minority opinion
by me, minority of one

November 17, 2015

Radical Nazis

Sebastian J. Bae writes in the Foreign Policy:
So, I see the same war of 2001 unfolding in 2015, feeding off the latest flurry of righteous anger and the impulse to strike back. But how many more ill-conceived, half-baked interventions must we wage before we learn that waging war is easy – building peace is a decade long process. And if we are not prepared to build meaningful peace, we should be wary to wage war in its name. For the price will be steep, as it’s always been.
I couldn't agree more.

Imagine a Europe ruled by Nazis, with a particularly virulent offshoot in Germany. Imagine - it's not that hard - that the Radical Nazis in Germany are systematically practicing an Apartheid regime against Africans, Hindus, Jews, Romanos, and anyone else who looked different from "native" Germans. Even a murmur against the discriminatory laws is severely punished. Defection would invite certain death penalty. The Radical Nazis, covertly and ruthlessly, carry out these sentences in other countries, as well.

The rest of the Nazi Republics routinely condemn the Radical Nazis for being extremist. Even though they are also one party ruled states as Germany is, they claim to have less discriminatory laws and policies within their own borders. For example, Jewish children would be admitted into elementary and middle schools, but no higher. Punishment for defying the laws are less severe. With a wink here and a nod there, however, they would covertly provide all possible assistance to Germany to promote their "brand of Nazism" around the world.

Tiring of the cover actions, the rest of the world decides to deploy boots on the ground, in the air, and on the sea, against Germany, and bring about a regime change. The new regime would look more like the rest of the Nazi regimes, they promised, and would not engage in any covert action in other countries to promote Nazism .

The rest of the world declares victory after killing the supreme leader of the Radical Nazis of Germany, and many others in his coterie. They are not at war with Nazism, they assert, and piously affirm that the Radical Nazis do not represent true Nazism, which cherishes the same values as they do. To show their appreciation of true Nazism, they elect one of the Nazi countries to be the head of the All Nations Human Rights Organization. Then, they go to sleep.

Only to be awakened by ...
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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

November 16, 2015

Still A Dead Man's Society

Within hours after the Paris terror attack, ISIS issued a statement claiming responsibility for it. I quote from the statement:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent
"Allah (ta'ala) said, {They thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah but Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision} [Al-Hashr:2].

It is claimed that ISIS doesn't represent Islam, and that no religion would condone the murder of the innocent. May be. May be ISIS was misquoting Quran to justify the terror that they struck into the hearts of a thousand or more gathered in Bataclan theater in Paris. I must say, however, in these days of the internet, it's difficult to effectively obfuscate the truth. Why, the quote, almost verbatim, could be found in this copy of the Quran, translated by Saheeh International, Jeddah, and catalogued by King Fahd National Library!

Perhaps, it has been taken out of context. It might have been applicable when Muhammad lived and fought 1400 years ago, but not now, not in Paris, 2015? If so, could we pick and choose from the Quran, only those verses that are relevant now and apply them to law? Should women be compelled to dress like they were compelled to at the time of Muhammad, under penalty of 100 lashes or more? Is one god is more believable than many gods, so the polytheists deserve to be killed? Is worshiping a phallus shaped block of stone idolatry and blasphemy deserving of death penalty, but worshiping a rectangular block of stone in the middle of the desert is worthy of your life savings?

I have explored some of these questions in a post, not 1400 years ago, but only nine. The context hasn't changed much in all these years, so here are the results of my exploration, still applicable, with only minor edits.

Gods don't die, but men do!

Let's get these immortal gods out of the way first. IzanagiRa, and Thor were never alive, so they cannot die. The god delusion, not the book but the phenomenon, is caused by a figment of imagination. Creative at times, but banal mostly. We can debate what is creative and what is banal until the cows come home, but why bother?

Allah cannot create, protect, or destroy, any more than YhwhVishnu, or for that matter, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Sorry, Pastafarians, I must include Its Noodly Holiness, lest I should be accused of bigotry! Nor can any "literally senseless" god cause revelation, enlightenment, or ten commandments to be etched on a couple of stone tablets. These gods that were created in the man's image are only as omnipotent and omnipresent as an orbiting teacup, unicorn, or little green elf.

Once the gods have been dismissed into oblivion, what do we have left of religion? Scriptures that are words of men — and perhaps a woman or two — spoken and written. Of course, I have not read them all. In fact, what I have read completely is limited to a few translations of Hindu scriptures. But, come on, how many pulp fiction books do you need to read, before you can predict what the next one is about from its cover?

