Posted on 01-10-2014
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Month Python star explains how stupid people are too stupid to realize they are stupid.  Video below:

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 18-05-2014
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

India’s month long election process finally came to an end last Friday.  Everyone expected the ruling coalition led by the Congress to lose and the Bharatiya Janata Party coalition to win or become the largest grouping in the new parliament.  The actual margin of victory was unclear.

After 10 years in power the Congress government was drifting aimlessly.  Corruption scandals had sapped its credibility.  Economic growth had slowed down, and the government was unable to offer up a meaningful economic program short of blatant populism.

Meanwhile, the BJP had anointed the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its standard bearer.  Even though he was tainted by the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, Modi was able to point to the stellar economic performance of Gujarat on his watch and his acumen as an administrator.  In contrast, all the Congress Party had to offer was a hapless bumbling dynastic scion, Rahul Gandhi.  As the Congress declined in the last few years, the BJP and regional parties had stepped into the void.

Then there was the newest player in the political scene, the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party.  The 2014 elections came too soon for the party to take advantage of a population tired of the coruption that permeates all parts of Indian life.  And as it turned out, the AAP would be a bit player in the emerging “Tsunamo”.

As the image below shows, the results were breathtaking.

2014 Indian Lok Sabha Election Results (Source: Wikipedia)

2014 Indian Lok Sabha Election Results (Source: Wikipedia)

The BJP won…and it won Big.  For the first time since 1984 a single party won a majority in Parliament.  For the first time since 1984, a pre-election coalition won over 300 seats.  The once mighty Congress party was reduced to less than 50 seats, which due to a constitutional quirk requiring 10% of seats to recognize a leader of the opposition means that the position will stay vacant for the first time since 1989.

The map shows how the BJP reached victory by winning close to 100% of the seats in its base states.  While it won relatively few seats along the eastern seaboard, the BJP made deep inroads in the vote count that should unsettle the ruling regional parties.

Yet the results in Punjab, show the potential pitfalls for the BJP if it fails to deliver.  Punjab is ruled by a coalition of the BJP and a Sikh party the Shiromani Akali Dal.  The incompetent Akalis are unpopular and so is the Congress.  As a result, the fledgling Akali Dal won its only 4 seats in Punjab – a sign for the AAP that should it gets its act together, there is political space to for the party to grow.

For the ruling Congress, the results could be a death knell.  Reliant on the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, the party has been allergic to any other politicians with mass appeal.  Yet the unimpressive scions on offer leave them little hope but to pray for the BJP to stumble.

When he takes office this week (likely on Wednesday), Narendra Modi will become the first Prime Minister of India born after independence.  He will also be the first non-Septuagenarian/non-Octogenarian to hold the office in 18 years.  India’s youth bought into his promise of change and getting India working again and with a comfortable majority in Parliament he will have all the opportunity to succeed.  Yet, his party does not hold a majority in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, whose consent is needed on certain legislation.  Many of the problems facing India also fall under the power of the states.  In Gujarat, Modi operated as a one man show.  He will now have to learn to play nice with others.

Modi brings with him a feeling of euphoria in the aftermath of a national election not seen in decades.  His personal story of rising to the top from an economically disadvantaged background makes his thumping of India’s most enduring dynasty even more compelling.  India’s stock markets have shown their excitement by jumping to new peaks.

Congratulations Mr. Modi.  Good luck as you get to work. Don’t eff it up.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 10-03-2014
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

This blog discussed the desperate attempts to gin up support for Obamacare last week.  The oligarchs Koch have been running a series of mendacious sob stories about sympathetic victims losing health coverage.  Cancer patient Julie Boonstra starred in one of the first commercials.  As soon as the advertisement aired people smelled a rat and asked the Koch front group for supporting material for their assertions.

