Sunday, October 31, 2004
Halloween 2004 - Eek! Return of the Compassionate Conservative
His "core support groups" would be delighted at the prospect of receiving the bounties of his administration for four more years. They consist mainly of:
The fearful. He has assiduously courted them since 9/11; they see terrorists lurking around corners and Bush as the protector.
The jingoists. We are No.1 and we are always right.
The patriots. Not all but some of them can be called "jingoists". Others might have some doubts but, in general, feel unable to believe that the president took the nation to war on lies.
The Religious Right (includes pro-lifers and homophoebes): Have found a champion in the incumbent and, of course, wish to see him continue in his merry way to destroy the barrier between church and state.
The high tax bracket crowd: They have been laughing their way to the bank and know that they will benefit in the second term regardless of the state of the economy.
And, then, there is Mr. Nader.
What the rest of us can look forward to from Bush's second term? More of what took
place in the past four years but with added ferocity that will drive the agenda to deprive the Democrats of a voice and to lay the foundation of one-party rule.
"Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd."
Fall and its rewards
On a lighter vein, it was a gorgeous autumn day. The sky not quite crystal clear but
it was blue; the sun shone brightly. Noticed that on one side of the street the leaves of the gingko trees have turned yellow, but on the other side they are still mostly green!
Hiked at Saratoga Gap for four hours. A good, scenic trail. Would have been better
without the mountain bikers but they have the right to be out on the trails just as we do. Most of them are considerate and careful about hikers.
I was late with planting of bulbs (daffodil and iris). Hope they will emerge and bloom.
"I don't have to be anyone but me.
I am blooming as I am in my life, just as
a peony blooms on a peony tree.
Further, a beautiful peony flower does not
worry about when it will wilt and fall to the ground.
It does not compete with the flower next to it;
rather it blooms with its whole self.
from "Zen Shin Talks"
Friday, October 29, 2004
Casualties of War - Operation Iraqi Freedom
The respected British medical journal, "Lancet" has published results of a study according to which the toll from coalition forces' actions in Iraq have led to more than 100,000 deaths. The number dwarfs previous estimates which ranged between 10,000 and 37,000. The Lancet claims that the findings are convincing. Furthermore, a high number of individuals killed were women and children. "Air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths." BBC's report about the Lancet study can be read at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3962969.stm
How do we justify this, and what is the difference between what happened during Saddam Hussein's regime and what has taken place in George Bush's war?
Majority of Americans remain strangely unaffected by this. They go about as if the deaths of Iraqi civilians do not matter. Many of them continue to believe George Bush's lie that Iraq was involved in the attacks on 9/11 and, perhaps, in their minds that justifies the killing of civilians in Iraq.
One person and his cabal of neo-conservatives have dragged us down a slippery slope to infamy; brought dishonor to our great country and are making it bankrupt in the process.
"Democratic imperalism has led to more deaths not fewer."
----Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet
Election 2004 (November 2nd)
Four days before the presidential election. A momentous event in our nation's history because so much depends on the outcome----whether we continue to be under George Bush's divisive,narrowly focused, agenda-driven policies on all fronts, domestic and foreign, or change direction and pursue a more balanced path.
Emotions on both sides are at a high pitch and legitimate issues facing us often
getting lost in the avalanche of accusations by the candidates and misleading advertisements dominating the air waves.
If one pauses to consider the records of the past four years the choice becomes clear cut. John Kerry might not make a great president but he cannot be worse than the incumbent even if he tries.
"I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime."
----Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Saturday, October 23, 2004
Two Women -- Margaret Hassan and Terri Schiavo
Mrs. Hassan, the chief of Care International's operations in Iraq, was born in Dublin, Ireland, and has lived in Iraq for 30 years. Considering what the terrorists did to other hostages, we must face the possibility that she would meet the same gruesome fate. Would that bring the terrorists more support or earn them respect? Perhaps only in a very limited circle...among their own.
The Schiavo case continues. On October 21st the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear Governor Jeb Bush's request to reconsider its decision against a state law created solely to prevent withdrawal of life support from a brain-damaged women described by medical authorities as being in a "permanent vegetative state for 14 years". The right to lifers have not given up. The next act could very well be played out in the nation's Supreme Court.
Two women in completely different situations. Yet there are similarities. The mind sets of the terrorists in Iraq and the opponents of Right-to-Die in America who want to keep a brain-dead Terri Schiavo hooked up to tubes are not that far apart.
"A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case."
----Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936)
Election 2000 (November 2nd)
Just 10 more days to go but the announcement of the winner could conceivably take many more days.Legal battles, as in 2000, are possible. While the candidates are doing their thing, the media continue to report instances of wide-scale fraud in
the electoral process. It is not a new phenomenon but the degree of it is alarming
in its scope. In the past,Democrats have done their share of manipulating lists of voters. However, the feral intensity with which the Republicans are engaged in disenfranchising large blocks of voters is unprecedented. It is a brutal display of "win at any cost" policy that cannot be matched by the Democrats. When it comes to dirty tricks, the Republicans wrote the book on it.
"Fraud is the ready minister of injustice."
----Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
A new book by John Updike
The Washington Post's magazine section(October 24) contains a review of Updike's "Villages",his 21st book. Should be worth reading. Few can describe the nuances of interactions between men and women against a backdrop of small town America as Updike can.
"We are most alive when we are in love."
----John Updike (1932)
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Liked the title but I found more than 200,000 "Odds and Ends" in Yahoo's list of blogs! So,to avoid being lost in the vast ocean of "Odds and Ends", I decided to change the title. I hope that those of you who had been reading my posts in "Odds and Ends" would continue to follow my musings.
Musafir means pilgirm or traveler. A pilgrim I am not, but I have seen quite a bit of the world. Used "musafir" as one of my e-mail IDs for many years. As a traveler I found more pleasure in people, customs, and foods of the countries I visited than in monuments and such. In other words, a glorious past and its relics had their place but I did not consider them to be more interesting, or important, than the present age.
The following explains my feelings.
"To see the world. To meet people other than my own."
----Gavin Young,Slow Boats to China
The first major storm of the season arrived last night.The weather forecasters were right about this one. Woke up to the sound of howling wind and heavy rain.The gingko trees on my street lost some leaves. It would not be long before the foothills begin to look green. The fire season is over.
"The winds that blow--
ask them,which leaf of the tree
will be next to go!"
----Soseki (translated by Harold Henderson)
Election 2004 (November 2nd)
Fourteen more days to go. So many different polls and comments by pundits.
Bush ahead by 4%
Bush and Kerry in dead heat
Too close to all
The polling procedures and systems are not uniform, and are vulnerable to manipulations. The reports about the possibility of frauds are especially disturbing. One scenario mentioned a tie in Electoral College count and the winner being nominated by the Speaker and Majority Leader of the House----Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Tom DeLay of Texas!!! Just the thought of it makes me want to puke. When the framers of our magnificent Constitution included this provision they couldn't foresee the situation that exists today. A perfect example of 'ad absurdum' (to the point of absurdity). Are we going to re-live the experience of the 2000 Presidential Election, or worse?
"When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken."
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Election 2004 (November 2nd) - The Third Debate and Women Voters
Yet, most of the polls continue to show Bush in the lead in the presidential race.One reason for Bush's lead is support from women voters! I don't personally know any woman who is going to vote for Bush but they must be out there somewhere. The reason for their pro-Bush position----he is perceived as the more strong leader in protecting them (and the country) from terrorism! Following the tragic events of 9/11, Team Bush recognized this fear in a large segment of Americans and did all they could to keep fanning the fire.
It has paid off for George Bush. Despite the exposure of lies; lies for which almost 1,100 American soldiers have paid with their lives; and high cost ($120 billion and mounting), President Bush is considered to be dependable!
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security."
Bill Clinton's "My Life"
I am about halfway through the book.Cannot help thinking about the difference between Bill Clinton and the elected politicians now in power in Washington. The book gives a fascinating look at how the political process works.
President Clinton's Achilles' Heel was his failure to control his libido. He displayed bad taste and judgment in diddling with Ms. Lewinsky. And, his administration was far from squeaky clean. Quid pro quo is built into our system of government. Ideally, government should be attentive to their needs but not influenced by corporations. Unfortunately, in the real world, that kind of government is unattainable. Campaign contribution and its insidious effect is a fact of life. An intellectual giant, Bill Clinton possessed the knowledge and ability to negotiate the labyrinths of legislative process; absolutely essential for a president to succeed. His cabinet was staffed by bright men and women who believed in his vision of an America in which it was not only the rich got richer. Unlike George Bush, he did not pay lip service to the "have nots"; he spent time and efforts to help them move up. This, of course, is anathema to the rabid promoters of free market economy who see nothing wrong with creating tax loopholes for the very wealthy but cry "foul" every time there is a move afoot to raise the minimum wage.
Historians will not forgive (or should I say not be allowed to forgive) the Lewinski episode when reviewing the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton. But those eight years were full of hope, promise, and quite a few accomplishments.
"Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue"
----Francois Duc de la Rochefoucald
Horrendous incidents are still taking place on a daily basis. We are losing soldiers caught in an unjust war. Many more Iraqi civilians, including women and children, are dying and possibly providing the incentive for others to become "insurgents". Our media give prominence to discovery of mass graves of Kurds killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, but news about Iraqi civilian casualties in our war against the insurgents is hard to find. It is a vicious circle. The leaders, as usual, are doing what they do best---issuing platitudes.