Most religious books are stories of everyday life, with some ideas thrown in to explain the puzzles that needed to be solved. Rarely, the stories are profound or the ideas brilliant. A few more are novel and interesting, but what is novel is not interesting and what is interesting is not novel, as they say in my erstwhile trade. The rest, of course, make as much sense as the soap operas. Here are a couple of verses from the Rig Veda — the first, I think, is thoughtful, and the second, mere tripe:
Book 10 Hymn 129 Verse

6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

Book 10 Hymn 86 Verse

8 Dame [Indrani, wife of Indra] with the lovely hands and arms, with broad hair-plaits and ample hips, Why, O thou Hero's wife, art thou angry with our Vrsakapi [a pet monkey]? Supreme is Indra over all.

9 This noxious creature looks on me as one bereft of hero's love, Yet Heroes for my sons have I, the Maruts' Friend and Indra's Queen. Supreme is Indra over all.
On balance, if we were unaware of the stories and ideas in the religious books, we would not have missed more than what we would have from missing all the 15068 (as of 2006) episodes of "Guiding Light". And, subjected to the strict criteria of peer review for scholarly publications, few, if any, of these collections would see the light of the day.

Apart from the stories and ideas of dubious worth, scriptures of major religions also lay down standards of conduct. These edicts were essentially codified mechanisms for the resolution of social conflicts that might have arisen or were likely to arise, in the space and time when they were spoken or written. Like modern laws, they were social contracts that reflected the prevailing political economy and levels of knowledge, designed to prevent conflicts from escalating in depth and scope.

Not all of these were particularly clever, just, or equitable. Many will be considered abhorrent today:
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. [Bible, Leviticus 20:13]

They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper. [Koran, The Women 4.89]

With whatever limb a man of a low caste does hurt to (a man of the three) highest (castes), even that limb shall be cut off; that is the teaching of Manu. He who raises his hand or a stick, shall have his hand cut off; he who in anger kicks with his foot, shall have his foot cut off. [Laws of Manu, Ch.8 279-280]
Such standards of conduct must be enduring, in the interest of the stability of now antiquated societal organizations. Hence the society's collateral investment in assets and skills to ensure adherence to the standards. Examples are the elaborate and expensive buildings to house the gods — the underwriters of the covenants, and the training and skills imparted to the masons and sculptors. The dynamics here must have been quite similar to the evolution of default standards such as the QWERTY key board or the Microsoft Windows.

Books of religions are compendiums of words spoken or written by dead men. Christ, Manu, and Muhammad are dead men. They might have walked this earth hundreds or thousands of years ago, but now they are dead. Their flesh, bones, and hair are irreversibly reduced to the atoms of carbon and the molecules of methane that move through space. Just as those of the billions of sequoias, dinosaurs, and earthworms that died before and after these men. Whatever might be the claims to the contrary, their words and edicts have no more sanctity than President Bush's claim that he has been "called to seek higher office", or that the United States was "called to bring God's gift of liberty to every human being in the world."

Today, a society that continues to insist on being organized around such edicts would be labeled as primitive or uncivilized, and rightly so. Only the boneheaded would think that such standards of conduct have eternal validity, and therefore, should be defended at any cost. In the interest of civilization and progress, they must yield to new ideas for conflict resolution based on reasoning that reflects the state of the art in the sciences of human nature.

Richard Dawkins has argued that religion is the root of many of society's evils. Much of these arise from the individual's misplaced faith in the irrational ideas and commands of ordinary men, long dead and gone. What is it in this that is so hard for intelligent men and women to understand? Why do they insist on sacrificing the living in the altar of the dead?

The title is a rephrasing of the title of the movie, Dead Poets Society, directed by Peter Weir
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cocktail lounge
mix of art, books, movies, music etc.

Still Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon: Sam Harris

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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

Revelation - Not

How do you dissuade a billion or more people from believing that a book written by a dead man, who might have lived 1400 years ago, is neither a revelation nor infallible?
By bombing the hell out of a few thugs who are holed out in a desert here, only to spring up on a mountain there, calling themselves every year and in every place by a new and different name that few understand even the meaning of?
By destroying alongside, homes, hospitals, and schools, that house thousands of fathers, mothers, and children who, in their hearts and minds, just want a life for themselves that you and I want?
Repeating ad nauseum that the book is indeed a revelation and infallible, while reinforcing the misplaced belief that the thugs and the rest of the billion share?

