Sunday, July 31, 2005

Song And Memory

For all his much-professed contempt for Bollywood, whenever this NRI blogger pines to be in an India state of mind, he reluctantly falls back on the songs he heard on Vividh Bharati growing up.

It isn't Indian food or Indian Express or even all the awesome Indian blogs he reads daily but Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, and sometime Asha ji, who transports his mind back home!!

This is not fair -- evil Bollywood has infected even the idyllic memory of our homeland. Darn!!!

Cheapening Lives To Reduce Their Cost

This past week has been one of multiple Indian calamities.

Hundreds lie dead of cloudburst; tens of thousands more stand marooned from their already wretched lives. Offshore, three hundred hard-toiling oilmen, digging wealth out from under the sea, found themselves facing death. Even the privileged found little respite from nature's wrath & --paraphrasing our favorite songwriter, Leonard Cohen -- the widowhood of our government.

Still, our desensitized lives went on undisturbed. Some even asked what was special about Mumbai's sorrow?

While such cynicism is without doubt unseemly, there's a perverse point here somewhere. Afterall, don't multitudes die perennially in cloudbursts & famishment, accidents & gunfire, dirty water & dirtier syringes, botched abortions & dowry fires, Kalahandi & Kashmir, tsunami & terrorism, and God only knows how many other hellfires in this our India? On this continent-sized canvas of Indian horror, Mumbai's sorrow were, alas, really nothing new.

Bad things happen everywhere; what's remarkable is that, in India, people die in bunches and suffer obscenely when bad things happen. This should bother us a lot; it rarely does.

The reason it doesn't is because we all understand that, given our limited resources, our culture takes shortcuts in all things; we have become such experts in cutting corners & trimming costs that those who don't are mocked. If we were to plan our lives the right way with due consideration for human safety and quality-of-life (that is really tested in extreme circumstances such as what's unfolding in Mumbai), we'd simply not be able to afford all the things we want in our lives. In effect, our culture trades-off a certain quantum and quality of human lives in return for our being able to go on with our (consequently endangered) lives -- we cheapen our lives so as to reduce their cost.

Let's stipulate also that we're all sufficiently cynical that none of this bothers us very much -- except when the sewers flow back into our own neat little make-believe sanctuaries. If the reader isn't grossed out by this mystifying chalta-hai attitude, there's an interesting question that emerges from this that he/she might wish to consider.

How does anyone know that the horrors we witness everyday are consistent with the trade-offs we signed up to? This is to say if, in a perfect world, no one were to die from a cloudburst such as we witnessed last week, what should our expectation be given the trade-offs we've presumably signed up to? Is it 500 or is it 1000? Is there any benchmark for the wretchedness we've presumably accepted in the trade-off?

This is not an academic question. Consider this for instance. It's relatively easy to judge the performance of a government, corporation, and individual in places (like America) where (generally speaking) no such trade-offs are in place. There exist quantifiable metrics on people's expectations for all manner of services and things that constitute life. There is a well-developed tort system that imposes heavy cost on those who fail their performance metrics -- thus, a strong economic discipline keeps everyone in line. There's no way to take short-cuts because, in the long run, people who consequently get hurt end up extracting significantly more punitive damages than the accrued cost if the short-cut had not been taken.

In contrast a culture like ours, which trades-off human safety for cost, has no benchmarks whatsoever to calibrate our expectations apriori (because our metrics were compromised when someone, somewhere elected to cut corners without telling the rest of us what corners they cut) and there is no meaningful ex post facto remedy mechanism where civil and/or criminal burdens can be levied on whoever is shown responsible for the short-cut.

So, because we don't know if it was 500 people expected to die of the cloudburst given the (predictable) structural conditions they were in -- in which case someone should be made to pay since over 800 actually died -- or was it 3000 people expected to die -- in which case someone should be given a medal -- we read news accounts, blog about them, then move on. Everyone who's responsible for the unfathomable and unmeasured horror has a get-out-of-jail-free card because the rest of us are all in the dark.

Is there a solution? Well, for one, if we had a robust tort system, it'd be a good start. Maybe we can't avert dying in bunches but we can impose really harsh cost on whoever is responsible. This will surely increase the cost of our lives but it will enhance their value as well.

Perhaps Mumbai will take a lead in this. We hope the people of the city will sue for serious damage and extract a precedent-setting punitive award from the government. Sure, it isn't all the government's fault, but they are at least partly to blame and we know their address. So, Mumbai, how about serving your government a tsunami of summons? Don't settle for the pathetic compensation packages they will offer. Beat them in court and show India a new way of doing things.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen

Another Wall Of Worry

Via Washington Post, World Not Set To Deal With Flu.

Is India?

Choosing One's Enemies

General Musharraf, for all his much-vaunted commando-style tactical skills, is not at all smart in who he chooses as his enemies.

Why else would he alienate this columnist with a really powerful soapbox?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Puzzling Attitude

Gaurav Sabnis is puzzled by the attitude of some Indians, and why not?

Shouldn't all Indians stand in awe of the happenin' citizens of Mumbai who've taken a few on the chin this week but still stood their ground? Too bad this is apparently not the case.

NRI Voting Rights

Via Rediff, NRIs may get voting rights. [NRI here means those who hold the Indian passport.]

This is great news, one we've long championed and directly lobbied for. Kudos to the Government.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Water And Fire

Photo courtesy: NDTV
This blogger, once an oilfield engineer himself, mourns bitterly our brave oilmen lost today. T S Eliot's eternally brilliant poem Little Gidding comes to mind:
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
This is the death of water and fire.

Water Water Everywhere

Photo courtesy: Midday News
Also read: Streets like rivers at India Uncut.
We wish Mumbai the very best in wading through this deluge.

Whither ARF?

Stratfor has the following to say on the suddenly unpopular ARF:

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will not attend the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Laos on July 29. Li follows U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh in pulling out of this year's ARF. As ASEAN pushes toward the creation of the East Asia Summit, the limits and redundancies of its other regional initiatives are growing more apparent.

A Really Cool Car

The Gurgaon Riots

Nitin correctly suggests that these horrific riots should be a trigger for broad labor reform.

Our concern, however, is with the conduct of the police. After much reflection, we believe the police has much to answer for. There's no excuse whatsoever for police lapses in professionalism, even in circumstances of extreme provocation (as they existed here). Society gives police the right to wield guns & batons; in exchange, we expect at least a minimum standard of professional conduct. Police losing their cool hardly meets this expectation.

There's, thus, a sound basis here for legislative challenges to the governing party in Haryana.

But, beyond all this lies a greater question. Why are police in India frequently so unprofessional and brutal in their tactics?

The answer, regretfully, lies with we, the people. We've rarely made good policing an issue in our elections.

In early 2004, this blogger had a chance to discuss manifesto issues with a leading parliamentarian assigned the task by his party. We noted that more Indians are victims of violence outside Kashmir everyday than are victims of terrorism there. Yet, India spends a ton more defending Kashmir than defending Indians elsewhere in the country.

This is not to say we disfavor the Kashmir investment. As our readers know, we have a very hardline position on that subject. But, we are also interested in what goes on elsewhere in India. Here, good people are terrified of criminals and, even worse, terrified of the police. This is absurd.

Now, this state of affairs is a natural consequence of our failure to invest in the police. Our police are deprived of resources, technology, training, moral support, political independence, and social respect. Is it any wonder the police are as brutal as they are?

Therefore, we gamely argued, law-and-order should be made a campaign issue with substantial new investments in upgrading our police infrastructure being the core proposal. Needless to say, we were ignored. As Gurgaon has abundantly made clear, India needs to reverse this famine if we are to avert future Gurgaons.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Drunk On Art

Via BBC, £42,500 bottle of water snatched!!!

American-born artist Wayne Hill said the bottle was clearly a work of art.

He said: "It looked like an ordinary bottle of water. But it was on a plinth, labelled, described and in the programme of the whole festival."

The piece, entitled Weapon of Mass Destruction, vanished half way through the festival. Mr Hill fears the bottle was taken and then drunk.

"It was there and then it was gone," he said.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Want To Scream?

Via Drudge Report, 700 injured in clash between Honda workers and police in India.

Via India Uncut, Barbarism at the gate.

Want To Laugh?

Via BBC, Al-Qaeda 'destroyed in Pakistan' says General Musharraf!!!

Asra Nomani

Last night, Book TV had Akbar Ahmed interviewing Asra Nomani.

Dr. Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. Ms. Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is the Indian-American author of Standing Alone in Mecca.

The brave Ms. Nomani has created waves by her entirely valid demand that she, and fellow Muslim women, be treated at par with men at her Morgantown mosque. For this straightforward demand, she now faces excommunication from the mosque founded by her own father!

Dr. Ahmed is a polite man, and Ms. Nomani very courteous, but the interview was quite disturbing. In the course of the interview, the moderate Dr. Ahmed dismissed any talk of Islamic reform (since Muslims have been given God's final word by His Messenger). He prefers the word renaissance, instead. Fair enough. But, given the challenges facing moderate Islam, this kind of hair-splitting over words is staggering. Why is Dr. Ahmed (who young people look up to) wasting time on precise definitions of next steps when he should be emphasizing the obvious direction the Ummah needs to move in?

Dr. Ahmed also -- gently & indirectly -- chided Ms. Nomani for her tactics which have brought unwelcome media attention to her community.

His recommendation to her was to find a way to handle her concerns within the community. He suggested that mosques are democratic institutions where even the Imam is elected; so, Ms. Nomani might be better served trying that democratic process to seek equality at her own mosque!

Frankly, it is her community that ought to be ashamed that, living in America, it still holds on to antediluvian inequality of women. Powerful Muslim voices like Ms. Nomani do not need to submit to their community's anti-reform leadership. It is the community that needs to adapt to 21st century American Muslim modernity represented by the brave people like Ms. Nomani. Why is it even acceptable that there's a chance she can be excommunicated simply for asking to be equal? If all Muslims are equal (as she proudly notes) in Mecca, why not then in Morgantown? Why isn't Dr. Ahmed dispensing his erudition to the neanderthals there?

We had long looked up to Dr. Ahmed. After this interview, regretfully, he's fallen quite a few notches in our esteem.

Another Police Disgrace

Via BBC, Inmate's 50 years without trial.

If there were justice in our world, someone should have to pay a heavy price for this colossal injustice. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen in our India.

Two Poems From Bengal

This weekend, we read Roger Depue's book Between Good and Evil. Mr. Depue, founder & retired leader of FBI's famed Behavioral Science Unit, has seen much evil in his life and his book is a meditation on its very nature. [Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs, was guided by Mr. Depue as he constructed Hannibal Lector.]

At the end of his book, Mr. Depue cites Tagore to celebrate the marvelous wonder that is ordinary human existence:

When I think of this end of my moments
The barrier of the moment breaks
And I see by the light of death
Your world with its careless treasures.

This weekend, a Sri Lankan friend wrote us the following Ramprasad poem:

Mother! My boat is sinking, here in the ocean of this world;
Fiercely the hurricane of delusion rages on every side!
Clumsy is my helmsman, the mind; stubborn my six oarsmen, the passions!
Into a pitiless wind
I sailed my boat, and now it is sinking.
Split is the rudder of devotion; tattered is the sail of faith;
Into my boat the waters are pouring! Tell me what shall I do?
For with my failing eyes, alas! nothing but darkness do I see.
Here in the waves I will swim,
Oh mother, and cling to the raft of Thy Name.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Via Washington Post, Mona Eltahawy's brave & wise column After London, Tough Questions for Muslims. After posing her tough questions, she concludes:

I raise these questions because London might have done it for me, but I'm not done with Islam. The clerics and the terrorists will not take it away from me. God belongs to me, too.



Here is an excerpt from a discussion on Pakistan's future among our friends. We thought we'd post our views here.

We're not very sanguine about the (Indo-Pak) peace process ; the strong Pakistani military -- with a soothing, anglophone General at helm -- keeps the civilized world from dealing with the monster that Pakistan is, because it's much too tempting to buy the mirage these dictators have to sell.

Given this, we (meaning the civilized, democratic world) might actually be better off absent Musharraf (or another similar General), because then we would have no lazy excuse to evade our responsibility of emaciating the Pakistani monster -- a bellicose terror state, a nuclear proliferator, a modern day colonialist (witness the fate of Afghanistan & PoK), and a proselytizer of radical jihad some of whose global children "secure" their futures through suicide bombings (ours, in contrast, build global supply chains).

This does not need Iraq-style military action. All it needs is a weaker Pakistani military, which will then allow the inherent contradictions of that artificial state to manifest themselves (admittedly, India, too has some of the same contradictions, but our pluralist democracy & sustainable economic growth are great glues; Pakistan has none of this). Baluchistan is in near-revolt (again!), Pashtuns are kin to their siblings across the Durand line (whose shelf life has now expired!), and Sindh is being starved of water by its Punjabi cousins; then there's also the Mohajir issue (Altaf Hussain having already said the partition was a blunder!). Paraphrasing T S Eliot: Pakistan is like dead water & dead sand, contending for the upper hand!!!

