Five undeniable facts about the Syria that I saw / by Ehsani

I have just returned from a short one-week trip to Syria. As you may recall, I had once written a note on this forum describing how Syria was made up of two countries: one for the one million well to do and another for the other 19 million. I will offer below a summary of my updated impressions since. My observations are predicated on list of what I consider to be five undeniable facts about the Syria that I saw.The first undeniable fact that I have encountered on this visit is the ever-widening gap between the poor and the wealthy of Syrian society. While this phenomenon has been in place for years, one cannot but take note of the recent acceleration in this trend. What makes this subject matter particularly interesting is the fact that Syria is still a supposedly socialist country. One would have thought that such excessive wealth concentration is the hallmark of more capitalist societies rather than Baathist ones. Perhaps the observation below can explain the reasons behind this process:

The second undeniable fact that one cannot ignore is the way with which Bashar is changing his father’s long and heavy imprints on this country. For all practical purposes, Socialism is slowly but steadily being dismantled as an economic system. The new official title of course is “social market economy”. The word “social” is presumably still there to assure the 19 million Syrians that they will still continue to receive their subsidized necessities and the most basic forms of state assistance. What is most noticeable, however, is the speed with which the “market economy” part of the new economic paradigm is spreading in the country. The new “Aishti” clothing store adjacent to the Four-Seasons hotel proudly advertises on its outside window the following:

Prada men’s shoes – SYP 27,500
Brioni mens pants – SYP 22,000
Iceberg t-shirt – SYP 13,800
Armani dress for ladies – SYP 248,500

One cannot help but wonder how the late Hafez Assad would have reacted had he seen these prices displayed in his so-called Baathist capital

Syria’s push for increased investments:

The country is abuzz with the latest wave of foreign and domestic investments. The leadership has done an outstanding job in this endeavor. Not a week passes by without an announcement of a new wave of investments from Qatar, Kuwait, U.A.E. or Saudi Arabia. Similar announcements seem to come from domestic investors in the new “holdings” companies that have been set up. Those that have already taken the risk of investing have thus far been handsomely rewarded by having seen the value of their investments in real estate (mostly still empty land) rise rather dramatically. This has encouraged more investments and a virtuous circle of higher prices and more investments to take place. The third undeniable fact is that there is no going back in this trend towards opening up the country to foreign investments and a more liberalized economy.




Whether this trend has been driven by political necessity or by genuine belief in the merits of free markets is an open question. My suspicion is that it is more likely to be the latter. It is important to note that the pace of the economic reforms is unlikely to go in overdrive mode. Instead, it will more likely be of the sure and steady variety. The already wealthy will get even richer while the poor will struggle with higher inflation and falling real wages.

The fourth undeniable fact is that the country’s fiscal budget will continue to feel the stress in the years ahead. One cannot help but be struck by how little the very wealthy are taxed. It is imperative that this broken system receives a comprehensive overhaul. Similar taxation reforms are sorely needed in the real estate area. A major reassessment needs to take place in order to more accurately reflect the new market value of real estate pricing and hence taxes levied. 

The fifth undeniable fact is that while economic reforms will continue, political reforms are unlikely to follow suit at anywhere near the same pace. This leadership appears to be extremely comfortable with its ability to hold on to power. The young leader appears to be in an absolute control of his country. Those that refuse to believe this are denying what seems to be the obvious. In this atmosphere, the pressure to offer political concessions is close to nil. The late Hafez Assad had built an incredible security apparatus that has come to resemble a fortress. It did not take the new President much time to fully appreciate the value of this intricate system that he had inherited. It seems inconceivable that he will take any risk in this area. Calls for political reform will be viewed as nothing but a trap and a slippery slope that must be avoided. Human rights advocates, for example, are likely to be sorely disappointed with the government’s willingness to deliver.


Bashar is steadily but slowly dismantling the old socialist nature of his father’s reign. He is too clever and too cautious to do this on faster scale. He is fully aware of the economic challenges faced by the vast majority of his people. Given the need to grow the economy and fix his country’s fiscal mess, opening the economy to foreign direct investments is a decision that is irreversible. The rich will continue to get richer in this environment. On the political front, Bashar is unlikely to loosen his grip and institute any significant reforms. Egypt has been down this before and it may well offer a similar model of more economic liberalism without the political reforms to match. Come to think of it, is the ultra successful economic model of Dubai any different?

Comments (88)

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51. EHSANI2 said:

If I were Bashar, I would request the start of a U.N. International Tribunal that would investigate the murder of fellow secularist Bhutto

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December 27th, 2007, 6:14 pm


52. kingcrane jr said:

The authorities in Syria are counting on an internal market for most Syrian citizens (the 19 million) that will need infrastructural help. This market has existed for years, decades, and centuries, and it will need some protection from the predatory behavior of the market for the upper-richer-class (the 1 million). This is fundamental: once all the money that can be made is made in real estate and other quick-money sectors, there will be the hopefully inevitable big corporate raids on other sectors, which may destroy the surviving small and middle-sized enterprises that used to do well prior to the ill-fated union with Egypt. All we can have is hope that the authorities really pay attention to this issue.

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December 27th, 2007, 6:25 pm


53. Atassi said:

why some of you taking a shot @ the U.N. International Tribunal !! I don’t see any similarity between the Hariri murder and Bhutto assassination.
The Hariri killing was done to silence an opposing voice and circumvent ongoing effort by an external power to establish a new order in Lebanon.
The Bhutto assassinations is an effort to boost the extremists views by scoring a painful hit on the secular part of the society, create a political conflicts between the Pakistanis people and the ruling elite, and establish a final order of a failed nuclear state being ruled by a self-distractive force. The extremists imprints on the Bhutto assassination is visible and being claimed already…

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December 27th, 2007, 7:56 pm


54. Atassi said:

In my own opinion, The Social market economy is not something new in Syria, the market economy was an exclusive privileges given to some of the Damascus and Aleppo’s business elite in exchange for loyalty.
Socialism was used as a tool and order to control the workers and peasants and enrich the ruling family and it’s cronies.
Nowadays, the older ruling elite generation don’t need to be a silent partners anymore, they don’t have to rely solely on the traditional business community to access to the wealth as a newly more educated and integrated generation emerged with a modern economic challenges to spread the wealth among themselves.
The “economic title” has been twisted, but the intention still the same…

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December 27th, 2007, 8:04 pm


55. Alex said:


What you suggested in both cases (Hariri and Bhutto) were possibilities … not facts.

But there is an undeniable fact … the Hariri investigation received an unprecedented international (Western) degree of attention … no other assassination comes close (Kennedy’s was a purely US affair). And I’m sure Bhutto’s assassination will not be followed up on a daily basis by French and American presidents for a couple of years.

