Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 2013

Master of Type, Graffiti, public expression, Beirut

On a wall close to the American University of Beirut, a stencil has been crudely blacked out with a layer of thick paint.

Beirut’s walls were once considered acceptable forums for public expression, but the city is changing.

The critics disagree not simply with the presence of the graffiti, but its message too.

Pascal Zoghbi, an Arabic typographer, was one of the first commentators to pick up on this trend.

Paul McLoughlin in BrownBook posted on Feb. 14, 2013:

Pascal Zoghbi’s interest in street art began in Europe, when he studied his Master’s in typography at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Netherlands.

Pascal said: ‘During my stay I travelled all over Europe and graffiti was very prominent there. ‘When I went back to Beirut, I noticed the scene was beginning to look stronger. So I spent time taking pictures of all the graffiti I found and wrote some pieces about it on my blog. I saw that the graffiti scene in the Arab world is much more in touch with the social and political status of the people. This is highlighted by the witty slogans on the walls of the region’s capitals rather just than the names of the artists like in other parts of the world.’

After 3 years of documenting the regional graffiti trends, Zoghbi was contacted by a European street artist Don Karl, to assist him on a series of workshops on Arabic style graffiti in Lebanon.  Zoghbi (32 of age) has considerable experience in teaching, from the typography classes he leads at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University.

The graffiti workshops, however, put him in touch with the Lebanese street artists involved in the graffiti scene. After researching more, Zoghbi began to take a particular interest in the socio-political connections of graffiti in his home country from as far back as the 1970s and he also concentrated on different trends in Palestine, Bahrain and Syria.

These observations resulted in a book published last year entitled Arabic Graffiti. It presents Zoghbi’s studies of graffiti across the region and connects the dots between the slogans and coinciding social events that inspired the artists.

In the book, Pascal focuses on Arab and non-Arab graffiti artists and  he illustrates the typographic and calligraphic elements behind their work. After printing the book in English and French, Zoghbi says he is looking forward to working on a second edition of the book in the coming years, as well as an Arabic translation.

Zoghbi presents graffiti as an intellectual trend rather than a reckless act of vandalism by frustrated youth. He argues, that it speaks of social and political life in the Arab world. ‘We selected artists who experiment in Arabic graffiti with thoughts that connect with events in the region.’

There is also an aesthetic element to this regional style that has attracted non-Arabic speakers such as the UK’s Mohammed Ali. These are artists catalogued by Zoghbi in his work but it is the actual art that draws him back to this part of the world.

‘Now we are seeing some artists who are developing their own Arabic styles. It is still a young trend but it is growing to be very strong. For me, I think it is even more interesting than what is happening in the West. A lot of street art in Palestine is in Arabic but in Lebanon we are more used to using English and French, as that is what is taught in schools. However, in recent years we are beginning to see Arabic being used more and more.’

Following recent events in the region, he also argues that it has never been a more dangerous time to be a graffiti artist owing to the powerful messages of their often gallows-humour slogans. This includes a study in the book of the colourful and ironic murals daubed on the West Bank’s separation wall as well as the idioms that led to change in Egypt.

‘It’s all part of the message so we tried to make a link. For me it’s very important to make this link because I don’t see the need for graffiti unless it has a different message to say,’ Pascal adds.

Zoghbi has highlighted the dangers graffiti artists are under in some parts of the Arab world through articles, but he also points out that some work included is simply for its artistic merit. He says the artists themselves are from a variety of backgrounds, but are most common amongst the graphic design community.

Many designers are using this type of calligraphy in their design work and vice versa. What we are seeing is that styles of Arabic calligraphy are becoming more urban-inspired due to street art.’

It might not be a surprise then, that Zoghbi sees Arabic typography as going through a similar renaissance, which can be seen in his contributions to the Khatt Foundation project, Typographic Matchmaking in the City.

29 Arabic Letters is Zoghbi’s Arabic typeface response to these new dynamics. Its main mission is in creating new Arabic fonts and corporate identities in the Arab world. His work includes producing the Droid Arabic fonts for Google and the Corporate Mathaf type face for Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.

‘On my list for the future is to work on other books and continue my work with the Khatt Foundation. ‘Personally, based on my academic experience, I feel there is a lack of books that deal with Arabic typographic guidelines from an educational perspective. I therefore think something like this will be of huge use to both students and professionals.’

Zoghbi’s broad experience in typography through his academic and commercial work, has put him in a good position to pick up on trends in lettering and he hopes that contemporary street art could be a way of strengthening Arabic typography.

‘It is not just about the people who are writing on the walls but my own hope and willingness that the Arab graffiti artists will be inspired by Arabic calligraphy in their work and not just to imitate Western styles.’

As Zoghbi highlights in his work, this is something which is already playing out in countries such as Syria, Palestine and Lebanon and looks set to move away from the peripheral and contribute more directly to the dialogue and changes in mainstream culture in the Middle East.

Pascal Zoghbi, Interviewed for BrownBook Magazine by Paul McLoughlin. http://www.brownbook.me/master-of-type-2/

“My eternal regret. I’m so sorry Ramis”

We were a bunch of close friends in my first year university at a university in Beirut. The guys slightly outnumbered the girls, and we were of various confessions, different Christian sects, Moslem sects, and even a Jewish guy.

I was the youngest and the age difference spanned 18 to 23 years. A few of us were well-off, had their own homes, a car, a girlfriend… many of us were barely affording tuitions, but we managed to meet and eat outside, and stayed together till midnight.

The civil war had started shyly in 1975, but people learned quickly not to venture out of their premises or to linger outside at night.

Murad was two years older than me and somehow he was tacitly imposed as our guiding rod: He was the only child, lived with his mother in a vast ancient home in the mountain overlooking Beirut, he had a car and a girlfriend Tania. He had lost his father (died at the age of 44 from heart attack) when he was 7 years and his mother chaperoned him to be the master of the house. His mother reigned as the regent to a designated monarch, sort of allowing Murad to give his opinions and decisions on daily matters.

I was under the impression that if his mother Aida had a single daughter, she would have treated her daughter as her slave. Murad would never tell his mother of the inevitable problems among the friends: She would consider the friend as an enemy for antagonizing Murad.

Samiramis was my classmate and she was the tallest among the girls, beautiful and svelte.

At one of our countless parties, I couldn’t stop ogling her and I was in a chatting mood from nervousness.

Around midnight, “Sami the beautiful” asked: “Who will accompany me home?” As a child I screamed: “I will”, no matter what she actually wanted, and I was ready to fulfill Ramis wishes.

I didn’t own a car and after 5 minutes walk I felt ashamed: “Ramis must have expected someone with a car to give her a lift, and here I am walking her all the way to her building, in dark streets filled with large holes…” It was too late to return and ask someone else to give Sami a lift: If I were in Paris, walking for 5 minutes would be very natural and normally expected, but not in Lebanon.

As we arrived at a large crevice in the street, I held Ramis hand to circumvent this obstacle and keep her hand afterwards. Ramis subtly eased her hand out of my soft grasp, and felt ashamed for taking this initiative: My gentlemanly education at home was a huge barrier in “taking advantages” of someone relying on me to care for… And thus, I failed to kiss her goodnight: It was not proper since she expressed not to be in the mood of being intimate with me, tonight…

A week later, Semiramis showed up holding hands with another one of our common friends. I was helplessly looking at the joined hands and surmised that this guy was bold enough to hold her in his arm and show her closer attention and affection.

We met again as a group, but walking Ramis home was not to take place again. The irony was that I had purchased a beige beetle car, and Ramis was not to ride in  it with me.

It was the regret of a lifetime: I blew a fantastic occasion to get intimate with Semiramis and starting a love story…

Twenty years later, I returned hurriedly from Paris and boarded the first flight to Beirut: Tania, now  the wife of Murad had call me and said: “Murad is dying and he wants to see you…”

For the last 20 years, I never returned to Lebanon and I was at odd with Murad for militarily participating in the civil war. My initial attitude was to refuse this invitation: “What are we to talk about? There are no grounds to apologize and forgive committed atrocities…”

My girlfriend pressured me to leave immediately because it is not permitted not to satisfy the wishes of a dying close friend…

I was in a hotel waiting for the morning to shine when Tania awoke me from a deep sleep. Tania thought that I was still in France and said: “It is not necessary to show up. Murad could not wait for you. He is dead”

I told Tania that I am in Beirut and she softened her voice, but repeated “he could not wait any longer. Anyway, I send a car to bring you here. You won’t be able to locate our new home

I was terribly uneasy: I didn’t want to meet any of our common friends and the mother of Murad Aida. I didn’t see Aida: She must have died before her son. I lingered another 10 minutes among the mourners, and the house was already packed with “strangers”.

In my hotel room, I began gathering the letters that I received in the last 20 years. During all that time I couldn’t bring myself to think and write about Lebanon and my recollections. I had focused my attention on the Roman period and published a few historical stories. When I am prompted to speak about Lebanon, I find myself a mute, but ask me anything on the Roman history and I am a chattering box, talking nonstop for hours.

The next day, the nephew of Tania called and asked me to say a word at the burying ceremony. He encouraged me by listing the people who will say something. I adamantly refused on the lame excuse that my students are waiting for me to give them the exam… It was a blatant lie: I don’t teach in this semester.

Tania called and wanted me to say a word. I declined. Tania said: “You may return to your new country...”

Tania’s confrontation decided me to stay longer in Lebanon, but I will not attend the ceremony.

I decided to fake that I returned to France and called Semiramis. Ramis had visited me a couple of time in France and she was running a hotel in a mountain resort.

Ramis welcomed me and allocated the best room she had. I had informed her of my plan to remain incognito in Lebanon, and that I was seeking isolation…

Ramis had prepared two dozen of small dishes, the mezzeh and a bottle of Champaign. I was not in any chatting mood that evening and she didn’t insist.

