27 July 2006

'Rapid response' targets bird flu

Southeast Asia
Jul 28, 2006
'Rapid response' targets bird flu
By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK - With its 900,000-strong army of public health volunteers and its spending of more than US$250 million to help affected poultry farmers, Thailand was held up as a model for combating the spread of the deadly bird flu. But the avian influenza virus has proved it has many tricks under its wings.

This week saw Thailand's impressive record of remaining free of the H5N1 strain of the virus for more than seven months shattered by a virus that continues to remain resilient. Following reports in mid-July of a bird flu outbreak in the poultry population in thenorthern province of Pitchit came confirmation on Tuesday that a 17-year-old boy had died of the disease. It brings the human fatalities to 15 out of 23 reported human cases of bird flu in Thailand since 2004.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, this deadly virus is spreading in rural communities, with Indonesia being the worst hit. On July 20, Jakarta reported that a 44-year-old man had died of bird flu, making him the forty-second Indonesian to die from the virus due to close contact with contaminated poultry.

Indonesia now joins Vietnam as the two countries with the most human deaths from bird flu since the current outbreak began in the winter of 2003. But while Vietnam has brought bird flu under control - with no human fatalities reported this year - Indonesia offers a study in contrast. Thirty-one of the country's 42 bird flu deaths occurred since January.

Indonesia has also carved itself a niche for having the highest fatality rate of people reported with H5N1. It has recorded 54 cases of the disease, of which four-fifths have succumbed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 134 people have died of bird flu since early 2004 out of 231 people affected. Azerbaijan has had five deaths, Cambodia six, China two, Egypt six, Iraq two and Turkey four. This is apart from 42 deaths in Vietnam and Indonesia and those in Thailand.

Consequently, in an attempt to prevent a spike in such fatalities - and lay the groundwork to respond to any sign of the virus being passed between humans, which could evolve into a global pandemic, killing millions - efforts are under way in Southeast Asia to strengthen the health responses in rural communities.

The blueprint the WHO and the US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) have in mind are "rapid response teams" in local communities.

"Each team will be between five to seven people and will include medical and nursing staff with proper equipment," WHO epidemiologist Mark Simmerman told Inter Press Service. "They will be trained to follow new standards that places the focus on areas such as containment efforts to control the virus."

The first three days after a virus is reported is pivotal, he added. "A containment plan, including shutting down schools, will be important to slow the spread of the virus. A quick response is vital."

In Southeast Asia, such rapid response teams could number in the hundreds "or even one or two thousand as the program develops", Simmerman explained at the conclusion of training for public health experts from 13 countries that took place in Bangkok this month.

"This will take time to accomplish, for the aim is to build a link between the local teams, the national response teams and international health teams," said Anthony Mounts, who heads the international epidemiology team at the CDC. "The CDC is trying to improve lab facilities to help diagnose avian influenza locally."

Such upgrading of laboratory facilities will bring to an end to the prevailing pattern in some countries across the region that are affected by bird flu of having to send virus samples for testing abroad, he explained. "Time is a factor here. This will allow the specimens to be collected and transported to national labs for testing within 24 hours."

Aiding this effort is the CDC's plans to make available new technology in the local laboratories real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction).

"The machine will amplify the genes once a chemical is added that reacts and identifies the avian influenza gene," Mounts said. "It allows you to take specimens from the field and do these tests quickly. You can have accurate answers in a very short time."

The attempt to upgrade the public health responses to avian influenza comes at a time when experts are also drawing attention to the challenges that arise when detecting the H5N1 virus.

"The diagnosis of H5N1 is extremely challenging," microbiologist Kevin Baird wrote this month in The Jakarta Post. "It requires highly skilled scientists equipped with very expensive gear and extremely carefully chosen reagents. Only two laboratories in Indonesia are capable of doing it reliably, and between the two of them they have examined about 400 people since the middle of last year."

At the same time, the past two-and-a-half years have served as a learning curve for Southeast Asia in as much as it lived with the threat of bird flu. The region's readiness to respond to a possible pandemic comes from "what we have learned from our responses to avian influenza", Tawat Suntharajan, director general of Thailand's department of disease control, said while training senior epidemiologists from the region.

