Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Nonsense From Our Leaders

Sherry Rehman Yousuf Raza Gillani pens an op-ed in the Washington Post detailing the government's policies on countering terrorism and other national issues. I count five separate false, misleading, or erroneous statements.
It is important for Pakistan -- which has transited from an authoritarian regime to democratic governance -- that the message of this first critical post-election period be bold and clear.

Pakistan has
not transited from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one. There are two people who are making all the important political decisions in the country right now; combined they received a grand total of ZERO votes in the February elections.
My government is a coalition of modern, moderate, innovative, progressive democratic forces determined to jump-start the economy and to rebuild the social fabric of Pakistan.

If by "modern, moderate, innovative, progressive democratic forces determined to jump-start the economy and to rebuild the social fabric of Pakistan" you actually mean "backward, largely illiterate, finger-pointing, blame-deflecting, feudals and industrialists bent only on their own power and profit, not entirely different in their worldview than the Khakis they replaced and ill-concerned with the problems of average Pakistanis" then, yes, I agree with you.

We have released detained judges and will restore an independent judiciary, the centerpiece of civil society.

Just not
that judiciary. That we're going to stay away from like it's the plague.
Pakistan will not negotiate with terrorists, but it will not refrain from talking to insurgent tribesmen whose withdrawal of support could help drain the swamp in which terrorists fester and grow. Yet no talks will be held with anyone refusing to lay down arms.

Erroneous comparisons have been made between our new policy and the failed deals reached with tribal militants along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2004 and 2006. Those agreements were signed after militant groups bruised Pakistan's security forces in battle. Now we are negotiating from a position of strength.

This is laughably and ludicrously false. It is the
complete opposite of what the situation on the ground is. Whether or not you agree with negotiating with militants, no one can argue that Pakistan is doing so from a position of strength. Militant groups have made daily life in Pakistan a living hell, with an average of one suicide bombing per week last year and a similar rate this year. Indeed, it is because of their success that the government is negotiating with them. To pretend otherwise is just insulting our intelligence.

There's Always Next Year (Or Is There?): Thoughts On Barca And Phoenix

Really quick before I go to bed:

I watched the fourth quarter of Phoenix-San Antonio. There is absolutely, positively, no doubt about the reason the Suns lost: Steve Nash. He had three or four really costly turnovers in the space of about three minutes, missed a couple of shots, and didn't take command at crunch time the way we have grown used to him doing so. It wasn't just this game either; he was stymied this whole series by Bruce Bowen and his buddies. When considering Nash's place in the game, ask yourself this: do truly great players, I mean super-duper-stars, ever get taken out of an entire series? Right, didn't think so. I think it's time to face the facts, as difficult and sad as they may be: Nash and the Suns are done. He looked old, slow, and worst, incompetent in this series, and next year will only be worse. Thanks for an absolute blast these last four years, guys.

I also watched the whole of Barca-United. First, my heartiest congratulations to regular reader Asfand. United were the better team on the day and they deserved to go through, notwithstanding Barca's domination of possession. Barca simply lacked that cutting edge in the final third. Time after time, I found myself pining for Ronaldinho. Not this year's fat, lazy, and uncommitted version. I'm talking about the '06 Ronaldinho, the guy who got standing ovations at the Bernabeu and played the game with a mix of intensity and joy that I have never seen replicated by any other athlete in any other sport. In this game, Barca got a multitude of free-kicks in Ronaldinho territory; moreover they were times when Messi was looking to link up with someone up front, and sadly Eto'o simply wasn't up for it. Messi and Ronaldinho have shared a prolific, and poetic, partnership these last few years. It's sad that it wasn't there today, on the grandest of stages, and it's sadder that it won't be there at all next year, when Ronnie's in Milan, London, or Manchester (City).

Nawaz Sharif = Nonsensical But Highly Entertaining

Behold! The non-bald Lion of Punjab speaks! All ye mortals, settle down and pay attention! My comments in parentheses.
When told that the deadline set in the Murree Declaration had almost approached as only one day was left, Nawaz said sometimes the work is done in a minute. (I guess we can lay to rest the whole "Rome wasn't built in a day" proverb).

He categorically said the reinstatement of the judges is the most crucial issue facing the people of Pakistan. (Actually, I'm pretty sure the food and electricity crises are the most crucial issues facing the people of Pakistan. Then comes the threat of militancy and terrorism. You've got to put inflation in there too. Now that I think about it, I don't think anyone other than Nawaz Sharif and the Geo Banner Guy care about the judges).

He said price hike afflicting the people was the result of the policies of the previous government.(If you include global climate patterns, and the whole "demand and supply" thing under the rubric of "policies of the previous government").

He said he would meet Zardari at lunch on Wednesday. (Don't forget the jalaybee for dessert!)

He said the third component of the Murree Declaration was that the judges would be restored through a parliamentary resolution. “There is no ambiguity in this regard. We are determined to fully implement the Murree Declaration for the progress of Pakistan. Otherwise, we would remain in the shackles of slavery,” he observed. (Um, ok. I don't even have a snarky comment for this one).

“The people had given mandate to the political parties to get rid of a dictator, who was responsible for poverty, unemployment and lawlessness,” he stated and observed the people were not prepared to forgive a person who bulldozed all institutions including parliament and the judiciary. (Too. Much. Irony. Must. Resist. Temptation.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Some Questions Concerning The Deal With Mehsud's Militants

Thinking out loud:

What's changed since the fall of 2006? What hasn't?

You will recall that less than two years ago, Musharraf and the military struck a deal with tribal leaders in FATA. It did not work, primarily because neither side could credibly stick to its commitments, and, in classic spiral-model terms, any infringement was seen not as an isolated issue but an opportunity to make a stand and thus be more firm than was necessary in response. Escalation, rather than restraint and concessions, was the name of the game.

So what has changed? We can divide this question into two. First, the structure under which the two parties - the state of Pakistan and militant groups - are interacting. The militant groups have demonstrated their strength in the last eighteen months, and have shown they can wreak havoc on Pakistan's people, infrastructure, and everyday life. So the relative strength and weaknesses of the agents in interaction are a lot clearer - we know who we're dealing with, and they know that we know who we're dealing with.

