Democracy cannot come on the wings of a bomber.

Something i recieved in the mail. I thought i'd share this..highlighted a few phrases that stood out in particular.

‘Chance of political settlement open’

Interview with Noam Chomsky on the situation in West Asia following the Israeli assault on Gaza.

ISRAEL continues to terrorise and bomb at will. West Asia waits for a malicious twist to the already dead road map. A viable Palestinian state now seems to be like something in the distant future. A bloody retribution, a tit-for-tat flare-up; that is all that is left after the terrible Christmas massacre in Gaza. While young children played soccer and families slept in residential neighbourhoods, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) unleashed one of the severest attacks on Gaza in the last month of 2008, this time determined to enforce a military solution to the daily skirmishes on the border, thereby deterring the incorrigible Hamas belligerence.

In truth, it was Israel that first broke the ceasefire on November 1, 2008, and justified its air and ground attacks on Gaza as the final move to end the daily nuisance of missiles from across the border. It is a fact that in spite of the siege of the past two months no missiles were fired by Hamas. Israel has thrown to the wind the rules laid by the Fourth Geneva Convention, of the Nuremberg Principles, of all of the laws of war generated in the 20th century.

The West Asia problem is now the concern of the global community and is no longer singularly within American turf. In the past, the United States had always, without fail, rejected any such international intervention. However, Prof. Noam Chomsky argues, with no provision of an international vigilance force to oversee the implementation of any peace plan, Israel has the option to do what it pleases and has support from the U.S. for its incorrigible stance of “rejectionism”.

Sadly, the United Nations Security Council has been rendered ineffective by the U.S. veto, though more than 150 members in the General Assembly have voted for the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. There is no doubt that without the authorisation of the U.S. government and its support of Israel not a single military attack on Palestine can take place. Israel is a military base and complies with U.S. foreign policy. Military confrontation, control of gas wells on the borders of Gaza, as well as motives of expansionism have been the apparent interests of the two partners. Since the 1973 encroachment into the Egyptian Sinai, any diplomatic resolution to end the impasse between the two nations has been consistently elusive. With the recent destruction of Gaza, the solution has become all the more protean.

Public opinion in Israel calls for giving up land in Palestine in exchange for peace, but the country’s leaders look on. Their convictions as “Christian Zionists” seem to bestow on them the theological right to continue doing what they do despite what happens to a few million Palestinian “terrorists”. In the meantime, the two nations sink neck deep into uncontrolled violence, leaving behind an unsolvable conundrum.

If Washington was sincere and committed to move West Asia towards peace, there should have been some sign of a reprimand to Israel for its recent attack on Gaza. In the light of the recent history of peace initiatives and unrestrained violence, there seems to be only one way out: an international solution on the lines of what took place in East Timor through the pressure exerted by international opinion. One cannot change the nature of the West Asia problem through war or bloodshed, and democracy cannot come on the wings of a bomber.

Then where does the solution lie? While it cannot come from the Right in Israel, the Left remains unelectable. In Palestine, on the other hand, there is no check on militant agitation. Peace can never come from top down; it is the people at the bottom who can put an end to violence and terrorism.

Will the new President in the White House invest his full powers to bring the two antagonists to the table and negotiate for a solution to one of the most serious political issues of our time? Or will he continue to put forward the American propensity to befriend Israel as a priority that would supersede an objectivity that his presidency promises to the world? The Clinton plan of bringing durable peace by returning to the 1967 boundaries, of sharing Jerusalem and permitting Palestinian refugees to return to their homes remains a viable model for President Barack Obama to follow unless he reinvents a road map that will anticipate the end of hostility.

At the end of the day, it will depend on the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. to persuade the American leadership to either initiate peace or escalate conflict in West Asia. Obama will scarcely be left with a choice against such a formidable force from within his own fortress. The world waits to see whether he succeeds in introducing a comprehensive diplomatic initiative towards Iran along with the prioritising of the Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

In the light of the West Asia “ulcer”, Prof. Shelley Walia asked Prof. Noam Chomsky for his views on this conundrum. Chomsky, as is well known, has probably been the single most important voice in international politics for several decades. His main works, from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Edward S. Herman) to Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance, from Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy to Perilous Powers: The Middle East & U.S. Foreign Policy: Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice (with Gilbert Achcar and Stephen R. Shalom [editor]), along with his daily interventions, have challenged the deceptions of media reportage and of the devious agendas of Western regimes. As Edward Said emphasised some years ago, “Noam Chomsky is one of the most significant challengers of unjust power and delusions; he goes against every assumption about American altruism and humanitarianism.”

