Dec 302006

I am not shedding tears at the death of Saddam. Nor is this a rant on the inappropriateness of the death sentance. Instead it is a lament for justice.

‘Justice’ that is delivered without due process being followed is vigilantism – and there is no worse example for Democracy (let’s not forget that Iraq was invaded to restore Democracy) – than a seeming kangaroo court delivering a pre ordained sentance. This is not the poster campign for the ‘restoration of Democracy’.

To say that the Americans and the British have screwed this one up beyond measure is an understament beyond compare.

Nov 192006

I lived in Great Britain between 1986 and 1994, where I studied Economics and then Communication Policy. I was there during the height and then the decline of the [tag]Thatcher[/tag] era. I would think that it would be impossible to be studying Economics, understanding sociology and living in Thatcher’s Britain and not be influenced by [tag]Milton Friedman[/tag]

Friedman turned the attention of policy makers from complex calculations involving various macro economic indicators – to the most simple point of control in the economy – the consumer. He advocated putting choice back in the hands of you and me and reccommended that all barriers to our decicion making be dismantled – this included taxation, government regulations, and social restrictions – leaving us free to make our choice out of our own free will.

His conviction that:

Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.

is an idea that transformed economies. I have personally seen it in action both in Britain and in India. The freeing up of credit, the lowering and rationalising of taxation, privatisation, the decrease in regulation, the rise of entreprenuership, the increase in choice & consumption and the growth in home ownership are probably the most visible aspects of the broad application of the monetarist policy.

Have I benefited through the broad application of Friedman’s thoughts to economic policies? The answer is a resounding yes. Has society as a whole benefited – the jury is still out on that. My personal view is that monetarist policies gave a great impetus to talent across the board. But, the gradual dismantling of safety nets in both the petri dishes of monetarism – Thatcherite UK and Reagan’s USA – have let too many in society slip through the cracks. My problem with the various applications of the monetarist tradition is not so much the disdain of the state (which I share), but a disregard for society. I remember Thatcher famously debunked society by claiming :

“There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”.

And much of the policies followed suit. The same was the issue with the US. And, today 20 years later, much of the problems that face both economies derive from the kind of policies adopted by the governments. While, Friedman was not an apologist for big business, primarily because he saw a lot of businesses act and influence policy in a manner that was against their long term self interest, those who adapted his theory into policy failed to see that.Consecutive administrations – in different parts of the world – that have paid tribute to his influence have essentially ended up dismantling inefficient government monopolies and replacing it with inefficient private monopoly. The freedom of choice that Friedman demanded for the consumer – remained a mirage in many cases.

Also both with Thatcher and Reagan, and the inheritors of their legacy – the disengagement within society was accompanied by an involvement in other societies – war and escalation of tensions. And, somehow war has a nasty habit of distorting economic results. It’s such a huge external factor in terms of Government spend, and brings money to various parts of the economy and tends to stimulate the economy as a whole. And both nations that adopted strongly monetarist policies to deal with their internal economy, ended up using a healthy bout of Keynesian Government spend in war involvements. So how much of the prosperity and growth in the UK and the US was due to unclogging bureaucracy and restrictions, and how much of it can be attributed to the good old war economy is something that both sides would fight till the cows come home.

The other genuine problem that I had with the tradition was how it saw economic freedom to be a pre requisite for political freedom – and seemingly condoned repressive dictatorships so long as they practised free market policies. And that is primarily because I believe that a stable and growing economy requires a stable society. Political repression leads to social instability, which in turn will cause economic uncertainty. Economic freedom, political freedom a sensible approach to social welfare/responsibility need to go hand in hand for creation of overall conditions that are conducive to citizens, business and consumers in the long run.

Despite this, Friedman’s vision of a free and unfettered economy formed the basis of many of the things that we take for granted today. The ability of consumers to take various providers to task, the n number of cell phone providers, the cost of calls dropping at an accelerating rates, variety in airlines, a choice of financial instruments, the ability to start a business, the facility to buy a home, the right to choose between many. But above all the legacy that he leaves for an ordinary person –is the ability to dream of achievement – and achieve it –without being strangulated by regulations.

