Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

Nothing but the truth. Even if against me.

STOP DONALD DUMB:

DO NOT BUY AMERICAN

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Consensual Democracy: A Failure in Flagrante Delicto

Whenever a critique of the so-called "consensual democracy" of the dysfunctional failed state of Lebanon is  raised, a volley of apologetic arguments is usually marshaled to drown it. Consensual democracy, an apparently unique Lebanese invention, is essentially an oxymoron that the blind Lebanese, in their utterly incompetent and ignorant understanding of genuine democracy, practice and defend as a fig leaf for the lemon republic that this country is. It is, they claim, the best one can get in a primitive, tribal, sectarian, and ultra-religious society such as ours, and we should all be grateful to God Almighty and to Lebanese "genius" for having found the most perfect political system that marries modern democracy with a primitive society.

Let me first define "consensual democracy", as I understand it. By definition, the "democratic" process involves, in one essential part of it called elections, a competition between candidates for representing their constituents in government, such that the candidate with the most votes represents the majority of his/her constituents. Candidates claiming to want to represent their people offer a vision, a program, a roadmap aiming at translating the will of the people into laws that regulate the administrative and political life of the country. The fact that a candidate earns a majority of votes in elections does not make that candidate necessarily the best or his/her ideas necessarily the most appropriate. As a group, the people of a district or a country may choose a bad or unsuitable candidate to represent them, because the outcome of an election is the average decision of large numbers of individual voters. In the US, for instance, the American people twice voted for George W. Bush, an absolute idiot who ruined the country, and the Republicans have just chosen an even more backward and incompetent man, Donald Trump, as their candidate for president. But elections provide for a scientific, numbers-based certainty, in the sense that we have a definite number of people who have chosen this or that candidate, and numbers are fixed, unalterable objective facts. Elections, ballots, votes, when done properly, are the only thing we know for sure in a democracy.

By definition too, "consensus" is a general agreement between persons over an issue, and that agreement is drawn not by a vote or election, but by discussion and negotiation. So when we say that there is consensus between a number of people, it means that a non-measured majority of these people agree on the issue. Also, consensus can only be between persons; it cannot be between groups or communities because a discussion or negotiation between these large numbers is not feasible. If you have to vote to choose representatives who then can participate in the consensus process, you are back to a democratic process in which consensus is not needed since people are directly voting. Again, as in a democratic vote, whether or not a consensus exists between a group of people does not necessarily make the outcome correct or right.  In fact, because the decision is left to the whims of a few individuals, it is even less likely to be a good decision as described below.

Therefore, there is a built-in contradiction in the term "consensual democracy". If there is a democracy, then people vote directly on the issue, or their duly elected representatives themselves vote on the issue. In consensual democracy, as practiced in Lebanon, people vote for representatives who then decide among themselves without voting the fate of a particular law or issue. For example, electing a president in Lebanon is not by direct popular vote. Rather, it is the parliament which elects the president. So the current stalemate in which no president has been elected for more than 2 years is essentially the direct proof of the failure of consensual democracy. A direct popular vote would quickly bring a president to office, but as things stand now, disputes between representatives who are unable to reach a consensus has brought the political life of the country to a halt. So here are some of the deleterious consequences of "consensual democracy":

Consequence 1: An agreement reached by "consensus" between people's representatives is in fact  disconnected from the will of the people. It renders elections an exercise in futility, since an agreement between the representatives - absent a vote - circumvents the will of the people who elected the representatives. As a result, this agreement more often than not represents the interests of the representatives, but not the interests of the people.

Consequence 2: This is fertile ground for corruption, backroom deals, handshakes, bribes, and other sordid means of agreement, because it is easy to bribe one individual and get him/her to join, or break rank with, the "consensus". This is a chronic problem with Lebanon's corrupt political establishment.

Consequence 3: In Lebanon, the fact that the representatives are elected on the basis of their sectarian identity makes these representatives at least equally loyal to established non-elected religious authorities as they may be to the voters who elected them. This further scuttles the democratic process because another, non-elected, stakeholder - the religious establishments - has a say in the consensus.

