Saturday, July 30, 2005
America's Labor Unions
The Republicans are licking their chops. They might, just might, get the opportunity to break unions as we know them.
On July 25th, at the labor federation's 50th annual convention in Chicago, The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Brotherhood of Teamsters submitted letters of disaffiliation. Then, on July 29th The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced their decision to leave the AFL-CIO.
The actions mean a loss of almost 4 million members and $28 million (annually) for the AFL-CIO. It is not about to lose its dominant presence but certainly emerged as a much weaker organization.
It would be interesting to see the impact on the Democratic Party. Traditionally, the unions have backed the Democrats and Democrats have repaid them whenever possible by legislative actions---to block unfriendly bills and to pass labor-friendly bills.
The union members have to be blind and deaf not to recognize the alliance between the Republicans and Corporate America. The attacks against unions first began in force during late President Reagan's administration. It gained impetus in the Bush administration. Labor can expect no quarters.
The unions have not remained free of abuses by their leaders. They are guilty of negotiating contracts that permit featherbedding. Yet, compared to abuses in the corporate suites theirs are minor violations of work ethics.
Globalization, outsourcing, and increasing use of high technology in industries across the nation call for new outlook by labor to protect their wages, rights and benefits. Service economy is rapidly replacing manufacturing industries that were once the stronghold of unions. The rank and file union members must weigh that against their positions on social and moral issues. At the end, the majority will prevail. There is a lot at stake.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Monsoon - The rains have arrived in India
According to reports, parts of the Indian sub-continent are feeling the full brunt of the onslaught of monsoon. The south-west monsoon is an yearly occurrence. There are years when it does not bring enough rain and then there are years when there is too much of it. People depend on it (need it for agricultural crops); anxiously wait for it and dread its fury. From all accounts, this year the monsoon is breaking previous records and bringing misery to people who fall within its range.
E-mail from a friend mentioned that her brother in Bombay (Mumbai) was unable to go home and spent a night in the office; not an isolated case. Bombay received more than 37 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. For comparison, here in the San Francisco Bay Area we had 47 inches in the entire 1997-98 season, the wettest on record.
When I worked in Calcutta, there were days during the monsoon when streets became water-logged (it does not take much rain to cause that in Calcutta) and public transportation came to a standstill. People took off their shoes, rolled up their trousers and slogged through streets full of floating garbage. It was more difficult for women. In those days most of the women wore saris. The only other option was to find a rickshaw and pay the rickshaw puller whatever he demanded. It was entirely a "sellers' market".
I have done both--walked through flooded streets carrying my shoes, and rode a rickshaw.
Rickshaw Puller, Calcutta
Photo credit: www.liberaassociazioneilpopolo.it/
Cherrapunji (Lat/Lon: 25.2° N 91.7° E) in North-eastern India has the distinction of being the wettest place on earth. The Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of India, reports the average rainfall as 434 inches per year while the Wikipedia site shows 450 inches! Think about it.
"It's ironic that locals in the wettest place on earth have more to worry about than which gumboots to wear that day. Cherrapunji deals with monsoons. Monsoons are seasonal winds that bring torrential rains for up to six months, then the wind changes direction and for the next six months hardly any rain falls at all. Cherrapunji sees most of its rain during the monsoon season which last for four months. For the rest of the year villagers deal with drought and have to collect water from a pipeline - it's the only place they can get fresh water. " Source: kidzworld.com
Anyone interested in learning about the monsoon but not getting bogged down in scientific treatise would enjoy Alexander Frater's "Chasing the Monsoon" . Former travel editor of the London Observer, Mr. Frater did what the title of his book says--chased the monsoon. In 1987 he followed the monsoon from the beginning to end. Cherrapunji was the final stop for Mr. Frater. Whether describing his experiences with bureaucrats in charge of permits or writing about ordinary people that he met, Mr. Frater vividly brought back the India I knew.
To top it off, he wrote about a man that I personally knew from my association with the steamship company for which his employers served as agents! Mr. Frater met Manjoo Menon during his visit to the Malabar Coast. Small world.
Chasing the Monsoon
Record rainfall brings chaos in India (The Guardian,UK)
Map: South West Monsoon in India
Technical data about South West Monsoon.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Roe v. Wade - The Attorney General Speaketh
"Although Roberts called the Roe decision "settled law" during hearings on his nomination as an appellate court judge in 2003, Gonzales said in an interview with the Associated Press that a Supreme Court justice 'is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong'."
