Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Ethical Self, The Sovereign State & the Public Sphere

There are perils in the construction of the Ethical Self. Arundhati Roy is a case in point. In her careful but subjectively selective defense of various causes, she ocassionally develops a blind spot while navigating the public sphere of South Asian or other regional civil society claims validations. This gives me pause. It shows the construction of the ethical self in the public sphere of civil society is fraught with peril and is by definition, a field of ethical trial and error (see Roy article below, Times of India copyright). WE in civil society are ALL vulnerable in our self-construction as ethical actors in the public sphere of the sovereign state. That is why DEMOCRACY is ALWAYS a work in progress, a work in progress and that ethical work of participation, vigilance, and self correction is never done.

My comment in response to Arundhati Roy's analysis of the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka:

Is Arundhati Roy reporting from Vellupalli Prabhakaran's bunker?

Does this piece account for the entangled history of the Buddhists, Tamils, Muslims,Christians Burgers, Marxists, and other splinter groups in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon?

Did a female LTTE cadre blow up India's Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Chennai?

Going back in time, Was SWRD Bandarnaike, free Ceylon's first Prime Minister who converted to Buddhism from Anglican Christianity, assassinated by a Buddhist monk? Were his wife, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandarnaike and his daughter Prime Minister Chandrika Kumaratunga and her husband Vijaya Kumaratunga also targeted by earlier affiliates of what is know known as the LTTE, in assassination attempts and killed or greviously injured? Were scores of ethnic Buddhist political leaders as well as TAMIL political moderates injured or killed in assassination attempts by the LTTE cadres over the part 50 years?

Roy is on the wrong side of history on this one. Prabhakaran and the LTTE have been sowing the killing fields in Sri Lanka for the past several DECADES, not just days. The LTTE perfected suicide bombing; ethnic cleansing of Buddhists; capture and deployment of TAMIL child soldiers; TAMIL civilians, especially women as human shields, and other crimes against humanity.The LTTE sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind of Sri Lankan govt. action.

Without a doubt there is a grave humanitarian crisis in that beautiful part of our South Asia region, where social justice once prevailed, and Sri Lanka once ranked high on the UN's HDI index. But the LTTE (roughly equivalent to LeT) is responsible for these earlier crimes as well as the current escalation.I was in Colombo traveling with my young sons, days after the LTTE bombed the airport, several years ago. It looked and smelled like the bathtub where the World Trade Center Towers once stood. That's terror for you and Roy cannot justify writing about it from her safe haven in New Delhi! I also live part of the year in Chennai and the Tamil political leaders in the DMK and the PMK have milked the LTTE sob story of Govt. retaliation for all it's worth.

(I don't mean the innocent Tamil civilians who are the main sufferers from LTTE terror, and now state-sponsored terror by the Sri Lankan military).

Chithra Karunakaran
Ethical Democracy as Lived Practice
Times of India copyright

The silent horror of the war in Sri Lanka
30 Mar 2009, 0027 hrs IST, Arundhati Roy
The horror that is unfolding in Sri Lanka becomes possible because of the silence that surrounds it. There is almost no reporting in the
mainstream Indian media — or indeed in the international press — about what is happening there. Why this should be so is a matter of serious concern.

From the little information that is filtering through it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of the ‘war on terror’ as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country, and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people. Working on the principle that every Tamil is a terrorist unless he or she can prove otherwise, civilian areas, hospitals and shelters are being bombed and turned into a war zone. Reliable estimates put the number of civilians trapped at over 200,000. The Sri Lankan Army is advancing, armed with tanks and aircraft.

Meanwhile, there are official reports that several ‘‘welfare villages’’ have been established to house displaced
Tamils in Vavuniya and Mannar districts. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph (Feb 14, 2009), these villages ‘‘will be compulsory holding centres for all civilians fleeing the fighting’’. Is this a euphemism for concentration camps? The former foreign minister of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraveera, told The Daily Telegraph:
‘‘A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They’re basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists.’’

Given its stated objective of ‘‘wiping out’’ the LTTE, this malevolent collapse of civilians and ‘‘terrorists’’ does seem to signal that the government of Sri Lanka is on the verge of committing what could end up being genocide. According to a UN estimate several thousand people have already been killed. Thousands more are critically wounded. The few eyewitness reports that have come out are descriptions of a nightmare from hell. What we are witnessing, or should we say, what is happening in Sri Lanka and is being so effectively hidden from public scrutiny, is a brazen, openly racist war. The impunity with which the Sri Lankan government is being able to commit these crimes actually unveils the deeply ingrained racist prejudice, which is precisely what led to the marginalization and alienation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the first place. That racism has a long history, of social ostracisation, economic blockades, pogroms and torture. The brutal nature of the decades-long civil war, which started as a peaceful, non-violent protest, has its roots in this.

