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Archive for the ‘Uncle Sam’ Category

Yunus cocks up again

May 9,2007

How does he do it? This man has gone to pots after his Nobel award. It is one thing not to want to enter politics but its another to pass on the chance of presenting a case for the Bangladeshi garment industry at the US Senate for duty free access…yes read that again…DUTY FREE ACCESS to the US market. Read HERE. The garments industry has employed expensive lobbyists and has banked all hopes on this access. And what does he do? He is too busy to go…..Its probably his night-in when he hand polishes his nobel award? The term “wally” does not describe it…..He is liked by all and sundry and especially the unthinking and uninformed. So it would have been a walkover at the senate. And he bottles it…

On second thoughts I will reproduce the article below because Daily Star links are notoriously ephemeral these days:


Apr 11,2007

We started this decade with a fantasy, the fantasy of the United States as the world’s sole superpower, the fantasy of the United States as the sole indispensable power, it was called, the fantasy which we should have known from history always to be wrong and dangerous, of the United States as the new Rome, being urged on to take on the imperial mantle even by some who ought to know a lot better about this.

A bit from the BBC Reith lecture delivered this morning.

Pat needs a break

Dec 19,2006

I feel sorry for old Pat Butenis. I really do. I never thought I would feel sorry for an ambassador of the United States of America but, goddamit, I do. Check the US envoy’s latest comment. It is one of exasperation and disbelief. Christmas is around the corner and she is mired in Dhaka having to put up with politicians who between them have less maturity than say your average hoodlum in the deprived areas of New York or Los Angeles.

I am an optimist by nature, and my observations reflect that optimism but my outlook on life is often severely challenged by your politics. (Quoted in The Daily Star, 18 December)

Indeed. Of course the politics of the US of A severely challenges every notion of decency and honour and what it is to be human but those are small things and we needn’t go into all that here. Nor do we need to reflect on the mature deeds or indeed outlook of Pat’s boss, a certain George W Bush - a man who can’t even eat a pretzel. No. Question is do Bangladeshi politicians need a ‘mom’ to discipline them? Possibly. And you have set yourself up as that mom, Pat, so don’t moan too much. (By the way, why can’t americans spell mum correctly??) Will you keep a diary mommy Pat? Ah all those tea parties and nocturnal trysts in various Gulshan residences to decide the nation’s fate - and all those guests, including those who have mates in Gitmo….best seller material at least in Dhaka?

Nov 3,2006

Eliot Spitzer
And helping to develop an inclusive society for South Asians in New York is Eliot Spitzer - the Democratic candidate for New York Governor.

Oct 16,2006

Yes Dr Yunus you may have got that gong but start worrying - your Grameen phone business has competition. According to certain american publications, North Koreans are buying old phones in Bangkok, sending them to Bangladesh in diplomatic pouches  and selling them on in the streets. Yes American journalism knows no boundaries. When it comes to reds under the beds or mullahs in the attic, it will plumb unheard of depths.

Richard Lloyd Parry the Asia Editor of The Times (London) has been blogging and writing about the short-sightedness of American foreign policy re North Korea and the “inane guff” being spewed by CNN:

The only solution is the one which the South Korean government has promoted all along (and which the US government supported until the advent of George Bush): engagement, a long, patient process of drawing the country out of its shell and enabling North Koreans to see what a dreadful - but not hopeless mess - their leaders have got them into. That’s not going to happen under George Bush, under whose presidency manageable situation in Korea has got out of control. In a sense, the government in Pyongyang is only going to change if the governmennt in Washington changes first.

I follow his blog avidly. He writes brilliantly and about many and varied things. Often quirky. Sometimes tragic. Essential reading really.

There, P, I never thought I would ever say all that about a News International journalist.

Oct 6,2006

I am involved in a wee project concerning the bangladeshi diaspora. Well its not that small …it straddles about 7 countries. Anyway, more on that later….I have been genning up a bit about bangalees in the Big Apple in readiness for a trip next year. And here are some interesting links for you:

Jahed Ahmed writes in Mukto-Mona about the faction ridden Bangladeshi cultural and political organisations in New York. He writes despairingly “there are individual associations/organizations for Bangladeshi people of every district, Thana , sometimes even at Union Parishad level. What do they do?” Well for starters, they create godawful messes with their functions and get fined by the city, and banned from using public premises! They are also lavish in their spending : “I just learned that Bangladesh Society, Inc. New York spent nearly half a million US dollars in recently held elections….” Go read the full thing here!

