Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The authentic Sominist on Iranian President's visit to New Delhi

Great Bong coined a neologism for the types of NYTimes's Somini Sengupta: Sominists. It is quite apt as becomes clear from her latest piece on Iranian President Ahmadienjad's visit to India.

Somini's piece is titled, "Iranian President's visit is a test for India."

How, exactly? If passing or failing this test doesn't count much it should be considered a routine affair and no test per se.

She answers, "Instead, he brought the Indian government a strange boon: a chance to show that it is willing to buck pressure from the White House and shake hands with a man Washington reviles."

Show to whom? And why? Is India still a third-rate country to revel in such middle-school level snubs and hisses which has become the hallmark of certain Latin American buffoons cosily sitting on oil?

Our relations with Iran don't have to be a zero-sum game, especially with regards to United States. At the same time we shouldn't forget the odious character that President Ahmadinejad is.

She quotes former Ambassador Lalit Mansingh,“It is good for the government to be seen taking a stand that the U.S. may not like.”

If so, it is unfortunate. For a wannabe superpower, such puckishness betrays immaturity, and possibly counts for disqualification on its claim for a seat at the big table.

Somini goes ahead telling us about Iran's plus points for India:
  • it is the second largest supplier of oil;
  • it wields influence in Afghanistan(but only in few inconsequential Shia burroughs in West);
  • and it(Iran) commands loyalty from India’s substantial community of Shiite Muslims. (Emphasis added)
Wait a minute...what's that? Come again, please. "Iran commands loyalty from India's Shiite Muslims." Wow! Just wow!!

Desi secularists will haul up any other journo on coals for such flagrant transgression of 'secular ' canons. An average Indian would simply be dismissed as 'communal' if she/he were even to hint at Muslims' external loyalty. But here we've Somini asserting it bluntly in NYTimes. I hope to see some foaming 'secular' emails in tomorrow's edition.

She further clubs, inaccurately at that, India's right with the country's China lobby i.e., the left. "Mr. Singh’s critics from the left and right have pounced on his government for deepening commercial and military ties with the United States," she adds.

When has the right "pounced" on India's military ties with the United States, curious minds would like to know. No dependence, yes, but no increasing ties, certainly not. In fact most people concerned about India's security have repeatedly advocated the importance of technology transfer in dual use systems, which is not possible without increasing ties with the United States.

After few sentimental pleadings by the NSA, M K Narayanan, she reports this disturbing bit of dyspeptic talk by foreign policy babus, "...the Indian Foreign Ministry declared that the two “ancient civilizations” needed no “guidance” on how to deal with one another."

Would we not deal with Iran, or deal with lesser interest, if it were not "ancient civilization"? Could these bureaucrats dare say that we mellow our dealings with Maoist Nepal because its not "ancient"?

Be it the ancien régime in Iran or the antediluvian Maoist autocrats of Nepal, they both are equally vile yet modern exigency demands that India deal with them, howsoever distasteful they may be. There is no need to attach unnecessary sentimentality to unmolested realpolitik.

The claims of current Islamic Shiite regime on the Persian heritage are questionable anyway. It behooves to point out that the genuine inheritors of ancient Persia have made home elsewhere because various Iranian regimes drove them away through centuries of persecution.

The rest of her report carries typical agenda items on any foreign trip. Yes, we need Iran's gas just as they need our cash. But let's not fall for the charms of another uncouth Persian gasbag.

President Lee Bollinger on Ahmadienjad

Iranian president is in New Delhi today. It would be worth revisiting what Columbia President Lee Bollinger had to say about Ahmadinejad. Highlights:

  • It is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their voices. To hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.
  • It is consistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament.
  • Let’s, then, be clear at the beginning, Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.
  • On Holocaust:

    In a December 2005 state television broadcast, you described the Holocaust as a “fabricated” “legend.” One year later, you held a two-day conference of Holocaust deniers.

    For the illiterate and ignorant, this is dangerous propaganda. When you come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.

