Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chapter 7 (5/5): Long Métrage Américain

What a difference a visit makes. To us Lebanese peones, Pelosi’s visit was a stab in the back. To Americans, it was nothing but the first shot in what promises to be a bitterly contested race between Democrats and Republicans.

Same Ol’Politics

One sign the US is in national election mode is the silence about the V-Tech massacre; none of the great and good of American politics dared mention the real issue. The real issue? That some schizophrenic moron is able to buy a Glock 19 and a Walther P22, with enough ammo to kill more than 30 souls. And he is not alone

And why chicken-out? Because of 3 letters; the NRA. The Politicians will fall over themselves to cry over the dead, but not a singly soul would rise to address the real issue, that it is easier to buy a gun in the US than in present-day Lebanon.

The swing states are in gun-country, and no Oval-office hopeful, would dare risk their chances with the powerful gun lobby. Nor their party risk loosing control of congress; the politicos are still mindful of the price they paid for the assault weapons ban.

This coming election season, Democrats and Republicans debate Iraq. However, the real election contest will be among the main personalities; Obama, Clinton, and Edwards on the Democratic side, and McCain and Giuliani on the Republican side…

The Democrats: All Hail President Hussein!

The democrats love playing the iconoclasts, and undermine the top dog in their party. But I feel that all the early rallying around Obama is self-defeating.

Simply put, Americans are still not ready for a black president. As the novelty wears off, Americans will be cured of their colour-blindness, and more than a few will notice that Obama’s full name is Barakat Hussein Obama. I do not think that Joe Six-Pack, who could not countenance a President Dukakis (too short), will accept a President Hussein (they hanged the last one). But it will still make for an interesting primary fight.

On one hand, the presence of such a well funded, well packaged candidate may motivate Hillary Clinton into becoming a better candidate. She will need all the votes she can muster to counter the effect of the “Anyone but Hillary” club; whatever she does, 20% of Americans will always consider her the Top Dog.

On the other hand, a strong challenge may open up the field for other challengers, especially that dear Mr. Edwards. He’s working hard, pulling double-shifts to secure his spot at the dance.

But we should never discount this typical Democratic proclivity to shoot themselves in the foot, and antagonize potential supporters, thus snatching defeat from the jaws of victory...

Republicans: Open Season

Whoever emerges from the race will face off a bruised Republican candidate and a discredited Republican party. The race to the Republican primary is heating up; with John McCain so invested in a success in Iraq, other candidates see their chance.

Giuliani looks good now, but that little drag-queen show may hurt him; not all Americans have the same sense of humour as New Yorkers. A sign of Republican unease with their current pool of candidates is Fred Thompson’s appearance in the race; a mere mention of his name got him more than 10%... Even Gingrich the Newt may throw his hat into the ring...

Still, among all the other candidates, one should not discount John McCain too fast. He had been the frontrunner for a while; it is only natural that he has to start from behind. The only thing that could sink him is Iraq; while he strongly opposed the mismanagement of the war from very early on, his support of the current surge may play against him with voters.

Pitié Pour Nous, Pauvres Pêcheurs

One thing is certain; we in Lebanon are not out of the woods yet. Those who claim March 14th have wasted much time, and we may not get as good a reception in the West as before. Still, American interests have not changed, and their basic policy goals are not affected by the team that reaches the white house. Thankfully, our Syrian ex-overlords do not appear to realize this, and may be hell-bent on further antagonizing the entire world.

So we’re in for a long 2 years; the French will have a new team in place this fall, and the Americans come up with a new team in 2008. Here’s hoping President Bashar remains over-confident, and his Quislings irritatingly stubborn. There is a hope; a few Democrats can be counted on to do something stupid, and confirm Bashar in his mistaken sense of history…

On the downside, we’ll pay the price, in blood. But as long as we can enjoy Lebanese-made eye-candy, it will help us pass the time… and count the blows.


fubar said...

That's what you see from the outside? ROTFLMAO.

I hardly know where to start.

Gun Control. The real issue? Are you kidding?

The real issue is that freakin' liberals and over-indulgent conservative parents have softened the young men and women of America to the point that they will be slaughtered like sheep while cowering under desks rather than fight back when they have overwhelming numbers against one armed man.

