Monday, February 27, 2006

Paradoxical Manchester

Packing problems in head, sour and bitter feelings in heart headed to Manchester, a city in the North West of England with an old Latin name: Mamucium + castra (ceaster). The first part is the name of a Roman fort that stood there from 79 AD onwards and “castra” (ceaster, originally castrum) in old Latin means fortification or castle and among Romans “castra” was “a rectangular military camp”. However, the contemporary Manchester with approximately 450 000 population neither looks like nor reminds a military camp; an ordinary peaceful town with more skyscrapers than in London (at least it seems so!) with no signs of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 webbed by River Irwell, River Medlock and River Irk. A rainy city with annual rainfall of 809 mm. This characteristic of the city made me regret for leaving my “hoody” jacket behind in London, while holding an umbrella among the youth in Britain has ostensibly outdated. Thus, I had to find a bit of poetic sense (or nonsense) of raininess (or love to the rain) left somewhere deep inside to enjoy my clumsy trip of a stranger around the town under drizzling clouds.

Our first impression (with my friend) was not pleasant though. I suppose you agree with me that confronting beggars straight away after leaving the station in a strange place is not a good feeling, especially if they turn out to be very rude ones. That was our first encounter in Manchester immediately followed by a similar one. Young white guys (not minorities) with intact pairs of hands and legs (definitely a couple of healthy eyes too; for they recognized us as foreigners straight away) asking for cigarettes and annoyed by our reluctance scolding us: “Why are you lying?” I had to prove that we were not lying. Arming myself with the same sort of rudeness had I to say: “We do have cigarettes dude, but certainly not for you”. And believe me it works.

But the search for brighter parts of the Manchester life didn’t take too long. People (except for beggars) seemed friendly and polite with coquettish Manchester accent, streets were broad and clean with less traffic jams and different minorities co-existing (seemingly) peacefully. I noticed many Arab shops with Arabic names like “Safad” and “Aleef”. In the first one we had a delicious vegi pizza with a falafel wrap and in the second one I bought some poisonous stuff (namely, Marlboro) in order not to give away to healthy beggars. And while stunned by the Madonna-prices of hotel rooms in downtown I overheard a large guy fallen on an armchair speaking in Persian to someone over his phone. (Subject: he was leaving the hotel straight away to meet his friend - or whoever was speaking to him - in Piccadilly in 5 minutes, while enjoying his comfortable chair further on. Five minutes were rather needed for him to get himself up and head towards the exit. He-he. I know I’m too nosy).

But another unpleasant happening just before midnight made me rethink my idea about the peaceful co-existence of minorities and the majority: in an infamous American shop designated for fattening slim nations (namely, McDonalds) an unsteady English dude was angry about something with the sales assistant. Security guard had to ask him out, but he was justifying his behaviour by stating that the sales assistant was a Muslim. Surely, most of the English agree with me that scum of the society like him bring them disgrace only. (As for McDonalds, I have to shamelessly admit that I had a pack of their chips! Presumably I was unsteady too to visit it after such a long boycott!)

Manchester night clubs made me fall in love with the city again. Have you ever seen club security guards joining their customers on a dance floor? Their counterparts in London have forgotten how to smile long time ago and I bet they rehearse their voices at home to make them sound huskier and tougher (but they end up sounding rather funnier). No doubt, they are also busy auto-training themselves in front of a mirror to maintain the bulldog looks or of a person who’s survived a sexual assault by you. But now I’m talking about Manchester club guards that seem absolutely opposite, as if I’ve granted them my Mercedes recently. (If I got one indeed? No, just dreaming on).

Oops, it seems I’ve ranted enough for now, while haven’t said everything yet. Just briefly: on the way back home (it’s still in London; for a couple of more days) popped in Birmingham too. The second biggest city of Britain with a huge shopping centre just opposite the station. The crave of shopotherapy dragged me into the centre and that was all I could see in Birmingham: Debenhams, Gap, Topman, River Island and many more loud labels. And the area around the centre; nice and modern with a tall tower in the middle. Not as impressive as Manchester’s post-modern buildings though.

