Weekend Edition

November 17th, 2017

Alabama’s Roy Moore: Joseph or Jesus?

November 17th, 2017


Alabama’s former chief justice Republican Roy Moore is currently running for a seat in the Alabama State Senate PHOTO/National Public Radio

Roy Moore is an anti-Muslim/Homosexuality/abortion/…
and hates anything progressive
is a Trump-like character, who shuns truth
and flaunts laws to propagate his brand of Christianity

Roy was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003
for ignoring a federal court order to remove
a 5,000+ pound monument
he had installed at the state building in 2017,

he was again dismissed as a judge
for going against the US Supreme Court verdict
that permitted gay marriage

he openly refuses to accept the US Constitution’s First Amendment
which clearly prohibits the mixing of religion and politics

while in a race to capture a Senate seat in Alabama,
Roy was accused of sexual misconduct by nine women
all were minors, with the exception of one

Roy has denied all these charges
he instead wants “to talk about the issues”
where the United States “is going
and if we don’t get back to God, we’re not going anywhere.”

Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler
sees the United States in midst of a spiritual battle
came to Roy’s rescue:

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance.
Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth
and they became the parents of John the Baptist.”

“Also take Joseph and Mary.
Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.
They became parents of Jesus.”

Jerry Moore declared that his brother was being “persecuted like Jesus Christ

the Joseph analogy is not as tragic
because Joseph didn’t die a violent death …

besides, Roy could be an Alabama senator

but the Jesus comparison is deadly
and may be hard for Roy to accept

what would he gain by becoming Jesus?
Crucifixion and a crown of thorns!

unless he is counting on fame
and followers after his death

but in today’s internet-connected world
even fame is transitory …

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Gay pride, state shame in Singapore

November 17th, 2017


A supporter attends the annual “Pink Dot” event in a public show of support for the LGBT community at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on July 1, 2017 PHOTO/AFP/Roslan Rahman

LGBT activists have made great strides towards equality but the criminalization of gay sex and official homophobic attitudes still keep many in the closet

When Singaporean lesbian Eileena Lee sought peer support after a painful relationship experience in the 1990s, there weren’t many local platforms available for gay women.

“I was looking for support [but] there was no support,” Lee said. “And in those days, it was dial-up modem. It was in the ‘90s and all I could find was mostly porn.”

Times have changed but challenges remain. The evolution of Singapore’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism reflects both how much has improved in recent years and how much remains the same.

One need only go online to find multiple LGBT resources, from established counselling centers like Oogachaga, to media content on blogs like Dear Straight People, to Singapore’s first LGBT legal guide for couples and families.

Offline, Pink Dot, Singapore’s de facto gay pride event, draws thousands each year. Even new state-imposed regulations that require organizers to erect a barricade around the park—so as to prevent any sort of participation by foreigners—didn’t stop Singaporeans and permanent residents from completely filling the park this July.

In Singapore’s universities, LGBT student groups are some of the most active and organized. Determined to create safe spaces for LGBT students at college campuses, student organizations like ‘The G Spot’ at Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS), ‘Out to Care’ at the Singapore Management University and ‘Kaleidoscope’ at the Nanyang Technological University provide opportunities to form support groups.

Five such student groups, part of the Inter-University LGBT Network, organize events like Qrientation, an orientation program to introduce students to gay resources on campus, or SG Month (an acronym for Sexuality and Gender) at NUS to address issues like sexual health, mental health and community. They also seek to facilitate the provision of services like HIV testing on campus.

Asia Times Online for more

Who is afraid of the Iranian bomb?

November 17th, 2017


The Cyrus cylinder, which confirms that Cyrus the Great (c. 600 or 576 – 530 BCE) allowed Jewish captives in Babylon to return to their native lands, earning him an honored place in Judaism PHOTO/Wikipedia

I hate self-evident truths.

Ideals may be self-evident. Political statements are not. When I hear about a self-evident political truth, I immediately doubt it.

The most self-evident political truth at this moment concerns Iran. Iran is our deadly enemy. Iran wants to destroy us. We must destroy its capabilities first.

Since this is self-evident, the anti-nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the five Security Council members (plus Germany) is terrible. Just terrible. We should have ordered the Americans long ago to bomb Iran to smithereens. In the unlikely event that they would have disobeyed us, we should have nuclear-bombed Iran ourselves, before their crazy fanatical leaders have the opportunity to annihilate us first.