Why the silence? In another interview Mangala Samaraveera says, ‘‘A free media is virtually non-existent in Sri Lanka today.’’

Samaraveera goes on to talk about death squads and ‘white van abductions’, which have made society ‘‘freeze with fear’’. Voices of dissent, including those of several journalists, have been abducted and assassinated. The International Federation of Journalists accuses the government of Sri Lanka of using a combination of anti-terrorism laws, disappearances and assassinations to silence journalists.

There are disturbing but unconfirmed reports that the Indian government is lending material and logistical support to the Sri Lankan government in these crimes against humanity. If this is true, it is outrageous. What of the governments of other countries? Pakistan? China? What are they doing to help, or harm the situation?

In Tamil Nadu the war in Sri Lanka has fuelled passions that have led to more than 10 people immolating themselves. The public anger and anguish, much of it genuine, some of it obviously cynical political manipulation, has become an election issue.

It is extraordinary that this concern has not travelled to the rest of India. Why is there silence here? There are no ‘white van abductions’ — at least not on this issue. Given the scale of what is happening in Sri Lanka, the silence is inexcusable. More so because of the Indian government’s long history of irresponsible dabbling in the conflict, first taking one side and then the other. Several of us including myself, who should have spoken out much earlier, have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war. So while the killing continues, while tens of thousands of people are being barricaded into concentration camps, while more than 200,000 face starvation, and a genocide waits to happen, there is dead silence from this great country.
It’s a colossal humanitarian tragedy. The world must step in. Now. Before it’s too late.

Lula Blue Eyes & The Whiteness System

March 29th, 2009 9:41 am Comment #273.
March 29, 2009 12:34 pm
In referencing blue eyes, President Lula of Brasil was referencing the Global North, the colonizers, the imperialists, the neo-imperialists, the slave owners, the genociders.

It's not racist, it's not about being against the color blue for eyes, the sky, whatever.
We feel, we have experienced what some fail to see out of those particular peepers.
Lula could have eschewed the rhetorical biomarker and just come straight to the point about unequal power and inequitable distribution of resources, about the origins of poverty, hunger, disease in the Global South. But would such a bland statement catch the eye of the NYT?

Perhaps I missed it in Dowd's column but I also recall that famous TV jousting on Blue Eyes vs. Brown eyes, between Mike Wallace (who brought it up again and again) and the late Shah of Iran. The Shah was making exactly the same point as Lula is. Go Brasil! Go Iran!

As for Obama's brown eyes in the Whites' House, that Change is not one we can (yet) believe in, judging by his planned blue-eyed Cheneyesque escalation of the deadly drone and convoy US/NATO trespass in Afghanistan-Pakistan.

Perhaps, if my child was killed by a US unmanned drone, while I was working in my fields, I would end up as a "militant". The Blue-eyed, green-eyed, you-name-it-eyed "militants" all lumped together in the demonizing mainstream US media as "Taliban" in the Khyber are making the same point as Lula.
Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

— EthicalDemocracy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Op-Ed Columnist
Blue Eyed Greed?
Published: March 28, 2009
NYTimes copyright
Shah of Iran, Mike Wallace
YouTube copyright
See my Theory of Systemic Whiteness"
on this blog or Google it!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Constructing the Ethical Self in Civil Society

Story Comments
Chithra Karunakaran wrote on Mar 28, 2009 2:32 PM:

" Lori Phanachone is one courageous education reformer. We could use her as Education Secretary.

I'm wondering if she had to change her Laotian name to something 'easy' that her monolingual, language-deprived white American teachers could pronounce. I was once asked by a Black school superintendent who was trying to get a date with me, if he could "call me Chichi or something simple like that." Yeah right.

As an immigrant woman of color who for 11 years has taught crosscultural psychology courses to diverse students at a public univ. in New York, the ELDA makes no sense in Lori's case. She could have easily been allowed to sign a waiver because of her scholarly accomplishments and her GPA.

However, common sense and fair assessments are in short supply in the profitmaking testing industry and in the education bureaucracy.

Lori, Don't let anyone tell you who you are and what you can be. That assistant principal is a cynical bigoted bureaucrat who should be dismissed for his double whammy racist putdown of Rosa Parks and you!
(You can Google my Theory of Systemic Whiteness). "

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Souix City Journal copyrighted article below:
Student rejects 'demeaning' test, is suspended
High achiever faces possible expulsion
By Russ Oechslin, Journal correspondent | Posted: Thursday, March 05, 2009
STORM LAKE, Iowa -- Lori Phanachone is a member of the National Honor Society, has a 3.9 grade point average and ranks seventh in the senior class of about 119 at Storm Lake High School.