Election Fraud - Iraq January 2005
Now the whole sordid affair has been exposed. Seymour Hersh's article "Get Out The Vote" (Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq's election?) in The New Yorker, July 25th issue, goes deep into the heart of the matter. In an effort to put Iyad Allawi and other favored candidates responsive to our needs and commands in place, we covertly funded them. The money, however, failed to achieve the desired result. While the Iraqis did not end up with a good government they certainly thwarted the CPA's plans for one headed completely by puppets. Not difficult to imagine the chagrin of the plotters.
Mr. Hersh mentioned Larry Diamond's recent book "Squandered Victory". Mr. Diamond served as a senior adviser in Iraq's Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremmer.
The American Occupation
and the Bungled Effort to
Bring Democracy to Iraq.
By Larry Diamond.
369 pp. Times Books. $25.
The Christian Science Monitor, "Can U.S. Britain 'Win' In Iraq?"
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
"Deranged religious mania" - Muslims at the Forefront
"Blasting Tony Blair's government for having been "poorly focused," Portillo also remarked that maybe Britons had "take[n] things almost too calmly." Such nonchalance, he suggested, had helped allow the "Londonistan" phenomenon, which he called "the concentration of Muslim political activists in the capital," to gather steam over the years. So, too, he noted, had the U.K.'s asylum rules. They had "made no distinction between the innocent victims of persecution" who should have been permitted to enter Britain, he observed, and "others," like angry militants, who were "intent on bringing down states." (The Times)"
"In the usually more left-of-center Guardian, without explicitly citing the Muslim affiliation of the perpetrators of the July 7 London attacks, commentator Polly Toynbee assailed "the deranged religious mania" of "demented killers lining up to murder in the name of God." Toynbee was referring to Islamist fanatics; she also emphatically criticized religious extremists of all stripes. She took Blair's Labor government to task for pandering to religious groups in Britain, as in its support for Anglican, Muslim and even Hindu schools. She suggested that, under Blair, a too-cozy relationship between the state and churches in the U.K. has helped foster a mind-set that assumes "that religion is always or mainly beneficent."
"History suggests otherwise," she wrote. "So do events on the streets of London." Toynbee argued that "[i]t is time now to get serious about religion -- all religion -- and draw a firm line between the real world and the world of dreams." In a call to action that would inevitably fall on the deaf ears of politicians were she to issue it in the United States, Toynbee urged: "[N]ever was it more important to separate the state from all faiths and relegate all religion to the private -- but well-regulated -- sphere."
"Rosevaldo Reis, a 40-year-old school teacher, said the Menezes killing had shocked many residents of the large Latin American community south of London in which he lives. Reis said: "Latin people are all dark-skinned, but I don't think we should be judged by that and get stopped." (BBC)"
WorldViews, San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, July 25, 2005
The Catholic Church and Women Priests
Interesting development. The rebellious action by a few women is not going to cause a chink in the massive fortress called The Vatican. Even among the faithful who do not always agree with the church this will not mean much.
Nevertheless, there is always a first time. In that sense it was a bold move. Nine women defy Vatican.
I found Peter Grafton's "Reading Ratzinger" (The New Yorker July 25,2005) heavy going. Mr. Grafton analyzed the pope's background and positions from various documents and wrote about the direction the pope might take.
It confirmed what I had previously read about the new pope. Catholics should not expect any liberalization of the doctrines. If anything, Pope Benedict will remain intractable on issues that affect those Catholics who find it difficult to adhere faithfully to the teachings of the church.
I was startled to read that a few years back Cardinal Ratzinger "..........endorsed a German critic's attack on the Harry Potter books....."
Mr. Grafton commented:
"A prelate who fears that the 'subtle seductions' of J.K. Rowling will stunt the spiritual growth of young Christians may find it harder than he thinks to take on modernity in all its sprawling strangeness."
Pope Benedict will have plenty of company among the Pentecostal Christians who always find satanic symbols in books and other artistic creations.
You wonder about people who spend time worrying about the evil influence of Harry Potter stories. They claim to represent God and interpret God's views. Really ? Weird.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Jean Charles de Menezes shot dead in London July 21, 2005
Initial reports stated that the Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was escaping from the police (did not stop when ordered) and was connected to the explosions that morning.
On July 23rd the authorities in London admitted that he had no connection with the terrorists.
BBC "Shot man not connected to bombing"
There will be an inquiry to find out what went wrong. Why did Mr. Menezes ignore commands to stop; why did he try to outtrun the police; what was he escaping from? Perhaps answers will emerge. Perhaps not. From published accounts it seems that Mr. Menezes was followed because he came out of a building which was suppposedly being used by suspected terrorists and was under surveillance. His appearance (swarthy complexion) could have been a factor.
