Thursday, June 30, 2005
The Supreme Court - Who will replace Chief Justice Rehnquist?
It will be interesting to see whether the opposition would be able to muster enough support to have a voice in the confirmation proceedings .
A Bouquet for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - A Sane Voice
"At a time when we see around the world the violent consequences of the assumption of religious authority by government, Americans may count themselves fortunate: Our regard for constitutional boundaries has protected us from similar travails, while allowing private religious exercise to flourish. … Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly."
Thus wrote Justice O'Connor on 6/27/05 in her opinion about the display of Ten Commandments.
I do not expect the zealots,who want to ram their beliefs down our throats,to pause even for a moment to think about the opinion expressed by Justice O'Connor. They wish her gone from the Court; sooner the better.
In the private property seizure (so called "eminent domain") case, Justice O'Connor was on the losing side of the 5-4 decision.
"She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers."
I am with those who feel that this ruling would open a floodgate for unscrupulous municipal officials and greedy developers (there is no other kind).
For Justice O'Connor, applause and a bouquet.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The Milking of 9/11 - Again
Exploitation of a national tragedy
If you sat through the president's speech last evening, my question is did you hear anything new?
I did not. However, during approximately 25 minutes, the president mentioned 9/11 five times!
We know now:
- There were no Iraqis among the terrorists who carried out the attacks
- Saddam Hussein had no link with the plotters (al Qaeda)
- Iraq was not a hot bed of terrorists before we began the war. It certainly has become one.
The New York Times - excerpt from editorial 6/29/05:
"We did not expect Mr. Bush would apologize for the misinformation that helped lead us into this war, or for the catastrophic mistakes his team made in running the military operation. But we had hoped he would resist the temptation to raise the bloody flag of 9/11 over and over again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks. We had hoped that he would seize the moment to tell the nation how he will define victory, and to give Americans a specific sense of how he intends to reach that goal - beyond repeating the same wishful scenario that he has been describing since the invasion."
To find out about the background of president's plans for war, read the Downing Street Memo(s).
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Who leaked (who really leaked) Valerie Plame's Identity?
The Associated Press report dated June 28th summarizes the mysterious case about former CIA officer Valerie Plame. Two journalists facing possible jail time for being "in contempt of court". They are refusing to divulge their source(s). But the burning question is why Robert Novak, who originally disclosed that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, remains beyond the special prosecutor's reach. Perhaps we shall never know.
"Plame's name was first made public in 2003 by columnist Robert Novak, who cited unidentified senior Bush administration officials for the information. There has been no public explanation for why prosecutors are not pursuing Novak."
Monday, June 27, 2005
Liberation of Minnie Lou and Display of Ten Commandments
According to BBC, "...... the decision to remove the curtains which covered the two statues was taken by an assistant attorney general, and not Mr Gonzales himself, the spokesman added.
Mr Gonzales "agreed with the recommendation", Kevin Madden said.
The Fine Balance in the Supreme Court
Good news this morning.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices of the Supreme Court ruled that: "......two exhibits in Kentucky cross the line between separation of church and state because they promote a religious message."
Later, the Court, in a second case about the constitutionality of displays of Ten Commandments on government property filed by the attorney general of Texas, ruled (again by 5-4 decision) that :".....it was permissible for a monument based on the revered text to be exhibited at the Texas state legislature".
The conservatives have made no secret of their goal to destroy the fine balance in the Supreme Court. When vacancies occur, two appointments by President Bush would very likely achieve that end.
Note: This post edited/revised at 7:05 PM following the ruling in the second case.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
"Mission Accomplished" ?
Six more American soldiers died in Falluja,Iraq, June 24, 2005
From transcript of "Meet the Press with Tim Russert" Feb.8, 2004
"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy
matters with war on my mind. Again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true. ..."
Vice President Cheney on Larry King (CNN) May 30, 2005:
"The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."
Excerpts from Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Iraq war:
- Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.: "General Abizaid, can you give us your assessment of the strength of the insurgency? Is it less strong, more strong, about the same strength as it was six months ago?"
- Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf: "In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.
- "In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was."
- Levin: "So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it's in its last throes?"
- Abizaid: "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency."
- Levin: "Well, the vice president has said it's in its last throes, that's the statement the vice president _ it doesn't sound to me from your testimony or any other testimony here this morning that it is in its last throes."
- Abizaid: "I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticizing the vice president."
- Levin: "I just want an honest assessment from you as to whether you agree with a particular statement of his _ it's not personal. ...
- Abizaid: "I gave you my opinion of where we are."
The now famous Downing Street Memo published by the London Times on May 1, 2005, fully disclosed the secret plans for war that were made as early as July 2002.
Where is our money going?
There is a deep sinkhole in Iraq for our tax dollars. Newsweek (April 4th issue) covers the subject in detail in an article titled "Follow the Money". Corruption is rampant; our money is lining up pockets of unethical officials and contractors.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
A Gem in The Edmond Sun - Leaman Harris on Religious Intolerance
There are days when I come across unexpected treasures in the world wide web. Had never heard of "The Edmond Sun". A small city chartered in 1925, Edmond,Oklahoma, has a population in the low 30,000, predominantly white. Daily circulation of The Edmond Sun is below 11,000.
Under the byline of Leaman Harris, on June 21st The Edmond Sun published a column on religious intolerance that is worthy of national newspapers. Mr. Leaman is serving a one-year assignment that is "nearing its end".
I quote from the article:
- "You can check these statistics by searching on the web for "Statistical Abstract of the United States 2004-2005." These statistics are in Section 1, Population, Table 67. The Abstract is a publication of the U.S. Census Bureau. The government is not allowed to ask questions about religion on the census taken every 10 years, but the Abstract references the study done by the City University of New York as a reliable source.
- "The most significant fact about this study is that 14 million more people claimed to be atheists in 2001 than in 1990, a more than 100 percent increase. It is a larger gain than that experienced by the Catholic Church and non-denominational churches combined. Meanwhile, non-Christian faiths are making significant gains. If the goal of fundamentalist evangelicals is to convert Americans into followers of Jesus Christ, then they are failing.
- I am convinced that the reason for this failure is the bigotry and intolerance displayed by a relatively small but very loud and arrogant group of fundamentalist evangelicals."
Reading Mr. Leaman's column gave me hope. Mr. Leaman did his home work and produced a column full of facts and figures on this important topic. Very timely. Perhaps all is not lost.
I wish him well.
---Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Friday, June 24, 2005
A College for grooming Stepford Wives...and Husbands
Do the students have impure thoughts; do they masturbate? One wonders.
Hanna Rosin's "God and Country" in The New Yorker about a college that was established to groom homeschooled students for political positions made me cringe. No, nothing wrong with homeschooled kids. But this particular college was founded with objective and principles that are disturbing.
- "Patrick Henry is a Christian college, though it is not affiliated with any denomination, and it gives students guidelines on "glorifying God" with their appearance. During class hours, the college enforces a "business casual" dress code designed to prepare the students for office life---especially for offices in Washington,D.C., fifty miles to the east where almost all the students have internships with Republican politicians, or in conservative think tanks."
- "The boys in the cafetaria all had nearly trimmed hair, and wore suits or khakis and button-down shirts; girls wore slacks or skirts just below the knee, and sweaters or blouses."
Watched Pot. The great Hendrik Hertzberg writes in The New Yorker about the Supreme Court and Medical Marijuana.
- "Someday the cruelty of the 'drug war' will give way to laws and policies based on reason and justice. But that day is painfully slow in coming, and no drug, legal or not, can take the pain away."
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Library Records Being Scrutinized by Big Brother
True or False
True, according to some library officials. Justice Department denies it. Knowing what we do now about our government who would you believe?
A report filed on 6/21/05 by Barbara Zabarenko of Reuters stated that:
"U.S. librarians say they have been asked at least 268 times since 2001 to give law officers data about readers, despite repeated Justice Department denials that it is interested in patrons' reading habits.
A survey released this week by the American Library Association found the inquiries from law enforcement came formally and informally -- that is, without a formal legal order -- to public and academic libraries. That is despite laws in 48 states and prevailing opinion in the other two that library information is private.
"Now we have solid information that no matter what the Justice Department is saying, they are interested in libraries because they are coming, and not once or twice, but in appreciable numbers," Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the library association's Washington office, said on Tuesday."
---Decimus Junius Juvenalis (Juvenal),Roman rhetorician and satirical poet (1st to 2nd cent. A.D.)
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Another Photo Opportunity for The Buffoons in Congress
Their grand standing about banning French fries and French toasts bombed.
Now the super patriots are into another jingoistic act. They are going to retry passing the Flag Burning Amendment. I must be living on another planet. Don't recall flags being burned at random. But their minds work in strange ways. One would think that if they are seriously concerned about honoring the national flag they would act to enforce the etiquette described in U.S.History.org.
- Is it okay to have a flag t-shirt with words written on it?
- No, the flag should never be worn and no, the flag should never have marks or words written upon it. Section 8d (see below): "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." Section 8g: "The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature."
- Is it okay to use flag napkins or flag paper plates?
- No. Section 8i (see below) reads: "It should not be ... printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard."
- Is it okay for an advertisement to use the flag?
No. Section 8i (see below) reads, "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
Capital One credit card promotion
- What does the Flag Code say about displaying the flag horizontally, as before a football game?
Section 8c. reads, "The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. "
- Isn't the American flag stamp in violation of the flag rules?
Should keep them busy for a while---if they really want to preserve the sanctity of our national flag.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Fissures in the Facade - "All Hat and No Cattle"
Despite the boastful claim about "mandate" in the second term,there are signs that cracks are appearing in the image.
- The Bolton case highlights the fact that even with the Republican majority the president is unable to get his nominee confirmed by the Senate. He can, of course, use "recess appointment" and the signs are pointing that way. That, however, would emphasize weakness of his position.
- The House passed Patriot Act (II) but a watered-down version; the president didn't get what he pushed for.
- His much vaunted plans for partial privatization of Social Security landed with a thud. Majority of Americans remain unconvinced by his pitch. They are distrustful of the implications and lack of details. Rightly so. While he has not given up, Republican members of Congress are seeking a quiet way out.
