Thursday, March 29, 2007

Summit's Up

How wonderful to have two delegations going to the Arab Summit! Even better is that neither side believes the rest of the participants are sniggering behind their backs. Neither delegation got the official reception from the Saudi king, merely a meet-and-greet from the Foreign Minister, much like a travel company flunky sent to meet bewildered tourists at foreign airports to give them their maps, hotel vouchers and local do's and don'ts.

Protocol withstanding, El Presidente gets a big chair at the grown-ups' table, while the hapless Sanioura gets a folding camp chair at the baby table reserved for "guests", part of the nomenclature also well suited to his tenuous standing at the Serail, a bit closer to home.
In the official photo of the participants, Fouf is nowhere to be seen (maybe he's pulling faces behind the photographer, trying to make everyone crack up), whilst a po-faced Lahoud is separated from Assad by one degree of Bouteflika. As punishment for their naughtiness, Lahoud, Assad & Abbas have been relegated to the very edge of the photo, while Bouteflika (3rd from right) was obviously just placed there to make Lahoud look taller.
(photo World News Network)

Another thing is our government's habit of creating titles that are just too long and cumbersome. The paper submitted to the Summit on Lebanon is called "The Paper of Solidarity with the Lebanese Government". They need something catchier, something along the lines of "Operation Stand by Me" or "Paper of Toilet". At least everyone would remember the catchy song from the first or failing that, the obvious charm (-in) of the second. Are there two of those as well?

This doubling up could be a good thing for Lebanon. Already a strategy used by inveterate gamblers, doubling up could help Lebanon's fortunes on many fronts. Political promises made by one side could be disavowed by the other, along the lines of a "ah yes, well, sorry mate, wasn't me" argument. Ugly laws or motions passed could be rejected, again "Don't look at me, mate, not my idea". Oh wait, that's already happened.

Sports teams could benefit from the confusion at the Olympics, say, or the Asian Games....when required to declare which is the official team, we could then choose the one that had done better. At least all sides would agree on it. We wouldn't have to worry whether the winning team had been trained in Iran or Syria or, of course, the USA or France.

But scrap that, because the team in the yellow & orange jerseys would claim that even though they placed last, the gold medal winners knew that they had in fact won and would refuse to leave the podium. Conversely, the blue team placing second to last would say that getting to the medals is something that takes time and that there shouldn't be any winners or any losers.

Euro 2008 qualifiers were great this week, unless of course you happen to be an England fan. Personally, if I was head of the FA, I'd naturalize every one of my lovely Chelsea's squad who needed it and play them.

Have a good one.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Faint Praise

Could there possibly be a more damning indictment of any pursuit than to have the Syrian regime praise it as "professional"?
Well that's exactly the term they used to describe Brammertz' latest UN interim report of the investigation into Hariri's murder. I hope Brammertz is just playing his cards very close to his chest because these interim reports have gone from infuriating Syria with accusations against high-ranking Syrian officials by name (remember Mehlis?), to placating her.

Are we to infer that the UN Commission's stance has changed, that in fact Syria had nothing to do with Hariri's murder and countless other acts of violence? A tiger cannot change its stripes. Enough said.

Hariri Jnr. & Berri have been in constant meetings over the past week, consulting over the tribunal (will it, won't it?). Yesterday we had headlines proclaiming success and a compromise over it and today we have headlines "playing down" those same reports. It would be nice if everybody was reading from the same page. Personally, I don't see how there can be a compromise without diluting the authority of the tribunal. Make it more local and we run the risk of riddling it with the congenital corruption and bias that mars every endeavour undertaken in our fair land. I know how trendy it is to support Hezbollah and Aoun (discounting the Shia and some Christians), especially by foreigners living/working/studying here, but believe me, they would be the first to leave if Hezbollah & Co. had their way. There is no argument to support not supporting the tribunal and accusations of foreign influence go both ways so its a self-cancelling argument, don't trot it out.

On a happier note, my lovely Chelsea are still in the race for 3 more titles and have as good a chance as any and a resurgent England rugby team takes to the field for the last games of the 6 Nations.....oh happy day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, February 16, 2007

And By The Way...

Lovely, lovely. Another happy week. A day before yet another useless gathering a couple of bombs go off in buses carrying ordinary folk to work. And as usual, accusations are flying thick and fast from, and to, all.

In a country already suffering from economic stagnation, and in keeping with their strategy of economic revitalization, the hugely effective powers that be declared February 14th a public holiday. With the Paris beg-offs trying to out-digit Rocky films in terms of Roman numerals, the Lebanese government still has no clear agenda for getting us back on track. All the terms bandied around by the ruling clique, "cutting spending", "increasing revenues", "implementing reforms" et al are exactly the kind of murky, non-informative crap that doesn't help anyone's faith in the future and certainly don't make me want to invest here. And I live here.
Of course, the other side haven't exactly presented a groundbreaking formula.

It's such a shame that the horrific murder of Rafic Hariri has forever tainted the day of love, an honest, heartfelt day for lovers everywhere, an occasion when romantic florists feel justified in quadrupling the price of scentless blooms and when restaurants don't see anything wrong in prolonging the pain by still advertising Valentine's Day menus for today and tomorrow. Manufacturers of ugly satin cushions with coy messages embroidered on them and printers of enormous red cards must believe its Christmas, not to mention the wits behind X-rated shape chocolates and "sexy" board games. Yes, I'm disappointed we've lost this wonderful day.

March 14 supporters should go downtown and build their own tent city. Except this one could do away with the need for demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by having bigger and better tents. More modern conveniences. Tents with really cool plasma screens and surround sound setups, nice furniture and state of the art camping kitchens. Maybe mini-tents for the maids. There could be little bar tents and restaurant tents, maybe an Aishtitent for all the latest in designer camping gear.

This would encourage the opposition to realize that life really is better on the other side. Opposition tenters could then come over to March 14 bank tents and take out little tent loans and start improving their own tents. Other opposition tenters would come and visit these shiny new tents and want one for themselves and, skipping a couple of steps, this would inexorably lead to political union. It's brilliant.
Hey, Robert MacNamara once supposedly said that he could have won the Vietnam War if only he'd been allowed to give a TV to every Vietnamese household.

Another thing that really irks me is ridiculous little stories published in "news"papers under the guise of, well, news. This whole Berri mediation garbage, for example, in the Daily Rag:
"Reports of a possible meeting between Berri and Saad Hariri were neither confirmed nor denied by Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil."

What? Read that again. How do you neither confirm nor deny? If you consider yourself some kind of political Machiavelli by answering 'maybe' to yes or no questions through narrowed eyes on national TV, then you might want to review your career path.

Khalil was then asked if Damascus was pleased with the idea of a Berri-Hariri meeting. His brilliant answer, again, I imagine, through narrowed eyes and a stare that passes the comfortable by a few seconds?
"What we hear from the Syrians is that they encourage inter-Lebanese dialogue."

Pfft. No. They. Don't.