Thursday, March 31, 2005
Iraq - Selling of the War. The myth of the WMD
"US spy agencies were "dead wrong" in "almost all" of their pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability, a commission appointed by the US president said in a final report today.
The damning report described the failures as "major" and also revealed that US intelligence still knew "disturbingly little" about the weapons programmes in other potentially dangerous nations. "
"Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says.
"The silent daily massacre by hunger is a form of murder," Mr Ziegler said. "It must be battled and eliminated."
Obscene Statues or Morbid Officials
County officials in Bartholomew County, Indiana, have ordered removal of cement statues, including copies of Venus de Milo and Michelangelo's David, from the yard of a local business because they are "obscene under Indiana law".
Like our former attorney general, the officials in Bartholomew County seem to suffer from monumental hang-up about the human body without clothes on.
"Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity- these are strictly confined to man; he invented them. Among the higher animals there is no trace of them."
---Mark Twain(American humorist, writer and lecturer. 1835-1910)
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Vermont : An Enlightened State
According to an article in today's New York Times, it is Vermont which could possibly be the next state to offer its people the choice of physician assisted suicide.
"Supporters of assisted-suicide laws around the country say that legislation is necessary as a matter of justice, said Nancy Dubler, a professor of bioethics at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Without a law, she said, "people of a certain education and class and profession will have access to it when others will not." Oregon, she said, "has demonstrated that it's socially and morally responsible, socially and morally possible to have a physician-assisted suicide program."
"Dr. Diana Barnard, 40, who was the last member to join the core group, said she wanted to give terminally ill patients an alternative to "going out in the barn with a gun."
In Vermont, a Bid to Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide
By JOHN SCHWARTZ and JAMES ESTRIN
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Extremists vs. the Rest of Us - Tyranny of the Bigots
Bill Moyers (Welcome Doomsday)
Right to Die - A few books
Paul Krugman's column (What's Going On) in The NY Times describes what we are likely to encounter from the so called "Christian Right" and their friends in Congress. The extremists are not going to be deterred by public opinion about their meddling in the Schiavo case.
Extract from the column:
"Yesterday The Washington Post reported on the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available. And let me make a prediction: soon, wherever the religious right is strong, many pharmacists will be pressured into denying women legal drugs. And it won't stop there. There is a nationwide trend toward "conscience" or 'refusal' legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient. Again, think of how such laws expose doctors to pressure and intimidation.
They have an unseemly obsession with morning-after pills. They want women to pay for their sins, is that it ?
A news bulltein from Associated Press about groups representing the disabled reads "Activists make point in Schiavo case".
What point ? The supporters of "Right to Die" and "Death with Dignity" movements certainly do not want to force people to do anything. We want terminally ill people to have the right to make the decision whether to be kept alive on life support or not. It is a private matter between the individuals, their families, physicians, and their spiritual advisors. The politicians should have no role in this.
A respected voice in broadcast journalism, over the years Bill Moyers covered many subjects --from 9/11 to The Power of Myth, his acclaimed series of interviews with the late Joseph Campbell--during his appearances on PBS.
Programs hosted by Bill Moyers are no longer a part of the new PBS.
Moyers' essay "Welcome Doomsday" which appeared in the web site of Axis of Logic on March 23rd is timely and incisive.
"The result is what the Italian scholar Emilio Gentile, quoted in Silk's newsletter, calls "political religion"—religion as an instrument of political combat. On gay marriage and abortion— the most conspicuous of the "non-negotiable" items in a widely distributed Catholic voter's guide—no one should be surprised what this political religion portends. The agenda has been foreshadowed for years, ever since Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other right-wing Protestants set out to turn white evangelicals into a solid Republican voting bloc and reached out to make allies of their former antagonists, conservative Catholics."
If you believe in it, execute the document. You will not need an attorney; just two witnesses. The form is available from various sources. The World Wide Web contains a vast list of organizations that provide information about this. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is one of them.
Do not lose control over this very important decision.
How We Die : Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland,MD, Vintage Paperback
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, The MacMillan Co.
