04 October 2007

The Smörgåsbord Post

Life in Doha is as stable, boring, predictable and unbloggable as ever. My big excitement for the week was finally finding a way to get around Qatar's offensively paternalistic efforts at protecting me from web content I might not be able to handle through their internet filtering system. I happened across an internet ad for Proxy 1 Arabia, a service that guaranteed unfiltered access to the entire internet for the low, low price of 20 USD/month, or 90 USD for six months. I was a bit sceptical, but decided to risk 20 bucks, and paid for a month using my Google checkout (a competitor to those greedy fascists over at PayPal) account for the first time. To my surprise and delight, it worked like a charm, and one of the first things I did was check out a link to a video about Qatar a friend sent a couple of weeks ago, which I've been unable to view thanks to the censor. I'm not going to tell you anything about the content -- just check it out for yourself -- it's hysterically funny, and at time mark 0:45, there's a nice shot of the building I work in.

I titled this post the "Smörgåsbord Post" not because of my participation in a broad conspiracy to increase the usage of Swedish terms in the English language, but because of the somewhat diverse and disconnected of the subjects I wanted to touch on. Today's post is sort of the linguistic equivalent of my buffet lunches at the Four Seasons here in Doha -- yesterday I returned to my table from the buffet with a platter bearing some tabouleh, some sushi, some macaroni and cheese, some quiche, some aloo wat, and some chicken madras.

A couple of days ago I spoke with my brother, Maggot, in Hawaii. I was curious to know how the new interisland ferry service, the Hawaii Superferry, was faring. I have long found it almost inconceivable that the Hawaiian Islands do not have a ferry service sailing between them -- despite the fact that on a clear day, from a good elevation, you can see just about the entire island chain from the Big Island, the only way to get from one island to another is to fly. I regard the situation as just another manifestation of de Tocqueville's "American Exceptionalism," the phenomenon that dictates that Americans must do everything differently than the rest of world, no matter how immoral or illogical. Hence, the death penalty, 120 volt electricity and the use of the English system of weights and measures. America has very few ferries. If you cannot drive there, you probably have to fly there. Somehow, however, someone managed to sneak some logic into Hawaii whilst nobody was looking, and the state decided to introduce an inter-island service. Two gigantic state of the art ferries were ordered from Incat, in Hobart, Australia, the first of which was delivered to Honolulu in August. It should be understood that prior to the approval of this service, the plan had to survive all manner of legal and environmental challenges from every kind of fruitcake you can imagine. Some said it could injure migrating whales. Others said "invasive species" (I presume they were concerned about species other than environmental alarmists) would hitch-hike from island to island in the bilge water. All of these numerous hurdles were patiently dealt with by the planners of the service. The first of the two ferries arrived for service in Honolulu. The company's website opened for sales, and people began buying tickets. It was a huge success and all the acrimony and concern that marked the planning phase was quickly forgotten! No! Of COURSE not! This is America! Arriving in Kaua'i on 28 August, the ferry was met by a bunch of protesters, who were concerned about "the environment". Here's a video of this event:

No need for me to comment on the intelligence of the people participating in this protest. What really irritates me is that if you were truly were worried about the environment, you'd be out at the AIRPORT, blocking flights from landing out of concern for the massively larger carbon footprint of a flight in comparison with a relatively eco-friendly ferry journey. Beyond the lack of logic, the opponents of the ferry have attempted to slap every socially-charged label they can think of on this initiative -- according to them, it's a race issue, it's a class issue, it's a mainlander versus islander issue, it's a development vs. environmental protection issue, it's an Oahu vs. the other islands issue, it's a North-South issue, it's an East-West issue, it's a Conservative-Liberal issue, it's everything in the world EXCEPT a TRANSPOR*FUCKING*TATION issue! All I want is be able to take the ferry from Honolulu to the Big Island next time I visit my brother -- mostly because sea transport is my favourite mode of transportation, but also because it will mean two fewer encounters with the TSA.

Finally, I think readers should have look at the long and in-depth article the New York Times published today on the Bush torture programme. Although most of us have known for a long time that Bush's public denials of endorsing torture were blatant and obvious lies, now we finally have "smoking gun" proof that when Bush said "We do not torture," he was lying through his teeth. A few years ago, a Republican-controlled congress got its collective knickers in a twist over Clinton's declaration that "I did not have sex with that woman;" consistency demands they respond to Bush's lie the same way: impeachment.

4 October 2007


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