I started writing for hours and couldn’t find sleep: My brain and emotions were running full speed, trying to recollected my life before the civil war started.

The next evening, Ramis coaxed me to get up and had something to eat. I reluctantly obeyed and joined her at the table in the balcony of the hotel.

Ramis asked me if I remember the night I walked her home, and I told her that this is one event I could not forget.

After I told her what I recall from that night, Ramis said: “I cannot remember the many details of your story. I do not recall pulling out my hands from yours. What I know is that after walking for 5 minutes and wondered why you parked so far, and then I came to the realization that I’ll be accompanied on foot. You talks were very interesting and I was hoping that you’ll kiss me goodnight as we reach the corner of by building. It never happened and felt that we are just good friends…”

I said: “Not kissing you that night is one of my harshest regrets. And I am so sorry.”

At midnight, Ramis dismissed the waiter and we finished the Champaign, and Semiramis said:

“What of a walk in this clear and warm night?”

I said: “I’ll never miss this second opportunity in the world”

Note: One of the stories in the French book “The disoriented” by Amin Maaluf, translated into Arabic “Al Ta2ihoun”

Storytellers need to humanize life: Has Barak Obama stopped reading good fables?

On Obama and literature.  And on why so many with a tad of conscience are bothered by Obama’s presidency:

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account? Why that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?”

Teju Cole posted this Feb. 11, 2013 in The New Yorker “On Reader’s War”

“Thanks to literature, to the consciousness it shapes, the desires and longings it inspires…civilization is now less cruel than when storytellers began to humanize life with their fables.” Mario Vargas Llosa

This defense by Vargas Llosa as he received the Nobel Prize in Literature two years ago, could have come from any other writer.

Fact is, cliché originates in some truth.

Vargas Llosa reiterated the point: “Without fictions, we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion.”

Toni Morrison, in her Nobel lecture in 1993, said, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” This sense of literature’s fortifying and essential quality has been evoked by cou

When Marilynne Robinson described fiction as “an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification” she was stating something almost everyone would agree with.

We praise literature in self-evident terms: it is better to read than not to read, for reading civilizes us, makes us less cruel, and brings the imaginations of others into ours and vice versa.

We persist in this belief regardless of what we know to the contrary: that the Nazis’ affection for high culture did not prevent their crimes.

There was a feeling during the years of George W. Bush’s Presidency that his gracelessness as well as his appetite for war were linked to his impatience with complexity. He acted “from the gut,” and was economical with the truth until it disappeared.

Under Bush Jr. command, the United States launched a needless and unjust war in Iraq that resulted in terrible loss of life; at the same time, an unknown number of people were confined in secret prisons and tortured.

That Bush was anti-intellectual, and often guilty of malapropisms and mispronunciations (“nucular”), formed part of the liberal aversion to him: he didn’t know much much about the wider world, and did not much care to learn.

His successor couldn’t have been more different.

Barack Obama is an elegant and literate man with a cosmopolitan sense of the world. He is widely read in philosophy, literature, and history—as befits a former law professor—and he has shown time and again a surprising interest in contemporary fiction.

The books a President buys might be as influenced by political calculation as his “enjoyment” of lunch at a small town diner or a round of skeet shooting. Nevertheless, a man who names among his favorite books Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” Robinson’s “Gilead,” and Melville’s “Moby Dick” is playing the game pretty seriously.

Obama own feel for language in his two books, his praise for authors as various as Philip Roth and Ward Just, as well as the circumstantial evidence of the books he’s been seen holding (the “Collected Poems” of Derek W Walcott, most strikingly), add up to a picture of a man for whom an imaginative engagement with literature is inseparable from life.

It thrilled me, when Obama was elected, to think of the President’s nightstand looking rather similar to mine. We had, once again, a reader in chief, a man in the line of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Any President’s gravest responsibilities are defending the Constitution and keeping the country safe.

President Obama recognized that the image of the United States had been marred by the policies of the Bush years. By drawing down the troops in Iraq, banning torture, and directly and respectfully addressing the countries of Europe and the Middle East, Obama signaled that those of us on the left had not hoped in vain for change.

When, in 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we noted the absurdity of such premature plaudits, but also saw the occasion as encouragement for the difficult work to come. From the optimistic perspective of those early days, Obama’s foreign policy has lurched from disappointing to disastrous.

Iraq endures a shaky peace and Afghanistan remains a mire, but these situations might have been the same regardless of who was President. More troubling has been his conduct in the other arenas of the Global War on Terror.

The United States is now at war in all but name in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. In pursuit of Al Qaeda, their allies, and a number of barely related militias, the President and his national-security team now make extraordinarily frequent use of assassinations.

The White House, the C.I.A., and the Joint Special Operations Command have so far killed large numbers of people. Because of the secret nature of the strikes, the precise number is unknown, but estimates range from a several hundred to over three thousand. These killings have happened without any attempt to arrest or detain their targets, and beyond the reach of any legal oversight.

Many of the dead are women and children.

Among the men, it is impossible to say how many are terrorists, how many are militants, and how many are simply, to use the administration’s obscene designation, “young men of military age.” The dependence on unmanned aerial vehicles—also called drones—for these killings, which began in 2002 and have increased under the Obama Administration, is finally coming to wider attention.

We now have firsthand testimony from the pilots who remotely operate the drones, many of whom have suffered post-traumatic stress reactions to the work. There is also the testimony of the survivors of drone attacks: heartbreaking stories of mistaken identity, grisly tales of sudden death from a machine in the sky.

In one such story reported by The New YorkTimes, the relatives of a pair of dead cousins said, “We found eyes, but there were no faces left.” The recently leaked Department of Justice white paper indicating guidelines for the President’s assassination of his fellow Americans has shone a spotlight on these “dirty wars” (as the journalist Jeremy Scahill rightly calls them in his documentary film and book of the same title). The plain fact is that our leaders have been killing at will.

How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief?

What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy?

Why was the candidate Obama, in word and in deed, so radically different from the President he became?

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s eerie 1979 masterpiece, “Stalker,” the landscape called the Zona has the power to grant people’s deepest wishes, but it can also derange those who traverse it. I wonder if the Presidency is like that: a psychoactive landscape that can madden whomever walks into it, be he inarticulate and incurious, or literary and cosmopolitan.

According to a report in the New York Times, the targets of drone strikes are selected for death at weekly meetings in the White House; no name is added to the list without the President’s approval.

Where land mines are indiscrimate, cheap, and brutal, drones are discriminate, expensi expensive, and brutal. And yet they are insufficiently discriminate: the assassination of the Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan in 2009 succeeded only on the seventeenth attempt.

The sixteen near misses of the preceding year killed between 280 and 410  other people. Literature fails us here.

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?

Of late, riding the subway in Brooklyn, I have been having a waking dream, or rather a daytime nightmare, in which the subway car ahead of mine explodes. My fellow riders and I look at one another, then look again at the burning car ahead, certain of our deaths. The fire comes closer, and what I feel is bitterness and sorrow that it’s all ending so soon: no more books, no more love, no more jokes, no more Schubert, no more Black Star.

All this spins through my mind on tranquil mornings as the D train trundles between 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue and bored commuters check their phones. They just want to get to work. I sit rigid in my seat, thinking, I don’t want to die, not here, not yet.

I imagine those in northwest Pakistan or just outside Sana’a who go about their day thinking the same. The difference for some of them is that the plane is already hovering in the air, ready to strike.

I know language is unreliable, that it is not a vending machine of the desires, but the law seems to be getting us nowhere.

And so I take helpless refuge in literature again, rewriting the opening lines of 7 well-known books:

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s.

Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.

I am an invisible man. My name is unknown. My loves are a mystery. But an unmanned aerial vehicle from a secret location has come for me.

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was killed by a Predator drone.

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His torso was found, not his head.

Mother died today. The program saves American lives.

I was in New York City on 9/11. Grief remains from that awful day, but not only grief. There is fear, too, a fear informed by the knowledge that whatever my worst nightmare is, there is someone out there embittered enough to carry it out. I know that something has to be done to secure the airports, waterways, infrastructure, and embassies of our country.

I don’t like war; no one does. But I also know that the world is exceedingly complex, and that our enemies are not all imaginary. I am not naïve about the incessant and unseen (by most of us) military activity that undergirds our ability to read, go to concerts, earn a living, and criticize the government in relative safety. I am grateful to those whose bravery keeps us safe.

This ominous, discomfiting, illegal, and immoral use of weaponized drones against defenseless strangers is done for our sakes. But more and more we are seeing a gap between the intention behind the President’s clandestine brand of justice and the real-world effect of those killings.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words against the Vietnam War in 1967 remain resonant today: “What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them?” We do know what they think: many of them have the normal human reaction to grief and injustice, and some of them take that reaction to a vengeful and murderous extreme.

In the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and Pakistan, thanks to the policies of Obama and Biden, we are acquiring more of the angriest young enemies money can buy. As a New York Times report put it last year, “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

Assassinations should never have happened in our name. But now we see that they endanger us physically, endanger our democracy, and endanger our Constitution. I believe that when President Obama personally selects the next name to add to his “kill list,” he does it in the belief that he is protecting the country.

I trust that Obama makes the selections with great seriousness, bringing his rich sense of history, literature, and the lives of others to bear on his decisions. And yet we have been drawn into a war without end, and into cruelties that persist in the psychic atmosphere like ritual pollution.

Teju Cole is a photographer and writer. His novel “Open City” was published last year.

Auf wiedersehen, Goodbye Humanity?

Humanity? Just An Exhibition in the prison

It’s time to say goodbye to Humanity.
The party’s over.
As the laughter dies, an angel cries Humanity, it’s au revoir to your insanity.

Photo

 

You sold your soul to feed your vanity

Your fantasies and lies to prosper

You’re a drop in the rain

Just a number, a code, a class, barely a name

And you don’t see it

You don’t believe it

At the end of the day. You’re a needle in the hay

You signed and sealed it

And now you gotta deal with it Humanity,

Radio ÉVEIL (Awakening). A child pissing on wars and soldiers
Radio ÉVEIL pisse sur la guerre.<br /><br /><br />
 Peace & Love

Humanity Goodbye, goodbye

Be on your way, adios amigo

There’s a price to pay for all the egotistic games you played

The world you made is gone and You’re a drop in the rain

 Read more: THE SCORPIONS – HUMANITY LYRICS

The ‘suicide belt’ in farming regions: Monsanto of “genetically modified seed” is the culprit

A farmer has been committing suicide every 30 minutes: And Monsanto was the cause. How that?

5 million farmers are launching a lawsuit against Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros (around 7.7 billion US dollars). The reason?

As with many other cases, such as the ones that led certain farming regions to be known as the ‘suicide belt’, Monsanto has been reportedly taxing the farmers to financial shambles with ridiculous royalty charges.

The farmers state that Monsanto has been unfairly gathering exorbitant profits each year on a global scale from “renewal” seed harvests, which are crops planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest.

The practice of using renewal seeds dates back to ancient times, but Monsanto seeks to collect massive royalties and put an end to the practice. Why?

Monsanto owns the very patent to the genetically modified seed, and is charging the farmers not only for the original crops, but the later harvests as well. Eventually, the royalties compound and many farmers begin to struggle with even keeping their farm afloat.

It is for this reason that India slammed Monsanto with groundbreaking ‘bio-piracy’ charges in an effort to stop Monsanto from ‘patenting life’.

Jane Berwanger, a lawyer for the farmers who went on record regarding the case, told the Associated Press:
“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production.”

Note 1: Currently, the African State of Burkina Faso (Haute Volta) is the prime State for the US multinational Monsanto, growing genetically altered grains (mainly tomatoes and cotton) on vast land…

Note 2: This is technically a reblogging from a top post, with slight editing and addition of a note http://worldtruth.tv/5-million-farmers-sue-monsanto-for-7-7-billion/

I want clarifications: On this Orthodox election law proposed to Lebanon

The one “reform” item that always get passed in the successive lukewarm and never serious election law reforms, every 4 years, is the increase of the number of deputies in the Parliament.

The trend is a 10% cumulative increase of deputies, every decade. And the reason is never a population explosion: Lebanon “citizens” immigration rate exceeds the rate of eligible voters of 21 year-old…

The political leaders view Parliament as the easiest and fastest elevator to power and accumulate wealth for their progeny.

The Parliament of tiny Lebanon (a State smaller than New Jersey) and a voting base of barely 2 million voters, is bound to jump to 134 deputies, from the current number of 128.

I badly need a link that directs me to the details and mechanism of this Orthodox alternative election law.

All that I could understand from these “long months” of negotiating a “valid and acceptable” law are the followings:

1. Every eligible voter of a religious sect, of the 18 officially recognized sects, can vote for only the candidates representing his sect.

2. The law is proportional, a first since 1943? I guess it means that, if a list of candidates surpass a cut-off rate of votes, then it will be represented commensurate to the percentage of votes it received…

3. The law considers Lebanon as a single district, instead of the 13 or 15 districts…

4. The dozen “Christian” sects representing barely 30% of Lebanon’s population will be able to be represented by 50% of the deputies…

5. The half dozen of “Moslem” sects representing 70% of the population will vote in 50% of the deputies.

Beyond these pieces of intelligence I am in the blank.

I can only conjecture, if logic and rational thinking is a valid basis in this political domain of Lebanon,

1. Does this law means that if I am an eligible voter of a very minority sect that can be represented by only 2 deputies, then I am entitled to vote for only 2 deputies from the list of 134 candidates? And the other 132 deputies can be from Mars and it is none of my business?

2. If  I am an eligible voter from the Moslem Shiaa sect (representing at least 45% of the total population) then I might be able to vote for maybe 30 deputies (less than 20% of the Parliament)… And the remaining candidates may come from Jupiter and I am not supposed to care in any reasonable way?

3. Do you think the vote of a minority sect has the same weight and value as the vote of a majority sect? Some dignity, please.

4. Does this law intends to propose that I can vote from anywhere in Lebanon, and not be restricted to pay a visit to the village my family is registered in?

Even within ridiculously absurd law, there can be a few improvements:

1. A minority sect, and only during election period, can opt to join another sect or a coalition of sects, so that my vote acquires a higher value or weight in the election process. This alternative will give me more incentive to go to the voting booth

2. Allow youth of 18 years to be eligible to vote

3. Allow soldiers and internal security officers to vote ( In other countries they vote before the ordinary citizen voting day)

4. The youth and military votes will not significantly alter the outcome in this system, but the increased “image” of higher democratic representation will play the catalyst for later pragmatic a real reforms to this archaic political/social structure.

