Sunday, August 7, 2011

Are Indians Smarter Than Sri Lankans?

The Math Olympiad results seems to indicate Sri Lankans are about comparable to Bangaladeshis in Math capabilities (Approximately 70th rank). We Sri Lankans seem to be doing far worse than India and Brazil (23 and 20 respectively). Sri Lanka has a Math Olyimpiad organization too and has quite a bit of information on the site . Complete results of the Math Olympiad since 1959 is available here.

Another interesting comparison is IQ. Again we do not seem to be doing any better than the Indians. One must keep in mind that the Math Olympiad is about selecting the best in a country. The National IQ measure is for the country as an whole. India with half its population being illiterate still has an IQ quotient comparable to Sri Lanka. Does that mean Sri Lankans are not as smart as we think or they are just smart alecs who cant be bothered with IQ tests. Steve Sailer comments that new study of Sri Lankan IQ is warranted because it is highly literate, low malnutrition, similar racial makeup with South India...and the only study we have is one way back in 1954 with a sample size of 46, that too on eight year olds, when IQ is not very heritable. The IQ of 79 for Sri Lanka is quite meaningless in the present context

There is an whole discussion on Indian IQ over here. This location has a summary of the Lynn and Vanhanen study of IQ and the Wealth of Nations. This is the wiki with data of the controversial 2006 book by psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen IQ and Global Inequality

Saturday, August 6, 2011

S&P Downgrades US To AA+, Outlook Negative

For those who pooh pooh this exercise, this is a really big issue. By law in the US Asset Management entities are required to keep within certain bounds the credit rating of their total portfolio. So in the next few days US Asset Managers ( I (Barr) assume similar rules for Europe and Australia) have to do the following to their portfolio.
a) increase less risky (higher credit rating) assets
b) Decrease less risky assets
For those who think they are going to make money on this news, just to let you know the smart money probably has already made their bets within seconds in after hours trading.

Apparently the Federal Reserve says to disregard this rating to govt agencies. Nice, forget about ratings when it does not suit you.

Earlier today, Standard & Poor's rating agency lowered the long-term rating of the U.S. government and federal agencies from AAA to AA+. With regard to this action, the federal banking agencies are providing the following guidance to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and bank and savings and loan holding companies (collectively, banking organizations).

For risk-based capital purposes, the risk weights for Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, government agencies, and government-sponsored entities will not change. The treatment of Treasury securities and other securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, government agencies, and government-sponsored entities under other federal banking agency regulations, including, for example, the Federal Reserve Board's Regulation W, will also be unaffected.

S&P Downgrades US To AA+, Outlook Negative - Full Text

Well, so much for the conspiracies. S&P has just released a scathing critique of the total chaos that this country's government has become. "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year's wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability." What to expect on Monday: " it is possible that interest rates could rise if investors re-price relative risks. As a result, our alternate scenario factors in a 50 basis point (bp)-75 bp rise in 10-year bond yields relative to the base and upside cases from 2013 onwards. In this scenario, we project the net public debt burden would rise from 74% of GDP in 2011 to 90% in 2015 and to 101% by 2021." And why all those who have said the downgrade will have no impact on markets will be tested as soon as Monday: "On Monday, we will issue separate releases concerning affected ratings in the funds, government-related entities, financial institutions, insurance, public finance, and structured finance sectors." Translation: unpredictable consequences: you are welcome!

Joint Statement By The Fed, The FDIC, NCUA And OCC

Presenting the joint statement by The Fed, the FDIC, NCUA, OCC. In essence: the Fed tells S&P to go fornicate itself. And for your corresponding pleasure, below are the media contact of note: Federal Reserve Susan Stawick (202) 452-2955; FDIC David Barr (202) 898-6992; NCUA David Small (703) 518-6336; OCC Bryan Hubbard (202) 874-5307

And Just Because.... "Is There A Risk The US Could Lose Its AAA Rating?" Tim Geithner: "No Risk"

Peter Barnes “Is there a risk that the United States could lose its AAA credit rating? Yes or no?”

Geithner’s response: “No risk of that.”

“No risk?” Barnes asked.

“No risk,” Geithner said.

USSAAA - S&P Reconsiders Downgrade After White House Challenge

meet Chicago-style negotiations. And there, in one sentence, is all that is broken with this country. The reason for the beyond ridiculous horse trade, according to CNN: S&P analysis of U.S. revenue, deficit picture was questioned. Presumably S&P ignored to add the $10 quintillion dollars that were saved by America not declaring war on Tatooine and its most infamous Hutt resident: Larry Summers. Indeed, again according to CNN, S&P acknowledged some errors in its analysis. Isn't it amazing what being threatened with having your NRSRO license can do for motivation to double check your work, eh you pathetic sellouts? Who would have thought that last week's farce debt ceiling would continue and develop into a national pastime. Below, for the sake of S&P's non-existent conscience and incompetence, are their own guidelines for what constitutes an AAA-rated credit. Readers can decide if the US is one. In other news, in USSAAA, government downgrade rating agency.

Friday, August 5, 2011

AC CTB Buses and the Southern Highway

CTB (SLTB to be exact has AC buses running from Moratuwa to Pettah. Currently only two buses and within the next few days two more to be added. By the end of the month they expect to have fleet of forty buses. Some of the buses are to be deployed on the Southern highway which apparent scheduled to be opened on August 15th. The fare from Pettah to Galle is to be LKR 350/=. The Fare from Bambalapitiya to Pettah was LKR 26/=.

