Friday, February 27, 2009


There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

While Friedman may have been generous to suggest that government spends somebody's money on someone else, in Indian context I'd be happy if the government spends money for somebody else instead of on itself. I'm no economist, but a fiscal deficit amounts to borrowing money for current spending. In this light, the projected deficits of 12.3% GDP in the US and as much as 10% of GDP in India make for a very sorry reading. And the claim of 5.3% growth rate seems highly inflated as it is primarily driven by 17% growth in ‘community, social and personal services': in other words government sops ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Words and Meanings

Taken from Orwell's Politics and English language :
" The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. "
In combination with Goodwin's law - we have a "perfect recipe for nauseous cliches" from the media. Anything opposed to the "liberal" interpretation is labeled "fascist" and the actors are Nazi-incarnates.
Of course, GenX cannot fathom the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis (in no small part thanks to our education), so the next best crutch to hang on to is Taliban. So, we have our Hon'ble minister for women's welfare Renuka Chowdhary beating on about "Talibanisation of India" on the Mangalore attack(at the same time mum on the acid throwing incident.)

Reminds me of:
Nothing less is expected from a professional politician, but the media has been the worst offender. Just because the goons involved in Mangalore incident were organized thugs with manifestos which could be used to corner all right-wingers, it made into the front pages. The more dangerous attacks like the ones here 1, 2, (not just in terms of intrusion into society but also due to the apathy on display from the bystanders) are relegated to back pages if not completely ignored. One may shrug away this unscrupulous behaviour from the media giants as profit driven, but the buck doesn't stop there.

As much as we may like to deny it, media goes a long way in shaping the public perceptions. It is important to call its bluff whenever it peddles propaganda or half-truths as news. Exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4 among many many others.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Freedom of speech

"Take away all my freedoms, but the freedom of speech so that I can win them back"
Watch the video, "Ezra Levant" a conservative on The Micheal coren show. The interview is about "Free speech" and well worth your time, but this particular segment is relevant to what's happening across the world right now.

It is ironic that the conservatives are fighting for free speech whereas the "liberals" are bedfellows with those who want to regulate "offensive speech".

Something in our very own backyard to match it. Here's the background : the UN(or rather its oil-peddling puppeteers) introduced a legislation banning the defamation of "religion". Johann Hari had published an essay criticizing this erosion of free speech in "The Independent" which was reprinted in "The Statesman".
The UN’s Rapporteur on Human Rights has always been tasked with exposing and shaming those who prevent free speech – including the religious. But the Pakistani delegate recently demanded that his job description be changed so he seeks out and condemns “abuses of free expression” including “defamation of religions and prophets”. The council agreed – so the job has been turned on its head. Instead of condemning the people who tried to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself.
Of course, we get the entire media crowing over how the freedom of an artist is being compromised when there is outrage over paintings of naked Hindu goddesses, but we don't get quite the same squeaks from our esteemed media when their fellow editor gets arrested for hurting the religious feelings. The editors had to bend over backwards and beg to be released from prison(and they have my sympathies here).

I am heartened to see that at least the author could afford to stand by his views.
What should an honest defender of free speech say in this position? Every word I wrote was true. I believe the right to openly discuss religion, and follow the facts wherever they lead us, is one of the most precious on earth – especially in a democracy of a billion people riven with streaks of fanaticism from a minority of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. So I cannot and will not apologize..... Nothing worth saying is inoffensive to everyone....

They are people like Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the young Afghan journalism student who was sentenced to death for downloading a report on women's rights. They are people like the staff of Zanan, one of Iran's leading reform-minded women's magazines, who have been told they will be jailed if they carry on publishing. They are people like the 27-year old Muslim blogger Abdel Rahman who has been seized, jailed and tortured in Egypt for arguing for a reformed Islam that does not enforce shariah law.

It would be a betrayal of them – and the tens of thousands of journalists like them – to apologize for what I wrote. Yes, if we speak out now, there will be turbulence and threats, and some people may get hurt. But if we fall silent – if we leave the basic human values of free speech, feminism and gay rights undefended in the face of violent religious mobs – then many, many more people will be hurt in the long term. Today, we have to use our right to criticise religion – or lose it.

Read the complete article here .

Monday, February 23, 2009

Libertarian thoughts

I've often described myself as a libertarian. It pains me to see what shallowness passes for libertarian thought. I do believe that outlawing cannabis is restriction of personal freedom and that it is yet another act of "paternalism" showered upon us by government. But, he says
" Tomorrow night, I will not be celebrating. No Boom Shankar for me. Not if it is criminal. I despair for the Hindus. All pious, all cowardly."
Accusing people of cowardice because they don't fight for your cause in which most of them have not an iota of interest is libertarianism?

In another context, he had written :

"I sincerely doubt whether such a brazen strike by just 25 armed men would have caused so much damage and lasted so long if all decent Mumbaikars had guns of their own. In fact, if they did have guns, such an attack would have perished at the thought itself. It would not have been even contemplated."
Forget the terms "Economies of scale" and "specialization of trade" that are central to the very theme of development, but even an idiot could see that citizens with hand guns and pistols would be mincemeat in the hands of trained (specialized) operators using AK-47s , grenades etc. Of course, how can I not tip the esteemed libertarian's latest offering:
"In the old days, prosecution was the individual’s prerogative. He collected the evidence himself and argued his own case."
return the jungle-law? "Ban the police", Indeed!

Remember children, any ideology and ideologue is to be mistrusted. True libertarians do not argue that their ideology is the best, but only argue that it is the ideology that descends the most gracefully into "real world". In other words, they are set aside by their pragmatic world view.
I think instead of his vocation as a "psuedo-intellectual" he should just admit to being a hipster who wants his freedom - I'd have way more respect for him that way.

Comic #482

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The Iron law of Oligarchy:
All forms of organization, regardless of how democratic or autocratic they may be at the start, will eventually and inevitably develop into oligarchies. The reasons for this are the technical indispensability of leadership, the tendency of the leaders to organize themselves and to consolidate their interests; the gratitude of the led towards the leaders, and the general immobility and passivity of the masses.
This leads directly to the question of importance of leadership. The great paradox about the leaders of our times is that they make decisions on things which are best left to us individuals and on issues that are best addressed by leaders(experts), tend to follow the masses. A mixture of condescension, ignorance, apathy and arrogance seems to be the recipe for leaders these days.


We all (I assume I'm speaking for quite a few here) have known the horrors of "studying" history.
Here's a brilliant indictment of the way history is taught in our schools. A few paragraphs that stand out :
The astonishing part of the proposed rewriting of history by the Marxists was that interpretations changed quite merrily with their contemporary political proclivities. In our time, the Congress was Enemy No 1; it was a bourgeois-landlord party that collaborated with the imperialists to deny the people their true political rights. This culminated, according to the Leftists, in a false freedom in 1947.

With the rise of the BJP and the growing challenge of “communalism”, the focus shifted to the need to defend “secularism”. Howlers were, thus, perpetrated in history textbooks so that impressionable students believed that all Muslim rulers were adorable things viciously denigrated by trishul-wielding “RSS historians”

Short of exhorting children to offer prayers to Mahmud of Ghazni, Mohammad Ghauri, Nadir Shah and Aurangzeb, our new textbooks will do everything to run down all indigenous achievements. Maharana Pratap, for example, finds just a one-line reference in the SCERT book and Aryabhata none!

The unstated purpose behind this savage attack on Indian history is not mere jobbery; it is a deliberate attempt to berate India, its civilisation, religion and culture. It is aimed at emaciating the people morally and psychologically so that instead of taking pride in the country we become ashamed of its past.
Like Friedman said in another context "One of our best hopes is the inefficiency of the government- With the amount of power they hold, if they were efficient, we'd be slaves by now."(Paraphrased) I am thankful that history is taught in such a dry, thoroughly soporific way so that the majority of us forget most of this propaganda.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dell 1520 on XP

Downgrading my laptop OS to XP from Vista has been quite frustrating. Initial streamlining of XP cd with SATA drivers (using nlite) and scrambling with BIOS settings aside, the most irritating aspect of running XP on this laptop has been incompatible/buggy drivers.

The Realtek soundcard and modem share the same bus, causing some conflicts. Initially device manager reports Modem for improperly installation, after a lot of trials when it does recognize the modem properly, a "Conexant API system" shows up as Corrupted. I believe this was the primary cause for the innumerable and persistent crashes in Fallout 3 on my system.

The videocard drivers as usual cannot be installed directly from nvidia's website and have to be encased in a "Dell wrapper". The worst part however is with a bug in the wireless driver. For Intel 3945abg card, the driver versions and above start freezing the network connection- especially when I try to connect to gmail with chat enabled and so on. Two ways to get around this are to downgrade to and/or set the power management in configuration of wireless adapter to "highest power" setting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


No masters of satire can beat this

Gems like :
"As for the TNSM, it was formed by Sufi Mohammad in 1988. He himself is a simple and peaceful man who does not preach violence except in the way of jihad against non- Muslims."

and "his led to violence and the TNSM took control of six districts. New rules for traffic were introduced and all kinds of transport were forced to move on the right side of the road, the left being deemed un-Islamic. This resulted in numerous road accidents."

Words are unnecessary.