Our task (i.e. of the civilized world) is to deploy our resources to contain this necessary conflict, so that it burns on a manageable fuse, but it burns alright (kinda' like a controlled burn for forest fires). In the end, hopefully, we'll have 3-4 smaller & more pliable states -- where we can, via persuasion or imposition, require modernity & democracy.

Nuclear India

Joseph Cirincione was on the terrific C-SPAN this morning discussing the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

He is an able advocate for non-proliferation, hence opposed the agreement. No surprise there. The key point he made was that there's always a conflict between those who focus on state-to-state diplomacy and those (like him) who focus on functional diplomacy (e.g., non-proliferation). In case of India, the former appear to have the upper hand.

The most important part of the discussion were the viewer calls. Of all the viewers who called in, only one (a Pakistani-Canadian) opposed the Indo-US agreement. One viewer was confused why the controversy existed given that India is already a nuclear power. Another thought that India is a key ally in the war against Islamist terrorism. Yet another felt that India is key to containing China.

This pro-India reaction of the American people is a very welcome development. They are wisely reciprocating India's own warmth for Americans. Also, because this warmth is not limited to the elites in Washington & Delhi, it has all the signs of strengthening over time.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Indian Samurai

Newsweek buzzes about Asif Kapadia's debut film The Warrior.

Friday, July 22, 2005


In National Review Online, the military historian Victor Davis Hanson argues that to counter terrorism it is time to relearn the lessons of the cold war.

We are generally aligned with Dr. Hanson's thinking and this essay too is generally sensible, although not particularly original. What caught our eye is this odd conclusion Dr. Hanson has drawn:

Meanwhile an odd thing happened. It turns out that the jihadists were cowards and bullies, and thus selective in their targets of hatred. A billion Chinese were left alone by radical Islam — even though the Chinese were secularists and mostly godless, as well as ruthless to their own Uighur Muslim minorities. Had bin Laden issued a fatwa against Beijing and slammed an airliner into a skyscraper in Shanghai, there is no telling what a nuclear China might have done.

India too got mostly a pass, other than the occasional murdering by Pakistani zealots. Yet India makes no effort to apologize to Muslims. When extremists occasionally riot and kill, they usually cease quickly before the response of a much more unpredictable angry populace.

So far global jihad avoids two billion Indians and Chinese, despite the fact that their countries are far tougher on Muslims than is the United States or Europe. In other words, the Islamicists target those whom they think they can intimidate and blackmail.

Holy mother of God! Does Dr. Hanson seriously thinks India has been given a pass on terrorism? He should read US State Department reports on the subject. But even worse, he thinks India has escaped catastrophic terror because, in effect, of the deterrence value of things like the horrible Gujarat retaliation of 2002. We are stunned that such blots on India can now be cited as examples of what may be an effective strategy to counter terrorism.

This blog has taken a very hardline posture on terror, perhaps even more so than Dr. Hanson, but we cannot agree with his spectacularly off-base characterization of India's experience with terrorism. That a scholar such as he can lapse into such careless thinking is, alas, a sign of frayed nerves in the West -- this is not a good sign if we are to win this war on terror.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Indian Art

Via Christian Science Monitor, Contemporary Indian art gains stature on a global canvas.

Silence Of A Blogger

Why has Reformist Muslim (a London-based blogger) not blogged since 7/7?

Sensible voices like RM's are much needed at this time of grave peril.


Via Opinion Journal, neoconservative Charles Krauthammer reflects on the triumph and maturing of the neoconservative revolution. This is a very insightful essay. A must read.

One choice excerpt:

Another important sign of the maturing of neoconservative foreign policy is that it is no longer tethered to its own ideological history and paternity. The current practitioners of neoconservative foreign policy are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld. They have no history in the movement, and before 9/11 had little affinity to or affiliation with it.

The fathers of neoconservatism are former liberals or leftists. Today, its chief proponents, to judge by their history, are former realists. Ms. Rice, for example, was a disciple of Brent Scowcroft; Mr. Cheney served as secretary of defense in the first Bush administration. September 11 changed all of that. It changed the world, and changed our understanding of the world. As neoconservatism seemed to offer the most plausible explanation of the new reality and the most compelling and active response to it, many realists were brought to acknowledge the poverty of realism--not just the futility but the danger of a foreign policy centered on the illusion of stability and equilibrium. These realists, newly mugged by reality, have given weight to neoconservatism, making it more diverse and, given the newcomers' past experience, more mature.

A Week For The History Books

It's only Thursday, yet this week has seen more portentous developments than its fair share. Just consider these headlines whose implications could ripple through our lives over decades:

Welcome to the nuclear club
US to allies: Don't make a fuss of Indo-US ties
IAEA's ElBaradei hails US-India accord on N-energy

Saudi ambassador to US Bandar bin Sultan resigns

China Severs Its Currency's Peg to Dollar

John Roberts Chosen by Bush for US Supreme Court, CNN Says

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Loony General

Via South Asia Tribune, Musharraf Asks US to Silence His US-based Critics!!

And this fella' is the frontline ally in our war against terror? Does he even know how to spell the word FREEDOM?

On Liberty

While we need to carefully think before discussing the complex edges of liberty -- e.g., euthanasia & drugs -- we can easily support Spencer Tunick's liberty to pursue what's obviously art.

Khalid Ansari's antediluvian prudery on this matter is simultaneously pathetic and amusing.

[Links courtesy: India Uncut]

Karzai And Blair

For those who missed it live yesterday, here's the transcript of an extraordinary joint press conference by President Karzai and Prime Minister Blair.

This is a must read on terrorism, especially for the root-cause crowd. Choice excerpts follow.

President Karzai: Look, I come from a country where extremists were the government, I come from a country where terrorism was ruling us, we were slaves to them before the world came and freed us. When they were in power they were killing people that only said we need a bit more freedom, they were killing people that wanted their young daughter to go to school, they were beating a man on the street, in front of his wife, in front of the public in a bazaar place, because his wife happened to have white shoes. There was no press, there was no radio, there was no television, there was no speech, they were suffocating life, and the only thing that they were doing was using Afghan infrastructure, the airports, the air bases, to train pilots and to prepare for blowing up the twin towers, and if you had not stopped them by 2001 when that incident occurred, in the three years that followed on you would have had many more of your buildings and buildings elsewhere in the world blown up by planes like that. And you would have had, out of the suffering that they were causing to the Afghan people, a human misery not seen in the history of mankind. Therefore people like that, how can they claim to kill and yet ask to speak, through our systems. Come on! I would like them to come and confront me in public, I would like to talk to them in public. They are cowards, they are ashamed, they will not come to confront you.

