Posted on 31-03-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The news media and liberal blogs have eagerly lapped up the story of the Republican National Committee wooing donors at a “bondage themed nightclub” where topless dancers imitate lesbian sex.  See link.  Even though he was not present, it epitomizes the careless way Steele runs the RNC and his inability to control or monitor spending.  The story was broken by the right wing blog The Daily Caller which also highlighted Steele’s expensive habits.  See link.  Fed up donors are now pushing funds away from the RNC to other outlets.  See link.

The gaffe prone Steele was not what the Republican Party wanted when they tried to project an image of diversity by making him the head of the RNC.  And yet in the short run they are stuck with him for the near future.  See link.  Logistically it will be very hard to force him out and the optics of a diversity challenged party dumping its most prominent minority just before an election would be terrible.  It does not help that Steele is on record saying that white Republicans are scared of him.  See link.  But it is hard to see Republicans putting up with the constant drumbeat of embarrassment emanating from Steele all the way till 2012.  I think the clock has begun to tick on Steele’s leadership of the RNC and it will not be surprising to see him eased out next year.  Whether he goes quietly is another question.  Quiet does not seem to be in his DNA.

It is also another example of the risk of a political party sanctimoniously prosing on about morality.  Once again it brings to mind the paraphrased (the original quote is in Hamlet Act III, Sc. II) Shakespeare quote “Methinks thou dost protest too loudly.”  For example there have been a number of vocally homophobic right wing legislators outed for being gay lately.  For one of the latest see here.  It would be far better if politicians focused on doing their job honestly and stopped using personal morality as a political football.

Meanwhile, the latest RNC scandal was low hanging fruit for Jon Stewart to pick off and he has done so with glee.  Given the subject matter the sketch is a little more risque than usual.  Enjoy…

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
2 Girls 1 GOP
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Reform

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Posted on 30-03-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Its been a while since I picked on our old friend Hamid Karzai.  Like the itch you cannot scratch he is impossible to forget.  See link.  Ticked off at the brazen packing of the Afghan election commission (which unearthed his election fraud) with cronies the Obama administration sent him a message by withdrawing his invitation to visit Washington.  Since then the mayor of Kabul has been sulking in his palace, garbing himself in the cloak of Afghan nationalism and irritating Washington by flattering the electoral thief on his western border.  Its hard to see what Karzai’s strategy is.  He has no base and no army loyal exclusively to him.  He remains propped up by the dual support of Washington and his warlord cronies.  Washington’s patience has run out.  The fate of Mohammad Najibullah should warn him of the perils of relying on mercurial warlords.

What he needs more than ever is to midwife a resolution of the Afghan civil war before the Americans leave and then pray that Pakistan’s usual games in Afghanistan do not cause his regime to crumble.  It will require diplomatic tact and statesmanship that has not yet been on display.  But instead Karzai fiddles in the Afghan ruins, watches Pakistan force itself into the Afghan negotiating table and irritates the only people who can keep him in power.  Joe Biden once proposed partitioning Iraq.  That may be in Iraq’s future.  It is a pity he did not propose something similar for the basket case buffer that is the legacy of the Great Game.

Emir Sher Ali with his friends

Political cartoon depicting the Afghan Emir Sher Ali with his "friends" the Russian Bear & British Lion (1878).

The cartoon from 1878 above seems oddly prescient.  Just the participants have changed.

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Posted on 27-03-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

After the conclusion of the second elections since Saddam Hussein’s removal from power, Iraq has reached the crossroads.  Still unclear is whether Iraq will manage its first peaceful transfer of power without the backing of American guns.  The elections marked the resurrection of former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi who holds on to a narrow lead over incumbent Nouri Kamal al-Maliki.  See link.  Swept from power in the last elections after being branded an American puppet, Allawi made a remarkable return by crafting a coalition of Sunnis, Shiites tired of religious parties and people opposed to Iran.

But all is not well.  Al-Maliki has yet to accept the results and worse is considering post election moves supposedly based on the constitution to modify the outcome.  See link.  Al-Maliki enjoyed the benefits of incumbency and spent many of the last few months trying to weed out potential Sunni rivals by using (or abusing) the de-Baathification process.   It is one thing to weed out avid supporters of Saddam.  But a blanket ban on anybody with any affiliation with the Baath Party, which as in the Communist world was the only game in town, reeks of an attempt to pick on the already disaffected Sunni minority.  It also insults the popular vote plurality that Allawi’s coalition assembled.

