Sunday, December 30, 2007

Open Source Spying

Wired thinks it's a good idea, Apparently there is a congressional report out on the subject. After going through the report, the CIA has decided to start BPO operations in Bangalore, to get with the times. Ok I made that last part up, but the report is real.

The Lakota Nation secedes from the U.S.

I can't believe this didn't get any attention at all in the Mainstream media. According to the AFP,
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old. [..]

The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship, Means said.

The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website.

The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says.
[link | More from Fox and USA Today]

Tax-free? nice. The Lakoites(?) will also distribute their own passport and driving licenses. Now possibly this is the work of a minority of activists (afterall they are descendants of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse) trying to declare independence on their own. But it never cease to amaze me how other countries treat the notion of secession than ours.

It's probably to do with the fact that the threat of secession is more real here than other places, but in this year alone the Scottish National Party ran on a platform of independence and won that election. Nobody got shot, abducted or got over-worked up over it. But when the British High commissioner to Sri Lanka made these comments,
Let me be clear. I am not saying that the political aspiration for Eelam is illegitimate, any more than I would argue that the Scottish National Party’s goal of an independent Scotland is illegitimate. Similarly, I see nothing illegitimate in some crackpot demanding that Yorkshire or some other English county should become an independent state. What is crucial, however, is what methods are used by the SNP or the LTTE to achieve their goals. And the LTTE’s methods are simply unacceptable.
The media, the JVP, and other self-described patriots were screaming their heads off.

Friday, December 28, 2007

No More "War on Terror" for Britain

I and a friend of mine was debating, as we often do, on the impact on the US War on Terror in Sri Lanka's conflict, among the things discussed was the use of the term "war on terror" or its Sinhalese equivalent used by the Rajapakse administration. Well, Britain it seems, have decided to drop the term "War on Terror", according to

Perhaps the best speech on the futility of the term was given by Ron Paul, when the the Iraq war resolution was passed in congress,
The catch-all phrase, “War on Terrorism”, in all honesty, has no more meaning than if one wants to wage a war against criminal gangsterism.Terrorism is a tactic, you can't have war against a tactic. It’s deliberately vague and non definable to justify and permit perpetual war anywhere, and under any circumstances. Don’t forget: the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein had absolutely nothing to do with any terrorist attack against us including that on 9/11.

Special interests and the demented philosophy of conquest have driven most wars throughout history. Rarely has the cause of liberty, as it was in our own revolution, been the driving force. In recent decades our policies have been driven by neo-conservative empire radicalism, profiteering in the military industrial complex, misplaced do-good internationalism, mercantilistic notions regarding the need to control natural resources, and blind loyalty to various governments in the Middle East.

For all the misinformation given the American people to justify our invasion, such as our need for national security, enforcing UN resolutions, removing a dictator, establishing a democracy, protecting our oil, the argument has been reduced to this: If we leave now Iraq will be left in a mess. Implying the implausible that if we stay, it won’t be a mess.

Since it could go badly when we leave, that blame must be placed on those who took us there, not on those of us who now insist that Americans no longer need be killed or maimed and that Americans no longer need to kill any more Iraqis. We’ve had enough of both! [link to speech | see it on You Tube ]

Ok so I quoted more than what was necessary, but its a great speech. If you are really adventurous, see the bad-ass version of the speech here, or below (wait till the end bit).

chick peas and green gram for the new year

That's what Bandula Gunawardene wants you to eat next year.
From the bottom-line,
With the price of flour shooting up by Rs. 9 per kilo with immediate effect, Minister of Trade and Consumer Affairs Bandula Gunawardena yesterday demanded Sri Lankans not to rely on wheat flour instead, cultivate and consume more chick peas and green gram as an alternative to flour Reacting to the announcement from Prima, the minister told The Bottom Line that there was no point in taking legal action against the flour company again.

“Already three cases are pending in courts with regard to Prima irregularly increasing flour prices, sans approval from the Consumer Affairs Authority,” he said.

So, until the court decides, we ask the public to cultivate grains and to eat chick peas and green gram,” Gunawardena said. (emphasis added) [link]
Sigh. There's a reminder that we haven't progressed much from the days when the government dictated what we have for lunch. So much for the "Open Economy". I wonder why the bright heads at the Ministry haven't figured out why there is a monopoly in the first place, here's a pointer - get rid of the consumer affairs authority. But wait, no wonder they wont figure that out, nobody likes being unemployed.

SEZs for Sri Lanka?

I was in India when the Nandigram incidents took place, it was around March and I was traveling all over North India. At the centre of the disputew were land acquisitions meant for a Special Economic Zone(SEZ), initiated by the West Bengal State Government (controlled by the Communist Party of India - Marxist, no less) for a chemical hub by a private company. The SEZ required the acquisition of 14,000 acres (57 km²) of land mostly from Nandigram. On this particular day (March 14, 2007) there was a standoff between policemen (some of whom were CPI(M) cadres in police uniform) and the villagers, ultimately resulting in 14 people being killed from police gunfire.

My work in India required me to be away from the TV most of the time, but I did manage to catch glimpses of the unfolding story and ever since I've kept a close-eye on news about SEZs.

Now, "Export Processing Zones" is hardly anything new , even Sri Lanka has what’s known as Free Trade Zones (FTZs). They are basically a designated area where the trade barriers are relaxed – tariffs lowered, duty slashed, etc. The area generally benefits from good infrastructure and what’s called an 'enabling environment' to promote exports and attract Foreign Direct Investment.

However SEZs, experimented quite extensively in India, China and elsewhere is a bit of a different animal. First of all they tend to be huge. Shenzhen – China’s first SEZ – spreads over a land area of about 334 km², that’s roughly about 9 times the city of Colombo. India, which now has approved nearly 400 SEZs in all of its states, has allowed for sites the size of 50km² for SEZs . So I repeat, they are HUGE, often covering the size of modern day cities. SEZs, like Free Trade Zones have relaxed trade rules, except they are more relaxed...much more relaxed. SEZs in India have been declared "foreign territory" for purposes of trade, duties and tariffs. They are exempt from customs, excise, service, Sales and local taxes. Most of them are run by private companies, including some foreign-owned ones. They have duty concessions on some imports, relaxed labor laws and the state government provides such services as electricity and water. I've seen some of them, they do look really pretty. So much so that Sri Lankan companies such as Brandix have invested in some of them.

On paper SEZs looks perfect - it would increase employment, help exports, encourage investment and provide a way for companies to escape illogical tariffs and taxes imposed on them and step into the world of free enteprise. Everything is great, except for the fact that setting up a SEZ involves land acquisitions, often forced on people not willing to move out from their property. This is where it gets messy, forcible land acquisitions creates a whole host of problems - displacement, inadequate compensation, loss of livelihood for the people involved to mention a few.

These issues have made SEZs a subject of much criticism from across the political spectrum. For the people on the left, this is part of the latest Capitalist conspiracy to satisfy their greedy lust for money at the expense of the poor. For the people to the right, its a violation of private property rights (see Shruti Rajgopalan's excellent critique here)- the one thing that's so critical to the effective function of the free-market system, that people like Hernando De Soto have written books about it.

Being a student of the subject I have met many people falling into both these camps, with one the one unified conclusion - SEZs are just bad. Except of course many people I've not met, including the Times of India columnist, Swaminathan Aiyar who has argued (here and elsewhere) that SEZs could be good thing, if handled properly. He recommends leaving the residential areas intact when developing the SEZs, and making affected people equity holders of the new projects, making the villagers landlords and companies their tenants. Quite a transformation.

Although, I'd principally defend property rights, I can back Aiyar's suggestions. So can the model be replicated in Sri Lanka ? Absolutely. Especially for a president, who like to harp on development and seems to want (genuinely or not I don't know) to develop both the South (primarily Hambantota) and the Eastern province, SEZs should definitely be a development tool which needs to be explored. Both provinces have natural ports and certainly the Eastern province can use a bit of accelerated growth.

Personally, I'd prefer Free Economic Zones, that is large designated areas with much like the rules of SEZs but not necessarily a privately managed chunk of land, a Hong-Kong experiment of sorts. Designated SEZs can still exist, of course. The East (in a world where a degree of rule of law is established) would be a perfect candidate for something like this. Trincomalee port can be made into a privately owned freeport. But now I'm just taking it a bit too far.. or is it?

Related Articles :

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Everybody Loves Ron Paul

If the world elected, the US president. it would be ron paul. Including 15 people from Sri Lanka, awesome!. Maybe I'll create a meetup group. How I wish elections are held online..

Just for kicks, check this out.

No Virgins in India

I love India, partly because its the only country i know of which is probably (yes, probably) more F'd up than ours. Just recently, Sushmita Sen has been issued a notice by a Madras(chennai) High court on comments about "pre-martial sex". From IndiaFM :
The actress, in a T.V. interview, had commented that “No Indian has chastity or virginity anymore” which didn’t go down well with the legal authorities and the moral police, who felt that such comments could affect the moral fabric of India.

A notice has been issued to the Tamil daily as well, which published the transcripts of the television interview.

In the past, actresses like Khushboo, Reema Sen and Shilpa Shetty have also faced similar petitions in the past for their ‘controversial’ comments. (emphasis added) [link]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We are screwed

I knew diplomacy in Sri Lanka was always an afterthought, but boy ..
MR arrived in London and was received by the SL HC (Kshenuka). MR was quick to take a shot at the lucky lady who is to soon move around in the comfort of a super luxury Jaguar by chipping in “Anna Times ekay thibba, may oyata shoke car ekak hamba wenawa kiyala…” [Heard you are getting a nice car] The Lady just giggled with her customary ‘aney sir…’ but didn’t waste anytime in breaking some bad news to the Prez, i.e. the Chilcott statement at the Dudley Senanayake lecture in Colombo with some ‘lunu ambul’ thrown in. The smiling Prez turned angry in a matter of seconds, “Ganda oyage amathiya”… [Phone that minister of yours] When told that he couldn’t be reached as RB was lost in Singapore on a routine stopover, MR quipped, “Aiyo may miniha koi loakay yanavada man da…ganda ara Kohonayawa.mang minihawa thiyala giye may wage pissu ewa nathara karanna.” [Aiyo, I don’t know where on earth this bugger goes, now take that Kohanaya fellow, I kept the man there to stop this sort of stupid things] While waiting for the call to go through, he added “Dan ithin apey foreign ministry ekata fighting acting ministry kiyalai kiyanna wenne; ai? Wedak wunahama mama ke gahanawa, ethakota okkomalla nagitala diplomat la ekka gahaganna yanawa…eetapasse aigolla weerayo wage act karala kiyanawa onna api dunna unta wetenna…” He also noted that despite our big hue & cry, the UNESCO statement is yet to be withdrawn. A protocol officer in the vicinity whispered, ‘at this rate we will be able to fight the whole world pretty soon.’ (Read more from the Sunday Times, it’s a true story)
Oh well, At least it makes for good week end comedy. Too bad if you don't know Sinhala.

6 Million for the REVOLUTION

The Boston Tea Party "Money bomb" brought in Paul 6.1 Million USD yesterday, beating the previous record of 4.2 Million on Guy Fawkes day. Now Paul stands at nearly 20 million raised for the quarter. The Story is covered in NYTimes, ThePost, Politico, Forbes and 100s more. CNN early coverage is on you tube. To top it off, Andrew Sullivan has endorsed Paul.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

President, Pissing his Pants

or Sarong I should have said.. I just watched (mostly out of circumstance) the news on ITN (a government-owned TV channel), which dedicated a good 15 minutes on their main news bulletin showing various people (mostly those Jhathika-Chintana morons and other clergy types) speak on "how government cant loose the budget" tomrrow, and how it would be "helpful for the terrorists" if they did.. it looks as if His Excellency is more than a bit nervous about tomorrow.

I don't see why though, JVP is unlikely to vote against it even if there are more cross-overs. oh well, relax mahinda machang... there's some more time to party.

Privatized Government

This story from India made my day. A fully-functional fake government office has been found in Uttar Pradesh - collecting taxes, giving out birth certificates and even employing 20 "street sweepers" . More from the Times of India,
The racket was unearthed when some of the sweepers appointed by Valmiki went to senior JNN officials to complain that their salaries were being released by the branch office.

"We were shocked to hear this as we ourselves weren't aware that our department had a branch office in Jhansi," says Senior Swasthya Adhikari (SSA) Dr R Kulshreshtra. [..]

Police believe the racket was initially confined to fake appointment of sweepers. Valmiki's idea, according to the police, would have primarily been to pocket Rs 40 lakh in the name of ensuring their appointment and then disappear.

"But he later seems to have decided to carry on with the office as it didn't appear to be a loss-making proposition. And when he tried to change his decision, things went out of hand," said a police officer. [..]

The office had been set up 7 km from the city and a huge signboard of Jhansi Nagar Nigam was placed there. [Link]
Privatized government? too radical you think? come on now.. think about it.. we already pay extra for one-day Passport/ID-card delivery services, we bribe our policemen just so that we can skip the lengthy court ordeal, we have companies handling our Visas to some countries, so why cant just companies provide other so called, civic services? They'll be quicker, more reliable and much more likely to have pretty girls working for them. so again, why not?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Buy a Beetle leaf and Get a condom free

A Beetle leaf vendor (paanwala) in India is giving away a condom with every purchase of beetle leaves to promote Safe Sex, near a red light district. See it on NDTV

Kesavan on Sanath

Mukul Kesavan has a lovely piece on Sanath,
When Sanath Jayasuriya announced his retirement from Test cricket in the course of the first Test against England, the way he signed off was nicely representative of his extraordinary career. He failed in the first innings with the bat, then hit a quick 78 in the second innings. As a bonus in the second innings, Jayasuriya took a wicket with his slow left-arm spin.

A fifty and a wicket: useful but not remarkable figures…unless you know that 24 of those 78 runs had been scored in a single over off that blameless swing bowler, James Anderson. Jayasuriya's career statistics—his aggregates, his averages, his centuries, the number of wickets he took—give the same impression: they suggest a more than useful player, not a remarkable one. They lie.

Read More Journey man and the genuuis

I met Kesavan (who has a day job as a professor of History) on a visit to Delhi once, when he ran a session with us on Secularism (i wrote a post based on the stuff he talked about later). The man is an engaging personality and an avid fan of Sri Lankan Cricket, he talked enthusiastically about Sanga and Murali, didnt mention Sanath that much. Guess he forgot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Q : Dude, What's your oil Policy?

A : Why don't you ask what my Cellphone Policy is?.

Great answers. The latest Ron Paul Interview. See part 1 and 2 on Youtube. .

If it rains, it's global warming

and if it doesn't, it's still Global Warming.

See, Global Warming causes everything. Including disasters like brothel-struggles, banana destruction, unfashionable cloths, sex changes, Whale-weight loss, Crocodile sex, moose-eating wolves, smaller brains and perhaps more disturbingly, lawyer incomes increase.

Well, at least the beer gets better. Check out the 600+ list of everything caused by global warming. Funny, cant find John Howard anywhere on the list.

Sigh.. Ultimately, the climate-change hysteria will cost us more than the actual climate risks.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Will ‘they’ follow them home?

I was watching the Republican CNN/YouTube debate the other day, couldn’t help but be amused by this view that unless the US is in Iraq, the ‘terrorists follow us home’ subscribed to by almost all GOP candidates.

First of all, are the terrorists lost or something? They can’t find the way perhaps now? They have to wait till the US troops go home to follow them? That’s kind of idea people would have got they encountered the argument for the first time in that debate, the idea however is slightly (note slightly) more sophisticated. It’s this notion that if ‘extremists’ get hold of Iraq, they can use it as a base for attacking the US and other ‘moderate’ leadership in the region.

