Sunday, October 29, 2006

In that strange parallel universe...

They live in a different world don't they. Black is white, wrong is right, it's all someone else's fault.

We've had BushW yet again repeating his mantra that "America doesn't do torture."

Now Karl Rove, the man known as 'White House political guru' and 'presidential adviser' other words the brains behind BushW (pause for hysterical laughter)...has come up with another doozie.

According to a Gulf News report, from Reuters/AFP/AP sources: "...Karl Rove blasted Democrats for even suggesting the US withdraw from Iraq, saying the US can't leave one of the world's largest oil reserves in terrorist hands."

Dontcha just love it!

Who the hell caused the terrorists to go into Iraq! Who jeopardised the oil reserves! Terrorists weren't there until the invasion and the monumental cock-up of the situation since.

Take a bow Mr Rove. Acknowledge your key role. You were a vital part of the cabal that caused the disaster.

He went on to say: "More sacrifice is going to be required." The report doesn't tell us exactly who he's volunteering to do the sacrificing. But you can bet your life - like too many literally are - that Mr Rove and his cronies aren't about to be doing much personal sacrificing.

By the way, the same report gives more support to my firm belief (which I posted on Wednesday) that the US is rapidly moving to 'declare victory and withdraw'.

A statement from BushW and Puppet Prime Minister Maliki outlined three goals: speeding up the training of Iraq's security forces; moving ahead with Iraqi control of its forces; making the Iraqi government responsible for the country's security.

Declare victory and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Mission Accomplished and anything that goes wrong after that is the fault of the Iraqis.

That's the plan.

The full Gulf News Report

Friday, October 27, 2006

Inciting disharmony

For almost 25 years Australia's senior Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin Alhilali has caused controversy with inflammatory and offensive statements. Far from trying to foster community relations he's done just the opposite, inflamed feelings and created tensions.

But equally guilty of promoting inter-community conflict is the Sydney Daily Telegraph in its coverage of the story. More of that later.

Hilali's latest repugnant statement has caused a national uproar. He's been universally condemned by all groups including Muslims throughout the country, except for his small band of hard-core supporters. It's also resulted in the usual redneck Muslim bashing of course.

The cause of the uproar was a Ramadan address, when he blamed victims for inciting rape. To make it worse he clearly referred to an infamous series of gang rapes by Lebanese/Australian youths, for which they received record long sentences.

In blaming the victims of rape for enticing the men he used offensive phrases such as: "If one puts uncovered meat out in the street, or on the footpath, or in the garden, or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover and then the cats come and eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat?

What an appalling man with appalling opinions. That he should be teaching such garbage in a place of worship is an abomination.

But what I found equally repulsive was the coverage in Rupert Murdoch's dreadful tabloid the Sydney Daily Telegraph. A sort-of paper Fox News, it's largely a mixture of 'celebrity' gossip and redneck vitriol. Tragically, but sad to say tellingly, it's Sydney's largest selling newspaper.

The other papers reported on the address and also gave coverage to the outrage in the Muslim community. The Australian printed a rebuttal* of his extreme views on behalf of the community, a thoughtful explanation of why it was so wrong. In other words, fair and balanced reporting.

Two things incensed me about the Telegraph's coverage. First, they said nothing about the outrage in the Muslim community, their front page story was about the gang-rape victims, with statements from them. There was nothing about the broader Muslim feeling. Today they have put the mainstream view, but the damage was already done. A bit like a lawyer being ordered to withdraw a statement - too late, the jury has already, quite deliberately, been exposed to it.

Interestingly the front page story has disappeared from their website. Fortunately I copied it so I have it on file if anyone's interested.

But even worse in my opinion was the Photoshopped photo they used to illustrate the story. Just look at it:

THE victims of Sydney's vicious gang rapes are today leading the national
condemnation of Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly for denouncing women for not wearing veils. / The Daily Telegraph

That is deliberately linking an extremist and his stone-age opinions with mainstream Islam. And that is reprehensible. Totally unnecessary blatant misrepresentation. It is designed to divide the communities, to foster misunderstanding, to create more tensions. It encourages bigotry.

It is an absolute disgrace and has no place in honest journalism.


If you're interested here are some links to various reports/comment on the story.

Here's an edited transcript of his mad ravings

Mufti outrages Muslims over sex comments

*Rantings not Muslim ideals

To pre-empt accusations from 'anonymous', yes I would say the same thing if I came across any paper doing a similar hatchet job on any religion. I would make the same comments if I saw a photograph of an extremist Catholic superimposed over the Vatican, a Protestant extremist superimposed over worshippers in Canterbury Cathdral, or any other example you can think of.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"Declare victory and withdraw"

It seems quite clear to me that the US is planning for Iraq what Senator George Aiken urged President Johnson to do exactly 40 years ago.