(Inter Press Service)

Suicide Killers

On July 15, MSNBC's "Connected" program discussed the July 7th London attacks.  
One of the guests was Pierre Rehov, a French filmmaker who has filmed six documentaries on the intifada by going undercover in the Palestinian areas.   Pierre's upcoming film, "Suicide Killers," is based on  interviews that he conducted with the families of suicide bombers and  would-be bombers in an attempt to find out why they do it. Pierre agreed to a  request for a Q&A interview here about his work on the new film. 
Q - What inspired you to produce  "Suicide Killers," your seventh film? 
A - I started working with victims of suicide attacks to make a film on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I became  fascinated with the personalities of those who had committed those crimes, as they were described again and again by their victims. Especially  the fact that suicide bombers are all smiling one second before they  blow themselves up. 
Q - Why is this film especially  important?  
A - People don't understand the devastating culture behind  this unbelievable phenomenon. My film is not politically correct because it addresses the real problem, showing the real face of Islam. It points the finger against a culture of hatred in which the uneducated are brainwashed to a level where their only solution in life becomes to kill themselves and kill others in the name of a God whose word, as transmitted by other men, has become their only certitude.  
Q - What insights did you gain from  making this film? What do you know that other experts do not know?  
A - I came to the conclusion that we are facing a neurosis at the level of an entire civilization. Most neuroses have in common a dramatic event, generally linked to an unacceptable sexual behavior. In this case, we are talking of kids living all their lives in pure frustration, with no opportunity to experience sex, love, tenderness or even understanding from the opposite sex. The separation between men and women in Islam is absolute. So is contempt toward women, who are totally dominated by men. This leads to a situation of pure anxiety, in which normal behavior is not possible. It is no coincidence that suicide killers are mostly young men dominated subconsciously by an overwhelming libido that they not only cannot satisfy but are afraid of, as if it is the work of the devil. Since Islam describes heaven as a place where everything on Earth will finally be allowed,  and promises 72 virgins to those frustrated kids, killing others and killing themselves to reach this redemption becomes their only solution.  
Q - What was it like to interview would-be suicide bombers, their families and survivors of suicide bombings?  
A - It was a fascinating and a terrifying experience. You are dealing with seemingly normal people with very nice manners who have their own logic, which to a certain extent can make sense since they are so convinced that what they say is true. It is like dealing with pure craziness, like interviewing people in an asylum, since what they say, is for them, the absolute truth. I hear a mother saying "Thank God, my son is dead." Her son had became a shaheed, a martyr, which for her was a greater source of pride than if he had became an engineer, a doctor or a winner of the Nobel Prize.  This system of values works completely backwards since their interpretation of Islam worships death much more than life. You are facing people whose only dream, only achievement goal is to fulfill what they believe to be their destiny, namely to be a Shaheed or the  family of a shaheed.  They don't see the innocent being killed, they only see the impure that they have to destroy.  
Q - You say suicide bombers experience  a moment of absolute power, beyond punishment. Is death the ultimate power?  
A - Not death as an end, but death as a door opener to the after life. They are seeking the reward that God has promised them. They  work for God, the ultimate authority, above all human laws. They therefore experience this single delusional second of absolute power, where nothing bad can ever happen to them, since they become God's sword.  
Q - Is there a suicide bomber personality profile? Describe the psychopathology.  
A - Generally kids between 15 and 25 bearing a lot of complexes, generally inferiority complexes. They must have been fed with religion. They usually have a lack of developed personality. Usually they are impressionable idealists. In the western world they would easily have become drug addicts, but not criminals. Interestingly, they are not criminals since they don't see good and evil the same way that we do. If they had been raised in an Occidental culture, they would have hated violence. But they constantly battle against their own death anxiety. The only solution to this deep-seated pathology is to be willing to die and be rewarded in the afterlife in Paradise. 
Q - Are suicide bombers principally motivated by religious conviction?  
A - Yes, it is their only conviction. They don't act to gain a territory or to find freedom or even dignity. They only follow Allah, the supreme judge, and what He tells them to do.  
Q - Do all Muslims interpret jihad and martyrdom in the same way?  
A - All Muslim believers believe that, ultimately, Islam will prevail on earth.They believe this is the only true religion and there is no room, in their mind, for interpretation. The main difference between moderate Muslims and extremists is that moderate Muslims don't think they will see the absolute victory of Islam during their lifetime, therefore they respect other beliefs. The extremists believe that the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Islam and ruling the entire world as described in the Koran, is for today. Each victory of Bin Laden convinces 20 million moderate Muslims to become extremists. 
Q - Describe the culture that manufactures suicide bombers.  
A - Oppression, lack of freedom, brain washing, organized poverty, placing God in charge of daily life, total separation between men and women, forbidding sex, giving women no power whatsoever, and placing men in charge of family honor, which is mainly connected to their women's behavior.  
Q - What socio-economic forces support the perpetuation of suicide bombings?  
A - Muslim charity is usually a cover for supporting terrorist organizations. But one has also to look at countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are also supporting the same organizations through different networks. The ironic thing in the case of Palestinian suicide bombers is that most of the money comes through financial support from the Occidental world, donated to a culture that utterly hates and rejects the West (mainly symbolized by Israel).  
Q - Is there a financial support network for the families of the suicide bombers?  If so, who is paying them and how does that affect the decision?  
A - There used to be a financial incentive in the days of Saddam Hussein ($25,000 per family) and Yasser Arafat (smaller  amounts), but these days are gone. It is a mistake to believe that these families would sacrifice their children for money. Although, the children themselves who are very attached to their families, might find in this financial support another reason to become suicide bombers. It is like buying a life insurance policy and then committing suicide. 
Q - Why are so many suicide bombers young men?  
A - As discussed above, libido is paramount. Also ego,  because this is a sure way to become a hero. The shaheeds are the cowboys or the firemen of Islam. Shaheed is a positively reinforced value in this culture. And what kid has never dreamed of becoming a cowboy or a fireman?  
Q - What role does the U.N. play in the terrorist equation?  
A - The U.N. is in the hands of Arab countries and third world or ex-communist countries. Their hands are tied. The U.N. has condemned Israel more than any other country in the world, including the regime of Castro, Idi Amin or Kaddahfi. By behaving this way, the U.N. leaves a door open by not openly condemning terrorist organizations. In addition, through UNRWA,  the U.N. is directly tied to terror organizations such as Hamas,  representing 65 percent of their apparatus in the so-called Palestinian refugee camps. As a support to Arab countries, the U.N. has maintained Palestinians in camps with the hope to "return" into Israel for more than 50 years, therefore making it impossible to settle those populations, which still live in deplorable conditions. Four hundred million dollars are spent every year, mainly financed by U.S. taxes, to support 23,000 employees of UNRWA, many of whom belong to terrorist organizations (see Congressman Eric Cantor on this subject, and in my film "Hostages of  Hatred").  
Q - You say that a suicide bomber is a  'stupid bomb and a smart bomb' simultaneously. Explain what you mean.  
A - Unlike an electronic device, a suicide killer has until  the last second the capacity to change his mind. In reality, he is nothing but a platform representing interests which are not his, but he doesn't know it.  
Q - How can we put an end to the madness of suicide bombings and terrorism in general?  
A - Stop being politically correct and stop believing that this culture is a victim of ours. Radical Islamism today is nothing but a new form of Naziism. Nobody was trying to justify or excuse Hitler in the 1930s. We had to defeat him in order to make peace one day with the German people.  
Q - Are these men traveling outside their native areas in large numbers? Based on your research, would you predict that we are beginning to see a new wave of suicide bombers outside the Middle East?
A - Every successful terror attack is considered a victory by the radical Islamists. Everywhere Islam expands there is regional conflict. Right now, there are thousands of candidates for martyrdom lining up in training camps in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Inside Europe, hundreds of illegal mosques are preparing the next step of brain washing to lost young men who cannot find a satisfying identity in the Occidental world. Israel is much more prepared for this than the rest of the world will ever be. Yes, there will be more suicide killings in Europe and the U.S.  Sadly, this is only the beginning.