All these are self-evident truths. To my mind, all of them are utter nonsense. There is nothing self-evident about them. Indeed, they have no logical basis at all. They lack any geopolitical, historical or factual foundation.

Napoleon once said that if one wants to understand the behavior of a country, one has to look at the map.

Geography is more important than ideology, however fanatical. Ideologies change with time. Geography doesn’t. The most fanatically ideological country in the 20th century was the Soviet Union. It abhorred its predecessor, Czarist Russia. It would have abhorred its successor, Putin’s Russia. But lo and behold – the Czars, Stalin and Putin conduct more or less the same foreign policy. Karl Marx must be turning in his grave.

When the Biblical Israelite people was born, Persia was already a civilized country. King Cyrus of Persia sent the “Jews” to Jerusalem and founded what can be called the “Jewish people”. He is remembered in Jewish history as a great benefactor.

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, David Ben-Gurion saw in Iran a natural ally. It may now sound strange, but not so long ago Iran was indeed the most pro-Israeli country in the Middle East.

Ben-Gurion was an out-and-out realist. Since he had no intention whatsoever to make peace with the Arabs, a peace which would have prevented the original small State of Israel expanding without boundaries, he looked for allies beyond the Arab world.

Looking at the map (yes, he believed in the map) he saw that the Muslim Arabs were surrounded by a number of non-Arab or non-Muslim entities. There were the Maronite Christians in Lebanon (not Muslims), the Turks (Muslims, but not Arabs), the Kurds (Muslims but not Arabs), Iran (Muslim, but not Arab), Ethiopia (neither Muslim nor Arab) and more.

Seeing this, Ben-Gurion devised a grand plan: a “partnership of the periphery”, an alliance of all these entities surrounding the Arab world and which felt threatened by the emerging pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and other Sunni-Muslim-Arab states.

One of the greatest enthusiasts for this idea was the Shah of Iran, who became Israel’s most ardent friend.

The “King of Kings” was a brutal dictator, hated by most of his people. But for many Israelis, Iran became a second home. Tehran became a Mecca for Israeli businessmen, some of whom became very rich. Experts of the Israeli Security Service, called Shabak (Hebrew initials of General Security Service) trained the Shah’s detested secret police, called Savak.

High-ranking Israeli army commanders traveled freely through Iran to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they trained the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against Saddam Hussein’s regime. (The Shah, of course, did not dream of giving freedom to his own Kurdish minority.)

Anti War for more

Where should Hazaras go?

November 16th, 2017


2012 was a bad year for the Hazara community in southern Pakistan. The community had been devastated by a series of targeted killings and suicide attacks. Even their future protectors weren’t safe. Police cadets belonging to the Hazara community had been targeted and killed, mid-ranking police officers belonging to the community had been assassinated.

That year I interviewed a leader of the Hazara Shia community in Quetta about the future prospects for the Hazaras. Abdul Qayyam Changezi was weary of attending funerals of his loved ones. It’s a small community concentrated in parts of Quetta. So chances were that, whenever someone got killed, he either knew them or their family. Changezi had a desperate solution to save his people.

“It’s quite obvious that the government and security agencies are either not interested in protecting us, or are unable to do so,” he spoke in measured sentences without anger, as if trying to argue his way out of a mass murder. “The government should sell everything we own. Our houses, our businesses, the furniture in our houses, our pots and pans, every single thing. With that money they should buy a large ship and put all of us on that ship and push us out into the open sea. Surely there is one country somewhere out there in the world that will take us.”

The ship of Changezi’s imagination already existed and was plying its human cargo in the rough seawaters between Indonesia and Australia.

Since 2008, when the attacks against the Hazara community increased, Hazaras had been selling off their houses and businesses in search of that mythical ship. Many ended up in Malaysia and Indonesia from where they could pay four to six thousand US dollars to get on a boat that would take them to places such as Australia and New Zealand. The journey could last 50 to 60 hours and, in the words of one Hazara who attempted the journey more than six times, you either reached the promised land or became fish fodder.

The Hazaras continue to be under relentless assault in Pakistan but face desperation and danger even after fleeing as refugees. Mohammed Hanif looks at the choices the community faces

The worse was yet to come.

