Saturday, January 31, 2004
Bush to support inquiry


I think they hope that the outcome of the independent inquiry will date back to flaws since the Clinton years, which will bail Bush out.

Priests and Pujaris?

Many Hindu Pujaris have acquired a reputation of being money chasers. This has led to a lack of respect in general for many priests. On the other hand, Priests in the Church have always been well respected and revered. A.) Correct me if I am wrong B.) Is that why most Hindu kids in India don't learn enough about their religion while growing up? If someone could throw some light on this.

Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Check the MEP website for more info. on this program alluded to in Kerry's plans


- RAchit

Friday, January 30, 2004
Shivacharya seer orders supply of drinking water to nine villages for nine days - Newindpress.com
These days religions and religious heads are, whether they deserve it or not, seen by many as divisive, negative, and self-serving. In this atmosphere, genuine acts by them in service of humanity could go a long way in making people look at religion more positively.

Re: China, US and the world economy

Yes, it makes sense that the RMB will appreciate if allowed to free-float. For some stupid reason I thought China hadn't changed the pre-reform policy of keeping the RMB artificially high.

And also that the weak banking institutional structure and deadbeat SOE's are the main reason China is postponing that step.

But read this interesting perspective and ambition, expressed by a New York-based Chinese American, Henry C K Liu, who is clearly very passionate about China (I've been following his articles for a year now).

US dollar hegemony has got to go

China vs the almighty dollar

How the US will play China in the new Cold War


rediff.com: Republic Day 2004
Note the contrasting emotions - almost always, when it comes to the military, Indians feel proud. But almost nothing that that military defends seems defensible. Sad state of affairs - and risky too.

CNN.com - Georgia considers banning 'evolution' - Jan. 30, 2004
Something tells me the Scopes trial would never end.

Re: outsourcing and China's currency exchange rate


Sorry for the delayed response.

Let me address the China question you raised. As you must have realized, the argument is that the Chinese currency is undervalued. Which means that if the RMB was allowed a free float, it would appreciate. This makes Chinese exports less competitive and imports into China can be expected to increase, which in turn will have positive impacts on the world economy as such. There seems to be consensus among many on this topic but there are counter viewpoints worth noting -

1. According to a Bank of America research report, though China has a current account surplus, it has one of the highest growth in imports. "Thus, China puts downward pressure on prices in the industries of its exports, but puts upward pressure of similar magnitude on the prices of the industries of its imports. The difference is that the impact on exports prices is more concentrated than the impact on the world price of imported products, making the latter less noticeable."

2. One of the requisites of a successful conversion to a free float is the presence of a stable financial structure and a strong banking system. Free floats will also expose the currencies to the vagaries of the foreign exchange market and the lack of adequate derivative and hedging instruments can cause havoc in global markets.

3. There is also debate over the real exchange rate versus the nominal exchange rate. I need to read more on this point before I can comment. But I believe that revaluation will adjust the nominal exchange rate, but at some time the real exchange rate needs to be balanced. Some suggest, doing so requires China to open its markets for imports, which takes care of the trade surplus issue. However, as I said, I need to research this some more.

This really is a complex issue with several opinions on the matter. Good you raised this issue. It has implications for the world economy.

More on Kerry's policies later.

Re: outsourcing and China's currency exchange rate

Here's a very informative piece that answered some of my questions:

China's Exchange Rate Regime


Can Gandhi heirs revive dynasty? | Christian Science Monitor
Good analysis of the Gandhi clan and Congress, and India.

Poll Shows Kerry Leading in Missouri and Arizona (washingtonpost.com)

If these are indeed true, Kerry would be the nominee - no questions asked. But somehow, I find it real hard to believe - esp the one on Arizona.

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Re: Outsourcing

Picking up the Outsourcing issue again:

1) Kerry's proposal #7 talks of a "Manufacturing Extension Partnership which helps American manufacturers remain competitive." Any info about this MEP? While Kerry talks about the unfair subsidies that China gives its manufacturing units, what does the MEP envisage?

2) What about proposal #9, reforming the health-care system, made you nod? How do you think they will go about it? Also, I'm not sure I understand how it will impact the manufacturing economy.

3) What did you think of proposal #3, using domestic tax-incentives?

4) About the currency manipulation by Asian economies: Isn't it true that the Chinese RMB would fall against the $ if it was unpegged? In that case, wouldn't it increase the price competitiveness of Chinese goods? Explain to me the funda here. I presume that the Chinese must be using an artificially hi exchange-rate to facilitate certain imports. To what extent do Chinese exports depend in imports of inputs? I do recall that pre-reform, the artificially hi exchange rate was maintained because of their import-substitution economy.

Would be great if u could shed any light on these points, especially pt (4).

Survey predicts sweep for NDA
Here we go people, the roadshow starts!

You know, somebody asked me the other day if it was true that people are happier in democracies. With amazing entertainment like this every 5 years, why they not be? :)

Re: ban on meat & liquor in MPs holy cities

I would support the imposition of the ban during specified holy days and during events there, but not year round. The rest of the time it should be a matter of choice for the residents there. Without conscientious choice, such restraint has no religious meaning. But the ban on holy days can be used to propogate the idea and remind people.


Magistrate suspended for issuing warrant against President - Newindpress.com: "Magistrate suspended for issuing warrant against President"

Forget bribery.... this man ought to be suspended for not knowing the name of the President of India or the Chief Justice!!

