A life in these times : Civilization, Democracy, Economics, Family, Ideas, Liberal, Life, Multi-Cultural, Principles, Progress, Science, Self, Truth.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Congratulations Sri Lanka 1.0

Congratulations to Sri Lanka for getting rid of the Parabahkaran and his racist band of mass murderers.

When I first started blogging about Lankan issues after the tsunami I was hoping that the LTTE will transform into post-tsunami mainstream politics, though I despised their racism. Then, when they started attacking the military I gave up on that and the only question I had was how badly the military will retaliate. When the early signs of the Trico5 and Pottuvil10 emerged I began to have my doubts as to how the fighting would be conducted above and beyond the fog-of-war scenarios. It appears that the politico-military had learnt it's lessons well. IMO the prosecution of the war has not been as cold-blooded and indiscriminate as it could have been though bloody.

Most of all however I have been interested in how the public were led and motivated to back the war and to compare it to the atmosphere around 1983 era. Tyranny of the majority or the Patriotism of the majority were the questions? particular it has been interesting to view the sense of ownership and patriotism that has been fostered under the current elites to combat the separatist agenda. There are many lessons that I have learnt in observing this process. A notable mention must go to Dayan Jayatilleke for his writings. These I feel are as important to future Sri-Lankans as the Fedrealist papers have been to the formation of the US.

Another aspect that I came across while blogging has been the peace-NGOs and the psuedo-intelligentsia. They have been the most disapointing aspect of this. While a few aimed to be the moral watchdogs of democracy a majority of them just seemed unable to be morally responsible and too out of touch with the soul of the nation. Let alone not being able to express themselves in Tamil or Singhalese. The Western European nations too have been particularly disapointing in their lack of effort to put more pressure on the LTTE, particularly towards the end.

Online and offline talking, reading and interacting with Sri Lankans in the diaspora and in the country I get the feeling that Sri Lanka has found it's sense of self for the first time since it's formation as a post-colonial liberal democracy. In my interactions, for every sinhalese nationalist voice there has been a Sri Lankan nationalist voice. This gives us heart that what we are witnessing is the emergence of Sri Lanka 1.0. A nation that I feel can in good time, ensure the liberty and equality of all individuals without prejudice. All the best of luck.

PS: Nice show by the government in not going overboard with the official end of war celebrations. Compared to the Eastern Victory celebrations these appeared to be more measured and secular.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Betting on an Australian Win

My bets are on Australia wining tonight. True to Sri Lankan form, and if kottu is the form guide, the world cup has caused an epidemic in the normally fever ridden Sri Lanka. Something I cannot even imagine in current day Australia, well suburban Melbourne at least. More people seem to be interested in this weeks AFL games than the cricket, except for the Lankan migrants of course, perhaps its just the arrogance of victory. However, today’s newspapers have been all about Sri Lanka.

This time around it seems to be all about Big Respect for Sri Lanka. Something, if memory serves me correctly, unimaginable a decade ago where Sri Lanka hardly even rated in the pre-final news coverage. But then a decade past a fierce and at times spiteful rivalry has formed between the two aggressors on the fields where the sounds of leather on wood echo around the world through the hyper channels of networked life.

So who will win in this metaphorical battle between David and Banda? Lets have a look. Australia, a team of extremely talented individuals, that has been physically dominant and competitively ruthless on it's way to the finals or Sri Lanka, again an extremely talented and artistically majestic but at times has been susceptible to psychological laziness on route to the final.

On paper the bowling attacks appear to be well matched, though Maharoof's average is (9 at 22) is not really up to Bracken's (15 @ 14.93). It's the batting that is a cause for concern. The top order differences are marked; (Aus) 64.81 vs (SL) 44.02 and the SL top order have just not shown the confidence that the aussies have. The information markets are in favor of Australia too with AUS @ $1.37 and SL @ $3.20 to win. Looking at the recent past meetings, Sri Lanka's wins against Australia in the VB series have been under exceptional performances where Jayasuriya has fired and Dilshan and Murali stepped up. eventually when Australia finally put the foot down Murali ended up with the worst figures of his career and the kangaroo had knocked out the lion.

What would it take for SL to Win? Well In My Uneducated Opinion (IMUO), they will probably have to bring the A+ team to the game. Jayasuriya or someone else capable of dominating the attack would have to plunder the Aussie attack. I haven't seen enough SL matches to figure out who this might be (but I did see Kapugedara show signs of Jayasuriaesk flashes, perhaps for the next world cup). Sangakarra would probably have to bring his game face on. Most of all they will have to break the Aussie psyche. To this end the psy-ops so far may be a positive. By resting the bowlers it has many of the players talking about it, then there has been Sangakarra and Moody's retort to the Aussies commentary and finally Ponting was kept waiting yesterday. The tactics are not the same as with Ranatunga but then Mahela is not him.

Ultimately what are the chances of Sri Lanka winning? My head, and the markets say Australia and that's where I place my Money. Like many aussies with divided allegiances my heart is with Sri Lanka in the cricketing field. Good luck to the Sri Lankan team.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shills, Comics and Plagiarists at the

I usually like reading the AsianTribune. However every now and then they end up publishing articles which turn out to be comedic gems. I don't know about the editorial policy practiced by K T Rajasingham and Co but some of the posts border on the plain ridiculous and do not show any kind of journalist integrity.

The latest article, which finally prompted me to write this post, is this blatant piece of commercial promotion titled Record breakers Mahela and Kumar launch revolutionary 'Intel' processors by Quintus Perera. I don't know if Intel is paying dear old Quintus to act as a shill but it surely seems to have paid off in trumps. This is nothing but a sell out and even indi does a better job covering the Intel launch than QP.

Then there was this piece by Janaka Perera titled German NGO's duplicity exposed which I think is an attempts at investigative journalism / expose but ends up being nothing more a scatter shot approach to throwing mud at the Berghof Foundation. I don't have a problem with the logic or the topic under discussion just the unprofessional methods used. The article is nothing more than hyperbolic accusations and wild speculation that fits more in the blogsphere than in an internet daily. To use such incivil tactics as invoking the specter of Nazism to smear all Germans by implication, no doubt a well thought out tactic, just highlights Janakas inability to perform the sort of investigative journalism required for an expose. On the other hand if this was meant to be a polemic he has far to go and may I suggest that he take some lessons from his colleague HLD. Actually I was even more surprised when the Berghof Foundation replied to it.

Was about to publish this in the morning when I saw todays edition and guess what? We have a new player attempting to reach the plateau of mediocrity. Todays article titled Sri Lankans fight to defeat fuel prices by Sunil C. Perera appears to be saying something related to the sensationalist headline but I just don't get it. Perhaps someone can point it out to me. Other than an unsupported assertion at the start followed by a couple of sentences referring to consumer reluctance in the take up of ethanol mixed fuel the article certainly doesn't portray any sense of lankans "fighting to defeat fuel prices" unless Sunil has found a new synonym for the LTTE. The remaining 80% of the article is spent describing fuel-cell technology and has no direct relevance to the topic under discussion. It gets even worse.

I was a bit suspicious of the content so I did some googling and it turns out good old Sunil C. Perera is a plagiarist (Note: Since he hasn't acknowledged any of the original sources I am quite happy to label him a plagiarist). He seems to plagiarized most of his content from fuel-cell related sites on the net.

For example

from see What is a fuel cell?

from see What is a fuel cell?

from see ECN build first Dutch hydrogen car

These are but the most recent attempts at comedy in the AsianTribune and one must question its editorial process and if this continues its integrity. I am not trying to adopt a holier than thou attitude here but if this is what we can expect from South Asian Journalist, specifically Sri Lankan journalists, its NOT GOOD ENOUGH. You need to lift your game.

I couldn't decide who was the bigger culprit, Quintus Perera acting as a shill for Intel or the plagiarism of Sunil C. Perera.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Absentia

Let's see, shortly after my previous post,

BabyH was born
I lost track of time
Assumed new responsibilities at work
Started post-grad studies
Lost more track of time
Added oooh, aagh, gaaaa to vocab
Started looking for a new job
Forgot what time is
Planning on renovations
Did I say something about time ...

So whats new in serendipity? Hmmm, the tigers have started fighting again as predicted. A pity since they are on a lost cause. Heads up to sittingnut and David Blacker for calling it, but is it war ? Actually i don't want to discuss that much right now.

Due to time constraints I wont be posting much but I do catch up on the blogophere daily. I expect future posts here to be minimalistand irregular. I'll also be popping up here are there for comments.

Well, off to find more time.

Friday, April 28, 2006

An Eastern Affair

What went on in the east just under two weeks ago? This is a question I have been asking myself since then. The established facts are, following two of the many blatant LTTE actions murdering innocent civilians their aim of instigating retaliatory attacks bore some fruit when there was ethnic rioting targeting tamils. To the credit of the government they reacted quickly and effectively to bring the situations under control. Beyond that there are accusations such as these, primarily from tamil nationalists, that the revenge attacks had a degree of pre-planning and organization to it.

The violence did not occur against a backdrop of ethnic harmony. Over the past year, besides the tiger related violence, there have been other incidents associated with singhalese extremists aimed at inflaming communal tension. There was the erection of buddha statues, thaipongal hartals and the assault on a JVP MP who opposed the said hartal. Given these incidents the obvious question is, has there been a resurgence of the singhalese ethnic identity in the east over the national identity and did it contribute to the retaliatory attacks?

Aggressive identity politics based on ethnicity always leads to communal tension and if not mitigated ends up causing a blowback in the form of organised violence, be it in sydney, bosnia, or the janjaweed. It is within this context that I find myself unable to discount the possibility of third-party organisation and/or involvement in the retaliatory violence.

Over at sittingnut thinks that I am being irrational in engaging in such speculation.

go by facts and common sense not by wild irrational speculation
Am I being irrational and unreasonable given the recent tension and agitation in the east? The facts are thin and I haven't seen any credible investigative reports of the events that unfolded other than the news from the international media, SL related websites and the likes of DBS Jeyaraj and co (If you have any please point them out to me or email them. My profile contains the email address). Perhaps this is an indictment of state of investigative journalism coming out of the SL these days.

I suspect that I am facing a form of the information asymmetry problem given the tyranny of distance to SL. If I am having doubts, and I consider myself to be open minded on issues, how will these events be perceived by those who are sympathetic to separatism and/or do not trust the GOSL?

Events since then have stolen the limelight and given the non-conclusive nature of the issue I am going to wait a little longer before making up my mind. I await the next UTHR (J) report hoping that it will shed some light on the issues.

Also, what did the MahindaR mean in his latest speech when he said

We are also aware that several Tamil citizens have also been killed during this period. My special attention has been drawn to this.

Was it an acknowledgement or a subtle warning?

A note on the CPA report (pdf) - I find sittingnut's concerns about the press statement to be valid. While CPA is not under any obligation to explain itself to an anonymous blogger but it’s reputation would have less damage had it released the report together with the press statement.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's been one of those months

bb | ^bb I'm not a poet so I'll let the bard echo my thoughts ....

To be or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn(e)
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's just not cricket

On a 43 degree day I didn’t feel like doing much except keeping cool and sitting in front of the tv to watch the cricket (a rare feat) and some reading in between. As Sri Lanka beat Australia I watched the trumpeter and a few drummers kick off what looked like a baila tune or two. However, a similar attempt to keep a band playing at the previous match at the Melbourne’s Telstra Dome was apparently thwarted, after crowd complains, by the ever reliable boys in blue. According to a Sri Lankan – Australian, Laknath Jayasinghe, who wrote in The Age op-eds during the week.

….this, and other far more cutting and racially motivated language, is what confronted me and my friends - all Australians from migrant Sri Lankan backgrounds - when we decided to sing traditional, festive Sinhalese songs to amuse ourselves during what was a very one-sided cricket match.

There was dancing, and some from the broader Anglo-Australian community joined in. To me, this was multiculturalism in its truest and most joyful sense.

So it was incredibly sad to hear a collective grunt of displeasure from a large body of spectators seated nearby, sneering suspiciously at our "foreign" activities. This was followed by a collective sigh of relief from this same section of the crowd when the boys in blue, whom they had complained to, asked us to stop singing and dancing …

This is nothing new. In the past I’ve been to a few AL vs OZ games in Melbourne and invariably when the baila starts playing and people get together the boys in blue materialise as if an alarm has gone off in their deterrence detection meter. More about that later. The next day a friend forwarded the following email ( edited for minor cleansing) which was written by a mate who was at the match providing context for the above cited article. It provides an insiders view.

What happened at the Dome was this. The first half I really enjoyed the banter because there were a few Aussie guys with the beer in their hands who were countering our cheering with Murali taunts ( and we were 10 guys who started shouting in Sinhalese (native language) and then turned to English when we started copping it - so that people can understand). Anyway that was good fun and both parties enjoyed it and we even had a bit of a chat during the 40 minute interval. Then came Part 2.

Part 2 happened when the band started playing and the about 150 or more Sri Lankans got together on one part of Level 3 at the Dome and started singing sinhalese songs/ This is when the crowd around us got apparently uncomfortable (or maybe offended) and asked the cops to make us stop. In between some Aussies teenagers got between the singing group and started to yell in English. So the cops came and they asked us to leave and told that if we want to sing that we should take it outside the stadium. So most of us did a lap around the Dome and watched the remaining 30 odd overs at the big screen outside the Dome .Honestly, I thought we copped a bit ( and there were some very minor scuffles !) but I didn’t relate any of the events seriously to 'other more broader issues' until I saw this article and looking at a lot of things, I do agree with a lot of the content.

My response in another post…TBC.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Take a bow Dr.Gunatunga you are an individual

Living overseas it's hard to guage the day to day violence and death in the North and East of Sri Lanka and finding the truth is itself a challenge as each of the antagonists are out to create illusions of it. I usually await the UTHR(J) publications (last report) to clear the air. However, in this particular criminal act the truth appears to be a lot easier and transparent thanks primarily to one individual.

By all accounts 5 innocent students were intentionally killed in Trincomalee on the 2nd of January 2006 and attempts were made to frame these murders.
This was followed soon after by the killing on 2 January of five high school students from Sri Koneswara Hindu College and St Joseph's College in Trincomalee. Although the army first claimed they were killed by a grenade that the students were carrying, following a post mortem it was revealed that the students had been shot, three of them in the head. The President has ordered an inquiry into the killings. [link Amnesty]
As narrated by DBS Jeyaraj one individual stands out in his actions for the truth.
The truth however became known when the post - mortem and judicial inquiry was conducted. The Trincomalee Judicial Medical Officer Dr.Gamini Gunatunga conducted the post - mortem and ruled that all five dead victims had died due to gunshot injuries. Three had died of head injuries while the other two had succumbed to abdomen and chest injuries. The JMO however observed that some of the victims had injuries other than gunshot wounds too. But the fatal ones were from gunshots. [link via theacademic]
I for one would like to offer my thanks to Dr.Gunatunga for his actions and not caving in to any pressure applied by the criminal elements who comitted these acts in the name of the state. To me this is an ideal example of the difference an individual can make in times of overwhelming odds as well as the power of the truth when the judiciary is transparent. Now the question is, having ordered an inquiry into this incident will Mr.Rajapaskse stand up to seek justice.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The year that was meant to be but didn’t

This was the year Intelligent Design (ID) made its push to get into the science classroom and Iraq was supposed to be the shining new example of democracy in the Middle East. Alas, the latest attempt at cloaking creationism by another named gibberish has encountered its first knock back by the US legal system in Pennsylvania. The court's decision is available here (pdf) for the interested.

Judge John E. Jones III declared that the school district's claim that I.D. is a scientifically valid alternative to evolution is simply wrong. "Intelligent design is nothing less than the progeny of creationism," he writes.

Salon has an in depth article titled Survival of the unfittest looking at the challenge from ID and its rise in mainstream culture. Thankfully the situation here doesn’t appear to be as bad as in the US with both Bush and the Pope joining the chorus.

A lot of people seek answers to complex systems with closed solutions rather than spending the effort required to critique and/or debunk one’s beliefs and maintain an open and sceptical mind. ID isn’t the first and will not be the last challenge to the sceptics amongst us. I was always in favour of teaching the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster alongside ID. So what’s going to happen to FSM now?

As Nassim Taleb writes, there are many Opiates of the middle classes needing debunking. Another supposed success was to be the spread of secular democracy in Iraq. While some sense of political self-governance has taken hold it’s hardly the resounding success it was meant to be. The US appears to have done a deal with the Sunni leadership but Iran is sabre rattling, so what's up?. IMO, the biggest questions in 2006 will be if Iraq slips into a civil war and how the US-Iran relationship will evolve. Meanwhile Juan Cole has a an excellent article titled Top Ten Myths about Iraq in 2005

See you in the next year and all hail

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Racing to develop

Over at Lanka Libertarian there is a bit of discussion about the social vs economic development. Sometime ago while discussing Sri Lanka with a family friend who was involved in and led a development organization for most of his life expressed the view that the problems were caused by the social development of the country outpacing economic development. I made a mental note though I wasn’t convinced of this as the causal factor.

The more plausible argument seems to be that the problems faced by Sri Lanka are multi-causal and economic development (the lack of it) was one of the causes. Particularly amongst the educated and meritorious youth who were frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement.

Anyway, while googling for a book on SL the new big-brother suggested a link to this paper titled Economic Roots of Political Conflict: The Case of Sri Lanka (pdf) by Sirimal Abeyratne. The Abstract reads,
The escalation of political conflicts in many developing countries and their impact on economic development have been topical issues in recent development literature. The overwhelming emphasis on 'ethnic conflicts' in the literature has, however, precluded analysts from looking at political conflicts beyond their ethnic dimension, in the wider context of the development process. In particular, because of the preoccupation with ethnic roots as the prime source of these conflicts, reverse causation, running from economic policy to political conflict, has been virtually ignored in the debate. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap through an in-depth case study of the 'twin political conflict' in Sri Lanka - the Tamil separatist war in the North and the Sinhala youth uprising in the South - with emphasis on its economic roots. The findings suggest that fundamental contradictions in the national development policy in the restrictive trade regime of Sri Lanka were at the heart of the country's twin political conflict.[paper (pdf)]
For an academic paper in economics its a surprisingly easy read. I recommend reading it, better yet print it out and keep it under the pillow and read a page or two each night before falling a sleep. More south-asian economics info at ASARC.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

of Middle Eastern Appearance

Note:subscription issues using links try

Over the past five years these words became part of the media verbiage when describing violent and anti-social activities associated with gangs of first and second generation Lebanese-Australian youth in
Sydney. It looks like the blowback has finally happened in the rather insular suburb of Cronulla which has a history of intolerance towards people from other suburbs. What was intended to be a legitimate protest by surfies and beachgoers quickly became a cowardly and inexcusable racist mob that indiscriminately attacked anyone who looked “middle eastern”. This has been followed by more cowardly reprisal attacks over the past two nights by car loads of youth (read Lebanese). Lets make no mistake, this is a turf war between two Neanderthal tribes ( the "lebos" and the "surfies" ) with a racial elements mixed in.

While I’m not a Sydneysider and am not intimately familiar with the city, I lived there for a year. I also have family members and friends whom I visit at least twice a year. It is from this perspective that I analyse and write here.

The timeline and lead up

Lebanese youth seem to have been frequenting the beachside suburbs of southern Sydney and generally making a nuisance of themselves (more below). Reports alleged threatening behaviour towards fellow beachgoers, loudmouthed ogling and calls of “sluts” towards girls in bikinis / swimwear, etc.

Ms Lamour said the gangs that roamed the beach targeted the locals. "They always come down trying to start trouble. It's the only reason we don't want to come down, because we know we will get harassed."

On the previous Sunday a gang of Lebanese youth were involved in an attack on lifeguards at Cronulla beach. This attack seems to have been the straw that broke the camels back. In most beaches lifeguards provide a volunteer community service which carries a degree of respect and gratitude within the local community.

As a response a community protest was planned this past Sunday but without proper coordination the organisation took a life of it’s own (similar to flash mobs) as SMS texts did the rounds calling “Aussies” to take back the beach and join in “bash a wog and leb day”. The media too got a wind of this and started to report on it.

The media baiting and incitement(?)

During the week elements of the media, particularly the RWDB shock jocks on Sydney talk-back radio let rip and stoked the flames on intolerance as usual.

Alan Jones was screaming like a race caller whose horse was coming home. "I'm the person that's led this charge here. Nobody wanted to know about North Cronulla, now it's gathered to this."...

top-rating breakfast host had heaps of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners on. "Alan, it's not just a few Middle Eastern bastards at the weekend, it's thousands. Cronulla is a very long beach and it's been taken over by this scum. It's not a few causing trouble, it's all of them."...

He assured his audience he "understood" why that famous text message went out and he read it right through again on air: "Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge. This Sunday every Aussie in the shire get down to North Cronulla to support the leb and wog bashing day …"

Such comments, IMHO, contain statements inciting violence. The question is, would the authorities enforce the rule of law and call these lame and temporal media elites to account?

Though this is not the first instance of the media targeting the Lebanese community as a whole due to the actions of some, many high-profile incidents involving self-identifying Lebanese youth have created a negative stereotype

Lebanese violence and stereotype

The history of Lebanese migration following the civil-war is an interesting story on its own. It’s my understanding that the then prime-minister allowed many unsavoury characters to migrate to Australia and most of them settled in Sydney but they certainly haven’t followed the script of Model Minorities. From this emerged crime gangs whose modus operandi became the unrestrained use of firearms. At times it seemed that drive-by shootings in the south-western suburbs became a weekly event and even the police stations came under fire.

Also in Sydney, around 2000 gangs of youth from muslim backgrounds were involved in luring and gang-raping “Aussie” girls. Most of these limpdicks self-identified themselves as Lebanese. The most notorious being one Bilal Skaf now in jail.

These events and other minor incidents involving a disproportionate use of violence sent chills throughout Sydney and socialised the “lebo” stereotype. Though some are eager to blame the S11, Bali and Tampa incidents I believe much of the damage was self-inflicted by a community now knowing how to come to grips with the idiotic and macho elements among them. As with any other insecure minority the lebos too make a habit of over emphasising their ethnicity and are negative towards “Aussies”.

Cronulla; an intolerant suburb

Cronulla, the suburb where the riots occurred, has a history of violence towards outsiders. During the week the beach is primarily the domain of locals but on weekend the people from the nearby suburbs arrive and it seems this riles the locals. There have been riots and rivalry between the parochial insiders and outsiders and it appears to have been particularly bad in the 60s. Most of the Lebanese youth who frequent the beach are from these same suburbs.

My significant other worked in a Cronulla school for over 6 years and according her it’s a generally middle-class suburb, but ethnically homogenous with a underbelly of nastiness. According to her, the yobbo elements were always a significant proportion of the population. It also appears to have one of the lowest proportions of migrant settlement rates in Sydney.

In 2003 I wrote a feature for the Herald about the implications of the Shire's cultural make-up. Its 215,000 people then (the second biggest local council in NSW and the fourth biggest in Australia), had one of the lowest proportions of non-English-speaking-background residents in the country: 9 per cent. White faces dominate, as do conservative values.

The suburb is known for its surfing facilities. While there are many smart people who surf one needs to differentiate them from the “surfies”. The surfies are those for whom surfing is their primary identity and lifestyle. Having spent some time amongst surfies, most people I know agree with me when I say that surfies are not the brightest lights on the beach.

The riots

Following the cowardly attack on two lifeguards by about 20 Lebanese youth a community protest was planned for Sunday. Spreading the message via SMS and the media the protest seems to have attracted a large numbers of youth from all around the shire. It was also attended by small numbers of ultra-rightwing neo-nazi and nationalist groups who were there spreading their bile and stirring the passions of hatred as usual.

According to what I saw on TV, a hot day, lots of booze and a lackadaisical police presence seems to have turned local pride into jingoistic ethno-nationalist hatred. While there was a racist element to the mob, my observation was that it contained people from many races not just Caucasian Australians as reported worldwide. The racism that was evident was of everyone hating the “lebos”.

Irrespective of the targets all racism is deplorable. What is bravery when the fight is 5000 vs 1 or 20 vs 2 ? How does one justify a mob attacking a muslim girl? or attacking an ambulance? These acts of violence were conducted by cowardly thugs involved in a turf war. They seem to find security in self-fulfilling ethnic identities and resorting to pack mentalities afraid of one on one confrontations.

More discussion at catallaxy(post1, post2), LarvatusProdeo and darp. Oh and by the way, In my experience Australia is not Racist.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A whinge or two

I haven’t been in a blogging mood lately. It must be that time of the year because I have been out of sorts. The head heavy; the heart dry; the clouds grey; the mood dim. This explains the lack of interest in the blogosphere.

Weekend and long hours became part of the work week in trying to get the latest version of the software out the door. Having inherited some bad algorithm designs it always riles me when a change in behaviour/usage exposes holes containing code that’s comparable to using band-aids to hold together a train. There is no excuse for bad design decisions, says I, one who has been guilty of such conduct at times. Anyway, managed to get it all under control and ship it in time.

On top of that one of my neighbours seems to have set up a wifi network. This coupled with a M$ XP software “product feature” meant that every time I tried to load a page the laptop would drop the network connection. On the weekend I finally managed to move aside the furniture in the study to get to the router and reconfigure the channel. It seems to be working now.

There are a few things to blog about. Have been holding back from blogging something about the elections but the time is nigh (unlike some broken intentinons). Before that however I must write something about the anti-lebanese racially tuned riots at Cronulla beach in Sydney. For now, it’s time to cruise across the blogs and leave some comments.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Breaking news ...

Australian federal police and secret services organisations have raided suspected Tamil homes possibly associated with LTTE. The news item mentioned that one of the the raided houses could be connected to the Kadiragamar murder and that Tamil material has been taken away.

Staying up late and this is what I just saw in the late night news bulletin. Here is the first item I could find online. Stay tuned for more elsewhere.

I'll update this tomorrow once the MSM (MainStreamMedia) start comng out with the story.

Update I: link link link google news

Update II:

Some background items on recent LTTE related activities in the Oz news.
  • Threats made against a person living in Australia. - link link
  • Oz and Thai police bust a people smuggling scam - link link
  • Australian citizen suspected of involvement in kadiramar affair - link link

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Engineering Innovation

Unis are not happy about the maths skills of new students. Professional bodies are worrying about shortages of engineers. Could it be that engineering is not sexy again? Is this the attitude in general and are budding engineering geeks opting for softer options like banking? In a recent OnlineOpinion article Tanveer Ahmed argues Australia needs more engineers and fewer bankers to secure our economic growth.
In an index developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a measure of a country’s potential for innovation was the number of quality engineers it produced per head of its population. The measure is to innovation as infant mortality statistics are to development.
Indeed innovation is driven by engineers and an entrepreneurial culture but it's something we don't see enough of in the Australian zeitgeist with it's over reliance on natural resources and the media distracted by the rapid uptake of new technologies (mostly developed elsewhere). I'm not aware of the per-capita comparisons of engineers between nations but Tanveer comments
A Chinese student is six times more likely to choose engineering as his American counterpart. An Indian graduate is eight times more likely, according to figures from a MIT study. The figure in Australia is likely to be closer to the US, if not less.
Is this a reasonable comparison? I would expect China and India to be starting from a lower base of higher-ed students and qualified engineers. Obviously with a high demand for engineers, necessitated by the increasing needs of infrastructure development, it would be reasonable to expect that a prospective student in such a country has more to gain by being an engineer during their lifetime.

Things have changed since my days at school. Since the tech-boom they have introduced teaching activities focusing on Innovation, Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship. Also, unlike IT, the governments are heavily investing in bio-technology. That said, development is not always innovation, it does not create tomorrows bleeding edge.
it is engineers and other like-minded science professionals who have driven forward our civilisation. From inventions like the electric motor and the computer chip, to astonishing achievements like the Harbour Tunnel, it is their brains that financiers must rely on to get rich off.
I think all potential innovators understand this and realise
Innovation and great ideas take time, hard work and can be filled with uncertainty.
Is it this desire to follow the path that begins with inspiring ideas, leads to sleepless nights, times of self-doubt, bouts of depression and periods of obsessive focus that produce the elusive innovation? Don’t know, but I‘d like to find out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Murali vs Warne

The smh had an article yesterday comparing Warne and Murali. The question is, given a chance, on merit who would you pick ?

Your mission, and you have chosen to accept it, is to pick a cricket side like no other. A team comprising the best players from the Australian and Rest of the World XI sides strutting their collective stuff at the SCG this week. You can choose whoever you like, but there's a catch. You can have only one spinner.

Go on, take your pick - Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan? Who's better?

On Sunday, having some free time I sat down to watch some the ICC test match and coincidently Murali was at his flame throwing best. He has hardly played any tests in Oz so it was a treat to watch as Peter Roebuk described it,

Hitherto, Murali had been wheeling away without much effect. His bowling has changed during the years. Nowadays, he aims his off-break at the wickets, so it is hard to tell apart from the doosra. Judging by the expression that remained on Mark Boucher's map for most of the innings, the ploy is working. Murali's off break turns less and he relies more on his "other one". As usual, the Sri Lankan had been bowling wholeheartedly but the batsmen had been playing him intelligently, working the ball into gaps, using their feet and sweeping powerfully.

Suddenly, the spinner sprang to life. Inspired by the rush of wickets, Murali put an extra flick on his deliveries, whereupon they stopped high-jumping and started pole-vaulting. His next over will linger long in the memory.

Delivered from around the wicket, another skill the tweaker has added to his repertoire, every ball curled through the air, landed on a length and jumped like a surprised child. As far as Simon Katich was concerned, the bowler was talking an unknown language.

I'm not a cricket fan though I don’t mind playing it when I get the opportunity. My interest is usually piqued only when Australia play Sri Lanka. I've decided to see who I would pick for my team. Trying to be as reasonably objective, my strategy has been to

  • limit it to test cricket
  • seek a good sample size ( minimum of 5 innings )
  • select common opposition
  • select common soil / destination
  • exclude results against minnows ( Bangladesh and Zimbabwe )

This limits me to picking countries where both SL and OZ have toured. On the head-to-head count I can only use Autralia’s tours of Sri Lanka as Murali hasn’t played many tests in Oz ( IMHO, they should play at least a 3-test home and away series every four years).

The following are the results of the one-to-one comparisons using the excellent cricket statistics site provided by channel4.

Murali vs Warne
Country Player M(Inns) Runs Wickets Avg S/R Wckts/Match Runs/Over Link
India Murali 5(5) 731 15 48.73 105.73 3 2.77 link

Warne 9(16) 1466 34 43.12 81.03 3.78 3.19 link
England Murali 3(5) 517 24 21.54 59 8 2.16 link

Warne 22(44) 2832 129 21.95 52.33 5.86 2.52 link
Pakistan Murali 7(13) 1053 49 21.49 50.18 7 2.57 link

Warne 3(6) 504 18 28 60.56 6 2.77 link
NZ Murali 4(5) 382 13 29.38 77.08 3.25 2.29 link

Warne 9(18) 1044 49 21.31 51.41 5.44 2.49 link
W.Indies Murali 4(7) 456 25 18.24 41.92 6.25 2.61 link

Warne 7(12) 674 17 39.65 78.29 2.43 3.04 link
S.Africa Murali 6(10) 911 35 26.03 60.54 5.83 2.58 link

Warne 9(16) 1060 49 24.04 63.37 5.11 2.18 link
Aus vs SL Murali 8(14) 1223 47 26.02 54.06 5.88 2.89 link

Warne 8(14) 794 37 21.46 42.54 4.62 3.03 link

I pick Shane Warne. He comes out on top on the more important stats (Avg and S/R) and is a better batsmen. Arguably he has always had the better, tougher and more predatory team around him and this would have contributed as well. He may be an ass but is a very good cricketer.

image from The Age / Reuters

Monday, October 17, 2005

Immediate Violence and Assassination Person

I.V.A.P : Immediate Violence and Assassination Person

via namedcoder

Harmless fun - leave yours ( remove line breaks )

Synthetic Electronic Replicant Engineered for Nocturnal Destruction and Immediate Peacekeeping

Serendip + Eye

Electronic Ytterbium Entity

Monday, October 03, 2005

Chindia complex

On the weekend there was yet another article describing the chindia complex. Thankfully unlike other articles it does not aim to compare the growth and development of Chinese and Indian economies. It’s a little more realistic and focuses on the growing ties and relative differences of the two.

Despite its reputation as a software superpower, India's exports have been driven by the export of one item: iron ore. Last year the country shipped 60 million tonnes of iron ore to China, as the country's construction industry gobbles up the world's raw materials. Chinese officials have long insisted that if their country is the workshop of the world, then India is the globe's office…

To many experts, China offers India a role model. Indian IT companies made a mark because the Government avoided stifling them with regulation...

…Hardly a day passes that its government does not invoke the "Chinese model" to justify rolling back the state…

As shown, comparing China vs India is really a typical case of apples and oranges. On most major statistics China is by far and away ahead of India.

However, most mag journos seem to make two mistakes. The first is to always directly compare the two economies ignoring the social conditions. The second is to obsessively focus, to the point of showing their ignorance, on the Indian IT sector. It’s good to see things changing in the media.

Via sepiamutiny. More at gnxp, ForeignPolicy (pdf)

image from

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Distraction by history

Since I have been distracted to from finishing a certain promised blog it's my turn to distract with a few quirks (or was it not-so quacks) from history.

In 1978 who wrote?

"Today the consequences of such an educational emphasis are already apparent, and while it may once have served helpfully to boost battered post-colonial egos, against this must be set the fact that it has sharpened the communal hostilities between Sinhalese and Tamils, has intensified the spirit of linguistic chauvinism, and in its generally anti-rational character has encouraged the development of a society, already astrologically obsessed, which allows itself to be ordered by planetary conjunctions and a whole calendar of endlessly pored-over auspicious dates and times."

Roger Sandall writing in 1979 about Sri Lanka's sticky future

Now that Libertarians are popping up all over the lastnnodes of the sub-continent, who was the Indian economist influenced by Hayek and the Austrian School of economics?

"After teaching in Ceylon and India, he joined the Reserve Bank of India. He was sent to Washington as the Indian representative for the World Bank and the IMF from 1951 to 1953. He could have become the governor of the RBI but he couldn't stand it anymore. So he took a cut of half his salary and went back into academic teaching. They made the mistake of leaving him on a panel of economists for the planning commission. In an appended dissenting report issued in the early 1950s, he predicted that if the Nehru plan went into effect, India would face a foreign-exchange crisis and inflation and there would have to be cuts. Nehru got very upset."

B.R.Shenoy is discussed in an interview with his economist daughter Sudha Shenoy.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A conversation thread

A blog commentator named Ashanthi, who first turned up in nittewa, has the habit of carrying out unrelated conversations across multiple blog entries. So I opened this thread for the conversation here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Escape from New Orleans

Watching Snake Plissken in Escape from LA I could never have imagined such a scenario occurring in the US. At least not in 2005.

A few days before cyclone Katrina visited the shores of the southern US states I was watching a detailed news briefing outlining the expected fall out from the hurricane, the measures taken to safeguard the city, the emergency planning and disaster preparedness. The 3D animations were very detailed, the scenario had been war-gamed previously and the news conference oozed with the confidence of technocrats. So where did it all go wrong?

Chaos and gunfire hampered efforts to evacuate the Superdome, and, Superintendent P. Edward Compass III of the New Orleans Police Department said, armed thugs have taken control of the secondary makeshift shelter at the convention center. Superintendent Compass said that the thugs repelled eight squads of 11 officers each he had sent to secure the place and that rapes and assaults were occurring unimpeded in the neighboring streets as criminals "preyed upon" passers-by, including stranded tourists [via dailykos]

It is sometimes said that the mark of progress is how a nation reacts in times of disaster. The US is the worlds most advanced country and the current sole superpower. If so how did they allow for the currently unfolding, unmitigated disaster that is New Orleans? I am baffled by the mistakes and un(der) preparedness. Even in the aftermath of the much more disastrous SE Asian Tsunami there didn't appear to be the near anarchy, chaos and lawlessness as what appears to have gripped some areas of New Orleans.

A few questions I can think of .....

  • Is this the end of small-government talk in the US for a while?
  • Why wasn't there any support structure at the convention centre?
  • What happened to the disaster preparedness and management plans?
  • Did the looters and gangs easily access guns and firearms from abandoned shops (i.e. gun control)?
  • Would this bring more focus on the plight of the US poor?
  • Is the US heading to a recession?
  • What is the impact on the world economy and how does it cope with shocks to the US economy?
  • Have the republicans lost the next election?

John Quiggin has been looking at the economic fallout following the storm damage. Follow Hurricane Watch where they are covering the ongoing situation.

If history is any guide, knowing the human condition, it's not surprising to see such behaviour in light of food and water shortages. What has become of Homo economicus ?


Monday, August 29, 2005

Something around

Some blogs and articles that drew my attention while the offline world has me occupied.

Sanjana acting as Hell's Dire Agent appeals to the much needed Cudgel of Reason in Sri Lankan politics. John Quiggin has a very interesting discussion about the merits of pursuing political objectives by the use of force. Don Arthur is blogging at catalaxxy on how think tanks( aka NGOs ) capture the mainstream political discourse by creating dissent and legitimacy for their causes. Some weeks ago the staple of anti-racism in the west, Guns Germs and Steel, came under the gaze of the blogosphere.

The biological basis for race and the lack of purity from the NYT. The conservative movement is looking at new directions. The nature / nuture of homosexuality is written up at The Boston Globe. With all this how do men reclaim our masculinity?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

I got Polled

I have always wanted to experience being Opinion Polled on politics (sad! yes I know). Growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, AFAIK, we hardly received phone calls for opinion polls. Now that I have settled in a middle-about suburb, we must be within the pollster demographics / geography. I missed the previous two calls but it was 3rd time lucky.

ACNielsen was conducting a not-so-maybe-so random phone poll on politics, current affairs and entertainment. Interestingly they were conducting multiple polls coupled with a marketing survey. Note: I choose to separate the opinion polls from the marketing surveys eventhough they can all be viewed as product preferences.

The first poll was about the preferred Prime Minister in the aftermath of the Bob Carr retirement. The questions were about John Howard vs Kim Beazley vs Bob Carr.

The second survey was on anti-terrorist crime prevention measures. Questions were about Shoot to Kill orders, National ID cards, CCTV Cameras in public places and the Detention and Deportation of terror suspects.

Finally the marketing survey was for the struggling cinema industry. The questions focused on the choice of films, cinema audio / video quality, pirate films, importance of customer services, etc.

Also, on polling and the outer suburbs......

As I mentioned previously, political polls were a rare occurrence in the outer suburbs. For all I know the rest of the family may have answered the phone when the pollsters rang but I had my fair share of the phone and cannot remember a single political poll. There were the usually annoying telemarketers but I've always wondered what kind of people they rang for opinion polls. Back in the day the outer suburbs were Labour strongholds, I wonder if this was a cause as it may have lead to lopsided poll result.

Lately however these suburbs have changed as the political compass has moved in the direction of the Liberal party. Some attribute this to the rise of the Aspirationals and their McMansion housing estates. I would also venture to say that there has been a rise in the number of people reaching maturity and paying off their home-loans, feeling a sense of economic security and taking an interest in, and feeling an affinity with, the (neo?)liberal political discourse. Interestingly, many migrants initially settle(d) in these suburbs.