Open Access Manifesto

Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it
for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published
over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked
up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the
most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to
publishers like Reed Elsevier. 

There are those struggling to change this. The Open Access Movement has fought
valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but
instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow
anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only
apply to things published in the future.  Everything up until now will have been
lost. 

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work
of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at
Google to read them?  Providing scientific articles to those at elite
universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It's
outrageous and unacceptable. 

"I agree," many say, "but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights,
they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it's perfectly
legal - there's nothing we can do to stop them." But there is something we can,
something that's already being done: we can fight back. 

Those with access to these resources - students, librarians, scientists - you
have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while
the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not - indeed, morally, you
cannot - keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with
the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download
requests for friends. 

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have
been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information
locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends. 

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It's called
stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral
equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't
immoral - it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to
let a friend make a copy. 

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed. The laws under which they
operate require it - their shareholders would revolt at anything less. And the
politicians they have bought off back them, passing laws giving them the
exclusive power to decide who can make copies. 

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It's time to come into the light
and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to
this private theft of public culture. 

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share
them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to
the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to
download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need
to fight for Guerilla Open Access. 

With enough of us, around the world, we'll not just send a strong message
opposing the privatization of knowledge - we'll make it a thing of the past.
Will you join us? 

Aaron Swartz

July 2008, Eremo, Italy

via | Open Access Manifesto

From or with?

My place was not with the heroes, but with the rablle, with the men who had been pressed into the ranks by force of arms, or force of hunger, with nothing to fight or work for and little to gain; whose function in the epics was to be slaughtered by the heroes; whose role, according to the historians, was to provide a mere background for the deeds of great men. The heroes of a money-making society rose from the people, at the expense of the people; I could rise only with the common people.

D. D. Kosambi | The Kanpur Road | Exasperating Essays

 

Aaron Was a Criminal and So Are You

Make no mistake, Aaron was a criminal and, despite popular belief, there was no prosecutorial overreach. The US Attorney who oversaw his prosecution described her office’s actions as “appropriate” and, according to the law, she was telling the truth. The job of prosecutors is to bully and intimidate suspects, using the threat of some of the world’s harshest sentencing laws into plea bargaining for a shorter sentence in exchange for an admission of guilt. This is American “justice;” our current system of severe sentencing and mandatory minimums gives prosecutors overwhelming power – power that was once in the hands of judges and juries – to the point that today less than 5% of criminal cases are resolved by a jury (3% in federal cases).

via Common Dreams.

RIP Aaron Swartz.

 

I won’t brag about myself

“I am a human being. I will be telling you a lie if I say it (not getting the media coverage) did not matter but now I realise that this was a blessing in disguise because not being in limelight, I was able to concentrate more on my event and the result is there for all to see,”

Vijay said he was taken aback when people, including media, expressed surprise about his podium finish.

“I have not given to flamboyance, people say one should perform and you will be noticed. I have been performing for last eight years, I have won 110 national and 45 International medals and now some friends want to know about me after this Olympic medal which amuses me. It is not my job to go talking or bragging about my achievements. I am an Army man not a PR guy,”

he said.

Vijay said he was taken aback when people, including media, expressed surprise about his podium finish.

“I have been getting phone calls from India. They say I turned out to be a dark horse. They want to know more about me. Sometimes I do feel bit bad about it but then, I have learnt to take these things in my stride,”

he said.

“I am a national champion since 2004 in my event. I won two gold medals with new Games Record in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, a gold and a bronze in Doha Asiad, a silver in World Championship in China, three gold and a silver in 2010 Commonwealth Games, two bronze in Guangzhou Asian Games and if still my medal winning performance has surprised people and media, I can’t help it,”

said the 27-year-old marksman.

via I won’t brag about myself | Firstpost.