CBS News | Dean's Scream: Not What It Seemed | January 26, 2004 16:50:45

How sad... I mean, I really feel bad for this guy.

It's not the first time that technology did in a candidate. Kennedy was a nobody, trailing Nixon by obnoxious numbers, before that first televised presidential debate. In that event, Nixon was too powdered up, and the stuffiness of the room made him sweat a bit too much. He shifted uncomfortably, and the lights that were focussed right on him showed him as an edgy person, with no compose. Kennedy, however looked healthy and calm (which he was not). As a result, Nixon dropped in numbers, and the rest is history.

HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE :: An Interview with Sandy Rios: Banning Gay Marriage Tops CWA Agenda: "What [President Bush] has not thought here, because people have not brought it to his attention, is that we are talking about a lifestyle, if we talk about the homosexual community, the disease, and the early death among men. We worry about smoking?"

Last heard, AIDS and other STDs are more prevalent among straight people than among gays.

It homosexual sex, but promiscuous sex (irrespective of the sex of the partner), that spreads diseases. Hence the need for promoting insitutions, like marriage, that promote fidelity. And, these institutions must be extended to all segments of the society.

HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE :: An Interview with Sandy Rios: Banning Gay Marriage Tops CWA Agenda
"Let me add something to clarify. It's so confusing. I've been on the ground floor so I can explain it to you. The caveat was this: If there were to be civil unions, they would not be based on a sexual relationship. So in other words, we would write the language in such a way that a grandmother and her granddaughter living together"

I am amazed at the incredulous suggestion made here. What she is saying, in effect, is this: We are not discriminating here, except in the case of homosexuals. Well, that is discrimination!

A good parallel for the kind of amendment they want would go like this: Slavery shall be illegal, except where the race of the enslaved was the basis of the enslavement. Hence, if the owner, and the slave are of different races, it shall be deemed legal.

Now, how is that for a new version of 13th amendment?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
No meat, liquor in MP's 'holy cities'
Why should this be considered constitutional?

Re: Amateur video of train accident shocks Mumbai - Newindpress.com

Well, our justice system provides no protection against unwarranted strain imposed on witnesses or even their harassment. If someone had helped the guy, they might have had to visit the courts or the police stations many times. Many people do not volunteer to provide even first aid in cases like this for the sheer fear of this.

Re: And I am in Limbo....

What does this mean? I am the evil genius here! Hmph....


I should have been more clear. Not all his proposals are impractical especially 6,7,9 and 10.

The crux of the outsourcing problem lies in two points: 1. Presence of labor intensive markets and 2. Lower costs. These two are inevitable realities and the US can compete only on costs. No currency pressures or fair trade agreements can stop the phenomenon. He is attributing this state to unfair trade practices which is only partly true. His solutions, except points 6,7,9 and 10 don't address the root cause i.e. higher costs and inefficiency of US manufacturers.

About utilizing the special safeguard wrt to China, I believe it has been invoked. But what is a safeguard? According to a Commerce Department Press Release,

"Safeguards are temporary and selective measures such as increased tariffs, tariff quotas, or quantitative restrictions explicitly designed to slow imports in order to enable a particular domestic industry to adjust to heightened competition from foreign suppliers. A special provision of China's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement provides the authority for WTO members to impose temporary quotas on textile imports from China in the event those imports are found to cause "market disruption."..."Once a WTO member has invoked the textile safeguard, it must "pursue a negotiated resolution of the matter with the Chinese government," according to the press release.

- which has been happening. The key word here is 'temporary'.

... I will complete this later tonight.


Re:Amateur video of train accident shocks Mumbai - Newindpress.com


Not sure of what the judicial process has got to do with such a tragic incident.


And I am in Limbo....

You are one of the lucky ones! Because of your virtue and beliefs, you have escaped eternal punishment. You are sent to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!


Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

I get Purgatory. Phew!


You have escaped damnation and made it to Purgatory, a place where the dew of repentance washes off the stain of sin and girds the spirit with humility. Through contrition, confession, and satisfaction by works of righteousness, you must make your way up the mountain. As the sins are cleansed from your soul, you will be illuminated by the Sun of Divine Grace, and you will join other souls, smiling and happy, upon the summit of this mountain. Before long you will know the joys of Paradise as you ascend to the ethereal realm of Heaven.

why do you think Kerry's proposition is impractical?
Secondly, he seems to be targetting those Asian countries that have used monetary unfairness to gain comparative advantage, especially China.


Me going to Hell

Hehe... Turns out, I am going to the seventh level of Hell... A brief intro to my supposed final destination:

Guarded by the Minotaur, who snarls in fury, and encircled within the river Phlegethon, filled with boiling blood, is the Seventh Level of Hell. The violent, the assasins, the tyrants, and the war-mongers lament their pitiless mischiefs in the river, while centaurs armed with bows and arrows shoot those who try to escape their punishment. The stench here is overpowering. This level is also home to the wood of the suicides- stunted and gnarled trees with twisting branches and poisoned fruit. At the time of final judgement, their bodies will hang from their branches. In those branches the Harpies, foul birdlike creatures with human faces, make their nests. Beyond the wood is scorching sand where those who committed violence against God and nature are showered with flakes of fire that rain down against their naked bodies. Blasphemers and sodomites writhe in pain, their tongues more loosed to lamentation, and out of their eyes gushes forth their woe. Usurers, who followed neither nature nor art, also share company in the Seventh Level.

