News & Analysis
Romila Thapar and the Hindutvadis
Monday, April 7, 2014
David Davidar, formerly of Penguin India and Penguin Canada, has warmed up the fake culture war between Romila Thapar and the Hindutvadis just in time for the most divisive elections in our history.

Our "elite" English language Press has risen smartly to the bait, and there have been interviews in the TOI and DNA presenting that face-off as a real thing.

It is not real, for both sides of the debate are part of Britain's propaganda war against India.

With the Hindutvadis that is an open and shut case.

The philosophy of "Hindutva" was first enunciated by Damodar Vinayak Savarkar after he had been tortured into submission in a British prison.

It was written while he was still in prison and its political message was a HIndu version of Mohammad Ali Jinnah's "two nation" theory.

With Jinnah and Savarkar as proxies, the British then proceeded to rip Indian society apart. 

Romila Thapar is a more complex case because scholarly credentials hide her involvement in the propagandistic colonial history project.

Perhaps the best way to expose that is to compare her 1966 A History of India with its thoroughly revised and enlarged edition of 2004.

The two versions offer a fascinating contrast in their treatment of Hinduism.

The Pelican Original of 1966 had this to say about Hinduism on page 132 of Chapter 6:

Brahminism did not remain unchanged through all these centuries, nor was it impervious to the effects of Buddhism and Jainism. Some of the Vedic gods had quietly passed into oblivion and some were being reborn as new gods with additional attributes. This was the time when the Brahminical religion assumed features which today are recognized as Hinduism. To call it Hinduism at this stage is perhaps an anachronism, since the term was given currency by the Arabs in the eight century A.D, when referring to those who followed the prevailing religion of India, the worship of Shiva and Vishnu. But for the sake of convenience the religion may be described as Hinduism from this point onwards.”

In the much expanded 2004 edition, the topic of Hinduism was moved up to page 3 of Chapter 1, and Thapar expressed a completely different view.

In the course of investigating what came to be called Hinduism, together with various aspects of its belief, ritual and custom, many [British Orientalists] were baffled by a religion that was altogether different from their own. It was not monotheistic, there was no historical founder, or single sacred text, or dogma or ecclesiastical organization — and it was closely tied to caste. There was therefore an overriding need to fit it into the known moulds of familiar religions, so as to make it more accessible. Some scholars have suggested that Hinduism as it is formulated and perceived today, very differently from earlier times, was largely born out of this reformulation.

The British “reformulation,” Thapar explained, “influenced the emerging Indian middle class in its understanding of its own past. … It was believed that the Indian pattern of life was so concerned with metaphysics and the subtleties of religious belief that little attention was given to the more tangible aspects.”

That was “the genesis of the idea of the spiritual east,” a theme “firmly endorsed by a section of Indian opinion during the last hundred years” because it “was a consolation to the Indian intelligentsia for its perceived inability to counter the technical superiority of the West …. At the height of anti-colonial nationalism it acted as a salve for having been made a colony of Britain.

Thapar did not explain her dramatic shift in assessing the nature and history of Hinduism, but it is not difficult to see that in the second version she has clearly bought into the colonial theme that Hinduism does not exist, that the billion of us who call ourselves Hindu are just plain confused.

However, the explanation is obvious and can be summed up simply: 1984.

Obviously, she has been hurt and traumatized by the events of that terrible year, and the vociferous attacks of Hindutvadis on her various writings have pushed her over the edge.

It is a pity that she did not put what happened in 1984 in the larger context of Britain's merciless manipulation of the Sikhs.

But as for the rest of us, we should look on the Romila Thapar versus the Hindutvadis as a specious culture war entirely of British creation, presented at a critical time in our history by one of their most effective proxies in India, David Davidar.


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BJP, Congress or Aam Admi?
Sunday, March 30, 2014
As any writer who is not independently wealthy I write for hire. Not as a journalist but as an expert consultant.

My specialty for many years has been international cooperation for development, a field at once richly satisfying -- because it is about hope and aspiration -- and deeply disheartening in the venal cynicism of its theorists.

Consider, for instance, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted as an afterthought by the summit-level meeting of the UN General Assembly at the cusp of the 21st Century.