But school officials have told her she is considered to be illiterate based on her refusal to satisfactorily complete the English Language Development Assessment, a test she says is demeaning and racist.

On Wednesday, Phanachone finished serving three days of in-school suspension for what school administrators say is insubordination. She faces another three days for continuing her silent protest with a second refusal to take the test. According to a written statement presented to her Wednesday, Phanachone said, she could be suspended again and then expelled for a fourth refusal.

"Mr. Ruleaux (assistant principal Beau Ruleaux) told me I was 'no Rosa Parks' -- that I should give up because I would not succeed in my protest," Phanachone said.

Senior Kristi Davis is one of several students who believe Phanachone is being treated unfairly and that her punishment is too harsh.

Davis called Phanachone "a really smart, very talented person. She has a passion for everything she does."

"Lori has never gotten into trouble or done anything bad," Davis said. "She's always been successful at anything she has done. But she sees this test as incredibly racist.

"Many minority kids don't want to take it. But Lori is the first to actually do something about it."

Scholarships threatened

The school district's curriculum coordinator, Lori Porsche, said taking the test is mandatory because Phanachone indicated on her school registration that English was not the first language spoken in her home. Her parents are Laotian and still speak little English.

Phanachone, who was born in California and lived in upstate New York before moving to Storm Lake with her family in 2006, said she has never been enrolled in any English Language Learning or English as a Second Language program.

"Someone told me I should have put English as my first language when I registered for school," Phanachone said. "But I refused. I will not deny who I am. And I will not disrespect my culture or my mother."

Until she was ordered to serve in-school suspension last week, Phanachone said, she had A's in speech, accounting, chemistry and English composition. Her poorest grade, a B-plus, was in pre-calculus. But she said she fears what might happen to her grades as a result of her suspensions and time out of the classroom.

Porsche declined to discuss Phanachone's academic record but did not dispute her achievement claims, which fellow students confirmed.

Phanachone said school administrators have told her her college scholarships -- $86,000 at Buena Vista University and more at Iowa State University, if that is her choice -- would disappear. "That's a lot of money. I worked for that. Nothing has been handed to me. I earned it."

"But I want to fight this because this is what I believe," she added. "It's wrong, not just for me but for all minority students. The test is demeaning."

Disagreement over test

Phanachone took the English Language Development Assessment test as a sophomore and admits she probably did poorly on the junior-year retake to check her progress because she marked the same answer for each of the multiple-choice questions in protest. "I filled in all C's because I wanted them to look at something beyond the test."

When she turned in the exam several hours ahead of the other students last year, she was forced to wait in solitary confinement for more than three hours before being excused.

The 155-question test takes four hours to complete.

"I waited all the next week to see if they were going to punish me, and they didn't. I don't think they knew what to do with me because they never had anyone refuse to take the test," she said.

However, she was told to take the test again this year. Porsche said the test is given without regard to a student's GPA or class rank.

"We have chosen to say that if you do not have a proficient score on this test that we need to reassess to make sure you are proficient in English," Porsche said.

Administrators in other Iowa school districts, and in the area education agencies that provide the tests, disagree over whether the test is mandatory as Porsche maintains.

Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency-8 Title III consultant Kathy Brenny, who has an office in Storm Lake, explained that students are identified as English language learners or English as a Second Language students when they enroll. But she said, "If they are proficient, then we don't have to give the test."

Tom Green of the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City said there is federal policy in place to determine who takes the test. Phanachone's case "is an interesting question," he said and suggested, "A kid with a 3.9 GPA shouldn't be in an (English language learners) program."

In Davenport, where 300 to 400 of the public school system's 15,000 students are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs, Dawn Anderson-Rascher, director of assessment equity and record services, said that based on what she understood of the situation, Phanachone wouldn't meet the criteria for taking the test.

Support from classmates

Katie Shevel, who said she has a 4.0 grade point average, said the school would have been justified in imposing "maybe a detention or Saturday school. But to take away everything that she's ever worked for, when this test isn't in the high school curriculum -- to be threatening her with not being able to graduate -- it seems like too much."

"I think it is ridiculous for the administration to punish her the way they have," added Stephanie Emery, who shares classes with Phanachone.

"She has every right to protest taking the test, because in Storm Lake race isn't an issue. And that test singles out race. ... The only reason she didn't write English down as her first language was that she is proud of her heritage."

At this point, Phanachone said she is confused and stressed.

Because the Storm Lake Board of Education has called a special meeting on another matter for 7:30 a.m. today, Phanachone said she expects to be there, with legal representation, just in case her situation is brought up.

Some students plan to support her by staging a daylong protest outside the school Friday. But several of Phanachone's friends have tried to downplay the idea because Phanachone wants her protest to be more restrained.

"We want to be very mature about this," Davis said.

At a glance
The issue: Lori Phanachone, an honor student at Storm Lake High School, has had to serve in-school suspension and been threatened with expulsion and loss of college scholarships for refusing to take an English proficiency test.
What's happened so far: Phanachone has served three days of in-school suspension and is beginning a second round.
What's next: Phanachone and an attorney plan to appear at a school board meeting this morning in case her situation comes up. Some students want to stage an all-day protest Friday, but Phanachone and her friends want to make a more restrained statement.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

US Sponsors Pakistan's Terror industry in South Asia

My comment which I made to the NYTimes Public editor as well as directly to the co-writers of this NYT article (in the absence of opportunity to make comments on the Times' pages):

The reporters (article below) Mazzetti and Schmitt completely fail to link US military and financial support for Pakistan's ISI, which is specifically mentioned in the article.

The reporters link the ISI to the Taliban, but not the US to the ISI.

How does the NYT expect the concerned but overburdened US public to make the link ( with the available evidence which the article already cites) if NYT's reporters don't?

If the US govt both directly and indirectly finances terror groups, then it must be acknowledged that the US runs a terror industry.
The US government's terror industry arms and finances the ISI which in turn arms and finances competing factions of the Pak-Afghan Taliban. This must also logically mean that the US is a state sponsor of terror.

NYT's reporting on South Asia needs to demonstrate greater acuity.

And who finances Pakistan's terror industry that operates throughout much of South Asia? The United States.

The Times writers fail to make the link between US financing, tactical support and training of the so-called "S Wing" of the Pak ISI, and the current terror operations of the ISI in Afghanistan.

Where is India in all of this? It is India's responsibility to its own citizens, to publicly hold the US accountable for its longstanding backing, finnacing, armed support of Pakistan's terror industry.

But successive Indian govts. will continue to fail to do so. Why? Because India is afraid of the 60-year cosy US-Pak relationship,and it is afraid to challenge the current US-led NATO geopolitical dominance over the South Asia region.

Therefore India is culpable. India lacks ethical responsibility to its citizens and it lacks ethical purpose in the South Asia region. A sovereign nation-state founded on ethical purpose now demonstrates a lack of it.

A Democracy without ethical purpose is a danger to itself.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Afghan Strikes by Taliban Get Pakistan Help, U.S. Aides Say
Published: March 25, 2009
New York Times copyright
Pakistani and Afghan Taliban Unify in Face of U.S. Influx
NYTimes copyright
Obama to Set Benchmarks in Fight Against Militants
Published: March 26, 2009
NYTimes copyright
Times of India copyright

Pakistan set to reap $35 billion windfall from terrorism
26 Mar 2009, 1340 hrs IST, Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN

WASHINGTON: Terrorism pays. That may well be the message the United States and its allies send out to the world this week as they line up
billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan despite the country’s military and intelligence agencies being implicated by American officials in acts and practice of terrorism.

Ignoring confirmation about the Pakistan’s continued support and use of terrorism obtained through electronic surveillance and informants, and even brazen affirmation by Pakistani officialdom itself, the Obama administration is set to lavish a bonanza that might eventually add up to more than $ 30-$ 35 billion over the next decade.

About half the windfall will come from the US and the other half from its allies such as Japan, EU, and Gulf countries.

Washington is set to announce its largesse of around $ 15 billion of US tax-payer money in course of its new Af-Pak policy to be unveiled Friday, followed by a conference in Tokyo on April 17 of the so-called ''Friends of Pakistan'' where Islamabad is pitching for $ 10 billion.

This is in addition to the $ 7.6 billion pledged by the IMF and various donors, all at the instance of the United States, which believes Pakistan will disintegrate, with disastrous consequences all around, if it is not rescued with massive amounts of aid.

Congressional staff and sources associated with drawing up the aid package say there will be stringent conditions and tough oversight attached to the assistance, but critics of the policy regard the assurances as credulous. The Indian government has not opposed the package. ''If they (the United States) have not learned from the past, there is little we can do,'' one official said on background, referring to the Reagan era bonanza when untrammeled support for Pakistan’s military emboldened the country to adopt terrorism as a state policy.

That policy is still very much in place, going by a stunning page one New York Times account on Thursday in which Pakistani officials admit first-hand knowledge of ties between the ISI and extremists and even justify. They tell the paper that the contacts are less threatening than the American officials depict and are part of a strategy to maintain influence in Afghanistan for the day when American forces would withdraw and leave what they fear could be a power vacuum to be filled by India.

''In intelligence, you have to be in contact with your enemy or you are running blind,'' the paper quotes a senior Pakistani military officer as describing Islamabad’s strategy of backing the terrorists. But evidently, Pakistan's activity constitutes more than just contact with the enemy.

The NYT account, striking for the candid detail revealed by unnamed US and Pakistani officials, said Pakistan’s support to the Taliban and other militant outfits is coordinated by operatives inside the shadowy S Wing of the ISI. The report says the ISI also shared intelligence with Lashkar-e-Taiba accused in the Mumbai attacks and ''provided protection for it.'' It did say when this cooperation and protection took place.

But other new details reveal that the ISI is aiding a broader array of militant outfits with more diverse types of support than was previously known, even months after Pakistani officials said that the days of the ISI’s playing a double game had ended, the paper reported. One such outfit is the Haqqani network, which by American accounts bombed the Indian Embassy in Kabul with help from the ISI.

The attack killed 54 people, including an Indian diplomat and a military commander. Pakistan’s army chief Pervez Kiyani, a former ISI Director-General, subsequently described the Haqqani network as Pakistan’s ''strategic asset.''

But according to the NYT, the ISI’s S wing not only helps such networks with fuel and ammunition to fight American troops in Afghanistan, but also replenishes its ranks with recruits from madrassas in Pakistan. There is even evidence that ISI operatives meet regularly with Taliban commanders to discuss whether to intensify or scale back violence before the Afghan elections, it said.

None of this appears to have made a whit of a difference in the planned US largesse for Pakistan. If anything, US officials and analysts argue it is all the more reason to rush aid to Pakistan so that its democracy and social sector can be strengthened and it can be walked away from the abyss. ''If there is a better way to do this, we are all ears,'' a senior Congressional aide involved in the process, said. While some analysts say that Pakistan extracts aid by pointing a gun to its own head, key figures in the Washington establishment don't want to take the chance that Pakistan ends up falling into the abyss.

US officials, who typically make strenuous effort to shield the Pakistani leadership from charges of fomenting terrorism, maintain that mid-level ISI operatives cultivate relationships that are not approved by their bosses. They say it is unlikely that top officials in Islamabad are directly coordinating the clandestine efforts. But Pakistani officials themselves appear to scoff at American credulity in the NYT report, saying it is part of their long term strategy to keep their options open when the U.S withdraws from Afghanistan.

That expectation got a boost this week when US President Barack Obama spoke of an ''exit strategy'' in Afghanistan. Although Obama did not specifically refer to any troop withdrawals (on the contrary, he has just directed induction of 17,000 more troops), the fact that Washington is even contemplating an exit strategy seems to justify Pakistan’s outlook of keeping its Taliban and terrorism powder dry.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Brand Obama: New, Improved, but Really the Same?

My Comment #53.
March 20, 2009 9:30 am

New and Improved but really the Same?

Brand Obama is peddling the same State Department/CIA ideology that has trumped US foreign policy for the past 60 years. Different style, same substance.
Pepsi vs. Coke.

Is the Obama on the White House-generated Nowroz video, the same Obama who promised AIPAC to do whatever it takes to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons? Since the US and Israel are both nuclear powers what would motivate Iran NOT to become one?

I don't think Iran and Iranians will buy Obama's line, but Iran will pragmatically play along, because, really, nothing's changed. Iran has its own rapidly shifting internal and regional priorities and challenges and the US has intervened in both, for more than a half-century. Eisenhower warned about the "military industrial complex" developing during his time in the White House. Iran's leaders and their civil society are heeding that warning.

Iran is a proud and ancient world culture, a regional power, a sovereign nation-state that the US has endlessly meddled with, and Iran, like it or not, is shortly to become a full-fledged nuclear power, for both defensive and civil society uses. Suck it up.

The US has to stop playing sanction-wielding Global Cop in every region of the world, and instead the US must focus on trying to shore up its own toppling economic structure, that has had disastrous repercussions on other sovereign-state economies.

The US also needs to come to the table in a spirit of cooperation and join with other nations in combating hunger, homelessness, disease, become a partner in social and economic and political justice.

