Saturday, March 31, 2007

In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia

A book of Meeto's essays has been published this month. I am sure the essays will be great.

In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia

by Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik)

This book critiques the taken-for-granted opposition of Hindu and Muslim as separate and cohesive categories, the frequent coding of syncretism as deviant, impermanent or tolerant, and moves towards a more nuanced approach. It questions the historicist preoccupation with incidents and processes of conflict, conquest, iconoclasm, and sets out to look at co-existence and peaceful interactions at the grassroots as equally crucial for the formation of identities. Written with perception and lucidity, it could be used profitably by scholars and by students, teachers, activists and the general reader.


Introduction by Kumkum Sangari

1. A historiographical essay on Hindu-Muslim relations
2. Composite Culture in Pre-Partition Punjab: Fractures and Continuities
3. The Historian and the Indian Census: Accounts of Religion in late Nineteenth Century Punjab
4. The Census in Colonial Ceylon
5. Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil Society (co-authored with Yamini Aiyar)
6. The Ahmadi Problem: an unfinished essay
7. Appendices: a. I would like to ...; b. Concept Paper on the Census; c. Being an Ahmadi in an Age of 'Islamic terrorism'

Meeto by Judith Brown

About the Author:

Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik) was doing her doctoral dissertation at Balliol College, University of Oxford, when she died in January 2006 at the age of 28. She had been awarded the prestigious Clarendon Fellowship. Before returning to academics, she worked in various capacities with organisations involved in developmental and gender issues, minorities and human rights, and peace movements.

Plastic Surgery and the Asian Community

Alternet has a story on the rise of plastic surgery in the Asian communities.

One only needs to open a Vietnamese magazine or newspaper in San Jose or Orange County to see the onslaught of ads for cosmetic surgery: eyebrow tattoos, dimple and split chin fabrications, laser treatments for skin blemishes, facelifts, breast augmentations -- you can have it all and with an easy-to-pay credit plan. But the most popular are nose and eye surgeries. In the online business directory of the Southern California-based Nguoi Viet Daily News, where the largest Vietnamese population in the United States resides, there are more than 50 local listings for cosmetic surgery.

Looking at these ads, I must admit that I find both the "before" and "after" pictures slightly disturbing. In the "before," which is often out of focus, the woman is displayed in a downtrodden, bereft look -- a mess of misery to go with her messy hair. But in the "after" picture, she is all smiles, well-dressed and coiffed.

She poses in a kind of exaggerated cheerfulness -- cheerful, I suppose, because her features have been altered. Apparently along with the surgery, the image suggests, her outlooks on life has dramatically changed as well.

a doll

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Indian intellectuals

Peter Ronald De Souza writes in the Indian Express on the challenges of the Indian intellectual, and how they deal with the issues confronting them and the nation.

The first is the ‘if you are not with us then you are against us’, or what can be provocatively called the ‘camp follower’ syndrome, which divides the world of ideas into distinct camps — black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. Each side is infused with missionary zeal and its sole purpose is to vanquish the other, the enemy. All means are legitimate in this battle. There is no place for ambiguity here, no space for tentativeness, or the possibility of error, or even worse, the heretical thought that the other may actually have a point. This is the defining practice of the Left intellectuals in India and so, while it may have opened up many and valuable new vistas of understanding, it has no patience with dissent or intellectual openness. These are the enemies of an open society. It is indeed ironic that the religious and extremist Right adopts the same scornful attitude. Truth here is the big casualty. Truth is not important. Politics is.

At this juncture, I want to open a new front. While the intellectual exchanges between the communists and the Hindu nationalists have received some attention, little academic scrutiny has been given to the disjunction between precept and practice of the Lohiaite socialists. Adorning themselves with the language of samajwad and secularism, the Lohiaites have given us a socialist government (sic) in UP that has sanctioned even bigger SEZs than West Bengal, that has promoted family rule in UP from which the Congress can learn a thing or two, that has privatised the state in a manner akin to the Soviet oligarchs, and all in the name of socialism. It would be nice to have a critical commentary on the link between Lohiaite ideology and its political practice by a socialist intellectual. But perhaps that is asking for too much.

