Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hilarious Pictures In The Mail.

I just received some totally hilarious pictures in my mail from one of my good friends. Take a look.

The following few particularly are funny because such a method of answering questions actually works in Indian Universities. I can attest to that fact. If it is a 5 or a 10 marks question -- I know many people who just twist the same sentences over and over again and actually end up scoring great marks!!

Weird but true.

Some big time dope, huh?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pakistan restores Islamic law to pacify Swat valley.

Yet another event of Pakistan sucking up to the Taliban. Pakistan has decided to reimpose Islamic law in the Swat valley to take the steam off the ongoing Taliban uprising since 2007.

Here's an excerpt:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Pakistan agreed to introduce Islamic law in Swat valley and neighbouring areas of the northwest on Monday in a bid to take the steam out of a Taliban uprising raging since late 2007.

Taliban militants in Swat, once a tourist paradise, called a 10-day ceasefire the night before the talks, and on Saturday released a Chinese engineer kidnapped five months earlier as a gesture of goodwill. (.....!!)

"After successful negotiations ... all un-Islamic laws related to the judicial system, those against the Koran and Sunnah, would be subject to cancellation and considered null and void," said NWFP's Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, referring to the holy book of Islam and the saying and teachings of the Prophet Mohammad.

They have destroyed more than 200 girls schools in a campaign against female education, and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes to escape the violence."

Any so-called practical effort to assuade the Taliban to take the "steam-off" by reimposing Islamic law in parts of Pakistan involves mammoth context-dropping and is filled with pragmatism. The Pakistan governments effort to placate to the Taliban is much like Chamberlain's claim -- "Hitler demands Czechoslovakia, if we give in, his demand will be satisfied. The result will be peace in our time."

Such a claim treats each demand on the perceptual level never looking the range of the moment and totally disregards the fact that any knowledge is contextual.

As Peikoff writes in Objectivism: The Philosophy Of Ayn Rand, "Mr Chamberlain treated Hitler's demand as an isolated fact to be dealt with an isolated response; to do this, he had to drop an immense amount of knowledge. He did not relate Hitler's demands to the knowledge already gained about the nature of Nazism; he did not ask for causes. He did not relate the demand to his knowledge of similar demands vioced by aggressor nations and even local bullies throughout history; he did not ask for principles. He did not relate his own policy to mankind's knowledge of the results of appeasments; despite ample indications, he did not ask whether his capitualation, besides satisfying Hitler, would also embolden him, increase his resources, hearten his allies, undermine his opponents, and thus acheive the opposite of its stated purpose. Chamberlain was not concerned with any aspect of a complex situation beyond the single point he chose to consider in isolation: that he would be removing Hitler's immediate frustration."

If we substituted the words Hitler with the Taliban, and Islam with Nazism, the man nailed the problem almost 20 years ago.

What a shame nobody was listening.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Explaining Inflation.

I just found an awesome video by Paul Mckeever explaining what inflation is all about in his series "Understanding Money And Banking". Its pretty rare to have things this simplified.

Be sure to watch the whole series!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Pink Chaddi Campaign.

After the recent attacks on women in pubs in Mangalore by Hindu fanatics, the story took a weird twist a few days ago.

Here is an excerpt --

KARACHI, Feb 13 (IPS) - Outraged by an attack by right-wing Hindu militants on women emerging from a pub in Mangalore, Karnataka state, activists in India have initiated a ‘Pink Chaddi’ (underwear) campaign in which they are sending pink panties to members of the Sri Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on Valentines’ Day.

The Pink Chaddi campaign has defiantly called for a Pub Bharo (fill-the-pubs) action on Valentines Day.

"Go to a pub wherever you are. From Kabul to Chennai to Guwahati to Singapore to LA women have signed up. It does not matter if you are actually not a pub-goer or not even much of a drinker. Let us raise a toast (it can be juice) to Indian women," Delhi-based journalist Nisha Susan, who started the campaign on Feb 5, wrote in the blog .

The move has resonated in pub-less Pakistan, where women are equally threatened by right-wing militants who claim to have Islamic sanction for curbing women’s visibility and movements in the public sphere.

Muslim extremists in Pakistan oppose the celebration of New Year and Valentine’s Day with as much fervor as their Hindu counterparts in India.

However, shops in all major Pakistani cities were reported stocking Valentine Day cards and other red and pink paraphernalia while street vendors were doing brisk business selling red roses and heart-shaped balloons.

"The reason why we picked ‘chaddi’, underwear, is because it’s also the slang word for a right-wing person," Susan explained in an audio interview to the BBC.

Regarding Muthalik’s response - he has said he will respond by sending pink ‘khaddi’ (homespun) saris to "all of us, thereby shaming us into modesty," Susan added, "that was an excellent action. It works because we’ve been non-violent, maybe we can get him to be non-violent too."

"There is of course a point to being light-hearted about this," she said. "They seem to take Valentine’s Day extremely seriously. For most people, Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter, going to pubs doesn’t matter. We’re not promoting high-consumption lifestyles... What we do object to is people using a certain dislike of high consumption lifestyles to control women’s actions.

Its not exactly an eye for an eye..but its pretty close. Also check out their blog. Here is what it has to say --

What is the Pink Chaddi Campaign?

The Pink Chaddi Campaign kicked off on 5 February 2009 to oppose the Sri Ram Sena. The campaign is growing exponentially (44,324 members at this point in the life of our Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women) and that is not surprising. Most women in this country have enough curbs on their lives without a whole new franchise cashing in with their bully-boy tactics. Of course, a lot of men have joined the group as well.

Here is we want to do with the Pink Chaddi Campaign. Join in. Be imaginative, have fun and fight back!

The current contact roster for the campaign is:

What can you do?

Step 1: It does not matter that many of us have not thought about Valentine's Day since we were 13. If ever. This year let us send the Sri Ram Sena some love. Let us send them some PINK CHADDIS.

Look in your closet or buy them cheap. Dirt-cheap. Make sure they are PINK. Send them off to the Sena.

If you don't want to mail it yourself, you can drop it off at the Chaddi Collection Points. We will be collecting across the country through this week and sending the packages on February 12. More information about Chaddi Collectors in your city soon on our blog:

Step 2: Send the Pink Chaddi Campaign a photograph of the package.

Tell us how many chaddis you are sending out and inspire other women in other cities.

Step 3: On Valentine's Day we do a Pub Bharo action. Go to a pub wherever you are. From Kabul to Chennai to Guwahati to Singapore to LA women have signed up. It does not matter if you are actually not a pub-goer or not even much of a drinker. Let us raise a toast (it can be juice) to Indian women. Take a photo or video. We will put it together (more on how later) and send this as well to the Sri Ram Sena.

What happens after Valentine's Day?
After Valentine's Day we should get some of our elected leaders to agree that beating up women is ummm... AGAINST INDIAN CULTURE.

For right now, ask not what Dr VS Acharya, Home Minister of Karnataka can do for you. Ask what you can do for him. Here is his blog. Send him some love.

Nisha Susan
For the Pink Chaddi Campaign

PS. Our good friend L says we should not colour-discriminate. So if you really, really can't send pink chaddis, send those in other colours.
PPS. Both Women and Men are invited to send in their chaddi's/ pictures of chaddi's.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Religion Versus Valentines Day.

Valentines day is the day when everybody takes the time to appreciate the loved ones in their lives. Couples cuddle up together celebrating earthly love and the electric passion between them. On this day, the city has so much to offer. Many weeks in advance, the shops are filled with chocolates, cards and may other ways to say I love you.

However, the story that caught my eye this valentines day was the unequivocal stand of all the religions against the celebration of valentines day.

Here is the Hindu story in Bangalore.

Bangalore: Bangalore, whose name turned into a verb with globalization and 'bangalored' came to denote the free movement of jobs, is suddenly caught up in a very ugly mess.

An outfit called the Sri Ram Sene first pulled the caveman act on young women in a pub in Mangalore – not far from this city – dragging them by the hair, slapping and pushing them around. And now approaching Valentine's Day, the same group is threatening to forcibly "marry off" couples caught celebrating romance in Bangalore.

Women drinking beer in pubs, wearing 'tight jeans' as well as public displays of affection are against Indian culture, says the Sene. Its leader Pramod Mutalik wants to put a stop to all Western cultural imports.

And now they have consistently condemned the Valentines day--

The SRS would act along these lines:

Guys and girls exhibiting public display of affection on Valentine’s Day would be forced to tie the knot immediately by Sene activists. For that, five teams would be formed. They will roam around Bangalore with video cameras and if they find young couples dating, they will force them to wed on the spot.

“The couples will be taken to a sub-registrar’s office to solemnise the marriage’’ said T S Vasanth Kumar Bhavani, Sene’s Bangalore city president.

Mutalik’s claim is that Valentine’s Day is a ‘Christian practice’.

He recently said in an interview that he and his ‘strict followers of Hindu culture’ were very much against women wearing noodle straps and tight jeans.

Firstly, I wonder whoever gave him the notion that Valentines day is a Christian practice!

The Christian Post reports --

Teens, churches and Christian organizations are sending an alternative message of abstinence and purity on the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day.Across the country, youths will make a public stand on their commitment to remain sexually pure until they are married on the Day of Purity, an annual event that coincides with Valentine’s Day. This is the fifth annual Day of Purity for youth.

“We live in a culture hostile to traditional values which has produced shocking statistics on the state of our youth,” said a statement on the Day of Purity Web site. “The Day of Purity is a day on which students can make a public demonstration of their commitment to remain sexually pure, in mind and actions.”

And the Muslim story, Saudi Arabia ofcourse, has banned all red items in gift shops and among florists yet again.

(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has asked florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine's Day, calling the celebration of such a holiday a sin, local media reported Monday."As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, " Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, a scholar in Islamic studies, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper......

Two years ago, a teenager was raped by seven men who found her alone with a man unrelated to her. The government sentenced the 19-year-old woman to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being in the company of a man who wasn't a family member or her husband. She was later pardoned. The seven rapists were sentenced to two to nine years in prison."

It would be unnecessary to point out the fact that it is not totally senseless for religions to take this stand given its views. Why? Here is an excerpt from a post by the editors of the The Undercurrent:

"Valentine’s Day is an inherently secular holiday. What it celebrates is not divine or platonic love, but earthly romance and passion.

The passion between lovers has always threatened the sway of religion. Religion requires humility, obedience, and self-denial—not exactly the traits exhibited by individuals enflamed by romantic devotion to their lovers. Perhaps this is why religion has always tended to regard sexual passion as a sin rather than a value to be cherished.In Saudi Arabia, Valentine’s Day is a threat because it focuses people on the passions of the here and now, rather than the empty promises of a religious after-life. A man dreaming of his lover’s lips is unlikely to be motivated to submit to Allah."

One of the other important lessons to learn from such bizarre events is that there should be a wall of Separation between religion and State. In the Hindu and the Christian societies religion merely takes the backseat and even when violence breaks out, the State protects the security of its citizens. On the contrary, when there is no such separation -- like in Saudi Arabia, the secular minorities are punished like the woman in the news item. Ayn Rand once said that the smallest minority on earth was the individual and applies appropriately here. Anytime an oppressive regime loots power in the name of God or in the name of the people, it is the individual who bear the brunt.

Update -- Outraged by an attack by right-wing Hindu militants on women emerging from a pub in Mangalore, activists in India have initiated a ‘Pink Chaddi’ (underwear) campaign in which they are sending pink panties to members of the Sri Ram Sena (Army of Lord Ram) on Valentines’ Day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama Controls CEO Pay -- If You Are Stimulated.

When the government disregards the wall of separation between State and economy, things fuck up. That is cause and effect. One would have to live to with that. Obama disagrees, as usual.

An excerpt:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed a salary cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money, saying that some executives were being "rewarded for failure," in part with taxpayer-subsidized money.

"We all need to take responsibility," the president said as he prompted Congress once again to act on his economic stimulus program and repeated his comments that some Wall Street executives had shown "the height of irresponsibility."

"We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success, and we believe that success should be rewarded," he said. "But what gets people upset - and rightfully so - are executives being rewarded for failure, especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers."

The President thinks top executives should not be rewarded for failure. Fair enough. What the heck then is the stimulus package doing there in the first place? More importantly, this fallacy of thinking of wealth as something static is very destructive. For instance, if a mother was sitting at the dining table with five children and ready to cut the cake in front of her, each kid would wish that his brother would get a smaller piece which would leave more for him. It is out of a common pot, in this case a common cake, that the benefit is ultimately distributed from. This is the governments' method which completely divorcing effort from reward leads us straight to the tragedy of the commons. The notion that wealth merely needs to be distributed is patently false. Wealth like, the cake or any other thing should be first created before it distributed. Thus, if anybody has more of wealth, then he has deserved it by producing an equivalent amount of value worth trading for. This is justice. However, in the governments view, it is the exact opposite of justice that prevails -- where the best among many are overlooked, or even worse neglected. When Obama said, "But what gets people upset - and rightfully so - are executives being rewarded for failure, especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers." It is time to ask the question why should the taxpayers pay for the mistakes for private companies? If they deserve to fail in the market selling an inferior product, just why should an innocent tax payer have to bear the brunt of it? In a proper private company, the shareholders decide how much an executive or if he should be paid at all. But how can the government think the pay is "too much". How the heck do they know what is "too much" and what is "too little". I mean, when is there no mechanism to fix salaries based on market pressures, any arbitrary salary will do. Its like wanting to swim in the water without getting into the swimming pool!

Even if Obama is well-intentioned, the result will acheive its exact opposite. For instance, if the stimulus package is designed to protect the "major" companies from competition; save people from unemployment and retain the business a tailor or another proffessional would have existed had the person not been unemployed. Still the package would still fail. Henry Hazlitt in his book, "Economics in one Lesson" teaches that its important to look long range than the range of the moment effects. Supposing Obama actually did save the workforce, it would not change the fact that taxpayers paid for those workers to stay in employment. If they would have saved that extra tax money they gave away, they would spend it on something else that they dont have today. This makes way for employment in other sectors and new industries. No new job is created by the stimulus package, but all we are left with is an unfit subsidized company which is unable to conquer the market, but still is in business.

This is what Obama chooses to call "basic common sense", then it is the perversion of justice; innocent tax payers paying for the mistakes of private companies. When the government starts financing a private company with the taxpayers money, it goes without saying -- anything goes, especially causes that the government is propagandizing -- like CEO pay.