This is the dominant view among the Republican presidential candidates, all of them – except Ron Paul. Paul (of whom I’m a huge fan) advocates a strict non-interventionist foreign policy for the United States, and calls for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He claims that the extremists in the Arab (and the Muslim) world are motivated to attack the US because of its interventionist foreign policy towards the region, and particularly because of its troop deployments in the region.

Now, I don’t think that US should employ a strict by-the-book foreign policy, but I find it extraordinary that the NeoCons in media in the US and the rest of his colleagues running for president considers Paul’s views as some sort of a discredited conspiracy theory, when it's clearly not.

The 9/11 commission report for example, comprising of testimonies from experts on terrorism, the middle east and intelligence articulated exactly what Paul says.

Further the follow-home theory doesn’t have much currency from the experts either, the Foreign Policy Magazine reporting on its “terrorism index” which measures opinion of intelligence experts, military persons, and other academics as well as national security advisers, etc. on the US performance on the ‘War on Terror’ reports that experts find it unlikely.
Only 12 percent believe that terrorist attacks would occur in the United States as a direct result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Eighty-eight percent of the experts said that either such a scenario was unlikely or that they see no connection between a troop withdrawal from Iraq and terrorist attacks inside the United States. This line of thinking was consistent across party lines, with 58 percent of conservatives saying they did not believe terrorist attacks would occur at home as a result of a military drawdown in Iraq. [Link]
It has also long being established that what’s going on Iraq now is more of an internal sectarian power struggle, and not an attack on the US or ‘American Values’.

Paul has surprised many with the success of his candidacy, partly because he’s right on many of the issues. Its highly unlikely though he’ll actually get the nomination (not that I’d have believed he could raise 4.3 million a day either) But if republicans are to win a anti-war majority who's just fed up of Iraq, I think its high time they start moderating a bit.

NeoCons aren’t cool anymore and besides whatever the mistakes Americans have made, no country deserves a Rodham presidency. Paul Save America.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sex, for a good cause

The term "Commercial Sex Work" doesn't cut it any more.
A Chilean prostitute has auctioned 27 hours of sex to raise money for the country's largest charity during an annual fund-raising campaign.

Maria Carolina became an overnight celebrity in the conservative Roman Catholic country, making news headlines and appearing on talk shows since she made her unusual donation to the televised charity event, which runs for 27 hours starting on Friday evening.

"I've already auctioned off the 27 hours of love," Maria Carolina told Reuters on Wednesday, saying she had raised about $4,000. "One of my clients already paid. It seemed like a good deed to him. [More..]

Lesbian Wine

Lesbo is an island apparently..

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Explainations for Sunday Leader Burning..

Some unidentified masked men burned down the Sunday Leader printing press yesterday, the building was located in a high security zone.

So there can be only two explanations,
  1. The security arrangements in HSZs suck so bad that the forces doesn't know until a bunch of goons burn down a building.

  2. Or His Excellency, or one of his brothers gave instructions for (or otherwise blessed) the bonfire.
I'm willing to bet on the latter..

Gurcharan Das on Gujarat

Interesting post from Das on the dilemma of the Gujrati electorate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Authoritarianism 2.0

Ajay Shah has an interesting post on Authoritarian Capitalism :
... a series of countries have now embarked on what I term `Authoritarianism 2.0' : a blend of free markets with authoritarian politics. This aims to produce good resource allocation and high growth rates through sound economic policy, while retaining one-party (or one-person) rule, denying the rule of law, and supressing the rights of individuals. Rowan Callick has written an article titled The China Model which reviews this style of design of the State, where individuals are seen as consumers but not citizens; where individuals have some economic flexibility but weak political rights. This model is being attempted in Russia, China, Vietnam, UAE, etc. In some ways, Singapore also exhibits some of these features. These countries do not see their political systems as illegitimate way stations on the road to democracy. The effort is to make Authoritarianism 2.0 work; liberal democracy is not even the long-term goal.

The question we really face is about the soundness of the `Capitalism and Freedom' hypothesis. Does the growth of a free market economy inevitably generate pressures to modernise the political system? Or is it possible to combine 21st century economic policy with pre-enlightenment politics? [link : Authoritarianism 2.0]
From recently i have been inquiring into the inadequacies of democracy, but i think i still hold economic freedom would yield greater political freedom, now that political freedom might not necessarily produce a functioning democracy, but it would certainly make authority less coercive thus delivering more political freedom.

In the case of china, they've not brought in market reforms in where its politically disadvantages to the Communist Party i.e. media, telecom, the internet - all avenues which market decentralization would have made censorship difficult and contributed to greater political freedom.

The question is of course whether it is sustainable ? I can only speculate. The reason for its partial success is, to my mind, that people attach a greater value to economic freedom than political freedom because they are more affected by it. You may support Gay/Lesbian Rights, but if you're not gay, it doesn't really affect you. But if you have to queue in the morning to get bread, which you might or might not get, you're bound to be more pissed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No Sir, No Porn!

Bike Uncle : No Sir, No Porn! hondata ballanna..
Police Uncle : hmm.. ehemada? (is that so) , now put down your trousers, we have had reports that you have a concealed weapon between your legs used for immoral purposes.

For an irrelevant Democracy

‘Democracy’ and ‘Crisis’ are words we have come to associate them in the same sentence.

In this site and elsewhere, many people have lamented over the conduct of the present administration; Its blatant disregard for anything remotely ‘democratic’ – be it in a lack of accountability in public finances, due process of parliament or a total disregard of the freedom of the press, the Rajapakse administration have both directly and indirectly communicated that such democratic nuisances are too much of an inconvenience, especially ‘when fighting terrorism’.

One can, being good citizens of what is still, at least a quasi-democracy; place the blame squarely on the President, his brothers, the hundred-something ministers and hope the blame game would lead to some sort of a balancing effect. This could well be the case. But could it be that the conduct of the Rajapakse regime is just a manifestation of a very old problem which keeps on repeating itself? Could it be that the problem is in not just the conduct of the ruler, but of democracy itself?

Read the rest of the post in Groundviews.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ron Paul Raises $4.2 Million in a day

Now this is quite something...

From Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, aided by an extraordinary outpouring of Internet support Monday, hauled in more than $4.2 million in nearly 24 hours.

Paul, the Texas congressman with a libertarian tilt and an out-of-Iraq pitch, entered heady fundraising territory with a surge of Web-based giving tied to the commemoration of Guy Fawkes Day.

Fawkes was a British mercenary who failed in his attempt to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605. He also was the model for the protagonist in the movie "V for Vendetta." Paul backers motivated donors on the Internet with mashed-up clips of the film on the online video site YouTube as well as the Guy Fawkes Day refrain: "Remember, remember the 5th of November."

Paul's total deposed Mitt Romney as the single-day fundraising record holder in the Republican presidential field. When it comes to sums amassed in one day, Paul now ranks only behind Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, who raised nearly $6.2 million on June 30, and Barack Obama.

Go Paul!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

God is a Republican, Santa is a Democrat

I find myself least busy at exam times. i shut down - say no to kottu-parties, meetings, etc. and stay home with the noble intention of 'studying'. Instead, i find myself drifting away to useless blog-readeing, blogging, and all those books I haven't read..

one of them is Parliament of Whores by P.J O'Rourke. it's a brilliantly funny book and here's a great quote :
I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.

God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle-aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well-being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on literally everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get invited into God's heavenly
country club.

Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's nonthreatening. He's always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who's been naughty and who's been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he's famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bandulanomics : How to control Cost of Living.

Now why didn’t anyone think of this..

From the Daily Mirror:

Prison sentences without bail will be included in the new Consumer Affairs Act (CAA) due to be presented as an “Emergency Act” to Parliament soon.