- Finally, the mess in Iraq is making its impact at home. News about deaths and injuries are beginning to raise questions,especially in view of the barrage of new reports about plans for the war and the ploys used to deceive the nation. Apart from the lack of justification, the plans turned out to be hopelessly inept. The cost in dollars is one thing, the cost in lives and limbs is a more serious issue.
The Republicans would have been screaming for impeachment if this happened under a Democratic president. Now they are like the wise monkeys : "See no evil, hear no evil". While the politicians are following their usual path of expediency by remaining silent, the people are not. There are signs that disenchantment with the president is spreading across the land.
"All wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the whole world to do the fighting for them."
First Day of Summer
Most of us
on the back.
behind the ear.
A four-pound bass.
A full moon.
A crackling fire.
A great meal.
A glorious sunset
There are plenty
for all of us.
Note: A friend sent me this item many years ago. I have no idea who the author is or where it appeared. And I like to fish for trout, not bass.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Hypocrisy about Hash
The Politics of Pot
A favorite target of the conservatives, our self-appointed moral guardians--marijuana. Think of the resources, time and money being used to combat what they call the "evil" of marijuana.
Why drinking alcohol is OK but smoking a joint a criminal offense? Alcohol can cause health and mental problems and so can marijuana. Heck, a gallon of milk a day can cause health problems for many of us. While moderate consumption of alcohol is good for health (according to current medical opinion) too much alcohol is harmful for body and mind. I have not found any source of information that cites evidence to prove that smoking a joint or two does any harm. In fact, in some cases patients suffering from pain are said to benefit from smoking marijuana. Yes, I am aware of the recent Supreme Court decision but the court didn't go into benefits or harmful effects of marijuana; it upheld the Federal law under which the regulation of illicit drugs is a matter of interstate commerce, reserved exclusively to the Federal Government by the Constitution. Imara's June 16th post in "Where Two or More Are Gathered" covers the 6-3 ruling by the Court.
But many members of the moral values crowd drink alcohol, and the mighty alcohol industry contributes significantly to campaign chests of politicians. Some of them undoubtedly indulged in smoking joints during their younger days but don't talk about it. During his first presidential campaign G.W. Bush admitted to "youthful indiscretions". You figure out what that meant. As president he is gung ho about imprisonment for youths caught possessing small amounts of marijuana. Another president said that he smoked but didn't inhale! Too bad, if that was indeed his experience. Why is politics so crowded with hypocrites?
The fact remains that despite our government's draconian position on marijuana smoking, the practice is alive and well. Unfortunately, law abiding citizens do not have access to marijuana. See link about consumption of marijuana.
One thing for sure. If it is legalized large corporations would jump into the act before you can say Jack Robinson. They probably have business plans and advertisement campaigns ready to launch. "A joint a day will keep the blues away".
In the meantime, the two-faced puritans rule.
From a report by Kevin Freking,Associated Press:
"Both college towns, Boston and Boulder, Colo., share another distinction: They lead the nation in marijuana use. Northwestern Iowa and southern Texas have the lowest use."
Wouldn't like to live in Boston but Boulder is attractive. Texas, no thanks.
Marijuana Use in The U.S.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Father's Day - The Mess That Is Iraq
---Simone Weil, French philosopher, writer, activist (1909-1943)
The tide is turning - Parents oppose aggressive recruitment in schools
If you had a teenager finishing high school, would you like him or her to join the army and sent to a place like Iraq? More and more parents are saying "No".
Latest numbers (as of June 17th) from Iraq Body Count.
U.S. Soldiers - Dead: 1,720 Injured: 12,855
Iraqi Civilians: Dead: Min 22,353 Max 25,341
Common Dreams reproduced an article originally published by the Knight-Ridder Group on June 15,2005. It is a deeply touching narrative by Sgt.Zachary Scott-Singley who grew up in Washington State. "From Iraq, A Soldier/Father's Perspective On the War by Joseph L. Galloway"
Iraq-A Soldier/Father's Perspective on War
AP - Military Recruitment in Schools
Iraq Body Count
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Crooks in the Corporate World - Larceny at Grand Level
From Associated Press:
"NEW YORK - Former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski and a subordinate were convicted Friday of looting more than $600 million from their company to pay for lavish parties, fancy art and an opulent Manhattan apartment that featured a $6,000 shower curtain."
Kozlowski could face 30 years in prison. He certainly deserves it. Incidentally, the shower curtain was reported to be for the maid's quarters.
- Phillip Purcell, CEO of the tainted financial giant Morgan Stanley has been forced into retiring---with a compensation of 62.3 million dollars.
- J.P. Morgan Chase, a Wall Street giant, agreed to pay a fine of (hold on to your seat) $2.2 billion dollars--yes billions-- for its complicity in helping Enron cook up fictitious deals.
- Citigroup (another great American financial institution) paid a penalty of $2 billions for the same reason.
Friday, June 17, 2005
There are blogs and then there is "Belle de Jour"
There are other bloggers who have received a lot of attention from mainstream media, among them Riverbend of Baghdad Burning and Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. This, however, is a different kettle of fish.
In an article dated March 27,2005, The Sunday Times (of London) named her as Lisa Hilton, "a British author based in America". When contacted by The Times, Ms. Hilton declined to confirm it.
Her book (The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl by Belle de Jour, Weidenfeld & Nicholson £12.99, pp288) did not receive much praise from critics but did well in sales. I got a few chuckles just from reading the list of links in her blog. A few are listed below but those who wish to check them out will have to access them from the source.
Jet Set Lara
Professor Dollar Fifty
I wonder what "Professor Dollar Fifty" is about. It is such a piddling amount. Should be interesting to read about Chloe's rapture. Ah, well. So much to read and so little time.
Belle de Jour
Thursday, June 16, 2005
DeLay, Frist, et al - Dodgers and Weavers
"The report generally supported the contention of Ms. Schiavo's husband, Michael, accepted by judges in six courts over the years, that she was unaware and incapable of recovering. And it countered arguments by her family, who badly wanted to win custody of Ms. Schiavo, that she was responsive and could improve with therapy."
Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader
On 6/15/05: A spokesman for Mr. DeLay declined to answer any questions about the autopsy, except to say that his "thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Terri Schiavo."
What he said on 3/20/05: "Ms. Schiavo's condition, I believe, has been misrepresented by the media,"...... "Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."
Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader (he is a transplant surgeon)
3/17/05: Dr. Frist, in his floor statement said that after viewing videotape of Ms. Schiavo, it was clear she was responsive. "To be able to make a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state - which is not brain dead; it is not coma; it is a specific diagnosis and typically takes multiple examinations over a period of time because you are looking for responsiveness - I have looked at the video footage," Dr. Frist said. "Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond."
6/15/05: Dr. Frist did not respond to questions about the autopsy findings, saying he had not had time to review them. His spokeswoman, Amy Call, sought out reporters who asked about the case to assert that Dr. Frist "never made a diagnosis."
And the response from the White House
"It doesn't change the position that the president took," said its spokesman, Scott McClellan. "The president believes we should stand on the side of defending and protecting life."
Source: New York Times
"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer. "
---Will Rogers, American humorist (1879-1935)
Wheel of Justice moves in Argentina
The Supreme Court of Argentina has ruled that the infamous "Amnesty Law" is unconstitutional. "The court upheld a decision by the Argentine Congress in August 2003 to scrap the amnesty laws." The Supreme Court ruling came in the case of former police officer Julio Simon, accused in the disappearance of a couple and of having taken their daughter as his own.
The law was put in place in 1986 by the military junta involved in murder and torture during the Dirty War against left-wing opponents. Civil liberties groups claim that as many as 30,000 were killed or went "missing" during the years when the country was under dictatorship.
"The ruling clears the way for prosecutions of officials suspected of human rights abuses during military rule between 1976 and 1983."
Under Argentine law, the decision will act as a precedent in other cases involving the Dirty War."
Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
"A group of women who became a symbol of human rights activism and courage. Dressed in black, they have been demonstrating for years every Thursday at 3:30 in the afternoon, in the famous Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, demanding to know the fates of their loved ones. Marching around the statue of liberty, in front of the presidential palace, they used to tie white hadkerchiefs imprinted with names of disappeared sons and daughters, around their heads, and carry signs emblazoned with photographs of those about whose destinies they sought information. The Mothers' use of the imagery of Christian motherhood made them particularly effective against the professedly Catholic military regime.
The mothers are a symbol of courage; leading the struggle for justice, they started their demonstrations while the junta was still in power. Several of them, including their founder, Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti, disappeared themselves as a result."
The United States Government was involved in aiding and abetting the Argentinian military junta. Dr. Henry Kissinger was the architect of our foreign policy during those years. The 1982 movie, "Missing" by Costa-Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, is a realistic depiction of the atrocities that took place in Argentina, Chile, and other Latin American countries.
Madres de Plaza de Mayo
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Pakistan, India, Muslims and treatment of women
This is a follow up to my post earlier today. According to a press release from Voice of America:
"The Bush administration says it has intervened with Pakistan at senior levels in the case of Mukhtaran Mai, and that the Pakistani woman is now free to travel abroad, including to the United States."
Applause. Our government acted. Thanks to Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times and others who took up the cause of Mukhtar Mai.
Sharia Laws and Indian Muslims
Don't know where they crawl out from but some Muslims in India do not want to be behind their brethren in Pakistan.
" An Indian woman who was allegedly raped by her father-in-law is now being ordered by a Muslim council of community elders to marry him.
The council says under Islamic law the rape has nullified her marriage, according to media reports.
But a top Muslim body in India has rejected the argument saying it is not valid under Sharia (Islamic) law."
BBC-Woman ordered to marry rapist
The Shame of Pakistan - The Case of Mukhtar Mai
Hudood (Rape) Laws and What they Mean - Catch 22
Back in March I wrote about Mukhtar Mai of Pakistan who was gang raped. Unlike others in her situation, she fought back---sought legal recourse. The four men charged with rape were at first freed but the intense publicity generated by the case and outcry from women's organizations forced the court to put them in prison.
Now they are being released. The Government of Pakistan placed Mukhtar Mai in house arrest (supposedly "for her own safety") and banned her from traveling. The criticism in foreign press was quick and scathing. The authorities caved in. According to latest news, she will be allowed to travel. The government was concerned that her appearance before international organizations would damage the "image of Pakistan".
