Friday, December 30, 2005

Life as a dhimmi

Here are some samples of dhimmi-tude :

Sri Lankan Maids in the Middle East
Hindus in Malaysia
Christians in Pakistan
Apostates in Malaysia

More on my 2006 predictions

I did say that my predictions for 2006 are rather unlikely to come to pass. The stupidity of men and their inability to act on concerns larger than their own, however, cannot be underestimated. Pakistan must either move to civilian rule, with a federation, with linguistic provinces, and an American style Senate, so that the smaller provinces are not overwhelmed by Punjab; or else it can only be held together by increasingly brutal military force. But General Musharraf is unlikely to cede power.

JEHANGIRA, Dec 29: An anti-Kalabagh dam rally here on Thursday declared the controversial project “disastrous” and warned that its construction would mark the beginning of the disintegration of the federation.

“This rally warns military rulers and their stakeholders in Punjab that the construction of the so-called Kalabagh dam would result in the federation falling apart,” a resolution unanimously adopted at the rally organized by the Awami National Party (ANP) said.

The rally asked international financial institutions not to lend money for a divisive project like Kalabagh dam.

Leaders from almost all the political parties, excluding the PML and PML-N, attended the public meeting held on the Grand Trunk Road, some 60km to the east of Peshawar.

The ruling MMA represented by JUI-F Senator Maulana Gul Naseeb and Jamaat-i-Islami MNA Usman advocate threw its weight behind opponents of the Kalabagh dam.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s brother Maulana Ata-ur-Rehman also attended the rally but did not make a speech.

The PPP (Sherpao), an ally of President Pervez Musharraf and the ruling PML (Q), was represented by former federal minister Mian Muzaffar Shah who minced no words in opposing the dam.

He warned that those in the government would have to make up their mind whether they stood by their own people.

Baloch nationalists were the most strident in their criticism of the military for what they called “denying smaller provinces their rights and imposing its decisions on them”.

The lone representative from Sindh was Awami Tehrik’s Abdul Qadir who said that his province would never agree to a project that was bound to transform it into a desert.

The participants of the rally dominated by ANP’s red-shirted workers and activists of the PPP-P, Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI, shouted anti-Musharraf and anti-Kalabagh dam slogans.

The GT Road remained blocked for almost seven hours and traffic between Peshawar and Islamabad was diverted through Tarbela and Haripur.

The resolution said that the proposed dam would submerge fertile lands of the NWFP, turn Sindh into a desert and destroy the Pat Feeder system in Balochistan.

It said the smaller provinces had been compelled to think that Gen Musharraf, in collaboration with Punjab, wanted to drown and destroy the three provinces.

It said that Musharraf’s argument that Punjab would topple any government that opposed the Kalabagh dam was a testimony that he wanted to pit federating units against each other.

“It proves that Punjab is Pakistan and Pakistan is Punjab,” the two-page resolution read and warned that President Musharraf and his associates would be squarely responsible for any harm done to the integrity of Pakistan.

“We want to live like brothers in Pakistan but not slaves,” the resolution concluded.

Another resolution called for an immediate end to the military operation in Balochistan and resolution of all issues through dialogue with its genuine leadership.

ANP’s president Asfandyar Wali Khan said that it was no longer a struggle for rights but a battle for survival.

“Pakistan and Kalabagh dam cannot co-exist,” he said and asked Punjab to make the choice. “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”

He warned that any attempt to thrust a decision on smaller provinces could lead to a 1971-like situation. He also warned that those who disregarded the unanimous resolutions of the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan assemblies on the issue of Kalabagh dam could prompt some people to question the 1946 Lahore Resolution that had led to the creation of Pakistan.

Asfandyar said that smaller provinces were being pushed to the wall and they had no option but to confront rather than make compromises over the issue.

He said the ANP was opposed to the disintegration of the country but if the establishment was bent upon drowning its people “then we will choose how we want to die”.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Terror in Bangalore

There was a terrorist attack in Bangalore today. Some people drove up in a car onto the Indian Institute of Science campus, barged into the JN Tata auditorium, where a conference was taking place, lobbed a couple of grenades, sprayed the delegates with bullets from automatic rifles, and then fled. A Professor of Mathematics, MC Puri, was killed. Several other delegates were injured, some seriously. The news is that the injured may recover. The affiliation of the perpetrators is not yet known.

Now the closest I've come to a terrorist victim so far is a friend of a friend. Or in a physical sense, forty miles. So the direct effect on me is minimal. Yet such an incident upsets me in some way I cannot figure out; and I've spent the whole day fuming. A complete and utter waste and no way to honor the dead. The police and the military and the intelligence folks - they will deal with the terrorists, nothing I can contribute to. The only thing for the rest of us to do is to try to build civilization faster than these s.o.b.s can tear it down. Getting emotional or getting distracted is merely giving these criminals another tiny victory.

Predictions for 2006

2006 may see the redrawing of borders, and emergence of two new states. I do think it is quite unlikely, the forces arrayed against this happening are quite formidable, but one never knows!

The first is the state of Kurdistan. Kurds live in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, and none of those states promotes Kurdish language and culture. No wonder they believe they need a nation of their own. The nucleus of the new state will be the Iraqi Kurdistan, and there will be repression and warfare in the other countries to disallow their regions from following suit. Provided here are a map of Kurdish regions and discussion of the Iraqi Kurd situation.

The second is the state of Balochistan. This western region of Pakistan is in the throes of a civil war. Of course, there are Balochs in Iran as well, and they might get involved. The issue in Pakistan is that the Balochs feel exploited by the Punjabi majority; a return to a federal democracy in Pakistan might solve the Baloch problem, but the military rulers of Paksitan are unwilling to yield.

On the face of it, the lone superpower would be against the emergence of either of these states. But if a Shiite Iraq emerges that is allied to Iran, one wonders if a independent Kurdistan, allied to the US, might not look attractive. Moreover, the potentital to destabilize Iran, from the west and the east (via Balochs) might seem attractive, if Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions cannot be contained by other means. Still, I'd say, these are rather unlikely events.

PS: B. Raman on the Balochi war of independence. One strategic consideration I failed to mention is that an independent Balochistan would deny the Chinese the port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

FISA run-around

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provides the procedures for judicial authorization and oversight of the electronic surveillance of people who may be involved in terrorism. It provides for after-the-fact authorization, namely, the government can approach the court upto 72 hours after starting surveillance. For whatever reason, President Bush disregarded this law. A NY Times Op-Ed(sorry, subscription required) by David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey (lawyers who served in the Justice Department in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations) defends the President's actions.

The Rivkin-Casey arguments are:

1. The intelligence is being collected to prevent attacks on America, and not for criminal prosecutions. The Fourth Amendment applies only to criminal prosecutions.

2. FISA is inadequate and cannot handle situations where "move and countermove ...are counted in minutes and seconds".

3. The Congress does not have the constitutional authority to tie the President's hands anyway.

4. The Congressional authorization after 9/11 to use necessary and appropriate force against the terrorists gives the President the authority he needs (just in case you don't agree with point #3 above).

5. All that the President is doing is to exercise the sufficient authority provided by the Constitution to protect the national interests.

My friend Julio Cartaya replied to this as follows:

This article is political propaganda: the writers stress the need to expedite the process of collecting and using intelligence, but fail to mention there is a legally established procedure: the administration may collect and use the information, then has up to 72 hours to present its case to the special court for review and approval.

An innocent omission? I don't believe it for a moment: these are lawyers arguing a point of view as part of a P.R. campaign to ease pressure on Congress to deal with this administration ignoring laws that have been on the books for years, and they know it. For a president to authorize breaking a law is not a trivial matter (even if done in consultation with selected members of Congress), and they're trying to avoid a public debate of this very serious issue.

I am also partial: I have long disagreed with many of President Bush decisions, and doubted these decisions will turn out to be in the best interest of the American people; I believe we have seen too much rush to judgment, too little focus on consensus or bipartisanship, a set of changing and blurry motivations for war, duplicitous moral standards how to carry this war forward, poor policy execution, and a much too political use of the presidential powers.

I may be wrong and blinded by mistrust. The intent may be to streamline, not to circumvent. This president may be fighting to keep America safe in the best way he knows. He may be asking us to give his administration exceptional powers, just to match the capabilities of an exceptional enemy of our country.

Regardless of motivation, the effect is still the same: the rule of law is treated as an inconvenience that can only be tolerated on sunny days, and this administration has engaged in all kinds of legal contortions to justify torture, indefinite detentions, use of public funds for their own political benefit, keeping a veil of secrecy over the operation of the executive branch, and now ignoring a fairly explicit procedure cast into law by Congress. What is at stake is not just the 4th Amendment, but the very idea of having separation of powers and a Constitution and sticking with them through good and bad times: if  an administration has the privilege to choose which parts of the law are inconvenient and may be ignored, why bother having laws at all?

Ancient Greeks experimented with the idea of choosing a tyrant to streamline the decision-making process in times of war. Their experiment failed so miserably, that the word tyrant changed meanings from the original "sole ruler" to signify "someone who has absolute power and exerts it brutally and oppressively".

To refer to the original meaning, one speaks nowadays of  "benevolent tyrants". Using that language here I will state what concerns me to the extreme: giving up exceptional powers to a benevolent tyrant is no guarantee that future tyrants using those powers will remain benevolent. The Founding Fathers knew this and left us a document that separates powers and places strict limits to the branches of government holding those powers.

President Bush swore to uphold this document, and the gentlemen that authored the article are now asking us on his behalf to consider he had to make an exception. I say no.

