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thoughtsnips
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
 
Supreme Court decrees Gay Marriage
in South Africa, that is.

(Hat tip: Thanks, as always, to Andrew)

 
CNN.com - Publisher: 'Blog' No. 1 word of the year - Nov 30, 2004: "A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media ... tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year."

Go Blogger!

 
CNN.com - Court halts penalty for barring recruiters - Nov 29, 2004
You can bet this is headed the Supreme Court way. And you could bet that Justice Scalia would say that the Universities are translating their opinion, to which they are arguably entitled to under the First Amendment, to unacceptable conduct. Also, I think, the SC will be more sympathetic to the claim of the Military that it is a special institution. In my opinion, if this goes to the Supreme Court, the SC will reverse.

 
River Thames awash with Hindu Gods - Newindpress.com

This articles shows, in one snap, what is wrong with the Indian Mainstream Media (the term MSM, in the Indian context, has a different meaning).

Just what was the point in this article? Hindus are junking the Thames with idols, waste, but these are biodegradable or harmless, mostly? Okay, if that were so, this is an example in bloviation.

And "blasi"?!!

Monday, November 29, 2004
 
The State Of The Union

We do not need a President to tell us the SotU. Two statements in a Meet the Press are enough to sum it up the best anyone could:
Dr. Falwell: "Well the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic party."
Rev. Sharpton: "How can you say peace with these folks?"

(hat tip: Andrew)

 
Right-click BlogThis for Firefox (and Mozilla)

Cool..In case you all did not know about this, you can install this context-menu option to directly blog any page to this blog (or any other blogspot.com blog you are a member of). This is only for Mozilla and family. I am sure there is a Javascript/VBScript hack for IE out there.

Glad I use Firefox!!! :-)

 
Just when the conservatives wanted the judges to be activists!!
CNN.com - Supreme Court� declines Massachusetts same-sex marriage fight - Nov 29, 2004

 
Kanchi Seer Case
I hated reading the news today...

A third case, this time attempted assualt, is in the offing against the Seer. And Star TV claims (and I believe, aired) the "confession" of the Acharya that he ordered the hit against Sankarraman. It seems a crying acharya confessed to the police interrogators, on camera, he did it.

Now Jaya is linking up the Acharya with (the disappearance of) some lady in Srirangam. This woman's husband had left her and the Acharya had been in touch via phone and supposedly showered her with largesse. Now she is missing.

I believe the government is trying to bury this man, for whatever he has or has not done. However, an interesting question has lingered in my mind, right from the outset of all this, I must admit - Why has Sri Vijeyendra Saraswathi not yet visited his Guru?. Initial reports said that he requires permission from the court to visit the Acharya in Vellore Jail. Has he/the Mutt made any conscious effort to complete the requisite formalities to arrange a meeting? This man - the Preceptor to the junior Acharya - has been incarcerated for close to 2 weeks now and Vijayendra is yet to visit him?

May be I am watching too many movies - but is there an intra-Mutt conspiracy for succession, all done in collusion with the goverment? Is the Mutt secretly "cooperating" with the police, against the present Acharya, giving/creating the evidence needed?

I guess my confused mind is thinking in a colorful manner indeed!

Sunday, November 28, 2004
 
Via the Yuppies, we get this warning on not thinking critically. I especially liked the last one! :)

PS: For those not in the know, read this first.

 
Via the Yuppies, we get this warning on not thinking critically. I especially liked the last one! :)

 
Feel Proud - Even if you are a Liberal. To Hell with Values!

 
Alabama Vote Opens Old Racial Wounds (washingtonpost.com)
This illustrates one point clearly - something much bigger than Alabama: Activist Judges bugaboo is effective not because the people believe it, but because it is a coded reference to the "threat" of civil rights being enforced.
How?
First, there is the obvious flaw in the argument of Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles: even if we assume that the guarantee to provide education is enshrined into the Alabama Constitution, the highest authority that will be empowered to judge cases on that basis would be state courts - not the Federal ones. Even the Supreme Court bows to the State Supreme Courts on the matters pertaining to the state constitution (except in cases where it leads to highly incovenient solutions e.g. Bush v Gore). This is a fundamental fact, something that the states rights- conscious citizens of Alabama should know.

Then, how do you explain the BS? Simple. They are telling the folks that it was not Alabamian culture that is integrated - it is still not in Alabama's fiber - but somethign alien, imposed, and by voting Yes to the amendment, they will be affirming the imposition - and encouraging, God forbid, the Supreme Court to enforce legal rights of, say, Muslims or Gays!

Friends, welcome to the Great Base of George W. Bush, where, apparently, lying and speaking in codes is just part of moral values.

PS: Absence of explicit mention of absence of a right does not imply the existence of the right. So, removing the clause stating that there is no right to education does not mean there is a right to education!

 
Libertarianism against Hate Crimes Legislation

I can understand the conservative libertarian arguments (as espoused by Andrew Sullivan and others) that hate crime legislations try to guess the motive of the defendant, and vary the punishment according to what the jury thinks is the motive - a blatantly wrong thing to do.

However, the problem with the argument is that it is a fact that members of certain sections of the society are more vulnerable than others, and the society does not get across the point that harming them, for their membership in that section, is blatant violation of their liberty, and is not acceptable.

