Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Even though I am Vegetarian, I have always loved Thanksgiving. The sides are great, and the pies are even better. The holiday has improved for me though, the past few years with the increase in availability of soy products, and imitation meat items like Tofurky and my personal favorite brand, Morningstar Farms. Anyway, I probably won't be blogging for the next few days since I will be out of DC until next week. Until then, I hope everyone in the states has a pleasant thanksgiving holiday. I know I will remain thankful as long as the powers that be don't lead us into a needless, wantless, and senseless war.

Also, I feel the need to highly recommend Michael Moore's latest film, Bowling for Columbine. Not only will it leave you thinking (it is also a great conversation piece during the holidays), but maybe it will convince some people that there really is not a need for so many guns to be in this country, especially those of the automatic and semi-automatic variety. I know, I know, "it is our right to carry a firearm. The second amendment says so." I am certain the words of the second amendment are comforting words for the families of the victims of columbine, of the sniper killings, or for the families of anyone who has had their lives innocently yanked from them as a result of firearms. Just because owning a gun is a right, doesn't mean someone should do it. Burning the flag is a right, but I along with many Americans don't do that everyday. Anyway Happy Holidays.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Secularism, Pseudo-Secularism, and L.K. Advani

Sometimes I sit and wonder how countries like India and Pakistan were blessed with their choices for leadership. While Pakistan has been lucky enough to have Generals Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf, in addition to Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, India has had the fortune to have such awesome leaders in place like Laloo Yadav, Bal Thackeray, and one of my most favorites, L.K. Advani. Dilip D'Souza on rediff.com, has a great article discussing the term that is the favorite, it seems now of many Hindu fundamentalists in India, Pseudo-Secularism, or Psec.

"The danger of throwing insults about is that sometimes they come back to bite you. Home Minister L K Advani found out the truth in that this week. "Pseudo-secular" was a phrase he first dreamed up. Hordes of his fans took his cue and began flinging it around liberally, later shortening it to the clumsy "psec". They all thought they had hit upon the ultimate term of abuse, at least judging by the evident glee with which the term was used. "Psecs", they wanted us to believe, are a truly contemptible lot. So here we are today. Replying to a debate in Parliament, Advani announced that India can "never become a Hindu Rashtra" and was "committed to secularism". (Nope, no "pseudo" there). In doing so, Advani only echoed what others in power before him, those he specifically invented that phrase for, had always said. That is, in doing so, Advani was fully aware of the compulsions of being in power, as opposed to rabble-rousing from atop a Toyota dressed up as a chariot. But of course, this pronouncement incensed his own fans above all. "Mr Advani's statement," said Hindu Hriday Samrat Thackeray, "is a stab in the back ... of the Hindu community." If that wasn't an unkind enough cut, Ashok Singhal of the VHP offered this observation: "Mr Advani's secularism is pseudo-secularism."

At least Advani has come around to accept that India will never be a Hindu country.

Pakistan and North Korea--Nukes for Missiles?

Very interesting story in todays NYT detailing the role Pakistan has played in North Korean nuclear proliferation and almost a tacit acknowledgement that the U.S. knew it was going on, but if course could not publicly do anything as condemnation could endanger the American War on Terror. I am not sure if terrorism is worse than nuclear proliferation, especially in North Korea, but the scary thing is, I am not so sure Bush does either. I don't think the United States should let so much stuff slide, because the tradeoff, especially in this instance, is still quite dangerous.

"Last July, American intelligence agencies tracked a Pakistani cargo aircraft as it landed at a North Korean airfield and took on a secret payload: ballistic missile parts, the chief export of North Korea's military.
The shipment was brazen enough, in full view of American spy satellites. But intelligence officials who described the incident say even the mode of transport seemed a subtle slap at Washington: the Pakistani plane was an American-built C-130.
It was part of the military force that President Pervez Musharraf had told President Bush last year would be devoted to hunting down the terrorists of Al Qaeda, one reason the administration was hailing its new cooperation with a country that only a year before it had labeled a rogue state."

I remember reading that Musharraf, when first confronted by the Americans, stated that Pakistan was not involved in North Korea's capability, especially after Pakistan allied with the U.S. after September 11. "General Musharraf, after first denying Pakistani involvement in North Korea's nuclear effort, has assured Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that no such trade will occur in the future." He now says, "`Four hundred percent assurance that there is no such interchange taking place now,' " Secretary Powell said in a briefing late last month. Pressed about Pakistan's contributions to the nuclear program that North Korea admitted to last month, Secretary Powell smiled tightly and said, "We didn't talk about the past." Since the past often is repeated, as it seems it has in this case, maybe the U.S. should. Pakistan often said they only gave diplomatic and political support to the Taliban. That is the same line they offerred when asked about the insurgency in Kashmir. And now, Musharraf has indicated that the trading relationship has stopped with North Korea. I wonder if the U.S. should trust him. So too does Bush's close friend, Vladimir Putin, who is apparently questioning the United States alliance with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

What is also interesting is, U.S. law requires sanctions to be placed on governments who assist other countries in proliferation. One would think that any country helping a rogue, "axis of evil" country in getting nuclear weapons would indeed have sanctions placed upon them. A State Department spokesman, Philip Reeker, said, "We are aware of the allegations" about Pakistan, though he would not comment on the substance. "This adminsitration will abide by the law," he said.

So far, the White House has ignored federal statutes that require President Bush to impose stiff economic penalties on any country involved in nuclear proliferation or, alternatively, to issue a public waiver of those penalties in the interest of national security. Mr. Bush last year removed penalties that were imposed on Pakistan after it set off a series of nuclear tests in 1998. The key question is obviously what would sanctions placed on Pakistan accomplish?

Would it make Pakistan change course and stop support of the War on Terror? Wuld they again allow al-Qaeda to operate from within its soil? Would they trade more nuclear secrets to al-Qaeda, other terrorist groups, or other rogue states? Would it again support the insurgency in Kashmir? Or would Pakistan be punitively forced to change their behavior, which might perhaps lead to discussion between India and Pakistan (which really need to begin)? The key, I think is to see what would make Pakistan change their behavior.

This nuclear "bartering" between Pakistan and North Korea is going to be an interesting issue to watch unfold.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

U.S. to Train Pakistanis to Help Bar Terrorist Funds

I suppose todays NYT's story with the above headline is a positive step to assist Pakistan in curbing terrorism within its borders. However, for it to succeed, I think there needs to be an overwhelming sentiment inside of Pakistan to actually end support to groups involved in acts of terrorism.

"American and Pakistani officials have identified 11 Pakistani-based groups thought to be involved in terrorist activities, and two-thirds of the organizations designated as having a terrorist link by the United States and the United Nations have a connection in Pakistan, according to the Treasury Department. The attacks that continue to plague Pakistan indicate the continued active presence of Al Qaeda in the country, American officials said. Charities have often been used as the way to transfer money to militant groups, officials say, and trading companies have also been used to launder and disburse money. But Pakistan still has no system to monitor the activities of foreign charities in Pakistan. Nor does the formal financial sector have the ability to spot and report suspicious movements of money to the government, according to the Treasury Department. Mr. O'Neill nevertheless praised Mr. Aziz's fiscal policy and his efforts to improve financial, banking and exchange systems in Pakistan and the Central Bank's efforts to educate banks in finding and confiscating dirty money. "

While it is of course in American interests to help stop al-Qaeda from re-forming, this too often comes across as the U.S. considering terrorism as evil, only when it affects the United States or American interests. These are sentiments found in an article in last Week's Washington Times (yes, the Washington TIMES), discussing Indian officials providing evidence to the Americans about continued Pakistani support to Kashmiri militant groups.

Friday, November 15, 2002

FOX news versus CNN?

In all honesty, the only thing positive that I can say about Fox News is that Brit Hume, formerly of ABC news works for the organization. I think Bill O'Reilly rants and raves because he has no journalistic skill, and the rest of the FOX team lacks any realy journalistic skills (except perhaps for some of their outiside commentators). In a funny example of their journalistic credo, check this Shepard Smith report on J.Lo's new song Jenny from the Block. In all seriousness, this is just a funny report, and thanks to my housemate Shane for forwarding. It should open in Windows Media Player.

Bend it Like Beckham

Bend it Like Beckham, Gurinder Chadha's most recent hit movie is coming to DVD soon. The Warner Brothers website includes a soccer game called "Beat the Aunties." It is quite funny,

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Bush and Putin

At first I was a little surprised to see such a strong rapport between Russia's Vladimir Putin and our own George W. Bush. But, after reading today's story in the Washington Post discussing Putin's almost Bush like eloquence in responding to some queries about Chechnya, I now see why the two men get along so well. Here is the beauty quote in response to a reporter from the French newspaper Le Monde who was questioning Putins' troops use of heavy weaponry against civilians in the war in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian republic:

"If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow," Putin said. "I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back afterward," he added. Circumcision is a tenet of Islam for all males. Because of poor interpretation, Putin's remarks were not immediately understood by either the 450 journalists present at the news conference Monday or by senior EU officials. The Russian president brought his own interpreters, but even the native Russian speakers were unable to keep pace with Putin's rapid-fire delivery."

Does Putin want to castrate only Muslims who are circumcised, or does he wish castration for all who are circumcised? Moreover, is castration his answer in fighting the Russian war on terror?

Monday, November 11, 2002

Ehud Sprinzak
Just wanted to mention that one of my professors recently passed away in Israel at the age of 62. Professor Ehud Sprinzak, a terrorism/counterterrorism specialist was one of the more phenomenal teachers I have had in the past, and it is quite sad to hear of his passing. He was one of the few people doing terrorism that was able to get into it without placing moral qualities to terrorism, whether it was conducted by Palestinians and Hamas or terrorism conducted by the Israeli government. My condolences go out to his family.

Kool on-line South Asian Soundz
Was forwarded this link by Nihal of the Bobby Friction and Nihal Radio Show on BBC one. I checked it out, and it is quite good. The show is every saturday night, but can be heard all week online, and if garage, drum and base, and bhangra is your thing you must check it out. Just click on Bobby F and Nihal. I am also a big fan of ethnotechno.com, a website highlighting the Asian Massive Movement in America.

Gates Does Good

Interesting news coming out of India today about Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates pledging 100 million dollars to fight HIV/AIDS in India. He had a pretty inciteful opinion piece published in the New York Times this past weekend, and there are a plethora of stories today both in the Indian and international press covering Gates' visit to India. More than anything I am glad someone with so much clout is recognizing the potential security threat both to India and its neighbors that a massive spread of HIV/AIDS can present to the world. Finally and most importantly Gates is my hero of the day because the issue of HIV/AIDS is not typical to India-Pakistan, Kashmir, or Nukes issues, but rather something that presents a real problem to the Average Indian. A problem that the Indian government does not seem to be acting on strongly enough. Thanks Bill and Melinda foundation!

Here are a few of the interesting Articles
Gates to Give $100M for India AIDS
As AIDS Spreads, India Struggles for a Workable Strategy
Gates Foundation to Give $100 Million to Fight AIDS in India

And in typical Indian fashion, typical to why there has been little improvement inside of India with slowing the HIV/AIDS spread, former Bollywood Actor and current Health Minister Shatrugan Sinha suggests that Gates, by drawing attention to HIV/AIDS in India is "spreading panic among the
general public." If anyone is outraged or would like to comment to Mr. Sinha he can be reached at shatrugn@sansad.nic.in (this was found on the Indian government's website).

And finally, here is a link to the Gates Foundations website and today's announcement.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Biological Warfare

Here is an interesting article that I read this past Sunday in the New York Times about a Los Angeles based doctor posessing biological warfare agents at his home. His name, not Mohammed, Osama, or Ayman, but, Larry C. Ford. Was he a member of Al-Qaeda or any other Islamist group? no. Just your typical, run of the mill, White Supremacist and a really good reason why we shouldn't just figure in Islam and the like with terrorism. This man, a patron of the pro-Apartheid movement in South Africa had buried many of the biological agents in and around his house.

"Buried next to his swimming pool they found canisters containing machine guns and C-4 plastic explosives. In refrigerators at his home and office, next to the salad dressing and employee lunches, were 266 bottles and vials of pathogens — among them salmonella, cholera, botulism and typhoid. The deadly poison ricin was stored, with a blowgun and darts, in a plastic bag in the family room."

The Onion, not only are they funny...

One thing about the Onion is their consistency. The satire is right on funny, and they also seem to keep names and such factually correct, sometimes better than mainstream papers. The following is a pretty hilarious article, sent to me by my friend Brian Flatley entitled India's Top Physicists Develops Plan to Get the Hell Out of India. It is too funny to not visit.

Zakaria on Moral Clarity

Here is a great article by Desi All-Star Fareed Zakaria entitled This is Moral Clarity . While I don't agree with him at all times, his writing and analysis is always well thought and researched. His latest piece in the Washington Post questions Bush's us versus them mentality in the War on Terror. I know times have changed, but have they changed enough so that what was once human rights abuses have now become acceptable under the guise of a war on terrorism? The kicker is this passage where Zakaria quotes Bush, while a candidate, as saying to Larry King on his TV show what he thought of Russia's actions in Chechnya.

"And that's why we need to cut off foreign -- the aid to Russia." "Now?" King asked. "Yes, absolutely," Bush insisted, adding, "The nations of the free world [must] condemn the -- you know, the killing of innocent women and children."

Bush has defintely changed this view. It now appears ok to kill the innocent, as long as some terrorists are being killed too.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Out Sick
Sorry for the lack of posts. recently. I have been in bed the past week due to a horrible cold. The loss of the Senate by the Democrats has also contributed to my sickness. I guess this is what happens when Democratic Senators and Congressmen don't stay true to their beliefs and cave to what they feel is popular opinion, or do not listen to their constituents. (Yes, much of this is in reference to the vote on Iraq)