Finally. Why doesn't Obama just drop this sleazy woman and move on? She claims that at the time she was the National Coordinator of the VHP America, the Gujrat massacres had not yet occured, and she was only raising funds for earthquake victims for them (as if she couldn't have worked for a less heinous organization, like the Red Cross). Well, did she bother to say a word condemning them and the VHP's undisputed role in them after the Gujrat killings, or distance herself from her association with the VHP? Never. What she did is continue to address youth conferences associated with the VHP (which Martha Nussbaum has described as, “possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy”) and the RSS. Imagine the uproar if someone said, “Oh, I was just helping with humanitarian relief efforts in Gaza as National Coordinator of Hamas's US wing. I am so against violence!” She keeps whining that questioning her ties to fascist parties is just “guilt by association” just the way Obama was smeared by allegations of ties to Bill Ayers. This is ludicrous. Barack Obama was not the National Coordinator of a fascist hate group implicated in large scale massacres (of thousands of people). The analogy could not be more false. It will be a terrible mistake if Obama appoints her to his administration. Her judgment as well as her character are extremely suspect.
This is Gautham Nagesh in the National Journal:
The controversy has been gathering steam in the Indian press and South Asian blogosphere for weeks now, but it went mainstream on Thursday when former GOP Senator Rick Santorum published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer questioning the appointment of Shah to the transition team — prompting a Lost In Transition post Friday.
Shah, a Google executive who previously worked for Goldman Sachs and served as a Treasury official in the Clinton years, was appointed to the Obama transition team in November and has since been tapped to be part of the three-person team to develop technology policy. She is also reportedly being considered for Secretary of Energy.
However, her appointment to the administration has drawn strong reactions from the South Asian community. While many prominent Indian-Americans have stood behind Shah, others have raised doubts about her past. Dr. Shaikh Ubaid is part of a group including several Muslim and Sikh associations and dozens of college professors that sent letters to both Shah and President-elect Obama, requesting further information on Shah's past associations.
“When she was appointed, it was initially a proud moment for us, her being an Indian-American,” said Ubaid in an interview given before Shah's latest statement. However, the reports regarding Shah's past ties to the VHP gave Ubaid and others a cause for concern.
More here. [Thanks to Manas Shaikh.]
My purpose here is to consider the place of John Locke in American political life. I will follow the wisdom of George Carey in explaining why Locke forms the foundation of part of us, but not all of us. Our founders had a complex view of human nature, in which Locke played his part. But we—especially our intellectuals—have become more Lockean over time, coming to believe in effect that our founders lacked our theoretical greatness because their view of liberty was not as expansive or individualistic as ours. We have come to accept too uncritically the view that our nation has progressed historically by embracing principled individualism more consistently over time. Carey writes as a conservative American, and he distinguishes his conservatism from the progressivism he finds in neoconservatism. This does not mean that he is simply a traditionalist. He is one of the most astute and meticulous defenders of The Federalist Papers, a set of essays that, among other things, defends the innovation that was the American Constitution. He sees that the American solution is strong on institutional remedies for destructive factional strife and is in some ways, in the interest of success, a bit weak on virtue. But that weakness is mitigated by our federalism; the cultivation of virtue, according to our founding thought, was to be left to our states and churches, and the scope—including the moral reach—of our national government was originally quite limited.
more from First Principles here.
Four new works by Negri appeared in English in 2008—the year we all found ourselves well downstream from that era when debate over globalization and its discontents took the form of extrapolating long-term trends. The problem now is to find a way through the ruins. I have been studying the books in a state of heightened (indeed, strained) attention—with powers of concentration periodically stimulated and shattered by arteriosclerotic convulsions in the world’s financial markets—but also through tears in my eyes. They are tears of perplexity and frustration. It is not that Negri’s most recent books pose difficulties, both conceptual and programmatic, that his earlier ones did not. The ambiguities have been there all along, as have the opacities. Still, they seemed poetic—not just in that terms like Empire and Multitude possessed a certain evocative, science-fictional luminosity, but also in something like the root sense of poesis. They did not simply name possibilities; they seemed to create a new thing in the world, if only by inciting the political imagination to new efforts. But the latest books do not have that quality. Negri’s analysis of the emerging system is itself a system—if not a world unto itself—and the movement of his thought is now largely centripetal.
more from Bookforum here.
From The Wall Street Journal:
In October 1947, a bare six weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence from British rule, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote a remarkable letter to the Chief Ministers of the different provinces. Here Nehru pointed out that despite the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, there remained, within India, “a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State.”
In the wake of the recent incidents in Mumbai, these words make salutary reading. It seems quite certain that the terrorists who attacked the financial capital were trained in Pakistan. The outrages have sparked a wave of indignation among the middle class. Demonstrations have been held in the major cities, calling for revenge, in particular for strikes against training camps in Pakistan. The models held up here are Israel and the United States; if they can “take out” individual terrorists and invade whole countries, ask some Indians, why not we?
More here. (Thanks to my dear friend Giri).
Orhan Pamuk in the New York Review of Books:
At the heart of my library is my father's library. When I was seventeen or eighteen and began to devote most of my time to reading, I devoured the volumes my father kept in our sitting room as well as the ones I found in Istanbul's bookshops. These were the days when, if I read a book from my father's library and liked it, I would take it into my room and place it among my own books. My father, who was pleased to see his son reading, was also glad to see some of his books migrating to my library, and whenever he saw one of his old books on my bookshelf, he would tease me by saying, “Aha, I see this volume has been promoted to the upper echelons!”
In 1970, when I was eighteen, I—like all Turkish children with an interest in books—took to writing poetry. I was painting and studying architecture but the pleasure I took from both was fading away; by night I would smoke cigarettes and write poetry, which I hid from everyone. It was at this point that I read the poetry collections that my father (who had wanted to be a poet when he was young) kept on his shelves.
Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
E.T.A. Hoffmann's stories don't make sense. That's how they first work into your brain. “The Sandman” may be his best for that very reason. It's the typical tale of a young dreamer tortured by childhood nightmares/memories of a bogeyman (The Sandman) who turns out to be a friend of the family who tries to steal the boy's eyes and then kills the boy's father. Later the Sandman returns (or does he…?), and sells the young man a telescope that he uses to watch a beautiful girl across the way, the daughter of an elusive professor. The young man falls in love with the daughter and spurns his wonderful fiancé in the name of his obsession. But it turns out that the beautiful daughter is actually a robot and the young man goes mad. Later, his senses revive and he goes back to his fiancé. All are content and set to leave town when they decide to go up to the tower and look down upon their beloved home one last time. They notice a bush moving in the distance. The young man takes out his spyglass and, presumably, sees the robot girl sneaking around in the bush. He goes mad again, tries to push his fiancé out of the tower, and then later thinks better of it and jumps to his own death. At the very end of the story, we learn that the young man's fiancé went on to live in the countryside with her two children and enjoy “that quiet domestic happiness which was so agreeable to her cheerful disposition.”
Thus, the plot. Freud was always a fan of Hoffmann and particularly of “The Sandman.” He made the story a centerpiece of his now famous essay “The Uncanny.” Ultimately, Freud boils the central meaning of Hoffmann's story down to castration complexes and other Freudian whatnot. This is of little interest to us. The idea of the uncanny, however, is. The German word Freud uses is unheimlich — the negation of the word heimlich, which means, basically, “comfortable,” “known,” or more literally, “homely.” Something unheimlich is therefore something uncomfortable.
Barbara Crossette in The Nation:
India's Muslims have deep grievances. Reports by Indian experts substantiate these grievances with statistics; Muslim victims of Hindu attacks fill in the anecdotal evidence; outsiders concur. A Council on Foreign Relations study concluded in 2007 that Indian Muslims are “marginalized” and that the government was dealing only “to some degree” with the problem. A United Nations report further suggested that such conditions could spark serious unrest.
The most recent, most unvarnished survey of Indian Muslim life was carried out by a panel led by Rajindar Sachar, a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court. The findings of that survey were published in late 2006 and sent to Parliament. It has been a touchstone for debate ever since.
The Sachar report acknowledges that Muslims enjoy religious freedom in India, but it paints a grim portrait of their daily lives and chances for advancement, even as India's economy flourishes. The report concludes that “not all religious communities and social groups…have shared equally the benefits of the growth process. Among these, the Muslims, the largest minority community in the country, constituting 13.4 per cent of the population, are seriously lagging behind in terms of most of the human development indicators.”
From Scientific American:
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it is also in the eye of a honeybee, the eggs of a lobster and the surface of petrified wood—as is evident from a selection of images entered in the 2008 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition. In its fifth year, the competition honors superior images of living organisms or their components attained with the help of light microscopy. The judges chose 10 winners and awarded honorable mention to many others, evaluating entries based on the scientific value of the images, aesthetics and the difficulty of capturing the information displayed. This year, as in the past, competitors were free to bring out specific features through pseudo-coloring and other computer enhancements.
LOBSTER EGGS, two to three millimeters in diameter, sit in goo that keeps them together in water. Tora Bardal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim enhanced the natural colors with dark-field illumination. The round, bluish regions are eyes. Jan Ove Evjemo of NTNU examined the eggs as part of an effort to optimize breeding techniques for a shrinking lobster population.
Slide Show: Images from 2008 Olympus Bioscapes Contest
Sontag’s image of remote and disciplined rationality was altered by Swimming in a Sea of Death (2008), her son David Rieff’s painful and dismaying memoir of her frantic, self-deluded fight against the leukaemia that killed her. It will be further changed by the publication of three volumes of her private journals, meticulously, if reluctantly, edited by Rieff, who has explained in interviews that while he himself would have preferred not to publish the journals, Sontag sold them to UCLA without restriction, and he decided to do the editing job himself rather than leave it to a stranger. The first volume, Reborn, takes Sontag from adolescence to the beginnings of her ascendancy among the New York intellectuals of the 1960s. Relentlessly self-analytical, unsparingly honest and explicit, she describes her identity as a lesbian and an outsider, her unhappy marriage, her flight to Oxford and Paris, her experience of motherhood, her determination to survive alone, and, always, her ambitious self-formation as an artist and thinker. Sontag began to keep an intimate record of her thoughts and experiences in 1947, when she was a terrifyingly precocious girl of fourteen. As she later observed, she used her writing to try out new selves, and to construct her formidable persona. ‘In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person. I create myself.’
more from Literary Review here.
Mike Brown, Stuart Kauffman, Zoe-Vonna Palmrose and Lee Smolin in Edge:
The economic crisis has to be stabilized immediately. This has to be carried out pragmatically, without undue ideology, and without reliance on the failed ideas and assumptions which led to the crisis. Complexity science can help here. For example, it is wrong to speak of “restoring the markets to equilibrium”, because the markets have never been in equilibrium. We are already way ahead if we speak of “restoring the markets to a stable, self-organized critical state.”
In the near-term, Eric Weinstein has spoken about an “economic Manhattan project”. This means getting a group of good scientists together, some who know a lot about economics and finance, and others, who have proved themselves in other areas of science but bring fresh minds and perspectives to the challenge, to focus on developing a scientific conceptualization of economic theory and modeling that is reliable enough to be called a science.
More here. (Picture shows my dear friend Stuart Kauffman)
William Saletan in Slate:
A few days ago, I wrote about a test, now being marketed in the United States, that predicts whether your toddler has more potential as a power athlete or as an endurance athlete. The test examines ACTN3, a gene that affects fast generation of muscular force. Fray poster Andrea Freiboden isn't impressed. “What a lot of crap. Just look at the race of the athlete,” she writes:
Generally, people of West African origin have more fast twitch muscles which allow intense bursts of power. This is why running backs, defensive linemen, and receivers are almost all black. We don't need any expensive test. All you have to do is look at the physique. Blacks in basketball are lean and musularly [sic] hard. Whites have softer muscles, which is why white basketball players have to rely more on skill than blacks who have the advantage of skill + great speed/strength.
Oy. I've been through this wringer before. It's true that some racial averages differ in part for biological reasons. It's also true that that this is one of them. But Freiboden is exactly wrong. Race is a less, not more, reliable gauge of physical characteristics than genes are. In fact, that's one of the chief consolations of nontherapeutic genetic testing: No matter how inaccurate genes are as a predictor of this or that ability, they're more accurate than predictions based on race. And the sooner we get past judging by race, the better.