Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 9th, 2008

Lebanon: An improbable Nation in the making, (February 19, 2008)

 Lebanon has been mentioned countless times in the ancient stories, particularly in the Jewish Bible, as the land of milk and honey, and snow covered majestic mountains of cedars, pine and oak trees. Lebanon has been described for its skilled inhabitants and sea faring mariners, and commercial ingenuity by establishing trading counters around the Mediterranean Sea. 

Lebanon is recognized as a formal States in the UN since its inception at the sessions in San Francisco in 1946, after the end of WWII, and Lebanese delegates participated in the writing of the UN charter.  Lebanon snatched its independence from the colonial mandated France in 1943, with a big help from Britain.  The last French troops vacated this land in 1946.  Still, the Lebanese are lacking the definitive belief in a motherland.

                        Lebanon is surely a good place for leisure time and a vacationing location for its immigrants; many families that can afford to leave for greener pastures are not overly disturbed of losing a “nation”.  Most Lebanese have not participated as a Nation to defend the land from aggressors and to preserving its unity.  

After over 65 years of nominal independence, the political system has failed miserably to convince the Lebanese that prospect for security and lasting development is feasible.

                        The main problem is that we have 18 officially recognized castes, closed sects, with autonomous personal status legal systems associated with each respective sect.  Thus, the Lebanese citizen is defined as practically a member of a caste from birth to death, whether he likes it or not.  The political system has followed this caste structure and allocated the civil service positions, particularly in the highest levels, that a citizen of a certain caste can attain, and the number of deputies in the parliament, and ministers in the government according to a structured quota relative to the hierarchy of the caste after each civil war. Members of a caste have realized that services could be obtained through the leadership of their caste and not from a central government or legal rights.

There are large sections among the citizens who have secular, agnostic, atheist, many of leftist tendencies, Marxists, progressives and seculars ideologies, and comprised of all castes and would like to establish reforms to the political system.  Thus, the following harsh criticisms are not targeting individuals, but the social structure in general.  Unfortunately, I had to adopt sectarian terminology in order to get the point through, as clearly and as simply as feasible.

                        The Druze sect, located mainly in the Chouf district and part of the Bekaa Valley that borders the Golan Height, was originally a Shiaa sect affiliated to the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt around the 13th century.  When we mention Shiaa it is meant a sect among other sects that refused to abide by the Moslem Sunni sect that paid allegiance to a Caliphate, not directly descending from the Prophet Mohammad. 

After the demise of the Fatimid dynasty, the Druze were harshly persecuted and they opted to close the membership in order to discourage serious infiltrations to their sect.  They admonished their members to have two positions, one that would satisfy the power to be and another of a more intimate belief system.  For example, Walid Jumblat is a typical Druze leader with two-faced messages and ready to change his political position when opportunities of allying to the strongest power materialize.

In general, the Druze sect is suspicious and even hates every sect bordering their location of concentration.  They have practically allied to anyone that might weaken the political and economic status of districts of their neighboring sects.  The Druze is the only citizen who recognizes that he belongs to a caste, a closed religious sect, where no outside believers can be accepted, and none of the members scratched from the register. This is a dying sect that failed to open up and comprehend or assimilate the notion of belonging to a larger community or nation to unite with.

                        The Moslem Sunni sect is even worse than the Druze in allegiance to a central government, because it has been functioning as a caste since independence but not acknowledging it.  The Sunni sect has nothing in its religion to prevent it from opening up and uniting with other sects under one nation. It has enjoyed supreme privileges as the main caste during the Ottoman Sunni Empire and had the opportunities to concentrate in the main cities on the littoral and also to trade and communicate with foreigners and other sects but it opted to hide in its shell and stave off changes and reforms.  

Foreign travelers and many accounts have revealed that nobody could rent in a Sunni house or has been invited inside their lodging. Only Sunni males were seen outside doing business; women were never seen outside their domiciles. Man reached the moon but the Sunni caste has yet to acknowledge this achievement.

The leaders of the Sunni caste agreed in the National Pact, right after independence, to share power with the Christian Maronite sect but they kept vigilant to continuously allying with the most powerful Sunny Arab State of the moment.  The civil wars of 1958 and then 1975 started in order to regain hegemony over the Maronite political privileges in the new political system. 

The Sunni sect has allies with the monarchies in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni State of Egypt and it frequently takes positions with Arab foreign powers at the detriment of national unity.  In general, the Sunni still hope for a return to a Caliphate reign and support all kinds of Sunni fundamentalists and salafists.  This caste is very adamant in proscribing matrimonial relationship outside its caste.

                          The Maronite sect was very open for centuries and was the main religion that established roots in the Druze canton because the feudal Druze landlords needed the Maronite peasants to work their hard lands.  In 1860, a bloody civil war broke out in the Druze canton and thousands of Maronites were massacred. 

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1983, it encouraged the Christian Lebanese Forces militias to entertain military presence in the Druze canton.  As the Israeli forces vacated the Chouf region then the Druze of the feudal Walid Jumblat asked the aid of the Palestinian factions at the orders of the Syrian regime and he systematically slaughtered the Maronites and thus, drove the Christians out of the Druze canton and back to their original cantons of centuries back. 

 Since 1990, the government allocated over two billion dollars to repatriate the Christians to the Chouf and only 15% returned; there is no accountability in which black hole all that money was siphoned in. The Maronite adopted the closed sect system when agreeing to the National Pact and it is extremely difficult for non-Christians to join this sect.

                           Under the leadership of Hezbollah the Shias, in the south and the Bekaa Valley, are basically the main caste shouldering the heavy burden of defending Lebanon from the frequent aggressions of Israel.  Without the Shiaa south Lebanon would have long been swallowed by Israel and Lebanon divided and scraped from the number of independent States.  It is the Shiaa who forced Israel to withdraw from the south unconditionally in May 24, 2000.  It is the Shiaa who foiled the strategy of Israel of reconquering the south of Lebanon in July 2006 and installing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East. 

                        Hezbollah split from the main “Amal” Shiaa movement around 1983 and adopted an ideology tightly linked to the Khomeini hardliners in Iran and was responsible for the suicide attacks against the US and French headquarters in Beirut.  Hezbollah was the only resistance movement allowed by Syria to operate against Israel’s occupation in the south of Lebanon: Syria had prohibited all the other Lebanese nationalistic and progressive parties to resume their liberation resistance during its occupation of Lebanon.

                        After the assassination of Rafic Hariri PM in 2005 and the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from Lebanon, we have been experiencing a serious void in the legitimacy of the current government.  The entente between the Tayyar political party of Michel Aoun and Hezbollah has allayed the perception that schemes for a recurring civil war in under planning. 

The patient, internally non-violence strategy of Hezbollah in conducting non-cooperation activities against an unjust and usurping government has permitted the Lebanese population to gain the assurance and relief that another civil war is not feasible.  This Seniora’s government and its allies have been plundering the public treasury for the past three years and for the last 15 years under Rafic Hariri.

 This continuous regime of the Hariri political and financial clan has been spreading poverty and deepening the indebtedness and ineptness of Lebanon, with the explicit support of the Bush administration, under the guise of empty rhetoric of democracy, security and independence from Syria’s indirect involvement in Lebanon.

                         Consequently, the Shiaa have proven to be the legitimate sons of an independent Lebanon and have paid the prices of martyrdom, suffering, sacrifice and pain in order to be the guarantor for the emergence of a Nation against all odds.  It is the sacrifices of the Shiaa and their patience to suffer for the benefit of all Lebanese that is providing them with the leverage of flexibility, intent to change, learn from experience and improve.  The successive unilateral withdrawals of Israel from Lebanon since 1982 without any preconditions have given the Lebanese citizen grounds to standing tall.

                        Our main problem is that International requirements of Lebanon and our local politics are at odds.  The USA, Europe and Saudi Arabia would like to settle the Palestinian refugees as Lebanese citizens with full rights and thus avoiding the corny problem of their rights to be repatriated to Israel as stated in the UN resolution of 194. 

The Monarchy in Saudi Arabia has been viewing the Palestinian question as a major liability since the extremist party of Hamas has taken power in Gaza; Saudi Arabia is exhausted of paying the bills for the destructions of Israel to Palestinian and Lebanese properties and infrastructures at the urging of the USA and would like an end to this conflict that is hampering the internal stability of the Wahabi Saudi regime. 

                        The two main local movements of the Future (Moustaqbal) party (The Hariri’s clan) and Hezbollah are more than content of this unconstitutional political dilemma.  On the one hand, The Future is satisfied with its dominance among the Sunnis in Beirut and the North and thus, giving the Palestinian refugees citizenship might create an unknown variable that could disrupt the majority of the Sunni allegiance to the Al Moustakbal. 

Consequently, the Hariri clan cannot disobey the Saudi orders, but it cannot shoot itself in the foot:  Externally, the Hariri clan is pro Saudi but in reality it is very cozy with the Syrian position of keeping the Palestinian refugee status as its strongest card during the negotiations with the USA and afterward.  The unstable constitutional political system in Lebanon may delay indefinitely any serious pressures from Saudi Arabia and the USA to resolving the Palestinian refugees’ question. 

On the other hand, Hezbollah is weary of having to deal with a constitutional government and negotiate returning its arms to the Lebanese army; thus, the two main parties in Lebanon are supporting each other practically and just playing the game of opposing forces. Furthermore, The USA has decided after the fiasco of the July war in 2006 that no more investment in time on Lebanon is appropriate at this junction.  We have to wait for a new US administration to decide that it is willing to re-open the file of the Near East problems.

                        The allies to the two main parties are side shows; they know it, and they are not allowed to change sides.  Thanks to the vehement rhetoric against Syria of its allies, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geaja, the Future party has been able to give the impression that it is against the Syrian regime while practically it agrees with the Syrian positions and would like to keep the present status quo in Lebanon’s political system of the Taef constitutional amendments. 

General Michel Aoun has realized that he has been taken by the sweet tender offers of Hezbollah, but he cannot shift allegiance or form a third alliance since the non resolution of the situation is the name of the game until further agreement among the main Arab States and the main superpowers.  General Aoun has declared that it is Hezbollah that needs his alliance.

                        So far, the polemics among the government’s allies and the opposition political parties are not shy of harboring sectarian allegiances in their charged speeches but somehow they failed to discuss the actual caste, or closed religious system in our social structure, which is the fundamental problem toward a modern state of governance. I do not believe that any fair and representative electoral law is of utility unless the basic caste system is recognized as a sin and altered accordingly to represent an alternative for the citizen joining a united and free status under one State.

                        The first step is to instituting a voluntary State marriage law and letting the situation unfold into a more liberal understanding of the need of the people.  The road is very long and arduous before the beginning of a semblance of trust among the Lebanese is established. 