That would be Change that the rest of us can Believe in.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

— EthicalDemocracy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
In a Video Appeal to Iran, Obama Offers a ‘New Day’
Invoking art, history and “common humanity,” President Obama appealed for a shift away from decades of confrontation.
Published: March 20, 2009
New York Times copyright
White House public media

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Democratic Moment in Pakistan?

March 15th, 2009 1:27 pm
A Democratic Moment in Pakistan?

The street demonstrations of the "long march" to Islamabad and the clashes in several towns and cities are a shining moment for Pakistanis in their perilous journey towards democracy.

This is especially a moment when no third country should interfere in the process.

The US is already unwisely injecting itself into this process. But ordinary Pakistanis, their lawyers and their political leaders are showing again that they can handle their own affairs.

The Pakistanis deserve praise for their civic participation.

It is hoped that these civil society efforts will bring back an independent judiciary and reinstate the judges removed by Musharraf.

I fervently hope that ordinary Pakistanis will try civil disobedience and non-violence as effective strategies, lessons we learned and practiced across the border in India early on in our own making of an unprecedented democracy (oh yes, still flawed but an admirable and astonishing work in progress).

US and NATO out of South Asia, ASAP.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

— EthicalDemocracy, New York, NY
Mass Demonstration Defies Pakistani Government
Police officers clashed with protesters in Lahore on Sunday as government efforts to suppress a demonstration collapsed.
Published: March 15, 2009
New York Times Copyright
Times of India copyright
Pakistan Security Forces, Protesters Clash Amid Growing Unrest
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post copyright

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Incredible India vs. Malnourished India

My comment #13.
March 13, 2009 8:10 am


March 13th, 2009 0:40 am
Incredible India vs. Malnourished India

Sorry bureaucrats and politicians, you can't eat democracy and the right to vote. People need food.

The video that accompanies the article (below) is horrifying. It provided images of the most egregious cases of malnutrition, images I have never seen in all my years traveling all over India. They certainly exist.

Child and women's malnutrition especially are rampant in the poorest, most economically disadvantaged parts of India, but also where GROWTH trumps DEVELOPMENT.

While the article provided information on increased malnutrition in growth-driven Gujarat and Maharashtra it would have been useful to contrast this with data from say, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where more equitable socio-economic conditions have prioritized development over growth and likely lessened malnutrition.

Absolute hunger among is prevalent among infants, toddlers and young children in India, but there is a pronounced pattern of child and women's malnutrition in those parts of India where patriarchy is the incontestable norm; women don't have land rights; women's educational attainment is low; public health and other social services are negligible.

What is unsupportable is the India government's criminal policy of stockpiling foodgrains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in rodent-infested warehouses, when clearly the most urgent priority must be given to distribute a variety of food staples rapidly and efficiently to people in areas where it is most needed.
As the article and video make clear, malnutrition is entirely preventable and is costly for education, health, employment and other sectors of the Indian economy.

While the government clearly must do much more, this is a problem that requires vigorous and widespread civil society consciousness-raising and participation to grapple with this shameful inequity that cruelly denies our children (as well as their mothers) a most basic need.

Democracy is a mockery without it.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Recommended by 34 Readers

As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists
Malnutrition in India is worse than in many African nations, stunting the growth of children like this girl in Shivpuri, photographed in November 2008.
Published: March 12, 2009
New York Times copyright
Additional sources:
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
World Health Organization (WHO)
all sources are copyrighted by the related organizations


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tibet Rising not Uprising -- Again

Dalai Lama Harshly Condemns China Over Tibet
New York Times copyright


My comment #46
March 10th, 2009 9:15 am

Tibet Rising not Uprising -- again

This is a 50 year dilemma, originating in and fueled by imperial British "buffer state" Tibet policy.
The memory of the mis-named 'uprising' definitely calls for a celebration, something the Chinese government will not tolerate.
How can China possibly permit a celebration that calls attention to its own oppression?! The Beijing Govt. is on the wrong side of history.

The Dalai Lama has never asked for outright liberation and nation-state sovereignty for Tibet. The Dalai Lama has reasonably and rightly maintained that Tibetans can be part of China, while the Chinese for their part need to respect both in letter and spirit, religious, cultural freedom and economic freedoms of Tibetans.

Instead the Chinese have operated with a heavy hand, centralizing instead of devolving local power into the hands of Tibetans. China has an almost unbroken history of centralized government, the Beijing govt. simply doesn't know any better at this stage in their own development.

Note that Dharmsala is in India. The Dalai Lama and his thousands of followers have lived in India since 1959 when the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama fled to India and were given peaceful refuge here.

Dharmsala is no Darfur.