Consequence 4:  "Consensual democracy" explains why in Lebanon voters never hold their representatives accountable, because people never know how their elected representative voted on a given law or issue. Consensus is always made in shady undisclosed discussions, never by a vote based on conscience. Because of the lack of transparency, the representative justifies an unsatisfactory outcome by blaming the "other side" for the consensus decision. The consensus gives the elected representative a deniability of responsibility, and renders him immune to accountability.

Consensual Democracy has never worked. It can never work. Lebanon is a failed state because its political system is an oligarchical theocracy parading itself as a democracy. In this country, elected representatives are beholden to the religious establishments because they are elected as representatives of their religious community, and not of their individual constituents. And when you have a religious oligarchy with financial interests shared among its otherwise hostile and inimical members, the last thing they worry about is the will of the people. That is why in Lebanon when members of the political establishment agree among themselves (i.e. there is consensus), they rob their own people. When they disagree (i.e. there is no consensus), they fight among themselves leading, in best case scenarios, to stalemate (as is the case these days), and in worst case scenarios, to civil war, massacres and destruction.

H.A.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lebanese expats: Gebran Bassil's Kafkaesque Bureaucracy will kill you before you reclaim your so-called identity

In The Trial, Franz Kafka describes a bizarre story of a man who is arrested and prosecuted by a vague, distant, and inaccessible authority, for a crime that is never revealed. An endless bureaucratic nightmare for which there is not even a single redeeming reason. That is how the corrupt, incompetent Lebanese bureaucracy is. One has to navigate it without knowing the rules, without knowing the endpoints, and even when there are milestones, they have no logical reason.The only logic one can draw is to invoke the conspiracy theory to the effect that all this endless travel through dark holes of unreason is to feed the valet bureaucrats appointed by the sectarian monsters that rule over our lives. All the appointees to public service offices where such bureaucracy takes place are clients of political bosses, and they cash a paycheck first to vote for the boss at the next elections, second to keep the wheel of incomprehension and vagueness turning in order to cement their jobs, and third as an additional source of income in the form of bribes and kickbacks they take in exchange for doing their so-called jobs, i.e. signing and stamping otherwise useless paperwork.

A case in point is my own recent experience of registering my divorce with the Lebanese authorities for the sole purpose of deleting the mention "متأهل" (married) from my Civil Status certificate (إخراج قيد). My divorce was issued by a US court in the 1990s, and it is a civil (not religious) legal process not involving the neanderthals of the Christian or Muslim clergy and institutions. In a civilized country, you submit an application, along with the divorce court ruling certificate, and the local registry just handles the process. In Lebanon, it is long winding endless maize of ill-conceived, poorly described, deliberately provided as fragmented requirements, involving the Lebanese Embassy or Consulate abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the local registry (قلم النفوس), all intricately linked by Kafkaesque gossamer which is described nowhere, and which one discovers abruptly at every stunning, maddening step of the way. Like God, Gebran Bassil and his hordes of Uncivil Servants, operate in mysterious ways, and more often than not, only miracles make the process move forward. Do not count on ethics, responsibility, professionalism, obligations or any of the drivers of civil servants in the civilized world. Just take the plunge and suffer the many rectal exams you have to be subjected to in order to change one word in your record at the registry. Here is my story.

Having married in the 1980s in New York, where I had fled from Palestinian terrorism, Bachir Gemayel's barbarism, Walid Jumblatt's tribalism, Israeli treachery, Syrian vulgar savagery and the filth of Lebanon's religious politics of the 1980s, I registered my civil marriage and children with the Lebanese Consulate in New York. It took years for the names of my spouse and children to appear in the registries in Lebanon, and when I would occasionally call the consulate to inquire, I would be told that I had to fly to Beirut and "follow up" on the registration in person in situ. Being from the Chouf where cave-dwelling Druze and Christian savages have been slaughtering one another for centuries, there was no way I was going to fly to Beirut in the midst of war and drive to Beiteddine to do the "follow up". So, because of the war, and when the names appeared a decade later in the records, I forgave the ineptitude and rudeness of Lebanese Consular bureaucrats. 