Under the present conditions--of fear and distrust--that exist in London such incidents are predictable. Could happen again. So, the late Mr. Menezes was indirectly another victim of the terrorists. Collateral damage. But then in a terrorist attack that is usually the case. The attacks are rarely directed at specific individuals. Their goal is to kill as many as possible, destroy whatever that comes within the range of their weapons. The victims happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The silence of Islamic clergy to take a position and condemn such acts is utterly reprehensible.
On the flip side, there is killing and destruction in the unjust war now in effect. Long before the insurgents in Iraq became a force to contend with our attacks resulted in large scale loss of civilian lives. Now we are battling the insurgents.....and they keep coming. Hapless Iraqi civilians continue to suffer death, injuries, and destruction of property. It has been established that not all of it can be attributed to the insurgents. So, we too have blood of innocent victims on our hands. No wonder that in 2002 we refused to be a signatory to the International Criminal Court treaty.
"REGRETTABLE NECESSITY, n. An avoidable atrocity. The term is often employed by presidents and prime ministers when announcing bombings of civilian targets and invasions of small countries."
"FREEDOM FIGHTER, n. A State Department term referring to: 1) A mercenary attempting to install an authoritarian regime friendly to U.S. business interests; 2) A heavily armed islamic fanatic who wishes to impose his religious views upon others through the use of violence."
Friday, July 22, 2005
A great column by Joel Achenbach appeared in The Washington Post on July 17th. Achenbach's "A Man For One Season" touched on all seasons but ended with nostalgia for summer. "Summer makes him so happy he could just grunt"
The autumnal equinox is two months away but there are signs---almsost imperceptible signs that each passing day is bringing it closer. For some, especially parents with children, the reopening of schools means the end of summer. A few days back a friend and I went for a hike and stopped to have a picnic on the grass. She mentioned noticing when she goes on her early morning walks that lightness in the sky takes longer to appear.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Rapture Fiction: Books that the Born Again Christians love
The following excerpt is from an article published in The Guardian,UK, on July 9th about the boom in Rapture fiction. Interesting. I don't write the adherents off; their fanatical devotion is not a laughing matter. I find them repulsive.
"None of those cited above is a "literary" author, but to merely write them off -with a sardonic metropolitan titter - as pulp fiction for the born-again brigade is to underestimate their growing influence. Market forces shape so much of contemporary publishing - and in an America gripped by a new Great Awakening, the realisation has hit home within the business that this stuff sells."
"Selling Rapture" by Douglas Kennedy, The Guardian,UK..
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Civilian casualties in Iraq - the toll going up and up
We are now almost two and half years into Operation Iraqi Freedom. What a name! I wonder if the people responsible for creating the name feel good about it. The mounting civilian death toll, however, cannot be hidden under the rug, cannot be disputed. cannot be served with frills. No matter what euphemism (cost of war, collateral damage,etc.) is used to describe it, the number speaks out loud and clear---nearing 25,000 according to IBC report quoted by the BBC.
The lies about Iraq's WMD have long been disproved. Now we are in Iraq to liberate the Iraqis and introduce democratic government. But first we had to use "shock and awe" tactics to soften the insurgents. In the process we killed thousands of civilians. The insurgents seem to come from an endless pool.
We claim that most of the civilian deaths are caused by the insurgents. Not so according to a report on BBC's web site:
"Shock and awe invasions using massive air power and overwhelming force caused a far higher concentration of deaths, injuries and child fatalities than even the intense insurgency we are experiencing now," he said.
"This is a fact which must be taken on board if hearts and minds are ever to be won back."
Iraq's catalogue of death By Robert Greenall
Dossier of Civilian Casualties in Iraq 2003-2005, dated July 18, 2005. The UK-based Iraq Body Count (IBC) includes academics and peace activists.
This cannot be the Iraq that President Bush brags about
"Iraq's descent into bombing quagmire"
"The US and British governments saw the invasion of Iraq as a liberation, a way of getting rid of a particularly nasty regime. Instead, things are getting much worse.
The casualty figures mean that on average as many people are now dying here every day as were killed in the London bombings nearly two weeks ago.
It has become a civil war, fought out with car bombs and shots to the head, while the foreign forces, US and British and the rest, look on, incapable of stopping it. This isn't how things were supposed to turn out here."
The above is from a firsthand report filed on July 19th by the BBC's world affairs editor, John Simpson.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Bombs, Blair, and the British Public
Tony Blair fails to convince Britons
"Two-thirds of Britons believe there is a link between Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq and the London bombings despite government claims to the contrary, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today."
Uneasy Rider, a cartoon by Steve Bell, The Guardian,UK.
Prescription Drugs and Profiteers
The reasons given by the Canadian government for taking action to stop the flow of prescription drugs to North American consumers are suspect. More likely the measures resulted from pressure at high level; the Bush administration went to bat to protect the obscene profits made by U.S. pharmaceutical giants.
