Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 16th, 2008

Note: the names are fictitious but the events are real to me.

Raines is my Initiator ; or May Be Not  (Nov. 2002)

 

My roommate used to travel two hours on weekends to work

As a bartender at an Army base.

He spent the rest of the week studying to be a pharmacist,

One hour away the other direction. from where he rented.

I drove in his Spitfire one summer weekend for a birthday party.

Linda and Raines were there, and I have never met them before.

Linda was utterly gorgeous and tall.

Her red-headed girl friend was sort of rotund and short, with a lovely face.

Uncharacteristically, I was in a good humor,

Funny in my French accent in any of the several languages I know.

My conversation was mostly of small talks, and still is mostly.

I naturally act drunk on water and orange juice

When I’m around a captive audience of lovely girls.

 

Linda picked me as her companion for the evening.

She would not separate from me.

My roommate had the eyes for Linda.

Being a better Casanova than me,

He cut me off several times and managed to keep Linda for the night.

 

I had many proofs that my friend is an unchallenged Casanova.

I once met the most beautiful girl on Earth

While seeing a movie on campus, solo as usual.

I didn’t even ask her “What’s your name”.

A week later, coming to our apartment at midnight,

At the closing hour of the main library on campus,

She was there with him, supposedly studying together.

It was a blistering cold night and I had to visit the bathroom urgently.

Coming out, she had vanished.

“Where is she?” I asked my roommate.

He joked: “She heard the Niagara Falls of your piss and got a fright.”

“Do you realize that she is the one I told you was the most beautiful girl?”

He recovered from his surprise and said:

“She had been after me for a while. She definitely wants me.

I guess that I will not touch her for the sake of your feelings.”

I believed him, at least for not making any further moves himself.

Lisa was studying pharmacy too.

Met her five years later at a bar and barely talked to her. She was selling for a drug company.

 

I had the impression at the party that a certain deal

Was agreed on behind my back.

Raines promptly made her move as my new girl friend.

I acquiesced reluctantly.

 

 

 

 

 

Raines is my Initiator (Continue, Nov. 2002)

 

A week later, the two girls paid us an evening visit.

It was implicitly clear how the division was arranged.

I felt terribly jittery and somehow uncooperative.

      I was not comfortable with the realization of my de facto coming initiation.

I delayed as much as I could.  I suggested taking a hot bath.

 

Raines agreed cheerfully and we played like kids, splashing water and all.

The other couple was heard laughing at us and giggling in the next room.

What was to be done was almost inevitable.

I am not sure who turned off the light in my bedroom

But it suited me grandly.

 

I requested that she mounts me, Raines being the expert,

A single mother with a child.

I wished I was candid with Raines:

It would have saved me much grief, pain and humiliation.

She mounted me with fugue.

Her rubbing on my uncircumcised prick was extremely harsh.

The pain was humongous,

Shooting through my body and spreading to my head.

I reasoned that this might be the normal price when you commit a major Sin.

I was not to be initiated that night and did not sleep a wink.

It felt extremely sensitive and looked swollen and violet.

I could not suffer any contact with any fabric, especially Raines’ fabric.

 

For three days I wore a Jallabieh, a large loose white tunic

For three days I looked ridiculous on campus.

I checked at the University clinic

And the lady physician referred me to another specialist.

A close friend of mine accompanied me to the specialist.

The doctor was cool and within three seconds

Covered the head of my rod with the retracted skin.

Yeah, it was a rod since that fateful night,

And I wish it stays so for the duration of my active life.

      The physician trained me how to retract the skin and cover it back.

I was to exercise this new game twice a day for the rest my active life.

 

My friend had a quick chat with the physician and emerged saying:

“Adonis, is this your first time?”

 

Raines is my Initiator (Continue 2, Nov. 2002)

 

Oh, no, no, certainly not the first time.

He was obviously on the right track but I denied it

To save a standing manhood honor,

Not vehemently though.

 

Damn it, his assumption was not correct either. 

It was not even the first time.

I was still at zero time and terribly anxious and puzzled.

Incredible! I am not totally sure who initiated me.

It might be Sonia:  I remember she told me that I needed practice.

 

Sonia, Sonja, originally from Indonesia and living in Houston,

Invited me, her neighbor, at her apartment.

She met me wearing a Geisha outfit, white socks and Geisha footwear.

I was appreciative for her originality and complemented her beauty.

Sonia admitted that I showed progress in my performances

The night I bade her farewell before I flew back to my Lebanon.

 

I decided to be circumscribed because the physician’s recommended exercise

Was to last forever and for a lifetime.

I did not heal fast and could not see Raines anytime soon for a rematch.

One morning, Raines drove two hours to see me.

She did not have the heart to try my new implement

And I suggested licking her cunt.

The stench was awful, driving that long in a burning summer day,

And I did not insist.

What’s with this crazy Napoleon?

During his retreat from his failed Russian campaign,

He mailed a letter to then his wife Josephine,

Telling her that he will be joining her soon

And ordering her not to wash herself at all.

 

A year later, I called up Raines from Houston.

I had two tickets for the Eagle’s concert and wanted to treat her well.

She called back 3 hours later with a negative answer.

She said that she has recently converted to Jehovah Witnesses,

That she is a born again Christian,

And that too much fun of this kind is nefarious to her born again soul.

Note: the stories of songs for women are fragments of my existence.  The names are fictitious but the events are real to me.

 

Raines is my Initiator ; or May Be Not  (Nov. 2002)

My roommate used to travel two hours on weekends to work

As a bartender at an Army base.

He spent the rest of the week studying to be a pharmacist,

One hour away the other direction. from where he rented.

I drove in his Spitfire one summer weekend for a birthday party.

Linda and Raines were there, and I have never met them before.

Linda was utterly gorgeous and tall.

Her red-headed girl friend was sort of rotund and short, with a lovely face.

Uncharacteristically, I was in a good humor,

Funny in my French accent in any of the several languages I know.

My conversation was mostly of small talks, and still is mostly.

I naturally act drunk on water and orange juice

When I’m around a captive audience of lovely girls.

 

Linda picked me as her companion for the evening.

She would not separate from me.

My roommate had the eyes for Linda.

Being a better Casanova than me,

He cut me off several times and managed to keep Linda for the night.

 

I had many proofs that my friend is an unchallenged Casanova.

I once met the most beautiful girl on Earth

While seeing a movie on campus, solo as usual.

I didn’t even ask her “What’s your name”.

A week later, coming to our apartment at midnight,

At the closing hour of the main library on campus,

She was there with him, supposedly studying together.

It was a blistering cold night and I had to visit the bathroom urgently.

Coming out, she had vanished.

“Where is she?” I asked my roommate.

He joked: “She heard the Niagara Falls of your piss and got a fright.”

“Do you realize that she is the one I told you was the most beautiful girl?”

He recovered from his surprise and said:

“She had been after me for a while. She definitely wants me.

I guess that I will not touch her for the sake of your feelings.”

I believed him, at least for not making any further moves himself.

Lisa was studying pharmacy too.

Met her five years later at a bar and barely talked to her. She was selling for a drug company.

 

I had the impression at the party that a certain deal

Was agreed on behind my back.

Raines promptly made her move as my new girl friend.

I acquiesced reluctantly.

 

 

 

 

 

Raines is my Initiator (Continue, Nov. 2002)

 

A week later, the two girls paid us an evening visit.

It was implicitly clear how the division was arranged.

I felt terribly jittery and somehow uncooperative.

      I was not comfortable with the realization of my de facto coming initiation.

I delayed as much as I could.  I suggested taking a hot bath.

 

Raines agreed cheerfully and we played like kids, splashing water and all.

The other couple was heard laughing at us and giggling in the next room.

What was to be done was almost inevitable.

I am not sure who turned off the light in my bedroom

But it suited me grandly.

 

I requested that she mounts me, Raines being the expert,

A single mother with a child.

I wished I was candid with Raines:

It would have saved me much grief, pain and humiliation.

She mounted me with fugue.

Her rubbing on my uncircumcised prick was extremely harsh.

The pain was humongous,

Shooting through my body and spreading to my head.

I reasoned that this might be the normal price when you commit a major Sin.

I was not to be initiated that night and did not sleep a wink.

It felt extremely sensitive and looked swollen and violet.

I could not suffer any contact with any fabric, especially Raines’ fabric.

 

For three days I wore a Jallabieh, a large loose white tunic

For three days I looked ridiculous on campus.

I checked at the University clinic

And the lady physician referred me to another specialist.

A close friend of mine accompanied me to the specialist.

The doctor was cool and within three seconds

Covered the head of my rod with the retracted skin.

Yeah, it was a rod since that fateful night,

And I wish it stays so for the duration of my active life.

      The physician trained me how to retract the skin and cover it back.

I was to exercise this new game twice a day for the rest my active life.

 

My friend had a quick chat with the physician and emerged saying:

“Adonis, is this your first time?”

 

Raines is my Initiator (Continue 2, Nov. 2002)

 

Oh, no, no, certainly not the first time.

He was obviously on the right track but I denied it

To save a standing manhood honor,

Not vehemently though.

 

Damn it, his assumption was not correct either. 

It was not even the first time.

I was still at zero time and terribly anxious and puzzled.

Incredible! I am not totally sure who initiated me.

It might be Sonia:  I remember she told me that I needed practice.

 

Sonia, Sonja, originally from Indonesia and living in Houston,

Invited me, her neighbor, at her apartment.

She met me wearing a Geisha outfit, white socks and Geisha footwear.

I was appreciative for her originality and complemented her beauty.

Sonia admitted that I showed progress in my performances

The night I bade her farewell before I flew back to my Lebanon.

 

I decided to be circumscribed because the physician’s recommended exercise

Was to last forever and for a lifetime.

I did not heal fast and could not see Raines anytime soon for a rematch.

One morning, Raines drove two hours to see me.

She did not have the heart to try my new implement

And I suggested licking her cunt.

The stench was awful, driving that long in a burning summer day,

And I did not insist.

What’s with this crazy Napoleon?

During his retreat from his failed Russian campaign,

He mailed a letter to then his wife Josephine,

Telling her that he will be joining her soon

And ordering her not to wash herself at all.

 

A year later, I called up Raines from Houston.

I had two tickets for the Eagle’s concert and wanted to treat her well.

She called back 3 hours later with a negative answer.

She said that she has recently converted to Jehovah Witnesses,

That she is a born again Christian,

And that too much fun of this kind is nefarious to her born again soul.

“Psycho-physical methods in Human Factors”

Article #37 in human factors in engineering, (Written in March 29, 2006) 

In the 19th century, a few physiology and neurophysiology scientists such as Gustav Theodor Fechner (1860), von Helmholtz, and Weber endeavored to study the functional relations between body and mind which resulted in the development of controlled experiments for reaching common reference points that would relate the psychological feelings of the senses to their corresponding physical measurements.

For example, the relationship of the perception of brightness and color versus amplitude and frequency of radiant energy waves or the feelings of loudness and pitch versus amplitude and frequency of mechanical or sound waves.

Fechner demonstrated that the biology of the human does record the variations of the environment by attenuating them to logarithmic values.

The sound intensity of 10 violins in an orchestra is actually heard as one violin. If the conductor wished the audience to hear the sound of ten violins then he will have to increase the number of violinists to one hundred.

If the cord of an instrument vibrates at 80 Hz, then if the cord is pinched in the middle it will vibrate at 160 Hz, at 1/4 it will vibrate at 320 Hz and so on.

Thus, the pitch sensation and identification of octaves in a sound is attenuated logarithmically too.

As the physical stimulant increases geometrically, the biology of the human senses the increase as an arithmetic progression.

Weber discovered that the ratio of the differential threshold to the initial stimulant for the subject to sense a modification in the variation is a constant.

