,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Friday, September 30, 2005


Iraq, The Slaughterhouse

Silence of the World's Muslim Community
More than 200 dead in the last five days! At this rate the number of Iraqis killed in factional violence will soon exceed the number killed directly or indirectly in actions of the Coalition (mainly U.S.) forces. In the absence of an outcry one has to come to the conclusion that the Muslims don't care. The Islamic world has failed miserably to condemn the violence in Iraq. Every day Iraqis, mostly ordinary citizens, are dying horrible deaths at the hands of extremists---Sunnis, Shias, al Qaeda members. Mercifully, "collateral damage" from military actions is no longer a daily occurrence.

We don't hear about Mullahs speaking out; we don't know of any leader in the Middle East who has taken a position to do something about the butchery that is going on. The silence is deafening. It is shameful and cowardly.

Iraqis killing Iraqis, in the name of God or in the battle to gain power. Do we have a hand in it? Yes, inasmuch as we went there to establish a handpicked government that would be a lackey. The plan misfired. Now we are stuck in another quagmire. True, it has not reached the size of Vietnam but two and half years have passed since the first pair of boots hit the ground. More than 1900 of our men and women in uniform have died there. What have we achieved ? Saddam and his goons are no longer there. Others have taken their place.


The Phony Judith Miller

Gag me with a spoon

Ms Miller emerged from behind prison doors after serving 85 days for her refusal to name her source in the Valerie Plame affair and uttered claptrap about her principled position. No doubt she will be back at the NY Times spreading falsehood which she so aptly did to promote the war against Iraq. All the stories about the non-existent WMD! Sickening.

Judy Miller's Statement

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Fall of Tom DeLay - How Sweet It Is !

It took time but his transgressions finally caught up with The Hammer aka The Exterminator. The Republicans issued the expected vituperations against Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle for indicting Mr. DeLay. Regardless of how it ends, the former speaker of the House will be paddling in the legal swamp for some time. No one deserves it more.

In the Senate, Bill Frist, the majority leader, has problems of his own. Frist, who made no secret of his intentions to be a contender in 2008 presidential race, has to clear his name from being involved in questionable stock transactions.

Bad news for El Jefe ? Yes and no. While Republicans in Congress, weakened by the scandals, might not be very effective in backing the president's agenda, the scandals divert attention from his own failures and dwindling support on the war. Headlines that move the spotlight from the lack of response when Katrina struck, reconstruction projects with the usual suspects raking money hands down, the mounting death toll in Iraq, and the rising energy costs, are probably received with a sigh of relief by the White House. They provide distraction, albeit for a short duration.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Iraqi Women better off now according to Karen Hughes

Is she right ? You be the judge.
Karen Hughes is the former White House Counsellor and long-time confidante of G.W. Bush. Their association goes back to the days when he was governor of Texas. In July 2005 she was appointed as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is currently on a tour to promote the United States' position on various issues.

Hughes Defends Women's Status in Iraq
Associated Press Writer

September 28, 2005, 11:00 AM EDT

ANKARA, Turkey -- The United States' new public relations chief, Karen Hughes, responded to Turkish criticism over the Iraq war by telling women's rights advocates Wednesday that Iraqi women were being treated better now than they were under Saddam Hussein.

That was what she said. The following articles paint a quite different picture.

Iraqi women fear for their rights
By Caroline Hawley
BBC News, Baghdad July 25,2005

"Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq had some of the most secular legislation in the region.

But all that could change, with hardline Shia members of the national assembly pushing for the country to be named the Islamic Republic of Iraq."

New dark age for Iraqi women
Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday August 14, 2005
The Observer

"Earlier this year I was in Iraq's second city, Basra, lunching with a group of Iraqi women professionals. It was the time of the elections, and the conversation turned to women's rights. Since the fall of Saddam, the women complained, their freedoms had gradually been eroded, not by official diktat but by groups of Shia radicals who had invaded hospitals, universities and schools, insisting that women wore headscarves and behaved as men saw fit."

Chewing on meaningless words

Haifa Zangana
Wednesday August 17, 2005
The Guardian

"The battle over the constitution is regarded by most Iraqi women, confined to their homes by
the occupation, as an irrelevance.

"Iraqi women were long the most liberated in the Middle East. Occupation has largely confined them to their homes. A typical Iraqi woman's day begins with the struggle to get the basics: electricity, petrol or a cylinder of gas, water, food and medication. It ends with a sigh of relief at surviving death threats and violent attacks. For most women, simply to venture on to the street is to risk being attacked or kidnapped for profit or revenge. Young girls are sold to neighbouring countries for prostitution."

The author of Baghdad Burning (Riverbend blog) has been writing about Iraq since the beginning of the war. Reported to be a young university student, her posts have received a lot of praise in mainstream media both in the USA and abroad.

Baghdad Burning Sept.17, 2005

"Women's rights won't be apparent until the Personal Status Law is defined clearly. Former Iraqi Personal Status Law was the most advanced in the region. It secured advanced rights for Iraqi women."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Can the President escape the ghost of Katrina?

Props galore - Photo opportunities and more photo opportunities

The President must be tired, flying back and forth from the areas affected by Katrina and Rita. After dawdling in Crawford he is bending over backward to repair the damage.....the damage to his popularity rating. And we were told once that he never paid attention to polls. Perhaps he is doing it at the insistence of his handlers.

Will he succeed? The former FEMA director's testimony today before the House of Representatives isn't going to help much. While Michael Brown strongly criticized officials in New Orleans, he also pointed his finger at DHS. This is the Michael Brown who was appointed as head of FEMA by President Bush and received high praise on September 9th during the president's first visit to the Gulf Coast after Katrina. ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job")

The President's attempts to keep under his control investigation of what went wrong might not succeed either. Remember, he tried it with the 9/11 enquiry and failed. This time,too, there is skepticism about his efforts to block an independent commission. Time for another long vacation.

A Reuters news agency report included the following:

Republicans have so far rejected calls for a bipartisan commission similar to the panel that investigated the September 11, 2001, attacks, even though polls show an overwhelming majority of the public supports such a probe.

A Gallup Poll last week found 81 percent of respondents in favor of an independent investigation with only 18 percent backing a congressional investigation.

"I don't know why they are resisting so hard," said pollster John Zogby. "The public is angry and they want answers. The Republicans may have picked a fight they can't win."

Bush may find it hard to resist Katrina commission (Reuters 9/27/05)

Friday, September 23, 2005


FEMA and DHS - Portraits of Abysmal Incompetence

The hurricanes have exposed the bureaucratic mess

Katrina and the failure of the officials involved with FEMA and The Dept. of Homeland Security made the nation aware of the problems with management. More examples of their ineptness are being reported on a daily basis. And Hurricane Rita is about to hit the Texas Gulf.

Today's Chicago Tribune (online edition) carries a report by Andrew Martin and Andrew Zajac that describes the situation in respect to providing buses to transport people from the affected areas.

Offer of buses fell between the cracks



Anti-War Movement Spreading to Grass Roots ?

Still too early to be sure
There is no question,however, that more and more people are voicing doubt about the decision to go to war against Iraq and the president's handling of the war. Recent polls conducted by various organizations clearly point to a change and the change is not confined to the so called "blue" states. Heartening sign.

From Petula Dvorak's report in The Washington Post "Antiwar Rally Will Be A First For Many":

"The seasoned protesters who organized tomorrow's antiwar demonstration are well-versed in many other causes. They have marched and rallied against police brutality, racism, colonialism and the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But their message on the Mall tomorrow will be singular: "End the war in Iraq.

More power to them. Let's hope for a groundswell.


Question for the good Christians at "Repent America" - Why Texas ?

The holy rollers at Repent America, an organization based in Philadelphia,PA, claimed that New Orleans was the target of God's wrath because of its sinful ways, especially the Southern Decadence Parade--"an annual homosexual celebration" according to their press release--which was scheduled to begin on August 31st.

Now that Hurricane Rita (designated as Category 4) is heading for Texas Gulf, time for another press release from Repent America. What sins have the residents of Port Arthur, Galveston, Houston and other coastal towns in Rita's path committed to be chosen for your God's wrath?

Thursday, September 22, 2005


A Red-tailed Hawk at Coal Mine Creek

Odds and Ends on Autumn Solstice
Gore Vidal, Peter Jennings, Sidney Bechet
Welcome autumn. Yesterday, JHL and I walked at Coal Mine Creek. Trails still damp from the rain on Tuesday; the air smelled fresh and sweet of bay laurel and eucalyptus leaves on the ground. We sat near the hammock between two eucalyptus trees to have our sandwiches. Shared a bottle of Mission St. Pale Ale and watched a red-tailed hawk circling overhead. I don't know a read-tailed hawk from any other raptor but JHL has recently joined a bird watching group and she was equipped with binoculars. The hawk kept circling over the area for a while as if it knew it was being watched. Then the circles widened and we could no longer follow it.

Gore Vidal Speaks

It was a pleasure to read Emma Brockes' interview with Gore Vidal in The Guardian. Nearing 80, he pulled no punches in talking about G.W. Bush and his administration.


"............was he surprised by Bush's inadequacy in dealing with the floods in Louisiana?

"No." He musters a little smirk. "It's a corrupt administration" - Vidal's voice begins to rise magesterially, and his whole body to inflate like a hovercraft - "as they have proven to the whole world. I was just watching television; Bush has for the first time admitted that he might be culpable."

Was he convincing?

"No-o-o. What was convincing was that his handlers said you get out there and apologise."

"Age Cannot Wither Him" - Emma Brockes, The Guardian,UK

Tributes to Peter Jennings (1938-2005)

Friends and admirers of the late Peter Jennings assembled at Carnegie Hall on September 20th to pay homage. In addition to being a great journalist, Jennings was a lover of jazz and "......attracted to women".

David Bauder, AP,who had covered Jennings in the past, wrote a great piece about him and the gathering at Carnegie Hall.

"Jennings, ABC's chief news anchor for more than 20 years, was also "famously attracted to women," Koppel said. "Even so, he only married four of them."

A handful of homeless people were also in the hall. Jennings' widow, Kayce, was startled recently when a homeless man approached to express sympathy for her loss; Jennings had befriended him during walks in Central Park.

Jennings frequently served meals to the homeless after leaving the ABC News studio and that night's broadcast of "World News Tonight," said Mary Brosnahan Sullivan of the Coalition for the Homeless.

"The Peter I knew was somebody of concrete action," she said."

"Peter Jennings Honored at Carnegie Hall", David Bauder AP

The late, great Sidney Bechet

Listening to Sidney Bechet on a CD. He breezed through the melancholic "Summertime"; jumped into "Muskrat Ramble", and is now playing "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans". He was described as a "clarinet virtuoso" but was equally good with soprano saxophone. It is his clarinet that is making the sweet sound that is evocative of the French Quarter, jazz and all that New Orleans stood for.

Bechet is accompanied by superb artists:
Art Hodes - piano
Wild Bill Davison - cornet
Pops Foster - bass
Fred Moore - drums

Sidney Bechet (1897-1959)
Blue Note CDP 7243 8 28991 20 @1994 (Originally recorded 1953).


