Monday, December 07, 2009

Disgracful Swiss Vote on Minarets

Disgraceful. That is the only way to describe the success of a right-wing initiative to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland, where 57 percent of voters cast ballots for a bigoted and mean-spirited measure. Under Switzerland’s system of direct rule, the referendum is binding. Switzerland’s 400,000 or so Muslims, most of whom come from Kosovo and Turkey, are legally barred from building minarets as of now. We can only hope that the ban is quickly challenged, and that the Swiss courts will find a way to get rid of it.

Editorial - The Swiss Vote -

Being liberal does not mean being anti Islamist. Just like some Islamists were outraged with the Swiss ban for the wrong reasons, some liberals applauded the vote for the wrong reasons too. The Islamists ignore that they treat other faiths in their own homeland more harshly than Muslims are treated abroad. Liberals forgot for the moment -for a reason- that their core value is allowing others to express themselves freely, unlike the Swiss ban.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Dearest Lulu

They say becoming a parent is a life changing experience. I confirm. As I sat in the delivery room waiting for the new arrival, I thought to myself I should be overwhelmed with emotions. To tell the truth I wasn't. A moment later as I heard her first cry, it hit me! I have become a father.

Dearest Lulu,

Even though I have yet to fully comprehend the miracle that unfolded in front of my eyes, I wanted to write you a little welcome note into this world. I know it's going to be a little while until you get to read it. For now go ahead enjoy the feeding, burping and pooping. Later on in life there will be more to worry about. Stay positive, along with hard work and a bit of luck you will get almost all you want in life. This is called achievement. The rest that you wont get is not meant for you and you are better of without it. This is called fate.

There are two types of worrying: worry with laziness and worry with accomplishment. Make sure you worry productively; otherwise you will just procrastinate. But for now don't worry at all and let your proud and loving parents do the worrying for you. Indeed my biggest worry is coming short and not providing you with all the love you deserve. We are all human and we have our shortcomings, so always try to understand and avoid judging.

Lastly a tip as you grow. Growing does not stop. Tomorrow, God willing, you will crawl, then you will walk, and before you know it you will be running. Remember how you grow naturally and that you walk before you run. Take your time. Enjoy the journey. May God bless you and protect you. I pray for your love and happiness; may you one day be able to pass it along.

Lulu was born November 25th, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to Promote Entrepreneurship

The country that has led the world in promoting entrepreneurship has also done the most to plug itself into global markets. The Israeli government’s venture-capital fund, which was founded in 1992 with $100m of public money, was designed to attract foreign venture capital and, just as importantly, expertise. The government let foreigners decide what to invest in, and then stumped up a hefty share of the money required. Foreign venture capital poured into the country, high-tech companies boomed, domestic venture capitalists learned from their foreign counterparts and the government felt able to sell off the fund after just five years.

Schumpeter: Fish out of water | The Economist

One shining example of promoting private enterprise. Interesting enough in Kuwait we have a similar concept in the National Technology Enterprises Company (NTEC) which was founded and funded through Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) in 2002 with KD 100 m in capital. I am not so sure it has done much so far.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Is It

From Tolstoy to MJ's This Is It. I saw the movie in the new 360 mall Imax movie theater. I absolutely loved it. It is as if you were attending the concert. The movie  is a collection of scenes of his practice for the This Is It concert put together in a way that comes very close to actually witnessing the concert. It lasts for an hour forty five minutes and it will blow you off your seat!

I could not help feeling sad for his abrupt passing away. The mess he got himself into during his life eclipsed his art, but after passing away you appreciate the genius artist in him. The concert would have been something, but at least we were left with a flavor of it and a memory of a great artist.

Friday, October 23, 2009

War and Peace Journey in Awan

I meant to document my reading of War and Peace in a more elaborate way than I did here in the blog. So I put my thoughts together and I sent them over to Dr. Rumaihi the editor in chief of Awan newspaper. He pleasantly surprised me by publishing my writing. I would like to share my journey with you. My apologies to non Arabic readers as I will try to translate to English at some point.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flu Rumors

As soon as swine flu vaccinations start next month, some people getting them will drop dead of heart attacks or strokes, some children will have seizures and some pregnant women will miscarry.

But those events will not necessarily have anything to do with the vaccine. That poses a public relations challenge for federal officials, who remember how sensational reports of deaths and illnesses derailed the large-scale flu vaccine drive of 1976.