The government announced these fresh measures yesterday in a bid tocurtail the rising cost of living by introducing “teeth” to the Act to prevent companies from arbitrarily increasing prices without prior permission from the government. While still in the formulation process, Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardena pledged to give more power to the revamped Act and ensure that legal measures can be taken against companies involved in production and sale of essential items. [..]

“We are working with the Prime Minister and officials from the Legal department to make sure that this Act does not just “bark” but has the power to “bite.” [..]

It was unclear what products would be included, but the Minister revealed that in addition to the fines that are presently imposed, prison sentences without bail could be imposed on the offenders.

The Minister asked people to notify fax number 2300516 if there was any scarcity. [link]

Once notified, the ministry will immediately email back all the necessary items.

It’s great to see this kind of creativity from a government minister, everyone’s been wrong all along. It’s not Oil stupid, and definitely not over spending or printing of money. It’s been those evil evil companies producing ‘essential items’. Now if we put them in jail – problem solved.

The only additional requirement, (as the minister has subtly articulated above) is to employ dogs to train the act to ‘bite’, not just ‘bark’. Assistance from the Prime Minister will be sought for this purpose.

As his next project, the Minister aims to eradicate poverty by shooting down poor people.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shouting Match

With all the hype about Web 2.0, user-created content, 'technology empowering democratic participation' stuff.. you find only a few dissenting voices.

they ask :
Do you really need to read about the latest celebrity scandal or wacky animal antics? Aren't you sick of having to digg through articles until you find something that is actually important?

Sure, the "average user" may have reddit and thought it fit to post, but why should you care? Would you trust just anyone to fix your car? Or to operate on your heart? Or to write your list of rhetorical questions? No! Then why trust the masses to filter your links?

hmm interesting...

What’s free in free education?

Since the dead C.W.W. Kannangara recently celebrated his birthday, I thought I’ll recycle an old blogpost I never quite completed..
Sri Lanka is said to have a free education policy, the state providing education at primary, secondary, and undergraduate levels free of charge. But is that really what is meant by the term ‘free education’ ? after all its Sinhalese equivalent is ‘Nidahas Adhyapanaya’.

Now, the word ‘Nidahas’ – as people who speak Sinhalese would know – is a reference to freedom and not price. (See Free Software for a similar analogy)

That, I believe is the spirit in which education must be approached in this country. Instead of focusing on the provision of education, the government must shift its focus on making sure that education is received.

Sadly due to visionless and insecure set of politicians, and an even more insecure set of ‘undergraduates’, the freedom to learn in this country – at least when it comes to higher education – is non-existent. There is no real ‘free education’ in Sri Lanka.

Each year more than 200,000 odd Sri Lankans sit for the cursed A-Level examinations, out of which a bit more than 50% of come out on top, all of whom are eligible for University entry. Yet the 15 state universities in Sri Lanka can only accommodate roughly about 16000 of those students. A pathetic 14 % of those who are eligible.

Few who couldn’t get into the 14% find places in the professional courses, or external degree programs. Those who can afford it go abroad, to US, UK, Australia, India, Malaysia and increasingly places like Belarus, Bangladesh and China (yes, china. we got so hooked up on blaming everything on the ‘open market’, that in some ways we are now more communist than china! take that.) Still others who could afford private colleges here attend them, severely limiting their choice of courses.

The rest of them are told to farm, the Mahinda Chintana would give fertilizer for 350. After all we are an ‘agricultural country’, our ancestors have been doing it for 2500 years, and it also boosts the ‘national economy’ and help our country become ‘self-sustained’ by 2010. Joy.

Reality though, bites.

Some time ago, I was quoted by a friend of mine on a Daily Mirror Article on Higher Ed. Reform (this is sort of me):

“I feel that you need to let private players into the market, and actively promote them via tax holidays, provision of land etc. I also feel a public private partnership model where existing public universities become affiliated with certain private colleges like the BIT system should be adopted. This is what's happening in India. Its win-win situations where more people get higher education opportunities.”

Now, I’m a tad bit misquoted here. I never mentioned BIT, which is an external degree. I also didn’t explicitly mention PPP’s, a conept I’m usually not fond of.

I am more interested in seeing existing universities (in addition what they are already doing) be accreditation bodies and award not external degrees, but internal degrees with no difference being made whether students are internally studying in the university or not.

That’s what’s happening in India and here in colleges like APIIT, ACBT, ANC, etc. with internal degrees of Monash, Staffordshire, and Westminster offered here. Surely that can happen for local universities, and if these institutes are able to measure up to the standards of say, Monash, they can’t be far off from say um, Sabaragumwa.

This I’m afraid is the only way of increasing access, we can’t wait for the bright day when ‘corruption would stop, mismanagement would stop, and state become efficient’ like quasi-socialists or people in the JVP-backed ‘Antharey’ feels.

Its time to step out from moronic idealistic beliefs and face reality – higher education in this country sucks. Not enough people can access it. Just ask the President and plethora of ministers who send their kids to universities in the UK.

I won’t quarrel with Kannangara, he made a policy that might have suited his time. What’s clear now is that it’s no longer suited, certainly not in higher education. Changes quite simply must come and if anyone (or any party) has the balls to make it an issue, I think it can be done.

Time to put 'freedom' back in 'free' education.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Colbert for America

(Pic from AFP

I'm still for Ron Paul. But hey, 'President Colbert' sounds much better, besides he's not just running for president He's America ..and so can you.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stephen Colbert announced his candidacy for president on "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night, tossing his satirical hat into the ring of an already crowded race.

"I shall seek the office of the President of the United States," announced Colbert on his Comedy Central show, as red, white and blue balloons fell around him.

Colbert had recently satirized the coyness of would-be presidential candidates by refusing to disclose whether he would seek the country's highest office — a refusal that often came without any prompting.

Shortly before making the announcement, Colbert appeared on "The Daily Show" (the show which spawned Colbert's spin-off) and played cagy, claiming he was only ready to consider a White House bid. He entered the studio set pulled by a bicycle pedaled by Uncle Sam and quickly pulled out a bale of hay and a bottle of beer to show that he was "an Average Joe."

Colbert said his final decision would be announced on a "more prestigeous show," which turned out to be his own.

"After nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call," said Colbert. [link]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Convenient untruths: Al Gore’s 9 Lies on climate change

Al Gore, the self-made poster boy for the OMG global warming! Movement has to face some ‘inconvenient truths’ himself, when a British high court judge ruled that some ‘truths’ in Gore’s Oscar winning documentary are actually convenient lies.

From the BBC:

The judge said nine statements in the film were not supported by mainstream scientific consensus.

The nine errors alleged by the judge included:

Mr Justice Burton told London's High Court that distributing the film without the guidance to counter its "one-sided" views would breach education laws. [..]

Mr Gore's assertion that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of ice in either West Antarctica or Greenland "in the near future". The judge said this was "distinctly alarmist" and it was common ground that if Greenland's ice melted it would release this amount of water - "but only after, and over, millennia".

Mr Gore's assertion that the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa was expressly attributable to global warming - the court heard the scientific consensus was that it cannot be established the snow recession is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.

Mr Gore's reference to a new scientific study showing that, for the first time, polar bears had actually drowned "swimming long distances - up to 60 miles - to find the ice". The judge said: "The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm." [Link]

Global Warming enthusiasts like to ride on this apparent ‘scientific consensus’ on global warming, but According to the last UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) the ‘scientific consensus’ is that it is ‘very likely' that climate change is caused by human activity’ that’s it. All the fantastic CG effects of flooded Manhattan and Greenland melting like ice cream in Al Gore’s documentary are not based on any scientific consensus, at best it’s just science fiction bordering on Al Gore fantasies.

But hey, that’s all you need for a Nobel prize nowadays..

..these Norwegians!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bring back the Anti-conversion Bill! - Bodhu Bala Sena


Pinwathuni! It’s high time we Buddhists stop getting fooled by such petty things like 'patience' or ‘compassion’.

You see, in order to save Buddhism we can’t afford to be Buddhists.

So let’s bring that anti-conversion bill! And while we are at it, bomb them terrorists!

Jaya vewa!

Bodhu Bala Sena.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Taj, the New World Wonder

Bill Clinton once said, that there two kinds of people in the world - those who have visited the Taj Mahal and those who haven’t.

Many moons before Clinton made the statement a bunch of British colonialists who visited the Taj Mahal looked long and hard at this man-made wonder and proclaimed.. ‘What a waste of Marble’. My thoughts exactly!

Call me a hopeless unromantic, but really it’s the most grossly overrated piece of real-estate on the planet!

But now that it’s official, the Indians are quite obviously ecstatic, finally something to vindicate for the embarrassment caused by Bangladeshi cricket team, and then by that coach who to take up the team India job. They tell me it’s was quite a campaign for the Taj, with everyone SMSing to vote, and Orkut being filled with ‘Vote for Taj’ messages.

But let’s take a step back here; wasn’t the Sigirya supposed to be the 8th wonder of the world?

Well it turns out the Environmental Ministry (a.k.a JHU HQ) didn’t feel it fit in well with the ‘Sri Lankan culture’. I mean a huge rock with paintings of naked women with large boobs, built by a guy who was hiding from his brother having murdered his father, by burying him in a wall! Hah! Sounds like a story cocked up by the opposition, or other ‘elements trying to discredit the government’, surely that sort of cultural infidelity didn’t exist in the 2500 years of history in this country!.

But Truth be told, nobody really knows what happened to Sigirya, who cares? There are far better stuff to know about - Mervin and his Porsche for example.

Now Taj Mahal on the other hand has a far better story than the sigirya, one of love (pyaar) and that too for your own wife! Clearly a significant achievement given the times, just ask kashyapa; Or DM Jayaratne for that matter.

But Bill was right; you have to visit the place. At least to realize that it’s overrated.

But I’m being too mean to the great Mahal, it’s a majestic structure, it so happened that it was scorching hot the day I visited to the extent that any ‘romance’ that were there must have evaporated. Not that I had any love interest on site, even if I did I was rather pre-occupied looking for a safe place to keep my foot in the burning marble.

But I’m glad I went (multi-part travelogue coming soon) and what can I say, I’m flattered by the fact that they made it a world wonder soon after.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Obstacles to growth: Can Amunugama walk the talk?

The Rajapakse government certainly has more than its share of morons, who are more than willing to open their mouths and forget about their heads. Keheliya Rambukwella of course has the official designation closely imitated by other aspirants such as Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and that 5th minister of Nation Building, I forget his name.

So it’s not often when you hear something sane from a Sri Lankan Minister, something like the speech Sarath Amunugama delivered highliting the obstacles to growth in Sri Lanka.

Amunugama has always spoken candidly about the need for reform, when he was the Minister of Finance from 2004-2005, he very clearly emphasized the need for reforms in energy, and railway sectors. His speech makes for a wonderful read and a clear example of politicians, at least the educated ones knowing what to do, but somehow not being able to implement it.

Here are some excerpts from the speech: (original speech is well worth a look)

We are meeting at a time when there is unprecedented growth in the world as well as within our region. The world economy is growing at a rate of 5% a year, which is a historic growth rate. This unprecedented growth is driven by the economies of China, India, Pakistan and what are called the Eastern tigers. They are Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Borneo and the rest. All these countries are reaching double-digit figures in growth. A 10% growth every year has become a reality in our region. Just a few decades ago, economists had contempt for the pace of development in our region, calling it the ‘Hindu rate of growth.’ We may also call it the “Buddhist rate of Growth”. That the 1% to 2% growth of GDP which we achieved under so called “Socialism” and a controlled economy.

We were thinking of the next world and not of this world. We were thinking of Nirvana and not of how to give a good life to our people. That is a state that we have now rejected. It is a tragedy that while there is a rapid growth in our region –including countries like India, Pakistan which were far behind us- that Sri Lanka is not today the leader of that growth trajectory. [..]

we are being left behind by our neighbors –even Maldives- due to wrong policies. Now the question is how do we reach double-digit growth which has become standard for our region?

That is the challenge before us. One of the main obstacles to reaching those double-digit figures is the disparity in the growth between the Western Province and rest of the country. If we take the GDP of Western Province we have reached about 12% growth. This is the equivalent of the growth figures for India and China. So nobody can say that Sri Lanka is incapable of rapid growth. [..]

We have free trade agreements with India and Pakistan. We are now negotiating Trade Agreements for the whole SAARC region. Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia that has GSP+ status with the EU countries where almost 7000 items can be sent from our country to Europe, duty free. As a result, there is a large-scale growth in Western Province. [ ..]

Why is it not working in the other areas? For example, why is there such a big gap in the growth figures of Western Province and Central Province, Uva and Sabaragamuwa? Unfortunately, we have to leave North and East out because of the war situation. Those two districts which are very well known for people who believe in hard work and industry will definitely give us the balance growth figures if we have peace.
We have mega problems regarding the provision of basic infrastructure. That is to say transport, power, energy and Ports. We have a power generation plan which calls for an annual increase of 10% of growth in electricity. Only then can we match a 10% annual expansion in the economy. [..] And now, we have a backlog.

We have failed miserably to provide electricity as needed. [..] We have several vital power projects which unfortunately are getting slowed down. One of the important things we must do for economic growth is to reform the power sector. Unless we have abundant power we cannot progress.

We have a crisis in Sri Lanka because unions are fighting. Engineers are fighting and politicians are fighting. Nobody takes decisions. And as a result Sri Lanka is slipping in power production when it is a vital ingredient of economic growth. […]

There are diesel lobbies in this country. They obstruct the private sector in power supply, which to my mind, is the one way in which we can have fast growth in power. The CEB must learn to share power in the power sector. The government must certainly do its job but equally important it must help the private sector. If we rely entirely on the public sector for power supply, Sri Lanka is dead.

Very many of our policies are outdated. If you have outdated policies then the result is obviously going to be failure. Now I am not saying something very controversial. Look at what happened to Communist countries. Look at what is happening in China today. All these countries had controlled economies. Controlled economy is outdated like a dinosaur. But in Sri Lanka some people are still talking about a controlled economy, when the whole world has given it up as a terrible failure. We can never survive with that type of outdated attitude.

We must have policies which take note of reality. The first reality is the globalization process. The Western Province is the only province in Sri Lanka which has not pulled the plug. It is linked to globalisation. Some people are talking about “[sinhala world printed incorrectly]”. If so, you can become the poorest country in the world. You can be like Cuba which is struggling today. As a small country we must plug in to the global economy, and only Western Province has done so up to now. Western Province has the airports ; it has the harbour. Every investor wants to put up his factory close to the harbour or the airport. Those are the realities. What happened to those investors who went out of Western Province? They are finding it very difficult to maintain their competitive edge.

They prefer to go to India than go out of the Western Province. That is the reality. Some of our businessmen are going to Africa and not to our own hinterland. Why is that? That is because we do not give enough incentives for balanced growth.

Of Provincial Council budgets as most of you know more than 75% is spent on paying salaries -Teachers’ salaries, which was done earlier by one department in Colombo. They are doing hardly anything else. There is now a committee of Chief Ministers which is the biggest joke of the 21st century. Really there is nothing to cooperate. They must compete with each other. The only way a province can draw investment is by giving more concessions than its rivals. They should compete: not cooperate.

If one Chief Minister has the courage to say we are not taxing you, we are giving you free electricity, we give you free water; investors will rush to that Province. Why there is unemployment in the Provinces is largely due to the wrong policies of Chief Ministers and other politicians in Provincial Councils.

I find today they are talking of new taxes like cross border taxes. Then nobody will come to that Province. If you are going to have so many taxes in the provinces, who will come there? Why should investors come there? Already an investor is at a disadvantage by not having access to the airport and the port. So why should they come to Provinces? Provincial Councils must compete. If I am the Chief Minster of a Province I know how to make it the richest province in Sri Lanka.


The third obstacle I want to mention is Bureaucracy. That is you and myself in the past. We are the worst bureaucracy in the world. When it comes to protocol , when it comes to speechmaking, when it comes to pandering to politicians, we have one of the best bureaucracies But when it comes to coordination and development, we are the worst. [..]

Today to get a project off the ground we have to get about 20 approvals. All sorts of crazy fellows have to give their approval before you can start a project. [..]

Please look into all these things in a way that is pro developmental, not pro prestige or pro bureaucratic. We have to shake up Public Administration so that people who want to crate wealth in this county are allowed to do so. Now a lot of people think that this is Capitalism. That is so. Sri Lanka is a Capitalist country. Commercial agriculture is 100% privatized. Except for the inefficiently run JEDB and SPC which at the end of the month come to the Ministry of Finance to collect public funds to pay their staff, the private sector runs commercial agriculture successfully.

Government enterprises are running at a loss. When I was the Minister of Finance I told them I am not giving you poor people’s money. You sell your buildings and settle your debts. Why should a taxpayer pay all those inefficient managers in the SPC and JEDB? We should not pay a cent.

Today telecommunications is the fastest growing sector in Sri Lanka. Banking, posts and telecommunications, tourism and finance constitute the service sector which is growing at 60%. The fastest growing sector in Sri Lanka is the services sector and not the manufacturing sector or the agricultural sector.

The fastest growing areas in Sri Lanka are manned by the private sector. Look at telecommunications. All of you who were in the public service 10 years ago, would have had to wait at least 5 years to get a telephone. And even after 5 years, and you have written to a big shot in the telecommunication department to install that phone, you get an antiquated instrument. I can remember that when I was a Government Agent I asked for a telephone and got someone else’s discarded instrument.

Today if you want a phone before I finish this speech you can get one. [..]

The most inefficient sectors in our country are sectors where the private sector has been left out. That is Railway, Petroleum and Electricity Board. These three areas where there is no participation of the private sector, are a tremendous drain on our economy. They are inefficient and not cost-effective.
[..] everyday the Petroleum Corporation or Electricity Board loses money enough to build a general hospital? Similarly, we can have over 100 universities a year in Sri Lanka. So what are we talking about the state sector? In India and China they are dismantling the grip of the state sector on the economy. That is why they are successful.
So the money which we should be spending on infrastructure development, on growth, is given to the inefficient Petroleum Corporation, Electricity Board, State Plantations corporation and the Railway Department. All these institutions are just guzzling money and preventing that money from going into the areas where investment is needed, particularly in the provinces
Today there is no USSR. The communist state which depended on State institutions has collapsed. [..] It is useless writing to Sinhalese papers about Samajawadaya (Socialism) and Castro when the whole world has moved away to a new capitalist society.

If you read the Sinhalese papers you will think that we are in the 19th century. They are teaching such nonsense in our schools. Socialism has contributed much to social justice but as an economic methodology, it is a disaster.

So it is high time that we grew up; high time we looked at what is happening in the world. Sri Lanka need not be a poor country. Sri Lanka is a poor country because all of us have made it poor. We are keeping it poor. Sri Lanka can be one of the richest countries in the world. We have the potential, we have skilled people, ours is a small population and we have wonderful natural resources.

But all of us have conspired to keep it as a poor country.

So we must all get together and face reality and give our people the future that they deserve.

Read the full speech

No one could have said it any better.

It’s a pity that even the supposedly pro-market UNP seems to be embarrassed by their own position, an indication of how success Marxist (and jathika-economics) propaganda having demonized even the word ‘privatization’.

As much as I have much admire Amunugama for having the ‘balls’ to say what should be done, nothing can be done unless and until more people start speaking up. The ‘war’ isn’t the only problem in this country, as Amungama points out there are serious problems in education, transport and energy and power sectors and the massive size of this beuracracy which desperately needs reforms and liberalization.

The sad part is most in the government ranks – from Moragoda, to Bandula Gunawardene to Ajith Nivard Cabral - knows this, and yet they go ahead and let the government abolish the PERC. One of the few government institutions that they should have kept!

Whatever happened to sanity in this country, I will never know. But at least Amunugama has shown the way, now if only others could follow..

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Breaking News : Prabha Joins Facebook

Well at least he has better tech-sense than H.E.

Feel Free To Poke him. He has some interesting friends too: Ahmadinejad, Osama, Saddam (may he rest in piece) . I guess Mahinda would join him soon, old friends no.

The bugger lives in Toronto apparently.

Check it out.

India Unbound: An attempt at a review

I finished reading the book a few weeks ago, and I’m officially declaring it as one of my favorites. I’m sure many great men and women have reviewed this book much more objectively and eloquently than I could ever hope for. So this is not going to be your traditional review, in fact I’m not quite sure what this is; just that I thought the book at the very least deserved a blog post.

Apart from my own, there are two nations that have always captured my imagination - one is the United States and the other is India. The latter perhaps more than the former, possibly because of my closer interaction with it – travel, friends and of course NDTV. This book relates the story of India, from its independence to its time under the ‘mixed economy’ and finally to economic liberalization and beyond.

Gurcharan Das, the author of India Unbound is a former CEO of P&G India and a Harvard educated scholar who grew up almost with post-independent India. The book is part memoir, part economic analysis and part political history all compiled into an engaging as well an insightful book about India. The thesis of the book can be summarized as follows:

After India won its independence from the British, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru started building a nation based on secularism, democracy and socialism. Nehru being infatuated by the then Soviet Union introduced the ‘third way’ supposed to combine the best of socialism and capitalism, but ended up combining the worst features of both. In combining democracy with socialism the Indian state quickly degenerated into a license-raj and a massive bureaucracy which lead to corruption and suppression of millions of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Few, like Dhirubhai Ambani’s managed to beat the system, and use it to their advantage. But for every success, there were thousands who failed. After years of struggle, and faced with a financial crisis and a change of government, India opened up its economy in 1991. Unshackling itself from the self-imposed chains and controls and ever since has put itself towards a path of rapid economic growth especially helped by the global information age.

It’s a wonderful story of how reforms can bring about such profound changes, and the lunacies of command and control economics. He takes a very personal approach citing examples he himself has experienced, conversations he had, and the situations he had to face as a manager and a businessman. The book often diverts its attention to societal analysis, governance and sometimes even management advice, but somehow all of it manages to fit well with the overall narrative.

It’s an optimistic take on India. Some have criticized the book for this feature and how it doesn’t present a ‘balanced view’ of India. But as Das himself has said, it’s not supposed to be a scholarly work; it’s a book, the story of India seen by one Gurcharan Das. Some of his optimism, particularly with regard to the IT-based services has not materialized but by and large, the thesis of the book remains strong especially against the backdrop of India’s current progress.

I wish some of the Sri Lankan policy makers and even some Sri Lankan newspaper editors take a look at the book. India Unbound: from Independence to the Global Information Age – A must read!

Gurcharan Das maintains a blog here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

BBC Reports: ‘We are biased’

BBC has found itself to be ‘biased’ by a report commissioned by BBC itself. But of course we already knew. As the Sunday Times (UK) very aptly puts:

There are some things you do not need an official report to tell you - that John Prescott thinks he is a babe magnet, that President Mugabe is not entirely in favour of white farmers and that Al-Qaeda takes a pretty dim view of the West. The report commissioned by the BBC into itself concluded with something equally blindingly obvious. It said that the organisation is institutionally biased and especially gullible to the blandishments of politically driven celebrities, such as Bono and Bob Geldof. Almost anyone in Britain could have told the BBC that for free, but maybe it’s better to have it in an official report. [link]

To be fair, I think the BBC does by and large a decent job, whether it has a ‘liberal’ bias or not. Especially in a situation like we find ourselves in Sri Lanka where ‘liberalism’ seems to be restricted to a few intellectual circles. Yet, you have to say it has ef’d up from time to time, I remember reading the BBC reporting with headlines such as ‘Sri Lankan Forces shell Tamil Positions’ and so on.

It’s an interesting question, whether or not media should be biased or not. I don’t think there can ever be ‘unbiased’ media. But of course as the Times article above have noted BBC is in a different league because it gets funded by the tax payer.

In stark contrast to the situation in Sri Lanka, where the validity of public-funded government propaganda – like the ITN, Rupvahini, Daily News, Keheliya Rabukwella is hardly ever questioned. It seems it’s the moral responsibility of the Tax payer to fund the government’s survival and so many routes! Surely some of them must be privatized!

But alas, that’s a pipe dream whether it’s a UNP or SLFP dominated government.

More on the BBC story: Telegraph, NewsBusters

[Via LNC]

Good Tolerance, Bad Tolerance

Salman Rushdie, the well-known author of the controversial book ‘The Satanic Verses’ has recently been knighted, which has again sparked some controversy with both the Iranian and Pakistani governments issuing statements condemning his knighthood.
Disturbing religious sentiments, as the Danish cartoonists found out, is tricky business. Simply because for most people, whole of their spiritual existence is derived from religion and any upset to those sentiments can result in aggressive reaction, which can effectively be harnessed by extremist elements for agendas of their own.
As historical evidence would suggest, the type of religion, in this situation doesn’t really matter. In fact even an Atheist – a believer in the absence of god - would react aggressively if his or her fundamental beliefs are challenged. It is therefore very human and very natural for a Muslim to react strongly against ‘Satanic Verses’ or the Danish Cartoons, and for a catholic to resent the ‘ the Da Vinci Code’ or for a Buddhist to take offense at the movie ‘Hollywood Buddha.’
So far the simple solution to these types of situations seems to be simply banning the book or the offensive material. But greater analysis of the economics of prohibitions would suggest that banning things is a poor solution...

Read The Rest from Beyond Borders Blog

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Do we want to be ‘white’?

With the release of the much awaited ‘Sivaji’ I often wondered why South Indians like, no not like – hysterical! about Rajnikanth. A dark, less than average looking guy who does silly things on movies, what’s the deal?

But wait! Rajnikanth on Sivaji is actually white!

In a strange manifestation of the Indian obsession of having light skin, they actually used CG to get the skin complexion of a European woman and apply the skin tones to Rajnikanth producing white-rajni. Quite brilliant, but why?

Some time ago I read a blog post on ‘Indian racism’ which narrated a story about a Kenyan taking a bus ride in India, where he kept getting pointed out to kids and getting called ‘negro’. The post went on to say that Indians, being ‘brown’ somehow think of themselves as being in the ‘middle’ above ‘blacks’ and under ‘whites’. It went on to cite the case of how despite being generally dark skinned, South Indian movies almost exclusively featured light skinned heroines.

Now the makers of sivaji have extended the fairness to the ‘hero’ as well. To be fair (no pun intended), people loved Rajni when he was dark, and overweight. His largely male fan-base loves seeing this average south-Indian Tamil (somewhat older) bloke scoring pretty chicks.

What’s going on then? Is it some sort of a colonial hang-over? I don’t know. But do Indians and even Sri Lankans generally think that being fair is prettier? I think it’s naive to deny it.

Personally I’d trade in Aishwariya Rai for Bipasha Basu any day, but then Bipasha is not particularly dark, and her ‘lack of fairness’ is more than overcompensated by her, well, package.

But generally speaking do we adore ‘fair’ women (even men) over dark ones? Sales of fairness cream might offer a clue.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Today's WTF article : No abductions. people are just going away with 'hora' wives.

There have been many explanations given for the Colombo Abductions by this government. First they said the whole 'White-Van' thing is just crap (some of them were blue- but isn't that a bit too obvious!?) and then they claimed some of the so called 'abducted' are appearing in France and other places in Europe and Now in the governments latest theory, DM Jayaratne states, these fellows are actually making "use of the situation to free themselves from their wives to enjoy with their pretty ones in unknown locations".

That surely got to win the price.

More from the Observer [ Abductions Blessing in Disguise ]

The abduction of persons by unknown groups are politically motivated, Minister of Posts and Telecommunication D. M. Jayaratne told the 'Sunday Observer'. The Minister said most of the rich persons who were alleged to have been abducted during the past few days have returned to their homes safely.

The motives behind the abduction drama staged by the UNP is to justify the claim made by the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the international forum about human rights' abuses in Sri Lanka.

Certain people have made use of the situation to free themselves from their wives to enjoy with their pretty ones in unknown locations. With the latest information technology it is not easy to distance oneself from their loved ones. Abduction has now become a blessing in disguise for these people. When some one becomes a victim of abduction no one can contact him. This is a good excuse for them, the Minister quipped. [link]

So let me get this straight, People are voluntarily disappearing to support Ranil Wickramasinghe and making use of the situation to have multiple wives? shah. This Ranil fellow is having some support no.

I think the JHU should step into the situation and make prostitution legal, that way people don't have get voluntarily abducted and go away to unknown locations to spend with pretty wives, keeping distance from the old ones by not using latest IT gadgets.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

President commended on human rights front

These days the DailyNews is the paper to read.

GENEVA: President Mahinda Rajapaksa who arrived in Geneva on Wednesday to attend the 96th ILO conference, held discussions with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louis Arbour.

President Rajapaksa came in for high praise by Arbour over steps taken by the Government to protect human rights amidst heightened acts of terrorism.

She also expressed her regret at the propaganda launched by various organisations to discredit the Lankan Government. [Link]

WTF you say? No they didn't hire the Guy who maintains brokennews to write in the daily news. it's the actual paper. we do live in rather interesting times. The editorial adds to the entertainment :
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama’s comments to The Korea Herald are both a transparent mirror to the situation in Sri Lanka as well as a lucid outline of the tasks awaiting the parties to our conflict.

Contrary to the misguided views aired in some quarters, the principal priority of the Government is a negotiated political solution.. [Link]
and these idiots get paid. I want my money back!

Thanks NM

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crazy business ideas for fun and profit.

I've always had good ideas. (Seriously!)

I lost so many of them, so that some time last year, I created a text file named ideas.txt on my desktop which I filled with, well, ideas of all business plans that came to my mind. I now have quite significant list, none of which I have taken up due to various reasons I’d not go into detail here.

But now, since Christmas is only about five months away, I thought I’d share a few of the recent additions:

#1 E-laborers /odd-jobs

I don’t know if this one has been tried out, but they outsource all kinds of things nowadays. So why not odd-jobs? See now I have this hotmail account filled with unwanted junk I don’t want. I want someone to clean-up that for me, unsubscribe all those junk newsletters I get, and clean it up. I’m willing to pay for that. I’m sure there are plenty of lazy bums like me, who’d want to do some random stuff, like home-work for example.

So someone just create a site, ‘odd-job’ board. And cash-in. I might actually do this one.

#2 Conflict-Tourists

See these Western Liberal kids are wired animals, they take gap years and do voluntary stuff in rural places for fun, and quite possibly to get rid of guilt of some sort of being ‘rich’. This has created a whole new industry called Voluntourism. Companies hook them up with places they can ‘volunteer’ for a fee. Neat.

Now is it possible that those same kids, and quite possibly others (journalists, activist types) would want to visit conflict zones, such as Sri Lanka? Say, experience first hand the bombing and the excitement of war!.

It sounds pretty damn immoral, it probably is. That’s what a friend of mine told me when I jokingly suggested it. But hey, if you cant stop the war, maybe you can sell it!.

#3 Kottu Franchise.

Now this I really think could work. I shit you not.

Think about Pilawoos (the popular kottu joint if anyone is unenlightened) it serves good kottu, now imagine you impose the Pizza Hut model into that. Wouldn’t people buy? Wouldn’t you want to go into a pilla restaurant? Or wouldn’t you like to order cheese kottu and iced-Milo over the phone, delivered in 30 minutes?

Hell, I would.

That’s enough ideas. Now go do it and drop me in a one-time only check if anything works out. Remember, [INSERT WISE PHRASE HERE] and Good Luck!

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Be Lankan, Buy Lankan but don’t Be Stupid

The editorial of last week’s Sunday Times, was probably the worst socio-economic analysis I’ve read in a long time. The editor seems to be highly taken up by a JVP-inspired campaign which encourages Sri Lankans to buy locally manufactured goods over foreign ones via ‘awareness campaigns for students where they will be taught the importance of eating nutritious home-grown food’

Clearly a campaign only a JVPer, or an equally retarded Leftist could have come up with.

First the writer claims that we should learn from India, one of the biggest and fastest-growing economies. I’d agree, only if he didn’t say ‘Gandhian’ self-sufficiency principles and ‘buy Indian’ campaigns that laid the foundations for India’s growth.

Nothing can be further from the ‘truth’.

The roots of economic success in India’s lies not in any ‘Gandhian’ or even Nehruvian principle but rather in the economic reforms in the early 90’s which saw India’s middle class nearly quadruple and 1 percent of its poor cross the poverty line every year, given the speed at which the Indian economy is growing it would soon surpass Japan and become the third-largest economy in the world.

Sri Lanka was luckier than India, and came into it's senses much earlier and opened its economy as far back as the late 70’s which put us on a path towards prosperity. Ever since we have managed to do reasonably well, and even now Sri Lanka is ahead of India in almost all economic and social indicators, quite an achievement for a country which had to endure a chronic civil war throughout the reform period. What SL would have become without this war can only be left up to the imagination.

In any case, core argument of the article and the ‘buy lankan’ campaign seems to be that Sri Lankans tend to think foreign produce is better than local produce as a matter of principle. I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Let’s take the insurance for example. Sri Lanka does have quite a reasonably open insurance sector, which allows for 100 percent foreign ownership of insurance companies, yet the leading players in the sector are two Sri Lankan companies. It’s similar in banking. The likes of Asian Alliance and HSBC haven’t been able to just swallow the domestic market because Sri Lankans are not infatuated with foreign goods or companies, they, like consumers all over the world like good products at competitive prices.

Some 3 million Sri Lankans use Dialog as their mobile service provider, not because it’s foreign, but because it provides a decent service, best coverage and good packages. If Tigo provided the same, perhaps people would shift there, as some did when Mobitel offered tempting deals.

The best thing Sri Lankan producers can do to make people ‘buy lankan’ is to make good products and sell them well, consumers would follow. Surely if someone can’t sell their produce without invoking the patriotic card, it must be a pretty awful product. Having said that, I’m fine with this so long they restrict their ‘campaign’ to advertising and ‘awareness raising’; but if they seek legal protection from the state, then that's a slippery slope to hell.

After all the basic premise of tariffs and import controls are quite illogical from a consumer’s point of view, the government (and possibly even the ST Editor!) would consider the consumers as completely rational beings so long as they buy local produce, but if they buy foreign goods, then some authority must step into advise them and say :

“Look here son, you have made an unwise choice here, haven’t you been watching JVP Buy Lanka Commercials? Don’t you read the Sunday times? So now that you have made this mistake we are going to help you to make the right decision by increasing tariffs and taxes, because you obviously don’t have the ability to make these kinds of important decisions.”

I’d say that’s rubbish.

The editorial is well intended, but they say even the Nazis meant well, and that the road to hell is paved in good intentions. If anybody really wants to make a strong Sri Lankan industry which produces competitive products which can compete against global companies then the real things to do are not these superficial campaigns, but to bring in real economic reforms which have been stalled for a while. Slash the red-tape, which makes an entrepreneur wait for 50 days to set up a business in Sri Lanka, bring in labor reform, slash taxes, downsize the enormous state-sector and provide for a good business and an investment climate.

When it comes to economics there are no competing ‘ideologies’. That was last century. The reality is based on market-economics and capitalism. The rest is just fantasy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

when good men do nothing

The forcible eviction of Tamils from Colombo drew much criticism from both local and international quarters, forcing the government to provide for the return of some of the evicted people back to Colombo. This latest action clearly makes mockery of the government’s initial claim that it was merely facilitating a ‘voluntary’ transfer of people from Colombo to the North/East.

Now that the Prime Minister has apologized for the incident, and His Excellency has ordered for a probe on who accidentally pressed the ‘evict-the-Tamils-button’, and also given the fact that the Supreme Court has issued an order preventing the police from carrying out further evictions, it’s most likely that the government will try its utmost to sweep this incident under the rug and assign the blame, by the looks of it, to some ‘rotten eggs’ in the police department.

Before the government completely succeeds in burying this issue under an avalanche of other muck and mockery so readily available in contemporary Sri Lankan politics, perhaps it is worth to carry out a postmortem on the incidents of 7th of June in Colombo.

The simple question is- what the hell were they thinking?

How did the architects of this ‘ingenious’ security plan managed to think, waking up a few Tamil lodgers in Colombo and pack them away to Vauvniya or where ever they came from would be a perfectly acceptable practice? What could have possibly given them that level of arrogance?

To understand the reasons we must first investigate the issue it self, what really happened on that Thursday morning? It certainly wasn’t a PR debacle as few people with the chintana-syndrome has suggested, it’s not something that should have been done, but more discretely! It was clearly a violation of both human and fundamental rights of those people; but to understand this issue merely from s a citizens rights perspective (however right and just) is too convenient.

The most persistent issue may turn out to be not the action itself but rather the thinking which went behind the action, and that thinking is not so much ‘racist’ but rather more arrogant and assuming, this government and its apparatus seems to believe that any action, legal or otherwise is completely acceptable so long as it’s is submerged in the mantra of ‘National Security’.

What happened was more than just an incident; it’s was an expression of how low this government’s morals have gone and an indication how high our collective apathy has gone.

It’s an enactment of what a few liberal-minded people kept telling us of what would happen if things are allowed to continue the way they were, many failed to listen and branded these critics as being ‘overacting’.

To an extend this is understandable. Since the success of liberal politics, or rather, a liberal critique of politics, often hinges upon a construction of a draconian beast- a repressive regime which is undemocratic, unfair and somewhat fascist.

So perhaps the message got diluted in the rhetoric, maybe it was the messenger, or maybe there wasn’t enough messages or maybe, just maybe it might have been us.

There were abductions of civilians in Colombo, ethnically-biased mass arrests, there were threats and violence against journalists and media houses, MPs, aid-workers were murdered, yet we chose to remain silent, recently the police chief proclaimed that they will stay within the bounds of law ‘as much as possible’ and the JHU claimed this was a Sinhala country, still we were silent, this plan to evict Tamil-lodgers was announced in the papers days earlier, even then, only a few spoke out. It took the action itself for us some of us to see what we have come to.

This is a classic case of the boiled-frog syndrome. The story follows if a frog is put into a jug of boiling water it would jump straight out, but the same frog put into jug of lukewarm water, gradually brought to a boil wouldn’t notice it until its too late.

We are like that frog, if not worse.

We have let the power of authority to increase so gradually that we haven’t noticed how coercive and arrogant they have become. With each small increment of government impunity we have tolerated, have made the next increment less noticeable, we have let this government get away quite literally with murder and silently watched by thinking of it as being ‘unavoidable’ and as a necessarily evil.

Now maybe it is unavoidable but for lord’s sake we must stop being so apathetic, what’s more appalling here is not what is said and done but what is not said and not done. We have got to speak out, and where necessary, take action. None of this would be assisting the terrorists, or unreasonable in times of war for allowing democratic dissent is specifically what separates a democratic government from a terror organisation.

Price of liberty is eternal vigil, and this country could certainly use a little bit of that.

First appeared in Groundviews