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On the death of language 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Opinion, Random.
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There’s an excellent article in the FT on language using Apple and Microsoft as instructive examples.


“We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.”

The tone is direct, comic and elegantly threatening.

“We will reject apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, I’ll know it when I see it. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.”

And Microsoft:

The brand new browser, it says, “delivers a richer, faster, and more business-ready Web experience. Architected to run HTML 5, the beta enables developers to utilise standardised mark-up language across multiple browsers”. Well I never. Reading this, I’m bored and restless, irritated and alienated.

And an example of truly crappy modern prose from Bob Jeffrey, the head of JWT.

“Global consumers are rapidly re-evaluating and readjusting their value paradigms and purchasing decisions. Our job is to keep our ear to the ground with these consumers, providing relevant real-time insight to our clients that inspires cutting-edge, cost-efficient solutions.”

The Apple version of this would be something like: “Consumers can change so we try to keep up.” This version reads better, but it is not hard to see why Mr Jeffrey didn’t put it that way. “A relevant real-time insight” sounds like something that a befuddled client might pay more money for. [how true]

Then the author explains why all this matters.

An even better example of the link between high profits and low language was on the appointments pages in the Financial Times 10 days ago. It was an advertisement from “one of the largest and most trusted banking and financial services organisations in the world” which was hoping to hire a “customer journey re-engineering manager”.

This title contains three layers of obfuscation: the ludicrous yet ubiquitous idea that a banking customer is on a journey; the idea that this journey needs re-engineering; the notion that this needs managing. There is only one conclusion to be drawn: surplus profits generate bonuses and bullshit in equal measure.

All interesting stuff.

Also this morning I came across the BBC’s style guide which is – amazingly – quite a good read. It was difficult reading for me in places as I discovered that I was (am) routinely committing numerous language faux pas. I’ll endeavor to improve.

Hat tip: RIM

Qatar: richest in world 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Qatar is always there or there abouts when it comes to being the richest country in the world on a per capita calculation. According to Global Finance, they are top with a per capita income of $90,149.

Kuwait is second with a paltry GDP per income of $38,984.

Beck’s book review 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Do we think that they have this there because they want to highlight the snide snippyness of Stewart? Alas I genuinely think that it’s a lovely mistake.

The Mubarak picture doctoring 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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…as Al Ahram showed the picture…

A classic example of the pathetic state of Middle Eastern newspapers. Not just in terms of their cringworthy desire to please the powers that be but in their stupidity: did they really think that this wouldn’t be found out?

The pros and cons of Qatar’s 2022 bid 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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On 2nd December  FIFA will decide who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Qatar is hoping that, despite being widely seen as a rank outsider, it will be selected as the host country for the 2022 event. Here are a few ‘pros and cons’ of Qatar’s bids as I see them.


Qatar can promise to iron out practically any issues with oodles of cash. Only this week, they were deemed to be the richest country in the world per capita. This means that you can buy the endorsement of top-level ex-footballers like Zinedine Zidane, Ronald De Boer and Pep Guardiola. Also, at the Confederation of African Football on the eve of the African Cup of Nations, Qatar bought the rights to be the only contender officially allowed to promote themselves to the delegates and dignitaries.

Money also means that Qatar’s public transport infrastructure can be wholly overhauled to a potentially unrivaled degree. This would be wholly necessary. Currently Doha’s public transport systems are poor and thousands of fans were left stranded after the England-Brazil match last year after no-one saw fit to arrange any kind of public transport whatsoever.


Qatar’s bottomless pot of money means that they can build stunning stadiums that would undoubtedly impress FIFA and create a fantastic spectacle.

(It is interesting to note that Qatar plans a stadium with wraparound uber wide-screen TVs on the outside; some 420,000 square feet of them, to be precise. This advertising bonanza will, I’d have thought, catch on.)

Middle East

The fact that neither the Middle East nor a Muslim country has hosted a World Cup augers in Qatar’s favor with FIFA always looking to further football’s reach. The 370,000,000 ‘Middle Easteners’ already have significant interest in football and if Qatar can dexterously market themselves, they could perhaps draw in more Muslims from across Asia into football too.

The other side of this particular coin is that Qatar sits between Saudi Arabia and Iran not all that far from Iraq. Whilst it is a peaceful little place with only one terrorist incident of note in recent years along with sporadic (minor) Iranian attacks on their oil and gas facilities, simply being in the dreaded “Middle East” is too much for some people.


I’m not surprised that Qatar say that they want to host “a new type of World Cup”. Indeed, the ‘compact’ nature of Qatar mandates that the World Cup be played over an area vastly smaller than ever before. The largest distance between stadiums in Qatar 2022 is to be less than 130km whereas, at the opposite end of the scale with Russia’s 2018-2022 bids, there would be a distance of just under 2500km between its furthest stadiums.

It is up to Qatar to turn its size into an asset and not a liability. At the moment, there are not remotely enough hotels in the whole country. For example, during the Asian Games held in 2006, guests had to stay in Bahrain and be flown and shipped in. Doha is a nest of cranes at the moment, with most seemingly building hotels. But the World Cup would mean – quite literally – that land of the Qatar Peninsula would ‘host’ the most amount of people in its history: a strange thought. Whether enough hotels, transport links, restaurants, public toilets, taxis and visas can be issued and constructed in time is a serious challenge. (On the latter point, Qatar’s poorly thought-out plans to introduce ‘no visa on arrival’ for tourists will surely mark them down.)


Qatar is a conservative Muslim country. It is impossible to buy alcohol (legally) anywhere but high-end hotels and restaurants at extortionate prices or at a government-run warehouse for resident ex-pats with the proper documentation. While FIFA is unlikely to care about the price of a pint for the average fan, they must surely take into account fans’ perspectives to some degree.

It would be politically difficult domestically and internationally for Qatar to open up any kind of open-air fan park where alcohol is available, as Germany did to much acclaim. Currently, any kind of public drunkenness is punished by a night in the cells or worse. The thought of thousands of celebratory or downhearted England fans, shirts off, singing and shouting raucously on Doha’s corniche does not – at the moment – bear thinking about. I see no easy way around this for Qatar aside from a difficult but sensible temporary amnesty (or extreme leniency) towards merry fans.


One of the key issues for Qatar is its scorching and sweaty summer. Temperatures easily reach 50 degrees C and the humidity is oppressive: even the natives of the Gulf (i.e. the ones that are ‘used’ to the heat) leave in droves for Beirut and London during the summer.  The World Cup would be held – from this perspective – at the worst time of year. Qatar has, therefore, invested in cooling technologies. The pitches are to be cooled to a pleasant 19 degrees C and fans in the stadiums too will have some kind of AC. Though, of course, the rest of Doha will be baking and unpleasant. The power for this cooling will come from solar power harnessed by the stadiums themselves: a nice green point even if open-air AC is intrinsically hideously wasteful.

However, football teams at the tournaments need training facilities – 2 pitches per team, I believe. So 32 teams means that 64 grass pitches that are air-conditioned to a height of 2 meters will need to be constructed. This is, as far as I see it, a key problem. Any notion that Qatar’s World Cup will be ‘green-friendly’ wholly disappears unless Qatar plans to incorporate solar technology into all 64 (temporary) training pitches too, which, in and of itself, would lead to a colossal use of resources.

Avoiding white elephants

Currently, Qatar’s population is around 1.6 million of whom less than a quarter of a million are Qataris. To avoid the curse of the white elephant (which, I fear, South Africa will suffer harshly from) Qatar plans to remove the upper tiers of their stadiums and ship them to developing countries. This PR exercise will go towards promoting their green and wholesome credentials and reduce the chance of too many stadiums being far too big after the World Cup.


Qatar’s stadiums and other beautiful attractions would impress all fans as would the compact and likely friendly atmosphere. However, the temperature is truly extremely uncomfortable and a Qatari World Cup would be hideously expensive for the average fan unless the Government subsidized accommodation. Yet none of this is of primary importance to FIFA. They’d be chauffeured from plush 5 star hotels to plush 5 star VVIP areas in the air conditioned stadiums and back again. Their interest is – without wishing to seem too cynical – primarily monetary. While a Qatari World Cup would be profitable, not only is Qatar a risk but England, Australia and America can offer an unmatched scale and guarantees. If FIFA feel like taking a risk then Russia, backed with their own billionaires and autocratic ‘get zee job done’ government mentality, arguably represents a safer risky bet.

Christine O’Donnell ‘I practised witchcraft’ 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Oh dear, oh dear.

And here’s Mrs. O’Donnell insisting that you would not lie to a Nazi were she hiding Jews in her house in the Second World War. Obviously, this is unfair, silly and wholly absurd, but if she insists on taking such a ridiculous stance…

Saudi: easy to do business? 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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As I tactfully alluded to in an earlier post, the recent trend of Saudi Arabia’s high rankings in various global competitiveness type rankings is absurd. Indeed, their latest rating of 13th in the world (top in the Middle East) in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business‘ Survey is a classic example of their absurdly over-inflated placing.

An excellent new blog that I’ve just stumbled upon elucidates just how absurd these kinds of ratings are in an interesting post I commend you to read.

Whilst I’m not sure that I’d legally want to suggest that the authors of these various polls and surveys are being bribed (though I allegedly wouldn’t be surprised) there remains the real question of just how they are so odds they are with reality. Answers on a postcard.

Normal service 20, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.

Dearest readers,

Normal service will now be resumed. (More) apologies for the sporadic summer service. Now that I’ve finished my summer’s work and I’m back from walking here, drinking here and a bit more walking here, I’ll get back to the blog as a time-honored way to put off writing my PhD dissertation.