It is freakin' liberals who consider battle hardened men and women fighting in the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq as children needing their protection. None of those brave men or women need the protection of a liberal who does not even recognize them as adults and who would cower under a desk rather show half the courage, conviction, and sense of duty the US military forces show daily, even in peace time.

This is America where everyone who has balls owns at least one firearm. Hell, even my girls own firearms and know very well how to use them.

Yes, the NRA is a strong lobby but only because it has a strong across the board (Republican and Democrat) membership. One of the biggest Democratic voting blocks is unions and yet substantial numbers (about half) of all union members own firearms. Gun control not only causes the Republicans to get up in arms, it causes a major split in the Democratic Party. The NRA is not the cause of this, it is a reflection of the fact of this.

If you follow American politics in the past decade, you would see that every election more and more states are going to more liberal concealed weapons permit laws, not more restrictive. If you follow crime statistics, you would see that the rate of violent crime goes down in states that enact more liberal conceal carry permit laws - and not up as the liberals used to whine it would before enough years went by to prove them conclusively wrong.

The real problem was that VT was a "gun free zone" so that legitimate, law abiding citizens with conceal weapons permits could not bring their firearms on campus. Expect that to change. Virginia has been down this road before and knows from experience that responsible armed citizens can minimize the damage done by nut cases.

Arrggghhhh! Why do I bother. Jeha, you have driven me to drink.

I will get back to you on the other points but, as an aside, next time you link to "eye candy," kindly provide actual eye candy - truth in advertising.

Jeha said...


Well, at least I got you laughing. I did not mean that gun control was the problem, it is a symptom of how US politics works. I did some rewrite that may make it clearer. I understand that the NRA is only a reflection of this, but it would be nice if buying a gun was harder than buying a beer.

Sorry about the eye-candy thing, but I prefer to go to the source. In this case, it is the doctors who improved on some weaknesses. That would preclude anyone having to resort to beer goggles.

ghassan karam said...

Fubar is right, if we all had guns then VT would not have been the rare occurence that it was, hell we would have a similar shoot out every hour LOL.

The NRA position regarding the right to bear arms is not as silly as the popular media like to portray it. If you are a believer in natural rights and Locke then you will have a hard time arguing against the inalienable right to self protection. That is why I reject naturat rights as an idea. I believe that it was Bentham who put it best two centuries ago when he said "natural rights are rights on stilts".

The world is small and becoming increasingly smaller. Interdependence is a fact of life and we must take it into consideration but to act as we do in Lebanon, that our actions do not count and it is always the US or Syria or Israel that determine our fate is a sign of our immaturity and inferiority. Our future will be affected by Sarkozy , Barak, Assad and maybe Bibi but we must be in control of setting the constraints within which the game is played. The state that cannot do that, and there are many of them, are not worthy of the name. Is Lebanon worthy? You decide.

fubar said...


Do you really think Obama cannot get elected because he is black? I disagree. He will not be elected because he is hugely inexperienced and because his middle name is Hussein. And, of course, because he is a liberal.

Hillary - God help us. It wouldn't be prudent for me to say more at this juncture.

Giuliani - the drag queen thing drags him down? Get real. Republicans have more of a sense of humor than any liberal I know. Republicans don't get hung up on being PC. And, believe it or not, Republicans don't hate gays. Generally speaking, Republicans couldn't care less about what people do behind closed doors. Republicans are against "gay issues" - same sex marriage and health benefits for same sex couples (which leads to health benefits for unmarried straight couples and which leads to the further break down of the family), gays openly in the military (don't even get me started), etc. As for other "gay issues" like the right to inherit - no problem, that's what wills are for; the right to visit sick partners in hospitals, go right ahead, a concerned loved one is a concerned loved one. The reason Republicans are perceived as anti-gay has more to do with the way gays choose to fight their battles in the courts than at the ballot box. Anyway, Giuliani will not win, not because of his drag queen stint, but because he is too socially liberal and it is not possible for him to pull far enough right to win the primary.

McCain - the man has an honorable past but he is too old and has not been true to the party when it needed him during the last 6 years. Many Republicans do not trust him enough so no matter what he says now, it will not be good enough. I don't see his hard pull on Iraq as working but it is his only option to try to make it through the primary. McCain 2000 was doable, McCain 2008 does not get good odds from me.

ghassan karam said...

