Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How to's for getting your Boing Boing back :: Instapundit.com

Glenn Reynolds proves again he is the master of compiling useful information, whether in covering a story for context or for practical application. In this case it's both for those not living in the proxy free zones - which in the UAE is most of the wired population.

Read the whole thing.

Pleasant surfing.

Many of us in the UAE first learned of the block early today UAE time by reading this post by grapeshisha, a member of the team over at UAE community blog.
For best port blogging in the globalization category :: alphabet city

Best blogging by those in the Globalist Camp: AJ Strata, Thomas P.M. Barnett and John B Chilton.
Naturally, I'd like to thank the members of the alphabet city Academy for this honor.

More important, I'd like to thank all my colleagues (over 10 countries represented in my department alone) and students (over 70 countries represented) here in the Emirates. You have shown me in practical terms what I knew only in theory; globalization is to be embraced, not feared.

Most important, thank you to my wife for her steadfast patience and faith in me. The life of a bi-continental couple is not for the faint of heart. Thank you for supporting me in following my dreams. I'll be home for summer.
Recommended reading for Tuesday 28 Feb 2006

Foreign direct investment in UAE hits $18b :: Gulf News
Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, first female in the UAE cabinet, makes the announcement.

New realisation in the US after DPW controversy :: Khaleej Times -
There is realisation, too, that the whole debate is hurting America in some ways — like, for instance, a feeling might go around that things are being discussed on racial lines, which is not in keeping with the image of America. Feelings are also that the business interests of America will not be better served by this kind of negative stands.
Boing Boing Banned by US-based censorware company called Secure Computing - UAE community blog
Here's how Boing Boing responds (emphasis added),
We've decided not to rejig our editorial process to make it easier for a censorware company to block us for their customers. Instead, we're creating a clearinghouse of information on how to defeat censorware.Last week, we reported that Boing Boing was blocked by entire countries including the United Arab Emirates, and by many library systems, schools, US government and military sites, and corporations [in the US].
Textbook of American school in UAE seized over ‘smell of racism' :: Khaleej Times -
Over 100 copies of the social studies text book, 'World Cultures' taught to the sixth grade children were confiscated by the Ministry of Education yesterday, for allegedly presenting Islam and the Muslim countries including Gulf states in a negative light while glorifying Israel on the other hand, Khaleej Times has learnt.

It has been accused that chapter 25 of the book running from page 599 to 614 contains a deluge of derogatory remarks against Islam and the Muslim world, for example, dubbing Middle East as one of the most dangerously explosive areas in the world and the Muslim conquest of India as the most bloodiest in the world history, to mention a few.

The sub chapters clubbed under the title 'North Africa and the Middle East' also elaborate on the religion and life-style of Israel with pictures. "Israel is one of a few democracies in North Africa and the Middle East today. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco are all kingdoms; the country of Syria has sponsored terrorism by giving aid to radicals in the Palestine Liberation Organisation, known as the PLO," read excerpts from page 610 of the book, copies of which Khaleej Times possess.
I'm not sure what's wrong with presenting factual information. Speaking of factual information, here's what some US critics of the same book have to say. It's pretty devastating. I wonder if the publisher has tried to suppress those voices.

UPDATE: Confiscated book was being taught for last 11 years

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Wal-Mart growth slows down :: Emirates Today

[Note to readers - Emirates Today links go stale in a short time.]

We very rarely read about Wal-Mart in UAE newspapers. Wal-Mart has not come to the UAE, but if it did it would eviscerate the many local shops that are poorly managed. Even hypermarkets here like the French-owned Carrefour have poor supply chain management - items can fly off the shelves and then not be restocked for months, if ever.

The striking thing about the Emirates Today article is that it only considers the American market for Wal-Mart. And it only discusses how Wal-Mart can grow further by adding a more upscale dimension to its merchandise offerings.

At least the article is accompanied by a photo showing Wal-Mart's first store in China. Wal-Mart will grow by expanding internationally.

Expect to see a Wal-Mart in your local emirate soon, especially now that the UAE is further liberalizing its foreign direct investment rules.


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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Harbouring suspicions :: Jordan Times

Who is Musa Keiliani? I don't know, but I like the way Musa writes and thinks:
Is an Arab Muslim country allowed to build itself as a major player in the international market?
. . .
In this particular dispute, it is the UAE that is involved, but there is no doubt that had any other Arab or Muslim country been involved in such a deal, the same objection would have been drawn from American Congress members. Notwithstanding the sweet talk American politicians give us, it is a high probability that a Jordanian company would face rejection along the same lines that are being pursued by members of Congress opposing the UAE deal.
. . .
What the critics are overlooking, or deliberately ignoring, is the excellent track record of the UAE. The UAE was among the first in the Arab world to sign up in all measures aimed at tightening security and adopting anti-terrorism measures, as suggested by the US following the Sept. 11 attacks. The UAE does not have a record of engagement in extremist attack or harbouring militants. On the contrary, the country has said it remains on high vigil and alert against extremists. The UAE is among the leading voices of moderation in the Arab world, and it has always followed a positive approach to Arab, regional and international issues. If anything, the UAE, like Jordan, is known for advocating dialogue to resolve conflict, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Finally, the UAE, like Jordan and other Arab countries, is among targets of extremists. The country has signed bilateral extradition agreements with others and is also following its obligations under them without fail. It is ridiculous, at best, to suggest that the UAE has links with extremism simply because extremist suspects happened to pass through the country on their way somewhere else. Had the UAE had any inkling of their real intentions while they were present on UAE territory, they would have been arrested and questioned.

US security and intelligence agencies had tip-offs about an impending attack, but they failed to take preventive action; so how could anyone blame others where they themselves have failed?
. . .
It is heartening to see that the Bush administration committed itself to go ahead with the DPW takeover. Indeed, it is the credibility of the administration that is at stake now, both in the domestic and external contexts, and its behaviour is closely watched from all over the world.
My emphasis.

I don't agree with this: "the obvious conclusion is that certain political and business circles supported by vested interest are mobilised against any effort by any Arab country to emerge in the international market and thus gain an influential role in world affairs."

Is "vested interests" code for the Jewish lobby? The Jewish lobby exists and it is effective. But it is not in the lobby's interest to see Arabs fail.

Rather, the ports deal is facing difficult times because of two factors, one honest and one dishonest. First, the American public has honest and legitimate doubts. Those doubts must be addressed; "trust me" is not enough in a democracy. Watching that process unfold is a lesson in democracy however disconcerting it may be.

Second, there are dishonest American politicians who see political gain from playing off those fears, especially if they appear to be beating Bush at his own game, putting safety ahead of all else.

Source of this link: NZM.

Looks like a great place to catch up on the news, politics in particular, and the conversation with and about the news in the blogosphere.

I'm grateful for the links, memeorandum.
Stretching the definition of The Democracy Project :: The Corner on National Review - Part I

[Visitors from the Washington Post, please check this welcome statement.]

Andy McCarthy posts a paragraph (click title link above) from a friend who asks some tough questions about whether, in supporting the UAE/Dubai in the port deal, Bush isn't stretching the definition of the Democracy Project rather far.

Readers of The Emirates Economist will note that stretching the definition is in effect what I have been doing in arguing that the port deal supports the Virtue leg of the Vigilance and Virtue strategy in the war on terrorism.

