December 22, 2003

War issues

The confusion with the war:

One the one hand it is wrong to say the westphalian sovreignties are invioalable. After all we went into the Balkans without the United Nations. However, most people would contest that we had to given the genocide being conducted. That same argument could be made now. In conclusion the problem is with the perpetrator. People were convinced it was altruism that made the President act in Kosovo, but its not so in Iraq. Fundamentally it comes down to a question of integrity and reputation. It is the saddest irony that President 42 had a better war reputation than President 43!

Johann Hari - Archive

Posted at 09:59 AM

November 21, 2003

November 04, 2003

Tocqueville's America

Alex Tocqueville toured America in the late nineteenth century.

In Search of Tocqueville's Democracy in America - notable excertps

Posted at 09:02 AM

November 02, 2003

Appendix from the Western Canon -- Harold Bloom's "Western Canon"

Posted at 06:27 PM

March 07, 2003

Hanoi Jane

During the vietnam war Jane Fonda visited the North Vietnam and toured the NVA facilities. She decried the war, claimed the American POW's were treated well and that American GI's were criminals. She was nicknamed 'Hanoi Jane' for her 'treacherous' actions. Urinal targets with her face were popular.

Jane Fonda went on to marry Ted Turner for a while. As the joke goes, "Jane found God and Ted found out it wasn't him. Hence they divorced"

Posted at 11:03 AM

December 12, 2002


Maulana Jelaluddin Rumi was the founder of the Mawlawi Sufi order. Sufism is a mystical movement in Islam. The Mawlawi (or Mewlawi) order of Sufi's are famous for their whirling dervishes. A combination of sound, whirling, mental focus and posturing allows the practioner to experience union with God. (editor's comments reserved). Rumi's is famous for his poetry which had a constant and strong theme of love for God. One thing that has confused me is the fact that both Omar Khayyam and Rumi wrote the Rubaiyat.

Our death is our wedding with eternity. What is the secret? "God is One." The sunlight splits when entering the windows of the house. This multiplicity exists in the cluster of grapes; It is not in the juice made from the grapes. For he who is living in the Light of God, The death of the carnal soul is a blessing. Regarding him, say neither bad nor good, For he is gone beyond the good and the bad.

One thing to note here is that in Arabic and Islamic tradition martyr's refer to their death as a marriage or wedding. I am not sure where the concept of houris awaiting a shaheed(martyr) in heaven came from. While Sufi poems liberally use the words "wine", "drunk" etc Islam is not known to look favorably on these nouns. It is usually presumed the poets were referring to the grace of God as the intoxicant.

Some Rumi Links has a good collection of Rumi's works.
Iranian site

Some Quatrains:

To Love is to reach God.
Never will a Lover's chest
feel any sorrow.
Never will a Lover's robe
be touched by mortals.
Never will a Lover's body
be found buried in the earth.
To Love is to reach God.

The Lovers
will drink wine night and day.
They will drink until they can
tear away the veils of intellect and
melt away the layers of shame and modesty.
When in Love,
body, mind, heart and soul don't even exist.
Become this,
fall in Love,
and you will not be separated again.

almost a Haiku!

All day and night, music, a quiet, bright reedsong. If it fades, we fade.

"One went to the door of the Beloved and
knocked. A voice asked, 'Who is there?'
He answered, 'It is I.'
The voice said, 'There is no room for Me and Thee.'
The door was shut.

After a year of solitude and deprivation he returned and knocked.
A voice from within asked, 'Who is there?'
The man said, 'It is Thee.'
The door was opened for him."


Last night,
I was lying on the rooftop,
thinking of you.
I saw a special Star,
and summoned her to take you a message.
I prostrated myself to the Star
and asked her to take my prostration
to that Sun of Tabriz.
So that with his light, he can turn
my dark stones into gold.
I opened my chest and showed her my scars,
I told her to bring me news
of my bloodthirsty Lover.
As I waited,
I paced back and forth,
until the child of my heart became quiet.
The child slept, as if I were rocking his cradle.
Oh Beloved, give milk to the infant of the heart,
and don't hold us from our turning.
You have cared for hundreds,
don't let it stop with me now.
At the end, the town of unity is the place for the heart.
Why do you keep this bewildered heart
in the town of dissolution?
I have gone speechless, but to rid myself
of this dry mood,
oh Saaqhi, pass the narcissus of the wine.