I say amen to that!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

An Eye for an Eye and the Republic

Amnesty International (via

SAUDI ARABIA Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad (m), Indian national

Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad has reportedly been sentenced to have an eye removed. The sentence is said to have been passed to a higher court and if upheld, could be inflicted at any time.

According to press reports, the sentence is punishment for partially blinding another man during a fight in April 2003. He was apparently working at a petrol station in the city of Dammam, in the eastern region when he had an argument with a customer over payment. A fight broke out which left the other man with partial loss of sight. Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad said that he was acting in self defence. He is detained in al-Dammam prison, Dammam.

The injured man is said to have been given the option of pardoning Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad in exchange for financial compensation from his sponsor, but refused.

Interestingly, the Republic Day celebrations in India on January 26, 2006 will have as special guest the King of Saudi Arabia! Saudi Arabia is about as far from a republic as one can find in the world these days. Ah, the power that comes with sitting on top of a petroleum pool!

Garden diary: planted or interred?

These tulip bulbs were lying around since before Thanksgiving, but in my sloth, I did not plant them then. It then snowed, and the ground froze. But the last few days it rained and warmed up, and the ground was soft again. So, I planted the bulbs - all 74 of them - this afternoon. The bulbs seemed healthy, none the worse for lying around in the unheated sunroom, but with little green shoots like overkept onions. I planted them without the usual rituals of deep digging and of bonemeal, rather I punched six inch holes in the ground and dumped the bulbs in. Banja Luka, Yokohama, Queen of the Night, assorted colors in peony shapes, in what I hope grow up to be dense clusters. In my area, in my experience, tulips are best treated as annuals, the second year of a planting has never come out well. So perhaps I can get away with these atrocities.

If the warm weather continues, there is other stuff I can usefully do outside, like clearing the pine needles from the creeping phlox (if I don't, by springtime the poor plants would have declorophyllated, and won't flower very well).

Note: the bulbs were from Home Depot, the links are to googled catalogs.

I hope it is catching!

One-time neocon darling and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi and his party were utterly humiliated in the recent Iraqi elections, getting something like 0.36% of the vote in the directly cast ballots and 0.89% in absentee ballots.

All I can say is that it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, and I hope this vote-repulsion malady soon extends to his former allies.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The world according to America

Worth a grin!
(found here via
Map of the world

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Maps relevant to the riddle of the Saraswati

All the maps are originally from Dr. Kalayanaraman's website, which currently has a sign saying - return in 45 days.

Click on the image for a larger version.
This first map shows sites of the Harappa civilization.


The second map also shows sites of the Harappa civilization with a proposed course of the ancient Saraswati.


A proposed configuration of the rivers is here:


On the origins of Indians, contd.

CapitalistImperialistPig remarked that would seem distinctly odd for a people to adopt a foreign language without some sort of powerful military or cultural motivation.

That cuts to the heart of the matter - the question boils down to whether the language was foreign!

The Standard Model of Indian history is that a civilization developed in the basin of the Indus river, reaching its highest point around 2200-2000 BC, when the urban centers of Mohenjodaro, Harappa, etc. flourished. The civilization extended from the northern plains all the way to Sindh and Gujarat on the Arabian Sea - over a million square kilometers. Their language (or languages) has vanished without trace. The civilization subsequently went into decline or deurbanization, at one time thought to be due to invasions of the bearers of Indo-European language - the Aryans - but now thought to be due to environmental changes. This invasion began perhaps 1700 BC, and also saw the introduction of the horse and the chariot to India. Subsequently the RgVeda was composed. There is no archaeological evidence for such an invasion or migration nor any sign of a sharp cultural discontinuity in whatever the archaeologists have found so far, but then supposedly that can happen. The Standard Model is based almost entirely upon historical linguistics.

There are some peculiarities that the Standard Model glosses over. I'll mention a few here. I'm writing from memory, so I will probably get specific details wrong, but the general idea will come across.

The first is that the RgVeda mentions the river Saraswati, along with the other rivers of northern India. The Saraswati is the mother of all rivers, as per the Veda. This river is no longer extant. A much later tradition, in the great epic, the Mahabharata, perhaps a thousand years younger than the RgVeda, mentions the Saraswati as having vanished in the desert sands. In the epic, Balarama does a pilgrimmage along the former course of the river; his route matches the channel of the mostly dry modern Ghagghar-Hakra. In modern times, beginning with the explorations of a 19th century Englishman whose name I cannot recall and culminating with satellite photography, it has been confirmed that once a mighty river flowed from the Himalayas, along this route. The bulk of the Indus Valley civilization sites found so far turn out to be on the banks of this river. (I'll point you to maps later). The river dried up 2000 BC or thereabouts.

Now, there is little doubt that the vanished river is the Mahabharata's Saraswati. The big question is - is it also the RgVedic Saraswati? If yes, then the composers of the RgVeda were in India long before the Standard Model allows them to be. The Standard Model postulates that the Aryans brought the river name along with the; the original is not identified, or is said to be the Helmand/Arghandeb in Afghanistan. The Iranian Avesta after all mentions the Harahvaiti (and the s to h shift is well attested to in the language of the RgVeda and Avesta. That the Helmand is hardly the mother of rivers and would be dwarfed by the Indus or the Ganges is attributed to poetic exaggeration. Because of the mention of all the other rivers of northern India, it is clear that the RgVeda was composed in India. Therefore, the Standard Model would have it that the Aryans, who venerated the rivers, carried the name Saraswati from outside, and gave that name to the river already drying up, and not to one of the others.

This leads us to the next puzzle. Elsewhere it has been observed that names of rivers, mountains, etc., are conserved even when there is a language change. But there are few if any such non-Indo-European names in Northern India. The RgVedic text has a vocabulary of some 10,000 words of which about four percent are of non-Indo-European roots - i.e., they are derived from borrowed words from a different language group. The comparative figure for ancient Greek is around 30%. The Greeks were definitely incursive into Greece, but into a smaller area, I'd think. So, the Indo-Aryans by invasion or elite dominance or whatever took over this million square kilometers of inhabited area, wiped out the language with so few borrowings, and all place names? It would be possible, but these supposedly nomadic pastoralists would have had to entered in very large numbers to overwhelm the sedentary agriculturalists. Certainly we should see genetic traces of it - which we simply don't. The paper whose abstract I referred to dates any such incursions to many thousands of years earlier than this period. The Standard Model glosses over all this as well.

I'll just mention one more puzzle - some verses in the RgVeda can be interpreted to mean that at that time a constellation ( the Pleiades) rose on the equator. It no longer does because of the earth's precession. But this places the date of composition to 3000 BC or thereabouts. The Standard Model copes with this by disputing the interpretation (e.g. "due east" could mean many degrees away from east in those days) and by postulating that this was a tradition, ancient by the time of the RgVeda , that was included in the RgVeda even when it was no longer true.

The RgVeda itself shows no memory of its people having ever been outside Northern India. So these people carried some traditions (e.g., the above) for a long time and forgot others, one must plead. ( In contrast, the Avesta does mention its people wandered around for a bit, including the Indus region, before settling in Iran.) The RgVeda does not know of cotton or of bricks, both of which the Indus civilization had in its urban phase - so either it was composed in India before this, or outside India with the Standard Model dates of post-1700 BC - though the geography remains Indian!

The simplest solution, in my opinion, is to push back the date of entry of IndoEuropean languages to India by several thousand years; but this would utterly destroy the field of historical linguistics.

Cultivating science

Recursivity via Panda's Thumb.

But I do know that unless North America makes it possible for people to passionate about mathematics and science without being ashamed, we're in deep trouble.

Garrett, in Peter Woit's blog:
........ And when Roger tragically died, I had nowhere to turn for a high energy physics advisor. I finished up my dissertation in nonlinear science under my previous advisor, and hit the dilemma. I wanted to work in GR and QFT — they have always interested me the most. But I had nobody to introduce me to opportunities in either field, and the main community was going for strings in a big way.

However, I had been lucky enough to have another wild option. My graduate fellowship had paid me on top of the money I earned as a TA, and I’d invested that in stocks while the market was booming. So I had a nice little nest egg built up — enough to last five years or so at my graduate student spending level. And, thanks to the net, I figured I could work anywhere, on the physics I wanted. So I wandered a bit, and settled in the most beautiful place I could find — Maui. I’ve been finding my own way ever since, working on what I want, and publishing only when I’ve thought I figured out something significantly cool. Well, after five years, and less than stellar stock market performance, the money ran out. So I’ve had to find money making projects to work on here and there while dedicating most of my time to working on physics — traveling down one theoretical path after another.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Iran resumes its descent

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after becoming a Holocaust denier, has now banned Western music in Iran. Apparently Beethoven's Ninth Symphony carries dangerous Western values. The news tells us

Earlier this month, Ali Rahbari, conductor of Tehran's symphony orchestra, resigned and left Iran to protest the treatment of the music industry in Iran.

Before leaving, he and his orchestra performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to packed Tehran concert halls several nights last month -- the first performance of the work in Tehran since the 1979 revolution. The performances angered many conservatives and prompted newspaper columns accusing Rahbari of promoting Western values.

As one music patron in Tehran put it, this man - and his government - belong to the Stone Age.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

On the origins of Indians

The Indo-European languages of India were supposedly brought in by invaders from Central Asia, along with the horse; and these invaders displaced both the elite and the previous languages - such is what goes under the name of Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) or the more politically correct Aryan Migration Theory (AMT).

There are many good reasons not to accept this theory, even though there is no really coherent replacement theory. Nevertheless, non-acceptance of this theory gets one branded as a "Hindu fundamentalist", a "nationalist bigot" and so on. (Even though at least two of the proponents of AIT/AMT do count as heroes to the Hindu right - Tilak and Savarkar).

