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.