Even if al-Maliki was not sulking, an Allawi government would take some time to assemble.  While he edged out al-Maliki’s coalition for a plurality, he is well short of the 163 seats needed to get a majority.  He will have to cut a deal with the Kurds who are uncomfortable with some of his Sunni allies and the coalition partly led by the thuggish and volatile Moqtada al-Sadr (who has a bone to pick with al-Maliki for sending the Iraqi army against his militia a couple of years ago).

In the norms of most parliamentary democracies Allawi as the leader of the largest pre-election alliance would get the first shot at forming a government.  But if he fails to do so al-Maliki could yet return to power.  The result will be a period of uncertainty as the political horse trading begins and al-Maliki’s attempts to pull an Ahmadinejad or a Karzai on the election results is singularly unhelpful.  By picking on the Sunni majority he weakens the strongest rationale for a parliamentary system in a multi-ethnic country – the ability to get all sections of society a voice at the table.  This is something that is sorely absent in the winner take all Presidential system that exists in Afghanistan where the whims of the President and the executive have far fewer checks.

Of course the coming months will also highlight the primary flaw in a parliamentary system- the lack of stability when elections produce such a fractured and muddled mandate.  Coalition politics are not easy for mature democracies.  Iraq’s leaders need to pick up this skill fast and act in a good faith to avoid their nation, which was an artificial construct cobbled together after World War I to begin with, falling apart.

From the American perspective the elections likely ensure the withdrawal of American troops on schedule.  With the anti-American al-Sadr playing king-maker neither an Allawi or al-Maliki government (which normally would both be relatively pro-American) is likely to have the political support to keep American troops around even if they wanted to.  Ready or not Iraq will soon be taking its first steps on its own in its nasty neighborhood.  It is yet another example of how clueless and steeped in fantasy the Chenyites and neo-cons were when they assumed that toppling Saddam would enable the establishment of permanent American bases in Iraq.

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Posted on 26-03-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

A few weeks ago Sean Penn whined that people called the elected Hugo Chavez a dictator and went on to say that “[t]here should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”  See link.  Evidently Hugo Chavez agrees.  Escalating his attack on private media (most of Venezuela’s private TV stations have been shut down on his watch), Chavez arrested the owner of the only remaining critical TV channel for remarks “offensive” to the President.  See link.

Guess what Mr. Penn, that is dictatorial conduct.  Far too many people equate democracy with elections.  If Sean Penn evidently thinks so on the left so do many on the right (unless of course the Democrats use their mandate from the last election to pass health care, which is rank tyranny).  When Afghanistan and Iraq went to the polls many Republicans eager to claim political victory hailed the establishment of democracy.  Yet casting the democratic franchise is just a small part of creating a democratic state.  Far more important is creating democratic institutions that respect the rule of law, leaders who understand that approval at the ballot box does not free them from any constitutional limitations and most important the willingness of leaders to accept repudiation by the voters who put them in office.

Chavez fails on many of these counts.  He has packed the Venezuelan Supreme Court with cronies making that institution a rubber stamp.   He has used the institutions of the state to muzzle dissent, notably by his attacks on the press.  More recently when the public rejected his power grab by public referendum he was forced to accept the result by threat of a military coup.  These are the dictatorial tendencies, albeit one who cloaks himself in populist tendencies.  People forget that Chavez’s first attempt to seize power in the 1990s was by an attempted coup before he turned to the polls.

It is not hard to see why so much of the American left approved of Chavez when he came to power.  Venezuela has been cursed with oil wealth that has rarely flowed to the improvement of its impoverished masses.  Venezuela’s long democratic tradition was gradually turning into oligarchy.  To his credit Chavez shook Venezuela’s moribund institutions out of their stupor.  But that does not excuse the blinders of a portion of the left to what Chavez has become, his embrace of authoritarian regimes across Latin America and the world, his support of the Columbian terrorist movement FARC and his destruction of Venezuela’s democratic institutions.  Like many of his authoritarian peers he considers himself indispensable to his country as seen from his comments about remaining in office for the next couple of decades.  In the meantime his economic mismanagement is wrecking Venezuela’s economy, his government has failed to stem a growing crime wave and many of Venezuela’s best and brightest are voting with their feet.

A thorough repudiation of Venezuela’s caudillo at the ballot box and his replacement by a more competent steward of Venezuela’s fortunes (whether from left or right) is long overdue.

