Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coud'nt have said it better myself , Condi

In a recent intrerview , Secretary of State for the United States of America Condi Rice said that "Only an idiot would trust North Korea". Let me amend that a little. Only an idiot with a death wish can trust Pakistan with regards to its commitments to dismantle the terror infrastructure.
Who knew, I guess I can say it better.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The long term game plan of the Lashkar E Taiyaba

The truth often stares us in the face and yet the best and the brightest either miss is it or are unable to comprehend it. The audacious attack on Mumbai by a band of 10 terrorists was one has invoked a lot of chess beating "why do they hate us" type of analysis. The more cynical of us dismiss "it with the its all politics" feint. There are those bleeding heart liberals who actually believe their own speil about "non state actors".
So amidst this logjam of reasoning one angle that has'nt recieved sufficient attention is the angle that I intend to discuss in this piece.
In one of his speeches made in 1999 , Moammad Hafeze Sayed, the then head of the Laskar E Tayba , declared that the ultimate aim of the Laskar was to dismember India and establish Islamic rule over the sub-continent. This should not shock anyone , who hasn't lved under a rock for the past 20 years.
What he went on to add next was of a little more significance. He compared the 'Jihad' against India to that against the Soviet Union. Just as the Soviet empire had fallen when nobody saw it happening, India would go the same way. Now its not like a modern daySalluddin rode into Moscow and conquered Russia. The Soviet Union's was a collapse precipitated by economic reasons(i know thats an over simplification).
So tha leads me to believe that that is precisely the playbook that the lashkar is planing to follow against India. The attack in umbai furthered hat aim in the following ways.
It warned international investors that inbvesting in India was a dangerous proposition.
The reaction it triggered within the India establishment, is the creatio of 4 different NSG hubs.
That will require a massive investment in Infrastructure men and arms.
Coporate India will also have to start paying for a higher level of corporate security.
All this asymmetrical costswere imposed in the Indian economy for the appromiately $100,000
which is what in all likelyhood it cost to carry out the terroist attack on Mumbai.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rush to war

The recent terror strike in Mumbai, has quite justifiably raised the spectre of war between the two nuclear power neighbors India and Pakistan.
Very few on the Indian side have actually demanded that India go to war.
But almost as if to pre-empt that stream of thought, the peaceniks are already out in force.
Particularly appalling was an article by Kausar Ahmed a professor in some God forsaken College in Connecticut USA.
He approaches the possibility of war from the point of view of the imminently sensible question , what does India hope to achieve by going to war.
He then stumbles badly when he compares an Indian declaration of war with the American policy of pre-emption which he labels as imperialistic.
There are a couple of things I'd like to point out to Mr Ahmed and those of his ilk.
There is no element of pre-emption involved in action against Pakistan. Any action would have been made necessary by repeated aggression against India from Pakistani soil.
Secondly since when did defending the lives of those who call India home, become imperialistic?
I am neither a hawk nor a dove.
Common sense dictates that an adversary has no reason to change behavior if there are no costs involved. Pakistan and its rulers have operated under the impression that as long as a certain threshold is not crossed, India and its rulers can be relied on to act in a rational manner.
India has a lot more to lose than does Pakistan in case of open war.
So the options for India are limited. If full scale war is ruled out as an option, then India must find other means to impose costs on Pakistan when its territory is used to carry out terrorist violence against India.
To those who believe that India must rally world opinion in its favor, all I can say is wake up and smell the coffee.
World opinion is no match for world interests. By all accounts both America and the rest of the world is aware of the danger a nuclear armed Pakistan on the brink of anarchy poses to the rest of the world.
But you can trust the world will not do anything, as long as the violence originating in Islamabad stays confined to India. To summarize, if India cannot tolerate terror strikes against its citizens, either we find some leverage agaisnt Pakistan fast, or we have to consider the possibility of war and the costs it might impose on us.
I know its easier contemplating war while living in new york (like me) or inaction while living in connecticutt(like kausar ahmed).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A police force stretched to it seams: How it can be redeemed