Final Exit by Derek Humphrey, Dell Publishing
Euthanasia and the Right to Die edited by A.B. Dowling, Peter Owen, London
Monday, March 28, 2005
The Gang That Lost Its Way
There must be a lot of head scratching going on in the Florida State House, Congress, and the White House.
They thought they had a sure thing when they took on the role of knights valiantly fighting to save Terri Schiavo. However, it didn't quite pan out the way they thought it would. One poll after another reflect that close to 80% of Americans feel that they had no business to intervene.
How to wiggle out of it ? Not very easy, especially since many of them claim to receive their orders from a higher being. But as politicians they will do what they do best---resort to expediency--and hope that people will soon forget the affair. Majority Leader Tom DeLay will jump on to another issue to divert attention from his problems, and it will be business as usual for members of the 109th Congress.
Fourth of July Oration, Artemus (Charles Farrar Browne) Ward (1834-1867)
Sunday, March 27, 2005
"Mission Accomplished" - 693 Days Later
Some Americans don't give a hoot about Iraqis but what about our own? My February 26th post cited figures of the dead and injured in Iraq. One month later the numbers show that there is no cause to rejoice. The tolls continue to mount.
"Mission accomplished", President George W. Bush, May 2, 2003
Saturday, March 26, 2005
About Runners and Running
Why We Run
"For every runner who tours the world running marathons, there are thousands who run to hear the leaves and listen to rain and look to the day when it all is suddenly as easy as a bird in flight. For them, sport is not a test but a therapy, not a trial but a reward, not a question but an answer."
---Dr. George Sheehan (1918-1993) Runner, Author, Philosopher, Cardiologist
That says it all for those of us who do not run to lose weight or because it is good for health. We run because we found something that would be difficult, almost impossible,for a non-runner to understand. As the late, great Fats Waller said about jazz: "if you hafta ask, you ain't never gonna know!"
Never much of a sprinter I got into distance running almost by accident--while giving the family dog his work out. It felt good and I got hooked. That was almost 30 years ago.
In a Marathon from SFO Ferry Building to Larkspur Ferry Terminal
I have run marathons, the Dipsea (Over Mount Tamalpais from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach), the Double Dipsea (from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley and back), and countless miles over local roads and trails in the foothills. Always carried my running gear on business trips. Have run in HongKong and Bangkok; Singapore and Taipei; Bombay, Madras and Colombo; London and Paris. I run in summer and in the cold and wet winter months. On some days it takes an effort to gear up and go out but I always return from a run feeling better in body and spirits than when I went out. Perhaps it is the release of endorphin. The reason why it feels good is not important.
The town where I live is not very attractive for runners but the quiet, tree-lined streets of Los Altos are only a few miles away. And there are great trails in Rancho San Antonio and Stevens Creek Canyon. After close encounter with a rattle snake some years back I avoid running on narrow trails during the warm weather; it is more a state of mind than a real threat.
Age takes its toll. I am aware that one of these days the knees will give up or something else will happen and I shall have to stop running. In the meantime, I'm going to make the most of it.
Gayla Johnson, who lives nearby, is an ultra marathoner. She has run the Western States 100 (see below) not once or twice, but four times! Amazing feat. For those who are not aware what the terms mean, distance for a marathon is 26.2 miles; ultra marathons are races of 50 miles and over. To some it is lunacy. I know why she does it--for the agony and the ecstasy.
The bare facts:
"The Western States Endurance Run is one of the oldest ultra trail events in the world and certainly one of the most challenging.
The Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn."
Another tough one is the 135-mile race from Bad Water to Whitney Portal. It begins in Badwater, Death Valley, 280 feet below sea level, crosses the desert, continues through the town of Lone Pine (3700 feet) and finishes at Whitney Portal, 8,360 feet above sea level.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
God and Tom DeLay
Bring me the barf bag
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Agenda-driven Judicial Appointments
"And Dr. Frist, after discussing Congressional intervention in Ms. Schiavo's case in a telephone call to Christian conservative activists last week, moved directly to the need for 'good judges' and his plans to end the ability of Democrats to filibuster." (Carl Hulse and David D. Kirkpatrick,NY Times 3/23/05)
Senator (and doctor) Frist didn't leave any doubt about what he meant. What about you--when you think about it, what is your interpretation of a good judge?