Tuesday, September 20, 2005


U.S. Casualties in Iraq - Deaths in an Unjustified War

Yesterday 1900, today 1906

"How many times must the cannonballs fly, before they're forever banned?...How many deaths will it takes till he knows that too many people have died?" -Bob Dylan, "Blowin' In The Wind". The names below represent casualties between August 3 and September 20. It supplements the list published on Aug.3, 2005.
Nils George Thompson, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Aug 04, 2005
Chad J. Simon, 32, Marine Reserve Staff Sergeant, Aug 04, 2005
Brett Eugene Walden, 40, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Aug 05, 2005
Robert V. Derenda, 42, Army Reserve Sergeant 1st Class, Aug 05, 2005
Terry W. Ball Jr., 36, Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Aug 05, 2005
Brahim J. Jeffcoat, 25, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 06, 2005
Kurt E. Krout, 43, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 06, 2005
Chase Johnson Comley, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Aug 06, 2005
Seferino J. Reyna, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Aug 07, 2005
Anthony N. Kalladeen, 26, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 08, 2005
Hernando Rios, 29, Army National Guard Private 1st Class, Aug 08, 2005
Ramon E. Gonzales Cordova, 30, Marine Staff Sergeant, Aug 08, 2005
Miguel Carrasquillo, 25, Army Specialist, Aug 09, 2005
Nathaniel E. "Nate" Detample, 19, Army National Guard Private 1st Class, Aug 09, 2005
John Kulick, 35, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 09, 2005
Ryan S. Ostrom, 25, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Aug 09, 2005
Gennaro Pellegrini Jr., 31, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 09, 2005
Francis J. Straub Jr., 24, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 09, 2005
Michael A. Benson, 40, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Aug 10, 2005
Evenor C. Herrera, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, Aug 10, 2005
Rusty W. Bell, 21, Army Specialist, Aug 12, 2005
David L. Giaimo, 24, Army 1st Lieutenant, Aug 12, 2005
Brian K. Derks, 21, Army Specialist, Aug 13, 2005
Toccara R. Green, 23, Army Specialist, Aug 14, 2005
Asbury F. Hawn II, 35, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Aug 14, 2005
Gary L. Reese Jr., 22, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 14, 2005
Shannon D. Taylor, 30, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 14, 2005
Jose L. Ruiz, 28, Army Specialist, Aug 15, 2005
Joshua P. Dingler, 19, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 15, 2005
Paul A. Saylor, 21, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 15, 2005
Thomas J. Strickland, 27, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 15, 2005
Michael J. Stokely, 23, Army National Guard Specialist, Aug 16, 2005
Nathan K. Bouchard, 24, Army Sergeant, Aug 18, 2005
Jeremy W. Doyle, 24, Army Staff Sergeant, Aug 18, 2005
Ray M. Fuhrmann II, 28, Army Specialist, Aug 18, 2005
Timothy J. Seamans, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Aug 18, 2005
Willard Todd Partridge, 35, Army Sergeant, Aug 20, 2005
Elden D. Arcand, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Aug 21, 2005
Brian Lee Morris, 38, Army Staff Sergeant, Aug 21, 2005
Joseph C. Nurre, 22, Army Reserve Specialist, Aug 21, 2005
James J. Cathey, 24, Marine 2nd Lieutenant, Aug 21, 2005
Hatim S. Kathiria, 23, Army Specialist, Aug 22, 2005
Joseph Daniel Hunt, 27, Army National Guard Sergeant, Aug 22, 2005
Victoir P. Lieurance, 34, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Aug 22, 2005
Ramon Romero, 19, Marine Private 1st Class, Aug 22, 2005
Carlos J. Diaz, 27, Army 1st Lieutenant, Aug 23, 2005
Chris S. Chapin, 39, Army National Guard Master Sergeant, Aug 23, 2005
Trevor J. Diesing, 30, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Aug 25, 2005
Ivica Jerak, 42, Army Master Sergeant, Aug 25, 2005
Timothy M. Shea, 22, Army Corporal, Aug 25, 2005
Joseph L. Martinez, 21, Army Specialist, Aug 27, 2005
Obediah J. Kolath, 32, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Aug 28, 2005
Dennis P. Hay, 32, Army Chief Warrant Officer, Aug 29, 2005
Charles R. Rubado, 23, Army 2nd Lieutenant, Aug 29, 2005
Gregory J. Fester, 41, Army Reserve Major, Aug 30, 2005
Jason E. Ames, 21, Army Specialist, Aug 31, 2005
Monta S. Ruth, 26, Army Sergeant, Aug 31, 2005
Lowell T. Miller II, 35, Army National Guard Captain, Aug 31, 2005
George Ray Draughn Jr., 29, Army National Guard Sergeant, Sep 01, 2005
Robert Lee Hollar Jr., 35, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Sep 01, 2005
Lonnie J. Parson, 39, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Sep 02, 2005
Matthew Charles Bohling, 22, Army Sergeant, Sep 05, 2005
Jeffrey A. Williams, 20, Army Specialist, Sep 05, 2005
Luke C. Williams, 35, Army Specialist, Sep 05, 2005
Jude R. Jonaus, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, Sep 06, 2005
Franklin R. Vilorio, 26, Army Sergeant, Sep 06, 2005
Robert N. Martens, 20, Navy Hospitalman, Sep 06, 2005
Christopher L. Everett, 23, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Sep 07, 2005
Kurtis Dean K. Arcala, 22, Army Sergeant, Sep 11, 2005
Jeremy M. Campbell, 21, Army Specialist, Sep 11, 2005
David Ford, 20, Army Specialist, Sep 15, 2005
Alfredo B. Silva, 35, Army National Guard Sergeant, Sep 15, 2005
Shane C. Swanberg, 24, Marine Lance Corporal, Sep 15, 2005
Matthew L. Deckard, 29, Army Sergeant, Sep 16, 2005
Mark Dooley, 27, Army National Guard 1st Lieutenant, Sep 19, 2005