In October 1966 the Senator urged Johnson to “declare victory and withdraw” from Vietnam.

The noises now coming from various US politicians seem to be suddenly moving in that direction. In spite of reports that the training of the new Iraqi army – America having disastrously disbanded the original army! – is going well enough to hand over to them, a report by Lt. Col. Nick Demas paints a very different picture.

The colonel’s soldiers, most of them inexperienced reservists from Maryland, had been tapped to serve as advisers to the Iraqi army. Bush has touted such advisory teams as key to the US strategy for stabilising Iraq and bringing American troops home. Lt Col Demas and his troops expected some of the best instruction the army had to offer. His report says: " In my 28 years of military service, I have never seen such an appalling approach to training. Nowhere else in the army system would this have been acceptable." His soldiers received only a few hours of instruction in Arabic, Iraqi culture and advising foreign forces.

However, whether the Iraqi army is ready or not, victory will be declared, Bush and his poodles Blair and Howard will claim they stayed the course, saw it through until the job was done, didn’t cut and run. They will wash their collective hands of the devastation they have caused, the civil war, the ongoing carnage, the likely break-up of the country into three.

The Iraqi government will then be blamed for what happens in the future.

Foreign forces need to be withdrawn, of that there is no doubt. But to leave without taking responsibility for causing the disaster is dishonest in the extreme.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The veil debate - honesty would help.

A problem can never be solved without the essential first step being taken – identify the cause of the problem accurately & honestly. Something that's always interested me, not to say frustrated and angered me, is the inability or refusal of people to do that.

I’m intrigued by the expanding debate over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the veil. It's another perfect example of the crux of a problem being neither acknowledged nor addressed.

Sadly that rarely happens, which means not only that problems are not solved but also that they become worse to the point of crisis and very often violence.

This current furore over some Muslim women wearing the veil is a good example. It’s reached the point of hysteria in the UK, and inevitably the lunatic fringe, for and against, is out in force, ignoring and distorting the facts to push extreme agendas.

That's what happens if a problem isn't identified, then solved quickly. It starts to reach crisis point, and that's when the violence kicks in. Already the Daily Telegraph has reported a woman in the UK having her veil ripped off.

Distorted facts.

An example in the UK of the facts being distorted. There’s been huge publicity over the teacher at the centre of the storm, Aishah Azmi, teaching her class while wearing the veil, with huge criticism about the stupidity of such action. The fact is that she was not wearing the veil while teaching, she wore it only when in the company of adult male colleagues. That fact is not in dispute but is ignored by those pushing their own agenda. And of course those who are against the veil jump on the lie and spread it as a fact.

Communication impossible.

Secondly, the claim is being made that it is difficult or impossible to communicate with someone unless their face can be seen. This is no more than an excuse for the anti-veil forces, a red herring. It has nothing to do with the real reason they want the veil banned. It is both untrue and ludicrous.

Ludicrous? The examples that prove it is so are endless. We all communicate perfectly well every day with people we can’t see, on the telephone, from brief personal messages to highly complex business conversations. We understand perfectly what we hear on the radio. Pilots with air traffic control and base-to-patrol for emergency services or taxis communicate perfectly well through radio sound only.

David Blunkett was born blind yet has been an MP since 1987 and rose to several Ministerial positions. He has never been able to see the people he’s talking with, can’t see other MPs in the hurly-burly of the House of Commons, yet obviously can understand perfectly well what’s being said to him.

I watched the press conference held by Aishah Azmi. She was totally covered, sitting very still at a table. Yet all the assembled media understood every word she said. Not once was she asked to repeat or explain anything she said. I watched on television and I also understood every word she said.

A moment’s intelligent thought demonstrates it is simply not true that we have to see people to be able to understand them.

Let’s be honest.

Let's treat the extremist rantings with the disdain they deserve and ignore them. Let's talk about the majority, the mainstream.

I’m in the middle of an e-mail exchange on the subject with a friend in Australia, where the same debate is arising. As part of his argument against the wearing of the veil he recounted the story of being pulled over by a policeman and asked to produce his driving licence. He felt so intimidated and uncomfortable because the cop was wearing dark sunglasses which hid his eyes that my friend asked him to remove the glasses. He needed to see the cop’s full face, felt fearful because he couldn’t.

I have no problem talking to people wearing shades and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. But others obviously feel intimidated, even frightened, by them. The same obviously is true with women covering their face with a veil, some, perhaps many, people not used to it are intimidated or frightened by it.

The MP who started the debate in the UK, Jack Straw, said that he asked constituents wearing the veil when visiting his office to remove it. His reason? He told the BBC: “I just find it uncomfortable if I’m trying to have a conversation with someone whose face I can’t see.”