In fact, in many cases, the American system goes the other way. In the case of racial prejudice, this took the form of slavery, Justice Taney and segregation. The group now in focus is the LGBT community. With a President who is dares not refer to them directly, and a party that goes out of the way to call them polluting and immoral controlling all levers of power, how could the gays and lesbians expect the wider society to respect their lives, and liberty? Hate Crime Laws are one way, however dubious, of making that point.

Another argument is that motive, being belief, is something that somebody should not be punished for - only actions, arising out of the motive, should be punished. But the Supreme Court unanimously disposed of this argument in Wisconsin v Mitchell.

So, how do we reconcile the two positions? One possible way may be to have such laws with accompanying sunset provisions. But again, four decades after the Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act, and ages after the Civil War, we still see hate crimes against African-Americans and Jews.

Yes, HCLs are troublesome. But the way out should be finding ways of mitigating their negatives - or alternatives that get across the spirit of HCLs without the laws. If one could find some way of doing this, HCLs can be avoided - but they should not be shunned at the cost of letting the minorities fend for themselves.

After all, equal protection means that each should be protected to the extent commensurate with the threat they face.

 
20/20 Vs GLAAD

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has these questions regarding the 20/20 program aired by ABC (detailed report here) about the Matthew Shepard murder.

I did not watch the program, but I have seen the documentary movie on that murder, The Laramie Project. I find the conclusions of 20/20 shocking in that light.

 
The Big H factor

The Hypocrisy of it all - on one hand, the Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham is denied bail, lodged in the gaol, ostensibly because he would meddle with the evidence. On the other, a man accused of participating in a massacre is annointed a Union Cabinet minister.

Saturday, November 27, 2004
 
Comments!

If you did not notice, there is now a little comments counter in the signature line of each post. Clicking on this allows you to post comments on that post. Comments can be posted by anybody - not just the co-bloggers.

 
CNN.com - Mystery surrounds Yushchenko ailment - Nov 25, 2004
Sushi can do this? Somehow, I doubt it. The question is, if something happens to Yushchenko (God Forbid!), what then?
And has anybody heard from the Kremlin? Given that Yushchenko's rise to power would inevitably change the dynamics of of the old-Soviet (or, CIS, if you prefer) bloc, where Russia has seen a constant waning of its influence with the Baltic and Balkan states moving towards NATO. And now, Ukraine - arguably, the second most important of the Soviet states. Worse still, souring of Moscow's relations with Kiev would also affect Russia's influence in Moldova, and may force Russia to pull out of the Transnistrian region there, something Russia will not be very pleased with.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
 
Do you see what I see? :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
 
Kartic,
I admit I'm not in a position to judge sincerity, but I guess what I meant to say was that, at best, it was a case of late realization.

You wrote: "And in retrospect, even if it were a "marketing exercise", it is sad to note that that it is a failed campaign for people who use the product do not come out in its support!"

People who use the products? After the great realignment of social forces in India ("dalit" politics, etc), the "lower" castes no longer feel any need to be seen favorably by "Brahmins". Fortunately or unfortunately, they don't care as much today for the respect of "Brahmins". Apart from political empowerment, there are many other reasons for this. So my point was that the reverend Sankaracarya was offering his hand to the untouchable at a time when the untouchable was already up on his feet (somewhat). In that sense, if not insincere, it was at least a little sheepish.

If I may, I would like to reiterate that the fundamental problem with "Hinduism" is much deeper. But we're not going to find it if we intellectualize without real understanding. In a losing situation, there is a tendency to find sociological, psychological, political explanations for problems...and to also craft socio-political "solutions". Yet we all know that social justice, etc is a mere side-effect of internal transformation. Lord Chaitanya also created a socio-political revolution in the areas He touched, but that is only for historians to document. His only credit, (and His parampara's only advertized mission) was to "plunder the storehouse of Love of God and distribute it freely to anyone with an open heart". Not the building of schools and hospitals (which happens anyway).


 
Kanchi Seer Case - Never Ending drama... Shankaracharya Booked in Another Case

Apparently for the attempted murder of another mutt official, one Radhakrishnan and two others back in Sept. 2002. If these allegations are to be believed, looks like September is the "let's-get-a-mutt-official" month. And if this happened in 2002, I really appreciate (*smirk*) the celerity with which Amma's government has acted upon it.

No motives for the purported attack has been given in the news report. Looks like the police (may be at the Govt's behest) are trying to establish a pattern of revenge attacks on part of the Acharya.

This New India Press Report Shankaracharya charged with attempt to murder has more information.

If anybody in the world knows if the Acharya was involved or not, it is the Acharya himself. Whether he did it or not, it is indeed a shameful day for the Mutt (that he is being implicated in yet another case) and for the believers in the Mutt and the Acharya. If indeed he did it (from his own knowledge of the truth, not if the prosecution wins the case), I would equate it with a thousand bombs exploding in the hearts of the ardent devotees of the Mutt.

Monday, November 22, 2004
 
Kanchi Seer Case - ..I don't know what to say!

Karunanidhi blames Jaya’s ‘personal vengeance’

 
Faith & secularism - Interesting commentary (though I could not readily discern the direction it was taking!)

 
The timing seems suspect ... Jaya grants Rs 5 lakh to Sankararaman's family. Good for the family, though Mr. Sankaraman's death can not be compensated in any manner. God bless his soul.

 
Dear Webasura - I agree with all your points (Ramki - don't ban me because agreeing is taboo) except the point about lack of sincerity.

