Posted on 10-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Noticed a link to this animated film by Mark Fiore on Juan Cole’s site.  Cole also links to a report by Drudge noting a claim by Fiore that this video spawned death threats.  The video seems to hit some of the hyperbolic rhetoric (See previous blog) spot on.  Enjoy….

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Posted on 10-01-2010
Filed Under (India, Numismatics) by Rashtrakut

See previous post regarding the coin here.  The auction where that coin was listed closed last week and the coin with an estimate of $75,000 sold for $140,000 (presumably including auctioneers fees).  A rich price for a truly amazing historical coin.

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Posted on 10-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

From Northern Ireland comes a scandal right out of the pages of the “The Graduate,” right down to the lyrics.

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know, wo wo wo
Stand up tall, Mrs. Robinson
God in Heaven smiles on those who pray, hey hey hey
Hey hey hey

Iris Robinson, the 60 year old wife of the First Minister of Northern Ireland and a member of Parliament in her own right evidently engaged in an affair with a 19 year old.  You can read the details on the affair here and I do not intend to dwell on the salacious details.  The scandal threatens to bring down Northern Ireland’s government and has split the Robinson’s church.

I bring this up as an example of a politician from across the pond in the hypocritical moralizing (and more strident) tone of John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Chip Pickering, John Edwards, Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, Newt Gingrich etc.  A politician who cloaks himself or herself with the garb of morality and cannot resist from sermonizing others for their human frailty, but inevitably is revealed to be a fraud.  Robinson who termed herself a born again Christian was notorious for her screeds against homosexuals and Catholics.

Obviously every person is entitled to their religious faith.  However, when politicians grandstand on issues of faith I cannot help but recall the paraphrased (the original quote is in Hamlet Act III, Sc. II) Shakespeare quote “Methinks thou dost protest too loudly.”  As the list of fallen hypocrites grows longer (and global) the cynic in me feels a sense of grim satisfaction.

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Posted on 10-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics, Religion) by Rashtrakut

On December 32, 2009 a Malaysian court overturned a government ban of usage of the word Allah to denote the Christian god.  Since then hell has broken loose with Churches in the moderate Muslim majority country being firebombed and vandalized.  Accusations have been made that the ruling party whose hold on power is weakening is using the issue to consolidate support among the majority Malay (and Muslim) community.  If so that would be a tragedy.  Before the Saudis found oil and exported their blinkered view of Islam globally, Malaysia (and neighboring Indonesia) were shining examples of how Islam can peacefully coexist with other religions.  Now that is being put at risk by a rather silly dispute on terminology.

Islam acknowledges that God sent prophets to other peoples before the arrival of Muhammad.  This list specifically includes Jesus and Christians are deemed “people of the book” to whom god made a divine revelation and provided a book of prayer.  It naturally follows in Islamic theology that the God of the Christians (setting aside the concept the trinity and the divinity of Jesus which Muslims do not accept and is not at issue here) is the same divine entity.  Indeed under the monotheism inherent in Islam a different interpretation cannot hold.  Yet for some reason Malaysia banned Christians from using the word Allah to denote God in the Malay tongue.  Evidently the alternative words available to be used in native dialects did not measure up to a representation of the divine and Christians asked that the ban be rescinded.  Now fanatics with a limited grasp on their own theology have resorted to violence.

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Posted on 10-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Sheikh Issa al-Nahyan brother of the Emir of Abu Dhabi and the President of the UAE had been accused of torturing a business associate.  The smoking gun was a video actually showing the Sheikh torturing the Afghan immigrant while two men (one in the garb of security services) watched.  After initially dismissing the charges the international embarrassment forced Abu Dhabi to arrest the sheikh.  But so much for the progress of the rule of law, since the court has now accepted the defense that the poor Sheikh was drugged by the two associates (*cough* scapegoats) and let Sheikh Issa off.  Needless to say the cynic in me has been awakened.

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This emerging battle should be fun to watch.  Rupert Murdoch’s son in law Matthew Freud launched an on the record  broadside against Roger Ailes and Fox News for the “horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”  See link.  As the article notes, this follows reports (which were denied) over the summer that Murdoch Sr. was himself sometimes embarrassed by the content of Fox News.

Similar questions regarding the journalistic standards of Fox News have been raised by many commentators, the Obama administration and this blog.  See here, here and here.  But the ugly reality is that Mammon is king.  The market wants the tabloid-like opinion driven “news” peddled by Fox which financially is comfortably beating all its other rivals.  Mr. Alies is safe on his perch as the propaganda arm for anti-Democratic Party and anti-Obama political forces for the foreseeable future.  See another opinion on the matter here.

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The New York magazine has a long excerpt from John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime on the inner workings of John Edwards second attempt to run for president.  See link.

Nobody connected with the campaign comes out looking good.  John Edwards comes off as a narcissistic ego maniac (the ego-monster in the title of the article).  The sainted Elizabeth Edwards comes off as nasty, delusional and unbalanced.  Others have excoriated the staff of the Edwards for not getting it through to the candidate, on how the Rielle Hunter affair would be an albatross that would destroy an Edwards led ticket in the fall.  While the staff presents its side of the story in the article with generous amounts of back biting against the Edwardses, they still do not account for this signal failing.

John Edwards’ political career was truly meteoric.  Within a span of 10 years he blazed to the Vice Presidential nomination and burnt out into well deserved political oblivion.   The emergence of Barack Obama cut off his political positioning as the anti-Hillary candidate.  The Hunter affair was the coup de grace.

On a personal note, I was never a supporter.  Edwards talked a good populist game (which does not endear a candidate to me to begin with) but it was hard not to question the judgment of a candidate who spent a mere 6 years in public office and then apologized for having voted the wrong way (as far as the Democratic base was concerned) on almost every major issue put to vote in his one-term Senate career (bankruptcy reform, the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, assorted free trade agreements, banking reform etc).  Freed of the requirements of running for office in North Carolina he seemed to slither into the populist cloak too easily.

The Democrats lucked out in not having a candidate who would have scuppered a sure thing in the Presidential election.  Assuming he still felt the need to make such an irresponsible Vice Presidential choice, the country also experienced a fortuitous escape from a Vice President Sarah Palin.

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