Category Archives: Current News
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 1 on 3/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 4,079 on 4/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 63,006 on 5/1/2020
United States Death toll due to COVID-19, 100,000 on 5/26/2020 and counting..
We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a cold virus gone viral. The death toll due to Covid-19 is rising everyday. May isn’t even over and we have already crossed 100,000 deaths in the United States alone.
The virus has bought the whole world to it knees. Almost no one alive today has seen an epidemic on this scale. So paranoia is running amok even among people who should know better. The closest parallel is the Spanish Flu that swept the globe almost a hundred years ago. First it was China and then it was Italy and now we are at the eye of this storm. So far our response has been anything but surefooted. States are scrambling to get medical supplies while the federal response has been halting and inadequate to combat the scale of the unfolding disaster. A microscopic virus invisible to the naked eye has brought the behemoth of the global economy to a complete standstill.
But was this inevitable? The federal response to the pandemic has been guided more by wishful thinking and posturing than by hard scientific data. What explains all the missteps and the fits and starts to combat this pandemic? At the heart of this unfolding tragedy is the scientific and numerical illiteracy that plagues our society, from ordinary citizens to the President. Climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers and people who believe that the earth is flat have been proliferating for sometime now. Some of them have ascended to the highest positions of power. Isaac Asimov said it better than I ever could in his 1980 essay.
The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.- Isaac Asimov
This cult of ignorance is proving costly to our health as the death toll keeps rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infectious diseases experts have been warning about a pandemic at the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic for a while now. The President and his team had been warned by experts as far back as January that a catastrophe was looming. They knew yet they did nothing. They disregarded the scientific consensus about the virus just like they have disregarded the scientific consensus about climate change.
One look at the graph of the exponential spread of infection should have scared anyone. Unfortunately for us some one didn’t pay attention in their high school math class or their intelligence briefings for that matter.
People who disregard science forget one thing, you don’t have to believe in science for it to be true. The laws of nature work whether or not you believe in them. The earth’s gravitational acceleration is g =9.8 m/s2 even if you think that the earth is flat. Viruses can infect you even if you are an anti-vaxxer. But ignorance of science and math is not without consequence. People who promote falsehoods that vaccines cause autism are bringing back infectious diseases like measles which were considered eradicated. They also vote into office elected officials who deny climate change and twiddle their thumbs as a virulent virus ravages the nation. They gut budgets that fund our research infrastructure from the CDC to the NIH and NSF. They want to gut CDC funding during a pandemic. The research budgets which were trimmed because of sequestration (across the board funding cuts to the funding of government agencies to enforce fiscal discipline enacted in 2012) never bounced back when the economy did. Gutting research funding while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations is like burning seed corn to have a party right now.
Everyone wants a vaccine for COVID-19 in a hurry now but scientific expertise and research excellence don’t happen in a day or even a year. There is no just-in-time research. It has to be funded generously and in a consistent manner so that people are willing to dedicate their lives to careers in science which for the most part is hard lonely work with little glory. And who else but the government can do this when the rewards, if they exist, are distant?
Investment in science and math is essential for our very survival. This includes support for science and math education, K-12 and beyond and robust federal funding for both pure and applied research. I hope that this pandemic has taught us that ignorance of science comes at a steep price, the price tag is 100,000 dead Americans and counting.
Protests have roiled India over the weekend. The Bharatiya Janata Party has become the Bharat Jalao Party (Burn India Party). Last week the Citizenship Amendment Bill become the Citizenship Amendment Act. According to the bill minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will be eligible for refugee status. The bill excludes Muslims. Neither does it cover Tibetan or Sri Lankan refugees.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 of the Parliament of India amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 providing a path to Indian citizenship for religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The intended religious minorities were explicitly listed as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, raising concerns that Muslims were being marginalised. The beneficiaries had to have entered India on or before 31 December 2014, and should have faced “religious persecution or fear of religious persecution” in their countries of origin.[a] The Act also relaxed residence requirement for naturalization from 11 years to 5 years for these migrants.[
status. This bill along with the BJP’s government’s plan to construct a National Register of Citizens portends doom for India’s 100 million plus Muslim population. BJP had tried to pass it in an earlier session of the Parliament but it died because they didn’t
have the numbers to pass it through the upper House, Rajyasabha. But after gaining a imposing majority in the Loksabha in the last elections, this time around many smaller parties decide to go along with the BJP agenda in the Rajyasabha this time and the bill passed both the Houses easily.
The India of my childhood is being dismantled by the BJP. In our textbooks there used to be a Pledge.
