Saturday, September 16, 2006

Schumi's Race-ituary!

There isnt much that I can say, that can fully capture this man, his persona and his accomplishments. So when he announces his retirement from active Formula 1, there isnt much I can say except offer a small tribute to him by writing a Race-ituary for him!


Michael Schumacher

Beloved son of Rolf and Elisabeth Schumacher
Loving husband of Karina Schumacher
Doting father of Gina-Maria and Mick Schumacher

A 7-time Formula 1 Champion (can he make it 8? looks very much like it) with:
5 consecutive Championship titles,
90 GP victories out of which 71 were with Ferrari (Is that surprising? :P),
7 consecutive GP victories in the 2004-05 season,
8 victories on the same circuit - at France's Magny Cours track,
68 Pole Positions,
75 Fastest Laps,
148 points in a single season in the 2002-03 season,
43 Second places and a total of 153 podium finishes,
19 consecutive podium finishes in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons,
4726 laps as the leading car on track,
And a Grand Total of 1354 Championship points.
(Please remember, knowing him,
these statistics may very well change! :P)

A two-time Laureus Sporstman of the Year (He got nominated thrice),
A leading Spokesperson for the Road Safety Awareness Campaign,
A Special Ambassador to UNESCO,
And The only sportsman to have donated 10million $ to the victims of the
2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

A Demi-God for millions of Ferrari/Formula 1 fans and till recently for me.
A Pain in the Arse for: Flavio Braitore, Fernando Alonso and the rest of the F1 circus and since recently for me :P

has left the Formula 1 track for a homely abode on the 10th September, 2006. His departure was peaceful, but has left a void in all of our lives.
We all deeply mourn his absence on the track and we pray and wish him peace and success in what he does!

May the Lord be with him! And may he be with Renault! :P


NOTE: All statistics and associated information has been taken from Wikipedia's page on Schumacher and a couple of other webpages, which are listed here:
Wiki's Schumi Page
Schumi in the GP Hall of Fame
Schumi's Profile on Yahoo/Reuters

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 - 5 years on - A Reflection

NOTE: I strongly recommend reading Wiki's pages (or any other informative site's pages) on:
1. 9/11
2. Iraq war
3. 2001 Afghanistan war
4. The U.S. role during the Afghan war of 80's
5. "September Dossier" issued on 24th Sept, 2002 by the British Govt
6. "Dodgy Dossier" issued on 3rd Feb, 2003 by Alaistair Campbell
7. General Criticism of Tony Blair
8. the so-called "War on Terror"

and associated pages. I know its a lot to ask, but there is a veil of ignorance on the entire issue. It is, however, in no way a pre-requisite for understanding the below article.

That horrific sight, which beamed across T.V. screens around the world exactly 5 years ago on this date and which has since transformed the world politically.

Five years ago, on this date, 20 normal looking, well-educated and apparently "sophisticated" men used some average-sized knives to hijack 4 U.S. domestic airliners and unfolded the most spectacular and wide-scaled terrorist strike of all times, in the heart of Manhattan - the epicentre of American capitalism, killing more than 3000 people and causing an estimated loss running into billions of dollars. By doing this, they managed to circumvent the "impenetratable" defenses of the world's sole super-power. All of a sudden, America's super-hi-tech nukes and anti-missile defenses looked feeble as compared to the lunatic determination of Islamic extremists who seem to be experts at modern-age guerilla warfare.

So, in the past 5 years, what has happened? Has anything changed? Are we closer to defeating terrorism? Has Osama Bin Laden been brought to book? Are we living in a safer world? - We all know the answers, all of which are in the negative. Not only has nothing changed, things have infact gotten a whole lot worse. The 'War on Terror' was launched a month after 9/11 and began with the justified invasion of Afghanistan. However, as we now know, it degenerated into a cover (a rather flimsy one at that, but somehow, Americans dont seem to be able to look through it) for the Bush Administration's own imperial agenda.

The Afghanistan invasion was completely botched up. The U.S. Govt. went in with very little troops and equipment, with the result that Osama had a head-start of over 2 months, before American troops finally reached Tora Bora. Hell! As per Fahrenheit 9/11, there are more policemen in Manhattan than U.S. troops in Afghanistan! The Taliban was allowed to get away to greener pastures (Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan). A pseudo-democracy, whose strings were controlled by the folks at the White House was put in place. An absolute lack of planning and some very personal agendas has resulted in an Afghanistan that is fractured and unstable. Under the Taliban, Afghanistan's contibution to poppy was actually LESS than what it currently is! Afghanistan accounts for almost 66-75% of Cocaine production in the world - Hell! A major chunk of the economy runs on it! Warlords rule most of the territories and factionism is rampant. A resurgent Taliban is kicking arse in eastern & southern Afghanistan. Afghanistan is pretty much the farthest corner of hell! As we now know, the American Govt never intended the Afghanistan war - it was just a namesake war, a formality which had to be fulfilled. They had much bigger and (h)OILier intentions.

And then Iraq happened. And the rest we know is history. I still remember watching Messrs Tony Blair and GWB articulate the 'serious and grave' threat posed by this 'murderous and tyrannous' dictator. Look who's talking about tyranny and murder and dictatorship! And Mr. Blair, what about the WMD's that could be launched at the push of a button within 45mins?! And what about the chemical and biological mobile labs that Saddam would not hesitate to use against the "Free World"? (which by the way, consists of the United States and the United Kingdom)

Iraq has turned into a nightmare, a 2nd Vietnam for the United States. Again without any post-war planning and with just the outline of a 'war', the U.S. launced its "shock and awe" campaign into Iraq. The results are disastrous - the country has become a safe haven for all kinds of shady operators - drug-dealers, arms-smugglers, insurgents and 'terrorists'. If that wasnt enough, the Shites and the Sunnis are slugging it out in a body-count contest. Iraq is just short of having a civil war - its hanging pretty much by a thread. All this ofcourse, after spending 350 billion $ and losing more than 1500 American soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqis. And Sample this: Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank has suggested the total costs of the Iraq War on the US economy will be $1 trillion in a conservative scenario and could top $2 trillion in a moderate one.

We know all this. But, what really is the most important aspect of the story is that the events on Sept 11th, 2001 set in motion events and politics, whose ramifications we are still feeling (and to also add, reeling from). The events of that day has made an entire nation (the one nation that matters) even more sceptical and unresponsive to the frustrations of the rest of the world. Whatever little concern and/or sympathy Americans had for the rest of the world evaporated the instant those towers collapsed to their doom. Till Sept 11th, 2001, it was the United States Govt which played politics and the CIA which did the Govt's dirty work (and still does). Post-9/11, it seems to be normal Americans who have chosen to be deeply mistrustful and sceptical of the R.O.W. and have supported the misguided (and imperial) policies of their Govt.

This is evident on the choice made by Americans on another historic day - Nov 4th, 2004, when Geroge W Bush was re-elected as the 43rd President of the United States. On that 2nd historic day, Americans chose a political ideology that sought to reciprocate/counter Osama's extremist ideology, when it comes to matters like wars and/or intelorance. In their anger and spite and an exaggerated paranoia of the world, they chose an ideology which to the rest of us seems equally irrational and criminal as Osama's loony-bin thinking. Isn't it then ironic then, that Osama perhaps achieved much more than what he really aimed at? America has become a lot more aggressive and paranoid - in many ways, its managed to lose all credibility and managed to become synonymous with 'tyranny' and 'unilateralism'. Hell! Osama has managed to make out America as the 'demon' or 'dajjal', atleast in the Muslim world. With each war, America grows in unpopularity and Osama grows in his cult-figure stature.

Where are we headed to? Some Christian and Muslim fundamentalists would like us to believe, we are headed for Armageddon/Qiyamah. Five years ago, I wouldnt have bought that religious shit, today I think its pretty much happening. The so-called "War on Terror" has taken a distinctly religious tone - its now more of a Christianity/Judaism Vs Islam crusade. And the focal point of this issue is the "Holy Land" or what we now call Israel/Palestine. Thats where both sides lead us to believe is the crux of the issue.

Some reports indicate that the Christian lobby in America is so powerful that it influences American policies vis-a-vis Israel-Palestine. This inturn infuriates the Muslim world, which then rides on the false promises and personal agendas of Osama and his cronies and seeks revenge in the form of 'Jihad' - little do they know that Mr. Osama is a crooked psychopath advocating a recipe for disaster. Here we are - in the 21st century and we are fighting a global war on the basis of stuff that was written/happened two millenia ago! Can't we just let it go? Perhaps its time to screw all the Religions and Religious texts, the accusations and counter-accusations - just wipe the damn slate clean and have a fresh start!

Whatever all this is leading to and however "justified" this religious and political crusade seems to either side, one thing is certain, all this doesnt matter to the people who lost their loved ones on that fateful day 5 years ago - neither to those who have since lost their lives to American paranoia and thousands who will continue to lose their lives to this madness.

In the memorial service, as the names were being read out and memories rekindled, one woman recounted her husband's life (He was a NYFD firefighter who died with 6 other colleagues while evacuating the towers) - she recounted her love for him and how the children and other family members missed him in an emotional speech. She then barely whispered of how the family had given the 7 of them a nickname - "We call you the seven in heaven!", she said.

I guess, there isnt much left to say. Lets end this madness and arrive at a compromise through a middle-path! Lets accept wrong-doings, gulp down our egos and stop trying to prove "My religion is greater than yours" - Lets just be plain human beings and think rationally for once!