Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Eyeless in Samarra
Failure of the Bush-Blair Grand Plan * Is Blair A Bush Clone?*
The story of Aldous Huxley's 1955 book Eyeless In Gaza
,did not take place in Gaza, Palestine. The name, however, comes to my mind when I read about what is happening in Palestine and in Iraq. The major powers all played their hands and have no reason to be proud of their role. John Kaminski's article in rense.com
is noteworthy. Looking at images
of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, and reading about the violence raging in that land one sees another plot of the U.S. and the so called Coalition
gone awry. We had been playing sectarian politics after toppling Saddam Hussein and lost control of the game. Instead of a puppet regime at our beck and call we have unleashed a monster. Long simmering grudges between the Sunnis and Shias have broken out. As usual, there is a scramble to point the finger at those responsible for destruction of the mosque. Who are they? Sunni extremists? Kurds, insurgents belonging to al-Qaeda? Iraqis are killing each other and whoever else gets in their way. Iraqi civilians under stress of the invasion that began in spring of 2003 now face the dangers of a bloody, full-scale civil war.
From USA Today
- Democracy faces tests in Iraq, and at home, too In the 13 months since George W. Bush made the worldwide spread of democracy an obsession of his presidency, two compelling truths have emerged.
- One, the global expansion of democracy, American-style, is stalled in Iraq. The other, individual freedom--the cornerstone of the democratic ideal--is being eroded here and in Britain,where Tony Blair governs like a Bush clone.
We might never know the truth why Tony Blair
decided to hitch his star to the American president's misadventure in Iraq--to share in the perceived glory of a subjugated Middle East or a vision that appeared when he was praying with George Bush. But whatever the reason he certainly didn't think of being described in history books as "a Bush clone".
In the meantime, news
from Baghdad makes dismal reading.BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.
A stark example of the pitfalls when we invade a country to bring freedom and democracy in the style of G.W. Bush. Read what Iraqi bloggers have to say: Baghdad Burning
Feb.23, 2006 Raed In The Middle
Monday, February 27, 2006
Plan B Battle Line Shifts to States
There they go again. The Neanderthals are doing their thing--protecting morality of women. These are the same virtuous people who oppose women's right to choose abortion under any circumstances and sex education that includes teaching use of contraceptives! Message to women: Don't have sex unless you want to be pregnant. Pray and take cold showers. And they conveniently have no memory of what they did when they were young. The Taleban mentality alive and well in the red states
. The Post: "Expand or restrict access
". More than 60 bills have been filed in state legislatures already this year, and that follows an already busy 2005 session on emergency contraception. The resulting tug of war is creating an availability map for the pill that looks increasingly similar to the map of "red states" and "blue states" in the past two presidential elections -- with increased access in the blue states and greater restrictions in the red ones.
- The FDA's inaction on Plan B has been sharply criticized by most major medical societies and many in Congress, and led to a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. The federal magistrate judge hearing the case on Friday concluded that the center had established a "strong preliminary showing of 'bad faith or misbehavior' " on the part of FDA officials, and so ordered the case to go forward and ruled that top current and past FDA leaders should be interviewed under oath.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Tolls of War - In Midwest and In Iraq
A Veteran in Joliet,IL * A Music Store Owner Who Died in Baghdad*
It has become commonplace, news
about deaths and injuries in Iraq. We read about the casualties; we hear of them. After a while it fails to have the same impact that it once did unless....unless you happen to know one of the victims. War and its effects are dehumanizing. Yet, once in a while you come across items that make you pause and think. They cause deep sadness even if you didn't know the individuals.
"When David Adams came back from Iraq, the war followed him home. Adams is from Joliet, Illinois. He was a specialist in the 101st Airborne from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, destined to be in the military.
That is how I felt about David Adams of Joliet,IL, who returned home with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and an Iraqi named Alan (Elin) who was shot and killed by insurgents when they kidnapped Jill Carroll
, a free-lance journalist working for The Christian Science Monitor. Alan was acting as interpreter for Jill Carroll.
"My father had served in the Marines. My mother's father served in World War Two in Patton's army. All my uncles and cousins, they've all served," said Adams.
Adams was serving when the US went to war with Iraq in 2003. "We were told this thing about winning the hearts and minds of the people and one of the way we can win the hearts and minds is to give them a bottle of water and throw candy to the kids," said Adams.
Their orders were to keep the convoys moving through every village. Do not stop for any reason. That included one April morning. "Out of the left corner of my eye, I can see a child start to run across the street," remembered Adams.
Adams continued, "She was a little girl, probably about 5 or 6 years old, and as she is running across the street, she's not looking where she's going. She's just a kid and she gets run over by a truck. I would say there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her."
Riverbend, author of Baghdad Burning
, wrote on January 12th about Alan, the record seller."Thank You for the Music...
When I first heard about the abduction of Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll a week ago, I remember feeling regret. It was the same heavy feeling I get every time I hear of another journalist killed or abducted. The same heavy feeling that settles upon most Iraqis, I imagine, when they hear of acquaintances suffering under the current situation.
I read the news as a subtitle on tv. We haven't had an internet connection for several days so I couldn't really read about the details. All I knew was that a journalist had been abducted and that her Iraqi interpreter had been killed. He was shot in cold blood in Al Adil district earlier this month, when they took Jill Carroll... They say he didn't die immediately. It is said he lived long enough to talk to police and then he died.
I found out very recently that the interpreter killed was a good friend- Alan, of Alan's Melody, and I've spent the last two days crying.
Everyone knew him as simply 'Alan', or "Elin" as it is pronounced in Iraqi Arabic. Prior to the war, he owned a music shop in the best area in Baghdad, A'arasat. He sold some Arabic music and instrumental music, but he had his regular customers - those westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music. For those of us who listened to rock, adult alternative, jazz, etc. he had very few rivals.
It hit me then that it wasn't the music that made Alan's shop a haven- somewhere to forget problems and worries- it was Alan himself.
He loved Pink Floyd:
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we
Had to run for shelter when the
Promise of a brave, new world
Unfurled beneath the clear blue sky?
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on.
Goodbye, blue sky
Goodbye, blue sky.
(Goodbye Blue Sky - Pink Floyd)
Alan is gone, leaving behind a wife and two children. Jill Carroll's captors had threatened to kill her unless the U.S. met their demands by today, Sunday-Feb.26. Her fate is not known. The demands are "unspecified". For David Adams and others like him it is an uphill battle. Hope they are receiving the care they need to return to the life they knew before the war. *****
Saturday, February 25, 2006
South Dakotan Legislators and HB1266
Assault on Roe v. Wade
(Before sex)"Dennis: Look, even if you did get pregnant, I'd marry you.Odette: Do you believe in centralized government or states' rights ?Dennis: What?Odette: I just want to know the kind of guy I'm marrying.Dennis: I'm starting to get the distinct impression you don't want to do this anymore."From Sarah Kernochan's 1998 film "Strike"(also released as "All I Wanna Do")
A report by Chet Brokaw,AP, in the Washington Post
states: "Gov. Mike Rounds (R) said he is inclined to sign the bill, which would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it is necessary to save the woman's life. The measure would make no exception in cases of rape or incest."
What a chaste group of people with high moral values! Are they, really? Are we to believe that they grew up without indulging in pre-marital sex? That they waited for holy matrimony before their first sexual experience? May be they didn't even masturbate. Just prayed or took a cold shower when they got the urge. Possible? Give them the benefit of the doubt...some might. The more likely explanation is that all of them indulged in youthful indiscretions
--- the terminology made famous by G.W. Bush during his 2000 presidential campaign. That could cover a gamut of what the holy rollers consider sinful, immoral activities. Then one day they saw the light and decided not to allow anyone else to engage in them. Just say "No" to sex. Power is an aphrodisiac. The modern day Torquemadas in South Dakota are charged up. Praise the Lord and do it in the missionary position...any other is taboo.
The issue is bound to head for the Supreme Court on a fast track. It would be interesting to see how the justices, especially Roberts and Alito, who spoke about respect for "precedence" during their confirmation hearings, vote.
Here is an item to lighten up a little. After reading about the hypocrites in South Dakota one needs something that is more earthly.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Unwanted pregnancies Happen...Even in S. Dakota
That is fact. South Dakota is not an exception to the rule. Women of South Dakota are no more immune to unwanted pregnancies than women in other states. Therefore, one has to wonder about the women and men of South Dakota who approved a draconian legislation barring the option of abortion to women who might face an unwanted pregnancy. "The measure, which passed the state Senate 23 to 12, makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The proposal still must be signed by Gov. Mike Rounds (R), who opposes abortion."
According to Rapid City Journal
passed the House 54-15 and the Senate approved the bill 25-10. It faces challenges before it can take effect.
