Sunday, March 31, 2013

US Reps, NaMo & The Bribery Fantasy

Most nations act in their own self-interest. Ours is probably one democracy that is at constant political conflict and uses every opportunity to paint patriots as fascists, as killers and bribe-givers. On the flip side, traitors and separatists are glorified by our MSM and some are even decorated by the GOI. For nearly a decade that has been the job of the Indian Congress party and their crony media happily picks up the song and plays it over and over again.

Remember Charlie Wilson? He was a specialist in Pakistan strategy for the US. I say ‘was’ because Congressman Charlie Wilson died in 2010. Apart from his colourful life, Charlie is most famous for ‘Operation Cyclone’ which involved the funding of Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets. Some of the funding has also reportedly involved illegal lobbying by the CIA. It is famous as ‘Charlie Wilson’s war’. While Wilson may have succeeded in arming the Afghans there isn’t any doubt a lot of crumbs and benefits were also picked up by Pakistan. When the Soviet occupation ended late 1980s it is public knowledge where the attention of leftover warriors and Pakistan too turned to. It’s also now known that a good amount of Charlie’s funds went to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a senior Taliban leader and a supporter of al-Qaeda since the Soviet exit. Wilson is celebrated as a patriotic American hero.

So lately, when a group of US Congress members are on a visit to India, particularly Narendra Modi, the same machinery of the media started claiming the three US lawmakers were bribed to visit Modi, speak highly of him, speak highly of Gujarat, were bribed to give Modi an invitation to the USA and get him an entry permit. Who are these dumb people? It is one thing for dumb spokies to utter rubbish but quite another thing for the media to repeat such garbage like a box of parrots. That’s why the sign in a previous post says “Never trust an editor”. The profession of most editors is dead or at least their conscience definitely is.  Let’s sample some comments from an Outlook Magazine report:

Rashid Alvi (Congress): "Shame that the Congressmen were paid for getting a visa and certificate of development for Modi… One feels ashamed over this kind of news. It is an insult to a nation. The Congressmen were given Rs nine lakh each so that America can give him (Modi) visa and a certificate of development... This is unfortunate. If the money had been spent in Gujarat for the poor and development, then it would have been much better". Even if we buy the argument that the Congressmen were paid a total amount of 27 lakhs it is amazing to think that Congress spokie like Alvi, whose party has guzzled lakhs of crores in scams, believes 27 lakhs would dent development in Gujarat. This amount is less than even peanuts as bribes for even a low level political broker in Delhi. And then he makes the assumption that the Americans too are servile parrots and slaves of their party’s king or queen and make statements they don’t even believe in. Outlook quotes another:

AICC Secretary Praveen Davar hit out at the US delegation for inviting the Gujarat CM describing it as "thoughtless" move. "I strongly condemn the three Republicans for inviting Modi to the US. Have Americans forgotten who masterminded 2002 Gujarat genocide? Repeated victory at the hustings does not absolve Modi of alleged crimes against humanity. Lawmakers must withdraw their thoughtless invite.

Can you ever imagine an American lawmaker talking about their elected representatives in the manner that this guy Davar talks in reference to a foreigner? In my book this is the language of anti-nationals. First of all he makes a foolish statement. Then, by what logic or entitlement does he believe he has the right to condemn the American visitors? Even if the group was not an official one from the US govt this Davar demonstrates the kind of foolishness with which we handle our foreign relations issues.

Look at it from another angle. If the US Reps were indeed bribed to invite Modi and get him a visa then who were the people and parties who bribed the US authorities to deny entry for Modi in the US? Surely, a lot of money must have been spent on the lobbyists who urged the US govt to deny entry to Modi. This was around 2005. Your guess is as good as mine on who spent a helluva lot of money for the anti-Modi campaign with the US govt. Who knows! Maybe the anti-Modi clause has been used as “leverage” in many deals and with many institutions. This is one thing the GOI has never learnt from the US. That nation comes first. That no matter what Charlie Wilson is celebrated as a patriot despite some future unfortunate events supposedly being outcomes of his funding. Wilson has never been blamed for such outcomes.

So where did all this screaming of “bribery” start from? From a community news site called “Hi India” in Chicago. The very nature of the report itself is laughable and not surprisingly no editor or reporter in the Indian media has questioned it. It has no source whatsoever to report on except a printed “invitation” card which is nearly a public document. The rest is a background story on the sponsors organising the trip. Seriously, are the reporters at Hi-India suggesting that bribes were offered by printed invitations? Please note though that Hi-India itself does not mention “bribery” anywhere. This is an invention of the Congress party and Indian media. Is that such a surprise?

Here’s what I estimate and consider most appropriate: Three US Reps were invited by a BJP supporter or a sympathiser on a trip to India and a meeting with Modi too. Given that, the sponsor is certainly not going to invite US Reps who are anti-Modi or anti-BJP to lead the tour. He used their prominent names and position to rope in other businessmen or investors for a package cost options of between $3000 and $29000 per person or couple as the case maybe. Since the US Reps were not travelling as “couples” the news site concluded their cost would be $16000 (the highest rate for individuals in the highest class) which in turn is inferred as “bribery”. Very smart, isn’t it? On being questioned, one of the US Reps has offered clarification which is carried in the Outlook report but while you may read that, it is not even relevant to the whole case. Just for the record, a US Rep’s annual salary is reportedly $174000, just under $16000 pm. So, imagine our media implies that for just over a month’s salary they can be bought. Even Indian politicians can’t be bought for that.

If a sponsor is using the lead team of “prominent lawmakers” to invite others to join the trip at a price then how exactly does it amount to a bribe to the lead-team? Given that the Reps were “invited to lead” it is not even unnatural that their expenses would be borne by the sponsors. It is not confirmed that is the case though. Since I quoted India Today’s headline earlier let us consider Narendra Modi was invited as key note speaker at their recent Conclave and there would have been expenses. Now, we don’t know who bore the expenses of Modi. But supposing India Today had borne the travel, commuting, stay and food expenses of Modi amounting to say Rs.2 lakhs, would that be considered a bribe paid to Modi for speaking at their event? This is the stupid inference ‘Hi-India’ makes which our media editors then repeat like parrots.

As for the political statements coming from the Congress, the less said the better. Their hatred for Modi and their funding of anti-Modi media and NGOs is all too well known. After 11 years even Madhu Kishwar who had earlier bought the media arguments has now written nearly a whole book about the hateful campaign against Modi funded by Congress and other vested interests. Not surprisingly, this blog and many others have been saying this for years now.

And since we are on it, why not go another step? What exactly is this ‘Hi-India’? While the Indian media quoted their “bribery” source as a community news site in Chicago most of them did not even mention the name “Hi-India”. Because if they did, you would read and discover how farcical the story is. That would defeat the purpose of the lies, eh? Well, it’s published by a man named Hemant Bramhbhatt. Not much is known about him except that he has been doing a ‘South Asian’ community service news site for many years. Okay, what next? He also publishes something called “Sandesh”. And who helped him getting into this publishing business? Ah well, it’s family friends from the second-highest sold news newspaper from Gujarat called “Sandesh”. This is published from many cities in Gujarat. Sandesh does not have a reputation of being Modi-friendly but we don’t need to make any assumptions. It is important to merely know the connections of ‘Hi-India’.

That the US Reps came and spoke highly of a State within India seems intolerable for many politicians and media houses. Ever seen such shameful conduct? In July 2011 the GOI announced it would investigate activities of many journalists and activists who were frequent guests of an anti-India campaigner like Ghulam Nabi Fai. He operated liberally with ISI funds and the participants, including Dileep Padgaonkar, Kuldip Nayar, Gautam Navlakha and many more, were beneficiaries of his doles. Why doesn’t that constitute bribery yet? That too by a known enemy! These are not Americans who can’t be investigated. Is it any surprise that these people are glorified in our media?

The Gujarat 2002 riots campaign of lies failed to stick and win elections. They then turned to some lame corruption charges. Then they turned to fantasies about malnutrition in Gujarat being the worst in India. Having failed in all that, the media now clings on to fantasy of any kind that drops their way, including fantasies of bribery for praise and visa. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gentle Opinions To Gag SM

During a debate on the freedom of Social Media (March 23), where Corporate Affairs minister Sachin Pilot and BJP's senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also participated,  the key speaker appears to have been Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid. See Rediff report. Here’s what Khurshid had to say:

Social media is effective today because we are equal. It is the equality of social media and your ability to manipulate and use technology that gives you the freedom -- a freedom which then, perhaps, needs to be regulated. It needs to be regulated because every freedom has to be regulated" and he adds “Please read the Constitution and if you are a true Indian, please bow to the Constitution which says reasonable restriction on all your freedom - on your freedom of speech, freedom of work, freedom of action”.

The UPA has so far already made many restrictions by stringent laws in attempting to curb social media. They have gone as far as making even hitting the “Like” buttons punishable by law. As draconian a section as 66A has been used to arrest cartoonists and ordinary folks content that have upset some politicians. Khurshid even speaks of an “Equal opportunities commission” although it’s not clear if that was in relevance to social media or a general statement. Here’s the problem though. The govt seems unwilling or not necessary to first look into and revamp the existing regulatory bodies. The PCI Chairman appears to be more busy in making legal appeals and political statements rather than improving the functioning of the PCI or the print media.

Contrary to fear-mongering that SM may cause communal riots or violence on the streets there has not been a single instance where content from SM has led to any such incident. The closest that comes to mind are the Azad Maidan riots of August 2012 and those had little to do with SM. People on the ground used morphed images to provoke protesters in to violence. And yet, SM seems to the high priority for controls. In the other case of violence over a Facebook post it was members of a political party who indulged in violence and not ordinary people from the SM or the ground.

As for the Congress party itself, having realised it’s better to deal with the SM productively instead of a constant conflict they decided to make a major investment to enhance their image on the SM. Many sites have been blocked, banned or selectively blocked by govt ISPs without assigning reasons or without a process for appeal or reversals. This blog was blocked for a month by BSNL in July 2012 without assigning any reason. Then they lifted the block on their own. The number of requests to Google and others to remove content or block sites are one of the highest in India.

The best part of the story is that there is yet no regulatory body or watchdog for the Television media. The news channels have an absolute free run in their conduct and airing of content. What they have is a “union” which is neither a statutory body (like the PCI) nor a watch dog. This Union called the “NBA” acts more as a censor and makes decisions of what to telecast and not to telecast on behalf of its members. They collectively make these decisions which the members accept and follow. The other body they have created for themselves is the Indian Broadcasting Foundation. If you take a look at the list of people heading this body it would be absolutely clear that these are the same people from some media form or the other. In short, this too is a body for protection of the media groups and not so much the consumers. The IBF has not even published a full list of its members. That’s how transparent they are. It’s only the SM that is currently acting as an unofficial watchdog.

There is a shocking incident of actress Deepti Naval being maligned with sensational headlines by some newspapers and news sites. For a minor quarrel with residents of her society over some interview recording, the newspapers misused conversation with the actress to create horrible headlines to imply Deepti Naval was in some prostitution racket. It is the PCI Chairman’s job to take cognisance of such spurious reporting and invoke harsh punishment for the culprits. It remains to be seen what he or the PCI does.

In the meantime more attempts will be made to curb the freedoms of social media which is relatively far less harmless. They have already made many botched attempts to do so. While the opinions of the speakers are being passed of “Personal opinions” these same opinion do go into making laws. That even the Opposition hadn’t challenged the provisions of 66A is an indication how politicians become a “family” in making such laws. All this comes not so much out of concern for “regulating” freedom but gently creating and moulding opinions for more gagging of SM.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sanjay Dutt & The Bendy Bananas

Ever seen a straight Banana? No? I found a rare one in the pic. Next time you buy bananas try and find one without a curve. Great democracies are known not just for the Constitution or Independence but for their justice systems and their citizens to accept that justice system. Last year Rajat Gupta was sentenced to two years in prison for an insider trading racket in the US. Tears were flowing like rivers in the Indian media. The court did tell Gupta he may have done a lot of good things but it has no option to sentence him for his crime. Unless he wins an appeal Gupta will indeed go to prison. There’s the case of former British MP Jeffrey Archer. He is also a very successful writer whose books have sold over 200 million copies. In 2001 he was sentenced to four years in prison for perjury in a 1987 libel case which he won. Archer served two years before being released and had returned the 5Lakh Pounds he had won in the libel case, with interest. To say that both these gentlemen are celebrities would be an understatement.

It is, therefore, not surprising that in a growing Democracy like India there are “Bendy Bananas” in the form of celebrities who are hell bent in turning India into a Banana republic. Theirs is the loudest clamour for mercy and pardon to Sanjay Dutt for his crime and 5-year sentence. Over the last decade the justice system in India has rotted along with other democratic institutions. In less than 24 hours of the Supreme Court verdict on SD a former judge Markandey Katju wrote an open letter to the Governor of Maharashtra to pardon Sanjay Dutt because he has suffered enough for the last 20 years. By that he means the 20 years it took to reach a final verdict in the Bombay blasts of 1993. Justice Katju… Er… let me correct that, it should be “Private Citizen Katju” (PCK), since he claims all his opinions now are as a private citizen and not as a former Justice or his current position as PCI Chairman. I wonder if PCK had even taken the trouble of reading the judgement before he appealed for a pardon. Having sent off that appeal PCK was on all media channels defending his worthless act and even walking off angrily from TV discussions. This is what PCK wrote in his appeal:

The power of pardon under Article 161 by the Constitution is different from the judicial power. The Governor/President can grant pardon or reduce the sentence of the Court, even if a minimum is prescribed. Hence there is no doubt that the Governor can grant pardon/reduce the sentence”.

And among other things PCK also writes:

The event happen in 1993 i.e. 20 years ago. During this period Sanjay suffered a lot, and had a cloud hovering over his head throughout. He had to undergo various tribulations and indignities during this period. He had to go to Court often, he had to take the permission of the Court for foreign shootings, he could not get bank loans, etc… Sanjay in this period of 20 years has through his film revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of Gandhiji, the father of the nation”.

Ever read anything more idiotic and silly? But that was enough to send a whole lot of other parliamentarians and Congress members to scream “pardon”. Even legal-bimbos were talking about appealing to the Maharashtra Governor for the pardon. This is apart from the whole Bollywood mafia which feels Sanjay Dutt is a victim, innocent, made a foolish mistake, is a kind-hearted soul. I’m sure SD is all that to his friends and people who know him. The law is not in the movie-making business. This is what his friends and PCK don’t wish to acknowledge. And how did SD struggle and suffer for 20 years? Oh well, if you didn’t know, he made over 90 movies during this 20 year period. At a miserly average of 50 Lakhs per movie that would be 45 Crores! Super stars in Bollywood are paid in crores not lakhs though. I wonder why SD even needed bank loans. Never mind!

PCK is foolish and even moronic to suggest that SD has revived the memory of Gandhiji. I am surprised this is the nonsense with which he appeals for pardon (or maybe I shouldn’t be surprised anymore). Even though this moronic suggestion has to be laughed at and dismissed, PCK should know that the message of a movie is essentially a message of the Director and not the actors. The actors just play the part. It is the Director who tells the story through his vision and imagination. Never mind that. If indeed someone has made Gandhi popular across the world then it has to be Ben Kingsley. He won an Oscar award for that role so maybe according to PCK Kingsley should be provided complete and permanent immunity from any prosecution for any crime for a lifetime. And this comes from PCK, a man who claims he hasn’t seen a movie in 40 years (how can you possibly be an Indian if you haven’t seen movies for 40 years? For that alone PCK should be prosecuted) and has never met SD.

The media picked up the nonsense of PCK and peddled it all through the last three days. Naturally, the editors everywhere didn’t even bother to check if what PCK was saying was really factual or had any merit. They never checked if a Governor did indeed have the power to pardon SD. Well, in the movie I saw last evening (State of Play) the editor has a sign on her desk that says “Never trust an editor”. If you look at the headline and tweet by NDTV you would be led to believe SD was prosecuted for just having a small, illegal gun for self-defence. I guess by now everyone knows that SD ferried, possessed and latter destroyed weapons enough to start an attack quite similar to 26/11. He also had a large cache of cartridges and grenades. This is how our Bendy Bananas twist the story. But that isn’t important. 

The SC has taken everything into account and pronounced its judgement. Does the Governor really have power under Article 161 to pardon SD’s crime? Here’s what Mahesh Jethmalani, another prominent lawyer, had to say:

"While it is the personal prerogative of any citizen of this country to campaign for a pardon for any convict -notwithstanding the dubious company the convict might have kept, both before and after the cataclysmic events that had shaken Bombay on 12th March, 1993, citizens are entitled to expect a modicum of elementary homework at least by such distinguished personalities as Messrs Katju, Ashwini Kumar and Manish Tiwari… The executive power of the state government does not extend to matters enumerated in the Union list of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Entry 5 in the Union List consists of arms, firearms, ammunition and explosives. The Arms Act is a statute enacted by Parliament. The Governor's power of pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution of India, accordingly, does not extend to the sentence of any person convicted under the Arms Act”.

It’s really hard to find a “straight” banana; curves seem natural to this loveable fruit. Therefore, the European Union decided how much curve is acceptable and passed a “Bendy Banana” law in 1995. Good democracies are worried about how curved Bananas should be. The sinking ones are turning into Bananas themselves. It specifies, among other things, “minimum standards for specific quality classifications of bananas (Extra, Class I, Class II). Only Extra class bananas have to comply fully with the shape specifications. Class II bananas, for instance are permitted to have "defects of shape"; Class I bananas are permitted only "slight defects of shape". Hmm! You see, we Class-2 bananas are extended some latitude for our ignorance and curves because we aren’t judges and celebrities. What about the Class-1 bananas? They are permitted only “slight” defects but in India these celebrities or “Bendy Bananas” seem to twist and grind the law out of shape all the time. The bigger the celebrity the bigger the twists and curves it seems. I have to agree with what the apple says to one such very “Bendy Banana” whose “opinions” are starting to stink.