Really? Is that the best that the combined brains of the so-called leaders of the developed world can come up with?
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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

November 15, 2015


Suppose a political party's manifesto:

  1. prohibits you from ever defecting from the party, or risk being tried for treason
  2. imprisons you for life if you challenged the supreme leader of the party
  3. forces you to stay at home and tend to your husband and children, once you reached puberty
  4. compels you to study the books written by supreme leader for 12 years
  5. prohibits you from marrying anyone other than a party member 
  6. prohibits you from having sex without the permission of the party officials under penalty of death
  7. commands you to kill anyone who insults the supreme leader
  8. permits you to marry none other than the supreme leader, if you were widowed
  9. permits the party officials to take your children as slaves for life
  10. permits the party officials to chop your tongue off if you question their orders

Will you agree to become a member of that party, if you had a choice? Never, right?

Then, why would you, if the party were to assert that it's supreme leader's name is "God"?
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

November 9, 2015

National Academy of Atheists

Herb Silverman writes in the Huffington Post that according to a recent Harris Survey, majority of Jews in the U.S. are atheists. I am mildly surprised. What I am not at all surprised about is that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a god. I suppose most academics of any discipline would know Carl Sagan. Watch this tribute to him from Hashem AL-ghaili —

Now, tell me, do you really believe in this god thing?

At Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary, Karen Keller is discriminating against the boys in her Kindergarten class. Only girls are permitted to play with the 1907-piece LEGO blocks, and boys will have to wait their turn until what she perceives to be a behaviorally induced gender gap in spatial skills:
I had to do the ‘girls only Lego club’ to boost it more,” she explained. “Boys get ongoing practice and girls are shut out of those activities, which just kills me. Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.
What will happen when these girls go home, and their brothers hog every building set in sight, with at least covert encouragement from their parents? Will the teacher be able to make for five years of discrimination in one year? In any case, here's my best wishes for success in your experiment, Ms. Keller.

Ben Carson's "scientific beliefs" never cease to amaze me. His latest:
My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,.. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs' graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don't think it'd just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.
QED! As a corollary, Carson dismisses help from aliens in building hermetically sealed chambers in the pyramids, "... you know, [building a pyramid] doesn't require an alien being when God is with you."

Discovery Institute and "Intelligent Design" theorists should take note: your funds may be in jeopardy, in case this guy becomes the President. Whether you are an alien or man-made, please, oh god, please, for just once, use all your alleged powers to forbid this guy from ever becoming the President!

It's scary enough when a practicing neurosurgeon asserts that Darwin had sold his "soul" to the devil. When college students demand that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Ovid's Metamorphoses should carry trigger warnings, if given as reading assignment, it's downright a calamity. Writes Frank Furedi in Aeon:
The campaign for trigger warnings represents its cause as an attempt to protect the vulnerable and the powerless from any potentially traumatic and harmful effects of reading. Those who are opposed or indifferent to the call for these warnings are condemned as accomplices in the marginalising of the powerless.
How about a tough quiz in Calculus? Should it carry a trigger warning, too, as it could potentially marginalize the mathematically powerless?

Quotation of the day from Cafe Hayek
The day-to-day practice of politics consists largely of pushing the envelope to see how big a lie -- and how many of them -- one can get away with at the moment. In what other profession is blurting out the truth considered a gaffe? - Bob Higgs, on his Facebook page

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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

You can't f#$%ing say that!

An excerpt from Brenden O'Neill's manifesto on free speech in Spiked, prompted by the Halloween horror in Yale University — The ‘Yale snowflakes’: who made these monsters? | Down with campus censorship!:
We could see the culture of ‘You can’t say that!’ in all its swirling, borderline violent ugliness. It wasn’t a whispered or implied ‘You can’t say that!’, of the kind we see all the time in 21st-century public life, in response to people who criticise gay marriage, say, or doubt climate change. No, this was an explicitly stated ‘You can’t fucking say that, and if you do we’ll demand that you be sacked!’ 
May I have your permission to write about a 19 year old rape victim who got whipped 200 times, and on top of it, six months jail term? Of course, as long as I don't mention that the punishment was in compliance with the 1400 year old Islamic Law, Sharia. If I do, then I'll be an Islamophobe!

Hasn't any of these Yale kids read anything about Bettina Aptheker, Marco Savio, or Jack Weinberg?

