Posts Tagged ‘India’

Rudyard Kipling’s “The man who would be king”

October 5, 2021

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and other stories by Rudyard Kipling

After our reading group read Kim, Rudyard Kipling’s best and best-known novel, we turned to Kipling’s best and best-known short story, “The Man Who Would Be King.”  

John Huston made a good movie of the story in 1975; it’s unusual for an excellent work of written fiction to be made into an excellent movie.

“The Man Who Would Be King” is the story of two adventurers, Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnahan, both ex-soldiers of the British Indian Army, and how they reached the inaccessible land of Kafiristan (“land of the heathen”) and established themselves as rulers, only to have everything go horribly wrong.

Dravot and Carnahan sign a “contract” to stick together, refrain from indulgence in alcohol or women and “behave with dignity and discretion.”

They establish their power by demonstrating firearms, whose power to kill at a distance seems like magic, and by their ability to drill troops, which makes them a force that can defeat mere mobs of individual fighters.  

The two men are Freemasons, and the local priests decide they are gods because symbols on their Masonic paraphernalia correspond to ancient sacred symbols known only to the priests.

Everything is fine until Dravot decides to take a wife and establish a dynasty.  The people are horrified because they believe a woman who mates with a god will die.  Dravot chooses a beautiful but unwilling woman.  She bites him, and his bleeding shows that he is a man, not a god.

The story shows Kipling’s gifts as a descriptive writer, an observer of human nature and a storyteller, but it also echoes basic themes of literature.  It is a classic story of hubris being clobbered by nemesis.

It is a classic story of the downfall of a ruler who allowed himself to become a tyrant.  So long as Dravot ruled justly, he was all right.  It was the act of tyranny, taking a woman against her will, that led to his downfall.

It is an echo of Genesis, and of myths and legends, of how people are granted everything they could want, provided they observe one simple rule, and how they fail to keep the rule.  In “The Man Who Could Be King,” the simple rule is the contract—the promises to avoid women, and to behave with discretion.

Kipling’s story is said to have been inspired by the exploits of an American adventurer, Josiah Harlan, who in 1839 marched an army into Hazarajat, in the center of Afghanistan, and proclaimed himself the sovereign Prince of Ghor.  

Like Kipling’s characters, he fancied himself a successor to Alexander the Great.  His reign was short-lived; a year later, a British army invaded Afghanistan and replaced his rule.

There also was Sir James Brooke, the white rajah of Sarawak, who established a family dynasty that ruled the northwest coast of Borneo from 1841 to 1946.  But Brooke was granted his authority by the Sultan of Brunei and Harlan also was acting as agent of Dost Mohammed, then ruler of Afghanistan.  Their stories were not Kipling’s story.

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In order to read “The Man Who Would Be King,” I bought a collection of Kipling stories.  I read the other stories, too, and mostly enjoyed them. 

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Kipling’s Kim and Kipling’s India

September 23, 2021

KIM by Rudyard Kipling (1901) with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey Meyers (2002) 

I read Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim as part of a reading group hosted by my friend Linda White.

Rudyard Kipling was a British imperialist.  He believed the British Empire was, for all practical purposes, permanent, and that it was a force for good.  The first belief proved wrong, and there are few who would defend the secondW.

So why read Kipling’s Kim?

Kim is an interesting story about the coming of age of a young boy and his struggle to define his identity.  Like Huckleberry Finn, Kim is often mistaken for a boy’s book because its central character is a boy, but it isn’t. 

Kim is also an idealized but fascinating portrait of the diversity of India, with its varied religions and ethnic groups.

Kim is the first, or one of the first, espionage thrillers, a new genre in which the spy is the hero and not the villain.

And finally, Kim is a work by one of the masters of the English language.

Kipling was, as we newspaper reporters used to say, a great wordsmith.  Anybody who loves writing can benefit from reading his sentences closely and noting his word choices and the rhythm of the sentence.

He is one of the few 20th century writers admired by both critics and the general public

His books of poetry were best-sellers.  Their rollicking rhythms stick in the mind, like Broadway show tunes.  He also wrote novels short stories, including the Mowgli and Just-So stories for children.  Henry James praised his prose style and T.S. Eliot edited an edition of his poetry.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

The hero of Kim is Kimball O’Hara, the orphan son of an Irish ex-soldier and a servant woman.  We meet him at age 13.   Kim has allowed to run wild in the streets of Lahore (now part of Pakistan).  He speaks local languages better than he speaks English, and is so sunburned nobody thinks of him as white.  

