Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dassault It Is

The government has decided to buy 126 French-made Rafale combat aircraft for the Indian air force, clinching a massive $11 billion defence deal, a top official said Tuesday.

Eighteen fighter aircraft will be delivered in ''fly away'' condition within 36 months and the remaining 108 are to be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. through technology transfers.

Defence ministry experts were still fine-tuning pricing details, including the cost of on-board weaponry and royalties for producing the aircraft in India. 

IE: France's Dassault Rafale wins IAF's biggest fighter jet deal

Update - Spiegel Online:
So far, all the negotiations Dassault has conducted with foreign governments interested in the Rafale have failed because the fighter jet has a tendency to require a lot of repairs and is thus more expensive to maintain and operate.  Dassault has unsuccessfully tried to sell its aircraft to Morocco, Brazil, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. In the end, though, not a single potential buyer bit.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mess with BJP

Whatever the likes of Swapan Dasgupta might say or defend, or Jaitley may argue, BJP is slowly loosing it's mind share, atleast amongst the intelligentsia.

The blame, entirely, is for Nitin Gadkari. He's failed to captivate the attention whole making headlines only for speaking out the "foreign origins" of Gandhi and her offspring.

As my dear friend rightly says, Gadkari is simply a fall guy for Advani who is pushing himself rapidly towards senility. In the due course, attempting to make the last solid push for the "power structure" that he never had.

Direct proof of this waning interest is the last "rath yatra" While the '90's saw a huge surge of popularity, no politician worth his salt can ignore vote banks. Specifically Muslim vote banks. They hold the key to tacit, overt or covert support to the political party in power and can make or break the aspirations.

Ditto for the scheduled castes and "outcast" Hindus. BSP has played havoc with the calculations. While traditionally they would have voted for BJP, in lieu of "Hindu Pride", but they have all defected to Congress or BSP.

The above foregoing account is just a reflection of the current scenario. It is based on generalizations rather than concrete evidence. However, it is undeniable that BJP is in a mess.

Possibly, Murli Manohar Joshi should be handed over the reins of party president ship. Modi should be projected as the PM candidate. Jaitley, whose writ doesn't run beyond Delhi Cricket Association should be made to articulate the party's view point at every forum possible. But these are merely suggestions and till the time committed electorate demand these changes, nothing is going to come out of it.
Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone

Sunday, January 29, 2012

manufacturing consent to "declare victory and run": wsj on Taliban 2.0 charm offensive. But remember Bamiyan and AI 804.

jan 29th, 2012 CE

this is part of obummer's "surge, bribe, declare victory and run like hell" strategy (with apologies to @chellaney).

this is the "declare victory" period, and the US media is colluding with the military-industrial complex in manufacturing consent to paint the Taliban once more as -- what was it that Reagan said,  the moral equivalent of the founding fathers, which i think is what he called the mujahideen fighting the soviets -- cuddly people "we can do business with".

but let's not forget Bamiyan. or the hijacked AI flight.

the Northern Alliance is still india's best bet in afghanistan. the tajiks have been our friends since day one. the taliban (aka ISI guys wearing black turbans) can never be india's, or the US's friend.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Killer Bugs And The Post Antibiotic Era

Highly resistant bacteria are spreading around the world. The killer bugs often originate in factory farms, where animals are treated whether they are sick or not.

Spiegel Online: Antibiotics Prove Powerless as Super-Germs Spread

Issues with online privacy

There are nameless faceless corporations or the one you'd know in your
daily use. Facebook, Google or unknown companies like double click
(acquired by Google) and many others. Facebook is known for leaking
profiles through third party applications even if you are marked private.

Over a period of time, your face (via pictures) is with
Facebook/Google,your searches tied to the profile, your ideological bent
of mind, political leanings, your tax returns, your sources of
entertainment etc. and in fact every aspect of your life is online.
These companies can build remarkable profiles for free. That explains
their net worth of these individuals because in this holy grail of
internet, it's impossible to define the users with accuracy.

It's impossible to get in the details for how you can avoid tracking on
the net. The methodology is very convoluted and technical. I am not
related to the computers field but I was concerned that with changes in
the privacy policies (that no one cares to read), searches being
filtered, websites tracking me with their unknown codes and bugs and ip
address broadcasting my location, I was concerned. I have not done
anything illegal but tomorrow the same issues would come to haunt you.
Got any incriminating picture? Or comments on your previous employer? Or
you have fouled up with anyone? It's remarkable that we don't take ANY
precautions while being on the internet.

The browser of choice is Firefox. It's open source. Opera ia fine
browser but it's a closed source and they are known to profile the users
as well. I remember some controversy where it was relaying the users
profile to their servers. While Opera is a fine company, still when it
matters the most, stick on to basics.

There are 5 ways that companies use to track you:

1) Through web bugs. Use Ghostery to block them.

2) Cookies: Either use private browsing mode to block all cookies (you
can refuse to accept them), or reject them after the web pages have
loaded up.

3) LSO's or "supercookies" residing in Flash Objects. Use Better Privacy.

4) ip address. Use a VPN service provider which offers openvpn

5) Through Java Script. Use Noscript to block the offending java
scripts. Well, there are enough tutorials on the net to guide you how to
use them.

And finally through browser fingerprinting. There is no way to avoid
this completely, but I use useragentswitcher addon from Firefox, block
java script that prevents detection of my browser or the operating system.

In Ubuntu/Linux, use Bleachbit program (open source) to clean off the
cache and persistent storage (HTML 5 and DOM objects).

I strongly recommend to use openSuse, Linux Mint Debian or Debian,
Chakra Linux or PC-BSD as operating systems of your choice. They are
easy to install and learn. Ubuntu is moving towards an "eco-system",
backed by a corporation and I don't like corporations.