Posted at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2002

Mustafa Kemal Pasha

Over the course of a decade or so, Atatürk proclaimed a new constitution, created a national legislature, abolished the sultan and caliph, required Muslims to pray in Turkish and not Arabic, urged the study of science, created a secular public education system, abolished religious courts, imposed the Latin alphabet, ended the practice of allowing divorce simply at the husband’s request, gave women the vote, adopted the Christian calendar, did away with the University of Istanbul’s theology faculty, created commercial legal codes by copying German and Swiss models, stated that every person was free to choose his own religion, authorized the erection of statues with human likenesses, ended the ban on alcohol (Atatürk liked to drink), converted the mosque of Hagia Sophia into a secular museum, authorized the election of the first Turkish beauty queen, and banned the wearing of the fez.

You may imagine that this last decision was over a trivial matter, but you would be wrong. The fez, the red cap worn by many Turks, conveyed social standing and, because it lacked a brim, made it possible for its wearer to touch the ground with his forehead when saying prayers. Western hats, equipped with brims, made this impossible. When the ban on the fez was announced, riots erupted in many Turkish cities, and some 20 leaders were executed.

James Q. Wilson
The reform Islam needs

Posted at 09:56 AM

November 05, 2002

Brief history

A brief history of the Palestine-Israel conflict is at the Guardian.

Posted at 09:58 AM

September 11, 2002

Where was God?

Its been one year since the World Trade Center attack. This morning I heard a mention on the radio about an essay trying to answer the question about God's complicity in letting these acts happen.

I decided to search the net for more essays:

Where was God - Ray Bohlin
How could God allow this
Where was God - Encounter magazine
PBS special - Faith after 9/11

>> Here is a critique of one essay

Where was God?"

How many of us have heard that question, "Where was your God when the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked?" Well, I know where my God was
the morning of September 11, 2001, and He was very busy.

He was trying to discourage anyone from taking these flights. Those four
flights held over 1000 passengers and there were only 266 aboard. He was on
four commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay
calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of
the hijacked planes said that passengers were screaming in the background.
On one of the flights he was giving strength to passengers to try to
overtake the hijackers.

<< Tue morning cross country flights were picked by the hijacker specifically for the lack of passengers. We don't know if people were screaming outside the window of the phone calls. And the argument from fallacy (none of the loved ones said anything about screaming) doesnt hold. Just because you were not intimated about an occurence says nothing about its occurring. Remember Berkeley's "if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it"

He was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade
Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the first jet
hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a miracle in
itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center
told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays.

>>The flights struck at 8:46am. The offices dont fill up with people until well after 9. This is an everyday occurrence in almost every normal office building.

He was holding up two 110 story buildings so that two-thirds of the workers could get out. I was so amazed that the top of the towers didn't topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward. God didn't allow them to topple over, as many more lives would have been lost. And when the buildings went down, my God picked up almost 6,000 of his children and carried them home with him. Reassuring his frightened children that the worst was over and the best was yet to come.
>> The designers of the world trade center had to convince the public that the buildings would withstand all sorts of hurricanes and forces of nature. In fact criticism levelled against the original design was that an airplane could fly into it by accident. The building withstood the impact but failed because of the jet fuel that kept the fire going.
He sat down and cried that 19 of his children could have so much hate in their hearts. That they didn't choose him, and now they are lost forever.
>> no comment
He sent his children that are best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive, but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in any way they were needed.
>> its all in how you look at it. He didnt send his best airport security men to stop these men.
He still isn't finished though, He held the loved ones that were left behind in His arms. He comforts them daily. His other children are given the strength to reach out to them and help them in any way they can.
>> nothing different from all the traffic accidents he causes (or as the other has it "doesnt stop")
And I believe He will continue to help us in what is to come. He will give the people in charge of this great nation the strength and the wisdom to do the right thing. He would never leave us in our time of need.

So, when anyone asks, "Where was your God on September 11th?", you can say
"Everywhere!" And yes, although this is without a doubt the worst thing I
have seen in my life, I see God's miracles in every bit of it.

>> ahem

Posted at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2002

Loss of Freedom

Here is a list of freedoms that have been compromised since the war on terror [via MeFi]

Posted at 08:20 PM

August 29, 2002

Of Arab Armies and failing culture

The essay Why Arabs lose wars makes some interesting points about Arab culture which renders their armies incapable of effective function. This essay focussed mainly on the Arab armies of the modern era. Prior to the mid 1900s the notion of an Arab army took a hiatus while the colonial powers quabbled over the region for several hundred years. Still prior to this time the Islamic army (consisting initially of Arabs) did perform quite admirably. Is it fair to say that Arab armies have performed most effectively when organized by tribe? (the armies of the house of Saud in conjunction with their Wahabi priests?). Do the Turks and Persians not fall within the scope of this description?