From the opposing side come the rallying cries, "Christians of America, unite!", "We are the marginalized 70%", "We demand safe space", "Jesus, save us from the Christianophobes"... Oh, come on, of course they are not using those words, but you get my drift. To what do we owe this latest outburst? Persecution by Starbuck's plain red coffee cups for this Holiday Season!

My optimism for the future of humanity has been restored, not only by that first-grader who endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, but also by the results from a study of  "1,170 children aged between 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa)". The authors conclude that children growing up in non-religious households are kinder and gentler to others than those growing up in religious households. So much for religion's self-proclaimed ownership of the Golden Rule!

Over at the Onion, John Wertz worries about gentrification and the Occupy Main Street movement encroaching into his apartment. His roommate, Mark, is replacing the old, 99% Mr.Coffee with his De’Longhi espresso machine, among other 99% stuff being gradually replaced by 1% stuff. Whole Foods, meanwhile, is desperately trying for a 99% makeover by shedding its "Whole Paycheck" image in favor of "No Paycheck" image!

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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

November 8, 2015

Mirror, Mirror ...

Mirror, Mirror, which of these religions is the fairest of all? Is it the one that will kill you for:

Legally terminating the pregnancy of a woman |

Drawing a cartoon of its prophet |

Burning a moth-eaten book that's on your shelf |

Eating the meat of a cow |

Having sex with a consenting adult |

Worshiping any god that is other than its own |

Loving someone out of caste |

Showing that the tears in a statue's eyes are from a plumbing leak |

Showing your face to a stranger |

Teaching a girl arithmetic, reading and writing |

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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

November 6, 2015

Beware, My Captain

It was India, 2008. A different political party at the center, a different Prime Minister, a different administration. Taslima Nasreen had just left India —or more precisely, had been forced out. She was said to be somewhere in Europe, her location kept secret for obvious reasons. To me personally it was never a question of if, but when she would leave this state that had failed miserably in everything that it professed to uphold &#151 democracy, secularism, and freedom of expression. A self-serving, weak-kneed government, that had allowed itself to be browbeaten by a handful of fundamentalist thugs, who had chalked up an amazing victory over intellectuals, judges, writers, and concerned citizens from every sphere of life.

Fast forward to India, 2015. A different political party at the center, a different Prime Minister, a different administration. An innocent man, Mohammad Akhlaq, has been murdered for not consuming beef that's illegal to consume. Another man, Prashant Poojary, has been murdered elsewhere for attempting to prevent anyone from consuming beef that's illegal to consume. An author is murdered for his unorthodox views on that scourge of humanity, religion and its insane beliefs. A self-serving, weak-kneed government continues to silently watch over these attempts to set India's clock back centuries, if not millennia.

The script has not changed, although the font has. The continuing chapter on religious fanaticism in India's history hardly surprises me, although it seems to surprise some who, perhaps, have been living in a cave for decades.

I am an optimist who sees the glass half full, so I still think there is time to pay heed to the words of Kazi Nazrul Islam written at a different time, on yet another religious strife in the subcontinent:
The boat is trembling,
The water is swelling,
The sail is torn asunder,
And the boatman is losing his way,
Who will sit at the helm at this hour?
Who has the courage and the power?
The future calls you,
Come forward, all who are bold and true.
— Kazi Nazrul Islam, Beware My Captain. In Bengali : Kandari hushiar, Translation: Kabir Chowdhury
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

November 3, 2015

An endorsement for Hillary Clinton

A dinner conversation between a first-grader and her mom:
M: Have there been many girl presidents?
Mom: Not here in the USA. We haven't had any, but other countries have.
M: Why?
Mom: Because for a long time, men thought that women couldn't do the job, so they didn't let us try.
M: But that's not true!
Mom: I know. Eventually we had enough and fought back.
M: Girls did?
Mom: Yes. And did you know that President Obama is the first dark-skinned president we've had?
M: No. Why?
Mom: Remember how you learned about slavery? And how people used to think that dark skin meant you weren't as smart or capable as a light skinned person?
M: That's silly! YOU have dark skin, and you're smart. I have kinda dark skin, too.
Mom: Yup. The Europeans and Americans figured out that they were wrong. Next year, for the first time, we'll have a woman running for president. If enough people vote for her, then she'll become our new president.
M: I hope she wins.
Mom: Me, too.
Hillary Clinton couldn't have a better endorsement than this!
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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

November 1, 2015

Where's the beef?