Anyway, AMT/AIT theory is in trouble (via Rajita Rajvasisht in the IndianCivilization yahoo egroup, but she omitted the publication name!)

Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distributions in India Identify Both Indigenous and Exogenous Expansions and Reveal Minor Genetic Influence of Central Asian Pastoralists

Sanghamitra Sengupta,1 Lev A. Zhivotovsky,2 Roy King,3 S. Q. Mehdi,4 Christopher A. Edmonds,3 Cheryl-Emiliane T. Chow,3 Alice A. Lin,3 Mitashree Mitra,5 Samir K. Sil,6 A. Ramesh,7 M. V. Usha Rani,8 Chitra M. Thakur,9 L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza,3 Partha P. Majumder,1 and Peter A. Underhill3

1 Human Genetics Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, India;
2 N. I. Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow;
3 Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford;
4 Biomedical and Genetic Engineering Division, Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories, Islamabad;
5 School of Studies in Anthropology, Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, India;
6 University of Tripura, Tripura, India;
7 Department of Genetics, University of Madras, Chennai, India;
8 Department of Environmental Sciences, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India; and
9 B. J. Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India

Received July 26, 2005; accepted for publication November 3, 2005;
electronically published December 16, 2005.

Although considerable cultural impact on social hierarchy and language in South Asia is attributable to the arrival of nomadic Central Asian pastoralists, genetic data (mitochondrial and Y chromosomal) have yielded dramatically conflicting inferences on the genetic origins of tribes and castes of South Asia. We sought to resolve this conflict, using high-resolution data on 69 informative Y-chromosome binary markers and 10 microsatellite markers from a large set of geographically, socially, and linguistically representative ethnic groups of South Asia. We found that the influence of Central Asia on the pre-existing gene pool was minor. The ages of accumulated microsatellite variation in the majority of Indian haplogroups exceed 10,000–15,000 years, which attests to the antiquity of regional differentiation. Therefore, our data do not support models that invoke a pronounced recent genetic input from Central Asia to explain the observed genetic variation in South Asia. R1a1 and R2 haplogroups indicate demographic complexity that is inconsistent with a recent single history. Associated microsatellite analyses of the high-frequency R1a1 haplogroup chromosomes indicate independent recent histories of the Indus Valley and the peninsular Indian region. Our data are also more consistent with a peninsular origin of Dravidian speakers than a source with proximity to the Indus and with significant genetic input resulting from demic diffusion associated with agriculture. Our results underscore the importance of marker ascertainment for distinguishing phylogenetic terminal branches from basal nodes when attributing ancestral composition and temporality to either indigenous or exogenous sources. Our reappraisal indicates that pre-Holocene and Holocene-era—not Indo-European—expansions have shaped the distinctive South Asian Y-chromosome landscape.


The URL is:

The American Journal of Human Genetics, Posted: Dec. 16, 2005.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A.Q. Khan The Movie

This "documentary" by Rudradev on nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan is hilarious! (Macromedia Flash animation, about 5MB).

I'd like to know if the jokes are too "insider", though.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Just-So Theory

In the spirit of the Intelligent Designers (life is designed) and the Anthropic Principle exponents (the universe is explained by our existence), I announce the grand unification of both theories, the Just-So Theory that explains itself, Intelligent Design and the Anthropic Principle in one self-consistent and concise explanation - It is just so. The universe has to be exquisitely fine-tuned for the Just-So theory to emerge; e.g., one less beer, and it wouldn't be just so.

Anyway, a great SF read about a Theory of Everything is Greg Egan's Distress. A reviewer made this remark I find ironic : Distress is a good science fiction novel, with harder science than some papers in the Physical Review.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Fantasy intersects real world

I say this as an engineer first. As I have explained before, to be an engineer one must begin with the position of the argument and then find the facts that fit it. When the discovered facts do not fit the argument, one knows there is something wrong with the facts. One then needs to go out and get new facts that work. If this proves impossible, one may be forced to modify the original position of the argument with the sure knowledge that the new argument was actually the old argument all along, only remembered incorrectly by everyone else.

This is science: the truth is only what we believe it to be. Life is merely a question of ignoring those facts that do not support your viewpoint.

(From Book One of The Bronze Canticles.)

I don't know if fantasy authors Tracy and Laura Hickman were commenting on current affairs when they wrote this, but it feels that way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fighting terrorists there instead of here has the following statistics about the civilian (non-combatant) deaths in Iraq from March 2003 to March 2005.

Killers by category Number killed % of Total
1. US-led forces alone 9270 37.3
2. Anti-occupation forces alone 2353 9.5
3. Both US-led and anti-occupation forces involved 623 2.5
4. MoH-defined 'military actions' 635 2.5
5. MoH-defined 'terrorist attacks' 318 1.3
6. Predominantly criminal killings 8935 35.9
7. Unknown agents 2731 11.0
Total deaths 24865 100.0

(MoH is the Iraqi Ministry of Health.)

The report explains each of the terms. The following is worth noting:

"Predominantly criminal killings Mortuary-reported deaths provide the most accurate measure of everyday criminal violence in Iraq. Deaths added to the IBC Database and included in this study are only those over and above the very low 'background' levels of such violence recorded pre-invasion, which averaged 14 per month in 2002.

Most of the deaths currently recorded by mortuaries, and in particular the Baghdad city mortuary which provided the bulk of IBC's mortuary data, are said to be connected to criminal activity and distinct from war-related deaths as recorded by MoH: "The vast majority [of the dead recorded by mortuaries] did not die for reasons directly related to the insurgency but as a result of the crime wave scourging the capital's streets".

The recent trend is an increase in insurgency related deaths. But for the first two years, while the insurgents got the headlines, it was the criminals who were committing the most Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. The insurgents were not the big cause of Iraqi deaths, more than two-thirds are accounted for in equal parts by criminals and by US forces in pursuit of insurgents.
Since we're equating insurgents to terrorists, it shows you what a misguided war it was in Iraq; and what Rumsfeld overlooked when he said that stuff happens.

Presidential Library Lost

Crawford, Texas (AP)

A tragic flood this morning destroyed the personal library of President George W. Bush. The flood began in the presidential bathroom where the books were kept. Both books have been lost. A presidential spokesman said the president was devastated, as he had almost finished coloring the second one. The White House tried to call FEMA but there was no answer.

(from rec.humor.funny)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Home Electronics - upgraded

Some bug bit me, and I got around to replacing a 20 year old sound system. I tried some Bose, and they were good, and that furthered my appetite for improved sound. I ended up getting these RBH speakers, entirely based on reviews and a brief audition in an unsatisfactory store display. I was looking for a good compact system; I don't want the bulk of a regular set of speakers to overpower the room that I have. An after-the-purchase comparison of similar speaker sets, I found at

I was going for a Denon A/V receiver to go with the speakers, but the particular dealer (which was the closest one that I could find that carried RBH) was out-of-stock. Anyway, he convinced me that an equivalent Yamaha would do as well; in any case, just as Indians drive Hondas, apparently they buy Yamahas!

Well, now remains the job of fiddling with all the tuneable parameters in such a set-up - there are a bewildering lot of them - to make things sound the best possible. I don't know whether I should have spent as much as I did, perhaps equivalent results were achievable at a lower price point. It is a much improved listening experience compared to what I had before. If the hardware holds out, I will be listening to a lot more music, and adding to my collection after a long hiatus.

Update: I did go with a 10" RBH sub-woofer instead of the 8" that comes with the CT-5.1 package.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


When the snow clears up a bit, perhaps it will be time for another walk and rumination, on the meaning of what happened here. For again, I see myself to be out of tune with the popular culture.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

This man on the Supreme Court?

via Atrios -
look at this - Alito believes that it is justified to shoot a 15 year old unarmed boy who is fleeing from the police for reasons unknown.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Harriet Miers poetry?

The following poem is being removed from a Pakistani textbook for grade 11. Apparently, though the US is funding a textbook rewrite to suit the "enlightened moderation" policy of General Musharraf, this poem is considered unsuitable. The author is nameless, but it sounds like something Harriet Miers, White House Counsel and ex-Supreme Court nominee, might write; certainly approve of. (Or it might be Assrocket of the Powerline blog.)

Before you read the news-item, see if you can spot what is objectionable about the poem.

The Leader

Patient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to accept every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real,
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mold,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight wont do,
Never back down when he sees what is true,
Tells it all straight, and means it all too,

Going forward and knowing he's right,
Even when doubted for why he would fight,
Over and over he makes his case clear,
Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear,
Growing in strength, he won't be unnerved,
Ever assuring he'll stand by his word,

Wanting the world to join his firm stand,

Bracing for war, but praying for peace,
Using his power so evil will cease:
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must.

( via

Update: the story gets more hilarous. Here is the unacknowledged source of the poem.

History: The Partition of India - correct URL

This is the correct link to the excerpts from the Cabinet Mission Plan documents. The failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan led to the Partition of India; if you read the excerpts through, I think you will agree that the success of the Plan would have also led to the Partition of India.

Blowing up Iraq

I just heard journalist Seymour Hersh on National Public Radio, saying that in one 15-month period, the air support wing of the Marines dropped the equivalent of 2 million 500-pound bombs in Iraq. He had no figures for the Army or Air Force.

Either there are a whole lot of unreported Iraqi deaths and casualities; or there are hundreds of thousands of non-Iraqi combatants, or the fatalities per bomb are very very low. One wonders - what are they blowing up in Iraq?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bangladesh Watch

First there were the August 17 blasts:
Danger in Bangladesh

And now, suicide bombers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Whitewashing colonial history

This action by the French Parliament should be roundly condemned.

France's parliament voted Tuesday to uphold a law that puts an upbeat spin on the country's painful colonial past, ignoring complaints from historians and the former French territory of Algeria. The law, passed quietly this year, requires school textbooks to address France's "positive role" in its former colonies. France's lower house, in a 183-94 vote, rejected an effort by the opposition Socialists to kill the law.

(from Yahoo, temporary URL)

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Swiped from jrjrao, on bharat-rakshak, too precious to lose when the thread is trash-canned:

... just two days ago, the new Paki Tablighi Circus[1] run by Saeed Anwar and Junaid Jamshed was in town, and I had fun listening to them on the radio. As per what I heard Anwar and Jamshed say in their radio interviews, all these Paki "I-love-Bollywood" survey takers are friggin' munafiqs[2] who are going to roast, burn, fry and pickle their musharrafs[3] in Jahannum for all eternity. Anwar's exact words two days ago:

I ask all these Paki wimmen who run off to see (horribly unislamic) things like music concerts. Tell me - will any of them have a uterus which will produce the next Mohammad bin Qasim?[4] The next Salahuddin?? [5]

Funnily, this Saeed Anwar's rant was aired on a Paki radio show called "Sangeet"[6] - a show totally driven by all things Bollywood. And the host of this "Sangeet Radio", a dude also named Saeed, was squirming like a worm on the air when Anwar declared his entire enterprise haraam [7].

Comments by me
[1] Return to/come to Islam movement Also see this.
[2] Hypocrites (worse than infidels)
[3] Part of the anatomy one sits on (this is common Indian opinion, except for the extreme peaceniks, who would run over their grandmother for peace.)
[4] First Muslim invader of India, see section II of URL.. History in Pakistan commonly begins with Muhammad bin Qasim.
[5] Saladin, who turned back the Crusaders
[6] Music
[7] Forbidden by Islamic law.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Afghanistan Watch

An Indian was murdered by the Taliban the other day. Ramankutty Maniyappan was an employee of the Indian Border Roads Organization, and was helping build the 280 kilometer between Delaram, on the Kandahar-Herat highway to Zaranj on the Iranian border. Iran is building the highway from Zaranj to the port of Chabahan. The highway will reduce the route to the sea by a thousand kilometers from the current route, which is via the Khyber Pass to Peshawar in Pakistan and from thence to Karachi.

Currently Pakistan has a virtual stranglehold on the goods entering and leaving Afghanistan, and has not hesitated to use it. Pakistan and its Taliban allies are quite upset about the highway, and the murder of Maniyappan is an attempt to stop the construction.

An Indian civil services officer, a remarkable lady who spent seven months in Afghanistan helping the United Nations organize elections writes

I would not like to get into Afghanistan’s politics, but if the Taliban allow roads to be constructed, they would really be losing control. From their point of view, it would just be logical that they make it as uncomfortable as possible for outsiders to reach areas under their control. As long as donkeys take election material and no international observer can reach remote locations, there is no threat to their domain. I had wanted very much to visit some far-flung parts of my province, but security and lack of roads ruled out any such possibility.

Roads are key to where Afghanistan wants to go, to get to schools and health care centres, to banks and factories, and to provide security to the people who have become accustomed to being afraid and helpless. As long as there are no roads, inaccessibility will keep all the dangerous elements safe. The people of the country showed courage and came out to vote on September 18. They trudged along hilly paths avoiding minefields and thorny bushes and rocks in the direction of progress and self-expression. But they need the roads.

I know Maniyappan would have been proud of the work being done by the BRO to give the people of Afghanistan the road they deserve.

From the US Administration's point of view the situation is uncomfortable. On the one hand, this is a road that its ally, the Karzai government, considers to be vital; on the other hand, this is a project that will benefit Iran; and also the US has repeatedly told India to "respect Pakistani sensibilities on Afghanistan". With battle fatigue setting in in the US, it is a race against time to build Afghanistan enough to resist the inevitable abandonment of that country to the mercies of Pakistan and its surrogates.

Update: This UN (.pdf) map on which you can locate Delaram and Zaranj, gives an idea of how this will help reduce the isolation of Southern Afghanistan, which is the Taliban stronghold.

Friday, November 25, 2005

History: The Partition of India

The Partition of India in 1947 still evokes much bitterness today. A common theme is to blame the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi for the Partition, in that they somehow mishandled Jinnah and the Muslim League. If only they had yielded to some of Jinnah's demands or not let bad personal chemistry intervene or whatever. In particular, Nehru is commonly blamed for the failure of the Cabinet Mission plan, which on the surface would have allowed for a united India. However, these assertions, to my mind, can be decisively proven to be wrong, based on the written record.

Excerpts from the original documents are available, and they show that the Cabinet Mission Plan provided for Pakistan within ten years or less, and with Hindu majority provinces locked into Pakistan. Nehru was right to reject this provision of provinces being locked in; and Jinnah ended up with his "moth-eaten" Pakistan.

Past Service is just that

Listened a little to John McCain on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC radio this morning. Lehrer and McCain talked about the intelligence leading upto the Iraq war. McCain continues to insist that he sees nothing except honest mistakes.

This following is from memory, you'll have to google to find it all -

- Uranium : There have been the forged documents claiming that Saddam was attempting to purchase processed uranium ore from Niger; these are apparently such crude forgeries that non-experts can easily discover that fact; yet even the President referred to this "fact".

- Terrorism : The intelligence agencies warned the Administration that the information captured al Qaeda operative al Libi was providing was not true. While the Czech intelligence agency thought that the terrorist Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi official in Prague around April 8, 2001, US intelligence thinks it is wrong; credit card and phone records and the lack of any travel records lead them to believe that Atta spent the entire April 2001 in the US. Yet the Vice President repeatedly referred to these as facts linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

- Iraqi Defectors : The "defectors" - all linked to Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi party - all proved to have been telling lies. Either the US intelligence knew it, or we are told, e.g., ( I think the Los Angeles Times tells us) that the Germans were warning the US that the information was wrong, and that the sources were not credible. Yet that information was used as evidence for the war.

- US Analysts : US analysts were uncertain or dissented. For instance, the famous aluminum tubes that supposedly were for centrifuges for uranium enrichment, were rather early on said to be really not suitable for that purpose, but rather for rocket casings.

I think the list is longer and will grow. We know from the Downing Street memo that the Administration was engaged in fixing the intelligence around the policy.

So how do we explain McCain?

Here is the point - yes McCain is a war hero and patriot; but his early sacrifices for his country do not mean that he has retained the moral clarity and the courage of his youth. The same is true, e.g., of John Kerry, who did not run away from battle in Vietnam, nor in the anti-war movement when he returned from Vietnam; but who was most craven during the 2004 Presidential campaign. The same thought occurred to me watching the last hour of debate over the resolution the Republicans offered in the House as a counter to John Murtha. The last person to speak was a Republican war hero from Texas ( I don't recall his name); he had twice the decorations of anyone - yet he spoke the same old lines about the war in Iraq, which, no matter what you think about the intelligence - honest mistakes or deliberate deception - is simply unsupportable with what we know today.

People age, lose the courage of their convictions or grow tired of the fight. Sadly, I also think that those who remain true to themselves are the ones we never hear about. To become a McCain or a Kerry, this quality of truth is subtly eroded, no doubt always for the greater good. We see the same degeneration in Colin Powell who let his optimism and loyalty overweigh any devotion to the truth. Such is the cost of power.

Update: Steven Clemons has a collection of information. #5, article by Senators Reed and Levin, is particularly important, because it contrasts what US intelligence was saying on a particular date, as per recently declassified documents, with what the Administration was saying. I don't think McCain can spout out the Republican talking points, and retain any claim to being an honest Joe.

Update2: Paul Krugman

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thiru Kural

The Kural is an ancient book of maxims, written in Tamil, one of the classical languages of India. It may be a bit tactless of me to quote this section on Thanksgiving Day, traditionally given over to feasting on turkey.

  • How can he practice true compassion Who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?
  • Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless, Nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.
  • Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: One who wields a weapon ad one who feasts on a creatures' flesh.
  • If you ask, "What is kindness and what is unkind?" It is not killing and killing. Thus, eating flesh is never virtuous.
  • Life is perpetuated by not eating meat. The clenched jaws of hell hold those who do.
  • If the world did not purchase and consume meat, There would be none to slaughter and offer meat for sale.
  • When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh Of another creature, he must abstain from eating it.
  • Perceptive souls who have abandoned passion Will not feed on flesh abandoned by life.
  • Greater then a thousand ghee {clarified butter} offerings consumed in sacrificial fires Do not do sacrifice and consume any living creature.
  • All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration Of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat.

  • (from the Kural)

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    India's Wall of Sorrow

    India has been suffering from terrorism for a long time. The victims of terrorist violence are one long blur of statistics, their reality somehow diminished in being converted to numbers. After the Delhi blasts of October 29, I felt that there should at least be names attached to the victims, and possibly more information, if available. To avoid any association with my political views, I started an anonymous blog, India's Wall of Sorrow.

    It has been more difficult than I expected. The violence is daily, scanning the newspapers is profoundly depressing. Very little information is available about the victims; the newspapers do not connect the dots. E.g., Abdul Ahad Chopan was killed a few days ago; the very same newspaper reported on the killing of Ghulam Mohammad Chopan, son of Abdul Ahad Chopan, in 2001. Are these related? The newspaper does not say. Chopan appears to be a common surname of people from a particular district, so it is impossible to say. Chopan Sr. was a cook for a police battalion, and it seems possible to me that the terrorists killed his son, and then him for "collaborating" with India. What might Chopan's story be? Did he spend the last few years of his life constantly looking over his shoulder? Was he merely an ordinary person seeking to make a living? Was he something more, say, an undercover agent?

