Saturday, December 30, 2006

Solar transit of space shuttle and space station

The picture of the space shuttle and space station against the sun in the picture by Theirry Legault here touches some mystical part of me, which was no doubt nourished by too much sci-fi.

The separation between the shuttle and the space station was 200 meters, as per the photographer (or you can estimate it from the photograph and fact that the sun subtends an angle of 0.5°).


Two on Pakistan

Can't find the byline, but whoever wrote the following shows a perception uncommon in the Western press:

Pakistan could become next US nightmare

"Soon after he seized power in 1999 - ahead of being sacked by Sharif - The Economist magazine called Musharraf a "useless dictator". Seven years later, he hangs onto power without having achieved much in the way of reform, largely because the US regards him as key to keeping the Islamists out of power. That is turning out to be another big misconception in Washington."

Here is Tariq Ali, in a piece originally published in the London Review of Books:
The General in his labyrinth.

Two items that struck me:

On the death of one dictator yesterday, this remembrance of another dictator seems apt:

"Pakistan’s first uniformed ruler, General Ayub Khan, a Sandhurst-trained colonial officer, seized power in October 1958 with strong encouragement from both Washington and London. They were fearful that the projected first general election might produce a coalition that would take Pakistan out of security pacts like Seato and towards a non-aligned foreign policy. Ayub banned all political parties, took over opposition newspapers and told the first meeting of his cabinet: ‘As far as you are concerned there is only one embassy that matters in this country: the American Embassy.’ In a radio broadcast to the nation he informed his bewildered ‘fellow countrymen’ that ‘we must understand that democracy cannot work in a hot climate. To have democracy we must have a cold climate like Britain.’"

The second is this:
"In western Afghanistan, it is only the Iranian influence that has preserved a degree of stability. If Ahmedinejad was provoked into withdrawing his support, Karzai would not last more than a week."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Uncertain about Heisenberg

In a comment at Woit's Not Even Wrong, Paul Jackson points to this essay by E. Prugovecki, which is about the less-than-solid foundations - both mathematical and philosophical - of modern physics, in particular, quantum field theory.

There are many things to examine in that essay. However, for now, I look at a quote from Heisenberg that Prugovecki actually uses twice!

Quote 1:

And, in a similar vein, Heisenberg (1971) comments: If predictive power were the only criterion of truth, Ptolomy's astronomy would be no worse than Newton's.

Quote 2:

...but as Heisenberg acerbicly pointed out on one occasion, if predictive power were indeed the only criterion for truth, Ptolemy's astronomy would be no worse than Newton's (Heisenberg, 1971, p. 212).

The reference is : Heisenberg, W.: 1971, Physics and Beyond, Harper and Row, New York

To produce Newton's astronomy, we need his three laws of motion and the law of gravitation. The laws of motion are of great generality and describe non-gravitational phenomena as well (e.g., a lot of today's civil and mechanical engineering is included) Leaving that aside, Newton's laws describe bodies falling at the earth's surface, as well as the motions of planets, and the motions of their satellites. One also finds Newton's laws adequate, e.g., for galactic motions - general relativistic corrections are small. Ptolemy has nothing to say about anything but the planets. Just on predictive power, Newton's astronomy is infinitely superior to Ptolemy's.

So, I disagree with Heisenberg's remark, as presented in Prugovecki's essay. Heisenberg, no doubt, knew all of what I just wrote, and that is what leads to my feeling of uncertainty. What did he mean?

Another paper from SAAG

Somalia : Jihadis emulating Taliban's tactics by B Raman.


"An important lesson from Afghanistan and Iraq is the danger of under-estimating the motivation and resilience of the jihadi forces. How to prevent the recent Afghan history from repeating itself in Somalia? This cannot be done by non-Muslim forces. Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco etc have to be encouraged to take the initiative in bringing about an Islamic solution to the problems of Somalia, which will not serve the agenda of Al Qaeda and the IIF. The time has come to encourage these countries to come together in a strategic alliance with the twin objectives of countering ----with Islamic and not Western arguments and tactics --- Al Qaeda and the IIF on the one side and Iran on the other. Islam of Al Qaeda brand poses a threat to the peace and stability of this region today. Iranian machinations could pose an equal threat tomorrow.

End quote.

The Saudis supported the Taliban until 9/11, so presumably their solution would be Talibanism minus anti-Western rhetoric and actions.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Yet another war

Another war - Ethiopia and Somalia's nominal government versus Somalia's Islamists who have control of most of the country - is launching itself. No quick resolution is likely. This will likely be touted as an expansion of the Jihad. All such areas of war are fertile nesting grounds for terrorists of the al Qaeda ilk.


Meanwhile, Kabul Express still lingers with me. Plus stories of a Vietnam Christmas (on turcopolier) and the story of a WW I Christmas truce. It seems to me that recognizing the humanity of the adversary is only one tiny part putting an end to war. Right now, all it does is give one a mild regret that the other chap has to be killed.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Kabul Express

Kabul Express is a movie I greatly enjoyed, and would strongly recommend to most people. It is best if you know Hindi; but the subtitles are adequate. If you're not familiar with the subcontinent you might not follow some bits. The story is that of two rather green Indian journalists who go to Afghanistan, after the Taliban were overthrown, to interview a Taliban or two, and the adventures they have with a few other folks. The movie is light-hearted in a grim setting, and most of the time you will be laughing.

A review picked at random.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


-- They reflect the money I have (or in the credit card's case, don't have) at any period of time. These appear on my balance sheet. Income and expense accounts reflect where money comes from or goes to. --

Analysis Patterns - Reusable Object Models
Martin Fowler.

What does that mean?
I've been tagged by CIP.
That being so, the rules are:

Grab the book closest to you.
Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence.
Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog.
Name the book and the author.
Tag three people.

I tag:

Sayvasachi and (a long shot)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sufficient cause for death penalty

I won't be happy until I can impose death penalties on Saudis who annoy me. Not that I ever will. But I think Saudi Arabia should be expelled from the community of nations.

Wednesday December 20 2006 09:42 IST

ALAPPUZHA: Losing one’s way in Saudi Arabia could mean losing one’s life. Jojo Joseph, 31, a native of Mariyapuram, near Edathua, in Alappuzha district stumbled on this great truth on Monday. What saved him from the sword was the timely intervention of the Union Government.

Jojo, an employee of an electronic firm in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, who had gone to a place near Madina to see his wife Sheeba, a nurse, and their new-born, lost his way and ended up on the road to Madina.

Jojo, who did not know that the road was out of bounds for people belonging to other religions during the pilgrimage season, was arrested by the police at Al-Azeez, a place near Madina. The Saudi religious court ordered that Jojo be beheaded at noon (IST) on Tuesday ‘for trespassing into the area.’

Jojo conveyed the news to his folks in Mariyapuram who contacted Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy.

Chandy, who was in Kottayam, directed his office to send fax messages to the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahmed and T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. “It was a race against time,” said Oommen Chandy.

“After sending the messages, I called up Vayalarji, Ahmed and Nair. They swung into action in no time. The embassy came to know about the incident only when they received my fax,” Chandy said.

Chandy spoke to Jojo on his cellphone who gave him the name of the police station where he was lodged.

At the instance of the Prime Minister’s office, the External Affairs Secretary contacted the Saudi Government and convinced the authorities that Jojo had lost his way and that there was no ulterior motive in moving along the road.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bell Labs - a memorial

Dave Burstein, at has the following -

"As Lucent and Bell Labs Dies
Set the flags to half-mast
"They looked for dung but found gold, which is just opposite of the experience of most of us." Describing Wilson and Penzias’ Bell Labs discovery of the Big Bang radiation.

Claude Shannon would ride his unicycle through the halls of Bell Labs, but when he stopped he invented communications theory. Applying that theory suggested megabit speeds over copper were possible, and DSL is the practical application. Crucial early work came directly and indirectly from the Bell Labs and Telcordia. Today, 160 million homes have DSL connections. Dozens of the engineers whose work has been reported by DSL Prime were deeply influenced by their time at the Labs.

Another great moment came when Wilson and Penzias couldn’t get rid of some noise in their radio telescope, even after shoveling off the bat guano. No matter which way they pointed, that three degrees above absolute zero noise wouldn’t go away. Eventually, they found an explanation; this was the cosmic background radiation from the big bang.

Alcatel deserves no blame for picking up the final pieces and hopefully preserving some of the fragments. I’ve been covering the decline of Bell Labs literally since my first solo interview as a reporter. Jeremy Bernstein came to the WBAI studios nearly twenty years ago and discussed his worries about the lab’s future. He had just written 3 Degrees Above Zero, which chronicled both the Wilson-Penzias experiment and glory days of the institution.

I wish I had the skill to write an obituary worthy of the Labs. From Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, the ending axe blow, one of the great moments in theater.

“I didn't see. ... Oh, these young people! [Mumbles something that cannot be understood] Life's gone on as if I'd never lived. [Lying down] I'll lie down. ... You've no strength left in you, nothing left at all. ... Oh, you ... bungler!

[He lies without moving. The distant sound is heard, as if from the sky, of a breaking string, dying away sadly. Silence follows it, and only the sound is heard, some way away in the orchard, of the axe falling on the trees.]” Project Gutenberg

Never again are we likely to read:

Nobel Lecture (8 December 1978 or other dates)
Robert W. Wilson (or ten others)
Bell Laboratories Holmdel, New Jersey, USA

Fractional Quantum Hall Effect (1998) Horst Stormer, Robert Laughlin, and Daniel Tsui
Optical Trapping (1997) Steven Chu
Laser 1981 Arthur L. Schawlow
Cosmic Background Radiation (Big Bang) (1978) Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson
Improved Understanding of Local Electronic States in Solids (1977) Philip W. Anderson
Maser 1964 Charles H. Townes
Transistor (1956) John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain and William Shockley
Wave Nature of Matter (1937) Clinton J. Davisson"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jefferson on Gandhi and Jinnah

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:

1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.

2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests.

In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still, and pursue the same object. The last appellation of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.

Thomas Jefferson
A note to Henry Lee, Aug 10, 1824

Jinnah was the Aristocrat and Gandhi was the Democrat.

It was when Gandhi opened the doors of the Indian National Congress to everyone that Jinnah left the party.

Press and Government

Something that a perceptive person soon suspects is that the American Main Stream Media is very much in bed with the Government. With regard to such suspicions, Teresa Neilsen Hayden's essay is a must-read.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Primer on Afghanistan

Christian Parenti provides a short, comprehensive view of Afghanistan.

Some excerpts that are of particular interest to me:

"Pakistan’s support for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar dates back to 1975 when the ISI supported the young radical against the nationalist government of Daud Khan. With the Communist coup in 1978 and Soviet invasion of 1979, Pakistan’s support for Hekmatyar and other Afghan guerrillas increased: CIA and Saudi money was managed by the Pakistani ISI.


Throughout the Reagan years, U.S. funding for the mujahedeen steadily increased. Facilitated by innocuously named lobbying groups like the Afghan American Educational Fund, above-board appropriations for the largely secret campaign reached $250 million annually by 1985. Much more issued from the CIA’s black budget. Fully a third of U.S. monies went to the religious zealot and Pashtun Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Now this feverishly anti-American warlord has joined forces with the Taliban.