Advertised as measurable targets for “development,” they were actually little more than a diversion, drawing attention away from such grim realities as the global black market that sucks out ten times more from poor countries than they get as "aid." 

“Halve poverty levels by 2015” was the lead MDG.

It did not say how that should be done, or at what cost.

In China, which has made the most rapid progress in reducing poverty, it was done by massive foreign investments that made the country the “workshop of the world.”

But the costs have been terrible.

A team of Chinese scientists reported earlier this year that air pollution in the country had become so bad that it was blocking out the sun and reducing plant growth. They compared it to “nuclear winter,” when the debris thrown into the atmosphere by atomic bombs is projected to make photosynthesis impossible.

And that’s not the worst of it.

China’s progress has been built on sand.

When the financial crisis of 2008 and the “Great Recession” that followed in Europe and North America threatened to collapse its export driven economy, Beijing spent half a trillion dollars to prop up growth.

Most of the money went to build infrastructure.

They built highways, bridges and tunnels with few users, a pricey super-fast railway and huge airports with little air traffic.

Most of all, they built housing. There is now an apartment for every family in China. But most are unoccupied, for they are priced too high and are in areas where there is no economic activity to support an urban population.

All across China now there are not only millions of unoccupied buildings, there are entire ghost cities.

Even that is not the worst of it.

China’s booming “development” created a crony capitalism that allied predatory wheeler-dealers with the Communist power structure. They took land forcibly from poor farmers, forcing millions to become migrant workers in factories thousands of miles away from their homes.

There are now over 200 million migrant workers living on slave wages in urban areas. While the workers languish in poverty, Party flacks and their business cronies grew enormously rich.

China's growing army of millionaires and billionaires are estimated to keep much of their wealth in other countries and some 80 per cent are reported to have established foreign residency rights.

Narendra Modi is a votary of this model of “development,” and it has enamored Indian Big Business.

It has blinded business leaders to his violent communal record, bully-boy rhetoric and capacity to corrupt and misuse the Intelligence and Police services. One of them hailed him as "King of kings" at a recent conclave that was an unmitigated abomination in a democracy.

Quite obviously, no Indian in her right mind should vote for the Modi-led BJP.

Congress is a better choice in that it is not openly communal and is more aware of the poor and middle class. But in seeking to woo Big Business away from Modi, will it offer – has it offered – the same kind of crony capitalism?

Despite the rhetoric of its election platform, there is little reason to believe that the Congress has a view of development much different from Modi's. Its much touted Land Bill will raise the cost of appropriating land, but will do no justice to the farmer.

Expropriating land to benefit the rich will very quickly begin to destabilize the balance of castes in rural areas that is the bedrock of Indian political stability. It will feed and expand the insurrections that now ravage tribal areas. The country could quite easily slip into the state of general civil war that preceded colonial rule.

Is there a way to avoid this prospect?

Yes, but to see the way the Indian political elite must heed the first teaching of the Hitopadesa and let fall the veil of greed that now prevents them from seeing the true wealth of the country, its people.

“Development” does not mean highways and dams and skyscrapers, and flashy dressers calling each other “Dude;” it means that everyone in the country is fed, educated and profitably employed.

Can we have that without industrialization and Big Business?

Yes. In fact, the technology of the Information Age is making Big Business obsolete.

The capacity to identify and cater to niche markets through the World Wide Web has the potential to make small scale artisanal production competitive with mass produced goods. That will destroy the primary reason for the mass market and giant corporations.

The nature of industrial production is also undergoing fundamental change. The combination of off-grid renewable energy and 3-D printing has revolutionary implications.

It means we can have top quality industrial products made in remote rural areas. When the best educational services and cultural products are also available online in rural areas, the pressures now causing rapid urbanization will disappear. As rural development accelerates, population growth will decelerate very rapidly, and that will change all other economic projections.

We are facing a future when there will be no reason for massive energy and raw materials supplies to be concentrated at points of production. There will be nothing to drive predatory exploitation of natural resources. The corporations of the future will be flat networks of entrepreneurs, each grounded in his/her own community and meeting real human needs.

The rather confused vision of rural development set out in Arvind Kejriwal’s book Swaraj could help bring such a future to life – if the Aam Admi Party can convince the Indian voter that it is capable of governing.

