Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
“Some people come from nothing to being wildly successful and their response is, ‘I did this on my own,’” Mr. Edwards said in an interview. “I came to a different conclusion. I believe that I did work hard, and I think people should work hard, but I think my country was there for me every step of the way.”
Of course, to the immigrant one can ask - what might have happened had you not immigrated? and provoke some thought. America's wealthy by inheritance are a different matter.
A time-line of how it was hanged, drawn and quartered is linked to above.
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Whatever else is true, Chris Dodd took a principled stand today, sacrificing his presidential campaign and alienating his long-time colleagues to do so, and he won. He demonstrated what "leadership" is in action, rather than "rhetoric." Acts of that kind on our national political stage are rare indeed.If you missed the news, Glenn Greenwald explains.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Fire chiefs in the Big Apple, for example, already have been granted federal security clearances to further this "integration" of firefighters into the homeland security. According to published accounts of such training, firefighters are being trained to watch for "hostile" or "uncooperative" individuals, or those "expressing discontent" with our government. They are also trained to watch for and report on things that "seem out of place" in a home or business such as firearms and video recording equipment. Rooms with "little or no furniture" fall within the reportable suspicious activity.
The New York Times, via dkos
In a separate N.S.A. project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them.
Other telecomm providers, reportedly have had no such qualms.
David Habbakuk, via turcopolier:
I find myself here being reminded of the conclusion of the famous Long Telegram which the figure generally regarded as the architect of 'containment', George Kennan, sent from Moscow on 22 February 1946. As his final thought, Kennan stressed that 'we must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society.' The 'greatest danger' that could befall the United States in coping with the problem of Soviet communism, he wrote, is that ' we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.' As regards the neoconservatives at least, his warning seems to have been to the point.
As a spoiled British child of the post-war Pax Americana, what staggers me about so many of the neocons is their patently inability to grasp that American success in the Cold War was in very substantial measure due quite precisely to the fact that your country did not behave as the Soviets did. Why then this sudden enthusiasm for Soviet-style thuggery? Allies are 'to be commanded not consulted' -- precisely as in the Warsaw Pact. War and violence the 'birthpangs of a new Middle East' -- sounds very Leninist, doesn't it? This does not mean that military power was unimportant to the outcome of the Cold War -- far from it. But it seems to quite extraordinary that the neoconservatives simply cannot understand that the moral authority of the United States was crucial to the success of the post-war Pax Americana, and also to the retreat and collapse of Soviet Communism.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
One scary fact from there:
...we had an enormous housing bubble in the middle of this decade. To restore a historically normal ratio of housing prices to rents or incomes, average home prices would have to fall about 30 percent from their current levels.....The financial blog Calculated Risk, using data from First American CoreLogic, estimates that if home prices fall 20 percent there will be 13.7 million homeowners with negative equity. If prices fall 30 percent, that number would rise to more than 20 million.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.
And, to be sure, fraud is everywhere. It's in the loan application documents, and it's in the appraisals. There are e-mails and memos floating around showing that many people in banks, investment banks and appraisal companies - all the way up to senior management - knew about it.
The catastrophic consequences of bond investors forcing originators to buy back loans at face value are beyond the current media discussion. The loans at issue dwarf the capital available at the largest U.S. banks combined, and investor lawsuits would raise stunning liability sufficient to cause even the largest U.S. banks to fail, resulting in massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie, and even FDIC.
The problem isn't just subprime loans. It is the entire mortgage market. As home prices fall, defaults will rise sharply - period. And so will the patience of mortgage bondholders. Different classes of mortgage bonds from various risk pools are owned by different central banks, funds, pensions and investors all over the world. Even your pension or 401(k) might have some of these bonds in it.
What would be prudent and logical is for the banks that sold this toxic waste to buy it back and for a lot of people to go to prison. If they knew about the fraud, they should have to buy the bonds back.
It is truly amazing that right now everyone in the country is deferring to Paulson [current US Treasury Secy, and former head of Goldman Sachs} and the heads of Countrywide, JPMorgan, Bank of America and others as the best group to work out a solution to this problem. No one is talking about the fact that these people created the problem and profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars from it.
We are on the cusp of a mammoth financial crisis, and the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury are trying to limit the liability of their banking friends under the guise of trying to help borrowers. At stake is nothing short of the continued existence of the U.S. banking system.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
If you do not understand the implications of the three highlighted items then continue reading the transcript.