As of Jan 2014 (and earlier) the Southern Highway Buses run only from Maharagama .  The fare is LKR 500. Journey is one and half hours (none rush hours) from Maharagama to Galle. It seems like the private buses have less air conditioning compared to the SLTB buses.

The worst public bus station toilet is in Maharagama. Much worse than Chilaw which is quite bad to start with. Surprised no one has complained.

Check with Pettah Central Bus Stand (+94) 11 2329604-5 about changes.

Info on Katunayake/Negombo to Pettah Highway service.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Christian Fundamentalist Bomber In Norway

The rumor is that apparently the Sri Lankan govt is ready to provide refugee status in Sri Lanka to this oppressed group of Christian Fundamentalists . In addition the SL govt is willing to provide the the services of Dr Palitha Kohona and Dayan Jayatilleke to negotiate a separate state for these oppressed Christian Fundamentalists in Norway.

OSLO — The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center here and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

By Bus: Mannar, Pooneryn to Jaffna: Part 1 Mannar

Part 2 here and Part 3 here
The last time I visited Jaffna was in late 2004. Thats not the absolute truth, because I did go to Jaffna in December 2010. That was with two classmates and their families and I was in a perpetual haze and trying to be (I dont think I needed to try hard) to be a nuisance. Into the bargain the camera had stopped working. It started working again when my brain was a little more coherent and I hit it, as in the camera against the wall. This works for my brain as well at times.

The 2004 trip was quite a journey. Many a story and one of these days I will get around to writing about it. The LTTE customs checkpoint, the LTTE exhibition at Kilinochi. Photos from that trip and blog post on that trip here.

Anyway as usual before going to any place where I dont know the language, brushed up with some useful phrases which work wonders like;
Amma/Aiya Onglaku Mitchum Nanri: Madame/Sir thank you very much.
Theivadu, Thanni konjam Tharungo: Please can I get a little water (replace Thanni=water with whatever)
Ungalaku Nalla Naal: You have a good day. I would replace Naal=day with Rathri=Night, in the evening. My vocabulary did not extend to the word for evening
Back to the bus trip. Left Colombo 6:45 am semi luxury (no different from normal buses, just higher price). Cost LKR 400 per person. I dont like air con buses for long distances. It seems they either turn off the air con off or if it is cold enough to my liking, the other passengers want the cold turned down. Normal buses, you get a corner seat making sure the window is under your control, i.e. it closes/opens at your seat. If your neighbor complains its too cold, the drizzle is coming in, explain that you vomit all over the place if you dont have a window open. One time while traveling up country early with a frigid air blowing on my face, explained that I do my morning meditation and the cold air helps me focus my mind on the Dhamma. Nothing like religion to exploit your needs or foibles. On the other hand you could have the odd swig or too from a bottle of booze. You will not be asked any questions, in fact many will keep a healthy distance from you. More likely you will be the loquacious question asker.

A few other things like if it is a North South oriented journey, sit on the west side before noon and on east after noon to avoid direct sun. Too bad if what you want see is on side of the sun, like a west coast ride in the afternoon and you want to see the ocean.

Arrived in Mannar at around 3:30 p.m. Stayed at the Manjula Inn (2nd Cross St, Mannar; Tel 023 2222037, Mobile  077-6038525), walking distance from the bus stand. Its a house from the 50's a section of which has been converted to an Inn. I stayed in one of the upstairs rooms, attached toilet. Place is clean, toilet tiled and clean but the drain was of cement and didnt look too attractive. That said this place is not let out on a short term basis, i.e. you dont have to be wondering who was doing what in the bed a few hours before you checked into the room. The owner Sam Ratnaraj, a retired gent was displaced from Negombo during the 83 riots and moved to Mannar his wifes hometown. Strong and vocal opinions of what has happened and should happen but no wish to settle elsewhere. Sam is also otherwise busy at the moment funding his two grand kids thru University in the UK.

The evening I arrived did the standard Baobab Tree and the Mannar Fort and the Donkeys. Late evening did a pleasant 3 km walk to the Mannar Station (destroyed by the LTTE). This was kind of a forced walk. The three wheel guy asked for LKR 300 and probably should have been around LKR 100 (approx 30 to 35/km), so walked, a good decision in retrospect as it was a nice pleasant area. Hopped a three wheel back for LKR 150.

The Little Donkey in the Mannar Fort

The Donkey Family framed from a window. Inside the Fort: I think this was the Chapel
The Mannar Bridge. The metal bridge was constructed by Kobbekaduwa (I think) after the old Mannar bridge was blasted by the LTTE. The more permanent concrete bridge is of recent vintage.

The Baobab Tree
The Mannar Railway bridge, blasted by the LTTE

The remnants Mannar Railway Station
More photos and other locations in the vicinity by another author

Next: Part 2: Talaimannar and Madhu

By Bus: Mannar, Pooneryn to Jaffna: Part 2 Talaimannar and Madhu

(Part 1 here and  Part 3 here)
Day 2: One of the main purposes of visiting Mannar was to do the Navy Boat Ride to the Adams Bridge sand bank islands from Mannar. The other was to scout any coral reefs for snorkeling. More on the coral reef later in the post.
Of course there was no other info about the boat ride on the Navy website press release. Luckily while passing the entrance to Madhu, saw a big banner and a contact phone number. Called them the previous day and found that the first ride was around 7:00 am and was for 3 hours. Talaimannar is 30 km, so assuming the bus does an average of 30 kmph, it would be one hour from Talaimannar. Found out a SLTB bus from Colombo arrives around 4:30 am on the way to Talaiannar. The short story is missed the bus, it had come in at 4:10 am. There did not seem to be any buses till after 6:00 am. So bargained for a three wheeler for LKR 1,000 and the going rate can be anywhere from a LKR 1,000 to LKR 1,500. The reasonable rate is LKR 1,000, i.e. 30 km into LKR 30/km. Was in Talaimannar by 6:15 am. Had Pol Roti and Dried sprats (Hal Masso) curry for breakfast which was very tasty from a small store nearby.