The second half of the answer concerns the actors and their preferences. First, it is no longer a politically vulnerable but militarily gung-ho Pervez Musharraf calling the shots. Instead, it is the politically gung-ho but militarily circumspect duo of Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif in charge. Second, the previous deal was made with tribal elders who were expected to exercise some control over militant groups operating in the area. By contrast, this deal is made with the militants themselves.

In sum, the relevant changes from the fall of 2006 are: (a) a clearer and more informative environment vis-a-vis the militants' organizational capacity, (b) the preferences of one party (the government of Pakistan), and (c) the identity of the other party (from tribal elders to militant groups).

What hasn't changed since the fall of 2006? First, the pressure Pakistan feels from the international community (read: Uncle Sugar) on tackling the militants has less to do with Pakistan's security than Afghanistan's. The deal made, just to reiterate, says nothing about militants ceasing violent activities across the border. In other words, there's nothing stopping the militants from doing exactly what put Pakistan in this position in the first place. Second, there still exists among the mid- and lower levels of the military and ISI a sympathy for the cause of the militants, a sympathy that sometimes extends to outright support. Third, it remains the stated policy of the U.S. and its NATO allies to stabilize Afghanistan with armed support, and it remains the stated policy of militant groups operating on the border regions to make that task all but impossible.

Whichever of the factors you consider more important and crucial to the violence - those that have changed vs. those that haven't - will probably determine your opinion on whether or not the deal will work.

What do the Americans think about all this?

See if you can make sense of the following two statements. Here's Dana Perino, White House spokesperson:

We are concerned about it and what we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any security or military operations that are ongoing in order to help prevent a safe haven for terrorists there.”

And here's Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher:
It is important to negotiate with the tribes to end violence, to end suicide bombings and to end the plotting and planning that happens (in the tribal areas).

My guess? That the U.S. is simply kicking the can down the road, aware that it has less leverage with this government than the last (at this juncture anyway) and also aware that any strong displeasure at the deal should be expressed privately more so than in the public eye.

What does "success" mean? Is Pakistan thinking tactically or strategically?

At best, this deal will reduce violence inside Pakistan. Many will think that violence in Pakistan against Pakistanis is all the government of Pakistan should be concerned with, and so that scenario would be an unmitigated success. I won't say here whether I agree or disagree with that assessment. Rather, I will ask two questions:

First, is Pakistan treating this as a tactical move or a strategic move? In other words, is the deal an end in and of itself, or is part of a wider plan to eradicate the area of all militants, not just "foreign" ones? (An aside: in an area that is a de facto if not de jure autonomous state, what constitutes "foreign"?)

Second, what happens if the militants in the area, left to their own devices, continue to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan? What if they take it a step further, and we see another 7/7 or 9/11 originating directly from territory Pakistan is supposed to control? I'm not asking from a normative standpoint - I know there will be enough people out there who would respond to another 9/11 with a "Who cares, they've done enough killing in the last few years to have earned it". I'm asking from a predictive standpoint: are the people of Pakistan and its government prepared to deal with the consequences, whatever they may be, of such an eventuality?

The answers to these questions, I think, constitute the logic for either being behind this deal or being against it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Breaking News: Zia's Plane Crash Not Due To Technical Failure

Apparently, some form of human interference may have been involved.
ISLAMABAD: The death of former president Ziaul Haq in a C-130 plane crash was an act of sabotage and was not caused by any technical fault, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Technical Investigator Naseem Ahmad said on Thursday.

Addressing the ‘Media Training Workshop on Aircraft Accidents Investigations’ organised by the CAA at a local hotel, Naseem said that around 82 percent aircraft accidents occurred because of human error and not technical problems. “It was not a technical problem,” he replied to a question regarding the 1988 air crash, which killed Ziaul Haq and over two dozen senior military officers.

The Barcelona Way

Just wanted to quickly post this Xavi interview, which was fascinating for its insight. Remember, Xavi is a local boy, having joined the club when he was a kid, so he embodies everything about the club and its essence. (Note: this interview was taken before the first leg).
Chelsea and Liverpool offer a more practical football, more direct, stronger physically. But Manchester United are close to us in the way they understand the game. They also want to keep the ball, to pass to arrive in the rivals’ box, to pressure the opposition in their own half.

Football is becoming a very fast game, very physical, full of hard workers, it is all about the second balls. It has become successful to play like that and that saddens me. I am from a school of technical football, of touching the ball, of passing, which I think fans appreciate more. Let’s see who will win at the end because the final in Moscow will have a representative of those two contrasting styles.


Thinking that you are going to come to put me under pressure, but I know my next move, my next pass. Have a team that moves constantly without the ball. Pass the ball not with the first touch, but with half a touch. We can all be physical, but not everybody can be technically adept, that needs training and faith in that style. This way of playing has got much more merit.

He's not kidding. When they're on song, there's no team in the world that's better to watch. Like he says, football is supposed to be about the ball moving 100 miles per hour, not the player. No team exemplifies that spirit more than Barca.

It's why I support them. I started watching football pretty late (in my late teens) and didn't really have a team for a while. But one day, I caught the Chelsea-Barcelona game in 2005 (the second leg, at Stamford Bridge, the day Ronaldinho did this) and was instantly drawn to them. They went down three goals within 20 minutes and lost, both on the day and on aggregate, but they had a new fan. Watching them string passes together, players cutting and finding space, always looking up, none of that long-ball bullshit, it was beautiful.

Anyway, go read the interview, it's really interesting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wallowing In Self-Pity Quote Of The Day

Poor T-Mac:

It's my fault. It's my fault we missed free throws. It's my fault we lost both games. Blame me. It's my fault we fouled to tie the game up. That's my fault. It's my fault they get easy layups. It's my fault we're not executing well on the offensive end. It's my fault a couple people in the stands ordered Heinekens and they got Budweiser. It's my fault. I'm sorry. I am serious. It's my fault. Everything is my fault. It's my fault. It's T-Mac's fault. Everybody's blaming me. The Suns (for being down 2-0 to the Spurs). I mean, everybody. That's what it seems like. It's my fault. I'm out there by myself.

