Adonis Diaries

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Reminiscing when Beirut was actually a super Movable fairs 

Personal experience when I were a university student: Movable fairs in Beirut: 1971-74

I decided to re-edit my old article “Wonderful early 1970’s:  Movable fairs in Beirut” in order to demonstrate to the current generation in Lebanon that it is highly feasible to generate a Mass Upheaval as was done in Tunisia and Egypt.

It is a scream against the total impunity that our politicians, in this semi-State of Lebanon, are enjoying, those militia/mafia “leaders” of our civil war, a war that no one was a victor.

Currently, the State of Lebanon is totally bankrupt at all levels and barely may survive remaining in the UN as a State

Our movable fair lasted 4 years, 3 years behind Paris and Woodstock mass upheaval fairs.

If it were Not for the de facto control of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) over our political system, which diffused the purpose of the true upheaval of the Lebanese movement, Lebanon would have reformed against all odds.

Woodstock musical fiesta was organized in 1968 and disbanded three days later.

The French students revolt in Paris of 1968, then joined by the working organizations,  ended 2 weeks later.

The French students revolt of 1968 was a big party with deep lucidity:  banners read “Run, comrade, run.  The old world is chasing after you.” Youth was taking a reprieve by running joyously, a week of total freedom, running as fast as he could, knowing that the old world will invariably catch up with him.

These students and youth movements crossed to Lebanon in 1970 and lingered for 5 years as movable fairs in Beirut, before the civil war set in, at the instigation of US/Israel.

I witnessed that wonderful and crazy period as a university student, witnessing far more than studying.

By 1970 I was attending university, mainly math, physics, and chemistry courses.   Once the morning courses were taken care of, I roamed Beirut freely and all alone. (Would have been more pleasurable and instructive if I had friends to join me then)

For less than 5 Lebanese pounds ($2 at the time) I could see movies, watch theater pieces, or go to the empty beaches in mid September and October, eat local sandwiches of falafel, shawarma, and freshly pressed fruits.

Most of the days I ended up attending conferences, political party meetings, joining regular demonstrations and marches by university students, sit-ins, hunger strikes on the street in front of the education ministry (I tried once for half a day).

Fleeing police tanks and water hoses, or just walking all around Beirut circulating where the “movable fairs” crossed my path, gathering of people chanting slogans against the sectarian and mercantile political system, the defeatist government, not responding to the frequent bombardment of Israel in south Lebanon...

The citizens (mostly Muslim Chia) in the south flocked to the suburbs of Beirut, mainly in Dahieh, and labelled the “Red belt of poverty” in order to flee the successive incursions of Israel, under all lame excuses.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, led by Yasser Arafat, and its institutions were firmly established in Beirut and in a dozen Palestinian camps.  Cash in hard currency spent by the PLO and the various resistance movements maintained the Lebanese currency very strong.

In May 1972, Beirut Cinema Club in cooperation with the US Cultural Center projected a series of Orson Welles movies such as “Citizen Kane”, “The lady from Shanghai”, “Secret report”, “Satan’s touch”, and “Falstaff”.  Wells mostly recalls the negative critics: for example, a critic said that Orson shouts like a rhinoceros” when Orson played “Candid” of Bernard Show.

Wells and Charlie Chaplin might be the greatest American directors.  Wells prefers that producers invest massively on many movies, even if one of his films are not marketed.  He said: “Without men there is no art.  Without women, men never become artists”

In May 1973, the film “Red Weddings” by French director Claude Chabrol was projected in El Dorado movie theater. There was a curfew in the previous week:  The Lebanese army tried to enter the Palestinian camp of Dbayeh (mostly Christians).

A few feddayins escaped and fled through the valley of river Nahr Kalb (Dog River); and we provided them shelter for three days in Beit-Chabab and they were to resume the trip to Dhour Shweir.  An ambush by the Phalanges (Kataeb) Party killed several of them on the way.

Chabrol has a particular style and a deterministic view on how events should unfold:  His movies are about illicit love affairs, murder, then punishment by the “bourgeois” legal system:  that genuinely falling in-love is irrelevant and thus must be punished, one way or another.

In June 1974, “The hour of liberation has chimed.. Out colonialists” by the young woman director Heine Srour won a special acclaim in Cannes.  This movie is about the popular revolutionary struggle of the people in Zofar (Oman, Hadramout, and south Yemen) from the British colonial power and archaic monarchic structures.

Heine invested two years in preparation and shot the one-hour movie with the rudiment of equipment and finances.  Heine and three technicians walked hundreds of kilometers with the fighters under scorching sun and the bombing of British jets.

Heine conducted interviews in the local Arabic slang the “Himyari” and projected the essential roles that women shared in that revolution along the fighters.

This movie was one of the first to broach situation in other Arabic States outside of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, or Palestine.  Movies on the Algerian revolution were to be produced shortly after.

In February 1975, director Borhan Awalweyeh showed his movie “Kfar Kassem“.  Hundreds of spectators remained in the theater way after midnight discussing the movie.

The film is a retrospective documentary of the genocidal massacre that Israel committed against the Palestinians in the village of Kfar Kassem in 1956 before it invaded Sinai.  Peasants returning from the fields were killed because they could not know about the curfew that the Israeli troops declared in their absence.

This movie was based on the novel of the same name by Assem Jundi.  Issam Mahfouz wrote the dialogue in the Palestinian Arabic slang.

Lebanon of 1974, and particularly the Capital Beirut, experienced extraordinarily cultural, social, and political activities, quantitatively and qualitatively.

First, the number of women writers increased dramatically.  As Georges Rassi wrote: “In the Arab World, every woman writer is worth 100 free minded men“.

Second, many famous authors and poets opted to write columns in dailies; a move that brought them in close touch with the people and the daily difficulties.

Third, artists and thinkers from all over the Arab World settled in Beirut.  Most of these intellectuals were fleeing oppression and persecution for free expressions.  The Egyptian intellectuals flocked in great number as President Sadat had decided to connect with Israel and leave the Arab problems and the Palestinian cause way behind.

Fourth, the Lebanese TV witnessed a big jump in quality of local productions thanks to the director Paul Tannous.

Fifth, many cultural clubs were instituted and Arab States organized exhibitions and cultural events.

Most importantly, women became very vocal and active for women rights and drastic reforms in the laws and social awareness.

Late author Mai Ghoussoub was very young then, but she was one of the leaders of “Committees for Free women.”

Initially, men were permitted to join in the discussions until they proved to be elements of heckling and disturbances.  The committees of free women decided to meet among women because their cause must be priority in urgent reforms and not a usual side-show tackled by reformist political parties.

Arab movies of quality were being shown such as “Events of red years” by Akhdar Hamina;  “Beirut…O Beirut” by Maroun Baghdadi; “May… The Palestinians” by Rafic Hajjar; “The bird” by Youssef Chaheen; “Al Haram” by Henry Barakat; “Hold on… O Sea” by Khaled Seddik.

Karl Marx said:  ”When history repeats its cycles, the next time around is a farce.”  Spring of 68 was a sympathetic and spontaneous farce; it was an innovating and creative revolt with no arms.

Spring in Paris was a movable fair, an all free-invited party.  It was a movable feast for sharing ideas and desires for justice, peace, liberty, and pleasure. There were plenty of generosity and compassion:  Youth was feeling bored of the old world system of unjust order, capitalism, petrified ideologies and dogmas.

It was a humongous fair where affluent lifestyle in the western States of plenty hide the miseries of the lowest classes living in shantytowns.

It was in a period for the third world struggling to emerge from the slavery stage of colonialism.

Spring fairs in the western world spread to most nations where the partying lasted and lasted.

The virus of the movable feast reached countries with old systems destroyed by the colonial powers:  The newer power systems were unstable and mostly haphazard to come chasing after mass movable fairs.

Spring of 68 crossed to Lebanon and lasted 5 years and emerged on a civil war that lasted 13 years and produced 300 thousand casualties (10% of the population!)

Note 1:  Details of this introspection were supplied by Georges Al Rassi in “Stations along the trail of Lebanese and Arab movies

Note 2: This student movement in Lebanon was mostly let by the students of our public university. The public university, in Choweifat, was mostly controlled by leftist-leaning organizations, including the teaching staff. Most probably, the colonial powers got weary of the growing influence of this university that was spreading to the private universities. The right-wing parties , the president and the army were ready to confront this movement by strong arm tactics.

Note 3:  You may read more details on my next post https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/movable-fairs-beirut-1970-74/

 

Incomplete: Simplify (Einstein, Godel, Turing, Chaitin…)

One thing we know is that life reinforces the hypothesis that the world is infinitely complex and most of its phenomena will remain incomprehensible, meaning unexplained.

For example, no theory of life evolution was able to predict the next phase in evolution and the route taken to the next phase. The reason we have difficulty discovering how living organism adapt to the environment to survive, in longer term.

We don’t know if laws in biology will exist in the same meaning of laws of physics or natural phenomena.

For example, is the universe simple or complex, finite or infinite?

The mathematician Chaitin answered: “This question will remain without any resolution, simply because we need an external observer outside our system of reference, preferably non-human, to corroborate our theoretical perception.”

(A few of my readers will say: “This smack of philosophy” and they hate philosophy or the rational logic deducted from reduced propositions that cannot rationally be proven)

So many scholars wanted to believe that “God does not play dice” (Einstein) or that chaos is within the predictive laws of God and nature (Leibniz), or that the universe can be explained by simple, restricted set of axioms, non-redundant rules (Stephen Hawking).

Modern mathematical theories and physical observations are demonstrating that most phenomena are basically behaving haphazardly.

For example, quantum physics reveals that hazard is the fundamental principle in the universe of the very tiny particles:  Individual behaviors of small particles in the atomic nucleus are unpredictable.  Thus, there is no way of measuring accurately speed, location, and direction of a particle simultaneously; all that physics can do is assigning probability numbers.

Apparently, hazard plays a role even in mathematics.

For example, many mathematical “true” statesmans cannot be demonstrated, they are logically irreducible and incomprehensible.

Mathematicians know that there exists an infinity of “twin” prime numbers (odd number followed by even number) but this knowledge cannot be proven mathematically.

Thus, many mathematicians would suggest to add these true “propositions” but non demonstrable theories to the basic set of axioms.

Axioms are a set of the bare minimum of “given propositions” that we think we know to be true, but the reason is unable to approach them adequately, using the logical processes.

Einstein said: “What is amazing is that the eternally incomprehensible in nature is comprehensible”; meaning that we always think that we can extend an explanation to a phenomenon without being able to proving its working behaviors.

Einstein wrote that to comprehend means to rationally explain by compressing the basic axioms so that our mind can understand the facts; even if we are never sure how the phenomenon behaves.

For example, Plato said that the universe is comprehensible simply because it looks structured by the beauty of geometric constructs, the regularity of the tonality in string instruments, and steady movement of planets…

Steven Weinberg admits that “If we manage to explain the universal phenomenon of nature it will not be feasible by just simple laws.” (I agree with Weinberg in that statement. Consequently, comprehension will be limited to the few scientists who can handle and visualize complex equations)

Many facts can be comprehended when they are explained by a restricted set of theoretical affirmations:  This is called the Occam Razor theory which says: “The best theory or explanation is the simplest.”

The mathematician Hermann Weyl explained: “We first need to confirm that nature is regulated by simple mathematical laws.  Then, the fundamental relationships become simpler the further we fine-tune the elements, and the better the explication of facts is more exact.”

So what is theory?

Informatics extended another perspective for defining theory: “a theory is a computer program designed to take account of observed facts by computation.  Thus, the program is designed to predict observations.  If we say that we comprehend a phenomenon then, we should be able to program its behavior.  The smaller the program (more elegant) the better the theory is comprehended.”

When we say “I can explain” we mean that “I compressed a complex phenomenon into simple programs that “I can comprehend”, that human mind can comprehend. 

Basically, explaining and comprehending is of an anthropic nature, within the dimension of human mental capabilities.

The father of information theory, John von Neumann wrote: “Theoretical physics mainly categorizes phenomena and tries to find links among the categories; it does not explain phenomena.

In 1931, mathematician Kurt Godel adopted a mental operation consisting of indexing lists of all kinds of assertions.

His formal mathematical method demonstrated that there are true propositions that cannot be demonstrated, called “logically incomplete problems

The significance of Godel’s theory is that it is impossible to account for elemental arithmetic operations (addition or multiplication) by reducing its results from a few basic axioms.  With any given set of logical rules, except for the most simple, there will always be statements that are undecidable, meaning that they cannot be proven or disproven due to the inevitable self-reference nature of any logical systems.

The theorem indicates that there is no grand mathematical system capable of proving or disproving all statements.

An undecidable statement can be thought of as a mathematical form of a statement like “What I just said is a lie”:  The statement makes reference to the language being used to describe it, it cannot be known whether the statement is true or not.

However, an undecidable statement does not need to be explicitly self-reference to be undecidable. The main conclusion of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is that all logical systems will have statements that cannot be proven or disproven; therefore, all logical systems must be “incomplete.”

The philosophical implications of these theorems are widespread.

The set suggests that in physics, a “theory of everything” may be impossible, as no set of rules can explain every possible event or outcome. It also indicates that logically, “proof” is a weaker concept than “true”.

Such a concept is unsettling for scientists because it means there will always be things that, despite being true, cannot be proven to be true. Since this set of theorems also applies to computers, it also means that our own minds are incomplete and that there are some ideas we can never know, including whether our own minds are consistent (i.e. our reasoning contains no incorrect contradictions).

The second of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems states that no consistent system can prove its own consistency, meaning that no sane mind can prove its own sanity.

Also, since that same law states that any system able to prove its consistency to itself must be inconsistent, any mind that believes it can prove its own sanity is, therefore, insane.

Alan Turing used a deeper twist to Godel’s results.

In 1936, Turing indexed lists of programs designed to compute real numbers from zero to 1 (think probability real numbers).  Turing demonstrated mathematically that no infallible computational procedures (algorithms) exist that permit to decide whether a mathematical theorem is true or false.

In a sense, there can be no algorithm able to know if a computer program will even stop.

Consequently, no computer program can predict that another program will ever stop computing.  All that can be done is allocating a probability number that the program might stop.  Thus, you can play around with all kinds of axioms, but no sets can deduce that a program will end.  Turing proved the existence of non computable numbers.

Note 1: Chaitin considered the set of all possible programs; he played dice for each bit in the program (0 or 1, true or false) and allocated a probability number for each program that it might end.  The probability that a program will end in a finite number of steps is called Omega.  The succession of numbers comprising Omega are haphazard and thus, no simple set of axioms can deduce the exact number.  Thus, while Omega is defined mathematically, the succession of the numbers in Omega has absolutely no structure.  For example we can write algorithm to compute Pi but never for Omega.

Note 2:  Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) tried to rediscover the founding blocks of mathematics “the royal highway to truth”.  He was disappointed and wrote: “Mathematics is infected of non proven postulates and infested with cyclic definitions.  The beauty and the terror of mathematics is that a proof must be found; even if it proves that a theory cannot e be proven”

Note 3:  The French mathematician Poincaré got a prize for supposedly having discovered chaos.  The article was officially published when Poincaré realized that he made a serious error that disproved his original contention.  Poincaré had to pay for all the published articles and for destroying them.  A single copy was saved and found at the Mittag-Leffler Institute in Stockholm.

The pertinent question is: How many conflicts has the project brought in its wake?

Hiding Hand principle?

Obstacles led to frustration, and frustration to anxiety. No one wanted to be anxious. But wasn’t anxiety the most powerful motivator—the emotion capable of driving even the most reluctant party toward some kind of solution? In the field of developmental economics, this was heretical.

When people from organizations like the World Bank descended on Third World countries, they always tried to remove obstacles to development, to reduce economic anxiety and uncertainty. They wanted to build bridges and roads and airports and dams to insure that businesses and entrepreneurs encountered as few impediments as possible to growth.