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed—those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending its money alone—it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children"
-—Dwight Eisenhower, Speech (1953)

Monday, September 19, 2005


Half Dome - Second Time up the Rock

The Big Piece of Granite is like a Magnet to Hikers


"Half Dome stands at the elevation of 8,842 feet. It is made up from a type of granite, plutonic rock. Yosemite National Park's Half Dome's missing half is presumed to have fallen off when the Ice Age glaciers passed through."

Half Dome, Sheer Side from Glacier Point
Photo © Arundhati Bhowmick,Aug.2004

Ascended Half Dome on Sept.10th. My friend Sarbajit Ghosal and I had done it in 2001. When Sarbajit mentioned a month ago that he was planning another trip I readily decided to join him. While painfully hanging on to the cable going up the Dome I asked myself, "why am I doing this; what am I trying to prove?". There must be many others who felt the same way I did. There is something about Half Dome that is hard to explain. You see the big piece of granite from various points in the Yosemite Valley and you think the hike (there is no other way of reaching it) would be worth trying. You do it and say "never again". It demands a lot, as a marathon does. But just as a few days after running a marathon, many runners begin to think of the next one, Half Dome hikers are of the same breed. Met a guy who said he had climbed it when he was 25 and was back to do it during his 50th year.

The round trip hike is approximately 17 miles. It can take anywhere from 10 to more than 14 hours depending on weather conditions and fitness of the hiker.During the season, hundreds of men, women and kids hike the 17-mile round trip from Yosemite Valley. Not an easy trek. The elevation gain is about 4800 ft (almost a mile) in 8.5 miles. On September 10th, when we were on the trail, almost 50% of the hikers were women.

View from the trail-Photo © Musafir

On the trail with friends - Photo © Sarbajit Ghosal

With Sarbajit - Photo © Gaurav

In ideal conditions, some hikers do it under 10 hours. It took us 13, out of which we spent more than 1 hour going up the cable (300 yds) to the top. There were bottlenecks on the cable due to number of people ascending and descending at the same time. The unusual volume could have been due to the fact that for repair work the trail is closed this season Monday-Thursday upto 4 PM. That limited most of the hikers to the 3-day window---Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If we go back it would be to hike up on a weekday. Although the Mist Trail alongside Vernal Falls is shorter by a mile than the John Muir Trail to reach Nevada Falls enroute to Half Dome, we took John Muir. Easier on the knees and we reached Nevada Falls in much better shape than we did four years ago going up the Mist Trail.

The Stairs (Quarter Dome) and the Cables

Sarbajit (2nd from left) on the Stairs
Photo© Musafir

Just when you begin to think that you will be at the base of the Dome, the Quarter Dome looms up. The trail builders have done a great job in creating a switchback to climb the Quarter Dome. Still, it is almost a half mile hike; the stone steps are rather high and take a toll. You descend from Quarter Dome and find youself facing the daunting cables.

Going up the Stairs - Photo © Sarbajit Ghosal

From the Stairs looking down - Photo © Musafir

From distance climbers look like ants crawling up - Photo © Sarbajit Ghosal

Traffic congestion at the base - Photo © Sarbajit Ghosal

From the base looking up - Photo © Musafir

The degree of slope at the base is 35-36 degrees and at points higher up the Dome more than 45 degrees.

Close up of the cables - Photo © Kenton Lee

The typical or target dates for the cables are to have them up for Memorial Weekend."
"They usually remain in place through Columbus Day weekend."

"The cables, extending approximately 300 yards up the steep shoulder of the 8,842 foot dome, allow visitor access to the summit and unparalleled views of Yosemite Valley and the Park's highcountry.

In 1919, the Sierra Club donated funds to install the first cables on Half Dome. The Civilian Conservation Corps replaced the original cables in the 1930's."

Hikers on top - Photo © Musafir

Sarbajit playing Tarzan - Photo © Musafir

Sarbajit at the precipice - Photo © Musafir

Sarbajit descending, backward (recommended). Quarter Dome lower background
Photo © Musafir

It is getting late for climbing Half Dome this season. However, those who are thinking of doing it will greatly benefit from Kenton Lee's excellent post "Climbing Half Dome The Easy Way". It contains a wealth of information about the trail as well as conditioning, gear,etc.


The Sanctimonious President

Another day, another snow job
When you gotta go you gotta go (President at the UN)
National Prayer Day, September 17th. Props in place---survivors in the front rows; VIPs sitting with suitably somber faces, looking pious. They have had a lot of practice with putting on faces. Scratch the surface you won't find an ounce of humility in the lot. The president has a built-in smirk that cannot be hidden.

Then there was the president's post 9/11 speech from Baton Rouge on September 15th . The surprise was that his speechwriters did not add the usual verbiage about terrorism, patriotism, and national security. Perhaps they realized that the refrain was beginning to sound like a damaged phonograph record with needle caught in a groove.

So the president spoke of grand reconstruction plans, aids to the displaced, and promised to work with the people of the area ravaged by Katrina. What all that will boil down to is something else. The usual suspects will get richer; the new New Orleans will bear no resemblance to the fabled old city. The black residents? In the rebuilt city there will be fewer of them.