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December 27th, 2007, 8:23 pm


56. Atassi said:

it will have a major impact on the political and social life of the Pakistani nation, in my humble opinion, this act a bad miscalculation by the extremist, it may bring their demise in this part of the world… and no needs to be followed up on a daily basis by French and American presidents
Alex Habibi, the Hariri investigation is not over yet, It’s purely being stated as “a very deceitful trap” !!!

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December 27th, 2007, 9:17 pm


57. majedkhaldoun said:

international tribunal for Butto murder? wow!
this is internal problem, it is not a foreign regime of large state killing PM of lebanon, small state,it is equal to declaring war, that is why it requires international tribunal.Kennedy and Butto are internal problems.

on another point,I urge Arab American to vote for Dr. Ron Paul.
I agree with him that US must stop interfering with foreign countries.

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December 27th, 2007, 10:15 pm


58. Honest Patriot said:

Idaf said:

Will the US administration and “international community” now blame the Saudi regime for Benazir’s death (a la Hariri)?!
[…]The ground is fertile in Pakistan now for manufacturing a revolution a la “cedar revolution” (a “curry revolution” in this case?!)

Idaf – Please leave the silly irony to yourself and your fantasies. The Cedar Revolution was NOT manufactured. My cousin and her family who had never participated in politics drove to downtown that day to express the will of the Lebanese silent majority. Myriad other true Lebanese did. Real people made up that crowd. Hezbollah has since tried to copy it in the most despicable fashions and continues to paralyze a country which, left to the true Lebanese patriots without any foreign interference may well stumble a few times but eventually triumph as the only beacon of hope in the Dark Age Middle East.

The Hariri investigation is not yet successful and the murderous Syrians have not yet been brought to justice, approaching three years after their cowardly deed (not to mention the series of assassinations that the Machiavellian Syrian leadership has used for the past 30 years to control its neighbor). Let that investigation continue to be a sore in your eye and the eye of every cynic in this forum. One day truth will prevail. One day Lebanon will triumph as a fully independent country. Lebanon’s interests as a country will be protected by true patriots and statesmen, like Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. One day the Palestinians will see the light of the inevitable peace with Israel and agree to the very well known elements of what the final settlement should be. After those events, an interim period will continue to exist where religious fervor continues to control the governance of many Middle Eastern countries… until, in the words of Thomas Friedman, Islam 2.0 emerges and becomes accepted, at which time, the enlightened modern Judaism, the devout true Christians, and the neo-Islamists (adopters of 2.0) will collectively and progressively agree to migrate toward true secular governments and true separation of church (or mosque / temple) and state. Only then will the ME have true peace.

Until then, I’m watching carefully as true patriots are doggedly pursuing the murderers of Rafiq Hariri, a true patriot whose life was snuffed by the Syrian bunch of fanatical cowards.

I don’t know much about Pakistan nor Bhuto, but I do have Pakistani friends (where I am, in the US) whose friendship I value as much as my Lebanese, Syrian, Israeli, French, Candian, US, and Bulgarian friends and with whom I grieve for the continued prevalence of terrorism and murder as weapons in the hands of those who lack any principle of civilization in participating in the government process.

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December 27th, 2007, 10:16 pm


59. offended said:

Alex, this is not fair! where are my comments?!

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December 27th, 2007, 10:35 pm


60. idaf said:

Honest Patriot,

Appreciate if you spare us your overzealous lectures. My sincere advice would be to stop watching news regarding Lebanon or Syria on Future TV. It would be as seeking balanced coverage on the Middle East from Fox News.

By the way, did you by any chance used to write speeches for George W. Bush?.. “triumph as the only beacon of hope”, “murderous Syrians”, “cowardly deed”, “investigation continue to be a sore in your eye and the eye of every cynic in this forum”, “truth will prevail”, “patriots and statesmen, like Prime Minister Fouad Siniora”, “Islam 2.0”, “enlightened modern Judaism”, “devout true Christians”, “true patriots”.. With all due respect, I couldn’t help but smile while reading your post 🙂

And for the record, there are many reports (and some academic papers as well) on the “manufacturing” of the “cedar revolution” (the “brand building” campaigns, the systemic funding, the organized paid workforce “volunteering” for organizing “events”, the systematic organized media campaigns.. etc.) Of course most of regular people who participated (in the earlier opposition’s and current one’s movements) were driven by their own different grievances and the electrifying emotional atmosphere hugely magnified by the Saudi-financed Arab media and local Lebanese media as well as by intense political propaganda from both sides.

If it makes you feel better, yes many of the current Lebanese opposition “revolutionary” movements are “manufactured” (the same way it was manufactured by different elements related to the former opposition in 2005). It might help if you try to be more realistic and stop over-romanticizing.

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December 27th, 2007, 11:05 pm


61. Alex said:

international tribunal for Butto murder? wow!
this is internal problem, it is not a foreign regime of large state killing PM of lebanon, small state,it is equal to declaring war, that is why it requires international tribunal.Kennedy and Butto are internal problems.

Majed, again, both cases are assumptions … five minutes after Hariri was killed the Syrians were accused…. irrefutable evidence was availabe … from the pen that recorded Assad’s threats to Hariri, to the fact that the bomb was underground (which supposedly meant that the Syrian moukhabarat must have put it there) … both turned out to be wrong … then all of Mehlis’ evidence turned out to be useless …

Of course Syria is one of the prime suspects … but we can not insist that the Hariri case is obvious… maybe you can if you want to, but that’s not how the legal system works.

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December 27th, 2007, 11:19 pm


62. norman said:

I do not know why you argue if Hariri’s killing and Botu killing are similar , It is obvious that Hariri’s killing was used and still being used to abuse Syria and her people and government to force them into submission to well of the US and Israel, Butu.s killing will be used to make military dictatorship permanent in Pakistan .

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December 28th, 2007, 2:07 am


63. offended said:

Musharaf can always lay the blame on Al Qaeda, and it seems to me the American-lead war on terror has no choice but to support him. The more vulnerable Musharraf becomes, the more the west’s support of him will become warranted. Which brings us back to square one of the fu**ed-up American policy in the region, which is to back up those leaders who are too weak and too dubious to take control of their countries, but not weak enough to lose the grip over that country’s potential (nuclear arsenal in the case of Pakistan)

Akbar Palace, I have two reading recommendation for you:

“The Read Cardinal ” by Tom Clancy 1988
“The Afghan” by Frederick Forsyth

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December 28th, 2007, 6:32 am


64. ausamaa said:

Whowever it was that assasinayed Benazir, the clear result is that it demonstrates how easy it is to shred to pieces the Grand Designs drawn in the comfort of the offices of forigne policy makers sitting thousands of miles away from where things are happening.

Will they learn? Will their “tools” learn?

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December 28th, 2007, 9:32 am


65. why-discuss said:


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December 28th, 2007, 11:19 am


66. t_desco said:

Ehsani, first of all my apologies to you for hijacking the discussion of your excellent article (I’m particularly impressed to see you calling for taxation reforms).

It may seem odd to start discussing Pakistan in this forum, but there are some striking similarities with the situation in Syria/Lebanon.

