Friday, December 30, 2005

Remembering Kerry Packer – “The Big Boy who Played at Night”

Kerry Packer, Australia’s richest man and cricket’s first (and last) great revolutionary died this week. He was 68. Packer was a larger than life figure, an inveterate gambler, who for a brief moment in the mid 70’s stood the cricketing world on its head and ushered in a completely different version of the game.

The rift between Packer and the cricketing establishment started when Packer was rebuffed by the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) for the Test and domestic cricket broadcast rights. Although he had offered more money than any of the other competing Australian networks, the ACB ended up giving the rights to the state owned Australian Broadcast Corp (ABC).

To get back at the ACB he started his own league, the World Series of Cricket (WSC) and succeeded in enticing the cream of global cricketing talent to turn their backs on their home countries and play for him instead.

Packers impact on the current version of the game is felt to this day. Here are some of his key innovations: Packer noticed that ratings were better in the evenings so he created the day night game. In order to do this he introduced the white ball (much easier to see at night than the red), he introduced floodlights, to spice things up he got the different teams in his league to wear color clothing and hence “pajama cricket” was born

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The soul of a nation, long supressed finds utterance - A great day in Iraqi History

Readers of this column will know that I am no big fan of the President but ocassionally I do give him credit when credit is due. It is safe to say that the Dec 15 election in Iraq happened because of the American invasion (Liberation?) based on George Bush's unique (although ultimatley wrong) view of what the Middle East can really be.
While I do not believe the election makes America or the Middle East safer (in fact I think the opposite) - to see so many people who have been suppressed for so long by such a violent tyrant exercise their basic human rights is uplifting (even if they do end up voting for radical Shias).
I am reminded of Jawharlal Nehru's eloquent speech at midnight on Aug 15, 1947 when India finally became free after 350 years of British rule.... (although there is no comparison between the US led violent Iraqi liberation to the swadeshi inspired and generally peaceful Indian independence movement)

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.

Bush in trouble

Seems like getting the NSA to spy on US citizens is never a good idea especially when you have a critical piece of legislation like the USA Patriot Act coming up for renewal in Congress. The timing of the revelation by the NYT could not have been better for the Acts detractors and has all but ensured that the Senate will now let it lapse on December 31 (when it is supposed to expire).

Perhaps "Arbusto" Bush decided that he was not George W but King George instead - the British king the US overthrew in 1776 because the American Colonies felt he ruled them with an arrogance that placed him above the law.

The ironic thing is that Bush could have simply asked Congress to include these special powers in the original USA Patriot Act or just sought permission from a judge under the existing provisions of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed in 1978).

The Bush Administration has indicated that no laws were broken because the President was exercising legitimate powers granted under the Constitution's Article 2 (Powers of the Commander-in-Chief). If that logic is taken to its conclusion then why have the USA Patriot Act or why have any restraint on Presidential power at all. One could conclude that on national security matters the President can just break inconvenient laws since he is protecting the people.

I personally think that Bush has over reached. He may be convinced that he acted rightly and perhaps he did. But Bush is not a king - he is a President and his duty is to uphold the law not break it. This is a very slippery slope and Congress should investigate to find out what exactly happened. If need be the vagueness of Article 2 should be clarified by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Tammy Duckworth - My New Hero

Former Blackhawk pilot Major Tammy Duckworth is running for Congress. Tammy was injured terribly on a mission in Iraq. She lost two legs and the use of one arm. She is running as a Demorcrat from the Chicago suburb of Hoffmann Estates. She (UNBELIEVEABLY) is against the Iraq War....she believes (as I do) taking our eye of Afghanistan was a huge mistake. Lets hope she wins....

Saturday, December 17, 2005

King Kong

So I went to see King Kong yesterday. It is a beautifully filmed movie, directed by a master craftsman (Peter Jackson) but unfortunately I still felt the movie lacked coherence. At 187 minutes it is at least 67 minutes too long. The movie feels bloated - kinda how I feel after going to the local Chinese All you can eat Buffet - except without the flatulence :)

King Kong has some great scenes - unfortunately these scenes could have conveyed their points in about a third of the length. Kong's fight with the TRex's is spectacularly original but at almost 5 minutes starts to feel like nails on chalk board. Similarly the Brontosaurus stampede was phenomenal but just went on and on and on.

The movie has great casting also. Naomi Watts is absolutely lovely as Ann Darrow - the Beauty to Kongs Beast. Jack Black, as the amoral Carl Denham is insanely spectacular and almost Kiplingesque in the role of the great white explorer complete with blazing eyes, pith helmet and a devil may care derring do. The special effects are also wonderful - King Kong is real and believeable. The expressions on his face are beautiful and tender and most human.

My suggestion is to see this movie but take your Black Berry so you can check email or surf the web when you get bored.

Why Jack Murtha is wrong and Bush is right (for now)

Jack Murtha (Democrat Congressman from Pennsylvania, a 37 year veteran of the Marine Corps and a decorated Vietnam Vet) has recently called for the US to withdraw immediately from Iraq. This idea is just plain wrong and wrongheaded. The United States will face a tremendous loss of prestige if it does so. Al-Qaedas belief that the US are paper tigers and don't have the stomach for casualties will be reinforced for all the world to see.

