,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Saturday, December 31, 2005


Friends, bloggers, other visitors

A New Year beginning, on to 2006

There Is Always Hope

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past."
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, Four Quartets,1

A very wet New Year's eve for us in the San Francisco Bay area. As the saying goes,it is raining cats and dogs. Reports of flooding and mudslides up north in Napa and Sonoma counties. The south is not dry either. Read that rain could fall at Pasadena during the Rose Bowl parade for the first time in 51 years.

To all visitors to this site--regulars, occasional, and accidental--good health. I no longer make New Year's resolutions but many people do. I wish them success. While globally there has not been much to rejoice about, individually many of you have had joyful experiences. Births, marriages, new friendships, travels, career achievements. Small things matter. I hope that those who needed support found it.

Back in September 2004 when I hesitantly took my first step in the blogosphere I had no clue about where the venture would take me. Began writing about the '04 presidential race and segued on to post-election events. Nowadays I meander all over the map but the main thrust is about conservatives, their policies and practices. It has been a rewarding experience. Not financially--my blog does not carry ads. Neither does it have a vast readership. Rewarding, nevertheless, because it has brought me in touch with people who are kindred spirits. They are from places far and near---USA, UK and Canada, Iraq and India, Singapore, France and Pakistan. I am not likely to meet them in person but feel as though I know them. I find pleasure in what they say, in the photographs they publish, their e-mail messages, and comments.

David Broder wrote in the Post about his '05 hits and misses. His praise for the president's response to Katrina was a doozy. But he should take heart. The job of writing a column under pressure of deadline comes with such hazards--it is the nature of the beast. We bloggers have an easier task because we have the advantage of reading others such as Mr. Broder and recycling their comments. As to columnists and bloggers who support Bush, I must admit that I pay no attention to them. Don't read them; don't listen to them. They will survive without me as I shall survive without them.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The Seasons: Winter

Stormy Weather

O Wind, if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?"
---P.B. Shelley, Ode to West Wind

Fog:©stock.xchng, phelle

Birch Tree: ©stock.xchng, vaultsafe

Bare tree: ©stock.xchng, irene123

December, and the year, coming to an end. For us here in the San Francisco Peninsula, the rains came late but we are getting enough of it not to worry about drought in the summer.

The gingko trees on the street lost all their leaves. The blankets of golden leaves no longer cover the ground; the storms blew them away. The bulbs that I planted in October are looking strong and healthy. Not too long before the blooms appear. The sweet peas are beginning to emerge. This is when they are most vulnerable to snails.

JHL and I went for our traditional hike on Christmas afternoon. It was drizzly when we began and raining hard by the time we finished but, despite the muddy trail and rain, there were other hardy souls out in Arastradero Preserve.
Winter haikus
"The bottoms of my shoes
are clean
from walking in the rain."
---Jack Kerouac, 1964

"The desolation of winter
Passing through a small hamlet,
a dog barks."
---Shiki (translated by R.H. Blyth)


Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Faith and Bigotry

"Bigotry is the sacred disease" -- Heraclitus 6th Century BCE
Article VI, Sec.3 of the Constitution reads:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several State Legislatures,and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by the oath of affirmation, to support the Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The First Amendment, ratified December 15, 1791, is quite unambiguous about this. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

It was our third president, Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809),who further defined separation between Church and State. In 1802, in a letter to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Jefferson wrote: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,thus building a wall of separation between Church and State'. "

"Every ruler should be an avowed and sincere friend of Christianity. He should know and believe the doctrines of our holy religion, and act in conformity to its precepts." So said Ezra Stiles Ely, Presbyterian minister, during a sermon in Philadelphia, July 4, 1827. Ely was a supporter of Andrew Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812, who went on to become our seventh president in 1828. Jackson did not agree with Ely's sermon and wrote to him: "Amongst the greatest blessings secured to us under our Constitution is the liberty of worshipping God as our conscience dictates."

If polls are right, somewhere along the way a large percentage of Americans embraced an arrogant, dogmatic interpretation of Christ and his teachings. G.W. Bush is the ideal ruler envisaged by Ezra Stile Ely. An avowed Born Again Christian, he champions their cause. In their world, there is only one way. From issues as diverse as right to die, women's right to choose, and teaching of evolution, to use of public grounds for display of religious symbols and statues, the zealots want to force the rest of us to accept their position. A fully supportive administration is doing all it can to destroy the barrier between church and state. Christian groups, including Catholics, have become actively involved in the political arena and political leaders are assiduously courting them. There is something very hollow about them. The same people are critical of other nations where the constitution is based on scriptures; where archaic laws and practices prevail; where religious minorites are persecuted. The fundamentalists are reported to be waiting for rapture...the Second coming of Christ when the true believers will ascend to heaven. Hope it happens soon.
S.D. Legislature takes lead in antiabortion measures

Evelyn Nieves in the Washington Post:"As national leaders on both sides of the abortion debate focus on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearings of Samuel A. Alito Jr., they are watching states such as South Dakota pass more and more restrictions that might be upheld by a newly constituted, more conservative Supreme Court." No one who supports women's right to choose should have any doubt about the fragility of Roe v. Wade. Attacks against it will continue and a Supreme Court loaded with agenda driven justices will eventually succeed in overturning the momentous decision made in January 1973.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


The Bush White House Lied......Again

Spying on U.S. Citizens
From USA Today : "Report: NSA spying broader than Bush acknowledged
NEW YORK (AP) — The National Security Agency has conducted much broader surveillance of e-mails and phone calls — without court orders — than the Bush administration has acknowledged, The New York Times reported on its website.


"Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
---Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 23, 2005


Peace, think Peace

The Face of Peace, Pablo Picasso (1881-1974)

Cottage in Snow (Source: unknown)

"This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hallowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.
---William Stafford, USA (1914-1993)


Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Spending Cuts Bill and what it means - The bottom line

Abe Lincoln's Vision and How the System Really Works
They did it. VP Cheney cast the tie-breaker vote to pass the bill to reduce the budget deficit. Applause, grinning faces in the Republican side of the aisle. They got what they fought for. What their victory means and how they won it.

"......that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

The Washington Post: According to budget experts, the bill would barely dent the federal deficit, cutting less than one-half of 1 percent from an estimated $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years. Opponents said the poor would bear the brunt of the cuts -- especially to Medicaid, child support enforcement and foster care -- whereas original targets for belt-tightening, such as pharmaceutical companies and private insurers, largely escaped sanction.

From the Los Angeles Times:


Kangaroo Courts in the Land of Bush - "Darkness at Noon"

Judge James Robertson Quits Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
"A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources." The Washington Post report by Carole D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer includes:
The late Arthur Koestler's novel Darkness at Noon (1940) described the trial of a man named Rubashov in Stalin's Russia. Michael Schaub wrote an excellent article about the book. No, we are not anywhere near the conditions in Soviet Russia under Stalin. But there are times when I get the feeling that we are inexorably heading that way. Efforts to politicize our judicial system are indisputable facts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The "Freedom Fries" Gang and Their Budget Bill

They are looking after welfare of the usual suspects
The Washington Post reported: "House passage early yesterday of major budget-cutting legislation and authority to drill for oil in the Alaskan wilderness touched off fierce resistance in the Senate, where Democrats and moderate Republicans threaten to derail the legislation over concerns about the impact on the poor and the environment." Not only the ANWR is in danger but Medicaid recipients and students in need of financial assistance are also targets of proposed cuts in the budget while the Bush tax cuts remain inviolate !

The Republicans mounted a sneak attack by attaching the drilling provision to the defense spending bill. In a filibuster it would require only a 51-vote majority for passage. If it were a separate legislation then a 60-vote majority would have been needed. Opponents will try to strip the provision from the budget bill during debates which have commenced in the Senate. The VP is expected to emerge from his bunker to be available to cast a tie breaker.

Monday, December 19, 2005


"Who will watch the watchers ?"

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Who will watch the watchers?"
-- Juvenal
Decimus Junius Juvenalis (Juvenal)
Roman rhetorician and satirical poet (1st to 2nd cent. A.D.)
The President spoke today and strongly defended the recently exposed domestic spying program authorized by him. As usual, the president rehashed a litany of bogies to justify his action. Some Americans will buy that as they have done in the past. Based on what we know of this administration and the war in Iraq, can we trust the president ? Has he earned it ?

From an editorial in the NY Times, Dec.18, 2005:
  • Mr. Bush said he would not retract his secret directive or halt the illegal spying, so Congress should find a way to force him to do it. Perhaps the Congressional leaders who were told about the program could get the ball rolling.

December 18, 2005
Editorial NY Times
This Call May Be Monitored

On Oct. 17, 2002, the head of the National Security Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, made an eloquent plea to a joint House-Senate inquiry on intelligence for a sober national discussion about whether the line between liberty and security should be shifted after the 9/11 attacks, and if so, precisely how far. He reminded the lawmakers that the rules against his agency's spying on Americans, carefully written decades earlier, were based on protecting fundamental constitutional rights.

If they were to be changed, General Hayden said, "We need to get it right. We have to find the right balance between protecting our security and protecting our liberty." General Hayden spoke of having a "national dialogue" and added: "What I really need you to do is talk to your constituents and find out where the American people want that line between security and liberty to be."

General Hayden was right. The mass murders of 9/11 revealed deadly gaps in United States intelligence that needed to be closed. Most of those involved failure of performance, not legal barriers. Nevertheless, Americans expected some reasonable and carefully measured trade-offs between security and civil liberties. They trusted their elected leaders to follow long-established democratic and legal principles and to make any changes in the light of day. But President Bush had other ideas. He secretly and recklessly expanded the government's powers in dangerous and unnecessary ways that eroded civil liberties and may also have violated the law.

In Friday's Times, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported that sometime in 2002, President Bush signed a secret executive order scrapping a painfully reached, 25-year-old national consensus: spying on Americans by their government should generally be prohibited, and when it is allowed, it should be regulated and supervised by the courts. The laws and executive orders governing electronic eavesdropping by the intelligence agency were specifically devised to uphold the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

But Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror. Indeed, the same Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, who helped write the twisted memo on legalizing torture, wrote briefs supporting the idea that the president could ignore the law once again when it came to the intelligence agency's eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages.

"The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties," he wrote.

Let's be clear about this: illegal government spying on Americans is a violation of individual liberties, whether conditions are troubled or not. Nobody with a real regard for the rule of law and the Constitution would have difficulty seeing that. The law governing the National Security Agency was written after the Vietnam War because the government had made lists of people it considered national security threats and spied on them. All the same empty points about effective intelligence gathering were offered then, just as they are now, and the Congress, the courts and the American people rejected them.

This particular end run around civil liberties is also unnecessary. The intelligence agency already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests.

The special court can act in hours, but administration officials say that they sometimes need to start monitoring large batches of telephone numbers even faster than that, and that those numbers might include some of American citizens. That is supposed to justify Mr. Bush's order, and that is nonsense. The existing law already recognizes that American citizens' communications may be intercepted by chance. It says that those records may be retained and used if they amount to actual foreign intelligence or counterintelligence material. Otherwise, they must be thrown out.

President Bush defended the program yesterday, saying it was saving lives, hotly insisting that he was working within the Constitution and the law, and denouncing The Times for disclosing the program's existence. We don't know if he was right on the first count; this White House has cried wolf so many times on the urgency of national security threats that it has lost all credibility. But we have learned the hard way that Mr. Bush's team cannot be trusted to find the boundaries of the law, much less respect them.

Mr. Bush said he would not retract his secret directive or halt the illegal spying, so Congress should find a way to force him to do it. Perhaps the Congressional leaders who were told about the program could get the ball rolling.


Same Sex Weddings - Across the Atlantic, Walls Come Tumbling Down

Belfast, Northern Ireland * Scotland * Wales * England
"Two women today became the first same-sex couple to use the UK's new civil partnership laws to publicly register their commitment at a ceremony. Shannon Sickels, 27, and Grainne Close, 32, recorded the historic union at Belfast city hall this morning." The Guardian,UK

Like it or not, there is a wave of such unions to follow--almost 700 of them in England and Wales on Wednesday, 21st December. Yes, there were some protesters; the usual sin and damnation crowd. "The protesters, who gathered outside the city hall, demonstrated against the "sin" of homosexuality and the new legislation. They heckled Ms Close as she arrived for the ceremony. She told one protester: "God bless you ... I'll see you at the gates of heaven."

One can imagine the wrath of the fundamentalist Christians in this country. Nothing they can do but curse the nations that permit such unions. If a major natural disaster hits the British Isles it will be ascribed to punishment for sinful lifestyle. I have a feeling that marriages between same sex couples will soon be old hat. Life will go on as usual.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


The Right to Die - Switzerland Takes the Lead

Secular Europe's Humane Approach
"Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or "broken heart," is excuse for cutting off one's life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one."
--Charlotte Perkins Gilman, American author (1860-1935)

While our government is determined to do all it can to trample over state's rights and override Oregon's Death With Dignity Act of 1997, according to a report in the BBC a hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, has announced that "......it will allow assisted suicide on its premises for terminally ill patients." Earlier, doctors and church leaders in Britain dropped their opposition to voluntary euthanasia for terminally ill patients who clearly express their wish for assistance in dying.

Now, before the religious right and others who oppose such measures throw a fit they should read the details of what the Swiss plan means. No one is going to be forced to die. There are enough safeguards to satisfy all but those who feel that end of life is an issue left in the hands of higher powers. The disturbing part is that the zealots want to impose their will on the rest of us. The Bush administration's challenge to Oregon's law is based on use of drugs covered by the federal Controlled Substances Act for the purpose of suicide. Ruling on the case Gonzalez v. Oregon and the Right to Die, heard by the Supreme Court in October 2005, is expected to be issued in the summer of 2006.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


"We the people" and George Bush's America

Saturday Morning Charivari
News about authorization of domestic spying by the president still making headlines but the shock wave is receding. To many people it didn't come as a surprise. While full details are not known, the fact that the administration was carrying on a secretive operation against its own citizens failed to provoke the howl that it deserved. We have become inured; revealations of lies, half-truths, deceptions have become routine; they no longer shock us. We have truly become a nation of sheep.

Reading "A Scoop Deferred" by Paul Farhi in the Post one gets the impression that it is not what he described that is important but what he left unsaid.

More interesting was an article by Paul Bloom (of Yale) that I found in The Guardian,UK. Professor Bloom wrote about American authors of yesterday, especially Whitman and Melville in context with the America of today. Reflections in the Evening Land reaches the heart of the sickness. The overwhelming question is why it happened. Perhaps simply because the majority (the god fearing majority ?) has a narrow vision of the world that prevents thoughts and questions about the policies being followed even when they are not for the common good.