The guerrillas here got a major boost when the extremist and pathologically ruthless commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar pledged the support of his Hezb-i-Islami, an old mujahedeen party, to Al Qaeda and made peace with the Taliban.

Pakistan yesterday and today

Borrowed from the forum:
Jinnah's Pakistan: An Interview with MA Jinnah, and how the Pakistan of Yesterday is the Pakistan of Today

My comment: Margaret Bourke-White was quite on the money in her assessment; and what is scary is that nothing really has changed in the last sixty years.

The Messiah and The Promised Land
Margaret Bourke-White was a correspondent and photographer for LIFE magazine during the WW II years. In September 1947, White went to Pakistan. She met Jinnah and wrote about what she found and heard in her book Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India ,Simon and Schuster, New York, 1949. The following are the excerpts:

Pakistan was one month old. Karachi was its mushrooming capital. On the sandy fringes of the city an enormous tent colony had grown up to house the influx of minor government officials. There was only one major government official, Mahomed Ali Jinnah, and there was no need for Jinnah to take to a tent. The huge marble and sandstone Government House, vacated by British officialdom, was waiting. The Quaid-i-Azam moved in, with his sister, Fatima, as hostess. Mr. Jinnah had put on what his critics called his "triple crown": he had made himself Governor-General; he was retaining the presidency of the Muslim League -- now Pakistan's only political party; and he was president of the country's lawmaking body, the Constituent Assembly.

"We never expected to get it so soon," Miss Fatima said when I called. "We never expected to get it in our lifetimes."

If Fatima's reaction was a glow of family pride, her brother's was a fever of ecstasy. Jinnah's deep-sunk eyes were pinpoints of excitement. His whole manner indicated that an almost overwhelming exaltation was racing through his veins. I had murmured some words of congratulation on his achievement in creating the world's largest Islamic nation.

"Oh, it's not just the largest Islamic nation. Pakistan is the fifth-largest nation in the world!"

The note of personal triumph was so unmistakable that I wondered how much thought he gave to the human cost: more Muslim lives had been sacrificed to create the new Muslim homeland than America, for example, had lost during the entire second World War. I hoped he had a constructive plan for the seventy million citizens of Pakistan. What kind of constitution did he intend to draw up?

"Of course it will be a democratic constitution; Islam is a democratic religion."

I ventured to suggest that the term "democracy" was often loosely used these days. Could he define what he had in mind?

"Democracy is not just a new thing we are learning," said Jinnah. "It is in our blood. We have always had our system of zakat -- our obligation to the poor."

This confusion of democracy with charity troubled me. I begged him to be more specific.

"Our Islamic ideas have been based on democracy and social justice since the thirteenth century."

This mention of the thirteenth century troubled me still more. Pakistan has other relics of the Middle Ages besides "social justice" -- the remnants of a feudal land system, for one. What would the new constitution do about that? .. "The land belongs to the God," says the Koran. This would need clarification in the constitution. Presumably Jinnah, the lawyer, would be just the person to correlate the "true Islamic principles" one heard so much about in Pakistan with the new nation's laws. But all he would tell me was that the constitution would be democratic because "the soil is perfectly fertile for democracy."

What plans did he have for the industrial development of the country? Did he hope to enlist technical or financial assistance from America?

"America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America," was Jinnah's reply. "Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed" -- he revolved his long forefinger in bony circles -- "the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves." He leaned toward me, dropping his voice to a confidential note. "Russia," confided Mr. Jinnah, "is not so very far away."

This had a familiar ring. In Jinnah's mind this brave new nation had no other claim on American friendship than this - that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the BoIsheviks. I wondered whether the Quaid-i-Azam considered his new state only as an armored buffer between opposing major powers. He was stressing America's military interest in other parts of the world. "America is now awakened," he said with a satisfied smile. Since the United States was now bolstering up Greece and Turkey, she should be much more interested in pouring money and arms into Pakistan. "If Russia walks in here," he concluded, "the whole world is menaced."

In the weeks to come I was to hear the Quaid-i-Azam's thesis echoed by government officials throughout Pakistan. "Surely America will build up our army," they would say to me. "Surely America will give us loans to keep Russia from walking in." But when I asked whether there were any signs of Russian infiltration, they would reply almost sadly, as though sorry not to be able to make more of the argument. "No, Russia has shown no signs of being interested in Pakistan."

This hope of tapping the U. S. Treasury was voiced so persistently that one wondered whether the purpose was to bolster the world against Bolshevism or to bolster Pakistan's own uncertain position as a new political entity. Actually, I think, it was more nearly related to the even more significant bankruptcy of ideas in the new Muslim state -- a nation drawing its spurious warmth from the embers of an antique religious fanaticism, fanned into a new blaze.

Jinnah's most frequently used technique in the struggle for his new nation had been the playing of opponent against opponent. Evidently this technique was now to be extended into foreign policy. ....

No one would have been more astonished than Jinnah if he could have foreseen thirty or forty years earlier that anyone would ever speak of him as a "savior of Islam." In those days any talk of religion brought a cynical smile. He condemned those who talked in terms of religious rivalries, and in the stirring period when the crusade for freedom began sweeping the country he was hailed as "the embodied symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity." The gifted Congresswoman, Mrs. Naidu, one of Jinnah's closest friends, wrote poems extolling his role as the great unifier in the fight for independence. "Perchance it is written in the book of the future," ran one of her tributes, "that he, in some terrible crisis of our national struggle, will pass into immortality" as the hero of "the Indian liberation."

In the "terrible crisis," Mahomed Ali Jinnah was to pass into immortality, not as the ambassador of unity, but as the deliberate apostle of discord. What caused this spectacular renunciation of the concept of a united India, to which he had dedicated the greater part of his life? No one knows exactly. The immediate occasion for the break, in the mid-thirties, was his opposition to Gandhi's civil disobedience program. Nehru says that Jinnah "disliked the crowds of ill-dressed people who filled the Congress" and was not at home with the new spirit rising among the common people under Gandhi's magnetic leadership. Others say it was against his legal conscience to accept Gandhi's program. One thing is certain: the break with Gandhi, Nehru, and the other Congress leaders was not caused by any Hindu-Muslim issue.

In any case, Jinnah revived the moribund Muslim League in 1936 after it had dragged through an anemic thirty years' existence, and took to the religious soapbox. He began dinning into the ears of millions of Muslims the claim that they were downtrodden solely because of Hindu domination. During the years directly preceding this move on his part, an unprecedented degree of unity had developed between Muslims and Hindus in their struggle for independence from the British Raj. The British feared this unity, and used their divide-and-rule tactics to disrupt it. Certain highly placed Indians also feared unity, dreading a popular movement which would threaten their special position. Then another decisive factor arose. Although Hindus had always been ahead of Muslims in the industrial sphere, the great Muslim feudal landlords now had aspirations toward industry. From these wealthy Muslims, who resented the well-established Hindu competition, Jinnah drew his powerful supporters. One wonders whether Jinnah was fighting to free downtrodden Muslims from domination or merely to gain an earmarked area, free from competition, for this small and wealthy clan.

The trend of events in Pakistan would support the theory that Jinnah carried the banner of the Muslim landed aristocracy, rather than that of the Muslim masses he claimed to champion. There was no hint of personal material gain in this. Jinnah was known to be personally incorruptible, a virtue which gave him a great strength with both poor and rich. The drive for personal wealth played no part in his politics. It was a drive for power. ......

Less than three months after Pakistan became a nation, Jinnah's Olympian assurance had strangely withered. His altered condition was not made public. "The Quaid-i-Azam has a bad cold" was the answer given to inquiries.

Only those closest to him knew that the "cold" was accompanied by paralyzing inability to make even the smallest decisions, by sullen silences striped with outbursts of irritation, by a spiritual numbness concealing something close to panic underneath. I knew it only because I spent most of this trying period at Government House, attempting to take a new portrait of Jinnah for a Life cover.

The Quaid-i-Azam was still revered as a messiah and deliverer by most of his people. But the "Great Leader" himself could not fail to know that all was not well in his new creation, the nation; the nation that his critics referred to as the "House that Jinnah built." The separation from the main body of India had been in many ways an unrealistic one. Pakistan raised 75 per cent of the world's jute supply; the processing mills were all in India. Pakistan raised one third of the cotton of India, but it had only one thirtieth of the cotton mills. Although it produced the bulk of Indian skins and hides, all the leather tanneries were in South India. The new state had no paper mills, few iron foundries. Rail and road facilities, insufficient at best, were still choked with refugees. Pakistan has a superbly fertile soil, and its outstanding advantage is self-sufficiency in food, but this was threatened by the never-ending flood of refugees who continued pouring in long after the peak of the religious wars had passed.

With his burning devotion to his separate Islamic nation, Jinnah had taken all these formidable obstacles in his stride. But the blow that finally broke his spirit struck at the very name of Pakistan. While the literal meaning of the name is "Land of the Pure," the word is a compound of initial letters of the Muslim majority provinces which Jinnah had expected to incorporate: P for the Punjab, A for the Afghans' area on the Northwest Frontier, S for Sind, -tan for Baluchistan. But the K was missing.

Kashmir, India's largest princely state, despite its 77 per cent Muslim population, had not fallen into the arms of Pakistan by the sheer weight of religious majority. Kashmir had acceded to India, and although it was now the scene of an undeclared war between the two nations, the fitting of the K into Pakistan was left in doubt. With the beginning of this torturing anxiety over Kashmir, the Quaid-i-Azam's siege of bad colds began, and then his dismaying withdrawal into himself. ....

Later, reflecting on what I had seen, I decided that this desperation was due to causes far deeper than anxiety over Pakistan's territorial and economic difficulties. I think that the tortured appearance of Mr. Jinnah was an indication that, in these final months of his life, he was adding up his own balance sheet. Analytical, brilliant, and no bigot, he knew what he had done. Like Doctor Faustus, he had made a bargain from which he could never be free. During the heat of the struggle he had been willing to call on all the devilish forces of superstition, and now that his new nation had been achieved the bigots were in the position of authority. The leaders of orthodoxy and a few "old families" had the final word and, to perpetuate their power, were seeing to it that the people were held in the deadening grip of religious superstition.

India springs a strategic surprise

In "A Matter of Honour", a history of the British Indian Army, historian Philip Mason theorizes on why Indian armies suffered defeat time and again. According to him, it was not the quality of the fighting men, they were as courageous as anyone else, and their training was actually superior to that of Europeans. Nor was it their equipment - until the 1850s when the Industrial Revolution really kicked in - Indian manufactures matched or exceeded that of Europe in quality. Indian workshops quickly duplicated European improvements in weaponry; Mason says Europeans would often rearm themselves with captured weaponry.

The reasons for failure lay in political organization, and lack of attention to the arts of war, both strategy and tactics.

Please note that these failures were in defensive wars; Indian rulers seldom had ambitions outside of their "natural sphere" between the Himalayas and the seas, and from the Indus in the West to the mouth of the Ganga/Brahmaputra in the East.

The result of military failures was disastrous for India. It lost its political independence, its sciences and its arts, and its economy. India would enter the modern world in the third world.

It seems independent India has at least partly, taken those lessons of the past to heart.

