Mumbai Attacks as India’s 9/11? (Questionable Thesis and Partial Refutation)

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[Image courtesy Flick-er Stuti via CC]

I have to say I find this notion that the Mumbai attacks are India’s 9/11 is somewhat very unnerving.  India has been experiencing terrorism, either by Hindutva far-right extremists as well as Kashmiri based Muslims for decades.  Decades.  They are hardly some Johnny-Come-Latelys to the terrorism game.  In fact, the situation I would argue is the complete opposite, where the US should be learning from India’s resilience in its decades long struggle to maintain democracy–the world’s largest–in the face of terrorism.  Not the India should be learning from the US in its post 9/11 guise.  See Juan Cole on that point.

So the first link up there is from Greg Sheridan at the Australian.  It’s a rather fetid imagination piece which not only wants to link Pakistan in but also al-Qaeda to the attacks.

Sheridan writes:

They [Mumbai attacks] represent, too, a probably definitive merger of internal Indian conflicts with the global war on terror. They also represent a formal notice of combat to the American president-elect, Barack Obama. The implications for the US of these attacks are in fact enormous.

First off the Global War on Terror is really at this point The Southeast/Southwestern Asian Crisis.  Pakistan, India, Afghanistan.  India’s embassy in Afghanistan was bombed most likely from groups from the NWFP of Pakistan.  So if Sheridan wants to make the link between the so-called (and badly named and theorized and fought) Global War on Terror and India, that already happened with that embassy bombing.

It might in fact be the complete reverse, with al-Qaeda Central being subsumed into what are essentially local/regional fights:  Kashmir, the Taliban Pashtun resistance against the Indian-backed Northern Alliance in Kabul, and the rise of the Pakistani Taliban.  All of course with the inter-relation of a NATO mission in Afghanistan and US predator drones bombing targets, both civilian and terrorist in territory that is supposedly under Pakistani sovereignty but which practically is self-governed.

The problem (as Cole notes) with all these views on whether Pakistan was behind the attacks or not is that we still think in terms of states as opposed to state-less or trans-national guerrilla networks.  Sheridan’s piece assumes al-Qaeda is a state-like entity.  Which in a certain way it is actually is which is why it has become increasingly less effective.  It’s message gets amplified and decentralized groups can pick up on those issues and run with them however they like, but that’s not the same assuming operational coordination.

And if even there is training, these groups are fluid and individuals within the groups can bleed over into another and they can form, disform, or reform basically at the drop of a hat.  Any possible combination of connections is really possible.

But one point I would strongly disagree with of Sheridan’s is that the attacks on Westerners is hallmark al-Qaeda.  Except that al-Qaeda’s MO has not been to take hostages.  There were no suicide bombers in this attack (al-Qaeda’s real hallmark if it has one).

Ultimately al-Qaeda supposed political objectives have failed.  It frankly has none and is ultimately nihilistic.  It’s attempt to plant the (false) flag of al-Qaeda around the world, suck the US in, and then bleed them dry by aligning with local grievances in an attempt to globalize them has been effective through the stupidity of Bush in invading Iraq and perhaps Obama tripling down in Afghanistan.

The problem then immediately is the state-relation to all of this.  Even if al-Qaeda was in charge of this operation or coordinated with some group in the NWFP, do we invade Pakistan?  Does India?  When the government of Pakistan clearly is not supportive of these attacks, however much some rogue elements within the government/Army and/or ISI might be in favor of them?

How does this lead anywhere other than to what was pretty obvious from the beginning, but never done by Bush with his war metaphor/paradigm for this construct.  Namely increased nation-nation intelligence coordination and the creation of decentralized intelligence (counter-terrorism) groups by the nations affected by terrorism?

The question from the beginning has been about creating a legal paradigm resilient and flexible yet with enough standards to protect the rule of law (civil rights, democracy, etc) in the age of terror.  Something like what apparently the PM of India is calling for today.

This is light years more important than creating some League of Democracies or getting all the countries together into war mode who have had their own 9/11s against some worldwide united terrorist front (which doesn’t exist).