Chomsky was kind enough to take time off from his busy schedule and answer a number of questions on the Arab-Israel conflict. His invigorating zeal remains unabated, as is visible from his remarkable consistency of involvement with issues of human rights and peace. Excerpts from the interview:

Coming directly to the reasons for the Israeli attack on Gaza, do you believe that there could be a larger plan at work that has as its planner the U.S. aiming to finally provoke Iran to enter the ongoing conflict?

I doubt it. It would have been highly unlikely for Iran to respond more than verbally to the attack. There is a straightforward reason, I believe. Israel wants to take over the valuable parts of the West Bank and to leave the remnants of Palestinian society barely viable. And it, of course, wants to do so without disruption. It has succeeded, by violence, to suppress resistance within the West Bank. But the other part of occupied Palestine, Gaza, is still not completely under control. For other reasons, Israel has refused to abide by any of the ceasefires that have been reached and intends to maintain the siege that is suffocating Gaza. Invasion was a means to suppress resistance to its ongoing (U.S.-backed) crimes in the occupied territories.

The fertile part of Gaza represents about a third of the Gaza Strip, this being the part Israel has always wanted to retain owing to its economic productivity and sale of produce to Europe. How would you then react to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza a few years ago? Is it because the maintenance and protection of Israeli settlers was proving rather costly for the Israeli government or because the U.S. nudged [then Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon in that direction, or because Sharon had his own agenda?

The motives do not seem obscure. Gaza has been turned into a disaster area under Israeli military occupation of 38 years. A few thousand Israeli settlers take a substantial part of the scarce land and resources and have to be protected by a large part of the Israeli army. Sane Israeli hawks understand that it makes no sense to continue with these arrangements. The settlers, who were subsidised to establish themselves there, are now being subsidised to settle elsewhere, leaving the population of Gaza to rot in a virtual prison. The few scattered West Bank outposts that are being abandoned are also simply an annoyance for Israel.

The “disengagement plan” is in reality an expansion plan, as was made plain at once. The presentation of the plan was coupled with an announcement of tens of millions of dollars for West Bank settlements and infrastructure development, a further expansion of the programmes designed to ensure that valuable land and resources will be incorporated within Israel, while Palestinians will be left in scarcely viable cantons. The shameful “separation wall” is one particularly ugly feature of these programmes. The actions are gross violations of international law and elementary human rights but can continue as long as they are supported by the reigning superpower. American citizens are the only ones who can put an end to these continuing and very severe crimes.

The operation was a complete scam, a repeat of “Operation National Trauma ’82” as the press called it at the time, carefully orchestrated, a media triumph, intended to convey the message: “Never again must Jews suffer so; the West Bank is ours.”

Would you agree that there is the complicity of [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas with the Palestinian contras who are backed by the U.S. and Israel? He does not have the authority, moral or otherwise, to call together the Palestinian people for anything.

Abbas is in a difficult position, no doubt. He does not want to accept the results of the democratic election that was won by his rival Hamas. With U.S. support, he attempted a military coup in Gaza, but that was beaten back and Hamas took over total control. His forces have been trained and armed by the U.S. and its regional allies, and assigned the task of suppressing any opposition in the West Bank, in particular, opposition to Israeli crimes in Gaza. One result is that he has very little credibility. There may be some chance of a unity government. It is possible that Israel’s decision to violate the ceasefire by invading Gaza on November 4, 2008, was intended to disrupt planned meetings in Cairo to establish a unity government. The pretexts offered were too absurd to merit comment.

How far do you think that the military action of Israel is disproportionate to the ends that it hopes to achieve? Is it legitimate under international law? Israel is crossing every red line of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of the Nuremberg Principles, of all of the laws of war that were developed in the 20th century. It has the backing of the U.S. and thus feels cocksure of its actions.

That depends on what we think it hoped to achieve. The attack did succeed in killing many civilians and destroying villages, institutions, and infrastructure, while also devastating much of the agricultural land and the limited industrial capacity of Gaza. The actions were “proportional” to achieving such ends, which we can only assume were the real ones. Of course, all of this is in gross violation of international law, as is U.S. support for it. In fact, all of this is in direct violation of U.S. law, which bans the use of U.S.-supplied arms apart for “legitimate self-defence”, and it is transparent that Israel’s actions do not fall under that category.

