Saturday, February 2

London Skyscraper

I was walking to a conference and spotted this building under construction on Finsbury Street, London. (you can click on the photo to get to a bigger photo)

It looked so amazing, just full of pillars and girders. can you see the worker perched on the far right pillar? in the middle? dangerous stuff!

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Israel actually won the Lebanon War

Martin van Creveld is an impressive historian. I really like his work. And I was quite interested to read his latest missive. He echoed something that I have been saying before (and TBS got very excited about it as well!!!). That Israel actually won the Lebanon War. You see, there is no way that Hezbollah will try to pull another stunt like it tried to do before Israel thumped it very hard. It is reduced to pulling more silly stunts such as keeping Israeli body parts. Now that just simply tells me and rest of the world that he is seriously mentally deranged. So where does the Hezbollah go? Nowhere, I am afraid. And those who think that Nasrallah and Hezbollah won, erm, just one question, what did they win? Nothing, and in turn, were thumped to kingdom come. But read Martin's column and ponder.

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Another classic example of solutions in search of problems

This is a classic example of a solution looking for a problem. Specially government intervention. The problem? somebody noticed that non-white people have lower employment rates than white people in the UK. And this costs £8.6 billion an year to the UK economy.

Like women have lower employment rates than males. So they went and plonked huge amounts of my money down gigantic government programmes to get ethnic minorities back into work. I snorted when I read it in today's FT.

I quote: In spite of repeated government efforts to help to close the gap it would take 30 years to do so at the current rate of progress, the NAO said.......Between 2002 and 2006 the department put £40m into programmes aimed at ethnic minorities, which proved a qualified success, the NAO says, moving 15,500 into work at a cost of more than £2,000 a job.

So came back home and dug a bit deeper into this. Here's the full report if anybody is interested. And well, I am sure you can find out the simple reason why such large government programmes will fail.

You see, they assumed that anybody who is not white has a problem in getting a job. So you would expect that they have a very good analysis on exactly what problems they face? Yes? No. Their basis for sprinkling millions is based upon.

1. Human Capital: Apparently ALL ethnic minorities have problems with education (Figure 11). Oh, sorry, actually, Indians and Chinese are doing BETTER than the whites, so we will simply ignore them. So here's the first grand stupid moronic step. Let us just ignore 4 out of 10 ethnic minorities then, shall we? So pumping educational money to all minorities is a bit stupid, is it not?

2. Geography: Well, who lives in deprived areas with high unemployment? I quote from the report: Seventy per cent of ethnic minorities live in the 88 most deprived local authority districts, compared with 40 per cent of the general population. Notice they have not broken it down by the type of ethnic minorities but looking around anecdotally, there is a difference between the ghetto behaviour of many ethnic minorities as well as the desire / ability / willingness to move to another location where jobs are available. So instead of trying to find jobs where they are, ask the people to move to places where there are jobs.

3. Discrimination. Now I can well believe this despite lack of personal experience. But is it skin colour? or religion? or gender? or ethnic origin? In other words, is there a difference between

  • Brown, Hindu, Indian, Male....
  • Brown, Hindu, Bangladeshi, Female....
  • Brown, Muslim, Indian....
  • Black, Muslim, Caribbean
  • White, Muslim, Tonga...

So we need to determine what is the discrimination vector before you can determine what is the best way to address it. If nobody has a problem with Green Skinned Buddhists from Mars, then there isnt much point in targeting them, is there? If people have a problem with skin colour, then address that. But in this case, they are targeting everything and everybody. It is like ignoring the 200 piece tool kit and just using a hammer for everything.

4. And then there is a pathetically limp list of "other factors". I quote: There may also be cultural factors which discourage
ethnic minorities from participating in the labour market. Ethnic minorities can face multiple barriers to obtaining employment (Figure 13 on page 20). In addition to those above, they can include: lack of, or reluctance to take up, childcare provision; lack of job readiness; and low confidence or motivation. Many of these factors
are interrelated
. Many if not all these factors are not colour, religion, origin specific at all. Childcare provision applies to everybody.

So here we are, £40 million of taxpayer money, poured down some hole, minimal progress, will need 30 years (multiply this with 12 to get to 30 years, plus say a factor of 2 on top to cater for population growth rates plus say a factor of 2 to cater for the increased fertility of ethnic minorities), all based upon some very very stupid half baked reasoning.

We have not spoken about the fact that there is a very large self employment and improvement ethic in the Indian and Chinese communities and that manifests itself by showing up in higher earnings. They value education, they do not mind setting up their own businesses, they do not treat their women like brood mares (much!).

The NAO report addresses this point in 1.20 and I quote: One important result of lower employment for all ethnic minorities is poverty. Nineteen per cent of the white population live in low income households compared with 56 per cent for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Twenty three per cent of white children live in low income households compared with 60 per cent of Pakistani and Bangladeshi children. This in turn affects many areas of life including housing, health, education and childcare.

Even after identifying that their problem identification sucks big time, they proceed to shower my tax money down this hole and then wonder why it is not working as well as it should. Why do you not put in time limits on welfare payments for economically capable persons? And this itself was ignored in the study, for example see Table 23, USA section. So instead of asking, what makes the Indians and Chinese minorities work and replicating it, they will force weird public policy down the throat of everybody.

And the amusing thing is, the Table says that targets for affirmative action do not work based upon USA results but see this quote from the FT: Measurable targets for ethnic minority employment should become a condition of funding for local City Strategies, which were being developed to run welfare-to-work programmes. Sometimes I just get reduced to helpless giggling reading these.

Disclaimer: I am one of those ethnical minorities mentioned above.

The politically correct story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Welcome to the world of madness.


There once was a young person named Little Red Riding Hood who lived on > the edge of a large forest full of endangered owls and rare plants that > would probably provide a cure for cancer if only someone took the time > to study them. Red Riding Hood lived with a nurture giver whom she > sometimes referred to as "mother", although she didn't mean to imply by > this term that she would have thought less of the person if a close > biological link did not in fact exist.

Nor did she intend to denigrate the equal value of nontraditional
> households, although she was sorry if this was the impression conveyed. > One day her mother asked her to take a basket of organically grown fruit > and mineral water to her grandmother's house. "But mother, won't this be > stealing work from the unionised people who have struggled for years to > earn the right to carry all packages between various people in the > woods?"

Red Riding Hood's mother assured her that she had called the union boss > and gotten a special compassionate mission exemption form. But mother, > aren't you oppressing me by ordering me to do this?" Red Riding Hood's > mother pointed out that it was impossible for women to oppress each > other, since all women were equally oppressed until all women were free.

"But mother, then shouldn't you have my brother carry the basket, since > he's an oppressor, and should learn what it's like to be oppressed?"  > And Red Riding Hood's mother explained that her brother was attending a > special rally for animal rights, and besides, this wasn't stereotypical > women's work, but an empowering deed that would help engender a feeling > of community. "But won't I be oppressing Grandma, by implying that she's > sick and hence unable to independently further her own self hood?"

But Red Riding Hood's mother explained that her grandmother wasn't > actually sick or incapacitated or mentally handicapped in any way, > although that was not to imply that any of these conditions were > inferior to what some people called "health". Thus Red Riding Hood felt > that she could get behind the idea of delivering the basket to her > grandmother, and so she set off.

Many people believed that the forest > was a foreboding and dangerous place, but Red Riding Hood knew that this was an irrational fear based on cultural paradigms instilled by a
> patriarchal society that regarded the natural world as an exploitable
> resource, and hence believed that natural predators were in fact
> intolerable competitors.

Other people avoided the woods for fear of thieves and deviants, but Red > Riding Hood felt that in a truly classless society all marginalised > peoples would be able to "come out" of the woods and be accepted as > valid lifestyle role models. On her way to Grandma's house, Red Riding > Hood passed a woodchopper, and wandered off the path, in order to > examine some flowers. She was startled to find herself standing before a > Wolf, who asked her what was in her basket.

Red Riding Hood's teacher had warned her never to talk to strangers, but > she was confident in taking control of her own budding sexuality, and > chose to dialogue with the Wolf. She replied, "I am taking my > Grandmother some healthful snacks in a gesture of solidarity." The Wolf > said, "You know, my dear, it isn't safe for a little girl to walk > through these woods alone." Red Riding Hood said, "I find your sexist > remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your > traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has > caused you to develop an alternative and yet entirely valid worldview.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I would prefer to be on my way." Red Riding Hood returned to the main path, and proceeded towards her
> Grandmother's house. But because his status outside society had freed > him from slavish adherence to linear, Western-style thought, the Wolf > knew of a quicker route to Grandma's house. He burst into the house and > ate Grandma, a course of action affirmative of his nature as a predator. 

Then, unhampered by rigid, traditionalist gender role notions, he put on > Grandma's nightclothes, crawled under the bedclothes, and awaited > developments. > Red Riding Hood entered the cottage and said, "Grandma, I have brought > you some cruelty free snacks to salute you in your role of wise and > nurturing matriarch." The Wolf said softly "Come closer, child, so that > I might see you." Red Riding Hood said, "Goddess! Grandma, what big > eyes you have!" "You forget that I am optically challenged." "And > Grandma, what an enormous, what a fine nose you have."

"Naturally, I could have had it fixed to help my acting career, but I
> didn't give in to such societal pressures, my child." "And Grandma,
> what very big, sharp teeth you have!" The Wolf could not take any more > of these spaciest slurs, and, in a reaction appropriate for his
> accustomed milieu, he leaped out of bed, grabbed Little Red Riding Hood, > and opened his jaws so wide that she could see her poor Grandmother > cowering in his belly.

