Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 2012

Embezzling a multinational financial corporation: “Girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo”

The heroine Salander, the young girl in the novel “Girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo” managed to hack into the hard drive of Wennerstrom Swedish multinational financial corporation and has spent days and long hours studying and analyzing the routes of the various complex transactions.

Wennerstrom was confident that the State of Sweden will never investigate his corporation and confiscate his hard drive, and he didn’t contemplate burning the hard drive into a new hard drive for his new performing computer, or even burn it into CD…

Salander is now in total control of a mirror hard drive saved in a commercial server in Holland. Read the process in

Salander decided that all the $billion should be transferred to her own account.  She understood that the assets were of three kinds:

1. The fixed Swedish asset, which was squarely available to public scrutiny

2. Assets in post-office-box companies in locations such as Gibraltar, Cyprus, and Macao ( a sort of clearing house for illegal mafia businesses in laundering money generated from drugs, weapons, sex, slave trade…)

3. An anonymous account in the Cayman Islands: Every 1% of every deal made in laundering money would be siphoned into that account via the post-office-box companie

Salander bought two faked passports and rented suites at two luxury hotels in Zurich (Switzerland). She walked to the venerable Zimertal Hotel costing 22,000 kronors a day, and paid 210 kronors for a bagel and two cups of coffee at the bar.

By 10 am, Salander punched in her mobile the number of a modem uplink in Hawaii.  She replied by punching in a 6-digit code and texting a message containing instructions to start a program.

In Honolulu, the program came to life on an anonymous home page on a server officially located at the university.  The program function was to just start another program on another server located in Holland.

The new program was to look for the “mirror image hard drive” belonging to Wennerstrom and to take command of the program showing 3,000 bank accounts around the world.

Any change in Wennerstrom’s accounts shows only on the mirror hard drive and the user will never notice that the actual money was indeed transferred.

Salander walked in the Bank Hauser General in Zürich for her appointment with Herr Wagner, the general manager. Herr Wagner pigeon-holed Salander as a spoiled daughter or the mistress of a big financial shot… Salander said: “There are a number of accounts at the bank of Kroenenfeld in the Cayman Islands.  Automatic transfer can be done by sequential clearing codes…” and she recited several series of 16-digit numbers  without referring to any papers (She has a photographic memory). Herr Wagner cashed 4% commission on the transactions.

Salander changed to a more normal look and outfits and met with Herr Hasselmann at the Bank Dorffmann.  She opened an account and converted a few private bonds. She then opened 5 numbered accounts which she could access via Internet and which were owned by an anonymous postal box company in Gibraltar that a broker had set it up for 50,000 kronor. Each of the 50 bonds was worth one million kronor.

Salander booted up her PowerBook and uplinked to the Net through her mobile.  She emptied the numbered accounts that were opened at Bank Dorffmann and divided the money up into small amounts and used them to pay invoices for a large number of fictional companies around the world.

When she was done, the money was transferred back to the Cayman bank, but to a different account from the one the money was withdrawn.

Salander made one payment from the Cayman account to her anonymous company “Wasp Enterprises” registered in Gibraltar.  The next day, Salander deposited the private bonds from the Cayman bank into 9 private banks in Zurich.

By 3 pm, Salander had converted 10% of the bonds into cash, a sum she deposited in 30 numbered accounts.  The rest of the bonds she bundled up and put in a safe-deposit box.

Billion were transferred before Wennerstrom could discover that he is penniless.

Salander burned every trace of her visit to Zürich, papers, wigs, cloths…

Note: The other two tomes of the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson  were published posthumously. I think the first novel The “Girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo” was the best of the three.

Hacking a multinational financial corporation: Girl with the dragon tattoo

I read a few chapters of the “Girl with the dragon tattoo” by the late young Stieg Larsson, including the finals chapters, and I decided to review in details two chapters: One on how to hack hard drive, and two, how to embezzle from multinational financial corporations and transferring billion into your own accounts…

The heroine is Salander, a young asocial girl with photographic memories: If you watch someone flipping pages at the rate of a couple of seconds, it is not likely you stumbled on this rare specie…Salander can re-read from memory entire pages, word for word, any time, and years later…

People “suffering” from Asperger’s syndrome have this talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning…

Salander solved all the math problems in the voluminous 1,000-page Mathematica, without attending any schooling.

Hold on, don’t despair: you can still hack computers

Obviously, Salander is a computer geek, one of the very best: Those masked Fulke Anonymous are small change compared to Salander’s talent, and she has no idea how she mastered the hacking processes…

This is how Salander managed to hack, invade, and conquer the hard drive of Wennerstrom multinational financial corporation computer.