The group ran ads with Boonstra claiming that identifying factual inaccuracies was an attempt to “silence here.”  However, when confronted with information from her insurer that she would actually save money, Boonstra retorted she did not believe it was true.  Such is the legacy of Republican misinformation of the act.  It must also be noted that Boonstra is the ex-wife of former country Republican party chairman.  But of course that is just a “coincidence.” The mendacity will continue

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-03-2014
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Asif Mandvi dismantles another tedious right wing talking point about Obamacare – that it will destroy “the best healthcare system in the world.”  Of course the WHO has ranked our system 37th- but why should facts interfere with a talking point.  The reality also is that many people cannot afford our health care.  The speechless look on Fox Business commentator Todd Wilemon who cheerfully opined that the solution for poverty was that the poor should “just stop being poor” is priceless.  Video below:

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-03-2014
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Russian invasion of the Crimea is grist of the Obama derangement syndrome mill.  It is truly impressive how the right can fit their view of President Obama for any point of view.  He is the tyrant, the dictator, the man taking away all of your freedoms.  But now he is weak, feckless and wears mommy jeans.  Coupled with their contempt for the President is the odd fascination with former KGB agent Vladimir Putin (whose stock rose in certain circles after Russia passed statutes restricting the rights of homosexuals.

Putin of course is not the strongman of their wet dreams.  He heads a corrupt oligarchy funded by Russian oil and natural gas.  Russia is a decaying country facing demographic disaster and Putin’s long tenure has not even begun to stem the rot.  Even the invasion of Ukraine occurred from a position of weakness.  Putin’s patsy in Kiev was abruptly toppled and the demonstrators in the Western part of the country indicated that their future is in Europe not in Putin’s corrupt oligarchic embrace.

Jon Stewart has a nice rundown of the derangement infecting the right.  Video below:

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 02-07-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

A year after the fall of Pharaoh Mubarak, the mobs are back on the street in Egypt in what appears greater numbers.  The target is Mubarak’s successor and Egypt’s first freely elected President Mohammed Morsi.

The Muslim Brotherhood joined the anti-Mubarak protests late.  While they were suppressed by his regime, they were allowed greater freedom of action than his secular rivals.  The intent was to highlight the Islamist threat and keep the aid dollars flowing.  The perverse effect of this strategy was to leave the Muslim Brotherhood as the best organized opposition movement in Egypt, allowing its member Mohammed Morsi to win the Presidency and the Brotherhood to dominate parliamentary elections.

Unfortunately, once in power Morsi has done his best to confirm the fears that he would be a sectional leader.  A controversial constitution was rammed through.  Journalists, bloggers and comedians have been persecuted for lese majeste.  The government has looked the other way as minorities have been attacked.  The economy has been mismanaged.  Most recently Morsi appointed a member of a former terrorist group (that killed 58 tourists in 1997) as governor of Luxor province – which relies on tourism.

So when the mobs emerged on the street in the last few days the scale of the protests caught everyone (including Morsi) by surprised.  Egypt’s police are in open mutiny and stood by as the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo were torched.  And now the army, for some reason respected by the protesters, seems to be peddling a soft coup by giving Morsi a 48 hour ultimatum.

I have no sympathy for Morsi.  Given the opportunity to be a statesman he chose to be a leader of narrow vision like Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq.  Unlike the Islamists in Turkey who provided a decade of good governance before gradually commencing dropping the veil, the Egyptian Brotherhood was too impatient.

Yet, I cannot but help feel that the path Egypt is heading down is extremely dangerous.  The army, which has conducted its share of abuses in the past year is walking out of this scot free.  A elected even if flawed President is being toppled a year into his term by extra constitutional means.  Egypt’s civil society is showing a dangerous lack of communication among its stake holders.  There remains the risk that the Brotherhood will feel cheated of power like the Algerian Islamists in the early 1990s setting off a cycle of instability.  Egypt’s secular opposition is largely united by its dislike of Morsi and the Brotherhood.  Yet unless they agree on a political and economic program they face another defeat in the ballot box.  Worse, a blue print is now being set on how to topple an elected regime…create a ruckus and beg the army to intervene.

It is hard to see how Morsi survives the current crisis.  It is also hard to see anything but turmoil in Egypt for the foreseeable future.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 02-06-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

This blog has railed against the crude religious stereotyping that Faux News and certain Republican politicians have engaged in this country since 9/11.  The problem with that bile is that they liberally apply it to every single Muslim in this country, even though American Muslims are generally well integrated (though losers like the Tsarnaevs do exist) into this country – inspite of the efforts by Islamists and nativist xenophobes to change that.

It has been a different story in Europe.  Europe is not an immigrant society and historically has not gone out of its way to assimilate immigrants.  Immigrants in Europe complain of open discrimination in housing and employment that essentially forces them into ghettos and unemployment.  But it is increasingly clear that the blame cannot be solely on the host country.

If a country accepting immigrants has an obligation to alleviate discrimination and help integrate immigrants into society, immigrants have an obligation too.  This cautionary tale from Antwerp shows how hard it can be for liberal societies to protect their liberal values and the rights of less liberal minorities. You cannot expect to move abroad and expect that your hosts will start living life as you want it to be in some idealized dream of your home country.  Immigrants also have an obligation to respect the law of the nation they move to.

The United Kingdom has long been a breeding ground for Islamic extremism stemming from the latter two points.  For the last 30 years and more it has welcomed Muslim immigrants from Pakistan who stubbornly refuse to integrate.  Worse time and again many of these jihadist preachers demand that Britain adopt sharia law to satisfy them.  The caricatures that Faux News and the Pamela Gellers rely on are very evident there.

The video below from a young British woman who visited her hometown on hearing it had become a hotbed for Islamic radicalism is really something.

A brave British woman shows why Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is right when he calls England a ‘cesspit’ breeding Islamists from Tarek Fatah on Vimeo.

At about 3:19 in the video is a truly amazing exchange.  The jihadist rally protested the temerity of the British police in arresting a Muslim woman.  So the woman raises the obvious point that nobody should be above the law.  Pat comes this amazing response:

If the law of the land is Islamic, we will respect the law of the land….If [the law] is not Islamic, then those that make it can go to hell.

Now it is not clear the speaker is an immigrant, but immigrants who believe this need their ass shipped out so they can rot in their old country.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 15-05-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Great Recession exploded the budget deficit generated by the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war and the unfunded Medicare expansion.  The last few years have seen constant alarming cries that America faced a debt crisis that would turn it to the next Greece.  This was always a silly meme, particularly since the Greek crisis was exacerbated by its participation in the quasi gold-standard of the Euro.

The alarmism has resulted in a howling frenzy for policies that would have turned the recession into a depression (like the United Kingdom about to enter into a triple dip recession) rather than addressing the  job losses that killed government revenue and blew up the deficit.  The predicted hyperinflation has not occurred.  The academics whose paper was cited by deficit peacocks as gospel were discredited by a basic Excel error.  Now comes the CBO, which projects that the medium-term national debt has stabilized and the United States is not going bankrupt anytime soon.  After a spike in 2009 from the stimulus, the budget has actually been dropping throughout the Obama presidency (contrary to Faux News reality).  The CBO now projects that the 2013 deficit will be $200 billion lower than the projection 3 months ago.

In a rational political environment in a country with essentially negative borrowing costs the government would be implementing policies to accelerate the recovery, address infrastructure, fix (rather than shred) Medicare.  But the Republican party and the establishment stenographers live in their alternate reality where we are still on a path to Greece.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 14-05-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

As Washington gets subsumed by faux scandals and a desperate Republican attempt to convert Barack Obama to Richard Nixon the entire political class has pretty much let Wall Street off the hook.  Not a single banking executive has been prosecuted even with ample evidence of fraud.  The fines inflicted on the for misconduct still leave financial institutions with a healthy profit from their illegal activities.

Elizabeth Warren has been one of the only legislators who has been highlighting this ridiculous state of affairs.  She sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White questioning the culture of a slap on the wrist for offenders.  The whole letter is worth a read, but a key paragraph is quoted below:

I believe strongly that if a regulator reveals itself to be unwilling to take large financial institutions all the way to trial — either because it is too timid or because it lacks resources — the regulator has a lot less leverage in settlement negotiations and will be forced to settle on terms that are much more favorable to the wrongdoer. The consequence can be insufficient compensation to those who are harmed by illegal activity and inadequate deterrence of future violations. If large financial institutions can break the law and accumulate millions in profits and, if they get caught, settle by paying out of those profits, they do not have much incentive to follow the law.

This is not a difficult point to grasp. But in our corrupt bastardized capitalism our regulators don’t seem to get it.  Elizabeth Warren does.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   

The news from Syria has been uniformly awful.  While this blog is still firmly opposed to American military involvement in a civil war likely to end in an ethnic bloodbath, it still hopes for a solution that stops the human suffering and displacement.  The photo below was posted on Reditt and Facebook over the weekend and shows a Jordanian soldier warming up the hands of Syrian refugee baby after making it to the border safely.

