Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Hogs at the Trough (II) - Addicts and Pushers
Don't expect things to change much. It is mutual--the legislators and special interest groups feed on each other. They will find ways to maintain the status quo.
It was more interesting to read the speech to be given by Lord May, president of the Royal Society. Excerpts from Ian Sample's article "Fundamentalists threaten scientific progress" in the Guardian,UK:
- "All ideas should be open to questioning, and the merit of ideas should be assessed on the strength of evidence that supports them and not on the credentials or affiliations of the individuals proposing them. It is not a recipe for a comfortable life, but it is demonstrably a powerful engine for understanding how the world actually works and for applying this understanding," he will say.
- The problem is most prominent in the debate over climate change, Lord May claims, comparing the climate change denial lobby, which is "funded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars" by the petroleum industry, with the tobacco lobby, which continues to deny that smoking causes lung cancer. The green groups were not spared criticism."We need to recognise that on the one hand there are huge problems with nuclear energy, while on the other hand there are huge problems with putting carbon into the atmosphere." It was hard to see renewable energy replacing nuclear power "on the timescale we need."
- Lord May is particularly critical of the Catholic church and its comments on the use of condoms, which are proven to reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. "The Vatican in particular promotes abstinence outside marriage, and condemns condom use. This disapproval, for all its putative high-mindedness, simply is not an effective strategy for preventing dissemination of HIV."
- The speech warns of the emerging problem of creationism being taught in school science lessons as a theory on equal footing with evolution. Lord May called on scientists to be more proactive in making their voices heard.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The Lies about Iraq's WMD and The Democrats Who Swallowed Them
In his column today "More than a Mistake In Iraq", Richard Cohen , The Washington Post, comments about Democratic presidential aspirants who are now trying to do somersaults to explain their support for the war. A pox on all of them, the gutless opportunistic, unprincipled politicians. Hundreds of thousands of of people all over the world were protesting and marching against the obviously orchestrated efforts to sell the war while they were being briefed by the neo-cons and solemnly falling in line. Why ? The proponents of war were not believable; they had an agenda; they had records. The Democratic leaders' attempts to put a spin on their support for the war is pathetic. They didn't even display a sense of skepticism ! What do they see when they look at themselves in the mirror ? Following from Richard Cohen's column:
- "As it turned out, neither did Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney said, "Increasingly, we believe that the United States will become the target" of an Iraqi nuclear weapon, and Rumsfeld raised a truly horrible specter: "Imagine a Sept. 11th with weapons of mass destruction" that would kill "tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children." Imagine a defense secretary who thought he was propaganda minister.
- I quote this trio of braying exaggerators -- all of them still in the administration -- because they emphasized the purported nuclear weapons threat. Yet by the time the war began, March 20, 2003, it was quite clear that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program. All the evidence for one -- the aluminum tubes, the uranium from Africa -- had been challenged. What's more, U.N. inspectors in Iraq had found nothing. "We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq," said Mohamed ElBaradei of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. That was on Feb. 14. The next month, the United States went to war anyway."
Not for the first time, Col. Wilkerson targeted the vice president--his role in abuse of prisoners. In an interview by the BBC, Col. Wilkerson stated:
"I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures in particular, and I see that the president is not holding either of them accountable... so I have to lay some blame at his feet too," he went on.
In the BBC interview, Col Wilkerson also developed his views on whether or not pre-war intelligence was deliberately misused by the White House.
He said that he had previously thought only honest mistakes were made.
But recent revelations about doubts in the intelligence community that appear to have been suppressed in the run-up to the war have made him question this view."
Monday, November 28, 2005
Iraq After Saddam - What is the Difference ?
Oh, to be Genghis Khan. Howard Fineman commented in Newsweek, All Quiet in DC, about the president's stop in Mongolia on his way back from Far East: "No wonder Bush loved Mongolia. My colleagues in the White House press corps reported that he seemed relieved to be able to spend a few hours there. Nothing like a 36 percent job-approval rating to make you feel fondly towards the vast, empty steppes of the Far East.