The same lack of trust operates at the inter-state level, where Arab armies exhibit very little trust of each other, and with good reason. The blatant lie Gamal Abdel Nasser told King Husayn in June 1967 to get him into the war against Israel — that the Egyptian air force was over Tel Aviv (when the vast majority of planes had been destroyed) — was a classic example of deceit. Sadat’s disingenuous approach to the Syrians to entice them to enter the war in October 1973 was another (he told them that the Egyptians were planning total war, a deception that included using a second set of operational plans intended only for Syrian eyes). With this sort of history, it is no wonder that there is very little cross or joint training among Arab armies and very few command exercises

Posted at 09:07 AM

August 10, 2002

Knighthood for Tom Friedman

Friedman gives us another one of his lucid insights into the functioning of the world.

If you lose your luggage on British Airways, the techies who track it down are here in India. If your Dell computer has a problem, the techie who walks you through it is in Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley. Ernst & Young may be doing your company's tax returns here with Indian accountants. Indian software giants in Bangalore, like Wipro, Infosys and MindTree, now manage back-room operations — accounting, inventory management, billing, accounts receivable, payrolls, credit card approvals — for global firms like Nortel Networks, Reebok, Sony, American Express, HSBC and GE Capital.

Posted at 11:30 PM

June 19, 2002

Human Experimentation

At the end of World War II, nuremberg trial picturean International War Crimes Tribunal was set up to try the war criminals during the war. This tribunal was estabilished in the city of Nuremberg, the same city where Hitler announced his racial laws. One of the trials during the session of this tribunal was for the doctors who experimented on prisoners in the concentration camps. The outcome of the trial was the Nuremberg Code for Human Experimentation.

The salient points of the code are:

1. Voluntary consent is required for any experimentation.
2. Experiment must be to yield results that will result in the good of the society.
3. Animal experimentation must have already taken place.
4. Experiment must attempt to avoid all physcial mental suffering
5. Experiments should not be performed where there is a priori knowledge that death or disability will result (unless the experimenting physician is also a subject)
6. The degree of risk must never exceed the humanitarian importance of the results
7. Preparations must be made to prevent the possible disability or death of subject.
8. Experiment must only be conducted by people who have the scientific qualifications
9. The subject must possess the capability to bring the experiment to a close if the suffering is not bearable.
10. The scientist in charge must have control to terminate the experiment if there is any fear that death or disability might occur.

Posted at 02:56 PM

May 21, 2002

brahmin marriage in a nutshell

South Indian Brahmin marriages are an elaborate fare. The events that span the 4 days include:

Janavasam: The groom is offered new clothing to wear to the marriage.

Vritham: ??

Kasi Yatra: This is symbolic of the bachelor embarking on his trip to Kasi to take up the life of a brahmachari. On the way the bride's father beseeches the young man to abandon his quest and take his daughter as a wife.

Malaai Matrutal: The garlands are exchanged between the groom and the bride.


Mangalya Dharanam

Saptha sathu

Arundhadhi darsanam: In Kannika Dhanam the bride sits on her fathers lap and is 'given' to the groom.

Posted at 02:27 PM | Comments (1)

April 22, 2002

Hadrian's wall

Hadrian became the emperor of Rome in 117 A.D. Rome's expansion had ceased by then and he attempted to consolidate his empire. Rome had estabilished dominance over most of Europe and Britain. However Rome hadnt been able to control the tribes of Scotland.

He ordered a wall built to separate the Roman empire from the Barbarians.Hadrian's wall was built between solway firth and River Tyne.

Posted at 11:29 AM

April 05, 2002

Rome burnt. Nero played the what?

In 64 A.D. a fire broke out in Rome's slum. It burnt for a week and voraciously consumed acre after acre of the district. Nero who was away at the time returned immediately. He opened up his palace to the homeless and assisted in the rebuilding. So moved was he by the scene that he composed a song about the burning of Troy. (Romans believed that Trojans had founded Rome). The fiddle required several centuries of human toil to be invented. It is presumed Nero might have had to make do with the lyre.

A rumor arose that Nero had started the fire to build a new palace. Sensing the anger that was fermenting Nero's aides started a counter rumor blaming the Christians.