And how are going to pay for the cost? The Republicans have already stated their support for the Bush tax cuts for the people at the very high end to be made permanent.

Expect cuts in services and domestic programs. The prescription drug plan for Medicare recipients is already one of the targets. Going by records of this rapacious administration and the members of Congress, the burden will fall on those who can least afford it.

Perhaps they will recommend piety, more prayers by all to compensate for lack of necessities?

Excerpts from an article by Clifford J. Levy, NY Times 9/18/05.

NY Times - Post Katrina Bricks and Mortals

When You Gotta Go

If you missed the telephoto shot of the president's note during his attendance at UN's Summit Meeting on September 15th, go to:

Bush 'caught short' at UN summit (BBC)


Germany: Is there a future for Gerhard Schröeder and the Social Democrats?

Some people had written Gerhard Schröeder off as pre-election polls showed Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrat Party leading by a substantial margin. Merkel, who has been compared to Britain's former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, is reported to enjoy support of Bush administration. It was no secret that Gerhard Schröeder's position on Iraq had soured relationship between the two countries. Tony Blair, too, does not get along well with Schröeder.

The election was held on September 18th. When votes were counted, the results showed that Mrs. Merkel received far fewer votes than the polls had indicated.

What lies ahead for Schröeder and his Social Democratic Party? Mrs. Merkel received 35.3% of votes against Schröeder's 34.2%. Without a clear majority, both are scrambling to form a coalition government with other parties. A coalition between the two is said to be out of consideration. Coalition of SDU, Left Party (Die Linkspartei.) and the Green Party led by Joschka Fischer would provide a quick fix for Schröeder. Mrs. Merkel could be expected to make overtures to the Greens. However, the match is unlikely to take shape.

If the CDU and SDU both fail to muster enough support for a coalition government then fresh elections will be held later this year or early in 2006.


Iraq Casualties 1900 and Counting - Marine Lance Cpl Shane C. Swanberg among them

They made the Supreme Sacrifice....for what?
According to data published by Iraq Casualties.org, on September 17th the number of dead American soldiers reached 1900. Small number if you compare it to Vietnam . One cannot, however, think that way---not if one has compassion for the bereaved families. To them every one of the dead meant more, much more than a name. They felt the pain, shed tears and continue to grieve.

09/18/05 SEATTLEPOST: Kirkland Marine dies in attack in Iraq

Those of us who have not personally suffered a loss but oppose the war ask what are they dying for?
Before we get out of the mess many more of our men and women in uniform will die. If not their families, history will judge those who sent them to their death.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Pledge of Allegiance Ruled Unconstitutional

The Issue Has Resurfaced

I did a double take on reading an AP report that U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in San Francisco ruled :"that the pledge's reference to one nation "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God." Bully for him but not the end of the story.

It is noteworthy that addition of the words "under God" after "one nation." did not take place until Flag Day 1954. The original pledge made no mention of God.

On June 14, 2004, in a 8-0 decision the Supreme Court had reversed a lower court ruling that recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by teachers in public schools was unconstitutional.The Court ruled that Michael Newdow, who brought the case before the court had no legal right to file the lawsuit. The Court, however, stayed away from the broader question of separation of church and state.

Now the issue is certain to land back before the justices. The make up of the Supreme Court, when it opens in October, will be different---not radically different until a replacement for Justice O'Connor is confirmed but different. Assuming that Judge Roberts will fill the late Chief Justice Rehnquist's place, one can sense the direction the court will take.

When Americans look back on our born again Christian president's legacy, his influence in politicization of the Supreme Court and appointment of agenda driven justices throughout the judicial system are likely to stand out. I shall not be surprised if the president's handlers add a reference to this in the speech he is going to give tomorrow. He needs some polarizing issues to latch onto in an effort to recover lost ground.

Our country is going through religious fervor of the worst kind; bigotry has become respectable. We can expect the San Francisco District Court's decision to be overruled.

Edited Sept.15,2005 6:24 PM

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The Fix Is In for Katrina Reconstruction Work

Sweetheart deals for favored contractors but President felt Minimum Wage too High

The Compassionate Conservative taking care of his own. The President has readily waived minimum wage requirements for reconstruction work related to Hurricane Katrina. Who are the beneficiaries? The same group of firms that are making money hands down in Iraq; companies to whom contracts are awarded without bidding process.

What happened ? Has there been a single act of this president, any legislation promoted by this president that remotely helped ordinary Americans ? I cannot think of one but I never bought the "compassionate conservative" spiel back in 2000. Of course, there could be a simple explanation---he didn't have a clue what he was talking about. He just uttered something made up by the handlers who coached him for the debate.

CNN - 9/10/05:
Reuters - 9/9/05
The Observer/Guardian (UK) - 9/11/05:

Congress probes hurricane clean-up contracts (Observer/Guardian)

Bush allows contractors to pay lower wages(Reuters)

Sweetheart deals for Halliburton, KBR and others(CNN)


Monday, September 12, 2005


All the President's Friends

The Insidious impact of Tax Dodging
The fact that large corporations, especially multi-national ones, enjoy special privileges (loop holes) that allow them to avoid paying taxes is no secret. The situation is a common one. It exists in most of the rich nations. In the United States, many law firms are engaged full time in advising their clients how to take advantage of the opportunities created by friendly legislators. Hedrick Smith did a great exposé of American companies in Frontline (see below). Today's issue of the Guardian,UK, carrries an article captioned Tax avoidance 'keeps developing countries poor' that outlines the scope and magnitude of the damage done by the tax dogders. The figures were based on a report issued by Christian Aid and covers UK companies.
The Guardian,UK 9/12/05