India is my country and all Indians are my Brothers and Sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give respect to my parents, teachers and all the elders and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness
Even as a child it seemed hopelessly naïve and idealistic to me. And God knows we did not live up to that ideal always but that was a worthy ideal to strive towards. The agenda of BJP, is the agenda of the RSS (Rashrtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) or Sangh , the political off shoot of the black hats and brown shorts wearing all male volunteer organization is antithetical to both the pledge and the preamble to the Indian Constitution.
The Sangh’s plan for India has always been clear, to rid India of its religious minorities, especially its Muslims or relegate them to an inferior or a secondary status. Their ideology asserts that if India becomes a Hindu Rashtra, all its problems will vanish into thin air. When the BJP was able to form a government on their own strength after the general elections last May, I knew that their long awaited ideological project would gather full steam.
It started with Kashmir by taking away the statehood of India’s only Muslim majority state, changing the criteria of which refugees can become citizens is the logical next step. What comes after this is the National Citizenship Register, whereby one has to prove their citizenship. The NRC has been applied to the northeastern state of Assam with disastrous consequences, making over a million Indians stateless. You don’t have to be an expert on Indian politics to know who is the target of these actions.
To this murder of the Indian Constitution, not so fast say the students and ordinary citizens of India. Protests have gathered steam all across India including on college and university campuses and elsewhere.
The woman in white is Mamata Banerjee the Chief Minister of West Bengal
More pictures of protests here
Dare I hope that these protests quell the orange tide that threatens to drown India. Watch this space for more on this developing story. If you have questions please leave them in the comments.
Note: Whataboutery and dehumanizing comments will not tolerated.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a rally scheduled in Houston this Sunday. WalMart is one of the sponsors and the President of the United States has promised to attend along with an estimated 50,000 attendees.
What bright future are we talking about? The Indian economy is in the doldrums, minority populations live in fear, rapists are not arrested if they belong to the ruling party while activists fighting for the rights of the dispossessed languish in jail without a trial. As for dreams, the dream of a Hindutva dominated India where minorities are persecuted and dissenting voices are silenced, sounds more like a nightmare. Where the truth is sacrificed at the altar of political expediency and history is rewritten to service the ideology of hate.
Why is Modi doing this? My guess is for the publicity and for the $$. It’s also a reward for those among the diaspora who opened their wallets for Modi’s reelection. This rally would give the Prime Minister a much needed PR boost internationally after the draconian anti-democratic steps being taken in Kashmir since August 4th. It will show his fans and supporters back home in India that India has the world’s respect. Getting the US president who routinely demonizes immigrants, to a rally attended mostly by immigrants is definitely a PR coup for team Modi.
I was actually surprised that the White House accepted the invitation. Indian Americans have voted heavily for Democratic candidates in the recent past, see the figure below. Some have suggested that the crowd size may have been the irresistible attraction. Besides the fact that the Hindu right has deep pockets.
In addition to the President, 60 other elected leaders of both parties have promised to attend according to the organizers. Here is the list of those whose names appear in the news dispatch.
- Raja Krishnamoorthi
- John Cornyn
- Ted Cruz
- Al Green
- Pete Olson
- Sheila Jackson Lee
- Sylvia Garcia, Greg Abbot
- Cindy Hyde-Smith
- Ami Bera
- Brian Babin
- Brad Sherman,
- Eliot Engel
Firstpost is reporting that Steny Hoyer is also going to attend.
Check if your representative or senator is on the list and going to share a podium with a man who presided over a pogrom targeting Muslims in 2002 as the chief executive of Gujarat and is pursuing a nakedly majoritarian agenda in his second term as the prime minister. Actions in Kashmir being the case in point, where people have been without internet or cell phone access and access to medical care since August 4th.
Check out the BBC for news updates on Kashmir.
Watch this space for more updates on this developing story of the Houston rally. If you have questions leave them in the comments.
I am afraid that scrapping of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is just the beginning, it has little to do with the development of Kashmir.Prime Minister Modi’s agenda for India in his second term is to change India’s constitution and pave the way for a majoritarian state which is a democracy in name alone. 94 years after its formation the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) is the closest to achieving its goal of the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).
