Showing posts from July, 2018

SherAli Tareen - There's no reason to fear Pakistan's new prime minister

The lead-up to philanthropist turned politician Imran Khan's election as Pakistan's new Prime Minister generated copious alarming prognostications across international media. These vilifying accounts must be taken with a grain of salt. Rest assured, the sky is not falling in Pakistan. To the contrary, Khan's decisive victory represents a monumental moment in the country's checkered history. The dominant international narrative, stitched together by self-professed foreign experts such as Indian journalist Burkha Dutt and Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, followed these lines: the Pakistani election represents a battle between puppets of the Pakistani military establishment, exemplified by the figure of Imran Khan, and champions of democracy such as the  recently convicted  former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The corruption scandals engulfing Sharif, this narrative held, represent the product of a conniving campaign engineered and executed by the m

GARY SAUL MORSON - Pig and People: The rise and fall of the first Russian populists.

The populists’ efforts to “go to the people” failed utterly. Far from embracing their revolutionary ideology, the peasants turned their worshippers in to the police. In despair, many populists established the Russian terrorist movement. If Russian history demonstrates anything, it is that nothing causes more evil than the attempt to abolish it altogether. The scarlet flower blooms in the Gulag. To this day the idea persists that the Russian people, especially the simple rural ones, somehow carry the moral solution to all the world’s ills. Under what Dostoyevsky called their “alluvial barbarism” lies the purest spirituality. For Russians, faith in the people’s virtue is equalled only by another belief: in the moral glory of Russian literature. That belief is warranted. Russian populism ( narodnichestvo , from  narod , the people) began in the 1870s. The narodniks  dominated Russian thought for two decades, and their successors, the Socialist Revolutionaries, became the country’s most

Alison Flood - 'Spectacular' ancient public library discovered in Germany

The remains of the oldest public library in  Germany , a building erected almost two millennia ago that may have housed up to 20,000 scrolls, have been discovered in the middle of Cologne. The walls were first uncovered in 2017, during an excavation on the grounds of a Protestant church in the centre of the city. Archaeologists knew they were of Roman origins, with Cologne being one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded by the Romans in 50 AD under the name Colonia. But the discovery of niches in the walls, measuring approximately 80cm by 50cm, was, initially, mystifying. “It took us some time to match up the parallels – we could see the niches were too small to bear statues inside. But what they are are kind of cupboards for the scrolls,” said Dr Dirk Schmitz from the Roman-Germanic Museum of Cologne. “They are very particular to libraries – you can see the same ones in the library at Ephesus.” It is not clear how many scrolls the library would have held, but it would have

World's largest king penguin colony has declined by 90%

The planet’s largest colony of king penguins has declined by nearly 90% in three decades, researchers have warned. The last time scientists set foot on France’s remote Île aux Cochons – roughly half way between the tip of Africa and Antarctica – the island was blanketed by 2m of the penguins, which stand about a metre tall. But recent satellite images and photos taken from helicopters show the population has collapsed, with barely 200,000 remaining, according to a study published in Antarctic Science.  Why the colony on Île aux Cochons has been so decimated remains a mystery. “It is completely unexpected, and particularly significant since this colony represented nearly one third of the king penguins in the world,” said lead author Henri Weimerskirch, an ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize, France, who first set eyes on the colony in 1982. Climate change  may play a role. In 1997, a particularly strong El Niño weather event warmed the southern Indian Oc

NRC: No Clarity on What Awaits the 40 Lakh People Excluded from Assam's Citizen Register

The nation-state, incapable of providing a law for those who had lost the protection of a national government, transferred the whole matter to the police. Hannah Arendt in 1948  Over the past three years, 3.29 crore, (32.9 million) people in Assam have submitted a bewildering array of documents to prove they are Indian citizens - a process that sounds like a routine bureau-cratic practice, but in reality has disrupted the lives of millions. On Monday, it emerged that over 12 percent, or 40 lakh, of those who applied have been excluded.  Of these, Hajela said 2.48 lakh were persons declared foreigners by 100 tribunals across the state, or marked doubtful voters by the election commission, and their descendants were automatically excluded from the NRC process. In the hour-long press conference, officials said those excluded would not be subject to punitive action, detention or deportation — yet. Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, quoted Minister Rajn

