Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26, 2013

"I personally believe that Hugo Chávez was murdered by the United States"
-- William Blum

I have been meaning to mention this earlier, but got around to it only now: kudos to William Blum for stating something that is on every progressive's mind but not voiced out loud for fear of being accused of tin-foil hattery.  From the referenced essay:
Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. “Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.”
 Six words for doubters: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013

After seeing that their whining full page ads (grammatical errors, misplaced commas and extra-liberal application of exclamation marks and all -- couldn't such a wealthy industrial house afford a decent copywriter?) failed to elicit any support or sympathy for their cause, the Sahara parivar have resorted to more blatant means: flaunting their political connections by publicizing (through full-page ads, natch) pictures of the movers and shakers who attended the rice-eating ceremony of one of their scions (didn't know the rich and the famous celebrated something as mundane -- and yet out of reach for millions of Indians -- as eating rice; maybe that's why they're rich).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23, 2013

From a column (via Deccan Chronicle) about the Sri Lankan issue:
What’s clear is that India’s ability to influence the course of events in the island nation is negligible. Sources close to the powerful first family have told this writer that they see India as an “irritating gnat that can be smacked away at will”.
This is exactly what's wrong with journalism, something Markandey Katju can train his guns on: quotes -- inflammatory ones, at that -- attributed to anonymous sources that only the journalist is privy to. Do we have any way to distinguish genuine quotes from those that are simply pulled out of journalists' asses, journalists serving interests other than that of the public? We don't, so just stop using such quotes. We may lose the insights that genuine quotes provide, but this is a small price to pay to ensure the integrity of the press. On a side note, the incendiary nature of the quote makes it all the more likely that revealing it to the public is meant to elicit reckless action, either from the government or from jingoistic elements outside.

The CBI inquiry scandal throws up an interesting thought: were the raids/investigations initiated by somebody against the UPA? Maybe somebody with leanings towards the BJP? What better way to make the Congress tie itself into knots, trying simultaneously to condemn the action (and protect its erstwhile allies) and to show that it doesn't pull the CBI's strings? Our politicians' actions are a conspiracy theorist's delight, aren't they?

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

The Cyprus bailout fiasco is being described as " the single most inexplicably irresponsible decision in banking supervision in the advanced world since the 1930s.":
[EU officials who engineered this weekend's Cyprus bank bailout] have weakened – perhaps catastrophically – the principal pillar supporting modern banking. This pillar is deposit insurance. Ordinary savers who had received a solemn assurance that deposits up to 100,000 euros were safe are now being asked to take a haircut. This raises questions about deposit insurance throughout the EU and invites runs on banks not only in the most “financially-challenged” nations such as Greece and Spain but even in Italy and France.
Methinks life will go on. They said the same thing about the sanctity of contracts and the credit markets when holders of Greek bonds were made to take haircuts; the haircuts were 'voluntary' to avoid triggering credit default swap payments.

Welcome to Flight Club, where the only rule is "We make up the rules as we go".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

Leaving aside the emotions, jingoism and nationalism on both sides, what could be a possible solution to the Italian Job controversy? Well, here's a part-pragmatic, part-diplomatic and part-mafioso proposal that our MEA boys can reach out to the Italian government with:
  1. Send the two marines back to India (no, hear us out, seriously).

  2. We will pull strings here to make sure that they will return to Italy for good, within two months. You can trust us on this -- after all, we're talking about a sovereign country here, an upstanding member of the international community that honours its commitments... oh wait, never mind. On to the next point, anyway.

  3. As escrow/guarantee, we will depute one of our respected diplomats -- maybe even the head honcho himself -- to spend the two months in Rome, all expenses paid by us, of course. He/She will return to India only when the marines make it back to Italy. Heck, the same flight can do both legs of the journey, with the personnel exchange being witnessed on the tarmac by a designated and disinterested third party. We know we're preaching to the choir, but still: if you have any clarifications, please refer to The Godfather for modalities and variations on the theme.

  4. Coming to how we will pull off #2 above, the case against the two marines is not watertight, anyway. If there's still any uncertainty, leave it to us; we have handled such things before.

  5. To sweeten the deal, and to pacify the natives, please deposit a sum of Rs 20 crores as compensation to the victims' families. The Rs 6 crore bank guarantee can be adjusted against this amount, of course.

  6. If you would like to discuss this further, or propose changes, discuss logistics, etc., please don't hesitate to either call us at our toll-free number 1-800-WE-MAKE-DEALS or email us at mea@top-secret.gov.in. Thank you.