    Then how right is it to intrude into other people's grief? I believe people often most want privacy when dealing with tragedy.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    This really takes the cake!

    Uranium yellow-cake, that is.
    According to this diary at,, Iraq had a lot of uranium yellowcake piled up in Iraq and it didn't need to buy more from Niger. The whole yellow-cake thing was a red herring.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Judith Miller strikes back

    Her letter to the Public Editor trying to protect her non-existent reputation.

    Impending disasters

    These days seem to be full of impending disasters, that one can see coming, almost in slow motion, and that one is entirely powerless to deflect.

    On the natural disaster side, the direst one is that in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and its northern areas, where two million face the onset of winter without shelter, because of the October 8th earthquake. Many are stranded in remote areas with roads cut off by landsides from the earthquake, and getting supplies to them or evacuating them by road is extremely difficult. Pakistan's military government finds it extremely difficult to accept Indian help. I hope the US, NATO, Chinese etc., help is adequate - so far it isn't. Disaster looms.

    Then there were Katrina, Rita, Wilma - tropical cyclones charted from their birth and courses predicted days in advance, and bringing destruction in their wake. We are due for several more years like this one, according to the charts of hurricane cycles.

    There may be the avian flu pandemic that hinges on how virulent the strain of flu is that mutates to be able to spread from human to human, instead of just bird to bird and bird to human right now.

    On the political front, the US Government - all three branches - is in crisis. We have the Frist scandal, the DeLay scandal, and Plamegate, which reaches high into the White House. Then, we have the Harriet Miers or worse appointment to the Supreme Court.

    In the longer term, one might believe global warming is creeping up on us. If not that, then an energy crisis - or both. On the political front, there is the implosion of countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, going on in slow motion, seemingly unstoppable. Then there are the Islamic fanatics who seem determined to become nuclear suicide bombers.

    Or maybe, this is situation normal, and all it is is that I'm a little older. But the coming storms are not going to be easy to weather.

    The NYT Public Editor and reaction

    The NYT Public Editor has put his word in, and Daily Kos has reaction, which pretty much says what I think.

    Let's see what ensues. I'm in no mood to resume my subscription to the newspaper.

    Saturday, October 22, 2005

    More on the NYT

    Executive Editor Bill Keller apparently wrote a letter to the staff of the NYT.

    firedoglake : Throw Judy From the Train. The text of the letter is at Crooks and Liars.

    Bill Keller writes:

    There is another important issue surfaced by this case: how we deal with the inherent conflict of writing about ourselves. This paper (and, indeed, this business) has had way too much experience of that over the past few years.

    In my area of work (telecomm), we kid each other about not wanting to appear in the New York Times. If a story runs on us, it usually means our telecomm network has had a major failure. The measure of our success is in remaining faceless, nameless people whose service you can take for granted, and whose brand you can unconditionally rely on. Similarly, anytime a news organization finds itself as a vital part of the story, it should immediately know that it is in deep trouble. A newspaper that finds itself newsworthy should immediately convene a crisis management group and work the cliched 24x7 to get out of the news.

    Update: The Public Editor's Web Journal

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    The NYT and me

    I have been a subscriber to the New York Times since 1998 (if not earlier, but I can't prove it).

    I think the NYT and Judith Miller have abandoned all journalistic ethics. They have behaved as a mouthpiece of the government and fed us propaganda about Iraq. They can no longer claim to belong to the Fourth Estate. Judith Miller has misused the First Amendment; she should have taken the Fifth. She has damaged every journalist who will have a legitimate reason to stand by the First Amendment. Her 85 days in jail is way too short.

    I will not purchase the New York Times again until it comes clean, and fires not just Judith Miller but everyone else who is responsible. It owes all of us a complete accounting and it needs a purge.

    I hope everyone else does the same. I certainly urge them to do so.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Connecting the dots?

    Keith Olbermann notes a dozen coincidences of the breaking of a story that embarrasses the Administration and terrorism alerts.

    Of course, one could cynically say, this Administration is "all scandal, all the time" and so the coincidences are inevitable.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Looking for the wrong things

    Today's National Public Radio news had a story about the increasing availability of cosmetic plastic surgery in Iraq. It reminds me of similar stories of Afghanistan, where the sign of advancing freedom was supposed to be availability of cosmetics previously not available under the Taliban.

    Personally, I think what is more important is whether girls can go to school, whether women can work, can travel safely unescorted, and can visit a doctor; but the news media doesn't cover that.

    And why aren't the news talking about this:

    Iraq's provisional constitution of 1970, at least until the 1990s, held a fairly progressive family law process. Iraqi women had access to education, the ability to refuse arranged marriages, and the right to full inheritance; their testimony counted in court; and they had a fighting chance to keep custody of their children if divorced or widowed. Islamic family law would change these rights, and not to women's advantage. Activists say that, judging from drafts of the constitution revealed so far, a woman's right to a divorce without her husband's consent, custody of male children past a certain age, and inheritance would be diminished, and she would not longer be considered equal to a man in the law's eyes.

    (from )

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    A lot more Theodore Dalrymple

    Many of Theodore Dalrymple's essays are accessible in the City Journal archives,

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Worth thinking about

    Here is something to digest:

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Shifting Rationale for the Iraq War

    Secy. of State Condoleeza Rice gave a talk yesterday, at Princeton, said to be "an intellectually serious defense of Bush administration foreign policy."

    The key idea is this:

    People still differ about what the September 11th calls us to do. And in a democratic society, that debate is healthy and just and right. If you focus only on the attacks themselves and believe they were caused by 19 hijackers, supported by a network called al-Qaida, and operating from a failed state -- Afghanistan -- then our response can be limited. The course of action presumes that we are still living in an ordinary time.

    But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.

    First, the war in Iraq was on the grounds of its possession of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was not one of the ideologues or followers of this global extremist ideology; if anything, the Islamist ideology of al Zawahiri was aimed against Saddam and leaders like him.

    Second, this so-called global extremist ideology was quite impotent until it was armed by the Carter and Reagan administrations to fight the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the Soviets pulled out, Bush Sr. and Clinton did nothing effective to leash in the dogs of war.

    Third, even if we accept that it is our need and responsibility to transform the Middle East, it is not at all clear that invading it is the way to go. After all, we aren't invading China which also is ruled by a dangerous ideology, we're investing in it and trading with it.

    Fourth, if the President in 2002 had said, we have to go to war to establish democracy in Iraq, then the statement above would have some credibility. If the American public could not be persuaded to go to war on that basis, then regardless of need, it would be wrong to go to war; after all, it is the public that bears the casualities and pays the bills. We now stand on the verge of failure in Iraq because the President failed to make the Iraq war a national enterprise.

    [Update] P.C. Roberts

    ....Republican minority token Condi Rice was dispatched to Princeton last week to inform the university that democracy comes out of the barrel of a gun. US military force, said the secretary of state with a straight face, is required to force democracy down the throats of the Muslims in order to save future American generations from "insecurity and fear."
    Condi Rice’s speech at Princeton has branded her as the greatest fool ever to be appointed Secretary of State.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    Yahoo's quest for profits and freedom

    The quest for profits, capitalist or otherwise, doesn't lead to freedom, it leads to collusion with the government. Corporations spend large sums of money for lobbyists in Washington, DC for precisely this reason.

    In today's NYT, Tina Rosenberg has some observations about Yahoo:

    1. Yahoo recently bought a billion-dollar stake in, China's largest e-commerce company, which presumably required the approval of the Chinese government/Communist Party.

    2. In 2002, Yahoo signed a pledge of "self-discipline" promising to obey Chinese censorship laws.

    3. In April 2004, though the Communist Party warned against coverage of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a journalist, Shi Tao, emailed his notes to a Chinese dissident in America who posted them on the Web. Shi Tao was arrested, and in April 2005, was given a "lenient" (as per the sentencing judge) ten years in prison.

    4. The conviction was based on evidence provided by Yahoo, that linked the email to Shi Tao's telephone. It was Yahoo's subsidiary in Hong Kong that turned in Shi Tao, and as per Rosenberg, that subsidiary "has no more obligation to obey China's security laws than does Yahoo in Sunnyvale, California".

    It becomes clear that the quest for profits does not lead to human freedom. Rather, human freedom is a pre-requisite for the quest for profits to be morally justifiable. Capitalism does not engender liberty. Capitalism is acceptable as an economic system only when there is liberty.

    Sunday, July 31, 2005

    Help on the way?

    Powerful help I've got - Cascading Style Sheets - Designing for the Web, Third Edition, written by the creators of CSS - Lie & Bos. So maybe I can make this blog at least look a little better. The problem is that geekdom - engineering and science - has not left much of an ability to do good visual design. Lots of private experimentation is going on. Let's see if I can come up with something acceptable.

    Saturday, July 30, 2005

    The badly neglected blog

    The enthusiasm to write comes and goes in unpredictable waves. One thing which is true is that there is enough opinion around the web, enough to cover all points of view (I think!) and so there have to be other things to write about. Still searching......

    Sunday, July 17, 2005

    Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    The less said, the better.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Current Affairs: The truth of the matter

    An oldie, but still good.


    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Book: Spider-Man - Revenge of the Sinister Six

    Spider-Man : Revenge of the Sinister Six
    Adam-Troy Castro

    One of my favorite childhood occupations was to curl up with a big fat volume of comic books. Alas, these came rarely enough, because comic books were somewhat frowned upon. The addiction continues into adulthood. This, however is a novel, not a comicbook. It is still just as engaging. In this novel we learn about Peter Parker's parents, why he was an orphan, and a mysteriously missing sister of his.

