Thursday, July 07, 2011


To all of Mukunda's followers: I'm Sriya, Mukunda's niece and a rising freshman in college. Whenever I go to India (every few years), I keep a journal of sorts. This year, I asked Mukunda chitya if I could use his blog to reach all my friends and share my thoughts about my experiences in India.

The plan for my trip (7/13-8/3)--on which I am embarking with my parents, 7-year-old brother, and maternal grandmother--is to visit Chennai and Bangalore (major cities in South India), with intermittent visits to Guruvayur, Srirangam, and Melkote (smaller cities that are sites of ancient Hindu temples). My posts will be sporadic, as I'm not sure when I'll have internet access, but I intend to take several pictures and let you all into the most interesting aspects of my trip. I hope that what I have to say resonates with you all and brings something valuable (TBD!) to the table.

So, until I reach India, adieu!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Legal System and Casey Anthony

Today the Casey Anthony case was decided and she was acquitted by a jury, who found her only guilty of lying to law enforcement. It is a rather huge decision, in terms of its national attention and the impact on the family of the deceased infant Caylee Anthony. On unequivocal terms, the death of that infant is a devastating and heinous crime, justice requires that the offender be punished but sometimes it isn't that simple.

Our entire legal system is founded on a few simple yet highly evolved and revolutionary principles. I will only address two of the major ones, the ones I won't address are right to a speedy trial, prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and others. I will primarily address innocent till proven guilty, right to public trial and beyond a reasonable doubt.

First and I think most important is that innocence is assumed until proven guilty. This apparently simple concept is the core of the brilliance of the American system of criminal law (has its origins in English Common Law and according to some in Theological laws but again a much deeper discussion than needed here). We assume the person's innocence so as to assure, the best we can, that we do not convict someone wrongly. The founders understood that public opinion and legal presumptions are entirely relevant and important when determining the guilt or innocence of anyone. The founders knew that they cannot control and use government to influence public opinion but they knew they can try and ensure that the governmental process can be formed to try to be more objective.

The second main principle is that criminal trials are to be public. A major reason for this principle was to ensure that there was total openness and accountability to the process. It was a way to allow the public to engage in the understanding of the process and also to protect the legal system through public accountability. The public would be able to see clearly how the judge and prosecutors/police should operate and if they deviated from the accepted process then there is something wrong, which they could correct through legislative action or even criminal action. It is a protection of the process and the system against internal deviation and miscarriage of the process and justice.

The third principle is the one of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle means that the evidence must show/prove beyond any normal doubt or just any doubt that the suspect is guilty. It has to be reasonable doubt, meaning clearly that the doubt itself must be reasonable and that the evidence goes beyond such a doubt. It is as close to 100% certainty as one can have or better put one could have. The evidence must be of such magnitude that any reasonable person looking at it would have certainty beyond such a reasonable doubt. It is again to ensure that reasonable people would reasonably agree that such evidence is proof of the guilt not merely an inference or probability of guilt.

From the first principle and third principle we derive subsequent rules and precepts, which are all applied to make sure the goal of the system is PROVE through evidence the guilt of a suspect. One of these rules are the rules of evidence such as inadmissible of hearsay, establishing proper standards of allowing evidence in and others. Everyone knows generally what hearsay is, legally (in many jurisdictions) it is defined as an "out of court statement made by other than the declarant that is offered for the truth in the matter asserted". This simply means any statement by a person, who is not the witness or declarant, made outside of court to prove something that is asserted in court. For example, I say "john told me that erick hit steve", that statement is hearsay because I didn't observe the event and have no source of actual knowledge of it directly. This is applied because it helps prevent mere innuendo, gossip or false evidence from entering into court and tainting the mind of the jury. All these rules are in place to remove bias and prejudice from the system, its not perfect but it is an viable and valiant attempt to do so.

Now, the above is a very brief and utterly superficial explanation about the legal foundations, ideas and principles about our legal system. I say legal system and not justice system because the idea is that if we have a good and strong legal process then justice will more likely occur without injuring or punishing an innocent person. Justice isn't the goal of the system it is a byproduct of a process. If we focus on only our perceived ideas of who is guilty and who isn't, we will inevitably convict an innocent person, it is why the the court says in Coffin v. United States that is better to let "5, 10, 20, or 100 guilty men go free than for one innocent man to be put to death".

