,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Iraq, The Dead of January 2006 - President and Punxsutawney Phil

More Bushspeak * Pomp and Circumstances
E-mail from a friend quoted a message received by him: "This year, both Groundhog Day and the State of the Union Address fall on the same day. It is an ironic juxtaposition: One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, and the other involves a groundhog."

62 soldiers have lost their lives in January. The list does not include soldiers whose deaths have not yet been confirmed by the DOD. The number is lower than last month's and last January's. That is a good sign. The dead are only a part of the picture. 39 of them were in their twenties; Private First Class Peter D. Wagler of Partridge, Kansas, was 18 years old when he died on January 23rd ! What a sad list of names. Then there are the injured--7659 reported by Iraq Coalition Casualties.org The President, who managed to stay away from Vietnam, is going to blather this evening about their sacrifice, the smirk never far. As long as the families of the dead and injured soldiers continue to support him he will get away with it. There will be members of Congress bobbing up and down like marionettes to applaud him. The President will not mention 35 year old Douglas A. Barber, a Iraq war veteran who couldn't cope with post traumatic stress disorder and shot himself to death on January 16th. I hope that history will harshly judge those who took us into this senseless war.

His poll numbers continue to be low. He says he does not pay attention to polls but few believe that. Privatization of Social Security is down the tube; even some of his staunch supporters are concerned about the mounting budget deficit; the Abramoff scandal is casting a shadow on Republican members of Congress; Patrick Fitzgerald still following the Valerie Plame leak enquiry; and Medicare Part 'D",the Prescription Drug Plan, is a disaster for those who need it most. State of the Union is far from rosy. So, expect full scale smoke and mirrors. On the plus side, the president's conservative Christian supporters are delighted that Samuel Alito has become the newest member of the Supreme Court.

Jason Lee Bishop, 31, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Jan 01, 2006
Christopher J. Vanderhorn, 37, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 01, 2006
William F. Hecker III, 37, Army Major, Jan 05, 2006
Jason Lopezreyes, 29, Army Sergeant, Jan 05, 2006
Robbie M. Mariano, 21, Army Private, Jan 05, 2006
Johnny J. Peralez Jr., 25, Army Sergeant, Jan 05, 2006
Christopher P. Petty, 33, Army Captain, Jan 05, 2006
Ryan D. Walker, 25, Army Specialist, Jan 05, 2006
Stephen J. White, 39, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Jan 05, 2006
Michael E. McLaughlin, 44, Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel, Jan 05, 2006
Adam Leigh Cann, 23, Marine Sergeant, Jan 05, 2006
Albert Pasquale Gettings, 27, Marine Corporal, Jan 05, 2006
Ryan S. McCurdy, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 05, 2006
Radhames Camilomatos, 24, Army Sergeant, Jan 07, 2006
Joseph D. deMoors, 36, Army 1st Lieutenant, Jan 07, 2006
Douglas A. LaBouff, 36, Army Major, Jan 07, 2006
Michael R. Martinez, 43, Army Major, Jan 07, 2006
Clinton R. Upchurch, 31, Army Specialist, Jan 07, 2006
Jaime L. Campbell, 25, Army National Guard 1st Lieutenant, Jan 07, 2006
Michael I. Edwards, 26, Army National Guard Specialist, Jan 07, 2006
Jacob E. Melson, 22, Army National Guard Specialist, Jan 07, 2006
Chester W. Troxel, 45, Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4, Jan 07, 2006
Stuart M. Anderson, 44, Army Reserve Major, Jan 07, 2006
Nathan R. Field, 23, Army Reserve Sergeant, Jan 07, 2006
Robert T. Johnson, 20, Army Reserve Specialist, Jan 07, 2006
Darren D. Braswell, 36, Dept. of Defense Civilian, Jan 07, 2006
Kyle W. Brown, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 07, 2006
Jeriad P. Jacobs, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 07, 2006
Jason T. Little, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 07, 2006
Brett L. Lundstrom, 22, Marine Corporal, Jan 07, 2006
Raul Mercado, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 07, 2006
Michael Joseph McMullen, 25, Army National Guard Sergeant, Jan 10, 2006
Mitchell K. Carver Jr., 31, Army Chief Warrant Officer 3, Jan 13, 2006
Kyle E. Jackson, 28, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2, Jan 13, 2006
Jonathan Kyle Price, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 13, 2006
Michael Anthony Jordan, 35, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class, Jan 13, 2006
Justin J. Watts, 20, Marine Corporal, Jan 14, 2006
Kasper Allen Dudkiewicz, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 15, 2006
Dustin L. Kendall, 21, Army Specialist, Jan 15, 2006
Ruel M. Garcia, 34, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2, Jan 16, 2006
Rex C. Kenyon, 34, Army Chief Warrant Officer 3, Jan 16, 2006
Adam R. Shepherd, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 17, 2006
Dennis J. Flanagan, 22, Army Sergeant, Jan 20, 2006
Matthew C. Frantz, 23, Army Specialist, Jan 20, 2006
Rickey Scott, 30, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 20, 2006
Katherine Patricia Singleton, 0, Army Not reported yet, Jan 20, 2006
Clifton J. Yazzie, 23, Army Specialist, Jan 20, 2006
Carlos Arrelano Pandura, 22, Marine Corporal, Jan 20, 2006
Brandon Christopher Dewey, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 20, 2006
Brian McElroy, 28, Air Force Staff Sergeant, Jan 22, 2006
Jason L. Norton, 32, Air Force Technical Sergeant, Jan 22, 2006
Lance M. Chase, 32, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 23, 2006
Matthew D. Hunter, 31, Army Sergeant, Jan 23, 2006
Peter D. Wagler, 18, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 23, 2006
Lewis T. D. Calapini, 21, Marine Private, Jan 23, 2006
Joshua A. Scott, 24, Marine Lance Corporal, Jan 23, 2006
Sean H. Miles, 28, Marine Sergeant, Jan 24, 2006
Jerry M. Durbin Jr., 26, Army Staff Sergeant, Jan 25, 2006
Joshua Allen Johnson, 24, Army National Guard Sergeant, Jan 25, 2006
David L. Herrera, 26, Army Sergeant, Jan 28, 2006
Brian J. Schoff, 22, Army Private 1st Class, Jan 28, 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006


Corrupt Republicans ! What Happened to the Champions of Moral Values ?

Chickens come home to roost
What goes around comes around. Time for Republican lawmakers to answer for what they have been doing since gaining control of both houses of Congress. They acted like they were invincible and could get away with openly pandering to those who contributed to their campaign chests, wined and dined them,offered free trips to play golf and skyboxes at ball games. For them there was no tomorrow, and to heck with constituents. The situation has changed. The Washington Post reports "In eight concise paragraphs, two moderate and two conservative House Republicans put into writing last week what they say many of their colleagues quietly fear: the GOP's plunging poll numbers, rising public support for a Congress controlled by Democrats and the increasing belief among voters that the Republican Party is corrupt."

So, there is panic among the Republicans. Serves them right. Lawmakers on the take,however, are not a rarity among Democrats. Let's hope that they will remember what is happening to the members across the aisle.


J.P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man

A Classic of our Times
The Ginger Man. I read it when I lived in India, read it again during a vacation in the west of Ireland, and just finished reading the book for the third time. Enjoyed every page. His first novel, Donleavy took years to complete it and had difficulty finding a publisher because of fear of backlash from the Catholic Church. Ribald, poignant, and scathing in its portrayal of the Catholics in Ireland, the book was published in 1955 by Olympia Press in Paris. Later, Donleavy decided to disassociate himself from Olympia Press due to its fame as a publisher of pornography. The book did cause a lot of controversy in and outside Ireland. It is on my list of ten books to take if I am banished to a deserted island.

Sebastian Dangerfield, Kenneth O'Keefe, Miss Frost, Percy Clocklan, Macdoon--unforgettable characters, all.

"Relax, Miss Frost."
"I didn't want to do this. I know I didn't want to."
"Yes, you did."
"I didn't, please, didn't."
Miss Frost turned away on her side, her body choked and sobbing.
"Miss Frost, God is all merciful."
"But it's a mortal sin which I have to confess to the priest and it's adultery as well."
"Please now, Miss Frost. Take hold of yourself. This won't do any good."
"It's adultery."
"One mortal sin is the same as another."
"I'm damned. It isn't."
"Do you want me to go?"
"Don't leave me alone."
"Don't cry. God's not going to condemn you. You're a good person. God's only after people who are out and out bastards, habitual sinners. You must be sensible."
"I'll have to give your name."
"You what ?"
"Your name. I'll have to tell it to the priest."
"What makes you think that ? Nonsense."
"He'll ask me."
"Not at all."
"He will. And they'll send the priest to my mother."
"Ridiculous. The priest's only there to forgive you your sins."
"Miss Frost, you've done this before."
"And they sent the priest to your mother?"
"And they asked the name of the man?"
Joseph Patrick Donleavy was born in New York in 1926. He went to Dublin to study at Trinity College and currently lives in a mansion called Levington Park, County Westmeath, near Mullingar, about 50 miles from Dublin. His works include A Singular Man, The Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman; The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B, and Fairy Tales of New York.

Upon being old ...
"It's not nice but take comfort that you won't stay that way forever."
J.P. Donleavy (from The Unexpurgated Code.)..

Ireland today is quite different than the one in which Donleavy wrote The Ginger Man. One thing has not changed much though. The Catholic Church in Ireland continues to be the most repressive in Europe. Difficult to understand why the Irish allow the church to intrude so deeply into their personal lives. But there are signs of waning influence of the church.

