The views expressed in any article published in this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Joseph Foster or Bob Lupoli.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Men's Economic Survival Guide: Embrace Failure


Joe: an interesting article. –Bob

Men's Economic Survival Guide: Embrace Failure
December 30, 2011 By Ram K. Winat
We live in difficult times. Financial worries and stress got you down? Here are a few words based on experience on how to successfully survive underemployment, low paychecks marital strife, and feelings of worthlessness and failure.

Pulling in $100k no more? You’re not the only one. If you’re lucky enough to have a job now, then you are lucky, even though it feels like waterboarding torture. Remember many guys are unemployed – if you’re pulling in $25 to $30k consider this; my complaining to a childhood friend about my fall in income, someone who never made more $30k said – “well, welcome to the world, of the rest of us”. It is a world that is in fact your reality now and it may not have prospects for improving anytime soon.
If you can't beat them, join them.  
Is foreclosure on the way? Is it clear the car payments are difficult to keep up with? Why not accept the real possibility that bad is going to happen? Is your 20+ year marriage bruised and severely battered and few choice words away from being obliterated? Welcome to the club!

Kübler-Ross Model
Just as our deaths are inevitable, you can deny and bargain all you want but I say skip those steps and the other steps and go right to acceptance. Acceptance of death doesn’t mean that you die this minute.

Underemployment Examples; include holding a part-time job despite desiring full-time work, and overqualification, where the employee has education, experience, or skills beyond the requirements of the job.
Accept the fact you have a ridiculously low paying job and are unable to find something better at the moment. Your job now doesn’t involve managing people, inventory, profit & loss, hiring, and all those other heavy management responsibilities you had. No, your job now has no stress – I suggest you allow yourself to, and I know this is going to be very hard to accomplish for 99% of you, enjoy the no-stress job. A former executive with multiple serious management responsibilities now having no job stress – it feels weird. In order to survive this feeling I suggest that you use this lack of job stress to call your friends and relatives a little more often. Use the non-job stress to enjoy the company of your young or grown children. Do something you enjoy that of course doesn’t cost much money – like reading a book, plan to build that log cabin in the mountains you always wanted, enjoy a coffee at a nice restaurant with your wife, try a new food. One activity I like a lot recently, is actually meeting and talking to my neighbors, this is a very unusual practice in California. Do your best to do something positive with that no-stress job feeling and allow it to develop within you, don’t push it away. You’ll figure out what to do with it.

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to.
The reality of course is that you have stress constantly about finances, your marriage, the car payment, your mortgage or rent. There is no way you can get rid of this stress unless you try and accept that these two things will happen;

Why divorce is good for marriage
Your Marriage Will Fail – accepting this as likely will allow you to have some understanding that your wife has a valid point of view on the situation, you are not providing. It’s a simple fact, if you blame her or you argue with her about coulda, shoulda, woulda, simply put it’s not an argument you’re gonna win. Accept that you are not winning the race – you are undoubtedly in 5th or 6th place at the moment, you’ve clearly lost. The only thing you can do is be the good person you are and work hard at the low paying job or be diligent at seeking employment. Stop the drinking, be courteous despite the cold shoulders and affronts to your character. There is honor in suffering silently – arguing is not good for you now. Shut up and take it – if you were a woman you’d be doing the same thing your wife is doing – pressuring you to do something, anything to improve the situation, and even in the same wildly illogical and emotional way. If you accept the marriage will fail – you will ironically develop feelings of compassion that will allow your mind to have empathy for your wife and move away from your selfish feelings of worthlessness and internal stress.

Moving in with mom and dad
You Must Move – it’s the same logic, you can’t afford your current housing situation. Just accept the fact you might have to move in with your mother or father. You are a loser. Doesn’t mean you’ll always be a loser. Remember what the old timers taught you, adversity builds character. A 50 year old man moving his family in with his mom – unlikely any marriage could survive that, maybe that’s just the way it should be? Despite your good efforts and good intentions, accept that your financial reality hurts your family; accept that it is your lack of income that is causing serious damage. Moving may resolve and help improve the financial situation but it is not going to solve the problem or save your marriage.