Yes, I am a sucker for cute baby pictures.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 08-05-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Heritage Foundation is already under fire for a questionable study asserting that immigration reform will cost trillions of dollars.  Now it is trying to distance itself from the 2009 PhD dissertation from one of the co-authors of the study arguing for lower immigration because Hispanics allegedly have a genetic predisposition to lower IQ.

Jason Richwine’s dissertation abstract asserts:

The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.

Dylan Mathews of the Washington Post who dug up Richwine’s thesis notes that Richwine believes intelligence is liked to race.

Richwine’s dissertation asserts that there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races. While it’s clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics — “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ” — he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

This reeks of the racist screeds that passed as academic analysis 100 years ago and appears to be the intellectual heir of Charles Murrays “The Bell Curve” from 20 years back.

The Heritage foundation has supported “high skilled” immigration arguing that this will be of greater benefit to the economy.  Mathews notes that Richwine tries to use that policy as a cover to support his racist IQ-based selection.

How in the world did Harvard endorse this crap by issuing Richwine a PhD for this dissertation?

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(1) Comment    Read More   
Posted on 06-05-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

So said Florida Rep. Matt Hudson proudly announcing the state rejecting the federally funded Medicaid expansion.  He gave some lip service at the end of the video about taking care of Florida’s uninsured and promised some state based alternative to Medicaid expansion.

Almost 4 years since the Obamacare war started and the President ended up passing a Republican bill to cries of socialism, there still is no credible alternative proposed by Republicans to America’s health care crisis.

One cannot help but conclude Congressman Alan Grayson was right when he identified the Republican health care plan (video below):

1.  Don’t get sick.

2.  And if you do get sick, die quickly.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 06-05-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Politics) by Rashtrakut

The Republicans spent most of the first Obama term trying to find mythical Obama scandals – fast and furious, Solyndra, the Obama phone etc. all withered away once sunlight shone on breathless Faux News exposes.  Then came the attack on Benghazi at the height of the Presidential campaign and the death of Ambassador Stevens.

Obviously things went horribly wrong in Benghazi.  But eager to give Mitt Romney a silver bullet for the campaign, Senator Graham desperately burnishing his conservative credentials to head off a primary challenge and seeing the opportunity to hang a millstone around Hillary Clinton’s neck Republicans have been desperately flogging the Benghazi faux scandal.

So Senator McCain accuses the administration of a cover-up but cannot identify what was covered up.  Witnesses were allegedly intimidated, but none can be identified.  Even in front of the three stooges on Faux & Friends Republican Congressman Jassen Chaffetz struggled to identify what was covered up, why was there a need for a cover up and why would respected military officials stick their necks out to cover a lie.  Video below:

Now the Republicans are producing two “whistleblowers” whose credibility is on the line by their choice of partisan brawlers as counsel.  The problem for the Republicans is that they have so obviously played politics with their :investigation” and have repeatedly fallen for every right wing conspiracy theory on the subject that outside of their Faux News audience few are likely to take them seriously.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 13-03-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

In a fairly quick conclave resulting from the surprising resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic church elected a new pope.  The choice was somewhat a surprise.  A pope who was 78 at the time of his election and who resigned for ill health was replaced by a 76 year old.  Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first pope from Latin America, the first pope since 741 AD not born in Europe, the first Jesuit to become pope and the first Pope Francis.

Elderly popes are generally chosen as transitory popes (though that logic backfired once rather spectacularly).  Yet Pope Francis inherits a church in turmoil.  The priest sex abuse scandal continues to sap the legitimacy and credibility of the Catholic Church.  Just before the conclave the United Kingdom’s most senior cleric (and notorious homophobe) resigned after allegations surfaced publicly that the cardinal had inappropriate relations with seminarians decades ago.  The Curia itself is rife with feuds which may have encouraged Benedict to resign.  The traditional heartlands of the Catholic Church no longer heed its teachings and the sex scandals have sapped the institution’s credibility.  The heart of the Church is in the southern hemisphere and here it faces aggressive competition from evangelical protestants.