I grew up in India seeing and hearing about the Dalai Lama who was a close associate of Jawaharlal Nehru, (a co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement), and other Indian political leaders. Tibetans over the years have been born in India in the half century that their "country" has been under occupation. They have lived and worked throughout India as well as sought refuge and economic opportunity throughout the world. However, Tibetans are entitled to their own historic homeland, which of course they can and must peacefully share with others, local ethnic Chinese especially who have also lived there historically.

The Dalai Lama has never pressed for Tibetan independence from China while residing in India, because to press for Tibetan independence would jeopardize India's rightful stand on sovereignty over Kashmir. Indian secularism and democracy are being tested in Kashmir, no less than the less visible quandary of Tibetan refugee rights to enjoy freedom while in their long unfair exile. In any event, Tibet and Kashmir are not comparable, they each follow a distinct colonial and post-colonial trajectory.

If only China can be quietly yet urgently persuaded to allow 1) full cultural religious freedoms of Tibetans, 2) unconditional right of Tibetans to return if they please to their ancient, peaceful homeland, 3) to develop their own unique notion of being a 'people.' in the world.

Idealistic pragmatism can be the ethical choice in Tibet. The loss of the ancient ways in Tibet (while Tibetans themselves, not Beijing, decide how they want to shape their own lives in a modern Tibet), would be a loss for us all.

The Arc of Justice bends slowly but it bends toward Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Recommended by 28 Readers


Thursday, March 5, 2009

A New Ethical World Economy with an OLD World Bank and IMF?
NYTimes Editorial
The Crisis at Home and Abroad
Published: March 4, 2009
New York Times copyright
My Comment #79.
March 05, 2009 11:55 am

Capital-focused/capital intensive development, as emphasized by both The World Bank and the IMF, has definite longterm drawbacks. Both these entities have produced debtor nation-states. This is particularly so in the so-called 'developing' world (these areas, now liberated sovereign nation-states were deliberately UNDERDEVELOPED and exploited in the recent colonial and now ongoing neo-imperial period).
The capital mainly flows from external elites to internal elites, following a failed trickle down ideology.
As we have seen, growth and development are not the same thing. The world's interlocked economies cannot support unfettered market-driven GROWTH and endless consumption, but they can collectively support equitable DEVELOPMENT, driven by polices and practices of social justice, conservation, resource-sharing and other pro-poor, pro-people initiatives, demilitarization included.
This alternate innovative approach is not idly utopian -- social justice delivers economic benefits. So far, the US, the World Bank and the IMF, and the internal elites of developing civil socities have failed to make that crucial connection.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A United State of Palestine for All the People?
Clinton Meets West Bank Palestinian Leaders
Published: March 4, 2009
New York Times copyright
My comment #3.
March 04, 2009 8:15 am
March 4th, 2009 6:31 am

Loved that pic of Clinton and Peres. It will speak to people everywhere. Can Hamas top that?

Secretary Clinton spoke candidly but she tried to drive a wedge (classic neo-imperial divide and rule strategy) between other states in the region and Palestinians, by claiming “They feel that Iran tries to undermine their regimes,”.

The US cannot be a honest broker because it has satellized Israel to advance the US's own interests in the region. Unethical failed strategy, that has failed for 60 years.

There are human, humane concerns that urgently need to be addressed:

We know no people without a land of their ancestors. So Jews cannot be denied a historic homeland.

But at the same time, We know no people who do not SHARE land, try and live with each other, share each others' culture, though in this case both Palestinian and Israeli political leaders (and their US handlers?) may unfortunately have narrowly defined, personally ambitious, self-serving goals that go against the Greater Collective Good of Israelis and Palestinians. However ordinary folks there, like you and me, have the capacity to get along.

Therefore the United State of Palestine (it has a nice ring!) can and must become a reality during our lifetime.

The Arc of Justice bends slowly but it bends towards a United State of Palestine, with Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims and numerous other religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities sharing a modern multiethnic, multireligious, sovereign democratic nation-state.

Chithra Karunakaran

Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama's New Cold War

Obama Offered Deal to Russia in Secret Letter
Published: March 2, 2009
New York Times copyright
New York Times copyright
The core problem with US foreign policy for the past 60 years is its exceptionalist, triumphalist,supremacist, dictatorial and interfering posture, matched by a 60-year accumulation of actions of unparalleled state-sponsored violence marked by invasion, occupation, militarization, nuclearization, destabilization, satellization.

That foreign policy posture and actions in the West Asia and Central Asia regions has a counterproductive Israel subtext, as well as affirms that the US continues to maintain its confrontational Cold War stance in a post-Cold War, multipolar era of sovereign-state intra andinter-regional alliances that do not necessarily include the US, or Russia for that matter.

