Friday, October 22, 2004

Who? What?

So I am in Singapore now. Three things that have either left me scratchin my head, laughing or both:

1. The American TV show - American Idol has spawned a mirade of syndicated copies around the world. Now India has Indian Idol. Who was the idiot who didn't change the name??? The concept, the idea, the semantic of 'idol' in India is so totally different from that in the west. In a land of millions of idols you'd think they would have the sense to change the name.

2. I was under the impression that throw away plates were designed so you didn't have to wash the real deal. Now in Singapore I have discovered plastic plates made to look like throw away plates. Hmmmm ... imitation throw away plates that you have to wash. I can see that making it big at the Hilton.

3. man I wish I could remember what number 3 was. When I remember I'll write it down...


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Whose authority do we bow to?

My thought today were in part in response to a BBC World Click Online slot where people were responding to an earlier program on freedom of speech on the internet. And also a reflection on a piece by Pastor Ray McCollum which I will include at the end of this post.

The Click Online narrator asked the question whether, if we are going to regulate what is available online, who or to what authority do we allow to police this and more to the point, who will determine what is acceptable and what is not. Obviously each government is going to have individual ideas on what is acceptable and in good taste and what is not. Iran will differ from the USA, and China from South Africa. So who do we allow to be the authority on our beloved www?

The idea of free speech also came up on the BBC website as it considered whether the posting of the gruesome beheadings of the foreign hostages in Iraq should be allowed or not. Also who would view these murders. I liked one post which in essence claimed that it only takes one viewing to understand the totally depravity of these people. One viewing to understand the palpable fear that grips the victim. One hearing of screams to understand the horrific pain. But the second viewing is merely entertainment. I agree. I saw one, It was enough. I do not need to see any more.

These people were around long before the USA invaded Iraq. The methods were in use by these same people, but not given the coverage until western foreigners became the victims. For people to claim that this is a direct consequence of the war in Iraq should view one of these gruesome video clips, take a history lesson or two, and maybe leave their own country for a year or two and live in a country whose basic societal structure has not been founded on Christian principles.

But my thoughts today are not about free speech. It is about who is our authority, or more correctly who do we allow to be our authority. One of the great things about living in India is to see states like Bihar which demonstrate that there is a very very fine line between democracy and anarchy. In the west we want to live in a society that has laws and is regulated but only to a degree. We don't want these rules to impede our personal freedoms. And often the people who commit crime, do so knowing that it is illegal but do it because it is expedient for them. This reminds me of many of my Muslim friends in Lucknow who would not consider something a sin unless they were caught. (Sins against God were different - they ones they were talking about were sins against others.) Teenagers often push the boundaries of legality because of the prestige it brings among peers. Even generally law abiding citizens will break what they consider innocuous laws (how many people do you know who speed?) This of course can also be seen in the form of the USA foreign policy. It has been stated by Bush that he will always act in the interest of the USA. If that means dropping an atom bomb (think Hiroshima), then so be it. If it means invading Iraq in what is generally acknowledged to be an illegal war, then so be it. I once read that laws in some parts of the world are considered suggestions more than imperatives.

In the Old Testament of the Bible there is recorded a time where judges ruled Israel. And towards the end of that time it is written that, "every man did what was right in his own eyes." Hmmmm ... how dissimilar is this to what we see around us today? Let me close today with the article from Pastor Ray. It is part 3 of a series of his called "7 Principles of Spiritual Authority." Check out his website at


In the first three studies in this series, we laid the foundational understanding of the various levels and dimensions of authority. We saw how they relate to each other. Now we can draw some practical conclusions about spiritual authority as it relates to the Christian and the local church.

1. Never obey any authority that grieves the Holy Spirit, contradicts the Word of God, or violates your personal conscience.

Some parents tell their children to shoplift. Some bosses ask their employees to lie. Some husbands demand behavior from their wives that violates their conscience. Some church members are expected to submit to Pastors or Leaders in matters about which they (the members) have no peace. Do parents, bosses, husbands and Pastors represent authority in our lives? Yes! Are we to submit to them? Yes! But does that submission transcend the "higher powers" God has put in our lives? No!

