Posted on 28-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

As expected, the birthers will not go away quietly into the night.  At least not until Roger Ailes cracks his whip to force his in-house nitwits to move on to new alternate realities about the Democrats.  The latest comes from Eric Bolling on Fox Business who gave a platform to Islamophobe Pamela Geller and regular Fox paranoid conservative Monica Crowley (she has a PhD from Columbia University?!?!?!) to question the authenticity of the President’s birth certificate.  Video below:

As MediaMatters notes, the end of the video highlights the sheer stupidity of birthers.   According to Bolling and Geller the fact that the family of the doctor (who died in 2003 before Barack Obama entered the national spotlight after his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention) was unaware he delivered a future President more than 40 years before his death casts doubt on the authenticity of the certificate.  Nice to know that Fox Business lives down to the low standards of its parent “news” network.

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Posted on 28-04-2011
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The New York Times is the latest paper to point out the free speech crushing scope of English libel law.  The balance between the right of individuals to be let alone and the freedom of the press to do its job is inherently fraught with tension.  American law has reduced the privacy expectations of celebrities and generally prevents defamation and libel actions for expressing opinions (as opposed to the statement of fact).  The freedom to express opinions in England is far weaker and worse the default rule to inflict legal fees on the loser allows larger corporations to crush individuals (in contrast American law does not require a payment of legal fees unless expressly mandated by statute or contractual provisions).

The chilling implications on free speech are obvious (and this is in addition to the recent trend in England and Europe to introduce blasphemy prosecutions).  South Park mocked the libel tourism generated by English libel law a few years ago in its episode “Trapped in the Closet”.  For full episode click here.  Clip below:

In response Congress unanimously passed the SPEECH Act making foreign libel judgments that do not comply with the First Amendment unenforceable in the United States.  California, New York, Illinois and Florida have also enacted such statutes.  While American residents can breathe easier, other less fortunate mortals will have to hope they do not offend deep pocketed plaintiffs who can sue in England.  One wonders what will be the tipping point for the country that first gave individuals the freedom of habeus corpus to clean up this assault on free speech.  Unfortunately with the paparazzi out in full force for the royal wedding, it may take some time.

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Posted on 27-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In recent weeks a publicity seeking Donald Trump has latched on to the nutty birther fringe to leap to the top of the polls of Republicans running for President (it must be noted that these early polls are fairly meaningless).  Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer showed a willingness to stand up to her state’s Republican birther fringe by vetoing a bill that allowed Arizona to ignore the full faith and credit clause of the constitution and establish its own requirements for eligibility to run for President.  Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal indicated a typical craven propensity to roll over in face of the birther fringe. Even though the President has long since released documents that confirm his citizenship and these have been confirmed repeatedly by Hawaii officials, this controversy would not go away.  The Republican leadership’s refusal to call out these conspiracy kooks and Faux News repeatedly giving these kooks a platform also kept the controversy simmering (you can bet the Republicans would not have responded to the 9/11 truthers by “taking President [Bush] at his word” or saying that it was “not my job to tell the American people what to think”).   Alaska’s half-term quitter tacitly endorsed Trump’s crusade.

The tipping point for the President may have been a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos on fiscal matters that veered off to the world of birthers.  So the President went to the trouble of asking the State of Hawaii for special permission to access his long-form birth certificate (a standard no other politician in recent memory has been held to), and the long suffering State complied.  This was followed up by the presidential statement below:

 

 

Even though he claimed credit for the release of the certificate, Donald Trump did not respond to being lumped by the President with “sideshows and carnival barkers.”

Of course this will not end the story.  The birther fringe will not go away.  Donald Trump, whose own son-in-law bought his way into Harvard, has now started the racially charged drumbeat questioning how Barack Obama was admitted to two ivy league schools.  Since he is black and did not have the blessings of legacy admissions like Messrs Gore and Bush, there is supposedly no way he was “smart” enough to go there (an assertion that drives James Fallows bonkers).

The funny part of this sorry episode is that Barack Obama was not the 2008 Presidential candidate born outside the United States (though that candidate satisfies the naturally-born citizen requirement).  Also even if Barack Obama had been born in Kenya, as the child of a United States citizen (his mother) he would probably still be a naturally born citizen.  So lets sit back and see the birthers make bigger fools of themselves and hope that the media starts ignoring Donald Trump like they are ignoring Sarah Palin.

 

 

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Posted on 14-04-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

It must be dispiriting for the Republican Party elites to watch Donald Trump soar in the polls based largely on babbling birther nonsense.  It underscores a deep satisfaction with a field where the “authentic” candidates are bonkers and the credentialed candidates are chameleons (not just Mitt Romney).  So for now I will spare my keyboard and rely on the parody video mocking them below.  Enjoy:

 

 

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Posted on 14-04-2011
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Rashtrakut

A plug for my favorite fantasy series that is shortly coming to the small screen on HBO.  People compare George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” to Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings trilogy.  To me there is no comparison.  Martin is a far superior writer in his ability to maintain a coherent storyline.  His world of Westeros may not have the obsessive detail of Tolkein’s Middle-Earth but still has impressive depth.