But, as Albert O.Hirschman thought about case studies like the Karnaphuli Paper Mills and the Troy-Greenfield folly, he became convinced that his profession had it backward. His profession ought to embrace anxiety, and not seek to remove it.

As he wrote in a follow-up essay to “The Strategy of Economic Development”:

“Law and order and the absence of civil strife seem to be obvious preconditions for the gradual and patient accumulation of skills, capital and investors’ confidence that must be the foundation for economic progress. We are now told, however, that the presence of war-like Indians in North America and the permanent conflict between them and the Anglo-Saxon settlers was a great advantage, because it made necessary methodical, well-planned, and gradual advances toward an interior which always remained in close logistic and cultural contact with the established communities to the East.

In Brazil, on the contrary, the back-lands were open and virtually uncontested; the result was that once an excessively vast area had been occupied in an incredibly brief time span the pioneers became isolated and regressed economically and culturally.

The entrepreneur takes risks but does not see himself as a risk-taker, because he operates under the useful delusion that what he’s attempting is not risky.

Trapped in mid-mountain, people discover the truth—and, because it is too late to turn back, they’re forced to finish the job.

“We have ended up here with an economic argument strikingly paralleling Christianity’s oft expressed preference for the repentant sinner over the righteous man who never strays from the path,” Hirschman wrote in this essay from 1967.

Success grew from failure:

And essentially the same idea, even though formulated, as one might expect, in a vastly different spirit, is found in Nietzsche’s famous maxim, “That which does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” This sentence admirably epitomizes several of the histories of economic development projects in recent decades.

As was nearly always the case with Hirschman’s writing, he made his argument without mathematical formulas or complex models. His subject was economics, but his spirit was literary.

He drew on Brecht, Kafka, Freud, Flaubert, La Rochefoucauld, Montesquieu, Montaigne, and Machiavelli, not to mention Homer—he had committed huge sections of the Odyssey to memory.

The pleasure of reading Hirschman comes not only from the originality of his conclusions but also from the delightfully idiosyncratic path he took to them.

Consider this, from the same essay (and, remember, this is an economist who’s writing):

“While we are rather willing and even eager and relieved to agree with a historian’s finding that we stumbled into the more shameful events of history, such as war, we are correspondingly unwilling to concede—we find it intolerable to imagine—that our more lofty achievements, such as economic, social or political progress, could have come about by stumbling rather than through careful planning. . . . Language itself conspires toward this sort of asymmetry: we fall into error, but do not usually speak of falling into truth.

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman” (Princeton), by the Princeton historian Jeremy Adelman, is a biography worthy of the man. Adelman brilliantly and beautifully brings Hirschman to life, giving us an unforgettable portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary intellectuals.

The great influence on Hirschman’s life was his brother-in-law, the Italian intellectual Eugenio Colorni. Colorni and Hirschman were as close as siblings, and when Colorni was killed by Fascist thugs in Rome, during the Second World War, Hirschman was inconsolable. Adelman writes:

“Colorni believed that doubt was creative because it allowed for alternative ways to see the world, and seeing alternatives could steer people out of intractable circles and self-feeding despondency. Doubt, in fact, could motivate: freedom from ideological constraints opened up political strategies, and accepting the limits of what one could know liberated agents from their dependence on the belief that one had to know everything before acting, that conviction was a precondition for action.

The phrase that Hirschman and Colorni would repeat to each other was that they hoped to “prove Hamlet wrong.” Hamlet shouldn’t have been frozen by his doubts; he should have been freed by them.

Hamlet took himself too seriously. He thought he needed to be perfect. Colorni and Hirschman didn’t. “Courage required the willingness “to always be on guard against oneself. Colorni wrote,

Doubt didn’t mean disengagement.

In the summer of 1936, Hirschman volunteered to fight in Spain on the side of the Loyalists, against General Franco’s German-backed Fascists. He was twenty-one and living in Paris, having just got back from studying at the London School of Economics. He was among the first wave of German and Italian volunteers to take the train to Barcelona. “When I heard that there was even a possibility to do something,” Hirschman said, “I went.”

Hirschman rarely spoke about what happened in Spain.

Decades later, Adelman recounts, Albert and his wife, Sarah, went to see a film about the Spanish Civil War. Afterward, Sarah asked Albert, “Was it like that?” His response was a deft non-response: “Yeah, that was a pretty good film.” On this subject, as on a few others, Sarah felt a certain reticence in her husband. Still, as Adelman remarks, “the scars on his neck and leg made it impossible for her to forget.”

Adelman interprets Hirschman’s silence as disenchantment: “The endless debate rehearsed in Berlin and Paris over left-wing tactics was more than a farce, it was a tragedy of epic proportions.

Hirschman saw the Communists move in and, in his mind, the spirit of the cause became contaminated. It broke his heart.

But Hirschman would come to recognize that action fueled by doubt allows for failures to be left behind. Spain was a tragedy, but it was also, for him, an experiment, and experiments go awry.

Hirschman liked to say that he had “a propensity to self-subversion.” He even gave one of his books that title.

He qualified and questioned and hedged as a matter of habit. He never trusted himself enough to indulge in grand theorizing. He pursued the “petite idée” to come to an understanding of reality in portions, admitting that the angle may be subjective.”

Once, when a World Bank director sent him a paper that referred to the “Hirschman Doctrine,” Hirschman replied, “Fortunately, there is no Hirschman school of economic development and I cannot point to a large pool of disciples where one might fish out someone to work with you along those lines.”

Hirschman spent his career in constant motion.

After doing graduate training in London and Italy, fighting in Spain, and spending the first part of the war in France, he left for the United States, by which point he had begun to lose track of his own movements.

“This makes my fifth emigration,” he wrote to his mother. He accepted a fellowship at Berkeley (where he met the woman he would marry, Sarah Chapiro, another émigré), did a tour of duty for the O.S.S. in North Africa and Europe, and, with the war concluded, served a stint at the Federal Reserve Board, where he grew so unhappy that he would return home to his wife and two daughters in Chevy Chase, shut the door to his study, and bury himself in Kafka.

He worked for the Marshall Plan in Washington, providing “the thinking behind the thinking,” only to be turned down for a transfer to Paris because of a failed national-security review. He was in his mid-thirties. On a whim, he packed up the family and moved to Bogotá, Colombia, where he worked on a project for the World Bank.

He crisscrossed Colombia with “pen in hand and paper handy, examining irrigation projects, talking to local bankers about their farm loans, and scribbling calculations about the costs of road building.”

Writing to her parents about the family’s decision to move to Colombia, which was then in the midst of a civil war, Sarah explained, “We both realize that you should think of the future—make plans for the children etc. But I think we both somehow feel that it is impossible to know what is best and that the present is so much more important—because if the present is solid and good it will be a surer basis for a good future than any plans that you can make.”

Most people would not have left a home in Chevy Chase and the security of a job in Washington to go to a Third World country where armed gangsters roamed the streets, because they would feel certain that Colombia was a mistake. Hirschman believed, as a matter of principle, that it was impossible to know whether Colombia would be a mistake.

As it happened, the 4 years the family spent in Bogotá were among its happiest.

Hirschman returned to Latin America again and again during his career, and what he learned there provided the raw material for his most brilliant work. His doubt was a gift, not a curse.

Hirschman published his first important book, “The Strategy of Economic Development,” in 1958. He had returned from Colombia by then and was at Yale, and the book was an attempt to make sense of his experience of watching a country try to lift itself out of poverty.

At the time, he was reading deeply in the literature of psychology and psychoanalysis, and he became fascinated with the functional uses of negative emotions: frustration, aggression, and, in particular, anxiety.

The impulse of the developmental economist in those days would have been to remove the “impediments” to growth—to swoop in and have some powerful third party deal with the “war-like Indians.” But that would have turned North America into Brazil, and the pioneers would never have been forced to develop methodical, well-planned advances in logistical contact with the East.

Developing countries required more than capital. They needed practice in making difficult economic decisions.

Economic progress was the product of successful habits—and there is no better teacher, Hirschman felt, than a little adversity.