Much as I'd like to dismiss political news from around the world as vapid, I dare not ask of that from India these days, "Where's the beef?" Not without inadvertently causing offence to some of my friends and family on either side of the cow divide. After carefully weighing the risks, I decided to modify and re-post this from about a decade ago.

I am assuming that there is no "right to be forgotten" law in India yet. If there is, then I sincerely appeal to Mr. Ravi Shastri, the protagonist of this story, to let me know a.s.a.p., so I could delete this post.

From Zee News, December 23, 2006:

A case was filed against former Test cricketer Ravi Shastri in a local court here for allegedly hurting the religious feelings of Hindus by reportedly eating beef during the India-South Africa Test match in Johannesburg. The case was filed by Bajrang Dal, Indore Incharge, Manoj Malpani in the court of Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC), R K Batham....The case was filed under Section 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious belief) and 298 (A) of the IPC, he said, adding the court has fixed January 5 for recording evidence in the case.

I cannot draw a cartoon these days without risking being beheaded on the shores of the Mediterranean in global view. Call a plumbing leak a plumbing leak, and not tears flowing down Virgin May's cheeks? Forget it, unless you like to live in the slammer for three years. I better not ask the guy in the Rolls Royce parked on the next lane, "Pardonnez moi, do you have a condom or two?" What if he is fanatically Catholic? Soon, you can't breathe in a micro-biotic cocktail without offending someone's religious sentiments. Jain, anyone? Now, if you are averse to eating anything but beef and potatoes, and planning a long trip to India, then you must prepare yourself for Diabetes or starve to death!

The Indian Penal Code Section 295(a) may be the culprit in the Hindus' beef with Ravi Shastri, as Amit contends here. What about everything else from the Satanic Verses to Idomeneo? I am with Dawkins all the way on this. Religion is the scourge of humanity, and not its savior. What is worse, the fundamentalists are often the worst read in their own scriptures. Read this excerpt from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a Hindu book of wisdom:

VI-iv-14: He who wishes that his son should be born fair, study one Veda and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked in milk, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.

VI-iv-15: He who wishes that his son should be born tawny or brown, study two Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked in curd, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.

VI-iv-16: He who wishes that his son should be born dark with red eyes, study three Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked in water and he and his wife should eat with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.

VI-iv-17: He who wishes that a daughter should be born to him who would be a scholar and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with sesame, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a daughter.

VI-iv-18: He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.

Who the heck is Malpani to object, if Ravi Shastri wanted to beget a scholar of all the Vedas by eating bull's biltong?

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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

October 18, 2015

Competetive Appeasement Fever — Updated Fact Sheet

UPDATE: A yet to be named mutant form of the Kbola virus is suspected to be attacking another subgroup of humans besides politicians — the so-called intellectuals in the academia and literary world. Infected professors and writers seem to exhibit acute memory loss, even end-of-the-world like delusions. In a string of occurrences of the virus around the world, infected academics in world-renowned institutions have also exhibited the classic symptoms of the Kola virus — bowed vertebrae and infarctions in areas of the brain involved in hindsight and reasoning.

A recent outbreak of this mutant form has affected several eminent writers in India. Although they have been around from pre-independence days, the virus has caused infected patients to fantasize that they are seeing thought police for the first time in their life. Acute anxiety attacks followed, and wouldn't abate until the patients had been examined by media personnel. The virus is suspected to have jumped from dead cows and pigs to humans who have consumed or stocked the meat from these animals.

The Competitive Appeasement Fever (CAF) is caused by the Kbola virus (Kill-Brain-Or-Learning-Ability virus), which belongs to the DandRviridae (Divide-and-Rule-viridae) family. It is comprised of four distinct subtypes: Religare L. (Religion), Lingua L. (Language), Gens L. (Race), and Ordo L. (Class). The fifth, Caste, may not be a true subtype, and is widely believed to be a mutant of the Kbola Religare. The Kbola Lingua and Caste subtypes are found almost exclusively in South Asia, but scattered instances have been found in other parts of the world as well. The Gens subtype is prevalent in Europe and North America. The Ordo subtype is found in several regions of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Asia, and parts of Central and South America.