"Perhaps Bush was thinking jealously of Genghis Khan, who probably didn’t need to be concerned about the polls and pundits. He just conquered a lot of territory, and that was that.Would that it were that simple. It’s not. Voters are worried, perhaps more than ever, about what the president and Vice President Dick Cheney, and the rest of the Bush Administration now call “Islamo-fascism” or “radical Islamist fundamentalism.”
"But those same voters on this Thanksgiving seem to doubt that Bush’s Cowboy Khan approach is wise, at least in Iraq. They’re becoming more inclined to think that it was, is, folly."
Cowboy Khan, very appropriate.
The Making of Suicide Bombers
- I try to imagine what would happen to me, personally, should this occur. How long would it take for the need for revenge to settle in? How long would it take to be recruited by someone who looks for people who have nothing to lose? People who lost it all to one blow. What I think the world doesn’t understand is that people don’t become suicide bombers because- like the world is told- they get seventy or however many virgins in paradise. People become suicide bombers because it is a vengeful end to a life no longer worth living- a life probably violently stripped of its humanity by a local terrorist- or a foreign soldier.
- I hate suicide bombers. I hate the way my heart beats chaotically every time I pass by a suspicious-looking car- and every car looks suspicious these days. I hate the way Sunni mosques and Shia mosques are being targeted right and left. I hate seeing the bodies pile up in hospitals, teeth clenched in pain, wailing men and women…
- But I completely understand how people get there.
- One victim was holding his daughter. "The gunmen told the girl to move then shot the father," said a relative.
- Would anyone be surprised if the abovementioned daughter grew up with a hate so vicious and a need for revenge so large, it dominated everything else in her life?
- Or three days ago when American and Iraqi troops fired at a family traveling from one city to another, killing five members of the family.
- "They are all children. They are not terrorists," shouted one relative. "Look at the children," he said as a morgue official carried a small dead child into a refrigeration room.
- Who needs Al-Qaeda to recruit 'terrorists' when you have Da’awa, SCIRI and an American occupation?
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Sexual Hypocrisy Alive and Well in India
- Khushboo, a 35-year-old Tamil film star and television game show host, made her controversial statement in a magazine which surveyed celebrities' views on pre-marital sex.
- The resulting outcry - which saw Khushboo being served with a gagging order to keep the peace - has ignited fresh debate over the gap between public morality and private attitudes towards sex in India. Yesterday the High Court of Tamil Nadu, the state where the controversy began, ordered its police director general to draw up a plan to prevent the Khushboo protests growing violent.
--Simone De Beauvoir
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Violence Against Women, A Worldwide Problem
- "Wife beating and sexual violence against women are "common, widespread and far-reaching," says a World Health Organization report released Thursday.
- "The "WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women" is based on a survey of 24,000 women in 10 nations It says the percentage of women reporting having been physically or sexually assaulted, or both, in their lifetime ranges from 15% in Japan to 71% in rural Ethiopia. The violence has severe health and economic consequences, the report says.
- "Domestic violence, in particular, continues to be frighteningly common and to be accepted as 'normal' within too many societies," says the report, the first global look at these kinds of assaults. All of the women surveyed had had a male partner at some point.
- "In the USA, about 1.5 million women a year are assaulted by a husband or boyfriend; about one in six women have been sexually assaulted at some time in their life, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."It is a problem here, one that many communities face," says Diane Stuart, director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the Justice Department. "This is a crime committed behind closed doors." Stuart says the isolation reported by domestic violence victims in the WHO report is also experienced by American women."
Friday, November 25, 2005
The First Rains of the Season
The street and the cars parked alongside the curb are covered with leaves from gingko trees. More like gold than yellow. Day after Thanksgiving is a holiday except for those who work in stores. Big day for bargain hunters storming the gates early in the morning. Parking lots full of drivers looking for rare empty spots. Fender benders; frayed tempers. I can imagine the cash registers making ka-ching, ka-ching sound. Good for the economy and some people get pleasure out of it.
Photo credit: stock.xchng (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photo credit: stock.xchng (email@example.com)
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Thanksgiving Day 2005 - Year 3 of the War In Iraq
U.S. Soldiers: 2102
Iraqi Civilians: Minimum 27094 Maximum 30538
Every Thanksgiving Day, Jon Carroll of The San Francisco Chronicle writes a column that I urge everyone to read. Excerpt: "And the final bead on the string is for this very Thanksgiving, this particular Thursday, and the people with whom we will be sharing it. Whoever they are and whatever the circumstances that have brought us together, we will today be celebrating with them the gift of life and the persistence of charity in a world that seems bent on ending one and denying the other."
Half the people in the world love the other half,
half the people hate the other half.
Must I because of this half and that half go wandering
and changing ceaselessly like rain in its cycle,
must I sleep among rocks, and grow rugged like
the trunks of olive trees,
and hear the moon barking at me,
and camouflage my love with worries,
and sprout like frightened grass between the railroad
and live underground like a mole,
and remain with roots and not with branches, and not
feel my cheek against the cheek of angels, and
love in the first cave, and marry my wife
beneath a canopy of beams that support the earth,
and act out my death, always till the last breath and
the last words and without ever understanding,
and put flagpoles on top of my house and a bob shelter
underneath. And go out on roads made only for
returning and go through all the appalling
between the kid and the angel of death?
Half the people love,
half the people hate.
And where is my place between such well-matched halves,
and through what crack will I see the white housing
projects of my dreams and the bare foot runners
on the sands or, at least, the waving of a girl's
kerchief, beside the mound?
Translated by Chana Bloch And Stephen Mitchell
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Further Misadventures of The Bush & Blair Team
- Under a front-page headline “Bush plot to bomb his ally” in the Daily Mirror yesterday, a secret minute of the conversation in April 2004 records the President allegedly suggesting that he would like to bomb the channel’s studios in Doha, capital of Qatar. Richard Wallace, the Editor of the Daily Mirror, said last night: “We made No 10 fully aware of the intention to publish and were given ‘no comment’ officially or unofficially. Suddenly 24 hours later we are threatened under Section 5.” (Times onLine Nov.23, 2005)
- An international journalists group today demanded "complete disclosure" from the British and American governments over reports that the US considered attacking the al-Jazeera HQ in the Qatar capital, Doha. The International Federation of Journalists claimed that 16 journalists and other media staff have died at the hands of US forces in Iraq, adding that the deaths had not been properly investigated. (The Guardian, Nov.23, 2005)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
"Mean Jean" Schmidt, VP Cheney - Attack Dogs Doing Their Thing
Monday, November 21, 2005
"Shake and Bake" in Iraq - Who Will Cry For Us ?
"Propaganda nightmare of chemical hypocrisy" by Bronwen Maddox, Timesonline November 17th edition: "HOW damaged is the US by the row over its use of white phosphorus in Fallujah last year? On the facts available now, it is within the letter of the law, even though it has not signed the most relevant protocol on the use of the weapon." Excerpts:
- But even if it considers itself on firm legal ground, it has created a nightmare of public relations at the point when it is trying to court support in Europe and the Middle East.
- Allegations of unusual weapons have been around since the assault. The US denied them, until internet bloggers unearthed personal accounts by the US military. On Tuesday Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Barry Venable said that the substance had been used as an “incendiary weapon against enemy combatants”, contradicting earlier statements by the London and Rome ambassadors, and the State Department website.
- If there was anything that could make perceptions worse, it was the military slang of “shake and bake” attacks, phosphorus being the “bake” part.
- It will take a lot of work by Karen Hughes, the President’s emissary, to improve the American image abroad, to make up for the incendiary effect on hearts and minds.
- The Pentagon's admission - despite earlier denials - that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue - it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare.
- The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".