There are also important differences, for example:

“On December 6, a Pakistani intelligence agency tracked a cell phone conversation between a militant leader and a local cleric, in which a certain Maulana Asadullah Khalidi was named. The same day, Khalidi was arrested during a raid in Karachi. The arrest, in turn, led to the arrest of a very high-profile non-Pakistani militant leader, which, it is said, revealed an operation aimed at wiping out “precious American assets” in Pakistan, including Musharraf and Bhutto.

The operation is said to have involved hundreds of cells all over Pakistan to track targets and communicate with their command, which would then send out death squads.”
(“Al-Qaeda claims Bhutto killing “, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times).

It seems likely that they indeed do have “hundreds of cells all over Pakistan”. Fortunately this isn’t the case in Syria/Lebanon. Regarding the series of assassinations in Lebanon, I think that it is safe to assume that they had the technical abilities to do it (after all, they had plenty of practice and gained a lot of experience with car bombs and IEDs in Iraq; see for example the NYT video interview with Abu Omar in Ain al-Hilweh), but I always had some doubts if they had the manpower to do the surveillance, particularly in the two cases where the victims had only just returned to Lebanon.

I don’t know if the Asia Times’ Syed Saleem Shahzad is also working for AKI or if this is a renewed claim of responsibility by Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. It is certainly surprising that the commander and spokesman of al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan is confident enough to use a telephone (if it is indeed him):

““This is our first major victory against those [eg, Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf] who have been siding with infidels [the West] in a fight against al-Qaeda and declared a war against mujahideen,” Mustafa told Asia Times Online by telephone.

Mustafa referred to a recent address by Bhutto in North West Frontier Province, in which she lambasted Islamic extremism and asked the people to stand against it. Bhutto was the only Pakistani leader who regularly spoke against al-Qaeda.”

This bit in the Asia Times article is new compared to the report by AKI, but it seems that so far the claim of responsibility has not been repeated on the usual Islamist Web sites.

As predicted, Musharraf is now being blamed in pretty much the same way as Syria is whenever there is an attack in Lebanon (though, in comparison, his involvement seems much less likely). In Lebanon, the West seems to be pushing for presidential elections at any cost, risking the country’s stability and ignoring the necessity of finding a consensus prior to any election. In Pakistan, the West was pushing for quick elections and the lifting of the state of emergency, completely ignoring the fact that, following the Lal Masjid siege, al-Qa’ida and its allies had begun an offensive, dealing heavy blows to the Pakistani military (e.g. all the suicide attacks in Rawalpindi in recent months). How one can expect a normal election campaign under such conditions is beyond me.

This is just speculation on my part, but I had always the suspicion that Bhutto was “injected” (to quote Zbigniew Brzezinski) into Pakistan by the Bush administration in order to gain some leverage on Musharraf (perhaps with regard to Iran?).

In any case, the West seems to be more interested in “ballotocracy” (Richard Haass) than in creating the necessary conditions for real and sustainable democracy, in Pakistan as well as in Lebanon.

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December 28th, 2007, 11:56 am


67. t_desco said:

New Clues Surface in El-Hajj Murder Case

New clues have surfaced in the murder of the Lebanese army’s operations chief Brig. Gen. Francois el-Hajj after authorities identified the owners of the BMW car that was used in the Dec. 12 assassination, according to local media reports.

Beirut dailies An Nahar and As Safir on Friday said progress has been made in the investigation into el-Hajj’s murder after the Lebanese intelligence service obtained pictures of the two men who bought the car that was used in the bombing.

The BMW vehicle that was rigged with over 35 kilograms of explosives was bought in the village of Abra east of the southern port city of Sidon.

An Nahar said the intelligence apparatus in south Lebanon was able to determine how the car was purchased prior to the explosion in Baabda that killed el-Hajj and his bodyguard, Kheirallah Hadwan.

It said the two suspects are believed to be Lebanese.

Meanwhile, As Safir raised questions as to why the suspects’ photos were not published in the media.

It quoted sources, however, as saying that a U.N. international probe investigating the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and seven other anti-Syrian figures has demanded that the suspects pictures not be published.

Saeed Mirza, Lebanon’s prosecutor-general, described as “inaccurate” the reports by An Nahar and As Safir and asked for an investigation into the matter.

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December 28th, 2007, 1:05 pm


68. t_desco said:

So Khalilzad was responsible for creating this mess (or at least for starting it).

Again, I wonder if it was somehow linked to the administration’s Iran policy.

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December 28th, 2007, 2:33 pm


69. Observer said:

Musharraf is both weakened and strengthened by the event. He is weakened as it happened on his watch and he will be accused of either complicity or incompetence. He is strengthened as he will now justify dictatorial powers in the name of security and the political arena is devoid of choices.
How blame is going to be put will give us an indication of where the administration stands with regard to Musharraf.

On a different note, I like the post of Honest Patriot. He does have very valid points that he makes about the issues, but he is so emotional on the one hand and so “superior” on the other hand that he reminds me of the Christian and Sunni elites of Lebanon. They still think that they have a superior take on all others in the region and yet the facts speak of their utter disarray. And that comes across nicely in his comments.

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December 28th, 2007, 4:36 pm


70. offended said:

Alex, re: the house in Ya3for. This is amazing man, I wouldn’t have thought we’d have such things in Syria. This looks more like a hot property in Malibu or Orange county.

Thanks for sharing!

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December 28th, 2007, 5:13 pm


71. EHSANI2 said:


Who could argue with your following quote?

“I grieve for the continued prevalence of terrorism and murder as weapons in the hands of those who lack any principle of civilization in participating in the government process.”

The leaders of our region don’t hang on to power based on a civilization metric. Instead, they adhere to the famous saying of:

“Inn lamm takon Zeaban akalatka Alzeaabu”

It is this metric that governs our regional politics. It sure is not as civil or as pure as your dream but I am afraid it is the sad reality.


Your article on how the U.S. pushed for Bhutto’s return is most interesting. I am also thankful that you noticed my calls for tax reform in Syria. Hating socialism is one thing but to support almost zero taxes on the wealthiest of society is a step that even Adam Smith would not have supported. The Syrian fiscal balance will not be sustained unless the wealthier segment of that society pays a larger share of taxes. Taxation on Idle land is a place where I would start given its unproductive nature.

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December 28th, 2007, 6:21 pm


72. norman said:

Ehsani, I agree,

Taxation on Idle land is a place where I would start given its unproductive nature.

Can we add Taxaton on empty Appartment Buildings and houses,

That will make owners rent them or sell them both will help the housing problem.

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December 28th, 2007, 6:40 pm


73. Seeking the Truth said:


I have not read all the details of your postings regarding the investigation of Hariri’s murder, but please give me a clarification for this simple question if you have one. If Al-qaeda or extremists of similar ideology were the main culprits, why has not Ahmad Abu Adas or his remains been found so far? What would be the motive for his hiding after taking the responsibility for the assasination?

