Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

We pray for the victims of Katrina.

Let's open our hearts and please give generously to appropriate charities. If not now, when?

Contributions are urgently needed to support the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Thousands of desperate families are taking refuge from Hurricane Katrina in more than 230 Red Cross shelters in the affected areas.American Red Cross is launching the largest mobilization of resources for a single natural disaster in our history.

We’re preparing 500,000 hot meals a day to serve to survivors who have no where else to turn.

Several hundred emergency vehicles and thousands of ARC staff and volunteers have been deployed from around the country for immediate emergency assistance.

Red Cross disaster response teams are deploying to the hardest hit communities to distribute drinking water and other supplies to victims who were unable to flee from Katrina.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Blog Interrupted

This blogger will be on the road the next three days. Normal blogging will resume Thursday.

Mahmoud And Manmohan

Via BBC, India renews historic Afghan ties

Correspondent Sanjoy Majumdar writes about Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul:

When Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh steps off his aircraft in Afghanistan on Sunday, he will be hoping to strengthen his country's historic ties with that country.

It is the first visit to the country by an Indian prime minister for 29 years.

... one of the key moments of Manmohan Singh's visit will be the laying of the foundation stone of the country's new parliamentary building, built by India.

India which plays on its strong tradition of democracy is keen to be seen to be strengthening democratic institutions in a country, fragmented and torn by ethnic rivalries.

Mahmoud of Ghazni came to India on a brutal steed and a thousand years of on-going war followed. Manmohan of Delhi gets to return the favor by offering democracy to Afghanistan.

Chalk one up in history for India's plural civilization!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Blinded By Revolution

Via BBC, India rebels 'making porn films'

Via The Economist, Porn makes you blind


Via ABC, Homeopathy ineffective, study finds.

Will Indians, who patronize those little white pills so much, take heed? Fat chance.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Saeed Naqvi

Via Indian Express, columnist Saeed Naqvi observes:

The collapsing consensus on Iraq is sought to be replaced by introducing more glue into the apparatus being erected for the war against terror. This will work as long as terrorists, jihadis, intelligence operatives continue to oblige with 9/11s and 7/7s. But skepticism, without which good journalism is not possible, will soon set in. Who knows, a reformed BBC, eager to rediscover its once peerless credibility, may sponsor a series of well researched, balanced documentaries on "jihad". The authors may even stumble upon John Buchan's wartime thriller (1914), Greenmantle: "It looks as if Islam had a bigger hand in the thing than we thought" I said. "You are right -- there is a Jehad preparing." "Supposing they had got some tremendous sacred sanction -- some holy thing...which will madden the remotest Moslem peasant with dreams of Paradise?" "Then there will be hell let loose".

This "jehad" was brewing in European minds before the First World War. As A.F.S. Talyarkhan used to ask: "Do you get me, Steve?"

The throwaway mention of intelligence operatives (that we've bolded for emphasis) in connection with 9/11 and 7/7 is puzzling. What does he mean there? Is he referring to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- or is he alluding to ridiculous conspiracy theories, widely circulated in the Arab world, of West's own complicity in the murder of its people? Doesn't this need some clarification -- if not from Mr. Naqvi, then from Indian Express (a usually sensible newspaper).

Then, Mr. Naqvi goes on to suggest that the West has been building up to (or imagining) an anti-Jehad crusade, if you will, since before WWI. This is to say, the war (which he finds offensive) was on the cards even before Osama and his ilk (or perhaps the shadowy intelligence agencies he wants to blame!) pulled off 9/11 and 7/7 -- the latter then became excuses for the former.

In this airbrushed version of faux-reality, the evil genius is not Osama, rather the West (and its media, i.e., propaganda apparatus)! If this isn't an unhinged idea, what is? Frankly, we wouldn't care for Mr. Naqvi's thoughts, except that millions of young, impressionable Indian minds read this kind of garbage and begin accepting bizarre conspiracies as reality. We're not just talking about some poor Indian Muslims here -- in a December trip to rural India, we heard very well educated Hindus cycle through the same foolishness.

Mr. Naqvi blames the media (not terrorists and Wahabis) for demonizing Muslims and Jehad. We blame Mr. Naqvi and like fantasists in the media for demonizing the entirely valid war against terror.

It's a darn shame Indian Express continues to give this horrible columnist a perch to spew his nonsense from. Or if freedom of speech dictates he be given his say, at least it should be presented as mostly fiction.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rummy Is Toast

President Bush is in political trouble.

A botched good war and pain at the pump would do it to any President.

When crisis strikes, a good politician shifts responsibility. Who better to pin the blame on than the Secretary of Defense? Dumping Rumsfeld will represent a material accountability moment for all that's gone wrong in the prosecution of a valid war.

This is what we predict will happen within months, perhaps even weeks.

The real issue is to find a credible person to take Rumsfeld's job. Two names come to mind. General Powell (incompetent as he is, he remains quite popular with Americans) and Senator McCain (Vietnam war hero, maverick politician). Either one would restore American confidence in the winnability of the war. What it'll all come down to is the political price to pay for this. Both men (or similarly credible others) would likely demand (and undoubtedly get) the Republican nomination for Presidency in 2008 -- if successful in turning this ship around.

The stakes are suddenly much higher than the fate of Iraq.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Chasing China

Blue Sky is correct in calling China's over-spending on oil assets The Winner’s Curse.

Chasing China to absurd prices is plain silly. It betrays a profound failure of understanding what's really going on.