Salander cooperates with Plague, another computer hacker living in a basement. Plague invented a cuff that connect to broadband computer cables: Every bit that the user “sees” or type is registered by the cuff, which forward the data to a server rented from a commercial communication service provider.

The cuff also function as a type of “firewall“. For example, as the user gets an email, it goes first to the cuff and you can read it before it passes through the user’s firewall.

The ingenious part is that the email is rewritten and few bytes of “source codes” are added. This process is repeated every time the user download anything to his computer, opening a new home page, pictures…several rows of source code are added. Pictures are even better, as you surf the Net for porno pictures and videos…

By the by, the user had downloaded an entire programme of 3 megabytes without realizing it, in which each bit is linked to the next bit. When the last bits are in place, the programme is integrated with the user Internet browser.  To the user, it looks as though his computer has locked up and he has to restart it.

During the restart procedure, an entire new software program is installed.  When the user starts Microsoft Explorer, he is starting an entirely different program that’s invisible on the desktop and looks and functions just like Explorer, but in reality it does several other tasks:

1. It takes control of the firewall and makes sure everything is working,

2. It scan the computer and transmits bits of information at each click of the mouse when surfing the Net,

3. By the by, you accumulate a complete “mirror image” of the hard drive on your server, meaning that the user think he is in his hard drive, but in reality you are in control of the real data saved in your server

4. You are set for Hostile Takeover of the corporation

The process generates two complete hard drives: One on the machine and one on your rented server.  The next time the user boots up his computer, it’s actually the mirror computer that’s starting.  The user is practically working on the server hard drive.

When you connect to the server, you are tapping the user’s computer in real-time.  You can “burn” the server hard drive contents into CDs if you wish for added security…

Mind you that a user encryption program becomes irrelevant once you are inside the computer and you can read the passwords every time the user types them…

The follow=up post is the direct consequence for hacking the hard drive: Embezzling billion from multinational financial corporation into your own account…

Iran will not be attacked. Period. “Netanyahu, go and play with the settlements in Palestine…”

Israel journalist investigator Yuri Avneri wrote in Haaretz:

“Israel will not attack Iran. Period. The US will not attack Iran, not this year, not the next year, and not in the foreseeable future.  The stakes for economic and strategic damages are too high to gamble on any military operation. Mind you that 40% of oil shipment passes by this region…”

Actually, Israel campaign to attacking Iran nuclear facilities is a strategic smokescreen meant to pressure the Obama administration at desisting from putting Israel under the strong public lights for failing to abide by the UN decisions of stopping the settlement activities…This campaign is simply asking Obama to keeping a blind eye on the plights of the Palestinians under occupation and not to open the Palestinian State resolution that was submitted to the UN.

This unrelenting campaign to attacking Iran militarily was meant to force Obama into acknowledging: “Alright Netanyahu. Go and play with the settlement activities in the Palestinian occupied territories.  Iran is a big fish for Israel to deal with. Iran is a superpower problem to manage…”

In fact, for an entire year, the US never brought out the Palestinian issues into the public, and the main US powerful media failed to cover it.

In fact, the US created the Syrian problem for three main objectives:

1. To divert the public attention from the urgent Palestinian cause that needs to be resolved

2. A counter pressure on Israel consistent harassment on Iran nuclear problem.  Israel public policy was baffled and off-balance regarding the Syrian uprising: Israel enjoyed the totally relaxing and peaceful status-quo on its borders with Syria

3. The US was not serious of changing the regime in Syria: It needs plenty of time to digest the new situation in the Arab world and how to contain mass aspirations.  Actually, the veto of Russia and China was within an agreement with the US to postpone any resolution on Syria. For these 3 superpowers, France and England are small change that are used as preliminary emissaries for testing the ground…

Iran has only to inform Loyd insurance of London that it warned all the owners of the supertanker not to pass the Straight of Hormuz…

Israel “Routine” occupation activities. And Iran will not be attacked. Period.

The Beitslim Israeli organization, Israel Center for intelligence on violations of Human Rights in the occupation Territories in the West bank and Gaza,issued a report stating that Israel harsh violations had dramatically increased in the territories in 2011.

The deterioration is not due to any unusual events or special activities, but simply a continuation of the prevalent Routine practised by the  army in the last 45 years of occupation.

