Just a Question

Friday, July 27, 2007

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So, while they're changing the battery in Cheney's heart, and he's under sedation, does Bush become the acting President?

Cult Purge Announced at Daily Kos

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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I have, on more than one occasion, compared Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos with that other power-mad autocrat George W. Bush. Some may quibble with that analysis, but I think it gets a little harder when Markos apes the President so nakedly. Without a trace of irony, Markos has pronounced -- and I'm not making this up -- that members of Daily Kos are "With us or against us."

There has lately been an alarming rise in diaries and comments that seek to impugn (without evidence) the motives of those they disagree with on various issues.

Yes, there's the impeachment stuff, but this nasty rhetoric is also rampant in the primary war diaries.

This points to a serious breakdown not just on civility, but in the ability of people to properly debate various issues. As such, it presents a serious threat to the integrity of this site.

I much prefer it when the community moderates itself, and for the most part it does a good job of this. The libertarian in me prefers it that way. But sometimes, self-moderation isn't enough. I'll act swiftly and mercilessly when I'm pushed into defending the effectiveness of this site. And at this moment, my patience is wearing thin.

It goes on like that for a few more paragraphs; veiled threats of banishment for vaguely defined transgressions. I think it's safe to assume many kossacks will be branded unmutual in the coming days and weeks. And with over 1200 comments from the hallelujah chorus, I think it's safe to say Markos will be able to count on that cyber torch and pitch fork wielding mob to do a lot of the dirty work.

Huzzah for the Blog Keeper!(53+ / 0-)
Recommended by:
Kestrel, pb, StevenJoseph, DFWmom, RubDMC, elveta, sarahnity, als10, L0kI, celticshel, dejavu, aggressiveprogressive, lcrp, JohnGor0, randallt, eztempo, murrayewv, Thirsty, vcmvo2, historys mysteries, 3goldens, el dorado gal, Elise, deepfish, LithiumCola, pmob5977, ohcanada, MadGeorgiaDem, buddabelly, BachFan, Lashe, SaraPMcC, JVolvo, Dauphin, ER Doc, edgery, MBNYC, droogie6655321, va dare, RantNRaven, FrankieB, GoldnI, godislove, Jimdotz, Nordic Kossor, lizpolaris, Pink Lady, dragoneyes, smartdemmg, TokenLiberal, NogodsnomastersMary, mommaK, Tropical Depression

(It's fun talking like this.)

by Bush Bites on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 10:39:26 AM PDT

You can't make this shit up, folks!

It's a predictable pattern in organized groups as they devolve into insular cults. Leaders always think, if I can just get rid of this undesirable personality, the dynamics will right themselves. Then another. Then another. For a while it all seems harmonious again, until the next personality conflict arises, or the next uncomfortable discussion occurs, or someone has the temerity to question the leadership. So you get rid of more troublemakers and things seem to smooth over for a little while, until another fight breaks out; until the atmosphere is more toxic than it ever was... Before you know it, you're chasing ants with flame throwers in a vain and endless attempt to purge the group of those nasty, negative influences that seem to creep in from every nook and cranny. Or you could just buy a mirror.

Mirror, Carved and Gilded Adirondack

Jim Webb: Now THAT'S Support for the Troops

Monday, July 16, 2007

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I am loving Jim Webb, at this moment, for saying on "Meet the Press" what I have been saying for years; that Republicans need to stop using the troops as political cover and putting words in the mouths of the voiceless. Voiceless because members of the military are bound by the UCMJ not to align themselves publicly with any political cause. Yet, the Bush Administration, at every turn, uses them as props to dress a set and exploits their deaths to justify killing more of them.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for providing this partial transcript of Webb's stand-off with Lindsey Graham:

Graham: “The surge has been in place for two weeks” Webb: “we didn’t
do that in two weeks”

Webb: “It’s been a hard month Lindsey, hasn’t it?”

Webb: “Lindsey’s had a hard month. These people who have gathered around the President, you know, on the immigration bill and this bill, I know it’s been tough. We gotta bring people together …”

Webb: “We’re now in a situation where the soldiers and the Marines are having less than a one to one ratio [time at home versus time at war], and somebody needs to speak up for them instead of simply defending what this President …”

Graham: “Well, they reenlist in the highest numbers anywhere than the…”

Webb: “This one thing I really take objection to is politicians …”

Lindsey keeps interrupting

Webb: “May I speak? … Is politicians who put their political views in the mouths of soldiers. You can look at poll after poll and the political views of the United States military are no different than the country writ large. Go take a look at the New York Times today. Less than half of the military believes that we should have been in Iraq in the first place.