Pakistan's antiquated Hudood laws are shameful. While educated and wealthy Pakistanis remain largely immune from them, in some areas of the country the enforcement of Hudood is very much in evidence. More and more Pakistani women are speaking out against the laws and customs which relegate women to little more than slaves.
This is from the web site of LHRA (Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid), Pakistan.
The Zina Hudood Ordinance(1979)Defined
- The Hudood Ordinance criminalizes Zina, which is defined as extra-marital sex including adultery or fornication.
- It also criminalizes Zina-bil-jabr, which is defined as rape outside of a valid marriage.
- The Hudood Ordinance further defines Zina and Zina-bil-jabr on the basis of the assigned criminal punishment. Hence there is Zina and Zina-bil-jabr liable to Hadd (punishment ordained by the Holy Quran or Sunnah), and there is Zina and Zina-bil-jabr liable to tazir that is, any punishment other then Hadd.
- The Hadd punishment is stoning to death, and the tazir punishment for Zina is up to ten years of imprisonment and whipping - up to 30 lashes and/or a fine. The tazir punishment for Zina-bil-jabr is up to 25 years of imprisonment and whipping up to 30 lashes.
- (a) the accused makes before a Court of competent jurisdiction a confession of the commission of the offence; or
- (b) at least four Muslim adult male witnesses, about whom the Court is satisfied, having regard to the requirements of tazkiyah al-shuhood [credibility of witnesses], that they are truthful persons and abstain from major sins (kaba’ir), give evidence as eye-witnesses of the act of penetration necessary to the offence (P.L.D. 1979, 53; Bokhary 1979, 182; Major Acts 1992, 12).3
As avowed champion of human rights the Bush administration ought to raise the plight of Mukhtar Mai and others with the Government of Pakistan. Don't hold your breath; not going to happen. President Musharraf of Pakistan is our ally in the fight against terrorists. So our government looks the other way. The hypocrites continue to utter platitudes.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Holy Rollers and Politicians in Texas
Praise the Lord and sign the Legislation
From The Associated Press 6/12/05
"Texas Governor Mobilizes Evangelicals
"Now some wonder whether Gov. Rick Perry overplayed his hand last week trying to stick to the playbook used by old friend George W. Bush and political whiz Karl Rove, mobilizing evangelicals for last year's presidential race.
"Governor Perry and his people are just not as good as Bush and Rove," Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said. "Governor Perry knows the steps, but he's got no rhythm."
There is more. "Dishonoring Texas" is the title of an editorial in The Washington Post.
"THE DAY TEXAS Gov. Rick Perry (R) ceremonially signed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as an exclusively heterosexual matter, he may not have been intending to spit in the faces of countless men and women fighting for their country in Iraq. But that is what he did. Mr. Perry was asked by a reporter what he had to say "to gays and lesbians who are serving in the military right now in Iraq who are going to come back to Texas and may not be entitled to the same rights as the rest of us?" Mr. Perry responded that 'Texans have made a decision about marriage, and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live.'"
Zealots at the Air Force Academy
In Colorado, some officials of the Air Force Academy are encouraging proselytizing. Cadets are "being pressured to adopt Christian beliefs and practices". Religious intolerance is alive and well.
Editorial in The New York Times
"June 11, 2005
Zealots at the Air Force Academy
In an overdue burst of candor, the superintendent of the Air Force Academy has acknowledged that his campus is so permeated with evangelical proselytizing that it will take years to rid the institution of religious intolerance. Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. said he finds the problem of cadets unfairly pressured to adopt Christian beliefs and practices occurring throughout "my whole organization," with offenders among faculty, staff and students.
"Perception is reality," the general apologetically declared of numerous complaints that cadets' constitutional rights have been violated by militant evangelists wielding peer pressure with the blessing of authority figures in the chain of command.
In a meeting with concerned Jewish civilians, General Rosa said recently that the problem is "something that keeps me awake at nights," and that he even had to reprimand his second in command, a born-again Christian, for fervidly pressuring cadets. One campus chaplain went so far as to warn hundreds of cadets that those "not born again" would "burn in the fires of hell," according to campus interviews by the Yale Divinity School. In an authorized study, Yale investigators concluded the problem was rife.
Yet the superintendent's admission was the Air Force's most honest acknowledgment of how bedeviled the campus is. "If everything goes well, it's probably going to take six years to fix it," General Rosa estimated. The problem, however, is that all is not going well. Reforms were promised last year, but were compromised by heavy-handed editing from the Air Force's chief chaplain. When Capt. MeLinda Morton, a Lutheran chaplain, dared to complain of cadets being abused by "systemic and pervasive" proselytizing, the Air Force transferred her to Asia. General Rosa should bring the major back if he is serious about the cleanup.
An inspector general's report is promised soon from the Air Force. But it will take much more prodding, especially civilian pressure from President Bush, Congress and taxpayers, to undo the damage and restore the separation of church and state as a showcase principle at the academy."
"President Bush, Congress and taxpayers, to undo the damage......."! That would be the day when the president and Congress act to prevent the attacks against separation of church and state.
AP-Matt Curry-Texas Governor
Washington Post-Dishonoring Texas
Three films by Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963)
The films he made were way ahead of their time. The sub-titles, of course, cannot be overlooked but the stories and the characters cast a spell that transcends the location and language. Those who like Satyajit Ray's films will find similarities.