Tomorrow I’m receiving people from a relocation company. They will collect all my odds and sods to send to Prague. I will follow them shortly, Ahura willing. Excited? Not even for a bit. Why? Too long to explain now. Maybe another day.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why Do We Quit a Job?

Apparently my decision to change my job has been based on a well-studied theory. It seems I could not adjust myself to the "corporate philosophy" of the corporation amymore. That means when you don't know where to situate yourself within the organization and when you cannot agree with your employer's philosophy and the way business is handled by the management. The results of the study have been published in The Career Journal that highlights four reasons to change jobs:
culture clash,
meager rewards,
signs the company is going down, and
no possibility of advancement.

Four Red Flags That Signal It's Time to Quit a Job.

Off course, I didn't have all those four reasons in my decision, but on the other hand, the list of my reasons might be even longer than that.

Secret Trial in Tajikistan Appears Connected to Upcoming Presidential Election

Kambiz Arman 2/21/06

The secret trial in Tajikistan of former key presidential ally underscores that President Imomali Rahmonov seems intent on choking off all avenues of opposition as the country prepares for a presidential election later in 2006.

The trial of Ghaffar Mirzoyev, a major-general who commanded the presidential guard, resumed on February 15. The proceedings, which began in mid January, are closed to the public. Arrested in 2004, Mirzoyev stands accused of engaging in dozens of criminal acts, including allegedly conspiring to overthrow Rahmonov.

In January, Mirzoyev’s lawyers petitioned to have the trial opened to the public. Authorities summarily rejected the request citing national security concerns. The case against Mirzoyev reportedly centers on "secret facts," according to a representative of the Tajik Prosecutor-General’s office. Qayum Yusufov, one of Mirzoyev’s lawyers, said the government’s ruling did not come as a surprise, adding that the petition was submitted with the intention of calling attention to the case.

Mirzoyev played a pivotal role during the early years of Rahmonov’s rule, serving as a pro-government military commander during Tajikistan’s 1992-98 civil war. Mirzoyev’s detailed knowledge of the Rahmonov administration’s decision-making processes and activities provide a strong incentive for government officials to ensure that the trial’s testimony remains sealed. In mounting his defense, some political analysts suggest, Mirzoyev is likely to offer testimony that is politically damaging to the president. Defense lawyers have hinted that they would move to call Rahmonov as a witness if prosecutors proceeded with the coup conspiracy charge. Given the trial’s secret nature, there is no way to determine whether or not the coup conspiracy charge has been dropped, or whether a verdict has already been reached.

What is certain is that Rahmonov has taken steps in recent months to eliminate potential rivals for power. The president has moved firmly to neutralize domestic political opposition. For example, in what many analysts see as a politically motivated conviction, Democratic Party chairman Mahmadruzi Iskandarov received a 23-year prison sentence last October on abuse of power charges. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Rahmonov also has purged his administration of potential threats. Mirzoyev appears destined to share the same fate as former Interior Minister Yakub Salimov, who is serving a 15-year sentence following his 2005 conviction on treason charges. And in January of this year, Rahmonov carried out a wide-ranging personnel reshuffle aimed at strengthening his grip on regional political administrations, local political analysts say.

On top of neutralizing political rivals, Rahmonov appears intent on constraining the development of civil society. In a February 11 interview published by the Vecherny Dushanbe newspaper, a Justice Ministry official, Davlat Sulaymanov, revealed that the Rahmonov-controlled parliament was debating a new law governing the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). "Tajikistan needs a law stipulating strict control over NGO activities in the country," Sulaymanov said. NGOs should report annually to respective ministries and agencies on the work."

Vecherny Dushanbe quoted another Justice Ministry official, Rustamsho Megliyev, as saying the draft legislation does not at present envision "the strengthening of financial control" over NGOs. Most of the legislative changes are "related to the registration of these organizations."

