Monday, August 24, 2009

Don't let the public decide: Health care reform in US

Ridiculous claims and argumentation based on the lack of reason continues to hamper the debate on health care reform in the United States. As Paul Krugman (see link on the side) puts it, "the debate over the public option has... been depressing in its inanity."

Let me give you prime example of this. Forget about forced abortions and euthanasia. When Democratic senator Ben Nelson ominously warns that "if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance" clearly considering the choice of the American people (who he represents) as a bad thing, its hard not to be depressed.

As Upton Sinclair said "“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depend upon his not understanding it."

Replace the word salary with campaign contributions and its very clear that the hysterical and fanatical opposition to the public option is not going to end anytime soon.

For more Paul check out:

Bracing for Ramadhan

Early this morning my father sent me this e-mail from Pakistan with his thoughts on the beginning of this holy month and I thought I would share this with all of you.

We are on the verge of starting Ramadan ( This use to be Ramazan before I got my Arabic corrected by my friend who use to be called Zafar, and is now called Dafar as in Arabic there is no Zees) , the month of blessings and for some odd reason I am feeling depressed.

It hell here in Pakistan, during Ramadan.

Where I live there is a mosque, which conducts the " Mullas Got Talant" a reality show, every Ramadan. At about 2 in the morning the contest starts with recitation of various naats and humds, by various contestants, and this live show stays on till Sehri times. You could not tell if the guy who reciting is enjoying the experience or shouting in pain, the words are hardly comprehendable and it is the tune that gives away to the naat or humd that is being sung out. I would prefer howling of the wolves if I had an option.

Then there is this joker who has taken on him to waking people up for Sehri with a loud drum. This guy has a voice that that would draw dead from there graves.

I am not a Sehri person, and like to sleep through this earlier than early morning meal. So for me this is pure torture. Just thinking of this send shivers down my spine.

Starting the day with an over dose of faith delivered through loud speakers by aspirants who want to land in Junnat, and an idiot who would get through the audition of " Wake up the Zombies" . I dread the traffic I would find on way to work.

It is not that there is no traffic on regular days, during regular months. But in Ramadan this comes with a twist, every body is so up-there with all the worship and spiritualisms and renewed faith that comes with in that the normally rude, mis-behaving, aggressive and abusive Pakistani archives the next level and becomes extremely intolerant, ultra abusive and totally crazy, and this is just 0800 hr and the day is just beginning.

By noon the the show of temper by the blaring of horns, the jumping of traffic lights and the general aggressive attitude will only increase.

The culminating point will come at Iftar, people would be rushing back as if death is following them. There will be no regard for law, traffic rules, personal safety, care for the weak and old, care for poor and unprivileged. People just rush their way through regardless.

And there are those who want to serve with iftari to the pious rozadars who has been sleeping on work, fighting with people, profit gorging by first hoarding commodities before the blessed month of Ramadan and then selling them at phenomenal margins .

Like all other events and acts this act of charity is also be carried out with utterly insensitive to any thing sensible, it will be mis-manages and grossly disruptive. Traffic will be blocked for miles, people will jam the guys giving out iftari. Their will be no hint of any discipline, self control or sense of spiritual calm that roza is suppose to inspire.

Screw the guy who is held up in an ambulance some where down the road, with drivers abandoning the vehicles in the middle of the road and running to the aftari table set up on the road next to an intersection, poised in a manner to do maximum damage.

Then comes the event of Taravi, people will rush to mosques, will get there by jumping traffic lights and driving recklessly and will park cars all over the place, blocking streets and cause traffic jams. Some will go to shopping centers where they will create more chaos by being insensitive to the needs of other and hence the day will end,

Again at 2 in the morning another day in this holy month will start, with "Guess who has talent" show.

The only good thing about Ramadan are the charity drive organized to help the poor and the sick, by people like Dr Adeeb Rizvi, Imran Khan and Edhi.

So pray for me that I may get through this month with my brains and faith in tact.

Minority Report: Changing Pakistan's Minority Experience

I didn’t know I was different from anyone else until I was seven. It was during lunchtime that one of my classmates began to make strange wailing noises and proceeded to beat her chest mockingly while telling everyone that this was what the “kaffir” Shiites did. I joined in the laughter only to realize later that she was talking about me. From that point on I was aware that I was an outsider. The fact that I was religiously curious from a young age didn’t help either. When I was nine, I decided that I was going to go to attend mass at my catholic school church just to see what it was like. The most interesting part of this wasn’t the mass; to be honest I couldn’t understand a word. It was everyone else’s reaction. Upon my return, my Islamiat teacher declared that I had converted to Christianity. It wasn’t very soon after that all of my classmates started to ignore me. This was also the year that graffiti began to appear on the walls on my way to school; “Shia kaffir, Shia kutta” (Shiites are infidels, Shiites are dogs). It boggled my mind that people I did not even know hated me.

Soon after I moved to Canada and forgot everything. But all these experiences came back when I heard about the attacks in Gojra. As all of us know quite well, attacks on minorities in Pakistan are all too common. Despite the fact that some 3-10 million minorities; both Muslim and non-Muslim live in Pakistan, since 2000 there have been several large scale attacks leaving scores dead and hundreds injured. Minorities in Pakistan do not only face violence and intolerance, but also discrimination at both a social and political level. As the Minorities Watch’s report on Pakistan points out, the average literacy rate for Christian’s in Punjab is 34 percent, eight percent less than the national average of 46.56%. The average literacy rates among Hindus and Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists is 34% and 17% respectively. According to Human rights commission on Pakistan (HRCP) suicide rates are high among impoverished Christian and Hindu communities. Among the approximately 1000 suicides committed in Sindh in the year 2000, 25 were committed by Christians and Hindus. For minority women, the situation is much more dangerous. The HRCP notes that Hindu and Christian minority women are much more likely to be raped than their counterparts for supposed religious and political outrage. And the list goes on…

While it is true that discrimination against minorities is institutional, it is not fair to only place blame on the legal and political spheres. The societal attitudes about minorities must change. The resounding condemnation following the Gojra attacks provides hope for a changed future, but condemnation is simply not enough. Genuine efforts must be made to integrate minorities into the public sphere on their own terms. This can only happen when there is a separation between the mosque and the state. The problem with Pakistan as an Islamic republic is that anyone not embracing the state sanctioned belief (Sunni Islam) cannot be an equal citizen to those that do. Elevating a religion to the state level not only provides it with both legitimacy and protection not available to other beliefs (aka Blasphemy Law). And as long as this is the case, attacks on minorities similar to Gojra will continue.