But what about today, with Gebran Bassil wanting to reconnect the diaspora with the homeland? I will tell you: It is worse today. For one, Bassil is not really interested in helping the Diaspora; all he wants is for Christians to register so he can increase their hypothetical numbers in the sectarian cesspool of Lebanon, and then, of course, having increased their numbers artificially, to "save" those said Christians from their fellow Muslims who, it seems, are bent on annihilating them. He must have Christians so he can claim to want to defend them. With most Christians having fled the country, Bassil has no "flock" to shepherd. He has inherited the greed and stupidity of the Maronite Church which, less than 100 years ago annexed largely Muslim areas of Syria into their autonomous Mount Lebanon entity to create the Greater Lebanon monstrosity in which Christians quickly became a minority. In the 1989 Taif Agreement, concluded after decades of war in which the Muslims demanded power, the Christians managed to hold on to a 50% share of everything - المناصفة - despite their dwindling numbers and sectarian proportion (estimated today at 35%). And so Bassil, in collusion with the Maronite Church, today wants expat Christians - who by the way fled not only Palestinian, Syrian, Druze and Muslim barbarism, but the filth and Fascism of their own protectors of the Christian militias and the Maronite Church - to register at their consulates and embassies so the number of "theoretical" Christians in Lebanon increases, so that, in turn, Bassil can claim to have a flock to defend from the Muslims and more importantly so he can bolster the decaying argument of a 50% Christian share of government to 35% proportion of the demographics. 
  
For the past year, I have been dealing with the incompetence, rudeness, and lack of professionalism of  politically-appointed and often illiterate bureaucrats of the Lebanese  Consulate in NY, and the consequent abject misery and agony of registering my ancient (1990s) and civil (not religious) divorce. It is an endless saga of incomplete information provided on web sites, misplaced mailings, a New York consul who can't speak or write English and with whom telephone conversations are akin to a bullying contest of who can shut the mouth of his interlocutor faster and louder. After much misunderstandings and missed mailings back in the US, the papers finally made it to Bassil's den of Foreign Affairs in Ashrafiyeh. Thanks to someone I know who used to work there, the papers somehow made their way to Interior Ministry in Hamra. Keep in mind that both places are mindless, chaotic, dirty, incomprehensible worlds of rundown unmarked offices, where you have ask a million times many an individual in your same predicament before you know where to go. After being told that the papers will now make it in 3 days to the registry (the hypothetical endpoint of this Kafkaesque journey), we discovered a month later that the papers did NOT leave Interior Ministry. When we inquired, we were told that the asshole Consul in New York had misspelled my mother's name in the form he fills out, which causes the papers that have traveled all the way from NY back in April to be returned from Interior to Foreign Affairs and then back to the US in order for the asshole Consul to correct the name. In addition, there are requirements that make no sense, or if they do, there is never an explanation provided, as for example the requirement that a proxy (a Power of Attorney) must be given to someone else (at the extra cost of $125: $100 to the notary, and $25 to the consulate) to "follow up" the registration at Foreign Affairs. You ask a hundred times what this "follow-up" (ملاحقة المعاملة) consists of, and you never get a straight answer. Then you tell yourself after appointing the proxy that you'd better be physically present here in Lebanon to do the mysterious "follow-up" alongside the proxy. The papers normally should travel by diplomatic pouch from the Consulate to Foreign Affairs, who then forwards them to Interior, who then forwards them to the Registry, where the records are updated from "married" to "divorced". That is the job of ethical civil servants. But not in Lebanon. I also found out, only recently, that you are required to appoint an attorney for a reason that they never explain to you and that even the attorney I already spoke with does not understand.  All of this to register a really ancient, settled and done with divorce of more than 20 years ago.

SO, TO ALL MY FELLOW LEBANESE EXPATS: 

- DO NOT LISTEN TO GEBRAN BASSIL

- DO NOT REGISTER AT LEBANESE CONSULATES AND EMBASSIES, unless you are a masochist. 