If you don’t feel a difference from what you were feeling a moment ago, well, congratulations – there is probably a job for you in the Bush administration. Consider the sad irony that this theory was crafted in that very building, by the George W. Bush Office of Legal Counsel.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Lately, he wrote this: 1946: A fateful year
This includes another one of those myths - India would not have been partitioned but for the sabotage of the Cabinet Mission Plan by the Indian National Congress, specifically by Nehru and Gandhi.
The whole problem with that particular myth is that Pakistan was implicit in the Cabinet Mission Plan, and that too, very much more than the "moth-eaten" Pakistan that Jinnah had to finally settle for; and the Congress leaders recognized that.
Anyway, for once, Noorani was neatly skewered, and that too, by one near and dear. Way to go!
IN his article, “1946: A fateful year” (December 7), A.G. Noorani writes that Jinnah“accepted the Mission’s Plan of May 16, 1946, which envisaged a federal India based on groups of provinces. It was wrecked by the Congress at the instance of Gandhi who demurred at the proposals from the very outset. Jinnah said in Nehru’s presence on May 11 that ‘if the Congress would agree to Groups of Provinces as desired by the Muslim League, he would seriously consider a Union’.”In fact, Jinnah himself considered acceptance of a Union that would be strictly restricted to defence, foreign affairs and communications related to defence as a temporary arrangement until the establishment of a sovereign Pakistan.
This was stated in the Muslim League’s June 6, 1946 resolution of acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan:“In order that there may be no manner of doubt in any quarter, the Council of the All-India Muslim League reiterates that the attainment of the goal of a complete sovereign Pakistan still remains the unalterable objective of the Muslims in India for the achievement of which they will, if necessary, employ every means in their power, and consider no sacrifice or suffering too great.”
The Muslim League resolution also stated that the basis and foundation of Pakistan were inherent in the compulsory grouping of provinces in Sections B and C by the Cabinet Mission Plan and the Muslim League would cooperate in the Mission’s scheme in the hope that it would ultimately result in the establishment of a complete sovereign Pakistan: It said:“...inasmuch as the basis and the foundation of Pakistan are inherent in the Mission’s plan by virtue of the compulsory grouping of the six Muslim provinces in Sections B and C, [the Muslim League] is willing to co-operate with the constitution-making machinery proposed in the scheme outlined by the Mission, in the hope that it would ultimately result in the establishment of complete sovereign Pakistan.” 
Jinnah also stated that acceptance of the Mission proposal was not the end of the struggle for Pakistan in a secret meeting of the Muslim League Council on the same day:“Acceptance of the Mission proposal was not the end of their struggle for Pakistan. They should continue their struggle till Pakistan was achieved.” 
Thus, Jinnah himself stated that his acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan and its compulsory grouping scheme specifying three sovereign constitution-making bodies, was only a means to achieve his goal of a sovereign Pakistan.
Further to note (not published): "Consequently, Congress's refusal to accept the Plan's compulsory grouping scheme specifying three sovereign constitution-making
bodies constituted Congress's bid to prevent partition and to preserve the unity of India. A.G.Noorani has it backwards.
As for Assam, no Indian need feel ashamed if Gandhi prevented a non-Muslim majority province Assam then ruled by Congress, from being handed over by the British to Jinnah, Muslim League and Pakistan, in the name of Muslim self-determination."
The references weren't published either:
 Resolution passed by the Council of the All-India Muslim League, 6 June 1946, 'Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-1947', Selected by Sir
Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai, OUP, 1957 Vol. II.
 Jinnah's Speech at the Secret Session of the All India Muslim League Council, New Delhi, June 6 1946, 'Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Vol IV, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.
PS - a word of explanation is needed about the "moth-eaten" Pakistan. Jinnah wanted to carry out of India provinces which as then constituted had a barely 51% to 55% Muslim majority, and that had large contiguous areas with non-Muslim majorities. Moreover, he was not willing to offer the large minorities in his hoped-for Pakistan the kinds of guarantees and powersharing arrangements that he was demanding for Muslims as a minority in a United India. For Jinnah, "self-determination" was a right of the Muslims alone.
