Saturday, October 27

Mugabe launches Robert Mugabe intelligence academy

You really cannot make this up, I was literally gawping at the screen when I read this Reuters report. I quote

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched an intelligence academy named after him, saying it would produce officers able to counter growing threats from Western powers, state media reported on Friday.

"The important role of defending our country cannot be left to mediocre officers incapable of comprehending and analytically evaluating the operational environment to ensure that the sovereignty of our state is not only preserved, but enhanced," Mugabe said.

I think they need to get some intelligence all right, for following such a thug like Mugabe.

Technorati Tags:

Please hit him some more!

Here's a story to gladden the cockles of your heart. Although I am not advocating violence, but I am reminded of a Hindi saying, "laato ke bhoot, baaton se nahi maante" (those ghouls who need to be kicked will not be persuaded by talking alone).

So this is a doctor, educated in the USA, and then he demands dowry from his wife and in-law's. What an animal, that was his price, buffalo's get priced like that. But then, buffalos also get beaten up like that. Good, Very Good!

Patiala (Punjab) : A New York-based non-resident Indian (NRI) doctor was arrested here Friday for demanding a dowry of Rs.5 million, but not before he and his family were given a sound thrashing by the bride's side for putting forth such a demand just before the wedding was to commence here.

The doctor, Gurpreet Singh, and his parents were arrested by the Patiala police after the girl's family filed a police complaint.

Anybody who asks for dowry is a buffalo. And should be treated the same!, Disgusting

Technorati Tags: , ,

Book Reading Statistics in the USA

This was shocking to me, I would have never thought so at all, but I have no reason to disbelieve these statistics (You will have to register to see the document - page 15 which quotes these documents so I have quoted the stats here)

  • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.
  • Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.

I am dumbfounded but well, that's where it is coming from. I then tried to think about the financial markets where I work. This industry is perhaps having the most intelligent, educated and wealthy lot globally compared to other industries. And they do not read that many books. If you walk across a trading floor and ask how many fiction and non fiction (non-financial) books they have bought and read, you would hit perhaps 10% - 20% level who would say yes.

And having been around the world, I would say that the above US statistics are on the top end of the scale, most other countries will have much lower numbers of readership, ownership and purchasing. Either books are way too expensive or they are too time consuming. My father, the archetypical absent minded professor of engineering with 18 degrees in engineering, I can never remember seeing him reading anything that was fiction or non-fiction (non-engineering) related. So that's what my thoughts are about other countries, do you think that other countries have better readership, book ownership and purchasing statistics?

Last night, I had the privilege of being with a load of authors and publishers and teachers and writers and people of that ilk. All they said was that the mainstream publishing business has been reduced to chicklit, celebrity fiction and misery fiction. Nothing more nothing less. Well, not surprised. I attended the London Book Fair last year, supposedly the largest commercial Book Fair in the world, and I have no reason to think that this narrowing of publishing to chicklit is anything but global. (curiously, I did not manage to find any global statistics on this industry)

But a bit sad at the loss of the bibliophilic and logophilic gene in our society.

Technorati Tags: ,

Robert Mugabe School of Petroleum Extraction

Here are some brilliant graduates of that school. I quote (and didn't the name give you a hint, you blithering idiots?)

When Nomatter Tagarira, a spirit medium, claimed that she could conjure refined diesel out of a rock by striking it with her staff, ministers in Robert Mugabe’s Government believed that they might have found the solution to Zimbabwe’s perennial fuel shortage.

After witnessing her apparently miraculous gift they gave her five billion Zimbabwean dollars in cash (worth £1.7 million at the start of the year but now worth one seven-hundredth of that) in return for the fuel. Ms Tagarira was also given a farm, said to have been seized from its white owner during Mr Mugabe’s lawless land grab, as well as food and services that included a round-the-clock armed guard on the rock in the district of Chinhoyi 60 miles (100km) from Harare, the capital.

She laid pipes from the bowser to a point at the bottom of the hill. Whenever she assembled an audience, she would strike a rock and an assistant at the top of the hill would open the tap and lo, fuel would pour out. The bowser eventually ran dry but that didn’t stop Ms Tagarira. “They would buy diesel from lorry drivers and keep it in the pipe on the pretext it was coming from a rock,” the docket said.

By June the Government had decided the claims were plausible enough to warrant an official investigation. However, where a single geologist would have sufficed, they dispatched a large “task force” of politicians and members of the security forces, led by the deputy commissioner of police.

The task force duly reported to Mr Mugabe’s politburo, the most powerful body in the country, that the liquid appearing at the rock had been siphoned into lorries and that they had driven off without problem.

However, it was when a second “task force” of ministers was sent by the politburo a month later that Ms Tagarira’s ruse ended. She “failed to prove the existence of the fuel”, it said. She disappeared and was arrested this month. “It is not the woman who ought to be arrested, it is the idiots who authorised this criminal waste of public money,” said a lawyer, asking not to be named.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, October 26

Office Politics

Very amusing observations from three posts.

1. Office Politicos: A Field Guide

  • The MBA
  • The Maverick
  • The Art Chick/Band Guy
  • The Emeritus
  • The Sidekick
  • The Sponge
  • Den Mother / Cub Master
  • The Snake
  • The Class President
  • The Martyr

We all switch between these roles but god, it was so funny! :)

2. How to Win at Office Politics

  • Figure Out Why (and If) You Want to Play
  • Create Strong Relationships
  • Observe and Listen
  • Promote Yourself, Tactfully
  • Help Your Colleagues

Cant go wrong following those, nothing wrong with the advice at all. Hey, I should follow them, lol

3. Top Seven Workplace Plays and Maneuvers

Well, mostly American Football jargon, but you know what it means if you go to the site

  • The Hand Off
  • The Huddle
  • The Critical Inch
  • The Power Reverse
  • The Option
  • The Silent Strategy
  • The Chance Meeting

Some of them are debatable but what the heck!

Technorati Tags:

Can you offer industrial IT applications for free?

Well, if you read this story, yes, it is possible and Misys is doing it. This promises to be a great way forward and something to be checked closely. Quite a lot of industrial IT applications are extremely expensive but if you only want to use the damn thing and not worry about having to install it, maintain it, upgrade it and all the rest of the lot, then what you want is to take it off the Internet, use it, give rental and be done with it (provided security concerns are maintained!).

Take a look at these two examples, SuperDerivatives for options pricing and risk management and Salesforce for customer relationship management and sales management. Both based off the internet and working just great. Mind you, they are not open source, so that model is different, but still, interesting days ahead.

Technorati Tags:

Women in banking

Fascinating report on successful women in banking. All power to them, but some quotes were really amusing

A little later, Ms. Krawcheck took the stage. Though she spoke of how she wanted to hear more high heels clinking along bank floors, it seemed her own went through the stage floor as she spoke. (No, really. “My heel just went through the floor,” she said, amid the audience’s peals of laughter.)

She offered a list of 11 things women should follow for success — after getting rid of most of their friends, she soberly counseled. Among them:

-Choose your husband carefully and well. By the third or fourth time, it gets a little tacky.
-Forgive yourself the unimportant things. “I’m so tired of people telling me I don’t exercise.” (This is where the Spanx came in.)
-Never show fear in front of your children. They can smell it.

MIT in Saudi Arabia

Now this is indeed a great step for Saudi Arabia. A huge university being constructed in Saudi Arabia which will concentrate on science and technology. I think that's great. I remember a conversation I had with a Saudi friend (Zuhair), while sitting at the Edge of the World. He was talking about how Saudi Arabia has the biggest oil deposits but they still have to import POL products! So this university would indeed be a great help in breaking through the medieval barriers which have been erected by those obscurantist mullahs. But a word of warning, see these quotes:

Its planners say men and women will study side by side in an enclave walled off from the rest of Saudi society, the country’s notorious religious police will be barred and all religious and ethnic groups will be welcome in a push for academic freedom and international collaboration sure to test the kingdom’s cultural and religious limits.

For the new institution, the king has cut his own education ministry out the loop, hiring the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to build the campus, create its curriculum and attract foreigners.

I am afraid the situation would be difficult, this is again something that is outside Saudi society, so it will be hermetically sealed away. If the people cannot move freely inside and outside, how in the name that is holy will the ideas move in and out? But hey, good step!

Technorati Tags: ,

So which sovereign wealth funds are most open?

I have been keeping an eye out on this debate about sovereign wealth funds generally. Here is a great ranking of which funds are transparent and which are not. Check out the tables at the end and just out of curiosity, try to tie the countries with this table or this table, do i need to make myself clearer as to the link between transparency of government investments, democracy and freedom of speech/media?

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Get flogged for rumour-mongering

This guy is really amusing. He keeps on getting into trouble with both sides. Check this out.

Cairo: A top cleric has drawn fire from journalists for demanding that rumour-mongers be flogged 80 times in compliance with the Sharia.

Mohammad Saeed Tantawi, Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar, made the suggestion during a recent function attended by President Hosni Mubarak.

Tantawi's fatwa would have passed unnoticed had it not been made a few weeks after two journalists were prosecuted on charges of publishing "false reports" about Mubarak's health.

Ebrahim Eisa, editor of the independent newspaper Adestour, and Mohammad Al Saeed Saeed, editor of the independent daily Al Badil, will soon go on trial. The false reports about Mubarak's health have allegedly harmed the country's economy.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Institutionalised Corruption in the Gulf - Wasta

My aunt has been diagnosed with a possible stroke and a clot in the brain. So I have been on the phone since the morning trying to get more details. She is based in Dubai but apparently the doctors have advised her to go to New Delhi as the level of care and medical expertise is much higher.

And then I read this note. I am truly saddened. And then I think about the doctors in India, see my previous note here. Not that corruption and bad medical care does not happen in India either. But sad, very sad.

Wasta: A Matter of Life or Death

By TMO | October 25, 2007

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Almost 2 years ago to this very day, my son almost died. What started out as a simple sore throat turned into a horrible infection. My spouse and I spent more than a week shuttling him back and forth to our local government hospital here in Kuwait. Each time we went there was a different doctor on duty and a different diagnosis. First, they said he required antibiotics to kill the infection. Then, when he did not improve, another doctor took him off the meds and said it was simply a nasal problem. They sent us home with a bottle of nose drops. Finally, we went to the main government hospital in our district thinking we would find better care, but we didn’t. With no other option available, we had no choice but to turn to the private hospital sector. On the morning we planned to take him to the private hospital of our choice, I went into his room to get him ready. I knew something was direly wrong by the way he was holding his head on the pillow. His face was a pale shade of blue and he was burning up with fever. In terror, I began screaming his name and shaking him to wake him up. He was unresponsive. I shook him even harder and he managed to open one of his eyes to the space of a squint. We raced him to the hospital as fast as we could. The first thing the nurse did, before we even saw the doctor, was to hold my son’s entire head under a faucet of cold running water. Even the icy cold water barely roused him. The doctor diagnosed him with severe tonsillitis and admitted him immediately. He stayed there for a full week receiving several bags of IV fluids each day and a cocktail of antibiotics. Test results later revealed that the infection had spread to his bloodstream and was also present in his urine and stool samples. The doctor said that if we had not brought him in when he did the consequences could have proved fatal.

Thankfully, the only casualty in this health crisis was our bank account. The hospital stay cost us about $6000 and our account was officially declared dead. But for us, it was money well spent. I was just thankful to see my son healthy again. However, our joy was short lived when the fever returned 3 days later. We took him back to the same hospital and were told that my son’s tonsils were turning against him. The organs themselves were damaged and full of holes. He needed an emergency tonsillectomy that would cost at least $10,000. There was no way we could afford it. So, we headed back to the government hospital.

Many Americans crave a universal healthcare system in the US, but I have lived with it in Kuwait and it is not at all what it is supposed to be. Almost all the countries in the GCC, who offer universal healthcare, struggle to provide quality care but it’s often hard when hospitals are understaffed and doctors are underpaid. On top of that, getting an appointment for a government hospital is no easy feat. After hearing raves about a government hospital in our area, we went to schedule my son’s tonsillectomy. However, despite his raging fever and ravaged little body we were given an appointment 3 months from the day we added his name to list. Neither my husband nor I believed my son could make it until then. So, we looked for a way to get a faster appointment.

And that way was by finding someone with ‘wasta’, or influence. Basically it means you have friends in high places. Wasta is usually the only way to get things done in the Middle East. Those without it truly struggle to make it in this region. In Kuwait, only the Kuwaiti citizens have wasta. We began looking for someone with wasta and fortunately we found a man who took pity on our situation. This man went to the hospital within 24 hours of us contacting him and our son was on the operating table the following week.

It has been 2 years since my personal experience with wasta being a matter of life or death. So, I was unsure if the same practices were still prevalent in Kuwait today. After talking with a few people, I learned that wasta is still alive and well in Kuwait.

Zainab Saad is a 29-year-old Pakistani mother to 4 girls. She was recently diagnosed with having a polyp in her uterus. The doctor who made the diagnosis ordered an operation to remove the growth and test it to see if it was cancerous. However, Zainab would have to wait 3 months before she could be scheduled for the operation. Since she could not afford to go to a private hospital she had no choice but to look for wasta. Luckily, her husband found a Kuwaiti citizen to help and Zainab was on the operating table in less than 2 weeks and the tests proved she did not have cancer.

On the flip side, Soraya Adil, a Palestinian secretary and mother to two boys, is also struggling with medical issues–however she does not have wasta. Her youngest son has a growth behind his nose. The doctors recommend he have an immediate operation to remove it as it is affecting his breathing and aggravating his tonsils. “My son cries all day and night. I have missed so much work that I fear they will fire me,” she says, “I do not have wasta so I have no choice but to let my child suffer for 3 months until our appointment.”

The 3-month waiting period for surgical operations in Kuwait applies to expatriates only. Kuwaiti citizens, as usual, receive preferential treatment. Even if your life is on the line, without wasta you are forced to gamble with your very existence. As expatriates, we are forced to pay health insurance fees for laughable medical care. The fee is attached to the renewal of residence visas and there is no way to avoid it. Someone in need of a life saving surgery in Kuwait has almost no chance of survival unless a sympathetic doctor manages to pull a few strings. But with their desensitization and disenchantment with their own role in this medical nightmare it’s highly unlikely that they will step up to the plate to save a life that needs saving.

Thieves supporting a Thug

Here we go, typical of Africa that the various assorted thieves are supporting their own brother, Robert Mugabe. As if they care about the common people. ESPOHOKS!


The presidents of Namibia and Angola have called on Western countries to lift sanctions imposed against neighbouring Zimbabwe, calling them "illegal" and unfair.

"The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are illegal and unjustifiable," Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his Angolan counterpart Jose Eduardo dos Santos said in a joint press statement.

"These sanctions cause hardship to the Zimbabwean people," said the statement, released during a ceremony to mark the departure of Dos Santos after a two-day state visit to Namibia.

Namibia is a reasonably good 57th rank while Angola is 147 on the corruption index of Transparency International. Yes Sir, very good Sir.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

How to bring Narendra Modi to trial

Here's something that I responded to a friend, if the eunuch Indian central government as expected would not do anything about getting this monster and his brood into a court room.

There are two non-Indian possibilities, Salil, and that is via the Alien Tort Statute in the legal law courts of America if you can find an American who can claim to have been injured by the pogrom. Or to designate Narendra Modi as an enemy of humanity in the US Congress. This purely American effort will blow a hole in the reputational edifice of this man and his cohorts. It is possible. Or if you do not want to go as far as that, there is an easier way of going down the US Treasury (name him on AML lists). That will stop him and his main men or associated people from any financial transactions in the global financial system, inclusive of the Indian system.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Crime and South Africa

Speaking to Samantha White (thanks for the tip!) about affirmative action in South Africa, she pointed me to this New Statesman article. This is unfortunately, not a surprise to me as I had already talked about the crime levels in South Africa before. What I did not realise what the level of political decay which that idiot Mbeki is presiding over. Between him and that other illiterate moron Zuma, they are going to run this country into the ground. You just watch, Africa is littered with countries which had so much promise and delivered to little, blessed with leaders who are corrupt thieves at worst and tribal incompetent power grabbers at best.

Yes, Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika, God Bless Africa indeed. She will need all the divine help to protect her from these idiots. Read the New Statesman article and weep!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Remember the power of the people!

Twenty five thousand people are on the march to Delhi. They are on the Delhi Agra Road and will reach Delhi in a few days now. These are not even people in the eyes of the state and the urban populace blinded by the advertisements for TV, reality shows, cars and holidays. These are the tribals, the untouchables, landless labourers, people who have nothing left to loose.

They are marching on to Delhi to demand land, land that was promised to them, land that was stolen from them, communal land which was sold out under their noses, land that they cannot recover from corrupt land developers and politicians.

I talked about Naxalites last year and agreed with the Prime Minister that the Naxalites were the single most threatening issue to the integrity of India. But nothing much has happened to them. The same corruption, the same ignorance and same mindless consumerism has taken hold.

The Naxalites have used exactly this issue, the issue that the rural poor are not being looked after. The government has become a parasite at worst and uncaring at best. When that happens, there is a vacuum of governance and it is no surprise that ideologies such as Maoism have crept in and now threaten the viability of a large democratic state such as India. The same thing is happening in China as well.

Land reform which started promisingly in many states such as West Bengal, Kashmir, Kerela, Andhra Pradesh, etc. But the Bimaru states suck at this. See here for a great overview of this very complex issue.

Another factor, given the state of the world agriculture markets, it is impossible for a small 1-2 acre plot to be economically viable and support a family. It is simply impossible. But still, that is an asset to the family and if you do want to take away the land under the eminent domain laws, then you are then forced to pay compensation to that poor tribal, landless labourer or untouchable. That is fair, no? But corruption takes away his land, his living, his compensation and more importantly, rots away the framework of the state which allows termites like the Naxalites to bore away and weaken the state.

Thursday, October 25

State Pogroms confirmed in India

I do not like Narendra Modi and his cohorts in Gujarat and I do not like the Sangh Parivar nor the BJP. I detest them with a vengeance and think of them as lower than low, they are absolutely disgustingly filthy animals. Animals have a reason and justification to be filthy, these creatures do not have that. They are simply criminals and murderers, they need to be imprisoned for a very long time.

They are not Hindu's anyway, they are the real untouchables. Others are forced into untouchability through birth, these filthy creatures are condemned to be spat upon and exiled for their disgusting deeds. Those who support these bastards are equally heinous and pathetic.

Read this expose and weep at their thoughts and deeds. It is very clear that the Indian State of Gujarat, its administrative machinery and political masters masterminded this atrocity, helped abetted and carried it out. They have been condemned by their own mouths. They lead the pogrom and they should be punished. And no, no punishment in the hereafter, I want to see them in jail.

I wonder if there is some way of getting the ICC or UN involved if the central government does not take action?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Reverse Mortgage Loan - a quick review

A banker old friend of mine from India sent me this note (Thanks Anjan!) (note given at the bottom). It is an interesting financial product, it provides you with the way to take the returns from the main asset in your life and go enjoy. The concept is simple, you have got a flat/house which you have paid off and are living in it. So what do you do to unlock the value? You re-mortgage it to a bank, get loads of cash for it, and in return, the bank takes ownership of the house/flat. When you die, the bank asks your heirs to either purchase it back or sells it off.

I agree that old Indian people do not enjoy their lives. Look at the poor widow's, they aren't even supposed to eat spicy food!, and believe you me, this feeling is still out there in major waves.  So getting some good ready cash in retirement and using it for fun purposes appeals to me. Far too often, old people are taken for granted and are used as cheap baby sitters or thought about as burdens.

While this sounds like a great thing, some aspects from the British and American perspectives should be checked as well. The house is one of the most common assets which are called as inter-generational assets. It is this passing down of the asset which provides one of the key links in the establishment of the family social unit.

If there is no asset link and the parents move the asset out of the hands of their children, then the link breaks. More importantly, one has to remember that if the link breaks, then the responsibility for their life also remains with the old couple. And there are loads of downsides to this. For example, you would see that the couple manage to take their house and re-mortgage it. Then spend the money in going on cruises. Now they have spent the money, and the children are alienated from them (a sadly common scenario).

Then they need nursing care, and what happens? They are either dumped into a council old age home if they are lucky or they go into hospital for long term care. The first is desperately lonely and the second means that your life is shortened, hospital beds are not meant for long term palliative care.

Remember that India does NOT have a welfare net to take care of the old people nor is there good quality public health care with long term hospital care at a cheap price. My father's open heart surgery cost about 1 million rupees in a B class city. Pretty much on the middle to higher scale, it would have cost much more in the metropolitan areas. A typical house would cost say 1-2 million. Now just imagine, just one operation would take up most of the asset price. Then what?

Finally, take a look at what happened recently. Given the fact that there is such a high level of inheritance tax, there was almost a huge political upset when the opposition conservatives promised to chop the inheritance tax. People DO want to pass on their assets to their children. But when the taxman takes 40-50% of the asset, then you are stiffed and the essential pact between the family, generations, society and political system is weakened badly

So I would be very hesitant in pushing this kind of mortgages with gay abandon, one has to remember very carefully what this means.

MUMBAI: Traditionally in India retirement from active service is usually considered to be the end of active life, and sooner or later a retiree becomes entirely dependent on his or her children. A promise in the current year's budget by Finance Minister P Chidambaram of introducing reverse mortgage products is now fast liberating the senior citizens from that conservative parental mindset, putting him at a par with his European or American counterparts.

Reverse Mortgage Loan (RML) is essentially for the benefit of senior citizens, above the age of 60 years, against the security of their self-acquired, self-occupied houses. The loan is usually paid off by the legal heir of the borrower or is recovered by the sale of the house.
According to trends being seen by a few leading banks which have already introduced RML product, they are receiving an overwhelming response from senior citizens.

"The old, who are otherwise deprived or enjoying a tour or making a purchase due to non-supportive children or any other commitment, can now avail of a loan, and that too, without bothering about repayments in their lifetime," said Sangeet Shukla, chief general manager of the State Bank of India (SBI), while talking to this website's newspaper.

On the encouragement of the National Housing Bank (NHB), several commercial banks like Punjab National Bank and SBI have already introduced RML product. Looking at the expected demand, not only private banks like Axis Bank and ICICI even co-operative sector banks like Kerala State Co-operative Bank are likely to announce a RML product very shortly.

"A RML need not be repaid by the borrowers during their lifetime. They will also continue to stay in their houses during their lifetime. Thereafter, an option is available to the legal heirs to repay the bank loan and redeem the property. If this option is not exercised, the bank will sell the property and liquidates the loan and surplus, if any, will be passed on to the legal heirs," Shukla explained.

The interest rate on the RML currently varies from bank to bank, however, they are usually available at a rate comparable to the normal housing loan rates of that bank. For instance SBI's RML carries a fixed interest rate of
10.75 percent.

Speaking to this website's newspaper, Imtiaz Ahmed, AVP mortgages of Axis Bank said that there is a good demand expected for RML as senior citizens have hardly any other options left to explore a particular activity, which may need hard capital.

"Unlike in the Western countries when a retiree actually begins his second inning by planning long tours, a new project a profitable community activities etc, his Indian counterpart usually manages with a little interest or pension, which he may be entitled to and can hardly think of enjoying any liberties. We are also encouraging more and more senior citizens to avail a RML which will surely envisage fulfilling their cherished dream in their spare time," Gita Srinivasan, working for a senior citizen welfare association, said.

To fight a terrorist, train and thinking like one

Here's a tiny corner of the world where the fight against terrorism is taking place. Fight a guerrilla as a guerrilla.

Incidentally, the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Warengate, Mizoram is reputedly the best in the world for jungle warfare training.

Technorati Tags: ,

Government stops functioning in Rural India

Naxalites are dangerous stuff for India. They operate inside the rural areas where the rule of government is bad, sad or corrupt. And now more than 1/3rd of districts of India are thought to be under the control of these Naxalites. And the problem is that it becomes a vicious circle. More the districts fall under Naxalite control, less and less is the government control. See here for example on the issues relating to posting government officials to Naxalite infested districts. I quote:

BHUBANESWAR: The State Government is preparing an incentive package for its employees working in nine Naxal-infested districts to arrest the trend of a large number of vacancies.
A proposal will soon be submitted to the Government, sources said. With Naxals spreading their wings, Government employees are reluctant to get posted in ‘red’ zones. A large number of vacancies in these districts has become the major stumbling block in the process of development.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Why IBM is so good at selling compared to its competitors

Very thought provoking post here. I quote:


  • Sales reps typically handled a dozen or more accounts.
  • Sales reps looked and talked like failed programmers.
  • Sales reps built relationships with engineering managers.
  • Sales reps pitched the wonders of their new technology.
  • Sales reps helped engineering managers to sell up the line.


  • Major accounts got a dedicated sales rep who only serviced that account.
  • The sales rep looked and talked like a top executive.
  • The sales rep secured office space at the customer site.
  • The sales rep took ownership of the customer’s IT results.
  • The sales rep enlisted IBM engineers to work with the customer’s

In other words, IBM’s sales reps behaved like MANAGERS, while their
competitors’ sales reps behaved like CONSULTANTS.