25 July 2006

Viet Nam Thoughts

Below is an email I recently recieved from a friend of mine:

Hi Bernie:
My trip to SE Asia was great.  I stayed in Ho Chi Minh City the entire 10 days.  The talk on the street is that VN will join the WTO this year.  Also, few locals believe the New Government will institute democratic reforms.  Instead, it is business as usual.  There are 3 million party members controlling 85 million people.  The party members enjoy great privilege and wealth at the expense of the people.  Hanoi is giving lip service to humanitarian reforms and religious freedoms to gain favor with the US for our support of their WTO membership.  Strategically, the US will lend support to VN as a countervailing force to China in the Region.  I suppose it makes since to do this, but I am discouraged by the US’ continued support of countries that deny human rights and freedom.  The old adage, garbage in—garbage out, comes to mind.  The US trade with China and other totalitarian countries says much about our morals.  For example, while we preach freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assembly, and human rights, we simultaneously support regimes that deny the very foundations of our freedoms.  In so doing, we empower these counties to suppress their people.  What does this say about us?


War Thoughts

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."
-Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
-Mao Tse-Tung (1893 - 1976)

"The way to win an atomic war is to make certain it never starts."
Omar Bradley (1893 - 1981), Speech to Boston Chamber of Commerce, 1948

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
-Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948), "Non-Violence in Peace and War"

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
-John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)

"It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."
-Robert E. Lee (1807 - 1870)

""Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children . . . Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
-Dwight D Eisenhower, from "The Chance for Peace" address delivered before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

""Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
-Hermann Goering

All Cell phones are equal

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
-George Orwell, "1984", first sentence

Today's cell phone system argues for retaining network neutrality
Friday July 21, 2006 (08:00 PM GMT)
By: James Glass

For now, Internet service providers are prohibited from discriminating against connections to particular sites on the Internet: they are required to treat traffic to Google exactly the same as traffic to Yahoo! or MSN. This principle of equality is called "network neutrality." However, large telecommunication companies are lobbying congress to scrap the network neutrality rules that have been in place since the birth of the Internet. We don't have to look far to see why this is a bad idea.

