27 January 2009

The Real Reason Behind the Website Ban

Remember the Matrix? Remember how the whole world you lived in, which you believed was real, was in fact completely made up? Just a mirage?

That's probably what the internet is in Bahrain. The internet was all a mirage created by the Bahrain government, to let you think that you're connecting to the outside world, when in reality we are kept very isolated from everything and everyone else. All the sites you've ever visited were set up by creative individuals in the Ministry of Information; every single one. There's a guy who writes the CNN website, and makes up the world news, another guy who writes the BBC website. It's sort of obvious that they're sitting next to each other when doing this; the news is almost exactly the same on both sites...

Then there are the global forums; the government obviously pays people to sit all day and just reply under multiple nicknames, to give us Bahrainis an impression that we are talking to the outside world.

Google, Facebook, YouTube? Yup, you guessed it, all created here. Some of the videos are purchased from other countries and uploaded to the YouTube servers right next to the Bahrain TV studios.

This whole internet thing has been fabricated in Bahrain, in the back offices of Batelco by their chief engineers; it doesn't exist outside the country, it's all one big facade. Imagine leaving the country one day, flying to another country, checking into a hotel and asking if they have internet, only to be replied with the words: "Interwha'? What's that?"

We've been living a lie. The new website bans aren't really websites being 'blocked'. It's actually a side effect from the Global Credit Crunch, where the Ministry has had to fire a large number of employees because of a shortage of funds, and couldn't sustain as many websites as it used to. Therefore the ban.

Very simple.

26 January 2009

Can't Hold Us Down

(following from my last post...)

The Ministry of Information has went from being a minor pain in the ass to just totally infuriatingly outrageous. Besides blocking politically affiliated sites, they've blocked proxy sites, translation services, art & culture websites, archives, and much more.


Besides the numerous politically affiliated websites, proxy sites, as well as adult and gambling websites, there is a number of ridiculous bans we don't understand (Why?!?!?!?)

www.DeviantART.com (Art/Culture website)
www.Demonoid.com (Private torrent tracker)
www.askmen.com (Online Men's publication)
www.google.com/translate (Online translator)
www.allposters.com (posters site. WTF?)
www.4chan.org (imageboard service)

Want to read more about this? Here's a list of bloggers/newspaper articles dealing with the blockade.

Yacoubs Dome
S as in Saudi
Silly Bahraini Girl
Gulf Daily News #1
Gulf Daily News #2
Another Day
Al Singace
Ali Abdulemam

Khalid Bahrain

FaceBook Groups:
Article 19 of Decree Law 47!! :S
The website Ban in Bahrain is BULLSHIT
You may take our porn... But You will Never... Take... OUR FREEDOM!
The Ministry of Culture/Info Should Stop Blocking Websites

And i'm pretty sure there are a lot more out there. If you know any, add them in the comments below and i'll update the list. We won't stop till these stone-age minded big brother tactics are lifted.

24 January 2009

Country of Disinformation

The Ministry of Information in Bahrain has never really done much of a great job; their role in the country is quite varied, dealing with the running of the Bahrain TV channels (which are still stuck in the 80's), the Bahrain radio stations (which usually feel more like amateur efforts than serious radio stations), to having a hand in everything that the has to do with the media, from magazines, newspapers, films, and the internet.

Being the Ministry of "Information", you would expect them to be knowledgeable about most things, especially those that they deal with.

Unfortunately, that isn't true.

A little over a week ago, the Ministry decided to come up with a directive for all internet providers in the country to block a number of websites (somewhere between 20-30 sites; i'm not sure of the exact number). These included a number of forums, blogs, and information websites, mainly because of their political content. Of course, even when a website is blocked, users can access it through anonymous browsing/proxy services. So oops, let's block those too. Oh and guess what, you can also enter any website address into Google Translate, and get a translated version of that page, bypassing any blocked content. So guess what? That gets blocked too.

Okay; so the Ministry want to block certain information from coming in. Last time I checked, we were living in the Information Age. Not the Industrial Age, not the Nuclear Age, not the sticks and stones age. THE INFORMATION AGE. Information will get through, whether you like it or not; if you block a website, there's a proxy. If you block a proxy, there's a million more proxies that are available. If you block every single one of those, there are services like Google Translate that will bypass the blocked sites. If you block those, there are a million other ways to get past blocked information; through blogs, through email, through new forums, through Facebook, through messages, through pure old photocopied papers, through SMS messages, through phone calls, through satellite TV channels, through gatherings in someones house, in a coffee shop,

There is no such thing as a complete block for information nowadays, and especially when it concerns the internet. Information is not a one way street, you can't block it and expect that people will give up and go to sleep. Nowadays, there is ALWAYS a way around it.