Chinese currency is deliberately undervalued versus the Dollar -- by as much as 30-40%. Consequently, China's trade surplus is basically Dollar denominated, hence overvalued in local currency terms.

Why this matters is because Chinese liabilities are its people's savings denominated in local currency, hence undervalued in Dollar terms.

Running a financial system with overvalued assets financed with undervalued liabilities is a fool's game. China knows this but has few options to get out of the mess it has made. It's in this context that it's trying to swap its hoard of Dollars for real assets -- e.g., overseas oil reserves.

The notion that a large unrealized currency losses can be resolved by bidding up physical assets (even assets like oil reserves) is laughable. But that is China's new game. They think that their newly acquired assets will appreciate sufficiently to hedge some of the unrealized currency losses they have already incurred. In other words, they are trying to trade out of a gigantic mess. Likely, they'll turn up snake eyes.

When this happens and the currency corrects (as it absolutely will), the peasants will ask for their money back -- from bank's who won't have enough assets to make them whole. Then, one of two things will happen. Either China will dump physical assets at throwaway prices to generate liquidity, or Chinese domestic economy will stand destroyed. Either way, oil prices will tumble.

Given all this, is there any sense in chasing China up a foolish price ladder? Think about a similar dynamic with Japan buying up all manner of assets in the 80s at absurd prices -- only to sell them at much lower prices when the bubble collapsed.

When there's a desperate buyer in the game, the smart trader sells -- he does not chase prices at market highs. Does New Delhi understand this?

Our Friends, The Pakistanis

Via BBC, Khan 'gave N Korea centrifuges'

Via BBC, Madrassas resist regulation drive

Via Indian Express, Pak SC upholds death sentence for ‘Indian spy’

A Thin-Skinned Court

Via The Tribune, Miffed, CJI asks govt to shut down courts.

Facing attack from political quarters on its decisions in various controversial issues, including the judgment in the private and minority professional institution case, the Supreme Court today lambasted the government for adopting such an 'attitude' and said if it did not want to give due respect to the courts it could wind them up.

First, emotional outbursts by judges hardly inspire confidence.

Second, much of this stems from the Supreme Court's frequent practice of, in effect, legislating from the bench rather than merely interpreting the constitution. It may be that our legislatures are inept and inefficient but at least they are directly accountable to the people -- who they must face every election. The (presumed) noble intent of the court is no substitute for such accountability.

This outburst by CJI relates to a reservation case. We have very mixed feelings about reservations ourselves and might possibly support the court on the substance of its ruling. But, for the court to get upset over the consequent political process makes little sense. Indeed, this practice is quite dangerous.

The US Supreme Court has come under withering criticism following its 2000 judgment which led to now-President Bush's election over then-Vice President Gore. The court has not lashed out at its critics -- if it had, it would have gotten embroiled in the rough and tumble of daily politics, leading to a decline in its credibility.

Courts do not have armies -- all they have is credibility which is easily lost if judges get emotional about criticism.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Principles of Modern Autocracy

Here's an interesting article via IH Tribune that argues against the conventional wisdom that market liberalism leads to democracy. It presents a theory of how modern autocrats successfully side-step democratization while reaping / spreading the benefits of economic growth, which perversely serves to strengthen their autocracy. The article is a sneak preview of the detailed version in next month's Foreign Affairs. A few snippets:

Economic growth has traditionally been thought to promote democratization by making strategic coordination easier, as communications technology improves, news media become more diverse and the citizenry more educated. But in recent years some savvy regimes have learned how to cut the cord between growth and strategic coordination, allowing the former without having to worry about the latter.

Their trick is to ration carefully the subset of public goods that facilitate political coordination, while investing in others that are essential to economic growth. The "coordination goods" that they need to worry about consist of things such as political and civil rights, press freedom and access to higher education. "Standard public goods" include public transportation, primary and secondary education, and public health; all of which contribute to economic growth and pose relatively little threat to the regime.

This provides fresh insights into the reasons for the continued longevity of the Chinese and Pakistani regimes, in our neighborhood, among a long list of other accomplished autocrats worldwide. Seems like business is the new gladiatorial-bloodsport and the stock exchange is the new Colosseum. To quote from the recent hit movie Gladiator:

I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate, it's the sand of the coliseum. He'll bring them death - and they will love him for it.

This is a disheartening article for those looking for practical tools to fight autocracies. It calls for a re-think of the engagement strategy, whether U.S. with China / Mideast or India with Pakistan. At a minimum, it requires abandoning the naive hope that economic and cultural engagement will somehow auto-magically transform autocracies. We need to find new levers to push for rights and liberties that ought to be self-evident truths everywhere. We need to push for this, if not for their peoples' sake, then for our own, as Sep 11 and Dec 13 showed all too well the consequences of not doing so.


Via Times of India, Muslim law board tones down stand on imposing Shariat on India's judicial system. Apparently, this is a tactical retreat, not the abandonment of a rather controversial idea.

We have two questions on this issue.

Isn't Shariat the reason why non-Muslim Indians are denied prayer in Saudi Arabia?

What happens when Shariat comes in conflict with India's constitution?

Hopefully this is crystal clear to all. In India, the constitution must trump all else. Any denial of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and equality (even in a civil context) in the name of any faith is invalid. This is the only possible secular position -- supporters of Shariat in Indian courts better be real careful lest they pick a bruising battle with secular Indians.

Dr. Singh And Naxals

Indian Express hails Dr. Singh's call that Naxals prove their popularity through the test of democracy.

