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Student loans are crippling Americans. Education in the US is expensive because education is privatized, not that community colleges with cheaper education don’t exist. But the better jobs and opportunities go to students from more expensive universities because the perception is that these universities are somehow better.

Students will do almost anything to get into an ‘Ivy League’ or equivalent school. But this is only possible if either you are extremely brainy or extremely rich, therefore this creates a very nice balance where the extremely rich students subsidize the extremely brainy. It’s a free rider problem, but here both sides seem to be profiting. However Newton has laws, and there is no free lunch, so who loses? All we have to do to figure that one out is to follow the money.

The losers are the students who are not exactly brilliant but not exactly stupid. They are not exactly rich but not exactly poor. They are the horde, the majority, the bourgeoisie, destined to always be spectators, playing second fiddle. They are the people on the bench, the water boys and girls, always waiting for their big break. 

Never is this divide more apparent that when an economy is suffering. A rise in unemployment always sees the underprivileged suffer more. Even at the best of times the elite get the best jobs and the rest get what is left. The difference is that ‘what is left’ is usually enough to keep people happy, because a superpower like the US inevitably feeds off the rest of the world and therefore even its less fortunate are more fortunate than most of the fortunate elsewhere.

But in a recession the skeletal body of the economy is not fleshy enough to feed them all, and this is when the, wait for it, seedy underbelly of the education system exposes itself. The brainy and rich always have a way out, more or less. The rest however, gather at Zuccotti Park, ‘Occupying Wall Street’.

Modern capitalism, like a column by David Kristjanson-Gural put so nicely, is simply a system where wealth perpetuates wealth. It was George Bernard Shaw who said “all professions are a conspiracy against the laity” and this is just as true today as it was then.

The Corporatocracy own the universities and ultimately use them as breeding grounds for employable people, and the next generation of greedy elites. The system shuts out all thought that is hostile to it and reduces all dissenters to bar room intellectuals or doomsday prophets, devoid of money and success and therefore effectively devoid of influence.

And so students are hell bent on acquiring the best education (read university) possible. The vast majority who isn’t super smart or super rich proceed to take massive loans. They are then stuck with these loans for years and years after they start working and consequently can’t afford independent thought. Disillusionment with the system is effectively controlled because they all need to keep working for the corporates in order to keep the loan sharks from their door.

They refinance their debt and gradually graduate to bigger loans as they buy houses and cars. All the while slaving away in a materialistic haze that helps perpetuate their illusion of success, shutting out all metaphysical, spiritual and introspective thought, digging themselves deeper into a meaningless life, supporting war efforts and giving their implicit approval for their forces to kill thousands of unarmed civilians worldwide. This state of affairs is also loosely known as the American dream.

The Occupy Wall Street protests were a brief uprising of the laity. It was entertained as grownups entertain the tantrums of toddlers. Now the harsh winters and pepper spraying police have driven the toddlers back inside, and will hopefully turn them into good little robots again as the Corporatocracy, Israel and America prepare for yet another war, starting by antagonizing Iran, and there is nothing like a war to keep the internal peace.

 

I’ve stopped writing and genrally taking an interest in US politics and international affairs for a while. because you know, whats the point? Its all so much hypocrisy, i’d say it makes me sick, but it doesn’t anymore, i’m too used to it now.

They manipulated post 9/11 hype to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, they blatantly support Israeli terrorism in Palastine and the Gaza strip and so obviously influenced events in the post-Tunisian ‘Arab Spring’ (more specifically Libya) that i can only groan inwardly at people who actually believe the version of events poured out by mainstream Western media.

Now they’ve gone and crashed a stealth drone inside Iran and have the audacity to ask for it back.

President Barack Obama said today the U.S. has requested that Iran return the highly sensitive stealth drone that crash landed there two weeks ago, but an Iranian general already said that’s not going to happen.

“We’ve asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Obama said at a news conference. Obama said he wouldn’t comment further “on intelligence matters that are classified.”

I mean, who does that?  This is a plain admission of warmongering. And a blatant show of power. Yeah i hit the ball through your window, yes its shattered into pieces. Now, can i have my ball back? Thank you.

Loonwatch makes a good point.

What do you think the United States would do if an Iranian drone was downed in U.S. territory?  We all know the answer: bomb Iran back to the Stone Ages.  Or, at minimum we would use drones to drop a few bombs on their heads.

The US is all about democracy and freedom. It’s all about free expression and equality. Its cultural values and ethical models are a framework to promote…why do people still keep buying into this jizz? The US is empire and empire is corrupt and abusive. Let’s at least stop pretending otherwise, it doesn’t matter whose side we’re on. This illusion is past its prime.

WARWAR by Sebastian Junger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Junger’s ‘war’ is more ‘battle’ than war since he only talks about the situation of a platoon of soldiers stuck in a remote valley in Afghanistan who are apparently unaware of the sweeping developments in the bigger picture of war.

His soldiers are fighting machines, equipped with the brawn and the intelligence necessary to cope with an environment of severe and unpredictable gunfights interspersed with long periods of boredom. The ones with the bloodlust survive.

His soldier is not a person ideologically aware of the reasons for the conflict, and fights the war for a reason completely different to what its government fights it for.

The soldier is a being who has ended up at the army for one of various reasons, and only few of them are born from a deep sense of patriotism. the word patriot, in fact, is barely mentioned in the whole book. They fight for their ‘bothers’ or platoonmates and sacrifice their lives not for the American cause but for the cause of saving the lives of their fellow soldiers.

War gives them the exhilaration and high they know they will never get from anywhere else whilst also slowly tearing them apart psychologically. I think the lack of a non superficial overriding cause to fight slowly tears them up on the inside. They question God, and everything else and ask why? but can’t answer the question when one of their ‘brothers’ die. It’s kill or be killed in the Korengal valley, nothing else matters. or barely even figures.

This is a bloody disturbing state for a soldier. Junger spent 15 months among them and his love for them is apparent, this love also tears away the veneer of ‘objectivism’ that you may think such a ‘journalistic’ attempt should maintain. But objective and journalistic is what this book is mostly not, but that doesn’t mean to say it completely isn’t these things either.

It is just objective enough to present everything in a way that you can draw your own conclusions, and just about journalistic enough to be a calm narrative with a sufficiently high intellectual hand to give you enough material for analysis. Overall well written (i especially like how Junger has adopted the jargon ridden military panache to his language). It may not be a book you will like for the reasons you think you are supposed to like it for. But its surely something you can walk away with understanding from.

View all my reviews

Designing the future; Shinter

TIME Magazine has got an interesting section called 10 ideas for the next 10 years on this weeks issue. It features some interesting ideas dealing with thoughts ranging from why watching Kubrick’s 2001 – A space Odyssey is depressing (I’m always surprised how people attribute the work to Kubrick instead of Clarke), how and why white America will become a minority group, how an increasing amount of people are turning their backs on the rat race to lead more chilled out lives  to how TV will save the world.

Personally i am partial to the one before that last one. Utopic or starkly authoritarian views of the future have always fascinated me; not because they are a contradiction, but simply because utopia never seems to exist in the future unless iron-hard control is exercised throughout the system. Orwell’s 1984 portrays the bad side of it, while Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World shows the psychotic side of it. Iain M. Banks though comes out with a wholly agreeable outlook for the future of humans that i wouldnt mind freezing my brain for another few hundred thousand years to be a part of.

But just like Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 gave us a nice ride through fantasy, Iain M. Banks’s future controlled by super benevolent, super(artificially)intelligent yet independent Minds dedicated to the running of the known galaxy while ensuring all their flesh and blood species led completely pampered lives may seem the stuff of fairy tales come year 1,000,000; our computers can still seriously mess our lives up. But on scales vastly less devious than HALs.

People look at the future and see magic. But then in reality it’s just probably the same us out there with a fancier phone, wearing goofier clothes and holding atrocious moral compasses.

There has been some mystery surrounding the Foreign Policy of our governemnt for some time now. Increasing signs of ‘disturbing’ alliances with ‘antagonistic’ nations such as Iran, Russia and China during the war and subsequent post war events especially in the Human Rights department have got a lot of people wondering why we are so openly going against the West. The following article from the Sri Lanka Guardian sheds some light on the whole affair. Cheers to Zack for the link.

The position of the governments of India and a group of states that can collectively be called the Periphery, such as the U.S. and Australia, were in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) or Tamil Tigers, either overtly or covertly. Many of these governments also provided this support tacitly, so as not to close any future opportunity of co-opting Sri Lanka after the fighting was over.

(…)In contrast, the governments of a group of states that can jointly be called Eurasia as a collective entity, such as Iran and Russia, supported the Sri Lankan government. The polar nature of the support by Eurasia and the Periphery for the two different combating sides in the Sri Lankan Civil War betrays the scent or odour of a much broader struggle. This is a struggle that extends far beyond the borders of the island of Sri Lanka and its region.

Why is this so? Much of the answer to such a question has to do with the formation of a growing alliance in the Eurasian landmass against the international domination of the U.S. and its allies.(…)In 2009, the last chapter of the Sri Lankan Civil War was very much a theatre within this process.

– Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Sri Lanka Guardian October 29, 2009

Read the rest or continue for a quick summary

There is growing division among the West and countries of the ‘Eaurasian’ coalition of which the main stakeholders are Russia, China and Iran. Sri Lanka is caught between a power struggle between Western and Eurasian nations due to its strategically important location in a key supply chain line connecting the East with the rest of the world. The West has either wised up to this long ago or had their own ideas of its importance as evidenced by Diego Garcia; a key military base jointly held by the US and British armed forces situated approx 1000 miles exactly south of Sri Lanka.

The LTTE was seen as a threat to the Eaurasian alliance cementing their control of Sri Lanka, as a ‘Balkanized‘ SL would have meant instability and a possible loss of control to the ‘periphery’. So support was provided to the Government of Mahinda Rajapakse to help it eradicate the LTTE. This was not seen in a friendly light by the West and aid from that region declined at a tremendous pace; almost as fast as aid increased from Iran and China. In 2008, within the military framework, Chinese aid reached $1billion while US aid dropped down to $14million. Iran chipped in with interest free loans and extended support fot the GOSL to get its crude oil situation sorted out.

This Eurasian Alliance formed along the lines of the Primakov Doctrine (which chiefly advocates a ‘nonpolar’ world) has formed the ‘NATO of the East’; the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) of which Sri Lanka has become a ‘dialogue partner’ (see right on SCO wiki page). The Hambanthota ‘harbour’ under construction is really a Chinese naval base; A part of the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ strategy to strengthen its military power in the region to secure its supply chains originating from the Mid East and Africa. 

Now the primary interests if the Eurasian states lie in consolidating their influence in Sri Lanka. They need to ensure that a government friendly to them will remain in power in order for them to do this. End of summary.

Given this context, some light is shed on the possible underlying reasons why the president is now referring to Gen Sarath Fonseka as a traitor. We will probably see some strong propaganda coming out of Temple Trees soon to the effect that the General is trying to undo all the hard work put into winning the war in a selfish and frustrated bid for power. Both sides will try and keep all details of foreign influence out of public campaigns; Sri Lankans are notoriously paranoid when it comes to interfering foreigners. But when the dirtypolitik that our campaigns are famous for raises its head, everyone will get a chance to sniff at the garbage.

Back to this emerging Cold War; it does not seem to be abating as some leading local intelletuals seem to think. The recession drove home the importance of economic buoyancy and the increasing need to compete for resources has only emphasized fears of possible threats to independence and security, leading to a need for powerful nations to start preparing for a possible big one.

The West will try its best to preserve the already changing status quo. And they do not want to be faced with a powerful China, Russia or Iran if and when push comes to shove. So they will obviously try and take pre-emptory measures to reduce the possible impact an Eurasian opposition would have in a next Great War or series of mini conflicts that will encompass a sustained Cold War. And the Sri Lankan elections, to the minds of both sides, will be crucial in securing power in the important shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean.

In a setting like this, a small country like ours probably has no other option but to sell its soul. The war has divided our society too greatly for us to be able to unitedly stand against foreign influence. Plus, in a globalized world where we rely so much on foreign help for economic sustenance, staying non aligned for long is a virtual impossibility. Especially when we are caught in such a geopolitically strategic location in the tug of war between two powerful opposing forces.

The best we can do is keep playing a dangerous game to ensure that we keep getting the benefits. But a Faustian game is a tough one to play and you don’t always get rescued by heaven. In the real world Mephistopheles usually caps yo ass, or you get your ass capped because of him, one way or another.

Image from NY Daily News

Image from NY Daily News

Raj Rajaratnam was just arrested with five other people under charges of insider trading. This case is of special interest to us in Sri Lanka because old Raj was counted upon many as a powerful force in bringing credibility to Sri Lankan investments.

Hedge Funds

Raj is a manager of a hedge fund. Hedge funds are basically organizations that take the money of very wealthy people, put it all together, and invest it in various forms all over the world with the aim of constantly increasing the fund’s Net Asset Value. The NAV is basically the amount of money in the fund.

Hedge funds will invest in various ways, they will lend, they will buy and sell stocks, they will buy and hold stocks and bonds etc etc. Their ultimate purpose is to use their investors money and increase it.

Hedge funds are run by managers who will manage their clients’  money. A lot depends on the reputation and past results of managers as investment is a game that places a lot of trust in credibility. Most good managers start their own funds and charge their clients a commission on the profits. Raj started the Galleon Group in 1996 and has been very successful.

Forbes Magazine has ranked him the 559th richest man in the world and the 236th richest American for 2009. He is also currently the richest Sri Lankan in the world.

Insider Trading

Information is a key aspect in investment. It is much easier to make money if you get information faster and before anyone else. This will allow you to get to know about potential changes in the market before anyone else, enabling you to buy or sell in anticipation of these changes and make some quick money.

This kind of information is called insider information. Insider information can be obtained from various ways like contacts inside companies, governments etc. Trading based on insider information is known as Insider Trading.

Insider trading is illegal because so much of the market depends on the fair and free flow of information. When information is restricted to a few individuals, it allows these individuals to make profits at the expense of other investors in the market.

Crimes such as these are very hard to track down and prove. The wiretapping into collecting evidence against Raj Rajaratnam apparently started somewhere back in 2006.

Dubious Purpose

Raj, together with his accomplices in other hedge funds, is accused of sharing insider information relating to various tech stocks like Google and Sun Microsystems. I am also reading several internet news reports now on how Raj may have sponsored the LTTE back in the day but im not sure how credible they are. He has, however, been a generous contributor to the Democratic Party.

Reports so far indicate that the scheme has earned profits of about 25 million USD. And RR’s personal earnings amount to up to about 20 million USD.

Sri Lanka

Implications to Sri Lanka will probably depend on Raj Rajaratnam’s autonomy from the Galleon Group in the investment decisions made on Sri Lanka. What he brought to Sri Lankan investments in terms of credibility wont matter much if Galleon sticks around and continues investing here. Also i think we are at a point where a lot of other big investors have looked at the prospects here and have formed their own conclusions and most of them are positive.

Filler post, since iv got nothing to write about, and less time to write anyway. This was written some time ago. But i feel it is still largely relevant.

The concept of an American empire (or any other sort of empire e.g. the Chinese empire) really shouldn’t shock anyone. Sure, it may cause outrage and anger but what the outraged and the angry have to remember is that given the chance to be the most powerful country in the world, any nation would try and expand their locus of control and secure themeselves even greater power. So if you must blame anything, blame uncontrolled human nature.

Getting to the point, i was thinking of two recent turmoils in the global political arena;

Much has been discussed about Iran already, whether the widespread civil unrest was actually caused by activities of external agents or not is a debatable fact, but judging along the lines of who stood to benefit had this ‘revolution’ been successful, some could be led to assume that in fact, it was an attempt by Western interests to destabilise Iran.

Moving on to Honduras, the next suspiciously ‘administered’ looking political uprising, we notice that this smacks to being almost identical to Hugo Chavez’s coup that took place somewhere in the beginning of this century. What is different is the reactions of the US presidents who were in office during those periods; while George Bush openly rejoiced in the removal of Chavez, Barrack Obama called the overthrowing of Manuel Zelaya a coup.

But he also followed it up with a cryptic “We stand on the side of democracy, sovereignty and self-determination” which can be taken any which way. Either in the favor of Zelaya or in the favor of the judicial system which stood against him.

Similar comments were coming in from the White House during the Iranian situation. Obama at one point even indicated that Ahmedinejad may even be the legitimate winner of the election.

The coup in Honduras was no doubt orchestrated by the industrialists; it was very much an elitist uprising. The people as a whole are generally on Manuel Zelaya’s side as far as i can discern. So i it was corporate interest that was driving the unrest then whose support did they have from outside? They had to have somebody!

It’s possible that there is some new interest group. Maybe another country or even a Multinational, that was driving this (Manuel Zelaya was somewhat pro US, although he may have been getting too cosy with Chavez of late). The same may be said about the Iran situation for various other reasons though its somewhat shaken leadership there seem to have already reached their own conclusions.

Or maybe i’m just being paranoid and seeing smoke where there isnt even a caveman with a flint in sight.

But the facts remain, and they don’t appear to be too coclusive. Was there any external influence in any of these two events? or did everything happen in a non-orchestrated manner? But if so then why did the judicial system of Honduras so obviously go against public opinion? and why didn’t the protests in Iran ever spread beyond Tehran? Maybe these events have explanations that do nothave to include external interference, but somehow i find that hard to believe.

Here’s a video on the Honduras issue, from when it happened.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uAlulrVmYQ

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