The latest is this (for a limited time, you may find the full article here
It is only a "proof-of-concept". Its significance lies in the proof-of-effort. It is an attempt to increase the cost of Chinese and Pakistani threats to those countries.

Ten centuries ago, when Mahmud of Ghazni's father, Nasir-ud-din Sabuktagin, was laying the groundwork for Mahmud's devastating invasions of Northern India, it does not seem that Indian rulers of the time recognized the threat. There is a unstated "never-again" consciousness at work here, I believe.


"The New Guardian

India unveils an all new anti-ballistic missile expected to be the fore-runner of a sophisticated air defence system to thwart, among other threats, a Pakistani nuclear weapons attack

By Raj Chengappa

It looks like the Prithvi and even flies like one, but that's where the semblance ends. On November 27, not just India but the world got to know the difference after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) unveiled a brand new missile, said to be a precursor to an advanced national air defence system.
The test was short but decisive. At 10.15 on a blustery winter morning off the east coast of Orissa, a conventional Prithvi missile posing as an enemy weapon was launched. Within seconds after its take-off, a sophisticated, long-range radar picked up the signals, analysed its flight path and sent an electronic command to an interceptor missile stationed at Wheeler Island. Almost immediately, the interceptor codenamed pad01 lifted off with a roar and plume of smoke. Travelling at five times the speed of sound, it rapidly closed in on the incoming Prithvi. Two minutes later and after some mid-course corrections, pad01 detonated its proximity fuse at a height of 50 km above the Earth. Both the missiles exploded in a ball of gas and the debris fell harmlessly into the Bay of Bengal."

End quote.

Does it make the world a safer place?
Probably not.

Should it matter?
Only in a world that embraces a concept of collective security would this be a wrong thing to do.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Glenn Greenwald on Thomas Friedman

Glenn Greenwald on Thomas Friedman is a must-read. The essay exposes the rotten core of Washington punditry.


"Put another way, these are the premises which Friedman, prior to the invasion, expressly embraced:

(1) If the war is done the right way, great benefits can be achieved.
(2) If the war is done the wrong way, unimaginable disasters will result.
(3) The Bush administration is doing this war the wrong way, not the right way, on every level.
(4) Given all of that, I support the waging of this war."


To support a war that you know is going to be executed in a destructive manner is as morally monstrous as it gets. The fact that there is some idealized, Platonic way to fight the war doesn't make that any better if you know that that isn't what is going to happen. We learn in adolescence that wanting things that we can't have -- pining for things that aren't real or possible -- is futile and irrational. To apply that adolescent fantasy world to war advocacy is the hallmark of a deeply frivolous and amoral person.

End quote

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pearls from a Pig

Our favorite Capitalist Imperialist Pig predicts the next fifty years of science.

Teach girls and die horribly

The Independent reports:

"The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni...."


Is it because this is a male teaching girls?
No, the article reports that Ms. Fatima Mushtaq has been threatened for not sending
girls home.


We need to be as fanatic about our values as the Islamists are about theirs.

It means making war on them in Afghanistan.

It means boycotting Pakistan, which supports the Taliban, and making war on it if necessary.

It means boycotting Eric Margolis, who is a Taliban apologist. He claims that the Taliban don't want girls in school to keep them from Communist influence, the Commies having infiltrated the ranks of the teachers.

It means ostracizing anyone who says "the Taliban are bad, but..."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Myth of the Enlightenment?

A Richard Shweder had a op-ed piece in the NYTimes on Monday, Atheists Agonistes. He wonders why the phenomenon someone called "AAAA" - the angry arrogant atheist attitude - is manifesting itself at this point in time.

One obvious answer that he considers is that it is a reaction to the increasing religious fundamentalism, both within and without America. But he speculates that perhaps it is because the myth of the Enlightenment is coming undone.

"The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the “dark ages,” finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago in Northern and Western Europe.

As people opened their eyes, religion (equated with ignorance and superstition) gave way to science (equated with fact and reason). Parochialism and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science."

But the world seems to be headed in a different direction. Hence an anxiety and AAAA.


Here, I continue without Shweder. One idea that is not working out is that Enlightenment values are based on objective truths about human nature and hence are universal. But these "universal" values are far from being accepted in the Islamic world, for instance. Why might this be so? My answer requires a digression.

Professor S.N. Balagangadhara (Balu) examined Western accounts of Indian culture and religion and found that the object of their descriptions is not recognizable to Indians - except those who have accepted the Western discourse. The Indian misunderstanding arises from a faulty understanding of the West. To give a probably not-so-good example, Indians identify the Western "God" with "Ishwara", even though the two are conceptually quite different, and then proceed to misunderstand everything the West says about "God".

The Western side of the misunderstanding is a bit more difficult to grasp. After all, don't they have the imprimatur of science? Hasn't the study of other cultures been ever more scientific ever since the Enlightenment?

We must detour a bit more. The social sciences say that religion is a universal. Since Christianity describes itself as a religion, Balu examines religion (in The Heathen in His Blindness) and asks what is it that makes Christianity a religion? The answer I will not explain here; but equipped with that answer, one sees that many cultures in the world do not have religion - the native Indian culture in particular does not have religion, and the construct of Hinduism as a religion is a mirage. "Hinduism" is a barrier to a truer understanding of India and must be discarded as a concept. What made the social scientists think that every culture has a religion?

The answer is that the Enlightenment is really a secularization of Christianity. One loses God, Jesus and the Bible, but retains the epistemology, metaphysics - the theology without the theos. It is Christianity that defined the non-Christians as having (false) religions; the Enlightenment thinkers and their successors continue to think of non-Christians as having religions. Science itself - as insight into the mind of God, an idea one finds echoed by Newton and Einstein - had religious roots and had to have arisen in a religious culture. The idea of God as sovereign who has delegated His sovereignty to a king or ultimately to individual humans and the human rights that arise from this sovereignty also arise from religion.

One of the implications of all this, to my mind, is that while Hindus do not have religion and are able to handle a rather incoherent 'secularism', Muslims do have a religion and if the Enlightenment is at its roots Christian, they must resist its values or abandon their religion.


Returning to Shweder - he thinks the Enlightenment story is a myth because any viable society needs religion. We think the Enlightenment is a myth because it is secularized theology. The understanding of cultural differences and managing them is a work just begun, it cannot be done within the current framework.

PS: the above is my understanding and is not binding on the authors cited.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

If you say so...

"The stereotypic image of the Muslim holy warrior with a sword in one hand and the Koran in the other would only be plausible if he was left handed, since no devout Muslim should or would touch a Koran with his left hand which is reserved for dirty chores."

- Ibn Warraq
- From: The Origins of the Koran, Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book

It is possible that someone flipped the photo below, or miscaptioned it. Or maybe the subject has two right hands, or is not carrying the Koran but a book of al-Sadr speeches? Or somebody forgot to mention to the warrior below not to feed into the stereotype. Or that these folks in the stereotype were not devout in the Ibn Warraq sense.

"MASKED A militiaman in Baghdad carries a rocket launcher and a Koran during a parade by the Mahdi Army, a militia that is reported to be splintering, as other armed gangs proliferate."


Friday, November 24, 2006

The New Physics

In the comments thread on Bee's blog

"I used the word 'unverified' with the meaning it's not verified through experimental facts that it is actually realized in nature."

"This is a nonsensical assertion. AdS/CFT is a statement about the character of mathematics that describes quantum gravity, and if you agree that it is an essentially proven one, then it follows that it is realized in Nature much like 2+2=4 is realized in Nature."


What is AdS/CFT you ask?
Wikipedia on AdS/CFT
"In physics, the AdS/CFT correspondence (anti-De-Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence), sometimes called the Maldacena duality, is the conjectured equivalence between a string theory defined on one space, and a quantum field theory without gravity defined on the conformal boundary of this space, whose dimension is lower by at least one. The name suggests that the first space is the product of anti de Sitter space (AdS) with some closed manifold like sphere, orbifold, or noncommutative space, and that the quantum field theory is a conformal field theory (CFT). However, the conjectured equivalence is more general, and is therefore sometimes termed gauge / gravity duality."


"The most known example and the first one to be studied is the duality between Type IIB supergravity on AdS5 * S5 (a product space of a five-dimensional Anti de Sitter space and a five-sphere) on one hand, and N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory on the four-dimensional boundary of the Anti de Sitter space (either a flat four-dimensional spacetime R3,1 or a three-sphere with time S3* R).[6] This is known as the AdS/CFT correspondence, a name often used for Gauge / gravity duality in general."


The reader should note:
1. AdS/CFT is a conjecture; a very well-founded one perhaps, but still a conjecture.
2. Even if proven, it does not mean it is realized in nature. In particular that we live in a 5-dimensional AdS spacetime is yet to be established. :)
3. Even if AdS/CFT is established, its relevance to ultra-high energy heavy atomic nuclei collisions is yet to be established.

This is the new style of physics. In theology, non-existence would be a permanent imperfection that mars The Perfect God, and therefore God must exist. In the new physics, the same holds with Superstring Theory.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rules for the mind

One should avoid multitasking as much as possible.

The constant breaking of attention, the switching between different tasks is detrimental to the mind.

The phone on the desk, the cell phone, email, instant messenger - turn them all off.

Don't channel-surf. Don't watch television with commercials.

When driving, drive. The driver's seat is not a home away from home.

I'd say more but I have to answer the phone :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The laws of human stupidity

Via a comment on turcopolier

"The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, according to Dr. Cipolla:

First Law - Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

This is not as obvious as it sounds, says Cipolla, because:

1. people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid; and,

2. day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one’s activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments.

Second Law
The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

Stupidity quotients appear unrelated to gender, ethnic heritage, education or other sociodemographic.

Third (and Golden) Law
A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

Fourth Law
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.

Fifth Law
A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

The Fourth Law greatly resonates with me. ( if anyone wants an example).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Internet Lesson

Life is too short to be spent debating the endless supply of idiots that become visible because of the Internet.

Added later:

Example 1 :
Example 2 : Lumo on this thread

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Webb - the Conservative

The Main-Stream Media characterizes James Webb, recently elected Senator from Virginia as a conservative. After all, he was a Reagan appointee (Secy. of the Navy) and was against women in the armed forces and so on.

As pointed out on, this is an interesting conservative :)
Read this and figure it out!

Three paragraphs from there:

"The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes."

"This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism."

"The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed."


What is unusual is not the message but the messenger. Few politicians dare speak this way, because they are all beholden to the corporate money that they would be attacking by such ideas. So, a newly elected Senator speaking this way is very encouraging, one can hope there will be a debate and useful actions resulting from this.

Stepanov's advice to programmers

A couple of years ago, Stepanov, a noted computer scientist, gave a talk to students in India, and here are some of his remarks taken from here

"1. Study , Study and Study

Never ever think that you have acquired all or most of the knowledge which exists in the world. Almost everybody in US at age of 14 and everybody in India at age of 24 starts thinking that he has acquired all the wisdom and knowledge that he needs. This should be strictly avoided.

You should be habituated to studies…exactly in the same way as you are habituated to brushing teeth and taking bath every morning. The habit of study must become a part of your blood. And the study should be from both the areas: CS, since it is your profession, and something from non-CS…Something which does not relate to your work. This would expand your knowledge in other field too. A regular study, everyday, is extremely essential. It does not matter whether you study of 20 minutes of 2 hours,but consistency is a must.