  • According to reports by the Council on Foreign Relations, it’s well documented that Iran is a state sponsor of terror that funds such violent group as the Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran helped organize in the 1980s, the Palestinian Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

  • Can you tell them and us why Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq by arming Shi’a militia targeting and killing U.S. troops?
  • Let me close with this comment. Frankly, and in all candor, Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.
  • I am only a professor, who is also a university president, and today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
With guests like Ahmadinejad ....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bill of Lading- Arms shipment to Zimbabwe from China

Source: Wikileaks , first saw it at Atlantic's The Current blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Excellent account of the real SF Olympic Torch Relay Protest

All Pictures courtesy zombietime. Please check the link for a detailed account, plus lots of pics and videos, something not available through the regular media. (I came across these first at LGF blog.)

The protesters used iPhones for an underground message system to track the relay by eavesdropping on Police communication lines.

Tibetans, Darfur genocide opponents, Burmese, Uyghurs and Vietnamese were among most of the protesters. Funny, no muslim groups supporting their Uyghur brethern--probably too occupied with America and Israel.

The Chinese consulate had brought in busloads of (Chinese) students from nearby colleges to demonstrate in their favor--expenses paid obviously.

Some of the images of tortured Tibetans show the grotesque side of Han colonization.

On a side note- I doubt any free-speech parrots of Indian media, art for arts sake type eminent bloggers etc., will dare publish some of these images, just as their brave performance during the Danish cartoon episode. Umm...but we've freedom of press you see. :-)

So, the pics:-

1. The Chinese olympic mascot is made to look like a typical evil cartoon character and the torch is made of bone. Excellent imagination. (Credit to zombie, again, for his observation about the torch.)

2. The next two are self-explanatory. It's an artistic play on olympic rings.

3. This last one is more surreal. The torch with Al Catraz in the backdrop, ethereally signifying the torch's tortuous journey.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More of a note to self

It was during a San Francisco private fundraiser that Barack Obama made his 'elitist' comment about rural voters clinging to guns and religion which prompted Bill Kristol to write this op-ed piece in NewYork Times calling him a Marxist. It was aptly titled The Mask Slips.

Kristol cited the famous Marxist dictum "Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes," to rub it in. It expectedly got the goat of Obama supporters followed by the usual coarse ad hominem, but of course some better pieces too. (Aside, Arthur Schulzberger must be happy that he's got a "lightning rod" that he wanted, watching how each of Kristol's piece gets the liberals riled up and sputter in rage.)

Andrew Sullivan, the Atlantic editor and blogger of Daily Dish, who has vociferously backed Obama for a while now, and is a fixture on Bill Maher show sort of, responded promptly.

Now, Andrew Sullivan is anything but an antisemite, yet he slipped in this perplexing line in his blogpiece:
A non-Christian manipulator of Christianity is calling a Christian a liar about his own faith.
Yet, the first impression that this reader got was of the reference here being to Kristol's Jewish identity.

The New Republic's literary editor and critic, Leon Wieseltier, too saw it the same way. He wrote his own piece responding to Kristol and, Andrew Sullivan. He was particularly caustic about Sullivan's remark and responded acerbically:
And now for the grossly undialectical bit. The ink on the Times was not yet dry when Andrew Sullivan rushed to the defense of his idol, I mean Obama. When one types all the time, sooner or later everything will be typed, and so Sullivan, in his fury against Kristol, typed this: "A non-Christian manipulator of Christianity is calling a Christian a liar about his faith." Ponder that early adjective. It is Jew baiting. I was not aware that only Christians can judge Christians, or that there are things about which a Jew cannot call a Christian a liar. If Kristol is wrong about Obama, it is not because Kristol is a Jew. So this fills me with a certain paschal wrath. Nice little blog you have there, Obama boy. Pity if frogs or locusts should happen to it. Let my people be!
TNR is a highbrow, fortnightly magazine with mostly liberal elite leadership-- and a dwindling subscription.

For a long time it was owned by Martin Peretz, a Harvard man, and has had illustrious writers livening its pages. Among them: Michael Kinsley, Jacob Weisberg, Irving Howe, Charles Krauthammer, and even Andrew Sullivan.

Anyway, Wieseltier's commentary forced Sullivan to put up a riposte countering the serious 'Jew baiting' charge leveled at him by Leon Wieseltier, with a certain standing in the intellectual circle of his own, and whose words carry weight amongst the cultural elites.

Sullivan's response is here. Sullivan particularly takes umbrage at Wieseltier calling him an "Obama boy," a reference to him being gay, among other things. In his own words:
Little? Boy? African-Americans and gay men have had one thing in common over the decades and centuries. When we are being put in our place by our superiors, we are called "boys." What do you call an openly gay man who actually manages to have a career in mainstream journalism? A boy. Obama is not a boy, and neither am I. And breaking through those barriers is one thing this election has come to be about.
Sullivan's anguish is understandable, so is his explanation of the "Jew baiting" charge. Perhaps this is a Kinsley gaffe where deep seated true resentments are being voiced with uncharacteristic discombobulation, except that the two guys aren't politicians. Mostly, both appear right in their own regard sans any regnant bitterness.

I cite this back-and-forth purely because it gives remarkable insight into verbal jostling between peers of their profession. A view from top is always incisive, and rare. Though the two parties have their quibbles about the conversation and level of discourse, it still is fascinating to me.

To recite my perennial refrain, we almost never see this in India. Perhaps it is because we don't have real freedom of speech and are overly weighed down by fake respect that seals our lips when we shouldn't be keeping quiet.

I suspect it is a carryover from our long excruciating encounter with foreign rule when shutting up your mouth was the only pragmatic recourse to preserving one's life.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Military training can be expensive

Militaries buy gadgets and toys from defense contractors, usually at an exorbitant rate. That is why arms dealers make boatloads of money which their sons/grandsons profligate away in buying BMWs, speeding it over hapless pedestrians, relieving them from their earthly misery.

Anyway, once the military acquires arms, it has to train its personnel for use of the weapons. Some of these weapons cannot be risked for training purposes so there are things like flight simulators and dummy platforms to minimize the cost.

But when none of this is possible, the troops have to use expensive weapon systems for realistic training purposes.

In a separate news, Pakistan reportedly test-fired its "2nd nuclear-capable missile in 3 days."

Also, in a recent study that I don't seem to find, but one which was mentioned by Jay Leno, people shop to ward off depression, to make themselves feel good. Trying out shopped goods can be a moral booster- the same study claimed.

Bharat Ratna for the Dalai Lama?

Paris, the capital of a republic that boldly claims 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité' as its motto has declared that it will confer honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama.

Wherever the Dalai Lama goes the talk pretty much follows where his home is, and where he is living now, which is in India. That in itself is an advertisement for India's commitment to democracy and justice as against authoritarianism that's lately on ascendance.

Yet, the country that give him asylum has always felt shy of openly accepting as such or fully recognizing the import of the Dalai Lama's stay. (He is accompanied by a single guard during his walks in Dharamshala, which speaks for his simplicity, but reflects rather poorly on us, where even petty goons passing for ministers carry a state sanctioned posse.)

Since the Bharat Ratna has had no claimant over the past few years or so the govt. tells us, it is time that someone as deserving as the Dalai Lama be awarded one. It will not only dignify the Dalai Lama but also shore up the waning reputation of the award itself. Too many undeserving, underqualified people, mostly politicians, have gotten their hands on the most prestigious award of the country. (An award that still legally recognizes what India, that is Bharat, holds as a gem, has to considered prestigious imo.)

It is a fond hope but a hope no less that the Dalai Lama be officially enshrined in our national history and public minds. I would wholly support any petition demanding as such.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mukul Kesavan mixes it up when it comes to CPI-M

In today's Telegraph, Mukul Kesavan has a rather soporific article questioning what is, by now, quite obvious: CPM's loyalty to China.

With its recent blunders CPI-M's "secular-progressive" mask has completely slipped. Rather than excoriate the party, Kesavan gives the Marxist a kid-gloves treatment and lets the party off real easy, with a predictably lame exhortation to "examine" its stand.

CPM committed the Nandigram massacre; tolerated rioting by Muslim fundamentalists and hounded Taslima Nasrin out of Calcutta and then out of country; and now banned protests by the Tibetans over the Olympic torch relay, again, in Calcutta. But none of this has rubbed Kesavan or fellow "intellectuals" any which way. All he can come up with is to ask CPI-M to "examine" its stance? That too a whole lot of drivel and meandering with the obligatory potshots at BJP, Sangh etc.

CPI-M has made life hell for Bengalis with its never-ending protests and it cannot withstand one protest by Tibetans?!

It is this duplicity of Marxists and that of "intellectuals" like Kesavan that rightly provokes disdain amongst ordinary Indians when they mouth platitudes or pay lip-service about free-speech, or offer a mealymouthed criticism of Muslim fundamentalism but volubly criticize the Hindu right for milder transgressions.

He also says that "it isn’t surprising that the Chinese way with minorities and minority regions appeals to parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party in particular, and the sangh parivar in general."

There is little evidence that the Sangh or BJP ever talks approvingly of China's steamrolling of Tibetans. On the contrary, they always seems to lament the lapsing of Tibetan buffer-state between India and China and empathize with Tibetans, which is what any serious nationalist party would do.

In unnecessarily hauling the right Mr Kesavan overcompensates for his eventually lackadaisical imploring of the CPI-M.

He also errs in calling M S Golwalkar an atheist while it is well-known that Guruji, as he is called, daily used to do sandhyavandan and Gayatri mantra jaap. Veer Savarkar's atheism too is debatable to an extent.

One gets the impression that critics of CPI-M are aware of their impotence over influencing Marxist thuggery just as the world is getting its act together when it comes to dealing with the Chinese communists' "thugs."

(Aside, CNN's Jack Cafferty must be congratulated for calling spade a spade when he observed, ""So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed," he said. "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."")

In refreshing contrast, we've the intrepid Anne Applebaum who minced no words in upbraiding the Chinese in her piece "China learns the price of global attention."

Politics and Olympics

Well, they've always gone together. Check this.

Of particular interest, most are from the New Republic link above:

  • National boycotts began in earnest at the 1956 Australian Olympics. The games began shortly after the 1956 Hungarian uprising and subsequent invasion by Soviet forces. These tensions spilled into the open with a violent confrontation between the Hungarian and Soviet water polo teams, which ended with a Hungarian victory and a bloodied eye for Hungarian Ervin Zador (pictured). Forty five members of the Hungarian team defected to the West after the games ended. Protesting the invasion, The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland refused to attend. That same year, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon boycotted over the Suez Crisis, while The People's Republic of China did not participate after the IOC allowed Taiwan to compete (under the name "Formosa").
  • Beginning in 1964, South Africa was banned from the games due to its refusal to abandon apartheid law. The nation did not return to the Olympics until 1992, one year after the repeal of all apartheid laws. In 1976, many African nations boycotted the games after New Zealand--which had agreed to play rugby with the South African team in an unrelated competition--was admitted to the games.
  • India did not play cricket with South Africa between '70-'91 when the ICC suspended it over its apartheid policy. This is not related to Olympics, but a good reminder to those who support China, at least in India.
  • In 1984, a group of 14 socialist nations, led by the USSR, boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. The Soviets officially cited "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria being whipped up in the United States," but it was widely viewed as retribution for the 1980 boycott.[I would like to see what our comrades wrote in defense of Soviet Union then.]
  • Again, not related to Olympics, but it is worth remembering that cricket games were suspended after the Parliament attack in Delhi and resumed once the politicians gave a go ahead. That excludes scores of sadbhavna, bhaichara matches held between Indian and Pakistan or Bangladesh in different sports.

What's on the photographer's mind?

Look at Yechuri, D Raja and Brinda. Looks like the Maoists surge in Nepal has gotten into their heads. The photographer, probably a Marxist sympathizer, was clearly taking cues from decadent capitalist sources.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"The first Starbucks recession"

Linky Dinky

"You've got a consumer that clearly is under tremendous pressure," said Howard Schultz, now 12 weeks into his second stint as Starbucks CEO, on a visit to Time yesterday afternoon. "For the first time in our history as a company, we have negative traffic this year vs. last."

People are under more pressure so they are giving up coffee?!

In India, the babus are under no pressure yet they won't give up coffee, or tea for that matter.

Cheap Congress

India's economy is supposed to be at least $1-1.5 trillion. Since India is still "secular socialist" the PM, or the person who controls him i.e., the super PM, is responsible for keeping our economy humming.

That makes Sonia, being the queen who currently runs the show; one among the top 5 powerful women in the world; perhaps the top in number of sycophants/chamchas in the galaxy(Harish Khare, Vinod Mehta, Mahesh Rangarajan, Pankaj Whora etc. taking the top laurels); the overlord of billion peoples fate and a trillion dollar economy. Woo-hoo, utopia!

As luck would have it, Sonia Mata visited the land of dreams, the good ol' US of A, sometime last year. As happens with most politicians on sponsored junkets some people protested her visit.

Now, one would expect that the uber liberal, tolerant, saath-saath type, bhaichara party would take criticism in its stride and move on. But not!

Few self-styled "activists"-- license raj beneficiaries all-- of the party took it upon themselves to defend the honor of Frau Sonia.

Being the favorite party of " eminent intellectuals" one would expect an intellectual defense, but no. They did what clueless "activists" usually do: file a lawsuit. We're talking about the honor of a trillion dollar queen herei.e., 1,000 billion for crying out loud, the lawsuit should have kept that in mind. But the dumbos filed a lawsuit for a measly little $100 million i.e., less than one percent of what Soniaji is worth today. I'm hoping Rahul baba will give an earful to these activists and ask for a raise in the figure. Khandaan. Izzat. Sawaal. (Phew, everytime I say anything Urdu, I run out of breath. I guess its Arabised elevation rarefies the surrounding air. Anyway...)

The NYT ad that Soniaji's critics put up allegedly accused her:
" ..of violating multiple laws of India with impunity from the time she entered India by way of marriage with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 'looting the country' on a large scale.'

The advertisement also launched personal attacks against Sonia, something the protestors had denied, alleging that the Italian-born Roman Catholic 'locked the then Congress (party) president with (the help of) party goons in a toilet and declared herself party president.'"
This is worth $100 million?! I hope the court chides the petitioners for wasting its time and asks them to grow up.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Questions for K Subrahmanyam on the nuke deal

K Subrahmanyam, prolific strategic affairs analyst, is again pitching for the nuclear deal. He asks BJP this question, in his article in a tabloid op-ed,"Do they want to wind up the Indian nuclear weapons and civil programme?"

Since he gives the impression that he is worried about our strategic nukes program, I have few questions for Mr Subrahmanyam probing the same:

1. How do you become a nuclear weapons state without nuclear weapons? (I hope he agrees that we still don't have a thermonuclear bomb. Our test of a hydrogen bomb was a dud.)

2. How do you develop nuclear weapons without testing them? (You cannot simulate anything without solid data; 5 tests and a failed one are no good. Nuke deal proscribes testing, indirectly.)

3. Does K think that America will hand in their software code used to simulate tests or provide crucial data to develop our own?

4. How often in the past have we had the raw materials(Uranium here) but not the requisite technology to develop weapons? What were the consequences?

I have been looking for honest answers to these questions from anyone who supports the deal, but in vain.

I believe there's a way out, howsoever improbable. That is, some future govt. will have to renege on the agreement and order testing or development of weapons. This will have to be done when a significant portion of our population would be dependent on nuclear power with billions spent on the infrastructure. Any unilateral abrogation will invite disruption in nuclear fuel supplies alongside other sanctions.

Can a country whose hitherto most fiercely nationalist govt. wilted under pressure from couple hundred airline passengers hijacked by half-dozen terrorists withstand pressure that will come from possible disruption to the lives of millions of its citizens because of broken supply lines of nuclear power fuel? What are the odds that even the strongest of national leader will be willing to put his political future on line for an increasingly out of reach weapons program?

India will be quite advanced if such a situation arises. We probably will have the knowhow, even the resources, but the future generation's hands will have tied because of what is going to be signed today.

Do you support the nuke deal proposition? Would you be kind enough to answer few of my questions above, if not all?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

No way to treat a "guest"

Pranav Mukherjee's statement is doing rounds in the news world attributing him of having chided Dalai Lama for his "political activities." You can watch the video here; it's in Bengali.

I don't speak Bong but if you are good with bareknuckle Sanskrit then it should be easy to understand what Mr. Mukherjee is talking. Roughly translated, he is saying, "Dalai Lama is a religious leader, spiritual leader in Bharatvarsha. He is a sammanit atithi(h'ble guest) in Bharatvarsha(India). Bharatvarsha will continue to offer him atithya(hospitality). But the Dalai Lama should not indulge in any rajnaitik acharan(political activity), or any acharan, which will cause Bharatvarsha and China's relations avanati(Sanskrit antonym for progress-- he means impair )."

Technically it is true that India indeed gave asylum to Dalai Lama under religious criterion, as Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary, mentions in the WaPo link. But what was essentially a matter of diplomatic dexterity is now being elevated into a bedrock principle. Pray what is govt-in-exile if not politics, and one which the Indian govt. recognizes?

This is indeed lamentable. For, the Dalai Lama is not only spiritual but also the political leader for Tibetans. And India provided him asylum in the '50s because of our own recent traumatic experience with colonialism.

'Atithi Devo Bhava' is the ethos of 'Bharatvarsha' or India since ancient times. Moreover, India's "secular" constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.

What sort of welcome hospitality is it then where the hosts expect their guest to shut up or put curbs on their speech? But this has become a recurring shame for India, other recent episode being the hounding of Taslima Nasrin out of India following death threats on her by Islamofascists.

Some might say that the guests are not supposed to inconvenience their hosts. But this is not true. The golden mongoose of Mahabharat is a reminder of the true spirit of hospitality as exhorted in the ancient dictum cited above. A drought-stricken Brahmin family goes hungry to feed its guest and the mongoose who rolls in the spilled flour turns golden due to the family's sacrifice . His grievance is that only half his body turns gold for want of enough flour. Not even the king's charity is sufficient for him as nothing matches the sacrifice of that starved family.

Anecdotes apart, there are no laurels without inconvenience and as Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue accurately points out, "the Tibetan issue is in India's long-term security interests because Tibet is a buffer zone between India and China."

It is quite inhumane then to crudely justify snubbing the Dalai Lama to please China's communist dictators as one Alka Acharya of JNU does-"We distance ourselves from the Tibetan government on our soil and at the same time accord immense respect to the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader."

You don't strip a man of his soul and claim to treat him with dignity.

Ms. Acharya and Mr.Mukherjee did just that, for, it is the spirit of Tibet that drives the spirituality of the Dalai Lama.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why there can be no peace in Middle East

As if evidence were ever needed, here's a glimpse into why there will never be peace in middle-east and why Israel is condemned to live in a hostile neighborhood.

NYTimes article lays it bare.

The only way out is for Hamas to renounce violence, take upon Gandhian non-violent ways of protests, recognize Israel's right to exist, and return to negotiation table, if they really want peace. China should do the same with the Dalai Lama to give real autonomy to Tibet. That's the only win-win scenario for all parties. China and Hamas should think outside the box for the sake of peace.

After all, Chinese and Tibetans are same people, and so the Israelis and Palestinians. As such, they have to live together because geography cannot be changed. Creative give-and-take by Hamas and large-hearted positive attitude by Chinese is the need of hour. As the regional big brother China should show generosity to its neighbors and minorities.