Category: Corruption

Hindu Right proceeds with rewriting Indian textbooks

You cannot blame Bhavana Vaja, 12, for telling you that the first aeroplane was invented during the mythical Dvapara Yuga, when the Hindu God Ram flew from Sri Lanka to Ayodhya in India with his wife Sita and brother Laxman in a Pushpaka Vimana – a swan­-shaped chariot of flowers.

By claiming that they familiarise students with India’s ancient heritage, some books printed by the education department of western Gujarat state teach children that aeroplanes existed in India since Lord Ram’s era. And that is just a sample of how religious content is included in science, history, environment, and mathematics books…

The Gujarat government has introduced nine new books this academic year for classes 1 to 12. These books, written by Hindu nationalist ideologues, have been delivered to 42,000 elementary schools across the state free of cost.

Eight out of the nine books have been penned by Dina Nath Batra, founder of the Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti. Batra was responsible for forcing Pengiun India Publishers to withdraw all copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus in February this year.

Enthused by its success, Batra went on to force two other publishers – Aleph and Orient Blackswan – to withdraw books that he deemed “hurtful to Hindu religious sentiments“.

Good thing we have intellectual freedom here in the United States. We don’t have to confront theocrats like this more often than, say, once or twice a week. :)

Taking a leaf from Batra’s book, India’s prime minister and former chief minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, last week said that genetic science existed in ancient India.

In fact, Modi wrote a foreword in Batra’s books saying his “inspirational literature will inspire students and teachers”…

There is already some talk of changing the school and college curriculum at the national level.

In Indian political context, “saffronisation” is used to refer to the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations, which, according to critics, are divisive. The term refers to the saffron-coloured robes worn by Hindu sages.

Barely four days after India’s new right-wing government was sworn in this May, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, a former TV actress, issued her first statement saying the Vedas, the Upanishads and other ancient Hindu texts should be introduced in the classrooms.

Consequently, in July, a consultative body called The Bharatiya Shiksha Neeti Ayog (Indian Education Policy Commission) was constituted by the Hindu nationalist organisation, RSS and is mandated “to study the present education system and suggest corrective steps to make it Bharat-centric.” Bharat is the Hindi word for India.

And so it goes. In nation-states led and controlled by politicians whose ideology is infused with the supposed benefits of theocracy, school books and laws begin to be distorted a little at a time until the intellectual freedom of thought, speech and education we take for granted as modern standards – are made subservient to religion. Whether it be India, Turkey – or Texas.

About these ads

Right-wing nutballs plan takeover of Arizona county

Earlier this month, Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and popular “Patriot” movement speaker, gave a speech in Pueblo, Colorado, in which he announced that he was launching a new bid for public office.

Mack said that he would be moving to Navajo County, Arizona, to run as the county sheriff in 2016 and told the members of the Tea Party group in his audience, “I need some backup and I wouldn’t mind if you went there, too.”

He wasn’t joking. In fact, Mack is the most prominent recruit of a group that is seeking to stage a political takeover of the sprawling rural county as an experiment in creating a local government that will ignore and “nullify” federal laws — such as federal lands restrictions and gun regulations — that its leaders believe to be unconstitutional…

The former sheriff explained how a group called the Constitutional County Project had approached him and asked him to join their first experiment in creating a “constitutional county,” what Mack said would be a “blueprint for freedom” that could then be replicated across the country…

The Constitutional County Project’s website says that once it achieves its political takeover of Navajo County, its allied elected officials get to work repealing “local and county laws and regulations which are unrelated to protecting individual rights,” enforcing environmental regulations at the “county level,” cutting taxes and regulations and using “legal and political means to protect the county’s residents against any attempt to un-Constitutionally interfere with peaceable living and enterprise.”

Just in case you thought utopias were only an expression of anarchist politics in the 19th Century or Hippie Love in the 1960’s.

Fascist-minded idjits are equally capable of rejecting society’s standards for their own interpretation of communal human needs. Of course, they needn’t waste time over anything learned from history or science – and no doubt won’t concern themselves about the health and safety of someone who doesn’t carry anything less than a 10-mm sidearm.

My only curiosity is which he-man will end up sucking the most dollar$ from the idjits that join the colony. I expect they will follow the same general economic model of the average American fundamentalist religion.

VA incompetence creates $6,324 bill for dying veteran who got married


Debbie Shafer cares for her husband, Rob ArthurSteve Ringman/The Seattle TIMES

Snohomish County, Washington — When Rob Arthur was diagnosed with brain cancer back in January, the gaunt, gray-haired Vietnam veteran decided to wed his longtime girlfriend, Debbie Shafer, in a hospital room.

The marriage has been a source of comfort for this couple as they face the challenges of an unforgiving disease, deemed terminal, in a trailer home set by the steep flanks of the North Cascade mountains.

It also has been a big source of stress in their dealings with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Last summer, the VA ruled that Arthur — his earnings boosted by his wife’s wages as a nurse’s aide — was no longer eligible for an income-based pension and would have to repay $6,324 in checks mailed out during the more than six months that the department took to make this decision…

These overpayments are more fallout from the troubled VA’s inability to keep up with a massive caseload of veterans who turn to the department for benefits. These delays sometimes can create major financial problems for the veterans by sticking them with unexpected bills to repay checks they should not have received.

“It can be an incredible hardship,” said Amy Fairweather, a policy director at San Francisco-based Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit veterans service organization. “The onus should be on the VA to take care of these matters and not to go after destitute or low-income veterans to pay back pensions.”

VA officials say their actions are guided by blah, blah, blah…

And, gee, you could ask Congress to fix the problem – in the next century or so.

The 68-year-old Arthur and his wife say they accept the loss of the pension. But they want the VA to drop demands to pay back the pension checks sent out earlier this year.

“We simply cannot afford to survive should we be held responsible for this debt,” Arthur wrote in a letter to the VA. requesting a hardship exemption. “We did not do anything to deceive the Department of Veterans Affairs. We completed any and all documentation required of us in a timely fashion…”

The debt owed the VA adds to the uncertainty over the future. Shafer frets that the department might try to garnish her wages, or even take part of her husband’s Social Security check.

Earlier in the fall, she sent the VA a $5 check to start to pay off the debt.

“I don’t have time for all this. I want to spend my time with Rob,” Shafer said.

I want him to die in peace.”

Meanwhile, government bureaucrats, elected officials, use the same defense offered by all Good Germans at the end of World War 2 — “We’re just following orders.”

Poor old Noah – he doesn’t qualify for an $18 million tax break

A Noah’s Ark-themed amusement park may have sprung a financial leak after being denied millions of dollars in tax incentives.

The Ark Encounter, a Genesis-themed attraction with a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark, was denied approximately $18 million in tax breaks from the state of Kentucky. Why? According to Think Progress, it may have something to do with refusing to comply with the state’s existing nondiscrimination policies…

This isn’t the first time that Ark Encounter and its parent company Answers in Genesis have been tied in with state taxes. When the park was announced almost four years ago, MSNBC reported that it would be eligible for $37 million in state tourism incentives, despite worries that taxpayers were funding a religious theme park.

Fast forward to early October, when the park’s president Mike Zovath let it slip that he only planned to hire creationists. Ark Encounter had received preliminary approval for $18 million in sales tax rebates over the next 10 years, but the Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet had warned Zovath that companies which discriminate on religious bases cannot receive these incentives.

And it turns out that the Cabinet was true to its word. In a letter, Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart noted that “the use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible…”

Is there a Christian nutball in the country who doesn’t also feel it’s their fundamental[ist] right to be given taxpayer dollar$ to fund their personal religious beliefs?

Thanks, Mike

When do we get back to the Constitution affirming separation of church and state?

Cartoon-Shan-Durango-News

A federal judge Thursday granted a Minnesota auto dealer the right to exclude emergency contraceptives and I.U.D.’s from his company’s employee health plan.

U.S. District Judge Frank Magnuson issued an injunction against the federal government, enabling Hastings Automotive’s primary owner Doug Erickson to remove contraceptives from his company’s plan without facing penalties.

“It’s long been by conviction to run these businesses according to my faith, and I really believe I’m stewarding these businesses and operating them as God would have me operate them,” Erickson told KARE…

Birth control is treated as basic preventive care by the Affordable Care Act, meaning that it must be included without co-insurance in all health plans. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case carved out an exception for faith based organizations and private for-profit companies, accommodating the religious beliefs of company owners.

“The very bottom line here is that we believe that the decision to use birth control is between a woman and her doctor, not her boss,” Jennifer Aulwes of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota, told KARE.

Birth control is basic health care for women and 99 percent of women have used it at some point in their lives, so today’s ruling is very troubling for us.”

Jeremy Dys – a lawyer who specializes in representing idjits – contends that emergency contraceptives prevent fertilized eggs from attaching to lining of the uterus, causing what he termed a “chemical abortion.”

The makers of the drugs, on the other had, cite research that shows the drugs prevent ovulation and fertilization, essentially keeping a pregnancy from starting…”if a pregnancy is already established emergency contraception will not affect that pregnancy”.

The idjit judge – relying on the conservative idjits in the Supreme Court – said he wasn’t interested in science or the medical findings on contraception. He was just worried about the religious rights of the car dealer.