Don’t Blame Flu Shots for All Ills, Officials Say -

As if the swine flu scare we are bombarded with in the media everyday is not enough, expect more when the vaccine arrives. I am not sure what is worse getting the flu or living in fear of it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

French Politics 2

The Hôtel Lambert, in a corner of the Île Saint-Louis overlooking the Seine, was once one of Paris’s best-kept secrets. But when a high-rolling Qatari prince bought the crumbling 17th-century palace in 2007 for $88 million, the Lambert became the center of attention, not all of it so attractive.

Paris Journal - A Palace Overhaul, Treading on French Heritage -

I wonder why the French did not object to the previous owners who seem to have done most of the damage to the palace? And if the palace is part of the the French heritage why is it not under the state ownership rather than private ownership? Just wondering.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

French Politics

France's Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand is facing intense pressure over a book he wrote that described paying for "young boys" in Thailand.

The book was written four years ago, before he joined the government, but is back in the headlines following his impassioned support for Roman Polanski.

BBC NEWS | Europe | French minister in 'boy sex' row

Interesting that no one performed a background check on him before joining the government. Either that or anything goes in French politics!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dow 10,000 Again

Here's an oldie but a goodie: Dow 10,000.

We last saw that level (on the way up, that is) six years ago, and we first crossed Dow 10,000 a full 10 years ago. (The latter fact is no doubt deeply depressing to buy-and-hold investors, but at least it has a nice symmetry to it.)

Dow 10,000? Slam dunk. Dow 11,000? Not so much. -- DailyFinance

It's interesting to observe the chart: Dow first reaches 10,000 level 10 years ago. The biggest bull run is between Oct 9, 2002 and Oct 9, 2007. Also you will, depressingly, observe that had you put your money in the Dow in 1999 when it first reached 10,000 and did not sell, you would get your money back now after quite a ride!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Virgin Scholar

A leading Egyptian scholar has demanded that people caught importing a female virginity-faking device into the country should face the death penalty.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Egypt anger over virginity faking

I wonder what those "scholars" will think of next? Death penalty for flying on Virgin Atlantic?! Anything is possible sadly!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Qaddafi on Fire

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, should be solved by the creation of a single state, which Mr. Qaddafi called Israteen, but Mr. Qaddafi stressed it was wrong to infer that Arabs hate the Jews. “You are the ones who burned them, not us. You expelled them,” he said, referring apparently to European nations.

Qaddafi’s First U.N. Speech Is a Rambling Diatribe -

A speech at the UN General Assembly that should not exceed 15 minutes extended to 90 minutes! It sounded very entertaining but I am not sure if the participants enjoyed it!

For Mr. Obama personally, however, he had only warm words, calling on the collected nations to welcome “our son” on the occasion of his first United Nations appearance. “We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as the president of America,” he said, adding that he feared America would return to its old ways after the end of Mr. Obama’s term.

Long live Obama! Long live our Arab leaders!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doing Business in Kuwait

Businesses in low-income countries struggle with twice the burden of regulation as those in high-income countries. Developed countries have an average of ten times as many newly registered businesses for every adult as countries in Africa and the Middle East. Almost two-thirds of the world’s workers are still employed in the informal sector. The World Bank’s latest progress report, optimistic though it is, is a reminder of how far there is still to go in getting business regulations right.

The World Bank's Doing Business report: Reforming through the tough times | The Economist

On the occasion of the 9 day public holiday due to end of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fiter celebration, I came across an interesting report on doing business in different countries. Unsurprisingly Kuwait ranks close to the bottom compared to other GCC countries (the exception is Oman). The overall rank for ease of doing business is 61 out of 183 countries.

What struck me though is how bad Kuwait ranks in terms of ease of starting a business which is 137th! How bad can this be?! So much for trying to encourage the private sector. Go on enjoy your 9 day holiday, starting a business can wait! Happy Eid.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fighting Swine Flue


They argue that it would be better to concentrate on vaccinating those most likely to spread the virus—both schoolchildren and people between the ages of 30 and 40, who are likely to be the parents of those children, and who are, at the moment, at the bottom of the vaccination priority list.