These guys, if they are working for a cause and if they are trying to justify that now by arguments related to Iraq or whatever, why were they killing in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, innocent children in Afghanistan?

We were the poorest of the Muslim world, we were the ones that had defeated communism and we were the best Muslims in fighting communism. Why would they go and burn the vineyard of a poor Afghan widow whose husband had died in fighting communism, the Jihad, why would they kill her, burn her orchard or spear her baby? So, there is no link to any argument that they offer, they are simply merchants of death.

Prime Minister Blair: Well they will use any issue, and before Iraq it was Afghanistan, before Iraq and Afghanistan it was the Palestinian issue, or support for the existence of Israel, not incidentally Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace because that is what we support, but support for the existence of Israel. Before all of those things it was America, just America, what it does, what it is. They will always have a reason for that, and yes they will use any issue to recruit people, they will recruit people over Iraq, they were recruited over Afghanistan, they were recruited over Palestine. But where does that argument lead you? If you are not careful you get inside their twisted logic, and the fact is what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan is utterly wrong, and what we are doing, leave aside whether you think it was right or wrong, the conflict in Iraq, leave aside that, what is happening now, today, and has been for the last two years in Iraq is a UN backed process to support Iraqi people having their democracy. Do they want it? Yes. They showed it when they came out in their millions to vote. Who is trying to stop them? The same terrorist ideology. And that is why, you know people can debate about this issue between the links and what are the superficial causes or symptoms, the fundamental causes I am afraid I think are a lot deeper and we need to address those.

And you know there is a kind of insidious way of the way that this is looked at where people say yes we entirely abhor the methods of these terrorists, but nonetheless we sort of understand what they are saying about American foreign policy, or Iraq, or Afghanistan or Palestine. No, let us be absolutely clear about this, the legitimate voice of Afghanistan is the man beside me who was elected, not al Queda or the Taliban. The legitimate voice of Iraq is the Prime Minister who was appointed after a democratic election, it is not the Jihadists who are killing innocent people in Iraq. The legitimate voice of the Palestinians is Mahmoud Abbas, the President elected by the Palestinians, it is not terrorists.

And therefore I think when people talk about the links between whether it is Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Palestine in what has happened, of course these people will use these things as an excuse, but let's be absolutely clear, if it wasn't that it would be something else, and nothing, but nothing, justifies what they are doing.

Nuclear Club

Washington Post, a very influential and generally pro-India voice in the US, weighs in on the just signed Indo-US nuclear agreement. In its sober and sophisticated editorial, A New Nuclear Era, the Post lays out the opportunities and challenges emerging from this agreement.

This editorial is a good indication of the mixed attitudes of even pro-India Americans. Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Stress Reduction

Via Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Belly fat may be body's way of coping with stress.

Via BBC, Sea view helps cut stress levels.

Does this mean then that Maximum City denizens are leaner in the gut than, say, those in India's Capital City?!

Unsound Judgment

Via NDTV, SC bans use of loudspeakers after 10 in night.

While the outcome is clearly welcome, the use of the court to achieve this is dubious. Where does India's constitution bar freedom of expression beyond 10 PM? Since it does not, the court has no authority to make this ruling out of thin air -- which is what it has done here.

Make no mistake. This is an erosion of democracy since our judiciary is not elected by the people. Some day we'll all pay for granting our judiciary such unchecked and, in our humble view, unconstitutional authority. As we've observed before, Courts Shouldn't Legislate.


We concur with Amit that there's a great deal of intersection between our notion of secular-right and libertarianism.

Both believe in limiting government to only such areas whose scale requires that it alone can do the heavy lifting. Because individual freedoms are the fundamental reality of the universe, power has legitimacy only if it flows from free choice of individuals -- and is subservient to their needs, not vice versa.

Indeed our secularism emerges from precisely this expectation of small government. We aren't secular because we deny the validity of faith, nor driven by Western motives to separate church & state. We believe in a secular state because we see no value in having (a usually inept) government meddle around in something so fundamental as people's faith. To the extent the government is best kept away from faith, there is consequently no reason to inject faith in politics (since, ideally, the politician has no power to grant favors on the basis of faith).

Having said all this, we are less sanguine about the fundamentalism of some libertarians. For example, we are perfectly happy to dilute some civil liberties (on the edges & carefully) so that terrorism and terror exhorters are snuffed out. Unyielding battles on abstract principles of civil liberties when our lives are at stake are silly. Too many libertarians lose the forest for the trees on such issues.

We also dispute the bogus denunciation of democracy by some libertarians.

Bottom line, there's sufficient common ground (a very practical standard) for secular-right and libertarian Indians to collaborate on. This is a very good thing.

Security Council

Via Rediff, India's SC bid must wait for UN reform, says Bush.

This is not a surprise, not a big deal, and should not dismay Indians. The Indo-US relationship is now a vital cog in the globalized world order -- getting this fact recognized in Washington is a real big achievement for Dr. Singh.

Just look at this headline in the conservative Economist: Welcome to the nuclear club. To which we say, very happy to be here!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Empowering Muslim Women

Via Andrew Sullivan, here are Johann Hari's interesting prescriptions for Islamic reformation: empower Muslim women & cut dependence on middle-eastern oil.

We strongly endorse the former. On the latter, we can't see any immediate way to accomplish the laudable goal --with India & China coming on-line, the demand for this oil will go up, not down. It's not clear why we have to sacrifice our prosperity for a broader Islamic reformation.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I Am Become Death, Destroyer Of Worlds

BBC reports on the 60th anniversary of the first nuclear test. Here are Robert Oppenheimer's remarks after the explosion.

[Photo courtesy: Los Alamos National Laboratory]

Yet Another Terror Apologist

The following excerpt is from a Humayun Gauhar column in the Pakistani daily, Daily Nation. That such vile nonsense finds publication in Pakistan, circa 2005, should tell us enough about the state of public discourse there.

Telltale signs of Mossad’s pernicious presence in the 9/11 attacks remain, as they do in the Turkish synagogue bombing. But they are all glossed over, and we are ridiculed for being conspiracy theorists. There is such a thing as agent provocateurs who inveigle frustrated, impressionable and not very intelligent minds into believing that they are actually Al Qaeda when they may actually be Mossad, into carrying out these attacks. There is great wisdom in some old sayings, and I leave you with one of them. Who benefits from the crime? A truthful answer to the question will lead you to the wellspring of this evil.

