Reservations about Reservations

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops. — Stephen Jay Gould

The criminal neglect of education, in my considered opinion, is the most important charge upon which the policy makers of India stand indicted. An entire generations of Indians have lived and died since independence—a reasonable estimate would place the number around 500 million humans—about half of whom were illiterate, not just uneducated. The lost potential is stupefyingly mind boggling. How many Ramanujans and Einsteins have they condemned to obscurity and waste, how many did not even see the insides of a school or learn to read, write, reason and do arithmetic?

The answer would break the heart of any thinking human being.

It is time for a full disclosure. My interest in education is not merely academic. I want to transform the current system, which is outdated, outmoded, irrelevant, inefficient and ineffective. Shameless plug follows: if you are interested in working with me in creating the educational system of the future or know someone who may be interested, do get in touch.
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Still Laboring in Serfdom

Only humans are capable of free speech, and those who value free speech have freedom. The rest are slaves. They may be slaves to a religious authority or a political authority, but slaves none the less. The whoremasters who try to take away the right to free speech under the pretext that it may be offensive to some are the worst enemies of human dignity and freedom.
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Imagine No Reservations

Shortages and Nehruvian socialism go hand in hand. Just take scooters, for instance. You could not just take scooters some years ago, actually, thanks to the quota permit license control raj. You had to wait for years before you could lay your hands on one. You could jump the queue if you paid with “hard currency” or paid a premium (black money) to someone who had the foresight to book one years in advance with a view to capture some of the rent that arises out of shortages.

The situation today would have been unthinkable then. Now dealers of two-wheelers practically drag you off the street, give you a cold drink, and by the time you have finished it, they have arranged financing and you roll out the door on your new bike clutching your free gift of a toaster oven. Then your choice was severely limited to four or five models; now a reasonable estimate must be a hundred different makes and models of two-wheelers.
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was at Harvard’s Kennedy School on May 9th. A brief biography of Ms. Ali from the Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership announcement reads:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (born 13 November 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia) is a Dutch human rights leader, feminist, and a member of the Dutch Parliament for the liberal party. She is a prominent and often controversial spokesperson, author, film maker and critic of Islamism. Her movie “Submission” on abuse of women in Islam, directly led to the murder of the director Theo Van Gogh in November 2004. A death letter left on the body was addressed to Ms Hirsi Ali.

In 2005 Ms Hirsi Ali was chosen among the world’s 100 most influential people of Time Magazine and Reader’s Digest voted her ‘European of the Year 2006’. Meanwhile, she also receives heavy criticism on her views and approaches for change. Ms Hirsi Ali is under severe and permanent security protection.

She, like Wafa Sultan, is fighting for the emancipation of women in Islamic countries and more generally for reforming Islam. She has a collection of essays called The Caged Virgin, an “Emancipation Proclamation” for women and Islam.

I guess that her life insurance premiums must be sky high. Not just a pretty face, she is articulate and courageous. Here is a short video of an interview of her on Swedish television (I don’t have details on the date of that recording).

There are more videos of Hirsi Ali on YouTube. But before you do that, you must see the Wafa Sultan video — she is unbelievable.

Update (May 16th): There are google videos on Ayaan here.

Fragments — 13

The BBC reports that Indian Catholics want the movie, The Da Vinci Code, banned.

“Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) activists will go on a fast unto death if the government fails to take action against anti-Christian movies,” CSF general secretary Joseph Dias told the BBC.

Mr Dias is quoted as saying, ” . . . Tempers are already running quite high and there’s no way of saying what could happen if the movie is released.”

I guess the Catholics would go on a rampage and burn down theatres. Eric Hoffer had noted that “when the weak want to give an impression of strength they hint menacingly at their capacity for evil. It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak.” Continue reading “Fragments — 13”

Oh No! India Shinging Again

From the “Don’t Know What’s the Point Department,” the new release is I am India on Google Video. A collage of images–a field of wind power generators, a soaring jet in the blue skies above a lush green field, the majestic fall of water from a dam–introduce words of ersatz wisdom: “A man’s karma is to forever turn the wheel of life towards a better future for all.”

Wow. How absolutely majestically profound-sounding. Of course, I paused the video to ponder it for a bit and gave up after the screen saver kicked in after the usual 10 minutes of inactivity. Time to move on.
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Fragments — 12 (Favorite Lines)

On Saturday afternoons in Berkeley, California, I would to listen to Michael Feldsman’s show What Do You Know? on KALW 91.7 which starts off with the question “What do you know?” and the audience responds “Not much! And you?”

I like that sort of stuff. Opening lines and closing lines, I mean.

For instance, on Garrison Keillor’s radio show A Prairie Home Companion , he always ends his monologue with “That’s all the news from Lake Woebegone — where the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average.”

Many years ago I used to be a big fan of Dave Allen, a British commentator on TV commentator on British TV with a show called “Dave Allen at Large.” He had a unique style. The setting was simple. He would sit on a high stool dressed in a suit. He delivered a monologue on all sorts of topics. He would smoke and drink scotch whisky during his monologue. And he would always end his show with the line, “Thank you, good night, and may your god go with you.”

Movies provide great lines as well. Sholay was a mine for great lines such as ”Tera kya hoga, kalya?”. One of my all-time favorites is from the movie The Sixth Sense where the boy confides that “I see dead people!” You have to say it in a tiny hoarse whisper. When I say it, it just cracks me up.

Indian Reservations

George Bernard Shaw with characteristic cynicism noted that a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. Regardless of their specific stripes, all Indian governments, because they are “democratically” elected, naturally solve the problem of identifying the Peters and the Pauls by a numbers game: Pauls must outnumber the Peters. So it should come as no surprise that yet another idiotic scheme is hatched by the party in power to gain the support of a large underclass by promising them something that will not in any substantial way be of any use to them but gives the appearance of providing relief. Continue reading “Indian Reservations”

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