Influenza vaccination: How to stop an outbreak | The Economist

Rather than vaccinating the elderly, pregnant women and infants, which is the traditional priority for vaccination a mathematical model suggests a more effective method. This focuses on those most likely to spread the flue rather than those mostly at risk. Applying this model to historical incidents it proves to be more effective. This also seems to be the recommendation of America's Centers of Disease Control for different reasons; the flue seems to effect young adults more than the elderly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grand Athletes

Punching the Clock

Here's how long it takes several star athletes to make approximately $100,000, based on the amount of money they've earned this season.


Alex Rodriguez, MLB                            6 pitches

Ben Roethlisberger, NFL*                   4 snaps

Tiger Woods, golf                                    11 holes

LeBron James, NBA*                             21 minutes

Roger Federer, tennis                           28 games

Tony Stewart, Nascar                           125 laps

Norm Duke, bowling*                           2,360 frames

*last full season

How Long Does It Take an Athlete to Make 100 Grand? -


Should have gotten into professional sport!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ramadan is Here Upon Us

Ramadan Kareem. It's the month of fasting turned upside down. The whole point is to share the feelings of the less privileged during this month through fasting and feeling the hunger and thirst. Yet it became the month of excesses. As soon as the sun sets we start a marathon of eating and feasting continuously throughout the  night.

And what happened to the prayer and quite time. Forget it. Turn the tv on and tune in to the latest episodes especially made for this month and the ads that only rival the US Super Bowl ads (to make it better it's coming right out of your pocket, remember that when you get your inflated mobile phone bill!).

Finally don't forget to rush to the mall and the cafes and so unnecessary social gatherings. Another Ramadan  is here upon us.. eat up and be jolly!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good Days Bad Days


“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.


I’m not sure I knew the details of all these lives when I was 29, but I did begin to guess that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them, in every sense. “There is nothing either good or bad,” I had heard in high school, from Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.”

The Joy of Less - Happy Days Blog -

Some days you think things could not get worse. When bad news seem to pop out of everywhere. And other days you feel things could not get any better. You are on top of the moon. I noticed that joy or sorrow come in bundles. When you are experiencing one or the other, it seems there is no end to it. It is good to remember that circumstances change for better or worse, but what really matters is what we make out of them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

How to be Happy


Yes, happiness is a function of our expectations — or, as it has been said: “Happiness equals reality minus expectations.” Given that neat formulation, there are two ways to attack the problem: boost our reality or lower our expectations. Most of us choose the former. We’d rather stew in our misery than trim our expectations. Lowering our sights smacks us as a cop out, un-American. Better a nation of morose overachievers, we reason, than a land of happy slackers.

Lowered Expectations - Happy Days Blog -

Few suggestions to lower your expectations in Kuwait:

- Expect dusty weather everyday.

- Islamists in Parliament will succeed not only in segregating boys and girls in private schools but also in streets, shopping malls, at work and yes even in our homes!

- All men will be required to grow beards and trim their dishdasha and women should cover head to toe.

- The second subject of the constitution is amended to include the Taliban as source for legislation and the picture of Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salim receiving the constitution is replaced by Shaikh Mulla Omar receiving it from Shaikh Tabtabie and Shaikh Hayif.

- Oil prices down to $10 and we are back to pearl diving.

Now aren't you glad the above is not happening.. at least for now!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Twin Girls for Fed



Wimbledon champion Roger Federer is the proud father of twin girls after his wife Mirka gave birth in Switzerland on Thursday night.

BBC SPORT | Tennis | Federer celebrates birth of twins

Congratulations on the twin girls named Charlene Riva and Myla Rose. Aren't girls pretty :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sampras Book


I thought I'd switch gears and read something fun for the summer. I picked up Sampras book A champion's Mind. Now that his 14 Grand Slam record is broken I was curious to get a glimpse of his life and to learn about the tennis  tour.

I was never a fan of Sampras. Despite being an avid tennis follower, Sampras went under the radar for me. Despite his achievements he lacked the charisma and thrill  (Not to mention being rude to his fans off court).

Reading the book did not change my view of Sampras. But it gave me some appreciation of the tough conditions of being on the tennis tour. There was a lot of insight of his rivalry with Andre Agassi. He talks about his struggles with a mentor, coaches, the media and his health. He shows a lot of respect and admiration to the person who eclipsed his record, Roger Federer. If you are a tennis fan the books makes an interesting read.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reading War and Peace

It was one year back when I embarked on this literary pursuit. A year later my mission is accomplished and it is worth all the time and effort.