In the case of the pitch the constant is 1.0594; so that for a frequency of 440 Hz (the first La in the octave), then the next frequency to be differentiated would be 440 * 1.0594 = 466 Hz, the next frequency to be sensed would be 494 Hz.

The absolute threshold or the minimal excitation to hear a pitch is 3 Hz.

The psychophysical method have been applied extensively in telephone, TV, radar, illuminating, sound, and geophysical industries who wanted to provide the end users with a satisfactory psychological comfort level without undue expenditure on top notch physical circuitry or infrastructures that would not add to the requisite human performance and capabilities.

Recently, there have been attempts to adapt this method to studying complex cognitive concepts such as attitudes, mental abilities, reliable speech quality, and naturalness of voice in telephone by measuring these concepts.

The measurements of interest are:

1. the absolute thresholds (limens) that mark the boundary between sensation and no sensation,

2. the differential thresholds or the smallest detectable change in sensation corresponding to the amount of changes in the physical stimuli,

3. the equality effects values in sensations produced by two different kinds of physical stimuli like when you filter a green color to make feel as bright as a red color.

Subsequently, whenever stimulus is mentioned it means a physical value and response of a subject refers to his answer for a psychological sensation.

The psychophysical method capitalizes on the capabilities of human:

1. being excellent in simple detection tasks or null indicator or whether a sensation exist or not;

2. being good in differentiating the direction of strength of a sensation such as bigger or smaller than a standard,

3. human is bad is evaluating whether a sensation is twice or three times stronger,

4. he is worst as a meter for exact measurements;

5. human is more accurate in feeling than when relying on his mind and that is why a subject is forced to make a choice between two stimuli rather than responding that the sensation is equally strong.

For example, it is harder to hear speech in a noisy environment than in a quiet one;  and the problem is to investigate how loud should a person raise his voice in order to be heard in a noisy room?

The development of this method generated three basic procedures for measuring the equivalence between psychological sensations and the physical parameters which are:

1. Procedure of adjustment or average error,

2. procedure of limits or just-noticeable difference, and

3. the procedure of constants which is the most accurate and widely applicable.

Consequently, we will focus on the third procedure in the subsequent sections.

The procedures of adjustment and of limits are slightly different but generally the experimenter shows the subject two series of stimuli,

The first series starts with a stimulus well above threshold and the subsequent values diminish by small and equal steps; the second series starts well below threshold and values are increased in equal amounts.  The final responses of the subject are averaged whether the response is an indicator of a sensation or expressing direction of strength such as more than, equal, or less than.  The experimenter either takes control of varying the stimuli or he may allow the subject to control the stimuli until he reaches a definite sensation response.

The procedure of constants starts with the experimenter performing an exploratory study to determine the upper and lowest thresholds and then selects between 4 to 7 stimuli spanning the range of sensations.

These selected stimuli are everytime randomized when presented more than 50 times to the same subject.  If equality or differential thresholds are being measured then a standard value is compared to the subject responses.

Usually, the more intense the stimulus the higher the percentage of correct identification and the choice of threshold criterion vary between 100% correct answers and 50% which basically represents chance happening depending on the behavior of responses or the graph trend and shape; the stimulus value adopted corresponds frequently to a threshold criterion of 75% correct.

An example is in order.

A telephone company is planning to provide TV viewers with signals transmission that give sharp images without the need to invest in expensive top notch circuit infrastructure.

The bandwidth for transmission should be more than adequate for a satisfactory picture; a bandwidth of 4 megacycles transmits blurred images while 10 megacycles is more than excellent.

A cheaper simulator is achieved by using an optical defocusing of movement of the projection lens corresponding for the range of zero to 10 mils.

An observer views a standard scenes compared to an identical but partly blurred scene. The amounts of blurring are set up in steps of 2 mils and the subjects are forced to guess which scene is the sharper.

By selecting a threshold criterion of 75% correctly guessed the company was able to decide on an effective bandwidth of less than 7 megacycles that provide an excellent sharpness psychologically and save on irrelevant costly hardware.

There are many pitfalls for inexperienced investigators conducting psychophysical experiments and many of these problems are the results of systematic biases such as:

1. Observers tend to quickly receive cues from the control devices they are handling and their responses become biased;

2. the space order of the standard and variable stimuli can be a source for error biases, for example, it is well known that a vertical line looks longer than an identical horizontal line;

3. the second of two equal stimuli is judged louder or brighter than the first;

4. a series of “yes” responses for example encourages a subject to persist in the same kind of response, thus the experimenter should vary the direction of responses;

5. observers tend to get cues from the experimenter through his voice, gestures, or instructions.

Most of these errors can be counterbalanced when the order of stimuli presented is randomized at each trial.

The psychophysical method is being used in the study of sensory performance of non-human species as well.

Article #34 (March 7, 2006)

“What message has the Human Factors profession been sending?”

In the late 90’s, there have been harsh critical positions on the viability of the body of knowledge and practices of the Human Factors/Ergonomics discipline and profession.  A few human factors scholars/professionals pinpointed the problem as a failure to communicate to engineering designers the content, values, and substantial database that exist for their practical projects; an insensitivity of designers to human factors data. 

A second group of professionals lamented that our research papers have been oriented to basic science and not finding cost-effective solutions to designers’ problems; thus, the inadequacy of our data for solving practical design problems.  A third group advanced the opinion that our methods and body of knowledge are not progressing fast enough to qualify as a science of ergonomics because the studies lack the quality of generality in the findings; engineer designers learned to ignore the quantitative answers of our studies on the basis that their own judgments would probably be equally as good without our research findings.

These positions are valid but we must admit that this discipline is more complex and more difficult than the other engineering fields.  First, there are no design drawings for people as engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropometric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes; thus the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in countable fashions and can be accounted for in design.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems are changing accordingly; thus, interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently.

