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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Thursday, May 3, 2007



And just where in the world is Matt Lauer today, one might ask? Well, today he was on top of the world at the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, UAE (United Arab Emirates). That's the place where Andre Agassi played Roger Federer in a tennis match and Tiger Woods hit a golf ball into the Persian Gulf. Lauer himself managed to hit a golf ball into the water as well, albeit just barely. As I turned on the television, which happened to be on Channel Four at the time, I was able to catch the middle of Lauer's interview atop that very high building with a spokeswoman of the Dubai government. What I watched and heard was a glowing set of softball questions designed to make the UAE seem like the greatest place on Earth. It was the kind of questions which one might ask of his boss had he been ordered to interview him. But when Lauer asked a question regarding the poor treatment of workers imported from other countries to build these new pyramids for these modern-day pharaohs, the answer was obviously well-prepared for:

"the problem doesn't start from here, but from the source country,"
-the UAE spokeswoman

Using that logic, one could actually blame American slavery on Africa!

Domestic workers, who need to be sponsored by a Dubai family, are regularly abused, physically, emotionally and sexually. For example, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports of an al-too-well typical case where an Ethiopian woman, who was brought to the UAE as a domestic worker, was raped and impregnated by her employer while the man's three-year-old son watched. The mother actually warned the woman that her husband "had done this before" and to be prepared for it. The woman was ordered to go home, have the baby and return to work. (Read the article at http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=27089).

“The wife warned me that her husband had done this before, and not to speak to him too much. But one night he came into my room, threw me on the floor and raped me, while one of his children, a three-year-old, stood in the room and watched.”
“I don’t want to keep the baby … I need to provide for my family back in Ethiopia,”
-Noor, a 19-year-old employee of the man who raped her

While buildings go up, put together by foreign workers in the UAE, workers' rights are being violated at an astonishing pace. Similar to the Communist Chinese Pimp- Sex Slave merchants, who smuggle women into the United states, then force them into sex slavery, the workers in Dubai are left without pay "extremely low wages, several years of indebtedness to recruitment agencies for fees that UAE law says only employers should pay, the withholding of employees’ passports, and hazardous working conditions that result in apparently high rates of death and injury," according to Human Rights watch (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/11/12/uae14547.htm).

Human Rights Watch made several "recommendations" to the Dubai government including (http://hrw.org/reports/2006/uae1106/2.htm#_Toc149111149):
1- Establish an independent commission to investigate and publicly report on the situation of migrant workers in the country.
2- Prohibit companies from doing business with recruitment agencies, in the UAE and abroad, that charge workers fees for travel, visas, employment contracts, or anything else. Prosecute and implement significant penalties for employers and recruiting agencies that violate the law.
3- Aggressively investigate and prosecute employers who violate other provisions of the UAE labor law. Impose meaningful and consequential penalties on companies that violate workers’ rights, to put an end to the present atmosphere of impunity.
4- Provide quantitative and qualitative data on labor disputes, deaths and injuries at construction sites, and government actions to address these issues.
5- Increase substantially the number of inspectors responsible for overseeing the private sector’s treatment of migrant construction workers. Ensure that they carry out their duties to inspect construction sites to verify that they are safe and meet the requirements of law.
6- Take immediate action to inform and educate migrant construction workers arriving for employment in the UAE of their rights under UAE law.
7- Abide by the obligation under the UAE labor law of 1980 to implement a minimum wage.
8- Allow for the establishment of genuine and independent human rights and workers’ rights organizations.
9- Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining, and amend UAE labor law to incorporate the conventions’ protections.
10- Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 155 on occupational safety and health.
11- Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

As oil-rich nations and their leaders benefit from their oil money (and our escalating gasoline prices), realize that their "oil-gotten-gains" won't last forever, they use their capital to become world merchants. Saudi princes are purchasing hotels and soccer clubs in England; banks are having their controlling interests bought out; and a Dubai-based and owned company attempted to gain control over our US ports. Only the outrage of our citizens stopped that from happening.

Matt Lauer needs his job. He's just kissing up to his probable future bosses.

In a related story, as most of you already know, Halliburton is moving from its base in Houston (that's Texas, as in the United States) to Dubai in the UAE. The company with all of the no-bid, Iraq and Afghanistan War-related contracts; whose previous boss is our present Vice President (Dick Cheney); whose stock has risen in excess of four times its original amount since the beginning of the Iraq war is taking their US money and not even attempting to hide their disdain for the citizens of the United States.

As the 1990's rolled around, Halliburton violated US law by doing business with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The "loophole" they took advantage of had them opening up an office, without any employees, in the Cayman Islands. The "business" with Iraq was supposedly done through their non-existent Cayman workforce.

Dubai is the right place for Halliburton. Oh, seeing as they no longer are US-based, perhaps we should put those no-bid contracts back on the block they never inhabited.

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg