,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Monday, May 30, 2005


"No man is an island, entire of itself"

Loss, grief and the need for compassion

I was nearing the end of my run, a few blocks from my place when I heard the man say "My dad died". I had seen him before, sitting on the stoop smoking, on some days with a can of beer in his hand. But we never spoke to each other. He watched me running past and I saw him from the corner of my eyes.

The words "My dad died" made me stop. He came off the stoop and said "My dad died today". He named the hospital a few miles away. I asked him how old was his father and he said "He was old. 81." I said the usual things. That I was sorry and hoped that the end was peaceful. The man said that his father was suffering for a long time; it was time for him to go. He wiped his tears. I took his hands, stood there for a few minutes, said "take care" and resumed my run.

After coming home I thought of the man who lost his father and felt the need to talk to a stranger. I was glad that I stopped and wondered whether it helped him in a small way to be able to share his grief. I hoped that it did.

These days when I run past the house he waves at me and says "Hi". Still don't know his name but we have a connection.....sort of.

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
--- John Donne(1573-1631), "Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions"

Friday, May 27, 2005


An Anti-War Poem by Yehuda Amichai


You who are lengthening your lives
with the best doctors and best medicines
remember those who are shortening their lives
with the war
that you in your long lives are not

You who are again screwing
the younger generations
and winking at each other
the winking of your eyelids
is like chill of the swinging shutters
in an empty house.

---Yehuda Amichai (translated from Hebrew by Leon Wieseltier)

So far in May,Sixtysix (66) American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq...and there are 4 more days before the month ends. Patriots or cannon fodder? You decide. My mind was made up long before the first pair of boots hit the ground.

Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) Posted by Hello

Yehuda Amichai was born in Germany. He moved to Israel at the age of 12 and lived there until his death.

"In Amichai one almost always encounters a delight in figurative language; yet his poems are never pretentious or tedious, since they speak out of the everyday and towards concerns we encounter every day. His great themes are love and loss: he celebrates life with vibrancy and energy and a relish for feeling, yet at the same time he is intensely aware of what is lost as history, both personal and social, shears away from each individual things he or she holds dear."

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Freedom Fries, Freedom Toasts and The Clowns of Capitol Hill

Volte face by Congressman Walter Jones (NC)

"Although he voted for the war, he has since become one of its most vociferous opponents on Capitol Hill, where the hallway outside his office is lined with photographs of the 'faces of the fallen'."

The Guardian,UK, reported that Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina now regrets initiating the ban against the word "French" from menus in Capitol Hill restaurants. He has become a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq. Good for him.

What about Speaker Hastert? I remember hearing him speak passionately in support of the change in names. The politicians never say "No" to an opportunity to appear before cameras.

Guardian-Freedom Fries

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


The Magnificent Water Falls at Yosemite National Park

And the Lure of Half Dome

The falls at Yosemite are in their grandest at this time of the year. The unusual amount of snow on the peaks and the heavy melting process means water flowing down in force rarely seen. To add to it, the valley is green and not yet overrun with summer visitors although the Memorial Day weeknd would bring a lot of them to the park. It is a treasure to enjoy.

Distant view of Bridal Veil ©Arundhati Bhowmick

Merced River ©Arundhati Bhowmick

A great view © Arundhati Bhowmick

Bridal Veil © Arundhati Bhowmick

Yosemite Falls, Upper and Middle © Arundhati Bhowmick
Fifth tallest in the world. Height: 2425 ft.

Closer view of Yosemite Falls © Arundhati Bhowmick

Meadow, Horsetail Falls in the background © Arundhati Bhowmick
Also known as El Capitan Falls. Height 1500 ft.

Small Church (Non-denominational) in the Valley © Arundhati Bhowmick

Looking at the peaks from Yosemite Valley © Arundhati Bhowmick

Lower Yosemite Falls © Arundhati Bhowmick

Vernal Falls from Mist Trail ©@Tim Hentzel

Nevada Falls © Arundhati Bhowmick
Half Dome, A Piece of Rock that is like a magnet to hikers

Half Dome, Sheer Side © Arundhati Bhowmick
Rock climbers, brave souls, go up the sheer face of the rock. We,hikers, ascend the other side. The last 200 yards require pulling yourself up cables attached to posts embedded on the rock. Not as hairy as it looks but strenuous. Thousands of hikers do it during the season. For those who are interested, full details available in the excellent post by Kenton Lee(see link).

Climbers going up the cable (like ants) © Musafir

Half Dome cables, last 200 yds, 55 degree incline © Kenton Lee

On Half Dome © Sarbajit Ghosal

Climbing buddy,SG, showing off © Musafir

SG on the precipice © Musafir
Photo credit: Arundhati Bhowmick used a Nikon Coolpix 5700 to take most of the photographs, including the sheer side of Half Dome. Exceptions were the ones going up Half Dome and of Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Kenton Lee

Monday, May 23, 2005


The Showdown in U.S. Senate - Judicial Nominees and Appointments

Lies and distortions, smoke and mirrors

As the zero hour approaches for the so called "Nuclear" option over President Bush's judicial nominees, we know about the major players in this battle.

What do we know of the facts--the history of judicial appointments?

And what do we really know of how the American people feel?

For the answer to the first question all one needs to do is to look at the chart below (published in NY Times May 18, 2005). These are historical facts, not numbers cooked up by reporters of the Times.

May 18, 2005

As to the second question, the Republican senators pushing the nuclear option feel that they have the backing of their constituents. How many of their constituents are aware of the facts and the significance of this unprecedented political muscle flexing is another matter. Editorials in newspapers as diverse as The Chattanoogan, Salt Lake Tribune, and Roanoke Times have come out against the tactics being used by Majority Leader Bill Frist and the senators who are supporting the nuclear option. While refraining from public statements, The White House is deeply involved...and is in full suppoort of what is going on in the senate.

This is an example of "power corrupts" at its worst. It is almost as if the Republicans are sure that they will enjoy majority for ever.


Remember Corporal Pat Tillman?

Parents speak out about lies and exploitation of the death of their son

According to a report in today's Washington Post, the army created a myth. Nothing new. Before the tragic death of Corporal Tillman in freindly fire, there was Private Jessica Lynch. There are numerous reports about "fictionalized" accounts of her rescue.


"Patrick Tillman Sr., a San Jose lawyer, said he is furious about what he found in the volumes of witness statements and investigative documents the Army has given to the family. "

"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," Patrick Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

" Mary Tillman says the government used her son for weeks after his death, perpetuating an untrue story to capitalize on his altruism -- just as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was erupting publicly. She said she was particularly offended when President Bush offered a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election last fall. She again felt as though her son was being used, something he never would have wanted."
Washington Post-Pat Tillman

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Back to Abu Ghraib - The Cover Up

Seymour Hersh writes: "
The 10 inquiries into prisoner abuse have let Bush and Co off the hook"

The Guardian,UK - Seymour Hersh

Friday, May 20, 2005


The Door to Door Brigades of Proselytizers

Out to save souls but oblivious of people with empty bellies

"In our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds-that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous."
---Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), Associate Justice of U.S. Supreme Court, 1941-1954

You have seen them. The well-dressed, well-fed men and women (sometimes accompanied by children) carrying pamphlets and cards who appear on neighborhood streets on weekends and knock on doors. They alight from a van and spread out. Very methodical. Perhaps you have been approached by them and you have talked to them.

They are on a mission--to save the souls of all who do not belong to the particular Christian sects which they represent. They have been taught that the rest of us are doomed and they hit the streets, charged up with zeal to convert us. Like car sales people promoting their brand, these soldiers of god say that theirs is the true way, they have the key. They are dedicated; their arrogance is colossal.

Do they go to the inner cities? Anyone seen them in the Tenderloin, or Hunters Point (San Francisco)?

I politely tell them that "I'm not interested". Once someone tried to begin an argument and said "You don't believe in Jesus?". I told her that what I believed in was my personal affair.

There are exceptions. Not all Christian organizations happen to follow that line. In every city across America there are people who are homeless; who are hungry and sick. Once a week I serve as a volunteer at a food kitchen run by a local church (I am not a member). Every week, Monday through Saturday, it serves freshly prepared lunch to all who come through the door. The number of meals served each day ranges between 400 to 600. In addition, donated food items (vegetables, bread, canned goods) are placed on counters for those who need them. The church also operates a center which distributes clothes once a week.

What is noteworthy is that no one from the church ever speaks to them about Jesus Christ and religion.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


"Revenge of the Sith"

"Some film critics suggest it could be the biggest anti-Bush blockbuster since 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' "

"The Emperor Strikes Bush" is the title of an article by Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post. Mr. Froomkin quoted comments by film critics and George Lucas, the producer of the Star Wars epic.

" 'When I wrote it, Iraq didn't exist,' Lucas said, laughing.

" 'We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn't think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam . . . The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.' "

Bruce Kirkland writes in the Toronto Sun: "Star Wars is a wakeup call to Americans about the erosion of democratic freedoms under George W. Bush, filmmaker George Lucas said yesterday.

"Lucas, responding to a question from the Sun at a Cannes Film Festival press conference, said he first wrote the framework of Star Wars in 1971 when reacting to then U.S. President Richard Nixon and the on-going events of the Vietnam War. But the story still has relevance today, he said, and is part of a pattern he has noticed in his readings of history.

" 'I didn't think it was going to get quite this close,' he said of the parallels between the Nixon era and the current Bush presidency, which has been sacrificing freedoms in the interests of national security. 'It is just one of those re-occurring things. I hope this doesn't come true in our country. Maybe the film will awaken people to the situation of how dangerous it is.' "

David Germain writes for the Associated Press: "Lucas never mentioned the president by name but was eager to speak his mind on U.S. policy in Iraq, careful again to note that he created the story long before the Bush-led occupation there.

Lucas said he has long been interested in the transition from democracy to dictatorship.

"In ancient Rome, 'why did the senate, after killing Caesar, turn around and give the government to his nephew?' Lucas said. 'Why did France, after they got rid of the king and that whole system, turn around and give it to Napoleon? It's the same thing with Germany and Hitler.'

" 'You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling, there's corruption.' "

Washington Post-Dan Froomkin

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


War against Iraq, "The Mother of All Smokescreens"

George Galloway hits back....hard at Senator Norm Coleman

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies. "

Members of the U.S. Senate learned the meaning of oratory today when George Galloway, the former MP from Scotland, appeared before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesotta, and lashed back against unfounded charges for profiteering from the Oil for Food Program.

The full transcript can be accessed from Times On Line (see link). Also, the audio version from MSNBC is worth listening to. George Galloway's speech today will be part of history and rate a place alongside those of the late Winston Churchill. Here is an excerpt.

"Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life's blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies.

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today. Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth.

Times on Line-George Galloway

Monday, May 16, 2005


The Morning After Pill

The United Kingdom takes an Enlightened Approach

Being from one of its former colonies, I'm pleasantly surprised by how the people of England have changed over the years. From straight-laced, stolid approach to religion, morality and politics the Islanders have become tolerant, liberal and rational. Demographic trend--influx of immigrants--is a factor. But it is more than that. We,too, have seen number of immigrants increase exponentially in the past three decades. The explanation for this lies perhaps in the acceptance of privacy rights and lack of demagogues. Politicians and the clergy do not mouth off fiery statements about a society in decay, moral values, sin and such claptrap. The Brits would boo them or pay no attention.

The article by Geraldine Bedell (The Observer) on Morning After Pill is a good example of how they look at things. There are no extreme views from one side or the other. It is primarily a women's issue and women talk about it without bringing in god and morality. Strident voices of men are missing in the argument. Rightly so.
Footnote: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) has been in the forefront to protect women's right to contraception.

"California is one of four states considering laws requiring that all prescriptions be filled. Four states permit pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that violate their personal beliefs, and 22 other states are considering similar laws."

The Observer-Geraldine Bedell

SFChronicle-Edward Epstein

Sunday, May 15, 2005


There is Gold in Them Ther' Hills (In Iraq), Hoo Boy

And you don't have to dig for it

Did I hear someone say "What about the dead and wounded?" Nah. Don't pay attention to the bleeding heart liberals.

Matt Miller in The New York Times:

[Infomercial director: " 'The Republican Guide to Wartime Tax Cuts' ... Take One ... Action!"]

ANNOUNCER: In the old days, war profiteering was a grueling round-the-clock job. You actually had to make something, like planes or guns, and then overcharge the government obscenely. Now, thanks to the Republicans, countless Americans are becoming "war profiteers" in their spare time - and you can, too. Riches once thought to be the exclusive preserve of a few unsavory arms merchants have been made available to thousands of successful Americans, many of whom pull in the cash literally as they sleep!"


NYTimes-Matt Miller

Friday, May 13, 2005


An Unusual Spring

Six Weeks before Summer

"The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

---Robert Frost (1874-1963)

It has been an unusual Spring for us in the San Francisco Bay area. Temperature continues to be much cooler than the norm for this time of the year. Frequent showers, rains, even a hailstorm a few days back! Yesterday was summery. Today the sky is overcast and there is forecast of showers on Monday.

Overall, it feels good. Have always enjoyed running in drizzly weather. Great display of wild flowers in the foothills; the meadows look lush and green. Rows of gingko trees on the street are so full of new leaves that you can hardly see the branches. My small garden is doing well. The nasturtiums a riot of colors, and sweet peas in bloom.

Schools preparing for graduation ceremonies just about a month away. Summer Solstice is on June 21st. The seasons come....and go.

JHL and I went back to Russian Ridge to look at wild flowers. Here are a few pictures.

California Poppies Posted by Hello

Poppies, Owls Clover, Sky Lupine Posted by Hello

Indian Paintbrush Posted by Hello

Red Maids Posted by Hello

Tidy Tip Posted by Hello

Owls Clover,Checker MallowPosted by Hello

Johnny Jump Up Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 12, 2005


PBS - Going, Going, Gone

The Conservative Way or No Way

On May 3rd I wrote about the takeover of Public Broadcasting Service by conservatives. Mark Fiore's animated strip in today's San Francisco Chronicle does it much better. Check it out.

Mark Fiore
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
---Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Third President of the United States,1801-1809.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Masters of the Craft of "Crying Wolf"

Milking the Threat of Terrorism

For some of us this did not come as a surprise--the report in USA Today what the former Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge stated at a conference:

"Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled."

Mr. Ridge went to say that:
"More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it," Ridge told reporters. "Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' "

The threat of terrorism was milked at every opportunity and it paid handsome dividends. It is like a cash cow that keeps on giving.

USA Today


The Abusers at Abu Ghraib

Slimy creatures

You have read about them, seen them on TV and wondered about them---the central characters in the prison scandal whose faces first became familiar from the images that they themselves created. Images that shook the world and made us feel ashamed and revolted.

Who are they? What made them do what they did?

As the facts come out and more is known about them it becomes evident that there is little explanation. We just have to accept the fact that there are such people in the army and elsewhere. Given the opportunity the sadistic tendencies, the dormant brutality lurking in them, come out and Abu Ghraib happens. Other facts,too, become obvious. Failure of higher ranks to maintain discipline and permitting a climate of "anything goes". There was tacit support; they looked the other way. Conditions in Abu Ghraib Prison gave the slimy creatures the opportunity and they had a blast. One detects not the slightest display of remorse from any of them. They gloated in the images from Abu Ghraib; you see them gloating now. Scary, these sons and daughters of our society.

Guantanamo was different. There the abusive interrogation practices were in accordance with official policy! Those involved followed orders.

NY Times-Kate Zernike

Monday, May 09, 2005


"Artful Leakers" and "Phantom Sources"

The Media and Credbility Gap

Are we going to see an end to reports that ascribe "unidentified source", "unnamed official"? Reading them one gets an image of a person whispering to an enterprising journalist, a bureaucrat making a call from a pay phone, or surreptitiously passing a note. Don't bet on it. The practice has developed legs of its own and is not going to disappear any time soon although The NY Times and other newspapers are taking a hard look at it.

Readers who follow the major dailies take position on both sides of the argument--those who would like to see the end of the practice and those who feel that without such protection the sources would "dry up" and important news stories would never appear in print.

Daniel Okrent of the Public Editor column in NY times (5/8/05) wrote under the heading "Briefers and Leakers and the Newspapers Who Enable Them".

Credibility is also why many reporters will now acknowledge that the profession's worst habits must be broken - the vague descriptions of phantom sources, the readiness to disregard their motivations, the willingness to let them say what they wish without public accountability. White House correspondent David E. Sanger, much of whose recent work has been in the extremely sensitive area of nuclear proliferation, told me, "In the post-Iraq world" - the world in which artful leakers convinced reporters and their readers that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction - "using identifiers like 'intelligence officials' or 'officials with access to intelligence' just doesn't hack it."

On a somewhat related issue, a blogger (Dilettante's Diary) wrote on April 10th about the broadcast media. She made cogent points about the lack of honesty that prevails in the industry, the unavoidable influence of the connection between corporate owners, advertisers and the government.

The bottom line is that free press isn't really "free". The Washington Times and Fox News Channel are like propaganda arms of the White House. Other venerable institutions such as The NY Times, Washington Post, CBS,NBC,ABC and CNN try to present "balanced" news and often end up serving pap. They have great reporters who are hamstrung. It is the system.

NY Times
Dilettante's Diary

NY Times-Daniel Okrent
Dilettante's Diary

Saturday, May 07, 2005


God is a Republican

"Insanity Fair"?

One could see it coming.

Pastor Chan Chandler of East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville,NC, expelled nine members of his congregation because they "didn't support President Bush". The pastor's action received support from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. An official informed the Ashville-Citizen Times that "a pastor had every right to disallow memberships if a church's bylaws allow for the pastor to establish criteria for membership"!

This is a step beyond the position taken by the Catholic church before the election of 2004 to deny sacrament to those who supported abortion rights for women.

What next?

You could lose your job because of politicial affiliation
You could be refused admission in school
You could be refused tenancy

Repent, all you sinners and show your support for the holy rollers. Change your voter registration otherwise you'll be punished by the vengeful Republican God. There is additional incentive. You'll not be "left beind"; the countdown to Armageddon has started.

It is a bit early but think I'll pour myself a glass of the house plonk.

Guardian-Democrats Voted out of Church

Friday, May 06, 2005


A Tribute to Mothers, especially

And to members of the opposite sex

Mother's Day is around the corner. This is an expression of my admiration, affection and respect for women. Where would we be without you and the X Chromosome!

Here are a few that I have known (my pleasure, privilege, and good fortune). I'm thankful.

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