सोशल डेमोक्रैसी के एजेण्डे का मसौदा

सोशल डेमोक्रैसी के एजेण्डे का मसौदा Draft Agenda on social-democracy: July 2018 लोकतंत्र ख़तरे में 1/ आज देश में न्याय प्रणाली दिन - ब - दिन तेज़ी से टूटती जा रही है – इसके कई कारण हैं , जो जटिल भी हैं , लेकिन आम नागरिक पर इसका एक ही असर होता हैः . न्याय व्यवस्था के निचले स्तर पर ग़रीब आदमी को अपना बचाव करने के लिए वकील तक नहीं मिल पाता , ईमानदार पब्लिक प्रोसीक्यूटरों को सताया जाता है और कहीं कहीं जज भी बेक़सूर लोगों के दमन में हाथ बँटाते हैं . केसों के आबंटन को लेकर उच्चत्म न्यायालय में संकट की स्थिति , चार वरिष्ट जजों द्वारा इसका खूले मंच पर से विरोध , अरुणाचल प्रदेश के पूर्व मुख्य मंत्री कलिखो - पुल के सुसाइड नोट कि उपेक्षा और जज लोया की रहस्यम्य मौत – ये सूचित करते हैं कि  न्याय प्रणालि में सेंध लग चुकी है . आज न्याय व्यवस्था में जजों की कमी है , लेकिन न्याय के संकट से इसका कोई लेनादेना नहीं है . भारत के संघ राज्य की वैधता के लिए न्यायपूर्ण और सक्रिय न्याय व्यवस्था आवश्यक है , जिसे केवल न्यायतंत्र ही सही ढंग से बचा सकता है , जिसे ठीक लगा वह न्यायाधीश बन जाए इससे अथवा

Bharat Bhushan - Rafale deal row: Why procedure should be seen as no less crucial than price

Why procedure should be seen as no less crucial than price  Both CAG and Parliament should closely examine the processes of decision-making; should they fail in this regard, it would be open to public-spirited citizens to file a petition in the courts  The  Rafale  fighter jet deal controversy is unlikely to die down in the run up to the general elections. The Opposition has already questioned the price of the deal and the secrecy clause, and made charges of crony capitalism. There is an oblique suggestion of kickbacks involved.  Normally such allegations would be par for the course in any lively democracy. So would the privilege motion moved in the Lok Sabha by the Congress party against the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. However, the defence minister’s over-the-top reaction during the no-confidence debate prompted several observers to wonder whether “the lady doth protest too much”. Despite the furore over the past two weeks, several significant issues of proced

Draft Agenda on social-democracy: July 2018

NB : This comment on current developments in India was discussed at an extended meeting of concerned citizens early in July, 2018. It is part of a series of such non-partisan discussions taking place in various parts of the country. Readers are welcome to use it - and add to it - to debate issues that have disappeared from the mainstream media. DS सोशल डेमोक्रैसी के एजेण्डे का मसौदा Draft Agenda on social-democracy Threat to democracy: 1/ The current situation in India exhibits an incremental breakdown of justice. The causes for this are complex, but it has serious consequences for ordinary citizens. At lower levels the poor do not even have access to lawyers. Honest public prosecutors are harassed and in some cases judges have been complicit in the harassment of the innocent. The crisis in the Supreme Court over the allocation of cases, the public protest by four senior judges; and the manner in which the suicide note of ex-CM Kalikho Pul and the mysterious death of

Amiya K Kushwaha - High Court pulls up Delhi Police for separating Hindu-Muslim couple

