From the Guardian
If we are ever contacted by aliens, the man I’m having lunch with will be one of the first humans to know. His name is Paul Davies and he’s chair of the Seti (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Post-Detection Task Group. They’re a group of the world’s most eminent scientists and will be, come the big day, the planet’s alien welcome committee. His is an awesome responsibility, and one he doesn’t take lightly. [Read More…]
According to Michael Mautner, Research Professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, seeding the universe with life is not just an option, it’s our moral obligation. As members of this planet’s menagerie, and a consequence of nearly 4 billion years of evolution, humans have a purpose to propagate life. After all, whatever else life is, it necessarily possesses an incessant drive for self-perpetuation. And the idea isn’t just fantasy: Mautner says that “directed panspermia” missions can be accomplished with present technology. [Read More…]
If you are wondering what alien really look like, BuzzFeed has collected diagrams of all alien sightings since early 40’s here…
I was at a dinner on Friday night. Multiple bomb blasts in Lahore had taken place the same day. A guest at the dinner asked me that if I had read about ‘shock doctrine’ as someone told him that new Lahore blasts appear part of some shock doctrine.
I told him that though I did not finish ‘Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein (I have a tendency to leave a book in the middle if it cannot keep my interest), but no for a fact that there is a disconnect between her understanding of the doctrine and what he (guest) is implying. The main thrust of the book is on ‘disaster capitalism’. The author, however, touches upon what he is referring to. I might take up the case of ‘disaster capitalism’ in Part II whenever I get around to writing it.
In referring to what the guest was implying, the author says that governments use moments of shock to push through laws, reforms and actions that would have otherwise been unpalatable or unacceptable to general public.
The US was known for its relatively better justice system (there were exceptions but people accepted it more or less to be relatively fair compared to rest of the world) with prisoners having rights such that they can’t be imprisoned without bringing charges against them. Then 9/11 happened. This was followed by limits imposed on personal freedom and rights. Wire tapping became common. Prisoners can be held without trial for ages. Guantanamo Bay facility which might have been unforeseeable before the 9/11 with its human rights abuses, is perfectly normal and nobody raises an eye brow on the injustices carried out there. The implication here is not that US caused 9/11 rather that they have used the shock of 9/11 to usher in laws and restrict rights that people would have (before the event )vehemently protested against. Now the people accept everything meekly under the pretext of greater good / security.
A recent example is the Underwear bomber case. Enough questions have been raised in the media about whether the whole thing was a preplanned charade by US security forces: how could the guy even get pass the vigilant Israeli trained Schipol airport security. Prior to this incident, there were discussions in the media whether the new body scanning machines at the airport are an invasion of privacy and paranoia carried to the extremes. After the event, the body scanners are a permanent feature for foreseeable future and no discussion or even alternate suggestions or put forth in the media. Everyone has accepted it. No questions asked. Period.
Coming back to the dinner. My contention with the guest was that unlike the US society which is generally united against the Talibans and any external threat, Pakistan is a bipolar or multipolar society. Whereas such blasts in US might have brought people together and might helped push in laws or whatever the government might throw at people, however, Pakistanis are still not convinced that its the job of Talibans. If its the Talibans, then these must Punjabi Talibans and not the Haqqani network. If not them, then may be its bad Talibans and not the good Talibans. I have even heard that the bomb blasts may have been instituted by agencies or the Presidency to create panic and chaos in Punjab and bring down the Shahbaz Sharif government.
From a ‘shock doctrine’ perspective, the bomb blasts need to achieve an objective i.e., make it easier to bring in some change which would otherwise not been palatable. So far I haven’t seen any such move.
The guest who proposed the ‘shock doctrine’ conspiracy theory was no right wing sympathiser. I was actually surprised that such a liberal and anti-taliban and non-right-wing person would forward a theory which is normally associated with right wing nut jobs.
And then we wonder why our country is going to the dogs
Below are some excerpts from recent reads of mine. If something interests you, click on the link and read the whole article
1. Planet Pakistan
An American visitor in Pakistan can’t help thinking at times that he has arrived in a parallel universe. Asked about the presence of Al Qaeda on their country’s soil, Pakistanis deny that there is any evidence of it. They lionize A. Q. Khan, who created the country’s nuclear weapons program and sold essential nuclear technology and knowledge to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and they are incensed by American worries about the security of their country’s nuclear assets. Suicide bombings and political assassinations are near-daily occurrences, yet many Pakistanis are astonishingly complacent about the murderous groups behind them. They rail instead against the government that is powerless to prevent these attacks and an America that would like nothing better than to see an end to them.
2. The Nation : Black Water in Pakistan
On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that Blackwater is operating in Pakistan. In an interview on Express TV, Gates, who was visiting Islamabad, said, “They [Blackwater and another private security firm, DynCorp] are operating as individual companies here in Pakistan,” according to a DoD transcript of the interview. “There are rules concerning the contracting companies. If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”
3. I am surprised that this is how US Armed Forces Journal thinks. Going Soft. Too bad it was published sometime ago otherwise its a good candidate for mindfuck of the day.
Demographics is a strategic advantage of indigenous forces. The total fertility rate, the average number of children that are born to a woman during her reproductive lifetime in the Taliban’s sanctuary of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP), is 5.1. Accordingly, the NWFP population of 17.8 million will double within 11 to 14 years. This birth rate, this regenerative capacity, trumps any casualty rate the U.S. can inflict on the Taliban in Afghanistan. We cannot exhaust the Taliban’s reservoirs through defensive war. Unless and until we change our strategy, the Taliban will field increasing numbers of fighters in Afghanistan over time. The fight is for control of the population, the Taliban’s reservoir, not terrain, not tactical engagements and not body count.
4. Last but not least, a very decent article written by Maniza Naqvi on 3 Quarks Daily entitled Trappers and Trapped website.
Is the US not able to let go? Is the US programmed to be trapped in Afghanistan? Is the US trapped in Afghanistan while many players in the region state and non-state look on patiently and contentedly all the while providing supplies and supply lines for its war? In its war in Afghanistan this non regional and chief warrior, the US military’s, cost per gallon of fuel is US$400 and cost per US military soldier is US$1,000,000. Somebody is bleeding and being clubbed and someone is getting rich.
General Pervaiz Musharraf and other Pakistani Generals are similarly understood when we, read Jeremy Scahill’s article in the Nation about Xe (Blackwater) and its CEO Erik Prince and his Pakistani partner Liaqat Ali Baig and his company Kestral. Now who is this Mr. Liaqat Ali Baig? What is his company’s connection to the Pakistan Army? If we dig deeper we find that almost all defense deals in Pakistan are done through Kestral Trading which is allegedly a proxy owned by Pervaiz Musharraf’s son Bilal Musharraf who lives in the Unites States. Kestral CEO Mr. Liaqat Ali Baig is a front for Bilal Musharraf’s “ father in law”, Brig. (retired) Aftab Siddiqui. It’s all in the family.
As reported in The Nation:
…there was threat of terrorist attack on security forces and moreover, since high profile personalities such as the President, PM, federal ministers, diplomats and a large number of people witness the parade, security issues forced the authorities concerned to cancel the event, the sources further said.
This gives me little confidence in the security capabilities of plethora of intelligence agencies (MI, ISI, CIA, IB, etc) that the country has.
When it matters the most to show the nation that situation is under control and the imported War on Terror is going in the right direction, the parade gets canceled.
It is pertinent to mention here that for the past 3 years the parade has been cancelled. It was held in 2007 at Sports Complex, which was witnessed by the then President Gen Pervez Musharraf.
During Musharraf era, in Karachi, we got used to the President’s stone laying ceremonies or opening ceremonies of bridges, towers etc. all taking place in Governor’s house for security reasons. They could have gone ahead with the parade and the president and prime minister could have observed it from the Presidency or like Musharraf’s days, the parade could have been arranged at Sports Complex.
Another sign that all is not well on the fronts despite the high profile arrests of terrorists and pictures of celebrating locals as depicted by ISPR : from Geo TV:
PESHAWAR: Frontier Constabulary Commandant dismissed over 900 FC personnel on refusing to take part in operation in FR Peshawar, Geo News reported Sunday.
Talking to Geo News, the FC Commandant Sifwat Ghayyur confirmed that the notification regarding the sacking of 903 personnel from 21 platoons, has been issued and the FC’s District Officers have been directed to take back weapon and government documents from these sacked personnel.
Sometimes I believe journalists should stick to news reporting and keep their commentary to themselves. DAWN published an article on women fighter pilots of Pakistan Airforce today and the commentary (social or otherwise) in it was distasteful.
ISLAMABAD: Ambreen made Pakistani history by becoming one of the country’s first female fighter pilots, but on Sunday she was due to swap her flight schedule for an arranged marriage. “It’s all set and planned, but I haven’t talked to him,” she admits, her face scrubbed clean and wearing a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jumpsuit – a far cry from the make-up and ornate gown she’ll wear for the wedding.
The wedding between Flight Lieutenant Ambreen Gul, 25, and an engineer from Islamabad has been arranged by their families in the best Pakistani tradition.
When she wakes up on Monday – International Women’s Day – she’ll be married to a man she has only seen once before and with whom she has barely exchanged a word.