He earns money by begging and carrying messages.  The closest thing he has to a mentor is Mahbub Ali, an Afghan horse trader who turns out to be an agent of British intelligence.

As the novel opens, Kim encounters a Tibetan lama and decides to follow him on his religious quest.  They have adventures as they travel along the Great Trunk Road, meeting varied people.  These passages show Kipling’s genius as a descriptive writer, both of people and of the sights and sounds of India.  

He makes contact with his father’s old regiment, which takes him in.  He attends the regimental school briefly, then a Catholic school that serves India’s native Catholics.  These include the Thomas Christians, whose ancestors were supposedly converted by the Apostle Thomas, and mixed-race descendants of Portuguese seamen and traders who came to India in the 16th century—another example of India’s diversity.

Manbub Ali and Colonel Creighton, the secret head of British intelligence in India, are impressed by Kim’s talent for languages, disguise and deception and determine to groom him for a career as an espionage agent.

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The pushback against ivermectin for covid

June 9, 2021

Ivermectin is a well-known anti-parasite drug, cheap to make and proven to be safe, that a lot of physicians think is effective against Covid-19.

Several states in India tried it out.  New Covid-19 cases dropped dramatically.

Ivermectin results in three Indian states, vs. one where it was banned

The reaction of India’s public health agency?  Astonishingly, following the guidance of the World Health Organization, they dropped invermectin from a list of recommended treatments.

Physicians in India are still free to prescribe invermectin, but the only treatments with the official seal of approval are the expensive vaccines made by major drug companies, all still in short supply in India. 

I don’t see how this decision benefits anyone except the drug companies themselves.

Nick Corbishley, posting on the Naked Capitalism blog, tells the story:

India’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has executed a policy reversal that could have massive implications for the battle against covid-19, not only in India but around the world. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, are at providing stake.

Providing no explanation whatsoever, the DGHS has overhauled its COVID-19 treatment guidelines and removed almost all of the repurposed medicines it had previously recommended for treating asymptomatic and mild cases.

They include the antibiotic doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine zinc, ivermectin and even multivitamins. The only medicines that are still recommended for early treatment are cold medicines, antipyretics such as paracetamol and inhaled budesonide.

“No other covid-specific medication [is] required,” say the new guidelines, which also discourage practitioners from prescribing unnecessary tests such as CT scans.  [snip]

The decision to remove ivermectin, multivitamins and zinc from the treatment guidelines is hard to comprehend given the current state of play in India — unless one assumes foul play.

After suffering one of the worst covid-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, India is not just flattening the curve, it is crushing it.

And the widespread use of ivermectin, a potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory with an excellent safety profile, appears to have played an instrumental role.  [snip]

Other countries in the region have already taken notice. Indonesia just approved the use of ivermectin in Kudus, a local contagion hotspot.

This is the last thing the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical companies whose interests it broadly represents want.

As such, it was no surprise that WHO was delighted with the DGHS’ policy reversal. “Evidence based guidelines from @mohfw DGHS – simple, rational and clear guidance for physicians,” tweeted WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, of Indian descent. “Should be translated and disseminated in all Indian languages.”  [snip]

It’s worth noting that while India’s DGHS has dumped most cheap off-patent treatment options against Covid, including even multivitamins, more expensive patented medicines continue to get the green light.

They include Gilead’s prohibitively expensive antiviral Remdesivir, which DGHS continues to recommend for “select moderate/ severe hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” even though “it is only an experimental drug with potential to harm.” It has also authoriszed the use of the anti-inflammatory medicine tocilizumab, which costs hundreds of dollars a dose.

Source: Naked Capitalism.

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The plight of Muslims in Narendra Modi’s India

December 13, 2019

Muslims in the USA are subject to unfair prejudices and unfair treatment, but, all things considered, I’d rather be a Muslim in this country than a Coptic Christian in Egypt, a Baha’i in Iran or a Muslim in India or Burma.

Narendra Modi

India’s 200 million Muslims are just under 15 percent of the population.  Hindus are about 80 percent.  Yet Prime Minister Narendra Modi has convinced a majority of the voters that Muslims comprise some kind of existential threat to the majority.

India’s newly-enacted refugee law bars admission of Muslims, but allows refugees of other religions.  Proponents argue that victims of religious persecution in neighboring Muslim countries deserve special consideration.

The problem with that argument is the context.  Modi’s government is explicitly anti-Muslim.  The law would help dilute the Muslim populations in India’s border areas and In Kashmir.

There is an overall pattern of discrimination against Muslims and of excluding Muslims from protection of the law.  The world justly condemned the USA for its treatment of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era.  Modi’s government also deserves to be condemned.

Update [12/24/2019]  India’s new policy is worse than I thought, as Ian Welsh pointed out on his web log.

In addition to barring Muslim refugees, it calls (in practice) for purging of Muslims from citizenship rolls, much as African-Americans were purged from voter registration rolls in the start of the Jim Crow era.

Welsh pointed out that India faces a future refugee crisis as Muslim-majority Bangladesh goes under water due to climate change.  Bangladesh’s fleeing millions will be killed or put in internment camps.

LINKS

Blood and soil in Narendra Modi’s India by Dexter Filkins for the New Yorker.

The Coming Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide in India by Ian Welsh.  [Added 12/24/2019]

The Rape of India’s Soul by Jayati Ghosh for Project Syndicate.  [Added 12/15/2019]

India military deployed and protests rage against citizenship bill by Jessie Yeung, Helen Regan and Omar Khan for CNN.

The Islamophobic roots of population control efforts in India by Kunal Purohit for Al Jazeera.

And in neighboring Burma –

Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Against Rohingya Genocide Accusations by Marlise Simons and Hannah Beech for the New York Times.

US uses WTO to block India’s solar power plan

March 2, 2016

CROP-solar-power-india-800x400India has been told that it cannot go ahead as planned with its ambitious plan for a huge expansion of its renewable energy sector, because it seeks to provide work for Indian people.  The case against India was brought by the US. 

The ruling, by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), says India’s National Solar Mission − which would create local jobs, while bringing electricity to millions of people − must be changed because it includes a domestic content clause requiring part of the solar cells to be produced nationally.

Source: Climate News Network (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

The World Trade Organization rules that governments can’t subsidize infant industries because subsidies are trade barriers.   The theory is that they are equivalent to tariffs because they give the home team an advantage.

WTO rules have been used to penalize solar and renewable power industries in the United States, Canada, China and other countries.

The problem with this is that once a particular nation or business monopoly has established dominance, it is very difficult for a newcomer to break in.  That is why almost all industrial nations that came after Britain developed behind tariff walls, and why leaders of Britain, the first industrial nation, advocated free trade.

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China abandons one-child policy

November 11, 2015

chinese_kids_by_peter_morgan_credit

One of the most momentous events in modern history was China’s adoption of the “one-child” policy in 1980.

figure1Now the Chinese government has done something almost equally momentous.  It has adopted a “two-child” policy.  Henceforth all Chinese couples will be allowed to have two children.

The one-child policy limited China’s population growth and, arguably, eliminated the threat of famine and made possible China’s current relative prosperity.

But the Chinese paid a price for this, and not just in brutal violations of human dignity, including forced abortions.

chinapopulationpyramid70China has a population imbalance, because Chinese couples traditionally prefer boys to girls.  This means there are millions of eligible Chinese men who will never find a spouse.

China faces an age imbalance, with an increasing elderly population and a shrinking working-age population.

And China faces a geo-political imbalance.  The population of India, China’s chief rival in Asia, will exceed China’s if present trends continue.  This affects the balance of power.  Bertrand Russell wrote somewhere that if there ever is to be peace among nations, they will have to agree on limitations of population as well as limits on arms.

demographic_transition_detailedMy hope for the Chinese, and for other peoples, is that they go through a demographic transition without government dictating to couples how many children they mahy have.

A demographic transition requires (1) a material standard of living sufficient that couples don’t think they have to have as many children as possible to be assured of survival in old age, and (2) women assured the freedom and knowledge they need to decide how many children they are to have.

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Nationalism and religious fanaticism in India

October 16, 2015

Nationalism and religious fanaticism are a dangerous combination.

