long-term Chelsea fan. Still.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate MacDara (the bringer of craic...who knew he had a sense of humour and no stage fright?) and the team for organizing the great St. Patrick's bash last Saturday in the Bristol hotel. The only failure of the evening was the decision to have a screen installed in the ante-room for the pre-prandial rugby, in which Ireland beat England. This game was also watched by 3 (very) quiet England supporters. Shhh, we know who we are. That is what a Bristol gathering should be about.
Damn the luck of the Irish.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Is Everyone Here?

Monday is finally here. I've been waiting impatiently all weekend in the throes of excitement just to see what's going to happen to the National Dialogue today. After cutting it short and blaming everything on the mercurial Walid Jumblatt (unreasonable, unpredictable and unbalanced are other traits attributed to him but you have to make up your own mind), the national leaders reconvene to hammer out an agreement over the most crucial issues facing our country today.

My interest in it, though, remains firmly in the area of vocabulary.
If, to quote Speaker Nabih Berri, "failure is not an option", then what word or expression could be used if the whole farce is a complete and utter waste of time? My own personal favourite is "What meeting?"
Suggestions are more than welcome.

Can we blame Israel? Can we blame the CIA or the Mukhabarat? Or will we do what we do best and have a Mexican standoff with fingerpointing?

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was one of mixed blessings, of joy and bitterness, of great happiness and utter abjection. The weather was extraordinary with a bit of a chill in the air but blindingly blue skies.
On Saturday, my lovely Chelsea took a 2-1 win against Spurs, with Gallas cracking in a superb strike with seconds left to play. The Barcelona games are becoming a distant memory and hurt much less now that we are back on track for the Premiership.
Sunday, in contrast, was painful. Not only did England lose against France in the 6 Nations tournament, but were utterly thrashed by a so-so French team. I'm still hurting so be gentle.

Huge thanks to MacDara who kept his word (and commiserations for the Irish Blog Awards) - during the Scotland-Ireland match Mac asked me who I was supporting and I told him that I was applauding both teams (friends on both sides of that one). In a grand gesture, Mac then said he wouldn't applaud the French on Sunday. He obviously didn't applaud England, but I thought his abstention from clapping the Frogs was a nice touch and much appreciated because everybody knows that there is nothing worse than a smug Frenchman. Again.


Thursday, March 09, 2006


What foul weather today. It’s absolutely pouring down – cold, wet, windy and miserable. I absolutely love it!!! I can’t understand people who just want sunshine all the time. I like a bit of weather in my life, although maybe this qualifies me as depressive. Here in this part of the happy-go-lucky Middle East, we’re blessed by being the only country in the environs without a desert and as such, we’ve got weather. We’ve got green in a big way, we’ve got the Med, we’ve got mountains with some pretty fine skiing, we’ve got rivers, we’ve got forests. Of course, we also have some bad pollution – a fine brown haze that hangs over the horizon every evening. We also have a garbage problem, not just your basic ‘throw it out the window’ mentality but huge dumps that break off into the sea with the regularity of an iceberg. Hell, our garbage has even floated to Turkey!!

I hate to harp on about things as basic as this when we do have so many other problems that need addressing. I’m not an environmentalist, nor an aging hippy who believes in communal living nor am I even a damn lefty pinko, but I do believe that attitudes need to change at a grass roots level if we’re ever to progress. There is no sense of greater community, a civic sense that doesn’t allow you to throw your trash out of your car window or into the gutters – it stops you from burning stop lights just because you think you have much more important places to go than anyone else. It allows you to respect others around you and tempers your ‘me first’ mentality. It may make you stop for a car trying to merge without playing chicken at every street corner. It may even one day allow you to form a queue, although probably not in my lifetime.
And you thought you had a bad drive to work this morning.