The Democrats have not learned yet that it is not sufficient to run as "i-am-not-dubya" and as a result the field is still wide opened. The primaries will not be a coronation for any of the three that you have mentioned. Personally I think that the most promising is Mr. Obama.
As for the Republicans your analysis failed to even mention Mitt Romney the leading fund raiser and the man behind the Mass. Universal Health Care that just might be adopted by the whole country. And then let us not forget Michael Bloomberg whose political philosophy is close to that of Gulliani but who is less abrasive and who has stronger ties to the Black community.

And to complicate things further if you believe in the adage "Judge them by what they do and not what they say" then you have to wonderabout the damage that a Kerry or even a Gore run for the nomination will do. (Kerry has co authored a book about the environment with Teresa and Gore is still basking in the international success of his "inconvenient Truth".

Jeha said...


I did not mention Mitt Romney for a simple reason; as a flip-flopping patrician from the east coast, he has less chance than Kerry. But I agree; I have a feeling the Democrats are doing themselves a disservice, but running the "I'm not Bush", and by needlessly antagonizing potential supporters...

It appears the Democrats are stuck in a time warp, still opposing the launch of the War in Iraq long after it has morphed into a different struggle... But I agree that the field remains wide open for "Black Swans".

another_someone said...

Sorry to interrupt, but why the hell do Lebanese women need plastic surgery?

"...rather than fight back when they have overwhelming numbers against one armed man."

fubar, that was my first thought when I heard about this tragedy. What happened to all those people who play sports, and have initiative?

fubar said...

another someone,

In the US, bank tellers are told to give up the money when being robbed, not to resist, because the money is not worth their lives. This is good advice because the robber is getting only a few thousand dollars and his motivation is usually desperation - money for drugs, to pay off some sort of debt (gambling, drugs, etc.), or financially desperate times. The robber does not want to kill anyone, he just wants the money. He will kill if pushed because he already doesn't see any hope in his situation anyway.

Prior to September 11, pilots and passengers were under the same instructions. Go along with the hijacking and don't resist. The theory was that when the plane lands either their release would be negotiated or police action could occur - possibility of survivors on the ground, none in the air. After September 11, anyone who does not resist is a fool. If you are going to be dead either way, at least die with dignity and deny the hijacker the opportunity to kill even more innocent people.

Schools, particularly colleges and universities, are the great bastion of liberalism. Young people are constantly barraged with "sensitivity" messages, "multiculturalism" messages, and no fighting messages. In a perfect world, these messages could make sense. In our imperfect world, these messages lead to young people unprepared to protect themselves from those who don't follow the rules.

It is a sad but predictable reality that the holocaust survivor, the child who was saved by townspeople more than 60 years ago, is the one to sacrifice himself today to save others. A strong man will stand up for himself; a stronger man will stand up for others. Adversity builds strength of character. What happened to the jocks at VT was that strength of body is worthless without strength of character. Those with strength of character did what they could and died trying. They saved many, but if there had been more of them, the death toll would not have been so high.

ghassan karam said...

You strike me as that sort of guy that appreciates a nicely woven phrase irrespective of whether you agree with the message or not. And whose better at spinning the English yarn than the Brits and in particular the editors of the Economist. As I was reading the latest issue, this afternoon, the following jumped out and said: send me to Fubar. I hereby comply: "It seems that those whom the gods wish to punish first make neocons". :-)

fubar said...

LOL, Ghassan, you are right, I do like it. Furthermore, I am man enough to admit that there are moments, fleeting to be sure, when that certainly appears to be the case. = )

And perhaps you will appreciate this one:

When civilized men can no longer stomach the horrors of war, they will be conquered by uncivilized men who can.

Jeha said...


Indeed, the professor who gave his life for his students was a rare breed indeed. Here's hoping those who survived will live up to the gift he gave them. I am not sure if I would have had the strength to act with the same courage as he did...

On Billary, I would think she has the longest odds of the lot, especially because Democrats appear hell-bent of self-destruction.