Reflecting on this masterpiece here and now would not do it justice. I just want to mark the end of a journey. I enjoyed every moment along the way. In essence you don't read War and Peace; you live it. It is a reflection of life itself narrated through historical events of Napoleonic era and evolving around the Russian society.

Even though the journey is over, the experience is far from finished, and will continue with the human struggle to find meaning in life.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

One for History


Congratulations Roger on record breaking 15th Grand Slam title. It couldn't have come in a better way with an epic final at Wimbledon (where it all started) against Andy Roddick with Pete Sampras (holder of 14 Grand Slam title record) in attendance. Well done to the greatest player in Grand Slam tennis history.

Monday, June 08, 2009

French Victory


The ceremonial first tear escaped during the playing of the Swiss national anthem, down his left cheek, followed by more. Finally, the French Open was played Sunday by Roger’s rules, No. 1 being: there is crying in tennis.

Sports of The Times - Open Emotions From Federer -

Well deserved win for Federer at Roland Garros (French Open). This completes Roger's Grand Slam trophies with the one that eluded him for so long. It is a moment for history tying Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

The debate is on again of who is the greatest player to ever play the game. With this victory eyes are on Roger again. Funny how lately he was discounted with his game in decline. The tears that came down his eyes in victory and loss says it all: he is human; we are human; we have our winning moments and losing moments. Today is a winning moment and well deserved one.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama’s Speech in Cairo


This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

Text - Obama’s Speech in Cairo - Text -

A timely speech from a timeless city as described by Obama. The good thing is that he did not come to preach but to extend a hand with humility. There has been so much mistrust between America and the Muslim world. I though the speech did a wonderful job of presenting a fresh start and hope for new beginning. Such is the change that swept the US and brought about a new leadership; only if we could experience the same through true democracy.

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Winning Moment


It was the winner as it turned out. “Honestly, I made it and said voila,” Federer said.

French Open - At the French, the Elephant has left the Room -

For tennis fans, this year's French  Open is full of surprises. The biggest is the exit of 4 times champion and number 1 ranked Rafael Nadal.  So you would think this would clear the way for the number 2 ranked Roger Federer to capture the one title he is missing. It is not that easy.

When Federer faced Tommy Haas in their fourth round match things didn't exactly go according to plan. Roger lost the first two sets and was facing a break point in the third. And then:

The second-seeded Federer would win, conquering his own evident nerves and Haas’s still-evident talent. But it would require a stirring comeback that began with a bold forehand winner on that break point at 3-4, 30-40 in the third set before the Swiss could close Haas out: 6-7 (4-7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.

It's a good life lesson when things don't go as you like. You pull yourself together and you make it and voila! Good luck Roger you can make this happen.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Women in Parliament


"It's a victory for Kuwaiti women and a victory for Kuwaiti democracy," Ms Awadhi told AFP news agency.

"This is a major leap forward," she said. The right to vote and stand for election to Kuwait's parliament, the oldest in the Gulf, was extended to women in 2005.

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Kuwait votes for first female MPs

A truly festive result. At least in one dimension. Four women make it to parliament in Kuwait for the very first time where no women has made it since gaining their rights in 2005. Congratulations Masooma. Congratulations Aseel. Congratulations Rola. Congratulations Salwa (I am glad my vote counted!). Congratulations to Kuwait for glimpse of hope of a better future with the participation of women.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Swine Flu in Ku

Returning from Frankfurt to Kuwait, the minute we stepped out of the plane there were nurses lined up taking our temperature. I thought to myself this is interesting how Kuwait is taking precautions against the Swine flue, especially that I have not come across anything like this in the European cities I have been in.

After taking our temperature they gave us a form to fill out then wait in a total chaos of a line to get it stamped so that we can proceed to immigration. I got really frustrated especially after noticing other passengers from other destinations walking straight through without the need for scrutiny. So I asked the officer how come the others walk straight through. It turns out those coming from European destinations have to be checked while the other passengers, coming from Beirut and Dubai, did not require any clearance! I guess the definition of developed world got turned upside down! Only in Ku..

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ready to Give Up?