The occupation of the territories in 1967 was supposed to be of a temporary nature, and the UN resolution is specific about the withdrawal of Israel.  What was to be temporary evolved to a permanent occupation policy that is shattering the democratic system in Israel. (This temporary nature reminds me of the occupation of Syria to Lebanon since 1976, or the occupation of Israel to south Lebanon for 25 years…)

This “melancholic routine in the occupied lands“, and of continuous subjugation and humiliation of an entire Palestinian population, was described in detailed eye-witness accounts by Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied lands.  The latest 348-page book “Occupied territories: Testimonials of soldiers between 2000 and 2010” report the accounts of soldiers to the reporters of the Israeli organization “Let’s break the Silence barrier

The discussion of the report should be made public: The fresh new army recruits replacing the “veterans” in the territories are blinded by established clichés that perpetrate violent activities against the civil Palestinians…The army, the civic communities in Israel and the politicians persist in avoiding to look the occupation beast in the face.

Mark Twain once wrote: “Three are precious in the USA: freedom of expression, liberty of conscience, and the hypocrisy of flaunting the previous values in times of self-serving crisis”

Actually, Israel campaign to attacking Iran nuclear facilities is a strategic smokescreen meant to pressure the Obama administration at desisting putting Israel under the strong public lights for failing to abide by the UN decisions of stopping the settlement activities…This campaign is simply asking Obama to say: “Alright Netanyahu. Go and play with the settlement activities.  Iran is a superpower problem to manage…”

Note 1: Post partially inspired by a piece reported from Israel by Antoine Shalhat for the Lebanese daily Al Nahar

Rebellious Spring, Murderous Winter

I didn’t yet read Arab Spring, Libyan Winter by Vijay Prashad, but Ron Jacobs did a short review.

” Arab Spring, Libyan Winter attacks the western interpretation of the transitions in Egypt and Libya and explores the actual events from a perspective that explains the players in terms of their allegiances, holdings and politics.

In Prashad’s work, the differences between the fighters on the ground and the suits on television are not only acknowledged, they are examined in terms of their meaning to the future.  In discussing Egypt, Prashad describes the conflagration of Washington’s imperial needs, Tel Aviv’s paranoiac perception of its security, and the Mubarak clique’s desire to maintain power.

Prashad gives lie to the West’s claim that it was interested in democracy (a relatively simple task to be sure), explaining that in the western mindset democracy doesn’t mean democracy, it means a guarantee that the interests and holdings of capital will not be upset.  The common term one hears is Stability.

Most of this book is about the battle for Libya.  Prashad’s text provides the most detailed description of the events both on the ground and in the office suites.  He exposes the humanitarian intervention by NATO for what it was.  That is, a means for the western powers to regain unfettered access to Libyan oil and rid themselves of an at best erratic client—Muammar Qadhafi.

Unlike many on the Left, Prashad does not take sides for or against the rebellion.  Instead, he explains the uprising as a popular and positive thing that was manipulated by the forces of the G7 and NATO.  Simultaneously, he discusses Qaddafi’s reign as one that began with many positive changes, yet ultimately was a victim of its own excess and greed.

If there are any good guys in his narrative, it would be the masses that risked their lives to overthrow the autocracy that had Qadhafi at its helm.  Their opposite would be the men on both sides of the battle whose only real interest was in keeping their bank accounts plush while serving their masters in the stock exchanges of the neoliberal world.

An interesting, and as yet not very closely examined, is the role of the  Jordan, Morocco, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

Prashad makes note of the fact that the western capitals have said very little about the harsh repression visited on the Bahraini uprising or the Saudi intervention there.  He also explores the military role played by Qatar in Libya, its current role in Syria, and the inclusion of some GCC States in a NATO adjunct.  Perhaps this adjunct of NATO will be able to stand in for NATO in future operations in the Arab world, thereby creating another shadow in the workings of modern imperialism.

Despite the millions of words written about the Libyan uprising and the NATO intervention, nothing written in English has come near the truth. After reading Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, it seems that when all is said and done, Prashad’s work will come the closest”.

What I know is that France and England had prepared detailed military plans for Libya, before the uprising in Tunisia and later in Egypt. Qadhafi decided to buy his weapon systems exclusively from Russia, and France and England had little oil investment in Libya, and they wanted to have their big share of the cake…

You may read

Ron Jacobs wrote on Libya and the Arab Spring:

“The last twenty or so months have certainly been months of insurrection.  This is perhaps no truer anywhere on earth than in the Middle East and northern Africa.  Exactly what the phrase “Arab Spring” means is still open for discussion.

After the protests, the sit-ins and encampments, the armed assaults and the killings, the only thing certain is that four dictatorial autocrats are no longer in power in the countries they formerly ruled.  Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen.  What will stand in their stead is still being debated.

When the Egyptian people began to gather in Tahrir Square in February 2011, the embers of the immolation that consumed Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi had already sparked the prairie fire that overthrew the dictatorial ruler Ben Ali.  The protest in Tahrir Square was the first manifestation of that fire in Egypt but certainly not the last. 