However, American consumers are not going to suffer in the near future. Supplies have already begun from other countries and some Canadian suppliers are involved in making the arrangements. Instead of the drugs being shipped from Canada they are being routed through other countries. The Internet marketplace is full of opportunities for the unscrupulous as well as legitimate entrepreneurs.
The High Cost of Advertisements
One area where high costs for drugs could be reduced is direct advertisements to consumers. Apart from costs the advertisements mostly reward the pharmaceutical industry and not the consumers. The administration is adept at paying lip service to Americans who cannot afford prescription drugs while taking care of those who provide funding for the party. Simple matter of quid pro quo. The big-money corporations win over sick Americans who need prescription drugs. Nothing new.
"But a major question is to what extent the drug industry itself adds to the demand by aggressively promoting drugs to consumers and doctors. In 2000 the industry spent close to $16 billion doing that."
A bulletin issued by AARP contains full details.
Not too long ago, AARP's board took flack for supporting the president's prescription drug plan which provided very little relief for the majority of the sick and elderly. It deserved the ire of its members. However, on advertisements for prescription drugs its position is laudable.
The legislators know that they have a proverbial hot potato on their hands; the runaway costs of drugs is an issue that is not likely to fade into the background. The fact that the Republicans, after years of supporting the pharmaceutical industry's every demand, are talking about the need for controlling advertisements about prescription drugs, is a sign of unease among them. On July 1st, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist issued a statement calling for "............drug companies to voluntarily restrict direct-to-consumer advertising efforts during new drugs' first two years on the market.
The key words are "voluntarily restrict". If it is left to the industry, we can forget about any meaningful steps being taken. One can imagine the pressure, not only from the drug manufacturers but also from broadcast and print media that benefit from huge amounts spent on advertisements. So, how far the politicians will go remains to be seen. Frist is reported to be a contender for the White House in 2008. He will need money---a lot of it. Can he afford to alienate the pharmaceutical and advertisement industries or is he just making some noise?
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Taboo Words - Before and after The Vagina Monologues
"The Supreme Court of the United States upheld this act of censorship in 438 U.S. 726 (1978). The words occurring in Carlin's monologue were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. Carlin's routine using these words has since been broadcast, however. In the early 1960s, Lenny Bruce had been taken to court for using some of these same words in his own comedy routines." (Souce: Wikipedia)
That was then. We have come a long way since the justices of the Supreme Court ruled on this issue. Their ruling has not been able to prevent the widening use of profanity in the media. Let's face it--the Genie cannot be put back into the bottle.
Eve Ensler deserves credit for the stage production of The Vagina Monologues. Her approach to the word "cunt" (described by some as the worst of them all) was bold, novel, and amusing.
One can spend days reading about the so called "taboo" words without learning exactly when they were declared unsuitable; why they were classified as vulgar and who decided on doing so.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) used the word frequently albeit with a different spelling, "queint" or "quaint". This is what I found in "The Street Names of England" by Adrian Room:
"York's Grape Lane was thus Grapecuntlane in the 14th century, while a hundred years earlier the City of London had its Gropecontelane and Oxford its Gropecuntelane. The 'four-letter word' that lies at the heart of the name is given its earliest citation by the Oxford English Dictionary (which admitted it to its pages only in 1972) from its occurrence in the Oxford street name, which dates from about 1230."
There is no good reason why vagina is acceptable but cunt is not. Ditto for penis and cock. Can you imagine a man or woman telling a friend "last night I had a great intercourse"? It just does not sound right. At one time all of them were in use in England and there was no stigma attached to them. Somewhere between the 12th and 16th centuries, influence of Puritans began to manifest itself. Probably some gray beards got together and classified certain words about body parts and/or with sexual connotations as vulgar, not suitable for use by the gentry. They went looking for dirt and found it; it was in their minds.
British author Peter Fryer's "Mrs Grundy: Studies In English Prudery " contains an anecdote. To the best of my recollection, it went something like this.
- A young woman from a wealthy family went horseback riding. On her return to the stable, the groom came forward to take charge of the horse. While dismounting, the young lady lost her footing and fell on her back. Her skirt flew up. She quickly got up and settled her attire. She was flustered and said "John, did you see my agility?". The groom replied, "Yes maa'm but in the kitchen we call it cunt."
The following verse by the late Ogden Nash is a bit outdated but still fun to read. When I came across it I thought the Republican hypocrites were at it in the thirties and still carrying on blathering about our morals in 2005!
"Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverent occiput.
Smite. Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l--ns,
Smite h-p and th-gh,
We'll all be Kansas
By and By."
-- Ogden Nash, "Invocation," 1931
To learn more, check out "Cunt: a Cultural History", an admirable discourse by Ashseti (pharoahashseti).