A respected head of the institution would not go out of his way to enter in to the realm of social work, making himself hated/disliked among a bulk of the brahmin devotees who think they "own" the mutt, if he were not sincere in his efforts and seriously desired a positive outcome within the communities. It was certainly not a marketing exercise. And in retrospect, even if it were a "marketing exercise", it is sad to note that that it is a failed campaign for people who use the product do not come out in its support!

Interestingly, I was about to post this - Math not popular in Kanchipuram, when I saw your post.

 
Dear Kartic,
At least a part of the explanation lies in understanding that the Kanchi Math does not represent the average Hindu. It had certainly become a casteist fiefdom untill a few feeble efferts in recent times. In any case, those efforts were too little, too late. They lacked sincerity. They were a desperate attempt to counter the Math's own irrelevence, rather than genuine work on behalf of all "Hindus". In a state where Christian and Muslim missions are making significant inroads, and where the "upper" caste middle-class is drifting away into secular humanism (which is what most "Hindus" today actually are), a sectarian abbot's decision to sup with "low caste" people is a transparent act of desperate marketing, rather than some genuine religious movement.

Most of the "Hindu" activist organizations out there (at least the ones most talked about in the media) are defensive, reactionary, and have a negative motivation. They are losers by default.

In fact, IMHO, even if anyone manages to whip up public outrage now, using some negative tactic, Hinduism is still the loser. The real problems are much deeper.


 
http://habibmotorcars.com/main.html
The "first 100% Pakistani four-wheeler". They have a "roof option" also. Please check out the photo gallery.

http://www.mobilinkgsm.uni.cc/
Make sure speakers are on. Hear, ye Indians, never piss off a Pakistani.


Sunday, November 21, 2004
 
The Victim

In all this controversy about the Shankaracharya's arrest, one should not forget the poor man who died. What happened to him, irrespective of who did it and why, was gruesome (see the graphic picture here). Terrible.

 
Kanchi Seer...

Just a tidbit of information, may be as a follow-up to the "Will Hindus Ever Rise?" piece.

At my workplace, Indians make up around 40% of the workforce. The Veerapan encounter made big news and people were talking about it even a couple of days after the fact. In stark contrast, the dentention of the Shankaracharya did not even merit a passing mention during the daily unofficial Indian "tea kadai" conversations.

40% of Indians in a company is a sizeable population. The fact that the arrest of a person like the Acharya did not even merit casual conversation leads to me ask a question - Is the Hindu psyche really shaken? To me it appears that people could care less about what happens to the Shankaracharya (believe it or not, Verappan was relatively more important!). And does it go back to the century-old grief over casteism and the fact that the Mutt has been traditionally pro-TamBrahm? May be it is the demographic make up of my esteemed Indian colleagues - 96-97% Telugu-speaking leaving less than a handful of Tamilians and 1 or 2 Northerners.

If this sampling of population is representative of the "Hindu psyche", it is understandable, but not justifiable, that the "Hindus will never rise". From various message boards it appears that many non-brahmins really don't give a damn about the Mitt, and truly concerned Hindus (brahmin and non-brahmin alike) give a damn but don't do a damn (and that includes me, unfortunately).

Did the Mutt under Sri Jayendra Saraswathi work for Dalits and the less-privileged in vain? Is the hatred for anything brahmin still so deep rooted that all the good work the mutt continues to do for Tamilians in general results in this massive no-show of support?

Will this episode provoke a renewed series of Hindu bashing in India that our secular parties are so adept at, and the Brahmin-baiting reminiscent of the 1960's and 1970's in Tamilnadu? That remains to be seen and it all rests on the outcome of the current situation...

 
Will Hindus ever rise?

Quote:
Hindus have ceased to react as Hindus. Yet, Hindus have not ceased to believe and conduct themselves as Hindus in their private lives. It is just that they have abdicated the public space to secularists and organised minorities.
It is an abdication that has happened by default. The claimants to the Hindu public space have erroneously focussed on the traditional institutions of the faith.
[...]
It is these sects, headed by the charismatic individuals who we see on the Astha channel and on God TV, who are keeping popular Hinduism alive. To be effective, Hindu politics has to connect with this evangelical Hindu energy.


 
CNN.com - Jude Law named 'Sexiest Man Alive' - Nov 17, 2004
Quite deserving, I must say :D.

 
Bias?

I came acros, at Beliefnet this test to estimate instinctive bias that we may harbor.

I took two of them - USA vs India, and Hindu Vs Muslim.

Turns out, I do not have an appreciable preference for either country over the other, and, I prefer Muslims to Hindus. Hmmm...

Saturday, November 20, 2004
 
Kanchi Seer Case - Acharya Illtreated in Jail

And another in the same forum: Confirmed Acharya Illtreated in Jail

As shocking and disturbing as it may sound, I am not sure how much credibility can be attributed to this piece of information.

If these constables were indeed talking, will it be just to this/these message-poster(s)? Will such terrible news not have spread like wild fire and caused extreme communal tensions?

Has anyone else come across a similar report anywhere?

(the forum messages are outdated but I chanced upon this only today)

 
YAAAYYYYYY!!!!!

Friday, November 19, 2004
 
Condi Rice and India

I believe that the trend shown by President Bush in appointing many of his White House staff is dangerous, and troublesome from a global perspective.

However, from the Indian perspective,the appointment (Senate confirmation, in her case, is a mere formality) of Condi Rice as the National Security Adviser to President Bush is a good sign for India. Stephen Hadley's ascension to her former position is another good news.

The duo was instrumental in the signing of the NSSP that lifted the lifting of the ban on high-technology transfers to India.

Rice is also on record stating that India is a potential great power - an ambition harbored by many Indians. This convergence of views about the future role of India in the geopolitical scene is bound to be good for the relationship.

What's best is that neither Condi not Hadley is bad news for Pakistan. So, the problem of a person who is pro-India being viewed suspiciously by Pakistan, and vice-versa does not exist, at least, to a large extent. This could facilitate the normalization process underway in Kashmir, and, more widely, allow American encouragement of promote Indo-Pak dialog, without arousing suspicions among officials of either side (the street is a different matter).

The one thing I am concerned about is that Condi is not going to be a very popular over at Foggy Bottom. And I do not want any intra-State Dept rivalries, and hostilities, affecting the approach to India by people down the line in the State Dept.

 
The Law Minister of The Netherlands has floated the idea of reinstating a 1930s Blasphemy Law to calm down tensions between the Dutch mainstream, and the Islamic extremists, following the killing of Director Theo van Gogh.


Reinstating the law will set a bad precedent and further encourage terrorists in using terror tactics to achieve their goals.

 
Kanchi Acharya Case - Is the Shankaracharya Isolated?

Interestingly this has exactly been my thought over the past week or so on observing the rediff.com message boards, especially the one entitled "Will they arrest the Pope like this?". No reader opinions/thoughts on any of the news items related to arrest!

The above cited link asks about what happened to the Acharya's high profile devotees? I am surprised that the writer is surprised that the mutt devotees, mostly brahmins, are not raising flags of protests. That is something I expected given the specific brahmin pscyhe of not vehemently opposing injustices bestowed upon themselves and the general hindu mentality of putting up with injustices as an entire community. I respectfully and totally disagree with Mr. Narayanan. head honcho of Tambras who opines thus - "If we protest, you will say Brahmins are taking the law into their hands, you will say Hindus are taking the law into their hands. But the truth is, we are shocked and disturbed.". There are many ways of displaying solidarity with the head of the Mutt that they say they adore and respect. They can take a silent protest, conduct a candlelight vigil outside the mutt, all with official police approval. Yes, they will be elements from DK and DMK trying to do what they are best at - taunting brahmins. But they are best ignored.

(The injustice in this instance is the method adopted by the police in arresting the seer as if he were a common criminal and not the very precept that he is a suspect in the murder of the temple employee)

 
Shame!

The Law Minister of The Netherlands has floated the idea of reinstating a 1930s Blasphemy Law to calm down tensions between the Dutch mainstream, and the Islamic extremists, following the killing of Director Theo van Gogh.

It is shameful that a country like Holland should grovel before the terrorists who are trying to cow every nation in Europe into surrendering their liberalism.

Liberalism does NOT mean cowardliness. Neither does pacifism. It takes a lot of courage to say that you are secure enough in your beliefs that you do not feel threatened by what another person believes. That is the core idea of Liberalism - not having no belief at all. Many people, seem to have gotten this wrong.

By bending over, Holland is only showing just how mellow, and utterly pointless, her state has become. On the other hand, France, as objectionable as their scarf-ban is, have absolutely refused to reconsider it, even in the face of abduction of its citizens in Iraq (It is another thing that the ban has nothing to do with Liberalism). Show some nerve Europe.

Thursday, November 18, 2004
 
Kanchi Acharya Case - PDF of Affidavits
Affidavit filed by ASP Kanchi and Chief Investigation office regarding the rejoinder by the Acharya and his team to the arrest.. Interesting read.

And a news clipping about the supposed videographing of the arrest itself, which the affidavit by the ASP states
Video clippings screened in High Court (the site painfully slow, so I have pasted the item below)

CHENNAI: Video clippings pertaining to the arrest of Kanchi Acharya Jayendra Saraswathi at Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh on November 11 were screened before Justice R Balasubramanian on Thursday.The prosecution screened the clippings to prove its case that the grounds of arrest were informed to the pontiff and that the Supreme Court guidelines in D K Basu case were scrupulously followed while effecting the arrest.Though the CD contained scenes starting from the arrest till boarding an aircraft at Hyderabad, it was played just for 10 minutes.The clippings depicted the police officials explaining the grounds of arrest to the pontiff and an angry Acharya putting several questions to them.The Acharya was heard asking the police ``I want the assistance of an advocate.'' ``Was the Chief Minister apprised of the arrest.''The screening was done despite objections raised by petitioner's senior counsel Ram Jethmalani. At one stage he told the court that he would withdraw the allegation that the Acharya was not informed about the grounds of arrest.Earlier, prosecution's senior counsel K T S Tulsi told the judge that the video clippings would depict a person, who arranged a helicopter allegedly to transport the Acharya to Nepal. It would also show the Acharya handling a cell phone with a recharger, refusing to affix his signature on some documents and telling the police that the deceased Sankararaman gave so much trouble and it caused damage to his prestige and the junior pontiff Vijayendra.Tulsi also claimed that the clippings showed a person going behind the Acharya and saying that if the pontiff had fled the place, he could have avoided the arrest.