2. Obedience is behavioral; Submission is an attitude. So submission does not always imply obedience.

I can refuse to obey and still be submissive. If my employer instructs me to do something that violates the Word of God and my personal conscience, I can refuse to obey and still maintain a submissive attitude. Being a submissive wife doesn't mean obeying every whim a husband may put forth. I have been asked to do things by my spiritual authority that gave me no peace. I respectfully decline. That is not being rebellious!

3. All submission to spiritual authority in the Kingdom of God is voluntary.

Legitimate spiritual authority understands that submission can never be extracted or enforced upon someone else. When children are growing up, parents have the right to demand respect and obedience from their children. Bosses can require certain procedures, dress codes or conduct on pain of severance of employment. Civil authority "bears the sword" (Romans 13:4) of law enforcement. Refuse to obey and they can put you in jail or even shoot you.

But it is not so with spiritual authority!

The moment someone "UN-volunteers" to submit to spiritual authority, the game is over. The only right I have in the lives of our church members is that which they choose to give me. And that varies from person to person. Some folks trust me with their lives. I have to watch what I say to them or they might risk life and limb to get something for me. Others simply come to church each week and listen to my sermons. The greatest honor one can give me is, "Just tell me what you want me to do." And I better be careful how I handle that! In the next Good News, we'll show you why this is always the case.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

India as the next superpower

This posting is in response to an email I received in response to my first blog posting. I'll post his email first and my response second.

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hi THEByleDuct,
nice thoughts ....
here's a message from one to another ....
tell me what you think ...
by James Boric

Tomorrow, I will catch a plane to London and then fly
straight on to Bombay.

For nine days, I will be meeting with some of the most
powerful businessmen in all of India. I want to confirm my
suspicion that, over the next 15 years, India will emerge
as the next Asian Superpower.

On paper it seems like a no-brainer.

With a population over 1 billion, a huge growing, well-
educated middle class, a stronger stock market, an
improving education system and a democratic government, the
foundation is set for some serious growth. Now I want to
see it for myself. And I couldn't have planned a better
time to visit this rapidly growing Asian country - from
both a financial and a political perspective.

Let's start with a little politics.

If you have been following the news at all in the past
three weeks, you must have heard something about the recent
Indian elections. What a fiasco.

In a major upset, India's Congress party (led by Italian-
born Sonia Gandhi) defeated the incumbent Bharatiya Janata
Party - which is credited for drastically improving India's
financial and economic situation. This shocked the
financial community.

Foreign money managers immediately pulled millions of
dollars out of the Indian market. They feared the new
government (the Congress Party and its leftist alliances)
would oppose the privatization of major Indian businesses -
- effectively ending much of the economic progress made in
the past and putting a damper on economic growth in the
future. As a result...

The Sensex (the major Indian stock index) fell as much as
17%. Trading had to be stopped several times during the day
on May 17. And when it was all said and done with, the
index ended the day down 11%. It was the single biggest
drop in India's history.

It was all doom and gloom - until a sudden announcement was

Sonia Ghandi declined the opportunity to serve as India's
prime minister. Instead she (and the Congress party)
appointed Manmohan Singh - India's former finance minister
- to take the helm. He accepted. And the market rebounded.
After all, the financial world in India loves Singh.

Singh was one of the central figures in modernizing the
Indian economy in the last 15 years - lobbying for state-
run businesses to privatize, improving India's central bank
situation, opening the country up for foreign investment
and encouraging free trade with outside countries. And with
him leading the new Indian government, I expect the economy
will continue to grow.

It seems the financial world agrees with me.

Since May 22 (the day Singh was officially appointed
India's new prime minister), the Sensex has recouped almost
all its losses - a good sign for investors. And although
you can count on the market to be bumpy in the short term,
the long-term prospects remain very bullish for India. In
fact, Goldman Sachs is predicting India's economy will
overtake the UK's by 2035, and by 2050 it will be the
third-largest economy in the world - behind only the United
States and China.