McCarthy's correspondent tries to put UAE and Saudi Arabia in the same basket. Yet the difference between them is vast. Try living in both just a while and you'll know it's not far off to say the UAE is an open society with a popular government. Follow the news from the past several years and you will know that the citizens of the UAE are respected by their government and listened to even though it is not what we in the west would call democracy. And concrete steps are being taken towards elected government.

Women are in the cabinet in numbers proportionate to their representative in Bush's cabinet - or Clinton's for that matter. Among citizens pursuing higher education 70% are women.

Human rights issues. Yes, but the bulk are of this sort - low-wage workers come to this country voluntarily and live in conditions superior to those back home, but not like those most of us view as acceptable. That is, it's the Nike critique, which I don't buy. There have been breach of contract issues with workers and these have blemished the country's image for good reason. The UAE recognizes that it is in its interest to enforce contracts and is taking concrete steps in that direction.

Underage camel jockeys is a longstanding issue and it is not good that it has taken the government so long to doing something about it rather than giving it lip service. That said, in the last year real progress has been made.

The UAE supports the Democracy Project in Iraq. And the UAE's support - unspoken perhaps - is with the repressed majority in Iran.

In short, I believe a compelling case can be made that the UAE fits the profile of the kind of state that will lead the Middle East out of a dark period in its history. It fits the so-called Democracy Project.

For later: Part II - Pakistan v. UAE.


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The Sins of Summers :: Althouse

Anne Althouse gives us some bits from John Tierney's (Time$-$elect) piece on Larry Summers and Harvard.

The gist: Summers was holding the faculty accountable to teach. The priest rebelled.

Read the whole thing.

Etisalat announces 25% dividend to shareholders and 25% increase in gross profit :: Strategiy

The year witnessed commendable growth in all major areas. Mobile connections reached 4.5 million lines, a 23% increase over 2004. This service has remained the main contributor to revenue, with a share of 58% during the year. The UAE can now boast of nearly 100 per cent penetration – this is comparable to the most advanced countries in the world. Fixed lines also saw a marginal growth of 4% to reach 1.2 million installed lines. Total Internet connections, including high-speed internet access, crossed the half million mark during the year.
Unless the population of the UAE has grown more than 0.3 million in the 6 months since Etisilat made a similar pronouncement, that amounts to more than 100 per cent penetration. At least by whatever method Etisilat uses to measure penetration.

Perhaps this explains Etisilat's captive customers' (i.e. any phone user in the UAE) use of the "r" word in referring to Etisilat rates. Too bad Etisilat blocks downloading Skype, etc. At least there's a duopoly in our future. But some foreign competition would be nice.

The irony is, although the UAE collect royalties of 50% on Etisilat profits, the UAE it would be a lot better off if it opened its borders to competition in telephony. All the Etisilat monopoly does is make it more expensive to do business here whether directly (stifling development of call centers) or not so directly (raising the cost of living for the imported labor which translates into higher wages necessary to attract labor from overseas).

And after all, the business of the Emirates is business.


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An open letter to America :: Adventures in Dubai

Keefieboy (a self-described forty something Brit living in Dubai the last 12 years writes) does a nice job of explaining Dubai in his "Letter to America."



PRESS RELEASE: Fitch: P&O Ports Complements Bidders' Assets

See this Fitch Ratings report from February 7, while the bidding war for P&O between Dubai Ports World and Singapore-based PSA was still active. See also this Gulf News report.

Do you see mention of US assets? No. Those assets are not part of the core strategic commercial concerns of DPW or PSA.

Bottomline: We could see DPW offering to spin off its US assets for economic reasons. If the American public remains set against the DPW acquisition of US ports a spinoff it may not be in anyone's interest to force the issue.

I remain hopeful that the deal will go through with a reasonable level of blessing from the American public. Daniel Drezner remains concerned the American public will not come around to that view. If they don't, then exiting before a vote and pointing to the compelling economic evidence in favor of a spinoff would limit the damage I see to the war on terror if Dubai does not acquire the US.



Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tipping Points, Cartoon, and Ports :: National Review Online

OBL is not stupid. He's either read The Tipping Point, or he's Blinked^TM its contents.

The cartoon riots have shaken the faith of the American people in Virtue half of the Vigilence and Virtue program for the defeat of totalitarianism wrapped in an Islamic blanket. But Vigilence alone is doomed to failure.

Moderate Muslims, individually and collectively are cowed into stiflng their criticism of radicals for fear of being labeled as apostates.

Could Bush force through the ports deal? Perhaps. It will be a rather empty victory for the side of Virtue if it is does not come with the backing of a substantial number of Americans who have seriously reflected on the ports deal.

Our moderate friends in the Middle East aren't relying on Bush's reputation, they are relying on the reputation of the American people to stay the course.

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50 Years Ago: The beginning of the end of communism :: Shrinkwrapped

The analogy with Islamofascism is clear. It is a totalitarian system that depends on controlling the thinking of its subjects; truth is dangerous to such a system. The Imams who spread hate and deceit are the spiritual heirs of Stalin and Hitler, men who used lies to destroy people's ability to think. Their crimes did not only involve destroying their opponents; they also destroyed the ability of their allies and their countrymen to think and perceive.
A commenter adds:
I confess to being "Islamophobic", if that word means that I am in some measure "phobic" of individual Muslims and Muslims as a group. That's only natural, and even proper to a degree.

But I am not thereby a BIGOT. I don't cross that destructive point of no return whereby one automatically and syllogistically hates individuals because they are members of a group that is allegedly hateful by definition, in its essence.

Making that leap would be just as much a relinquishing of the "objective measure of right and wrong" as Stalin's "identity politics", which you describe.
Blogs on the portside

John J. Miller provides an extract from Instapundit's WSJ ($) op-ed today. Here's a key sentence of interest to UAE denizens:
Some bloggers, meanwhile, were having second thoughts. One of them was me: Although my initial reaction was negative, I started getting emails from readers -- some of them longtime correspondents -- who had experience with the UAE. One had served alongside troops from the Emirates in Afghanistan; another had spent time in Dubai. Some had worked with UAE ports officials. All were positive.
John J. Miller adds, "For what it's worth, that roughly describes the arc of my own thinking on the ports--initial skepticism, but growing acceptance as I learned more about the deal, especially from the blogosphere."

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What I'm reading - 25 Feb 06

Boston mosque construction opposed by David Project :: Bridge News Portal

FrontPage magazine.com :: Welcoming Terror to U.S. Ports by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen - Sent to me by a commenter.

Larry Kudlow on Dubai Ports World on NRO Financial - "The entire case against the DP World deal is built on nonsense."

Alex Alexiev on United Arab Emirates on National Review Online - Sent to me via my google alert set for the words American, Sharjah

German multiplex giant CinemaxX has pulled the Turkish action blockbuster "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq" :: Reuters.co.uk - "The move follows a targeted media campaign by German politicians who claim the movie is "hateful and dangerous" because it depicts U.S. troops in Iraq committing multiple atrocities and because one of its bad guys, played by Busey, is a Jewish-American doctor dealing in stolen organs." My take: I want to live in a country where I can see that film.