The Delhi High Court has slammed Delhi Police for forcibly separating an inter-faith couple despite knowing well that the Muslim woman is above 21 years and had married the Hindu man of her own free will. A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel has sought an explanation from Delhi Police over allegations that they kept the husband in the police lock-up from July 3 to 5 without presenting him in any court. The court order came while hearing a habeas corpus filed by the man who was seeking the wife's whereabouts. The couple got married in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, on June 28, 2018 and then started residing at the man's residence at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in New Delhi. On July 3, at around 8 pm, policemen accompanied by JNU security personnel and others in civilian clothes forcibly took away the woman and handed over the man to police, who was taken to Loni police station and kept in the lock-up for three days. The man alleged that

Shiv Vishwanathan -Time, modernity and the BJP

The party is addicted to the ideas of nation state, progress and development pickled in the formal-dehyde of the 19th century. Its patriotism is a deep devotion to repeating these ideas in the present. No other regime is as idolatrous of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to ‘Make in India’ is an invitation to the likes of them to make India’s future because India as a regime is clueless about it — we are being out-thought and out-fought in every forum. Sociologists have often commented that outsiders have a more clear-sighted view of everydayness than us. Recently, I was ranting against the communalism of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when a European friend of mine, a philosopher, observed that the categories of left and right were grossly overdrawn in India. They emphasised a world of deep dualisms, or even a richness of traditional thought, that does not exist in India. India, he said, cannot claim a Gramsci or a Rosa Luxemburg. Worse, our rig

Rowan Moore - Naked geology, dazzling light… my journey into the Arctic

The Arctic can have this effect on people: its function in the imagination of the world is as a place to test or define, to look for some truth about existence by viewing it from its limit. The challenge of its otherness might explain why Mary Shelley chose to open Frankenstein in the Arctic wastes, and why the Soviets built the showcase coalmining town of  Pyramiden  more grandly and formally than its function required. Now the significance of the Arctic is above all about climate change, its effects there being particularly visible, significant and dangerous. What if we couldn’t stand each other, on this vessel alone on icy seas? Agatha Christie would have loved the scenario The belief that the Arctic has something to tell us motivates the  Arctic Circle residency , a programme whereby artists, scientists and writers can, for half the actual cost, take part in expeditions aboard a tall sailing ship, around the coasts and islands of Svalbard. Feeling the need for new perspec

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: State and Capital Modi government has added an insidious dimension to the nexus

The relationship between state and capital is an important capillary of power in a modern democracy. This relationship is governed by many contradictory impulses. In a democracy, politicians need capital for elections and for sustaining politics as a career choice. But politics also has to be responsive to the demands of social legitimation. There is a second issue. There is often a tension between seeking policies that favour particular businesses and policies that favour a level playing field based on principles that produce growth. The third tension is between the imperatives of looking business friendly on the one hand, and incorporating genuine public goods into regulation on the other — like environment and human rights. These tensions are perennial in any democracy. The UPA mismanaged these tensions. Corruption had reached a point where the demands of social legitimation had become nearly impossible; the state became an outright plutocracy. This spawned not just an anti-cor

Extreme global weather is 'the face of climate change' says leading scientist

The extreme heatwaves and wildfires wreaking havoc around the globe are “the face of climate change”, one of the world’s leading climate scientists has declared, with the impacts of global warming now “playing out in real time”.  Climate change  has long been predicted to increase extreme weather incidents, and scientists are now confident these predictions are coming true. Scientists say the global warming has contributed to on the scorching temperatures that have baked the UK and northern Europe for weeks. The hot spell  was made more than twice as likely  by climate change, a new analysis found, demonstrating an “unambiguous” link.  Extreme weather has struck across Europe, from the  Arctic Circle  to  Greece , and across the world, from  North America  to  Japan . “This is the face of climate change,” said Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University, and one the world’s most eminent climate scientists. “We literally would not have seen these extremes in the absence of climate

Barry Lynn - Google and Facebook are strangling the free press to death. Democracy is the loser

