The Happy Arab News Service

Saturday, March 31, 2007

And what do you think about this shit ??

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - King Abdullah's harsh — and unexpected — attack on the U.S. military presence in Iraq could be a Saudi attempt to signal to Washington its anger over the situation in Iraq and build credibility among fellow Arabs.

. . .

"In beloved Iraq, blood is flowing between brothers, in the shadow of an illegitimate foreign occupation, and abhorrent sectarianism threatens a civil war," said Abdullah, whose country is a U.S. ally that quietly aided the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

A Saudi official said the king was speaking as the president of the summit and his remarks reflected general frustration with the "patchwork" job the Americans were doing to end violence in Iraq.

The king also wanted to send a message that Iraq is an issue that Arabs cannot turn their back on, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

It was not clear what kind of diplomatic fallout could result — but the comments did nothing to help bring Arab nations closer to the government of Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

The summit has taken a tough line on Iraq, demanding it change its constitution and military to include more Sunnis and end a program of uprooting former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

. . .

Writers in some Arab media suggested before the summit that Saudi Arabia would seek solutions that would cater to U.S. interests.

"The king's remarks are the biggest proof that those accusations were false," said Dawood al-Shirian, a Saudi analyst. "In the issue of Iraq, Saudi Arabia went far beyond most other Arab countries. It went beyond the details and right to the cause."

Al-Shirian said he expected other Arab countries to take Saudi Arabia's lead in considering the presence of U.S. troops an illegal occupation.

. . .

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal stood by the king's remarks Thursday — and his defense had hints of the Arab nation's attitude that the Shiite-led government doesn't have the legitimacy to approve the U.S. presence.

"If that country had chosen to have those troops, then it's something else. But any military action that is not requested by a specific country — that is the definition of occupation," al-Faisal told reporters.


I would say that our beloved Shia friends should better start massively watching their tails.

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First We Take Kirkuk . . .

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi government has endorsed a decision to relocate and compensate thousands of Arabs who moved to the northern city of Kirkuk as part of Saddam Hussein's campaign to push out the Kurds, the justice minister said Saturday. The decision was a major step toward solidifying the status of the disputed oil-rich city.


I will try to elaborate this post later. Anyway, the Kurds are getting their way. You can get the list of all posts related to the Kurdish issue by clicking on the 'Kurds' label below.

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Friday, March 30, 2007


do you know why all of your peace talks were nonsense ? because there was nothing to discuss .. nobody could say anything of value there ... because we already had the solution .. it was oslo ...

none of you could add anything of substance to this roundtable ... because we had all of it worked out under oslo ... borders, settlements and other shit ... and oslo collapsed around the refugees issue, because they refused to accept our red line..

and they knew this .. this is our red line.. in the same way as we knew that they won't compromise on sacred places and jerusalem .. and we accepted this fact .. because we understand that these are their red lines .. but they did not accept ours !!!

and there is very little we can say to each other now as it's clear as day ...and the only roundtables that can be held now is between the palis to decide if they want to compromise on this or not ... because if they don't, then we should fight another intifada here .. and i don't mind this .. it's ok as far as i am concerned...

but we are not going to compromise on the right of retirn ... ethnic cleansing or not, apartheid or not apartheid ... we are not going to dismantle our state by our own hands ... its not about justice, peace, pain swapping and other shit... it's about common sense ...

not everything can be solved by roundtables between the sides .. sometimes people should hold roundtables between themselves ... it's squarely an issue for roundtables between the arabs now .. we have nothing to do with this ...

and some of these people told you ... straight in your face .. that they are waiting for the palestinian vagina to solve the arab israeli conflict .. that they are just begging time ...

and you and others .. you are in such a deep denial about the whole thing... that you were like idiots who are trying to improvise a solution for something that will be lost for them anyway in another 15-20 years



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Another Nasrallah Speaks His Mind

Jean emailed me two links today.

First. Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir bashed both Lahoud and Aoun in no mean tems. Sfeir said that he had advised Lahoud to resign and that Aoun's understanding with Hezbollah was based on assurances of the party's support for Aoun in presidental elections.

Sfeir described the situation in Lebanon in bleak terms calling on the both Christian leaders to come back to their senses:

"The country can't take it anymore. The economy is bleeding, people's interests and shops have closed down and immigration is increasing, especially among the youth," the patriarch added.

He hoped the nation does not reach the stage of "turmoil … The Lebanese are now divided because external sides are interfering in our affairs and exerting pressure on some of us. That is why I see no possibility for achieving a settlement during the (Riyadh) summit, despite good will efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia."


At the same time Michael Young in the Daily Star's Opinion expressed a view that Aoun can cut the Gordian knot and break the impasse by splitting with Hezbollah. . . if only he is ready to swallow his pride and give up on the presidency . . .


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tal Afar

It appears that the 'Surge' is collapsing. More than 100 people died in attacks on Shia markets in Baghdad and Khalis (north to Baghdad) today. Two suicide bombers attacked in Baghdad despite tough security measures and massive presence of the US and Iraqi forces. In Khalis three truck bomb attacks killed and wounded more than 100 people.

The first attacker in Khalis drove his explosives-laden car into the crowded area, followed in five-minute intervals by the other two bombers, who apparently were aiming at rescue crews and onlookers gathering in the aftermath, police said.

Police said the bombers came from two separate directions.


But the worst incident happened yesterday in Tal Afar, demonstrating that it's impossible to fight modern Islamist insurgencies by a piecemeal approach. One rather subjugates the whole country or it's hopeless.

Tal Afar came twice under attack by kamikadzes this week. But yesterday's attack was the breaking point that has totally undid what was once claimed a major American and Iraqi government's success in stabilizing Anbar province.

Two hours after the explosion of truck bombs, which killed 83 people and wounded more than 185, the gunmen — some of whom witnesses recognized as police officers — went house to house in a Sunni neighborhood, dragged people into the street and shot them in the head, witnesses and local leaders said. The killing went on for several hours before the Iraqi Army intervened. The police are mostly Shiites, although the city is mixed.

In Tal Afar, the Turkmen Front, a political movement that is strong in northern Iraq where there are many ethnic Turks, condemned the killings in a statement Wednesday morning.

“The militia after the explosions, backed by the police, raided the Sunni houses in the area and pulled people outdoors and killed them,” it said. “There are tens of bodies still scattered on the road. In the meantime, the state security forces are incapable of doing anything.”

. . .

. . . there was conflicting information about the dead. Military sources described those killed as men, between ages 20 and 60. But Dr. Salih Qadou, the chief doctor at the Tal Afar hospital, which received the bodies, said there were women and children as well. He said the number killed was 60.

“So many bloodied corpses were brought in on Tuesday night that the entry hall could not be kept clean,” he said. “If you would have seen the inside of the hospital yesterday, it would have looked as if it were painted red despite all our efforts to clean the entry. But the influx of casualties kept growing bigger. I haven’t heard or seen such a massacre in my life.”


In Fallujah the insurgents tried to attack a government complex with two truck bombs loaded with chlorine canisters. The attack started after the complex has been shelled with mortars. Iraqi police and soldiers opened fire on both suicide bombers detonating the trucks before they reached the complex. 15 US and Iraqi soldiers were wounded from chlorine exposure.

The chlorine gas attack was the eighth since Jan. 28, when a suicide bomber driving a dump truck filled with explosives and a chlorine tank struck a quick-reaction force and Iraqi police in Ramadi, killing 16 people.


Chemical weapons are actually not that difficult to produce and it's surprising that until now the insurgents satisfied themselves with ineffective chlorine truck bombs driven by kamikadzes. Yet if an effective chemical technology ever reaches the hands of insurgents, it's a sure bet that similar to the suicide bombing techniques of the Palestinians it will quickly spread via internet and video cassetes all around the place. It goes without saying that in this region of simmering ethnic and communal tensions, institutionalized tit-for-tat killings and long memories, it will be the end of the Middle East that we know.


Probably the breaking point has been reached not only in Tal Afar. It's now just a matter of time. The Yankees are leaving.


The death toll from suicide attacks on Shia markets in Baghdad and Khalis was updated to 125. More than 150 are reported wounded.

Three suicide vehicle bombs, including an explosives-packed ambulance, detonated in a market in Khalis, 50 miles north of the capital, which was especially crowded because government flour rations had just arrived for the first time in six months, local television stations reported.

At least 43 people were killed and 86 wounded, police said

The attack in Baghdad was carried out by two suicide bombers in the Shaab neighborhood. The attackers apparently used Palestinian style explosive belts to reach Shalal market on foot, slipping past the roadblocks set up to stop truck bombers.

The Shaab neighborhood was one of the first that U.S. and Iraqi forces tackled when the security crackdown began Feb. 14. It was also the scene of a bombing nearly two weeks ago in which officials said a car bomber used children as decoys to get near the busy complex of shops and street vendors.