- The official line to that point had been that WP, or Willie Pete to use its old name from Vietnam, was used only to illuminate the battlefield and to provide smoke for camouflage.
- This line however crumbled when bloggers (whose influence must not be under-estimated these days) ferreted out an article published by the US Army's Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year.
- The article, written by a captain, a first lieutenant and a sergeant, was a review of the attack on Falluja in November 2004 and in particular of the use of indirect fire, mainly mortars.
- It makes quite clear that WP was used as a weapon not just as illumination or camouflage."WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes where we could not get effects on them with HE [High Explosive]. We fired "shake and bake" missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out," the article said.
"Why did Americans go sour on the Iraq war so quickly, and what can Bush do about it? John Mueller, an expert on war and public opinion at Ohio State University, links today's lower tolerance of casualties to a weaker public commitment to the cause than was felt during the two previous, cold war-era conflicts. The discounting of the main justifications for the Iraq war - alleged weapons of mass destruction and support for international terrorism - has left many Americans skeptical of the entire enterprise."
And the November 18th post "Baghdad Burning", the Riverbendblog, by a young Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, reads:
House of Horrors...
The talk of the town is the torture house they recently found in Jadriya.
"The whole world heard about the one in Jadriya, recently raided by the Americans. Jadriya was once one of the best areas in Baghdad. It's an area on the river and is special in that it's greener, and cleaner, than most areas. Baghdads largest university, Baghdad University, is located in Jadriya (with a campus in another area). Jadriya had some of the best shops and restaurants- not to mention some of Baghdad's most elegant homes... and apparently, now, a torture house."
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Poets' Corner on A Sunday Morning
When after hours of walking
That the body of the woman striding beside you
Is not made for
A march of war,
That her thighs grow heavy
And her buttocks move like a tired flock
You are filled with great joy
For the world
Where women are like this."
---Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000 ), translated by Harold Schimmel
Falling in Love
"Tomber amourex. To fall in love. Does it occur suddenly or
gradually ? If gradually, when is the moment "already" ? I would fall
in love with a monkey made of rags. With a plywood squirrel.
With a botanical atlas. With an oriole. With a ferret. With a
marten in a picture. With the forest one sees to the right when
riding in a cart to Jaszuny. With a poem by a little-known
poet. With human beings whose names still move me. And always
the object of love was enveloped in erotic fantasy or was
submitted, as in Stendhal, to a "cristallisation", so it is frightful to
think of that object as it was, naked among the naked things,
and of the fairy tales about it one invents. Yes, I was often in
love with something or someone. Yet falling in love is not the
same as being able to love. That is something different."
---Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004), translated from Polish by the author and Robert Haas
akin to self-knowledge, appears perpetual.
On the other hand, an unexpected train
You don't wait for alone on a platform arrives on schedule.
A sail is passing its judgment on the horizon's lie.
The eye tracks the sinking soap, though it's the foam that is famous.
And should anyone ask you "Who are you ?", you reply "Who--I ?
I am nobody", as Ulysses once muttered to Polyphemus."
--Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)
"A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.
There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens."
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Et tu, Bob Woodward
No excuse, none. Reading details of Bob Edward's silence about being told of Valerie Plame gave me a sick feeling. No matter what spin is put on it by the Washington Post and Bob Edward, it stinks. The difference between him and Ms Run Amok of NY Times ? Not much.
Kicking Fallen Leaves During Walks in the Fall
fall and pile up; the rain
beats on the rain."
---Gyodai (translated by Harold Henderson)
The Stark beauty and simplicity of Black and White Photographs
A gem in Newsweek. "Profound Portraits" by Malcolm Jones is about the works of a photographer that I never heard of. "Mike Disfarmer was the local photographer in Heber Springs, Ark. (pop. 3,800), from 1915 until he died in 1959." The 18 black and white images (can be viewed as a slide show) are stunning. Don't miss them.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Rep. John Murtha, A Decorated War Veteran Raises His Voice Against the War
The Plan "B" Story, Politicization of The FDA
Thursday, November 17, 2005
The VP Defends the War - And Thus Spake His Boss
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The Alito Shuffle - He Is Acting Like A Politician
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Simply A Matter of Distrust
In the poll:
- Two-thirds of independents and 91% of Democrats disapprove of the job Bush is doing. Even among Republicans, who have solidly backed Bush in the past, 19% express disapproval — a new high.