The second is what can be referred to as ‘the moment is not opportune’ syndrome where critical comment, asking inconvenient questions, and challenging established orthodoxies, are to be avoided since it will aid the enemy. Let me call this the ‘strategist syndrome’, where truth is trumped by a strategic calculus. The truth can be dangerous. It can be misused. Timing, here, is important. The inconvenient data, the necessary product of any intellectual enquiry, must be kept out of the public domain lest it strengthen the campaign of the other side. So while US imperialism in Iraq must be rightfully condemned, one must be silent about Baathist tyranny, and while Hindu majoritarianism in India must be rightfully opposed one must say little about Muslim fundamentalism. Let’s ask ourselves the question: why was there not a significant campaign on the Imrana case where the woman was raped by her father-in-law, as a result of which some local cleric declared her not ‘pure’ for her husband, a judgment that was supported by the well-known seminary, Darul Uloom at Deoband, by Mulayam Yadav and the All India Muslim Law Board? Here was a case that could have been a Rosa Parks case for us in India. Rosa Parks changed the history of civil rights in the US. Imrana could have done that for women’s rights in India, for building a more decent society. But we pulled our punches, lest our outrage be used by the Sangh Parivar. What is sauce for the goose, obviously, is not sauce for the gander. On this issue, of not compromising with the truth, Khushwant Singh stands out as exemplary, unbowed by the death threats of the militants during the years of turmoil in Punjab.

The third is what can be called the ‘comprador syndrome’ according to which Indian intellectuals adopt a different disposition when dealing with overseas academic institutions than they do in India. They make time, write papers on short notice, mentor young scholars, adjust curiosities to suit the projects of these institutions. This is particularly galling since the same intellectuals will not devote time to their own students, will decline seminar invitations from Indian institutions, will be more harsh and critical in their response to papers of local scholars than they are with overseas scholars, and will join research projects with overseas institutions on terms which are blatantly asymmetrical. Here truth is trumped by glamour. C’est la vie, monsieur.

The fourth is the ‘poverty of imagination’ syndrome where intellectuals adopt an idiom and participate in a discourse which is fashionable in the West ignoring all the while the local and the vernacular. That it is imitative has been said before. It is charged with having no engagement with the social and cultural imaginary of India. This is indeed a pity because India is perhaps one of the most fertile fields for social science scholarship. You can work on local level issues that are multi-dimensional and you can be absorbed in issues that have civilisational scope. For example, it is unfortunate that we have not done to our epics what the West has done to theirs. If Ulysses Unbound can be the title of a book by Jon Elster, which can look philosophically at the issue of rationality, pre-commitment and constraints, would it not be fascinating to have a book titled Yudhisthir’s little lie: Why the chariot dropped only by six inches to look at the issue of political truth. But unfortunately we still do not have the intellectual culture to support such scholarship. We do not have miles to go before we sleep, but miles to go before we wake.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

President Musharraf, Dafur and Iraq

Chapati Mystery analyzes Mohsin Hamid's oped in the NYT about the lack of support for Pakistani President Musharraf.

The link to Hamid's article is here.

A great article by Mahmood Mamdani in the London review of books here. The article is on
the Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency.

The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make?

Tablighi Jamaat

B. Raman speculates that coach Woolmer's death might be at the hands of Jihadi group Tablighi Jamaat.

Did Pakistani cricket coach Bob Woolmer's criticism of the growing influence of the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan, a jihadi organisation, on many players of the Pakistani cricket team contribute to his brutal murder after Pakistan lost to Ireland in the current World Cup Cricket Tournament in the West Indies?

Amir Mir paints a background of the influence of T.J. on some Pakistani players.

Long before the Islamists discovered their frightening zeal, Pakistani cricketers were considered a paragon of modern Muslims: they played flamboyantly, partied hard and didn't flaunt their religion publicly. They were the playboys of their times—suave, educated and dashing; they had their one-night stands, clubbed and tippled; as great exponents of reverse swing as they were ardent admirers of fine legs. They had the lifestyle only stars have—in any country, of any sport, of any religious persuasion.

Those days of cricketing insouciance are now memory, as are so many other aspects of secular life in Pakistan.

"There is no pressure to join the collective namaaz...we've never stopped a match." Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan Captain

Every prize presentation ceremony has captain Inzamam-ul-Haq begin his soundbite with "Bismillah (In the name of Allah)"; players huddle to pray on the ground during pre-match preparations; 'Islamic beards' are sported as an advertisement of their faith; batsmen have been known to cramp up because they fast and play during Ramzan.