However, I feel that the Shiaa under the leadership of a wise and disciplined Hezbollah, and their corresponding Christian Free Patriotic movement, are leading the way for a semi-autonomous Lebanon, at least in its internal restructuring.  I believe that the necessities of survival would loosen up many stiff ideological and caste roadblocks toward a reformed political system and the institution of a governing body that abide in integrity, accountability and justice for all.

                        It is a fact that extremist Sunni salafist ideology is gaining quickly in all the Arab and Moslem World, out of desperation and the widespread illiteracy and lack of job openings.  The feud between the Shiaa and the Sunny is historically and fundamentally a clan warfare between the Muslims that demand the Caliphate to be a direct descended to the Prophet and those who don’t mind as long as the Caliphate is from the Kureich family, mainly Hashem or Ummaya or whatever. 

Maybe our mix of all kinds of sects might be a rampart to our moderate liberal tendencies.  The spirit of motherland is coming from an unforeseen quarter; mainly the Shiaa caste freshly arriving in the social and political scene around 1970. 

This disinherited caste was already a majority when the civil war of 1975 broke out and it suffered from the total ignorance of the central government for infrastructure and social services and had also to suffer the humiliation and atrocities of frequent Israeli air raids and land attacks and bombing of their villages under the disguise of dislodging the Palestinian guerillas.  This caste is opening up to almost all sects and managed to ally with large sections of many other castes.  This extending arm might be considered as necessary out of the realization that they are a majority in Lebanon and a real minority in the neighboring States of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. This necessity is a blessing to Lebanon because the main major caste is encouraging unity against foreign invaders.

In the event that Hezbollah maintains its strength then, it can be forecasted that the economic strategy of Lebanon will shift from tourism and third sector (the Hariri’s clan strategy) into more emphasis on agriculture and small and medium industries, many of it geared toward guerilla warfare.

 I used the term “Nation” for Lebanon in a general sense to convey that a form of unity is developing in the conscious of the Lebanese but this notion of Nation is far from appropriate to Lebanon simply because experiences since independence could not provide any evidence to a unified people under legitimate and responsible central governments.  Lebanon is fundamentally an amalgamation of castes that enjoy self-autonomy.  I still believe that the Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians, and Jordanians naturally form a Nation and they should generate a common market with separate recognized States.

I am convinced the Taef Constitution was meant to have total entente among the various main parties in Lebanon before starting to elect a new president to the republic; the entente should involve everything from election law, to the constitution of the government and other priorities.  This fact translates into agreement among the main Arab States and the main superpowers on how Lebanon should be governed during six years.  Unless the Lebanese leaders and political parties get together to review the Taef Constitution and be willing to pay the price of deciding to have a mind of their own then Lebanon is de facto under the UN protectorate.

Smoking is not cool; smokers are! (Written on December 4, 2007)

In the post “The Broken Window theory of crime epidemic” I developed on the large chasm separating a state of having a predisposition to criminal behavior and actually committing a crime.

For example, if you are to predict which groups of adolescents will eventually commit a higher rate of criminal activities:

1. the group living in a clean and stable neighborhood, with an active and sensible community but whose family environment is violent and crude, and

2. the group of adolescents living in a violent neighborhood but whose family have strong moral support,

then which group would actually exhibit a higher rate of criminal acts? 

It is of no use following the conventional argument that family is the cornerstone of real behavioral actions: A family provides a strong defensive nature against criminal behavior in the first few years of upbringing, but it is the daily environment and peer pressures that offer the catalytic situations for committing an actual criminal act.

Countless experiments with adoptive children versus regular families have shown that, besides genetic inheritance, it is the peer influence in the immediate surroundings that form the adolescent characters for actions, as is the case for smoking behavior.

We process information in a global manner by reaching for a “dispositional” explanation for event (which means interpreting other people’s behavior by overestimating the importance of fundamental character traits) as opposed to a contextual explanation.

If we are told that the gym is dimly lighted and the basketball player is not expected to shoot well, we still favor the player in the well lighted gym who did slightly better, even if he is actually far less talented than the other player.  This general tendency is called the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE).

The human brain has to rely on a “reducing valve” to create and maintain the perception of continuity, because if we have to evaluate every event according to its specific situation, we are overwhelmed and become too confused to attend to our myriad of activities and train of thoughts.

For example, a person is in many instances hostile, fiercely independent, passive, dependent, aggressive, warm or gentle depending on who he is with, when, and how, but we tend to reduce his character by stating that the person is either hostile with a façade of passivity or he is warm and passive with a surface defense of aggressiveness.

Thus, we tend to underestimate the minor criminal acts in the specific situations within the environment we are surrounded with, such as overcrowding graffiti views, fare-breaking, window cleaning harassment on intersections or panhandling in our tendency to believing that lawlessness is the rule.

In the cases of smoking and suicide, it is the specific context that turns to be the dominant factor.

Almost always, smokers had a role model who was really cool, who didn’t care about people’s opinions of his behavior, a risk taker, sexual precocity, a trend setter and generally categorized as extrovert.

Smoking is not cool, but it is the cool people who smoked; the general smokers somehow emulate sophistication, they imitate their role models.

Cigarette companies were actually characterizing the cool individuals in their advertisements who were performing cool dangerous activities, which added more exposure to non-smokers and who were not directly exposed to cool people in their daily life.

Thus, the first stage is the contagion of general smokers from the few cool smokers and next the stickiness of nicotine to perpetuating the habit.  Some smokers have tolerance for the poisonous nicotine and can handle up to 3 times the amount that average people could tolerate, very mush like alcohol tolerant drinkers, and it is these addicts that becomes regular or heavy smokers.