We like Dr. Singh and his call sounds reasonable but it reflects an enduring naivete of the Indian soul -- that even such rabid killers as the Naxals can be rehabilitated in the broader sweep of our all-embracing democracy.

We strongly dissent with this view. Only smash-mouth strategies work with these monsters. They don't care about our democracy -- they've got a mafia-like extortion racket working that brings them money, guns, publicity, criminal power, and other very material things. If they were to settle their so-called grudges, where does it leave them and the elaborate terrorist lives they've built for themselves?

Dr. Singh, pick up the gun -- please quit exhorting these animals to become human.


The New Yorker's editor David Remnick writes cogently about Israel's Getting Out of Gaza.

He correctly concludes:

In the nineteen-nineties, the era of the Oslo accords, a dream persisted of imminent peace—a state for the Palestinians, security and recognition for the Israelis. The Gaza disengagement makes plain the distance between that dream and its reality, and how traumatic it is to conduct earthly politics where so much is sacred to so many.

India And Stem Cell Research

Via New York Times, How India Reconciles Hindu Values and Biotech.

Novelist Pankaj Mishra writes:

Scientism has few detractors in India; and the elites find it easy to propose technological rather than political and moral solutions to the problems of poverty, inequality and environmental damage ... They subscribe to a worldly form of Hinduism - one that now proves to be infinitely adjustable to the modern era, endorsing nuclear bombs and biotechnology as well as India's claim to be taken seriously as an emerging economic and scientific superpower.

Mr. Mishra doesn't really address his subject line. In fact, as he sees it, Indians don't reconcile Hindu values and Biotech at all -- instead, they abandon Hindu values to pursue technology. This is a ridiculous perspective by an author seemingly grasping for cheap publicity by damning his own people.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Et Tu, Rezwan?

Recently, Rezwan accused us unfairly of generalizing our hatred for Muslims. He wrote:

You people can't get this thing off your head. There is no Islamist terrorism. There is terrorism of some f***ed up Islamists in the name of Islam.

In other words, he objected to our attaching the tag Islamist (not Muslim, not Islamic -- but Islamist) to the word terrorism.

We answered the charge and moved on. Then, much to our surprise, we read this in his recent post on the Bangladeshi bombings:

All the evidences and confessions of some nabbed terrorists point at the banned Islamic extremist Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), who carried out Wednesday's countrywide bombings.

So, it's OK for Rezwan to use the tag Islamic to describe these monsters, but it isn't for us to tag their terrorist soulmates outside Bangladesh with a more precise tag, Islamist? Hmmm.

Violins In Kalimpong

Fred de Sam Lazaro of American public television (PBS) reports on a really cool musical experiment in Kalimpong. Here, a Jesuit priest, gave violins and lessons to poor kids and watched them find joy from their own talents.

Take Kushmita, for example. As a poor kid having been accepted at an upscale convent, she faced typical challenges of peer acceptance and fitting in. This is what she tells Mr. Lazaro:

KUSHMITA BISWA KARMA: I used to play violin. I used to play solo songs, like Hindi, Nepali songs. And they all used to love me playing violin. I had friends. Many friends I had in the convent.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So you had many friends in the convent school because you were able to play violin?

KUSHMITA BISWA KARMA: And I was good, also.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She's good at the violin-- so good she was pulled out of school to be tutored by a visiting German music teacher in hopes of attending one of Germany's most prestigious conservatories.

KUSHMITA BISWA KARMA: Before, I didn't know, like, the rules and the way... how we should play violin. She taught me how I should hold my bows and how should I cast the violin. I want to come back to Kalimpong because my parents are here. I was born here. I studied in Gandhi Ashram School in Kalimpong.

Father Thomas McGuire of Gandhi Ashram died recently. What a beautiful legacy he's left behind. Very cool!

Rural Wi-Fi

Via Christian Science Monitor, India bypasses the wires to bring Wi-Fi to its remote residents.

Good stuff. Yet, some think this is wasteful expenditure.

The biggest challenge may not be technological, but linguistic, and developing services that give rural communities reasons to use the Internet. In Malappuram, for example, a study by professors at the University of California, Berkeley, found that just 5 percent of the traffic from the Akshaya centers related to e-governance or education. Some experts on rural technology, like Anil Gupta, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, question whether the Internet should be a priority, if people don't speak English.

"We find that the Internet is not the technology [through] which we will reach villages in the country in the next five years," Dr. Gupta says. "Look up Google and find the content we have in local languages.... Unless that happens, how can we justify what we are doing?"

We're not sure this is a valid fuss. Even if 95% of internet traffic is not e-governance or education related, it's still a valid interaction our rural folks can now have with the rest of the world. What could possibly be wrong with this?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Nature Of Defeatism

Via The American Thinker, the conservative Lawrence Auster mocks the Bush Revolution :

Bush turned a set of rights long established in America and for Americans into a requirement for all of humanity. It wasn't just that we regarded the enumerated rights as self-evidently true. It was that we regarded their practical establishment in the whole world and particularly in the Muslim lands as, first, a non-negotiable moral demand, and, second, as the only way to assure a world safe from terrorism. There was a specious logic in the latter argument that passed for great wisdom in some quarters. The past policy of cooperating with Arab and Muslim dictatorships hadn't prevented the growth of Muslim extremism. Therefore we had to try the opposite tack, of democratizing the Muslim countries.

In New York Times, Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose chimes in:

The Bush doctrine has collapsed, and the administration has consequently embraced realism, American foreign policy's perennial hangover cure.

What explains this utterly absurd defeatism?

Two independent dynamics have collided here to create a very dangerous confusion in some minds. On the one hand, there is terrorism spewing out of paleo-political ideologies pretending to be Islam. On the other, there is American hyper-power status. How people weigh the threat from each versus the other determines where they stand on this war.

Most sensible people understand that whether or not we wage war on terrorists, terrorists will wage unrelenting war on us. Therefore, the only valid course is to take war to where it spews from -- regardless of the short-term cost.

There's, in opposition, a sizable & amusing coalition of isolationists, pacifists, naive liberals, and some Muslims who feel that waging war on terrorists only provokes them further. Instead, they argue, civilized world should essentially concede even illegitimate terrorist demands (really clever excuses for their murderous nature) to avert future attacks.

Finally, and crucially, there are many (especially on the left) who are appalled at the present dominance of the world by America and her allies. They are enraged by American leadership of the war on terror not because this is a war on terror but that it is an American-led war. They'd rather see America retreat even if it means continued life for terrorism.

This is also the view of some Americans who see the war on terror as the building blocks of an American empire. To them, the war against terror (and more generally, the war against local disorder with global impact) is really an excuse to re-design the global order where a handful of great powers dictate policy to everyone else. This they cannot stand.

The exact same fear offends many in the developing world whose memories of colonialism are still fresh.

Consequently, there's a faux-romantic tendency to see all manner of frivolous and damaging claims against even democratic great powers as being valid root-causes, the paralyzing and paralyzed UN as a noble entity, dictatorships and corruption as matters of sovereignty and, worst of all, terrorists as freedom fighters and insurgents.

This is the nature of the defeatism in our midst -- the terrorists understand and exploit this quite well. It is up to democratic societies to find the steel in their character to resist this devilish exploitation and stay the course on an entirely just and necessary war of survival.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bangladesh Bombings

Via BBC, Bombs explode across Bangladesh .

Perhaps the root-cause crowd would like to explain what Israeli, Indian, or American crime lies behind this terror directed at ordinary Muslims in Bangladesh?

Hopefully it will soon dawn on these naive terror-apologists that terrorists seek no political goals -- rather, they only seek murder and mayhem, because they only know murder and mayhem.

Charitable Deductions

Why is it that in India one only gets to deduct 50% of any charitable deductions for tax purposes?

In America, in contrast, one gets to deduct 100% -- this is a terrific way to incentivize charitable giving to fund a whole range of non-governmental social programs.

Isn't it time Indians had the same benefit?

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Indian Economy

Via India Uncut , we learn of The Indian Economy, a blog devoted to all things economic.


The Greatest Trick

In the film noir classic The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey's character reprises Baudelaire to describe the genius of the arch-villain Keyser Soze: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Having read this NRO review of National Geographic's Inside 9/11, we are compelled to reprise the same idea in a different context: The greatest trick Kashmiri separatists ever pulled was convincing the world India oppresses them.

How else can we explain the following lumping together of democratic India with autocratic Russia & China by Michael Scheuer (ex-CIA, responsible for hunting down bin Laden):

The beginning of winning this war is for the president to tell the American people that the motivation behind our enemy's actions has to do with our actions in the Islamic world, not who we are ... Our unqualified support for Israel, our ability until recently to keep oil prices low, our occupation of the three holiest places in Islam (the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Jerusalem), our support for countries that oppress Muslims (China, India, Russia), our support of Arab police states over the last 30 years in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, Algeria, Egypt.

Then, the (rightfully skeptical) reviewer Catherine Seipp retorts with this helpful (!) stunner:

China, India and Russia may oppress Muslims, but not compared to Muslim countries like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, which for some reason al Qaeda never complained about.

Hello?! India oppresses Muslims? How in God's name have we let this absurd impression to gain ground? The answer is not hard to find. It is our ridiculous liberal defensiveness about Kashmir that's caused this. The day India proudly asserts its moral validity to rule Kashmir is the day we can begin correcting this horribly erroneous record.

August 15

Given little to inspire us, we think it appropriate to mark this August 15 without comment.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

G4's Quest Is Over

Via New York Times, German Chancellor Schroeder Rejects Military Force to Stop Iran's Nuclear Work.

This came in response to this report: `All options on table,' as Bush warns Iran on nuclear program. [Link courtesy: Chicago Tribune]

While Chancellor's Schroeder's comments came as part of his re-election campaign -- to woo an electorate deeply suspicious of the Iraq war -- it also signals clearly that Germany will not get US assent for Security Council membership. The Chancellor would not have risked UNSC membership -- his legacy in history -- for scoring a cheap political point.

This implies that the G4 effort is effectively dead. Hardly a surprise.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

An Ominous Report

Israeli website Debka carries this very disturbing story. Time to steel ourselves, again.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources register a volume and heightened sense of anticipation in al Qaeda’s internal communications, signals, publications and Websites - mostly in code - that recall its electronic traffic in the months leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The sense of a big anti-American event in the making for September-October is marked. Self-congratulatory accounts of the London and Sharm al Sheikh July bombings abound, along with extravagant claims of victories against American forces in Iraq.

This surge of activity, electronic and human, seems to signpost an al Qaeda offensive in the works, and will no doubt raise terror threat levels in US, European and Middle East cities in the coming weeks.

The Theology Of Global Warming

In The Wall Street Journal, James Schlesinger argues that the theology of global warming is based on politics, not science.

He writes:

The issue of climate change urgently needs to be brought down from the level of theology to what we actually know. It is, of course, quite likely that the greenhouse effect has to some extent contributed to global warming--but we simply do not know to what extent. The insistence that global warming is primarily the consequence of human activity leaves scant room for variation in solar intensity or cyclical phenomena generally.