Th fires of protest in Egypt tossed out their dictator less than two months after Mr. Ben Ali was deposed.  The feat of that overthrow was not only momentous within the borders of Egypt itself: Its repercussions were felt in the halls of Arabia, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

In Washington, Tel Aviv, London, Berlin, Paris, and Rome and on Wall Street, there was plenty of catching up to do.

Neither the eavesdroppers at the National Security Agency or the black ops managers of the Central Intelligence Agency predicted the end of the Mubarak regime.  Indeed, it wasn’t until the bitter end that the political powers in the aforementioned capitals began to side with (and subvert) the popular uprising in the streets of Egypt.

After Mubarak’s fall, the revolutionary fire spread like flames whipped by warm Santa Ana winds.  Bahrain to Libya.  Yemen to Syria.  London and New York.  Athens and Oakland, Occupy Wall Street protests.  The insurrectionist wave was in motion and nowhere was it more powerful than in the Arab world.

Nowhere was it met with more determined (and murderous) resistance from the powers that be, internally and externally.  Underlying the insurrectionary tide were the economic facts of neoliberalism’s struggle to maintain its global dominance.  When it became apparent that this goal could not always be accomplished by continuing to support the old regimes, the capitols of capitalism inserted their agents into the opposition and did their best to manipulate the rebellion into serving the agencies of those capitols.

For example, the IMF, World Bank and the rest of the usual suspects saw their moments in each instance and made their moves.  As I write, the entire insurrectionary wave is at a stalemate between the forces of popular social justice and just another new face for western imperialism.

Naturally, very little has been written about this aspect of the revolutionary upsurge of 2011-2012 in the organs of neoliberalism.  Instead, the fact of IMF arrangements with the post-Mubarak Egypt and the new Tunisia are interspersed with superficial analyses of the rebellions that would have the reader believe that it was social media that provoked them.

Even more revealing of the mainstream media’s allegiance to the imperial regime in the insurrection is its lack of coverage of the continuing popular resistance in the Pentagon’s shipyard Bahrain.  Instead, we are presented with an ongoing litany of unconfirmed atrocities committed by the Syrian military and a portrayal of the resistance there as essentially untainted by its affiliation with outside governments and military.” End of quote

Note 1: Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. 

He can be reached at:

Hezbollah: Prime gold goose for Rotten Lebanese sectarian leaders

Let’s consider for a minute that the military wing of Hezbollah does no longer exists in Lebanon.

What would the rotten thieves and sectarian leaders in Lebanon still be talking and commenting to the Lebanese “citizens”?

1. If Israel expresses its utter displeasure of the constant criticism of Lebanese medias toward this theocratical and apartheid State, and for Israel to abide by all UN resolutions concerning vacating occupied lands in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine…would the government in Lebanon impose self-censure on the media not to respond? On the basis that the Lebanese army is not prepared to oppose any nth Israel invasion?

2. Would the other religious sects leaders desist from amassing arms? No chance.

We had two official civil wars and several unofficially recognized, and all our civil wars objectives were for one religious sect to gain more power and privileges.

3. Would Hezbollah stop being the main social and political weight in Lebanon politics? I think not. The Shiaa represent more than 50% of the population.

4. Would Iran stop being a political presence in Lebanon? I think not.

5. Would Syria stop being the main political presence in Lebanon? I think not.

6. Would the world dignitaries and political leaders keep visiting Lebanon as they are doing now? I think not.

Actually, most of the orders from superpower States are sent by SMS to the sectarian leaders, and barely third secretaries will get the trouble to visit Lebanon…

7. Would the sectarian and trade comprador leaders start focusing on the needs and wants of the Lebanese? I think not. Lebanon is a set of monopolies distributed to each sectarian leader and his financial associates.

8. Would electricity be provided? I think not.

Even yesterday, the billionaire Mikati PM has declined the electricity project approved by two governments, simply because he received a project that suits his personal interest…

9. Would potable water flow in our pipes? I think not.

10. Would rotten meat, fish, and outdated imported products stop entering our supermarket and restaurants? I think not.

11. Would the foreign “helpers” imprisoned for invalid papers be treated humanly and not kept in jail for two years...?

12. Would women accede to the same legal rights as men? Not without a prolonged fight.

13. Would our election laws be reformed toward equitable, just, and fair criteria? I think not.

Shall I go on?

