saurav's blog

So This Borat Thing...

By: on 4 Nov 2006

What's the deal? Is this one of those times where I should indulge my love of transgression despite some negative things (like demeaning all of Kazakhstan, crude jokes, etc., etc.) because it's pointed satire and I'm just too dumb to fully appreciate it?

One More Bullet Cracks The Night

By: on 1 Nov 2006

Bradley Roland WillOn Saturday, I had a going away party of sorts--I'm leaving the United States (finally) and moving abroad to do journalism fulltime. Upon returning home from my party, I had an e-mail waiting for me from a friend who didn't make it, but told me that someone she knew had been killed and and it seemed all the more important to her to wish me a safe farewell.

I didn't put two and two together until yesterday, when I realized that my friend was talking about the widely reported death of Bradley Roland Will, American anarchist, and indy journalist. Will was shot while documenting the standoff between popular resistance and the city, state, and federal governments in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Iraq around the clock, baby.

By: on 27 Oct 2006

We wish to make an apology. Five weeks ago we remarked that, although we knew our Government would not make a military attack in defiance of its solemn international obligations, people abroad might think otherwise. The events of last week have proved us completely wrong; if we misled anyone, at home or abroad, we apologise unreservedly.

U.S. Democratic Politics In Sum

By: on 21 Oct 2006

“I feel better than I ever have,” said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from upstate New York. “I think we have the best chance to take over simply because of the pileup of disasters.”

There you have it, my friends. I don't know what to say, really, other than that if I were to vote my conscience, I would probably vote Green.

Hooray For Progress! Hooray for Orwell!

By: on 16 Oct 2006

What you hear the phrase "permanent safety," what comes to mind? I think of womb-like environments, with good heating, hot chocolate with peppermint schnappes, a comfy sweater or blankie, and maybe some cuddling. And a teddy bear.

This very different from the the U.S. Coast Guard's vision:

The Coast Guard is tasked with, and has an enduring legacy of ensuring the safety and security of the Great Lakes region. To that end, our goal is to provide as much information as possible to the public about our proposal to establish 34 permanent safety zones on the U.S. Great Lakes to be used for weapons training exercises.

They apparently want "permanent safety" to be redefined as "government agencies putting machine guns that can fire up to 4000 yards mounted on boats on the Great Lakes with no advance public debate."

The New York Times has some excellent call-and-response writing on this in their article, which I will present for you posthaste.

Liberal Bias, My Ass

By: on 14 Oct 2006

I get upset about a lot of things, but there are only a few things that have the potential to actually drive me crazy. The capacity of a society--notably the one in which I was raised--and its purportedly responsible institutions to indulge its "own" alleged war criminals is one of them.

What am I talking about? Behold! The New York Times Book Review commissions Henry Kissinger to write a review of a book about a former Secretary of State:

The position of secretary of state is potentially the most fulfilling in the government short of the presidency. Its scope is global; ultimately it rests on almost philosophical assumptions as to the nature of world order and the relationship of order to progress and national interest. Lacking such a conceptual framework, incoherence looms in the face of the daily task of redefining America’s relationship to the world via the thousands of messages from nearly 200 diplomatic posts and the constant flow of communication from the Executive Department — all this against the backdrop of Congressional liaison and press inquiry.

Acheson served as under secretary of state and then as secretary during the period when a people that had known no direct continuing threat to its security since the early days of the Republic had to be brought to recognize that its permanent participation in the world was indispensable for peace and security. Inevitably this realization was painful and slow in coming, if indeed it has been fully achieved to this day. This is why Acheson was assailed from both political sides, by those insisting on an end to involvement through total victory over the threat and, on the other side, by those who thought there was no threat to begin with, or at least none that required Acheson’s militant response.

Wow, how objective and totally devoid of any self-interest or contemporary implications. It's not like Kissinger has any need or interest to defend himself and his record or has regularly advised the Bush Administration on the Iraq War (in case you were curious, "victory is the only meaningful exit strategy [in Iraq]," he says, according to an article quoting Bob Woodward).

Moreover, there have been whole books written about Kissinger's possible complicity in war crimes--notably pre-insanity Hitchens's The Trial of Henry Kissinger.

Oh, The Pride!

By: on 13 Oct 2006

Bong, bong, bong, bong, bong!

Yes, today is a wonderful today for bong pride, because Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, a founder of modern microcredit banking, has won half of the Nobel Peace Prize (hat tip to Naeem of shobak). The other half goes to the Grameen Bank, so note that all the women who participated in the institution are, appropriately, being recognized here.

Here's how the Grameen Bank got started according to wikipedia:

[Yunus's] first loan consisted of $27 from his own pocket, which he lent to women in the village of Jobra — near Chittagong University — who made bamboo furniture. They sold these items back to moneylenders to repay usurious loans that they had take out to buy the bamboo. With a net profit of 5 Bangladeshi taka (.02 USD), the women were unable to support themselves or their families. However, traditional banks were not interested in making tiny loans to poor people, who were considered poor repayment risks.

Microcredit has taken a varied path over the years and as it has been embraced by powerful economists like Jeffrey Sachs, it has lost some of its luster for me. Seems weird to take a situationally appropriate solution and cross apply it everywhere; more pertinently, seems suspicious that the entire elite has embraced this solution that seems to reinforce the idea that a little bit of money is all everybody needs.

Not that, um, being turned down for a job by a microcredit institution in Harlem affected my feelings toward microcredit or anything :) In any case, minor quibbling aside--and it is minor--the original work of the Grameen Bank still seems pretty amazing to me--my focus here is not on finance microcapital but on bong, bong, bong, bong, bong! As Naeem notes:

Ironically, I was up at this ungodly hour because I had been writing a polemic to a Dhaka paper about the need for positive role models for Bangladesh.

One portion of that text read:

"I am wary of excessive nationalism because it can lead to chauvinism and exclusion. But at the current crisis crossroads, we could do with an injection of optimism and inspiration from unconventional locations. Media profiles do not have to focus only on middle class professionals, or the sons and daughters of "established" people (the latter would re-inscribe hierarchies and local elites). There are many other stories to track down. We can also attempt, emotionally and politically, to embrace a pan-Bangali identity and take the success stories of West Bengalis as part of our mosaic...

Hear, hear. As a descendent of West Bengalis, I would say that the converse of the last statement is true as well--that West Bengalis should be embracing a pan-Bangali identity as part of our heritage. Unfortunately, at least here in New York, it really doesn't happen. The old-school West Bengalis have taken to the suburbs and professional jobs, while the much more numerous Bangladeshis have taken to Dunkin Donuts; begin class conflict.

You In Thailand: "Um, I'm Desi, I Swear"

By: on 9 Oct 2006

The New York Times brings news that some Western tourists continue to be idiots. In Thailand:

Made In Desistan

By: on 9 Oct 2006

My roommate brought to my attention an article in New York magazine called "The Outsourced Parent." A nominally humorous take on all the services that a wealthy New York parent can shift off to other people ("Perhaps you’ve been told that having a child is a 24-hour-a-day job. But it doesn’t have to be your job—not for a moment."), it inspired him with a brilliant idea:

"Why not raise the child until they're 12 in India.

Baghdad Is Dead (Part 1538923981635)

By: on 7 Oct 2006

Excerpts from a New York Times article on Iraqi young people and life in Baghdad:

“I can’t go outside, I can’t go to college,” said Noor, sitting in the kitchen waiting for tea to boil. “If I’m killed, it doesn’t even matter because I’m dead right now.”

...

For Noor, a secular Sunni who is solidly middle class, the sectarian killing has broken squarely into his circle of friends. A friend from Adhamiya, Baghdad’s Sunni Arab center, joined a neighborhood militia after his father was shot to death in front of their home.

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