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Not Good News On Sunday Morning… April 30, 2006

Posted by scan man in News.
3 comments

The Sunday Newspaper – the one that I usually linger over, has not brought cheer…

A string of depressing stories…

  • New Delhi: The Taliban has threatened to execute K. Suryanarayana, an Indian national, kidnapped in Afghanistan on Friday, by Sunday evening, if New Delhi does not pull its citizens out of the troubled nation. (read the full story here)
  • Hyderabad: While the fate of the Indian engineer abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan on Friday hangs in the balance, his family living in the bustling suburb of Malkajgiri in Hyderabad plunged into despair. (read the full story here)
  • Raipur: Naxalites on Saturday killed 13 of the 52 villagers they had abducted last Tuesday and released 37 others in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. (read the full story here)
  • Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday successfully test fired its long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile Hatf VI (Shaheen II) with `outstanding results.' (read the full story here)
  • Islamabad: Pakistan chose not to react to the decision of the Bush administration to designate Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq (IKK) as terrorist outfits even as the JuD denounced it as a move by Washington to please New Delhi. (read the full story here)
  • Paris: Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri has lashed out at U.S. President George W Bush accusing him of giving a “strong impetus'' to India's nuclear programme while “doling out orders'' to Pakistan. (read the full story here)
  • Kolkata: Faced with huge under-recoveries, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) today sought an immediate upward revision of petrol and diesel prices to the extent of Rs 10.50 per litre. (read the full story here)

Looks like religious fundamentalists, rabid communists, military juntas and big corporates are having a good day though.

Which Historical Lunatic Am I? April 29, 2006

Posted by scan man in humour, internet.
3 comments

I think I'm getting addicted to these Tests….

Well. Here goes..

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

It seems I am Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America!

Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, I carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out my fortune in 1854. After this, I became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when I expressed my dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring myself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. I remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.

Within a month I had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, I summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, I decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, I disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for my home city.

My days consisted of parading around my domain – the San Francisco streets – in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. I dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. I was a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.

Once arrested, I was swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute me on the street. My renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming my patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for me and my two dogs. (As an aside, I was a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of my faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed my occupation as "Emperor".

The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly delapidated state of my attire, replaced it at their own expense. I responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. My death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what I had on my person, my possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, my correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. My funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.

The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.

I’m really better off than most people.. April 29, 2006

Posted by scan man in medical blogs.
1 comment so far

Dr. Hebert has put in words – in his usual great style – what most of us doctors know is true, but hate to admit…

Something in the makeup of doctors makes them complainers….Certainly medicine is a tough line of work. But it pays pretty well, and it has definite benefits. It is about as independent a line of work as you can find, which is what I like about it. Although many people try to suggest what you should do, no one tells you what to do. M.D. really does stand for my decision. I wish more docs would come out and say, “You know, I really am better off than most people.” It takes character to be thankful for things as they are, and not to be always, vainly, wishing for better.

Rule 49 (O) April 27, 2006

Posted by scan man in Life in India, Politics.
25 comments

It is election time again in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly Election of 2006 is scheduled for May 8. The outcome will determine who governs us for the next five years.

The sitting member of the Legislative Assembly for my constituency is from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The Communists, who are part of the DMK-led alliance have entered a fresh face into the fray this time. The candidate for the main opposition alliance led by the AIADMK is not well-known. There are about ten other candidates, most contesting as 'Independents' and a few from some of the minor parties.

The general opinion in the constituency, which has many industries and a strong trade union base, is that the Communists will hold on to the seat. The other candidates do not seem to have any realistic chance of winning.

My problem: I do not like any of the contestants in my constituency. I am never going to vote for a Communist. I don't like any of the other candidates. I don't want to vote for any of the others anyway as they are openly being talked of as potential losers. So I resigned myself to not exercising my democratic privilege in this election.

I learnt recently that there is another option open to voters like me. Rule 49 (O) of the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 gives the voter the right to register at the polling booth, get his/her index finger inked, but refrain from casting the vote. The electoral officer then has to make an entry under the rule.

The Indian Democracy reveals such surprises sometimes. And here is the really good part. If the rejections exceed the number of votes polled, a re-election is ordered, but the rejected candidates do not have the right to contest again.

But there is a fundamental flaw in this. The fact that the voter opted for Rule 49 (O) will be known to everyone in the polling station. The secrecy of the ballot – one of the few unalienable rights of an Indian citizen – is lost. The Constitution bars even the courts from knowing a voter's choice of candidate under section 94 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1954.

Rule 49 (O), though flawed, works – whether we use ballot papers or Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). We don't use ballot papers anymore in Tamil Nadu. All the polling stations (4824) for all the constituencies (234) in the state will use EVMs.

It would be technically very easy to mark one of the buttons as 'None of the Above' to facilitate negative or neutral voting. This would also maintain the secrecy of the ballot. Our highly efficient and fiercely independent Election Commission had recommended such a change in 2001. It also figures prominently in the current proposal for electoral reforms put forward by the commission. (you can download a pdf file of the proposals here). A petition by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties seeking such a provision filed at the time of the last Parliamentary election (2004) is pending before the Supreme Court.

I am not surprised at the delay in implementing the change. I cannot imagine any of our current politicians supporting it. In fact I have not heard of even one politician mentioning this. At least some of the politicians keep mouthing platitudes about '33% reservation for women in the legislature', 'Uniform Civil Code' etc.. But I believe that no politician in his/her right mind would ever support a change in the electoral process which has the potential to make his/her election ineligible.

I can only hope that something of this sort will be implemented by the time the next election comes around.

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. – George Orwell.

[Update

If we don’t all switch to Macs, the terrorists will have won! April 26, 2006

Posted by scan man in Computers, Mac, medical blogs.
2 comments

So says Dr. Bob, who has had a really bad day (& half the night) at his office. Thanks to Windows XP and Bill Gates.

Read his post 'The Terrorists Will Have Won'.

And readers…if you are still using Windows,

Please, please switch..