Note: Read more

Capitalism Version 2012:  And My set of Grand Bargain priorities

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN had disseminated the concept that, any neighborhood around the world, even in “rogue listed States“, if it is lucky to have opened one of the US international corporation franchise (such as McDonald, Burger King, Coca Cola…), this neighborhood is immune to any “collateral damages” from air strikes, drone attacks…

In a sense, the citizens of the State under US military reprisal operations would be far safer if they gather in “franchise quarters” rather fleeing to Mosques, churches, hospitals, or embassies…

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN published on March 13 “Capitalism, Version 2012” (with slight editing):
David Rothkopf, the chief executive and editor-at-large of Foreign Policy magazine, has a new book out, entitled “Power, Inc.”   It is about the epic rivalry between big business and government that captures what the 2012 election should be about.
And it’s not “contraception”: It’s the future of “Capitalism” and whether it will be shaped in America or somewhere else.

Rothkopf argues that, while for much of the 20th century the great struggle on the world stage was between capitalism and communism, the great struggle in the 21st century will be about which version of capitalism will win, which one will prove the most effective at generating growth and become the most emulated.

Will it be Beijing’s capitalism with Chinese characteristics?” asks Rothkopf. “Will it be the democratic development capitalism of India and Brazil? Will it be entrepreneurial small-State capitalism of Singapore and Israel? Will it be European safety-net capitalism? Or will it be American capitalism?”

It raises another question: “What is American capitalism today, and what will enable it to thrive in the 21st century?”

Rothkopf’s view, which I share, is that the bargain that most admired and system tried to emulate about American capitalism is precisely what we’ve been ignoring: America’s success for over 200 years was largely due to its healthy, balanced public-private partnership.

Mainly, the government provided the institutions, rules, safety nets, education, research and infrastructure to empower the private sector to innovate, invest and take the risks that promote growth and jobs.

As the private sector overwhelms the public, you get the 2008 subprime crisis.

When the public overwhelms the private, you get choking regulations.

You need a balance, which is why we have to get past this cartoon argument that “the choice is either all government or all the market”

The lesson of history is that capitalism thrives best when you have this balance, and “when you lose the balance, you get in trouble.”

For that reason, the ideal 2012 election would be one that offered the public competing conservative and liberal versions of the key grand bargains, the key balances, that America needs to forge to adapt its capitalism to this century.

First grand bargain is to repair our long-term structural deficit via tax reform: by phasing in $1 in tax increases for every $3 to $4 in cuts to entitlements and defense over the next decade. If the Republican Party continues to take the view that there must be no tax increases, we’re stuck. Capitalism can’t work without safety nets or fiscal prudence, and we need both in a sustainable balance.

As part of this, we will need an inter-generational grand bargain so we don’t end up in an inter-generational civil war. We need a proper balance between government spending on nursing homes and nursery schools — on the last six months of life and the first six months of life.

Second grand bargain we need is between the environmental community and the oil and gas industry over how to do two things at once: safely exploit America’s new found riches in natural gas, while simultaneously building a bridge to a low-carbon energy economy, with greater emphasis on energy efficiency.

Third grand bargain we need is on infrastructure. We have more than a $2 trillion deficit in bridges, roads, airports, ports and bandwidth, and the government doesn’t have the money to make it up. We need a bargain that enables the government to both enlist and partner with the private sector to unleash private investments in infrastructure that will serve the public and offer investors appropriate returns.

Fourth grand bargain should focus on education and health care. We need grand bargains that better allocate resources between remediation and prevention. In both health and education, we spend more than anyone else in the world — with no better outcomes. We waste too much money treating people for preventable diseases and re-teaching students in college what they should have learned in high school. Modern capitalism requires skilled workers and workers with portable health care that allows them to move for any job.

Fifth grand bargain  among employers, employees and government.  In Germany government provides the incentives for employers to hire, train and retrain labor.

We can’t have any of these bargains without a more informed public debate. Bill Gates said to me in a recent interview “The big thing that’s missing in U.S. politics today is this technocratic understanding of the facts and where things are working and where they’re not working,” so the debate can be driven by data, not ideology.

Capitalism and political systems — like companies — must constantly evolve to stay vital. People are watching how we evolve and whether our version of democratic capitalism can continue to thrive. A lot is at stake here.

Rothkopf argues: “If we continue to treat politics as a reality show played for cheap theatrics, we increase the likelihood that the next chapter in the ongoing story of capitalism is going to be written somewhere else.” End of quote

I have My set of Grand Bargain priorities:

First grand bargain: Drop the laws on tax-exempt religious businesses, cancel the privileges that clerics enjoy that common citizens lack, penalize candidates and institutions (private and public) that capitalize on religious “fervor” in order to gain election votes or pressure public institutions…

Second grand bargain: Be candid and make transparent on what capitalism is based on. For example,

1. Keeping 20% of the population poor regardless of surpluses, so that this part of the population keeps maintaining the capitalists interests in low paying-jobs,

2. Inventing preemptive wars in order to capture the surplus in lower middle-class citizens that capitalism claims its inability to absorb in the market place.