The challenges facing Pope Francis are daunting.  His name may pay homage to either St. Francis of Assisi founder of the Franciscan Order (historically the rival of the Jesuits) or the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier (or both).  The new Pope has a history of humility and working with the poor.  Like Benedict he does not subscribe to the doctrine of government austerity indulged by the American religious right.  Yet he is doctrinally conservative.  Don’t expect too many changes in church policies regarding women and homosexuals.

The election of Pope Francis has already shone the light on the Catholic Church’s equivocal attitude to the atrocities committed by the Latin American military juntas in the 70s.  Francis has previously apologized for the the Church’s failure to speak out on the subject.  The record on his own activities during the period appears mixed.

The Catholic Church desperately needs a reformer who can clear out the muck that has accumulated over the past decades.  It remains to be seen whether the (likely brief) papacy of Pope Francis will achieve that result.

Some lighthearted irreverence below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 06-03-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer yesterday.  The Venezuelan President who was recently re-elected to another term leaves behind a tumultuous legacy.  A man who reveled in taunting the West and consorting with the rogues gallery of the world, he also was genuinely loved by many of Venezuela’s underclass.

It is hard not to review the reign of Chavez and come back with a feeling of a wasted opportunity.  Chavez identified a legitimate problem in Venezuelan society.  Like many resource rich countries Venezuela’s oil wealth did not trickle down to the masses.  Under Chavez poverty levels in Venezuela dropped (as they did across Latin America) and the rise in oil prices allowed him to fund a number of populist policies.  Yet a lot of the largesse was wasted in crony politics, subsidizing Fidel Castro, funding other leftist politicians across Latin America.  The vaunted Bolivarian revolution is proving unsustainable (and hypersensitive to oil prices).  Crime has risen, inflation has skyrocketed, corruption is high and nationalization policies have led to a brain drain in the professional class who have emigrated to more welcoming shores.

A bigger problem for this blogger was Chavez’s authoritarian instincts.  He was a walking example of how winning elections does not make you a democrat.  The judiciary was packed with his cronies, opposition press was muzzled and after losing a referendum on amending the constitution he issued decrees on those provisions in any case.  Under the guise of leftist and anti-imperialist solidarity he funded terrorist movements like FARC and embraced tyrants like Gaddaffi.

As the Economist notes, now comes the reckoning.  For now reflexive anti-Americanism will rule the day.  Chavez may have squandered the opportunity to rebuild Venezuela’s infrastructure, but the oil resources are still available for a wiser ruler to use it for the benefit of the masses as Chavez originally intended.  For that to happen Venezuela needs to avoid any other megalomaniacal Caudillos.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 21-01-2013
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

It is not an easy time to be a school administrator. The massacre in Newton highlights the risks kids face from mentally disturbed people with guns. Yet in a pattern that is profoundly tedious and disturbing, legitimate concerns are an excuse for a lack of common sense.

Over the last two decades schools have responded to safety concerns along with accusations of discrimination by taking the path of least resistance or thought. Zero tolerance policies have led to some really stupid decisions by administrators too petrified to exercise common sense.

This story from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania has really left me pissed off. A five year old girl allegedly told a classmate that she would shoot her and herself with her “gun.” However, the gun in question was a Hello Kitty Bubble Maker. Someone seems to have contacted the Apparatchiks in charge of her elementary school who responded to a five year old behaving like a five year old by characterizing this a “terrorist threat”. It appears that a teacher may have told the bawling child that she could be headed to jail. Then these geniuses appear to have interrogated the five year old for three hours before contacting her parents. Then they suspended her for 10 days and required her to obtain a psychological evaluation. The suspension has now been reduced to 2 days.

To make it worse the parents of the child cannot enroll her in another school district because of the suspension branded into her record.

The school district has issued a typical mealy mouthed statement:

The Mount Carmel Area School District has investigated the issue and will continue to do so. When given the opportunity in the appropriate forum, we look forward to presenting information that will portray our school district in a more positive light….The statement continues, “The Mount Carmel Area School District takes the well-being and safety of students and staff very seriously. In discipline matters, all circumstances are taken into consideration when arriving at decisions. It is the vision of the Mount Carmel Area educational community to create a safe learning environment that nurtures the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of each child.