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Flight 370 a Grim Omen for India
Thursday, March 27, 2014
The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 on 9 March should be seen as a grim omen for India.

It portends a 9/11 type attack using the missing Boeing 777 that could precipitate war with Pakistan.

A single chilling fact precludes any possibility that the aircraft was lost innocuously at sea: as it veered off its set course and headed towards India, the aircraft reportedly climbed to 45,000 feet – 2000 feet beyond the maximum for a Boeing 777 – then dropped rapidly to 12,000 feet.

Such a descent occurs when there has been a catastrophic loss of cabin pressure.

The climb to 45,000 feet is also significant if we consider that at that altitude, sudden depressurization will render passengers brain dead in 15 seconds.

At that hour of night – past 01:30 – most of the passengers were probably asleep and of those who were awake few could have grabbed an emergency oxygen mask in time.

We know from the series of satellite "handshakes" by the Boeing's Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS), that it continued flying west for five to six hours. 

That is enough time to reach as far north as Kazakhstan in Central Asia, overflying areas infested with drug dealing terrorists who certainly had the wherewithal to make a one-mile landing strip.

Given the brutality of the hijacking, it is highly likely that the aircraft is now in the possession of terrorists in that general area, being readied for use.

So why is the search for the missing plane focused on the remote southern Indian Ocean?

Because American and Chinese satellites reported debris in the area, and the British company that runs the surveillance system INMARSAT, said that it had registered a number of pings from an unidentified aircraft in that area.

There is no other evidence. Even if some floating seat cushions turn up in the area, it is most likely to have been planted on 24 May, when a fierce storm supposedly stopped all search operations for 24 hours.

The fact that the search was refocused on the basis of such skimpy evidence indicates a willingness of major Powers to turn a blind eye on reality; it should put Indian air defence authorities on high alert for misinformation from usually reliable sources. 

This is not being paranoid.

The world is in the midst of a complex power struggle in which treacheries abound. 

At a time when all the major developed countries are still reeling from the “Great Recession,” and China is on the verge of economic collapse, India is the only national market that can generate the rapid increase in demand necessary to avoid a prolonged global downturn. Control of it is a rich prize.

However, getting a government in New Delhi entirely devoted to foreign interests will require extraordinary circumstances, such as would result from a massive airborne terrorist attack that precipitated war with Pakistan.

(The bizarre essay prophesying an India-Pakistan war published by the Brookings Institution suddenly makes sense! So does Ashutosh Varshney’s book on India’s “improbable democracy:” it establishes his credential as an expert on the planned chaos.)

Another factor that makes me think a major terror attack is in the works is the increasing difficulty Britain faces in laundering the $60 billion proceeds of the illicit drug trade out of Afghanistan. International pressure to close down its “tax haven” money laundering system has made it imperative that the money be invested in the region, which means India.

Such large-scale investment will be possible only if Britain has the kind of political control in India that it asserts in Pakistan through the ISI.

A beginning has been made in that direction by promoting in India the same kind of endemic sectarian violence that bedevils Pakistan: communal incidents this year are up 30 per cent over 2012.

However, that is not enough. Even with the largest electoral war chest localized communal incidents cannot be used to manipulate Indian voters on the scale necessary to bring in a proxy government. Ergo, a terrorist attack that could provoke war, give new life to all kinds of moribund insurrections, and allow a bully-boy proxy to emerge as a national saviour.

There is little doubt who that will be.

The relentless reporting in the country’s British proxy mass media of a “Modi wave,” the personality cult now in the works, and the jettisoning of senior BJP leaders of integrity and stature, all point to a scenario in which the “khoon ke saudagar” can spout on about Hindu power and a 54-inch chest while bringing back foreign rule to India.

Do I think this will happen?

No. There are too many honest sensible Indians to allow it.

Also, I do not think it is in the cards at the end of the Kali Yuga.

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Reviving Gandhi 
The relevance of his ideas to a world in crisis

 

A century after Mahatma Gandhi wrote his seminal work Hind Swaraj, we make the case that his ideas and concepts offer the only means of escaping the disasters that are shaping up as industrial civilization careens towards its terminal crises. The following is the first chapter in a book exploring how to revive Gandhi's political legacy. 
           

On 13 November 1909, a few weeks after his 40th birthday Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi boarded the S.S. Kildonan Castle to return to South Africa from Britain. He had been in London for more than four months, lobbying parliament entirely without success to protect the rights of Indians as it authorized a blatantly White supremacist constitution for the new Union of South Africa... Read More


Britain and the Opposition to Gandhi's Legacy
           

Mahatma Gandhi was one of a hundred Heroes and Icons TIME magazine celebrated in a special issue marking the end of the 20th century. An article by India-born British novelist Salman Rushdie explained his place in history. Rushdie began his piece with a riff on the Apple Corporation’s “Think Different” advertising campaign. “A thin Indian man with not much hair sits alone on a bare floor, wearing nothing but a loincloth and a pair of cheap spectacles, studying the clutch of handwritten notes in his hand. The black-and-white photograph takes up a full page in the newspaper. In the top left-hand corner of the page, in full colour, is a small rainbow-striped apple. Below this, there's a slangily American injunction to Think Different. Once, a half-century ago, this bony man shaped a nation's struggle for freedom. But that, as they say, is history. Now Gandhi is modeling for Apple.” Gandhi today is “up for grabs” Rushdie declared. “He has become abstract, ahistorical, postmodern, no longer a man in and of his time but a freeloading concept, a part of the available stock of cultural symbols, an image that can be borrowed, used, distorted, reinvented to fit many different purposes, and to the devil with historicity or truth.“ As if to validate that last phrase he then served up the following reprise of colonial era British propaganda: Read More

 

 
Sidelight to History: Mother Theresa
 
Mother Theresa's Letter
click to enlarge


As a young reporter in Calcutta I was assigned to write about Mother Theresa and spent several days following her around the city, from early morning prayers at the Mother House on Lower Circular Road, to Nirmal Hriday, the house for the dying destitute she ran in one corner of Kalighat Temple, to the home for unwed mothers and abandoned children, to the rural refuge for lepers. It was the first time I really looked at the plight of the poor of Calcutta, and it left me shaken – and vastly impressed with the work she was doing. (There was already talk about her performing miracles but when I asked about them she waved the question away and directed my attention elsewhere.)

A few years later I was working for the United Nations, and had the bright idea of inviting Mother to speak at the UN at the first observance of International Women’s Day (7 March). She declined the invitation, saying in a handwritten note torn from a notebook that she would be a “misfit” at the UN. Without thinking, I showed the note to a colleague from the secretariat, a priest who had been seconded by the Vatican to help with the first World Population conference (Bucharest 1972); it was only when he asked if he could make a copy that I began to consider the consequences.

In the years that followed Mother attended a number of events at the UN, and each time I saw her it was with regret; she had been entirely right in wanting to avoid the place. Her simplicity did not fit. It made people uncomfortable. No one seemed to know what to say to her. She herself was strained, and each time hurried away as soon after speaking as she was able to do without giving offense. Needless to say, she was a huge irritant to those espousing birth control as essential to development.
 
Inside the United Nations

 

Some items below are from previous years but they continue to be relevant to current realities.

 

China Human Rights: An expert UN human rights panel has called on the government of China to release Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo from prison immediately. One of the authors of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for fundamental rights for the people of China, Liu was convicted of “subversion” at a two hour trial in 2009 during which he got to speak for 14 minutes; he was given a 11-year prison sentence. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also called for the release of Liu’s wife from house arrest; she was confined for speaking to Western reporters about the condition of her husband in prison. The panel said in a written opinion sent to the authorities in Beijing that Liu’s criminal trial and imprisonment violated norms set by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 5-member body also called for reparations for the 55-year old Liu who earlier spent two years in prison for his role in the June 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu infuriated the Chinese government, which blanked out news of the honour from its mass media and suspended trade talks with Norway, where the presentation was made. Liu was unable to attend the presentation ceremony, during which an unoccupied chair on stage stood mute witness of his repression. In a rebuke to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN panel asked him to support the call for Mr. Liu’s release. Fearing to offend China, Mr. Ban has maintained a total silence on the issue (see below).