Ready to give up on democracy? You are probably not the only one. I was feeling frustrated by the political situation here in Kuwait as we approach yet another election after parliament was dissolved. I could not see how things could get better. That is until I read the comments of my dear friend Jacques, and the source of countless intellectual and historical anecdotes. His comments came in response to an earlier post We Are Not Arabs Anymore. I am republishing his comments here. It is a welcome reminder to look at the situation from a historical context and think of the bigger picture and our role in it.

No, I don't want to call you Americans or Westerners, I want to call you Arabs, but I look forward to change in the Arab world which will make you proud again of being called Arabs. Voltaire hated the rule of the franch kings Louis XV and Louis XVI but he never asked not to be called french, he undertook to change France. Descartes spent years at the court of the queen of Sweeden, Diderot at the court of Russia, and Voltaire at the court of Prussia, building a network of so called "despotes éclairés" (enlightened despots, sorry they were speaking french in those old days) It changed the whole Europe, but it took a century, even a bit more. What bothers me is not the lack of rapid progress in social and political set up in the Arab world but the lack of intelectual production (or the lack of its circulation) that would lay the foundation for future progress. What we (and even some english scholars) call "le siècle des lumières" (the century of enlightment) has laid down foundation for a century of revolutions in France (1789, 1830, 1848, 1871) and throughout Europe, which would not have happen if Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau had turned their back to France (actually, Rousseau was not french, he was from Geneva which was a self-governing city-state pressured between two powerful kingdon of the time trying to swallow it: France and Austria, a little bit like Kuwait today)

The problem of Gaza/Palestine/Israel is a major threat to the world peace. It is the last remain of the colonial era. Demography will eventually prevail. It will be an agony, but there is no example of a colonial creation survive for ever.
But for the future of the Arab world, it is not as crucial as the scarcity of creative thoughts: the only books I can find are either inspired by marxist philosophy which has proved to lead to bankrupcy or inspired by religion which is hardly a guarantee of progress. All those who contributed to establish today's democratic societies, the french philosophers above, but think also of Patrick Henry or Thomas Jeffeson, got into trouble with the religious authorities of their time and places. Tell me of more creative writers and books dealing with the social and political future of the Arab world.

It's only in 1905 that the french government finaly took the step to sever its links with the catholic church. And still in the 20th century, the catholic chuch thought it had to take side in national debate on women's vote, birth control, how to prevent AIDS, divorce, etc... Can you imagine that when I married (19666 not in 19th century) my wife could not open a bank account without my authorization!!!
There is a lot to do in the arab world and only Arabs can do it. Don't let it to the Moslem Brotherhood. Your blog is an excellent start. Sorry I missed this entry when you published it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Get the Boobs!



While all around the world there is a backlash against the rich, or as they are called around here "حيتان",  it seems local censorship is busy going after the boobs!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Zain in Africa


I was on a trip to East Africa lately (Tanzania). The minute we arrived in the airport we were greeted by Zain signs (above) all over the airport. It was a pleasant surprise that made me proud to see national company go abroad and this far.

Even in small towns and villages signs of Zain were all over the place. I started a conversation with the driver who was driving us around. I asked him about Zain and he said that they were grateful to Zain and that it employed his daughter. Then I asked him if he knew where Zain came from and he answered Dubai! I still felt pride even though Dubai took the credit!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Quiz Show

KUWAIT CITY, Mar 02, 2009 (AFP) - Three Islamist MPs on Monday filed a request to quiz the prime minister of Kuwait over his performance, in a move expected to further strain relations between parliament and the government.

I must say using the term "quiz" sounds much nicer than questioning. It's like the Prime Minister taking part in some TV show.. Jeopardy anyone?!

Beware of Geeks

"The stupefying losses in mortgage-related securities came in large part because of flawed, history-based models used by salesmen, rating agencies and investors," he wrote.

He went on: "These parties looked at loss experience over periods when home prices rose only moderately and speculation in houses was negligible. They then made this experience a yardstick for evaluating future losses. They blissfully ignored the fact that house prices had recently skyrocketed, loan practices had deteriorated and many buyers had opted for houses they couldn't afford."

Also blissfully ignored, he wrote, were the perils of relying on mathematical models devised without worst-case situations in mind. Too often, he wrote, Americans have been enamored of "a nerdy-sounding priesthood, using esoteric terms such as beta, gamma, sigma and the like." Some skepticism about these models is overdue, he added.

"Our advice: Beware of geeks bearing formulas."