It is irresponsible for anyone who loves America to support this idea (as well intentioned as it may be). The Bush administration has done enough damage to our credibility already and Murtha's request to cut and run and move to the periphery (to come back in Iraq only if there is a civil war) will just throw kerosene on the open flame of the evolving Iraqi disaster.

The solution is not just staying the course as Bush states continuously but to continue to explain the war and its successes and failures to the American people in a way that is as free of spin as Bush can make it.

In recent weeks he seems to be finally learning. In a series of speeches he has been remarkably candid about what he has done right and what he has done wrong. This has finally forced him to acknowledge in an unambiguous way his personal responsibility for the failure of intelligence on WMD and the supposed Iraqi link to Al-Qaeda. In addition he has acknowledged some of the other large mistakes such as the misguided neo con belief that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the war, the Pentagons lack of post war planning and failure to predict the insurgency and the improper way in which Paul Bremer approached deBaathification.

This is the right thing to do and he should continue to do it. The Democrats meanwhile should bury the partisan hatchet and get guys like Dean to not publicly gloat everytime the President makes a mea culpa. This will only continue to harm their chances in 2006 and 2008

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The challenges faced by Indians trying to speak English

An excellent (and funny) analysis of the phonetic challenges faced by Indians (Mallu's especially) when trying to speak English

Al-zarqawi - The man - the animal?

Who is he? How did he become the 2nd most wanted terrorist in the world. Foreign Policy magazine does an excellent review of how this was achieved. Zarqwis rise from the lowest rung of the Arab economic scale to the number 2 spot is contrasted with Bin Laden's rise as the son of a Saudi billionaire to the number 1 spot

Monday, December 05, 2005

The enigmatic Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark (former AG under LBJ) threw his hat in the ring to be one of Saddams defence lawyers. Clark has made a career of defending gory dictators like Milosevic and some of the lesser known Hutu leaders who presided over the Rawanda genocide. However his decision to be the lone American lawyer on Saddams defence team is incomprehensible. While he does not seem to disallow his guilt (he stated on Hardball that Saddam was probably guilty), his defence of Saddam seems based on a technicality ie whether the current government of Iraq is legitimate. Perhaps Clark believes that the 99% endorsement that Saddam received in the last election actually makes Saddam the legitimate President of Iraq.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Another faux issue from the "FAUX" News Channel

So John Gibson of FOX News has brought out a book that claims that there is a Liberal plot to devalue christmas. Balderdash I say.....there is no plot to do anything of that sort. Sure a few creches got tossed out of public property (thanks to an overzealous ACLU) and people now say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas (mainly because the country is no longer monolithically Christian) but other than that the rest of the hysteria from FOX and the AM talkshows is probably reflective of low ratings as the public is tuning out to the other network sponsored fears like the mushroom cloud over St Louis and the avian flu. This NYT article sums up the hypocrisy nicely.

You may say Im a Dreamer - Remembering John Lennon

I was in the 8th grade and still living in India when I heard that John Lennon had been shot. To be honest I didn’t know much about him at that time. I knew some of his music, mainly from the early years of the Beatles but little else. I also knew that the Beatles had been fascinated by Indian culture had given Hinduism, the Maharishi and Ravi Shankar a whirl but that was pretty much it.

That year my older brother had also acquired Lennon’s last album – A Double Fantasy. As I started to listen to it I was simply blown away by the beauty and depth of the music that I was hearing.

And so began my posthumous love affair with John Lennon.

At the peak of my Lennon phase I had probably collected over 20 books on him, and read them from cover to cover. I knew arcane details about the Beatles that probably no one knew (or cared about) and had paid a classmate $40 bucks ( a tidy sum of money in 1983) to paint me a portrait of the Beatles which I hung over my bed for years.

To say I worshipped Lennon would be an understatement. To me he was the essence of bad boy cool. The way he spoke, his commitment to Pacifism and most importantly the glory of his lyrics and music; so raw and so meaningful as opposed to the syrupy muzak like tunes that McCartney penned.

His message is even more poignant today as we confront religious inspired terrorism. Here are the lyrics to Imagine – Lennon at his absolute finest.

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the peopleliving for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Why American Muslims have not turned to Terrorism?

An interesting view as to why American Muslims have so far been moderates and happy with America while European Muslims are increasingly extremist and discontented with their adopted countries.

Is this phenomena really due to a fundamental difference in the way the US assimilates its immigrants (pluralistic and merit based assimilation into a native population that is very comfortable with God), versus the European way (statist based assimilation into a native population that is largely atheistic and that also has vestiges of xenophobia and classicism)

Could it also be because the Muslim population in the US is still only about 1% of the total population as compared to 5-10% for a typical Western European country. Therefore has the US just not reached a critical mass of Muslims in its population and therefore has not yet felt the pain of adjusting to what is a rather difficult cultural group to assimilate.

Only time will tell......Here is an article that believes the US is generally better at assimilating diverse populations of immigrants (a view I happen to hold based on my own experiences in this great country)

Religious Protection
by Spencer Ackerman
In September, the world watched the ringleader of the July 7 London terrorist attack, his voice inflected with a West Yorkshire accent, preach jihad in English. Al Jazeera aired the communiqué of 30-year-old Mohammad Sidique Khan, which Khan recorded to explain why he helped murder over 50 of his fellow Britons on a bus and in the Underground. "Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment, and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight," .....(Go to TNR for the rest of the story - Registration Required)