Actually, i see this behaviour in financial sector sales as well. It is amazing how common it is. And what i find amazing is how little people actually go outside and hit their client sites, be on site, bug the hell out of them. So few sales traders really go and are actually on their client sites, most of their clients are just a voice on the phone. Have they had a decent conversation? how far have they made friends? Very little. Most are so caught up in the technology of CRM, touch dials, profitability analysis and so on and so forth that the basics of going out there and selling has been lost I am afraid.

Here's an idea, how many of your sales people have actually managed to get a permanent pass to their client's premises? The chap who has managed to get it, give him a raise. I realise there are regulatory, compliance, confidentiality, coverage and risk issues, but mein gott!, come on! light a fire!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Smarter IT investments

So are you smart about your IT investments?

Curious graph, no? But I would be very very hesitant to apply this as a general rule. In fact, the best way to evaluate IT investments that I would see in multi product firms is to break up your IT box into 4 portions, which doesn't really map to what McKinsey are saying.

1. Strategic investments which will pay off in 2-3 years time.

2. bug fixes

3. tactical fixes and stuff you do need to do such as regulatory stuff

4. customer satisfaction, stuff that never gets done, stuff like changing colours on the screen, or doing some of the "nice to have's"

viola!, all problem's solved! So no, not impressed by this McKinsey recommendation, I am afraid.

Technorati Tags: ,

NO Positive Discrimination in the UK Police!!

Why? no bloody way, and the fact that this is coming from a British Police Officer makes the news horrible and so distasteful. I quote:

Black and Asian police officers should benefit from positive discrimination to get promoted into top jobs, a conference has heard.

Keith Jarrett, the president of the National Black Police Association (NBPA), said they should be appointed to senior roles even if they are less qualified than their white counterparts.

The Met and West Midlands and all these big conurbations could do with someone who looks like the communities — and that's not happening."

Mr Jarrett said two forces had promoted black officers above the rank of Chief Inspector even though they had not gained their Senior Command Course qualification.

Do not ruin our public services by allowing the cancer of political correctness breed. Are you telling me that our police forces are now managed by officers who are not fully qualified? This is criminal and absolutely horrible. This is gobsmacking. Why on earth are these people doing this? Do they not realise the damage they are doing to an institution which is a bulwark of Britishness? Of fairness and fair play? of a meritocracy? Esphoks on them! This is out and out racism!

Abbas wants India in proposed ME peace conference! HELL NO!

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he wanted Indian to join the proposed International Peace Conference on the Middle East.

No bloody way, stay out of it, India. You really do not need that aggravation and it is not your fight. If you get involved, sure as hell fights will break out.

Do you remember the last time you got involved in the middle east? Remember the riots and killings? Do not touch it, do not talk about it, get the diplomatic flu and go for a walk!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Old soldiers fade away, what happens to old MP's?

Well, as it so happens, they have trouble getting into new jobs according to this new survey.

I quote:

They found that around half of MPs who did not retire from the Commons voluntarily said it had taken three to six months to find a new job.

Just one fifth said they were able to find work immediately or almost immediately, while one in seven took over a year to find employment.

Two fifths of ex-MPs said they were making less money since they left Parliament, with one fifth earning "about the same".

One third said they were financially better off after losing their seats or standing down.

Just over a quarter of former MPs said they were able to return to the career or employment they had had before entering the House of Commons.

But a third said they were not able to pick up their former careers or jobs.

One survey respondent was quoted as saying: "Many MPs do not appreciate their skills on entering Parliament will not be and are not relevant when they leave."

Hmmm, this is surprising, I am very surprised indeed. One should be able to figure out what they want to do with their own lives. I mean, they are in charge of all our lives, so the fact that they do not know or cant handle their career is slightly worrying. Its like a fortune teller complaining about her bad investments. Sort of doesn't fit, does it?

Technorati Tags: ,

Kimchi in Space!!!!

It wasn't bad enough that they have a Kimchi festival, now they are taking the damn thing up in space!

Korean food manufactures are competing to whip up space-edible foods for Ko San, Korea's first astronaut who will lift off in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in April.

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is working on kimchi with domestic food maker CJ and instant noodles with Nongshim. The Korean Food Research Institute is also developing space-safe fried kimchi, hot pepper paste and soy bean paste, rice, red ginseng and green tea with Daesang and Ottogi.

Russia will evaluate the safety and storability of the foods. If they pass the tests, traditional Korean food will be served to the astronauts on the spacecraft.

As the food makers race to create their space-friendly edibles, there are mixed opinions about the best way to sterilize it. Food makers working with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute argue that freeze-dried foods don't taste good. But those working with the Korean Food Research Institute insist that consumers don't like irradiated foods.

However, there is a common view that developing space food will lead to enhancing the technological competitiveness of the Korean food industry. Currently researchers are developing space-edible hot pepper paste in tubes and soy bean paste in the form of instant soup. Preparing these foods is costly, so it remains to be seen whether the space-safe foods will be made available to consumers.

Technorati Tags: ,

Divorce Rising Sharply Among Middle-aged Koreans

Looks like the lack of financial planning is hitting people on the other side of the world but the article is not giving full details. I quote:

The number of divorced people in Korea has exceeded the one million mark, with a big increase in divorces seen in couples in their 40s and 50s. One out of 17 Koreans in that age group is divorced, accounting for over 70 percent (776,041) of the total number of divorcees. That's a 75 percent increase from 2000, when one out of 27 people in their 40s and 50s was divorced (443,166).

"Among the many causes for divorce among those in their 40s and 50s, the biggest one is financial difficulties," said divorce attorney Kim Su-jin. "This is the time when they are most needing money, for their children's education and other things, and they tend to divorce when they have serious money problems."

This is not satisfactory at all, it may well be that the lack of financial planning is forcing rifts between the couple, but surely there has to be more than just this. If one divorces, the financial troubles will multiply, not reduce so since this is very illogical behaviour, I am wondering if there are other reasons. Mind you as the quote goes, "when poverty arrives at the door, love flies out of the window". But worth wondering. Because once this family unit breaks, the load on the state will rise because of increased welfare spending.

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, October 24

'As soon as the fresh air touched my hair I began to cry'

Very touching story here. Hat Tip (Tarek Fateh!)

My father imposed the veil on me three times and I took it off three times. The following is the story of how I took off the veil for that final time.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Which nationality provides the most engaged employees?

Well, as it turns out, it is Mexicans, followed by Indians! But seriously, Towers Perrin have found that there is a significant engagement gap amongst global employees. I quote:

¾ Employees do not believe their organizations or their senior management are doing enough to help them become fully engaged and contribute to their companies' success, according to a new global workforce study conducted by Towers Perrin, a global professional services firm.

Just 21% of the employees surveyed around the world are engaged in their work, meaning they're willing to go the extra mile to help their companies succeed. Fully 38% are partly to fully disengaged. The result is a gap ¾ which Towers Perrin has dubbed the "engagement gap" ¾ between the discretionary effort companies need and people actually want to invest and companies' effectiveness in channeling this effort to enhance performance.

The study found that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement achieve better financial results and are more successful in retaining their most valued employees than companies with lower levels of engagement.

Technorati Tags:

Afghans worried about their future

This poll is worrying and just when you need NATO to provide more troops and be firm against this canker of Islamist terrorism, they are being wishy washy. I quote:

The survey report opens with findings on the overall national mood in Afghanistan in 2007, which states that 42 percent of Afghans think the country is headed in the right direction (compared to 44% in 2006, and 64% in 2004); 24 percent feel it is moving in the wrong direction (21% in 2006, 11% in 2004), and 25 percent have mixed feelings (29% in 2006, 8% in 2004).

From the Reuters Report

NATO commanders complain that ISAF is running at about 10 percent below strength, with particularly acute shortages of helicopters and airlift as well as combat troops.

Technorati Tags: , ,

1 out of 4 British Prisoners are foreign - WTF?

12000 foreign prisoners out of 81000 total prisoners. And we are moaning about lack of space for prisoners. Question: What are these foreigners doing in our prisons? one out of four!

Why aren't we sending them back to their countries? Why are we clothing, feeding and housing them?

Gordon Brown promised that he will deport all foreign prisoners but then, given his propensity for promise breaking (like over the referendum on the EU treaty), I very much doubt it.

Technorati Tags: ,

Only merit should be the criteria

This article in the FT made me slightly upset as the author Michael Skapinker seems to say that affirmative action helps. No bloody way it does not. See my previous essay on this topic. I totally disagree with the fact that a government should start defining what a race is and be more specific in terms of devoting my tax pounds on something stupid like this. No. Sir NO!.