You should always study basics and fundamentals. There is no point in going for advanced topics. When I was at the age of 24, I wanted to do PhD in program verification, though I was not able to understand anything from that. The basic reason was that my fundamental concepts were not clear. Studying Algebraic Geometry is useless if you do not understand basics in Algebra and Geometry. Also, you should always go back and re-read and re-iterate over the fundamental concepts. What is the exact definition of `fundamental’? The stuff which is around for a while and which forms basic part of the concepts can be regarded as more fundamental. Of course, everybody understands what a fundamental means."

"2. Learn Professional Ethics

As a CS Professional, you are morally obliged to do a good job. What this means is that you are supposed to do your job not for your manager but for yourself. This is already told in Bhagwatgeeta : Doing duties of your life.

The direct implication of this is: never ever write a bad code. You don’t need to be fastest and run after shipping dates; rather you need to write quality code. Never write junk code. Rewrite it till it is good. Thoroughly test every piece of code that you write. Do not write codes which are “sort of alright”. You might not achieve perfection, but atleast your code should be of good quality.

Let me quote my own example in this context. You might have heard about STL, The Standard Template Library that ships in with C++ compilers. I wrote it 10 years ago, in 1994. While implementing one of the routines in the STL, namely the “search routine”, I was a bit lazy and instead of writing a good linear order implementation of KMP which was difficult to code, I wrote a best quadratic implementation. I knew that I could make the search faster by writing a linear-order implementation, but I was lazy and I did not do that. And, after 10 years of my writing STL, exactly the same implementation is still used inside STL and STL ships with an inefficient quadratic implementation of search routine even today!! You might ask me: why can’t you rewrite that? Well…I cannot,because that code is no more my property!! Further, nobody today will be interested in a standalone efficient STL …people would prefer one which automatically ships out with the compiler itself.

Moral is, you should have aesthetic beauty built inside you. You should “feel” uneasy on writing bad code and should be eager to rewrite the code till it becomes upto the quality. And to the judge the quality, you need to develop sense regarding which algorithms to use under what circumstances."

"3. Figure out your Goals

Always aspire doing bigger things in life.”Viewing promotion path as your career” is a completely wrong goal. If you are really interested in studying and learning new things, never ever aspire for being a manager. Managers cannot learn and study…they have no time. “Company ladder aspiration” is not what should be important for you.

You might feel that you want to do certain things which you cannot do till you become a manager. When you become a manager, you will soon realize that now you just cannot do anything!

You will have a great experience as programmers. But if you care for people and love people, you will never enjoy being a manager…most good managers are reluctant managers. If you see people as people, you cannot survive at management level.

Always aspire for professional greatness. Our profession is very beautiful because we create abstract models and implement them in reality. There is a big fun in doing that. We have a profession which allows us to do creative things and even gives nice salary for that.

The three biggest mistakes that people usually make are aiming for money,aiming for promotion and aiming for fame. The moment you get some of these, you aspire for some more…and then there is no end. I do not mean that you should not earn money, but you should understand how much money would satisfy your needs. Bill Gates might be the richest person in the world; he is certainly not the happiest. Our lives are far better than his.

Find your goal, and do best in the job that you have. Understand that what is in your pocket does not matter…what is in your brain finally matters.Money and fame do not matter. Knowledge matters."

"4. Follow your culture

I have seen the tradition that whatever junk is created in US, it rapidly spreads up in the rest of the world, and India is not an exception for this. This cultural change creates a very strong impact on everybody’s life. Habits of watching spicy Bollywood or Hollywood movies and listening to pop songs and all such stupid stuff gets very easily cultivated in people of your age…but believe me, there is nothing great in that. This all just makes you run away from your culture. And there is no wisdom in running away from your culture. Indian culture,which has great Vedas and stories like Mahabharata and Bhagwatgeeta is really great and even Donald Knuth enjoys reading that. You should understand that fundamental things in Indian culture teach you a lot and you should never forget them.

Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that it’s your life…do not waste it on stupid things…develop your tests, and start the fight."

Monday, November 13, 2006

The non-complexity of the mind

Creationists make an argument against the theory of evolution that goes by the name "irreducible complexity". I refer you to Wikipedia here for a detailed discussion of the argument. The idea is that that if a biological system is useless if any of its components is missing or modified then it could not have evolved - arisen from an accumulation of small changes. An every day example would be a mousetrap - it has no utility if any of its parts is missing, and so could not have evolved.

It turns out that in all cases suggested so far by the Creationists, the argument doesn't work. It doesn't work in the case of the mousetrap, either - somewhere out on the net is an example of how a good mouse-trap could arise from a series of small changes to a primitive mouse-trap. Biological systems have another trick up their sleeves as well. While the system may be useless at its current apparent function if a part is missing or changed, the modified system might very well have another use. Thus, e.g., a bacterial secretion system might evolve into a seemingly irreducibly complex flagellum - a means of locomotion that doesn't work if its parts are missing, but very plausibly works as a secretory mechanism.

As puzzles, the latter type of seemingly irreducible complex systems are the most interesting, their evolutionary pathway is not apparent from simple inspection. During the early part of its evolutionary history, the system was under a selection pressure different from that during the latter part. At some point the system "discovers" a new use, and now selection chooses improvements on the new function. Quite unlike, e.g, the idea of how the giraffe neck evolved. Supposedly, the giraffe neck is an accumulation of small changes, each small additional growth in the neck length giving its possesor an advantage in browsing tree-high foliage.

To come to the purpose of this post - it is that the evolutionary explanations of human intelligence and self-awareness to be more like the story of the giraffe neck than like the story of the bacterial flagellum. So, e.g., how did human mathematical ability arise? The standard story would be that mathematical ability is a manifestation of intelligence and from general primate intelligence to human intelligence there is a simple evolutionary pathway, small increments in intelligence almost always being advantageous selection-wise. So our minds have grown in some way analogous to the giraffe neck. Without something seemingly irreducibly complex intervening, our minds and behavior are explained by the conditions under which our predecessors evolved. This parody is the kind of explanation that bothers me. But maybe, the pathway to mathematical ability is more subtle, e.g., the functions associated with language were being selected for, and at some point those faculties "discovered" the new use of mathematics.

Anyway, enough said, I'm already sufficiently confused.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Macaca Revisited

Now Republican ex-Senator George Allen of Virginia famously threw his campaign for re-election off the rails when he referred to S.R Sidharth, a student worker for the Democratic candidate Webb, as "macaca, or whatever his name is", and "“Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.”

Frank Rich, in the Sunday NY Times, points out that even if Allen's claim that he meant nothing racist by that epithet is accepted, "Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia” was unmistakably meant to demean the young man as an unwashed immigrant, whatever his race.

Rich tells us that

"As it happened, the “macaca” who provoked the senator’s self-destruction, S. R. Sidarth, was not an immigrant but the son of immigrants. He was born in Washington’s Virginia suburbs to well-off parents (his father is a mortgage broker) and is the high-achieving graduate of a magnet high school, a tournament chess player, a former intern for Joe Lieberman, a devoted member of his faith (Hindu) and, currently, a senior at the University of Virginia. He is even a football jock like Mr. Allen. In other words, he is an exemplary young American who didn’t need to be “welcomed” to his native country by anyone."


This story did resonate with the "South Asian" community, but in an unexpected way, perhaps. Please note that Sidharth is a Hindu, and is of Indian descent. Therefore, on, a popular Pakistani web-site, Pakistanis began referring to Indians, and not fondly, as "macacas". I suppose they imagine that Allen's bigoted eye would be discerning enough to distinguish the Paki-ness of what otherwise would look to him to be yet another macaca.

There is an effort by some to promote the notion of a "South Asian-American" rather than "Indian-American". But this pretends a solidarity or common cultural mooring that does not exist.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To blog or not to blog, that is the question!

Still undecided.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Will be silent till November


Saturday, October 07, 2006

We have been warned?

Taliban official warns of Ramazan attack on US

By our correspondent

PESHAWAR: The head of the Islamabad-based Al-Quds Media Centre has received an audio message from a senior Taliban leader in which he asked Muslims living in the US to leave the country as soon as possible “because God’s punishment would fall on America in the month of Ramazan.”

Jamal Ismail, a senior journalist who once worked for Al-Jazeera television channel and is now head of the Al-Quds Media Centre, told The News that he received a phone call Thursday from Taliban leader Mulla Masoom Afghani. “Afghani said he was speaking from somewhere in Kandahar province. He read out the message in Arabic, which I recorded. In it he advised Muslim residents of America to get out to escape harm because the US could face big attacks in the month of Ramazan,” said Jamal Ismail.

According to Jamal Ismail, it was the first time that Afghani, who is head of the pro-Taliban clerics’ consultative council and the former ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, had conveyed such a message. “Afghani didn’t say that it was a dream. It appeared that he strongly believed that America was going to face punishment at the hands of Allah,” he explained.

Id ul-Fitr is October 24 (in India).

Still fighting the Civil War

Over on Colonel Lang's, there was a discussion of the American Civil War 1861-1865 - it has been taken down and even in google cache it is a fading memory.

The protagonist's argument was the war was because of an unreasonable North. The Constitution was on the side of the South, it allowed slavery. States' Rights meant that the states determined if they wanted slavery or not. Slavery would have been eventually abolished in an Independent South because it would want to stay part of the Western world. And Britain and France had managed to abolish slavery without any war.

There was another side with good arguments too. But what I want to say is that that last bit was too much for me, and I sent in a reply which went approximately like this:

"Britain and France managed to abolish slavery without secession either. Let's see - the slave trade was banned in 1808, the British banned slavery in 1838, the French banned slavery in 1848, and here in 1861, over a dying institution by then generally recognized in the West as morally reprehensible the Southerners wanted to secede? One has to wonder where they kept their brains and their hearts."

Next I check, the whole post has vanished. I cannot say that my comment was the trigger, but I can say that my IP address is banned from making comments on that blog.

I suppose the fact that the Confederacy seems rational only to its descendants and not to any outside observer is unbearable.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Condi shoots self in foot!

Bob Woodward's new book claims that CIA Director Tenet took the initiative to give then-National Security Adviser (and now Secretary of State) Condoleeza Rice an emergency briefing about the terrorist threat on July 10, 2001. According to Woodward, Tenet was brushed off. Woodward also claimed that the 9/11 Commission was not told about this meeting.

The State Department trolls rose to the defense of their boss. Spokesman Sean McCormack said that the records confirmed that the meeting took place, that the 9/11 Commisson was told about the meeting, and most importantly for Rice's reputation that "far from ignoring Mr. Tenet’s warnings, Ms. Rice acted on the intelligence and requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft, then the attorney general." (quote from the NYT).

But Ms Rice had already spoken. She did not recall the meeting, and found it incomprehensible that we think she might have ignored the terrorist threat.

""What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible," Rice said." (quote from Mother Jones).

Added later:

Further, the White House took the stand (see here) that this meeting did not take place, because it is not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report.