"Yasujiro Ozu creates a poignant and exquisitely realized portrait of devotion, separation, and familial love in Late Spring. By providing minimal plot and eliminating external catalysts, Ozu portrays an honest reflection of contemporary Japanese middle and lower class family life, the shomin-geki. Stripped of a manipulative and artificial storyline, Late Spring reveals a sincere concern for the plight of the common man, an affectionate celebration for the subtle beauty of everyday life, and a profound sympathy for the inevitable passage of time."
An Autumn Afternoon (1962)
"In his final film Yasujiro Ozu returns to the story of a widowed father giving up his favorite daughter in marriage, only to be left alone. The setting is the industrialized Japan of the 1960s, with small but intense traces of traditional Japanese culture and morals present in each of the characters and their struggles. The melancholy of the widowed father as he drinks away his sorrows at a favorite bar is portrayed in a sweet and gentle treatment, and the aesthetic beauty of the film's heightened color and peaceful pacing make this one of Ozu’s most beautiful and touching films."
Tokyo Story (1953)
"Yasujiro Ozu’s most widely distributed and best-known film presents the story of an elderly couple in post World War II Japan who come to Tokyo to visit their various children and realize that the family has essentially fallen apart. The couple is received coldly by their two modernized children and only their widowed daughter-in-law seems glad to see them. The children shuttle their aging parents off to a health spa in an attempt to get them out of the way. They learn later that the mother has fallen ill upon her return and arrive too late to say their good-byes."
Chisu Ryu (think of Gregory Peck) stars in all of them.
Film buffs might like to read Peter Bradshaw's tribute to Ozu in The Guardian, June 10, 2005.
"Debates over the best film of all time tend to go no further than Hollywood classics such as Citizen Kane. But the influential Halliwell's Film Guide now says the title belongs to Tokyo Story, a little-known Japanese film in which nothing much happens."
Guardian-Peter Bradshaw-The Quiet Master
Sunday, June 12, 2005
The Patriot Act,Part II
Is readership of the venerable Christian Science Monitor confined to anti-war liberals? Not likely.
Yet, an internal poll conducted by the newspaper reflects surprising lack of support for the president's call for renewal of the Patriot Act. This is what I found when I went to the CSM web site at 1:15 PM Sunday, June 12,2005.
"Should the Patriot Act be beefed up?
No. The act goes too far in restricting civil liberties as it is. 93.95 % (1009)
Yes. Agents need broader authority in order to increase the number of key terror-related arrests. 6.05 % (65)
Total votes: 1074"
Apparently, this one slipped past the spin meisters in the White House before they could line up party faithful to distort the poll.
Perhaps people are waking up. Be prepared to see a flurry of terrorist alerts.
Related story: Patriot Act, Part II: The political tug of war intensifies by Linda
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The Silence is Deafening - Where is the Outrage?
The Secret Downing Street Memo
On May 1,2005, The London Times published a highly classified document which has come to be known as The Downing Street Memo (see link). The date of the memo--July 23, 2002.
If there were any doubts about President Bush's plans, in which Prime Minister Tony Blair fully colluded, to launch an attack against Iraq long before the lies to the nation and to the world, including the charade before the United Nations Security Council, the publication of this document dispelled them. This was the "smoking gun". And what happened? Nothing. It is business as usual.
The death toll of men and women wearing the uniform of the United States has exceeded 1,700. The number of severely injured is nearing 13,000. Where is the outrage?
Is it apathy, ignorance, denial or a sense of patriotism (that the loss of lives and limbs are for a just cause) that explains the silence of those to whom the losses are personal?
Then there is the 9/11 syndrome. We have become so cowed by the propaganda machine that for many it has become a conditional reflex. We do not question, we do not think. We follow.
The gutless Democrats who supported the call for war are contemptible for their cowardice. While millions of people were marching in protest, they meekly fell in line. Some went out of their way to display their hawkishness. Because of their shameful role they remain subservient. Sickening.
But there is one sign that American families are backing off---falling recruitment. Don Edwards in The Washington Post 6/11/05.
" Nearly every day, anywhere from one to several U.S. soldiers or Marines die in Iraq, and even more are wounded. The news doesn't always make the front pages anymore, but the casualty rate has apparently registered deeply in the consciousness of young Americans and their families. The result is a dangerous decline in new enlistments that is depleting U.S. military resources and weakening our capacity to face additional conflicts or threats from abroad."
TimesonLine-Downing Street Memo
Iraq Coalition Casualties
Friday, June 10, 2005
Damsels in Distress - "The Medium is The Message"
"Some day historians will look back at America in the decade bracketing the turn of the 21st century and identify the era's major themes: Religious fundamentalism. Terrorism. War in Iraq. Economic dislocation. Bioengineering. Information technology. Nuclear proliferation. Globalization. The rise of superpower China.
And, of course, Damsels in Distress."
Eugene Robinson's article in today's Washington Post, "(White ) Women We Love", is going to ruffle some feathers. He said what needed to be said.
There is no question that the public's interest in such news is largely fueled by the media. The media nurtures the reports, embellishes them, does all it can to keep the stories alive simply because there is a market for them. Media goes where the money is, and there is a lot of money to be made from unhealthy fascination in reports about "damsels in distress", especially when the damsels are white.