The responsibility for this fervent religiosity are a clutch of players—Inzy, Mushtaq Ahmed (bowling coach), Mohammed Yousuf, Saqlain Mushtaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Yasser Hameed—who have become members of the Tableeghi Jamaat, or the 'party of preachers'. The TJ, an exact Arabic translation of which is the Proselytising Group, occupies itself participating in functions organised to propagate Islam and stressing on the virtues of an 'authentic Islamic lifestyle'. TJ has invaded the dressing room—they can be seen praying with players and reciting the Quran for the team's success. As TJ membership makes it incumbent upon a person to preach, Inzy reportedly went to Gujranwala, Punjab, on a three-day preaching tour, before flying off to South Africa for the recently concluded series.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Babble has an article on injections for infants. I thought it represented both sides pretty well.

Among well-educated, comfortably off parents, the ranks of vaccine-resistors are increasing. (Of course, plenty of parents fail to vaccinate their kids not by choice, but because they're poor and lack access to decent healthcare.) Some states with a large number of skeptical, alternative-minded people — Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, New York — have seen, in the past six years, a declining percentage of children vaccinated against polio, diptheria, measles, mumps and rubella

Saturday, March 24, 2007

i love my daddy

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food emporium

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6 weeks old

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arundhati roy's interview in tehelka

Arundhati Roy is interviewed by Tehelka.

You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrialising Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labour to feed this process, we have to colonise ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India — the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines — supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people’s throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the shit has hit the fan, folks.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Current TV, Rape in the Military & Iraqi Translators

I finally found a cable channel that I like, Current TV. It gets content from Google news, it's run by intelligent young people, and led by Al Gore. It has a section called V.C., which is viewer content, so people can participate by sending videos and podcasts. It's graphics are very contemporary and innovative, it's scope is global and it's politics progressive.
This is what Wiki says about the channel.

I read two good articles, one in the NYT magazine, about the women in the military, who have come back and complained about post traumatic stress disorder coupled with being raped by their superior officers. The distressing article by Sara Corbett is here.

She told Army investigators that the reason she did not report for deployment was that she had been sexually harassed repeatedly by three of her supervisors throughout her military service: beginning in Kuwait; through much of her time in Iraq; and following her return to Fort Lewis. She claimed too to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a highly debilitating condition brought on by an abnormal amount of stress.

George Packer in the New Yorker, writes about the treatment of Iraqi translators, by the U.S. and the danger they face within Iraq. The lack of protection they have received by the U.S. is shocking. The complete article is here

No conquering enemy army is days away from taking Baghdad; the city is slowly breaking up into smaller, isolated enclaves, and America’s Iraqi allies are being executed one by one. It’s hard to imagine the American presence in Iraq ending with a dramatic helo lift from a Green Zone landing pad. But, in some ways, the unlikelihood of a spectacularly conclusive finale makes the situation of the Iraqis more perilous than that of the South Vietnamese. It’s easier for the U.S. government to leave them to their fate while telling itself that “the good Iraqis” are needed to build the new Iraq.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Hometown Baghdad

Hometown Baghdad is a series of videos on 20 something Iraqis, living in Baghdad.

Also there is a beautiful, extremely sad story in mothering magazine about a woman who gave birth to a stillborn child. I cannot find the link online yet, hopefully it will show up. It is called Charlotte's Grace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nana & Meeru

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Wisdom is not the attribute of Brahman or the Absolute. It is very stuff or essence of Truth. It is the essence of Existence.

-- Sri Swami Sivananda

eating on the floor

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authentic couscous algerian

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Bob Woolmer

Pakistani cricket coach was found dead in a Jamaican hotel room, his death seems to have cast a shadow on the world cup and in the Pakistani cricket team and there supporters.
Australia's Herald Sun describes it here.

MYSTERY surrounds the death of Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer a day after his disgraced team was bundled out of the World Cup.

The former English Test batsman was found by a maid on the floor in his bathroom of his Jamaica hotel room surrounded by vomit and frothing at the mouth.
Woolmer, 58, died in hospital two hours later.

Here are some feelings expressed on a website..

By now all of us should know that Bob Wolmer, the pakistani coach, has passed away. These two days have been the lowest point in Pakistan Cricket and I pray to God that good days are in the near future. A few things I would like to point out are; when Pak lost to Ireland, every member in this site was expressing their hatred towards wolmer, quoting that he was a bad coach, he should be replaced. And after his death, all the members are praising him for what he did for Pakistan. This is a extremely sad situation since it teaches us that after a person has died, we really realize what he has done DURING his life ( or in this case, his stint as a coach for Pak). When He took over, there was no commitment in the Pak squad, no dedication, no teamwork, no teamspirit. When we used to loose, blames were put on one another. What Woolmer did was far greater than winning this world cup or a series, he created a team spirit - when Pakistan used to loose, even in this world cup, we still saw the team sticking together and taking the blame, no one put the blame on each other. Inzi, look at the captain, he took most of the blame. We have a team where the players are standing out and taking the blame, accepting the fact that it was due to there performance the match was lost. Today is a very sad moment for Pakistan and a pakistani known as wolmer. He was customed to our tradition and I hope Pakistan plays the next match in the world cup against zim, to show respect for bob and inshallah dedicate there win for him. I would not mind if bob's picture would be printed on the pakistani shirts for the next match. Today we have not only lost a coach, but a person, a non pakistani who loved our country and give his 100% to the team. What hurts me the most is the greef of his family. I can imagine Bob would have retired in the near future to spend time with his family since the three years he has been with pak, he wouldnt have been able to share quality time with his family and now when he would be retiring , he probably thought of spending a lot of time with his family which will not be the case now. R.I.P Bob Wolmer, you will not be remembered as only the coach of Pakistan but as a Pakistani.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

india lose to bangladesh in cricket

Bangladesh Beat India
In the end, it was a demolition job, professionally executed. They deserved to win because they bowled better, fielded better and batted better. They simply out-performed a complacent and listless India. A confident, composed and calm Bangladesh made short work of Indian bowling after initial prospects of an Indian fightback -- when three Bangladesh wickets had fallen at 79 -- proved to be shortlived.

The Bangladesh chase of India's 191 was largely built around the three contrasting 50s by Tamim Iqbal, Saqibul Hasan and Md Raheem -- three players still in their teens, with ages ranging from 17-19. And it was perhaps this fire in the belly of the youngsters, tempered with perfect discipline and no sudden rushes of blood that ensured smooth sailing for test cricket's youngest entrants. If their victory in 1999 World Cup against Pakistan had been treated as a fluke, there was no such element of fluke today. They just played better. Or, perhaps, it was the Indians who batted abysmally.
Edited at Mar 18, 2007 More
here. Seems Pakistan is losing to New Zealand.

alice walker and rebecca walker

NYT discusses the evolution of a feminist daughter.

Today, however, Ms. Walker, 37, has become what she called a new Rebecca, one who has a male partner, a child and some revised theories about the ties that bind, which she explores in a new book, “Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence” (Riverhead), to be released on Thursday. A review appears in The Times Book Review today.

Its inspiration? Her son, Tenzin, 2, who is named after the Dalai Lama. (Ms. Walker’s father voted for Chaim and lost.)

Ms. Walker and her partner, a Buddhist teacher named Glen (whose last name does not appear in the book), have been living in Maui, where Tenzin plays amid the lush landscape and is pushed about in a Maclaren stroller.

“I feel like I have arrived in myself to where I want to be and who I want to be,” Ms. Walker said in a telephone interview.

Motherhood, she writes in “Baby Love,” is “the first club I’ve unequivocally belonged to.”

The book explores the usual pregnancy topics like food intake, genetic counseling and the doctor-versus-midwife debate, and reveals that Ms. Walker is now estranged from her famous mother.

nyt reviews her book here, along with Peggy Orenstein's “Waiting for Daisy"

It’s to Orenstein’s considerable credit that even when she’s naked from the waist down, she never really takes her reporter’s hat off, applying the same measured scrutiny to a junior-high-school boyfriend with a brood of 15 or the plight of women left barren and disfigured by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima as she does to her own ultimately happily resolved situation. Alas, the same can’t be said for Rebecca Walker, the author of “Baby Love,” a solipsistic open diary of gestation that shares the earthy, spontaneous form of Anne Lamott’s child-rearing classic, “Operating Instructions,” if not its transcendent quality.

