Posted on 08-07-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

It appears the uniformed thugs of Europe’s last dictatorship (the authoritarian regime in Moscow deserves a bold asterisk on its classification as a democracy) are capable of medical miracles.  The regime of Alexander Lukashenko is struggling to contain public protests over the collapsing (and already impoverished) economy.  So the security services have started hauling in perceived dissenters.  And therein lies the miracle – one armed men have been convicted of clapping and deaf-mutes have been convicted of shouting.

Lukashenko has survived so far due to the tacit support of Moscow, which likes pliant states in its “near abroad.”  Yet last year Vladimir Putin sent out signals that the Kremlin’s patience for Lukashenko was not unlimited.  Russia’s favorite foreign policy bludgeon – cutting of gas supplies – was used to bring Belarus to heel.  Going forward Russia has denied Lukashenko’s bankrupt regime needed loans, focusing instead on (in competition with China – another regime used to dealing with nasty despots) buying up Belarusian assets at cut rate prices.

It is hard to see a clean solution to this crisis.  Lukashenko is unlikely to go without a fight.  Putin’s Russia is terrified of the “color revolutions” in its neighborhood planting subversive thoughts in the heads of its serfs…I mean citizens.  Russia can be counted on to sabotage any independent minded popular government that emerges from any such revolution (see Ukraine).

Unfortunately for Belarus, its past probably gives some hint of its future.  The frustration of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has already shown Little Russia how hard it is to escape the suffocating embrace of Great Russia.  Poor White Russia which spent most of the last 800 years shuttling from the imperial domination of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Empire of the Czar of All the Russias is well on its way to repeating history.  Impoverished, with no functioning government structures or tradition of democratic rule and fatally dependent of the Kremlin for gas and oil, Belarus will likely end up in tighter Russian thralldom.  The West will probably lose interest after Lukashenko leaves, and in any case will not pick a fight with Russia over Belarus.

Yet another example of the perils of being a midget in a giant’s backyard.

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Posted on 08-07-2011
Filed Under (Religion) by Rashtrakut

In the last couple of days Michele Bachman and Rick Santorum became the first Republican candidates to sign “The Marriage Vow – A Declaration of Dependence Upon Marriage and Family” that calls for among other things a “Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.”

The pledge also calls for an unconstitutional blanket ban on pornography and a “[r]ejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.”   The oddly phrased reference to Sharia Islam (which is not a particular school of Islam but appears to be a blanket rejection of the entire religion itself) is the latest islamophobic attack for the non-existent Sharia Law threat ginned up by the right.

It is a pity that these wannabe theocrats don’t take a closer book at what their own holy books have to say about “intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous” and for that matter women’s rights in the institution.

Via Andrew Sullivan quoting an earlier Bruce Bawer post on marriage in the Bible:

“Lamech [Noah’s father] married two women, one named Adah, the other Zillah.” (Genesis 4)

“Sarai brought her slave-girl, Hagar the Egyptian, to her husband and gave her to Abram as a a wife.” (Genesis 16)

“When [Rachel] gave [her husband Jacob] her slave-girl Bilhah as a wife, Jacob lay with her, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (Genesis 30)

“Esau took Canaanite women in marriage: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite and Oholibamah daughter of Anah son of Zibeon the Horite, and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebaioth.”  (Genesis 26)

“When a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, if they both bear him sons, and the son of the unloved wife is the elder, then, when the day comes for him to divide his property among his sons, he must not treat the sons of the loved wife as his firstborn in preference to his true firstborn, the son of the unloved wife.” (Deuteronomy 21)

“If, on the other hand, the accusation [by a newlywed man that his bride is not a virgin] turns out to be true…then they must bring her out to the door of her father’s house and the men of her town will stone her to death.” (Deuteronomy 22)

“When a virgin is pledged in marriage to a man, and another man encounters her in the town and lies with her, bring both of them out to the gate of that town and stone them to death; the girl because, although she was in the town, she did not cry out for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife: you must rid yourself of this wickedness.” (Deuteronomy 22)

“When brothers live together and one of them dies without leaving a son, his widow is not to marry outside the family.  Her husband’s brother is to have intercourse with her; he should take her in marriage and do his duty by her as her husband’s brother.” (Deuteronomy 25)

“David’s two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail widow of Nabal of Carmel, were among the captives.” (1 Samuel 30)

“Sons were born to David at Hebron.  His eldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel; his second Cileab, whose mother was Abigail widow of Nabal from Carmel; the third Absalom, whose mother was Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth Adonihah, whose mother was Haggith; the fifth Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital; and the sixth Ithream, whose mother was David’s wife Eglah.”  (2 Samuel 3)

And that’s just a scattering of items from the first quarter of the Bible; we haven’t even gotten around to Bathsheba yet, or to King Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines….

To help matters Boston Bravery came up with a helpful graphical representation of marriage in the Bible:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reality is that most religious texts say things that look ridiculous or even offensive to today’s social mores.  Yet the people Andrew Sullivan refers to as Christianists want it both ways.   They pick on other religions (notably Islam) by highlighting offensive or misogynistic lines in their holy books yet blithely ignore similar language in their own texts.  They also ignore that the reason we do not groan under the type of theocratic tyranny of Iran and Saudi Arabia is the secularization of Western Society after the “Age of Enlightenment” in the 18th century.  As late as the late 17th century, Catholics in England and Protestants in France were not permitted to freely practice their faith.

Unlike the world view of the Taliban (or for that matter originalist readers of the Constitution), our society has evolved and is more tolerant of minorities (racial, religious, sexual) and other points of view.  Yet our wannabe theocrats cling to their version of the Bible, except when as quoted above it does not suit them.

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Posted on 08-07-2011
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

On his crusade to privatize the TSA, Ron Paul appeared on Faux News to make the incredible assertion that banning guns on planes was partly to blame for 9/11.  Gee Ron…can’t you think of any reason why allowing non-law enforcement plane passengers to pack heat or why a shootout at 35,000 feet may not be a good idea.

Not so surprisingly, the Faux News bobble head does not challenge the absurdity of Paul’s position but moves right on to their pet cause of profiling brown people by race or religion.  Of course it may not have not have flagged the Nigerian born underpants bomber or the half white-half Jamaican shoe bomber Richard Reid.  Right-wing conservatives and Faux News keep on parroting how stupid it is to search 95 year old grandmas or young kids.  Unfortunately, this tragic story from Afghanistan demonstrates how the sadistic bastards we are fighting will work around racist profiling of the sort advocated by Paul.  The Taliban thugs in the article linked above tricked an 8 year old girl into becoming a suicide bomber.

Paul also willfully misstates current policy.  Nothing at present prevents the TSA from searching a “suspicious person.”  Also, as brown-skinned passengers will be happy to inform you racial profiling is still alive and going strong, in violation of current rules.   Personally, I am not surprised that a congressman who stated he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act has a cavalier attitude to discrimination against people who don’t look like him.

I will reluctantly give Paul credit for one item in his diatribe.  The pre-9/11 policy of passengers not resisting was in retrospect a mistake.  It was based on the assumption of sane hijackers who would negotiate.  This mistake was first rectified by the brave passengers of UA Flight 93 and helped stop the shoe bomber and the underpants bomber.  It still does not justify the idiocy of guns on planes.

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