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    History: Wavell on Gandhi, and on Primary Education

    Lord Wavell, in his letter to King George, February 24, 1947; the last of his periodical letters as the Viceroy, wrote about the political history of India during his tenure. The following is a conclusion that Wavell had reached some time before September 1944:

    "....A third conclusion, which only came to me some time later, was that Mr. Gandhi was a most inveterate enemy of the British, and did not desire a peaceful transfer of power; he wished the British to be finally driven from India by the force of a popular uprising. I think he still does".


    Nowadays we wonder why the first government of independent India did not place more emphasis on primary education and basic literacy. Wavell, in the same letter, offers a clue:

    "I have taken only a limited interest in education; partly because I found myself at variance with official Indian opinion on education policy, and partly because I could see little hope of much progress. The official attitude is that the stigma of illiteracy must be removed from India at once by giving elementary education to everyone. My own view is that this is quite impracticable and quite useless. India can only afford to spend a limited amount of money on education and it should be spent on providing technicians of all kinds, both for industry and agriculture, which India needs so sadly. Literacy for the whole population is unattainable for several generations; and can only be extended as India's wealth is increased by her technical progress. In conversation sensible Indians admit this, but say that for sentimental reasons they must maintain the slogan of universal literacy at once."

    This thinking seems to have survived the British Raj. While a directive principle of the Indian Constitution that the government must provide for universal primary education, in practice, the Congress government and subsequent governments accomplished relatively little.

    The excerpts are from "The Transfer of Power 1942-47" Volume IX, edited by Mansergh and Moon.

    Book: Not a Girl Detective

    Not a Girl Detective
    A Cece Caruso Mystery
    Susan Kandel

    From the new books section in the library, it could just as well have been in the science fiction shelves as in the mystery shelf - as far as I am concerned. The murder mystery was incidental. Good science fiction imagines and populates new worlds. This book does the same for me. (By the way, I'm sure heavier fiction does the same as well, but I refuse to read anything that is not lighthearted or that is sordid. If one's reading is not entertaining, why read? Reading would become like a forced regimen of exercise.) The world of Cece Caruso may be a reality, but is utterly foreign to me - its people and their concerns. This is the world of the woman, with children, divorced, with no strong male character around. A mirror contrast from Andrew Greeley's world, where the men are many things, but the women are primarily sexual beings, in this world, women are strong, solitary, self-reliant and multi-faceted characters, and the men are cardboard figures. Cece Caruso has parallels with Jill Churchill's Jane Jeffry, but Caruso's world is wackier.

    It occurs to me that Hindi dramas on Zee TV or Sony also have the same trend of having only weak male characters. Presumably the lesson is that these products are not directed at my demographic (male, patriarchal :) ).

    Friday, July 01, 2005

    Science: Ants has the strangest story about ants that you could imagine. A must-read!


    It is a pity that we're destroying the world before we have had a chance to understand it.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    Book: The Bishop Goes to The University

    Andrew Greeley's Bishop Blackie Ryan solves yet another locked room mystery. The reason for the mystery and the motive for the murder - both remain mysterious even at the end of the book. But Blackie is a charming character, and one wants to follow him on his expeditions.

    Saturday, June 25, 2005

    Answering ID : Who Designed the Designer?

    Intelligent Design (ID) is the idea that living organisms show evidence of having been designed. The only reason to discuss this idea is that proponents of ID want this idea taught in the science classroom as a alternative to the theory of evolution.

    Jay Richards is puzzled about how the question of "Who designed the Designer?" provides a refutation of ID arguments.

    Thinking out aloud:

    0. "Who designed the designer?" is not a refutation of ID, it has no logical force against ID. It is a changing of the subject, a non-sequitur.

    A. Who designed Mount Rushmore? Some human. Who designed humans? Humans were not designed, their origins are described by the Theory of Evolution. At this point Jay Richards is permitted to change his mind about this being a non-sequitur {grin}.

    1. Is the question "Who designed the designer?" a refutation of design arguments?

    A. No. It is only a rhetorical device that reminds one of why design arguments for the origin of species are not scientific. One could assert that the world was created as described by the Bible. Such an assertion, who knows, may even be true. But it is not scientific. The design argument for the origin of species is similarly not scientific.

    2. Does the fact of design stand independent of our knowledge of the designer?

    A. The answer has to be No, in general. Suppose we assert that "X is best explained by design" but subsequently we are able to show that a designer for X could not possibly exist. Then the status of design being the best explanation melts away. We might be able to effect a rescue, but only by entering the metaphysical realms that Jay Richards wants to avoid, to be able to assert "X is designed" and "the designer of X does not exist" simultaneously.

    If it is inconceivable to Jay Richards that evolution could ever explain the origin of the bacterial flagellum, and that opens the door for him, to Intelligent Design, then if it is inconceivable to me that we could possibly identify the Designer, then that opens the door to evolution and natural processes.

    I don't think that Jay Richards will make the mistake of saying that the fact that "X is designed" is proof of the designer. It is not, any more than the fact that "light propagates as waves" proves that the existence of the lumniferous aether, the substance though which light waves propagate. "X is designed by Y" merely names Y, it does not provide an explanation or demonstration of the existence of Y. "XBlah is what causes apples to fall off apple trees" merely names XBlah, we could equally well say "XBlah in conjunction with YBlah is what causes apples to fall". Does XBlah or XBlah and YBlah exist? Apples do fall, don't they? That is not proof of XBlah or YBlah. It is when we provide more properties, e.g, XBlah is also what keeps the moon in its orbit, XBlah follows an inverse square law, etc., that we move XBlah from being just a name to being a theory of gravity.

    3. How about possible Extra Terrestrial Intelligence? Suppose we receive a radio signal from outer space that appears to be of non-natural origin, are we simply creating a name "ETI" to explain the radio signal, or have we found a new entity? What is the point of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)?

    A. We would have only provisionally found a new entity. If we cannot infer from the content of the radio signal anything about the nature of ETI and we cannot find any other evidence, e.g, by looking towards the origin of the radio signal in other bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, then ETI remains an adhoc explanation. It may be worth remembering why scientists are conducting searches for ETI, however. It is because they think that the laws of physics, chemistry and biology that underlie the origin of the earth and life on earth are equally well in operation elsewhere in the vast expanse of the universe. In our current stage of understanding, however, SETI is like buying a lottery ticket, we are hoping to get lucky. You will find scientists who believe SETI is a waste of money.

    4. Isn't "who designed the designer?" an overreach of Ockham's Razor?

    A. Pace Richards, the "simplistic and truncated form of Ockham's Razor" does not outlaw all design inferences.

    We have independent confirmation of the existence of humans who can do design activity and the examples that Jay Richards could give all day of rational design inferences without knowledge of the identity or intentions of the designer will all be, I bet, implicitly be human acts of design. Certainly, in postulating that the English text we observe in reading his essay is the product of a human, we are not multiplying entities beyond need, we are not creating any new entity as an explanation at all, and there is no invocation of Ockham's Razor at all. Yes, in general, we do not know the specific identity ( the person's name, fingerprints, DNA signature) of the designer, nor do we know the designer's intent. That is why, for instance, there are scholarly debates about who actually wrote Shakespeare's plays.

    If we take stretch the meaning of "design" and include bees, ants or birds in the set of known entities that can design (as in beehives, ant hills and nests) we are still not creating any entity that is not otherwise known.

    5. Yes, but couldn't the regress be real, and ID still be justified?

    A. The reality of the Designer is suspect until we can say something more about the Designer than just "The Designer designed X". The regress could be real, and ID could be justified, but we are not going to learn so merely by making assertions. We have to say something more about the Designer or the process of design to address the reality of ID. "Who designed the designer?" is a rhetorical device to remind us of this fact.

    6. ID is merely a proximate explanation, not an ultimate explanation It is merely addressing the modest question "Is specified complexity in X a reliable marker of intelligent design?" It is not interested in the regress implied by "who designed the designer".

    A. We again hit our head against the brick wall, that there is no reliable marker of intelligent design unless we can show that the designer exists. "I cannot conceive of a non-design explanation for X" is not binding on anyone except he who utters it. The proximate explanation for where the gas in the car came from, the BP station on Bellevue Way stands up only because we know already that there is an ultimate explanation involving Alaska, refineries and humans.

    In the case of the woman found dead in her kitchen with a knife in her back, the detective's proximate conclusion that it was murder and not an accident stands because he is saying, it was done by another human, and not e.g, a poltergeist. If the detective had to postulate some previously unknown entity to explain the murder, then the detective's assistant would be rightfully skeptical. It would be meaningful for the detective's assistant to ask - where did the poltergeist come from? what are its origins? what are its characteristics? and this would not be some kind of unjustified delving into ultimate causes or the higher reaches of metaphysical thought.

    7. "All that said, I don’t see any reason to concede the premise that leads to the regress in the first place." My watch is designed, but my watchmaker doesn't have gears.

    A. The property in question is not about specific features such as gears, or specified complexity or fine-tuning. The property in question is that of existence and of origin.


    Can the Designer be elevated from being anything but XBlah? Can anything be said about the Designer that is not religious in nature?


    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    An Ethical dilemma-XII

    I missed posting this. It has relevance also because the Terri Schiavo case has flared up again, if briefly. Gandhiji's thoughts on when it would be appropriate to not support human life are at its clearest in this essay. I should have posted this after the fifth or sixth post in this series.

    The Gujarati original of this appeared in Navajivan, 28-10-1928.



    A correspondent writes:

    "I have read your article “The Fiery Ordeal” over and over again but it has failed to satisfy me. Your proposal about the killing of monkeys has taken me aback. I believed that a person like you with his being steeped in ahimsa would never swerve from the right path even though the heavens fell. And now you say that you might kill off the monkeys to protect your Ashram against their inroads. Maybe that my first impression about you was wrong. But I cannot describe what a shock your proposal about the killing of the monkeys has given me, and may I also confess, how angry it has made me feel against you? Would you kindly help me out of my perplexity?"