Hirschman would rather encourage settlers and entrepreneurs at the grass-roots level—and make them learn how to cope with those impediments themselves—than run the risk that aid might infantilize its recipient.

He loved to tell the story of how, at a dinner party in a Latin American country, he struggled to track down the telephone number of a fellow-academic: “I asked whether there might be a chance that X would be listed in the telephone directory; this suggestion was shrugged off with the remark that the directory makes a point of listing only people who have either emigrated or died. . . . The economist said that X must be both much in demand and hard to reach, as several people had inquired about how to get in touch with him within the past few days. The subject was dropped as hopeless, and everybody spent a pleasant evening.”

Back in his hotel room, Hirschman looked in the phone book, found his friend’s number, and got him on the line immediately.

A few years after publishing “The Strategy of Economic Development,” Hirschman was invited by the World Bank to conduct a survey of some of its projects. He drew up his own itinerary, which, typically, involved almost an entire circuit of the globe: a power plant in El Salvador, roads in Ecuador, an irrigation project in Peru, pasture improvement in Uruguay, telecommunication in Ethiopia, power transmission in Uganda, an irrigation project in Sudan, railway modernization in Nigeria, the Damodar Valley Corporation in India, the Karnaphuli Paper Mills, an irrigation project in Thailand and another in the south of Italy.

Adelman is struck by the tone of optimism in Hirschman’s notes on his journey. The economist was interested in all the ways in which projects managed to succeed, both in spite of and because of the difficulties:

Instead of asking: what benefits has this project yielded, it would almost be more pertinent to ask: how many conflicts has it brought in its wake?

How many crises has it occasioned and passed through? And these conflicts and crises should appear both on the benefit and the cost side, or sometimes on one—sometimes on the other, depending on the outcome (which cannot be known with precision for a long time, if ever).

Only Hirschman would circle the globe and be content to conclude that he couldn’t reach a conclusion—for a long time, if ever.

He was a planner who really didn’t believe in planning. He wanted to remind other economists that a lot of the problems they tried to fix were either better off not being fixed or weren’t problems to begin with.

Late in life, Hirschman underwent surgery in Germany. When he emerged from anesthesia, he asked his surgeon, “Why are bananas bent?” The doctor shrugged. Hirschman, even then, could not resist a poke at his fellow economic planners: “Because nobody went to the jungle to adjust it and make it straight.”

While fighting for France during the Second World War, Hirschman persuaded his commander to give him false French papers and he became Albert Hermant. After the country fell to the Germans, Hirschman ended up in Marseilles, along with thousands of other refugees. There he learned that an American named Varian Fry was coming to France as part of the Emergency Rescue Committee—an American group that sought to get as many Jewish refugees out of France as possible. Hirschman met Fry at the train station and took him back to the Hotel Splendide. They hit it off instantly.

Fry had access to U.S. visas. But he needed Hirschman’s help in figuring out escape routes into Spain, procuring false passports and identity papers, and smuggling in money to fund the operation. Hirschman was invaluable. He spoke Italian like an Italian and German like a German and French like a Frenchman, and had so many fake documents—including a card attesting to membership in the “Club for People Without Clubs”—that Fry joked he was “like a criminal who has too many alibis.”

Fry nicknamed Hirschman Beamish, on account of his irrepressible charm. Beginning in 1940, the Emergency Rescue Committee helped save thousands of people from the clutches of Fascism, among them Hannah Arendt, André Breton, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Alma Mahler.

Hirschman was as reluctant to talk about his time in Marseilles as he was to talk about the battles he fought in the Spanish Civil War.

As a fellow at Berkeley, in the early forties, he was placed in the International House, and the other graduate students urged him to speak about what had happened to him in Europe. “The newcomer sat there,” Adelman writes, “with his handkerchief twisted in his fingers, nervously waiting for the calls to pass.”

Hirschman moved out of the International House as soon as he could. “I couldn’t stand being considered as sort of a wonder of the world or something like that,” he later recalled. “I just wanted to be myself.”

The closest Hirschman ever came to explaining his motives was in his most famous work, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty,” and even then it was only by implication.

Hirschman was interested in contrasting the two strategies that people have for dealing with badly performing organizations and institutions. “Exit” is voting with your feet, expressing your displeasure by taking your business elsewhere. “Voice” is staying put and speaking up, choosing to fight for reform from within. There is no denying where his heart lay.

Early in the book, Hirschman quoted the conservative economist Milton Friedman, who argued that school vouchers should replace the current public-school system. “Parents could express their views about schools directly, by withdrawing their children from one school and sending them to another, to a much greater extent than is now possible,” Friedman wrote. “In general they can now take this step only by changing their place of residence. For the rest, they can express their views only through cumbrous political channels.”

This was, Hirschman wrote, a “near perfect example of the economist’s bias in favor of exit and against voice”:

In the first place, Friedman considers withdrawal or exit as the “direct” way of expressing one’s unfavorable views of an organization. A person less well trained in economics might naively suggest that the direct way of expressing views is to express them!

Secondly, the decision to voice one’s views and efforts to make them prevail are contemptuously referred to by Friedman as a resort to “cumbrous political channels.” But what else is the political, and indeed the democratic, process than the digging, the use, and hopefully the slow improvement of these very channels?

Hirschman pointed out the ways in which “exit” failed to send a useful message to underperformers. Weren’t there cases where monopolists were relieved when their critics left?

“Those who hold power in the lazy monopoly may actually have an interest in creating some limited opportunities for exit on the part of those whose voice might be uncomfortable,” he wrote. The worst thing that ever happened to incompetent public-school districts was the growth of private schools: they siphoned off the kind of parents who would otherwise have agitated more strongly for reform.

Exit is passive. It is silent protest. And silent protest, for him, is too easy. “Proving Hamlet wrong” was about the importance of acting in the face of doubt—but also of acting in the face of fear.

Voice was courage. He went to fight Fascism in Spain. It ended in failure. When the Nazis came hunting for the Jews, he tried again. “Expanding the operation meant, increasingly, that Beamish’s work was in the streets, bars, and brothels of Marseilles, expanding the tentacles of the operation,” Adelman writes. “If the operation had a fixer, it was Beamish. It was a role he relished.”

Beamish screened the refugees, weeding out potential informers. He cajoled first the Czech, then the Polish, and, finally, the Lithuanian consuls into providing fake passports. He made deals with Marseilles mobsters and a shadowy Russian émigré to get money into France. He held secret meetings in brothels. Several times, he was nearly caught, but he charmed his way out of trouble.

When the authorities finally caught onto Hirschman, he escaped across the Pyrenees to Spain on foot, equipped with false Lithuanian papers.

On the ship to America, he played Ping-Pong and chess, and romanced a young Czech woman. As Adelman’s magnificent biography makes plain, it was hard not to fall for Albert Hirschman.

A colleague from his Marseilles days remembered him, years later, as “a handsome fellow with rather soulful eyes . . . taking everything in, his head cocked slightly to one side. One of those German intellectuals, I thought, always trying to figure everything out.” ♦

 published in The New Yorker this June 24, 2013

Note 2: Hirschman was born in Berlin in 1915, into a prosperous family of Jewish origin. His father was a surgeon, and the family lived in the embassy district, near the Tiergarten. Hirschman was slender and handsome, in the mold of Albert Camus. He dressed elegantly, danced skillfully, spoke half a dozen languages, and had a special affection for palindromes.

He was absent-minded and distracted. While lecturing, Adelman writes, “He rambled. He mumbled. Mid-sentence, he would pause, his right hand supporting his chin, his eyes drifting upward to fasten on a spot on the ceiling.” He would call his wife upon taking his car somewhere because—as he once said—“I do not know how to put it among two other cars on the sidewalk.”

“When you spoke to him,” a friend said, “it was sometimes five or ten seconds before he would show any sign of having heard you.” He was also deeply charming when he put his mind to it.

Testimonials of a civil war:

The case of Zeinab Shaaban Naanuh . Posted in 2008

Note: civil war in Lebanon (1975-1991)

The issue of the daily Al Balad, April 17, 2005

Zinab Sheaban Naanuh is from the Shia Muslim sect and in her fifty now.  Zinab had to relocate 7 times with her four children, without the assistance of her husband.