MYTH #3: Woodward Claims Condoleezza Rice Brushed Off George Tenet And Cofer Black's July 2001 Warning About Al Qaeda. (Bob Woodward, State Of Denial, 2006)

FACT: According To State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, The Recollections Portrayed By Woodward Do Not Reflect Tenet And Black's 9/11 Commission Testimony. "But Rice and other State Department officials denied [Woodward's claim], noting that the report of the Sept. 11 commission, which had sworn testimony from Tenet and others at the meeting, made no mention of the July 10 encounter. 'The recollections as portrayed in the Woodward book in no way reflect the public and private testimony under oath of those individuals to the 9/11 commission,' said Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman." (David E. Sanger, "White House Disputes Book's Account Of Rifts On Iraq," The New York Times, 9/30/06

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fragile Hope

The President, and collectively, the House of Representatives and the Senate, have failed in their duty to uphold the Constitution. They now have a law - specific horrors as outlined in the NYT editorial are given below - that violates the Constitution in two significant ways.

First, it takes away our liberties.
Second, it undermines the system of checks and balances, by giving the President an unchecked power, unchallengeable in the courts.

There are two slender reasons for hope. They are extremely fragile, but they are all that are left.

First, the electorate may speak this November, and entirely redo the Congress; and the Congress will, on reconvening, rework this law. However, it is unlikely that the majority of the electorate will exhibit any such wisdom. The discontent they have exhibited in opinion polls so far is that of cattle in a cattle car that has jumped the tracks. They are not sure of the competence of the driver. But they have no discomfort with where the train was headed. Second, even if the Congress changes hands, it is not clear that the Democrats will try to change this law.

The second hope, slender in the extreme too, is that the Supreme Court will throw out this law.

Clutching at straws, I am really.

Here is what the NYT editors have to say:

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.


Some of the Senators have spoken well about why this law is so bad.

Monday, September 25, 2006

KO scores a KO

I think, like Mike Lupica, quoted in a post below, Keith Olbermann began as a sports commentator.
Very clearly, this kind is not afraid of speaking their mind.
We can only cheer!

Transcript and video

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Via, sports writers see the need for a change in President.

There is a steroids scandal in baseball. Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle helped break the story. They're headed to jail because they won't reveal the names of the person or persons the government says leaked them federal grand jury testimony. Bush is against a federal shield law for reporters.

Mike Lupica reminds us of Ted Olsen's words:

" "One of the most vital functions of our free and independent press is to function as a watchdog, working to uncover stories that would otherwise go untold. Journalists in pursuit of such stories often must obtain information from individuals who, for fear of retribution or retaliation, are unwilling to be publicly identified."

He writes:

"A federal shield law was originally proposed by Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a Democrat, and Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. Specter got into this earlier this year, with modifications that specifically exclude shield rights in cases dealing with national security or terrorism.

Only in the current political climate is no distinction drawn between a pusher of steroids like Greg Anderson, Bonds' former trainer, and reporters out to tell the truth about people like Anderson. And like Bonds.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams were not threats to national security, just to some drug cheats in baseball. The idea that they must go to jail to protect the rights of those cheats is an outrage.

Sen. Specter has identified the real threat here. It is against a free press. In the America of this President, you need more than a shield law to protect that. You need a new President."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Death of the Republic


"Here is the latest version of the Military Commission Bill, including all of the compromises agreed to by the Administration and Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner. The worst parts begin on p. 81, eliminating the writ of habeas corpus, denying anyone the right to invoke rights guaranteed by Geneva in judicial actions, prohibiting the use of any foreign sources in construing the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, proclaiming that the President is the authoritative source of the meaning of Geneva with respect to the War Crimes statute, amending the War Crimes statute with language that allows the President to continue to engage in torture-lite (after all, he is now the authoritative source of its meaning), and finally, making all these amendments retroactive to November 26th, 1997 (i.e., well before September 11th, 2001. I wonder what led to this particular change?)"

Compact with Evil

Chris Floyd says exactly what I want to say this morning, and so I need not compose it myself.

Some quotes:

"But the demented psychology of this sad little shriveled-up nothing of a man {Bush} is of slight import. What matters are the actions and policies that are being carried out by the junta operating in his name – and the countenancing of this gang's crimes by the United States Congress. And that is what we have seen today: the countenancing of torture and kangaroo courts by some sad sacks of shinola lauded by the media as "men of principle." This is what we've come to, this is where are today: sick bastards and cynical bastards openly and eagerly gutting the very core of American law."

"And let us make one other point – and in a most impolitic way, for the truth is often an impolitic commodity: John McCain is a goddamned liar. Yes, he himself suffered torture, yes he came through it, yes, we all admire his fortitude during that ordeal in his youth: but his record in later life, in politics, is that of a moral coward with good PR skills. (Not that it takes much skill to wow the poltroons who squat on the commanding heights of the corporate media world today.) And today, he has opened his mouth and emitted a damnable lie, to wit: "the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved.”

"And let's put this other point plainly one more time: the American government has always been able to capture, detain, question and try terrorists. Always. The American government has for 28 years had the power to eavesdrop on anyone in the world or in the country whom they suspected even slightly of terrorism or terrorist connections. And they could and can do that instantly, without waiting for a court order or jumping through any bureaucratic hoops, under the long-existing law. Everything that Bush says his clearly illegal surveillance programs do can already be done within the law. Therefore, it is clear that the whole raison d'être behind the illegal programs is to establish the principle that the president is beyond the law. (And also, almost certainly, to perform illegal surveillance that has nothing to do with terrorism.)

"What we have seen today is no "grand compromise," no "great debate," no "act of principle" and certainly no "preservation" of the Geneva Conventions. What we have seen instead is a small group of rich, cynical, power-hungry old bastards belch forth lies in the service of torture and tyranny. And if you're not angry about that, if you're not "shrill" about that, then by God you are one piss-poor American citizen. You shame every man and woman who have fought and died and marched and worked and dreamed for our freedom."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Truth is more important than partisanship

Half a dozen tries after trying to respond on itself and failing - maybe it doesn't like long comments?
here are some facts about whether the Landrieu amendment was for body armor or not.
See for the context.

The Congressional Record, March 20, 2003, shows how Sen. Landrieu wanted the $1 billion allocated.  No body armor.  Mediamatters may have a case with the later Dodd amendment.  But is right on the Landrieu amendment.  Here is specifically what she asked the Senate to vote for; what press releases say doesn't compare to the very specific stuff she told the Senate.



Air Force Reserve  

WC-130J Radar--Upgrades Reserve Radar to specifications needed by Active forces  

F-16 LITENING II AT Upgrade Modification--Provides Reserve Tactical Fighters with same radar upgrades as active forces; reserve fighters flying same missions  

F-16 LITENING II AT Pod Procurement--Provides Reserve Tactical Fighters with same radar upgrades as active forces; reserve fighters flying same missions  

A-10 TARGETING PODS--Provides Reserve Tactical Fighters with same radar upgrades as active forces; reserve fighters flying same missions  

B-52 TARGETING PODS--Provides Reserve B-52s with same radar upgrades as active B-52s; performing same missions  

TACTICAL RADIOS--Provides radio upgrades for interoperability with active forces  

Land Mobile Radio Infrastructure  


Navy Reserve:  

VAW-78--EC-2 Squadron--Funding Prohibits decommissioning in FY05 of this currently deployed unit  

VFA-203--F/A-18 Squadron--Funding prohibits decommissioning in FY04 of this currently deployed unit  

Littoral Surveillance System--Procures one additional system to upgrade port surveillance by Navy Reserve  

F/A-18 Advanced Targeting FLIR--Procures radars for 5 squadrons to make compatible with Active Navy  

P-3 Aircraft Improvement Program (AIP)--Would upgrade 28 of 42 Reserve P-3s to have same capabilities as Actives; AIP allows P-3s to better operate against surface combatants and improve surveillance and targeting  

P-3 Block Modification Upgrade Program (BMUP)--Brings all Reserve P-3s into compliance with each other, not Actives--gives all Reserve P-3s similar computers and acoustics sensors  

F/A-18 ECP 560 Precision Guided Munitions Upgrade--Provides 1 Reserve F/A Squadron with precision guided munitions similar to Active F-18.  

CBR-D Equipment Storage and Logistics--Funds shortfall of 10,000 bio-chem suits for Navy Reservists  


Army Reserve:  

High Frequency Radios (Interoperability for Special Ops Reservists)  

M-4 Rifles  

M-16 Rifles  

Tactical Electrical Power (5-60KW)TQG  

Tactical Electrical Power (3KW)TQG  

Truck Tractor Line Haul  

Improved Ribbon Bridge  

Truck Cargo PLS 10X10 M1075 (T40999)  

Trailer PLS 8X20 M1075 (T93761)  

Spreader Bituminous Module PLS 2500 Gal. (S13546)  

Mixer Concrete  

Dump Body Module  

Engineer Mission Module Water Distributor  

Airborne/Air Assault Scraper (S30039)  

Distributor Water Self-Propelled 2500 Gal.  

Truck Transporter Common Bridge (CBT) (T91308)  

Truck Dump 20 Ton  

Generator Smoke Mechanical  

Tent Expandable Modular (Surgical)  


Army National Guard:  

Black Hawk Helicopters  

SINCGARS (Radio Systems)  

Air National Guard:  

F-16 Targeting Pods  

A-10 Targeting Pods  

C-130H2 AN/APN-241 Radar  

F-15 AIFF/IFF (Data Link Systems)  

F-15 220E Engine Kits  


Marine Corps Reserve:  

Reserve Training Center Vehicle Maintenance Facility, Mobile, AL  

Reserve Tank Maintenance Facility, Columbia, South Carolina  

Reserve Training Center Vehicle Maintenance Facility, Camp Lejeune, NC  

Uniform and Equipment needs  

Weapons System Repairs  


Grand total  

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Advaita and Superstring Theory

I should say a million times, that Advaita is not physics. Especially after the publication of such books as "The Tao of Physics" and the endless Deepak Chopra stuff there is a great danger that what I have to say here will be misunderstood.

Superstring Theory says that everything in the universe and the space-time within which everything in the universe exists is a manifestation of superstrings.

In this sense, string theory is a monistic theory.

The only reason to mention string theory is to remind people that they are familiar with monism, even if they didn't know it.

Advaita is a monistic philosophy. It however takes consciousness to be the root of everything, not strings. In a physical theory like string theory, consciousness is a side-product of sufficiently complex agglomerations of matter, like our brains and accompanying bodies. In Advaita, space, time, matter are side-products of consciousness.

Advaita cannot be a theory of physics, nor be mathematical.

The last thing to mention is that as per Advaita, this insight into the nature of things is available directly to the awareness. It does not require mathematics, or particle colliders to confirm this, as per Advaita, it takes a prepared mind.

A whole system of ethics and an entire culture flow from the (Hindu) accretions around this core idea. However, Hinduism is much more than Advaita and includes denials of the core idea as well.

Note that just as one could have and does have several religions around the transcendent personal god of Judaism/Christianity/Islam, one could have several religions about this absolute monism. The "religious" component of Advaita comes from the specific practices and traditions that it has bound to itself from Hinduism.

So is my current understanding. It is of course, subject to revision, upon greater understanding.

