Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Limbo Champ: Nabih Berri

Don’t matter how crowded the field gets. Don’t matter how low the others can get. Nabih Berri/Berry is the lowest of the low.

Lebanon has been without a president for over month. The “agreed-upon” candidate, General Michel Suleiman/Sleiman, can’t be elected without a constitutional amendment because Article 49 of the constitution precludes the election of grade-one government official.

While the local useless idiots are squabbling over amending the constitution, Speaker and Constitution-Abuser-in-Chief Nabih Berri thinks that General Suleiman can be elected WITHOUT an amendment. Why and how you ask?

Berri last week said there was no longer a need for a constitutional amendment to allow grade one civil servants - such as Army Commander General Michel Suleiman - to be elected to the presidency. Article 74 reads as follow: "Should the Presidency become vacant through the death or resignation of the President or for any other cause, the Chamber meets immediately and by virtue of the law to elect a successor [….]”
To you and me, that means the Chamber ought to meet IMMEDIATELY (5 weeks ago) and ought to STAY in session until a prez is elected.

We have now had 11 postponements with not a single attempt to elect. So in Berri's unprincipled sub-par mind, article 74 that says that in case of vacancy the chamber meets immediately to elect a new prez implies “you can elect anyone” (at a time of Berri's choosing).

Among other things, article 49 says you have to be a Lebanese citizen, of age etc and NOT a grade-one employee to be elected (BTW, the Web site of the Constitutional Council is still "DOWN").

By Berri’s logic, because there’s a vacancy, all of Article 49 and its requirements are out the window. The chamber could now lawfully elect a 12-year old Tibetan to the presidency of Lebanon. Maybe when Tibetan monks identify the new incarnation of the Panshen Lama we could ask him to double as head of our useless state. I have the utmost confidence he’ll do better than 90% of our past presidents, and he’ll certainly be more honest than all my compatriots (no offense).

Let me add that I don’t begrudge Berri anymore when an item as ridiculous as the above appears only in the back pages of a couple of papers, instead of being a major career busting scandal.

Sorry Lebanese, but we deserve this crap and the crappy press that under-reports such.

Speaking of the press: how about a major paper/channel featuring 2 or 3 constitutional experts regularly, on the on-goings of the election? Maybe people would be better informed and maybe some politicians and some religious figures would be shamed into semi-sanity.

Instead, the Daily Star, bishops and sheiks are back asking our unconscionable political class to do the right thing. Bwahahhhahhhhhaaaa!

As to Nabih Berri, limbo is a dance but it is also the “edge of hell”. Here’s’ my wish for the New Year and may God forgive me: I wish Nabih would make it from the edge of hell to the actual real thing, the one whence there's no escape for the rest of eternity.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MPs Gone Wild

When Lebanese politicians speak, no one listens and it usually is one of three things:

-90% of the time it’s predictable and useless, typically it boils down to “it’s my opponents’ fault” or its variant “it’s the foreign meddlers’ fault”.

-6.2% of the time it’s about something useless because it is “secret”. They speak of, or threaten with, secret lists (recently Sfeir), or secret plans (now M14 and Abou Faour), or secret negotiations and documents (now Aoun). This would be farcical were it not readily swallowed whole by the politically dormant populace and by a comatose press.

The height of hilarity comes when a Lebanese pol threatens to unveil a “secret” if things don’t go right. Things never go right and no culprit is ever uncovered. French President Sarkozy seems to have caught the disease. He said a couple of days ago: elect a prez now or else France will name the obstructionists. Still waiting.

-The remaining 3.8% of the time, our despised politicians’ utterances are still useless (batting a hundred in that department) but now it’s because they make no sense whatsoever.

Here are two recent examples, one from each political camp, M8 and M14.

Aounist and Hezbo (M8) “partner” MP Ibrahim Kenaan:

[…]if legislators failed to reach consensus on a presidential candidate "we can still vote in parliament" irrespective of who wins or loses.
"At that point we could reach agreement and that would be great, and if we did not achieve an agreement lets go to parliament, and we might win or lose at parliament," he added.
"We are saying that we could, or could not, reach an agreement. If we did not reach an agreement we go to elections," Kenaan explained.
You, Kenaan, and your allies refuse to show up to elect. Your absence causes a (supposed) lack of quorum and the election has been stalled for months now, causing a political vacuum. Excuse me but are you still in Aoun’s party or have you switched sides overnight and forgot to tell us?