There are about 12,500 street vendors operating in New York, and only half of them have licenses. A report suggests that “the majority of vendors were from Bangladesh, China and Afghanistan and the average immigrant had been in the United States for more than 11 years.” The Vendor Project is asking for a revision of licensing  regulations concerning sidewalk (pavement) space for those hawking hot dogs, handbags, sunglasses etc - with a view to a creating more licenses and a fairer system in general.

And I learn from the website of the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN in New York that according to Pliny “Ladies of Imperial Rome were literally crazy for Bangladesh’s Muslin and luxury items….” and that this resulted in a “serious drain of gold of the Empire.”
He is having a laugh right? Old Pliny the elder….When I did Latin at school I could never tell when these roman philosophers and historians were larking about. Anyway, does the BGMEA know about this and what was social compliance like two thousand years ago in our garment industry?

Goat F*ck in Dhaka

Oct 4,2006

Goat Fuck is apparently an american journo term for “a hassle involving many confused or stupid people.” ( Hat tip to Dominic for his erudition). The term has crossed the atlantic, and apparently there was a “goat fuck” at the Tory party conference yesterday. But the mother of all goat fucks must be what is happening with Patricia Butenis’ tea party in Dhaka for the general secretaries of the BNP and the AL.

As you know, everyone has been trying to get these chaps to calm down. And everyone was hoping they would sit down and have a chat. And then to the utter amazement of all and sundry, Jalil the gensec of Awami League announced that the talks would be held at Pat’s place - which happens to be the US embassy. No one I have asked has been able to provide a plausible explanation for this. And Abdul Bhuiyan - the joint gensec of the ruling BNP, was not having any of it.

My own humble explanation for this is as follows, and it involves teacakes and scones: Patricia sorted out the CPD and Mahmudur Rahman with some tea and cakes. Do you remember? Jalil, the gensec of AL, probably heard about it all and wanted to try some of her scones too. Hence his insistence. Bhuiyan soon realised his folly in rejecting the invitation. He twigged that he might be missing out on a real treat, and so promptly changed his mind!! About having tea that is. He is happy to go along and have those yummy savouries and stuff, but he is not gonna talk shop. Bon appetit gentlemen! You have made us proud!

Jul 27,2006

for battered Lebanon, from the government of Bangladesh and of course solidarity.

And then you get the other type of help. The type of help which extends support to american war policy but pretends to be with the people of Palestine and Lebanon. Step forward: Saudi Arabia.

And about 30 miles from where I am sitting, American planes are carrying bombs to Israel. Margaret Beckett has finally found a convenient issue to sound indignant about. Convenient because it sounds as if she is criticising Uncle Same but in reality this has little or no bearing on the war.

And don’t be fooled by Kim Howells criticising Israel. We have seen it all before with David Mellor of the Tories. It is a ruse. Nothing else. If your criticism is real, you get bombed and killed like the UN observers in that desperate bunker.

Jul 19,2006

As the elections approach, I have decided to remind myself of the great wisdom of our leaders. I start with the leader of the opposition and a statement she - allegedly - made in the year 2000. I found this in the Brussels journal and in Opendemocracy. Originally quoted by Anthony Browne (of The Times (London)).

Sheikh Hasina….in 2000 was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the country was going to feed, clothe, house and employ the expected doubling of her population by 2050. She replied:

“We’ll send them to America. Globalisation will take that problem away, as you free up all factors of production, also labour. There’ll be free movement, country to country. Globalisation in its purest form should not have any boundaries, so small countries with big populations should be able to send population to countries with big boundaries and small populations.”

So great news for the folks back home. You or your kids will all get to see the US of A just like Hasina’s kid - courtesy of globalisation and a welcoming Uncle Sam.

May 5,2006

Don’t you just love ranking tables? Here is a ranking table to sink your teeth into. The Foreign Policy Magazine has just published its annual index of FAILED STATES. Yipee! And is Bangladesh in the top 10? No amazingly it is not. However that place we were once attached to and which curiously calls itself Pakistan is one of the top 10 failed states. Nothing surprising there. But get this, Bangladesh is more of a failed state than Nepal and Sri Lanka. Yes it looks like Khaleda is doing worse than King Gyanendra! Not only that, even though hundreds have died in Sri Lanka in the last month alone and even though both the government and the Tamil Tigers have been going mental, Zia’s management of the country is still worse than Sri Lanka’s ! Goodness me, this government needs to get another image lobbyist pronto!