I'm really not for or against what is being blocked; I honestly couldn't care less about different peoples' political agendas. What I completely and 100% oppose is the restrictions of free speech, of which a law has recently been granted in Bahrain. And even then, this isn't what i'm here to talk about; my point is that you cant block the internet. But let's leave this on the side for now and go back to what's being blocked.

Google Translate?

ARE YOU FRICKIN' KIDDING ME?! This is probably one of the most useful tools on the internet today, giving us access to knowledge and information from all over the World! It gives us a chance to communicate with people from other parts of the globe, do commerce with people from other countries whose language we can't speak, and opens up a multitude of opportunities.

But nooooo... MOI decides it has to be blocked because you can bypass their blocked sites with it, which tells you one thing; it doesn't really bother them how many benefits something has, as long as it sparks one negative issue for them. This means there's no real limit to what they can block. What's next, Gmail? Hotmail? Facebook? MSN Messenger?

There are still a million other ways around the blocks, which renders their whole effort useless, just makes us more mad, and brings down the levels of freedom in this country. From the actions of the past few days, it's not really far-fetched that someone from the Ministry of Interior comes across my website, sees how i've put-down their whole blocking charade, and decide that ammaro.com needs to go too. (Speaking of which, if they do block my site, my posts are distributed by email, they're on feedburner, they're on BahrainBlogs, they're on Facebook, they're everywhere. Don't worry, you can still get your regular dosage of ammaroness; your world will not end.)

Just today I got a message; it seems they decided to start blocking anything with porn in it, as well as online gambling sites. Now that's just stupid; porn is everywhere, from downloading it on peer-to-peer networks, getting it through email, as well as satellite channels which every household has nowadays. And gambling? Well you could start by stopping that BD50 win-a-car lottery thing in the airport Duty Free, because if that isn't gambling, I don't know what is.

Ministry of Information; PLEASE WAKE UP.

(PS. Just to give you a sample of how BAD a job they're doing, even with trying to block sites, check this out:

Try going to http://google.com/translate, and you'll get a blocked site notice.

Want to bypass it? Then just go to http://translate.google.com/. Apparently their Head Blocker Engineer (blockhead?) doesn't realize that there are different forms of domain name that can lead you to the same website. Duh.

21 January 2009

Arab Unity

The two day joke of a summit is over. Apparently set up as the first Arab Economic Summit, the main topic of discussion was, as expected, the situation in Gaza.

We keep talking about Arab Unity, but is there really such a thing? Considering there are totally opposing positions from different countries, mainly pushed forward by Saudi and Egypt, who are looking for a peaceful solution with Israel, to Syria and Qatar who totally oppose any form of peace with them, there was no apparent agreement in sight. So what is the result of two days of full discussions between 23 Arab countries?

About zilch.

Saudi Arabia pledged 1 billion dollars of aid (actually according to the Saudi King, it was 1000 million, hehe) to help reconstruct Gaza, which just goes to show that they're willing to drop money in, without actually directly helping the situation; just passive donations. The other countries also hinted at giving money to Gaza, but no one really came up with a direct figure. By the end of the summit, there was no specific fund set up..

In terms of actual economic issues; an Arab Development Fund was announced to help develop initiatives in the region, a push for a customs union by 2015 and a common Arab market by 2020, a call for a program to reduce Arab poverty, and improving water security. Mostly talk, calling for resolutions and so, with nothing really fixed being set.

Oh, and the divisions over the Gaza situation came up again and again keeping things tense.

Meanwhile, in another part of the World, a new president took up his position, and called on his people to unite and work together in pushing their nation forward, to the cheers of millions. Total contrast.

Arab unity; sure.

19 January 2009

Can't... Open... This... !

Shopping is a regular activity for most of us; you go to a store, shop, market, or wherever, hand over your hard-earned cash, and get something in return. Simple. Now assuming you pay for something and all, it becomes immediately yours, correct? Thus, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of whatever you purchased straight after buying it;


1- You buy a jacket, you can wear it straight away.

2- You buy a mobile phone, you put your SIM card in and use it straight away (assuming it's charged. If it isn't you plug in the accompanying charger and use it straight away).

3- You buy a banana, and you can eat it straight away.

4- etc.

However, there are some electronics and gadget retailers who obviously think that shouldn't be the case. Why should the consumer have it easy, right? Why shouldn't they pay for their product, then actually put in a bit of effort to have to use it? Wouldn't they appreciate the product more after working to get to it?

Case in point; there are a number of products out there being sold in almost impossible-to-open-packs. I'm sure you've come across them sometime or the other:

Yes; these ridiculous, hard plastic, industrially sealed shut packages are pretty much impossible to open with plain hands. Now me, being the fan of gadget and electronics, come across these quite a lot; flash drives, card readers, etc etc etc etc.... And I don't think i've ever gotten into a situation where I could just 'enjoy' my product there and then. Sure, I bought it, and I had it in hand, and I could see it clearly in front of my eyes, but somehow it was there behind an invisible forcefield of evil. Bluh.

Yesterday I managed to buy TWO items sitting in their evil packaging. I wanted to use the flash drive straight away to copy some files off my friends laptop, so I tried to open it with my bare hands. Of course, it took a good 10 minutes of strangling, twisting and trying anything to just manage to get the tip of the package open...

Of course, during this process I was covered in scratches and looked like I had just gotten in a bit of a row with an angry cat. Seriously? Is it really necessary to make it this difficult? Anyway, it wasn't about trying to get the flash drive out as much as it had become a personal vendetta against the package manufacturers. I had to rip this little @#$%&* open! It took me another 3 or 4 minutes from there to rip the rest of the thing up...

It was a downhill process from there. Total time, approx 14 minutes.

Although i'm totally against the idea of having to use scissors to open your new presents (after all, the awkwardness of opening the first package, mixed in with sharp objects doesn't sound like a great idea):

Total time? About 20 seconds. Plus I managed to cut the warranty card.

I don't get this obsession with hard-to-open packs. What's the deal? Are they cheap to produce? Or are the manufacturers worried about theft? Or what is it?! PLEASE make us some easy to use packaging that doesn't end up giving the consumer multiple injuries trying to open it, and doesn't need sharp objects used!

13 January 2009

ammaro update

Yeah, it's been a long time coming... Loyal followers of the blog, I know i've more or less disappeared for a while, mostly since April, really. Sure, I post occasionally every now and then, but not as often as I used to, and not many real posts like I used to do.

But hey, on my side of things, 2008 was one helluva year, and quite a busy one at that. Let me give you a brief update of what changed for the ammaro (in no particular order):

- After a long period of contemplation, decided to leave the job world for good! Yup, after 6 years of banking/finance jobs, I let it all go; time to go back to LIFE and do what I really want to do!

- Started up BahrainTalent, a much needed push for musicians in Bahrain, and word about it got around pretty quick, with tons of people sending me requests to be up on the site, and a ton more visitors checking it out..

- Switched to Apple! Yup, it was time for a new laptop, and I was DREADING the whole shift to Vista... Besides, Apple was doing really well, so I ended up getting a black Macbook! A very nice piece of hardware, but one which made my life hell for about two weeks (i've been using PC's since the days of C:/> ...), until I got used to the whole system. But hey, things are a lot smoother now!

- Started up HalaBahrain, an online magazine; within 6 issues it's gotten a readership of about 15,000ppl a month... So far so good!

- Got a crack, umm, I mean BlackBerry. Those things seriously take over your life. Started off with a Curve and now a Bold.. I am now technically online 24/7. I can't leave the internet even if I wanted to.

- Companies started asking to buy my photos, to which I happily obliged :p Some of them are on Flickr (see the link on the left)

- Tried Krispy Kreme for the first time. Oh man...

- Filmed 'The Package', which was a short 2 minute movie for MBC, and actually got it aired on TV for millions to see! Yuppeee (link for it on the left hand side)

- Completely shifted fields from Banking/Finance to entertainment! I've been working with musicians, events organizers, etc etc on so many things, and recently affiliated with a big music company that's opening here pretty soon. Will let you know more about this as it happens!

So yeah, that's pretty much the past year! The past few years were pretty much rubbish until 2008, which signaled amazing changes, and 2009 looks set to be even better! Yes I know the whole rest of the world is in a downturn, but I guess my success is negatively correlated to the global situation. Oh, and today is my birthday, yuppeeee. Not that I care. But hey, anyone considering getting me a gift ===> Buy Me THIS! If you don't like the idea of buying me expensive music making software, then you could always buy me this instead.

No? Then perhaps you should just get me the music software as a gift and quit complaining.

I promise to organize my time and post more guys! Stay tuned!

10 January 2009

Bailing out the Porn

10 days into 2009, and it already looks like this is going to be a great year; more financial world rubbish to deal with, more war in the Middle East, global recession, and porn industry bailouts.


Okay so the American Government has been running around bailing out banks, car companies, and so on. Fix the economy, right? Stop things from crashing, right?

Well apparently all sorts of companies have been rushing to the White House to ask for bailouts, including the lovely adult entertainment industry. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the industry. Let's look at some quotes:

"The US government should actively support the adult industry's survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people"

"The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three. The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion"

A few things come to mind here.. First, would the adult industry be one the American Government considers for a bailout? Sure, they're a big driver in the US market; they provide jobs for film-makers, editors, actors. They move the sales of filming equipment, filming location rentals, printing-presses, web hosting space, etc. They are a real business after all.

But is it a real concern of the American Government? Perhaps it would be better to let the porn industry die? Achieve a moral objective and at the same time, save some of the country's budget (deficit?) for something else?

So let's dismiss the whole request as a ridiculous one.

Or is it?

Perhaps Larry Flint and Joe Francis KNOW that there's no chance their request would be approved; five billion dollars is quite a bit of money, a little more than the bailout loan for Chrysler. Maybe they know how ridiculous a bailout request from the adult industry sounds. Maybe they weren't actually looking for the money.

Maybe they were trying to make a point?

Stop bailing out companies that can't do business properly. Stop bailing out companies that shouldn't be bailed out. You've bailed out the crooked banks and financial institutions that have pushed peoples finances and caused them to lose their houses, cars, etc. You're bailing out auto companies that consistently performed worse and worse year after year. You're continuing to spend taxpayer money to help companies that didn't do well; it's like giving a bad kid a slap on the wrist and telling him to go back out and play.

The Federal Government has probably set a bad precedent for bailing everyone and their momma out, and it's just like putting a bandage on a broken arm. Maybe it's time to sit back and let more companies fail; in the short run, it's not the greatest thing that could happen, jobs would be lost, money would be spent, etc. But over the long run, maybe that's the way to go. If they need a bit of a jump start, by all means, go ahead, but trillion dollar bailouts in the current conditions is just out of line.

Let the failures fail.

(Thanks to Ali GM for sending me this article. Just for the record, Ali GM has nothing to do with the auto giant, currently also asking for a bailout)

Porn industry seeks federal bailout
7 January 2009

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Another major American industry is asking for assistance as the global financial crisis continues: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.

“The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three,” said Owen Moogan, spokesman for Larry Flynt. “The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion. Is it the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine.”

Francis said in a statement that “the US government should actively support the adult industry's survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people."

“We should be delivering [the request] by the end of today to our congressmen and [Secretary of the Treasury Henry] Paulson asking for this $5 billion dollar bailout,” he told CNN Wednesday.

Flynt and Francis concede the industry itself is in no financial danger — DVD sales have slipped over the past year, but Web traffic has continued to grow.

But the industry leaders said the issue is a nation in need. "People are too depressed to be sexually active," Flynt said in the statement. "This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex."

"With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind. It's time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly."

So far, there has been no congressional reaction to the request.

Original Article

4 January 2009


Israeli forces launched a ground offensive against Hamas, which probably means a larger death toll over the next few days. I don't understand the way Hamas thinks. Sure, you have balls for fighting with the Israelis, but it's not getting you anywhere.

Past two weeks? Almost 500 Palestinians dead, over 2,300 injured, and water, food and electricity shortages for all of Gaza.

Israeli side? 4 dead.

It's a losing battle. In terms of war, Israel is like fire; throwing wood at it to try and beat it up will only make it stronger.



Disregarding the position of the remaining Arab states, who are useless when it comes to doing anything about the situation (besides denouncing the enemy and canceling new year parties in support), Hamas does not have the power to overcome, or even put a dent in Israel when it comes to military might. Why try? You're just sacrificing lives that aren't your own.

I don't have a solution to this, but I know that trying to go it against the Israelis isn't it, let alone trying to do it alone.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction"
--Albert Einstein--