On to the Champion’s League again. Shock, horror!!! Reigning champions LiverPoo were knocked out at Anfield by Benfica by an aggregate score of 3-0. The only British team left in the tournament is Arse-nal. My philosophy is always to back the British teams in Europe if my lovely Chelsea are out, but this is Arse-nal and I would rather show support for a French team than support Arse-nal (and believe me, that is a grand statement) – wait a minute, Arse-nal is a French team! Not a single drop of British blood in the entire squad that beat Real Madrid 1-0 a couple of weeks ago and held on to a 0-0 draw yesterday to go through.
Double the reason to hate them.
Hola Barcelona! Olé!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Goodnights (And Goodbyes) Of The Round Table

I could be wrong but I always thought that the people who ended up sitting at a round table discussing national unity would be leaders. Leaders, as in people who can and do make decisions. Working forward from that assumption, why would the participants in the "Lebanese National Dialogue" need to, in Speaker Nabih Berri's words, "take time out for consultations"? Who do they have to consult? Although I'm tempted to say Syria & Iran, I won't because that is just unhelpful and divisive. Whatever. It's Syria and Iran. Add whomever else you like to that list because who is included on it doesn't matter; what matters is simply that other powers have to be consulted, yet again.
The basic issues are pretty uncomplicated - getting rid of Hezbollah's weapons, getting rid of a treacherous president and getting to the bottom of the Hariri assassination - but still no consensus on anything. Then Jumblatt sods off to the US and slags everyone off.

Rumour has it that when it came time to discuss the weapons, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah and Nabih Berri 'questioned the point of such dialogue' and then the bearded one 'allegedly stormed out of the room'.
I ave many other choice expressions for it but none that are really acceptable in polite company (yes, I'm talking about you). For someone who whines and whinges about consensus and the need for dialogue, he doesn't do either very well at all. National unity, my ass.

And to add insult to injury, they shut down downtown. You could still go there, but you couldn't park anywhere in a 300-mile radius and you would get frisked every 10 yards by a military type. Despite this, restaurants (paying extortionate Solidere rents) stayed open hoping that people would still come down. By some accounts, the total sum of diners in downtown restaurants over the weekend was 11 - apparently, it would have been 12 but some guy got stood up. Did these restaurants receive any compensation? Did they hell.

The whole thing is just a farce, another attempt to batter the Lebanese populace into submission by raising false hopes. Frankly, I'm sick of all the crap, yet I get sucked in every single time. Every time there's a chance of dialogue, I start seeing beautiful sunsets everywhere I look and hear choruses of angels with every step I take.
It's not their fault, it's mine. Damn this optimism. I'm old enough to know better.

If I sound a little negative, it's probably because my lovely Chelsea were knocked out of the Champion's League last night by Barcelona. I can't say it was unexpected but it still rankles. Yesterday's game was the way I want my lovely Chelsea to play all the time. Inventive, classy and rolling with the punches (of which there were relatively few). Barcelona were frankly a little bland - except, of course, for the sheer genius that is Ronaldinho. I'm always mesmerised by his play - the way the ball seems, by the way he moves it, to be another limb for him. Little heel flicks, scooped passes unerringly on target, sidestepping defenders without a second glance.....all pure magic.
I can't stand the fucker.

More bad news on the entertainment front. I heard from a couple of friends that the brilliant TV comedy Arrested Development has been cancelled. What? Probably the best comedy to come out of the US in absolutely ages snuffed out because it didn't pander to the great unwashed? I understand the concept of business, but when you're a TV corporation you should also produce some class to go along with your lowbrow, a small loss to go along with your mega-earnings. Take a hit for the team, guys.

I think that's enough for today. I still have to read Mourinho's post-game comments.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Spring In The Air

It's been a while since I've figuratively put pen to paper and first of all, thank you for your emails (however brief, John-no) enquiring as to my general health and failing that, my mental well-being. I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that both are as robust as ever.

It's been a busy week on many fronts, interesting things happening all over the place in my life, mostly good, some atrocious and one or two were even fantastic....

Let me start with where I left off last week. My lovely Chelsea were about to beat Barcelona at home and that went horribly wrong - that could have been enough of a blow to stop any fan writing, but not the True Blues....we're made of sterner stuff! As nothing was really happening on the political front that inspired or required comment, I decided to wait for the weekend Six Nations rugby to cheer me up.
That too went decidedly pear-shaped as Scotland whipped our asses. I say that because even though the score was only 18-12, any loss to Scotland in anything (except maybe curling and caber-tossing) should be considered an absolute thrashing. For a Celt's point of view, you may want to visit the "poem" that MacDara, who's got a good pair of lungs on him, posted courtesy of the G-Man - it is really very funny.