- During debate on the measure Tuesday, Sen. David Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, tried unsuccessfully to change the measure so it would allow victims of incest or rape to obtain abortions.
- Knudson said the state should not force victims of rape or incest to bear the extra burden of continuing a pregnancy. The bill also is flawed because the Legislature unconstitutionally delegates its authority by allowing a court to decide when the law takes effect, he said.
- Schoenbeck said the state needs to take action against abortion, and he said very few abortions involve rape or incest.
- "We lose 800 children a year in South Dakota. Those are 800 South Dakotans lost to the horrendous act of abortion," Schoenbeck said. "Almost all of those children die for convenience sake."
What about the other side...there is always a "other" side. What takes place after the birth? What will the State do for the mothers of who are not permitted to have abortion? What will the State do for the infants? Did the legislators ask themselves what if it happened to their daughters, their sisters, or their colleagues? Perhaps they did and felt secure enough to disregard it. Paradoxically, the same people who are against abortion under any circumstances also oppose sex education and contraception! Made me think of the slogan on belt buckles worn by Hitler's soldiers "Gott mitt uns
" (God is with us). There are three women in the SD Senate and 13 women members in the House.*****
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The Political Landscape
Feb.20, 2006, issue of Newsweek
contains an interview with Robert Redford. "What's the political landscape look like to you today?" "Now you pick up the paper and there's a Watergate every day. I don't think anyone's connecting the dots and saying to the public, "Wake up, folks, because you could end up in a totalitarian nightmare, wondering what happened to your country
." What is happening to our country? Well, for one thing the president and his cohorts are busy doing what they are good at---subverting the rights of the people. Following from Reuters
- "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies have been secretly removing from public access at the National Archives thousands of historical documents that were available for years, The New York Times reported on Monday.
- The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the CIA and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton, the Times said on its Web site.
- The secret program accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the September 11 attacks, according to archives records, the paper said.
- It came to light after intelligence historian Matthew Aid noticed dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves, the Times said.
- Under existing guidelines, government documents are supposed to be declassified after 25 years unless there is a particular reason to keep them secret.
- Some historians say the program is removing material that can do no conceivable harm to national security and note that some of the documents have been published by the government, the Times said.
They keep using the tragic events of 9/11 like a cash cow.*Threat of Veto - President has a Hot Potato in His Hands
Bipartisan opposition to the proposed deal
to permit a firm from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, take over management of six major U.S. sea ports means a problem for the president. No wonder he has threatened a veto. If he fails to twist the arms of Republican lawmakers to support the deal then he might be forced to exercise his first veto. Would it be sustainable?The AAAS Comes Out in Support of EvolutionThe American Association for Advancement of Science
, at its annual meeting in Missouri,aligned itself on the side of evolution. "Teaching the idea threatens scientific literacy among schoolchildren, it said." The fundos are sure to counterattack and they have a friend in the White House.
The Chasm between What We Say and What We Do
Where is the moral high ground? Almost 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, according to US group Human Rights First
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
"The Left Hand of God"
*"Where the Violence Comes From"
Michael Lerner is editor of the bi-monthly Tikkun
magazine and rabbi of Beyt-Tikkun Synagogue in San Francisco. Tikkun is described as a "Jewish" magazine but it is much more that. Rabbi Lerner's outspoken voice for peace and justice has made him a controversial figure. His new book "The Left Hand of God,Taking Back Our Country From The Religious Right
" is certain to aggravate Christian zealots. The book is very timely. When a religious group (any religious group) receives support of the government in power in carrying out its goals then the resultant combination spells ill for the rest of the population and abuses take place. Such a situation strikes at the very heart of democracy. We must not quietly surrender to the wave of bigotry currently gaining force in America. A review
of the book by Rev. Ed Bacon of the All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California, appeared in the Los Angeles Times
on February 19th.
Here is a link to Rabbi Lerner's speech at American Academy of Religion*****
Sunday, February 19, 2006
The Mother of All Assumptions - $1.35 Trillion in the Bush Budget
Smoke and Mirrors With Our Money*
Of Course, El Jefe will be gone in three and half years and playing golf or killing rattle snakes in Crawford,TX, or whatever that turns him on. But our children and grand children will be paying through their nose for the parting gift for his friends that he has sneaked into his budget. The subservient Republicans in the House are likely to approve it. In the Senate it might run into some opposition. David Broder's column Trillion-Dollar Gimmick
in the Post reveals the dirty ploy. It will make you weep unless you happen to be in the top 1% of the tax bracket--the targeted group that reaped most of the benefits.