At Imam Ali hospital in the poor Shiite Sadr City neighborhood, where many of the Shalal wounded were taken, cries of pain and grief filled bloodstained corridors.

Salam Hussein, who was near the Shalal market when the bombers struck, said two of his relatives were killed and three others were wounded. He said most of the victims were women and children, including six siblings.

"I saw headless children and body parts everywhere. I brought four wounded to the hospital. But resources there are very limited. The refrigerators at the morgue are full. It's a disaster," he said at the hospital.

Nahid Abdul-Ameer, who runs a soft drink stand about 100 yards from the market, said he saw the two bombers explode their vests at the same moment. He was cut by flying glass but was able to help with carrying away the dead and wounded.

"People went out to shop today in large numbers. They had a false sense of security," he said. "People were removing dead bodies on pushcarts normally used for cases of vegetables and fruits," he said.

Also regarding the massacre in Tal Afar in the aftermath of a truck bomb attack on a local market:

The Islamic State in Iraq, an umbrella group of insurgent and terror groups — including al-Qaida — claimed responsibility for the Tal Afar bombing attack in an Internet statement.


And on a totally different note (or maybe not NB) .. .

WASHINGTON - A defiant, Democratic-controlled Senate approved legislation Thursday calling for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq within a year, propelling Congress closer to an epic, wartime veto confrontation with President Bush.


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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gaza in Deep Shit

At least six people were killed Tuesday when the wall of a large cesspool collapsed, flooding the northern Gaza Beduin village of Umm Naser with mud and some 56,000 cubic meters of raw sewage, Palestinian officials said.

Ziad Abu Farya, head of the village council, described the scene as "our tsunami" (!!! NB). Umm Naser is around 800 meters away from the border between Gaza and Israel.



Sorry, Nizo. I just can't hold myself back for so long.

I am a pig. I know.

What can I do ??!!



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Proclaimed un monstruooo muy monstruoso at 7:43 PM


Socialismo O Muerte: That is the Question

Sunday, 24 April, 2005

Populist President Hugo Chavez has urged Venezuelans to draw inspiration from the figure of Don Quixote.

. . .

"We're still oppressed by giants", the Venezuelan Minister of Culture, Francisco Sesto, told the BBC, "so we want the Venezuelan people to get to know better Don Quixote, who we see as a symbol of the struggle for justice and the righting of wrongs."

. . .

People in the Venezuelan capital Caracas have been queuing around the block to collect free copies of the Spanish masterpiece Don Quixote.

The Venezuelan government is handing out a million copies to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Source: BBC

Bravo Pueblo de Venezuela, los Molinos los Esperan !!!

The Palis on such an occasion would have been chanting something like: With our spirit and our blood, we will redeem you, Abu Quixote !!!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Square Tables

Mar. 21, 2007


The Associated Press

Police said Wednesday that children were used in a weekend car bombing in which the driver gained permission to park in a busy shopping area after he pointed out that he was leaving his children in the back seat.

The account appeared to confirm one given Tuesday by a US general. He said children were used in a Sunday bombing in northern Baghdad and labeled it a brutal new tactic put to use by insurgents to battle a five-week-old security crackdown in the capital.

Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations on the Joint Staff, said the vehicle used in the attack was waved through a U.S. military checkpoint because two children were visible in the back seat. He said it was the first reported use of children in a car bombing in Baghdad.

. . .

Two policemen, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, said the general was referring to a car bomb Sunday that killed eight Iraqis and wounded 28 others in the predominantly Shiite district of Shaab. The attack targeted people cooking food at open-air grills in the street as part of a Shiite Muslim holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's death.

The reports could not be independently confirmed and key details were missing from the police accounts, such as the ages and genders of the children, whether they were among the victims, and what happened to their bodies (!!! I am just wondering if the reporter is an idiot or what. NB).

A senior official in the Shaab police department said Wednesday that an investigation was opened after the owner of a shop in the market district said he and other residents initially told a man he could not park his car on the street but relented after seeing the children in the back seat.

The shop's owner, Hussein Abbas, said he witnessed the attack.

"I saw two kids in the car before it exploded," he said. "I didn't believe it myself, but after a while the reality sunk in when I heard some people also saying there were kids inside the car."

Another police officer also said witnesses had reported seeing two children inside the car before it exploded. He said three other cases had been registered since last year in which women and children were used in parked car bombings, although they reportedly got out of the cars before those explosions.

. . .

Insurgent tactics have evolved since the war started four years ago and youths often have been among their victims, but the use of children as decoys would signal a new level of ruthlessness in the fight for control of the capital.

In the deadliest cases, a suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children July 2005 and detonated his explosives, killing up to 27 people, including a dozen children and a US soldier.

That occurred about nine months after 35 Iraqi children were killed in a string of bombs that exploded as American troops were handing out candy at a government-sponsored celebration to inaugurate a sewage plant in west Baghdad.

US troops also have said Sunni insurgents send children to check US defenses or warn of approaching patrols, and that Shiite militias encourage children to hurl stones and gasoline bombs at US convoys, hoping to lure American troops into ambushes or provoke them into shooting back.


Some of the patterns of use (abuse? NB) of children by both Sunni insurgents and Shia militiamen are strikingly reminiscent of the Palestinian Intifada which makes one start wondering to what degree the Intifada was indeed a unique event created by the unique circumstances of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. A short examination of a few well known conflicts can easily prove that, contrary to what some Israeli think, the basic patterns of the Palestinian Intifada are common to most conflicts going on in the Arab/Muslim world.

Specifically, suicide bombings have become a weapon of choice of the fundamentalists from Pakistan to Morocco. Another thing to mention is that these patterns are characteristic not only of the conflicts with Western involvement but they are a regular feature of Sunni Shia sectarian wars and even purely Sunni vs Sunni conflicts.

In the same way beheadings and throat slitting were widespread, for example, during the civil war in Algeria and are widely practiced by Muslim insurgents as far away as Thailand and Philippines. I have no idea what this messing with human head is supposed to mean but it has become a hallmark of Sunni insurgencies across the region.

One of the well known Arab bloggers, The Big Pharaoh, has treated this subject repeatedly in his posts, deploring the lack of interest on the part of the Arab/Muslim world to the issue of the intra Muslim violence which by now kills dozens and hundreds times more Muslims than Israelis and Americans together. Until he has finally freaked out and wrote:

The deafening silence of the Arab/Muslim world towards the mass slaughters in Iraq indicate one thing: this region will stay in the abyss of darkness, ignorance, and backwardness for a very long time until someone really rises up, takes it by the neck, and forces it to look in a mirror and see the ugly reflection.


While the combined number of victims of the Israeli Palestinian conflict over the last 10 years on both sides hardly reaches 6,000 the same amount of people can die in a few months in Iraq, where the Sunni insurgents have turned suicide truck bomb attacks into an art in its own sense. Yet, as the Pharaoh claimed, the Arab/Muslim public opinion and mass media are focused exclusively on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and on the US presence in Iraq.

For Israelis this unwillingness of the Arab/Muslim world to tackle the problem of the violence coming from its own ranks towards its own people means the following: Whatever some people may think about the value of exchanging niceties (and sometimes even not niceties NB) between Israelis and Arabs/Muslims on some peace blogs, the only thing of real value and interest for Israelis is the internal Arab/Muslim debate around this issue. Though the language barrier makes it impossible for most Israelis to follow this debate, judging by The Big Pharaoh, and to a lesser degree Sandmonkey, such a debate is almost non existent. Peace roundtables may be all the rage in some circles. Yet, it's unreasonable to expect that a culture that cannot even verbally address the intense violence of its own people killing dozens of thousands, can be helpful when it comes to resolving its conflict with another culture.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Talking to neighbors

i had rewritten parts of this post . . . if anybody is interested ...


Because of the intense discussion that followed this post touching on various social and cultural aspects of the current situation of the Jewish nation, this post has been reclassified under the 'The Nation of Apes and Pigs' label .

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Retreat and Butter

Astonishingly powerful editorial in today's Post.

Are Democrats in the House voting for farm subsidies or withdrawal from Iraq?

Friday, March 23, 2007; Page A16

TODAY THE House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill that would grant $25 million to spinach farmers in California. The legislation would also appropriate $75 million for peanut storage in Georgia and $15 million to protect Louisiana rice fields from saltwater. More substantially, there is $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fishermen, $250 million for milk subsidies, $500 million for wildfire suppression and $1.3 billion to build levees in New Orleans.

Altogether the House Democratic leadership has come up with more than $20 billion in new spending, much of it wasteful subsidies to agriculture or pork barrel projects aimed at individual members of Congress. At the tail of all of this logrolling and political bribery lies this stinger: Representatives who support the bill -- for whatever reason -- will be voting to require that all U.S. combat troops leave Iraq by August 2008, regardless of what happens during the next 17 months or whether U.S. commanders believe a pullout at that moment protects or endangers U.S. national security, not to mention the thousands of American trainers and Special Forces troops who would remain behind.