The series is loosely inspired by the War of the Roses – the fratricidal civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York (two of the dynastic protagonists here are the houses of Lannister and Stark).  The series also draws from other events like the destruction of Atlantis and the Black Bull Dinner (readers of the series should recognize what scene this alludes to).

Now the first book of the series – A Game of Thrones has been adapted for the small screen.  HBO has helpfully offered up a 14 minute preview of episode 1.  So far it looks very faithful to the book and very good.  Now only if I had HBO to watch it before it gets to Netflix

Though as consolation I can curl up this summer with the long overdue book 5 of the series – A Dance with Dragons.

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Posted on 03-04-2011
Filed Under (Sports) by Rashtrakut

A week after Pakistan lost to India in the world cup yet again (having never beaten their arch rivals in the cup), Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi mouthed off about the superior “large and clean hearts” of Pakistan and Muslims (never mind than the Indian team currently has and has always had many Muslim players and India has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world).  Pity the superiority bestowed by Allah could not help Pakistan prevail on the field.  Added in for good measure was the typical conspiracy rant against the United States.  Always so much easier to blame outsiders rather than to take a cold hard look at the pitiful condition of your home country.  Afridi has learned the two faced approach of his nation’s diplomats – say one thing in India under the full blaze of the Indian and world media.  Mouth off your true feelings back home in Urdu.  Video in Urdu below:

 

This blog does agree with Afridi on one point, though not for his reasons.  As we have discussed previously, the charade of talks currently being conducted between India and Pakistan to keep the United States and Europe happy are pointless.  There is nothing really to discuss, particularly when Pakistan will not forswear terrorism as a tool of state policy.  The defensiveness was evident in Afridi slamming Indian player Gautam Gambhir for the temerity to dedicate victory in a final played in Mumbai to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks (note: Gambhir never named Pakistan, but Afridi knows who was responsible by his defensive lash out).   Even the Pakistani government has conceded the origin of the attackers (though not the identity of their trainers).  So Shahid Afridi get your own house in order…and up yours!

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Posted on 03-04-2011
Filed Under (Sports) by Rashtrakut

The cricketing gods have smiled on India.  Twenty-eight years after a huge upset won them their first world cup, India regained the trophy on Saturday after a thrilling and competitive win over Sri Lanka.   It has been many years since I watched a complete one-day international cricket match, but the adrenaline rush from watching the Indian victory eased my bleary eyed exhaustion from watching the game through the night.

India’s world cup victory in 1983 is my earliest memory of watching cricket on television.  Unfortunately at the age of eight I was unable to stay awake through the late hours to watch Kapil’s Devils shock the cricketing world by upsetting favorites and defending champions West Indies.  In 2003 (the last time I managed to watch a complete game), an Indian team that was probably the second best team in the world came up short against defending champions Australia.

This world cup was different.  India entered as one of the favorites and after a forgettable first round brushed aside Australia (which won the last 3 world cups) and national rival Pakistan to make the finals.  Sri Lanka was a legitimate contender and I had every intention sitting through this game.  Yet when Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed early in India’s run chase leaving India dangling at 31-2, a familiar sense of despair that every Indian cricket fan has experienced through the years reappeared.

Yet this is a different Indian cricket team that does not fold at the first sign of adversity.  The fielding had been phenomenal during Sri Lanka’s batting (normally not an Indian strength), and now the Indian batsmen kept their cool gathering steady runs in singles and doubles (eschewing the riskier crowd-pleasing boundaries).  They gradually sucked the oxygen out of the Sri Lankan team which desperately varied permutations of bowlers to get a breakthrough.  In the end Indian captain M. S. Dhoni emphatically sealed the win (see video below) by knocking Sri Lankan bowler Nuwan Kulasekara for a six, igniting raucous celebrations around India and the Indian diaspora.

The beaming smile on the face of legend Sachin Tendulkar (video below from the 3:00 mark) who played in his sixth world cup (1992, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007 & 2011) showed what the win meant to him.   The Indian players celebrated by carrying him around the stadium on their shoulders and lavished praise on him afterwards (video below from the 6:50 mark). Teammate Virat Kohli summed up India’s feelings towards its icon the most succinctly (at the end of the clip below):

“He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders.”

 

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A friend commented today on the coincidence of rising nations obtaining validation of their rise by success in the sporting arena.   After years of futility in the emotional heart of the cricketing world, a billion people in an increasingly confident nation are celebrating the culmination of their recent cricket resurgence.  And the greatest batsman of our time finishes (probably) his last world cup as a champion.  

Congratulations India, congratulations Dhoni, congratulations Tendulkar. Chak de India!!!

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