It means that people worship their collective selves instead of a universal God, and that they regard other people as the equivalent of demons.

Very few, if any, countries are immune from this danger—certainly not mine.

Glimpses of Asia – October 3, 2015

October 3, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty

Ghost Chili

Ghost Chili

World’s Hottest Chili (the Ghost Chili) is now being weaponized by the Indian Military
http://www.messynessychic.com/2012/10/08/worlds-hottest-chili-the-ghost-chili-is-now-being-weaponized-by-the-indian-military/

US elevates Thailand to best child labor category
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/US-elevates-Thailand-to-best-child-labor-category-30269971.html

Movie Vs. Reality: What It Actually Feels Like To Climb Mount Everest
http://uproxx.com/life/2015/09/everest-reality-vs-fiction/

The Most Frightening Food Found on Airplanes
http://mentalfloss.com/article/69240/most-frightening-food-found-airplanes

[Thai] Government warns netizen protesters
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/security/714964/government-warns-netizen-protesters

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Glimpses of Asia – October 1, 2015

October 1, 2015

Hat tip for these links to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

Go Delhi Go | Hyperlapse (2 min)

Colonial Photography in British India
http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/12586

Where Do Languages Go to Die? – The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/aramaic-middle-east-language/404434/

Mount Everest to be declared off-limits to inexperienced climbers, says Nepal
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/28/mount-everest-to-be-declared-off-limits-to-inexperienced-climbers

Map: Where the East and the West meet
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/28/map-where-the-east-and-the-west-meet/

Zen and the Art of Bonsai Maintenance
http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2015/09/20/stephen_voss_photographs_bonsai_trees_at_the_national_bonsai_penjing_museum.html

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More glimpses of Asia – September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

Links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty

Japan’s Yakuza: Inside the syndicate

Malaysia arrests eight in connection with Bangkok shrine bombing
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/23/malaysia-arrests-eight-bangkok-shrine-bombing

Sumatran rhinos likely to become extinct, conservationists warn
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/22/sumatran-rhinos-likely-to-become-extinct-warn-environment-experts

Secret Missionaries and Smuggled Bibles: China’s Religious Boom
http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/secret-missionaries-and-smuggled-bibles-chinas-religious-boom

25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World  [24 in Asia -M]
http://www.boredpanda.com/dangerous-journey-to-school/

We’re All Mispronouncing Mount Everest’s Name  [Interesting trivia! Of course those of us who have lived/visited Nepal or Tibet, call it Sagarmatha or Chomolungma -M]
http://mentalfloss.com/article/68822/were-all-mispronouncing-mount-everests-name

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Glimpses of Asia – September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

These are links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

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The Palaces of Memory by Stuart Freedman, review of a coffee table book of photographs of worker-owned coffee houses in India, by Peter Nitsch for The Cutting Edge of Creativity.

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Glimpses of Asia – September 19, 2015

September 19, 2015

I received the following links from my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack and his friend Marty.

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The Kabul college turning street children into musicians, a photo story in The Guardian.

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This Vietnamese University Is Turning Its Campus Into a Forest by Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss.

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This Simple Toilet Can Improve Health and Safety by Kirstin Fawcett for Mental Floss.

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How the hijab has made sexual harassment worse in Iran by a Tehran Bureau correspondent for The Guardian.

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Amartya Sen on democracy and famine

June 2, 2015

I was taught as a boy that famines in countries such as India and China were caused by overpopulation.  But there are more than twice as many people in both countries now than there were then, and yet they are better fed—perhaps I should say less malnourished.

I learned from Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel memorial prize in economics, that the true cause of famine in modern times is poverty and autocracy.

No rich person in India or China ever starved to death, nor did any governmental official.  People went hungry because they lacked the means to buy food, and they lacked a political voice to make government respond to their distress.

Here’s how Amartya Sen put it in a 2011 interview.

… Famines have actually not occurred in functioning democracies and … … there was a good reason for it. My first book on the subject, Poverty and Famines, came out in 1981, and by then I understood something about how famines operate and how easy it is to prevent them. You can’’t prevent undernourishment so easily, but famines you can stop with half an effort.  Then the question was why don’t the governments stop them?

The first answer is that the government servants and the leaders are upper class.  They never starve.  They never suffer from famine, and therefore they don’’t have a personal incentive to stop it. 