When she was living in Ras Dekwani in East Beirut, close to the Palestinian refugees’ camp of Tel Zaatar.

Water was the priciest commodity during the war.

People had to walk far to the only well available because all water lines were destroyed or cut off.

In every sortie for fetching water, 3 out of 10 volunteers died during the trip to the well. 

Then the Christian militias polluted the well by dumping dead bodies.

Zinab new born child almost died of dehydration and she had to leave all her children and tempt death to the well.

Her husband Abu Nasser sold cigarettes, but they lived the good life before the war. Her husband had to travel to Russia for a stomach surgery and Zinab did not see him for the duration of the war.

She remembers the Black Saturday massacre as the Christian militias slaughtered all of Beirut port workers using machetes, daggers, and bullets, while her husband was isolated in West Beirut for two weeks.

One day, a butcher sold her half of a whole mutton for two cigarettes.  Zinab never patronized any shelter for the duration of the war because of the serious diseases contracted in these infected places and opted instead to taking her chances.

Zinab twice gave birth during heavy shelling while having to cater for her children all alone.

Once, a rocket entered her living room but did not explode. After cleaning the house she carried the rocket outside the building where expert people detonated it and the Captain admonished her for this foolishness.

After the fall of Tal Zaatar, Zinab experienced her worst nightmares during her exit from Dekwani to West Beirut.   The Christian militias exterminated the Palestinian males and left only one male to each mother and carried away the rest to their death.

One method the militia used to carry out this mass killing plan was to deliver sleeping pills under the guise of aspirin to the refugees and to retrieve the males sentenced to death while people were sleeping.

A taxi driver charged Zinab $100 to take her out of this mad place.

Zinab was an eyewitness to the impalements of people: two jeeps would attach the limbs of a person then drive away in different directions.

This town of traditional pottery in Lebanon: Beit Chabab

Last potter in Beit Chabab?

Who is Fawzi Fakhoury?

BEIT CHABAB, Lebanon: Fawzi Fakhoury hands are calloused and brown. Hours  of shaping tough clay and standing in front of a burning wood oven have stained  them shades darker than the rest of his body and toughened them so they are like  leather.

He is rather short, with salt and pepper hair and bushy eyebrows, and dressed  in simple, mud-stained clothes.

His weathered hands stand testimony to the  thousands of pots he has created for the better part of his life.

I have posted many articles on Lebanon, and Michelle  Ghoussoub has this latest.

Michelle  Ghoussoub published in The Daily Star, this June 20, 2013: “Meet  the last potter in Beit Shabab

Fakhoury is the last working potter in Beit Shabab.

Fakhoury, left, works with his brother Assad, who helps out occasionally in the shop. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

The scenic village is nestled in Lebanon’s mountains just outside of Beirut.

Sixty years ago, dozens of Beit Shabab  families produced traditional  pottery, and the heat from 40 burning ovens could be felt on the streets during  the summer, Fawzi explains.

The town’s name was synonymous with pottery, and people came from around the  country to purchase the artisanal clay pots, used for storing everything from  arak to grains, olive oil and wine.

Now, he is the only one left.

Fakhoury’s workshop resembles a hermit’s cave.

Though dark and dusty, it  remains well used and loved. Perched precariously on the edge of a small but  steep ravine, Fakhoury working space has a crumbling old stone facade nestled  into the mountain itself.

An elegant stone archway frames the entrance, with rusted scrap metal and  broken pieces of mortar piled on top to prevent rainwater from flooding the  small room. Bits and pieces of fragmented pots are piled haphazardly in a back  corner.

A traditional stove, or babour, Arabic for kerosene burner, commands the  center of the room. It doubles as the only heat source during the winter months, as nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

An old television set crackles in the background, the colors and shapes on  the screen disfigured by poor reception. A fine, white film of dust covers every  surface, and it puffs out of antique pillows on the faded couch when it is sat  upon.

No one knows or remembers exactly how long the workshop has been running.

Fakhoury believes the family folklore and says that Roman potters trained his  forefathers when they came to construct the ancient, colonnaded citadel of  Baalbek in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley around 300 B.C.

When the Romans left, his ancestors searched for the purest clay in the  country, and eventually settled in Beit Shabab to be close to the best natural  source: a small and muddy lake in the forest beneath the village (the mawsel).

Fakhoury’s creased wrinkles deepen and his brown face cracks into a crooked  smile as he recalls a childhood of running among the clay pots. He’s worked as a  potter for 60 years. His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and  great-great-grandfather all worked in this same space before him.

At no moment in his life did Fakhoury, now 66, wish for an alternative career  path. He loves this job, he says.

Years of hard labor have given him a worn appearance and demeanor, but they  have also kept him strong and tough. Toiling in the workshop where he was  raised, he cuts the figure of a surviving Chinese terra-cotta warrior, stained  by the mud that has defined his livelihood for half a century.

Fakhoury left the village temporarily during the Lebanese Civil War and  worked in trade in West Africa. He always dreamt of returning to his workshop to  continue his family’s legacy.

“I lived there, but I dreamed in Lebanon,” he says with a smile.

Fakhoury returned to find a wall of the workshop blown out by a bomb, but his  tools intact. He wasted no time in repairing the room and reopening his  business.

His wife and he have three daughters, all of whom are married and have long  since left the house. Women don’t do pottery, he says, at least in Beit Shabab.

His face falls, however, when he reveals that he has no heir to continue Beit  Shabab’s trademark industry when he retires.

“This workshop has been running for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and  when I go, it may all have been for nothing,” he lamented, looking wistfully  around the chamber.

Though customers used to flock from across the country to hand pick his pots,  the advent of plastic containers has slashed demand massively.

Nowadays, customers are often decorators seeking a rustic look, or tourists  looking for authentic Lebanese craftsmanship.

He still ships a couple of hundred pots every year to a Jordanian arak  producer, who uses them to store the anise-flavored liquor.

Producing pottery is like cultivating a crop, he muses. The clay is collected  in the spring when it has the right consistency, then handspun into pots using a  potter’s wheel.

The kiln, an oven designed especially for pottery, is fired up  in August, the hottest month of the year, to accelerate the baking.

During these scorching weeks, Fakhoury stays up throughout the night to  monitor the ovens and rotate the pots, making sure that months of intensive  craftsmanship and exertion do not go up in flames.

The work is hard, and the fruit of his arduous labor much less plentiful than  it once was. While his father would light the oven seven or eight times in one  summer, he now only produces one batch of pots a year.

A pottery festival and exhibition in Normandy, France, once invited Fakhoury  to learn different pottery techniques.

He says it was an honor to be recognized,  but that he found himself underwhelmed by the developed industrial techniques of  French potters. Having made thousands of pots in his life, he says he prefers to  stick to what his father and grandfather taught him as a child.

Nassar Fakhoury, Fawzi’s neighbor and former landlord, shares his surname but  is not sure exactly how they are related. Family lineages and histories go so  far back in the village that they are sometimes impossible to keep track of or  untangle.

“Fawzi is a part of this village in the same way that these streets are. He’s  always in his workshop and his family has always been there. The children call  him ‘the pottery man.’ There’s just no other way to describe him,” Nassar  says.

When asked what has changed about the business since he began over half a  century ago, Fawzi’s answer is simple: “Nothing. I still do business the way my  father and grandfather did.”

It’s a legacy that may end without an apprentice or heir devoted to following  in his forefathers’ footsteps.

It is almost impossible to picture the village without its main attraction,  and for now, Fakhoury will continue to fill that role. He says he cannot imagine  himself anywhere else.

“My grandfather and father died here, and one day, I will join them,” he  says. “What I want is to die here.”

Note 1: In my childhood, I visited and was acquainted with three families of potters in the lower part of Beit-Chabab. The entire family members participated in the production, especially in summer time. Traditional pottery is vanishing quickly in Lebanon, and not even replaced by mass production facilities. There are is few potters in Rashaya Fokhar, and are closing shop for no family members replacing the older ones.