Over the ages, climate has varied. Generally speaking, the Northern Hemisphere has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 17th century. Most of the global warming observed in the 20th century occurred between 1900 and 1940, when the release of greenhouse gasses was far less than later in the century. Between 1940 and 1975, temperatures fell--and scientists feared a lengthy period of global cooling. The reported rise in temperatures in recent decades has come rather suddenly--probably too suddenly given the relatively slow rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

We must always bear in mind that the earth's atmosphere remains a highly complex thermodynamic machine. Given its complexities, we need to be modest in asserting what we know. Knowledge is more than speculation.

The Nature Of War

From Auden:

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade.

We suspect that the 90s will go down as a false start for our inter-connected world; the wars that have followed and are yet to come are the wages of our decade-long (liberalism-laced) celebration of the fall of communist Moscow.

While we partied, the merchants of death plotted. While we booked unearned capital gains, terrorist hyenas (paraphrasing Eliot) laughed without mirth. They even read Orwell and excelled in doublespeak -- suicide bombings and nationalism obscenely became linked.

This evil wave crested on 9/11. All tides (even tsunamis) eventually turn back -- or are held back by determined and sensible people of goodwill.

This is the nature of the war we are in. The shrieking left and cynical terror apologists either don't get it or get it but don't care. Either way, they stand in the way of defeating the evil shadow of terror in our world.

Drugs In Sports

Why do we read so many embarrassing reports like this one from BBC: Discus thrower fails drugs test ?

Indian discus thrower Neelam Jaswant Singh is the first athlete to test positive at the World Championships ... Singh managed a best throw of 56.70m in Helsinki and failed to qualify for the discus final.

What a singular disgrace. How come India has ended up inheriting the East European practice of drugs-abetted cheating in sports?

Like PLO With Arafat

BBC reports: Peace fears as Sri Lanka mourns Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Another fateful assassination has struck at the heart of Sri Lanka's establishment. Suddenly, people are expressing fear that the peace process might come unglued.

Peace process?

There is no peace process with terrorists. Why is it that the world does not understand this basic reality? Terrorists have no political ends, notwithstanding their pious claims of nationalist struggle. All they seek is murder -- because all they know is murder.

Let's please stop characterizing cold-blooded murder as politics by other means. Those who do, the root-cause crowd, cannot evade personal and moral complicity in encouraging these fanatic killers.

We learnt this in Palestine, where Yasser Arafat's PLO remained a terrorist organization all through the so-called peace process. When, in 2000 in Taba, it was offered a deal as good as any possible, it turned it down. In so doing, it demonstrated that the needs of Palestine's long-suffering people was not the issue for Mr. Arafat -- indeed, he needed such suffering to continue so that he would have a convenient cause to sustain his criminal-terrorist enterprise (one that made him a very wealthy man even as Palestine withered).

No peace process was possible, we finally understood, until Mr. Arafat was dead. Mercifully, his demise came sooner than later.

The same is true with LTTE; Pirbhakaran is like Arafat. Only upon his passing (or incarceration for hard-life in Tihar) can the Jaffna Tamils participate in ending Sri Lanka's long national nightmare. Since he has prevented the rise of natural successors, the LTTE will blessedly die with Pirbhakaran.

And, while we await Pirbhakaran's (hopefully excruciating) passing, the Jaffna Tamils need to be clearly told that there's no pot of Eelam at the end of LTTE's violent rainbow. India -- the uber-power in the region -- will not accept any devolution of power to Tamils, unless LTTE is out of the picture. This position should not be up for any negotiation. If Jaffna Tamils prefer the LTTE to civilized negotiation, well then, they are welcome to remain frozen in their little corner of Tiger hell -- no one will come to help them out.

[Note to the "we must examine the root-cause of terror" crowd: Please notice the clarity of this Hindu blogger's denunciation of Hindu terror in Sri Lanka -- something for you all to ponder.]

Revolutions From Tea Parties

Neoconservative icon Norman Podhoretz's son John has this to say on The Corner on National Review Online:

There were so 550 neocons in the 1980s. Take everybody who wrote for Commentary and the Public Interest, add to them the number of people who attended the yearly bashes of the Committee for the Free World, and you're getting pretty close there.

Given subsequent neoconservative success in overturning history, there is much encouragement here our own nascent Project For A Secular-Right India.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

My Son, The Fanatic

Via Opinion Journal, here's Salil Tripathi's take on the London terror.

.. several British Asian novelists have been writing about the turbulence within Britain's Muslim community. But while they have been honored, their warnings have gone unheeded. Mr. Kureishi has won the Whitbread Award for "The Buddha of Suburbia." Many of Mr. Rushdie's novels have been nominated for the Booker Prize, which he won in 1982 for "Midnight's Children." Monica Ali was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2003, for "Brick Lane." Nadeem Aslam won the Encore Award this year in London for "Maps for Lost Lovers." (In June he also won an American award, the Kiriyama Prize, which is given to enhance the West's understanding of the East.)

If those novels were read carefully, then the composite picture that emerges today--of disaffected youth finding a new meaning through faith, joining religious groups and following foreign-born preachers, as well as of subterranean misogyny and ostracizing, and even killing those who leave the community by marrying outside the faith--should not have surprised anyone.

Evolution, Again

See Kumar's excellent counterpoint to our posts Evolution -- with a small e and Mindless Design It Surely Ain't before that. Here's our humble response.