Tax Me If You Can - Hedrick Smith in Frontline 2/19/2003
"A government, for protecting business only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own CORRUPTION and decay."
---Amos Bronson Alcott 1799-1888, American Educator, Social Reformer

Friday, September 09, 2005


Escape - To the pages of an old favorite and to a Big Piece of Rock

"Brideshead Revisited" and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Perhaps it was the movie, "The Constant Gardener" that JHL and I watched on Labor Day. Perhaps the ongoing clamour about Hurricane Katrina in which I,too, added my two cents that made me seek shelter in a book about another country in another time. I am one among the millions who were not directly affected but felt the suffering, the inequities of our system that nurtured the miserable conditions in which a large percentage of New Orleans' blacks lived, and a sense of outrage at the failure to provide timely aid to the people in the area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

I felt that I had enough. Easier said than done. Katrina and its ghosts will continue to be with us for a long time. Politicians will do what they are good at doing, talk....a lot. Committees and sub-committees will be formed. Tons of reports will be generated. The uprooted will eventually find a new place. For them, the memories will remain alive.

It was Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" , a book that I first read many years ago and went back to a few times that I picked out from the book shelf. And, for good measure, I decided to join a group of friends and go to Yosemite to climb Half Dome on Saturday, September 10th. I ascended it in 2001. I was younger and my muscles were stronger then. It would give me personal satisfaction to be able to do it again.

But first a few words about "The Constant Gardener". Based on John LeCarre's novel of the same name, most of the story takes place in Africa. Fernando Meirrlles has done a great job as director; the movie is better than the book. Jeffrey Caine deserves applause for the screen play. Meirelles was complemented by the superb acting of Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz in the leading roles. The greed of multi-national corporations, complicity of politicians in their unethical ventures, and the exploitation of the poor comes through loud and clear. So, there are common elements between the people of New Orleans and the Africans in the movie, and I am not taking about color of their skin.

Evelyn Waugh was discharged from the army in 1943 on medical grounds. "Brideshead Revisited" was published in 1945.

The following is from a review of the book in The New York Times by the incomparable John K. Hutchins (1905-1995).

"But even those to whom Mr. Waugh and his work were only slightly familiar must have wondered what direction his talent would take during the climactic war years since "Put Out More Flags." "Brideshead Revisited" tells them, in a fashion more mature and ultimately more satisfying than even his admirers could confidently have predicted.

Here, again, is the post-World War I England, but in very different focus; the story seen not through the eyes of Paul Pennyfeather or a William Boot, comical character devices of earlier Waugh books, but told in the first person by a sensitive and intelligent observer, one Charles Ryder, architectural painter, captain in the British Army, looking back from middle-age at his youth. In the scheme of "Brideshead Revisited" that change in focus is all-important, the frame in which the story is set between prologue and epilogue lending it perspective and narrative flexibility, the enchantment of experience recalled and sifted. The emotional tone and content of "Brideshead Revisited" are accordingly heightened beyond any Mr. Waugh has achieved before. He has elsewhere conveyed a muted poignance--the death of the boy in "A Handful of Dust" and the ingenious, nightmarish conclusion of the same book. In "Brideshead Revisited" the emotion is unwrapped, so to speak, and sent from the heart.

In the beginning it is gay enough--an affectionately ironic picture of Oxford in 1923, the sunflower estheticism, plovers eggs and getting drunk at luncheon, the lively, small banter, the happy irresponsibility, "Antic Hay." It is there that Ryder meets Lord Sebastian Flyte and forms a romantic friendship with him; Sebastian, the brilliant, charming "half-heathen" second son of an old Catholic family that is verging on dissolution which, Mr. Waugh seems to suggest, parallels England's change from the old order to the new. Then, the story's arrival at Brideshead and its baroque castle, the tone changes to a somber hue as the themes develop: the love story of Ryder and Sebastian's sister Julia, of which Ryder's and Sebastian's friendship had been a spiritual forerunner; the Church giving haven to the soul-torn, drunken Sebastian and reclaiming Julia and even the Byronic father who comes home at last from Italy to die."
Now, time for a brief hiatus.

"Hast thou named all the birds without a gun ?
Loved the wood-rose , and left it on its stalk ?"
---Emerson "Forebearance"

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Some Christians feel that citizens of New Orleans had it coming

It was God's punishment!
I had never heard of a festival called "Southern Decadance"---apparently an yearly event that took place in New Orleans. According to "Repent America", an organization based in Philadelphia, PA, this years "homosexual celebration" was due to be held on August 31st. "However, Hurricane Katrina has put an end to the annual celebration of sin."

Repent America's press release reads, in part:

Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge," he continued.

"Deeply saddening"? I could feel their glee oozing from the press release.

For the complete text of the press release, go to Hurricane Katrina destroys New Orleans Days Before "Southern Decadance"


25,000 Body Bags for Katrina Victims

Too few, or too many
Time will tell. In the meantime, The Washington Post reported today that FEMA is against allowing journalists to accompany rescue boats as they go out looking for storm victims. The reason given (see below) is suspect.

"Echoing a Defense Department policy banning the photographing of flag-draped coffins of American troops, representatives from the much-maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that it didn't want journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, because "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect." An agency spokeswoman told Reuters, "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media."

"Hiding Bodies Won't Hide the Truth",Terry M. Neal, Washington Post 9/8/05

Someone is getting things done, "The John Wayne dude"

See story in in The Guardian,UK.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Masters of Deceit

The Sham Continues

Paraphrasing William Shakespeare, for members of the Bush Administration "The world is a stage and they are all its actors".