Rather 1. Create the New Legal Paradigm and 2. Crush the Cell(s)

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Canadian Politics Update

To get a little pomo for a second, here’s me (quoting me) on October 16th:

Here’s what I wrote yesterday regarding the Liberals in Canada time out of power:

What all those scenarios have in common is that the left was fractured. What that means is that Canada is built so that the Liberals will always rule the country minus a scenario in which they are totally corrupt and/or lose their left flank.

From the NyTimes this morning:

But as the election post-mortems got under way on Wednesday, some Liberals were suggesting that the only way to take on Mr. Harper may be to adopt one of his own strategies. In the same way that Mr. Harper rebuilt right-of-center politics in Canada through political party mergers, some Liberals are now considering the idea of an alliance, formal or otherwise, between their centrist party and the left-of-center New Democratic Party, which is known as the N.D.P. and is led by Jack Layton.

And look what could be taking shape before our very eyes:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has temporarily stymied a Liberal plan to bring down the government and propose a governing coalition with the New Democrats, delaying the opportunity for a no-confidence vote by one week.

Now the cynic in me can not help but point to these two issues:

1. The separatists exist only to suck up taxpayer money and are pathetic (either grow a pair or you don’t get any, that’s how it works fellas)

The Bloc Québécois would not be part of any coalition government, but has expressed support for the idea as long as the coalition provides economic help for Quebec’s forest and manufacturing sectors.

2. Politicians can not rally to do anything in this country unless their tax-payer sponsored existences are on the line:

Also at issue was a proposal to save money by cutting public subsidies for political parties, but Kory Teneycke, director of communications for the Prime Minister’s Office, said Friday that the subsidies won’t be tied to the fiscal update set for a vote on Monday.

That measure would cut the $1.95-per-vote each party gets to fund such things as staffing and research. Removal of the subsidies would harm the opposition parties more than the ruling Conservatives, who have been more successful at raising money privately.

This analysis however seems quite sharp:

Strangely, removing the political funding component of the bill actually helps the opposition maintain momentum. The Conservative argument that the attempt to bring down the government is about crass political advantage is removed. Now the three “progressive” parties can say with a straight face that this is about the government’s policy, not its dollars.

The coalition-to-be (possibly) is now going to rally hard around the notion of a fiscal stimulus….a la the US Democrats, trying to pin Harper as Bush/Reagan-like and out of touch on the economy in a worldwide mini-depression (deflationary recession period of worldwide stagflation). It could work I suppose.  But the Liberals I still believe have to think long term about governing as a party with a vision, not an ad hoc temporary power grab.

We just had the lowest turnout in recent memory in our election just 2 months ago, and the Liberals after having received their lowest percentage vote total since I believe Confederation (1860s) could be in power?  Honestly?  How does this not further corrode the political system?

Clearly Harper’s plan was buffoonish with only a minority government.  He may be past his prime already–his election call was wrong, the arts comment he made as well as the hardline punishment stance for juveniles both of which killed his chances for a majority in Quebec, and now this.

The Liberals, whether in a coalition with ministries for the NDP or not, could come back but boy oh boy would they be headed for a fiscal and governmental crash.  The only thing worse than a fractured left out of power might be a fractured left in power.

Da on Death as Life

From my favorite text of his called  Enlightenment of the Whole Body:

The real man or woman learns to live by becoming willing and able to die. Such a one is able to confront the difficult barriers and frustrations of this slightly evolved world and yet remain capable of ecstasy in every moment.

Therefore, the primary initiation that leads to human maturity is the confrontation with mortal fear. Only when the ultimate frustration that is death has been fully considered and felt and understood as a process can the individual live without self-protective and self-destructive fears. Only in intuitive freedom from the threat and fear of death is the individual capable of constant love of Life and also transcendence of the frustrating and self-binding effects of daily experience. Only in freedom from mortal recoil is the individual capable of ecstasy under all conditions.

Therefore, be alive, but learn Life by first dealing with your death. Become aware that you do not live, but that you are lived by Life. Become the devotee of Life by surrendering your illusion of independent life, which is the self, or body-mind, in ecstatic Communion with the Real. Become willing to die in any moment, and maintain no inward armor against it. Die in every moment by not holding on to your life. Give your life up to Life, and allow Life to transform and Translate the body-mind into Itself.