And if you speak for your party, then what was holding up the election before candidate Suleiman came to the fore?

What am I missing here guys?

From the M14 side, we get MP and uninspired aspirant prez Boutros Harb:

MP Butros Harb cautioned against a scheme to strip the presidency of its powers and partition Lebanon in order to naturalize Palestinian refugees.

Harb, in an interview with Naharnet, said the "issue is not that of amending the constitution or who is president. This is a mere phase in a scheme to partition Lebanon in order to enforce the naturalization of Palestinians in the future."
If you read the whole thing, Harb says that the state and the presidency are being weakened by the current stalemate. Fair enough, but nothing earth shattering there. Harb goes on to say (diplomatically) that the French screwed up. Interesting, but more details would be nice.

What does not make sense to me is the “Palestinian naturalization/implantation” statement above that, as usual, is left unexplained. No details, no elaboration.

Is Boutros Harb accusing Hezbollah and Aoun of favoring Palestinian naturalization? I don’t believe it and neither does Harb. Is it Syria? Syria has no interest in any kind of long-term solution and favors keeping the Palestinians in Lebanon as destitute and angry tools. Can’t be Syria.

That accusation used to be normally hurled by Lahoud and Hezbo AT M14 and at Saad Hariri in particular. Is Harb accusing his own ally here?

Or is Harb accusing the US and France of saying they want a strong state in Lebanon while working behind the scenes to destroy it?

What the hell is this presidential contender talking about? WHO is working toward that implantation? Israel? Then Israel is playing its own friends the US and France for fools?

I really don’t get. What are these people talking about?

Anyone with a clue, please enlighten me. I mean it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Suleiman to be Elected Today?

A couple of newspapers in Beirut are speculating that General Michel Suleiman/Sleiman will be elected president when parliament convenes for its ninth attempt to elect today.

The impediment to his election, a complicated but needed constitutional amendment**, has apparently vanished into thin air, as has the constitution of the republic.

According to An-Nahar, parliament will meet to interpret the constitution (Arabic) and then elect (English link, Naharnet). The “clever” interpretation would say: the law is there to guarantee continuity and prevent a vacuum. Since a vacuum has already occurred, the law does not serve its purpose anymore and therefore can be, and should be, suspended/ignored in order to solve the current (vacuum) crisis.

I think the vacuum between our parliamentarians’ two ears is more dangerous than the power vacuum in Baabda.

L’Orient-LeJour ascribes to MPs an even “cuter” constitutional interpretation (French, link good one day) to trash the supreme law: “force majeure” and precedent. Sit down and hold on tight to your pants.

In 2002 upon the death of (anti Syrian) MP Albert Moukheiber, daughter of (pro Syrian) Minister and MP Michel Murr was allowed to run for the seat, even though election laws should have prevented her from running because she was the head of a municipal council (Metn).

“Force majeure”, a concept from contract law that applies to catastrophes and "acts of God", was cited to circumvent electoral laws. What was the extraordinary event that meant the law could not be applied: the death of MP Moukheiber who, by now, must be spinning in his grave at the speed of light. I guess, in Lebanon, no one could have predicted that the death of an MP could lead to a partial election (gasp), though it's all in the constitution.

Was it that Myrna Murr’s candidacy was necessary to the republic’s survival? Or was it the fact that her Daddy was a major power broker and a Syrian ally and bully that led to “creative”, not to say "fraudulent", interpretation of the law? You decide.

There you have it. A "precedent": the law was broken before and therefore can be broken again. Electoral law or constitutional law, does not matter. Of course back then, (Syrian pocketed) constitutional council or not, who was going to argue with Syria and its allies?

Whether the above will come to pass or not, I admire the energy that goes into all this baloney when it really would be a lot easier to pass one last and terminal amendment, or two, to that lousy document called a “constitution”:

Article Last: This here Lebanese constitution is but a cruel joke and was never meant to be followed.

Article After-Last (why not?): The cedar on the national flag is hereby banned and shall be replaced by a banana.