The Muslim Madonna :: Hugh Hewitt - Here's a music video I'd like to be able to see in my country.

Oscar’s foreign films make strange bedfellows :: Khaleej Times

Saudi men and secret marriages : Khaleej Times - It is not permitted?

The economics of polygamy :: Marginal Revolution - Economists take an interest in polygamy.

Three's a crowd, four's a marriage :: CalendarLive - "HBO's "Big Love" probes the polygamists next door. It's family values of the provocative kind."

U.S. Wins Its First-Ever Medal in Curling :: AP - Interest in the icy sport of curling continues to heat up, I see.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

USA and UAE are bonding

The US Secretary of State is on a diplomatic mission to the UAE to cement relations between the two countries. If she will pardon me, some much more profound and consequential bonding is taking place economically that will do much to ensure warm relations between the two countries.

Dubai Port World has bid $7 billion for P&O including assets in the US of substantial market value. Given the US could seize those assets located, I'd say the UAE is sending a very clear signal that it's one of the good guys in the war on terror. A much bigger statement than words could ever make. The American public ought to be very pleased to accept this bond.

Somewhere, OBL is frowning.
Freaking out about takeovers :: Daniel W. Drezner*

It should be pointed out that the United States is not the only country currently wigging out about foreign direct investment. This seems to be the theme du jour across the globe. Some examples . . .
What is UAE policy on FDI? Not very liberal. Here's what the 2005 IMF staff report on the UAE had to say:
The staff welcomed the broadening of FDI opportunities in the export free zones in Dubai. However, it stressed that equally important in promoting foreign direct investment is the establishment of an unambiguous legal framework for the private sector. In this regard, the staff urged the authorities at the Federal and Emirate levels to implement FDI legislation that is market-based and tailored to allow individual Emirates to pursue their respective economic development strategies. The authorities agreed with staff’s recommendation and noted that, in line with efforts to continue the process of economic diversification, the U.A.E. is amending the Commercial Company Law, applicable across the federation, which may see the ceiling on foreign ownership raised from the current 49 percent.
Here's my message to Dubai: Do more to open your borders to foreign ownership of land. Be more open to investment in the UAE without a local partner.** As a member of the club of nationals engaged in trade for mutual benefit, it is time that you did.

And I would like the same access to local IPOs as citizens of the Gulf have. Why not?

*I like the use of the middle initial. Very classy.
**UPDATE: UAE to allow 100% foreign ownership.
This Woman's Intuition :: Dynamist

Virginia Postrel is one of my favorites. Ditto Dan Drezner. I'm wondering why I didn't think to check out what her thoughts were on the ports?

Quoting (in full):
Both my email and some of Dan Drezner's comments suggest that it's better to go with your gut on the ports issue, never mind the facts. Dan and I are supposedly "overly rational." One reader email recommends Malcolm Gladwell's Blink as a cure for my excessive rationality.

All I can say is my gut reaction was, "This is stupid." And, now that the research is in, I'd say that gut reaction was right--as Glenn Reynolds, among others, has come to agree (the blogosphere at its best). When you've seen enough ill-founded hysteria over foreign ownership, you develop an instinct.
Indeed. And your blinker will work, too!

And earlier, again in full:
Bravo to Dan Drezner, for his eminently sane post on the current fuss over letting a Dubai-owned company manage pieces of U.S. ports. And kudos to President Bush for standing up for commercial freedom and sound foreign policy. Dubai is a U.S. ally and a rare island of semi-freedom in the Gulf.

On this issue, my friend Glenn Reynolds has again demonstrated his disturbing tendency to congratulate himself for spotting, but not opposing. new expressions of American xenophobia. He has, however, partly redeemed himself by demonstrating that he'll at least consider rational arguments. I don't think bloggers, even big shots like InstaPundit, have a responsibility to comment on every issue. But if you're going to bring them up, Glenn, take a stand. Don't just pander to populist fears under the cover of doing horse-race-style analysis (i.e., "it's a political loser"). You wouldn't take the cheap way out if the issue involved technology.
To quote a well-known pundit, "Ouch."



Arabs refuse US moves to isolate Hamas :: Times of Oman

In an unrelated development (same article):
Rice, who arrived in Abu Dhabi later yesterday, met leaders of the United Arab Emirates to discuss the controversy surrounding a major deal by a Dubai company to run several US ports.

Rice met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, who is the UAE’s vice-president, prime minister, defence minister and the ruler of Dubai, as well as with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and deputy commander-in-chief of the UAE Armed Forces.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Quotas for conservatives in academia? I'm guessing Larry Summers would be appalled. I can only hope that the South Dakota legislature is doing this as a spoof on university speech codes.
David Brooks: Kicking the Arabs in the Teeth :: TimesSelect

Line 1: "The opposition to the acquisition of U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World is completely bogus."

I like the mild-mannered David Brooks. Always have. If he says something is completely bogus you can trust he's saying it like it is. Too bad the article is $.

But James K. Glassman (classy, like the use of the middle initial there, James) is free and here's what he's saying:
Isn't this precisely what the United States preaches? Don't we want places like Dubai to fight terror and to grow, to invest, to buy, to trade, to adopt Western commercial practices, to expose themselves to the rest of the world and thus become tolerant and moderate?

Instead, congressional leaders are trying to kill the deal, which is set to go into effect next week. Why? "Outsourcing the operations of our largest ports to a country with a dubious record on terrorism is a homeland security and commerce accident waiting to happen," says Schumer.

This is rank racist nonsense.
And, Dubai, take a bow. Here's what Americans are finally hearing about Dubai Ports World, via Glassman's post:
It is a company that knows this business well, currently running what The Guardian, the British newspaper, calls "one of the most efficient port organizations in the world," including deepwater facilities in Turkey, Hong Kong, three ports in mainland China, Australia, Germany, the Dominician Republic, Venezuela and South Korea. "Its port operations are breathtakingly fast and efficient." Meanwhile, Dubai itself is building a freeport hub, "so vast that approaching a fifth of the world's cranes are now to be found at work there."
So, who's learning from whom? Sounds like the U.S. is going to benefit from Dubai Port World's efficient business practices. Trade brings people together, and it changes them. Ain't the free market great?

The great economist, Milton Friedman, made the following observation in a recent interview:
The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically. Government intervention can't do that. Politics exacerbates and magnifies differences.


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Willie Horton, wedge issues and American politics
Soft on crime; soft on terrorism

There is a long tradition of playing the race card in American politics. Why? Unfortunately, because it works.

Willie Horton is the classic example. If you are not familiar with this example follow the link. Bush the First used it to argue that Democratic presidential candidate Dukakis was soft on crime, but it was made more effective because Horton just happened to be black.

A wedge issue is one where you can split off some of your opponents supporters without alienating your own base. Bush the First, though, wasn't so much using Willie Horton as a wedge at least not directly. Rather he wanted to bolster his credibility for being tough on criminals. And it didn't hurt that using a black face helped cement that perception with many Americans. Dukakis never effectively responded to the soft-on-crime tag that Bush I (and Lee Atwater) stuck on him. The reason is he never figured out how to do so without being labeled a racist by his base amongst blacks. So, in the end, Willie Horton is a good example of a wedge issue.