AVOID Windows and Macintosh Systems. They may offer ease of use but are
one of the lousiest systems on this planet. Majority of the users don't
like tinkering with their systems but be prepared for the midnight knock
from Big Brother some day; just because you expressed an opinion.

Beware. Beware. Beware. That's the catch word.

Highly recommended to use duckduckgo/ixquick/yauba as your search
engine. These guys don't profile the visitors. If possible always use
https:// by default; the extension is available from addons (https

I hope that this helps.

FBI seeks to monitor social media. will kapil sibal be far behind?

jan 28th, 2012 CE

and of course, there will be cross-correlation opportunities with the UID, location-based data etc.

Big Brother is definitely trying to watch you. be afraid, be very afraid, tweeple.


twitter's decision to censor: san jose merc reports

jan 28th, 2012 CE

this is a sad day for freedom of expression. however you market it.

===== from good morning silicon valley copyright san jose mercury news

Twitter leads the way. To censorship, or transparency about censorship? After the San Francisco company announced yesterday that it will censor tweets on a case-by-case, country-by-country basis, disappointed tweets and reactions abound. After all, Twitter has had a reputation as the social network that gives the most leeway to its users, such as allowing them to use pseudonyms, for example; CEO Dick Costolo once proclaimed Twitter as “the free speech wing of the free speech party”; the company fought a government gag order in order to inform those with WikiLeaks ties that the U.S. government had subpoenaed their information. (See As U.S. pursues WikiLeaks, must Twitter turn over user data?)

But Twitter is a business. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian York writes, “Twitter is not above the law. … Just about every company hosting user-generated content has, at one point or another, gotten an order or government request to take down content.” In its blog post/announcement, Twitter says that as it expands its new policy is simply about staying within the limits of different countries’ laws, and says “we have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.” Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray told Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing that “this is not a change in policy.” In addition, he shot down rumors that the policy has anything to do with the Saudi prince’s $300 million investment in Twitter, which was announced last month. (See Quoted: Twitter’s royal investor has faith.) Meanwhile, Dave Copeland writes for ReadWriteWeb that by allowing users to change their country settings, Twitter is actually providing them with a workaround.


jan 28th, 2012 CE

sandeep takes the great white mogul whale and his festival to the cleaners.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: sanjeev nayyar


Festival of the Politically Correct Sissies: Part 1


January 25, 2012

There's nothing literary about the Jaipur Literary Festival. It's as political as political is. The list of who's who that make up its firmament year after year reads like the Forbes List of Liberal Fundamentalists.  Perhaps Dalrymple's List of Liberal Fundamentalists is a more accurate phrase. What "literature" have Shobaa De, Manil Suri, Pankaj Mishra, Ashis Nandy, Sonia Falerio, Suketu Mehta, Annie Zaidi, Anurag Mathur, and Tarun Tejpal written? Here's a sample of the kind of "literary" discussions you get at that "festival:" political trash, milking the victimhood mammary, non-existent identity issues, gender nonsense, and the rest.

And it isn't surprising because what has been bandied about as literature starting roughly from a couple of decades after World War 2 is usually this: sob stories of oppressed/colonized people, shrill & vacuous feminism, and increasingly, micro-sub-specialization of the Oppression/Victimhood sob stories—here's an idea for your next novel:

The Utterly Agonizing (or Utterly Heroic) Story of a Black (oh wait, make that "African American") Muslim American Woman, the child of a single dad, who struggles against all odds to become a pilot in an international airline. For added drama, have this pilot-chick go in search of her mother who had left the family when this pilot-chick was a kid. In the course of her flying to various international destinations, bring her to India where she finds that her mother was a Dalit nurse who had briefly stayed in the US, fell in love with this pilot-chick's African American Muslim father and gave birth to her.

THIS is the specimen of "literature" served at vulgar political charades like the Jaipur Literary Festival. Hell, you don't even need to read such books in full: just the title & a few words in the blurb is enough to give you a fair idea of the variety of the manure within.

... deleted

3/2, Vasanth Apts.II, 312, Lloyds Road, Chennai 600014


Google IS evil.

Google is definitely evil. They can do anything for money; even bend
their own rules for advertising for illegal prescription drugs.


What is the assurance that they would keep your privacy profiles to
themselves? What stops them from not sharing it with others or to target
advertising effectively? Or set it over to the regimes that snoop on
their populace?

You'd be surprised at the technology which is there to target you from
your ip location and estimate your probable location. Internet privacy
would be more and more intrusive in the long run.

what? no bharat ratna in this year's honors for the cricket god? why? aussies got your tongue?

jan 28th, 2012 CE

i just noticed that the aussies trounced the so-called indian team in cricket. and, yet again, the jewel of india fails to win the bharat ratna. all fixed, these honors, i tell you!

why, i wonder, hasn't the great cricketing legend won the bharat ratna this year?

is it because they are waiting for him to take on the surname 'nehru' or 'gandhi' as i surmised?

uk dailymail: modi will beat rahul [hint: time to get that good ole EVM machinery in gear]

Interfaith Dialogue: Discourse of the Deaf and the Dumb – Virendra Parekh

jan 28th, 2012 CE

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ishwar Sharan
Date: Sat, Jan 28, 2012 at 8:05 AM
Subject: Link: [New post] Interfaith Dialogue: Discourse of the Deaf and the Dumb – Virendra Parekh
To: Virendra Parekh

New post on Bharata Bharati

Interfaith Dialogue: Discourse of the Deaf and the Dumb – Virendra Parekh

Executive Icon"The Church inviting Hindus for an interfaith dialogue while going ahead with converting weaker sections of Hindu society through force, fraud and allurements, is like a pickpocket preaching virtues of renunciation to a man while relieving him of his purse. Hindu scholars and sanyasins must make stoppage of conversions by Church in theory and practice as a pre-condition to their participation in any interfaith dialogue." - Virendra Parekh

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg"Vade vade jayate tattvabodhah" (Every debate brings forth understanding of principles), says a Sanskrit subhashita. In their long history, Hindus as a people have been fond of discussing matters of religion, philosophy and spirituality, among themselves and with others. In spite of what Islam and its votaries had done to Hindus and their civilization, Brahmins participated in discussions organized by some Muslim rulers between scholars of different faiths. When a German missionary Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) sent in 1712 a large number of letters to a selection of Hindus inviting answers to a number of questions, he received no fewer than 104 responses.