Dawn for more

Trump backs purge of Saudi royal family – at a price

November 16th, 2017


A man speaks on the phone as he walks past posters depicting Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 9, 2017. PHOTO/Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser

US President Donald Trump has swiftly followed up his Tuesday tweet in support of the great Saudi purge of the kingdom’s elite. A White House statement on Wednesday “welcomed” the allegation by Riyadh that Iran is supporting the Houthi militias of Yemen “including the supply of illegal arms such as ballistic missiles.”

In his tweet, Trump plunged straight into the heart of the power struggle in the House of Saud, saying

“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing … Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017

On Saturday, even as the Saudi purge got under way, Trump also made a phone call to Saudi King Salman. The White House readout signaled Trump’s support of the imminent purge and also put a price tag on the support – “listing (of) Aramco on a stock exchange in the United States” and, secondly, “the purchase of appropriate military equipment that would keep Saudi Arabia safe and help create American jobs.”

Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange. Important to the United States!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2017

The readout also mentioned that Trump “discussed the continuing threat of Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen and [Saturday’s] intercepted missile attack on Riyadh. They emphasized the importance of countering extremist ideologies and championing moderation and tolerance.”

From these three Trump articulations through last Sunday and Tuesday, the contours of a US-Saudi deal at the leadership level have appeared. It contains three elements.

First and foremost, King Salman and his Crown Prince know they have embarked on a risky gambit by taking on the kingdom’s political and business elite on such a scale. They desperately need Trump’s open support, which will send a big signal to their detractors and opponents within the royal family.

The alacrity with which Trump responded from the Far East amidst a challenging tour of Asia suggests a prior understanding. Conceivably, the three visits by Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner to Saudi Arabia in recent months can now be put in perspective. David Ignatius at the Washington Post has written:

“It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes (Kushner and MBS) are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 am several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.”

Now, there is nothing like a free lunch in Trump’s scheme of things. The White House statement on Sunday gives a fair idea of the quid pro quo. It singled out the recent $15 billion deal involving the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system, which is designed, built, and integrated by Lockheed Martin Space Systems as prime contractor.

Interestingly, there has been feverish speculation lately regarding the main foreign listing of Aramco – London, New York, Hong Kong, etc. Trump has now put his hat in the ring openly and brazenly. (The Saudi Crown Prince has suggested Aramco should be valued at $2 trillion. Independent estimates put the value closer to $1-$1.2 trillion, which would raise $50 to $60 billion if 5% of the company were offered through an IPO listing.)

Asia Times Online for more

Is the United States planning to attack North Korea?

November 16th, 2017


Members of the US Navy conduct joint drills with the South Korean navy on the USS Ronald Reagan.
October 19, 2017.
PHOTO/Reuters/Tim Kelly

Three US aircraft-carrier groups have now converged in the Pacific.

The aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and USS Ronald Reagan—three of the most powerful warships in the world—have now converged on the western Pacific in a mighty show of force on the eve of President Trump’s 10-day trip to Asia. The three carriers, along with their accompanying cruisers, destroyers, and submarines—all armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other advanced munitions—are capable of raining immense destructive force on any nation targeted by the commander in chief. Not since 2007 has there been such a concentration of US firepower in the Asia-Pacific region. There can be only two plausible explanations for this extraordinary naval buildup: to provide Trump with the sort of military extravaganza he seems to enjoy; and/or to prepare for a pre-emptive military strike on North Korea.

First, about the carriers: Normally, the Pentagon stations one carrier and its support group in the western Pacific, with its homeport in Yokosuka, Japan; at present, that vessel is the Ronald Reagan. In addition, the United States has kept one carrier group in the Indian Ocean to provide air support for Army and Marine Corps ground forces in Iraq; until recently that had been the Nimitz. At present, however, the Nimitz has departed the Indian Ocean and is in the Pacific before heading back to its homeport in Washington, while its replacement ship, the Theodore Roosevelt, is also in the Pacific on its way to the Indian Ocean. But for now, all three are massed in the Pacific. The Pentagon says this is a coincidence, but it’s hard to take that seriously.

This convergence is occurring against the backdrop of other developments that all seem to narrow the chances for finding a peaceful outcome to the current standoff between the United States and North Korea. Although the North Koreans have not tested any long-range ballistic missiles or nuclear devices for some six weeks now—very possibly out of a fear of antagonizing China (its sole remaining ally) during the 19th Communist Party Congress (now concluded)—they have shown every indication of doing so again in the future and, indeed, are talking of an above-ground nuclear test.