If the British people really want to prevent the consequences of evil from visiting them again, they should force their government to do what Spain did after the Madrid train bombing - get out of Iraq and detach their country from America’s perfidious foreign policy. It only brings harm to you. Remember you are no longer a superpower. Don’t try to be one. There is no great merit in being a superpower anyway, for superpowers have regularly blazed across the pages of history for a while and then died from their own crimes and contradictions. History bears witness to this in every single instance.

HIV In India

This morning we saw a touching HBO documentary titled Pandemic: Facing AIDS. The episode centered around Nagaraj & Bhanu, both HIV+ and awaiting the birth of their child.

The documentary's value is in putting real faces to the crisis. Kudos.

Answering A Contemptible Charge

Rezwan responded to our recent post Vinod Mehta On Terrorism with an astonishing diatribe where he accuses us ("you people") of generalizing our hatred against all the Muslims, thereby dishonoring the struggles of these (anti-radical) majority against the radicals.

He also suggests that by taking a hardline view of Islamist terror (which he denies exists, wow!), we risk letting the backlash grow, thereby placing all the browns in trouble.

The last suggestion is profoundly racist. We don't see ourselves part of any "brown ummah" requiring us to hide from the truth out of a "solidarity of fear" with the communities where recent Islamist terrorists have come from.

Rezwan's ridiculous accusation of our generalizing our hatred against all Muslims comes from our unequivocal rejection of the root-cause arguments -- which too many moderate Muslims and their liberal allies are, alas, too quick to offer. Those who accuse us of hatred should take their words back because we have rejected the root-cause logic not just in the case of Islamist terror, but also in the case of Hindutva terror (in Gujarat). As evidence we offer this January post (written upon the release of Justice Banerjee report absolving the Muslims accused of the Godhara arson which spawned the subsequent mass Muslim lynchings at Hindu hands). We wrote:

We think this obsession with cause & effect -- or better put, root cause & effect -- is wrong. In this context, even if there was perfidy by some Muslim hoodlums (a claim Justice Banerjee disputes), we still cannot find any justification for what followed. No root cause can ever justify deliberate murder of innocent human beings.

We stand by the logic of these words and they apply to all people. This root-cause rationalization for utter depravity has already gone too far. It's time to call it for what it is: a rationalization for evil.

It's one thing to debate an issue, but to accuse us of hatred is beyond the pale. How dare somebody think they can level such a disgraceful charge and not expect a harsh response? How dare they?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Vinod Mehta On Terrorism

We find ourselves frequently in opposition to Vinod Mehta's left-liberal views. This is why we were surprised by the following sensible words he has written in Outlook:

.. what one would dearly like to see is more Muslim countries and more Muslim voices unequivocally confronting bin Laden ideologically. We are constantly reminded that the overwhelming majority of Muslims find the Islam propagated by bin Laden repugnant; Islam's reputation as a strict but tolerant faith has been badly damaged by this "medieval savage". If there is a backlash against innocent Muslims in Britain, who is to blame? It is only when traditional Islam defeats this pernicious variant that Mr bin Laden can be isolated. Sadly, those moderate voices are few and far between. The argument that Al Qaeda is not a Muslim but a global problem will not wash because Mr bin Laden is not giving Christians or Hindus or Jews a bad name, but Muslims.

While on the subject, let me confess I am greatly disappointed that more Muslims in India did not speak out against the Imrana fatwa issued by the "wise men" of Deoband.

And while we are on this topic, let's please quit this annoying habit of changing the subject whenever Islamist terrorism is brought up. Other horrors attributable to non-Muslims are hardly the point. If terrorism is repugnant (as most sensible people agree), then why give it the legitimacy of any possible political justification? As long as moderate Muslims (& their naive liberal allies) keep offering up these rationalizations for Islamist terrorism -- thereby rendering their condemnations equivocal, we're afraid there's not going to be much progress at all.

Politics And Toothpaste

It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same.
T.S. Eliot

A rich discussion followed our recent post on secular-right politics. The key points were these: that Indian politics remains about identity, that retail persuasion is the only viable means of mass engagement, and that the vanguard elite model we proposed is too simplistic.

We thought we'd respond by constructing an allegory, about toothpaste!

Retail is how toothpaste is sold. It comes in red & white & blue & stripes & peppermint & clove oil & cherry & tube & pouch & bottle & every other aesthetic variation to please & reinforce a multitude of customer identities. But, lets face it, behind the glamour, all toothpaste is the same toothpaste -- a witch's brew forever, and only, changing appearance.

If one wanted to sell yet another version of essentially the same toothpaste, no doubt one'd have to sell it retail. One'd have to find a new twist to appeal to yet another combination of identities. But, we're not here for this -- been there, done that -- activity, are we?

Let's instead imagine a time before toothpaste, when all manner of inherited wisdom & quackery masquerade as dental science. Here, people practice hygiene with small branchlets or abrasive powder or just plain water -- some not doing anything at all. It's not a pretty world, we'd all agree!!

To these deprived folks with yellow teeth, merely presenting, say, Close-Up in-a-tube might blow their minds!

Why is this? Because fresh ideas can sometimes explode in our imaginations, thereby selling themselves. Heck, no one sold us Google retail, or blogging or rock 'n roll or even satyagraha. For ideas whose time has come, all one needs to do is light the fuse. Valid ideas have a momentum of their own; they resonate with everybody no matter what their past belief or identity or expectation or lack thereof. In Eliot's indelible words, the exhilaration would be the same for all at once. That's what we seek; a lesser ambition is a waste of time.

Not all ideas catch fire, obviously -- but that's creative destruction, with which we are entirely comfortable. However, if Indians are fed up of stale formulations -- our insatiable political conversations surely point to this -- it must be true that, given the right ideas, they'll take to them by the millions -- gulping fresh air amidst our charred political breeze.

The genius is in coming up with these fresh ideas, the new mousetraps, the Close-Up even before there is toothpaste.

We happen to think secular-right is one such idea. India may or may not be ready for it. If the former, the idea doesn't need retail selling; if the latter, retail selling is futile. Either way, we'll never know if we don't put it in a tube and place it in the political ether. The American neo-conservatives didn't know they'd win either. But they believed in the validity of their ideas just enough to overcome their self-doubts & intimidation -- particularly about process & party politics. Five years later, they had triumphed.

The vanguard elite model has worked for a diversity of political revolutions. One doesn't have to agree with the purpose of these revolutions to embrace their process. That is our argument. It sure beats sitting around and waiting for the proverbial Godot to show up from among our current -- highly cynical -- political system.