The Democrats claim to have a mandate from voters to reverse the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Yet the leadership is ready to piece together the votes necessary to force a fateful turn in the war by using tactics usually dedicated to highway bills or the Army Corps of Engineers budget. The legislation pays more heed to a handful of peanut farmers than to the 24 million Iraqis who are living through a maelstrom initiated by the United States, the outcome of which could shape the future of the Middle East for decades.

Congress can and should play a major role in determining how and when the war ends. Political benchmarks for the Iraqi government are important, provided they are not unrealistic or inflexible. Even dates for troop withdrawals might be helpful, if they are cast as goals rather than requirements -- and if the timing derives from the needs of Iraq, not the U.S. election cycle. The Senate's version of the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan contains nonbinding benchmarks and a withdrawal date that is a goal; that approach is more likely to win broad support and avoid a White House veto.

As it is, House Democrats are pressing a bill that has the endorsement of but excludes the judgment of the U.S. commanders who would have to execute the retreat the bill mandates. It would heap money on unneedy dairy farmers while provoking a constitutional fight with the White House that could block the funding to equip troops in the field. Democrats who want to force a withdrawal should vote against war appropriations. They should not seek to use pork to buy a majority for an unconditional retreat that the majority does not support.


This editorial brilliantly exposes the rotten mindset behind the latest drive to leave Iraq. It's also true about the whole anti war camp, but in particular of that part of it that uses a twisted hippy peace logic to justify leaving Iraq to slaughter. It's not that the idea to leave is necessarily wrong. I actually think it's right. It's ok, as fas as I am concerned, to leave it to the Sunnis and the Shia to restablish the natural power balance in Iraq by means of chlorine bombs and ethnic cleansing . And the West has nothing to lose by letting the Sunni Shia sectarian wars split the Middle East and the Muslim world by allowing them to reach their maximum in Iraq. But why to lie and pretend that the idea of withdrawal comes out of genuine care for the people of Iraq?

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The World's Biggest Carbon Emitter

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - China is on course to overtake the United States this year as the world's biggest carbon emitter, estimates based on Chinese energy data show, potentially pressuring Beijing to take more action on climate change.

China's emissions rose by some 10 percent in 2005, a senior U.S. scientist estimated, while Beijing data shows fuel consumption rose more than 9 percent in 2006, suggesting China would easily outstrip the U.S. this year, long before forecasts.

. . .

. . .


Probably China has become the leader in carbon dioxide emissions because of its massive use of coal to generate electricity. Its car park is also wildly expanding every year. The fact that China is projected to outstrip the US this year means that the country will soon come under growing pressure to do something in this regard, accelerating China's already existing projects for reducing its dependence on oil.

This unexpected development is going to confuse and embarrass large chunks of the anti globalist movement that based itself in recent years on a combination of anti Americanism and environmentalism. Yet it should nicely fit into the drive that started developing itself recently in the US and Europe towards low carbon economy, which, if successful, should have a tremendous impact on the Middle East.

May this global warming paranoia never stop.


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Proclaimed un monstruooo muy monstruoso at 7:29 PM


new blog in the links . . .

Ms Levantine (Lebanon)

Спасибо, Андрюха !!!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

. . .

This story is so hard to believe that I won't be surprised if it will be disproved in a few days. Yet if it's true, then I was wrong thinking that the Sunni insurgents in Iraq can no longer surprise anybody even if they bomb a school or detonate a nuclear bomb at the center of Baghdad. If the story is true, then today they did something which is... well .. I am just curious who are these people who fight for the Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle with two children in the back seat after US soldiers let it through a Baghdad checkpoint over the weekend, a senior US military official said Tuesday.

The vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint but was allowed through when soldiers saw the children in the back, said Major General Michael Barbero of the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

"Children in the back seat lowered suspicion. We let it move through. They parked the vehicle, and the adults ran out and detonated it with the children in the back," Barbero said.

. . .

Officials here said they did not know who the children were or their relationship to the two adults who fled the scene. They had no information about their ages or genders.



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Proclaimed un monstruooo muy monstruoso at 1:59 AM


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Goliath Revisited

Historians plainly decided to poison the lives of Jews with their findings. Ariel Toaff has barely announced that he stops any further publication of his blood libel book, here comes another embarrassment, though of a minor scale. It appears now that the Philistines were no monkeys as claimed in the Bible, but possessed a refined and sophisticated culture.

In recent years, excavations in Israel established that the Philistines had fine pottery, handsome architecture and cosmopolitan tastes. If anything, they were more refined than the shepherds and farmers in the nearby hills, the Israelites, who slandered them in biblical chapter and verse and rendered their name a synonym for boorish, uncultured people.

That was for warming. Now to the real hardcore stuff. It's true that after the 10th century BC the Philistines switched to using the old Hebrew script, borrowed from their Israeli neighbors. Yet, according to two Harvard researchers who led the excavations at Ashkelon, they did not arrive in Israel as illiterate savages, but as highly refined gentlemen with their own writing. In fact, their own script may be a descendant of the venerable Linear A, popular in the Aegean around 1500 B.C.:

Dr. Cross and Dr. Stager were more emphatic about the inscription painted in red on the jar fragment made from local clay.

“Perhaps it is not too bold to propose,” they wrote, “that the inscription is written in a form of Cypro-Minoan script utilized and modified by the Philistines — in short, that we are dealing with the Old Philistine script.”

Dr. Cross said in an interview that several signs in the Ashkelon inscriptions “fit in with well-known Cypro-Minoan,” in particular from artifacts recovered at sites in Cyprus and at Ugarit, in Syria.


This puts the whole story in a totally different light. The Philistines did not switch to the Hebrew script because they had none of their own, but the whole thing starts rather looking as a gesture of good will and an expression of brotherly feelings towards their Hebrew neighbors.

One can only wonder what new surprises may be waiting for us when the Philistine original script is deciphered. It may come, for example, in the form of a new version of David vs Goliath story. The new version may go that Goliath indeed came forward and positioned himself in front of the Hebrew army, but, instead of challenging the enemy warriors, he addressed them with some kind of a 'love your neighbor, make peace' message, such as "Hey Hebrews. Why we just can't have a nice peace dialog with each other?" But here David appeared and shot the well intentioned Goliath with his sling, cut the head of the poor Goliath off and put an end to the whole Oslo process before it even started.

Nevertheless Israelis should not get upset by the new findings. The Hebrews too scored some good points at Ashkelon. For examples no Protocols of the Elders and other shit were found during the excavations.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Syria or Iran ?

At the beginning of the last war French President Jacques Chirac delivered a secret message to Israel assuring Israeli leadership of full French support in case Israel invades Syria and topples the Alawite regime. This is what former Israeli ambassador to France Nissim Zvilli told Army Radio in an interview broadcast last Sunday.

"President Chirac saw Syria as directly responsible for the attempt to undermine the Lebanese regime," he (the embassador NB) said. "He saw them as directly responsible for the murder of [former Lebanese prime minister] Rafik Hariri and directly responsible for arming Hizbullah. Likewise, he saw Syria as the one giving Hizbullah orders on how to operate."

Unfortunately Israel had a different view. According to Nissim Zvilli,

"Former prime minister Ariel Sharon had explained to the French in the past that Iran is the main one responsible for Hizbullah's armament in Lebanon..."


In short, we missed the fun just because Israel and France could not agree on which of the two, Syria or Iran, Israel should attack. If I were the ambassador, I would have involved the Yankees and offered a compromise solution . . . to attack both.


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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Two Massively Intelligent Persons

"I understand you drink too much coffee?" said ABC News' Barbara Walters during an interview with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

. . . she urged Chavez to drink his coffee, saying "I understand you drink too much coffee?"

(For god's sake, where is logic here ??!! NB)

"Yes, but you didn't drink yours," Chavez replied through an interpreter.

You want mine?" Walters asked.

"Give it to me, I will drink it," Chavez said.

(And what is *this* shit? He can't make himself another coffee? NB)

Walters noted that Chavez is divorced, and asked whether he wants to remarry.

"It is very hard to be married," Chavez said. "I have been married twice. But it is very hard."

I agree. It's a kinda difficult when you are so busy destroying your country.

Walters also asked Chavez about calling Bush the devil, a donkey and a murderer.

"Yes, I called him a devil in the United Nations. That's true. In another occasion, another time I said that he was a donkey because I think he is very ignorant about things that are actually happening in Latin America, and the world.

Chavez is sure much more knowledgeable, he's been to Iran.

If that is in excess on my part, I accept. And I might apologize. But who is causing more harm? Do I cause any harm by calling him a devil? He burns people, villages, and he invades nations."

Asked if he would invite Bush to Venezuela under any circumstances, Chavez said no. "Never. I said in Buenos Aires that he was a political corpse. Fortunately, he will not remain in office for long."

Yes. Unlike Chavez, Bush has no chance to throw the limit of two consecutive terms out of the window by a presidential decree.

After part of the interview was shown, Walters offered her impressions about the Venezuelan leader.

"He's passionate about his dislike for George Bush. He does like this country, he's passionate about his feelings about America. He feels that with a new president, that we can be friends. He cares very much about poverty, he's a socialist," Walters said.

Good. But I remember he proclaimed himself a communist recently.

"But he's not the crazy man we've heard," she added. "This is a very intelligent man."

I would say that this is as bloody true as that Barbara Walters is a fucking very intelligent woman.

Walters said she sees similarities in the "larger than life" personalities of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Chavez. "He sang to me" during the interview, she added.


Well. That certainly explains it.

Good Friends

Chavez and Iranian President Ahmalalah

Chavez, Ahmalalah and Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran and Hezbollah, in Tehran

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"I am not popular? So What?

I am here to work", Olmert is reported to have said to his party on Thursday.

"Reporters have reminded the public that I am unpopular," he said (We need to be reminded ?? You are unpopular with us, idiot. NB). "Our friends in the opposition led by [Likud chairman Binyamin] Netanyahu do not miss an opportunity to point out that I am unpopular. Even within my own party there are those who deal with the question of my unpopularity. I think they are right. I am, indeed, an unpopular prime minister."

While his speech was interrupted by applause and chants of "Ehud, king of Israel (!!! NB)," . . .


King or not, don't forget - we have elections here from time to time . . . And we are not yet a constitutional monarchy.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

I was posting here...

Recent Threads


--> To Roman Kalik :)

The Sudanese Thinker

--> 6 in 10 Americans Want Withdrawal By 2008

Past Threads

East Med Sea Peace

--> muslims and terrorists are two very different things..


--> the year hope withered

The Thinking Lebanese

--> We have crazy Sunnis too

--> The kidnapping of IDF Soldiers was but a Prelude. . .

Free Cedar

--> Puzzling

My debate with Jean. Jean was playing an Arab idiot and I also tried hard to say nothing smart.

--> Full List
East Med Sea Peace

--> thoughts of a genius..

Blacksmiths of Lebanon

--> Sovereignty Struggle: Georgia

The Thinking Lebanese

--> Hizbullah v.s. The Government

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Woodstock Revisited

Abbie Hoffman interrupted The Who's performance during Woodstock 1969 to attempt a protest speech against the jailing of John Sinclair of the White Panther Party. He grabbed a microphone and yelled, "I think this is a pile of shit! While John Sinclair rots in prison ...". The Who's guitarist, Pete Townshend, unhappy with the interruption, cut Hoffman off mid-sentence, snarling, "Fuck off! Fuck off my fucking stage!" He then struck Hoffman with his guitar, sending him tumbling offstage. Townshend later said he actually agreed with Hoffman on Sinclair's imprisonment, though he made the point that he would have knocked him offstage regardless of his message.


The price of corn shot up by 70% over the last year reflecting the growth of ethanol economy. Yet most experts reckon that in the best case corn based ethanol can reduce American dependence on oil only by 10-15%. The fundamental problem with ethanol is its low energy balance which should be something around 1.3, means ethanol yields only 30% more energy than was spent to produce it. Even such staunchest supporters of ethanol as Vinod Koshla see corn based ethanol only as an intermediate, first generation biofuel.

Compared to ethanol sugar cane's energy balance of 8.3 looks as a totally different story and this fact gives additional meaning, if not the main one, to president Bush's recent visit to Brazil. Bush's ethanol vision includes not only the USA and Brazil but central America and the Caribbeans. Of course from the moment Bush decided to move to ethanol many anti globalists immediately declared their opposition to ethanol on the grounds that corn ethanol competes with food crops, and sugar cane ethanol means death to rain forests in Brazil to be cut to clear space for sugar cane plantations.

Yet, at least in theory, there is something better than even sugar cane with its 8.3 energy balance. Trees and switch grass are rich in cellulose and their energy balance can be theoretically as high as 16. Koshla, who poured millions into setting ethanol plants all across the US, makes no secret of the fact that corn based ethanol can go only that far. It is cellulosic ethanol that will win the war on oil for America (and that on the Arabs for Israel :D NB).

The Economist writes in Woodstock Revisited:

Treethanol has particular appeal in countries that have a lot of trees and import a lot of fossil fuel.

Enter Woodstock. . .

Top of the list is New Zealand: in 2005 the country exported lumber worth NZ$411m ($290m) and imported fossil fuel costing NZ$4.5 billion. In January two of New Zealand's Crown Research Institutes, Scion and AgResearch, announced a research partnership with Diversa. The aim is to investigate the feasibility of producing enough ethanol from trees to fuel all the vehicles on New Zealand's roads without fossil-fuel imports—in other words, to make the country self-sufficient in energy.

BioJoule, a start-up based in Auckland, New Zealand, is planning to build a pilot plant to produce ethanol from a type of willow. The idea, says James Watson, BioJoule's co-founder, is that farmers would grow coppiced willow trees which could be processed into wood chips and then transported to a conversion plant to be turned into ethanol. . .

Because willows are fast-growing and can thrive even on nutrient-poor soils, BioJoule's technology could also be used in other parts of the world where there is strong demand for energy, but the soil is not suitable for food crops. Mr Watson thinks China and India look promising. . . (They are very very promising. NB)

Yet it's Sweden that leads the way on everything related to biofuels and treethanol:

Another country keen on cellulosic ethanol is Sweden, which is relying heavily upon wood-based solid and liquid biofuels as part of its plan to wean itself off oil by 2020. But where New Zealanders favour willows, the Swedes prefer poplars, since they are abundant and their biology is well understood, says Mats Johnson of SweTree Technologies, based in Umea in northern Sweden.

If you read what you read, then you read it right. It's happening, gentlemen. By 2020 Sweden is planning to completely drop oil for good. Sweden has recently set up dozens of ethanol plants to do just this. Even if they miss a couple of years on the way it's still a tremendous example that no Western government would be able to ignore.

Some technical issues are still to be resolved before treethanol becomes economically viable. Some of them are about reducing the cost of industrial enzymes used to break down cellulose. And this applies to any cellulosic ethanol, not only treethanol. Apart from this, treethanol has its own issues like the fact that trees grow too slow. Some of the solutions may come in the form of genetic modification or using conventional breeding and cloning. Those, interested in the details, should better read the article itself as long as it's open to non-subscribers. In any case, until cellulosic ethanol comes of age, low carbon economy is impossible . . . When it does, it will be unstoppable. Just watch this space - Sweden.

A prophet said:

מצפון תיפתח הרעה על כל יושבי הארץ

ירמיהו א אי

I don't know how they say it in Arabic . . . But whatever it is, for the Arabs too, it's coming from the North.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Obituary: Lebanese Political Journal

Charles Malik decided to stop his Lebanese Political Journal after he was accused by the fellow Lebanese bloggers of secretly visiting Israel and subjected to a wave of denunciations. He said he got enough of vicious personal emails and the whole thing is not worth it. In the good old days Lebanese Political Journal was considered one of the best Lebanese political blogs and with and without Charles' permission the blog was occasionally quoted in the media.

C.M.'s departure follows that of the Big Pharaoh, who is plainly one of the best political bloggers of the Arab world. A few months ago the Pharaoh was writing in I was Wrong about his disillusionment with the war in Iraq:

I fully supported this war on April 9th, 2003, when I saw Iraqis cheering the downfall of Saddam Hussein and walking freely among US troops while carrying their Kalashnikovs. I supported this war because I used to go to a popular Iraqi room on Pal Talk that was full of secular intellectuals and I ended up believing that Iraq could become a beacon of decency in the midst of this region. In addition, I thought the U.S definitely had a plan to what might happen in Iraq ten years after the invasion. . .

A few posts later he wrote in the Curse:

The deafening silence of the Arab/Muslim world towards the mass slaughters in Iraq indicate one thing: this region will stay in the abyss of darkness, ignorance, and backwardness for a very long time until someone really rises up, takes it by the neck, and forces it to look in a mirror and see the ugly reflection.

Since then the Pharaoh stopped blogging excusing himself by the lack of time, though he later promised to come back.

With the departure of the Pharaoh and Charles the progressive Arab blogsphere has become clearly weakened. No doubt, it's a setback.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Salam Fayyad

The man whose name I mentioned in this discussion as possibly the Palestinian version of sanity is back to hold the post of finance minister in the joint Palestinian government. Fayyad said he is taking the post worried that international sanctions are destroying his main achievement - the unified in one account Palestinian Public finances.

"I have nothing but to try and to work hard to lift the sanctions," Fayyad, who looks like a banker in elegant suits and ties, said in an interview in his office in Ramallah.

Fayyad, who spent 15 years in the U.S. and first entered Palestinian politics in 2002 with his appointment as Arafat's finance minister, is widely seen as a determined reformer.

However, some critics say Fayyad did too little to go after those who stole public funds in the Arafat era.

"Salam Fayyad consolidated all Palestinian governmental investments, but he did not tell us about the history of these investments," said Nasser Abdelkarimm, an economist at Bir Zeit University. (Maybe he was trying to combine the process of reforms with staying alive ?? just wondering . . . NB)

Fayyad says he was focused on making improvements at the Palestinian Treasury at the time, and hoped the guilty would eventually be put on trial.

Surprisingly, according to an AP reporter, despite the sanctions the foreign aid to the PA not only did not stop but actually went up last year:

. . . it even went up, from $1 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 billion in 2006. (And we've been wondering where the Hamas was getting money to arm its military wing all the time. NB)

But it comes via different ways bypassing the Treasury.

Fayyad said that he won't tolerate channels that circumvent the Treasury such as Hamas cross border cash smuggling.

"I will not allow having different channels of revenues and expenditures," he said. "I will not allow anyone to sabotage the modern system we built."

Salam Fayyad declined the previous invitation from Hamas government to take the post on the grounds that the government should first meet the demands of the international community and recognize Israel. The demand is still not really met but Fayyad accepted the invitation in line with his support for the unity government as a way to prevent a civil war and to remove the international sanctions that devastated the Palestinian economy and undermined the reforms initiated under Fayyad before the last elections.

Here is the man and his views as outlined by the AP reporter:

Fayyad was born in the northern West Bank village of Deir Al-Ghassoun. He holds an M.A. in accounting and a doctorate in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He taught at Yarmouk University in Jordan before joining the IMF.

He worked briefly for the Arab Bank before being named finance minister by Arafat in 2002. Unlike other government officials of that era, he did not live lavishly. He drives a second hand Mercedes, moving around with bodyguards after shots were fired at this office earlier this year. (!!! NB)

After leaving the Treasury last year, he set up an economic think tank. He also founded a small party, "The Third Way," and won a parliament seat in the January 2006 election that swept Hamas to power. (It's even less than I thought. NB)

Even when not in power, Fayyad is routinely sought out by visiting U.S. and European leaders, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Such meetings can be problematic in a region where anti-U.S. sentiment runs high over America's perceived pro-Israel bias.

Fayyad defended his close ties, saying "the relationship with the West is a Palestinian interest first." (I am sure most Palestinians were absolutely satisfied with such an explanation. :D NB)

He also told a recent academic conference in Israel that he is committed to a "warm peace with Israel" and would seek strong economic ties between Israel and an independent Palestine. (And I bet this one the Palos loved even more. NB)

At the same time, Fayyad said he is committed to joining forces with the Islamic militant Hamas, regarded by the West as a terrorist group. A Hamas-Fatah coalition, he said, is the only way to stop the bloody internal fighting that has killed nearly 140 Palestinians since May.


Sadly, while for Fayyad preventing further fratricide in Gaza and lifting the sanctions that are starving his people en mass is the first priority to the point of accepting a unity deal with Hamas, I am not sure this is true when it comes to Israeli interests. I am sure it's not. Israel should not let Hamas get away with its recent military build-up. Nevertheless, for those who've been wondering why there are no normal and sane people among the Palestinians, here is the man:

Salam Fayyad

Secular and a free market economist, West oriented and not denying it, seeking economic integration and warm peace with Israel.

No wonder his Third Way has got only one seat in their parliament.


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Life is NO Picnic !!!

On Friday in Sao Paulo President Bush has announced a new ethanol agreement with Brazil, part of his administration's push to reduce America's dependency on foreign (means Arab and Hugo Chavez's) oil. The same day the EU leaders have reached an agreement to cut greenhouse emissions by 20%. Apart from cutting greenhouse emissions the leaders also agreed on expanding production of power from renewable sources from 6% to 20% and switching 10% of European cars to biofuels by 2020.


Bush to sign biofuels pact in Brazil

EU leaders agree to cut greenhouse gases

While there are claims that the existing technologies are not adequate for carrying out a full scale switch to low carbon economy, there should be little doubt that expanding the role of alternative energies to 20% of the European energy market will attract capital and stimulate technological innovation with a good chance that economically viable methods of producing biofuels will soon become available.

Despite the announced measures one still cannot be quite sure about how well the Western leaders understand what Vinod Koshla summarised so succinctly in Khosla's vision for 2007 for CNN:

We have an energy crisis, a climate crisis, and a terrorism crisis - and all of them are tied to oil.


Neither one can be anymore sure about how well the bulk of low carbon economy supporters understand what they are doing. In recent years the issue of global warming has been exploited by the radical, and not, left so much that leftism and environmentalism have become virtually identical. It became plainly impossible in our days to enjoy a walk in a park with even minimally leftist people as those immediately start climbing trees and chasing roaches. Probably Karl Marx is painfully twisting in his grave at such a travesty of his ideological legacy. And probably what makes the whole thing such an ordeal for the poor K.M. is that, unlike his ideological descendants, the guy was apparently smart enough to be able to figure out the consequences.

There are already reports of corn prices shooting up and farmers switching fields to growing corn instead of cotton and other global trade talks spoilers. The global trade talks, hopelessly stalled for years because of the issue of agricultural subsidies, seem suddenly to start seeing light in the end of the tunnel. Biofuels hold a huge promise of finally unlocking the trade talks and opening an era of unrestrained free trade and globalization.

It's also obvious that all major opponents of the West today run their countries on oil. Low carbon economy means economic holocaust for such darlings of the left as Hugo Chavez and Evo Moralez. It will sink the Sharia states of Saudi and Iran and with them the hopes and inspiration of Islamic fundamentalist movements around the globe. It will devastate Russia whose Vladimir Putin recently got so bullish towards the West that it starts plainly irritating some people.

Whatever propaganda benefits the leftists enjoyed by exploiting global warming and environmental issues, whether by harassing governments and private companies or by delegitimizing western capitalism and the whole western society, it is obvious that for them promoting low carbon economy does not even mean shooting themselves in a foot but rather dropping on themselves a nuclear bomb.

The sight of the anti globalist monkeys frenetically digging out a grave for themselves and anything that dear to them should be deeply puzzling for any person who can think beyond the next year. And yet we are all human beings... ordinary human beings ... and it's impossible that a right winger passes by such an extraordinary scene without experiencing a genuine urge to join in and lend his brotherly help to such a worthy enterprise. That's why I say that the Israeli government should shifting funds from defense into developing green energies. After all nothing heals human souls more than working together towards achieving a common goal.

If low carbon economy becomes the reality, it will be the closest thing, we'll ever have, to the end of history Fukuyama was writing about in 1992. By leveling with the ground all currently existing alternatives to the western capitalism, from the communism of Hugo Chavez to the Sharia state of Ahmalala, low carbon economy will generate floods of anti globalist and other tears, a sad thing . . . But then I expect people to be mature enough to understand that life is a complex process and sometimes you end destroying your dreams with your own hands. After all who said that life was meant to be easy? I for one never promised to anybody that it's going to be a picnic.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Western Sahara

Next month Morocco is going to present its autonomy plan for Western Sahara to the UN. The plan includes creating a local parliament and independent judiciary. Apart from this Western Sahara remains firmly under Morocco's rule and no independence referendum is on offer. The Economist has serious doubts that the recent Moroccan initiative has much chance to peacefully resolve one of the longest intifadas of the Arab world:

But Morocco seems unlikely to get majority support from the UN Security Council currently led by South Africa, which in 2004 joined a list of more than 70 mainly African and Latin American countries that recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Even if the proposal did win support, Polisario leaders have vowed to reject it. They accuse Morocco of playing for time while trying to entrench its presence in the Western Sahara and continuing to exploit stocks of phosphate (the territory's biggest earner) and fish.

Western Sahara started its independence struggle at the time when Spain ruled the land. In 1973 the first raid on a Spanish outpost was reported. In the end the Spanish played a nasty trick on Frente Polisario that did most of the fighting when in 1976 they withdrew after partitioning Western Sahara between Mauritania and Morocco. Yet Polisario happened to be a tenacious opponent. Despite strifing and bombing by the French air force of Polisario's positions, Mauritania has been soon defeated and withdrew from the conflict. With the departure of Mauritania, Morocco invaded its part of Western Sahara and now controls most of the land.