Also, curiously, for this author, minorities seem to be just blacks. What about British Chinese and British Indians, Sir? See here in the media. or in Business. Or is this minority business only fit for Black British? If not, then your argument falls rather flat, doesn't it? Just because we keep quiet, out of sight, quietly go about our business, trust in God and work very hard does not mean that you go about ignoring us.

Red Ken is a clown so he has a reason to be silly like this (take 300 quid taxi rides and then talk about congestion charging!), what's your excuse? I just want a taxi ride and nobody said that only white men can drive or remember the routes around Charing Cross.

Blithering idiots.


Merit should prevail

By Michael Skapinker

Published: October 22 2007 19:17 | Last updated: October 23 2007 08:37

London’s taxi drivers are famous for their distinctive cabs, their high fares and The Knowledge – the series of examinations they have to pass proving they know every street in the city within six miles of Charing Cross.

Ken Livingstone, London’s mayor, has noticed something else about London’s cabbies: they are almost all white men. Together with the London Development Agency, he has launched a project to change this.

“Around a third of Londoners are from an ethnic minority background and over half of Londoners are women. Yet only approximately 5 per cent of London’s taxi drivers are from black, Asian or minority ethnic communities and 1.6 per cent are women,” the mayor’s website says.

His project aims to help the under-represented groups become taxi drivers. They will still have to pass The Knowledge, but they will get support to do so.

Most of the help is small-scale. Buddy groups to study The Knowledge together. Mentors. Assistance with childcare. The most substantial offer is the loan of scooters and free fuel to get around while memorising all those streets.

Some of London’s taxi drivers have protested. They managed without any of this, they say – and it was not easy. It takes an average of three years to get through The Knowledge. They had to feed their families and pay their mortgages during that time without any help from the mayor.

The uproar should be no surprise. Programmes to redress racial and sexual imbalance are invariably controversial, as are many things done by Mr Livingstone.

But he is actually pretty limited in his ability to change the complexion of London’s cab drivers. British law bans “reverse discrimination”. Employers and public authorities can no more give special preference to an ethnic minority or female applicant than they can to a white man, even if their aim is to redress the overwhelmingly white, male make-up of their workplaces.

What is allowed is “positive action”: mentoring, open days, work placements – the sorts of things that Mr Livingstone is offering. But everyone still has to be judged equally at the point of recruitment.

This is in contrast with the US, with its long history of affirmative action in employment, education and the award of government contracts.

In 2003, the US Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan law school’s right to admit minority students over white applicants with superior grades and entrance examination scores.

The school was not allowed to consider an applicant’s race alone, but could regard it as one of a number of positive attributes. The court said that would-be lawyers benefited from being part of a diverse student body. It added, however, that preferences of this sort should no longer be necessary 25 years later.

In fact, neither the court nor America’s voters have been prepared to wait that long. Last year voters in Michigan voted for an initiative banning race from being taken into account in government hiring and public university admissions. California voted for a similar initiative as long ago as 1996.

This year the Supreme Court, its balance shifted by President George W. Bush’s appointments, narrowly held that schools in Louisville and Seattle could not consider pupils’ race alone when deciding on admissions.

Speaking for the majority, chief justice John Roberts said: “Government action dividing people by race is inherently suspect.” It reinforced the belief that people should be judged by the colour of their skin, he said.

Similar thinking explains much of the British reluctance to embrace US-style affirmative action. If it is wrong to appoint someone to a job because he is white or male, it is surely wrong to appoint someone because she is black or female.

There is also the effect on people from ethnic minorities who have succeeded on their own merits and whose achievements are diminished if people of similar backgrounds are offered special dispensation. Among those protesting at Mr Livingstone’s proposals were black taxi drivers making just this point.

The British approach may be more appealing on principle, but there is no getting away from the fact that America’s minorities have achieved more.

Britain has had a female head of government while the US has not (yet). But the UK has never had a black foreign secretary; the US has had two in a row, one of them female.

The UK has the occasional black corporate success story, such as Damon Buffini, head of the private equity firm Permira. But it has no black business leaders of the stature of Kenneth Chenault, chief executive of American Express, Richard Parsons of Time Warner or Stan O’Neal of Merrill Lynch.

Is it affirmative action that has made the difference in the US? Or just a determination to judge people on their merits? It would be nice to believe it was the latter.

Do big banks need more capital?

See this article from Risk Centre. I quote:

With all due respect to the Nout Wellink and the other members of the BCBS, we do not believe that the implementation of the Basel II proposal or anything that looks remotely like it would have alleviated the ongoing collapse of the market for complex structured assets. When an entire asset class literally dies in a matter of weeks, the risk is infinite. To us, measuring the liquidity or market risk of a Structured Investment Vehicle ("SIV"), with or without the Basel II framework, makes about as much sense as using statistics to predict corporate credit defaults.

Remember too that most of Basel II is based upon the very quantitative models and rating agency methods which caused the subprime crisis, thus offers of assistance from Basel II's creators within the BCBS should be viewed with caution. Basel II merely mimics the business processes of the Sell Side investment houses, systems which are intended first to enable new financial transactions and, as a secondary matter, manage the risk.

Without going into too much detail, I agree with the above sentiments. You see, I have a slightly different perspective on this. Based upon my previous research on extreme events, I am firmly of the belief that the relationships between various factors in these extreme events becomes dramatically non-linear in nature.

So a structure such as Basel II which relies on linear modeling to provide an indication of risk capital is ok for stable, linearly correlated markets but fails miserably when it moves into the fat tails. If you just look at the investment banks, they are taking billions of dollars in losses. My question, if you still are quibbling about it, why did the risk management models not pick up this problem?

Now the fact that the risk management models did not pick up the sub-prime mess leads me to wonder whether it makes sense to provide estimates of capital adequacy based upon these very same risk management models? No Sir.

The answer is that the banks need MORE capital, not less capital. More capital has the downside of implied opportunity cost, less capital has the downside of shaking the entire financial system through systemic risk. If I was a central banker, I would take a hard close look at Basel II.

Now why would you want Iranian Gas?

Indian officials seem to be getting all excited about the Iranian Gas Pipeline all over again. I had seriously thought that they would have given up this silly exercise because of the lack of Indian participation in the trilateral committee meetings between India, Pakistan and Iran but this report seems to say that they are again getting all excited about it.

Here's my previous essay on this topic dating back to January 16, 2004, and nothing has changed since then. The sheer messy geopolitics of Pakistan itself should warn you off on the fact that you do not want your energy supplies in the hands of countries which are basically incapable of managing itself. It is having a full fledged civil war in 2 provinces, terrorist bombings galore and a rabid form of Islamism rampant in there. Furthermore, that country is supporting terrorists within India. Just what kind of stupidity is this?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Attack Helicopters to fight terrorism?

If you are at the stage that you need attack helicopters to fight terrorism, then you have basically lost the fight against terrorism and are now in a WAR!. Terrorism is a very complex animal, something like genetic testing and mapping. Using attack helicopters on terrorism is like using a sledge hammer inside a gene laboratory. I am not that fussed with the Bell 412 helicopters, they are after all utility helicopters. Used for transport, reconnaissance and other military, para-military and police work.

I am more concerned by the usage of Cobra Helicopters (AH-1F). These are proper gun ship platforms with multi barrel 20 mm cannon, multi rocket launchers and ability to carry and deploy TOW Missiles. I would love to have one of those when I am faced with an armoured column or infantry which has been deployed in APC's, but for crying out loud, what the hell are you doing with a Cobra Attack Gunship in Pakistan?

This is waging war. And the fact that it is being done inside Pakistan means that it is civil war. Now why on earth has this situation been allowed to degenerate to this level that you need helicopter gunships to control terrorists, militants or what have you?

And using American Gunships, the very same gunships being used in Iraq and other places is really going make the Pakistani Taliban feel all cuddly. Just one reason to understand why Al Queda wants President Musharraf killed, he is one with the hated Americans.

But the idea that these helicopters is for counter-terrorism is a dreadful mistake. This is full fledged war going on, my friends, and needs to be considered as such. I do not like this, this is not going to be productive, and this American style of waging war rather than treating terrorism as a crime is going to create far more problems than it resolves.

Tuesday, October 23

Darfur is a quarrel over a camel

Here's the Great Libyan Strategist and Political Thinker Muammar Gaddafi sprouting off on his theory on Darfur.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has likened the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region to a "quarrel over a camel" that has become an international issue.

Local leaders could have solved the tribal dispute if it were not for the economic interests of international powers in the region, he explained.

Technorati Tags: , ,

India and Israel: The great seduction

A great article on how Israel and India are linking up in wonderful ways to leverage technology and innovation.

Like all dreamers, Israeli entrepreneur Harel Cohen had an idea to change the world — well, to be precise, India.

“It’s one of the world’s biggest countries, it will be the world’s biggest economy in 40 years,” said Cohen, 37, an amiable, strongly built former Israeli army officer. “But with 22 languages and 10 scripts, India doesn’t have enough Indian-language keyboards.”

An e-mail and a flight to India in 2004 got him into the door of Vijendra Shukla, head of language technology at the government-run Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing in Noida and a pioneer in the development of Indian-language software.

Cohen is now CEO of FTK Technologies, which has a simple but smart way of programming keyboards for different languages: fit a webcam on a laptop to intuitively track the user’s fingers and create a “virtual” keyboard on screen, which mirrors the keystrokes of the real keyboard.

At the click of a mouse, it can switch from Kannada to Urdu or eight other languages. Indian words that took two minutes to type, now take 20 seconds.

It was December 2005 when, like hundreds of entrepreneurs who populate the tech hubs around Tel Aviv, Israel’s throbbing business capital, Cohen flew to New York. Within hours he sold his idea to a private investor. “I don’t think he’s ever been to India,” said Cohen of his investor. “He said, ‘it’s bound to be good, there’s one billion people there.’” It was as easy as that. “There’s a lot of money in Israel for ideas,” Cohen said. “That’s how it goes.”

People like Cohen are packing the flights to India and fuelling a spiralling but largely unknown trade beyond diamonds and secretive defence buys — India is now Israel's biggest arms customer, with $5 billion (Rs 2,000 crore) in purchases, officially, since 2001 - to infotech, security systems, drip irrigation, even television shows.

Annual trade is expected to touch $5 billion, a 46 per cent rise since 2006.

“We've been around for 24 years, but only recently have we become sexy," said Anat Bernstein-Reich (42), deputy chairperson of the Israel-India Chamber of Commerce, over lunch in downtown Tel Aviv.

Bernstein-Reich has an office and an Indian partner, Alfred Arambhan, in Sherly Rajan village in Mumbai’s upmarket western suburb of Bandra. A mother of three, she advises Israelis on conducting and developing business in India and her firm, A&G Partners, has interests that range from investment banking to Bollywood.

Israelis want to profit from India’s great leap forward, Indians seek opportunities in one of the world’s high-tech hubs. Over the last year, Mumbai’s Mansaria group has bought over Israel’s largest tyre manufacturer, Sun Pharma, has bought a stake in Israel’s largest pharma company, Jain

Irrigation from rural Jalgaon in Maharashtra has bought into a drip-irrigation company, a field in which Israel is a world leader.  

In another high-tech hub in the town of Petah Tikva — in the late 19th century the first Jewish immigrants fought malaria and began life here in what was then Palestine — Associate Vice-President Giora Reish said his company, Gilat Satellite Networks, is bidding for one of India's largest telephone expansions, a tender issued this month by state-run BSNL to link 14,000 villages.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

How to write a good business case

This is a great article, basic common sense! Worth quoting in full.


Business plan howlers

By Luke Johnson

Published: October 23 2007 17:48 | Last updated: October 23 2007 17:48

I spend a lot of my time studying business plans from entrepreneurs looking for investment. Many are impressive but some are ghastly. Among the worst offences are:

Aggressive confidentiality clauses and an obsession with non-disclosure agreements. I find this sort of pushy legal stuff very off-putting, especially for start-ups. Often you are expected to sign up to very rigid terms without knowing anything about the proposition. In such circumstances, I just turn the deal down flat. If the entrepreneurs distrust me that much they ought to seek backing elsewhere. Would-be restaurateurs are often the worst offenders – would I really bother stealing their idea?

Overly technical documents. Business plans should be written in layman’s terms and avoid all jargon and endless acronyms. They should be readable and accessible, not obscure. Inventors can get too wrapped up in their subject – they forget that there are always thousands of projects seeking money. And promoters often use long-winded gobbledegook to disguise a fundamentally bad idea. If I can’t understand the deal, I don’t get involved.

Lack of focus. Plans that cover too much territory and companies that try to do too much at once don’t appeal to me. Successful concepts are usually simple, and successful entrepreneurs generally concentrate on a finite market and product range.

Preposterous valuations. Things that are far too expensive go straight into the bin. Such plans normally work back from a daft conclusion based on wild future projections or spurious comparisons. Instead, valuations should be based on sensible estimates of what investors would really pay. This means you miss the odd Facebook, but I can live with that.

Biographies. These should be honest and full. They are perhaps the single most important part of the entire proposal. I really want to know the owners and individuals who will make the thing happen. Vague or overly concise CVs make me suspicious. The résumés of the chief executive and finance director are the ones that matter: big name non-executives cannot compensate for weak executive managers who are actually running the business.

The numbers. This is the critical stuff. The funding requirement, the estimated returns, the cash flow projections: these must be attractive and sufficiently ambitious to be worthwhile. No one is going to put huge effort into a project that will never grow beyond one man and his dog. The figures should all be stated up front in an uncomplicated format. Do not bury them at the back of the pack.

The competition. All capable entrepreneurs know their competition well. If they say they have none, they are fooling themselves. A solid business plan has plenty of specifics about their rivals and why their particular proposition has a genuine competitive advantage.

Do not expect a perfect presentation. Every situation is flawed. If an investor is looking for an opportunity with no drawbacks, he will never invest in anything. I quite like deals with a known problem, because it can then be addressed and the price can be adjusted to compensate.

Huge appendices and too many spreadsheets. These might be necessary for loan applications but equity investors tend to decide based on a few important points. All the supportive evidence and background material can be supplied later if the proposal is of real interest. Don’t bury the hooks with padding.

Getting someone else to write it. It shows when advisers rather than principals write a plan. It lacks authenticity. By all means have experts assess your work – but do the first draft yourself.

Make sure it can be e-mailed. Do not rely on the post or present would-be backers with voluminous amounts of paper. Just get their e-mail addresses and send them the core presentation online. Catch their attention early and it may lead to something.

Unbelievable margins, profits and returns. Plans that suggest your company will quickly achieve operating margins of 35 per cent, returns on capital of 100 per cent and so on are not credible. Be realistic and conservative and you are more likely to be taken seriously.

Writing a business plan is an art. It should give a venture the best possible chance of securing finance, and it is worth taking great care over the task.

The writer is chairman of Channel 4 and runs Risk Capital Partners, a private equity group

Technorati Tags:

Are female bankers scary?

Is it true that women who claim to be dynamic, ambitious and self-starting often come across as simply intimidating instead?
Yes, according to a recent panel at the 8th Annual Women in Business Conference, held at London Business School last week.

The panel on personal branding was made up of (among others) Melissa Carnathan, managing director at Merrill Lynch, Jane Champ of American Express, and Julie McEver, head of research at New Philanthropy Capital.

Each of the women on the panel claimed that despite attempts to present themselves as (merely) professional, competitive and ambitious, they have instead at some point in their careers been labelled as ‘scary’.

The panel argued that in the typically macho banking world such traits are encouraged in men, yet a dynamic edge is often frowned upon when exhibited by women.

True or false? Can women be forceful but not frightening? How can they get ahead without being tarred with the ‘scary’ brush? Should such qualities be celebrated rather than censured? Your comments please…

In my experience, yes, women MD's can and are frequently scary.

Technorati Tags:

Researching Terrorism - hmmm

Well, so Mohammed Atif Siddique was convicted of terrorism related crimes. His defence was that he was researching terrorism. Well, I am also researching terrorism, but you wouldn't catch me..

  • He provided training material on bomb-making
  • He provided training material on the use of weapons
  • threatened to become a suicide bomber
  • showed fellow-students videos of beheadings and suicide bombers
  • told friends that Osama Bin Laden was his god
  • may have been planning to take part in a series of al-Qa'eda inspired attacks planned in Canada
  • one of his targets would be central Glasgow
  • Going to be trained in order to achieve status as a suicide bomber
  • large number of files stored in a concealed location on your laptop computer
  • contain terrorist propaganda particularly emanating from al-Qa'eda glorifying terrorism - especially suicide bombing
  • under covert surveillance by the security services for several months
  • items found in his possession indicated he had close links with those who promoted al-Qa'eda.
  • set up a series of websites on his home computer with direct links to the inflammatory fortnightly magazines Muaskar Al-Battar and Sout Al-Jihad
  • Muaskar Al-Battar, which translates as "The Camp of the Sword that Cuts", featured pages of information about survival techniques, guerrilla warfare and light and heavy weaponry, including details of how to use rocket launchers.
  • Sout Al-Jihad - or Voice of Jihad - included extensive details on bomb-making, including how best to set booby-trap devices. It also featured lists of ingredients and materials needed to make explosives.
  • Siddique also had hundreds of other inflammatory documents on his computers, including one featuring tips on how to plan assassination operations and how to obtain training in Afghanistan.