For G.W. Bush and his cohorts the good time has already come.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Members of the Choir - All Together Now

Torture - Bush White House bends under pressure

The records speak for themselves. When it comes to torture we yield to none. In the face of rising criticism here and abroad, the White House retreated on its position about torture of prisoners held as terrorists. Republican Senator John McCain took a leading role in making this happen. Let's hope that the retreat was not purely diplomatic and that the terms would be honored. Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post, won the Pulitzer in 1990. His December 13th cartoon says it all. For full gallery of cartoons by Toles, go to the Post.

December 13, 2005



A Giant Among Pygmies - William J. Fulbright (1905-1995)

Author of "The Arrogance of Power"
The death of former senator William Proxmire from Wisconsin on December 15th has been widely reported. Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post covered it well. As is the norm on such occasions, there was a rush by politicians to offer eulogies. The event triggered a few of my friends to comment about another senator--the late William Fulbright of Arkansas. This what they said.

"Back in 1987, Senator Fulbright gave the commencement address at my graduation from U of Miami. It was an excellent speech that revealed a level of understanding of world affairs that is rare among the corridors of power in this country. After a 30-year Senate career, he died in 1995 at the age of 89.

"Excerpts from the Arrogance of Power are given below, which has striking relevance in the context of the current Iraq misadventure.

"On American foreign policy:

  • Throughout our history two strands have coexisted uneasily; a dominant strand of democratic humanism and a lesser but durable strand of intolerant Puritanism. There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable. But... when some event or leader of opinion has aroused the people to a state of high emotion, our puritan spirit has tended to break through, leading us to look at the world through the distorting prism of a harsh and angry moralism.

"Fulbright also related his opposition to any American tendencies to intervene in the affairs of other nations:

"He was a strong believer in international law:

Sources: Wikipedia.org CommonDreams.org
K.C.R responded:

"It is a good thing the good senator is no more. Today's powers-that-be would have branded his words above as irresponsible, unpatriotic, unchristian, UN-loving, terrorist-supporting, michael moore-like claptrap. His tax records would have been audited by the IRS and his phones tapped by the FBI. O'Reilly would have called him 'Frenchie', Cheney would have called him 'dangerous', Rice ' a friend of Saddam', Limbaugh 'deliriously left-wing' and Gary Bauer 'gay'.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Democrats - Lost in Translation

Still paying for the decision to back Bush's War
After their abject surrender to the Bush juggernaut prior to the war it is not easy to regain lost footing. The Democrats are trying. The clarion call from John Murtha certainly helped. Still, there is lack of a coherent, unified position emerging from the leadership. We have the hawkish Joe Lieberman condoning everything that the Bush administration did. No surprise there.

E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post:

"The real patriots are not those who fall into line behind everything Bush says. They are the Republican and Democratic doubters who have pressured Bush into realizing that he has limited time in Iraq and an imperative to speak more realistically. In his speech yesterday, Bush actually admitted that "things did not always go as planned" in Iraq and that last January's elections "were not without flaws." From an administration that never admits mistakes, that's progress.

"Message to Democrats: Buck up. Message to Republican ad makers: Democracy is about improving government through the uninhibited exchange of ideas. And, yes, our soldiers and enemies are watching.

It is not too late; there is hope.


A Soldier and His Son - Murder or Mercy Killing ?

Who can rightfully be the judge ?
"The trial at Lewes crown court highlighted the plight of children afflicted with Hunter syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, and the pressures imposed on parents caring for them. The condition progressively denies victims their hearing and speech and renders them incontinent before they enter a vegetative state. Sufferers such as 10-year-old Jacob Wragg, who had a severe form, are normally dead by their mid-teens." The item in Guardian,UK, made me think about the painful situation faced by former SAS soldier Andrew Wragg who was found guilty of manslaughter but cleared of the charge of murdering his 10 year old son Jacob. A strong supporter of euthanasia for terminally ill people who do not want to continue living, I found myself asking what I would have done faced with a similar situation. Jacob Wragg was not capable of expressing his wish. The decision to end his life was made by Andrew Wragg and his wife, Mary. Would I have been able to smother my son to death ? Frankly, I don't know. Only parents who cope with the daily heartache and hopelessness of caring for a child in vegetative state have the right to comment whether it was right or wrong. I do not condemn Andrew Wragg.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Trouble in Paradise - Taprobane in Turmoil

More than 20 years after the flare up of violence between the Tamils and Sinhalas, there is no sign of a lasting peace. There was a glimmer of hope after last year's tsunami when the different factions in the island worked together in relief efforts. The peace agreement brokered by Norwegians in 2002 was always fragile and is in danger of breaking down. The good news is that the Norwegians have agreed to continue their efforts after announcing that they were going to withdraw. The newly elected president, Mahinda Rajapakse, asked Norway on December 7th to resume its peace mediating role with the Tamil Tigers.

The website of University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, contains the best summary that I have found about the history of the strife. Under the title "History of the Ethnic Divide", the report covers the issue from the early days of the island to the current sad state of affairs. Extremists among the Tamils and Sinhalas are responsible for continuation of violent acts.

Once known as Taprobane, then Ceylon, the island was renamed Sri Lanka after it became free of British rule in 1948.

