Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pakistani Wonder Weapon

Daily Jang

Pakistan gains capability to hit invisible target
(Updated at 2200 PST)
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has gained what it calls ‘joint standoff weapons’ a capability through which an invisible target can be hit.

The weapon, in which integrated Global Position System and Inner-shell Management System Navigation are used, is a part of a joint programme of Navy and Air force in the U.S.

Joint airframe, guidance system and flight control is used in this programme which is designed on the modular programme and thanks to this system the missile can hit a target at range of 70 kilometers.

The missile can hit an enemy target without entering air limits of an enemy.

I think Inner-shell was meant to be Inertial; but how the missile accomplishes its mission of hitting an enemy target without entering its air space (air limits????) is beyond me.

Reading QFT

The problem with reading Quantum Field Theory is not a lack of concentration, but rather the sapping of the wish or energy to do anything else. It leads to insomnia and crankiness. Also, it is a form of isolation, nobody around me can follow where I go.

But this, for me, may not be a big price to pay.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rang De Basanti

Rang De Basanti is one of Bollywood's recent offerings, and a pretty good one at that. It is running in the Regal Theaters in North Brunswick, NJ; there are decent English sub-titles for the non-Hindi person. It is a well-made movie, with no dead moments. You can read more about the movie at IMDB and at the official website.

I mention the movie here because it has one of the scariest scenes in movies, that I can remember. You might have to understand some Indian history to understand - at least about Jallianwala Bagh. The massacre there was a pivotal moment in Indian history. Prior to that a widespread Indian view was that the British Empire could be reformed to be a good thing; post-massacre, the Empire had to go.

There is a reenactment of the events of 1919, and the scene I found scary is one of General Dyer morphing into a Minister of the Indian Government. It is scary, because should it ever represent reality, it would mean that the efforts of many, many people, some celebrated, some unsung, would have been destroyed, their idealism betrayed. People who keep the faith, like this, and this, and this.

Blog fallout

The NYT Magazine has published this question, from Ciara Healy, of Augusta, GA, to The Ethicist (Randy Cohen)

After I was scheduled for a job interview at a university, a member of the search committee Googled me and found my blog, where I refer to him (but not by name) as a belligerent jerk. He canceled the interview. It was impolitic to write what I did, but my believing him to be a jerk does not mean I would not be great at that job, and the rest of the committee might agree. Was it ethical of him to cancel the interview?

It would seem that one might usefully follow the old (Arabic?) dictum, which goes something like, before saying anything, consider - Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

On the horns of a dilemma


The problem is that the civilised solutions to this issue are simply not satisfying enough. The special reverence in which the Prophet (PBUH) is held, demands that the blasphemers be punished according to Sharia, which prescribes the death sentence, and the death sentence alone. However, that is not a feasible option at this point. A Muslim government may emulate the Israeli example of sending in assassins (as it did with Iraqi nuclear scientists), but it would come under tremendous pressure, perhaps too much to expect it to bear. A boycott of Danish goods is questionable: pork is not halal even if it is Pakistani (a few wild pigs are consumed by foreign and local non-Muslims); milk will not become haram just because it is Danish.

The demand for legislation protecting the revered figures of all religions is compatible with the concept of freedom of expression, because it is feasible to place restraints on freedom. However, it could lead to rather odd situations. It might mean, for example, that anyone who claims some form of prophethood within the Abrahamic tradition, as did Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, and Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, founder of the Ahmadi Jamaat, in the 19th century, or even godhead within the Vedic or Buddhist tradition, as did the Maharishi in the 20th, would be as protected as Muhammad (PBUH), Jesus Christ, Buddha or Ram. It might even provoke a spate of declarations of revelation, for the Western understanding of freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and toleration equates these religious leaders with whoever else might make a claim.