Disgust was what I felt as I read Josh Marshall's blog about use of volunteer fire fighters as stage props for photo opportunity during the president's visit to Louisiana. The Bush administration's cynical manipulation of the media and use of props are well-known facts. But this is a bit too much. You feel like exclaiming "have you no shame"?" Of course, they don't. The full power of the administration is focused on image control. They are good at it.

See Talking Points Memo - Josh Marshall Sept.4, 2005

Following is from an article in The Guardian,UK:

"Look at him: he's lost. He can't rail at Katrina for opposing "freedom" and "democracy," even if the bloody storm does have a girl's name. He can't decry the "axis of evil" comprising Iran and North Korea and then throw in a hurricane without somebody piping up, "What doesn't belong in this picture?" Since it's a stretch to blame Osama bin Laden for the weather, his speechwriters are stymied."

Lionel Shriver, The Guardian,UK, Sept.6, 2005


Tuesday, September 06, 2005


After Katrina - The Wise One and Other Sensitive Souls

Memorable Statements

First prize goes to President Bush

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

G.W. Bush to FEMA director Michael Brown, White House Press Release Sept.2, 2005

Second Prize: Again, the winner is President Bush

"The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."(Laughter.)
White House Press Release Sept.2, 2005

Third Prize: Mrs. Barbara Bush

Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them." What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."
Editor & Publisher, Sept.5, 2005

Consolation Prize goes to Ms. Condoleezza Rice

"The Lord is going to come on time — if we just wait," she said.
San Francisco Chronicle Sept.6, 2005

The irrepressible sense of humor

"Here's what I believe. I believe that the great city of New Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of New Orleans. (Applause.) I believe the town where I used to come from, Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much -- (laughter) -- will be that very same town, that it will be a better place to come to. "
President G.W. Bush, White House Press Release Sept.2, 2005

Think Cover-Up -
President to lead an investigation

"What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong,'' Bush said. ``We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack or another major storm."
San Francisco Chronicle Sept.6, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005


President Crossing Canal Street

A cartoon from The Guardian,UK


Martin Rowson Sept.5,2005 on Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina


Six days before the 4th Anniversary of 9/11

The shameful failure to offer aid to Katrina victims
Iraq's WMD - The Mother of All Lies

If 9/11 gave President Bush an opportunity to follow his agenda, Hurricane Katrina has made the country take a look at the hollowness of the Bush Administration--its failures, lapses, and its skewed priorities. Katrina could not have been prevented but there is no question that authorities at all levels failed to respond to the emergency and offer timely assistance to those who needed it. Their failure greatly exacerbated the suffering of the people in the affected area, especially the residents of New Orleans.

In another part of the world, the death toll for U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq has reached 1887 (as of Sept.5 - Icasualties.org) . Many more will lose their lives before we bring them home. The nation will again hear about their sacrifices for a cause although it is no longer clear what the cause is.

"Piecing together the story of the weapons that weren't"

Charles J. Hanley's brilliant exposé in USA Today, September 2, 2005, covers the Bush Administrations orchestrated efforts to sell the war to the American people. It succeeded in the deception mainly because the country was reeling from the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Now the administration is scrambling to control the backlash from Katrina. What goes around comes around.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


Randall Robinson in Huffington Post Sept.2, 2005

On Sept.2nd I quoted excerpts from Mr. Robinson's post about cannibalism in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A link to the original post was included. Further investigations on the subject have made me doubt the veracity of Mr. Robinson's comments.

I thought of deleting my September 2nd entry but decided to let it stay. However, until Mr. Robinson presents facts in support of his comments I take the position that his post contained untruth. Perhaps he got carried away by his emotions. Very simply, human beings do not reach the stage of starvation to resort to cannibalism in the few days since the onslaught of Katrina that Mr. Robinson wrote about.


President of the "Haves and Have Mores" is peeved about Katrina

And who can blame him
"What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base.” Who said that? G.W. Bush October 19, 2000

Where did he say it? Al Smith Dinner, Waldorf Astoria, New York

There you have it. The answer to what makes our president tick. To his credit, he never made a secret of his fondness for the rich and famous.

Things were going well (oh, relatively well) in the second term. Lost some points in public opinion polls but the president says he never pays attention to them. With Republican majority in the House and Senate, the president was sitting pretty. Iraq has become a thorny issue but speeches about patriotism and national security usually keeps the kettle from boiling over. The Christian right happy with his nominee for the Supreme Court and position on other moral values issues---intelligent design, stem cell, morning after pill, abortion, sex education, gay rights. Anniversary of 9/11 coming up; the president was getting ready to give another speech about the great progress made in Iraq and the need to remain vigilant. In addition to riding his bike, clearing brushes, and fishing, he was doing some heavy reading to exercise his mind during vacation. He was like the cat's whiskers.

Then comes Hurricane Katrina and the president finds himself, literally, in troubled waters. He is beyond his depth. He has no explanation for the mismanagement of relief efforts and admits lapses. More and more facts surfacing about lack of funds to maintain the levees due to diversion of money to war efforts and tax cuts; lack of equipment and personnel (National Guard members) because of deployment in Iraq. He makes a quick trip to the devastated area, praises FEMA's Michael Brown (more about him follows) for his work and then flies back to Washington.

What a bummer. First, that busybody Cindy Sheehan and the peaceniks put a crimp in his vacation. Then the damn hurricane forced him to cut his vacation short---by two days. Drat, now the 9/11 speech needs to be revised. More time needed to rehearse. The job is no longer fun.

Who is Michael Brown and what did he do before appointment to FEMA

Michael Brown was an executive (Judges and Stewards Commissioner, whatever that means) of the International Arabian Horse Association. The organization is no longer in existence. Prior to that he served as manager of G.W. Bush's first campaign for presidency.


"Steps we're taking will help address the problem of availability, but it's not going to solve it. Americans should be prudent in their use of energy during the course of the next few weeks. Don't buy gas if you don't need it.
---President G.W. Bush,Washington, D.C., Sep. 1, 2005

Friday, September 02, 2005


Photo Opportunity for the President at New Orleans

Stage props lined up by his handlers or a spontaneous act? The president hugged two black girls today during his brief stop for a first-hand look at devastation wrought by Katrina. The event was widely photographed. This time, however, the photo opportunity failed to earn him much capital.

Lack of Money for Hurricane and Flood Control, the Ugly Truth

Excerpts from an article in Editor & Publisher Aug.31, 2005:


The President Grinned !

He Cannot Help It
I did not watch him on TV when President Bush spoke on August 31st about disaster relief for Katrina victims but I'll take The New York Times editorial to be factual. He grinned. He has been grinning (smirking) long before he became president. It is hard to give up a habit. After all, most of the victims are poor and black. He has more important things on his calendar.

From The New York Times, Sept.1, 2005: Waiting For A Leader

"George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end."


Cannibalism in New Orleans

From The Huffington Post:

"It is reported that black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive. Four days after the storm, thousands of blacks in New Orleans are dying like dogs. No-one has come to help them.

I am a sixty-four year old African-American."

Randall Robinson
Postscript: Readers, please note that on September 3rd I published an entry stating "I doubt the veracity of Mr. Robinson's comments".

What if it were the San Francisco Bay Area

A friend e-mailed "Just think what the Christian right leaders would have said if Katrina had swept through the San Francisco Bay area! Punishment for decadent, immoral life style."

Yes, I can imagine Falwell, Robertson and others having a grand time on the pulpits.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Desire submerged but Hope must be kept alive in the aftermath of Katrina

New Orleans lies griveously wounded
Now is the time for the president to put his money where his mouth is. How President Bush and his team handle the crisis in Louisiana will either help him regain broad support of the American people or shed a harsh light on the reasons for failure. The beginning has not been praiseworthy. FEMA has come under some criticism for being disorganized. But there is no question that the havoc caused by Katrina is unprecedented in scale. Infrastructures collapsed; communications sytems completely broke down. The fact that most of New Orleans lies below sea level made it especially vulnerable. All resources of the Federal Government have now been unleashed to provide aid.

President Bush, who stays away from funerals of dead soldiers and does not permit publication of photographs of caskets arriving from Iraq, will now have to appear among the displaced. He will smell the stench and see the detritus at close quarters---at least that is the impression given by statement from the White House. The atrocities of 9/11 gave him the opportunity to obtain a carte blanche from the legislature to pursue the neo-conservative agenda both at home and abroad. Now the nation will give the president complete support to deal with the aftermath of Katrina. This, however, is an entirely different scenario---one in which the president's handlers cannot even think of staging a "mission accompished" appearance. News about relief efforts and rehabilitation of the displaced people will remain in focus of the media for a long, long time. Time for rhetorics is over. Successes will be noted; failures will not be allowed to be covered up.

Most of New Orleans, including the Desire area, is under waters. The French Quarter has escaped major flooding. Number of dead cannot even be estimated. There are doubts that the city can be rebuilt. The human spirit, however, has tremendous capacity for survival. The people of Mississippi Delta will eventually emerge from this nightmarish situation to begin a new chapter. They deserve all the help that our country can provide; they must not be let down.

Note: Edited Sept.3,2005


Attacks against Women's Reproductive Rights Continue

Shape of things to come - Anti-abortion legislations at State Levels
The FDA's announcement to delay the decision about over-the-counter access to Plan B (Morning After Pill) should not have come as a surprise. The Bush Administration is always supportive of the religious right on issues related to sexual habits of Americans. The zealots do not see it as a protective measure against unwanted pregnancy but as a drug that will encourage casual sex. So, Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health & Human Services, stalwartly rose to defend the FDA.

Plan B might eventually clear the bureacratic and political hurdles but is likely to carry restrictions that would make it dffficult for women to obtain the pills in an emergency....the very situation for which they are intended.

On August 31st, Susan Wood, Assistant FDA Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the Office of Women's Health, resigned in protest against the agency's decision to delay the ruling on Plan B.

Judge John Roberts and Roe v. Wade

It does not matter what questions he is asked, answers or declines to answer during the confirmation hearings, at this time it appears unlikely that Judge Roberts' appointment to the Supreme Court can be blocked. Judge Roberts is not going to be a surprise like Justice Souter. He has been vetted and the conservatives know that they can depend on him not to be the balancing force that Justice O'Connor was. His opinion on privacy rights is on record.

Marie Cocco wrote in Newsday:
The fundamentalist Christians, however, are not idly waiting for the demise of Roe v. Wade. They are busy enacting legislation at state levels to curtail women's reproductive rights. Ceci Connolly's report in The Washington Post, Aug.29,2005, reveals that their record is impressive.
One wonders about the women of the states where anti-abortion legislations are being enacted. Do majority of them support what is happening? Are all of them chaste, strong in their belief that they and their sisters, daughters, friends will never be faced with an unwanted pregnancy?

Or are they unaware of the implications?


Newsday: Marie Cocco - Pill Politics and Roberts
Washington Post: Ceci Connolly - Access to abortion pared at State Level

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