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Posted on 25-03-2010
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Rashtrakut

This is an update to two previous blog posts.  See here and here.  To the outrage of many Hindus in the United States, Wendy Doniger’s book was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.  She did not win.  Professor Aseem Shukla has a nice write up at the Washington Post on the dust up caused by the book.  See here.  The post is worth reading for a few reasons.  It highlights some of the concerns in my previous post.  It also contains a response by Doniger and rebuttal of the response by Shukla.  Also provided are links to some detailed rebuttals of the factual inaccuracies in the book.  See here and here.

[In the interests of disclosure and in contradiction of the portion of the second rebuttal regarding Ashoka, I personally have some cynicism about the great Mauryan Emperor’s change of heart.  See link.  However, these are based on similarities to the stories of the previous conversion of Ajatashatru and deal primarily with religious realpolitik and royal propaganda.  They do not delve into Doniger’s broad assertions regarding Hinduisim that trip her up.]

Doniger’s biggest problem appears to be one that plagues any outsider writing about a foreign culture.  They appear to lack the cultural knowledge or reference points that would enable them to make sweeping generalizations without imprinting their inner biases or agendas.  The result can leave the native practitioner bewildered and sometimes angry.  The tendency to suck up to the Indian secular left, portions of which delight in sneering at their heritage in an attempt to garb themselves with the cloak of modernity, aggravates this situation.

It also reflects the general absence of practicing Indian Hindus in American Hinduism academia that could present an alternate point of view (assuming that liberal arts academia is willing to allow alternate viewpoints), something that could prevent the tendency to indulge in sexual Freudian psychobabble.  It plays into the concerns of cultural imperialism spawned by India’s colonial legacy.  Until these concerns are addressed this will not be the last such skirmish on the subject and blaming critics as right wing Hindu chauvinists will have diminishing returns.

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Posted on 24-03-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Pakistan’s foreign minister visited the United States this week.  On deck were a discussion for aid to Pakistan, a civilian nuclear deal similar to what India was granted in the Bush administration and a familiar litany of complaints on Indian intransigence on bilateral talks.  The timing seems propitious as Pakistan is still basking in the warm afterglow of approval for finally moving against its erstwhile Taliban proxies.  Some of the sheen on that accomplishment has started to wane, with Hamid Karzai angrily complaining that Pakistan had disrupted ongoing talks and with intelligence communities still suspicious of Pakistan’s motives.  See here.  Yet, it may be some time before Pakistan gets as favorable a reception in Washington.

However, apart from some more money Pakistan is unlikely to get much of its wish list.   See link.  Since independence Pakistan has aggressively sought diplomatic parity with India.  However, the economic, military and geopolitical gulf between the two countries has widened in the last 20 years.  It is a bitter pill that the Pakistani establishment has not come to terms with.

There was a lot of Congressional resistance for the nuclear deal with India.  A similar deal for a country whose nuclear scientists sold nuclear technology to Libya and North Korea will be dead on arrival.  The thin-skinned Indian response to the prospect does not seem needed.  See link.

The litany of complaints against India is not likely to go too far either.  For the last 30 years Pakistan has agressively sought to internationalize its dispute with India and India has stubbornly pointed to the 1972 Simla Accord as the bench mark for bilateral negotiations.  Foreign diplomats like Robin Raphael or David Miliband who hinted at third party facilitation of negotiations drew a sharp Indian response.  See here.  That is unlikely to change in the near future, particularly with Indian sensibilities sore after the plea bargain by (and the promise not to extradite) David Headley.  See here.

Pakistan’s security establishment seems still stuck in the 1980s when its allies in Congress would issue annual anti-India resolutions and India would have to go all out to stop them.  By the mid 1990s, Pakistan’s staunchest ally Dan Burton could not even get a sufficient number of co-signers for his resolutions to proceed.  The best Pakistan can hope for on the subject are bland statements calling for dialogue.  See link.

As noted in a previous blog the talks are meaningless so long as Pakistan’s terror support infrastructure remains in place.  See link.  From India’s perspective there is no point coming to the table to discuss disputes while Pakistan treats terrorism as a bargaining chip.  For all of Pakistan’s bluster of similar Indian activities in Baluchistan, precious little evidence has been made public.  Unlike Kashmir, Baluchistan does not lie along the India-Pakistan border making it hard logistically for India to provide much meaningful support to Baluch separatists.

On the flip side it is time for India (and its media) to recognize India’s rising maturity as a global player not hyperventilate on perceived slights every time the Obama administration dangles Pakistan a carrot.  American policy makers in both parties are only too aware of the greater desirability of India as a strategic ally.  However, the realities on the ground in Afghanistan force the United States to make some concessions to Pakistan.  It is the only strategic card Pakistan has at present and it is hardly surprising that it will be played as often as possible.  With low global tolerance of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, Pakistan’s diplomatic options are limited.

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Posted on 24-03-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Matt Yglesias has a good article comparing Romneycare to Obamacare and Mitt Romney’s transparently dishonest attempts to run away from his legacy.  See link.  He also discusses the fundamental flaw in the Republican position which accepts the need to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions without understanding that such a provision cannot stand alone.  This point is not new.  Others like Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait have raised this point in responding to people like Peggy Noonan.  See here and here.

The point is simple.  If insurance companies cannot deny people with pre-existing conditions you create an incentive for healthy people not to get insurance until they fall sick.  Hence you need a mandate to take care of the free-riders.  But once you create a mandate you need subsidies for people who cannot afford health care.  The end product is something along the line of Romneycare, Obamacare or a robust public option (which is probably more popular than either).

Given that Republicans support an ban on insurance companies discriminating against pre-existing conditions they need to come up with a meaningful alternative to Obamacare, not that nonsense of a plan they previously issued which expanded coverage by only 3 million.  Otherwise it is time for them to focus on responsible fixes to the plan, notably on the issue of cost control.  Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

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The passage of health care reform may have had the unintended side effect of winnowing the 2012 presidential field.  While the 2012 Republican convention is over two years away, an eternity in politics, Mitt Romney may have just seen his hopes of securing the Republican nomination go up in smoke.

Romney’s ambitions and his willingness to adapt his positions to the prevailing winds are no secret.  Even by the low standards of politicians he displayed a chameleon like ability to change his colors for the prevailing audience and the brazen chutzpah to attack people for holding positions he held a short while before.  This made him very unpopular among his fellow Republican candidates notably John McCain and Mike Huckabee who barely concealed their disdain for him.  The 2007-8 Republican presidential debates often degenerated into “whack-a-Mitt” sessions where all the candidates ganged up in the self funded Romney with cheerful glee.  See link.  His Mormon faith also acted as a handicap as the Republican evangelical base looked at him with suspicion.

When John McCain all but wrapped up the Republican nomination the ever malleable Romney promptly dropped out to stump for McCain in hopes of securing the Vice Presidential nod.  Unfortunately all that sucking up came to naught when McCain went for the wonderfully clueless Sarah Palin.

In the aftermath of the elections Romney has tried to reposition himself as the only remaining adult among the Republican candidates.  His extensive business background lends him a public perception of gravitas on economic issues.  He has stayed away from an embrace of the occasionally unhinged tea party protests.  His attempts to burnish his credentials on foreign policy were less successful since his Palinesque use of jargon and tough words largely drew snickers.  See here and  here.

But for a long time the sword of Damocles hanging over Romney was his signature accomplishment as governor of Massachusetts – health care reform.  In the Republican primaries Romney defended his plan but faced a dilemma when the contours of Obamacare started to look very similar to Romneycare.  While even the latest Wall Street Journal editorial replete with Republican talking points (some discredited) refers to the two plans as “fraternal policy twins” Romney has been busy tying himself in knots in explaining how the plans are different and whining about the alleged abuse of power by the Democrats in not deferring to a minority that lost the last two national elections.

This is a big problem for Romney.  With the Republican base whipped up into a frenzy the next nominee will have to attack Obamacare.  A federalism argument could work, but can also be countered by the fact that the balanced budget obligations on most states make it extremely impractical for any of them to pass health care reform.  In any case federalism will not explain away Romney’s willingness to sign on to government interference at the state level, something that has the base in a lather.

Even with Romney penchant  for short term memory loss on his previous policy positions, it is hard to see how Romney will be the candidate to perform that task.  Democrats will gleefully paraphrase the attack used on the last nominee from Massachusetts that Romney was “for health care before he was against it” to cement Romney’s reputation as an unprincipled flip-flopper.  A base already predisposed to distrust Romney will have a hard time trusting him as the man to take down Obamacare, which practically will be very hard to pull off in any case.

