1 Broken Scooter, 4 Iron Cots, 1 Used Ford, 3 Cats, and 1 Small Room

Yet another Self-Important Blog.

Rohit Singh
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Sun, 26 Aug 2007

That's The Question, Isn't It?

More on the Indo-US nuke deal. Writing in the Newsweek, Sumit Ganguly speculates if the commies will bring down the current government:

"But such an outcome remains unlikely, since voting against the Congress-led government would mean voting with the chauvinist BJP, whom the communists loathe even more than the United States."

That's the question, isn't it? That is, if the commies dislike the Americans more than the BJP? I'm betting on BJP, but you never know.

Vir Sanghvi has another article denouncing the commies. But he also wonders if the nuke deal is worth staking the government over. I can't believe he wonders about that. One, the deal has long-term implications for India that are almost wholly positive (new technology, credibility, enhanced status). In fact, Indian diplomats seem to have negotiated a surprisingly *good* deal. Two, how can you go back on an agreement when the parliament has (a few months ago), in principle, approved it!

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Thu, 23 Aug 2007


The Economist is running a good article on how the FSB (and its officers) are gradually taking over the Russian State and state-run industries. This is not really a surprise--- anybody who even sporadically follows the news over the past few years will have seen the Russian state re-asserting itself, especially against the oligarchs and perceived slights from the West. The article does a good job of describing who the main players are and confirms one guess I had: this is not merely one set of rich people supplanting another set (the oligarchs). The new set also derives it power from its militaristic inclinations.

Also, this passage was interesting:

"The rise to power of the KGB veterans should not have been surprising. In many ways, argues Inna Solovyova, a Russian cultural historian, it had to do with the qualities that Russians find appealing in their rulers: firmness, reserve, authority and a degree of mystery. The KGB fitted this description, or at least knew how to seem to fit it."

The notion that societies have cultural preferences for specific types of leaders certainly seems true. For example, the presence of political dynasties in Indian democracy can be traced somewhat to the influence of casteism and feudalism on Indian culture. Similarly, many of the oddities of American politics can be traced to quirks of American culture (e.g. interplay between religiosity and issues like abortion and stem-cell research).

However, this notion is also somewhat unsettling. Democracies are supposed to enable a free market of ideas, letting the best idea win. For better or for worse, voters are not rational beings--- they are influenced by their culture in picking their leaders. In particular, they may pick a leader who resonates with them culturally but has poor ideas.

Does this mean that certain societies are condemned to a generally poor choice in leaders than others? To extend the argument, are some cultures worse than others?

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Wed, 22 Aug 2007

Vir Sanghvi on Muslim Communalism

The recent boneheaded response of some Muslims to Taslima Nasreen's work prompted a column from Vir Sanghvi a few weeks ago. He argued that the silent (and presumably, vast) majority of moderates in the Indian Muslim community need to do a better job of standing up to the extremists within. Sure, they have a much harder task of it than Hindu moderates, but the stakes for them are also much higher. He also mentions the abysmal quality of political leadership that Indian Muslims have:

"Sadly, Indian Muslims have the worst political leadership of any community in India.

Worse still, it is a leadership that is illegitimate. Muslims are affected by many of the same issues as Hindus or Christians: inflation, law and order, economic growth, corruption etc. So why then do they need Muslim leaders? Why cant secular leaders represent them on secular issues? The short answer is that, of course, they can. And Muslim leaders, fearful of their own irrelevance, needlessly whip up sentiment on religious issues to try and ensure that Muslims vote only as Muslims and not as Indians. So, an insult to the Prophet by Taslima will be manufactured; some Samajwadi thug-cum-minister will offer a reward for the death of a Danish cartoonist that his constituents have never heard of; The Satanic Verses will be burnt by people who would never otherwise have read it; and a bogus cry of Islam being in danger will be raised."

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The Indian Left and The N-Deal

The commies have been loonies for a long time-- opposing perfectly sensible policies and bullying the current goverment. With the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the Manmohan Singh government finally stood up to them. Vir Sanghvi, Shekhar Gupta, B. Raman and others are all rejoicing.

There's a certain amount of brinkmanship going on between the political parties, but I can't believe that they (the Left and, also, BJP) will let India's biggest diplomatic success in a long time go to waste. Actually, I believe they well might, but I'm hoping they won't.

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Dynastic Democracy

Indian P.M. hosts a private dinner for the Japanese P.M. So far so good. The invitees includes scions of 3 political families that are part of the current government. An exercise in grooming the next generation of India's leaders, perhaps?

I'm guessing that Rahul Gandhi was the main invitee among the Young Turks, and the others were invited for appearances' sake. But, at the very least, they could've also invited young politicians who don't have powerful dads or are from the opposition parties.

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Wed, 15 Aug 2007

How do you feel when you see this picture?

Happy or Sad?

This one should be easier:

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Happy Independence Day

India's 60 today. The party, as they say, is just getting started. I just hope the various neuroses of Indian people (an inferiority complex and an entitlement complex simultaneously!) do not screw up things. I don't think they will.

Some good writing on the day [1,2,3]. Some atrocious writing [4,5]. Some deluded writing [6]. Some well-meaning-but-badly-written stuff [7]. Some annoying-but-true stuff [8]. The inevitable China comparison [9]. Here's an article in praise of the British [10]. While I agree with the article, may I re-rant that Churchill was-- as far as India is concerned-- a jackass of the highest order. Here is a bad case of projection (the author didn't have a Muslim friend in school/college and so he assumes no one else did).

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Mon, 13 Aug 2007

This Is Interesting

Some Israeli soldiers refused to carry out certain orders directed against Orthodox Jewish settlers in the Israel-occupied territories.

I found this interesting because it points to a delicate balance that a State has to strike when using force against (parts of) its own population. Usually, the police (and, to a smaller extent, the army) are the agents forcing the State's will. A key part of their training ethos is discipline and the importance of following orders, i.e., they are supposed to inflict violence on people as ordered, even if they don't want to. But what happens if the State pushes them too far? Maybe the army/police is at fault, but what if the State is the one that's wrong?

The First War of Indian Independence can be thought of in these terms. The various riots in recent Indian history also have a related angle-- the State (at least, the Indian Consitution) would've liked to protect the victims regardless of their religion, but the police often weren't disciplined enough to do so: they were probably more keen on protecting people from a particular religion.

But some of the most interesting such conflicts happen with Israeli Defence Forces. I think this is because of their compulsory military service, due to which Israeli soldiers come from a much broader ideological/political spectrum than in other armies. Sometimes, you might even agree with the dissenters.

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Sat, 11 Aug 2007

This is Good...

ITIs (trade schools run by the Indian govt.) have, for a long while, been in a rather bad state. With public-private partnerships, their condition seems to be improving. Part of this is market driven-- a growing manufacturing sector needs welders, electricians, mechanics etc. But the govt deserves credit too, for getting out of the way. The improvement in ITIs' amenities is itself a big deal but making the syllabus more responsive to industry needs and introducing placement support services is, I think, even more significant.

As the Indian manufacturing sector grows more, places like ITIs are going to be crucial in fulfilling the labor needs.

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Fri, 10 Aug 2007

The Subprime Mess

Nice article in the NYT. Some quotes:

"Nothing within [our current system of leveraged finance] allows for the hedging of liquidity risk, and that is the problem at the moment."

"The new financial system is not the one the Fed was created to deal with, but it is the one it must try to handle."

In some places, however, the article's reasoning seems to be flawed:

"At the heart of the new system was a decision to have loans financed directly by investors, rather than indirectly by bank depositors. Investors, ranging from hedge funds to wealthy individuals, had confidence in the arrangement because most of the securities were blessed as very safe by the bond rating agencies, like Moodys and Standard & Poors.

There's a reason SEC limits the kind of people who can invest in hedge funds. The latter have often given their investors extremely good returns over the last few years. That kind of return comes with higher risk. Buyer beware.

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Thu, 09 Aug 2007

The General: My Fellow Pakistanis, May I Take Away Your Freedoms?

He's the worst mixture of a politician and a soldier. Like a bad soldier, he wants to rule by diktat; like a bad politician, for every policy decision, he needs to float a trial balloon to see how the people will take to it.

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Wed, 08 Aug 2007


Day before yesterday, I came across an ad for the book "A World Without Us", where the author tries to imagine how nature would manage if we weren't around. Sounds fairly interesting. One claim the book seems to make is that within 2 days of humanity's disappearance, the New York subway system will be flooded and unusable. Surely, I thought, he doth protest too much.

Apparently not.

Interestingly, the New York subway seems to have been shut down by 3 inches of rain (though it come down fairly quickly). In the 2005 Mumbai mega-pour, the city got 37 inches in a single day. No wonder it flooded. People often complain about India's infrastructure, and rightly so. But some of the nature-related challenges in India (heat, monsoon, dust etc.) are quite difficult to deal with.

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Yakub Memon

In the '93 Mumbai blasts case, more than one reporter now seems to be saying that Yakub is the wrong Memon to hand out a death-sentence to because: (1) he was not a core organizer and others with his level of involvement got 5-14 years, and (2) he came to authorities out of his volition, intending to cooperate. I dunno how much of this is true, but it's possible the guy's paying for the sins of his brother. The public pressure to hang any and all Memons the police got a hand on is quite intense, I imagine.

And now that justice is being served for the blast perpetrators, shouldn't the Mumbai riot perpetrators be tried too? More than any other criminal activity, riot-related crimes seem to receive the least prosecutorial attention (on a per-victim basis). Maybe India really is, as others have said before, a nation without a memory.

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Mon, 06 Aug 2007

India at Sixty

Time (international editions) is running a cover story on India's 60th anniversary. Nice set of articles.

In an article, William Dalrymple trots out the argument --- it's almost a meme now --- that the recent prosperity of India and China is really just the start of a return to global historical balances (before the British colonized India, its economy is thought to have made up 22% of the world economy).

A bit too early to extrapolate at this juncture, I'd say. WD's claim is a bit like saying that because India and China were the best sprinters in the neighborhood, they'll also be the best auto-racers now that everybody's got cars. I really hope it happens, but we Indians (WD being an honorary Indian) can be a bit too quick in self-congratulations (and self-denigrations!).

Also, watch out for the piece by Ishaan Tharoor. I'm guessing he's the son of Shashi Tharoor.

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Governments Without Accountability

That's what NGOs are, as described by Martin Wolf. These are other funny tidbits in Zakaria's interview of Paul Collier, the author of Bottom Billion, a book about why the poorest countries aren't doing better. His prescription, as many others have said before, is to make it easier for the poor countries like Rwanda to sell their wares to the West. This has traditionally been hard, especially selling to Europeans (who are masters of indirect trade-barriers). The other thing he suggests is the use of external force (by U.N. peacekeepers, for example) in establishing order in a war-torn country. Here's the video (the NGO discussion starts around the 12min mark):

I'm increasingly of the opinion that one of the best things India can do for stability in its neighborhood is to open its markets completely to its neighbors (except Pakistan and China). In fact, it might even be worth taking the lead by opening Indian markets first and giving Nepal/Bangladesh/Srilanka, say, 5 years before they open theirs.

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Thu, 02 Aug 2007

$0.49 vs $1400

As per NYT, that's the difference (over one year) between drinking from the tap and from a store-bought bottle of water.

They mention a prospect that's already coming to fruition in India: as the rich drink from the bottle, they'll be less willing to support funding of water purification and distribution systems, leading to a decline in the quality of municipal water (which is the only type available -- if at all -- to the poor). With private groundwater pumps and UV/Filtration-based purification systems at home, the rich in many Indian cities no longer have a great stake in improving the quality and quantity of municipal water supply.

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Wed, 01 Aug 2007

MERL's Having Issues

MERL, Mitshubishi's Research Lab, has been undergoing fairly drastic reorgs. They're shedding much of the open-ended research projects (and people) and focusing on technologies with more immediate impact. Since they are practically across the street from Stata and I've friends who work there, there's been news about this for a while now. But it's getting noticed elsewhere too, including a discussion at Slashdot.

I'm saddened that MERL won't be as good as they used to-- they have been really good in computer vision and graphics. But then again, I'm almost surprised Mitsubishi supported MERL this long. Mitsubishi isn't a company I'd have credited with supporting open-ended research, particularly the kind that isn't in a field they specialize in. It takes a monopoly (rare) or a strong founder-manager with a broad, long-term vision (even rarer) to put money into open-ended research.

Not that it does much good crying about the unfairness of this situation. Companies are run for profit (and usually owned by shareholders who care a lot more about the short-term than the long-term); this goal rarely aligns with the act of funding basic, open-ended research. All the more reason why such research should be supported by governments and philanthropists.

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Tue, 03 Apr 2007

Oh no he didn't!

Zakaria says Ban Ki Moon (the incoming South Korean UN Sec Gen) is a colorless and ineffective technocrat. Juicy words by somebody who may well be the American Secretary of State some day, and on somebody who's fairly important.

This week's Foreign Exchange is really worth watching also for Zakaria's interview with a Japanese journalist. The interview was about the comfort women in WW-II issue and Japan's supposed intransigence in admitting-- or repenting!-- its official and forcible use of Korean and Chinese women as prostitutes. The Jap journo went on a big rant on (1) Japan's already repented and has been punished enough for WW-II (A-Bombs, tribunals, reparations...) and (2) there is an amount of racism in ganging up on Japan and (3) what not. Lovely rant to watch. Really. He also made some points that the Japanese are usually unwilling to say this bluntly. The relevant segment starts at around 11:20 min into the video.

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Fri, 16 Feb 2007

Zakaria on Pakistan.

Fareed Zakaria interviewing a senior journalist from Pakistan. Starts at about 12:30 min into the video. Choice quote (by the guest journo): "We associate the United States with fitful interests in regions all over the world"

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Weird and Disturbing Sequence of Events...

Prof joins MIT. Prof doesn't get tenure. Prof claims the tenure granting process is unfair. So far, not very abnormal. However, mix in racism, stem-cells, religion and things get quite interesting (1, 2). Things seem to be settling down (3, 4), finally.

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Wed, 07 Feb 2007


Interesting article in NYT about the New York financial market's perceived decline in stature. It's behind the Times Select wall. However, if you've access to Factiva (many university libraries do), you should be able to read the article via Factiva:

"More important, the main reason companies are listing in their home markets is that globalization is not a lofty theory but has truly produced more competitive global markets. That means more companies will choose not to trek halfway around the world to raise money -- especially when fees in London are half that of the United States.

But if you are Mr. Schumer or Mr. Bloomberg, there are reasons to be alarmed.

As I.P.O.'s move, so does trading: where the company lists will dictate where there will be more liquidity, more hedging and more over-the-counter derivatives in the market where the underlying stock exists.

This is a boon for banks like Goldman Sachs and UBS, who will profit on underwriting companies from China to Mars. But the banker doing that deal will hail from China and his bonus will help inflate Chinese real estate, art and restaurant prices, not New York's. And as more companies list there, more institutions will seek to do business there -- hedge funds, for example -- generating more business for the Shanghai office and fewer taxes for New York.


New York will also have to accept that it will be a leader among global financial centers rather than the leader. And while it is natural that New York politicians strive to keep taxes and jobs at home, not even the newly enlightened Mr. Spitzer can buck globalization."

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Fri, 02 Feb 2007


Apparently, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco didn't shred the application papers of people who applied for visas and sent them out in the trash just like that. Of course, there's starting to be a brouhaha. There should be-- identity thieves could've had a field day with that info. Though, it isn't exactly shocking that babudom treats personal data in a cavalier fashion. The saddest thing is, of all the possible things the Consulate could've done to handle the PR shitstorm, they chose the worst option-- blaming it on the heightened sensitivity of westerners to identity theft:

"Consul General Prakash said there might be a cultural dimension to the level of outrage related to the incident among Western visa applicants."

Why do seemingly sensible (he writes columns for Rediff and they aren't insane) people say such moronic things?!! What's wrong with just saying "Sorry! We didn't have the right processes in place, and we'll fix it from now on." Didn't somebody tell them the cardinal rules of dealing with a PR shitstorm: "Be Honest. Be Quick. Be Concerned."?!!

Identity theft issues are woefully underappreciated in India. When charging to a credit card, too many shops in India print out the entire credit card number and expiration date on the receipt. For trash-can hunters, it's a bonanza waiting to happen.

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Mon, 04 Sep 2006

Glenn Beck's Gut...

...tells him this Iran thing is the biggest problem U.S. has faced in its history. Where did CNN find this guy? If you trust Wikipedia on his bio, the bozo used to play songs on radio. Apparently, he then got fired, got drunk (not clear in which order), and started talking politics.

Continuing on Iran, I love what Zakaria says: "Washington has a long habit of painting its enemies 10 feet tall and crazy."

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Holy moly!

The poor guy's dead. He was a bit over the top (ok, that's understating it) but he was apparently a guy genuinely enthusiastic about wildlife and conservation.

R.I.P. Steve Irwin.

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Sun, 03 Sep 2006


I never thought I'd agree with Vinod Mehta on anything. Who woulda thunk...

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Tue, 11 Apr 2006

IIT Reservation Saga...

The post of India's Human Resource Development Minister seems to draw a special kind of idiot to itself-- one whose views on education and culture are way out of the mainstream and who is only too happy to fix things which ain't broke yet. M M Joshi in the last government and Arun Singh this time prove my point. What's worse, they are both people who've seen better times, politically speaking, and often use the HRD ministry in a futile attempt to get some of that lost limelight back on themselves.

Affirmative action in India is a difficult issue. I do believe that some proactive strategy is needed to provide equal opportunities to historically disadvantaged communities. If quotas prove to be the most effective-- and I am far from sure they are-- my preferred solution would've been close to what the Supreme Court said a few years ago-- make quotas rare, make them economically-focused rather than caste-focused, and ensure that nobody becomes a 2nd-generation quota-benefitee, i.e., once one of your parents got it, you won't. But it's easy to understand that others have different opinions on this.

What's not easy to understand is how Arjun Singh is bandying about a humongous increase in the current quotas-- to slightly short of 50%. WTF!! We might as well get rid of any fantasy of a meritocracy and have all colleges or PSUs just accept candidates based on how politically powerful a group they belong to. Moreover, we'll be screwing up things for a long time to come: as Tavleen Singh at Indian Express pointed out, no party can currently afford to be seen as opposing more reservation; and future rescindment of any such quota increase is just unimaginable, even though our constitution planners put in a sunset clause on quotas originally.

The funny thing is, at least at the IITs, they are already having trouble having enough SC/ST students make it through their pipeline. The IITs are one of the few Indian colleges which execute well the philosophy that even if a student makes it by clearing a lower bar, his/her subsequent educational progress is held up to the same standard as the others. Non-performers are kicked out. Even with 22.5% reservation, people are kicked out. Making it 50% would only effectively decrease the number of people who graduate from IITs. This Rediff column is also interesting.

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Sun, 09 Apr 2006

Oh boy, this ain't good news...

There is some discussion of a drug trial gone bad and what this disaster could entail in terms of new trial regulations. The long and short is that the drug candidate belonged to a new class of molecules, hitherto not used as drugs, and had cleared the animal trials-- monkeys responded to it and they didn't die. Phase 1 in human trials is to check the dosage and toxicity relationship-- essentially, get a feel for how much of the drug can you give to people without them seeing adverse effects. Once you establish the limits, you then measure the efficacy of drug in curing the disease (Phase 2) and a large scale efficacy vs. side-effect study (Phase 3). Before going into Phase 1, companies typically test the drug on animals (dogs and monkeys etc.), the rationale being that what doesn't kill one mammal (or primate) won't kill another, (i.e, humans). Unfortunately, the drug in question turned out to benign to monkeys and massively toxic to humans--- people nearly died. Actually, it could've been more toxic--- people might've actually died.

It is easy to think of this episode as an evil company trying out its concoction on guinea pigs. But that'd most likely be wrong-- assuming the company followed the rules. There will always be a certain amount of risk when testing a new kind of drug--- that is why they "test" it. A lot of the initial computational modeling and animal model work is meant precisely to weed out the bad candidates. But they won't always work-- afterall, monkeys and humans might both be primates but they are not the same species. Moreover, if the drug industry is to find more drugs for more diseases, new kinds of molecules will have to be looked at. Me-too molecular classes will just produce me-too drugs.

Drug testing is just a price we have to pay for getting better.

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Sun, 02 Apr 2006

The US Immigration Debate

As with most issues that really have no clear-cut, good answer, the debates on this one are fun to watch. It's all happening here-- confusion and misinformation, demagoguery and high-minded idealism, pragmatism and parochialism. People are confusing legal, white-collar immigration with illegal, blue-collar immigration. You have propagandists warning of an America impoverished and over-run by illegal immigrants from Mexico; yet you also have saner minds warning of U.S. to not screw up its immigration policy which "is one of the best in the world". There's the cynicism that "it's the big, faceless corporations who are behind this" and then there's the idealism of "oh, these are good, God-fearing, hard-working immigrants-- just the kind America was founded by". There's the pragmatism of "how will you find and deport 6 million people" and there's the parochialism of "they won't assimilate" (never mind that it's quite unclear what 'assimilation' would mean).

Also, one learns something new everyday--- India has a remarkably liberal immigration policy, it turns out: people born in India, regardless of the nationality of their parents, are automatically eligible for citizenship, just like in U.S.

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Mon, 27 Mar 2006


This is sorta kinda fun. Apple, the computer maker, had promised Apple, the Beatles record label, that they won't do music (in a previous Apple-v-Apple lawsuit). Now, Apple does music and so does Apple. Hence the third Apple-v-Apple lawsuit. In its defense, Apple says Apple is comparing apples to oranges,i.e., online music distribution is not the same as selling CDs. Anyways, not sure if this was written in full seriousness:

"The judge hearing the case, Justice Edward Mann, is an iPod user, but neither side has asked him to recuse himself."

Imagine if Apple sued Microsoft and each company asked any judge who used the other's OS to recuse himself. Would be fun, no? We'd know if there's a judge in the American legal system who uses Linux. Or one who still uses his Remington typewriter. Probably the latter.

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Fri, 24 Mar 2006


I love India. Notwithstanding all the cynicism about corrupt leaders and a dysfunctional system. We've the party in power asking the opposition leaders to be careful and arranging official security for them, as these leaders go around the country drumming up public opinion against the party in power.

This is how things are meant to work. It's so easy to imagine some other country, rich or poor, where the government would've quietly sat on known terrorist threats against opposition leaders.

Yupp, somebody is sure to find some cynical angle to the whole thing. Screw them.

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Mon, 20 Mar 2006

Patent Madness

The US Supreme Court's looking at a case that might reduce some of the madness. When some smart, creative people start thinking that it's better to manage patents than to actually *invent* stuff, then you know the system's gone too far.

Even more sadly, America will cajole and threaten the rest of the world into getting a patent system just like its own, one that's just as screwed-up. Then, once it fixes its broken patent system-- and that *will* happen-- it'll again get everybody else to change theirs. For everybody's sake, I hope there's some US patent reform before that.

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Mon, 13 Mar 2006

Go Watch This

This week's Foreign Exchange show, hosted by Fareed Zakaria, has Hussain Haqqani--- a prof at BU and an ex-functionary in the Pakistan government. A level-headed and interesting discussion followed. Starts from around the 15min mark.

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Sun, 12 Mar 2006

Mr. Praful Bidwai Speaketh...

Article here. Excerpts: " It should embarrass any self-respecting nation to be recruited as a Superpower's junior partner and allow the erosion of its own policy autonomy... India is becoming complicit in US plans for Empire... The last thing India needs for energy security is nuclear power, which is twice as expensive as electricity from burning coal, and many times more hazardous [umm...global warming from coal burning, Mr. Bidwai?] ...Building nuclear plants is like building houses without toilets."

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More Vir Sanghvi, on Indian Muslims

Well said again, Mr. Sanghvi. Indian Muslims do need to fight their own lunatic, extremist fringe.

In a way, the Indian muslim community is between a rock and a hard place. International islamic terrorism, Kashmir, and the viciousness of their own lunatic, extremist fringe has made it vitally important that the community stand up against its crazy fringe elements and, equally importantly, be *seen* as fighting in this fashion. At the same time, the community is woefully ill-equipped to do so.

The problem is that the community doesn't have the people who can lead the required self-policing effort. A poor man couldn't care less about protest rallies, he's worried about roti kapda aur makan. No, protests need two kinds of people, both influential and both relatively well-off. The first set consists of articulate, well-known people who lead the fight in politics, in the media, on the web and elsewhere. The second, much larger set consists of people who show up, i.e. add their voice to the protest, giving it the broad base required. People in both the set almost invariably hail from the middle class, though the members of the first set have probably moved up since then, to be now counted among the upper class.

The Indian muslim community has neither of these people. It has a small upper class, but this upper class is almost completely of feudal origin and totally uninterested and ill-suited to lead any self-policing of any kind. The middle class is miniscule. As such, the muslim community has few people who can be counted upon to stand up against their own fringe elements. Yet, stand up the community must, or have even more fingers pointed at it.

As an aside, they've shunted out the top police officer in Benares . I couldn't make up mind if this was scapegoating or plain old kick-out-the-moron. Then I read that the guy was attending a wedding party in the CM's native village when the blasts happened and I am now leaning towards the latter. Also, it seems a bit too early for the blame game, even by babudom standards.

Yet another aside, this story is heart-breaking.

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Sat, 11 Mar 2006

Compare and Contrast...

A few days ago, NYT wrote a moronic editorial arguing against the India-US nuclear deal. Secular-Right India responds in form of a parody. Very funny.

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Fri, 10 Mar 2006

Varanasi Blasts: a Saudi-funded Muslim Charity Being Investigated

Article here. I can't understand why there isn't a blanket ban on foreign funding of religious organizations. Clearly, there have to be limits on the freedom of proselytizing granted in the Indian Constitution. Such a blanket ban will make it easier to pinpoint foreign funding of militant sources.

Short of that, there should be rules that all religious organizations (including Hindu organizations!) make their funding (and accounting) records publicly available and then put these records on the web, so there will be some public oversight of who's getting their money from where and where the money's going.

It's just outrageous that we pay through our nose to buy (oil) from people who funnel the money back to kill us.

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The Economist Gets Letters

The Economist has been rather stupidly and stubbornly against the India-US deal; it's almost as if a large part of the US/European establishment just doesn't want to see any nuclear deal with India, short of India ditching its weapons. And that's not going to happen.

But at least, they printed the various letters they've gotten excoriating the first of their agonizingly misguided and culturally condescending opinion pieces. The second one, a cover story (no less!), is just out; we'll have to wait for the letters on that.

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Thu, 09 Mar 2006

Varanasi Bombings

Too few people, especially in the painfully politically-correct Indian English-language media, have the guts to take on one of the holy cows of Indian political discourse-- i.e., say that something seriously ails the Indian Muslim community and demand accountability from it, emphasizing that the community quickly needs to fix things itself before things get out of its hand. Moreover, the people pushing for such a discussion don't automatically become "right wing Hindu nationalist" bigots, or harbor secret intentions of making Muslims second-class citizens.

In such an environment, things like what Vir Sanghvi is saying are a good start. Is it so unfair to ask why somebody who is offering a reward of Rs 51 crore to kill a cartoonist is being applauded by members of the Muslim community? Or why should the Muslim community (not to mention the perniciously anti-India leftists) argue for Iran and work to undermine a nuclear deal that is clearly in India's long-term interests?

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Tue, 07 Mar 2006

India-US Nuclear Deal

This Sepia Mutiny blog post pretty much summarizes what I thought of the Economist and NYT editorials slamming the deal. And this blog (in particular, the posts here and here) provides a good analysis.

I am glad this deal happened. This deal is strategically great for both India and US. It pisses the commies off. What's not to like?

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Wed, 08 Feb 2006

Right From the Horse's Mouth...

...Or something like that- a German journalist whose paper reprinted the Danish cartoons talks about why his paper printed it. Essentially: "we didn't print it 3 months ago because they were in bad taste, now they are news so we printed them". Something like the rationalization behind the Abu Ghraib photos. Fair enough. And he gets in a zinger about the US Govt, "which likes to see itself as the home of free speech", advocating restrictions on such speech elsewhere.

Had a discussion with my officemate y'day, where we were lamenting that Muslims (read: Middle East) missed a great opportunity to take the moral high-ground in the general debate about Islam. An issue that could have been made into the poster-child for West's insensitivity to Islamic culture- afterall, the photos really were in bad taste considering the general Islamic tabboo against idolatry-- has been made into a issue where Muslims (read: Middle East) are again being lectured about free speech and tolerance. It is left to *non-muslims* to point out that the West in general and Europe in particular does place limits on free expression, so it really is quite proper to debate the logic in printing these pictures of Mohammed. What a pity!

Kinda like the Palestinian issue, really. Tactically speaking, it should be so easy for the Palestinians to portray themselves as the injured party and raise money and turn international opinion against Israel that it really is a miracle how disliked they have made themselves. Even the IRA, despite its bombings, was better at maintaining some goodwill outside UK (especially, in the USA).

In this respect, all fundies should take leaf out of the conservative Christians' book. Those guys have the art of protesting, boycotting, and putting-on-a-general-air-of-injured-innocence down pat. Heck, they have perfected the technique of going after the soft spots of their targets, e.g., focusing on the sponsor of a TV show, rather than (ineffective) letters to the network itself.

I am not saying that we should all become fundies- far from it! But if you really do want to protest, at least do it effectively. Christian and Jewish groups are past masters at these methods; Hindu groups are learning the tricks; and the Muslim groups are ...well...

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