Have faith in your own reason! Be your own god!! Aham Brahmasmi!!!

April 25, 2011

While the nation is in grief about Sathya Sai Baba’s death, I wondered about his prediction that he would live till 96, and he will determine when he will die.  I would consider him a successful mask to see the truth, a curtain that withheld a large followers  to reason and their ability to see the truth.  All his miracles that made him famous were performed repeatedly by several rationalists around the world.

On this occasion  I cannot but use this space to spread the article written by Sanal Edamaruku here, which landed in my mailbox forwarded by a friend.

India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai Baba

Sanal Edamaruku
President
Indian Rationalist Association & Rationalist International

When Sathya Sai Baba died this morning (24 April 2011) at the age of 85 years, he proved once again that miracles and predictions fail. He had predicted at a public gathering at his head quarters in Puttaparthy, in 2000, and repeatedly many times, that he would die at the age of 96 only. And till the last moment, many of his devotees clung to his word and waited for a miracle. May it be an eye opener for the millions of gullible people whom he misguided and deluded.

De mortuis nihil nisi bene, they say, say nothing but good of the dead. But I think Sathya Sai Baba’s case qualifies for an exception. Too great is the damage that he did to India. His devastating influence on reason and scientific temper caused huge setback to the country. At a time, when scientific progress led to great social and economic leaps and scientific awakening started spreading all over India, Sathya Sai Baba launched a “counter revolution” of superstition, supported by irresponsible politicians and other public figures who should have known better. In my judgment, this is his greatest crime. I have succeeded again and again to expose him publicly as a fraud, so did some other rationalists. But due to his political protectors he was never held responsible for his crimes against public reason. Nor was he ever booked for any other crime he was accused of. Numerous cases of alleged sexual abuse and murder are yet to be investigated, not to mention the financial secrets of his empire.

Sathya Sai Baba insisted in all seriousness that he was god, the creator of the universe, and “proved” his divinity with a couple of small “miracles”. As son of a village tantric he was familiar with the hand sleights and tricks of the trade. However, he did not only fascinate poor and uneducated villagers with his fraudulent performances. Over the years, he managed to attract a galaxy of India’s rich and powerful, among them ministers, prime ministers, presidents, chief justices, top industrialists and superstars.

Sathya Sai Baba had a special modus operandi that was the key for his astonishing success and the root of his enormous clout. Many of his high society devotees came to serve their own vested interests. Some came to rub shoulders with the prominent. Many joined the club because it was working as a powerful syndicate spreading its tentacles all over the political system. It was a way to the top jobs and a way to get things done. Others were seeking financial support or wanted to get rid of ill-gotten black money: The empire, it is alleged, was based on money laundering, using foreign devotees and branches. In fact, the huge foreign donations to Sai Baba stood in contrast to the comparatively modest number of active foreign devotees and the sometimes quite weak foreign branches, some of them residing in private homes. That is no great surprise, when one considers that Sai Baba did not speak any other language than Telugu and traveled only once in his whole life abroad – to visit his friend Idi Amin in Uganda.

On his 80th birthday, Sai Baba’s supporters announced that he would turn from a miracle man to a philanthropist. That was, after I had demonstrated his miracles so often in TV shows that many kids in the streets could imitate them. That he since spent a part of the great fortunes, swindled out of the gullible, for social development around his ancestral village, is highlighted now to present him as a saint. But as useful and welcome hospitals, schools and drinking water projects for the poor always may be: this kind of alibi-philanthropy is well known even from mafia-bosses. It cannot be weighed against his crimes and the damage he has done to the Indian society.

In December 2005, I wrote a letter to then President Dr. Abdul Kalam, one of Sai Baba’s ardent supporters, which was never answered. I demanded criminal investigations against Sai Baba. If his social development projects are meant to be indulgence to nullify his crimes, this procedure is unprecedented and unacceptable, I wrote. It is a shame for India that well-founded accusations and numerous reputed witnesses against Sai Baba are ignored without any investigation. Do saffron clothes make an offender untouchable for the law? Do we have to tolerate that political protectionism raises its head so boldly, mocking India’s democracy?

Sathya Sai Baba caused great damage to India. His irresponsible political patrons corrupted the political culture of India. Encouraged by the clout of Sathya sai Baba, a new clan of miracle mongers imitated him. India would have been a better place without Sathya Sai Baba.

(This or other articles from the  Rationalist International Bulletin may be reproduced by journals, blogs or web sites without change or alteration in its content, and with due acknowledgment.)