On the Marathas…

Meanwhile the task of resisting Aurangzeb called less for a saint than for a man of action ; and such a man appeared in the person of Sivaji Bonsla, the son of a chief of no great property in the neighbourhood of the Western Ghauts to the east of Bombay. Born in 1627 – the year when George Villiers, Duke of Bucking- ham, led his abortive expedition to Rochelle – he was brought up at Puna, and early conceived the ambition of dispossessing the Mohammedans of the south, and setting up a Hindu kingdom in their stead. His men were hardy peasants from the mountains ; his horses, not less important than his men, were drawn from the valleys; and with these he sallied forth to capture hill-fortresses, and to use them as bases for raids upon the surrounding country. Being a great military genius he rapidly achieved success; and by 1664 had carried his incursions so far as to seize and sack the imperial city of Gujarat. This was a direct defiance to Aurangzeb, who sent an army to crush him, and succeeded in forcing him to surrender upon terms; but the wily chief soon contrived to escape, and returning to the Dekhan quickly reestablished and widened his ascendancy. He died in 1680, but he had already done his work in founding the power of the Marathas.

What the Marathas exactly were or are no one seems able accurately to define. They were not a caste, they were not a sect, they were not a nation; and, though some of them claim to be of Rajput origin, this pretension seems to be disposed of by anthropometric tests. Their name is taken from the territory of Maharashtra, and their language is called Marathi ; but they are not the only inhabitants of that territory nor the only speakers of that tongue. In 1901 they numbered only five millions; and yet in the seventeenth century they ruined the armies of Aurangzeb, shattered the might of the Moguls and bade fair to become the masters of India. It is difficult therefore to predicate anything certain of them except that they were and are emphatically a power, and that they rose to that eminence wholly by the sword. Yet, though they were valiant warriors, their military organisation was loose enough ; while their military tactics, if one may coin an expression, were of the offensive-elusive order. They swarmed out as great disorderly bodies of horse, devouring the country like locusts, carefully avoiding anything like a pitched battle, but hovering always about their enemy’s flanks and communications, swift to see and to make profit of the slightest advantage, equally swift to perceive and to avoid any danger. Thus they wore out the Mogul armies, and broke the hearts of their generals by remaining always near enough to inflict much mischief, but always remote enough to suffer no harm. If they were suddenly compelled to assume the defensive, they had a perfect genius for choosing and occupying a position where they could resist attack ; and woe to the army that retreated before them. Their leaders have always included some of the deepest and subtlest intellects in India ; and yet their genius, so long as their ascendancy lasted, revealed itself as mainly destructive, and their instincts as wholly predatory. They levied tribute remorselessly, under pain of pillage, upon vast districts, and on condition of payment suffered them to escape famine and desolation. They showed, indeed, remarkable administrative talent in the collection of that tribute; but there their constructive work came to an end. It is therefore hard to see how India could have improved – how indeed it could have failed to deteriorate – under their mastery. The history of the country, so far as we have traced it, has been a continuous record of wars, revolts and intestine divisions ; in the midst of which, at rare intervals of precarious repose, there had sprung up noble monuments of art and literature. There was nothing creative about the Marathas. Their reign, it is true, was short; but, even had it been prolonged, we can hardly conceive of the association of poetry or architecture with their name. For all their valiance and subtlety their rule was a blight rather than an influence. Once indeed, and in one particular, they imitated a foreign model in their own domain of war ; and we must now examine where they found this model, and how it was turned to their own ruin.

via text of “Narrative of the visit to India of their majesties, King George V. and Queen Mary, and of the coronation durbar held at Delhi, 12th December, 1911” by Fortescue, John, Sir, 1859-1933.

Oylmpic Medals and Indians


This Olympic in China in 2008 was one with a difference… Our highest Medal grosser the hockey team did not even qualify the same. Then there was a huge cry over this. Many people came out of their slumber about the decaying state of hockey in the country. Hockey being the national game [which is sic] attention should be given to it. The hockey team in its golden years was unbeaten in the Olympics for six years. Thereafter also we did not do a bad show.