I had been thinking about this quote this morning, as I was contemplating my partial exile from Lebanon; it is all about timing. Had they been successful in Iraq, neocons would have been heroes, ticker tape parade and all...

ghassan karam said...

It is not only that I like the quote that you posted, it happens to describe the world in which we live. It is a Hobbesian brutish world but does it have to be that?

History is always written by the victors. Although on a personal level and purely on the principle of it I was opposed to the war in Iraq I would caution passing judgement on how history would judge this adventure/war. I would not be surprised if in twenty years from now Iraq is a prosperous thriving democracy and its schools attribute to the actions by the US the planting of the seeds of democracy. I think that it is important to separate the war on Iraq which ended with the downfall of Sadam and what the crisis has metamorphed into. Present day Iraq, in my mind, is at least 80% domestic power struggle and 20% radical opportunistic Jihadists. The US might still get credit for its Iraq war but not any time soon.

Jeha said...


True. And maps are drawn by the victors too... Victori spolia

fubar said...


The difference between you and I is that, while you enjoy the luxury of living mentally in the theoretical world light years from the present, I have chosen to live mentally in the brutal world on the very edge of civility.

The reason we get along is that we both understand the need for the existence of the other. Only time will tell if it always has to be that way.

In any event, you are right to leave history to be written by historians after sufficient time to reflect and analyze has past. It is not about parades, it is about moving the world further in the direction we both want it to go.

Solomon2 said...

Jeha, I'm ashamed, but yes you got it right about our politicians and the NRA. However, the reason why they haven't commented may have more to do with the news cycle still being in the pity-party stage than in the aggressive look-for-fault-in-the-system phase. That should change soon.

Virginia has long been notorious as the easiest state to purchase firearms. The state legislature didn't care until it became a theme in the Batman comic book series! Then they waved around the magazine and toughened up the state's laws.

The ironic part is that it is said that the killer would not have been permitted to purchase his weapons if the national screening system introduced a few years ago had been working properly. We will probably hear more about this.

amir in tel aviv said...

I finally managed to grab myself from the floor, and wipe my eyes, after reading about the hilarious
fubar's 2 armed girls...

I'm thankful of course to Am-rica, and all she had done for Israel, and will continue to do..but...

Something is basically wrong with this kind giant. Economy wise, the numbers don't fit. I look at economic data, and it reminds me of the financial accounts of 'Enron'. Numbers just don't fit. Don't be surprised if one morning you wake up to a global scandal of reports about fixed and faked US national treasury.

ghassan karam said...

I am not trying to be picky but what is it exactly that you don't like about the US aggregate numbers and what makes you think that such numbers can be manipulated? and if they can be manipulated then to whose advantage are they to be manipulated? Frankly your statement makes absolutely no sense unless you have some specifics regarding these economic aggregates that lead you to suspect foul play.

amir in tel aviv said...


It's a long story, and my English vocabulary in economic terms isn't that rich.
For example, US GDP per capita $43,883 (2006). Only 3rd after Norway and Lichtenstain...
Where does all this money go? and why don't you see this wealth in the life of the average American citizen?
And with this wealth and power, why does Americans can't save, and in fact are mortgaged to China and global financial institutions ?
The reality contradicts with the numbers...

ghassan karam said...

The reality is that the American patterns of consumption and expenditure cannot be explained by a mere per capita income of $43,883.00.GDP calculations are taken very seriously and are rather good estimates of the market value of the final goods and services produced by an economy in a certain period of time. If there are some errors they are more likely than not to be mistakes on the safe side i.e. to underestimate rather than overestimate. The final figures are very closely scrutinized and double checked. A GDP can be measured through two separate approaches but both must yield the same value. It is also important to note that the make up of the GDP through an aggregate expenditure approach and through an income approach must be equal