The international media is missing the RSS agenda behind Modi’s actions. Before he entered politics, Modi was a pracharak or a fulltime evangelist for the RSS. Just like the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee before him. There is no daylight between what the Sangh wants and what the BJP wants. BJP is the political front of the Sangh, an all male grassroots fraternal organization that has had only one non-brahmin sarsangchalak (chief of the Sangh) in its almost hundred years of existence. According to some estimates a group that makes up around 5% of the population of India. Also with two exceptions spanning 16 years, all the other sarsangchalaks have been Marathi brahmins. The Sangh still does not admit women. For a group that purports to speak for all Hindus its leadership is drawn from a tiny slice of Hindu male brahmins.
India is as complex as Europe would be if it were one country. India is home to two major language families and twenty two official languages. India also has the second largest population of Muslims in the world. The Sangh sees this diversity be it religious or linguistic as inherently problematic. Their dream India, which they call Bharat is united under the saffron banner of Hindutva speaking as one in one language, Hindi. Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are considered Hindu for the purposes of this classification but Christians and Muslims are not. Sangh ideologues have argued that diversity made India weaker and an easy prey for the British in the 18th and the 19th centuries and the first wave of Muslim invaders from Central Asia a thousand years ago and later. The way for India to go back to its former greatness is to unite under a banner of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).
Britain has been forgiven but BJP and its sympathizers want Muslim citizens of India to pay for the sins of the central Asian invaders and also for the formation of Pakistan. Their claims about a Hindu rashtra are inspired more by the nationalistic fervor sweeping Europe in the early twentieth century than they are by ancient India. Here is what Madhav Golwalkar, the most influential sarsangchalak who held the post for 43 years had to say about Hitler’s Germany in a book published in the 1940s.
…To keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races – the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.
Also the RSS map of Akhand Bharat (Greater India) is suspiciously closer to that of British India.
As I explained in my post on Kashmir, Kashmir’s special status given its Muslim majority was something that Sangh’s leaders could not stand right from the early years of independence. And before independence, hatred and the fear of Muslims was the foundational capstone of the Sangh and other Hindu right organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha. In their telling tiny Britain was able to subjugate mighty India and because Hindus were cowed down by the Muslim rule of over a thousand years. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Savarkar had this to say about Muslims in an interview to an American journalist in 1945.
Muslims in India should be treated as ‘Negroes’
Savarkar headed the Hindu Mahasabha and inspired among others, Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse. He was indicted in the Gandhi’s assassination but not sentenced. The Mahasabha was currently in the news for reenacting the infamous assassination.
In today’s India Savarkar can count among his fans the current prime minister.
We bow to Veer Savarkar on his Jayanti. Veer Savarkar epitomises courage, patriotism and unflinching commitment to a strong India. He inspired many people to devote themselves towards nation building.
The partition of British India and the formation of Pakistan on the eve of independence is just added another item to their the mile long list of grievances against Indian Muslims. The ones who chose to stay in India believing the promise that the authors of the Indian Constitution made to all its minorities that India was for all Indians, irrespective of caste, gender, language or religion.
Actions taken in Kashmir this August are just the first steps in the RSS agenda. If you think all this does not affect you, you would be wrong because Hindu Sevak Sangh(HSS), the RSS offshoot in the United States has been propping up Tulsi Gabbard and has chapters all over the US.
It has been over a week since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right hand man from Gujarat, Amit Shah who is now the home minister changed the constitution of India with little debate in the parliament. Modi government has abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. The state has been under curfew and a strict communication blockade for the last eleven days. Former Kashmiri chief ministers are under arrest.
Article 370 concerns the accession of Kashmir to India, while 35A granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir a degree of autonomy to make laws governing the citizenry of the state. They have been revoked by the government in New Delhi with no input from the citizens of Kashmir. Constitutional scholars can argue about the legalistic validity of these moves, but these actions are undemocratic and unworthy of a constitutional democracy. They blatantly disregard the will of the people of Kashmir. The central government is acting as a colonial power within its own boundaries. Muslim majority Kashmir has been reduced to little more than a colony of Hindu majority India. You can see the population breakup from the 2011 census in the table that I have included. These were the fears that lead to the partition of India. This move reopens the wounds of partition which in Kashmir’s case were never healed.
What this does in practical terms is it strips of Jammu and Kashmir of its statehood and partitions it into two administrative regions. Jammu and Kashmir being the first region and the Buddhist majority Ladakh being the other.
It also means the death of the Indian Republic as it was conceived by the generation that fought for Indian independence. The ideological ancestors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were nowhere to be found in the freedom struggle. Instead, they were busy criticizing the Indian National Congress and collaborating with the British.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir, independent India’s only Muslim majority state was guaranteed limited autonomy when they agreed to become a part of India instead of Pakistan after the partition of India. This has been an anathema to the Hindu right since India’s inception. A thorn in the side of their dream of a muscular Hindu state where other religions are not equal but merely tolerated.