    I have received several other letters too in the same strain. I am afraid people have formed an altogether exaggerated estimate of me. These good people seem to think that because I am trying to analyse and define the ideal of ahimsa I must have fully attained that ideal. My views regarding the calf and the monkeys seem happily to have shattered this illusion of theirs. Truth to me is infinitely dearer than the ‘mahatmaship’ which is purely a burden. It is my knowledge of my limitations and my nothingness which has so far saved me from the oppressiveness of the ‘mahatmaship’. I am painfully aware of the fact that my desire to continue life in the body involves me in constant himsa, that is why I am becoming growingly indifferent to this physical body of mine. For instance I know that in the act of respiration I destroy innumerable invisible germs floating in the air. But I do not stop breathing. The consumption of vegetables involves himsa but I find that I cannot give them up. Again, there is himsa in the use of antiseptics, yet I cannot bring myself to discard the use of disinfectants like kerosene, etc., to rid myself of the mosquito pest and the like. I suffer snakes to be killed in the Ashram when it is impossible to catch and put them out of harm’s way. I even tolerate the use of the stick to drive the bullocks in the Ashram Thus there is no end of himsa which I directly and indirectly commit. And now I find myself confronted with this monkey problem. Let me assure the reader that I am in no hurry to take the extreme step of killing them. In fact I am not sure that I would at all be able finally to make up my mind to kill them.

    As it is, friends are helping me with useful suggestions and the adoption of some of them may solve the difficulty at least temporarily without our having to kill them. But I cannot today promise that I shall never kill the monkeys even though they may destroy all the crop in the Ashram. If as a result of this humble confession of mine, friends choose to give me up as lost, I would be sorry but nothing will induce me to try to conceal my imperfections in the practice of ahimsa. AlI claim for myself is that I am ceaselessly trying to understand the implications of great ideals like ahimsa and to practise them in thought, word and deed and that not without a certain measure of success as I think. But It know that I have a long distance yet to cover in this direction. Unless therefore the correspondent in question can bring himself to bear with my imperfections I am sorry I can offer him but little consolation.


    Another correspondent writes:

    "Supposing my elder brother is suffering from a terrible and painful, malady and doctors have despaired of his life and I too feel likewise, should I in the circumstances put him out of life?"

    My reply is in the negative. I am afraid some of my correspondents have not even taken the trouble to understand my article. In propounding their conundrums they forget that whilst I have certainly compared the case of an ailing human being with that of an ailing calf and recommended the killing of the former in exactly similar circumstances, in actual practice such a complete analogy is hardly ever to be found. In the first place the human body being much more manageable in bulk is always easier to manipulate and nurse; secondly man being gifted with the power of speech more often than not is in a position to express his wishes and so the question of taking his life without his consent cannot come within the rule. For I have never suggested that the life of another person can be taken against his will without violating the principle of ahimsa.

    Again, we do not always despair of the life of a person when he is reduced to a comatose state and even when he is past all hope he is not necessarily past all help. More often than not it is both possible and practicable to render service to a human patient till the very end. Whilst, therefore, I would still maintain that the principle enunciated regarding the calf applies equally to man and bird and beast I should expect an intelligent person to know the obvious natural difference between a man and an animal. To recapitulate the conditions the fulfilment of all of which alone can warrant the taking of life from the point of view of ahimsa:

    l. The disease from which the patient is suffering should be incurable.

    2. All concerned have despaired of the life of the patient.

    3. The case should be beyond all help or service.

    4. It should be impossible for the patient in question to express his or its wish.

    So long as even one of these conditions remains unfulfilled the taking of life from the point of view of ahimsa cannot be justified.


    A third correspondent writes:

    "Well, the killing of the calf is all right so far as it goes. But have you considered that your example is likely to afford a handle to those who indulge in animal sacrifices and thus accentuate the practice; do you not know that even those who commit these deeds argue that the animals sacrificed gain merit in the life to follow?"

    Such abuse of my action is quite possible, and inevitable so long as there are hypocrisy and ignorance in this world. What crimes have not been committed in the world in the sacred name of religion? One therefore need not be deterred from doing what one considers to be right merely because one’s conduct may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by others. And as for those who practise animal sacrifice, surely they do not need the authority of my example to defend their conduct since they profess to take their stand on the authority of the Shastras. My fear however is that proceeding on my analogy some people might actually take into their head summarily to put to death those whom they might imagine to be their enemies on the plea that it would serve both the interests of society and the ‘enemies’ concerned, if the latter were killed. In fact I have often heard people advance this argument. But it is enough for my purpose to know that my interpretation of ahimsa affords no basis whatever for such an argument, for in the latter case there is no question of serving or anticipating the wishes of the victims concerned.

    Finally, even if it were admitted that it was in the interest of the animal or the enemy in question to be summarily dispatched the act would still be spelt as himsa because it would not be altogether disinterested. The fallacy is so obvious. But who can help people who seeing see not, or are bent upon deceiving themselves?

    Young India, l-11-1928

    Life at Low Reynolds Number

    This talk by E.M. Purcell is a classic, and you may enjoy reading it as much as I did.

    Something there caught my peripheral vision:

    "I come back for a moment to Osborne Reynolds. That was a very great man. He was a professor of engineering, actually. He was the one who not only invented Reynolds number, but he was also the one who showed what turbulence amounts to and that there is an instability in flow, and all that. He is also the one who solved the problem for how you lubricate a bearing, which is a very subtle problem that I recommend to anyone who hasn't looked into it. But I discovered just recently in reading in his collected works that toward the end of his life, in 1903, he published a very long paper on the details of the sub mechanical universe , and he had a complete theory which involved small particles of diameter 10^{-18} cm. It gets very nutty from there on. It's a mechanical model, the particles interact with one another and fill all space. But I thought that, incongruous as it may have seemed to put this kind of stuff in between our studies of the sub mechanical universe today,"

    It reminded me of this, about physicist, Wolfgang Pauli :

    "There was another, rather bizarre side to Pauli that is only now beginning to come into view with the publication of more than a thousand letters showing his attempts to explore the unconscious and find a common language for the description of mind and matter. Jung, in his 1935 essay "Dream Symbols of the Process of Individuation," wrote: "My material consists of more than 1000 dreams and visual impressions of a scientifically educated younger man. For the purpose of the present investigation I have studied the first 400 of these dreams." The anonymous dreamer, as we know now, was Wolfgang Pauli."
    "....Pauli sought to investigate the human psyche as deeply as he explored the physical world. But he did not feel ready to publish his psychic investigations."

    Nuttiness and scientific creativity may be joined at the hip.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    Commencement Address by Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple and Pixar (and NeXT), gave the commencement address at Stanford this year. Some newsreports called the speech morbid, because it talked about death.

    ".... Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true."

    Obviously, I disagree (or why would I post it here?)

    PS: I disagree with the news-reports.

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Books : Avenger

    I really loved Frederick Forsyth's "The Dogs of War" and "The Day of The Jackal". I think those were his best books. Avenger is better than most of his others, but not as good as the aforementioned two. Well worth reading. The story neatly fits into recent events, including the meltdown of Yugoslavia and the emergence of the Al Qaeda. The story at one point relies on the success of an elaborate plan, and the main surprise to the reader is how the plan unfolds - this is unlike, when the Jackal has to improvise. Also Forsyth's account of hacking into corporate computers doesn't sound convincing unlike the logistics described in his two best books. But certainly not a waste of time, this book.

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    An Ethical Dilemma-XI

    Excerpt from a letter to H.S.L Polak, Dec 7, 1928.

    "The calf incident has provided me with much instruction and an equal amount of amusement. It has thrown on me a tremendous amount of work in that I have to go through dozens of letters or rather essays on ahimsa. The majority of which were not in ahimsa but himsa tone. I do not know that I ever held a different view from the one I have now expressed though I had not as clear a perception of it as I seem to have now. You may not remember that when West brought to me a cat whose head was full of maggots and was living in tortures, I endorsed his suggestion that the poor animal’s life should be ended by drowning and it was done immediately. And at the Ashram too I allowed Maganlal to destroy rabid dogs."


    I found this next funny:


    December 14, 1928


    I thank you for your letter. The calf incident was an isolated case with which I was called upon to deal personally. The rats question is too big a question for me to handle. You will therefore excuse me for not dealing with it in the pages of Young India.

    Yours sincerely



    I do not touch upon the matter of the calf in Navajivan; none should therefore conclude that I have forgotten about it. Two types of people have criticized my action: one, those who are full of anger against me, two, those who are thoughtful. I know that my action which appears to me to be innocent has shocked the second type of people, and chiefly the Jains among them. I have been scrutinizing Jain literature. I believed there ought to be a great deal of support for my action in the Jain books. An expert professing the Jain religion had sent me his opinion and an article in which I found such support.

    Hence I carried on correspondence with known Jain friends. As a result I have received the following article [footnote: not included here. {unfortunately}]. I publish it for the benefit of those who can think objectively.

    [From Gujarati]
    Navajivan, 13-1-1929


    Excerpt from letter to Chaganlal Gandhi, February 11, 1929

    "You would have already known about the death of Rasik. [footnote: Son of Harilal Gandhi; he passed away at Delhi on February 8, 1929 after prolonged illness. ] I have been constantly comparing the circumstances of his death to the calf’s. We were happy in the death of the calf. We rejoiced in having poisoned him. Rasik passed away on his own. Why should we then be unhappy? If we are, it is because of our selfishness. Moreover, for the last two months, he had immersed himself in prayers and so he has risen high. The saying in the villages that the candles return to their original form of wax after they are burnt up, is beautiful and is worth pondering over. You must have seen that in Young India and Navajivan.