Trivia: According to a recent report, Johnny Depp will play the lead role in a movie based on The Ginger Man. Too bad that Maggie Smith and Deborah Kerr are both past the age to be considered for the part of Miss Frost.

"Lilly, why did you want me to do it this way?"
"O, Mr. Dangerfield, it's so much less of a sin."
---The Ginger Man

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Saints, Bigots, and Outright Fakes

Epliscopalians are considering nomination of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as a saint. "Delegates to the annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington will vote today on the proposal, the first step in a long process. If Marshall is added to the church's roster of saints, May 17 -- the date of the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that segregated schools are unconstitutional -- would be observed as Marshall Feast Day."

Don't know about being saintly, but from all accounts Justice Marshall was a good man. Wonder if this would set a trend. Are we going to see Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas nominated for sainthood ? G.W. Bush ? Holy mackerel ! Their supporters might find the idea worth pursuing.
The Lahore Marathon

Further to my post dated January 28th, stringent security measures prevented disruption of the event . The full marathon did not include women. Hundreds of women participated in a 10km (6.2 miles) mixed sex race. Bouquets to the Pakistani women. There was no mention of women runners in high heels or traditional garbs. "There are ways of following religion and this is not the way to follow religion, by telling women to stay off roads or not be able to participate in what they feel they want to do--Amina Sheikh, a participant"
"I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints: Sinners are much more fun."
---Billy Joel

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Marathoners and Mullahs in Lahore, Pakistan

Can The Mullahs Stop the Tide ?
Strange world. The BBC reports that in Lahore, Pakistan, Islamic hardliners are up in arms because women runners are among those who have registered to participate in a marathon on Sunday, January 29th. "We intend to put up peaceful resistance against the un-Islamic act of organising a mixed race, by making our presence felt all along the route Salman Butt,Protest leader. The six-party alliance of religious parties, the MMA, say they will go ahead with protests. "It is against our cultural, social and religious norms," Liaquat Baluch of the MMA said.

This is funny. "In May women's rights activists defied the ban by holding a symbolic one kilometre 'mini-marathon' in Lahore. Women participants wore traditional dress, the salwar kameez, and some wore high heels rather than running shoes."

One kilometre--that is 0.62 mile. Not enough to sweat and disturb the coiffures ! If Pakistani women take part dressed in Salwar-Kameez and high-heel shoes then the mullahs have nothing to worry. The women will not go far from the starting line. If they are serious about running a marathon and not taking part in a tamasha (show) then they should put on running gear, the mullahs be damned. As the Iraqi blogger says "Ya Habeebi".

Friday, January 27, 2006


Rapture - Evangelicals Heaven Bound

Still receiving applicants * Guns, violence and our youth
Read in Craig Unger's article in the December 2005 issue of Vanity Fair that "According to a Time/CNN poll from 2002, 59 percent of Americans believe the events in the book of Revelation will take place. There are as many as 70 million Evangelicals in the U.S.—about 25 percent of the population—attending more than 200,000 evangelical churches. Most of these churches are run by pastors who belong to conservative political organizations that make sure their flocks vote as a hard-right Republican bloc." That means the rest of us (41%) will be "left behind".

OK, I get the part about hard-right Republicans. The President is said to communicate with the almighty and Republicans have been busy bringing God into politics. It is hard to visualize the vengeful, intolerant God that they worship. Further into the article things become a little weird. One night, if you're awakened by a loud whooshing sound that would not be what the former presidential contender Ross Perot talked about. The sound would be of the Evangelicals being "caught up" -- swept up to heaven.
Perhaps Unger's article would persuade some of you to join the rapture movement before it is too late. If you are a Republican you'd get preference. In others the article might produce a yawn. Just think, heaven reserved for evangelical, Born Again Christians only. A few well-known ones: G.W. Bush, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, John Ashcroft.

Personally, I would be happy to see the Armageddon followers "vanish from the earth". I shall take my chances of being among the "left behind". Somehow the thought of spending eternity with a crowd of hard-right Republicans does not seem very appealing.
Boy Killed, Youth Charged,Washington Post

More: Gun Toting Delegate Misfires at Va. Capitol

Guns are so lovely. Good for killing and for orgasms, maybe.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Rain Clouds over the Malahat

Light rain is falling. The forecast is for showers the next four days. In recent weeks the forecasts for San Francisco Peninsula have been mostly accurate. I went out for a run last evening and saw clouds gathering over the foothills. For some odd reason, I thought of Victoria, BC. I was visiting British Columbia one summer many years ago. Strolling through downtown Victoria I found an empty bench across from a large department store and decided to spend some time people watching. Soon I had company. A man sat down next to me and said "Good afternoon". Looked like a street person but didn't hit me for a quarter. He didn't have a shopping cart full of personal belongings. You don't see them in Canada.....not yet. That might change as Stephen Harper begins Bushification of Canada. There was a coffee shop a few steps away. I bought two cups and offered my neighbor one. He smiled and lifted the paper cup. A few minutes later he stood up and said "See the clouds over the Malahat ? It is going to rain." He disappeared among the crowd of shoppers. That evening the rains came.

©Ian Britton http://www.freefoto.com/preview.jsp?id=15-45-10

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Google Rolled Over (or Got Rolled) In China

From the BBC: " Agreeing to block access to websites making reference to material which the Chinese government regards as sensitive - such as democratic reform and Taiwanese independence - will speed up the site - currently slowed down by Chinese-imposed filters - and offer Google a greater foothold in the burgeoning Chinese market.

"No to e-mail

"Google has acknowledged that its decision to launch in China will be seen as inconsistent with its mission to make information universally accessible but believes it has little choice.

"We don't want to risk becoming irrelevant or useless due to the way that our content is blocked or filtered currently," Google's senior policy adviser Andrew McLaughlin told the BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"We feel it is a step forward. Not a big step forward but a step forward. We understand that many people will find the decision either puzzling or objectionable," he said.

Hogwash, and Google knows it.

The Washington Post reported:


The Anne Turner Case - Death With Dignity


The decision by a British physician, Anne Turner, to end her life with the help of the Swiss organization Dignitas again highlighted the need for full legalization and availability of assistance in dying for all who voluntarily seek it.

Dr. Turner traveled to Zurich and sought Dignitas' help just before her 67th birthday.
Why do religious organizations and some physically handicapped people oppose euthanasia ? We, who support the right to have that option, do not want them to elect it. Oregon's law is a good example. In the seven years it has been in existence there has not been a single case of abuse. In fact, the safeguards built into the Death With Dignity Act make it well-nigh impossible to abuse it. Yet the zealots want to bar terminally ill people (some in intense pain and unable to move) from seeking a peaceful, dignified end.

If you are not a resident of Oregon and wish to avoid being hooked up to a life support system in case of terminal illness, be sure to execute an Advance Directive. The form can be downloaded, free, from Caring Connections.   AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) is another source.

Recommended reading:
How We Die : Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland,MD, Vintage Paperback
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, The MacMillan Co.
Final Exit by Derek Humphrey, Dell Publishing
Euthanasia and the Right to Die edited by A.B. Dowling, Peter Owen, London


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Bush, Abramoff, and Photo Opportunities

White House blocking release of photographs
Worried about something ? Guilt by association ! The president who never said no to a photo opportunity session to earn some points has become skittish about photographs that show him with Jack Abramoff in the good old days when Abramoff was a welcome visitor. "Several White House officials have been briefed about pictures of President Bush and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff taken since 2001 but will not release them on grounds that they are not relevant to the ongoing money-for-favors investigation, aides said yesterday."

Back to Outsourcing of Torture

European Nations were aware and cooperated. The Guardian (UK) reported details of Swiss Senator Dick Marty's presentation of findings to the Council of Europe. The news did not come as a surprise. For some days, bits and pieces have been emerging to indicate that major European countries were aware of CIA's "rendition" program and complicit. Shameful. One can understand Poland, Romania, Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgizstan among other countries being paid and pressured by the United States to set up detention centers. There was no excuse for leading European nations to participate in human rights abuse.
  • "The entire continent is involved. It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware."
  • His report said that "there is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture".

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Poems on a Sunday Morning

Time for a break from unpleasant subjects

Wright * Milward * Brautigan * Simpson * Mecklenburger

In Fargo, North Dakota, a man
Warned me that the river might rise
To flood stage again,
On the bridge, a girl hurries past me alone,
Unhappy face.
Will she pause in the wet grass somewhere ?
Behind my eyes she stands tiptoe, yearning
for confused sparrows
To fetch a bit of string and dried wheatbeard
To line her outstretched hand.
I open my eyes and gaze down
At the dark water.
---James Wright


I was down the field
finding foxgloves

When I returned
the front door was banging
and this was on the table
written in the dust

I chose the white jar
for the flowers
---Pamela Milward


"We are a coast people
There is nothing but ocean beyond us."
---Jack Spicer

I sit here dreaming
long thoughts of California
at the end of a November day
below a cloudy twilight
near the Pacific

listening to Mamas and The Papas
singing a song about breaking
somebody's heart and digging it !

I think I'll get up
and dance around the room.

Here I go !
---Richard Brautigan


Birch tree, you remind me
Of a room filled with breathing,
The sway and whisper of love.

She slips off her shoes;
Unzips her skirt; arms raised,
Unclasps an earring, and the other.

Just so the sallow trunk
Divides, and the branches
Are pale and smooth.
---Louis Simpson


Bric-a-brac shelf
on the pale kitchen wall,
Six spaces filled
with delicate, lonely things:
vases of miniature flowers--
lavender, pale orange and yellow;
a bronzed baby-shoe;
two jars--cranberry glass
and Dutch blue china.
Together, carefully dusted
they almost breathe.
---Ralph Mecklenburger


The first three are from "A First Reader of Contemporary American Poetry" edited by Patrick Gleeson ©1969 by Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co. The last two from "Since feeling is first", an anthology compiled by James Mecklenburger and Gary Simmons, Indiana University, 1971.

I picked up the volumes years ago at an used book store in Menlo Park, California.

Cold, sunny morning. Temp. about 60°F (15° C).

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Atrocities in East Timor

The U.S., France and Britain Participated
It happened under Democratic administration and under Republican. In December 1975 the Indonesians invaded the Island of East Timor, a former Portugese colony. The occupation lasted until 1999. We aided a dictator whose forces tortured and killed East Timorese who resisted. The world did not pay much attention to reports about atrocities being committed against the East Timorese by military and para-military Indonesian forces. U.S. and other major powers were fully aware of what was going on and continued to supply the Indonesians with military hardware and equipment. Now Timorese President Xanana Gusmao has submitted a report to the UN. "The 2,005-page report, which Gusmao delivered to Secretary General Kofi Annan, provided the most detailed account to date of Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of the island nation, a former Portuguese colony.

Washington Post:
  • The report, key portions of which were made available to The Washington Post, also charged Indonesia with using napalm against Timorese civilians and using "starvation as a weapon of war," condemning thousands of adults and children to death in camps for displaced Timorese.

  • "The commission finds that the government of Indonesia and the Indonesian security forces are primarily responsible and accountable for the death of 100,000 to 180,000 East Timorese civilians who died as a result of the Indonesian military invasion and occupation," said the report by the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, set up by the United Nations and East Timor in 2001.
  • The panel recommended that countries and companies that provided military support to Indonesia during the 24-year occupation, including the United States, Britain and France, pay reparations to those whose rights were violated. It also urged U.N. members to deny travel visas and freeze the assets of senior Indonesian officials, including former Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces commander in chief in 1999.

  • A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment, saying the report had not yet been formally presented.

Talk about Saddam Hussein and the Kurds !

Friday, January 20, 2006


Witch Hunting at UCLA

McCarthyism Redux * "Good Night and Good Luck"
Follow up to my post dated January 19th. The Guardian reported a number of resignations from the advisory board of the university alumni group responsible for ".......offering students money to police 'liberal' professors at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Can this be an isolated case of a few zealous party faithful getting carried away ? Unlikely. An ill wind fanned by right-wing conservatives is blowing across our country. "Good Night and Good Luck", the movie about the late Senator Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC, directed by George Clooney, depicts the corrosive effects of such actions. David Strathairn turned in a great performance as television reporter Edward Murrow of CBS. Great article on Murrow and the CBS by Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker, January 23/30, issue.


Oppose Samuel Alito -- Yes, the Democrats must

Filibuster ? * And, to add a light touch, a Classic Bushism
At this point it is a foregone conclusion that Judge Alito will soon replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at the Supreme Court. The Democrats will not be able to block the confirmation. The filibuster option should be considered as a matter of principle. But whether or not they decide on filibuster they should be unified in their opposition.

The confirmation hearings amply illustrated that when one party dominates Congress (it does not matter which party) the process becomes a mockery. The nominee dodged and weaved through the hearings. Senator Biden (D-Del),who did his own share of blathering during the hearings, was right in saying that:
From The President's Mouth, A Gem

"Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be — or closer delivered to what has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled." --explaining his plan to save Social Security, Tampa, Fla., Feb. 4, 2005

"....kind of muddled" ! That was an understatement. No wonder he gave up on his grand plan to privatize Social Security. He wanted Americans to buy a pig in a poke; they saw through him.

`I think I should understand that better,' Alice said very politely, `if I had it written down: but I can't quite follow it as you say it.'--Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Today Pornography, Tomorrow War Critics, then "Liberals"

The Bush Administration goes after Google
"In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up."
---Pastor Martin Niemoller (there are slightly different variations of what he said)

Now the moral values gang is after Google. An Associated Press report in the Post reads: SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Bush administration, seeking to revive an online pornography law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has subpoenaed Google Inc. for details on what its users have been looking for through its popular search engine.

Orwell's 1984 alive and well. The Guardian, UK, reports that a rightwing students' group in UCLA is offering payment for information about professors. "It is the sort of invitation any poverty-stricken student would find hard to resist. "Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? If you help ... expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Speaker Hastert's Game Plan for Lobbying Reform - Wide Loopholes

Cosmetic Changes Will Not Curb Abuses
House Republican leaders scrambling to introduce measures to impose restrictions on the relationships between members and lobbyists. Initial reports indicate that the proposed steps will fall far short of meaningful impact. Their actions are largely part of a PR campaign to make themselves look good before the mid-term elections. "According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington." Would the American voters be taken in by the farce ? No doubt some will. The Abramoff scandal has mostly tainted Republican members of Congress but it is a well-known fact that not all Democrats remain above the grasp of lobbyists. Real reform will require taking a deep look at campaign finance laws. There isn't much support for that among the elected representative, certainly not among Republicans.

