Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thwaddi Ghori!

I was going to write a bit on religion in Pakistan, because its been on my mind of late, particularly given the Jamia Hafsa issue and the projected population statistics that Ahsan had quoted earlier. However, despite having obsessed over the issue it for at least a week, I have been unable to draw any conclusions. Ahsan has asked me earlier whether Pakistan could ever become like Malaysia in terms of being a progressive and tolerant Muslim country, and while my answer is ‘probably not’, I’m still not completely sure as to why.

Instead I figured I’d write something completely different, something which I’ve often discussed with a number of readers on this blog, but never actually taken the time to write about.

Google Trends is yet another great website from the boys over at Google Inc. It basically tells you which countries are searching for what, and how much, and so on so forth. Its great for it allows us to determine trends and patterns, and figure out what exactly societal attention is focused upon at any given point.

How it Works

You enter in a search term, say for example ‘Mobile Phones’.

Google Trends (herein referred to as GT) presents a graph indicating the search volume on the vertical Y axis, and time on the horizontal X axis.

GT also identifies those 10 countries from which Google received the highest search volume for the term ‘Mobile Phones’. Then, for those top 10 listed countries GT calculates the number of searches for ‘Mobile Phones’ coming from each country, divided by total Google searches coming from the same country. Countries are then ranked by the resulting figure, which is basically a ratio of how much that term is searched for relative to the total search volume of that country. See Below for a Sample (all this may be tedious but bear with me its worth it)

So from the graph you could conclude:

a) That Bangladeshis are amongst the top 10 aggregate searchers for the term mobile phone on the internet

b) Within those top ten countries, Bangladeshis have the highest ratio of Google searches for mobile phones as compared to the sum of all the other terms that Bangladeshis search for.

Now that we’ve understood how GT works, we turn to the crucial matter of what the hell the point of this article is.

The Point

Some of you may already know this (due to a prior discussion on
Metroblogging Karachi), but Pakistan is the number one country in the rankings for the term ‘sex’ on Google trends.So were not only one of the top ten countries aggregate worldwide, we have the highest ratio of searches as well. Which is fine. West Pakistan used to comprise about 30 million people pre partition, and were now up to 160 Million, and headed towards 357 million in 2050, so its pretty clear to anyone who’s not mad that the men of this country are both blessed and cursed with hefty mojos.

More relevantly, I’m fairly certain the average Pakistani’s doesn’t really possess the vocabulary to search using more specific and targeted sexual terms, and hence is forced to rely upon the more generic term ‘sex’ in order to obtain pornographic material from the internet. This could account in part for the surprisingly high ranking.

Within Pakistan, possessing a healthy libido is obviously socially legitimate and is often feted. And while using the internet to search for pornographic material isn’t exactly the kind of thing for which ones mother might banto mithai, it is usually grudgingly recognized as a necessary unpleasantness, consequently denied and never discussed.

What should however be discussed is the fact that Pakistan ranks number one for a number of other more sinister search terms. Pakistan is in fact, number one, for ‘Cow Sex’. Why? I don’t know. See for yourself below, or click

Now if you thought that was bad, it’s really really not. What is truly very bad is that Pakistan is number one for nearly every animal sex search on Google.

Dog S**, Bull S**, Cow S**, Monkey S**, Donkey S**, Cat S** and Goat S**, we rank Number One on Planet Earth for ALL of the above searches (if your wondering why I’ve censored the word ‘Sex’, its because I don’t want these jackass’s googling their way to fiverupees with vain hopes of finding kitty porn). Thankfully, Pakistan was not on the top ten list with respect to ‘sheep sex’. The unsurprising winner of that
contest was New Zealand, followed by the equally unsurprising Ireland, Australia and UK (read Scotland).

Given that some individuals truly and perversely love animals, the question then arises as to which animals those individuals would most like to get busy with. GT provides us with the means, and fiverupees with the answer.

By inserting a ‘comma’ between terms, [e.g: Clinton, Edwards], we get two graphs, comparing the relative search volumes of two terms. Moreover, the graphs allow us to spot correlations, as seen below.

Note how the two graphs follow each other, indicating:

a) that the same people who search for Clinton, are also searching for Edwards at the same time


b) that there is some factor (such as a democratic debates) which is causing everyone to search for them at any given point (thus causing matching spikes or drops in both graphs), but the searchers are not necessarily the same people.

We may now apply this to our analysis. The following is a chart containing a number of graphs indicating the relative search volumes (hence popularity) of various animals (i.e. the ones for which Pakistan is ranked number 1). Note how the graphs are correlated, indicating that people who like horses, probably also like dogs, and so on.

The winner? Horses. Although they ran a close race with the dogs. All of this is strange enough. But what is truly bizarre is the following:

Yes, you read it correctly. Pakistan is Number 2 in the world for searches for Kate Winslet, 2nd only to India. I’m guessing its because she came naked in Titanic, and because shes pretty buxom, and because the entire Planet including Pakistan & India saw the damn movie without having the good sense to hate it. My hypothesis of desis being interested in Kate Winslet purely on a shallow, ‘I saw her naked in a cinema with my friends and would very much like to see her naked again but this time without any friends’ basis is confirmed by the fact that Pakistan is ‘coincidentally’ Numero Uno for searches on Monica Lewinsky, who possesses no acting skills whatsoever, and is know pretty much exclusively for giving the President some 3rd Base and for having accommodated his cigar.

Mutually Assured Embarrassment

That said, its not all bad news for Pakistanis. India is number one for searches on Erectile Dysfunction, so they can pretty much stop sniggering to themselves right about now. At least we’re able to get busy with horses and dogs, if and when we so desire. As an additional unnecessary jibe, let me also state that it is possible that the only reason the Indians are second on the bestiality lists and not first is because we seem to have the edge in terms of erectile functionality, albeit an edge which we spend upon creatures outside the human race.

And while the Iranians are not really into bestiality, being the Global number one in searches for ‘Fat tit’ strikes me as equally (if not more ) bizarre than dogs and cats. Its not even ‘Fat tits’. Its ‘Fat Tit’, i.e. just the one that the Iranians seem to want (If Tit is some fat comedian or something, I apologize to Iranians, but if it not well then take some solace in the fact that GT owns all our dirty laundry and is aware of all of our stout tit type national fetishes)

I will leave you with one final graph. An answer to the question that I’m sure some of you have already considered, having read this far; do the googling masses prefer Kate Winslet or Horses for their sexual gratification? See for yourself.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Save Karachi's Beaches!

There's a petition going around that protests the development around Clifton beach, development that will put normal, everyday pleasures out of the reach of lower middle class families. There isn't a great deal to do in Karachi at the best of times; if these developments take place, there'll be even less, particularly for those people who can't afford Rs. 1000 steaks. I'm reproducing the text of the petition below. If you care at all about Karachi and its citizens, please sign it here.
1. The DHA plans to construct theme parks, marinas, expo centres, expensive hotels, and condominiums on the 14 km of beach area between McDonalds and the Golf club. This area is currently enjoyed by Pakistanis of all backgrounds which will no longer be the case once the project is completed.

2. We, the undersigned citizens of Karachi have been campaigning and demanding for the immediate end of the DHA’s Beach Development Plan and its implementation as it prevents the common person’s free access to the beach, contravenes the law, and shall cause immense environmental damage.

3. The Sindh High Court in its judgment in CP No. D-103/2005 has stated as follows:
(i) “the DHA is bound to consider public interest while developing the Clifton Beach.”

(ii) “all over the world, beaches and waterfronts have been developed but in a manner so to allow free access to the same by the public and so as not to obstruct a view of the beach and the sea.”

(iii) “the doctrine of public trust has long been recognized all over the world, which enjoins the State to preserve and protect the public interest in beaches, lakeshores etc.”

(iv) “we direct that all the public areas viz. walkways, promenades, etc, should be made available to the public at large free of cost.”

(v) It also directs that the EPA issues relevant permissions under the Environmental Protection Act.

4. The Karachi Coastal Management Plan, prepared in 1989 by the KDA Master Plan Department with UN assistance, as part of the Karachi Development Plan 2000, had recommended a 50 metre construction free accessible zone beyond the high water mark.

5. In light of the above, we demand that the DHA and Environmental Protection Authority follow The Karachi Coastal Management Plan, and fully adhere to the judgment of Sindh High Court in letter and spirit and amend the current plan in accordance with the same.

6. Under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 (PEPA) any project of sufficient size has to undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a No Objection Certificate (NOC) obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before the project can proceed. No review of an EIA can be conducted without consultation from a Committee of Experts constituted by the EPA. No such Committee of Experts has been formed or consulted for this project. The regulations under PEPA also requires for the results of the EIAs to be presented before the citizens in a public hearing for their comments on the project and its EIA. These comments are to be considered before any final decision on the EIA.

7. This development if it were to happen as originally planned will destroy the natural environment of the coast and will make almost the entire beach inaccessible to the citizens of Pakistan, especially to the low and lower middle income communities who will not be able to afford the cost of the expensive entertainment being proposed and will be excluded simply by the nature of developments that are to be implemented

8. No one can take away the right of the citizens of Pakistan to access their beach. Under international and domestic law, the beach area is for public use and everyone, regardless of income, has the right to free access to the beach without obstacles or interference. This is a principle enshrined in the public trust doctrine.

9. We strongly oppose a development plan that will finish off the only natural multi-class recreational space available to Karachiites and as a result will further socially fragment an already fragmented city. The beach is a public spot we share with the many hundreds of thousands of our countrymen who visit Clifton Beach every week and belong to all classes and ethnic groups. A plan that shuts out a majority of Pakistan’s population is unacceptable.

10. We have already seen the “gentrification” of the beach by the imposition of a fee of Rs.10 per person as entry to Beachfront Park. This Park controls access to the beach and therefore prevents low and lower-middle income citizens from enjoying the beach. We can not allow any further such developments.

11. We are not against theme parks, marinas, expo centres and expensive hotels and condominiums, but it is our considered opinion that for environmental and social reasons the area between the coastal road and the high water mark should be encroachment free, construction free and accessible to the public free of cost as is the case in other South and South-East Asian countries and in the developed world.

12. We have had free and unrestricted access to Clifton Beach and future generations should also enjoy the same benefit.

13. We derive strength from the fact that 4,665 persons belonging to 73 CBOs and NGOs from all over Pakistan and individuals belonging to 89 low and lower middle income areas of Karachi have supported the concerns of the Sahil Bachao Movement whose concerns are similar to ours.


The Undersigned

Friday, April 27, 2007

Violence In The Middle East

The Onion has more.

Ego And Alter



You Want A Conspiracy Theory? I'll Give You A Conspiracy Theory

I honestly got chills reading this article. Check out this part, which details the possibility/idea of the ISI and Dawood Ibrahim being involved in Woolmer's death.

He says Woolmer was definitely murdered. Of this, he has no doubt.

He says he saw a picture of Woolmer's body, there was a mark on Woolmer's neck, on the right side, just below the jaw line, that suggests physical trauma.

He says he's spoken to someone in international intelligence, someone well-placed, and that ever since the United States cut off much of al-Qaida's funding after the Sept. 11 attacks, the terrorist group has used illegal sports gambling in India and Pakistan as a major source of revenue.

He says al-Qaida has ties to Dawood Ibrahim, the Al Capone of India, a man accused of masterminding a 1993 bombing that killed 257 people in Mumbai, a man with ties to the bookmaker allegedly linked to Samuels, a man rumored to have lost millions on the Ireland-Pakistan match.

He says al-Qaida also has ties to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the former — and some say current — patron of Afghanistan's Taliban.

He says the ISI is intertwined in both the Pakistani government and Pakistani cricket, and that one of the members of the Pakistani cricket team's traveling party is actually an ISI operative.

He says that al-Qaida may have put a lot of money on the Pakistani team, and may have been disappointed in its poor performance. Murderously so.

He says that Woolmer may have found himself between a rock and a hard place, because despite what his friends and family have said, the coach knew about larger-scale corruption and was going to blow the whistle.

He says Woolmer found out that three international umpires were being paid off, and that the ISI had set up offshore banking accounts for them.

He says the bank accounts were financed with Chinese money. I ask why. He doesn't elaborate.

He says he believes the ISI is involved in Woolmer's murder. He says someone in the Pakistan team party knows what happened, and during Pakistan's final World Cup game — against Zimbabwe, after Woolmer's death — a member of the team party was spotted with his feet up, drinking champagne, and the champagne-sipper in question is probably ISI. He says all of the above is why Pakistan dispatched two diplomats to Jamaica.

While mouthing the word "diplomats," he makes air quotes with his hands.

He says the Jamaican police have no suspects and no motive, and yet a coroner's inquest has been scheduled. He says this is a way to drag things out.

He says he does not believe the Jamaican police will solve the case.

Read the entire article; it's by far the best one I've read on the Woolmer murder/death.

I Love Pakistani Newspapers

Why? Because they're so blunt, it's not even funny. And by "not even funny" I mean "bloody hilarious". Check out the end of this report in Dawn.
She [Benazir Bhutto] accused the West and the US of buying crises from Pakistan which the successive military regimes in Pakistan, according to her, were able to sell successfully.

A short burst of mocking laughter ensued from a section of audience when Ms Bhutto claimed that if her second government had not been dismissed in 1996, the 9/11 incident would not have happened.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Some Scary Survey Data

I know I've been harping on the question of political Islam and reactions to it, but it's something that has definitely caught my attention recently, even more than usual. Here's some interesting polling data. What really caught my attention was the following graph.

So four in five Pakistanis want Sharia. I'm sorry, but that's just really depressing. Also, just 3% of Pakistanis think al-Qaeda was responible for 9/11. Three percent! Well, I guess those chain emails are doing their job, huh?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Was Wrong

Why? Because until today, I thought the most disgusting thing I could ever see in a restaurant was an entree of frog's legs. Clearly, that is not the case.
A man cut off his penis with a knife in a packed London restaurant.

Police were forced to use CS gas to restrain the man when they entered the Zizzi restaurant in The Strand on Sunday evening.

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the man was aged between 30 and 40 and that his injuries were self-inflicted.

The man was then taken to hospital in south London where his condition is stable. It is understood surgeons were unable to reattach his penis.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

Maybe. Maybe not.
There is one French company that is tired of free publicity.

It is Kärcher, which makes high-pressure washers used to clean dirt, graffiti and wear from building façades. Its products cleaned Mount Rushmore.

But “to Kärcher” has become a French political verb with explosive content. The leading presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, coined the term two years ago when he went to the immigrant suburb of La Courneuve after a boy was killed by a stray bullet, and said he would clean out troublemakers there “with a Kärcher.” Mr. Sarkozy’s opponent on the far-right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, responded during a stop in the suburb of Argenteuil last week. “If some want to Kärcher-ize you, to exclude you, we want to help you get out of these ghettos,” he told people there.

All this is too much for Kärcher France, a subsidiary of a 70-year-old family-owned German company, which does not want to become a metaphor for quelling gangs in suburbs populated by immigrants of African origin. “We wanted to remind people that we’re a family company, with well-entrenched values, that didn’t match these comments,” said Patrice Anderouard, the spokesman for Kärcher France.

The company has sent letters to all 12 presidential candidates and other politicians, asking them not to use the brand name. It has also run ads in newspapers stating that the company “cannot recognize itself in the recent words and confusion to which its name has been associated.”

Sign Number 137 The World Is Coming To An End

Farooq Sattar confirms there have been "informal discussions" between the PPP and the MQM on political and electoral cooperation. The PPP. And the MQM. All I'll say is, I guess you never do say never.

Goodbye, Prince Lara

Thanks for the memories.

My NBA Picks

First round, East: Detroit over Orlando in 4; Cleveland over Washington in 5; Jersey over Toronto in 6; Chicago over Miami in 7.

First round, West: Dallas over Golden State in 5; Phoenix over Lakers in 4; San Antonio over Denver in 5; Houston over Utah in 6.

Second round, East: Chicago over Detroit in 6; Jersey over Cleveland in 7.

Second round, West: Houston over Dallas in 6; Phoenix over San Antonio in 7.

East finals: Chicago over Jersey in 5.

West finals: Phoenix over Houston in 6.

Finals: Phoenix over Chicago in 6.

Might I remind you that I got three of four Champions League quarter-finals right, which, for me, qualifies as being on a certifiable roll. Let the games begin.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

More Action Against Extremism

This is good to see. A convention declared suicide attacks un-Islamic and opposed the imposition of Sharia by force. Two important details: First, it took place in Peshawar, not Lahore or Karachi. Second, the convention basically consisted of 2000 scholars, teachers and administrators of madrassas, not jeans-wearing NGO types in sunglasses. Excellent news.

Quote of the day
Look, she’s got balls, monstrous balls. Sure, she’s a beautiful woman, she’s a reassuring woman, but mainly she understood that the old Socialist left was finished, and she said ‘Fuck all!’ to the elephants, she went right past them.

Political strategist Philippe Lapousterle on French Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mourinho At Old Trafford?

That's what this fellow at The Guardian thinks. The novelty of the idea, however, is not why I'm linking to the piece. I'm linking to it in an effort to encourage you to go and read the comments in response to his post. All I can say is, I love British people. They're so bitter and caustic and sardonic and funny. They're everything I want to be.

Anyways, as far as Mourinho's future prospects are concerned, I still think he's leaving Chelsea this summer, handshake or not. I earlier thought he might be going to Italy but now I've changed my mind. I think he's going to go to Barcelona. Something is obviously amiss at the Nou Camp, what with all the reports of discord in the dressing room and the lackluster play all year. I see Eto'o getting the boot (what, you think they'll get rid of Ronaldinho?). I see a revamping of the back four (how many of them would you trust with your life? I say two: Zambrotta and Puyol). And I see Frank Rijkaard getting his walking papers, despite the highly impressive job he's done. I should say that I have absolutely no evidence for that third claim; it's just a hunch. If they do get rid of Rijkaard, don't you think they'd make a play for Mourinho? And don't you think Mourinho would want to manage the most highly talented team in Europe?

Is It A Done Deal?

Have Musharraf and Benazir done the deed and supped, as they say, with their respective devils? Farahtullah Babar gives us the obligatory denial here. Even if this is true, and Benazir has agreed to support Musharraf's bid to get reelected by the existing assemblies in exchange for having corruption charges dropped against her, two seriously important questions remain. One, what happens on the issue of Musharraf's uniform? This report says both sides are promising "flexibility", whatever the hell that means. Two, what role does Benazir play? Call me crazy, but I can't imagine her taking a Shaukat Aziz-type backseat position.

If it were possible, Pakistani politics suddenly got even more interesting. And warped. My humble advice to you would be to stay tuned.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rallying Against Extremism

You know how I wondered in my last post whether or not we can say Pakistanis are actively shunning radical religous elements? Well, it looks like I may have a provisional answer. That, my friends, is what is referred to as a fuckload of people.

I should say, before anyone gets too excited, that this wasn't a rally against extremism per se but an MQM rally against extremism. In other words, there is no way to calculate how many of these people actually lament the rise of the radical religous right in our country and how many of them were there just because their party bosses told them to be there. Still mighty impressive though.

Photo credit:

Tolerance, Religon and Democracy In Indonesia

I have long held the view that Indonesia and Malaysia are exemplars for Pakistan: moderate and tolerant countries which are Muslim but not Islamic. Anyways, here's an interesting article on Indonesia and the seeming paradox of the danger of rising intolerance with the onset of democracy. As political space has opened up, it has opened up for everyone, including radical Islamist parties and groups. Luckily, Indonesians by and large seem to be actively shunning these elements. Can we say the same about Pakistan?

A Question (Or Maybe Two)

Is anyone else out there rooting for Golden State to get past the Lakers for 7th in the West? How badly will a Suns-Warriors first round series smash any and all previous records for scoring in the playoffs? As a reminder, the score the last time they played was halftime. Please, God, let this happen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

That's Quite A Trifecta, Mr. Gandhi

I never thought it would be possible for an Indian to say something that would somehow piss off the brothers-in-arms that are the BJP, the Communist Party of India and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. Rahul Gandhi then proceeded to demonstrate what adidas has been saying for ages: impossible is nothing.

Photograph of the day

Yup, the World Cup is just that exciting.

Photo credit: AFP

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Support For The Jamia Hafsa Women

Really good column by Irfan Hussain today on the ideology of Pakistan and the difficulties in reconciling its "Islamic" roots with a desire for secularism.
Among the many emails I have received on the subject are a substantial number supporting the demands of the Jamia Hafsa women. They ask why Shariah should not be the basis of the law of the land since Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. The authors of these diatribes are not interested in Jinnah’s sophistry of Pakistan being a ‘home for the Muslims of the subcontinent’, rather than an Islamic state.

In truth, this is a tough argument to rebut. Perhaps the mullahs have it right. Maybe the demands that are being voiced by religious fanatics, seen in the context of the partition of India along religious lines, should be considered. Clearly, a return to the seventh century, something the zealots are adamant about, would be disastrous for the country. But that’s a separate argument. If you are convinced that our brief stay on earth is transient, and that we will be rewarded or punished for the rest of eternity for our actions in this life, then obviously what happens in the here-and-now is unimportant.

Things like GDP, life expectancy and literacy rates become irrelevant. What truly matters is that we obey the divine rules, as interpreted by various schools of Islamic jurisprudence. In this worldview, manmade laws, ethics, and boundaries are all of secondary importance. If our destiny is pre-ordained, we can only submit. Within this narrow frame of reference, it makes perfect sense for our cricket team to spend more time at prayer than at the nets. And if the team is sent crashing out of the World Cup in the first round, clearly this was the will of God.

Even if the part about the cricket team is a little disingenuous (we didn't lose because we prayed too much; we lost because we had only three batsmen and if any two, let alone three, of them failed in the same match, we would lose. Even to Ireland), his point is well taken. If someone truly and completely believes that Islam provides a complete code of conduct for existence, that the "Quran is our constitution," and that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, how can you possibly argue against the imposition of Sharia? The set of ideas that such a person takes as an absolute given simply do not permit any concession in a debate on the question of whether or not a nation of Muslims should be secular.

The sturdy logic behind the Sharia-imposition argument is one of three reasons that I have begun to seriously harbor thoughts of Pakistan becoming an Afghanistan circa 1999. The second reason, as elucidated over at The Glasshouse a while back (sorry, can't find the post), is our population explosion. Around 2025, we will have something in the range of 250-275 million people living in our country. If even 0.5% of this population has sympathies for Taliban-style governance (an extremely low estimate; my best guess would be something twenty times that), we will have more than 1 million armed and angry people ready to fight for this most uncompromisable of principles. The third reason, as I stated a few days ago, is that you simply do not need that many people to wrought significant social change. The vast majority of people (and I don't mean to say this perjoratively) will be completely pliant in the face of intimidation because one's life is more important than a principle or even relative freedom.

The counter-argument to this doomsday scenario would go something like this: religous parties have never gained more than 13% of votes in elections in Pakistan, and the overwhelming majority of people support three power bases (PPP, PML and the Army) that are, generally speaking, secular in their outlook on political life. There are a couple of responses to that contention. One, the PML is not secular. Nawaz Sharif was poised to push Sharia through the courts during his second tenure. In the brouhaha over the coup and the emergency landing and Kargil and whatnot, everyone forgets this. Two, the Army's top brass today may well be secular but there is no guarantee that it will be ten or fifteen years from now, when the officers trained under Zia's time begin rising to the top. Three, the fact that Pakistan's religous parties have historically not done particularly well in no way precludes them doing extremely well in the future. For one thing, they could organize and play the game of politics better. For another, times have changed. Pakistan today is a much, much more religously conservative country than it was a generation ago. Evidence for that claim is admittedly anecdotal but I have yet to meet someone who seriously disputes it.

On that depressing note, I'm off to lunch. Will try and get a Younis Khan post out soon but no guarantees.

Public Service Announcement

Did you guys know about You can watch most any show for free. I'm not quite sure that this is entirely a legal enterprise but, hey, neither is Limewire, and that's where almost all my music has come from, so whatever. For the record, I would have been perfectly willing to pay a buck or two for the latest episode of Entourage but iTunes didn't have it and neither did HBO. So I just googled "download entourage" and voila! You can thank me later.

Is Randy Marsh More Racist Than Don Imus?

No, not really. Mainly because, you know, he's a cartoon character and all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If You Thought A "Religion" Column in The Pakistan Passport Was Dumb...

...then check this out.


Yes, seven.

More On Pakistan From Kristof

This time it's on feudalism, democracy and education. Once again, it's too important to be hid behind the Times Select firewall. I'm being an intellectual property rights vigilante and taking the law into my own hands. Here's the entire piece.

In a Courageous Village, Ballots Bring Bullets

President Bush has become a bosom buddy of President Pervez Musharraf and sealed that friendship with $10 billion in military aid, but any American official who praises Pakistan’s “democracy” might want to visit this bullet-scarred village in the Punjab.

Dummerwala held free local elections here last year. But many people voted the “wrong” way, causing the candidate of the local feudal lord to lose. So a day after the election, a small army of gunmen arrived and began rampaging through the houses of the clan members who opposed the lord’s choice.

Waheed Rahman, a top student, 14 years old, who dreamed of becoming an engineer, was wounded in the opening minutes of the attack.

“When he was shot, Waheed fell down and begged for water,” said his father, Matiullah. “They were surrounding him. But they just laughed and shot at the water tank and destroyed it. Then they ripped the clothes off the women and dragged them around half-naked.”

For the next two hours, the attackers beat the men and abused the women, destroyed homes, and told their victims that the feudal lord had arranged for the police to stay away so he could teach them a lesson.

Indeed, the police did stay away. Even when two of the villagers escaped and ran to the police station, begging the officers to stop the violence, the police delayed moving for three hours.

By the time it was over, a woman was dying, as was Waheed, and many others were wounded.

The attack here in Dummerwala is a reminder that democracy is about far more than free elections. In Pakistan, many rural areas remain under the thumb of feudal lords who use the government to keep themselves rich and everyone else impoverished.

For real democracy to come to Pakistan, we’ll need to see not only free elections and the retirement of President Musharraf, but also a broad effort to uproot the feudal rulers in areas like this, 300 miles south of Islamabad. That’s not easy to do, but promoting education is the best way to combat both feudalism and fundamentalism.

Instead, we’ve been focusing on selling arms and excusing General Musharraf’s one-man rule.

Husain Haqqani of Boston University calculates that the overt and trackable U.S. aid to General Musharraf’s Pakistan amounted to $9.8 billion — of which 1 percent went for children’s survival and health, and just one-half of 1 percent for democracy promotion (and even that went partly to a commission controlled by General Musharraf).

The big beneficiary of U.S. largesse hasn’t been the Pakistani people, but the Pakistani Army.

General Musharraf has done an excellent job of nurturing Pakistan’s economy, but he is an autocrat. As Asma Jahangir, a prominent lawyer in Lahore, told me: “Until now, Pakistanis have hated the American government but not the American people. But I’m afraid that may change. Unless the U.S. distances itself from Musharraf, the way things are going Pakistanis will come to hate the American people as well.”

Just last week, General Musharraf’s secret police goons roughed up and sexually molested Dr. Amna Buttar, an American doctor of Pakistani origin who heads a human rights organization. Dr. Buttar says that she had been warned by a senior intelligence official not to protest against the government and that she was specifically targeted when she protested anyway.

When our “antiterrorism” funds support General Musharraf’s thugs as they terrorize American citizens, it’s time to rethink our approach. Imagine if we had spent $10 billion not building up General Musharraf, but supporting Pakistani schools.

One place we could support a school is here in Dummerwala. After the attack, the victims in the village were so panicky that they pulled all their children out of school.

“They say, ‘If you don’t cooperate with us, we will kill your sons,’ ” said Tazeel Rahman, one of the victims. “This is not democracy. This is a dictatorship. This is terrorism.”

(When I interviewed the attackers, they insisted that the victims had simply killed themselves. They compensated for this wildly implausible version of events by sending an armed mob to persuade me of its merits. There's a video of the encounter.)

We Americans could learn something about democracy from the brave people here. The villagers insist that if they are still alive and allowed to vote, they will again defy their feudal lord in the next election.

We in the West sometimes say that poor countries like Pakistan aren’t ready for democracy. But who takes democracy more seriously: Americans who routinely don’t bother to vote, or peasants in Dummerwala who risk their lives to vote?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mukhtaran Mai And Her Struggle(s)

I completely forgot to post this story by Kristof which was published on Sunday. I'm copying and pasting it in its entirety because it's way too important for non-subscribers to not read it. Fuck Times Select.

A Woman’s Work Earns Her Enemies

You might think that the worst tragedy that could befall a couple would be for their young daughter to be raped and murdered.

But here in rural Pakistan, that was only the beginning for Hasina Bibi and her husband, Rashid Ahmed. Their story underscores how to be poor in the developing world often means having not only no food but also no justice — and how any war against poverty must be devised not only to enrich the world’s poorest people but also to educate and empower them.

On the morning of July 3 last year, Ms. Hasina and Mr. Rashid were cutting grass in the fields along with their daughter, Shamshad, who was 11 years old, and a group of other laborers. Shamshad carried a stack of grass to a pile across the field — and then disappeared.

Villagers found Shamshad’s body a few hours later. She had been raped and tortured: There were many bite marks, and burns from cigarettes.

Everybody guessed who could have done this: the grandchildren of the local feudal lord. These grandchildren, in their teens and 20s, often harassed girls.

The grandchildren, however, said that the culprits were their servants — and so the police arrested the servants (who presumably would be beaten until they confessed). But Ms. Hasina and Mr. Rashid knew that the servants could not be guilty, because they had all been together when Shamshad vanished.

“We went to the police, and after five minutes the police said, ‘Go home,’ ” Ms. Hasina related. The police told the parents to forget about making accusations against anyone in the feudal lord’s family.

So Ms. Hasina traveled to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, 400 miles to the north, to appeal for assistance from the government — but she received no help and her trip infuriated the feudal lord’s family. The feudal lord’s family members beat up her family members and warned them to be silent.

“They said, ‘We killed the girl, and if you don’t keep quiet we’ll kill all of you as well,’ ” Ms. Hasina explained. She sighed and added: “Everybody says, that is just what happens to poor people.”

Yet there is one place that Ms. Hasina and Mr. Rashid have found a sanctuary: the shelter run by Mukhtar Mai here in the remote village of Meerwala. Mukhtar (who also goes by the name Mukhtaran Bibi) survived a gang rape to become a fervent campaigner for voiceless women in Pakistan.

I’ve written about Mukhtar repeatedly over the last few years, and she now runs several schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group. Her home and courtyard are full of women and girls who trickle in each day, shellshocked by injustice or disfigured by beatings or acid attacks. Mukhtar arranges medical or legal help and does what she can to address their needs.

A year ago on a visit to Mukhtar’s village, I wrote about a young woman named Aisha Parveen who was fighting efforts by the police to return her to the brothel from which she had escaped. Mukhtar helped rescue Aisha, and now Aisha is trying to replicate Mukhtar’s work farther south. One of Aisha’s first cases was to help Ms. Hasina after her daughter’s murder.

Mukhtar is a hero of mine. But her work has earned her many enemies, particularly among the feudal lords — and even in the government of President Pervez Musharraf, who fears that Mukhtar displays Pakistan’s dirty laundry before the world. So the Pakistani authorities are harassing Mukhtar, trying to break her organization. (For readers who want to help, I’ve posted some ideas on my blog, You can also post your comments about this column there.)

Most of the pressure right now is on Mukhtar’s top aide and soul mate, Naseem Akhtar. Lately Naseem’s brother was in a mysterious vehicle accident, her father was ordered arrested for no apparent reason and her own house was broken into.

Farooq Leghari, a police chief, was transferred away from Meerwala because — he and others say — he tried too hard to protect Mukhtar. He now is police chief in another town and, when I visited him, he told me that “this harassment and pressure on them is from very high up, from Islamabad.”

“Their lives are in danger,” Mr. Leghari said of Mukhtar and Naseem, adding that they could be killed by assassins sent by feudal lords or by the Pakistani government itself (our close allies!).

So I have a message for President Musharraf: Don’t even think about it. Start protecting Mukhtar instead of harassing her. And if any “accident” happens to Mukhtar or Naseem, you will be held responsible before the world. We are watching.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Free Concert At L'Enfant Plaza

This article is absolutely, positively, undoubtedly the best I've read in a really, really long time. It's about the world's greatest violinist being hired by the Washington Post for an experiment: play some of the greatest music ever written in a subway station in D.C. and see what happens. I won't spoil it for you guys by telling you what actually does happen. What I will say is that you have to, I mean just have to, read the entire thing. Trust me.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa Issue: A Vast Conspiracy?

Reading this post on The Glasshouse, I was reminded of one of Tom Friedman's rules for understanding the Middle East, which says that if you can't explain something to Middle Easterners without a conspiracy theory, then don't try to explain it at all - they won't believe it. I would say Pakistan is beset with the same plague; for many analysts, every move and countermove in Pakistani politics could form the basis of an Oliver Stone movie.

The Glasshouse, in its author's words, thinks that this (the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa) ruckus has been created by the military establishment. The conspiracy theory hypothesis, as stated by four columns linked to in the post, says that it is in fact the machinizations of the Musharraf government that is responsible for what is happening in the capital today, and that these tactics are motivated by two main concerns. One, to distract the general populace from the "suspension" of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Two, to show the Western world in general and the U.S. in particular that Pakistan is a big, bad cesspit of Islamic extremism and as such, Musharraf and his government represents the best chance of warding off and countering said extremism.

I am not doubting that a number of political events in Pakistan's history have resulted from the curiously diabolical ideas and actions of political players. I have to say, though, that this one seems a bit of a stretch. I say this for a number of reasons.

First, there is the very real issue of the empirics of the case. As I noted in an earlier post, there are four distinct constitutive elements to the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa challenge. The first of these took place on January 21 when female students of the Jamia Hafsa madrassa occupied the children's library near the illegally constructed mosques at the root of the crisis. The Chief Justice, as you will recall, was suspended on March 9, a full seven weeks after the beginning of the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa shenanigans. That means that the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa situation simply could not have been "created" by the government as a response to the hue-and-cry raised over the "suspension" of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The response to that argument would concede the point that the government did not create the situation, but would contend that it is allowing it to fester by not taking action against the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa. In essence, it is the equivalent of the Pakistani position on the insurgency in Kashmir: we didn't create it, but we will sure as hell take advantage of it by fanning the flames. I dispute this view, too, for reasons I elucidate below.

As I said, my first issue with the conspiracy theory hypothesis concerns the empirics of the case. My second, and more important issue, is with the logic of the argument, which goes thusly: Musharraf stands to gain from this crisis because he will show the Western world that he alone, along with the army, can stand between the extremists and control of the state. The problem with this logic arises when one considers that it assumes that Musharraf must be effective in dealing with the crisis. Only in the case that Musharraf can demonstrate his willingness and ability to counter the threat does the logic hold true. If Musharraf appears helpless, he ends up looking worse than he would have if the crisis never took place. In other words, if Musharraf backs down from the challenge, for whatever reason, he incurs a net-loss in political worth. One can plainly and clearly see that the latter description is a more apt one for what we are witnessing. Musharraf is at present demonstrating nothing to the Western world, except for an acute disability to curb Islamic extremism. If he was as positively in control of events as the conspiracy theorists would have you believe, he would have snuffed them out the moment it became a major issue, which was about three weeks ago.

My third issue with the conspiracy theory hypothesis is that it is not falsifiable. That it is to say, there exist no set of circumstances or events that will disprove the hypothesis. If Musharraf eventually does clamp down on the extremist elements, the conspiracy theorists will say, "Look, we were right. Musharraf exacted all the political mileage he could out of it, and then took care of it when he had to." If Musharraf doesn't clamp down on them, the conspiracy theorists will say, "Look, we were right. Musharraf is exacting all the political mileage he can out of this. He will take care of it when he has to." No matter what happens, the conspiracy theorists can twist events to point to the verity of their hypothesis. If these conspiracy theorists presented this hypothesis in any social science class, they would get an F. (Maybe a D, only because conspiracy theories are always entertaining.)

My fourth issue with the conspiracy theory hypothesis relates, in part, to the second. As I said earlier, a corollary of the hypothesis is that Musharraf is in complete and utter control of events in Pakistan and can pull strings where- and whenever he pleases. This in turn implies that if his purported goals aren't being met by the vast conspiracy, he will change his course of (in)action. Now, whether or not there actually is a vast conspiracy, no one can doubt that its purported goals (i.e. distraction of the populace, satisfaction of the West) are simply not being reached. There is a protest every other day in some major city on the Iftikhar Chaudhry case. Similarly, there are reports in the Western press every other day that continue to question Musharraf's viability as a ruler and Pakistan's alliance with the U.S. Given these exigencies, shouldn't we have seen action from the government a while ago? Should it really be waiting for the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa crowd to promise suicide bombings before moving into action? I submit that it should not.

My fifth, and final, issue with the conspiracy theory hypothesis concerns the relatively easy availability of a rival hypothesis. As most of you will probably know, there exists a principle by which scientific theories are measured called Occam's razor, which says that all things being equal, the simplest explanation for a phenomena should be employed. Here's my explanation: what you see, at least in this case, is what you get. Musharraf, already burned by his quick trigger vis-a-vis Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, doesn't want to expend any political capital on the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa situation. He waited for them to stop doing what they were doing, but instead of being placated by his pusillanimity, they have predictably grown stronger. Now he will have to take much stronger action than if he had acted straight away.

Let us also not forget that we have been here before. Does anyone remember the bullshit we faced over the non-issue of the marathon? These same goons thought they world would come to an end if men and women actually had the temerity to run a race together. What about the religion column in the new passports? The government had gone ahead with the provisions with the machine-readable passports before the political representatives of these goons forced a backtrack. The political hits the government took in those instances showed quite clearly that this government does not have a particularly adroit way of handling the extreme right in our country. Both those instances, just as this one has, showed Musharraf's inability to reign the extreme right in, and thus ran completely counter to the central hypothesis of the conspiracy theorists: that Musharraf likes showing how good he is in standing between the extreme right and political power.

The only, I repeat only, way I could find myself believing this entire episode is a result of a vast conspiracy is if the conspiracy theorists make all of the following claims, and no others:
  • The government did not create the Lal Majid/Jamia Hafsa crisis. It erupted on its own, and the government saw a useful opportunity to distract the population/show the West how valuable it is by not doing anything to control it.
  • The government planned on curbing the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa crowd at an unknown point in time called x, where x was far enough down the road that the country was suitably distracted from the Chief Justice fiasco but not so far as to cast doubt by Western governments on the Musharraf regime's ability to deal with religous extremism. X was definitely and categorically some time before the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa crowd threatened suicide bombings and called for the imposition of Sharia.
  • The government could not take action at time x even though it wanted to because by that time, the activities of the Lal Masjid/Jamia Hafsa crowd had taken on a life of their own and could not be curtailed by their alleged puppet masters. In other words, the government does not control any and every political development in the country, even those perpretrated by its minions.
That's it. If the conspiracy theorists stick to those claims, then I might find it easier to believe them. Anything else, and I'm forced to conclude that the conspiracy theorists doth protest too much, and simultaneously give Musharraf both more and less credit than he deserves.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why I Hate The Spurs (And Why Steve Kerr Needs To Chill)

Last night I watched Phoenix-San Antonio. Steve Kerr, normally my favourite basketball analyst on television other than maybe Hubie Brown (the games he and Marv Albert do just seem to be better basketball than the others), was in full-fellatial mode, talking up the Spurs as if there was no tomorrow. Every chance he got, he pontificated on their stifling defense, their work ethic, their championship mentality, how great Duncan is, why Dallas and most definitely Phoenix will struggle against them in the playoffs, how everyone knows their roles and no one ever tries to do too much, and how Tony Parker and Eva Longoria are setting an example for celebrity couples everywhere. After a while, it just started grating on me. For one thing, I hate the Spurs (more on this in a second). For another, Kerr simply forgot that there were two teams playing that game and occasionally, just occasionally, the other one might have warranted a mention in a context other than one that glorified the San Antonio's Red Army-outside-Stalingrad like defense.

I think San Antonio is the single most overrated team in the NBA. Not this or any year in particular, but generally speaking, over the last ten years, no team has gotten more un-deserved accolades from self-proclaimed basketball aficionados who think they are better than all us "casual" fans because they ostensibly see the beauty in the Spurs' game while the rest of us mere neanderthals are instinctively drawn to more high-profile, attractive teams. Here, however, are the facts:

The 99 Championship shouldn't just have an asterisk next to it, but the words "This really shouldn't count as a proper NBA season" in parentheses as well just in case somebody stupid misses the point of the asterisk.

Consider the fact that this was the first season after MJ's second retirement, teams played only 50 games, there were no training camps and the schedule dictated that teams sometimes had to play three nights a row, resulting in the most warped, parallel-universe NBA season ever. More importantly, consider that the best teams in the NBA that season were either over-the-hill (Jazz), too young/inexperienced (Kings), had pathetic coaches (the Lakers were coached by Kurt fucking Rambis), robbed by referees (let's not even talk about the Pacers-Knicks playoff series), or completely insane (Blazers). That the Spurs needed a miraculous, lucky shot by Sean Elliot over Rasheed's fingertips to even get to the Finals tells you how fortunate they should consider themselves. It was their year, but they weren't a championship level team. If you think this is sour grapes, I ask you to conduct the following thought experiment. Imagine a 7-game series between the '99 Spurs and (a) the 94-95 Rockets teams, (b) the 1991-93 and 1996-98 Bulls teams and (c) the 2000-02 Laker teams (oh wait, you don't actually have to imagine this one). Who would win? Please. That Spurs team had a second year Duncan, a soft-as-ever Robinson, and Avery Johnson starting at the point. Avery Johnson! I think I've made my point. The 1999 season was a fraud, and as such, so was the championship.

2005 was lucky as well

Again, they were fortunate that (a) they played a team in the Finals that maddeningly only showed up for quarters at a time (the cruise-control Pistons, as opposed to the 2004 always-in-your-face version), and (b) their biggest rival in the West internall combusted (this was, of course, the first season after the inevitable and long overdue Kobe-Shaq breakup). Duncan disappeared for stretches in the Finals in a way that true super-duper-stars (MJ, Hakeem et al) never do. If Detroit played like they gave a crap, they would have won that series in five, maybe six. The point to be made is that 2003 was the only year the Spurs actually deserved the ring.

No team gets away with more

I'm so sick and tired of hearing this "Bruce Bowen is the premier perimeter defender in the NBA" crap. Just once I want to hear a nationally recognized columnist/commentator call Bowen out for his dirty play. Everyone knows about the standing-underneath-a-shooter tactic that he employs so well, which both distracts the guy he's guarding in addition to significantly putting him at risk of a serious injury (remember the Vince-Bowen and Ray Allen-Bowen fights? That's exactly what they were about). What is less apparent but equally pissing off is the constant holding and grabbing, especially away from the ball, and double especially around screens. Bowen gets away with more than almost any defender out there because of his good-guy image (and the Spurs' collective good-guy image, no doubt). Of course he's going to hold you to a low percentage if he fouls you three times a possession and doesn't get called for it! That's not rocket science. The true great defenders in the league (Marion, Bell, even Igoudala) play defense with their feet and their bodies, and don't foul the guy they're guarding every 15 seconds. More importantly, when they
do foul, they don't get away with it. Bowen does.

It's not, however, limited to Bowen. Next time you're watching a Spurs game, please keep a count of the following things:

1. The number of times Duncan gets away with a push in the back just as a shot goes up, giving him prime position for an offensive/defensive rebound.

2. The number of times Ginobili flops and gets the call.

3. The number of times their bigs set moving screens.

4. The number of times Poppovich screams at the refs in a way that would get the Isiah Thomas' of the world thrown out, and yet don't ever warrant the Spurs coach a technical.

Despite nearly always getting the better end of the calls, the Spurs have this incredibly annoying habit of questioning every call, acting as if they never commit fouls. This is typified by the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker trio, who whine as much as any set of players in the league. Duncan especially gets that mopy, "who, me?" look that would look cute on a four-year old but makes me want to slit my wrist when I see it on the supposed greatest power forward of all time. Other than Detroit, there's no team that bitches to the refs more than these guys. And as I said, what is most egregious is that they get away with it.

Anyways, all this is to say, I hate the Spurs. I hate them so much that I am honestly considering rooting for Kobe and the Bryantaires if they meet in the playoffs (which they probably will). I never, ever, ever thought the day would come when I support a team with Kobe Bryant on it. Alas, such a day has come, and we owe it to the Spurs.

I also think the top three teams in the West have a really interesting dynamic going insofar as playoff preferences are concerned. It's obvious that Phoenix would rather play Dallas than the Spurs. I also think the Spurs would rather play Phoenix than Dallas. Finally, I think Dallas would rather play the Spurs than Phoenix, who seem to have their number and match up really well with them. All this is to say that the second-round meeting between the Spurs and Phoenix (barring an explosion from one or both of the AI-Melo combo and Kobe) will not just have the obvious effect on the teams involved in that series, but enormous repercussions on the Western finals. I'd like to see Phoenix win this year, if only because I think Nash deserves a ring the way he's played these last three years, but I would be satisfied with anyone really, as long as it's not the Spurs. We wouldn't want them winning a second championship in five years now, would we?

Give Them An Inch And They'll Take About 14,000 Miles

I don't know whether to laugh or cry about what's happening in Islamabad right now. As this story in Dawn details, the clerics of Jamia Hafsa/Lal Masjid have now trampled all over the writ of the government four times in the last 45 days. First, female students of the madrassa illegally occupied a library next to a mosque constructed on land that did not belong to them. Second, they kidnapped women associated with a "brothel" in Islamabad and held them captive for two days. Third, they demanded that the government set up Sharia Law in the country and close video and music shops. Now, they've set up a parallel "justice" system next to the mosque where clerics will hand down verdicts and judgments in accordance with "Islamic injunctions". As an addendum, the clerics of the mosque are threatening the government with suicide bombings if any action is taken against them. Remember, all this is happening in the capital city of Pakistan.

It seems to me that Musharraf, because of his ham-handed tactics in "dealing" with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in particular and relative unpopularity in general, does not wish to expend any political capital (if he has any left, that is) on this mess. I find this quite funny to be honest: intelligence and police forces can clamp down on protestors angry about the disappearance of their relatives and media organizations within hours, if not minutes, but when it comes to facing down extreme right-wing elements, the people actually committing crimes, they are either powerless or choose to appear powerless. Again, let me emphasize, this is happening in the capital city of Pakistan. We see a parallel justice system and a bunch of hooligans taunting the government not in some remote town in Balochistan, not in interior Sindh, not near the Afghan border, but in friggin' Islamabad within shouting distance of the any and every important government building.

I'm not sure what Musharraf's strategy is here. I'm not even sure he has a strategy. What I am sure of is that processes like Talibanization are especially prone to the tipping-point trajectory made famous by Malcolm Gladwell's book. In other words, once Talibanization reaches a critical mass, I believe it will be impossible to turn it back. I don't think we are quite there yet but I also don't think we are that far off. People can point to art galleries in Lahore and plays and comedy shows in Karachi and say, "Hey, look, our culure is vibrant and alive. We will never experience what Afghanistan experienced." To those people, I say, think again. It takes merely dozens of people, with the right amount of ammunition and local support, to turn an entire society upside down. In the extreme case, we have even seen small cabals initiate and carry out genocide, such as in Rwanda and Cambodia.

I am not suggesting we are on the verge of genocide in Pakistan. What am I suggesting is that political history tells us small groups of people can wield wildly disproportionate power on events and that if they are not stopped soon enough, it becomes impossible to stop them. We have already seen the testicular fortitutde of these clerics multiply manifold with each instance of the government backing down. It does not take a great deal of imagination to picture them growing ever stronger and more unabashed with each week. Combined with the political upheavel enveloping the country, I fear for the worst, all the while hoping for the best.

Friday, April 06, 2007


We've all been there, especially when it comes to our beloved sports teams. Last year, somewhat stupidly, pushed by my general state of paranoid neurosis, I actually thought Barca would collapse when Messi got injured in the middle of the Champions League game against Chelsea. I of course completely discounted that other than Ronaldinho and, to a lesser extent, Puyol, Eto'o and Deco, no player on that Barca team was irreplaceable.

On the other hand, what was a justfiable act of throwing-all-faith-out-of-the-window was Wasim's injury before the infamous Bangalore game. I remember, to this day, two immediate reactions on seeing Aamir Sohail at the toss. The first was "What the fuck is he doing there?" After taking a split second to surmise what had happened, my second was "Fuck". And yes, I used those words, even though I was twelve years old. I know, I know, I should wash my mouth out with soap. (That reminds me, have any of you ever say the word "Bhenchod" in front of your mother? I have. A few years ago, I was trying to reverse the car out of a really narrow driveway and bumped one of those huge-ass plants that for some reason are extremely popular in really narrow driveways in Karachi. Of course, I said what any normal 20 year-old would say under the circumstances, with the added wrinkle that for that fraction of a second, I forgot my mother was sitting next to me. I didn't even get a chance to get the word out - I said "Bhen..." before I got a slap on the head. It would have landed on my face but over the years, I've built up my reflexes vis-a-vis warding off slaps from my mother.)

Why do I bring the issue of despair-in-sports up? Becuase Gilbert Arenas injured his knee last night, is out of the playoffs, and everyone who knows a thing about basketball (and even some who don't) now know that the Wizards will not win more than two games the rest of the way and probably won't win a half, let alone a game, in the playoffs. This realization has made one the guys at Freedarko pine for the Wizards trading away their playoff spot for a pick in the draft, even if it's not a lottery pick. The statement itself is funny but the sentiment behind it is not. Like I said, we've all been there and can empathize when one ankle twist, one freak collision, one avoidable accident or one dislocated shoulder can ruin your team's prospects for the forseeable future and causes you to think of ridiculously hopeless and ultimately futile ways of salvaging the situation. Hang in there, Wizards fans. We feel your pain, if not Arenas'.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


The other day, Kristof writes a heart-wrenching article about a woman in Pakistan who was pimped out by her husband and then threatened her family when she escaped. Anyways, as always, he invites comments on every article he writes on his blog. The posting of these comments requires (a) the comments themselves, (b) a box that needs to be filled with your name, and (c) a box that needs to be filled with your email address. The name-box has "Required" written to next to it and the email address-box has "Required (will not be published)" written next to it. The implication is clear: your name will be published exactly the way you write it out in the name-box at the end of your comment.

This is a long-winded way to set up the funniest thing I've seen in the last 48 hours. Check out this comment from, uh, we'll let her tell it.

Please do not post my full name if you post this.
Just “Barbara”.
While your columns and efforts to garner support are worthy you are doing a disservice by not including in your columns any real comments on the “customers”. In failing to do so you continue to be a supporter of the culture of the “Sacred Penis” which dictates that the penis owner should never be held responsible for penis control. Only the owners of warm-wet-holes are at fault and responsible for the urges felt by the owners of the sacred penis and are to blame for what the penis owners feel compelled to do under whatever reasoning they feel justified in believing. As I have said before the problem you outline will not be address unless and until males and males only talk about and take steps to eliminate the culture of the Sacred Penis. Such talk and steps will be effective only if they do not include any responsibility of the warm-wet-holes owners.
Thank you for listening.
Again, identify me only as “Barbara” if any part of this is posted.

— Posted by Barbara A. Midtbo