The “Chippers” or occasional smokers do not feel any withdrawal when they quit for a while because they cannot tolerate nicotine in the first place.

Research has demonstrated that a third of the smoking adolescents quit right away, a third becomes chippers and just a third has the potential to ending up heavy smokers.

Additionally, nicotine does not have a linear addiction trends because it takes at least 3 years for the occasional smokers to tip to the heavy status.  The amount of daily intake of nicotine that tips a tolerant adolescent nicotine smoker from occasional to heavy smoker is about 6 milligrams of nicotine or the content in 5 cigarettes.

Consequently, if the nicotine amount in a pack of cigarette is reduced to less than 6 milligrams then, many adolescents would not end up heavy smokers.

This is so far the best strategy for conquering the stickiness factor in addiction to cigarettes.  The other alternative is the use of drugs that combat depression: There is a strong correlation between heavy smokers and depressive nature.

For example, the drugs Zyban and Bupropion that are used for depressive individuals to increase the dopamine inhibit the desire for nicotine and they also replace some of the norepinephrine, so that smokers don’t have the agitation of the withdrawal symptoms.

The dopamine and norepinephrine and serotonin are chemicals produced by the brain to enhance neurotransmission.

Personally, I don’t vividly recall that I emulated a cool individual smoking, at least not consciously, but I started imitating smokers in a nude club that exhibited totally naked cool girls!

No, I cannot recall that I felt a buzz when I inhaled my first cigarette; what I felt was utter disgust, aversion and dislike.

There are rare occasions when I feel dizzy after the first few puffs in the morning; I don’t think feeling dizzy can be considered a pleasurable sensation. However I felt addicted to watching the cool naked girls.

Since I am not a cool guy with precocious sexual activities or an extrovert by any measure then, I may safely consider that my addiction was genetically preponderant for nicotine tolerance. Instead of chipping cigarettes, I bought boxes and would not throw away the box as long as Walter Mitty’s nude bar remained around the corner from my dormitory.

I tried nicotine patches but insisted on smoking the same number of cigarettes.  I guess my tolerance for nicotine was pretty high and my brain was obviously dysfunctional in secreting the appropriate chemicals for depressive individuals.

Somehow, I have the feeling that the more I smoke the more I revert to adolescence; I may not be much of an extrovert and a defiant person most of the times, but my diary is turning very daring!

The other case is on suicide trends and sometimes verging on epidemic in specific locations, like in Micronesia Islands in the Pacific where suicide was never committed.

For two decades in the 70’s and 80’s, male adolescents hanged themselves by leaning forward and letting the noose strangulate the blood from reaching the brain; male adolescents committed hanging for lame excuses because it became a fashion to experiment with how it feels:  Suicide became a popular theme in songs and graffiti.

Suicide by hanging was becoming a message to emulate the “permission” given by a role model and charismatic adolescent who took his life because he was in love with two girls and could not choose between one of the two who both gave birth simultaneously.

Researchers have demonstrated that whenever a front page account of a suicide by a renowned person is shown then, the rate of suicide increases for ten days before the rate returning to normal.  Furthermore, the kind of suicides is very similar to the detailed account of the suicide in the dailies, as if people are imitating the clear message of their role models.

In general, the few kinds of communicators described as connectors, mavens and salesmen are the messengers who re-package a message to communicate it appropriately and who can tip the point toward an epidemic.

In addition to locating the few individuals who are fundamental in spreading the epidemic it would be good to remember that human communication has a set of counter-intuitive rules and your intuitions need to be tested and validated.

Social articles


These social articles are extracted from a long file that contained political articles.



Table of Contents

1.  Are We Exercising Good Judgments? (March 23, 2005)                                        

2.  Our triumph, our zeal toward the neighbors (September 17, 2005)

3.  A Political Paradigm Shift for Human Development (Jan. 21, 2006)

4.  Democracy or servitude in Lebanon’s caste system? (October 17, 2007)


 5.  Are there moderate Moslems? (October 26, 2007)

6.  A complete model of the genesis of Earth and Man (November 4, 2007)

7.  She let go of her suitor (November 17, 2007)

8.  Fact is a bitch (November 24, 2007)

9.  Rage and Pride in the Greater Middle East (November 26, 2007)


10.  The sticky Sesame Street program that experimented with children’s learning. (November 29, 20007)


11.  The Broken Window theory for crime epidemics (December 3, 2007)

12.  Smoking is not cool; smokers are! (December 4, 2007)

13. The “ya-ya” sisterhood group context for spreading epidemics (December 6, 2007)

14.  Either you raise the curtain or I shall leave (December 7, 2007)

15.  Hate and love in the army and of war and militarism (December 14, 2007)


16.  Romancing the Fatherland, Motherland, and God land (December 15, 2007)


17.  Struggling for life and fearing of death (January 4, 2008)


18.  What liberty, what human dignity? (January 27, 2008)


19.  Lebanon: An improbable Nation in the making (February 19, 2008)


20.  Gandhi’s non-violent resistance guidelines (February 21, 2008)


21.  Who are we, the inhabitants of the Mediterranean Sea shores? (March 1, 2008)


22.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely (March 12, 2008)



23.  An alternative story to the monolithic religions (May 15, 2008)


24.  Beit-Chabab, Lebanon (July 6, 2008)


25.  Lions and lionesses along the Fertile Crescent ancient Empires (August 16, 2008)


26.  “The catalytic manuscripts that cleaved the ancient off the modern times” (August 31, 2008)


A dozen Lebanese confessional rodents in dialogue around a conference table (March 2nd, 2006)

The President of the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Nabih Berri, has purchased in Italy an expensive round table designed to gather twelve confessional leaders so that they feel comfortable to dialogue for an entire week, on important matters that are splitting the political leaders after the withdrawal of the Syrian forces. 

