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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Tuesday, 29 August 2006
What if they didn't report?
Topic: Politics

I'm not one for censorship, but there are times when it's obvious that the media can change events merely by being around to report them. This week, two kidnapped Fox News journalists were freed by the Islamic militant group that had captured them in Gaza. One of them said on his release:

"I just hope this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover this story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful, kind-hearted, loving people who the world need to know more about and so do not be discouraged. Come and tell the story. It's a wonderful story."

But that got me to thinking - what if journalists did refuse to go to Gaza? I think it would be a positive thing. If Palestinians really are the "very beautiful, kind-hearted, loving people who the world need to know more about" then is it too much to ask that they don't kidnap the journalists who are going to tell their version of events? I think a media boycott would benefit Gazans and journalists worldwide. Perhaps if there had been a temporary media boycott a few years ago, these two wouldn't have been kidnapped in the first place.

On a connected theme, I was struck by a comment in the middle of this report about a trip to southern Israel, near the border with Gaza: 

Key Quote:

“Lots of Qassams hit this city,” Shika said. “Most people killed by the Qassams live here.”

“How many rockets are hitting the city right now?” I said.

“Not as many today,” he said. “Because of the war in Lebanon.”

“What does Lebanon have to do with it?” I said.

“All the journalists forgot about us during the Lebanon war. So the terrorists are waiting for the media to come back before firing rockets again. They don’t want to waste those they have.”

“That can’t be the only reason,” I said. “The IDF has been active in Gaza this entire time. Surely that has something to do with it.”

“Yes,” he said. “Also because of the IDF.

Later two more Israelis repeated what Shika said about Hamas and Islamic Jihad cooling their rocket launchers while the media’s attention was elsewhere. I haven’t heard any official confirmation from either side that it’s true.

(Emphasis mine)

I realise this is merely anecdotal, but it makes a lot of sense. Terrorists see the western media as a front in their strategy.

_ DY at 1:14 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006 1:30 PM BST
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Friday, 25 August 2006
A poker hand.
Topic: Poker

I'm playing the Gutshot Series of Poker today. It's the best structured mid-price tournament that there has ever been on British soil. If you have the time and £330 is in your price range, you really must play it.  Gutshot are to be commended for putting this on.

Talking of NL freezeouts, I'm reminded that I played a £100 one at the Western a couple of weeks ago. I'd heard that there was to be a £3,000 guarantee and went hoping that only 15 people would show up! Alas it was not to be. The tournament attracted 57 runners, rougly half of whom had 'qualified' at a pub called the Captain Morgan. As the guarantee was in no threat of being invoked, the Western topped up the pool by £300 to make it a round £6,000. Nice one.

A good turnout.


As the event was well structured and well run, it was annoying that I got very unlucky and was knocked out on the bubble by none other than the eventual winner, Mark Strahan, author of a 25,000-copy selling poker book, which tragically I've never found time to read. Mark has inaccurately described the hand on his website, so I thought I would put this one to you. I'm happy with how I've played it - I don't think there's much special about what I've done. Instead I'm interested in whether readers think that Mark's played this wrong.

His account: 

We were down to 10 players left, with only nine to go through to the final. Someone had vetoed the idea of a 10th prize and I was fine with that. Playing two tables of five each, I'm on the big blind with Mark on my right in the small blind (not 'late position' as he describes) when to my surprise I see two people limp in early position for 1200. Mark made up for the 600 small blind and I looked down to see AA. It's very rare to have people limping in pots at this stage of the tournament. It tends to be a 'pump or dump' moment. But there was quite a lot of play in the game thanks to the generous chip allocation of 5,000 points and a reasonable clock interval of 30 minutes. I think the average stack was about 24,000 at this stage and I had 16,500 before posting the BB.

Upon finding the aces, I raised 7,000. There was 4,800 of blinds in the middle. It's a bit more than I would normally raise to win this, but I thought it would thin the field and I might get action from one of the early position limpers regardless of the amount if they were trapping with KK or QQ.

The limpers folded and then to my surprise, Mark asked me 'How much more have you got, Dave?' I replied ''8,300' and he said 'I'm all in'. I said 'So am I'.