The thing is that militarily the two sides are deadlocked after Morocco with Saudi financial support constructed a 2,400 km long trench-cum-wall virtually sealing off a major part of Western Sahara. All major population centers and phosphate mines were left on the Moroccan side. On the other hand Polisario controls barren patches of land, comprising just about a third of the original territory and infested with 5 million and something land mines, to the east of the wall and refugee camps in Algeria, its long time ally. The wall is guarded by a Moroccan army whose size equals that of the whole population of Western Sahara. On the Moroccan side the settlers now outnumber the local Sahrawis by two to one. In short, the Israeli settlers' dream came true in Western Sahara. And even more:

Following the failure of Mr Baker's mission and more recently the resignation of John Bolton (who took a close interest in the subject) as the American ambassador to the UN, America has become less engaged. The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who was recently in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, has made no serious effort to broker a deal. And Morocco has enjoyed unwavering support from France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and still the most influential European country in the area. As the French vie to protect their influence there against America, they will not want to be seen to withdraw support from a key ally.


With the US foriegn policy dominated more and more by the 'pragmatists' and with the French and Spanish constructive and nuanced approach to the issue, things look shit for Polisario.

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

No More Socialism

Egypt officially removed from its constitution all references to Egypt as a socialist country. For this occasion Sandmonkey published a post that's surprisingly harsh on Egypt's reformers. The Arab economic reform is one of the most important, if not the most important, developments in the region. It is plainly not these botched experiments in ballot casting, that until now mostly ended in sectarian bloodshed or triumph of Muslims Brothers and their likes, that hold a promise of creating a new Middle East, but rather the gradual normalization of the region brought through development of free market economy by means of reforms initiated from above by the ruling elites.

The fact that the issue of the Arab economic reform is given so little coverage indicates that these days most analysts themselves got so brainwashed by the politically correct and the phraseology accompanying it that they indeed believe that democracy is mostly about having elections and giving extremists free say on the streets and in the media. In the good old days the US political elites clearly had a more sophisticated view of what's involved in building a nation along the lines of a modern Western society which is evident from the fact that they did not hesitate to support authoritarian regimes such as that of Pinochet in Chile as long as those regimes proved their commitment to modernizing their countries by means of free market reforms. Neither the US occupation regimes in Germany/Japan were in any rash to hold elections or transfer power to the locals before they were sure that the economic foundations were solid enough.

Over time US administrations seem to have fallen into the trap of believing their own propaganda and the current administration looks at times as if possessed by some sort of messianic lunatism perfectly capable of destroying the whole region with its irrational obsession to hold elections everywhere where there is something moving that speaks Arabic. Yet people should get real and comprehend that the current condition of the Arab street is such that even if the dictators are bad, it does not mean that their departure cannot make the situation much worse. Let alone, when the ruling regime is officially kissing good-bye to socialism and trying to carry out economic reforms, it is the reason to support it and to pray for its success.

Sandmonkey spares no criticism when it comes to appraising the effect of the reforms until now:

Now, which brings us to the final problem with this new capitalistic model: It's not capitalistic at all. It's exactly what capitalism stands against. But they call it that, and that's what the people in the street see, so that's the view they get of capitalism and businessmen: corrupt exploiting croneys. In their heads, Capitalism ends up meaning: factories closing, less jobs, corrupt government and shady sales. And people wonder how socialism still has it's appeal in Egypt after ruining the economy for so many decades. Well, the so called socialist ruined it, and now the so called government capitalists are selling it for much cheaper than it costs. And slowly but surely you find yourself staring at a very nice and impending economic crisis. Good thing we are not called socialist anymore, huh?


The thing is, of course, that factories closing, less jobs were hallmarks of initial stages of any serious economic reform that aimed at transition from state economy to free market one. The first two years of Tatcherite revolution were also accompanied by this factories closing, less jobs with the British economy contracting in real terms. Whatever good these reforms brought later their beginning was painful to the point of violent clashes between police and coal miners during which one of the strikers got killed. The two structural readjustments I lived through left people reeling for years. By far the readiness of Egypt's reformers to take such unpopular measures indirectly indicates that they are no populists and that their commitment to reforming the country is genuine.

It is a clear indication of how beleaguered the team of Mubarak's Chicago boys is, that even such a pro Western blog as Sandmonkey's gives them no credit for anything good they have achieved over the last years. After all Egypt's reforms were not such an utter failure. The Economist has been cautiously praising Egypt's economic team recently despite the fact that the macroeconomic situation appears to be quickly deteriorating.

As it appears even Western oriented Egyptians are not fully aware of the experience of the former communist countries with free market reforms otherwise they would have had more appreciation for the work of Mubarak's team credited by respected observers such as The Economist with being professional and up to the task. They would have been also more careful with this factories closing, less jobs argument. In some former communist countries the state sector totally collapsed at the first attempt to reform the economy. Heavy industry happened to be a particularly tough case and very few of the former communist countries managed to salvage much of the Soviet style developed heavy industry. Even in such an under-industrialized country as China one of my friends found whole areas in the North devastated by the impact of free market reforms. On the whole it seems that even that tiny part of the Egyptian society that understands and supports in principle free market economy is not fully aware of the downside and complexity of such a monumental task as reforming a country that has spent decades in socialism.

Probably the reformers themselves are only partially responsible for the pain created by the reforms as their hands appear to be tied by all kinds of constraints enacted by the previous administrations in this until yesterday officially socialist country. The macroeconomic stability of the first years has been quickly eroded by mounting losses of state enterprises that have found themselves for the first time facing a real competition. In this situation the reformers started losing control over government expenses and monetary situation as they were lacking the most basic legal tools to close state enterprises and shed an excessive labor force from the state's payroll. In the end the situation got worse because the reformers apparently tried to open up the economy and to preserve the macroeconomic stability at the same time without having real means to implement structural reforms. Under these conditions the state sector started collapsing dragging with itself down the government finances and the rest of the economy.

In fact there is nothing exotic about the whole situation as the same thing has been repeatedly observed when East European countries were switching their economies into free market mode after the demise of the Soviets. In many ways the expectations of Sandmonkey and others are unrealistic and much of his criticism is off mark. Probably most of Mubarak's economic team is comprised of Western educated technocrats who were brought by Mubarak from abroad and who have few connections and leverage inside Egypt's political system. Most probably they are totally dependent on Mubarak for implementing their economic program and without him they would quickly end by being kicked out of the office. These people operate inside an extremely corrupt and degenerated system and have little control over execution of their reforms at the local level.

Mubarak himself did not invent Egypt's corruption and, even though he might have made good use of it, he is plainly risking to upset too many people, and not only in trade unions, but in his own party too, if he pushes the reforms too hard. Maybe Mubarak has an unassailable authority inside Egypt's ruling party but his son and soon-be political inheritor has not. In fact what appears to some as a shameless selling of state property at below the market price may be a calculated attempt to sell as much of government's assets and as quickly as possible before the unholy alliance of trade unions and Muslim brothers puts an end to any further prospect of a large scale privatization campaign.

There should be no doubt that Egypt's reformers have compromised their moral authority and credibility by cooperating with such a corrupt and oppressive regime. Yet the question should be not if the reforms are perfect but what are the alternatives. The real question should be - if not Mubarak and his team, then who can do it any better? The bulk of Egypt's opposition is Muslim Brothers who need little introduction for any person even minimally informed about the region. The rest of the opposition, even though secular, is mostly comprised of irredeemable leftist populists - happy students of the western anti globalists. The reforms are anything but perfect but in Egypt's case the very fact that they exist should make people feel happy and grateful.

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. . .

The Palestinian ministry of education . . . indeed . . . NC is right . . . demanded to remove an anthology of folk tales from school libraries (!!! NB), sending shivers down the spine of what's left of the Palestinian secular intelligentsia:

Since taking office last year, Hamas, which advocates an Islamic Palestinian state, has largely shied away from trying to force its mores on Palestinian society. Some analysts speculated the group was too busy trying to deal with international sanctions and keep its government from collapsing to focus on banning alcohol or other similar measures.

However, in recent months Hamas-controlled ministries have begun forcing women to put on head scarves to enter. And two years ago, Hamas officials in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya sparked fears of a culture crackdown by banning a local music festival, saying the mingling of men and women at such an event was forbidden by Islam.

In a letter sent to the Nablus school district last month, the Education Ministry said "Speak Bird, Speak Again" must be removed within a week. The letter did not explain why the book was considered objectionable.

Excerpts of the letter were read to the AP by a Nablus school official who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.


It also appears now that attacks on Internet cafes and music shops in Gaza are not isolated episodes but part of a larger campaign started by radical Islamist groups a few months ago:

In recent months, about three dozen Internet cafes, music shops and even pharmacies have been attacked, with assailants detonating small bombs outside businesses at night, causing damage but no injuries.

The bombings started in October, a new phenomenon even in violent Gaza, where more than 130 people have been killed in factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah in recent months. The attacks could point to a further spread of religious extremism in Gaza, where poverty and lawlessness have been on the rise.

There has been no credible claim of responsibility for the attacks, police said.

Police initially believed the attacks were part of local business disputes but increasingly came to suspect an orchestrated campaign by religious extremists, said one law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

There have been no arrests, but Gaza police spokesman Ramzi Shaheen noted that the method of operations was the same in all cases. "We can't exactly say who is behind this, but the repeated nature of the attacks leads us to certain conclusions," he said, without elaborating.

In the town of Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border last week, a huge bomb wrecked a pool hall in a building owned by Ramzi Abu Hilao, blowing out the front wall and littering the interior with metal scraps. He said there was no warning before the blast.

"I received a written message after the bombing from a group called 'The Swords of Truth' that began with a verse from the Quran and said they wanted to correct the bad behavior in Palestinian society," he said.

In deeply conservative Gaza, devout Muslims would consider Internet cafes to be dens of vice because young men are known to view pornography there. Music shops could be a target because some believers fear pop music distracts from prayers. The targeting of pharmacies remains a mystery, though, officials say. (They probably sell condoms there NB)

And some Palestinians seem to be plainly missing us:

The bombings are the latest sign of a society buckling under the pressure of more than six years of fighting with Israel, internal strife and deep-rooted poverty, said Anwar Wadi, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Center.

"This is a poisoned society," he said. "Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip (in 2005), hidden problems have come to the surface." (Hey. We are still here. Feel like want another occupation ? NB)

Shaheen, the police spokesman, said solving problems by violence has become the norm.

"Everybody has guns. There's no rule of law," he said. "We've reached a stage where a person is a hero by how he can break the law."


Well. We told you so. (sigh)

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

La municipalité de Hérouxville vous souhaite la Bienvenue

La municipalité de Hérouxville

Publication of Standards

The social development and territory security are some of the major objective goals of the democratically voted individuals in our MRC. Hérouxville being part of the MRC, we share the same objectives.

To do this, we would like to invite, without discrimination, in the future, all people from outside our MRC that would like to move to this territory.

Continue Reading . . .


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What's Your Options ?

The New Times Times and the Economist have published cautiously optimistic assessments of the latest American and Iraqi forces' 'Surge' in Baghdad. Yet since yesterday the things look gloomy once again. A kamikadze devastated yesterday what, according to various media sources, was a venerable Baghdad's book market killing dozens.

A suicide bomber destroys a book market in Baghdad

And today two kamikadzes inflitrated a crowd of Shia pilgrims waiting at a checkpoint and killed another one hundred.

The Mahdi Army has been conspicuosly absent from the streets of Baghdad since the beginning of the operation, giving the US and governments forces the last chance to put the things right. Yet the 'Surge' appears to be subsiding after it has barely started putting in danger the president Bush plans to beef up the US force in Baghdad with another 20,000 soldiers.

As snow is about to start melting down across the mountains separating Afghanistan and Pakistan a Jihadist leader, boasting to dispose of 6,000 volunteers for suicide missions against the US and Nato targets, threatens to plunge into chaos another American experiment in fast track nation building.

Mullah Abdullah has been a genuine nightmare for the foreign troops and intelligence agencies in Afghanistan for quite some time. The videos are analyzed with a meticulousness that matches their menacing character. "We know from experience that many of his pronouncements are not propaganda," says one Western anti-terrorism agent. "He's carried out most of his threats." Dadullah already threatened a wave of suicide attacks in 2006. No one took him seriously at first. By the end of 2006, the CIA's statisticians counted about 139 such attacks throughout the country (!!! NB) -- five times more than in 2005. 2007 could be even bloodier.


Afghanistan is experiencing a mild economic recovery with construction boom being reported in places like Kabul and Herat. Yet if Iraq has any lessons to offer, then the first lesson should be that it's close to impossible to beat these insurgents on their home turf. The state of the art suicide bombing techniques developed by the extremists make defeating them very difficult. Their skills of mass slaughter and igniting sectarian wars are well honed and their passion for economic sabotage and targeting infrastructure from transportation lines to power grid and oil pipelines does not give one much taste for placing a bet on the country's fragile economic recovery as capable of even surviving the approaching Taliban spring offensive let alone of defeating the insurgency.

Finally many people recently took to asking what options the US still has in Iraq and to a lesser degree in Afghanistan. Probably there are very few and one of them is just leaving these people to themselves in a hope that they will be able somehow to sort out this mess on their own. Yet there is a problem with this approach. The US may have very few options left regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, but on their own both the Iraqis and the Afghans hardly seem to have even one.


The toll from yesterday's twin suicide attack in Hillah stands at 120 dead and 190 wounded. In short they got 300 people in one attack. Today it appears that the insurgents simply switched to targeting Shia elsewhere as more attacks are reported from outside Baghdad where the US and government troops are carrying out their latest security operation.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

. . .

On Monday, members of a Hamas militia engaged in a daytime gunbattle with Fatah-allied security officers in the worst outbreak of internal violence since the Mecca accord was signed, security officials said.

The gunbattle broke out in Gaza City when Hamas and Fatah loyalists argued over who had control of a nearby training compound, they said.

. . .

Also, security officials said they believed hardline Muslims were behind the bombing of a music shop in the southern town of Khan Younis early Monday, following a similar attack on an Internet cafe on Sunday. Another Internet cafe owner was also briefly kidnapped. Nobody was injured in the attacks.

While there were no claims of responsibility, security officials suspect extremist Muslims trying to enforce strict moral conduct were behind the attacks. Hardline Muslims have said youths download pornography from Internet sites, are distracted from prayer by music and buy condoms and hallucinogenic drugs from some pharmacies. Since October, at least 20 such shops have been targeted.


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Sunni - Shia

Washington post published another article about the Sunni Shia split in Iraq. This time the reporter focused on mixed marriages or better what's left of them. While there is nothing particularly extraordinary about the article and its heart breaking stories it has some astonishing statistics.

While there are no official statistics, sociologists estimate that nearly a third of Iraqi marriages are unions between members of different sectarian or ethnic communities. In the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Iraqis argued that the prevalence of such unions showed that Iraqis cared more about their Arab or national identity than their sect, which would spare the country a civil war.

But Iraq's sectarian strife has risen sharply since the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra by Sunni militants a year ago. Since then, more than 500,000 Iraqis have fled their homes, a number that is growing by 50,000 every month, according to the United Nations. The vast majority have left mixed areas, the main battlefields of the sectarian war.


Our perception of Iraq may be severely out of step with the reality. It is repeatedly reported that many areas in Baghdad have been ethnic cleansed or turned into depopulated buffer zones between Shia and Sunni communities. The imagination is struggling to comprehend the speed with which sectarian wars have split the city.

In view of the situation the staggering 1/3 of marriages that are estimated to be mixed ones raises some questions. The only other similar case i know about is Bosnia where around 1/3 of pre-war marriages were mixed. Given that this is at least the second ethnic conflict we know when mixed marriages utterly failed to prevent total disintegration of the society, the question is what powers ethnic conflicts with such an energy that they are capable in the span of a few years totally undo a social order cemented by massive intermarrying between the communities.

That 1/3 of all marriages are mixed means that not only the spouses but their immediate relatives too, such as fathers and mothers-in-law for example, have established long term relationships crossing sectarian boundaries. Given, in particular, the extended nature of the traditional Arab family, it means that one single such marriage should involve in one form or another many dozens of family members on both sides. It's a huge mass of people with a clear stake at preserving inter sectarian harmony, who theoretically should act as counterweight to the forces of disintegration and break-up threatening the existing order.

Yet the amazing thing about ethnic conflicts is the speed with which they can undo decades of co-existence and apparently however elevated a number of mixed marriages. While it's difficult to predict which ethnic conflict will lead to a complete break-down of the society from my experience of the final meltdown of the Soviets I would think that it is when acts of extreme violence start, even as isolated episodes carried out by isolated and unrepresentative individuals, that a swift and sure end follows. JOnly a few years ago when the US troops had just captured Baghdad thousands of Sunnis and Shia were demonstrating on the streets professing unity and brotherhood. But soon and long before the situation reached the dramatic proportions of today, all signs of disintegration were already present. The classic Arab trick of setting everybody against a common enemy, this time the coalition forces, did not work.

In fact not only it did not work but it plainly made matters worse as it allowed the Iraqis to waste precious time on making empty statements, false declarations of unity against the occupation, in short, avoiding taking on the problem head-on by massively moving on the Sunni insurgents who for a few years clearly led the way in terms of sectarian massacres.

Probably everybody who seriously followed Iraq was impressed by the astonishing restraint demonstrated by the Iraqi Shia and by the control their Ayatollas have over people. Even after months spent under almost daily suicide attacks on Shia mosques, weddings and funerals the Ayatollas still appeared to be in control of the situation keeping their followers from massive retaliation. It was not until the attack on the Golden Mosque of Samarra that the country started sliding into a full blown sectarian war with the Mahdi Army and Badr brigades opening a wave of retaliatory killings against the Sunnis.

The sociologists and psychologists should pay attention to ethnic conflicts as it appears that something else is involved here than just meets the eye. People from zones of intense ethnic confrontations often look as if their brains are switched into a special mode and an amount of violence that can make the situation explode often seems to be absolutely inadequate to create such a mess. Many people involved in vicious and violent ethnic conflicts later struggle to comprehend the acts of their neighbors or to explain their own behaviour. One would think that when under attack by other human beings some patterns of thinking and behavior are activated in people, very powerful patterns indeed, that are so powerful to the point they are capable of transforming the very basic human perception of oneself and others. Much of this failing back on sectarian identities makes certain sense in times of conflict and in fact could have been useful in the pre-historic environment of tribal warfare which can indicate its possible evolutionary origin. Yet it is a clear maladaptation for a huge extended society which modern society is.

Whatever the case with ethnic conflicts and the forces driving them it's usually a safe bet that when violence starts and is allowed to proceed unabated, no amount of demagoguery or mixed marriages will save people from disaster. In this sense it was the responsibility of the Iraqi Sunnis and probably the Sunni world as a whole to pay attention to groups like Al Kaida in Iraq, and not only to be denouncing them every single day but to mobilize the local Sunni population against them. After all if a few cartoons could spark violent demonstrations all across the Muslim world, a few fatwas by respected clerics sure could have done the same thing for the Sunnis in Iraq. When a community finds itself willingly or not turned into a base for launching attacks against another community, empty declarations of innocence or demagogic condemnations with no practical consequences are of little use. Though a few peace loonies on the other side may be left satisfied with this, on the whole words don't help here. Bullets do.

The Sunnis received enough encouragement both from the US and from the Iraqi government to take part in the political process and in rebuilding the country and even at the peak of the Shia backlash the violence inflicted on the Sunnis was mild compared to hundreds, or maybe thousands, of spectacular car bomb (better truck bomb) attacks staged by the extremists among them. Instead of demanding a timetable for the immediate pullout of coalition forces the Sunni leaders should have better requested additional US and government troops to break the back of this insane insurgency. Now it appears that not only they have lost their position of the politically dominant community but that in many places they have even lost an opportunity to live as a minority.

To put it short nothing will save communities from sectarian wars unless these communities are ready to confront the violence coming from their own members towards other communities by the very means these members use, which is violence. People around the globe should better get this idea and stop betting that high proportion of mixed marriages or nice talks will do the work. One of the Christian Science Monitor reporters recently visited Pakistan. Pakistan is a home to the second largest concentration of the Shia in the world. There are 30 millions of Shia in Pakistan, more than in Iraq. The country is huge and so the Shia are just a minority there, about 20% of the population. Over the last 20 years thousands of people died in Sunni Shia sectarian tensions. Last year about 300 died from violence that included suicide attacks on Ashoura processions and Shia mosques. This is considered an achievement in Pakistan, a sort of a Sunni Shia approximation of the idea of universal love and brotherhood of all men.

Yet worries grow over a possible Sunni Shia escalation as some areas in Pakistan experience a rapid Talibanization. The Taliban have a very unimpressive record of peaceful co-existence with Shia communities and some in Pakistan are worried that these extremists may set off another Sunni Shia war there. The reporter visited areas of Pakistan where Sunnis and Shia live side by side, interviewing locals. Among the questions he asked one was whether the tensions are indeed rising and if so how serious the situation may become. Though some of the locals acknowledged a certain deterioration in the relationships all promised to the reporter that no sectarian war is possible there because both communities are heavily intermarried. Needless to say that after Bosnia and Iraq this reasoning sounds very familar . . . But it does not sound very convincing . . .

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Monday, March 5, 2007

Lame Tiger on the Nile - II

For the lack of time i will post a somewhat old report by AFP that naturally follows my series about lame tigers, broken leg gazelles and other crippled animals. Here is a list of the previous posts:

The Arab Reform

Lame Tigers and Broken-Leg Gazelles

Lame Tiger on the Nile

People with some background in economics and the history of economic development will find this article providing more than enough cues to the actual situation of the reforms in Egypt. It seems that Egypt experiences problems across major sectors of its economy. The scale of state interventionism practiced by the Nasserists was apparently huge given that Egypt tried to establish state control even over the textile industry, the sector that is occasionally ignored even by hardcore socialists who prefer instead to concentrate on heavy industry and infrastructure.

The labor intensive textile industry is perfectly suited for countries with low wages and many economic tigers from South Korea to Singapore started their careers as textiles' tigers. The fact that Egypt finds it difficult to reform even that sector supposed to be the growth engine of its economy points to the complicated situation of economic reforms in Egypt.

Though the article downplays the role of the Muslim brothers, in my other posts I was suggesting that the real conflict in Egypt will be played along the lines separating the old political elite turned free market reformists and the Muslim brothers who use populism, trade unions and ride the wave of mass dissatisfaction that naturally follows the initial stages of any serious economic reform.

I would suggest that this analysis has applications beyond Egypt. Contrary to what many people think the old guard of the Arab world is not universally such a hopeless case and it clearly gained some sanity over the last years. Some Arab leaders like Ghaddafi seem to have internalized the lessons of the collapse of the Soviet Union and of the economic triumph of the West. Whether they are responsible or not for running for decades very oppressive regimes, the old political elites of the Arab world right now not necessarily represent the forces of stagnation and backwardness in their societies. In many cases they are running societies that in terms of insanity and backwardness squarely beat their rulers on almost every point. Those who think that the future of progress and democracy in the region lies with popular uprisings and mass demonstrations clearly have little idea of what the so called Arab street is.

And here we go...

Egypt gets past one strike - but awaits the next
Workers fear impact of reform
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

KAFR AL-DUWAR, Egypt: A wave of strikes against the Egyptian government's attempts to reform its ailing textile sector has ended after five days when the state agreed to wage concessions for workers at two of the country's biggest cotton mills. The state-owned textile industry has been central to the government's economic reform program - blamed for causing consumer prices to rise 160 percent in the past two years - has long been one of the biggest money-losers in the country, with many factories plagued by poor management, old equipment, and massive debt.

Among them is the crumbling spinning and weaving factory in the industrial Nile Delta town of Kafr al-Duwar, whose chairman, Ali Ghalab, said the company was more than $500 million in the red.

"We used to give bonuses to the workers when the company was doing well but not anymore," Ghalab said.

Such cutbacks helped spur the Kafr al-Duwar factory's 11,700 workers to strike, and on Thursday, the fifth day of the industrial action, the provincial governor himself, Mohammed Shaarawi, paid a visit to the factory. The angry crowd of 1,000 workers occupying the plant fell silent as the governor stepped out of his limousine, accompanied only by a few officials.

Shaarawi outlined a list of decrees that more or less met the workers' demands for more money and better medical care, and then told them he expected them at work Saturday.

"It could be better, but it might turn out all right," said a grizzled worker looking on as the others cheered. "He gave us what we wanted, but only indirectly, because the other companies will want the same."

Soaring inflation - a mere 4 percent in 2004 but reaching 12 percent in the first weeks of 2007- and the specter of privatization have terrified workers, who fear the changes will mean lost jobs or lower wages.

A second eight-day strike that ended this week in the Delta town of Shibeen al-Kom was at a spinning plant that had just been sold to Indian investor IndoRama International.

In December, 15,000 workers from the Mahalla textile plant, one of the largest in the world, went on strike demanding unpaid bonuses. When the government acquiesced, new strikes soon erupted across the country, from poultry factories to cement plants to refrigerator companies.

For a government wooing investors with stories of low-cost, skilled labor, the strikes are dangerous and have been blamed on outside agitators.

"The Muslim Brotherhood stands behind every single problem in every factory," charged Ghalab, referring to the largest opposition movement in the country.

But according to leftist labor activist Kamal Abbas of the Center for Trade Union Rights, the ineffectiveness of the government-controlled labor unions is the whole reason the workers have had to resort to this rash of wildcat strikes.

"The problem is that no one can speak for them," he said. "No one negotiates for them with owners, whether private sector or the government."

The government-run labor unions in turn accuse labor activists like Abbas of being behind all the strikes.

"The union doesn't care about us, they have their own concerns," said Khaled Ali, a Kafr al-Duwar worker .

He showed a pay stub that set his monthly salary at $50, which when augmented by various company bonuses reached $88.

"I am older than most of you and I remember this factory in its days of glory and together we will restore it," the governor concluded, telling the workers a restructuring plan promised six months earlier by the ministers of investment and industry offered hope.

"They've been saying there is plan for the last three years," one worker said with exasperation, "but they never actually implemented it." - AFP


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