Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Ugly American

An ugly face of America is never far below the surface. Scratch the surface and, as shown by the DP World ports issue, the ugly side appears very quickly. Ignorant, racist, xenophobic and paranoid.

The world has long laughed at Americans' ignorance of the world. Racism has been an inherent part of the country since Europeans first landed. Xenophobia has long been apparent but set in in a big way after 9/11. And also since 9/11 paranoia has been added to the already volatile mixture.

Remember that prior to 9/11, terrorist attacks on the US had been carried out by Americans. The mainland hadn't come under attack from foreigners before, an almost unique situation in the world. Other countries have been attacked and invaded through the centuries but when it happened to America panic and paranoia set in. That reaction has been encouraged and inflamed by the government playing the national security card ever since.

The hysteria over DP World's take-over of P&O, much of it cynical pretence and vote buying by politicians in election year, taps into ignorance and fear once again. We're back with Senator Joe McCarthy and reds under the beds, except now it's Arabs. Don't believe me? Read this:

Source: 83rd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Resolution 301 (2 December 1954).

Periodically American society has been gripped by fear, and its responses have not done credit to its democratic nature. In this century the Red Scare following World War I (see Document 43) saw hundreds of innocent aliens rounded up, imprisoned and deported, for no reason other than fear of their allegedly radical ideas...
The hunt for subversives started during the war itself, and was furthered by congressional committees that often abused their powers of investigation to harass people with whom they differed politically. Then in February 1950, an undistinguished, first-term Republican senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, burst into national prominence when, in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, he held up a piece of paper that he claimed was a list of 205 known communists currently working in the State Department. McCarthy never produced documentation for a single one of his charges, but for the next four years he exploited an issue that he realized had touched a nerve in the American public."

Doesn't it all sound depressingly familiar!

Opponents to the DP World/P&O deal are firing up public support by squawking about US ports falling into foreign hands. As these rabble-rousers well know, many American ports have been owned by foreign companies for years. Do Americans think that P&O is an American company I wonder? It's also a fact that responsibility for security, entry & exits rests with the US Coastguard, US Customs is responsible for inspecting containers and US longshoremen handle the cargos. Who owns the ports is irrelevant to those responsibilities.

Then there's the nonsense of "troubling connections" between the UAE and terrorists. The London bombers were home-grown suicide bombers, the 'shoe bomber' was British...where was the outcry against P&O, a British company, owning the ports, given Britain's link with terrorists!

The furore is simple prejudice - what Thomas Friedman in the New York Times calls 'global ethnic profiling'. More succinctly it's the racism of Arab equals Islamic terrorist.

Look at the hogwash of Senator Lindsey Graham's "theUAE, which vows to destroy Israel". Is the Senator really that ignorant of the true facts, or is he deliberately mis-informing his constituents? This is nothing but cynical politicians looking for votes in an election year, fanning the flames of racism, encouraged by the ignorance and paranoia of the electorate.

When the world's only super-power behaves in this way towards a country which has been a staunch ally for decades, we should all be very afraid.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

How many times have I heard and read the ridiculous comment that Dubai drivers have no experience of driving in the rain and that's why they drive like idiots. Wrong! It's another one of those things that people repeat without thinking about what they're saying.

The majority of drivers here come from countries where it rains regularly. Look around you - the drivers are from Europe, US, India, Pakistan, Philippines...

It's nothing to do with driving experience, they drive like idiots because they are idiots.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where there's a will there's a way.

" Killer roofs take breath out of workers

By Diaa Hadid, Staff Reporter

Dubai: Thousands of labourers are breathing asbestos, a dangerous cancer-causing material, used in the roofing of their labour accommodation...
...The Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs in Dubai, on Saturday reported that 75 per cent of all labour accommodation was not fit for habitation, but contractors have repeatedly said they have nowhere else to house workers.
Hafiz Ghuloom, head of the municipality's health control, said he could only order companies to install false ceilings, because the companies had received municipal licences for the buildings before asbestos was banned.
But a municipal official who spoke to Gulf News at the Sonapur camp said he did issue fines to companies using labour accommodation that did not have a concrete roof.
He said many companies preferred paying fines rather than changing the roofs, because it was cheaper, but declined to say how much he fined them."

How's this for a suggestion. The municipality orders all companies to replace the asbestos roofs, in the manner prescribed world-wide for its removal, by a certain date, giving them adequate time to do the work. Failure to do so will result in a fine of Dh1 million a day until it's done.