Graham: “Have you ever been to Iraq? Have you ever been?”

Webb: “Have you ever been to these … I’ve covered two wars as a correspondent.”

Graham: “Have you been to Iraq and talked to the soldiers?”

[Curmudgette's note to Lindsey Graham: Jim Webb's own son served in Iraq as a US Marine!! Do you think he might have a little insight into what his own son and other grunts are facing over there?]

Webb: “You know, you haven’t been to Iraq Lindsey. (cross-talk). You go see the dog and pony show. That’s what Congressman do.

cross talk

Webb: “I’ve been a member of the military more than the Senators been a Senator.”

Webb: “35% of the United States military agrees with the policy of this President.

Graham: “Well, why do they keep reenlisting? Why do they go back?”

Webb: “Because they love their country. (cross-talk) They do not do it for political reasons. Believe me, my family’s been doing this since the Revolutionary War.”

Graham: “Yea? Well so has my family.”

Webb: “They do it because they love their country. They do it because they have a tradition, and it is the responsibility of our national leaders so make sure that they are used properly.” [Emphases mine]

Boatload of Bigots

Sunday, July 15, 2007

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Hat-tip to Booman for this frightening look into the soul of American conservatism. Journalist Johann Hari joined readers of The National Review for an ocean cruise and provides a fly-on-the-wall view of arch-conservatives in their natural habitat; an insular lily-white world of affluent comfort. There, he was treated to unvarnished views about how Muslims are taking over Europe and how white people need to stop navel-gazing and breed more:

A sweet elderly lady from Los Angeles is sitting on the rocks nearby, telling me dreamily about her son. "Is he your only child?" I ask. "Yes," she says. "Do you have a child back in England?" she asks. No, I say. Her face darkens. "You'd better start," she says. "The Muslims are breeding. Soon, they'll have the whole of Europe."

That liberals should be executed for treason:

" Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

That the UN should be blown up:

To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. "You must live near the UN building," the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. "They should suicide-bomb that place," he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?

And that the magazine's founder, William F. Buckley is a senile, old man:

"Aren't you embarrassed by the absence of these weapons?" Buckley snaps at Podhoretz. He has just explained that he supported the war reluctantly, because Dick Cheney convinced him Saddam Hussein had WMD primed to be fired. "No," Podhoretz replies. "As I say, they were shipped to Syria. During Gulf War I, the entire Iraqi air force was hidden in the deserts in Iran." He says he is "heartbroken" by this " rise of defeatism on the right." He adds, apropos of nothing, "There was nobody better than Don Rumsfeld. This defeatist talk only contributes to the impression we are losing, when I think we're winning." The audience cheers Podhoretz. The nuanced doubts of Bill Buckley leave them confused. Doesn't he sound like the liberal media? Later, over dinner, a tablemate from Denver calls Buckley "a coward". His wife nods and says, " Buckley's an old man," tapping her head with her finger to suggest dementia.

It's like he's wandered into the land of neo-conservative Sidthe; a separate reality of alternate timelines, and histories, where Iraq is a success, and the KKK are equal rights advocates. That last bizarre distortion has the benefit of being espoused by the sole African-American on this fantastic voyage.

Ward Connerly is the only black person in the National Review posse, a 67-year-old Louisiana-born businessman, best known for leading conservative campaigns against affirmative action for black people. Earlier, I heard him saying the Republican Party has been "too preoccupied with... not ticking off the blacks", and a cooing white couple wandered away smiling, "If he can say it, we can say it." What must it be like to be a black man shilling for a magazine that declared at the height of the civil rights movement that black people "tend to revert to savagery", and should be given the vote only "when they stop eating each other"?

I drag him into the bar, where he declines alcohol. He tells me plainly about his childhood – his mother died when he was four, and he was raised by his grandparents – but he never really becomes animated until I ask him if it is true he once said, "If the KKK supports equal rights, then God bless them." He leans forward, his palms open. There are, he says, " those who condemn the Klan based on their past without seeing the human side of it, because they don't want to be in the wrong, politically correct camp, you know... Members of the Ku Klux Klan are human beings, American citizens – they go to a place to eat, nobody asks them 'Are you a Klansmember?', before we serve you here. They go to buy groceries, nobody asks, 'Are you a Klansmember?' They go to vote for Governor, nobody asks 'Do you know that that person is a Klansmember?' Only in the context of race do they ask that. And I'm supposed to instantly say, 'Oh my God, they are Klansmen? Geez, I don't want their support.'"

The interview with Ward Connerly is easily the most entertaining exchange in this excellent article. He channels the down-trodden white man and berates Katrina victims for their dysfunction. Think "Boondock's" Uncle Ruckus, only a little more cleaned up for his trip through white heaven.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Dennis Kucinich has accused Hillary Clinton and John Edwards of attempting to rig the election. It appears they are definitely attempting to rig the debate process and attrit their competition.

Representative Dennis J. Kucinich accused two of the major contenders for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards, of participating in a “conspiracy to rig the presidential election,” after they apparently suggested that future presidential debates should be pared down to include fewer candidates.

At the end of a forum with the eight Democratic presidential contenders in Detroit on Thursday, Mr. Edwards walked up to Mrs. Clinton, leaned toward her and said: “We should try to have a more serious … smaller group.”

“We’ve got to cut the number…” Mrs. Clinton responded. “I think there was an effort by our campaigns to do that … it got somehow detoured. We’ve got to get back to it,” and added, “our guys should talk.”

Edwards has confirmed the story, but says he doesn't want to eliminate candidates, just break them into smaller groups. But get a load of Hillary's official response:

Mrs. Clinton, who was campaigning in New Hampshire today, declined to be specific about what she meant by her comments on Thursday.

“I think he has some ideas about what he’d like to do,” she said, referring to Mr. Edwards, according to a dispatch from the Associated Press. A Clinton campaign spokesman said he would not comment on “a private conversation” between the two candidates.

In other words this one will be carried out in back-room negotiations, far from the prying eyes of that pesky electorate. And in public she will pass the buck to Edwards.

This is how Hillary deals with the nuisance of competition and democratic process. She cuts the field, like she did when her Democratic challenger in New York state started nipping at her heals. Let us never forget how her big money donor Time Warner eliminated her opponent John Tassini from their televised debate. Their reason for eliminating the up and comer, who was already at 13% in the polls: Not enough money.

Make no mistake. Hillary is as anti-democracy as our current crop of wheeler-dealers. She's determined to win no matter what minor player she has to cut off at the knees. She has no interest in actually letting the voters choose; not before she's eliminated as many of our choices as possible.

Oh well. As Tom Tancredo has proved, a debate of one can be damned entertaining.

Tom Tancredo Debates Himself
at NAACP Sponsered Event

Terrorist Toddlers and Other Threats to Freedom

Friday, July 13, 2007

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Paul Westerberg - Waitress in the Sky

As a mother who has flown the unfriendly skies, I feel Kate Penland's pain.

An Atlanta woman wants an apology from Continental's Express Jet Airlines for kicking her and her toddler off of the plane -- all because, she said, a flight attendant wanted the woman's son to stop talking.

. . .

"She leaned over the gentleman beside me and, ah, said, 'OK, it's not funny anymore, you need to shut your baby up.' And, you know, my first reaction was she had to be kidding. So, I asked her, you know, 'Are you kidding?' And she said, no, she was tired, she'd been stranded at the airport all day, and she did not want to hear it."

Penland said she replied that Garren would probably be asleep by the time the plane lifted off.

"I said, 'Well, he's been here at the airport for 11 hours, stuck in a stroller, you know, you should be lucky he's not screaming his head off.' And she said, 'Well, it's called Baby Benedryl.' [She made] just a little, you know, drinking motion, and I thought she's got to be kidding me. And I told her, 'I'm not going to drug my baby so that you'll have a pleasant flight.'"

Dissatisfied with Penland's unwillingness to dope up her kid, the flight attendant apparently told the captain she'd been threatened and had the plane turned around and Penland and her talkative 20-month-old removed.

Anyone who has ever flown on a plane with their kids knows it's hard; harder these days than ever. Endless check-in procedures, long lines, and grumpy, underpaid security people nitpicking your personal belongings and taking away your toiletries. Kids don't have the self-control to affect the disdainful but patient expressions of adults. Many of them lose their shit. My own daughter was very good, if impatient, during our last plane trip. That is, until some over-zealous security guard took her most precious stuffed animals away to inspect them. (You never know what might be hidden in a well-chewed and thread-bare stuffed kitty-cat.) Then the woman had the temerity to glare at me like I was a bad parent when my, then, three-year-old had a melt-down.