Net neutrality proponents foretell a grim future for the Internet if net neutrality is scrapped: one where technology stagnates because of high entry barriers and one where a small oligarchy controls what consumers can and cannot experience. Those who want to eliminate neutrality dismiss this as alarmist, and claim that net neutrality would remove the incentive for broadband providers to build the next generation of Internet infrastructure, which all agree is sorely needed in the US.

With such wildly divergent ideas about the effects of a simple policy, wouldn't it be nice if history provided some guidance from which to evaluate these claims?

It turns out that we have a privately owned and controlled network all around us, one that closely mirrors the technical functionality of the Internet, but where there has never been a requirement for net neutrality: the US cellular phone network.

Almost all cell phones sold in the developed world have the ability to send and receive SMS (short message service) text messages. SMS is gaining popularity in the US, but only as a way to send quick messages to friends. So why aren't there a wealth of amazing and interactive services available for mobile devices? Why is there no MySpace, Craigslist, Amazon, Flikr, or eBay accessible through this network? Why are cell phone payment systems and email systems nearly nonexistent? Why haven't charities raised money or awareness of their causes through this system?

It's simple. Because the cell phone carriers control what services are allowed to use their networks. There is no net neutrality on the cell phone network.

Imagine you want to create a user-moderated news service like digg.com that operates on SMS. On the neutral Internet, you rent a Web server ($7-$100 per month to start), register your name, and start programming. Total time required: less then two hours in most cases. But getting a service on the non-neutral US cell phone network would be a little different:

The first step would be to contact a company known as an aggregator. This company manages your relationships with the cell phone carriers -- and that's carriers, plural, because making an agreement with just one carrier ensures that your service will fail because it cannot effectively spread via word of mouth. The first requirement from an aggregator is a service charge, which starts at $1,000 per month. Then, you must buy a shortcode (which kind of serves as your Web site name) for an additional $500-$1,000 per month. But you're not done.

The next step is satisfying the requirements of the cell phone companies. Many of these steps, such as requiring affirmative opt-in before a subscription can start, are not burdensome, and serve to protect the carriers' customers. Others, however, border on ludicrous. Requirements vary by carrier, but some prohibit operators from offering games or sweepstakes, or require that subscription periods can only be monthly: not daily, weekly, or yearly. Others require that content, such as ringtones, be locked so users can't forward them from their phones to their friends' phones.

Other requirements are outright offensive: as of this writing, Cingular, Sprint/Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon all prohibit charities from raising money though their Premium SMS services. Too bad for the United Way, Greenpeace, and the Red Cross.

Some carriers also have "decency" restrictions that are so silly and restrictive that they make the production code that governed movies between 1934 and 1967 seem quaint. Verizon is the worst offender in this case: It prohibits dating services, images that are suggestive (the same images would be acceptable if aired on prime-time network TV), and any use of "crude" words, including such shockers as "fornicate" and "genital."

After you make your application compliant to the carriers' requirements, you wait weeks or months for the carriers to approve it, and jump through more hoops if they reject your application, which they can do for any or no reason.

In practical terms, you'd never get approval for your brand new peer-mediated news service. Even if you were able to set up filters to block images and bad words, you'd still be sunk: Verizon prohibits "un-moderated chatting, flirting and/or peer-to-peer communication services."

Even if you could slip your service past the censors, you would already have been set back eight weeks and many thousands of dollars -- and this is just the beginning. Next, the carrier will charge you a fee (a few cents, typically) for every message you send to your users, and charge your users to receive your messages -- and charge them to send you messages. Just imagine where craigslist.org would be if it had to pay a few cents every time someone browsed an ad, and you had to pay as well. It's no wonder SMS services are overpriced and haven't grown beyond a niche market for ringtones and horoscopes.

This sad state of affairs is what lies in wait if we let commercial interests take control of the Internet. Expect the same type of behavior from AT&T, Comcast, and the rest of the oligarchs. It doesn't take much imagination to imagine Verizon treating their Internet property just like their cell phone network -- short-sightedly milking it for all it's worth, at great expense to the public, and to the future.

James Glass (not his real name) is the owner of a company currently trying to navigate the minefield of running a third-party service on the cell phone networks. He is writing the article pseudonymously because the cell phone companies have the power and freedom to crush his company by blocking it from their networks.

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."
George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

17 July 2006

In full: Bush and Blair's unguarded chat

In full: Bush and Blair's unguarded chat

The Middle East crisis has caused a major headache for world leaders
A full transcript of the off-the-cuff conversation between US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during a break at the G8 conference in Russia.
The president was caught on tape using an expletive as he described the actions of Hezbollah in attacking Israel.

The two men start by discussing an exchange of gifts:
Updated: 9:43 a.m. ET July 17, 2006
Not realizing his remarks were being picked up by a microphone, President Bush bluntly expressed his frustration with Hezbollah, and his preference for diet Coke during the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg. Read a transcript of his comments:

Bush to Putin: I gotta leave by 2:15. They want me out of town so they can free up your security forces.

