Posted on 09-09-2012
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

While Syria and Iran draw the attention of the world, the country between the two has a slow burning fuse heading towards civil war.  It is a bad sign when a country divvies up the top political positions on sectarian grounds.  The failure of Lebanese democracy in the 70s should have given people some pause.  Yet Iraq divides its presidency into three components – a president and 2 vice presidents – to give Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis equal representation.  The current President of Iraq is a Kurd.  The Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is Shiite.  The Shiite Vice President,a rival of al-Maliki, resigned last year.  That leaves Iraq with just one vice-president, the Sunni Tariq al-Hashemi.

Unfortunately, since December 2011 Mr. Al-Hashemi is on the run.  The Prime Minister has accused him of running Sunni death squads.  So far none of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors have given this accusation much credibility.  Mr. Al-Maliki returned to power in early 2010 after a very controversial election and has shown the usual authoritarian instincts.  The arrest warrant on Mr. Al-Hashemi was conveniently delivered the day after American troops left Iraq.  Iraq’s Kurdish president refused to surrender the fugitive Vice President when he was in the Kurdish autonomous zone.  Since then Mr. Al Hashemi has traveled to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia before settling down to exile in Turkey.

Yet the Iraqi prime minister is undeterred.  This weekend Mr. Al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia, an escalation hardly likely to endear Mr. Al-Maliki to his Sunni countrymen or neighbors.  Whether or not the charges are true, nobody seems to believe them.  As Iraq suffers through another bout of suicide bombings, it shows disquieting signs of a slow slide into civil war.

Like Afghanistan, Iraq needs a statesman in charge.  While Al-Maliki does not appear to be as corrupt and incompetent as the Mayor of Kabul, he has shown tendencies to sectarian one-upmanship and no signs of being the unifying figure the country needs.  The Kurds for all practical purposes have seceded into their ethnic enclave subject to resolution for their claims to the oil rich province of Kirkuk.  Sharing oil revenues is still a sore subject.

With its current leadership, it seems only a matter of time that this erupts into civil war.  If/When that happens it will be a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and its allies and Iran.  Turkey could be sorely tempted to intervene and stomp the Kurds.  Hopefully sane leadership arises to pull this country from the brink, but my pessimism reigns.

Iraq should be another cautionary tale on blindly stepping into the Syrian morass.

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Posted on 09-09-2012
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The video below highlights a Senator who believes the bullshit his party makes up.  The enduring meme of the Obama years presented by the Republican Party is of the explosion in government under President Obama.  This leads to the video below where Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is incredulous at Paul Krugman’s assertion that there are fewer government employees under Obama than Bush.

 

 

 

Yet facts can be inconvenient for the meme.

(the two sharp spikes in 2000 and 2010 represent temporary census hiring)

Many observers have pointed out that the failure to hire government employees during a recovery is a marked difference from the recessions under Bush and even Reagan.  The job recovery under Obama has been pretty much driven by private sector jobs – yet another area where Republicans indulge in the lazy mendacity that Obama has not overseen any job growth.  And on this issue is the final word from Paul Krugman.

 

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Posted on 09-09-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

India’s politicians are not covering themselves in glory these days.  Widely despised for their venality, they increasingly take shelter behind presumed outrage to national institutions.  Last year communications minister Kapil Sibal drew widespread condemnation for trying to censor social media sites for offensive posts that mocked the government leadership.  Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has dissipated the goodwill from ending more than 30 years of communist rule last year by bizarre displaying a megalomaniacal persecution complex.  First a professor was locked up (after being roughed up by her party goons) for the “cybercrime” of forwarding a fairly innocuous political cartoon.  When asked inconvenient statements at public rallies students and farmers can be labelled maoists and arrested.

Now comes the case of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.  Americans who huff and puff in outrage about flag burning being called protected speech should pay close attention to what happens when a state criminalizes the mockery of national symbols.  Trivedi’s crime was posting the cartoons below on the internet during Anna Hazare’s protests last year.  The cartoons range from pure mockery to over the top.

 

National Toilet

 

 

National Emblem

The hand of Congress on the mouth of the common man

Facebook

National Drink

Gang Rape of Mother India

Cross of Corruption

But that has got Aseem Trivedi his day in court.  Arrested Saturday he now faces jail time for putting into cartoon form something 99% of Indians say, think or feel every day.  Fulfilling Kapil Sibals censorship wet dreams, his website was taken down after a private complaint by a Bombay lawyer.  Samuel Johnson once said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.  India’s scoundrels have added national emblems as an additional refuge.

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Posted on 09-09-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

Fall is here and soon Christmas will be upon us.  That means the Faux News annual crusade to make Americans aware of the non-existent war on Christians and Christmas will soon be upon us.  If the past years are any guide it will be be led by head clown master Bill O’Reilly.  The sufferings of Christians in this country will come as news to people like poor Rimsa Masih in Pakistan.  But why should facts interfere with a Faux News meme?  I would be tempted to laugh at the stupidity of some of these people if they did not hold positions of power.  Example:  Rep. Valerie Hodges of Louisiana

Which is also why I was delighted to see this helpful quiz posted by the Rev. Emily Heath that walks Messers Bill O’Reilly and others through a checklist of what constitutes religious oppression.  Rev. Heath’s quiz is below

“How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

Thank you for compiling this Rev. Heath.

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