 
Guide To Recovery 11/10/04
Ultra cool guide to recovery for Depressed Dems. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

 
CNN.com - Getting the Bible back to its roots - Nov 18, 2004
Wow, this has got to be interesting... Especially, given the fact that revisionism in this sense is not trying to read old text in modern light (which could lead to some serious paradoxes), it is trying to bring more fidelity to the original, and also trying to restore the spirit and power of the poetry.

I will look forward to reading this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
 
NDTV.com - Speculations rife over math's finances
If anyone ever had any doubts why there is something called Religious Liberty, it is here.
The more the government is digging into this, the more I become suspicious that something wrong is going on. I do not generally credit conspiracy theories, but there seems to be more than what meets the eye in this case.
I hope the Mutt survives this. And I hope India wakes up one day, and throws out the old "Government is Everything" norm that is ultimately at the core of its corrupt political system.

 
'Drunken' cops kill woman; family's outing turns into nightmare - Newindpress.com
What a horrible, horrible thing to happen...

 
Faith Freedom International :: View topic - Open letter by a terrorist
I tried reading this.... but found it just too twisted, and rambling, and, many times, absurd. All I could say is that this is not the work of a serene mind (or soul) that has peace in it.

Monday, November 15, 2004
 
Seer switches to prison food; sugar, BP levels normal - Newindpress.com
It is sad indeed. But I sincerely appreciate the fact that the Acharya is not trying to take special priveleges, and he is eating the common prison food. Many Brahmins would find it hurtful. But no, it should be remembered that this would be seen as the strongest statement (if and) when is acquitted - that even the symbol of Tamil Brahmin culture does not see himself as being above the law.

 
Muslim clerics rise to seer's defence, want him freed - Newindpress.com
If ever there were a silver lining to the dark clouds, I would say this is it. Despite Imam Bukhari's involvement.

 
Kanchi Mutt Crisis and Anti-Brahmin politics

I had worried on this blog about the potential of the Kanchi Mutt crisis leading to a fresh bout of anti-Brahmin politics in Tamil Nadu. Some friends of mine were not ready to agree.

But now, my father reports that posters are coming up in Chennai demanding that the "Brahmin-elitist Sankara Mutt" be closed, and "the Shankaracharya be hanged."

Want to believe that was an act of some fringe elements? Sample this: Karunanidhi, an avowed atheist, now wants some boy in Coimbatore who is claiming to have some mystical powers appointed to the Kanchi Mutt Pontifficate. It is a clear provocation - he knows well that the Mutt will not accept a non-Brahmin head.

Well, I am bracing up. And crossing my fingers.

Sunday, November 14, 2004
 
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Arafat Voids
Oh, the other thing that stands out in this Op-ed is this:
Ariel Sharon seems to have already started to learn some of the lessons of Arafat's life. Mr. Sharon was asked recently what made him change his mind, and risk his own life and political career, to undertake a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza after so many years opposing such a move. His answer: There were things he could see "from here" that he couldn't see "from there..... "Sharon has started to give up his popularity among his own constituency, because he realizes that the welfare of the Israeli people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable," said the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi."
If only Sharon's pal, one President Bush of the USA would take a lesson from him on how to strive to leave a positive legacy for his people.

In all the talk about culture wars and red-blue Americas, there is one fact that is rarely discussed. It is that the one person who has that rare opportunity that a poltician gets only due providence, to become a statesman, is President George W. Bush. As much as I don't believe that Bush will grab this opportunity to build bridges between the warring sides, to build better understanding of Red America in the blue states, and Blue America in the red states, I do think the opportunity is still there, if not more ripe, after the elections.

President Bush could, at once, push the conservative agenda, and promote such understanding by embracing traditionally conservative ideas such Federalism.

While he discusses the danger of "activist judges" discovering new rights in the Constitution, he never talks about doing it politically. Why, for example, is the President not coming out against, say, "a nation-wide imposition of same-sex marriage," and complementing it with support for, say, California-style civil unions in the states where people have approved it by ballot measures or their Legislature?

Would such an argument not gather a lot more moderate support, and build a way to promote a dialog among the two warring sides of this culture war? At the same time, what is not conservative about that agenda?

As far as I can say, the person who was snubbed the most by Election 2004 was President Bush. He won 51% of the vote - considered the bare minimum to get a mandate. It might be good for a challenger, but not for the incumbent. It is, in essence, the worst case scenario when we discuss majority rule: where 51% rules over 49%, who virulently despise the majority.

Notice that I used strong adjectives in the past statement, and yet, this statement does not meet with a big opposition in most circles today - it is almost accepted fact that the Blue and Red Americas hate each other. And, Bush is not seen as the figure who bridges them - not even as an Ambassador of Red states to the United States. He is seen as the General - the Chief Commander of the Red Forces.

That, is what he has to change - if he wants to leave a positive legacy.


 
The New York Times > Opinion > Thomas Friedman: The Arafat Voids
Friedman get it - a more eloquent version of the obituary I wrote for Yasir Arafat.

Saturday, November 13, 2004
 
Ready Reference of Terms

It occurred to me that not all might be familiar with the terms I use in my posts about the Kanchi Shankaracharya's arrest. So, here is a ready reference:

1. Shankaracharya: the holder of one of the seats of authority in Hindu thought that was established by Sri Shankara (ca 788-820 CE), to propagate the Advaita school of thought. Each seat is at the head of a seminary/monastery.
2. Mutt (or Math): A seminary/monastery under the guidance of a Math-acharya (teacher). Shankaracharyas are the Math-acharyas of the Shankara Mutts. Math also means a school of thought.
3. Peetham: Literally, a peak. The highest seat of learning.
4. Acharya: Teacher.
5. Paramacharya: Great Teacher (used by many to refer to Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, the late head of the Kanchi Mutt).
6. Periyavaa: The Great Person (in Tamil language). Commonly used by Tamil Brahmins to denote the head of the Kanchi Mutt.

 
A Mutt in Crisis - the Background

Late Sri.Sankararaman was not the only one to object to the new direction Sri Jayendra Saraswati was taking the Mutt in. The reason is that Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati (aka The Paramacharya), the much-revered late predecessor of Sri Jayendrar was steadfastly orthodox. The current head, though, is a hardcore activist.

While Paramacharya generally limited his activism to expressing his views in lectures and discourses, Sri Jayendrar has launched initiatives that far outreach what was seen as the traditional boundaries of the Mutt that guaranteed its sanctity. Examples of these abound. The Go Samrakshna (Cow Protection) movement, Ayodhya, the inclusion of non-Brahmins in Veda schools of the Peetham etc. Some of these made the old time associates of the Paramacharya very uncomfortable. A commonly heard whisper among the Tamil Brahmins (the so-called TamBrams) is that Sri Jayendrar was "politicizing" the Mutt.

It is said that the change of course came about after Sri Jayendrar disappeared in 1987 during the Chaturmasya period, when ascetics are forbidden from moving from their place of residence. After a few days of worried search by everybody that is anybody in Indian law enforcement agencies, he was discovered in a remote location called Talakaveri. It is alleged that it was his rebellion against the old-guard headed by none other than Paramacharya. After his return to Kanchi from that exile, he got involved ib social activism - like reaching out to non-Brahmins, especially Dalits, setting up of an engineering college (full disclosure: I am a product of that college - Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering), the setting up of the Kanchi University etc.

All the while, the old-guard was silently worried about the changes. Some could never reconcile with a Shankaracharya getting involved in setting up a tech city that runs on wind-generated power. Along with the dread of this modernization of the Mutt, there is also a fear, shared by a minority in the old guard itself, that the Mutt has not been, well, straight with accounting practices. There were some whispers that Paramacharya was not happy with the pomp with which his centenary celebrations were held, complete with him being worshipped with 100 gold coins.

In spite of all this, Sri Jayendrar has held the respect, however grudging, of most followers of the Kanchi Mutt. Most of those people who are begrudging are happier with the junior Shankaracharya, annointed the successor to Sri Jayendrar, Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati, who is seen as being closer to the Paramacharya mould.

This, then, is the background of the travails of this Mutt. The results of this murder case against Sri Jayendrar is going to be very crucial to the future of this Mutt, especially since, from the reports that have come out about the victim, it is clear he was an old-guard member.

Watch this space for more information as we go forward.

 
Who was Sankararaman?
A moving portrait of the victim and his family. Our prayers for his family.

Friday, November 12, 2004
 
Hispanic Justice on the Court?

I do know that just because Gonzalez is not going to make it to the court, no Hispanic is gonna. I have one nominee in mind already - Justice Emilio Garza of the Fifth ciruit. If there were some betting on it, I would bet $0.02 on him.
Garza is from San Antonio, Texas, and is reliably conservative, and not very controversial - as in, he does not brandish his conservatism in public too much. He is relatively young at 56.

 
Chief Justice Thomas

The new Republicans like making political statements with Judicial appointments. Reagan made one by promising, and then appointing, a woman Justice to the Supreme Court (Justice Sandra Day O'Connor). George H.W. Bush did so by elevating to the Court an African American (Justice Clarence Thomas really is one).

So, what's Dubya going to do, now that it's not going to be a Hispanic on the court? I bet it's going to be an African American Chief Justice. Adn who better than Thomas for that?

The only thing that could possibly go against him? Well, he is considered a clone of Scalia - and we all know how that word figures with conservatives ;).

 
Justice Gonzalez?

Jack Balkin is right when he says that Gonzalez appointment as AG either means I do not think Bush intends to raise him to the Supreme Court, or this is a consolation prize.

Personally, I think Gonzalez is not going to make it to the SC. Why? Let's go over what could be the logic in raising him to AG post before making him a Associate Justice. If the Senate votes to confirm him now, it would be difficult for the same Senate to vote him down 6 months, or an year, from now. So, before November 2, when the Senate was split in half, it made sense for Bush to try a 1-2 punch on Senate Democrats to preclude a Senate filibuster.

But Nov 2 changed all that. With 55 members, a much more confident administration can be relied on to ride a rough shod over the moderate Republican (or, as they see it, weenie GOPers) like Chafee, Collins, and Snowe and nuke its way to getting a confirmation. Just ask ol' Arlen Specter. There is no need to use such stealth now.

I agree with Ryan Lizza - the conservatives have shot down Gonzalez for his slightly out of the orthodox line on an abortion case in Texas. Oh, about the Cato Institute - they can go shoot themselves. They have real big problems coming to them if they think Gonzalez is not strong on Civil Liberties.


 
Hitherto and beyond - I

The first question is, why exactly we need this exercise. Are the Democrats down, and out? Have they been trounced so much that nothing less than a Goldwater-esque change in philosophy, and audience would turn things around for them? Has this been a defeat for everything that Democratic party stands for? Have the people judged the party as being out of touch with reality?

The short, and precise, answer for those questions would be, "No." As much as the Republicans and conservatives would want to trumpet the mandate, it was, at best, a slim one. Sure, Bush did get more votes than any Presidential candidate in history. But then, Kerry got more votes than any Presidential candidates - including the winners - in history, except George W. Bush of 2004. Had 75,000 voters chosen Kerry instead of Bush, we would be talking about the Kerry cabinet now.

And as much as the Republican support has solidified in the red states, the Democrat support has solidified in blue states. A good illustration of this are the states that were considered vulnerable blues this time - Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota - all of them had Kerry winning Bush by bigger margins than did Gore in 2000 - and Kerry was running against a sitting "war-time" President.

The real reason why we need to take a hard look at where Democrats are (possibly) wrong can be summed up by two facts about the results of Election 2004:
1. The turnout touched a record high, with people being highly energized, and there is a realistic doubt as to whether it could ever touch this fervor again any time soon.
2. The red-blue map of the US of A looks exactly as it did four years back - with the minor exceptions of New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico, which were close even in 2000.

What these two mean together is that the parties have reached a sort of saturation point - they cannot do much beyond these. That is why there is no recrimination of Kerry, beyond the expected jeremiad that he was such a bore. No one is really able to convincingly argue that he screwed up.

And under these circumstances, the Republicans have narrowly taken all three branches of the government. If this settles into a status quo, democrats will be relegated to the status of a permanent opposition party. And remember, it is the Democrat voter base this year that is widely seen as the more vulnerable - because of the presence of a high number of moderates in their midst. Moderates tend to be less enthusiastic than the base in turning up at the booths - they do not mind either one (except if they are faced with "four more years" of Bush) very much anyway. So, even if this does not settle into a status quo, there is a bigger threat of the Democrats losing than the Republicans losing.

Now, that, is a long term problem we need to analyze.

 
'Police must have acted on evidence'
Cho, as is mostly the case, has a point here. As I said earlier, there is no way this arrest could have come but for a personal go ahead from JJ. And there is no way in the world she would have taken this lightly. I could only pray for the Mutt and the people connected with it.
There is one political consequence that Cho has not considered - Brahmins will be vilified afresh in T.N politics, where they have been the perennial whipping boy. Hope I am wrong on that prediction.

 
Even for a regular...

I am a regular when it comes to listening to NPR. But today, they have been streaming the BBC news of Arafat's funeral.... oh God! I could not take their weeping and wailing anymore and had to turn it off. I mean, seriously, the guy was a murderer. And to the end, he did not do much to make amends for his past deeds. Sure, there are millions who love him, admire him. But then, I could show you millions who admired and loved any villain you may care to choose in history. Hitler, Stalin, OBL, Idi Amin.... which one of these would you weep over? And yet, they were all great leaders for their own crowds.

If this is what is Western liberalism, and the alternative is Bush Nation, God save us All!

Thursday, November 11, 2004
 
Flash News

The Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Mutt has been arrested by the Tamil Nadu Police. He is suspected of being involved in a murder case. Facts of the case are not clear as yet.

There is politics written all over the case - DMK was demanding that AIADMK act against the Acharya, and now, it looks like the govt did.

Two possibilities exist -
1. The Acharya is not involved in the case, but the DMK has acted in haste. If this were true, once the case is debunked, Jayalalithaa will go to town calling DMK anti-Hindu and what not, and soon, you will find another Hindutva wave from AIADMK. If you think TN is somehow immune to Hindutva fervor, look at the results of the 1998 Lok Sabha elections that followed the riots and bomb blasts in Coimbatore.
2. If the Acharya is really involved (I pray this is not the case) - to whatever extent - the Mutt will be in for it.

This is a nightmare for me personally, as some one involved in past with the Mutt and the Acharya.

 
A Wasted Life

Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman, and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat, has died.

It is an end to a very colorful, and active life. But, truth be told, his legacy will not be seen, decades from now, as a positive one, that of a struggle to liberate his people, that of straining to uplift them. It will be seen as a chequered one - it will always be marred with the charges that he was just a merciless terrorist leader, who, in the end, did not do all that he did for the sake of his people, but for his own good. For, he does not leave behind a Palestine that could proudly talk about its struggle for liberation, that could look forward to a brighter future, free from the clutches of another nation. He rather leaves behind a society tattered by internal strife, where every leader is, following the Father of the Nation, afraid that any compromise he might make would lead to his death.

Contrast that with the former partners of Arafat in the peace negotiations - be it Rabin, Perez or Barak - they all put their lives on the line too (and Rabin actually did lose his). They showed that courage is needed to lead a country from darkness to hope. Their nation had much to lose in terms of territory, and all that accompanies a partition of the land you have come to consider your country. Arafat's nation had much to gain - the birth of a country that is her own was on cards. But he threw it all away because he was afraid they would dump him if he were to make any compromise or even call a truce.

What courage he showed in fighting the Israelis, he could not show in leading his own people in their destiny. These last years, when he could have done much to put the bloody mess that Palestine today is, he was busy clinging on to power. He was not willing to let other leaders on his side like Abu Mazen or Ahmed Qurei do what should really have been his work.