Excerpts from Jeffrey Birnbaum's article in the Post:


“Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it's set a rolling it must increase.”
---Charles Caleb Colton (English sportsman and writer, 1780-1832)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Oregon's Death With Dignity Act Prevails - Viva Oregonians

Chief Justice Roberts Shows His Hands - A Sign of Things to Come
A major defeat for the Bush administration. The headline "Justices Uphold Oregon Assisted Suicide Law" warmed the cockles of my heart. Didn't take long to to find out where Chief Justice Roberts stands. The good Catholic joined the other conservative stalwarts in the Supreme Court to support the Bush administration's sneak attack--use of Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to prevent physicians in Oregon from prescribing drugs to terminally ill patients. The main reason, opposition of religious groups to such a measure, was not part of Gonzales v. Oregon, 04-623.

Washington Post:
  • The ruling struck down one of the administration's signature policies regarding what President Bush calls the "culture of life" and lifts the last legal cloud over the state's law, which is unique in the nation. It also frees other states to follow in Oregon's footsteps, unless Congress acts to the contrary.
The 6 to 3 vote is significant. It meant that, hypothetically, even if Alito took over the seat held by Justice O'Connor the decision would still have been in favor of the State of Oregon by a 5 to 4 margin.

Legislation for allowing physician assistance in dying is being considered in other states, including Vermont and California. The zealots would find it difficult to stop them.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Reed Swaying in the Wind and Victory for Michelle Bachelet

Ralph Reed * Michelle Bachelet Wins in Chile
Good news this morning. First, about Ralph Reed. The former executive director of Christian Coalition, and currently a contender for Lt. Governor's position in Georgia, is facing troubling questions about his connection with Jack Abramoff and money he received for his work on Indian casinos. Remember Hillary Clinton's "Woulda, coulda, shoulda" in defense of her profit in commodities trading ?
Reading about Michelle Bachelet's victory in Chile made me rejoice. Chile has come a long way from the days of military juntas (that the U.S. backed and aided). General Pinochet is facing trial. Ms. Bachelet, former political prisoner during Pinochet's regime, elected president. Felicitaciones, Chileans.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Mushrraf in the Middle

Between the proverbial 'rock and a hard place'
Can General Musharraf continue to have his cake and eat it too ? He played a master stroke by aligning with the United States immediately after 9/11. Not that he had much of a choice. It was that or risk being treated as a pariah. In view of Pakistan's proven role in the nuclear bazaar, if it did not offer full cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda it,too, would have faced retaliation. The General weighed things over and decided that between the wrath of hardline Islamic fundamentalists and that of the mighty United States he would rather deal with the fundos at home and hitch his star to America.

He got amply rewarded. The U.S. decided to accept his version of the A.Q. Khan story, that for years Dr. Khan almost singlehandedly carried out a secret operation to sell and export nuclear technology to rogue nations, including North Korea and Iran. Pakistan received loads of cash and military aid. The aid is still flowing.

The fundos, however, were not happy. Their discontent with Musharraf is well-known. There have been attempts on Musharraf's life. There are reports that Pakistan tacitly overlooks al-Qaeda acitvities along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It is difficult to maintain such a precarious balancing act but Musharraf has been successful until the recent airstrike at Damadola to kill Ayman al-Zawahri which resulted in the death of 17 civilians. al-Zawahri was not present when the target was hit. It was bad news for Musharraf. All Pakistanis, not only the fundos, were enraged by the botched operation and took to streets to demonstrate against America. Pakistan filed an offcial protest.

The wily Musharraf will survive. America needs his help. U.S. aid to Pakistan might be increased to appease Musharraf and the people of Pakistan but the United States will not be deterred from striking at a target if and when intelligence is received about terrorists taking shelter at any location. The neocons in America are fundos in pinstripes. They will not let Musharraf off the hook before extracting their pound of flesh. Musharraf knows it; the Pakistanis ought to take a pragmatic view of the real world. Pakistan lacks a viable alternative to Musharraf. Better Musharraf than a Koran quoting mullah or return of corrupt Bhutto and her husband.
"My enemy's enemy is my friend."
---A Middle-Eastern maxim

Saturday, January 14, 2006


India's Girl Deficit - Gender Based Foeticide

The Skeleton in the Closet cannot be kept hidden
The Indian Medical Association disputed the report by BBC,January 10th, that "....selective abortion was causing the loss of 500,000 girl births a year." However, the story has got legs. The Christian Science Monitor is carrying a report datelined New Delhi January 13, 2006 filed by Scott Baldauf. Since Mr. Baldauf's report was published after the Indian Medical Association's argument became known, one assumes that he and the CSM did due diligence before proceeding with it.

Additional comments: "A dark side of India - Female Infanticide"


Den of Thieves

Always available, always ready...to sell us down the river
Fallout from Jack Abramoff's plea bargain continues. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is reported to be concerned about chairmanship of the House Administration Committee by Robert Ney (R-Ohio). These are the same jokers who lead the move to change names of french fries and french toast to freedom fries and freedom toast in the House cafetaria to retaliate against the French Government's refusal to support the war against Iraq. Jonathan Weisman in the Post: "Ney was not named in Abramoff's plea agreement, but his staff has said he is the lawmaker identified in the court documents as "Representative #1." Abramoff acknowledged that he and former partner Michael Scanlon gave the lawmaker gifts including expense-paid trips to the Super Bowl, golf outings in Scotland, concerts and campaign contributions."

Are Speaker Hastert's hands clean ? He must have had blinkers on not to be aware of what was going on in his shop.

Friday, January 13, 2006


A Bumper Year for Wild Mushrooms

Mother of all Chanterelles * Los Trancos Trail * Buckeye Creek
Conditions (rains, temperature) must be right. AC and I went foraging for mushrooms a few times and came back with bags full. We usually pick chanterelles and avoid others. I have occasionally found oyster mushrooms on trunks of trees. They,too, are safe and edible. But the yellow chanterelles are what we look for under oak and redwood trees.

Part of a day's haul © RS

I cook risotto with chanterelles. Chanterelles, with diced potato, onions and thyme, also make excellent soup. You can add cream to give it richness; I use Half and Half. They are great, simply sauteed in butter with chopped chives and put on toasted french bread. And always good with eggs--scrambled or in an omelette.

Buckeye Creek among Oak, Madrone, and Bay Laurel Trees © RS

JHL at Buckeye Creek, January 2006 © RS

Last week JHL and I went hiking up Los Trancos Trail in Foothills Park. We stopped for a picnic lunch alongside Buckeye Creek. The sound of running water was soothing. The air smelled fresh, the trees and shrubs full of lushness. On the way back I saw a glimpse of yellow that didn't look like leaves. Went down the bank and it was the mother of all chanterelles ! Huge. Weighed almost 10 oz.

Mother of all Chanterelles © JHL
"Nothing exists; all things are becoming"
---Reiho Masunaga, The Soto Approach to Zen

Listening to: Billy's Bounce from the CD titled Tokyo '96, ECM Records 1998
Keith Jarrett - piano
Gary Peacock- bass
Jack DeJohnette - drums

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Need a laugh - read "Alito's agenda"

There are times when a small item can make one's day. Well, I'm talking about those who have an interest in politics, Bush, the Supreme Court and things of that sort.

Andy Borowitz in Newsweek:
  • The judge said that if confirmed as a justice of the United States Supreme Court, "I will continue my practice of not owning an agenda book and not knowing what I am doing."

And so it goes.



"Government For the People"---the 'K' Street People

Lawmakers with hands out and the pervasive Influence of Lobbyists
From The Washington Post: "Do I have K Street friends? Yes, I do," Boehner said. "Do I have relationships with them? Yes. And every one of them is an ethical relationship." Does he take us for fools ? Read more.

The lawmakers are going through contortions to prove that their hands are clean. The records tell us that it is a temporary phase. Once the dust from the Abramoff scandal settles they will be back doing what they do well--accept and grant favors. The only solution is drastic reform of campaign finance laws and that is not likely to happen.

Will Lester reported in the Post on January 7th about a recent AP-Ipsos poll which indicated that "........Americans are leaning toward wanting a change in which political party leads Congress _ preferring that Democrats take control........" Midterm elections are ten months away. If the wave of dissatisfaction with how Republicans handle the nation's business continues we might see Democrats back in control. That does not assure us of a clean government free from influence of 'K' Street but cleaner in comparison with what the rapacious Republicans have been doing. Drunk sailors ? But that is not a fair analogy. I have known many sailors, drunk and sober. I would prefer their company any day over that of a Republican legislator.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


A dark side of India - Female Infanticide

"India Loses 10 Million Female Births"
A report dated January 9th by the BBC sheds light on a heinous practice prevalent in India. "More than 10m female births in India may have been lost to abortion and sex selection in the past 20 years, according to medical research. Researchers in India and Canada for the Lancet journal said prenatal selection and selective abortion was causing the loss of 500,000 girls a year. Their research was based on a national survey of 1.1m households in 1998. The researchers said the "girl deficit" was more common among educated women but did not vary according to religion."
  • "Sex selective abortions have been banned in India for more than a decade."
  • "Although doctors in India must not tell couples the sex of a foetus, in practice, some just use coded signals instead, our correspondent says. "

  • "Last year the well-known religious leader and social activist, Swami Agnivesh, began a campaign across five northern and western states against female foeticide. "
  • "There's no other form of violence that's more painful, more abhorrent, more shameful," he said.
Ten million gender-selective abortions is an atrociously high number. According to CIA's World Factbook, India's population in July 2005 was estimated at 1,080,264,388.