Mark showed JJ and won when a jack hit on the turn.  This was frustrating of course. I wouldn't have minded so much if Mark had raised and then called my re-raise. That would be a fairly common blind skirmish encounter. What I couldn't understand was how his hand was worth 600 more one minute and 17,000 the next. How had it gone up in value so much? His unsolicited answer was 'I thought you were at it'.

Hmmm. I think that answer says more about how Mark plays or thinks most others play than it says about me. That's a clue by the way to many people's thinking. They reckon that others think like them. So the way they interpret someone else's action is through the prism of how they would play the hand in the same circumstances. That's one way you can get a line of someone's play without being in a hand against them.

What interests me more is whether Mark's call before the flop made sense. Obviously his hand is not to be folded, but shouldn't it be raise? I think it's a clear raising situation. You should like JJ, but not want to play them four handed out of position if possible. But at least one well respected player has told me that he agreed with what Mark did, but added that instead of re-raising he'd have flat called the 7,000 and then led into me on the flop regardless of what fell as a stop'n'go. (See comments to find out who)

I'm dubious about this I have to say. If you don't like raising with JJ because you fear that the early position limpers might have the hand dominiated, surely my raise should be feared because I've shown that I don't fear them? Unless you think I'm just some wild reckless gambler that is.

The worthy winner!

Monday, 21 August 2006
Terror threatens Germany.
Topic: Politics

What are Germans to make of the news that two young men, at least one of whom had middle-eastern connections, attempted to explode bombs on trains packed with commuters? In contrast to Britain, where terrorist apologists can be relied upon to quickly rustle up a few excuses about various provocations, it's not obvious what Germans could do differently. They have no troops in Iraq, no troops in Afghanistan, no involvement in Algeria, no involvement in Chechnya, no ban on headscarves and didn't publish cartoons about Mohammed!  

Despite trying hard to be good infidels, they are still targets.

_ DY at 12:43 AM BST
Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006 2:01 PM BST
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Sunday, 20 August 2006
Carb addiction.
Topic: Misc.

In recent years I've become fairly convinced that carbohydrate and not fat is the real enemy the west faces if it wishes to combat the epidemic of obesity. In my own case, I find I can lose weight without feeling too hungry if I focus on meals that are based on meat, fish, vegatables and salad. Several times a week I go to a local 'greasy spoon' for a fry up breakfast and I find it keeps me full for most of the day. In fact the effect is so strong that I usually don't feel like eating again for seven or eight hours. That never happens if I eat the sort of Bran/Muesli swill that the 'experts' recommend. The result with those is that my body is screaming for more food in under three hours, often sooner.

On a whim today I did a google search for 'carbohydate addict' to see whether anyone thinks such a person exists and discovered this quiz: 

Answering the questions on the assumption that I eat some carbohyrdate in my diet, I find that I score almost 100 per cent! So that's me then! Luckily I've been off the carbs for a couple of weeks now and I've lost about six or seven pounds since then. Clothes are starting to fit more comfortably, which is nice.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting critique of the film 'Supersize Me' from a doctor who promotes a low-carb, high protein diet -

_ DY at 3:38 AM BST
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Friday, 18 August 2006
The Year of the Car Park?
Topic: Poker
As others have noted, it wasn't a good WSOP main event for those who promote the idea that the name players have a substantial edge over the field. Not only was the winner, Jamie Gold, a complete unknown, but so too was virtually everyone else in the last 100. After Gryko got knocked out in 50th place, I think there were only three people left I'd heard of!

Faced with that, I can't help wondering whether this was bound to happen, given the plethora of books about No Limit hold'em that have been written in recent years, and the huge amount of actually quite good blogging about poker hands and situations (mercifully surrounded by a lot of crap too). There used to be a rule about not educating the weaker players - "Coaches in the Car Park!"

Luckily there are still plenty of people who are capable of reading a good poker book and completely misunderstanding the context in which its advice applies. But in a field of nearly 9,000 players, there's going to be about a thousand who are clever enough to digest the advice and know when to apply it and when not to. With the addition of many more skilled players, along with the increased field sizes, perhaps your skill level matters less than your stamina; knowing the odds and the moves being less important than being able to apply any skill at all after nine long days of play!