- For the first time — albeit by a narrow 49%-48% — a plurality disapprove of the way Bush is handling the issue of terrorism. Six in 10 disapprove of the way he's handling foreign affairs, the economy, Iraq and immigration, and 71% disapprove of him on controlling federal spending.
- A 53% majority say they trust what Bush says less than they trusted previous presidents while they were in office. In a specific comparison with President Clinton, those surveyed by 48%-36% say they trust Bush less.
- A record high 60% say going to war in Iraq was "not worth it." In a finding consistent with previous polls, 54% say it was "a mistake" to send troops there.
"There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust."
Monday, November 14, 2005
FDA Officials and their Faith-based Dirty Tricks
Wars, Combatants and Non-Combatants
Jonathan Darman's article in Newsweek, "The Wages of War" is mostly about veterans of wars past. He mentioned the current war--in Iraq--in passing but experiences of veterans in other wars could not have been much different. It is interesting that majority of returning veterans do not take part in speaking out against war although they many of them "quietly hate war". "If history is a guide, only a few of these new veterans will join antiwar movements; most will proudly support their country in any future entanglements it may face. But many of those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq will doubtless join a tradition of brave veterans who quietly hate war."
"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)
Free Spirits On A Motorcycle in Vietnam
- "Leaving behind the traffic-clogged, European-scale streets of Hanoi's central districts, we dodged pedestrians and trucks to emerge into the booming exurbs, ground zero for Vietnam's recent economic explosion. Industrial parks, where local workers stitch and assemble the goods that fuel the global consumer economy, lined the road on vast plots that had been scratched out of the dust. The stench of vehicle exhaust gave way to a mixture of burnt brush, overheated metal and soggy rice paddy -- the unmistakable odor of progress in Vietnam."
Not easy for Democrats who didn't have the courage to take a stand. Back in August, Gary Hart, the former senator from Colarado said this in an op-ed piece "Who will say 'No more' " in the Washington Post:
- "History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up, and weakening America's national security.
- "But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on? My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove. In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."
- "To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration's misfortune is the Democrats' fortune, is cowardly. In 2008 I want a leader who is willing now to say: "I made a mistake, and for my mistake I am going to Iraq and accompanying the next planeload of flag-draped coffins back to Dover Air Force Base. And I am going to ask forgiveness for my mistake from every parent who will talk to me."
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Sunday - "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise"
Bright and mild morning. Temp. about 48 degrees F (9 deg.C). The sky is blue. One of those mornings when just looking out of the window makes me feel good.
It is heartening to know that the president and his men are not having an easy time answering the critics. Chickens come home to roost. They did their share and more of creating miseries for thousands of people here and abroad. It is fitting that they are in the proverbial "hot seat" trying to justify their actions. Bill Clinton faced impeachment for diddling with Monica Lewinski. G.W. Bush, responsible for deaths of more than 2,000 of our soldiers, and emptying the nation's coffers, continues to bluster. Things might catch up with him some day.
The Debate About Torture, by Evan Thomas and Michael Hirsh in Newsweek's online edition covers the "dark side of intelligence gathering".
- "But at what cost? While many Americans probably don't wish to know too much about the "dark side" of intelligence gathering, the horrific images of tortured detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a terrible toll on America's standing in the world. "It's killing us," says Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose NEWSWEEK essay on the subject follows this article."
"Tis a gift to be simple
Tis a gift to be free
Tis a gift to come down
Where you ought to be...
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
We'll be in the valley of love and delight."
---A Shaker hymn
There is hope for Moderates
Saturday, November 12, 2005
For G.W. Bush, A Bleak Winter Ahead ?