vivek's blog

How I Ran from Eye-Rack: Whence the Scepticism?

By: on 15 Feb 2007

Hello? Anyone in US? What the hell is happening? Is anyone asking questions? This is the same administration that went into Iraq on faulty WMD intelligence. Remember? Please don't let the same thing happen in Iran. Everyday the rhetoric is edging closer and closer. Last week the Guardian reported that there could be airstrikes on Iran as early as spring. Today, Sen. Hillary Clinton has come out and said that Congress must approve of any strike on Iran:

"If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority," Clinton said in a Senate speech on Wednesday (CNN).

Where is the need for this? Aren't you scared out of your freaking mind?

What makes the possibility of attacking Iran palatable when Iraq still sticks in everyone's mouth?

THE PRESIDENT: What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know? But the point I made in my initial speech in the White House about Iraq was, is that we know they're there and we're going to protect our troops. When we find the networks that are enabling these weapons to end up in Iraq, we will deal with them. If we find agents who are moving these devices into Iraq, we will deal with them. I have put out the command to our troops -- I mean, to the people who are commanders, that we'll protect the soldiers of the United States and innocent people in Iraq and will continue doing so (whitehouse.gov).

Happy Birthday, Youth Solidarity Summer!

By: on 14 Feb 2007

Youth Solidarity Summer (YSS) was founded in 1997 as a workshop in New York for progressive/radical South Asian youth (ages 17-24). When I participated in YSS in 2003, there were more than thirty participants and approximately ten organizers. YSS-like programs have since emerged in California, Texas, DC, and Boston.

Hidden Apartheid: Human Rights Watch Report

By: on 14 Feb 2007

Human Rights Watch has released a 116-page report on discrimination against Dalits in India titled Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India's Untouchables. I haven't had the chance to read it fully yet, but here are some excerpts from the summary:

Shilpa Shetty, Fugitive at Large

By: on 12 Feb 2007


"I have always been praised for aesthetic sensibilities when it comes to exposing."

Before we see that quotation in context (not that it matters a whole lot), let's start with the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, passed by the Indian government in 1986. Here's the juicy bit:

3. Prohibition of advertisements containing indecent representation of Women.- No person shall publish, or cause to be published, or arrange or take part in the publication or exhibition of, any advertisement which contains indecent representation of women in any form.

4. Prohibition of publication or sending by post of books, pamphlets, etc; containing indecent representation of women.- No person shall produce or cause to be produced, sell , let to hire, distribute, circulate or send by post any book, pamphlet, paper, slide, film, writing, drawing, painting, photograph , representation or figure which contains indecent representation of women in any form: Provided that noting in this section shall apply to-

It then goes on to provide for exceptions, like works of literature, art, and, interestingly, religious iconography - isn't that an admission that religious iconography might be considered by some to be indecent? Anyway, why is this important? Because in April, 2006, Shilpa Shetty and Reema Sen appeared in a Tamil daily and highly offended Tamil Culture, for which there is no adequate penalty short of being subjected to stupidity.

A local court in Madurai on Friday issued nonbailable warrants against actresses Shilpa Shetty and Reema Sen for 'posing in an obscene manner' in photographs published in a Tamil eveninger (TOI: warning: terrible writing!).

The petitioner [Dhakshinamoorthy, an advocate in Madurai] submitted that the paper had carried 'very sexy blow-ups and medium blow-ups' in its issues in December 2005 and January 2006. The petitioner said this violated the Indecent Representation of Women (prohibition) Act and Young Persons Harmful Publications Act and IPC Sec 292 (sale of obscene books).

Apart from misleading the youth, the pictures would increase violence against women, the petitioner contended (Rediff).

No Honour for Shilpa: Lawyer

By: on 11 Feb 2007

From the Deccan Chronicle, February 10.

How I ran from Eye-Rack: the pilot episode?

By: on 10 Feb 2007

According to today's New York Times, the deadliest weapon used against Americans is a roadside bomb which, according to US intelligence, might originate in Iran.

There is one word I'd like to hear everyone using from now on: TRANSPARENCY, especially when it comes to intelligence.

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

Lesson learned from Iraq: do not be satisfied with such a vague, general statement that actually uses the phrase "generally worded claim" within it. Specifics. We need to know who said this, and on what information it was based.

The assessment was described in interviews over the past several weeks with American officials, including some whose agencies have previously been skeptical about the significance of Iran’s role in Iraq. Administration officials said they recognized that intelligence failures related to prewar American claims about Iraq’s weapons arsenal could make critics skeptical about the American claims.

No kidding. If the US media wants to rebuild its credibility, it had better stop using such glaring instances of the passive voice as that. And if officials want these reports to carry even the slightest amount of currency, they'd better provide ample evidence for statements like these:

Reaganomics Helps Fund Terrorism (Tell the Kids)

By: on 8 Feb 2007

When I was involved in student government in college, the most frustrating and daunting task was trying to get some semblance of financial transparency from the administration. Meetings with senior administration would yield nothing, and when I would ask for information as to why the college was under such extreme financial duress, I was constantly told that it was mainly due to overhead costs, which they were trying to cut down. Overhead costs? What does that mean?

A new set of golf clubs for the vice president of finance?

Money seemed to just disappear into this black hole filled with everything from stationery supplies to framed portraits of former presidents. I used to think it was the worst managed system possible, but after reading this Guardian article, I can proudly say that at no time during my alma mater's history has its administration lost $12 billion in cash. To which highly scrutinous institution does this distinction belong? Take a guess!

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.

Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"

Just to re-iterate...

By: on 14 Jan 2007

We take contributions. If you have something to write about that you think would go well here, please send it our way! This is how we roll (from the sidebar):

This is a blog pertaining largely to South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. It is our ambitious goal to cover issues/events/news concerning various South Asian countries as well as of those concerning various diasporic locations.

Gautham Prasad is a tool [with a point]...

By: on 14 Jan 2007

Let me just start there. I don't know him; maybe you do and you think he's a nice guy. You may be right, but I still think Gautham Prasad is a tool. In case you haven't heard of him (as none of us had a few days ago, but hey, I guess that's the whole point, right?), he's a rather un-funny stand-up comic (if you don't believe me, watch this) who had to resort to the following awful routine to get a few laughs:

[youtube]CE9_sBZHu1E[/youtube]

That said, the reason I've inserted this YouTube footage here is because of the press coverage he's been getting across the globe, with the spokespersons from the Government of India condemning it and demanding the TV stations which originally aired it to apologize:

The Hindu:

The Government today took "serious exception" to two Indian news channels airing video clips depicting a man dressed up as Mahatma Gandhi performing a pole dance, and said action would be taken against them...

The footage in question showed a man dressed as Gandhi resorting to violence, carrying a dagger, and making obscene gestures and a pole dance.

Fox News:

India has ordered two television channels in India to apologize for showing video of a man dressed as Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi shooting at people with an AK-47 and performing a striptease...

IBN says the video was shot in the U.S. and originally appeared on Youtube.com.

Varkala: Veird

By: on 8 Jan 2007

A friend of mine went to Varkala, Kerala, and came back raving about the beach there and told me I had to go. So when kettikili came to visit me in oppressively repressed Madurai, we made a run for it without bothering to find out anything more about Varkala than that it's situated on the coast between Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam.

What my friend didn't tell me was that Varkala is a major beach resort for European and American tourists. Oops. Maybe this is one of those things I should have known already, and maybe you're calling me an idiot for being so dumb. Oops again.

Why oops? Well, being a Chennai "native" (yeah yeah, I turn it on and off at will, but at least I use scare quotes, ok?), the only beach to which I've really been exposed in India is Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar, which attracts a great variety of people (old, young, student, professional, families, friends, but mainly middle-class and affluent), but not so much the phoreign, and certainly not the "Oh-my-God-I-love-India-let's-get-stoned-and-do-yoga" variety of phoreign.

The beach in Varkala is stunningly situated at the base of a very steep cliff, atop which runs a kilometers-long string of resorts, restaurants, and buy-a-bit-of-India stores. kettikili and I hurriedly shed our Madurai sensibilities in the form of dupattas and other such nonsense, donned our poolside best, and intrepidly set forth for the beach. What we found when we got to the top of the cliff, in addition to a splendid view of the ocean, was a view of a sea of whiteness. I realized that the train had taken us from Somewhere and deposited us at Anywhere. I had a sudden, fleeting feeling which was to punctuate the next two days for me in the form of a question: WHERE AM I? Southern India? Southern France? Southern California?

varkala_1

photo by kettikili

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