The largest luxury market for practically every product and commodity is the US. That is where the money goes. Over 50% of Jags and Porsches are sold in the US. Most of the expensive jewelery, fine art, expensive wine etc... is sold in the US. It might not be something to be proud off but 4% of the people in the world consume over 25% of the world procuction of goods and services. And that my friend is precisely why there isn't enough domestic household savings. But the US economy does not suffer of a scarcity of funds, its exactly the opposite. The interest rates are low, liquidity is plenty available, Unemployment is the lowest for a major economy, the growth rate , with this years exception is adequate. Things are so good that they are often refered to as the Goldilock economy; not too hot and not too cold but just right. All of this has attracted huge sums of money from overseas. The US has absorbed the savings of the world and only because the owners of capital have decided that the US is a safe environment with lots of growth potential. What does it mean when you say the US is mortgaged to China? I imagine you are referring to the one trillion dollars of US government securities that are being held by China as reserves. Why is that such a bad thing? Debt is not necessarily a negative. What is important is the use that you put the debt into. The US has been running deficits on its current account for a long time and as a consequence it must run a surplus on its capital account. That is simply the way the game is played. For a long time the US was running a surplus on its current account and as a result it had to run a deficit on its capital account. You see, you cannot have it both ways. When the US was amassing the huge deficits on its capital account it was accused of buying the world, remember Le Defi Americaine? and now that it is running a deficit it is being accused of being irresponsible and cooking the books. The fact of the matter is that the books aren't cooked, no one can do that even if they want to. Do not worry too much about the imbalances, when they occur and that happens periodically all over the world then the market will force the offending power to adjust.

Jeha said...

From the perspective of the United States, who controls the world's reserve currency, there is an interesting advantage to being beholden to China, thanks to our modern-day "Fiat money" economy, and the lack of convertibility, he who prints the currency controls it. Extreme events demonstrate this paradoxical power.

During WW2, German direct investments were sequestered in the United States by the Alien Property Custodian. British and Canadian interests were exempt. This allowed some large savings in the US, since German investment was then significant. The Americans had even prepared alternate currency prints, should hawai come to fall in Japanese hands with all its stores of cash.

ghassan karam said...

Jeha, there is nothing sinister about fiat money. The world abandoned the gold standard for a reason. It just doesn't work. BTW, there is a distinction that gets sometimes lost during the discussions about money and debt. Debt is simply borrowing and does not in any way imply running the printing presses. The US has resisted running the printing presses and that can be very easily demonstrated by looking at the value of the national debt that has been monitized i.e. the proportion that is held by the Federal Reserv. The Fed is an independent institution and does not answer to the elected officials. This structure has served the US well and as a result has been copied by all central banks in the world. The only exception is obviously that of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships whereby a telephone call from the top banana is all what is required to run the printing presses. The major reserve currency has some privileges associated with it. One such privilege is , like you say, the privilege of denominating your debt in your own currency. But please remember that the trading partners are not fools. They will agree to hold your currency only as long as they are convinced that it is advantagous to them. As soon as they lose trust in your economy or your macro economic policies then they would run away from the offending currency. The international financial system rewards those that adopt constructive policies and punishes those that don't. China and other major holders of US government securities have the option of either extending credit to the US by holding its debt and earning interest on it or not. If they chose not to extend credit then they will harm themselves by no producing enough goods and also hurt the American consumer slightly. In the final analysis trade is free and so is finance. No one holds a gun to the head of a nation to force it to trade. Trade ceates interdependence and reciprocity. The US consumer is adicted to inexpensive Chinese inports but China is just as addicted to the purchasing power of the US markets , US capital and US technology. It behooves both to work together in order to prevent the system from failing because if it does then both will be hurt.

Jeha said...


I stand corrected; my world view tends to be exceedingly cynical. You are right that rational players would strive to make sure everyone wins.

However, I remain concerned about the inherent instabilities in a system that relies on so few players.

amir in tel aviv said...


I appreciate your optimism and faith in the good will, but we don't know enough.

I'm with with Jeha's cynicism; there are hidden interests, and those who manipulate them.
We just don't know enough to judge.

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C Wren said...

Along the American Southwest border, Iraq is not nearly as important an issue as illegal immigration.

I wouldn't vote for John McCain for dogcather because of his Open Borders stance.

If either party can put forth a candidate who is serious about border security and stopping the invasion of MILLIONS of ??? (we have no idea who these people are) then they'll get my vote, and the votes of millions of others.

Otherwise, I guess I'd better stock up on ammo. Living on the border, the idea of a civil war in the US within the next 20 years does not seem like a far-fetched idea.

Unfortunately, too many Americans live too far away from our southern border to have a clear idea of what's happening here.