As with most problems, the way to solve it is simple, it's the will to solve them that's missing. That plus the fact that rules and laws aren't policed or enforced of course.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Selective free speech.

Irving to admit Holocaust denial

Ian TraynorThursday February 16, 2006
The Guardian

David Irving, the Nazi apologist and historian jailed in Austria for the past three months, said he would plead guilty in court next week to charges of denying the Holocaust.
He was arrested in southern Austria last November on charges dating from speeches he delivered in the country in 1989. Austria has the harshest laws anywhere criminalising Holocaust denial although it is also regarded as being reluctant to prosecute Nazi war criminals.
According to the charge sheet which has been obtained by the Guardian, Irving said in two speeches in Austria 1989 there were no "extermination camps" in the Third Reich, the gas chambers were a "fairytale" and Hitler had protected the Jews of Europe.
Irving faces up to 10 years in prison for such statements in Austria.

The sub-text to this, of course, is the trumpeting about free speech in the West over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, when true free speech is a myth. It's illegal to say that the holocaust didn't happen. Stupid, yes, racist, yes, denying the evidence, yes...but why illegal?
It's a very selective 'free speech' system isn't it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dubai's Finest nail it again!

Bringing all their training to bear they visit the scene of the crime, assemble the facts, analyse the situation, solve the crime.
As reported in Gulf News:

Motorist reverses into a lot of mess
By Alia Al Theeb, Staff Reporter
Dubai: A motorist, who lost his composure while reversing, damaged nine cars on Sunday at the parking lot of Dubai Police Headquarters.
The Asian, who was leaving, reversed his car from the parking space.
However, instead of slamming the brake, he stepped on the accelerator and hit two cars, pushing one of them on to the pavement.
Then he turned his vehicle to the right, but again pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and damaged two other cars.
On impact, one of the damaged cars hit two other cars parked near it. Two more vehicles were reported damaged.
No injuries were reported in the incident.
Police said the man might have been confused.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Emiratisation of HR.

"The human resources sector will soon be only for UAE nationals, if the emiratisation of the public relations officer sector is successful, the Minister of Labour confirmed yesterday".
Gulf News report.

Public Relations is a misnomer for the job they actually do of course - it's really Government Department Relations and it's a good idea to have Emiratis doing it. But Human Resouces? That's a highly specialised area, requiring not only the right personality but specialised training, experience, knowledge of the Immigration & Labour laws and a million other things. If HR can be nominated, why not Financial Advisors? Or Car Mechanics? Or anything else? For the sake of Dubai's workers, let's hope HR to the Labour Ministry means something different, in the same way that PRO does.

Putting people into the job because of their nationality rather than aptitude & ability just ain't gonna work...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Customer 'service'.

I assume they're trained to do it, on the basis that "the customer's always right. Saying "yes" all the time, that is. I suppose there's also the desire to please and the fear of losing their job too. But it does annoy me.
An example when my wife went shopping for a digital camera - and I swear this is word for word:

"Are the batteries included?”
“Yes madam”
“Are they rechargeable?
“Yes madam”
“Show me… (Pause while he looks)...there are no batteries”
“Yes madam”
“But you told me it came with batteries”
“Yes madam”
“But it doesn’t
“Yes madam”
“So I have to buy batteries separately?
“Yes madam”.

Counter-productive, inefficient, misleading and bloody annoying!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rent increases

OK, OK, I know the rent increases are way over the top, but I have a question for all of the renters whinging and complaining about blood-sucking, greedy, unreasonable landlords. If you owned the property, wouldn't you also be charging the highest rent the market could stand?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Whinge. Whinge. Dubai's expensive.Whinge. Whinge.

I can't believe the number of Europeans/Americans/Aussies I've heard complaining that the cost of living is so high in Dubai that they can't save any money.
Then they talk about the beach club (in a 5 star hotel), the health spa (in a 5 star hotel), the eating out (in 5 star hotels), the problems with their maid...
It doesn't take a genius to see that they've moved their standard of living up to a level they never dreamed of in their own country. Their home town probably didn't even have a 5 star hotel, and if it did they never once used it! And servants? Ha! The nearest they got to having a servant was a teenage babysitter for an evening when they went out to the local Indian restaurant for a meal!
The only thing expensive here is rent, and most of them get accommodation either supplied or they get an allowance! Get real, people. Compare apples with apples. Live as you did back home and you'll discover Dubai is inexpensive - you'll be able to save heaps.