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Archive for April, 2009

LTTE Supremo: Dead or Alive?

April 30, 2009 Leave a comment

With LTTE getting increasingly desperate with every passing hour, it looks like the endgame is just around the corner. The question that is on my mind is this:  will the LTTE supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, be captured alive?

The fact that the Sri Lankan forces are not likely to reach his hideout without a fierce battle indicates that he is not likely to live to see the insides of a courtroom. A stray bullet might get him, even if he doesn’t bite a cyanide capsule.

On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government would probably want to put him on trial to (a) prevent him from becoming a martyr; and (b) to show how ordinary and non-Saviour he is (everybody is ordinary in jail).

Let me know how the hive is buzzing on this one:

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Secede, Texas, Secede

April 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Funny things keep happening in America. Texas, it seems, has never stopped dreaming about secession from the USA. A few days ago, the Governor of Texas – Mr. Rick Perry – refused to rule it out as an option for Texas:

“There’s a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said. “We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.” [HuffPo]

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker translates that into “New Yorkese”: “Nice little Union you got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” Heh.

He then goes on to speculate about how things might turn out if Texas and friends (“Federated States”) actually did secede from the Union:

The Federated States, meanwhile, could get on with the business of protecting the sanctity of marriage, mandating organized prayer sessions and the teaching of creationism in schools, and giving the theory that eliminating taxes increases government revenues a fair test. Although Texas and the other likely F.S. states already conduct some eighty-six per cent of executions, their death rows remain clogged with thousands of prisoners kept alive by meddling judges. These would be rapidly cleared out, providing more prison space for abortion providers. Although there might be some economic dislocation at first, the F.S. could remedy this by taking advantage of its eligibility for OPEC membership and arranging a new “oil shock.” Failing that, foreign aid could be solicited from Washington. But the greatest benefit would be psychological: freed from the condescension of metropolitan élites and Hollywood degenerates, the new country could tap its dormant creativity and develop a truly distinctive Way of Life. [New Yorker]

There is a lot more where that excerpt came from. Read the whole thing, as they say.

The movement for Texas to secede is gaining support though. Among non-Texan Americans, that is.

Meanwhile, the patriotic Texan – Governor Perry – has requested federal aid to stop Swine Flu:

Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. Currently, three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Texas. [San Marcos Record]

Gov. Perry should have known – the karmic bitch is all bite, no bark.

Categories: Random Thoughts Tags: , ,

Trendwatch: Hitler’s Rising Popularity

April 28, 2009 Leave a comment

UK’s Telegraph reports that business students in India are snapping up copies of Hitler‘s autobiography Mein Kampf. An excerpt from the story filed by Monty Munford:

Booksellers told The Daily Telegraph that while it is regarded in most countries as a ‘Nazi Bible’, in India it is considered a management guide in the mould of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”.

Sales of the book over the last six months topped 10,000 in New Delhi alone, according to leading stores, who said it appeared to be becoming more popular with every year.

Several said the surge in sales was due to demand from students who see it as a self-improvement and management strategy guide for aspiring business leaders, and who were happy to cite it as an inspiration. [Telegraph]

Did you notice something? “Booksellers told”, “according to leading stores”, and “several said”. Where are the authentic sources?

The report does quote two of the six publishers who publish Mein Kampf in India, but no retailers are quoted. Nor are any students who have actually purchased the book. While trying to explain the “trend”, a professor of Philosophy from a university in Nagaland is quoted (who seems to have a political thesis to push) but no professors from business schools are quoted even though their students are the ones who are reportedly causing the apparent “surge in sales”. There aren’t any quotes from professors based in New Delhi either, where more than 10,000 copies of the book were sold in 6 months last year (no publisher would inflate sales numbers for one of its own books, right?).

So there you have it: no quotes from booksellers, no quotes from book-buyers, no quotes from relevant professors, and no authentic data either. Even the anecdotal evidence is unsatisfactory.

This is not to say that the book doesn’t do well in India. I have seen copies on pavement stalls in Delhi for as long as I can remember. Never noticed it in a “leading” store though. If we were to go by shaky anecdotal evidence alone, since that seems to be the standard employed by Telegraph, then the book has always been mildly successful in India: those pavement sellers can’t afford to stock books that don’t do well, can they?

The Overlord Verdict: Fake Trend. There is probably no real “surge” in sales, and the book is not read widely either. In fact, I am yet to meet anyone who claims to have read it, leave alone find it inspiring (this is not to say that such people don’t exist, just that I am yet to run into one). Don’t buy the book, read its Wikipedia entry instead (if you are really curious).

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Categories: Rant Tags: , ,

Fake IPL Player Blog

April 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Apparently, a player/official from Kolkata Knight Riders is writing a blog (Fake IPL Player) with loads of insider gossip etc. Sample:

Before the skipper went out to toss, I had a first-hand experience of what made Lordie such an accomplished captain during his time. He took over the match briefing, and boy, was he charged up or what. He just let loose, telling the boys what is expected of them, telling them that they are part of the best team in IPL and they need to stand up and be counted. (I must tell you that I stood up right at that moment, but I don’t think the counting was on then). And he has balls too. Imagine the slowest member of the team chastising guys twice as fast on matters such as agility, speed and throwing. [Fake IPL Player]

Quite naturally, word “leaked” and now this blog is all the rage (I got tipped off a couple of days ago by a good friend on Facebook). The hunt to find this “traitor” is on.