Some dignity, please.

Note 1: You might be wondering how come “Christians” in the Middle-East are entitled to 50% of all public positions, the President of the Republic, the Chief of the Army….

It was a tacit agreement, not in the Constitution, among the religious sects in 1943 to split public functions and high positions among the various main majority sects. Actually, the mandated power of France created Lebanon in 1920 after the Paris Peace Treaty among the WWI warring nations. Lebanon was to be an “oasis” entity for the Christian Maronite sect.

This tacit contract is still suitable since all the surrounding States are sectarian, theocratic (including Israel), or one party regimes. The States with Moslem majority have in their constitutions items such as:

1. Islam is the religion of the nation

2. The Chariaa is the main source for civil laws

3. The main and key public positions are to be held by Moslems…

Note 2: A hilarious article? https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/the-onion-to-sue-lebanon-political-system-far-beyond-the-reach-of-satire/

Do Egypt Moslem Brothers have established a State within a State?

Is Egypt’s Brotherhood still operating secretively?

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks publicly of firsthand knowledge of a meeting where opponents allegedly plotted against him.

A few months earlier, the most powerful man in his Muslim Brotherhood group, Khairat el-Shater, says he has access to recordings of former military rulers and electoral officials engineering his disqualification from last year’s presidential race.

HAMZA HENDAWI posted this Feb. 21, 2013 

In Egypt, those statements are seen by security officials, former members of the Islamist group and independent media as strong hints that the Brotherhood might be running its own intelligence-gathering network outside of government security agencies and official channels.

Such concerns dovetail the Brotherhood, which has a long history of operating clandestinely, to suspicion that it remains a shadowy group with operations that may overlap with the normal functions of a state.

Brotherhood supporters also demonstrated militia-like capabilities at anti-Morsi protests in December.

Another oft-heard charge comes from the Foreign Ministry, where officials complain that the president relies more on trusted Brotherhood advisers than those inside the ministry in formulating foreign policy.

The Brotherhood emerged from Egypt’s 2011 uprising as the country’s dominant political group and Morsi was elected president in June of last year as the group’s candidate.

The motive for setting up parallel operations could be rooted in the fact that many government bodies, such as security agencies and the judiciary, are still dominated by appointees of the ousted regime of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak or anti-Islamists with long-held suspicions of the Brotherhood.

The perception that such agencies are hostile to the country’s new Islamist leaders lends their rule an embattled aspect despite a string of electoral victories.

“The problem with the Brotherhood is that they came to power but are still dealing with the nation as they did when they were in the opposition,” said Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, former editor-in-chief of the group’s website who left the Brotherhood in May 2011.

“Because they cannot trust the state, they have created their own,” he added.

The notion of a state within a state has precedents elsewhere in the Arab world. In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah is the de facto government in much of the south and east of the country and has its own army and telephone network.

To a lesser extent, followers of Iraq’s anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are de facto administrators of Shiite districts in Baghdad and in parts of the mostly Shiite south.

In Egypt, the situation reflects a chasm that has emerged since the uprising over the nation’s future. In one camp is the Brotherhood, their Islamist allies and a fairly large segment of the population that is conservative and passively inclined toward the ideas of Islam as a way of life.

Arrayed against them is a bloc of comparable size that includes not only those who served under Mubarak in the state and security structures but also moderate Muslims, liberals, secularists, women and Christians who account for about 10 percent of the population.

The Brotherhood denies that any of its activities are illegal or amount to a state within a state.

“The Brotherhood is targeted by a defamation campaign, but will always protect its reputation and these immoral battles will never change that,” said spokesman Ahmed Aref, alluding to claims that the group was running a parallel state.

“There is still an elite in Egypt that remains captive to Mubarak’s own view of the Brotherhood,” he added.

For most of the 85 years since its inception, the Brotherhood operated secretively as an outlawed group, working underground and often repressed by governments.

But even after its political success, the group is still suspected of secretive operations.

The Brotherhood counters that it has legitimacy on its side, having consistently won at the ballot box since Mubarak’s ouster. And they accuse the opposition of conspiring with former regime members in an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected administration.

The two most powerful Brotherhood figures, wealthy businessman el-Shater and spiritual leader Mohamed Badie, are seen by many in Egypt as the real source of power — wielding massive influence over Morsi and his government.

El-Shater, according to the former Brotherhood members and security officials, is suspected of running an information gathering operation capable of eavesdropping on telephones and email.

He was the Brotherhood’s first choice for presidential candidate in last year’s election but was disqualified over a Mubarak-era conviction.

Following his disqualification, he publicly said last summer that he had access to recordings of telephone conversations between members of the election commission and the military council that ruled Egypt for nearly 17 months after Mubarak’s ouster.

The conversations, he claimed, were to engineer throwing him out of the race. He did not say how he knew of the contacts or their contents.

Again in December, he suggested that he had access to information gathered clandestinely.