Credit: Jetwing Travels

I have fond memories of the island and the people I came to know during a visit in 1984. I wrote about it in November 2004, A Man named Gunasekhara and a troubled island.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Chile - Winds of Change

A Monster Faces Justice * And Michelle Bachelet could be the Next Presidente

The wheels of justice moved slowly but they moved. General Augusto Pinochet, the former military ruler, is facing human rights charges. He was one of our favorite dictators in Latin America. He was aided and abetted by us, under the guidance of Henry Kissinger, in torturing and killing dissidents. Good news indeed for the Chileans. They can also expect their next elected head of state to be a woman who is refreshingly different. This is from a report in the Washington Post by Monte Reel. "

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Everyone in the audience was dressed in dark blue or black. Some wore clerical collars, and most had heavy silver crosses dangling around their necks. But Michelle Bachelet wore an electric pink jacket that sent a clear message: She was a candidate for president, not sainthood.

"I'm agnostic. . . . I believe in the state," Bachelet told several groups of evangelical ministers last week. "I believe the state has an important role in guaranteeing the diversity of men and women in Chile -- their different spiritualities, philosophies and ways of life."


Saturday, December 10, 2005


"Did you kiss the dead body" - Harold Pinter's Speech at Nobel Awards Ceremony

Harold Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for literature, was unable to travel to Stockholm due to medical reasons. His publisher went to accept the award. Harold Pinter's acceptance speech was video taped for the Swedish Academy, Stockholm. Pinter spoke for all of us who oppose brutality in the name of justice...and god. The full text of the speech is available at Guardian.co.UK


© The Nobel Foundation 2005


Friday, December 09, 2005


"Brokeback Mountain", A Film About Gay Cowboys


Ang Lee's new film, Brokeback Mountain will soon be released in local theaters. This isn't a review of the movie (reviews are available on the web). JHL and I have watched the preview clips screened before other films that we went to see, and it is on our list of "must see". We have read the short story by Annie Proulx which was adapted by Larry McMurty and Diana Ossana for the screenplay. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger play the roles of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar. The story is in the volume titled "Close Range, Wyoming Stories", published in 1999.
Credit: IMDB

Gay cowboys in Wyoming ! It was near Laramie, Wyoming, that 21 year old Matthew Shepard was beaten to death and left hanging on a barbed wire fence in 1998. How would the homophobes in Wyoming and elsewhere react to the movie ? Are they going to watch it and condemn it or stay away from it? I, too, have mixed feelings but not about the subject. Annie Proulx wrote a 'no frills', tender story about very basic relationship between two men. Reading it I thought that a stark B&W film would do it justice, not a color film 2 hrs 14 minutes long. But for a movie to be a commercial success it has to cater to a broad audience and liberties must be taken. It has received high praise from critics. As to gay cowboys, they are out there just like gay soldiers, sailors, ball players and preachers. They have the right to be.
The Singapore Cowboys

Back in the 80's during a business trip to Singapore, my friends took me out one evening to listen to the Singapore Cowboys. Not sure but I think it was in the Mandarin Hotel where the group appeared on a regular basis. I was not a country western fan then and not one now but I like Willie Nelson's music. The Singapore Cowboys were taking requests. I sent a note and very soon they launched into "Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys".

I checked the web and found that the group (Matthew Tan and the Mandarins) is still active. Good for them.
"Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
Don't let them pick guitars and drive in old trucks,
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such.
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They'll never stay home and they're always alone,
Even with someone they love."
--Written by Ed and Patsy Bruce, recorded by Willie Nelson in 1980.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Back to Los Trancos Trail

And Elisa Caravaglio's Penne With Tuna & Tomatoes
The Foothills Park, owned and managed by the City of Palo Alto, CA, is a treasure. There are other natural preserves in the San Francisco Peninsula. Through gifts and purchases, the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) has done a superb job in acquiring large parcels of land and making them accessible to public. There is no entry fee for using the preserves. Entrance to Foothills Park, however, is restricted to residents of Palo Alto.

Here are two great photographs taken inside Foothills Park. Thanks to Scott Haefner and Harold Poskanzer who graciously gave permission to reproduce them.

©Scott Haefner

©Harold Poskanzer

My friend JHL lives in Palo Alto and is an avid walker. We have hiked there many times. Went back there last week and took Los Trancos Trail, our favorite, which climbs toward Skyline. It is a 7.5-mile (apprx. 12 km) loop. Takes us a little over 4 hours, allowing time for a picnic lunch. On that day we had a late start and, after we stopped for lunch, realized that it would be past 5 PM and dark if we made the loop. So we turned around. Now that the rains have begun in earnest, we plan to go back and walk alongside Buckeye Creek running full.

This what we had for lunch.

Penne With Tuna & Tomatoes

1/3 cup olive oil
2 lge garlic cloves, minced
Sml pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1.5 lb Roma tomatoes, peeled, halved, seeded, diced (canned OK)
About 1 tspn fennel seed, ground fine in a mortar or spice grinder (I lightly toast the seeds)
2 tblspoon chopped fennel fronds
1 can (200 gms) olive oil packed tuna, drained and flaked
2 doz green or black olives, pitted, quartered
1 lb penne

Heat the olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a large skillet until the the garlic just starts to color. Add the tomatoes, fennel seed, fennel fronds and
salt to taste.