In January 9, 2006 I wrote an article entitled “The process of a written confessional Constitution in progress and Live”, which expressed my strong apprehension that all this political entanglements and hysteric pronouncements were meant as a positioning strategy for agreeing on appropriate shares among the protagonists for the public pie.

This famous table was installed in the House of Representative in Downtown Beirut so that the whole Downtown has been closed off to traffic and commerce for the duration of this extraordinary event.  More than 3,000 security forces were tied down to protect these all famous heads, meant to brainstorm and pick each other minds for the benefit of a stable, secure, independent, self-determined, and free Lebanon from any foreign interventions or meddling in its internal affairs.

This dialogue is secretive and dubiously undemocratic for those non sectarian sections of our society:   historically, secular political parties and civic associations were never asked to participate in any dialogue, and they were not invited to participate in the discussion for the framework and foundation of a future Lebanon.

The government, formed a year ago, as a national unity from the majority of the Parliament, based on a flawed electoral system, and headed by Fouad Sanyoura, a Hariri employee, has proven to be a total failure and acting as if the insecurity, instability and economic deterioration are not its responsibilities. The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Sabe3 (Lion), another Hariri employee, told live all the Lebanese citizens that he is impotent in locating and prosecuting the “ghosts” who have been blowing up a dozen leading men and commercial centers. 

The Minister of the Treasury, Mr. Azhour, an extra Hariri employee, has been postponing temporarily and probably indefinitely the meeting of “Beirut One” Conference of the parties supposed to infuse our economy with financial liquidity: we are learning that the well meaning money providers are not satisfied with the promised reforms and have strong apprehension that the money will not be going into the proper channels or distributed for any kind of economic or social reforms. 

Worst, the only financial news that the impoverished Lebanese hate the most and might be applied are the additional taxes to keeping the inflated, bloated, and badly run government administrative institutions floating.

So far, the only decrees extracted from the so-called legitimate political Constitution were directed at strengthening the grasp of Solidere on its holding in Downtown Beirut; everyone knows that Solidere is a Real Estate holding company and basically a private company owned by the Hariri family, its Saudi Royalty Princes and its acolytes in the “Future Movement” who plundered Lebanon during the Syrian hegemony.

The Syrian forces, army, security and intelligence services, have already vacated Lebanon 10 months ago, the former four Lebanese Generals in charge of security and intelligence are detained “pending further conviction materials” on their cover ups or participation in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.  The government has replaced these security people with their own people and yet, Syria is directly blamed for any insecurity in the land and the politicians in power are still shouting: “Syria go home.  No Syrian interventions in Lebanon”. 

The government and its allies in the majority are explicitly and vociferously accusing the President of the Republic as the remaining Syrian stooge and are demanding his resignation as illegitimate; they even went as far as stooping very low and dishonoring the Nation by gathering signed affidavits from current and former deputies claiming they voted under duress for the extension of the President’s tenure for another three years.  

Now, why these infamous leaders have to meet in the Parliament instead of a remote mountainous resort and spare the people all these expenses, security mobilization, economic disruption, and disturbing the peace in Downtown Beirut?  I think most Lebanese citizens would have appreciated the “Berri’s Table” to be transferred to a secure prison where the sleeping quarters are fitted out in solitary cells for the leading rodents.

Why this extraordinary dialogue is not acknowledged to be the responsibility of the representative elected members of the Parliament? Is not the Parliament the normal and legitimate body to set the political guidelines and enact the body of laws? For an entire year, we heard live on cables, television, and radio the explicit political and ideological positions of these leaders and their allies and we have been vomiting every one of their hysteric and unfounded pronouncements, except for the well balanced speeches, rational attitudes, and clean hands of Michel Aoun and Hassan Nasr Allah.

A committee was formed to study and recommend a fair electoral system to replace the badly flawed previous system, supposedly designed and engineered by the Syrian regime, and it just announced that it finished its job after analyzing 200 proposals from political parties, civil associations and individuals.  Guess what?  The committee finished on time before the meeting of the famous twelve brave knights.

Do you like to guess what the proposed and unpublished electoral system is? Well, it is temporary to suit the current political climate! Not many are fooled in Lebanon and not only we suspect, but we are completely certain that this dialogue is meant to split the pie among the confessional parties.  The twelve gurus will agree on their shares in the important key political positions and how to tailor make the electoral system to fit their needs.  As you guessed, they will again claim that the political solution “arrived at” is necessarily temporary, as has always been the case since the Independence of Lebanon in 1943. 

Around an expensive table are gathered a bunch of rotten apples that, within a week, will ultimately affect the few healthy ones, unless the good apples turn the table over the opportunist and highway robbers of the rotten political heads, and lead the Nation toward definitive self determination, reforms and drastic political changes.


Lebanon civil war revisited (Jan 8, 2006)

I wrote in 1976 a lengthy article that was published in two successive issues by the students’ newspaper of the Oklahoma Daily at Norman on the subject of the civil war in Lebanon.  Unfortunately, I misplaced a copy of that article to compare my views with my current understanding of this calamity, although I think that I was on the right track even then.  Simply, the main facts of the civil war of Lebanon (1975-1991) points to the direction that it was an internally planned and executed war and entirely reinforced by external supply and logistics.