Now I am descending into serious the arm-chair critic role, so bear with me while lay my ideas(nothing but common sense out).
If the carnage in Mumbai proved anything , it was that the Mumbai police was ill equipped to deal with the terrorists that held the city to ransom for 60 hrs. Call it intelligence failure or systemic failure, it was definitely a failure of massive proportions.
And since its the Police who are supposed defend the failure will be rightly assigned to them.
There is no doubt that the Police lacked the weaponry, the protective equipment , the training or for that matter the organization to deal with such a situation.
We can only hope that these issues will be studied by someone a lot wiser than myself and addressed appropriately. I am going to do my bit and lay out what I think needs to be done(being constructive as opposed to purely crictical).
The one thing that has to be noted here is that Mumbai a city of 18million people has a police force of 40,000 or so which is, 1 cop for 45o opposed to NYC whic has approximately the same numbers policing a population of 8 million or so.
Also NYC does'nt have politicians like Raj Thakeray to deal with.
A simple search for the Mumbai police on wikipedia reveals an interesting fact. Mumbai has no commando/SWAT team . The closest thing they have are the Local armed Police or the Anti-Terror Squad(which is basically an investigative unit).
This is something that has to change fast. In fact its appalling that this state of affairs was allowed to continue, with Mumbai being in the cross hairs of the terrorists for so long.
Every cop in mumbai has to be armed with a weapon and must know how to use it.
This might seem like a no brainer, but it has to be said, since the of the a 60 or so cops present at CST station a majority were equipped with batons. We do not live in British India anymore, where the biggest threat a cop might have faced was a non-violent Gandhian trying to burn british merchandise.
Off duty cops must be encouraged to keep their small arms on them. You never know, that might be the difference in a terrorist attack in the future.
If we expect cops to lay down their lives to protect their fellow citizens, we have to atlast give them the kind of protective gear that would give them a chance.
Sufficient care has to be paid to the physical fitness of the cops. An hour every day of duty time must be set aside for physical fitness. Anyone who has seen a pot bellied cop in Mumbai knows why this would be needed.
A chain of command has to be identified for any such operations to take place in the future.
The police leadership is better off directing operations from a control room, than providing target practice to terrorists in the case of attack.
Wel thats all I have , feel free to add suggestions

Open letter to the Prime Minister of India

Dear Dr Singh,
Before I launch into what no doubt will be a tirade(who ever hear of an open letter that was not), id like to point out how much, I and a majority of my countrymen admire and respect you.
If today India stands poised to take its place as a world power, it has a lot to do with what you did as Narsimha Rao's finance minister. You are rightly viewed as incorruptible and brilliant.
Now that the nicities are out of the way, let me get down to why I am really writing.
As opposed to your stint as Inida's FM, your stint as PM has been far from sucessful. There were a few things that only you could have done. I absolutely loved that you graded your ministers perfomance. So why was Shivraj Patil not booted out as Home Minister when he was consistenly scoring an F?
Why was this attack in Mumbai allowed to happen? Are you all spent out from the Rural employment Scheme, that we cannot afford to get our commandos on a plane before 5am 7hours after the terrorists first struck in Mumbai.
There is a whole littabny of things that went wrong, not all of which should be blamed on you.
But what followed?
You went on television and assured a jittery and angry nation that action would be taken.
So what happend? Not much later, you foriefn Minister says , that the military option with regards to Pakistan is rules out.
So whats the Plan Dr. Singh?
Wait for the next attack? Or are we supposed to wait till Jihadi terrorism goes out of fashion?
If those are infact ur solutions ie. do nothing, at least be honest enough to admit as much to the long suffering people of India. So atleast if a majority disagree with your approach, they can go out an elect someone else to do your job.

That did'nt take long did it.

India's foriegn minister issued a statement saying that India was not about to go to war with Pakistan over the terror attack in Mumbai. Less than 24 hours later, Pakistan's President, Asif Zadari, virtually backtracks on his earlier assertions of full co-operation with India's investigation. The demand to extradite the 20 terrorists/criminals sheltering in Pakistan was rejected. And comically, the captured terrorists Pakistani orgin is being questioned.
None of this should be the least bit surprising to anyone with mental faculties of a 11 year old.
But I am sure this has taken the collective Indian leadership by surprise.
The initial assertions of co-operation were made under the assumption, that this was the incident which would finally stir the Indian government to deal with Pakistan militarily. With the Pakistan army on its heels there could be no worse time for them to faceoff with the Indian army.
Now that the military option has been taken off the table right off the bat, Pakistan has no reason to co-operate with India. And they wont.
Now if someone had only explained this to Pranab Mukherjee, before he went off and blew India's chance to do get some real concessions out of Pakistan.

Monday, December 01, 2008

News flash:Terrorists don't usually come armed with pea shooters

The more details emerge about the Terror Attacks in Mumbai, the more embarassing it becomes for the Indian Security Apparatus in general and the Mumbai Police specifically.
Now it emerges that there were 60 or so policemen patroling CST(railway station) a site that was attacked by 2 gunmen armed with AK 56'es hand grenades and hand guns.
Given that most of these cops were armed with lathis and antiquated weapons, they still should have been able to take the terroists out, given their vast numerical superiority.
Having said that, I do not quite see the point of a cop without a gun. At the very least I expect a cop to be able to protect himself, only then can he be expected to protect the public.
Why exactly were there 60 policemen at CST? Most likely that its a transportation hub, and terrorist strikes there are not unexpected.
If you accept that argument, what exactly do you expect a terrorist to be armed with?
If yout awnser is anything like the weaponry the actual terrorists possessed, should'nt the cops (at least some of them) have been equipped to deal with that?
This points back to one of my previous posts, which wondered how the two terrorists were able to escape from CST after their rampage, which later resulted in the ambush which killed Hemant Karkare along with Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar.

Caught between a rock and a hard place.

After a 60 hour fire fight that left closed to 200 people dead, the Indian security establishment declared victory against the terrorists. Essentially they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Admitting that 10 gun men could hold up the Indian commandos who probably outnumbered them 1-20( not to mention Mumbai police and the army), for close to 3 days , is probably admitting that our capabilities are not quite where we would expect them to be. On the other hand admitting there were more terrorists involved who managed to get away, would disturb to no end a highly jittery public. So for now the theory that 10-12 gun men could hold up India's finest seems more palatable.

Boy do we have our priorities straight

I did a quick google search for the "Major Terrorist Attacks India". I got the following link mostly detailing attacks from 2001-2007. So this is not counting the multiple incidents we have had this year, which include, Mumbai Jailpur, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
All told there were approx 470 fatailities. So I am not including anything from the 90's or anything since the end of 2007, nor the profusion of violence that is common-place in the north east and in the state of J&K.
Now let me ask you how many top politicians have died in terrorist violence?
You have to go back all the way to 1991 and the Rajiv Gandhi assasination.
Ever since we have provided security , to each and every two bit politicians, so much so that terrorists don't even think of looking in their direction. Its either that, or the terrorists are content to let the guys we have as our leaders , run the country into the ground.
Just to put things in persprective, it costs 154 crores a year to provide security to the Prime Minister, prime minister's family members , former Prime Minister's families and a handful of SPG protectees. This is not counting the protection accorded to the various union ministers, state ministers and every other Tom , Dick and Harry politician.
So I am tempted to ask, what would I rather have tax payer money spent on?
Politicians or protecting the common man?
And I have a feeling I know how the common man would respond to that.
Pity we cannot have a referendum on this issue and inrporate it into law.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The terrorists are dead, let the blame games begin

Now that operations against the terrorists who held Mumbai hostage for 60 hours is over, the spin masters are out in full force. If only they realised that the people are beyond spin, it would also help if the spin was not as comical. Exihbit A Maharastra Home Minister RR Patil's claim that the terrorists were out to kill 5000. Now by all accounts the terrorists dead or captured number 10-12. Do you think theor handlers expected them to have the success they had? Or to humor the good minister, were they expected to kill 5000, even by those who sent them?
There are also noises of how the terrorists were trained for atleast 2-3 years. This should explain how they manage to best the security establishment. Only problem is the interrogation of the captutured terrorist has revealed , that the training period was far shorter than that(closer to 2-3 months)
I also read the minister saying that the cops reached CST within 7 minutes of the shooting there. Now tha actually brings into question why there were'nt cops with guns there in the first place. Thats like saying the cops got to Penn station 7mins after shooting started there.
I know for a fact that CST has a police post. So where were the cops? Were they neutralized by the terrorists before they went on their rampage?
We will mourn the loss of the 14 cops from the Mumbai police who lost their lives. But we also would like to know why they died. Preferrably with no spin.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mumbai Massacre , an analysis too soon

The massacre , thats what the attack in Mumbai is being called.  An apt definition, considering the defenceless of a city of 20 million people in the face of what appears to heavily armed well trained madmen, who numbered approximately 12.
There will be statesmanly like calls saying "This is not the time to point fingers" , "Its time for us to stand united".  You can't argue with that kind of sound logic. But I can, and I must.
Candle lit vigils are not going to stop the people who perperated the mayhem in Mumbai.
Mumbai has been hit by terrorists more often than most cities, starting 1993.
One would imagine that its police would have evolved to handle terrorist threats by now.
Whenever an incident such as this happens, the first to be blamed is "intelligence failure".
All manner of sins are swept under the same rug.
Intelligence failure or no intelligence failure, it was a general policing failure.
Exhibit A.:2 Heavily armed men enter the biggest commuter railway station in Mumbai, start shooting up the place. But no cop in the vicinity are able to get a shot off.
Exhibit B:The terrorists hijack a police van no less , and proceed to shoot at bystanders. This goes on for atleast a matter of hours. 
Exhibit C: Heavily armed men attack the Taj and the Oberoi, and enter the hotels unchallenged.

I am willing to accept that the attack , its scale and planning were unprecedented.
What I am not willing to accept , is that the terrorists proceeded unchallenged.
I am willing to accept that putting an operation together to take out well entrenched terrorists takes time.
What I cannot accept is that NSG commandos had to be flown in from Delhi.
There should be a permanent detachment of commandos in Mumbai.
There is no good time or bad time to accept ones short comings. The only way we can prevent or atleast have a chance to prevent another embarrassing and emasculating attack, is to learn from our mistakes and work towards correcting them.
As a force the mumbai police force has been stretched to the breaking point. 
The force is not equipped or trained to tackle terrorist threats of this magnitude.
Raising an ATS is not enough, since an acronym is not enough to stop bad men in their tracks.
Mumbai needs to raise/maintain a commando team for any such operations. Training for such eventualities is a full time occupation, not a course you take once in your 20 year career.
You need both the investigators as well as the whip hand.
Hemant Karkare the chief of the ATS, was a fine police officer by all accounts, but he was not the whip hand I am talking about.
Finally the backbone of the force, the lower rung, needs to be trained and equipped with handguns. A lot of the force, patrols the streets unarmed, that has to change.  
A similar incident in New York city would be unfathomable, since every cop has a gun and knows how to use it.  
Finally its easier to say all these things and do them. But do them we must. As a people we have a right to life, and if history has taught us anything, we have to stand up and be counted.  Ironically as the whole world celebrated the end of George Bush's reign and he beginning of Obama's I can't help but wonder , if India would have been better of with a little more of Bush's single minded arrogance than the Mr Nice Guy image we have worked so hard to cultivate.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Electoral College reform

The debate about electoral college reform has never really gotten off the ground. Sure there was outrage when Al Gore lost the Presidency even though he won the popular vote. But that quickly dissipated, and the John Kerry debacle four years later meant that George Bush won another election but this time with a lead of some 3 million votes.
And thats how its usually going to be the guy who wins the Electoral College, likely gets the popular vote, so why bother changing it?
The one reasoning I have heard in the past for having an electoral college is that the smaller states(population wise) would not get the short shrift from the Presidential candiadates.
And its a reason I'd be willing to accept if it was not for the fact that even larger states get the short shrift currently from one candidate or the other or sometimes from both.
I have'nt gotten figures, but it would be safe to say That States like Texas, New York and California, did not get the attention that was heaped on Swing States, from eithe candidates. If you were Obama, why waste precious resources on a states thats already been sewn up. And if you were McCain, why waste prescious resources on a state that you did'nt have a prayer of winning.
The winner takes all approach is responsible for this state of affairs.
What it has done effectively is render republican votes useless in a state like California, that almost always goes Democrat, and a similar story unfolds in Republican states. From media reports it would seem that a record voters came out for the first time to cast their votes. Part of this is due to Obama's magnetic appeal, part of it a desire for change. But surely one has to ask the question, how many of these people did not vote in past elections , since they believed(quite rightly) that their vote would not affect the final outcome.
If I have made the nature of the problem apparent, Id like to suggest a potential solution.
There are currently 2 states which allow their electoral colleges votes to be divided proportionally between the candidates. Extend this to all the 50 states.
What are the chances, that McCain would have taken his message to California if he knew that he had a shot to pick up 20-25 electoral college votes there or that Obama would have made his views known in the Republican South?
My guess , pretty good.
As Obama rightly pointed out , he was elected to be President of all Americans. So next time , let a few more American's have a genuine say.

Monday, October 06, 2008

It can only be my fault if I did something right?

That's what Dick Fuld seemed to be implying in testimony to the congressional committee.
I hate to kick a man when he is down, and heaven knows I know enough people who have been effected by Lehman's collapse. But somethings , you can't run away from.
Mr. Fuld might be right in many of his observations about why his venerable institution had to file for bankruptcy, but come on Dick when u've made 1/2 a billion dollars in less than a decade, can't your company at least expect that u wouldn't be asleep at the wheel a this time of crisis?
The very fact that matters were allowed to reach such a state after a full year had been provided as warning(collapse of the Bear Stern funds, that gave the first inkling that something was terribly wrong), reflects poorly on you and other members of the management. Sure you can accept responsibility or you can blame everyone else, but ultimately neither will affect the comfortable life that 1/2 billion dollars can buy.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why the Beast of east might be cut down mid-roar.

Over the first few weeks of the NFL season, there are a few trends that have emerged.
The AFC powerhouses New England and the Colts are not the shoo ins we have all come to expect season after season.
And the NFC east has looked by far the strongest division. So strong in fact that its being assumed in most quarters that the 2 wildcards from the NFC will be from the NFC east.
Now while this is entirely possible, its not a certainty as some would have you believe.
The NFC as a whole after being dominated by the AFC, for most of this decade , is seeing a renaissance.
NFC North will have Minnesota , Green Bay and Chicago in a dogfight, while NFC South has the Saints and the Panthers looking good. Tampa Bay wont be counting itself out of the race just yet.
Now the advantage the other divisions have , is that they have at least one team that they can collectively beat up on. No such luxuries for the beasts of the east. So NFC East fans, don't be too disappointed if an NFC east team with a winning record fails to make the playoffs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Here we go again

Serial Bomb blasts rocked the Indian capital taking 21 lives and leaving scores of others injured.
The ineptitude of the administration is borne out the fact that this blast follows close on the heels of similar blasts in Bangalore,Jaipur and Ahmadabad. If you go back further in fact no convictions have been obtained in blasts that happened in 2005.
So while the United States has found to its detriment, that invading nations under the guise of pre-emptive action or the Bush doctrine has serious drawbacks, one thing they can say in their defence is that there has not been a single attack on US soil since 9/11.
Not for a minute am I advocating the need for military action against some of India's neighbors who have no doubt harbored elements behind these blasts. However one has to point out the typical Indian response of condemning the blasts, pleading for communal peace, and breathing a sigh of relief when no riots take place, is not going to put an end to these blasts.
India's current woes have many reasons and I don't know that I'll have a chance to touch on all of them , so I'll list them as I go along.

Treatment of minorities:
One of the sad repercussions of the manner in which our independence was accompanied by a most bloody and brutal partition, is that there is a certain hostility towards minorities within sections of Indian society. That hostility has only sharpened in the recent past with the the rise of Islamic terror the world over.
Sure Hinduism preaches tolerance, but somewhere in the past 60 years relations between the two major communities has frayed. This has not been adequately acknowledged so the chances that this situation would be remedied anytime soon are remote.
Economically Muslims are relatively disadvantaged by a large portion of the population not having access to a modern education system. And the ones who have had educational opportunities have no doubt faced a subtle and sometimes not so subtle discrimination in the job market.
Recently I read an article of how certain housing societies discriminate against Muslim tenants and owners. For the life of me I can't understand how that would be legal or permissible. We aren't talking about some back room practice, but a widely prevalent practice.
We complain of ghettoisation while ignoring the causes.
None of the state police forces have adequate representation of the Muslim community, which makes intelligence gathering difficult.
The community often perceives the state as being partisan in going against its interests as it saw in Gujarat 2002.
Such issues cannot be solved by police alone. Reservations , I don't think will have the desired affect either. A more concerted effort to work towards integrating The Muslim community into the main stream is needed. More money has to to be spent on education in areas where Muslims reside. Laws that protect against discrimination in housing, education and employment must be invoked and enforced. Laws currently protect Scheduled Castes and Dalits from insults, slurs and atrocities in general. Such protections should be extended to the Muslim community.
So will all this fix the issue?
No , since the animosity amongst the majority community against the minority community has its origins in the way the community has been handled by the administration in general.
Uniform Civil Code , can't be forced down people's throats, however laws which are imposed in modern moderate Islamic Republics such as Indonesia should be fair game for us. There is no excuse for our personal laws being more regressive than an Islamic nation , when we are a "Secular" nation.
Subsidies for pilgrimages of any and all kind should be withdrawn.
Now all this can only be achieved in partnership with an enlightened Muslim leadership which actually believes that these steps are indeed directed towards the betterment of their community.
The message has to be sent out to the right wing loonies, that no re-jig of the partition is possible. Close to 15% of India's population is Muslim and there is no way they can alter that reality. So the only way in which we can move forward as a nation is together. Leaving behind such a huge chunk of our population is neither conscionable nor wise.

A demoralized police force and an overwhelmed judicary
The backlog of cases in Indian courts is stuff of legend. The police in most parts is feared but not respected. The quality and training of Police forces in India vary from state to state. However the mediocrity is frighteningly consistent.
Being a policeman in India usually means you are overworked and underpaid and defintely under-trained. Politcial interference means that the few in the force who are both capable and honest have very little scope for advancement.
Just recently Israeli Police interrogated their Prime Minister on bribery charges. Would this have ever been possible in India.
Most people go about their day today lives praying that they wont have to encounter the police or the legal system in any way, shape or form.
I just finished reading a book which basically applies the broken windows theory, to explain how crime in New York suddenly dropped off in the 90's.
So though you can argue(quite effectively) that the broken windows theory can't be applied to the bizzare logic of islamic terorism, surely there are things on this front that need fixing which will allow us to respond to law and order threats affectively?

Need to foster a give and take relationship with our neighbors
Like it or not India is viewed as a bully in the neighborhood.
And often enough its the small things that make a difference. I am not advocating the Gujral doctrine of buying love from the neighbors, but surely there are certain issues on which we can give without losing much.

I don't expect that Anyone of consequence is going to read this and sit up and take notice.
So dear reader its incumbent on you to pass on the good word, till it reaches the ears of those who matter.

Friday, August 29, 2008

And you have the right not to be .....

I read a story today about how the Supreme Court of India had to clarify that just because a woman had a past history of promiscuity, it did not give anyone the licence to engage in intercourse with her without her consent. I am not sure how to react. The Supreme Courts judgement though right calls into question how such a defence was mounted in the first place.
The Supreme court's intervention was required because the High Court acquitted the accused on the basis of the past sexual history of the victim.
We are not talking about some Kangaroo Court. That the High Court of an Indian state can pass such a judgement is appalling and outrageous and sadly betrays a very unenlightened view of a woman's role in society But more imoportantly it takes away a more fundamental right, a right not to be sexually assaulted under any pretext.

Irony if there was any

I recently read a story about Barak Obama's half brother who grew up in Kenya.
I wonder if only I am struck by the irony of Barak Obama's father , naming the son who was to grow up in Kenya George Obama, while naming his son who was to grow up to be canidate for President of the United States, Barak Hussien Obama.
Can't imagine little Barak had it easy in school, but it sure has payed of now. Barak is now uber cool, while George well, that name isn't doing to well right now, along with Dubya and Bush.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The democrats are coming!

I just finsished listening to Hillary's speech at the Democratic convention. The convention closed with a prayer from a Korean pastor from Colarado.
So now that the democrats have the Korean vote sewed up, now the heat is on for the Republicans!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Phelps is the greatest But .....

The Beijing Olympics is drawing to a close and depending on which country you reside in, each has a certain view of the story of the Olympics.
In the US , its been Phelps all the way with the 'Redeem Team' serving as a sidebar.
Now if the US men's basketball team had failed to secure the gold , then that would have garnered a lot more media coverage.
I hate being a sourpuss and at the same time, I do beleive that Phelps has done the unfathomable, But .....
It has to be said that the number of medals awarded in various discplines is disproportionate. Swimming is a case in point. They have medals for the free-style,butterfly,breaststroke,backstroke in various permutations and combinations of distances. Which basically allows a phenom like Phelps to have an almost disproportionate impact on the Olympics. Team sports such as Basketball,Hockey,Volleyball have one medal for their trouble.
And for those who don't beleive that medals don't count, well just repeat that to your self slowly in ftont of a mirror, and I guarantee you will burst out laughing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Delusions of Granduer

Now this post is about the Olympics, and for once I couldn't think of an eye catching title that would say it all.
I have been following the Olympics though not as closely as others. Swimming doesn't exactly get my pulse racing as a spectator sport and that seems to have been the story of the Olympics, if you live in the States.
So while we were all collectively obsessing over Phelps, his feats his , his diet and his i-pod playlist, China has taken an unassailable lead at the top of the medal standings.
The thing is you wouldn't be able to tell, since most of the medal standings on American websites are sorted by total medals, rather than gold medals as it has been for the ages.
All you need to do is pull up a non us website and you see the truth for what it is, the winner in these games has been crowned. And it ain't U-S-A.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Father time comes calling

When life passes by at the rate if knots its often tough to fathom how we age.
But there are always somethings that remind you. Whether its the impeding retirement of a childhold sporting favorite, or the hearth throb who now plays mom roles in movies.
I can safely say that every Indian old enough to follow cricket from the early nineties, will collectively get that feeling about time having flown, when the inevitable happens, and India's favorite son Sachin Tendulkar retires from the game of cricket.
Indian crickets misery will be compounded by the fact that the rest of the Indian batting middle order is around the same age as Tendulkar. The firm of Ganguly,Laxman and Dravid have been eased out of the one day set up and the time approaches, when they we will no longer be able to delight in their exploits on the cricket field.
Test cricket played over 5 days expose the tiniest of weaknesses and can be a brutal to a young team. So the Indian administrators have the unenviable task of easing out these greats gradually, though individually , it might not be fair to set one and not the other out to the pasture.
The Indian in the past year or so have been nauseatingly following a familiar script, where the runs are scored by opener Sehwag and if the bowlers do well we win. If either or both these elements fail we end up on the losing end.
In the latest tour of Sri Lanka, the middle order has collectively failed. And to add insult to injury, the fielding has been unspectacular.
I am not sure who will draw the short straw, but to save Indian cricket the pains of losing a generation of its best at the same time, we have to do something very un-indian and show the door to a legend before his time.
I am not sure who that would be be, but its guaranteed to be painful.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Carbon Credits for air travel.

A while back I read that taking a single long distance flight was worse in terms of carbon emissions than driviing an SUV for a full year(for a single person).
And I said to myself, yeah right, what do you want me to do about that.
After all man has been travelling ever since we learnt to walk erect I imagine.
And which damn fool would be willing to shell out money on buying offsets after spending a fortune on a ticket. Well out of curiosity I checked how much it would cost me at this website. Turns out its not the bundle I thought it would be.
A return trip from New york to Delhi would set you back by $40. Not exactly chump change. But possibly 1/30 the price of the ticket.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Afganistan Idol Ok, but no Dancing with the stars.

Not one nation questioned the American(coalition) invasion of Afghanistan.
Ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban seemed like a good idea to most.
Stories routinely came out citing how regressive the Taliban was, they banned music on the radio for , dancing on tv. They were intent on taking back Afghanistan into the Stone Age.
So most supported the notion that America had done the right thing.
Now almost 6 years later. Where does Afghanistan stand?
Well I'll keep it short.
Afghanistan's fledgling Parliament just passed a law banning dancing on television.
Need I say more?
As they say the path to Hell is littered with good intentions.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dialogue the way forward in Tibet?

Tibet is slowly fading from the headlines but for those who have been following this topic, theo ne thing that must have stood out in the incessant invective being hurled by the Chinese administration at the Dalai Lama. Now I feel no personal sense of attachment to the Dalai Lama, but by all accounts he is a man of honour and doesn't deserve the constant abuse.
And whats the carrot that the Dalai Lama is after? Talks with China.
Even for the lay observer its not hard to spot why the Chinese will never negotiate with the Dalai Lama.
The world as a whole as given up the Tibetean cause as dead for a long time now. There is no violent insurgency raging. There is no external power actively using the Tibetean case against the Chinese. Hence there is no incentive to negotiate.
China resembles the USSR of old. A disparte collection of nations held together by an iron hand.
But the Chinese have learnt for the disintegration of USSR, and have certain that that would not happen to them.
Autnomy/self rule etc are all a pipe-dream for now. The CCP is not made up of humanitarians.
So then on what basis does te Dalai Lama seek negotiations?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Obama the champion of the round toss?

In terms of a Presidential canidate with charisma, Obama stands second to only Bill Clinton.
He certainly would represent an upgrade over the incumbent.
I can't positively say that Hillary is a better option either.
Then why am I a little hesitant at the prospect of him running off against John McCain?
Partly because its my considered opinion that America is still not ready for a Minority Community President.
And the second reason goes back to by school days in India.
We were a class of approximately 100(if I remember correctly). The girls were'nt hot enough to hold our ineterst and they were probably 20 in number. The one thing we could do in break time was to rush to the 3 ping pong tables. Now some 60 guys rushing for a 30 minute break to 3 ping-pong table made it a tough task for everyone to gain access to the said Shangri La.
So to decide who got to play, we Had a round toss.
Basically all of us going around the table keeping the ball in play. When you could'nt you were no longer in contention.
Now I wasn't particulary good at ping pong. But mastered the round toss. So I always got to play.
Coming back to Obama, my fear is he has mastered the primary round toss, but will he falter in running the nation?
I guess that kind of doubt can be directed at any canidate. But Obama of "Yes we can" has staked an awful lot on his likeability.
Well I guess only time will tell.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Mahatma and Tibet

If you have read Tibetean writing on their affairs prior to thier forceful "liberation" by China, thehy make a convincing case for thier independence.
But is this thier ultimate aim? I mean they will be the first to acknowledge that China is not going to not just grant them independence, especially on moral grounds, in response to a non-violent struggle.
There is no military solution possible either, China is much too powerful militarily.
The Dalai Lama has often cited his admiration for Mahatama Gandhi and the non-violent means he adopted to secure independence from India from the British.
So it might be interesting to examine wether a Mahatma could have made a difference in the Tibetean struggle. Or wether the Dalai Lama can forge a resoultion with his current tactics of non-violence.
Mahatma Gandhi had at his disposal a nation much larger than their rulers and our sheer numbers were always wieghted in India's favor. Not so when you compare the 5.5million Tibetean population to the 1billion Chinese.
Geography was another factor, the British realised that it had become increasingly less profitable to run an empire long distance. Again Tibet doesn't have that luxury especially with the railway line China has built to Tibet.
At the time India gained its independence, Britain was a power in decline badly crippled by a war that ha claimed an entre generation of its best and brightest.
China on the other hand has been on a spectacular growth streak, that shows now signs of abating.
Finally the British had a free press and a parliament, and enlightened people who were capable of asking for the moral justification in running colonies when they had just fought of the Nazi's in a brutal war to preserve freedom, democracy and equality.
No such qualms on China's side either.
I have no access to a gallup poll, but I'll wager that a majority of Chinese, are in favor of strong arm tactics to put down demonstrations in Tibet. Well even if I was wrong, it not like there is free press in China to tell me about it.
So in the ultimate analysis , Mahatma Gandhi would not have been able to do jack for Tibet.

The Tibet situation Again...

Looking at the Chinese government's predictable reaction of "crushing" the unrest in Tibet, I am reminded of a story I read while in school.
The story was of the might oak and the reed. And this gist of it was that the oak stood firm and looked strong and was strong, the reeds on the other had were weak and swayed in the slightest wind.
And then one night in a mighty storm the Oak because it stood so firm was uprooted. The reed despite the buffeting, since they swayed, managed to survive.
So standing firm is not always the virtue its made out to be. Maybe once in a while a little swaying is in order.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A tale of two civilizations

The two civilizations that fascinate me the most are the Indian and Chinese.
Having lived in the states for a while and having had the opportunity to interact with some Chinses people I can say we have probably more in common then say and Indian and an American.
The histories of both nations follows a similar pattern too. Both were powerhouses(cultural,economic and scientific) in ancient times, ruled by feudal warlords for the most part.
Both were bullied by colonial powers before starting out their futures as modern nations at rougly the same time.
But something went seriously awry at that point. While India chose the path of representative democracy, The chinese went the way of the authoritarian communism.
Why repeat a past everyone is aware of?
Merely to point out the extent of the gulf that exists between these 2 neighbours.
While China has Tibet , India has Kashmir.
China as has been witnessed over the last one week, will brook no dissent for its rule in Tibet.
The population has no channel to vent, so occassionally you will see these bouts of violence.
The "cultural genocide" description used by the Dalai Lama is spot on. The Chinese government has shown no inclination in preserving Tibetean culture.
Tibeteans can survive as long as they are willing to accept their fate.
To be honest I can't see things improving for the Tibeteans. In todays world, there is not one nation who isn't wary of China at some level.
Now to come back to the comparison I was drawing.
Not many will know that There is a law that debars Indians from buying land in Kashmir.
So as an Indian citizen, I can buy land in preety much any part of the world, but not in my own country(a part of my own country ie)
Whatever the merits of this law, it was enacted to pacify the average Kashmiri and reassure him that he would not be over run by millions and millions of indians.
China has shown no such restraint with Tibet.
I can't expect the Cinese government to change the way it deals with its problems,
But really would it be so bad to give the Tibeteans a voice?
Whats a few peaceful demonstartions with no media coverage going to accomplish in the larger context?
Allow peaceful demonstartions will go some way in ensuring this does'nt turn into a violent struggle(which would just lead to more dead tibeteans)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hillary vs Barak

I wont pretend to be anything more than a weekend analyst.
And none of the views expressed hence will can be entirely original given the relentless scrutiny that this face-off has received by the media and political pundits.
Let me start off by tackling the most sensitive question first.
Is America ready to have a black president? Or for that matter has this nation reached a point where that issue does not matter?
Its been an observation of mine, that no matter what we think about ourselves , we do tend to pre-judge people based on their origins their appearance etc. Which would mean we are all atleast a little racist.
I know , that nobody reading this will be thumping their desks in agreement (How can anyone be a little racist , its like saying some one's a little gay!!!)
Despite what we see in the Democratic primaries my feeling is that a country that's 70+% white is not quite ready to be run by a black man.
Now it would be a grave injustice to Obama to look beyond his credentials and go right for his race. After all he never appealed for votes on anything other than his credentials for the job.
Well he did'nt have to. based on some reports around 80% of the black vote in the primaries went Obama's way. Hillary on the other hand did'nt have the benefit of the "white" vote.
But then how do you explain the Obama victories in overwhelmingly white states?
My weekend analyst flippancy allows me to drag out this theory.
Obama's victories in white states has been due to superb organization and also the low overall democratic votes being cast. Not a whole of states Obama has won in the primaries are going Obama's way in a presidential election.
But what about Hillary?
She has won democratic strong holds like California and New York that would swing democrat no matter what.
So whom to pick?
Who can go toe to toe with McCain is the question.
McCain , has the independent anti establishment aura that is Barak Obama's turf.
So he will be able to attract a fair share of the independent vote.
His perceived weakness has been the conservative base of the party.
But nothing is more likely to bring out the conservative base to vote, if not for Obama running opposed to him.
My educated guess is that young educated urbane voter will plump for Obama.
But what of those with families and bleak economic prospects?
Ultimately ,it might just boil down to which democrat can win in Ohio and Florida , the 2 states that have time and again been responsible for electing a US president.
Bottom line don't read too much into Barak Obama's stunning primary success , this is a dog-fight and no matter who wins, a battered Republican party has chosen the right man maybe eight years too late.

Monday, February 25, 2008

With great power comes some responsibility

I got a chance to flip through a few pages of "The Walmart Economy" and a couple of things that tended to stick out were , Walmart had tremendous sway over its suppliers and that its margins were shockingly low(niether observation is earth shattering I am sure).
But it got me thinking about how Walmart could influence what the consumers bought.
Take the example of CFL's over regular light bulbs. Nations such as Australia are actually moving lesgislation in this regard(based on a quick googling effort)
Since CFL's use 66% less electricity then incandescent bulbs. Now figure that into the number of times the average individual forgets to turn lights off.
I am not trying to make the case for CFL's since I think this is a well beaten path.
Consider for a moment the propostiion that Walmart simply chose to stop selling incandescent bulbs in favor of CFLS's(In concert with other huge retailers)
Would't this go a long way in ensuring millions switch to CFL's?
Its all well and good to offer people choice and let them decide , but just as we have come to the conclusion that smoking is injurious by way of second hand smoke, why can't we agree that a individual's injudicious environmental choice affects us all?
So how about it Walmart? Would you be willing to discontinue one of your thousands product lines 3-4% margin for the greater good?
And how about it Target you think you can chip in as well?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The folly that is ethanol

I walked into a small bakery/deli and decided to get a muffin(non-fat and no sugar chocolate if you wanted to know, and as you can imagine it tasted nothing like what I would want it to taste like)
As I was paying, I noticed a sign by the register. It was a notice informing customers of a price increase due in a couple of days. The sign went on to explain that this was because the steepling input costs (sample this tripling of egg prices in 7months).
This brings me to a well known problem we are facing and will probably worsen in the immediate future.
With Iraq not looking particulary good and under fire on other fronts as well. In his state of union address in January 2007, bereft on any other big plans President Bush outlined the need to use ethanol as a part substitute for oil(used as an additive). Ethanol would reduce the use of fossil fuels and thereby reduce green house gasses, so that evolutionary, his ideas were'nt on the surface moronic. (a term one has used in context of the Iraq war)
But here is the catch, in a bid to get his conservative base excited he cast it as an attempt to reduce dependance of "middle eastern oil".
So America is supposed to produce corn based ethanol. So whats the problem you ask?
It requires more energy to produce ethanol from corn than would be produced by useing the ethanol so created.
Also corn happens to be a food crop that ties into the entire food cycle, its used to feed livestock and also feed us directly.
Bush's stress on ethanol without allowing for imports from efficient cane based producers of ethanol like Brazil is one of the major reasons basic food items are a lot more expensive in the US.
Now would'nt a tax on fuel at the pump that would be used to fund research into cleaner and renewable energy sources work better?
What would people preffer? More expensive gas or more expensive everything else,. Admittedly the choise isn't as stark as I make it out to be.
But what astounds me is people responsible for running this great country do not seem to think things through an old failing I might add.