Wednesday, October 31, 2007

lobsters and diamonds

Glenn Jones studied several hundred menus in the United States, going back into the past. ‎He made a remarkable discovery: there was a time when lobsters were so cheap that they ‎were used as fertiliser! They were so abundant that they were fed to prisoners and ‎children in orphanages. Servants deplored the fare, bargaining with their employers not to ‎be served the crustacean more than twice a week. ‎

Then lobsters became scarce, and their price began to rise. In 1870, a meal cost $4 (in ‎today's money), but $30 dollars or more around 1970. ‎

That's when the lobster became a prized delicacy, sought by the rich. ‎

This is an excellent example of the failure of economic theory: economic theory predicts ‎that the more expensive a product, the less people will consume it. When the supply of ‎lobsters began to shrink, the price rose, and the product came to be in greater demand, ‎pushing prices even further.‎

This observation was made a hundred years ago by Thorstein Veblen: he noticed that the ‎rich engage in conspicuous consumption; they value things just because they are ‎expensive (diamonds, for instance). ‎

If you're still not convinced, consider the case of diamonds ('girl's best friend'): if ‎diamonds were cheaper, more people would buy them, right? Wrong! Diamonds can be ‎as cheap as glass, and hardly anyone would buy them then. ‎

The only reason why diamond is not cheap as glass is because DeBeers, the cartel, hoards ‎several billion dollars worth of diamonds in its vaults: it releases just enough to ensure ‎that the price remains high – but not too high. Does that make sense? It certainly goes ‎against economic theory: if diamond drops sufficiently low in price, nobody will buy ‎diamonds!‎

It is the same case with gold: there is enough gold in the world's central bank vaults and ‎the IMF's hoard to make gold as cheap as any metal. Then who would ever buy gold? ‎

Still not convinced? Consider silver: at one time, it was very expensive; today it is cheap, ‎and how many people crave silver? ‎

The Conversion of Asoka (fiction)

The Conversion of Asoka (fiction)‎

Bangladesh has devils to exorcise: this is the story of Lalla Rookh, a distraught mother, ‎whose son enters the sinister world of student politics. Not even the well-meaning Zafar ‎Shah can help her, as evil seemingly triumphs over good. ‎

click below to read: ‎ ‎

Friday, October 26, 2007

racism in england

A friend of mine is a doctor in England – a consultant, in fact. He came to Bangladesh a ‎few months ago, and he told me that the English regard colour as Muslims regard the pig. ‎

One of his patients came to him and said: "I don't mind coloured doctors, but my friends ‎do."‎

He has to put up with such taunts regularly. ‎

Another friend – also a doctor, but a Ph. D candidate at a prestigious university – says ‎that he would never live in England because of the racism he has encountered. ‎

My cousin's husband recently went to England to do his MBA, leaving his wife and new-‎born son behind. He planned to take them to England after finishing his MBA and getting ‎a job. ‎

He was little prepared for his experience there. Now he swears he will return because he ‎doesn't want his son to go through what he has to go through.‎

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the positive stereotype of the western woman

The first thing to note is that western women do not suffer any harm through war – they ‎are at the delivering, not the receiving, end of the missile. ‎

A UNIFEM report has it that " The economic cost of violence against women is ‎considerable — a 2003 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‎‎(CDC) estimates that the costs of intimate partner violence in the United States alone ‎exceed US$5.8 billion per year: US$4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care ‎services, while productivity losses account for nearly US$1.8 billion." ‎

In peaceful Geneva, Switzerland, a randomly selected study of nearly 1,200 ninth-grade ‎students revealed that 20 per cent of girls had experienced at least one incident of ‎physical sexual abuse ‎‎( ‎

According to The Care Center ( ):‎

‎• Of rape victims who reported the offense to law enforcement, about 40% were‎
under the age of 18, and 15% were younger than 12.‎
‎• Of 1,000 representative female students at a large urban university, over half‎
had experienced some form of unwanted sex. Twelve percent of these acts
were perpetrated by casual dates and 43% by steady dating partners.‎
‎• Female adolescents are frequent victims of sexual assault and rape. The‎
incidence of rape in the United States peaks among young women 16 to 19‎
years of age. The reported incidence of rape and sexual assault reflects a
fraction of the actual frequency of this crime. The National Victim Center
estimates that almost 700,000 women are raped each year, and that 61% of the
victims are under the age of 18.‎
‎• Female adolescents are at high risk for becoming victims of acquaintance rape‎
or “date rape.” Studies have shown that the highest incidence of acquaintance
rape occurred in grade 12 and during the freshman year of college. Of the‎
‎25% of college women surveyed who reported having had unwanted sexual‎
intercourse, 84% knew their assailant, 57% of the episodes occurred on dates,‎
and 41% of the women stated that they were virgins at the time of the assault.‎
Again, this is probably an underestimation of the true incidence of date rape

Alcohol a factor:‎
‎• It is estimated that approximately one-half of assault cases involve alcohol
consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Moreover, while alcohol
consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does
not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault. Rather, alcohol contributes to
sexual assault through multiple pathways, often exacerbating existing risk
factors. For example, the desire to commit sexual violence may actually cause
alcohol consumption in that a male perpetrator drinks alcohol before
committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior. Whereas, among
college-aged males, fraternities encourage both heavy drinking and the sexual
exploitation of women.‎

Date rape drugs:‎

‎• Date rape drugs or drug-facilitated sexual assault causes sedation and amnesia
to the extent that a potential victim cannot resist or may not be aware of the
assault. In fact, about 25% of the women who contacted the Canadian Sexual
Assault Center reported that drugs were a factor in a rape. The most
commonly reported drugs in addition to alcohol to facilitate sexual assault are
flunitrazepam and gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), which is now touted as
a new recreational ‘club drug’.‎

Long term effects:‎
‎• Victims of marital or date rape are 11 times more likely to be clinically ‎depressed, and 6 times more likely to experience social phobia than are non-victims. ‎Psychological problems are still evident in cases as long as 15 years after the assault.‎

That's not a pretty picture for any society, especially one that claims to be the universal ‎conscience, with the ability to tell right from wrong. Why should a society that respects ‎women as individuals, unlike (remember) Muslim society, why should such a society ‎present such awful statistics? ‎

I will let Andrea Dworkin speak on the subject of western man's perception of western ‎woman. ‎

‎"The skin of white women has a meaning in pornography. In a white-supremacist society, ‎the skin of white women is supposed to indicate privilege. Being white is as good as it ‎gets. What, then, does it mean that pornography is filled with white women? It means that ‎when one takes a woman who is at the zenith of the hierarchy in racial terms and one asks ‎her, What do you want?, she, who supposedly has some freedom and some choices, says, ‎I want to be used. She says, use me, hurt me, exploit me, that is what I want. The society ‎tells us that she is a standard, a standard of beauty, a standard of womanhood and ‎femininity. But, in fact, she is a standard of compliance. She is a standard of submission. ‎She is a standard for oppression, its emblem; she models oppression, she incarnates it; ‎which is to say that she does what she needs to do in order to stay alive, the configuration ‎of her conformity predetermined by the men who like to ejaculate on her white skin. She ‎is for sale. And so what is her white skin worth? It makes her price a little higher. ‎‎("‎

What Andrea Dworkin had to say about women being objectified in western society ‎cannot be easily denied: and one does not have to go as far as pornography to see it (though we must keep in mind the fact that pornography in the US alone constitutes a $10 billion industry). ‎Advertisements routinely use women; there are women's pageants still; the diversity of ‎lingerie that western, consumer society has dreamt up – and which is almost totally ‎missing in a place like Bangladesh – can leave little room for doubt that women are ‎meant to be gazed on – consumed - by men....

In conclusion, what are we to say about the positive stereotype of the western woman against the negative stereotype of her easter sisters?

They are both completely wrong.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Flash flood in Khagrachari

Khagrachari is a small town in the district of the same name. Nestled in a valley ringed ‎with blue, magnificent hills, it is a jewel in the crown of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of ‎Bangladesh. ‎

Next to the town runs the rivulet known as the Chengi, which pours its meagre stream ‎into the artificial lake of Kaptai. ‎

Meagre stream? Most of the time: meagre, but lovely, especially when its meanders are ‎viewed from the hills. ‎

However, on the night of the 16th of October, 2007, the Chengi changed beyond ‎recognition. It had rained all night, and by dawn, the river was a surge of rapid waters ‎carrying flotsam from the hills. It was a magnificent sight!‎

A brief trip into the city, and the devastation wrought by the usually docile Chengi was ‎heartbreaking. People had woken up with their houses flooded, their crops destroyed, ‎their belongings ruined….‎

And what was worse was that this was the second flash flood in a month. But the ‎previous overflow of the monsoon had been mild. The city people recalled that the last ‎time such a terrible flood had occurred was in 1984. They are a hardy lot, and every year ‎during monsoon – which lasts from June/July to September/October – they are visited by ‎at least one such calamity. ‎

The Chengi reminded me of that famous line uttered by Mrs. Moore in E. M. Forster's "A ‎Passage to India": "What a terrible river…what a beautiful river!" ‎

The story of the flash flood is told in pictures below (copy and paste in browser to view). ‎

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Two Religions of Bangladesh

The Two Religions of Bangladesh
Category: News and Politics

The Two Religions of Bangladesh (Analysis)

According to Ninian Smart, nationalism is as much a religion as any of the regular variety. Nationalism has never been able to supplant Islam in Bangladesh, and the two religions coexist in hostility.



The freedom industry comprises western governments and ngos, local politicians and intellectuals – everyone who hopes to gain financially and in terms of kudos from the spread of "freedom", covering up all traces of violence and whitewashing the darkest crimes. Read this definitive account, with an introduction by Les Blough.

Reflections on Democracy and Violence

Reflections on Democracy and Violence

The second section of this article establishes a correlation, witnessed by evidence and the testimony of S. E. Finer and Stanley J. Tambiah, between democracy and violence, a correlation that is strengthened in the third section by John Keane and Robin Blackburn's observation that civil society tends towards violence; but correlation is not causation, and section three is dedicated to establishing a causal link between the Forum-type polity and violence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is Poetry Dead?

{clcik above for article}

Is Poetry Dead?

Who reads poetry today? And who reads the modern and contemporary poets? And yet ‎there is a deluge of poetry – for the producers and consumers of poetry constitute a giant ‎industry, from which the 'average' reader is left out. ‎


Venus will be rising at 3:20 am - long before the sun, which is interesting because Venus is usually seen just before or just after sunset.

After Venus, Saturn will be rising, and between them Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the sky.

On October 14th, Venus passes to the south of Saturn.

So there's a lot to look forward to this weekend.

A good pair of binoculars are, of course, essential for any star-gazing trip.

bats and birds

Bats and birds both fly, but a bat is not a bird. So how do you tell them apart?

If we look at the red corpuscles of a bat under a microscope, we'll find that they don't have nuclei.

On the other hand, birds' red corpuscles do.

This proves that bats are mammals - more evolved, mammals have more efficient corpuscles. Nuclei take up space, precious space that can be filled with the red pigment haemoglobin which carries the oxygen. Red corpusles in mammals are totally filled with haemoglobin.

This is further proof that birds are descended from reptiles, which also have nuclei in their red corpuscles.