Therefore, we should focus on what we can do -- to develop fresh ideas on stagnant issues, new language to dispel the pervading monotony, credible & mesmerizing voices who speak without fear, and, most of all, a burning contempt for the status-quo to constantly fuel our ambition. If we are correct about the validity of our ideas, India herself will do the rest.

Last season's fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice. T.S. Eliot

Thursday, July 14, 2005

See No Evil

Main kiske haath par apna lahoo talash karoon
Tamam sheher ne pehne hue hain dastane. Mustafa Zaidi

[how to find/your bloody hands/all here/are wearing gloves]

Of all the gruesome images of 7/7, the one that really rankles is that of the sober-sounding uncle of one of the terrorists telling newspeople that his family is shattered by the revelations.

The community where these killers emerged from, thus, had seemingly no idea what was brewing in the evil minds of people they describe variously as proud, British, kind, calm, nice, respectful etc.

How is this even possible? How can a community & family not know the radical tendencies of their children? Either this implies gross negligence or willful blindness on their part. For those searching for the root causes of terrorism, this is the social failure they need to examine.

This see no evil attitude of the terrorists' families is also the perfect metaphor for the segments of Muslim societies where such killers come from. Here, killing of innocents in places like Israel and Kashmir are considered freedom fights and the imagined perfidy of Hindus, Jews, Christians, and other so-called infidels is outrageously considered settled fact by most. Here one national hero peddles nuclear nightmares and another considers it normal for his child to court that of a known terrorist. How, then, does one tell what's right and wrong in this surreal world? Consequently, over time, the entire community becomes blind to real differences between law-abiding citizens and law-breaking terrorists.

The only way to get past this darkness is for the law-abiding to re-examine their largely bogus complaints against non-Muslims. Absent this, terrorists will always be able to hide in plain sight behind the cover of rhetoric that everyone else in their community uses.

Let's also not accept lame and inadequate suggestions by terrorists' families that they are shattered. Shattered, sir, is it? It is the families of those killed by your wards who are shattered. They brought up their kids to be law-abiding and productive members of society who don't hold grudges on issues in far-away lands that really don't concern them. It is your kids who you failed to bring up well, who you failed to dissuade from getting aggravated about non-issues in distant lands, who you failed to teach respect for fellow humans, that have shattered other people's lives. Please don't seek our sympathy for your own personal failures.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Apologies For Fall-Off In Posting

This blogger is in the midst of changing his employer. This has taken up a great deal of time this week and thrown up temporary logistical issues re. posting.

We will resume at our normal level of posting as soon as humanly possible. We are chomping at the bit to respond to all your fascinating comments on our secularism post. Please bear with us.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Oh, No.

Via Drudge Report, Britain and the United States are secretly preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Update: Neo-conservatives Bill Kristol & Gary Schmitt react angrily at Donald Rumsfeld. Key quote:

The British memo notes that, while Pentagon officials favor "a relatively bold reduction," the battlefield commanders "approach is more cautious." That is one way to put it. Another would be to say that Secretary Rumsfeld is putting the president's strategic vision at risk, while those soldiering in Iraq are trying to save a policy in the face of inadequate resources.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Project For A Secular-Right India

Amit is concerned that -- given BJP's structural inability to shed the bigotry at its core -- the future for secular-right politics in India may be less than rosy.

Not surprisingly, this is a topic we've given much thought to. We'd like to make three points.

1. Amit's implied assumption, that secular-right politics can emerge only from the right and not from among the secular, is questionable. We are personally aware of senior Congressmen who are sufficiently secular-right even by our uncompromising standards. The main issue with such leaders is their untested political savvy to influence their party rightwards. Nevertheless, they should not be written off.

2. Lenin wrote about a small vanguard elite that leads ideological revolutions. In America, we have the recent example of a handful of friends -- of diverse political and professional affiliation -- coming together to lead the neo-conservative revolution. The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) has up-ended decades of stilted foreign policy thought in the U.S. We only need to ask Mr. Saddam Hussain how this has played out! If this can happen in America, there is no reason to believe it cannot in India.

We need clarity of objectives. If our objective is to re-orient India in a secular-right way, that is undoubtedly achievable without the burden of running political parties. If our objective is to capture power through the electoral process, then we should immediately abandon ideology and sign-up at the cult of whatever's-working-now. These are entirely different games.

Political parties should be viewed only as highly effective machines to raise and deploy campaign funds for elections. They are not designed to be the petridish where political ideas are innovated. To the extent they talk of ideas, it's only for the purpose of raising campaign funds. These are commercial juggernauts that are in the business of leasing their formidable & essential electoral capability to power-seeking individuals -- the price of the lease is, frequently, the dilution of ideology. This is a business dynamic where scale -- built-up over decades -- matters. Clearly, there are huge barriers to entry, overcoming which from scratch for reasons of ideology is surely a futile endeavor.

In contrast, ideological campaigns (like PNAC) operate across parties and social affiliations; they end up creating unexpectedly refreshing alliances. They are led by a small group of people devoted to their ideas, not to claiming power. As it turns out, if they succeed in converting millions to their way of thinking, they become powerful by proxy. This is a far quicker and less expensive route than the traditional political party approach. The contrast to political parties is stark: this is like comparing swift, flexible, and stealthy special forces to the slow-moving, rigid, and gigantic armies. Each is a different approach for a different objective.

3. Given this, the real tactical question before secular-right Indians is whether we can identify and network a 100 or so like-minded -- and relatively young (mid 30s, early 40s) -- people who are also independently influential in their lives and professions. These people can then leverage their personal and professional credibility -- and intellectual strength -- to make passionate and convincing political arguments that few in the party system dare make. This is likely the way to a secular-right Indian revolution, not the empty promise of a secular-right political party magically showing up one day.

Let's prepare the ground first; we'll worry about what germinates there later.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The State Of Muslim Society

Here is Irfan Husain in the prestigious Pakistani daily, Dawn. People like Mr. Husain and Reza Aslan are the vanguard elite of an intra-Islam movement for reformation. They deserve our maximum support. Mr. Husain writes:

This inflexible refusal to recognize that the world is changing has placed Muslims on the defensive around the world. In dress, public appearance and customs, the majority of Muslims refuse to integrate into the mainstream wherever they are. They have thus consigned themselves to the periphery of society, viewed with perplexity and fear. In their turn, they generally despise those in whose midst they live and work.