Is Advaita true? Fortunately, it doesn't matter. Yes, I know I have made an extremely provocative statement. The point is that there is no value in belief or non-belief in Advaita, what matters is what you do. Following the golden rule ("do unto others as you would have done unto you") is an excellent starting point, for instance. There are many "derivations" of the golden rule in different cultures. In Advaita, the derivation is that the others **are** you. You have to see this directly, and making a habit of the rule helps, supposedly.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tirupathi Declaration

According to Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji there are far too many powerful people, even in India, in whose mental landscape there is no place for Hindus, and that unless Hindus act, Hinduism is finished. These forces include the Communists and the current ruling parties in India.

My comment - part of the problem is that secularism in India applies not to Hinduism - the government does not have any right to interfere in minority institutions, but runs and milks the manifold Hindu religious establishments.

Anyway, here is his declaration, and he hopes it catches the spirit of the people like the Quit India, 1942.

July 15, 2006

We Hindus assembled here declare
that we do not support, directly or indirectly,
any group, institution, religion, media,
or political force, which preaches, practices
or works against Hindu Dharma
in this country.

We appeal to all the Hindus
in this country and elsewhere
to subscribe to and support
this declaration,
the Tirupathi Declaration.

We want all the Hindu religious endowments
to be managed by Hindu bodies,
and not by the government.
We want the secular government
to release all religious endowments
from its hold.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why are we afraid of these morons?

Read this

Falafel vendors in Baghdad - falafel is a dish made of fried chickpeas - have been shot dead ostensibly because there was no falafel in the Prophet Muhammad's time. The ice merchants have been similarly threatened.

One does not wage a "global war on terror" on lunatics; one finds them and confines them in institutions. One brings them before a judge and gets them committed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Action and Reaction

The Pope was somewhat critical of Islam. Veteran Pakistan watchers expect the Karachi KFC outlet to be torched.
(KFC = Kentucky Fried Chicken).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is he winning?

From TomDispatch:

"Five years later, according to Emily Gosden and David Randall of the British newspaper, the Independent, the Bush administration's Global War on Terror has resulted in, at a minimum, 20 times the deaths of 9/11; at a maximum, 60 times. It has "directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on earth. If estimates of other, unquantified, deaths -- of insurgents, the Iraq military during the 2003 invasion, those not recorded individually by Western media, and those dying from wounds -- are included, then the toll could reach as high as 180,000."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Al Biruni and the Bhagavad Gita

There is a theory in certain quarters that the Bhagavad Gita was mostly forgotten in India until the British recovered it in the eighteenth century. In this regard, the early 11th century testimony of Al Biruni, a courtier of Mahmud of Ghazni, may be of interest.

The sources are the E.C. Sachau translation of Alberuni's Tarikh-ul-Hind and a modern book:

Alberuni's India
Translated by E.C. Sachau
ISBN 393 00568 2

The Living Gita : The complete Bhagavad Gita and commentary.
Sri Swami Satchidananda
ISBN 0-8050-1400-4

Some preliminaries from the Sachau translation of Alberuni :

(page 14) :

"The following passage is taken from the book Gita, a part of the book Bharata, from the conversation between Vasudeva and Arjuna :-- ...."

(page 64) : [discussing Indian literature ]

"Besides they have a book which they hold in such veneration that they firmly assert that everything which occurs in other books is found also in this book, but not all which occurs in this book is found in other books. It is called Bharata, and composed by Vyasa the son of Parasara at the time of the great war between the children of Pandu and those of Kuru. ....."

"Vyasa asked Brahman to procure him somebody who might write for him the Bharata from his dictation. Now he intrusted with this task his son Vinayaka, who is represented as an idol with an elephant's head, and made it obligatory on him never to cease from writing. At the same time Vyasa made it obligatory on him to write only that which he understood. Therefore Vyasa, in the course of his dication, dictated such sentences as compelled the writer to ponder over them, and thereby Vyasa gained time for resting awhile."

(pages 200-203 give a brief outline of the story of the epic that we have today. )


The following is all that I could find in Alberuni's Indica that refers to the Gita, then I give the chapter:verse number of what I think are the verses referred to by Alberuni; the translation of the verse is from Swami Satchidananda.

Page 14 :

The following passage is taken from the book Gita, a part of the book Bharata, from the conversation between Vasudeva and Arjuna :--

"I am the universe, without a beginning by being born, or without and end by dying. I do not aim by whatever I do at any recompense. I do not specially belong to one class of beings to the exclusion of others, as if I were the friend of one and the enemy of others. I have given to each one in my creation what is sufficient for him in all functions. Therefore whoever knows me in this capacity, and tries to become similar to me by keeping desire apart from his action, his fetters will be loosened, and he will easily be saved and freed."

From the Swami Satchidananda translation of the Bhagavadgita :

{"I am the universe..." is scattered across the Bhagavad Gita. For example : }

The truth is that I am eternal; I am not born, I never
die and I am the Lord of everything....

Apart from me, there is nothing whatsoever. The entire
creation is strung out on me like a necklace of precious

Look at my body, Arjuna. You will see the entire universe
there -- all that moves and all that [seems to be] unmoving,
as well as anything else you wish to see. And all are part
of the same, which is me.

{"I do not specially ...." }

I am the same toward all beings. Before me, no one is
hateful and no one is more or less cherished. However,
those who lovingly worship me will realize that they are
actually part of me.

I am unaffected by all actions, nor do I desire any results.
Whoever experiences this quality in me is also free.

{"I have given to each one in my creation .... : I have no satisfactory match. }

This passage reminds one of the definition of philosophy as the striving to become as much as possible similar to God.

Further, Vasudeva speaks in the same book :--

"It is desire which causes most men to take refuge with God for their wants. But if you examine their case closely, you will find that they are very far from having an accurate knowledge of him; for God is not apparent to everyone, so that he might perceive him with his senses. Therefore they do not know him. Some of them do not pass beyond what their senses perceive; some pass beyond this, but stop at the knowledge of the laws of nature, without learning that above them is one who did not give birth nor was born, the essence of whose being has not been comprehended by the knowledge of anyone, while his knowledge comprehends everything."

Good people worship me, Arjuna, for four basic reasons :
to be relieved of suffering, to understand life, to rise
from poverty to wealth, and just because they are wise

Foolish people don't look beyond physical appearance. Thus
they overlook my true nature which is Lord of everything.

Most people fail to look beyond the three qualities of my
prakriti. People see only these changing qualities and
don't see me, the transcendent One. In the midst of all
that changes, I am what doesn't change.

Not everyone can see me as I truly am, because I veil my-
self in maya. Thus deluded, the world does not recognize
me as the one who was never born and never changes.

Arjuna, I know all about every creature in the past ,present
and even future. Yet no one knows all about me.
Among all people, whoever recognizes me as the unborn and
beginningless lord of everything, knows the truth and frees
himself from wrongdoing.

Page 19 :

Regarding the whole creation, they think that it is a unity, as has already been declared, because Vasudeva speaks in the book called Gita " " To speak accurately, we must say that all things are divine; for Vishnu made himself the earth that the living beings should rest thereupon; he made himself fire and wind in order to make them grow; and he made himself the heart of every single being. He presented them with recollection and knowledge and the two opposite qualities, as is mentioned in the Veda."

{While the divinity inherent in all things is one of the themes of the Gita, this kind of specific statement I do not find. The "two opposite qualities" is in better shape :}

By animating my prakriti, I repeatedly create the infinite
varieties of all beings which are subject to the rule of my

People are deluded by attraction and aversion, which spawn
all the pairs of opposites. These dualities, Arjuna, subject
all to maya at birth.

The Vedas discuss the three gunas, Arjuna, transcend the
three gunas and you will be free of the pairs of opposites --
ever-balanced, free of wanting ......

Page 25 :

Vasudeva speaks to Arjuna instigating him to the battle, whilst they stand between the two lines : "If you believe in predestination, you must know that neither they nor we are mortal and do not go away without a return, for the souls are immortal and unchangeable. They migrate through the bodies, while man changes from childhood into youth, into manhood and infirm age, the end of which is the death of the body. Thereafter the soul proceeds on its return."

There never was a time when I did not exist, nor
you, nor any of these ruling princes. And neither
will there ever come a time when we cease to be.

That which is embodied experiences the body's childhood,
youth, and old age, and also in time acquires another body.
This does not disturb one whose mind is calm.

Further he says : "How can a man think of death and being killed who knows that the soul is eternal, not having been born and not perishing; that the soul is something stable and constant; that no sword can cut it, no fire burn it, no water extinguish it, and no wind wither it ? The soul migrates from its body, after it has become old, into another, a different one, as the body, when its dress has become old, is clad in another. What then is your sorrow about a soul which does not perish ? If it were perishable, it would be more becoming that you should not sorrow about a thing which may be dispensed with, which does not exist, and which does not return into existence. But if you look more to your body than to your soul, and are in anxiety about its perishing, you must know that all that which is born dies and all that which dies returns into another existence. However, both life and death are not your concern. They are in the hands of God, from whom all things come and to whom they return."

Whoever truly knows the Self -- indestructible, eternal,
birthless and changeless -- in what way would such a person
kill, Arjuna ? Who would be killed ?

Weapons do not affect the Self; fire does not burn
it, water does not wet it, and wind does not dry it.

The Self cannot be pierced or cut; it cannot be
burned, moistened or dried. It is endless, all-
pervading, stable, immovable and everlasting.

Just like casting off worn-out clothing and putting
on new ones, that which is embodied casts off worn-
out bodies and enters others that are new.

Even if you imagined Atman (the Self) continually
taking birth and dying -- even then, mighty Arjuna,
there is no reason to grieve.

Whatever is born will undoubtedly die; whatever is
dead certainly will be born. You should not mourn
what is inevitable.

Arjuna, beings originally are all unmanifested. At
midstate they're manifested; and unmanifested again
at the end. What is the point of lamenting ?

{I'm not happy with the last three lines. Perhaps they are a paraphrasing of :}

The blessed Lord said : I am all-powerful time, destroyer
of the worlds and now I have come to devour this world.
Whether you fight or not, all the warriors of the opposing
army gathered here will surely die.

Page 26 :

In the further course of conversation Arjuna speaks to Vasudeva : "How did you dare thus to fight Brahman, Brahman who was before the world was and before man was, whilst you are living among us as a being whose birth and age are known ?"

{I'm confused by the above. "Fight Brahman" is almost certainly a mistranslation.}

Arjuna asked : You were born long after Vivasvat. How
is it possible that you taught this in the beginning?

Thereupon Vasudeva answered : "Eternity (pre-existence) is common to both us and to him. How often have we lived together, when I knew the times of our life and death, whilst they were concealed from you ! When I desire to appear in order to do some good, I array myself in a body, since one cannot be with man except in a human shape."

Lord Krishna said : You and I have taken many births,
Arjuna. I know them all but you do not.

The truth is that I am eternal; I am not born, I never
die and I am the Lord of everything. Still, by control-
ling the elements of my nature (my prakriti), I appear
to take births by my power of illusion (maya).

When righteousness is lost and wickedness prevails, I
appear on earth in bodily form.

Age after age I take birth to protect the good, destroy
the wicked and establish virtue.

Vasudeva says : " He who hopes for salvation and strives to free himself from this world, but whose heart is not obedient to his wish, will be rewarded for his action in the worlds of those who receive a good reward; but he does not attain his last object on account of his deficiency, therefore he will return to this world, and will be found worthy of entering a new shape of a kind of beings whose special occupation is devotion. Divine inspiration helps him to raise himself in this new shape by degrees to that which he already wished for in the first shape. His heart begins to comply with his wish; he is more and more purified in different shapes, until he at last obtains salvation in an uninterrupted series of new births."

Arjuna asked : Krishna, what happens to someone who has
sincere belief, but cannot yet control the mind, or someone
who falls away from these practices before achieving per-
fection through yoga ?

Then the blessed Lord said : Do not worry, Arjuna. There
is no destruction -- either in this world or in the next --
for anyone who has embarked on the yogic path. O my son,
know for certain that anyone who does good never comes to
a bad end.

Whoever embarks on the yogic path -- and leaves his body
before reaching his highest goal -- attains the heavenly
state of the virtuous. He stays there a very long time
and then takes birth again in this world in a home of the
pure and prosperous in order to continue his quest.

Or he is reborn into a family of wise yogis. Such a birth
in this world is rare indeed.

In this environment, Arjuna, he soon recalls the knowledge
gained in previous births, and strives for realization even
more earnestly than before.

By earnest and persistent effort -- even over many lifetimes --
a yogi becomes completely purified of all selfish desire and reaches
the supreme goal of life.

Further, Vasudeva says : "If the soul is free from matter, it is knowing; but as long as it is clad in matter, the soul is not-knowing, on account of the turbid nature of matter. It thinks that it is an agent, and that the actions of the world are prepared for its sake. Therefore it clings to them, and it is stamped with the impressions of the senses. When, then, the soul leaves the body, the traces of the impressions of the senses remain in it, and are not completely eradicated, as it longs for the world of the sense and returns towards it. And since it in these stages undergoes changes entirely opposed to each other, it is thereby subject to the influences of the three primary forces. What, therefore, can the soul do, its wing being cut, if it is not sufficiently trained and prepared?"

{I am not very satisfied with the following : }

The qualities of nature (calmness, restlessness, inertia)
do all that is done. But because the mind is clouded by
ego, a person thinks : I am the doer.

Those still deluded by nature's qualities become attached
to nature's functions. But the one of perfect understanding
should not disturb the mind of someone who does not know

....Though they may have been meticulous in religious
observances, if they still want something, they are caught
in the endless chain of personal desires, and thus must
continue to take birth after death.

Vasudeva says : "The best of men is the perfectly wise one, for he loves God and God loves him. How many times has he died and been born again ! During his whole life he perseveringly seeks for perfection till he obtains it."

After many life times, a person grows wise and takes
refuge in me and nothing else. Then he realizes that
I am all that is. Such a great soul is rare indeed.

Page 35 : [ a discussion of moksha and the paths leading to it ] :

In the book Gita we read : "Man is created for the purpose of knowing; and because knowing is always the same, man has been gifted with the same organs. If man were created for the purpose of acting, his organs would be different, as actions are different in consequence of the difference of the three primary forces. However, bodily nature is bent upon acting on account of its essential opposition to knowing. Besides, it wishes to invest action with pleasures which in reality are pains. But knowledge is such as to leave this nature behind itself prostrated on the earth like an opponent, and removes all darkness from the soul as an eclipse or clouds are removed from the sun."

{This is a complete mystery to me. }

Now we return and continue our quotation from the book Gita.

"Likewise the other organs of the senses serve for acquiring knowledge. The knowing person rejoices in turning them to and fro on the field of knowledge, so that they are his spies. The apprehension of the senses is different according to time. The sense which serve the heart perceive only that which is present. The heart reflects over that which is present and remembers also the past. The nature takes hold of the present, claims it for itself in the past, and prepares to wrestle with it in the future. The reason understands the nature of a thing, no regard being had of time or date, since past and future are the same for it. Its nearest helper are reflection and nature; the most distant are the five senses. When the senses bring before reflection some particular object of knowledge, reflection cleans it from the errors of the functions of the senses, and hands it over to reason. Thereupon reason makes universal what was before particular, and communicates it to the soul. Thus the soul comes to know it."

{ Where is this from ? }

Page 36 :

In the book Gita we read : " How is a man to obtain liberation who disperses his heart and does not concentrate it alone upon God, who does not exclusively direct his action towards him ? But if a man turns away his cogitation from all other things and concentrates it upon the One, the light of his heart will be steady like the light of a lamp filled with clean oil, standing in a corner where no wind makes it flicker, and he will be occupied in such a degree as not to perceive anything that gives pain, like heat or cold, knowing that everything besides the One, the Truth, is a vain phantom."

When you have your mind well trained so that it
rests solely in Atman, without wanting anything,
then you are established in Yoga.

The well-trained mind of a yogi, concentrating on
the Self, is as steady as a flame in a windless

Once you are established in this (reality), there's
absolutely nothing else to achieve, nor will any-
thing ever shake you again -- not even the worst
possible affliction.

Yoga is a means to disconnect your identification with
that which experiences pain.

In the same book we read : "Pain and pleasure have no effect on the real world, just as the continuous flow of the streams to the ocean does not affect its water. How could anybody ascend this mountain pass save him who has conquered cupidity and wrath and rendered them inert ?"

{While the ideas are Gita-like, the specific similes of the streams entering the ocean, and the mountain-pass I miss. The stream-ocean analogy that I found is :}

Someone with personal desires will not experience true
peace. But when all desires merge, like different rivers
flowing into the vast, deep ocean, then peace is easily

Page 37 :

The book Gita says : "All that which is the object of a man's continuous meditating and bearing in mind is stamped upon him, so that he even unconsciously is guided by it. Since, now, the time of death is the time of remembering what we love, the soul on leaving the body is united with that object which we love, and is changed into it."

If you are thinking of me at the time of physical
death, you will leave your body and come directly
to me, there is no doubt about it.

A person goes to whatever he is thinking of at the
time of physical death, Arjuna, because his mind
established that direction.

However, the reader must not believe that it is only the union of the soul with any forms of life that perish and return into existence that is perfect liberation, for the same book, Gita, says : "He who knows when dying that God is everything, and that from him everything proceeds, is liberated, though his degree be lower than that of the saints."

{The idea again is one of the themes of the Gita, but the specific language? Also see 8:5, 8:6 above. }

The same book says : "Seek deliverance from this world by abstaining from any connection with its follies, by having sincere intentions in all actions and when making offerings by fire to God, without any desire for reward and recompense; further by keeping aloof from mankind."

{This is generic Gita. }

Page 38 :

The book Gita says : "He who mortifies his lust does not go beyond the necessary wants; and he who is content with that which is sufficient for the sustaining of life will not be ashamed nor be despised."

The same book says : "If man is not without wants as regards the demands of human nature, if he wants nourishment to appease thereby the heat of hunger and exhaustion, sleep in order to meet the injurious influences of fatiguing motions and a couch to rest upon, let the latter be clean and smooth, everywhere equally high above the ground and sufficiently large that he may stretch his body upon it. Let him have a place of temperate climate, not hurtful by cold nor by heat, and where he is safe from the approach of reptiles. All this helps him to sharpen the function of his heart, that he may without any interruption concentrate his cogitation on the unity. For all things besides the necessities of life in the way of eating and clothing are pleasures of a kind which in reality, are disguised pains. To acquiesce in them is impossible, and would end in the gravest inconvenience. There is pleasure only to him who kills the two intolerable enemies, lust and wrath, already during his life and not when he dies, who derives his rest and bliss from within, not from without; and who, in the final result, is able altogether to dispense with his senses."

{I'm not happy with this either. I think here Alberuni or his translator reveals his limitations. I think what was meant is the following : }

To practice meditation, fix up a clean meditation place
with your seat neither too high nor too low. Insulate the
seat with a grass mat, then a deer skin and over those a
clean cloth.

Then sit and calm the mind the senses by concentrating on one
thing; thus you practice Yoga for self-purification.

It is impossible to practice Yoga effectively if
you eat or sleep either too much or too little.

But if you are moderate in eating, playing, sleeping, staying
awake, and avoiding extremes in everything you do, you will
see that these yoga practices eliminate all your pain and

{The last lines are generic Gita ideas. }
While still in a human body, if you can stand fast amid
the forces of desire and anger, then surely you are a yogi
destined for happiness.

The yogi who discovers happiness and joy within is also
illumined solely from within. That yogi becomes one with
God and marvels in the ecstasy of God.

Vasudeva spoke to Arjuna: "If you want the absolute good, take care of the nine doors of thy body and know what is going in and out through them. Constrain thy heart from dispersing its thoughts by thinking of the upper membrane of the child's brain which is first soft, and then is closed and becomes strong, so that it would seem that there were no more need of it. Do not take perception of the senses for anything but the nature immanent in their organs, and therefore beware of following it."

{Here again, Alberuni or his translator reveals his limitations. Almost certainly what is meant by "thinking of the upper membrane of the child's brain" is the chakra at the top of the head. Verses dealing with the nine gates are : }

By mentally renouncing the fruits of his action, the yogi's mind
becomes disciplined. Thus, he knows himself to be Atman, happily
abiding in the city of nine gates (the body). He knows he is not
the doer who acts or causes to act.

This is the effective yoga technique :At the time of leaving the
body, mentally withdraw attention from the gates of the body into
the heart area, and from there direct the prana into the head.

When the light of wisdom shines through all the gates of the body
this is a sign that sattva is dominant.

{The last line about sense perceptions may be : }

Arjuna, one may intuit the relationship between nature's qualities
(gunas) and action (karma). Whoever does so knows that nature, as
the senses, merely abides with nature, as the sense objects. He
identifies with neither, and thus does not become entangled.

The book Gita says : "Men err in what is ordered and what is forbidden. They do not know how to distinguish between good and evil in actions. Therefore, giving up acting altogether and keeping aloof from it, this is *the* action."

Even the sages are sometimes confused about action and inaction ...

Distinguish between right action, wrong action and inaction. The
way of karma is nearly impossible to understand.

The same book says : "The purity of knowledge is high above the purity of all other things, for by knowledge ignorance is rooted out and certainity is gained in exchange for doubt, which is a means of torture, for there is no rest for him who doubts."

{Any ideas about the above ?}

Because of ignorance, some people have no sincere
belief and are constantly skeptical; they are
ruined. A mind like that is unhappy in the present
and the future.

The author of the book Gita distributes the duties of worship among the body, the voice, and the heart.

What the body has to do is fasting, prayer, the fulfillment of the law, service towards the angels and the sages among the Brahmans, keeping clean the body, keeping aloof from killing under all circumstances, and never looking at another man's wife and other property.

These are the physical disciplines (tapas) : serving
God, the twice-born, spiritual teachers, and the wise;
staying pure, virtuous, continent and practicing non-
injury (ahimsa).

What the voice has to do is the reciting of the holy texts, praising God, always to speak the truth, to address people mildly, to guide them and to order them to do good.

These are the disciplines of speech : speaking truthfully,
pleasantly and kindly with words that do not excite others
and reading scripture (svadhyaya).

What the heart has to do is to have straight, honest intentions, to avoid haughtiness, always to be patient, to keep your senses under control, and to have a cheerful mind.

These are the mental discipilines : tranquility, gentleness,
goodheartedness, silence, self-control and purity of thought.

Page 42:

...Arjuna asks, "What is Brahman like in the world ?" Whereupon Vasudeva answers "Imagine him like an Asvattha tree."

This is a huge precious tree, well known among them [Hindus] standing upside down, the roots being above, the branches below. If it has ample nourishment, it becomes quite enormous; the branches spread far, cling to the soil and creep into it. Roots and branches above and below resemble each other to a degree that it is difficult to say which is which.

{Alberuni here describes the banyan tree, the vata or nyagrodha; but the Gita talks of the Asvattha, or pipul tree (as do the Upanishads ).}

"Brahman is the upper roots of this tree, its trunk is the Veda, its branches are the different doctrines and schools, its leaves are the different modes of interpretation; its nourishment comes from the three forces; the tree becomes strong and compact through the senses. The intelligent being has no other keen desire but that of felling this tree, i.e., abstaining from this world and its vanities. When he has succeeded in felling it, he wishes to settle in the place where it has grown, a place in which there is no returning in a further state of metempsychosis. When he obtains this, he leaves behind himself all the pains of heat and cold, and coming from the light of sun and moon and common fires, he attains to the divine lights."

The blessed Lord said : The wise speak of an eternal Asvattha tree
(sacred fig) with its roots above and its branches here in this world.
Its leaves are the Vedas (holy scriptures). Whoever understands this
tree knows the most sacred wisdom.

Nourished by the gunas, its branches spread above and below. It buds
forth all the sense objects, and its roots reach down to this world,
binding people to one action after another.

The true nature of this tree -- its form, origin, end and even pre-
sence -- is not perceived at the level of worldly awareness. Just
cut down this deep-rooted Asvattha tree with the sharp sword of non-

There is a place from which none ever returns. That is the goal. Seek
it by vowing : I take refuge in the original Purusha, who is the lord
and source of all, the Absolute, from which streams forth the eternal

Fortunate are those seekers who are no longer deluded (by that tree)
and thus are liberated from pride. Because they have conquered personal
attachment, they ever abide in their true identity, which is the Self.
No longer disturbed by personal desires, which have completely abated,
or the pairs of opposites, such as pleasure and pain, they attain that
eternal goal.

THAT is beyond the light of the sun, the moon or fire. That is where
I am. When you reach this goal, you will never again fall back to a
feeling of separateness.

Page 50:

Arjuna asked about the nature of the four castes and what must be their moral qualities, whereupon Vasudeva answered :

Indeed, Arjuna, the qualities in one's own nature determine
the appropriate role and duties for each person -- whether
scholar or priest (brahmin), leader or warrior (kshatriya);
tradesperson (vaisya), or laborer (sudra).

"The Brahmana must have an ample intellect, a quiet heart, truthful speech, much patience; he must be master of his senses, a lover of justice, of evident purity, always directed upon worship, entirely bent upon religion."

By nature the priest or teacher (brahmin) is inclined
toward serenity, self-control, self-discipline, purity
and forgiveness, as well as virtuous behavior, learning,
Self-realization and faith in the eternal.

"The Kshatriya must fill the hearts with terror, must be brave and high-minded, must have ready speech and a liberal hand, not minding dangers, only intent upon carrying the great tasks of his calling to a happy ending."

The leader or warrior (kshatriya) is naturally inclined
to courage, vigor, firmness of mind, resourcefulness,
generosity, leadership and the resolve not to flee,
but to persevere in the midst of battle.

"The Vaisya is to occupy himself with agriculture, with the acquisition of cattle, and with trade."

"The Sudra is to endeavour to render services and attention to each of the preceding classes, in order to make himself liked by them."

The tradesperson (vaisya) is naturally inclined toward
farming, dairying, and other business trades. And working
people by nature are inclined toward service.

"If each member of these castes adheres to his customs and usages, he will obtain the happiness he wishes for, supposing that he is not negligent in the worship of God, not forgetting to remember him in his important avocations. But if anybody wants to quit the work and duties of his caste and adopt those of another caste, even if it would bring a certain honor to the latter, it is a sin, because it is a transgression of the rule."

Anyone can attain perfection by devoting himself to the
work that comes most naturally. I will explain how.

When you do the work that by your nature is your calling,
you are worshipping the creator of all beings who is
omnipresent, and thus you attain perfection.

It is better to do your own dharma imperfectly than to
excel at another's dharma. Whoever accepts the duties
of his nature is free from sin.

It is better to do your own dharma even imperfectly, than
someone else's dharma perfectly. Even better to die in
your dharma than in another's, which brings great fear.

Further, Vasudeva speaks, inspiring him with courage to fight the enemy :

"Dost thou not know, O man with the long arm, that thou art a Kshatriya; that thy race has been created brave, to rush boldly to the charge, to care little for the vicissitudes of time, never to give way whenever their soul has a foreboding of coming misfortune ? for only thereby is the reward to be obtained. If he conquers, he obtains power and good fortune. if he perishes, he obtains paradise and bliss. Besides, thou showest weakness in the presence of the enemy, and seemest melancholy at the prospect of killing this host; but it will be infinitely worse if thy name will spread as that of a timid cowardly man, that thy reputation among the heroes and the experienced warriors will be gone, that thou wilt be out of their sight, and thy name no longer remembered among them. I do not know a worse punishment than such a state. Death is better than to expose thyself to the consequences of ignominy.
If, therefore, God has ordered thee to fight, if he has deigned to confer upon thy caste the task of fighting and has created thee for it, carry out his order and perform his will with a determination which is free from any desire, so that thy action will be exclusively devoted to him."

Furthermore, looking at your own duty, you
will see no reason to waver. For certainly
there is nothing higher for a Kshatriya than
a righteous war.

Happy indeed are the Kshatriyas, Arjuna,
called to fight in such a battle that comes
of itself -- like an open gate to heaven.

If you are killed, you will gain heaven.
If you are victorious, you will enjoy the
earth. Therefore, rise up, Arjuna, resolved
to fight !

But if you don't fight when its your duty
to do so, you lose your honor and incur sin.

People will continually recall your shame.
And for one who has been honored, dishonor is
worse than death.

The great charioteers will suppose you withdrew
from battle out of fear. Those who thought so
highly of you will take you lightly.

And your enemies will deride your strengths and
slander you. What could be more painful ?

Seeing the same in pleasure and pain, gain and
loss, victory and defeat, in battle -- just for
the sake of the battle -- then you will be

Dedicate all your actions to me. (Then) your
mind will rest in the Self (Atman), free of
the wishing and selfishness fever, and you
can engage in battle.

.... This view [that liberation is common to all castes and to the whole human race, if their intention of obtaining it is perfect ] is also based on the fact that Vasudeva was a descendant of a Sudra family and also on the following saying of his, which he addressed to Arjuna : "God distributes recompense without injustice and without partiality. He reckons the good as bad if people in doing good forget him; he reckons the bad as good if people in doing bad remember him and do not forget him, whether those people be Vaisya, or Sudra or women. How much more this will be the case when they are Brahmana or Kshatriya."

I am the same toward all beings. Before me, no one
is hateful, and no one is more or less cherished.
However, those who lovingly worship me will realize
that they are actually part of me and that I live in

No matter your birth, race, sex or caste -- even if
you are scorned by others -- if you take refuge in me,
then certainly you will attain the Supreme Goal.

Page 59 : [about idols]

Therefore the book Gita says : "Many people try to approach me in their aspirations through something which is different from me; they try to insinuate themselves into my favor by giving alms, praise and prayer to something besides me. I, however, confirm and help them in all these doings of theirs, and make them attain the object of their wishes, because I am able to dispense with them."

In the same book Vasudeva speaks to Arjuna : "Do you not see that most of those who wish for something address themselves in offering and worshipping to the several classes of spiritual beings, and to the sun, moon and other celestial bodies ? If now God does not disappoint their hopes, though he in no way stands in need of their worship, if he even gives them more than they asked for, and if he gives them their wishes in such a way as though they were receiving them from that to which they had addressed their prayers -- viz. the idol -- they will proceed to worship those whom they address, because they have not learned to know him, while he, by admitting this kind of intermediation, carries their affairs to the desired end. But that which is obtained by desires and intermediation is not lasting, since it is only as much as is deserved for any particular merit. Only that is lasting which is obtained from God alone, when people are disgusted with old age, death and birth (and desire to be delivered therefrom by Moksha)."

Others still allow personal desires to lead astray
their good judgement. [Thus] they follow their
lower nature and worship lesser gods for their

A devotee may select any name or form as
the object of his worship. But if he has
sincere belief (shraddha), I make his faith
strong and steady.

Then when he worships with steady faith the
form he has chosen, he gets what he wants.
But actually, I am the one fulfilling his

However, those of limited understanding
obtain limited satisfaction. Those who
worship the devas go to the devas; my
devotees come to me.

Because their understanding is still shallow,
many still believe that I, the unmanifested
one, am limited to one particular manifestation.
They have not yet seen my true nature which is
unchanging and supreme.

Page 271 : [about caste inequities]

...All these things originate in the difference of classes or castes, one set of people treating the others as fools. This apart, all men are equal to each other, as Vasudeva says regarding him who seeks salvation : "In the judgement of the intelligent man, the Brahman and the Candala are equal, the friend and the foe, the faithful and the deceitful, nay even the serpent and the weasel. If to the eyes of intelligence all things are equal, to ignorance they appear as separated and different."

{The ones close to this are : }

A person stands supreme who has equal regard for
friends, companions, enemies, neutral arbiters,
hateful people, relatives, saints and sinners.

Those who have realized the Self see that same Self
equally in a humble scholar, a cow, a dog or a dog-eater.

Vasudeva speaks to Arjuna : "If the civilization of the world is that which is intended, and if the direction of it cannot proceed without our fighting for the purpose of suppressing evil, it is the duty of us who are the intelligent to act and to fight, not in order to bring to an end that which is deficient within us, but because it is necessary for the purpose of healing what is ill and banishing destructive elements. Then the ignorant imitate us in acting, as the children imitate their elders, without their knowing the real aim and purpose of actions. For their nature has an aversion to intellectual methods, and they use force only in order to act in accordance with the influences of lust and passion on their senses. In all this, the intelligent and educated man is directly the contrary of them."

{ Another puzzle here. The only verses that come anywhere close are : }

Whatever a great person does is followed by others who set
their standard by his or her example.

Arjuna, there's nothing in the three worlds that I ought to
do, nor anything for me to achieve that I have not already
achieved -- yet I continue doing things.

If I ever stop doing my continuous work, Arjuna, everyone would
follow my example in every way.

If I stop doing, the worlds would perish; I would confuse all
the species and cause the destruction of all creatures.

The unenlightened do things with attachment (wanting some results
for themselves). An enlightened person does things with the same
zeal, Arjuna, but without attachment, and thus guides others on
the path of selfless action (Karma Yoga).

Page 283 : [about cremation]

The belief of the Hindus on this head was confirmed by the words of Vasudeva, which he spoke regarding him who is liberated from the fetters (of bodily existence). "His death takes place during uttarayana (i.e., the northern revolution of the sun from the winter solstice to the summer solstice),
during the white half of the month, between lighted lamps, i.e., between conjunction and opposition (new moon and full moon), in the seasons of winter and spring."

If a yogi who knows reality leaves his
body during the six months of the northern
passage of the sun, which is the path of
light, fire, day, and the bright two weeks
of the moon, he goes directly to Brahman
(absolute oneness).