I was going to go and watch the Ireland-Wales game on Sunday but was having serious doubts about who to support (ya listening, Mac?) so I decided to stay home and lick my wounds. I was further pacified by my lovely Chelsea winning on the same day. I almost felt like my old self last night as England put on a decent performance to overcome Uruguay 2-0. A special mention should go to Ireland for whipping our bête noire and old nemesis, Sweden, but they were mainly powered by a Chelsea boy in the form of Damian Duff, so perhaps it is to be expected.

Most of downtown Beirut is today (and for the immediate future) looking like a SWAT team training camp. Snipers all over the rooftops and military types on every corner. I would have taken a photo of them but was afraid of being mistaken for target practice.
The reason for all this security is that the increasingly rare animal that is the Cabinet is rumoured to have been spotted in the downtown area and we're taking no chances about scaring it away, especially since the understandably skittish El Presidente has made an appearance.
So now we're supposed to have faith in a Cabinet that can't even agree on a meeting place let alone anything under discussion?

First, it was supposed to be Baabda and the anti-Syrian camp refused to go there - and rightly so. Then El Prez was going to come to Beirut but his 'security' said they couldn't secure downtown properly, so it was off again. Now it's on again. Whatever.
Elias Murr, the Prez's son-in-law, gave him a mouthful about not protecting him and even quoted his father-in-law as telling him that he should leave the country lest he become "a slave or a corpse." Niiice.
Murr apparently then finished up with "resign, and go back to being a grandfather to my children." Good role model for them.

Once again the momentum given by popular support comes to a crashing halt at the doors of wherever the Cabinet meets. I find it ridiculous that a country as wealthy as ours could be in terms of brainpower and adaptability should be again run into the ground by a governing body better suited to some banana republic - especially when El P turns up with a ton of folders, apparently detailing the past of each Cabinet member, just in case there's any mudslinging to be done.
In fact, in fucking infuriates me.

And just to add insult to injury, here comes the National Unity Dialogue. I have a problem with each of those words on their own - put together they sound like a punchline, but I can't figure out the joke just yet. It doesn't matter what you call her, folks, she's still just a really ugly girl.
Hezbollah wants their keeping their weapons at the top of the list before discussing anything. Others won't budge until removing Lahoud is top of the list. Yet others won't say a word about anything until the truth behind Hariri's assassination is placed firmly at the top of any list. And there are still others who believe the economy should pull rank. There are even blah, blah, blah, yawn, blahh...
It's all going to end in tears.

The only thing that really interests me is how I'm going to park to be able to pick up my books at Virgin downtown.

Enjoy yours.

Peter Osgood 1947-2006

One of Chelsea's & England's greatest players passed away yesterday. Peter Osgood, dubbed the "King Of Stamford Bridge", died Wednesday from a sudden heart attack. He was only 59.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sticking By It

Andy Murray just won his first major tennis tournament in lifting the San Jose Open title. All the newspapers in the UK were abuzz with this new 'British' tennis phenomenon. Funnily enough, when he was a marginal player (maybe I should just say "younger" as he is only 18), the Scottish referred to him as 'British' and the English referred to him as 'Scottish'.
It warms my heart to see people sticking to their principles with the Scottish now referring to him as 'Scottish' and the to the English, he is now 'British'.......everyone loves a winner!

Which reminds me, I was in Montreal when Ben Johnson won his gold medal at the Seoul olympics in '88, making him the fastest human ever. The whole country went haywire with every newspaper (including the quebecois press) trumpeting the Canadian's pre-eminence in the champagne & caviar event that is the men's 100m.
Of course, when he lost the medal for doping, he became a "Jamaican immigrant" who disgraced himself. Loser.

