Monday, December 17, 2007

Global Warming, Global Cooling and the New Global Intolerance of Dissent

Not being a practising climate scientist, I haven't been able to come to a conclusion about whether we are facing global warming or global cooling. Indeed, even practicing climate scientists seem divided on the issue.

However, what is clear is that we face a kind of creeping global intolerance regarding dissenting views: the legacy of the Reformation, which produced free speech and free thought (and which modern atheists would like to attribute instead to the Renaisance and to modern atheism) seems to be declining or simply being overwhelmed. But modern skeptics find it difficult to explain how and why intolerance is increasing when their brand of atheism has become the dominant ideology over the last half-century. For those who see the inheritance of the Reformation clearly, the explanation of the new intolerance is equally clear: as the influence of the Reformation has waned, the rise of intolerance is natural and inevitable.

For an example of the new totalitarianism at work, see the post by the British journalist, the Lord Monckton, regarding how he was denied journalist accreditation at the recent Bali conference simply because he is known to be a climate sceptic, and how the machinery of the UN seems to have behaved in ways that one expects from tinpot dictatorships in third world countries: Sphere: Related Content

Is the US system equally fair to asylum seekers from all countries?

Several months ago, I was asked to write a piece on the above topic:

In response, a certain gentleman wrote as follows:

"I am first not an American but a Canadian, so thatcolors my view of the world. I'm also a Canadian whohas been an American resident for the last 16 years,as I graduated from an American college and thenseminary, and have continued to work here. What I have observed is that America since the 1800'shas had a "melting pot" for ethnic identity: come toAmerica, lose your immigrant customs, become anAmerican, work hard and you'll do well here. For thelast hundred or so years, as numerous articles,ranging from Finance & Development (June 1999) to theDeVoretz and Laryea study in 1998 that indicate thatAmerica wants to be a brain drain for all countries;Europe, Asia, Canada, Latin America. It's a smartidea to attract other countries' top talents and putthem to work for you. America does allow for skilled laborers to come, and Ibelieve Jack Welch said it most recently that theAmerican government may have to up the number of H-1Bvisas to allow for skilled workers to come. (Theeffect of outsourcing may be a discussing for adifferent day.) Both America and Canada allow for asylum status, thatis, if your country is persecuting you for somereason, or, according to the USCIS site, "traumaticand painful experiences" that caused you to leave yourcountry. So I think that in all fairness, America is ratherfair in the immigration policy. What America is afraid of, I believe, is a large bodyof people who basically want a free lunch, or worse, alunch at everyone else's expense. And rightly so;we've all heard stories about people who run acrossthe border and basically enroll their kids at theexpense of taxpayers, which the parents are not(they'd have to have a social security number to paytaxes, and illegal immigrants don't have one). Now, I live in a city that has had a lot ofimmigrants, and has been plagued by some of the abusesto immigrants, and we are still paying for our pastsins. In the past, there were Italians, the Irish,Puerto Ricans, and numerous other ethnic groups. Theyalways got pushed to the bottom of the social peckingorder and were often underpaid and put in dangerousjobs (much like the Chinese immigrants who worked onthe transcontinental railroad in the 1860s and 1870s). Of course, to love my neighbor as myself would meanthat I should not put them in demeaning, dehumanizing,or dangerous roles -- but at the same time, if I knewthat I had broken a law, would I not submit myself tothe authorities and suffer just punishment andconsequences?"

My response was along the following lines:

I agree and sympathise with your position below. However, where we differ is regarding your statement "Both America and Canada allow for asylum status, that is, if your country is persecuting you for some reason, or, according to the USCIS site, "traumatic and painful experiences" that caused you to leave your country....So I think that in all fairness, America is rather fair in the immigration policy."

My disagreement with you arises for the following reason: you seem to be unaware that NOT all politically persecuted asylum seekers have equal status in seeking asylum in the USA.

There is a politically-determined quota system that decides how many political refugees from which country are admitted. For a purely mythic illustration, the US "system" decides every year how many to allow from Pakistan and how many from India; the system might decide to allow in 10K from Pak, and 9K from India, or the other way around or zero from Pakistan and a 100K from India, or whatever. Some countries are allocated very few places, some are allocated no places, and some are allocated lots of places.

Naturally, the US has every right to decide how many to admit and from which country. But the process for allocating the respective "asylum seats per country" is not transparent (behind-the-scenes political jockeying is what determines the countries and the numbers).

That is what I meant when I argued that the system is not fair by objective standards (that is, by God's standards) .
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sex, the "profession" of prostitution, and philosophy

Among a group of acquaintances, primarily Indians, a discussion was started by one of us who was horrified at the actual social and physical conditions that exist in the world of prostitution in India (this is well documented in publicly accessible records but of course few of us like to think about such things).

Some others in our group defended the practice of prostitution on the grounds that there is nothing wrong with pleasure in exchange for money.

