Thursday, July 28, 2005


As the record breaking rains have started to show some signs of abating, parts of coastal Maharashtra and Mumbai city have started to limp back to normal. After being cut off from the rest of the country for two days, Mumbai's ariport has become at least partially operational, and at least some phone lines seem to be up again. Amit Varma and Desi Pundit have good roundups of coverage of the floods here and here.

Pune city has been spared the full brunt of the rains thanks to the both the Western Ghats and the guys at the irrigation department who were able to properly manage the water levels of the many dams around the city. The biggest problem in Pune right now is the total disintegration of the roads, which we are quite used to. Even so, the water levels at many dams are at dangerously high levels, and further rains could cause problems. The situation is especially bad at the Koyna dam in Southern Maharashtra, because although the reservoir is full, water cannot be released without causing further flodding in the coastal regions.

Pune's western suburbs and the industrial township of Pimpri-Chinchwad have not been so lucky, however. The flooding of the Pavana river has caused widespread devastation, and Pimpri-Chinchwad was cut off from Pune on Tuesday. As many as 7000 people have been rendered homeless, and are being accomodated in city schools. The newspapers today carried reports of three people having died. Therre are long power cuts, and there is a serious water shortage. The situation is now slowly returning to normal, and some transport links with Pune city have been restored.

With the Pune Mumbai rail line still unoperational, Pune has temporarily become the railhead for Mumbai. The Mumbai Pune Expressway has become partially operational, though there is still a lot of debris. Bus services from Pune to Mumbai have not resumed, although it seems that traffic in the other direction continues to flow.

There isn't a whole lot of news right now, so I guess I will put up something tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do workers get more rights than me?

Yesterday, Gurgaon, Haryana, was witness to clashes between striking workers and the police. The workers were protesting four worker's retrenchment from the Honda Scooter and Motorcycle India (HMSI) fatcory in Gurgaon. They then mercilessly beat up several policemen who were trying to stop them from blocking a major national highway. The policemen then came back with reinforcements, and then they started mercilessly beating up workers. The government of Haryana moved to hospitalise the injured and instituted a time-bound inquiry into the incident. This should have been the end of a very sorry incident, the injured given their treatment, and the guilty parties punished.

But it wasn't. Within twenty-four hours of the incident, commie leaders of every stripe have descended on Gurgaon, and immediately started demanding the Haryana government's ouster. Indian news channels are full of shrill Communist leaders crying out against the bourgoise government (which they supportiin Parliament) that is clearly in league with the MNCs. How dare they interfere with the worker's right to break stuff and beat up people, they demand. Goaded on by such demagogues, the workers today have started beating up policemen, bureaucrats, doctors, nurses, and virtually anyone who comes in their path. As I type this, I can see lathi-weilding goons gratuitously attack unarmed people on the telly.

So the question is, do people get the right to beat up anyone they want, break anything they want, riot and generally cause chaos just because they're workers with a grievance? I mean, yes, an atrocity was committed against them, but does that give them license to go on a rampage through town? If I beat up a policeman, I would get soundly thrashed by his buddies, and get a jail sentence for my trouble. Am I missing something here? I thought I had the same rights as those guys on Gurgaon's streets, but obviously I don't. I don't remember special fundamental rights for striking workers allowing them to beat up anyone with immunity, but that's clearly my mistake.

The Indian Police have a justly deserved reputation for senseless brutality. But that doesn't mean that policemen do not have rights. You cannot just go around beating them up because you've had a bad day, or because your buddy lost his job. By all means, punish those policemen guilty of the atrocity we saw on TV yesterday. But doing that, and then allowing the miscreants among the workers (who are equally guilty) to go free because of some misplaced rants about workers rights will be a complete miscarriage of justice.

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Blogroll Expansion #X+3

Josh McCabe: A Modern, moderate man. Also a friend of mi hermano Varun.

Kapeesh Saraf: Part of the New Wave of COEPian Bloggers.

Neil Mehta: Yet another BC Blogger, this time from PICT.