"VIOLENCE can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by VIOLENCE. Any man who has once proclaimed VIOLENCE as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle."
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Fall is here and the trails are beckoning
Trails abound in North, South and East bay. My experience is primarily limited to South Bay and Mid-Peninsula. These are some that I like:
Coal Mine Creek
Purisima Creek Redwoods
Stevens Creek Canyon
Rancho San Antonio
Foothills Park (restricted access, open only to Palo Alto residents)
Quite a few of the preserves are managed by the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD). This organization has done an outstanding job in protecting vast areas from developers and making them accessible, without charging entrance fee, to lovers of nature and outdoor activities. Parks that fall under the jurisdiction of county authorities (Santa Clara and San Mateo) require payment of entrance fee for those who drive in.
The preserves have trails that are fairly easy to follow and do not require too much effort, as well as those that are demanding. The views are great; good picnic spots are plentiful. Take advantage of them. Good for one's body---and spirits.
The MROSD web site http://www.openspace.org/ contains details about the preserves
managed by the organization, including maps and docent-led walks.
"The falling leaves fall and pile up;
the rain beats on the rain."
----Gyodai (translated by Harold Henderson)
Election 2004 (November 2nd)
23 days before the election.
A few months back it looked as though John Kerry had a chance of beating President Bush. Then in September, following the Republican Convention, the polls reflected a spurt in the rating for Bush. Kerry's prospects appeared dismal. Now,after the two debates, there is again a glimmer....a faint glimmer of hope. Although the Republicans are trying to put a spin on it, the Duelfer report was bad news for the president. On October 6th his handpicked head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, released the report of his findings. In a nutshell, there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed
WMD, and there were no active facilities in Iraq to manufacture WMD. The Bush administration's lies came home to roost.
The exposure of the lies and Bush's weakness in the debates reversed the tide against John Kerry. Without a teleprompter the president gets tense and it shows. That brings up the matter of the "mysterious bulge". In the first debate, TV cameras (Fox News) caught Bush from the back when he was standing hunched over the podium. The presence of a square object under his suit jacket was quite noticeable. What was it---some kind of electronic device that was prompting him? The White House is staying mum.
Indications are that John Kerry could win more popular votes than Bush as Al Gore did in 2000. The Electoral college is something else. There, too, the projections are tightening.
The president must be sweating for news of Osama bin Laden's
capture. Would Musharraf be able to deliver before November 2nd?
"Three Witches: Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air.
Macbeth: False face must hide what false heart doth know."
Thursday, October 07, 2004
President Bush, Iraq, and the fine art of lying
Among the reasons given to justify the war:
***Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of 9/11
***Saddam and Osama bin Laden were in cahoots with each other
***Iraq tried to buy high-strength aluminium tubes for developing nuclear weapons
***Possession of documents that showed that Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger
***Two trailers found in Iraq were mobile biological laboratories
***Iraq possessed enough dangerous material to kill the entire population of the world
All of the above have been exposed as lies. What is the latest rationale for war being offered by Bush and his cohorts? Abuses in Iraq's Oil-for-Food program!
Now I have heard it all, or have I. Team Bush is so adept at lying that it will continue to float balloons to divert attention and make the most of the "fear factor". Are the voters, especially those who have family members serving in Iraq and those who have lost loved ones in Bush's war, going to swallow the lies. No doubt some would. The facts that close to 1,100 soldiers have given their lives,billions of dollars lost, and thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have been killed, mean nothing to them. Apathy, ignorance, or just denial?
Maybe, just maybe, the president is taking the gullibility of the voting public a bit too much for granted.
Re-election of George Bush would be the biggest con job pulled on the American people in the history of our republic.
God, Stars & Stripes and Politicians
Last week was a busy one for the Republican led House and Senate. The 108th Congress is winding down. How did the elected legislators spend their time? They were engaged in protecting the Pledge of Allegiance and repealing gun ban in Washington,DC. And what is the Senate, under Bill Frist, pursuing this week? A ban on flag desecration. We must be asleep not to be aware of the danger being faced by our national flag.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
----Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Monday, October 04, 2004
The Terri Schiavo case and thoughts about life---and death
Schiavo has been in a "persistent vegetative state" after suffering brain damage 14 years ago. Her doctors recommended withdrawl of life support system and her husband, Michael Schiavo, agreed. Her parents went to court to prevent her husband to act, and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida pushed through legislation (Terri's Law or, perhaps more appropriately, Bush's Law) in support of Schiavo's parents.
In an unanimous decision, on September 29th the Florida Supreme Court ruled Terri's Law invalid. Today Governor Jeb Bush filed a motion for rehearing of the case.