Friday, July 15, 2005
Gibberish from the President - And Judith Miller deserves neither accolade nor sympathy
Shed no tears for Judith Miller of the NY Times
Judith Miller serving time for staying mum about her source(s) related to the outing of Valerie Plame. Yes--in comfort.
I am among those who have no sympathy for Ms. Miller because of the damage done by her series of reports about Iraq's non-existent WMD. Reports for which her source was the Iraqi con man Ahmed Chalabi. The San Francisco Chronicle carried a report by Rosa Brooks on July 12, 2005, that described the impact of the basless reports. The NY Times is not blameless for publishing them. It did eventually offer a sort of mea culpa but it was more of a face saving gesture.
More on Judith Miller in the Asia Times online edition July 15, 2005.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
"Nolo Bastardo Carborundum"
- Item: The Karl Rove/Valerie Plame Story. Double standard in all its glory. What do you think the champions of law and order, high moral values Republicans would have done if this happened during the Clinton presidency!
- Item: Battle for the Supreme Court. Announcement of Chief Justice Rehnquist's retirement cannot be far off. The Senate Democrats must not let their guard down after meeting with the president on July 12th. The president's wishes are known (in 1999, he publicly stated his admiration for Justices Scalia and Thomas) and he has his conservative base to appease. It would be naive to expect him to announce nominees who do not fit the mold. Overturning Roe v Wade is on the agenda. Among other targets: Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Item: Iraq - Death toll and platitudes. So far in July, 13 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives. Total since beginning of the war - Dead 1758 Injured 13190
- "Washington is electrified with the abundant energy of buzz from a scandal -- speculation about Rove, about Bush, about Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby. Who leaked? Who may have lied? How did Novak slip the noose? But the real scandal is the ongoing mess in Iraq, the murder just the other day of innocent children (is there any other kind?) and the false notion that, somehow, taking out Hussein would make us all safer. London gives the lie to that." Richard Cohen in The Washington Post July 14, 2005.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
A Red Hibiscus and "Remembrance of Things Past"
It began with a large ceramic planter which I received as a gift from my kind apartment owners.
The planter was meant for indoor use; it had no drainage hole. So, the first thing I did was to have a large hole drilled at the bottom. I wanted to place it outside in my front yard. Then came the hard part--what to plant in it. I decided on a flowering plant and went looking at local nurseries.
The choice was not hard to make. As soon as I walked in to the aisle where they were, a red hibiscus grabbed my attention. Mind plays strange tricks. Standing in the middle of plants of different kinds I was transported to my childhood, and could clearly visualize aboriginal women who came to town on market days with baskets of produce and, often, a red hibiscus stuck in the hair. The effect of their jet black skin, shiny black hair, often rolled up in a bun, and the red flower was striking.
I bought the hibiscus and planted it. It is blooming. I did not know that the flowers begin to wilt by the second day. It would not have made the slightest difference if I did.
A few days later I went to a dinner given by friends. There I mentioned my new acquisition to a woman who likes to potter with flowering plants. She said "Why did you pick red; they are so common". Perhaps I should have but thought that it was not the time and place to tell her why I picked the red hibiscus.
Here is a passage that might partly explain it.
"The places we have known before belong now only to the the little world of space on which we map them for our own convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, road, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years."
---Remembrance of Things Past, Part I "Swann's Way" by Marcel Proust (1877-1922)
Monday, July 11, 2005
Sleepless in Washington,DC - Fear of Indictments
It would not be far from truth to say that some high level officials in the Bush White House are tossing and turning at night. Despite their efforts to stonewall and dodge it, the outing of Valerie Plame remains alive as an issue. In fact it has got legs. That is cause for concern--and fear--for some high level functionaries. Perhaps El Jefe himself has not escaped the vibrations. The specter of indictments being issued not only for breaking law (The Classified Information Protection Act of 2001) but also perjury has become real.
It is to be seen what action Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald will decide to take. This guy is not like the buffoon Kenneth Starr. Kenneth Starr and his team delved into garbage cans and gleefully dished out their findings. The Starr investigation cost us more than $30 million and produced nothing beyond what the checkout counter rags had been printing for years about Bill Clinton's private life. There has not been a single leak from Mr. Fitzgerald's office after he assumed responsibility for the investigation.
Are we going to see Karl Rove frogmarched in cuffs? A few days back I would have said "no way". Now the scenario has changed. That would be a good sight.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
India - A Fatwa against a raped Muslim woman
As Pakistan tries to put the Mukhtar Mai episode behind, there is news that an orthodox Muslim organization in India has issued a Fatwa (religious edict) against a woman who was raped by her father-in-law.