No, just going to make it up. I'm not going to talk too long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.
Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. How about you? Where are you going home? This is your neighborhood doesn't take you long to get home.

You eight hours? Me too. Russia’s a big country and you’re a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. Russia’s big and so is China.

Yo, Blair. What are you doing? Are you leaving?

Blair: No, not yet. On this trade thing…

Bush: Yeah, I told that to (inaudible). If you want me to. I just want some movement. Yesterday I didn't see much movement. The desire to move.

Blair: It may be that it’s impossible.

Bush: I'll be glad to say. Who's introducing me?

Blair: Angela

Bush: Well tell her to call on it. Well, tell her to put me on the spot.

Thanks for the sweater; it was awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself.

Blair: Oh yes absolutely - in fact I knitted it!!!


Bush: What about Kofi Annan - he seems alright. I don't like his ceasefire plan. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything sorts out.... But I think...

Blair: Yeah the only thing I think is really difficult is that we can't stop this without getting international presence agreed. I think what you guys have talked about which is the criticism of the [inaudible word). I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.

Bush: Yeah I think Condi's [US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) gonna go soon.

Blair: Well that's all that matters but if you... You see at least it gets it going.

Bush: I agree it's a process...I told her your offer too.

Blair: Well it's only if she needs the ground prepared as it were. If she goes out she HAS to succeed whereas I can just go and...

Bush: You see the irony is what they need to is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's all over...

Blair: Dunno... Syria....

Bush: Why?

Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing...

Bush: (with mouth full of bread) Yeah

Blair: Look - what does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine. If you get a solution in Israel and Palestine. Iraq goes in the right way

Bush: Yeah - he's [indistinct]

Blair: Yeah.... He's had it. That's what all this is about - it's the same with Iran

Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.

Blair: Yeah

BUSH: [indistinct] blaming Israel and [indistinct] blaming the Lebanese government....

The Angry Arab

This guy does not seem to like ANYBODY or any government.... He provides an intereting perspective. I can't say I agree with him but it is informative none the less:


and some other interesting links:

Hezbollah and the art of the possible

Hezbollah and the art of the possible
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - The decision by Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, to bomb the northern Israeli town of Haifa was received with mixed emotions in Lebanon and the Arab world. Those who wanted to see pain inflicted on Israel organized massive parades in his favor in Damascus, Amman, Baghdad and Cairo.

Others, however, claimed that Nasrallah was leading the Arabs to where Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser had led them in 1967 - to unforgivable defeat. Because of Nasser's adventurism, the Arabs lost the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Like Nasser, they claim, Nasrallah is a true patriot, but both leaders were greatly misinformed about the might of the enemy, and the power of their own armies.

They also underestimated Israel's standing and friends in the international community, which since 1967 have exceeded those of the Arabs - at least in quantity. Many in the Arab world, including the regimes of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, see Nasrallah as the new Nasser who will lead his people to certain defeat. Saudi Arabia even issued an official statement warning against "irresponsible adventurism adopted by certain elements within the state" in Lebanon.

The Saudis did not, however, mention Hezbollah by name. It would be only natural for the Saudis, who are historically at odds with Iran, and tactical allies of Saad al-Hariri, the current leader of Lebanon's Sunni community and a member of parliament, to oppose the adventurism of Nasrallah. Too much Saudi money and investment, from the days of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, is at stake in Lebanon.

The Saudis are the traditional backers of the Sunni community that is led by the Hariri family, which wants a Westernized, economy-oriented country and not a hotbed for revolutionary warfare. They cannot afford to losing their influence in Lebanon and have it replaced by that of Iran - which is exactly what happens whenever Hezbollah gets the upper hand in Lebanese politics.

For his part, in an inflammatory speech, Nasrallah addressed the Saudis directly (but also without mentioning them by name), saying, "We have been adventurers for all our life and brought nothing but honor and freedom for our country."

Sunday's rocket attacks on Haifa hit a train station on Shenem Beach and caused havoc among the port city's 270,000 residents. Nine Israelis were killed and another 23 were wounded. It was the first time Haifa had been attacked since it was taken from the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

In addition to raising the moral of Nasrallah's supporters (and fears of his critics from what responses the attack would generate), the attack on Haifa proved that the Hezbollah leader was not kidding when he said that he could strike deep into the Israeli interior.

Not only did Nasrallah bomb Haifa, but he also landed missiles on the city of Acre in the western Galilee, 152 kilometers from Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said there would be "far-reaching consequences" for the attack, warning all citizens in Tel Aviv to be on high alert for more Hezbollah rockets.

On Friday, Nasrallah had caused more divisions in the Arab world. Just when it seemed he was being defeated, he came out on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV and announced that an Israeli warship off the coast of Beirut had been hit by Hezbollah rockets. Four Israeli sailors were reported missing after the attack. According to Al-Jazeera reports, the Israelis then tried to land paratroopers in Sidon, but their attempt was foiled by Hezbollah.