This is insane. From the facts public so far the people who should have permanent reprimands in their record are the school officials and the teacher who may have traumatized the child with threats of jail time. It is unconscionable that school officials interrogated a child for so long before contacting the parents.

The parents are considering a lawsuit. I hope they follow up against these bubble headed Apparatchiks.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   

In a rare moment of decisive action the Indian government hanged Ajmal Kasab, the surviving Pakistani terrorist from the 2008 26/11 Mumbai attacks.  The last couple of years have seen tedious posts in this blogger’s Facebook feed with friends whining that the Indian government managed to do _____, “BUT KASAB IS STILL ALIVE.”  A few weeks ago when Kasab fell ill in prison with rumors of dengue fever, snarky comments that a mosquito may manage to do what the Indian government could not proliferated.

The reality is that there never was much chance of Kasab receiving a reprieve from the hangman.  He was captured on photograph participating in the Mumbai attacks.  He had been abandoned by his home country Pakistan.  Even with India’s reluctance to use the death penalty, no Indian government would have dared to pardon the most notorious criminal in Indian custody.  It was only a matter of time before the bloodlust of the mob was sated.

While no tears need to be shed for his fate, Ajmal Kasab was merely the vicious tool of murderous masters.  The Pakistani terrorists in the 26/11 attacks received their instructions from handlers in Pakistan – almost certainly handlers from Pakistan’s rogue spy agency the ISI.  The wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba that supplied Kasab and his terrorist brethren from Pakistan’s lost underbelly has merely changed its name and its leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed still roams free.

Pakistan reluctantly admitted the nationality of Kasab, but has done little else to curb its support of terrorism as a tool of state policy.  The aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden raid has pushed some of these activities underground for now but nothing has been done to curb the flow of available recruits to the terrorist recruiting mills.  Even the outrage over the Malala Yousafzai attack has not led to any concrete steps on the ground.

Pakistan is essentially a failed state.  Its state security agencies still shelter the Taliban and Kashmiri jihadist fronts.  Its policies towards its neighbors on the west and the east are largely negative.  Its corrupt civilian government has little legitimacy.  The judiciary appears to have overreached and has lost the heroic halo from its role in bringing down the Musharraf dictatorship.  The army has indicated that it is not subject to any civilian oversight.  The state has no control over large parts of the tribal north-west.  Rebellion simmers in Baluchistan.  Nobody seems to have any control over what the ISI is up to.

Indians woke up today to the news that Ajmal Kasab has been hanged.  While they celebrate they should remember that his ISI handlers still roam free.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 20-11-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

“Vae, puto deus fio” (Dear me, I must be turning into a god.)

– The emperor Vespasian on his deathbed.

One wonders whether Bal Thackeray (obituary here) uttered some similar sentiments.  Evidently the Maharashtra police seem to think that a new deity has been added to the Hindu pantheon.  In the latest assault of free speech in India, a mild Facebook rant and a Facebook like ended with the arrest of two students.  The “offensive” post questioned why the whole city of Mumbai was forced to shut down on the death of a private citizen when national heroes were ignored.  The resulting criminal charge was “hurting religious sentiments” of Thackeray’s followers who followed up the police complaint by ransacking an orthopedic clinic run by the original poster’s uncle – which does bring up the question why Shiv Sena goons keep trashing hospitals…but i digress.  The terrified young women have withdrawn the post and apologized for the temerity of engaging in free speech.

Indian civil society and social media is now up in arms and the state government has promised strict punishment “if the policemen are found guilty” – i.e. nothing will happen.  The Shiv Sena thugs are typically unrepentant.   India has lately been showing a depressing tendency to crack down in free speech on social media.  Many colonial era laws enacted to suppress dissent have been retained by India after independence to preserve communal harmony.  The result is a thin skinned populace that runs to the police every time anything remotely offensive gets uttered.

This is creates a mockery of India’s guarantee of free speech. As previously noted on this blog, freedom of speech implies the freedom to offend – otherwise it would not be a freedom that needed codifying.  In India, thin skinned crybabies are using loosely drafted laws to suppress any dissent.  This is rapidly becoming a gut-check moment for Indian democracy.  Will it retain the liberal free speech traditions embodied in its constitution and encouraged by its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru?  Or will it continue down the road traveled by his grandson Rajiv Gandhi – whose government was the first to ban Rushdie’s Satanic Verses?