Public opinion polls in the past few days reflected that between 60 to 80 percent of Americans were against the government's intervention in the Schiavo case. One would think that it would make the legislators pause, at least for a while, to think. Nope. Now their ire is against bad judges. Judge James Whittemore of the Florida District Court, who ruled to let the decision by the Circuit Court (to remove Schiavo's feeding tube) stand, is reported to be a registered Republican. When I ran a search in Google most of the articles lauded his rercord. Perhaps he incurred wrath of the extremists because he was appointed during the Clinton era.
The conservatives have become rabble rousers. It is the "winner take all", "my way or no way" position that is ominous. But right now the wind is blowing their way. They have a friend in the White House and they will trample over the rest of us. Whether it is targeted tax cuts, display of the Ten Commandments in public places, women's right to choose, or teaching of creationism, the extremists are determined to push their beliefs down our throat and stand ever-ready to amend the Constitution to do it.
NY Times-Judicial Appointments
First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas, A Sequel
A kind visitor to my blog informed me that Calvin Trillin's article about First Lieutenant Brian Slavenas, mentioned in my March 12th post, was available online in The New Yorker, and provided the link. Thank you,Algis.
I urge those who have the time to read the article. Trillin is a sensitive author. His portrayal of the dead soldier and his family is compassionate and thoughtful.
Link: Brian Slavenas
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The Last Words on Terri Schiavo ?
"Schiavo Judge Refuses Request to Connect Feeding Tube "
Bloomberg News 3/22/05
"A federal judge in Florida today refused to order doctors to reinsert the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman whose right-to-die case has touched off a national debate."
"In Schiavo case, Congress trespasses on private tragedy"
"When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they devoted the largest section to spelling out the powers of Congress. Nowhere did they include the right to play doctor. Terri Schiavo's story is tragic enough without political malpractice."
Monday, March 21, 2005
Virginity, Celibacy and All That Hype
"The study, by Yale and Columbia University researchers after examining sexual behaviors of 11,400 adolescents found virginity pledges encouraging STD risks.
They found that many pledgers who claimed to be virgins were having premarital sex. Although a large number of adolescents avoided vaginal intercourse, they were more likely to have oral and anal sex without the use of condoms.
The team found the male pledgers 4 times more likely to engage in anal sex and both male and female pledgers 6 times more likely to have oral sex.
The study steered by Dr. Hannah Bruckner was published in Journal of Adolescent Health. "
Pakistan - Antiquated Laws and Tribal Customs
As more and more women in Pakistan raised their voices in protest against the lopsided judgment by the high court in Lahore, on March 18th the prime minister ordered the men accused of raping Mukhtar Mai to be re-arrested. This act by Premier Shaukat Ali was a recognition not only of the growing strength of the women of Pakistan but also the strong condemnation around the world.
Let's hope that justice will prevail for Mukhtar Mai and the women of Pakistan. More power to them.
Footnote: This post is for MS of Lahore (Pakistan)--bright, exuberant, and passionate in her views--currently a student in the United States.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
First day of Spring
"What is all this juice and all this joy ?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning..."
---Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring"
Dogwood Blossoms, Sequoia Natl Park,CA.
Mount Timpanogos, Utah
California Poppies and Lupines
Freesias, lovely and fragrant
First day of Spring
Saturday, March 19, 2005
CEO Compensation in America
Captains of Piracy, Nicholas D. Kristof's column in The NY Times 3/19/05 will make you gasp. The numbers are staggering and bear no relation to performance.
"A study for The Wall Street Journal by Mercer Human Resource Consulting found that at 100 major U.S. corporations, bonuses for C.E.O.'s last year rose more than 46 percent, to a median of $1.14 million. Both the amount and the percentage increase were the highest since comparable studies began five years ago."