Note 2: A couple centuries ago, pottery was started in the upper quarters of Beit Chabab, but the clay was whitish. The potters in the lower part of Beit Chabab had the reddish and better clay to use, and they supplanted the upper families in that art and industry.

Note 3: A  version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June  20, 2013, on page 2.
Read more:  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Lifestyle/2013/Jun-20/220923-meet-the-last-potter-in-beit-shabab.ashx#ixzz2WpopbDU6 (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::  http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

 

“The man with the long curly hair”: Fragments of Abu Nuwas‘ Poems (February 12, 2009)

Note:  I am attempting to convey the style and position of the great Arab poet Abu Nawas during the Abbasid period.  The translation is not literal and I am selecting fragments in specific genres.

Ascetics  (Abu Nawas is witnessing his physical disintegration after his 50)

It is true O God: Great is my villainy.

Your clemency, I know, is infinite.

If the virtuous only dares keep hope.

Then, who the sinner is to appeal to?

Whom the sinner is to believe in?

In humility I implore you my Lord.

Don’t reject me! Only You can have pity.

You are the clement and forgiving.

Finally and besides, I am a Muslim.

My God, you have always been good to me.

My gratitude is little adequate.

Do I have to present my flat excuses?

My excuse is that I have none.

Nullity crawls in me; my members are dying one at a time. Every moment takes its share.

My youth has fled and didn’t deign to listen.

What have I done with my tender youth?

My youth was dedicated to pleasure, every day and every night.

All possible mischief I have committed.  Forgive me God; I hear you and I tremble.

The full moon is just a dim glow compared to your majestic Face.

I carry on my front the indelible mark of prostrations that might pass me a devout.

Oh, how many noble figures are entombed and as many refined beauties.

How many brave are buried and as many great minds.

Let a rational man interrogate Earth. 

We have taken all Earth’s alleys, highways, and passes.

Earth is our enemy disguised as friend.

 

Satires

(The Caliph Al Amine is pederast and wanted to honor Abu Nawas young son Mussa.  The satirized personalities were the poet’s benefactors and he joined their merriments)

The Caliph is losing his way.  It is the Caliph fault.

His ignorant vizier Fadl and his naïve counselor Bakr are to be blamed.

The Caliph Al Amine is a pederast.  He loves young eunuchs.

The Caliph is the active actor: How wonderful!

His vizier is the passive one.

The compromises of these two are splattering all the neighborhood.

Like a pissing camel.

After this atomic cataclysm: The cleanest Ex PM Salim al Hoss wrote

For a long time I desisted from meddling in Lebanon politics due to my old age, but there is no way I can keep silent after this ravaging cataclysm.

During the 15 years civil war I said: “There are beasts in Lebanon, roaming among us in the shape of people

بيروت في 2020/08/8:

صدر عن الرئيس الحص ما يلي

منذ الأربعاء وأنا عاجز عن التعليق لهول الفاجعة والجريمة التي لحقت بلبنان.

لقد بلغت من العمر عتيا وقد آليت على نفسي أن أعتزل السياسة والعمل العام،

بيد أني لا أستطيع إلا أن أدلي بدلوي أمام فظاعة هذه الكارثة.

في غمرة الفظاعات التي كانت ترتكب خلال الحرب لم أتمالك يوماً أن قلت: “إن في لبنان وحوشاً تخطر بين الناس كالبشر”.

لقد دأبنا على تهشيم هذا الوطن وصورته وتهافتنا على تقويض ما كان من مقوماته فإذا بنا اليوم نغرق في مستنقع العقم والفساد والعجز المالي والانهيار الاقتصادي.

لقد هشمنا وطننا لا بل وصلنا لحد تشوية صورة الفساد والإجرام والقتل.

لقد قزمنا أسوأ مجرمي العالم عبر التاريخ أمام هول إجرامنا بحق شعبنا. لقد هتكنا، نحن المواطنون، بالديمقراطية وبالشعب وبالوطن عندما اخترنا ممثلينا في صندوق الاقتراع وأعدنا اختيارهم ثم أعدنا اختيارهم أو من شابههم حتى صارت الانتخابات أشبه بسوق نخاسة يحكمه المال السياسي والطائفية والمذهبية والمصالح الضيقة الآنية والسير بركب “الزعيم” .

الجحيم الذي نعيشه ليس مجرد مسرحية تشاهد بنجومها السياسيين، ومن ورائهم منتجون ومخرجون من الداخل والخارج.

فالمسرحية لا قيمة لها، لا بل هي فعلياً ما كانت لتكون، لولا جمهور المشاهدين.

لا وجود لمسرحية من دون مشاهد. والمشاهد هو نحن، هو المواطن، هو الناخب، هو الرأي العام.

هذه المسرحية، ذات الموضوع المضحك المبكي، تنتهي يوم يدرك المواطن انه هو المسؤول عن تقبلها. ويوم يرفضها تنتهي فصولاً.

قلتها في الثمانينات ورددتها مرارا وأقولها الآن: “إن في لبنان وحوشا تخطر بين الناس كالبشر”.

لقد بلغ السيل الزبى وحان وقت المحاسبة والإطاحة بكل من هو مسؤول عما وصلنا إليه أيا كان ومهما علا شأنه وإلى أية جهة انتمى.

لقد سقطت الأقنعة والخطوط الحمر بسقوط الضحايا البريئة يوم الأربعاء.

أتقدم من أهالي الشهداء بأحر التعازي راجيا المولى أن يلهمهم الصبر والسلوان وأن يتغمد أحبتهم برحمته وأتمنى للجرحى والمصابين الشفاء العاجل.

سليم الحص

The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)?

This young “prince“ never earned a dime, never ran a company,  never acquired military experience, never studied at a foreign university, never mastered a foreign language. He never spent significant time oversea… and he is running this Wahhabi Saudi Kingdom

And how Saudi Kingdom has gone bankrupt?

By March 9, 2020

A review of “The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman”. By Ben Hubbard

On the final page of his book “MBS,” the detailed and disturbing portrait of Saudi Kingdom crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Ben Hubbard admits that, given what he learned in the course of his reporting on the kingdom’s de facto ruler and the ways his ruthless minions have pursued their boss’s perceived enemies, he “did wonder, while walking home late at night or drifting off to sleep, whether they might come after me as well.”

Anyone who reads Hubbard’s clear and convincing narrative will find the concern all too plausible.

And where could you turn if the prince did lash out?

Certainly not to an American administration that believed M.B.S. ordered the 2018 murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi but gave the prince a pass.

It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did, maybe he didn’t!” said President Trump, who always equivocates about inconvenient facts.

Trump went on “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country.” Not the least of those interests: more than a hundred billion dollars’ worth of arms deals.

Hubbard, The New York Times Beirut bureau chief, puts the story of Mohammed bin Salman’s ascent in a context that extends well beyond the region.

“MBS rise rode the waves of global trends. As more of the world’s wealth was concentrated in fewer hands, populist authoritarians used nationalist rhetoric to rally their people while shutting down outlets for opposition.” In such a world, the prince fit right in.

“M.B.S. saw no need for checks on his power and crushed all threats to it. … He would stop at nothing to make Saudi Arabia great again, on his terms.”

While there are no big news revelations in “MBS,” the book’s strength is the thoroughness of its reporting.

Hubbard interviewed contacts inside the kingdom until the Saudis stopped giving him visas in 2018.

Many of those he talked to chose to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation. Those he cites by name are very brave, or else as arrogant and unrepentant as M.B.S. himself.

Hubbard acknowledges that much of what M.B.S. has done for his country and its people, especially its young people, has been as admirable as it is overdue, but in this age of incipient tyrants he also understands that authoritarian rulers can be tremendously popular even when they are terribly feare

“Will M.B.S. mature into a wiser monarch, or will unpleasant surprises continue to punctuate his reign?” Hubbard asks.

The record to date is hardly auspicious. Khashoggi’s murder is only the most famous of those surprises. There is also the alleged hacking by M.B.S. of a cellphone belonging to Jeff Bezos, the C.E.O. of Amazon (and the owner of The Washington Post), who had shared his private number with the prince.