Christianity, on the other hand, has traditionally preferred monologue i.e. it alone talked and others were made to listen. It was ensured in advance that the monologue was not disturbed by arguments from the other side. Convinced that it had the monopoly of Absolute Truth which others had to accept from it in all humility, it saw no need for holding any dialogue with any kind of paganism.

But times have changed. The collapse of Christianity in the West and the retreat of Western imperialism have forced the Church to change its methods. Buyers of its stale and discredited merchandise are becoming increasingly scarce. Gone are the days when the Church spoke and others had to listen. It can no longer use the might of the state (once described as secular arm of the church) to crush the adversaries. So, now the church is not just prepared to enter into a dialogue with heathens, it is actually organizing it.

But the Church is uncomfortable with the new environment. It knows, from its experience in the West, what reason and open inquiry can do to its dogma. At the same time, the closed and arrogant mindset, fashioned by centuries of dominance, has not changed. Short-term tactics have changed, but the long-term goal remains unaltered. There is a change in the language, but not in the ideology. These show a striking continuity over the centuries.

Brahmin panditFor instance, annals of the mission record one instance of a public debate in sixteenth century Goa, when Jesuits, aided by a convert, deputed with pundits. After a while, forty pundits were banished from the debate for "proving obstinate." No more dialogues were held in Portuguese possessions thereafter.

Writing four hundred years later, Richard Fox Young, who records this incident in his Resistant Hinduism (Vienna, 1981, pp. 20-21), concludes that Hindu tolerance towards other religions is a myth because Hinduism resisted Christianity instead of accommodating it! The author sees nothing wrong with the wanton Christian onslaught of which he himself provides prolific proof.

Sita Ram Goel & Ram SwarupIn our own day, the ex-communication is practiced in a more sophisticated way. Fr. Francis Xavier Clooney, professor at Harvard Divinity School, says that in the past Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Swami Vivekanand had attempted a critical look at the West from a Hindu perspective, but post-colonial authors like Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel had politicized the Hindu-Christian relationship. In other words, even the adversaries of the Church need a character certificate from it before their contributions are recognized. And the grant of that certificate depends on the degree of accommodation shown by the Hindu scholar to Christianity, especially to conversions.

Fr. Francis Clooney SJFr. Clooney would have been within his rights as well as bounds of a healthy dialogue if he had pointed out where these authors had misquoted a source, or quoted it out of context, and how the context altered the apparent meaning, or used logic which was not straight, or passed a value judgment which was not valid. But that is not on his agenda. The Church has no use for authentic scholars like Ram Swarupji or Sita Ramji precisely because their critique is too comprehensive, too accurate and too fundamental for its comfort.

... deleted, see below for URL


» The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

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drowned roma (gypsy) girls on beach; italians enjoy sunbathing http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-picture-that-shames-italy-873743.html

jan 28th, 2012 CE

i have seen the pathetic condition of roma in italy with my own eyes. there are old roma women on the streets of rome who prostrate themselves, begging for loose change.

and they look distinctly indian.

and these are the people, especially the vatican types, who lecture us about caste.


by the way, there are plenty of bangladeshi vendors hanging around the coliseum and so forth. so if you see subcontinentals, they are bangladeshis. i bought a small trinket -- a paperweight with a laser inscribed 3-d coliseum inside a transparent resin cube -- from them using my poor hindi to bargain them down from 5 euro to 3.

internet as a no-longer private medium: aumkar wasn't kidding, he was prescient

jan 28th, 2012 CE

when aumkar mentioned his concerns about the internet and lack of privacy, i was one of those who didnt take it so seriously. however two things in the recent past make me rethink (well, this in addition to india's Big Brother stuff, both from sibal and the radiamedia screaming to censor, and also from nilekani's UID project, which is a good way of identifying everybody you don't like and herding them into... well, let's not go too far down that path).

1. google has decided to consolidate the info it has on you from all its platforms. this is a little dangerous, because we use google mail, google chrome, google blogger, google android, google calendar, google youtube, google plus, google docs,....

this is precisely the reason i have been queasy about facebook and in fact i am not at all active on facebook. i don't want them to know more about me than i do myself.

2. twitter, which recently saw an investment of $300 million from the saudis -- i am not saying there's cause and effect, though one wonders -- has just declared that it will censor tweets by country.

so, aumkar, you were prescient.

so i took his advice, and first brought up ubuntu on an old machine. it was not so painful, and in fact i am writing this on ubuntu, which comes with firefox and libre office (which is the old openoffice) built in, and wifi as well.

second, i am moving away from chrome and to firefox

third, i will also look for a VPN. i was using tor on my old laptop (before it suffered a disk and CD drive crash, and so now i run it with ubuntu from an 8GB thumbdrive!), but i wonder if there's a need for anything more.

fourth, i will move off gmail slowly and get on some other platform

that's if for now, maybe you guys have some further thoughts on the matter.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why are Ficino children taught Sanskrit?