Kumar writes:

.. even though a number of philosophical positions are consistent with biology, the price of buying consistency via an instrumentalist interpretation of biology is higher for theism-—it amounts to arguing that the biological data are systematically misleading. Perhaps that is the case, but theism’s reliance on an argument from silence is an epistemic vice, not an epistemic virtue.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Power Or Poison?

Via Times of India, Will Manmohan Singh step down from PM's post?

The story tells of his immense dejection over finding himself alone on key issues.

Recently, we were speaking to an industrial psychologist about corporate leadership. He said, contrary to conventional wisdom, it is introverts who make the best CEOs. Why, we asked? Because, he said, in the most difficult decisions with large implications, the CEO is all alone. He needs to be comfortable in his solitude -- something that comes naturally to introverts.

We think he was on to something here. The same applies, we think, to leadership of nations.

Of course, it's real hard to get elected as an introvert. For those who do emerge from the gruelling and uber-social election process, the consequent leadership is less power, more poison -- the demands of their dream job conspiring against their very nature.

We had thought Dr. Singh might be different -- a soft spoken academic, his years of solitary reading may have better prepared him for the rigors of leadership. Now we know that was a false hope. This is bad news for India.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Writer's Spoken Words

Amit links to a New York Times interview with V S Naipaul where the maestro makes a series of typically astonishing assertions.

Is it just us or is Mr. Naipaul's inking of other people's voices (e.g., in Among the Believers) far more intelligent, and intelligible, than his own spoken words?

Evolution -- with a small e

Like us, Peter Wood, provost of the King’s College in New York City, rejects the notion of any contradiction between evolution and intelligent design.

In his National Review essay, he writes:

This battle (between Outraged Scientists and Unrelenting Creationists) is unnecessary and intellectually irresponsible ... in fact, evolution and intelligent design can coexist without the universe cracking asunder. All we need here is a little theoretical modesty and restraint.

A good place to start is to distinguish between the theory of evolution (without the capital E) and Evolution as a grand and, apart from a few rough edges, supposedly comprehensive account of speciation and genetic change. Small-e evolution is an intellectually robust theory that gives coherent order to a huge range of disparate facts. In contrast, capital E Evolution, is a bit illusory. Like a lot of scientific theories, on close inspection it is really a stitched-together fabric of hypotheses.

Evolutionary theory hits a wall in trying to explain what happened with the emergence of fully modern humans about 150,000 years ago.

We can give a name to what happened: with the biological emergence of modern humans came both the capacity for and the realization of "culture."

But to speak of the beginning of culture and the emergence of our species by way of some genetic mutations from anatomically similar ancestors does little to explain the profound mystery of the event. Of course, if we are convinced in advance that genetic mutation is a random, material event, the results of which are sorted out by the struggle for survival, the immense mystery dissolves into happenstance blips in strands of East African DNA, c. 150,000-200,000 years ago.

But at that point, we have moved beyond scientific evolution to doctrinaire Evolution. The randomness of the mutation cannot be demonstrated or proved; it is simply an article of belief, no different in character from a belief that an intelligent Creator nudged the adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine bases of that DNA strand into the right order.

At bottom the dispute between Evolutionists and Creationists always comes down to the question, "What is random?"

Actually, a line of argument that depends on seeing events as random is in a rather worse position than one that postulates, even if it can't prove, underlying order. In science, what's random today is frequently modeled tomorrow. To base a theory of life on ever-more-emphatic repetition of the idea that, "No, it's random," is a bit like stamping your foot and saying, "It's so because I say it's so."


We read, via Sify, that some Mumbai-residents are taking the government to court for what they say is the failure of the government to protect their lives and property during the recent rains.

Good. This is exactly what we had argued for when we had accused our society, and its proxy our government, of Cheapening Lives To Reduce Their Cost. We closed there by saying:

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.

[Sify link courtesy The Acorn]

Monday, August 08, 2005


Yes, culpability for the horrors of 1984 is important and, given this report, justice must be served.

But, beyond this we need a truth and reconciliation commission because putting a few people out of their jobs, and even in prison, serves justice but really does very little to salve the wounds of 1984. Worse, it does nothing whatsoever to ensure these horrors don't recur.

Indeed, they have. In 2002.

Our problem is that India's veneer of civilization is very thin -- shocking for a people with as long a history as we do; worse still , we live in denial of our vulnerability to the savagery residing just under our skin.

Unless we face this reality squarely, we are condemned to repeat our blood-dimmed cycles of life-letting.

This is why, we need a truth and reconciliation commission -- so that we are forced to face who we really are and what we've really done. Again and again.

We are all guilty. This blogger was a student in Delhi in 1984. He, and friends, did shelter a handful of taxi & truck drivers in our hostels. And we volunteered at hospitals. But, we also stood by (like our pathetic police) as petrol stations were torched and groceries were looted and our neighbors hid in attics because their neighbors, us, were not strong enough to hold back the horror.

Why did we not stand between the killers and their victims? Because we too were scared? Yes. But the real answer is that we were too few. This is our problem. Indians talk a big game but when all hell breaks loose, we watch the unfolding horror as though we were Romans at the Collesium --watching lions eating defenseless humans from our comfortable perches, then moving on as though nothing happened.

We need a truth and reconciliation commission because all else is too little and much too late.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mohun Biswas, 007

Via BBC, Bond composer to re-record theme.

Composer Monty Norman is to re-record the James Bond theme with its original lyrics reinstated.

Norman first wrote the classic tune - initially called Bad Sign, Good Sign - for a musical version of VS Naipaul's novel A House for Mr Biswas.

