Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The Captive Mind Now - What Czeslaw Milosz understood about Islam. By Christopher Hitchens

So, I read through these essays again, finding something fresh and worthy each time. But the one I was actually looking for did not have anything, at least ostensibly, to do with the battles against modern tyranny in Europe. It is titled, cryptically, "Ketman." "Ketman" is a term from ancient Persia, brought to Milosz's attention by Arthur Gobineau's book Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia. (Gobineau, now rather despised for his ethno-theories, was a senior French diplomat in Tehran for many years of the mid-19th century.) He had noticed that the dissidents in Persia, long accustomed to theocratic tyranny, had evolved a style of their own. As Milosz had himself observed about intellectuals under totalitarianism, the need for survival often involved more than just keeping your mouth shut. Tough moments could often arise where you had to make positive, public affirmations of loyalty and even enthusiasm. So with the oldest form of oppression known to the mind: that of religion. As Gobineau had phrased it:

"There are occasions when silence no longer suffices, when it may pass as an avowal. Then one must not hesitate. Not only must one deny one's true opinion, but one is commanded to resort to all ruses in order to deceive one's adversary. One makes all the protestations of faith than can please him, one performs all the rites one recognizes to be the most vain, one falsifies one's own books, one exhausts all possible means of deceit."

Gobineau cited the efforts of one Sadra, a rationalist disciple of Avicenna. This savant carefully observed all the cardinal dogmas of Shiism, spent hours elaborating the minutest details of the faith and proclaiming his superior knowledge of them, until he had won great praise from the mullahs and imams. Then, "seasoned with unimpeachable professions of faith, he succeeded in spreading Avicennism throughout the entire lettered class; and when at last he believed he could reveal himself completely, he drew aside the veils, repudiated Islam, and showed himself the logician, the metaphysician that he really was."

Not everybody possesses the arcane intellectual credentials, or the sheer nerve, to practice ketman at this exalted level, but Milosz points out that it can be employed, or perhaps better to say deployed, in less rigorous and demanding forms. One of these is "aesthetic ketman," which relies upon the need of even the most absolutist society to boast of some sort of cultural or academic capacity. "Aesthetic ketman," observes Milosz,

"is expressed not only in that unconscious longing for strangeness which is channeled toward controlled amusements like theater, film and folk festivals, but also into various forms of escapism. Writers burrow into ancient texts, comment upon and re-edit ancient authors. They write children's books so that their fancy may have slightly freer play. Many choose university careers because research into literary history offers a safe pretext for plunging into the past and for converse with works of great aesthetic value."

He goes on to say:

"How can one still the thought that aesthetic experiences arise out of something organic, and that the union of color and harmony with fear is as difficult to imagine as brilliant plumage on birds living in the northern tundras?

Victor Davis Hanson on John Kerry, Vietnam & Battle History on National Review Online I think that this is a very wise column.
Essays and Op Eds: "Bruce Schneier"
Telegraph | Opinion | Howard should start caring about Bush: "According to The Sunday Telegraph, 'Howard Tells Bush: I Don't Care If You Won't See Me'. Presumably he didn't actually 'tell' Bush, since his lack of access to the guy is what this thing's all about. "

Friday, August 27, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Hot lunch - a tiffin lady's burden
Economist.com | Iraq Economist on Sistani. Underestimating him in my opinion.
Telegraph | Opinion | White men must stop meddling in Africa: "'Children have lost their lives, their loved ones,' Mr Straw said. At least Mr Straw was armed merely with words rather than AK-47s, but isn't he just another meddling European who thinks he knows best? "

I am no lover of Jack Straw but this is a truly loathsome article.
BBC NEWS | England | Southern Counties | Satellite fault shuts train doors
The Spectator.co.uk Kerry�s quagmire
Mark Steyn says the Democratic contender has made a big mistake in campaigning on his Vietnam war record
Wired 12.09: The War RoomInside the fully immersive proving ground where tomorrow's soldiers are being trained by coalition forces of the Pentagon, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

BBC NEWS | Scotland | New whisky offers taste of India: "An Indian distillery has launched its single malt export whisky in Scotland and plans to sell the Amrut blend in about 460 Indian restaurants. "
ThisisLondon: "Baroness Thatcher might not have been so genial if she had known she was meeting the key plotters in a highly illegal plan to overthrow the president of an oil-rich African country. And she would have been distinctly unhappy if she had known that her beloved son Mark was to be accused of being at the heart of the plot - something he has strenuously denied. "
Wired News: RSS Attracts Really Serious Money

Welcome Back, Europe

I can't help but agree wih Victor Hanson here, that having the US shoulder the bulk of the burden of defending Europe for the last half a century has enfeebled us by undermining self-reliance.