More recently, to consolidate his hold on power, M.B.S. arrested an uncle, two cousins and a former crown prince. There is every reason to believe that M.B.S., who is just 34, will be around for decades to come — a frightening prospect.

Reading Hubbard’s book, one is constantly reminded how young M.B.S. really is. He was born in 1985 and was not quite 5 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

He was barely 16 when his renegade compatriot Osama bin Laden attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

ImagePresident Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the 2019 G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

M.B.S. did not grow up nurturing expectations that he would one day rule.

He was the eldest son of the third wife of the 25th son of Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, the founding king of the nation that bears the family name.

As such, M.B.S. was very low in a line of succession that had, since the death of Abdulaziz in 1953, passed the crown from one brother or half brother to another without any clear picture of when or how it would move to the next generation.

But by the second decade of this century, the gerontocracy was no longer sustainable.

The brothers in line for the throne were dying off before they could sit on it, finally opening the way for one of the last of them, Salman bin Abdulaziz, the father of M.B.S., to take power in January 2015.

Salman was 79 and, by many accounts, would soon show hints of dementia. (The Saudi royal court has denied that King Salman suffers from mental impairment.)

M.B.S. had several older half brothers, including one who had flown as an astronaut on the American space shuttle, but by the time his father ascended the throne, the brash 29-year-old M.B.S. was well established as the favorite.

While the others were educated abroad and lived much of their lives outside the kingdom, M.B.S. had stayed close to home and to Salman, the governor of Riyadh.

He “never ran a company that made a mark,” Hubbard writes. “He never acquired military experience. He never studied at a foreign university. He never mastered, or even became functional in, a foreign language. He never spent significant time in the United States, Europe or elsewhere in the West.”

Yet suddenly there he was, the rising star in the royal palace.

M.B.S. immediately acquired important portfolios as minister of defense and became the gatekeeper for the king as head of the royal court.

He would later brag that in the first 10 days of his father’s rule, “the entire government was restructured.”

The pace of disruption was extraordinary and very quickly became dangerous.

In March 2015, barely two months after he took over the Defense Ministry, M.B.S. ordered the until then mostly decorative Saudi Air Force to start bombing Yemen, which was in the midst of a civil war.

The operation was supposed to last weeks and intimidate Iran, which has supported one of the warring factions.

But the fighting continues to this day, accumulating a grim record of civilian casualties, many of them killed by bombs supplied by the United States to the Saudis. Disease has added to the misery of what has become, according to the United Nations, the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Although an older, much more experienced cousin of M.B.S. had been made crown prince and heir apparent, palace insiders could see early on that the cousin would not be around for long.

The bond between M.B.S. and his father the king was too close. “Between the onion and the skin there is only the stink,” was an often repeated saying around Riyadh. And by the summer of 2017, M.B.S. had forced his rival out.

The prince’s reflexive resentment of anyone who questioned him soon became as obvious as his ambition. According to Hubbard, he even locked his mother and two of her sisters away in a palace, apparently to keep them quiet.

In a still more sinister vein, in January 2016, Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 47 men deemed enemies of the state. Many were affiliated with Al Qaeda, but others were activists from the country’s Shiite minority and suspected of having ties to Iran.

The human rights criticism that ensued from the Obama administration did not sit well with the Saudis, especially after Washington’s nuclear deal with Tehran left them feeling unsure about their longstanding American security guarantees.

At a tense meeting between the king and Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia in 2016, M.B.S. intervened to tell the president that he didn’t understand the Saudi justice system and offered to have it explained to him.

“The image that stuck with the Americans,” Hubbard writes, “was that of a 30-year-old prince rising to his feet to lecture the president of the United States. They had never seen anything like it.”

Two months later, M.B.S. went on an extended tour of the United States, meeting many of the richest, most powerful people in the country.

He was touting his grand economic plan, called Vision 2030, and was unapologetic about the virtues of authoritarianism. “There is an advantage to quickness of decision-making, the kind of fast change that an absolute monarch can do in one step that would take a traditional democracy 10 steps,” he said at a meeting in Silicon Valley.

Ominous as that sounded to some, he was also using his power to break through barriers that many young Saudis found suffocating. The religious police had long enforced strict rules on the general population, especially on women, who were required to keep their bodies nearly entirely covered in public.

There was no public mixing of the sexes. There were no movies. Life in a country where the government’s legitimacy rested largely on its custodianship of the holiest mosques in Islam was, when not brutal, brutally boring, and successive rulers had been unwilling or unable to challenge these enforcers of Wahhabi morality. Saudi kings could provide their people with bread, but no circuses.

Then, in April 2016, the religious police suddenly were stripped of their powers. “With a single royal decree,” Hubbard writes, “M.B.S. had defanged the clerics, clearing the way for vast changes they most certainly would have opposed.”

M.B.S. eventually allowed women in the kingdom to drive cars, ending a prohibition that activists had campaigned against since he was a preschooler. But he also threw in jail and tortured some of the women who had fought so long and hard for that right. The message was that good things came from the palace, and only from the palace.

Meanwhile, “circuses” for the masses have begun big time, from operas to professional wrestling, monster trucks and movie theaters, even the Cirque du Soleil.

When Donald Trump, another kind of showman, was elected president of the United States in 2016, M.B.S. was ready to forge a whole new relationship with the White House.

“Early on,” Hubbard writes, “the Saudis identified the Trump administration’s approach to foreign policy as transactional, run by deal makers looking out for the bottom line, not by diplomats focused on long-term interests or even, at times, values. Trump’s game was one the Saudis knew how to play.”

Through intermediaries, M.B.S. courted Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, a contemporary of the young prince who had been given the difficult Middle East portfolio.

Kushner knew virtually nothing about the region apart from what he had learned over the years from the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close family friend.

M.B.S. offered to explain things. His money and connections and his vision could solve every problem, it seemed, and he was quick to say that Israel was not his enemy — Iran was. Plus, there was money, money, money on the table.

Image

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2018.
Credit…Amr Nabil/Associated Press

In the spring of 2017, when M.B.S. became the official heir apparent to the Saudi throne, his operations to consolidate personal power went into high gear.

He broke relations with the neighboring emirate of Qatar, claiming it supported terrorists and was too cozy with Iran, and demanded that it shut down the contentious Al Jazeera television network.

Trump initially backed the play until he was told more than 10,000 U.S. troops use Qatar as a vital regional base. Al Jazeera is still on the air.

Then, in another stunning operation, M.B.S. imprisoned hundreds of the kingdom’s richest and most influential men in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, forcing them to sign over to the government — his government — tens of billions of dollars’ worth of assets he claimed were ill-gotten gains.

Some people noted that M.B.S. had bought an enormous yacht for $456 million and what was called the “world’s most expensive home,” a French chateau (actually more of a modern mega-McMansion), for $300 million, but criticism was muted.

Real fear had begun to settle on Saudi society. Despite the opulent surroundings of their “prison,” many of those held at the Ritz-Carlton suffered real abuse, according to Hubbard.

At about the same time, the crown prince invited Saad Hariri, the prime minister of Lebanon, to Riyadh, where he was put under arrest and forced to announce his resignation.

Under duress Hariri appeared on television denouncing the role Iran and its client militia Hezbollah played in his country, which was a good way to start a new civil war there. Hubbard writes that is exactly what M.B.S. wanted: “Gradually, the details of the Saudi plot came out. They were crazier than anyone expected.”

The Saudis apparently believed troops from Hezbollah were fighting against them and their clients in Yemen, and if there was civil war in Lebanon, they’d have to return home. In the end, virtually nobody accepted that Hariri had resigned in good faith, but it took an intervention by the French president Emmanuel Macron to extract him from Riyadh.

Woven through Hubbard’s recounting of these events is the story of Khashoggi, his exile from Saudi Arabia, and his gruesome murder. It’s a narrative whose tragic end many readers will know in advance. But Hubbard does a brilliant job helping us understand Khashoggi the man as well as the operation that killed him.