- In fact, this analysis says, "The administration's proposal, by changing the rules after the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were enacted but before they are extended, would ensure that the cost of continuing the tax cuts in the years after the current sunset dates would never be counted. The costs in those years were not counted when the tax cuts were first enacted. . . . Now, the administration is proposing that the tax cuts for those years also be ignored when the tax cuts are extended. To fail ever to count the cost of the tax cuts in the years after the sunset dates . . . would represent one of the largest and most flagrant budget gimmicks in recent memory."
- How large? The Congressional Budget Office scores the cost of making these tax cuts permanent at $1.6 trillion over the next decade. The administration's estimate is somewhat less -- $1.35 trillion.
- But, the folks at the OMB told me, it's wrong to claim that they are hiding that cost. They told me to get out my copy of the budget, and they told me right where to look. And sure enough on Column 8, Line 11 of Table S-7 on Page 324 of the green-bordered book, I found the very figure they had cited -- $1.35 trillion.
- The heading on the chart of Effects of Proposals on Receipts reads: "Make Permanent Certain Tax Cuts Enacted in 2001 and 2003 (assumed in the baseline)." Those last four words conceal more than a trillion dollars worth of lost revenue.
Wars Past and Present and Books that Portray the Dark Side
We are now at war. To some of us it is an utterly senseless war in which almost 2300 American soldiers have lost their lives. Many more will die before it ends. The number of injured is close to 8000. And we have killed more than 30,000 Iraqi civilians in this war to bring them "freedom". The lists of casualties make it starkly clear that majority of our soldiers are in their twenties. It makes me sick to read names of 18 and 19-year old dead soldiers. A war based on lies and deceptions perpetrated by people in high positions, among them a president who avoided serving in Vietnam and a vice-president who took five deferments from the draft. George F. Will (not one of my favorites) wrote a great column on February 15th in the Washington Post about the abuse of power: "No Checks, Many Imbalances
The list of books is far from complete. I have read most, not all of them. In researching anti-war fiction I came across the classics: "All Quiet On The Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque and "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo--both about World War I. Other notable titles:
Under Fire - Henri Barbusse
Three Soldiers - John Dos Passos
The Good Soldier Svejk - Jaroslav Hasek
World War II
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
Slaughterhouse Five (or The Children's Crusade) - Kurt Vonnegut
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Fires on the Plain - Shohei Ooka, translated by Ivan Morris
The Naked Pioneer Girl - Mikhail Kononov
Going After Cacciato - Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien. More like a memoir than fiction.
A Rumor of War - Philip Caputo
The Sorrow of War - Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmost and Phan T. Hao
Gardens of Stone - Nicholas Proffitt*
A new, non-fiction book about Iraq.
The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq *****
"Once and for all the idea of glorious victories won by the glorious army must be wiped out. Neither side is glorious. On either side they're just frightened men messing their pants and they all want the same thing - not to lie under the earth, but to walk upon it - without crutches."---Peter Weiss*
"NATIONAL DEFENSE, n. In U.S. political discourse: 1) The pauperization of the nation through expenditures for deadly weapons systems; 2) The bombardment and invasion of small countries. The United States is, of course, the only nation entitled to such 'defense.' If the inhabitants of other countries resist the U.S. government's 'defensive' measures, they become guilty of 'internal aggression'; and if governments of other countries practice U.S.-style national defense, they become guilty of 'naked aggression.'"(U.S. government spokesmen repeatedly used the Orwellian term 'internal aggression' during the 1960s when referring to the resistance of the Vietnamese to the U.S. occupation of their country.)
—Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries ("American Heretic's Dictionary" section)
Saturday, February 18, 2006
God and Politics - Mid-Term Elections, GOP, and Soldiers of Christ
reported that the Republican Party's efforts to obtain church directories in North Carolina has caused consternation in some quarters. "The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.
" The GOP's action fits in very well with what it has been doing for some years. The Republicans found out that it paid to wear your religion on your sleeves. All of a sudden they became devout Born Again Christians, champions of bigotry, full of zeal to demolish the barrier between church and state. Their attempts to cull church directories to look for supporters and volunteers should not surprise any one.
- During the 2004 presidential race, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a similar request to Republican activists across the country. It asked churchgoers not only to furnish church directories to the campaign, but also to use their churches as a base for political organizing.