UPDATE: Election postponed for the ninth time until December 22.

**For those unfamiliar with the situation, General Suleiman, as a grade-one high level official, is not eligible to become prez until 2 years after leaving his current position. Amending the law requires initiation by the Seniora/Saniora government that the opposition deems illegal. Lebanon has been without a president since November 24.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Simple Idea for the Simple Minded

Two days ago, another major figure/official in Lebanon, General Francois el-Hajj was killed by a massive car bomb. Of course it’s a major security blow to the country. The man was Army Chief Michel Sleiman/Suleiman’s right hand man. Hajj’s bodyguard, Khairallah Hadwan also died, as did a third unidentified person.

The car bomb method has claimed many lives in the past two years. Every time, the pattern is the same: powerful bomb, prominent figure assassinated, several passers-by die. The government and MPs and foreign governments, all condemn. Another file is added to the Hariri file at the UN. The majority M14 accuses Syria. The opposition M8 accuses Israel. No one is ever caught and no deterrent is put in place.

Of course asking for martial law or a state of emergency is too much for the hapless government of Milquefuck Seniora/Sanioura. Maybe a nuclear attack wiping off the country would sway this stupid government. Then again, maybe not. Since 2005 only one ex-PM was killed, 4 sitting MPs, 2 major journalists and now one Army general. There was also the little matter of the July 2006 war, and a major attack by Islamists on the Lebanese army (LAF) in 2007.

Asking for special or expanded powers to search for weapons, explosives and political assassins is still not high up on the government’s priority list. A few months back, the government was busy screwing up; moving the Easter Holiday from Monday to Good Friday and then back to Monday, a real major issue in a country where there is hardly an economy anymore.

After your now routine car-bomb and routine condemnations, the other very familiar story: people arrested in connection with the exploded car, people claim they sold the car to unknown, people released, end of story and end of investigative track.

In this latest instance, the same fascinating story. Investigators talk to 3 men (from Taamir, near Ein el-Helweh) who owned the car. They say they sold the car to a fourth man. Daily Star story:

The fourth man was also detained and questioned and claimed to have sold the vehicle, a 30-year-old, olive green, BMW 320, to two unidentified men just two days before the attack. The fourth owner of the vehicle said he did not know the names of the two buyers, as they paid him in cash, took the car and left promising to contact him in order to complete registration procedures, but never did.
It’s getting to be boring by now, in each car-bomb murder the sales chain ends with a guy who sold it to “unknown” for cash.

Idiot Saniora and idiot Sabeh and all the other incompetent criminal frigging sub-idiots, how about making it ILLEGAL to sell to “unknown", like after the 4th or 5th or 6th car-bomb. We are now at number 12 or 14 depending on how you count.

How difficult is it to pass a law that puts the (or some) responsibility of these crimes on the last KNOWN idiot in the chain of sales. You are selling your car? By law, you will need to know the name of the buyer and ID him/her. Make a lapse punishable by 10 years in jail or even by a death sentence for all I care. Of course this would have to be massively advertised.

Can we tighten this part of the law or does that also have to involve France, Germany, Syria and Botswana you Goddamn nincompoops?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Cheer in South: Thank the U.A.E.

While our local politicians are mining the political and constitutional landscape, 84 villages and 8 million acres of land are now free of mines and of cluster bombs thanks to the efforts and funds of the government of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

The Bint Jbeil municipalities and other local authorities in the area thanked, and rightly so, “UAE President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his generous grant to Lebanon.”

At the risk of sounding like your typical hypocritical Lebanese sycophant, I too thank Sheikh Khalifah and his countrymen. Some “brothers’ send us bombs and terrorists. Others send us sappers and deminers. Which ones are more popular and have more influence in Lebanon? Go figure.

That is not to say that I would ever venture anywhere in the South outside of a concrete or asphalted downtown, nor would I recommend it to anyone other than Hassan Nasrallah. God protect the southerners and their families, and those who have to work those fields, even demined. I am sure there is much, much, more to clean up, and I for one will never ever feel safe in any southern meadow.

I wonder: how many Lebanese will be dancing in the streets with the picture of the good Sheikh? As opposed to those dancing with a pic of Bashar or Hassan Nasrallah.