Do you think that there may be some reason for going into the attack on Gaza at a juncture when the Bush administration was leaving office and Barack Obama was to be sworn in on January 20? Was there a feeling that the U.S. government at that point would not react in any negative way? Labour gained 50 per cent more in the elections, mainly because Ehud Barak was the man who was mostly identified with this operation. He was the Minister of Defence, as you know. Or, do you think it is just overreaction?

We know from Israeli sources that the attack was meticulously planned in advance. It would only make sense, from Israel’s point of view, to carry out the attack so that it could do maximal damage but end immediately before Obama’s inauguration, which is what happened. That way Obama could pretend that he could not comment on it, because “there is only one President” (that didn’t prevent him from commenting on many other things, including bitter condemnation of the Mumbai terror and the “hateful ideology” behind it). And since the attack had formally ended immediately before the inauguration, he could maintain his silence after assuming the presidency, thereby continuing Bush’s policies, as he has done on other matters as well.

It was not an attack on Hamas but on the whole structure of the society of Palestinians. Hospitals, universities, mosques were not spared. And if you keep citizens under such a harsh siege there are no options but to retaliate. The only democratic election in West Asia should have been given time to prove itself. Hamas is not guilty. Israel is for breaking the ceasefire and killing civilians. The aim is to see that democracy does not succeed. In spite of the siege of the past two months, no bombs were thrown by Hamas. Any comments?

A recent poll of Muslim opinion found that large majorities “see U.S. support for democracy in Muslim countries as conditional at best. Only very small minorities say ‘the U.S. favours democracy in Muslim countries whether or not the government is cooperative with the U.S.’. The most common response is that the U.S. favours democracy only if the government is cooperative, while nearly as many say that the U.S. simply opposes democracy in the Muslim countries.” I am quoting from the summary by one of the world’s most respected polling agencies. The large majority are surely correct, and the same principle holds elsewhere. As the most strongly pro-government scholarship has conceded, the U.S. has supported democracy if and only if it conforms to strategic and economic objectives. Europe is, of course, the same.

Western intellectuals and their allies elsewhere naturally prefer a different story, but as is often the case, the victims have much clearer insight into reality than the servants of power.

Do you agree that the provocation has come from Israel and not Hamas. It broke the ceasefire two months earlier and is conveniently blaming Hamas. And then it is asking the residents to leave Gaza. How is it possible? Where should they go when there is that crippling blockade in operation? This notion that Israel has a right to defend itself – against whom?

A state has the right of self-defence by force only if it has exhausted peaceful means. In this case, Israel plainly had peaceful means that it refused to pursue: ceasefire, and termination of criminal actions in the occupied territory. Accordingly, it cannot appeal to the right of self-defence.

Do you not think that the result of this kind of provocation will bring about the third Intifada instead of peace and security? Do you think the last chance for negotiations is now destroyed? The Hamas leadership in Damascus is against any ceasefire.

Before the attack, the Israeli government was aware that Hamas, including the Damascus political leadership, was calling for a ceasefire – but a real one, which would end the siege. A siege is an act of war. Israel has always insisted on that. In fact, Israel launched two wars (1956, 1967) in large part on the claim that its access to the outside was partially limited, which is far less than a siege. The possibility of a political settlement remains open. As before, it turns on whether the U.S. will abandon the strong rejectionist policies it has pursued (with Israel), in international isolation, since the mid-1970s.

Would you say that the two-nation theory is now in jeopardy, especially now with the escalation of war? Palestinians will now have to seek refuge in Jordan or Egypt if Israel decides to push them out of the West Bank. Egypt and, to some extent, Jordan have been thrown off balance by the withering criticism they have faced. The alliance of Iran, Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas – the quartet that is fighting against a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is critical of Jordan and Egypt as well of the two-state solution.

I think your description, while conventional, is an error, a reflection of the force of Western propaganda. The facts are quite clear. There has been an overwhelming consensus in support of a two-state settlement since 1976, when the U.S. first vetoed a Security Council resolution to this effect put forth by the Arab states (including Syria, which still supports it). It is now supported by virtually everyone, including Hamas, which has repeatedly and quite publicly called for it. Iran has made clear that it would back the position of the Arab states, which formally support this policy, and call for normalisation of relations with Israel in that context. Hizbollah’s position is that it will not disrupt anything that Palestinians accept. That leaves the U.S. and Israel, the leaders of the rejection front since the 1970s. There has been one break in U.S.-Israeli rejectionism: negotiations in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001, which were coming very close to an agreement when Israel terminated them prematurely.