Fifth, everyone feels is an expert about human behavior on the basis of common sense acquired from living and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors but not so expert in the fundamentals of natural sciences such as physics or chemistry.  We think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

To remedy the shortcomings and miscommunication of the discipline Alphonse Chapanis suggested that our discipline focus on the design aspects which should separate it from the purely academic disciplines such as psychology, physiology, and anthropology; research should be oriented toward practical designs of what we have to do or want to use.  An example of faulty communication with a group of engineers: instead of talking about our sensory systems as a psychologist do for the concepts of absolute thresholds, upper thresholds, and just noticeable differences a human factors engineer should focus on the machine displays where the energy levels of the beams of electrons striking the phosphorescent surface have to be intense enough to exceed our difference thresholds if we were to perceive them.

An example of uncommunicated message:  a rigorous study was done for a kind of straining work by investigating the mechanical work and energy transfer between and within body segments.  There were human factors messages in the study but the authors failed to recommend any job redesign to reduce the strains and ease the tasks.

An example of research not targeting a practical design: Engineers and programmers are interested in designing symbols for screen displays but when a research investigates the errors and reaction times of graphic versus numeric symbols just to fit a model of information acquisition without any practical design recommendations then we can feel the frustration of designers.

Some basic research could lead to practical design implications and some proclaimed practical research could fail in finding any practical usage and thus the only research that should belong in the human factors literature are those that aim at practical design implications and indeed could recommend practical solutions.  To that end, Chapanis recommended the following:

First, that every submitted ergonomics manuscript should have a final section headed “Design Implications”.  This final section should be objective and be candid about the restricted situations, the trade-off consideration, and the uncontrolled potential variables that might influence the results because engineers welcome partial information and could design on the basis of fragmentary information.

Second, when stating general guidelines about end users hat might prompt a designer to selecting his own wording it is best to suggest the expertise of human factors whom are qualified for selecting the appropriate vocabulary because we should be the experts on user characteristics and task analysis.

Third, the human factors professionals know how to find out what kinds of vocabularies are suited to particular users and tasks; it seems that a vocabulary of less than a couple hundred words, judiciously extracted and tested, was sufficient to design a natural-language dialogue for communicating with intelligent machines.

Fourth, the human factors professionals have to admit that they need further study for design problems because technology changes and systems are being updated continuously.  When asked for specific design recommendations we have to answer that we need to do some study because any engineering practitioner prepare models, simulations, breadboards, prototypes to test, modify, and validate before jumping from a design concept into full-scale operation of a finished product.

Fifth, in practical design work multiple-variable experiments are the exception than the rule.  The ergonomics professionals could tap on many methods in our repertoire such as: activity and task analyses, failure modes and effect s analyses, fault tree, time-line, link, and workload analyses, simulations, rapid prototyping, operational sequence analyses, walk-through procedure and user edits.

As long as the body of knowledge on the abilities and limitations of the human is increasing with the aim of practical design implications of safe, healthy, comfortable and effective systems solutions, then the Human Factors/Ergonomics discipline is an engineering science.  In 1988, Chapanis summarized the state of the ergonomics knowledge and updated versions would be wholesomely welcomed.  There are the “Guidelines for designing user interface software” which contained 944 guidelines, guidelines for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration Standard entitled “Man-system integration”, and other guidelines in the “Human Factors Review”.

Chapter 14: Too early, too fast for a Republic

Gergis met the First Emir on assignment from the founding fathers of the Aram National Party with the avowed mission of discussing the urgency of legalizing political parties but was preempted by the First Emir who greeted him with an ironic question: “Well Gergis, you cannot believe how rumors spread quickly in this land.  More than one official have been adamant that you are assiduously studying a draft paper for a written Constitution.  I told them that this is a pet project of yours and now it is time to divulge you a secret; Noura had intimated to me during the insurgency period that you had troubles putting in writing certain ideas of yours on how to govern people and I am sure that you think your troubles have ended now. Please, tell me what do you got under your secret hat”.  Gergis was taken aback and could not resume his plan; instead he candidly expounded on his articles of a draft Constitution. While Gergis believed that a written Constitution was an ingenious idea actually worried greatly the First Emir.  The latter reminded Gergis that many procedures in governance were already set down in writing such as the Parliament election procedures and terms of the deputies, the municipalities, the ministries, and the High Court of Justices but to venture into the terms and responsibilities of the First Emir was anathema to Antoun’s ears, especially the creation of an unusual title of President. The zeal emanating from his trusted counselor Gergis was contagious and he tried to cool the latter down so that he has time to digest this draft Constitution and assimilate the spirit of change blowing on the Kingdom.

It dawned on the First Emir that changes were indeed required in the political system but also that changes in society’s attitude need a gestating period so that adopting this Constitution based on his sole authority would undermine his credibility at this difficult junction. A week later the First Emir summoned Gergis and admonished him to relent on his proposition; his rationale was that the time was not yet ripe for a Republic because the current political climate favored the hegemony of the Mameluk’s Empire and there were no urgent political demands to disturb this status quo; furthermore, he ordered Gergis to shelve that draft Constitution and refrain from further discussions with the other members of the government on the subject.


Army centers and duties

Mustafa got busy reorganizing the army.  Every district comprised of 10 towns and villages with an average population of 6,000 inhabitants had an army center of a complete Levantine phalanx with duties to enlist, provide basic training and support the internal forces in matters of security and order.  These centers supplied their meager resources by employing their soldiers in the fields and home construction in times of shortages of manpower.  This close cooperation between towns and army centers strengthened the spirit of a unified and national army. These military centers could mobilize on average 600 militiamen each to back up the standing army in time of emergencies.

The government encouraged hunting expeditions in the vicinity of each army center in order to supply meat, training exercises to get familiar with the region, and to enlist villagers through these outdoors excursions.  During the hunting seasons a third of the phalanx on each trip would be accompanied by hunters from the neighboring villages and set out for a whole week excursion; the games would be divided among the hunters, army center and the needy families.  The First Emir encouraged his counselors to join these hunting expeditions under the protection of the army centers so that they keep in touch with the state of the citizens, report back to the central government and inspect the discipline and educational level of the soldiers in reading and writing skills.  For that purpose every district had to reserve an area as a hunting facility preserved from habitation or agricultural activities.