Rationalist International: rationalistinternational@gmail.com


Scientific Support for Nuclear Energy

April 10, 2011

George Monbiot’s article, published in The Gaurdian and republished in The Hindustan Times provoked me to seek the truth, and look for scientific evidences for building factories for producing nuclear energy, called nuclear power plants.   I posted the following as a comment at the latter’s  site.  For the record and possibly for a ensuring more eye balls, I am reproducing the comments here.  The context may become clear if you could read the article linked above from either of the source.

Even if the anti-nuclear lobby took advantage of the Chernobyl incident and exaggerated the deaths to be 900,000, or even if Chernobyl did not occur, I still hold that factories for generating nuclear power should not to be touched by human beings on this earth. The reasons are scientific.  So, I seek scientific evidence to the
following:

  1. Artificially accumulating  radioactive substances is inviting trouble.  Even if a group of people are capable of taking care of it in a nicely sealed containers, when it leaks due to an accident it does not specifically take only those who accumulated and took control of it.  It takes the lives of innocent people.  Even if radioactive leak selectively kills the responsible nuclear engineers and policy makers, it is not justified.   Scientists cannot leave such a thing loose and say they are not responsible.  Scientists have no scientific answer to repair this damage.   A deadly poison  (like cyanide)  will have only local effects, it kills only those who take it.  Even fire kills only those who got burnt.  Nuclear material is not of this kind. Nuclear material causes non-local damage.Do we scientifically know how to repair this damage?  I want a journal publication to show that this kind of damage is repairable.  Could the pro-nuclear power lobby provide a scientific claim published in a journal that exposed accumulated radioactive material does not cause damage to lives.  At least 300 people did die at Chernobyl.  Did they die because they got crushed under the rubble of concrete?  Was the death of 300 innocent people cheap?  Are they martyrs for the crazy nationalistic patriotic nuclear scientists pursuit or the private factory that makes justifiable amount of money? I do not see any logic in the author’s argument.  Just because some anti-nuclear activist’s figures are wrong, it does not follow that nuclear energy production problem is scientifically solved.
  2. All other kinds of furnaces and boilers that we use in factories and thermal power plants work at a possible temperatures allowed at this cooled environment of earth where nuclei are mostly stable. Radioactive nuclei are present on Earth, but at a density that allowed life to happen and flourish.  Nuclear energy produces temperatures that are not suitable for this earth.  None of us scientifically know how to live or repair the perturbations caused by that scale of energy.  Even if we can produce with a lot of sophistication nuclear energy, as several nuclear power plants are doing now, there is no scientific evidence that another chernobyl or tsunami does not occur ever in the future.  Is there any scientific reason published in any journal so far that gives pro-nuclear energy gang the confidence that the probability of nuclear accidents of this kind is so low that we can go ahead with the factories producing  nuclear power.

I am still perplexed how scientists can scientifically justify and play with a factory of nuclear energy.

While I will not defend a factory of nuclear energy, I will defend a few nuclear plants for scientific research., since this is not let loose to companies and factory management.

Seeking scientific evidence for the two cases above.


What is wrong with facebook?

March 8, 2011

Not f'd — you won't find me on Facebook


A Declaration on sustaining the Free Culture

February 27, 2011

This document is not written by me, but participated in the process along with others.  I am a signatory to the declaration.  I urge you to consider thinking about the issues raised and even if you agree with at least 80%, consider adding your signature.  Please continue to participate in the dialogue to create a sustainable creative commons.

We can no longer put off re-thinking the economic structures that have been producing, financing and funding culture up until now. Many of the old models have become anachronistic and detrimental to civil society. The aim of this document is to promote innovative strategies to defend and extend the sphere in which human creativity and knowledge can prosper freely and sustainably.

This document is addressed to policy reformers, citizens and free/libre culture activists to provide them practical tools to actively operate this change.  Read the full documents from the links given below.

FCForum Declaration: Sustainable Models for Creativity in the Digital Age [2 pages]

How To for Sustainable Creativity [30 pages]

1. Who Generates Culture?

In order to develop and grow, the human capacity for creativity requires access to existing culture, knowledge and information. Everyone can contribute to the production of culture, values and wealth on different scales, ranging from very basic to very complex creative contributions. The resources and time required for creative activities also vary in scale. We want to promote ways of liberating this time and these resources so that the distributed potential can be deployed in a sustainable way.

2. Basic Principles for Sustainable Creativity

  1. The restructuration of the cultural industries is not only necessary but inevitable.
  2. More culture is created and circulates in the digital era than ever before: in this context sharing has proved to be essential to the disseminate culture.
  3. The profits that the cultural lobbies are fighting to defend are based on the artificial production of scarcity.
  4. The cultural sphere needs to recognise the skills and contributions of all of its agents, not only producers.
  5. The digital context benefits creators as well as entrepreneurs and civil society. Appropriate models make it easier for users, consumers and producers to gain access to each other. The role of middle-men has to be revised in light of an approach based on collaboration.
  6. The Internet is an essential tool for establishing contact between creators and their audiences. This is one of the reasons why everybody must be guaranteed non-discriminatory access to it.
  7. Governments that don’ t promote the new forms of creation and diffusion of culture are generating lost profits for society and destroying its cultural diversity.
  8. As Free/Libre Software has shown, peer production and distribution are not incompatible with market strategies and commercial distribution.

Economic Models for Sustainable Creativity

The following list starts with the models that are most similar to those traditionally accepted by the cultural industries, and moves towards those that are closer to the idea of sharing that pertains to our age. Many of these models are currently actively implemented and are already working. We need to expand these conditions by removing barriers that limit their growth.

1. Pay for what you get

Or some advice for the restructuring of the cultural industries: the public is prepared to pay for cultural products or goods as long as they deem the price to be reasonable and paying does not restrict their freedom. Make it easy and accessible; make it affordable; don’ t make it compulsory, static and criminalised, make it optional and offer choice. Pay fair wages when you contract professional work.

2. Advertising

Between bombarding users with ads and the total absence of ads, there are intermediate, ethical options: Selective ads (accepting advertisements only from projects with affinities); giving users control over the consumption of ads; allowing users to request ads related to the article they are reading, for instance, …

3. Pay for a Plus

Sharing copies helps creators to build up a reputation, which then becomes the base for charging for services and other things that cannot be copied, such as live performances, works-for-hire, specially designed gadgets, attractive physical copies…

4. Freemium

Freemium is a business model that works by offering basic services, or a basic downloadable digital product, for free, while charging a premium for advanced or special features.

5. Contributions

A contribution-based model enables users to donate sums of money in order to help sustain a given project or enterprise. The more involved and respected users feel, the better this system works.

6. Crowdfunding

Enabling individual citizens or entities to contribute to a cultural enterprise by becoming stakeholders. This contribution can take the form of an investment before the work has been created, or via micro or macro credits or donations towards existing works.

7. Commons-based strategies and distributed value creation

The providers of commercial platforms for cooperation share their revenues with the creators who produce the material that makes their services valuable, while commoners are able to freely share and exploit the commons.

8. Collective Financing System

A flat-rate on internet connections can be consider only if it implies an equitable and democratic resource- pooling system and recognizes citizens rights to share and re-use works freely.

9. Basic income

When connecting the issue of free culture to visions of large-scale social transformations in capitalistic economies, the basic income idea propose to sustain the society as a productive body. A guaranteed basic income is a way to avoid precarity and redistribute economic wealth.

10. Public funding/policy making

We believe that in the context of a society of tax payers, culture must receive a share of public investment due to its undeniable social value. Social funding should not be seen as a substitute for public responsibilities in relation to the funding of culture and Free/Libre culture should not constitute an anomaly.

  1. Publicly funded works should be released, after a reasonable commercial life span, for circulation on digital networks so that the public who paid for them can access and re-use them.
  2. Tax deductions should promote micro-funding and the release of works without restrictive licences.
  3. The public should have the option to contribute to deciding how this public investment in culture is shared out.
  4. Alternative distribution channels should be encouraged. Cultural policies must work towards achieving greater cultural diversity and sustainable collaboration platforms.
  5. Networks of independent producers, distributors and authors should be supported, and they should be represented on public broadcasting.
  6. Impact statements should be a prerequisite for the introduction of any new cultural policy. We must analyze the effects that proposed regulations would have on on the cultural and knowledge commons before they are implemented.

Results

The Commons, Public Domain and Business

The new business models that consider collective production as a context that needs to be nurtured and safeguarded, and not simply as a context to exploit, are based on the premise that cooperation is compatible with market dynamics. The most evocative practical examples stem from free software communities. The “output” is shared under non-restrictive licences, allowing third parties to use and modify it as long as the same freedoms are obligatorily applied to derived works. This creates a commons that is constantly improved by successive contributions, while not preventing the commercial exploitation of the knowledge and skills arising from them and of the works themselves.

Users become generators of value, and join a virtuous circle of production and consumption that they benefit from.

Meanwhile, in this new context, it is necessary to defend, promote and implement the conditions that enable online collaboration.

Embroiled in a different logic, the traditional cultural industries want to keep feeding off collective production, without responding to the collaborative logic that is now current thanks to the Internet. These industries try to keep imposing appropriation frameworks onto the commons, becoming entrenched in a predatory idea of culture (the economy of scarcity), which is totally at odds with the philosophy of free culture (the economy of abundance).


I met a person who is in a jail

February 18, 2011

I  met a person who went to jail.  Do you know any one who is serving a term in a jail?

So, it seems!  I announce that I enjoy the distinction of meeting a person who is in a jail.  I met a person face-to-face who is allegedly one of the top defaulters of public office in India.  I shook hands (or probably I may have done a namaskaar with folded hands, don’t remember now) with a person who sold a portion of natural light illegally (electromagnetic spectrum), technically called 2G spectrum (so that citizens do not know that Govt. claims the authority to sell licenses to use a portion of nature.)  So, I spoke to someone who is in jail for twenty minutes.

Aren’t you curious to know why did I meet him, what did I speak to him about?  When did that meeting take place?  And at the end of course, who was the person that I feel so great having met? Read my earlier post on this blog. And the report of the person in Tihar Jail here.

I am actually lying, since I know several people intimately who have been to jail, such as my grandfather and grandmother who were freedom fighters.  I not only met, but hosted (made tea, served water) many distinguished freedom fighters (all of them friends of my grandfather) in my house, some of them were put in jail by Indira Gandhi during emergency. But, they went to jail to end corruption, but this Raja is different.

What makes me really sick is when I realise what Governments do today, all over the world:  Instead of spreading and supporting the means of taking  the great inventions of scientists and engineers, they control their inventions.  The deliver them in bits and pieces.  half G, 1G, 2G, 2 and a half G, 3G, 3G+, 4G …   The issue of how an abundantly available component of nature, namely light, is controlled by these “Mafia rajas”  of today, to give each one of us the feeling that they are indeed scarce commodities.  It is sad to know how Government is behaving like a business house, and listens to them, gives them red carpet welcome, and ignores all voices of those who want to claim the nature back to people.


Kozhikode Declaration: National Conference on Free Software and Education

September 12, 2010

This is a Draft Declaration

We request all those who read this page to suggest any changes before Monday 13th September 2010, so that the declaration can be released sooner than later.   The draft is uploaded on the wiki page.

The text is pasted here for broad dissemination.

The Role of ICT and Education in Social Inclusion

Information & Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most powerful technologies ever developed by humankind. It has drastically changed the way we do things, the way we communicate and even the way we think. Education is one of the spheres of human activity that is being strongly influenced by ICT. While the teaching of ICT has been incorporated at the school-level, ICT itself is being used in the classroom and outside for teaching and learning more effectively. However, access to ICT is not universal due to various reasons, including obscurity and the high cost of proprietary software.

Education is a basic requirement for a comfortable life in today’s society. In view of this, some countries, including India, have made it a fundamental right. This is certainly a move in the right direction. Education in ICT and ICT-enabled education are also becoming wide-spread. Part of the reason for this is the rapid decline in the cost of hardware. At the same time, the high cost of software is acting as a hurdle for further progress. Another factor that prevents more wide-spread use of ICT is the fact that the interface is not available in many languages, which bothers a lot of people.

Obscurity stops people and especially students to learn how things work, software in particular. The right to use, know, change and share technical knowledge about modern artefacts is an essential human right in knowledge societies.

Why is Software Freedom a necessity and not a choice?

Proprietary software does not allow community participation in shaping the ICT to be used for education, and is not suitable for education since their solutions treat students as consumers. Free software community (sometimes called free and open source software community) on the other hand produced GNU/Linux operating system and a comprehensive stack of collaborative workspaces that enable students during the last 25 years. Most of the free software workspaces are made accessible for speakers of all languages of the world, including physically challenged students. The software freedom granted to the people (1. to use the software for any purpose; 2. to study how it works; 3. to modify it and 4. to distribute the modified software) is unquestionably the core source of the free software revolution that is being witnessed. Any software that grants these four freedoms is called Free Software. These freedoms are essential for students to learn how things work, and to share their experience, knowledge and collaborate with others without legal encumbrances.

The software freedom makes it eminently suitable for any purpose, especially for education. The software used in education has to be freely available and accessible to all because education has to be universal. Moreover, the software has to be available in the language used by the community in that part of the world, however small the community may be. This is normally not possible with proprietary software because some communities could be too small to satisfy the commercial interests of the company.

But the situation is different with Free Software. Since the source code is available for study and modification by anyone, students of computer science and software engineering are able to see code written by master programmers and learn from them, just as students of literature learn from works of great writers, or students of art or cinema learn from the works of great artists and movie makers. This is obviously not possible with proprietary software.

Any community that has people with reasonable software skills can customise the interface to show the menu and other items in their own language. They can also create fonts for the language if they are not available. And they can localise applications to suit their culture and environment.

Finally, the students who have computers in their homes can use the same software they use in their educational institutions without either breaking the law and using illegal software, or spending a lot of money to buy the same software.

Thus, Free Software is undeniably the most ideal for use in all educational institutions at all levels; for primary, secondary or higher education. Proprietary software keeps people divided and helpless, while Free Software empowers them. Free software nurtures the much needed creativity by encouraging us to critical thinking and reasoning while proprietary software forces us to consume what they pack.

It is important for the graduating students to become entrepreneurs or join the various agencies for employment. Considering this requirement it is essential that the syllabus in educational institutions focuses on skills and does not include any specific branded applications. Therefore, the syllabus should be neutral and not mention any particular brand.

Just as the software requires to be free, it is essential that learning and teaching resources including documentation, books, journals, and other media should be released with a license (such as Creative Commons by Share Alike) which grants similar freedoms for other resources. All these resources must also be encoded in an open standard so that the exchanged documents are decodable in all platforms ensuring interoperability.

Therefore

considering all the reasons mentioned above, we, the undersigned, call on all educational institutions, policy makers, students and teachers in all corners of the world to discard all proprietary software and use exclusively Free Software.


Obituary: FOSS activist Shyam Karanat

September 4, 2010

Obituary drafted by Anivar.

Our Friend, and member of This List Shyam Karanatt  ended his life himself yesterday afternoon. Still most of his friends are still shocked and not recovered from the  pain of this news. Shyam was a very active Free Software advocate and Activist.  I like to recall his major contributions to Free Software Movement in India

He was known to me initially through Google Summer of Code candiate for Swathanthra Malayalam Computing , for building the prototype for Malayalam Speech Recognition system. and he started that with a project named sharika based on CMU-SPINX library.  He become an active volunteer of Swathanthra Malayalam Computing and part of various other LUGS like Swathanthra Software Users Group Malappuram, Foss Group in MES, FSUG- Thrissur etc. He become the project admin  for Translating GNU.ORG webpages to Malayalam, and made a lot of progress with that work .  He involved with Organising Various FOSS programmes in his college and varouos cities in Kerala.

Shyam initiated the Syllabus Review page in FCI Wikia http://fci.wikia.com/wiki/Syllabus_Review and compiled most of the data, in association with Venkiy . Which become a major intervention too later. He took a major role on realising the idea of GNU labs and implimenting the first functioning GNU lab in MES kuttippuram http://gnulabs.org/

Shyam was a good speaker in various FOSS conferences like FOSS.IN , Mukth.in etc and associate with Various FOSS Groups like IndLinux,
SMC, FSUG-Thrissur, FSUG-Calicut, SSUG Malappurm etc

His funeral is  at Ramapuram, Pala, Kottayam District today

Shyam’s Photo From Niyam’s collection http://www.flickr.com/photos/niyam/2399712870/

~ in the memory of a good friend

Anivar

A Free Knowledge Verse from Sanskrit

February 18, 2010

Yesterday I went to MET (Maharastra Education Trust) college at Bandra in Mumbai to deliver a key note address on “Introduction to Free Software Movement” for Tech@MET festival.  I looked at a verse written in their handout that fits very well with free software and free knowledge movement.  The verse in Sanskrit is as follows: (Find the English Translation below)

न चौर हार्यम न च राज हार्यम |

न भ्रात्रभाज्यम न च भारकारी ||

व्यये कृते वर्धते नित्यं |

विद्या धनं सर्वे धनं प्रधानम्  ||

Knowledge can neither be stolen by a thief, nor snatched by a king.

It is indivisible unlike ancestral property, it never burdens the bearer,

it multiplies manifold when offered to others.

Knowledge is the supreme form of wealth.

The college does not seem to use free software as of now, but has intentions to use.  The vice chairman of the MET trust Mr. Sunil G. Karve mentioned that free software goes well with their philosophy.  I do hope, it will eventually go well with their practice as well.

If any of you know the exact source of this verse, please let me know.


Wake up call to all Govts

January 20, 2010

German and Frensh Governments warning their citizens not to use Microsoft IE for security reasons is welcome!  But, all Govts should also realize that bundling MS by hardware vendors by default is the root cause of the problem.  Most people have already paid the unreasonable MS tax while buying the PC itself.

Governments should not only take remedial measures, they should make a serious attempt to eliminate the evil from its roots.

Also do read an article posted by Swapnil.


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