Like Orenstein, Walker shunned dolls and grew up profoundly ambivalent about becoming a parent, a prospective role complicated by her bisexuality and troubled relationship with her own mother, the novelist Alice Walker, whose intermittent airing here gives the reader the uncomfortable if fascinated feeling of sitting in on an unproductive family counseling session. The younger Walker musters thoughtful passages on abortion and feminism’s obligations to men. Yet she sorely tests the reader’s patience while settling into a pregnancy of privileged contemplation, achieved with relative ease under the ministrations of a homeopath — just one in a “small army of healers” she assembles for ailments that often seem more psychic than physical (though when her son is born with meconium in his lungs and sent to the neonatal intensive care unit, it comes as a profound relief that she jettisoned the plan for a home birth with a “polytheistic fiesta theme”). A Tibetan doctor, the daughter of one of the Dalai Lama’s private physicians, offers her “little silk bags of herbs”; hovering in the background, meanwhile, are an osteopath, doula, pedicurist and masseuse. “What a bummer it is that I can’t wear scent,” Walker grouses when a spritz of perfume sets off morning sickness. She consoles herself with bad TV and indulges in repeated retail therapy. “The whole time I was shopping I was thinking that once the baby comes I will never shop again,” she writes. “The thought was like walking into an airplane propeller.”

Not to begrudge the author such luxuries, but there was no need to make the world privy to them. Orenstein’s interrogation of her own profiteering pregnancy retinue comes across as a welcome, even necessary exposé; Walker’s merely a paean to pampering.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

KSM's sudden confession of having undertaken so many terrorist attacks appears suspicious. I wonder how much torture he underwent.

Newsweek, Mar. 15, 2007

How Not to Win the War on Terror

The KSM case points up what's wrong with the way the Bush administration fights terrorism. How the next president can do better.


By Michael Hirsh

The abrupt reappearance of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—and his brazen comparison of himself to George Washington—four years after the alleged 9/11 mastermind was captured in Pakistan should provoke some serious self-examination in the minds of Americans. The first question we need to ask ourselves is: Does the Bush administration have any clue any longer how to fight the "war on terror" legally? The next question should be: Can't our next president, whoever he or she turns out to be, do any better than this?

Let's hope so. Because if there is even a shadow of a doubt that the United States is losing the battle for hearts and minds to the self-confessed murderer of 3,000 people—that would be KSM—then something is very wrong. Let's get one thing straight: despite his touching claim that he doesn't like to kill "kids," KSM is a very bad man. Most people frankly wouldn't have much of a problem if he were waterboarded or beaten to an inch of his life in a dark room somewhere—which is almost certainly what happened to him in one of the CIA's secret prisons.

But the fact that four years to the month that he was captured—near Islamabad in March 2003—KSM is just beginning the process of being deemed an "enemy combatant" at the "Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing" at Guantanamo Bay shows that something is very wrong. The Bush administration has argued, with some legitimacy, that this is a new kind of war in which new rules are needed. Fair enough. But should it really require all this time, such a complicated series of court decisions and legislative maneuverings, to decide what those rules are?

The issue that the administration confronted after 9/11 was what to do with evil people like KSM. The Bush team decided that this was a war rather than a criminal matter—and a war unlike any other. Therefore none of the previous rules of war, like the Geneva Convention protections, applied, in their view. That left culprits like KSM in a legal limbo for four years while they were ferried around to secret prisons, long after their intelligence value had been milked dry (a process that by the estimate of most interrogators should take no longer than a year). Even some CIA officials were privately upset by this, fearing that the agency would be the fall guy in the end (they were right). "Where's the off button?" one retired CIA official said to me two years ago, in February 2005, before the military tribunals that KSM and others are being judged at—at long last—were created. Lawyers for the agency "asked the White House for direction on how to dispose of these detainees back when they asked for [interrogation] guidance. The answer was, 'We'll worry about that later.' Now we don't know what to do with these guys."

John Sifton of Human Rights Watch says the case of KSM and other key detainees—as well as some who are likely innocent—shows that the Bush administration has simply never defined what kind of enemy KSM is. Sifton adds: "This really is an example of how the war paradigm for counterterrorism—that it is only armed conflict—has backfired. Now we have a man comparing himself to George Washington. It might have been more appropriate to just call him a criminal and indict him in federal court, to say, 'You're no warrior, you're no George Washington. You, sir, are a criminal.'"