The location of army centers were selected by teams of experts with specific criteria in mind such as centrality amid the group of villages, accesses, defensibility and potential for economic self sufficiency. Many army centers turned out to become hubs for the development of districts and the influx of the necessary funds to capitalize on the local industries and trades and consequently, many expanded to village size conglomerations.

The standing army was 16,000 strong with 12,000 in three of the headquarters in the Bekaa Valley of which 4,000 were based in the Hermel region in the North, 4,000 in Zahle in the middle and another 4,000 were stationed in Khyam in the south; the Bekaa Valley enjoyed this concentration of military effectives because the reduced width of the nation needed additional power flexibility in cavalry and chariots suitable for plain warfare.  Another major reason for this army concentration was for the realization of a grand project intended to maximize the resource of the Litany River, the major and longest river in Lebanon crossing the Valley North to South.

The other 4,000 soldiers were distributed in Mount Lebanon and the coastal regions to protect any sea invasion until militia reinforcement arrived. The coastal force was sufficient because the navy, 5000 seamen strong, was well trained to counter any invasion threatening the maritime ports.


Internal trading infrastructures

Architects, engineers and Spanish speaking educators from Andalusia in Southern Spain were attracted to the Levant to disseminate new sciences and administrative skills. Commerce between the Levant and Venice flourished and trading counters were established in Cyprus, Alexandria in Egypt, Marseille in France and Cadiz in Spain.           

One of the means for communication among the remote villages was tending to the road infrastructure.  Most of the beaten roads lead to key littoral towns.  The ministry for road construction was instructed to build two main highways parallel to the seashore crossing hills and valleys; the first highway was to link towns at altitude of 1100 meters and the second for towns above 700 meters.  Many bridges were to be contemplated because the region was mainly hilly and mountainous with deep valleys separating the regions.

            One of the construction proposals attracted the First Emir’s interest; the project was to set into motion the opening of a tunnel that would link the western mountain chain with the Bekaa Valley.  This tunnel would allow trading throughout the year regardless of the harsh winter weather and at a much shortened distance and less danger to the caravans. The First Emir knew that this project would not be terminated during his lifetime but it was a project that would generate creative technologies and open up new engineering studies and applications and thus ordered funds allocated to this project for a period of ten years.

Another project that was considered seriously was the management of the Litany River which was the main source of irrigation in the central Bekaa Valley and a few resort facilities were installed along its banks for the summer time.

This was the period of great maritime endeavors in construction of ships, management of ports, commercial maritime laws and the establishment of a special navy division in the army.  

Chapter 13:  An underground political Party

Gergis was aware of the new problems that this expansion would generate in the cohesion of the Nation and concentrated his energy and time on formulating a Constitution that would encompass the rights and duties of all the citizens regardless of religion, sect, gender or tribal origin. When he finished the first draft Gergis gathered Mustafa, Mariam and a few close associates for an urgent meeting and divulged to this initial founding group the content of his draft Constitution for comments and revision.

 

An attempt for a draft of the Constitution

The first draft Constitution was intended to organize the society and the political system on firm written commitments. The articles of this draft Constitution were as follows:

Article #1: All citizens are equal in the law regardless of religion, sect, gender, tribal origin or class wealth; justice will be delivered to all according to the laws of the land.

Article #2:  The political system is based on three independent authorities with the purpose of checking any power extravagances from any authority. The executive, the legislative and the judicial powers will be created for the benefit of maintaining Liberty in choices, creating opportunities for economic development, assuring freedom of religious beliefs and encouraging the rights of all citizens to a decent and happy life.

Article #3:  The President of the Republic is the head of the executive authority and is elected by the legislative House for a ten years term. The head of the Legislative House is elected by the members of the townships’ councils for a six-year term. The justice authority will be composed of a council of 7 members appointed by the President for a ten years term after approval by the Legislative House as to the status and professionalism of the justice members. The legal authority would have the power to rescind any law enacted by the legislature that is deemed contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.

Article #4:  The president has the power to appoint the members of his council of ministers after approval by the Legislature. The President has the right to demote any council member at his own discretion after submitting a non binding request to the Parliament.

Article#5: The Council of ministers has to present the yearly budget for approval by the Legislature and every minister’s performance examined once a year during a regular legislative session that could be extended for three months.  In this legislative session any minister could be demoted by a vote of confidence of 60% of the House members present.

Article #6:  Ministers have the power to appoint their top aides after confirmation by the Legislature and they can demote their aides after approval of the President.

It was clear that this draft Constitution did not attempt to define this nation-society or venture into delineating its boundaries.  Mustafa Baltaji listened carefully to the articles but projected a passive attitude. Mustafa’s rough life as a pirate since he was ten years old then as a contraband assistant to Antoun at seventeen ended up holding the ministry of defense through dedication and self learning. He could now read and write in two languages and had become a voracious reader.  Mustafa enlarged his innate intelligence and eloquence and acquired vast knowledge on human behaviors and the cultural characteristics of the various tribal customs within the Levant and surrounding Nation-States. This draft Constitution left a lot to be desired in the soul of Mustafa by its static formality but surprisingly initiated the spark that ignited the deeply hidden vision he was hibernating within the fold of his ripe spirit.  The anxious moments that Mustafa had endured, feeling helpless about the fast expansion resulting in quick absorption of new populations without the corresponding potential capabilities in education and organization to assimilate the new citizens, vanished instantly:  He conceived the long term stability of the Nation in forming a political party from the ground up based on this draft Constitution and patient indoctrination of adherents into the new spirit and the need for strict discipline and cohesion that would withstand political upheavals.

Mustafa suggested to the attending members his idea of creating a political party as the best mechanism to communicating the new spirit and added new articles to the first draft which logically should be at the top of the list and were:

Article #1:  The people of this State have basic commonality in culture and language and verified economic interdependence that forms a fabric that can be termed a complete society, and constituted an indivisible Nation.