It’s no accident that SWAT teams, Tactical Response Groups, are dressed in black from head to foot, face covered by a balaklava, only the eyes visible. It’s deliberately intimidating.

A woman wearing the veil is also a figure covered from head to foot in black, face covered, only the eyes visible. A frightening sight to some.

And there’s the crux of the problem. Not that a woman is wearing a veil but that other people are frightened by the sight of her.

The strongest human emotion, fear; fear of the unknown fear of the unfamiliar, fear of anything different.

So the answer is perhaps less that the few women wearing the veil should be barred from doing so, but more that the people frightened by it need to be educated that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Note: This is not a comment for or against the veil. It is a comment about the refusal of people to acknowledge the real causes of problems.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Revenge of the stingrays

You remember the reports of stingrays being killed in Australia soon after Steve Irwin was killed by one?

The word has obviously spread amongst the stingray community and they're taking revenge. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Stingray leaps on boat, stabs man in chest

An 81-year-old man is in critical condition after a bizarre attack by a stingray, which leapt out of the water into a boat and stung him in the chest.

Read the story here

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thought-provoking reports.

Some items in today's papers caught my eye:

Dubai's traffic

According to Emirates Today "Dubai's intelligent traffic system is expected to be up and running next month". Well that's good news - but as it's being beamed at unintelligent drivers I'm not convinced that it will be much help.

Is it going to stop people speeding dangerously, using the hard shoulder, pushing in front of queueing vehicles, jumping red lights, making illegal U-turns?

You bet your life it isn't.

Priorities guys - get more traffic police, trained and professional please, out patrolling the streets. Increase the penalties for traffic violations, including confiscating the vehicles of drivers endangering the lives of others. An intelligent traffic system is excellent, but it isn't the most pressing thing to be focussing time, effort and money on.

Another traffic story in EmTod quotes Brigadier Mohammed Saif Al Safeen, Director of Dubai Traffic Police Dept, as saying "another rule to be introduced will see truck drivers who jump red lights being deported."

Excellent news. But truck drivers are mentioned specifically. Does that mean you get away with it if you jump red lights in anything other than a truck? A 3-tonne 4X4 for example? A speeding exotic sports car?

Blair should explain

The muslim veil in Britain is an interesting story too, carried on the front page of Gulf News. Tony Blair has jumped on the bandwagon now, calling the veil "a mark of separation".

He said that the veil presented difficulties with Muslim communities and immigrants needing to integrate into western societies.

What I find interesting is that in the past governments haven't said the same about the sari, worn by many Indian women in Britain. Nor the Jewish yamulke, Pakistani shalwar kameez, Sikh turban. Or any of the many other items of national/cultural/religious clothing being worn throughout Britain.

If they are not a mark of separation, if they don't stand in the way of integration, why is wearing the veil?

And if they do present the same problems why have Ministers not said so over the decades they've been worn in Britain?

W's parallel universe.

Also on the front page of Gulf News, President Bush yet again proves that he lives in some strange parallel universe.

He pushes through a law that allows non-American citizens to be detained indefinitely, to be subject to harsh interrogation, for CIA secret prisons to be operated overseas, for people to be labelled enemy combatants and outside the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

Then comes the surreal "As I've said before, the United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values."

Mr President, you've just passed a law that makes it one of the US' values. That brings it within your laws.

What you've done, yet again, is to change the things the US has traditionally stood for.

And he went on: "This bill spells out specific recognizable offenses that would be considered crimes in the handling of detainees so that our men and women who question captured terrorists can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law."

Alleged terrorists, Mr President. Alleged. You've declared them guilty before they've even been detained!

Note "can perform their duties to the fullest extent of the law." The law has been changed to cover what they've been doing. Retrospective lawmaking. Do something illegal, change the law, now it's legal.

This is not what America should be about.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Creativity is alive & well in Dubai

There's plenty of criticism about the level of creativity in Dubai, from advertising to architecture.

But if we take a little time to observe, there are creative people around displaying their skills. Just look at this fine example from outside a shop between the spice & gold souks in Deira.

For reasons that escape me there seem to be no Middle Eastern-looking store mannequins available (huge orders await the first company to market them). All the shops display blonde, blue eyed mannequins, which look very strange modelling local clothing.

Worse yet, this store obviously could only get a mannequin of a child. And that's where the creativity comes in - a black felt-tip pen, an artistic touch and voila, we have an adult Gulf National looking just the part displaying his traditional clothing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A 'must watch' video

Chairman of the US Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees e-commerce, Senator Ted Stevens explains the Internet.

As you would expect, a senior lawmaker in such an important position has a real grasp of the issue.