Traveling with a small child teaches you a very important lesson: A lot of people hate kids.

Bring on the child haters, the airline critics, the lazy parenting theorists! If you think this story sounds like an urban legend designed to foment sippy-cup culture wars, I don't blame you. I too would have found it difficult to swallow had I not experienced a similar treatment on an airline just last month. The details are tedious -- they involve me tapping the flight attendant on the shoulder trying to pass along some trash, him informing me he didn't appreciate "being touched," and me asking why he was being so rude. He then snarled at me: "Your children are totally out of control! If you'd just discipline them, you'd be much better off."

Granted, my kids often give an unfortunate impression given that they both look two years older than they are, but definitely act their age. In public situations, I've been known to whisper, hiss, threaten, cover a screaming mouth, and take away beloved privileges until I'm literally dripping with sweat. But this wasn't one of those occassions. When the flight attendant -- a young man who I assumed had no children -- told me off, both children were sitting absolutely silent, enraptured by a Hello Kitty DVD. Perhaps something had happened while I was in the bathroom and they were with my husband, I'll never know. After the event, I had 20 more hours of traveling to soul-search. Perhaps my children are monsters and I would never really be able to see it. Maybe in the wake of 9/11, flying and the jobs of flight attendants had become too stressful and high anxiety for them to be able to deal with squirmy passengers with squeaky voices or anything out of the ordinary. (Do a search for "kicked off airplane" and you get all sorts of stories about American flights dumping passengers for virtually nothing: a coughing fit, a political T-shirt, for a father asking if a pilot is sober.)

Once we switched flights to Lufthansa and a number of smiling, toy-bearing German flight attendants charmed the socks off my kids, I couldn't help thinking that it wasn't air travel but an American cultural divide about the place of children in society. The recent story about a woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for not covering her toddler's head with a blanket while breast-feeding offers more evidence of some weird attitudes toward children. The experience of Kate Penland vindicates this hunch...

On Why I Hate Reality Shows

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

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So this evening my husband was clicking through channels and happened on some pirogies in preparation. Next thing I know, we're watching "Top Chef." We both hate reality shows, but my husband's love for food trumped that disgust for about twenty minutes; twenty truly awful minutes.

I despise these shows. They make me cringe. If I'm going to watch human drama, I want it well scripted and brilliantly acted. Putting ordinary humans in an electronic petri dish and watching them react to a variety of stimuli is, well, inhuman. It's mean. This may come as a shock to my readers, but I have no meanness in me. I can be a bitch, but I'm not mean. I take no joy the suffering of others; even others I despise. And an unflinching camera lens directed at people's pain, anger, disappointment, and general vulnerability holds absolutely no allure for me. Watching adults struggle not to cry on camera or shift in their shoes looking uncomfortable is not edifying. It's degrading to participant and viewer alike.

But some people must love it. These shows are taking over the airwaves for some reason. As our political system collapses, as our young men and women are being blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans want nothing more than to look at the flop sweat of some young hopeful grabbing 15 minutes of fame. So I ask again, are we Rome? Is this really the bread and circuses of a dying empire?

A few weeks ago, I caught one of my favorite "Star Trek" episodes: "Plato's Stepchildren." I always took the title to refer to the way Rome was a pale, degraded imitation of ancient Greece, because surely the people Kirk and crew encounter are supposed to be Romans. The Platonians are a bunch of ageless telekinetics who get their kicks torturing a dwarf who lacks their superhuman power. But it is the seemingly all powerful, ruling class that is weak. Wholly sedentary because the slightest scratch can kill them, they must live vicariously through the suffering of others. To them, entertainment is forcing the Enterprise crew to put on a live sex and torture show. Like sad marionettes they are forced to dance, sing, and that whiter than white Captain Kirk is forced to kiss Lt. Uhura; the first interracial kiss on television. (So... it was under duress. A small point.) But finally Kirk turns the tables and points out that:

You're half dead, all of you! You've been dead for centuries. We may disappear tomorrow, but at least we're living now, and you can't stand that, can you? You're half crazy because there's nothing inside. Nothing. And you have to torture us to convince yourselves you're superior.

This is what Americans are becoming; cosseted, feeble, and utterly dependent on a decadent and exploitive system. We're apparently so unchallenged internally that we think watching people squirm on camera is high drama. Where's Captain Kirk when you need him?