Posted in Blogging, Links and Plugs.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Arrrr Qaeda

As terrorism seems to more and more become a fact of life, one very contentious issue is, how do we deal with it legally? Conventional criminal law has proven ineffective, because it provides protection to suspects that terrorists regularly take advantage of. The laws of war are ineffective, because under the Geneva Convention, for example, a prisoner is only required to provide his name rank and serial number. This would surely hamper intelligence gathering efforts. Also, since terrorists do not actually represent any country as such, their legal staus as combatants is in doubt. Special anti-terror laws, like the now defunct POTA may be useful, but are widely seen as targetting certain communities, and so bound to fail. How then, should terrorists be legally treated? How can we prevent them from falling between the cracks in these myriad legal systems.

Donald Burgess, writing in Legal Affairs magazine, thinks that a legal framework already exists that can be used against terrorists:
....a framework would perhaps seem impossible, except that one already exists. Dusty and anachronistic, perhaps, but viable all the same. More than 2,000 years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as hostis humani generis, "enemies of the human race." From that day until now, pirates have held a unique status in the law as international criminals subject to universal jurisdiction—meaning that they may be captured wherever they are found, by any person who finds them. The ongoing war against pirates is the only known example of state vs. nonstate conflict until the advent of the war on terror, and its history is long and notable. More important, there are enormous potential benefits of applying this legal definition to contemporary terrorism.
Terrorists = Pirates?! It really seems loony. Osama bin Laden is nothing like Blackbeard (except for, well, the beard). Or is he?

Strange as it may sound, there actually seems to be a lot of correlation between 18th Century piracy and 20th Century terror. Piracy reached its zenith when they received state sponsorship (in the form of Letters of Marque) as many states cunningly used pirates to wage proxy wars against their enemies. However, the pirates (or Privateers, as those with the Letters were called) soon got out of hand, and became a menace to the very nations that sponsored them. Pirates, many of whom claimed to "wage a war against civilization", became a far greater menace than their erstwhile friends could control on their own. Pirates, hiding in the vast expanses and the myriad islands of the Atlantic, cut off from the rest of civilization, were the original terrorist cell.

Thus piracy quickly became the scourge of the seafaring European powers that practically controlled the entire world. Realising that piracy could not be individually tackled by these powers, they banded together in an agreement codified in the Declaration of Paris, which reamains the basis of anti-piracy legislation even today. The signatories, recognising their complicity in the scourge of piracy, resolved to rid the world of it. They made piracy a crime of and by itself, which means that you did not have to loot or kill on the high sseas to be punished, membership of a pirate band was enough. It was the responsibility of every country to catch and punish pirates as they were found, regardless of the location of their crimes. The European states were so successful that piracy was eradicated from almost all the world's seas, and only endures today in isolated pockets.

But will such a definition of terrorism as a species of piracy really help? Mr Burgess seems to think so:
If the war on terror becomes akin to war against the pirates, however, the situation would change. First, the crime of terrorism would be defined and proscribed internationally, and terrorists would be properly understood as enemies of all states. This legal status carries significant advantages, chief among them the possibility of universal jurisdiction. Terrorists, as hostis humani generis, could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. Pirates are currently the only form of criminals subject to this special jurisdiction.

Second, this definition would deter states from harboring terrorists on the grounds that they are "freedom fighters" by providing an objective distinction in law between legitimate insurgency and outright terrorism.
Obviously, we will not win our war against terrorists simply by declaring them to be pirates. However, such a legal definition will certainly go a long way in clearing up the hurdles that anyone who seeks to try terrorists faces today. The benefits will be immediate, especially for a country like India, which has long battled with terrorists the world chooses to ignore as freedom fighters. It will make antiterrorist legislation far simpler, and remove any roadblocks to international cooperation against terror.

As Mr. Burgess says, it is time terrorist take their place in law as hostis humanis generis: enemies of the human race.

(H/t: Dean's World)

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Friday, July 22, 2005

This just in from Kolkata....

Arnab the Great Bong has this to say on the ladies in the Arts faculties of Jadavpur University:
Immediately, I noticed the difference (from the girls in the Computer Science Department). Intensely feminine, lispy smiles, a curl of hair falling seductively on the forehead, whisps of perfume and yes sometimes the arching of the back, the slanting of the head, and the entire-damsel-in-distress-waiting-to-be-rescued-by-knight-in-shining-armour routine.

Coyness. And boldness. But the boldness was not obtrusive enough so as to be considered vulgar ---a kind of subterranean well of passion which you knew would gush out only if you knew how to press the proper buttons. In other words----- "I am game for anything if you know how to play".
I have just one question: How do I transfer to Jadavpur U?

(H/t: Amit Varma)

Posted in Education.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Guardian hires an Islamic Extremist

Perry de Havilland of Samizdata points out that the Guardian newspaper has hired as a trainee journalist Dilpazier Aslam, who among other things, is associated with, a site dedicated to setting up a global Islamic Caliphate.

Mr Aslam is at it already, implying in a recent article, that British born Islamic radicals are "sassy". This is not suprising, however, given his earlier articles for, in which he specifically called for violence:

"The establishment of Khilafah is our only solution, to fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah State"

And this one, in which the "Yorkshire lad" makes his loyalties clear:
"Muslims grant their loyalty and allegiance to their deen and the Ummah, not to a football team or nation state."
(Both links h/t The Daily Abolution)

It amazes me that the loony left and the pseudo-secularists are willing to tolerate, and encourage even, a great deal of intolerance and bigotry from people they've prejudged as "victims". Imagine if a newspaper had hired, let's say, Praveen Togadia. The furore, in that case, would be immediate, and rightly so. The same standards should then be applied to this fundamentalist hate monger. One radical religious loony is as bad as the other, irrespective of his religion. Any other attitude is surely prejudice.

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Economics isn't Natural Science

Warren Meyer at the Coyote Blog believes that zero sum economics that hold that all the wealth in the world to be constant, and other natural science inspired philospohies are responsible for some of the worst public policy in the world.

One of the worst ideas that affect public policy around the world is that wealth is somehow zero sum - that it can be stolen or taken or moved or looted but not created. G8 protesters who claim that poor nations are poor because wealthy nations have made them that way; the NY Times, which for a number of weeks actively flogged the idea that the fact of the rich getting richer in this country somehow is a threat to the rest of us; Paul Krugman, who fears that economic advances in China will make the US poorer: All of these positions rest on the notion that wealth is fixed, so that increases in one area must be accompanied by decreases in others. Mercantilism, Marxism, protectionism, and many other destructive -isms have all rested on zero sum economic thinking.

My guess is that this zero-sum thinking comes from our training and intuition about the physical world. As we all learned back in high school, nature generally works in zero sums. For example, in any bounded environment, no matter what goes on inside (short of nuclear fission) mass and energy are both conserved, as outlined by the first law of thermodynamics. Energy may change form, like the potential energy from chemical bonds in gasoline being converted to heat and work via combustion, but its all still there somewhere. (Hyperlinks from the original text.)

The article is quite long, but well researched, well written and full of interesting links. You can read the rest of it here.

Posted in Politics and Economics.

So much time, so little work....

In a possible attempt to prove that Canadians are second to no one in wasting time and column inches, the Canadian politics portal Politics Watch applied the results of exit polls in the 2004 US Presidential elections to determine the possibe political leanings of characters from the Simpsons.
So a random survey of 17 Springfield voters found the community to have eight Bush voters and eight Kerry voters, with one undecided -- Homer.

In 2004, Springfield is too close to call.
The author found that Springfield residents Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Abe Simpson, Monty Burns, Nick Rivera and Julius Hibbert (among others) would vote Republican while Marge Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Waylon Smithers and the Comic book guy (among others) would vote Democrat.

The author obviously is not a regular Simpsons fan, because he commits several mistakes. Krusty, for example, although listed a Democrat in the article, is elected to Congress as a Republican on the show.

Interestingly, the article was written the very day after the election, when the exit poll results were just out. Fast work, this.

Posted in Personal and Miscellaneous.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Who needs the UN?

Proposals to expand the UN Security Council have, in recent days, put the 60-year old organisation in the spotlight. India, Brazil, Germany and Japan want to be permanently on the council, with two African permanent seats and four extra non-permanent seats. Pakistan, Italy and a bunch of other stick-in-the mud countries want only ten new non-permanent seats. China wants to keep Japan out. The Arabs and the Africans want a couple of seats for themselves. The Russians are sticking by the Chinese. And the Americans will oppose any plan, even their own.

Well here's my fifty paise. India have been good UN members since its inception, and we've got nothing to show for it. Indians contribued to the peacekeeping missions, indeed, died for them even. Who policed Somalia after the US pulled out after loosing 24 (I think) soldiers? Oh yes, that was India.. We've consistently supported the UN and its programs. We've set a good example as an enduring third world democracy. And what did we get for all this? Nothing.

Being in the UN for sixty years, being a contributer for its efforts, being the world's biggest democracy doesn't count for much when its time to decide who gets a bigger say in the running of the UN. And the one time when we had a problem and needed their intervention, what did the UN do? Twiddled their thumbs, looked at their feet and made inane comments about the weather, and in doing so, gave the Indian subcontinent a problem that would trouble Indian and Pakistanis for half a century.

In this day and age, the UN is quite irelevant. Could solve the imbroglio over the Iraq? Could they stop the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda or Darfur? Can they make North Korea and Iran halt their nuclear programs? Can they help tackle the global scourge of terrorism? The answer is a resounding "no" to all of the above. So I say India, the other G-4 countries, and indeed the rest of the world ought to pull out of the UN. Leave the P-5 to sit around their nice shiny Security Council table and veto each other untill Hell freezes over. Because that's all the UN is good for today.

Posted in Politics and Economics, Rants and Raves.

Out of Context

Manmohan Singh said:
Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India's experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has insulted the sentiments of one hundred million proud Indians by lavishing praise on the British colonial rule. He owes an apology to the nation and should explain the context under which he made such comments
It pains me to see a once great party reduce itself to such cheap shots. I have every confidence that if the situation was reversed, the Congress spokesman would be making such idiotic statements, but it is not something I would expect from the BJP.

Oh, and Mr. Naqvi, you can read the context here, just like the rest of us did.

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Intervention that Worked

Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate:
The European Union utterly failed Bosnia, which was in its very own "back yard." So did the United Nations. So did the Clinton-Gore administration, for as long as it regarded Milosevic as "containable" by the use of sanctions. Bosnia did not cease to be a killing field, and Serbia did not cease to be an aggressive dictatorship until the United States armed forces took a hand. The neoconservatives, to their great honor, mostly supported an effort to prevent genocide being inflicted on Muslims: an enterprise in which Israeli interests were not involved. Many liberal and socialist humanitarians took the same view. The argument about intervention and force changed forever as a result, except that many people did not notice. Just go and look up what the leaders of today's "anti-war" movement were saying then … too many civilian casualties (of all things!); the threat of a Vietnam-style "quagmire"; the lasting enmity of the Christian Orthodox world; above all the risk of a "longer war."
Why did Saddam Hussein, that great lion of the Arab and Muslim world, denounce the American bombing of the Muslim-killing Milosevic? Why did Qaddafi do the same? For the very same reason that Christian fascists in Serbia now denounce the intervention in Iraq: They know that the main foe is the United States and that this fact transcends all the others.
Bosnia will forever stand out as a case of US (not UN) military intervention that worked. The genocide has ended, Croats, Serbs and Bosnians are living together in peace, and many of the war criminals of all three sides have been brought to justice. The current anti-war camp, as Mr Hitchens says, were firmly pro-intervention at that time, and quite rightly so, intervention saved countless lives and stopped a very dirty war. The fundamentalist murderers were defeated not by negotiation, or sanctions, or a "pluralist outlook" or whatever, but by force. They should remember that the next time they denounce the Afghan (or Iraq) campaigns as morally wrong. That one time, at least, the neo-cons were (gasp!) right.

(Hat tip: Josh McCabe.)

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Racial Profiling

As I was reading the paper this morning, I came across an article on the "creeping racism" in Britain in the aftermath of Thursday's bombing. Apparently, the writer (an Indian) was travelling in Britain, and was questioned/harassed quite a bit more than the white people were. Not surprisingly, he took umbrage at this, and was quite pissed off that despite their patriotism and courage following the bombings, British Asians will now have to put up with such crap regularly. Racial Profiling seems to have raised its ugly head in Britain.

Now, as an Indian, and as a brown person, I know I will have to put up with such incidents whenever I travel to the US or the UK, and it concerns me. I am as pissed off by racial profiling as the next guy. But when I think about it, I wonder, is it really avoidable?

Consider the facts. The UK was attacked by a fundamentalist Islamic terror group. Hence, Britain's current attackers are almost certainly drawn from a small, lunatic minority of the Muslim populations. Any further attacks on Britain are also likely to be conducted by the same demographic. Given this, and given their scarce resources, would you expect the British police to strip search everybody who enters their country? Is that even feasible?

Islamic terrorists are, without exception, Islamic. And therefore, Muslims, and people who look like they might be Muslims will continue to attract extra attention from the authorities to make sure they are not people to be concerned about. The perpetrators of 7/7 will not be caught by frisking blond, blue-eyed Teutons. This is a truth Muslims and Asians will have to learn to accept. The alternative would be like asking the British to forgo their efforts to catch the perpetrators of this attack and to prevent another.

The racial profiling that started after 9/11 and 7/7 is certainly a horrible thing, but it is just the symptom of a problem. The real problem here is the terror campaign waged by Al-Qaeda and it's fundamentalist allies. And as long as that continues, we're just going to learn to live with racial profiling.

Update: Samizdata points to a good article by Charles Moore on the British Authorities' attitude to Muslims after the attack.

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The truth about Parnab Mukherjee

(No, not the Defence Minister.)

Aadisht Khanna points to a blogger who has fact-checked the bio-data of Parnab Mukherjee, Quizmaster Extrordinaire.

Posted in Blogging, Links and Plugs; Quizzing, College Fests and other Crap.

London Blasts

There have been at least six explosions in London, that appear to have targetted the transport system. There are reports of at least two dead. Nobody seems to have taken responsibilty as yet.

A roundup of blogs covering the blasts is up at Overtaken by Events. Wikipedia has an article up here. has pictures here.

Watching Tony Blair on the Beeb right now (read the text of his statement here), flanked by world leaders (including M. Singh). He seems on the verge of tears. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also gave a statement, in which he urged solidarity.

Europhobia has a puported statement (you have to scroll down a bit) from the Jamaat al-Tandheem Al-Sierri (secret organization group) taking responsibilty.

You know you read too many American Right-Wing Blogs when...

  • You find you've completely sworn off Heinz products.
  • Your "Quote for the Week" is by Don Boudreaux.
  • You find yourself using words like "Idiotarian" and "Moonbat" in ordinary converstaions with nonbloggers.
  • You go to restaurants and order a plate of "freedom fries".
  • You get angry when you find out that your friends have listed their political preference as "left liberal" on their Orkut profiles.
  • Your blood boils when you hear Noam Chomsky's name, but you haven't read any of his books.
And finally,
  • You start thinking that GWB isn't such a dope after all.
Posted in Blogging, Links and Plugs.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bollywood and the American Right

Fabio Rojas (guest blogging at Marginal Revolution) writes that American Conservatives ought to love Bollywood movies. The reason? No sex, lots of family values, lots of piety, etc.

I wonder what they would think about Item Numbers.

Posted in Blogging, Links and Plugs.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8

Yesterday 10 concerts were organised in the capitals of the G8 countries, the Eden project (in England) and Johannesburg to pressure the G8 nations to write off African Nation's debts. These concerts were organised mainly by Bob Geldof (who organised the Live Aid concerts in 1985), as a part of the Live 8 jamboree. A 200,000 person demonstration to "Make Poverty History" also took place in Edinburgh, the site of a G8 summit next week. The concerts had no tickets, passes were given out free. Mr. Geldof was quite insistent on this aspect of the campaign, and made quite the ass of himself when some people tried to sell the passes on EBay. The concerts were described as a "great success", with appearances by Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg (which caused Top Gear to be pulled off the BBC) and Thabo Mbeki in London.

All this brings me to a couple of questions I have for Live 8 proponents/supporters:
  1. Do you really think the reason there is so much poverty in the world is a lack of will to do someting about it? Do you, really? Did you think that it is in Tony Blair and GWB's power to end poverty and that they haven't done so yet because they think there is no constituency?
  2. How does it help poor people in Africa if you travel hundreds of miles to Edinburgh, jam the roads with your march, create tonnes of trash and deface a few local businesses?
  3. How does allowing Robert Mugabe to keep the millions of aid dollars he stole help the poor people of Africa one whit?
  4. Is all this really for the African poor? Really?
  5. What about the Asian and South American poor, eh? How about writing of India's debts then? We got plenty of poor people too.
That said, there were a lot of things said that I liked. Most of the people who spoke (like Geldof) took the trouble to say that Africa should be helped with aid and trade. Remarkably, Geldof is also reported to have hinted that African nations should be democratic. Wow.

Of course, Live Aid ain't over yet. There's still another concert in Edinburgh planned for the day of the G8 summit. Stay tuned.

Update (4/7/05): Will Stephens of Samizdata thinks the people at Make Poverty History are actually culpable for many African deaths.

Update 2 (6/7/05): Kenyan Economist James Shikawati talks about the need to stop thinking of Aid as the panacea to all Africa's problems in this interview to Der Spiegel magazine (H/t: Josh McCabe).

Posted in Politics and Economics.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What's with this Hitler Glorification?

Yesterday, as I was helping my sister with her homework, I noticed an incongrous thing on her Marathi guide. There were two pictures on the back cover. One was of Mahatma Gandhi. The other was of Adolf Hitler. Evidently the publishers consider them Great Men of equal stature.

I think this is part of a greater Indian tendency to glorify Hitler. In my history textbooks, much was made of the fact that Hitler supported Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his Indian Army. The fact that Hitler called Bose the Fuehrer of India is highlighted as one of Bose's great accomplishments. However, it seems to me that the Nazi - INA alliance was largely a marriage of convenience. Hitler was by no means an Indophile. He regarded the subjugation of the entire Indian subcontinent by a handlful of British adventurers clinching proof of his theories of racial superiority. In fact, he probably regarded Indians as Untermensch (subhumans) as much as he did Africans and Slavs. His forced alliance with Indians against the British must have caused him a great deal of anguish indeed.

Another worrying aspect of such Hitler glorification can be found, again in Indian history textbooks. Mine praised him a lot for being the architect of German economic recovery after the First World War and the Great Depression. Hitler's less palatable legacy, including the Holocaust are largely glossed over. In fact, the history taught to Indian children smacks a lot of Holocaust denial (I don't know how it is outside the Maharashtra SSC Board, though).

And then there is the tendency of Indian politicians to look at Hitler as a kind of role model. It is known that Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena idolises Hitler. Mahatma Gandhi himself was known to have once praised Hitler as someone who did great things for his country. There is a small but vocal minority of home-grown Nazis like Jayantrao Chitale who openly identify with his ideology and methods. (Ironically, many of these Desi fascists also admire the Israelis for their tough line against Palestinian terrorists.)

I think this stuff needs to be stopped before it gets out of hand.

Posted in Politics and Economics, Education.