One might argue that Partition and its accompanying mass population movements and massacres was totally unnecessary in retrospect, and that Congress should have yielded to Jinnah, it would not have been a betrayal of the non-Muslims in what is now Pakistan, etc. etc., had Pakistan also turned out to be a progressive democratic country. But Pakistan did not so turn out; and many fewer millions of people are oppressed by this epicenter of terrorism because of Partition.
There are few sane, thinking Indians who would wish Partition undone. Yes, the cost was horrible. First India and then East Pakistan (also at enormous cost) jettisoned the ever-aspiring-to-the-seventh-century dead weight of Pakistan.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
In most states, we hope, the state department of education would take the lead in ensuring that students receive a sound scientific education. But it was the Texas Education Agency that pushed out Ms. Comer after 27 years as a science teacher and 9 years as the agency’s director of science.
As Ralph Blumenthal reported in The Times yesterday, Ms. Comer forwarded to a local online community an e-mail message from a pro-evolution group announcing a talk by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University. Professor Forrest testified as an expert witness in a 2005 Dover, Pa., case that found intelligent design supernatural and theological and definitely not part of a scientific education.
An hour later, Ms. Comer was called in by superiors, pressured to send out a retraction and ultimately forced to resign. Her departure was instigated by a new deputy commissioner who had served as an adviser to George Bush when he was governor of Texas and more recently worked in the federal Department of Education.It was especially disturbing that the agency accused Ms. Comer — by forwarding the e-mail message — of taking a position on “a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”
Sunday, December 02, 2007
I hope the thali version of globalization wins over the melting-pot version.
You've remarked that if America is a melting pot, then India can be seen as a thali. It's an interesting observation. Does this correspond to the Nehruvian ethos of unity in diversity? Would you care to elaborate?
Yes, I think you can connect the two. My point is that the melting pot essentially induces conformity. You have a society where whether you've come from Croatia or Italy or Scotland or Ireland, you essentially - within the span of a generation - are speaking the same language with roughly the same accent, wearing the same sorts of clothes, eating the same sorts of food, celebrating the same sorts of holidays. That will be the idea of the great melting pot - the creation of an American out of this hybrid background of European races. In India we don't do that. We have people who are quite conscious of their separateness: their different clothes, their different food habits, their different appearance, their different languages, their different religions, and so on. And yet, of course, there's a common shared identity as well. And that to me is the magic of the Indian thali with all these bowls on one plate. But each of the bowls contains a separate dish. They don't necessarily mix with the next and they don't certainly flow into each other. And yet they belong together on the same plate and they combine on your palate to give you a satisfying meal. And to me that is a better metaphor of the Indian experience than the melting pot because, aside from the elite urban English-educated Indian, there's not the same sameness about, say, a Kerala rice farmer and a Haryanvi jat peasant. And yet they are conscious, at a certain level, of sharing a larger roof over their heads together - this idea of Indian civilization. To me, that's part of what India is all about. I think I wrote in one of my books that the whole thing about India is that we're able to endure differences of color, creed, caste, custom, costume and conviction, and still rally around a consensus. And that consensus is that in a democracy you don't really need to agree all the time so long as you agree on the ground rules of how you will disagree and where you will disagree. And that ability to contain the real differences we have is one of India's great strengths as a nation. And that's why I've made such a virtue of Indian pluralism in all my writing.
AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.
A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it....
Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.
The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.
Legal experts confirmed this weekend that America viewed extradition as just one way of getting foreign suspects back to face trial. Rendition, or kidnapping, dates back to 19th-century bounty hunting and Washington believes it is still legitimate.
During a hearing last month Lord Justice Moses, one of the Court of Appeal judges, asked Alun Jones QC, representing the US government, about its treatment of Gavin, Tollman’s nephew. Gavin Tollman was the subject of an attempted abduction during a visit to Canada in 2005.
Jones replied that it was acceptable under American law to kidnap people if they were wanted for offences in America. “The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared,” he said.
He said that if a person was kidnapped by the US authorities in another country and was brought back to face charges in America, no US court could rule that the abduction was illegal and free him: “If you kidnap a person outside the United States and you bring him there, the court has no jurisdiction to refuse — it goes back to bounty hunting days in the 1860s.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “This law may date back to bounty hunting days, but they should sort it out if they claim to be a civilised nation.”
PS: What it means:
It means that the United States does not respect the sovereignty of any government, nor does any treaty bind the US. (And then it wonders why countries feel that nuclear weapons are a necessity as a security guarantee.)
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Does Spiro really have no theory? Could his conviction that religion is
a cultural universal have its roots elsewhere? I have suggested that religion
is the background framework. In that case, the ‘consensual’ definition must express the vengeance that a theory will take for being oblivious to its presence. Reconsider Spiro’s claim (1966: 91):Since ‘religion’ is a term with historically rooted meanings, a definition must satisfy not only the criterion of cross-cultural applicability but also the criterion of intra-cultural intuitivity; at the least it should not be counter-intuitive. For me, therefore, any definition of ‘religion’ which does not include, as a key variable, the belief in superhuman…beings who have power to help or harm men is counter-intuitive.
Now it is a matter of established consensus that the Hindus worship trees, serpents, various animals (cow, monkey, and condor), images and idols. Are we to consider these people religious? It all depends, one may want to retort, whether or not Hindus consider the animals as “superhuman beings that have the power to help or harm men”.
In non-trivial ways, animals can help or harm human beings, but Spiro does not probably have this in mind. The problem might well be about the belief states of the Hindus: do they believe that animals are ‘superhuman’ beings?
This is a question about the hierarchy of life on earth. Humans are at the summit of ‘creation’ and animals are well below them in the ladder of life constituting the ‘infra’ or ‘sub-human’ species. Consequently, and only because of it, can gods be ‘super-human’.
Cultures do exist which recognise the differences between species, but do not recognise any hierarchy of life on earth. Even if human life is a desirable form of life, or even as a privileged form of existence, this does not imply that either goal or direction is attributed to the emergence and ‘evolution’ of life. One such culture is India and, in fact, one of the problems of the Christian missionaries with the Brahmins had to do precisely with this issue, as Rogerius (1651: 110) records it:Hier toe an zijn sy niet te brenghen datse souden toe-staen dat een Mensch, de Beesten overtreffe, end dat den Mensch een edelder Creatuere zy, dan de Beesten, om dat hy met een voortreffelijcker Ziele zy begaeft. VVant soo ghy dat haer voor hout, sy sullen segghen, dat oock dierghelijcke Zielen de Beesten hebben. Indien ghy dit wilt betuygen door de werckingen van de redelijcke Ziele, die in den Mensch, ende niet in de Beesten, haer vertoont: soo heb je tot antwoort te verwachten…dat de reden, waerom de Beesten niet soo wel reden, ende verstant, voor den dagh en brengen, ende soo wel als de Menschen, en spreken, zijn, om datse gheen Lichaem en hebben ghekregen, dat bequaem is, om de qualiteyten van haer Ziele te voorschijn te brengen…
[You cannot make them admit that Man outstrips the beasts and that he is a nobler creature than the animals because he has a superior soul. If you try to remonstrate with them on this, they would say, animals also have a similar kind of Soul. If you try to demonstrate this by the workings of the rational soul, which is evident in Man and not in the beasts: you may expect an answer…that the reason why the animals do not exhibit the kind of rationality and understanding that human beings can show, why they cannot speak as man does, is because they are not given a body capable of exhibiting the qualities of their soul…]
In other words, to the Christians, Man was/is at the summit of creation. To the Hindus, it was/is not so. Where does this take us with respect to Spiro’s definition? His definition cannot be ‘useful’ to us unless we presuppose at least some amount of (suitably diluted) Christian theology: gods are superhuman, which is why they are worshipped; humans are at the top of the hierarchy of life with animals well below them, and so on.
This ‘minimal’ definition, which appears reasonable, merely expresses a linguistic and historical intuition of a religious culture: how could a religion not acknowledge the existence of ‘superhuman’ powers? This is a secularised theology, as far from ‘science’ as anything could possibly be.
PS: to add to the confusion, if I understand it correctly, moksha is available only to humans, not to animals or to devas.
PPS: The logical possibilities are:
1. Balu is wrong, and Hindus believe animals have superhuman powers.
2. Hindus worship beings that have no superhuman powers.
3. What Hindus do appears similar to, but in reality is very different from Christian worship. In general, conflating rituals or an attitude of reverence with worship is a mistake.
#3 is the most interesting - it raises the question - just what is it that Hindus are doing? (Please be careful with the words "worship", "scriptures", "holy" used there, they are loaded words and may obscure instead of help understand.)