It is also not just a matter of hurt feelings. Blasphemy against the Prophet (PBUH) is severely punished, even though other forms of abuse, while hurtful, are to be ignored, or merely rebutted. Denials of the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) can be ignored, for example, or debated, but they are not in themselves blasphemous. After all, a non-Muslim by definition is a denier. However, it is reasonably clear that certain mocking or insulting portrayals or epithets are unacceptable, such as the Danish cartoons.

So should Muslims ask for very specific legislation about the person of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)? They can ask, and probably should, but this creates difficulties of its own. The USA was the first state to declare a complete separation between church and state. No religion is to be 'established' in the USA under the First Amendment, in the sense of having special privileges or any superiority over others. To ask it to pass a law specific to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), would technically be asking it to 'establish' Islam.

Here we do see the seeds of a clash of civilisations. The honour of the Prophet (PBUH) is not open to compromise for Muslims. Nor is the prohibition on 'establishing' any religion for Americans of whatever creed. Ask we must. Refuse they must. And pity the poor soul who is both 'we' and 'they'. Muslims hold that they are bound by everlasting and immutable limits, prescribed by the Almighty Himself in the Quran and through the Sunnah. Americans (and the West as a whole) hold that the only absolute is freedom, and any limits are determined by the people, who can change them as they will. These are incompatible.

Theater of the Absurd

Is this an attempt to make a point? or is this a further incitement to violence?

Times of India

Rs 101-cr bounty on Husain's head

LUCKNOW: Unusual causes have unusual effects. As a fallout of UP minister Yaqoob Qureshi's fatwa that he would pay Rs 51 crore for killing Danish cartoonist for caricaturing the Prophet, an unheard of body called the Hindu Law Board on Wednesday came up with a counter bounty.

It has offered Qureshi Rs 101 crore for slaying M F Husain, embroiled in a controversy over depictions of Saraswati and Bharat Mata and owners of an European distillery for using Durga illustrations to promote their wine.

Although no one knew about the existence of the Board until Wednesday, its president Ashok Pandey, an Allahabad High Court lawyer, claimed the body was 3,500-member strong and the decision was taken at a board meeting.

"Although gods and the Prophet are quite capable of punishing those who malign their image, the task could also be delegated to their devotees.

The minister is, therefore, very well within his right to demand the scalps of the offending cartoonists and the HPLB fully supports him," Pandey said.

But Qureshi, Pandey said in his caveat, "must not be selective and should also be prepared to avenge insult to pantheons of Hindu gods and goddesses as well."

He then announced a Rs 101 crore bounty on Qureshi [sic] and said if anyone else undertook the task, the payout would be Rs 51 crore.

Exhorting the Haji to pick up an AK-47, "the way Lord Ram wielded the bow and arrow to eliminate the evil king of Lanka," Pandey promised to make Qureshi a "true national hero, regardless of narrow confines of caste and communities."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wishing to be surprised

When I wake up tomorrow to the top-of-the-hour news-stories on the clock radio, maybe they'll say peace has broken out in the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

One brave soul in India

Three cheers for Ajay Veer Singh!

Case against minister who offered bounty for Danish cartoon

Lucknow: A court in Uttar Pradesh will Thursday hear a case against state minister Haji Yaqoob Quereshi for offering a bounty of Rs.510 million to anyone who beheaded the cartoonist responsible for the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed.

The case has been filed in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Narendra Singh at Ghaziabad, 20 km from New Delhi, by advocate Ajay Veer Singh, who alleged the police had refused to take note of Quereshi's "unlawful" utterances.

This in the face of utterly irresponsible morons like this one:

The Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Home) Alok Sinha shrugged off the minister's clear and resounding public incitement to murder with a blasé and bizarre logic: "There is no offence to make such an announcement about a person living in a distant foreign country." That was not all, as he went on to say, with nary a thought about the responsible position he is entrusted with, that "the announcement had been made taking into account the feelings of the people". And then came the clincher: "In a democracy such announcements are made in a normal way. It cannot be said to be a law and order issue". This from the from the state's Principal Secretary (Home), the person in charge of law and order.


A pox on Indian "secularists"!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Interview with IMF Chief Economist

Today I point you to this interview with Raghuram Rajan, Chief Economist, International Monetary Fund.

The IMF is not trusted much in India; and yet perhaps the IMF can help in accelerating India's economic growth, which is crucial to the future of more than a billion people.

In a strong capitalist economy, what should happen is that the firm should go out of business and that means it lays off workers. Workers should not go out of business. Workers should have a safety net, which allows them to survive while they look for jobs, allow themselves to retrain themselves possibly, and get new jobs — in the new opportunities that are created by the old ones releasing resources and by the growth that is created. What do we have in most statist economies typically? Firms are not allowed to go out of business and the workers don’t have a safety net. Which is why they then start demonstrating, not allowing the firm to go out of business, and they create the political support for this whole process for retaining the firm.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Stupid UP government

I think the state government should face sanction, along with the Minister. At least the All India Muslim Personal Law Board seems to have better sense.

Minister offers bounty for beheading Danish cartoonist

LUCKNOW, MEERUT, FEBRUARY 17: The Minister for Minority Welfare and Haj in the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, Haji Yaqoob Qureishi, has announced a cash reward of Rs 51 crore for anyone who beheads the Danish cartoonist who caricatured Prophet Mohammad.

While the state government has defended the Minister’s remark as the “voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt,” a senior member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has slammed it calling the reward “anti-Islamic and anti-humanity.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Qureishi defended his announcement saying it was a “concerted decision” and the killing of a person who blasphemed Islam was “justified.”

Addressing a gathering at the Faiz-e-Azam College in Meerut after Friday prayers today, Qureishi announced the reward and urged Muslims to show “proof” of being himayat-e-Islami by joining in the protest.

Taking the cue, several shopkeepers downed shutters with speakers demanding an apology from the Danish government. They also demanded that New Delhi snap diplomatic ties with Denmark.

When contacted, UP Principal Secretary, Home, Alok Sinha told The Indian Express: “The minister’s reaction was the voice of someone whose religious sentiments have been hurt. Moreover, since the reference was to a person who is far off, there is no question of an FIR being lodged against the minister.”

However, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board member and Naib Imam of Aishbagh Idgah, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, criticised the Minister’s call for the killing of the cartoonist.

“The Minister’s statement is anti-Shariat, anti-Islam and anti-humanity,” Mahali said. “The western media is already up against Islam, the minister’s statement will only add fuel to the fire.” The Prophet believed in pardoning others for “sins committed by them,” the Maulana said, “Who are we to issue such irresponsible statements?”

FYI for the non-desi reader, a crore is 10 million. A currency converter is here. At a minimum, the Minister should be investigated to find out how he happens to have so much money.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Visa Denied

The gist of a story I heard on NPR today, during the evening commute:

Two Iraqi women were denied visas to enter the US; they were coming to meet anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan, and to speak out against the war. Each woman had lost husband and children to the American forces in Iraq, shot when approaching a check-post.

The visas were denied on the grounds that the women could not convince the INS that they would return to Iraq. The specific reason?

Insufficient family ties in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

To be forever young

(via lewrockwell.com) - to remain mentally young, learning another language and playing video games are recommended in this Globe and Mail article.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What freedom of speech?

If the Danish cartoons on Muhammad were published in the US, freedom of speech could hardly be an excuse - what freedom of speech?

Laura Berg is a Veterans' Affairs Hospital Nurse in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In September 2005, she wrote a letter, as a private citizen to a local newspaper, critical of the Bush administration's handling of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and of the Iraq war, and of the budget deficit and asking the people to "act forcefully to remove the government administration" and try them for criminal negligence.

Well, the government investigated her for sedition (and, fortunately, ultimately cleared her).


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Shiv, on bharat-rakshak

This is my way of preserving his post:

I give Huntington full credit for admitting early on in the book that he knew next to nothing of the Indian civilization. He at least admits its existence - which is a far cry from western scholarship that does not even know.

This is seriously off topic here because knowing nothing about the Indian civilization is "normal" for Western scholars - but it also leaves huge gaps of ignorance in their world-view. Weterners see Muslims primarily as Arabs. That is so much like the story of the blind men of Hindoostan. But it is actually the blindmen of Inglistan in this case.

When you talk of Islam in this world and you leave out India - especially the little details - you will end up trying to fit the likes of Abdul Kalam into an Arab mould. India creates "Muslim Hindus" (or Hindu Muslims) that nobody else recognises or understands. A lack of acknowledgement of that leaves you wondering about what is missing. But if you don't know about Hindus - you don't stand a chance of even beginning to see the complexity of this world. India has had a civilizational impact on Islam that the West does not see as it preens itself celebrating its victoies over its own perceived foes.

Huntington IMO manages to set the civilizational thought process ticking - but his views and analyses are "traditional Western scholarship" - and I am seeing that as an impediment to real information.


Most people I know of do not speak in civilizational terms at all, and the "impact" of Islam on Hindus is, as far as I can tell "mostly" Hindus complaining of how their ancestors got their heads chopped. The use of words like "civilizational" became more fashionable after Huntington, and again "most" people have not actually read his book and many have not even read his paper.

Civilizations affect each other. Rarely does one civilization totally overwhelm and dominate another leaving no trace of the latter.

The Indian civilization watered down Islam and produced Indians who claim to be Muslims - but are a far cry from the mad Arab hordes. Muslims of this type in India live happily in India as Indians and do not need Pakistan - although the Hindu victim complex (your forefathers cut my forefather's heads off) sometimes affects these people. Leave alone Kalam. I was at a doctors booze up at a conference two nights ago and was talking to a Bangalore Sindhi and a Muslim surgeon from Tamil Nadu. We were offered chicken tikka on a plate and all of us picked up a piece each and the Sindhi remarked that the Pakistani surgeons attending the conference first asked if the meat was halal and later refused to eat it. The Sindhi (born in Sind) asked the Tamil Nadu fellow why he did not ask that. The Tamil Nadu guy said "Well I trust that God will look after me and make sure that it is alright for me"

This is an Indian muslim - a Muslim Hindu. This is warm, lush, green India that has rubbed off on a harsh dry fearful Arab faith from the desert and given it confidence, lack of fear for its survival and pragmatism totally unlike that paranoid sword welding faith that washed into India and then partially withdrew into Pakistan in 1947.

There is I believe a species called the Muslim Hindu. There are many Christian Hindus. They have no problem saying they are "Hindu". Their faith is Christian but they do not worry about not being "Hindu" like the fellow who breaks coconuts over Shiv's ling. If the fellow who breaks cocunuts and sprinkles kumkum over Shiv's Ling considers himself more Hindu than some of these people - his behavior - to my mind - is no different from the Pakistani who can never look at a person of another faith or sect as "pure enough". The same is true for Islam. There are Hindu Muslims. Their behavior, diet and appearance is as Indian as it gets, but his God is not what some Hindus may want to accept as God. Only by recognising the presence of this unique and totally Indian species of Muslim can we begin to understand the degree to which the Indian civilization has rubbed off on Islam.

But the average Westerner - who does not even know what Hindu is, will certainly recognise a Muslim of the paranoid Arab type. but not one of the Muslim Hindu kind. And within this ignorance, he will come up with theoies to explain his world, mostly to his kind.

Islam HAS been bent, invaded and changed. dar ul Harb is sitting firmly within dar ul Islam. The "Pure" sword wielding islam is now actually in a minority. Saudi billions and Pakiistani geopolitical sycophancy have given paranoid "pure" Islam a longer rope that it can handle. And I firmly believe that it should be hanged by that rope. The only question to my mind is finding the necks to hang. I believe those necks are those of the ulema.

And in response to ShauryaT's
Strangely, I see Huntington's hypothesis very applicable to India, even if he is not himself very knowledgeable on Indian issues. An example of an Kalam does not approximate to the true reality in India. The dismal socioeconomic indicators of the muslim population in India, the far from proportional representation of Indian muslims in government, defense, scientific or organized private sector. The overwhelming ghettoization of the muslim populace in urban India speaks volumes. Going back a few decades to the partition and a few centuries into the mughal rule presents a clear picture from the present to the near and distant past.

I think, many look upon Huntington's hypothesis as a dangerous prognosis that can only lead to conflicts and wars. My view is an understanding of this hypothesis can lead to a better understanding of how to manage the underlying differences.

ShauryaT - I believe that a lot of under-empowered Muslims of India were that way even in the glory days of the Mughal empire. They converted for various reasons - but the only thing they got from that was the knowledge that Allah is going to give you only so little and you had better accept that, and that all is going to give the Sultan a LOT and you had better accept that too.

Ghettoization is an inbuilt mechanism of islam, and it is the failure of that mechanism that allowed in kafir influences like vaccination and antibiotics and other population increasing mechanisms. It is failure of that ghettoization that produced Muslim Hindus.

The degree of ghettoization you see now is a mark of success of Islam. If pure Islam must succeed all muslims must have NO external influence and must live by the Quran and Sura alone in ghettos that gradually increase in size and ultimately coalesce to form one huge dar ul Islam

Guess who is trying to achieve that?

I repeat - it is the ulema/mullahs who are trying to achieve complete ghettoizaton. But (and I repeat again) irreversible changes have taken place on earth to cause an almost inextricable mingling of humans and human thoughts so that civilizations are rubbing off on each other. New conflict zones will be produced - but they are unlikely to be the pure old conflict zones.

"Western" thinkers like to call the adoption of "modern science technology" as an adoption of "their' way of life. But these are people who are missing the civilizational forest for the trees. The west does not know how much it is getting counter-affected by what is NOT western civilization.

Nothing succeeds like success. And success of what is seen as coming from the West has been touted as the great victory of the last couple of centuries, with little heed to what has happened in centuries before. Completely OT for the thread - the "West" for example has no inkling of what direction a resurgent Indian civilization will take - because for Western thnkers (blinkers?) - that civilization did not exist and does not appear (to them) to have a particularly great impact on the world. Huntington leaves this out completely.

For all the cursing we (Indians) do of the horrible Islamic hordes, many of us seem not to acknowledge the similarities the "hindu/India civilization" has with the Islamic hordes and how these similarities are against much of what the "West" stands for.

The Indian civilization today shares with "islamic hordes" many cultural similarites that make it easy for the two groups to mix culturally. "Family values" and a collective or group psyche is rampant across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and right across the Middle east up to Egypt. The concept of a "home role for the woman" is equally rampant across "Hindu" and "islamic" civilizations. The idea that women should tend to be better covered up than men is a powerful feeling that is visible right across india - all the way across dar-ul islam. When a cleavage is shown in india the VHP and Islamists sing a simultaneous chorus asking for the cleavage to be covered up. When the BJP gots its first term that lasted just a week - the first thing Sushma Swaraj did was to ask women on Doordarshan to cover up. Blackened "vulgar" posters in India may be blackened by the VHP- but they get a mention on here only when intolerant Muslims do it - because this is the islamism thread and not the VHP thread. It is no surprise or accident that bollywood is popular right across dar ul Islam but a failure in the West.

The only difference is that the Indian civilization is more open to outside influence and more tolerant of differences. It is certainly less prone to violence because of mere differences - but that is hard-coded into Islam and probably not a societal norm.

So when the "West" compares itself with "east' - it often looks at Arab muslims squirming or at the Chinese. They see themselves as ascendant over both and strut about like maharajahs. And India does not get a mention. But it is there - and its behavior is not Chinese, not western and not islamic either. India shares attitudes with the Islamic civilization but is not against Western civilizational norms.

It is different and it is. It will behave in its own way, and if it is not factored in - Huntington's hypothesis cannot be complete. It can only be a guideline.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Highway politics

Here is a map of the trans-Asian Highway network, a UN project.

Notice the routes near and around Bangladesh. That country doesn't want to participate, if it means giving India transit.

Then read this Indian take on the Bangla politics.

Not giving transit to India was one of the major commitments to the voters during the campaign of the last election that brought the present ruling alliance in Bangladesh to power and joining the highway and giving transit to India may have a negative effect in the upcoming general elections. For this reason, Bangladesh government took a decision which was completely against its own economic interests.

A Bangla point of view - a former ambassador to the UN, no less:

It is argued that Bangladesh government may seriously reconsider its position in respect of signing the Asian Highway network for long-term interest. The public have the right to know from the government how refusal to sign the Asian Highway agreement serves the national interest. Let there be a public debate on this important issue, if it does not take place in the Parliament.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Nepal, Afghanistan - India is blessed with good neighbors!

PS: Some Bangla sources:





Don't spell your name, send me email

Just received this in email:

James Bond has a peculiar style of introducing himself by calling first Bond, then followed by great smile & finally James Bond.
His style is absolutely killing but he doesn't know the consequences when he meets our great South Indian guy.
When Bond meets a South Indian  guy......
James Bond: "My name's Bond...(smiles and then says).... James Bond."
James Bond: And you?
Telugu Guy: I am Sai...
Venkata Sai...
Siva Venkata Sai.
Laxminarayana Siva Venkata Sai....
Srinivasulu Laxminarayana Siva Venkata Sai.
Rajasekhara Srinivasulu Laxminarayana Siva Venkata Sai.....
Sitaramanjaneyulu Rajasekhara Srinivasulu Laxminarayana Siva Venkata Sai....
Bommiraju Sitaramanjaneyulu Rajasekhara Srinivasulu Laxminarayana Siva Venkata Sai.....
James Bond faints!!!

On the Fate of Dictators

The Glasshouse narrates the sorry conclusions of Pakistani dictators. I'm not sure elected Pakistani Prime Ministers are in significantly better shape, though.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Can you explain this?

Sunset at the north pole

This is supposed to be a photograph of sunset at the north pole. I thought that the sun and the moon both subtended about a half-degree angle, the picture doesn't look so. This moon could totally eclipse a dozen suns. Is it Photoshop?

Danish cartoons

Publishing cartoons, satirizing Prophet Muhammad was a culturally insensitive thing to do. However, from whatever context I've been able to gather, tiny liberal Denmark (5.4 million population - roughly two parliamentary constituencies in India) was laboring a self-censorship of fear, where any criticism of Islam or Muslims might be met with violence. If these are indeed the same people as they were, when they all donned Stars of David in defiance of Hitler, then this is something rather serious. Their perception of a threat against free speech is not to be dismissed lightly.

In the same spirit of free speech, Muslims all over the world, including those in countries with no protection for free speech, are no doubt welcome to protest. Rock-throwing, rioting and arson however cannot be condoned.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Remembering Gandhi

Jeff Knaebel would have us remember Gandhi. It appears that Knaebel is an emigrant of conscience; and on that basis alone deserves a reading, whatever you may think of his ideas.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


It has been more than a dozen years since I did anything with Quantum Field Theory, and something inside me wants me to do (a self-study) refresher course. But the practical side of me overrules it, what purpose could this serve? and so I keep on not starting. Why not? and Why? are evenly balanced.

The investment of time would be substantial; and successfully completing this task is kind of meaningless. On the other hand, it is something that some part of me wants to do, and meaning is after all, internal to oneself. Maybe it is in the same category of thing as exercising regularly. On the other hand, maybe I 'll find it boring after I start and then I can stop. Maybe I have a secret worry that I will find it to be quite the opposite of boring.

Following Pakistan

A good collection of news-items from Pakistan can be found at The Glasshouse. (http://politicalpakistan.blogspot.com/)