At the same time, the Trump administration has adopted an even more belligerent stance toward Pyongyang, both through words—largely via the president’s Twitter account—and through military moves. At the United Nations in September, Trump said of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” warning that if the North attacked the United States or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” When North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho condemned Trump’s words, the president retorted, via Twitter, “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

The Nation for more

600 Days: The repatriation and resurrection of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

November 15th, 2017


‘From this murdered man are born all the men of tomorrow’: ‘The death and resurrection of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’ PHOTO/Alicia Leal.

An Interview with Dr. Jorge González, former Director of the Cuban Forensic Institute in Havana.

Fifty years ago ‘Che’ Guevara was captured and brutally executed in the jungles of Bolivia by Bolivian recruits who were trained, equipped and guided by U.S. Green Beret and CIA operatives. Almost immediately afterwards Che was drafted into the canon of post-Catholic sainthood. The Bolivian army’s official photograph of Che, taken after he was executed— his head raised, eyes open, a faint smile on his lips — became an icon of saintly rebellion. Che’s death not only gave meaning to his life, but to multitudes of ordinary people around the world. His Christ-like image had immediate resonance among the poor and oppressed of Latin America who believed that their popular saint, ‘Querido Che’ would some day rise again. What was less anticipated was the impact of his death on generations of young people around the world.

The spiritual and political afterlife of Che, like the afterlife of Jesus of Nazareth, begins with their brutal torture and deaths at the hands of sadistic soldiers, colonizing forces (Rome and the US CIA) and local collaborators. Both men faced their capture and deaths with equanimity and graceful acceptance of their fate and left this world with words of consolation and , yes, of love. Both men were given opportunities to surrender and save themselves, but both acquiesced to their fate, remained true to their beliefs, and faced their executioners with words of comfort and of love. Che: “I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man… please, tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.” Jesus: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

The gospel narratives of described a man whose death shook the earth and left his own executioners fear and regret that they had killed a son of God. Jorge Castaneda’s biography, Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara (Knopf) and Michael Casey’s Che’s Afterlife: the Legacy of an Image refer to an iconic photo of the dead Che that ignited a fierce political and spiritual loyalty to the memory of the revolutionary hero. Freddy Alborta’s photo of Che’s lacerated body, laid out on a concrete slab surrounded by gloating Bolivian soldiers and CIA operatives, one callously pointing to a mortal wound, became a global symbol of a spiritual socialist revolution. Che’s restful body, his gentle eyes and peaceful countenance radiated forgiveness and love. John Berger noted the resemblance of the photo to Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ. (John Berger, 1975). Alborta’s photo, sometimes referred to as “The Passion of the Che” ensured that the Argentine revolutionary would live on forever as a symbol of the spiritual socialist cause. Displayed at meetings or rallies the image is often accompanied by cries of “Che está Presente”- Che is here with us, a real existential presence’ similar to the “Real Presence” of Jesus, here, present in our own bodies, minds and spirits.

CounterPunch for more

A Parsi woman’s perspective on being denied basic rights

November 15th, 2017


ILLUSTRATION/Jayanto/Parzor Foundation, Delhi/Hindustan Times

“You knew what you were getting into.”

“A child inherits his father’s name and religion, not his mother’s.”

“Women with non-Parsi spouses will have their kids navjoted only to avail of housing and monetary benefits from our wealthy community trusts.”

“Our religion does not allow intermarriage or conversion.”

“Recognising the children of intermarried Parsi men was a mistake, and recognising those of women will be another one. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

These are the refrains I am often subjected to when I debate with so-called orthodox (read bigoted, racist and misogynist) Parsis about the ridiculous gender divide that we, as a community, have allowed to persist unchallenged for over a century.

I am a Parsi woman married to a half-Parsi man; my mother-in-law is Parsi, but my husband is not recognised as one because his father is a Sindhi. Had the latter been a Parsi and his mother from another community, however, he would have lived life as a Parsi.

We have a delightful four-year-old son, whose brown hair and light eyes are living proof of his part-Iranian heritage, but laughably, he is not recognised as Parsi either per the existing laws of the land and our skewed practices.