In a weekend speech, Nasrallah again defiantly addressed the Israelis, saying, "You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war." He added, "Soon you will find how stupid your new government is and how it is incapable of reading the situation. It has no experience. You said in your opinion polls that you believe me more than anyone else. Believe me now - you attacked every house in Lebanon and you will pay for that."

He then said: "Our homes will not be the only ones to be destroyed. Our children will not be the only ones to die." Then Nasrallah landed rockets inside Israel, on the city of Tiberias - another attack unprecedented since 1948.

Israel responded to Hezbollah's attacks with even mightier force. For days now it has been bombing the southern suburbs of Beirut, where Hezbollah and the Shi'ite population are densely located. In all, more than 500,000 people live in the district, known as al-Dahiya.

Residents have left their homes and are sleeping in the streets. Education Minister Khalid Qabbani has ordered that all public schools remain open to serve as shelters to the displaced.

During the civil war (1975-90) the residents of al-Dahiya used to flee to other parts of Beirut whenever their neighborhoods were unsafe to live in, and vice-versa when Beirut was in flames. Today, both Beirut and al-Dahiya are unsafe. The offices of Hezbollah in the suburbs of the Lebanese capital were bombed, as was its radio station Al-Nour and television station Al-Manar. The party's nine-floor headquarters was destroyed, as was the political office in Haret Hreik (a leading Shi'ite neighborhood).

The country, Beirut included, currently lives in complete blackouts. At the time of writing, more than 100 Lebanese have been killed and another 300 have been wounded.

No end in sight
The crisis in Lebanon is far from coming to an end. Olmert has put forward his country's terms for a ceasefire, which includes the disarming of Hezbollah and the return of the two Israeli soldiers captured inside Lebanon last Wednesday. Hezbollah has turned down both requests, insisting on a prisoner exchange with Israel.

But for the sake of argument, let's say that Israel agrees to Hezbollah's terms and exchanges prisoners with Nasrallah. It has done it in the past, with Nasrallah himself in 2004 and with Ahmad Jibril, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), in November 1985.

The "Jibril Deal" was amazing, when the PFLP-GC traded six Israeli soldiers held by the Palestinians for 4,765 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in Lebanon. Some criticize Israel for giving up hundreds of Palestinians ("terrorists" in the eyes of the Israeli public) for the sake of a few - or one, Israeli soldier.

Israeli leaders, however, were never embarrassed by such action since it reflected high ethics and was considered true patriotism to pay a price no matter how high for the release or remains of a captured Israel soldier. It is also viewed as a great sacrifice to give comfort to the families of Israeli troops.

One example, however, should immediately come to the minds of the Israelis who are refusing to listen to Hezbollah's requests. It is the case of Israeli Air Force officer Ron Arad, who parachuted into Lebanon when his aircraft was damaged while on a mission to attack Palestinian bases in October 1986.

Arad was captured by the Shi'ite militia Amal, whose members broke off to create Hezbollah. Among the members of Amal at the time was the young Nasrallah. Arad's captors asked for a price to release him. The Israeli government, led at the time by Shimon Perez, refused to give in to pressure and said no, thinking that it could release him by force. It failed, and Arad disappeared.

The moral of the story is that military force does not always achieve the results sought by Israel. Israel certainly does not want the one 19-year-old held in Gaza to disappear, nor does it want Hezbollah to kill the two soldiers it has captive in Lebanon.

Jerusalem is currently asking for the release of the two prisoners and the disarming of Hezbollah. While releasing the prisoners is possible, if Israel offers Hezbollah something in return, getting Nasrallah to disarm is out of the question.

Israel should remember the words of German chancellor Otto von Bismarck: "Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable ..." And Israel forcing Hezbollah to disarm is impossible. Also, continuing this war to force Hezbollah to disarm is impossible for Israel.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "I have tasted command. I like it. And I will never give it up." Nasrallah has been in command of the largest armed sect in Lebanon since 1992. He is a highly popular leader who has a wide power base that spreads throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is wholeheartedly backed by Syria and Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ites (40% of the country's 3.7 million) are overwhelmingly with him.

Disarming Hezbollah, and writing them off the political scene in Lebanon, would be like asking the Shi'ites of Iraq, who now have real power since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, to give it up.

The Shi'ites of Lebanon have the exact same dilemma. They, too, had been the underclass in Lebanon, maltreated by Sunnis and Christians for more than 100 years. They had their day in sun under the leadership of Imam Musa al-Sadr in the 1970s, and Nasrallah from 1990s onward.

They believe that holding on to their arms is a must to protect them from further Israeli atrocities in south Lebanon, or in the case of sectarian violence inside Lebanon, from their opponents in the Lebanese political scene. Or from anybody who tries to disarm them by force, and restore them to the status of inferiors.

