Tuesday, June 24, 2008

John Maynard Keynes and the Bangladeshi intellectual

Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Bangladeshi intellectual: "I...er...wait for...er...the western donors...to tell me..er...if I should change...my mind...or if...er...."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Vercingetorix (essay)


(click link above for article)

Vercingetorix was the leader of the Gauls who dared to rebel against the mighty Roman Republic. Irrational? Sure, but also dignified. The pursuit of dignity often entails the irrational. But we in Bangladesh are no "doofuses" like the great Vercingetorix – we are rational, and without an atom of self-respect or dignity.

"From Vercingetorix, my mind moves, by association, to a more recent figure. Mullah Omar was promised "a carpet of gold" or a "carpet of bombs" by the American Republic. He -- totally ignorant of neoclassical economic theory -- chose the latter. Some people are just born losers ("doofus," I think, is the word)."

ELECTIONS AND MURDER: The Case of Nixon and Kissinger

'[Nixon AND Kissinger were] willing to see lives sacrificed for domestic political advantage. In late 1970 Mr. Kissinger believed that America could get out of Vietnam any time it wanted and that it would do so before the 1972 election. The president wanted to plan the removal of all American troops by the end of 1971. Mr. Kissinger counselled against that idea because, if America's South Vietnamese allies were then destabilised, it might hurt Nixon's re-election campaign. He recommended a pullout in the autumn of 1972, "so that if any bad results follow they will be too late to affect the election". Nothing was said about how many Americans, or Vietnamese, would die in Vietnam. '

Book review of "Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power" (author: Robert Dallek), The Economist, May 19th 2007, page 83

Guns or Bombs: The Assasin's Dilemma

The botched attempt to kill Sheikh Hasina holds valuable lessons. It shows that the Harkatul Jihad (Huji) don't do their homework, for one thing. Killing a leader with a bomb has a success rate of only 7% and killed bystanders. Of course, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was remarkably successful, but then the bomber got sufficiently close tot he target to blow her up (as well as himself). Ditto the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Huji would have done better to use firearms, which have a kill rate of 30%. The killing of Sheih Mujib and sundry other public figures (Bandaranaike, Kennedy, Bhrindranwale, Indira Gandhi....) was accomplished with guns.

Killing leaders (especially if they are in power) is not easy: between 1875 and 2004, there were 298 attempts made on the lives of leaders – of which only 59 hit the bull's eye, and killed the bull.

In the 1910s, a leader had a 1% chance of being done in; today, a measly 0.3%, according to research by Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

sexist observations on blue stockings

sexist observations on blue stockings

Whenever a bluestocking descants at length on the glories of democracy, I am focused on the glory beneath her saree or kameez or T-shirt.

What kind of lingerie must an emancipated woman like her get into? As she talks about transparency, I have another kind of transparency in mind. Nude in my head, she goes on and on about how we are all equal beneath. True, true! But some are surely more equal!

As she gets excited and uncrosses her thighs, my pulse races.

"We need deeper penetration of democracy!" she exclaims, red in the cheeks.

Deeper! Deeper! Absolutely, my beauty.

"Deepening and enlarging democracy, that's what it's all about," she raves.

Is she making a Freudian pass at me, I wonder wistfully. The ballot box with its tiny aperture becomes a metaphor – of democracy entering the sacred orifice, a bacchic rite, a Tantric orgy....

She keeps fisting her fingers, up and down, up and down...what a repressed female, I think to myself. Then she licks her lips, naturally devoid of lipstick (intellectuals don't wear lipstick, as you know). The layer of saliva gleams on her upper orifice, hinting at – o, so much!

Why does Plain Jane part her hair down the middle, and not visit a beauty parlour and get it done up nice like other women?

The parting so reminds me of the other parting! It is agony.

Then her face – utterly devoid of grace. Why can't she get a facial? I don't mean the kind of facial they get in lewd movies, of course.
Bluestockings wear as little as possible – they deplore the hijab and the niqab. Which is just fine by men folk like me: the fewer clothes women wear, the more happy are men.

As the poet observed:

"No beauty she doth miss
When all her robes are on
But Beauty's self she is
When all her robes are gone."

I then give my guest an ice cream cone, and she finally shuts up and sucks and licks on it deliciously.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PLUTONIUM (four poems)


(click link above to read)

PLUTONIUM: Inspired by the obituary of Glenn Seaborg, this poem looks at the choices facing the Japanese before they entered the war, and the choices facing the Americans as they created the atomic bomb: Seaborg was among the scientists who wanted the Japanese to be given a demonstration of the destruction they could expect, but their demand was turned down.

UNTO OTHERS: we ask of the west, "What can it do for me", and do not realise what the west has done to collectives and may do to us in the future.

THE THIRD: What prevents us from getting at each other's throat? The state. And when that breaks down, the Third is some kind of Deity.

THE WISDOM OF CHILDREN: Wordsworth (and the Romantics) thought children were wiser than adults, and glorified the irrational, which culminated in the crazed nationalism of the French Revolution; these ideas came to us in 1952....

A Defence of Religion

A Defence of Religion

(click link above to read)

Certain western thinkers use rationality as a ground for the superiority of western civilisation, a ground that gives them the moral authority to look down upon, and manipulate, the "irrational". It may come as a shock to them to learn that we are all irrational, equally human.


Hermes Trismegistos was believed to be Moses' contemporary: his writings gave an alternative account of creation, one in which man played a more central role. God, according to Hermes, had made man fully in his own image – not just as a rational animal, but as a creator in his own right. Man can imitate God, and he can create like the Creator, through alchemical applications – doing away with disease, want and old age. "It was a heady vision, and it gave rise to the notion that, through science and technology, man could bend nature to his wishes. This is essentially the modern view of science, and it should be emphasized that it occurs only in Western civilization. It is probably this attitude that permitted the West to surpass the East, after centuries of inferiority, in the exploitation of the physical world. ("science, history of." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, document.write(new Date().getFullYear()); 2008.) "

Retracing our steps a little, we shall recall the heliocentric preoccupations of Copernicus: these were directly influenced by Hermeticism. Inspired by Platonic mysticism, Hermeticism emphasized the source of light, the sun. The 15th century Florentine translator of both Plato and Hermetic writing, Marsilio Ficino, composed a work that very nearly idolized the sun: the young Copernicus was heavily influenced and went back to his native Poland to work on the problems of the Ptolemaic astronomy.

Therefore, the leading minds of Europe – Paracelsus, John Dee, Comenius, J.V.Andreae, Fludd and Newton – sought in alchemy "the perfection of man by a new method of knowledge" (Eliade, Volume three, p. 261 ).

It would appear, therefore, that modern science would have been quite impossible without religion as a source of inspiration; pace Bertrand Russell, religion contributed more than the calendar to civilisation.