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December 28th, 2007, 7:04 pm


74. majedkhaldoun said:

anyone who advocate large tax increase, or tax on idle land, is not on my side, tax is against freedom, it should be only for goverment services, but tax to increase the power of the goverment to control its people is wrong, tax to encourage laziness by some (entitlement),or to help people who made dum decisions,I am against it.

anyone who want to pay his money to the goverment voluntarily is welcome to do so.

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December 28th, 2007, 7:59 pm


75. Alex said:


Raghad Mardini, architect who designed the Ya3four house, got an award for this project.

She also turned an old Damascus house into a fancy Boutique Hotel … The Talisman Hotel.

Ya3four has tens of palaces or large houses… elaborate gardens and swimming pools, tennis courts …

You can have the best view from Google earth if you can locate Ya3four along the Damascus-Beirut highway.

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December 29th, 2007, 1:30 am


76. Alex said:

What do you think? Too much?

بدأت بأسماء المحلات ورياض الأطفال لتطاول الدراما السورية وأسماء المواليد؟ … حملة لـ «تنصيب» دمشق عاصمة للغة العربية… الفصحى
دمشق – ابراهيم حميدي الحياة – 28/12/07//

من الآن فصاعداً، اذا أراد أحد الديبلوماسيين في دمشق تناول غداء عمل في مطعم «لافونتانا» الايطالي في حي المزة، جنوب دمشق، عليه ان يبحث عن مطعم يحمل اسم «النافورة». وعلى من يريد، في سورية، تسمية مولوده اسماً اجنبياً، الحذر والبحث عن اسم عربي قح. كذلك حال ابطال الدراما السورية الذين يتوجب عليهم البدء بالتكيف تدريجاً للتحدث بلغة وسط بين المحكية والفصحى قبل الانطلاق الى المرحلة الثانية القائمة على الحديث بلغة فصيحة فقط. هذه بعض النتائج التي يتوقعها رئيس «لجنة تمكين اللغة العربية» الدكتور محمود السيد، لمناسبة اختيار «دمشق عاصمة عربية للثقافة» للسنة 2008.

وكان مقرراً ان تنجز اللجنة التي ترفع تقاريرها الى نائبة الرئيس السوري للشؤون الثقافية نجاح العطار، مسودة قانون يقضي بالتزام كل الوزارات والمؤسسات العامة والخاصة توصياتها و»وضع خطة بغية الارتقاء باللغة العربية»، لكن تقررت العودة الى «قانون حماية اللغة العربية» الصادر العام 1952.

وبموجب التعليمات الجديدة، فإن اسماء الفنادق والمحلات ذات الصفة العالمية، يجب ان تكتب باللغة العربية الى جانب الاجنبية. ويوضح السيد: «اذا كان اسم المحل اجنبياً (لكن ليس جزءاً من سلسلة عالمية) يجب تعريبه وان يوضع الاسم باللغة العربية أولاً». ويعني هذا ان المطعم الدمشقي الشهير «نيوترون» صار اسمه «النواة» مع تقديم لهذا الاسم. كما هي الحال مع سلسلة مقاهي «لا نوازيت» التي بات اسمها «البندقة».

ولا تشمل هذه التعليمات اسماء المطاعم والفنادق فحسب، بل تمتد الى الانتاج الثقافي والتعليمي والاعلامي، اذ اشار رئيس اللجنة الى ان «التوجه هو ان تكون المواد الاعلامية والدرامية بالفصحى، لكن بالتدرج وقدر الامكان وليس دفعة واحدة… نريد روح العامية وثوب الفصحى».

هل هذا يعنى ان الجزء الثالث من مسلسل «باب الحارة» الشامي سيكون بالفصحى؟ وكيف سيتحدث «العقيد» الى «ابو عصام» والأخير لزوجته سعاد؟ الاجوبة رهن تنفيذ هذا الاتجاه وسرعته وما اذا كان سيشمل جميع الانتاج الدرامي أو بعضه، كما هي الحال مع مسلسل «سقف العالم» الذي مزج بين المحكية والفصحى، وشارك اخيراً مخرجه نجدت انزور وكاتبه حسن يوسف في ندوة عن «دور الدراما السورية في تمكين اللغة العربية».

وتشمل «الخطة الوطنية» ايضاً التدخل في اعلانات الطرق، بحيث تمنع الاعلانات باللغة المحكية او باخطاء املائية او قواعدية، اضافة الى تدخلها في الجمل والعبارات التي تكتب على السيارات الخاصة او العامة. واشار الدكتور السيد الى «مثال حي: هناك شعار يقول: دارك داريها. اننا نريد تصحيحه بحيث يصبح: دارك دارها».

وكانت اللجنة خاطبت ايضا وزارة الاوقاف طالبة اشتراط موافقتها على تعيين خطباء المساجد بناء على قدرتهم على التحدث باللغة الفصحى، لأن الاتجاه هو لإلزام الخطباء «القاء الخطب بلغة فصيحة وصحيحة وتناول قضايا معاصرة». وزاد السيد: «يجب ايضاً على المعلمين التحدث بالفصحى. ليس فقط اساتذة اللغة العربية، بل جميع الاساتذة. لا نطلب لغة مقعرة او لغة ابي حيان التوحيدي بل لغة فصيحة وبسيطة» على ان تبذل جهود لتعديل المناهج التربوية للوصول الى «لغة الحياة وليس لغة وحشية».

وبحسب رئيس اللجنة، فإن الخطة تهدف ايضا الى تأهيل المشرفين على رياض الاطفال لـ «البدء بهم وتعليمهم» بالتوازي مع الزام سائقي الباصات التحدث معهم… بلغة فصحى. وقال: «نريد كل ما تقع عليه عين الطفل في الحافلات والمحلات والمدارس والشوارع والتلفزيون والمطعم، ان يكون فصيحا» وصولا الى الجامعات الخاصة التي يدرس بعضها باللغة الانكليزية.

وهل يعني هذا منع أي شخص من تسمية ابنه اسما اجنبيا؟ أجاب السيد: «لم نتعرض لهذا الأمر. لكن الطبيعي ان تكون الاسماء عربية ولها دلالات عربية وليست اسماء اجنبية»، مشيراً الى ان البعض شاور اللجنة في تسمية محله اسم «كليوبترا» فأجابته بالموافقة كما هي الحال مع اسم «ملقة» لأنه «عربي أصيل»!

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December 29th, 2007, 1:52 am


77. norman said:

Alex, at first i thought that this ideas terrible and dictatorial then i thought about the custom in the US ,most names are in English and teachers and most educated people speak and right in standard English not of the most complicated but the kind that make everybody understand the conversation or the righting , actually having the Syrian dramas in simple standard Arabic will make them more popular ,
Syrian should do what we do in the US , my children has two names American first name and an Arabic middle name , In Syria they can do the same if they use both kinds of names ,
There are some names in Syria which has been used for a long time with Arabic flavor , like Alex, Norman , Edwar ( Edward), Victor , Emil .and George .