The Kbola virus causes serious clinical illness, almost exclusively in infected politicians. After a thorough analysis of the political genome, researchers have found no evidence of any immunity to the Kbola virus among this human sub-species. Clinically ill politicians may exhibit symptoms of pseudo-hemorrhaging of the heart, obesity, and thickening of the skin, among others. The virus causes only asymptomatic illness in the infected apolitical humans, meaning that they do not themselves experience any clinical illness. Serious secondary effects such as stunted growth, unemployment, and sometimes even depression, are known to occur in all economies where there is an outbreak of political infection.

  • The Kbola virus is transmitted by word of mouth, fist-to-face contact, and occasionally, through tables, chairs, and other items thrown by the politicians at each other.
  • Heated congressional and parliamentary debates on bills harboring the various Kbola virus subtypes can play an indirect, but significant role in their transmission.
  • Socialites from NGO's, particularly those afflicted with the Bleeding Heart Syndrome (BHS), are known carriers of the Kbola virus. They are frequently infected while appearing to treat various unrelated human sicknesses. Protective camouflages as academics, activists, and welfare workers, although widely used by the NGO's, have not been effective against the virus.
Incubation period: Varies directly with the months to election.
  • The Kbola viral infection is characterized by the sudden onset of spending fever, hearing loss, and weakening of the spine. Uncontrolled CAF may cause frequent waving of both the hands, temper tantrums in the well of the parliament, and sometimes, even mass hysteria.
  • Laboratory tests of brain and spinal taps from patients show significant depletion of grey matter and low count of neurotransmitters.
  • X-Rays have revealed boneheadedness, large areas of infarction in the cortical regions known to be involved in reasoning, as well as bowed vertebrae in a few severe cases.
  • Doctors and technicians are forewarned that physical examination of the clinically ill politicians can be conducted only under arbitrary conditions, and present risk of extreme pain in their own extremities.
  • Specialized laboratory tests on brain tissues and spinal fluid can detect specific antigens and/or genes of the virus. Antibodies to the virus can also be detected in interns and hospital staff involved in prolonged bouts with the patients. All the virus subtypes can be isolated in political cultures around the world.
  • New developments in diagnostic techniques include non-invasive methods, such as careful reading of the political platforms, minimum programs, and multi-point development schemes, as well as investigation of the kitchen cabinets and remote controllers of the infected patients.
  • Severe outbreaks of the Kbola virus require rapid and firm response from highly qualified doctors, technicians, and managers.
  • No specific treatment or vaccine is available for the Kbola induced CAF. In rare cases, fasting by the attending physicians has helped the patient's immune system develop antibodies to the virus. It is suspected that the sympathetic mirror neurons of some of the infected politicians may have played a role in this. Further tests are needed before this can be confirmed.
  • Infusion of new blood from different vote banks may help sometimes, but the technique carries a high risk of relapse. In an extensively analyzed outbreak of the Kbola Caste subtype in India, known as the Mandal Epidemic (see below), relapse has occurred in some patients even after 20 years.
  • Since no effective treatment is available for the disease, the best recourse is to immediately remove the clinically ill patients from the office buildings and public housing that they occupy, and permanently quarantine them from their constituencies.

There are multiple claimants to the discovery of the Kbola virus, but none can be authenticated. The Competitive Appeasement Fever was named as such by Joe Smith, when reviewing a book written by Jane Doe. The book described several cases of infection with the Kbola Gens subtype in the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, during the 1930's and 40's. CAF rendered them ineffective in dealing with a horrific outbreak of a mixture of Kbola Religare and Kbola Gens subtypes in Germany, known as Nazism, which wiped out entire populations in a matter of few years.

Recent outbreaks of the Kbola virus have occurred mainly in India, and a few of these are listed below.