For all of these reasons, the Israelis will have to amend their proposal for a ceasefire in Lebanon if they want an end to hostilities. To gain the release of their arrested soldiers, they must talk to Hezbollah. And they must pay the price - Hezbollah's price - to avoid repeating the fate of Ron Arad.

Further, disarming Hezbollah should not be raised by Israel at this time as no one in Lebanon has the power to do it. Not even the Hariri bloc, which is backed by France, can get the Shi'ite guerrillas to lay down their arms.

The only solution would be for Israel to relinquish the Sheba Farms and release the remaining Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. In effect, it means doing what Nasrallah wants.

Or, it can continue in this bone-breaking war, to see which party falters first.

And as long as this happens, Hezbollah can play the Israeli card. Nasrallah can say, "We cannot lay down the arms of Hezbollah because Israel is still a threat to Lebanon."

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)

12 July 2006

No one HEAR gets out alive

Way back in the early 80's Danny Sugarman wrote a book called "No one here gets out alive", a biography of Jim Morrison

"Well, Okay then, Jim, say we got this rock group started, and say you could sing - which you can't - what are we gonna call it?"

"The Doors. There the known. And there's the unknown. And whae seperates the two is the door, and that's what I want to be. Ahh wanna be th' dooooorrrrr..."

One of the things that struck me back then was how Jim Morrison used crowd psychology in his stage shows. He read Huxley, Nietzsche and Norman O. Brown.

"In one interview when talking about how Morrison used long pregnant pauses to excite the crowd:
"But what would you do if they went berserk and rushed the stage," someone once asked him, "not out of adoration, but like they where going to kill you?" Jim Remembered Norman O. Brown and his own theory about the sexual neuroses of crowds. He seemed confident. "I always knowexactly when to do it," he said. "That excites people. You know what happens? They get frightened, and fear is very exciting. People like to get scared. It's exactly like the moment before you have an orgasm. Everybody wants that. It's a peeking experience."

Now, it seems that John Dean, of Nixon White House fame, has just written a book "Conservative Without Conscience." In the book, he claims that there is a 50 year old study that the Republican conservative movement has followed on, for lack of a better description, groupthink.

John Dean, White House legal counsel to President Nixon and the best-selling author of "Worse Than Watergate," has now authored "Conservatives Without Conscience" - a sincere, well-considered look at how conservative politics in the U.S. is veering dangerously close to authoritarianism.

John Dean, White House legal counsel to President Nixon, also served as chief minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee and as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. He writes a widely read bi-weekly column for FindLaw. This is his seventh book. Below is an excerpt of Dean's interview on MSNBC

DEAN: Goldwater Republicanism is really R.I.P. It's been put to rest by most of the people who are now active in moving the movement further to the right than it's ever been. I think that Senator [Goldwater], before he departed, was very distressed with Conservatism. In fact, it was our conversations back in 1994 that started this book. That's really where I began. We wanted to find answers to the question, "Why were Republicans acting as they were?" -- Why Conservatives had taken over the party and were being followed as easily as they were in taking the party where [Goldwater] didn't want it to go.

OLBERMANN: What did you find? -- In less than the 200 pages that the book goes into.

DEAN: I ran into a massive study that has really been going on 50 years now by academics. They've never really shared this with the general public. It's a remarkable analysis of the authoritarian personality. Both those who are inclined to follow leaders and those who jump in front and want to be the leaders. It was not the opinion of social scientists. It was information they drew by questioning large numbers of people -- hundreds of thousands of people -- in anonymous testing where [the subjects] conceded their innermost feelings and reactions to things. And it came out that most of these people were pre-qualified to be conservatives and this, did indeed, fit with the authoritarian personality.

OLBERMANN: Did the studies indicate that this really has anything to do with the political point of view? Would it be easier to impose authoritarianism over the right than it would the left? Is it theoretically possible that it could have gone in either direction and it's just a question of people who like to follow other people?

DEAN: They have found, really, maybe a small, 1%, of the left who will follow authoritarianism. Probably the far left. As far as widespread testing, it's just overwhelmingly conservative orientation.

OLBERMANN: There is an extraordinary amount of academic work that you quote in the book. A lot of it is very unsettling. It deals with psychological principles that are frightening and may have faced other nations at other times. In German and Italy in the 30's, come into mind in particular. But, how does it apply now? To what degree should it scare us and to what degree is it something that might be forestalled?

DEAN: To me, it was something of an epiphany to run into this information. First, I'd never read about it before. I sort of worked my way into it until I found it. It's not generally known out there, what's going on. I think, from the best we can tell, these people -- the followers -- a few of them will change their ways when the realize that they are doing -- not even aware of what they are doing. The leaders, those inclined to dominate, they're not going to change for a second. They're going to be what they are. So, by and large, the reason I write about this is, I think we need to understand it. We need to realize that when you take a certain step of vote a certain way, heading in a certain direction, where this can end up. So, it's sort of a cautionary note. It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there.