- The tactic was roundly condemned by religious leaders across the political spectrum, including conservative evangelical Christians. Ten professors of ethics at major seminaries and universities wrote a letter to President Bush in August 2004 asking him to "repudiate the actions of your re-election campaign," and calling on both parties to "respect the integrity of all houses of worship."
And so it goes.*****
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Violent Protests Over Cartoons Continue
Denmark in The Center of the Cauldron * Anti-Semitism in Arab Press*
Five people reported to have died in Pakistan
in violent demonstrations against publications of cartoons about Prophet Mohammed. Are the demonstrations spontaneous? Not according to reports. For some reason it is not hard to incite mobs in that part of the world. If it is not satire about the prophet it would be something else. People should be free to demonstrate against acts that are rightly or wrongly taken as disrespect to deeply held beliefs. There is nothing wrong about boycotts of good and services from countries that are deemed responsible. But arson and looting are despicable acts. Loss of lives cannot be justified, even if the dead are considered by some as martyrs for a holy cause.
Denmark, where it all began, and other European nations who are the targets of Islamic rage, face a difficult situation. But if they capitulate where would it all end? The BBC
reported: "Blatantly anti-Semitic literature is on sale in Cairo, just like many other Arab capitals. The BBC News website's Martin Patience reports on the apparent inconsistency in the Egyptian reaction to the Danish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad."
Cartoons are a form of satiric expression. No more, no less. One can argue about good taste or lack thereof in what cartoonists might use as subject but that is no justification to muzzle them. Above all, editorial policy must never be discriminatory. If the prophet is fair game, so must be the pope and Virgin Mary. From The Washington Post
: "But the scope of the fallout tells only one story. The debate over the cartoons is replete with unintended consequences, some still taking shape this week. On one side is a defense of freedom of expression, on the other an unforgivable insult to a sacred figure. In between are potentially longer-lasting repercussions: a rethinking of relations between Europe and the Muslim world, and a rare moment of empowerment among Muslims who have felt besieged. Given the moral certainty pronounced by each party, some in the middle feel forced to take sides, blurring the diversity of religious thought that might offer grounds for compromise.
It is odd that the war against Iraq, in which thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, does not arouse Muslims to protest with the same degree of passion. Although no Islamic country joined the Coalition of the Willing
as active partner, some tacitly provided support by allowing bases and overflights. "Denmark was among the first countries to join the Coalition of the Willing.
" With the facts that are now known about the lies and deception used to form the Coalition
, Danes have reason to be ashamed of their role in the war but not for publication of the cartoons.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The Shot Heard Around the World - Stonewalling Fails
The Veep Under Siege * Breaking News: Cheney to be Interviewed
Imaginary conversation. Cheney to Whittington: "I hope we'll still be friends". Don't bet on it. Strange, how efforts by the White House and VP's office to keep a lid on this story managed to do just the opposite. Another example of their arrogance and excessive concern about secrecy. Serves them right. Gloves are off and the media has smelled blood in the water. Howard Kurz in the Post
: "Okay, other than the fact that the comics haven't had so much fun since President Bush choked on a pretzel. (Letterman: "We can't get Bin Laden, but we nailed a 78-year-old attorney.
According to Reuters
"Cheney will be interviewed by Fox News at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT), White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters. The interview will not be aired live."
Trust him to select a friendly
news service. Think soft balls. Would that mean the end of it. Not likely.*****
Monday, February 13, 2006
"The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"
VP Cheney Shoots his hunting buddy * Saint Patrick, Fitzgerald the Dragon Slayer*
Remember the hilarious novel "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" by Jimmy Breslin
? It came to my mind when I read that Vice President Cheney
accidentally shot one of his buddies during a quail hunting trip in Texas. The good news is that the victim, a Mr. Whittington, is doing fine. Lately nothing has gone right for the neocons who started the misadventure in Iraq. But the leaders who dodged Vietnam are charging ahead, blustering and lying. The death toll for U.S. soldiers: 2267, including 25
who have died this month.*Plamegate Invesigation Refuses to Die
Republicans, including the Strangelovian VP Cheney probably curse the day when Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed as special prosecutor to investigate the leaking of information about Valerie Plame. Just imagine what would have happened if the smarmy John Ashcroft remained in charge of the investigation. Mr. Firzgerald is quite different than the other special prosecutor whose office leaked like a sieve and who revelled in appearing in front of TV cameras. No one knows how it will end but "Scooter" Libby has already talked about the VP's role and Karl Rove is still a part of the investigation. Uneasy nights for them? You bet. Perhaps the vice president had a bad night before the hunting accident. The Guardian
(UK) carried a special report on Patrick Fitzgerald.