The death squad was allegedly organized by Saud al-Qahtani, a former hacker and a top aide to M.B.S. who had built much of his power by monitoring and manipulating social media.

According to a C.I.A. assessment quoted by Hubbard, early in M.B.S.’s reign he had ordered al-Qahtani and an organization that became known as the Rapid Intervention Group “to target his opponents domestically and abroad, sometimes violently.”

On Oct. 2, 2018, a 15-member team caught up with Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate when he went there to pick up a document necessary to register his marriage. He never came out.

Turkish intelligence eventually allowed the C.I.A. and investigators from the United Nations to listen to tapes of the murder and dismemberment. The movements of the Saudi hit team were caught on surveillance cameras as well. The group had included a forensic pathologist expert in dissection who had brought along a bone saw, and a portly body double who left the consulate wearing Khashoggi’s clothes to give the impression he’d made a safe exit. By then the corpse was in pieces.

Was there a smoking gun to implicate M.B.S.? After a detailed intelligence briefing, Senator Lindsey Graham said there was “a smoking saw.”

But as Trump announced, the United States would remain “a steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia, and there is every reason to believe the incarnation of that partnership for decades to come will be Mohammed bin Salman.

Christopher Dickey, a former Middle East correspondent for The Washington Post and Newsweek, is the world news editor of The Daily Beast.

MBS
The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman
By Ben Hubbard
Illustrated. 359 pp. Tim Duggan Books. $28.

What are the background of US ambassador to Lebanon? This Dorothie Shea?

This ambassador of the Extremist Evangelical supporters of Trump was transferred straight away from Israel to Lebanon. Her responsibilities for 4 years in Jerusalem consulate was handling the political files.

Dorothie is a General in the US army and worked in In Tunisia and Egypt and was a member of the National Security under Bolton.

She was dispatched to destabilize Lebanon and enforce the new Trump Caesar sanction law on Syria and Lebanon. This law was agreed upon by Congress and the Senate, which means it is totally an Israeli law.

كتب البروفسور والأستاذ في القانون الدولي والدبلوماسي خليل حسين

“من هي السفيرة دوروثي شيا؟..إنها سفيرة دونالد ترامب في لبنان وليست سفيرة أميركا.

من الأمور التي لا يعرفها الشعب اللبناني العظيم العنيد، عن هذه المرأة وكيفية تعيينها ومن اختارها ولماذا تم نقلها من تل أبيب الى بيروت مطلع هذا العام 2020،

بعد عملها كمسؤولة عن الملف السياسي في سفارتها لمدة أربع سنوات في الكيان الصهيوني وقنصلية القدس.

أن دوروتي شيا خريجة كلية أركان حرب بدرجة ماجستير، يعني رتبتها العسكرية (عميد) بصرف النظر عن عملها في تونس والقاهرة والكيان الصهيوني، المرأة كانت تابعة لجهاز الأمن القومن الذي تولاه جون بولتون قبل إقالته.

والذي اختار شيّا لتكون سفيرة في لبنان، هو ترامب شخصياً، وفرض الموافقة عليها فرضاً على الكونغرس لمهمة تأزيم الوضع في لبنان، والإشراف على تنفيذ العقوبات وقانون قيصر خدمة للمصالح الإسرائيلية، ولا شيء غير ذلك وهذا ما حصل منذ أن عُيّنت نيسان 2019.

المرأة لا تتمتع بأي حس دبلوماسي،

بشهادة اليزابيث ريتشارد السفيرة الأميركية السابقة التي استلمت مكانها شيّا، وقد أسرّت ريتشارد لبعض أصدقائها قبل مغادرتها، بأن شيّا ستفتح عليكم باب جهنم كما نقل أحد التقارير السياسية.

جماعة 14 آذار في لبنان يعتبرون دوروتي شيّا (غازي كنعان الأميركاني)، فهي تشبههم وهم يشبهونها ويعولون عليها كثيراً.

نبيل خوري دبلوماسي أميريكي من أصل لبناني عمل في الخارجية الأمريكية لأكثر من 25 سنة، وكان من مهامه تدريب السفراء والقناصل الذين سيعملون في الشرق الأوسط،

وقال بعد تقاعده على إحدى القنوات، كنت أقول لكل سفير وقنصل سيعمل في لبنان انتبه الى الساحة اللبنانية، لأنها كثيرة الانقسامات وقبل الحديث عن حزب الله.. يجب أن تعرف أن هذا الحزب يمثل أغلبية لبنانية، وله ممثلون في البرلمان ثم قال خوري عن شيّا: “أنها سفيرة حرب من المحافظين الجدد ومهمتها تنفيذ أجندة إدارة ترامب.”

Truths, universally acknowledged, that…

Note: Re-edit of ““It is a truth, universally acknowledged that…” November 28, 2012

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a 9 year-old virgin wife…”.

That’s how Nassrine started the discussion with the opening sentence of Jane Austen book “Pride and Prejudice”, a temptation that a reader is most likely to feel and rearrange….

Manna rejoined: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Muslim man will eventually displace his older wife for a fresh naive 16 year-old virgin…”

Azar Nafisi, an Iranian author, held Thursday’s sessions for 7 of her former students, discussing selected English fiction novels and keeping diaries.

What is your “truth, universally acknowledged….?”

Azin, who is in the process of divorcing her third husband, said: “Who is thinking about love these days? The islamic Republic of Iran has taken us back to Jane Austen’s blessed arranged marriages. Nowadays, girls marry either because of family pressures, or to get a green card, or to secure financial stability… And we are talking about educated girls, discussing English literature, and who have gone to college…”

Mahshed replied: “Many women are independent in Iran, and are business women and who have chosen to live alone…”

Manna retorted: “Most women don’t have a choice now. In previous periods, my mother could chose her husband and wearing the veil was optional…”

Nassrine said: “Temporary marriage contracts are all the rage. President Rafsanjani is encouraging these kinds of short-term marriage contracts… Many conservative clerics call these contracts a sanctified form of prostitution… A few progressive men are for these contracts, and I tell them that they should demand that this law gives women the same rights as men… Talk about hypocrisy!”

At the start of the 20th century, the age of marriage was changed to 13 and increased to 18.

In the 1960’s, there was little difference between the rights of both genders, and women were at a par with western democratic States standards in human rights.

As Khomeini grabbed power in 1979, and this totalitarian and theocratic regime came in the name of the Past, and individual freedom was banished… the first law was to repeal the Family-Protection law, which guaranteed women’s rights at home and at work.

The legal marriage age for women was lowered again to 9 year-old, sort of 8.5 lunar years… Adultery and prostitution were punished by stoning to death, and women were considered to have half the worth of men

And why this 9 year-old cut-off standard for marriageable girl?

Prophet Muhammad had officially married Aisha at the age of 9 but he didn’t have intercourse with Aicha until she was 13. They didn’t beget any children. Aicha was the most beloved of wives and the most educated. Aicha’s father was Abu Bakr, later to become the first Caliph of the Muslims.

This terribly jealous wife used to throw tantrums when exposed to injustices.

As Muhammad announced his desire to marry another wife (9 wives in total), Aicha shouted: “This God of yours has the habit of satisfying all your desires in verses…

Aicha was in charge of transcribing the verses during Muhammad’s bouts of epilepsy.

And the Muslim clerics want to emulate their prophets, particularly in lifestyle that pleases their pleasures and comfort…

Sanaz was to meet with her long-time preferred Iranian young man, accompanied by her family, across the border in Turkey: The beau was settled in England for the last 6 years and decided to give it a shot and get engaged with Sanaz. The discussion among the girls was on how to discover the compatibility attribute, after so many years of absence, before Sanaz agrees to get engaged.

Nassrine suggested that “The first thing you should do to test your compatibility is dance with him

This suggestion was a reminder of the “Dear Jane Society” idea of forming dance sessions: Teacher Azar had gathered the girl students after class following a lecture on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to dance in the style of Austen’s period (the Napoleonic age). But that is another story.

Note 1: The story is taken from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: If interested in a biography of Aicha, check https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/aicha-la-bien-aime-du-prophet-by-genevieve-chauvel/


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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