Cook gently until the tomatoes soften but don't allow them to collapse into a sauce. Remove from heat and add the tuna and olives. Keep warm.

Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Toss, add some of the reserved water if needed.

1. Serves 4-6
2. The fennel is important, substitution will not create the right flavor
3. Good quality water-packed tuna can be used but first it will have to be drained, doused liberally with extra virgin olive oil and kept overnight to allow the oil to soak in.

We had sweet baguette, home made avocado dip, and a California merlot. Sitting in a small meadow on a cold but sunny day it felt good. All was right with the world.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Democrats: Pussyfooting Around The Iraq War

As the adage goes 'You can't have your cake and eat it too'. The Democratic leadership must face the issue and take a clear position. What the leaders are doing is cowardly and laughable. Jim Vandehei and Shalaigh Murray writes in the Washington Post about Democrats' fear of backlash. It is becoming tiresome; put up or shut up.

So far in December 19 more soldiers have died. The total is now at 2132. Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties.org

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Good Soldier Rice and the Tortuous Definition of Torture


Reading "Rice Defends Tactics Used Against Suspects" by Glen Kessler in the Washington Post reminded me of former President Clinton's statement during his appearance before the grand jury about the Monica Lewinsky affair. "It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is." Then there is always the admirable Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson): "Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland.

See"The defining of torture in a new world war
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent", BBC News website

Britain's role in war on Terror - The Guardian, UK

Ms Rice in her furious best; don't miss the cartoon by Martin Rowson (The Guardian).


Monday, December 05, 2005


Republican Mavericks Lindsay Graham, John Sununu

More of them in the closet ?

"Finally, Congress Stands Up", David Broder's column in the Washington Post is about two Republican senators who defied the president. Lindsay Graham (SC) by raising the issue of torture of prisoners and secret prisons being operated offshore in "friendly" countries. Senator John Sununu (NH) is a leading opponent of the excesses embodied in the Patriot Act.
  • Sununu has taken the lead in a group of senators pressing for changes in the Patriot Act, the legislation expanding FBI powers that the administration rushed through Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of the changes they wanted were made in the Senate bill, but administration objections have stymied their acceptance in a House-Senate conference.
Would other Republicans come out of the closet to follow them ? Possible, unless they decide to remain with those who believe the president whenever he ratchets up the terror threat.
On another issue, corruption--the give and take that exists between special interest groups and our elected representative--Michael Kinsley has a good column "Corrupt Intentions" in Slate about Randy Cunningham and his colleagues. Truly a den of thieves and Democrats are part of it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


"Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" ? * Autumn Haikus

Thoughts of a Runner on a Sunday Morning

"Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" by the British author Alan Sillitoe was published in 1959. A book of short stories that included the title piece. The story was made into a great B&W film (1962) in which the actor Tom Courtney made his mark. One of the "angry young men" in post World War II England, Sillitoe's books reflected the angst of the British working class. I remember the powerful effect of his first book, "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" (1958). That, too, was made into a film.

Apart from the title, this post is not about Sillitoe but my own thoughts about distance running. For me, it is not a "lonely" experience. Far from it. Of course, there are the occasional hazards and physical problems--aches and pains, pulled hamstrings, and such. Yet, loneliness is not part of my world when I am out on a long run. It is mostly a good feeling, especially when I run on trails in fall, muddy patches notwithstanding. The changing landscape as the foothills turn into a lush green, the smell of bay laurel leaves, the look of the oak, madrone and buckeye trees never fail to give me pleasure. I don't need an electronic device to listen to music or news when I run. I feel close to nature; I feel at peace with the world.

I am thinking of taking part in a marathon. Ran my last one more than 20 years ago. Age has taken its toll. I am slower but the aim is not to win a place or a prize....just to be one of the finishers. It is a personal thing. Only a runner would understand why. George Sheehan, the late marathoner, cardiologist, philosopher, said it best. "We distance runners are meditative men. If we have a religious tradition, it is one of non-conformity and withdrawal, the hermit, the anchorite. At best, we hope for a secluded meadow where we won't be disturbed."
Autumn haikus:

"The winds that blow--
ask them which leaf of the tree
will be next to go !"
--Soseki (translated by Harold Henderson)

"The falling leaves
fall and pile up: the rain
beats on the rain."
--Gyodai (translated by Harold Henderson)
Listening to Bill Evans on piano. The CD is titled "Solo Sessions Vol. I". Recorded at Soundmakers Studio (New York City), January 10, 1963. Produced by Orrin Keepnews.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


"Planted reports" Par for the Course

The War Was Sold on Lies
Smoke and mirror. Doing what they best. Josh White and Bradley Graham writes in the Washington Post "Military says it paid Iraq papers for news". "In a statement, the command said the program included efforts, "customary in Iraq," to purchase advertising and place clearly labeled opinion pieces in Iraqi newspapers. But the statement suggested that the "information operations" program may have veered into a gray area where government contractors paid to have articles placed in Iraqi newspapers without explaining that the material came from the U.S. military and that Iraqi journalists were paid to write positive accounts." And pigs have wings. This administration has a record of planting stories and embedding reporters. It has done so here in the U.S. and it is doing so in Iraq and elsewhere; all part of the P.R. on which it exists.

Stop the Slaughter - Democrats, Stand up and be Counted

Ten more American soldiers died in Iraq on December 2nd, 11 Iraqi soldiers on December 3rd. Civilian deaths mostly go unreported. The insurgents, whoever they are,keep coming and are relentless in their attacks. The Republicans in Congress are publicly standing behind the president. Some Democrats,too, are dithering about the pullout from Iraq. They let the president pull a snow job before the war began. Today they have no excuse for propping him up. Support John Murtha's suggestion for an early exit. Stop offering the soldiers as sacrifcial goats.

In "Up In The Air", current online edition of The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh describes plans for increasing use of airpower in an effort to minimize army casualties at the risk of more civilian deaths. Excerpts:

  • One person with whom the Pentagon’s top commanders have shared their private views for decades is Representative John Murtha, of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The President and his key aides were enraged when, on November 17th, Murtha gave a speech in the House calling for a withdrawal of troops within six months. The speech was filled with devastating information. For example, Murtha reported that the number of attacks in Iraq has increased from a hundred and fifty a week to more than seven hundred a week in the past year. He said that an estimated fifty thousand American soldiers will suffer “from what I call battle fatigue” in the war, and he said that the Americans were seen as “the common enemy” in Iraq. He also took issue with one of the White House’s claims—that foreign fighters were playing the major role in the insurgency. Murtha said that American soldiers “haven’t captured any in this latest activity”—the continuing battle in western Anbar province, near the border with Syria.So this idea that they’re coming in from outside, we still think there’s only seven per cent.
  • Robert Pape, a political-science professor at the University of Chicago, who has written widely on American airpower, and who taught for three years at the Air Force’s School of Advanced Airpower Studies, in Alabama, predicted that the air war “will get very ugly” if targeting is turned over to the Iraqis. This would be especially true, he said, if the Iraqis continued to operate as the U.S. Army and Marines have done—plowing through Sunni strongholds on search-and-destroy missions. “If we encourage the Iraqis to clear and hold their own areas, and use airpower to stop the insurgents from penetrating the cleared areas, it could be useful,” Pape said. “The risk is that we will encourage the Iraqis to do search-and-destroy, and they would be less judicious about using airpower—and the violence would go up. More civilians will be killed, which means more insurgents will be created.”

Friday, December 02, 2005


A Bloody November - We Lost 84 Soldiers


"Older men declare war. But its the youth who must fight and die!" - Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States

The list below shows that 66 out of 81 were in their 20's. Source: Iraq Casualties.org As of today, names of three soldiers remain to be confirmed by the DOD. Their bravery and sacrifice is admirable, the mission for which they gave their lives is open to questions. While grieving for our own we must not forget the Iraqi civilians--not insurgents--ordinary men, women and children no different than us. Some day history will judge the people who were responsible for the war against Iraq. I wonder how it would treat President Bush and his minions. Would they be portrayed as honorable and just who sacrificed lives of thousands of American and others for a worthy cause or as callous megalomaniacs with narrow visions and a warped sense of their infallibility ?

Daniel A. Tsue, 27, Marine Sergeant, Nov 01, 2005
Allan M. Espiritu, 28, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, Nov 01, 2005
Dennis J. Ferderer Jr., 20, Army Specialist, Nov 02, 2005
Tyler R. MacKenzie, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 02, 2005
Joshua J. Munger, 22, Army Specialist, Nov 02, 2005
Benjamin A. Smith, 21, Army Specialist, Nov 02, 2005
Mark J. Procopio, 28, Army National Guard 2nd Lieutenant, Nov 02, 2005
Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, Marine Major, Nov 02, 2005
Michael D. Martino, 32, Marine Captain, Nov 02, 2005
Darren D. Howe, 21, Army Specialist, Nov 03, 2005
Jeffrey P. Toczylowski, 30, Army Captain, Nov 03, 2005
Daniel J. Pratt, 48, Army National Guard Sergeant 1st Class, Nov 03, 2005
Kyle B. Wehrly, 28, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Nov 03, 2005
Jason A. Fegler, 24, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 04, 2005
James M. Gurbisz, 25, Army Captain, Nov 04, 2005
Dustin A. Yancey, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 04, 2005
Timothy D. Brown, 23, Army National Guard Specialist, Nov 04, 2005
Darrell W. Boatman, 38, Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Nov 04, 2005
Thomas A. Wren, 44, Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel, Nov 05, 2005
Joel E. Cahill, 34, Army Captain, Nov 06, 2005
James F. Hayes, 48, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Nov 06, 2005
Ryan J. Sorensen, 26, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 06, 2005
Brian L. Freeman, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 07, 2005
Robert C. Pope II, 22, Army Specialist, Nov 07, 2005
Mario A. Reyes, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 07, 2005
Justin S. Smith, 28, Army 1st Lieutenant, Nov 07, 2005
Alwyn C. "Al" Cashe, 35, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Nov 08, 2005
Jeremy P. Tamburello, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 08, 2005
Michael C. Parrott, 49, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Nov 10, 2005
Joshua A. Terando, 27, Army National Guard Sergeant, Nov 10, 2005
Daniel Freeman Swaim, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 10, 2005
Tyrone L. Chisholm, 27, Army Sergeant, Nov 11, 2005
Donald E. Fisher II, 21, Army Corporal, Nov 11, 2005
Antonio "Tony" Mendez Sanchez, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 11, 2005
Stephen J. Sutherland, 33, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 12, 2005
David A. Mendez Ruiz, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 12, 2005
Scott A. Zubowski, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 12, 2005
John M. Longoria, 21, Marine Corporal, Nov 14, 2005
Christopher M. McCrackin, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 14, 2005
Ramon J. Mendoza Jr., 37, Marine Major, Nov 14, 2005
James E. Estep, 26, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 15, 2005
Travis J. Grigg, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 15, 2005
Matthew J. Holley, 21, Army Specialist, Nov 15, 2005
Nickolas David Schiavoni, 26, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 15, 2005
Dylan R. Paytas, 20, Army Private, Nov 16, 2005
Alexis Roman-Cruz, 33, Army Specialist, Nov 16, 2005
Roger W. Deeds, 24, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 16, 2005
John A. "JT" Lucente, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 16, 2005
Donald R. McGlothin, 26, Marine 2nd Lieutenant, Nov 16, 2005
Jeremy E. Murray, 27, Marine Sergeant, Nov 16, 2005
Jeffry A. Rogers, 21, Marine Corporal, Nov 16, 2005
Joshua J. Ware, 20, Marine Corporal, Nov 16, 2005
Ivan Vargas Alarcon, 23, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 17, 2005
Vernon R. Widner, 34, Army Specialist, Nov 17, 2005
Anthony Alexander "Alex" Gaunky, 19, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 18, 2005
Luis R. Reyes, 26, Army National Guard Sergeant, Nov 18, 2005
Christopher M. Alcozer, 21, Army Private, Nov 19, 2005
Jonathan F. Blair, 21, Army Corporal, Nov 19, 2005
Dominic Joseph Hinton, 24, Army Specialist, Nov 19, 2005
Michael J. Idanan, 21, Army Specialist, Nov 19, 2005
Edward Karolasz, 25, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 19, 2005
Anthony R. C. Yost, 39, Army Master Sergeant, Nov 19, 2005
Dennis W. Zilinski, 23, Army 1st Lieutenant, Nov 19, 2005
Miguel Terrazas, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 19, 2005
Tyler J. Troyer, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Nov 19, 2005
Dominic J. Sacco, 32, Army Sergeant, Nov 20, 2005
John Wilson "J.W." Dearing, 21, Army National Guard Private 1st Class, Nov 21, 2005
Denis J. Gallardo, 22, Army Sergeant, Nov 22, 2005
Aram J. Bass, 25, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 23, 2005
Allen J. Knop, 22, Army Specialist, Nov 23, 2005
William B. Meeuwsen, 24, Army Sergeant, Nov 23, 2005
Ryan D. Christensen, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 24, 2005
Marc A. Delgado, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Nov 24, 2005
Eric P. Pearrow, 40, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Nov 24, 2005
Steven C. Reynolds, 32, Army Staff Sergeant, Nov 24, 2005
Javier A. Villanueva, 25, Army Specialist, Nov 24, 2005
Gregory L. Tull, 20, Army National Guard Specialist, Nov 25, 2005
Brett E. Angus, 40, Marine Master Sergeant, Nov 26, 2005
Donald J. Hasse, 28, Army Sergeant, Nov 29, 2005
Jerry W. Mills Jr., 23, Army Sergeant, Nov 29, 2005
Joshua D. Snyder, 20, Marine Corporal, Nov 30, 2005 .

Thursday, December 01, 2005


"A Real Strategy ?" Or More of the Same


Reading the column by Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey in Newsweek made me think that the question that we must ask is "Can we believe what he says?" There is a wide chasm between reading a speech at Annapolis and past actions, or lack thereof, by President Bush. By now majority of Americans know of the lies and deceptions that went into the misadventure in Iraq. We are paying for it and shall go on paying for it long after the president's second term ends. The rosy picture he drew about conditions in Iraq was far from the truth. And where is VP "....the insurgents are in their last throes" Cheney ? Just this morning we read about concerted mortar attacks by insurgents in Ramadi. Then, of course, there is 9/11. That cow has been milked so often and so hard that it must be screaming. The president isn't about to give up tactics that served him so well in the past. But even that is beginning to lose its impact. What is he to do!
"The Most Foolish War"

So commented Professor Martin Van Creveld of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, in the American Jewish Weekly "Forward". Also see Brian Whitaker's article "Nowhere to run" in the Guardian. "There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them".

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