Monday, December 29, 2008

hard-edged fast food

these two places are near my parents' apartment in baltimore, and they share something hard-edged. "cluck-U chicken" is an obvious pun on F-U, delivering a visual kick to consumers or innocent bystanders. "polock johnny's" is more passive-aggressive, draping itself in self-labelling. when i was little, "polock" was synonymous with "stupid." it refers to people from poland. note, too, that this proudly ethnic sausage has draped itself in an american flag -- echoes of pro-war protests in the vietnam war era? -- and is squirting itself with ketchup. hmm. it is even lewd in some odd way.

in the downtown we passed another self-deprecating restaurant, an italian or greek place with the ephithet "good'a'food" on the awning (imitating the supposed ethnic accent).

frankly, the whole neighborhood -- no, "zone" -- feels hard and cruel. the cars drive fast and there is no place for walkers to walk. large warehouses stand between residential streets and large avenues. the little houses are hunched in on themselves, away from a harsh reality. like pottersville in "its a wonderful life," actually. hey, george bailey -- it all came true! your hallucination was really a vision of the future!

operation fish in a barrel

the newspapers are full of word of israel's "operations" against Gaza. a massacre has never been so handsomely rewarded with bureaucratic euphemism. 300 dead arabs is just fine for the US government: what really matters is those pesky rockets buzzing out of gaza, killing a person every few weeks. israel has no answer to arabs but violence. if they are trying to restore their air of invincibility and military potency, they are off base: no one has ever questioned their manly willingness to kill. by killing arabs, what they are after is the fissures and uncertainties in their own psyche: they want to restore their own belief in their invincibility.

alas, hundreds more will die in this narcissistic little experiment before it, too, inevitably fails.

peace will come only through palestinian independence and a withdrawal from land stolen in the 1967 war.

for the US and israel to foment palestinian civil war, as they have done these past few years, is only to work against this necessary and doable outcome.

we shall see if Obama has the guts to stand up for these principles and renounce this divide and conquer policy -- a policy which has failed, failed, and failed some more over the decades. but americans have an endless appetite for failure, it appears.

passive house

this (pasifhaus in german) is the name given to the german creators of a low-energy-consuming house. it requires little or no energy inputs, relying on the heat of the sun, directly shining into the house, or on the internal heat put out by people. it is sealed against the outside air, except for a special heat-exchange ventilation system. the cool air coming in from outside passes right next to the tube carrying the warm inside air out. 90 percent of the heat is conserved by passing to the incoming air and returning to the house. these houses are a bit more expensive to build than normal houses, because there are special fittings and seals around windows and doors. and there is a possibility they can be created for staying cool in hot places, too.

to catch on in the US the term "passive house" will never do. anything that reeks of passivity or the natural (or any diminishment of the heroic individual) is morally repugnant to americans. "tough house" or "success house" might work, however.

passive houses were written up in the new york times on sunday, i think.

there is another kind of alternative heating using air shafts into the earth and convection currents inside and around the house, but i forget what this is called.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


apparently, in 1883, the year "dude" was coined in new york city to refer to that era's decadent fashionistas, the word "dudine" was also coined for women.

two years later, "dudess" was unveiled. funny that neither made it to the present. although i would guess "dude" only made it to us because it was pulled into a bit of social satire -- to describe eastern city slickers playing cowboy in the West.

shadow tail

"shadow tail" is the literal translation of the old greek word which forms the base of our word "squirrel." it was taken into latin, then into old french, and finally into english. the meaning seemed to be, "animal whose tail is so big it can shade itself." i looked up this and other words for fun on the online etymology dictionary over christmas.