Second, if the government is vulnerable to public opinion, then famines are a dreadfully bad thing to have.  You can’’t win many elections after a famine, and you don’t like being criticized by newspapers, opposition parties in parliament, and so on.  Democracy gives the government an immediate political incentive to act.

Famines occur under a colonial administration, like the British Raj in India or for that matter in Ireland, or under military dictators in one country after another, like Somalia and Ethiopia, or in one-party states like the Soviet Union and China.

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A Thin Wall

April 11, 2015

Last night I went to the Little Theater here in Rochester, NY, to see the world premiere of a moving documentary film on the partition of India and Pakistan.

It was directed by Mara Ahmed, a Pakistani-American women who lives in the Rochester area and studied at the Visual Studies Workshop here, and co-produced by Ahmed and Surbhi Dewan, who was trained at Rochester Institute of Technology.  I’ve lived in Rochester more than half my life, and yet never knew about them until now.

The movie is in three parts—interviews with their aging relatives and friends about the peaceful life in India before partition, then interviews about their terrible experiences during the massacres and flight of peoples during partition and a final part about the ongoing tragedy of division Indians and Pakistanis, culturally similar peoples except for religion.

It includes dream sequences, animation and poetry—all of which work well in the film.

The movie is so even-handed that I sometimes forgot whether I was hearing the experiences of a Hindu or a Muslim, their tragedies were so alike.

Blame for partition is put in the British and to an extent the leaders of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.  They did virtually no advance planning as to how it would be carried out.  Nor did they ever hold a referendum or consult the people on whether the subcontinent should be partitioned in the first place.

I don’t know enough to say whether Hindus and Muslims would have been able to live in peace in a united India.  There was a history of rioting and violence between the two communities.

In any case, the “two-state solution” did not solve the Indian subcontinent’s minority problems.  There are still 176 million Muslims in India, and their rights are a fraught issue.

The filmmakers said in a Q&A after the showing that Hindu and Muslim emigrants from the Indian subcontinent get along very well, as do ordinary citizens of India and Pakistan when they meet.  As they said, the least that could be done is to allow free travel between the two nations.

LINK

An interview with Mara Ahmed. [Added 4/24/2015]

 

The warmongering record of Hillary Clinton

March 4, 2015

The frustrating thing about the right-wing Republican critics of Hillary Clinton is they criticize her for all the wrong things.   I think I’m as strongly opposed to Clinton as they are, and they put me in the position of defending her.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

In the U.S. intervention in Libya, she is criticized for failing to arrange protection for the U.S. ambassador from the terrorist attack on Benghazi, a legitimate issue, and for mis-characterizing the attack as a spontaneous reaction instead of a planned terrorist attack, an insignificant issue.

But neither of these things matter as much as the total disaster she brought down on the people of Libya.

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me a link to an article in Counterpunch that sums up what’s wrong with Clinton very well.

First Libya:

The results of “Operation Unified Protector” … … include the persecution of black Africans and Tuaregs, the collapse of any semblance of central government, the division of the country between hundreds of warring militias, the destabilization of neighboring Mali producing French imperialist intervention, the emergence of Benghazi as an al-Qaeda stronghold, and the proliferation of looted arms among rebel groups.

Now the whole Clinton record:

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Glimpses of Asia: January 8, 2015

January 8, 2015

I got the following links from my expatriate friend Jack, who got them from his friend Marty.

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In Pictures: China’s Frozen City by Richard Angwin for Aljazeera.

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Harbin international ice and snow festival – in pictures in The Guardian.

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DKJT87 Verbotsschild, Singapur

The price of life in Singapore, city of rules: ‘It’s a Faustian deal’ by Oliver Millman for The Guardian.

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The passing scene: January 1, 2015

January 1, 2015

The Tragedy of the American Military by James Fallows for The Atlantic.

Gun Trouble by Robert H. Scales for The Atlantic.

HighAirfare35e18The U.S. armed forces have greater prestige than at any time in American history, and the nation spends almost as much on its armed forces as the whole rest of the world put together.  Yet the USA doesn’t seem to be able to win wars, or even provide troops with a gun that doesn’t jam.

James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic that the United States has become a “chickenhawk nation.”  The majority of Americans do not wish to serve in the military and have no real desire to understand the military, so we take the easy way out which is to say, “thank you for your service,” and go about our business.

Military procurement has become a business subsidy and job creation program.  If the USA reduced its military force and weapons spending to what is needed to defend the nation, and nothing else was done, a recession would result.

Infrastructure advances in the rest-of-the-world will blow your mind by james321 for Daily Kos.

We Americans used to pride ourselves on our mega-engineering projects, but now the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

China has opened direct rail service from the China Sea to Madrid.  Switzerland is about to open its 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps.  Italy is soon to start high-speed rail service between Milan and Rome, capable of speeds up to 250 miles per hour.

We Americans don’t even perform maintenance on what we’ve got, and that’s a sign of a society with a fatal loss of concern for its future, just as our military strategy is a sign of a society with a fatal loss of a sense of reality.

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India to Mars, on time and on a shoestring

October 1, 2014

dYOLLCrChart by Global Post

India’s recent Mars mission was the first time a nation succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars on the first try.  And it was the lowest-cost Mars mission on record—even cheaper to do that some well-known science fiction movies. Spokesmen say it was all done without any imported components.

It is true that India had the benefit of experience of nations that previously sent missions to Mars.  But Russia and Japan had that benefit, and they spent more with less success.

It also is true that the scientific mission of India’s spacecraft was more limited than that of some other nations.

Even so, India’s Mars mission is a remarkable achievement, both in itself and for how it was done.

LINK

Mangalayan sends India’s critics into orbit by Raja Murthy for Asia Times.

The passing scene: Links & comments 10/1/14

October 1, 2014

Why I Hope to Die at Age 75 by Ezekiel Emanuel for The Atlantic.

Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, who’s now 57, wrote that he won’t undergo any medical treatment for the purpose of prolonging life after age 75.  He added that this is a personal decision, and not a recommendation.  But he sees the years after 75 as a period of decline that will add nothing to his life.

I am impressed that someone would be so satisfied with their life that they would be willing to wind it up at age 75.  I’m 78, going on 79, and I have unfinished business.

But it is true that, if I live long enough into years of decline, I will find life no longer worth living.  One disappointment is that I probably won’t be around to see if Emanuel carries through on his resolution.

[Added 10/2/14]  I note that Emanuel is a bio-ethicist.  In my opinion, the job of bio-ethicists is to rationalize doing things that physicians and others intuitively feel is wrong.

Another subtext to Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75”: Hillary’s Too Old by Steve Sailer for The Unz Review.

If elected President in 2016 and 2020, Hillary Clinton would be 77 when she stepped down on Jan. 19, 2015.  Joe Biden would be 82; Jerry Brown, 86; Elizabeth Warren, 75 1/2; and Bernie Sanders, 83.  But Ezekiel’s brother Rahm, the Democratic mayor of Chicago, would be a vibrant 65.

ISIS at the Gates of Baghdad: Why Airstrikes Are Failing by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.

Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that the only forces in Iraq capable of fighting ISIS are the Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias.  But they terrorize Sunni Muslims, who look to ISIS for protection.  Cockburn doesn’t see any good way out of this dilemma for the United States.

World should not be oblivious to Russia’s calculated shift toward China by Hisayoshi Ina for Nikkei Asian Review.

Russia, China court India for regional bloc by Takayuki Tanaka for Nikkei Asian Review.

The world balance of power is changing, as the Russian government responds to pressures in Europe by strengthening its ties with Asia.

Andreatta: Cops and Manners on Short Street by David Andreatta for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, NY.

I think that if I was a policeman, I would find that every prejudice I had concerning any group of people would be confirmed by my experience, because the police see the worst of any group of people and see people at their worst.

This column by David Andreatta shows just how difficult it is to overcome such attitudes.

India to be led by pro-business Hindu nationalist

May 20, 2014

The founders of the Republic of India were secularists.   They wrote a constitution which, like the U.S. constitution, was friendly to religion, but religiously neutral.  Like the U.S. founders, they sought to instill a patriotism based on constitutional loyalty rather than loyalty to a racial, religious or ethnic group.

Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, rose to power as a Hindu nationalist. This is cause for concern.   Ethnic nationalism linked to religion is poison.  It links the total loyalty that is demanded by religion to the narrow and exclusive interests of a particular racial or cultural group.

