Friday, December 31, 2010


More Toy Train

Oh, Happy New Year!
More toy train
Pannable version below the fold.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pakistan and Afghanistan

Anyone who buys into the Pakistani line "America abandoned us and left us holding the baby" with regard to Afghanistan, should read this Ejaz Haider essay.

ProPublica on ISI-LeT ties

Read it here:

Pakistan's powerful intelligence service has been accused for years of playing a "double game:" acting as a front-line U.S. ally in the fight against terror while supporting selected terrorist groups which serve Pakistani interests.

Now, for the first time, there is a detailed inside account of how that game is played. The U.S. investigation of the 2008 Mumbai attacks [1] has built a strong case that officers in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) collaborated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group in the plot that killed 166 people, six of them Americans. U.S. and Indian investigators say their understanding of the ISI-Lashkar alliance is drawn from the confessions of David Coleman Headley, an American convicted of participating in the Mumbai plot, as well as documents, phone records and electronic eavesdropping.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Toy train exhibit - test

Try panning around (drag the photo below)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Humbug Assembly Line

Paul Krugman points out:
When discussing the alleged huge expansion of government under Mr. Obama, I’ve repeatedly found that people just won’t believe me when I try to point out that it never happened. They assume that I’m lying, or somehow cherry-picking the data. After all, they’ve heard over and over again about that surge in government spending and employment, and they don’t realize that everything they’ve heard was a special delivery from the Humbug Express.
The Humbug Express, as Krugman terms it, turned a temporary increase in government employment because of the Census, into a huge increase in government, when the government payrolls are actually shrinking.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Light Peak and USB 3.0

Light Peak is the name of the new Intel optical interconnect for computers and consumer devices.  Using thin optical cable, Light Peak will begin at a speed of 10 Gbps, and move to 100 Gbps.   In comparison, the newly emerging USB 3.0 reaches a theoretical maximum of 3.2 Gbps.

Out of the gates, USB 3.0 has the advantage of backward compatability of a huge installed base.  But it is also a technology that has passed the middle age of its lifecycle. 

There is considerable speculation that Apple will bypass USB 3.0 in favor of Light Peak (e.g., here and  here).

I imagine that along with a copper pair for power, and the long cable lengths allowed by Light Peak, we may be closer to my longstanding wish for a daisy chain of my audio, video and computer components, replacing the current dense mess of cables.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Government Overreach

The government wants to intrude itself everywhere.
The US of A.

Terrorism has been a boon for the security state.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seditious Eyes

In this context, seditious must mean "causing incitement to public disorder".  See below for an example.

Women unveiling their eyes in public in Saudi Arabia will be forced to fully cover up their faces if their eyes are found to be seditious, according to the Gulf Kingdom’s most feared Islamic law-enforcement group.
“The Commission members have orders to tell any women in public to cover up her face if they find that her eyes are seditious,” the paper said, quoting Sheikh Mutlaq Al Nabit, a Commission spokesman in Hael.
Nabit did not explain how the Commission members determine that a woman’s eyes are seditious.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Outdoors shot. Heavy crop - about 1/18th of the whole frame.  Apart from the crop and regular Lightroom no other processing.  Shows for the web what overkill a 5D2 is. Or from another point of view, how convenient!  From the EXIF, this was a 200mm, f/4.0, ISO 800, 1/1600 second shot, with the subject 23.8 meters away.  One can only revel in the quality of the glass.  Yes, the bright side of the panda's face is slightly blown.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


Indoors, through glass. National Zoo, DC.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Panda

Red Panda.
Red Panda

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


From here:
New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) A Pakistani patient, owned up as a "suicide" attacker and an operative of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by his country's army, was indeed treated in Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, where he died three years ago, enquiries by IANS have revealed.

According to hospital sources, a Pakistani patient named Zulfiqar Ahmed was admitted in the multi-speciality private medical facility in November 2007.

"He died of renal failure," an official at the hospital told IANS, requesting anonymity because "our legal section is digging deeper into the case before coming on record".

The sources said that the hospital was looking into the records to find more about the patient, who according to the Pakistan Army website was on a "suicide attack" operation.

"It is a three-year-old record and it will take time to examine," another official said, as the hospital administration refused to say another more.

The Pakistani Army's website - - claimed that an ISI operative who was on a "suicide attack" operation died in a New Delhi hospital Nov 16, 2007.

The posting was in the "Shuhada's (martyrs') corner" of the website, which had previously revealed the list of Pakistan's dead in the 1999 Kargil operation.

It named the operative as Zulfiqar Ahmed, his army number as 1726016 and his rank as naik.

The operative, the website claims, died of kidney failure and acute respiratory infection at New Delhi's Ganga Ram Hospital.

The website however doesn't mention where the operation was to be conducted as there was no suicide attack in Delhi or in nearby areas in or around November 2007.

The major terror attack in India before November 2007 were the Lumbini Park and Gokul Chat bombings in Hyderabad Aug 25 that year, in which 42 people were killed.

The martyr's section lists 25 ISI operatives, with varying causes of death. Besides Ahmed, one more ISI agent who died in India in May 1973 is identified as Lance Naik Abdul Ghani.

Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh, reacting to the postings, said it has exposed the Pakistan Army's "intentions".

"I have nothing to say on what they (the Pakistan Army) have put up on its website. But if it has, then it clearly show what their intentions and ways are and what their next move will be," Singh told reporters here when asked about the Pakistan Army's website posting.

The army chief also said that India needed to be "more alert".

"All I can say is we have to be more alert and only then we can protect the people and our troops," he said.

Scimitar-horned Oryx

National Zoo, Washington DC.

On this chilly December morning, the oryx was probably maximizing his exposure to the sun.  So it was not in a particularly favorable position for a shot.  The full frame is below - the oryx occupies about 5% of the frame even at 200mm.

Scimitar-horned Oryx

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eying with malicious intent...

National Zoo, Washington DC. Heavy crop from the original photo.
This tiger was actually quite entertaining.
Eying with malicious intent...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rangoli 2010

I did not participate in the 2010 Diwali Rangoli, even in planning or design.  Even so, here it is, courtesy my niece N.
Rangoli 2010

Previous Diwalis: here or here.

Yielding to the bullies results in this

I have the (British) India Legislature debates from 1927 that introduced section 295A of the Indian Criminal Code, and will publish them some time.  This law is still on the books in India and in Pakistan.  In Pakistan it has been further enhanced; but if you do a search on google, you'll find 295A is misused in India.  Well, how can it not be misused, it is a horrible law, as the dissenters in that debate pointed out.  The wording of the law is:
"Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 2[citizens of India], 3[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.]"
The reason for the introduction of this law was the Rajpal case or (Rangila Rasul case).  Rajpal was the publisher, (not the author) of a pamphlet in an ongoing war of pamphlets between Hindus and Muslims  in the Punjab of the 1920s, in which they attacked each other and also other sects within their own camps.   This particular pamphlet (the title would roughly translate to "Playboy Prophet"), which made many sarcastic comments about the Prophet of Islam  particularly raised the ire of the Muslims, and there was the threat of not just Punjab-wide but supposedly nationwide violence. {Aside, it is funny, isn't it, that to a certain mentality, India is not and never was a nation except when it is time to protest?}

Well, Rajpal was tried under existing law for offending religious sentiment {section 153A of Indian Penal Code}, but the Punjab High Court under Justice Dilip Singh acquitted him. { Later the government tried Rajpal again, and obtained a conviction, but Rajpal was murdered by a Muslim, Ilim Din.  Ilim Din was convicted of the murder and executed - his funeral procession is said to have been the largest procession seen in Lahore till then, and for many years thence.  His anniversary of "martyrdom" is still marked in Pakistan.}    The inadequacy of the existing law to convict Rajpal was the motivation to introduce 295A.

The reasoning, from the British government point of view, was that if some religious group threatens violence because its feeling had been "hurt", the government could step in and prosecute the person(s) who committed the hurt.   The dissenters pointed out any number of instances where the insulted party was a minority who never threatened violence and therefore never received such consideration from the government.

In effect, the government bowed to the bullies.  If you are capable of widespread violence, your sentiments have to be "respected", otherwise not.

Incidentally, Rajpal is said to have apologized:
Mr Gaya Prasad Singh (non-Muhammadan member representing Muzaffarpur and Champaran), on Sept 19, 1927, read in the (British Indian) Legislative Assembly
“Sir, I should also like to refer to the statement which was made by Rajpal when he came to know that the feelings of our Muhammadan friends had been greatly outraged by his pamphlet. This is what he said:
“If any words of mine can soothe the feelings of my Moslem brethren, I assure them that I respect their sentiments no less than I do mine. I have no idea of bringing out another edition of Rangila Rasul, even though the law does not stand in the way of my doing so. In fact I stopped selling it as soon as I was told that some Moslems felt offended by its publication. This was done before any action was taken or even contemplated by the Government.”

I should add that the nationalists in the assembly supported the law because they wanted to avoid any Hindu-Muslim friction.  There was some who opposed the law on the grounds that religion did not need such defense, and such a law was an abridgement of the freedom of speech.

Well, in Pakistan, the blasphemy law is the full Islamic expression of section 295A.  And now it has come to this (AFP link, might be temporary)

KARACHI — A doctor has been arrested for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in Pakistan, police said on Sunday, in a second high profile case throwing the spotlight on the country's controversial anti-blasphemy laws.

Naushad Valiyani was detained on Friday following a complaint by a medical representative who visited the doctor in the city of Hyderabad.

"The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic," regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

"Faizan accused Valiyani of committing blasphemy and asked police to register a case against the doctor."

Shah said the issue had been resolved after Valiyani, a member of Pakistan's Ismaili community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, apologised but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for action.
"Valiyani had assured Faizan that he did not mean to insult the Prophet Mohammed by throwing the visiting card in the dustbin," Shah said, adding that the police had registered a case under the Blasphemy Act.
PS:  The Rajpal pamphlet is available on the Internet.  In my opinion, it is available precisely because Rajpal was murdered, and because the whole thing became such a big issue.  Otherwise, it would have vanished like most of the other pamphlets from that war of words in the 1920s. The action of the "prosecute blasphemy" crowd have made this trash immortal.

MJ Akbar on Wikileaks

M.J Akbar:
PS: I just can't understand why Americans are persecuting Wikileaks' Assange; they should give him a hero's medal. Wikileaks prove what some of us suspected but no one could confirm - that American diplomats are clear, concise, cogent and informed. Only the stupid and the prejudiced accuse them of being dumb. They know precisely what is going on in the world even if their government's policy is built within a maze of spiderwebs hung across Chinese walls. Their analysis of Pakistan is perfect; it has an unintelligent government run by the intelligence service. Why on earth don't they do anything about a nation which is going to obliterate itself and us as well? One of these days I must leak our tapes of American diplomats in Delhi to the Wall Street Journal.

The Well Groomed Gorilla

There was a certain elegance to the creature. National Zoo, Washington DC. Shot through glass, so post-processing was necessary to increase the contrast.

The Well Groomed Gorilla

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Turnabout is Fair Play

According to one of the eminent Muslim political leaders of the 20th century, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founding father of Pakistan, the nation of Pakistan with 75% Muslims and 25% Hindus {the proportion would have been something like this in a non-"motheaten" Pakistan} could live as a united secular democratic nation where "Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State".  

However, according to Jinnah, a nation of 75% of Hindus and 25% of Muslims (as would have been an undivided India) could not be such a nation.  This was the foundational argument for Pakistan.

Jinnah was essentially saying that Hindus are not suited for secular democracy.  Leftist and Pakistani liberal historians nevertheless try to present Jinnah as secular minded and unbigoted.  But today, if we make statements like "Arabs are not suited for democracy" or "Islam is not suited for democracy" we would be excoriated for it, especially by Leftists and by Pakistani liberals.

Why the double-standard?


At the National Zoo, Washington DC. Artifacts are because it was shot through a fence. Posted here for entertainment value.

Zebras at the National Zoo

Tolerance and Mutual Respect

Should we respect tolerance?  Or should we tolerate mutual respect?  Sorry.

Rajiv Malhotra argues that it is time to no longer tolerate tolerance and instead to move up to mutual respect.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pakistan has fun with Wikileaks

The Guardian, UK

They read like the most extraordinary revelations. Citing the WikiLeaks cables, major Pakistani newspapers this morning carried stories that purported to detail eye-popping American assessments of India's military and civilian leaders.

According to the reports, US diplomats described senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal; they said India's government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists; and they claimed Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan's tribal belt and Balochistan.

"Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan," read the front-page story in the News; an almost identical story appeared in the Urdu-language Jang, Pakistan's bestselling daily.

If accurate, the disclosures would confirm the worst fears of Pakistani nationalist hawks and threaten relations between Washington and New Delhi. But they are not accurate.

An extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by the Guardian by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It suggests this is the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes.

The controversial claims, published in four Pakistani national papers, were credited to the Online Agency, an Islamabad-based news service that has frequently run pro-army stories in the past. No journalist is bylined.
Update: Pakistani newspapers apologize.   


Even the Congressional Research Service finds nothing illegal or prosecutable with regards to what Wikileaks is doing - the release of secret diplomatic cables to news organizations.

One does not have to admire or even agree with what Wikileaks is doing to protest the massive government pressure on corporations and businesses to refuse to do business with Wikileaks, when there is nothing illegal in what Wikileaks is doing. And shame on these corporations for yielding to government pressure.

We shall remember with disfavor Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, Amazon, and others. They put to the lie the idea that corporate capitalism is a bastion of freedom.

And it is time to tell our government that it is overreaching.


A debate is going in America about the relationship between Yoga and Hinduism.  A NYT article has this to say:
“One of the things that most Christians and most people don’t get is that yoga is not a religion,” Ms. Russell said.
“It does not belong to Hinduism any more than it belongs to Christianity,” she said, adding that it “transcends religion.”
a.  This "transcending of religion" is one of the goals of Hinduism, as I understand it.
b.  Very conveniently Ms. Russell takes out the universals from Hinduism, and defines the parochial remnants as "Hinduism". By what right or authority? Just because she wants to do Yoga?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Long History of Air Power in the NWFP

Where the US is now using drones ---

(British India) Legislative Assembly Debates
August 31, 1927.
1927 Volume IV, pages 3694-95


654. *Mr Gaya Prasad Singh : (a) Will Government kindly give the causes and an account of the Mohmand disturbances on the Frontier in June last, and the part played by the land force and the Royal Air Force in suppressing them?

(b) What was the number of casualties on both sides?

 Sir Denys Bray:  The origins of the Mohmand disturbance are obscure.  But they appear to be traceable to a concerted aggressive movement against the Maliks of certain loyal sections under the sustained agitation of a well-known Mullah.  Their unexpected resistance brought a rival Mullah upon the scene, whose fanatical preaching succeeded in assembling a tribal lashkar, twelve to fifteen hundred strong.  It crossed the administrative border on the night of June 5th and attacked the blockhouse line, despite clear warnings from us that any attack on the district would be at once met by bombing from air.

Orders were accordingly given to the Royal Air Force to disperse the lashkar; and within 36 hours they did so.  This striking success was achieved with surprisingly few casualties.   The lashkar lost, it is believed, 15 killed and 16 severely wounded.  The Royal Air Force had no casualties at all.  Ground troops were held in readiness at Shabkadar and Shankargarh, but owing to the rapid dispersal of the enemy it was not found necessary to bring them into action.

Diwan Chaman Lall: Is it the policy of the Government of India that they should use aeroplanes to bomb men who are not in a position to resist with equal force the forces of the British Government?

Sir Denys Bray: Certainly, Sir, if they attack the British Government.

Diwan Chaman Lall: May I ask whether it is a civilized method to employ against these unarmed people?

Sir Denys Bray: My Honourable friend is under a complete misapprehension if he thinks a tribal lashkar is unarmed.  And I would point out at any rate in this particular case that the operations were amazingly humane.  The casualties, as I said, were amazingly few.  I have never known myself a tribal lashkar of this size attacking British India and being dispersed with so few casualties on their part.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Madhya Pradesh Tourism ad

In Hindi.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Luckovich on Obama


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

M.J. Akbar

Since M.J. Akbar is an always-interesting and insightful writer on the Indian state of affairs, I've included him in the "My Blog List" on the left. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tarek Fateh: Chasing a Mirage (2008)

Steve Paikin interviews Tarek Fateh. Really worth watching. If nothing else, just part 3, which is most relevant to India.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Bullies, continued

CIP sees the various incidents such as the Danish cartoons on Muhammad, the "Let's Draw Muhammad Day", etc., as needless disrespect of a mostly powerless minority.

The needless disrespect part is no doubt **sometimes** there. But I see it in a broader context, which is the attempt to export the mind-set that is revealed in the links below. There is a pending UN resolution, sponsored by Pakistan and its friends in the OIC (organization of Islamic countries), to make criticism of religion against UN policy.

The below is just a case that caught media attention, the blasphemy law is routinely used to persecute minorities and dissidents.

1. The Blasphemy Case of Asiya Bibi.

2. On the blasphemy law.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Disunion blog

The NYTimes is running a blog series, Disunion, revisiting the American Civil War. I've linked to it under "My Blog List" on the left.

So far, it has been very good.
e.g., The Sound of Lincoln’s Silence, or this
A Senator Secedes – Reluctantly.

Khaled Ahmed: Ideology as false consciousness

If you think through the implications of what Khaled Ahmed writes, they are not pleasant.

Khaled Ahmed wrote in The Express Tribune:
Pakistan began describing itself as an ideological state when the word had been made respectable by the Soviet Union through its planned economy and rapid growth. Ideology in the case of Pakistan was its religion.
Ideology means that the state has an idea which it thinks is right, and will punish anyone who doesn’t believe the state.
In his rejection of the Pakistan constitution, al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri questions Pakistan’s ‘incompleteness’. He wants the constitution to clearly ban bank interest, lotteries, insurance and stock exchange, etc, while clearly outlawing women as leaders of the state. His book The Morning and the Lamp is being distributed by the madrassas that agree with him.

As long as we are ideological, we have no business calling al Qaeda’s suicide-bombers non-Muslims. In fact, they are better Muslims killing lesser Muslims.

i.e., "better Muslims killing lesser Muslims" is an integral part of the state ideology of Pakistan.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lawsuit I'll be watching with interest

NY Post
I hope they subpoena David Headley and get him to testify in court. I hope visiting America becomes something every Pakistani with the least bit of connection to the ISI stops doing.
Relatives of two New Yorkers murdered in a Hasidic center during the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, have sued Pakistan’s intelligence agency and the Kashmir-based terror organization that was reportedly behind the operation.

Gavriel Noah Holtzberg, a rabbi originally from Brooklyn, and his pregnant wife, Rivka, were gunned down when terrorists stormed the Chabad Lubavitch center in a commando-style attack that also killed the couple’s unborn child.

The Holtzberg’s 2 year-old son survived the attack after being rescued by an employee. He now lives with his grandfather in Israel, who filed the suit in Brooklyn federal court.

The lawsuit names Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, several ranking ISI officials, and Lashkar-E-Taiba, a terror group that operates in Kashmir, the disputed territory over which both Pakistan and India claim sovereignty.

The wrongful death suit asks for unspecified damages and cites claims that the ISI has worked closely with the Lashkar-E-Taiba group.

James Kreindler, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Holtzberg’ family, also handled a successful civil suit against the government of Libya and its intelligence agencies after the 1988 terror attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

A call to Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, D.C. was not immediately returned.

Airport scanners

The airport X-ray scanner has been touted as one of the best ways to prevent a future terrorist attack.

But now a leading scientist has come forward to say it is just as likely to kill you as a terrorist's bomb blowing your plane out of the sky.

The bizarre warning stems from a statistical coincidence which apparently shows that you are just as likely to die from radiation allegedly emitted by the scanners as you are to die due to a terrorist bob on your flight.

Peter Rez, from Arizona State University, said the probability of dying from radiation from a body scanner and that of being killed in a terror attack are both about one in 30 million, making body scanners redundant.

Read more:

Walt: Delusion Points

George W. Bush's presidency really was that bad -- and the fact that Obama has largely followed the same course is less a measure of Bush's wisdom than a reminder of the depth of the hole he dug his country into, as well as the institutionalized groupthink that dominates the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Microfinance crisis in Andhra Pradesh

An overview of the coverage, with lots of links.

In particular, this.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pakistan's terrorists are regrouping

Read about it here, in this United Arab Emirates newspaper.  I just wanted to highlight this, however:

Analysts say it appears that factions of Pakistan's anti-Inda terrorist community are moving towards a merger under JuD leadership.

They requested anonymity on grounds of personal security. They cited written threats, made since July, to Pakistani journalists who have reported on the resumption of public activity by JuD activists, and the historic ties between the militants and the Pakistani military.

Quotes on the deserved fate of Infidelators

On Kasab, one of the terrorists of Mumbai 26/11:
“Look, don't blame him. There is nothing wrong if he did it with good intentions against an infidel country like India,” said Amjad Ali, a 60-year-old farmer with white hair.
From a story on the ongoing violence in Karachi:
One trader quietly told how on Oct. 19, gunmen pulled up the steel shutters of his store and shot his two sons and brother inside. His sons, age 24 and 26, died, while his brother was critically injured and is now partly paralyzed......
"They shot them as if they were infidels," said the shop owner....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Truth will out!

Times of India: In denial till now, Pak quietly names 453 soldiers killed in Kargil War

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now You Get Mad!


Now You Get Mad!

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad when a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick and the massive numbers of jobless people deserve short-term help to avoid complete financial ruin during a horrendous economic downturn. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer (WHO authorized the Bank bailout again?), and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you (too big to fail banks, deregulation, etc)...but helping fellow Americans who are sick, poor, unemployed, suffering?... HELL NO YOU CAN'T!!

Monday, November 15, 2010


M.J. Akbar:
For six decades, the destabilisation of India through terror has been the motif of Pakistan policy. So how does it matter to India whether Pakistan is stable or unstable?

On the Laskhar-e-Taiba

ProPublica's Sebastian Rotella has an important pair of articles in the Washington Post on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks of 2008, and brings up a fact Americans have been reluctant to confront - that their ally, Pakistan, is a state sponsor of terrorism.  There is nothing really new in the story, except that these facts are being laid out in the Washington Post and not just on Bharat Rakshak forum.

Regarding the mastermind of the attacks, Sajid Mir:
Two years later, Mir and his victims are at the center of a wrenching national security dilemma confronting the Obama administration. The question, simply put, is whether the larger interests of the United States in maintaining good relations with Pakistan will permit Mir and other suspects to get away with one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in recent history.
My answer is: Of course!  The US government continues to pump in arms and money to the sponsors of Sajid Mir.  These people also sponsor the Taliban who daily take the lives of American and other NATO soldiers.

All the talk of people being radicalized by poverty, by foreign occupation, by US foreign policy, etc., (e.g., Glenn Greenwald on is well and good.  What no one seems to be willing to confront is what to do about the state sponsorship of such.

Here are the articles:
1. On the trail of Pakistani terror group's elusive mastermind behind the Mumbai siege
2. An intricate plot unleashed in Mumbai, the West confronts a new threat

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pakistan's hollow stand on terrorism

Nicely explained.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


A token effort.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

India-US: failure in intelligence sharing

ProPublica has a very troubling report that US intelligence had 5 separate warnings about David Headley, a.k.a. Daood Gilani.  David Headley is the Pakistani/American who performed reconnaisance for the Lashkar-e-Taiba for the Mumbai 26/11 (Nov 2008) and other attacks.

The Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, launched a review of the Headley case after ProPublica reported last month [2] that federal investigators in New York City looked into a 2005 tip from Headley's wife about his training with Lashkar and other extremist activities. The New York Times followed with a report [3] that another of his wives, a Moroccan, warned U.S. embassy officials in Pakistan in 2007 that she thought he was a terrorist. Officials said both leads were taken seriously, but the wives' allegations were too general to connect Headley to a terror group or plot.

The review has found four additional warnings, officials say. The newly discovered leads surfaced in 2001, 2002, April 2008 and December 2008 -- a month after Lashkar killed 166 people in Mumbai, six of them Americans. Headley, whose reconnaissance was crucial to the attacks, was not arrested until October 2009.

The tipsters in the newly disclosed cases all warned that Headley was an extremist, and three tied him to training or other terrorist activity in Pakistan. The tipsters included one of his former girlfriends in New York City, the owner of a business frequented by his mother near Philadelphia, and one of his mother's friends in the Philadelphia area. The review also turned up a second, more specific tip from Headley's Moroccan wife when she contacted U.S. officials in Pakistan again, just seven months before the Mumbai attacks, officials say.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Krugman on Obama's failing

Mr. Obama’s problem wasn’t lack of focus; it was lack of audacity.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Obama, summarized

"He speaks a lot, but his actions speak less." - from here

Gandhi's answer to libertarians

In the words of Bhikhu Parekh:

Gandhi saw more clearly than most other writers both the interdependence of human beings and the ways in which systems of domination were built up and sustained. He argued that all systems of domination rested on a profound misunderstanding of human nature, and wrongly assumed that it was possible for one man or group of men to harm another without also harming themselves. Human beings were necessarily interdependent and formed an organic whole.

An individual owed his existence to his parents without whose countless sacrifices he would neither survive nor grow into a sane human being. He grew and realised his potential in a stable and peaceful society, made possible by the efforts and sacrifices of thousands of anonymous men and women. He became a rational, reflective and moral human being only within a rich civilization created by scores of sages, saints, savants and scientists. In short, every human being owned his humanity to others, and benefited from a world to the creation of which he contributed nothing.

As Gandhi put it, every man was 'born a debtor', a beneficiary of others' gifts, and his inherited debts were too vast to be repaid. Even a whole lifetime was not enough to pay back what a man owned to his parents, let alone all others. Furthermore the creditors were by their very nature unspecifiable. Most of them were dead or remained anonymous, and those alive were so numerous and their contributions so varied and complex that it was impossible to decide what one owed to whom. To talk about repaying the debts did not therefore make sense except as a clumsy and metaphorical way of describing one's response to unsolicited but indispensable gifts. Since the debts could never be 'repaid' and the favours 'returned', all a man could do was to 'recognise the conditions of his existence' and to continue the ongoing universal yajna or system of sacrifices by accepting his full share of collective responsibility. The only adequate response to the fact that he was born in and constantly sustained by yajna was to look upon his own life as yajna, an offering at the universal altar, and to find profound joy in contributing to the maintenance and enrichment of both the human world and the cosmos.

As Gandhi put it, 'Yajna having come to us with our birth we are debtors all our lives, and thus for ever bound to serve the universe'. Not rights but obligations were the basis of moral life, and one's rights were embedded in and grew out of others' discharge of their duties.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Ten year hunger strike!

The Indian Express published this editorial:

On Tuesday {November 2}, Manipuri poetess and human rights activist Irom Sharmila completed 10 years of her fast-unto-death and created a record in the history of resilience. She is forcibly fed and kept alive by way of naso-gastric intubation at a government hospital in Imphal. To keep her in continued detention, charges of attempt to commit suicide are repeatedly slapped on the “Iron lady of Manipur” as she is now fondly called. Even now, an end to her fast does not seem to be in sight as the government is not prepared to repeal the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act despite making many promises. Her only demand is repeal of the Act, enacted in 1958 as a temporary measure to deal with insurgency. Wherever the Act has been in force, there have been strong protests.It was moved by the Malom massacre of 10 innocent people, including an elderly woman, waiting at a bus-stand on November 2, 2000, by the Assam Rifles men that Sharmila began her fast. The Act empowers the security forces to arrest, detain and even kill those who arouse suspicion. It also empowers them to search and destroy properties on mere suspicion. As a result, disappearance of persons, extra-judicial killings, torture and rape become routine in such areas. Though Sharmila’s is essentially a one-person agitation, her demand enjoys a groundswell of support in not just Manipur but across the whole Northeast. Countless have been the occasions when the Manipuris have extended their support to her cause. But all the bandhs, protests and self-immolations have been of no avail as the government is determined to keep the Act on the statute.Four years ago, when every form of protest failed to move the state, the elderly women of Manipur were left with only their naked body to protest. What infuriated them was the rape and murder of Thangiam Manorama by the men of the Assam Rifles. The whole world was shocked by the unprecedented form of protest but the government thought only about a temporary solution to the law and order problem. The BP Jeevan Reddy Commission, set up to look into the demand, also recommended repeal of the Act. The highest court of the land has also, on occasions, taken a stand against the Act but it still remains in force as if all the laws of the land are not sufficient to administer Manipur without this 52-year-old draconian Act that goes against all the tenets of accountability.

The Lesson of the Election

On a commenter, howardmk, writes:

And The Winner Is:

Me! Me! Me! (And I don't mean "Maine.") As someone who lives in the world of ordinary people, I can tell you that whoever over-intellectualizes the election result will miss it by a mile every time - because ordinary people have no truck whatsoever with anything even approaching "higher thought" (and you can take that as gospel). They reason thusly: Tax Me Less, and everything else be damned. They can't be bothered with whatever "2 plus 2" actually equals. So what if virtually all tax breaks go to the rich? At least someone's getting taxed less - and that's the only game in town as far as they're concerned. Their hatred of the "poor" - who, presumably, pay no tax - is so great that it absorbs every other consideration. Which explains why the mindless slogan "tax and spend" reduces them to raging looney toons: they know that some of the "spend" portion will go to the "undeserving poor." End of discussion. They may feign outrage over trillions of their tax dollars going to the rich - but they will fight tooth and nail to see that not one red cent ever goes to the poor. Their all-encompassing ideology consists of one maxim: "I work hard for my money and I'll be damned if I'll give any of it to those who won't work!" At which point someone needs to slap them upside the head and say "So I take it you're a peasant in Bangladesh? Because, if not, then you don't even know what work is. All you do is twiddle your thumbs, then stick you hand out for your reward come payday."

On Offensive Cartoons

In Outlook India (Nov 1, 2010, Strip the Skin), Manjula Padmanabhan tells us that cartoons are meant to sting. (emphasis added)
People talk about humour as if it were something cute, cuddly and inconsequential but really, it’s just the opposite. It’s a vital outlet for releasing pent-up angers and frustrations. It’s not surprising that a lot of humour is scatological. Laughter acts like a neuro-laxative, purging the mind and heart of toxins. If communal hatred, for instance, could be expressed through vicious plays instead of riots, biting satire instead of car bombs, and blasphemous cartoons instead of arson and rape, maybe Indian streets might see fewer and less catastrophically destructive riots.

Sadly, we will never know whether or not that assertion is true. The world is going the other way. Remember sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me? Today the opposite is the norm. Words can inspire hate crusades that eventually engulf lives and trigger pogroms. It’s like the exact opposite of what Neo does in The Matrix—he’s able to “resist” bullets by telling himself they’re only as real as his mind allows them to be. In our world today, something as insubstantial as a single cartoon, or a blogpost, can gradually escalate into a hail of bombs that pulverises individuals, communities and nations.
Cartoons, caricatures and satirical drawings are intended to be rude. The point of rudeness is that it has to be offensive, like a vaccination has to employ real germs, in order to train a person’s immune system to recognise an invading virus and guard against it effectively. When we go to a doctor, we expect honesty and forthrightness, even if the diagnosis is frightening and in that sense “rude”. We accept bitter or painful medical treatments because we want to feel well again. But when it comes to the daily news, we change the channel and burn down newspaper offices if the forecast isn’t sunny all day, all night.

Monday, October 25, 2010

America's Can't Do Attitude

Over on Asia Unbound, Yanzhong Huang contrasts the Chinese and American approaches to high-speed rail.

The development of high-speed train epitomizes China’s rapid emergence as a great power. It should also serve as a wakeup call for U.S. policymakers, who seem to be losing their ability to do what is right for the country. Early this month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decided to halt a project that would add two more tracks to more than double the number of NJ Transit trains that could pass under the Hudson River (currently NJ Transit commuter trains and Amtrak cars share a century-old, two-track tunnel beneath the river, so when an Amtrak train is choked in the bottleneck, it causes significant delays for NJ commuter trains to and from New York City). Believe it or not, the project had been in the works for about two decades and had received a $6 billion commitment from the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Alas, we have money to fight two extremely expensive wars, but we do not have money to add two more tracks. Where is that “can-do” and “get-it-done” attitude that had characterized America’s state-building experience?
Mark Di Ionno, in the Star-Ledger puts it this way:
After 53 years of talking, 17 years of actual studying and planning, and $478 million spent, this is what we got: a dirt lot, a shuttered storage center, and a new concrete overpass.
It’s sad, and it speaks to what we’ve become: 53 years of talking, studying and spending, lead only to a Tunnel to Nowhere.

In the first 50 years of the last century, here’s what was built: The first railroad tunnel under the Hudson was completed in 1908. The second opened in 1909. A third in 1910. The Holland Tunnel opened in 1927. The George Washington Bridge, 1931. The Pulaski Skyway, 1932, The Lincoln Tunnel’s first tubes, 1937. The second, in 1945. All took about 10 years from drawing board to ribbon cutting, some less.

You get the idea.

There was a spirit then that seems to have died. Look at those years, and think of all the excuses those leaders could have used to fail. World War I, The Depression, World War II.

Still, it got done.

There was vision, and growth.

And now, we have dysfunction and inertia, no matter whom you blame.

And a Tunnel to Nowhere.

India is on its own

Vir Sanghvi in The Hindustan Times, ruminates on the curious story of David Headley a.k.a Daaod Gilani, and concludes that India has no allies against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

But here’s what’s important: the US probably knew much more about 26/11 than it was willing to let on. Even today, it knows how deeply the ISI is involved in sponsoring terrorism. But as long as the terrorism is directed towards India and not the West, it does not mind so much. The CIA continues to work closely with ISI and two days ago Washington gave Pakistan another $2 billion to buy weapons.

So, finally, let’s never forget the biggest lesson from this saga. When it comes to the battle against terrorism, India has no allies. We are on our own.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Welcome Statement

Here: (excerpt)

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation. 

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims.  We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.
As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance,  respect, and forgiveness.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

More on the Mumbai attacks

The NYT reports that in 2005 and 2007-8, two women, David Headley's wives at the time, warned American authorities that Headley was plotting an attack, and that he was a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
An examination of Mr. Headley’s movements in the years before the bombing, based on interviews in Washington, Pakistan, India and Morocco, shows that he had overlapping, even baffling, contacts among seemingly disparate groups — Pakistani intelligence, terrorists, and American drug investigators.

Those ties are rekindling concerns that the Mumbai bombings represent another communications breakdown in the fight against terrorism, and are raising the question of whether United States officials were reluctant to dig deeper into Mr. Headley’s movements because he had been an informant for the D.E.A.

More significantly, they may indicate American wariness to pursue evidence that some officials in Pakistan, its major ally in the war against Al Qaeda, were involved in planning an attack that killed six Americans.
I told them, he’s either a terrorist, or he’s working for you,” she recalled saying to American officials at the United States Embassy in Islamabad. “Indirectly, they told me to get lost.”

Matt Taibbi on the Tea Party

Worth a read.

You see, when a nice white lawyer with a GI Joe beard uses state aid to help him through tough times and get over the hump – so that he can go from having three little future Medicare-collecting Republican children to eight little future Medicare-collecting Republican children – that’s a good solid use of government aid, because what we’re doing is helping someone “transition” from dependency to economic independence.

This of course is different from the way other, less GI-Joe-looking people use government aid, i.e. as a permanent crutch that helps genetically lazy and ambitionless parasites mooch off of rich white taxpayers instead of getting real jobs.

I can’t even tell you how many people I interviewed at Tea Party events who came up with one version or another of the Joe Miller defense. Yes, I’m on Medicare, but… I needed it! It’s those other people who don’t need it who are the problem!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Health Care Scare Tactics

In "Collapsing empire watch", Glenn Greenwald pointed to an alarming statistic:
As of September 23, 2010, the United States ranked forty-ninth for both male and female life expectancy combined.
Just to underscore the rapidity of the decline, as recently as 1999, the U.S. was ranked by the World Health Organization as 24th in life expectancy.  It's now 49th. 
But, there is a big mistake in this ranking.  If you trace Glenn Greenwald's URLs, the 1999 figures come from here; the 2010 findings come from a paper, which when you trace the citation, comes from the CIA worldbook, here.

Sure enough, on first glance, the US has dropped from 24th to 49th place in just a decade.

First looks can be deceptive.  Ask yourself the question which countries overtook the US during this decade, and where did they rank a decade ago?

Then you find that the following countries/entities are in the 2010 list and do not figure **anywhere** on the 1999 list:

1. Macau
2. Hong Kong
3. Anguilla
4. Cayman Islands
5. Bermuda
6. Liechtenstein
7. Guernsey
8. Jersey
9. Faroe Islands
10. Saint Pierre and Miguelon
11. Virgin Islands
12. Isle of Man
13. European Union
14. Gibraltar
15. Puerto Rico
16. Wallis and Futuna.
17. Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha

When you remove these countries, which did not figure on the 1999 list, from the 2010 list, then the US goes to 28th place in 2010 from 24th place in 1999.  The countries that were behind the US in the 1999 list and overtook the US by 2010 are (having removed the  entities above from the 2010 list)
1. Singapore (#30 in 1999, #3 in 2010)
2. New Zealand (#31 in 1999, #12 in 2010)
3. Jordan (#102 in 1999, #17 in 2010)
4. South Korea (#51 in 1999, #27 in 2010)

It may be worth noting that e.g., Spain fell from #5 to #15; the UK from #14 to #25, so US's 4 place drop, while disappointing, is not terrifying.

PS: corrections:

Double checking my work, which I should have done before posting, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Bosnia Herzgovina are also ahead of the US now, so the US fell from 24th in 1999 to 32nd in 2010.

Ireland fell from 27th to 30th, Denmark fell from 28th to 29th, Portugal from 29th to 31st, answering the question I had started out with - namely whether drug legalization had improved Portugal's standings (too small an effect to tell is my conclusion).

Bosnia rose from 56th to 28th.

The 1997 list:
  1. Japan
  2. Australia
  3. France
  4. Sweden
  5. Spain
  6. Italy
  7. Greece
  8. Switzerland
  9. Monaco
  10. Andorra
  11. San Marino
  12. Canada
  13. Netherlands
  14. UK
  15. Norway
  16. Belgium
  17. Austria
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Iceland
  20. Finland
  21. Malta
  22. Germany
  23. Israel
  24. United States
  25. Cyprus
  26. Dominica
  27. Ireland
  28. Denmark
  29. Portugal
  30. Singapore
  31. New Zealand

The 2010 list (minus the extra countries)
  1. Andorra
  2. Japan
  3. Singapore
  4. Australia
  5. Canada
  6. France
  7. Sweden
  8. Switzerland
  9. San Marino
  10. Israel
  11. Iceland
  12. New Zealand
  13. Italy
  14. Monaco
  15. Spain
  16. Norway
  17. Jordan
  18. Greece
  19. Austria
  20. Malta
  21. Netherlands
  22. Luxembourg
  23. Germany
  24. Belgium
  25. UK
  26. Finland
  27. Korea, South
  28. Bosnia and Herzgovina
  29. Denmark
  30. Ireland
  31. Portugal
  32. United States

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Giving in to bullying - 2

From here (of all places!)

According to columnist Andrew Alexander, the Washington Post’s editors recently pulled a Non Sequitor comic strip by Wiley Miller, because they were “concerned it might offend and provoke some Post readers, especially Muslims,”.......
Alexander wrote,
Miller is known for social satire. But at first glance, the single-panel cartoon he drew for last Sunday seems benign. It is a bucolic scene imitating the best-selling children’s book “Where’s Waldo?” A grassy park is jammed with activity. Animals frolic. Children buy ice cream. Adults stroll and sunbathe. A caption reads: “Where’s Muhammad?
Here’s the key part – Miller didn’t actually depict Prophet Muhammad in the cartoon, [which you can see here]. That was the point of his satire, though the Post’s editors still felt the cartoon seemed like “a deliberate provocation without a clear message.” Miller reportedly responded angrily, telling Alexander it was a commentary on “the insanity of an entire group of people rioting and putting out a hit list over cartoons,” as well as “media cowering in fear of printing any cartoon that contains the word ‘Muhammad.’ ” He added, “The wonderful irony [is that] great newspapers like The Washington Post, that took on Nixon . . . run in fear of this very tame cartoon, thus validating the accuracy of the satire.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dr. Koenraad Elst speaks about the Ayodhya verdict 4,5,6 of 6

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today's Brian Lehrer Show

If you can, you should listen to today's Brian Lehrer show.

Otherwise, read at least this.   The government of the US, the government headed by Barack Obama, is misrepresenting the (lousy) cases they have against Guantanamo detainees to the public.

Key excerpts:

But there turns out to be nothing ordinary about the habeas case brought by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman [2], a Yemeni held without charges for nearly eight years....

A day after his March 16 order [4] was filed on the court's electronic docket, Kennedy's opinion vanished. Weeks later, a new ruling [5] appeared in its place. While it reached the same conclusion, eight pages of material had been removed, including key passages in which Kennedy dismantled the government's case against Uthman. 

...In his first opinion, Kennedy wrote that one government witness against Uthman had been diagnosed by military doctors as "psychotic" with a mental condition that made his allegations against other detainees "unreliable." But the opinion the public sees makes no mention of the man's health and discounts his testimony only because of its inconsistencies.

....Even the date and circumstances of Uthman's arrest were changed. In the first version, the judge said Uthman was detained on Dec. 15, 2001, in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. Rewritten, Kennedy said in the public opinion that Uthman admitted being captured "in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora," the cave complex where bin Laden was thought to be hiding at that time.

...To justify Uthman's incarceration, the government relied on statements from five current or former detainees [7] who were previously discredited by judges in other cases, questioned by internal Obama administration assessments or found unreliable by military psychiatrists because they were mendacious, mentally ill or subjected to torture.

Kennedy's first opinion reveals that some of the government's evidence came from a detainee who committed suicide at Guantánamo three years ago after months of hunger strikes. In the second opinion, the detainee's name is concealed, making it impossible for the public to know he is dead.

Kennedy's original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar.
Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized "in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan."

{Here:  {Two witnesses were tortured for more than a year by the CIA, a third witness was driven psychotic from interrogations;  the fourth is dead, having committed suicide three years ago, after months of hunger strikes, down to 80 lbs of body weight.}

Another witness against Uthman was Salim Hamdan, whose legal battle against the U.S. government resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling throwing out earlier military commissions. Hamdan, a former driver for bin Laden, was recharged and convicted in 2008 of material support for terrorism, then released three months later to Yemen, where he is free. At some point during his incarceration at Guantánamo he was shown a photograph of Uthman but identified him by an entirely different name, telling interrogators that Uthman resembled someone named "Hudayfah al-Adani." All mention of Hamdan, and his statements, has been excised from Kennedy's public opinion although he is the only witness whose evidence wasn't entirely disregarded by the judge. }

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The future of Pakistan

Khaled Ahmed in The Friday Times, October 8, 2010:

Identity under ‘jahiliya’ exclusion: Dr Walter Andersen, Acting Director, South Asia Studies, John Hopkins University, wrote in 2007: ‘The real choice facing Pakistan has much to do with identity – and that choice will have important international implications. Will it become an inclusive homeland for its many different ethnic groups – or will it become an Islamic state, somewhat like Iran, driven by regional and international visions of sacred inspiration. I would presently bet on a more democratic and inclusive future. But if the latter less tolerant future occurs, we all have a problem’.

Chances are that the state may find its own identity pushed to the extreme right under the ideology of jahiliya propagated by Al Qaeda whose following in Pakistan comes from the clergy and their madrassa network, the jihadi organisations fielded by the state to fight its wars of ‘destiny’, and the common man alienated from the ‘weak state’ of Pakistan. The concept of jahiliya is inward-looking and focuses on the defects of homo islamicus ; and therefore initially it is the Sunni Muslim who will bear the brunt of this new identity-formation. After that, while becoming somewhat like Iran, Pakistan will fight an ‘intermediate’ sectarian war with Iran under an Al Qaeda banner before taking on the West. (Al Qaeda is fighting Iran in Iraq and its subordinate militia, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is fighting the ‘excludable’ Shia in Pakistan.)

Pakistan’s ‘pre-modern’ seduction: In pre-modern times, Pakistan as a state would have disappeared because of its rapidly declining will to live. Today, it can become like Afghanistan and Yemen and Sudan – despite its nuclear assets – but the prevailing international order will prevent it from disappearing. Because of its extreme economic dependency on the outside world, Pakistan may even take some pragmatic steps to water down its medieval ideology and identity-coercion. It is quite clear now that it simply does not have the ideological conviction to fight the ‘superior’ puritanism of Al Qaeda. But it can be helped by a world community scared of Al Qaeda’s destructive outreach and, in return for this help, Pakistan may make an effort to strip itself of its coercive identity without even risking an intellectual discussion of it.

In Pakistan a prime minister can be educated in a Christian school and his children can be born in a Christian hospital, but he will not realise that a Christian cannot be treated in his own family hospital because of the use of zakat funds in it. The smell of ‘zimmi’-hood is quite strong in Pakistan and presages the days of ‘destiny’ which Pakistani identity is looking forward to. There is no ‘jizya’ imposed on the non-Muslims yet, but in Al Zawahiri’s mind the plans for imposing it are quite advanced. Not many clerics will disagree with him. And many more communities will be added to those who will pay the ‘jizya’. We all know who the ‘excludable’ communities are.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

What the Judge wrote

chaankya on BRF :
J Sudhir Aggrawal
Vol 15
Page 3640-3641(141-142/251 ) para -3623-3626

(the 8000 page verdict was not proof-read) (emphasis added)

3623. Normally, the Court do not make adverse comments on the deposition of witness and suffice it to consider whether it is credible or not but we find it difficult to resist ourselves in this particular case considering the sensitivity and the nature of dispute and also the reckless and irresponsible kind of statements, and the material got published by the persons claiming to be Expert Historian, Archaeologist etc. without making any proper investigation, research or study in the subject.

3624. This is really startling. It not only surprises us but we are puzzled. Such kind of statements to public at large causes more confusion than clear the things. Instead of helping in making a cordial atmosphere it tend to create more complications, conflict and controversy. Such people should refrain from making such statements or written work.  They must be extremely careful and cautious before making any statement in public on such issues.

3625. The people believe that something, which has been said by a learned, well studied person, would not be without any basis. Normally they accept it as a correct statement of fact and affairs. Normally, these persons do not find a stage where their statement can be scrutinized by other experts like a cross-examination in a Court of law. In legal terminology, we can say that these statements are normally ex parte and unilateral. But that does not give a license to such persons to make statements whatsoever without shouldering responsible and accountable for its authenticity. One cannot say that though I had made a statement but I am not responsible for its authenticity since it is not based on my study or research but what I have learnt from others that I have uttered. No one, particularly when he claims to be an expert on the subject, a proclaimed or self styled expert in a History etc. or the facts or events can express some opinion unless he/she is fully satisfied after his/her own research and study that he/she is also of the same view and intend to make the same statement with reasons.

3626. We do not know how much damage such kind of statements have already caused, but, if any, that has already been done. At this stage we can only hope and trust that the intelligentsia of this country particularly those who are experts in any discipline, shall live more responsible life, and before expressing any opinion or statement of fact particularly when that involves an extra ordinary sensitive matter, due care and caution shall be practised.

Judge criticizes Indian historians and archaeologists.

TOI: The Allahabad Court on witnesses in the RJB/Babri Masjid case:

To the court's astonishment, some who had written signed articles and issued pamphlets, found themselves withering under scrutiny and the judge said they were displaying an "ostrich-like attitude" to facts.

He also pointed out how the independent witnesses were all connected — one had done a PhD under the other, another had contributed an article to a book penned by a witness.

Some instances underlined by the judge are: Suvira Jaiswal deposed "whatever knowledge I gained with respect to disputed site is based on newspaper reports or what others told" (other experts). She said she prepared a report on the Babri dispute "after reading newspaper reports and on basis of discussions with medieval history expert in my department." Supriya Verma, another expert who challenged the ASI excavations, had not read the ground penetration radar survey report that led the court to order an excavation. She did her PhD under another expert Shireen F Ratnagar.
Verma and Jaya Menon alleged that pillar bases at the excavated site had been planted but HC found they were not present at the time the actual excavation took place.

Archaeologist Shereen F Ratnagar has written the "introduction" to the book of another expert who deposed, Professor Mandal. She admitted she had no field experience.

"Normally, courts do not make adverse comments on the deposition of a witness and suffice it to consider whether it is credible or not, but we find it difficult to resist ourselves in this particular case considering the sensitivity and nature of dispute and also the reckless and irresponsible kind of statements..." the judge has noted.

He said opinions had been offered without making a proper investigation, research or study in the subject. The judge said he was "startled and puzzled" by contradictory statements. When expert witness Suraj Bhan deposed on the Babri mosque, the weight of his evidence was contradicted by anotherexpert for Muslim parties, Shirin Musavi, who told the court that Bhan "is an archaeologist and not an expert on medieval history".
Justice Agarwal referred to signed statements issued by experts and noted that "instead of helping in making a cordial atmosphere it tends to create more complications, conflict and controversy." He pointed out that experts carry weight with public opinion. "One cannot say that though I had made a statement but I am not responsible for its authenticity since it is not based on my study or research but what I have learnt from what others have uttered," Justice Aggarwal has said, emphasising the need for thorough original research before concurring with what someone else has claimed.

Telephone conspiracy

From The Friday Times:
Saudi ulema against ‘hello’

According to daily Pakistan, seventy religious scholars (ulema) of Saudi Arabia including the Imam of Kaaba have issued fatwa that Muslims should not say hello on telephone because it refers to Hell. When a Muslim says hello to another Muslim, he is calling him a jahannami (dweller of Hell) which is banned in Islam. The Europeans are very clever because they actually don’t say hello but Hi which avoids sending Christians to Hell. Therefore it was banned for Muslims to say hello. They should say Salam which is a far better thing to say to another Muslim than hello, the word that contains ‘hell’.

PS: a wag immediately pointed out that salam is contained in salami.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Paul Krugman: Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families. And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office.

Re: Martyred

The "crimes" of Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan.
Few months ago i was disgusted to see him advocating music in accordance of Islamic interpretation. Claiming that Islam is the religion of nature and any thing human nature likes like music, painting, dancing and other forms of fine arts are allowed in Islam.
Like all “new age” Islamic scholars he tried to define and explain the issues of hijab, music, jihad, slavery, jurisprudence, punishment of apostate, women rights, divorce,interpretation and other sensitive issues based on one rule that MODERN GLOBAL CIVILIZATION is standard if any Islamic injunction rejects any essential practice or belief system of MODERN GLOBAL CIVILIZATION, then that particular Islamic injunction should be redefined. (obviously this is a disgusting practice for majority of Muslims like me)
Hence i can say that i am not sad at all on the murder of Dr.Farooq Khan, In fact i am happy just because one of the real enemy of Allah(swt) and Rasool ullah(saw) is no more on the face of earth for the dirty job of diabolic.

What can one say to the above?

PS: what seemed most upsetting to the above writer:
For example Mr.Farooq Khan wrote in his book Islam and modern world:
“In the closest circle of a family there is no restriction on mutual contact and meetings. The surah al-Nur describes in detail the manners on meeting outside this circle. The first of these tells that it is obligatory for every man and woman to get him or herself introduced with the inhabitants of a house before entering it, confirm their willingness and pay regards to them. Obviously, this is a universal custom. The Quran says: “Believers, do not enter the dwellings of other people until you have asked their owners’ permission and wished them peace. (Al-Nur-24:27)
Thus after having observed the initial manners of entering a house the visitor may sit down with the dweller.

It is natural that men and women will talk mutually when they will meet at such places. It is, therefore, obligatory for men to wear civilized dress, have modesty in looks and avoid throwing bold and lusty glances towards women

Thus men and women can have mutual contacts on purpose at their residences and public places according to the teachings of Islam. They can talk and exchange views. The two families can have friendly relations in a civilized manner. There should not be sexual excitement and a bold interaction. But there is no restriction upon their civilized social interaction; they may even dine together:
(Islam & Modern World – p/67-68)
So you can see how segregation[sic] of men and women which is not allowed and discouraged every where in Quran and Hadith is easily interpreted as allowed and called as a natural social interaction of two sexes.
PS: The intersection of mores - segregation of men and women which the above writer appears to be in favor of -  and modern photography, Facebook, etc., leads to situations like this:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Greed as Art

Photographer Pindelski had an interesting post, that I thought I should point y'all to, titled "Greed as Art".

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Martyred by the Bullies

The Vice Chancellor of Swat Islamic University, Dr Muhammad Farooq Khan was murdered by gunmen, not yet identified.   This article suggests that Dr Khan was "unorthodox".  Was he murdered for his views on the permissibility of music in Islam?
Dr. Khan was associated with Al-Mawrid, an Islamic research organization lead by Javed Ahmed Ghamidi . He gained media limelight and became a center of controversy for his allegedly unorthodox views on permissibility of music. Most of his works can be downloaded from his website. Clipping from the talk show where he shared his views on music is linked below:.......[omitted]
Its one of those days when it feels really impossible to breathe in the land of the pure and sadness overcomes the desire to remain optimistic. When intellect is not tolerated, disagreements are settled through bullets, and mockery of the law becomes a convention, the society seems to be quickly approaching towards self annihilation
PS: Dr Khan might have been annihilated simply for being anti-Taliban.

Yglesias is with Gandhi

I remember seeing in the library a novel about what would have happened had Gandhi headed the resistance to Hitler. I just scanned through it, I think Gandhi is summarily shot, and Hitler rolls over the world.

But on Gandhi's birthday, Yglesias writes:
I think the general moral of the story is that non-violence is a tactic whose potency people pretty systematically underrate. When the force being resisted is one you also sympathize with, it gets easy to see that non-violence would work better. But when the force being resisted is one you’re both frightened of and embittered against, the tendency is to be blind to this.

Over the years I’ve come to adopt a pretty extremist view on this, and I think I’m even prepared to accept the reductio ad Hitler case. Had it been feasible to coordinate the population of Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. into a mass campaign of non-violent resistance to German occupation I think that would have brought even Hitler down. The problem there is essentially about how difficult it is to sustain collective action rather than about the need to fight evil with violence.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two on Bangladesh

Sadanand Dhume in the WSJ.
Perhaps most strikingly, Bangladesh—the world's third most populous Muslim-majority country after Indonesia and Pakistan—has shown a willingness to confront both terrorism and the radical Islamic ideology that underpins it. Since taking office in 2009, the Awami League-led government has arrested local members of the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al Qaeda affiliate Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami-Bangladesh, and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a domestic outfit responsible for a wave of bombings in 2005.

In July, the Supreme Court struck down a 31-year-old constitutional amendment and restored Bangladesh to its founding status as a secular republic. The government has banned the writings of the radical Islamic ideologue Abul Ala Maududi (1903-79), founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, the subcontinent's most influential Islamist organization. Maududi regarded warfare for the faith as an exalted form of piety and encouraged the subjugation of women and non-Muslims. A long-awaited war crimes tribunal will try senior Jamaat-e-Islami figures implicated in mass murder during Bangladesh's bloody secession from Pakistan.

This is apparently riling up foreign Islamists: US Islamists Take Issue with Bangladesh's Crackdown on Radicals.

Well, everyone's true colors will out. Here is some of what Bangladesh has done:

* Four senior Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders, including the party's leader Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami, were arrested in July in connection with mass killings and other war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The four reportedly led Islamist militias targeting pro-independence supporters and religious minorities. Bangladeshi sources claim the Pakistani army, with the aid of local collaborators, killed as many as 3 million people during the nine-month war that ended with the surrender of the Pakistani army and Bangladesh's emergence as an independent nation.

* A recent ban was imposed on books by Islamist scholar Maulana Syed Abdul Ala Maududi in mosques and libraries across Bangladesh. Maududi founded the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party in 1941 in Lahore, Pakistan, then part of British India. He is a leading pioneer of Islamic revivalism in South Asia and has been reported to be inspired by the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen or the Muslim Brotherhood, a global Islamic revivalist movement founded in Egypt in 1928 that seeks to establish a worldwide caliphate based on Islamic law. In one of those books, Let us be Muslim, Maududi preached that Muslims "must strive to change the wrong basis of government, and seize all powers to rule and make laws from those who do not fear God."

* Bangladesh's Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict in July overturning a 1979 constitutional amendment legitimizing military rule and sanctioning the participation of religious parties in politics. "Secularism will again be the cornerstone of our constitution," said law minister Shafiq Ahmed. "Islamic parties cannot use religion in politics anymore." The country's highest court also ruled the use of religious fatwas to mete punishment "illegal and without legal authority."

* Earlier this year, police arrested Mohiuddin Ahmed and Syed Golam Mawla, top leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global Islamist movement that seeks to establish a worldwide Islamist caliphate ruled by Sharia. Both Ahmed and Mawla are professors at the prestigious Dhaka University and Ahmed is the chief coordinator of HuT in Bangladesh. The arrests followed the government's ban of the HuT in October last year.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Standing up to Bullying

The Free Press Society and Gregorius Nekschot

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The laws of economics and morality

But maybe this is an opportunity to reiterate a point I try to make now and then: economics is not a morality play. It’s not a happy story in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished. The market economy is a system for organizing activity — a pretty good system most of the time, though not always — with no special moral significance. 

Nitin Pai on Pakistan

Nitin Pai:
We need to stop believing that dialogue with Pakistan will somehow convince the military-jihadi complex to change. We need to start engaging the powers that scaffold Pakistan and compel them to influence the behaviour of their charge.

It is generally a good idea to let bad ideas self-destruct. For all the chaos in Russia in the 1990s, few people -- at least in the West -- will argue that allowing the Soviet Union to collapse was a bad thing to do. Imagine what ordinary Americans might have thought if, say Japan, had injected billions of dollars to prop up the Soviet Union, because, you know, "who wants a failed state with nuclear weapons?" Yet that is exactly what the United States is doing now with Pakistan.

India has sought to reassure the military-jihadi complex of its peaceful intent through a policy of unilateral reassurance. In the words of a former high commissioner to Pakistan,"[if] we want to give the Army reasons to change its mind on India, we can only do it through the reassurances we convey in a sustained dialogue." The reassurances, unfortunately, have been read as arising out of weakness: there is every sign that General Ashfaq Kayani is resolutely focussed on the old project. (Some Western analysts are sympathetic to the argument that intentions mean little and Pakistan is justified in worrying about India's growing capabilities. By this logic, Mexico and Canada must have nuclear arsenals, hundreds of missiles and non-state actors targeting the United States).