The Secret and the Realization of all of this is in the Teaching and the Way and the Company of the Spiritual Master. In that Way is the only positive Destiny of the individual and the world


Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 5:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Adi Da RIP

Adi Da has died–in traditional Indian terms he has entered Mahasamadhi. The Great (Maha) Awakening (Samadhi). He was a man who loved humor–so there is a deep irony of an American ex-pat spiritual teacher dying on Thanksgiving. But my prayers to those who mourn his transformation.

Here is a description of the understanding practice he taught which has been very powerful as a conduit of grace and love in my life:

In the process of enquiry, which is real meditation, a man simply rests in understanding. In formal meditation he merely sits comfortably and free of the need to respond to activities in his environment. He already understands. He has already examined the nature of suffering, of dilemma and of action. Thus he sits and enjoys the fulness of understanding in his form at that moment.

Enquiry begins at the point where he becomes aware of the tendency of his conscious awareness. Depending upon the stresses of his life expression at that moment, his awareness will tend to move or become associated with attention to movement or tension, thought or feeling in some area or plane of the body. Thus, his awareness will be directed from the center of understanding in the head, analogous to the viewpoint of his eyes (which should remain closed) toward some area of his form, above or below…

The enquiry, which is the free activity of understanding, should thus be allowed to confront whatever area the mind tends to pursue. When this movement begins, he should enquire “Avoiding relationship?” He should not seek to remove the tendency itself. He should only enquire. If the tendency remains, he should only enquire. If he becomes disturbed that the tendency does not vanish, he should only enquire of that disturbance. Whatever arises, he should only enquire.



Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 4:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Little More Soros

Again, listen when he talks about credit, he means faith.  The system is collapsing as the existentialists would say because of bad faith.  Literally.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 1:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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George Soros on Financial Crisis (Beaucoup de Links)

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Click the link above for the audio of George Soros describing the current financial meltdown.

The full transcript of the interview with Bill Moyers and George Soros here.  The wiki on Soros’ theory of financial markets is here.  I’m reading Soros’ new book on the subject (as well as a few of his previous ones) for a paper for class.  This guy is brilliant on this stuff.  One of the few minds that really gets it (Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff, Michael Lewis & Crew, among others).

The key part is here:

GEORGE SOROS:Which they didn’t properly understand. And there was always a separation between the people who generated the mortgages and packaged them and sold them to you and the people who owned them. So nobody was paying attention to the quality of the mortgages because they didn’t have an interest. They — all day collecting fees. And then there were other people holding the mortgages.

I’m working on the issue of credit as growing from the notion of “belief” or “trust” (in Latin credere).  Credere is the same root as Creeds.  There was no ability to trust in this system because no one knew anyone else.  Speculators, brokers, and the such are not the ones to be have been making these loans–from subprime on up, nor then those even further removed from the reality of relationship–e.g. those who did the securitization and SIVs and then later the CDOs on the SIVs.

That and the notion that human actions affect the market (what Soros calls ‘reflexitivity’) lie at the heart of the necessary re-think….Soros’ new paradigm.  It follows in his decades long critique of economics as mimicking physics (via math).  In other words, to make economics into a natural science–to describe economic behavior as conforming to natural laws.  Even the more recent attempts to re-read economics along evolutionary, biological or chaotic theories has some benefit but is still trapped in what Ken Wilber calls “subtle reductionism” (as opposed to the earlier gross reductionism).  For more on that distinction, this mind-blowingly brilliant manifesto by Christian Arnsperger.

So the economic theory (according to Soros) is based on the wrong psychology, the wrong anthropology really–that is the wrong view of the human being.  Natural science-based economics thinking is suffering from what Whitehead termed “misplaced concreteness”.  That means to confuse what is originally an insight or explanatory framework predicated on a certain context (usually a fairly easy to understand rather basic one) and universalizing that insight/frame to all contexts as if there were the “natural” state of affairs.