Washington Post-Eugene Robinson
(White) Women We Love
Thursday, June 09, 2005
"Sorrowing Lies My Land"
"Sorrowing Lies My Land" is the title of a book written by the late Goan author, Lambert Mascarenhas. The book is not about our misadventure in Iraq. There are many families in America for whom the deaths and injuries have personal meaning. Then there are others who grieve over the waste of lives (of all nationalities) in this unjustified war.
From USA Today:
"As of Wednesday, at least 1,682 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,289 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians."
From Agence France-Presse/Yahoo (6/8/05):
"Three US soldiers were killed in two separate attacks late Tuesday north of Baghdad, the military said.
"Two soldiers were killed in "an indirect fire" attack on their base in Tikrit, while another was killed in a roadside bomb explosion during a patrol in the restive town of Balad."
"The US casualties capped a bloody day that saw at least 33 Iraqis killed, making it one of the most violent days since May, during which about 700 Iraqis died in a frenzy of car bombs."
"WASHINGTON, June 8 (Reuters) - In fresh signs of the strain the Iraq war has put on the U.S. military, the Army missed its fourth straight monthly recruiting goal in May, while divorce rates for officers have surged, officials said on Wednesday."
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Jordi Savall, Virtuoso of Viola da Gamba
It was the 1991 film "Tous les matins du monde" (All the Mornings in the World) that introduced me to the music of this extraordinary artist from Catalonia, Spain. Jordi Savall was the music director. Gerard Depardieu played the role of Sainte Colombe, the French viol player.
Bought the CD of the sound track as soon as it became available.
Another good one is "Ostinato" - Jordi Savall with Hesperion XXI
Label: Alia Vox
Catalog # AV 9820
In 1974, with his wife (soprano Montserrat Figueras) and other musicians from different countries, Jordi Savall created the ensemble Hesperion XX. It is now known as Hesperion XXI.
Following his appearance at the Metropolitan Museum in April 2005 (the series of three concerts was called "Celebrating Jordi Savall") The New Yorker published an article by Alex Ross titled "The King of Spain". Those interested in learning more about this superb musician can link to:
NewYorker-Alex Ross-The King of Spain
B.B. King live at the Regal Theatre, Chicago, November 21, 1964
Johnny Board, Bobby Forte-tenor sax
MCA Records @ 1964, 1997
"Put some music in your life and some life in your music"
Monday, June 06, 2005
Religion and Politics in the USA and UK
In a pre-election appearance last March, Prime Minister Tony Blair said to an audience of evangelical Christians at Lambeth:
"................it would be “unhealthy” if religion got too mixed up with politics."
Mr. Blair has been described as the most devout Christian Prime Minister since Stanley Baldwin. He attends Catholic service with his family (Mrs. Blair is a Roman Catholic) although he declares himself as Anglican.
Yet, despite his personal belief he recognizes the British public's distrust of politicians who wear their religion on their sleeves. An article in TimesonLine (3/25/05 - see link) reported that when the prime minister wanted to add "God bless" at the end of his speech to the nation announcing the war against Iraq, he was dissuaded by Alastair Campbell, his the then chief of communications. Campbell said "We don't do God".
"One answer may be found in the increasingly secular and multi-ethnic character of British society. Figures published in the UK Christian Handbook suggested that at the current rate of decline, total church membership across Britain would have fallen to 5,598,000 by this year, down by more than a million people in 15 years."
According to the Timesonline article, Prime Minister Blair's cabinet (before the election) included members who declared themselves as atheists or agnostics.
Can we imagine an atheist cabinet secretary or an elected representative here in the United States! Strange. Is it fear of God or love of God that drives the zealots in our country? Is America a more moral nation? Is the divorce rate here lower than in England? What about crime rate? Teenage pregnancy?
Few clicks through Google provided answers.
- Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe but below that of the United States.
- Divorce rate is much lower in the UK
- So is crime rate although gun-related violence is on the increase.
Not signs of a country in moral decay. The Brits are doing fine without being obsessed with hell and damnation.
The Evangelical Christians in America blame all ills of our society to godlessness, lack of faith in Jesus. Based on what we see, read, and hear about them that is a stretch.
Currently, they are in the driver's seat. The president is on their side. Whether we like it or not, their beliefs are being rammed down our throats. From banning the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools, display of Ten Commandments in public buildings, efforts to deny women the right to obtain "Morning After Pills" and access to abortion, the puritans are riding rough shod over those who disagree. The wall between Church and State is under siege. As more and more judicial vacancies at all levels are filled with justices who side with the religious conservatives, the wall will crumble.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Voice of America confirms mishandling of Koran at Guantanamo
"US Military Gives Details of Mishandling of Koran at Guantanamo
By VOA News
04 June 2005
The U.S. military Friday released the details of five incidents in which guards mishandled the Koran at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
An investigation by the base commander, Brigadier General Jay Hood, said the incidents included a prison guard splashing a Koran inadvertently with urine, an interrogator stepping on the holy book, and an obscenity written on the inside cover of a Koran.