While there should be no question about a woman's right to choose--voluntary abortion, women being forced to abort or women resorting to abortion under the social pressure of producing a male child is as despicable as the efforts by zealots to criminalize abortion here in the United States and the barbaric practice of genital mutilation of females (clitoral circumcision) that is followed in some Islamic countries.

Paradoxically, the BBC report goes on to say: "The sex ratio is so skewed in some states, men cannot find brides."

Indian men who support female foeticide are probably the ones who also insist on virgin brides when they get married. The way things are heading they will face the need to import women--if any are available and willing to marry them.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Iran and Nuclear Weapons - Did CIA provide them blueprints for a bomb ?

The State of War" by James Risen
The Guardian,UK: "George Bush insists that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. So why, six years ago, did the CIA give the Iranians blueprints to build a bomb? In an extract from his explosive new book, New York Times reporter James Risen reveals the bungles and miscalculations that led to a spectacular intelligence fiasco."


"In fact, just as President Bush and his aides were making the case in 2004 and 2005 that Iran was moving rapidly to develop nuclear weapons, the American intelligence community found itself unable to provide the evidence to back up the administration's public arguments. On the heels of the CIA's failure to provide accurate pre-war intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the agency was once again clueless in the Middle East. In the spring of 2005, in the wake of the CIA's Iranian disaster, Porter Goss, its new director, told President Bush in a White House briefing that the CIA really didn't know how close Iran was to becoming a nuclear power.

But it's worse than that. Deep in the bowels of the CIA, someone must be nervously, but very privately, wondering: "Whatever happened to those nuclear blueprints we gave to the Iranians?"

State of War by James Risen

State of War, by James Risen

Additional comments by Julian Borger, The Guardian.
"The operation, codenamed Merlin and approved by the Clinton administration, was intended to send Iranian scientists down a technological dead end, according to this account. They would spend years building a warhead which would fail to detonate. Instead, Risen writes, the operation may have helped Iran to "accelerate its weapons development" by extracting important information from the blueprints and ignoring the flaws."

And in Foggy Bottom "Rice Says Patience With Iran Waning", the Washington Post


"The bigger they are, the harder they fall"

Tom DeLay from Sugar Land,TX, aka the Exterminator, aka the Hammer
Despite his blustering, the snowballing effects of the past weeks--the decision by Jack Abramoff to plead guilty to three felony charges in particular--overwhelmed the former speaker of the House. Tom DeLay resigned his seat. Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post: "DeLay ends bid to regain post as GOP leader".
Ethics Issues Snared GOP's Champion

Washington Post
"It worked simply. On one side of the machine, a hose vacuumed the pockets of large corporations, wealthy individuals and legions of lobbyists on K Street, all instructed by DeLay to contribute only to Republicans. Out the other side, at some later date, came legislation of interest to many of the donors. Inside the machine, twisting its knobs and pulling its levers, was DeLay -- who was unabashed about his pay-to-play philosophy and relentless in enforcing his political rules."

Bad news for President Bush but DeLay's successor can be expected to do whatever is needed to please the White House. Tom DeLay will be busy consulting his lawyers and with court dates for some time. We haven't seen the last of him. If the GOP remains in power DeLay will surface as a lobbyist or in a conservative think tank, doing what he has always done--manipulating people and shepherding bills that benefit his backers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


The Televangelist and the Engineer - Candidates for Padded Cells

Televangelist Pat Robertson opened his big mouth and uttered another ludicrous opinion. Of course, to his disciples he speaks for God. Reverend Robertson suggested Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for the withdrawal of Israeli settlers in Gaza.

"You read the Bible: This is my land, and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he's going to carve it up and give it away, God says no, this is mine," he said.(BBC)

Whew....this guy was a contender for the presidency in 1988 ! Those of us who do not think highly of President Bush are lucky that the reverend is not in the White House.

But the reverend is in good company...President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (he holds a doctorate in engineering and transportation planning). The Seattle Times " WASHINGTON — The television evangelist Pat Robertson and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not agree on much, but both suggested Thursday that the severe illness of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was deserved."

"Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final," he was quoted by the Iranian press as saying Thursday.

Washington Post: "White House Denounces Robertson's Remarks on Sharon"

Fundos--Christians, Muslims--have the same mindset. Intolerant, arrogant people with warped visions.

Friday, January 06, 2006


How are things in President Bush's Iraq

Eleven American soldiers died in the first five days of 2006
Excerpts from the Riverbend blog. The author is a young Iraqi woman who lives in Baghdad.

Baghdad Burning
Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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