Fastforward to present day. Democrats, fairly or not, are perceived as being soft on terrorism; what public support Bush II has resides in being perceived as tough in the war on terror. Then the ports issue comes along.

Ah, it's the perfect storm. Play the national security card with the dark-skinned face. Place a wedge between Bush and the core of his support, Americans whose #1 issue is homeland security. That didn't work when the UK company owned the ports. It does now because the color of the port owner's skin has changed. Play off a public perception that many Arabs are terrorist sympathizers. Notice that the conditions for a fire storm are auspicious - news of cartoon riots has left the tender very dry.

Never mind that you've not shown that change of ownership has anything to do with port security.

Willie Horton was a murderer released on furlough in Governor Dukakis' state and while on furlough did commit a vicious rape. Dubai is no Willie Horton. But Hillary Clinton (among others) is using Dubai as if it was.

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Vigilance and Virtue
The port storm

As the port storm subsides, the debate in the U.S. over the Dubai Ports World acquisition of six US ports has, I'm hoping, moved into a new phase of more careful and deliberative debate over the facts and the issues. That debate is appropriate and it is part of the American process. It will be most unfortunate if the Arab world is left with only the knee jerk reaction - because visceral reactions can indicate sheer prejudice.

Knee jerk reactions can also indicate other deep-seeded experiences - I'm thinking in particular of the horrors of 9/11 and the grief that has stayed with us. But that does not absolve us of our duty and, indeed, our self interest in demonstrating that if the US public rejects the deal it has done so because of a real safety issue - but that needs to be demonstrated. There is no shame in knee jerk reactions per se as long as good judgment prevails in the end.

I subscribe to the Bush strategy in the war on terror. The strategy can capsulized in two words: vigilance and virtue. Vigilance as in protection of the homeland. Virtue as in the virtues of democracy, the rule of law, and free markets and fostering those institutions in the rest of the world. They complement each other in the war on terror.

As I see it, with the information I have at hand, it is clear why approval of the port deal is in full alignment with that strategy. Port security is part of vigilance, but port security will not change with this change in ownership. Port security may be weak. If so, do something about it, don't use it as a false diversion to win an argument.

A knee jerk rejection of the port deal would send exactly the wrong message. A knee jerk reaction - which says, with no substantive justification, it's OK for a UK company to own those ports, but not for a UAE company to do so - would be inconsistent with the virtue half of the strategy. A hearts and minds campaign is doomed if it is phony.

Bush has an MBA. Like a good MBA he has made his mission and strategy quite clear. Not widely appreciated perhaps, but quite clear. The proposition is: approval of the port deal fits the strategy. It appears to me that many American politicians and pundits never tried to put it in that context to begin with. The job for the White House is to bring the debate around to that context.

Let's have a closed mind on only one thing: knee jerk judgments.

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Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, and man of honor.

Glenn Reynolds:
I will admit that my knee jerked on hearing this story, and that I should have waited to learn more before offering an opinion. In my defense, I'll note that I gathered more information and changed my mind. Still, mea culpa.
Cross-posted at UAE Community.
Welfare system kills entrepreneurship :: Gulf News

A senior member of a leading business group, Kanoo, on Wednesday criticised "forced nationalisation" of jobs in the GCC, saying such policies were not helpful for private sector growth.
. . .
He said he was against Gulf welfare policies extending to provide guaranteed jobs to citizens.

"A welfare system kills entrepreneurship," Kanoo said, adding that welfare policies should be used to build educational and healthcare infrastructures rather than provide "handouts" in the form of jobs.


Port debate: 'A great deal of vague, ominous and sloppy language'

Jim Geraghty at National Review Online:

The controversy over this port sale have been driven by a great deal of vague, ominous and sloppy language thrown around by lawmakers, the media and bloggers. Had this discussion been marked by precision and a focus on just what was at stake, this would not have turned into the brouhaha it did. One almost wonders if the misleading language was deliberate.

Sad to say, some of my favorite bloggers used language that was vague, unclear, and helped foster misconceptions.
He proceeds to review how the debate has proceeded over the last week.

Link via Instapundit who writes:
At any rate, this is a perfect storm of bungled PR by the White House (which has forfeited much trust because of its excessive friendliness to the Saudis and limp response to the Cartoon Jihad, as well as general perceived laxity on homeland security and immigration), coupled with generalized anxiety about how things are going on the terrorism front. The White House should have had the facts out quickly, and should be on top of things now.
Fair enough to criticize the White House. And fair enough to signal your initial view on the ports deal isn't necessarily your final view by linking to Geraghty who writes:
Sad to say, some of my favorite bloggers used language that was vague, unclear, and helped foster misconceptions. For example, back on February 12, Instapundit observed the sale, and declared that it, “doesn’t sound like much of a Homeland Security triumph”.

Geraghty even goes after himself for his initial reaction.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Site Meter: 40,000 plus visitors to The Emirates Economist

Thanks to links on the ports acquisition debate and folks looking for the curling calendar we blew (crept?) by 40,000 visitors earlier today.

To my readers and my linkers, thank you. I'm having a good time.
Daily Kos: United Arab Emirates

kos, posting at Daily Kos, shows his knowledge of the UAE is about as limited as the average American. Which is to say, not much, and not representative of the full picture.

But then there's this posted by soj, another contributor at Daily Kos:

The Arabs are controlling our ports! They're lovers of terrorism and sponsors of fundamentalist Islam and George Bush sold out American security to the highest bidder! This is the kind of bigoted claptrap I expect at Little Green Footballs, not DailyKos. Instead of panicking, let's look at the facts. [continue reading]
Voices of reason are materializing from left and right. (soj link provided by Ali.)

TigerHawk, too, is on board.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Iran denies wanting to "wipe Israel off the map" :: Boston.com
"Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognize legally this regime," he said.
Word games. You are equating infeasility with denial. So you intend to wipe the regime off the map?And what do you mean by regime? The democratically elected government, or the democratically elected government and the electorate?

It seems to me you are saying not only do you not recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist, but you are prepared to do something to make sure it does not exist. Why mince words?


More opposition to UAE takeover of US port operations :: UAE community blog

Fahad Al Mahmood, posting at UAE community blog, provides a round up including Senator Lindsay Graham's by now widely-quoted statement that the Bush administration is "tone deaf" on the issue of the ports acquisition.

Lindsay is speaking of domestic-politics tone deafness.

Sometimes you have to turn a deaf ear. It can be a useful leadership practice.

Senators Lindsay (R-SC) and Clinton (D-NY), among others, are displaying a truly dangerous tone-deafness.

It will speak volumes to the rest of the world if the US reverses on the ports acquisition.

First, there is the rule of law including the spirit of the rule of law. The acquisition was approved by processes and procedures in place. Those who oppose the outcome want to change the rules and treat different people differently.

Second, this is a vital teaching moment. What are Americans who oppose the acquisition teaching the world? Do you really want to see principles of democracy and free markets spread in the Middle East or not? To quote myself:
This isn't about homeland security; it's about being open to foreign investment. It's about unfettered markets. It's about the American institutions that make the U.S. the economic dynamo of the world. Americans are not especially smart or virtuous compared to other peoples. It's their institutions that make Americans exceptional. Some Arabs come along and want to invest in the U.S., and you want to change the rules so they can't? Nonsense. You're ditching the very principles you're trying to transfer.
For a similar point of view, see this post by Starling Hunter over at Wizbang.