We'll see if they are right. But the foundation is laid for
rapid growth in India.

For the first time ever, India is no longer a debtor
country. It has forex reserves in excess of $116 billion.
It expects to double its college graduates in the next six
years. Its currency has been upgraded to "investment grade"
by Moody's, for the first time ever. Major Western
companies like Microsoft, IBM and GE are all opening
offices in India's main cities. And technology (phones,
computers and Internet access) is starting to make its way
into India's towns.

This is an exciting time for India - and for long-term
investors willing to put money in Indian stocks. And when
India does emerge into a legitimate superpower (eventually
growing into the third-largest economy in the world), I
expect a surge in one industry in particular...

When a country emerges from Third World to superpower, one
of the first industries to rise is telecom. And the boom is
already taking place in India...

- The number of cellular subscribers has just about doubled
every year since 1999 - rising from 1.6 million to 10.5
million now.

- The number of phone lines has increased fivefold since

- Internet connections have skyrocketed from 1.04 million
in 2000 to 4 million in 2003

- 84% of all Indian towns are wired for phones and Internet
access. Yet only five of every 100 people have them. In
other words, the room for growth is enormous.

Couple that with the fact that India has now opened the
telecom industry up to competition, and the stage is set
for explosive growth in the future.

Of course, there are no guarantees you will make money -
especially in the short term. Anytime you own stock in an
emerging country like India, you have to be prepared to
lose. But the rewards if you are right can be huge. In

The best-performing foreign markets ALWAYS beat out the
U.S. markets - ALWAYS. For instance...�

In 1987 Japan's market rose 43.2% compared to the United
States' 3.91% rise. In 1989, Austrian investors could have
made 104.8% profits. U.S. investors only made 31%. And in
1998, Finland's market rose 122.6%. Again, the mighty
United States lagged behind - only rising 31.72%.

And if you want a more recent example, look at China. The
USX China Index rose 104% last year. That's impressive. The
Dow Jones only rose 25%. And I believe you will have the
same kind of opportunity with India in the next few years -
that's why I'm headed there now.

I will be staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay for nine
days. During my time there I am penciled in to meet with
several of the top executives in the country - including
people from Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, HDFC Bank, ABN AMRO
Bank and ASK Raymond James.

I will also be meeting up with wily traveler Dan Denning -
who has already been in Asia for the last three weeks.
Together, I expect we will cover a lot of ground, meet a
ton of great people and have some fun in the process.

Of course, I will let you know what I discover. I will
write to you from Bombay, and you can expect to read about
my adventures in The Daily Reckoning.


James Boric
for The Daily Reckoning

Editor's Note: James Boric is editor of the small cap
advisory letter Penny Stock Fortunes, where he looks for
great companies at penny stock prices. James also writes a
weekly e-mail called the CXS Alert.

James is the most hardworking, knowledgeable Small-cap
analyst in the business... and his track record reflects
this! James has just flown to India to sniff out more great
companies. Be sure to hear what he has to say.


I think there is a certain naivety in his assessment and rationale although I do agree with his conclusions. To call the Indian election a fiasco and a shock is in fact ridiculing democracy. The people spoke. He, along with most western commentators, presumed that (as is the case with western democracies) that governments presiding over strong economies do not get voted out. He showed his lack of understanding of the Indian situation by forgetting 4 major issues:

1. The then government was originally elected on a right wing Hindu fundamentalist platform which they then abandoned in the recent election preferring to campaign instead on their economic performance. They subsequently lost their grass roots support.

2. The former government was a coalition (as is the current govt) made up of convenience (ousting the previous govt) rather than of ideological agreement. This led to continuous friction and infighting which the electorate took note of.

3. Indian politics consists primarily of 2 major parties (Congress - secular & BJP - Hindu fundamentalist). The rest who hold the balance of power are regional & caste based. They do not campaign on national issues but on regional interests. Thus coalitions in government are not necessarily reelected on issues that are of national importance but on what is expedient to placate regional tensions.