Addressing Islamists in a televised meeting, he said he has “detected from various sources” that there were meetings of people allegedly plotting to destabilize Morsi’s rule.

He did not identify the alleged plotters nor say how he had learned of the meetings.

A spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said at the time when asked for comment that it was to be expected from a group as big as the Brotherhood to have its own “resources.” That was taken as virtual confirmation of a parallel intelligence gathering operation.

Morsi was also seen as suggesting that the Brotherhood was spying on critics when he spoke to supporters outside his presidential palace in November. He said he had firsthand knowledge of what transpired in a meeting of several of his critics.

“They think that they can hide away from me,” he said.

The words of El-Shater and Morsi were taken as strong hints that the Brotherhood has its own intelligence gathering operation. But in a country fed on a steady diet of conspiracy theories, no hard evidence has come to light, only suspicion and talk.

A former Brotherhood member, Mohammed el-Gebbah, claimed the group had 6 “mini intelligence centers,” including one housed in its headquarters in the Cairo district of Moqqatam.

He did not provide evidence to back his claim and another Brotherhood spokesman, Murad Ali, denied that the group has such capability.

In an off-the-cuff remark, Brotherhood stalwart Essam el-Aryan said last October that Morsi’s presidential palace secretly records all “incoming and outgoing communications.” The president’s spokesman swiftly denied it.

But it only fed the notion of a Brotherhood parallel intelligence gathering operation with Morsi’s support and cooperation.

Another concern that has arisen is whether the Brotherhood might be running its own militias outside of government security agencies.

That fear arose from a wave of mass protests that turned violent in December. Protesters for and against Morsi faced off over decrees, since rescinded, that gave the president near absolute powers.

In early December, the Brotherhood posted a “general alert” on its official Facebook page and the next day, groups of armed Brotherhood supporters attacked opposition protesters staging a sit-in outside Morsi’s palace.

Thousands of Morsi supporters and opponents poured into the area and street fighting continued well into the night.

Video clips later posted on social networks showed Brotherhood supporters stripping and torturing protesters in makeshift “detention centers” set up just outside the palace gates, partly to extract confessions that they were on the opposition’s payroll.

On-camera testimonies by victims to rights groups spoke of police and palace workers standing by and watching as they were being abused by Brotherhood supporters.

At least 10 people were killed and 700 injured in the clashes on Dec. 5.

The next morning, groups of Morsi supporters staged military-style drills in residential areas near the palace.

Ali, the group’s spokesman, denied the existence of any kind of militias.

“We have no military or non-military formations. None whatsoever,” he said.

Aref, the other spokesman, disputed the version of events outside Morsi’s palace on Dec. 5, saying 11 of the group’s supporters were killed by thugs and nearly 1,500 injured, including 132 who were shot.

“The facts of that day were turned upside down to mislead public opinion and the victims became the culprit,” he said.

America The Onion to Sue Lebanon: Political system far beyond the reach of satire?

key_art_the_onion

The American satirical magazine The Onion is to sue Lebanon for unfair competition practices. Like what?

1.  For making its headlines look totally reasonable.

2.  For going out of its way to make The Onion’s headlines look ordinary by comparison.

3. For “reforms” of the political/social structure in Lebanon surpassing the absurd: Any attempt of satire sounds egregiously ridiculous in the face of these “stoned serious” representative deputies and political leaders “reforming” the system…

The Onion is demanding million of dollars in compensation, claiming that the small Mediterranean country has ‘ruined the business of writing satirical headlines’.

The magazine’s claim refers to a ‘sustained campaign of non nonsensical l but nevertheless real headlines’ over a number of years…

Karl reMarks posted this Feb. 20, 2013

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Lebanon’s adoption of a new electoral law that requires members of each sect to vote for candidates from their sect only.

A senior staff member at The Onion, Andy Mitchell, revealed the pressure that the magazine’s writers have been under in an interview earlier today. “How can we possibly satirize that? Anything we will come up with will look extremely normal. This is fucking insane.”

Lebanon is trying to create a monopoly in ludicrous headlines and I’m afraid to say it’s succeeding

Lebanese Politics: The Board Game

Michell resumed:
“The law says the Christian Maronites, and I am not quite sure what Maronites are, must vote for Maronites candidates, Shiites for Shiite candidates, Sunnis for Sunni candidates and so on. Except for Jews. Jews can vote for candidates of any sect they choose! Now if we had put that in a satirical article, we would have been accused of unreasonable exaggeration.”

“And why do they call it the Orthodox Electoral Law? There’s NOTHING Orthodox about it.

They must be pulling our leg.

No political system in the world is that twisted, not even North Korea’s.

This is obviously part of a determined effort to undermine what we and other satirical publications do.

Lebanon is trying to create a monopoly in ludicrous headlines and I’m afraid to say it’s succeeding.”