So the man who should have been the Republican nominee and had the best understanding of economic policy will enter primary season severely hobbled.  Again things can change.  A continuing bleak economic outlook could cause Republicans to hold their nose and vote for Romney, like they did for McCain in the last election cycle.   Repealing health care reform could be a fringe issue by 2012 and Romney could position himself as the man best equipped to fix it.  But at present it is hard to see Romney securing the support of a distrustful base.  IMO the man the Obama campaign should worry about comes from next door Indiana – Mitch Daniels, though a lot can change in the next two years.

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Posted on 22-03-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

I have never cared for Congressman Dan Lipinski.  The dislike is not personal since I do not know the man personally and not rooted by deep animus towards his political positions.  They stem largely from his nepotistic elevation to office in 2004 by his father Congressman Bill Lipinski.  Lipinski pere had been in Congress in various Chicago districts for about 20 years and won the 2004 Democratic Primary.  Then in August after the Republicans presented him with the usual token opposition in his Democratic district he abruptly withdrew and got party honchos to nominate his son, then a professor at the University of Tennessee.

Much could be forgiven had Lipinski fils emerged into a statesman of stature after this unfortunate introduction to politics.  Sadly he has been an undistinguished backbencher who occasionally aggravates local progressives with blue dog tendencies.  Understandably they get peeved at having to put up with this in what should be a safe Democratic seat.

On Sunday Dan Lipinski (after previously proclaiming his support of health care reform) became the only Democratic Congressman from Illinois to vote against health care reform. See link.  Since the bill passed I am not unduly incensed by Congressman Lipinski’s latest apostasy.  What has drawn my ire was this post by local Chicago journalist Lynn Sweet.  See here.  If accurate, and there does not seem to be a reason to doubt the reporting, Bill Lipinski’s nepotistic activities were not triggered by dreams of a local political dynasty.  Evidently they were triggered by the desire to create a comfortable Congressional sinecure for his son to provide him health insurance, which per Sweet’s latest edits gives him the opportunity to purchase lifetime coverage upon retirement.  Dan Lipinski is a diabetic requiring daily insulin shots.  He does not have to worry about being rejected for pre-existing conditions anymore.

And yet the good Congressman voted against a bill introduced by his party making insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions without parents who can get them into Congress as a backup plan.  Now that his sinecure has served its purpose it is time to send the Congressman back to Tennessee or wherever.  Unfortunately with Illinois’ ridiculously early primary calendar (a legacy of the last presidential primary) we are stuck with him for another term.

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Left for dead after the upset victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, health care reform came roaring back tonight. After a week of arm twisting and persuasion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi locked up the votes to pass the original Senate bill.  The bill now goes to the President for his signature after which the fixes to the Senate Bill will go to the Senate for passage thru the reconciliation process.  See link.  In an interesting twist the Republicans no votes to the fixes in the Senate bill will essentially be yes votes towards keeping Ben Nelson’s infamous “cornhusker kickback” in place.  A competent political party would use it to highlight the Republican transformation into the Party of No, but this is the Democrats we are talking about.

One heartening thing in the last week is the emergence of the Democratic spine.  In the aftermath of the Brown victory many Democrats were ready to fold.  To me it made no sense.  The yes votes on the previous bill were already on record in the Senate and the House and the Democrats were going to get pilloried for it.  The Democrats are not likely to get as big a majority in the near future.  Failure to pass health care reform after coming so close guaranteed a dispirited base that would not turn out in November.  Now Barack Obama and the Democrats can go into the elections by pointing to the legislative accomplishment of our generation that even with its many flaws makes the United States the last industrialized country in the world to provide universal health care access.

The Republicans will run on a platform on repeal.  Don’t hold your breath on them ever actually passing a bill repealing a ban on insurance companies canceling policies for sick people,  denying health care coverage for pre-existing conditions or subsidies for the poor to obtain health insurance.  In their honester and off the record moments the Republicans will admit that as well.  As in Massachusetts this bill will grow in popularity.  Maybe if the Republicans break from their thrall of right wing talk radio they will work with the Democrats to get meaningful cost control provisions and tort reform into the bill.

The saddest part of this debate was the Republican encouragement (place of honor goes to Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann) of the heated rhetoric from the right that this bill epitomized creeping fascism.  They went all in on the policy articulated by Jim DeMint of South Carolina that stopping health care reform would break the Obama presidency.  All of this on a bill very similar to Romney care in Massachusetts and similar to the bill proposed by Bob Dole in 1994 made any compromise impossible.  There were legitimate and principled reasons to oppose the bill, but they were drowned out in the cacophony right wing talk radio and Fox News (with Republican encouragement) helped create. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted on 14-03-2010
Filed Under (Sports) by Rashtrakut

Selection Sunday arrived and soon causal and serious sports fans will furiously start filling out brackets in office pools across the country.  March sees the college basketball world caught up in tourney madness as the United States focuses in possibly the most entertaining sports post-season in the country.  At the end a champion will be crowned based on performance on the field and nobody will quibble that a deserving championship contender was somehow left out.

It provides a stark contrast to the short-sighted greedy leaders who run and are slowly ruining the most popular college sport in the country – Division 1A College Football.  Unwilling to share the revenue pie with smaller schools (who in any genuine playoff would have to have a shot at the title) the leaders of major colleges come up with an increasing array of excuses as to why a playoff (which every other sport including Division 1B, 2 and 3 football implement with little trouble) would not work.

Given the popularity of football, one would think that the TV revenues and fan attendance for a meaningful post-season decided on the field rather than by coaches and media polls would be a revenue bonanza.  Instead in the name of tradition and “protecting the players” we are treated to an array of bowl games between mediocre teams and no guarantee that the “national champion” deserves the title.

Enjoy the coming sports extravaganza while thinking of what could also happen in late December.  And also pray that March madness is not diluted by the pending asinine proposal to expand the number of teams from 65 to 96.  Let the madness commence.

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Posted on 12-03-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • Sean Penn rising to the defense of Venezuelan demagogue and increasingly authoritarian Hugo Chavez with this gem:

“Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

Evidently being elected excuses authoritarianism and locking up vocal critics.

  • Glenn Beck once again displaying his special brand of ignorance that had got Christians on the left and the right pissed off at him:

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

He followed this up by comparing the basis of most Christian churches in ministering to the needs of their flock to Nazism and Communism:

“Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: ‘social justice.’ They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy.”

Must be news to the Catholic Church that principles that are central to its mission are akin to the Nazism and communism.  Beck was presumably targeting his usual liberal targets but used his typical broad brush strokes to incorporate any Church activities aimed at aiding the poor.  It is interesting to note that social justice was the rallying cry of the liberal churches who opposed slavery and segregation.  Of course in the alternate reality of Glenn Beck, progressives used to be called “tyrants,” or “slave-owners — people who encouraged you to become dependent on them.”   See link.

  • Baseball player Torii Hunter lashing out his frustrations at the declining percentage of African American players in baseball with this:

“People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they’re African-American. They’re not us. They’re impostors. Even people I know come up and say, ‘Hey, what color is Vladimir Guerrero? Is he a black player?’ I say, ‘Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.'”

“As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us. It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It’s like, ‘Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?’ … I’m telling you, it’s sad.”

See link. Setting aside the lack of awareness of the racial ancestry of of the “impostors” this is hardly the way to generate a discussion on how to encourage baseball (which has not held up well to competition from basketball and football) in the African American community or to address concerns that players in Latin American communities countries are being exploited.  After doubling down on his comments initially, Hunter has since decided to zip it using the old “taken out of context” routine.

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Posted on 09-03-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Toyota’s beleaguered executives must already be wishing that 2010 is a distant memory.  The last couple of months have seen the Toyota brand name get battered and the increasingly confident (some would say over confident) industry leader discover that its management structure is now the subject of discussions in business schools – on how not to run a disaster response.  A brand name painstakingly built up over the last few decades is being shredded as Toyota executives struggle to assuage the concerns of Congress and panicky customers that they have solved the mystery of why some cars unexpectedly kept accelerating.

But the unfortunate timing of events today bring to mind the classic Kevin Bacon performance from Animal House.

The day starts with Toyota conducting a demonstration intended to “prove” that software glitches are not responsible for some cars randomly accelerating.  See link.  Fair enough.  There are even some who think the hysteria is being blown way out of proportion.  See link.  Unfortunately, on the very same day a rogue Prius took off and reached speeds of 94 mph where a sticky gas pedal and not the mat obstruction for which there was a Prius recall appears to have been the problem.  See link.  Luckily the driver of the vehicle was not injured.

We still don’t know what caused the Prius to take off today, but this reinforces the urgency for Toyota to get this problem behind it as soon as possible.  This is not the only blog or news article to note the awful timing of the episode for Toyota.

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