"I'm a spy in the house of love.
I know the dreams, that you're dreamin' of.
I know the words that you long to hear.
I know your deepest, secret fear.
I know your deepest, secret fear.
I know your deepest, secret fear. I'm a spy, I can see you
What you do.
And I know."

OLBERMANN: And the idea of leaders and followers going down this path or perhaps taking a country down this path requires -- this whole edifice requires and enemy. Communism, al Qaeda, Democrats, me... whoever for the two-minutes hate. I overuse the Orwellian analogies to nauseating proportions. But it really was, in reading what you wrote about, especially what the academics talked about. There was that two-minutes hate. There has to be an opponent, an enemy, to coalesce around or the whole thing falls apart. Is that the gist of it?

DEAN: It is one of the things, believe it or not, that still holds conservatism together. There is many factions in conservatism and their dislike or hatred of those they betray as liberal, who will basically be anybody who disagrees with them, is one of the cohesive factors. There are a few others but that's certainly one of the basics. There's no question that, particularly the followers, they're very aggressive in their effort to pursue and help their authority figure out or authority beliefs out. They will do what ever needs to be done in many regards. They will blindly follow. They stay loyal too long and this is the frightening part of it.

OLBERMANN: Let me read something from the book. Let me read this one quote then I have a question about it. "Many people believe that neoconservatives and many Republicans appreciate that they are more likely to maintain influence and control of the presidency if the nation remains under ever-increasing threats of terrorism, so they have no hesitation in pursuing policies that can provoke the potential terrorists throughout the world." That's ominous, not just in the sense that authoritarians involved in conservatism and now Republicanism would politicize counter-terror here which we've already argued that point on many occasions. Are you actually saying that they would set up -- encourage terrorism from other countries to set them up as a boogey man to have, again, that group to hate here -- more importantly, afraid of?

DEAN: What I'm saying is that there has been fear mongering, the likes of which we have not seen in a long time in this country. It happened early in the cold war. We got accustomed to it. We learned to live with it. We learned to understand what it was about and get it in proportion. We haven't done that yet with terrorism. And this administration is really capitalizing on it and using it for its' political advantage. No question, the academic testing show -- the empirical evidence shows -- when people are frightened, they tend to go to these authority figures. They tend to become more conservative. So, it's paid off for them politically to do this.

OLBERMANN: This all seems to require, not merely, venality or immorality but a kind of amorality where morals don't enter into it at all. "We're right. So anything we do to preserve our process, our power -- even if it by itself is wrong -- it's right in the greater sense." It's that wonderful rationalization that everybody uses in small doses throughout their lives. But, is this idea, this sort of psychological sort of review of the whole thing, does it apply to Dick Cheney? Does it apply to George Bush? Does it apply to Bill Frist? Who are the names on these authoritarian figures?

DEAN: You just named three that I discuss at some length in the book. I focused in the book, not on the Bush Administration and Cheney and The President because they had really been there done that, but what I wanted to understand is what they have done is made it legitimate to have authoritarianism. It was already operating on Capitol Hill after the '94 control by the Republicans in Congress. It recreated the mood. It restructured Congress itself in a very authoritarian style, in the House in particular. The Senate hasn't gone there yet but it's going there because more House members are moving over. This atmosphere is what Bush and Cheney walked into. They are authoritarian personalities. Cheney much more so than Bush. They have made it legitimate and they have taken way past where anybody's ever taken it in the United States.

OLBERMANN: Our society's best defense against that is what? Do we have to hope, as you suggested, the people that follow, wise up and break away from this sort of lockstep salute to, "of course, they're right, of course there are WMDs, of course there are terrorists, of course there is al Qaeda, of course everything is the way the president says it." Or do we rely on the hope that these are fanatics and fanatics always screw up because they would rather believe in their own cause than double-check their own math.

DEAN: The lead researcher in this field told me, he said, "I look at the numbers of the United States and I see about 23% of the population who are pure right-wing authoritarian followers." They're not going to change. They're going to march over the cliff. The best thing to deal with them -- and they're growing, and they have a tremendous influence on Republican politics -- The best defense is understanding them, to realize what they are doing, how they're doing it and how they operate. Then it can be kept in perspective and they can be seen for what they are.

All this reminded me of the stuff that Danny Sugarman wrote about Jim Morrison's theory on crowd control. Morrison read quite a bit of Friedrich Nietzsche and the idea of "Uberman" I always found this stuff fascinating and was probably the impetus for me reading Machiavelli and Nietzsche.

"Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

of course, there is also the warning from him:

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
-Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

or, put another way:

"Five to one, baby
One in five
No one here gets out alive, now
You get yours, baby
I'll get mine
Gonna make it, baby
If we try

The old get old
And the young get stronger
May take a week
And it may take longer
They got the guns
But we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah
We're takin' over
Come on!"