It is with the above basis I will address the Casey Anthony case. Lets see what the prosecution proved in the case, not what we believe merely on our own notions and preconceived notions. First people believe that DNA evidence proves that Casey Anthony killed her infant daughter. Here is the actual numbers, the test only examined 752 base pairs of DNA receptors out of 16,500 plus base pairs, which is only around 5% of the base pairs. The DNA evidence isn't a certainty here and generally speaking DNA evidence cannot prove a crime but only an act or specific facts. More often than not, DNA can only disprove a believed "fact" such as x person did have sex with y but it can't prove that such sex was rape or consensual. Or the blood at the scene with Z% belonged to A and did not belong to B. The DNA evidence didn't show anything beyond a reasonable doubt merely the infant was present in the vehicle not whether it was alive or dead at the time.
In Casey's case, the chemical tests only showed that out 5 chemical compounds out of 400 were present in the trunk of the car, meaning something decomposed no evidence that it was human decomposition or another animal or even food stuff. Basically, it doesn't show what was decomposing, we have to make that inference based on our preconceived ideas. So both these threads of evidence don't prove conclusively one way or another.

Moreover, there was no eyewitness testimony or evidence nor was there a confession or any other testimony linking Casey and the death/murder. There is no physical evidence like DNA, blood, fingerprints or physical belongings to link Casey to the scene of the location of the body. In other words, all the evidence presented was circumstantial not direct. Circumstantial evidence cannot in most cases prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt it is merely additional evidence that is present to support direct evidence, it is necessary evidence not sufficient evidence. Meaning, it is supportive evidence not enough to convict or prove on its own all elements (it can lead one to infer a fact but not establish a fact on its own; I don't want to delve into theories of direct evidence and reliability and so on as it gets too complicated)

The legal system worked today but justice did not. I do believe based on the evidence that Casey did probably commit the crime and kill her daughter but I don't know beyond a reasonable doubt. I just can't know based on the evidence presented by the prosecutors. Sometimes justice isn't served by our system of law but I think it is much better for the system to protect the innocent rather than punish all the guilty. Anytime an innocent person is wrongly convicted or punished, justice is hurt more. The violation of an innocent person can never be returned, the time they spend in jail never given back, the life they led could have lived will never come to be. Justice isn't merely about punishing the guilty but making sure that innocents are not wronged.

Casey did probably commit this crime and I want her to be punished but not at the risk of having a system that would punish innocents. We should be upset at Caylee isn't going to get proper justice for her death but its not the system we should be upset with, this isn't a case of the system going bad/wrong, it is those cases when thousands of black men were convicted merely due to their skin color or when prosecutors focus more on a conviction rather than serving the process that system goes wrong. DNA evidence is freeing innocent people now, people who were in jail for decades for a wrongful conviction due to eye witness problems, prosecutorial misconduct and so on. This case is a momentary defeat for justice for Caylee but a victory for our system that adhered to its principles requiring PROOF beyond a reasonable doubt, innocence isn't something to take lightly it is the most important ideal to protect and our legal system more often than not does a great job of doing so but when it doesn't it is up to us the public to fix it and change the law and its process to close that potential to convict innocents.

Any comments or criticisms?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It is crowded

Millions of people moving about

Walking, Jogging, Running

There is no space between the people yet they never touch each other

They continue about their business

Without notice or care for what is around them

Eyes are focused on something that only they know and see

Ears listen to the sounds that are only in their heads

Skin feels only the fabric covering their body

In their midst stands a young boy

He has black hair and brown eyes

The young boy calls out but no one hears him

He then screams out, nothing

He tugs at the sleeves of those who walk by and around him

They don’t feel him

He cries and they take less notice of him, if that were even possible

The tears stream down his face but matter not for no one cares

He stands in the center of millions of people, from all walks of life

Yet he is alone, never seen, never heard, never felt

He reaches out and is never touched

His pain and his story is his alone

The path he walks is only walked by him

He is the loneliest boy in the world

(This is something I wrote a few years back, something I felt all people feel, the sense that we and we only understand our existence as individuals. What I feel or know is only know by me, even despite my ability to communicate my ideas, thoughts or feelings to others, does any of this vibe with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Osama bin Gone

May 2, 2011 Osama bin Laden, the most hunted and hated man in the Western world was finally captured and killed by an elite Navy Seal team in the city of Abbottabad in Pakistan. Let me be clear about something, I think it was a death that he deserved and nothing better. Bin Laden was born into a wealthy Saudi family in 1957 and for most of his young age spent it learning and refining his ideology of Wahabbi Islam. In 1979, he went to Afghanistan and joined the anti-Soviet Union movement and revolution. It was during this time and against the Soviet Union that the United States through the CIA provided resources, weapons, training and aid to the Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union. This CIA project was called Operation Cyclone and was done under the direction of President Reagan and his Reagan Doctrine. To be fair this started under the tenure of President Carter and was featured prominently in the movie Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks. The Reagan Doctrine basically says that overt and covert military aid and financial aid was to be provided to "freedom fighters" and guerillas fighting against the Soviet Union.

It was during this period that Bin Laden became one of the founding members of Al-Quaeda and it is also during this period that he learned and honed his military tactics. America provided him and others like him the tools and money to fight the Soviet Union because any victory against the Soviet Union was a victory for America, its values and its power. America didn't train Bin Laden and the other mujahideen rather that was done by the greatest terrorist organization in the world the Inter-Services Intelligence also known as the ISI, the most powerful "branch" of the Pakistani government. ISI has long sought to control Afghanistan for its own purpose and to destroy India. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the ISI trained and fought alongside the Mujahideen eventually ousting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan in 1989. With the explusion of the Soviet Union, Bin Laden and his group turned their attention to the other Great Satan, the Western World.

He then began to orchestrate terrorist attacks across the western world for what he saw was a great evil, the entrance of foreign non-muslim troops (USA) in the land of the two mosques (Mecca and Medina), Saudi Arabia. From 1992-2000, Bin Laden financed, orchestrated or ordered numerous terrorists attacks in western countries or any Arabic/Islamic nation that was backed by western powers. Bin Laden even financed foreign mujahideen to fight and even tried himself to enter into the Balkan War, some of the work done through his funding was humanitarian in nature trying to help the Bosnian Muslim population during the ethnic cleansing that was perpetrated by the Serbians and Croatians. Then on 9/11/2001, a day that will live in infamy throughout United States and World History, Bin Laden orchestrated and executed the mass murder of over 3000 people in New York City and sealed his own demise.

After 2001, numerous other terrorists attacks happened in Spain, London, Indonesia and India all of which were inspired and maybe indirectly financed by Bin Laden but entirely from the shadows as he was now the most wanted man in the world and quickly went into hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until about 2005, he was assumed to have been in Afghanistan but no evidence of his presence was uncovered. In 2005, the intelligence agencies became aware that he was probably in hiding in Pakistan, originally thought in the caves near Waziristan region. Around 2009, intelligence was gathered that he might have lived much closer to the urban cities in Pakistan under the protection of the ISI.

On May 1, 2011, an elite SEAL team entered a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan about 30 miles form Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The SEAL team killed Osama Bin Laden and 2 of his sons and his daughter in law. His wife was shot in the leg but was sent to a hospital. He died like a dog that he was and I celebrate it.

People say that its wrong to celebrate the death of a person no matter who, hate the sin not the sinner kind of talk. I don't buy into that. People are defined by their actions and how they behave throughout their life, a violent and harmful person can be redeem if he acts in a way to redeem his actions, he still needs to take responsibility and the consequences of his actions but he can be redeem. Bin Laden did no such thing, he killed thousands of people because of his ideology, not a wrong that the US did to him but his ideology. He killed people in Islamic and Non-Islamic nations just to make his demented vision come to life. He didn't value any life even of his own followers, everything and everyone was merely a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Should he deserve a trial? Yes if there was a doubt that he didn't commit any of these acts, the legal process is there to ensure that no innocent people are wrongly convicted. Bin Laden confessed numerous times not just confessed but joyous professed his killing of innocents. He lost his humanity and in doing so he lost his right to argue for his life and for any legal system to acknowledge it. Serial Killers have neurological problems, they can't control themselves but Bin Laden didn't he was just a fanatic who willfully and callously discarded his sense of morality and ideas of humanity. His death and killing was actually the only just result, not life in jail nor trial, just death. He got it and hopefully he now resides in Jahannam or Hell, burning for all eternity and then soon. I celebrate his death and mourn the loss of innocent people that he left in his wake, an eye for an eye may make the world blind but to allow a disease like him to live would destroy the entire body.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Resurrection Day

So after nearly 2 years I am returning to blogging and as you can guess I probably have a lot to say and I'll get to it in due time. I'm sure all seven of you who are following me are ecstatic right now and looking forward to hearing my 2 pesos about things. Hopefully you won't become any dumber after reading my thoughts. I want to write about two unrelated things that crossed my mind today, one is the early history of Christianity and other is death of Sai Baba.

So today is a day of joy for some and day of sadness for others. It is Easter Sunday or also known as Resurrection Day, the day that Jesus Christ rose from the grave according to the Christian tradition. This is the most important day to all Christians, it is the crux of their faith and their theology. Christians are only Christians because they believe and accept that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, three days after he was crucified and died. It is the fundamental reason why they believe that Jesus is God. In the early first few centuries before 325 CE, there was a rather diverse sects of Christianity including ones that did not believe that the actual physical resurrection occurred such as Valentinus of the 2nd century CE. There were numerous branches and visions of Christ and Christianity in the first three centuries of the Common Era. The Nag Hammadi library or also known as the Gnostic Gospels give us a rather varied view of that time period. We know that there was not a singular consensus amongst Christians about the foundational elements of Christianity which today we accept as canon.

This stratification occurred in 325 CE in what is known as the First Council of Nicaea. It is during this council that the dates of Easter were set and decided upon, through disassociating it from the Jewish calender and passover. It was also in this council that the divinity of Jesus Christ was firmly established along with the beginning of fortification of the doctrines starting with the Creed of Nicaea which disavowed and branded as heresy the Arian school of Christianity which held that God the Father created God the Son aka Jesus aka Logos. Basically what the Council started was the beginning of filtering out of any other forms of Christianity. Constantine the Great, the Emperor, used the Council as a method to try and unify the religious power of both Christianity and Paganism under the Roman banner. In particular he wanted to see a unified church but didn't care for the doctrinal issues, which in his mind he wanted all of various groups of Christianity to live in harmony and peace under one unified church. Constantine eventually regretted giving into the views of the First Council of Nicaea because once they decided the doctrinal issues in that council they begin to oppress and persecute any views that opposed theirs especially the Arian views.

In 380 CE, under the Edict of Thessalonica, the Roman state and the Christianity of the Nicaean Council became the only religion allowed. It was the moment when the state and Christianity merged into one entity, this for all purposes is the founding and birth of the Catholic Church. Christianity as it became more and more streamlined became more intolerant towards views that disagreed with its canonized views. It is from this wellspring that nearly all of modern Christianity arises from, with the ideology that their vision of the truth is the only one and all other ideas cannot exist that stand in opposition to their views.

The happiness of the risen Christ is match in the sadness of the dead Sai Baba. Sai Baba, a self-proclaimed Avatara, passed away on April 24, 2011 the same day that Resurrection Day occurred. While this is nothing more than a random coincidence, it does strike a point that even gods die. I have no personal love for Sai Baba, while he may have done many good things in his life and social work, he also is a charlatan in my book. He claimed to be God and in order to support his contention he engaged in numerous cheap parlor tricks like conjuring up vibuthi or sacred ash from his hands or regurgitating up shiva lingams (symbols of shiva, just like the ones you can see in Indiana Jones and the temple of Doom). Its one thing to claim to be a guru or spiritual preceptor but entirely another thing to claim godhood. Its one thing if he really believed he was God but another thing to claim that and still do cheap magic tricks. The latter shows that he knew he was a con-man because if he really did believe in his divinity why would he engaged in magic tricks? It doesn't detracted from whatever good social work he did but it does take away from the type of person he was. He refused to perform his "miracles" under experimental conditions, which usually is an indication that something is amiss. Great Yogis and even tibetan monks will/have allowed themselves to be observed under experimental conditions performing their acts. Swami Rama, who himself was a controversial figure, allowed himself to be tested and the results were rather astounding with him able to control physical acts that are normally understood to be involuntary/automatic like entering different levels of consciousness through Yoga Nidra or the sleep of the yogis, which include slowing heart rate and changing the alpha waves of the brain.

Let me just leave you with this, while I do not have any love or really respect for Sai Baba despite the fact that many people I know worship him, I will say that at least he didn't impose a particular philosophy or view point on people. He did some good work in India but his claims at godhood in conjunction with magic tricks billed as miracles really put him in bad light. India is a land of god-men and I have no doubt another con-man will jump up to fill that void. I guess if their actions and foundations help people this is a fraud that can be marginally accepted. Finally, I think Christianity lost a lot of spiritualism first with the death of Jesus himself (assuming that he existed) and two with the death of plurality of early christian thought. The spiritualism in most modern christianity isn't spiritualism it is imposition of morality and social structure. The mysticism and the attempt at gnosis of the Gnostics and other early christians would have been a wonderful addition to modern Christianity and maybe it would have allowed it to become a faith that more closely aligned with the spiritual ideas that Christ put forth. Next time, I want to discuss the Tea Party movement. Thanks for stopping by.