It is not too late for the two rejectionist states to return to what was almost achieved there, and if the U.S. decided to do so, Israel would surely go along. Unfortunately, Obama has clearly rejected that position. In his first foreign policy declaration, he praised the Arab League position as “constructive” and urged the Arab states to proceed with normalisation of relations with Israel. But he carefully omitted the crucial precondition for normalisation: a two-state settlement. He is an intelligent man and chooses his words carefully. He could hardly have been more explicit in rejecting the international consensus.

What do you think is Egypt’s role in the peace process at this juncture? Its role as the chief negotiator in the Muslim world has been sagging owing to its declining economic situation and escalating poverty.

The Egyptian dictatorship despises Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would surely do very well in Egypt if it were permitted to participate in a free election. But even if it tries to be an honest negotiator, Egypt can do nothing as long as the U.S. maintains its rejectionist stance, not only in words but by providing the decisive military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel’s systematic and of course criminal actions to take what it wants in the West Bank. And we should add “ideological support”, such as the absurd propaganda claims about who is blocking a two-state settlement, which are widely believed, thanks to U.S. power.

Evidently, the formulation of the U.S.’ West Asia policy is dependent on the pro-Israel lobby and their Zionist supporters within the government. The brutal military occupation within Palestine has evoked little concern or response from the U.S. government, and its silence, therefore, indicates its complicity with the pro-Israel lobby that controls the U.S. political agenda. Do you agree?

No, I don’t agree. I think that is a very serious misunderstanding of how policy is made. True, lobbies have influence. There are many dramatic cases. Take Cuba. A large majority of Americans have wanted to end the embargo and have normal relations for years, powerful business interests (energy, agribusiness, pharmaceutical, and others), but the political parties won’t touch it because of the Cuban-American vote in Florida and a few other States.

To be sure, there are state interests, and those probably dominate. But the lobby has had a powerful effect. Even a tiny lobby like the Armenian lobby came very close to severely harming U.S. relations with Turkey, a major ally, last year, by getting Congress to (almost) pass an Armenian genocide resolution.

In the case of Israel, it’s convenient for U.S. analysts to blame the Israel lobby for policies they don’t like. That leaves us “clean”, just misled by a lot of bad Jews. There’s some truth to it, as in the case of other lobbies. But it’s much exaggerated.

The debates over the influence of the lobby are typically quite abstract: they have to do with sorting out influences that mostly converge – strategic-economic, lobby. The test is when U.S. government policies and the lobby conflict, as often happens. In that case, invariably, the lobby disappears, knowing better than to confront real power. Just happened last summer, once again, in an important case: the lobby was intent on ramming through Congress a resolution calling for a virtual blockade of Iran, a very high priority for Israel. At first they rounded up congressional support, enough to pass it, until the White House hinted quietly that it was opposed, not wanting to be dragged into a war with Iran. The measure (HR 362) was dropped; the lobby was silent. Not uncommon.

The debates also are paralysing. They have no implications for activism, except one. If the claims are correct, then I’ve been wasting my time for years in talking, writing, organising, activism. I should instead put on a tie and jacket and go to the corporate headquarters of Intel, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and a host of other major corporations investing in Israel, and should explain to them, politely, that they are harming their interests by doing so, and should use their political and economic power to put the lobby out of business, as they can do in five minutes. No one adopts that tactic. But why?

Why is Obama quiet? It suits him to speak on economic matters or Iraq, but on Israeli atrocities he has not made a single statement.

Obama made it clear long before that he is a passionate supporter of Israeli policies. In his campaign, he emphasised that he was a co-sponsor of a Senate resolution in 2006 barring any interference with Israel’s criminal aggression in Lebanon. He also called for Jerusalem to be the permanent and undivided capital of Israel, a position so outrageous that his campaign had to claim publicly that his words did not mean what he said. I wrote about this a year ago, in a book published before the elections, simply relying on his formal positions. For some reason, many people prefer illusions about him. But one cannot charge him with concealing his extremist positions.

Do you think Israel has crossed the line of humanity and legality in its recent onslaught on Gaza?

We should describe this as a U.S.-Israeli assault. It surely crosses both lines, but hardly for the first time.

Prof. Shelley Walia is a Fellow and Dean, International Students, at Panjab University, Chandigarh.
He teaches Literary and Cultural Theory at the Department of English.

