Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Few More Thoughts on Terror in Mumbai

CNN, FOX News and MSNBC are carrying live feeds from Mumbai from various local news channels. They did not do this during the 2006 August / Sep Attacks that killed 200. They did not do it in the Delhi Blasts. Not during the Hyd Blasts. But they're covering this non-stop today. Why this sudden interest? Clearly, the answer must be in who is being targeted. With business interests and American citizens being targeted, the issue clearly demands more coverage in the US media.

All that is understandable, but calling this India's 9/11 (as analysts on various networks have repeatedly asserted) is incorrect. India has been grappling with terrorists for the best of 10 years right now - and is probably one of the most terror-incident prone places on the planet. This is certainly not India's 9/11. India has had more deadly terror attacks in the recent past. If any thing, this could be considered one of India's vast array of mini-9/11s.

Clearly, the perpetrators have roots in Pakistan or at least have been backed by the Pakistani ISI - an educated guess most people are making on TV. The "Deccan Mujahideen" is probably just a front for this. But I sincerely hope this does not derail talks between the Indian and the Pakistani governments. Pakistani democracy is probably one of the only hopes for stability in the region. The Pakistani government is too impotent and powerless to deal with these creeps - and is more in need for help than blame. The leigitimate Pakistani governemnt needs to be strengthened.

Perhaps the strongest response to this horrible issue would be a joint statement issued by Pakistani Prime Minister Zardari (or the Prime Minister, Gillani) and their Indian counterpart, MMS, affirming friendship in this time of terror. It is important not to fall into the animosity trap. Pakistanis are just like Indians - just as terror prone, just as scared. The terrorists want confrontation with India. Bellicose rhetoric would stifle encouraging signs shown by Zardari recently - a victory for the terrorists.

Who isn't sick of terror?

It's a sick feeling, knowing that right now, at this very moment in time, there is a horrible, perverted army of terrorists targeting one of the world's densest and most populated cities: Mumbai.

I do hope that every one of the perpetrators is either killed tonight - or brought to justice, sentenced as strictly and as soon as possible. This is one of the times that makes me glad that India has the death penalty.

Of course, there is an expectation that these attacks are somehow associated with Islamic terror. It is indeed a very likely scenario that the bunch of loons that call themselves the Indian Mujahideen are responsible for this - but I suppose the "Hindu terror" angle will also be investigated. (Personally, I don't think the Hindu terror angle is tenable here - but how can one be sure without investigating?)

I hope Mumbai does not over-react to this. Mumbai has a tendency to riot - as has been ignominously demonstrated in 1992. Mumbai has been experiencing terror periodically after 1992 - and large scale rioting has not taken place.

I wish the people of Mumbai a speedy recovery from this horrbile incident. I hope the death toll does not go up anymore, and I hope that the terrorists get what they deserve - imprisonment in an Indian jail with angry Indian inmates who like beating people up (not killing them). I don't want the guards providing any security to these terrorists.

If this kind of terrorism (the killing of innocents) is martyrdom in any faith, any place on this planet, we need to question whether the purveyors of such rhetoric ought to be regarded as human beings at all - or ought they be anhillated, like the small pox virus has been anhillated from the face of the planet?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Problems with Prop 8

Firstly, I don't remember what the correct answer to Prop 8 is. I know that it concerns gay marriage - but I don't know whether the correct answer is "yes" or "no". If you support gay marriage, do you have to vote "yes" or "no"? It's confusing. Wonder how many people were as confused as I am right now. Is there even a minor chance that it tipped the election one way or the other? Or did these votes cancel out?

But my real problem with all the hullabaloo about prop 8 is that the whose issue is merely token. Besides the symbolic "right" of getting married, there was little else at stake. Current civil unions in most US states are pretty much as good as marriages, legally. Homosexuals are not being persecuted in America - even in extremely conservative Texas. Spending vast amounts of money on campaigning for this largely token and symbolic right (of little practical value) when actual homosexuals are being stoned to death in the muslim world; being harassed for bribes by corrupt policemen in India is a shame.

Gay rights groups are being selfish. They are fighting for a luxury in this country when they could spend the same money on actual gay rights (and human rights, for that matter) around the world.

I expect that my viewpoint is unique in that it has a more international perspective considering that I am not an American citizen. I don't blame American liberals for not sharing this with me - being raised in the most prosperous society on the planet does blind and insulate one from actual ground realities around the rest of the planet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Traffic Monitoring

I have always suspected that at least a million people frequent my blog every week - and that they are too nice to leave comments. So, in order to track them, I have installed a traffic monitor widget (which you shall find if you scroll down). This will help me show off my huge traffic. Maybe I can install some google ad thingy and become a millionaire overnight.

In other news (not that this is a news site), they're sending traffic policemen to the moon to regulate all the cars that are probably being driven there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On banning Deshdrohi

Arguments regarding social stability might be enticing - and quite convincing. But I urge the government not to give into the temptation of playing big brother.

Usurpage of personal liberties starts with something minor like banning a movie - but it is a slippery slope - and eventually, India will be a liberal democracy no more. Making people pay for merely expressing their own opinion goes against the very fabric of our democracy - the same democracy that Gandhi, Patel and countless others laid down their lives for.

Most of the Indian electorate is vastly conservative (and does not have a liberal bone in the body) - and would probably not be fully opposed to some measure like this. This perhaps poses an existential question to the notion of free speech (which the west takes for granted). Should the government compromise on free speech for the sake of public safety?

When faced with such a choice, the solution is clearly a no-brainer. Free speech is a luxury in comparison with the right to live. Free speech, alas, seems to be more of an elitist notion in a nation of unfathomable poverty.

There goes another ideal.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Congratulations, America!

As a liberal libertarian, I am very happy with Obama's victory. He is a smart man who probably will do an excellent job as US presidents go.

He will probably stick to the center-center-left of mainstream American politics - which would put him at the center-right of International politics. Anything is a welcome change from Bush's extreme right policies.

The election of a black man president indicates that a sufficiently well educated and prosperous society can indeed transcend racial bigotry, by and large. Now I know for sure that India will reach this state in a few decades - and I am glad.

Mr Obama's stand on the Iraq war is that it is a waste of American lives and resources. I sincerely hope that this is mere political posturing - and that he deems the damage to 1 million + Iraqi lives a shame of equal or greater magnitude than the damage to 5000 odd coalition troop lives (just by mere magnitude) . I hope he believes in his heart that all humans are fundamentally equal - even if they are not potential voters.

Mr Obama wants to do the sensible thing. Sit down and talk to Admedinijad, Chavez and the like. Of course they're thugs. (The same applies to Bush in many people's eyes all around the world)
But talking to thugs never hurt anybody - especially when there's nothing to lose and peace to gain.

Prof. Noam Chomsky's view is that Obama "is the lesser of the evils". I hope that Prof. Chomsky is being pessimistic. But looking at Clinton's Wag-The-Dog-esque bombing of a pharmaceutical plant (for instance) in Sudan killing innumerable people directly and indirectly (and still being referred to as a centrist president) perhaps justifies Prof. Chomsky's assertion that one ought not have illusions about Obama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Adventures of Peer Review Man 1: The Beginning

In a world with information corrupted by vested interests, is there any way one can get pure fact untainted by opinion; truth without spin? It's not that easy.

In this milieu of mistrust and lies was born Peer Review Man - a crusader for truth; a crusader for intellectual honesty. A crusader for all that the world holds dear.

There are many stories as to how Peer Review Man acquired his super power. Some are downright improbable. For instance there's one about him watching television as an inspired teenager as Ramar Pillai (a Indian charlatan) concocted petrol out of nowhere - defying all laws of thermodynamics. The fable goes on to say that the subsequent disillusionment of finding out that Mr. Pillai was little more than a hoax led the teenager to take a solemn vow that he would verify all that sounded fishy with peer reviewed literature. And then he proceeeded to read scientific journals day in and day-out.

There's another equally fishy one - which says that Peer Review Man is not a human being at all - but a hyper-evolved highly intellegent artificial neural network which has a built in connection to the internet (and therefore wikipedia). All fishy claims are googled and wikipediaed (this is a new word which I am coining. Webster owes me royalties.). Links are followed until peer reviewed sources are found - and therefore the truth is finally isolated.

Of course, the above sketches are abundantly improbable. Here's how he really came about.

Nagappa was an infant back then in a rural hamlet in northern Andhra Pradesh. His family wasn't particularly well to do economically. But it was a well educated family - a family well versed in the natural sciences. The Dad was a Physics enthusiast - and had lots of papers and textbooks stowed away in cabinets. The Mum was a biologist of sorts - and had her books by Darwin, Maynard Smith and the like stowed in the same cabinet.

And now, let's talk about Muriel, the mouse. (why a mouse in the middle of Andhra Pradesh has an Anglican name is beyond me). The enthusiastic mouse was scavenging for some tasty little slice of cheese (presumably) in the cabinet. Muriel, of course, did not find it, so it started nibbling on pages of Newton's Principia mechanica. After chewing Newton, it made its way to copies of Einstien's 1905 papers on special relativity and bit off the corners. Portions of Hiesenberg's thesis, Mendelleev's periodic table and Sclichting's "Boundary Layer Theory" were consumed too. As were works by Darwin, Feynman, Keynes and Fiegenbaum.

Muriel had by then pretty much binged on a rather significant quantity of paper. Most veterinarians who specialize in mice (there are a couple of the planet, I suppose) will tell you that what Muriel did was not good for its weight and cholesterol. But Muriel was a rather intrepid little mouse. She then decided to kick it up a notch - and started sipping from a tumbler of country liquor that the dad had left on the shelf. Knowing Muriel, it shall come as no surprise to the reader that what was consumed was excessive.

Muriel started feeling queasy. Nauseous. Felt like vomiting all that she had eaten. She found a little bowl on a table somewhere and just let loose in the same.

The bowl was Nagappa's cerelac (that's what infants are fed in India - and I promise, it tastes yummy!) bowl. So, nagappa made a meal of the mouse's vomit which consisted of a rather potent cocktail of portions of copies of some of seminial scientific literature laced with ethanol (and some of Muriel's gastric juices).

And thus was created Peer Review Man. AKA (to friends and family only) as Nagappa.