Scott Horton, another prominent human-rights attorney, agrees. Had the case been handled properly, KSM's confession to plotting 9/11 and many other actual or planned terror acts could have made him a "showcase defendant" for America's cause, rallying support and allies around the world. "He could have been charged within six months of his detention and prosecuted in a proceeding, which would have added to the reputation of our country for justice," says Horton, "and would have supported the righteousness of the cause of going after KSM."

We study the mind because we want the harmony of peace to prevail,
because we need the joy of love in our hearts,
because we care about the quality of life our children will inherit...
To be attentive requires tremendous love of living.

~ Vimala Thakar, a living Indian sage

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alberto Gonzales list of falsehoods

U.S. Attorney General Gonzales is under fire, here are a list of reasons. The source is Scott Horton.

First, Gonzales said, under oath, that the seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were fired for performance reasons. It now turns out this was a falsehood, as the glowing performance evaluations attest.

Second, Gonzales said that he would 'never, ever make a change for political reasons.' It now turns out that this was a falsehood, as all the evidence makes clear that this purge was based purely on politics, to punish prosecutors who were perceived to be too light on Democrats or too tough on Republicans.

Third, Gonzales said this was an 'overblown personnel matter.' It now turns out that far from being a low-level personnel matter, this was a longstanding plan to exact political vendettas or to make political pay-offs, involving the president, his personal counsel and his principal political advisor.

Fourth, Gonzales stated that the White House was 'not really involved' in the plan to fire U.S. attorneys. This is now also revealed as a conscious lie.vHarriet Miers was one of the masterminds of this plan, as demonstrated by numerous e-mails made public today. She communicated extensively with Gonzales's chief of staff, Kyle Sampson about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. In fact, she originally wanted to fire and replace the top prosecutors in all 93 districts across the country (including Patrick Fitzgerald).

Fifth, Gonzales stated that Karl Rove had no involvement in getting his protégé appointed U.S. attorney in Arkansas. In fact, here is a letter from the Department of Justice prepared under Gonzales' supervision. Quote: 'The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin.' It now turns out that this was a conscious lie, as demonstrated by Mr. Sampson's own e-mail. Quote: 'Getting him, Griffin, appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, et cetera.'

Sixth, we were told to change the Patriot Act was an innocent attempt to fix a legal loophole, not a cynical strategy to bypass the Senate's role in serving as a check and balance. Now White House documents disclose that this was all part of a careful plan to cashier noncompliant US Attorneys as part of a political game.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


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my friends

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delilah the cat

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Meeru with her furry friends

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Nanak image changed in Califonia

NYT explains it here.
ContraCosta times explains it here.

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to ask a publisher to remove from a seventh-grade history textbook a picture of a Sikh religious leader that many followers said was offensive and inaccurate.

The board agreed to the recommendation from state Department of Education officials and the textbook's publisher, Oxford University Press, to remove the historical portrait of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, from "An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600."

The controversial image shows Guru Nanak wearing a crown and with a close-cropped beard. The depiction runs contrary to Sikh faith, which requires observant men to wear a turban and not to shave their facial hair.

Guru Nanak also was a man of the people and would not have worn an ornate crown, more than a dozen members of the Sikh faith testified Thursday.

The image is taken from a 19th-century painting made after Muslims ruled India. The publisher used it because it complies with the company's policy of using only historical images in historical texts, said Tom Adams, director of curriculum for the Department of Education.

After Sikhs complained that the picture more closely reflected a Muslim man than a Sikh, Oxford offered to substitute it with an 18th-century portrait showing Guru Nanak with a red hat and trimmed beard. But Sikhs said that picture made their founder look like a Hindu.

The publisher now wants to scrap the picture entirely from the textbook, which was approved for use in California classrooms in 2005. There are about 250,000 Sikhs in California.

Sikh leaders say they want a new, more representative image of Guru Nanak, similar to the ones they place in Sikh temples and in their homes. The publisher has rejected those images as historically inaccurate. No images exist from the founder's lifetime, 1469 to 1538.

the comments section on amardeep's blog bring in the babri masjid / ram janambhomi controvery here. I personally do not see the connection.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kirpans made in China

Kirpans are now being made in China according to the Times of India.

In the rows of kirpan shops lining the Golden Temple complex, China has made an incursion unknown to most who carry with them one of Sikhism's five symbols. Mintai, a brand from comrade country, is doing particularly well and local kirpan manufacturers are not at all happy about it. Till recently, the annual turnover of Amritsar's kirpan market was estimated at Rs 50 crore. But the hold it had on global kirpan markets seems set to change, thanks to made-in-China entrants.

Shopkeepers said Indians prefer to go for things cheaper and the kirpan is no exception. "A well-crafted medium-sized Chinese kirpan costs Rs 50-100. A similar local kirpan is priced at Rs 150-300. Also, youngsters prefer the foreign variety," one of them said.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mira Nair

NYT has an overview of Mira Nair's career in films. Her next project is an adaptation of the book Shantaram.

Beneath its starry high profile, though, “Shantaram” engages issues that have obsessed Ms. Nair throughout her career. For immigrants and their children, what is home? What is family? How do you forge a new cultural identity?

“He is a man who disappears into the fabric of another place,” Ms. Nair said about the Depp character in a recent conversation. Explaining the lure of the novel, she added: “The theme I’m most interested in is, can a foreigner be a native? I’m interested in the seesaw of it, because I’m not sure that in the deepest way that’s possible. Ultimately you have to understand where you came from. Otherwise you’re lost.”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Namesake

I saw this wonderful movie and recommend it highly. It’s beautiful as it deals with issues of leaving home, bringing up children in a foreign country, dealing with love, loss and finally coming back. The cinematography was mesmerizing, juxtaposing colorful Calcutta with a wintery new York. Irafan Khan and Tabu gave excellent performances. The director Mira Nair, has created an even more emotionally dense movie than Monsoon Wedding.

Sepia Mutiny reviews it here.

“I don’t want to raise him in this lonely country,” says Ashima (Tabu), soon after the birth of Gogol Ganguli in Mira Nair’s new movie The Namesake, opening in a limited release today. Based on the critically acclaimed and commercially successful
novel of the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, the movie proves to be a remarkably faithful adaptation. Raise him here, of course, she does, but those words remain a rare break in her composure, a heartfelt expression of homesickness and fear.

Friday, March 09, 2007

In the Country of Men Hisham Matar

This is a powerful first book about Qaddafi’s repressive Libya, seen through the eyes of a nine year old boy, Suleiman. The book is focused on the private world of his father, his mother and his friends in the neighborhood. But this world becomes public when his friend Kareem’s father is imprisoned by the government and then hung in a basket ball court among a cheering crowd.

Kamila Shamsie reviews the book in the Guardian here.

And whatever his subject, Matar writes beautifully. In describing the world of seas and mulberries he is a sensualist; when writing of executions and arrests he is a nuanced observer with a gift for conveying both absurdity and raw emotion. His description of a public execution is an exceptional piece of writing - he is not afraid to bring in details that seem entirely incongruous with the setting, yet serve to give it an air of greater verisimilitude. A man trying to resist being taken to the gallows reminds Suleiman of "the way a shy woman would resist her friends' invitation to dance, pulling her shoulders up to her ears and waving her index finger nervously in front of her mouth". The scene is by turns absurd, painful and terrifying - and, with consummate confidence, at the crucial moment of the hanging Matar is able to step back from the detailed descriptions and evocative imagery to tell us, simply and chillingly: "Everybody seemed happy."

The writing is emotionally honest, with Suleiman questioning his own actions often.
I.H.T. has a review by Lorraine Adams

The boy interrogates himself after each episode, weak with shame. But then morning comes, what he experienced recedes, and its lessons fail to take hold. Gradually, we begin to apprehend the ways in which any despotic system is like any boy's inner life. Short-lived in their affections, easily offended, impressed with showboating stadiums of cheering automatons, blindly vicious, the boy and the system embody a topsy-turvy puerility. As in Orwell's famous formulation — "war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength" — the world has lost its definitions, or, in Matar's formulation, it has yet to learn them.

Ultimately, this is a novel most concerned with relationships between people - friends, spouses, comrades and, particularly, parents and their children. Matar movingly charts the ways in which love endures in situations of great repression, but also shows how repression threatens everything, even love, putting relationships under a strain that can be unendurable.

Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer

A simple idea teach where the kids are at..