Since the Independence of Lebanon in 1943 our political system has been contained and maintained through the tacit alliance of the feudal, confessional and mercantile powerhouses of both the Maronite Christians and Sunny Moslems. Then and now, I am convinced that the sectarian and conservative Christian Maronite political parties, with the complete support of President Suleiman Frangieh and the high ranking officers of the army, decided that a civil war was the only alternative solution remaining in their hands to salvage the crumbling confessional political and social status.

I reluctantly insert reviews of our past political system solely for the benefit of the new generations of Lebanese who cannot perceive the continuation of the past in our worse present system. We can reach as far in our past and attest to the vicious cycle of short periods of self determination lasting half a human life making room to centuries of subjugation.  These cycles keep springing up as unbreakable as if our destiny is a series of hopeless attempts for independence from the neighboring power houses in Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome or even Iraq before the 10th century.

            I might as well start in 1969 with the unpublished agreement between Yasser Arafat and the Lebanese government on the location of the military bases of the Palestinian Resistance Movement as secured islands from the Lebanese law and order forces in south Lebanon bordering Israel.  This agreement was signed in Cairo by Jamal Abel Nasser, Yasser Arafat, the Lebanese army chief Emil Bustany, the Prime Minister Rashid Karame and the minister of the interior Pierre Gemayel who was also the leader of the Phalanx (Kataeb) party.  Under the motto that “The strength of Lebanon is in his weakness”, secured by the charter of the United Nations, Lebanon governments from its independence in 1943 could not agree on forming a strong army able to defend its border.  The successive governments refrained from investing in the south and its inhabitants of Shiaa majority did not receive any attention from the central government.  The Maronite Christians and Sunny Moslems feudal and conservative leaders figured that any troubles in the south will not affect the rest of Lebanon significantly or destabilize its confessional political system.

When Israel started to retaliate for the Palestinian rocket launching attacks from the south and under various pretenses the citizens in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut forming what was called the “belt of misery”, currently the stronghold of the Hezbollah Party.  These suburbs would have major impacts on the process of the civil war in many respects.  In the years 1969-1975 the university students were the vanguard for significant reforms of our outdated political confessional system and the Capital Beirut was the scene of multiple demonstrations per month demanding the governments to pay more attention to the dreams and drives of the youth for a modern and fair political system. 

The Lebanese University was the hub of these demonstrations lead by the Communists and left leaning students who succeeded in wining the elections of the student councils throughout the University branches.  The popular support for drastic reforms signaled the feasibility of changes through democratic means which scared the confessional forces to bypass the real issues and lay our problems to the existence of the Palestinian resistance factions.  In order to rally the moderate Lebanese citizens around their status quo system the confessional forces hammered on the prerequisite of uniting around the army whenever premeditated incidents led to direct military confrontations on a few refugees’ camps in the Christian enclave like Dbayeh and Jesr El Basha; those same camps that former President Camille Chamoun opened and offered the Lebanese Nationality to the Christian Palestinians to vote for him and his coalition during the Parliamentary elections.  In few instances the army air force dusted off its archaic and limited war planes as a show of force and determination to enter the camps without much political success.

            It is a fact that the Maronite political parties, lead by the Phalange party, planned the civil war, started it and refused to negotiate a lasting ceasefire. They initiated the mass killing and genocide tactics based solely on confessional status with the strategy of cleansing the areas of Christian majority from any Moslem or Palestinian elements. The cleansing process went two steps further as the war continued; first they evacuated their areas from every Christian members of secular political parties like the Communists and the Lebanese based Syrian National Social party and then turned to the Christian confessional party members who refused to unite under the banner of the unique party of “The Lebanese Forces” headed by Bashir Gemayel.

            They also invited the Syrian forces to cross the Lebanese borders once their war plans failed to produce the equilibrium in military forces and their territories were close to be sacked by the Nationalist and progress’s coalition forces.  They negotiated directly with Israel, the enemy of Lebanon, and secured military logistical support in arms, ammunition and training.  In 1982, they encouraged Israel to extend their invasion to entering our Capital Beirut in order to chase the Palestinians out of Lebanon.

Fooled Myself (2002)

I fooled myself. I pitied myself.

            I wanted to know all, diligently, for decades.

I wanted to change the World

            In my dreams, night or day.

Aloof, confused, distracted and detached of your Worlds.

             It was the right thing then.  Still right, now.

I now take one task at a time.

             Now that time is worth everything,

Time is irrelevant to me.

             I could be happy.

My Warpy World (2002)

1.   I need to burn off my excess energy,

That stuff I used to have in abundance in my youth.

I burned it bending on desks,

Reading and learning.

About our warped literatures and histories,

Warped theories,

Warped philosophies, of a warped world we created.


2.   I now need to stretch time in my old age.

I don’t want time to fly by:

I am supposed to be scared

Of the imminent end.

No, I have to work double shifts to make ends meet.

I need to work harder to fulfill

Newly discovered dreams.