- But for now, Plamegate remains open. The powerful still dread a phone call from his office. 'He has been walking on soft-boiled eggs so far and he is still doing it well. I don't think the White House is off the hook,' Mikva said.
- Some think they see Fitzgerald planting the seed of a political career. One day, they believe, he may run for the governorship of Illinois, a possible springboard for the presidency. Others dismiss that as nonsense, but see him as the next head of the FBI. Then the Untouchable would be the lawman for all America. Yet perhaps Fitzgerald is just that rarest of people: an honest man in Washington. 'The mystery is there is no mystery. He has a finely honed sense of right and wrong, that's all,' said Jay Stewart.
- If so, he might want to consider a saying from the French essayist Charles Peguy: 'The honest man must be a perpetual renegade.' The strange and growing list of Scooter Libby, Abdel-Rahman, Osama bin Laden, Conrad Black, the Gambino family, and perhaps even President Bush himself can all attest that the Untouchable has fulfilled that brief so far.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Faith, Officers, and Cadets - Evangelicals at the Rudder
The Air Force Academy * Year of the Dog begins for the Chinese*
In Round II, evangelical Christians won back most of the ground they had lost in 2005 after complaints were voiced about overt promotion of Christian faith at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. "Air Force eases rules on religion" is the caption of a report in today's Washington Post
. "The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths. The original wording sought to tamp down religious fervor and to foster tolerance throughout the Air Force. It discouraged public prayers at routine events and warned superior officers that personal expressions of faith could be misunderstood as official statements."
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based group whose investigation of the Air Force Academy helped spark the controversy last year, said the revisions "focus heavily on protecting the rights of chaplains, while ignoring the rights of nonbelievers and minority faiths."
- Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, an Albuquerque lawyer who is suing the Air Force over its policy on religion, questioned the sentence allowing commanders to share their faith when it is "reasonably clear" that they are speaking personally, not officially.
- "Reasonably clear from whose perspective, the superior's or the subordinate's?" asked Weinstein, a 1977 Air Force Academy graduate. "When a senior member of your chain of command wants to speak to you 'reasonably' about religion, saying 'Get out of my face, sir!' is not an option."
Read about snow storm in Washington,DC. For us in the San Francisco Bay area, it is somewhat foggy. Temp. in the low 50's F (11°C). The fog will clear by noon and the sun will be out. The forecast is for more of the same the next few days. Good for outdoor activities--pottering in the yard, walks, runs. Many of us will do just that. Last evening the annual parade to mark the beginning of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Dog) took place in San Francisco. It was a great success in terms of the pagentry and participation. To my Chinese friends: Gung Hay Fat Choy.*****
Saturday, February 11, 2006
A Cartoon, Not about Prophet Mohammed but our eloquent President
It was time to ramp up the threat of terrorists. The President used a tried and tested ploy. Steve Bell of the Guardian created one of his masterly cartoons about the president's speech.
©Steve Bell 2006
The speech, however, failed to do the president much good. He has played that card so often that it is beginning to lose its power.
Former President H.W. Bush miffed about attacks on son at Mrs King's funeral. Hah. Tunnel vision or what! When it comes to slander and dirty tricks, the Republicans wrote the book. (CBS) Former President George H.W. Bush has expressed dismay and anger at attacks on his son, President Bush, at the funeral for Coretta Scott King.
Friday, February 10, 2006
The New Face of "Reform" Is Old Face With Makeover
Addicts and Pushers, Part II * The Freedom Fries Gang*
We have been hearing and reading a lot about "reform" in Congress as we know it. Elected legislators, especially Republicans, are concerned about the impact of scandals on the mid-term elections. They are making appropriate noises and putting up the usual dog and pony shows which they are adept at doing. But meaningful reform? Forget it. Not going to happen. Read what Newsweek
has to say about the newly elected majority leader. "Only in Washington could an old pro like Boehner, an eight-term congressman with close ties to Washington's K Street lobbying culture, be seen as the fresh face of reform. Boehner's ever-present George Hamilton tan gives him the look of a man forever coming back from vacation. He does get around: over the years, he has made the most of controversial rules allowing members to accept free trips to luxury retreats around the world. Since 2000, Boehner has taken more than $150,000 worth of junkets paid for by private interests—ranking him in the top 10 of all members of Congress."