If you want to know where you are going, try this Dante's Inferno Test"

Karunakaran quits Congress


Magistrate issues warrants against President, Chief Justice for Rs 40,000 - Newindpress.com

As the CJ has said, God save us all!

Amateur video of train accident shocks Mumbai - Newindpress.com

Blame the modern urban mindset that focusses on self-preservation. And the screwed up judicial process of India.

The Dark Side of Outsourcing..


Re: Outsourcing issue


Here is Kerry's perspective. Most of them are easier proposed than implemented. More on other candidates later.



What Dems need: A candidate with Kerry's history, Dean's passion and troops, Edwards' looks and smooth talking. Hmph!

Oh, about post-NH... Well, I must say this, Kerry reminds me a little of JFK... minus the dashing appearance (which Edwards has). Only, his speech style also belongs to the JFK era. Dean, however, came off looking very good. His mention of volunteers by name, his mention of his family, and the way he carried himself, made him look more human this time (what a break!). Missed Edwards' reaction. Lieberman made some speech that was just short of withdrawal (staying in the ring?!).

In the coming days, Kerry will repent his faux pas of openly saying that a Dem did not need the south to win. South is very sensitive to such alienation. Let's see how Edwards takes advantage of this statement without looking like he is going negative on Kerry. I am still hoping Kerry is not giving up on the South. I would still say that Kerry-Edwards ticket sounds pretty enticing. Interestingly, there was Lee Bandy, Chief Political Correspondent of The State Newspaper from South Carolina on C-SPAN today. His views looked slightly biased towards Bush. But he conceded that Kerry-Edwards ticket is bound to win at least some states in the South.

Outsourcing issue

Can anyone here enlighten me about what exactly some of the Dem candidates plan to do about the outsourcing phenomenon. I mean several of them are railing against it, including Kerry. What is the solution they're suggesting.

Would be grateful for any pointers on this.


Switching Channels

Hmm... Interesting. I agree with Mr.Hussein that such opening up channels between people of the two countries would help. It helps demystify the people on the other side, makes them look human.

Concept of people-to-people contact as a peace tool has been bandied about, mostly by the left, for some time now. The problem there is that they bring elites like musicians and otehr performers, and when they go back and talk about peace, people there do not trust them. Peace then becomes an elitist agenda, intinctively distrusted by the hoi polloi.

This might be a better way. One caveat though. I have noticed that the TV channels in India mostly reflect the lives of only the urban, upper middle class folks. This does not help. Sure, middle class ethos have that aura about them. But, a more balanced view of the population might help. TV channels should realize that they have a responsibility beyond entertainment.

PS: Thanks Mr. Ram Narayanan for the link.

Asia Times - Will Dubya dump Dick?

Interesting possibility - at least two people have asked me this question this week. I have my doubts though. Bush will not dump the "loyal" Cheney unless it is necessary. But if he does, who might be the new Veep candidate?

One name I have seen bandied about is Condi Rice. While this might be good, projecting him as a tolerant person etc etc, I am not sure if she would be the best bet. I would guess that, given that the President's credentials on the War on Terror are not reliant on the Veep's, Bush would want some one who could reassure the fiscal conservatives. It might send home the message that he is concerned about the economy.

I doubt if he will shoot big time for hard core libertarians (given the fact that he is determined to woo the religious right). Democrats should seek to lure this constituency. Dean could have done it well, but his other ahem, qualities, make me shudder at the prospect of him being the candidate. Kerry and Edwards might have to work harder.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Okay, New Hampshire has spoken, and it did not quite agree with my estimates. Kerry topped, as I said. But Edwards came fourth. Dean took the second slot. Clark did take the third. And third, fourth, and even the fifth slot were bunched up. Hmmm... 3 on 5 is not bad for a beginner, eh?

Debate over Rahul, Priyanka picks up

For the Congress, currently there is no hope other than to turn to the Gandhi kids. Priyanka, undeniably has the charisma and the personality. I think she will be launched this election, but will have to wait a while until she holds top office. To be frank, I was quite impressed by what I saw of her and also her style. And like it or not style does sell. Definitely one politician who will make it big. Mark my words.

Cool tool!! Bookmark this - you will find this useful sometime in future!

John Edwards: Interactive Electoral Map


A whole day passed - and no MyDoom for me! Go Linux!!!


Okay, I have serious doubts as to whether there is anything remotely resembling rhyme in this argument:
In a resolution, the MRCC noted that the party was founded in Mumbai and Sonia's husband and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was born here. That was why either of Sonia's children was perfectly qualified to fight from the seat, it said.

Who cares where Rajiv Gandhi was born? What do the two know abt Mumbai's problems?

And the sheer cynicism of this!! :
...adding that besides the assassinated prime minister's charisma, her granddaughter also resembled her.

Congress lost precisely because of the cynical attitude of congresswallahs. None less than Rajiv Gandhi stated this fact (refer to his speech in the AICC centennary celebrations). Looks like they are yet to climb out of it.

Debate over Rahul, Priyanka picks up


Some of these were hilarious!!

The State of the Union Address

Will sombody please explain this to me, like I am a four year old?
Indian group blames rising divorce rate on SMS. 11/11/2002. ABC News Online


Dean and Bush

QUOTE from MSNBC.com:
Dean countered by saying that “I think what we need in Washington is somebody who’s going to stand up and say what they think. It may not be popular and it may not always be politic, but I think a lot of people have given up on this country and we want to give them hope again.”

Another solid instance where Dean shows marked similarity with Bush. Bush was totally unmoved by the ambivalence of American people about the war in Iraq, or for that matter, the massive display of opposition on the streets world over. His essential message was, "well, not many of you might like it, but I know I am right, and I am gonna do it." Just how different is Dr.Dean?


The Dark Side of the Moon

UN body trashes 'feel good' factor - Newindpress.com

Another Texas Law in trouble

FindLaw's Writ - Grossman: Is There a Constitutional Right To Promote the Use of Sex Toys?

Just a note: The Grossman invokes the "special relationship" clause in the last paragraph with no justification. This needs to be provided - Griswold v Connecticut might be a good precedent. There, the SC allowed that the doctor who prescribed the use of contraceptives (which, by the way, is also extraneous to an intimate relationship) does enjoy a special relationship with her clients.


Monday, January 26, 2004
A recusal and a refusal

Justice Scalia has decided to recuse himself from Newdow case (more popularly known as the Pledge of Allegiance case). Personally, I believe that this was unwarranted. Sure, it is uncommon for Supreme Court judges to express opinions on cases that might come up before them in future, but it has happened in the past. Justice O'Connor's famous remark about being forced to continue for four more years if Gore wins was quoted time and again when Bush v Gore came up before the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia himself has expressed his strenuous opposition to gay marriage on numerous platforms. It does not mean that he has to recuse himself if a gay marriage case comes up before the Supreme Court. I would actually enjoy reading a dissent from Justice Scalia in the Newdow case (if Newdow wins, it will mostly be Rehnquist who writes the dissent).

What is surprising is that the same Justice Scalia went hunting with Vice President Dick Cheney even when a case in the docket names the Veep as a respondent. Such personal relationships are what would cause immense harm to the transparency of the justice system. Even when this was pointed out to him, Justice Scalia has refused to (by not responding at all) recuse himself from the case in re Cheney. Now, I fail to understand this difference.

PS: To be fair to Justice Scalia, no less than Justice John Marshall, arguably the greatest SC Justice ever, has presided over extremely important cases like Marbury v Madison, though it intimately involved himself!

Gays on edge

Hey, when Papa takes a break from theology, we could too! ;)
CNN.com - Papal blessing for break-dancers - Jan. 26, 2004


Re: Art of Living and Iraq

Carl, I dunno why, I am not able to find the article on beliefnet (where I read it first). I found the same article on the beeb (this time, with a pic!).


Art of Living in Iraq

I couldn't find that report on beliefnet.com. Can you dig up a link?


I have had a respect for Mr.Gurumurthy, though I hold many views that are antithetical to his. However, this piece was particularly bad. The misappropriation of the Gandhi name is the one point which seems valid to me.

Particularly stinky is the core idea - that since the Italian constitution is ready to confer citizenship on Rahul and Priyanka, they are somehow illegitimate citizens of India. And, how is it that Mr.SG has ignored the fact that they are kids of Rajiv Gandhi too, and the Indian constitution provides the same benefits to them thru his parentage? Mr.Gurumurthy wants us to believe that they had a virgin birth, with Sonia being their only parent. This is sheer ad hominem attack. Surely, SG can do better.

Mr Sharma, are they not also Italians by birth? - Newindpress.com

Speculating on the Futures - II

I expect a repeat of Iowa in New Hampshire on Tuesday - Kerry tops, Edwards comes second with either Clark or Dean in the third slot, with the other in the fourth place. The difference would be that the second, third and fourth slots would be bunched up closer, adn who knows, the winner might not be too far ahead either.

The real threat for Kerry comes after New Hampshire. I expect Edwards to move in for the kill in South Carolina and Oklahoma. If Kerry is not able to win the south, a lot of democrats will have a rethink. And Kerry might find the path all uphill after that. If that happens, Edwards could turn out to be the One. That scenario would also help Clark, albeit to a weaker extent. If Kerry however, manages to show a decent performance in the South, he could be the nominee, with Edwards taking the Veep nomination.

Asking Edwards would be a real smart move if Kerry wins, and Edwards comes second. He could claim to be the uniter (contrasting with Bush, the great divider), and this would be a great salve for the bruises that dems are taking in the course of this primary campaign, which might go all the way to the convention.

Kerry camp approached Edwards with this idea BD (before Dean). Edwards did not take the bait, which is very understandable. But if it comes down to it, given that he is not contesting his senate seat, he will take a VP nomination instead of completely sitting it out.

One thing is for certain... unless I turn out to be way off the mark, and he ends up winning NH, Dean is a goner.


Speculating on the Futures

Hmm... so, folks are dropping out of teh race now. And their folks ought to move on. Let's try to speculate on who goes where, if their candidate drops out.

Carol Mosley Braun: hmmm... ummm..... were there any?

Gephardt: I would venture to say that most of them would gravitate towards Edwards. Gephardt's support base came mostly from the labor, and given Edwards' background (his father was a mill worker), and the fact that he highlights it in every speech, I would expect them to go his way. Interestingly, however, a minority of them might go the Kerry way, quoting his experience, which is the other thing Gephardt had.

Kucinich: Many of them would go to Dean. But, Edwards might pick up some ppl who are attracted to Kucinich's humble origins.

Al Sharpton: Well, most of the Rev's support is from the south. And I expect every southern state to solidly back eitehr Edwards or Clark. I have a feeling Clark would be able to attract slightly more Sharpton supporters than Edwards.