Many Muslims in Pakistan support the application of Muslim family laws to their co-religionists in India. And yet in Pakistan, the minorities seldom have such preferential treatment. We deplore the decline of Urdu in India, and yet are unconcerned about the state of Hindi in our country. These examples of double standards can be multiplied endlessly. In short, we expect and demand far greater respect for our faith and its followers than we are willing to accord this to others.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Terror Apologists

Here is a notable excerpt from today's lead editorial in the Pakistani daily, The News:

While a change in the global strategy is required to tackle the root causes of terrorism, the kind of vulnerability that the British people must now be feeling after being targeted may also translate into more pressure on the re-elected Labour government to reconsider its global anti-terrorism positioning. There have been strong demands in the country for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, a war that a huge number of people in Britain consider as unjust, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands who have marched in London against the US-British invasion of that country in March 2003. Although the Labour Party emerged victorious in the general election last month, it lost a sizeable portion of its majority in the House of Commons amid a clear divide among the British voters over Blair's Iraq policy.

In effect, the writer hopes for British capitulation in the face of terror. Given where it has been written, it surely constitutes mainstream public opinion in Pakistan. How could there be peace -- ever -- with a people such as this?

What In The World Is Goin' On?

Via AP and Drudge Report, 450 Sheep Jump to Their Deaths in Turkey!

Where In The World Is Dr. Singh?

Tony Blair, surrounded by other world leaders, speaks at the end of the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Maybe here?


Via Newsweek, Blogs become history's new first draft.


Surprise! Surprise!

Via Times of India, India's dream of UNSC permanent seat fades!

Is anyone really surprised?

Terror In London

The brilliant Victor Davis Hanson on what the London bombings should remind us:

Even though the killers profess revenge equally for Afghanistan (the so-called “right” war), they expect Westerners to scream “Iraq.”

Even though such bombings are predicated on infiltration, careful stealthy reconnaissance, and long sojourns within London, expect cries of anguish and worrying about the stereotyping of Middle Eastern males.

Look for the same scripted crocodile tears and “concern” from the Middle East’s illegitimate leaders, even as much of the Islamic Street takes a secret delight in the daring of the jihadists, and the governments sense relief that the target was Westerners and not themselves.

Anticipate Western leaders condemning the terrorists in the same breadth as they call for “eliminating poverty” and “bringing them to justice” — as if the jihadists and their patrons are mere wayward and impoverished felons.

Global Warming

Iain Murray writes in The Corner (and we agree):

The official communique of the G8 leaders on global warming represents a significant victory for President Bush. There are no targets or timetables, no ominous declarations of immediate global catastrophe, and no calls to reduce world energy consumption. Instead, the statement recognizes that the threat is long-term and stresses the need for adaptation to deal with the challenges. Moreover, there is recognition that the world actually needs to increase power consumption to help the 2 billion people who have little or no access to energy. In effect, the G8 has adopted the American position on global warming as the consensus position (even the language about science comes straight from Administration documents). This statement relegates global warming to its proper place in world affairs - one to keep an eye on, and work to mitigate with appropriate, low-cost strategies, but not an immediate priority. It also means that the Kyoto treaty, mentioned almost as an afterthought, is effectively dead, yesterday's solution to yesterday's conception of tomorrow's problem. The Europeans are still bound by it, however, and unless they have the courage to admit that it is the wrong course, they will continue to struggle with it until it collapses as a result of its own contradictions.


Ayaz Amir on Indian song.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Solidarity With Britain

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms. Dire Straits.

We stand unified with Britain in this one more hour of its testing. Being a civilized nation with strong character, it will no doubt face this tragedy squarely and come out victorious in the end.

Read also Amit's perspective.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Very Puzzling "Could"

The Hindu quotes the Prime Minister as saying: More terrorist incidents could disrupt peace process.

Could? In other words, more Indians might die but there's only a small chance that this pointless "peace" process will be disrupted. Why are we Indians such gluttons for punishment?

Asked whether the Ayodhya incident would affect the India-Pakistan peace process, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered this nuanced assessment: "I have always maintained that we need to carry public opinion to make a success of the peace process. Anything that comes in the way of public opinion, and certainly these incidents, if they get repeated, have the potential to disrupt the peace process. So all concerned have obligations [to keep]. In our Joint Statement, I and President Musharraf have committed ourselves to making the peace process irreversible. I sincerely hope that we can stick to that solemn commitment, both of us."

We are tired of this word "nuance". If Pakistan is to blame, as the Prime Minister hints, then why not call evil by its name?

Frankly, the more he reads the Prime Minister's statement, the more infuriated this blogger -- a Manmohan Singh supporter -- gets. The statement can be read to imply that protecting the infernal peace process is even more important than protecting Indian lives. Too bad the Prime Minsiter has to deal with that pesky & fickle public opinion.

Clearly the Prime Minister doesn't mean any of this -- therefore, his confusing attempt at nuance reflects staggeringly poor judgement at this blood-dimmed moment.

We've called for a mature Indian response to the grave provocation at Ayodhya; tripping over complex word construction to avoid hurting Pakistani feelings is hardly a sign of maturity. No more nuance, please.

Uniform Civil Code

Dilip D'Souza discusses the tangle in Outlook. Worth reading.

Dalai And Dubya

Who knew the Dalai Lama and President Bush shared birthdays!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

G8 Expansion

More meaningful than the still-born debate over Security Council expansion is one over the so-called G8.

Christian Science Monitor correctly weighs in against this idea, except for democracies like India.

Considering shifts in demography and economics, the G-8 could indeed be more representative - but without ballooning. India, a democracy, seems like a prime candidate, while Russia, which is rolling back freedoms, is perhaps an undeserving member.

Godless Continent

Via National Review, here's a thought-provoking perspective on (Catholic neoconservative) George Weigel's new book: The Cube and the Cathedral. Here's the opening:

In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Renaissance sage Pico della Mirandola declared that "whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow to maturity and bear in him their own fruit." Elaborating, he provides us with an index by which to measure European man's predicaments and prospects: "If [these seeds] be vegetative, he will be like a plant. If sensitive, he will become brutish. If rational, he will grow into a heavenly being. If intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God." Five centuries after Pico, George Weigel offers a bleak report on contemporary Europe's germinations in his new book The Cube and the Cathedral. In effect, he worries that Europe as a whole is indifferently slipping into vegetable life, while its elites clear away any visions of angels that would interfere with their cultivation of an elegantly Godless Continent.

As the West wrestles with its antipathy to faith and inherited tradition, there are lessons for secular Indians. If our secularism is godless European in character, then India will share Europe's plight. If instead, our secularism builds on our multiple faiths and pluralistic tradition, India will yet bloom even as Europe withers.