Maybe Starling and I have similar views because we're Americans teaching business to undergraduates in the Middle East. We're part of the enterprise that Lindsay Graham and Hillary Clinton are committed to undercutting.

UPDATE: US Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes spoke with the press in Dubai yesterday:
"Perhaps, it is important to understand that in my country, there's a very open environment for debate and members of the congress are always questioning, debating, discussing. Secretary Rice said the administration would be happy to share with them additional information about the inter-agency security review," Hughes added.

The Under-Secretary also mentioned that the US had long-standing alliance with the UAE and that both governments had been partners in the war against terror. "So I hope the people and the government of the UAE will understand that in a democracy, there is indeed a process of debate," Hughes said.
Yes. And the fact that "discussing, debating, discussing" is part of the process of democracy is an important point to underscore in a region where the virtues of such an open process are seldom enjoyed.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Gulfnews: Dubai's authorities plan to address the city's traffic problem

Very common headline here in the UAE.

Some recent thoughts on traffic congestion from Becker and Posner. Pretty standard stuff amongst the economics clan.

The optimal way to induce drivers to take account of the congestion they cause to others is to charge them fees for driving during congested periods that would vary with the degree of the congestion. So these fees would be higher during rush hours than during other hours of the day, and they would be lower on weekends when traffic is generally lighter than on weekdays. Fees should be greater when it is raining or snowing since congestion is greater with bad weather, in part because driving is slowed down by the weather, and in part because more people decide to drive rather than walk or take public transportation when it rains.
The political obstacles to commuting fees have persuaded the traffic economist Richard Arnott that more attention should be paid to substitute methods of reducing traffic congestion. A good deal of congestion is due to commuters hunting for parking places and to trucks blocking streets while unloading, as well as to bad driving (for example leading to more accidents), increased vehicle size (e.g., SUVs), poor road surfaces, road repairs, poor road design, weather, and bottlenecks. The problem is that any measure that reduces congestion without imposing any additional cost on the commuter will, as I mentioned, tend to increase the amount of traffic as commuters and other drivers switch from public transportation to cars or make less effort to avoid rush-hour traffic.
The Straight Drop brings you the "fear of flaming death" theory of traffic congestion.

UPDATE: Dubai issues a driving guide "in an effort to help motorists adopt a unified driving culture, said a senior official." Addressing the Crash of Cultures, I guess. But they may have a point - as I've said before, variance kills. Ties in with the "fear of flaming death" theory of traffic congestion perhaps.
US policy, not poverty, "is cause of terrorism" :: Sunday Herald

A leading US academic will challenge the establishment this week when he makes the controversial claim that poverty is not the root cause of inter national terrorism.

Alan Krueger, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, will say suicide bombers tend to come from middle-class families. He will also argue that terrorism is directly motivated by US policy decisions.
Is there much new here? I thought the poverty argument folded years ago - and Krueger was among those who convincingly demolished it.

And does anyone dispute that US policy that supported corrupt and/or totalitarian regimes contributed to the growth of a reactionary, totalitarian and abhorrent utopianism advocating violent overthrow of those regimes and the US? Those policies did contribute to the growth of this beast.

Current US policy is not to be confused with those policies. Current policy is two pronged: (1) defense of the homeland against terrorism - that defense includes preemption, and (2) the promotion of democracy in regions where totalitarian regimes prevail and the gradual withdrawal of what ever props the US has provided that contributes to the survival of those regimes.

Is Krueger saying those policies are also impediments to the removal of terrorism? I can't tell, at least not from the Sunday Herald. But if you're inclined to believe that they are, then you'll be quick to agree with this spin:
SNP leader Alex Salmond said he agreed with the academic’s analysis of the Bush administration’s anti-terror policies. “Krueger is undoubtedly correct. The war on terror has been disastrously counterproductive ,” he said.
I don't agree.
She plans to introduce legislation to block Dubai from owning ports in the U.S. Look at this coming from the co-sponsor of the legislation:
"I just don't believe that our ports should be handed over to foreign governments," Mr. Menendez said in an interview. Especially not to Dubai, he added, because it has a "serious and dubious history" as a transit point for terrorism.
He routinely accepts large speaking fees from Dubai and wants to
strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence and pursue racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation. President Clinton hopes and believes that participating students will return to the United States and not only encourage others to experience Dubai and other Arab States, but also share their understanding and knowledge of the Arab world with their communities.
He has spoken to AUD students about "Overcoming Cultural Differences" - unfortunately, I found no report on what he said.

Is there any hope for reconciliation between these two?

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Seabee: "It's not only the respect & rights of the current property owners they need to think about - it's also Dubai's future. We're getting bad press overseas about these problems and poor building standards already. And that impacts not only property investors' confidence, it also impacts on anyone thinking of investing. If they don't believe they can trust the place, that it has integrity, they'll simply put their money somewhere else. And Dubai's future relies on foreign investors pouring the dollars in."

One of democracy's virtues is that it works slowly and in the open so much of the debugging of policy is down before implementation. One of the virtues of the rule of law is that it removes discretion. Discretion ain't all its cracked up to be.
The myth of women's equality in Europe :: Newsweek: International Editions

Rana Foroohar reports:

It sounds impossible, but it's true. For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, the Continent is by and large a woeful place for a woman who aspires to lead. According to a paper published by the International Labor Organization this past June, women account for 45 percent of high-level decision makers in America, including legislators, senior officials and managers across all types of businesses. In the U.K., women hold 33 percent of those jobs. In Sweden—supposedly the very model of global gender equality—they hold 29 percent.

Germany comes in at just under 27 percent, and Italian women hold a pathetic 18 percent of power jobs. These sad statistics say as much about Europe's labor markets, lingering welfare-state policies and corporate leadership as they do about its attitudes toward women.
Ouch. The lesson you take from this next bit probably explains a lot about your view of how markets work. Quote:

Why is this? Simply put, Europe is killing its women with kindness—enshrined, ironically, in cushy welfare policies that were created to help them. By offering women extremely long work leaves after children, then pushing them to take the full complement via tax policies that discourage a second income, coupled with subsidies that serve to keep them at home, Europe is essentially squandering its female talent. Not only do women get off track for long periods, many simply never get back on.
. . .
Any number of studies, including some by the OECD and the ILO, have shown how excessively long leaves can derail women's career prospects, often permanently. Employers are understandably reluctant to hire and promote someone who may absent herself for years on end, often more than once. "Being a potential mother becomes an obstacle for women in certain types of jobs, and that is the case all over Europe," says ILO labor sociologist Manuela Tomei. Removing one's wedding ring for job interviews has thus become commonplace. So have probing questions. "Your family plans come up at every single job interview," says Sasha Buehler, a Munich film buyer. "I've had to promise potential employers that I won't get pregnant." While questions like this might elicit a lawsuit in the United States, European women are less likely to fight back. Europe doesn't allow class-action suits and, outside of the public sector, the burden of proof in a discrimination case still falls on the individual rather than the corporation, making it incredibly difficult for a single person to initiate and win a case.
So, what's the lesson you take from this? That government should make it more difficult for business to defeat its good intentions to be kind to women? If so, then you ought to also agree that Emiratization is best pursued with more regulation, more vigorously enforced.

Which environment is preferred by women? That partly depends on the individual woman's preferences: whether she likes working in environments where incentives are sharp or where they are soft.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Cato Unbound - "The principal motor of Europe’s current decline is, in my view, its obsession with social security, which has created rigid social and economic systems that are extremely resistant to change. And this obsession with social security is in turn connected with a fear of the future: for the future has now brought Europe catastrophe and relative decline for more than a century."


Trade: The awakening of the Arab World - Newsweek: International Editions

Feb. 27, 2006 issue - After a century-long estrangement, some Arab economies are rediscovering a lucrative asset: each other. Take Egypt, where the value of trade with its Arab partners rose by 60 percent last year—fueled by the falling Egyptian pound, which Cairo decided to float in 2003. The cheaper currency has been a boon to manufacturers like the Olympic Group, which expects the value of its regionwide exports of white goods to triple this year, to $50 million. The company has opened sales offices in Dubai and Jidda and a refrigerator factory in Sudan.
Read the whole thing.


Arab League calls its members to pay their shares :: Jordan News Agency

Algeria's summit decided to support the PNA budget with $330m during the period from April to September 2005 according to the ratios of countries participations in the League's budget. The PNA received $124m from the allocated amount within that period.
Good thing it wasn't the other way round, or we might have a riot on our hands.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has a round up.
Why are women being left out in the cold? :: ABCNews

Good question to which there is no good answer.
Slagothor: In a perfect world

In a perfect world, the UAE would be loudly declaring things like:
- we arrested and imprisoned every radical in the country after 9/11
- mosques and imams are closely monitored for any "radical" words or actions
- the population is strongly encouraged to keep a keen eye on their neighbors and report any suspicious behavior to the police
- we have US air bases in this country
- we buy military equipment and donate it to the Iraq army
- we pay for training of the Iraq army
- we cooperate fully with US-led terrorsit investigations
- we have cleaned up our banking laws to the point that they are stricter than most
- acts of terrorism hurt us more than you because we rely on trade and the free movement of people.

Terrorism makes those things more difficult, and us poorer.
Read the whole thing. And give the man his own blog.


A thorny crown :: Andrew Sullivan The Daily Dish
Silence says as much as words or acts, sometimes more

Gratuitous, arbitrary offense of someone else's faith is not a laudable exercize of free speech. It's an abuse of such freedom. But context is vital. Bob cites an example of portraying Jesus with a crown of thorns made up of dynamite sticks, after an abortion clinic bombing. I'd say that's a perfectly legitimate comment after an act of violence performed in the name of a religious figure who preached non-violence. Many Christians would share the sentiments of the cartoonist.
. . .
The world has been terrorized for decades now by murderers who specifically cite Muhammad as their inspiration. It is completely legitimate speech to point that out. Not to point it out - to remain silent in the face of it - is an act of denial.

The reason that so many Muslims are offended is not just because any depiction of Muhammad is taboo; but because the conflation of Islam and murder is now firmly fixed in the global consciousness. I can understand why the repetition of that fact should upset many peace-loving Muslims. But that is not the fault of cartoonists. It's the fault of the Muslim terrorists, and the failure of mainstream Muslims to condemn them sufficiently, ostracize them completely, and prevent them effectively from further mayhem. At this point, in my judgment, further appeasement of these religious terrorists is counter-productive - and actually enables the extremists in their simultaneous intimidation of moderate Muslims.
. . .
self-censorship is a slippery slope. Practising it after acts of mass murder runs a real risk of inviting more of them. As ACT-UP used to say, "Silence = Death." Which is why the Islamists want as much silence as possible.
To paraphrase the cartoonists: Now that we have your attention - as words never have - where is the outrage and condemnation at those who put on the cloak of Mohammed to carry out acts of hate? Because that message would be more effective coming from you.

UPDATE: Jackie Mason, comedian - "They [the cartoonists] weren't insulting their religion, they were satirizing a fanatic." Naturally, being fanatics, they applied The Fanactics Insult Standard of Justice. (Via The EclectEcon.)
From the HR Department of Al Qaeda :: Austin Bay Blog
File under: Labor markets in everything

Job descriptions, salary and benefits (vacation, health insurance), code of conduct, mission statement.
The Multiculturalism of the American Street :: Joel Kotkin
Fusion Happens

No advanced Western country—not even America—produces enough children to keep itself from becoming a granny nation by 2050. So unless indigenous birth rates rise beyond pattern and probability, only immigration—and the industry and energy these newcomers and their children bring—can provide the spark to keep Western societies vital and growing.

We see the dynamism of immigrant culture already before our eyes. Many of the most bustling sections of Western cities today, from Belleville in Paris to the revived communities along the 7 train in Queens, are precisely those dominated by immigrant enterprise.
. . .
To be sure, this culture fusion will not please some conservative intellectuals, who will not look kindly on the incorporation of Spanishisms into our daily language any more than the rising popularity of Yiddish words appealed to Henry James a century ago. For the most part, however, this informal, undirected and mostly market-driven form of integration bodes very well for the continued dynamism of both American culture and economy. It guarantees that America will remain youthful, changeable and, very likely, strongly family-oriented. And it points to a major difference within the civilizational West—for most European countries have yet to figure out how to blend and thrive as has the United States.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

At Religious Universities, Disputes Over Faith and Academic Freedom :: New York Times

And these universities are not located in the UAE.

A gay film festival opened at the University of Notre Dame last week with a sold-out showing of "Brokeback Mountain." On Valentine's Day, Notre Dame students staged a production of "The Vagina Monologues."
. . .
"Precisely because academic freedom is such a sacred value, we must be clear about its appropriate limits," Father Jenkins said last month in a speech before faculty members and students. "I do not believe that freedom of expression has absolute priority in every circumstance."

The controversies at Notre Dame are the latest and most high profile among disputes at many other religiously affiliated universities about how to promote open inquiry and critical thinking while adhering to the tenets of a given faith. Tensions seem most acute at some Catholic and Baptist universities, in large part because student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse and secular over the years, some theologians and historians said.

For instance, The Catholic University of America in Washington and Providence College in Rhode Island, among others, have sent productions of "The Vagina Monologues" off campus, and four other Catholic colleges have canceled the performances. The Georgia Baptist Convention voted late last year to break with Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in part because the school permitted a gay rights group to operate on campus.

For many, the disputes at Notre Dame arise from different ideas about what it means to be Catholic. Those who oppose the events say they contradict the church's core teachings on human sexuality. Others contend that prohibiting events runs counter to a Catholic intellectual tradition of open-mindedness.
More enter race to offer space tours:: New York Times

UAE supports US investment in UAE-based spaceport. Michelle Malkin unavailable for comment.
Posts that contain Ports Emirates per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart

Posts that contain Ports "White House" per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!
Want to help your kid do well on standardized tests? :: ABC News: 'Freakonomics Friday'

Do you? Sorry, it's all about who you are, not what you do. Time for a personal makeover of sorts - if that's even possible.
Levitt and Dubner used the ECLS to see what helps young children do well on tests. "Not only does it measure their scores," said Dubner. "It also conducts extensive interviews with the families of the kids, so we know a lot about each family and what they do in the family."

What were some of the results? Take a look, and try to guess which factors correlate to higher test scores.

* The mother was 30 or older when she gave birth to her first child.
* The mother left work to be with her child between birth and kindergarten.

Ready? Being a mother over 30 strongly correlated to stronger test scores in her child, but taking time off to raise her child did not.
. . .
Reading a book to your kids every day did not seem to correlate to higher test scores. But owning books did.
. . .
"You think, well, are these books just magic somehow?" said Stephen Dubner. "Do these books just cause intelligence?

"Well, no," he continued. "Much more likely is that any family that has 100 children's books in the home is likely to be pretty highly educated to begin with, is starting out with a pretty high IQ, and values or treasures or rewards education to begin with."

A commenter to an earlier post reports that Etisilat is blocking access to Michelle Malkin. The commenter says it is because of her writings about the Dubai takeover of six major US ports.

The White House does not oppose the takeover, but many US bloggers, left and right, do. My position is stated here - in short, I support the administration's position.

I suspect that Michelle Malkin is blocked for more than her opposition to the ports takeover and has more to do with her take on the cartoon controversy. (She's bordering on racism in both cases. I'd have thought she was bright enough to know better. Perhaps she's fueling outrage to raise her profile and fill her pocketbook. Perhaps she's just lost some perspective. Things like 9/11 do tend to have that effect on some.)

If the UAE is not happy with the coverage the ports takeover is receiving in the US, it should address the concerns many good-spirited Americans have. Engage in the debate and demonstrate that those concerns are ill-founded.

My approach would not be to block access to Michelle Malkin in the UAE. It would be to expose her views to the light of day, and confront them.

I'd like to know if your access to Michelle Malkin is blocked (click link above). UAE readers, please leave a comment either way.

For more on internet filtering practices in the UAE go here.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Marginal Revolution: When is it bad to disclose good news?: "The predictions are tested by examining when economics faculty at different institutions use titles such as 'Dr' and 'Professor' in voicemail greetings and course syllabi."

Outsourcing is climbing skills ladder :: NYT
A new study that will be presented today to the National Academies, the nation's leading advisory groups on science and technology, suggests that more and more research work at corporations will be sent to fast-growing economies with strong education systems, like China and India.
. . .
the report found that multinational corporations were global shoppers for talent. The companies want to nurture close links with leading universities in emerging markets to work with professors and to hire promising graduates.
DOZ, take note.

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Dear Fans of Ladies Curling,

Regretably, The Emirates Economist has little to offer on the subject of curling, and what there is probably takes you in circles.

However, Marginal Revolution has a recent posting on curling most of which is on Page Two. Or is it Page Three?
Money is not a means to an end :: Forbes.com

A brief but useful insights into the growing field of neuroeconomics. Your economist wants an MRI machine to do research.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

College bosses accused of discrimination :: EmiratesToday


Fifteen students have been told they are no longer wanted at the Abu Dhabi Nursing College because their grades are not up to standard.
. . .
The mother of one girl who was dismissed said that most of the students involved had graduated from high school with an average of 80 per cent marks.
. . .
The college enrolls national students who graduate from high school with average grades of 60 per cent or 65 per cent while other nationalities must have an average above 70 per cent to be accepted.
That is, there is no question that the college does discriminate in admissions. We are not told what the nationalities of the dismissed students were. But the principal denies that there is any sort of discrimination in the dismissals.

Meanwhile, a U.S. recent report found "The academic intensity of the student's high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor's degree."

If the dismissed students are disproportionately national it could be an indication that the government school education is not as intense as private high schools. If most of the dismissed students had 80% marks from high school that could indicate the scores don't tell you much about the students' preparedness.

Some stories in today's Khaleej Times about the UAE government education system:

Interview with Minister of Education - “If the graduated students are good, it means our mission has been successfully done, and the other way round means it has ended up in a fiasco. Unfortunately, the graduated students are still not up to the mark. Therefore, we are required to do more work and achievement in order to realise the objective."

Read the whole thing.

Minister's surprise visit pays dividends - "several reports in local newspapers spoke about the parking lots of the MoE being stacked up with cars since the early morning hours."


Valentines Day in the UAE :: Gulfnews

The price of red increased 20 percent. (What?) Phone call minutes increased 50 percent on February 14.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"american studies minor" :: Google Search

A good thought: Let's improve the understanding of America by offering an American studies minor to students attending university in the Gulf.

Okay, let's see what an American studies minor looks like.

Over at the University of New Hampshire you'll find courses like American Literature, History of Early America, Place & Popular Culture, Music and Social Change, The American Presidency, and Activism: Reproductive Rights. Hmmm. Okay, except maybe that last one. Funny - no economics courses.

At Boston College "he over-arching subjects an American Studies minor investigates are race, class, ethnicity and gender." No economics. Courses offered include Nature in American Culture, America's War in Vietnam, American Film Genres, Black Women and Feminism, R&B.

At the College of Charleston, economics is included. Among the courses that can be taken towards the minor: People and Cultures of Early America, American Architecture, Urban Economics, Jewish-American Literature, American Labor History, Religions in America, Southern Politics, Substance Abuse and Society, and Extremist Politics.

In Gulf, what would such a minor look like? Several American fill-in-the-blanks come to mind: history, politics, foreign policy, culture, and race and class. It's hard to understand America without studying religion in America; thought ought to be another. As far as economics goes, students who take principles of economics and spend a lot of time studying market economies are seeing economics from a largely American perspective.
Katrina victims sell military rations on eBay :: ABC News

Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, said the online sale of government rations is an outrage. "It is absolutely outrageous that people are going to exploit a national disaster to make a buck. It's food that could have gone to other volunteers or victims who were in bad shape and in need of those products," he said.
Why can't gifts-in-kind be converted into cash? Were the MREs given under proviso that the victim could never resell them? Didn't the government transfer ownership when it gave away these durable meals? If the meals aren't going to be consumed by the victims are they supposed to send them back to the government? And is the government going to restock them in its inventory? I doubt it. What if you ended up with more MREs than you used - isn't it better to sell them than to dispose of them?

But if you expect the government to take care of you, you should expect the government will tell you what to do.

Tangential aside. I once served on a jury in the trial of a member of the US military who worked in a military storage facility and had access to used uniforms. He was accused of selling used uniforms to Army & Navy stores across the Southeast. The guy had the same last name, different spelling, as Senator Strom Thurmond. Every day at lunch time the jury would go out for lunch and walk past the defendant's Jaquar auto parked illegally in front of the court house, with his last name on the vanity plate. The car was never towed or ticketed.