David Irving, a British historian, has been jailed in Austria for denying the Holocaust. He was convicted on the basis of statements he made at a rally in Austria in 1989. He knew he would be arrested if he went back to Austria and yet he still did - many cynics have said that it is because he needed the publicity for his new book.
Many people are outraged at such an offense against freedom of speech while others believe that he knowingly broke the laws of an independent state and should therefore be tried accordingly. It's a thorny issue following so closely on the heels of the cartoon debate, which is still raging.

As a sample of opinions, on the one hand Karen Pollock, chief executive of the UK's Holocaust Educational Trust says: "Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism dressed up as intellectual debate."

On the other side is Deborah Lipstadt an author and intellectual whom Irving had tried to sue for libel who says: "The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and truth. I don't believe we can win battles through censorship."

I don't believe that muzzling someone will keep them quiet or prove a point. It is essential that we be allowed to speak our minds, no matter how distasteful or ugly the content. Libel and slander laws are in place precisely to protect the abuse of this freedom.

Back at home, Patriarch Sfeir has said that a military man should not be President of Lebanon. He wouldn't clarify or quantify his statement but I'm glad to see a responsible separation of religion and state because it would be irresponsible for a spiritual leader to comment on matters political - especially on matters concerning such an important issue. If he continues in this vein, he'll be endorsing civil marriage soon...

And finally, today the big matches start in the Champion's League but the really important one is tomorrow when my lovely Chelsea host Barcelona in their first game. Now that's going to see some sparks fly.


Monday, February 20, 2006

And Again

Pierre Dakkash "vowed" to be an independent MP upon his candidacy. Now he's everybody's bitch.

Hamas are up in arms (figuratively speaking this time) over Israel's decision to freeze their monthly $50 million tax duty stipend. Gee, didn't see that one coming.
So let me get this straight...they give you $50 million a month and you, in return, promise to blow them up? Cushy job.

This photo from L'Orient-Le Jour today of Palestinian security forces in the streets of Rafah.
What exactly is going on?
Maybe they're just Johnny Cash fans, really pleased with the new government.

And if you're still in the mood to offend religious sensitivities, go here.

Mondays always were slow days.

Enjoy yours.

More To The Point

Cartoon by Pat Oliphant.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Reprieve

Every time I get annoyed with everything going on here, I always end up being reminded of what a beautiful place it is. Again in the Cedars this weekend, it's just sublime. It is possible, if only for a little while, to be in Lebanon and not worry about politics, the economy, pollution, or any other day-to-day worries and concerns. Sleeping surrounded by total silence is something Beirutis don't get enough of and waking up to it is something that never happens. The view.....? Well, enough said, especially in Winter.

And since I'm being frivolous and enjoying it here's some incontestable logic:

So there. It must be true.

My lovely Chelsea play Colchester today in the FA Cup's only remaining David and Goliath match, but I have learnt my lesson. I shall never take anything Chelsea for granted again (that's to appease the football deities before our match against Barcelona next Wednesday...)

And so to lunch.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Go Back, Jack, Do It Again

And so the junta has been given a second chance.
The Lebanese people (minus almost the entire Shi'ite community and Aoun's orangeshirts) gave the March 14th movement another chance by acclamation.

What a sight to see - Jumblatt and Saad Hariri holding hands with Samir Geagea and all three bathed in the adoring light of hope from the crowd. What a great photo-op. What a great soundbite, Lebanon united.

I, for one, am not convinced by all the happy-clappy smiles and words. As soon as they were out of each other's sight they were figuring out how to turn it all to personal advantage and stab each other in the back. Sure, great things were said - we want the truth behind the Hariri killing, Lahoud must resign, Hezbollah must disarm, Syria must leave us alone, Lebanon first - but these were exactly the same things that were said almost a year ago.

What has changed?
Why should I believe that this year is going to be any different? I gave my acquiescence to the current government on the promise that the revolution would carry on through every stratum of public and private sectors. The results are in and they are not too promising.

Living the unique Lebanese experience has made us eternal optimists. During the war, not a single one of us could believe that it would get any worse and so we were always saying that the next year would be better. The next year swung around, things got worse and never mind, next year will be better.
I've lived that way too many years to want to live like that anymore - WE don't have to accept that anymore. We can't keep on living in the hope that next year will magically bring all of our hopes and dreams to fruition. We do have the right to demand that our elected leaders provide a modicum of leadership, an iota of governance, a simple step towards the future (no pun intended).