Obama's "secret" (what happened to transparency?) reportedly hand-delivered letter to Russia's President Medvedev, three weeks ago, attempts to dictate and micromanage geopolitics in West Asia and Central Asia, which the last time I looked is not where the US is located. The sovereign nation-state stakeholders in these regions have every right to safeguard their perceived local interests without the US menacing nation-states that are located there.

Q. Why shouldn't Russia help Iran nuclearize? Iran and Russia are strategic neighbors, the US is not. Did the US nuclearize Israel?

Q. Why shouldn't Iran develop nuclear power for both military and civilian purposes? The US, Israel and Russia are all nuclear. The last two are regional neighbors, the US is not.
In the adjoining South Asia region, Pakistan and India are nuclear. What would motivate Iran NOT to nuclearize and Russia NOT to help Iran do so?

Obama's shopworn Star Wars bargaining chip of a National Missile Defense Shield (NMD) suspension wont wash with Iran, especially since the US helped Israel develop its Arrow missile system which has been successfully tested repeatedly by the US and Israel acting in combination. Is it possible, therefore, both Iran and Russia might feel their respective national security interests are threatened by such unilateral and unprovoked militarization in their backyard?

Obama's foreign policy in Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia is likely to be no different than that of his white male predecessors.

Superpower foreign policy ideology trumps race.

At the same time, supremacist ideology in U.S. foreign policy has its roots in white male dominance (developed and enforced during three centuries of slavery and genocide of indigenous people in the US, by white males), in which all 'others' are racialized and rendered inferior. Obama is embedded in that Whiteness system and rewarded by it.

Change We Can Believe In? A new and ethical direction for US foreign policy where strategic interests are sincerely attempted to be aligned with ethical concerns ?

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
See Theory of Systemic Whiteness and related articles

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Human Rights Abuse Report 2008: The Fox-Chicken Coop Analogy
03/01/2009 :: 04:02:36 PM
Chithra KarunaKaran Says:

Which nation-state has bloodstained hands? A few. Is the US among them?

As a state sponsor of terror, example starting with the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the invasion and occupation of VietNam; invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq; the toppling of Mossadegh in Iran; a 60-year track record of destabilizing elected governments and freedom movements in various parts of the world, what gives the US the right to monitor human rights in sovereign nation-states? The US should absolutely monitor its own egregious actions in violation of human rights and accept the condemnation of nonpartisan non-governmental groups like Amnesty and HRW.

The vitally important work of developing (rather than merely monitoring) human rights world-wide, is best carried out by a *combination* of intergovernmental orgs. like the UN, and NGOs like Amnesty and HRW.

The development of Ethical Democracy requires a far more equitable reordering of geopolitical power and civil society priorities.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
see US and NATO out of South Asia
see Theory of Systemic Whiteness and related articles.

The Ethical Self In The Environment: Global Warming, Climate Change and the Nation-State

Obama’s Backing Raises Hopes for Climate Pact
Published: February 28, 2009
New York Times copyright

My comment #83.
March 01, 2009 11:39 am

Link NY Times

March 1st, 2009 11:31 am
The article states:

"But Kyoto was shaped largely by climate scientists and environment ministers, not the higher-level officials now laying the groundwork."

What is blatantly absent from this equation is the lack of any articulation of social justice objectives, and the lack of grassroots involvement of ordinary folks, in other words civil societies of sovereign nation-states.

These civil societies vastly differ in their energy use and their contribution to greenhouse gases. For example in India, a huge mainly rural agricultural economy, what most contributes to the 'brown cloud' over much of the subcontinent is a result of smoke from household fires and burning in fields in preparation for the next cycle of planting, by subsistence landless cultivators. That is the pattern for most of the Global South, where the majority of the world's population resides.

That's a little different than emissions from gas guzzling SUVs on US highways or the cost of producing and disposing of countless varieties of mainly useless products in consumption-driven economies in Europe and North America.
Growth and development are not the same thing, as we are all finding out.

Will the people of Europe and particularly the US, consume less and conserve more? Will that happen during an extended period of dismal economic forecasts?

To effect a dramatic change at the grass roots level, civil societies have to be given the opportunity to be directly involved in change, change we can believe in that results in social justice through equitable sharing of natural resources, not lectured to by the "trickle down" approach of government agencies and Nobel-Prize winning intergovernmental panels like the UN's IPCC or individual climate crusaders like Gore, or even a greener presidency under Obama.

Where are the people?

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice