Monday, December 13, 2010

Wikileaks: more bad than good?

Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have evoked all manner of reactions. The American government which clearly has been at the receiving end of these revelations has clearly been the most vocal critic and with the help from its friends in Europe has done the most to shut Wikileaks down.

Wikileaks has no doubt received support from a lot of people who have always bristled at the seemingly endless hypocrisy with which the worlds only superpower runs its affairs.

Wikileaks has played its part in bringing this hypocrisy out.
As long as wikileaks released documents pertaining to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, I think they did more good than bad. Why? The American public had been subject to all manner of obfuscation as to why they needed to go to war with Iraq (all of which have since been debunked) , how the war was going etc.

The ordinary American who either enlisted because they thought they were defending their country or the American tax payer who shouldered the burden of paying for 2 very expensive wars in foriegn lands deserved to know the truth.

The leaking of diplomatic cables however was mostly pointless. What did we learn?
That nations did not always hold each other in the regard that they displayed in a public fora?
But did'nt we already know that?
What the wikileaks of diplomatic cables seem to imply was, that diplomacy was better conducted in the open.. But is this really ever an option?

In the hours leading up to the gulf wars i assume there were hectic diplomatic parlays between the soon to be combatants .. Does anyone believe these could have been broadcast live on CNN?

If the answer to the above is no.. then why leak diplomatic cables?
Also it should be pointed out that all leaked cables are American which implies clear targeting of the American state. All this asserts to me is a hatred for the American state, not a noble desire see the truth prevail.

Having said this I think its despicable in the manner in which Assange has been accused of rape ..
But I suppose its a little more civilized than the manner in which most countries that are not america would have dealt with this.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Idiot's guide to hate crimes

The title is misleading, I do not intend to provide a guide of any kind related to hate crimes, what I can tell you with some degree of certainty is that if someone cannot tell what a hate crime is , they are idiots.
Recently the very tragic suicide of a Rutger's freshman(Tyler Clementi), has been in the news. The specifics of the case are, his roomate , all of 19 used a webcam to web cast a sexual encounter the individual had with another man. This gross and criminal invasion of privacy, spurred the young victim to take his own life. Various quarters have labelled this a 'hate' crime. I do not mean to trivialize what happened , which seems such a waste of a promising young life. Having said that , lets assume the same scene playing out in 1980 before webcams and webcasts, lets imagine the roomate walked in on Clementi Making out with a man, and he goes on to tell someone else and soon everyone on campus knows, would this still be a hate crime?
So what about the roomates actions suggests that he hated gay people? Yes he was a moron to do what he did, but are you so shocked in a era where Big Brother like shows are a staple?
Finally to put my arguments in perspective a hate crime in the classical mould

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Donating to the flood victims in Pakistan

This is no appeal to donate to the Flood victims in Pakistan. Despite my opinions, I cannot possibly argue about what you do with your money, I do know I wont be giving to this cause.
I imagine my arguments will be considered small minded and down right cruel. But before you rush to judgement , ask yourself this question, Can the nation of Pakistan take care of its own?
If not why not? Too much money spent on nuclear weapons and supporting proxy wars in India and Afganistan , perhaps?
Can you guarantee that your dollar in charity does not go towards feeding and clothing the next Ajmal Kasab? Its not as farfetched as it sounds, considering how active Terrorist Organizations are in the affected areas.
All these arguments might or might not influence you. But hopefully they will make you think.
Ironic as it maybe my prayers are with the people of Pakistan, but sadly thats all, I am willing to give.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vertical Farm: An idea before its time or soaring idiocy?

I came across an interesting article which basically mercilessly beats up on the Vertical Farm concept.
Assuming you have'nt clicked on either of these links , here is my quick rundown. If you have(my , it must be a slow work day huh?), than skip past this paragraph.
Vertical Farm concept presented as it is , makes a compelling argument about how Man needs to learn how to grow crops indoors , and closer to where they will be consumed, despite such superflous points such as the one about how this could be integrated into refugee camps. However , it does have some major flaws as ably pointed out by the Monbiot article. Some glaring ones are
1. How the plants are supposed to get light.
2. How this whole venture would make sense at the current urban land rates.
3. Other fanciful claims about how Vertical Farming would not need fertilizers or pesticides.
There are more reffer Monbiot's article.
Not for a minute am I trying to defend Dickson Despommier, but I don't think his idea can be dismissed of hand just because its missing so many important details. A lot of problems need to be resolved by minds far more brilliant than Despommier, before his concept can become reality.
Clearly such a farm only makes sense for crops that have a limited shelf life which would mean primarily frutis and vegetables. Wheat and Rice can be stored for long periods and it hardly makes sense to grow them in controlled environments close to where they will be consumed.
Though a Vertical Farm in Midtown Manhattan will never be a good idea, one on the outskirts of a less expensive city might be worth exploring.
There are a couple of ideas I can think of to make sure multiple floors recieve natural light simultaneously.
1. A series of lenses concentrate light from floor to floor, in addition to the light coming in from the glass walls.
2. The floors can be designed as non-overlapping triangles or some other geometrical shape so light makes its way to multiple floors simultaeously.
3. If there is a provision to rotate these floors , parts which might not have light earlier can be exposed per a fixed scedule.
All this falls in the category of spitballing I admit, and need to be researched.
Finally , the vertical farm idea if it ever achieve frutition, will be because the economics warrant it, which means, when 2050 comes, and we have no way to feed our vast populations, vertical farms might not seem like such an expensive and wasteful proposition(though I doubt , we will see one in Midtown Manhattan)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What does Religious freedom mean really?

If you have followed the furore over the proposal to build an Islamic center 2 blocks from Ground Zero, you probably have already formed an opinion. Such worthies as Obama and Palin have weighed in on this debate, so naturally , so must I.
I get a queasy feeling in my tummy, it could be the street meat I had for lunch , but more likely its actually agreeing with Palin on something. Clearly her motivations in taking stand against this proposal are political, mine however are not.
This has become a debate about religious freedoms , which it clearly is not. The choice of location, for the Islamic Center is odd to say the least. There are only 2 possibilities , either this is the best location for the price they could find, or its been done for the symbolic value. I find it hard to believe an alternate sight could not serve their purposes just as well.
The defenders of this proposal are right in saying , a mosque should be allowed to be built anywhere in the country, not just because the Constitution protects, religious freedoms, but because of the overall, pluralistic character of the nation. But surely some quarter should be given for the emotions such a move would generate.
If the intention of the proposal is to show the Islamic World(as if there is such a uniform monolith), how Kind and accepting America is , such intentions are doomed to failure.
People who not favorably disposed to the US are not going to change their opinion based on the construction of one Islamic Center.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Test Cricket , the way forward

There has been a lot of chatter about the future of cricket with the advent of the 20-20 version. With empty grounds the greeting tests the world over, and with dull draws like the witnessed recently between India and Sri Lanka , Test cricket s grasping for air.
For the longest time Test cricket was propped up not by popular demand, but by both officials and players insisting that Test cricket was the real deal.
But like any other sport, Test cricket has to make its money or its an endangered species no matter what.
The biggest weakness of test cricket are :
1. Its played over 5-days which might have been acceptable when it took a month to sail to England, but now its clearly too long.
2. How infuriating , is it that after 5days, there is no guarantee of a result.
3. Finally there is no contest, there is no , championship, no trophy . Save for a few rivalries, there is really no goal to the whole Test calendar.
There have been some suggestions about a Test championship based on a point based system. This in my humble opinion is doomed to failure, since any point system will be overly pedantic to be effective.
Whats the solution I propose you ask?
Quite simple really. Tests are allowed to meander because there is always the option of a draw.
Take that away, and a result is a must. Basically a test would be a 4 day affair, with each side batting 2 times for 90 overs each. If you bowl your opposition out in less than 90 overs you get the remaining overs from your opponents quota to bat. That way no matter how a side approaches the game, they have to go for the win.
One more suggestion is the allowance of a super-sub. Every once in a while a side that carries 4 bowlers loses one to injury, and is effectively trying to take 20 wickets with 3 bowlers. Cricket is the only game that expects its players to play over 5 days without subs. Most other sports last about 1hour-3hours with subs.
If the counter argument is that subs undermine the importance of all rounders , so be it. How many genuine all rounders does cricket produce anyway? And most of them are blighted by injury due to the increased and varied demands of their bodies.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A war in hand, is better than two

If you have been following the news lately, the situation in Iran seems to be slowly but surely heading towards conflict. How the US could be considering entering another war zone with the economy the way it is and the overall war fatigue is beyond me. What is even more ironic are the reasons. The immediate provocation seems to be Iran's nuclear weapons program. Admittedly there are a lot of countries who are going to be uncomfortable with Iran possessing Nuclear weapons, but nobody really expects that Iran has the US in its cross hairs.
For all its failings the Iranian government is not the Al-Quaeda. They have a lot to lose. They are not about to sacrifice their entire population to take a shot at the US. Any attempt to acquire nuclear weapons is at best an effort to stave off invasion ala Iraq.
Can Israel be just as confident that they wont be attacked? Probably not. Even though Israel does not acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, its widely believed that they are in possession of nuclear weapons. Iran too expects retaliation, should they attack with nuclear weapons.
Any pre-emptive strike on Iran to eliminate its nuclear assets is unlikely to succeed, unlike Iraq in the 80's , Iran will in all likelihood be well prepared.
Sure Ahmedinijad acts crazy, but its unlikely he is doing anything more than playing a part. He is not the be all end all in Iran's polity.
If you took an opinion poll of US analysts on whether the US faced more of a threat from an Iranian nuke or a Pakistani one, I speculate, you might find that most would consider a 'stolen' Pakistani nuke a bigger threat. Iran and Al-Quaeda are natural enemies both due to the Sunni Shia divide and due the Persian-Arab rivalry. There was every chance to exploit this , but it has not been. In international politics there are no permanent friends .. its time the US re-examined its choice of friends.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who wants to be punched by the bachelor?

That's the name they should have given to the Indian TV equivalent to the popular show in the US.
Let me put in my disclaimer early, I do not follow Indian television , apart from what I read online once in a while, so my details might be a bit iffy.
The particular 'bachelor', prone to domestic violence, I am referring to is Rahul Mahajan.
He is the son of the late BJP Politician Pramod Mahajan, and that in a nutshell is his claim to fame. That's if you don't count the time he nearly od'ed on coke , his fathers personal secretary his partner in crime wasn't as lucky and did actually od.
Since Pramod Mahajan in his pomp was one of the most powerful men in the country, Rahul Mahajan despite his shenanigans probably lead the good life.
He can be called India's Paris Hilton, famous for being famous, (just a little more vicious)
With this background, to add to a failed marriage( apparently domestic violence was to blame there as well) , you have to be wondering whether the Indian version of bachelor should have been named Finding a Bride for Chucky.
Sure the producers played up the redemption aspect of the whole spectacle, and sure our 'hero' made the right sounds about appreciating the opportunity.
But a few months post show and marriage, the 'lucky' girl runs into a bout of hubby temper along with the attendant beat down. And I get the sickening feeling , due to the utter predictability of this all.
Fine , everybody bought into it, but as a girl looking for a husband(even if its on TV) , would you go for this work of art? Was this the best India had to offer?
No woman should have to experience domestic violence and it annoys me no end that a TV show would put these young women in harms way fully knowing the kind of person they selected. I think the young lady who did agree to marry chucky was dumber than a door knob. However , it feels bad to rail against a victim, and tell her she deserved it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time for change

With the Indian test team getting handled in Sri-Lanka, its time to talk about the elephant in the room. Yes the Indian test team has been ranked No.1 for the past several months, but with the lack of bench strength and a toothless bowling attack it is perhaps time to bite the bullet and look ahead rather than myopically try to maintain an undeserved No.1 ranking.
Tendulkar , Dravid and Laxman cannot be expected to play beyond another couple of years. Of these modern day greats only Tendulkar can be certain of commanding a place till he chooses to call it a day. If the other two are allowed to choose their time of departure, Indian cricket will be left with 3 rookies about the same time. Sure Raina and Yuvraj will probably occupy 2 slots and can hardly be called rookies, but it would serve Indian cricket if they would be eased into the scheme of things rather than pushed into the deep end. All this means that its time to start rotating the middle order batsmen.
Now to focus on the bowling. Well I have nothing there, the best I can come up with is offering a few Pakistanis Indian citizenship, after all there have to be a few who would be classified as Person's of Indian Origin.
Jokes apart, there has to be a concerted effort to manage the workloads of the faster bowlers. Regular tours of the A Team need to be organized for those who have fallen by the wayside. Also though this will not have an immediate impact, there should be some fairness in drawing up contracts. Fast bowling is a far more injury prone profession when compared to batting or bowling offspin. This has to be recognized. Fast bowlers need to be compensated adequately for subjecting their bodies to the rigour they do. This might in some way encourage them to keep the hostility and pace up.. since it invariably seems to drop once a bowler has been with the team for a while.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Its better to Jaw Jaw than to War War... Really?

India and Pakistan , neighbours by compulsion , have just concluded a round of talks . What were they talking about? Precisely that, the agenda of what they should be talking about. That talking to Pakistan is an exercise in futility should have been established by now. But when you have a leadership that publicly, states that talks is the only option, well talk is what you are bound to do, however futile it is.
The latest round of talks was 'derailed' due to the release of information by the Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai, which revealed that the ISI (Pakistan's Intelligence agency) was beyond the attack on Mumbai in 26/11. To most with half a brain , this should have been evident. Sure, uneducated kids can be taught to shoot a gun. But an k like the Mumbai one needs more than the ability to shoot a gun.
What stands out is to me is that the Indian establishment appears to be aware that the attack on Mumbai had the backing at the higher levels of he Pakistani establishment, much like Kargil.
If this is in fact the case, why exactly are we talking? There are only 2 possibilities. Either the people we are talking to encouraged the attack of 26/11 and would be more than willing for repeats or they are too weak to prevent attacks. In either case, it becomes the Indian Governments duty and responsibility to act to defend its citizens from future attacks emanating from Pakistan. This will possibly lead down a slippery slope to war. But what choice do you have as a nation? The very basic expectation of any nation state is to be able to defend its civilians is being called into question time and again. Time and again Pakistan has played the school bully and punched India in the nose.. Time and again India has backed away from a fight, paying heed to the possibility of a nuclear war. At the very least end this charade of talks. People point to the seemingly unending rivalry between Germany and France , which has now morphed into an inseparable union as a model for future Indo-Pak relations. But they forget the many horrible and crippling wars that preceded the current state of affairs. As things stand now the Republic of India cannot reconcile with what Pakistan stands for. So really is the Jaw Jaw really better?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Burqa ban in France

Last week, the lower house of France's overwhelmingly voted to ban the burqa in public places.Why is this a big deal? Well a Muslim population that already feels hounded and looked down upon,will further feel the West is out to get them.
I have mixed feelings about this Being born and brought up in India, where secularism means accommodation of every religion,(its a unique brand of secularism.. found only in India) I personally would not support the burqa ban. On principle, why stop someone from wearing a burqa when we don't stop them from wearing a mini-skirt. But you can turn around and say, why allow the burqa in Paris, when you can't expect to see a mini-skirt in Saudi Arabia?
But saying the burqa is a mere article of clothing like the mini-skirt is an understatement.
Its a reflection of attitudes towards women. From what I understand, a burqa is supposed to keep Men from having impure thoughts about women. So women are objectified as mere vessels of temptation by one interpretation. Its a reflection of the truly unequal status accorded to women. On principle I cannot find any reason to condemn France's burqa ban. But any true reform cannot be imposed from outside , it will have to come from within.
On a side note, I found it interesting that 2/3rds of Americans did not support a ban on burqa's while 80% of Europeans support it.
So maybe its time to revise the opinion n who the Great Satan is?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Can I get some goals to go?

The one thing everyone can agree on about the worldcup 2010 is the severe paucity of goals.
The theories doing the rounds are a football thats hard to control and teams being overly defensive since they have but 3 games.
My take on this can be summarized from the goal that was denied to the US in the 85th minute with the score tied 3-2.
The play in question was a setpiece free kick with 3-4 US players in and around the goal.. Now since the replays have been shown a million times , the one thing that stands out is the tight man to man marking by the slovenians. In one glaring example.. there is a Slovenian defender with his arms wrapped completely around Mike Bradley the scrorer of the second goal. Leaving aside for a second the end result, you have to realise that allowing defenders to bear hug attackers is not in anyway going to help produce goals.. For the life of me I can't understand why its even tolerated. Holding someone to prevent them from taking a legitimate shot at the goal is illegal and should be called as such. Once the officials make it clear they wont stand for it thepolayers will fall in line.. and finally we might have a situation where for once the talk about football wont center around the lack of goals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How the IPL ia destroying Team India.

I am not the first person writing on this and certainly wont be the last person. And after yet another embarassing exit from a 'world-cup' , it would be obvious to most that the IPL is infact affecting team India's performance in the international arena.
Some reasons are obvious, player fatigue , exposure to only batsman friendly pitches, ability to target the weaker domestic bolwers in every team.
Some reasons are not so obvious. The rules put in place by the IPL to ensure that Indian domestic criketers would not lose an opportunity to play have inadvertently caused a lot of damage.
There is a restriction on the number of international cricketers allowed in every game(4 per side). There was also a fixed salary for India's domestic cricketers( a pathetic $30K , when you compare that to the 1million that the likes of Dhoni makes).
These restrictions meant that those Indian cricketers who have played international cricket are the highest paid in the league(barring the odd Andrew Symonds and Kevin Pietersen).
The lower salaries for international players makes it easier for some to totally skip the IPL (like Mitchell Jonhson and Micahel Clarke), Indian internationals on the other hand find it a lot harder to turn down the money.
The 4 man restriction also means that players of the caliber of Paul Collingwood have spent a good portion of the IPL season on the bench.
All this means that every team other than India post IPL is well rested and have had time to prepare , while the Indian's were busy walloping Indian domestic bowlers around while playing out the few good bowlers every side had.
How can things change?
Firstly IPL will have to have a window where no other ICC events are hosted a month before and after.
There has to be serious consideration given to removing all restrictions on player salaries, thereby abolishing the caste system that exists currently. This will bring down the artificially inflated salaries of Indian internationals and bring some semblance of balance to their priorities.
Teams should be able to cut players and not be stuck with non performing ones.
Teams must follow the rest and rotation policy for Indian internationals handed down by team India management.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who needs an election manifesto?

If you've been following the news in India's financial capital Mumbai, the big story is that of the principal Opposition Political Party(I almost shudder to call it that), the Shiv Sena, is busy opposing the release of a movie starring Shah Rukh Khan who is India's biggest film star.
So what is so objectionable about a movie to raise the ire of the good people at Shiv Sena?
Nothing at all, frankly I would'nt be suprsied to see Shiv Sainiks lining up to watch the movie when the dust settles.
The provocation, if it can be called that , is a rather silly if painful narrative.
Sporting ties between India and Pakistan had been snapped by the barbaric incidents of 26/11.
In India where cricket and politics intersect more than one would like, we have the IPL (Indian Premier League) which is essentially the NFL with no salary caps.
Now recently the IPL held an 'auction' to select players. The Pakistani's who are world champs at this format of cricket, were up for auction, but did not attract a single bid.
There was much heartburn about this on both sides of the border.
Shah Rukh Khan, who is a owner of one of the teams, did'nt put in a bid himself, but did express sentiments along the lines of the Pakistani players would be welcomed and so on.
All perfectly legit. This has raised the hackles of the Shiv Sena, who have gone to the extent of calling Shah Rukh a desh drohi(traitor) not to mention engaging in violence to stall the release of his movie.
So far Shah Rukh has stood his ground and refused to 'apologise'.
Now that the background is done I cna move onto my take on this.
The Shive Sena has been in the opposition for the last 3 election cycles.
Its not like they have been kept out by great governance(The ruling congress has been disastorous ).
"How shit do you have to be for me to beat you?" , seems to be the Congress theme to the Sena.
Is it a political party's job to enforce what people say in a free society?
It sounds an awful lot like Hitler's SA.
Are people supposed to vote for you, because you tear down movie posters?
How does that help anyone? Call the electorate what you want, but in the end they seem to have made the best of 2 bad options.
The second aspect of all this that I hate is the standards Sena is applying to Shah Rukh.
Why does he have to prove his loyalty to the Nation by denouncing Pakistanis?
Does Bal Thakeray have to prove his loyalty to the nation?
The partition happened. India has a 120million+ muslims(those numbers might be off).
I am sure there are a few bad apples, but do all of them have to keep jumpoing through your hoops to prove how Indian they are?
Its not just unfair , its plain stupid.
Alienating such a big chunk of the Indian population will probably do a lot more harm to India, than Shah Rukh Khan saying something nice about Pakistani's.
Disclosure: I don't really like Shah Rukh Khan, and I have never watched a complete movie featuring him.

Friday, February 05, 2010

In Pursuit of Happiness

Yes I shamelessly borrowed from Hollywood, but the title was way too apt and I couldn't help myself.
Recently I was told that I was a happy person by someone who had known me not too long. I was taken aback, mostly because I have always viewed myself as someone who is just as happy or just as sad as the next guy. I always viewed myself as a critic, someone who could poke holes in anything. Sure I am happy go lucky , but I was also a brooding contemplative type at times.
I wanted to say at that point "Walk a Mile in my shoes" . Wisely I chose not to.
Cut to today. This week and the past one have been difficult for me . Just as things looked like they couldn't get any worse, they just did.
So when the guy sitting next to me on the subway asked me "Why are you smiling, you look happy." , I was taken aback. Though I had no fathomable reason to be happy with life, I apparently was happy enough that a stranger could see it.
He went on to ask if I was happy with my life. I almost instantly replied yes.
I guess what I was thinking for better or worse was , "Is this life worth living?"
And the awnser was a 1000times YES!
So how could I possibly be not happy with my life.
After a little contemplation I replied that I was not where I wanted to be in life, there are a lot of people a lot better of than me, and a lot more people far worse off. And for that reason alone I concluded I was happy.
I got off soon after after shaking the strangers hand.
I never did figure out why he asked me what he did. But I am glad he did. It made me realise something entirely precious, I was happy even though I thought I was unhappy.
I guess a very cynical way to look at it could be no matter what your condition is be thankful, cos it could be a lot worse.
Sure this wisdom is not new and you hear it a 100 times over(not necessarily from a stranger on the subway) , but realisation is something that can come about internally.
In conclusion I am Happy, Happy for the lives I have managed to touch in some minuscule way(I am hoping I have made more than one person laugh or smile),
Happy to see happiness around me, Happy I have massive biceps(I am always happy to flex em), Happy for the opportunities in life that have come my way, Happy in the Hope that there are more coming, Happy for the music I love so much, Happy for all the love I have received(and given) , Happy that Jon Stewart's single handedly keeping Fox News's at bay. I can go on and on But you get the point!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I am either really lucky or really unlucky

For the last month and a half the locker rooms in my gym have had to be shared between the men and women. So men have had the locker room on even days and women on odd days.
This sad state of affairs finally ended today when the men's locker room finally opened after renovation. After a particularly exhausting workout I headed to the locker room, not entirely focussed. I walk in and see a woman in their. It still took me a moment to realise , what had just happened. At which point i involuntariy screamed "shit" and turned tail and ran. As I contemplated what had just happened, I thanked my stars that there was only one woman in there, who did'nt seem to notice me(untill that scream). She was onld and fully clothed(Thank God!) ....
As a second thought would I mind terribly if it was someone younger and not quite so fully clothed? I guess we'll never know.