Modi and Shah’s actions betray India’s founding principles, and undermine both federalism, religious freedom. The intellectual heirs of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassins are enacting their vision of India. That the BJP did this after getting a brute majority in the elections held earlier this year is not surprising. The Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS)’s agenda on this issue has been clear since India’s independence when their political arm was called the Jan Sangh.
What has been rather disappointing and sad is the feeble to non-existent opposition response and sycophancy of India’s prestige media like the Times of India, the Hindu and India Today. Most of the Indian media is either not covering this major story or giving cover to the government in New Delhi.
One has to go the web-only outlet, The Wire to find Kashmir covered in detail. This story is still developing and I will post updates.
Table I : Population Breakup of the Jammu and Kashmir from the 2011 census
5/23 Update: The Election Commission has started counting the votes and Modi seems to be headed for a second term.
This is a brief primer to help you make sense of the main players on the Indian political scene. Ther Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) is currently in power, its main opposition, is the Indian National Congress. Then there is a third mostly left of center grouping which calls itself Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) and advocates for the rights of Bahujans (common people, a short hand term for the alliance of Other Backward Castes and Dalits*).
The key to understanding Indian politics is caste, region and ideology, in that order. Most of the analyses I see in the western media and much of the English language media in India misses that point, by focusing solely on ideology and the two main parties. They also ignore India’s linguistic diversity, and regional politics which vary greatly. Most importantly, they ignore caste which plays roughly the same role that race plays in US politics.
In this post I will focus on the BJP and its leader, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Bharatiya Janata Party: Is the party in power at the center (federal level) right now. It won an outright majority during the last Loksabha elections in 2014. It was the first time a party other than the Congress had managed this feat. The previous BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed a coalition government.
Before 2014, Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. On the national stage he was credited with the economic growth the state had achieved and the 2002 pogrom against Muslims in Ahmedabad, precipitated by the events in Godhra.
Since his election in 2014, Mr. Modi’s government has delivered on the items on hard right agenda. Banning the slaughter of cows had been a long stated goal of the Hindutva hardliners. Twenty states out of twenty nine now have restrictions on the slaughter of cows. It may come as a surprise to many that majority of Hindus are not vegetarian and some even eat beef. These cattle slaughter bans have hit the poor and lower caste Hindus as well as Muslims the hardest. Roving bands of vigilantes who call themselves cow protectors have used these bans to intimidate and sometimes lynch people.
Modi’s record on the economic front has been questionable. The much touted demonetization scheme aimed at removing high denomination currency out of the economy to combat corruption missed all of its stated goals. India’s suffering farmers have seen no respite and the unemployment numbers have been the worst in forty years.
BJP purports to speak on the behalf of all Hindus but their agenda and their saffron roving bands make many Hindus, let alone religious minorities, who don’t share its dogma, nervous. They are not being paranoid because many activists agitating on the behalf of those in tribal areas and lower castes sit in jail under trumped up charges. Journalists have died for speaking out as have academics like M. M Kalburgi.
BJP is the political arm of the all male Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) modeled after Europe’s Fascist movements of the early twentieth century. RSS seeks to unite Hindus separated by caste, language and region into militant nationalism called Hindutva. RSS was formed in British India in 1925 by K. B. Hedgewar, a Brahmin physician from Maharashtra and has its head quarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra. They were largely absent during India’s freedom struggle against the British, spent most of their time attacking Congress and complaining about their tactics. Mohandas Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse had RSS links.
BJP and its earlier incarnation, the Jan Sangh never achieved much in the way of electoral success until the late 80s. Their electoral fortunes changed when they adopted building a Ram Temple in Ayodhya in place of Mughal emperor Babur’s mosque as their core issue.
The most important project of RSS and other Hindutva idealogues has been to rewrite history to further their own agenda. The last 5 years has seen the mainstreaming of previously fringe RSS propaganda into the political discourse. We have seen the lionization of Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, vilification of Jawarhlal Nehru, India’s first Prime minister and to a lesser extent of Mohandas Gandhi. Orwell’s 1984 seems to be their Bible, or should I say Gita?
The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’
Ultimately what is stake in this election is the truth, we will see if India lives up to its motto,
सत्यमेव जयते ( Satyameva Jayate)
And if the truth ultimately triumphs.
In part two of this series I will discuss and analyze the results and the other two other major political groupings contesting the elections.