Drifted towards the pier, around 7:00 am. I was the only one there. The wind was quite strong with white caps on the water implying wind speeds of at least about 18 mph. The Navy boats are small and with waves increasing offshore its quite dangerous to take them out in high wind conditions. Hung around till 9:00 am and the wind wasnt dying down so headed back to Mannar.

This operation/tour has been cancelled. Navy no longer operates tours to Adams bridge

Details on Navy-operated boat trips to Adam's Bridge
Contact Number: 023-2281081
Cost per Person: LKR 500. The boat needs a minimum of LKR 3,000 to be cost effective. So if no one else turns up, expect to pay LKR 3,000 for even one person.
Duration: 3 hours. About and hour and fifteen minutes each way, and half hour on the Adams bridge sand bank.
Other: Please call and check conditions to see if there is a possibility the seas are rough.
This is all of Talaimannar town. One street with stores and house for about 300 meters
Bank of Ceylon. Assume they dont have too many bank robberies.
The sign at the Navy entrance.
Eligibility for Sand Tour. Not Drunken, which I assume is quite often a reason for ineligibility
The light house. In the foreground a restaurant and waiting area is in the process of being constructed.
Headed back to Mannar at 9;00 am. The bus ride was less than an hour. Not many stops on the way and the bus just zoomed back.

Headed to Madhu church on an Vavuniya bus and got off at the Madhu church turn off. Its 12 km from the Mannar-Medawachiya road to the church. Its LKR 400 by three wheeler. However, if you hang around most passing vehicles will give you a ride to the church. That was exactly what I did. After standing around for about all of 5 minutes a passing van picked me and about four others going to villages nearby.

Madhu, what can I say. Nice enough church but not what I would travel hundreds of kilometers for its aesthetic value. Assume if you have faith, then it would be a different matter. Anyway, saw the place and know what Catholics (and some Buddhists) speak of when referring to a trip to Madhu. Had a decent rice and curry (beef, my favorite) from the church operated Restaurant for about LKR 120 and headed back. There are buses every two hours to and from Mannar. Anyway same process, hung around for about 10 mins and got a ride back to Madhu junction.
The main entrance to Madhu Church
Madu Church
Choice Hotel, Grand Bazaar Road. This place has mutton, cuttle fish (dhallo) and Prawns.
Finally to the Coral Reefs. Inquired around and no one quite knew about coral reefs. Some mentioned the possibility of there being reefs around Arippu. Arippu was apparently where the Pearl fisheries were located. However the photographs of this blog post show nice beaches near Arippu which does not seem indicative of coral reefs near the shore.
Some of the fisherman were also complaining that the Indian Trawlers are allowed to come in Sri Lankan territorial water twice a week. The Indian trawlers apparently do bottom trawling. To quote from wiki
Because bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed, it can cause large scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering, damage to habitats and removal of seaweed, that clean the sea floor, destroying coral and just decimating fish populations
The deep sea fishermen around Mannar are mainly from the Negombo area and are the ones most affected by Indian bottom trawling. Apparently the local population is only involved in shallow water fishing and shrimping and as such dont care about the Indian Trawlers.

Next: Part 3: Mannar to Jaffna thru Pooneryn

By Bus: Mannar, Pooneryn to Jaffna: Part 3 Mannar to Jaffna thru Pooneryn

Part 1 here and Part 2 here
Day 3: Went by bus from Mannar thru Pooneryn to Jaffna, which is about 100 km. The bus left at about 8:45 am and arrived at around 2:00 pm in Jaffna. Many stops and waiting while passengers unloaded stuff for stores along the route or loaded produce for sale in Jaffna. The cost of the ticket was LKR 160 which seems high when compared with Colombo to Galle which is 120 km and costs LKR 110. However, when one considers the condition of the road and the wear and tear, the price seems reasonable.

Most of the road is still gravel, (however, not many huge ruts) . The first few kilometers from Mannar is quite fancy; carpeted road with side pavements. The final stretch too, entering the Jaffna Peninsula is also quite good. This is thru the Jaffna lagoon and the disused Mahadeva Causeway (built in 1932) has been rebuilt, and the ferry has been replaced with the Sangupiddy bridge. According to bridge builders website this bridge was a
part of the ongoing Regional Bridge Project. The Atlas bridge was originally destined for use as a flyover at the Panadura junction in Colombo. However, having identified the North Western Province as a priority development location and following detailed investigations, the Ministry decided instead to build the structure as an Atlas Bridge in Sangupiddy.
The Sunday Observer article attributes the original idea of the causeway to
The engineering genius Mahadeva, who was the brainchild behind building the Elephant Pass causeway, had first worked out a plan to connect Sangupiddy in Jaffna and Kerathivu in Pooneryn by constructing a causeway in the shallow lagoon waters. However, the plan did not materialise due to protests from the fisherfolk in the area and producers of salt in Elephant Pass.
According to the Tamil News Network of Jan 16th 2011
So far, there is no announcement when civilians would be able to use the causeway. In recent times, only the occupying military has been using the causeway.
As far as I know the bus has been running for sometime, so you now know contrary to the Tamil News Network civilians use the causeway. There were also a couple of people in Jaffna who talked about the only way to reach south was through Pooneryn for many years. They would take boats and go across while avoiding bombs and crossfire.

Wilpattu House Cottages / Bungalow / Hotel  located by the Puttalam-Mannar Road, Eluvamkulam Entrance to Wilpattu National Park  is an ideal place for stopovers for an itinerary of Kalpitiya - Eluvamkulam (Wilpattu National Park) - Mannar - Pooneryn- Jaffna by bus/bicycle/motorbike. They also help arrange transport of cyclists across Wilpattu National Park.

The Mannar Pooneryn road near Mannar.
A lake closer to Mannar on the Mannar Pooneryn road

Typical view of toward the Mannar area of the Mannar Pooneryn Road. As one travels further north the landscape becomes more fertile.
Getting off the Bus and walking to the villages. It seemed like most villages were located off the road and toward the ocean. The priest at Mulangavil asking for alms, offerings
Kovil at Mulangavil. I think its similar to the Kovil at Murugandy where offerings (panduru) are made for a safe journey.
The bus is parked among the trees near the temple for a break in the journey.
One of the three stores in Mulangavil
One of the many Catholic Churches along the road

This kid on the bus didnt know a word of Sinhalese or English. I barely knew any Tamil. However, we had a little rapport and he kept on pointing out the approaching views such as the entrance to the causeway and the beginning of the bridge. If it was not for this kid, no proper photos of causeway and bridge as it would have passed by before I got my camera ready. Regret not having asked for his name.

The start of the Mahadeva Causeway, Pooneryn side
The Mahadeva Causeway

End of the Sangupiddy bridge, approaching Sangupiddy, Jaffna

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday Top of Pops (?): Late Sixties

My classmate Kavindra Nethsingha sent me this link about the Diamonds, Little Darling
It just evoked an whole host of memories, the Sunday afternoon Radio Ceylon program at around 2 pm on Sunday. This was the late sixties, early seventies no TV at that time and I was a pre teen. The theme song to the program was by the Platters, "To Each his Own" (1959). I recalled it as the "Sun and the Rain" and Jagdish Mirchandani set me right including that it was the Platters who sang the song.

Anyways, 40 years later I still recall these songs and dragged them out from the deep recesses of my memory and see a common theme. The theme being African American singers. At that time I a 9-10 year old did not know who were African Americans. Preconditioning or triggering latent tastes. Then my parents too loved Paul Robeson, all American superstar who was blacklisted by the US govt. I just wonder if my parents knew he was a Black African American. Unhappily for an African American and son of a slave who is known world over, very few contemporary African Americans know his background, even though they may have heard his songs.
Robeson was an All-American athlete, and Phi Beta Kappa Society laureate during his years at Rutgers University. In 1923, Robeson drifted into amateur theater work and within a decade he had become an international star of stage, screen, radio and film. Robeson went on to be a recipient of the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the Stalin Peace Prize and of honorary memberships in over half a dozen trade unions.[4][5][6][7] James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte have cited Robeson's lead film roles as being the first to display dignity for black actors and pride in African heritage.[8][9] Though one of the most internationally famous people of the 20th century, blacklisting during the Cold War has nearly erased Robeson from mainstream interpretations of history.[6]
Then as a teenager Eric Fernando (and Mahes (?) a lady) just sealed the deal with them playing more of the same. Recall Rose Royce (yes really) among the less well known African American groups being played.

See below, the Platters "To Each his Own" (1959), then Paul Robesons Summertime (1936) and Janis Joplins version of Summertime (1969) and finally Paul Robeson's version of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" from 1926. Paul Robeson's Ole Man River, 1936 as well as Swing Low Sweet Chariot I recall were hits with my father. All other than Janis Joplin used to be played on the Top of the Pops
  • The song dates back to the era of slavery in the United States when it was common practice to sell children of slaves away from their parents. An early performance of the song dates back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[1][2] Like many traditional songs, it has many variations and has been recorded widely (see partial lists of choral arrangements and covers below).
Platters: To Each His Own (1959)

Paul Robeson: Summertime (1936)

Janis Joplin: Summertime (1969)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Land Reform, Big Ag and Social Unrest

My friend Rajaratarala has a blog post on that argues land reforms of the 70's caused economically unfeasible sizes of agricultural property.

My contention is that land reform has brought social stability specially during economic downturns. Yes, sounds idiotic given that we are coming out of a 30 year civil war. But then there were no large landholdings in the North, so no gain from land reform to the poorer section. They were probably expecting jobs, University entrance etc which is an whole other discussion. Whats more applicable was the JVP insurrection which kind of disappeared after the reforms.

The opposite example is the US, where since the 60's small holders have been sold out to Big Ag.
In 1962, a committee of the most powerful corporate executives in the United States issued "An Adaptive Program for Agriculture," a plan to eliminate farmers and farms. Called the Committee for Economic Development, this group represented oil and gas, insurance, investment and retail concerns as well as the food industry. Industry giants such as Campbell Soup, General Foods, Pillsbury and Swift lobbied Congress with the message that the biggest problem in agriculture was too many farmers. The U.S. government encouraged farmers to move off their farms and retrain, allowing their land to be consolidated in the ownership of fewer and fewer corporations.

The Bill

This has resulted in extreme urbanization even ghettos (Projects e.g. Cabrini Green). These are social powder kegs that would explode in unrest. The two main reasons that have kept the lid on is high employment and welfare programs. There are cynics who also think drugs and alcohol prevent organized unrest. Anyway with decrease in welfare and increasing unemployment expect social unrest where the Watts Riots would look like a picnic.

Some other thoughts of the US and Global Agri systems.
Farming itself is the least profitable and least energy intensive segment of the entire economy of agriculture. Of the roughly 2,000 liters of oil required per year to feed each American (Pimentel 459), only one-fifth of that energy is actually used for agriculture, with the rest going toward transport, processing, packaging, marketing, and food preparation and storage (Brown 35). The transformation of farm products into consumer commodities, along with the provision of farm inputs, are the biggest moneymakers in the American food system, and not surprisingly, the sectors dominated by large agrifood corporations. Farmers operating under the capitalist system must sell their products on the open market, which usually means selling to the large transnational corporations that dominate the market.

The example of Cuba shows that it is possible to feed an entire nation with organic agriculture, but it also demonstrates the hardships involved in moving away from fossil fuels. In the first few years after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the average Cuban’s daily caloric intake decreased by 36 percent and protein consumption by 40 percent, while undernourishment increased by 15 percent (Pfeiffer 57). It must be noted that Cuban government policies played a critical role in helping to ensure that the collapse of industrialized agriculture did not turn catastrophic. There has also been a change in attitude towards farming amongst the Cuban people. Cubans now see farming as an important and profitable endeavor and many families have migrated to rural areas to become farmers or have started urban gardens (Pfeiffer 60).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Has Mahinda backed a winning horse by supporting Gaddafi

Has Mahinda Rajapakse backed a winning horse by supporting Gaddafi. Just a few days ago Sri Lanka "condemned airstrikes on Libya saying it was a violation of the territorial integrity of an independent country". Gaddafi has said he plans to hand over oil production to Indian, Chinese and Russian oil companies and throw out the UK and French oil companies.

Guess the million dollar question is if the US, UK and French bombing will help the rebels overthrow Gaddafi and institute regime change a la Iraq and Afghanistan.

Below by George Friedman founder of STRATFOR the world's largest private intelligence and forecasting company excerpts of an article that discusses the issues of regime change in Libya. Also excerpts from a NY Times article.

Basically Friedman argues, the rebels are a "cluster of tribes and personalities" having only one common agenda, i.e. get rid of Gaddafi. Other than that the rebels have no common ideology. Friedman goes on to argue, if Gaddafi is to be overthrown a troop invasion by the US UK and France is needed and the occupying force will have to remain if they dont want to Libya to be engulfed in civil war.

The NY Times says there are only about 1,000 military trained men in the rebel army and are having to
rely on the young people who are being provided with arms.
Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy By George Friedman
The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue.

As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.
According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.
This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.
In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues among them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine.

And now, as they try to defeat Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s armed forces and militias, they will have to rely on allied airstrikes and young men with guns because the army that rebel military leaders bragged about consists of only about 1,000 trained men.
Those frank admissions came from Ali Tarhouni, who was appointed to the cabinet of the rebels’ shadow government on Wednesday as finance minister.
At the same time, all of the clamor to form a new government seems premature while the rebels struggle to defeat Colonel Qaddafi’s military and wrest cities from his control.
Mr. Tarhouni acknowledged the dilemma, saying that without heavy artillery and planes, the rebels were left to rely on the young people who had first faced the colonel’s army with stones.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gathering Storm

This just had to be posted, given what is happening in the World. It is possibly esoteric stuff, but maybe well worth reading. Incidentally this is from a financial blog that is fairly doomster.

Guest Post: The Gathering Storm

Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform
“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” – Winston Churchill - The Second World War
A butterfly flapped its wings in Tunisia creating a hurricane that is swirling across the globe, wreaking havoc with the existing social order and sweeping away old crumbling institutions and dictatorships. The linear thinking politicians, pundits and thought leaders have been knocked for a loop. They didn’t see it coming and they don’t know where it’s leading. An examination and understanding of history would have revealed that we have been here before. We were here in 1773. We were here in 1860. We were here in 1929. We are here again. The Fourth Turning has returned in its predictable cycle, just as Winter always follows Fall.
Read complete article here:

Does the Uranus in Aries From March 11 2011 to 2018 and Pluto in Capricorn jive with the Fourth Turning ?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sinéad O'Connor versus MIA

I really dont know how to start, Oppressed peoples, historically or in recent times. Two songs from Sinéad O'Connor and one from M.I.A.

As this is a blog catering to Sri Lankan (hopefully) lets start with the Irish context, hopefully educational. (I am used to doing point form so let me go with that). To start with I love Sinéad O'Connor's music, and f**k you attitude heard here in her version of I don't know how to love him (re Judas) from Jesus Christ Superstar)
  • Sinéad O'Connor sings about the Vikings who invaded around 800 -1200 (approximately Parakramabahu 1123-1186 times).
  • Then she sings about Cromwell who invaded and occupied Ireland in 1649. By this time the Portuguese had conquered Jaffna and occupied coastal Sri Lanka.
  • Finally Sinéad O'Connor sings about the Irish Famine, consequence of real English jack boot laws that in the 17th and 18th centuries prohibited Irish Catholics with penal laws from owning land, from leasing land; from voting, from holding political office; from living in a corporate town or within 5 mi (8.0 km) of a corporate town, from obtaining education, from entering a profession, and from doing many other things that are necessary in order to succeed and prosper in life. Thats around the time the England occupied the whole of Sri Lanka, i.e. 1800's.
For summary do we Sri Lankans really think, or even have music that really makes us sad about the past, even as late as the British occupation in the early 1850's. My friend thinks British colonialism was the best for Ceylon.

Now next to M.I.A. In 2005 couple of NYC Williamsburg hipster room mates mentioned that I should see this Sri Lankan woman who was going to perform at Summerstage NYC. Managed to sneak in and it was crowded. The next time M.I.A. was around at the Mermaid Festival. Do have a photo (see here). I love seeing a real representative south south Asian woman, such as M.I.A. i.e. skinny black/brown woman hitting the charts. Doesn't hurt thats the kind of looks I like.

Back to Politics and M.I.A. Does she have a video or one that even articulates her Sri Lankan /Eelam ideas. Compared and contrasted to Sinéad O'Connor's heartfelt songs about the the oppression of the Irish by the English, M.I.A seems sadly lacking. To the contrary of what little political message she sings, she has sold out and joined the establishment. i.e. she

"speaks about terrorism and Sri Lankan politics and all the while lives in a fancy house in a tony neighborhood with her billionaire husband."

Bottom line, M.I.A. cant articulate what if any oppression the Tamils have had, just a lot of "Agitprop Pop" music. The music is good, but M.I.A. is probably a milquetoast messenger advocating war for moralfags.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

LolCat, LOLCode and the Ceiling Cat Bible

Some these esoteric posts are based on links made by commentors on CalculatedRisk a financial blog. In the case of the LolCat / Ceiling Cat a comment by ac and follow ups by Rob Dawg.

LOLCODE Apparently has compilers and interpreters as well for the language.


The LoLCat Bible excerpt Genesis
Boreded Ceiling Cat makinkgz Urf n stuffs
1 Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.
2 Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.
3 At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz.4 An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin.5 An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!1
6 An Ceiling Cat sayed, im in ur waterz makin a ceiling. But he no yet make a ur. An he maded a hole in teh Ceiling.7 An Ceiling Cat doed teh skiez with waterz down An waterz up. It happen.8 An Ceiling Cat sayed, i can has teh firmmint wich iz funny bibel naim 4 ceiling, so wuz teh twoth day.
9 An Ceiling Cat gotted all teh waterz in ur base, An Ceiling Cat hadz dry placez cuz kittehs DO NOT WANT get wet.

10 An Ceiling Cat called no waterz urth and waters oshun. Iz good.
11 An Ceiling Cat sayed, DO WANT grass! so tehr wuz seedz An stufs, An fruitzors An vegbatels. An a Corm. It happen.

12 An Ceiling Cat sawed that weedz ish good, so, letz there be weedz.13 An so teh threeth day jazzhands.

For those who are humor constrained, take heart from the following

"The effort to translate the Bible into a language full of grammatical errors, hacker acronyms and Internet lingo may appear distasteful or blasphemous to some, but not to worry. Much of the translation only loosely follows the Bible. It's crowded with references to lolcats pictures and to ambiguous Internet humor, and these references can only be understood by people who spend too much time on the Web."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Millie Jackson: and email to friends

email : to friends
I used to listen to Millie Jackson as a teenager (1975) and this particular song, If Lovin you is Wrong (1974). There was this DJ Eric Fernando (Fernando is the most common last name in SL) who played this song often on the radio. I just loved the smooth rhythm and never listened to the words.
So after 30 odd years listened and still love it. The words make sense too.

Sonia Arango-Rivera's opinion/reply
Regarding Millie Jackson, I saw her for the first (and last) time at the Apollo Theater many years ago. I had purchased tickets with some friends to see Isaac Hayes who was very popular when his recording of "Shaft" became a big hit with both blacks and whites. On the bill with Isaac was Millie Jackson who was unknown to me and was I ever surprised when she began to sing and with each song her gestures and language got dirtier and dirtier. Not surprisingly, the audience loved her - the dirtier she got the more they clapped and screamed. When she finished her act, the audience kept asking for more and more. While I am not a prude by any means, she was too raunchy for me. I stayed only because I had paid premium for the ticket and wanted so much to see and hear Isaac Hayes.

I don't know if Millie Jackson is still performing or, for that matter, if she is still alive but, if she is, she knows how to drive the audience wild.

I don't think I've ever heard this song before it's a good blues song and I like it.

What Eric Fernando used to play: If Lovin is you is Wrong (1975)

Maybe the so so stuff. (1983 Slow Tongue )

Millie Jacksons version of Classical Music: London, 1984 (You have to listen)

Libiya and the Tuareg: Featuring Tinariwen with Santana and Robert Plant

Looks like Libya is in the news and the Tuareg are back to fighting the establishment. So a two second background.

Libya: I used to remember this as the same country as the historical Carthage. Apparently the wiki says otherwise, it was based in neighboring Tunisia. For those who dont want to bother reading the links/wikis, Carthage was the country of Hannibal 182 BC (around the time of Dutugemunu 161 BC-137 BC) who took elephants across the Alps to fight the Romans. For the Christians reading, apparently Hannibal was a name based on the God Baal. The basis of the name is no different from Buddadasa or Shivaprakasam (could have used ShivaLingam as an example too, but then could have confusion as to which part of the name is god). Apparently Hannibal could mean Grace of (the god) Baal.

Tuareg: Really dont know much about them. Vaguely remember reading that there might be connections with the Roma and Indian gypsies. Their dances could be our Southern, Thovil dances but thats true of most of the dance and music around the region Mali etc. First wave out of Africa ? What I know about the Tuareg is the group Tinariwen. Been around since 1979 apparently.

Santana and Tinariwen (not included the Robert Plant thing)

One of the latest Tinariwen Videos

Traditional Tuareg Dance: Could be Southern Sri Lanka, Thovil dance

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Negombo: Compost Facility

Went to the Negombo Compost facility a few weeks back. Bought compost and talked to Sumith who runs the facility. Really, nice. Sumith does really have green thinking. The tyre thing is just great. Call Sumith at 071-8429231 for directions and availability of compost.

If you are not a Negombo person (which i am) the easiest is to ask for St Annes, in Kurana. Pass the church, beautiful place, big trees, peaceful place. When you hit the rail tracks, dont cross over. Turn right and chat to all the Army guys. This is another access to the Army camp in Katunayake. You will have to provide ID somewhere along the line before you get to the compost facility.

You can head back on Wijaya Road.

So photos of the compost place:

The layered, green things are tyres as is the light brown blue fish tank.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Celia Cruz : Oye Como Va and Cuban/Puerto Rican Attitudes to Color

I started this post as about Cuban/Puerto Rican Attitudes to Color and sort of got into the comparisons with the Lankan attitude to a persons of color.

Oye Como Va, made very popular by Santana from his Abraxas Album. If you are into Latin jazz and mambo Tito Puente made this song famous in 1963. The version below is from Celia Cruz who also sang Guntanamera in 1940 (The girl from Guantanamo Bay), (did a post on that a few weeks back). In 2002 she won the Grammy for Best Salsa Album La Negra Tiene Tumbao (please watch the video, its great).

I am kind of digressing. The Celia Cruz's Grammy title song makes a good intro to what I see as the Cuban/Puerto Rican thinking of race/color, i.e. what you see is what it is.

La Negra: The Black girl
Tiene Tumbao: Has Rythm attitude

In the words from Oye Como Va, uses Mulatto to refer to probably a light skinned girl.
Oye como va : Listen how it goes
mi ritmo : my rhythm
Bueno pa' gozar, mulata : Good to enjoy, mulatto
Oye como va : Listen how it goes
mi ritmo : my rhythm
Bueno pa' gozar mulata : Good to enjoy, mulatto

I guess the average Sri Lankans dont realize there are are other parts of the world who are about comfortable with color as the average Sri Lankan. The average means, those who are minimally westernized and call their sister Kalu Nangi, not their third cousin removed whom they meet once in three years at the wedding or funeral. We (to be realistic not me) use words like Kalu Nangi/Kalu Aiya (Black Sister/ Black Brother). Equally well Sudu Nangi/Sudu Aiya (White Sister/ White Brother). There is no comparison with our Northern neighbor, where black is just not cool. You just would not want to have a name like Kaluwitharana or Dharmadasa either as whatever up thousand miles up North. Maybe even 150 miles up north a two or three decades back.

So what do I attribute this kind of open mind. I really think its one word, ISLAND.

For those who think differently, I would suggest visiting the south which I know well. Every other family has a relative who is married out. Can be a female or male and often not even met while in Sri Lanka. In other words tourism was not the biggest factor. So could (really should) also write about the European guy who walks his daughter to school in Pathana (Hikkaduwa). Another day for that.

Finally a comment, I really dont wish to be anonymous. I am a Tamil whatever that is . I consider my home to be the south so what more can I say. Had my DNA tested too, I have no clue. Confused, yes and finding my way and its the journey, lost my way a few years back and think I know where I am going now.

So more Cuban music below Callejon de hamel , watch the woman in red at 1:45 mins

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ella Fitzgerald & Tom Jones

What more can I say, Ella FitzGerald. I doubt Americans know the meaning of FitzGerald. Its Norman fils de Gérald, or son of Gerald (Gerald meaning "rule of the spear"). Famous names who were FitzGeralds, John FitzGerald Kennedy (Yes JFK) and F Scott FitzGerald who wrote the Great Gatsby.

and the Girl from Ipanema (1964)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: History factoids from the 1800's: Ruled by Albanians and Georgians

Given that Egypt is very much in the news some factoids about the rulers in the 1700's, Georgians and Albanians the Muhammad Ali dynasty and a French guy thrown into the mix.
Word games Pasha==Shah==Tzar

Ali Bey Al-Kabir (1728 — 8 May 1773)
Mamluk leader of Egypt from 1760 to 1772. Born in the region of Abkhazia in Georgia into a family of a Georgian priest[1], he was kidnapped and sold out in slavery in Cairo in 1743. He was recruited into the Mamluk force in which he gradually rose in ranks and influence, winning the top office of sheikh al-balad (chief of the country) in 1760. In 1768 Ali Bey deposed the Ottoman governor and assumed the post of acting governor. He stopped the annual tribute to the Sublime Porte and in an unprecedented usurpation of the Ottoman Sultan's privileges had his name struck on local coins in 1769 (alongside the sultan's emblem), effectively declaring Egypt's independence from Ottoman rule. In 1770 he gained control of the Hijaz and a year later temporarily occupied Syria, thereby reconstituting the Mamluk state that had disappeared in 1517.
If one is interested in history, you should read about the Mamluks, slaves who ruled country. I recall the first time I read about Mamelukes in Walter Scotts The Talisman. The Maluks were the force behind Saladin who used the Mamelukes to defeat the crusaders.

Muhammad Ali Pasha: (4 March 1769 – 2 August 1849).
Ottoman Turk, of Albanian origin, who became an Ottoman Wāli, and self-declared Khedive of Egypt and Sudan.
Muhammad Ali was born in Kavala, in the Ottoman province of Macedonia (now a part of modern Greece) to Albanian parents, the son of a tobacco and shipping merchant named Ibrahim Agha.
He married Ali Agha's daughter, Emine Nosratli, a wealthy widow of Ali Bey.
Farouk I of Egypt
The great-great-grandson of Muhammad Ali Pasha, Farouk was of Albanian descent. His mother was a great grand daughter of Suleiman Pasha (born Joseph Anthelme Sève,) a Frenchman.
His sister was Princess Fawzia Fuad, first wife and Queen Consort of the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

Ability to Comprehend Energy use in The modern World

Came across an interesting article (hat tip on the modern worlds use of energy and our inability to grasp the sheer scale of energy being used. examples from comments
Magnitude of energy derived from oil; A gallon of gasoline will move a medium size car 20 miles. Go out and find a level stretch of road and push your car 20 miles. When you get done, we will talk about renewable energy.
A loaded eighteen wheeler can go a mile on something between a pint and a quart of diesel. Give the driver a hand truck, and it'll take him something like five hundred hours.

In addition he argues that prior to finding fossil fuels, we lived paycheck to paycheck of our energy quota. Finding fossil fuels, was like winning the Lotto, and there is a good possibility we are nearing the end of energy Lotto.

Energy funds, energy flows by John Michael Greer

Underlying all the grand and sweeping fantasies of endless economic growth powered somehow by lukewarm sunlight and inconstant wind, I’ve come to think, lies the simple fact that the human mind never quite got around to evolving the capacity to think in terms of the huge amounts of energy our species currently, and briefly, has at its disposal. It’s one thing to point out that a planeload of tourists flying from Los Angeles to Cairo to see the Great Pyramid, back when political conditions in Egypt allowed for that, used more energy in that one flight than it took to build the Great Pyramid in the first place. It’s quite another to understand exactly what that means – to get some sense of the effort it took for gangs of laborers to haul all those blocks of stone from the quarries to the Nile, load them on boats, then haul them up from the Nile’s edge east of Giza and get them into place in the slowly rising mass of the Pyramid, and then to equate all that effort with the fantastic outpouring of force that flows through the turbines of a modern jet engine and keeps an airliner poised in the thin air 40,000 feet above the ground for the long flight from LA to Cairo.

Apply this to energy and you’ve basically got the history of the modern world. Until our species broke into the Earth’s store of fossil fuels and started going through it like a lottery winner on a spree, we lived from paycheck to paycheck on the incoming flows from the sun, and we got fairly clever at it. Growing food crops, raising livestock, building windmills and waterwheels, designing houses to soak up heat from the sun in winter and shed it in the summer, and a good many other ingenious tricks gave us the annual paycheck of energy we used to support ourselves and cover the costs of such luxury goods as art, literature, philosophy, science, and the occasional Great Pyramid.

With the transformation of coal from ugly black rock to energy resource over the course of the eighteenth century, that changed radically. Simply put, our species won the lottery, and it wasn’t a paltry little million-dollar prize, either – it was the great-grandmother of all jackpots, unimaginably vast enough that for most of three hundred years, the major constraint on how fast we used fossil fuels was the struggle to figure out enough clever ways to use it all. What nobody noticed at the time, or for a long time thereafter, was that we’d switched from a flow to a fund, and the faster our fossil fuel use accelerated, the faster the bank balance depleted

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Osi Bisa: American Center at Galle Face Court

As a kid 10/11 year old I was a member of the British Council. Came by train from Moratuwa to the Kollupitiya train station. Walked across the school (Cant remember the name, its still there) and bare land that is now the US Embassy ( as I became older that was how we ran to movies at Liberty and Rio). The next property was the British Council.

My father taught me in many ways to do my own thing. He made me a member of the British Council and long before that made me a book addict. Brought me over to the BC Children's sections. Probably twice or thrice. And then I was on my own, the book addict, get on the train if I needed the fix. Ever so often he would meet me at the BC and then when we pass the the second hand bookshop in front of the now American Embassy he would buy a book. Wilkie Collins, Moonstone was one that comes to mind now, much much better than Sherlock Holmes. To be honest I cant remember the stories, just that they were better than Agatha Christie. I know thats no comparison to the Texas Chain Saw murders.

So what can I remember from the children section books. Juan Manuel Fangio (and I did not look up the whole name before I spelled the names or made a link) and Stirling Moss.

I am still not getting to the American Center. Somewhere had heard about the American Center. Cant recall if I walked to the American Center or took a bus. I was sweaty (not that it really mattered in that day and age) and walked into ice cool environment. The British Council was cool but not this cold. I really didnt know what to do. There was this gentleman who came and asked, " do you want to listen to music". I guess I agreed. I didnt know how to put headphones or plug them in either. Never seen a headphone or a sound system before in my life. I think I was pointed to Osi Bisa and Chicago albums. I listened and was hooked. Could not become a member of the American Center till I was 14 or 16.

Couple of year later my cousin Logai (Bernard Barr) brought 8 Track tapes of Temptations 1990, Ike and Tina Turner Nut Bush Limits.

Finally after all the yap, some of the first stuff I listened at American Center at Galle Face Court,

Gong Gong Song Osi Bisa

Chicago 95