Saturday, May 10

Water Wars

Well, the South African Constitution says this.

Section 27(1) of the constitution says: “Everyone has the right to have access to ... sufficient food and water.”

Section 27(2) says the state must “take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights”.

Ok, so everybody has a right to food and water. Now, does that mean free water? As I have said so many times before, there is nothing free in the world. Somebody has to pay. So the South African High Court has ruled that the state has to pay for a basic provision of water to everybody. See here for more details.

Now, where do we get the money from? General taxation? so why would the poor pay for the rich? Remember that payments for services out of general taxation are disproportionately and comparatively bad on poor people. It is like the child benefit that is given to every child in the UK. Its about 20 pounds of so. So think about it, this money is taken from the general taxation pot. So even I, who is a higher rate taxpayer, gets this 20 pounds for my children. Now I can afford to pay for my children myself. But because it comes out of general taxation, the vast majority of the poor end up paying in general taxation and then getting a wee bit in return. So paying for core services from general taxation is not that hyper efficient... Here are some good options on it.

Check out what happened here. This is indeed quite a curious decision and goes to show that when politicians say things like "right to jobs, or water, or or or", well, when rights are given, then ability to protect and provide those rights should also follow. Otherwise, its just words...

Argentine farmers announce fresh action

Remember what I said before about Argentina heading into economic problems? The problems for Argentina and rest of the world just went worse. I quote from the FT>

Argentine farmers yesterday announced a return to their roadblocks just over a month after a crippling 21-day strike sparked by a rise in export tariffs, causing an immediate spike in international grain prices.

News of another strike in Argentina, the world's third-biggest exporter of soyabeans and biggest of soya oil, immediately pushed soyabean futures up 2.5 per cent in Chicago to $12.96 a bushel.

Analysts say anything more than a few days of action by Argentine farmers, combined with strong buying by China ahead of the Olympic Games, would be enough to send prices back to record levels, as happened during the earlier Argentine farm strike in March.

The impact of the farm turmoil could also be more far-reaching: despite record world prices, Argentine farmers are already cutting back on wheat planting by up to 15 per cent this season because of the impact of tariffs and the government's decision to periodically close exports in a bid to keep domestic prices low.

There will be trouble ahead....

Only hope is that the WTO takes a stance on this very quickly, no other body has the governance or the authority to step in because individual country action will make matters worse.

Friday, May 9

Mastermind 'Not A Good Practising Muslim'


The man behind the July 7 bombings which killed 52 people, Mohammed Siddique Khan, "was not a good practising Muslim", a court has been told. A jury at Kingston Crown Court heard that one of the men accused of helping plan the attacks on the London transport network, Mohammed Shakily, 31, told police he used to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol with the mastermind.

Shakily said he couldn't "in his wildest dreams" think why he would take part in the suicide bombings.

I will tell you, its because of utter and stupid morons who make links between foreign policy and British Muslims. This is the reason why I get so upset with British Muslim leaders who keep on banging on and on about how foreign policy is leading British Muslim youth to blow themselves and my fellow citizens up. You dont see Indian Fijians blowing themselves up in London because of a coup in Fiji which was supported by London, do you? The fact that these bombers are screwed up is clear, but is that what happened to the various assorted British Muslim leaders? And then comes confused statements like this. So only good Muslims blow themselves up? You BLITHERING MORONS!!!!!, what's the frigging connection? Bloody Hell!


And yet again some British Academics play the fool

And again and again, again and again, British professional bodies constantly turn to being stupid in pushing this anti Israel or Boycott agenda.

Simply stupid, and given the pretty much constancy in this behaviour, every time this happens, it becomes confirmed that British Professional Society has a very strong Anti Semitic angle, but we know that now for centuries. Glad to see it has not gone away. But then, one would have hoped that academics would not be inflicted by this disease, but perhaps that was a fond hope. If the general population has a stupid disease, why shouldn't the professional classes, eh?

But keep on watching this University and College Union Conference story, it promises to be a laugh a minute.

Ken Livingstone explains his defeat

Quite an interesting story, and some things I completely agree with. Now where was this reasonable man? All we ended up seeing was a megalomaniac, anti semitic, dour, boring man who was stupid in his foreign policy orientation towards the end.

But, Boris should read this article, specially about what Londoners need and want, leave the personalities aside, think of the city.

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Rapists should be publicly castrated!

No questions asked. Whenever I read stories like this, I get furious, may these animals be treated like animals, publicly castrated and made to beg for public forgiveness. Vengeful? You betcha, I want to be bloody vengeful towards these men, wreak bloody retribution towards them. You want to prove your manhood by raping women, well, your manhood doesn't exist, you freak. Go weep.

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What would happen if Scotland went independent?

An amusing if improbable story. I have to admit, I am curiously attracted to Wendy Alexander, her mouth is extra-ordinarily fascinating. Very smart lady indeed and quite attractive :)



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Counter Terrorist exercises in a mosque

CAIR seems to be concerned about the fact that a counter terrorist exercise was carried out in a mosque. The CAIR people say, "The use of a fake 'mosque' in this type of drill sends the wrong message to law enforcement officials who may now view mainstream institutions, such as Islamic houses of worship, as potential security threats," said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR's Chicago chapter (CAIR-Chicago). "Officials must be trained in dealing with hostage-taking and responding to chemical, biological or bomb attacks. We are only questioning the wisdom of linking the American Muslim community and its institutions to such incidents."

I can only assume that these people are living in cloud cookoo land. Because mosques ARE unfortunately very attractive to terrorists, almost every other month, you can find terrorists holing up in mosques. And this is in so many countries. So it is indeed not surprising that this happens. See my previous essay here. You cannot really blame counter terrorism people to think that this can indeed happen in USA or UK? And interestingly enough, have they ever said anything about terrorists occupying mosques? I couldn't find anything. You see, the public at large might not understand the significance, but anybody who has followed terrorism will know exactly why CAIR are doing and saying so and the reasons are not really very pretty or attractive or even reasonable.


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Thursday, May 8

Blame a religion for what some adherents do

Have you ever come across a situation that people blame the religion for what some of the adherents have done? oh!, you might have heard about Islamophobia.

Here's something that reminded me when this chap took off on Buddhists, Buddhism, Tibetans and basically extremely confused argument. I cant be arsed to deconstruct his arguments, but if he is progressive, then I am King of China. It is obviously where his sympathies lie. What a crock. And the sad thing was, this is being circulated on Muslim lists. Perhaps they didnt see the irony in taking off at Buddhists when indulging in the very same thing that they are suffering from themselves.

More Labour inconsistency and hypocrisy

Sometimes I seriously wonder how these politicians can get up and face the world. On one hand, they dont want the EU reform treaty to be voted by us, then they want the Scottish independence to be voted...., what the hell? are we or are we not allowed to vote in case of matters relating to our sovereignty? All I can think is that Labour is now completely bonkers.

Tax Poem

Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table
At which he's fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for peanuts
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.
Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers, Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.

Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid.
Put these words
Upon his tomb,
"Taxes drove me to my doom..."

When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago

Quite an interesting evolution for modern life and taxation, eh?

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Tuesday, May 6

Why is Argentina boosting Air Force Spending?

Argentina is in a spot of economic trouble, well, for many years now. This week's Economist had this to say.

Argentina is worse off on all three counts....provoked a tax revolt by farmers...lost its most important new face when Martín Lousteau resigned as economy minister over a policy disagreement.... The price of Argentina's bonds has plunged as investors show little confidence in the government......According to unofficial calculations, inflation has reached 25% (officially, it is 9%).....But overheating and inflation are already bringing Argentines some of these woes.... The statistics agency has stopped releasing poverty figures. Using an independent estimate of inflation, the poverty rate has risen from 27% in 2006 to 30%, with 1.3m Argentines descending into poverty last year....

Pretty much standard for a Latin American country, and I did not worry about it that much. But this raised serious worries for me when I got to read about the fact that more budget and aircraft were promised for the Argentine Air Force (hat tip: DefenceTalk).

You know that the United Kingdom is not going to be unable to mount another Falkland's campaign, not with most of our troops tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bosnia and other places. See here for a great graphic. Those 1300 soldiers in Falklands will not be able to stop the Argentines if they attack. At the most, they are supposed to provide a speed bump till reinforcements arrive. How will they arrive? Our main heavy lift aircraft, Hercules, is up on the blocks because it has cracks. Our naval aviator Harrier pilots are no longer fully trained or up to date on carrier landings. Our political system is currently undergoing massive upheaval and the economy is whimpering. If the Argentines wanted to pick a time to attack the Falklands, then they couldn't have picked a better one.

Am I crying wolf? I might be biased because my supervising professor is the official historian of the previous campaign and wrote about it in 2 vols, here and here. But remember what happened the first time around? They went to war because the country had economic difficulties and the military government tried to divert attention by launching into a war. That nebulous link with neighbours as mentioned in the Uruguayan newspaper is worrying, is that a reference to Venezuela? If not that, why or which other neighbour will have Air Force links with Argentina?

Dont know, but not getting a good feeling about this.

In the meantime, here's a good video of that war.
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Monday, May 5

The Holocaust gets compared to the strangest things

This made me gibber a bit.



Students arguing in class is BAD? how?

This made me go absolutely bonkers. I quote:

Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern. She declined to comment for this piece, pointing instead to the multiple interviews she conducted with the campus press.

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas." This caused "subversiveness," a principle English professors usually favor.

Ms. Venkatesan's scholarly specialty is "science studies," which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, "teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth." She continues: "Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways." Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about "intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the pending litigation.

Such conduct is hardly representative of the professoriate at Dartmouth, my alma mater. Faculty members tend to be professional. They also tend to be sane.

That said, even at – or especially at – putatively superior schools, students are spoiled for choice when it comes to professors who share ideologies like Ms. Venkatesan's. The main result is to make coursework pathetically easy. Like filling in a Mad Libs, just patch something together about "interrogating heteronormativity," or whatever, and wait for the returns to start rolling in.

I once wrote a term paper for a lit-crit course where I "deconstructed" the MTV program "Pimp My Ride." A typical passage: "Each episode is a text of inescapable complexity . . . Our received notions of what constitutes a ride are constantly subverted and undermined." It received an A.

Where the standards are always minimum, most kids simply float along with the academic drafts, avoid as much work as possible and accept the inflated grade. Why not? It's effortless, and there are better ways to spend time than thinking deeply about ecofeminism.

The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor's best efforts, there's life in American colleges yet.

Here's her book blurb:

Book Description
Molecular Biology in Narrative Form is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary study that shows a connection between molecular biology and French narrative theory, and, from a unique perspective, bridges the gap between two disciplines that seem mutually exclusive. With many new insights on the link between science (in the form of DNA, a set of codes) and literature (in the form of language, another set of codes), this book looks at modern experimental science within the framework of semiotics. Priya Venkatesan reveals the extraordinary parallel between the work of scientists and the work of narratologists who develop narrative paradigms and analyze literary texts. Molecular Biology in Narrative Form will be a useful resource for scientists and literary theorists interested in the epistemological workings of science, as well as, anyone that desires to explore the linkages between scientific theory and literary analysis.
About the Author
Priya Venkatesan Hays received her Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, San Diego, and Master’s of Science in Genetics from the University of California, Davis. She currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. She has published extensively in journals on literary analysis and molecular biology.


The French have honour, the Spanish knuckle under piracy

Pirates are like parasites, more you feed them, the more they demand. So the only way to handle them is to thump them very hard. Unfortunately, seems like all the courage that Spain has been famous for down the centuries has dribbled away. What do they do? They pay a ransom to pirates to release their crew. And what a pathetic excuse, they did not have military means. What did they lack? the base? They could have asked for French assistance, they have marines and commando's, they have attack helicopters, they have frigates, they have fast attack boats, what they do not have is the gumption and courage.

Sad. And how much you want to bet that this will happen again? Nice cash cow, now the Spaniards have a target painted on their boats (and a big cash machine sign off the bows), while they will avoid the French boats..

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Jews supporting Fascists? WTF?

This blew me away, how on earth can the Roman Jewish population support a fascist? I quote:

Rome’s election last week of its first rightwing mayor since the time of Benito Mussolini has been celebrated by fascists as a historic victory over the left. Packs of young, thuggish supporters of Gianni Alemanno greeted the new mayor’s appearance at the Campidoglio city hall with straight-armed “Roman” salutes, shouting abuse at communists and immigrants.

Rome’s Jewish voters, numbering about 9,000, explain their shift to the right in various ways, most often because they see the National Alliance as firmly pro-Israel.Michel Bokhobza, whose family fled from Libya to Rome in 1967 in the wake of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day war, says Italy’s centre-right is much closer to Israel than the pro-Arab bias of the centre-left.“Even if his past was very close to fascism and ex-fascism, Alemanno belongs to the coalition guided by [Silvio] Berlusconi and [Gianfranco] Fini,” he said, referring to the People of Liberty alliance that also swept national elections last month.

I nearly fell out of my chair, this is unbelievable. Getting into bed with monsters will end in tears, if you do not believe me, ask the left who is in bed with the Islamists. This is frankly stupid.

Sunday, May 4

Gordon Brown is done for...

I was chuckling when I read this on Adam Boulton's blog. I quote:

the Prime Minister now lives in a Liberal Democrat constituency in a country run by the Scottish National Party and works in a city run by the Conservatives.

Is Labour stiffed or is it stiffed? Actually, putting my citizen journalist hat on, I want the Conservatives to come to power, they are much more fun to poke and prod, these Labour guys are so boring and dour. Its more fun poking and prodding hypocrisy on morals rather than economic incompetence. In the former case, nobody gets hurt, in the latter case, everybody gets hurt.

Announcing a new blog

Over the past 4 months, I have been involved with a small charity, Express Link Up which helps to bring technology to hospitalised children. And it has soon become my passion. I decided to write this blog on an infrequent basis to talk about the challenges, joys, love, pain, frustration one feels when one gets involved in this kind of stuff. So do bear with me if I get too emotional...

here's the blog.

More rage boy story about MF Husain

I have to admit, I do not understand modern art and MF Husain's paintings are no different. The fact that somebody can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for this is beyond my comprehension, but then somebody paid even more for a preserved shark. Go figure. You know what I think of those varied Hindu gangs who run around crying about injury to Hindu feelings. Clowns, all of them. No, goons, they do not know about Hinduism and are basically criminals of the lowest order. But that's besides the point.

What is more worrying is that that I got copied on an email yesterday from a group called as Association of Indian Muslims of America. This email purported to be a letter to the editor of India Abroad, saying that MF Husain should withdraw such controversial paintings because somebody found them offensive. I quote:

If some practicing Hindus object to such apparently indecent portrayal of their goddesses can we say they are wrong?  We think not.

Well, we think yes, and this association is a classic example of the reason why Indian Muslims are still facing challenges. Presumably this group is full of very professional Indian Muslims, doctors, engineers, scientists, etc. Education has been pumped into them. One expects liberal skills to come to the fore, but no, these chaps actually take off on liberal thought. I quote:

I realize that some ultra-liberal Indians including Hindus may not mind such paintings, but clearly such paintings do hurt the religious sentiments and sensibilities of a wide majority of Hindus and they feel offended.

The Hindu's did not feel offended at all, it was only when it was spun after decades and taken out of context. I am not so sure what that mean, ultra liberal Indians. You see, this was not done for the sake of the sentiments of the common Hindus, but to pander to their own medieval thought processes. In other words, this group's thought process is the same as that of the goons who protest against MF Husain. So if they join hands with the low pond life rage boys of the Hindu right, you see, they will not complain when the next time some Muslim idiot threatens to behead some Muslim or Hindu who expresses his freedom of speech or religion. You see, secularism is one of the crucial aspects of liberalism and individual rights, and that is why these groups sit very uneasily with secularism and liberalism

Mind you, MF Husain is no different, he refuses to paint Muslim religious leaders in the same way, but that's his problem of being incoherent and silly. Some of his justifications for painting what he did were seriously silly, but that's fine, he is an artist, dont care about his reasons, he has a right to paint what he wants.

This is the reason why I am very jaundiced by this and other groups. They are not liberal at all, they are not modern and they are certainly not really secular. I am very surprised that they even wrote something like this, very disappointing.

Militants burn down girls' school in north-west Pakistan

And yet again, another school and its library is burnt down by militants. It was a great master stroke, from these Mujahideen, these struggles for Islam. You see, this was the only school in the district of Charbagh, where the annual school examinations could be held. And given the poverty, transportation and and and problems in that area, its quite possible that 2-3 years worth of students are now going to be deprived of education. As it should be, educating girls is bad, giving polio drops is to make them (and the boys) impotent. But there is hope, look at what Turkish Schools are doing in this area. I just hope these are also not burnt down... How can they do this to a library, a school and their children? Unbelievable.

More on who speaks for Islam

Remember my previous post when I expressed my sorrow that British Muslims and their organisations spend more time in slamming each other? And when they do get together, they spend their time on silly stuff like this. And again it happened. A new organisation has been set up,  British Muslims for Secular Democracy, something that is very creditable indeed, but fairly typically and one could have predicted it, up pops somebody or even here to say that they are not part of Islam or that they do not represent British Muslims. The amusing thing is, who are these guys to say that? whoops, I am not supposed to ask that, am I? Truly tragic. How on earth do the personalities matter? Look at the argument, the communication. Again, fairly typical, and tragically something that is very common.

And now the Comoros/Italy problem in Bolivia

I spoke about two problems before, two rich parts of a country, Italy and Comoros in this case, no longer want to subsidise poorer parts of their country. And with different results. Here's another example from Bolivia where Santa Cruz wants to have more autonomy over land use, taxes, decision making powers, and and and. Obviously the central government does not look upon it in the same way. Self Determination? Who will you support? Say you support the case of Kashmir, Scotland and say Palestine. Which way will you go? And why? If Santa Cruz says yes in a majority, will their vote hold?

Bobby Jindal / Rahul Dravid, twins separated at birth?


On the left is Bobby Jindal, Governor of the US State of Louisiana, on the right is Rahul Dravid, Indian cricketer.

Hmmmmm, the similarities are striking!

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Screams of Vegetables when they are murdered

Vegetables feel the pain when they are exposed to bad stimuli. Just because you cannot measure it does not mean that they do not experience pain. Here's the definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.

a complex experience consisting of a physiological and emotional response to a noxious stimulus. Pain is a warning mechanism that protects an organism by influencing it to withdraw from harmful stimuli; it is primarily associated with injury or the threat of injury.

heat, lack of water, sunlight etc. are all necessary for a plant life and the suitable application or withdrawal of it will show responses in planets which can arguably be classified as pain. But before you get excited about this, remember the Black Swan Theory. Nobody thought that black swans existed till the 17th century....

So, have your meat and 2 veg, you cannot win :)

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