Brides of Death

Friday, July 06, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

"Sanvean (I Am Your Shadow)" -- Dead Can Dance

"If a woman's husband dies, let her lead a life of chastity, or else mount his pyre"

-- Vishnu Smrti xxv.14

Last month, in the wake of the ghastly stoning death of D'ah Khalil Aswad, My Left Wing's Maryscott O'Connor wrote a passionate indictment of organized religion.

Sure, I hate all organized religions. But I especially loathe those religions that use special modes of dress and behaviour to segregate women from men; in itself, that shouldn't mean much, but invariably when women are especially set apart from men, it is generally with the understanding that it is because women are either inferior or dangerous or "unclean."

Witness the Hindu widows of India.

They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. They are forced to shave their heads and typically wear white. Even their shadows are considered bad luck.

. . .

There are an estimated 40 million widows in India, the least fortunate of them shunned and stripped of the life they lived when they were married.

It's believed that 15,000 widows live on the streets of Vrindavan, a city of about 55,000 in northern India.

This legion of societal outcasts flock to the holy city, Vrindavan, to die. Their hope is to be finally freed from the wheel of karma; from the cycles of life and death.

It is understood that Mathura City is the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna. It is not an ordinary material city, for it is eternally connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vrindavan is within the jurisdiction of Mathura and still continues to exist. Because Mathura and Vrindavan are intimately connected with Krishna eternally, it is said that Lord Krishna never leaves Vrindavan (vrindavanam parityajya padam ekam na gacchati). At present the place known as Vrindavana in the district of Mathura, continues its position as a transcendental place and certainly anyone who goes there becomes transcendentally purified.

"We must understand the transcendental importance of Mathura, Vrindavana and Navadvipa dhamas. Anyone who executes devotional service in these places certainly goes back home, back to Godhead after giving up his body.

In 2000, film-maker Deepa Mehta began production of "Water." The third and final installment of her elements trilogy, it tells of the plight of widows in traditional India.

The backdrop of the film is the rise of Mahatma Gandhi, who not only agitated for India’s independence from Britain but also sought to improve the lot of Hindu widows. Colonies like the one depicted in Water aren’t nearly as prevalent in modern India, but according to Mehta, they do still exist. Through advocacy and activism, however, Hindu widows have become more independent.

“Some of them are becoming aware, slowly, that there is a world outside,” says Mehta, “and realizing that they won’t be rejecting their religion if they step outside the prescribed part. Because religion has nothing to do with it — it’s a misinterpretation of the religion that’s led them there, not the religion itself.”

But, like all religions, much is in the interpretation, and in which of the contradictory texts you keep or reject. We remake our religions constantly in our image; those images shaped largely by the religious beliefs that underly them. Beliefs about the place of widows are so entrenched in Indian culture, that Mehta was unable to shoot the film there. (The movie was finally filmed in 2004 and in the more amenable location of Sri Lanka.) Because of outrage from fundamentalists -- who claimed the film was "anti-Hindu" -- Mehta was threatened and even burned in effigy.

Burning women is another deeply entrenched Indian tradition. An ancient practice called "sati" (or "suttee") calls for widows to be burned on their husbands' funeral pyres. Now illegal, and rarely practiced, it finds its basis -- like the tradition which consigns widows to lives as social outcasts -- in ancient Hindu scripture. While this immolation was supposed to be a voluntary act of self-sacrifice, in practice women were often forced onto the pyres and tied down. In the late 1700s, affluent Brahman Ram Mohan Roy advocated for reform, and achieved a good deal of success. His arguments were theological in nature. In one of his hypothetical dialogs, he argued that, according to scripture, while widows were proscribed from remarriage, the basis for self-immolation was superseded by the admonition for them to become ascetics. In this point-counterpoint exploration he articulates the position of both the "advocate" and the "opponent" of burning living widows to death.

Advocate.—You have made an improper assertion, in alleging that Concremation and Postcremation are forbidden by the Shastrus. Hear what Unggira [Angira—one of the seven rishis or sages of the Hindu tradition] and other saints have said on this subject.

“That woman who, on the death of her husband, ascends the burning pile with him, is exalted to heaven, as equal to Uroondhooti.”

“She who follows her husband to another world, shall dwell in a region of joy for so many years as there are hairs in the human body, or thirty-five millions.”

“As a serpent-catcher forcibly draws a snake from his hole, thus raising her husband by her power, she enjoys delight along with him.”

“The woman who follows her husband expiates the sins of three races; her father’s line, her mother’s line, and the family of him to whom she was given a virgin.”

“There possessing her husband as her chiefest good, herself the best of women, enjoying the highest delights, she partakes of bliss with her husband as long as fourteen Indrus reign.”

“Even though the man had slain a Brahman, or returned evil for good, or killed an intimate friend, the woman expiates those crimes.”

. . .

Concremation and Postcremation being thus established by the words of many sacred lawgivers, how can you say they are forbidden by the Shastrus, and desire to prevent their practice?

Opponent.—All those passages you have quoted are indeed sacred law; and it is clear from those authorities, that if women perform Concremation or Postcremation, they will enjoy heaven for a considerable time. But attend to what Munoo [Manu—mythic lawgiver ca. 200 CE] and others say respecting the duty of widows: “Let her emaciate her body, by living voluntarily on pure flowers, roots, and fruits, but let her not, when her lord is deceased, even pronounce the name of another man.”

“Let her continue till death forgiving all injuries, performing harsh duties, avoiding every sensual pleasure, and cheerfully practising the incomparable rules of virtue which have been followed by such women as were devoted to one only husband.”

Here Munoo directs, that after the death of her husband, the widow should pass her whole life as an ascetic...

I suppose it's arguable that a life shorn of one's hair and begging on the street is better than burning to death, but not by much.

As with all religious prescriptions and proscriptions, it's impossible to separate the ideology from the culture. Like in our own primarily Judeo-Christian culture which fixates on a few obscure references to homosexuality at the expense of the more prevalent message of charity, the emphasis says far more about greater cultural mores than scripture. The plight of the Hindu widows may be justified by scripture, but it has it's roots in economics and plain, old-fashioned misogyny.

The core of the problem lies in what Indian sociologists call patrilocal residence -- the custom of Hindu brides marrying into their husbands' families, largely severing ties with their own. In many cases, especially when widowhood comes early, this leaves a woman dependent on in-laws whose main interest after her husband's death is to rid the family of the burden of supporting her.

. . .

For the younger widows -- some barely teen-agers despite laws that forbid child marriages -- there is the additional threat of being forced into sex with landlords, rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers, policemen, even Hindu holy men.

This, too, has historically been part of the widows' lot. The tradition of widows being forced to have sex with other men in their husbands' families, or to sell sex, was once so widespread that the Hindi word "randi," or widow, became a synonym for prostitute.

. . .

Since independence, Indian governments have revised inheritance laws to entrench widows' rights to a share of their husbands' property, and legislated for pensions. But more often than not, laws are circumvented. One study found that inheritance laws often served to entrap women. Their husbands' families, intent on preventing division of land and homes, frequently forced them to remarry back into the family.

The old customs mean that many Hindu girls are twice blighted. Parents eager to unburden themselves of a daughter arrange a childhood marriage, and widowhood leaves the woman unwanted again.

"The widow is more inauspicious than all other inauspicious things. At the sight of a widow, no success can be had in any undertaking; excepting one's mother, all widows are void of auspiciousness. A wise man should avoid even her blessings like the poison of a snake."

-- Skanda Purana

On Declaring Independence

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

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Declaration of Independence

I heard on the news that James Earl Jones, he of the sonorous voice and remarkable presence, would be reading the Declaration of Independence today in the City of Brotherly Love. It is a fitting way to celebrate this, our historical day of independence. I can't be there, but it occurred to me that a review of that text was in order. To celebrate the Fourth of July, I've decided to reprint the entire text. I've bolded some portions, because they just kind of jumped out at me.


The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clar

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776

So, have I missed anything?

He's the Decider, See?

Monday, July 02, 2007

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Gee. I never saw this coming.

President Bush, once again throwing the rule of law out in the trash to cater to his rabid base, has commuted Scooter Libby’s prison sentence. Both MSNBC and CNN are reporting this.

. . .

That George Bush commuted Libby’s sentence just as he returned from a trip to his father’s family compound in Maine, ran into the White House away from the press and refused to answer any questions about his own involvement in the case, his own interview with Patrick Fitzgerald and federal investigators, and any remaining questions that still hang out there about the cloud over Dick Cheney underscores the craven and disrespectful conduct of the Bush Administration from start to finish...