Buffett accepts blame and faults others - International Herald Tribune

Words of wisdom from the Sage of Omaha.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lessons for Prime Minister

All these tasks require a leadership with a profound understanding of what is needed, and an iron will to carry it out, in the face of vested interests, political apparatchiks, much ignorance, out-of-date thinking and even fanaticism. To be better prepared for the difficult tasks awaiting him, the next prime minister would do well to study the moral and real-political lessons of Abraham Lincoln and Charles de Gaulle. Both men ensured that the will of the majority would prevail while mobilizing wide support for painful and controversial measures. They broke illegitimate resistance with force when necessary, were astute politicians, reformed statehood and regimes, and laid the bases for their countries' thriving futures. These are qualities no less required by Israel's next prime minister.

Look to Lincoln and de Gaulle - Haaretz - Israel News

Our own Prime Minister could use some of those lessons.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sony Reader Big Disappointment

Ok so I am letting steam off. I just spent hours on the stupid Sony Reader PRS-505 that I bought against my better judgment from London. Unless you are a tech specialist, and not any tech specialist, working for Sony.. don't bother with it!

First of all you have to install the Sony Reader software that restricts you to buying ebooks from Waterstone UK, if you manage to do that, with limited book selection. Then you are required to install another software -some adobe software- that can read the ebooks. Then you have to transfer the ebooks from one place to another and another.. Needless to say I never managed to do that. And there were lots of plug ins you need to find and install.

I never had such issues with the older version of Sony that I bought online from the US. This is not user friendly at all and is full of complications.

Indexing Wins

Basic stock market index funds generally aspire to nothing more than matching the returns of a market benchmark. So in a miserable year for stocks, index funds may not look very appealing. But it turns out that, after fees and taxes, it is the extremely rare actively managed fund or hedge fund that does better than a simple index fund.

Strategies - The Index Funds Win Again -

Even in down markets indexing proves to be superior to active management. Remember hedge funds are called this way because they are supposed to be a hedge in down markets. As if we needed a reminder on how effective the financial services industry is!

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Sony Reader and Amazon's Kindle 2


More importantly, the Kindle and similar devices made by Sony and others represent only one side of the evolving e-reader market. They are for aficionados, since paying $359 for a device makes sense only if you read quite a lot of books, newspapers or magazines on it.

The march of the Kindle | Well read | The Economist

I recently purchased the new version of the Sony Reader from London. It sold for about 200 pounds ($285). I have been using the first version of the Sony reader, and the new version got even better. It has the same functionality but got even slicker. In my old Sony Reader the page number did not match the paper book version. This was amended in the new Reader among other improvements.

You buy books the same way through the Sony store (similar to the concept of Apple's itunes) which you have to install on you PC. Or if you are in the UK through After downloading books to you PC they are transferred to you Reader using a supplied cable. I noticed in Sony's US site there is a touch screen version of the Reader with built in light that sells for $399.

Kindle 2 which is just revealed has the advantage of working wirelessly but only in the US at this point. You purchase books directly from Amazon. The complaint on the previous version of the Kindle was that it was clunky. This seems to be improved in the new version. It has a key pad which Sony does not have to write notes and other features. It sells for $359.

If I were in the US I might have considered the Kindle 2. But I prefer the Sony. The Kindle 2 probably has more bells and whistles but I prefer the touch and feel of Sony Reader. For both you need US or UK credit card and billing address in order to purchase books.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Salem Al-Sabah's Plan


[T]hey should not let the best be the enemy of the good: crisis management inevitably results in inconsistencies that a subsequent reconciliation and reform effort must address.

PIMCO - Viewpoints El Erian New Thinking Dec 08

Members of Parliament and the general public should keep the above in mind when considering the stimulus package unveiled by the Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. And time is of the essence. A good plan at the right time is what we need. Let's hope for a swift approval of the Governor's plan.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Liberal Education


A few years ago, a faculty committee at Harvard produced a report on the purpose of education. “The aim of a liberal education” the report declared, “is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves.”

What Life Asks of Us - Op-Ed -

The argument for liberal education is one side of the spectrum. The other side is the more conservative education through certain institutions religious or others.

Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity.

But they often save us from our weaknesses and give meaning to life.