"squirrel" used as a verb first appeared in 1939.


i wonder if being shut up in a modest apartment made christmas better this year. passed in the suburbs, it is so easy on christmas to crawl into one's own space, in one's room, or on a sofa, or in front of a TV in the basement. but there in my parents' apartment, in an ugly unzoned area of baltimore, there were only two spaces: the kitchen and the living room.

so christmas was wonderful. dad and i took a walk before noon, past hundreds of small houses, and talked about politics and society. he said he did not know how society could ever heal the wounds and tears suffered by people in those poor neighborhoods. actually, these urban social disasters have been there since the 50s, when white middle classes emptied the cities for the suburbs and left them to rot. but one is insulated in the suburbs, away from the damage.

we opened presents, seated in a semicircle. sara and i got a rice cooker, which we had to carry on the greyhound bus yesterday.

then we put on "its a wonderful life," which sara had not seen before.

then we threw ourselves into cooking christmas dinner.

after stuffing myself i was exhausted, hit by a calorie bomb. i slept for an hour or two.

we sang christmas songs from the hymnal, with mom playing along on the piano. then we read the story from the bible.

around the kitchen table over more pie we talked about the old house on hickory lane, its curious details so obvious to kids: the venice canal scene on the formica shower enclosure, the black fridge in the basement, the musty smell there. and what was obvious to adults: the flooding problem. despite our investment in the old place, we left it behind so easily. even karen, who despised its discomforts (and its memories of an overcrowded youth), still dreams of it.

in short, rather than slipping into a bored malaise, we connected with each other. and with cranberry and rhubarb pie.

turkey + kimchi tacos

back from baltimore, where we visited my parents for 3 days, sara and i heated up leftover turkey, whipped up a sauce, and heated corn tortillas. we were out of jalapenos, so we took out a jar of kim chi. the sauce we took from scott's fish taco recipe, which we all gorged on so gorgeously in baltimore.

they were delicious. but there was no denying the odd sense that we were creating a crazy bricolage of this and that, here and there.

Monday, December 22, 2008


did VP Joe Biden really say on a Sunday television talk show, "and I will be honchoing the task force" for the middle class? I heard the quote on the radio, and thought, wow, our VP is showing innovative verbiage. i have never heard "honcho" used as a verb -- especially not in a serious political discussion in mass media. i looked up the word and found it is of Japanese origin, meaning "squad leader," the same word as the Chinese "tuanzhang." it was brought into English when US soldiers occupied Japan in the late 40s.

did Biden really say that?

it turns out he did. i checked the ABC website for the transcript, which reads, "I'm just the guy that's hunchoing this baseline study." who has ever seen a word spelled "huncho"?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

president bir qanbar

we just saw this movie on link tv. it is iranian, a documentary, though not a "pure" one. the director posed and arranged things.

it follows two men. one of them is running for parliament; the other is helping him. the former has run several times, (and for president, too) and has never come close. he has no money, but quixotically bikes about the countryside with a bullhorn. his friend and sidekick helps him. the director planted the red victory flag on the candidate's bicycle to make it more visually appealing in the dusty, cloudy landscape.

the technique i like best in the film is what i think of as a "moving portrait." he sets up the camera on several people and lets it run. periodically new people come in, or people shift places. he edits it so it appears time-elapsed: people appear and disappear instantaneously. he shrinks a long process into a shorter time.

he introduced qanbar's family. he is old, so it was his wife and kids and grandkids. he stood qanbar and wife, in her long veil, in front of a wall outside their house. then a woman appears at his side. then a man at her side. and one by one, more people appearing. and as they wait they shift, they move about, pat their hair or hitch up their pants, talk to each other. it is really a magical appearing, endearing and real, but not unstaged or unposed. then we see the old man with his back turned and fingers in his ears, as each person talks about him and his chances. the youngest granddaughter says, 'he always brings me things when he visits. i would definitely vote for him." her older sister is very objective. "he is very good, but is he best for the presidency? maybe he would make a good PM." etc.

i remember the director of the movie on pinochet's torture victims did a simpler version of this moving portrait. he had everyone already arranged, and then let the camera play over them slowly. i like it a lot.

the movie makes one want to own a donkey. qanbar rides one across a river. their ears switch about above their big eyes.

new regime in China?

I found the essay below on the blog Zonaeuropa. While not translated very well, it supports points I have made to American friends and acquaintances: do not hope for a magical change of regime in China. There is no Solidarity labor union (as in Poland), there is no Catholic Church, there is no network of mosques, there is no nationwide alternative power structure from which any campaign could be mounted.
So stop dreaming!

Wang Lixiong: Political Power Can No Longer Come Out Of The Gun Barrel

We need to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between today's China and the one of the past. Due to the lack of support from a cultural framework and the loss of the ecological foundation, China no longer has the basis for having a rebellious revolution or a war for political power.

Revolts and wars used to be the principal means by which political power changed hands in China. The collapse of political authority had occurred time and again. Usually, there would emerge all sorts of armed groups carrying different names, but they were basically warlords and bandits who attacked each other until the strongest bandit ascended the throne of the Emperor and became the legitimized ruler who would re-establish law and order. The reason that the warlords and bandits could keep fighting each other was because China had a cultural framework for support or the ecological foundation can sustain the population through the troubles. Therefore, society was not going to fall into the abyss altogether.

Rebellions and wars break down order and disrupt administration, and this actually lowers the exploitation of the ecological resources by society. Yet in China today, these types of exploitation has reached right to the maximum edge. For many years, the government has spent all its efforts on patching things up, because the moment that the speed of development (=degree of exploitation of the ecology) slows down, various social crises will explode. The increasing way by which everything is linked together made such shocks echo throughout the adminstrative system. Once a crisis starts, it will become "administrative crisis -> decreased production -> social disturbance' repeating itself deeper and deeper. By that time, even if the established power is overthrown, society will continue to be stuck in a vicious downward spiral from which it cannot extract itself.

The analogy is that a society without a cultural framework and an ecological foundation is like walking on a steel wire. Once you lose your balance, you will fall right down to the bottom. There is no chance of falling down half way and then getting back up on the steel wire. So let us not even talk about whether China has the conditions ripe for a revolution. If there were a real revolution, everyone will be brought to ruin together.

The war for the power is the same, and the effectiveness of violence is not unlimited. Once a society loses the support by a cultural framework, there would be more conflicts than cooperation between people and between groups. The fight over the limited ecological resources will increase the competition for them and the conflicts will increase while productions will continue to shrink. By that time, the world will be full of starving people running around looking for food, so what power is there left to fight for? To win the country and win over territory is just seeking more trouble for oneself.

I have asked Qin Hui what the bandits were looting for during the historical times when it was said that all the houses were emptied and corpses were strewn everywhere. Qin Hui said they were collecting people -- for food. In those days, production was about preserving human meat in big vats for later consumption.

But the population back then was not more than one third of the population today and the ecological conditions were a lot of better than now. Still, they fell into that kind of conditions. Therefore, we cannot think that "when the car reaches the mountain, the road will appear on its own." To blindly believe that "Great Order will emerge after Great Chaos (大乱达到大治)" is just wishful thinking. Once we embark on "change things first and then let us see (先变再说)", we will push China over the track of political unity onto another track which may bring us and all of China down the abyss of destruction.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

you son of a shoe!

apparently, the above is a curse in arabic.

the act of throwing shoes at bush was rude. but it was entirely proper, i think. after all, iraqis lost hundreds of thousands of dead to this war that they did not ask for. if the war was really waged for iraqis, then why did iraqis not ask for it? if it was all done for the good of iraq, why did the american occupiers refuse to count the iraqi dead when they began piling up?

bush did not accord iraqis the respect to think that they might have their own sovereign destiny, their own will. (the excuse, of course, is that under saddam, they had no voice. but then we ought to have helped them have a voice, by removing the sanctions that were starving them). why, then, being so disrespected, should iraqis accord bush respect? he chose violence to be their fate. his decision, taken in the comfort and quiet of his washington residence, sucked them into a vortex of killing and suffering (imagine the mental health problems among the children of baghdad) from which they have still not recovered. the violent must be clearly criticized and condemned.

bush is a violent but insecure man in search of validation and applause.

but the violent are always insecure, aren't they?

thomas tamm, hero

he is the man on the cover of the latest newsweek magazine. in 2005, he told the press (from a subway payphone) about the National Security Agency's illegal wiretapping of american phones. this heroic act in defense of the law was called "shameful" by president bush.

tamm was a justice department lawyer. he recalls his shock when he saw the text of the 4th amendment, which guarantees all americans against arbitrary search and seizure, removed from the NSA website. so, he thought, the best protection for americans is no longer law, but a government willing to break laws?

in a democracy, secrecy always indicates weakness and fear. democracy dies in secrecy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

people's temple agricultural project

this was the name above the road leading to Jim Jones' commune in Guyana in the 1970s. last night i watched an NBC documentary about the commune's horrific end: about ordinary people struggling to make themselves submit to a mad order. most haunting, i think, was audio recording of a woman challenging Jones' directive. "but i think we all have our individual destinies," she asserted. quickly a man challenges her, saying that there is no individual life, that they all lived up to that point due to the grace of Jim Jones. minutes later they were lining up to drink poison. even the woman who recognized what was happening in those last minutes lined up. was it the armed men outside the pavilion that dissuaded her? or was it a moral despair, to see not one other person standing beside her, that made her give up?

the name on the sign is an amazing amalgamation of marxist (people's), temple (religious) and bureaucratic/scientific (agricultural project). Jones' claim at the end that "this is a revolutionary act" also shows how in the 70s religion itself was overlapping with Marxist politics. but this is not so surprising: both revolution and religion, or some religion, seek an overturning of the social order.

but how, how could such a thing occur?

the sardonic, "don't drink the kool aid" has been the massacre's legacy to American english. this phrase depicts a knowing, jaded, experienced speaker and a naive listener, and shows well the cynicism that has permeated american life since the 1970s. even the superheroes in movies are fallen, dark men; the typical hero (james bond) is not considered realistic unless he or she is "dark" and "edgy."

what about the reality of hope, desire, aspiration? the "realism" of pop culture is a degraded, defeatist version, i am afraid, reflecting not the wisdom of deep experience but the last few decades of american politics.

Friday, December 12, 2008

winter noon, east wharf beach

this is my favorite beach in madison. madison is a bland town, carefully controlled to keep up property values at the expense of life, vitality, change, and the poor. it is true, i have to admit, that if madison opened the town to the poor to live and go to school this beach might not be so perfectly maintained. not because of poor people directly, but because town revenues would slip, and maintenance would suffer, and more people would be using the same facilities. but let me tell you: opening the town to the poor would still make it a better place. a scruffier parking lot or a dirtier bathroom would not detract one iota from the beauty of the beach. beauty cannot be touched by small things; it soars above. and morally the town would gain. democracy would be advanced. apartheid systems of any type militate against democracy, because people of different "kinds" (as in, "i know your kind!") are kept apart and instilled with mutual hatred and mistrust. who wins then? the ones in charge.

lets use a metaphor: i would rather be on a crappy bus, with no shock absorbers, a rank toilet, crowded, and a driver who gets lost --- but all riders are equal and respected -- than on a swift train or plane in which a majority are forced into second class and held there. just because most people simply decide it is better to shut up and put up does not make the system right.

oh yeah -- i DO ride on a crappy bus! all the time! but i stand by the point.

port authority station, 5:30 am

i know port authority is better than it used to be -- it is no longer dangerous -- but can anything ever wipe away the deep sense of weary endurance and oppression? the crazies may be locked up or out on the streets, but down underground in port authority bus station, the exhausted are dozing, chins on their chests. there is a camera keeping watch on them or over them, or both, or neither (is there always film in those cameras? aren't some of them placebo cameras, meant only to warn, like a car with windows tinted so dark you cannot see inside?). and look through the glass partition, there on the wall ahead of you, pictures of greyhound's storied past, when its name was not synonymous with poverty. you can just see the celebrities or beauty queens of their day, the dignitary in a long coat, with an aristocratically slim, clothed, greyhound dog. a mascot.

but i admit, there have been a few encouraging signs over the last trip. is the company on an upturn? i do hope so. if so many people ride grey-mutt even being treated like cargo, think what the market would be for a company treating riders like people! saint louis station is no longer housed in an old bank which, despite the beautiful ceiling and greek columns, was a horrific vision of all against all when the time came to board the bus -- without a line. yeah. i remember seeing the amish people, originally right behind me, getting shoved and out-vicioused until they were way at the end of the line. i remember telling the bus driver angrily, and his chin jutting out in indignation, his finger pointing at the gentle people, their startled looks and eager scrambling to the front of the line. . . so there is a new station there. and in several stations i was amazed to see a staff person present when boarding happened. boarding is always the time of maximum confusion, of questions simple and complex. and there is never anyone there but the harried, late, driver. so. . .is the english company actually trying to make riders feel like people? well, i hate to say this, but a recession might not be a bad time for a bus company to actually grow business.

but the scent of weariness will never go from port authority station.

and by the way -- i actually like riding the bus. if intensity and variety of experience is your thing, greyhound is for you. you bounce back and forth between rage, aches, serenity, anomie and companionship so fast you hardly know if you are coming or going. by the third day you are in a trance, a soft state where sleep is voluntary and immediate, at any time. or you can float across the face of the earth awake.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

morning walk

sara and i walked with sisters suzanne and kathleen and cousin lori on suzanne's usual walking route above cedar hills, utah. a cold cloud blew over the upper end of the valley as we returned, blowing snowflakes down on us.

other pictures

note that little alexandra seems to be showing real fear in the middle photo. sara's teeth are sharp.

leaving taiwan

rabbit ears in berkeley

in utah

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

gym-bag DVDs

last night my brother Rob checked out some DVDs of Hong Kong movies from the Southern Connecticut library. as we ate dinner, Scott looked over them. "these DVDs smell kind of funny," he said. he passed one over to me, and then to Rob.

"whew," said Rob. "smells like someone stuck this in their arm pit."

"or their butt," i said.

we contemplated this odd occurrence. how could every one of them smell like body odor? and how does plastic take on such a smell? i sniffed again, closely.

"i got it," i said. "its curry, or cumin. some Indian grad student, mad about Hong Kong, checked them out repeatedly, and kept them in a cabinet right over his stove."

"i don't know," said Rob. "That one i smelled was pretty rank."

so maybe it is a curry-loving Indian grad student, mad about Hong Kong, who also spends hours in the gym. and in his gym bag he carries half a dozen DVDs.

we laughed. one of the curious, tiny mysteries of modern life.

Monday, December 8, 2008

aunt lillian and the cat

among all the moments i cherish of those two days in utah, is this one: sara, kathleen and i have retreated from the Harmon's home on Apple Avenue in Provo. Aunt Lillian follows us out into the cold in shirt sleeves. she points out the fat, but shy, cat crouching nearby. he came to her hungry, she explains, and he has stayed. but he has made up for that hungry time, she smiles. we wave our last good byes and climb in the car, but Lillian is still gazing contemplatively at the furry beast, still talking gently to him, leaning on the railing looking down at him, sun shining on her white hair and lank arms, not moving even as we drive out of sight down the hill, in quiet communion . . . .

utah sky

we stayed two days in the Beehive State. i was thankful, to myself, that the housing boom has ended: selfishly i am glad that here and there, meadows and horse pastures and haphazard houses remain, amongst the uniform housing developments. while the industry of bees is an admirable thing, isn't it lacking without the beauty of indolence and mere being, of flowers and clouds and other phenomena which are not born of industry? i was happy to think, as we drove past those scruffy patches of old Utah, that maybe the next time i come through these pastures and modest homes will still be here.

but regardless of all this: that sky can never be defeated. the Beehive State could pour every inch of land with concrete, and that sky would carry on triumphant, soaring above every paltry effort at civilization.

how many times have i arrived in Utah? dozens and dozens. why, then, was i stunned by the sky's grandeur as clouds collided with sun? it was as if i had just been born, not having seen any sky but that one. sara and i pointed the digital camera out the window of Suzanne's big car, impotent gestures of awe at the majestic ocean flowing and boiling above us.

this double reaction of mine points to the twin philosophies i hold: i resist, in my heart if nowhere else, the relentless consumption of nature for a few paltry pennies, for national power that evaporates in mere decades. but regardless of the result of these political struggles, i also am well aware of nature's infinite power, flowing on and on like the clouds above the Wasatch Range, power which submerges all our puny attempts at destruction.

but the destruction of even one iota of this majesty is still wrong. because, for one thing, we humans are that iota. when we rape nature we are not subjecting some foreign thing to our plans: no, we are ruining ourselves. and suicide must be resisted.

trees of white coral

sunday morning sara and i sat watching snow-frosted trees go by our bus window. we were arriving in connecticut after almost a week on greyhound buses. and after such a raucous and extreme experience, from the hellish rage of missing the bus in reno to the joy of seeing family in utah, the ecstasy of colorado rockies at dawn and the madness of voices that is a night bus, this vision of delicate white trees under a white sky was a gentle landing indeed. we arrived and found my brother rob there too, waiting for us. and our luggage, which we had thought lost forever, was there too. as we had roamed around reno on tuesday trying to rent a car to utah and then renting a hotel room instead, our three bags had kept stolidly bumping along under bus after bus until it arrived in new haven, days ahead of us.

dawn in reno was cold and beautiful, and sara and i watched the ducks dunking and bobbing in the truckee river out behind the station. my carelessness resulted in us missing our bus. over the next days i kept thinking: how perfect our trip would have been if i had only double checked our departure time! the trip would have been a seamless whole, flowing from ducks and morning sky to a visit in utah and a placid ride back east. but instead, my rage at missing the bus and losing our luggage punched a hole in the following days. our joy at seeing family in utah mixed with frustration and helpless regret.

but gazing at those trees of white, feathery coral, that serene time in reno with ducks was joined by this new serenity, and the hole of rage closed. . .

Juan Cole on Mumbai attacks

Juan Cole is a scholar on the Middle East. The following comes from his blog, "Informed Consent."

India: Please Don't Go Down the Bush- Cheney Road
Many Indians have called the attacks in Mumbai "India's 9/11." As an American who lived in India, I can feel that country's anguish over these horrific and indiscriminate acts of terror.

Most Indian observers, however, were critical in 2001 (and after) of how exactly the Bush administration (i.e. Dick Cheney) responded to September 11. They were right, and they would do well to remember their own critique at this fateful moment.

What where the major mistakes of the United States government, and how might India avoid repeating them?

1) Remember asymmetry

The Bush administration was convinced that 9/11 could not have been the work of a small, independent terrorist organization. They insisted that Iraq must somehow have been behind it. States are used to dealing with other states, and military and intelligence agencies are fixated on state rivals. But Bush and Cheney were wrong. We have entered an era of asymmetrical terrorism threats, in which relatively small groups can inflict substantial damage.

The Bush administration clung to its conviction of an Iraq-al-Qaeda operational cooperation despite the excellent evidence, which the FBI and CIA quickly uncovered, that the money had all come via the UAE from Pakistan and Afghanistan. There was never any money trail back to the Iraqi government.

Many Indian officials and much of the Indian public is falling into the Cheney fallacy. It is being argued that the terrorists fought as trained guerrillas, and implied that only a state (i.e. Pakistan) could have given them that sort of training.

But to the extent that the terrorists were professional fighters, they could have come by their training in many ways. Some might have been ex-military in Britain or Pakistan. Or they might have interned in some training camp somewhere. Some could have fought as vigilantes in Afghanistan or Iraq. They needn't be state-backed.

Keep your eye on the ball.

The Bush administration took its eye off al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and instead put most of its resources into confronting Iraq. But Iraq had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Eventually this American fickleness allowed both al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regroup.

Likewise, India should not allow itself to be distracted by implausible conspiracy theories about high Pakistani officials wanting to destroy the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. (Does that even make any sense?) Focusing on a conventional state threat alone will leave the country unprepared to meet further asymmetrical, guerrilla-style attacks.

Avoid Easy Bigotry about National Character

Many Americans decided after 9/11 that since 13 of the hijackers were Saudi Wahhabis, there is something evil about Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia itself was attacked repeatedly by al-Qaeda in 2003-2006 and waged a major national struggle against it. You can't tar a whole people with the brush of a few nationals that turn to terrorism.

Worse, a whole industry of Islamphobia grew up, with dedicated television programs (0'Reilly, Glen Beck), specialized sermonizers, and political hatchetmen (Giuliani). Persons born in the Middle East or Pakistan were systematically harassed at airports. And the stigmatization of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans was used as a wedge to attack liberals and leftists, as well, however illogical the juxtaposition may seem.

There is a danger in India as we speak of mob action against Muslims, which will ineluctably drag the country into communal violence. The terrorists that attacked Mumbai were not Muslims in any meaningful sense of the word. They were cultists. Some of them brought stocks of alcohol for the siege they knew they would provoke. They were not pious.
They killed and wounded Muslims along with other kinds of Indians.

Muslims in general must not be punished for the actions of a handful of unbalanced fanatics. Down that road lies the end of civilization. It should be remembered that Hindu extremists have killed 100 Christians in eastern India in recent weeks. But that would be no excuse for a Christian crusade against Hindus or Hinduism.

Likewise, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as a Sikh, will remember the dark days when PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards after she had sent the Indian security forces into the Golden Temple-- and the mob attacks on Sikhs in Delhi that took place in the aftermath. Blaming all Sikhs for the actions of a few was wrong then. It would be wrong now if applied to Muslims.

Address Security Flaws, but Keep Civil Liberties Strong

The 9/11 hijackings exploited three simple flaws in airline security of a procedural sort. Cockpit doors were not thought to need strengthening. It was assumed that hijackers could not fly planes. And no one expected hijackers to kill themselves. Once those assumptions are no longer made, security is already much better. Likewise, the Mumbai terrorists exploited flaws in coastal, urban and hotel security, which need to be addressed.

But Bush and Cheney hardly contented themselves with counter-terrorism measures. They dropped a thousand-page "p.a.t.r.i.o.t. act" on Congress one night and insisted they vote on it the next day. They created outlaw spaces like Guantanamo and engaged in torture (or encouraged allies to torture for them). They railroaded innocent people. They deeply damaged American democracy.

India's own democracy has all along been fragile. I actually travelled in India in summer of 1976 when Indira Gandhi had declared "Emergency," i.e., had suspended civil liberties and democracy (the only such period in Indian history since 1947). India's leadership must not allow a handful of terrorists to push the country into another Emergency. It is not always possible for lapsed democracies to recover their liberties once they are undermined.

Avoid War

The Bush administration fought two major wars in the aftermath of 9/11 but was never able to kill or capture the top al-Qaeda leadership. Conventional warfare did not actually destroy the Taliban, who later experienced a resurgence. The attack on Iraq destabilized the eastern stretches of the Middle East, which will be fragile and will face the threat of further wars for some time to come.

War with Pakistan over the Mumbai attacks would be a huge error. President Asaf Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani certainly did not have anything to do with those attacks. Indeed, the bombing of the Islamabad Marriott, which was intended to kill them, was done by exactly the same sort of people as attacked Mumbai. Nor was Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kiyani involved. Is it possible that a military cell under Gen. Pervez Musharraf trained Lashkar-e Tayiba terrorists for attacks in Kashmir, and then some of the LET went rogue and decided to hit Mumbai instead? Yes. But to interpret such a thing as a Pakistan government operation would be incorrect.

With a new civilian government, headed by politicians who have themselves suffered from Muslim extremism and terrorism, Pakistan could be an increasingly important security partner for India. Allowing past enmities to derail these potentialities for detente would be most unwise.

Don't Swing to the Right

The American public, traumatized by 9/11 and misled by propaganda from corporate media, swung right. Instead of rebuking Bush and Cheney for their sins against the Republic, for their illegal war on Iraq, for their gutting of the Bill of Rights, for their Orwellian techniques of governance, the public gave them another 4 years in 2004. This Himalayan error of judgment allowed Bush and Cheney to go on, like giant termites, undermining the economic and legal foundations of American values and prosperity.

The fundamentalist, rightwing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which has extensive links with Hindu extremist groups, is already attacking the secular, left-of-center Congress Party for allegedly being soft on Muslim terrorism. The BJP almost dragged India into a nuclear war with Pakistan in 2002, and it seeded RSS extremists in the civil bureaucracy, and for the Indian public to return it to power now would risk further geopolitical and domestic tensions.

India may well become a global superpower during the coming century. The choices it makes now on how it will deal with this threat of terrorism will help determine what kind of country it will be, and what kind of global impact it will have. While it may be hypocritical of an American to hope that New Delhi deals with its crisis better than we did, it bespeaks my confidence in the country that I believe it can.