This godless continent of hybrid men is a perfect home for Salman Rushdie!! Regrettably he chooses to live in our beloved Gotham.

Televising Interrogations

In New York Times' report on the terror in Ayodhya, there's this odd factoid:

The driver of the hired Ambassador car, who had been held for questioning, said in a nationally televised police interrogation that his passengers had requested to see the holy sites of Ayodhya. The driver said the men had offered a prayer at another local temple before attacking the temple.

Nationally televised police interrogation? Is this even legal in India -- afterall, the accused has rights. Besides, isn't it shoddy police work to interrogate someone publicly? Don't people talk more when they feel their words are safe from those not yet under arrest who might wish them harm? Alternatively, can't the suspect use his public soapbox to communicate with other evil-doers out there?

We've previously criticized Indian interrogation techniques for being too rough; making a public spectacle of interrogation is perhaps just as bad.

Terror In Ayodhya

Nitin has it just right.

There will without doubt come a time for extracting a full measure of justice; at this time, however, India needs to show maturity commensurate with its claims as a great power.

We pray this is how the next several days will play out.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Via Foreign Affairs, Preparing for the Next Pandemic.

If an influenza pandemic struck today, borders would close, the global economy would shut down, international vaccine supplies and health-care systems would be overwhelmed, and panic would reign.

This frightful prospect merits a great deal more public attention than it has so far received.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Mindless Design It Surely Ain't

"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Amit links to Salman Rushdie who's taken up the cudgels on behalf of the godless everywhere -- astonishingly to defend science of all things!! (Or is this a publicity stunt ahead of the upcoming release of Shalimar the Clown? Nah, he can't be that cynical!!)

Mr. Rushdie, himself an atheist, is particularly incensed about the idea of intelligent design contending with the theory of evolution through natural selection in American schools. He writes: Intelligent design, an idea designed backward so as to force the antique idea of a Creator upon the beauty of creation, is so thoroughly rooted in pseudoscience, so full of false logic, so easy to attack that a little rudeness seems called for.

Oh, yeah? The stridency of the intelligence design fundamentalists may be off-putting, and perhaps even naive, but at heart has a kernel of wisdom which we dare not discard. Nature's majesty may owe itself to the ho hum trial and error of natural selection -- this we readily accept -- but this scarcely diminishes the idea of a greater power behind it all. Indeed, we'd argue, it's more likely than not that there's a method to nature's madness -- albeit largely inaccessible to us given our narrow ability to fathom our infinite universe.

Merely because we cannot observe the higher power in manifest and measurable ways implies precisely nothing. A great deal of modern science -- including string theory -- are beyond our ability to validate by direct experiment. The issue then is whether such notions are plausible and, if so, do they explain our world cogently.

Godel showed that all internally consistent logical systems are inherently incomplete. This is to say, there are always propositions that can neither be proved nor disproved using the logic of the system. If modern science is one such system, then surely there are unfathomable realities beyond science. What is to say god doesn't reside in that scientifically unreachable space? If Mr. Rushdie had even an ounce of Mr. Newton's humility, perhaps he'd be willing to consider the plausibility of this proposition.

Indeed, the yearning to reach the unfathomable, even with our primitive tools, is stunningly universal. Human observation may be limited, our logic incomplete, and our language stunted but human imagination of god is always, always poetry. Is this by mindless accident? And, while nature no doubt proceeds via trial and error, how is this a negation of design? For comparison, consider constitutional states like India and America that have an over-arching design shepherding their daily ritual of democratic trial and error. In America, the founding fathers even explicitly made clear their hope that the nation will constantly strive for a more perfect union. Because the Indian and American experiments are constantly evolving, do they then --ipso facto -- lack intelligent design?

We respect the atheist perspective ( a courtesy Mr. Rushdie purposefully denies us faithful) and oppose radical replacement of natural selection with intelligent design in schools, but are somewhat offended (and amused) that the godless Mr. Rushdie has taken upon himself to defend science against those with faith -- in the process, recklessly dismissing faith as an antique idea? He may be angry (for good reason) at fundamentalists on the edges of faith's realm, but his rage strikes (perhaps deliberately) even at those in faith's mainstream. Many of us are very comfortable with our personal understanding of god and our dexterity in science. We can ably defend science without the help of Mr. Rushdie's fundamentalist atheism.

P.S. This blogger, a long-time fan of Mr. Rushdie, will not purchase his new book. That's what he thinks of Mr. Rushdie's pathetic publicity stunt.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Nimbu-Paani Airlift

Via Fox News, Vitamin C May Not Fight the Common Cold except in marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers exposed to cold temperatures and/or physical stress.

We hope the Indian military is airlifting plenty nimbu-paani here!!

HIV in India

Via Hindustan Times, Pregnant lady thrown out of hospital because she was positive.

Blog Mela

Another typically terrific blog mela is at India Uncut.

War Of The Worlds

The aliens land with a bang; the film ends in a whimper.

Mace The Bastards

We only wish Mangs had been able to Mace the bastard.

What really infuriate are societal attitudes she endured in the aftermath. Worse still, these attitudes are so commonplace, they have ceased to surprise.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Imrana Matter

Just some brief thoughts on this horrendous affair.

It may be that Indian law (somehow) allows what's happening to her, and it may even be that (for some inexplicable reason) she will go along with the Dar-ul-Uloom fatwa, BUT the rest of India (Muslim or not) is surely not required to forego our common sense.

Who among us can say that what's happening to Imrana is OK -- would we let this happen to a near and dear one? If not, it's our duty to call a spade a spade. This farce is a profound Indian tragedy that none of our sisters (of whatever faith) should have to live through.

This is the only respectable position on this matter. Anything else is horrible sophistry.

If the application of a law (be it secular or divine in origin) leads to obviously unacceptable human outcomes, the law must take a secondary position to the human whose life it is traumatizing. It is inconceivable that (especially) God's law intends to hurt human lives as is being argued here. Since God's law is beyond reproach, the fault surely lies with its interpreters -- by acknowledging their own fallibility, Muslim elders can simultaneously respect Hadith and prevent this barbaric outcome from happening.

As secular Indians, we pray that good sense will finally prevail.

US: Politics To Trump Geo-Politics Until Further Notice!

Well, because US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement Friday, and because she was the swing vote on many controversial judicial issues (including abortion, as we recently noted) in a 5-4 split court, American bandwidth will be consumed with the selection of her successor. This will be an all-out political war because so much depended on her lone moderate vote.

Dr. Manmohan Singh's upcoming Washington trip will now, alas, become a sideshow.


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