 

The Drug Scene 2012: With an estimated 154,000 hectares growing poppy in 2012, Afghanistan remained by far the largest source of opiates worldwide. Despite the 18 per cent increase over the 2011 poppy acreage, opium production fell 36 per cent to 3,700 tons because of a crop disease and adverse weather conditions. Meanwhile, South-East Asia, mainly Laos and Myanmar, had over 58,000 hectares growing poppy.

Bolivia, Colombia and Peru had about 155,600 hectares growing coca in 2011 and cocaine production is uncertainly estimated at between 776 and 1,051 tons.

 Cannabis, the world’s most widely used illicit substance, is not widely trafficked internationally because local production meets most demand. However, production of cannabis resin is concentrated in Morocco and Afghanistan, and it is widely trafficked.

The figures relating to “illict drugs” are all extremely slippery estimates by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), based on a wide variety of “lies, damn lies and statistics.” The latest version can be found in the freely downloadable UN document A/68/126

At present some 16.5 million people use opiates worldwide; about 13 million are heroin addicts, putting away 375 tons of it every year. Europe accounts for 150 tons of heroin consumption. 

 

Security Council: The main UN organ responsible for maintaining international peace and security continues its ineffective course in 2013, so I leave unaltered below a 2011 comment which is as valid in 2013 as when it was written.

The SC has admitted its own craven ineffectiveness by deciding to expand the "name and shame" list of groups using child soldiers. Since receiving the first formal report on this situation in 1999, the Council has done little more than hyperventilate periodically on the matter. Its primary "action" has been the "name and shame" list. Those who abduct, abuse and brutalize children in order to use them as killers and sex slaves are supposed to be "shamed" by having their groups named in a UN document. While the Council has been thus occupied, an estimated 2 million children have been killed in armed conflicts and 6 million left disabled. Around 300,000 children now serve as soldiers. Little girls fare the worst. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, told the Council last month that "sexual violence is becoming systemic and across the world, classrooms and the kids sitting in them are increasingly seen as legitimate targets."

 

UN Reform: Efforts to improve the performance of the United Nations were briefly energized after the Obama administration signalled its intention to seriously engage in multilateral diplomacy, but they are now back to normal. That is to say they are like a Noh drama. The action is glue-like, the plot incomprehensible, and the whole thing of interest only to afficianados. There is need for a radical change of focus and approach, but UN member States are so reluctant to give up the devil they know that it is impossible to entertain the slightest hope of real change. (For what is necessary to bring about real UN reform see our Discussion Paper; this is a topic on which we need to get a global conversation going.)

 

Signs of a New Era: Developing countries in 2012 accounted for nearly half of world gross domestic product (GDP); by 2020, just three of them, Brazil, China and India, are projected to have more of the world output than Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the United States of America combined.

By 2025, the South is likely to have 600 million people with household incomes over $20,000 and an overall annual consumption of $30 trillion. All regions of the South are growing and they have done so during the most severe recession in the North since the Great Depression.

 

High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development: At the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable development in June 2012 member States agreed to replace the ineffective Commission on Sustainable Development with a 30-member High Level Forum. Consultations since then have led to the Forum being thrown open to participation by all States, including the Holy See and Palestine. Its first meeting was on 24 September 2013. Unesco will convene an expert scientific body to support the work of the Forum, which will meet at the summit level every four years under the aegis of the General Assembly and at the ministerial level annually at the level of ECOSOC. (This straddling of deliberative and policy review functions could have got things moving with a well-chosen and focused membership; with all "stakeholders" dipping their oars into the process, it is unlikely to result in anything meaningful.) Delegates at the Rio+20 Conference thought they were creating a purposeful high-level body that would straddle the deliberative and policy review functions of the General Assembly and ECOSOC; the way things are going, the HLPF seems to be going the way of the body it replaced, towards endless ineffective talk.

 

Sustainable Development Board: Note one more step in the continuing saga of the UN’s ineffectual efforts to deal with global environmental problems: the President of the General Assembly has just communicated to member States the membership of the governing Board of the projected “10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.” Each Regional Group in the Assembly nominated two members to serve for two years; where they have named two States to a single slot, each will have a one-year term. The following States will serve on

the Board: Tanzania; South Africa; Japan/Republic of Korea; Bangladesh/Indonesia; Romania; Russian Federation; Chile; Mexico; Finland/Germany; Switzerland.

