30-Nov-2007

All's Well And God's In His Heaven

Mush sheds his military garb. Will lift emergency on Dec 16th. What more can one ask for? Democracy is safe in the land of the pure, Pakistan. Forget the last few weeks ever happened, that the rule of law was subverted, that judges were placed under arrest, that Mush got himself cleared to rule for five more years deviously and shamelessly. It is the ending that matters. He is clean now, by some magic process that evaded the observer's eye. Well, so it goes - up is down, black is white, pigs fly, and we get to read headlines like this: US backs out-of-uniform Musharraf and US hails Pakistan leader's pledge.

28-Nov-2007

SIMI

A dispassionate analysis of how SIMI turned to violence. Very informative.

...adding, why don't we get more of such analyses instead of generalizations about all Muslims being somehow predisposed to violence and terrorism and Islam being a religion that advocates jihad etc...

Breeding Violence

From DH:
But that was when I saw the wide, silent eyes of the families’ children as we screamed at their father — their hero, their protector — and wrested from him the reins of power inside his own house. And that’s when it started to dawn on me just what kind of effect our actions were having on the next generation.
And Times Now invited an Israeli commentator to discuss how to combat terror just after the UP bombings. Though another Indian expert did point out that Israel was a theocratic state that was using overwhelming military power - with consequent toll of civilians - to achieve its aims.

27-Nov-2007

Howard's Loss

Why Howard went:
The attempt to tarnish Mr. Rudd’s character caused no lasting damage to him, but scored three own goals for the coalition. First,it brought the most vulnerable part of the coalition’s record — truth in government (cue Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, reducing terrorist threat, asylum seekers in a leaky boat being turned away with no mercy and lots of lies, more lies with children overboard, the government backed AWB as the biggest defrauder in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, election promises broken because they were non-core, leadership deal with deputy Peter Costello that was brushed aside, ministerial code of conduct that was abandoned because too many were having to resign) — front and centre in election year.
That matches exactly what I heard from someone from down during my cycling trip - he was sick of John Howard's lies. So it was a bit surreal to hear an analyst/correspondent on CNN dismissing Iraq as a factor, and attributing the defeat almost wholly to climate change policy! Thank god for The Hindu.

22-Nov-2007

The Line Between Sensible & Stupid

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the US:
"He hasn't crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don't think that he will cross any lines," Bush replied, according to an ABC transcript. ". . . We didn't necessarily agree with his decision to impose emergency rule, and . . . hopefully he'll get . . . rid of the rule. Today, I thought, was a pretty good signal, that he released thousands of people from jail."
Leading someone to ask:
"What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?" asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate.
Let's see, what would it take? The general not funneling the US government's aid money back to US defense companies?

A Bird In Hand

That is to say, the hard reality is that there is no TAP on the anvil in the near future as an alternative to the Iran pipeline project. Our Petroleum Ministry must ponder, “what next.”
Does Manmohan Singh wear spectacles or blinkers?

20-Nov-2007

Progress

From The Hindu:

The silver lining is that, even in Orissa, the traditional system of extortion seems to be finding it harder and harder to survive. In fact, contractors are not particularly happy with NREGA; vulnerable as it may be, the system has become more difficult for them to control. They are apprehensive of a possible tightening of the checks and balances, and have started fading away in some places (in almost half of the sample gram panchayats, there was no evidence of their involvement).

In some of the sample gram panchayats (notably in the Boudh District), corruption levels in NREGA are already much lower, by all accounts, than in earlier employment programmes such as SGRY and the National Food For Work Programme. Strict implementation of the transparency safeguards is the best way to accelerate this process of “phasing out” of the traditional system of corruption.

This story would be incomplete without a mention of the tremendous potential of NREGA in the survey areas. Where work was available, it was generally found that workers earned close to (and sometimes more than) the statutory minimum wage of Rs 70 per day, and that wages were paid within 15 days or so. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the rural poor, and there was evident appreciation of it among casual labourers and other disadvantaged sections of the population. Some of them even hoped that NREGA would enable them to avoid long-distance seasonal migration, with all its hardships.

Further, there is plenty of scope for productive NREGA works in this area, whether it is in the field of water conservation, rural connectivity, regeneration of forest land, or improvement of private agricultural land. The challenges involved in “making NREGA work” should always be seen in the light of these long-term possibilities, and their significance for the rural poor.

Of Roaches

The article “Cockroaches abandon their better instinct” (Nov. 17) makes a mention of the unique egalitarian system in cockroach societies. The fact that there is no social stratification as in some other insect societies caught my attention. On reading what Jose Halloy said about roach societies — that they are simple, egalitarian and democratic — I could not help thinking how much the description about these otherwise squalid creatures tells us.

We in India, who are struggling to overcome social stratification (in the form of the deep-rooted caste system), have a lot to learn from these lowly-rated, abominable insects that invite disgust from one and all. We stand much higher in the ecological hierarchy but we are no match for them in such a basic principle of living. Cockroaches are living in a self-made heaven but where are we?

18-Nov-2007

Dirty Powers

The US leads as is to be expected.

Why haven't they replaced all those polluting plants with nuclear plants?

Democracy

For energy-rich countries that don't toe the US line. Dictatorship and army rule for Pakistan. Who cares about Myanmar anyway?

Also, the US is calling for free and fair elections. At the same time:
“The Americans are nervous about not having Musharraf in charge of Pakistan,” an official in the Pakistani presidency said. “They were told that the situation is very, very fluid.”
How will that work I wonder.

And yes, doesn't Mush have them by the short hairs doesn't he.

10-Nov-2007

Our Turn Now

From The Hindu:
The Bharatiya Janata Party is eyeing the portfolios of Public Works and Power under the chief ministership of B.S. Yeddyurappa.
...
Mr. Gowda said the Janata Dal (Secular) had enjoyed the two portfolios in the first 20 months of the coalition governance and it was time that party left them for the BJP.
One hears that there are treasures not dreamed of in the wildest human dreams in the aforesaid departments. As no doubt Mr Deve Gowda's other son would be able to readily testify, having served as the Public Works Minister in the outgoing government.

That's The Way To Do It

In the wake of Musharraf's re-coup over the weekend, Condi Rice told reporters that the money we provide Pakistan really isn't to Musharraf or his government as it is to the people of Pakistan.

But it turns out that it really is to Musharraf. Spencer provides the details. But the upshot is that the great bulk of the more than $10 billion we've given to Pakistan since 9/11 has been in the form of unsupervised and unaudited cash transfers. We cut him a check and he can do with it whatever he wants. It's not tied to a specific US Agency or program; it's just cash to do with as he pleases.

How'd that song go? Money for nothing, your chicks for free...

Just What The Doctor Ordered?

Benazir Bhutto has been released from house arrest. Color me sceptical, but it is all going according to script. She is the only major opposition leader in the country and will reap the benefit of her "heroic fight" against the dictator. Of course, with this the declaration of the Emergency, which this astute political scientist (according to her husband) never apparently dreamed of, her backroom talks with Mush have "come to an end". But no sir, she still "hasn't yet declared herself completely out of the game with coming to terms with Musharraf.''

I see a slow progress towards the situation where she is the PM and Mush is the President. That funnily is what the "good friend" always wanted! And they have been on the case, urging Mush to do release her and "all political party members". ScrewForget the sundry Chief Justices and lawyers and others who have been arrested. They can rot. Truly, Mush has the Americans by the short hairs.

And it is indeed touching that the US is so concerned about the people of a messy third world country. From the Bloomberg link:
``The review of aid remains ongoing but the ultimate goal is not to punish the people of Pakistan; it's to help them get back on a path to democracy,'' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters today in Crawford, Texas, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Bush.
It goes to show that the US does have a soul and feelings for lowly humans who happen to live outside its borders. But wait! I remember in the very recent past, aid from all western nations spearheaded by the beacon of democracy was withdrawn from a place called Palestine I think. And their crime was that they elected a party called, if I remember correctly, Hamas, in fair and free elections. The poor sods! And then there was the case of many thousands of children, in another country, called Iraq (though my memory is not as good as it used to be) being forced to go withhout medicines and stuff. Again because the beacon of democracy thought it right to put in place tough sanctions against it because the crazy country's ruler wouldn't toe the US line.

PS
: Seems like I'm not the only one. Lots of cynics out there!

The King Can't Screw Up

No way. Unless it is some other country we're talking about.

05-Nov-2007

No Threat To Sovereignty, But

Just do as we tell you :
[Mr Kissinger] made it clear that Washington does not want India to lean towards Iran and seal any energy ties with that country as it has been facing international sanctions on account of its nuclear programme. Even the Bush administration is opposed to India pursuing the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project as it views Tehran as a “rogue state” that ought to be isolated.


02-Nov-2007

Man Of Letters

Deve Gowda. Nice job DH! He does shoot them off quite frequently doesn't he?

A Diversion

From the usual politics, US-bashing, and similar dreary stuff.

I did a mountain bike race and wrote about it briefly here. Hoping to write a bigger post here soon.

The results of the race are here.

01-Nov-2007

Married Forever

When you tie up with the US you remain tied up:
... Ankara is being made to realise that it simply cannot afford to have an independent foreign policy in its surrounding regions. The bottom line, as far as Washington is concerned, is Turkey forms part of the Western security system and the bondage is like a Catholic marriage — in perpetuity. As the new cold war gathers momentum, there is added urgency for Washington that Turkey should not remain a bystander, as in the Iraq invasion of 2003, if a U.S. military strike against Iran ensues.
As for Ramesh Thakur's hope
Maybe it [the US] will revert to being a benign hegemon with a change of administration in January 2009.
The chances of it being fulfilled seem slim. If the Republicans win, the chances are zero. And the Democratic frontrunner (as of now) is quite hawkish on the most immediate issue on which the benignness needs to be shown: Iran. And no one is talking of leaving Iraq either.

PS: What kind of a system is this 'democracy' when, in the most democratic country in the world, the politicians are ignoring the majority of their population's views so blatantly? As the TomDispatch link mentions, 72% of americans want their troops out of Iraq in 2 years, while no mainstream presidential candidate is guaranteeing that troops will be out by even 2013!

Silence On The Gas Deal

Why doesn't this get more time in the media? Why aren't people informed as to how we are allowing the US to pressure us? We are continuously harangued on the N-deal and how good it is on the other hand - why not show the other side of the coin? Iran has the world's second largest gas reserves - why should we allow a selfish bully to stop us from linking with it? All the talk about Iran developing nuclear weapons and all that is just cover for the US to sew up another oil and gas rich middle east country. Why should we support it?