The full article is accessible at:
Another Wet March Morning
Matt Conigliaro - Legal facts about the Schiavo Case
"Do not permit the events of your daily life to bind you, but never withdraw yourselves from them. Only by acting thus can you earn the title of A Liberated One."
---Wan Ling Record of The Zen Master Huang Po (translated by John Blofeld)
"Not even a hat--
And cold rain falling on me?
Tut-tut! Think of that!
---Basho (translated by Harold Henderson)
"The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection
The water has no mind to receive their image."
"Nothing exists; all things are becoming"
--- Reiho Masunaga, The Soto Approach to Zen
The Zen Eye
"And do not change. Do not divert your love from visible things. But go on loving what is good, simple and ordinary; animals and things and flowers, and keep the balance true."
---Rainer Maria Rilke
Attribution: All quotations are from The World of Zen by Nancy Wilson Ross
Matt Conigliaro's Abstract Appeal
For those who are interested in a balanced, dispassionate summary of the Terri Schiavo case, Matt Conigliaro's "Abstract Appeal-Web Log Devoted to Florida Law and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals" is the best I have found on the world wide web. Mr. Conigliaro, a Florida attorney, has done a masterful job.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Faith Based Politics
I had decided not to write any more about hapless Terri Schiavo. But the news about the cynical move by Republican zealots in the Senate to force the brain-damaged woman and her husband to appear before them to testify broke my resolve. Testify!!! It is obvious that they have no shame.
"The Senate Health Committee has requested that Terri and her husband Michael appear at an official committee hearing on March 28. A statement from the office of House Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., on Friday said the purpose of the hearing was to review health care policies and practices relevant to the care of non-ambulatory people."
Really? You could have knocked me down with a feather.
This might, just might, be the last straw for Terri Schiavo. The stress of traveling from Florida could be too much for her frail body. In that case the ploy of the Senators would turn out to be an act of kindness, although kindness is far from their minds as they prepare for a despicable act of grandstanding.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Bernie Ebbers Gets His Just Desserts, And There is Pinochet
How sweet it is. The former CEO of Worldcom is facing jail time. The jury found him guilty on all charges. He certainly deserved it. I don't believe in hell but I hope that Mr. Ebbers rots--slowly rots--in prison. Let's not forget that for every Bernie Ebbers there are many more who laughed their way to bank and are sitting pretty.
Dan Ackman in Forbes 3/16/05:
"In fact, the Ebbers case is a freak by any measure. Start with the simple fact that he went to trial. Of the 82,910 defendants accused in federal courts in 2004, just 3,393, or 4%, stood trial at all, according to the U.S. Office of Court Administration. Securities fraud cases are also extremely rare: In 2004, there were just 116 defendants whose cases were disposed of in the entire U.S., a remarkably small number considering the number of financial restatements, corporate blowups and dream-state analyst reports in recent years. If you are a CEO among the 116, that's cold comfort, but it's not something you really need to worry about."
A report in The Guardian,UK, reads: "Pinochet's web of bank accounts exposed"
Deaths of Prisoners in American Custody (NY Times 3/17/05)
"Now the White House has its own gulag: C.I.A. agents snatch suspects and fly them to places like Egypt and Syria to be strung up in chains and tortured. And The Times reported yesterday that at least 26 deaths of prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan may be criminal homicides. So it also has its own Soviet-style propaganda campaign."
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Omar Khayýam at Russian Ridge
"Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A flask of Wine, a Book of Verse--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
And Wildnerness is Paradise enow."
---Omar Khayýam, Persian Poet, Astronomer (1048-1123*) Translated by Edward Fitzgerald
*1131, according to some sources.
Bush Lupine at Russian Ridge
Picnic on the Grass
Russian Ridge, Wild Flowers I
Russian Ridge, Wild Flowers II
Russian Ridge, Wild Flowers III
JHL and I went to look at wild flowers at Russian Ridge, high up in the peninsula, near the crossing of Skyline Boulevard and Page mill Road. It was a lovely day, unusually warm. But the breeze blowing from the Pacific about 6 miles away made our hike quite enjoyable. It was clear enough to look to the east and see Hoover Tower in the Stanford Campus and, further on, the outline of the Dumbarton Bridge. To the west we could catch glimpses of the ocean near Half Moon Bay.
