Jun 13th, 2008 by ravi
More India Shining

BBC NEWS | Malnutrition getting worse in India

Every lunchtime the children of Chitori Khurda gather at the Anganwadi centre in the village. It is where nutrition and health services are provided at village level.

On the day we visited, each child was given two puris (small bread puffs fried in oil) along with some sweet porridge. The allocation is 80g of food a day per child.

The children ate it, then sat hoping for more, but there was none.

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Jun 12th, 2008 by ravi
Obama’s handlers and fanboys: not elitists, just smug idiots?

Here’s a nice one from Robert Casey (only the Democrats would need a pro-lifer like him to unseat Rick Santorum) speaking about Hillary supporters:

Clinton’s High Profile Healing Process Has Begun | The New York Observer


Certainly, the dire polling data showing high numbers of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters unwilling to vote for Mr. Obama will settle. But the most committed of her loyalists may be slow to forgive what many of them genuinely saw as a chauvinistic joint effort of the Obama campaign and the media to bully their candidate from the race.


Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, who provided Mr. Obama one of his highest-profile endorsements during the primary, said, “Her speech went very far to help her supporters make that transition, but it is a work in progress. […]”

Duh! Let’s see… Clinton supporters (and non-supporters like me) see chauvinism in the media and some parts of the Obama campaign/fanbase and the response? A chauvinistic “we’ll help you make that transition”!

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Jun 12th, 2008 by ravi
Bloodthirstiness by any other name?

Winding down a tediously long essay describing in detail the vengeance driven tribal battles in New Guinea, Jared Diamond finds in them a justification and need for bloodthirstiness:

Annals of Anthropology: Vengeance Is Ours: The New Yorker


We regularly ignore the fact that the thirst for vengeance is among the strongest of human emotions. It ranks with love, anger, grief, and fear, about which we talk incessantly. Modern state societies permit and encourage us to express our love, anger, grief, and fear, but not our thirst for vengeance. We grow up being taught that such feelings are primitive, something to be ashamed of and to transcend.

There is no doubt that state acceptance of every individual’s right to exact personal vengeance would make it impossible for us to coexist peacefully as fellow-citizens of the same state. Otherwise, we, too, would be living under the conditions of constant warfare prevailing in non-state societies like those of the New Guinea Highlands. […]

My conversations with Daniel made me understand what we have given up by leaving justice to the state. In order to induce us to do so, state societies and their associated religions and moral codes teach us that seeking revenge is bad. But, while acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged. To a close relative or friend of someone who has been killed or seriously wronged, and to the victims of harm themselves, those feelings are natural and powerful. Many state governments do attempt to grant the relatives of crime victims some personal satisfaction, by allowing them to be present at the trial of the accused, and, in some cases, to address the judge or jury, or even to watch the execution of their loved one’s murderer.

This smells of biologism (or biological determinism if you prefer). We find it abhorrent when used in various forms in EP and elsewhere to “explain” rape or other acts frowned upon in society. And if we are able to demonstrate that there is no rape instinct to counter that wonderful biologism, but not so with Diamond’s claims above, Diamond still commits what is otherwise rejected as the “naturalistic fallacy”. There are probably better defences (see Kant) of “retributivism” but this one IMHO fails miserably. And it is an insult to those who either do not share the bloodthirstiness of Diamond’s “we”, or consciously seek to rise above it, not “ignore” it.

In the USA, the norm is anything but not “permit[ting] our thirst for vengeance”. As the line in the movie rendition of the life of Hurricane Carter goes, the norm is “any black man will do”, created and promoted by the very vengefulness that Diamond wants to give primacy, under terms such as “victim’s rights” and “survivors rights”. It is not an exaggeration to summarise the mood as one where it is considered that it is better to hang someone, than let a crime go unpunished. So we have the FOP and the victim continuing to deny the innocence of the young black men who spent many years in jail before being exonerated and released, in the “Central Park Jogger” incident which prompted full page ads from billionaire Donald Trump lusting for a hanging. This state sanctioned attitude is the direct result of encouraging (rather than discouraging) the need for vengeful satisfaction. Here is the New York Times:

… Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey observed at the time…: ”You rob a store, rape a jogger, shoot a tourist, and when they catch you, if they catch you . . . you cry racism. And nobody, white or black, says stop.”


[T]he brutalization of the victim demonized the suspects and seemed to make any presumption of innocence impossible. Donald J. Trump bought full-page newspaper advertisements demanding the death penalty and rejecting assertions (from Cardinal John J. O’Connor, among others) that society shared the blame for conditions that breed crime.

”I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” Mr. Trump wrote. ”They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.” (What if the jogger had died and the five young men had been executed, Mr. Trump was asked the other day. ”If they were convicted and weren’t guilty the government would’ve made a tragic mistake,” he said.)

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Jun 9th, 2008 by ravi
Kevin Alexander Gray on James Clyburn

Democracy Now! | Race, Politics, Dr. King and the Primaries in South Carolina

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking right now to Kevin Alexander Gray in Columbia, South Carolina. The Republican primary is January 19th. The Democratic primary January 26th. Talk about your congressman, James Clyburn. He is the only African American congressman from South Carolina, one of the leaders in Congress. He’s overseas right now, appears to be extremely angry about what has been happening.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY: Well, he hinted that he might support Obama, but I don’t think that that’s going to happen. Jim—first of all, you know, people say Jim was involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Jim was the head of the State Human Affairs Commission before he ran for Congress. And Jim has kind of been the pick of the status quo established white community for a long time. So I don’t see Jim leaving too far off of that plantation and bucking the party establishment in the state by picking somebody.