In my opinion, it is unlikely to be a player. If only because only a complete fool would risk his career with such a move (and continue even as the powers-that-be are looking for him). Remember Fake Steve Jobs? Yeah, that one turned out to be a journalist. I am guessing that this is also a journalist, who perhaps has some insider access (family member even).

In case you feel like following the blog, use this handy guide to all the code names used by the Fake IPL Player (Lordie = Saurav Ganguly, Big Sister = Shilpa Shetty, and Little Monster = Sachin Tendulkar, for example).

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Word of the Day: Moasting

April 22, 2009 1 comment

It combines moaning and boasting. Yeah, imagine that.

From Tom Hodgkinson’s book The Idle Parent, excerpted at Slate:

What we so often observe in the old-fashioned cultures is a stoical attitude to life, an inspiring lack of self-pity. What you get in rich societies, by contrast, is a hell of a lot of moaning. My friend John Lloyd, the producer of such TV shows as Blackadder and Spitting Image, has observed a phenomenon at dinner parties which he calls “moasting,” an unpleasant combination of moaning and boasting. Complaining about the chalet girl in Gstaad, or about poor treatment at the hands of Virgin Upper Class, or how the Eton English master is not up to scratch. To bring two unpleasant phenomena into one intensely awful new form of whinge takes a particularly British form of negative genius. [Slate]

Tangentially Related Reading: The Wail of the 1% by Gabriel Sherman (and Chris Lehman’s brilliant response Rich People Things)

Update (Apr 23, 2009): Also read Confessions of a TARP Wife.

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Colbert Endorses Tharoor

April 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Stephen Colbert endorsed Shashi Tharoor (and Slumdog Millionaire) a few days ago.

There is such a thing as Colbert Bump (a more serious examination of the phenomenon – pdf link). And Shashi Tharoor, a “friend of the show” as Colbert put it, has made a couple of appearances on the Colbert Report. However, the idea of there being any impact of Colbert’s endorsement on Indian elections is rather funny (which is what it was meant to be, I guess).

But it is good to see influential people like Stephen Colbert paying attention to Indian elections. Both Colbert and Jon Stewart have had some commentary on Indian elections (including in the segment with Indians being crowned as the next overlords of Americans). Given the kind of influence these two have on the American political discourse, it is useful to have them “cover” India regularly, even if it is a bit superficial.

The more obvious Colbert/Stewart bump might be that they would expose more Americans to non-stereotypical discussions about India. That can only be good.

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Election Prediction Game from Rediff

April 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Rediff has created an election prediction game. It is a cool mapplet that lets people predict the winner in each constituency.

Play the Rediff Election Game!
So you think you are an expert on politics?
As the world’s biggest democratic exercise gets underway, here’s your big chance to test your knowledge.

Which political party do you think will win from where? Use your political knowledge to cast your vote, and see how close you mirror the reality on May 16, when the 15th Lok Sabha elections will be known. [Rediff]

I tried to register my vote for a couple of constituencies last night, and the widget works quite well. The only drawback seems to be that you can’t see a view with just your predictions. The only view available is that of aggregate predictions.

However, I was surprised to note that both my predictions were in complete contrast with the majority market voice on Rediff for those constituencies. Then I checked the overall picture (I hadn’t realised earlier that it was the only view available):

Rediff Screenshot - 18/4/09, 1915 IST

Rediff Screenshot - 18/4/09, 1915 IST

And about 8 hours later:

Rediff Screenshot - 19/4/09, 0315 IST

Rediff Screenshot - 19/4/09, 0315 IST

It looks like there is either a huge pro-NDA bias in the readership of Rediff, or there is some sort of manipulation going on.

Now, if there is any manipulation going on, it is totally harmless fun, of course. In a prediction game, if you are going to register your biases rather than your analysis, then there is only one loser (it’s you). Since you’d only be losing your time and effort (I don’t see any prizes for accurate predictions as yet), I guess it is none of anybody else’s business.

Imagine, however, that there is no manipulation and it is simply a reflection of the pro-NDA bias of Rediff’s readership. Now, combine that with the impression one gets of the aptitude of the average Rediff reader from the discussions on Rediff’s messageboards. What does that say about the average NDA supporter then? Ha!

Don’t take the previous paragraph seriously though. While I certainly don’t have a very high opinion of the average Rediff messageboard commenter, I think those comments are spread quite evenly across the political spectrum.[1] My hunch is that there is some manipulation going on.

Don’t let that stop you from testing your analysis and registering your predictions. Remember, you only get one chance in 5 years (hopefully). Go for it.

Asides: Could this prediction game be considered a violation of the spirit of Election Commission’s guidelines on exit/opinion polls (I know that it is not a violation in letter certainly)? What happens if results of exit/opinion polls are published by an agency outside Indian legal jurisdiction? What happens if an Indian media outlet publishes (or republishes) results of an older poll while the ban is in place?

[1] There is some expected pro-NDA tilt though, because the BJP has a lot of support among NRIs and NRIs constitute a large chunk of Rediff’s readership. It has more to do with lack of internet peneteration in India than with anything else. This blog’s regular readership (all 7 of them) is also almost entirely NRI. Thankfully, their comments are better than those at Rediff messageboards.

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