Governor Bush certainly has the right to his opinion,but his overzealous intervention in what is essentially a private matter makes one wonder if this, too, is part of election year politics----that his action is intended to garner support from the "religious right". The Bush Administration's view on this issue has been clearly demonstrated by the efforts to nullify Oregon's Death with Dignity Act which became law in 1997 after Oregonians voted in favor of the legislation by a margin of 60:40, an overwhelming majority. Attorney General Ashcroft failed in his first attempt but he is not done yet. This issue is bound to resurface if George Bush is re-elected.
With all the strife and turmoils in different parts of the universe, I am glad to be here. I savour what I find in my daily life. Small things---the blooming of flowers in my pocket-size garden, good books, wine, simple but flavorful food, music, movies, running and hiking on trails, the company of my family and friends---give me pleasure.
However, if and when I find myself in a state Terri Schiavo is in I would not wish to live for even one minute hooked up to tubes. I have executed a living will and my children are aware of my position. I do not want a doddering old man in Rome or Jeb Bush and John Ashcroft to have any control whatsoever over the end of my life.
"And should anyone ask you "Who are you?",you reply "Who---I? I am nobody", as Ulysses once muttered to Polyphemus".
Sunday, October 03, 2004
A movie and a few books
Chalmers Johnson's "Blowback", The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, was timely when it appeared in print in 2000. Mr. Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Institute, narrated the impact of our arrogant, shortsighted foreign policy and its effects. The situation has worsened in the past two years due to Bush's war in Iraq and the apparent lack of interest in taking a proactive role in negotiating a settlement between Israel and Palestine. Incidents of terrorism have gone up exponentially; the resentment toward the United States is no longer confined to the Middle East and followers of Islam.
Quotations from the book.
1) The term "Blowback" which officials of the Central Intelligence Agency first invented for their own internal use, is starting to circulate among students of international relations. It refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of "terrorists" or "drug lords" or "rogue states" or "illegal arms merchants" often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.
2) We Americans deeply believe that our role in the world is virtuous -- that our actions are almost invariably for the good of others as well as ourselves. Even when our country's actions have led to disaster, we assume that the motives behind them were honorable. But the evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulations.
Two books about the Arab world, written long before the current conflicts, are worthy of attention. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence, and The Letters of Gertrude Bell. T.E. Lawrence's book was published in 1926 and the Letters of Gertrude Bell in 1927.
Extraordinary books by extraordinary individuals. Both of them were actively involved in Britain's empire building and consolidation of power in Arabia. Col. Lawrence fought against the Turks with the rag tag army of Emir Feisal (or Faisal) who was throned as king after the war, and resigned from the British Army, disenchanted by the duplicity of his government and its betrayal of the Arab cause.
Gertrude Bell was a trailblazer. Not a feminist, she ventured into areas that were then open only to men. She traveled around the world----twice, 1897/99 and 1902/03, and climbed mountains. Like T.E. Lawrence she, too, worked for the British Government and served variously as a diplomat, archaeologist, spy, and became Oriental Secretary in Baghdad where she lived from 1917 until her death in 1926. Some (including T.E. Lawrence) criticized Gertrude Bell for her conceit and lack of conviction. She championed the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq and King Faisal, largely a creation of the British. Iraq was a puppet state. After her death, King Faisal named one of the principal rooms in Baghdad Museum as "Gertrude Bell Room". The collection of letters, mostly to her family in England, are fascinating.
"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons."
Friday, October 01, 2004
Thoughts about people, places and events
him and he will continue to use it. At the end, it was the body language that tipped the scale in Kerry's favor.
The second debate on October 8th at St. Louis, MO, should give Kerry another chance to gain
on Bush. The "town hall" format of the debate would mean questions from the audience. The President is known to be uncomfortable without a teleprompter. Dealing with hard questions on
policy matters is not his forte.
There seems to be no end to the violence in Iraq. The massacre of children (reported to be 34)
on September 30th was especially tragic. The children went to the opening of a new water treatment plant in Baghdad because it was announced that American soldiers were giving away
sweets. According to BBC, a group under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was responsible for setting off
the bombs. How do they sleep at night?
As of September 26th the official toll of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq: 1,046
Estimates (unofficial) of Iraqi civilian deaths range from 10,000 to as high as 37,000.
"we don't do body counts". U.S. General Tommy Franks
Here, in the Silicon Valley, it is an overcast morning. Temperature 69 degrees F (21 C).
Gasoline prices rising at the pumps as the per barrel price for crude getting close to $50.00. Still, we pay much less than motorists in many other countries.
Bach's Goldberg Variations on the CD player. It is the 1955 recording of Glenn Gould's performance. A soothing sound.
"War, Your Grace, is watching the dice roll.
Lucky today; tomorrow---a black hole"
----The Song of the Siege of La Rochelle