(*Dalit = downtrodden, these are mostly castes considered to be at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and many are considered ritually impure. Many of these taboos still persist in parts of India. Prejudice against these castes by those in power is commonplace).
If President Obama was Martin Luther King’s dream come true then the current president is that dream curdled into a nightmare. The latest pointless debate over whether his disparaging remarks calling countries with predominantly black populations shitholes makes him a racist, misses the point. The daily random insult generator in the White House has a one point agenda of hate.
During the Obama years, everything that happened anywhere in the world, was all Obama’s fault. From the genocide in Syria to the leak in British Petroleum’s oil well. For this President, nothing is ever his fault, he is not to be held responsible even for the words coming out of his mouth. Judy Woodruff of the PBS News Hour actually praised the President for his performance during a televised bipartisan meeting about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), where he seemed to have no idea what he was talking about. She was by far not the only one.The prestigious old media continues give the Republicans cover as they continue to destroy one democratic norm after another.
The sad thing is not that the President is a racist but that millions voted for him despite that or may be even because of that. Though they knew that he was the most ill prepared and ill suited candidate to ever run on a major party’s ticket. Even sadder is the fact that the party of Lincoln condones the bile he spews on a daily basis. It is they who made his rise possible and have given him the institutional support to thrive. They couldn’t care less that he pisses away our international prestige one outrageous statement and one discriminatory policy at a time.
They may make soaring speeches praising Dr. King now but Republicans have been single minded in their quest to overturn his legacy, the civil rights legislation. The Republican led Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Tom Cotton and David Perdue’s goal is to do the same to the Immigration and the Nationalities Act. To them, the man in the White House is a means to an end. Now more than ever we need to do everything to preserve Dr. King’s legacy. Our very lives and what kind of country we want to be depends on it. Our enemies are formidable but we shall overcome.
New York Times has failed as a newspaper this election season. The big scoops about Trump are coming from Washington Post and Newsweek, while the hometown newspaper is asleep at the switch. Even today, NYT is on the both-sides-do-it wagon soft pedaling of Trump’s hate and bigotry. It happened after the immigration speech and it happened again this morning. Their headline this morning reads:
Bitter, Personal Tone Marks 2nd Trump Clinton Debate
Sounds like a bickering match of he said, she said with both parties equally to blame doesn’t it? That’s not what I saw, this is what I saw when I made myself watch yesterday’s debate.
* Trump stalked Hillary Clinton throughout the debate
* Said bragging about sexual assault is OK because ISIS
* He had no clue about what he was talking about be it Syria or healthcare or Russia.
* He admitted as much in so many words about Russia
* He wants give Putin a complete free rein in Syria and elsewhere
* He promised to jail Hillary Clinton like his idol Putin does to his political opponents
* Tried to relitigate Bill Clinton’s infidelities as a negative against Hillary
*Repeated what do black people have to lose by voting for him, line
*Demonized ordinary Muslim citizens and Syrian refugees fleeing war
*Called Hillary Clinton, the devil
*Did not answer a single question, just repeated his fact-free bilious stump speech replete with conspiracy theories
Compared to the toddler tantrum that Trump threw on the debate stage for an hour and half, Hillary Clinton was a model of restraint and civility. She has nerves of steel, I was sputtering with rage at Trump’s indecent and ignorant behavior in my living room. No matter how low Trump goes, New York Times normalizes his behavior and enables him. Paper of record, indeed.
* Thanks to chech 1965 for letting me use his lol.
Donald Trump Gambles on Immigration but Sends Conflicting Signals
Really, Patrick Healy? Is that what you got out of Trump’s white nationalist speech? The focus of the undocumented immigrants is just a prelude to a far more radical agenda, overturning the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Make America Great Again is code for Make America White Again.
These are his policies goals:
1. Deport the undocumented by a deportation task force (on the day he takes office)
2. Ban Muslims and any other undesirables as determined by Trump from entering the country on temporary visas (visitor, student, work visas etc)
4. Give local law enforcement jurisdiction over immigration matters which is currently strictly under Federal jurisdiction
3.Overturn the immigration and naturalization act of 1965
5. Get rid of birthright citizenship (remember his rant about anchor babies)
And the final solution, not articulated but can be inferred from the hate he has been spewing for the last one year. Or before, if you take into account his entire birther campaign against President Obama.
6. Impose loyalty tests on naturalized citizens, legal immigrants and children of immigrants for being insufficiently American (you know like Judge Curiel). He doesn’t say what he plans to do with those found not sufficiently loyal but we have history as our guide for this one.