3. Appointing a council of 10 members, independent of the government, to investigate financial irregularities in ministries and pinpointing publicly the conflict of interests and biases in public institutions

Third grand bargain in political reforms. For example:

1. Denying the President the right to appoint Supreme Court judges

2. Making election laws fair, affordable, understandable and readable by the common citizen

3. Curtailing the monarchic rights of Presidents

4. Eliminating the incarceration policy of youth in schools for 13 years because they are too virulent for the system to contain their aspiration for change and reforms

5. Setting a cap on upper income and enforcing the concept of reducing inequality image among communities…You may add your alternatives, and they are many…

Note: You may read on private properties

Western media in the “confused business”: Writing Iran when meaning Saudi Arabia?

The Olympic game charter prohibits States to discriminate between genders  in at least two clauses. And yet, Saudi Arabia will not let women participate in sports, while Iran do send sport-women to games…Suppose Iran was discriminating, wouldn’t international outcry be deafening us? But nobody is willing to make waves when Saudi Arabia is the culprit…

Saudi Arabia Wahhabi, theocratic and absolute monarchic State has executed 76 people in 2011, such as women condemned for witchcraft, non-noble class homosexuals, sodomizers, adulterous women, drug traffickers, apostasy…and cutting hands of robbers…But the UN is not interested in what’s going on in Saudi Arabia.

Except the UN High Commissariat for human rights, no international institutions bring up these violations in Saudi Arabia…Neither the UN Council, nor the G20, nor the International Monetary Fund (IMF)…care of what’s going on in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is practically untouched and never blamed…For example, in 2008, French Sarkozy declared: “Under the vigorous impulse of his Majesty Abdullah, Saudi Arabia is developing a civilized policy…

Currently, Saudi Arabia impulse is still in funding and supporting the most obscurantist Islamic extremists in Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Mali… They are funding TV cables channels dedicated to Islamic salafism, erecting Mosques in every street, sending free million of Korans (Wahhabi version), and million of books on “How to subjugate wives and daughters in obeying patriarchal systems…”

Saudi Arabia is lethally crushing youth demonstrations under the banner of “New form of terrorism”, killing peaceful Shia demonstrators in the Eastern region, jailing over 20,000 each year for freedom of expression charges, and has sent military reinforcement into Bahrain to crush the civil uprising, and is supporting the Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia…

The irony is that Saudi Arabia is the refuge for all dictators, including Tunisia Ben Ali, and current Tunisia Hamadi Jebali PM visited Saudi Arabia and lauded the good deeds of this archaic monarchy, and refrained from demanding the extradition of Tunisia dictator, or the return of the stolen billion…

Saudi Arabia would want everyone to believe that the main nemesis is Shia Iran, as Israel would want everyone to believe this strategy…As  if peaceful nuclear energy program is the enemy to human rights, democracy, freedom of expression…And it is the Iranian people who are to suffer from economic and financial sanctions, while Saudi Arabia fund and sustain terrorism everywhere in Islamic States…

Western media are persisting in the “confused business” of not politically discussing the current US policies in the Arab World: Are they Writing Iran when meaning Saudi Arabia?

The big picture can be described as follows:

1. China keeps the US economy afloat

2. Saudi Arabia keeps the US Federal budget afloat by cyclically infusing funds, particularly in crisis situations such as preemptive military operations, changing “rogue” regimes, enforcing oil embargoes…

3. The US cyclically rectifies Israel endemic budget deficits, using Saudi Arabia largess. Can’t we claim that Saudi Arabia is the main funder of the theocratic and apartheid Zionist State? Is the US cowing to Saudi Arabia strategy of reducing all States in the Middle-East to theocratic Sunni Wahhabi salafism and archaic regimes and encouraging Israel to be a carbon copy of the surrounding States?

Vulnerability, shame, guilt, regret, introvert…All in one session of discussion

I attended the weekly TEDxSKE salon in Awkar (Lebanon) and Patsy showed 3 TED speakers on various topics such as vulnerability, shame, gilt, regret, introvert, extrovert, ambivert or “neutralvert”, memoriless conditions…and I was very outspoken.

Topic One: On Regret

Is there many kinds of regrets?  Are the difference in magnitude or there are qualitative types of regrets?

The woman speaker started with a personal type of regret

At the age of 29, she decided to have a tattoo, a compass design on her upper left arm, on the premise that she already knew her north direction (what she waned in life…). After the tattoo session she broke down and started weeping and she could not sleep the night recollecting the event and going through the 3 phases of denial, recognizing that the tattoo could no longer be removed, and wondering what went wrong with her for this late decision…

Question: Do you think this kind of regret is a good way to start a long talk on regret?