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Jun 5th, 2008 by ravi
Democratic nomination circus wrapup

In case it isn’t obvious, I am not a Hillary supporter. I am an old-fashioned leftist and I have severe problems with her positions on Palestine, the Iraq War, US foreign policy and a raft of other issues. I am not a Obama hater either — he is only as far from (and perhaps less so!) the just position on these same issues as Hillary is, by my principles. However, as a feminist I want to write some comments on the subtle and not so subtle sexism and “woman beating” that has occured through this campaign.

What has struck me is the parallels in the technique and rhetoric of Obama supporters (and the campaign itself) and the typical GOP one. One analogy is George Bush’s 2000 image of a friendly, uniting “compassionate conservative”, even as those who pushed his candidacy indulged the most vicious attacks on McCain and then Gore. The GOP uses hired thugs and pundits to carry out this task, while the anti-Hillary campaign has benefitted from voluntary abuse from the so-called “netroots”, media, and public intellectuals (examples are below). Obama himself has taken on right-wing talking points gladly: see Paul Krugman on Obama’s health insurance issue attacks on Hillary, or Obama’s description of blocking Iraq war funding as “playing chicken with the troops“, to offer but two examples. And if the media gave Bush a free ride and now McCain a positive one, they have done much the same with Obama but, again as Paul Krugman points out, done quite the opposite with Hillary.

Any voice that is raised against such abuse is accused of being part of a “lather of angry victim-hood that blames sexism” (Debra Saunders on SFGate) — once again a striking parallel with right-wing rhetoric, which uses such terms to ridicule and deny Black claims, ironically the very group whose success Obama is supposed to represent — even as heavyweights like Barbara Ehrenreich post on Alternet and elsewhere about the lessons to draw about women as a whole from Hillary’s “Nasty, Deceptive” behaviour. In other words, Hillary’s sex matters only in so far as it can be used to critique women — but an attempt to identify attacks on her with her sex would be “angry victim-hood”. We are told (by miscellaneous NYT Op-Ed columnists) not to vote for Hillary because of her being a woman, even as Obama wins Southern states based entirely on black people voting for him (ostensibly, and unsuprisingly/understandably, for his being black and an embodiment of their dreams). Strikingly opposite is the verboten status of any question of Obama’s black identity and experience, even if raised by prominent Black activists.

I am not sure the anti-Hillary camp can have it both ways, at least logically speaking (rhetorically speaking, they are enjoying great success, for sure). So one cannot have Ehrenreich drawing broad conclusions about women on the basis of her understanding of Hillary’s campaign (and throwing the few convicted women of the Abu Ghraib scandal under the bus, to arm her arguments), Maureen Down using gender specific adjectives to describe Clinton’s words in the NYT, the media obsessing about her clothes and cleavage, the Obama campaign using gender specific slang (“Stop the Drama” i.e., Hillary is a drama queen?) as T-shirt slogans, while at the same time exhorting us to abandon our “victim-hood” and not see this as a sexism issue. Here is a simple question: in the tens of anti-Hillary FaceBook groups is one titled “Life’s a bitch, why vote for one?”. Can you search for and find one titled “Your neighbour isn’t a nigger, why vote for one?”. I couldn’t find it. And if some racist idiot where to set one up, how long would it stay up?

The reason why Hillary supporters and non-supporting feminists such as myself have to keep this issue active is not so much to elect Hillary (in which I have no interest) or to defeat Obama (who is infinitely better than McCain but will ultimately end up achieving as little as any other Democrat before him, after Johnson), but to step up when we see a woman getting beaten up. The reason is not so much to stop Obama but to stop the attitude, rhetoric and the threat of the actions that are the consequences of such attitude and rhetoric, that is the staple of a large segment of his supporters.

Some additional data/comments:

RealClearPolitics has the vote totals and among the various numbers, here is one:

Popular Vote (w/MI uncommitted to Obama)

Obama: 17,773,626 48.0%
Clinton: 17,822,145 48.1%
Clinton +48,519 +0.1%

If estimate for caucus states that do not release data is included, and “Uncommitted” in MI is assigned to Obama, Obama comes out a mere 61,703 votes ahead (0.2%).

I wrote above of parallels with right-wing electioneering, and this perhaps offers more in that vein: the question of who won the popular vote (Gore v Bush) and the disenfranchisement of low-income voters (Gore v Bush, Kerry v Bush) — of not since low-income voters break for Clinton over Obama, and they suffer burdens in caucus states that are not felt by their richer Obama-voting counterparts.

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Jun 4th, 2008 by ravi
A thin line…

… between anti-Hillary rhetoric and right-wing talking points:

Obama-Clinton ticket

Besides, there is something unseemly in the way Clinton worked her supporters into a lather of angry victim-hood that blamed sexism for her failure to win the delegates needed to sew up the nomination, even as her surrogates suggested that a black candidate cannot win in November.

Any of us (including non-Hillary supporters like me) who saw sexism at play are suffering from “angry victim-hood”. Pop psychology of this sort we may never be rid of, but you would think that if you call yourself a Democrat you would at least avoid conservative terminology?

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