Sunday, February 16, 2003

A first on this blog, here comes a quote from the Quran:

"qulna ya nar kuni bardan wa salamen ala ibrahim"
We said, "O Fire! be thou cool, and (a means of) safety for Abraham!"
Surah 21. The Prophets
Plot background: Abraham and the Heretics are having their equivalent of a WWF Smackdown (smashing of idols, miracle face-off, the works) finally the Heretics decide to throw Abraham into the fire and tell him: "let your god help you out of this". Thus the (nar) fire is turned into (bardan wa salamen) coolness and safety and Ibrahim walks out safe and unscathed.
I think I heard that 'bardan wa salamen" quote a thousand times during the last four days. People want to believe that what happened in the Security Council will actually shoo away the ghost of war, I don't think it will. The Blix and Baradei reports are as wishy-washy as the first reports, we can quote the parts that say we're cooperating and the "others" can quote phrases that say the exact opposite. Besides at this moment I think it is not only about the issue of Iraq and WMDs, it's beginning to look like a showdown between the USofA and the rest of the world, we get to be the example.
Anyway to watch the Security Council this time you didn't need to sneak up the dish, just find one of the 4000 Iraqis who have subscribed to the 14 state approved sat channels; the Syrian Sat Channel was transmitting the session live, with translation. Most people listened to it on Radio Monte Carlo, if at all.
Actually most of the people in Baghdad were stuck in the streets waiting for any kind of public transport. This is the first sign of a big organized demonstration. All buses, state and privately run lines, are grouped in various spots in the city to transport the "demonstrators" from their work places to where the show is supposed to take place.
Drop them at point "A" and pick them up at point "B", school kids would just disappear between these two points. There are a couple of excellent ice-cream places in al-manusr where one of the "demonstrations" took place.
This is what it looks like when you are in one of these affairs: you get out of the bus, wait for a mind-numbing couple of hours until they tell to march, you start walking until you see the guy in the front of your group (usually an eager party member) start jumping and try to pump some life into the bored group of people behind him, you shout the obligatory things, pass the stand where the officials and press are waiting then you get back to whatever you were discussing with the person next to you.
The worst experience with "demonstrations" people ever had was sometime during the eighties. I can't remember when exactly but the Grand Festival Square [sahat al ihtifalat] the one with the two intersecting swords has just been opened a short time before and this was the first BIG demonstration there. It was mainly high-school and university students. Instead of the drop here, pick up there strategy they decided that everyone should just wait within the boundaries of the square, guards were all over the perimeter, no one could leave. Then they decided to wait. This was during the summer by noon kids started dropping and fainting. No water and no food and not even a place to sit in the shade. When they realized it was getting serious they brought in trucks with bread and water tanks, you can imagine what it would look like with thousands of hungry and thirsty kids. Total chaos. No one died but many were seriously injured and they never did that again. Demonstrations? No thanks, I have mastered the art of sneaking past the green-clad guards.
Instead of getting trapped in one of the streets they have closed for the demos I stayed home and helped my mother pack things. We have not decided to leave Baghdad if "it" happens but just in case we absolutely have to. We are very efficient packers, me and my mom. The worst packers are the emotional ones. The (oh-let's-remember-when-I-bought-this-thing) packers, we just do it in cold blood, we have done this quite often, we are serial packers. Grrrrrrrr.

It's not only us who are packing. G. (he who reads novels in atmospherically correct conditions) is helping most of his foreign friends to pack as well, we have said our goodbyes to most of them. The French Cultural Center stopped all language courses being taught by French staff and they have said their goodbyes and good wishes to their students. The Russians are locating all 2000 citizens and telling them to leave. (what are 2000 Russians doing in Iraq anyway?), the Chinese embassy which is as big as a small village is empty. If you have read that UN report about humanitarian scenarios you might have come across something the report calls (phase V), from what I understand (phase V) is something like "extreme crisis, get the heck out of there" sort of thing. At the moment UN staff who would not evacuate until phase IV are being told to take long vacations starting with Eid. Notice "vacation" and not "this is officially a phase IV situation, grab your bags and run".

Now, the thing Wired wrote about. Not the emails but the site blocking and 8e6 Technologies, I know I should not bite the bait but I can't help it. My guess is 8e6 Technologies didn't know that it was selling the software to an Iraqi entity, it was most probably done by the French who did the internet setup in the first place. Because I was getting a bit worried about who is reading what, I also did a bit of prodding to find out how they decide what to block and what not and it turns out it is the mess I always knew it is.
Q: Google gets blocked for days at a time, why?
A: The reason is that the Mukhabarat minder at the ISP decides that he does not want to bother with doing his daily random checks and just registers the Google URL as blocked. it takes a couple of days and some paper shuffling until someone explains to him that it is not google that is the baddy and that things can be looked for in other places.
The firewall blocks URLs and terms within a URL or search request, but that only works with the popular search engines. The rest is done with random checks of URL requests going thru the servers.
Q: blocked Arabic sites are more than obviously "hostile" English language sites?
A: there are no special requirements concerning languages for the minder to work there.
Q: they do know their porn sites well.
A: well it is more interesting to check on them than the politics stuff, who wants to read when you can look.
Q: is there a proxy that is not firewalled?
A: of course, Uday's (i.e. the ministry of youth / Olympic committee) .
Q: can I get a username/password?
A: go fuck a cow…..
(well it didn't hurt to ask).

did you know david bowie says "god is an american" near the end of "I'm afraid of americans"?
i mean if bowie says it he must know something, he has connections, i have been told.