  • 1928 – Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1932 – Los Angeles, USA
  • 1936 – Berlin, Germany
  • 1948 – London, UK
  • 1952 – Helsinki, Finland
  • 1956 – Melbourne, Australia
  • 1960 – Rome, Italy
  • 1964 – Tokyo, Japan
  • 1968 – Mexico City, Mexico
  • 1972 – Munich, Germany
  • 1980 – Moscow, Russia

The medals dried up, literally. And maybe due to the spirit of socialism, we were never good in individual games. Although we did get some medals in hockey, if not gold, the other individual medals were never there. You can literally count them on the tips of your fingers [and I am not joking]. Here are the individual medals by Indians in the Olympics in the last 108 years of history.

Image:silver medal icon.svg Silver Pritchard, NormanNorman Pritchard 1900 Paris Athletics Men’s 200 metres
2Image:silver medal icon.svg Silver Pritchard, NormanNorman Pritchard 1900 Paris Athletics Men’s 200 metre hurdles
3Image:bronze medal icon.svg Bronze Jadhav, Khashaba DadasahebKhashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav 1952 Helsinki Wrestling Men’s freestyle bantamweight
3Image:bronze medal icon.svg Bronze Paes, LeanderLeander Paes 1996 Atlanta Tennis Men’s singles
3Image:bronze medal icon.svg Bronze Malleswari, KarnamKarnam Malleswari 2000 Sydney Weightlifting Women’s 69 kg
2Image:silver medal icon.svg Silver Rathore, Rajyavardhan SinghRajyavardhan Singh Rathore 2004 Athens Shooting Men’s double trap

So that before 2008 there are only 6 medals, which I guess you can count with your finger tips, so I was not joking. Mind you there were no medals, any type, between 1980 and 1996 till Leander Paes broke the jinx. What was the government doing then? I mean a nation with second largest population in the world doing so badly in the Olympics and nobody felt anything, nobody did anything? What can be the reasons for this, if not bureaucracy? The officials and the ministers who are related to the Department of Sports are not accountable for what happened. The bureaucrats were secure in their air conditioned offices for the job they would do till the end of their term, while ministers even when changed did not try to bring about change that was desperately needed. They have attained nirvana, if not this Olympics, the next one, which is just 4 years away. I guess the slogan was हम होंगे कामयाब but no body tried. But for a sportsperson it is an different scenario, in four years the world entirely changes, the same form cannot persist for four years, unless you are exceptionally talented. But given the conditions that our sports facilities are in, who will persist with their current form? I have also heard that we have more “Olympic Officials”, who are supposed to be more important than the players themseleves, in the Games. For the babus it is a state sponsored international holiday. And the people who adopt sports as a career, they say, “Do not have a future.”

I think apart from the omnipresent bureaucracy, we our society as a whole, have failed our sportspeople. The encouragement and respect that people in sports get in India is way below, what they should be getting and deserve [Exception being cricket].

Things were drastic during this Olympics. Our old work horse, the national game, Hockey team did not even qualify for the Olympics. It was too late for our Olympic Association that the world has advanced much too far away from us, and we have to speed up. The first step was to remove KPS Gill, the old man who controlled [literally] the Indian Hockey scenario. This step should have been taken long ago. They say Gill destroyed two things, terrorism in Punjab and hockey in the nation. Lets see what results does thus bring. I hope for the best!!

As for the 2008 Olympics, even though veterans could not perform, the youngsters showed the way. Starting from Bindra the jinx was broken. The others who just failed to register a medal, require equal appreciation. They tried their bast but, somehow did not manage it. But alas dudes I am with you…

Some of the people who could not steal the limelight, but were there are [apologies for the omissions]:
Saina Nehwal
Akhil Kumar
Jitender Kumar
Neha Agarwal
Yogeshwar Dutt
and many others whom I have failed to list… And for the hereos here they are Vijender Kumar
Sushil Kumar
Abhinav Bindra

You guys will be heroes for generations to come…

But will it make a difference in the next Olympics?

I guess the best bet would be to release the spirit of The Game from Babus who do not understand The Game. Out source it, corporates should take interest in this sector and should be given the responsibility of preparing our sports people for the next games…

Adios and best of luck till next time…