  • Currently, there is an outbreak of the Kbola Religare subtype in Northern India. This follows on the heels of yet another stubborn outbreak of the Caste subtype earlier this year. It is important to note that these outbreaks have been most severe in the capital district of Delhi, and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, where elections are to be held in a couple of months. The epidemic is yet to be contained, and many fear that it may severely cramp the promising IT sector and kill the nascent Medical Tourism industry.
  • In October and December 2006, two Kbola Lingua subtype outbreaks occurred in the Southern Indian states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. The outbreak has indirectly affected thousands of high school students and crippled several schools.
  • The Mandal Epidemic that started in 1979, was the most severe outbreak of the Caste subtype to date in India. It peaked during 1989-90, and took several lives before it was finally contained with a massive infusion of fresh blood into the political and economic culture in 1991.
  • The Naxal Epidemic, an outbreak of the Kbola Ordo subtype in West Bengal, took many lives during the late 1960's and early 70's. This epidemic is unique in that it did not cause significant political infection and CAF in India, unlike the earlier outbreaks of the same virus subtype in China, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam. Currently, there is sporadic activity of the virus in a few Indian states.
  • The Dravidian outbreak of the Lingua subtype occurred in the 1960's, mainly in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. It was accompanied by a variant of the CAF, known as the Anti-Hindi Fever or AHF. The AHF, a secondary effect, affected mostly the student population, and was fatal in many cases. The concurrent CAF caused extensive and permanent damage to the body politic of the state.
  • Natural reservoirs of the Kbola viruses seem to reside in parliaments, legislative assemblies, and campaign trails. Although one non-human primate, the Red Monkey is known to carry the virus, it is not thought to be a reservoir. No Kbola infections of human cases have been linked to direct contact with the Red Monkey.
  • Dormant pools of the viruses can be found in libraries that archive old and worn out government policy and planning documents. These can become active quickly before and during elections.
  • The virus is known to thrive and multiply in growing economies, feeding on the half-baked pies made from the blood, sweat, and tears of sleepless call-center operators and programmers.

¹ This fact sheet is patterned after WHO fact sheets, particularly the fact sheet for the Ebola hemorrhagic fever.
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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

October 3, 2015

"India's Attack on Free Speech"

That's the title of a recent article by Sonia Faleiro in the New York Times. It's a scathing attack on how the country is changing from a "secular democracy" to a "Hindu Pakistan", since the Bharathiya Janatha Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014. In India's murky politico-religious scene, accusations and counter-accusations of which administration is more communal than another is as commonplace - and often devoid of logic - as which administration is more racist than another is in the USA.

If you are familiar with identity politics in India as I am, there is not much insight to be gained from this article, which presents only one side of the story. To get a flavor of the other side, please read this:  "Editor arrested for 'outraging Muslims". For a better understanding of the state of free speech in India, you may also research similar incidents relating to Sanal Edamaruku, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie ... during the earlier administrations, mostly of the Congress Party.

Looking beyond these political shenanigans, the legal scene regarding freedom of expression in India is, and has been, dismal. Ostensibly, freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 19 of the India Constitution. This article has been amended, claused, and subclaused so much, however, that it has been rendered meaningless. As Justice Scalia said during a Senate Hearing in 2011, ".. it’s just words on paper, what our Framers would have called a “parchment guarantee.”"

Section 295 A  of the Indian Penal Code, for example, reads: "Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both." This is essentially a blasphemy law that has been enforced selectively across administrations to score political points. A summary of the legislative and case history of 295A can be found here.

Another example, Section 66A of India's IT Act which extends 295A to all communication including electronic communication, has been a death knell to any semblance of freedom of speech. I am sure that the author of the New York Times article is aware that the said amendment was passed by the ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress Party, 6 years before Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, took office in 2014.

Regarding the three murders referred to by the author, while they could well have been perpetrated by Hindu extremists — and I personally suspect so — to the best of my knowledge, no one has been apprehended or convicted so far. Further, at least in one case, family dispute is suspected by the police, and that's in the Congress Party governed state of Karnataka. It is worth noting here that these murders are preceded by years, even centuries of religious violence and mayhem in India.

Concluding from a few such recent incidents that "the country is undergoing a tectonic shift that will have long-term repercussions", is similar to concluding that a tectonic shift is occurring in the USA, after reading that Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz had visited Kim Davis in prison. Or, because a random guy with a history of mental illness and subscribing to a potpourri of extremist ideas went on a shooting rampage in Oregon.
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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

September 20, 2015

Sinday Levitycus: Religious Bone-Head Syndrome

Religious Bone-Head Syndrome (RBHS) is a viral mental illness that is not so new to humans. It was first reported in Mount Sinai around 1500 BCE, when a man named Moses came into contact with the virus through unprotected handling of a couple of stone tablets that fell from the heaven. It has since mutated into various forms, and spread to several other countries including the United States.

The virus spreads through human communication, and enters the body through the person's eyes and ears. It then rapidly invades the nerve and brain tissues in the cranium, in turn leading to pervasive calcification. The symptoms mimic Fahr’s Syndrome, but are much more severe.

Patients always complain of hallucinations, and demonstrate profound, psychotic loss of contact with reality. While the virus could potentially affect all people, it is especially virulent in immortality-compromised older adults. Surprisingly, the virus doesn’t seem to affect infants and children who cannot yet communicate verbally with adults.