Part 2: Noura’s period (1381-1386)

Chapter 8:  Preliminary reforms

            The first year was very hectic and a learning period for Antoun to behave as Lord of the Metn.  A restless person by nature he avoided staying for any length of time in his castle and kept on the road canvassing his County and listening to the demands and needs of his residents.  Gergis was given an annex to the castle where he visited Antoun for four days a month.  Since Gergis was very secretive about his origin and a coastal native it was inappropriate for Antoun to offer him publicly an official responsibility; but Gergis was indeed his legal counselor and would study the legal cases and submit his recommendations, especially those cases with a heavy political overtone.  Consequently, Antoun would preside for two days a month at the justice council for the serious and highly public cases and on Saturday afternoons, when in town, he would be judge for the common claimants.

            Hanna Al Najjar was named his administrator of the previously outlawed areas and Mariam was recalled to stay at the Capital for non divulged responsibilities.  Mustafa was named general manager for Antoun’s prosperous business in Beirut and channeled the necessary military hardware and professional military trainers to Metn.

            Meanwhile, Latifa had established herself in charge of the administration of the castle and the residents referred to her as Sit Al Qasr (the Lady of the Castle).  Thus, Antoun felt secure about the good running of the castle and the well being of his frail and yet inefficient wife as per the political life.

Antoun was inundated by the land claims of the multitude of landlords and was urged to perform a few necessary agrarian reforms as a priority.   This agrarian reform was contemplated in phases in order not to anger the powerful landlords. The first task was to create a cadastre for the land.  Expert surveyors called “geometers” were hired and attracted from as far as Egypt to measure accurately the kingdom’s land properties not yet owned by the citizens and to assist in property litigations.

Agrarian and tax reforms

The next phase was to redistributed cultivable lands from the most powerful landlords to those who worked the lands by subdividing large parcels that belonged to Emirs and princes, especially those lands that were practically stolen to the less fortunate peasants.  Legal framework for recuperating properties was enacted; for example, the sizes of parcels of land were proportionate to the size of a family and the duration the family worked the land; females were allotted the same rights as men in land inheritance provided that they resided on and worked the property and widowed families received larger sizes of lands in order to gradually diminish the prevalent taboos in favor of brighter opportunities.  

Tax reforms were made more equitable and less burdensome.  Feudal tradition taxed only those who owned lands with the exception of feudal lords.  The merchants, clergymen and the class of nobility did not share in financing war efforts or entertaining the institutions and the royalty.

This fundamental theological tax logic that only small land owners should supplement to the expenses of the ruling class was seriously questioned. Revenues were thus revised to be taxed regardless of the business of production and expanded to merchants and skilled artisans.  Lands that were not cultivated were also taxed in order for the proprietors to sell or rent these unproductive lands. The lands distributed to peasants were taxed higher that those legitimately acquired but for an exceptional duration not to exceed 7 years.

Properties were taxed not only according to size but also to the number of hired manpower who kept the property running and who offered an image of high status to the landlords: the rational for this edict was to encourage landlords to diminish the level of luxury of their old life style and understand the necessity of equality in form and eventually to save for the hard times to come and participate in the investment of small industrial projects.

The tandem of Yasmine and Noura

Noura was the best friend of Yasmine, not on her own volition but because Yasmine insisted that this is fact and wished it so.  The combination of Yasmine and Noura was too present and insidious in Antoun’s ears so that many resolutions previously taken without input from the female subjects were modified and amended to secure the rights and benefits of women. One important tax, although negligible to the total fund collected but that would relieve the pressures off Antoun’s chest, was levied on the dowries of married couples within rich families.  This duo reminded Antoun of the old feudal system which forbade him to marry Zena, the girl that he thought he was in love with in his youth.  This dowry tax encouraged families to marry from lesser endowed families and contributed gradually to the elimination of the concept of dowry as a prerequisite to marriages. In fact, many couples from outside the region took advantage of this climate of tolerance to marry in the Metn Emirate. 

The clergy were adamantly warned not to interfere with the decision of the couples to get married: No specific guidelines were yet promulgated on the range of interferences but, since everyone knew about Antoun’s sensitivity about marriage obstacles, the clergy opted to err on the side of tolerance than face his wrath. The duty of the marrying clergy was to submit the marriage certificate to the mayor of the town who was to send a monthly list of the marriage certificates to the central ministry of the interior.

Article #28, December7, 2005

“How do you perceive the inspection job to mean?”

Inspection in engineering has a narrow meaning that connotes quality control of physical products.

It might be viewed as a statistical process in production to keep physical errors in the manufactured products within acceptable ranges with subsequent determination of an inspector or production manager of whether the production mechanism satisfies certain quality control specifications.

It might be understood as a method for inspecting individual items whether the task is paced as in conveyor belts or the pacing is under control of the inspector and his own rate of work.

The concept of inspection might also be studied from a Human Factors organizational perspective of the personal qualities of inspectors and the work pressures from individual workers or groups trying to influence his decision for refusing batches of products.

In this perspective, inspection is implicitly of people; inspection decisions about a man’s work directly reflected upon him and thus the resentment associated with the age, skills, gender and professional behavior of the inspector.

Inspectors are expected not to be impaired in their eyesight, auditory and tactual judgments and be highly trained and knowledgeable about quality standards.

An inspector must have opinions about the working conditions, how workers are paid when defects are found, method of payment of the inspector and number of break time, general environment in quality of lighting, noise and temperature, organizational factors of isolation, interruptions, monotony and decision pressures from foremen and supervisors, calibration at interval of inspectors’ norms or their expectations in rate of defects, pre-conceived ideas of accuracy resulting from deterioration in physical or mental abilities and lack of agreement on quality.