It is understood that The Onion’s lawyers will target Lebanon under anti-trust laws and ‘freakin’ common sense’.

http://www.karlremarks.com/2013/02/the-onion-to-sue-lebanon-for-making-its.html

Note 1:  Orthodox Electoral Law is to institute:

1. A proportional electoral system, a first since 1943

2. Tiny Lebanon would be considered a single district, and not 13 districts, a first since 1943

3. Apparently, you vote for 134 candidates from all sects, and not the candidates representing your religious sect. 67 of “Christians” sects and 67 of Moslem sects… And I’m wondering, how this law is criticized as sectarian if this is the case?

4. Obviously, the voter will have to do his due diligence to grasp the value of each of the numerous candidates he is asked to vote for. That should be a big hurdle, a necessary hurdle to overcome if you claim you want democracy.

Note 2: Political parties and social organizations would have to negotiate lists of 134 candidates, representing barely 2 million voters

Note 3: Every time an new electoral law is  contemplated, the main purpose is to increase the numbers of deputies in the Parliament. Sort of the leaders need to make room for their offspring to climb fast elevators to power…

Iran’s Nuclear-Technology Gains ground: Are Sanctions Backfiring and initiating creative alternatives

Scientists and security analysts tracking the decade-long dispute over the Persian Gulf nation’s atomic work have reached a consensus that International sanctions designed to punish Iran for its nuclear program have proven to be counter-productive in the military domain. 

While trade and financial sanctions have choked off Iran’s access to materials such as aluminum and maraging steel, used to make its first generation of nuclear equipment, they have spurred the Islamic Republic to find its own solutions for subsequent technological innovations.

Iran is now positioned to build better nuclear devices and to export them.

Jonathan Tiron on Bloomberg this Feb. 15, 2013: Iran’s Nuclear-Technology Gains Suggest Sanctions Are Backfiring”

“The serious consequence of all of these sanctions are that you drive the indigenous production of these parts,” Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, a physicist at the Monterrey, California- based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote in response to questions. “This means the proliferator learns more about the technology and so now they don’t only know how to produce the parts, but they could also sell them to other states.”

As embargoes strangle Iran’s ability to import high-quality metals and fibers needed to build nuclear components, the country’s own resources in oil, sand and zinc, mean it can overcome technical hurdles.

Last month, Iran notified United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors it would begin installing 3,000 domestically built centrifuges that can produce more enriched uranium in less time.

Raw Materials

“Most technologies in use are decades-old, well-proven, well-published concepts,” said Andreas Persbo, executive director of the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA. “The key thing is to get access to the raw material. If you have the raw material, and a talent base to process them, you can construct whatever you need.”

Iran, with the world’s fourth-biggest proven oil reserves, began in 2011 to make its own carbon fiber, the strong, light material used in wind turbines, airplanes and centrifuges.

Like the uranium-enrichment market, which is led by a handful of companies such as Urenco Ltd., Areva SA and Rosatom Corp., carbon-fiber production is driven by a few multinational businesses including Hexcel Corp., BAE Systems Plc and Toray Industries Inc.

“While the sanctions regime certainly slowed down Iran’s technological progress initially, it has also made Iran self- sufficient in a number of key areas,” said Yousaf Butt, a physicist and nuclear non-proliferation analyst who advised the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Iran’s nuclear work. “Iran is likely the most technologically advanced nation in the Middle East, aside from Israel.”

Self-Sufficient

The Islamic Republic has also achieved self-sufficiency in other vital technology areas touched by sanctions. The country manufacturers and sells Fomblin oil, a lubricant used inside centrifuges, on world markets. At a September IAEA meeting in Vienna, Iran displayed a copy of a domestically made nuclear- fuel panel destined for a research reactor in Tehran.

“If in the past the country needed finished products and technologies for its program which squarely fell under sanctions, now the required level of imported inputs is continuously going down to more simple and basic items, which Iran still needs but can upgrade on its own,” according to Igor Khripunov, the Soviet Union’s former arms-control envoy to the U.S. who is now at the Athens, Georgia-based Center for International Trade and Security.

Kazakhstan Meeting

Iran, which maintains its atomic program is peaceful, has ruled out suspending its activities as the UN Security Council demands. It’s willing to discuss its nuclear work when it meets world powers in Kazakhstan next week, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Feb. 4. Talks between Iran and IAEA officials that concluded Feb. 13 in Tehran failed to clinch a deal that would give investigators wider access to alleged nuclear sites.

While Iran allowed wider access to sites, including centrifuge-manufacturing workshops, until 2005, it reversed course after accusations about its nuclear work escalated. The first UN sanctions were imposed in 2006. The country hasn’t restricted IAEA access to sites it’s legally bound to let inspectors visit.

Diplomats should focus on returning to greater transparency of Iran’s nuclear facilities rather than trying to enforce a ban on enrichment, said Paul Ingram, executive director of the London-based British American Security Information Council, a policy-advisory group.

“Iran has a sophisticated economy relative to most states outside of North America, Europe and the Far East, so it should be no surprise that they can develop the technologies to substitute for sanctioned materials,” Ingram wrote in reply to questions. “The experience of sanctions proves this time and time again.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

February 2013
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