- A LEBANESE PASSPORT WILL COST YOU TEN TIMES THE COST OF A FOREIGN PASSPORT.

- A LEBANESE PASSPORT IS USELESS IF YOU HAVE ANOTHER PASSPORT.

- EVEN IF YOU HAVE A PATRIOTIC HEART, OR A SECTARIAN HEART AND WANT TO HELP THE CHRISTIANS OF LEBANON, GOING THROUGH THE REGISTRATION PROCESS WILL DESTROY ANY LOVE YOU MAY STILL HAVE FOR YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN.

-PATRIOTISM AND NATIONALISM ARE OLD-FASHIONED IN CIVILIZED SOCIETIES. PEOPLE WANT FIRST AND FOREMOST TO BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY, AND BASSIL'S CHEAP SECTARIAN PATRIOTISM SHOULD NOT BE A PRETEXT FOR ILL-TREATING PEOPLE.

- YOU WILL ACTUALLY GAIN NOTHING FROM RECLAIMING YOUR LEBANESE CITIZENSHIP. IF YOU HAVEN'T ASKED BASSIL YET, ASK YOURSELVES WHAT IS IT THAT I AM GOING TO GET FROM A LEBANESE PASSPORT OTHER THAN VOTE FOR BASSIL AND THE OTHER NEANDERTHALS OF LEBANON'S POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS PANTHEON? 

- STEPPING DOWN FROM A PLANE IN BEIRUT AIRPORT, YOU WILL QUICKLY REALIZE WHAT FILTH YOU HAVE GOTTEN YOURSELVES INTO: A MISMANAGED AIRPORT, WHERE HOODLUMS AND MAFIOSO TAXI DRIVERS WILL RIP YOU OFF, WHERE THERE IS NO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, WHERE YOU HAVE TO DRIVE THROUGH HEZBOLLAH TERRITORY - BASSIL'S ALLY IN THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT AND AN ENEMY OF ANYTHING WESTERN - WHERE THE SMELL OF GARBAGE WAFTS CONSTANTLY OVER THE CITY, WHERE DRIVING IS A LIFE-THREATENING EXERCISE ....

- WHY RECONNECT WITH A COUNTRY THAT WANTS YOU ONLY AS A NUMBER IN THE CATTLE COUNT CONTEST BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS?

- WHY RECONNECT WITH A COUNTRY OF RUDE BARBARIANS, CORRUPTION, THEFT OF PUBLIC LAND AND BEACHES - IN FACT IN BASSIL'S VERY OWN DISTRICT OF BATROUN - GARBAGE, POLLUTION, AND RELIGIOUS BACKWARDNESS?

- IF ANYTHING, YOU SHOULD USE BASSIL'S QUEST TO HAVE YOU REGISTERED TO LEVERAGE REAL CHANGE ON THE GROUND, IN BASSIL'S OWN MINISTRY, TO DEMAND A CLEANER, FRIENDLIER BUREAUCRACY THAT RESPECTS AND SERVES YOU, INSTEAD OF TREATING YOU LIKE A MISERABLE HUNGRY DOG TO WHOM THEY THROW A BONE ONCE IN A WHILE. 

H.A.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Lebanon 1975: The Sequel - On a Street Near You

All the signs have been given. The Machiavellian Reality Hollywood production, rooted in the filth of middle eastern sectarianism and tribalism, is ready to launch Lebanon into the sequel of the 1975 War. About time. These productions usually alternate generations, but we are in the fast lanes of the 21st century and things move rapidly.

We had the Palestinians back in the 1970s to drag the pathetic Lebanese Muslims into launching their war against their own country and their own army. You see, their association with Lebanon is rather loose as they prefer all other affiliations - Syrianism, arabism, islamism, baathism, shiism, sunnism, wahhabism, iranianism... - to their own. Granted, their insertion into the Lebanese entity less than 100 years ago was forced, coerced, and painful for them because they much preferred to have stayed with Syria, the pulsating but now limp penis of the Arab world. Just as Faysal in 1919, Nasser in 1958, Arafat in 1965 in tandem with Assad in 1970, they reneged, again and again, on the National Pact with their fellow Christian Lebanese, using foreigners and outside powers to drive a nail in the coffin of the Greater Lebanon entity. They are Arabs. They are Muslims. What fucking bullshit is this Lebanon that forces to live under a Christian president who more often than not does not have an Arabic-sounding name?

