Posted on 24-01-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

James Fallows from The Atlantic posted this interesting chart of Wikipedia showing the expanding level of obstruction by the Republican Party.  See link.

Cloture Voting in the United States Senate

The blue line shows how often the filibuster was invoked and the greenish gold line at the bottom shows how often it was overcome.  With the almost doubling of the filibuster’s usage since the Republicans lost the Senate and then the Presidency (and as has been noted previously in this blog for relatively innocuous items like the military budget) the main stream media like the Chicago Tribune have bought the line that all of this is the fault of Democrats failing to negotiate with Republicans rather than a deliberate Republican strategy of obstruction, epitomized by Republican ideological heavyweight Rush Limbaugh who welcomed Barack Obama into office by wishing for his failure.

If this somehow brings the Republicans back into a Senate majority, as Yglesias notes, the template has been established for the Democrats to return the favor.

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Posted on 24-01-2010
Filed Under (Religion) by Rashtrakut

This is an update of a previous post regarding Wendy Doniger’s new book about Hinduism (See link).  Personally, I am way behind in my reading of the book but a lot more has transpired since the original post.  The New York Times published a review by Pankaj Mishra that cheerfully embraced the tactic noted in my previous post – blame any critique of Doniger’s scholarship on the evil Hindu nationalists.  See link.  The choice of an reviewer noted for his diatribes against the alleged lack of modernity of Hinduism and not particularly noted for significant academic scholarship is a curious one.  It all but guaranteed that The Grey Lady endorsed Doniger’s book with the type of intellectually incestuous affirmation referred to in my initial post.

Worth reading for a different perspective is a blog sent to me by a family friend that demolishes the New York Times hypocritical standards in reviewing Doniger’s book and publishing Mishra’s review and highlights Doniger’s peculiar obsessions and biases in her scholarly work.  See link.

More on this issue will follow one I have finished reading the book.

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Posted on 24-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Economist’s Banyan blog has an article up about the latest round of score settling in Bangladesh.  This has its roots in the assassination of the country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family in 1975.  Like many of the charismatic leaders of Asia and Africa who led his country to freedom, Sheikh Mujib struggled to govern his country and in his last years lapsed into authoritarian suppression of dissent.  One of the coup plotters and Sheikh Mujib’s eventual successor (and another hero of the Bangladesh liberation struggle) Ziaur Rahman would himself be killed in a counter coup in 1981.

After the end of military rule in 1990, Bangladeshi elections have  alternated in bringing Sheikh Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina and Ziaur Rahman’s widow Khaleda Zia to power.  The mutual loathing of the two Begums for each other has paralysed Bangladesh’s political life ever since.  Their foreign policy outlooks also differ.  Sheikh Hasina, like her father espouses closer ties to India.  Khaleda Zia like her husband embraces a more prickly brand of nationalism that often rubs New Delhi the long way.

Fed up with the squabbling, in 2007 the Bangladeshi army intervened and initiated corruption investigations of the two Begums and their progeny.  However, the 2008 elections showed the continuing dynastic fascination of the Bangladeshi public as Sheikh Hasina was swept back to power.

Sheikh Hasina’s pursuit of justice against her family’s killers is understandable.  After all, she is alive today because she fortuitously was abroad at the time of the coup that killed her father.  But the settling of scores for events that occurred 35 years ago threatens to further destabilize an impoverished country that desperately needs good governance.  It also guarantees payback when (as has been the norm in Bangladeshi electoral politics) she is swept out of office in the next election.

Stories like this make one appreciate the incredible magnanimity and wisdom of Nelson Mandela after assuming the presidency of South Africa.  Mandela realized that his nation required a leader who united instead of delivering payback for centuries of oppression (and in that regard the movie Invictus is worth watching).  Bangladesh’s Begums would do well to learn from Mandela’s example.

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