Thursday, February 5, 2009

Real-life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy

Cracked magazine has a list of 5 real life badass soldiers whose actions make Rambo's adventures look like a walk in the park in comparison. At Number 4, is India's Grenadier Yogendra Singh Yadav:
Who Was He?

Yogendra Singh Yadav was a member of an Indian grenadier battalion during a conflict with Pakistan in 1999. Their mission was to climb "Tiger Hill" (actually a big-ass mountain), and neutralize the three enemy bunkers at the top. Unfortunately, this meant climbing up a sheer hundred-foot cliff-face of solid ice. Since they didn't want to all climb up one at a time with ice-axes, they decided they'd send one guy up, and he'd fasten the ropes to the cliff as he went, so everyone else could climb up the sissy way. Yadav, being awesome, volunteered.

Half way up the icy cliff-o'-doom, enemies stationed on an adjacent mountain opened fire, shooting them with an RPG, then spraying assault-rifle fire all over the cliff. Half his squad was killed, including the commander, and the rest were scattered and disorganized. Yadav, in spite of being shot three times, kept climbing.

When he reached the top, one of the target bunkers opened fire on him with machine guns. Yadav ran toward the hail of bullets, pitched a grenade in the window and killed everyone inside. By this point the second bunker had a clear shot and opened fire, so he ran at them, taking bullets while he did, and killed the four heavily-armed men inside with his bare hands.

Meanwhile, the remainder of his squad was standing at the top of the cliff staring at him saying, "dude, holy shit!" They then all went and took the third bunker with little trouble.

For his gallantry and sheer ballsiness, he was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military award. Unlike the Medal of Honor, the Param Vir Chakra is only given for "rarest of the rare gallantry which is beyond the call of duty and which in normal life is considered impossible to do." That's right, you actually have to break the laws of reality just to be eligible.

It has only been awarded 21 times, and two thirds of the people who earned it died in the process. It was initially reported that Yadav had as well, but it turns out that they just mistook him for someone less badass. Or they just figured no real human being could survive a broken leg, shattered arm and 10-15 fresh bullet holes in one sitting.

The best Hollywood could come up with:

John McClane (Bruce Wilis) from Die Hard.

Why it Doesn't Compare:

McClane has a fairly impressive resume of badassery, climbing through elevator shafts and killing terrorists with his bare hands, much like Yadav, except Yadav took more bullets in 10 minutes than McClane did in the entire series without even slowing down. Plus, he was fucking 19-years-old! Try to imagine a high school Bruce Willis screaming, "yippee ki-yay, m*****f*****!"

Exactly. [Cracked]
Read the article to see 4 other such soldiers.

The Param Vir Chakra citation for him reads:
Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav was part of the leading team of a Ghatak Platoon tasked to capture Tiger Hill on the night of ¾ July 1999. The approach to the top was steep, snowbound and rocky. Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav, unmindful of the danger involved, volunteered to lead and fix the rope for his team to climb up. On seeing the team, the enemy opened intense automatic, grenade, rocket and artillery fire killing the Commander and two of his colleagues and the platoon was stalled. Realising the gravity of the situation, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav crawled up to the enemy position to silence it and in the process sustained multiple bullet injuries. Unmindful of his injuries and in the hail of enemy bullets, Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav continued climbing towards the enemy positions, lobbed grenades, continued firing from his weapons and killed four enemy soldiers in close combat an silenced the automatic fire. Despite multiple bullet injuries, he refused to be evacuated and continued the charge. Inspired by his gallant act, the platoon charged on the other positions with renewed punch and captured Tiger Hill Top.

Grenadier Yogender Singh Yadav displayed the most conspicuous courage, indomitable gallantry, grit and determination under extreme adverse circumstances. [Indian Army]
The disappointing thing is that despite being honoured with the highest gallantry award of the country, the Indian Army doesn't even know how to spell his name. The citation page has Yoginder as well as Yogender. His Wikipedia entry has Yogendra. I just hope that his copy of the citation has got it right.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shoddy Journalism by NDTV and Barkha Dutt

That, and a complete lack of a sense of irony.

Those are the things that define the current state of our media in general. In the present context, it is NDTV and Barkha Dutt who are the culprits.

As the Mumbai terrorist attack was unfolding, an Indian citizen and blogger (Mr. Chyetanya Kunte) watching the media coverage was shocked by certain aspects of the coverage by Barkha Dutt and NDTV. Chyetanya wrote an angry post (cached version here; scroll right to the bottom and save a copy of the post titled "Shoddy journalism").

On January 26, he published a retraction. Now, the retraction is smelling strongly of a pseudo-legal notice being "served" by e-mail to Chyetanya. In the retraction, he apologizes to Barkha Dutt and NDTV on three specific counts. I don't know what the personal circumstances of Mr. Kunte are, but I wish he hadn't apologized merely for (a) holding an opinion; (b) speaking the truth; and (c) quoting from Wikipedia.

None of those are defamatory in any way. The worst that can be said about his post is that it had an angry "tone" and that he used the word "idiot" to describe a certain "journalist" (I can't tell you what her name is, but it might rhyme with Darkha Butt, or may be not).

So, someone calls you an idiot and you go ahead and serve them a legal notice.. even though you routinely insult people and hide behind the facade of being in the media? Where is fair play in that? Plus, whatever happened to freedom of speech etc.? You know, all the stuff that media keeps demanding for itself.

Do you know what Wikipedia has to say about Barkha Dutt? This:
Perhaps most disastrously, during the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, Barkha Dutt shared and telecast critical information live on television regarding
  • the location of civilians hiding in hotels (thus potentially endangering their lives),
  • the then ATS chief Hemant Karkare's safety preparation (showed him wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest in excruciating detail live on television: the officer succumbed to bullets in the neck),
  • the exact number and location of commandos defending the hostage locations at the Taj and the Oberoi hotels (information easily available to the terrorists via television or sat phone),
  • contacting the head of Oberoi to release sensitive information regarding the current hostage situation in the hotel which drastically contradicted the sanitised information released by Indian security agencies in order to keep the rescue operation uncompromised,
  • she further went on to say that even though the govt said that there will be no negotiations with the terrorists, her diplomatic sources – she named the diplomat – said that negotiations are underway.
  • It has been reported by a survivor(Lynne Shaw) that this information was used by terrorists in Oberoi to get to some of the hostages. There are also reports that this information may have let terrorists to the next steps by the armed forces.
Why don't you sue Wikipedia, Barkha?

Anyway, others have already eloquently expressed everything that is wrong with this installment of media madness. So, read these (you really must):
Keep an eye on DesiPundit for more.

Note: Also read this item in The Hindu. It talks about the Chief of Indian Navy being upset with the media. A short quote:
The competition among news channels to score brownie points reminded him of the "famous shot" during the Kargil War that led to the destruction of an ultra-powerful artillery gun of the Army. Three soldiers died and the Colonel, who yielded to a woman reporter’s entreaty to fire the gun for the camera’s benefit was dismissed from service.
No marks for guessing who this "woman reporter" was. Once again, her name might rhyme with "Darkha Butt", or may be not.

Ashley Tellis on Lessons from Mumbai Attacks

Just a quotation from his testimony to U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:
... India has unfortunately become the "sponge" that protects us all. India’s very proximity to Pakistan, which has developed into the epicenter of global terrorism during the last thirty years, has resulted in New Delhi absorbing most of the blows unleashed by those terrorist groups that treat it as a common enemy along with Israel, the United States, and the West more generally. To the chagrin of its citizens, India has also turned out to be a terribly soft state neither able to prevent many of the terrorist acts that have confronted it over the years nor capable of retaliating effectively against either its terrorist adversaries or their state sponsors in Pakistan. The existence of unresolved problems, such as the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, has also provided both Pakistani institutions and their terrorist clients with the excuses necessary to bleed India to "death by a thousand cuts." But these unsettled disputes remain only excuses: not that they should not be addressed by New Delhi seriously and with alacrity, there is no assurance that a satisfactory resolution of these problems will conclusively eliminate the threat of terrorism facing India and the West more generally.

This is because the most vicious entities now engaged in attacks on India, like LeT, have objectives that go way beyond Kashmir itself. Rather, they seek to destroy what is perhaps the most successful example of a thriving democracy in the non-Western world, one that has prospered despite the presence of crushing poverty, incredible diversity, and a relatively short history of self-rule. India’s existence as a secular and liberal democratic state that protects political rights and personal freedoms—despite all its failures and imperfections—thus remains a threat to groups such as LeT, with their narrow, blighted, and destructive worldviews, as well as to praetorian, anti-democratic, institutions such as the Pakistan Army and the ISI. India, accordingly, becomes an attractive target, while its mistakes, inadequacies, and missteps only exacerbate the opportunities for violence directed at its citizenry.

Yet it would be a gross error to treat the terrorism facing India — including the terrible recent atrocities — as simply a problem for New Delhi alone. In a very real sense, the outrage in Bombay was fundamentally a species of global terrorism not merely because the assailants happened to believe in an obscurantist brand of Islam but, more importantly, because killing Indians turned out to be simply interchangeable with killing citizens of some fifteen different nationalities for no apparent reason whatsoever. If the United States fails to recognize that the struggle against terrorism ought to be indivisible because Indian security is as important to New Delhi as American security is to Washington, future Indian governments could choose to respond to the problems posed by Pakistani groups such as LeT in ways that may undermine regional security and make the U.S. effort to transform Pakistan more difficult than it already it. Avoiding these sub-optimal outcomes requires the Obama administration to treat Indian concerns about terrorism more seriously than the United States has done thus far. [Full text, PDF]
Testimonies by others are also available.

Aside: This should explain why some folks (Amit Varma, Vir Sanghvi) are so terribly wrong. But then, that had been established already.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Incompetent and Overpaid

Floyd Norris, writing in NYT, finally confirms something that I have long held to be an obvious truth - financial sector workers are overpaid. See for yourself:

"Wages in finance were excessively high around 1930 and from the mid 1990s until 2006," wrote Thomas Philippon of New York University and Ariell Reshef of the University of Virginia, in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper released this week, "Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Financial Industry, 1909-2006."

They forecast that up to half the wage differential observed in recent years "can be expected to disappear."
The article goes to discuss much more. And you should read it in full.

I should explain why I included the word "incompetent" in the title. This is not to say that all financial sector employees are incompetent (just as they may not all be overpaid). However, it is quite well-known that any booming economic sector attracts a lot of wannabe-types who would not be in that sector if not for the boom. Remember the dot-com bubble, and how many incompetent idiots it attracted to the sector? This one has been the same.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Embarrassing Addresses

Just a short (and incomplete) list to lighten you up (all from UK, via NYT):
  • Crapstone, Devon
  • Ugley, Essex
  • East Breast, Western Scotland
  • North Piddle, Worcestershire
  • Crotch Crescent, Oxford
  • Titty Ho, Northamptonshire
  • Slutshole Lane, Norfolk
  • Spanker Lane, Derbyshire
  • Thong, Kent
  • Wetwang, East Yorkshire
  • Penistone, South Yorkshire
  • Butt Hole Road, South Yorkshire
I guess you gotta hand it to Yorkshire with its Wetwang, Penistone and Butt Hole Road.