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Thursday, July 30, 2015

UN's Faux Development Agenda

The United Nations seems to be headed for a summit session of the General Assembly in September that will agree on a meaningless global development agenda.

The draft of the document now being discussed in New York makes high minded declarations about "principles" and "commitment" but ignores such key issues as money laundering and drug trafficking that bedevil economic growth in poor countries.

Produced  after lengthy "consultations" by the Ambassadors of Ireland and Kenya, it does not mention drug trafficking at all. Governments only promise to "strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol."

Money laundering is noted obliquely in the pledge by governments that by 2030 they will "significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows ... and combat all forms of organized crime."

There are four anodyne references to terrorism:

1. Governments say they will "take further effective measures and actions, in conformity with international law, to remove obstacles and constraints, strengthen support and meet the special needs of people living in areas affected by complex humanitarian emergencies and in areas affected by terrorism."

2. They will "Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.

The third and fourth mention of terrorism repeat those formulations word for word in other sections of the draft.

If any of this makes a difference to the lives of the billion people living on less than $1.25 a day it will be convincing proof that miracles do happen.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Debate on Brit Reparations for Colonialism

The Oxford Union/Social media debate on whether the British owe reparations to their former colonies is notable for the alarming display of Indian ignorance of basic facts and interesting in its timing. Items:

1. The British did not rule India for 200 years (as the Oxford debaters, including Shashi Tharoor, said repeatedly). Consider the following time-frame:

  • 1757 The sham “Battle of Plassey” (won by bribery) began the colonial era 
  • 1848 Punjab fell to the British. In 91 intervening years the British did not “rule India;” they took territories in the name of the Mughal Emperor in Delhi and subjected them to rapacious exploitation. They built the railways and telegraph to loot more efficiently. 
  • 1857 Less than a decade after the fall of the Punjab a great national uprising almost unseated the British. In its aftermath Queen Victoria declared herself “Empress of India” and promised to be the people’s “ma-baap” but on the ground vengeful massacres continued for serveral years. The two decades after the uprising saw the worst famines in the country’s history, amidst which the British exported record quantities of food; they also convened a “Great Durbar” and feasted amidst the dying millions.
  • 1885 To try and contain Indian fury, the Agriculture Member of the Viceroy’s Council propelled the founding of the Indian National Congress but the nationalists soon took it over. British “rule” would last just 62 years after that, with the bureaucrats in Delhi in steady political retreat most of the time. 

That timeline shows not only that the British did not rule in any legitimate sense of the word, they also did not control the whole or even most of the country for anywhere near 200 years.

2. The British did not unify India: The British themselves recognized the reality of Indian political unity by remaining Mughal tax collectors for most of their time in India. The country was also united more fundamentally by culture and world view; that was why Gandhi’s political message resonated nationally and mobilized the people. Contrary to its claim to have unified the country is the vicious British record in creating a vicious and unprecedented religious divide.

3. Pre-British India had a range of industries: Social media scoffers at the concept of “deindustrialization” have asked what industries India had other than textiles. India had a wide range of other productive capacities. The highest valued was diamond processing, a uniquely Indian industry through most of history because no other country mined the gems until the 16th Century (when a source was discovered in Brazil). Also widely renowned was the Indian ship building industry. Arab ships were built entirely in India. The country also led in metal work of many kinds, including of course, gold jewelry. The steel pillar near Qutb Minar in Delhi exemplifies the high quality India achieved in a field critically important in making weapons. Tipu Sultan’s use of rocketry against the British also demonstrated an unmatched mastery of other advanced technologies.

4. Toll of British “man-made famines”: Shashi Tharoor said 29 million Indians had perished in British created famines. Going by figures reported by British administrators themselves, the total is over 100 million. Indian estimates go much higher. This phenomenon should not be seen as an accidental by-product of looting. As in North America and Australasia, genocide was British policy.

The Matter of Timing

Shashi Tharoor has been a British spear-carrier for most of his career, so his performance in the Oxford debate needs some explanation. What led him to become so vocal a critic? I would like to think he’s been reading my blog, but having seen him in action for nearly five decades, that explanation is a non-starter. He has a self-serving political aim in mind.

What could it be?

Well, if we’re looking for clues, Sushma Swaraj’s current problems might be a good place to start. They originated in leaks from Britain and have led to calls for her replacement as Foreign Minister. The Times of India reported earlier this week that she had removed the label“Foreign Minister” from her Twitter account.

The Oxford debate was held in May, just about the time when Sushma Swaraj’s problems were surfacing. Shashi did not make public the tape of his speech at Oxford in May or shortly thereafter, when I presume he had it. And now, just as it goes viral, he stirs up a hornets nest in the Congress by criticizing Sonia Gandhi’s tactics in parliament.

Am I being over-imaginative, or does it seem as if he’s preparing to jump ship and bid for the Foreign Minister’s job?

“Not so fast!” you say: “what of the unfortunate Sunanda Pushkar matter?”

Ah yes. Point well taken. But then, a few million pounds distributed in the right quarters might lift that albatross from his political neck.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to Crowd-Fund Greece Out of its Crisis

Greece can pay all its debts in a few months and get back to healthy economic growth immediately if its “socialist” leaders open their eyes to the new capitalism of the Information Age.

As I have been arguing for several years, the corrupt, inefficient corporate capitalism of the industrial era is dying and its successor is waiting in the wings, ready to take the world into the economy of the free market that Adam Smith wrote about in the 18th Century.

What should Greece do?

First, its leaders should use the latest multi-billion dollar bailout not to inflict more pain on their people but to plan how the Greek economy can capitalize crowd funding.

What does that mean?

It means taking advantage of the innovative funding opportunities opened up by the Internet and Worldwide Web.

How?

By creating a global Internet-based lottery with all-expense paid trips to Greece as prizes.

The number of tickets sold for each prize should cover the expenses of all those actively involved in providing a pleasant experience for the tourist, from waiters and guides to hotels and airlines.

An additional number of tickets should be sold to pay off the Greek national debt and fund any programme the government wants.

As some 22.5 million tourists pay to enjoy a Greek vacation every year – most of them Europeans – we can expect that with the whole world bidding the available lottery tickets would be quickly sold out.

Suppose the government sold just 10,000 $1 lottery tickets for each prize, it would generate a total income of 225,000,000,000, which is about the same as the country's 2013 GDP.

The 10,000 figure is of course, ridiculously low; 100,000 tickets could easily be sold globally for each prize.

Such a funding system would have the Greek economy humming instantly and create a very healthy level of employment.

The government could also take several other steps to reform the economic system.

The biggest step should be to end income tax.

It would not only send levels of consumer spending and saving into the stratosphere, there would be an immediate end to the haemorrhage of money into the international black market.

From my napkin calculations, Greece should be able to pay off its national debt with ease and look to the welfare of its citizens without worrying about funding.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TOI Puff-Piece on the Intelligence Bureau

Those in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) responsible for the 21 June Times of India puff piece should be quietly put out to pasture and the article's anonymous author should be selling classified ads; they are an embarrassment to their respective trades.

It is the job of the IB to keep its internal affairs hidden from view, not advertise details such as its current strength, recruitment patterns and training methods.

From the journalist’s perspective, the IB as currently constituted is a cancer on Indian democracy; even if it had a constitutional framework and was accountable to parliament and judiciary it would require close and continuous scrutiny.

Quite apart from these fundamental criticisms, the piece is misleading and muddle-headed.

The IB was not “established in 1887 to keep an eye on Russian troops” threatening India. It was part of the apparatus of oppression the British built from the times of the East India Company, a genesis that explains why the agency has been traditionally clueless about how to collect and analyse foreign intelligence.

Its traditional modus operandi of entrapment and torture was somewhat modernized after Madanlal Dhingra murdered India Office functionary Curzon Wyllie in London in 1909; but the new MI 5 and MI 6 continued to be focused mainly on Indian affairs.

In London, the police found that Dhingra’s hostel, India House, was a hive of revolutionary activity where Vinayak Damodar Savarkar held sway and visitors included Irish, German and Russian activists (including Lenin).

Within a year they had Savarkar in custody and shipped him off to exile in the Andamans, where they broke him with torture and used him to create the Hindutva brand in Indian politics.

In India, spymaster John Arnold-Wallinger at the Indian political intelligence office took charge of the service that would make a hit-man of the young Lieutenant Hastings Lionel Ismay, the man who as Mountbatten’s Chief of Staff would plot Partition and Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. (Before coming out with Mountbatten, he was Secretary of the War Cabinet under Churchill, with whom he arranged for the demise of Franklin Roosevelt and launch of the Cold War.)

That is the tap root of independent India’s Intelligence Bureau.

After independence there was no effort to reorient the service politically and its leaders continued to have close relations with their former British supervisors.

Their primary function continued to be domestic political intelligence, focused not on threats to the State but on the interests of the Delhi sarkar.

Given that background, one would expect a high level of guile and skill in IB operatives, but those I came across in my six years in India seemed to have neither.

Initially they seemed fixated on the idea that I was a spy using high-tech American broadcast equipment, which they evidently thought was hidden in my bicycle (the cheapest Hero bought from the nearest bike shop)/umbrella/shoes/dark glasses/cap/keys.

The bicycle seemed to hold pride of place in their imagination.

Within a week of buying it the bicycle's glossy black paint had tiny scrapes all over, and its wire carrier basket had a piece removed from it.

At one point a guy decked out like Gunga Din came up and asked why the bicycle was called The Ranger. Several others asked about the Re.100 light fixed to the handlebar.

When they found nothing, interest did not flag. Attention turned to flattening my tires. I could never tell whether that was just to inconvenience me or to reduce what they imagined was my information gathering circuits through the streets of Pondicherry and Goa.

Within a year both tires looked as if they had crossed the Kalahari. One burst with a loud pop on a smooth street. The other herniated its inner tube and had to be replaced. 

IB examinations of my shoes sometimes had dramatic results. A pair of virtually indestructible Woodlands had the soles cut away and reattached with glue; they fell away from my feet in Pondicherry market, luckily near a pavement vendor of sandals.

The IB went to great lengths to prevent me assembling a spy network. My phone regularly flashed a sign warning of “Active incoming call diverts.” When I tried to call people, I would get a variety of strange messages, including “Call not permitted.”

People with whom I had instant rapport at first meeting would avoid further contact; I took that to be a sign they had been warned away. My closest relatives were called upon to inform on me: one admitted to it rather shame faced. In Goa, a “Blogger’s Group” became so obvious an IB stalking horse, I wondered if it had any genuine members.

The efforts at surveillance were occasionally amusing. One sleuth was disguised as an incredibly cruddy-looking “homeless man” who I felt sorry for and gave to generously until I noticed that instead of a bad smell he exuded aftershave. The owner of a kirana store near his hangout smirked when I asked what he thought of the man. “Sarkar ka admi” he said. Another watcher was a beggar woman with child. Shortly after I gave her some food, she was in line behind me at a ritzy pastry shop.

All this would be funny if not for the fact that I could never tell when IB Jekyll would switch to IB Hyde. There was no predicting when I would find myself bleeding on the pavement knocked down by a motorcycle or hospitalized by a near fatal asthma attack.  

My experience must be interpreted in one of two ways: either the IB is too dense to see the integrity of my personal and intellectual character, or else its leaders are themselves not true to their salt.

I don’t think the IB brass are dumb. 

As I found in selling my tax-free bonds before exiting India, they are corrupt.

I don't think there is any way to reform this monster. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Who Will Dominate the World?

Tomdispatch.com has put out a pontification on the “Geopolitics of American Global Decline” by one Alfred W. McCoyon that treats as gospel the early 20th Century ideas of Halford Mackinder, an Englishman who believed that any Power seeking world domination would have to deny rivals control of the “heartland” of Eurasia. In that perspective, China is inevitably the next global hegemon.

In worshipping at the cold altar of a past age McCoyon dismisses equally Harvard’s Joseph Nye, Jr. who sees no rival in the foreseeable future to American military and socio-economic "soft power", and Henry Kissinger, whose proclaimed faith in visionary leaders extends to George W Bush who he extols for initiating the war to remake Iraq.

These varying strategic views ignore the reality that the world today is not obedient to the United States and that it is highly unlikely to bend in the future to the raw fascism of China: in fact, both those countries are victims of the true global hegemon, Uriah Heepish Britain, spreading corruption and false-flag violence to get its way in every region.

That strategy has nothing to do with Mackinder’s speculations.

It has involved a pragmatic, catch-as-catch-can transition from visible Empire to global Organized Crime under cover of the "Cold War" that Winston Churchill launched in cahoots with the American military-industrial elite in the wake of World War II. 

The American war-making elite made enormous profits from cooperating in that strategy but Britain got something far more valuable, the substance of global power.

Its mastery of a global money laundering system that became the backbone of all international organized crime gave Britain the capacity to confront and defeat America's long-standing strategic aim of a democratic world order.

British strategy in this entire effort has remained as simple as in the days of Empire: it has aimed to promote its criminal interests in trafficking dangerous drugs and exploiting the raw materials and labour of victim countries.

Its operations have been brilliantly ingenious.

"Islamic terrorists" have replaced red-coated armies as enforcers of Empire, and instead of colonial Viceroys there are international bankers paid munificent "bonuses" to collect and manage revenues in a global "black market" under London's overall supervision.

That black market is now variously valued from 30 to 60 trillion dollars (compared to current American GDP of some $16 trillion).

India, the world’s undisputed top “soft Power” through most of history, suffered a fate almost exactly parallel to that of the United States after the end of World War II: its experienced national leader was assassinated and its nationhood sabotaged.

In the Indian case, it was not an internal economic element that turned traitor but a Muslim minority provoked into frantic insecurity and kept from rebuilding fraternal ties by the deliberately created “Kashmir dispute.”

In addition, over the last seven decades Britain has manipulated the enormous corruptibility of the Indian Establishment to neutralize nationalist forces, and now, as the Vodafone case exemplifies. practically controls the vital processes of the country.

China is a non-starter in the strategic sweepstakes.

It has been an insular state confined to the eastern third of its current territories through most of history; its majority Han people have looked outward only to perceive threats and build walls; they have expanded control over other lands only under the influence of Mongol conquerors.

The extent of Chinese strategic inability can be read in its history of imported models of statehood, traditionally from India which gave its ruling Mandarins (from the Sanskrit Mantri) their world view, and then from the European netherworld of Marx and Lenin.

It is ridiculous to talk of China as a global Power when it cannot trust its own people to keep their national bearings in an uncensored Internet environment.

No discussion of the global strategic outlook can be meaningful without all this background in view.

In that perspective, it is clear that the unmitigated nightmare of global violence, corruption, crime and environmental disaster will continue unless the world is freed from Britain's underground empire.

To that end, two steps are critically important.

One, the global money laundering system must be dismantled by declaring all “tax havens” and “shell companies” illegal.

Two, all “illicit drugs” must be decriminalized, thus rendering trafficking unprofitable.

World leaders have a golden opportunity to set out these aims clearly in the post-2015 agenda they will adopt at the next session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The first draft of that document, to be discussed by governments in New York in less than a week, contains nothing on those matters.

Unless that is changed, there is little doubt that the world will continue on its violent and criminal course well into the future. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Of the Intelligence Bureau, HDFC and Bond Trading


The last month has broken my resolve to spend the rest of my life in India.

With my 70th birthday due in November, I must face the fact that it is futile to hope for an end to the incomprehensible oppressions some element of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has directed at me over the last five years. In fact, it is getting worse and more blatant.

In the new apartment I moved to after the asthma episode, my usually robust health feels under constant insidious assault. Watching television with my feet up on the tea table, I see an unexpected drama, the bone of my left toe rising as if in response to blunt trauma. It hurts badly for a week, dully still; all my joints have unfamiliar aches; strange bells ring in m y ears. (Anyone considering reforms of the IB should ensure multi-key/off-site authorization for the use of aggressive technologies like weaponized ultrasound and directed radiation.)

The bulging toe removes any remaining doubts. Those who mean me ill are beyond reason, law and conscience. I must move.

As if to reinforce my determination, a small news item in The Indian Express tells of a new book by one of the men arrested and held for some seven years because the IB said they were terrorists. The trial resulted in all charges being dropped. The book tells of torture, as bad as anything you read about in Iraq under Anglo-American occupation. The torturers named in the book are all walking around free; they claim to know nothing of the allegations.

None of the half dozen other newspapers I read regularly has even a small story on the book.

In that scale of atrocity it is futile to hope that my pitiful blog posts about my small miseries will draw redress or bring any change.

Time to go, I tell myself and set about getting my finances together for the move. There’s not much to do, just sell three blocks of tax free government bonds and unfreeze another two of fixed deposits.

The bonds are in “demat” form, sold to me by HDFC Securities with the strong assurance that they can be readily sold online. The online trading platform informs me the bonds are selling at a nice premium but when I press the “Sell” button nothing happens.

So I head over to the HDFC Securities office behind Caculo Mall, a short bicycle ride away. There an official checks my account and says the bonds can be sold and puts me in touch by phone with a trader; he tells me it will take two days to sell them.

Why?

The bonds have to be “moved” to the branch.

It turns out later he said they had to be “mapped” to the branch, as meaningless a term to me as “moved,” for “demat” bonds exist only in cyberspace.

“I will call you,” he says. Two days later, not hearing from him I initiate the call.

It turns out that in the two days he spent “mapping” my bonds, their value has slid dramatically. Why? The equity markets have dropped over 600 points. That, he says, has affected the bond prices.

Some odd things happen along the way to getting my money.

It is the trader himself who calls to confirm the trades.

I get a text message: “As per SEBI norms NSE will start sending SMS/Email alert to you about transactions in your account. If SMS is wrongly sent to you reply by typing Y to 561614.”

The message is ostensibly from NSE, the National Stock Exchange.

I get not a single communication from NSE or any other authority. The HDFC trader/self confirmer is the only one I hear from.

As my phone informs me regularly that “active call divert” is in effect, it is possible any NSE message was blocked or went to the people manipulating my bond trades. Any NSE email alerts probably suffered the same fate.

I put down most of this in a letter to the HDFC branch manager and fill her in on the IB's dislike of contrarian journalists. She promises to reply in writing and forwards my letter to HDFC Securities to get their input.

The man from HDFC Securities calls me and says the two day delay to “map” the bonds is normal because I had bought them from the branch.

I tell him they were bought from his own agent. “Ah, it is normal to have the delay because it was your first trade,” he says. He does not mention the odd trader/confirmer arrangement or the peculiar SMS from the NSE.

Yesterday, at the branch manager’s office I ask about the promised written response to my complaint. “Oh I but I thought it was resolved,” she says, referring to my conversation with the HDFC Securities man. I say nothing was resolved; we merely stated our different positions.

While all this is happening, I am engaged in a parallel effort to register my change of address with the bank. The relationship manager asks for a recent electricity bill, a copy of the lease, and my ID proof. She asks specifically about my PAN card.

“I’ve lost my PAN card,” I say.

She says the lease and utility bill of the landlord should do. I take them in and everything seems to be in order, but then it turns out it is not. The flat is new, and the electricity bill is still in the name of the builder. She asks again for my ID proof and this time I have my passport with me.

“I also found a copy of my PAN card,” I say, giving her a printout from a scan I had on my computer. For some reason, she takes that and not my passport.

By way of further excitement I get a call in the evening from the clerk at the foreign exchange counter who was supposed to have sent my money to the UN Federal Credit Union in NY.

She cannot put it through because the UNFCU does not have a SWIFT code, only an ABA routing number.

Seems odd, for I have sent funds into my account from different countries and that has never been a problem. I am to go to the bank again this morning to try and resolve the matter.

Will keep posting as matters develop, for I think there is going to be many a slip between now and when I board the plane for New York.

In fact as I write this, my Samsung laptop has begun to exhibit the keyboasrd problems that have made my Sony Viao all but unusable. Perhaps I will have to do the rest of my writing about this process from an IB monitored Cyber Café.

How like Eastern Europe in the Cold War India has become!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

TOI Columnist Backs Land Lease Idea

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, a regular columnist for the Times of India, has supported my proposal that land acquisition be replaced with land lease (albeit without reference to my blog or me).

Probably not safe at the TOI to give me credit, considering all the rude things I have said about that ruin of a paper.

The idea for 99 year leases replacing acquisition is also getting brief mentions in some of the other papers. 

Hope this builds some real political traction for the idea.