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December 29th, 2007, 2:51 am


78. norman said:

بحسب صحيفة “هآرتز”
الخارجية الإسرائيلية “تسعى” لإخراج سوريا من”محور الشر”

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December 29th, 2007, 3:20 am


79. Observer said:

On a different subject this is from the Guardian about Gaza
Smother until surrender
Laila El-Haddad
December 28, 2007 1:00 PM

How have things in Gaza changed over the past 12 months? Sadly, there are no rosy reflections to be found here. Things were bad in Gaza this year. Very bad. Whether looked at from a political or purely humanitarian perspective, it’s difficult to see the upside where there is such an orchestrated global drive to maintain the status quo: smother until surrender.

The health indicators are telling: about a quarter of essential drugs and a third of essential medical supplies were unavailable in the Gaza Strip in October 2007. Less than half of Gaza’s food import needs are currently being met. Fuel reserves are almost at zero after punitive cuts by the Israeli government began last month. And with diesel-run water-pumps unable to function, tens of thousands of Gazans are without access to fresh drinking water. Everything considered “non-essential” has disappeared from supermarket shelves (including chocolates, as one friend half-jokingly lamented).

It is as though depriving a nation of medicines and fuel and freedom of movement and sanity will somehow make them turn against their rulers. And as though providing them with a trickle of “essential” supplies every few weeks is going to exonerate those imposing and supporting the siege. Or sustain the besieged just enough so that they don’t wither and die; because somehow, the onus is on them to undo all of this, and they need all the energy they can get.

Gaza’s isolation has also come full circle this year. Travelling in and out of the occupied coastal territory has always been an exercise in the impossible, but now, it’s no longer an option that can even be exercised, in whatever degree of difficulty.

We Gazans stuck on the outside cannot return to our homes. The noose continues to tighten, even when we thought there was no more room to tighten it.

I was in Gaza through June. My son was with me. When I finished my work there, I left after a gruelling 48-hour journey across Rafah Crossing along with my family, who were coming to the US to visit my brothers. That was the last day Rafah opened this year.

In fact, both my family and myself have been unable to return to Gaza since that time. No, we don’t carry foreign passports (and even if we did, there is no way in unless you are affiliated with a humanitarian organisation). We carry PA “passports” (Passport to where? What good is a passport that can’t even get you back home?) We are residents of Gaza. And we have nowhere to return to now. The only way in to Gaza is the Rafah Crossing. And it is not controlled by Egypt or by the Palestinians, as many assume. It is, and always has been, even after disengagement, controlled by Israel.

What do rockets or tunnels or elections have to do with letting people return to their homes? Or with allowing students and the ill and even the average human being with no pressing concern, to leave and live their lives?

If one can say anything definitive about this year, it is that people’s attitudes in Gaza (and the West Bank and East Jerusalem for that matter) about the future have changed. They no longer believe in the myth of two states, and very likely, the west’s call for democracy. This is not to say they don’t want peace. They just no longer believe “peace”, as defined and promoted by, well, virtually all the major powers that have a stake in it, is possible. Is peace living in two states, three territories, fragmented and divided by Israeli colonies and encircled by an enormous barrier, all of whose borders are still ultimately controlled by Israel and for whose security you, the occupied, are responsible? Is it not being able to freely pray, think, move, live?

According to a poll by Near East Consulting more Palestinian than ever before think not. In fact, 70% of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem now support a one-state solution in historic Palestine, where Muslims, Christians and Jews live together with equal rights and responsibilities.

This is not a state that prefers and attempts to sustain its Jewish population at the expense of its Palestinian ones.

What has also changed is the Israeli government’s recognition of this reality and their frank discourse surrounding it. Only two days after the theatrics of Annapolis, Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned about the consequences of facing a struggle for one state: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished,” he declared ominously in an interview with Haaretz.

It doesn’t matter, then, how this Palestinian state will be fashioned, or what it will look like, so long as it is fashioned; for the sake of demographics alone.

His statement – similar to one he made in 2003 – complemented by his call for Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to recognise Israel as a purely Jewish state, as though the Muslims and Christians living there were aliens, is essentially an acknowledgment not only of the untenable nature and the inequity of the so-called two-state solution and everything it entails, but also of the increasing inevitability of a one-state solution. As some commentators have noted, it is no longer an option up for debate; it is the new reality.

Israel in 2007 continued with its attempts to create its own realities on the ground to counter this phenomenon. (It also ironically continues to render a two-state solution a practical impossibility as it impedes any future plans to divide the city.) Earlier this month, its housing ministry gave the go-ahead for a new illegal settlement to be built in occupied East Jerusalem, with the deputy mayor affirming that he sees “no problem in building all-Jewish neighbourhoods” (the housing minister has since backtracked, but plans have not been totally scrapped).

So if anything has changed in 2007, perhaps it is the global complacency and indifference towards Gaza and what is being done to its people with such purpose. And perhaps this is the most troubling aspect of it all, not that it is happening, nor even that it is happening so methodically, but rather that we, the collective world governments, mass media, and yes, Abbas, no longer seem to find it so morally troubling. After all, Gaza is now a hostile territory. So anything goes.

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December 29th, 2007, 4:09 am


80. norman said:

I wonder how long will it take the Palestinians to start deffending themselves and attacking the EU as they did in the seventies to wake up the world to their suffering.

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December 29th, 2007, 4:27 am


81. Akbar Palace said:

Norman recommends terrorism here on Professor Josh’s (Director, Center for Peace Studies, University of Oklahoma) website:

I wonder how long will it take the Palestinians to start deffending themselves and attacking the EU as they did in the seventies to wake up the world to their suffering.


Perhaps the Palestinians found out that terrorizing Europe won’t bring them a state.

Of course, if you think it will help, why don’t YOU do it?

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December 29th, 2007, 6:06 am


82. Honest Patriot said:

Idaf, Observer, and Ehsani all like certain portions of my posts and all (as well as other bloggers) comment on the emotional content that clouds some of my thinking.

I plead guilty.