In the US, most people infected with RBHS-V have been observed to develop severe delusion, causing them to trample on the rights of others while blaming them for transgressing on their own rights, shred the Bill of Rights and throw it to the winds, claim the nation for their religion, taking a pilgrimage to Kentucky, and otherwise normal behavior of people of faith.

In a now famous case, a four-times married Kentucky clerk, who claims to have contracted the virus four years ago, appears to have completely lost memory of her three previous marriages. Under questioning, she is known assert repeatedly that she strictly follows the rule of “marriage between one man and one woman”, just as her god has willed! When the virus infects people in high places - candidates for the Presidency or the Congress, for example - lesions develop in the Wernicke area of their brain, causing their speech to become more incoherent and nonsensical than usual, bordering on lunacy.

It is strongly advised that patients afflicted with the RBHS-V are kept indefinitely in isolation wards to control and mitigate the spread of this dangerous virus. At the very least, they should be kept as far away from the White House and the Capitol as possible.

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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

September 19, 2015

If Trump Is A Christian, Obama Ought To Be A Muslim!

Here is why.

Who is a Muslim? You may have heard about Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, who died this year. He was so popular and dear to the hearts of millions in India that they changed the name of a major thoroughfare in New Delhi from Aurangazeb Marg to Abdul Kalam Marg. One would surmise that Mr. Aurangazeb, a Moghul emperor of 17th century vintage, was neither popular, nor dear to the hearts of millions in India. Actually, they hated him.

Wait, what has all this got to do with Obama and Trump? Patience, patience.

Aurangazeb was a devout Muslim; few would question that. He was so devoted to a 7th century prophet of Islam, that he murdered those who were not so devoted, they say. Dr. Abdul Kalam, apparently, was also a Muslim. It must be true, because India's cultural minister says so:
We have renamed Aurangzeb Road after a person, who despite being a Muslim, is a great nationalist...." the Minister told a news channel.

Not so quick, say Dr. Kalam's critics. Here is what, Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, a well regarded Islamic scholar and former Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, and father of Fareed Zakaria, CNN's host, wrote this about the Muslim-ness of Dr. Kalam:
...But because [Dr. Kalam] was born a Muslim and bears a Muslim name, he should not be put in the same category as the two former Muslim Presidents, Dr Zakir Husain and Mr Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. Both of them were as great a patriot and Indian to the core as Dr Kalam. But they were also Muslims in the real sense of the word; they believed in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully followed the traditions of the Prophet... But for God's sake, don't describe [Dr. Kalam] as a Muslim President...
Dr. Zakaria then goes through a litany of reasons why Dr. Kalam should not be considered a Muslim. Amongst them are his refusal of an invitation to visit the Anjuman-i-Islam "to deliver the famous Seerut lecture to pay homage to the Prophet", his enchantment with the Gita, and an anecdote that he was a vegetarian!
Enough of Abdul Kalam, let me get back to Obama and Trump.

Will Obama qualify as a Muslim by Zakaria's criteria? He is certainly not a vegetarian, and to the best of my knowledge, not as enchanted with the Gita as he is with the US Constitution. That figures, because he was, after all, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. He is, therefore, not as not-a-Muslim as Kalaam was, but is he a Muslim?

Obama's father was a Muslim, but according to reports, he was not a "Muslim in the real sense of the word" — he was an atheist! His father's father was a Muslim, I am told, and according to many other Islamic scholars, that ought to make both Obamas permanent Muslims.

Does President Obama believe in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully follow the traditions of the Prophet? It depends on what tenets and traditions we are talking about. I hear he swears occasionally, but it has never been reported that he "swear[s] by the fig and the olive — [Koran: 95.1]"! Birthers like Trump, who may even believe that Obama is an evil emissary from Saturn, won't dare say that he is married to twelve wives. Not when Michelle Obama is alive!

The bottom line — is Obama a Muslim or not? To answer that question, I turn to another question.

Is Donald Trump a Christian? To seeketh an answer, I asketh not that you read the Bible, but taketh a vacation at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City or the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas. Who knows, you may even get a chance to meet him personally, ask him that one "Gotcha" question that you have always wanted to ask Trump, "Are you a Christian?" If the answer is "Yes", then we may rationally conclude — Hume could go and hide in a cave — Obama ought to be a Muslim!

Ah, the mess we get ourselves into with all these fictitious identities!
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