The lawmakers have become addicted to freebies and the lobbyists are there to feed their habits. Changes, if any, are going to be cosmetic. Corruption is dead, no....long live corruption. The lawmakers will continue to chew, slurp and cut deals with those who pick up the tabs. The constituents can go pound salt. Remember, it is the same gang that gave us Freedom Fries
. They spend their time occupied with important matters like fried potatoes and photo opportunities.
"Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. "
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Season of Rabble-Rousers
In some parts of the world it does not take much to incite violence. There are people blinded by faith who are too willing to be lead by mullahs or priests into the streets to burn or pillage when they perceive their faith to be under attack. Consider the current turmoil over the cartoons published in Jyllands-Posten
in Denmark. Are there Christians, Hindus and Jews who would have been offended by caricature of their faith? Yes, certainly. Would they have gone on a rampage? That is questionable. Not that some among them would not have wanted to. Bigots exist among followers of all faiths but if they lived in a democratic society they would not have been permitted to cause the mayhem in which the Muslims are engaged in. Then there are others for whom it is an opportunity to vent their anger over issues that are unrelated to the offending cartoons. Griff Witte writes in the Washington Post
: "Furor over the caricatures of Islam's most revered figure may have triggered the wave of recent demonstrations among Muslims worldwide. But as the protests escalate, they are morphing into an opportunity for individuals, groups and governments to push agendas that often have little or nothing to do with defending Islam. Rallies ostensibly held for religious reasons have become chances to vent economic frustrations, settle local scores or gain political leverage."
Rabble-rousers are making full use of communication technology to keep the flames alive. "COPENHAGEN, Feb. 8 -- Mohammad Fouad Barazi, a prominent Muslim cleric here, received a text message on his cell phone last week. It was a mass mailing from an anonymous sender, he said, warning that Danish people were planning to burn the Koran that Saturday in Copenhagen's City Hall Square out of anger over Muslim demonstrations against Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad."
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
"Weapons of misdirection"
Another day, another photo opportunity *
The president, who during his first term never addressed the NAACP, went to Lithonia, GA, on February 7th to attend the funeral of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Reports mentioned that he went to mend fences with the black community. Whatever the reason, his absence would have been glaring and so he was there and took his place among former presidents, H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The president's speech was received with polite applause. "The Rev. Joseph Lowery, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, drew a standing ovation when he criticized the war in Iraq, saying, 'There were no weapons of mass destruction over there.' 'For war, billions more, but no more for the poor,' Lowery added as Bush sat behind him on the speaker's platform."
Former president Jimmy Carter, who has been critical of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program, pointed out that King and her husband, the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., were targets of a "secret government surveillance" at the height of the civil rights movement.
There are no longer any questions about President Bush's beliefs and priorities. Lithonia was yesterday. Now it is back to Washington and business as usual.*****
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The Nuclear Club and Iran
cover story about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
of Iran makes interesting reading. One can understand that the UN and super powers are distrustful of his statement that "he does not want nuclear weapons"
. The nations known to possess nuclear weapons are: USA, UK, Russia (former USSR), France, China, India, and Pakistan. Pakistan
was actively involved in exporting nuclear technology to rogue nations, including Iran, Libya, and N. Korea, but it is now one of our allies in the war against terror; all past sins forgiven. The US readily accepted Pakistan's explanation that it was Dr. A.Q. Khan, head of the nuclear weapons program, who single-handedly carried out the technology exports ! For some mysterious reasons possession of nuclear weapons by Israel
is not mentioned by members of the nuclear club. Israel is, unofficially, a member. Wink wink, nod nod. It is the old "my enemy's enemy is my friend
" kind of thing. So, can Ahmadinejad be trusted ? Perhaps not but he is not the only fanatic currently in power as head of a state. There are many others.*****
Monday, February 06, 2006
Cartoons Are Cartoons
Martin Rowson's cartoon
Amazing, the turmoil in the Islamic world about the cartoons that first appeared in Jyllands Posten
, Denmark, in September 2005. What do we know about the press in predominantly Muslim nations and its treatment of other people's faiths ? How does it deal with Christians, Jews, Hindus ? The Muslims don't have to look at cartoons that depict the prophet; they can stop buying the publications; they can stop advertising in them. But what they are doing and demanding cannot and must not be condoned. Burning of embassies
will not advance their cause. European governments should not surrender to frenzied mobs. Censorship, whether mandated or self-imposed, is a slippery slope.