The fact that the misinformed masses are on the losing side of this argument in every way that matters – ethically, scripturally and scientifically – does little to quell their dogged beliefs.

My husband Rishi was, for better or worse, brought up in a colony with primarily Parsi friends and family. He has always been well-liked and very sociable, but the second-class status that is a direct consequence of not being on the right side of the fence has seen him face discrimination all his life.

“I actually did my best to keep him away from Parsis,” my mother-in-law often tells me. “I never wanted him to have to go through what he did at the hands of some narrow-minded people. Unfortunately, he had a lot in common with Parsi kids and inevitably ended up just another colony kid himself.”

Rishi has never been allowed into a fire temple alongside his mother to offer prayers, nor has he been navjoted – bestowed with the holy girdle and vest of our faith. Growing up, he played sports year-round with his friends, only to sit on the side-lines when community tournaments came up, while others of similar mixed marriage ancestry participated unquestioned because their fathers were Parsi. Some well-intentioned mates sometimes placed him in the weakest sporting teams so that he could play at least a couple of rounds before dropping out of the competition early and undiscovered. Cricket and volleyball were his forte, but he was never allowed to play to the best of his abilities.

His surname – Kishnani – has usually been concealed on entry forms like it’s a dirty word. “We don’t want Guptas, Kumars and Shahanis in our baugs and colonies,” is a statement you often hear when in exclusively Parsi company. It’s more than a little ironic that it is the Desais, Patels, Kapadias, Dalals, Khans, Nicholsons and Chowdhrys who make these declarations. Where have your surnames come from exactly, I ask them – Iran? No response.

The social discrimination hardly ends there. Mumbai’s Parsi-only Ripon Club has spent years weighing the issue of whether Parsi women should be offered full-fledged club membership, as opposed to the associate membership status they have so far been accorded. Those opposing this proposal are doing so on the grounds that the non-Parsi husbands of inter-married women members will then take over the institution and its administration; curiously, all the non-Parsi women who have been frequenting Ripon all these years with their Parsi spouses are not perceived as a threat.

NDTV for more

Trump humbled in China as Beijing visit underlines the new world order in Asia

November 15th, 2017


Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and US President Donald Trump PHOTO/Azania Post

All of the other countries on the tour are either treaty allies, namely Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, or a new strategic partner, namely Vietnam.

The visit, which saw Trump failing to secure any major concession from China, underlined the glacial but unmistakable emergence of a truly post-American order in Asia.

Cooperation better than confrontation between US and China

Far from highlighting America’s leadership in the region, the visit accentuated China’s emergence as the alternative pillar of prosperity and stability in the world’s most dynamic geopolitical theatre. Trump embarked on his Asia trip to assert American centrality in global affairs, but left Beijing as a humbled leader of a declining superpower.

Since the presidential campaign period, Trump has zeroed in on China with verve and vigour, often portraying the Asian powerhouse as a main threat to American economic well-being and global supremacy.

US, South Korea start drills in show of force against North

Adopting an often bellicose language, he has accused China of engaging in supposed currency manipulation, running an excessive trade surplus with America, aggressively dominating adjacent waters at the expense of regional allies such as Japan and the Philippines, and aiding pariahs like North Korea.

No wonder then, the world carefully watched whether the tough-talking American president could extract any major concession on key areas of difference with Beijing. As expected, however, China managed to mollify and tame the American president, while standing its ground on areas of disagreement.

Under Trump, China’s trade surplus with America has actually widened to US$223 billion in the first 10 months of this year – a double-digit increase from a year earlier. But instead of backing down on areas of core interest, especially on trade and industrial policy, China deftly split the difference.

China seeks closer dialogue with Japan, South Korea to tackle threat from Pyongyang

To temper American concerns over its huge trade deficit with China, Beijing offered 37 major investment deals totalling more than US$250 billion to 30 CEOs from major American companies. Big names such as Boeing, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Qualcomm, Cheniere Energy, Air Products were among those who joined Trump’s visiting delegation of businessmen.

The US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised the agreements as a crucial step in providing “a solid foundation for a stronger relationship that is more free, fair, and reciprocal between the US and China.”

To the applause of his Chinese audience, Trump went so far as giving “China great credit” for its capacity to “take advantage of another country [America] for the benefit of its citizens …”

L’Humanite for more