"In its ruling the Darul-Uloom Deoband did not endorse the village council's order that the victim had to marry her father-in-law but said she could no longer live with her husband.
"She had a physical relationship with her father-in-law. It does not matter if it was consensual or forced," Mohammad Masood Madani, a cleric at Deoband, told Reuters."
Where do these people emerge from--some dark holes in the ground ? What is clear is that they wield power and abuse it.
The Indian Government should stop making allowances for Sharia laws. There is no justification for its position.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
The Seasons: Summer - A poem by Robert Haas
We are not in August but at last it is beginning to feel like summer. The days have turned warmer although the drop in temperature is quite noticeable in the evening. Walks through the woods show signs of change. The buckeyes have turned brown; wild flowers mostly gone; grassy meadows no longer look cool and green. Fire danger signs are up.
I love this poem; very "Californian", if a poem could be described that way.
"Tahoe in August" by Robert Haas
"What summer proposes is simply happiness:
heat early in the morning, jays
raucuous in the pines. Frank and Ellen have a tennis game
at nine, Bill and Cheryl sleep on the deck
to watch a shower of summer stars. Nick and Sharon
stayed in, sat and talked the dark on,
drinking tea, and Jeanne walked into the meadow
in a white smock to write in her journal
by a grazing horse who seemed to want her company.
Some of them will swim in the afternoon.
Someone will drive to the hardware store to fetch
new latches for the kitchen door. Four o'clock;
the joggers jogging--it is one of them who sees
down the flowering slope the woman with her notebook
in her hand beside the white horse, gesturing, her hair
from a distance the copper color of hummingbirds
the slant light catches on the slope: the hikers
switchback down the canyon from the waterfall;
the readers are reading, Anna is about to meet Vronsky,
that nice M. Swann is dining in Cambray
with the aunts, and Carrie has come to Chicago.
What they want is happiness; someone to love them,
children, a summer by the lake. The woman who sets aside
her book blinks against the fuzzy dark,
re-entering the house. Her daughter drifts downstairs;
out late the night before, she has been napping,
and she's cross. Her mother tells her David telephoned.
"He's such a dear," the mother says, "I think
I make him nervous." The girl tosses her head as the horse
had done in the meadow while Jeanne read it in her dream.
"You can call him now, if you want," the mother says,
"I've got to get the chicken started,
I won't listen." "Did I say you would?"
the girl says quickly. The mother who has been slapped
this way before and done the same herself another summer
on a different lake says, "Ouch." The girl shrugs
sulkily. "I'm sorry." Looking down: "Something
about the way you said that pissed me off."
"Hannibal has wandered off," the mother says,
wryness in her voice, she is thinking it is August,
"why don't you see if he's at the Finley's house
again." The girl says, "God." The mother: "He loves
small children. It's livelier for him there."
The daughter, awake now, flounces out the door,
which slams. It is for all of them the sound of summer.
The mother she looks like stands at the counter snapping beans."
In 1995 Robert Haas was selected by the Library of Congress as Poet Laureate of the United States, the first poet from the west to be so honored. He is a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
Friday, July 08, 2005
The New Puritans and Porn - "One Weird Country"
"This is one weird country. You can't help but think that sometimes. We tolerate our own contradictions, our own, if you will, hypocrisies, certainly when it comes to sex. Adamantly churchgoing and God-believing, we can talk family values in public while watching porn in private. There are, in fact, programs just to help preachers who are self-confessed pornography addicts -- sick, sad, troubling, laughable, and I guess hopeful all at the same time."
Reflections by Anne Taylor Fleming.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The Sinkhole (for our money) that is Iraq - A few billions here, a few billions there
"The Army has ordered nearly $5 billion in work from Halliburton Co. to provide logistics support to U.S. troops in Iraq over the next year, $1 billion above what the Army paid for similar services the previous year.
The new order, which comes despite lingering questions about the company's past billing, replaces an earlier agreement that expired last June but had been extended through this spring to ensure a continuous supply of food, sanitation, laundry and other logistical services for the troops, according to Linda K. Theis, an Army spokeswoman."
Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before becoming George Bush's running mate. It helps to have friends in high places.
And what happened during Paul Bremer's watch?
The Guardian,UK, reported that during the eight months when J. Paul Bremer was de facto ruler (head of the provisional authority) of Iraq, 8.8 billion dollars disappeared--cannot be accounted for!
"There'll always be an England"
"There'll always be an England,
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me."
---Parker and Charles
I have friends in London and other cities in England. I have walked the streets where the atrocities took place. My thoughts are with the people of England. After years of tranquility following the IRA attacks, they suffered death and destruction at the hands of a radical Islamic group.
The news revived the horrors of what fanatics can do and how difficult it is to stop them.
The leaders are fulfilling their roles. Giving speeches, assuring their people and vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
What lies ahead? We don't know. But I have no doubt that the England and the British people will survive. Survive without destroying what is good about the great and vibrant nation.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
G8 Summit at Gleneagle Hotel
From a report in The Guardian,UK:
"Demonstrators, led by a woman with a megaphone, chanted "George Bush, we know you, daddy was a killer too," and "Can you hear us in Gleneagles?".
A cartoon by Steve Bell, The Guardian,UK, 7/5/05.
The Veep dances around Gay Marriage Ban
Vice President Cheney, the Juggler
"And be these juggling fiends no more believ'd,
That palter with us in a double sense:
That keep the word of promise to our ear
And break it to our hope."
---William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth
The vice president emerged from his hideout to speak about gay marriage ban.
The BBC reported on 7/5/05 that: "He said the issue of legalising gay unions should be settled by individual states rather than by Washington."
Did I read it wrong? The next paragraph made it clear:
"However, Mr Cheney said he accepted the views of Mr Bush, whose opposition to gay marriage is well publicised."
So, where does the wise vice president stand on this issue? Go figure.
American Academy of Pediatrics disagrees with "abstinence only" position championed by President Bush and Religious Groups
Ostriches with heads buried in the sand, no. They are following a holy agenda and cannot admit that the policy was flawed from the beginning.
"The recommendations are part of the American Academy of Pediatrics' updated teen pregnancy policy.
"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the academy committee that wrote the new recommendations.
Teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that once teenagers initiate sexual activity they will have unsafe sex and contract sexually transmitted diseases, said Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a pediatric obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Louisville who provided advice for the report."
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Tony Blair gets his Comeuppance at G8 Summit
Bush to Blair: Go Pound Salt
No, that is not exactly what he said. He was presidential.
"I really don't view our relationship as one of quid pro quo," Bush told Britain's ITV1 television in an interview. "Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as I did."
The prime minister will try to put the best face on it but it must hurt.
The Washington Post 7/5/05
Monday, July 04, 2005
Independence Day 2005 and "A Stillness at Appomattox"
Don't hear the sound of fire crackers....yet but it will begin soon.
Just got back from a long hike and a picnic in the foothills. Thought I'd share the e-mail that I received today from friends traveling through N.Dakota:
"Hope you are doing something you enjoy, being with someone you love, eating something you "love" and are content with life in general.
We will use this as a travel day, but not far. About 145 miles South to Menoken, which is close to Bismarck. We will miss these beautiful rolling hills, wonderful roads almost empty of traffic and volatile weather. A young waiter we talked to in St Cloud, MN told us he was going to move to Seattle next year to finish school. Elizabeth told me she bet he would be sorry he made that move. "How could one go from having skies of blue, clouds of white, gray, black, rain and hot weather, all in the space of a few hours to mostly gray skies day in and day out?" She has a point. We never know what the weather will do here, except that it WILL have lots of thunder storms, but it is fun to watch the sky change and not know for sure if the storm will pass by on the North or South, if the wind will get fierce or not, or if it will get you wet or not. Sure is interesting.
Also interesting is that we 'Amuricuns' celebrate our independence and defend it so vigorously and yet we seem to have a reluctance to let other countries do the same. Hmm. Must be something wrong with this picture.
Elizabeth told me that something she read yesterday, "Historically,when the needs and desires of a smaller group-any group-are different from the needs of the majority, our individual and collective fears are often times projected on those in the minority." This could true of a nation, a City, even a family. Wonder what fears we are projecting on whom today?
Enjoy your independence. Think about allowing others to enjoy theirs. Be all you can be; but don't join the army."
That says it all. Stay well, my visitors in cyber space.
Death of the eminent Civil War historian Shelby Foote has received a lot of coverage in the media. He deserved it.
It was Ken Burns' documentary about the Civil War that made Mr. Foote familiar to a broad segment of the American public. There are more people who watch TV than there are readers who have interest in books about the Civil War. I remember the pleasure I experienced pulling out the volumes of Mr. Foote's three volume set and following the series on the local PBS station. Ken Burns and Shelby Foote produced masterpieces for generations.
Reading about Shelby Foote reminded me of the late Bruce Catton, another great chronicler of that important part of our nation's history. His name is not well known except among Civil War history buffs. In 1954 he was awarded the Pulitzer for "A Stillness at Appomattox". Superb piece of writing.
It was at Appomattox that General Lee surrendered to General Grant. That meant the end of the Confederate army although the war didn't officially end until May 26, 1865, when General Kirby Smith surrendered Confederate forces west of the Mississippi.
Appomattox Court-House, Virginia April 9, 1865.
In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside."
U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General"
"From R.E. Lee To U.S. Grant
Head-Quarters, Army of Northern Virginia April 9, 1865.
I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.
R. E. Lee, General"
Source: Harvard Classics series, 1909.
Note: This post edited and corrected on July 10,2005.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Abe Lincoln,the Denizens of K Street and Tax Shelters that Stink of Corruption
"This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base."
The Sad and Unpleasant Truth
To whom the country really belongs? Primarily to the lobbyists of "K" Street, Washington,DC (also known as Gucci Gulch) and the organizations that pay their salaries. Now that it has become fashionable to use the name of God and wear lapel pins displaying Old Glory, perhaps they have switched from Guccis to union made footwear. I would not be too sure about that.
They are the movers and shakers who represent special interest groups. We didn't elect them but they have a say in every legislation that is enacted. And they block many from being enacted. Most of the elected representatives are under their insidious influence. The masters of the lobbyists fund their campaigns; lavishly entertains them; provide tickets to events. Golfing in Scotland is certainly more pleasant than sweating over the nation's problems, especially when a friendly lobbyist picks up the tab.
Like Goethe's Faust, the legislators have sold themselves and, as part of the bargain, sold you and me down the river. The Washington Post published a report by Jeffrey Birnbaum on June 22nd titled The Road to Riches is called K Street.
"The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits."
Tax Shelters to Make the Rich Richer
There are many books and articles that cover this subject. The Pulitzer prize winning journalist Hedrick Smith produced an excellent documentary "Tax Me, If you Can" which was aired on Frontline (PBS) Feb.19, 2004. It is still available for watching online. If you don't have the time, I recommend The Washington Post's transcript of Mr. Smith's appearance at a question and answer session about the documentary.
Friday, July 01, 2005
The Supreme Court - Dark Clouds Gathering
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor decided to hang up her hat
This came as somewhat of a surprise. The age and state of health of Chief Justice Rehnquist made people believe that he would be the first to leave the Court. But Justice O'Connor beat him to the punch. The announcement from the Chief Justice cannot be too far off.
Now that Justice O'Connor has announced her retirement, the Bush administration must be delighted. This is what the conservatives were waiting for--the opportunity to fill two vacancies in the Court and make sure that the fine balance becomes a thing of the past.
Fractious Friday Morning
The Outing of Valerie Plame - Perhaps the Guilty Party/Parties are too High to Tackle
Novak: 'I will reveal all'
When I read the headline I thought "well, finally, Robert Novak has decided to come clean". Nope. The headline was deceptive--like some of the ads by car dealers. Novak continues to stonewall. The mystery about the special prosecutor remains alive. Why is Novak being treated with kid gloves?
Judith Miller of The NY Times
Timesonline.UK reports that Judith Miller of The NY Times is facing time in prison because of her refusal to divulge sources who provided material for reports about Valerie Plame.
"Ms Miller insisted that she was ready to go to prison. She said: “Journalists simply cannot do their jobs without being able to commit to sources that they won’t be identified.”
On the face of it, Ms. Miller's willingness to defend the Fourth Amendment appears praiseworthy. Ms. Miller's background, however, makes me question her position. This reporter, with access to Ahmed Chalabi during his stay in the US, authored many reports about Iraq's WMD program. Although they later turned out to be without any basis, the reports helped to spread fear about the non-existent weapons and garnered support for the unjustified war against Iraq. Whether she was a dupe or willing partner of Chalabi is not known.
Chalabi and his group received a lot of money from our government. He was later appointed Oil Minister in the new Iraqi government!
Governor Bush persecuting Michael Schiavo
Dead, autopsied, buried but the holy rollers won't let her rest. Governor Jeb Bush asked the state attorney of Pinellas-Pasco County to dig into records about Michael Schiavo's call to 911 after Terri Schiavo collapsed on Feb.25, 1990.
The fact that the details have been looked at, checked, double-checked, analyzed under a microscope means nothing to the governor. With an eye on the White House, he is out to earn brownie points from his conservative supporters. Jeb Bush believes he can get some traction out of it. A recent poll showed that a large majority of Florida residents were against the governor's action.
It might backfire as it did on Senator Frist and Congressman DeLay who had postured in front of cameras about the late Ms. Schiavo's condition--that she was alive and aware when there was conclusive medical evidence to the contrary. Once the contents of the autopsy report became public, President Bush made a strategic retreat; there was no more political capital to made from the hapless woman. Apparently, his valiant brother does not agree.
Selling of American workers' rights
The Administration that says one thing and does another - U.S. Blocked Release of CAFTA Reports by Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer
"In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent," the contractor, the International Labor Rights Fund, wrote in one of the reports.