Local firms make it to the Dow Index

March 23, 2009 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's top listed firms, John Keells Holdings, Sri Lanka Telecom and Dialog Telekom, have been included in a new Dow Jones stock market index for the South Asian Region..(more)

The Dow SAFE (South Asian Federation of Exchanges) 100 index measures the performance of the top 100 blue chip firms of five of the eight countries in the er, SAFE. Namely Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Marutius.

Im sure this is a credit and a boon to SL which could definitely use some foreign investment right now. Also, it is a boost to investor confidence in Dialog Telekom, thought by many pundits and my CIM lecturer, to be on the verge of collapse.

The list was revised last week and several new firms were added as 17 Indian and Pakistani companies were removed.

Sri Lanka plays hardball with IMF

Sri Lanka will not accept any conditions on a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the island's president has said.

"We will not pawn or sell our motherland to obtain any monetary aid," said Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lankan government is in talks with the IMF about a $1.9bn (£1.4bn) loan to help combat the economic downturn and pay for reconstruction.

The IMF usually insists on conditions for any emergency loans.

No forced measures

These involve taking steps such as cutting public spending or raising interest rates.

But Sri Lanka has made it clear.... (more at BBC)

Hmmm.. no  I have not got many thoughts there. As of late the West seems to have simpered a bit to the war efforts and have indicated a lot more support than they used to. With Hillary Clinton's call to the president and her supposed 'support extended with regard to the 'humanitarian improvements' and the elimination of terrorism etc. I still have the Derana News Alert on my phone.

Except she didn't. Well she did call him but internet news reports seem to deny the fact that she had anything good to say, while some others agree a little more with the Temple Trees version of the tale. This phone conversation and what was really said and implied could play a big role on our future relations with the West and entities such as the IMF and World Bank.

SL is very much an import dependent economy for many of its basic essentials and therefore foreign help in terms of loans, exports tariffs, trade deals etc are essential to its survival. And these rarely come completely devoid of conditions. It seems in a polarized world, the only way to maintain true independence is to have a completely closed economy or be the strongest player around. Since we're nothing of either, it looks as if we will have to go through some changes based on the whims of others soon enough.

But obviously, the government will not make it look like they were 'conditions' when they implement them in the economy oh no. And since we seem to have pretty much of a dormant opposition it looks like the real news of what is going to happen in the in the future may not be too clear till months later. By which time it'll be too late to do anything about it. Not that anything much could be done about it anyway. But at least we'll know.

Failure of Capitaism or the Banks alone?

The death of laissez faire is being proclaimed left right and centre. Government spending and Keynesian economics are coming to the fore and free market ideology is taking a hit.

Keynesian economics is often seen as the middle ground between Marxism and laissez faire as put forward by Adam Smith. The cause of the resurrection of the economy after the Great Depression, British economist John Maynard Keynes  is widely regarded as the biggest influence on modern economic policy and thought, with his mixture of freemarket idealism with government regulation and spending.

But was the current failure in the world economy the direct result of the failure of the free market itself or more specifically the failure of the baking industry? One may argue that the banking industry in itself was de-regulated and that is what caused the crisis in the first place and therefore laissez faire is to blame.

But consider the theories of Milton Friedman, who said that regulating the banks and the money supply alone in a free market economy will provide the adjustment needed to avoid any major pitfalls. In this particular crisis, money supply went out of control and so much artificial wealth was created, essentially a tower of rocks built on a base of clouds, that things had to eventually collapse.

Greed, many say, is the underlying cause of it. Sure, if people weren't greedy they wouldnt have taken those housing loans thay couldnt pay, but what about an industry that wasnt prudent in its lending? how could individuals have anticipated the crash of housing markets and the fall in the values of their homes?

And another thing, capitalism is essentially defined as being the same as a free market economy. But that is in essense, an incorrect assumption. Capitalism has come to be associated with all that is detrimental in human nature; greed, growing gaps in income, opression, poverty etc. But these are characteristics that will undoubtedly prevail in any type of economy be it socialist, royalist or communist because they are the causes of evil; individual greed and a lack of concern for ones fellows.

And that cannot be fixed by any new ideology.

Sri Lanka's Central Bank; Crap or Brilliant?

The economy is about to be rescued from a potential plunge into the deep waters of crisis by an injection of cash from the IMF. Apparently historically, all nations ever to adopt the soft peg approach to currency buoyancy have faced that same fate.

Now there is talk that the IMF money is coming from a new 'condition-free' fund established exclusively for developing nations in trouble. Sri Lanka is almost depleted of foreign reserves after a binge of currency modulation during the final quarter of last year that saw us purchasing rupees with our dollars in order to ensure the rupee wasn’t devalued too much.