His shameful lack of courage in this last decade of his life will always mar all the courage he showed when he challenged everyone from that podium of the United Nations. History will never believe that was real bravery.

Monday, November 08, 2004
 
Hitherto and Beyond

In a series of posts under this title, I am going to flush out some ideas on why it is important that the Democrats go soul-searching, changing the way they think, and converse, and reach out.
Needless to say, as everything on the blog, these are my opinions and ideas. I will greatly welcome (much more than any time before) inputs, criticisms of these.

 
What Massive Mandate?

I tell you - Democrats suck at rebutting the Republican exaggeration and brouhaha. One sample - how many times, in the past few days have you heard this factoid, that Bush has got more votes than any Presidential candidate in the past? Now to the other side of the coin. Kerry got more votes than any Presidential candidate - winner or losers - than any in the past. Question now - WHY THE HECK ARE DEMS NOT GOING TO TOWN WITH THIS?!

Saturday, November 06, 2004
 
CNN.com - White House security official to resign - Nov 6, 2004
Oops.... turns out the grapevine was very wrong! :(

 
CNN.com - White House security official to resign - Nov 6, 2004
Oops.... turns out the grapevine was very wrong! :(

 
The Republic of Cascadia
Hmmm.... I could have supported the Free Cascadia cause - but they want me to buy Windows!!! May be, some are better off being occupied. ;-)


 
Grapevine has it that....

... Robert Blackwill, former U.S. Ambassador to India and a thick friend of India, is on the short list for the post of National Security Advisor in the second Bush admn, with Condi moving to the State Dept, replacing Gen. Powell. That ought to be good for India, and might herald higher level of attention on South Asia - esp Pakistan in the DC.

 
JerseyGOP.com
And now I know how Bush managed to lead Kerry in a couple of polls late in the campaign.

PS: BTW, how does the GOP square this with its culture-kampf?

Thursday, November 04, 2004
 
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: The Dangers of Lopsidedness - Bill Safire
Goodness! I could almost feel myself wanting to lean on Safire's comforting shoulders for solace.
Yes, he has a great many wise words to say in today's column. It will be good for Bush administration to take heed. And it will do America a world of good.

 
Two articles today touched on the real crux:

Tom Friedman says:

My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not
their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way
in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and
intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that
Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.

"The Democrats have ceded to Republicans a monopoly on the moral and
spiritual sources of American politics," noted the Harvard University political
theorist Michael J. Sandel. "They will not recover as a party until they again
have candidates who can speak to those moral and spiritual yearnings - but turn
them to progressive purposes in domestic policy and foreign affairs."

And another one by ghost-writer "Spengler": Its the culture, stupid. Quote:
What brought 4 million more evangelical voters to the polling stations than
in the previous presidential election? The US evangelical movement is not by
nature political. Families join evangelical churches as a refuge against the
septic tide of popular culture that threatens to carry away their children.
Evangelical concerns center on family issues, child-rearing and personal values
rather than national or global politics.
[...]
It is the hard, grinding reality of American life in the liberal dystopia
that makes the "moral issues" so important to voters. Partial-birth abortion and
same-sex marriage became critical issues not because evangelical voters are
bigots. On the contrary, parents become evangelicals precisely in order to draw
a line between their families and the adversary culture. This far, and no more,
a majority of Americans said on November 2 on the subject of social
experimentation.


Having mingled with various church groups over the past year, I can testify to this. The pattern is visible to the casual observer.


 
CNN.com - Elizabeth Edwards diagnosed with breast cancer - Nov 4, 2004
Bad news do not come alone... Our prayers for the Edwards family, which has been through a lot of misfortune already.

 
MSNBC - Key GOP senator warns Bush on abortion
The Republican Civil War starts. You might remember that I had expressed hope that Specter would win the PA race. When the race seemed tight when the results started pouring in, I was very concerned. Thank Goodness, he won.

The other people to watch out for - Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla), Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

All of them are from the new Democratic strongholds - mostly New England. Problem? They might be a dying breed. That is why people interested in fairness should root for them.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
 
Blame the Electoral College - Kerry will lose, but he shouldn't be asked to quit before the game is over. By Chris Suellentrop
Chris Suellentrop agrees with me on whether Kerry is hanging on to what is really an anachronistic system that has its origins in slavery. That should be a shame for a Democrat or a Republican. Again, I think he should concede.

 
A Concession is in order

Well.... Ohio still hangs in balance. But I think Kerry should take the high road now, and concede - and pointedly mention the fact that he won less popular votes than the President - a fact that can never be changed - even if he wins Ohio. That would show statesmanship.

I was devastated to note that inspite of all that has happened in (and to) this country, the red-blue map has hardly changed (may be counties changed?). I am beginning to be truly worried about the future of this nation. I think this freeze in electoral prospects shows a kind of insularity in the electorate that could be a real threat to the domocratic system.

More thoughts on the future soon.....

Monday, November 01, 2004
 
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Osama Casts His Vote
Nice try, Safire... He has been going from tenuous arguments to desperate spin. OBL did say that he would not attack countries that do not attack "us." But, seen in context, the "us" is not Al Qaeda, but Muslim nations - and that is consistent with his earlier statements.
Safire has become so shameless in his spin that he completely ignores rabid statements by bin Laden to teh effect that no one - not Bush, not Kerry - could save Americans.
And then there is this allegation against El Baradei.... oh well......


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