4. But the biggest misjudgement of this article is the overestimation of the effect of a strong economy on Indian society as a whole. The upswing has certainly improved the lives of many people, but the majority of Indians still are not middle or upper class. They are rural villagers or urban slum dwellers. They can see the impact of the upswing around them (fashion, increase in cars, increase in costs, etc) but they have not experienced it. They are the majority voters.

Two major hindrances exist to India's becoming a superpower - karma (and all the caste rubbish & fatalism that goes with it) and a lack of excellence. What most of the world doesn't realise is that India is already a superpower. Just not in the sense that the west wants to measure it. Look at the reality:

* India is not only the worlds largest democracy but also the worlds largest *successful* democracy. The worlds so called "premiere democracy" - the USA - not only struggled to run a successful election last time around but also can elect the worlds most powerful politician with less than 30% of the total eligible vote in his favour (check Clintons 2nd election figures)

* When India conducted the nuclear tests in 1998, it managed to do it without any country realising what they were doing until after the event. They have kept themselves out of the IAEA and have not signed the non-proliferation treaty.

* The country with the largest English speaking population (English being the recognised global language) is India while the most populous USA state, California, has more Spanish speakers than English. An addition to this is the worlds largest circulated English newspaper is published in India.

* India produces more than 2 1/2 million graduates annually. This does not include those Indians studying overseas.

* Indians are the worlds 2nd largest diaspora after the Chinese (I would argue 3rd with the British 1st)

* Some of the worlds richest men are Indian - Premji Aziz the chairman of Wipro for example

The west equates superpower with strength militarily and economically. I have an article showing that earlier this year the USA held, at the time, secret 'war games' exercises with the Indian airforce. The purpose of this was to test the top USA fighters against the current crop of Russian built fighters. On EVERY OCCASION the Indian pilots out fought, out maneuvered and out classed their USA top gun opponents. As an economy India's strength lies not in it's overall purchasing power but in it's sheer size and ability to be self sufficient if isolated, something most western economies are unable to do (with the exception of Australia.) I have often said that if you could find a single product that every Indian needed at least once a month and you could sell it for only one rupee per piece you would be a very very rich man. One billion rupees every month means even with only 10% profit you would be making close to 1/4 million US$ every month.

Anyhow - yes I agree India will soon become a world superpower even publicly by the means of assessment that is accepted in the West. I also would like to meet these men the other James met.


And so we begin

This is the first attempt to put some recent thoughts down on page. This is an ongoing thought process but I am at the stage where I need some feedback. Actually there are 2 ideas here that have begun to merge so bear with me if this is a little all over the place.

The 2 thoughts began as a response to the war in Iraq as I looked into my motives for opposing it. What drove me to oppose the conflict?
- Was it my Christian faith?
- Was it my Australian sense of fair play - the USA is a super power and Iraq a little country what's fair about this fight?
- Was it a fear of the USA taking over the world - or at least acting as if it could if it wanted to?
- Was it a sense of outrage and helplessness that the USA was arrogantly defying the rest of the world and we couldn't do anything about it?
- Or was it simply that I was reacting in the manner that the worlds secular press wanted me to react as they portrayed the conflict according to their editors wishes?

I started to wonder - not why should I oppose the war but why shouldn't I support a Christian leader, IF his policies are not in conflict with the scripture. Now I should make one thing very clear here - I was not thinking and am not advocating the mindless, uncritical following of any person. That would be cultish. My first question was more along the lines of, and bear with me here:

If a Christian political leader has a policy that I disagree with, but is not defying or denying scripture should I oppose this? What if the alternative view has it's basis firmly in humanistic philosophy rather than in scripture? Which do I support?

If we consider the war in Iraq the evidence from intelligence that the leaders of the USA, Britain, Australia and a few others saw was obviously fairly compelling. Compelling enough that it would probably have passed a 2nd resolution in the UN authorising limited engagement al beit in a diluted form from that which the USA wanted. That the intelligence has since shown to be flawed is another story because I am looking at the decisions made based on the evidence available at the time. The evidence was obviously compelling enough that members on both sides of parliament in these countries authorised involvement despite overwhelming public opinion being against war. At least 2 of the leaders in this group are active practising Christians, Bush and Howard. These are men who, if you read their biographies, take their faith very seriously. They would not have made decisions without having taken it to God first.

Now consider that arguments against going to war. Without having access to the "sensitive intelligence" what did the worlds media and their "experts" base their opposition upon? Obviously there were snippets of information from experts who had been in Iraq previously. There was work of the weapons inspectors who found nothing but admitted they were often being led on wild goose chases and playing a game of cat and mouse with the Iraqi authorities. But there was also a very definite humanistic agenda being pursued by the worlds media.

History shows us that world order is established through the domination of one or more countries by another. War was used to establish territorial boundaries and bring peoples into submission. Often it is external but sometimes internal elements are used by external forces to achieve the same end (proxy wars). It is an ongoing method in many parts of the world. recently (or ongoing) in Africa - Rawanda, Dem.Rep. of Congo, Sierra Leone, Angola, Sudan, etc ... In Europe - throughout the Balkans (Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, etc.) In the west Asia - Israel, Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, etc. In south Asia - India & Pakistan involved over Kashmir, insurgency in other parts of India, the Maoist movement in Nepal, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. In east Asia - the islands in the South China Sea, Tibet, Vietnam, Cambodia. The list can go on (Fiji, Colombia, Haiti, etc...) The USA in particular is partial to the proxy war senario as has been seen in Haiti and at various times throughout the cold war (Afghanistan, various place in Africa, ...) But we should learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

These days we have names for these situations. We call it ethnic cleansing and talk about communal tensions. We talk about human rights and democracy (whatever form that takes - USA, Singaporean, Westminster???) But where have our current understanding of these terms arisen from? Who decides what is a human right? Many of the stories we find in the Bible are gross violations of human rights. They demonstrate ethnic cleansing, often brutal, and usually commanded by God. Democracy is not even mentioned. People talk about Jesus being a pacifist and yet he caused huge upheaval and was obviously considered a big enough threat to the status quo have him killed. The following centuries as Christendom expanded was marked by both horrific persecution of the Christians and also uprising against the Roman authorities. Historians talk of only 2 sects of Judaism surviving the putting down of the Jews after the final uprising - one of these was the Christians.

And here is where my other line of thought merges in. I started wondering whether the emphasis on a "personal faith" that came about since the reformation has led to us no longer understanding the role of the body of Christ in the world. As the west has embraced humanistic philosophy it has also spawned the concepts of human rights and the rights of the individual. Subtly we have embraced this within the church as well. Again I am not saying that human rights are wrong and the rights of the individual are wrong. Not at all. But God is clear throughout the Bible that what he does, what he lets happen has nothing to do with human rights. It has nothing to do with whether we think it is fair or not. It has everything to do with God's rights and his justice. God often talks about dealing "for my name's sake." It is his name that is being defended. It is his justice that is being fulfilled. Yes God cares for the nations and different ethnicities - he created them (think Tower of Babel) after all. But he deals with them on a global scale according to his rights.

So what role does the church have in the world today? One of the mistakes of the Israelites is that they failed to destroy the high places as they entered lands. This then led to idolatry. These days the church in the west again puts this in an individualistic context - idolatry means money, fame, position, etc. But put it in a global context and we see that the groups that are fulfilling this command to destroy the high places are more often than not Islamic no Christian!! The Taliban destroyed the huge statues of Buddha in Afghanistan to the outrage of the world's humanistic masses. What about the great colonisers the British? How might India be different today if the Christian British destroyed the idols and temples they found in India? Idle speculation, yes, but I am prompting thoughts in my mind regarding the church of today. We focus on the individual at the expense of global issues. We object to Christian political leaders doing the same thing God commanded his people in the old testament to do. Which brings me back to my original question. If a Christian political leader has a policy that I disagree with, but is not defying or denying scripture should I oppose this?

Well I am sorry this is a long series of thoughts. But like I said the time had come to try and articulate some of the thoughts and get some feedback on whether I am way off the planet or at least half way there.

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