Failure: It’s an option – www.failuremag.com
I think men will have a hard time understanding that acceptance of failure is in some way liberating. How can someone breathe easier or feel relief knowing that failure is the only option, the only reality at this time? Accepting the failure, your failure, is accepting reality. I suggest this is very important, I’m not saying you have to like or love failure, I’m saying you need to be at peace with it, let it be well with you. I maintain that it is after this moment only that you should develop and implement your plans, whatever they may be.

The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will(Eventually) Feel Better
Tyler Cowen, Author
The goal of this guide is for you to survive this environment with your confidence and strength in tact, accepting that failure is in the stagnant air you breathe is reality. Hopefully the winds will bring us men and women a fresh ocean breeze and get us back on course.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seeing Red, How America is Losing the Future by Joseph Foster


Hello everyone, Joseph Foster’s new book is nearly ready for publishing release. The release date is set for January 10, 2012.  Here is some information about this important book. -Bob

How America is Losing the Future
by Joseph Foster

America is the greatest country in the world—or at least it was. How do nations fall? What makes a country, once powerful over the world economy, slip into financial disaster and lose its dominance? Author, economist, and legal scholar, Joseph Foster tries to point to the causes of America's demise.

Having lived in colonial Ghana and communist Russia, traveled to Europe's greatest nations, and stood as a citizen witness to America's economic failures, Foster knows something about our nation's predicament—and he's mad about it. We export our manufacturing labor at a great cost to American workers. We've let financial markets run wild, and therefore let them run our country into the ground. We're fighting wars we can't pay for. And we're voting for politicians won't do a thing to change any of it.

Seeing Red: How America is Losing the Future tells us how third world countries are rising from America's problems and outsourcing of jobs. China and India are gaining prominence and taking American jobs. Russia is only waiting for its chance. Seeing Red tells us why we should be angry, and who we should be angry at. This book is an exercise in citizenship, and a call to attention for anyone fed up with America not doing its best. 252 pages - $18.99 (paperback)

This book is also available for purchase as an eBook download for $9.99 (digital download).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Joseph Foster: Dallas to Miami - On the Road

Joseph Foster
My Eye on America: On the Road from Dallas to Miami
My five days journey covered Texas, Louisiana, Mississipi, Alabama, and Georgia. In past journeys during America prosperity, Hotels and Motels along the highways I covered are by   7 PM for the most part fully booked, now based on my observation vacancy factor exceed 50% The American consumer with declining wages, high gas prices and decline in the value of their homes has impacted the leisure Industry.

On my many encounter with people in several of the States I sensed a deeper sense of frustration and anger, people no longer refer to themselves as either Democrat or Republicans both political parties are for the most part tainted with negative comment, and the people believe they are being deceived by politicians from both parties.

When I asked a person I encountered in Mississippi and asked him about the job market his response was depression, here is what he said I once earned $80K now I am out of a job and cannot find a job that pays me $30K he said American employers no longer want to pay American wages that was achieved by the American workers of the past, their zest is for low paid workers from third world countries that migrate to America by legal and illegal means.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel with a deficit in the budget in the range of two trillions both political parties have no answers how the correction in our budget may be made. Sad to say some economist are predicting that perhaps in the year 2012 the US economy may slip into a double recession. Our political system in Washington is no longer functioning for the good of the country. The lobbyist system has become very strong and has a grip on our government for it is this group that fight for special interest, that interest does not take into account the overall good or bad for the country. I sense the seed of an American revolution has been planted and when such revolution will begin is hard to predict. Obama prior to being elected promised the American people change that change has not occurred. The Chinese with their pockets bulging with dollars are now on a shopping spree searching to buy western business.

Human labor has put automated high tech car wash out of business.
In the UK prior to the Russians withdrawing from Eastern Europe car washing was done by the most part by automated drive thru car wash machines that require no employees. After the withdrawal by the Russians from eastern Europe and the enlargement of the EEC countries massive low paid workers by the millions moved to western Europe where there was high employment. Over 3.5 million polish citizens moved to the UK. Polish entrepreneurs created a car wash business all done by hand, these enterprise sprung across the entire UK it is estimated that over 100,000 hand car wash business was established, each hand car wash business employs anywhere from four to six employees, they perform a car wash superior to that of machines and offer lower prices than the automated car wash facilities. The losers of such enterprise is the Automated car wash business, moreover such loss  has impacted on the profit made by the oil companies, as to me I have no sympathy for the oil companies that sucks the consumer pockets from money. In terms of employment the hand car wash on best estimate has created in excess of 400,000 jobs. In time the concept of hand car wash will spread across America and create employment for the unemployed and low paid workers.

UK HOUSING SHORTAGE.
UK has the most restrictive laws as to Land use in the world, and will never on a large scale re zone Agriculture land for massive housing development for this reason the UK continues to be short of housing, and property values has not dropped dramatically, the shortage has also caused housing rents to rise dramatically, moreover with over five million migrant workers moving from eastern Europe to the UK, it has created a new housing enterprise for the Eastern Europeans here is how it works.

A polish lady entrepreneur will rent a five bedroom home and occupy the master bedroom, she will then rent each of the bedroom to a low paid worker, the income she receives will be sufficient to pay her Landlord the monthly rent, she then becomes known as the Land lady. By such method the Land lady lives free of rent, if she is more creative she may end up making a profit after making her monthly rent payment to the Landlord. The land lady is a tenant of the property owner, as to the room renter they are the tenant of the Land lady. Her tenants pay rent by the week the cost per room may range from $300.00 up to $400.00 per month, Kitchen and bathroom is shared by all of the residents of the home. A large refrigerator is shared and each tenant is assigned a space in the refrigerator.

UK major property web site reports June 2011 records the sixth consecutive monthly rise in UK housing prices, with overall gain of 8.1% this year compared to 7.4% in the first half of 2010.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Joseph Foster & Carville agree: Bleak Job Picture

By Joseph Foster
Email Joseph Foster at jfoste3@aol.com for a free book summary. My book, ‘’Destruction of America", subtitled "Stand up for America" will be available May 2012 at all major bookstores. Visit my blog Stand Up for America! for more articles.


America job losses.
Carville: Job Losses Add Up to ‘Very Rough’ 2012 for Obama
Unless the bleak job market improves soon, both the country and President Barack Obama will suffer the consequences, star Democratic strategist James Carville told Don Imus Monday on the Fox Business Network. If widespread unemployment persists, “we’re going to start to see some civil unrest in this country,” Carville predicted.

The above news item has prompted me to make my comments on the bleak job picture America is facing today, did anyone in Washington ever consider that when you De Industrialize America you will have increase in unemployment permanently.

Please do not believe that the recession began in 2008, it began when our politicians decided to support Globalization of trade that is titled towards hiring low paid workers abroad.

The De Industrialization of America began when that Chinese genius politician, statesman Deng Xiaoping created a free market economy, the US signed on because on their mind they remain afflicted with fear of communism, and embraced the idea, without giving serious consideration as to the long term impact it may have on the US employment 

Are the American people losing faith in the U.S. economy?  The statistics that you are about to read might surprise you.  Not everyone believes that the U.S. economy is dying (there are still millions out there that will swallow anything that the mainstream media tells them), but the reality is that there is a growing chunk of the population that has completely lost faith in our leaders and in our economic system.  A brand new Gallup poll has found that the number of Americans that believe that we are in a “depression” is actually larger than the number of Americans that believe that the economy is “growing”.  That is absolutely shocking because according to official government figures, the U.S. economy is growing right now and virtually nobody in the mainstream media or the government has used the term “depression” to describe the economic downturn that we went through recently.  In fact, according to Gallup a total of 55% of the American people believe that we are either in a recession or a depression right now. 

This is clear evidence that the American people are losing faith in U.S. government economic statistics and instead they are basing their opinions on what they see in their own communities.  Despite the pabulum about an “economic recovery” constantly being spewed by Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama, faith in our economic system continues to decline.  The truth is that the American people are not stupid.  They can see what is happening to the economy.

McDonald’s made headlines when they held a National Hiring Day.  Some commentators pointed to that event as evidence that the economy was recovering. Well, you know what?  McDonald’s ended up receiving approximately one million applications. So how many of those people did McDonald’s hire? They hired about 62,000 people. That means that somewhere around 938,000 eager job applicants were turned away. Just think about that. Only about 6.2 percent of those that applied for a job at McDonald’s were accepted.

Americans wake up stop electing professional politicians of either party start thinking of electing successful business people. Stop sending jobs to China and other countries... -Joe

Sunday, May 22, 2011

FCC Regulator to Highly Paid Industry Exeuctive: Meridith Attwell Baker

Joe:  this is what is wrong with the country and is an excellent example of what we have been saying. This is legal cronyism. It’s a major cause of the financial disaster. These elites rotate from academia, to government regulatory bodies, then to industry for the big pay-off and then back again. This is why those that regulate the financial industry actually worked for these same firms. Everyone needs to make a living but the integrity of the system has to have priority and clearly we don’t have that. Burecrats deserve much blame but there just aren’t that many career burecrats at the top level to preserve and protect the system as long as it is legal to rotate out. I agree with Hilzik and Andrew Schwartzman (see below) whoheartedly. –Bob

FCC commissioner's move to Comcast shows the revolving door is still spinning
Meredith Attwell Baker's new employer is the corporate entity whose merger with NBCUniversal was blessed by the FCC in January.

By Michael Hiltzik
No political adage gets a more vigorous workout than the one about how the real scandal in Washington isn't what's illegal, but what's legal.

Case in point: Meredith Attwell Baker's announcement that she will be stepping down as a Federal Communications Commission member in June to join Comcast-NBCUniversal.

Baker's new employer, of course, is the huge entity whose merger was blessed by the FCC only in January, after a year of scrutiny. Baker voted in favor.

Let's examine what's legal about Baker's move.

First, no one suggests that she tailored her vote on the merger, or indeed on any issue that came up in her nearly two years as a commissioner, with an eye toward jumping to Comcast.

On the contrary, during her tenure she's hewed consistently to cherished conservative deregulatory principles — reining in the FCC's scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions and of net neutrality, which is the idea that Internet service providers should be prevented from giving preferential treatment to some services and content over others.

Baker's positions might have gratified Comcast, which is both a major Internet service provider with a commercial incentive to squeeze website owners for preference fees and a merger party that bristled under the FCC spotlight. But the signs are that she came by them honestly enough.

"I am a conservative Republican who believes in the free market," Baker told me last week. Government, she says, tends to "overregulate on issues where the free market might be able to solve some of the problems."

Before joining the FCC she worked as a Commerce Department official under President George W. Bush and a Washington lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, so President Obama knew what he was getting when he named her to the commission as one of its Republican members. It's not as though he had much choice: Customarily, senators of the minority party get their say on its appointees to federal bodies required to have bipartisan membership, such as the FCC.

Nor has anyone suggested that Baker broke the law by accepting a job with Comcast so soon after voting for its merger. She appears to have scrupulously observed the required formalities, recusing herself from Comcast and NBC matters at the FCC — in fact, from all FCC matters — since mid-April, when she says she entered employment discussions with Comcast.

She'll be barred from lobbying any federal administrative agency for at least two years and as long as Obama is in the White House, and she'll be barred for life from lobbying the FCC over any of the Comcast merger conditions. Her FCC term is due to expire next month, and that's when she'll leave to become a senior vice president of NBCUniversal.

"You have to be a little surprised Comcast was still interested in me after I told them all the things I would be recused from," Baker told me.

But that's disingenuous, and her job change is a scandal. The rules she complied with are designed to place a white dusting of powdered sugar over what is deep down a grimy Washington institution — the revolving door.

The restrictions she faces are hardly stringent, their effects easily circumvented. She's not prevented from lobbying Congress or from strategizing with her new colleagues about how they should present Comcast's case to regulators. Comcast will be able to make full use of all her experience as a regulatory veteran, thank you very much.

"The system is fundamentally flawed," says Andrew Schwartzman, policy director of the Washington-based Media Access Project. Thanks to the revolving door, "People attain expertise which is extremely valuable to the regulated companies and turn around and make that expertise available to them at the expense of the public."

The incredible speed with which Baker is transforming herself from federal regulator back into corporate lobbyist underscores why regulation in Washington has become such a spavined, toothless beast.

To be fair, Baker was not a monochromatically conservative regulator. Schwartzman says she bucked Republican orthodoxy on issues such as the development of low-power FM broadcasting and public access to unused TV broadcasting spectrum.

But on more momentous issues she carried water for big business, often maintaining that regulators shouldn't do much regulating. In March, for example, Baker delivered a speech for the Texas-based Institute for Policy Innovation, which devotes itself to promoting tax cuts for the rich, supply-side economics and the privatization of Social Security.

Her theme was that the FCC spent so danged much time scrutinizing media and telecommunications mergers that some dealmakers might have got discouraged. "Ask yourself, would you subject yourself to the FCC merger review process?" she queried her audience of telecommunications executives. "My concern is that you might walk away."

I'd like to see a list of transactions that were discouraged or derailed by its promoters' fears of the lengthiness of the regulatory review. Baker doesn't cite a single one. And that's not even to consider whether any transaction so affected would have been in the public interest in the first place.

It's hardly the FCC's job to grease the skids for big merger deals, any more than it's the FAA's job to give airlines a pass on safety inspections. The FCC's duty is to weigh mergers' effect on the public interest, plus or minus, and stop them if it's the latter. Anyway, given that Comcast and NBC pursued their $30-billion merger and AT&T and T-Mobile have a $39-billion merger deal on the table despite the prospect of lengthy FCC proceedings, plainly the big dealmakers haven't been so discouraged.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps made a telling observation about how industry really views the regulatory obstacles to big merger deals — as minor annoyances to be waited out. "Power is patient," he says. "Big businesses can bide their time when they have to in order to reap the fullest harvest."

Copps' observation came as part of his statement marking the FCC's approval of the Comcast-NBC deal, on which he was the only dissenter. He called the deal virtually devoid of benefits to the public and predicted it would result in higher cable and Internet bills and add to the potential for "walled gardens, toll booths … and a stake in the heart of independent content production."

Baker's statement on the Comcast vote (issued jointly with her fellow Republican commissioner, Robert M. McDowell) said the merger "has the potential to bring exciting benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms." It's as though Comcast's PR staff were already drafting Baker's statements for her, back in January.

But that's churlish. Baker didn't need Comcast's corporate flacks to help her reach that conclusion. "She won't have any problem adjusting to Comcast's positions," remarks Craig Aaron, chief executive of Free Press, a Washington media reform group that has been vehemently critical of Baker's move.

Washington has always brimmed with young lawyers who take jobs with consumer regulatory agencies to gain a little training and seasoning before launching lucrative careers in corporate law. The only way to keep these ambitious greenhorns focused on the obligations of enforcement while they're in public service is for the leaders of their agencies to take those obligations seriously.

When leaders like Baker signal that it's acceptable to cash in without even waiting for a decent interval, what hope is there that government will serve the public interest, not the corporate interest?

Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Reach him at mhiltzik@latimes.com, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Joseph Foster: on Dorothy Parvaz her time in Syria’s Secret Prison

By Joseph Foster
Email Joseph Foster at jfoste3@aol.com for a free book summary. My book, ‘’Destruction of America", subtitled "Stand up for America" will be available May 2012 at all major bookstores. Visit my blog Stand Up for America! for more articles.

The sad story of Dorothy Parvaz: Inside Syria’s Secret prison.

Dorothy is an American citizen employed by Al Jazeera the Arab news media that has now been acclaimed by the west as one of the best and objective news media reporting world events as it happens, Dorothy was sent to Syria to cover the story of the uprising in Syria and while there, she disappeared. Al Jazeera put out an intensive search for her, not knowing if she was dead or alive. Dorothy was fortunate to be released and out of Syria, she tells her story which should be a shock to the world how an oppressive regime in Syria was brutally suppressing Freedom fighters.

This is a country that I have visited on several occasions and can attest to the fear of its citizen to speak freely. On one of my visit to Damascus I was able to get a Taxi driver that spoke English and asked him to drive me around the city, foremost in my mind I wanted to see where The Palace of the brutal dictator Hafez Assad is located, the father of the current president of Syria, as we drove near the palace he said without pointing in his hand that it is to your right, when I put out my hand to verify the sight of the Palace, This driver immediately pushed my hand down and told me we must leave the area immediately. He said by pointing your hand to the Palace if the secret police were to see us we shall both end up in one of the Syrians prison for interrogations.

After I assured him that I am an American citizen and my journey as a historian is to learn about the country where I read was a police State and wanted to get firsthand knowledge, as how the people live in a police state, he informed me of the horror and the oppression of the people. My journey was not confined to Syria but by curiosity I made a visit to Russia during the communist era, and other Eastern European countries that were under the rule of the communist regime in Russia.

We shall all be thankful to the brave reporters that risk their life in reporting events in some of the most dangerous countries, without such reporters we shall all remain blind to Tyranny. Doha is the headquarters of Al Jazeera, It has been reported that quite often the white house tunes to the news reported by this news agency to get facts on news events were western news media were UN able to obtain due to the extreme danger in some of the countries covered by Al Jazeera.


'We could clearly hear the interrogator pummeling his fists into his subject,' writes our correspondent. Dorothy Parvaz Last Modified: 18 May 2011 20:27

I was standing in two fist-sized pools of smeared, sticky blood, trying to sort out why there were seven angry Syrians yelling at me. Only one of them - who I came to know as Mr. Shut Up during my three days in a detention center, where so many Syrians 'disappeared' are being kept - spoke English.

Watching them searching my bags, and observing the set of handcuffs hanging from the bunk bed wedged behind the desk in the middle of the room, I guessed that I was being arrested - or, at the very least, processed for detention.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"Shut up! SHUT UP!" said Mr. Shut Up.

I'd arrived there moments before, dragged by a handful of hair from a car where I'd been wedged between two armed men. They'd tried to convince me that they were taking me to my hotel, but, of course, I knew that there was no way plain-clothed security personnel would be kind enough to escort me to my accommodation.

I did, however, manage to resist being forced to wear a blindfold, figuring that if they were going to shoot me, they really didn't need a reason to do so.

After about 20 minutes, we pulled off the highway and through two checkpoints. By this point, the rather handsy security guard to my left had pulled my scarf over my eyes.

Armed guards opened a gate to what seemed like a military compound, filled with dozens of men, all plain-clothed, lurking in an atmosphere suited only to cracking skulls - so heightened was the sense of impending violence.

Welcome to mini-Guantanamo; perhaps one of many in Syria where protesters and bystanders alike have been swept up in the wide net cast by an increasingly paranoid government since the start of anti-government protests several weeks ago.

I'd ended up there because a scan of my luggage had revealed that I had a satellite phone and an internet hub with me - the commercially available type, nothing special, and just the sort of thing one might need while travelling in a country with spotty communications.

Still, if that was deemed suspicious, then my American passport, complete with its Al Jazeera-sponsored visa, sealed the deal. The agents couldn't seem to agree what I was, or which was worse: an American spy for Israel, or an Al Jazeera reporter – both were pretty much on a par.

Blindfolded, I was led to the first of my three cells - a tiny, sparse room, roughly three paces across and five length-wise. On the floor, on a ratty brown blanket, sat a young woman whose face was puffy from crying. She said she was 25 and from Damascus and indicated that she had been there for four days. She didn't know why she'd been picked up by the Mukhabarat, the Syrian intelligence service.

She said she was a shop assistant in a clothes store, and the designer stilettos that sat in the corner of the cell seemed to belie any suggestion that this was a girl who had left her house in order to participate in protests. She said she'd been speaking on her phone when she was hauled into a car, blindfolded and driven away.

She had no idea where she was, or how long she was to stay there. She had not been allowed to contact her family.

Our eyes moved to the month-long calendar etched on the wall, likely the artwork of a previous dweller. With unspoken glances, we each wondered how long she would remain there.

A man came to the door a couple of times before he took me from the cell, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and led me to what seemed like a courtyard.

He pushed me up against a wall and told me to stand there. As I did so, I heard two sets of interrogations and beatings taking place, about 10 meters away from me in either direction.

The beatings were savage, the words uttered by those beaten only hoarse cries – "Wallahi! Wahalli!" ("I swear to God! I swear to God!") Or simply, "La! La!" ("No! No!").

I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, before someone approached me."Who do you work for?" he hissed.

"Al Jazeera. Online. “Are you alone?" "So alone."

I was taken to a second cell, this one, with smears of blood on the wall. I found what looked like a bloodless corner and perched until called upon again – at around midnight.

I was again handcuffed, but this time, before the blindfolds went on, I caught sight of a young man, no more than 20, chained to a radiator outside the hallway. He had a legal pad on his knees, was blindfolded, and was quivering so fiercely he could hardly hold the pen with which he was probably meant to ink some sort of confession.

Meanwhile, the beatings and cries outside continued.

I was taken through a labyrinth of stairs, before entering an office where my interrogator awaited me. I managed to talk him into allowing the blindfolds to be removed.

The man - let's call him 'Firass' - was slightly portly and could be affable when he wanted to be (he seemed concerned that there were women being kept at the facility, and tried to make things comfortable for me).

Firass even apologized for the fact that our "formal interview" was taking place in a room containing a bed, crates of potatoes and a refrigerator.

"It's just that we’re so busy these days," he said.

I wanted to ask why the Mukhabarat would be so busy if such a tiny minority was causing problems, but it didn't seem like a prudent moment.
Firass spoke very good English and, at first, seemed convinced that I was a spy.

Then he focused on Al Jazeera, putting the network on the same level as Human Rights Watch. The network had been making a "big problem" for Syria with the UN Security Council, he said.

After four hours of questioning, he sent me to a different room, this one a long-disused office where a terrified teenage girl was sleeping on the couch.

The next morning, my new roommate and I tried to get acquainted, without sharing too many details, as we had been forbidden to do so. She too had been plucked from the streets of a Damascus suburb for reasons she couldn’t understand.

She'd been there for eight days when I met her, and she looked ill. The food we were given three times a day - fetid, random and at times, rotting - mostly had the effect of making her vomit, but she was too hungry to stop eating all together.

There was a doctor on site, parked next to a sign that read "Assad is Boss", but the girl seemed too frightened to see the doctor - no wonder.

Most of the our days were spent listening to the sounds of young men being brutally interrogated – sometimes tied up in stress positions until it sounded like their bones were cracking, as we saw from our bathroom window (a bathroom with no running water, except for one tap in a sink filled with roughly 10 cm of sewage).

One afternoon, the beating we heard was so severe that we could clearly hear the interrogator pummeling his boots and fists into his subject, almost in a trance, yelling questions or accusations rhythmically as the blows landed in what sounded like the prisoner's midriff.

My roommate shook and wept, reminding me (or perhaps she) that they didn't beat women here. There was a brief break before the beating resumed, and my first impulse was to cover my ears, but then I thought, "If this man is crying, shouldn’t someone hear him?"

After all, judging from the sound of passing traffic and from what I could see through our window, there were no homes nearby – just a highway, a sprawling old security compound, and what appeared to be an old prison; a few official buildings that had seen better days. That's all I could see from our cell.

When one of the Mukhabarat agents came in, my teenage cellmate proceeded to beg him to allow her to use her mobile phone to call her parents, which, of course, was not going to happen.
She asked about the beatings we'd heard outside, and was told that the men being punished were murderers who had shot people in Deraa.

Later, Mr. Shut Up came and took my roommate away for interrogation, which made me worry. She returned an hour later, with no apparent resolution to her problem. She still looked out the window and cried, worrying about her parents, wondering if or when she'd see them again.

I couldn't help but wonder: what sort of threat does this girl pose to the Syrian state that they have to keep her in this rotting room? What are they so afraid of?

After three days, Firass told me I was free to return to Qatar – something for which I was very grateful.

He even took me to his boss's office – again, remember, no one has any names here – where I was given a lecture on Al Jazeera’s coverage of the troubles in Syria, mostly focusing on how a tiny, tiny minority was causing a problem for an essentially happy majority.

On my way out of the compound, I was finally allowed to see it for what it was – a shabby set of offices and cellblocks with pictures of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, framed in the sort of metallic stands that might promote two-for-one-drinks offers at the theatre, placed every few meters. The effect was farcical.

I was taken to the airport, but I was certainly not allowed to return to Qatar. Instead, I was dragged, kicking and screaming; onto a flight bound for Tehran (I'd entered Syria with an Iranian passport). Call it a strange brand of extraordinary rendition, if you will.

The Syrian authorities had alleged to the Iranians that I was a spy – a charge that can carry a death penalty in Iran.

Fortunately, in my case, the facts were borne out. After a couple of weeks of interrogations, the investigator in Iran charged with my case determined that I was not a spy, but a journalist.

On Wednesday, without drama or incident, I was released and put on a dawn flight from Tehran to Doha – it was a simple matter of a judge's approval.

Although I have written critically of some of Iran's policies, I was treated with respect, courtesy and care throughout my detention there.

My room was spotless, my interrogator flawlessly polite, and the women who looked after me at the Evin Prison Women's Detention Centre saw to it that my every need was met – especially the sleeping pills I required, because every night, without fail, I would hear the cries of men screaming in Syria "Wallahi! Wallahi!" and wonder how their wounds will ever heal.