My CIM lecturer was telling me at that point that we are extremely stable for a war economy that didn’t rely all that much on taxes and he didn’t quite know why, and at that time i didn't either. But i guess we do now.

Is the Central Bank an incompetent institution or is it pure genius though? that question kind of confuses me. There was the whole hedging fiasco that seems to have passed below the news radar, and not to mention the huge non-regulated financial sector holding who knows how much of the nation’s wealth that the Central Bank just failed completely to notice or moderate.

And now this pegging scenario which seems more attributable to a desperate short term measure to sustain a heavy war economy than anything else. And in that sense, it seems to have worked pretty well. The government ensures that they had sufficient funds to sustain the purchasing of weaponry while it was most needed at a time when it was sure that seeking foreign help for the war effort would have meant cumbersome conditions and impositions into its human rights track record etc.

So they went all out with the economy as well in order to sustain the war effort and did not really give a damn about the consequences. They were playing a dangerous game. They had to make sure the war was significantly completed by the time the economy started hitting the dirt. Guess they figured they'll somehow build it all up later.

They first accumulated foreign currency through the massive sales of bonds. And later, when foreign markets turned volatile the government (or the CB) itself had to start buying Rupees so they used what foreign currency they had to buy our own money back. Thereby creating false (?) demand for the rupee and keeping its value up. We mainly kept in on par with the dollar, focusing on maintaining roughly the same dollar rate throughout. This is essentially called maintaining a 'soft peg' through currency manipulation.

The years of 'GDP growth for the first ever time in the history of SL' Back since 2004 was probably attributable to a loosening of the monetary and fiscal policies of the country and driving up inflation (which indicates positive growth, not to mention the including of government purchases of weaponry in the GDP calculations) we were at the same time buoying up our currency through the manipulation of dollars and it has all cumulated into a double whammy that would have surely sunk us to the bottom of the Indian ocean if it wasn’t for the IMF's 'bail out'. As explained in this LBO report.

was this all orchestrated with evil genius by an administration one track minded with pure focus on a winning a war by any means possible? Ruthless enough to disregard any and every long term ill effect to the economy which has undoubtedly magnified due the credit crunch? Or more likely they were simply seeking ways to be financially independent and were lucky enough to make it so far with barely a limp? (Which is probably a very subjective postulation)

Meanwhile most export industries are almost crippled with big garment companies the worst affected. The removal of the EU's GSP plus taking away a cushioning affect that helped them along all this time making things worse.

Democracy; Losing the Illusion

Whoever said that democracy was the fairest way to rule a country i think has been proven wrong again and again and again so many times over that we really need re-look at the whole concept of it and see if we really have stumbled upon the best base for governance known by man.

First of all, look at all the corruption and failures that stem from democratic states. Look at all the people killed under the guises of various little conflicts here and there. Holocausts attract the most attention while other deaths that occur in the mere thousands go un-avenged.

America just got a little more lenient on Cuba. They lifted a few travel restrictions and allowed Cuban - Americans to send more money home. This was opposed by two Cuban American Senators who later 'changed their votes after receiving assurances from the Obama administration that the changes did not amount to a major reversal of the 47-year-old US trade embargo on Cuba.' According to the BBC report

President Obama who is in support of the bill has however said 'that like previous American presidents, he will only consider a full lifting of the embargo once Cuba's communist government makes significant moves such as the holding (of) democratic elections.'

I mean isn't that just characteristic of the United States trying impose is beliefs and influence across the world? Cuba seems to have worked fine as a country so far. And the fact that they are not 'democratic' per se does not seem to have affected the quality of life in Cuba in a detrimental way.

As a matter of fact, the Cuban people as a whole are probably made much better off as a result of the Revolution and equality seems to have improved a great deal.

Anyway, democracy as we know it today is but a mere illusion. People think they have the 'right' and 'power' to vote in any one of their choice but what they do not realize is that that 'choice' is severely restricted and manipulated by huge infrastructures like party systems, rules and regulations for running for office, massive barriers to entry that prevent anyone from running for office etc.

For e.g. even over here in SL. you can’t really run for office unless you have some sort of power/influence etc. So an ordinary Joe or Siripala who wants to be heard and is genuinely convinced that he can help the country and make life better for people will never rise to power because the very people whose help he needs to even dream of an influential position in government will have conflicting interests to him and will want to preserve the status quo (which he may want to rearrange.)

So democracy is an illusion, it is just oppression with another name. And in this day and age, democracy does not really have to be what it is..We can use technology in so many other ways to make it better, if only a bit of interest was shown by those in power. But since obviously that will mean a push towards the decentralization of that same power, they obviously wouldn’t do it. But more on that later.

An Early Warning About Climate Change

“Many important economic and social decisions are being made today on long-term projects…based on the assumption that past climate data…are a reliable guide to the future. This is no longer a good assumption…”

UNEP/WMO/ICSU Conference

Villach, Austria 1985

On the Spot

A cartoon i just received in the mail. click to enlarge.

Delegating Freedom

We are in a place and position where the word 'freedom' seems to have lost it's meaning. This is a day and age where everyone is talking about it, sure. But what, if anything, does it mean,

If a human being is free?

Local Ponzi Rising

Yes. Again. And this time it seems, on a far bigger scale.

The Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka an 'investment bank' and a listed subsidiary of state-run Bank of Ceylon has taken over and is planning to 'restructure' Ceyliinco Group's Finance and Guarantee group of companies. According to this LBO report.

Meanwhile, all refunds from these companies have been stopped. Mainly to prevent 'influential' depositors getting their funds at the expense of others and a recovery plan will be revealed in 'two weeks' according to a media report released by MBSL.

Apparently there is a 'sufficent asset base' present and investors in F&G real Estate Co. will have to only sacrifice 'certain time period' to get their refunds. This from the MBSL chairman Janaka Ratnayake.

Now it doesnt exactly specify if full refunds will be available, but if you were an investor in that group, and if i was you, i'd start wondering a bit because the same report specifically states that the F&G groups assets were 13.5 billion while their liabilities were 12879 billion.

Yeah, have another look at those numbers. Now im not a big financial guy but even i know that a thousand to one difference between liabilities and assets will spell trouble. Even assuming most of these liabilities were not long term.

Mr. Ratnayake also said that F&G Real Estate Company Ltd had been offering interest rates of 42% per year for some customers and has been rolling over deposits. Now does that 'investment strategy' remind you of anything else? like for e.g. Bernard Maddof? The chap who pulled off a $50 Billion Ponzi scheme under the eyes of the likes of Alan Greenspan?

And if we thought Sakvithi was bad, he'll be chickenfeed in comparison to the potential destruction if the MBSL restructuring plan somehow fails and all this money is lost.


What really happened? A day after the attacks, speculation is still rife.

The story hit the top of the economist web site today, which followed up with a long account of the incidents and Sri Lanka's gesture of solidarity that ended up in their cricket team getting shot. But then dwindles down into a rather pointless review of religion and the Pakistani cricket team and irrelevant ramblings about Muhammed Yousuf, a 'muslim fundamentalist' whatever that means.

The Economist also goes on to stress on 'Jihadist' attacks by 'Pakistani' militants. I can understand calling them Pakistani militants because they were obviously operating from Pakistan, but Jihadist? No group has taken responsibility yet for the attacks so there is no way of telling for sure if it was a self-proclaimed Jihadist group or not. Dissapointingly presumtuous especially coming from an esteemed source such as the Economist.

We can draw some parallells with the Mumbai attacks here. The attack out of the blue (like thats anything new), first of its kind in many ways, and no group takes responsibility. Instead suspicions are cast, scapegoats are found along with cicumstantial evidence and before you know it BAm! theres all out accusations.

Kinda reminds me of 9/11. Overally though, i think India handled the Mumbai attacks far better than the US handled 9/11. Killing indiscriminately and invading all over the place, UN be damned.

What am i trying to get at here?

im trying to tell you folks to calm down a bit and dont be so quick to judge. The attacks could have been carried out by anyone for any conceivable reason. Pakistan has been the target and location of many meaningless attacks over the past few years. Most gone unclaimed and un accounted for, it has also seemed to be the target of extreme detabilisation post 9/11.

so lets not assume anything.

Legalizing Pot

From Desperate Taxes For Desperate Times from the Democracy in America blog: THE states are facing their greatest revenue crunches since 1939, and they're run by legislators who—understandably—don't want to lose re-election by raising taxes on everyone. Thus, they're getting creative.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a freshman from San Francisco, made a proposal intended to increase revenue, and, no doubt, appetite: legalizing and taxing marijuana, a major—if technically illegal—crop in the state. "We’re all jonesing now for money," Mr Ammiano said. "And there’s this enormous industry out there."
In general, sin taxes are the most regressive—and popular—taxes that legislatures can enact. A marijuana tax would be less regressive than a cigarette tax, given the demographics of each drug's smokers. In some quarters it would be extremely popular. And the money it would cost to collect the tax would be a pittance compared to the money saved by police no longer making marijuana arrests. So is this enough of a crisis to give it a try?


Hmmm.. a commenter later goes to point out that in the longer term, health hazards of pot (yes it is almost as equally hazardous as cigarettes) will nullify any short term gain, especially given that this may boost consumption. Plus he raises a very interesting point that got me almost to laugh out loud, but wasn't really all that funny; Big Marijuana.

If weed is legalized, prety soon it will be capitalized, compartmentalized, segmented and marketed. All the fun will be lost and Runaway Jury 2 would be suing Big M.

How about it's effects in Sri Lanka then? obviously if it is capitalized worldwide we would be washed up in a wave of big companies if we legalized it over here, but what if it wasn't legalized in the US and we decided to do so as a measure to bring in some revenue to the government and make some people more happier than they already are? But it wont work;

First of all, pot smoking is frowned upon in Sri Lankan society rather more than in Western societies so support will not be there.

Also, a regime that focusses on 'mathata thitha' as one of its main marketing angles will never pass it through.

But what if we ignore these things and assumed it was passed it through anyway? would we reap any economic benefits?

Pot smoking will be legalized and massive corruption in the drug trade will stop

Local pot industry will boom due to lack of international entrants and small scale farmers will profit. Expertise will be home grown and we will be well poised to take advantage of a global pot industry, if it ever does materialize and we'd be able to add marijuana as a fourth major export crop.

Heavy taxes may be imposed to bring in additional revenue for 'nation building' without stunting industry growth

Tourism would benefit
Living conditions will improve and growth will increase.

People will chill out even more than they already do probably and perhaps this will have a detrimental effect on other industries, they don't call it a drug for nothing. Added to that the apparent health hazards. Although i think it's hardly got much on the hazards of Kassippu consumption.

The Wild East: Cricketers Shot At

Dude, the cricketers have been shot at? In Pakistan, yes. Now wait a minute, whenever we hear about injuries to cricketers in India and Pakistan its mostly injuries to their own cricketers at the handsof enraged fans.

But why in the world would anybody in Pakistan shoot to kill Sri Lankan cricketers? Thats just really strange. At least four players are reported injured. Among them Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (reported shot to the leg), Thilan Samaraweera and Ajantha Mendis.

Effectively the cream of the crop. A pre emptive strike prior to the world cup? maybe cricket is taking a turn for the ugly.

The actual motives for such a strike are extremely unclear. If it was a terrorist group in Pakistan would they really attack the Sri Lankan cricket team? I cant think of any reasons for that.

It could be an attack by the LTTE. They could easily establish contacts there.

Or it could also be a plot to discredit Pakistan even further. Perhaps a counter move as revenge to the Mumbai attacks?

All we can do is speculate. And hope the truth will come to light soon.

What's happened to Tibet?

So now the hullaballoo has died, the issue of Tibet has slipped down the list of international hot spots for the worlds attention to be drawn to. I had many friends on Facebook who even dedicated their status messages to it; talking about Tianamen square branded defiance and the like. The Olympics at one point looked to be slowed to a crawl when protests broke out all over the world against Chinese oppression in Tibet.

The Economist runs a story on Tibet, on how the attention of the world has slipped away from it. On how the Chinese are super miffed that the British have somwhat carelessly (?) accepeted Chinese sovereignity over the region. The Chinese however are still strongly focussed on the region. Security is intense, foreigners are not allowed in, and they still refuse to talk to the Dalai Lama.

And meanwhile, "Hillary Clinton recently stopped in Beijing to beseech China’s co-operation in fixing the world economy and stopping the planet from frying. In the apparent belief that China, oddly, will not pursue such aims out of its own self-interest, she forbore from harping on issues such as human rights and Tibet". In other words, the world's (read; the US) got more important things to worry about, like the economy and the damage to trade, rather than worry about an opressed people right now. Tibet may emerge again whenever any political leverage is needed though. At least its nice to see that Global Warming made the cut.

The Economist story links back to a story published in 1959 when the Dalai Lama (then 15 years old i believe) escaped military China to Indian territory. A myth emerged then that the Lama had conjured up a cloud to hide himself and his supporters from the Chinese air force. The Economist had its own ideas as to what that cloud really was though, and I'm inclined to agree with them.