I’ve seen my native country of Lebanon all too often deprived violently of genuine sons who were ready to put it on a track of true independence asymptotically converging towards neutrality and superb economic triumph – a triumph that should have borne benefits to all its citizens. I’m thinking of Beshir Gemayel (regardless of how he was unfairly painted as an Israeli agent) and most recently Rafiq Hariri. I suppose most bloggers on this forum view these as just other ME assassinations – to some extent the way business is done in that area of the world. I don’t, and at the risk of continuing to be seen as of utopic thinking, I do believe that a prosperous, eventually secular structure in Lebanon is achievable. It is only through people who uphold beliefs of that nature against the surrender of cynicism that true change happens. Perhaps if more joined me in such beliefs and worked within whatever circle of influence they had towards that end it would no longer be a utopia. The Cedar Revolution — a true historic outpouring of silent majority opinion (notwithstanding the re-writing of history that is attempted [see the post of IDAF about “academic” papers written on that subject) — is, to me, evidence of the existence of the right sentiment to effect the dream of a neutral, prosperous, secular Lebanon. It’s not emotion. It’s observation of facts coupled with the courage to have a clear vision and to articulate it. I’ll concede that my rantings about the Syrian MO in Lebanon are emotional. While Syria has so much potential wasted through the inefficient feudal system and sorry alliances its leaders forge, it is a true tragedy that its leaders have chosen to exploit Lebanon in every possible respect instead of leveraging the enlightenment of its people and the strategic advantages of its economic system. And to those who will argue that the Lebanese are as much to blame for the destruction of their country, I agree. Lebanon and its citizens have learned a lot from their mistakes and clearly have still quite a bit to do to evolve the civic sense and the sense of belonging to a nation/country first before “belonging” (i.e., being owned by) a religion. This by itself is a challenging evolution. Compound it with the regional and international interference and you get the mess the country is in. There is plenty of blame to go around but that’s not really the ticket to a solution. Moving towards the future requires true vision (yeah, I know, you’ll call me a dreamer again) to effect the following:
– True economic opportunity and a kind of “affirmative action” for the many poor (including a disproportionate percentage of Shi’a) who have always been neglected
– Full political neutrality along the model of Switzerland
– Complete separation of church/mosque/temple and state
– An ironclad internal security and internationally guaranteed (and monitored) borders
– A political class that works only for the interests and benefit of Lebanon as a country – without shifting allegiances to any foreign country or interest, nor, for that matter, religious grouping
– Adequate conditions for the Palestinian refugees guaranteeing better than the minimum of human rights, while at the same time reclaiming full control for the Lebanese authorities of every aspect of refugee camp life – in particular eliminating ANY weapons.
I know that the vision of the political movement of General Michel Aoun contains elements that would lead to many of the goals above. Yet, his current positions – seen from the perspective of someone living in the U.S. – are utterly incomprehensible. On the other hand I also know that many Christians trust Aoun’s honesty and refer to his previous positions that – in hindsight – seem to many to have been vindicated. It is not at all clear to me that this is the case today.
As far as seeing some “Christian and Sunni” elitism in my previous post (see Observer’s earlier comments), I wonder whether that impression comes from advocating positions that go against what Hezbollah is trying to achieve. I have written before that Hezbollah is made up of Lebanese (hence with full rights to participate in the Lebanese political process), most of whom are decent folks. I do take strong issue with Hezbollah’s unceasing attacks on the current Lebanese government and the insistence on veto-power at a time where their maneuvering suggests in no uncertain terms that the veto will be used (or would have been used) to foil the international tribunal of the Hariri assassination. Hezbollah’s positions belie their true agenda: recall the “red line” they talked about as far as the Lebanese Army entering palestinian camps; recall their declaration that even if the Shebaa farms were returned to Lebanon they would never give up their arms. At the risk of offending again, I see elements of fascism in their military organization. I see Aoun’s agreement with Hizbollah as nothing more than Chamberlain’s agreement with Hitler. Before you unleash your Big Guns (in words) on me for those remarks, please hear me again that I know that Hezbollah has yielded a tremendous amount of good social benefit, has given the oppressed Shi’a a point of pride. I believe Hezbollah has a rightful place in Lebanese politics – through the democratic process (not through usurping that process to ensure the paralysis of the country). Hezbollah and its constituency have rightful grievances against economic inequality and abuse by the Sunni and Christian economic elite. I agree with all that. I even agree that Hezbollah’s “resistance” was a major factor (if not the decisive one) in leading to the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. I just don’t see the justification for the methods they currently use for continuing their struggle nor do I trust that the allegiance to Lebanon of their leaders supercedes their ideological fervor to turn Lebanon into an Iran-like theocracy. That may regrettably happen one day by the sheer reality of the demographic dynamics at play (where the birth rate of Shi’a is about 4x the birth rate of Christians). Unless, that is, in the interim, a secular Lebanon emerges where economic opportunity catalyzes a move away from religious fanaticism.

Two more points:

1- If everyone in the ME was made up of folks who participate in this forum, I doubt there would be any conflict at all. Despite the strong opinions and disparity of goals, we are clearly joined together by a desire to have conflicts resolved through civilized discourse. In that vein, I offer my greatest gratitude and respect to Professor Landis and admire his courage and persistence to pursue the study of this region. He is the one (along with the folks who help moderate this blog) who make this exchange possible for all of us. It is a healthy outlet that lets folks like me — a mere observer who left his native country of Lebanon over a quarter century ago — to express our opinion and comment on the events in the region.

2- (As mentioned in my previous post) The solution to the key issue of the ME – the Israel-Palestine conflict – is well known. What gets in the way is the extremism on both sides, fueled by religious fanaticism. On the Arab side, the fixation by some to want to eliminate the state of Israel is a sad reflection of utter ignorance of the facts of what constitutes Israel, its people, the support it enjoys and the inspiration it gives to millions around the world. Let Israel be. Learn to appreciate all the positives it can bring. Learn to live with your cousins by conceding to them the little space they want. On the Israeli side, an acknowledgment of the human rights of Palestinians and of the suffering that was inflicted upon them throughout the years is necessary. Notwithstanding the horrors of terrorism that was used at various times by Palestinian zealots, there is a large population that, in our modern times, has suffered probably more than any other the deprivation of a national identity. The extremist voices claiming that there was never a Palestine (that it was really only Jordan), etc., must be put in check. Fair compensation and an equitable set of living conditions must be granted to the Palestinians. And, by the way, what’s with continuing to build settlements on Palestinian land ? That sure doesn’t sound like a country seeking peace. There’s plenty of blame to go around but NOTHING, NOTHING is worse than terrorism, i.e., the killing of innocent civilians. And I don’t buy the moral superiority of the Israeli approach where it’s acceptable to have innocent civilians killed while assassinating a Hamas leader because the civilians were not the ones targeted. It’s all terrorism, pure and simple.

Well, I probably managed to upset or offend quite a few folks here. For that, I ask forgiveness. Just my modest, honest, opinion. And my vantage point is one of someone who wants to see Lebanon a truly independent, secular, and prosperous country. I don’t have illusions that the probability is high that it will happen in my lifetime. But I believe the possibility is indeed there.


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December 29th, 2007, 7:33 am


83. t_desco said:


very good question! Nibras Kazimi (“Analysis of the Faisal Akbar testimony and how it relates to the Hariri assassination”, 05.11.2007, Talisman Gate) has suggested that Adass accompanied the suicide bomber based on the fact that “another tooth, a lower right central incisor, was found in June 2006 nearby and it cannot be conclusively determined, since no DNA was extracted, that this tooth belongs to the same suicide bomber.”

