August 21, 2006

A/C D.C.The deluded world of air conditioning

Have you heard the news? Scientists have found a planet that can support life. Its atmosphere is too hot for year-round habitation, its gases impede breathing, and surface conditions are sometimes fatal. But by constructing a network of sealed facilities, tunnels, and vehicles, humans could survive on this planet for decades and perhaps even centuries.

The planet is called Earth.

If you've seen this planet lately, you know what's going on: temperature records shattering, scores of Americans dead. By summer's end, the toll will be in the hundreds. It's not as bad as 2003, when a heat wave killed 30,000 people in Europe. But according to global-warming forecasts, within 40 years, every other summer will be like that one.


Baghdad's Walls Are Closing In

BAGHDAD — Curling through the desert, wind rattling its marshes, the Tigris once brought so much life to this city, where spices and silks were loaded on wooden boats bound for Basra and beyond. Shiites lived with Sunnis, Christians and Jews, but today, as in other times, unity splinters in bloodshed.

The river's bridges have turned into escape routes for families fleeing sectarian death squads. Some head one way, others go the opposite direction, and many fear that if full-scale civil war erupts, the Tigris will act as a green line, separating Sunni-dominated west Baghdad from the Shiite-controlled east.


August 17, 2006

Racial profiling at airports

Heartening to note that Americans aren't so touchy about allowing racial profiling at their airports.

August 10, 2006

Attack on the idea of India

How ironic that Tony Blair should be the first major political leader to point out that the nature of our Kashmir problem has changed. In a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council last week the British PM said, ‘‘Whatever the outward manifestation at any one time—in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Iraq and add to that in Afghanistan, in Kashmir, in a host of other nations including now some in Africa—it is a global fight about global values; it is about modernisation, within Islam and outside of it; it is about whether our value system can be shown to be sufficiently robust, true, principled and appealing that it beats theirs.’’

This is more true of the Indian subcontinent than anywhere else since it is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, but our political leaders continue to behave as if our fight is merely against a handful of radical Islamists. In her first major comment after the Mumbai bomb blasts all that Sonia Gandhi could think to say was that we must make sure that the Muslim community was not targeted. What will not be lost in translation to our security forces is that this is a message to continue to fight only a half-hearted, defensive war.

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and elsewhere are proof that our problem with the Islamists, and with Pakistan, is no longer about Kashmir. It is about whether we have the courage to defend the value system of India. It is a value system that is the exact opposite of our Muslim neighbours because it does not recognise the right of any religion to dominate the public space and it does not believe that religion is the glue that holds a nation together. It is a value system we should be proud of and yet we are always on the backfoot.

Last week Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri told an NDTV reporter that ‘‘the ball was in India’s court’’ and that there was little his country could do about religious ‘‘charities’’ unless there was proof of their involvement in acts of terrorism. (He was asked about the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen functioning in Pakistan under the guise of religious charities.) No Indian foreign minister would dare make such a statement. We have our own fanatics but if the Bajrang Dal functioned from the Kanchipuram mutt the Shankaracharya would be jailed.

Pakistan constantly flings Kashmir solutions in our face without realising that the problem has changed so much it needs to be looked at in a completely new context. As radical Islam has spread across the world, Kashmir’s problem has became subsumed by the larger jihad. Ayman al-Zawahiri clarified recently that the targets of this larger jihad are ‘‘crusaders’’, Jews and Hindus.

‘‘Cross-border terrorism’’ was yesterday’s problem. Today we face the far more serious problem of an attack on the very idea of India. I am willing to put in writing that even if by some miracle a solution was found in Kashmir tomorrow terrorist acts against India would continue. A new grievance would be found.

Liberal, ‘‘secular’’ Indian journalists would help find it just as some tried to link the train bombings in Mumbai to Gujarat. One national newspaper was insensitive enough to print names of dead Gujaratis on its front page to prove this point.

Before Gujarat it was Babri Masjid that was regularly summoned up to explain the Indian Muslim’s sense of grievance and before that there was the neglect of Urdu, Partition, poverty.

In Blair’s words, ‘‘Islamist extremism’s whole strategy is based on a presumed sense of grievance that can motivate people to divide against each other. Our answer has to be a set of values strong enough to unite people with each other.’’ The difference between India’s values and those of Pakistan, Bangladesh could not be better described.

August 1, 2006

Krauthammer on the Israel-Lebanon war

You gotta love this guy. Very concise commentary and every sentence is scathing wit against the arab apologists.

What other country, when attacked in an unprovoked aggression across a recognized international frontier, is then put on a countdown clock by the world, given a limited time window in which to fight back, regardless of whether it has restored its own security?

What other country sustains 1,500 indiscriminate rocket attacks into its cities -- every one designed to kill, maim and terrorize civilians -- and is then vilified by the world when it tries to destroy the enemy's infrastructure and strongholds with precision-guided munitions that sometimes have the unintended but unavoidable consequence of collateral civilian death and suffering?

To hear the world pass judgment on the Israel-Hezbollah war as it unfolds is to live in an Orwellian moral universe. With a few significant exceptions (the leadership of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and a very few others), the world -- governments, the media, U.N. bureaucrats -- has completely lost its moral bearings.

The word that obviates all thinking and magically inverts victim into aggressor is "disproportionate," as in the universally decried "disproportionate Israeli response."

When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, it did not respond with a parallel "proportionate" attack on a Japanese naval base. It launched a four-year campaign that killed millions of Japanese, reduced Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki to cinders, and turned the Japanese home islands into rubble and ruin.