I need a beer. Enjoy your hump day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Just Another Day

If you're not feeling particularly thrilled about Valentine's Day in general, this site has an e-card to suit you. Here's a few of my favourites:

Happy VD.

Then & Now

I'm finding it really hard to drum up any enthusiasm in myself for tomorrow's rally. Nothing stirred inside as it did a year ago - the bickering, posturing and general political lethargy has left me feeling a little empty.
However, I will pay my respects to a man who, however flawed, did try to do something positive for Lebanon.

His son, Saad Hariri has been away for 6 months in fear for his life and returned the day before yesterday because he wanted to be with the Lebanese "on this black day." Jumblatt must be higher up on everyone's shit-list and yet he is able to foxhole it in Mukhtara, so why isn't Saad here? You'd think that as the figurehead of the March 14th movement he (and his handlers) would want to be at least in the same country as the folks they represent.

Aoun seems to be as loopy as ever and is in danger of becoming a real caricature of himself. Even when his supporters say "he's crazy, but crazy like a FOX!" doesn't make him any less away with the fairies.

Lahoud is STILL President.

I find it really difficult to listen to Nasrallah whenever he says anything, because I don't want to live in a Hezbollah-ized Lebanon (and that, ultimately, is his aim) and because I don't subscribe to his conspiracy theories.

And the current government has simply proved its impotence (or incompetence) by successfully doing absolutely nothing. Anywhere else in the world, a government that allowed last week's consulate attacks to happen would have been out the next day. Doing nothing is also criminal.
It is focusing so hard on not pissing anyone off that it has managed to piss everyone off. These times demand strong centrality so for God's sake, take a stand on something.

So forgive my antipathy, fellow citizens, but I won't be out on the streets tomorrow.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day.

(and thanks to 3dflags for the flag)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pride Before A Fall

In a frightening response to my lovely Chelsea hubris, reality disintegrated yesterday. A noise was heard last night that deafened those who were really listening. That noise was a gash appearing in the space-time continuum and an alternate universe broke through for as long as it took Middlesborough...... yes, thrash Chelsea 3-0.

It was like watching a different team, as if the real Chelsea were being held hostage in their changing room and Bognor Regis Town stole their strip (and apologies to Bognor Regis Town supporters - if there really are any.)

Now while I accept that occasionally even the greatest teams have little upsets (witness Manure FC, LiverPoo, Arse-nal and Barcelona in the last couple of weeks - that's the beauty of football) and that it won't affect us lifting the title again this season, what really pissed me off was watching it in a pub that had just shown the LiverPoo game. A few straggling Scouser (and a lone Everton fan - but he was big & could take care of himself) fans had remained to watch the rugby and had taken the piss relentlessly. Upon my return from the bathroom, my end of the bar erupted into applause for me as Middlesborough had popped in their third in my absence. Bastards. Utter bastards.

England then went on to win their game against Italy in the 6 Nations battle that was anything but prosaic, with Italy leading at halftime.
Ireland came back from a first half drubbing by France (29-3) to knock the wind out of the French. Shocking errors gifted the ball to the French until almost midway through the second half when the Irish pulled themselves together and steamrolled through a very nervous French team. Unfortunately, in a gripping second half game, the men in green simply ran out of time to finish at 43-31.

It's a beautiful morning here in the Cedars and now all I have to do is face the traffic on my way back down to Beirut - never a pleasant prospect but necessary nonetheless.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I'm getting more and more disappointed in our country's leaders. It's incredible how political power, or even the mere temptation of it can reduce our leaders to fickle, backstabbing, shameless peons.
Collectively, our leadership should win the next Nobel prize for chemistry.
Their accomplishment?
Turning the gold of the March 14th movement into shit.

All that goodwill generated by 1.5 million citizens, gone. Lebanon Profile of the Lebanese Political Journal has it right when he says: "The worst thing we have done is let the politicians coopt our movement."
There has to be a new breed of Lebanese citizen - one who, in spite of sectarian affiliation, will seek accountability from all across the political spectrum. Is this just howling at the moon?

The cartoon debacle has taken a new turn. While I stand solidly in favour of freedom of the press, some newspapers have decided to reprint the cartoons again this week despite the violence they have caused in some countries. This to me smacks of irresponsible sensationalism and a desire to sell newspapers rather than a true commitment to upholding the lofty (and often blurred) ideals of freedom of expression. It appears that there is no end in site, the gap between the two camps expanding at a vast rate of knots.

A good article on the BBC website titled Bloggers: an army of irregulars shows the power of blogging and why it shouldn't be underestimated - a good read.

In other news, my lovely Chelsea have had a stunning week, firstly taking down LiverPoo on Sunday in a match where we could have left our goal unattended and the Reds still wouldn't have scored (oh wait, we did & they didn't). Then on Wednesday, we proceeded to demolish another Merseyside team in the FA Cup.
Everton, funnily enough the first team this season to stop Chelsea's winning streak, went down 4-1 which is also starting to look like a good number for Chelsea when playing Scousers. We play Middlesborough tomorrow which, unless reality disintegrates by then, will bring us one match closer to getting our grubby little hands on the trophy. Again.

Tomorrow also brings the 6 Nations again with a cruncher between France and Ireland and a more prosaic game between England and Italy.

Enjoy your weekend.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Another Day In The Neighbourhood

What apparently started as a peaceful demonstration against the Danish cartoon controversy rapidly deteriorated into a thugfest. Demonstrators gathered outside the Danish consulate in Tabaris in Beirut, waving flags and banners with such choice niceties as "Freedom go to hell" and "Voici le conard (sic) qui a ose insulter le Prophete" along with a photo of a man I assume is the cartoonist in question.

It was a massive demonstration which descended into a chaos that the security forces wouldn't or couldn't contain.
There are reports of people being beaten up by the mob in Sassine Square (well away from the Danish consulate) and pictures on the news of people randomly destroying cars and buildings that again had nothing to do with the Danish consulate.
A co-ordinated group smashed the windows of the building housing the consulate and proceeded to enter it and torch anything they could find, whether it belonged to the consulate or businesses who had their premises there. There was something disturbing about the pictures I watched on the news, a randomness of the targets they chose. Cars were smashed and overturned, windows of homes stoned and even a church attacked.
Outside my home I watched a car stop among the crowd to rearrange its passengers - a family with sloganed bandannas around their heads carrying huge flags. The grandmother was put in the front seat next to the father, the mother moved into the back while the teenaged kids were sat in the trunk and told to wave the flags, chant and give the 'V' for victory. A nice family outing.

A few religious figures were seen trying to physically restrain some of the rioters but were brushed away by people caught up in a mob mentality. Frightening stuff.

Some flag burners (who probably haven't quite understood the necessity of having the correct flag) were even filmed Bic-ing a Swiss flag (ah, what the hell, it's close enough - never liked their knives anyway).

The powers that be will of course disavow any knowledge or participation, probably trundling out the old "who can control the people?" line.
For a people who so want to be respected internationally or at least taken seriously we don't seem to be doing anything to help our cause. I'm dismayed and disappointed by such a display and the inability or lack of desire of the government to clamp down. If I was a pessimist, I would say that it had all been orchestrated.
Good thing I'm not.

On a brighter note, the England rugby first XV put in a thoroughly convincing performance against Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales. The Welsh team were impressive from the start but a resurgent England showed their true class.
Ireland won the opening game of the tournament against a formidable Italy who appear very disciplined and determined at last. Although Italy took an early lead and gave Ireland a few scares, they was no real danger of an upset.
Today my lovely Chelsea play LiverPoo but with the mood in town at the moment, methinks I shall stay home to watch it instead of propping up a bar.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Taking The Mickey

Cartoon fever getting way out of hand now. There were plenty of good arguments going on over at the Beirut Spring comments, each interesting and worth a read.
Fundamentalism and fanaticism in anything is something I despise as it doesn't allow for dialogue or tolerance. Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental freedoms distinguishing democracies from dictatorships and should be upheld at any cost.

I'm not condoning the cartoons nor am I condemning them but Europe has a long tradition of lampooning religion and this is one of the things that make it so much more tolerant.
The contemporary equivalents of a Spanish Inquisition have no place in modern society but the fear of being politically incorrect or worse, being labeled intolerant, is driving so many countries to be browbeaten and back down on issues that made them what they are - and this by the very minorities who moved to those countries in search of a better life in the first place.
Voltaire famously said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Right on.

Shiite ministers from Amal and Hezbollah returned to Parliament yesterday ending their almost 2-month long Cabinet boycott. This was achieved after Prime Minister Saniora said: "We have never called and will never call the resistance by any other name but the resistance and it is a national resistance and we will not use any other expression to describe it but national resistance."

He added: "The government is completely committed to the ministerial statement and the article that acknowledges the national resistance role in liberating Lebanese lands. It is a big role and we never called this role other than national resistance."

So it's the national resistance, is it? Monty Python may have writing credits for that. Supposedly, this will get Hezbollah of the hook from Resolution 1559 by declaring them a 'resistance movement' not a 'militia'. They still have guns and they are still not the army - use all the nuances you like, it doesn't change the fact that Lebanon's greatest source of instability at the moment is from the 2 heavily-armed non-army factions - Hezbollah and the Palestinians in the camps.

Front page of the Daily Blah today has a photo of a giant shark fished off the coast of Tyre, titled 'Jaws comes to Tyre' (such wit). The blurb underneath said it was a blue shark and one 'veteran' fisherman said that this kind of shark is usually found only in the Atlantic and Indian oceans and so must have "lost its way."
Idiots. There's got to be an opening for a fact-checker there.
Now, I'm no marine biologist but I can tell you at first glance that the shark was not a blue shark at all, but a European basking shark. Toothless, plankton-eating, gentle giant of the sea. You can swim next to them, touch them, play with them and they wouldn't even look at you. The Tyre fishermen named the shark "Morina".
I've renamed it "Still Dead".

And by the way, it's also an endangered species. Way to go, guys.

This weekend brings two great sporting clashes in the guise of Wales vs. England in the rugby union Six Nations tournament (I know Ireland are playing too, but only against Italy.....Ireland vs. England is the last game of the tournament!). And on Sunday, my lovely Chelsea host LiverPoo in the Premiership. There's also a nasty rumour going round that I may soon be in the possession of a Chelsea season ticket. Maybe their 3 back-to-back draws are the result of them not hearing my voice in the stands. I hope I can stand the excitement of it all.

Yesterday, even German great Franz Beckenbauer said that England are the best team in Europe and can win the World Cup. Am I annoying yet, Dylan?!

Enjoy yours.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Playing Catch Up

Great cartoon by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe, reprinted in the IHT.

Hamas winning the elections also puts Lebanon in a precarious position regarding the Palestinian "guests" and their guns question. We now have yet another envoy to tackle that situation. I love all this high-level mediation that does absolutely nothing except raise the profile of the envoy and ultimately ends with them trying to force-feed Lebanon some crap solution.
PM Saniora said after a meeting with Egyptian president Mubarak (who is sponsoring the mediation: "Palestinian weapons in the camps should be brought under control and there is no reason why they should leave these camps."

How about "There is no reason why Palestinian weapons should be in the camps at all."? Works for me.

Also, a wonde
rful Beirut headline states: "Extraordinary Parliament Session May Lead To Heated Political Debate." and it wasn't in The Onion.
Doesn't that tickle anyone's funny bone? Am I just blinking in the dark here?

And this story about a Kiwi dog food company wanting to send food aid to Kenya made me laugh uncontrollably, although it's really not that funny.


Monday, January 30, 2006

7 Things....

Finally did it. Obviously for the "attracted to" section you can add your own subject.