But what if someone wrote a really bad book? I'm not pointing any fingers here, as I've not read much of the output of recent years, but isn't it interesting that in the year following the publication of 'Kill Phil', Phil Hellmuth has one of his best WSOPs!

Wednesday, 16 August 2006
More nonsense about online poker.
Topic: Poker

I bought Private Eye this morning and discovered an ad at the back in the 'Eye Bet' section of the classifieds (page 37). It read 'Are you a loser? online poker help. '

Well obviously I couldn't resist checking the site out. Of course it's a load of bollocks. I feel confident saying that, because it contradicts itself massively. On the intro page, it assures you that it's possible for online players to purchase software to help them cheat. But if you click on the link titled "How to make a six figure income playing online poker" you get to a page written by a 'Danish' online professional, who speaks his mind about online poker on the clickable link (in a mid-West American accent) and he firmly dismisses claims that online programmes can assist players. What a difference a page can make!

I'd love to say that you can take his word for it, but given that he also claims that he can teach you to: 'Win more pots day after day and skyrocket your earnings' and how to 'Never lose to a gambler with lucky cards again', that may not be possible.

PS - the sound file in which 'Kim Birch' claims that online poker rigging software doesn't work is near the bottom of the page, next to his photo and not the one at the top. By the way, does anyone else think that it's two different voices?

_ DY at 4:04 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006 4:09 PM BST
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Saturday, 12 August 2006
Guest contribution, from Frode Gjesdal.
Topic: Poker

Poker tournament deals – why take the money off the top?

By Frode Gjesdal

The other day I was in a poker tournament. Ninety two players had started, which meant the nine last remaining players would be paid. The first prize was some £24,000 while 9th would pay just over £2,000. When we got down to 13 or 14 players somebody (from the table with 40 per cent of the chips in the tournament, incidentally) suggested a deal should be made, taking money off the top two prizes to secure places 10-13 the tournament entry of £750. Everybody agreed, except, as is so often the case, the one Scandinavian at the table - me.

Now I don’t have a problem with deals in principle, but I don’t usually make them. For a number of strategic reasons, which I will not get into here, I think they are a mistake for a person with average or above average chips to agree to. But this is not the point I am trying to make.  What I feel was wrong about the deal proposed, and the deals that are normally proposed, is that you should take money off the top prizes to pay for the all the remaining players in the tournament.

Ask yourself this question; who benefits from this deal at this point? Surely most people would agree that the players with short stacks do. They are, after all, more likely than the big stacks to be knocked out before the money. They are also less likely than the players with more chips to go on and win the tournament. If a deal is struck, it secures money for people who are the most likely to finish just off the money or just into the money. Some of the pressure is off.  

Well if this is the case, money to pay every remaining player in the tournament should be taken from the smaller prizes not the bigger ones. I don’t see what is fair about asking the chip leader to give up equity to pay for the shorter stacks. If, as I pointed out above, the shorter stacks are the beneficiaries of the deal, then the shorter stacks should pick up the tab, instead of asking the chip leader for a free ride.

_ DY at 4:30 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 12 August 2006 4:36 PM BST
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Thursday, 10 August 2006
Guest contribution, from Dominic Bourke.
Topic: Misc.

Are you gambling responsibly?

By Dominic Bourke 

There is a dealer at the Gutshot cardroom in London who is affectionately known as Polish Mike. When sitting down to deal, he invariably greets the punters with the words ‘Please remember to gamble responsibly'. This is inevitably met with much laughter, followed by people betting bottom pair as if they held the holy grail itself. While Mike is a very likeable guy, he has one major flaw, and that is that he is massively underemployed. He should in fact be Governor of the Bank Of England. If the BOE aren’t going to employ him in their top job (he couldn’t do worse than Mervyn King, the present incumbent) then they should at least put him on the payroll. They could buy him a huge megaphone and station him outside large banks and major lending centres and as people entered these buildings he could shout at them ‘Please remember to gamble responsibly!’ Hopefully these punters would be more receptive than most poker players.

Why do I think Polish Mike should be in charge of British Monetary policy? Because the largest threat to the British economy is people gambling, sorry investing with almost psychotic irresponsibility. No one personifies this problem more succinctly than Sayara Beg.  Fortunately the BBC have given this lady her own blog, so I don’t need to go into too much depth explaining her situation, you can read it for yourself:  


To give you a brief précis:


Her husband’s business was struggling, so they remortgaged their house and took out a personal loan. They also have two buy-to-let properties mortgaged up to the hilt, as well as credit card debts. Having decided that they were earning way too much money to service their meagre debts (which as a figure in the air guess, I would estimate are at least £500k) they decided to have a baby. Unfortunately shortly after she got pregnant, she was released from her job.


And guess what? One income, especially an uncertain one such as owning a restaurant, was not sufficient to service their mountain of debt. She is now using a news organization funded by you and I, to whinge and whine about how unfair it all is.


What galls me most about this woman isn’t the fact that she has taken a punt and that it has gone wrong. God knows any poker player/gambler could empathise with that. We have all punted a racing certainty and watched it get beat and many people, myself included, are nailed on to do it again (if Vorteeva runs at Tipperary on Thursday, my mortgage will be firmly on the line.) No, the real problem with this woman, and by extension with the British economy is that she refuses to take any responsibility for her situation. None of it is her fault; she feels she should take exactly 0% of the blame. So you have no guaranteed income in your family (he owns a restaurant, she is a freelancer) you rack up what must be a minimum of half a million pounds worth of debt, then you decide to have a baby. Yet when you can’t service your debt it isn’t your fault???


She points out in her first entry that she is different from most people who go broke, because she didn’t spend money she didn’t have on a shopping spree. Actually that is exactly what she did, only rather than buy Dolce and Gabbana dresses or Rolex watches, she bought buy-to lets, I guess the main difference is that if you have a cash flow problem you can flog a Rolex on Ebay way quicker than you can sell a studio flat in Bermondsey.


Further evidence of her sanctimoniousness comes when she reveals that by contacting her banks with a plan of action, she genuinely believes she has fulfilled all her responsibilities to them. The fact that she offers them the worst financial deal in the world by resolving to take a 6-month payment holiday, during which she will pay no interest nor pay any charges and after which they will simply continue as normal as though nothing has happened, doesn’t seem to be reason enough to her for them turning it down. If anyone doesn’t realise why this is such an awful deal for any bank to agree to, I will quite happily take £10k off their hands, pay no interest or charges on it, and then give them the £10k back in 6 months time. She takes her creditors refusal to countenance such an offer as proof that they simply have no desire to allow her to have her baby in peace, rather than what it actually is, namely commercial companies taking decisions that reflect their desire to act as ‘For Profit’ organisations rather than charities.


I don’t want to appear heartless here. I am after all a human being. I think it is nothing short of tragic that someone who is heavily pregnant has got herself into this situation. I really do hope that nothing that is happening at the moment affects the child and the baby is delivered healthy and happy. But the truth is that this lady’s attitude affects all of us. There are so many people who feel that they have a right to borrow unlimited amounts of money, and that any investment they make with that money has a divine right to be risk free. There are so many people out there who delude themselves into thinking they are ‘Asset rich, but cash poor’ when in fact their debts are worth more than their assets, which in layman’s terms means they are skint.


The problem is that when enough of these people find their house of cards collapsing around them, it will give not just them, but also the entire British economy a hell of a problem. It is no surprise therefore that the banks have now decided to take action, for example in the last year HBOS have lowered the limits of 600,000 credit card customers. It seems that if the British public are not going to listen to Polish Mike and gamble responsibly, then the financial institutions have decided that they aren’t going to allow the bets to be placed with their money.

_ DY at 2:37 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006 2:51 PM BST
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Tuesday, 8 August 2006
Errors in my Hendon Mob database entry / Weekly competitions in London
Topic: Poker

I've just looked at my Hendon Mob database entry and am surprised to see some glaring errors. The reason I was looking was that I was trying to remember when it was that I came second to Jac Arama in a £50 or £100 omaha comp at the Vic. That was the day that I got to know Allan Engel (aka Fred Titmus), who came third. The Mob doesn't mention it, perhaps because it was not officially a festival tournament, thought it took place on the Sunday when the festival's main event finished and wasn't a regular weekly fixture. Nowadays the same event is a £300 or £500 hold'em freezeout and does count as a festival event.

My database entry contains the following errors:

I didn't start playing poker until summer 1995, so the bottom two entries relating to events in 1993 and February 95 have nothing to do with me. In the case of the former, it's probably Doug Young from Brighton who should be credited.

Doug Young is probably the person who scored in the Dec 2002 and Jan 2004 Brighton comps. I'm fairly sure I wasn't at either of those festivals.

Similarly I have no recollection of being in Atlantic City in March this year (though I was there in December for a few days on holiday).

If anyone in charge of data integrity at the HM forum is reading this, then please feel free to remove the incorrect entries.

The rest are certainly mine. It's nice to be reminded of some of them. My record doesn't look that exciting once the bogus entries are removed, but I don't actually play that many festival comps like those recorded. There is less need to than ever before. Living in London I have access to the following weekly comps:


£250 Freezeout at the Sportsman


£100 Freezeout at the Western (new fixture, website shows a £3k guarantee)

£250 Freezeout at the Palm Beach


£100 rebuy comp at the Palm Beach

£30 with one add-on at Gutshot (I would treat this as a £60 freezeout)


£250 Freezeout at the Palm Beach

£50 Freezeout at Gutshot


£100 rebuy comp at the Sportsman


£100 Freezeout at Gutshot


£300 Freezeout at the Palm Beach

My track record at the Sportsman is very strong - three top 3 finishes in only 5 visits. Sadly I've never made the money in the Saturday Gutshot comp, which I think I've played about 7 or 8 times. Played three times at Palm Beach and never got anywhere.

Friday, 4 August 2006
Interesting reminder from Christopher Hitchens.
Topic: Politics

Here's an interesting article from Christopher Hitchens reminding readers of something that has been forgotten in the current conflagration in the Middle East - that Palestinians were likely to be given a referendum on the issue of recognition of Israel.

I'm normally a bit sceptical of people who say 'the timing is suspicious'. I recall lots of people telling me that the timing was suspicious when the coalition announced the capture of Saddam Hussein. Many were of the view that he'd been captured beforehand and the news only released when ... ... well that's the point. I can't remember why December 2003 was so important and I doubt any of the people who said it was suspcious at the time can remember now either.

But Hitchens asks the question:

Does it not seem obvious that the intention of the various provocations launched from Gaza, from the missiles to the first abduction of an Israeli soldier, were designed precisely to make this referendum impossible? And does it not seem at least very likely that the Hezbollah operations on Israel’s northern border have been implicitly coordinated to assist Hamas in this respect?

And I think it's certainly a possibility. But I've also heard people claim that Iran wanted to distract the UN from its nuclear programme. Of the two explanations, I find the Hitchens' rationale more convincing, but both could be false. Whatever the case, a referendum would have been very interesting. It would be interesting to know whether Palestinians accepted Hamas for its social programmes, but rejected its warlike intentions. Alas we won't know any time soon.


_ DY at 6:52 PM BST
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Wednesday, 2 August 2006
Gryko - falling in my estimation
Topic: Poker

It doesn't get much more ironic than this.

A few years ago, Rob Hollink was chip leader at the end of day one of the WSOP championship event, back when there was only one day 1! Lots of people piled on to the European poker forums to congratulate him. A rare dissenting voice came from Richard Gryko, who said that Rob had fallen in his estimation, because he was sure that anyone who was chip leader at the end of day one must have played badly.

It was at that point that Gryko truly rose in my estimation. I thought it was a brilliant insight that nearly everyone else had missed. So just what am I to make of the news that this year, Gryko was chip leader at the end of Day1C, with over 125,000 chips?


ps - I've been showing some American friends around London for the last few days and therefore have been too busy to sit down and compose a response to the comments you've sent in about Mark Steyn. I will write a thorough defence of his/my position once their brief trip is over. I will just say that I took them to Gutshot on Monday night and they had a brilliant time. There's nothing like it in NYC!

_ DY at 2:15 AM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006 2:19 AM BST
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Friday, 28 July 2006
The no-state solution.
Topic: Politics

Excellent piece by Mark Steyn on the involvement of Iran in the Middle East: 

The money quote:

Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian opportunism on Palestine has caught up with them: it's finally dawned on them that a strategy of consciously avoiding resolution of the "Palestinian question" has helped deliver Gaza, and Lebanon, and Syria, into the hands of a regime that's a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Zionist Entity. Cairo and co grew so accustomed to whining about the Palestinian pseudocrisis decade in decade out that it never occurred to them that they might face a real crisis one day: a Middle East dominated by an apocalyptic Iran and its local enforcers, in which Arab self-rule turns out to have been a mere interlude between the Ottoman sultans and the eternal eclipse of a Persian nuclear umbrella. The Zionists got out of Gaza and it's now Talibanistan redux.The Zionists got out of Lebanon and the most powerful force in the country (with an ever growing demographic advantage) are Iran's Shia enforcers. There haven't been any Zionists anywhere near Damascus in 60 years and Syria is in effect Iran's first Sunni Arab prison bitch.

_ DY at 3:22 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 4:35 PM BST
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Night time quiz shows.
Topic: Television

I'm astonished that I haven't seen much media comment on the new breed of night-time call-in quiz shows on TV, which offer substantial prizes in return for charging callers premium rates. Today I watched one for a few minutes in which viewers were presented with this:

"Fourteen plus six times three minus two"

along with the instruction 'Add all the numbers'.

I only watched because the presenter said that he would reveal the correct answer at 1am if nobody got it. And indeed nobody did. When he then ripped open the envelope it said 4642.

Do you of you who have jobs and office air-conditioning have the time or energy to work out how on earth this figure is derived? When I was at school I was taught the acronym 'Bodmas' - standing for 'brackets, of, division, multiplication, addition and subtraction' as being the correct way of calculating numerical expressions. But that doesn't exactly help here.

Meanwhile, does anyone know why these shows have only appeared in the last year? Has there been a change in the law or was it always legal but nobody thought of it until now? I'm all for gambling liberalisation. But it should always come with transparency. There is nothing transparent about the way that these shows are done. For a start we don't know how the right answers are derived and we don't even know that any winners aren't people connected to the companies producing the shows.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006
Scenes from the Vic.
Topic: Poker


If there is one puzzle that will torment me until my dying day, it's not 'Why are we here?' or 'What is the meaning of life?' or the riddles of the pyramids or quest for the unified field theory. Long after those mysteries have been sold, mankind will still struggle with the eternal question 'How does Michael Arnold get paid?'

Michael knows how to play, of course, but what marks him out above all others is his incredible ability to get paid off by the occasional visiting stars to the Victoria's hold'em games. If you spot someone who's never played before and they are sitting in a nine handed game with £1,000 in front of them, it's about a 50/50 shot that Michael will take the lot off them. Last night, there was one such individual, who managed to outdraw people for large sums of money and at one stage flopped a straight against my trip sixes (which cost me over £500 because he would have played bottom two the same way). Sure enough having built his stack up to four figures, this happens. He calls a raise from his right and the rest of the table calls. On a flop of 6 8 9 rainbow, he calls the preflop raiser's bet of £125 and Michael raises £500. The preflop raiser folds and our hero now reraises Michael £470 more all-in. Michael calls with his second-nut straight (5-7) and if he had any doubts at all, was soon reassured that the two grand in the middle of the table was rightfully his when the next two cards came runner-runner diamonds to give him a flush.

We weren't shown what the other fellow had but another Vic regular was standing behind him and later told us that it was King-Eight! Is it any wonder that some of us have considered extreme measures like the idea pictured above? It could be the way forward.

Saturday, 22 July 2006
My correspondent in Beirut.
Topic: Politics

Several of you have written in this week asking me to comment on the Israel/Lebanon situation. Sorry I've not said much lately, but it's very hot in my flat and I've not felt motivated to sit down and compose fresh thoughts. I'm not going to start from scratch today either, as there is no need.  I have a close friend (and former flatmate) who's half-Lebanese, half-British. He's in Beirut now and naturally I'm concerned for him. His chances of being bombed are relatively light, as he lives in the Christian areas. But his family business is sure to be harmed by the conflict and he's got a muslim girlfriend (don't ask).

He does not share all my views about the Middle East. He despises American Zionists jews for instance, believing that they have a nostalgic impression of Israel that doesn't reflect demographic changes in the last few decades and his view on Neo-Cons is 'I prey for their deaths'. Earlier this week, I asked him whether he would use his UK passport to get evacuated. He told me that he would stay put. Despite not sharing my views, he didn't launch into a diatribe against Israel.

Here are some things he did say. I won't add much to them, except to note that he's not as critical of Israel as all of the people who've written in and it's HIS country getting bombed not theirs! In fact, he barely expresses any criticism of Israel at all.

"Lebanese politicians universally rally around hizbollah in short term. Longer term it could lead to a escalation of issues relating to the role of hizbollah as an armed militias group, this could be a positive as the status quo preserves their existence as an armed force. Local politicians don't have the political will or power to stand against syria in insisting on hizbollah's disarmament. If you do, they tend to kill you.
Hizbollah is a combination of a font of political expression of the disaffected impoverished shia population in the south, and a tool of iran/syria foreign policy. Israel provokes syria with a presidentioal palace flyby. Syria reacts by encouraging hizbollah. Israel bombs lebanese infrastructure. Hizbollah gets what it wants-an escalation of violence and a pseudo justification for their existence as armed force. Syria & Iran gets what they want-political capital in threatening israel without suffering the consequences. Israel gets to make a show of force.
Lebanon gets fucked. The truth is, no one really gives a shit because as long as Lebanon is weak, than the chances of enforcing the nationalisation of the Palestinian refugees within Lebanon is greater. And everyone, bar the Lebanese, wants this.
I made the following point at the time the syrians were evicted from Lebanon....
The only military force capable of disarming hizbollah is the syrians, and i preferred that that the US & International community found a way to make them do this by making concessions on other issues first, before asking them to leave Lebanon. If the US had done this, than they could always turn the heat up on the syrians afterwards on other issues. Asking the syrians to leave without forethought as to how to ensure hizbollah's disarmament was not good forward thinking by the US. This kind of conflict is inevitable if you allow armed militias to roam around the country."
In a later e-mail:
"This isn't a very nice thing to say, but I do hope the shia that are leaving the country get settled where they go. I'm not leaving this country for Hizballah."
In another later e-mail:
I was a lone voice of dissent when the Syrians were asked to leave the country, because, as ever, the US will never commit itself to long term solutions to the region. Their policy is always to react to events with a hopeless short term Israeli bias.
My point then, as now, is that
1 The Leb Army can't and won't disarm Hizballah. They are not strong enough militarily and 75% of army is Shia.
2 Hizballah will never voluntarily disarm.
3 Once Syria leaves they would inevitably encourage Hizballah since they could claim innocence and Israel couldn't retaliate against their positions in Lebanon.
4 The only ground force capable of disarming Hizballah is Syria.
What was needed, was concerted International pressure on Syria to disarm Hizballah. The Syrians usually do what the US tells them. Afterwards, they could step up the pressure and get the Syrians to leave altogether. Given the right carrots, they may well have done this. However, facts are facts and The Lebanese Gov was never going to be in a position to implement 1559 and disarm Hizballah. It was ridiculous to expect this after the Syrians withdrew.
The game now, is that Israel is determined to destroy hizballah's military capability, especially since it is more potent than they first imagined. This could result in Leb Army deployment in the south, as the Israelis are asking. I believe Bush/Blair want this. Hizballah won't back down because they don't care what happens to the rest of Lebanon, they just want war. Whatever happens we need decisive action, preserving the pre-war status quo is unacceptable.

_ DY at 1:42 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 22 July 2006 1:48 PM BST
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