After Europe’s top monopoly buster  Margrethe Vestager  fined Google more than $5bn for abusing its dominance over mobile phone technology, it’s tempting to relax about the power of big tech. Not only is there a cop watching these giants, she’s carrying a really big stick.  But this week’s firing by the New York Daily News   of half the paper’s staff shines a different light on the matter.  The reason given by the publisher – a sharp decline in revenue – is largely the result of Google abusing its monopoly over online advertising, in tandem with  Facebook . Vestager’s move against Android does nothing to protect the free press in Europe or America. This means it’s time for other regulators and legislators in America and in Europe to speed the process of bringing Google to heel. To be sure, the decision by Europe’s Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp) last Wednesday is important. The fat fine was the clearest statement yet that Google’s practices break the law. Furthe

Mars: huge underground lake raises prospects of life on planet, astronomers say

Astronomers have found compelling evidence that there is a huge reservoir of liquid water buried a mile under the ice near the south pole on  Mars .  Radar measurements taken from the European  Space  Agency’s Mars Express orbiter spotted the 12 mile-wide stretch of water at the base of a thick slab of polar ice in a region known as Planum Australe. It is the first time that researchers have identified a stable body of liquid water on the red planet. The finding raises the likelihood that any microbial life that arose on Mars may continue to eke out a rather bleak existence deep beneath the surface.   “We discovered water on Mars,” said Roberto Orosei at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna. Any other explanation for the bright reflections the scientists saw in their radar observations was “untenable”, he added. Details of the finding are reported in the journal,  Science . Today, the most obvious signs that Mars was once a wet world are the ancient waterways t

Lying in Politics: Hannah Arendt on Deception, Self-Deception, and the Psychology of Defactualization

Maria Popova - Lying in Politics:Deception, Self-Deception, and the Psychology of Defactualization “The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people,”  Adrienne Rich wrote in her beautiful 1975  speech on lying and what truth really means ,  “are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities.”   Nowhere is this liar’s loss of perspective more damaging to public life, human possibility, and our collective progress than in politics, where complex social, cultural, economic, and psychological forces conspire to make the assault on truth traumatic on a towering scale. Those forces are what  Hannah Arendt (1906 -1975), one of the most incisive thinkers of the past century, explores in a superb 1971 essay titled “Lying in Politics,” written shortly after the release of the Pentagon Papers and later included in  Crises of the Republic  ( public library ) - a collection of Are

Swami Agnivesh On Lynch Mobs, Modi's 'Hate Mongering Campaign' And Fake Saffron

NB : The RSS-led Government of India is openly allowing hooligans to indulge in violence with impunity. Lynchings have become an everyday affair. This may well be their method of preparing for the next elections - after all, communal tension is their staple diet. Maybe Pranab Mukherjee can ask them to stop, having certified their patriotism so recently. DS Ground Report: 'VHP Men the Main Culprits in Alwar Lynching, Police Role Secondary' Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh was attacked by a mob on July 17 in Pakur, Jharkhand, as he stepped out of a press conference on tribal rights. Leveling blame at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the 78-year-old social activist said they had falsely accused him of supporting cow slaughter and beaten him up. Agnivesh, a former lawmaker and education minister in Haryana, told  HuffPost India  that his assault in BJP-ruled Jharkhand was a "state sponsored attack". T

Indian Writers Forum condemns the intimidation of Malayalam writer S Hareesh

Writers against Self-censorship: “We have to fight against hounding writers into self-censorship with every word we have…” The thugs policing our cultural fraternity have struck again. In response to the violent threats against his family, Malayalam writer S Hareesh has now withdrawn his novel Meesa (Moustache) being serialised by Mathrubhumi, stating that he will publish it when “the climate is congenial”. Meesa is the first novel written by Hareesh, winner of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award for short fiction​. The first three chapters of this novel were published in serial form by Mathrubhumi weekly, raising great expectations among readers.  Then right​-wing groups began a campaign of intimidation that has become only too familiar in recent yea