So far India’s vibrant civil society has loudly challenged such free speech violations.  Yet India’s politicians and their (sometimes uniformed) thugs continue to persist in such conduct.  Without stringent electoral and legal consequences for such acts, Indian free speech will remain under siege.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   

Last month, in the 17th week of her pregnancy, Savita Halappanavar started to miscarry.  Admitted to hospital doctors informed her that the fetus had no chance.  However since the fetus still had a heart beat doctors cited Irish law and evidently the phrase above in refusing to permit a medical termination of the pregnancy.  So the 31 year old dentist was kept in hospital for two and a half days of agony until the heart beat stopped.  However, by then she had contracted septicemia.  She died four days later.

I have trouble expressing just how angry this callous death sentence passed on Savita Halappanavar by Ireland’s almost total ban on abortion makes me.  This was not a case where the fetus had a chance to survive.  But rather than limit the tragedy by saving the mother, they kept her in agony until it was too late to save her.  The medical necessity of the mother was trumped by the religion based ban imposed by the law.  This death occurred a month after a bunch of so called doctors issued a statement that abortion was not medically necessary to save the life of a pregnant mother.

This is not a scenario totally alien to the United States.  The platform of one of our parties calls for an absolute ban on abortion, which could lead to deaths like this.  The loosely drafted personhood amendments that right wing groups have placed on various state ballots could also prevent medically necessary pregnancies like these.  Then there is the compassionate Bishop Olmstead of Phoenix who excommunicated a nun who as an administrator of a Catholic hospital allowed a medical termination of a pregnancy to save the life of the mother.  The Bishop then followed it up by stripping the hospital of its Catholic status – probably inadvertently improving the caliber of healthcare available to women.

Many Irish have expressed their shame and anger at the death of Savita Halappanavar.  However, the question is whether this finally leads to a change in Irish law and permits doctors to respond to obstetric emergencies.  If it does, the tragic and senseless death of Savita Halappanavar will not have been in vain.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 16-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs, India) by Rashtrakut

Pizza, burgers and other fast food are culprits too. These pearls of wisdom are delivered by a member of a Khap Panchayat, in the Indian state of Haryana.

India has been rocked by a series of publicized sexual assaults and honor killings in the past year. This has cast a bright spotlight on the Khaps, caste based village bodies, who are essentially India’s homegrown version of the Taliban. The Khaps have arrogated themselves judicial power independent of the Indian constitution and often wink at honor killings of eloping couples. They are a reactionary throwback for Indians unreconciled to modernity.

It is time the Indian state suppressed these thugs and Indian polity shunned their political enablers.

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 14-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

It is hard being an explorer/adventurer nowadays.  The highest peaks have been surmounted.  The continents have been discovered.  The rivers have been traced to their source.  Technology has made the explorers obsolete and many adventurers archaic – circumventing the globe in a balloon gets media attention but not the adulation that accompanied the descent of Charles Lindbergh in Paris (video below):

 

 

That leaves the murky depth of the oceans or the frigid reaches of space.  Space flights have become somewhat routine and unless man ends up on Mars are unlikely to fire up the public imagination.  The oceans have churned up multiple Hollywood flicks about the dangers lurking beneath, but since Jacques Cousteau have not (to my knowledge) dredged up many celebrities.

Enter Felix Baumgartner.  In January 2010, the Austrian skydiver announced a plan to become the first parachutist to break the sound barrier.  The 128,097 ft jump involved breaking the previous record by over 25,000 ft.  Needless to say jumping from a point where the air pressure is 2% of sea level is extremely dangerous.

While he did not break the old record for the longest freefall, Baumgartner appears to have broken the sound barrier.  More important he landed safely.  His path to fame has more practical implications than a daredevil’s stunt.  NASA was interested for information it can glean to make it safer for astronauts attempting re-entry.

Meanwhile Felix Baumgartner gets his name etched in the record and history books.  Congratulations!!

Video of the jump is below:

 

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 13-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Until this week, few people outside of Pakistan and the Swat Valley had heard of Malala Yousafzai.  As she now fights for her life, the victim of neanderthal reactionary thugs, the 14 year old has become a global icon.  The Taliban was notorious for turning women into chattel – good for cooking, bearing children and not much else.  Their Pakistani counterpart is no better.  For a while they held the Swat Valley under their sway while the gutless government in Islamabad dithered on confronting their created Frankenstein monster.

Yousafzai began blogging about life under the Taliban in 2009 while the Swat Valley was still under Taliban control and became a vocal advocate for female education.  In May 2009 the Pakistani army finally moved in and flushed out the Taliban from Swat.  By 2011 she was a celebrity in Pakistan, openly appearing on TV shows and was  nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.  Her blogging identity no longer anonymous she promptly became the target of death threats from Taliban adherents.

So on October 9 came the assassination attempt.  The backlash against the Taliban has been in Pakistan has been severe.  They were trashed on social media and in public rallies.  Yet, even though Pakistan’s foreign minister called this a turning point, all the thunder will not amount to much for now.  This blog has been harsh on Pakistan’s use of Islamic terrorists to further foreign policy goals in Afghanistan (hiding Mullah Omar and co. in Quetta) and India.  Pakistan’s religious parties offered only lip service to Malala’s fate before railing against American drone attacks.  Yet the American drone attacks, troubling as they are, occur only because Pakistan’s army will not move against terrorists perched in own country.

Girls schools and independent women are primary targets of the Taliban.   As a result,  girls like Malala who refuse to be cowed down are an existential threat to these thugs.  The Taliban remains unrepentant and has renewed the threat against her.  And yet, people like Imran Khan want a “political solution” with these assholes.  Nazi comparisons can be a bit overwrought, but I cannot resist noticing similarities to Franz von Papen’s belief that he could box in Hitler after bringing him to power.  The fight against the Taliban will not be won until there are harsh political consequences for their supporters, Pakistan’s educational system is upgraded to bring its teeming underclass out of the sway of the mullahs (whose madrasas are often the only available educational option) and Pakistan’s army gives up the dream that it is possible to support these thugs against its neighbors without being stung by the backwash.

I mocked the Nobel Peace Prize award to the EU yesterday.  I still stand by that.  It should have gone to someone like Malala Yousafzai.  To hear Malala in her own words see the video below. Also see this heartfelt article by Owais Tohid:

 

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 12-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Germany will collect the $1 million award for the Nobel peace prize, and refuse to share it with Greece.

The Nobel Peace prize seems committed to making itself irrelevant. First there was the silly award to Obama three years back. Now the committee is doubling down with the comically mistimed award to the European Union.

The European project has obviously played a huge part in establishing peace in Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II. But the time for this award was 40 years ago. Since then the record has been decidedly mixed. While the fears of German-Polish tensions have receded, the EU failed miserably in the Balkans in the 90s and has struggled to control authoritarian impulses in countries like Hungary. Worse the squabbling in the aftermath of the debt crisis, has triggered questions about the viability of the EU.

I suspect this award is targeted at those questions and to remind people about the EU’s past success. If so, it is spectacularly ham handed interference in a legitimate discussion on whether the EU and the Euro expanded too fast and too soon. Mockery is justified.

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 11-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

I noted yesterday that Oz seems infected with the type of nasty politics that infects us. The Czech Republic is infected too. Sadly they are not alone in Europe. Neighboring Hungary among others has been infected for a long time. Time for some of these petulant politicians to grow up.

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 10-10-2012
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

I follow politics at the antipodes fairly cursorily.  I recall Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first woman prime minister after a parliamentary coup displaced her predecessor. Her tenure has not been without controversy and she appears to have drawn some very personal hatred from supporters of her opposition, some of it appearing rooted in gender (sound familiar?).  A recent brouhaha over sexist text messages sent by her handpicked choice for speaker Peter Slipper led to a vote in parliament to remove him from office.  Slipper survived the vote but resigned soon after.  But not before Prime Minister Gillard launched an epic broadside at the hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott, whose rising discomfort is evident as the 15 minute verbal smack-down proceeds.

Two thoughts come to mind.  Politics in Oz at present appear every bit as toxic as here.  And, I wish our quasi-monarchical executive had some equivalent of question hour that exists in Westminster style democracies.

Full transcript of the speech here.  Video below (worth listening through):

 

 

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More