The U.S. military noted that more than 1,600 Korans have been given to detainees, and guards are told to avoid touching the holy books if possible. General Hood says the investigation found that mishandling the Koran was rare, and never condoned.
The military said again Friday that there is no evidence that U.S. guards or interrogators ever flushed a Koran down the toilet, as Newsweek reported in a story that the magazine has since retracted. The report sparked anti-American protests in several Islamic countries."
Amnesty International has come under fire for comparing Guantanamo to Gulag, the infamous slave labor camp in Soviet Russia. It is fair to question the choice of the term used. Amnesty's Secretary General, Irene Khan, after first attempting to defend the comparison with Gulag is now backing off. There is nothing wrong with humility when one makes an error.
President Bush forcefully said "absurd" no less than 4 times to refute Amnesty International's report during his press conference on June 2nd. Is the president going to modify his position in view of the press release by VOA? Don't bank on it.
Why should this be of concern to us, ordinary Americans?
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post said it well in his comments on the report by Amnesty International, and about the president's press conference.
"But I hope the group learns a lesson that all of Bush's opponents should also take to heart. That lesson is not to pull back from criticism or to cower before administration attacks. It's outrageous that Bush tried to dismiss all questions about practices in Guantanamo as the work of "people who hate America."
"On the contrary, it's people who love America and the liberties it espouses who are most vehement in insisting that we live up to our creed. Those who care about the fate of our men and women in uniform worry how the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib might affect what happens to Americans taken prisoner in current and future wars."
VOA - Mishandling of Koran
Friday, June 03, 2005
Condoms and Cant
There is an adage about "Ostriches with heads buried in the sand". Nicholas Kristof's column in NY Times (5/10/05) described a good example--the Catholic Church in Latin America. No surprise that preachings against birth control and use of condoms are not being heeded by the faithful.
"I resent them," said Alessandra Katiane da Silva, a 21-year-old who goes to Mass and was wearing a necklace with images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. She said she could better judge her contraceptive needs than elderly cardinals, then added, "We have to take care of ourselves, because they're not looking out for us."
Mr. Kristof mentioned that Latin Americans were embracing Pentecostal movement because of the failure of the Catholic Church to understand and help them. The Pentecostals saw an opening and took advantage of it. While the Pentecostals are not against condoms, they too do not advocate sex for pleasure. A prayer before and after the act? The Latin Americans must be desperate to seek such an alternative. Somewhat akin to jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.
Here in the United States Catholic priests railed from pulpits against supporting politicians who were pro-choice but remained conspicuously silent about their brethren in the Church who were sexually abusing children. The Archdiocese of Spokane, faced with lawsuits for $76 million, sought bankruptcy protection. What were the lawsuits about? Pedophilia.
And what is happening in the Pope's own backyard? "We are not soldiers that blindly obey." Barbara McMahon wrote in The Guardian about the church's "waning influence in Italy".
Scrambled eggs and "Our Father who art in Heaven"
"Joseph Conn, a spokesman for the Washington advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the prayer breakfasts are thinly disguised lobbying efforts. 'These events give politicians a chance to cater to their political base, and they give religious groups a chance to curry favor with elected officials and advance their political agenda,' he said."
In recent years the nation's capital has become full of devout politicians. Prayer breakfasts are an ubiquitous feature of the Washington scene. According to The Washington Post (Alan Cooperman, 5/21/05), the budget for the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is more than $100,000. There are fringe benefits for those involved in organizing them and those who provide service---the parking attendants, wait persons, security staff, janitors, and others. Trickle down effect in action; not being recipients of largesse from the Bush tax cuts, they deserve it.
For the participants, lapel pins of the national flag de rigueur. In today's America, such public display of devotion and patriotism pays dividends. President Bush recently spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
"The keynote speaker was Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who said during the presidential campaign that voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Holy Communion.
'When a public official claims to be Catholic but then says he can't offer his beliefs about the sanctity of the human person as the basis of law, it always means one of two things: That person is either very confused or he's very evasive," Chaput told the prayer breakfast. "All law is the imposition of somebody's beliefs on somebody else.' "
Duh! So it goes
Washington Post- Bush lauds Catholics
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
The Art and Craft of Torture
Torture takes different forms---physical and psychological. Retraction by Newsweek of the report about desecration of the Koran notwithstanding, torture happens.
Torture of prisoners not new and it is not going to go away. The Catholic Church used it during the Spanish Inquisition; the Nazis took it to new heights during Hitler's Third Reich; the North Vietnamese tortured their prisoners and so did the South Vietnamese with our full knowledge. Prisoners have been tortured at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The "rendition" program is the icing on the cake. Under this program we clandestinely ship prisoners to other countries where the Geneva Convention is a joke. It has been aptly described by some as outsourcing of torture.
Naomi Klein's report in The Guardian (5/14/05) sheds light on one particularly horrendous case involving a prisoner who was "renditioned".
It is interesting to note that our own School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, graduated many officers of the armed forces from Latin American countries who were later found to be directly involved in torturing and killing political dissidents. The school offcially closed on Dec.15, 2000, and now operates under the name of Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC).
George Monbiot of The Guardian wrote a fascinating report about the School of the Americas way back in 2001.
Naomi Klein-The Guardian,UK
George Monbiot-The Guardian - Backyard Terrorism