7 things to do before I die:
  1. Fly to the edge of space.
  2. Swim with Great Whites.
  3. See the England football team win another star for their strip.
  4. Land a blue marlin .
  5. Brew the perfect beer.
  6. Have my 80th birthday.
  7. Learn to play guitar.
7 things I cannot do:
  1. Support France in anything.
  2. Drink absinthe - what is that?
  3. Put a good book down.
  4. Laugh convincingly at unfunny jokes just to be polite.
  5. Let a bully get away with it.
  6. Forgive & forget.
  7. Explain the offside rule to women.
7 things I say:
  1. Dude.
  2. Waynak? (or of course, waynik?)
  3. Shyeah, right.
  4. Fuck off.
  5. No way.
  6. Whatcha doin'?
  7. I'll have one of the large, please.
7 books I have loved: (I cheated a little here.)
  1. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson.
  2. All of Douglas Adams (with emphasis on the Salmon of Doubt.)
  3. All of Louis de Bernieres.
  4. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.
  5. Damon Runyon's Omnibus.
  6. All of Stephen King (except the Dark Tower series.)
  7. All of Terry Pratchett.
7 movies I have loved:
  1. The Big Hit.
  2. Restoration.
  3. Apocalypse Now.
  4. The Godfather I & II.
  5. The Hitcher.
  6. Animal House.
  7. The French Connection.
7 things that attract me to.....London:
  1. Sunday newspapers.
  2. Live music.
  3. Theatre.
  4. Billions of restaurants.
  5. Parks.
  6. Real pubs.
  7. My lovely Chelsea (you saw that coming, dincha?)
7 people to tag:
  1. MacDara
  2. Scarl0
  3. Graeme
  4. Beirut Bill
  5. Deeelite
  6. John-no
  7. Dylan

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cry Havoc

The meeting between Assad and Ahmadinejad in Damascus earlier last week produced the expected mumbles about the need for stability in Lebanon and their support for the Resistance. Of course, these days those two statements are mutually exclusive.
I mention it only now because it's been keeping me thinking - not a state of mind I like to be in too often - and it worries me what sort of mad scientist plan they have concocted along with Hezbollah, these leaders whose backs are, internationally speaking, against the wall.
Not having anything to lose is not a state of mind that can be reasoned with and the human impulse to not go down alone is a strong one. A scorched earth policy would be the endgame here as both sides have proved that they are either unable or unwilling to act as statesmen. Thug is the word that comes to mind. Plenty of other words do too but I won’t get carried away.

The UN has again called on Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah. Although the statement seems more directed towards Syria than towards Lebanon, it's still a sign that the international community hasn't forgotten. The Lebanese government hasn't even ordered them to disarm, as if ignoring the situation will make it will go away. Desperate times call for desperate measures, people. Find the cojones.
Amazingly, resolution 1559 was passed in September 2004.
Aahhh, I remember it as if it was yesterday....

The news this morning carried the hardly surprising news that Sven's been forced out. So in the Reality League that's Gutter Press-1, Sense of Proportion-0.
As usual, a pretty one-sided game and no match report necessary.

A lot on my mind this month - my lovely Chelsea playing Barcelona again in the Champion's League. Jammy fecking LiverPoo, minging whiners that they are, get Benfica. I know I've said this before, but the time draws near and the reality is setting in like some depression-inducing concrete. Mind you, the Poo's way-overhyped weekend "Clash Of The Titans" against Manure FC was boredom personified. Yawnfest.
Luckily, before I tense up and get all stressed over anything, the Six Nations starts in less than 2 weeks. It's a good time to be a sports fan, sports fans.

In case you're wondering, I've removed Michael Totten's link from my sidebar because he's starting to believe his own publicity and is in danger of disappearing up his own fundament. For those of you wishing to link to him yourselves, he's still here.

If you are sitting around at work with not a lot to do and have access to the net, do yourselves a favour and go here. Download the StumbleUpon toolbar and enjoy some great sites chosen according to your preferences. Some of the gems that I've come across in my Stumbles include this and this. One of my absolute favourites is this guy, but make sure you check out his archives especially Steve, Don't Eat It! Nasty.

Alright, I've been tagged by GrocerJack. I'm gonna go and do the 7 things thingy and post it later. Consider 7 of yourselves warned.


*Update*....this tagging thing isn't that easy after all. You can be pretty sure I won't be posting it today. For those who were about to be tagged - a reprieve.