The display of flowers was not spectacular. Perhaps it would take another week or two for them to appear in force. We looked at some. The photographs are limited in what they depict because I did not carry a telephoto/macro lens.
There was no singing, and the book was "California Spring Wild Flowers" by Philip A. Munz but we had bread (Foccacia), wine--a German Riesling, risotto with shrimps; butternut squash sauteed with pine nuts and fresh sage (learned to make this flavorful dish from my friend Arani Sinha); fruits....and dark chocolate. One could ask for nothing more. For a few hours all was well with the world.
Bits and Pieces from Here and There
Always thought that Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was one of the typical, gutless Washington politicians. He tried to please all sides. Paul Krugman's column in The NY Times, March 15,2005, about Senator Lieberman's position on the Social Security debate and his vote on the Bankruptcy legislation clearly outlines how the senator straddles the fence.
Christians in Action Against the BBC
The BBC is facing a law suit for broadcasting "Jerry Springer, The Opera". Interestingly, part of the complaint by the Christian Institute of Newcastle,UK, is based on violation of "human rights act". No fan of Jerry Springer, I fully support the BBC's right to select programs aired by its stations.
Crime fighters brought to book in Mexico
From Jo Tuckman's report in The Guardian,UK, 3/8/05
"The leftwing mayor of Nezahualcoyotl, Luis Sanchez, has ordered all 1,100 members of the municipal police to read at least one book a month or forfeit their chance of promotion.
"We believe reading will improve their vocabulary and their writing skills, help them express themselves, order their ideas and communicate with the public," Mr Sanchez said. "Reading will make them better police officers and better people."
The list of books includes: "The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, weighty classics such as Don Quixote, simpler gems such as The Little Prince."
Three cheers for Mayor Luis Sanchez.
Abortion not a Poll Issue -- in England
The Catholic Church in England has taken a stand to support Tory leader Michael Howard because of his position on legal limits for abortion. Unlike in the United States, this is not going to be a substantive factor with majority of British voters. Yet the fact that the issue has surfaced portends ill for women in the United Kingdom. Maybe not in the near future but they could find themselves facing the same kind of restrictions on reproductive rights that the Bush administration is determined to impose on American women.
$600 Billion Man
Books and Police Officers
Abortion rights, UK
Saturday, March 12, 2005
A Soldier Who Died Young
An extraordinary young man--pianist, weight lifter, skier, chess player, helicopter pilot
Hero who died for a cause or a victim caught in geopolitical machinations ? To those who knew and loved him, he was a son, a brother, a friend. A gentle human being who "wouldn't hurt a fly".
Calvin Trillin's "Lost Son" in the March 14th issue of The New Yorker is not available on-line. However, Mr. Trillin's interview with Matt Delinger is. Here is an extract.
"Brian’s parents have very different takes on his death. His father, who is supportive of the war, wanted a military funeral, and his mother, who has protested the war, did not. The family seems to be a microcosm of the nation."
Lost Son (added June 18, 2011)
Friday, March 11, 2005
Screw the Middle Class, Pamper the Wealthy
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Efforts to soften the effect of tougher bankruptcy rules on families with children and close a loophole for the wealthy were rejected by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the legislation moved toward expected passage."
That is what it boils down to. The report by Susan Cornwell of Reuters is under the headline "The Senate Nixes Efforts to Soften Bankruptcy Bill".
The shameless, double-talking legislators in Washington, DC, passed another bill custom-crafted for their friends in high places.
---Amos Bronson Alcott, American Educator, Social Reformer (1799-1888)
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Nazism is Dead, Long Live Nazism
"Mr. Hale said attacks on race-betrayers and 'mud people' were understandable but a waste of time. 'Suppose someone goes out and kills 10 blacks tonight,' he said, shrugging. 'Well, there are millions more.' "
Anyone who finds it hard to believe that the above is from an article in today's New York Times, can look up Nicholas Kristof's "Home Grown Osamas" with a few clicks of the mouse.