Article #2:  This Levant Nation is called the Aram Nation and its natural borders are the Mediterranean Sea in the West, the chain of mountains of the Zagros and Toros in the North and include the region of Alexandrite and Antioch, the Sinai desert in the South and include the El Arish and Gaza regions and finally the Euphrates River in the East and encompassing the Basra town and environ (in present Southern Iraq).

Article #3:  The political and social organization that expresses these convictions is called the Aram National Party and its objective is to educate and organize the people so that they would safeguard the highest interests of all the Syrian people and insure its cohesion and unity against any invading force.

Article #4:  The Aram National Party is the Nation’s party and will be organized as an integral political and social State with all the requisite administrative branches of governance.

Mustafa provided the rationale for naming this political party because throughout the history of the Near East the region was called Aram.  In ancient time, the Middle Western coastal City-States were known as Phoenicia, the South Western coastal City-States of Palestine including El Arish, Gaza and Ashkelon.were known as Canaan, and to the East were the kingdoms of Akkad, Babylon and Ashur of current Iraq and to the North were the barbarian regions of current Turkey.  During the Arab Empire, Aram was known as Al Sham because facing north this region was at the left of Mecca while the region on the right side was called Yemen; the northern parts of Turkey were under the Byzantine Empire.


A Constitution for the Aram National Party

This new formulation of the Constitution for the party galvanized the tiny founders’ group and opened up new vistas of political development and new wells of energies. They then agreed on the following steps: the articles of the first draft would be part and parcel of the revised draft and would be the foundation of the Party Constitution to be promoted and adopted as the basis for the Nation’s Constitution; Gergis would present the first draft of the Constitution, excluding Mustafa’s added articles for the time being, to the First Emir as a personal initiative for his feedback.  Mariam suggested that the First Emir must not get wind of the creation of a political party organization at this stage in order to salvage his sensitivities and ego until the Party is underway.  Gergis insisted that the creation of a political party should not take effect before the First Emir gives his consent, otherwise it would be considered an internal coup d’etat by the government.  Mustafa agreed with the cautious approach of Gergis and offered that the legalization of political parties should take precedent to any organizational endeavors. Whereupon followed a heated discussion of how to proceed if the First Emir declined to legalize political parties or viewed a written Constitution as an attempt to undermine his power.  It was evident that most of them were getting attached to their government appointments and privileges and lacked the courage to confront the First Emir and stimulating his wrath.  Only Gergis was willing to take the heat because a written constitution was his pet project even during the preparation of the insurgency and because he instantly realized that the formation of a political party would be the achievement of his life which would endure regardless of the political changes in his Nation. They all agreed on the following procedure: first, Gergis will pave the ground for the legalization of political parties which will prompt the First Emir to explicitly start thinking of creating his own party and second, after wining this round, to propose the articles of the party and to convince the First Emir for the necessity of a written Constitution for the party itself which does not conflict with his power as head of the Nation.  The diplomatic flexibility of Gergis was basically setting the milestones for eventually forcing a written Constitution for the Nation.

 In any event, there was a tacit agreement that when the green light for creating a political party was obtained that Mustafa would be the first executive President of the Aram National Party, Miriam the head of the Legislative committee and Gergis the head of the Supreme Court of justices which has the power to strike down any laws that do not preserve the spirit of the Constitution and also to mitigate any civic differences among the adherents in order to preserve the unity and cohesion of this political body.  Gergis was elected to be the prime organizer of the party for the first two years until a meeting of all adherents could take place for the official election of the officers and then Gergis would take a leave of absence from his duties as Foreign Affairs counselor as soon as the legalization of political parties takes effect.

Intelligence Gathering Centers

It was at this period that Gergis proved his organizational genius and far sighted comprehension of the real functions of Foreign Affairs responsibility. Previously, Gergis’ understanding of his functions were limited to encouraging commerce and trade in foreign countries and this limited grasp of his responsibilities was mainly due to being assigned the counsellorship of economic development, a task that overshadowed his other responsibilities and prevented him from allocating enough time to diplomatic activities. It was through trials and errors that the grand picture took shape under the urgency of securing the southern borders with Egypt.    

Gergis had a good working relationship with Mariam, the education counselor, and they together undertook to establish two centers for training Foreign Service personnel in the languages and customs of foreign countries. Basically, Spanish and Latin were the main formal languages taught at the centers but quickly more languages were offered such as Farsi and French and the slang of many Arabic speaking people.

The main task for Gergis was to gather timely intelligence on the political, economic and social problems facing the Sultan of Egypt.  Excellent intelligence would allow the Republic to preempt any reckless decisions from the Sultan and plan for the appropriate communication timely delivered before any fateful scheming policies could be officially under way.  It was to be well understood that in these trying times the best approach for powerful Sultans to solve internal problems was to call for military actions with the hope of easy plunder of neighboring kingdoms and paying off their disgruntled mercenaries with the plunders.

Gergis set up a higher qualitative organization for his Egyptian diplomatic missions that brought its fruit in stability and prosperous trade. The main station was in Alexandria, a major port with heavy trading, and it was the first stop for all Foreign Service personnel assigned to Egypt.  The newly assigned staffs would work part time after being trained to be coach drivers, gardeners, or craftsmen in accordance with the demands with the noblemen and for the remaining time of the day they received advanced training in the local language, customs, protocol and Foreign Service clerical duties. 

Many of these recruits, after graduating, were transferred to work as hired and trained people for the noblemen and high officials in Cairo and major cities in Egypt for the purpose of gathering intelligence. Then, after becoming proficient in the language and necessary skills, the freshly trained diplomats were assigned to major cities and in the countryside where problems were looming.  Six out of ten of the officer corps were offered the rudiments of the local language and customs from one of the two linguistic centers in the Levant, Beirut and Sidon, before being transferred abroad. 

Formal training for their missions and an understanding of the political and administrative structure of the countries they were assigned to were provided by the Foreign Service Institute in Beirut.  When servicemen returned for vacations they had to write about their experience, lecture and share their knowledge in the training centers and get training for their next assignment.

The servicemen and their families were to serve 5 years in one country and their private residences were to be of the same standard as those of the average locals.  Only the professional serviceman skilled in a trade, proficient in the local language, and well trained in the various diplomatic tasks were assigned to remote regions so that they could be self sufficient as to their livelihood and be an asset to the locality and an honorable example of the citizens of the Republic of the Levant.


Overseas Holding Company

An ingenious plan to supplement the budget of the Foreign Affairs department was proposed to the governing council.  Gergis suggested the institution of a holding company for investment overseas and targeted the countries where pressing intelligence activities were needed.  The ministers and rich merchants would initially buy shares in this holding company so that artisans and merchants could be set up in partnership with local counterparts abroad.  This scheme allowed the infiltration of many Levantine agents into the economic and social fabric of Egypt and part of the profits in these partnerships reverted back to the holding company. An annual budget was allocated to the Foreign Service department taking into account the profits generated from investments overseas. Initially, this company was to be for non profit in the first three years and then afterwards 20% of the profit would be retained for the shareholders.  The government had already some experience with complex financial institutions but necessary modifications to the organizational structure of the overseas holding company had to be installed in order to strengthen its sensitive and secret policies.  The board of directors was reduced to five members of the 3 most powerful traders, the minister of Foreign Affairs and Haim the minister of Finance.

In the second year of the formation of the Overseas Holding Company, Gergis announced a yearly gathering lasting for three days of the members of the Company, the Foreign Service personnel and members of the government.  This assembly was to be held starting on a Monday in the third week of December. The assembly was seated on lush cushions on a floor spread with an intricate Persian carpet. Gregis delivered an opening speech sitting on an elevated sofa behind a small rosewood table.   He spoke thus:

“Honorable ministers, members of the Overseas Holding Company, my compatriots and colleagues in the Foreign Service; this year is memorable by the achievements of the Nation and the Foreign Affairs ministry.  This Nation can now claim to have secured solid diplomatic recognition by most of the neighboring kingdoms and crossed with a steady step the major obstacles that were erected to thwart its stability and progress as a self-administered and autonomous Nation.  The Foreign Affairs Ministry is practically self sufficient for its routine expenses but might rely for two more years on the public funds to expand into key kingdoms and establish critical Embassies and trading consulates.

We have already founded important supporting institutes like the Institute of Foreign Languages and the Center of Foreign Studies which are both fully functional and have already graduated capable and learned public servants.  We are already firmly settled in Egypt and Cyprus and our trade is varied and increasing at a fast pace with many other countries as well. This year’s gathering will be devoted to lectures on the economic demands and business variances of a few emerging societies, private experience overseas, open sessions for criticism on internal performance and feedback on the prospects for future development, and closed sessions for deciding on your propositions and working out a budget for next year.  Today and tomorrow, between 4 and 6 o’clock, the executive members of the Overseas Holding Company and the higher ranking personnel in the Foreign Affairs will hold working sessions to generate new ideas for fresh investments and to open dialogues for the application process in joining the Foreign Service”.

“On Wednesday late afternoon we will have a grand bash party, and God permiting, the First Emir will share with us in the festivities to offer gifts to every one so that our families enjoy the Christmas and New Years Holidays and share with us in this hard earned and thriving year.  Long Live our First Emir and Long Live our Levant Nation. May peace be upon you and brotherhood and prosperity spread over the land.”

. For effective results, appreciable gifts were discreetly offered in critical circumstances to the powerful men in office in Egypt and in timely manner in exchange for advantageous business laws and critical referrals and connections. In times of political deterioration many Levantine immigrants settled down in their new countries of adoption and profits to the holding company dwindled because the State administration was lax or insufficiently organized to attend to the interests of the State.  It is to be noted that the wave of immigration to Egypt in the mid n19th century, mostly from the Levant intelligencia and professionals found a well settled ground that permitted them to be the forerunners in establishing daily newspapers, movie producers, mass agricultural enterprises, bankers and disseminating theaters and all kinds of cultural endeavors.

The State department contemplated serious diplomatic missions in Cyprus to track down the master plans of the European countries’ interest in the Levant with another one in the coastal city of Antioch (in present day Turkey) to monitor the political changes of its Sultan and a third one in Mossul (in present northern Iraq) so that the Tatar military campaigns reactivation be studied and analyzed.


Economic development

An important by-product of this period of frantic trade with Egypt was the acquisition of the minting skills imported from Egypt.  The Fatimide bullion currency was adopted and copied in size, weight and gold purity; one face carried the inscription of “There is one God and only one” (La Ilah ella Lah) and the other face had the cedar tree with the inscription around it stating “The Republic of the Levant” and the year the currency was minted.  This identical worth in value of the Egyptian and Levantine currency made it possible for it to be interchangeably accepted throughout the Middle East kingdoms.  Large shipments of raw gold mineral were arriving from Turkey and Egypt to the Levant foundries, most of the time clandestinely.

Another sector was developed due to the heavy demands on the Egyptian market for silk cloth.  The government of the Republic encouraged the importation of silk worms and the mass plantation of blackberry trees throughout Mount Lebanon. Every large town made it its business to hire whole families to acquire spindles for working silk cocoon into threads in homes.  This business flourished till the first quarter of the 20th century when the First World War calamity befell Mount Lebanon and famine decimated its population into starvation and immigration.  Shipments of silk to Egypt returned with raw cotton for the manufacturing establishment of cotton garments in the Levant.

The new Republic could have easily annexed Jerusalem but the First Emir resolved that, as long as the siege of the Caliphate was in Cairo, it would be advisable to nominally leave it under the Mameluk monarch.  This decision was beneficial to both parties because it strengthened the Arab resolve against the Tartar’s constant threats if they finally sifted through their internal troubles for leadership and also because it avoided the new Republic any internal strife on sectarian basis. The Mameluk monarch agreed, after lengthy diplomatic wrangling, to have his garrison in Jerusalem reduced for the purpose of maintaining peace and order because the Levant was sensitive to closer military concentrations on its borders.

The new expanded nation enjoyed 8 potential maritime ports: Tarsus, Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, Tyr, Acre and Haifa. The population to be governed increased to 2 million: 40% Christians and 60% Moslems.  The ratio of religious affiliations was now reversed.  A higher level for the concept of a unified nation was to be seriously tackled based on a Constitution agreed on by all the citizens.

Once the military threats from the neighboring Emirs and princes were relatively under control because the balance of power forced the belligerent parties to calculate more precisely the onerous maneuvers, the First Emir went about unifying and reconstructing his extended kingdom within the varied religions and customs.

Rainbow over the Levant

Expansion toward Palestine (continue 17)

The Viceroy of Safad in Palestine was feeling the heat and the approaching demise of his reign: he could no longer expect any fresh reinforcement from the Sultan of Egypt or any financial support because he was by tradition next to be replaced when a new Sultan would come to power.

Thus, the Viceroy of Safad engaged in diplomatic negotiations with the Levant government for a trade-off,  an infusion of direct financial aid to him personally in return for the right of the Levant government to collect taxes in the coastal region extending from Beirut south to Acre.

The Viceroy of Safad expected the same deal as ratified with the Viceroy of Tripoli five years ago but finally had to settle for 15% of the previous year’s collection.  The Sultan of Egypt recognized that peace and stability to his reign would best be served by a strong and honest leader in the Levant who never shirked on his deals and paid the tribute on time.

The Sultan figured that consecrating Antoun as the official Viceroy of Safad would strengthen his hold on the Levant by direct communications and obedience.

It would have been more natural for the First Emir Antoun to obtain the Viceroy-ship of Tripoli because Mount Lebanon was within the jurisdiction of Tripoli, but high politics was never the art of creating manageable responsibilities. Consequently, in addition of the Viceroy ship of Safad of Northern Palestine the Levant was also unofficially enjoying an implicit hegemony on the domains of both the Viceroys of Damascus and Tripoli.

Chapter 12

Administration of an intricate Nation

In the ten years since the success of the insurgency movement, the new nation of the Levant expanded from Homs and Tartus (North West part of current Syria) down to Galilee and Acre (North of Palestine) in the coastal southwestern shore.

The Eastern mountain range of the Bekaa Valley formed the eastern border of the new nation. The Bekaa Valley was the fertile land and the bread basket for the whole region.  The nation had about 400 kilometers of coastal shoreline with an average depth of 100 kilometers.  The area of the nation expanded more than 50 times immediately after the insurrection,to about 40,000 square kilometers. The mountainous eastern borders were defensible and the northern borders could be defended in many areas where the mountains were very close to the main seashore highway.

The only moot borders were in the south and the government exercised policies of the most favored kingdoms with in the southern kingdoms and Egypt. In order to alley any sense of fear from the Egyptian Monarch, policies of commercial and economic cooperation and steady diplomatic relations were established.

Actually, the populations under the formal authority of the government of the Levant were enjoying complete self determination and extended from Betroun to Tyr, and to the Eastern mountain chain for just a total superficies of 7,000 square miles.  The rest of the territory required the rubber stamp of the Viceroys in either Damascus or Tripoli for official documents and the indirect payment of the tributes to Cairo after being collected by the Levant government.

The Viceroy of Tripoli was still officially attached to and appointed by Cairo, but his authority was restricted to the city limit proper of Tripoli and could not raise an army or dispatch his guards outside the city limits.  Any Viceroy would have been glad to rule over a well delimited territory, but Mount Lebanon was like a magnate pulling over the population from the three neighboring Viceroys’ territories.

The government of the Levant had to respond accordingly and assume very intricate internal policies and continual time consuming negotiations with the official sovereigns.

In order to administer this Swiss cheese like amalgam of territories the Levant had to set up four administrative divisions in the finance ministry where tax collected would be disbursed either directly to Cairo or indirectly through the other two Viceroys in Tripoli and Damascus.  These endeavors were much trouble and sometimes intractable, but controlling the collection and disbursement of money was the critical mean against raising substantial armies by the neighboring Viceroys without the direct funding from the Sultans of Egypt or Turkey.

Since the Sultan of Egypt required a certain amount of tribute according to the traditional system, the remaining tax collected from the newer tax system reverted to the Levant Treasury.

First Emir Antoun learned quickly that in order to enhance the economy in one of his provinces he would have to lower the tax break in that province so that capital and investment would flock to it at the detriment of the higher tax break provinces.  He learned that the changing of tax breaks had to be done slowly, allowing long periods of stability and assimilation and also that this financial tool had to be adopted moderately and judiciously so that no suspicion of punishment might be conjectured.

 The internal security had three administrative divisions, one for the coastal cities, one for Mount Lebanon and the third for the territories not directly under the jurisprudence of Mount Lebanon proper.  Even the department of defense had two separate divisions, one for Mount Lebanon with a standing army not to interfere outside its borders and the other division for the auxiliary army in the territory not formally part of Mount Lebanon; the auxiliary army was responsible in assisting the internal security outside Mount Lebanon.

First, the First Emir decided that no visible army concentrations would be placed within 10 kilometers of the city limit proper of Tripoli, Damascus or Safad.

The soldiers of the auxiliary army would wear the same attire as the internal security forces outside Mount Lebanon as a face saving scheme to the respective Viceroys; the smaller but numerous army centers in the auxiliary territories were a mixture of army and internal security forces with the implicit main task of gathering intelligence and pacifying the populace with prompt interventions in securing security and justice.

For the southern region neighboring Egypt a unified center for coordinating intelligence services between the army and the internal security forces was decreed, firmly consolidated and established in Tyr.

Basically, every ministry had separate budgets for Mount Lebanon and the auxiliary territories which were self administered but centrally controlled.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2008
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