Editor’s Note: Kambiz Arman is the pseudonym for an independent journalist based in London.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Historian jailed for speaking out… 17 years ago

Who else would dare to say that “freedom of expression” is a Western value? Realities are proving the contrary. Filtering Iranian web-sites in the US was not enough to show the whole picture, since America has always been a bit backward than Europe in terms of democracy. However, giving 3 years of imprisonment to a British historian (David Irving) was the best effort an Austrian court could have taken to show that “freedom of expression” is just another modern myth.

David Irving is jailed for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. He thought, most of 6 million Holocaust victims died from different diseases rather than by Hitler’s gas chambers. But (a big BUT), it was David Irving in 1989, in 20th century. And David Irving of 2006 believes that he was wrong then and he believes that “the Nazis did murder millions of Jews”.

Nevertheless, the Austrian court, keen to wash away the stain of shame from their recent history, decided to show the powerful Jewry of the world the drastic change in their natures: now they love Jews, the very Jews they used to torture and kill, and while no one is able to return them their stolen lives, the children and grandchildren of Austrian Nazis will punish whoever dares to doubt the fact of them being murdered by Fascists, particularly Austrian Fascists. Very moving! But not convincing. And not constructive at all.

Read the title again: “Historian jailed for speaking out… 17 years ago”. It is not happening in Iran; otherwise the entire Western world would have cried foul. Nor in other parts of the so called “third world”. Europe – the greatest “defender” of freedom of speech has done it. They’ve put in jail someone not for doing something, but for saying something. This is a sheer Stalinism reviving in a wrong place and it must be confronted.

By the way, Austria provided the best subject for the Iranian International Cartoon competition ridiculing Western double-standards. I’m sure dozens of cartoons would be drawn about such a perfect example of Western double-standards.

It seems US & EU have got their own selective approach towards some notions like “democracy” and “freedom of expression”. The Iranian Cartoon Competition is not recognized as an effort to exercise cartoonists’ freedom of expression and its sites are banned in America. But Danish Mohammad cartoons are a matter of freedom of expression, according to America, however, "the artists had to feel responsibility". An Israeli terrorist party “Likud” wins the election and comes to power in order to kill Palestinians with more authority. It is a matter of democracy, for US & EU. A Palestinian terrorist (liberation) group “Hamas” wins the parliament seats and forms a government. US & EU are stunned and outraged: no way! This is not the kind of democracy we want! We don’t accept this sort of democracy. Show us a different one; otherwise we’ll impose it upon you!

All empires get lost amidst their arrogance and ignorance and fall down into a bottomless pitfall of eternity. Modern empires are following their steps by breaking their own rules and values.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Can We Practice What We Preach?

Apparently the American ostrich is going deeper into its sand pile, but there are some concerns that it might burry itself under the pile eventually.

According to latest reports, some Iranian websites like Hamshahri and have been blocked for their users in the States and hacked for world-wide users. Because these 2 institutions tried to retaliate the Danish Mohammad cartoonist by announcing a cartoon competition on Holocaust.

They stated that their real intention was "to measure the sanctity of freedom of expression among the westerners" or in other words, to measure the extent of the Western tolerance. I have no doubt that their competition is a bad reaction to a bad action. However, they've suceeded to prove that the US government is as an ostrich as the Iranian regime. For those who are lost in this ostrich tale I advice to get back to our first ostrich tale on 14 February.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

...and Something More Important

Now let's forget about unfortunate ostriches and congratulate our halves. Happy Valetine's Day, T!

A Tale On Two Ostriches and Their Piles of Sand

What is happening to the BBC Persian web-site in Iran these days reminds me an ostrich that just by hiding its head under a pile of sand believes that the horrible dog threateningly approaching it has disappeared and there is no more threat that could bother the ostrich anymore. The site has been blocked by Iran’s new puritan rulers almost a month ago. Presumably they have used a censorware such as Smartfilter produced by the same threatening dog – the States – to filter the website. Anyway the American communication company Secure Computing had been accused by a research corporation called OpenNet of providing Tehran with a censorware. We have no proof of the accusation so far though.

But what is well-known is the origin of that kind of software, of course the US. They use it in various purposes including blocking services for rogue states like Iran. But usually it is not Ahmadinejad and his gang that feel the deprivation of any sort in the Internet field; probably they’ve already been provided with an anti-censorware by the same dog. It’s again those with a forbidden word in their hearts that have no access to some American domains, not able to download Google in their computers and deprived from PayPal services; the very site created by EBay; the very EBay created by Pierre Omidyar, a French Persian. It sounds ironic, doesn’t it? But it proves that, funnily enough, dogs can metamorphose themselves into ostriches too at times.

How far can you go by hiding your head under the sand? Physically, not even for an inch. Mentally, you will definitely go backwards up to the 7th century maybe or even farther and at the end of the day will find yourself in a deep and dark pitfall. Or finally will wake up from a deep sting on your ass left by the very threatening dog.

I just don’t understand why they don’t put their sordid minds at rest and move on. Centuries of wisdom have failed to make them understand that forbidden fruit is even sweeter; to be more precise, the ostriches have failed to realize this truth. Tight control over net-surfing and weblog-creating in Iran has put this country on the top of the list of the countries that host more blogs. As far as I remember, Iran was the forth last year with almost 70 000 weblogs. More than 7.5 million Internet users in Iran will not rest their hands on their keyboards and wait until the fruit becomes un-forbidden and consequently un-sweet. I’m sure a loophole will be found, only if not found already, and the bottom of the ostrich will be bitten badly. Ouch!

And the American ostrich has no reason to be proud of its sandy haven either. I know a couple of Internet worms in Tehran that easily can use PayPal transactions whenever needed after typing the word “ostrich” in their Google browsers. Hence, ostriches, beware!

PS. The first attempt to filter BBC Persian website in Iran occurred on 16 January, when all five veto-wielding powers of the UN plus Germany were plotting against Iran in London. However, by blocking the site the problem has not been solved yet, nor Iranian inquisitive writers have stopped questioning the crisis.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Uncivil Civilizations Endanger the Global Civilization

On the margin of a comment left under my previous posting

Dear Esphandiar,

That's really funny. How could he be recognized indeed, that unseen mysterious prophet of Islam? But I think the cartoons have got some hints in Danish. I recognized there the word "profet". We can guess what it might mean in English.

As for cartoons, it would have been related to the notion or value of freedom of expression only if that value would be observed regarding anyone and everyone. Or if the infamous cartoons were drawn by a Muslim artist, it could've had an absolutely different effect to show the struggle for freedom of expression within Islam. Nowadays we witness another clash of "civilizations" and undoubtedly we are tired of that already.

On the other hand, if the same sort of cartoons were drawn and successfully published in Europe depicting Jesus Christ as a Bush-style or Blair-alike crusader or showing Moses breathing under a respiratory machine while holding the trigger of a gun tight in his bloody hands, I would have said: Well done, the West and western values! I adore you, I admire you, I love you!

But how can I like either appalling hypocrisy of the West or desperate savage pathetic retaliatory reaction of Islam? To me, both of them are coward and reactionary not worthy to follow. Both of them are bogged down in their shameless double standards. But it is hard to see the world in trepidation because of the clash of two uncivil civilizations. Do you agree?

Monday, February 06, 2006

И без тебя...

Монолог у порога Би-би-си

И без тебя можно грустить,
И вне тебя теплом не дует.
Душа томится и хрустит
И разум чаянье не чует.

И можно так же уставать
От сладострастной суеты,
И бесконечно задавать
Вопросы, как учила ты.

И без тебя солнце выходит
Из устарелого Востока.
И без тебя душа уходит
В глубины смутного порока.

И без твоей аббривиатуры
Стараются сломать замок,
Как на роковых карикатурах
Боеголовочный пророк.

Сидишь во мне, или на лбу
Как пластилинова липуха.
Тебя забыть я не смогу,
Консервативная старуха...