So, the "leaders" by the names of Yafi, Bizri, Salam, Hoss, etc...followed Arafat, Assad, and Jumblatt, and joined them in one big hybrid mutant of "leftwinging-arabizing-islamzing-conquering-baathizing-antizionisizing-antichristianizing-antiimperializing-anticrusading... - called the National Movement whose objectives were to liberate Palestine, chase the Zionists out of Palestine, reduce the Lebanese Christians to the dhimmi status, emasculate the Lebanese christian president, make Lebanon the only filthy arab country to fight Israel, and assorted other goals which, all together, aimed at one thing: Destroy the Lebanese entity and merge with Syria or some other warm Arabo-Islamic union. To achieve these sublime goals, they resorted to breaking the army, preventing the army from fighting the lawless Palestinians, attacking and boycotting their own Lebanese government, besieging, shelling and massacring Lebanese Christian towns using Syrian a horde of militias and terror organizations, disguised as Palestinian guerillas, Shiite fundamentalists, Sunni fundamentalists, Communists, Druze gangs, all of this funded by the largesse of the Saudi criminal Muslim headquarters, or the Kuwaiti motherfuckers (before Saddam invaded them), or the Egyptian turncoats, or the Libyan hoodlum Qaddafi or any of the great Muslim-Arab cesspools around the world with oil beneath their soil. In the end, they even managed to rally the Americans who, having been stung by the Arab oil embargo, wanted the Saudis to be happy pumpers of oil, as well as the Israelis who, to this day, continue to prefer the Assad regime to any alternative because the regime's cruelty secured the Israelis all the pretexts they needed to keep gobbling up the last remains of Palestine. All these people converged their weapons, money, terrorists and energy to defeating the Lebanese Christians. And they did. In 1990, the last Lebanese government to be free from the custody of the enemies of Lebanon, fell.

For the past 26 years, Lebanon has lived under the custody of the winners above: Sunnis, Syrians, Druze, joined by the Shiites who were inducted to the club by the rise of the Islamic pit of Iran... Their achievements, heralded by the Taif Agreement of 1989, gave the Muslim rulers, who castrated the Christian president and reduced the Christian Lebanese to dhimmis, a free hand in the governance of the country. They continue to hate Lebanon, of course, and would have preferred, still, to join Syria or Egypt or some other Arab-Muslim cesspool. But, drunk from finally having power in their hands, they embarked on their "reconstruction" of the country. One Rafik Hariri, a building contractor with no education, but with billions he made kissing ass to the Saudis and building palaces for them, became Mr. Lebanon. They tempered their Arab and Islamic addicitions, and pretended to love Lebanon for a while. But the disease of Islamo-arabism is so entrenched that sooner or later it is bound to return.

Today, after 26 years of Muslim rule in Lebanon, you can witness the achievements of the winners of the 1975 war: Filth, corruption, a rundown country, bouts of Islamic forbidden this and Haram that, repression, taxation, garbage, a crumbling administration, an ecological disaster in the forests and the sea... You should also contrast those 26 years of Muslim rule with the preceding 26 years of Christian rule: From1946 (when the Christian Lebanese evicted the French army) to circa 1973 (when the Arabo-Muslims began dismantling the Lebanese State), Lebanon was literally a jewel of liberalism, prosperity, openness, tolerance, freedom of the press, an international banking platform, a wealth of tourism, a fountain of world-class education.... But, in the eyes of its enemies, it had one major problem: It had a Christian President with enough power to make the country a world-class country. It had to be brought down, like a sheep to the slaughter on Adha. And the Lebanese Muslims did just that. Problem for them is that they are incompetent. They do not understand the concepts of personal and collective responsibility that are the foundation of prosperous liberalism. They cannot transcend the tenets of Sharia law and the strict reliance on God to remove garbage, bring wealth, promote education, raise the human above the tribal and the sectarian. Just drive between Christian areas and Muslim areas of Lebanon, and do your own compare-and-contrast. Today, after 26 years of Muslim rule, the country is as backwards as it was under the Ottoman Empire of the 1850s before Lebanon seceded and became autonomous from the Muslim rule that the filthy Turks imposed on the country for 400 years.

