Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Just another Gang Rape
Lets shoot, maim and kill these bastards

Dawn editorial:

The reported gang rape of a 20-year-old woman in Multan by her former, cleric fiancĂ© and three of his accomplices on Sunday is the latest act of violence against women in the long list of such crimes that have gone unpunished in recent months. Details speak of the accused, one Hafiz Mohammed Idrees, having tried to kill his fiancĂ©e back in August after she refused to marry him. She had to jump down from the second floor to save her life; the fall left her with broken bones. The police had arrested the cleric then, only to release him on bail the next day. Thus emboldened, the accused allegedly threatened the victim’s family of avenging the insult of rejection. Sunday’s brutal assault came when the victim was alone at home and unable to protect herself because of her immobility. She was later taken to hospital by her mother, who, on returning home, found her daughter in a semi-conscious condition. However, citing ‘inconsistency’ in the accounts of the assault given by the mother and daughter, the police have refused to arrest the cleric and his accomplices — a common practice in cases involving violence against women.


Please God, don't let this happen. Please, please, please, anyone but him.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pornstar Politician

Match the porn with the politician on Slate, hahaha!

Liberia - "Land of the Free"

This is a follow up to my previous post on Mittal Steel. I've just spent the last 2 days reading about Liberia, and it’s truly fascinating. In the United States, Liberia is associated with the ideal of freedom and liberty, as it is perceived as having been founded by freed American slaves. This romantic notion has become entrenched in American society but is not quite based on historical facts. “Liberia was actually founded by the American Colonization Society, a group of white Americans—including some slaveholders—that had what certainly can be described as mixed motives. In 1817, in Washington, D.C., the ACS established the new colony (on a tract of land in West Africa purchased from local tribes) in hopes that slaves, once emancipated, would move there. The society preferred this option to the alternative: a growing number of free black Americans demanding rights, jobs, and resources ata home”. The society found support amongst the white communities of Maryland where there were large number of fee slaves, and the state passed a law “that required any slave freed after that date to leave the state and specifically offered passage to a part of Liberia administered by the Maryland State Colonization Society”. By the 1840s, the American Colonization Society was largely bankrupt, and hostile local tribes, bad management, and deadly diseases demoralized the transported Liberians. The U.S. government would not claim sovereignty over the colony, so in 1846 the ACS ‘demanded’ that Liberians declare their independence.

After independence Liberia faced serious pressures from France and Britain who challenged its sovereignty and enroached upon some its lands. Liberia, was seriously economically starved and would soon find itself seriously in debt to foreign donors (prophesizing the predicament Africa would face a cenruty later). Thereafter two events would shape the fate of modern Liberia, one "was the grant in 1926 of a large concession to the American-owned Firestone Plantation Company; that move became a first step in the modernization of the Liberian economy. The second occurred during the Second World War, when the United States began providing technical and economic assistance that enabled Liberia to make economic progress and introduce social change".

Surely with its economic liberalisation, democratic institutions and deep rooted respect for Freedom, Liberty and the 'American Way' - in Latin, Liberia translates to "Land of the Free" - Liberia should be a beacon of hope for Africa and yet it remains a desoerately poor war-ravaged state. The two events that were meant to 'modernise' Liberiaended up enslaving it.

The Firestone rubber plantation is spread over an area in excess of one million hectares making it the largest rubber plantation in the world. The conditions there are appalling: "all of the workers are poverty-stricken Africans, enduring extremely inhuman conditions under the constant guard of American and now Japanese overseers who live in the finest houses in Liberia, looking down on the field hands from their verandahs and the company's private golf coursess." By contrast, "most of the workers have never been off of the plantation and do not even know that the world has moved on and slavery has been abolished." The company was sued by the International Labor Rights Fund in 2005 for "forced labour" - i.e. slavery.
The second event - economic liberalisaton meant to bring about 'social change', led to the country owing billions of dollars which it had absolutely no way of repaying.

Far from being a symbol of freedom, Liberia is a symbol of subjugation. The emancipated slaves who were 'sent' to Africa to 'establish' this country lost their freedom the moment they were 'asked' to leave. America challenged the very model of colonialism (discounting The Philipines, Puerto-Rico, Cuba, Panama and Iraq...so maybe its not all that against the occupation of nations !) by being the power that sought not to expand but that was only because it found other ways of enslaving people and Firestone is a testament to that. Liberia also proves that free and fair election don't translate into freedom. In 2005 the country elected Africa's first female Prime Minister in transparent elections, her first course of business: attracting foreign investment...you might remember Mittal Steel.

I-had-no-idea-about-this fact of the day

Did you know that China has only one time zone?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Reawakening the Yellow Peril

Two exhibitions at the Battersea power station reveal the West’s double standards when it comes to Chinese modernisation.

India in the First World: Learning the tricks of the trade
Mittal Steel has just bought the entire iron ore reserves of Liberia from its interim government after intense lobbying by the company of the US government. The deal will see the creation of a state within a state, with Mittal Steel controlling the port and parts of the railway system not to mention the control it will exhert on the country's economic policy. The company will have a tax holiday for 5 years after which it can choose which taxes it wishes to pay. The deal seems to me to be reminiscent of the deal under which Shell bought oil reserves in the Ogoni region of Nigeria, depriving the indigenous people of any rights over the oil reserves - the protests of the Ogoni people got some coverage after the execution of their spokesman Ken Saro-Wiwa, a University professor, and eight other leaders of the Moverment for the Survival of the Ogoni People , but these were short lived.

Liberia - Key Facts (Source: CIA World Factbook)

Population - 3 million

Life Expectancy - 39 years

GDP/head - $1000

Literacy Rate - 57.5 %

Budget - Revenue: $ 85.4 Million
Expenditure: $ 90.5 Million
Millitary Spending: $ 67.4 Miliion

On a similar note Mittal Arcelor workers are protesting in Kazakhstan over low wages amid adverse safety conditions after 41 miners died in an accident.

And you thought Shoaib was bad

It appears that in the Centurion Test of 2000 (the one that Hansie forfeited SA's innings for a result) Darren Gough was bowling hung over.
When South Africa resumed it soon became clear that the track had lost many of its demons and Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock scored with ease. They were helped somewhat by Darren Gough not being at his best. "Gough bowled a pile of shite," Hussain recalled. "I knew then that he'd had a few drinks the night before. It was stinking hot, so I decided to punish him by keeping on bowling him."

Man, I love Nasser Hussain. Great captain, great commentator.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pakistan: The New India?

Well, no not exactly. But this article talks about the growing software industry back home. What's interesting about it is the angle it takes, framing progress in the service sector of the economy as a tool to tackle extremism.

While such a rapid explosion of wealth among Pakistan's elite has raised concerns about a parallel explosion in social inequality, Malik is part of a wave of young entrepreneurs who see an emerging antidote: their businesses. By creating jobs for young people and exportable products that promote stability, they reason, they can give Pakistanis viable alternatives to extremism.

"How many people who have jobs would actually go to their employer and say, 'There's a protest. I'm going to go burn some American flags'?" asks Shakir Hussain, a Whittier College graduate who employs 45 people at his software-consulting business in Karachi.

This is something I've often thought about, but not just in terms of economic progress. Simplistic as it may sound, I think having fun is such a big part of this. In our big cities, unless you're a rich kid, you have very little to do. There are very few parks where you can go and kick a ball. The cinema industry is in shambles. Those video arcade places are either ridiculously expensive or magnets for drug/gang related activities (or both). And have you seen the state of our museums and zoos? What's a middle/lower class kid to do? I almost feel like (and I have no scientific basis for saying this, just a hunch) if there were more outlets for adolescent restlessness, we'd have less tyre-and-bus burning. But that's just me.

By the way, if the guy whose picture is shown in the article really is "Pakistan's new face", I'd like to switch nationalities, please.

Non-verbal message of the day

Nothing can describe the power asymmetry between Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz better than the fact that Musharraf gets to sit next to his wife but poor old Shaukat has to sit all the way across the room from his.

Photo credit: Geo News

Knicks note

This headline in the NYT says "Thomas Asks Curry to Stop Being So Nice". Great. Maybe he can also ask him to stop being so crap. I also loved this part of the article:
At a glance, the 23-year-old Curry cuts an imposing figure: 6 feet 11 inches, 285 pounds, his bulging muscles outlined with tattoos. But the tattoos might as well be of bunnies and daisies.

The Knicks are such a joke. Thank God they're in the Atlantic, otherwise Philly would finish last in the division.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Quid Pro Quo

America to Germany: We'll give you access to one of your citizens who's been detained on account of being an Al-Qaeda suspect. All you have to do is help mute EU opposition to extraordinary rendition, the program used by the CIA to send terrorist suspects to countries that torture, a program whose tentacles reach the Middle East (including avowed enemies, like Syria), North Africa, Guantanamo Bay and, yes, Western Europe.
Germany to America: Ok.

Quote of the day

If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?

Australian cleric Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali, blaming women's attire for rape.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A quick rejoinder...

By the way, in reference to the Daily Times editorial on Musharraf's nonsense I linked to in this post, I should say I agree with most of it, except for this part:
India’s poverty may be on the decline, but in Pakistan, despite President Musharraf’s success in the economic sector, it may still be on the increase.

Poverty in Pakistan is not on the increase. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Pakistan has fallen by 5 percentage points this decade. An editorial in Dawn a couple of days ago, while of course worrying about the future, provided pats on the back.

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, I had said poverty had dropped by 5%, which was misleading, not to mention inaccurate. Poverty has dropped by 5 percentage points, not 5 percent. My bad.

"The Google"

George W. Bush: Idiot.

The Daily Times Fires Away

So a couple of days ago, Musharraf, as he is wont to do, says some ridiculous things to the media, such as implying Pakistan and India are equals (sadly, we are not) and that there are no separatist movements in Pakistan (uh, I don't even have a comment for that one). Well today, the Daily Times lets him have it.
There are many ‘third world’ things where Pakistan and India are indeed at par. The red tape, the delay of law, the abysmal state of their courts at the level of the lower judiciary, the persistent poverty of the masses, the almost zero level of infrastructure needed for a good modern economy, etc. But India’s size and India’s problems that once made it vulnerable in comparison with Pakistan are slowly disappearing and President Musharraf should worry about it if he feels adversarial these days to boost his image at home.

India’s growth rate is steadily much higher than the ‘Hindu rate’ it used to have. It is also not dependent on external stimuli like security pacts and jihad against communism from 1950 to 1987 or support to the war against terror after 9/11 to take it out of its troughs. In fact its economy looks like dominating Asia together with China in the decade ahead. Its companies are in the multinational race and are buying up first world companies. Its education has always been better while Pakistan was handing its seats of learning to the clerics and their violent ‘youth wings’. Indian scientists and scholars are spread out in the world proving their excellence while Pakistanis are suffering discriminatory regimes put up by the first world to avoid getting hit by terrorist attack. India’s poverty may be on the decline, but in Pakistan, despite President Musharraf’s success in the economic sector, it may still be on the increase. India is expected to attract foreign investment in the coming months because law and order there is better than the one obtaining in Pakistan. India has developed a large middle class which attracts global funds looking for consumer markets. Unlike Pakistan, which spends 4.5 percent of its GDP on defence (not counting the military’s trespass into jobs that used to belong to the civil servants) while the biggest spender India is still safely below 3 percent, the point over which purchase of weapons may affect the quality of life of a country.

Obama Scares Hillary

This is getting ridiculous. According to Newsweek's political blog, a run by Obama might scare off Hillary from even bothering to run. The reason? Her advisers say he'll take all her black votes. As David Brooks said, Run, Barack, Run!
(link courtesy NYTimes' Opinionator)

Quote of the day

Each game is like a semi-final just to get into the semi-finals.

Younis Khan, firing up his rhetorical engine. I for one cannot wait for him to assume the captaincy full-time. The quotes alone will be worth it.

I-had-no-idea-about-this fact of the day

Did you know the Rwandan genocide only lasted 100 days? As this chilling slideshow (with audio clips of news reports from the time) from the BBC says, one tenth of their population was wiped out. To put that in context for us Pakistanis, imagine 15 million people dying in 100 days. That's the population of Karachi. Can you imagine every last Karachiite killed with machetes and knives in a space of just over 3 months? (Warning: don't click on the link if you're the least bit squeamish)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My predictions

For the record, I said either England or Sri Lanka would win the Champions Trophy. England have lost both their matches so far and are out of the tournament. Sri Lanka have lost 2 of their 3 matches, and would require a minor miracle to get through (Pakistan would have to thrash New Zealand, and then beat South Africa pretty comprehensively as well). I also said Barca would not miss Eto'o that much. Over the last week, they've lost to both Chelsea and Real (both games were away, it has to be said), and didn't manage a goal over 180 minutes. I'm really not sure what to do about this. When I think things through rationally with careful analysis, my predictions come out wrong. When I go with hunches and darkhorses, my predictions come out wrong. One thing's for sure - I'm never betting on sports. Even if I somehow procure the fortunes of William Buffet, Bill Gates and that Sultan of Brunei, I'm never betting on sports. Bus, it's final.

A picture is worth 1000 words

A satellite image of the Korean peninsula taken at night.

Photo credit: Jason Reed/Reuters

The Obama Media Crush Continues

He's on the front page of the Washington Post today. Bob Herbert of the New York Times becomes the fourth NYT columnist in five days to talk about him in his column (don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select). What's different about Herbert is that he actually wants Obama to not run, saying he's too inexperienced and the Republicans will eat him alive in a campaign. Don't know if I'd agree with that. If anything, the smear campagin against Kerry should teach the Democrats that a longer legislative record is worse because it gives the GOP more to aim at.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quote of the day

I am one hundred percent sure they [Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto] would lose elections against me even if their votes were combined.

Pervez Musharraf. Alright, bro, let's see it happen then.

The Mumbai Blasts

"Pretty good evidence". That's what Indian national security advisor N.K. Narayanan says the Indian authorities have connecting the ISI to the Mumbai blasts. He adds that there "are pieces of the puzzle not available." The Indians' retreat on having an airtight case can't possibly have anything to do with the fact that foreign secretary-level talks are scheduled to start soon, can it? Surely this entire episode was not a stunt to score cheap political points, was it? As I said here, if this case against us is dropped (and it's looking more and more likely that will happen), the Indian government owes us an apology. How can they, in good faith, talk about forwarding the peace process while engaging in these shenanigans?

By the way, if it turns out that this entire thing was bogus, my question will be: what changed between July 11 and 3 weeks ago? Specifically, what could have caused the Indian government, which was perfectly calm and reasonable in the immediate aftermath of the blasts, to suddenly accuse us in the beginning of October? I'm going to think about this myself over the next couple of days, but welcome readers' thoughts in helping me figure this out.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shoaib got a haircut!

I know I said no more cricket discussions on fiverupees for the time being, but that doesn't mean I can't link to this story, published yesterday, and this one, published today. I'm so happy this happened, the man's hair was thinning beyond belief.

Update: Reader Farooq is right. There is no haircut, I was mistaken. Which renders this post completely useless since I didn't mention anything other than the faux haircut. My bad.

Quote of the day

The owner doesn’t have to seek permission from the watchman to enter his/her house nor the watchman has the right to expect that the owner will seek permission.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim, answering a question on whether or not Benazir will seek Musharraf's permission to return to Pakistan.

This Makes Me Feel Better

Literary critics list the great books they haven't read. It's a hilarious (and incredibly illuminating) piece.

Maybe we could make this a little interactive, or as interactive as a blog with 7 readers can get. What are the great books you're ashamed of never having read? I have many, but I'll restrict myself to only a few here.
1. Anything by Joyce
2. Anything by Hemingway
3. War and Peace
4. The Brothers Karamazov (though I did buy this...does that count?)
5. Lolita (I started this but was bored...what can I say?)

And on it goes...

What did I tell you about the media going insane after one issue? Now it's Frank Rich, Sunday columnist for, yup, you guessed it, the New York Times writing about, yup, you guessed it, Barack Obama. He writes (don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select)

What makes the liberal establishment’s crush on Mr. Obama disconcerting is that it too often sees him as a love child of a pollster’s focus group: a one-man Benetton ad who can be all things to all people. He’s black and he’s white. He’s both of immigrant stock (Kenya) and the American heartland (Kansas, yet). He speaks openly about his faith without disowning evolution. He has both gravitas and unpretentious humor. He was the editor of The Harvard Law Review and also won a Grammy (for the audiobook of his touching memoir, “Dreams From My Father”). He exudes perfection but has owned up to youthful indiscretions with drugs. He is post-boomer and post-civil-rights-movement. He is Bill Clinton without the baggage, a fail-safe 21st-century bridge from “A Place Called Hope” to “The Audacity of Hope.”

Mr. Obama has offended no one (a silly tiff with John McCain excepted). Search right-wing blogs and you’ll find none of the invective showered on other liberal Democrats in general and black liberal leaders in particular.

The Democrats may well win on Election Day this year. But one of their best hopes for long-term viability in the post-Bush era is that Barack Obama steps up and changes the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.

He's running, right? He has to, right?

And beat her (lightly)

An op-ed in the Washington Post talks about Quranic sanction to strike a woman if, as a husband, you "fear desertion" and admonishing them or not sleeping with them hasn't already worked. I remember reading the Quran's translation when I was 15 or something and being completely shocked by this verse. It's far from the only shocking thing about the Quran I found, but it is one that sticks very clearly in my mind, mainly because it's always useful to throw in the face of people who say Islam treats women equally (another thing to throw in such people's faces are hereditary laws laid out in the Quran). I'll stop commenting here because then I'm going to be accused of going after Islam unfairly.

By the way, the author of this piece has actually been in my car. She was in Karachi in 2001/2002 (don't remember exactly). Me and a few friends (including NB and Alien Panda, who I'm sure remember this) used to volunteer at this school for disabled kids on the weekends. Anyways this woman was there and started asking questions. Turns out, she was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, or used to be. She asked if we could show her some of the city. Nice guy that I am, I obliged. What was she doing in Karachi? Nobody knows. But she was a friend of Daniel Pearl, who was also in Karachi at the time doing investigative reporting. We all know how that turned out.

Anyways, the crazy thing about this is how many conspiracy theories centered on this woman. After Omar Sheikh was caught and convicted for Pearl's murder, the Daily Times ran this incredible story alleging she was a RAW agent. Which was absolute nonsense, of course. She was born in India, but not every Indian born person in Pakistan is a RAW agent. Plus, the story said she was "pretending to be a Wall Street Journal reporter", when there was no pretending involved, which tells you straight away the story's bogus. I do happen to know, however, from sources that will remain private, that the ISI was very suspicious of her and followed her on occasion. I should emphasize that doesn't mean anything in and of itself, because the ISI would follow Mickey fucking Mouse.

Be that as it may, reading this story made me remember all the crazy shit I read and heard about her. So I googled her and started reading. One article led to another and before I knew it I was reading conspiracy theories about Pearl's murder, all of which sound very interesting. All I'll say is, if and when I have the time, I'm going to properly research his death. For now, just read the article, especially the part about a survey revealing that 97% of women in Pakistan have suffered some sort of domestic violence.

Matthew Hayden Attacked By Dog

There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that Phil Jaques is missing a pet.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Great Black Hope

I love the way the media works. Every now, some issue or some personality catches its collective attention, and we are subjecting to a maelstrom of coverage on it. This phenomenon is not endemic to any particular region (it happens all over the world), any particular area of interest (it happens equally in music/sports/politics) or any particular level of gravitas (it happens as much about wars as it does about cats wearing clothes). For instance, a few months ago, around the time "An Inconvenient Truth" came out, Al Gore suddenly launched himself from relative obscurity to right in the middle of the "who's-going-to-stop-Hillary-from-the-Democratic-nomination-in-08" debate. And while he was coy and didn't say he was planning on running, he didn't rule it out either. I still remember being bombarded with movie reviews, New York Times Magazine features, appearances on Jon Stewart, Newsweek stories, New York Magazine covers, blogs going crazy and God-knows-what-else. For something like 3 weeks, Al Gore was everywhere. And just like that, before you knew it, he disappeared. And while he still occupies a place in the American consciousness, it's more latent than it was.

So who's the new fad? That would be Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois. Young (he's 45), fresh (he's a first term senator) and smart (went to Columbia College and Harvard Law School), people are wondering if he's going to go for it in 08. In the space of three days, two of the most influential columnists on Washington politics - David Brooks and Maureen Dowd, one conservative, one liberal, both of the New York Times - have devoted their columns to him. Brooks was literally egging him on to run in an uncharacteristically fawning column titled "Run, Barack, Run" (don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select) saying

Coming from my own perspective, I should note that I disagree with many of Obama’s notions and could well end up agreeing more with one of his opponents. But anyone who’s observed him closely can see that Obama is a new kind of politician. As Klein once observed, he’s that rarest of creatures: a megahyped phenomenon that lives up to the hype.

It may not be personally convenient for him, but the times will never again so completely require the gifts that he possesses. Whether you’re liberal or conservative, you should hope Barack Obama runs for president.

Meanwhile Dowd, while poking fun at his fledgling modelling career (he's been in Men's Vogue and Vanity Fair, among others), says (again, don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select)

After 16 years of polarizing presidents driving them crazy, Americans will be yearning for someone as soothing as Obama. (“No one is exempt,” he writes in one of many platitudes in his new book, “from the call to find common ground.”) He is so hot now that tickets to his political events are being sought, at scalpers’ prices, on Craig’s List.

His appeal combines the political ability — alien to the Bush administration — to see something from your opponent’s point of view with the cool detachment of a J.F.K. He’s intriguingly imperfect: His ears stick out, he smokes, and he’s written about wrestling with pot, booze and “maybe a little blow” as a young man.

He has been told by Democratic leaders to think about whether he really wants to be president, or whether he’s just getting swept away by people who want him to do it. (That’s a distinction that entitled and unqualified Republican WASPs like W. and Dan Quayle never bother to make, simply learning — or not learning — on the job.)

Does Barack Obama want to be a celebrity or a man of history — or is there no longer any difference?

One thing is clear to me and that is that this guy is for real. He's got a lot of Democrats genuinely excited about their prospects in 08. Many people fear that Hillary is too polarizing, reminds too many people of her husband, connotes to too divisive a time in American politics and is generally the worst possible combination of the left loving her too much (which they fear will guarantee her winning the Democratic nomination) and the right hating her too much (which they fear will guarantee that after winning said nomination, she will lose a national election to whoever the GOP puts up). For the record, I don't agree with that assessment. I think Hillary is an eminently winnable candidate, or can be in 08. Two years is an awful long time, especially in politics. But that's just me; the vast majority of people think she'll have no shot for President, especially if she runs against John McCain. Ergo, they want someone who stands at the center, who appeals to Ivy League intellectuals as much as inner-city blacks in New York, Chicago and LA, who can speak about globalization in non-populist terms, who can energize both young and old. Obama's that guy. I had no idea how popular he was until I got to Chicago. He's got nigh-on rock star status here. He's huge.

All that said, there is one thing everyone's forgetting about him. This came up last weekend, when I was sitting around with some friends and talking about the election that's two years away (and one Obama hasn't even signalled he wants to be a part of). Everyone was singing his praises - how charismatic he is, how intelligent he is, this that and the other - when I brought up what I thought was a very obvious point. "Yeah, but...but he's black". How can people ignore this? The counter to my argument was "Well, Hillary's a woman." My counter to that was "Well, Hillary's a white woman." There are a lot more women in the US than there are black people (and this is not to say all women will vote for Hillary or even that all blacks will vote for Obama). I'm no expert on American politics, but it seems to me that being a black man is a much bigger liability than being a white woman. That's just the way I see it.

Anyways, all this is to say I'm fascinated with the way Obama's suddenly in the public eye, now that his book is out. He's definitely part of the conversation (not that he wasn't before) and people are going to want answers from him. Specifically: hey, bro, you running or not? For the record, I think he should. I'm very impressed by him, his ideas and his style. I think he's a fantastic politician, and if I was American, I'd vote for him over anybody else out there. It's just that I don't think enough people would agree with me for it to matter.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Orientalist comment of the day

And Pakistan, well, you’d almost believe that nothing was happening around them when so much is. It’s just they way they are, maybe it’s in their genes; proud descendants of warrior tribes that roamed rugged terrains never knowing whether danger or prosperity lay ahead. They had to win the moment because it could be their last.

Harsha Bhogle, in his column for the Indian Express. Someone should tell him that 8 out of the 11 who beat Sri Lanka are born in Punjab, leaving only 3 who are "proud descendants of warrior tribes".

Muslim Brotherhood

Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me (and no other). (Quran: Chapter #21, Verse #92)

So I got the news today that my cousin is expecting his first child, which led me thinking along the lines of equality in Islam. Strange, I know. But you see the cousin happens to have moved to Dubai some 6 years ago, he's got a good life there and Dubai's going to be his home for another 20-30 years. After which he's going to retire, and then be throw out of the country. His yet to be born child, for whom Dubai will be home, will never become a citizen of the country of his birth. Citizenship is an important symbol of national pride, why soil it by including the filth that is non-Arabs!

Being a corporate type my cousin can and does enjoy the life in Dubai and no way does his life even closely resemble the plight of unskilled migrant workers (slaves) or camel jockeys (abducted asian children, as young as 3 years old, they're deemed too heavy by the age of 10!).
The yuppy cousin though is not immune to the discrimination of the Arabs, finding a doctor for his pregnant wife was hard and rather humiliating, you see, medical help is reserved for the Arabs.

These are our 'Muslim brothers' who hold such a reverential place in all non-Arab Muslim societies. They after all speak the language of the Quran. In Pakistan its forbidden to publish a translation of the Quran without the Arabic text, as the translation can 'never' be the true word of God; I vaguely remember a story of a publishing house that was razed to the ground, years ago, by protestors because it dared to publish a Quran in Urdu without the Arabic text; never mind the fact that no one understands Arabic. There's logic there I'm sure, perhaps the omnipotent Allah , can only speak Arabic (well they do say that the ability to learn languages is a gift); now if only there was a way that the creator of everything that there ever was and everything that there ever will be, could be taught another language!

The awe with which other Muslims, especially South Asians, view the Arabs is startling. This inability to differentiate between Islam and Arabs means that we are willing, nay eager, to triumphalise Arabic sucesses even when they come at the cost of our own, heritage, our own traditions, and our own lives. I remember being taught in 'Pakistan Studies' about the military successes of Arabs starting from about the 8th century. But these successes which I was taught to celebrate were nothing but attrocities committed by Arabs against the people of the sub-continent, against 'my people'. I remember being taught of the military genius of a young Muhammad Bin Qasim, a man who in his magnanimity chose not to kill all those people who accepted Islam. I was taught to take pride in the fact that the temple of Somnath, a place of worship, was destroyed and all the worshipers massacred by Mahmud Ghaznavi, following in the footsteps of the Arabs who'd done the same thing 300 years earlier. It was my traditions that were trampled upon, it was my heritage that was deemed unworthy by the Arab overlords, and it is their successes that I celebrated in my Pakistan Studies O'Level, and I got a C, both the times I took it!

But as hard as the Arabs might have tried, the indigenous traditions never faded away, and Islam in the Sub-Continent evolved to incorporate the customs and traditions of the Indians. Sufi-ism, much touted, much maligned, was responsible for the spread of Islam in India. (A different strain of Sufism, one influenced by Coptic influences was responslible for the spread of Islam in Egypt and Turkey.) And yet today the sufi tradition in South Asia is under fire by rigid beliefs, spread by righteous Arab sheikhs - they must know South Asian societies better, didn't you know God speaks their language!

Getting back to the subject of equality and citizenship, now you know what I don't care if the Arabs don't give my cousin or his son citizenship, its their country and their rules and if people are willing to go and work under these conditions, then fine. But then don't dare fucking talk about Muslim equality; don't open madrassahs in my country, and ask us to protest and strike over anything that happens to the Arabs; don't tell us to go on jihad against the Great Satan (who by the way would have no problems with granting my cousin, citizenship); don't talk about Muslim brotherhood and then abduct 3 year-olds and tie them to camels; don't ask us to be proud of your achievements, your temples of excesses (Burj-al Arab) where they've been built by South Asian slave labour.

Equality of man is surely something to strive for, but then why limit that by including only those who share your beliefs, and vilifying all those who don't. A society upon equality premised on beliefs will never ever be equal, for our beliefs will never be uniform, what will perhaps be uniform is man's conviction in the righteous superiority of his own beliefs.

Disclaimer: By Arabs, I not only mean Arab Regimes but also Arab people who have a superiority complex when it comes to Islam (based on people I've met, smart, decent people, many good friends - Moroccans are exempt from this personal generalisation, they're French anyway!)

Debating Islam

A review of a New Yorker debate in Spiked-Online, check it

A little piece of advice...

You know, if you're going to crack insensitive jokes about women being sexually abused and/or raped, it's best to do it without a microphone picking up your comments. Especially if you're the President of Russia.

My thinking exactly

I could not have expressed my own opinion on the free-speech issue better than this guy, writing for the Guardian.

Excerpt of the day

The facts of a case are not always apparent. But where they are, the existence of these facts is a healthy tonic for the imagination. Arendt relates a conversation between [French Prime Minister Georges] Clemenceau and a representative of the Weimer Republic over the question of Germany's guilt in the outbreak of World War I. "'What, in your opinion,' Clemenceau was asked, 'will future historians think of this troublesome and controversial issue?' He replied, 'This I don't know. But I know for certain they will not say Belgium invaded Germany.'"

From John Gerring's Social Science Methodology: A Critical Framework.

NBA Preview

The NBA season is nearly here. As all 6 (has it jumped to 7? I think it has) of our readers know, I love predicting things, especially when it comes to sports. However, given my propensity to completely fuck up my sports forecasting, I invited two of my close friends to help me out. They very kindly agreed, and so we divided the NBA's six divisions equally among the three of us.

Here then is fiverupees' NBA preview. Nikhil Lalwani's contributions are in orange. This is because in college, Nikhil used to wear the same orange t-shirt every weekend. He also happens to be Indian, and since one-third of the Indian flag is orange, I thought the symbolism might resonate with our readers. Zeyd Sheikh's contributions are in red. This is because red is the colour of anger, and both Zeyd and I were very angry with what happened this summer on Pakistan's tour of England. We thought at the time that it was a complete and utter disaster, and things couldn't possibly get worse. Little did we know.

Actually, I just chose orange and red because they show up nicely on our background. Onwards we march.



1. Phoenix Suns

With Amare back, the question for this team seems to be: can they win it all? And the answer is: no, they cannot. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going to challenge Dallas and San Antonio all year for home-court in the playoffs. They might even get home-court in the playoffs. But there’s just something about this team that strikes me as “not a championship winner”. Maybe it’s the fact that Nash is due a serious injury, given his age, his style of play and his injury history. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re going to have totally revamp their style of play for the second time in 2 seasons, this time working Amare back in. Maybe it’s the fact that, when it comes down to it, they still don’t have anyone to stop either Dirk or Tim Duncan in the last 2 minutes of a playoff game (no Kurt Thomas does not count). Or maybe it’s just that the whole “the 80s Lakers will be the last running team to ever win a title” theory is actually true. Hey, at least they’re fun to watch!

2. L.A. Clippers

Wow, what a season these guys had, huh? I don’t think anyone foresaw Elton Brand becoming a legitimate MVP candidate or Sam Cassell displaying his 2004 Minnesota form. As Dunleavy said in the playoffs, they can beat you in different ways: they can play fast, they can play slow, they can run and shoot threes, they can throw it in the post to Brand. Plus, I love their trio of wing players (Mobley, Maggette and Quinton Ross). You just have to wonder, though, if they’ve reached their ceiling. I mean, do you really think they’re better than any of Dallas, San Antonio or Phoenix? Given that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”, how are they going to get to the conference finals, or beyond? Right, they’re not.

3. L.A. Lakers

There are very few people in the world I hate more than Kobe Bryant, but even I have to admit some of the stuff he did last season was somewhat unreal. And there seems to be a great deal of positive energy around this team: they think that the Radmanovic signing was big for them (it wasn’t that big) and that Kwame is ready to step up and be a real force this season (uh, no) and that the Phoenix series will stand them in good stead this year (I guess). But when it comes down to it, with the West as loaded as it is, they’re going to be battling for a 6/7/8 spot, if that. Which serves Kobe right for being a prick.

4. Golden State Warriors

So Baron Davis says he needs to be more selfish this year. I don’t think there’s a comedian in the world who can add a punch line to that one, so I won’t even bother trying. The big story with the Warriors is, of course, the return of Don Nelson to the sidelines as coach, who says he wants to institute a running game and play small-ball. Which guarantees that at least they’ll be more interesting to watch. But a playoff spot? Forget about it. This is an underwhelming team with been-there-seen-that talent. Baron, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy do not add up to a playoff team. Not in the West. Not this year.

5. Sacramento Kings

They lost probably their best playoff player (Bonzi). The guys fighting for the starting power forward job are fighting in every sense of the word (Shareef and Kenny Thomas). And their leader is a completely deranged lunatic (do I need to say?). More fun than trying to figure this team’s prospects out is trying to figure out what would happen if it doesn’t win as many games as Ron Ron thinks it should. Would he “accidentally” stab a referee? Spit in a teammate’s face, then apologize and say he only meant to spit at the coach? Perhaps he’d record an album and hold the PA guy’s family hostage unless he played his songs before, during and at the end of each game. For the record, I’d like to state that I think Artest is a fantastic player, just great to watch when he’s on. But that doesn’t make him any less crazy. And when your best player is crazy, and I mean literally crazy, it’s only a matter of time before something seriously bad happens.


1. Utah Jazz

First time back to the postseason after the end of the Stockton-Malone era, and they deserve it. All they need to do is stay healthy (not helped by Fisher falling in his first preseason game for the Jazz and breaking his collarbone – nice). They have a great frontline and soon-to-be-great PG. The plan basically is to play Boozer at a more anchored 5, let Okur get on the perimeter a little at the 4 spot, have Kirilenko running around wreaking havoc as he is wont to do, find a shooting guard – come on Ronnie Brewer (please be good, please be good…pretty please), and have Deron Williams run the point (he’s going to be really good, maybe never Chris Paul brilliant, but definitely an All Star). The bench is deep – Fisher, Harping, Collins, maybe even Araujo – you never know. I can’t wait to watch these guys – Nov. 8th at the Meadowlands, they should be entertaining.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

I mulled over this one for quite a while, and couldn’t decide between the Wolves and the Jazz, and it may have been the fan in me that finally picked the latter [Ahsan’s note: you think?]. However, that should take nothing away from this team and their re-energized superstar. They drafted a really good guard who should have an impact right away; they acquired a score-first PG not scared of taking big shots – exactly the kind of player KG needs to play with – in Mike James (or Cassell Lite, whichever you prefer); Ricky Davis is going to do his thing; Hassell will do his (defensively); Eddie Griffin is not in prison; Troy Hudson is finally healthy; and the NBA is embracing a quicker, smaller kind of basketball that should help the Wolves, as it lets them play KG at a mobile 5 and have 4 guards running around on the perimeter, slashing and shooting. I think they make the playoffs.

3. Denver Nuggets

This team is primed for an implosion. Reasons listed below:

  1. Kenyon Martin and George Karl don’t like each other. Karl has a history of crap like this, and it never ends well. Just ask Cassell or Payton. Martin’s also got two bum knees and an $80 million dollar contract – all he does now, is make Rod Thorn look good.
  2. Marcus Camby has played over 30mpg in the last 3 seasons, with at least 55 games a season. He’s going to suffer some sort of season ending injury 25 games in. Write it down.
  3. Andre Miller can’t shoot. Earl Boykins is 5’5”.
  4. J.R. Smith is their starting shooting guard. He couldn’t get along with Byron Scott and you’re telling me Karl is going to be okay with this guy? 15 games and he’s in the doghouse. I like Dermarr Johnson though – feel good story and everything. On a somewhat related note – I hope Jay Williams gets to play in the NBA again someday.
  5. I’m pretty sure no one’s hyping Melo-Lebron as the next Magic-Bird. Lebron laid that to rest last season.

I don’t like Melo – not his game, his attitude, his DVD (no snitching!), his hairstyle, or even his girlfriend. And while he’s apparently worked his ass off this off-season and looks like a better player (as seen at the World Championships, where incidentally, Darko looked pretty good too), he’s still, at best, the third best player from the draft with a drop to fourth very possible (watch Bosh this year, he’s going to be really, really good).

4. Seattle Supersonics

Have a better chance of being in Oklahoma City next year than making the playoffs. Pretty much the same team as last year with a couple of marginal improvements – signed Wilcox to a 3-year contract (he came over in a midseason trade for the wildly overrated and quite useless, Vladimir Radmanovich), and Nick Collison is healthy. When one of the top two things to look forward to for your team is having Nick Collison healthy, you should probably focus on other sports – the Seahawks are Superbowl contenders, no? [Ahsan’s note: I don’t know; American football is for chootias]

5. Portland Trailblazers

Not much to say about these guys – they’re clearly rebuilding. Drafted a nice inside-outside combo in Brandon Roy (favorite for Rookie of the year) and Lamarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately, Darius Miles and Zach Randolph are still with the team, and may stunt Aldridge’s growth – by their mere presence, even if they’re not taking playing time away from him. The sad thing about this team is that I don’t think they’ll be very fun to watch either – depressing all around.


1. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are coming off an historic season where Avery Johnson won the award for Coach of the Year in his first full season as a head coach in the NBA. The Mavericks lost in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat in a tightly contested series which saw Dallas take the first two games before losing four straight and with it all hopes of a first NBA championship. In the hope of going one step further, the Mavs had a busy off-season addressing various needs and concerns, netting them Anthony Johnson, Devean George and Greg Buckner. With an ambitious management led by the effervescent Mark Cuban and a talented roster epitomized by Dirk Nowitzki, look for the Mavericks to be a serious title contender.

2. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs had the best record in the West last season at 63-19 and looked good to defend their championship before losing in a classic see-saw, seven-game, second-round, series versus the Dallas Mavericks. Head coach Greg Popovich immediately began to form plans in order to reclaim their championship and despite losing centers Nazr Mohammad and Rasho Nesterovitch, the Spurs still have a very strong core in Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Finley, Horry and Barry and their chemistry and collective talent will continue to make San Antonio one of the best teams in the league.

3. Houston Rockets

Houston entered the 05-06 season amid great hype and expectation and they were considered as one of the true contenders for the title. The result was ugly: Injuries to Mcgrady and Ming reduced them to 31 games combined and a team record of 34-48; a personal low for head coach Jeff Van Gundy in a complete season. Heading into the 06-07 season, there is equal, if not more hype than last year and the Rockets have every reason to be excited; they made several moves to get better with the trade for Shane Battier and the signing of Bonzi Wells as the two stand-outs. If the Rockets can manage to keep their key players injury-free there is no reason why they can’t be a true title contender. For that reason I see them as being a real threat to their main division rivals, the Spurs and the Mavs, and I have them finishing third in the Southwest.

4. New Orleans Hornets

With the signings of Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson as well as the trade for Tyson Chandler which saw P.J Brown and J.R. Smith go to Chicago, the New Orleans Hornets have substantially upgraded from last year and on paper look like a team to be reckoned with. The development of Chris Paul will be imperative to the team’s progress throughout the season and he will be the engine that runs the team. Head coach Byron Scott manufactured a 20 win turnaround from his first season with the Hornets and he will be looking to make similar progress this season. The Hornets created a buzz last year and that tune continued to hum in the off-season, making them a team to look out for.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies had a strong season in 05-06 with a record of 49-33 and a berth in the NBA playoffs when they ran into a rampant Dallas Mavericks team who swept them with the minimum of fuss. Memphis was strangely quiet in the off-season with their only move consisting of trading forward Shane Battier for forwards Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift from their division rivals, the Houston Rockets. With their star center Pau Gasol sidelined for the first few months of the season, the Grizzlies will be hard-pressed to compete with the rest of the teams in their division; a division which is the most competitive in the West and could possibly be the most competitive in the league. I can only see the Grizzlies finishing last in the Southwest.



1. New Jersey Nets

I was going to be stupid and put Toronto as my prospective Atlantic winner, but then I realized that would have less to do with my appraisal of the Raptors and more to do with my hatred for the Nets. I do think Jersey is poised for a slide though; Kidd’s a year older (will be 34 in March), Vince is still a prick (and the prick can opt out of his contract at the end of this season), Nachbar completely disappeared in the playoffs and Richard Jefferson still has too squeaky a voice for me to take him seriously. Just as they’ve done the last two years, NJ will win this division by default (everyone else sucks too much) and then whimper out of the playoffs, as teams shut down their running game and make Jersey beat them with Kidd hoisting threes or Vince throwing up fade-aways. And we know that won’t end well for them.

2. Toronto Raptors

This team is my sleeper in the East. I’m telling you, they’re poised for a breakthrough season. The two new European bigs will help (Bargnani and Garbajosa) and Bosh is ready to take the next step. They’re going to be a mix-and-match type team – they’ll be able to run now that they traded for T.J. Ford and will also be able to control the paint with their frontline. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine. My record on predictions certainly doesn’t warrant any confidence. But if they’re challenging NJ for the division in April, you’ll know who to call Nostradamus. (Disclaimer: all bets are off if Sam Mitchell, at any point during the season, has a Sam Mitchell moment).

3. Boston Celtics

Poor Paul Pierce (what do you think of my alliteration?). He signed a three-year extension this summer for something like $60 million. But other than the money, why would he choose to stay with the Celtics? The young guys (Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins) didn’t improve as much as the team hoped they would, Gerald Green didn’t live up to the hype and Wally was Wally. Plus, they signed Michael friggin Olowokandi, which can never be a good thing. There are 2 x-factors on this team, however: Sebastian Telfair and Rajon Rondo. Telfair just looked like he needed to get out of Portland and their cancer-like atmosphere. He’ll enjoy playing for Doc Rivers (the ultimate player’s coach) a lot more than he did for the Blazers. As for Rondo? I’ve never seen him, but Bill Simmons (one of my favourite columnists) rates him highly. So I’ll take his word for it.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Every year, AI sounds like he’s seriously pumped for the season. Every year, his preseason interviews are filled with quotes like “Once you’re in a 7-game series, anything can happen” and “I just want us to play hard, and leave everything out on the floor”. This year’s press conference (yes, I downloaded it. Shut up, Nikhil) was so depressing I don’t know what to tell you. He sounds like he has absolutely no idea what else he can do. What’s sad about this is that Philly has absolutely wasted the 2 finest seasons of AI’s career. 2 years ago, he averaged 31 and 8 as Philly ran into Detroit in the first round. Last year, he averaged 33 and 7.5 and they didn’t even get to the goddamn playoffs. 33 and 7.5! No one batted an eyelid, however, because his team sucked so bad. If Webber buys someone else’s knees in the limbs-market, if Igoudala develops a consistent jumpshot, if Willie Green contributes significantly, and if Dalembert can somehow avoid picking up a foul every 3 minutes he plays, Philly will push 50 wins. Which basically means pencil them in for 38. And you have absolutely no idea how difficult it was for me to write that last sentence.

5. New York Knicks

Well, everyone seems to agree on one thing: they can’t be worse than last year. And even I subscribe to that philosophy; I just don’t get carried away with it. Really, other than the coaching change, what is so different about this team? And since when is Isiah Thomas considered a Gregg Popovich as far as coaching ability is concerned? In their euphoria over getting rid of Larry Brown, has every Knicks fan forgotten that Isiah’s teams consistently underachieved in Indiana? The atmosphere and chemistry on this team will be much better. The team itself won’t be. 35 wins, tops.


1. Miami Heat

They won last year, and everyone’s back.

2. Orlando Magic

My favourite team in the East, and no, this preview is not biased in any way. Jameer is going to get a whole year to run the point, with no poisonous Stevie Francis to ruin team chemistry. Dwight Howard is going to average 20 and 10 – at least. They have a decently deep bench (by East standards at least) – Arroyo, Ariza, Turkoglu, Bogans and Battie. But the TWO MAIN REASONS the Magic WILL make the playoffs:

(1) Darko – the human victory cigar is finally getting his shot, playing next to Howard will make it really easy for him to get offensive rebounds, block from the weak side, and get him lots of easy 12-15 footers; their inside-outside game is going to be great.

(2) Grant Hill is back. Trust me he’s back. 60-75 games, 17, 5 and 4. More importantly, veteran leadership, playoff experience (somewhat), locker room presence, and all round nice guy. No potentially fatal infections or sports hernia or ankle injury or ripped calf (I could go on and on and on). If he gets hurt, for whatever reason, then I will KNOW there is no God (currently I just suspect there isn’t).
One reason to worry – J.J. Reddick: stop drinking and driving, fool.

3. Washington Wizards

While Gilbert may be new favourite player simply because he’s rarifying the air in house to build stamina, and he’s going to have a phenomenal season (30, 6 and 5), the Wizards did nothing to get better. In fact they lost Jared Jeffries (although this will probably be offset by Jarvin Hayes’ return from injury).Unfortunately for them, a few of the teams they finished ahead of last year got a lot better, Chicago and Orlando to name two. Do I think they’ll make the playoffs? Probably, but not higher than the 8th seed.

4. Charlotte Bobcats

Marginally beat out Atlanta for a few reasons, but mainly because they were ravaged by injuries last year, this year they hope to be healthy and they’re a year older and they drafted the ‘Stache. So that all adds up to them being better than the Hawks.

5. Atlanta Hawks

Yes, they finally have a point guard. No, they still won’t make the playoffs. Possibly the worst team in the East (still) simply because they’re still too young, their coach still sucks, their GM is still a moron, and their fans still don’t care. They will be a more fun team to watch than in years past though, since they finally have someone to run the ball up the floor (aptly named Speedy), competent/really good wing players (Josh Smith/Joe Johnson), and an athletic forward (with plenty of Hubie Brown attributed “upside”) who may or may not have a significant impact (Marvin Williams). On the flip side, their centers are still shaky at best (Zaza and L. Wright), and their bench quite thin (Childress, Shelden Williams…awful, awful pick), all of which leads to my predicting them finishing worst in the division and probably the conference.


1. Indiana Pacers

Plagued by persistent injury problems and seasons of Artest-induced tumult, the Indiana Pacers enter the 06-07 season with a healthy and re-organized roster. The major signings which should make an immediate impact was the trade of Austin Croshere for Marquis Daniels from the Dallas Mavericks, and the acquisition of Al Harrington from the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers lost Peja Stojakovic to the New Orleans Hornets but that should not stop them from making it to the playoffs where they have always been a force to contend with. If Indiana can remain healthy I believe that Rick Carlisle will lead them to the top of their division.

2. Detroit Pistons

Despite reaching the Eastern Conference finals, the Detroit Pistons may have considered the 05-06 season a failure after leading the League with a record of 64-18. The forecast for the 06-07 season is bright as the Pistons managed to add Nazr Mohammad and Ronald “Flip” Murray to their roster making up for the loss of Ben Wallace to their division rivals: Chicago Bulls. Wallace, the 3-time Defensive player of the year, may prove to be a costly loss; however, the Pistons still have the rest of their roster intact and head coach Flip Saunders will be entering his second season with the team—so look for them to make another deep run into the playoffs. In what is possibly the strongest and most competitive division in the NBA, the Pistons should have enough to be second.

3. Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls enter the 06-07 season amid a great degree of expectation and optimism stemming from the signing of Ben Wallace from their division rivals Detroit Pistons. The trade bringing P.J Brown and J. R Smith from New Orleans in exchange for Tyson Chandler will also give the Bulls veteran leadership and depth at the forward position. The frontcourt of Wallace and Brown will give the “Baby Bulls” some maturity and sustained defensive intensity which they have lacked at various stages over previous years. The Bulls are all set to make a run at the playoffs and are the team to look out for in the Central.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are coming off a successful season where they reached the second round of the playoffs eventually losing in a closely fought series to the defending Eastern Conference champions Detroit Pistons. There is much optimism leading into the 06-07 season with most of the focus once again on prodigal wonder Lebron James. James is coming off his most successful season as a pro with averages of 31.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.81 steals per game, whilst starting in 79 games and averaging 42.5 minutes per game. Look for the focus to be on Lebron again as he strives to propel his team into the playoffs and make a run at the championship.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks entered the playoffs last season as the number 8 seed and they were promptly disposed by the Detroit pistons in 5 games. The result was a hectic off-season where they engaged in numerous trades and acquisitions, the biggest of which involved the acquisition of Charlie Villanueva. Milwaukee will be looking at Michael Red to lead them back into the playoffs and he will be ably supported by a young and talented roster that should create problems for the serious championship contenders. Despite their off-season activity, I see the Bucks finishing last in this division.