Why are Ficino children taught the Sanskrit language? 
Parents often ask why we teach Sanskrit at Ficino. There are many excellent reasons why we have chosen Sanskrit as the focus of language studies. It stands at the root of very many eastern and western languages, including English and most other European languages, both classical and modern. The word 'Sanskrit' means 'perfectly constructed' and its study illuminates the grammar and etymology of language. It is a language full of beauty: of pure sounds, of structure, of script, of poetry and prose. Study of its grammar brings order to the mind and helps clarify thinking as well as speech and listening skills. Sanskrit has one of the richest and most extensive literatures of all known languages; vast epics, profound scripture, subtle philosophy, voluminous mythology, exquisite poetry and much else. Sanskrit literature embodies a comprehensive map of the human makeup: spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. The Study of Sanskrit therefore provides a wonderful teaching resource as well as being infinitely stimulating for the developing mind. Finally, Sanskrit is a language of impeccable academic credentials and is hugely respected by the academic community. It often forms a point of interest, comment and admiration when scholars are interviewed for university admission.

She loved what she saw at Ficino School and was particularly impressed with the care given to handwriting, the stunning art work and the clarity of enunciation in the children’s speech. This latter point, which is a hallmark of the school, is a direct benefit of learning Sanskrit.

New Zealand school teaches Sanskrit and claims it helps children understand English

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Congress Govt Scapegoating Nair?

Former ISRO chief G Madhavan Nair has suddenly been dismissed from his post and barred from holding future govt jobs, along with 3 other ISRO scientists. No allegations had been raised against him personally before, but now suddenly he's being blacklisted, and a slough of allegations are being raised at the last minute. This may be an attempt by senior politicians to cover their own tracks on the Devas-Antrix deal by turning those below them into fall guys.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple’s iPad and the Human Costs for Workers in China

This is indeed a "minor headache" for Apple to deal with:


New York Times' "reporting" is full of hot air, warts, farts et al.

Apple has become a huge ecosystem and they zealously guard it. Silicon
Valley is a huge echo chamber because of the multitude of people willing
to rub shoulders with people who can spare cash to launch careers. Apple
knows the game and plays it very well spawning a huge enterprise of
people writing about it favorably.

Apple doesn't care two hoots about the "supply side" code violations
because all that matters is the bottom line.

The real reason perhaps is the migration of jobs away from America.
Obama has said nothing about such issues but rather makes headlines for
jobs being "bangalored". Manufacturing phones needs huge labor willing
to work for a pittance. Imagine Apple setting up sweat shops there in
US; paying less than $8 per hour to the white man sans medical,
insurance, paid leaves and other benefits. It would quickly go
"bankrupt". Not to imagine the "class-action suits" and Tim Cook (the
"supply side specialist") being hauled on hot burning coals for these
transgressions. Hence they prefer to hire their fancy PR specialists to
turn the tide in their favor; trick accounting practise's to show
"handsome quarterly profits" and being the "darling of the tech media
and consumers".

The slave labor has taken other meaning in these days and times.
Affirmative action has ensured that blacks don't get called as "niggers"
but rather euphemistically as "racial minorities" or
"African-Americans". Chinese (and Indians) are the next generation
slaves. All this is quietly hushed under "supply efficiencies" and
"capitalism". I am expecting automation of key components down the line
where human labor would be replaced by robots and other machines
rendering such issues useless in the coming years. Hence, this hot air
from New York Times is definitely a headache, but very unlikely to
affect Apple in the long run. For everything that you hold (most of the
electronics anyway), are being manufactured in China. Ditto for Nike,
Addidas, Blackberry, Samsung, Sony etc. Have they ever responded to
charges of child labor? If yes, has it affected the sales of these
multi-billion dollar corporations? No.

The first world is going to balk at what they are going to read, but
still going to show off the next generation of iPhone (I consider that a
useless piece of technology- it's just a pretty interface, that's all).
This is sheer duplicity; but then these are first world problems.

The Chinese are not going to loose their sleep on this. Why? Because
their burgeoning population is a good way to fuel the human organ
markets. So what if people get killed? Hunt down their organs and make
huge profits in the process. Their priorities lie elsewhere.

So what do these corporations do? Call up their PR agents, discredit the
story, launch FUD campaigns or fund the next conference more vigorously
calling it "effective engagement" with people bought to write for them
or feeding their fanboys more aggressively.

manufacturing consent: here come the 'good Taliban', via washpost

jan 25th, 2012 CE

weren't you just dying to know who the good taliban were? well, here you go. 

i am always amazed at the ability to the US to make believe that its 'surge, bribe, declare victory, and run like hell' strategy is meaningful.

yup, former taliban ambassador to pakistan, that is, the main link to godfather ISI. he *must* be a good taliban.

the americans also kid themselves that the taliban and other fundamentalists are techno-illiterate. they are not. i once met a mullah dressed in a mundu and a turban in a train in kerala, who was holding forth on womens' place according to their texts; but then he confided that he was about to buy a new laptop and asked me about the specs of my laptop. he was quite knowledgeable about computers.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

Washington Post, Jan 23, 2012

Former Taliban officials find new role

By Kevin Sieff

KABUL — A Toyota Corolla full of former Taliban officials and armed guards stopped in front of Abdul Salam Zaeef’s home in western Kabul this month, awaiting the man who helped direct the Taliban from Pakistan before his capture and detention at Guantanamo Bay.

With Zaeef inside, the car sped off for President Hamid Karzai’s palace, where the once-fugitive Zaeef has lately become a frequent guest.

As Karzai weighs the prospect of talks with Taliban officials in Qatar, Afghanistan’s government has invited Zaeef and others with long-standing ties to the Taliban to offer guidance and help mediate.

Afghan leaders have been disappointed by their lack of access to Taliban negotiators who have been speaking directly to the United States. But they have found an alternative in former insurgents — many of them imprisoned and later reintegrated — who live only a few miles from the palace gates.

And so Zaeef — a broad-shouldered, bearded man who was once the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan — has seen an unlikely resurgence in his diplomatic career. This time, he’s trying to convince the government, and anyone else who will listen, that the Taliban is serious about peace if its preconditions can be met.

“They are ready to discuss peace,” he said in an interview. “They have received the message from their leadership, and they are ready.”

Attempting to bridge divide

Thousands of former Taliban members have put down their weapons in recent years. Most are low-level fighters whose peace deals with the government were unceremonious and of little political consequence. But a few, like Zaeef, were offered early release from prison if they agreed to work with the government rather than against it.

Members of this small group have been having occasional conversations with Karzai for several years. But with peace talks drawing closer, they are meeting with top Afghan officials much more often, according to the president’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi.

... deleted

His large home holds the religious paraphernalia that he amassed as a Taliban leader, but there are hints of a new, secular life in the capital: an Adobe Photoshop user guide, files from his nascent real estate business and a newly purchased iPhone that, every once in a while, lights up with an incoming call from Karzai’s palace and blasts his ringtone, the Muslim call to prayer.

“I’m proud of what I did before,” he said before answering a recent call, “and I’m proud of what I’m doing now.”

Intrepid @SandeepWeb takes the white guy and #jlf to the cleaners. Nice!

William dalrymple is a metaphor for what's wrong with India: white moguls


(Sent via Seesmic http://www.seesmic.com)

on sony android phone

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

nehruvian secularism in glorious living color. #jaipurlitfest #rusdhie #insixwords

stratfor agrees with my pov that there should be iran-us detente

jan 24th, 2012 CE

i think it makes little sense either for iran or for the US to fight too much with each other and it's even worse for india. in fact it's a good opportunity for india to be the honest broker between them, as it is in india's national interest.

here's my firstpost piece on the same topic:

stanford: January 30: Becoming Harappan. [such great difficulty in calling it indus-sarasvati, even though it is mostly around sarasvati!]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sangeeta Mediratta <smedirat@stanford.edu>
Date: 2012/1/25
Subject: Anthropology Colloquium on January 30: Becoming Harappan: Configuring the Socioenvironmental Landscapes of the Indus Valley Civilization in Gujarat, India
To: southasia@lists.stanford.edu, southasiafaculty@lists.stanford.edu, southasiastudents@lists.stanford.edu


VoA on russia-iran history. quite entertaining: amoebas, 'countries w/o borders'!

jan 24th, 2012 CE

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: m

VOICE OF AMERICA, Jan 23, 2012

Russia and Iran: Uneasy Neighbors — Since the 16th Century

JAMES BROOKE, VOA Moscow Bureau Chief

Countries without natural borders are like amoebas. Over centuries, they expand and contract, expand and contract.

As the Western world wonders why Russia has such a nuanced policy toward Iran’s nuclear program, it is important to skip back over four centuries of history.

Under Ivan the Terrible, Russia defeated the Tatars and Russia started to expand east to Siberia and south to the Caspian Sea. There, it first encountered Persia, forerunner to modern Iran.

Persia’s first ambassador to Russia visited the Kremlin four centuries ago, in 1592. For the next century, wary coexistence ensued between the two empires, one Christian, the other Muslim.

Then, in 1722, Russia expanded south again, embarking on the first of four successful wars against Persia. Steadily, Russia gobbled up chunks of Persia’s Central Asian Empire. With the 1828 Treaty of Turkemnchay, the Caspian Sea became a Russian lake.

One author of that treaty was Russia’s new ambassador to Persia, Alexander Griboyedev, a witty and charming poet and playwright, recently arrived from the court in St. Petersburg.

But Persian resentment of the treaty boiled over when an Armenian eunuch escaped from the Shah’s harem and two Armenian girls escaped from the harem of his son-in-law. Under terms of the new treaty, Armenians were allowed safe passage from Persia to Russian-controlled Armenia. Ambassador Griboyedev stood on principle, and protected his Armenian charges.

What happened next, made the Iranian seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979, or the sacking of the British embassy two months ago, look like tea parties.

A mob of thousands of rioting Persian overwhelmed the Russian Embassy’s Cossack guards and slaughtered everyone inside. A few days later, the remains of the eunuch were so disfigured that he was only recognized by a scar on his hand.

When Griboyedev’s 16-year-old bride, Nino, learned of her husband’s fate, she became so distraught that she miscarried, and lost their baby. For the rest of her life, she refused all suitors. Today, a larger than life Griboyedev statue in Moscow is a popular meeting point for young people. In St. Petersburg, Griboyedev Canal is a picturesque waterway in the heart of historic city.

The embassy slaughter may live on in Russian’s popular image of Iran. But it did not deter the Kremlin, which retained control of Northern Iran through 1946.

In 1907, with the military rise of Germany, Russia and Britain decided to stop wasting their energy in their “Great Game” over the former Persian empire. That year, they signed in St. Petersburg, the Anglo-Russian Convention. Under this treaty, Persia was divided up between a northern Russian zone, a central neutral zone governed by a Shah, and a southern British zone. This allowed Britain to develop oil deposits in southern Iran and to build a refinery in Abadan. Founded in 1909, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company grew into what is known today as BP.

This division continued until August of 1941, when Britain and the Soviet Union conducted a joint, three-week military campaign and deposed the pro-German Shah, installed his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. For the next five years, the two foreign nations to oversaw what had now come to be called Iran.

In early 1946, the British pulled out, but the Red Army stayed in Northern Iran well beyond an exit deadline stipulated in the Teheran Conference of 1943.

By early 1946, the Cold War was starting and Stalin tried to prolong control over northern Iran by setting up two puppet Soviet republics and signing a oil treaty with Teheran that gave the Soviet Union ownership of 51 percent of northern Iran’s oil deposits. But soon after Red Army troops withdrew from northern Iran, the puppet republics collapsed. In late 1947, Iran’s parliament refused to ratify the oil agreement.

With this history in mind, I could barely repress a smile Wednesday as I sat in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s comfortable new press auditorium building. Minister Sergei Lavrov, perhaps hoping that no one in the hall knew history, was sternly warning that interference in the internal affairs of Iran is “impermissible.”

Here, morality in diplomacy may be dictated by changing realities on the ground.

Six decades of oil earnings and a swelling young population have given Iran a powerful military machine. Now, it may be building a nuclear bomb.

In contrast, the Russian amoeba has retreated. With an aging and shrinking population, Kremlin power projection has dramatically ebbed from the Soviet era high water mark.

In the Caspian, post-Soviet Moscow’s control has receded to about 20 percent of the 7,000 km shoreline. And half of the Russia portion is in Dagestan, where currently the hottest insurgency is underway in Russia’s Islamic south. Instead of Moscow reaching across the Caspian to destabilize Northern Iran, Moscow now fears Iran reaching across the Caspian to destabilize southern Russia.

Last year’s Arab Spring, ended a series of Soviet legacy relationships. Russian influence in the Mediterranean receded to a toehold in Tarsus, a naval base on Syria’s coast. Now, Russia seeks to prop up Syria’s government, its last Arab ally in the Mediterranean. This month, Russia sent to Syria its last aircraft carrier and fresh supplies of bullets for Syria’s army. But a large question mark hangs over the future of Syria.

And the Russian public has little taste in overseas military entanglement, whether Syria or Iran.

In Central Asia, Russia talks loudly, but acts cautiously, In June 2010, Roza Otunbayeva, then president of Kyrgyzstan, publicly asked Moscow four times to send troops to end ethnic rioting in Osh. President Medvedev replied that he would study the matter.

Russia’s political system may be authoritarian. But the Kremlin keeps its ear close to the ground through an extensive public opinion polling system.

A weakened military, an aging population, and little popular support for military adventures – these were not the concerns of Ivan the Terrible, or of his modern day equivalent, Joseph Stalin.

So, today, as the Russian amoeba retracts, there is no indication that Russia’s leaders want to tangle with Teheran.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ensure your anonymity...NOW!

There are several reasons why you should always cover your tracks online. Internet is no longer anonymous; but with improvement in technology and geo-location, it's surprisingly easy for the websites to track your every move, every link you click and potentially turning all this to repressive regimes.

It starts with few basic precautions and assumes that you have a working knowledge of the terms. I am not an expert in all such issues but here it goes.

1) Use Firefox alone as your browser. Google Chrome may be good, but it sends across tonnes of encrypted data to Google servers tracking your every move and the searches you make. Although it says that it uses the information to "enhance the usage", it's load of BS.

2) On Firefox, use Ad-Block Plus, Ghostery, Better Privacy and No-Script extensions. No-Script may be difficult for beginners but there are tonnes of tutorials available.

3) Avoid Flash. If possible, use HTML5 on sites like Youtube. Flash leaves tonnes of cookies in your browser session; this is potentially dangerous.

4) Ditch Windows and Mac OS and use Linux. Ubuntu is a perfect operating system for those who are migrating to Windows. I prefer to use Open Suse. I have NEVER used a firewall or an antivirus for linux; this may not be an acceptable practice but I have never faced an issue ever with this. For those who are bit more experimental, PC-BSD is an excellent choice and highly recommended for intermediate users.

5) Use VPN to get a new ip address. Look for a service provider that offers open VPN and high security like 256 bits. All your isp would see is an encrypted connection.

These are some of the measures to escape the oppressive regimes. Make sure that your tracks are well covered, use a paid email service provider instead of Gmail or Yahoo, remove all cookies at end of session. These are some of the common sensical means to avoid "detection" and have the things traced back to you.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, that for basic needs a person might use a proxy like "hidemyass". It's available on the Firefox extensions menu and when you click on it, it routes the traffic through it's own proxy. But beware, this company got a lot of flak recently for exposing it's users.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Our English Obsession

We shouldn't even be having English medium in Primary schools, leave alone English Headmasters. 
A British national, who was working as the Head Master of an international school at Sahakaranagar, was arrested by Kodigehalli police on charges of seeking sexual favour from a boy at his school.The accused has been identified as Paul Francis Meekan (38), a native of London.
Briton held for seeking sexual favour from boy

Fatwa against Xtists in Kashmir

SRINAGAR: A self-styled Sharia court in Srinagar on Thursday issued a fatwa asking three Christian priests to leave Jammu & Kashmir for "luring the Valley's Muslims to Christianity". The fatwa also directed the state government to take over the management of Christian schools in J&K, besides monitoring church activities. The outrageous edict follows last November's arrest of pastor M C Khanna of All Saints Church in Srinagar.

According to Nasir-ul-Islam, deputy to grand Mufti Bashiruddin, four Christian priests are involved in luring Kashmiri Muslim youth to convert to Christianity. "Punjabi MC Khanna, Dutch national, Jim Borst, and Gayoor Messah were told to leave the Valley for their involvement in conversions. Case against the principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, Parvez Samuel Koul, is under investigation. A judgment will announced in due course," said Naib Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam. Besides the decree, Sharia court asked the government to involve itself with the management of missionary schools.

I'm tickled pink to imagine the reaction of Messrs. John Dayal and Cedric Prakash, et al - enablers, chroniclers and propagandists of Jihad terrorism in India as a whole. These fellows have fashioned a grand alliance between Mullah and Missionary, based on their fundamental unity of purpose, namely to destroy India's Hindu identity.

After filtering out the Jihad/ Sharia bellicosity reflected in the Fatwa, I do find myself in agreement with the wise
Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam - to the extent that Christist missionaries
are perpetrators of terror at a civilisational level whose activities need to be curbed urgently across the country, not just in Kashmir. Taking over the administration of Christist institutions is also a good idea.

These need to be nationalized by the government and the curriculum decided after thorough vetting by patriotic minded Indians. The Vatican is welcome to continue funding of course, provided that mischievous elements with dubious credentials, ex: John Dayal are given an appropriate severance package, namely that they would be spared any physical molestation.

Escaping Afghanistan: the Graveyard of Empires by @chellaney

jan 22nd, 2012 CE

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: sanjeev nayyar

Lovely article. Shooting straight. Also read ‘What the West can learn from Afghanistan’ by Rakesh K Simha http://www.esamskriti.com/essay-chapters/Conquering-Afghanistan~-What-the-West-can-learn-from-India-1.aspx.
It was Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army who defeated the Afghans. Has anyone defeated them after that?

The Japan Times, January 21, 2012

Since coming to office, President Barack Obama has pursued an Afghan war strategy summed up in just four words: “surge, bribe and run.” The U.S.-led military mission has now entered the “run” part, or what euphemistically is being called the “transition to 2014″ — the year Obama arbitrarily chose as the deadline to wind down all NATO combat operations.

The central aim is to cut a deal with the Taliban — even if Afghanistan and the region pay a heavy price — so that the United States and its NATO partners exit the “Graveyard of Empires” without losing face. This effort to withdraw as part of a political settlement without admitting defeat is being dressed up as a “reconciliation” process, with Qatar, Germany and Britain getting lead roles to help facilitate a U.S.-Taliban deal.

Yet what stands out is how little the U.S. has learned from past mistakes. In some critical respects, it is actually beginning to repeat past mistakes, whether by creating or funding new local militias in Afghanistan or striving to cut a deal with the Taliban. As in the covert war it waged against the nearly nine-year Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, so too in the current overt war, U.S. policy has been driven by short-term considerations, without much regard for the interests of friends in the wider region.

To be sure, Obama was right to seek an end to this protracted war. But he blundered by laying out his cards in public and emboldening the enemy.

Within weeks of assuming office, Obama publicly declared his intent to exit Afghanistan, before he even asked his team to work out a strategy. He quickly moved from the Bush-initiated counterinsurgency strategy to limited war objectives centered on finding a face-saving exit. A troop surge that lasted up to 2010 was designed not to militarily rout the Taliban but to strike a political deal with the enemy from a position of strength. But even before a deal could be negotiated, rising U.S. casualties and war fatigue prompted him to publicly unveil a troop drawdown, stretching from 2011 to 2014. If the surge failed to militarily contain the Taliban, it was largely because its purpose had been undermined by Obama at the very outset.

A withdrawing power that first announces a phased exit and then pursues deal-making with the enemy undermines its regional leverage. It speaks for itself that the sharp deterioration in U.S. ties with the Pakistani military has occurred in the period after the drawdown timetable was unveiled. The phased exit has encouraged the Pakistani generals to play hardball.

Worse, there is still no clear U.S. strategy on how to ensure that the endgame does not undermine the interests of the free world or further destabilize the region. It is also unclear whether the U.S. after 2014 will be willing to rely on its air power and special forces to keep Afghanistan in the hands of a friendly government and army — or whether it will do what it has just done in Iraq: pull out completely and wash its hands off the country.

Think of a scenario where Obama had not played his cards in public. Immediately after coming to office, Obama could have used his predecessor’s diversion of resources to the Iraq war to justify a troop surge in Afghanistan while exerting full pressure on the Pakistani generals to tear down insurgent sanctuaries. Had that happened without the intent to exit being made public, not only would many Afghan and American lives have been saved, but also the side desperate for a deal today would have been the Taliban, not the U.S.

The outcome of the current effort to clinch a deal with a resurgent Taliban is uncertain. Even if a deal materializes and is honored by the Taliban on the ground, it cannot by itself pacify Afghanistan.

Although Afghanistan historically was designed as a buffer state, it does not today separate empires and conflicts. Rather, it is the center of not one but multiple conflicts with cross-border dimensions. Given Afghanistan’s major ethnic and political divides, genuine national reintegration and reconciliation would make a lot of sense.

However, instead of opening parallel negotiating tracks with all key actors, with the aim of eventually bringing them together at the same table, the U.S. is pursuing a single-track approach focused on achieving a deal with the Taliban. Such is its single-mindedness that a conscious effort is under way to keep out representatives of the National Front (formerly Northern Alliance) from even international conferences on Afghanistan.

In fact, the choice of Doha, Qatar, as the seat of U.S.-Taliban negotiations has been made with the intent to cut out the still-skeptical Afghan government and to insulate the Taliban negotiators from Pakistani and Saudi pressures. The choice also meshes with U.S. efforts to build Qatar as a major promoter of Western interests in the Arab world, on the lines of Saudi Arabia.

Just as oil wealth has propelled the Saudi role, gas wealth is driving the Qatari role — best illustrated by Qatar’s military and financial contributions to regime change in Libya and its current involvement in fomenting a Sunni insurrection in Alawite-ruled Syria, the last remaining beacon of secularism in an increasingly Islamist-oriented Arab world.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. containment push against Iran threatens to compound the internal situation in Afghanistan. Iran’s nuclear program is a factor behind the new containment drive. But a bigger factor is the intent not to allow Iran to be the main beneficiary of the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq and the planned NATO exit from Afghanistan. Yet, without getting Iran on board, building a stable Iraq or Afghanistan will be difficult.

In truth, U.S. policy is coming full circle again on the Pakistan-fathered Afghan Taliban, in whose birth the CIA had played midwife. President Bill Clinton’s administration acquiesced in the Taliban’s ascension to power in Kabul in 1996 and turned a blind eye as that thuggish militia, in league with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, fostered narco-terrorism and swelled the ranks of the Afghan war alumni waging transnational terrorism. With 9/11, however, the chickens came home to roost. In declaring war on the Taliban in October 2001, U.S. policy came full circle.

Now, U.S. policy is coming another full circle on the Taliban in its frantic search for a deal. This has been underscored by a series of secret U.S. meetings with the Taliban last year and the current moves to restart talks in Qatar by meeting the Taliban’s demand for the release of five of its officials who are held at Guantánamo Bay. Mohammed Tayeb al-Agha, an aide to the one-eyed Taliban chief Mohammad Omar, has emerged as the Taliban’s chief negotiator with Marc Grossman, America’s Afghanistan-Pakistan (Afpak) envoy.

The Qatar-based negotiations serve as another reminder why the U.S. political leadership has refrained from decapitating the Taliban’s top command-and-control. The U.S. military has had ample opportunities to eliminate the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, often called the Quetta Shura because it relocated to the Pakistani city in 2002.

Yet, tellingly, the U.S. military has not carried out a single drone, air or ground strike against the shura. All the U.S. strikes have occurred farther north in Pakistan’s tribal Waziristan region, although the leadership of the Afghan Taliban or its allied groups like the Haqqani network and the Hekmatyar band is not holed up there.

The sanctity of existing borders has become a powerful norm in world politics. Border fixity is seen as essential for peace and stability. Yet, paradoxically, the norm has allowed the emergence of weak states, whose internal wars spill over and create wider regional tensions and insecurities. In other words, a norm intended to build peace and stability may be creating conditions for greater regional conflict and instability. This norm is likely to come under challenge in the Afpak belt, where the dangers of political fragmentation cannot be lightly dismissed.

When history is written, the legacy of the NATO war in Afghanistan will mirror the legacy of the U.S. occupation of Iraq — to leave an ethnically fractured nation. Just as Iraq today stands ethnically partitioned in a de facto sense, it will be difficult to establish a government in Kabul post-2014 whose writ runs across Afghanistan.

More important, Afghanistan is not Vietnam. An end to NATO combat operations will not mean the end of the war because the enemy will target Western interests wherever they may be. The U.S. hope to regionally contain terrorism is nothing more than self-delusion. If anything, this objective promises to keep the Afpak belt as a festering threat to regional and global security.

Brahma Chellaney is an Asian geostrategist and the author of six books
Warm Regards
sanjeev nayyar
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[New post] Theology of monotheism is disguised materialism – Sita Ram Goel

jan 22nd, 2012 CE

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ishwar Sharan
Subject: Link: [New post] Theology of monotheism is disguised materialism – Sita Ram Goel


New post on Bharata Bharati

Theology of monotheism is disguised materialism – Sita Ram Goel

Sita Ram Goel"One may spend a lifetime searching this theology of Monotheism for a factual or rational proof of what it proclaims so pompously. But the search will be in vain. For, all the time it assumes what it wants to prove, and proves what it has already assumed. At its best, it is a syllogism of which the major as well as the minor premise are arbitrary assertions." - Sita Ram Goel

Jehova / AllahLet us for the time being forget the Freudian analysis of Christianity and Islam, though that analysis provides an intimate peep into the psyche of these primitive creeds. Let us have a look at the philosophy underlying their doctrines, and find out if they have any share in the spiritual seeking which is intrinsic to human beings and which stands systematized in Sanãtana Dharma.
Christianity and Islam differ on many points of detail. But they share a common view of what they invoke as the creator and controller of the cosmos, as well as of the cosmic process. In the language of theology, they describe their basic dogma as Monotheism as opposed to what they denounce as Polytheism and Pantheism. It is this basic dogma which needs a philosophical probe deeper than that to which it has been subjected so far.
The term Monotheism casts such a magic spell on certain minds that they stop at its literal meaning - the concept of one God as opposed to many Gods. But the literal meaning tells us little, almost nothing, about its theological inspiration or its practical implications.
In the theology of Monotheism, God is extra-cosmic. He created the cosmos out of Nothing in order to demonstrate his almightiness and, consequently, kept himself outside and above the Cosmos. There is nothing in God's creation which can partake of God's divinity. The elements and forces of Nature are devoid of any divinity whatsoever. The sky is empty space, and the Sun and the Moon and the Stars are only bright spots in that sky. Matter is absolutely material, and animals and birds are mere brutes unless they are domesticated when they show some improvement. Trees are timber, and the flowers embody no more than colour and fragrance. Air and water and fire and earth are what they are, and point to nothing beyond.
Adam & EveIt is only man who is placed on a higher pedestal because the Almighty God blew his own breath into the handful of dust which he used in order to manufacture Adam, the male ancestor of the human race. Woman cannot share man's status because Eve, the female ancestor of the human race, was carved out of Adam's rib without the benefit of God's breath being blown into it. Man is thus the best of God's creation, the ashraf-ul-makhlûqãt.
But it is an unpardonable folly and a cardinal sin for man to fancy that he shares even an iota of God's divinity. The only privilege which man enjoys as God's best creation is to lord it over the lower creation which God has made for man's use and benefit. Man can exploit the material resources of the earth in whatever way he pleases. Man can eat every bird and fish and animal for God has created them specifically for man's consumption. And man can marry and divorce and keep as his concubines any number of women, at any stage of his three score and ten years. (The monogamy we find in Christianity is not prescribed by the Christian scripture. It was an institution which it borrowed from the pagan Romans.)
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