Sunday, December 24, 2006

Good morning all,

It's the dawn of a new day, I hope - literally a rainy dawn in Abu Dhabi. Somehow this blog got stuck back in 2003, but by now the world knows about the Emperor and his dubiously tailored threads. So I don't need to be stuck there anymore, and besides it's CHRISTMAS day, and one of my New Year's Resolutions is to start using this blog more (I have several) ... but THIS one, as a central location to pull together some of my other projects.

Right now, my project is Christmas. In Abu Dhabi, we work the day before and after Christmas, but our gracious hosts always grant us the day itself off. There is therefore a rare chance for pause and reflection in what is otherwise a routine work week.

My family and I are taking pictures and opening presents just now. More to follow.


Friday, April 11, 2003

A dirge for freedom on the eve of victory!

On the morning of 10 Apr 2003, back home in Abu Dhabi, I was particularly struck by the front page of the Gulf News. Under the huge headlines END OF SADDAM there was a large picture of the statue being hauled down in Firdous Square and in a column to the right of that, so that it was the first prose you would read on the front page, an editorial by Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News. The article was entitled Iraq for Iraqis and it essentially expressed two views, sadness at the impotence of Arabs at the sight of US Marines walking in the streets of one of the most ancient, historic and holy capitals in the Arab world, and secondly of course relief that the tyrant had gone and acknowledgement that he had brought this spectacle on Iraq in full view of the televised world, thus returning to the first point and so on.

Now there are two interesting things here:

(1) Whereas the coverage in the rest of the paper was largely in line with world media in expressing relief and appreciation for the rapid assured victory in Baghdad, the editor chose to lead with his own article rather than bury that away in an Opinion column somewhere. Therefore though the bottom one-third of the front page reported the facts more straightforwardly, the top two thirds had this statement of Arab ambivalence toward foreign involvment and impotence at being forced to view the event, which is important to bear in mind as we watch events unfold from now on.

Keep in mind also that prior to three weeks ago, Arab television audiences had been getting a steady stream of video depicting similar scenes of systematic Israeli destruction of the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis don't take embedded reporters with them, but BBC and Al Jazeera frequently show footage from populous city centers in which crowds scatter in panic in the face of helicopter gunship attacks, or as firemen attempting to staunch blazes drop their hoses and run for cover when tank shells land close by, or even tanks picking off civilians in the streets (a blast that killed two boys scurrying to get home was aimed at the car of a doctor who was wounded but drove on and was interviewed later in hospital). And scenes of residents picking themselves despairingly from the rubble of apartment blocks devastated in Janin in efforts to assassinate the one single terrorist who lived there with his family are painfully similar to the scenes at Masouria, where the US dropped four bombs at once in its most recent attempt to get rid of Saddam and his entourage.

(2) The article itself contained two countervaling views, and the second interesting thing is that the editor chose to lead with the one he did, so that the first thing you read under the headline and bylines is "This is a heart-breaking moment for any Arab seeing Marines roaming the streets of Baghdad, the capital of Caliph Al Rashid." He could easily have lead with the more positive view and presented the heartbreak in a subordinate clause, as he does in his third paragraph. His choice was not random.

Due to these two choices by the editor (leading coverage with his column and starting that column on the heartbreak note) the overall impression from today's newspaper is that yesterday's events in Baghdad weren't
an entirely good for the hearts and minds of the Arabs. I'm not sure what controls there are on editorship of the newspapers here - my impression is that the news is largely balanced and impartial which, unlike American local papers, does tend to present the Arab view now and again, and it is healthy to know what the Arab view is.

The article itself, even though it was on the front page of today's paper, is not easy to locate. Here is the url for the search that eventually turned it up:

On that page it was the fifth item down today. It does not seem possible in Netscape or IE to get a new window with a url for the article itself. Here it is in case you can't locate it or to save you the trouble:

Iraq for Iraqis By Abdul Hamid Ahmad

This is a heart-breaking moment for any Arab seeing Marines roaming the streets of Baghdad, the capital of Caliph Al Rashid.

The city presented to the world sciences, literature, art and philosophical thought during the reign of the glorious Abbasid empire.

As much as an Arab is pleased to see his Iraqi brothers free from the yoke of dictatorship which humiliated and tortured them for more than 20 years, his heart breaks from depression and pain seeing this sad end to Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, collapsing under the chains of Marines' tanks. The Arabs' forefathers were also sad one day when hooves of Mongol and Tartar horses wrecked the minaret of science, desecrated its libraries and shed the blood of Baghdad's children.

Should we laugh or cry today? Cry on seeing an Arab capital sway and fall without resistance live on air. At the same time, we are unable to do anything - even sadness has become difficult for us to feel. Or laugh because an Arab country is eventually getting rid of the yoke and shackles of slavery by which a tyrant of this age fettered it.

Should we cry for the humiliation which a dictator of Iraq put us through, or should we laugh for his imminent end as it happened one day to other tyrants like Hitler, Stalin and Ceaucescu.

This is a tough, sad and painful moment with our feelings leaving us speechless. This is a moment we did not wish to live through or see. However, the ruler of Iraq led us to it, and insisted that we live through it as he led his people and Arabs before to other painful moments when he invaded Kuwait, causing the biggest rift among Arabs and weakening their power for the interests of their foes led by Israel.

He and his propaganda machinery, until yesterday, were heaping lies about his power and greatness. But today, he is shattered - and no expert expected it to happen so fast.

We say nothing, but this is the end of any dictator or tyrant who does not pay attention to his people and governs by iron and fire, not love and justice, and wastes the resources of his country on oppression and tyranny.

His people yesterday seized the opportunity thrown up by the war and revolted, tearing his pictures and destroying his statues.

We wished that this end would have come at the hands of his own people, not at the hands of the Marines. But, again, the sins of dictatorship, as practised by Saddam Hussain, brought the Marines to the Gulf with his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. And today he brought them to the capital Iraq, Baghdad of Al Rashid and Al Mutanabbi.

We have no relief but in seeing Iraqis regain their freedom and rising to build their country and govern themselves, cooperating with Arabs and peace and justice-loving peoples to fight tyranny, illness, hunger and ignorance and other foes of humankind.

Iraq should be for the Iraqis, free, glorious and sovereign.

Other URLs:

More interesting Arab and Muslim Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad

A heartfelt thanks to the people of America from a good friend in Kuwait

Mark Warschauer's Mabruk to the people of Iraq!

The New York Times on the Web
Thursday, April 10, 2003


Hussein Statue Is Toppled — Rumsfeld Urges Caution
Much of Baghdad tumbled into American hands as Saddam Hussein's image was pulled down from pedestals and
portraiture in the city.

... and this back page stuff ...

American Air Attack Mistakenly Kills 11 Afghans
An American warplane mistakenly bombed a house in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing 11 civilians and wounding one.


Israelis Kill Five Palestinians in Gaza Strip
Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rolled into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and killed five Palestinians after
Palestinian rocket fire on an Israeli town.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

It's been a while since I've posted to my blog. I was set to travel when the war broke out and delayed departure long enough to see that the situation was normal in Abu Dhabi. Once I got to Baltimore I stayed in a hotel for a week where, whenever I was in the hotel, I watched CNN's coverage of the War on Iraq. Here I was reconfirmed in my belief that some Americans will take at face value whatever news happens to be on TV (while many with experience from the Vietnam era tend to discount what they're seeing on TV, or at least that things are going as well as the administration will have us believe). CNN was making opposing views of the war hard to come by, giving scant mention to protestors. Most Americans don't bother to dig for their news, but like me in my hotel, they absorb whatever's on the air waves while shaving, making coffee ... and there was nothing on the news but American troops fighting their way through Iraq.

At one point during that week Wolf Blitzer asked his viewers if CNN's coverage was too critical of the war or not critical enough. By this time I'd watched several days of non-stop US military briefings and play-by-plays with commentators explaining charts with arrows so you thought you were watching the superbowl of all battles, and like a football game, it was being examined from every angle except the most crucial one: no one stopped to question, why are we playing football in the first place? It was all factual and conjectural (is Saddam alive? Will the Iraqis continue to put up this much resistance? Whose fault is it we're getting bogged down here?). Meanwhile CNN reporter Jim Arnett has been fired for pressing that last question a little too closely. As Bush says, you're either for us or against us, and too many politicians are being forced to toe the line favoring political survival, with reporters forced to follow suit. Critical? Wolf, please, a lot of us are too intelligent to take that question seriously.

Here's a litmus test on criticism in American news media. How many times have you heard Israel mentioned in media coverage of the war on Iraq? (Answer, not often) ... though CNN carried footage of UK Parliament debates and one of the speakers actually managed to slip in the taboo question, right there on American television, of when Israel was going to be compelled to get its troops out of the West Bank and remove its illegal settlements. This is the critical question that US lawmakers should be asking, should have been asking in earnest since way before 9-11. In fact, this war is not about oil. There is not enough oil in Iraq to pay the 100 billion plus bill for the war there. American soldiers in this war are essentially fighting and dying so that Israel can perpetuate its occupation of the West Bank. It's strange not only that CNN should focus entirely on one country for a whole week of news coverage (and in so doing reflect the perspective of the entire US government) but that the country that the war is being fought in behalf of is not mentioned in connection with this campaign. This is the antithesis of critique (to get back to Wolf Blitzer's question). Meanwhile according to a Newsweek report (March 24, 2003) there are only two countries in the world where the majority of the people in those countries support the war in Iraq: USA and Israel (from p.22 in the Special Report: "In fact, while the United States has the backing of a dozen or so governments, it has the support of a majority of the people in only one country in the world, Israel. If that is not isolation, then the word has no meaning."). That is, in a war that purports to be fought for democracy, the war is supported in many cases by the governments of countries like Spain and Australia where the PEOPLE in those countries resoundingly oppose the war, and against the express wishes of other democracies such as France and Germany where the democratically elected gov't actually reflects the will of the people.

As an American who values justice and freedom, and who reviles wars of aggression against innocent civilians, I'm wondering how the people of Germany felt when Hitler announced to them he had invaded Poland. People turned out in the streets for him and joined the Hitler youth, but many must have had their doubts about the path he was leading them down as the troops got more and more overextended. True, in Germany or Iraq you could not post a blog giving your opinion as forthrightly as I am doing here. I am exercising my right to do so but wondering if we're nearing the rubicon even in my country. What we need in America is a true spirit of criticism, in the media and in government. As a democracy, we might start by actually electing a president. The current one has us poised on the brink of disaster and delusion.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

My entry from March 18, the eve of World War III, has prompted some responses. A friend from Berzerkely writes:

"If you think there is *anything* besides the war on, every channel, 24/7 (and this has been the case for days), or that we don't watch the BBC here (it's part of the regular cable line-up) you haven't been in the US recently enough. I agree w/ most of what you say, but it is unfortunate that arguments about the war have to take shots at the stereotypes of American behavior. It entrenches those who disagree with the anti-war side, and alienates those who agree with anti-war sentiment."

Point taken, and I've changed my entry below to reflect that I didn't mean to make an attack on America's intellectuals, or to say that the information is not there (I'm a constant listener of NPR when I'm in America). It's just that most Americans, I believe, don't avail themselves of sources of news they have to go out of their way to get. 60% of the population voted for Nixon's re-election despite the fact that you could read throughout the campaign in Time or Newsweek (if you bothered to read Time or Newsweek) that the gun was all but smoking.

Another friend writes: "My goodness--is there any danger in Abu Dhabi, Vance? I'm shocked at the CNN footage I just saw. I hope you and your family will be safe."

Bush's action has created grave danger for expatriates and American interests everywhere in the Middle East. Basically he attacked the wrong country. Attack was the wrong thing to do in the first place. What I mean is he did not go after the country that everyone around here knows is responsible for instability in the Middle East, a country that also has weapons of mass destruction, and a country that uses these weapons against unarmed civilian populations (ok, and against a few stone-throwers and other pockets of armed resistance mingling among these populations). By going after an Arab regime and ignoring the other problem (oh yeah, there was this afterthought of a roadmap, so not ignoring maybe) he has implicitly supported and joined forces with the sworn enemy of the Arabs. In this part of the world they say 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. This is why there is a steady stream of taxis from Jordan even now, after the bombing has started, flocking INTO Baghdad in support of the Iraqi ruler and people, AGAINST what Bush has now confirmed is a second enemy of the Arabs. Bush is relying on the people of Iraq to rise up against the dictator and join forces with the Americans? It seems about as likely that Palestinians would welcome their Israeli liberators. People in Abu Dhabi are kind and peaceful and pose no threat to the safety of my family, but there are elements in this part of the world and everywhere that will use the moral capital that Bush has squandered after 9/11 to justify violence against Americans like ourselves who staunchly oppose the Bush government's betrayal of what we once understood were commonly shared values of liberty and justice for all. It seems that in Bush's world it's liberty and justice for the strong, rich, and greedy, and you can pick up any newspaper or tune in any TV these days to see how the strong, rich, and greedy inflict their brand of justice on the disempowered.