Do you think if we listened to a mother who lost a child at a very young age, and she regrets her kid that the talk could be very different? Or the talk will be mostly of the feeling of shame that she was not at the level of expectation of the community for a mature mother?

Do you think that if you had a passion as a kid, and you started working on this passion and you failed, that this regret would set the stage for a different talk on regret? Anyway, is any of our passions not a recollection of passions we had as kids? Could we acquire a passion as adult if the source was not from our childhood memory?

So often you hear this statement: “I regret that I never had a passion in life...” Does this saying has any value? How can you regret something you never felt? Or maybe you knew a certain passion but felt it would sound shameful that other know about it, and much less to act on the passion?

I regret that no a single member of my family, or extended family was a public artists. I don’t remember anyone singing or daring to sing in public, or dance, or act in a play, or play the clown, or play music, or discuss freely in any topic…

Not a single member projected this daring sensation: “I dared. I am daring. I dare you to try…”  Is it possible in such condition that I could have ever learned to be sociable and feel endowed with this entitlement of negotiating with “authority figures”? I tried my best, and I failed, and I am ready to try again under appropriate cultural circumstances…

I tended during the talk not to believe that the speaker was serious or the talk is going to be of any value…

Topic Two: On Shame and vulnerability

What’s the difference between shame and guilt?  Is it the difference between “I am a mistake” and “I did make a mistake”?

Brené Brown studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.  Brown explored what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

A man approached Brown and asked her: “How come I constantly feel vulnerable in front of my wife, and not thinking that I am a good enough provider?”  Brown replied: “My Ph.D. research focused on women. I have no answer for you…”  And I wonder: “If the research was not interested in the various interactions between genders, the research must be a boring and monotonous descriptive study:  The real and rich story is based on interactions...”

Actually, the main thing I retained from this exciting talk is the question of the man.  The rest seems vague and not that memorable. Still, Brown is a great talker and she managed the feat of how to make a riveting speech on “How often the terms vulnerability, guilt, and shame could be repeated to cover a 15-minute speech…?

Topic three: On Introvert and Extrovert

During the session, we were handed out a sheet of 29 questions with True or False answers, which was supposed to discriminate among the Introverts, the Extroverts, and the Ambivert.  For example, if you answered True on 16 questions and over you are an introvert, if over 16 falses you are an extorvert, otherwise you are an ambivert.

I liked the questionnaire, though Q27 didn’t make sense:”I don’t think of acquaintances as close friends“.  Is this question makes sense to you?

Or Q 7: “I tend to notice details many people don’t see”. Are designers, particularly artistic designers supposed to be invariable extroverts or introverts?

In my view, an ambivert or neutralvert is a very confused person, an intelligent person who never had the courage to invest enough time to reflect on “who he is”, his limitations, capabilities, passions, emotions…

I can completely comprehend an introvert: this is a very normal person. 

I cannot fathom how an extrovert can be or behave: He must be a nutcase at the very end of the tail, a person whom a brain surgeons in the 30’s would have lobotomized

Susan Cain talked of introvert people and how she managed to spend her girl scout summer camp…I let Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test tell part of my impression:

“When you’re at a party, do you suddenly feel the desperate urge to escape somewhere quiet such as a toilet cubicle and just sit there? Until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, I thought it was just me. I’d see other partygoers grow increasingly effervescent as the night wore on and wonder why I felt so compelled to go home.

I put it down to perhaps there not being enough iron in my diet. But it’s not just me. It’s a trait shared by introverts the world over. We feel this way because our brains are sensitive to overstimulation. I am genuinely astonished by this news.

In fact, I read much of Susan Cain’s book shaking my head in wonder and thinking: “So that’s why I’m like that! It’s because I’m an introvert! Now it’s fine for me to turn down party invitations. I never have to go to another party again!

Cain is an introvert.

Susan wrote: “It has always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communication with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person”.  She argues the current (western world) excessively and misguidedly respects extroverts: We make them our bosses and our political leaders. We foolishly admire their self-help books, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Before the industrial revolution American self-help books extolled character. Nowadays it’s all about personality.

We introverts attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being “true to ourselves” can make us physically and mentally ill. One introvert that Cain knew spent so much of his adult life trying to adhere to the extrovert ideal he ended up catching double pneumonia. This would have been avoided if he’d spent time recharging his batteries in toilet cubicles, and so on.

At the Harvard Business School, socializing is “an extreme sport”. Extroverts are more likely to get book deals and art exhibitions than their introverted counterparts. Cain had to persuade a publisher she could conquer her stage fright and promote herself at book festivals before they agreed to take her on.

In America, extroverted parents have been known to send their introverted children to psychiatrists to have their introversion kids “treated” out of them. We think extroverts are great because they’re charismatic and chatty and self-assured, but in fact they’re comparatively narcissistic and unthoughtful and we’re committing a grave error structuring our society around their garrulous blah.

Most egregiously, we form our workplaces around the extrovert ideal.

I like Cain’s nightmare descriptions of open-plan offices where group brainstorming sessions descend on the startled introvert like flash-storms. Group-think favors the dominant extrovert. The loudest, most socially confident and quickest on their feet win the day, whereas the contemplative and quietly well-informed tend not to get a word in. School classrooms are increasingly designed to reflect this flawed environment.

Children sit in pods facing each other and are rewarded for being outgoing rather than original. “You Can’t Ask a Teacher for Help, Unless Everyone in Your Group Has the Same Question” read a sign in one New York classroom she visited. All this even though Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling and Eleanor Roosevelt have described themselves as introverts, at their best when solitary.

I finished Quiet a month ago and I can’t get it out of my head. It is in many ways an important book – so persuasive and timely and heartfelt it should inevitably effect change in schools and offices.

It’s also a genius idea to write a book that tells introverts – a vast proportion of the reading public – how awesome and undervalued we are.

I’m thrilled to discover that some of the personality traits I had found shameful are actually indicators that I’m amazing. It’s a Female Eunuch for anxious nerds. I’m not surprised it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Cain says introverts are “especially empatic”. We think in an “unusually complex fashion”. We prefer discussing “values and morality” to small talk about the weather. We “desire peace”. We’re “modest”. The introvert child is an “orchid – who wilts easily”, is prone to “depression, anxiety and shyness, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent”.

When I get to this part I think: Yes! We are like orchids! With good parenting we can become “exceedingly kind, conscientious and successful at the things that matter to us”.

Then I feel embarrassed that I derived pleasure from being compared to an orchid and I realise that sometimes Cain succumbs to the kind of narcissistic rhetoric she eschews in extroverts.

Still, Cain’s suggestions on how to redress the balance and make the world a bit more introvert-friendly are charmingly cautious. She argues that the way forward is to create offices that have open-plan bits for the extroverts and nooks and crannies where the quiet people can be quiet. A bit like the Pixar offices.

In this, Cain reminds me of the similarly measured Jonathan Safran Foer, whose anti-meat lectures climax in a suggestion that we should try if possible to eat one or two vegetarian meals a week. Give me this kind of considered good sense over showy radical polemics any day.

But sometimes Cain’s brilliant ideas aren’t written quite so brilliantly. Her book can be a bit of a slog, not always a page turner. I wish she’d spent a bit more time adventuring and a bit less time analyzing and philosophizing and citing vast armies of psychologists.

I love feeling Cain’s pain when she journeys out of her comfort zone to “life coaching” conventions. But those adventures vanish as the book wears on, and it starts to drag on a little, especially during the many chapters about how brain scans seem to demonstrate neurological differences between extroverts and introverts.

I don’t know why popular psychology books feel so compelled these days to cite endless fMRI studies. As any neurologist will tell you, we still have very little idea about why certain bits of our brains light up under various circumstances.

And there’s a bigger nagging thought I couldn’t shake throughout the book. It began during the preface, in which Cain prints an “Are You an Introvert?” checklist. She lists 20 statements.

The more we answer “true” the more introverted we are: “I often let calls go through to voice mail. I do my best work on my own. I don’t enjoy multitasking. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status …” At the bottom of the quiz she mentions: “If you found yourself with a roughly equal number of true and false answers, then you may be an ambivert – yes, there really is such a word.”

I do the test.

I answer “true” to exactly half the questions. Even though I’m in many ways a textbook introvert (my crushing need for “restorative niches” such as toilet cubicles is eerie) I’m actually an ambivert. I do the test on my wife. She answers true to exactly half the questions too. We’re both ambiverts. Then I do the test on my son. I don’t get to the end because to every question – “I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. I enjoy solitude …” – he replies: “Sometimes. It depends.” So he’s also an ambivert.

In the Ronson household we’re 100% ambivert. We ambiverts don’t get another mention in the book. Even for a writer like Cain, who is mostly admirably unafraid of grey areas, we ambiverts are too grey.

Cain’s thesis – built on the assumption that almost everyone in the world can be squeezed into one of two boxes – may topple if it turns out that loads of us are essentially ambiverts. I suspect there are a lot of ambiverts out there.” End of quote




March 2012

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