One used the term "oldest profession" in the discussion to provide a sort of historical legitimacy to prostitution.

Another responded to this with: "Its interesting how we have provided social acceptance to the term "the oldest profession". Is prostitution a profession? How many commercial sex workers do it because they enjoy it? (like people do in most other professions?)? Is it a profession to which we would happily send our wives and daughters?"

This prompted the following reflections from me, disconnected as they are:

A profession is an occupation, vocation or career governed by a self-regulatory body which enforces adherence to an ethical code of practice and supervises the communication of specialized knowledge of a subject, field, or science, usually through systematic training and acquisition of proficiency certified by some formal examination and the award of an appropriate qualification.

So it is clear that "sex work" is not a profession. Any expression such as "oldest profession" simply tries to disguise an unpalatable reality – in other words, such an expression is simply a lie.

This is not to make any comment on the question of pleasure. Sexuality is pleasurable, otherwise I am not sure whether its messy side would be indulged in.

In all cultures, sexuality is bounded by long-term mutual commitment on the part of those who consent. Prostitution (sex for money) provides the pleasure without the relationship. That is to say, the money exchange substitutes for the long-term relationship. In every society, there will always be people who will (at least for a period) resort to short cuts or the easy way in terms of providing pleasure for themselves without regard to the long-term consequences. But any such short-cut or easy way will always interfere with any existing or future long-term relationship.

I guess there is a sort of parallel in hiring a servant to look after a baby or an aged parent. That is different from looking after the baby or parent yourself. Naturally, some services can be bought. But the very process of buying the service distances you from the personal commitment (and therefore the relationship) involved. In other words, it changes the relationship.

No society believes that faithfulness (which is different from "possessiveness") is easy. That is why sexual pleasure is bounded by moral, social and psychological factors in every society, even in what is reputed to be the "free" West.

Of all the philosophies regarding sex, the most difficult of all is the philosophy of Jesus according to whom the ideal sexual relationship is one man and one woman for life, in which care and nurture and understanding each other provides a superior context for, as well as quality of, sexual pleasure. Naturally, in the historical gospel accounts regarding him, his teaching was not based on personal experience but on first principles going back to his understanding and teaching regarding the origin of the universe and of human beings.

However, the most difficult teaching of Jesus was at least one of the factors that, according to social historians, led to the rise of the West from being one of the poorest parts of the world to one of the richest.

It is also interesting that the teaching of Jesus instinctively finds resonance in societies such as ours (Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain....) in which there is no other basis for any teaching about one man-one woman in our own traditions, so that most middle-class Indians favour at least theoretically the notion of one man-one woman, even though all our great teachers and scriptures nowhere put forward such a notion. Hindu tradition is traditionally polygamous and polyandrous as can be seen in the Vedas, Puranas, and so on; Islam allows four wives and innumerable "temporary wives", Buddhism and Jainism have very little to say on the subject. The sexual antics of many of our great gurus are common knowledge but do not detract from their supposed "holiness" because, in our tradition, such gurus are "liberated" from the moral constraints that are supposed to apply to ordinary mortals. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 10, 2007

Goa - a land of coconuts in which it is difficult to find coconut water!

One of the puzzles of India is why we have such difficulty in providing basic things even for tourists - which presumably would be at high profit, if one did suplly them.

Try and get coconut water or indeed simple fruit at almost any restaurant in Goa and you'll see what I mean.

You'll find plenty of beer, wine, whisky - as well as coca-cola and other varieties of coloured water.

And if you are vegetarian, Goa is a tough place in which to survive..... very little variety in the kinds of dishes available - as against the huge variety of non-vegetarian dishes.

So Goa is great for non-vegetarians and alcohol-imbibers....but I'm afraid I go to Goa on sufferance.... Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 08, 2007

passports, visas and the limits of achievements

A friend from a Western country writes asking if I can help find a job for an Indian friend, who we may call Vinod for the moment.

Unfortunately, Vinod is one of the many tens of thousands, in Western countries, who have an Indian passport and no appropriate visa for working in these countries.

My friend pleads with me to try to find some solution as Vinod is both extraordinarily gifted and extraordinarily hard-working.

As someone who is very familiar with this problem over many years, I had to say that
it does not matter how gifted or hard-working you are, your passport and visa-status define your minimum and maximum possible achievements in this world.

Though it does not seem that way to many of us, specially when we are young, there is after all Someone outside ourselves who determines where we are born, and to whom we are born. That Someone therefore defnies the entire framework with which, and within which, we have to work out our lives. Sphere: Related Content

Summoning some gods to a court of law?!

A friend draws to my attention an interesting story on a BBC website, concerning a dispute regarding the ownership of 1.4 acre plot of land on which stand temples dedicated to the gods Shri Ram and Shri Hanuman - and the question is: does the land belong to the gods or to the priest?

**Hindu gods get summons from court **
A judge in India summon the Hindu gods Ram and Hanuman to help resolve a property dispute.
< >

This will be a fascinating case, setting a precedent for the millions of temples across the land.

And it will be most interesting to know what the priest is proposing to do with the land IF he gets ownership of it:

Demolish the temple and build a mall?!

But is that really more lucrative than having a temple in the first place?

Unlikely. So my guess is that the priest wants to leave the 2 temples to continue producing money on their own, but sell the remaining land, or build on it for commercial purposes , so as to realise some of the "marginal" value of the land. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 06, 2007

On French versus the US Tax Code

A friend is looking for a European CFO who speaks French.

Another responds: "Unfortunately, most of my CFO friends are trying to learn how to interpret the US Tax Code as a second language"

:) Sphere: Related Content

Schools and solving the world's problems

A report on schools around the world, in the most recent issue of The Economist, concludes with the following : "...across the world, the less students know about science, the more optimistic they are about the chances of solving the planet's environmental problems".

Not really surprising, since the more students know about science, the more they realise that our environmental problems are a direct result of scientific advancement, and that, though science and technology certainly have a role to play for example in reducing energy consumption in relation to the same output, solving environmental problems is not primarily a matter of scientific or technological advance, but rather of rational analysis and political will (which always boils down to social, psychological and spiritual resources).

AsI have written elsewhere, the means to address the world's ecological as well as economic problems are already available and have been available for some time. It is because the means have been systematically ignored, specially since the end of WWII, that we have the present mess in the world. Sphere: Related Content

sand ecology

A report on schools around the world, in the most recent issue of The Economist, concludes with the following : "...across the world, the less students know about science, the more optimistic they are about the chances of solving the planet's environmental problems".

Not really surprising, since the more students know about science, the more they realise that our environmental problems are a direct result of scientific advancement, and that, though science and technology certainly have a role to play for example in reducing energy consumption in relation to the same output, solving environmental problems is not primarily a matter of scientific or technological advance, but rather of rational analysis and political will (which always boils down to social, psychological and spiritual resources).

AsI have written elsewhere, the means to address the world's ecological as well as economic problems are already available and have been available for some time. It is because the means have been systematically ignored, specially since the end of WWII, that we have the present mess in the world. Sphere: Related Content

Which will be the world's reserve currency in 2035?

In view of the current decline of the dollar, one of the most respected international commentators on financial matters has recently gone on record with the following statements: "By the time the dollar has lost its (reserve currency) status, somewhere around 2035, the Chinese renminbi or even the Indian rupee - not the euro - will be best placed to take over its mantle. ...The biggest risk to a RMB-standard by the mid-21st century is that between 2007 and 2035, there is likely to be major political change in China. This may be as smooth as the "velvet revolution" in the former Czechoslovakia in 1989 or it may be as tumultuous as China's own cultural revolution of the 1960s. However, if China is delayed or diverted by politics, it is not clear that this provides an opportunity for Euroland in 2035. India's economic and political path, by contrast, appears well set. China's one-child policy makes it all the more likely that India will end up with the largest population and, one day, the largest economy in the world".

Being Indian, I am naturally flattered by such views. It is also true that China's population is set to decline before India's, and that India will in all probability be the most populous country in the world, from something like 2035. However, the world's most populous country has not always had the largest economy - think China from about 1875 to a few years ago. By contrast, think of a rather small country (France) having one of the largest economies in the world from approximately 1625 - 1825; or think of another small country (the UK) having one of the largest economies in the world from about 1825 - 1950; or indeed think of one of the smallest countries in the world by population (Sweden) which had the world's second largest economy between 1775 - 1800. In other words, size of population has often had relatively little to do with size of economy.

Regretfully, therefore, I must decline to agree with the basis of my colleague's prognostication about the world's currency in 2035 - though, as I say, being Indian, I hope that he is right on other grounds nevertheless :)

My own sober view is that there will be no single reserve currency within the current global system as the system is multipolar and unstable, and will continue to be so till any country (possibly Russia? - unpalatable thought! - but possibly in alliance with Europe, which may make this more palatable!) establishes military superiority. Which explains why the world's arms sales are soaring, as every country is now rushing to arm itself in order to expand its reach and/ or in order to defend itself. China may collapse in the future, but it won't be because the Chinese are stupid. It will be because they have an inappropriate system which will make it very difficult for them to negotiate the future. India has an appropriate system (democracy) but it is as yet unclear whether the secularists will win the culture war currently underway or whether the Hindu fascists will win; the latter would like to take the country back to the middle ages - if not earlier! Russia has an inappropriate system (at present Putin's de facto dictatorship) but, with its relatively sparse population, it will have plenty of gas on which to base its growth - though it will also face the danger of collapse because of its inappropriate political system. Europe has both the right system and the right culture, so my bet is on Europe, possibly in alliance with Russia - or possibly Russia will be a part of a reconstructed Europe by then. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Should we support NGOs?

A friend writes on a list that I subscribe to: "NGOs hold up development in deeply impoverished rural areas offering much, delivering little and spreading fear amongst local people. Ultimately the locals begin to realize that without development they can never achieve the lifestyle that the donors and management of these very NGOs live on a daily basis - in Islington or Kensington or Double Bay. If you want more on this topic, get the movie "Mine Your Own business" - it's a franklook at the NGO business, the damage they do and they say in their very own words".

My response:

Certainly, there are NGOs as well as scientific institutions/ organisations around the world that are neither as honest nor as effective as they should be.

Equally, there are honest and effective scientific institutions/ organisations - just as there are honest and effective NGOs.

Honest/effective NGOs believe in independent assessment by qualified outsiders - and publish audited accounts which state clearly how much of the money reaches the intended beneficiaries and how much gets eaten up in administration et al.

A similar point might apply to scientific institutions/ organisations, except that the whole of the "science industry" is vitiated by politics - I mean of the national or "Party Political" sort, since a lot of funding comes from national governments.

Individuals can choose *not* to give to NGOs - and can choose, if they wish to give, the NGO they prefer. They do not have any such choice in relation to taxation.

We all know that underdevelopment is a choice that political elites make in the interests of their own pockets (as can be seen starkly in Sudan, Zimbabwe and other countries), and we know that NGOs can do little about that. But what honest and effective NGOs can do is to make some marginal difference to a few lives here and there - which is important for those lives. If someone on this list can point to some organisation dedicated to "shifting" the stance of guilty political elites (not only in the three-fourths world), I will happily join that individual and organisation. Meanwhile, I am committed to making what difference I can through honest and trustworthy NGOs.

On this list, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has often been attacked for being "political". I could pursue this also in relation to some scientific institutions/organisations in India. No doubt others could do so in relation to some scientific institutions/ organisations in other countries - or even most scientific institutions/organisations in relation to certain countries.

Attacking any or all such NGOs/ scientific organisations/ institutions gets us nowhere".

In response, a correspondent responds with an illustration: "Sofia - now a city of 900,000 motor vehicles does not have a garbage dump. Garbage is collected and compressed and baled and then trucked 150 kilometres to a remote disposal site outside the second largest city in he country - Plovdiv. Why? Because of local NGOs with strong political connections. The NGOs have more than strong ties with the Socialists with the main ones in Bulgaria having been founded by the Sons of Communist era Generals one of whom is VP of the country). Why is Plovdiv willing to take the garbage? - US10 million a year I believe".

My response:
The problem in Bulgaria is clearly not NGOs per se but the fact that they are manipulated by the political elite there ... as happens in so many other parts of the world.

Conclusion: We need to scrutinise NGOs just as we need to scrutinise companies - or governments, for that matter. The human tendency to twist for personal benefit whatever can be twisted has to be watched in every sphere of activity. But that does not mean that we can do without governments, companies or NGOs. The difference is that companies rely on investors, workers and customers; and governments rely on the consent of the governed; while NGOs rely on the goodwill of ordinary people. Corrupt NGOs need to be "outed" in order to maintain the credibility of the entire NGO sector. In my view, non-corrupt NGOs do not do enough to "out" the corrupt NGOs. But, at the end of the day, "outing" corrupt NGOs is the responsibility of every human being. Sphere: Related Content

Should Germany ban Scientology?

Readers who know Germany better than I do will not need to be reminded that Hamburg is a city-state and has its own Minister for the Interior. Nor will they need to be informed that Hamburg's interior minister is Udo Nagel.

Some of us lesser mortals have become acquainted with Nagel's name following the story that he is seeking a nationwide ban against Scientology, on the grounds that this cult is an "unconstitutional big business":,1518,521262,00.htmlAs I am not an expert on the German constitution, I will ignore that aspect of this story but here is the rest of it, with my comments in brackets: German officials consider Scientology a business, not a religion, and tax it accordingly. Scientologists, naturally, complain about this as 'religious discrimination'. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) apparently ruled that Scientology is a religion (though it is not clear to me what competence the ECHR has in matters of religion nor am I sure whether the ECHR considered the fact that there can be religions which are big business - probably the best other examples are the Roman Catholic Church, the Moonies and the Hare Krishna). Scientologists enjoy the same freedom as any other business in Germany. Berlin has a Scientology Center, and the famous Scientologist Tom Cruise came to Berlin this year to film a big-budget Hollywood film -- even, after some debate, in restricted Nazi-era buildings. Anyway, Nagel's argument is that Scientology is not only a commercial enterprise but also an "anti-constitutional" group with "aggressively fierce" tactics. The German Office for the Protection of the Constitution has watched the group for years because of its recruitment practices. The German government worries that Scientology, as a foreign organization, wants to win over adherents and influence German politics. "There is substantial evidence that the Scientology organization is involved in activities directed against the free democratic order," the agency has written in official reports. Nagel hinted at his new campaign last summer, when he said that Scientology aimed at nothing less than the "complete repression of the individual." But a single German state can't push through a ban. So Nagel is taking his case to colleagues in other states with the idea of forging a nationwide prohibition.

This is an interesting line for an Interior Minister to take. My own instincts are for religious and business freedom. However, Scientology is a special case in that it seems to use, as the German point of view quoted above indicates, psychological techniques to repress individuals. The question that remains is whether, in a free society, individuals should not be free to belong to groups that repress their "normal" members (apparently, they treat their "star" members as royalty, instead). The only problem with my libertarian view is that once someone has become a Scientologist, it is extremely difficult to get out - and even those who get out find themselves having suffered, and continuing to suffer, physical, mental and emotional harm (at least, that is the claim made by ex-Scientologists).

In any case, it might be argued, from a national security point of view, all that matters whether individuals, repressed or otherwise, pose a real security threat. With Islamic Jehadists, the answer is clear. With Scientology (though I dislike it intensely), I have to say that the answer is not at all clear. So far as I know, no Scientologist has attempted by any violent means to attack any nation state.

I conclude that Minister Nagel is going down the wrong track. There may be very good grounds in German law to proceed against Scientology (and certainly no one should look on Scientology with anything but contempt), but national security has, so far, not (to public knowledge) been a matter of any substantial concern in relation to Scientology.

Scientology is considered, in Germany, a profit-oriented "psycho-group" or "commercial cult" with totalitarian internal structures and undemocratic goals - specifically, one that it is "striving for world power". A German national commission established in 1996 to investigate "so-called sects and psycho-groups" including Scientology, concluded in its report that such groups did not at present pose a threat to society and state, and underlined the constitutional principle of religious freedom as well as the state's obligation to observe strict neutrality in these matters. However, it called upon the Government to introduce legislation for consumer protection in the "psycho-market" and highlighted the need for the Government to inform the public about dangers to health and property posed by psycho-cults and groups. Particular emphasis was placed on Scientology because it allegedly pursues policies of "misinformation" and "intimidation of its critics", according to the report. Scientology has been described as "an unscrupulous commercial enterprise that harasses its critics and abuses the trust of its members".

The way to deal with Scientology is through consumer education and the same kind of appropriate legal action which one takes against other "unscrupulous commercial enterprises" when they are discovered doing something for which they can be taken to court.

Herr Nagel's approach may appeal to some individuals and officials in Germany but it is almost certainly not the right approach. Sphere: Related Content

Islamic Autocracy, Fundamentalism and Refugees

Perhaps some kind soul (preferably Muslim, as that will be more likely to be authoritative) will explain to me why autocrats, specially from Muslim cultures, like to sponsor fundamentalist Islam?

We have seen the phenomenon in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other countries in the past. Now we are seeing the phenomenon in Malaysia where Hindus seem to be losing their rights.

And I see today that the Constitutional Assembly in the Maldives has just passed an amendment stating that “none except Muslims can be Maldivian citizens”. If implemented, this amendment to the constitution will mean that a number of Maldivians will lose their citizenship and become stateless. President Gayoom's autocratic regime has been promoting militant Islamism in the Maldives, so that it is now common to punish any person who follows, preaches or simply reads texts of other religions until he or she turns to Islam. The President did promise to take measures to combat Islamic extremism after a bomb explosion earlier this year, attributed to an Islamic militant group, injured a number of tourists. However, President Gayoom has done nothing to implement that promise (as far as I am aware) , and the amendment referred to above will be like more meat to the fundamentalist beast.

Meanwhile, there is one other consideration: if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is right, the Maldives will be one of the countries which will completely drown in the foreseeable future as the sea-level rises.

That means that all the 300,000 inhabitants (or whatever the total population then is) will have to become refugees in other countries.

It will certainly be far easier for them to be accepted as refugees in other parts of the world if measures are taken to create a more liberal and tolerant society in Maldives.

Since Islamic societies become steadily poorer than they need to be, it is not surprising that their record for absorbing refugees is not exactly outstanding. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eyewitness account of the assassination attempt on the Governor of Goa, on a visit to Nagaland a few days ago

As I have not noticed any media picking up the story of the facts regarding the assassination attempt, here is the account of the ambush by the Officer of Special Duty to the Governor, Mr Zumvu:

Facts about the Ambush on His Excellency SC Jamir, Governor of Goa at Changki village area, Mokokchung, Nagaland on November 24, 2007

1. His Excellency SC Jamir, Governor of Goa reached Mokokchung on November 19, 2007 ton a private visit. After completion of his engagements, as per his schedule, he was to depart Mokokchung on November 24, 2007 to Calcutta via Dimapur by Indian Airlines.

2. From the day His Excellency arrived at Mokokchung, intelligence reports from the Administration as well as well-wishing public informed the Raj Bhawan Officials that insurgents were determined not to let him get out of Mokokchung and that they were planning to lay ambush on His Excellency’s convoy when he travels out of the State. On November 22, 2007, it was learnt from highly placed sources that the Ministry of Home Affairs had sent a red alert to the State Government that miscreants were likely to lay ambush on His Excellency when he travels by road. A security coordination meeting was accordingly called the same morning at the residence of His Excellency which was attended by the Deputy Commissioner, Mokokchung, SP Mokokchung, PSO attached to His Excellency and officials of the Raj Bhawan Goa traveling with the VVIP. In the meeting, His Excellency asked the DC to alert all the GBs of the villages along the Mokokchung-Mariani road and sanitize their respective areas. It was also decided that additional security forces would be requisitioned and that Road Opening Parties would be arranged in all the three exit routes from Mokokchung, namely, NH 61 via Wokha, NH 61 via Tuli and State Highway via Mariani. His Excellency decided to go by the State Highway via Mariani. In addition to the security personnel, two bullet proof ambassador cars were also requisitioned, and the same were provided though not in very good condition.

3. Raj Bhawan officials accompanying His Excellency were in constant touch with the Intelligence personnel as well as villagers. The local functionaries of the NSCN were reported to be unaware of any plans to ambush the VVIP. But at the same time, well wishers conveyed their apprehension that even if militants were to do any mischief, it would be carried out by some special hit teams and that the local functionaries would be kept in the dark. On November 23rd evening, highly placed and reliable sources reported that one self styled Lt Col Hopeson Tangkhul of the NSCN (IM) had arrived in Mokokchung for some undisclosed purpose. In spite of the reports of security threat on His Excellency, it was felt that the factions of the NSCN would not dare to violate the Ceasefire by laying ambush on the visiting Governor. Nevertheless, all necessary security arrangements were made and even the SP and SDO © Mokokchung accompanied the VVIP’s convoy.

4. On November 24th morning, the ADC to the Governor and I, the undersigned approached His Excellency a few minutes before 5.00 a.m. and requested him to sit in a bullet proof car at least till Mariani. However, the request was not heeded and the VVIP decided to travel in his own car. His reasoning was that how he could be so selfish as to travel in a bullet proof car when the security personnel traveling with him were in open vehicles exposed to bullets.

5. At 5.00 a.m. on November 24, His Excellency and the Lady Governor got into the vehicle. The two VIP “dummy” cars, my private car and the pick up vehicle used to transport the kitchen attendants and ration which were parked in the compound of the residence, moved out of the gate. All the other police vehicles were parked outside the compound. However, on the road below the VVIP’s residence, the convoy stopped for a few minutes for the security personnel to arrange the convoy sequence. Till the time the ambush took place when the His Excellency had to be shifted out of the VIP Car, I myself did not know in which car the VVIP was in.

6. At about 6.20 to 6.25 a.m. after crossing Changki village towards Mariani when the convoy slowed down at a landslide/sinkage area, huge explosions rocked the area followed by heavy gun fire. The convoy came to a stop as the commandoes got out of their vehicles and quickly retaliated to the gunshots coming out of the thick foliage above the road. There was a heavy exchange of fire for several minutes, followed by intermittent burst of gun shot from the ambushers whose number or positions were not known. I was asked by the driver and the commandoes standing nearby to move on to the nullah/drainage for protection. There were some freshly unloaded boulders of rocks for road repairs near my vehicle and it was there that I and some drivers and unarmed uniformed attendants took shelter. Lying there in the drain I made phone calls to Raj Bhawan Goa, media persons, police and administrative officers in other districts of Nagaland and Assam informing them of what was taking place at that moment. After a few minutes, the SP Mokokchung came running to where I was taking shelter and asked where and how His Excellency was. I pointed towards the next turning and whispered, for fear of alerting the ambushers about the exact location of the VVIP, that the VVIP was in the next turning. At a time when bullets were flying everywhere, the SP ran over towards the VVIP only with a pistol in his hand without taking cover or shelter and not bothering at all about his own saftey. He went round the turn of the highway towards the VVIP and after a few minutes, he came back to where I was and said His Excellency was calling for me. At the same time, he shouted for the bullet proof car which was a few vehicles away from where we were, to proceed towards the VVIP car. This was after 10 to 15 minutes when the explosions and firing started.

7. By this time, it was obvious that the concentration of gun fire was aimed at the VVIP car and not on any of the other vehicles in the convoy. With extreme precaution and taking shelter of the retaining wall, I approached a few metres to where the VIP car was and saw that the VVIP was being taken into the bullet proof car. From the place where I was taking refuge, I could clearly see that as he was being taken into the BP car, his back was exposed to the ambushers’ gunfire. I noticed that the VIP car was driven to the nullah/drain and the edge of the side of the road provided natural cover to the car and that the bullets from the ambushers were ricocheting away on the tarred road unable to touch the VIP car. But the area in which the BP car was parked and in which the VVIP was taken into, was exposed to the bullets of the ambushers. However, the ring round security personnel provided heavy covering fire while the VVIP was being taken into the BP car and after a few seconds, the VVIP was whisked away.

8. A minute or so after the VVIP was taken away to safety, there was a heavy burst of gun fire again. This was promptly reciprocated by the commandoes who were kneeling by the side of the road exposed to the oncoming gun shots. I could see bullets ricocheting away on the ground kicking up dust and smoke a few inches away from them. It was as if they thought they were immune to bullets. From my position, I could see a few fairly large craters along the drain very close to the stranded VIP car. I was later told by the commandoes that four bombs went off simultaneously next to the VIP Car and that a few 2-inch mortars too exploded in close proximity of the car. The ADC to the Governor who was in the VIP car with the VVIP later told me that while getting out of the car to the BP car, he saw two unexploded mortars not even five feet away from the VIP car. He said he picked up one and threw it away below the road, while the PSO did the same to the other.

9. The rest of the convoy was stranded because the ambushers fired intermittently at us. We could not get out of the place for several minutes but once it was noticed by the sounds of the gun shots that the ambushers were retreating, the rest of the convoy slowly moved out of the ambush site to join up with the VVIP some 15 minutes later during which time/interval/distance, I saw that the nearest ROP personnel were no where near the site of the incident. The two uniformed personnel providing road protection/opening were at least a kilometer or so away from the site and they did not appear to be aware of the ambush.

10. The convoy then proceeded towards Tsutapela Gate, Nagaland where security personnel from Assam Police were also waiting and after a quarter of an hour or so, the convoy proceeded towards Dimapur. DGP Nagaland and Additional DGP received the VVIP at the NH 31 and NH 39 junction in Assam and escorted him till Chumukedima. There were also scores of vehicles belonging to well wishers at the Nagaland Check gate to receive and follow the VVIP back to Dimapur.

11. At Dimapur, I was informed by the Assistant Commandant of the 9 IRB which provided the VVIP security and protection till Dimapur, that the site of the incident was “swept” by his bomb disposal party at 4.30 a.m. that morning. Later in the day, I was informed by police officers that more bombs have been detected and that the whole place was cordoned off. Passengers traveling on that route that morning were stranded for a few hours, and some of them phoned up through mobile phones that they heard a very loud explosion. It was learned that the Assam Rifles party had detected more than ten High Explosive Devices and other assorted explosives buried in four places in the drain underneath boulders. Huge impoverished gelatin bombs around which splitters were tied to have more devastating effects were detected and one was exploded by the Assam Rifles party. It was also informed that had even a single one exploded, it would have devastated several vehicles in the vicinity. It was sheer providence that these explosives could not be detonated by the ambushers.

12. I think it was also the large number of commandoes providing security to His Excellency that deterred the ambushers to come closer to their target. There were around 65 to 70 armed commandoes from the 9 IRB and DEF Kohima and other units at the time of the ambush. At Dimapur, when the bullets were counted, it was found that more than 800 rounds were fired by the commandoes in a time span of 25 to 30 minutes.

13. Recalling about the whole incident, I note with particular concern that the ambushers knew exactly in which car the VVIP was in. After the initial melee and confusion when I felt bullets were flying everywhere – and indeed it was so – I noticed that most of the shots were fired at the VVIP car. The dummy cars, it appears, did not fool the ambushers.

14. It was also a quite a coincidence that no ROP personnel were near the site of the ambush. The two uniformed personnel I saw after the ambush were more than a kilometer away and they did not appear to be aware that the ambush had taken place. Or if they were aware, they were taking it pretty cool.

15. The site was said to be swept by the bomb disposal team at 4.30 a.m. that day, as reported to me by the Assistant Commandant of the 9 IRB. The ambushers must have been in a very large number to have planted not one or two, but eight bombs between 4.30 a.m. and 6.25 a.m.

16. Four non-locals whom I presumed to be labourers engaged in road repairs, were standing by the side of the road barely a hundred metres or so from the site of the ambush. I do not know when or how they got there, or what they were doing there, but investigating agencies might get some inputs from them.

Dated Panaji the 2nd December, 2007 (Sebastian Zumvu)
OSD to Governor
Goa Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, December 01, 2007

how is free trade with China possible without a freely traded currency

In the midst of the polite and not so polite spats (and more) at the EU-China Trade Summit being held in Beijing, I see plenty of European concern about product safety, currency reform and the historically unprecedented and almost unbelievably large trade deficit.

One thing has been remarked on and will probably not be remarked on: the trade deficit is a direct result of the undervalued Chinese currency which makes Chinese goods cheaper in the world market.

How undervalued is the Chinese currency? Tthe Europeans view is that the Yuan is undervalued by probably as much as 25 percent. That is, Chinese goods are up to 25% cheaper than they should be, simply because the Chinese Communist Party which governs China keeps the currency artifically cheap.

But this is a system-flaw that is well-known to everyone who was and is involved in the WTO negotiations: we have so-called free trade, when everyone knows that whoever is prepared to manipulate their currency will win in the marketplace. So a freely-tradeable currency should be a pre-requisite to participation in the WTO "free trade" treaties.

But, for various reasons (mostly to do with their own back yards) none of the dominant powers want to make a freely-tradeable currency a pre-requisite for participation in the WTO "free trade" treaty.

So everyone knew of the danger that some countries would go down the route of manipulating the value of their currency. Now that the Chinese have been systematically making use of the dangerous possibility for some decades, the Europeans have finally joined the Americans in crying over spilt milk.

The way to cure the problem is not to whimper to the Chinese Communist authorities, but to change the rules of the WTO to what they should have been in the first place. Free trade is fine, but only on the basis of a genuinely level playing field. And that includes freely traded currencies from participating countries. Sphere: Related Content

The misuse of language, thought, and other public structures

Someone I know writes to invite me to join an organisation's Board of Governors.

I ask for details of the organisation. He is cagey about this, saying that there have been "a number of hostile attempts to take over the organization". So he and his colleagues have "had to take extreme measures and put together strict procedures and governance. The organization is now restructured. We have a new Ceo and President and a new capable board of directors. The entity 501 c6 is now legally protected by the board, legal team and founding team. Board of governors is honorary and advisory, and we are very careful in providing this information at this time to prospective active board of governors.All of the board of directors would be seeing constitution and by laws for the first time during the board of directors meeting in nyc under strict guidelines. Due to the current sitution and request from our CEO, we have to keep bylaws and constitution on very controlled and restrictive basis".

So here is an interesting situation:

1. You have to agree to be on the board of an organisation about which you know nothing before you are allowed to see the constitution of the organisation (!).

2. There is a Board of Directors that has executive or non-executive authority AS WELL AS a "Board of Governors" that is merely advisory. The right and transparent terminology for any advisory board is of course to call it either a "Board of Advisors" or a "Board of Patrons" (or, possibly, a "Board of Reference" - depending on how eminent the members are). A "board of governors" is usually the governing board of a public entity. The organisation in question is not a public entity and here is a "board of governors" that does NOT "govern"! Given the degeneration and public misuse of language that has been going on for some decades, I guess this kind of usage is not entirely surprising but it does not add to the credibility of the organisation.

3. I note that "The 501(c)(6) is specifically reserved to Chamber of Commerce organizations, economic development corporations, real estate boards, trade boards, professional football leagues (e.g., the NFL), and other types of business leagues. They are characterized by a common business interest, which the organization typically promotes. Organizations under this category are exempt from most federal income taxes. Donations to a 501(c)(6) are not tax deductible as charitable contributions, as is the case in the 501(c)(3) category. 501(c)(6) organizations may engage in limited political activities that inform, educate, and promote their given interest. They may not engage in direct expenditures advocating a vote for a political candidate or cause. Donations to 501(c)(6) organizations are not required to be disclosed" - that quote is from the Wikipedia - which is not entirely reliable but is usually good as a rough-and-ready guide and gives you enough to chew on and double-check with more reliable authorities if you really want to follow something through.

In any case, this makes the organisation whose "Board of Governors" I am invited to join even more curious as, typically, a 501(c)(6) organisation's membership would consist of other ORGANISATIONS and *not* individuals - with the Board of Directors and other such bodies consisting entirely of representatives duly nominated by member organisations. Again, this sort of thing does not add to credibility for the organisation inviting me to join its "Board of Governors".

So here is an interesting case of the connection of language misuse with unclear thought - or possibly deliberate obfuscation.

Does this sound like something put together by an American lawyer? It does sound like that but, actually, it isn't! It is put together by an "ordinary" (or I should say, extraordinary) techie and a group of otherwise highly-educated and highly-regarded individuals - who should certainly be able to think and to organise things individually (and undoubtedly collectively!) much more clearly and logically than me.

It is rather a pity that the organisation is not put together by an American lawyer. At least you would know what to blame. Sphere: Related Content

Tolerant Islam

In the West, it is becoming politically intolerant to question whether Islam produces tolerant and diverse societies. The lessons of some 1400 years of history are mixed on the question - historically, Islam has produced tolerant as well as intolerant societies, depending on the country/ region and time-span being discussed. For example, within India, the Mughal rulers (who were all Muslim) were some of them tolerant and some of them intolerant. Jews were tolerated at certain times/ places in Muslim societies but not in others. And so on.

But what happens when a society becomes increasingly Islamised? That is a question that "politically correct" westerners are loath to face.

Here is the latest news analysis (not by me) of what Islamisation is doing to a historically tolerant Muslim society, Malaysia:

Ironically, the writer is a member of the Hindu fascist organisation, the RSS - and if his ilk were elected to power in India, they would not produce any more tolerant a society for Muslims or other minorities in India. Sphere: Related Content