I think he should just save himself the trouble next year and ensure his team doesn't make the playoffs.

The Inside Scoop On Isiah's Tenure In New York

More here.

Barcelona 0 - Manchester United 0

Just a couple of quick thoughts on what transpired this afternoon:

Honestly, if you had told me before the game that it would end nil-nil, I would've been satisfied. Not pleased, but satisfied. Given the wretched run of form Barca has endured (something like 1 win in their last 11 domestic games or something) and the purple patch United seem to have hit, I was prepared for the worst. In Cup competitions, 0-0 at home in the first leg is not the most terrible result in the world. You go away, you take your chances, and if you score first, suddenly all the pressure is on the opposition because they need two, thus further opening up chances for you to increase your lead. More importantly, it was refreshing to see Barca actually look like the team they used to, and play to their potential, stringing passes together and controlling the middle of the pitch.

That said, Barca should have won the game. They dominated all but the first seven or eight minutes, and the game was almost exclusively played in United's half after Barca's shaky start (more on the penalty in just a second). You can't shake the feeling that they're going to regret not taking a lead into Old Trafford. United's defense is only going to get better with the return of Vidic in the second leg, and Barca are not going to enjoy the luxury of possession they just enjoyed at the Camp Nou.

Finally, what about the penalty? Well, it couldn't have happened to a more fitting candidate. Honestly, I respect the hell out of Cristiano Ronaldo, I think he's a fantastic player, perhaps the world's best, but really, I can't stand the dude. The meterosexual eyebrows, the prancing around before and during the game, the mock indignation at non-fouls and non-penalties (the Marquez play was not a penalty, it wasn't even close), and finally, the 14 liters of gel he applies in his hair - all of this adds up to someone I detest. Again, he's an absolutely phenomenal player. But he's also a phenomenal douche. And I really have no idea what he was trying to do with that spot kick; I think he couldn't decide whether he wanted to smash it or place it, and furthermore, he couldn't decide whether he wanted it in the top right corner or at shoulder height.

Thankfully, next week I'll actually be able to watch the game on a large screen television, as opposed to my laptop screen on mute during a three-hour seminar called Nationalism in the Age of Globalization.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh, Snap!

India tells the U.S. to talk to the hand:
The foreign ministry said neither India nor Iran needed external guidance on how to conduct bilateral relations.

It said relations between the two spanned centuries, and they were capable of handling them with due care.

Earlier, a senior US official said Washington would welcome India telling Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to curtail Tehran's nuclear programme.

President Ahmadinejad is due to visit Delhi next week.


"India and Iran are ancient civilisations whose relations span centuries. Both nations are perfectly capable of managing all aspects of their relationship with the appropriate degree of care and attention," Navtej Sarna, a foreign ministry spokesman, was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper as saying.

"Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations as both countries believe that engagement and dialogue alone lead to peace," he added.

Somewhere, Ayaz Amir just had an aneurysm.

Wednesday Poll: Centers Of The World And Global Warming

Thanks to Naqiya's snide comments, I will merely list the results from last week's poll and move on to this week's question.

We asked which city is most likely to replace New York, if any, as the center of the world by 2030. The results were as follows:

Shanghai - 29%
Dubai - 24%
London - 18%
New York - 18%
Mumbai - 5%
Moscow - 3%

This week, we want your opinion on global warming and the threat it poses to humankind. What do you think the future holds? Are we doomed because how acute the problems of collective action, free riding, and natural shortsightedness are? Or do you believe that since human ingenuity has figured out solutions to most problems in the past, we'll figure this one out too? Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

File This In The "Alright, Good Luck With That" Department

From today's Dawn:
ISLAMABAD, April 21: The government has decided to ban carrying of and display of weapons as part of its policy of maintaining peace.

A plan in this regard would be made public in a couple of days, Adviser to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik told Dawn on Monday.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lionel Messi(ah)

Given how far Barca have fallen this season, everyone knows there's one way, and one way only, that they're getting through United: the Flea.

With that in mind, I just wanted to post a couple of stories on the wunderkid and some tidbits from said stories.

As some of you probably know, Messi - still only 20, remember - was diagnosed with a hormonal deficiency when he was a kid. Doctors said he wouldn't grow past 4'7". The treatment for the condition was financially well beyond Messi's family, especially given the fact that Argentina's economy was in the throes of a massive crisis in those days. Even his local club said they couldn't/wouldn't pay the $900 a month it required. In stepped Barca, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, to go back in time for a second, here's what happened his first day at school:
His first day at school saw him excluded from the playground kickabout on the basis that neither team thought him worth having on their side [because of his height]. Incensed, he barged on to the pitch, took command of the ball and dribbled around both teams. Thereafter, he became the first pick.

Here's what he had to say about Cristiano Ronaldo:
"Cristiano is a great player," said Messi nonchalantly, when quizzed. The best in the world? Messi just returned an impudent smile. "Very good," he replied.

Heh. Here's Messi on the urgency he felt when he was diagnosed with his condition:
It was a crisis. “I needed medical treatment and it couldn’t wait,” recalls Messi. “I was 1.32m (4ft 4in) tall and 11 years-old. It wasn’t an issue of vanity.” To look at the 20-year-old Messi is to be assured that this is not a man troubled by vanity. He wears his hair in a floppy mop, dresses in faded jeans and whatever tracksuit or T-shirt his sponsor hangs on him.

To be sure. Here's Juan Sebastian Veron on Messi:
"I see Maradona every time he grabs the ball and accelerates. But he is shy, like a little brother who likes to hang out with PlayStation rather than talk. We must protect him. I'd personally put him in a drawer of my bedside table."

And here's Messi himself, on his child-like inability to follow advice:
Ronaldinho, Deco, and Juan VerĂ³n, when I'm with the national team, always tell me I should dribble when I'm near the area and pass when I'm further away, otherwise opponents can foul me knowing I won't get a dangerous free-kick or a penalty. I do try to take their advice, but the trouble is I really like playing with the ball at my feet.

Here's the cutest ad you'll ever see a professional athlete in. Honestly, sometimes you just want to pull his cheeks.

And to wrap this up, here's that goal against Getafe last year:

Let's hope Wednesday goes ok.

Quote Of The Day (Supply-Sider Edition)

Wow, those guys really hate government, huh?
There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.

That, by the way, was Milton Friedman (via India Uncut).

By the way, I don't think it's a coincidence that people in relatively cushy environments can deride government so. If you're rich and successful, you don't need the police; you hire private security. If you're rich and successful, you don't need public schools; you send your kids to the most exclusive and high-priced schools available. If you're rich and successful, you don't need government health-care; you get the best private care in the world.

I'm no socialist, I promise you. In particular, I do think sometimes government intervention can do more harm than good, and I do think some problems are better left to the private sector than the public. But it is quite shocking some times the extent to which some people will take that logic (especially at, ahem, one particular Econ department), and simply presume that all government is inherently bad. The problems of externalities and collective action are all too-easily assumed or deduced away.

Anyway, all this reminds me of another quote, this time from Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France during the end of World War I: "Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Breaking News: Nerds And Dumbasses Don't Get Laid In High School

Some earth-shattering revelations from a scientific study:
The team looked at 1000s of representative teens grades 7-12 in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and The Biosocial Factors in Adolescent Development datasets, both of which include an IQ test, and include detailed sexual experience questions ranging from hand-holding to intercourse. As with the other study there was a curvilinear relationship: students with IQs above 100 and below 70 were significantly less likely to have had intercourse than those in between. Also like the other study, they found teens with IQs ranging from 75 to 90 had the lowest probability of virginity (the authors note this is also the same IQ range where propensity towards crime peaks).

Thanks to Lindsey for passing this along.

San Antonio-Phoenix, Game 1

The Suns will be absolutely kicking themselves. They made five critical mistakes that cost them the game:

1. Up three at the end of regulation, there's no one you'd rather want with the ball than Steve Nash, whose combination of decision-making, free throw shooting, jump shooting, court vision, and dribbling skills make him absolutely invaluable. But he inexplicably forgot about the shot-clock, and turned it over, giving San Antonio enough time to...

2. I will never, ever, EVER understand why teams don't foul when they're up three. Why would you give anyone a chance to hit a three to force overtime? Why? Why? If they foul there, Phoenix turns the game into a free-throw shooting contest. Phoenix were 4th in the league in that category, San Antonio 15th. I'd take my chances under those circumstances. I mean you want to give credit to Michael Finley for hitting a HUGE three, but really, it should never have come to that.

3. Up three at the end of overtime, Nash hits Amare on a pick and roll, just below the foul line. Ordinarily he'd rise up and hit that, no problems at all. But he decides to drive into traffic, commit an offensive foul, give the Spurs possession, and foul out of the game. Just a brilliant all-round play by STAT. This gives the Spurs enough time to...

4. You know that old saying "Once bitten, twice shy"? Well, clearly Mike D'Antoni hasn't. WHEN YOU'RE UP THREE AND THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL, FUCKING FOUL THEM BEFORE THEY SHOOT. Is this really that complicated? Again, to be fair, Duncan hit a fairly miraculous shot (his first three all season) but it shouldn't have come to that.

5. At the end of the second overtime, after Nash hit an amazing shot to tie it (one leg, falling out of bounds in the corner, three, nothing but net), the Spurs isoed Ginobili. Everyone and their mother knows he's going to go left. So what does Raja Bell do? Play him straight up. Again, completely inexplicable. Force him right into help, for God's sake.

Like I said, the Suns will be kicking themselves. They were up 16 in the first half, up 9 in the 4th, hell they were up 5 with a minute left in OT, and they lost. A golden opportunity, right there. Can they recover? Probably. But man...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Jahil Zardari

Pakistan has become so rogerred by its politicians that Pakistanis don’t even care if their political leaders are exposed as lying cheating scumbags. Take for example the recent unveiling of Mr. Zardari as a fraudster and dumbass extraordinaire.

Senator Prophet Asif Zardari, leader of the ruling political party of the country and the great unifier of this nation is revealed to have lied about his academic credentials. Mr. Zardari claims, in official records, that he is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Business. Trouble is, such an institution does not exist. There is a London School of Economics and there is a London Business School but they have yet to have a one night stand (stupid conservatives!) that produces an off-spring called the London School of Economics and Business.

Mr. Zardari refusing to bow down to this Zionist conspiracy has reiterated that the Degree is legit. He must be right, why else would the PPP official spokesperson also support this claim?

Here’s an excerpt from Dawn that makes it impossible to refute Mr. Zardari's claims:

In a written response to questions by this correspondent, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said: “All that I can share with you on the basis of my information is that Mr Zardari passed his examination and qualified from Cadet College Petaro, Dadu. It was not a degree as the Petaro college is not a degree college.”

When asked about the institution from where Mr Zardari received his degree, he said "Mr Zardari studied business and economics in a school in London now called (the) London School of Economics and Business."

The PPP claims that Mr. Zardari received his graduation or equivalent degree in 1976 from this school.

Mr Babar said that academic qualifications from London School of Economics and Business were said to be equivalent to a degree, but he did not know the ‘exact title’ of Mr Zardari’s degree and address of the institution.

Stupid journos, asking for addresses and degree titles; who needs that shit! It’s 2008 baby, its all online! Dumbass, backward Pakistanis - how quaint though, bless them.

Can you imagine if it was revealed that Hillary, Obama or McCain lied about their education and submitted fake degrees from bogus institutions? You can’t, because they’re not stupid to pull of such a retarded stunt (well maybe Hillary is).

Zardari is in a league of his own not because he lied about his education or that he may have submitted forged documents – he’s a politician after all. The thing that makes Zardari a Jahil is him screwing up the name of the institution and that he couldn’t comprehend that anyone with internet could find out that he was lying. Or perhaps, more likely, he just doesn't give a fuck.

This of course is not the first time that Zardari has lied ("I did not get Murtaza killed"), sadly it also not the first time that a Pakistani politician has been caught with his pants down about his supposed education. The televangelist Amir Liaquat Hussain, a former MQM MNA and the then Minister of State for Religious Affairs, was exposed as a fraudster by Jamaat’s mouthpiece Daily Ummat. According to the Pakistan Tribune Mr. Liaquat received a Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies, a Masters of Arts in Islamic Studies and a PhD of Philosophy in Islamic Studies from Trinity College and University – a ‘degree’ awarding online institution.

Mr. Liaquat is quite proud of his academic achievements and openly touts these Degrees as a symbol of his modern-ness and his doctor-ness – he has an online PhD after all! In fact he’s so proud of this whole online thing that he calls his show, shown daily on GEO, Aalim Online.

Now get ready for the best part of this – Aalim Online Dr. Amir Liaquat received his MA on March 15th 2002 and his PhD on April 5th 2002. That’s 21 days for a PhD. Ahsan, dude, you must be a real dumbass for taking so long; in fact, by my calculations, you are 70 times stupider than Dr. Liaquat (that is if the PhD only takes you 4 years after the MA,).

The thing is I don’t particularly care if a politician has a degree or not, an education can only teach you so much. But I do care when a politician has absolutely no respect for the public and considers them to be idiots.

Here’s hoping for a day when Pakistani politicians care enough for their people to invest some more time in their lies.

NBA Playoffs Preview

Because I’m smack bang in the middle of preparing for the IR exam in June, I won’t be able to do as in-depth a preview of the NBA playoffs as I would like. So this is how this is going to work. I’ve going to write a few words about each series. This will be followed by three sets of predictions: mine, Nikhil’s and Zeyd’s. Each of us will receive 5 points for correctly predicting a series winner, and 3 further points for correctly predicting the number of games in the series. At the end of the first-round – and perhaps at the end of the playoffs, if we choose to carry forward this enterprise – we will have a winner, who will win a yet to be announced material reward and bragging rights. Understand? Good.

Without further ado:


1. L.A. Lakers vs. 8. Denver Nuggets

As a Nuggets (well, really, Allen Iverson) fan, there were only two teams that I absolutely, positively did not want to draw in the playoffs. The first were the Spurs. The second were the Lakers. This is because of my belief that if the talent levels of two teams are fairly equal, teams with a system will always beat teams without a system in a 7-game series. In the case of the Lakers, even the talent levels don’t really match up. Kobe’s playing the best ball of his career, they have the perfect second scorer for the triangle, a post-up guy who can hit the 18 footer for good measure, and the perfect cast of role-players, guys who can hit shots (Vujacic, Farmar), pass and generally make smart plays (Walton), hustle and bring the crowd into it (Fisher, Turiaf), and the ultimate enigma who’s perfect as the third best player on a team (Odom). Exacerbating all this is the fact that George Karl is not exactly a match for Phil Jackson, and I can’t really see the Nugs putting up much of a challenge in this series. I’m giving them two games, one in which AI and Melo carry them, and one in which Kobe tries to do too much in a close game, forgetting what got the Lakers to this point in the first place, and shoots them out of it.

Ahsan’s prediction: L.A. wins 4-2

Nikhil’s prediction: L.A. wins 4-1

Zeyd’s prediction: Denver wins 4-2

2. New Orleans Hornets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks

I am completely torn about this series. There’re so many conflicting factors to consider. In New Orleans’ favor: they have the best player in the series, they have home-court, they’re younger, they’re hungrier, and they have a coach who, despite all his faults, went to the Finals twice going up against a coach whose team flamed out in the first round last year because he made bad decisions. In Dallas’ favor: they have the been-there-done-that feel, the pressure’s off them (hugely important for a team that folds under pressure), they’re playing a team which is extremely inexperienced at this level, they’ve finally figured out how to incorporate Kidd into their game, and their team defense sets are among the league’s best when playing a predictable half-court team like the Hornets. I think the longer this series goes, the more it’s going to favor New Orleans; my only fear for the Hornets is that the series won’t go long enough for them to get acclimated to the playoffs.

Ahsan’s prediction: Dallas wins 4-2

Nikhil’s prediction: Dallas wins 4-3

Zeyd’s prediction: New Orleans wins 4-3

3. San Antonio Spurs vs. 6. Phoenix Suns

My goodness, what have the basketball gods served up here? IR exam, Shy-R exam, I’m not missing a minute of this series. The history, the animosity, the star power, the prime-time factor: this series is the Leningrad/Moscow of this season’s Western playoffs – the cataclysmic struggle that only marks the beginning of a hellacious war.

So who’s going to take it? Well, if you’d asked me two months ago, I would have said San Antonio in a heartbeat. Watching the last game between these teams, however, has made me think differently. I know you should never put too much stock in one game, but Phoenix won a game they never would have pre-Shaq: a grind-it-out game, close in the fourth quarter, on the road. But they pulled it out, and did so in a methodical, almost-Spurs like manner. Furthermore, San Antonio has looked really old this year – all the big shots by guys like Finley and Horry that they’ve relied on for years past seemed to have dried up. The only reason I feel any trepidation is the fact that most of ESPN’s “experts” are picking the Suns too, and in a close series where there’s no favorite, going with what the “experts” say almost always leads to trouble. I’m going to have to take the leap, however, because (a) Phoenix wants it more, (b) Phoenix is pissed off from last year, and (c) the Spurs cannot stop Amare.

Ahsan’s prediction: Phoenix wins 4-2

Nikhil’s prediction: Phoenix wins 4-2

Zeyd’s prediction: San Antonio wins 4-3

4. Houston Rockets vs. 5. Utah Jazz

BORING! This was easily the most soporific series last year – despite going 7 games – and this year figures to be no different. It’s also the easiest to predict – I know of no sane, rational soul who’s picking Houston in this series, 22-win streak and all. Really, who’s going to guard Okur? Plus, Deron might conceivably average 25-13 in this series, playing three quarters. Utah is well-coached, well-led, have an incredibly efficient offense, and their troubles on the road – according to Nikhil anyway – are overplayed. Plus, it’s the playoffs, which means McGrady’s going to shoot 39% from the field and 31% from three, and then make everyone feel sorry for him in the summer by putting it all on himself. Well, whatever. There’s only so much sympathy I can have for someone of his stature who’s missed two legitimate chances to get to the second round, and blew it (against Dallas in ’05 when they won the first two on the road, and against Utah last year).

Ahsan’s prediction: Utah wins 4-1

Nikhil’s prediction: Utah wins 4-2

Zeyd’s prediction: Utah wins 4-2


1. Boston Celtics vs. 8. Atlanta Hawks

Not worth discussing.

Ahsan’s prediction: Boston wins 4-0

Nikhil’s prediction: Boston wins 4-0

Zeyd’s prediction: Boston wins 4-0

2. Detroit Pistons vs. 7. Philadelphia 76ers

I don’t think Detroit is losing this series, but I do think they’re in for a surprise. For one, they’re guaranteed to mail in at least a game, given their strange proclivity for overconfidence at every stage of the season (even the Finals…remember ’05?). For another, this Philly team was one of the league’s six or seven best over the last couple of months of the season, with some huge road wins. Plus Flip Saunders is a terrible coach, always good for one unnecessary loss per series. I say this goes six games.

Ahsan’s prediction: Detroit wins 4-2

Nikhil’s prediction: Detroit wins 4-1

Zeyd’s prediction: Detroit wins 4-1

3. Orlando Magic vs. 6. Toronto Raptors

Another tough series to figure out. On paper, Orlando should blow the Raptors away. But this is Dwight Howard’s first foray into the big time, and who knows how he’ll react? Toronto were in a hard-fought series against Jersey last year and I’m sure the experience helped them no end. At the end of the day, in a close series, you have to look at second-tier factors like home court and the coaching matchup, both of which favor Orlando. But this is a pick I am making with very low levels on confidence, let me tell you.

Ahsan’s prediction: Orlando wins 4-3

Nikhil’s prediction: Orlando wins 4-2

Zeyd’s prediction: Orlando wins 4-1

4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 5. Washington Wizards

This series will depend on one thing, and one thing only: Lebron’s back. If he’s healthy, I don’t care about the Wizards’ recent run, the Cavs’ being an average team after the trade, or Gilbert’s yapping: he’ll just take over in the 4th every game, and that will be that. But his injury makes it more of a toss-up. And the Wizards are better than they’ve been the last couple of years, when they were bounced by this Cleveland team. On the other hand, when you factor in the fact that Caron is only just returning from injury, and that Gilbert still could shake their chemistry with some ill-advised shots at bad times…I don’t know.

Ahsan’s prediction: Cleveland wins 4-3

Nikhil’s prediction: Washington wins 4-2

Zeyd’s prediction: Cleveland wins 4-2

Let the games begin.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Links For Friday

Stuff to read:

Nate McMillan's Blazers were the best team in the league immediately after timeouts. Fascinating piece in the WSJ. (Courtesy the WTB).

Pakistan is sending Afghan refugees home. An incredibly sad story. The UN agrees with me.

After robbing a bank and getting away, should you really try and get on public transport for free? (Hint: the answer is not "yes").

Hey, if athletes can use steroids, why can't scientists use brain-enhancing drugs?

The News tells us that our "Foreing" Minister has refused access to the NCA to any foreign officials. I mean, foreing officials.

Nicholas Schmidle, one of our favorite journalists, returns. He's in Saudi Arabia now.

Despite largely being right on every big question concerning America's security, Obama is being slowly cast as the "wimp" candidate. I swear to God, if the Republicans win this year, the Democrats should fold up and quit. I'm not even joking. They really serve no purpose as a political party if, despite everything being in their favor, they can't pull it out.

This Guy Is An Absolute Asshole, And Is Successful Because Of It

So I was taking a study-break this afternoon when a couple of friends pointed me to the website of a Mr. Tucker Max, which begins with the following introduction:

My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole.

I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.

But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way. I share my adventures with the world. They are known as:

The Tucker Max Stories

Appreciating the temporary escape from the likes of Doyle, Moravcsik, and Simmons, I actually laughed at a couple of his tales, all involving sexual escapades of some sort. It only took me a while, however, to begin feeling disgusted. If these stories are true - and I am agnostic insofar as casting a verdict on their veracity is concerned - then this guy isn't kidding: he really is an asshole. For instance, check this out:

10:20: We station ourselves in the kitchen. A fat girl walks in. It's game time. "Well, say goodbye to all the leftovers."

10:21: Apparently, this fatty seems to think she can hang. The Medina Division made better tactical decisions:

Fatty "What did you say?"
Tucker "Can you not hear me? Are your ears fat too?"
Fatty [Look of astonishment, stares at my friends cracking up] "EXCUSE ME?"
Tucker "I'm sorry. Really I am. [I open the fridge] Would you like cheesecake or chocolate cake? Probably both, I'm guessing."
Fatty [Turns and leaves in utter astonishment]

Tucker has arrived.

There are three things to note here. First, this guy is an absolute prick. Second, he seems to take a certain amount of pride in his words and actions, a pride that is awfully bewildering to me. Third - and here's the kicker - he's successful, only for being an asshole. His book is in Amazon's top 200 for crying out loud.

I don't begrudge most people their success - even Paris Hilton is completely legit in my book - but this is ridiculous. He, like Ann Coulter, is feeding off of a persona that the average person detests and yet - as the numbers suggest - is irrevocably drawn to. The analogy of having to stare at a car wreck or a dog with a broken leg is fitting I think.

I don't really say this about anyone - even my worst enemies - but I really do hope this guy dies a slow and painful death, very soon. Read some of his stories if you think I'm being over the top.

Quote Of The Day

Here's you-know-who on the Nuggets' impending matchup with the Lakers:
This is what it’s about. If you’re scared, get a dog. If you’re scared, go to church.

Even though they're going to lose, I don't think Iverson has ever - and I really do mean ever - gone into a game or series thinking his team's not going to win.

We'll have a mini-playoff preview up soon. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Really Interesting Links

I'm delivering the goods today. You guys will throughly enjoy all of these. If you don't, there's something wrong with you.

The infamous Israel Lobby has a new member, one that hopes to change its right-wing message. Of course, having 1/100th of AIPAC's funding might prove to be an issue. To get a taste of what they're up against, please read this Charles Krauthammer piece, riddled with so much incoherent bullshit that I don't even know where to start.

This is a great story about elevators and about some dude whose life changed - for the worse - after getting stuck in one. The WTB has always said that we should subscribe to the New Yorker when we get married, and stories like this make me more inclined to agree. It's brilliant, but long, so wait until you get home if you're at work (or if you're Faraz, you can read it at work).

Why are there so many more eligible men than women? Slate explains all, with the aid of game theory.

Indians watch "Khuda Kay Liye" and discover Pakistani women are allowed to drive and go to university. They are, of course, shocked beyond comprehension.

I think the U.S. sometimes needs to be reminded Pakistan, despite protestations to the contrary, is not the 52nd state.

And finally, Nawaz Sharit gives an interview to The Guardian. God, he's annoying.

Photograph Of The Day

"I'm going to hand it over!"

"No, I'm going to hand it over!"


"No, me! Let it go, you bastard!"


Photo credit: Mian Khursheed/Reuters

And This Is In A Recession

Now I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about the world of finance. So I'm sure there's a sound explanation for this article on what some hedge fund managers made last year:
The richest hedge fund managers keep getting richer — fast. To make it into the top 25 of Alpha’s list, the industry standard for hedge fund pay, a manager needed to earn at least $360 million last year, more than 18 times the amount in 2002. The median American family, by contrast, earned $60,500 last year.

Combined, the top 50 hedge fund managers last year earned $29 billion.

Read that figure again. Twenty-nine billion dollars. Think of it this way: there's about a 100 different countries in the world whose GDP was less than that. These 50 pricks, in other words, made more than the world's median national GDP.

It's sick. And yes, Nikhil, I'm sure it's what the market dictated. It's still sick.

Who Put The "In" In Thin?

Don't know, but French government is sure as hell trying to take it out.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wouldn't It Be Easier To Ask Who WON'T Leave Barcelona?

Here's a piece on what Barca's summer is likely to look like in terms of player movement. I have to say that none of it is unreasonable or based on fanciful "sources". Those certainly or almost certainly leaving include: Ronaldinho (probably to Milan), Deco (probably to England), Henry (likewise), Zambrotta (back to Italy), Thuram (France or retirement), Sylvinho, Ezquerro, and Edmilson (who the hell cares). In addition, a number of players are likely to have reduced roles or might be politely nudged to the bench or might ask to leave because a lack of opportunities, including Victor Valdes (who cost them three points on the weekend with his idiocy), Carlos Puyol (getting up there), Marquez (prone to mistakes and injuries), Oleguer (a stand up guy and team man, but doesn't get to play), Gudjohnsen (likewise), and dos Santos (big talent, big mouth, small brain).

Oh, well. It was a good run while it lasted with this crew. There's always next year.

Monday, April 14, 2008

NBA Awards

If there's one thing NBA players care about, it's this blog and the opinions contained herein. The following are how I would vote for the big end-of-season awards if I had a vote.

MVP: Chris Paul

You can go look at the numbers (statistically, the best season any point guard, ever, has enjoyed) but really, this is about more than that. Dude's not 23 yet, and put a team which features David West, Tyson Chandler, and Peja Stojakovic as its second, third, and fourth best players, and took it to the top of the most brutal conference in the game's history. Normally if the leader of a come-from-nowhere team is in the running for MVP, it's because his team exceeded expectations and got to, say, the 3rd or 4th seed with little or no help. Chris Paul has kept the Hornets on top of the West the whole goddamn season. Furthermore, in a rare show of unanimity, myself, Nikhil, and Zeyd all agree on something basketball related, which doesn't happen all that often, I can promise you.

Of course, Kobe will win it. But he shouldn't.

Coach of the year: Phil Jackson

As much for everything that happened off the court as on it. He had to (a) placate Kobe at the beginning of the season, (b) babysit Bynum at the beginning of the season, and (c) deal with the massive trade for Gasol in the middle of the season (I don't care how good a trade looks on paper; you've still got to make it work on the floor, and that responsibility falls on the coach). Throughout it all, his Lakers have played defense when they needed to, kept games close when they needed to, and gotten the hell out of Kobe's way when they needed to. And remember, they were atop the West before the Gasol trade.

If Mo Cheeks, Jerry Sloan, or Byron Scott win it, I won't mind terribly.

Rookie of the year: Kevin Durant

Everyone's saying Durant, so I might as well agree with them, even though his shooting numbers are atrocious, and Al Horford has helped his team to the playoffs. Oh well.

Sixth man: Manu Ginobili

No explanation needed, other than to say he's arguably their best fourth quarter player now. Still hate the cunt, though.

Defensive player of the year: Kevin Garnett

Really no explanation needed. If you don't know why, you don't know basketball.

Most improved: Hedo Turkoglu

What a story this guy is. Having exemplified all this soft Sacramento teams from earlier this decade, he's been reborn. Do you know he ranks among the league leaders in fourth quarter points this season? He's the crunch-time option for the ultimate dark-horse in the East. He's rejuvenated his career, and he deserves this.

All NBA first team:

Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire.

All NBA second team:

Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard.

All NBA third team:

Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, Manu Ginobili, Dirk Nowitzki, Marcus Camby.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

MQM v PPP - Hold On To Your Seats

In a bid to hide myself from reality I'd holed myself n my room with a few bags of chips, a book and a few DVDs. Everything was going smoothly till I decided to leave the confines of my room, head over to the lounge and start watching the Man U v Arsenal match. Well I don't care much for this pointless 'sport' and decided to check the news (after watching 88 min of the game). Boy, was my evening about to get a whole lot more fun.

As if stupid Arsenal's stupid loss wasn't enough, Geo was carrying a report on the significance of the appointment of Shoeb Suddle as IG Sindh and its correlationn with MQM's decision to sit in the opposition. Mr. Suddle's professional credentials can not be doubted as he is one of the most experienced police officers of the country and undoubtedly one of the most educated; he has a Bachelors Degree in Law (Punjab), a Masters in Physics (Punjab), a Masters in Criminology (Wales) and a PhD in Criminology specializing in White Collar Crime (Wales). Moreover, Mr. Suddle has extensive cross-agency eexperience; he has worked with the FIA, helped out the NAB and served as Director General of the Intellitgence Bureau. All in all a good CV.

But that's not all. One has to look at the experience segment of Mr. Suddle's CV to realise that something's amiss here. You see, this is not the first time that Mr. Suddle will be serving in Sindh.

Mr. Suddle was appointed by Benazir's notorious Interior Minister Major Gen. (Retd.) Naseerulah Babar as DIG in Karachi and went on to lead the infamous "Operation Clean-Up." (This was a fresh operation in a series of operations that were aimed at ending the MQMs control of Karachi; these crack-downs were extremely violent, both sides being involved in the violence, and had a devastating impact on life in Karachi.) Moreover, Mr. Suddle is a co-accused in the murder of Murtaza Bhutto (interestingly, Mr. Zardari was acquitted in that very case last Wednesday; click here for more).

Let the fun begin.

Shoaib Akhtar Is Like Osama bin Laden, And The PCB Is Like The U.S.

I don't want to comment on the intimate details of the Shoaib-PCB imbroglio. I do, however, want to say a quick word on the reaction(s) to the entire issue, which can broadly be defined as occupying one of two categories. The first is the "he's a complete prick, deserves no sympathy, and had it coming" reaction. This, incidentally, is the position I hold on the matter. The second is the "he's indisciplined at times, but the punishment does not match the crime, he's a matchwinner, and the PCB is chock full of complete chootias" reaction. A surprising number of people hold this view, including a couple of PakPassion loonies (though the vast majority of that crew is on the right side of this debate).

I have a strong suspicion that the people who hold the second position do not do so out of any particular affinity, love, or respect for Shoaib. Instead, their views, I suspect, are rooted in a deep and abiding antipathy toward the PCB. There is of course an obvious analogy to be made here: that of Osama bin Laden and the U.S.

Now before anyone gets their skirts in a twist, please let me state for the record that, no, I do not consider Shoaib to be as vile as a mass-murderous thug, and no, I do not consider the PCB's dimwitted actions remotely as damaging as the Iraq war. This disclaimer is for people who do not understand the definition of, or the concept behind, analogical reasoning.

My point is only this: it's quite funny how some people will end up supporting Mr. X just because Mr. X is presumed to be fighting the good fight against Mr. Y. If Mr. Y is sufficiently unpopular, then Mr. X can get away with an awful lot of shit and still retain a modicum of popularity. This does not mean that Mr. X's favorability ratings do not decline with every retarded incident; only that there will always be a small pocket of people who support Mr. X irrespective of what he does as long as he's perceived to be sticking it to Mr. Y.

This schema can be used to analyze both OBL and Shoaib. By all accounts, they've caused the very people they purport to represent a ton of damage. And yet, for a number of people, they are deified, exclusively because they're seen to be taking on a more powerful and pernicious entity.

Oh, and also: Imran Khan supports them both.

Rush Hour In Japan

This video is absolutely crazy. I can't even begin to describe it, though it bears a striking resemblance to the way my mother packs before going on a trip abroad.

Thanks to the WTB for passing this along.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nerdy Joke Of The Day

Two neoclassical economists are walking down the street. One of them sees a $20 bill, but before he can bend down to pick it up, his colleague says, "Don't bother; if it were really there, someone would have gotten it before us."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Altaf Hussain Resigns as MQM Chief for an Hour

Karachi might want to brace itself. According to Geo News, Altaf Hussain has 'stepped down from the leadership of the MQM', citing his inability to assert control over the riots on the 9th of April. According to his resignation letter (tendered to the Rabita Committee) he is angered and disappointed by the party's failure to keep the peace.

From the report it appears that he has left the explosive issue of his successor to the MQM Rabita Committee. Or then again, he could just take back his resignation, which the party workers at Nine Zero are already chanting for.

On a side note, Altaf's phone-in resignation speech has been interrupted due to technical difficulties, namely the line getting 'cut'.

Geo is desperately trying to speak to the party leadership, but apparently they're all busy trying to get Altaf back on the phone, and the speakers.

There is a lot to be said about the intra-MQM factionalism that contributed (or even led to) the May 12 riots. That same factionalism is likley the main factor that lead to the April 9 riots and now Altaf's apparent resignation. It is no coincidence that these developments immediately followed the recent attempts of reconciliation between the PPP and the MQM.

UPDATE at 16:53 GMT (NB): There has just been an announcement that the MQM Nazims and the MQM MNA's will also resign en-masse unless Altaf Hussain withdraws his resignation. This is all pretty disingenuous.

UPDATE at 17:08 GMT (Ahsan): I don't think this as momentous a development as the headlines would suggest. Altaf Hussain is trying to send a costly signal, to use game theory parlance, of his preferences to cooperate with the PPP. Only it's not actually a costly signal; Altaf Hussain would just have us believe it is. He'll be back - if ever really left - within 24 to 48 hours following mass protests from the MQM faithful and a conciliatory and bhai-bhai phone call from Zardari. But for those of you who live in Karachi or Hyderabad, I'd stay indoors for a while.

UPDATE at 17:33 GMT (NB): Ahsan and Arif Rafiq are proven correct as Altaf withdraws his resignation following much crying and wailing from party supporters and Altaf Hussain. Nice one Altaf Bhai, you had me going for a minute. Albiet 10 days late.

My thanks to Ali Mate for the initial information and updates. And also for the joke above which I have shamelessly appropriated.

UPDATE at 18:35 GMT (Ahsan): Well, that was over quicker than a 16 year-old's first time. If you're going to put on a show, Altaf bhai, at least make it last a little bit longer. What am I going to do for entertainment on the weekend?