Perhaps there is hope for Mr. Hale. According to some proponents of the Second Coming, all but fundamentalist Christians are doomed to disappear from the face of the earth. That should take care of most of the "mud people". If there are some dark-skinned Born Again Christians left on this good earth their number should be small enough for Mr. Hale and his followers to deal with.
Home Grown Osamas
"At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when He brought some people into being."
---Friedrich Otto Hertz (1878-1964)
Pigs at the Trough - The Bankruptcy Bill
Extracts from Stephan Labatan's report in The New York Times, March 9, 2005.
"The main lobbying forces for the bill - a coalition that included Visa, MasterCard, the American Bankers Association, MBNA America,Capital One, Citicorp, the Ford Motor Credit Company and the General Motors Acceptance Corporation - spent more than $40 million in political fund-raising efforts"
"Final passage of the measure is now an inevitable formality."
"The White House applauded the votes on Tuesday."
Our legislators never fail to take care of those who pay into their campaign chests while the interests of the majority of their constitutents get drowned in the pork barrel.
Remember Abe Lincoln's address in Gettysburg, Nov.19, 1863 ?
"......government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." That is what he said. What we have become is a government of lobbyists, by the lobbyists, for the lobbyists.
The full report can be read at Bankruptcy
Also see my post : Wednesday, January 26, 2005 , "You've got to dance with them what brung you".
Note: The NY Times articles can be accessed free for 7 days from date of publication. Registration procedure is simple.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Dildos and Dogmatists
Mark Morford of The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote on March 4, 2005:
"I cannot, in other words, imagine living in Alabama. Or Texas. Or Louisiana. Or Georgia. Or Tennessee. Or in any of the handful of terrified and morally convulsive states where they prohibit such activities, where the selling of "genital stimulating devices" is outright illegal and deeply dreaded."
The full article can be accessed at the link below.
How many children, men and women have been killed by dildos ? An easy one. None,nada, nil, zero, zilch. But there they go tirelessly seeking dirt that exists only in their minds. It is the Taliban mentality. Viagra is OK but "morning after pill" for women (to prevent unwanted pregnancy) is not! These are the same people who promote abstinence and are against teaching of the use of condoms in sex education. The hypocrisy is monumental.
"Oh, for a forty-parson power to chant
Thy praise, Hypocrisy! Oh, for a hymn
Loud as the virtues thou dost loudly vaunt,
---Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron), Don Juan (canto X, st. 34)
Friday, March 04, 2005
Children of the Brothels
Winner of Oscar for the best documentary film.
The sights, sounds, and lives of the inhabitants of Sonagachi, the red light district of Calcutta (Kolkata), brought unfiltered before the world. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffmann's film demonstrates what a few dedicated artists with limited funds and resources can achieve.
As a former Calcuttan I was affected by the scenes of the city. The images reflected an overwhelming sense of decay and failing infrastructure. But the children were the stars. Their exuberance in the midst of the squalor was infective. They projected hope.
kids with cameras
Pakistan, Still In Stone Age
BBC's report about the hapless Mukhtar Mai and her experience (first in the hands of rapists and then before a High Court in Punjab Province) makes it clear how little progress has been made for women's rights in some countries, especially those where Sharia laws and tribal councils are in effect.
"Women often suffer 'honour punishments' to pay for crimes attributed to relatives."
---BBC (March 4,2005)
Thursday, March 03, 2005
A rainy day in March
Here we are in March, less than three weeks away from Spring but the rains continue. We have had more rain than we normally get. Up in the Pacific Northwest there is fear of drought! Have been using the gym more frequently. I would rather be out on a trail. The daffodils and freesias (mostly yellow) are looking gorgeous. The foothills will remain green until May, and that is certainly a good thing. In the produce section of the local food stores, asparagus and grape fruits are plentiful and affordable. Just a matter of days before sunny days become the norm......I hope.
