November 2008 Archives

Inflation - Thanksgiving 2008

New York, NY, USA -- 26 November 2008 | Permalink
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“Look, it's Bud Lightyear!” exclaimed a mother with her family in tow. “Mom, it's Buzz. Buzz Lightyear.” protested her oldest son. She ignored the correction loftily. “And there's Spongebob!” she said, pointing to another of the huge balloons resting face-down on 77th St. “Spongebud.” muttered her son mutinously.

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Mumbai terrorist attacks

26 November 2008 | Permalink
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News from Mumbai is ugly, with reports of numerous casualties from multiple coordinated attacks using automatic weapons and grenades. I visited Mumbai in January this year and recognize some of the places where the attacks have apparently taken place.

The strategy behind the attacks isn't clear yet. The attackers seem to have targeted transport hubs — CST, the airport — and large hotels — the Taj, the Oberoi — among other places. Leopold's in Colaba — a restaurant popular with Western tourists, but also locals — has also reportedly been attacked. The choice of Leopold's is reminiscent of attacks targeting Westerners in places such as Bali, but the attack in CST will almost certainly have killed more locals than foreigners. It would seem that this attack isn't aimed exclusively at either Indians or foreigners, but at both together.

The real danger is that this will trigger another round of inter-ethnic violence in Mumbai. Mumbai is a stronghold of the anti-Muslim Maharashtrian nationalist party, the Shiv Sena. It also has a large Muslim population. Relations between the Hindu and Muslim communities are often tense, and any violence is likely to lead to reprisals.

On my way home from Mumbai, I read Suketu Mehta's “Maximum City”, a large part of which deals with the 1992-1993 Bombay Riots and features interviews with killers and politicians from both factions. Many of the gunmen that Mehta interviewed were members of criminal gangs whose leaders often live in hiding abroad. Organized crime, international terrorism, and local inter-ethnic tension are all mixed up in one lethal cocktail. One of the lessons that I took away from Mehta's book is that it wouldn't take very much to set off another round of killings. The danger is very great that this attack will be the spark that sets the whole city on fire. That may be precisely the intention.

 

Democracy 2K8

New York, NY, USA -- 04 November 2008 | Permalink
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I'd like to say that voting is an emotional experience; the truth is that it always makes me feel slightly and needlessly nervous, in the same way that standing in line at immigration does. I'm always convinced that I'm about to do Something Wrong and incur the wrath of officialdom: “Under the Statute of 1869 dealing with Polling Places, Political Canvassing and the Sale of Strong Spirits to Natives, Mr McIntyre, failing to close the curtains on the voting booth from left-to-right as mandated, using blue ink to sign your name in the voter list, and — above all — presenting yourself at a federally-constituted place of election wearing odd-colored socks makes you guilty of the offense of aggravated discombobulation and tort. Take him away, boys!”

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November again

02 November 2008 | Permalink

It's November again. You know what that means.

And don't let anyone tell you that NaNoWrimo is now more of a social event than a literary one ...