    Excerpt from a letter, August 29, 1929

    "Have not persons with the noblest feelings got confused intellectually? It happened to Arjuna. I have no doubt at all about my sincerity of motive in killing the calf. But many have ascribed confusion of intellect to me. How can I say that they are wrong? In the same way I have attributed intellectual confusion to Surendra. That should be no reason for him to feel unhappy. I have written him a consoling letter yesterday."


    A letter, September 14, 1929

    "I cannot give a satisfactory reply to your letter from this distance. I must know many more details. But some points can be clarified. A wrong should never be concealed. If there has been a lapse, it should be immediately made public. This applies particularly to a trustee. It is quite easy thus to lay down a principle. But so long as the erring person who is expected to confess is not able to see his error, the difficulties of such a problem multiply no end. Nobody can be forced to repent his error. Nobody will, or should, till he sincerely sees his error. Take, for instance, my attitude in the case of the calf. People could have lovingly tried to show me my error. But what was the use of attacking me? If it failed to make me see my error, may not the same be true in this case? But I must be fully acquainted with all the facts to know whether it is so. However, where do I have the time for that? And how can it be done through correspondence? I therefore wish to show another and easier way. The duty of ahimsa arose from the imperfections of man. Ahimsa means forgiveness, which in turn means generosity. We should try to be generous to the guilty. This is very necessary in the management of institutions. Where there is generosity there will be patience."


    Finally, this last from an essay on another subject:

    "The Shastras have taught us both our ideal dharma and our practical dharma....

    "However, we do not seek solutions to such problems by regarding them as matters of absolute dharma. Relative dharma does not proceed on a straight path like a railway track. It has, on the contrary, to make its way through a dense forest where there is not even a sense of direction. Hence in this case, even one step is sufficient. Many circumstances have to be considered before the second step is taken and, if the first step is towards the north, the second may have to be taken towards the east. In this manner, although the path may appear crooked, since it is the only one which is correct, it can also be regarded as the straight one. Nature does not imitate geometry. Although natural forms are very beautiful, they do not fit in with geometrical patterns."


    An Ethical Dilemma-X

    {Gujarati original in Navajivan, 2-12-1928}


    A correspondent who signs himself “A young heart” has addressed me a long letter dealing with a number of subjects. This anxiety to keep the writer’s name secret betrays cowardice or lack of moral courage, alas, fast becoming but too common amongst us. It ill becomes those who aspire after swaraj. I would appeal to our young men to shed this moral weakness and speak out their thoughts with courage and yet with humility and restraint. Even if they cannot be sure of their sense of discrimination and courtesy, let them express their thoughts in the language that comes to them naturally. Cowardly silence will not only not teach them discrimination or courtesy but it will demoralize them into the bargain.


    To come now to the questions adverted to by “A young heart” in his letter: The first one is about the yet unfinished calf episode. After observing that it was a grievous error on my part to have killed that calf, he goes on to give his arguments which I will skip over as they have already been answered in Navajivan. He then sums up:

    "In short if the poor calf had the tongue to speak it would certainly have implored you to spare it the poison injection and let it die a natural death after drawing its allotted number of breaths. It seems to me that in an excess of pity for the suffering animal you betrayed yourself into a great error and soiled your pure hands with the blood of an innocent calf. I am sure that on further reflection the truth of my observation and the magnitude of your mistake will become clear as daylight to you. It would be improper to say anything more to one like you who has seen truth face to face, still I cannot help adding that in case you ever discover your error and according to your nature confess it to the world, the world would feel grateful to you and further misunderstanding on the subject would be prevented. As it is, your action is bound to be misinterpreted and the sin of it all will be on your head. The sooner, therefore, you confess your error the better it would be for you and the world. May God vouchsafe to us all light and understanding! "

    Let me hasten to tell this writer and all those who think like him that I am not in a position to avail myself of their advice. But this much I can promise that the moment I discover that I was wrong I will in all humility confess the wrong and also make for it all the amends possible. Let me also admit that my error, if an error it is found to be in the long run, would be deemed to be no light one as I shall in that event have been guilty of committing an irreligious act—be it in ignorance—in the name of religion. Such a thing would be reprehensible in anybody; in me not the least. For I know that for good or for evil, my conduct is likely to influence many. I have thus a full sense of my responsibility.

    But whilst I have not the slightest desire to minimize my responsibility in the matter, I believe that if in spite of the best of intentions one is led into committing mistakes, they do not really result in harm to the world or, for the matter of that, any individual. God always saves the world from the consequences of unintended errors of men who live in fear of Him. Those who are likely to be misled by my example would have gone that way all the same even if they had not known of my action. For in the final analysis a man is guided in his conduct by his own inner promptings, though the example of others might sometimes seem to guide him. But be it as it may, I know that the world has never had to suffer on account of my errors because they were all due to my ignorance. It is my firm belief that not one of my known errors was wilful. Indeed what may appear to be an obvious error to one may appear to another as pure wisdom. He cannot help himself even if he is under a hallucination. Truly has Tulsidas said:

    "Even though there never is silver in mother-o’pearl nor water in the sunbeams, while the illusion of silver in the shining shell or that of water in the beams lasts, no power on earth can shake the deluded man free from the spell."

    Even so must it be with men like me who, it may be, are labouring under a great hallucination. Surely, God will pardon them and the world should bear with them. Truth will assert itself in the end.


    The other question touched by “A young heart” in his letter is regarding the monkeys. He writes:

    "All that I wish to write regarding the monkeys is that you will, pray, not entertain the idea of killing them even in a dream. If they threaten your crops you may adopt such measures for keeping them from mischief as other farmers do, as for instance pelting them with stones, shouting, etc., but for heaven’s sake do not recommend their killing for a paltry few measures of
    grain. It would be wanton selfishness to compass such destruction for a trifling gain. There cannot be two opinions in this matter: Hindus will always regard your action as himsa pure and simple. It is only on such occasions that one’s ahimsa is put to the test. Is it not monstrous to deprive a fellow-creature of life for the sake of a miserable little crop? What selfishness and what cruelty! How can such an iniquitous suggestion proceed from your lips at all? Well, you may by your superior brute force kill the monkeys but remember you will have to pay the price for it one day, and before the Great White Throne all your subtle arguments will avail you nothing. In the name of mercy, therefore, I humbly beseech you not to besmirch your hands by such cruel deeds."

    That this question should be put to me in this way at this late hour of the day surprises me. I have already admitted that there would be violence in killing the monkeys. But what these professors of ahimsa do not seem to realize is that even so there is himsa in stoning or otherwise torturing them. By restricting the meaning of ahimsa to non-killing we make room for nameless cruelties in this country and bring the fair name of ahimsa into disrepute and if we continue like this we shall as a nation soon forfeit our proud title as specialists in ahimsa. What I want is not only to be saved from killing the monkeys but from stoning or otherwise hurting them as well. That is why I have invited suggestions from such readers of this journal as believe in ahimsa. But instead of helping me, most readers have responded only by bombarding me with angry criticisms without even troubling to read my articles, much less to understand them; and even “A young heart” has not been able to avoid this pitfall. I can understand an honest difference of opinion, but what can be the use of advice based on assumptions not in the least warranted by my writings?


    The third question adverted to by “A young heart” is that of Hindu-Muslim unity. I cull the following sentences from his observations:

    "Thinking that your efforts at establishing Hindu-Muslim unity have proved fruitless you are sitting with your lips almost sealed in this matter. That does not seem to me to be right. You may keep your silence on the question of unity, but do not you think that it is your duty to ascertain facts whenever there is a communal disturbance and after full consideration to express your opinion on merits? You may not take an active part but how will it injure the interests of the country if after giving an impartial hearing to both the sides you frankly speak to whomsoever might appear guilty in your eyes? The attitude that you have taken up with regard to the Godhra riot and Surat is, to be frank, hardly proper. Where is your valour gone now which you displayed abundantly on other occasions by calling a spade a spade? Good God! I am really surprised at this attitude of yours. I humbly ask you to advise the Hindus, if they cannot observe ahimsa as defined by you, to fight, in self-defence, those who assault or murder them and their dear ones without cause."

    I have already explained my position in this matter. I trust it is not out of fear that I do not air my views on this subject nowadays. But when it may be out of place for me to write or when I have not sufficient material to form an opinion or when the matter does not fall within my province, I consider it to be my duty to maintain silence. At present neither of the two parties is prepared to accept my solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem. There is therefore no occasion for me to express my opinion.

    There remains the question of expressing opinion on the riots that have taken place or might take place in the future. When the subject itself, as I have already pointed out, has gone out of my province, there can be no question of my expressing an opinion on events that may arise. Again, if I proceed to express opinion on such matters before scrutinizing what both the parties might have to say on them, my conduct would be justly held to be improper and even impertinent. There would also be the danger of my misjudging. And how can I set out to make an inquiry into a question when I know that I have no ready solution for it?

    Let no one however run away with the idea, from this, that I have washed my hands of this question for good. I am simply biding my time like an expert physician who has faith in his remedy. It is my firm belief that mine alone is the sovereign remedy for this seemingly incurable communal disease and that in the end one or both the parties will willy-nilly accept my cure. In the mean time those who want will fight, in spite of whatever I might say. Nor do they need any prompting from me.

    This I have said repeatedly; I do not want any cowardice in our midst. The heroism of ahimsa cannot be developed from cowardice. Bravery is essential to both himsa and ahimsa. In fact it is even more essential in the latter for ahimsa is nothing if it is not the acme of bravery.

    Young India, 3-1-1929