Is inspection the task of a single person for a phase in the production process or should it be an organization within the administration having responsibility for the total control of quality starting from the design concept for the foreseeable errors, risks and safety, usage of the product not intended for, raw materials, subcontracted parts, manufacturing, packaging, recall, marketing deficiencies and customers’ complaints because quality is finally in the customer eyes and mind?

Should an inspector be part of the team in the production process or independent associated with a specific inspection organization?

Some companies do not take inspection seriously and most of the times assign this task to employees about to retire who in turn perceive their new assignment as a downgrading in their responsibilities.

Some companies are ready to sacrifice quality in order to maintain a steady flow in the conveyer belt; for example it is well known that cars produced on Mondays and Fridays are fraught with systematic defects because on these days novices replace the high rate of absentee trained employees.  The fact is since weekly checks are paid on Thursdays it encourage trained workers to extend their vacation from Friday to Tuesday.  Failing to show up on Friday and Monday the work force is altered which condition the administration learn to cope with as best it can.   In this case, companies allocate expense funds to repairing returned products through warranties.

Inspection is one of the most arduous jobs that requires communication, organizational and professional skills and must be valued as essential in the control of total quality image of a firm.

Article #30, December 27, 2005

 “How objective and scientific are experiments?”

If we narrow this article to the statistical analysis of experiments and without going into details suffice us to mention a few controversies.  First, let us do a chronology of the various paradigms in statistics and statistical algorithms.  From a European perspective Pascal is believed to begin the probability theory in1654.

LaPlace and Legendre contributed to the Least-Squares algorithm for how to fit a model to data (1750-1810)

Gauss developed the geometry and algebra of the multivariate normal distribution (1800’s)

Galton studied regression between two variables (1885) and Pearson the correlation coefficient in 1895.

Fisher, Snedecor and Sheffe concurrently worked on experimental design and analysis of variance algorithm (ANOVA) to statistically test the population distribution under the assumptions of normality in the 1920’s.

The data analyses of non distribution base samples to fit models to data showing structural features were developed by Thurstone in Factor analysis, by Young and Householder (1935) in Multidimensional scaling and Cluster analysis algorithms.

Joreskog, K. G developed in 1973 the algorithm of a general method for estimating a linear structural relational equation labeled LISREL that analyses the relationships among latent variables linked to operationalized indicators. This general method considers as special cases path analysis recursive or non recursive as well as Factors analysis.

John Tukey and Mosteller concentrated on studying exploratory data analysis to fit mathematical and geometric models to data showing both structural and residual, and thus complementing confirmatory or inferential analyses.

There are divergent paradigms in the following concepts:  first, the suitability of data measurements according to measurement theory versus the distribution properties of the variable of interest (S. S. Stevens versus I. R. Savage in the 60’s); second, the need to investigate real world data prior to applying any statistical package (data snooping) so that if you perform serious detective work on the data and torture it long enough it will confess and open many ways to understand its underlying behavior (John Tukey); thus increased emphasis on graphs of individual data points and plotting to investigate the preliminary screening so as to ensure that the summary statistics selected are truly relevant to the data at hand. 

Third, the application of the Bayesian approach from the consumer or decision maker viewpoint which provide the final probability against evidence instead of the investigator standard acceptance of a p-value to rejecting a hypothesis (read the “Illusion of Objectivity” by James Berger and Donald Berry, 1988).

Fourth, the selection of an investigator for a statistical package that he is familiar with instead of the appropriate statistics for the research in question;  The acceptance of untenable assumptions on population distributions and computing unrealistic parameters simply because the investigator is not trained to understanding or interpreting alternative statistical methods of nonparametric or distribution freer population methods.

Fifth, there are examples of investigators adopting explanatory statistical packages to torture data into divulging confusing causative variables while, in fact, the science is already well established in the domain to specifically determine exhaustively the causative factors simply because the investigator is not versed in mathematics or physics (“Tom Swift and his electric factor analysis machine by J. Scott Armstrong, 1967).

Sixth, there is a need to the “mathematization of behavioral sciences” (Skelum, 1969) which involves the development of mathematically stated theories leading to quantitative predictions of behavior and to derivation from the axioms of the theory of a multitude of empirically testable predictions. Thus, instead of testing verbal model as to the null hypothesis, an adequate mathematical model account for both variability and regularity in behavior and the appropriate statistical model is implied by the axioms of the model itself.  Another advantage is that attention is turned to measuring goodness of fit, range of phenomena handled by the model and ability to generating counterintuitive predictions.

This discussion is an attempt to emphasize the concept of experimentation as a structured theory and that the current easy and cheap computational potentials should be subservient to the theory so that data are transformed to answer definite and clear questions.  The Human Factors practitioner, whom should be multidisciplinary in order to master the human and physical sciences, is hard hit by the need of performing complex scientific experiments involving human subjects and yet required to yield practical recommendations for the applied engineering fields.

No wonder Human Factors professional are confused in their purposes and ill appreciated by the other discipline unless a hybrid kind of scientists are generated from a structural combination of engineering discipline and modern experimental methods and statistical algorithms.  However, Human Factors engineers who have an undergraduate engineering discipline and a higher degree in experimental research and statistical analyses training can be better positioned to handle research involving mathematical modeling of theories in sciences.

The fixed mindedness in adolescents reminds us of the mind fix of old people with the assumption that the mind has the potential flexibility to grow while young.

You may look young masking and old mind or look older and exhibiting a younger mind; it is your choice how much time and energy you are willing to invest for acquiring knowledge.




October 2008

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,021 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: