Without nepotism, Hillary would be running for the president of Vassar. But then, without nepotism, W. would be pumping gas in Midland — and not out of the ground.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Anyway, his name is Nabeel and the only memory I have of him is him winning the 100m race (as an underdog, I might add) on our sports day in our last year of school. Until now that is; henceforth, my memory of Nabeel will forever be associated with these photographs which he sent, complete with personal captions. Thanks Nabeel! (And keep reading...please)
Saturday, September 29, 2007
By the way, if you happen to be in the Chicago area, and are interested in these issues, Pervez Hoodboy will be speaking on his new book The Talibanization of South Asia: Can It Be Stopped? on October 30th at UChicago. The exact address where the event will take place is:
1414 E 59th St
The International House at the University of Chicago
Come one, come all.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
An excellent article on how the "liberal" media helped destroy Al Gore in 2000 by, uh, lying.
How can I not post an article which contains an audio clip of the writer snoring?
The co-author of Freakonomics not named Steve Levitt is pissed at Delta about being downgraded from first class.
While everyone at Barcelona from Henry to Zambrotta and club President Joan Laporta are offering Ronaldinho support, the former world player of the year thinks there are elements out to get him and that he might not play this week due to his "physical and mental suffering".
The Chief Minister of Balochistan praises the Army (!) for its role in the development of the province, thereby setting a new record for "most distance between what a politician says and what his constituents feel". Fazal-ur-Rahman, whose statement of support for any peace deal on Kashmir negotiated by the governments of India and Pakistan was knocked off the perch, called the CM to give his hearty congratulations and added that the CM thoroughly deserved the new record.
Google comes up with a new product.
Iverson's talkin' bout practice again (practice, man. Practice!). He says he made a mistake with that press conference. Mistake? It was the greatest three minutes of my life.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
For whatever it's worth, the survey did get my least preferred candidate right: Mike "Idiot" Huckabee.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I'm not going to get too heavily drawn into the definitions of culture. Entire academic papers, and even books, have been written on what "culture" means and suffice it to say, I am not inclined to do the same here. Let's just use something simple and basic like: a population's preferences with regard to what to say, what to eat, how to interact with others, what to wear, where to live and so on and so forth. My point is not to dispute "standard" definitions of culture but to argue about the contours of the dynamic between culture and individuals in a population.
My contention is social conservatives are wrong when they think the relationship goes just one way: from above to below. In other words, they completely ignore the prospect of agents shaping structure and think only that structure affects agents. This is problematic because while it may reflect social conservatives' normative beliefs, it is not an accurate portrayal of reality. Social conservatives want structure to affect all agents equally and want the structure to remain unchanged. Unfortunately for them, this is not how the world works, no matter how much they want it to. In actual fact, a society's culture is simply the sum of each individual's culture, similar to what we learn in 10th grade Economics - that a market's demand curve is simply the sum of each individual's demand curve. A society's culture is affected by the preferences of each individual in a society. Culture is ever-changing and never constant: if people's preferences change - we longer want to dress a certain way, or eat a certain food, or use a certain word - then that society's culture has changed.
What does the wrong headed view of social conservatives mean in concrete terms? It means that social conservatives believe there is one culture in a population and that all members of that population (a) must adhere to the norms of that culture and (b) cannot impact that culture in any way. Remember, for them, culture impacts from above and cannot be changed from below - i.e. the population. This leads them to some fairly nonsensical ideas on what is "good" and what is "bad" for society.
Let's think of a real-world example. Every week, or perhaps every month, I read a letter to a Pakistani newspaper decrying the prevalence of Bollywood films and/or satellite television in Pakistan. These trends go against the grain of our culture, we are told. They must be banned before all hell breaks loose. Note how the letter-writer has decided what our culture is, and that all must adhere to that standard. What this view misses is that people's preferences are a reflection of, indeed are constitutive of, their culture. Bollywood films aren't destroying our culture. They are our culture, at least if enough people are watching them. Recall the Microeconomic analogy - if enough people in a market demand cheese, then we can say that that society demands cheese. If our people are watching Bollywood films, then we can say that our culture includes watching Bollywood films, no matter what the Qazi Hussain Ahmeds have to say about it.
What the hell does this have to do with the tragic death of 22 people due to alcohol poisoning, you ask? Everything. Alcohol, for social conservatives, is not part of our culture. (How, I wonder, can it not be part of our culture if Pakistanis fucking drink? If drinking wasn't Pakistani culture, why would we see Pakistanis fucking drinking? It may not be widespread, it may not be popular, but it sure as hell is part of our culture).
Anyway, as I said earlier, alcohol is not part of our culture, according to the social conservative view. Since it is not part of our culture, it must be banned. Since it is banned, and people still want to drink (gasp!), they find increasingly innovative - and dangerous - ways to satisfy their desire. So they find some shady-ass brewery operated by people who don't exactly have degrees in safety inspection, drink the product of said shady-ass brewery, and die. These people would be alive if alcohol was not banned in Pakistan. There can be no doubt about this. When things are pushed underground thanks to bullshit legislation, they inherently become more dangerous because there is no one to monitor them (think about how much more dangerous it is to gamble on sports in Dubai, Karachi and Bombay than in London and Las Vegas). Said bullshit legislation sprouts directly from a misplaced notion of individuals' relationship to culture. If we didn't have people tell us what our culture is, and as a corollary, how we are to maintain this culture, we wouldn't have stupid laws that lead to avoidable deaths.
End of rant.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
One, BB really needs to stop pandering to the West in general and the U.S. in particular. I say this as a pretty strong supporter of her party, her agenda and, dare I say, her. But if these constant meetings with British and American officials, speeches to think tanks in Washington and New York, interviews to Western newspapers and news agencies, and op-eds are starting to tire me out, I can only imagine what they are doing for people who don't like her. She needs to understand the more she cozies up to Uncle Sam, the more Papa Pakistan is likely to shun her. She needs to, in a word, stop.
Two, I think it is quite instructive that when she speaks of her "dialogue" with Musharraf, she speaks in the past tense (she uses the word "held"). What it means is unclear, but I do think that a deal is unlikely at this point. Stranger things have happened though, not least in the last six months, so any definite forecast is fraught with danger.
Three, you've got to love someone who quotes Stalin in one paragraph and Bush in the next.
That's it for me. Good night.
There are only two ways for me to leave Chelsea. One way is in June 2010 when I finish my contract and if the club doesn't give me a new one. It is the end of my contract and I am out. The second way is for Chelsea to sack me. The way of the manager leaving the club by deciding to walk away, no chance! I will never do this to Chelsea supporters.
Alrighty, then. I hate to indulge in what is commonly known as schadenfreude but man, am I happy to see this guy unemployed. I hate him from the depths of my heart. I also happen to think he has done merely a so-so job at Stamford Bridge. He never got to the Champions League final (with considerably more at his disposal than Rafa Benitez, who managed it twice in the same period) and was, in my mind, fortunate to catch both Arsenal and Man United when both clubs were in transition between two eras. He may be a great manager, but I don't think he showed it at Chelsea. Here's hoping Chelsea become more watchable in the upcoming weeks and months.
Oh and, by the way, do you know where Chelsea's next game is? Old Trafford.
New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said it would not unilaterally put in place a ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir during the month of Ramzan. — PTI
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
1. Don't ever pay uefa.com $8 to watch their live streaming feed. I had about 55 minutes of football and 35 minutes of "buffering," "waiting," and "connecting." I also conspired to miss the first two goals, and caught them on replay when, as you all know, it's never the same. Couple that with the fact that the commentator kept inexplicably saying Barca won the 2005 Champions League (it was 2006 bro - not that long ago), and it made for quite underwhelming viewing. Well, as underwhelming as a 3-0 win for your team can be, anyway.
2. People who are worried about Henry not fitting need not. Of all the big name European teams, Barca probably fit Henry's talents best. Ronaldinho and Messi link up with him beautifully, and pretty much the entire team is technically gifted and can play one-touch football if and when they choose. Of course when Eto'o comes back, all bets are off. Contrary to Frank Rijkaard's public pronouncements, there is no space for all four of them - even if they all have different talents and roles. The only plausible reason I can think of for not getting rid of one of them is injuries: both Eto'o and Messi have missed considerable chunks of the last couple of seasons, and if it happens again in March or April, Henry's addition could be priceless. But if all of them remain fit? Watch out for some fireworks. Speaking of which...
3. Ronaldinho got substituted again and he didn't look ecstatic about it. Clearly all is not well at the Camp Nou. Rumors of problems between Ronaldinho and Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Rijkaard, and Eto'o and Rijkaard persist. Unconfirmed reports suggested that Rijkaard was told after their last 0-0 draw that he had three games to keep his job. Something is going to go down soon, I feel. I know this may sound heretical, but might Barca be better off without Ronaldinho? He would command an astronomical fee in the transfer market, and could allow Barca to shore up its defense (Marquez/Puyol/Thuram are not a Champions League-winning central defense, I'm sorry) as well as ease tensions in the locker room.
4. The best move in the game didn't result in a goal. Words won't do it justice, so I won't bother trying to describe it. All I'll say is: wait a couple of days, and then search "Ronaldinho Xavi Messi Lyon" on YouTube.
5. What the hell is wrong with Lyon? They look awfully uninspiring, and certainly bore no resemblance to six-time defending Ligue 1 champions. Yes they lost a lot of talent in the summer, but they never threatened a notoriously shaky Barca defense and gave the ball away much too easily in midfield. Juninho had three free kicks in his range but went way over the bar once and hit the wall twice. It is naturally difficult to make assertions on the basis of one game (and that too away to one of Europe's best sides), but if Lyon play like this, they aren't making it past this round.
6. Every game I watch Messi, I fall in love just that little bit more. It's not just skill level that is astounding. What is truly amazing is his sense of balance. Maybe it's his short stature (Tendulkar and Iverson are two other short superstars who have extraordinary balance on their feet in their respective sports) but he always finds a way to keep going and not go to ground despite shoves, tugs on his jersey and general foul play. He is truly, truly a natural with the ball at his feet. Some great athletes - Duncan, Nadal, Dravid - are constructed. Others, like Lara and Messi - still just twenty years old, remember - are simply born to do what they do. Thank God for that.
Look at the Pakistan flag. For one thing, the JI has the kalma atop the star and crescent, similar to the Saudi flag. For those unaware, please allow me to tell you that the real Pakistan flag has no such thing on it. Evidently the leaders (and/or webmasters) of the JI feel the kalma is something we might forget, and thus feel it necessary that our flag carry it.
The second thing to note about the flag is that the white third of the flag, representing minorities, has been cut to about one quarter its old size. It has been forcibly taken over by sky blue, which, once again, does not exist on the actual flag. I have absolutely no idea what the blue is supposed to represent (Islamic ideology meets aquamarine biology?) but I do know that the slashing of the minorities' share of the flag, as it were, is no accident.
Update: I was completely wrong. This is JI's party flag, not their designs for the Pakistan flag, as anyone with an IQ of over 75 should have surmised. Read the interesting and informed comments to this post for more.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Another finding of the study that I have issue with is this:
New York was Second City to Chicago in cleanliness. In restrooms at the Windy City's Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry, 81 percent of men and women combined washed their hands, compared to 79 percent at the Big Apple's Penn and Grand Central train stations.
First of all, a two percent difference doesn't mean anything. Secondly, and more importantly, there is a massive likelihood of selection bias here. Look at the bathrooms the researchers used: an aquarium and a museum in Chicago, compared with the two of the three busiest subway stations in New York. You think the average museum goer in Chicago might be a tad more sophisticated - and thus more likely to be clean - than the average subway rider in New York?
Monday, September 17, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
The Pakistan Cricket Board has been extremely vociferous, publicly at least, in its disapproval of the ICL. This no doubt was a show of support for the BCCI, who it seems, have repaid the PCB in kind....by leaving Pakistan out of their newly announced Twenty20 'Champions League'.
BBC sports reports:
"The Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced plans for a new Twenty20 tournament in October 2008.
The Champions Twenty20 League will feature two teams from India, competing against two each from England, Australia and South Africa."
I can't wait to hear Shoaib Akhtar and Miandad comment on this!
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The verdict in July only said Nawaz Sharif has the right to return to Pakistan. There was nothing said about actually letting him stay.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Daily Times reports in its apparently serious, lead, business column:
"The Karachi stock market witnessed a bullish trading session on the first day of the trading week Monday on account of deportation of former premier Nawaz Sharif."
Read full story here
Monday, September 10, 2007
At this point, no one can have an informed opinion about the whys and hows of this entire episode. I suppose Rs.5 will be immersed in discussions about this for the next few days. I will only say that any government formed by elections in which Nawaz Sharif is not allowed to participate - even if the elections are "free and fair" - will be illegitimate. The fissures currently dividing the country (moderate/extremist, rural/urban, rich/poor, center/province) will widen considerably. If this is simply what it seems - and that is the illegal deportation of a Pakistani citizen - then it is a bad, bad move by the government, both for its own and the country's sake.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Pakistan's finally tackling the menace of poverty and I can't help but smell the sweet scent of progress, which now permeates the air. A betterment in the livelihood of a nation's leaders is surely indicative of progress; is it not? Stumbled upon figures for the remuneration package of our law makers i.e. Members of the National Assembly (courtesy Teeth Maestro). Now before I'd seen these figures I'd imagined the official salary to be around Rs. 25,000/month or so, the unofficial perks of course would take this into the millions. Was I shocked when I saw these OFFICIAL figures, judge for yourself:
Pakistani MNA’s Salary and Government Perks
- Monthly Salary Rs.120, 000 to 200,000
- Expense for Constitution per month Rs.100, 000
Office expenditure per month Rs.140, 000
Traveling concession (Rs. 8 per km)
(For a visit to ISLAMABAD & return: 6000 km) Rs.48, 000
Daily BETA during Assembly meets Rs.500
Charge for 1 class (A/C) in train (All over PAKISTAN) Free Unlimited
- Charge for Business Class in flights
- (With wife or P.A. in PIA), Free for 40 trips / year
- Rent for Govt. hostel any where Free
- Electricity costs at home Free, up to 50,000 units
Local phone call charge Free, up to 170, 000 calls.
(Disclaimer: I have no way of verifying these figures, I've tried online and the same figures keep on coming back but none are from official sources) Oh and there are 342 MNAs! So lets examine some of the figures.
Office Expenditure - This expenditure is for the personal office of the MNA in their districts, for in the Capital they are given offices. The MNAs are also provided office staff in their district and in the Capital as part of their protocol. I can not ever remembering seeing or hearing about any MNA having an office, so in essence this is simply part of their base salary.
Travel Concession - This has nothing to do with the airfare, or expenses for housing as MNAs are provided both of those for free. The Travel Concession in the simplest terms is a fee for the inconvenience caused to the MNAs who have to travel from their district to the Capital. Now this is standard practise for, say, a law firm whose associates have to travel at the behest of a client and are therefore inconvenienced as they have to divert and delay their other work. But it’s ridiculous that an MNA is paid this for travelling to Islamabad and being part of the Legislature is the basic requirement of their job.
Air Fare: That's 80 Business Class flights per MNA, and there are 342 of them. So PIA in total PIA dishes out 27360 free Business Class fights to MNAs alone, never mind the likes of Ahsan and the rest of the Establishment. Not sure if they're domestic or international though.
Electricity Bill: By my calculations (considering that Rs.10000 equates to 1200 Units) the MNAs are allowed to rack up a Bill of about Rs. 35000 a month!
Phone: That's a Hundred and Seventy Thousand Calls...Fucking Hell!
At the end of the day, inclusive of perks I would estimate our MNAs cost the exchequer over a Million Dollars a year. And this is how they performed:
In 2006 MNAs worked for 132 days (there’s a constitutional minimum of 130) and answered 2000 questions out of the 10,000 that were asked of them on the NA floor.
After these wonderful accomplishments who can begrudge our MNAs receiving a Million Dollars a year. Any one for privatisation of the National Assembly?
Source: Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Pakistan.
Compare this with the Salaries and Benefits of a US Congressman which averages around $163,000/year plus medical and very few other perks - I know from watching West Wing that there's definitely no allowance for rent and some congressman live in really tiny ass places in DC as they can't maintain two houses. Of course there are substantial Corporate Perks which a Congressman may avail but so can a Pakistani MNA, free cars, round the clock police presence and an army of slaves that a feudal lord MNA just must have, its all the rage, don't you know. And these are all legit figures, add corruption to this and they've got themselves a sweet pay day.
P.S. I want to be an MNA!
Friday, September 07, 2007
Other candidates have plans that would reduce some of the bad things, but I want all of them gone completely.
Here's a quote by an all-too-real George W. Bush from a speech in 2002:
It's an honor to help protect the American people against the forces of evil.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
The Air Force continued handing out disciplinary actions in response to the six nuclear warheads mistakenly flown on a B-52 Stratofortress bomber from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., on Aug. 30.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
The first option would be to attack American military bases in bordering and close by countries (Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia). The strategic benefit of such a campaign would be unclear, and it would give the US an excuse and a chance to gather a stronger coalition against Iran by perhaps including one or two European and/or Arab countries (presently, the only country in the world prepared to aid the US in a military strike against Iran is Israel).
The second option for Iran would be to increase funding and support for insurgents in Iraq. This would have the strategic benefit of ensuring a sphere of influence for Iran, costing American lives and money, making political reconciliation harder within Iraq, and would afford the Iranians plausible deniability (plausible deniability, for those that do not know, means exactly what it sounds like: the ability to plausibly deny something that you are responsible for. If I have a 5 year-old brother, but break a vase myself, I have plausible deniability when my mother comes home. The Americans should be well aware of what the phrase means - after all, it was plausible deniability that pushed the U.S. to use the ISI in the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s instead of the CIA directly, allowing them to legally wipe their fingerprints clear off the murder weapon). Increasing support for insurgents in Iraq is also a relatively inexpensive option. Its only drawback, from an Iranian point of view, is that its repercussions are only regional. Attacking American military bases in the Middle East won't actually hurt the U.S. in any significant way.
The third option for Iran is to simply take its oil off the market for a few weeks, maybe months. Such a move would push oil prices above $90 a barrel, maybe even above $100 a barrel. The strategic benefits of such a move are obvious. Also obvious is the fact that Russia wouldn't really mind such a move, seeing as how it is one of the biggest oil exporters in the world, and so Iran would have the acquiescence, if not the outright support, of a major power. An embargo could cause significant damage to the global economy and especially to major oil importers like the U.S. and China. The only thing Iranian leadership might have to think about is oil exporting American allies, like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, temporarily making up the shortfall and thus rendering ineffective Iran's move.
I also think those pushing for military action against Iran within the establishment in the U.S. underestimate just how badly an attack on Iran will affect its interests in the region. The prevailing wisdom or logic, if one can call it that, seems to follow thusly:
1. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war between Sunnis and Shias (this is partly true).
2. Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt are weary of a powerful Iran in the region (this is also partly true).
3. Ergo, attacking Iran won't cost the U.S. any public relations points in the Middle East or the broader Muslim world because Sunnis and Shias don't like each other and the Sunni states and their citizens will quietly support a U.S. attack on Iran (this is completely and utterly wrong).
Launching an attack on Iran, even if it is just a sustained air assault without ground forces (which is what it would be), would prove hugely damaging to America's already tattered reputation and would compromise its ability to meet its goals in other areas in the region (Iraq and Israel/Palestine just to name two for starters). Combine that with the fact that attacking Iran wouldn't actually accomplish anything from America's perspective (no serious analyst believes that strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities would completely dismantle the program - more likely is the scenario that it is set back about 5-7 years), and you can see why I can't understand why this is even an option for the U.S. leadership. Usually when some action has enormous strategic costs and no strategic benefits, it is discarded as a serious option. Not for these guys.
Monday, September 03, 2007
My First YouTube Video (Zahid Fazal Being Congratulated By A Maniacal Fan In Sharjah With Zamzam Water)
The reactions to the catch were some of the funniest I have ever seen. So funny, in fact, that despite my technological dimwittedness, I decided to make my first YouTube video. Since I don't have any of these fancy schmancy video programs on my computer, I just used my digital camera to record what we were watching on the TV screen. This obviously caused that flickering thing that shows up on some videos and made for pretty pathetic video quality, but no matter. The sequence is still hilarious.
The first thing to notice is Zahid Fazal's reaction. His face suggests complete and utter disbelief with the fact that he caught it. This is why you hear my voice on the video, saying the words "He can't fucking believe he caught it" in between spots of my hysterical laughter. This is especially funny because this Wasim Akram DVD showed our fielding at its most inept. If Pakistani fans complain about our catching now, they should see these old videos. We dropped everything. Anyways, Zahid Fazal knew full well that we dropped everything, which is why he was so surprised when he actually caught this.
The second and far more hilarious thing is that after Zahid Fazal takes the catch, a crazy bearded man runs on to the field with a bottle of Zamzam water. The Zamzam Well in Mecca, for those who do not know, is considered holy by Muslims and so is its water (for the record, the water tastes funny and I have never liked it). Anyway, so this guy, beard and all, comes haring on to the field, just sprinting away. He pushes away all of Zahid Fazal's teammates, who want to congratulate him, and pours him a glass of Zamzam water, which Zahid Fazal dutifully drinks with a sheepish smile on his face. I swear to God, I have not laughed so hard watching cricket in my life (it wasn't just me, by the way. Kabir almost had tears running down his eyes). We laughed so hard, in fact, that we decided we must share this with the world. Thus the idea for the amateur video.
Behold, loyal readers of Rs. 5. This is my first YouTube video.