Posted at 08:59 PM

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar as a young man attempted to buy influence with money. While he was able to buy influence he was fast running out of money. As a young man about to embark on a military career in Gaul he realized that he was deep in debt. A miracle was needed to turn his life around.

Fortunately, Caesar was in the miracle business. His victories in Gaul and England resulted in his coffers being enriched quite handsomly. He also built himself an intensely loyal and effective army.

Cicero, then a Roman senator decided that Caesar was becoming too powerful and needed to have his power curbed. He was brought up on false charges and ordered to return to Rome to stand trial. Caesar returned with his army to the banks of the Rubicon (the boundary demarcating his province from Rome). (A rule enacted by Sulla ( a general who had marched on Rome earlier) prohibited a proconsul from taking his army outside his province.

After negotiations failed Caesar issued the order to cross the Rubicon thus breaking the law with only one outcome war. The Senators led by Pompey lost the battle to Caesar. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered by his hosts who learnt of Caesar's march towards Egypt. One side-effect of Caesar's visit to Egypt was his acquaintance with its 17 year old Pharoah, Cleopatra.

Finally quelling the disturbances that had risen in the Roman empire after the civil war Caesar returned to Rome triumphant with the placard veni, vidi, vici

Posted at 08:44 PM

Hannibal crosses the alps

A platitude as old as platitudes themselves details Hannibal going across the alps. This phrase evokes images of elephants trudging through the snow out of France and into Italy. Hannibal did not make it out of the alps unscathed. At several points his army was attacked from heights with rolling boulders. He was able to make it into Roman territory by crossing the Rhone river upstream from the bridges.

Hannibal was a Carthaginian general who escaped from Spain and took the fight to the Roman Empire in Italy. The mention of his name provoked intense fear in the heart of the bravest Roman.


Carthage: city state in N.Africa. Present day Tunisia.
Punic: Roman word for Carthage.
Punic Wars: Started over the city of Messana on the island of Sicily (circa 260 B.C.).
Second Punic War: Hannibal started fighting in Spain, but gave the Roman army the slip and headed over the Pyrenees.
Battle of Cannae: The elected Roman consuls attacked Hannibal near Cannae. Hannibal once again outfoxed the Romans who were massacred. The fleeing Roman soldiers were hamstrung (their hamstrings cut to prevent their escape) and then killed.
Fabius Maximus The Roman dictator who preferred to chase Hannibal rather than meet him in the field.
Third Punic War: Rome finally went to battle to destroy Carthage. A pitched battle ensued which continued door to door till finally in 146 B.C. the last starving garrison surrendered. Carthage was destroyed, its citizen sold into slavery.

Read more about the Punic Wars

Posted at 04:47 PM

April 04, 2002

Lorem Ipsum et al

I've often wondered about the origin of the Latin text used by sites to demonstrate text layout. Turns out the passage is an excerpt from Cicero's De finibus bonorum et malorum (in Latin)(a treatise on theory of ethics).

It is presumed that this text surfaced in the early days of the printing press and has survived into the modern information age thanks to man's innate laziness and proclivity to copy-n-paste.

Got it from the Straight Dope

One example of the lorem text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

March 08, 2002

The great leap backwards?

In 1958 Mao Dezong started the program known as the Great Leap Forwards. The goal was to abolish the individual peasant farms and build farming collectives. The hope was that with optimized and organized labor there would be excess labor for activities such as steel production which would push the Chinese further along. However, rampant mismanagement and inefficiency created the largest man made famine that resulted in the death of over 30 million Chinese from 1958- 1960.

tidbits: The ideology in China during the 60's was Better Red than Expert extolling the communist practices even where the real experts should have been consulted (?). Deng Xiaoping's slogan was It doesnt matter if the cat is black or white; what matters is how well it catches mice. Deng dies in Feb, 1997. Jiang Zemin currently rules over the most number of people in the world.

Posted at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2002

Bill Clinton's presidency

Joe Klein the anonymous behind Primary Colors has a new book out on Bill Clinton. His The Natural: The misunderstood presidency of Bill Clinton was reviewed by the Washington Post. The thesis of this book is that while the scandals surrounding Clinton's presidency are repugnant the president by and large was an exceptionally astute political magician with a very positive agenda.

Posted at 12:02 AM | Comments (2)

March 03, 2002


I learnt something interesting about Liberia today. I had often wondered why a country in Africa would name its capital after an American President (Monroevia is named after James Monroe). In the antebellum new world, the land north of the Mason-Dixie land was free of the cruel practice of slavery. Slaves that successfully crossed into the North were free. However, given their lack of education and other cultural differences they didnt fit into society. As a result the black class swelled in the North with no real way for the North to absorb them. Robert Finley floated an idea to repatriate the blacks back to Africa. The American backed colonization committee set sail for Liberia and estabilished a colony. Liberia was founded with an American-like consitution around 1822.

More information at this site

Posted at 11:06 PM | Comments (1)

February 26, 2002

Manufacturing Italian Consent?

with apologies to Noam Chomsky

“In Italy there are three private television networks and one major government network. The three private ones are owned by Silvio Berlusconi, and guess what? He's the prime minister, so maybe he has a little influence over the government network also . . . ”
– Nicholas von Hoffman in the New York Observer
Posted at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

Say Cheese. hold it. keep saying it

Daguerreotype was the first real camera.

Posted at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2002

Pawn to K-4. Tactics and vietnam

In the 1950's the French were desparetely trying to hold on to their erstwhile territory of Vietnam. The Vietminh controlled the country side with their ragtag army of laborers, farmers and guerillas. The French managed to hold on to the cities and major infrastructure. Effectively a stalemate existed. The French did'nt have the resources to take the war into the country side. The Vietminh with their captured and improvised weapons could not conquer the cities. The initiative entirely lay in the hands of the Vietminh that could attack at will on what they desired. The French wanted to change the playing field.

The US was now actively involved in the war on France's side. They decided the best way to conclude the war with a conclusive victory was to throw down the gauntlet and battle the Vietminh once and for all. The market town of Dien Bien Phu was chosen as the future Waterloo for the Vietminh. The Vietminh under Giap (actually guided by Wei Guoqing from China) accepted the challenge and started an all-or-nothing seige of Dien Bien Phu. While the French remained enconsed in their belief that the Vietminh lacked adequate artillery to attack the town from behind the mountains, Giap's men were digging two hundred miles of tunnels and trenches through the mountains and towards the city. As they dug closer and closer they effectively choked off supplies to the city and the 12,000 strong garrison in the city capitulated on 7th May, 1954. The French premier Pierre Mend&esharp;-France took France out of the equation by temporarily partioning Vietnam into two countries.

Other interesting Vietname facts On January 31st, 1968 the Vietminh launched the Tet offensive which sent 84,000 guerillas into South Vietnam and attacked the NLF everywhere. While it failed, it made significant psychological impact on the United States which could no longer count on a clear line of engagement.

Murray Sayle's article has more information.

Posted at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

The impudence, Sir

Adlai Stevenson to Richard Nixon:
If you stop telling lies about me then I'll stop telling the truth about you

Posted at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2002

History of Islam. sort of

Tariq Ali's article Mullahs and Heretics is an unexpected story of islams progression from conception to the ongoing decay. It starts of with his personal history and interaction with Islam. It suddenely diverges into the history of Islam. Over all a good read.

A quote I've lifted from the article is an introduction sent from an Ottoman Sultan to the King of France:

I who am the Sultan of Sultans, the sovereign of sovereigns, the dispenser of crowns to the monarchs on the face of the earth, the shadow of God on Earth, the Sultan and sovereign lord of the White Sea and of the Black Sea, of Rumelia and of Anatolia, of Karamania, of the land of Rum, of Zulkadria, of Diyarbekir, of Kurdistan, of Aizerbaijan, of Persia, of Damascus, of Aleppo, of Cairo, of Mecca, of Medina, of Jerusalem, of all Arabia, of Yemen and of many other lands which my noble fore-fathers and my glorious ancestors (may Allah light up their tombs!) conquered by the force of their arms and which my August Majesty has made subject to my flaming sword and my victorious blade, I, Sultan Suleiman Khan, son of Sultan Selim, son of Sultan Bayezid: To thee, who art Francis, King of the land of France.

Posted at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2002

on War

Von Clauswitz in his tome On War estabilished some of the first principles of modern warfare (Yes, Sun Tzu's Art of War does predate On War by many centuries and remains timely (although much like Machiavelli his work sees a lot more exposure in pop business books)). The most quoted line from On War is undoubtedly War is a continuation of policy by other means. Essenially implying that war's goal is promulgation of a policy that could have been pursued by other means.

Aside: Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington discuss this statement in Crimson Tide.

Posted at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

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