Pakistan - 9th place
Myanmar - 18th place
Bangladesh - 19th place
Nepal - 20th place
Sril Lanka - 25th place
India - 93rd place

In case you are wondering what a failed state is :

a failing state is one in which the government does not have effective control of its territory, is not perceived as legitimate by a significant portion of its population, and does not provide domestic security or basic public services to its citizens.

The survey uses 12 indicators to measure failure, including criminalisation or delegitimisation of the state, security apparatus as “state within a state,” rise of factionalised elites, intervention of other states or external actors, legacy of vengeance-seeking group grievance, chronic and sustained human flight, and uneven economic development. (via Times of India)

And more comparative rankings: The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has included Pakistan and Burma in a list of eleven nations which give cause for “particular concern” for violations of religious freedom. Bangladesh is in a group of nations where “discrimination, intolerance and other human rights violations affect a broad spectrum of religious groups.”

Apr 22,2006

Indeed the top 22! Sadly it is for judicial executions. Amnesty has just published it’s 2005 Death Penalty report. Twenty two countries carried out the death penalty last year (and also imposed new ones). Bangladesh carried out 3 executions and imposed 218 death penalties.

Still there are encouraging signs that this barbaric practice is on its way out: 86 countries in the world have abolished the death penalty altogether and 11 others for all crimes except exceptional crimes such as war crimes. Over the last twenty years the numbers of countries using executions have halved. So the trend is definitely positive. Irene Khan, the Amnesty Secretary General (and of bangladeshi origin) pointed out the usual suspects for particular criticism:

“As the world continues to turn away from the use of the death penalty, it is a glaring anomaly that China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the USA stand out for their extreme use of this form of punishment as the ‘top’ executioners in the world.”

The death penalty issue in Bangladesh has often been raised by concerned intellectuals and some newspapers like the Daily Star and Prothom Alo. Nevertheless, like so many other human rights issues, it remains pretty much a non-issue. In a country where people applaud the extra-judicial killings of RAB this is not that surprising.

Apr 21,2006

April has been a bad month for Bangladeshi garment factory owners and exporters. For a start, the Bangladesh Garment Manufactureres and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have been stung by widespread criticism inside and outside the country for failing to do anything about the sweatshop conditions - conditions which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of workers. An international day of action held on 11th April highlighted their infinite greed …and now they have decided to throw in the towel as far as the American market is concerned. They are on the verge of discontinuing lobbying in the US for dutry free access of readymade garments to the US.

Apparently the BGMEA have been employing lobbyists for about five years to try to crack the market. Most recently, from mid- 2004, they have been contracting Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg for the handsome amount of $25,000 per month. And the result has been a big Zero. Now the members of the BGMEA are fed up of spending such vast amounts on a monthly basis and they want to discontinue lobbying. What is interesting is the recent lobby scandal in which the government got embroiled has some bearing on this issue. According to this report, part of of the remit of the Washington Group and Ketchum ( two of the three lobbyists engaged by the government) was to gain concessions for textile exports to the US. What will happen now?

Well I have a few ideas about what the BGMEA could do with the money they will save. Let me just mention one - it is realistic and attainable. And really if the BGMEA members wish to preserve their riches, retain their privileged status gained off the backs of garment workers and indeed promote the industry, they should do it without delay: impose strict regulatory conditions on the industry re health and safety and prosecute without hesitation those employers ignoring such conditions.

Mar 21,2006

Syed Rabani is his name. He is a Bangladeshi and he is on death row in Texas - awaiting execution. What did he do? When did he end up there? What happened to him? Is anyone doing anything about him?

I must have missed this story somewhere along the way. If anyone has any information, please post a comment or send me an email. All that I have is a name on a long Amnesty International list.

Feb 9,2006


From sorting out visas to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Patricia Butenis is packing her bags for Dhaka. She has not got far to come. She is currently Deputy Chief of Mission in Islamabad, Pakistan and of course one can’t help wondering what ideological baggage she brings because of that. There is very little information about her apart from the White House statement of her nomination. She has written an article about Pakistani women entitled Standard Bearers for Freedom for the Daily Times in Pakistan. I suppose we can get an idea of where she is located in her thinking if we consider that she did her apprenticeship in Pakistan under Ryan Crocker? Here is a brief US State Department resume of his life. Yes you can guess can’t you? All the badges of shame and dishonour are there: Lebanon ( during the 1982 Israeli invasion), Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, one can always hope that Patricia is different and wish her well…