The Oscars and Euthanasia
The much anticipated Oscar awards show came and went. I was glad that Eastwood's movie got the recognition it deserved. I and my movie going friend thought that "The Aviator" was too long and boring. Don't pay much attention to clothes and coiffurs but noticed that Penelope Cruz looked stunning in the yellow gown.
Interestingly, euthanasia figured in both winners in the feature film category, "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Sea Inside" (Spanish). Don't think that they would change anyone's mind about the subject. I was a believer in euthanasia before the films were released and I shall continue to be one. I respect those who have strong conviction about the end of life being in God's hands. It is a very personal issue. They should not try to prevent those who hold a different opinion from making the decision to call it quits when the circumstances convince them to do so.
An extraordinary film by Nanni Moretti.
Starring: Laura Morante, Nanni Moretti, Guiseppe Sanfelice, Claudi Della Seta, Stefano Accorsi
Directed by: Nanni Moretti
Produced by: Nanni Moretti, Angelo Barbagallo
I had missed this film when it went through local theaters. Caught it on video. A gem. Check it out.
Currently reading Paul Theroux' "Dark Star Safari - Overland from Cairo to Cape Town" (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
In a recent post, a fellow blogger (in London,UK) mentioned the heavy rainfall in the Hebrides. That reminded me of Alexander Frater's delightful book "Chasing the Monsoon". A friend to whom I recommended the book said that he didn't want the book to end. That is how I felt when I read it.
On the CD player: Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor. Kennedy (Nigel) with The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI Classic)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Crusaders and Jihadis -- Killing In The Name Of God, Then and Now
Pope Urban II and doctrine of "Positive Violence"
Years ago I attended a seminar in which the time management guru Alan Lakein expounded on "postive procrastination". Not easy to practise but I could see the merits of Professor Lakein's theory. "Positive violence", however, is another matter. Two recent books contain fascinating details about the crusades and "positive violence".
The First Crusade: A New History by Thomas Asbridge (Oxford University Press, 2004)
The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinopole by Jonathan Phillips (Viking Books, 2004)
The authors teach medieval history at the University of London.
In her review of the books, Joan Acocella wrote in The New Yorker: "Whenever a war needed to be viewed as a sacred enterprise, the word (Crusade) came up. George W. Bush used it to describe his war on terrorism."
We know that President Bush backed off from continuing with the theme because of its connotations; it was not considered politically correct. For his war, he needed support of Islamic countries.
I learned that it was Pope Urban II (1035-1099) who preached about "positive violence" to motivate the knights of the First Crusade who were facing pangs of conscience and doubts about what they were doing and what they were taught about heaven, hell and sins. Later, when the Fourth Crusade came around, Crusaders were assured of absolution of all "confessed transgressions". I quote Ms. Acocella: "So it was two in one: the knights could go on slaughtering people and get to Heaven thereby. That was 'positive violence', and according to Asbridge and Phillips, it was the motor of the Crusades."
Ms. Acocella's review mentioned that the beginning of the First Crusade might have had something to do with faith but it didn't take long to turn into looting and pillaging expeditions. She cited another British historian Steven Runciman and his "History of The Crusades". Mr. Runciman wrote that "....the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God." For instance, on their way to Constantinopole, the People's Crusade (a rabble army organized by a French monk, Peter the Hermit) killed a large number of Rhineland Jews.
Today we are told that we are waging war to fight terrorism and to spread democracy. The other sides tell their followers of a holy war against infidels! While the Muslims don't shy away from using the term "Jihad", our policy makers painstakingly avoid "Crusade" in their speeches and exhortations. There are similarities in what they believe and zealously pursue--that the end justifies the means; violence is necessary....and positive. There seems to be very little concern about the innocent civilians caught in the middle. We have coined a term for them--"collateral damage". Perhaps the Muslims say "mekhtub" (It was written).
Positive procrastination is worth thinking about. Pursuit of the policy of positive violence ought to be shunned by all.