Sunday, February 28, 2010


American children in 2010 have a bright, clear reason for being. They exist to furnish subjects for digital photographs that can be corrected, cropped, captioned, organized, categorized, albumized, broadcast, turned into screen savers and brandished on online social networks.— Virginia Heffernan in the NYT

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Irfan Husain on rolling back the Islamic extremism in Pakistan: Ban the ban on Basant

Basant (Sanskrit Vasant) is the season of spring, or the festival heralding its arrival. Wiki also tells us
In the pre-partitioned Western Punjab, especially Lahore--locals celebrated the Basant festival by flying kites. Muslims of Punjab celebrated the Basant although it was considered as a local (non Islamic folk) festival. It was mainly Muslims that participated in kite flying as an event.

In the modern dispensation in Pakistan, Basant has Hindu roots and so is unIslamic, kite flying has been deemed immoral. The Courts have upheld bans on the festival.

Irfan Husain writes:
Our clerics, more influenced by Afghanistan’s Taliban, have been doing their best to prevent people from having fun. Innocent pleasures are denounced from the pulpit, and people are forced into enjoying the simplest forms of pleasures behind closed doors.

Over the years, this ‘Deobandi-Wahabi-Salafi axis’, to borrow Pervez Hoodbhoy’s term, has been pushing us further and further away from normalcy. Intolerance and hypocrisy are now the norm, and extremist thugs have a tight grip on university campuses to make sure nobody has any fun.
When we ban the shared enjoyment of traditional festivals like Basant, we are only strengthening the extremists who have come to shape our national agenda. Each time they gain one concession, they immediately demand another. We had long ago ceded New Year celebrations to the extremist thugs who went around smashing up hotels and clubs on Dec 31 if there were any signs of festivities. Is Basant going to follow the same path?

I do not always see eye to eye with my old friend, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, but when he declared he would go ahead and celebrate Basant, and forget the consequences, my spirits lifted at his defiance. Almost immediately, Senator Pervez Rashid of the PML-N threatened to have Salman dragged out of the Governor’s House in handcuffs if he defied the ban. This, alas, is the level of persons who fill our assemblies.

For far too long, we have accepted the edicts of our moral police without raising an outcry. One by one, simple pleasures have been legislated away.

The Situation in South Asia

A Council of Foreign Relations media conference. Reading it is useful.

Pakistan: a compilation

Not one Indian view in these. From SSridhar on Bharat Rakshak Forum.
"Unfortunately, our recognition in the comity of nations today is only as a ´ breeding ground ´ for religious extremism and militancy and as a country afflicted with a culture of violence and sectarianism. " Shamshad Ahmed, ex-Foreign Secretary, Pakistan, Nov 24, 2007

"Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. It has nuclear weapons, it has terrorism, extremists... " Madeline Albright, Oct. 2008

"Let me be very clear. Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas." Michael Hayden, Director, CIA, Nov 13, 2008

"Why is it that all terrorist plots – from the Sept. 11 attacks, to Madrid, to London, to Mumbai – seem to have roots in Islamabad? " Ms. Benazir Bhutto, Washington Post, March 12, 2007

“Three quarters of the most serious plots investigated by the British authorities have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The time has come for action, not words.” Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister, Islamabad, Dec., 15, 2008

For over a decade, India has been in the bull's eye of both al Qaeda and the global jihadist syndicate that has its hide outs in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bruce Riedel, Chairman, Policy review Committee on Pakistan & Afghanistan, Dec 3, 2008

“Pakistan is on the top of the international community’s agenda for its internal conflicts and being home to potential terrorists”. Raymond Johansen, Dy. Foreign Minister, Norway, Mar. 2009

“. . . this country will drift from crisis to calamity, from calamity to catastrophe, and from catastrophe to disaster.” Perico, Duke of Amalfi, a former Spanish ambassador to Pakistan {This was said sometime in the late 50s. What a prescient statement}

''I don't have a lot of confidence that the Pakistani government has the will or the capability to take on the violent forces inside of their country,” Senator Carl Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee, USA, Mar. 2009

“The Pakistani military and police and intelligence service don't follow the civilian government; they are essentially a rogue state within a state.” David Kilcullen, Adviser, Gen. Petraeus, March 23, 2009

“I have absolutely no confidence in the ability of the existing Pakistan government to do one blessed thing,” David R. Obey, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee, April 2009

“There is a line of terror, a chain of terror that goes from Pakistan and the border areas of Afghanistan right back to the streets of all our countries” Gordon Brown, British Prime Minister, Addressing British Troops at Afghanistan, April 29, 2009

“This is not our army, this is not our government. They’re worse enemies of Muslims than the Americans.” Muslim Khan, Spokesperson, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Swat, referring to Pakistan and its Army, May 2009

“Pakistan is the headquarters of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership” Gen. David Petraeus, Commander, US CENTCOM, May 2009

“Russia and Asian allies have ‘legitimate concerns’ that terrorists could gain access to Pakistani nuclear weapons.” Vladimir Nazarov, Secretary, Russian Security Council, May 2009

“The main terrorist threat comes from Pakistan and Somalia – not Afghanistan.” Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign Office Minister for Africa and Asia, UK, July 22, 2009

". . .the ultimate control of this conspiracy {August 2006 Trans-Atlantic Flights Bombing case} lay in Pakistan. . . the plot was run, monitored and funded from there." Justice Richard Henriques, Woolwich Crown Court, London, Sep. 14, 2009

“Homeland security begins in many instances abroad, and particularly what happens in Pakistan . . . ”, Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Homeland Security, US Government, Oct 2009

“. . . billions have gone down a rat hole in the past in Pakistan. . .”, Howard L Berman, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Oct. 13, 2009

“We know that much of the training and direction for the terrorists comes from Pakistan” Ms. Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State, CNN Interview, Dec. 10, 2009

Friday, February 26, 2010

Symbol for the Indian Rupee

Symbol for Indian Rupee
106. In the ensuing year, we intend to formalise a symbol for the Indian Rupee, which reflects and captures the Indian ethos and culture. With this, Indian Rupee will join the select club of currencies such as the US Dollar, British Pound Sterling, Euro and Japanese Yen that have a clear distinguishing identity. — From Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's 2010-11 budget speech to Parliament

Interesting to think what it will be. How soon will it show up in font sets? and so on.

Uncomfortable Truths

Dawn asked its readers to comment on whether India and Pakistan are like Tom and Jerry (the cat and mouse cartoon characters) (Kya India aur Pakistan Tom and Jerry hain?)

I wrote a couple of replies, addressing some of the comments there. They are still awaiting moderation. In the meantime the number of comments has more than doubled - and they have timestamps after mine, so the moderators have been active. Here are my two comments, both of which begin with

"Your comment is awaiting moderation."

India is the legal successor to British India, Pakistan is the new creation. Thus e.g., India is among the founding members of the United Nations; Pakistan’s membership dates to September 30, 1947. These are the facts, easily google-able.

Even while conceding Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi told Jinnah – let us (India, Pakistan) separate as two brothers who do not want to stay in the same house (i.e., we remain brothers, though we separate). Jinnah did not agree, he said Muslims and Hindus are separate nations – the so-called “Two Nation Theory”. To see now Pakistanis apparently repudiate Jinnah saying that we have so much in common (or Indians repudiating Mahatma Gandhi, denying any commonality) is ironic in the extreme.

From the Indian point of view, I think they’d be satisfied with a cold peace with Pakistan. The main reason Pakistan impinges on Indian consciousness is because of the actions of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the like, which Indians believe are backed by the Pakistani army and the ISI. These actions are actual bomb blasts and attacks in India, as well as radicalization of Indian Muslim youth by these organizations.

Further, it is a common Indian impression that making any treaty with a Pakistani civilian government is pointless because it will be repudiated whenever the Pakistani military eventually overthrows this government. Until there is some continuity in civilian government in Pakistan and it shows it has firm control of defence and foreign policy, so the army becomes an instrument of the state instead of determining state policy, this mistrust will continue. Indians also believe that any Indian covert action in Pakistan ceased with Prime Minister I.K. Gujral (1997) whose Gujral Doctrine is supposedly still being followed.

Can there be peace? Yes, but this will require great patience. From the Indians’ side the distrust factors mentioned above will have to dissipate. And of course, Pakistanis have their own reasons to distrust India, they will have to decide when that can cease.


It is true though India is legally a continuation of the state that existed before 1947, India is new in many ways.

- For the first time in its very long history, India is not a land revenue state. In all previous regimes a good part of the government’s revenue was obtained by taxation of agricultural land.

- For the first time in its history, the legal equality of all citizens is enshrined in the law.

- For the first time in its history, the government is based on universal adult franchise.

PS: Later I was contemplating the miracle of how these truly revolutionary changes came about without any revolution! I still don't understand it!

PPS: The second post probably offends on two counts:
1. While Pakistan is not mentioned, it suffers in comparison.
2. It upends the narrative that the Islamic rule of India was the best.

The first post brings up too many uncomfortable truths:
1. "What existed before 1947" is an uncomfortable thing for Pakistanis for reasons I can't fathom.
2. Too many other truths in there to confront, though I have presented them as matters of Indian belief.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Democratic Party Standard Operating Procedure

Glenn Greenwald makes a strong case about the Democratic Party's SOP:
This is what the Democratic Party does; it's who they are. They're willing to feign support for anything their voters want just as long as there's no chance that they can pass it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Amartya Sen strikes again

The World Bank has a South Asia blog. On it I saw this:
In the book, The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen motivates the discussion on the importance of processes and responsibilities by relying on an example. In the Gita (part of the Mahabharata), on the eve of the crucial battle episode in the epic, Arjuna expresses his doubts about leading the fight which will result in so much killing. Lord Krishna, tells him that he, Arjuna, must perform his duty, that is, to fight. And to fight, irrespective of the consequences.

Krishna’s blessing of the demands of duty is meant to win the argument from a religious perspective. But most of us would share Arjuna’s concerns about the fact that, if the war were to occur, with him leading the charge on the side of justice and propriety, many people would get killed. He himself would be doing a lot of the killing, often of people for whom he had affection.

Arjuna’s dilemma goes well beyond the process-independent view of consequences. Like him, most of us believe that an appropriate understanding of social realization has to take the comprehensive form of a process-inclusive broad account.

It then goes on to basically say that poverty alleviation programs need to figure out how to verify that they are working, i.e., like Arjuna (before Krishna persuaded him otherwise) we must worry about consequences.

To my response, Elaina Cardoso replied:
A rich text such as the Gita can live with more than one interpretation. Amartya Sen makes good use of the contrast between Krishna's ethics ("do your duty") and Arjuna's dilemma. Should Arjuna do his duty and fight (and kill many people including people he loved)? Or should he spend the rest of his life in exile (without being responsible for a brutal battle and much killing)? Even if there would not be peace, Arjuna could choose between leading the battle or not.

My responses were hurried, here I'd like to spell it out a bit more carefully.

a. First, to read any text is to interpret it. There is no mathematical proof of what the correct interpretation is. But we can talk of good interpretations and bad interpretations. If the text is not gibberish and not fiction, a good interpretation is possible. We postulate that a good interpretation of the Gita is possible.

b. Second, we note that it is almost impossible for humans to do anything without the consequences in mind. I raise my hand to scratch my nose - even in this simple action, there is a goal that I hope to reach.

c. Third, as you find from any sane teacher of the Gita, (ranging in orientation from Eknath Easwaran to "Dadaji" Pandurang Athavale to Swami Dayananda Saraswati) the non-attachment to the consequences does not mean that you do not strive for a particular goal. One is irresponsible if one does not use the right means for the right goals. What it means is that success does not elate you nor does failure depress you.

d. Fourth, while the Gita is indeed a rich text and admits many interpretations, one still has a responsibility to not mangle the text.

To illustrate the category of mistake that Amartya Sen makes here, consider the Quran as a rich text that admits of many interpretations. I can quote chapter and verse and prove to you that the true believer is obliged to fight and kill the non-believer. At least, it is within the scope of possible interpretations (and such interpreters exist). But notice what I have done by this interpretation - I have turned every Muslim into a homicidal maniac and every peaceful Muslim into a hypocrite who does not follow the tenets of his/her religion. (Indeed, a lot of Muslim-phobia is created in exactly this way - by creating mistrust of peaceful Muslims, saying that they cannot be following their religion, the true religion is that preached by al Qaeda.)

Like Amartya Sen did with the Gita, I can use this interpretation to make a wonderful and beautiful philosophical discourse on the First Amendment and the Freedom of Religion in the Light of Islam. But I cannot justify the mistake I made on these grounds.

Amartya Sen with his interpretation of the Gita, turns the Hindus of the present and of the last two thousand years into cretins; a central book of theirs supposedly tell them to act without thinking of the consequences, and they have held on to such a useless book through the millenia.

My advice to people like Elaina Cardoso is: No matter how brilliant Albert Einstein was you wouldn't learn the Torah from him.

Microsoft's Augmented Reality Maps

Watch the eight minutes of video presentation here, if you can. Very neat!

If you can't, then in a nutshell, Microsoft not only provides 3-D maps, but is able to in real time superpose onto the map a video stream of the scene. Needless to say it can do this with photographs.

QOTD 2004-08-13

Ayaz Amir:
The purpose of Pakistan, transcending anything to do with safeguarding Islam or promoting democracy, was to create conditions for the Muslims of India, or those who found themselves in the new state, to recreate the days of their lost glory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

India Should Have Zero Poverty

Well, the official poverty line is a bit of a joke, being above it does not mean that you're well-nourished, adequately clothed and sheltered and have health care. Nevertheless, there should be ZERO Indians below the official poverty line. I'm not stating a moral imperative, I'm saying that the means to make this true exist.


Tavleen Singh informs us of a report by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy of Hong Kong, that surveyed 12 Asian economies and found India to have the worst government bureaucracy.

The Government of India spent Rs 4 trillion on various poverty alleviation programmes last year. The report points out that if even half this money had been distributed among our estimated 60 million poor households, they would each get Rs 80 a day and so rise above the poverty line. Our own Planning Commission pointed this out more than a decade ago but because there has not been the smallest attempt to get our babu-log to work more efficiently, nothing has changed.

Angry African thinks about talking to his baby daughter:
How do I tell her that every 3 seconds a child dies from something that we could’ve stopped? From hunger. From not enough food. From not having an apple. Or clean drinking water. Or just a little porridge in the morning. That we have it in our power to stop it if we want. But we choose not to. How do I tell her?

How do we live with the fact that a lot of the human misery in India can be mitigated, and yet nothing happens?

Discrimination against women continues

Even in the ongoing Winter Olympics. Read all the silly rationalizations of why there is no women's ski jumping.

Full disclosure: I boycott the Olympics, both Winter and Summer, for a variety of reasons.


Robi Damelin.   She wrote a letter to the Palestinian sniper who killed her son.  The sniper replied, and this is from her subsequent reply.
I am well aware from your family, and have shared the story all over the world, of your uncle who was violently killed by Israeli soldiers in front of you when you were a small child, and of the uncle you lost in the second intifada. I think that there was a definite longing for revenge. I also think that you will find out with time that there is no revenge for a loved one.

PS: Please explore this..

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taliban in South Korea

Talk of global reach!

PS: seems I should spell it out.
The suspect first came to Seoul in 2001 using a false passport, but was deported in June 2003 by the Immigration Service, according to authorities.

However, he returned within two months, using a new name and passport, with his wife, two sons and four daughters.

a. Getting a new name and passport in less than two months presumably needs official collusion.

b. It should be noted that post-2001 the US really got its tentacles into the Pakistani entry/exit control systems. If you google around, you may find out about that. To be able to do what this suspect did without raising alarms -- my guess again is that the man needed official Pakistani help.

c. I doubt that the suspect is a recent recruit to the Taliban (really, ISI). They were putting an asset in place in 2001 - in South Korea of all places - a sign of long-term thinking. Such an asset could serve many purposes - an attack on US personnel or an attack to oblige North Korea in return for their help with missiles.

PPS: PISCES - as I remember, the system was installed by the US.


Doug Sanders in The Globe and Mail:
While there's no real danger of the Taliban's taking over Pakistan, electorally or militarily, there's a danger of Pakistanis becoming destitute and hospitable to terrible ideas – largely because we've turned the country into an anti-India military force.

Matter for reflection for the "we" in the above quote

Injustice at the DOJ

A whistle-blower is punished for doing her duty, while the authors of the infamous "torture is legal" memos get away with mild reprimands.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The State Actor

The Hindustan Times reports:
Abhishek Sharan, Hindustan Times
Email Author
New Delhi, February 15, 2010
First Published: 00:49 IST(15/2/2010)
Last Updated: 01:01 IST(15/2/2010)


A serving major of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was among those directing 26/11 terrorists over phone from across the border, India has been told by the US’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The major was referred to by a pseudonym — Major General Sahab — in his phone conversations with the terrorists during the attacks, recordings of which are with the security agencies.

David Headley, the Pakistani-origin American Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operative who surveyed the 26/11 targets months before the attacks, disclosed this during interrogation, Indian intelligence agencies were told.

Headley’s disclosure, a security agency official said requesting anonymity, confirmed India’s stand that “state actor/s” was/were involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan has consistently maintained no state-player was involved.

Ten terrorists from Pakistan reached Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and killed 166 people over the next two days.

This ISI major oversaw their training, with Lashkar founder Hafeez Saeed. And he was constantly on phone with the terrorists during the attacks.

India has been aware of this “Major General Sahab” for a while, Home Minister P. Chidambaram had told NDTV last September. But it was not known then if he was still with the ISI or was a retired officer.

Headley has said he was with the ISI then.

I always wanted to visit there

Messier 31

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer produced this image of Andromeda a.k.a. Messier 31, our large neighbor. (Click on the picture to get to the NASA page).

More on Goldman Sachs

Matt Taibbi on Goldman Sachs:
They raped the taxpayer, and they raped their clients.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Yes, life is cruel. Yes, it is extra-cruel in India. Where many people die unnecessarily from road accidents and curable diseases, and many children grow up stunted from malnourishment and no education. And there are all the twists of man exploiting man.

But there is an exceptional malice, it seems to me, in the terrorists' bombs.
Here is a glimpse of a life mutilated and snuffed out, in the bomb blast in Pune on February 13. Abhishek Saxena was a junior at engineering college and the hope of his widowed mother. We are told - that he was passionate about cars, with special inclination towards designing , research and mechanism. "Intensivist Vilas Gundecha, of Inlaks and Budhrani Hospital, said, Abhishek was admitted with severe injuries to the right leg, which required immediate amputation. Following that, he continued to bleed profusely and several rounds blood transfusions (25 bottles) had to be conducted over the past two days. As many as 15 students of D Y Patil College of Engineering , Akurdi, were ready to donate blood to save their friend Abhishek Saxena. But their prayers were not answered as he breathed his last on Tuesday."

In India, far too often reduce the victims of terror are reduced to statistics. A billion people, what's a few hundred lost here or there? I always believed, however, that development is the process of conversion of the masses into people. No one should be reduced to a statistic. At least read their names. Indians are typically named with the names of the divine, or else with names of divine attributes. So reading the names will be a form of prayer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More attacks likely

K. Subrahmanyam explains the Feb 13 bomb blast in Pune and tells us to expect more.

Understanding Pakistan

Vikram Sood.
Pakistan’s development into a highly Islamised society today can be divided into five periods.....Some like Rubina Saigol (The News February 21, 2009) have even questioned Jinnah’s intentions about secularism and modernism. Her essay ‘Myths versus Facts About Fundamentalism’ is to dismantle eight of the most common myths about Muslim fundamentalism and extremism ‘(in our part of the world) by juxtaposing such myths against observable facts.’ One of the myths she dismantles is the belief or the claim that fundamentalism is the result of mental and moral backwardness, attitudes religion and beliefs. Her argument is that ‘Fundamentalism is about geopolitics, involving power, money, and control over territory, people and resources....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pathologies of Engineers

Most physics crackpots are engineers. More than 95% of my sample boast engineering degrees, or combine an undergraduate maths/physics degree followed by an engineering PhD or equivalent.
On Usenet, in a group devoted to crackpottery, many years ago, one Bruce Salem came up with the Salem Hypothesis (it was named later) that if a creationist has an advanced technical degree, it will be in engineering.
(the two above from here)
Al Qaeda’s members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.
(from here.  Continuing on that thread:)
In discussing educational levels, Sageman observes the high prevalence of individuals pursuing technical studies such as engineering and medicine among jihadis. Why are so many jihadis engineers? This is the topic of an important recent Oxford study, Engineers of Jihad, by Diego Gambetta and Steifen Hertog (2007).
(from here)
The sociology paper {Engineers of Jihad} published last November, which has been making rounds over the Internet and was recently picked up by The Atlantic, uses illustrative statistics and qualitative data to conclude that there is a strong relationship between an engineering background and involvement in a variety of Islamic terrorist groups. The authors have found that graduates in subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world. The authors also note that engineers, alone, are strongly over-represented among graduates who gravitate to violent groups.
A past survey in the United States has already shown that the proportion of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum is greater than any other disciplinary groups--such as economists, doctors, scientists, and those in the humanities and social sciences.
(the above from here)

I'm sure there is more, much more. The highly acclaimed Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots is in part about how to not be an engineer or how to be a better and more human one, if trapped in engineering.

Peace with Pakistan: chasing a mirage

Continuing a theme. A depressing theme, and scary in its implications (is the alternative a nuclear war?) but reality nonetheless.

Retd. Col. Anil Athale:
Paraphrasing a Mao dictum, the jihadis survive since they swim in a pond of fanatics. Without the latter, like fish out of water, the jihadis would not survive.
In June-July 2006, I participated in the goodwill mission between Mumbai and Karachi. Within a few days of our return from a goodwill trip to Karachi, the terrorists struck at Mumbai's local trains on July 11, killing more than 200 innocent people. But such is public memory in India that it has been forgotten totally. The pseudo-peaceniks and sundry busybodies now want Indians to forget the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and continue the peace process with Pakistan.

Let me hasten to add that we met a lot of people of goodwill and peace in Pakistan. But most of them were part of the elite. There is no doubt about their sincerity as well. But there is a total disconnect between the elite and the masses. The biggest problem in the case of Pakistan is that civil society has very little influence over either the masses or the government.

The argument then was and today is -- the jihadis want to derail the peace process, that is why they are doing it but we must continue with normal relations, sporting ties, cultural exchanges et al. All this while the Pakistanis deny any connection/responsibility towards these atrocities. I do not buy this argument. If the peace process is not capable of bringing about these minimum conditions, then it is useless. I publicly disassociated myself from this pointless exercise.

Where there is Goldman Sachs, financial trouble cannot be far behind

Today's NYT confirms Matt Taibbi's description of Goldman Sachs:
The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

Some excerpts:
As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.
In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.
In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come.

Critics say that such deals, because they are not recorded as loans, mislead investors and regulators about the depth of a country’s liabilities.

Observation of the day

Pakistan’s erasure of its own muddled history is the subject of Bani Abidi’s witty series of photographs, ‘The Ghost of Mohammad Bin Qasim’. In the nation’s attempt to create an official history, which focuses on Muslims in the subcontinent (rather than Pakistan’s geographical boundaries), the Arab general Bin Qasim (712 AD) was lauded for being the first Muslim to successfully lead a military campaign in India — even though he did little to consolidate his position.

In Abidi’s photographs, a man in Arab dress is shot at different locations in Karachi, including the mausoleum of the nation’s secular founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The man is clearly Photoshopped in, deliberately so: he represents the attempt to graft a false history on to Pakistan, linking it to the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia.

From here.

One photograph from the work is available here, with the caption
The Boy Who Got Tired of Posing, 2006

A series of fictional photo and video narratives. At the center of each appears the symbol of Mohammad Bin Qasim, as a recurring mythological figure. Playing with the very idea of concocted history, each story lies somewhere between truth and fiction.

Another here.

A Flash presentation via here (choose Works)

The Whitechapel exhibition URL.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It is billed as "The final battle of Muslims against India", prophesized by none less than the Prophet Muhammad himself. The motivational video is thus:

The message:

Support is found for the prophecy in the writings of Nostradamus, Naimatuallah Shah Wali, and even Mahatma Gandhi, so we are told. Zaid Hamid is a prominent purveyor of this puffery.

Vir Sanghvi: Peace with Pakistan is implausible

Vir Sanghvi summarized:

The Manmohan Singh doctrine is that a solution with Pakistan consists of soft borders, regional cooperation and an agenda for prosperity.

However, the major factors behind Pakistani policy all work against this formulation.

Pakistan has lost control of its terrorists. They cannot secure Karachi or Lahore, how can they prevent attacks on Mumbai. Nor do they see any gain in curbing attacks on India. Neither the capability nor the will is there. " embattled Pakistani state has nothing to gain by cracking down on those who attack India. On the contrary, it risks alienating its own people by appearing to let down the ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘poor Indian Muslims who are fighting for justice’."

The terrorists threaten the US and its mission in Afghanistan. "The Pakistanis have told the Americans that they would like to help but domestic public opinion is deeply hostile to America. The only way they can mollify their own people is if they can say that Washington is on Pakistan’s side against India, that it will help secure Kashmiri freedom, etc. Naturally, the US cannot do all of this. But it can put pressure on India to talk to Pakistan (so that the Pakistanis can claim we blinked). That is exactly what the Americans are now doing..... We are just being used by the Americans and the Pakistanis and our genuine desire for peace is being exploited."

None of soft borders, regional cooperation and prosperity is possible as long as the jihadi mindset prevails in Pakistan.

Zaid Hamid - Falwell, Limbaugh, Beck rolled into one

Farhat Taj on Zaid Hamid:
The main concern of the people of FATA vis-a-vis Zaid Hamid is his use of a particularly narrow interpretation of Islam that proposes a belligerent agenda for the Pakistan Army and drawing on controversial Islamic literature. Thus the authenticity of the hadiths — sayings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) — on Ghazwa-e-Hind that he often refers to in terms of the ultimate defeat of the Indians at the hands of the Pakistan Army is highly questionable.

Zaid Hamid claims in his speeches to young people that God determines the destiny of Pakistan. Pakistan will become a grand Caliphate. Pakistan army will cut India down to the size of Sri Lanka. Pakistan will lead the entire Muslim world and its army will be deployed in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and Afghanistan. The corrupt judicial system, consisting of the lawyers and the Supreme Court of Pakistan, will be replaced by an Islamic judicial system that would ensure — Taliban style — speedy and cheap justice. He claims that the current elected set up in Pakistan is implanted by the CIA and prophesies that the current rulers in Pakistan will have their dead bodies hanging on poles in Islamabad, an indirect appreciation of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan with the dead body of Dr Najibullah, the then Afghan president. He openly threatens the nationalists, especially the Pakhtun and Baloch nationalists, for their aspirations. The Taliban government in Afghanistan, he declares, was Pakistan-friendly and condemns its removal by the US in the post-9/11 attack on the country. He glorifies the biggest mass murderer of the Pakhtun — General Zia, the former dictator of Pakistan.

Judging by the obscurantist message that he communicates, Zaid Hamid does not seem to be a new invention of the establishment. He is an addition to the long list of people who have been handpicked to promote an anti-people agenda in the name of religion and hate of India, like the people from the Jamaat-e-Islami. What seems to be new is his apparent ‘tolerance’ of the ‘un-Islamic’ lifestyle of the urban youth and in this context there are some interesting discussions about Zaid Hamid on some blogs and mailing lists. One blogger writes that Zaid Hamid is using a new strategy to communicate the same old conspiracy theories to young people. The strategy is that unlike classical Islamic scholars, joining Zaid Hamid’s group does not necessarily require the youth to shed their sophisticated lifestyle and adjust to hijab, a ban on music and gender segregation. The only thing they have to do is to glorify the Pakistan Army, including its pursuit of strategic depth, and hate Jews, Americans and Indians.

The genetic roots of war?

The problem with the theory of evolution is not that it is wrong, but that so many people use it to construct pseudo-scientific stories. The typical story begins with a factual observation of trait X or behavior Y. How did it arise? It must have had evolutionary origins (and the hidden postulate here is that this trait or behavior must be genetically determined). Since we observe this X or Y, and we've said it has arisen from evolution, it must have been acted upon by natural selection, so yet another story is made up about how it provides a competitive advantage to the organism that possesses it. The hard work of science, the establishment of a causal chain, is ignored. The problem is compounded in the study of the more complicated animals, like apes, that can possibly have culture.

As a simple case in point
: "Killer chimps fuel debate on how war began".

Observation: "...a growing number of documented incidents of chimpanzees ganging up on, hunting down and killing each other"

Jargonification: "“Lethal coalitionary aggression is part of the natural behavioral repertoire of chimpanzees,” writes David Watts of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Story-making: "Watts declares the incidents back up a proposal that war is rooted in evolution. This view, called the imbalance of power hypothesis, holds that animals that conduct mutual group violence do so because it helps them win resources and territory. This in turn lets them survive longer and breed more—and all living species, evolutionary theory holds, descend from those that were able best do those things in the past.

The imbalance of power hypothesis states, in other words, that evolution favored humans and chimps who warred when and because they could get away with it. “This makes grisly sense in terms of natural selection,” said Richard Wrangham, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the author of the hypothesis."

--- Notice what is missing here. To constitute a scientific explanation, we'd have to find the genes that govern this behavior - i.e., show how a gene or genes acting in concert cause human or chimpanzee "lethal coalitionary aggression". And we have to rule out that this is learned behavior that is transmitted from generation to generation. Then, there are several different ape behaviorial repertoires - e.g., chimpanzees are aggressive, but bonobos are not (if I understand correctly); and to understand the roots of human warfare we'd have to know which ape we descended from and whether the natural selection pressures that humans encountered during their evolution accentuated or diminished the various traits of the parent ape.

Personally, I've always wondered how a chimpanzee baby brought up by bonobos would behave. It shouldn't be a hard experiment to perform.

Anyway, I woke this morning to NPR's Radiolab where I heard of Robert Sapolsky's "A Natural History of Peace" in Foreign Affairs magazine. Since that is hidden behind a paywall, here are the essential findings from a NYT article from 2004:

No Time for Bullies: Baboons Retool Their Culture
Published: April 13, 2004

Among a troop of savanna baboons in Kenya, a terrible outbreak of tuberculosis 20 years ago selectively killed off the biggest, nastiest and most despotic males, setting the stage for a social and behavioral transformation unlike any seen in this notoriously truculent primate.

In a study appearing today in the journal PloS Biology (online at, researchers describe the drastic temperamental and tonal shift that occurred in a troop of 62 baboons when its most belligerent members vanished from the scene. The victims were all dominant adult males that had been strong and snarly enough to fight with a neighboring baboon troop over the spoils at a tourist lodge garbage dump, and were exposed there to meat tainted with bovine tuberculosis, which soon killed them. Left behind in the troop, designated the Forest Troop, were the 50 percent of males that had been too subordinate to try dump brawling, as well as all the females and their young. With that change in demographics came a cultural swing toward pacifism, a relaxing of the usually parlous baboon hierarchy, and a willingness to use affection and mutual grooming rather than threats, swipes and bites to foster a patriotic spirit.

Remarkably, the Forest Troop has maintained its genial style over two decades, even though the male survivors of the epidemic have since died or disappeared and been replaced by males from the outside. (As is the case for most primates, baboon females spend their lives in their natal home, while the males leave at puberty to seek their fortunes elsewhere.) The persistence of communal comity suggests that the resident baboons must somehow be instructing the immigrants in the unusual customs of the tribe.

Uust one case like the above is a reminder that anyone who wants to find the genetic origin of human or ape behavior has to first have to rule out learned behavior, or else actually find the causal chain of gene -> physiology -> behavior before feeding us stories of evolution.

PS: from the NYT article:
The report also offers real-world proof of a principle first demonstrated in captive populations of monkeys: that with the right upbringing, diplomacy is infectious. Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta, has shown that if the normally pugilistic rhesus monkeys are reared with the more conciliatory stumptailed monkeys, the rhesus monkeys learn the value of tolerance, peacemaking and mutual hip-hugging.

PPS: Summary of Sapolsky's Foreign Affairs article:

Humans like to think that they are unique, but the study of other primates has called into question the exceptionalism of our species. So what does primatology have to say about war and peace? Contrary to what was believed just a few decades ago, humans are not "killer apes" destined for violent conflict, but can make their own history.

Friday, February 12, 2010


From a comment on Peter Woit's blog A physics professor at a small department about undergraduate students:
And they seem completely uninterested in such topics [General Relativity, Quantum Field Theory]; they seem to view gauged field theories, not as the theoretical triumph that they or, not as a rich field of ongoing investigation, but as a pesky inconvenience on their way to becoming the next Einstein. There’s no real intellectual curiosity; they just want to be the next Einstein.

Three approaches on Global Warming

Three approaches to Global Warming:

Link to video: Colbert, Steven

Maddow, Rachel

Link to video: Stewart, Jon

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Some people were wondering. Except for the stuff at the junction of the road and driveway, the rest was cleared with a little Toro electric snowblower.

PS: If you're wondering why in the first photo. the snow is so much higher on the right side than on the left - that is because on the first day I had cleared snow for both garage doors. The second day, I just did the one door.

The Feb Storm

The Feb Storm

Peace with Pakistan: An idea whose time has passed

Prem Mahadevan in the Indian Defense Review.

There is a concerted effort on by interested third parties to create an impression that resumption of the peace process is ‘inevitable’. It is not. Even the most pacifist of Indian prime ministers have demonstrated a steely resolve on national security issues, such as V.P Singh in 1990 when he threatened to go to war if Pakistan intervened overtly in Kashmir. Similarly, in 1997 IK Gujral did not allow his dovish image to stop him from publicly shooting down a British attempt to mediate on Kashmir. Those who believe that New Delhi can be flattered or badgered into negotiating with a terrorist state only risk damaging their own relations with India. During the first few weeks of the Kargil war, there were the usual calls for restraint from Washington and London. These transformed into pressure on Pakistan only after India made clear that it would not negotiate under threat. Today, a similar message of firmness needs to be sent out.

Failure to do so would encourage the belief currently prevailing within the Pakistan army that its use of terrorists is a viable strategy. India has already made the biggest confidence building measure possible, by not retaliating to a single act of terrorism originating from Pakistan. ISI officials continue to plan terrorist attacks in India, knowing that they will not be targeted for assassination. Until November 2008, New Delhi remained on cordial terms with Islamabad, despite the urban bombing campaign by the so-called ‘Indian Mujahiddin’ (actually Lashkar-e-Toiba by another name). The Mumbai attacks broke this dynamic because Pakistan instead of reciprocating Indian goodwill, chose to ratchet up its proxy war. By sending Pakistani mercenaries to kill Indians under the cover of a non-existent terrorist group called ‘Deccan Mujahiddin’, the ISI overplayed its hand.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Economics of Information

The theme of a few recent stories in the New York Times can perhaps be termed "The Economics of Information".

David Carr writes about Demand Media
's hyper-efficient web content generating process. Demand Media has five times the youtube content than the next largest single source and over a million articles, we are told. It works like this:
Demand uses a three-part formula of search terms, potential ad results and what competitors are doing to feed an algorithm that, with a human assist, comes up with headlines that are full of clickable, salient language that serves as bait for readers and search ads. (News is expensive to produce and not really a part of the formula because the company is looking for durable content, so “How to avoid a tiger attack” will have more value than, say, “Tiger’s not out of the woods, yet.”)

The topic is then fed into a central database where freelance writers sign up for the assignment. The articles they write are run through an automated plagiarism checker, an actual copy editor and posted on one of the company’s sites like eHow or LiveStrong.
David Carr writes that the twenty hours he spent on his NYT article would have earned him the equivalent of a dollar an hour at Demand Media. But with the shrinking print media, there are plenty of writers who have used Demand Media as a lifeline. What is to be seen is whether Demand's business model can last in the long-term, and whether people at some point tune out a dollar an hour content.

The Fight Over Who Sets Prices at the Online Mall, by Brad Stone, is about raising a barrier to online retail price information. Manufacturers are trying to control price advertising. Retailers can sell, but not advertise, at a price lower than a manufacturer-set minimum. Product pages on online stores count as advertisements. That is why you might see messages like “To see our price, add this item to your cart.”

The manufacturers fear a race to the bottom if price information is readily available, and comparison shopping is automated and easy. They also don't want their brick-and-mortar retail partners to stop carrying their products because they cannot match online prices. Previously such tactics would have earned anti-trust scrutiny we are told, but the Supreme Court immunized businesses from this in the 2007 Leegin Creative Leather Products v. PSKS decision. Of course, ecommerce sites are trying to fight back, seeking legislation in Congress.

What this article illustrates is how raising the cost of information makes the market less price-efficient. It is also of considerable interest to all of us consumers how this fight is resolved.

In "Kindle Books in Snack Sizes", Motoko Rich tells us about FT Press' venture of selling highly condensed 1000- to 2000- word versions of already published books (The Elements) and new 5000-word essays (The Shorts) at prices of 2 to 3 dollars. The idea is that people don't want to or can't read longer books. It is reported that authors are not paid advances, and are offered a 20% royalty on the publisher's net proceeds. I suppose this is the niche between full books and Demand Media output that is free-for-the-reader-except-for-advertisements.

Apple's iPad has had an immediate effect on the economics of information. Motoko Rich writes that the pricing power that publishers had ceded to on the Kindle may be restored. The situation is somewhat unclear to me, but this is another front in the battle over the information economy.

I would not dare predict where things will go, except that in the end, we will end up with an economic model that is sustainable. Whether that model is fair to producers, distributors and consumers is to be seen.

Rachel Maddow dissects the GOP

Rachel Maddow reads out a long list of Republicans who opposed the stimulus package and voted against it, but claim credit for its benefits when back in their home district. She draws the conclusion that Republicans will not support any policy of this President.


Anti-Quote, really. From The Daily Times, Pakistan.

This time, apart from the Shabab-e-Milli and other such ‘religious’ organisations, there was a sequence of banners on Lahore’s Mall Road carrying pictures of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his brother Mian Shahbaz Sharif. Most of them bore the usual inane versification. One banner that caught my eye read “Hindu bania muzammat se nahin murammat se maney ga” roughly translated as “The Hindu money-lender will not mend his ways through persuasion but will have to be physically fixed”.

It is his Urdu syllabus that I find most dangerous. He has two books for Urdu, one a selection of literature and the other prepared by none other than the Punjab Textbook Board. The latter is compulsory for all children in mainstream school systems. Children in private schools read it partially.

The students are being fed a strange concoction of half-Islam and half-patriotism in the name of Urdu. Once again the Islam part is innocuous; some stories about the life of prophet are actually inspiring. The patriotic stories are scary, to say the least. This is what the Yom-e-Difaa lesson was all about. The way it constructs the ‘enemy’, distorts facts and creates a false sense of superiority is bound to stay in the minds of impressionable young children and turn them into inflexible conservative adults who refuse to move beyond their extreme views.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Krugman today.
Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.

This comes a close second (from the same column):
But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

US Males 25-54 not part of labor force

US Males 25-54 not part of labor force as percentage of male population 25-54.

Male 25-54 not in labor force

ISI Gen. Athar Abbas's greatest PR hits

In less than two years, the general has provided the media with a fairly impressive list of promises, assertions, and projections — none of which have more than a tenuous basis in reality. has a list.

Is there age discrimination?

Male employment 25-54 and 45-54

Employed men in the age groups 25-54 and 45-54 as a percentage of their numbers in the population. Source:

US Percentage of employed Men and Women employed 25-54

Economagic is a cool site.

Prof DeLong has a post with a chart
, that I reproduced below quite fast,

US male employment 25-54

plus produced the male + female chart requested in the comments.

Employment Ratios

The trick now is to know what charts to produce.

US female employment 25-54

Cricket and Islam in Pakistan

A strange brew, made in Pakistan - cheating in cricket is supposedly connected to its ruling ideology. Note the following:

1. The ball-tampering incident
And then there is Shahid Afridi or, to get it correctly, Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi, him of the team of baboons chattering and jumping about as the Aussies systematically roasted them over large bonfires lit by the baboons themselves. Till mid-Jan this year, the man has played 293 ODIs 26 tests, 57 Twenty20s, is almost 30, if he is to be believed. Yet, in the 5th ODI, in the tense 46th over, he starts to tamper the ball, gnawing at it like baboons do. "I was smelling it," he says later. Oh please, Mr Afridi. He chews at the seam in the middle of a packed Perth ground with dozens of cameras capturing every moment in super slow-mo.

The terrible cricketing crime is seen by millions on TV. When confronted, as he was going to be, the Sahibzada apologises and says he was tampering the ball so that Pakistan could win the face-saving 5th ODI – "just one match," he pleads to Geo. Hello? "All teams do it," the genius next announces. That, of course, makes it right in Afridi's thin book of rules.

2. The incident's purported connection to Pakistan's Islamization
The Afridi ball-tampering incident can be traced back to the Pakistan state-sponsored education and socialisation project initiated in the mid-1980s by the military government of General Ziaul Haq. This pattern of education and socialisation lasted into the first decade of this century. State education, the state-media and the state’s reward system shifted the focus of young people from Pakistan as a nation-state, civic education in the context of citizenship, and cultural-religious pluralism to Islam as a transnational identity, religious-Islamic explanation and interpretation of the past and the present, greater attention to conservative Islamic ritualism, global conspiracy against the Muslims and admiration for militancy.

These policies produced a generation whose intellectual and psychological ties are weak with Pakistan as a nation-state and it invariably views the domestic and international processes within religious parameters. The main discourse of this generation is Islamic-conservative, and greater emphasis on public display of religiousness. Several cricketers have become Islamic preachers and there were reports of collective offering of prayers in cricket fields. This disposition has got nothing to do with professionalism and sports discipline.

With such a blinkered disposition, one can engage in offensive activities that cannot be condemned from a purely religious point of view. A ‘victory’ against the non-believers is a desirable objective from personal and collective perspectives. Therefore, the rules of the game and professionalism become secondary.


So there is the question - did Afridi think that tampering with the ball was OK in order to get a victory over the unbeliever Australians?

PS: see this about the Islamization of the Pakistani cricket team.

PPS: Another explanation:
Afridi comes from an era, a cricketing culture, where ball-tampering is considered a normal cricket activity, the done thing on flat Pakistani pitches - an art form and not a sin. It's been a part of the Pakistan team's standard operating procedure......Calling ball-tampering unlawful and an offence is regrettable. If ball-tampering is being openly admitted by the players, and given that it is difficult to assign reasons for why reverse swing happens (since even tampering is often ineffective in generating reverse swing), shouldn't the authorities stop looking at the practice with suspicion and instead look to bring it into the cricket syllabus so that we can all move on?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Yet more Farhat Taj


There is news coming up in the media that al Qaeda in Waziristan may run away to Yemen in the face of growing drone attacks. The people of Waziristan have expressed deep concern at this news. They do not want al Qaeda to run away from Waziristan. They want al Qaeda along with the Taliban burnt to ashes on the soil of Waziristan through relentless drone attacks. The drone attacks, they believe, are the one and only ‘cure’ for these anti-civilisation creatures and the US must robustly administer them the ‘cure’ until their existence is annihilated from the world. The people of Waziristan, including tribal leaders, women and religious people, asked me to convey in categorical terms to the US the following in my column.

One, your new drone attack strategy is brilliant, i.e. one attack closely followed by another. After the first attack the terrorists cordon off the area and none but the terrorists are allowed on the spot. Another attack at that point kills so many of them. Excellent! Keep it up!


Some people in Waziristan compare drones with the Quran’s Ababeels — the holy sparrows sent by God to avenge Abraham, the intended conqueror of the Khana Kaaba. Which other Muslim society has likened anything from the US military with a Quranic symbol? Only the Pakhtuns did that so publicly in this time of rising anti-Americanism across the Muslim world! What more does the US want from a Muslim society? Now please go ahead and do the needful as indicated by the people of Waziristan.

Secularism in Bangladesh

 The news-item.

A commentary.

On another matter, I want to preserve this timeline by Stan_S on BRF:

1) The deafening sound of gunshots broke the stillness of dawn on August 15, 1975 on road No 32 of Dhanmondi residential area. In less than an hour, the darkest chapter in the political history of Bangladesh was written on that fateful morning. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the following members of his family were assassinated in three separate attacks: his wife Begum Fazilatunnessa, sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and nine-year-old Sheikh Russel, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal, Parveen Jamal, Bangabandhu's brother Sheikh Naser, brother-in-law Abdur Rab Serniabat, 13-year-old Baby Serniabat, Serniabat's son Arif, four-year-old grand son Babu, a visiting nephew, three guests, four servants, Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni, a nephew of Bangabandhu, his wife Begum Arju Moni, and Bangabandhu's security chief Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmed.

2) Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmad immediately took control of the government, proclaiming himself president. Several of the army officers, including Syed Faruque Rahman received promotions. Major General Ziaur Rahman was appointed as the army chief after removal of Major General Shafiullah. Khondaker also ordered the imprisonment of pro-Mujib leaders Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman and Muhammad Mansur Ali. He proclaimed the Indemnity Ordinance, which granted immunity from prosecution to the assassins of Mujib. Mujib's daughters Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Sheikh Rehana were barred from returning to Bangladesh from abroad.

3) Pro-Mujib officers Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf and the Dhaka Brigade under Colonel Shafat Jamil made a counter-coup on November 3, 1975, and Ziaur Rahman was forced to resign and was put under house arrest. Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmad was ousted from power on 6 November, 1975 and imprisoned.

4) A third coup was staged under Colonel Abu Taher and a group of socialist military officers and supporters of the left-wing Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal on November 7, called the "National Revolution and Solidarity Day" (Sipoy-Janata Biplob) (Soldiers and People's Coup). Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf was killed and Colonel Jamil arrested, while Colonel Taher freed Ziaur Rahman and re-appointed him as army chief.

5) Following a major meeting at the army headquarters, an interim government was formed with Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem as chief martial law administrator and Zia, Air Vice Marshal M. G. Tawab and Rear Admiral M. H. Khan as his deputies. Zia also took on the portfolios of home affairs, finance, industry and information along with becoming the army chief of staff.

6) Fearing that Colonel Abu Taher, who in fact rescued him few months earlier, would attempt to organise another revolt, Zia ordered his arrest. Following a secret trial in a military court, Zia authorised the execution of Colonel Taher on July 21, 1976. Zia became the chief martial law administrator following Justice Sayem's elevation to the presidency on November 19, 1976.

7) Major General Ziaur Rahman became the 6th President of Bangladesh on April 21, 1977 following Justice Sayem's resignation on grounds of "ill health." The Indeminity Ordinance proclaimed by President Mustaque was ratified in the Parliament when Zia's party BNP had a landslide victory in the national elction of 1979. The ordinance thereby became Indemnity Act. He allowed Sheikh Hasina, the exiled daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to return to Bangladesh.
Interregnum with dances by Maj Gen Hossein Mohd Ershad following the assassination of Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman. During the tenure of President HM Ershad, the Indemnity Act was incorporated as the 5th amendment to the constitution. This is followed by BNP electoral victory in 1990 where nothing happens on the case-front.
9) Upon winning the elections in 1996, the Awami League, led by Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, repealed the Indemnity ordinance. The Bangabandhu murder trial commenced, and Faruque, and some other coup leaders were arrested. Rashid, however, escaped arrest as he was reportedly in Libya.

10) On November 8, 1998, Dhaka Sessions Judge Golam Rasul handed down death sentences to 15 of the 20 defendants in the case.

11) A division bench of the High Court comprising Justice Md Ruhul Amin and Justice ABM Khairul Haque on December 14, 2000, delivered split verdicts on death reference appeals in the case. First judge Justice Md Ruhul Amin upheld the death sentences of 10 and acquitted five -- Muhiuddin Ahmed, Ahmed Shariful Hossain, Md Kismat Hashem, Nazmul Hossain Ansar, and Moslemuddin. Second judge Justice ABM Khairul Haque upheld the death sentences of all 15 convicts.

12) On January 15, 2001, Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim was appointed as the third judge to adjudicate the appeals. He delivered the final High Court verdict in the case on April 30, 2001, affirming the convictions and death sentences of 12 of the 15 defendants. The three that he acquitted are Md Kismat Hashem, Ahmed Shariful Hossain, and Nazmul Hossain Ansar.

13) Following BNP-alliance's victory in the 2001 elections and formation of the four party government, case again goes into suspended animation.

14) The third Caretaker government in Bangladesh history is formed after the tenure of the government of prime minister Khaleda Zia ended in October 2006. The Caretaker government of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed functioned without legislative authority as it continued to function after its scheduled tenure of 120 days ended on 12 May 2007.

15) On June 18, 2007, one of the conspirators who had been sentenced to death, Mohiuddin Ahmed, was extradited to Bangladesh from the United States. On August 07, 2007, the murder case hearing resumed after 6 years.

16) On September 23, 2007, a three-judge special bench of the Appellate Division comprising Justice Mohammed Tafazzul Islam, Justice Mohammed Joynul Abedin, and Justice Mohammed Hassan Ameen granted the leave to appeal petitions filed by the five convicts.

17) Convicts Lt Col (sacked) Syed Farooq-ur Rahman, Lt Col (retd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt Col (retd) Muhiuddin Ahmed, Lt Col (retd) AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Maj (retd) Bazlul Huda, who were behind bars, filed the appeals with the apex court in October 2007 against their convictions and death sentences by a lower court. On October 5, the Appellate Division started hearing the appeals on five points - whether Bangabandhu was killed along with most of his family members as a result of a mutiny in the army; whether the witness statements were contradictory; whether the delay in filing the first information report had been reasonable as thought by the lower court; whether there was any conspiracy behind the murders; and whether disposal of the death references appeals of six defendants out of 15 by the 3rd judge in the High Court was correct and legal.

18) The national election of Bangladesh was held on 29 December 2008 under the Caretaker government and Sheikh Hasina Wajed wins overwhelming majority.

19) After 34 years of the brutal killings of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members, the Appellate Division of Supreme Court [SC] finally delivers its verdict in the murder case on November 19, 2009.


20) Jan 28, 2009 - Five of the murderers were executed (named in point 17. above).

"The government is now focusing on the six other convicted coup leaders who are fugitives abroad. They are Noor Chowdhury, believed to be in the US; Shariful Haq Dalim (Canada); Faruk’s brother-in-law Khandaker Abdur Rashid (Pakistan); M.A. Rashed Chowdhury (South Africa); Mosleuddin (Thailand) and Abdul Mazed (Kenya).

A 12th man sentenced to death, Abdul Aziz Pasha, died in exile in Zimbabwe."

Country Trade Comparison - Pakistan, India, China

World Bank

Four measures, for the period 2006-2009:

TTRI (MFN applied tariff) - All Goods
Trade Tariff Restrictiveness Index (MFN applied tariff) - All Goods -This indicator reflects the equivalent uniform tariff of a country tariff schedule that would maintain domestic import levels constant.

Lower value/rank closer to 1 means fewer tax & tariff barriers to imports.

Pakistan 12.2 (rank 103)
India 12  (rank 102)
China 5.33 (rank 63)

MA-TTRI (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods
Market Access -Trade Tariff Restrictiveness Index (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods - This index reflects the equivalent uniform tariff of trading partners facing the exporter country, that would maintain the imports of the trading partners constant, including preferential tariffs.

Lower value/rank closer to 1 means fewer tax & tariff barriers to exports.

Pakistan 7.26 (rank 117)
India 3.47 (rank 70)
China 3.9 (rank 75)

Ease of Doing Business - Rank
2010 Ease of Doing Business - Rank - This indicator represents a country’s overall business climate based on seven indicators, three of which are also reported in the WTI database: Starting a Business, Enforcing Contracts, and Closing a Business, (1 best -183 worst)

Pakistan rank 85
India rank 133
China rank 89

LPI - Overall
LPI - Overall - This indicator reflects the overall perception of a countrys logistics based on over 1,000 responses to a survey of logistics performance. The overall LPI was aggregated as a weighted average of seven key areas of logistics performance (1 worst -5 best).

Pakistan 2.53 (rank 111)
India 3.12 (rank 47)
China 3.49 (rank 27)


Surprisingly Pakistan is the easiest place to do business.  Either the World Bank is smoking something good, or else Pakistan's political instability and its reputation of being Terrorism Central is eroding its one major competitive advantage.

Also, Pakistan would do well to use its diplomatic capital trying to dismantle barriers to its exports rather than constantly harp on Jammu & Kashmir.

Steve Coll Interview

Perhaps I link it because it echoes what I understand and believe.

Quoting one section:

There are many, particularly in Pakistan, who believe that if you resolve Kashmir you take out the real cause of terrorism in South Asia. Do you agree?

I don't believe that at all. But Kashmir is an impediment to broader changes between India and Pakistan that are necessary to gradually eliminate the structural causes of persistent terrorism in India and Afghanistan. That is to say, change the practices of the Pakistani security services. In the medium run, how do you break the cycle of clandestine war between India and Pakistan, the use of jihadi groups? The only way you break that pattern is the same way similar conflicts have ended in other parts of the world - in the Balkans, in Southeast Asia - where economic integration and shared prosperity changes the incentive structure for the Pakistani army where they see that their own interests are better served by open, managed borders. Everybody in Pakistan knows that India's prosperity is the big story of the region in the next 20-30 years. Pakistan can either be an impediment to that or be a part of it.

And that probably reflects sentiments in Kashmir too where there is growing ambivalence about Pakistan...

Absolutely. In fact, your newspaper (The Times of India) has quoted Manmohan Singh as saying that India was "very close to a non-territorial settlement" in 2007. I love that language. Because that's the right way to think about this. What you're trying to do in Kashmir is to buy time for these other effects to take hold, and for both countries to share a period of war-free economic growth, middle class formation and cultural accommodation. It doesn't have to be peace, love and harmony. It just needs to be normalisation - the sort that you see between Serbia and Croatia.

In order to buy that 20 years, you don't have to settle every line on the map. You have to put in place a framework in which you agree on some broad principles and agree to no longer pursue those goals through violence. It's just creating a framework where the broader process of peaceful economic and cultural integration can occur. That's the only way forward. You have to be realistic though. When you announce peace, those who have an interest in the violence will react, they will try to blow it up. The question is how much capacity the Pakistani state has to do its bit. The problem is that India understandably doesn't believe that Pakistan has the will. If India thought Pakistan had the will, it would have a realistic approach to its capacity problems. But you can't accept the capacity excuse when you don't think the other side is serious.

Won't the Pakistani military establishment keep Kashmir alive?

Musharraf brought around the [Pakistani] corps command to this deal in 2007. It was interesting when I was reporting on this in Pakistan and you asked the question: What was the winning argument in the corps command meetings? First of all, Musharraf was at the peak of his authority, but there were three winning arguments. One was that if we want to modernise an army and defend Pakistan's territorial integrity while India modernises its army, we need more money than our current growth rates can support. We already take a huge share of Paksitan's GDP. We need the whole pie to grow. We need economic peace just to defend ourselves. The second argument was that we can achieve acceptable goals in Kashmir by political means that we cannot by guerilla violence. Let's accept it, our strategy isn't working. The Indians have defeated the insurgency, they have been able to create enough political normalcy in their part of Kashmir. We can keep throwing rocks, but why not create an outcome that history will recognise as just through political negotiations. The final argument was international legitimacy. The Pakistani army for all of it crazy self-defeating policies also craves recognition as a legitimate army, an unusually good fighting force. Musharraf personally wanted to go Oslo and be awarded the peace prize with Manmohan Singh (laughs). These factors are still there in the psyche, but the problem is that the Pakistani government is in no position to come back to that.

Afghanistan and India

Indrani Bagchi in the Times of India
India has refrained from using hard power in Afghanistan, and, in many ways, the Indian presence is guaranteed by the US' security role. As soft-power author, Harvard University's Joseph Nye says, "Achieving transformational objectives may require a combination of both hard and soft power.'' Soft power is only credible when it is matched by or surpassed by hard power. India is paying the price, because, beyond a point, roads and dams don't help buy influence. As one top-level Afghan official said, wryly, "We love India, but we fear Pakistan. That is a stronger emotion.'' India's power projection in Afghanistan has been primarily by showing its "goodness'' . Pakistan, on the other hand, negotiates with the world with a gun held to its own head. That, as India has discovered several times in its history, is far more persuasive.

For the moment, Pakistan has the upper hand, because both the UK and US need it more than ever. Pakistan is playing an adroit diplomatic game of chicken with the US - and winning. Islamabad may be hopelessly dependent on Washington's
money, but that doesn't stop it from refusing to give visas to US officials, refusing money that comes with 'conditions'. Pakistan has made it clear it will not stop supporting the Afghan Taliban; there is absolutely no attempt to tackle al Qaida; and Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura functions unimpeded. In short, it holds veto power over whether the Obama surge succeeds in Afghanistan. Washington, said an Indian official scornfully, is "kowtowing to Pakistan just like they did to China."

Harsh perhaps, but this view is prevalent in the upper reaches of the Indian government - to the extent that even the PM is believed to have remarked that if India and Pakistan have another fracas, Washington may not weigh in on India's side.

A. India doesn't have much hard power it can project directly to Afghanistan. Any actions it takes will have to be on the eastern border of Pakistan.

B. The Monkey in the Monkey trap holds a gun to its own head?

PS: One has to admire Pakistan's chutzpah to make demands with the weaker hand:
The Pakistani demand has been succinctly laid out by Munir Akram, one of its top diplomats: "Pakistan's cooperation should be offered only in exchange for tangible and immediate US support for Pakistan's national objectives: an end to Indian-Afghan interference in Baluchistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas); a Kashmir solution; a military balance between Pakistan and India; parity with India on nuclear issues; transfer of equipment and technology for counter-terrorism ; unconditional defense and economic assistance; free trade access.''

(a) After the Gujral doctrine, I wonder if India is still messing about in Baluchistan. It would be stupid not to, as the above shows, you need all the bargaining chips you can find to deal with Pakistan.

As to Afghan interference in FATA - I really wonder what they're talking about.

(b) The Kashmir solution that is acceptable to India (formalize the Line of Control) is not acceptable to Pakistan. The US lacks any stick or carrot sufficient to make India budge. Indians do fear a sell-out by their leaders, as has happened a few times in history.

(c) After Pakistan's record of "Proliferation'R'Us" there is unlikely to be any support for bringing Pakistan upto parity with India; instead the attempt may be made to downgrade relations with India. But, IMO, India must become a massive coal-burner unless it has safe and guaranteed (i.e., not subject to international sanction) nuclear power.

(d) Military balance between Pakistan and India: a natural balance might be possible if Pakistan economically was Germany to India's Russia. But Pakistan's recent economic performance has been dismal. A balance might mean, military aid to Pakistan in the form of hi-tech weapons and a concommitant effort to strangle military supplies and technology to India. It will also require a permanent annual transfusion of money to Pakistan. As it is, Pakistan has now surpassed Israel as a recipient of aid from the US.

The counter-terrorism and unconditional defense aid are a part of this demand.

(e) Unconditional economic assistance: it means US taxpayers must give money to the government of Pakistan with no accounting. When US taxpayers are leary of their own government, I wonder how much they'll trust the government of Pakistan.

(f) Free trade access: this is perhaps something that can be addressed. As this World Bank brief states:
With Market Access TTRI (including preferences) rank near the worst at 117th (out of 125), Pakistan’s exports faces much greater barriers than other South Asian economies.

PPS: for the latest. Look at External Environment MA-TTRI (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods which means: Market Access -Trade Tariff Restrictiveness Index (applied tariff incl. prefs.) - All Goods - This index reflects the equivalent uniform tariff of trading partners facing the exporter country, that would maintain the imports of the trading partners constant, including preferential tariffs.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Re: Bush, Still Wrong

Via Andrew Sullivan, this TNR article by Jonathan Chait, tears into Hennessy's misguided attempt to rehabilitate Bush's fiscal policies.

Only subscribers can comment on TNR. So here is the comment:

Hennessy wrote:
You can see that budget deficits during President Clinton’s eight years averaged 0.8 percent of GDP. Clinton folks will tell you this is because of his brilliant policies, and in particular the 1993 budget law. I think most of it is the result of tech bubble-induced higher capital gains revenues causing total taxes to surge to record levels.
and Chait writes:
So, okay. Hennessey discounts low deficits under Clinton because the stock bubble helped cause them. I think there's a lot of truth to that but far less than Hennessey does.

We do not have to guess about this. We have the Congressional Budget Office numbers for the revenues the Federal Government received from the capital gains tax. This from a 2002 publication of theirs.

During the Clinton years, the receipts from the capital gains tax in billions of dollars were:
(fiscal year)
1992 - 27 (billion dollars) - 6% of income taxes
1993 - 32 - 6%
1994 - 36 - 7%
1995 - 40 - 7%
1996 - 54 - 8%
1997 - 72 - 10%
1998 - 84 - 10%
1999 - 99 - 11%
2000 -121 - 12%

This other CBO page tells us that the budget surplus in 2000 was $236 billion - so capital gains taxes accounted for half of the surplus. But notice that capital gains taxes went up by a factor of 4 in absolute terms (27 to 121 billion) while only a factor of 2 in terms of percent of the income tax (6% to 12%) - which means that income tax revenue was quite potent in creating the surplus (estimated 450 billion to 1008 billion).

Just how corrupt is the Senate?

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary "blanket hold" on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold.
And why, pray tell, has Shelby decided to hold several dozen administration nominees hostage? It's not about qualifications, ideology, or party -- it's about pork. The conservative Alabama senator wants some defense earmarks for his state, and until he's satisfied, Shelby apparently won't allow the Senate to vote on just about anyone, including nominees ready to fill positions related to national security.

Read the details here and here.

PS: Krugman tell us the Senate resembles the Sejm of 17th century Poland.

PPS: The ransom note.

India and Bangladesh

Described by an Indian writer in a Pakistani publication. There appears to be a new beginning with recently elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

However, read this negative view also.

The purported full text of the joint communique is here. The poster writes "[This text is from my personal collection, as I got it it is published here. I hope it is, as it is in the actual signed officially. I am unable to authenticate.-P. Munshe]".

The interesting stuff begins from point 18.

PS: World Bank report on Indo-Bangla trade (PDF)

Larry Pressler

Quoted in the Indian Express, retired Senator Larry Pressler:

“I have been disappointed in India not raising a voice about what’s happening in Afghanistan, what a mistake we are probably making,” Pressler, who was in India on a speaking tour, told The Indian Express. “We are creating a big problem for India because at the end of the day India is going to have on its border a highly armed loose canon in Pakistan, a rogue state whose government is not what we espouse or support. A rogue Pakistan on steroids of US money,” he said.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Calling things by their true names

Prof. DeLong, apart from highlighting the sad state of discourse that prevails, also illustrates when it is correct to call someone an ethics-free partisan hack.

PS: The ethics-free partisan hack is "the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University", illustrating why economics is the Dismal Science.

Tujh Mein Rabb Dikhta Hai

An unexpected place to find a rendition of a Bollywood song!

The original Bollywood is thus:

In case you were curious, the lyrics and a translation.

The Monkey Trap

This is the best synopsis of the strategic situation of India with respect to Pakistan.
The essence of the monkey trap is its simplicity, which in turn is based on the limited strategic options available to Pakistan and the national character of its elite. Pakistan is caught in a self-destructive cycle with no way out, trapped between rhetoric and reality. It cannot abandon the anti-Indian crusade and Kashmir because too much has been invested into it and without the Indian enemy they have no identity and no method to maintain their rentier control of the Pakistani state. This fundamental basis of Pakistan can be understood within the context of the earlier section.