Sep 172006

I have been following utterances on [tag]Islam[/tag] in various media. His seeming endorsement of the view that Islam spread through the sword, had some of us across the world choking with anger, many of us choking with the sheer embarassment of a Head of State being an utter idiot, and some others of us choking with chortles of guffaws. Mine was actually a combination of all theree.

Anger – because in an already polarised world – a head of state and a head of religion has no business behaving like an absolute idiot. While people are dying of hunger, women getting raped for getting educated, people dying of AIDS while organised religion demands prevention of sex education rather than prevention of AIDS, where women still believe that burning themselevs to death with their husband is required, quoting some bigot from the 14th century to stir the pot of bigotry seems to be a good way to divert attention from the issues. After all, we must accept that all fundamentalists have a common agenda. And this current Pope is probably as fundamentalist as any of them. And I define a fundamentalist view as one that believes his/her way is superior to all others and consequently all other views are inferior to his/her’s.

Embarassment – because this kind of stupidity is horrifyingly embarassing. It is like watching a [tag]Ben Stiller[/tag] film or [tag]Kareena Kapoor[/tag] trying to ape a [tag]Helen[/tag] in Don. A kind of horrified fascination as to how much lower can it sink – and they show you :). I have been following the [tag]Pope[/tag]’s condoms cause aids’ logic and his abortionists are sinners thread – but this is by far the most embarassing in its stupidity. It is a bit like quoting the Nazis to describe the allies in the second world war – after all the 14th century was a period of war between the ‘civilizations’.
Amusement because I love it when the pot calls the kettle black. The sheer gall and hypocrisy of his statement made me chuckle. How does the Pope think that Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, spread. What did he think that the armies of Spain and Portugal did in South and Central America and in whose name; what did he think that happened in Europe between the time Charlamagne converted and the begninig of the Crusades, what did he think happened in Africa – enslaving a people because they are heathen and then coverting them, and what about the rights of Jews in Christian Europe – even before the 1930’s! And what was his own Church’s position when it came to the Holocaust or even women’s rights, or in the fight against AIDS. Or indeed to knowledge, science and human rights. If left to the Church – Europe would still be in the dark ages, women would still be barefoot, perpetually pregnant and in the kitchen and there would still be the Divine Right of Kings.

If it comes to a choice of organised religions – there is not much to choose from. They all have their moments of glory, compassion, wisdom and caring and long centuries of just the opposite. The Pope’s attempt to score brownie points – in this context – is simply stupid.

Sep 112005

George W Bush is hoping that the spirit of 9-11will help him get out of the mess that his administration’s ineptitude has landed him in. Imagine a government so incompetent, that it makes Vilasrao Deshmukh look good!

I wonder whether invoking the spirit of 9-11 means a) blaming Iraq for Katrina or b) going to war with Iran to divert attention from the fact that the system was caught napping?

Or, the spirit of 9-11 could also mean a good Christmas kind of spirit where all old friends could land up with reconstruction contracts.

Maybe it means all three. It should be interesting to see the spin on this one!

I know that it is said that a country deserves the leadership that it gets – but the Americans are by and large decent people. nice people. and surely they deserve better than this!

Sep 092005

The Day has arrived. And after an extensive search through Indian blogdom – this week’s Bharateeya Blog Mela is finally in place. Thank you for all those who nominated. And as usual, this task would have been chaotic without Bloglines.


JK at Varnam announces the setting up of the new History Blog – The Palm Leaf
Sid at Patang announces the release of the Carpool Beta – an interesting social software that helps you share vehicles in a geographical area. And with the price of petrol being what it is (almost Rs.49 per litre) in Mumbai, VC’s might start keeping a beady eye on this software :)


Cerebral Shangrila
sallivates about the new Visa Ad starring Richard Gere .

Object Petit M – in the CSF – writes about how Yahoo’s business policies in China have led to a Chinese journalist Shi Tao being sentanced to 10 years in prison.
Sambhar Mafia blogs about Tata’s 75% stake in Landmark in an all cash deal worth 103 crores. So can we see book stores with Chai bars soon?
Kartik has an interesting take on why the Tamil publishing industry is in the doldrums.


58 years after Independence, we still havent’ managed to shrug off the evil of caste. Somehow society and religion seem to tolerate it. And even today – Dalits face atrocities that would have us screaming “human rights violations” if it happened elsewhere.
As Aparna points out

Again an upper caste ire
Set Dalit homes on fire
What leaves me aghast
Is that the issue of caste
Even today can such violence inspire!

Uma at Indianwriting in the duty of the rich castes ponders about the difference betwen big crimes – setting fire to a row of houses – and little crimes – preventing a Dalit girl from cycling to college. She recommends that we read Viramma: Life of an Untouchable. To that I would add read Untouchable by Narendra Jadhav. It is an eye opener. Abi at Nanopolitan looks at the same atrocity that happened at Gohana – and observes wrly that individuals – even those who should know better – would worry about the impact of this incident on FDI. And Anand looks at the torching of Dalit homes in much ‘more enlightened’ Maharashtra.


Ruth writing in CSF – talks about her work with the Tsunami Victims in Tamil Nadu, and how after almost 7 months they are nowhere near finished.

Arzan blogs about how post independence India allowed two brilliant architects – and town planners – Le Corbusier & Louis I. Kahn to help develop a new style of architecture.

Govindraj Ethiraj – in Dateline Bombay – A Reporter’s Tales looks at the disaster that is the urban landscape of Bangalore and asks compares the work ethic of the hi-tech IT firms there with that of those who provide public services – such as roads and desilted drains.

And, Nitin writing in the Acorn – has an analysis of the Human Development Index in India and our neighbourhood. He says,

India’s ranking is also a reflection of the inertia that has come to characterise its progress towards privatisation of industry, education and social services.

Akshay of Trivial Matters has a photograph that he clicked featured on United Children of the World. It is truly a picture that symbolises hope.

September 5th being Teachers’ day – there were a number of posts around that event. Patrix blogs about President Kalam’s message to create life long learners and enlightened citizens. Arzan tells us to take some time out to wish a teacher who made a difference to our life. Twillight Fairy looks at a sari wearing experience – which makes her look like chirpy Chawla (Juhi) – on the occassion of Teacher’s Day, a long time ago.

Anand writes about the need for a child inspired education system, without which learning may not be effective. Michael Higgins has an interesting post on who should guide Children’s Education.

On the occasion of International Literacy Day – Uma has a beautiful post – Post Card to Akka – her experiences of Karnataka’s adult literacy movement.

Charu writes about the need to strengthen the undergraduate programme
And finally, if it wasn’t true it would truly be funny. Sunil has a wry look at Pew’s latest survey on religion in education (in the USA). And Srikanth has a rib tickling account of how theologists want to introduce Creationism as part of the science curriculum. He quotes from Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert):

By definition, people with bad ideas cannot be swayed by logic. If they were logical, they wouldn’t have bad ideas in the first place – unless the ideas were based on bad data


Kamesh’s post on Hijacked Gods re examines the Gujarat riots after seeing Rakesh Sharma’s Final Solution. He wonders : “Why do people forget that “Man can exist without religion, but religion cannot exist without man”.

Faderu of CSF looks at Police Fascism in Mumbai in cancelling the Independence Day Rock. Kunal of Ceteris Paribus expresses his outrage elequently on the same issue, as does Amit Varma of India Uncut in Rock is Evil.


Atanu Dey has an extremely well written out post on Faith and its multiple facets. He points out that only the feeble minded will use faith as a crutch to deal with what happens after death. He also looks at the connection between the Hindu concpet of time – kalpa – and cosmology. Methinks that he is reading too much Fritzof Capra. Ashsih says that we are so busy admiring what we did in the past that we are somehow stuck there, like a broken clock.
Subhas provides a rather impassioned defence on why he has faith but is not feeble minded.

And of course Saket talks about why he feels completely ‘intellectually arrogant‘ in his firm faith that there is no God. Reminds of an online exchange of ideas i had with Amit on whether atheism is a faith. of course it is :)
Nilu has an interesting set of posts about Advaita and futility.
Sunil talks about the most cuddly of all Gods – Ganesh – and about the goodies that were made during his child hood days. Somehow, theist or atheist – when it comes to good modaks and pedas, everthing is maaf.
And finally, Hemant of Instant Kaapi says that If A R Rahman turns Prophet for a new religion and promises to use his songs for sermons, he would be the first convert. Interesting faith that would be :)

Gender Issues

Annie writes about missing women. Women who are never ever born. Women who are killed before they are ever born.

there are at least a million women out there who agreed to, if not actively opted to, kill their girls – born or unborn. Mothers who are not facing starvation-level poverty. Mothers who, possibly, were neither unmarried nor raped. Grandmothers who pushed their daughters-in-law into getting rid of granddaughters.

I fail to emphathize, because my imagination completely fails me.

Charu writes about empowring Sita and Draupadi, and quotes Anand Bakshi – “Sita bhi yahan badnaam huvi”
Vikrum blogs about eve teasing at 35,000 feet on Kingfisher Airlines. And how, there was really no point in complaining – becuase Kingfisher Airlines used a marketing strategy that sells sex. All you have do is see the hoardings around Mumbai to know that he is right.
Primary Red blogs about how four women were paraded half naked over a property dispute and how the police refused to file a complaint.

Sakshi writes about Alimony and asks if some women are misusing the law.

Katrina occupies the mind space of a number of Desi bloggers. Maitri from New Orleans has a day by day post on the situation there.
Amardeep Singh asks if the Government has the right to forcibly evacuate people who don’t want to move.
Gawker is furious with Michael Brown the head of FEMA – who blamed the victims for not getting out of town. Rueben feels much the same, especially to the US Govenrment response that they didn’t know how severe Katrina could be. And he quotes a pastor on the devestation:

“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleansnow is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion — it’s free of all of those things now,” Shanks says. “God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there — and now we’re going to start over again.”

Ouch! It redefines compassion and charity.

And this seems to redefine grace – Uma has this blistering post on Boing Boing’s response to India’s aid (5 million dollars and army assistance).

What is poverty seems to be the topic of a cross continental debate. It all began with John Scalzi’s Being Poor. Peter Griffin, comparing the post to his rear has this in reponse :). And Dina jams in with this – being Poor in India. And Madhoo recalling her earlier years in Vizag, talks about the fact that sometimes the poor don’t really want to be helped.

And Finally

Jabberwock celebrates one year of blogging.
Neelakantan tells us how to identify anti – globalisation aunties.
Aparna has a limerical take on the Mangal Pandey fracas.
Nilu writes about the pissing contest that he has with himself :) Nilu, please let us know who won this one :)
Secrets of my Inner World has a litany on Apples.
Rashmi Bansal writes on a new form of ABCD – Apna Bharatiya Chinese Dish
Dinesh asks “to swear or not to swear is the question” (with all apologies to the bard).
Sulfury has a A to Z of the world according to George Bush.
And, Vishnupavan writes about a number of American Presidents who played cricket.
And the last one is on Bill Gates who wants his money back. Gawker blogs about how Billy Boy mistakenly donated 10 million dollars to an institute that worked in the area of Intelligent Design. They probably came up with the next version of the Microsoft OS, that crashed on start up and imploded taking everything with it.

That brings us to the end of this weeks blog mela.

Next week Amit Varma at India Uncut is your friendly host of the BlogMela. Drop off your nominations there.
Till then bye bye.
(roll credits)

Bharateeya Blog Mela can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear’s ÜberCarnival.