It's on YouTube at Jon Stewart on Net Neutrality

I promise you, it's worth a few minutes of your time.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Beach Road to be dug up again!

I don't believe it!

Well, I do actually, it's standard practice.

Gulf News has this report:

Trams to offer alternative transport

By Ashfaq Ahmed, Staff Reporter

Dubai: Trams will be run on Jumeirah Road to provide an alternate mode of public transport, said a senior official.

"We are planning to run trams on Jumeirah Road. It will be an extension of the tram system to be constructed on Al Sufouh Road," said Abdul Redha, Director of Planning and Design Department of the Dubai Metro at the Roads and Transport Authority.

Hang on! Hang on!

Al Sufouh Road is brand new, it's only been open for about three months. And Jumeirah Road (universally known as Beach Road) was a nightmare with the seemingly never-ending widening/beautification work. It's only been open a few weeks, the landscaping is just starting to be put in.

Now it's been decided to run trams along both roads. That has to mean in both directions, and trams mean tracks have to be laid.

So that must mean the new 'absolutely essential' third lane is both directions on Beach Road will not be available for traffic, because the trams are going to be there.

That also means more construction - they have to dig the road up to put the tracks down.

Why, why wasn't this decided just a little earlier so that the tram work could have been done as part of the just-finished construction?

The full story is here

Another public transport option is great news, I'm all for it. But trams? Just stop for a second and think about the catastrophe of combining on one road trams with Dubai's drivers...

Added later:
I've found a photo of a tram in Sydney, Australia. Can you imagine these trundling along amongst Dubai's traffic?

(Photo from

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cost control or bad planning?

I've complained about it before, the incompetence of so many planners employed to design the new Dubai.

They keep getting it wrong. Totally wrong. Too often.

Who are these people? Why can't they get even the basics right?

There's an article this morning on Page 4 of Emirates Today (sorry, since they changed their site I can't work out how to link direct to the article) which highlights the problem at the Free Zone business estate. There's a crackdown it seems, with warnings & fines for 'improper parking'.

On several occassions I've simply given up trying to park at Internet City and driven away.

Now I'm not a trained planner but I can work out out that if you build a very large business estate with dozens of buildings, hundreds of companies, thousands of employees and hundreds of'll need to provide adequate parking.

You're building the business estate from nothing, so you could stipulate that every building must have a basement car park with several spaces for each office. Outside general car parks could be provided for overflow and for visitors.

Internet City/Media City/ Knowledge Village is that business estate. Parking isn't even adequate for the people who work there, let alone any visitors. That means the planners badly underestimated the number of vehicles.

There's only one other possibility. It wasn't the planners' fault - to keep costs down it was a deliberate policy not to have underground parking in the individual buildings. If that's the case it was an appallingly bad business decision.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just a normal day on Dubai's fine new roads...

Huge drama in Ras Al Khaimah

We must be thankful that the authorities are alert and aware of a major problem sweeping the emirate. And they've acted in the nick of time!

Khaleej Times has brought the dreadful details to light:

Maid caught before black magic could ‘control’ employer

RAS AL KHAIMAH — A UAE national says he has managed to save his home from the spell of black magic in the nick of time. His Asian housemaid allegedly tried to place a totem in his house so that she could ‘control’ her employers...

...The employer reported the case to the authorities and they ordered that the woman be deported. "I have disclaimed all my legal rights and cancelled her labour contract," he added.

We can rest easy, knowing that the perpetrators of such devilish deeds will be quickly deported. But be warned, it gets even more worrying, because our favourite No1 newspaper tells us...

This case is apparently not one-off...

It's even more worrying than the arsonist genie we read about recently.

Read the full dramatic story in Khaleej Times

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Racial discrimination in the UAE

There's a lively debate going on at the Community Blog, on a posting by SANS headlined Equal Opportunity. It uses an employment advertisement to illustrate the point of discrimination.

Racism and racial discrimination are alive and well in the region. It is an abomination and every step should be taken to remove it from society, but regrettably we have no legislation against the practice.

Unfortunately, SANS chose the wrong advertisement to illustrate a very valid and important point. There are many blatantly discriminatory advertisements every day, any of which would have supported the point much more accurately.

One quick glance through the employment pages of today's Gulf News came up with these examples:

It's a sad reflection of our society isn't it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Etisalat is reaching out to me...

Just received this from Etisacrap:

In our constant endeavor to enhance our service to best serve our valued customers, we once again would like to invite you to participate in our Al Shamil Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Kindly tell us how satisfied you are with our services and how we may improve our services to make your Internet experience more pleasant. Your feedback will help us improve our service and serve you better.

Is it ironic, or do they mean it?

If they mean it, I hardly know where to begin...