He could also have quoted the first Mehlis report which states that “there is always the possibility that no trace of DNA of a suicide bomber conducting a massive blast would be found” (Mehlis I, §181). For example, if Adass stood alongside the vehicle he would have been closer to the source of the blast than the actual suicide bomber.

The problem with this version, at least regarding the second tooth, is that while there is no DNA evidence, the isotope composition of the second tooth would still match that of the first tooth in case it belongs to the same person or be significantly different if it belongs to a second person (unless both persons lived in the same placed at the same time). Brammertz does not mention the second tooth, but he still speaks of only one suicide bomber which suggests that the result of the isotope analysis showed that it also belonged to him.

I find it much more plausible (if Adass wasn’t kidnapped) that he was chosen to be the suicide bomber, made the tape but then got cold feet. I have read that, contrary to legend, this happens rather often in Iraq, people opting out or exploding their vehicles well before they reach their destination.

They had only one chance to hit Hariri, so the suicide bomber had to be both highly motivated and very precise in his actions to explode the device at the right moment (this is also the reason why I don’t believe that he was coerced into doing it).

Perhaps Adass had volunteered to go to Iraq to fight (this wouldn’t be too unusual for a young man in his situation) but his emir selected him for this mission instead. So he could still be alive and hiding somewhere, he may have gone to Iraq or he may have been killed for refusing to follow the orders of his emir. Of course, this is all just speculation on my part.

In contrast, the UN investigation has probably already gathered enough evidence to determine if Adass was kidnapped or if he left his home to join an extremist group, because progress has been made to identify “Mohammed” (Mehlis I, §171), the man who accompanied Adass on the day he disappeared:

“35. A number of aspects regarding the role Abu Adass played in the crime remain under active investigation by the Commission. Through 16 interviews in this reporting period, forensic analyses and other investigative steps, the Commission has reached a more detailed comprehension of Abu Adass’ activities in the years preceding the crime, particularly those activities which brought him into contact with one or more persons linked to known extremist groups. In particular, progress has been made in establishing the identity of the individual who is believed to have disappeared with Abu Adass on January 16, 2005.” (Brammertz VII, §35).

(my emphasis)

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December 29th, 2007, 11:45 am


84. Sami D said:

Hello Ehsani,

You write:

Syria’s problem is not the wealth concentration. The country’s real problem lies in the painful destruction that the socialism of the past 43 years has inflicted on its economy. Poverty in Syria is not because the rich of that society stole the money from the poor. The real culprit has been poor economic growth and a vast misallocation of resources under a failed planned economy…. Hating socialism is one thing but to support almost zero taxes on the wealthiest of society is a step that even Adam Smith would not have supported

Every country employs, more or less, a great measure of economic planning, which is the opposite of free market. There’s nothing wrong with planning, per se, if it is done democratically by a free people, and especially when it covers the major things society needs: roads, bridges, healthcare, education, basic food. Can we really say that that was the case in Syria during the recent decades? Note also that a major part of resource mis/allocation in Syria was the military, justified or otherwise. As mentioned here, Syria already had a measure of free market, perhaps more in the benign manner envisioned by Adam Smith, of small businesses: butchers, bakers, artisans, farmers, shoemakers, rooted in their communities. The US, as does the entire industrialized world, more or less employs planning as well, and that planning –again, state planning is the opposite of free market– coincided with a lot of prosperity and proper allocation of resources, not simply a rise in GDP. Planning, not the free market, contributed essentially to the creation of the middle class in America, the same class which the Bush-Reagan-Clinton have been dismantling over the past quarter century using economic liberalization: attack on labor unions, tax-cuts for the rich, channeling the money into the military, security apparatus and their spin-offs. US’s more recent planning period began with FDR’s new deal, all the way through the 50s and 60s. Building of the highway system, the GI college bill, the semi-conductor and computer industry, automation, communication networks, electronics, the internet, development of medication, agriculture … the backbone of US economy, involved massive US government planning, protectionism, funding and subsidy. Were these fruits of anti-free market planning a misallocation of resources?

The free market exists already more or less everywhere – as does planning. They fluctuate depending on the need of a country and who makes the decisions. While developing, advanced countries used more planning, protection and government subsidies, and only little free market. After they developed these countries adopted more free market, but the government stayed alert to protect society from the known ills of the free market: its natural instability, bubbles and recessions, the sometimes destructive effects of outside competition, and to prevent the rich from sucking societal wealth up (ie, inequality, or the lopsided distribution of output that the market is notorious for). Meanwhile, these developed countries, led before by Britain and now mastered by the US, are making sure to force the free market down the throats of the third world, knowing full well that their labor laws, regulations are weak, corruption is high and their governments dictatorial enough to help control the people who might think of standing in the new way of wealth-making for the rich inside and outside of that country. This is why it is dangerous for a country like Syria to plunge itself in the free market, opening its land, people, resources for exploitation, tying future generations with growing debt and subservient dependence on foreign capital. In other words, spreading the free market, aka “freedom” is the new way of empire, through the cheaper method of economic, rather than the traditional/colonial, domination. It is only telling that the first thing Bush did in Iraq was force “shock therapy” on its economy, or that part of Bush’s message after 9-11 to the American public .. to get out and shop, or that terrorism will be more with more “free trade”! For a weak country the free market is a tool of empire, exploitation and plunder, not of freedom.

Taxing the rich by the government is indeed a good idea; doesn’t that fall more on the government planning side of things rather than the free market one? Taxing is a way for the government to force-reallocation of the resources, mis-allocated by the free market. Add to that the regulation, the labor laws, subsidies to industry, bailing out of banks and airlines, all these are not free markets, but methods to restrain and salvage industries from the ravages of the market. Nor does the free market necessarily produce the best allocation of resources. The massive advertisement-PR industry, sucking a TRILLION dollars a year, whose goal is in essence to “convince people to buy things they don’t need” (in the honest words of one advertising executive), is one example of the obscene misallocation of resource in the free market. Another massive misallocation of wealth is the rise of the financial speculation sector since the late 1970s. Most of the money traded on the stock markets, well over a trillion dollars per day, is not money aimed at long term development, but cash-seeking short-term casino-style money “making”. The money is not kept long enough anywhere to help develop anything and that’s unhealthy for a society. Pollution, waste, plundering of resource, nature, trees, mountain tops, water supplies, rivers, oceans, fisheries, have reached mammoth proportion under capitalism in its frenzied drive for growth, GROWTH, more and MORE G R O W T H, more GDP, beyond sustainability and beyond what’s really needed. Under capitalism we just have to keep producing more and more and more, and when people don’t really need more, just change the style or the fashion, (often adding a little in substance) and tell people they need to get the latest designs, sending the out-moded to the piling waste, else risk being sneered at socially. What is needed is not so much more and more growth – making the pie bigger– (some of which is surely necessary and healthy), but better distribution of what’s already being produced, which the market does a bad job at. Growth and rising GDP, a small portion of which trickles down depending on country and rights, as well as the carrot promise of illusory riches, have become a tool for the rich to distract the majority from the upward vortex of wealth suction and to keep the people working hard to produce that wealth. And capitalism is quite resilient, creating its own denial industry and “think tanks” in the process, to hide all the above and produce compliant politicians.