It is built on C.S. Peirce’s notion that what we call natural laws are actually habits in the universe.  Everything starts as a moment of novelty or choice.  But over time repeated actions habitutate and instantiate themselves into the woop and warp of the universe.  What humans term natural laws are usually just the most basic, earliest, ways of being in the universe.  They are so ground in through habitual patterning that they are essentially almost 100% determined.

In market terms, following Soros, the idea of homo economicus, the rational all-knowing actor in the market that guides so much thinking in these realms is a misplaced concreteness drawn originally from the realm of markets in durable goods, where the basic law of supply and demand and the equilibrium that grows out of those interactions basically holds.  [They are in this analogy like the movements of gas molecules in a container–you can’t predict how any one molecule will go but basically you can more or less predict how the entire set of molecules over time will interact].

But credit markets are not goods markets.  And here we are back to choice and trust and the unknowability of the future and that the real and our actions interact and are responsive to one another.  That the future is free and open.  (Soros’ political vision is built out of this philosophical point).  Hence the modernist worldview and formal operational cognition upon which it rides, assumes everything heads to equilibrium (in economics this is called Walrasian thought).  Hence no regulation is necessary as everything left in its natural state will work out to the equilibrium–since all actors in the system are rational.  Sound familiar?

Ultimately by disentangling economics from relationships (and hence from consciousness/feeling) we move into an etherealized reality, where economic value can be inflated to the point where value is accruing without any actual work/product being done.  And then eventually that self-reinforcing (self-reflexive) mania will be exposed and then the house of cards comes falling down.

Religiously to have the wrong notion of the human being is to have the wrong notion of God–in other words to committ idolatry.  Because humans are made in the image of God (so claims theology).  To consider the market as a god (“the all-knowing” market).  Idolatry socially comes out in the form of wrongly structured relationships.  In the globalized frame, we exist to serve the markets, not they us.  The fruit of that fundamental misinterpretation and mistaken practice is now coming to harvest.

Meditation on the Gut

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I haven’t done one of these more meditative kinds of posts in a long LONG time. But tonight feels the night for the return of one,.

In my stomach there is a drive. When I am there there is an aliveness–an immediate sense of being awake and alert. Curious at least, radically interested other times. If I had to visualize it it would be a tighter form of the nautilus shell of the hermit crab pictured above. It wraps around itself and comes to a point.

In the pit of my pit, a lot of the pretense gets dropped. There’s no need to be anybody. There’s no need even to be a one, but a one does emerge. I know the alternate space. The space of the background of all of THE ALL. The I AM. I know that space dropping in the co-arising of what I call the fuzzies and the world of form. The sparkles that light up in everything. What the Tibetans calls The Ornamentation.

But for now I find myself more drawn to the belly,to the place of being interested and forward-looking, desiring to do something. The space of evolution wanting to become manifest. Not that from which Evolution arises. It’s not opposed to that but for it is different.

The place where life and the stomach, the nautilus in my gut are responsive to one another and interact. Words come from there–they are very few and sharply to the point. There are a few times in the past weeks when I have noticed (after the fact) that that voice has spoken, has irrupted through my normal crap state of being.

An Answer (in that voice): A mountain, a cat, and a rain shower.

The Question: When pluralist religious thinkers describe different religions as different paths up the same mountain or even different mountains, they would be better to say they are not even mountains. Like a mountain, a cat, and a rain shower.

I’m not sure where this goes. Of the three centers–the head, the heart, and the gut–the gut has always been the hardest for me. I’m fundamentally uninterested in the interiors of my existence. They basically washed out with the tide years ago. But this practice, this place keeps me properly aligned within while focused outward. (as opposed to mindless within the space of Awakening as is too often the case for me–or at least has or maybe had been??)

Learning to befriend this space is a key change. This place is where I have had hid some many fears and traumas, aeons worth of suffering sometimes it feels. Elements of the fear and the pain still reside there but imperceptibly they are beginning to subside.

It’s a space where the thinking mind recedes, but when is needed speaks before thinking about the thinking of the thought. Clarity ensues, confidence articulates itself. Quiet strength naturally emerges.

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The FBI Is Tapping My Phone (???)