 

It is anyone’s guess how a membership so unrepresentative of the world’s economic realities can be effective in helping to reorder global consumption and production patterns.

 

 
Books, Reports & Stuff

 The following information is taken from reports before the 2013 session of the United Nations General Assembly

6.6 Million Child Deaths a Year: Unicef reports that an estimated 6.6 million children under the age of 5 died last year. Nigeria, Congo, India, Pakistan and China account for more than half those deaths. The top killers are malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, all preventable and treatable. Malnutrition is a factor in half of under-5 deaths. The only bit of good news in the report is that the rate of childhood deaths has been halved since 1990; West and Central Africa are the only regions that have not done so.

Post-2015 Development Goals:  In one of the most dishonest reports I have seen in four decades of covering the United Nations, UNDP sets out what it says are the results of "consultations" with over a million people globally on what international development goals should be after 2015. (The Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 are set for renewal in 2015.) According to UNDP, the world’s people want the following (in order of priority): “A good education. Better healthcare. An honest and responsive government. Better job opportunities. Access to clean water and sanitation. Affordable and nutritious food. Protection against crime and violence... It goes on for 159 colorful pages. There is not a mention of real world problems that developing countries have repeatedly declared to be high priorities. For instance, African countries called specifically in 2012 for an end to what the UN diplomatically calls “reverse transfer of resources.” That refers to the thievery that moves money from poor countries to rich ones. Over the last decade, 33 sub-Saharan countries had over $1 trillion stolen from their economies and transferred to offshore banks, which channel them to the wealthy of the world.

Women in Politics:  While the status of women in politics has improved somewhat over the past three decades, they remain marginalized in political decision-making in every region of the world. Few Member States achieved the target agreed upon by member States in 1990 to have 30 per cent women in decision-making positions by 1995. Only 35 national parliaments have 30 per cent or more women as at June 2013. Details here.

World Food Situation:  A joint report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and the Brussels-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warns of a 30 per cent increase in food prices -- by 2021. The causes? Slower growth in major food crops and continued growth of world population, expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. (Note the use of different time horizons.) The report wants action against speculators, and "strict rules" to govern factors that "distort" world food trade. The next meeting of the G-20 is expected to take those matters in hand and bring "regulation" to the world food market. No mention of the fact that the existing "global market" for food is a highly energy-intensive and wasteful system driven by corporate profits. Corporate farming of mega tracts is environmentally destructive and always less productive than family run farms. The treatment of animals subjected to "factory farming" is cruel beyond belief and also environmentally disastrous because so much consumption and waste are concentrated in such small areas. The report ignores the obvious: that if we cut out the big corporations the "world food economy" would quickly resolve into much more productive and "green" local, national and regional food economies. They would employ millions more workers and could easily feed the projected world population and more. Especially if we reduce the wastage that now accounts for one-third of the world's agricultural production. Decreasing that percentage should take care of inflation.

Illiteracy: The World Literacy Decade the General Assembly declared in 2003 ended on 31 December 2012. In a period that saw a 40 per cent increase in world population, the number of illiterate young people declined from 168 million in 1990 to 123 million in 2011. The number of those who remained illiterate above the age of 15 fell from 881 million in 1990 to 774 million in 2011.  



UN Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (the last name is Ban), was given a second 5-year term on 21 June 2011. It began on 1 January 2012.There were no other contestants for the post.

Ban's reappointment is not seen anywhere as a reward for good performance. He has been a general embarassment in the post, dragging the Organization into near total irrelevance with his hamhanded diplomatic incompetence. For a sampling of his feats check out our blog at undiplomatictimes.blogspot.com. Ban's first term is also described under the SG section (link below)

The uncontested reappointment was widely seen as recognition that the currenly rancorous relations among the five permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia, United States), will preclude agreement on anyone new. Ban is the special favourite of China because he has said not a word about the 2010 Nobel laureate languishing in a Chinese prison.

In New York, the media gave the reappointment minimal coverage. The New York Times gave it three lines; The Wall Street Journal noted it at the bottom of its column of snippets on page one. Ban himself celebrated the event with a 7 minute UN video set to rock music. It shows him talking, walking, shaking hands with celebrities, hugging a baby ... .  
Former Secretary Generals