The Hindu religion has given the world great spiritual insights, but in recent years rioting Hindus have killed Muslims, Christians and other minority groups, and Modi has refused to condemn them.

When Modi was chief minister of Gujarat province in 2002, rioting Hindus killed 1,200 Muslims and drove out hundreds of thousands more.  Modi was accused of egging the rioters on.   The U.S. State Department denied him a visa on human rights grounds.  However,  an Indian investigating commission found no evidence of guilt.

During the current election campaign, Modi said his priority will be economic development.  He even appealed for Muslim votes, much like Gov. George Wallace appealing for African-American votes the last time he ran for governor of Alabama.

His Bharatiya Janata Party won 37 percent of the national vote, but that was enough to give it a majority of seats in Parliament.  The Congress Party, which governed India since independence, received only 23 percent.  The other 40 percent was divided among regional and splinter parties.

french book indiaAnalysts think Modi’s success was largely due to public disgust with the corruption of the Congress Party.  Some weeks ago I read a book, India: a Portrait by a journalist named Patrick French.  The author pointed out that not only have almost all the leaders of the Congress Party been members of the Gandhi and Nehru families and their widows, but the successful candidates in the lower levels of the party also are members of family dynasties — India’s version of the Kennedys, Clintons and Bushes.

This being so, ambitious people with ability but no connections joined the BJP, and their aim is a country open to enterprise and initiative and free of Congress’s stifling bureaucracy.  Modi said his priority will be economic development — more toilets, not more temples.  May it be so!

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Most people live in or near India and China

April 21, 2014

These maps illustrate an important fact that I find hard to get my mind around – the immensity of the populations of China and India.   They aren’t just individual countries in the way the USA, the UK and Russia are countries.    They equal or exceed the populations of individual non-Asian countries.   There are provinces of China and India that are more populous than important European countries

Half the World

Double click to enlarge.

The top map shows that the combined populations of China, India, Japan and a couple of neighboring countries exceed the populations of the whole rest of the world.

The bottom map shows the world divided into equal segments of 1 billion persons each.  They show that the populations of (1) part of China plus Japan and Korea and (2) part of India plus Bangladesh and Burma are equal to the populations of  (3) all of North and South America plus Australia and New Zealand, (4) all of Europe plus western Asia, (5) all of Africa, (6) Southeast Asia including south China and (7) the rest of Asia including western China and northern India.

worldpopulationbillions

Double click to enlarge.

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Strip searches are merely justice, American-style

December 19, 2013

I was shocked when I read how Devyani Khodbragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York City, was handcuffed and strip-searched after being arrested on a charge of underpaying her maid.

She hadn’t been convicted of any crime, so why subject her to this degradation and humiliation?  What did they think she was concealing on her person?  Why not simply serve her with a summons to appear in court?

But it turns out that she was not singled out for bad treatment.  Strip searches and body cavity searches are now standard operating procedure for anybody arrested on a criminal charge, no matter what.    She merely experienced simply the impersonal working of the American criminal justice system as it now is.  We Americans should ask ourselves whether this is the kind of criminal justice system we want.

I do not think the charge is trivial.  If she brought a servant from India and kept her in virtual servitude, this is a serious matter.  But the facts in this case are in dispute, so I stick to the legal principle of presumption of innocence unless there is proof of guilt.

us-reviewing-indian-diplomat-devyani-khobragades-arrest

Protests in India

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Glimpses of Asia: the new, the old, the strange

November 5, 2013

The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
==Robert Louis Stevenson

Refrigerator delivery to base camp on Everest

Refrigerator for Everest base camp

This collection of links, most of which I got from an American e-mail pen pal who lives in Asia, is a reminder that, despite all the awful things that happen, I live in a world that is so damn interesting.  

Inside Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’

Gender bending in Japan

Countries within Nations.  The combined populations of China and India exceed the populations of North and South America plus western Europe.  Chinese provinces and Indian states are comparable to well-known sovereign nations, and are becoming increasingly independent.  This article includes interactive maps, on which you can click on an individual province or state and see which country it equals in population.

Chinese man finally meets his Internet crush—and she’s his daughter-in-law.

A festival of eagles in Mongolia

Kim Jong Un’s Luxurious ‘Seven-Star’ Lifestyle Of Yachts, Booze And Food

The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce.  I love Vietnamese hot sauce.

Sriracha chili sauce company under fire for spicing up air around factory. The City of Irwindale filed lawsuit after residents surrounding the California factory complained of burning eyes and headaches.

The Chile Pepper Institute.   Chile peppers originated in the New World, but they’ve become so much a part of the cuisine of many Asian countries that you wouldn’t think so.

The Weirdest and Most Revolting Foods That You Could Actually Eat.  Most of these are from Asia.

Malaysia court rules non-Muslims cannot use ‘Allah

Best places to retire abroad. These include Chiang Mai in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Singapore Laws. Travelers beware.

Trick or Treat – A look at Indonesia’s horrifying masked monkey trade.

Anoman fight with the dragon Java.   A painter’s beautiful works based on traditional Javanese stories.

De-stressss with a snake massage.

Bizarre, hilarious, disgusting Thai bracelets from a bracelet vendor at the night market in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thailand racism row reignited by Unilever ad for skin-whitening cream.

Kitchen of the Golden Temple.  This sacred shrine in India feeds up to 100,000 people a day regardless of race, religion and class.

Burka Avenger Episode 01 (w/ English Subtitles).  The Burka Avenger is a children’s cartoon show produced in Pakistan.

Obama’s Worst Pakistan Nightmare

Saudi comedian mocks ban on women driving with viral video

I don’t draw any bottom-line conclusion from all this, except an awareness of how limited my knowledge is, and a reminder to beware of sweeping generalizations about others nations and civilizations.

Slavery in the world today

October 22, 2013

slavery-absolute-numbers

Slavery is outlawed under international law and in most parts of the world, but there are still nearly 30 million slaves in the world today, according to the anti-slavery organization WalkFree.  These are literal, not metaphorical, slaves—forced laborers, child soldiers, forced prostitutes and others held in bondage.

Some are debt slaves, sold into slavery to pay their own or their parents’ debts.  Some are unauthorized immigrants, lured by false promises of a job and then trapped in a country where they have no legal rights.   Some are simply victims of force.

The map above shows the estimated number of slaves in each country.  Nearly half of the world’s slaves—an estimated 14 million people—are in India.   But few countries are completely without slaves, and the USA is not one of them.

The map below shows the estimated proportion of the population of each country that is enslaved—about one out of every 25 people in the nation of MauritiusMauritania, one out of 48 in Haiti.  The percentage of slaves in the United States is small, but that is still 60,000 people.  India is near the top in the prevalence of slavery as well as absolute numbers.

slavery-per-capita-map-wo-arrows.OLCjpg

Click on Globalization and the world slave work force for a post on how global companies benefit from slave labor. [added 10/23/13]

Click on This map shows where the world’s 30 million slaves live | There are 60,000 in the U.S. for background by Max Fisher of the Washington Post.

Click on WalkFree.org – The Movement to End Modern Slavery for more information and suggestions for action.   Hat tip to occasional links and commentary.

A rationalist martyr in India

August 23, 2013

Reason has its martyrs, just as faith does.

Narendra Dabholkar

Narendra Dabholkar

Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, a brave rationalist who devoted his life to exposing fake faith healers and miracle workers in India, was murdered Tuesday.

His organization, the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Association, offered a prize of 500,000 rupees to any diviner who could prove he or she could summon spirits.

At the time of his death, he was pushing for a law in Maharashtra state outlawing the practice of black magic.  My own belief is that rationalists should restrict themselves to the rational method, and not try to enforce their beliefs through government power.  There is a subtle but important difference between outlawing fraud and outlawing beliefs and practices which can be a mask for fraud.

Dabholkar didn’t see it that way.  He said his proposed law never mentioned God or religion, and did not touch the doctrines of Hinduism or any other religion.  Whatever the merits of that argument, it can be said that he never went outside the law or threatened his opponents with death.

And it also is true that religious believers in India have used the law to suppress rationalist criticism.  Sanal Edamaruku, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association, fled India to escape arrest for blasphemy because he investigated a weeping statue of Jesus in a Catholic church in Mumbai and concluded it was the result of a plumbing problem.

Dabholkar’s proposed anti-magic law, which was opposed by conservative Hindus, was in fact enacted a few days after his death, but needs approval of Parliament before it can become law.

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