The China Question, Part 2, India’s “Cuban missile crisis” moment

The recentĀ  developments in Maldives – first the removal of the head of state in what was apparently a coup, then the cancellation of GMR’s contract for managing the Abuja airport by the Maldivian government – are part of a larger geopolitical game between Asia’s two great powers – China and India.

Strategically, India’s greatest advantage over its powerful neighbor to the north, is the plateau of Tibet and the mountainous terrain of the Himalayas that separates Chinese-controlled Tibet from northern India. Until now India’s coastlines, which are far south of these borders, were considered generally secure against Chinese attack because of their large distance from the Chinese mainland to the north and the barrier of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal protecting the coasts on the south-western and south-eastern flanks of the Indian subcontinent.

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The China Question, Part 1, Risky maneuvers

There has recently been a bit of a kerfuffle in the Indian media regarding some exercises conducted by the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) over the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. The common source for both stories is the People’s Daily Online, the official “news” outlet of the Chinese state controlled media. The headline loudly blares out:

PLA heavy fighters cruise with live ammunition over Himalayas

In the foreground we see what appear to be four Chinese fighter jets. In the background the Himalyan peaks are clearly visible.Shiver me timbers. War is upon us. Continue reading

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Who are the real (copyright) thieves?

The term “copyright” has been largely reduced to being an oxymoron in a world where intellectual property thieves (e.g., Elsevier, Physical Review, Science, Nature, etc.) can pretend to be the victims of copyright theft, when in fact, it is they who presently hold hostage large portions of some of the best scientific research conducted over the past 100 years. These firms, today, maintain a state of intellectual apartheid enforced by their respective governments at the behest of publishing lobbies and other monetary influences.

Ultimately, this strategy is a little bit like the right hand strangling the neck so that the left hand has to pay for the nutrition it receives. It’s a lose-lose situation. Both readers and publishers stand to lose from keeping such resources closed-source indefinitely. Any body of knowledge is only as good as the amount of attention it receives. By keeping up scientific works locked behind pay-walls publishing firms are simply ensuring that no one will benefit from that knowledge. Others will have to sow their own seeds and harvest their own fruit. The old crop will, however, go to rot in locked repositories. There is no good reason for that to happen. Advances in one part of the globe will affect all other parts – this is the definition of globalization. The motto used to be “publish or perish”. In the future it will be “share or perish”.

The old model of publishing is unsustainable and is actively giving way to newer players who make all content open-access. However, such players are still in their infancy and the costs they impose on authors are still too steep. To expect young researchers and graduates at the beginning of their careers when they are generally at their creative peaks, but also have little to show for it and therefore often exist in a state of impoverishment, to shell out anywhere from $400 – $1,000 to get a paper published is completely unrealistic.

Apart from the practical questions regarding the economic feasibility of various publishing models, there is the more direct and pertinent question of the legality and morality of the stand adopted by publishing houses.

Even a cursory search of any volume of any physics journal in any part of the 20th century will show that the authors of most published works received public funds in one form or another which allowed them to do their research. That is not to say that private entities have not contributed to such works but it is also safe to say that the overwhelming majority of funding for research and development in the western world has come from public funds. For publishers to therefore claim sole and eternal ownership of such works is outright theft of what should have become community property in the due course of time.

In the absence of e-mail and the internet publishers played a vital role in disseminating research results in the 20th century. The owners and investors of such firms were also rewarded handsomely for their labors. But after what length of time should published works enter the public domain? Is thirty, forty, or a hundred years not long enough for publishers to recoup whatever costs they ever will from readers? How long will the average researcher – who does not have the good fortune of being affiliated to a wealthy institution – have to continue to pay exorbitant prices to read the works of Witten, Atiyah, Feynman, Einstein or the equally significant works of lesser souls?

The question arises, in this day and age of open-source and collaborative or “crowd-sourced” research, is their even a need for such entities such as editors, page designers and the many other functions that have been the traditional been provided by publishing houses? The answer to that is an emphatic, “yes”. The fundamentals of publishing have not changed. Only the medium has. Words, whether in ink or in bit and bytes, still need parsing. The work that emerges from a researcher’s hands is a bit like crude oil. It still needs substantial processing and refinement before it is ready for mass consumption.

There do exist “open” repositories such as arXiv.org where research papers on a broadĀ  range of topics – with its origins in, and thus being centered around, physics – can be uploaded and viewed free of cost by anyone with some (minimally) verifiable academic credentials. But the result is a vast repository which is hard to navigate even for the experienced professional. Diving for pearls in the ocean can be fun for a diver but for an average swimmer that might be asking too much. Finding good work on arXiv is a bit like that. Ultimately the most reliable and credible papers on arXiv turn out to be those which have undergone some form of peer review and have been published in some journal.

The search continues for a viable model which can incorporate the best of both worlds. A model which can provide rewards for those who invest their time and skills in making the written word appear palatable to general audiences while at the same time keeping barriers for entry as low as possible for authors.

The work done by physicists, chemists, philosophers, social and other scientists (the archaeologists, historians and poets will forgive me for lumping them together in one category) is the shared heritage of humanity. No researcher who is willing to spend their youth and much of their mid-lives on exploring esoteric questions, which might not even bear fruit in their own lifetimes, does so out of a desire for monetary profit. Monks and scholars alike, survive on governmental and social charity. In turn, the wisdom and insights they gain from their spiritual and intellectual travels is meant for the benefit of all. Not just for the benefit of a few.

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Israeli embassy bombings – terror attacks or false flag operations?

By now everyone has heard of the near simultaneous bombings of Israeli diplomatic vehicles in Delhi, India and Tbilsi, Georgia on what, ironically enough, happens to be “Valentine’s Day”. Of course, Israel as always wishes to paint itself as the victim and Iran as the perpetrator. Before anyone rushes to arm their tomahawk missiles let us list a couple of observations that cast doubt on Israel’s version of events:

  1. India and Russia – of which Georgia is a de facto protectorate – are both Iran’s allies in this situation. Russia because it refuses to authorise Security Council resolutions which would allow the U.S. and Israel to bomb Iran back into the stone age, and India because it refuses to stop buying Iranian crude despite overwhelming pressure to the contrary. It would be odd indeed for Iran or its proxies to commit such acts on the territories of two of its most reliable allies at this critical juncture.
  2. The modus operandi behind these attacks – motorcycle borne assailants employing a magnetic device in the Delhi attack – is identical to that employed in the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Israel had no qualms in indirectly claiming responsibility for that murder. Repeating the same methodology so soon after that attack would indicate that Mossad is getting sloppy, panicky or both. Iran’s refusal to budge under threats and its refusal to respond to provocations such as American ships sailing through the straits of Hormuz might be causing some tension in the camps of those who are impatient for a U.S.-Israeli war against Iran to begin.
  3. There is also the convenient aspect that as is put in the Al-Jazeera article linked to above: Israel had put its foreign missions on high alert ahead of the fourth anniversary this past Sunday of the assassination in Syria of the military mastermind of Hezbollah, Imad Moughniyeh – an attack widely assumed to be the work of Israeli agents. In spook-speak that would be referred to as preparing the groundwork by Israel for an attack on its own assets so as to be able to pin the blame on Iran/Hezbollah. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part.

Indian intelligence agencies are far more capable than casual observers such as myself and can probably divine the true nature of these attacks. All I can say is that it would be the most foolish move in the history of geopolitics for Iran to commit such an act less than a kilometer from the residence of the Prime Minister of what is one of its strongest and last remaining allies – the Republic of India. If Iran is indeed responsible for these attacks then they deserve whatever hell is wrought upon them by American weaponry. If not, then Iran’s enemies have committed their greatest blunder yet amongst all their blundering attempts to set the stage for a war with Iran.

Know the truth and the truth shall set your free!

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Dropping bombs in the name of “peace”

In Pakistan, Drones Kill Our Innocent Allies – NYTimes.com.

Summary of events:

  1. Journalist meets with group of tribals wishing to publicize the terror of CIA drone strikes.
  2. Some days later member’s of said tribal-group’s are killed in CIA drone strike.

Either this journalist is lying or something really fucked up is going on in D.C.

What does Mr. Peace Prize have to say about this?

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Can’t touch this

On what pretext do these people wish to start a war? That Iran is developing nuclear weapons. So? What is wrong with that? Any sovereign nation has the right to provide for its defense needs in any way it sees fit. “Sovereigneity” is a non-negotiable asset. Either you have it or you don’t. Either you respect other nations’ sovereignty or you don’t.

Yesterday it was ” you can’t have field artillery”. Then “you can’t have missile systems.” Today it is “you can’t have nuclear weapons”. In a world and a neighborhood populated by hostile states who already possess nuclear weapons what is Iran expected to use as a deterrent against invasion – tomatoes?

To paraphrase a quote:

“First they bombed Iran, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an Iranian.”

“Then they bombed Pakistan, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Pakistani.”

“Then they bombed me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Let there be no doubt. Those who raise such threats against other nations themselves pose a greater threat to peace and prosperity.  A wise man once put it well:

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EWW1Q73eY8M?rel=0

Of course, wisdom becomes a negotiable asset around election time.

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For India, M. F. Husain died many years ago

It is ironic that Congress party members such as Ms. Ambika Soni are now saying about the late artist that:

He was always an Indian.

Coming from a member of the ruling party, that failed to lift a finger to provide Husain proper security guarantees when his life was being threatened by religious fundamentalists, this statement is revolting. This is the same party that when threatened by a half-naked fakir resorts to calling his devotees “Hindu extremists” and does not hesitate to send in armed paramilitaries in the dead of night to disperse a peaceful assembly of tens of thousands of sleeping men, women and children with lathi-charges and tear-gas.

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