When Adam Smith recommended the free market, he saw it as a tool to spread equality, not the abomination of today’s inequality. He would’ve been appalled at the conglomerates, monopolies, lobbyists, mass media, Walmarts and wealth concentration we now have. He made sure to warn about where the free market could lead, like the many ills we see today: monopoly, inequality and the division of labor when it reaches its limits. But that part of his legacy is shadowed in favor of his free market advocacy, essentially taken out of its context. He spoke about the importance of public investment to improve the social welfare, that economic liberalism would be good provided care is given to basic human rights, that free enterprise and capital should be rooted in its community, that the government should intervene to prevent the worker from being reduced (under capitalism) into “as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to be”. He warned how the industrialists of his time “generally have an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public” and that “People of the same trade seldom meet together but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public”. Or when he noted that the interests of the architects of policy are not those of the public. “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” Or when he spoke about how “inequality of fortune .. introduces among men a degree of authority and subordination”. While he admired individual enterprise, he showed his distaste for “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people” (the opposite of how his “invisible hand” is hijacked by business to extol the greatness of selfish and greed). Or his advocacy for the free movement of labor, as opposed to today’s national boundary and emigration restrictions. In other words, the world, especially the developing one, now needs more to heed the warnings of Adam Smith and not his de-contextualized free market recommendations.

“The leaders of our region don’t hang on to power based on a civilization metric. Instead, they adhere to the famous saying of: “Inn lamm takon Zeaban akalatka Alzeaabu”

Doesn’t this infamous cliché describe the environment created by individualistic, materialistic capitalism?

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December 29th, 2007, 6:30 pm


85. norman said:


You get what you give , Israel should know that ,It’s terror on the Palestinians brought only death and mahum to Israel , Israel should treat people the way she likes it’s people to be treated otherwise sooner or later people will give up on peacfull coexistant and seek violence as the one imposed on them.

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December 29th, 2007, 8:11 pm


86. Akbar Palace said:


You side-stepped my question about YOUR call for terrorism against Europe and my suggestion that you help.

This reminds me of a statement I found today:

The most evil of the traitors are those who trade away their religion for the sake of their mortal life.;_ylt=AsC_BoqVN6G3xDXFMWINDoQE1vAI

The same person who made the above statement is the same person who has been in hiding for the past decade. I always find it interesting that those calling for jihad and “martyrdom” are always asking other people to do their dirty work.

You get what you give

And so far, the Palestinians haven’t given anything. Since 1967, the Israelis have given land back to the Jordanians, the Eygptians and the Palestinians.

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December 29th, 2007, 10:29 pm


87. wizart said:

Monday, 14 Apr 2008
Fortune’s New Cover Boy: “What Warren Thinks

Fortune’s Nicholas Varchaver sat in recently as Buffett hosted 150 business students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for a Q&A session, chicken parmigiana at Piccolo Pete’s, his favorite restaurant, and individual pictures with the Oracle. (He does this sort of thing about once a month.) Varchaver also got his own one-on-one interview with Buffett.

Among the highlights from Buffett’s comments:

* “It’s very, very hard to regulate when you get into very complex instruments where you’ve got hundreds of counterparties. The counterparty behavior and risk was a big part of why the Treasury and the Fed felt that they had to move in over a weekend at Bear Stearns. And I think they were right to do it, incidentally.”
* “It seems everybody says it’ll (the economic slowdown) be short and shallow, but it looks like it’s just the opposite. You know, deleveraging by its nature takes a lot of time, a lot of pain. And the consequences kind of roll through in different ways.”
* “The markets have not gotten more rational over the years, They’ve become more followed. But when people panic, when fear takes over, or when greed takes over, people react just as irrationally as they have in the past.”
* Along with being a “political bigamist” by supporting both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for President, “I feel that if a Republican wins, John McCain would be the one I would prefer. I think we’ve got three unusually good candidates this time.”
* “If you gave me the choice of being CEO of General Electric or IBM or General Motors, you name it, or delivering papers, I would deliver papers. I would. I enjoyed doing that. I can think about what I want to think. I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.”

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April 16th, 2008, 4:03 pm


88. wizart said:

Humanist Manifesto I

The Manifesto is a product of many minds. It was designed to represent a developing point of view, not a new creed. The individuals whose signatures appear would, had they been writing individual statements, have stated the propositions in differing terms. The importance of the document is that more than thirty men have come to general agreement on matters of final concern and that these men are undoubtedly representative of a large number who are forging a new philosophy out of the materials of the modern world.

– Raymond B. Bragg (1933)

The time has come for widespread recognition of the radical changes in religious beliefs throughout the modern world. The time is past for mere revision of traditional attitudes. Science and economic change have disrupted the old beliefs. Religions the world over are under the necessity of coming to terms with new conditions created by a vastly increased knowledge and experience. In every field of human activity, the vital movement is now in the direction of a candid and explicit humanism. In order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary life demonstrate.

There is great danger of a final, and we believe fatal, identification of the word religion with doctrines and methods which have lost their significance and which are powerless to solve the problem of human living in the Twentieth Century. Religions have always been means for realizing the highest values of life. Their end has been accomplished through the interpretation of the total environing situation (theology or world view), the sense of values resulting therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique (cult), established for realizing the satisfactory life. A change in any of these factors results in alteration of the outward forms of religion. This fact explains the changefulness of religions through the centuries. But through all changes religion itself remains constant in its quest for abiding values, an inseparable feature of human life.

Today man’s larger understanding of the universe, his scientific achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing adequate social goals and personal satisfactions may appear to many people as a complete break with the past. While this age does owe a vast debt to the traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon this generation. We therefore affirm the following:

FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.

THIRD: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected.

FOURTH: Humanism recognizes that man’s religious culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual development due to his interaction with his natural environment and with his social heritage. The individual born into a particular culture is largely molded by that culture.

FIFTH: Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that the way to determine the existence and value of any and all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by the assessment of their relations to human needs. Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method.

SIXTH: We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of “new thought”.

SEVENTH: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation–all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.

EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man’s life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist’s social passion.

NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.

TENTH: It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

ELEVENTH: Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be fostered by education and supported by custom. We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.

TWELFTH: Believing that religion must work increasingly for joy in living, religious humanists aim to foster the creative in man and to encourage achievements that add to the satisfactions of life.

THIRTEENTH: Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

FOURTEENTH: The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently cooperate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.

FIFTEENTH AND LAST: We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b) seek to elicit the possibilities of life, not flee from them; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for the few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.

So stand the theses of religious humanism. Though we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers no longer adequate, the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind. Man is at last becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, that he has within himself the power for its achievement. He must set intelligence and will to the task.

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May 1st, 2008, 1:34 pm


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