> "Aren't you forgetting something?" Red Riding Hood bravely shouted. "You > must request my permission before proceeding to a new level of > intimacy!" The Wolf was so startled by this statement that he loosened > his grasp on her. At the same time, the woodchopper burst into the > cottage, brandishing an axe. "Hands off!" cried the woodchopper. "And > what do you think you're doing?" cried Little Red Riding Hood. "If I let > you help me now, I would be expressing a lack of confidence in my own > abilities, which would lead to poor self esteem and lower achievement > scores on college entrance exams."

"Last chance, sister! Get your hands off that endangered species! This > is an FBI sting!" screamed the woodchopper, and when Little Red Riding > Hood nonetheless made a sudden motion, he sliced off her head. "Thank > goodness you got here in time," said the Wolf. "The brat and her > grandmother lured me in here. I thought I was a goner." "No, I think > I'm the real victim, here," said the woodchopper. "I've been dealing > with my anger ever since I saw her picking those protected flowers > earlier. And now I'm going to have such a trauma. Do you have any > aspirin?"

> "Sure," said the Wolf. "Thanks." "I feel your pain," said the Wolf,
> and he patted the woodchopper on his firm, well padded back, gave a > little belch, and said "Do you have any Maalox?"

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Friday, February 1

The law of unintended consequences in China

China has a controlled economy. Well, some bits. Well, it tries. Now look at the current situation and the law of un-intended consequences flow through.

The basic problem?

Not sufficient power being generated by the power plants.

Why aren't they generating power?

Well, because power prices are controlled.

Why are power prices controlled?

Because general overall prices are going through the roof in China and the communist controllers do not want inflation to go rampant. They have to keep the great unwashed herd quiet. And there is nothing like inflation to get people excited. So control prices.

But whose prices are not controlled?


So what's happening to the coal price?

Its going through the roof and becoming very expensive. I quote: "Global coal prices, in the meantime, have soared in recent months, by 50-60 per cent, with the largest rise occurring in recent weeks because of the Australian floods."

So why is that important?

Well, most of the power generators in China use coal to generate power. And if the final product - power - is price controlled and the inputs are not, then this happens: I quote: "Against this background, power companies have been refusing to pay the prices they negotiated with the coal companies earlier this year. And the longer the delay in honouring these contracts, the higher the asking price for coal."

So, no coal, no power. Welcome to a controlled economy. What happens to inflation?

Well, that's still going to go through the roof. I quote: Snow battering central China has dealt an "extremely serious" blow to winter crops, a top agriculture official warned Thursday, raising the likelihood that future shortages would exaggerate already surging food prices.

See here for what happens when food prices are too high. This is becoming a serious world problem.

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Scientists find that blue-eyed individuals have a single, common ancestor

How interesting indeed. Check out this story. I quote:

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research. A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, so before then, there were no blue eyes. "Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

Reminds me of the story around Genghis Khan. I quote: An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today.

Mind you, even if you are not genetically descended from him, names are important as you can see from this story. Then again, given his popularity, most wanted to use Borjiin, the family name of Genghis Khan. That would have sort of negated the original purpose so its a mess.

But there you go, if you are blue eyed, then dont marry another blue eyed person otherwise your kids will turn out to be Genghis Khan :).

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Swami Vivekananda's speech

Many have grown up reading and listening about Swamiji making that amazing trip to Chicago and delivering the speech there. Well, here's the speech itself:

What a man, what erudition. His power over words and emotions is amazing. 100 years on from that fateful days, those words still ring out loud. And this is what i find sad, that so few people know our own history and culture. Here was a confident Hindu, confidently saying, "sarva dharma sambhav". And then look at the photograph. That confident stance, almost holy shining face. Now that's a hero for you.

I was never taught about the Veda's at school or at home. Every Christian, Jew or Muslim knows his or her Bible, Talmud or Quran (or least know what is in there). We dont. We can do worse than to study them. Well, here's the speech anyway! :)

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Schools Minister is an incompetent buffoon

What is this? why is our nation's schools and school children in the hands of this buffon? I have spoken about this twit before on these pages. It is spectacularly amazing how silly he looks when he makes silly sod comments like this.

This was the result:
Nearly nine out of 10 working class white boys fail to achieve five good grades in their GCSEs, Government figures have shown. Only 15% scored A*-C grades in five subjects including maths and English last year, compared to 45% of white boys from more affluent homes.

What does he say?
Ministers insisted they were making "good progress" in narrowing the gap between affluent and poorer pupils.

Good progress? Erm, how on earth is he measuring progress? I suppose throwing another straw at a drowning man can be called as progress. This man is a danger to all of us and our children. Gordon Brown should remove him and put in somebody competent instead of this twit who cannot deliver and talks stupid.

Then he says:

“Whatever the carping from the usual doom mongers, that means 470,000 more young people since 1997 have got a better start in life. Every one of those results is a personal success story.

Yes, but that's due to normal population growth, you moron. Even if nobody did anything, in the next 10 years, 500,0000 more people will have better degrees, simply because the population is growing! What did YOU do? Sweet FA.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Further to my Bangladesh Genocide Post

I wrote about the Bangladesh Genocide couple of weeks BACK and I got a very interesting email reply to that which I am taking the liberty to quote in extracts (and anonymised):

Dear Dr. Das Gupta:
I read your article: "The forgotten Bangladeshi Genocide," written on January 12th ..... Since you are from East Bengal and know about the atrocities of 1971, I felt interested in writing to you.
I was born in Durgapur, a village of 4 miles north of the sub-divisional town of Gopalganj of Dt. Faridpur, 79 years ago. I stidied in Gopalganj where Sheikh Mujib was our school captain and a few years older to me. Born in utmost poverty and growing up with the Muslims, I know Islam and the Muslim psyche very well. I escaped death in 1946 when the Muslims massacred the Hindus of Calcutta where I went to study in the Presidency College. I graduated from Calcutta Medical college in 1953 and went back to Gopalganj to practice for a year. Mujb Bhai was in jail and I treated his father and saw Sheikh Hasina as a little girl.

I have been in the USA since 1961 and after retirement in 1990, I traveled to many countries and wrote a few books. I did a lot of work in Nadia Dt. where we built our home after being out of East Pakistan. I studied over a dozen subjects related to the human affairs in my own way and followed almost everything that happened on earth. I also noted that the universities never had any text or any teacher who knew the history of our race from the beginning of life and appearance of the human race. Historians are, in my opinion totally ignorant about history, Toyenby or Bernard Lewis or not. You raised many questions but offered no answer. I know why the Indian Hindus were always defeated and does not even like to talk about how they were tortured and why. I have Life, Time and Newswek Magazines of 1971 and followed exactly what happened in 1971 and why. During the annual meeting of the India Association of our town, I talked about the Genocide in East Pakistan but the Hindus were angry with me for disturbinbg their fun as it was a problem of East Pakistan.
You are a prolific writer and may be much younger to me and you will benefit from my book, "Our World: Our Future," and I will be happy to send you my 2 books and the 3rd one I am writing and some of my articles to you in a CD, should you like to read them. I cannot brag at the fag end of my life, but perhaps I am a rare person on earth who had the fortune and misfortune in knowing both the East and the West, utmost poverty and affluence and the TRUE history of our race, totally inconceivable to any historian.
Prof. Lewis, being a Jew did not like my book, but Prof. Kenneth Galbraith liked it very much before he passed away at age 91.
Nobody knows why we have at least 14 different language based provinces in India and why casteism is present only in India and nowhere on earth. Why there is no Bengalee Methar?
Coming from the same Homo erectus group why are the Indians smaller in size?
Why we look so different from the Punjabis and the Pathans?
You will find answers to all the questions you posed in your article from my book.
I will expect to hear from you soon.

Yours truly,
January 31, 2008 12.30 AM

I shared this email with my sisters and one of my sisters shot off an email back (warts and all, she is a very senior technologist in the USA) to the gentleman concerned. As there is a bit of biographical information, I am capturing it here, suitably anonymised.

Respected Dr. XXX,

Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta is my baby brother (his and my fathers are brothers).
He is six years younger than me. I was born in 1961.

He forwarded your email to me. I just could not wait and take his permission before writing to you. Tears of joys started to roll down my cheeks as I read your email that I received at work!

My mother was from the same village where you went to school. She was from the same village of Mujibur Rahman.

My parents’ families came to India before and during the painful partition. Both my father and mother spoke all the time about their Shonar Bangla.

My mother’s maiden name is Basanti Sengupta. Her father was the head master in Gopal Ganj school. He was also a lawyer. His name is Satyen Sengupta. My mother was born in 1929. You may know her perhaps. Her bother is Deb Prasad, we call him Boro Mama. You perhaps know him too.

My mother used to say Sub division Gopalganj of Dt. Madaridpur not Dt. Faridpur as you wrote.)
I think I am mixed up. Perhaps she used to visit between these places. She fondly remembers her village, the river, the Daalan Baadi they lived in, Pukhur, huge trees and simple life. Many times I think about taking her there once. She says she wants to go there to see her Daalan Baadi.

My father’s name is Late Ajit Dasgupta (son of Late Shashank Mohan Dasgupta). He studied in Dhaka University. His name is there in the merit list at the University main entrance. Scientist S.N. Bose was his hostel warden. He was born in 1924. He is from Jila - Khulna and Gram - Senhati. They lived in the lane called Aam Patti, Armani Tola. Historian Ramesh Chadra Mujumdar is somehow blood related to my father.
Even though I being an Indian can’t relate every thing my parents said, but I respect them. I care about their values.

I would love to buy your books/CD although I must admit I am not passionate like my baby brother. But I do remember 1971. I was ten year old then.

I am looking forward for hearing from you. Thank you for coming in our life!

With my Pranaam and Love to you and your family.


All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Hapless Station Boys in Bhopal

I read this story and was very moved by what was happening. Orphans or boys who have run away from abusive homes, or what have you, living literally like animals, in Bhopal Railway Station, now have a place to live, a bit of vocational education, warm clothes and what have you.

So I called Ma yesterday and she dug into this situation deeper. It is quite creditable that the local state government helped to launch this little organisation which helps these boys. Previously, they used to do drug abuse, drink and smoke. We are talking young boys!, but after providing them with food, clothing, shelter, they have respect. These boys want to get trained as mechanics and want to open scooter and car repair shops. What wonderful news.

I am trying to do my little bit from here with Ma helping out. But I will be following their progress closely over the next few years and will keep on reporting.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

A Short Story with a beautiful message

Thursday, January 31

Car use is worse than flying in lamb from NZ

Here's a comment on my previous post


Sure, check these out
(table E1)

and here
(disclosure, that's my alma mater!) :)

I quote: The report even suggests that car use by consumers driving to farm shops and supermarkets may well be more damaging than the transport used to get the food to the retail outlet.

Very counter-intuitive, but there you go.

Photo Essay: The door-to-door vegetable seller

It is so amusing, more things change, more things remain the same. We now have grocery delivery to home via the Sainsbury's to you business. They generally come to your door in a van like this. What is the convenience factor? Well, you select what you want on a website, select a time, and in time, a van rolls up and delivers the cabbages and onions that you had ordered.

Well, India, the store comes to you.

Here's the vegetable seller weighing up something for my darling mother-in-law. He has pulled into the driveway. So I hared out to take some photo's.

She is very particular about her veggies. See the bucket hanging in the front? that contains water which is used to clean and keep the vegetables cool. But the provenance of the water is suspect which is why never eat salads there generally. Best are cooked vegetables.

Now Sanjay has joined with a basket.

All freshly grown and freshly harvested, you cant get fresher than this (some stuff is from the cold storage facilities, but most of the vegetables is locally grown and sourced). I miss durian, specially the ripe one but it is rarer than gold.

We would like some radish please, and these radish's were capable of bringing tears to your eyes. Woof Woof.

Check out the scales and the weights on the front left of the photo.

Picking the right stuff and she cooks divine mean vegetable curries!

Yum Yum!

But strange. If you look at food miles, the miles your food travelled to get to you, you might want to think that it is better to purchase locally grown food. But that might not be necessarily right. Because it might well end up that the grapes from Chile are more effective because of factory farming. And you actually pollute more in the going and coming to the store anyway.

On the other hand, if you order over the internet, you need to run a very large data centre which is slowly becoming one of the major consumers of energy and that in turn pushes up energy usage and pollution. Gosh, way too much complicated.

Lets just go have baigan ka bharta with methi ka paratha. :)

The Arab obsession with Palestine

Make that all Muslims. It is this incessant whining and hypocritical moaning that just makes me tune off. I am also a refugee's son and know loads of them. If the world operated on whine power, then the Palestinian and Muslim/Arab reaction could power the world for the rest of the Earth's life.
Read this and wonder. I quote:

when fellow Arabs are racist against Palestinians, I don’t see anyone being revolted by it.......

Why didn’t people rally for justice and peace in Darfur when the situation was far worse and many more lives were at stake?
Why didn’t people rally for coexistence with religious minorities, who are often wronged in our societies?
Why didn’t people rally for ethnic minorities and abused foreign workers, who are taken advantage of and enslaved by the millions?
Why aren’t people outspoken about honour crimes in Muslim societies?
Why only Palestine?.....

Please remind me, how many rallies took place in defense of innocent Darfurians? How many newspapers demanded action and justice against honour crimes? How many news networks revealed what the Baha’is are suffering through in many of our countries? How many people cared enough to focus on foreign workers in an attempt to abolish the widespread slavery in the Gulf? How many people in this region cared to network with Afghans who come from a country where many people are without electricity, an education, basic rights, an opportunity to communicate with the world, where the life expectancy is below 40?
How many people stood up and echoed the voices of the voiceless? Must one obsess with Palestine in order to be taken seriously?

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Would you work in France?

This made me laugh! Some quotes:

A redundant French banker explains why he plans to do everything in his power not to go back home.
Of course, public services are great in France: trains are on time, some have even been travelling at 300kph since 1981; and when you go to a hospital there is always a doctor who seems to be interested in your case. The downside is that those public services are a real weight on the economy. I couldn’t bear the thought that I’d have to work until the age of 67 before being able to retire, whilst a bus driver can retire as early as 50, courtesy of the private sector pension funds which the government raids to subsidise public services’ pension funds that are in deficit.........

Retrospectively, I realise that I actually dislike the French approach to work. In France, I used to have to stay late in the office even when I had little to do, as it was frowned upon to leave early.............

They tend always to judge people according to where they studied, not their professional skills....................

It is with some delectation, therefore, that I observe from London the unfolding of the SocGen crisis and the French conspiracy theories. The last time I spent so much time reading French websites was when Zidane lost it in the final of the World Cup. It took me two months to recover from the blow. The fact that I was surrounded by three Italians who liked rubbing it in did not help.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Baba's Big Bucks

Thanks to Tarek, this was one of the most amazing stories I have read after the story of the BCCI.

Baba's Big Bucks
African millionaire Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko opened his checkbook and stole Miami's heart. Not surprisingly, that wasn't the only thing he stole.
Jim DeFede Miami New Times
On Saturday morning, March 14, Hussain Mohamed Salim was driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, when he received a call on his pager from Mohammed Ayyoub. In addition to being the branch manager of the Dubai Islamic Bank in Abu Dhabi, Salim also served on the bank's finance committee, which oversaw the institution's day-to-day operations.

Salim thought it odd that Ayyoub, who managed the bank's main branch in Dubai, was trying to contact him so early in the morning, and he called back using his cellular phone. "He immediately asked, 'Where are you, Hussain, at the moment? Are you far away or close to Dubai?' I told him I was [about eighteen miles outside Dubai], on my way to the office," Salim remembered. "Ayyoub said there was a very important matter to discuss. He said he wanted to inform me about it right away."

Ayyoub went on to say that he didn't wish to talk in his office and wanted to meet somewhere away from the bank. They agreed on a site -- a parking lot on the outskirts of the city. Salim arrived first and a few minutes later Ayyoub pulled up in his green Range Rover. Salim was still confused about the clandestine nature of this meeting when Ayyoub slipped into the passenger seat beside him.

Salim asked what was wrong. Ayyoub began by telling Salim that he had made a terrible mistake. He said he had fallen under the spell of an African man and had been transferring money to him abroad. "I was shocked," Salim recalled. "I asked, 'What is the amount? Is it ten million dirhams?'"

(The dirham is the currency of the United Arab Emirates. Ten million dirhams would be slightly more than $2.7 million.)

"More than that," Ayyoub replied. "It's a big amount."
"How much?" Salim asked again.
Ayyoub couldn't bring himself to say the number aloud and so took out a piece of paper, wrote on it, and passed it to Salim. There, on a four-inch-square scrap, Ayyoub had written the figure in ballpoint pen: 891 million dirhams.

Approximately $242 million.
Salim could not believe his eyes. Ayyoub anxiously explained that he was trying to figure out a way to get the money back but he had been unable to reach the African man. He told Salim that auditors from the United Arab Emirates' Central Bank -- the country's main banking authority -- were conducting their annual audit and were asking questions about some of the wire transfers. He had stalled them, but they were becoming insistent.

"I asked how he had transferred so much money without approval or authorization," Salim later recalled. "Ayyoub said he had been under the influence of, or pressured by, the rich man to transfer the money." The rich man had told Ayyoub that he could make the money magically reappear whenever he wanted so Ayyoub shouldn't worry about forwarding him the funds. Ayyoub told Salim he had been trying to call the rich man for several days, to no avail. (The bank's telephone records would later show that as soon as government auditors began their review, Ayyoub dialed the man's phone number in Africa more than 150 times over several days.)

Ayyoub was hoping Salim might have a suggestion about what to do, but Salim was dumbfounded. "I did not know what to tell him or what to think," Salim testified in a subsequent affidavit. "So much money transferred with no authority. I thought, maybe the bank is sinking." After the two men parted, Salim drove to the home of the bank's chairman, Saeed bin Ahmed Lootah. "I was not sure how to start. What to say?" Salim remembered. "I told him the story. He was incredulous. 'What? Ayyoub did that? What's the amount? When did it happen? Why did he do it?'"

Other officers of the privately owned bank were called to Lootah's home. "The general reaction of all the people at the chairman's house was shock," Salim added. Ayyoub was then summoned and he repeated his story. This time, however, Ayyoub divulged the name of the rich African.

He said the man's name was Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko.
He called him Baba.

Miami's mystery man may be a mystery no longer. For more than a year Baba Sissoko charmed South Floridians with his lavish spending and calculated acts of charity. He bought condos on Brickell Key, purchased dozens of luxury automobiles in South Dade, and spent millions in the shops and boutiques of Bal Harbour. He gave $300,000 to Miami Central High School so its marching band could attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, donated $1.2 million to Camillus House, and once tipped a masseuse $10,000.

He did all of this while fighting a nasty legal battle with the U.S. Attorney's Office over his arrest for attempting to bribe a Customs agent who was holding up the transfer of helicopters from Miami to the tiny African nation of Gambia. Eventually he pleaded guilty to paying an illegal gratuity, spent 43 days in jail, and several weeks under house arrest before being deported this past November. His exploits were chronicled by local and national media, including New Times, which published three stories about him between September and November 1997.

When Sissoko left Miami, he took with him the true answer to the question that had most intrigued admirers and detractors alike: Where did his money come from? He seemed to have as many answers to that question as he had wives. The New York Times reported that he began his entrepreneurial career as a textile trader in India. His Miami attorneys distributed a biography in which he had become wealthy when oil was discovered on land he owned. Sissoko, however, told an Associated Press reporter that he had never owned land that contained oil; rather, he asserted, he was an oil middleman.

In 1996, according to the Miami Herald, Sissoko told a French-language magazine that he made his fortune in Gabon, largely in the wood trade. And in 1997 the Herald reported what it described as "prevalent rumors" that Sissoko's fortune was the result of his having looted archaeological treasures from Mali. The most fanciful account, promoted by Sissoko himself, had him striking it rich while working as a laborer in the diamond mines of Liberia.

Authorities now believe they know the source of the man's wealth. Within days of Ayyoub's admission, investigators around the globe began snooping their way along a trail of money that has led directly to Sissoko.

Bank records show that between August 1995 and January 1998, nearly $81 million was wired from the Dubai Islamic Bank to bank accounts under Sissoko's control in New York and Miami. Approximately $72 million was sent to banks in Switzerland and the Isle of Man. Another $10 million was charged on a Visa card issued by the Dubai Islamic Bank in Sissoko's name, with most of the purchases made in Miami. And finally, auditors say, they discovered that nearly $80 million was carried out of the Dubai Islamic Bank in cash during that 30-month period. Witnesses told United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities that the money was picked up by Sissoko's minions and carted off in plastic shopping bags.

According to Rob Ellison, an English bank investigator who has been hired by the UAE government to track down Sissoko and his assets, warrants have been issued for Sissoko's arrest in both the UAE and Switzerland, where he is now suspected of money laundering. Sissoko, however, has not been charged with a crime in either country.

The UAE has also requested the help of both the U.S. Justice Department and the Treasury Department in investigating Sissoko's activities. New Times has confirmed the "request for judicial assistance" -- as it is formally known -- and has learned that twice in recent months U.S. Customs agents have been dispatched to Dubai to share information with UAE officials and to gather evidence for a newly initiated criminal investigation against Sissoko here in Miami.

William Richey, a Miami attorney and former state prosecutor who has been retained by the Dubai Islamic Bank to seize Sissoko's assets in the United States, claims he has presented "clear and compelling" evidence to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami that Sissoko engaged in money laundering in the United States. "The allegations outlined against Mr. Sissoko constitute a violation of federal criminal law, and I would assume the U.S. Attorney's Office would investigate that and take the appropriate steps," he says. The U.S. Attorney's Office had no comment on the allegations.

"This is a world-class con man, a world-class fraudster," adds Richey. "He essentially conned most of Dade County and South Florida. Most people here believed in him." Richey, along with co-counsel Alan Fine, filed a lawsuit last month in state court against Sissoko, hoping to recover as much money and property as possible. The entire lawsuit remained under seal until earlier this week.

Sissoko's principal attorney in Miami, Thomas Spencer, was dumbfounded by the allegations. "Wow," he said after learning of the lawsuit. "I am just stunned, absolutely stunned. This is unbelievable. What a shame." Spencer noted he has been unable to reach Sissoko for three weeks. "All of the phone lines we had for him were suddenly disconnected," he said. "Maybe this explains why."

As a result of the lawsuit, Sissoko's bank accounts in Miami and New York have been frozen for nearly a month. Accounts in Switzerland and the Isle of Man have also been frozen. "What we are trying to do now more than anything else is to find the money," Richey explains. "We are going from bank to bank looking for assets. And to the extent that we can find his assets -- either money or property -- we are going to take steps to recover those assets for the bank in Dubai."

To date, Richey and Rob Ellison have had only limited success. Just two million dollars was left in the Swiss accounts, and about a million in the United States. Most of the accounts had been cleaned out and the money transferred to Africa, Ellison says.

But Richey is not limiting his search to banks. He has a team of private investigators tracing items purchased by Sissoko so they too can be seized, including the condominiums Sissoko bought on Brickell Key near downtown Miami. "We have several million dollars' worth of property here in Dade County that we are going to be acting on," Richey says.
Another target for seizure: The $60,000 Mercedes-Benz automobiles Sissoko gave as gifts to his Miami attorneys -- H.T. Smith, Tom Spencer, and Ted Klein. "We will probably have some dialogue with those attorneys," Richey notes. "Those lawyers are reputable, good, decent people, and to the degree that those are gifts bought with stolen money, I feel comfortable that those attorneys will do the right thing and would not want to be holding the proceeds of a theft."

Ultimately, Richey adds, it will be up to the courts to decide if the cars, the property, and the money in the frozen accounts will be turned over to the Dubai Islamic Bank.

Spencer said he and the other attorneys had no way of knowing the cars were not legitimate gifts. "I don't see that the bank would have any legal right to seize them," he added.
Regarding Sissoko's philanthropy, both Richey and Ellison have recommended to bank officials in Dubai that the institution not try to recover the money Sissoko donated to Camillus House, the venerable Miami homeless shelter. "I've made the recommendation that the bank shouldn't do anything about the Camillus House donation," Ellison affirms. "Except if there is a plaque up anywhere that says this facility was provided by the generosity of Sissoko, then that should come down and one should go up that says this was provided by the generosity of Dubai Islamic Bank."

The same holds for the donation to Miami Central High School.

In Dubai, Ayyoub and the bank's chief accountant, Hussein El Refaie -- who has admitted assisting Ayyoub in making the transfers to Sissoko's accounts -- were arrested this past March and charged with embezzlement. Though the government did not want to precipitate a public scandal and tried to keep the bank's losses secret, word leaked out. An independent, Arabic-language newspaper published a story in late March indicating that a large sum of money was missing from the Dubai Islamic Bank. Panic ensued.

In a matter of hours, hundreds of people lined up to retrieve their savings from the bank. In only a few days, more than two billion dirhams ($545 million) was withdrawn by individuals who were afraid the bank was about to go under.

The run on the bank not only threatened to destroy the Dubai Islamic Bank, but it began to undermine the stability of other banks in the country. "The government was very concerned that the run on the bank would spread," confirms an American embassy source who asked not to be identified. "It was front-page news here and a lot of people were talking about it."
The government was forced to step in; it provided 1.7 billion dirhams ($463 million) in emergency loans to restore confidence in the bank. It also announced that it was appointing a special four-member executive committee to take over daily operations of the institution and to investigate what had occurred.

Publicly the UAE government downplayed the crisis. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the country's minister of finance and industry, issued a statement describing the bank's problems as "a little difficulty that did not lead to any financial losses either in the bank's investments or depositors' accounts."

That "little difficulty" has kept Ellison busy for nearly four months now. Hired by the bank's newly appointed executive committee to sort through the tangled finances and sordid tales of mismanagement, Ellison is a globe-trotting professional troubleshooter for wayward banks. Over the years he has dealt with all manner of thievery and incompetence among bank managers, he says, but among all those experiences he says he has never encountered a stranger tale than the one he found at the Dubai Islamic Bank. "I have never been in a situation like this one before," he says. "Never."

The earliest record Ellison could find of Sissoko having contact with the bank was in the summer of 1995, when he applied for and received an automobile loan. "That was his introduction to the bank," Ellison says. "The question everyone asks is, 'If Sissoko was such a rich man, why did he need a bank to purchase a car?'" Ellison suspects the loan was a pretext to meet bank officials like Mohammed Ayyoub.

In his statements to bank executives and police, Ayyoub said Sissoko invited him to have dinner. According to Ellison, Ayyoub visited a villa Sissoko was renting in Dubai and came to believe that Sissoko was wealthy. "Bankers love rich men," Ellison observes. "They're drawn to them." Sissoko apparently dazzled Ayyoub, at one point showing him a room Sissoko claimed was filled with cash and gold bullion. Ellison believes this was part of Sissoko's plan to gain Ayyoub's confidence. "When they went inside the room, there were flashing lights and it was hard to see," Ellison says. "Who knows what was really in there?"
Investigators are still attempting to determine Sissoko's wealth before he met Ayyoub. "He could be a clever con man who has been doing things like this for years and who came to Dubai because he heard there were rich pickings in the Gulf," Ellison speculates. "We just don't know. But so far we've come up with nothing to suggest that Sissoko had more than a relatively small sum of money with him when he arrived."

According to Ellison, Ayyoub believed Sissoko had special powers and could use black magic to control individuals around him. Ayyoub described one encounter in which Sissoko applied some sort of potion to Ayyoub's skin. "It was left on him until it dried and then he was told to take a shower," recalls Ellison. "His version of events is that ever since that happened he always did what Sissoko told him to do."

Ayyoub also claimed that Sissoko hung a black glass ball from the ceiling of Ayyoub's bedroom. According to Ayyoub, Sissoko said he could watch Ayyoub through that ball and would know everything the banker was doing.

Sissoko then explained that he was about to embark on certain business ventures and needed Ayyoub to provide him the necessary funds. He assured Ayyoub that he could make the money reappear any time he wanted and that he would add an appropriate profit for the bank. The spellbound Ayyoub agreed and followed Sissoko's instructions.

During the next two and a half years, Ellison explains, Sissoko would either meet with or call Ayyoub whenever he needed money: "Sissoko began each conversation with the words, 'Baba here,' or 'Baba speaking.'" Once Ayyoub heard Sissoko's voice and those words, he did whatever Sissoko wanted.

From August 1995 until January 1998, 183 separate wire transfers were made between Dubai and the United States. The smallest individual transaction was $42,000; the largest $966,000. Court and bank records show that during those two and a half years, money from the Dubai Islamic Bank was transferred to the following U.S. institutions:

Citibank in New York received $37.2 million, which was deposited into an account bearing Sissoko's name
Barnett Bank in Miami received $26.5 million, which was deposited into an account under the name Abdou Karim Pouye, who has been described by Sissoko's attorneys as his chief financial officer overseeing daily operations of Sissoko's businesses
City National Bank in Miami received $10.7 million for an account in Pouye's name
NationsBank in Miami received $2.4 million for an account in Pouye's nameFirst Union Bank in Miami received $1.4 million for an account in Pouye's name
Commercebank National Association in Miami received $400,000 for an account in Pouye's name
In Switzerland Sissoko's preferred bank was Banque Multi Commerciale, in Geneva. Ellison says it received nearly $68 million. He also used the Geneva branch of New York-based Citibank for about $2 million in transfers. On the Isle of Man, located off the coast of England, $150,000 was deposited into an account at Barclays Bank.

In addition, tens of millions in cash turned up missing from the Dubai Islamic Bank. "As I understand it," Ellison relates, "the sum of money that left the bank in cash was $80 million. It was carried out over time in bags. They were plastic bags and they had the name of a local supermarket on them. That's literally what was used."

Ayyoub apparently transferred the money to Sissoko without receiving any clearance from his superiors at the bank. "There are no loan documents, no loan agreements. He just gave him the money," Ellison says, adding that Ayyoub was able to hide the transactions by falsifying bank ledgers with the help of the institution's chief accountant, Hussein El Refaie.
Hussain Mohamed Salim, the Abu Dhabi bank manager Ayyoub had called for help, stated in a sworn affidavit that he interviewed Refaie, and the accountant admitted receiving money from Ayyoub in a series of payments totaling about $52,000. Refaie reportedly told Salim the money was given to him to help the poor, but Salim stated in his affidavit that he believed it was a bribe to buy Refaie's help and silence. (The affidavit is included in court papers filed by Richey to freeze Sissoko's various bank accounts in the United States.)

Ellison says he is also trying to determine why the bank's outside accountants, Ernst & Young, failed to discover any irregularities in the bank's bookkeeping during its annual audits. "In December they gave the bank a clean bill of health," Ellison notes. "That's one of the issues we are working on."

In the end, it was an inquisitive auditor from the UAE's Central Bank -- which plays a role similar to the Federal Reserve Board in the United States -- that ultimately exposed the fraud. During its own annual review, after the Ernst & Young audit, something just didn't seem right to the government bureaucrat reviewing the bank's books, Ellison reports: "He would ask a series of questions and Ayyoub and Refaie would answer, and the auditor was never satisfied with the answers he was given." When it appeared that the auditor was going to keep digging and was on the verge of discovering the truth, Ayyoub contacted Salim and the other bank officials.

If the tales of black magic aren't to be believed, then the question is why did Ayyoub do it? "It is something nobody quite understands," Ellison shrugs. "Ayyoub was effectively the chief executive of the bank, on a good salary. He had a family, a big tribe of kids, a new house -- he shouldn't have been under any financial pressure at all. And yet he throws it all away by organizing and orchestrating what must be one of the world's largest bank robberies." So far, Ellison adds, Ayyoub has admitted receiving one car from Sissoko, although seven additional automobiles were found at his house. But there is no evidence to suggest Ayyoub received any of the cash.

According to Ellison, it's true that Ayyoub attempted to recover money from Sissoko on his own, but those efforts not only cost the bank even more money, they have now led investigators down another bizarre and unexpected path.

Ayyoub has told authorities that in early December of last year, a man named Cherif Haidara came to see him at the bank. "He told Ayyoub he could assist him in recovering the money from Sissoko," Ellison says. Worried about the impending year-end audits, Ayyoub agreed to pay the man for his assistance. He advanced some cash to Haidara, who returned a few days later, reported on his progress, and asked for more money. This went on for several weeks, Ellison recounts, until finally Haidara disappeared completely. "By the time it was over, Ayyoub had paid Haidara nearly three million dollars in bank funds," Ellison sighs, "and he never actually provided any useful information. He was just a con man."

Ellison traced the payments made to Haidara and discovered that Ayyoub had transferred a total of $2.85 million from the Dubai Islamic Bank to a numbered account at Merrill Lynch in New York between December 7, 1997, and January 6, 1998. Just last week Merrill Lynch confirmed for Ellison that the account was controlled by Haidara.

When Ayyoub confessed to authorities in March, he also told them about Haidara. Ellison suspects Haidara probably has some connection to Sissoko as well -- how else would he have known that Ayyoub had secretly transferred money to him?

By the end of March, UAE police had issued a warrant for Haidara's arrest. A few weeks later authorities discovered that he had re-entered the country and they promptly raided his home. "When they arrested him, he had in his possession five million Bahraini dinars," Ellison says. (The Bahraini dinar is the currency of the small island nation of Bahrain, located in the Persian Gulf. Five million Bahraini dinars is worth about $13.2 million.)
"It was subsequently discovered that these five million Bahraini dinars were actually counterfeit currency notes," Ellison says with amazement. Authorities believe the bills were the work of a criminal ring that has reportedly printed more than 150 million Bahraini dinars ($400 million) to spread throughout the Middle East. The phony bills are believed to have been produced in Brazil.

Does Sissoko have anything to do with the counterfeit dinars? Ellison has asked himself that question but says there is no evidence to support a connection. Still, he says, one of the reasons police arrested Haidara and thereby found the money was their suspicion that he was somehow tied to Sissoko. "It's all quite amazing," Ellison laughs.

Just about everything associated with Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko can be described as amazing. He first came to the attention of law enforcement agencies here in Miami during the summer of 1996, when two of his employees purchased a pair of Vietnam-era helicopters and sought to have them shipped to the West African nation of Gambia, where Sissoko owned a hotel and a casino. Those particular helicopters needed a special export license. Rather than apply for the necessary permits, the pair tried to smuggle them out of the country and were caught by Customs agents at Miami International Airport.

The two Sissoko lackeys then attempted to bribe a Customs agent. The agent reported the bribe to his superiors, who then set up a sting operation that ensnared Sissoko. In secretly recorded telephone conversations, Sissoko promised additional payments to the Customs agent if he allowed the helicopters to be shipped without the permits. As a result, and unbeknown to Sissoko, an international warrant was issued for his arrest on charges of attempting to bribe a U.S. Customs agent.

In the meantime, Sissoko concentrated on his chief priority -- starting up his own airline, Air Dabia. For more than a year he had been buying passenger jets and other aircraft in the United States -- apparently with money provided by the Dubai Islamic Bank.
One of the individuals Sissoko did business with was John Catsimatidis, CEO of a New York supermarket chain, who sold Sissoko a pair of jetliners for three million dollars. Catsimatidis also happened to be a major Democratic Party fundraiser.

Last year he told the New York Times he had initially approached Sissoko in 1996 about donating to the Democratic Party. Indeed, two months before the 1996 presidential election, Sissoko was invited to attend a dinner party with President Clinton in Washington. He accepted.

Unfortunately Sissoko was unable to go. Just days before the September 6, 1996, White House gala, he was arrested by Interpol in Geneva, Switzerland, on warrants issued in Florida. In October he arrived in Miami in handcuffs and was subsequently released after posting a $20 million bond -- the largest bond ever issued in a criminal case in the federal Southern District of Florida.

A large entourage followed Sissoko to Miami and established residence on posh Brickell Key. According to his own attorneys, Sissoko leased ten apartments on the 26th floor of Courvoisier Courts for approximately $50,000 per month; he also purchased five condominiums at Tequesta Point for somewhere between two and three million dollars.
In early March 1997, while walking through the lobby of the Hotel Inter-Continental, he heard a high school marching band playing and inquired about them. He learned that they were at the hotel playing for a bar mitzvah as part of their effort to raise enough money to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Sissoko was told the school needed $150,000. He immediately wrote them a check for $300,000.

That single act garnered him a priceless amount of favorable publicity from the Miami Herald and local television stations. The remarkable story of the generous African was picked up by national news media and spread across the nation. Soon tales of his generosity were cropping up all over town. A woman told reporters that Sissoko had just bought her a Range Rover. Other people talked about how he handed out hundred-dollar bills to homeless people.

Unreported by the Herald and local television stations, however, were the accounts of people who had worked for Sissoko's fledgling airline. Last year several of them told New Times horror stories about being abused and mistreated by Sissoko's airline managers. They complained that they had been held against their will, hadn't been paid for months, and that his planes were unsafe to fly.

In addition, the Herald never reported Sissoko's heavy-handed attempts to have the bribery charges against him dropped. In addition to a team of powerful local attorneys, he also employed former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh to pressure Justice Department officials. During the process, Bayh and others sought to destroy the reputations of the prosecutors in Miami who were handling the criminal case.

Sissoko even enlisted the support of several current members of Congress, most notably Jacksonville's Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who personally spoke to Attorney General Janet Reno on Sissoko's behalf. Brown's actions have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, after the St. Petersburg Times reported that, following Brown's contact with Reno, her daughter received a $60,000 Lexus from Pouye, Sissoko's chief financial officer.
Ellison says it appears the money used to purchase that car came from the Dubai Islamic Bank. In Ellison's opinion, Representative Brown's conduct in the Sissoko case has been "highly immoral and a breach of her duty to her constituents." Brown has denied she did anything wrong.

Ellison had looked forward to going after the car given to Brown's daughter, but earlier this month, as a result of the controversy, the car was sold and the proceeds donated to a Washington charity.

Sissoko did not leave his fate completely in the hands of attorneys and bureaucrats. Perhaps conjuring up some of those same forces he may have used on Ayyoub, Sissoko attempted to use black magic to make the bribery case disappear. According to Ewa Adamek, a former member of Sissoko's Miami entourage, he arranged for evil spells to be cast over the prosecutors and presiding judge. Adamek says she was asked by one of Sissoko's aides to carefully spell their names over the telephone for a woman in Africa, who then delivered the names to a remote village in Mali, where a prayer service was conducted. "They prayed that the power of the judge and the prosecutor would be destroyed," she recounts.

That wasn't all. A special mixture of powders and a bottle of violet-color water were brought to Miami by courier from Africa. Some of the powders were surreptitiously spread around the downtown federal courthouse before the hearings, Adamek says. Sissoko poured the rest in the bay waters around Brickell Key, along with milk and salt. "He would watch the way the water carried the milk for a sign of what to do," she recalls.

As for the violet-color water, Sissoko was instructed to wash behind his ears with it twice a day to stave off any danger from those trying to imprison him. "In their minds, this was the most powerful thing they could do to the prosecutors and the judge," Adamek explains. "And they were shocked when it didn't work."

Sissoko spent 43 days in jail and had begun serving the remainder of his time under house arrest on Brickell Key when U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore abruptly decided he could go home. As New Times reported this past November, Moore had secretly orchestrated a $1.2 million donation from Sissoko to Camillus House earlier that month. Within 48 hours of Sissoko's writing the check to the homeless center, Moore signed an order permitting him to leave the country, even though three months remained on his sentence. At the time, Moore was criticized by legal experts for creating the perception that Sissoko bought his way out of confinement.

Now it seems Sissoko did it with someone else's money.

Since being hired four months ago, Rob Ellison has pored over Sissoko's canceled checks and credit card statements for purchases he made in the United States, and he confirms that the tales of his exorbitant spending were no myth.

In addition to approximately a dozen cars he bought in Miami for his attorneys and other supporters, Sissoko also purchased 74 automobiles he loaded into cargo containers and had shipped by freighter to Africa. Bank records, included in court papers filed in Miami, show that he charged millions on his Visa credit card at Miami shops, mostly in Bal Harbour. At Mayor's jewelers alone, for example, Sissoko spent $3.4 million between August 1996 and January 1998. He spent $471,000 at Escada Boutique, a women's clothing store; $575,000 at Cartier; $160,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue; $275,000 at Pratesi Linens; and $125,000 at Tiffany.

"He would go to the Bal Harbour mall and would spend tens of thousands of dollars in each of these stores at a time," Ellison says. "He was like a kid in a candy store -- grabbing stuff off the shelves and giving it to his friends. It's easy to be extravagant, it's easy to be generous, it's easy to be charismatic under these conditions. I could probably be quite charismatic as well with $242 million of other people's money."

As the hunt for Sissoko's money continues, the search for the man himself also proceeds. He is believed to be in Africa, probably Gambia, but his precise whereabouts are unknown. In addition to the arrest warrants in the Middle East and Switzerland, and the investigation into possible money-laundering offenses in the United States, Ellison reveals, U.S. immigration officials have been trying to find Sissoko in order to question him about allegations that he has re-entered the country using phony names and passports. Under the terms of his sentence in the bribery case, Sissoko was barred from returning to the United States without written permission from the attorney general.

"There are a lot of people trying very hard to find him," Ellison says. "We anticipate that he will eventually be found. There are too many people looking for him now for him to just disappear.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Bank or Remit, that is the question

Remittances are a huge part of the world economy and how it behaves, the levels, performance, etc. are closely studied by economists, bankers and political agents. Some like remittances, some hate it. For example, countries which receive remittances love it, but countries which are the source are not very enthused about it for a variety of reasons. Terrorism is one party anyway, but other than that, informal financial networks means that it cannot be taxed nor tracked. Also social benefits and other normal societal activities are heavily based around the banking system. So it is in the interest of the developed nations to get the informal financial networks to move into formal financial networks. So what gives? This paper is a good indicator of that struggle from the USA.

some quotes:

We find that apart from their income, language status, and education, two factors explain why recent Hispanic immigrants are often unbanked: (i) the requirement of identification is a barrier to opening a bank account (institutional or supply-side factor), and (ii) the relative attractiveness of the informal sector in providing apparently cheaper financial products, especially remittance savings (self-selection or a demand-side factor). Whereas some segment of the population will be excluded from the formal banking sector, the remaining population considers economic factors in deciding whether or not to open a formal account.
Clearly, as banks move to find innovative programs to attract the unbanked they must try to replicate some characteristics of the informal sector which have drawn people there. Urban areas such as those in this study house a greater, and perhaps more competitive, concentration of informal financial options. Our study did not focus on the effect of financial education (see Lyons & Scherpf, 2004) as a variable influencing banking habits; rather, our results, like those in Kim (2001), suggest that banks must provide more low-cost services, particularly of auxiliary financial products to attract customers. But beyond this, the role of transaction costs, informational asymmetries, and cultural barriers facing Hispanic consumers must be considered. Better publicity about actual bank account requirements and costs is needed. Replicating the flexibility of the informal sector in terms of its geographical coverage, communicational advantages with both educated and uneducated populations, and flexible hours of operation can help lower the implicit costs associated with formal banks. Hispanic consumers may perceive lower implicit transaction costs when dealing with foreign banks (such as Banco Popular) operating in the U.S. and see this as a logical intermediary step between the informal and formal U.S. banking sector.
Finally, expanding the savings programs offered to the poor in the U.S. could assist in this area. If remittances are viewed as a form of savings, encouraging migrants to hold savings in a U.S. account longer would be a win-win option which could reduce remittance fee charges and enhance the deposit creation role of banks. But this would ultimately require a perceived competitive return on a U.S. account compared to returns in the country of origin. Studies comparing the use, and returns to remittances abroad compared to returns on U.S.-based investments have not been undertaken. The expansion of remittance-linked savings programs, with flexibility in identification requirements through further use of Matricula cards or other forms of driver identification, could change the dynamics and debates about the unbanked in upcoming years.

Denise Stanley and Radha Bhattacharya, The informal financial sector in the U.S.: The role of remittances, The Quarterly Review of Economics and FinanceVolume 48, Issue 1, , February 2008, Pages 1-21.

Abstract: We investigate the interdependence between being unbanked and the decision to remit. Using data from our survey of the low-to-moderate-income (LMI) Hispanic community in a major U.S. metropolitan area, we find that higher income, more education, and greater proficiency in English decrease the probability of being unbanked. A key result is the positive correlation between latent factors that affect the decisions to remit money and to be unbanked. The presence of both institutional and self-selection factors in the decision to not open a bank account sheds light on the kind of policies that need to be implemented to bring the unbanked into the financial mainstream.Keywords: Unbanked; Remittance; Informal financial sector; Joint determination

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Investments driven by theory, loyalty or peer pressure?

The fact that people invest on the basis of other factors than purely economic and financial is well known. In fact, there is a whole field of finance out there called as Behavioural Finance. But this is an interesting question. How do you invest your 401k? This paper sheds some very interesting light on this issue. I quote their conclusions here:

This paper addressed the issue of diversification in retirement funds. Empirically, employees tend to hold a dangerously high level of company stock as a proportion of their retirement investments. Instead of developing a theory of the optimal level of diversification, we take the alternative route of trying to find rational justifications for the observed levels of holdings.
Models of purely individualistic behavior usually deliver results that are incompatible with the patterns observed in the data. Here we developed models of non-individualistic behavior. Particularly, we addressed issues such as peer competition and preferences for reputation. In both cases, the main ingredient is the observation that people in general care about their peers. Usually, the closer a peer is, the more influence he would have. So, we took coworkers in a company as the relevant peer group.
The models of social behavior developed were able to shed some light into the stylized facts collected in the introduction. We were able to show that, in a social environment, behavior would considerably depart from what might have been optimal in an individualistic framework. Moreover, the departures were in the desired directions. By allowing for multiple assets we were also able to generate a set of model specific predictions. More specifically, the loyalty model predicts that employees will try to compensate their extra risk by buying more of stocks that are negatively correlated with their company stock and less of positively correlated ones. In the peer group effects model no such conclusion applies. Employees in this case hold the same amount of other stocks that they would in the absence of any peer group effects. These conclusions allow for tests of the empirical strength of each model.

Marcelo Pinheiro, Loyalty, peer group effects, and 401(k), The Quarterly Review of Economics and FinanceVolume 48, Issue 1, , February 2008, Pages 94-122.()
Abstract: In this paper we analyze investors' behavior in the presence of social interactions. Two main models are explored: one based on peer group effects and the other on loyalty. The motivation for this study is the observed behavior of employees when choosing asset allocation for their 401(k) funds. Employees are typically overinvested in own company stock, while theory predicts a strong diversification motive. We argue that the proposed models justify this behavior, even in an environment with full rationality. We also contrast the implications of each model concerning other risky assets.Keywords: Social interactions; Loyalty; Peer group effects; 401(k); Short-selling

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Food prices are so high that some people are reduced to eating dirt

I am not joking but this is indeed the case in Haiti. I have been warning on these pages about food prices and the fact that the UN needs to take this in hand for months now, but now its getting worse and worse. It is now a security issue seriously. I quote:

With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some must take desperate measures to fill their bellies.

Charlene, 16 with a month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places such as Cité Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings, and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt, and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Van with illegal immigrants crashes into Homeland Security vehicle

Only in the USA!, lol! I had a chuckle reading this.

Van with illegal immigrants crashes into Homeland Security vehicle
Philip HaldimanThe Arizona RepublicJan. 30, 2008 01:51 PM
A van with 11 people believed to be illegal immigrants was involved in an automobile accident with a Homeland Security vehicle. During Tuesday morning's rush hour, a three-vehicle crash occurred in the HOV lane of the Interstate 10 westbound near Elliot Road, said Harold A. Sanders, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Traffic came to a stop, and then the driver of the van failed to stop and drove into a Honda which was then pushed into the vehicle owned by the Department of Homeland Security.The 11 people in the van were taken into custody. The Homeland Security vehicle was a pool vehicle and not an enforcement vehicle.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Suicide Bombers: Warriors of the Middle Class

A very interesting article here. Read the discussion over my previous post on suicide bombers here. I quote:

We tend to imagine suicide bombers as hardened, bloodthirsty killers. But most people aren’t nearly as ready to commit violence as you think. It’s actually the quiet, docile members of the middle class who make the best human explosive devices. And that’s what makes this weapon of mass murder so hard to stop.....
But suicide bombers are different. They usually face their victims alone. They neither threaten their enemies nor try to make them break down emotionally. The secret of their tactic is not to perform it as violence at all, until the very last second when they detonate the bomb. The tactical advantage of the suicide bomber is to approach as if nothing unusual were happening. There is no confrontational tension because the bomber acts as if there is no confrontation.
Clandestine, confrontation-avoiding violence such as suicide bombing is a fourth pathway around confrontational tension. It succeeds only because the attacker is good at pretending that he or she is not threatening at all. People accustomed to the typical macho forms of violence are not good at this; gang members would make lousy suicide bombers. But mild-mannered middle-class people are ideal for it. Since they are not confrontational by nature, they do not have to control a blustering or threatening demeanor that would warn their victims. Self-directed introverts, they do not need to hear cheering as they stalk their prey. Middle-class culture is especially accommodative, adept at maintaining a smooth surface of conventionality. Whatever our private feelings, we learn not to express them on the job, in social situations, or in public. This is good training for carrying a bomb under one’s clothing until the target is so close that massive damage is certain.
Suicide bombing, in other words, is not just a matter of motivation; it is primarily a matter of technique. Violent political movements may embrace it for ideological purposes, but they use it mainly for a very simple reason: It works.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Gordon Brown shaking hands with a dictator

Gordon Brown has lost his mind. He is shaking hands with a dictator?? What happened to the ethical foreign policy? This General who has chucked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan into house arrest is treated as a honoured guest? What's next? a state dinner for the Burmese Generals? Doesnt he know that the legal system is the bedrock and spine which keeps a nation on the straight and narrow? And Gordon Brown is actively helping to destroy another country.

Read this open letter from the Chief Justice and weep for that poor country. And sneer at Gordon Brown for his hypocrisy (not to mention his incompetence!!!)


His Excellency
The President of the European Parliament,

His Excellency
The President of France,

His Excellency
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,

Her Excellency
Ms. Condaleeza Rice,
Secretary of State,
United States of America,
Washington D.C.

Professor Klaus Schwab,
World Economic Forum,

All through their respective Ambassodors, High Commissioners and representatives.


I am the Chief Justice of Pakistan presently detained in my residence since November 3, 2007 pursuant to some verbal, and unspecified, order passed by General Musharraf.
I have found it necessary to write to you, and others, because during his recent visits to Brussels, Paris, Davos and London General Musharraf has slandered me, and my colleagues, with impunity in press conferences and other addresses and meetings. In addition he has widely distributed, among those whom he has met, a slanderous document (hereinafter the Document) entitled: “PROFILE OF THE FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN”. I might have let this go unresponded but the Document, unfortunately, is such an outrage that, with respect, it is surprising that a person claiming to be head of state should fall to such depths as to circulate such calumny against the Chief Justice of his own country.
In view of these circumstances I have no option but to join issue with General Musharraf and to put the record straight. Since he has voiced his views on several public occasions so as to reach out to the public at large, I also am constrained to address your excellencies in an Open Letter to rebut the allegations against me.
At the outset you may be wondering why I have used the words “claiming to be the head of state”. That is quite deliberate. General Musharraf’s constitutional term ended on November 15, 2007. His claim to a further term thereafter is the subject of active controversy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It was while this claim was under adjudication before a Bench of eleven learned judges of the Supreme Court that the General arrested a majority of those judges in addition to me on November 3, 2007. He thus himself subverted the judicial process which remains frozen at that point. Besides arresting the Chief Justice and judges (can there have been a greater outrage?) he also purported to suspend the Constitution and to purge the entire judiciary (even the High Courts) of all independent judges. Now only his hand-picked and compliant judges remain willing to “validate” whatever he demands. And all this is also contrary to an express and earlier order passed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2007.
Meantime I and my colleagues remain in illegal detention. With me are also detained my wife and three of my young children, all school-going and one a special child. Such are the conditions of our detention that we cannot even step out on to the lawn for the winter sun because that space is occupied by police pickets. Barbed wire barricades surround the residence and all phone lines are cut. Even the water connection to my residence has been periodically turned off. I am being persuaded to resign and to forego my office, which is what I am not prepared to do.
I request you to seek first hand information of the barricades and of my detention, as that of my children, from your Ambassador/High Commissioner/representative in Pakistan. You will get a report of such circumstances as have never prevailed even in medieval times. And these are conditions put in place, in the twenty-first century, by a Government that you support.
Needless to say that the Constitution of Pakistan contains no provision for its suspension, and certainly not by the Chief of Army Staff. Nor can it be amended except in accordance with Articles 238 and 239 which is by Parliament and not an executive or military order. As such all actions taken by General Musharraf on and after November 3 are illegal and ultra vires the Constitution. That is why it is no illusion when I describe myself as the Chief Justice even though I am physically and forcibly incapacitated by the state apparatus under the command of the General. I am confident that as a consequence of the brave and unrelenting struggle continued by the lawyers and the civil society, the Constitution will prevail.
However, in the meantime, General Musharraf has launched upon a vigourous initiative to defame and slander me. Failing to obtain my willing abdication he has become desperate. The eight-page Document is the latest in this feverish drive.
Before I take up the Document itself let me recall that the General first ousted me from the Supreme Court on March 9 last year while filing an indictment (in the form of a Reference under Article 209 of the Constitution) against me. According to the General the Reference had been prepared after a thorough investigation and comprehensively contained all the charges against me. I had challenged that Reference and my ouster before the Supreme Court. On July 20 a thirteen member Bench unanimously struck down the action of the General as illegal and unconstitutional. I was honourably reinstated.
The Reference was thus wholly shattered and all the charges contained therein trashed. These cannot now be regurgitated except in contempt of the Supreme Court. Any way, since the Document has been circulated by no less a person than him I am constrained to submit the following for your kind consideration in rebuttal thereof:
The Document is divided into several heads but the allegations contained in it can essentially be divided into two categories: those allegations that were contained in the Reference and those that were not.
Quite obviously, those that are a repeat from the Reference hold no water as these have already been held by the Supreme Court to not be worth the ink they were written in. In fact, the Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the Government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect, that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the Government Rs. 100,000 (a relatively small amount in dollar terms, but an unheard of sum with respect to Court Sanction in Pakistan) for filing clearly false and malicious documents, as well as revoking the license to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents. Indeed, faced with the prospect of having filed clearly falsified documents against me, the Government’s attorneys, including the Attorney General, took a most dishonorable but telling approach. Each one, in turn, stood before the Supreme Court and disowned the Government’s Reference, and stated they had not reviewed the evidence against me before filing it with Court. They then filed a formal request to the Court to withdraw the purported evidence, and tendered an unconditional apology for filing such a scandalous and false documents. So baseless and egregious were the claims made by General Musharraf that on July 20th, 2007, the full Supreme Court for the first time in Pakistan’s history, ruled unanimously against a sitting military ruler and reinstated me honorably to my post.
Despite having faced these charges in open court, must I now be slandered with those same charges by General Musharraf in world capitals, while I remain a prisoner and unable to speak in my defense?

There are, of course, a second set of charges. These were not contained in the Reference and are now being bandied around by the General at every opportunity.
I forcefully and vigorously deny every single one of them. The truth of these “new” allegations can be judged from the fact that they all ostensibly date to the period before the reference was filed against me last March, yet none of them was listed in the already bogus charge sheet.
If there were any truth to these manufactured charges, the Government should have included them in the reference against me. God knows they threw in everything including the kitchen sink into that scurrilous 450 page document, only to have it thrown out by the entire Supreme Court after a 3 month open trial.
The charges against me are so transparently baseless that General Musharraf’s regime has banned the discussion of my situation and the charges in the broadcast media. This is because the ridiculous and flimsy nature of the charges is self-evident whenever an opportunity is provided to actually refute them.
Instead, the General only likes to recite his libel list from a rostrum or in gathering where there is no opportunity for anyone to respond. Incidentally, the General maligns me in the worst possible way at every opportunity. That is the basis for the Document he has distributed. But he has not just deposed me from the Judiciary. He has also fired more than half of the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan – nearly 50 judges in all -- together with me. They have also been arrested and detained.
What are the charges against them? Why should they be fired and arrested if I am the corrupt judge? Moreover even my attorneys Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir Malik, Tariq Mahmood and Ali Ahmed Kurd were also arrested on November 3. Malik alone has been released but only because both his kidneys collapsed as a result of prison torture
Finally, as to the Document, it also contains some further allegations described as “Post-Reference Conduct” that is attributed to me under various heads. This would mean only those allegedly ‘illegal’ actions claimed to have been taken by me after March 9, 2007. These are under the heads given below and replied to as under:
“Participation in SJC (Supreme Judicial Council) Proceedings”:
(a) Retaining ‘political lawyers’: Aitzaz Ahsan and Zammurrad Khan:
It is alleged that I gave a political colour to my defence by engaging political lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Zamurrad Khan both Pakistan Peoples’ Party Members of the National Assembly. The answer is simple.
I sought to engage the best legal team in the country. Mr. Ahsan is of course an MNA (MP), but he is also the top lawyer in Pakistan. For that reference may be made simply to the ranking of Chambers and Partners Global. Such is his respect in Pakistan’s legal landscape that he was elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan by one of the widest margins in the Association’s history.
All high profile personalities have placed their trust in his talents. He has thus been the attorney for Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif, (even though he was an opponent of the latter) Presidential candidate (against Musharraf) Justice Wajihuddin, sports star and politician Imran Khan, former Speakers, Ministers, Governors, victims of political vendetta, and also the internationally acclaimed gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai, to mention only a few.
Equally important, Barrister Ahsan is a man of integrity who is known to withstand all pressures and enticements. That is a crucial factor in enaging an attorney when one’s prosecutor is the sitting military ruler, with enourmous monetary and coercive resources at his disposal.
Mr. Zamurrad Khan is also a recognized professional lawyer, a former Secretary of the District Bar Rawalpindi, and was retained by Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan to assist him in the case. Mr. Khan has been a leading light of the Lawyers’ Movement for the restoration of the deposed judiciary and has bravely faced all threats and vilification.
Finally, surely I am entitled to my choice of lawyers and not that of the General.

(b) “Riding in Mr. Zafarullah Jamali (former Prime Minister)’s car”:
How much the Document tries to deceive is apparent from the allegation that I willingly rode in Mr. Jamali’s car for the first hearing of the case against me on March 13 (as if that alone is an offence). Actually the Government should have been ashamed of itself for creating the circumstances that forced me to take that ride.
Having been stripped of official transport on the 9th March (my vehicles were removed from my house by the use of fork lifters), I decided to walk the one-mile to the Supreme Court. Along the way I was molested and manhandled, my hair was pulled and neck craned in the full blaze of the media, by a posse of policemen under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police. (A judicial inquiry, while I was still deposed, established this fact). In order to escape the physical assault I took refuge with Mr. Jamali and went the rest of the journey on his car. Instead of taking action against the police officials for manhandling the Chief Justice it is complained that I was on the wrong!
(c) “Creating a political atmosphere”:
Never did I instigate or invite any “political atmosphere”. I never addressed the press or any political rally. I kept my lips sealed even under extreme provocation from the General and his ministers who were reviling me on a daily basis. I maintained a strict judicial silence. I petitioned the Supreme Court and won. That was my vindication.
“Country wide touring and Politicising the Issue”:
The Constitution guarantees to all citizens free movement throughout Pakistan. How can this then be a complaint?
By orders dated March 9 and 15 (both of which were found to be without lawful authority by the Court) I had been sent of “forced leave”. I could neither perform any judicial or administrative functions as the Chief Justice of Pakistan. I was prevented not only from sitting in court but also from access to my own chamber by the force of arms under orders of the General. (All my papers were removed, even private documents).
The only function as ‘a judge on forced leave’ that I could perform was to address and deliver lectures to various Bar Associations. I accepted their invitations. They are peppered all over Pakistan. I had to drive to these towns as all these are not linked by air. On the way the people of Pakistan did, indeed, turn out in their millions, often waiting from dawn to dusk or from dusk to dawn, to greet me. But I never addressed them even when they insisted that I do. I never spoke to the press. I sat quietly in my vehicle without uttering a word. All this is on the record as most journeys were covered by the media live and throughout.
I spoke only to deliver lectures on professional and constitutional issues to the Bar Associations. Transcripts of every single one of my addresses are available. Every single word uttered by me in those addresses conforms to the stature, conduct and non-political nature of the office of the Chief Justice. There was no politics in these whatsoever. I did not even mention my present status or the controversy or the proceedings before the Council or the Court, not even the Reference. Not even once.
All the persons named in the Document under this head are lawyers and were members of the reception committees in various towns and Bar Associations.
Political Leaders Calling on CJP residence:
It is alleged that I received political leaders while I was deposed. It is on the record of the Supreme Judicial Council itself that I was detained after being deposed on March 9. The only persons allowed to meet me were those cleared by the Government. One was a senior political leader. None else was allowed to see me, initially not even my lawyers. How can I be blamed for whomsoever comes to my residence?
Had I wanted to politicize the issue I would have gone to the Press or invited the media. I did not. I had recourse to the judicial process for my reinstatement and won. The General lost miserably in a fair and straight contest. That is my only fault.
Hence the conclusion drawn by the General that charges had been proved against me ‘beyond doubt’ is absolutely contrary to the facts and wide off the mark. It is a self-serving justification of the eminently illegal action of firing and arresting judges of superior courts under the garb of an Emergency (read Martial Law) when the Constitution was ‘suspended’ and then ‘restored’ later with drastic and illegal ‘amendments’ grafted into it.
The Constitution cannot be amended except by the two Houses of Parliament and by a two-thirds majority in each House. That is the letter of the law. How can one man presume or arrogate to himself that power?
Unfortunately the General is grievously economical with the truth (I refrain from using the word ‘lies’) when he says that the charges against me were ‘investigated and verified beyond doubt’. As explained above, these had in fact been rubbished by the Full Court Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against which judgment the government filed no application for review.

What the General has done has serious implications for Pakistan and the world. In squashing the judiciary for his own personal advantage and nothing else he has usurped the space of civil and civilized society. If civilized norms of justice will not be allowed to operate then that space will, inevitably, be occupied by those who believe in more brutal and instant justice: the extremists in the wings. Those are the very elements the world seems to be pitted against. Those are the very elements the actions of the General are making way for.
Some western governments are emphasizing the unfolding of the democratic process in Pakistan. That is welcome, if it will be fair. But, and in any case, can there be democracy if there is no independent judiciary?
Remember, independent judges and judicial processes preceded full franchise by several hundred years. Moreover, which judge in Pakistan today can be independent who has before his eyes the fate and example of his own Chief Justice: detained for three months along with his young children. What is the children’s crime, after all?
There can be no democracy without an independent judiciary, and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 is reversed. Whatever the will of some desperate men the struggle of the valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up.
Let me also assure you that I would not have written this letter without the General’s unbecoming onslaught. That has compelled me to clarify although, as my past will testify, I am not given into entering into public, even private, disputes. But the allegations against me have been so wild, so wrong and so contrary to judicial record, that I have been left with no option but to put the record straight. After all, a prisoner must also have his say. And if the General’s hand-picked judges, some living next door to my prison home, have not had the courage to invoke the power of ‘habeas corpus’ these last three months, what other option do I have? Many leaders of the world and the media may choose to brush the situation under the carpet out of love of the General. But that will not be.
Nevertheless, let me also reassure you that I continue in my resolve not to preside any Bench which will be seized of matters pertaining to the personal interests of General Musharraf after the restoration of the Constitution and the judges, which, God willing, will be soon.
Finally, I leave you with the question: Is there a precedent in history, all history, of 60 judges, including three Chief Justices (of the Supreme Court and two of Pakistan’s four High Courts), being dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man? I have failed to discover any such even in medieval times under any emperor, king, or sultan, or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times. But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist General out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports.
I am grateful for your attention. I have no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue it from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic. After all, the edifice of an independent judicial system alone stands on the middle ground between these two extremes. If the edifice is destroyed by the one, the ground may be taken over by the other. That is what is happening in Pakistan. Practitioners of rough and brutal justice will be welcomed in spaces from where the practitioners of more refined norms of justice and balance have been made to abdicate.
I have enormous faith that the Constitution and justice will soon prevail.
Yours truly,

Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry,
Chief Justice of Pakistan,
imprisoned in the Chief Justice’s House,

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!