On days like this it’s good to know I don’t live in the US (???):

A federal appeals court in Manhattan upheld the convictions on Monday of three Al Qaeda operatives in a ruling that bolsters the government’s power to investigate terrorism by holding that a key Constitutional protection afforded to Americans does not apply overseas.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holds for the first time that government agents may obtain admissible evidence against United States citizens through warrantless searches abroad.

Now that the government may tap my calls without a warrant whilst I live up north I feel much better.

Take it away Public Enemy:

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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US Civics Quiz

Tyler Cowen points me to this American Civics Quiz.  I got 30 out of 33, which apparently makes me much more knowledgeable than most of our elected officials (on civics/US history anyway).

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bailout Meets Marx

I just watched most of this whole discussion (which you can find on Fora, here) as background for a paper I’m doing on process theology and economics.

If you can get beyond the sincere though smug circle-jerking lefty-ism of the thing, they do raise some interesting points. That might be a little harsh, so let me balance that by saying I have read at least one if not more of the works of all of the panelists. And learned a good deal from all of them.

But there’s a really weird moment in the whole conversation particularly when the insufferably cranky leftist Marxist boomer (yikes, yikes, yikes, yikes to all that) David Harvey [whose book on The History of Neoliberalism I actually liked in some ways] asks Naomi “Why aren’t people more angry?” Angry about the bailout, the cronyism, and all the rest.

And it should have occurred to him or her because it occurred to me (and this isn’t some fantastically brilliant insight on my part just basic common sense), Klein and Harvey just spent minutes bemoaning the fact that everything is about economics and the elites, the powerful (they are classical Marxists both of them after all) and then wonder why people are apathetic? Perhaps it is because if they actually bought into your storyline about the world, the clear implication is that they are powerless to do anything and therefore are actually acting responsibly.

You hear it in Klein saying (rather ludicrously) that Alan Greenspan built the entire (derivative? housing?) market. No acting human subjects (minus the uber-powerful), no humans flawed in economic thinking–the powerful are always so rational in these systems…if not rational then at least completely logical in their self-interest. My (albeit limited) interactions with rich and powerful usually leave me convinced that they are not the brightest bulbs in the universe. [The sample size of my life’s interactions with the aristocracy are probably not a legitimate sample size though to be fair].

But in traditional leftist economic thought it’s still really all about managing people from a top-down engineering model. I can’t help but feel the Harveys and Kleins of the world secretly (or maybe not so secretly) are in some perverse way really drawn to people like Greenspan because that is what they wish they could be doing–controlling the great events from the top-down.

Of the many flaws of Marxism, one that’s always puzzled me is if the world is only essentially the power relationship through economics (class conflict iow), then why support the proletariat? Beyond some vague discussion of human rights, justice, fairness whatever–because how are not those simply another ideological veil to support class power? Stiglitz says the bailout is redistributionism up the scale (true that) but why is that exactly worse than redistribution down a la New Deal and Great Society Left? Again from within the Marxist thought world?

For what it’s worth I tend to favor distribution of property not income (either up or down) which is why I tend to lean towards Hernando de Soto’s work--although in this (as in everything else I’ve seen the man on) he is a one-track pony which becomes very boring, very quickly.

Update I: It’s worth linking again to Jon Chait’s definitive takedown of the excessively Marxist Klein.

Update II: The answer to the why the proletriat is that Marx’s vision is ultimately a secularized form of Jewish eschatology and the prophetic ethics (the cry of the poor) against the abuses of the rich. The classless state is a secularized form of the apocalyptic Biblical vision of the eschaton or the Age to Come in the Rabbinic sources. I actually think that is where the great power of the system lies, but it’s not proved by economic laws or management/power discourse. One could argue that misunderstood as the imposition of by a deux ex machina, the Messianic Age in the religious (as well as certainly in Marx’s formulation) is a basic definition of unfreedom. Of a predetermined destiny and set metaphysic that will be imposed upon beings. There is an alternative reading of the Messianic Age which states that The Messiah will come when the Messiah is no longer necessary. The constant themes from farther left of the romanticization of the rising up of the masses hearkens to this call but is usually bound up in all kinds of problems and typically does not end well.