Need there be a conflict between the two? Any liberal education to the extreme will only produce confusion. On the other hand an extreme conservative education will produce bigotry. A liberal education thrives on solid foundation and builds on it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's Inaugural Address (Imagine)


What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

Transcript - Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address - Text -

Imagine this happened here in Kuwait. Imagine someone talking to you. Telling you to get your act together; you can do it! That we have gone through difficult time but we will come out on top. That our economy will flourish, our nation will rise and our spirits will be lifted. Imagine this person was chosen by merit not family name. Imagine he or she had an agenda and popular support. Imagine looking up to this person and dreaming along. Just imagine..

Monday, January 19, 2009

Museum of Islamic Art Doha


Islam has continually been a tolerant and progressive force, adopting, adapting and passing on ideas within and across its borders.

Dr Oliver Watson

Director, Museum of Islamic Art

Doha - Qatar

On a trip to Doha, Qatar I took the opportunity to visit the new Museum of Islamic Art. I was impressed in every sense. Starting with the apparently simple yet articulate design of the landmark building by the renown architect I. M. Pei. The collection  is equally impressive. A reminder of the openness and diversity of Islam in a day and age it got "purified"  out of its beauty.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speaking the Truth


Nine Israeli human rights groups called on Wednesday for an investigation into whether Israeli officials had committed war crimes in Gaza since tens of thousands of civilians there have nowhere to flee, the health system has collapsed, many are without electricity and running water, and some are beyond the reach of rescue teams.

Israeli Rights Groups Call for War Crimes Inquiry -

Commendable action by the Israeli groups. They had the courage to speak the truth rather than repeating the lies of their government of protecting Israel against Hamas. Despite Hamas' actions against Israel this is a disproportionate reaction lacking any justification.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We're Not Arabs Anymore

Why should we care about Gaza?

We're not Arabs anymore

Call us Americans

Call us Westerners

Call us anything

But we're not Arabs anymore

We love too much our lifestyle

We love our coffee in the morning

Make it Starbucks then a stroll in the mall

A drive in our fancy cars

That stash of money in the bank

We love our properties

Our comfort our laziness

Damn you take all that away from us

Why should we care about Gaza?

We are a bunch of gazers

Ravishing earth of its goods

Filling our pockets and emptying our souls

Forgive us people of Gaze for all our earthly gains

We have lost our dignity

And stood watching you in vain

Friday, January 09, 2009

Our Hearts Go Out to Gaza


This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

Op-Ed Contributor - What You Don’t Know About Gaza -

More than 700 Palestinians killed, mostly civilian including children, by the Israeli war machine because Hamas rockets killed about dozen Israelis, some of those soldiers. The message is not only to Palestinians that they are a defeated people, but to all Arabs and Muslims. Unfortunately defeatism has inhibited our consciousness and became a way of life witnessing such atrocities as silent bystanders.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Atheist Bus Campaign in London


Supported by the scientist and author Richard Dawkins, the philosopher A. C. Grayling and the British Humanist Association, among others, the campaign raised nearly $150,000 in four days. Now it has more than $200,000, and on Tuesday it unveiled its advertisements on 800 buses across Britain.

“There’s probably no God,” the advertisements say. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

London Journal - Atheists Send a Message, on 800 British Buses -

Interesting way to counter the religious campaigns, which we are seeing more and more of in Kuwait. I don't know why so many people are concerned with what people believe or not believe in?! Live and let live. Keep your preaching one way or another out of our sights!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Democracy Tax


Of the 522 members of India’s current parliament, 120 are facing criminal charges; around 40 of these are accused of serious crimes, including murder and rape. Most Indian politicians are presumed to be corrupt, which is less surprising.

The democracy tax is rising |


We are not alone! I don't mean to accuse our Members of Parliament of such corruption, but it seems the democratic process is taxing to development. However, the tax is well worth paying. Let's hope the process improves and we get better representatives.

Monday, January 05, 2009

War and Peace, Volume II

First of all happy new year. I am glad to report that I achieved my goal of completing Volume II in time.

Volume II takes us away from the war scene. After the landmark battle of Austerlitz, peace was struck between France and Russia. Russia embarks on political reforms such as those pioneered by Napoleon (Kuwait's legal system is based on French or Napoleonic code).

Away from the battle scene, the characters of the book engage in a different sort of battle but no less intense to find meaning to their existence. In search for such meaning we witness struggles and transformations: love and hate, life and death, embrace of religion and disillusionment, work and idleness, youth and maturity.