We are still very grateful they did it though.

Isn't it time to impeach Blair over Iraq?

Put down The Da Vinci Code. Jack in the Grisham. Let Jilly Cooper turn yellow and wilt by the pool. I have before me a beach read more shocking than the schlockiest bonkbuster. It is only 80 pages, so you ought to be able to knock it off after even the most vinous siesta. Like all the best holiday reads, the idea is simple. A couple of academics have taken the words of Tony Blair on the subject of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. They have culled each top-spun, souped-up, over-egged quotation, and set it side by side with what the Prime Minister was actually being told about those WMD. You are left at the end feeling angry and bewildered that Blair should take us all for such mugs.
Boris Johnson in The Telegraph

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Goldie Lookin' Chain

According to The Sun, GOLDIE LOOKIN' CHAIN have been banned from performing on this week's Top Of The Pops.

Jimmy Breslin quits genuflecting

When Jimmy Breslin quits genuflecting, the Catholic Church in America might as well pack up its baptismal fonts, chalices and collection baskets and beat a retreat to Rome. And that time would be now. Breslin's latest book, "The Church That Forgot Christ", is an impassioned denunciation -- not of the Catholic faith which Breslin has practiced since his days as a parochial school kid in Queens -- but of the Church as an institution. As Breslin documents here his slow recognition of his own moral disgust with the Church came as more and more accounts of the sexual abuse of children by priests began to reach his desk. Just as evil, in a bureaucratic sense, to Breslin is the Church's long record of cover-ups of such horrors.
Newsday.com - Book Reviews

Darfur exposes trait of Arab politics

London Free Press - Opinion - Columnist Salim Mansur

Words and Figures

TAKE heart those of you who struggled with maths at school. It seems that words for exact numbers do not exist in all languages. And if someone has no word for a number he may have no notion of what that number means.


I find this very hard to believe.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Arms to Sudan

"Britain has sent more than 180 tons of arms to war-torn Sudan in the last three years according to the United Nations." says Andrew Gilligan of Iraq dossier fame in the Evening Standard. (May not be UK manufacture though. Could be through a middle man based here.)
Telegraph Opinion End the wicked politics of divide and rule in Darfur
Telegraph %7C Opinion %7C Kerry%3A strange%2C stuck-up... and stupid
Not So Swift - John Kerry's dubious Vietnam revisionism. By Christopher Hitchens

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Boxing and the Cool Halls of Academe
Why is the US doing its best to alienate all of its allies: "Anyone who wishes to go to the US to work or study is required to set up an interview by dialing a �.30-a-minute premium telephone line%2C as though you are seeking hot lesbian sex. "
Blunkett is an enemy of the people
Indian Version of Spider-Man - New York Magazine Comic Review

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

BBC NEWS %7C Technology %7C PS2 and Xbox price tags slashed XBOX down to �99
BBC NEWS %7C World %7C South Asia %7C India waits for its own Sesame Street
BBC NEWS %7C World %7C South Asia %7C India%27s %27lost Jews%27 wait in hope
Wired News%3A Homeland Security 101
The Spectator.co.uk: "Last week an Afrikaans man with a plump face%2C large spectacles and the nickname of %91Kortbroek%92 %28Short Pants%29 announced that he was joining the ANC. Thus ends the 90-year history of the most radical and notorious political party in the history of South Africa. Thus ends the National party of apartheid"
Travel Intelligence %7C Rajasthan
Travel Intelligence %7C Shopping in Rajasthan by Sue Carpenter

The Red Fort

The chef, his wife and the kitchen. Tana, Gordon Ramsay's wife "runs her own shop "The Red Fort" in Knightsbridge next to Gordons Boxwood Cafe selling wonderful Indian furniture, jewellery, textiles and great household things all sourced by Tana in Rajasthan."
Telegraph %7C Opinion %7C Who will defend our Armed Forces from enemies at home%3F
Darulaman%2C Kabul e.V. %7C Donate for Kabul

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Observer | Magazine | Le Bouchon Bordelais, SW11
Intelliseek's BlogPulse
BW Online | August 11, 2004 | Howard Rheingold's Latest Connection
Polymath with a Cause (washingtonpost.com): "The uplifting thing about contradictions is that they can illuminate, by debate and contrast, and may point the way toward a synthesis. The sad thing about this book is the deliberate way in which it forecloses that possibility" Christopher Hitchens on Edward Said.
Wired News: Modern Students Devour Old Math: "Vedic maths"

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | US movie actor is 'Afghan prince'
Times Online - World: "Mad Jack and his Sabre Seven" in Afghanistan.
The New York Review of Books: Disaster in Darfur
Economist.com | Arab foreign policy
BBC NEWS | Business | Microsoft opens cut-price Windows
LRB | Edward Said : Always on Top: "Whenever nationalism brought about what seemed to be a successful revolution, as in India, questions remained about the inherent deficiencies of non-Western peoples, including their incapacity for truly civilised behaviour." What a truly unfortunate sentence.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Thursday, August 05, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | New tape could solve JFK mystery
The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper Interesting artlicle on Russia's "culture of contempt". It really reminds me of my experiences in Bulgaria.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

VDH's Private Papers :: If the Dead Could Talk
The Observer | Special reports | Jason Burke: The great disappearing act: "The Americans believe that Abu Al-Haili helped to arrange Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora. So why did British security services allow him to slip the net in Tooting, South London?"

Dingo's origins tracked by DNA

A genetic analysis of the Australian dingo suggests the dogs tagged along on an epic expansion of people out of southern China around 6,000 years ago.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature

Monday, August 02, 2004

Reason: 2001 Nights: The end of the Orientalist critique
w w w . p r o s p e c t - m a g a z i n e . c o . u k: "Without the novel, there would be no Europe"
BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Leaders condemn Iraq church bombs: "A statement from Ayatollah Sistani's office said the attacks were 'terrible crimes' and urged the government and the people to work together to end the attacks against Iraqis.
'We stress the need to respect the rights of Christians in Iraq and those of other religious faiths and their right to live in their home, Iraq, peacefully,' the statement said. "
I wonder if Sistani will get any credit for this.
BBC NEWS | England | Merseyside | Sniffer dog 'dies from overdose'
Dispatches?From Fallujah - Why would anyone volunteer to be an infantryman? By Owen?West: "The biggest mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom I was not the decision to send young men and women into the breach to remove a despot who possessed illegal weapons. As it turns out, he did not. Yet Saddam managed to convince everyone?the Bushies, the Clintons, John Kerry, France, the New York Times?that he had them. Even Saddam's own soldiers thought he would employ them. Here at 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, they tell the story of enemy soldiers snared in the initial invasion who were carrying gas masks. When asked if they really thought the United States would employ chemicals, the Iraqis responded, 'United States? We're worried about Saddam firing them at you.'"
Is Russia the Next Zimbabwe? - Putin's crusade against Yukos could be economic suicide. By Kim?Iskyan: "In April 2003, Khodorkovsky and Roman Abramovich, a fellow oligarch who owned Sibneft, another large Russian oil producer, agreed to merge their companies. YukosSibneft would have been the world's fourth-largest oil company, accounting for more than 20 percent of Russia's total oil exports to outside the former Soviet Union. 'With Russia still very dependent on export of petroleum to fill state coffers, allowing one person?not a friend of the Kremlin?to control such a large swath of the oil sector was deemed a national security risk,' said Peter Lavelle, an analyst of the Russian political scene"
Jonathan Schwartz's Weblog
BBC NEWS | Technology | Digital memories survive extremes: "The memory cards in most cameras are virtually indestructible, found Digital Camera Shopper magazine."