About right for law and order in America, today. Any religion receiving any level of recognition can impose their precepts over the rights of their employees – according to the distorted views of law currently supreme over our constitution.

Christian sharia being the accepted standard, of course.

George Stinney Jr. – executed at 14 – cleared of murder 70 years later


Click to enlarge

George Stinney Jr., who was 14 when he died in South Carolina’s electric chair 70 years ago, was cleared Wednesday of killing two young girls.

Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen found “fundamental, constitutional violations of due process” in Stinney’s one-day trial before an all-white jury. During a two-day hearing in January, Mullen said she could not determine if the boy was guilty or innocent, only if the proceedings were fair.

Stinney, the youngest person to be executed in the United States, at least in the 20th century, was so small he had to sit on a book when he was strapped into the electric chair. He was put to death 81 days after Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 7, were killed in the small town of Alcolu, S.C.

The only real evidence against the boy was a confession he allegedly gave police officers after hours of questioning without his parents or a lawyer. He was alone during the trial because his family had been warned they would be lynched if they remained in Alcolu.

No written record of the confession was presented during the trial, and George Frierson, a historian who has been fighting to clear Stinney, said he has been unable to find one. Stinney later denied confessing.

Just in case you wondered why so many think it impossible for Black folks to receive a fair trial for anything in the United States – this is a pretty ordinary example of where it comes from.

Do you think the folks picked for juries, grand juries, in racist towns governed by racist politicians have changed much in three generation? Or one generation? Do you think cops in towns with a tradition of “white means right!” have changed in a couple of generations?

Mexico’s “Harvest of Shame” fills American tables


Click to enlargeLA Times/Don Bartletti
Half the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico

The tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers arrive year-round by the ton, with peel-off stickers proclaiming “Product of Mexico.”

Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers.

American consumers get all the salsa, squash and melons they can eat at affordable prices. And top U.S. brands — Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Subway and Safeway, among many others — profit from produce they have come to depend on.

These corporations say their Mexican suppliers have committed to decent treatment and living conditions for workers.

But a Los Angeles Times investigation found that for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the export boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

Many farm laborers are essentially trapped for months at a time in rat-infested camps, often without beds and sometimes without functioning toilets or a reliable water supply.

Some camp bosses illegally withhold wages to prevent workers from leaving during peak harvest periods.

Laborers often go deep in debt paying inflated prices for necessities at company stores. Some are reduced to scavenging for food when their credit is cut off. It’s common for laborers to head home penniless at the end of a harvest.

Those who seek to escape their debts and miserable living conditions have to contend with guards, barbed-wire fences and sometimes threats of violence from camp supervisors.

Major U.S. companies have done little to enforce social responsibility guidelines that call for basic worker protections such as clean housing and fair pay practices.

The farm laborers are mostly indigenous people from Mexico’s poorest regions. Bused hundreds of miles to vast agricultural complexes, they work six days a week for the equivalent of $8 to $12 a day.

The squalid camps where they live, sometimes sleeping on scraps of cardboard on concrete floors, are operated by the same agribusinesses that employ advanced growing techniques and sanitary measures in their fields and greenhouses.

The contrast between the treatment of produce and of people is stark.


One of ~100,000 Mexican children under 14 who pick crops…He is 9 years old.

The comparison with Edward R Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” about migrant labor on US farms in 1960 is appropriate. Some of the poor buggers in that documentary probably were the fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers of folks revealed in this series of articles.

This is the kind of long-form journalism still popular outside the United States. Sometimes, I feel our Establishment deliberately encourages Americans to develop the attention span of a cricket. It would be an injustice for me to use my usual editor’s X-Acto knife on the wealth of information inside these articles. Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti are to be congratulated much for their work undercover – and cold-call walk-ins. I hope the journalism craft recognizes their work appropriately.

Please, please, RTFA. There’s a link above to this the first in the series.

Here are the links to:

Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.

Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.

Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.

Thanks, Mike

Kudos for finding us one of the best pieces of American journalism in quite a while

Pic of the Day


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Toby Melville

One of Reuters’ environment pictures of the year. A graveyard is seen underwater in the village of Moorland in south west England, February 7, 2014.

But, don’t worry. Dick Cheney says climate change isn’t anymore likely to occur than the United States torturing people.

Cartoon of the Day


Click to enlarge

One of the few times John McCain displays integrity is about torture. With good reason, of course. Wish he could find the same experience somewhere in his gold-plated heart to find solidarity with people who work for a living.

As for his criminal peers in the CIA, retired pricks like Bush and Cheney – these are the kind of evil thugs who would have willinglky sold out the American Revolution for a guaranteed spot in the Colonial government.

Especially if the Brits had discovered oil that early.