The upshot is that the SRGs in the world manipulate the rest of us for reasons that can only be explained by psychologists. How for example, can Bush possibly believe his own rhetoric about bringing ultimate peace to the region by putting in place forces of chaos that are endangering everyone throughout the globe, but especially in the Middle East? Saddam and Sharon and Bush have in common that they all have amassed weapons of mass destruction and all three are are equally willing to unleash their military might on innocent bystanders. They are in effect themselves the forces of evil their mothers warned them against, and they've become so confused with the mirrors they use to deceive others that they don't see when they point the finger it's reflecting back on them.

The problem for the people in the world is how to remove these leaders without attacking each other. Bush has made this an infinitely more dangerous world by providing extremists around the world with pretexts to hold the the millions of peaceful bystanders accountable for the crimes of their governments.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate... Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that" - Martin Luther King, Jr., "Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community" 1967

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." - Mahatma Gandhi

"The deed is done, the dues can wait." - Gordon Lightfoot, Black Day in July

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

A dirge for freedom on the Eve of War:

The soul of the world is in great distress at the prospect of the imponderable impacts of the reckless adventurism of the Bush administration, unforgivable when contrasted with its inattention to more pressing world needs, including addressing the root cause of the problems in the Middle East (well, yes, there was mention of a Roadmap a few days before the killing was due to start, months after the decision was made to do the deed despite what world leaders, crowds in the streets, or the UN might say).

All around the world Internet traffic records the collective wail of people in recoil over what cannot be stopped now that the lone superpower is primed to rage unchecked, thumbing its nose at a UN powerless to rein in the single-greatest threat to peace on the globe today. Many people in heartland USA have for too long been watching sports and sitcoms on TV peppered with a half hour of local news each night and perhaps a half hour of stage-managed network news, while the rest of the world takes in the view through the more balanced lenses of the BBC and the international version of CNN (much different from the watered-down sound-bite pap CNN repackages for American attention spans). Soon those world-view cameras will be broadcasting images of Iraqi civilians digging out from the rubble entombing the innocent collateral victims of USA aggression. This juxtaposed against already daily images of Israeli air and land attacks on exposed civilians in Gaza and the West Bank will reinforce an unfortunate impression in the mind of the global community NOT supported by a huge minority of American citizens, and probably a majority of American expats (at least those living in the Middle East).

The current American government is not embarked on a course that will resolve the root causes of injustice in the world today. Sadly its actions will exacerbate the problem as our leaders drag us all into ever an ever-widening spiral of violence. A great sadness overwhelms those of us who are powerless to stop terrorism from wherever it is launched, as we realize we are safe neither from individual nor government sponsored mahem. With the new world order now being set by the Bush administration, we are left betrayed by the new minders of what we had thought our country stood for, and we grope to retain our humanity and compassion, no longer with any trusted source of protection.

URLs now redirects to

For what it's worth (not much) you can vote against the war:
Is this guy really in Baghdad? If so these dispatches from a fellow blogger are interesting:
My son Glenn has been participating in peace marches in San Francisco:

Computer training skills - links to sites providing reports and how2z "FREE online training course, fully funded by the Learning Skills Council, no cost to the individual whatsoever"
More information on training teachers to use technology: http://www./

Grateful to John Hawkins for this one: offers "FULL texts of training materials in dozens of areas, including the Microsoft Office Suite--Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. The only thing is: They are pdfs marked with "Not for Training Use". That just means we can't actually use the evaluation text as a lead text in a training course, but otherwise they are fine study guides. Each of these texts has its own series of quizzes and tests and would make for good companion reading as you are following the ICDL. In fact, if you go to the Certification page, you'll find "fun" crossword puzzles you can complete. These might even be useful in the classroom (if adapted)."

Monday, March 17, 2003
A free interactive simulation for practicing 21st century workplace skills, attributed to Michael Hillinger
This is a compelling Flash simulation about life at the office. Explore the tutoria and then set your task load from 'walk in the park' to 'very busy' and enjoy your day. has amusing videos here:
More about videos in ESL here:
Greymatter is the original opensource weblogging and journal software. With fully-integrated comments, searching, file uploading and image handling, completely customisable output through dozens of templates and variables, multiple author support, and many other features—while having perhaps the simplest installation process and easiest-to-use interface of any program offering this level of functionality
More about Blogs here:
Avatar-me can create (for a fee, of course) "Your 3D graphical, photo-realistic, personalised, virtual representation or image on the Internet ... The avatar is a file that is around 200-500 KB in size [in] Avatar-Me's own *.ame format ... Avatars are viewed after creation in a computer-generated animation sequence at a LBE (Location Based Entertainment) site ... the avatar's face and body can be animated ... the person should be able to wear almost any type of clothing.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Front pages to the world's newpapers:
More on reading:
More on sources of text: