Me in the Press

Statistics in Jordan

Followers on my twitter account will realize that this is not the first time that I broach this topic. I am by force of nature, a data-scientist. I delve into statistics by forces that are beyond my control.

The answer to many questions we work on, on a daily basis are solved by simple data analysis. So whenever I have an issue in life, I will look into the available data to try and resolve it.

I manage a small unit in my line of work, around 30 people and 4-6 managers depending on the year. I was having a discussion with a colleague that said that my firm has regressed in promoting females to leadership positions recently. He said it is becoming a trend in Jordan. Mere weeks later, my company announced the result of its restructure and 3 out of 5 VP positions are now held by females.

I am comforted by the progressiveness of the statement and I am further glad to note that Jordan insists on quotas (hidden or announced) to maintain the progressive trend towards gender equality. I look to data to consolidate my position and therefore I had to look at the Jordanian Department of Statistics 

I looked up the data of female managers and I was immediately dismayed.

 

 

Male to Female comparison of manager positions in Jordan according to Department of Statistics

It looked like the private sector has removed 750 female managers in a year, out of a total of 1,800. A disaster, surely. What is worse is that International Organisations have removed all female managers while growing male managers by 30%.

If this data is correct, then there is a disaster looming, if the data is wrong, then what is our government using?

To further prove my point, I wanted to look at something else: income erosion. Were Jordanians getting paid less in 2018 than 2017 and if so, by how much

 

Number of Jordanians eranign more than 500 Jordanian Dnars
Number of Jordanians earning more than 500 Jordanian Dinars 2017-2018

It seemed the government and private sector both fired the higher earners. This is ridiculous! Surely, if I looked into the data, I would find the missing link. So I decided to look into the new hires in 2018 for answers

Today I went here and I chose second half of 2018.

Department of statistics in Jordan did not have Job Creation data of second half of 2018 by October 2019
Department of statistics in Jordan did not have Job Creation data of second half of 2018 by October 2019

By now, I don’t think that it comes as a surprise that I got nothing

In addition to the website not being secure! The website had no Job Creation data for the second half of 2018 by October 2019
In addition to the website not being secure! The website had no Job Creation data for the second half of 2018 by October 2019

No wonder the government is unable to take decisions, it doesn’t have the most elementary tools. I have sent an email to the Department of Statistics and I will tag the minister of planning and International Cooperation with this post. However, I know for a fact that this is part of the government failure to track even the most basic elements of data

Peace, Out!

Flight Laundering

Jordan is shaping up to be the flight laundering station between the Gulf capitals and Israel

There was a time when the face that Jordanians overfly Israel and Palestinian territories was a novel concept. Whenever we sat in ICAO meetings in Cairo or some other capital, the word “Israel” spoken made many uncomfortable. The attendance evaded that by saying “Lima Lima Lima Lima.” 

It was not a Peruvian patriotic chant or some sort of debilitating stutter. It was a reference to the Phoentic pronunciation of LLLL. The ICAO code for Tel Aviv FIR, the airspace that Israel manages.

People where uncomfortable acknowledging the world Israel meant something now. I always thought it was a rather “Head-in-the sand” approach to dealing with the problem

Laundering as it where the word Israel or Tel Aviv and cleaning it into the cacophonous  “Lima Lima Lima Lima” always seemed ridiculous to me. 

 

That was something that we got used to, public pressure to conform to the official line of no recognition and no peace was always there. On the other hand, many rumors of normalization went on for years on end.

 

LLLL Airspace
Tel Aviv FIR as part of the EUR region and Paris office

Tel Aviv FIR falls under the Paris office in ICAO, meaning it is considered in EURope. While a stone-throw away (no pun intended) from Europe, Israel is solidly in the Middle East, however, it was never welcomed in the MID region which covers the Middle East. 

 

The move to the Paris office was logical to the Middle East and the Israelis. So much so that a few years later, Israeli airspace is now under a comprehensive agreement with the Euro-control.

 

That was then, this is now. 

 

Cl-604 landing in Marka
The bizjet landed with a squawk code of 0431

On Tuesday the 22nd of October, an airplane landed in Amman’s Marka Airport on 19:09 GMT.

 

Two minutes later the aircraft departed the same airport in the opposite direction and with a different squawk code. The two minute stop could be pushing the edge of what is legal as it doesn’t seem the flight has truly terminated to require a new code. 

 

Preparing for a proper departure in a jet aircraft usually needs no less than 5 minutes at least and usually around 15-20 minutes. Being a night flight necessitates more caution. Someone was in a rush 

 

Departing Cl-604 from Marka
The aircraft departing two minutes later with 0710 squawk

To land on Runway 06 in Marka is not normal and someone was coordinating their operation intently.

 

A squawk is a code that allows Aircraft to talk to secondary radars. The series of codes allocated to each country can usually be a tell-tale of the origin of the aircraft 

 

This makes it seem that the flight originated from Amman. For all intents and purposes, someone put an effort to try to make it look like the aircraft originated from Jordan.

 

The aircraft is US-registered and media reports are actually pointing to Mark Esper’s visit to Saudi and a possible meeting including Israeli officials

tweet from Avi Scharf, an Israeli journalist, actually made this laundering public. The journalist seems to have a tracking passion. Many of his twitter posts point to FlightRadar24 images and some images of what seems to be a flightfeeder

 

A previous tweet by Avi explained that this flight laundering is common place. In the strained public perception of Israel by citizens of gulf countries, it seems to legitimize the flight and make it clean. 

 

Many other media outlets also referenced the same event to point to the possibility of Netanyahu being on the airplane

 

The aircraft also did a small stop on the way back in Marka Airport, again changing the squawk code. This time a more normal turnaround of 20 minutes ensued. 

 

These antics were not envisaged when the air transport system was designed. It does mean that the operators and pilots of such flights are usually put under more pressure and this can lead to undesirable results, if not incidents and accidents.

 

The local regulator in Jordan will find itself helpless. The political pressure to maintain the relationship with Saudi Arabia and Israel at the bare minimum will override any bureaucrat desire to apply simple and well-established procedures that guarantee safety. Flight Laundering seems to be the equivalent of money laundering in politics.

 

 Peace, Out!

Visualizing Palestine

Information, imagery and advocacy

I was looking through twitter on my phone I ran into this tweet. I knew this was something big from when I saw it

I have always appreciated the effort that many people spend in trying to advocate a cause. When it is a cause I agree with, I like to put something out there to help. A small donation, are-tweet or maybe just a mention.

Visualizing palestine is a in a class of its own, the effort is huge and the visuals they create are tantamount to art. The message is based on fact, visualized to maximize the impact. The beauty of it is ethereal and the content is always weel-researched.

Have a look at their main project and their 101 subsite. This is not a project per se, it feels more like a movement. The influence of which depends on you and me. Look at their work, share it and let people know about it.

If you like their work and believe in their missions, then become a member. I did. Contribute financially towards sustaining their effort. More importantly. Use the visuals, use the data.

I will try to do that as well.

Authoritarianism in Jordan

I never understood how a unit of the army – for that is what they are – can call a civilian for a “cup of coffee” and a friendly chitchat without due process. There is no writ of habeas corpus nor legal representation. Subpoena rights are out of the question of course, but they still call you and ask you to attend.

I know I live under an authoritarian regime, I never imagined anything different and I never thought that the instruments of authoritarianism will ever surrender their power without a fight. To be clear, the Jordanian regime has made it clear that the fight will always be peaceful and as long as it is principled, it will always be fruitful.

I just never knew how to be sure about how authoritarian the regime was until I saw an episode that John Oliver‘s show did in November 2018

So I wanted to use the 1,2,3 of John Oliver to check if Jordan is an authoritarian Regime

I was called into the intelligence services offices a couple of times, and no, it wasn’t because of my intelligence. I was never insulted, threatened, or even offended or anything of the sort. The experience was always pleasant, in so long that I understood that they can ask and I can answer.

I never understood how a unit of the army – for that is what they are – can call a civilian for a “cup of coffee” and a friendly chitchat without due process. There is no writ of habeas corpus nor legal representation. Subpoena rights are out of the question of course, but they still call you and ask you to attend.

Seeing a Jordanian Brigadier General get 4 – yes, four- cars for the benefit of his family always made me wonder. I am certain that any self-respecting military in the modern world do not extend such privileges to their senior officers, yet it happens.

I knew it was the one of the ways the regime appeases the tribal associations that are being maintained in the military, but I was saddened that this is where my tax Dinars are going. I didn’t think it was undeserved, but rather excessive.

On the same scale I used to walk into police stations and find Lieutenants in charge of the couple of rooms that were the law-enforcement capability in the area. While a precinct in NYPD -for comparison- is usually headed by a Captain, sometimes a Major (Deputy Inspector). The inflation in rank whether in the Army, Gendarmerie or Military has become so obvious in Jordan that it became the butt of some untasteful jokes.

1-Image of strength

While this resource-intensive exercise in imagery and prestige is a must, it hurt to realize that this was mainly done to project the image of strength, capability and military might. Strength is one image favored by authoritarian regimes and usually on parallel with images of their leaders in full military uniform, often leading the march on their enemies.

Being a Field Marshall or a similar high rank was almost a prerequisite for the despots of old time.

The Jordanian regime is not a power usurper as with the cases above, nor is it a failed republic or a dysfunctional democracy. It is however, a constitutional monarchy. The Monarchy part is active, the other parts of the equation, not so much. The image of strength is heavily present in all sorts of media and propaganda, and the one below was copied from our embassy in Washington’s website

Our King is a Field Marshall, however, he is probably the most militarily capable of the Field Marshall’s I mentioned. He runs his military actively, but that is because he was trained for it at the best institutes of the world and he is a formidable military leader

2-Demonizing Enemies

Enemies are another favorite of despots but that is mainly on us, trump understood this back in ’12, watch him use it soon!

That is the easiest way to increase your popularity, no one ever heard of someone asking for a change of course during war. All that people ask for in wars is unity behind our troops and leaders. There is no doubt that Roosevelt would not have served 4 terms were it not for the oratorical space provided by the Second World War.

Think of Churchill losing the election 2 months after VE Day and you will understand two things: 1-The necessity of public support which is why the election was not delayed to a “more appropriate time”. 2- The peaceful handover of power, even -and perhaps especially- for wartime heroes.

Jordan has been notoriously unlucky with its enemies, in 2011, the king called on Assad to step down, later we were at war with extremism in some form or the other for a few years. Finally, it seems the country whose burden of providing refuge, military resistance and political and ideological moderation has been rewarded with the raw end of the deal.

So much so, that the new bogie man is now the “Deal of the century” and its backers who are attempting to move the Palestinian “Final Solution” to the Jordanian boundary.

The three men (Mohammed Bin Salman, Trump, Kushner) pushing the “Deal of the Century” which is rumored to include a city in the south of Jordan and North of Saudi Arabia that will hold those disaffected by the deal that

We are supposed to be afraid of a deal that no one knows about yet. All the government ministers are supposedly refuting that they have seen any scheme of the deal. Yet they are adamant that they are refusing it.

Our foreign minister told me -among others, in public- last week, that he is not aware of the details of the deal. This is therefore the typical definition of fear mongering. Why are we all worried about a deal that we know nothing about.

The issue to me seems to be that Jordanians do not know whether moderation now is the right thing. It has brought us nothing but international scrutiny and national debate on our ability to have our own sovereignty.

We have had more than our share of Enemies and we have demonized them. Whether our stands were inconsistent with each other remains to be seen.

3-Dismantling institutions

I recall vividly that I read about the constitutional crises that faced King Hussein, however, he never assumed that the problem was with his father’s constitution. In fact, while he pushed martial law and emergency decisions, The Constitution remained a bastion of freedom and an exemplary document that other countries envied and sometimes copied from.

However, the recent amendments in the constitution has shown an escalation of the speed in which power and authority is being consolidated in the palace institution and these changes are outside of the old, established and sometimes antiquated institutions of government that preserved some semblance of democracy.

It is interesting to note that all the people I talk to in the higher echelons of politics insist that these changes were not the wishes of the King but the reactionary ventures of those who surround him and who try to protect the regime – of which they are a part- with the only way they know how

Peace, Out!

Literary Scene in Amman

Today I have to write about the literary scene in Jordan. I will start by saying it is a shame that we still have to pay a GST on book sales in Jordan. I am not sure how big a source of revenue it is, but judging by this article, the 71 publishers (are they still 71 since writing?) think it is further destroying the scene in Amman.

In ramadan, my reading hours increase as work hours decrease. I also visit bookstores as part of killing time while waiting for Iftar. My two favorite stores have met their demise this year.

The First is the Jordan Book Center, which used to have a good mix of curricula books and a decent selection of books. The second was the University Bookshop on Gardens Street.

I owe that store a good portion of my older books. The ones I bought in my late teens and early twenties. Almost all of my Mario Puzo collection is from that bookshop.

I have no doubt that both these stores realized that their business model is quickly eroding in Jordan. The Jordanian -barely existent- culture of reading is quickly fading away. Faced with a slow economy

I usually research my posts more than this, however, I went to the Department of Statistics website in order to try and get a feel of the literary scene in Jordan with some data and I knew I will fail when I saw this.

Disregard the 4st [Sic] Quarter for a second, trying to get a glimpse of data from the -assumedly- dashboard will have you comparing data from November 2018 with data from April 2019 and the 4th Quarter -again assumedly-

Ofcourse, the DoS will not have data on booksales in Jordan. For one thing, me and large number of my fellow citizens wait till we travel abroad to buy them because of the huge price differential and the selection that is available.

Second, it has become more and more common to do your book shopping from places like these

Street vendors of books are becoming more mainstream and are found in more Western Locations in Amman where the old bookshops are shutting down