UPDATE: Should we be upset when cash gifts are not spent the way we'd like? Besides what's there to complain about if you give your kid cash to buy lunch, he uses the money to buy cigarettes (which he was going to buy anyway), and he still buys lunch but with money of his own?
Eating may substitute for other forbidden indulgences :: MSNBC.com
File under: substitution possibilities; people respond to incentives

OREM, Utah - Mormons on average weigh 4.6 pounds more than other Utahans, a study by a Brigham Young University professor concluded. The study also found that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were 14 percent more likely than nonmembers to be obese. That was 18 percent for men, and 9 percent for women.
. . .
"For years, the church has focused on the don'ts -- don't smoke, don't drink, and all the other things that you shouldn't do that are heavily enforced," said Steve Aldana, a BYU professor who presented some of the study's findings at a recent heart conference at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

"There has been little emphasis on the do's -- eat good foods and exercise," he said. "In the church, we have a lot of don'ts, and now finally here's a do -- go ahead and do eat -- and boy, do we eat."
I wonder if there is a parallel explanation to the obesity problem in the GCC.
A Case for "Gulfstat" :: IMF

The authors survey the statistical institutions in the GCC countries and present the case for creating "Gulfstat"-a regional statistical agency to operate within a "Gulf States System of Statistics."
My take: GCC countries are run like family-owned businesses. One of the advantages of family-owned businesses is that you do not have to reveal your internal data to the market. Somehow I doubt much has changed that would induce member countries to collect and reveal data that could be potentially embarrassing. Not that there is a great deal to be embarrassed about, but that there is a strong preference to avoid any possible loss of face.

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Is a VAT in UAE's future? :: Gulf News
K.I.S.S. -- Dubai is a business park

"Soaring asset prices and emerging inflationary pressures warrant close monitoring," the IMF said in its last report on the UAE. "The sustainability of the UAE's growth prospects hinges on continued implementation of structural reforms and maintaining financial stability," the IMF added.

As a remedy, IMF recommended that "the revenue base be broadened to reduce reliance on oil and gas revenues, including by introducing a local property tax and a value added tax, the latter in coordination with other members of the GCC."
A "Dubai-based investment adviser" says,
"This will fuel inflation and the general public will suffer. Employees will demand higher pay to cope with the added expenditure that will impact overheads, reducing the bottomline," . . . "In the long run, the main attraction of living and doing business in a tax-free environment like Dubai's will disappear."
The Gulf News reporter opines:
The move, aimed at diversifying Gulf countries' revenue stream and reduce dependency on oil, comes at the right time for Dubai, whose oil output is waning.
My view: Dubai's economic strategy is to be a well run business park where the business park ownership is compensated by the tenants. A VAT would be one form of compensation. If we don't like it we can relocate to a park outside of Dubai, in the UAE or otherwise. If Dubai continues to provide great business park services the we will probably stay.

UPDATE: See Keefieboy's post for insight into the likelihood this going to happen any time soon.
Favouritism in Education ministry, says employee :: Khaleej Times

The anonymous employee who substantiated his claims with documents revealed that a number of employees at the ministry's office and educational zones were being illegally paid special 'teachers cadre allowance', which is usually restricted to teachers.
. . .
It also appeared from the names included in the list that nepotism was the only criteria for choosing these people for their posts. The list of employees included the sister of a senior ministry official as well as an intimate friend of a senior official at the Ministry of Education.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Looking into polygyny :: The Undercover Economist
Just in time for Valentines Day

Read the whole thing. My favorite bits:
A lot of the knee-jerk reactions against polygyny are from people who can't add up.

In a society with equal numbers of men and women, each man with four wives gives women the additional pick of three men - the poor saps whose potential wives decided they'd prefer one quarter of a billionaire instead. In the Sahel region of Africa, half of all women live in polygynous households. The other half have a good choice of men and a lot more bargaining power.
. . .
A little over one in 100 American men are in prison - but there are several states where one in five young black men are behind bars. Since most women marry men of similar age, and of the same race and the same state, there are some groups of women who face a dramatic shortfall of marriage partners.

Economist Kerwin Charles has recently studied the plight of these women. Their problem is not merely that some who would want to marry won't be able to; it's that the available men suddenly have more bargaining power.
. . .
The women's response makes sense: girl power. The women affected do everything to make the most of single life, including staying at school for longer and hunting for more paid work. The American prison system hasn't left them much choice.
. . .
polygyny's reputation needs to be rehabilitated. Nevertheless, I am resolutely against its introduction. We men are downtrodden enough already.

UPDATE: The Weather Girls have this to say.


Rising fuel prices cause reduction in use of cars :: Khaleej Times

Let's use our critical thinking skills on this quote from your number 1 favourite newspaper:
The ACNielsen study found that the UAE had the highest number of vehicles in private possession worldwide, together with Italy and the US.
The sample was an online consumer poll. Internet users in the UAE are a less representative sample of the human population here than it is in Italy or the US.

See this Gulf News report on self selection bias in its online polls. I wonder if GN would have been as vigilant if the result was not embarassing.
Minister issues wake up call, literally

Despite the thick morning fog, Minister of Education Dr Hanif Hassan Al Qasimi makes it to work on time "at centralised departments and offices of the Ministry in Dubai yesterday."

And while he demands responsibility and accountability, he delegates authority:
He also issued instructions delegating wide powers to school managements and educational zones. He assured that there was no cause for fear that the school managements and educational zones would exploit these powers.
A blast from the past: 9 February 2005, surprise visit rumored.

UPDATE: "The surprise visit by the Minister of Education Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qasimi to the premises of the ministry in Dubai on Monday, during which it was found out that a large number of employees did not show up on time, paid off as all the employees yesterday reported for duty on time at 7.30 am sharp. Even white collar officers, directors of departments generally known for late arrival, were remarkably punctual. . . . The employees said that real commitment should spring from inside, and not because of pressure from above." Yes - one of the tricky bits for any human organization is to foster commitment. Compliance-oriented employees are a pain.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dubai: fastest growing city in the world :: Guardian

Some of the choicest quotes:
* It is said that a fifth of the world's cranes are now at work here.

* One night in one of the luxury hotels would cost six months' wages of one of the men who built it.

* The traffic is already as bad as Los Angeles.

* The World Bank reckons that the reconstruction of Iraq is going to cost $53bn. Here, along the strip of footballer-friendly sand that stretches 25 miles or so along the shores of the Persian Gulf, there is, at a rough estimate, about $100bn worth of projects either underway or planned for the near future. That is a numbing figure, ungraspable. It is the equivalent of every single dollar invested in the United States from abroad last year; almost twice the foreign investment in China.

* One indoor ski resort, with real snow and its own black run, exists already, a weird, looming presence on the city's southern skyline. There is to be a second, with a revolving mountain [did I miss the memo?].

* It's the port most visited by the US Navy outside the United States.

* Singapore wanted it too and the two commercial city states' rival bids drove up the price, adding 80% to the value of P&O's shares and valuing the company at a reported $6.8bn (just short of £4bn), an unprecedented 40 times P&O's profits last year. . . . When Dubai Ports issued a bond for $2.8bn last month to help it buy P&O, it found itself drowning in $11.4bn of subscriptions.

* "what Dubai is trying to do is set an example of how Arabs should be represented. After 9/11, Arabs suffered from a lot of bad publicity. Dubai is trying to come back with the right kind of publicity. It will be a fully modern state. It will be setting the standards. It will be a place that people will look up to."

* Brokeback Mountain is soon to open in Dubai cinemas [hmmm, I guess The Guardian didn't get the memo], which it never could in Saudi Arabia.

* "Everything about this place smells of western women, right? It looks like an al-Qaida target to me." There are rumours in Dubai that a terror plot was foiled last year but the processes of government are so opaque that there is no confirming that.

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