After he was hired to provide music for the first Bond film, Dr No, he reworked the song as a theme tune.

The lyrics of Bad Sign, Good Sign, written by Julian More and Monty Norman, are as follows:

I was born with this unlucky sneeze

And what is worse I came into the world the wrong
way round
Pundits all agree I am the reason why
My father fell into the village pond and drowned.

This, THIS, became the James Bond theme song? Wonders will never cease!!


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recently hosted a panel discussion on Pakistan, the featured speaker being Husain Haqqani promoting his new book Pakistan: Between Mosque And Military.

His comments are available on streaming audio here.

What's striking in all such discussions is the excellent diagnosis of Pakistan's problems but no real solutions to resolving these. Too bad.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Journeys Without Destination

We finally watched the visually sumptuous The Motorcycle Diaries this afternoon.

Some years ago, we had gone camping with friends in woods by the Chesapeake. There, among the crickets, mosquitoes, and bats, we first heard of Che Guevara from a World Bank economist of all people.

We dismissed Che then, principally because of his status as the icon of the left. This is why we didn't watch the movie either when it first came out.

This was a mistake, as we now concede having watched the movie. It is based on Che's observations as a young man traveling through the heart of his continent.

There is much majesty in all our lands & people, obscured by all our modernity. This is why many personal & intellectual revolutions happen during journeys without destinations.

Given this, how is it that so few of us travel through India, abandoning the trappings of our status in life, catching up on what India really is? How is it that few expressions in our cinema and literature are of these journeys of real people?

Why is India's matinee icon an angry young man, not an adventurous young idealist?

Why do our actors sing around trees rather than standing still for the singing of trees?


On the 60th anniversary of the fateful explosion over Hiroshima, the insufferable Praful Bidwai calls America's decision The world's worst terrorist act.

We could not disagree more. Our views are more consonant with the Wall Street Journal:

.. when President Truman gave the go-ahead to deploy Fat Man and Little Boy, what those big bombs chiefly represented was salvation: salvation for young Lt. Fussell and all the GIs; salvation for the tens of thousands of Allied POWs the Japanese intended to execute in the event of an invasion; salvation for the grotesquely used Korean "comfort women"; salvation for millions of Asians enslaved by the Japanese.

Not least, and despite the terrible irony, the bombings were salvation for Japan, since they prompted Emperor Hirohito to intervene with his bitterly divided government to end the war, thus laying the groundwork for America's beneficent occupation and the country's subsequent prosperity. To understand the roots of modern Japan's pacifist mentality, so at variance with its old warrior culture, one need only visit Hiroshima's peace park.

And finally this balancing note:

In the hands of democracies, nuclear weapons safeguard liberty; in the hands of dictatorships, they safeguard despotism ... the threat nuclear weapons pose today is probably greater than ever before ... It's because nuclear know-how and technology have fallen into the hands of men such as A.Q. Khan and Kim Jong Il, and they, in turn, are but one degree of separation away from the jihadists who may someday detonate a bomb in Times or Trafalgar Square.

Friday, August 05, 2005

London On Our Mind

London-based Reformist Muslim is back and we are very relieved.

He's been in Pakistan where he notes the following in response to our calling out a Pakistani terror apologist:

I'm in Pakistan right now and seriously thinking of writing a piece along the lines of 'Bye Bye Chomsky'. I don't mind people reading him but him and his followers are elevated to prophet status and there is very little diversity of opinion on foreign affairs issues. For example I don't think anyone has an idea of Christopher Hitchens views on Iraq.

The really frustrating thing though is that almost all of the educated, intelligent people that I know also share the America/Oil/Mossad/Netanyahu/'Who Benefits' view of the world. They are by no means extremists.

We have here a profound problem of intellectual inertia; the rabid fringe then extrapolates absurd rationales for their evil acts of terror from the consequent darkness. How this can be resolved without moderate Muslims rising above their understandable defensiveness at a time like this is hard to fathom? This is quite depressing.

Reformist Muslim makes one other important point. He feels that, absent a just resolution of the Palestine issue, reformists will continue finding it hard to engage their co-religionists in a dialogue based on reason.

We also believe that Palestine should be resolved fairly. But, we also recognize that it's the perennially myopic Palestinian leadership who's prevented a solution from emerging. From the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat, we have a long stretch of astonishingly inept politicians & negotiators who've missed no opportunity to miss opportunities.

If Palestine is the problem, then we'd urge our reformist Muslim friends to start demanding that Palestinians get with the game and find themselves sound leadership. Once this happens, the rest is negotiated detail.

Finally, we just finished watching Tony Blair's typically terrific press conference where he unveiled a tough new policy on terror. Our libertarian friends will likely be aghast but we fully support such steps. No one should have the right to misuse a liberal nation's welcome to hurt the very people who laid out the welcome mat. Here is Mr. Blair:

I want to make it clear yet again that this is not in any way whatever aimed at the decent law-abiding Muslim community of Great Britain. We know that this fringe of extremism does not truly represent Islam. We know British Muslims, in general, abhor the actions of the extremists. We acknowledge once again Muslim contribution to our country and welcome it. We welcome those who visit our country from abroad in peace, welcome those who know that in this country the respect and tolerance towards others which we believe in, is the surest guarantee of freedom and progress for people of all religious faiths.

But coming to Britain is not a right, and even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and it's people have no place here. Over the coming months in the courts, in Parliament, in debate and engagement with all parts of our communities, we will work to turn these sentiments into reality, and that is my duty as Prime Minister.

That's leadership. Kudos.

The Flu Pandemic

Via The Economist, Antiviral drugs could stamp out bird flu.

Well, perhaps we aren't all going to die afterall! On second thoughts, given what Roche is reporting, Indians may not be as safe as others on the planet. Anyone surprised?

The Sexed Up Uber-Equation

In Opinion Journal, James Seaton takes on Theory's Empire where today's academic theorists do not limit themselves to deconstructing, say, Jane Austen. They practice a broader sort of "theory" or, better, Theory. (One needs a capital letter to do justice to the ambition of the project.) Under the rubric of "cultural studies," theorists claim to possess the key to understanding all sorts of human activity, from crime to colonialism.

Here's a particularly hilarious discussion:

For most people outside the academy what is most striking--and most puzzling--about Theory is the prose in which it is couched. To take an example offered by contributor D.G. Myers: Homi Bhaba, a major theorist, refers to "the desperate effort to 'normalize' formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality." (Whatever that may mean.) The theorist Luce Irigaray asks more clearly, though not more cogently: "Is E=MC² a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possibly sexed nature of the equation is not directly its use by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged what goes the fastest."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Evil Echo

Via Christian Science Monitor, Al Qaeda to West: It's about policies.

Haven't we heard similar arguments before from "moderate" apologists for terror?

Snort Me A River

Via BBC, Italian river 'full of cocaine' !!

Do we even dare imagine what 21st century Ganga jal is full of?

A Welcome Murmur

Tonight, on American TV's public broadcasting newshour, we caught a really important conversation. On this four articulate Muslims Weigh Issues Of Islam and Violence.

A powerful excerpt:

ASRA NOMANI: We're up against a formidable enemy and we cannot dismiss that fact. What I've brought is a copy of the Koran, which comes from Saudi Arabia, you know, one of America's best friends, and the very first chapter says, "Guide us to the straight way, the way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, not the way of those who have earned your anger." Then in parentheses is, "such as the Jews, and... nor those who went astray such as the Christians." So in parentheses -- so these are the interpretations that are added into the layers of Islam that are a manifestation of the Muslim world.

IMAM SHAKER ELSAYED: But they are not e text, you have to admit this much.

ASRA NOMANI: But this comes...

IMAM SHAKER ELSAYED: You have to admit this much, it's not the text.

ASRA NOMANI: This comes from the House of Saud.

IMAM SHAKER ELSAYED: But the House of Saud is not Islam.

ASRA NOMANI: But this is imported into America and this what is we have to face, and we have, while the law enforcement authorities are watching the borders and the boundaries, we have this ideological hatred spewing into America, into communities in England. I mean, right here I have a text also distributed at my mosque in West Virginia, that also takes the text and says that women can be beaten. And then we have sermons downloaded from Saudi Arabia that say that we should not be friends with the Jews and the Christians. And we've heard this thousands of times, and at the end of the day, this is what we're facing. I mean it's a machinery; it's Wahabiism incorporated, it's fundamentalism incorporated. It's beyond an individual; it's an entire system that we're up against.


Via BBC, Death for India parliament raider.

Isn't our contempt for the bastard better served through our mercy, not through our violence? Shouldn't we be a society big enough to walk away from our valid instinct for vengeance, even for people as depraved as the convicted terrorist in this case?

We hope President Kalam will commute his sentence to life imprisonment.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Real Dark Day In Iraq

We write this having strongly supported the purpose of the Iraq war.

Tonight, as India remains occupied with our continuing monsoon troubles and, believe it or not, cricket, bad tidings come from Iraq.

In the past couple days alone, a single US marines battalion alone has lost 20 young men there. Baghdad remains in chaos, the rest of Iraq even worse. There is little prospect of a sustainable political accord that might bring peace there, nor is there evidence of real progress in terms of improving day-to-day life for Iraqis.

None of this catastrophe diminishes the valid purpose of the war -- to take the battle to the very heart of Arabia, whose theocratic & secular tyrannies have (perhaps inadvertently) brought us the shadow of Al Qaeda. Since the men who lead these anachronistic tyrannies see no reason to reform, taking apart one of them (any one of them, the seemingly easiest one of them) made a great deal of sense.

The shocking chaos that's regrettably followed this valid purpose is a major problem because this suggests something the world did not know prior to this war: that even the mighty United States, who's spent blood & bullion in Iraq like they were water, cannot tame a country of merely 25 million.

The implications are staggering. Given how this is turning out, American people will not back another similar initiative any time soon. This blunts American power since other tyrants and evil doers know they have more flexibility than they realized they had prior to the Iraq war. Because America is the long pole holding up the globalization tent, this is bad news for all of us.

Also, consider this. If America could not impose its will & values in Iraq, can India ever do so in a much larger -- and much more dangerous -- Pakistan?

A lot of people on the left will now say, I told you so. They shouldn't exult too much. If America fails in Iraq and this creates a comfort zone for all manner of maniacal killers, their victims will be all of us -- whether we supported or opposed the Iraq war. In this dark hour, we are all in the same leaking boat. Besides, the left had no real idea on how to deal with the terrorism crisis except to argue (no, demand) that we deal with terrorism's so-called root causes -- i.e. concede defeat on political matters even though we think we are on the right side. The left has little credibility regardless of how dark this Iraq moment becomes.

So, here we are. Iraq is, alas, going to become a real test for American resolve & leadership. From what we know of America, every instinct in its soul would make it stand its ground and fight; but who can blame it for feeling real down when a week like this one comes along.


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