I am NOT Anna Hazare

I am not Anna Hazare. I do not become Anna Hazare by typing 420 characters on the internet and to be honest, a facebook status or tweet is the worst token of protest. What do you give up by stating that you ‘support’ Anna Hazare? I do support the REAL Anna Hazare in principle, who is actually putting his health and safety on the line to achieve something he believes in, but that is where we part ways.

I personally do not believe that the Jan Lokpal Bill will eliminate the primary engine of corruption, which is the system of arbitrary power we have mindlessly inherited from the British Empire. What we need is not a new set of overlords, but the removal of all existing overlords because it is the very existence of power that leads to the corruption of people and not some inherent flaw in a particular person.

One good lesson that should be learned from this flurry of protests, amidst all the uproar created by media, is that if your ‘protest action’ is supported by elite (who consider themselves ‘middle class’ because their parents were) interests you will reach great heights. Whereas if your actions genuinely endanger any sort of state or class privilege, you will be ignored and humiliated.

Tis the Season (for the Slip Twixt The Cup and The Lip)


Amidst the continuing wikileaks saga, we Indians have had a bit of a foobar here in the media with a corporate lobbyist and a corporate titan airing (a bit more clearly) the various metaphorically-incestuous relations that abound between media, business and the government. it’s like an art-imitates-life version of paddy chayefsky’s network, summed up best by my favourite english language journalist, P. Sainath

Whether it is gas, spectrum, or mining, luxury private townships or other dubious land deals, the last 20 years have seen the consolidation of corporate power on a scale unknown in independent India. It would be wrong to disconnect the Radia tapes from this background. From pitching for licences, mines and spectrum using money and media power to pitching for ministerial candidates and portfolios by the same methods is not a huge leap. The same period has also seen the emergence of media themselves as major corporate entities. Today, we often have seamless movement between the personnel of some economic or financial newspapers and non-media corporations. An assistant editor goes off to Company ‘A’ as a PRO, returns in a more senior post to the same newspaper. Next, goes on as chief PRO, or maybe even as chief analyst or a business manager to a bigger corporate. But the newspaper’s door is open for his or her return, perhaps as resident editor.

The dominant media are not pro-corporate or pro-big business. They are corporates. They are big business. Some have margins of profit that non-media outfits might envy. Media corporations are into hundreds of businesses beyond their own realm. From real estate, hotels, mining, steel, chemicals, rubber and banks to power and sugar. Even into private treaties with other corporations in whom they acquire a stake. On the boards of India’s biggest media companies are also top corporate leaders. Some who find places on the Governor’s Forums of the World Economic Forum. Others heading private banks. And then there are top political leaders who directly own vast media empires. Who can hold ministerial portfolios (affecting these domains) while running their media fiefdoms. The dominant media are not pro-establishment. They are the establishment.

emphasis mine, though there is a bit in the article that my tinkering overshadowed.

to add a bit of context, these tapes have come out in the investigation into the sleazy actions of a recently excommunicated member of the Cabinet of Ministers, who handed out favours in charge of the telecom portfolio.

It’s a rather unhealthy time for our politicians, seeing as the Chief Minister of the state I live in also quit after a year of doing nothing, and members of the recently sworn-in state cabinet providing additional drama by quitting a bit later. and one of the richest and most corrupt politicians in the state has split off from the government to form his own party. And later on towards the end of the month is awaited a report that has kept this place uncomfortable for a year – the decision to carve out two states out of what now exists as a single one.

Happy December, everyone! If I’m alive, I will see you on the other side (and maybe make a few posts along the way!)

on the arundhati roy thing^

is it not obvious that this is purely a media spectacle, and it’s sudden appearance should ask people to look closer at why such spectacle is being promoted at this time suddenly, when there have been political engagements going on at all levels of society in the much-affected kashmir valley? it certainly gets my spidey-sense tingling. there’s a glitch in the matrix. if there is anything i have learned over my exposure to news lo these 10 years, it is that if the corporate (and govt. run) media is deliberately focussing on one particular issue, one can be sure that the actual issue is somewhere else. you do not have to be noam chomsky to figure that out.

anyways. regardless of the content or tone of her words, and discounting the fact that she is a minor celebrity since she a) won a booker prize a while back and b) articulates a radical left-of-center view in good prose, this sudden attention seems to me an obvious ploy to pre-emptively discredit any and all leftist thought and action on the issues faced by kashmiris by equating, rather falsely, any demands for justice(which are definitely warranted) as an act of sedition* and thus ending the possibility of any real dialogue by drowning the concerned populace in a sea of parochial nationalism branded as patriotism.

(^ = if you are wondering what the arundhati roy thing is, google news is your friend)
(* = as someone tending towards anarchism[in the language of calculus] , the concept of sedition does not fempute )

Žižek weighs in

at the London Review of Books

That the criticism of the bailout plan came from conservative Republicans as well as the left should make us think. What left and right share in this case is their contempt for big speculators and corporate managers who profit from risky decisions but are protected from failures by ‘golden parachutes’. In this respect, the Enron scandal of January 2002 can be interpreted as an ironic commentary on the notion of a risk society. Thousands of employees who lost their jobs and savings were certainly exposed to risk, and had little choice in the matter. However, the top managers, who knew about the risk and also had the opportunity to intervene in the situation, minimised their exposure by cashing in their stocks and options before the bankruptcy. So while it is true that we live in a society that demands risky choices, it is one in which the powerful do the choosing, while others do the risking.

it’s really well-written and well thought out, typically. worth your time to read it.

Pre-Post Update: PRof. Roubini’s economonitor sent me an alert today:

The US and advanced economies’ financial system is now headed towards a near-term systemic financial meltdown as day after day stock markets are in free fall, money markets have shut down while their spreads are skyrocketing, and credit spreads are surging through the roof. There is now the beginning of a generalized run on the banking system of these economies; a collapse of the shadow banking system, i.e. those non-banks (broker dealers, non-bank mortgage lenders, SIV and conduits, hedge funds, money market funds, private equity firms) that, like banks, borrow short and liquid, are highly leveraged and lend and invest long and illiquid and are thus at risk of a run on their short-term liabilities; and now a roll-off of the short term liabilities of the corporate sectors that may lead to widespread bankruptcies of solvent but illiquid financial and non-financial firms.

On the real economic side all the advanced economies representing 55% of global GDP (US, Eurozone, UK, other smaller European countries, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Japan) entered a recession even before the massive financial shocks that started in the late summer made the liquidity and credit crunch even more virulent and will thus cause an even more severe recession than the one that started in the spring. So we have a severe recession, a severe financial crisis and a severe banking crisis in advanced economies.

There was no decoupling among advanced economies and there is no decoupling but rather recoupling of the emerging market economies with the severe crisis of the advanced economies. By the third quarter of this year global economic growth will be in negative territory signaling a global recession. The recoupling of emerging markets was initially limited to stock markets that fell even more than those of advanced economies as foreign investors pulled out of these markets; but then it spread to credit markets and money markets and currency markets bringing to the surface the vulnerabilities of many financial systems and corporate sectors that had experienced credit booms and that had borrowed short and in foreign currencies. Countries with large current account deficit and/or large fiscal deficits and with large short term foreign currency liabilities and borrowings have been the most fragile. But even the better performing ones – like the BRICs club of Brazil, Russia, India and China – are now at risk of a hard landing. Trade and financial and currency and confidence channels are now leading to a massive slowdown of growth in emerging markets with many of them now at risk not only of a recession but also of a severe financial crisis.

now if that’s not a rosy picture i dont know what is

dept of: there’s no such thing as justice

a class apart

The head of failed US investment bank Lehman Brothers has told Congress that he took home about $300m in pay and bonuses over the past eight years.

Richard Fuld, whose firm went bankrupt last month, made the statement during testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

that took home is crucial, because he basically cashed in.

Mr Fuld said he took “full responsibility for the decisions that I made and for the actions that I took” and defended his actions as “prudent and appropriate” based on information he had at the time.

“I feel horrible about what happened,” he added.

Lehman’s failure set off a financial panic which prompted a $700bn rescue package approved by Congress last week.

why isn’t this guy required to surrender any money he made and then be sent to some sort of correctional facility? or at least made to go work in some steel mill in Guanghzou or wherever they’re coming up nowadays?

important update he got a little bit of what was coming
special free-market update: I’ll have what he’s having!

Barack ‘baby steps’ Obama can shove it

so the imperialist cat is out of the presidential race bag

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has supported the cross-border raids by US forces into Pakistan but described them as “baby steps” by the Bush administration in the right direction. “Senator Obama has been saying for well over a year, in fact, has been saying frankly since before the invasion of Iraq that the central front in the war on terror is Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And we need to invest there,” Susan Rice, the top foreign policy adviser to Senator Obama, said. “The Bush administration has come to that point of view.

That’s the kind of policy we have to pursue and continue, .

This is a baby step, but it’s a baby step in the right direction and something that John McCain hasn’t been willing to acknowledge,” she said.

so under the advice of Susan Rice, Barack Obama is willing to invade Pakistan. Glad to hear someone finally utter the truth so openly.

Bought and Paid for

a good report in the Sunday Magazine of our newspaper.

During the day, there were caucus meetings inside the Colorado Convention Center and in hotel rooms. The important business of planning and fund-raising went on behind closed doors. One could see delegates who wore green badges that said “Finance Guest.” These were the money people. But in the afternoon, for prime time action, the spectacle would shift to the huge Pepsi Center. The candidates as well as their supporters performed for the television cameras. Mailer had foreseen all this, because the change had already begun to come in 1968. In Miami and the Siege of Chicago, he notes that politicians “rushed forward to TV men, and shouldered notepads aside.” He adds, “soon they would hold conventions in TV studios.”

Despite the awareness that they were on TV, the politicians were often dull and, one afternoon, to preserve my sanity I watched a pirated DVD of Satyajit Ray’s “Enemy of the People” on my laptop. That night, on my way back to my hotel room, I stopped to observe an open-air discussion that was being broadcast live by CNN. The TV pundits sat on the brightly-lit stage at the side of the road while just a few feet away people and cars slowed down to gape at the proceedings. All the talk on stage was about the performance of the speakers that night, Hillary Clinton chief among them. Had Hillary got past her bitterness and would she have persuaded viewers in places like Peoria?

But, surely, more difficult issues could be discussed?

A report in July from the Campaign Finance Institute had revealed that out of the 146 corporate donors to both party conventions, only 31 had disclosed information about their contributions. Could the other donors not be pressured to reveal the amount they had given, and couldn’t the commentators have found reason to scrutinise the connection between donations and political access?

Who was paying for it all?
According to the report, Qwest Communications has given six million dollars to host both conventions. Comcast has pledged five million dollars to the Democratic Convention; Xcel Energy, owner of several nuclear plants, has given more than a million dollars to both parties; the telecom giant AT&T, whose logo appeared on every bag given to delegates, has also donated a large amount to the DNC, and financial support has come from other corporations like Motorola, Coca Cola and Google. The report charged that since 2005 these companies have spent more than 1.1 billion dollars on federal lobbying to influence legislation and regulations. The combined amount of corporate donor support for this year’s two conventions comes to about 112 million dollars.

Under those bright television lights, why was no one asking a single question about who was paying for the show?

someone up there really has it in for me

let me explain by chronicling the year 2008 in petty personal disasters in pretty much chronological order:

#1) my ipod loses half it’s functionality, necessitating a very expensive fix.

#2) my beloved ibook dies, leaving me disconnected from the world for quite a while

#3) my pocket is picked, on a bus taking away very little in cash, but a very special wallet and my driving license, college ID, and ATM card.

#4) and just today, my mobile phone popped out of my pocket unnoticed and is now missing, presumably forever because nobody returns things in this city.

#5) (hopefully) the ground opens up and swallows me.

some days you just dont see the reason to go on living.