Dean's: I would say mostly to Clark and some to Edwards. Ironically, both

Wes Clark: I would say that Kerry and Edwards will have to fight it out. A small anti-war faction might go to Dean. But given that Dean's anti-war campaign is older than Clark's, and the General's folks were not in it, I would expect this segment to be pretty small.

Edwards: Oh boy, this is going to be hard. Not the least because I think Edwards and Kerry have a very good chance of making it to the last round. When, and if, it comes to a one-to-one between the two, it might not matter anymore. But, if Edwards gets crushed before that, most of his folks will gravitate towards Clark.

Kerry: Not to Dean.


Sunday, January 25, 2004
Ain't it strange that to this day, every article on the democratic race carries at least one pic - even if it is the *only* pic - of Howard Dean and Kerry is not given that much prominence? Hmmm...

In volatile race, Kerry leads heading into key vote | csmonitor.com

President Kalam has put to perfect use the bully pulpit that he commands. The message is non-partisan, popular, and visionary.

Contrast this to President Narayanan, who, by expressing his brazenly anti-cabinet views in an interview to a daily that was considered anti-BJP, forfeited that authority that the pulpit offers, and ended up appearing to be a partisan player.

The Statesman


Why is Dean losing?

Look, I have reasons to like Dean. He is seen as a person with sane fiscal policy, a social liberal, a person with a mind open enough to adopt ideas from a Republican predecessor. But I do not. Why is Dean not able to attract new, unattached voters?

The answer, I think, explains, to a great extent, why Dean is losing. For all his plusses, Howard Dean has one big problem - he is seen as the Democrat version of George W.Bush. Both of them seem to suffer from this delusion of being a messiah. And it makes them too cocksure of themselves. After the experience with Bush, dems have developed an instictive revulsion to this. His raving after losing Iowa only solidified the view. Whoever sees Dean in that light, get alarmed, and starts thinking of the much more statesmanlike Kerry. This being the time when most primary voters are making up their minds (fully one third of the voters in New Hampshire will decide their vote in the next 48 hours), it is hurting Dean much more than the other mainstreamers (which essentially excludes Rev Sharpton and Rep Kucinich).


Friday, January 23, 2004
Beliefnet reports:

John Ashcroft's Faith

Two profiles of Attorney General John Ashcroft are now on newsstands. U.S. News & World Report says little about Ashcroft's faith, noting only that he was raised by Pentecostal missionaries and is a "deeply religious man." Colleagues told the weekly that the nation's top law enforcer keeps religion out of his work, adding "that they have never even seen him pray." Apparently, these colleagues don't attend the daily Bible study (or "RAMP" meetings, for "Read, Argue, Memorize and Pray") in his office.

Vanity Fair's profile portrays Ashcroft as a combination of "piety with ambition." The magazine retells the story of his anointing with Crisco oil after being elected a Missouri senator, in the tradition of "the ancient kings of Israel." In 1999, he told students at Bob Jones University that America has "no king but Jesus," and as Attorney General, he forbade the word "proud" in official correspondence because "pride is one of the seven deadly sins." He also banned the phrase "no higher calling than public service" because "there is a higher calling than public service, which is service to God."

None of this is very shocking coming from a devout Pentecostal, perhaps, and the uglier rumors--like his reported belief that calico cats are "instruments of the devil," Ashcroft denies. But Vanity Fair reports some disturbing customs—he calls his campaign victories "resurrections," for instance, and his defeats "crucifixions,"--and some harsh moral judgements. As Missouri's governor, Ashcroft twice vetoed a $900,000 grant to a Kansas City home for AIDS victims. When a state senator pointed out that without the grant the home's patients would be forced to "live in boxes under bridges," Ashcroft replied, "they're there because of their own misconduct, and it wasn’t very reputable misconduct, either."

"When does misconduct become reputable? When disreputable?" the senator asked.

"'That’s beside the point,' snapped Ashcroft."

Beliefnet reports:

Traumatized Iraqis Breathe Deep

The India-based Art of Living course is offering shell-shocked Iraqis its popular blend of meditation and breathing techniques to help them deal with trauma. The course, founded by guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to "eliminate stress, create a sense of belonging and restore human values," has sent 15 volunteers, including doctors, to set up sessions in medical camps or hospitals near Baghdad. "The volunteers conduct stress-busting sessions--two-hour-long special breathing exercises over four days," reports a BBC article which shows veiled Iraqi women sitting cross-legged in a meditation room doing the exercises. According to the report, as many as 200 Iraqis have lined up for daily sessions. Iraqi children, "among the worst affected by the continuing violence and insecurity in the country," are taught breathing practices and play stress-relieving games.

I find this journal quite interesting.. Check it out


Annan's speech

"Business... has a powerful interest in helping to prevent the international security system from sliding back into brute competition based on the laws of the jungle," he (Kofi Annan) told leaders of some of the world's top companies.

But business could also be the cause...

Thursday, January 22, 2004
Left Front rushes to celebrate Netaji's b'day

...and convert it into yet another opportunity to dupe the masses and indulge in corruption to boot.

Re: Kashmir

One possible solution acceptable to the Indian people is the 'Neelam Plan'.

Link 1

Link 2


Re: American economy and foreign policy

Here's more on America's fiscal irresponsibility and its foreign policy entanglement.

China-US: Double bubbles in danger of colliding


Just what's up in Kashmir?

My doubts are deepening. I clearly see Uncle Sam's hand working behind the screen in all that is going on between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris. And my theory that LoC is going to become de facto broder is strengthened with every negotiation/initiative/CBM. Let me put this picture together:

1. Pakistan decides not to insist too much on UN resolutions, and India decides to talk Kashmir with Pakistan. (I think the final outcome of this is almost decided now).
2. India and Pakistan talk, and trade. You can safely bet that an year or two down the road, the effect of the trade will be projected in good light as much as possible in both countries (if Mushy and ABV stick onto their posts).
3. India starts talks with Hurriyat. Again, u can safely assume that the Hurriyat will, soon, come up with a demand for autonomy - de facto pre-1952 status, or something just short of it. India will concede sometime down the lane. With steeel man Advani playing the negotiator, who could claim the GoI gave away too much?
4. Pak will claim a moral victory in getting Kashmiris "freedom"

All the while, the insurgency will be curtailed on both sides (at least as much as Mushy can get it done), and cross LoC trade and transport will go on. SAFTA comes in handy here.

IF ALL THIS GOES WELL, we could imagine a formal treaty of some sort say, twenty years down the lane where India and Pakistan will decide to call the LoC what it really is already - the new border.

Sounds pretty?


Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Re: Pulli Raja

Check this link out: http://www.avert.org/aidsindia.htm

Re: Pulli Raja

Carl, for now, I will put off the explanation of the Pulli Raja funda for later.

As for ur question about gays and AIDS, it is not true that gays are especially susceptible to HIV infection. A promiscuous hetersexual is as likely to contract AIDS as a promiscuous homosexual. However, statistically, promiscuity is much higher among homosexuals than among heterosexuals. Me thinks this is primarily because the forceful exclusion of homosexuals from mainstream society.

If they are out of the closet their relationships do not enjoy as much support structures that heterosexual marriages enjoy. Moreover, in less accepting societies, being a class already excluded from the mainstream social structures, they feel less compulsion to stay within in socially approved restrictions such as monogamy. When they are in the closet, obviously, there is very little chance of maintaining a monogamous relationship.

However, I can understand the reason why ur opinion is a commonly held belief. AIDS first spread among homosexuals (it is not clear why). There were times when it was called "gay plague" and "gay cancer" and was cruelly described as a "cure" for homosexuality by the far right. And a lot of pseudoscience was cultivated to "explain" this phenomenon, with the then Reagan administration taking precious few steps towards research on the disease killing the putative less-than humans.


A compassionate conservative?

As was expected by realists like me, Bush raised the bogey of gay marriage yesterday in his State of the Union address.
Apparently, the president believes that the sanctity of marriage is not spoilt by the presence of drunkards (which he once was), or Britney Spears in its institution. It is bespoilt only by homosexuals, God Forbid.

Massachusetts, that God forsaken place, is going to test the waters with this radical freakshow called gay marriage! I see more than coincidence in the fact that John Kerry is from MA.

The president has decided that the aspirations and emotions of a section of people is fair game for him to try winning a re-election. This man is neither compassionate, nor a conservative who supports state's rights.


Re: Pulli Raja

who is Pulli Raja?

yup, AIDS is a huge problem in India, and declining moral standards and increasing prostitution is not helping.

BTW, any idea why homos are particularly susceptible to HIV infection?

"Will Pulli Raja get AIDS?"

This question leapt at me from numeroud hoardings and busstop shelters when I was in India. So, will he? :D

PS: A venting of spleen on the issue is down the road. For starters, take this: it is now estimated that 800 people die of AIDS-related deseases in Mumbai alone - every month!

Re: US economy & foreign policy

WHat interests me is how a screwed up domestic economy will shape American foreign policy (political and economic?) Any thoughts..

The deconcentration US power is undergoing can be seen in an historical perspective. Nixon betrayed the Bretton Woods agreement to keep the US$ gold-backed, and started spending with great profligacy, while the W.Euro allies and Japan were still forced to stick to their part of the bargain and support the US$ as a currency of seignorage in return for US military support against the Eastern Bloc. Post Cold War, that compulsion has almost vanished, and those crucial economic supports for US spending have been withdrawn. In fact, they are actively building alternative currencies to compete with the almighty dollar.

The upshot of it all was "dollar hegemony", and the artificially high standard of living in the US. The smartie-pants here thought they still had it all worked out when it looked like East Asia was going to be the new support, through a contrived system of dependency. But now that's proving to be untrue as those economies have started changing their behavior. Malaysia has already talked of a "gold dinar", and many ASEAN nations wanted an independent Asian Monetary Fund (tho now it will only be a subsidiary of the IMF). Moreover, India leapfrogged into the picture, posing credible competition to what the US considered its core competency.

The answer to Rachit's question can partly be gauged from the way US executives talk about how the services sector here plans to restructure to maintain competitiveness.

The US can gently let itself down and then compete more naturally by only one method – allowing greater immigration of willing workers (of all skill-levels) from certain other countries. The other politically infeasible option is to somehow convince its people that they really need to change their lifestyles and get used to tough times and a lower standard of living (which will anyway be achieved, on aggregate, by the former option).

The third option is to go the imperial Roman way and use the military muscle it built up on Euro-Japan-sponsored Star Wars profligacy, and forcibly create new hostage nations and dependencies.


The underdogs

Interesting Dem primary this.. every single candidate moves into New Hampshire claiming the underdog status. They are falling over each other to be the "official underdog". I believe there is a huge gap right at the top for one of them to take the leadership slot. Wonder if Kerry's missing the boat, NH opinion polls notwithstanding.

Mohammad Khatami keynote speaker at the Davos World Economic Forum

Very interesting choice this. I am not sure what the motivations are, but is Iran going the Libya way?

Re: State of the Union

Hehe... Andy Sullivan is honest I guess - he has already posted on his blog his thorough criticism. TNR has a piece tomorrow. Yippeee.... Bush might well have said "Read my hips" with this SotU.


State of the Union Address

First, I hope this would be the last SotU Address from GWB. I do not think I have the stamina or gullibility to sit thru one more of his deception sessions again.

Second, I think now that libertarians (fiscal conservative and social liberal folks) like Andrew Sullivan, who were fondly clinging on to hope, trying to dig out an absent compassion from inane words like "if necessary," ought to fess up now, and move on to other candidates (I would recommend Edwards). If Sullivan has any honesty at all, he would do that tomorrow in his blog.

Third, the President brought out his campaign strategy today - and its the basest of the base - two points - populist measures (however irresponsible, palace on the moon kinds they are), and that also failing, the argument that he is right this moment leading a war, and ought not be replaced. I hope Americans are awake to this.

More venting tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Re: My choice

Rachit, a very good question. I would say that it has already started affecting the foreign policy. An economically weak nation could not command the awe of others. Countries like Syria and DPRK (North Korea) knows this too well. Hence the continued help rendered to the Hezballah by Syrians or the continued intransigence of Kim Jong-il. Now, with mounting public debt, the doctrine of pre-emption will take a huge hit, and may be, de facto, rendered unimplementable.

What is surprising is that the hawks on defense have not caught up to it till now, and only the fiscal conservatives are crying foul in the GOP camp.


Re: My choice

On a more serious note, I think that enough damage has already been done to the economy. One of the key arguments for rising debt levels is that the economy will grow faster than the national debt. If that does not happen, as is the case now, then future generations (including us) are in for a tough time.

WHat interests me is how a screwed up domestic economy will shape American foreign policy (political and economic?) Any thoughts..

My choice

I have decided who I would love to see win the Presidential Elections 2004. George W. Bush.

Turns out, Dubya is planning to announce more costly plans tonite in his State of the Union address to the Congress. I suspect a hidden agenda here. I have a weird suspicion that the Bushies want to lose the elections, and watch the hapless dem who wins and becomes president face the massive fallout of what is left of the tattered economy.

And I want Bush himself to face the flak.


Monday, January 19, 2004
Kerry trumps in Iowa

Hmmm... so, JFK (John F. Kerry) has won Iowa. Interesting? Well, the interesting part has only now begun. I will come to that later. First, my theory on the decision of Kerry to concentrate on Iowa and not his neighbor New Hampshire.

Kerry must have felt that given the fact that he was slipping in the race, and Clark was becoming non-Dean in the race, must have been in a tight corner after the General decided to forego Iowa. Now, Kerry was faced with a possibility of a poor third place in Iowa (after Dick Gephardt, whose terrible showing was a surprise), a strong triangular contest in NH (Dean-Clark-Kerry) and a quadrangular contest in South Carolina (Edwards-Clark-Dean-Kerry). It would be an enormous task surviving all three blows. The weak stump in this sequence would be Iowa - leading to NH. Apparently, the idea has paid off well. With such a huge success in Iowa, he is bound to see a resurgence in NH - to the peril of Dr.Dean. I expect NH to toss up Kerry and Clark in first and second places (in either order), with Dean and Edwards taking the next two places. SC might go Edwards way.

All things considered, my view that this might drag on till the convention in Boston still holds. Only, the contestants there might now be Kerry, Edwards and Clark... let's see.


Why Bush might lose

Contrary to the perception of many, I still hold that Bush does NOT have the election sewn up. In fact, I would even venture to say that the danger of him losing is very real. Consider.

In poll after poll, GWB loses to democrats on both economy and foreign policy. The one factor where he beats teh democrats hands down is national security. Make no mistake, this would, most probably, be the biggest issue in the 2004 elections.

However, what we need to understand here is that the numbers could be misleading on this particular issue in all opinion precisely for the reason that the democratic candidate has not been decided. That fact introduces a huge uncertainty on an issue that is closely tied to the imagery of a strong protective hand. This could be one major reason why Bush wins hands down - of course, combined with the fact that he led the nation thru the nightmare of 9/11. However, once the Dem candidate is decided, esp if it is Kerry or Clark, Bush will take a beating on this number. I'll have fun watching that happen.


I have a better suggestion for Congress: Sonia can ask all her MPs to quit. Congress will then have zero MPs, and she can be absolutely sure the number will only go up!

Will You Be My Date? : OutLookIndia.com

Re: IIMs

What is even more surprising is the fact that no body seems to be bothered about the fact that right after graduation, guys from IIMs literally mint money. That being so, why should we not be thinking of short term loans etc?


Re: IIMs

One of the proffs at IIM Cal, Sushil Khanna, is a family friend. On a visit once a few yrs ago he brought the subject of the high fees up, and said exactly what's being said now -- that there are many loans available, and that students generally are able to repay quite soon after graduating and landing cushy jobs. BTW, this proff is a died-in-the-wool leftist (just thought I'd mention it).


Friday, January 16, 2004
A first and welcome sign

Students at IIM Ahmedabad have rejected a proposal to decrease their fees. They do not want to accept grants from the government, which might lead to watering down of the quality of the education they receive, with the govt taking control over the syllabus.

There seems to be some change - at least among the creme de la creme - in the attitude of seeing the govt as a cash cow.

Sure, we need to make sure that rich people do not fill IIMs, denying the others chance. However, the right way of solving that would be for the govt to institute fellowships for poor/middle class students who make it thru the challenging entrance procedure, and not try bringing IIMs under its control.

Students slam move to cut IIM fees


Religion and state

Was thinking abt the upcoming Davis case in SC when this struck me. In my article Why Justice Moore is Wrong, I argued on the basis of history, that Justice Moore was wrong in claiming that the ten commandments were the cornerstone of this country's constitution. There is a simple legal argument.

In Lemon v Kurtzman, the SC laid down three conditions for a statute to meet the enstablishment clause of the 1st Amendment: "First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances or inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster and excessive government Entanglement with religion."

Let us assume that the primary purpose of the display of the commandments is not propagation of religion, and that it is just a symbol of the history of laws in Western civilization (though technically, the Hebrews should be counted in as Middle Eastern people!). The simple fact that the state has to choose between which version of Tem Commandments to display would violate the third clause, entanglement. QED


Wednesday, January 14, 2004
IF indeed this article by Prem Shankar Jha is true, in future, I will choose ABV as the best PM India has had. More than that, it would add two names to my list of Indian Leaders with a Vision. Right now, the only name there is that of, who else, APJ. The two names would be, obviously, ABV, and Advani.

Remember, but for Advani's support, ABV could not have achieved all this. I would not agree with Jha if he thinks that musings of the PM are what changed the course of the party that now represents the right in India. Advani has always been the party man and if ABV has always needed his support to get his point across. The statesmanship he has shown at crucial junctures, such as the Mumbai conclave where he nominated ABV for PM candidacy, and, as Jha states, after Goa musings, have impressed me. I just hope he lives up to my opinion of him as a moderate man who just happens to have an ill-deserved reputation of an extremist.


For once, let him be defied

For once, I am happy to see the moderate Iranian PM defied and snubbed. Bushies are sure to claim credit if the Ayatollahs of Iran are defeated. This might even carry the day. But that would be a dangerously wrong lesson to draw.

Iranian theocracy was always about populism and the popularity of the clerics rose from the bazaar. The same bazaar is now clamouring for a more liberal setup. The echoes of this are what we are hearing in the Majlis now. Let not anyone be mistaken that this is a result of the misadventure of Bush next door.

Remember, Iranian reform started long before Bush entered the race for Presidency.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004
For once, Fareed Zakaria writes positively abt India. Note the last reference to Col.Q of Libya, and his son. Bush and his overzealous TSA should note this well... Overkill in the name of security would only stop foreign youth from coming into America. And America will lose a community working on its behalf, spreading her message, that easily outnumbers the largest number of diplomats State Dept could ever hire.



Absolutely nauseating:


Friday, January 09, 2004

I agree that there is a strong movement towards more regional outfits, and the two national parties have been losing votes. However, analysing these numbers can be more complex than is obvious. For one, when parties contest as a part of a coalition, it becomes very difficult to say how many votes came from one party and how many due to the other. However, it is indeed true that we are seeing very opportunistic alliances.

For example, Sonia pulled down the Gujral government over the Jain commission issue, demanding that the DMK be shoved out of the govt. Now, the same Karunanidhi, who was never really exculpated, is an ally of the lady at Janpath. BJP is no less. Jayalalithaa made every leader of the NDA grovel before her, plead her not to pull down the government just before the Golden Jubilee Independence day celebrations. And now, they are cooing abt her amazing capabilities.

The most important reason why the two parties are able to do this, to me, seems to be the absolute lack of difference between the two parties. It is not even clear if BJP is Congress Lite or if Congress is BJP Lite. It is simple fact that both will do whatever it takes to win an election. Why, Digvijay Singh was campaigning for a ban on cow slaughter - usually a slogan of the saffron brigade.

Ironically, I think it is precisely this cynicism of the two that permeates thru the populace, with the effect that every one wants to make sure that there own piece of pie is safe - hence the rise of sectarian parties that are nothing but special interest groups. Ultimately, I think it is just natural that these groups arise, once u make politics a marketplace.

The beauty of democracy is that it is dynamic and automatically so. Soon, we will see coagulation of these SIGs - that is what these coalitions are. And sometime in future, we can expect the two parties to metamorphose into SIGs themselves. Welcome to the Real World.


Thursday, January 08, 2004
Coalitions or convenience?

Congress-DMK, BJP-AIADMK, NCP-BJP-Shiv Sena, RKP-BJP, Congress-BSP, SP-BJP? I really wonder what the incentives are for these current or likely alliances. No principles, no ideology just marriages of convenience. More and more of post-contractual opportunistic behavior (PCOB) is being systematically encouraged. Whats worrying (and maybe inevitable) are the results of a study I was reading in EPW. Basically, in the recently concluded elections, both Congress and BJP lost vote share in favor of small-time obscure regional set-ups. Soon enough, we will have a polity of solely power brokers. I wish, like in business, there were shares of political parties, and every one of them was susceptible to take-overs !

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