His lawyer says that he is "deeply and profoundly chastened by this whole experience". Well, now he has 8 years to ruminate over his chastisement!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

This time its Jewish Rage Boys

A haredi woman was attacked on a Beit Shemesh bus by five haredi youths Sunday for refusing to move to the back of the bus, police said.

"They started beating me murderously," the soldier said in an interview.
The midday attack on the Egged 497 bus culminated in a clash between several dozen haredi men and police.
During the melee, the suspects fled and the rioters were dispersed by  police,  no injuries  were reported in the incident, but the tires of a police vehicle were punctured.

Last year, a 50-year-old American-Israeli woman making her way to the Western Wall was beaten on a Jerusalem bus for refusing to move to the rear of the bus. The woman, Miriam Shear, was slapped, kicked, punched and pushed by a group of men who demanded that she sit with the other women in the back of the city bus, which was not one of the segregated lines.

Decades of fights for women's equality and we still have these Neanderthals with their penile organs growing out of their craniums. 

Technorati Tags: , ,

Music and Islam - the argument rages on

Muslim Live 8 was held recently and raised millions for the victims of Darfur. Sami Yusuf was belting out his songs at this concert. You can hear his songs online as well. I suppose its an acquired taste.

I have been masticating a bit on music and Islam generally. But then I remembered something that my sister forwarded to me from this funny clown of a woman, Yvonne Ridley. Here's the article which Yvonne wrote about Sami.

Pop Culture in the Name of Islam
Monday, April 24, 2006

I FEEL very uncomfortable about the pop culture which is growing around some so-called Nasheed artists. Of course I use the term ‘Nasheed artists' very lightly. Islamic ‘boy bands' and Muslim ‘popsters' would probably be more appropriate.

Eminent scholars throughout history have often opined that music is haram, and I don't recall reading anything about the Sahaba whooping it up to the sound of music. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for people letting off steam, but in a dignified manner and one which is appropriate to their surroundings.

The reason I am expressing concern is that just a few days ago at a venue in Central London, sisters went wild in the aisles as some form of pop-mania swept through the concert venue. And I'm not just talking about silly, little girls who don't know any better; I am talking about sisters in their 20's, 30's and 40's, who squealed, shouted, swayed and danced. Even the security guys who looked more like pipe cleaners than bulldozers were left looking dazed and confused as they tried to stop hijabi sisters from standing on their chairs. Of course the stage groupies did not help at all as they waved and encouraged the largely female Muslim crowd to "get up and sing along." (They're called ‘Fluffers' in lap-dancing circles!)

The source of all this adulation was British-born Sami Yusuf, who is so proud of his claret-colored passport that he wants us all to wave the Union Jacks. I'm amazed he didn't encourage his fans to sing "Land of Hope and Glory." Brother Sami asked his audience to cheer if they were proud to be British ,and when they responded loudly, he said he couldn't hear them and asked them to cheer again.

How can anyone be proud to be British? Britain is the third most hated country in the world. The Union Jack is drenched in the blood of our brothers and sisters across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine. Our history is steeped in the blood of colonialism, rooted in slavery, brutality, torture, and oppression. And we haven't had a decent game of soccer since we lifted the World Cup in 1966.

Apparently Sami also said one of the selling points of Brand UK was having Muslims in the Metropolitan Police Force! Astafur'Allah! Dude, these are the same cops who have a shoot-to-kill policy and would have gunned down a Muslim last year if they could tell the difference between a Bangladeshi and a Brazilian. This is the same police force that has raided more than 3000 Muslim homes in Britain since 9/11. What sort of life is there on Planet Sami, I wonder? If he is so proud to be British, why is he living in the great Middle Eastern democracy of Egypt?

Apparently the sort of hysteria Sami helped encourage is also in America, and if it is happening on both sides of the Atlantic, then it must be creeping around the globe and poisoning the masses. Islamic boy bands like 786 and Mecca 2 Medina are also the subject of the sort of female adulation you expect to see on American Pop Idol or the X-Factor. Surely Islamic events should be promoting restrained and more sedate behavior.

Do we blame the out-of-control sisters? Or do we blame the organizers for allowing this sort of excessive behavior which demeans Islam? Or do we blame the artists themselves?

Abu Ali and Abu Abdul Malik, struggling for their Deen, would certainly not try to whip up this sort of hysteria. Neither would the anonymous heroic Nasheed artists who sing for freedom; check out Idhrib Ya Asad Fallujah, and you will know exactly what I mean.

Fallujah is now synonymous with the sort of heroic resistance that elevated the Palestinians of Jenin to the ranks of the resistance written about in the Paris Communeand the Siege of Leningrad. The US military has banned the playing of any Nasheeds about Fallujah because of the power and the passion it evokes.

If those Nasheeds had sisters running in the streets whooping and dancing, however, the Nasheeds may be encouraged because of haram activity surrounding them.

Quite frankly, I really don't know how anyone in the Ummah can really let go and scream and shout with joy at pleasure domes when there is so much brutality and suffering going on in the world today. The rivers of blood flow freely from the veins of our brothers and sisters from across the Muslim world. Screaming and shouting the names of musical heroes drown out the screams coming from the dungeons of Uzbekistan where brothers and sisters are boiled alive in vats of water. How many will jump up and down and wave their arms in the air, shouting wildly for justice for our kin in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Palestine, and Iraq? There are many more killing fields as well across the Asian and Arab world. Will you climb on theater chairs and express your rage over Guantanamo Bay and other gulags where our brothers and sisters are being tortured, raped, sodomized, beaten, and burned? Or will you just switch off this concerned sister and switch on to the likes of Sami Yusuf because he can sell you a pipe dream with his soothing words and melodic voice?

Oh, Muslims, wake up! The Ummah is not bleeding; it is hemorrhaging.
Listen not to what is haram. Listen to the pain of your global family.

This is what he wrote back to her.

Dear Yvonne,

Peace and blessings of God be upon you.

Your recent article on ‘Pop Culture in the Name of Islam’ has been brought to my attention. I commend you for voicing your opinion and raising some very important issues – albeit in a very provocative manner. I thought it would be useful to share some of my thoughts with you on this matter.

As a Muslim artist, I regularly seek clarification and advice from world-renowned scholars on art, music, singing and culture. Be informed that the subject of music is one of the most controversial topics in Islamic Jurisprudence. I respect those who consider music to be haram. Yes eminent scholars of our past have opined such. However, I respect and follow the opinion of other eminent scholars – classical and contemporary, who permit singing and the use of musical instruments. The well-established jurisprudential rule states that ‘in matters where there is ikhtilaf (differences of opinion) there is to be no condemnation of either opinion.’ This is from the beauty of the religion of Islam. The diversity of our cultural, legal and social traditions is something we are in dire need of celebrating not condemning. So let’s agree to disagree on this one.

The obsessive fascination of fans towards any celebrity - be it in arts, music, politics, media, etc - to the point of hysteria and hero-worshipping is definitely unhealthy not to mention un-Islamic. Of course, as Muslims, we are required to abide by certain etiquettes in whatever situation we may find ourselves in. However, I definitely did not see girls dancing or behaving indecently in any of my concerts. To state otherwise is a gross exaggeration if not an outright fallacy. And if indeed that did take place then let’s deal with it in the true Prophetic tradition - a tradition that imparts love, mercy, tolerance and wisdom. Let me share with you the story of the Bedouin who came to the Prophet’s mosque and started urinating in the mosque itself. The Companions rushed to grab him and give him a ‘good beating.’ But the Prophet did not allow them to do so and told them to let him be. After the Bedouin had urinated, the Prophet asked his Companions to bring a bucket of water and wash the place. Afterwards he called the man and with gentleness and affection explained to him that this was a place of worship and that it should be kept clean. Though I have to say that had the Bedouin been around today he would be lucky to get away with just a ‘good beating’!

Indeed the state of contemporary mainstream music is one dominated by celebrity worship, materialism and the constant promotion of a consumerist culture that seeks only to derive instant emotional and physical gratification. The arts industry in general – and the music industry specifically – is being commercialised at the expense of art itself. We don’t value good art or good music anymore – it’s about what can sell most in the market. In the midst of all this, it is upon all conscious and responsible artists who look beyond the commercial to work in refining arts and music. Apart from entertaining audiences, music is a powerful medium to communicate values and social messages. In these times where heinous crimes against humanity are being committed, we as artists – Muslims or non-Muslims, British or non-British – have a duty to use this medium to bring some sanity to this world of unrest, fear, violence, terror and war. Human life and dignity are values that should be cherished and championed by all. Had you listened carefully to the songs in my latest album which is actually entitled ‘My Ummah’ before hastily passing judgements, you would have noticed my modest attempt at addressing issues facing the global Muslim community – such as regaining our lost legacy in all spheres of human life, oppression in different parts of the Muslim world, Aids, landmines, poverty and freedom to wear the hijab.

This leads me to another important issue which you raised – that of identity and culture. Who are we? How do we define ourselves? What do we stand for? Let me remind you again – I am a British Muslim. Proud to be Muslim and proud to be British! Why? Because this is what Islam teaches me to be – loyal towards my faith and my country. Throughout our rich history, wherever Muslims settled they adopted and fused the best aspects of the local culture/society with Islamic teachings and traditions. As Dr. Umar Faruq Abdallah, a leading American Muslim scholar and thinker writes in ‘Islam the Cultural Imperative’:

In history, Islam showed itself to be culturally friendly and, in that regard, has been likened to a crystal clear river. Its waters (Islam) are pure, sweet, and life-giving but—having no color of their own—reflect the bedrock (indigenous culture) over which they flow. In China, Islam looked Chinese; in Mali, it looked African. Sustained cultural relevance to distinct peoples, diverse places, and different times underlay Islam’s long success as a global civilization.

At a time when leading Muslim scholars and thinkers have reached an advanced stage in crystallising theories of citizenship and positive integration into Western societies, any discussion of renouncing parts of our identity is simply ridiculous, dangerous and destructive – especially for someone who has no other homeland. Such emotional fist-pumping and chest-pounding about renouncing our British identity may seem attractive to a minority of Muslim youth, but as Muslims in positions of influence like yourself, we should not play to these base instincts. Rather, we should try to be more far-sighted and responsible in our discourse and not sacrifice this in the pursuit of tabloid-style sensationalist journalism.

Do you not see the Prophet of Islam shedding tears whilst migrating from Makkah – his beloved homeland to Madina despite the persecution he suffered at the hands of its people. Britain is my home. I was raised here as a child, I went to school here, most of my friends – Muslims and non-Muslims - are British and my earliest as well as fondest memories are rooted here. Does being British mean I take pride in the oppressive and exploitative colonial past of Britain? Does it mean I support the British invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq? Does it mean I support the Anti-Terrorism Act? Does it mean I support the erosion of civil liberties and human rights? Of course not! But Yvonne, let us be fair and not forget that it was in Britain that the world witnessed the largest anti-war demonstration – a testimony to the moral consciousness of the British public. I too was in that demonstration voicing my discontent over the foreign policies of our government. Although we have our fair share of racism, Islamophobia, discrimination, under-representation – and in no way am I claiming that we live in a utopian society, but I still believe that British society is amongst the most tolerant, open, liberal, multi-cultural and inclusive societies in the world. We don’t need to go far but Muslims in the Continent would envy the liberties and opportunities that British Muslims take for granted. Actually the real debate that needs to take place is how are we to shape this emerging British / European / Western Muslim identity and what direction it should take. I see my work a humble contribution towards that end.

You are critical of my mention that the Metropolitan Police is inclusive of Muslims. By God, who are you depending on to protect and safeguard our streets? Yes, there is no doubt that the Metropolitan Police have committed a series of grave mistakes and blunders – the recent Forest Gate incident is one such example and the Police must be held fully accountable for their actions. But we as Britons and Muslims have a religious and civic obligation to help maintain a safe and secure Britain. This actually raises serious questions about the participation of British Muslims not just in the Metropolitan Police but in mainstream civil society. We have three options as a community: [1] To assimilate and lose our cultural, ethnic and even religious roots. [2] To ghettoise and divorce ourselves from society and face extermination. [3] To positively integrate and contribute to society whilst remaining loyal to both faith and country. I – like the vast majority Muslims – have chosen option three. We need to build trust and partnerships with civil institutions and engage with them. This path entails that we be active members in our communities and societies; that we participate at all levels of society from politics to sports, from academia to arts, from business to media; that we reserve and exercise the right of dissent and criticism; that we join our fellow citizens in building a safe, peaceful, tolerant and pluralistic society that embodies the values of freedom and justice. Thus I commend you for standing in the last European Elections, General Elections and the recent Council Elections as a candidate in order to get your views heard, to make an impact, and to represent British people – although I hope you have better luck next time. Positive engagement – not anarchist ranting -– is the path we must tread.

It is true that the state of the global Muslim community is saddening but are we meant to live in perpetual grieving and lamenting and dress in black? Despite all the oppression and persecution suffered by the Prophet, he would always find time to celebrate the different joyful moments in life such as marriages, births, Eids and other happy occasions. He, peace and blessings of God be upon him, also found time to enjoy poetry and even had appointed a personal poet – the notable companion Hassan ibn Thabit.

Maintaining balance and adopting the middle way is the key in these troubled times of ours. Extremism and extremists have no place in Islam and in our civil societies. “Perished are the extremists” is a famous Prophetic tradition. Extremism is not a problem unique to Islam. Every religion, every way of life, every ideology has its puritans and those willing to distort and misinterpret it to meet their own agenda. And these are no different to those that commit acts of terror, who preach extremism, and who sow seeds of hatred in the name if Islam. There is no denying that Muslims in places like Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir and Chechnya are facing oppression and tragedy every day, and both the Muslim world and the West need to come together to solve these problems in the greater interest of humanity. Western governments in particular must understand that to help the majority of Muslims defeat the minority of extremists, they must assist us in eradicating the daily humiliation faced by Muslims across many parts of the world. Ending this humiliation is the only way forward for us.

You have every right to criticise and disagree with me or anyone else for that matter, and I always welcome any advice and constructive criticism for I know my defects and shortcomings are many. I am guided by the ancient wisdom which states ‘May God have mercy on the one who shows me my defects – for that is the best gift he could give me.’ However, in the Islamic tradition there are adab (ethics) of criticism and disagreement. I know you wrote your article with sincerity and zeal, but on a more personal level, I was deeply pained and saddened by the hostile tone and the vulgar style of your language that was brimming with sarcasm and was clearly un-Islamic, indecent and a gross violation of the beautiful teachings of our beloved Prophet who said “I was not sent except to perfect your manners.” Using words such as “astagfirullah dude,” “lap-dancing,” ‘whooping and dancing,” and describing the volunteer stewards as “pipe cleaners” and “bulldozers” are inappropriate to say the very least. What shocked and even angered me was the way you shamelessly insulted our pure innocent sisters who were supporting a charity concert by describing them as “fluffers”! (Incidentally, these very sisters managed to raise over £100,000 for orphans all over the world.) I – like the vast majority of those who read your article – was blissfully ignorant about the very existence of this disgusting obscene word, and I would question the wisdom of introducing it to the vocabulary of your readers. As to my performances, I always consciously endeavour to be responsible, respectable, modest and dignified on stage.

It has been my approach that whenever personal criticism is levelled at me I ignore it and get on with my work, as my philosophy in life is to build and not destroy, and to unite not divide. However, on this occasion I felt duty-bound to respond because of the dangerous ideas and notions contained in your article. Yvonne, let us work together as fellow Muslims and Britons in building a better future for our community and all human beings and strive to make our world a safer, more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous place.

Yours faithfully,

Sami Yusuf

Reading the responses tells me that there seems to be still a debate going on. Here are some more comments, and here, and here, and here,  and here, and and and.

Quite a lot of the respondents thought that Music was haram. Curiouser and curioser. If Music is haram, would Islamic Relief, the charity accept the money? Would Sudan allow that money to be used in Sudan?

As for Yvonne Ridley, may God give her long life, she is real fun. See here when she is dragged over coals, she is ok when she is talking to illiterates but when faced with people who are smart, intelligent and knowledgeable, she goes all wonky and stammers and runs away, very funny! :)

Technorati Tags: , , ,