Today, we are back to the starting line of 1975.We have Syrian refugees instead of Palestinian refugees, and just like the Palestinian refugees did from the late 1960s and well into the early 1980s, the Syrian refugees have brought with them their fanaticism, their tribalism, their fundamentalism, their million organizations of Islamic Conquest this and Arab Intifada that, and of course, their hatred of Lebanon which, of all countries hosting them, has the highest per-capita number of Syrian refugees.

We have the Saudis and Iranians as sponsors of the war, instead of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others back in 1975. A reshuffling of the assholes, as it were, all driven by the same Arab and Islamic ideologies and their hatreds of one another. But in Lebanon, they find a common enemy: A non-Muslim Lebanese who still demands his rights, unlike the other Christians in the Arab world who either don;t exist or who have been dislodged for good or who live as fourth class citizens.

We have the beginnings of the early 1970s: Car bombs, assassinations, kidnappings, lawlessness of all kinds. We have the Druze militias, Christian militias, digging up their weapons from their mountain caches. We have daily clashes between local Christian youth and Syrian refugee youth (as was the case yesterday in Sarba, near Jounieh); it is this sort of clashes that was the trigger of the 1975 War: Local Christian youth in Ain-Remmaneh who had enough of the armed Palestinian hoodlums. We have a paralyzed government, just as it was under the traitor Sunni Prime MInister Rashid Karame who refused to convene his own government for almost a year because he preferred the Palestinian Arafat to the Lebanese Gemayel. We have an army that no one dares use, because it will splinter in the blink of an eye into sectarian militias. It now looks great, of course, because no one uses it except against some mysterious enemy on the borders with Syria. But try to put it to the real test of securing the country internally, and it will crumble.

We have the Americans, the British, the French and all the bleeding-hearted westerners who sermonize the Lebanese as to how to run the country, but never help enough to ensure the country succeeds or survives. Just as they wanted the Palestinian refugees to stay in Lebanon to relieve Israel of the Right of Return, they today want the Syrian refugees to stay in Lebanon and not flood Europe. So they pump money into Lebanon to buy the corrupt Muslim rulers to keep the Syrians in Lebanon.

And so, it is with a great sense of foreboding that I predict a repeat of the 1975 War sooner rather than later. The Christians, of course, want to regain some of their lost mojo, and the Muslims will resist and will use the Syrian refugees as their fighting militias. The Christians, again, will fall in the trap of trusting the West who will sell them of course to secure its own interests which, for better of for worse, remain the vast Muslim expanse outside Lebanon's borders. Think of it, US president Obama, who is by far the most inimical American president vis-a-vis Israel, just gave the Israelis US$38 billion in weapons over the next few years. This tells you where the priority of the West is.

So, move your precious furniture and belongings to your mountain hideout - we all learned our lessons from 1975 - because even your friends, the army and militias who will tell you that they are protecting you against the other side, will rob your house and rape your daughters in the lawlessness of the next "civil" war. The leaders who killed and raped in the 1970s, have now bestowed power on their sons: Gemayels, Salams, Jumblatts, Frangiehs, Mouawwads, Chamouns, Berris.... every single political farm in this club now a new face on an old name, and these rookies will want to prove their worth: Just like their fathers, they will lead you to slaughter and massacre as they try to save you from other members of the club.

Perhaps it is true, after all, that things never change in Lebanon. We are fools to believe that they may one day change for the better. So perhaps, instead of stashing my belongings in my mountain hideout, I should sell the lot and leave the country and keep on enlarging the Lebanese expat population around the world.