in today's Guardian
, UK, is very telling.*****
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Needed, Movies About War In Iraq
Where are the film makers ?*
Notable anti war films
"America's wars do not happen just to Americans
." The Guardian
, UK, published an item that caught my attention. Richard Williams wrote mainly about the film Loin du Viêt-Nam
(Far from Vietnam) recently released in London. He mentioned Sam Mendes' film Jarhead
(2005), about the first Gulf war and ".....how muted the opposition to the present war in Iraq has been, by comparison with the chorus of anger that eventually helped to undermine the American government's belligerence
". Very true. There is no dearth of talent, and there is strong feeling among millions of people in America and abroad about the unjustified war against Iraq. Yet there has not been any notable film about the war. There is need for movies that depict the horrors, the grief of families who have suffered directly and indirectly from this war both here in the United States and in Iraq. Members of the "Coalition" were conned, bullied or paid to support the war. The hoax called "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and its costs must be exposed, and movies can have greater impact on people than reports in print media and on television. The numbers as of February 2nd: U.S. Soldiers - dead 2249 Injured 7683; Iraqi civilians - dead 28293 (Min.) 31900 (Max). Financial cost - $440 billion
and climbing. The Bush and Blair
cabal foisted this war on us in 2003 and are still merrily continuing with the lies.
All available on video although you might not find them in the neighborhood outlet. The list includes foreign films with sub-titles.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), perhaps the greatest of all anti-war movies.
The Road to Glory (1936)
La Grande Illusion (1937), French
Rules of the Game (1939), French
Great Dictator (1940)
The Men (1950)
The Burmese Harp (1956), Japanese
The Boys in Company "C" (1970)
Slaughterhouse Five (1972)
Go Tell The Spartans (1978)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Black Rain (1989), Japanese, not the American movie with Michael Douglas
Life and Nothing But (1989), French
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
Jacobs Ladder (1990)
The Quiet American (2002)*
War is not good for children or other living things.
---Vietnam era anti-war slogan
Saturday, February 04, 2006
The Seasons - Signs of Spring
The Spring solstice is 45 days away. Overcast sky and occasional showers continue to remind us that we are in winter. But there are signs of spring all around us. Daffodils and crocus are blooming in my pocket-size front yard. Freesias have started to bud; sweet pea vines are climbing the frames; nasturtiums are spreading. And cherry trees already bursting out with blossoms all over the neighborhood. So, cloudy sky notwithstanding, nature is doing its thing to tell us about the change ahead.
Crocus © starfish75, Stock.Xchng
What I'm going to miss are the chanterelles. It has been a very bountiful season. Every time my friends and I went foraging we came back with bags full of them. Delicious in soup, risotto, and just sauteed with chives and eaten with toasted French bread. Even tried my hand at making a custard and it turned out great. A glass of sauvignon blanc and life is sweet. Santé.*****
Friday, February 03, 2006
Cartoonists Under Fire - Off with their heads
While Muslims all over the world are clamoring for reprisals against the artist and publications that printed cartoons about Prophet Mohammed, one of our own, Tom Toles of the Washington Post, received some flak over a cartoon published on Sunday January 29th. The drawing which depicted a wounded soldier and Secretary Rumsfeld, drew a letter to the Post from the Jt. Chiefs of Staff. Under a dictatorship or a theocracy the consequence could have been dire.WASHINGTON -- Military leaders angrily denounced as "beyond tasteless" a Washington Post editorial cartoon featuring a likeness of a severely wounded soldier and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as an attending doctor who says, "I'm listing your condition as `battle hardened.'"
The cartoon by Tom Toles.
On a lighter vein, check out the Toles' cartoon in today's Post.*More deaths in Iraq
In other news, we lost six soldiers in Iraq in the first two days of February and we (our smart bombs) killed a few more innocent Iraqi civilians. BBC
- In Sadr City, the father of Ikhlas Abd al-Hussein said his 20-year-old daughter had been killed when the helicopter fired a missile at her house, blasting a hole through the roof.
- Abd al-Hussein Shanuf said another woman and a two-year-old child had also been injured.
- One report attributed to a US spokesman said four people had been killed in the air strike.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The Islamic World Up In Arms Over Cartoons
The management of the Norwegian publication Magazinet had no inkling of the firestorm that would result from twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Currently, Muslims all over the world are issuing threats to all Europeans; European products are being boycotted. It would be a pity if this ends in apology from Norwegians and other European nations. Cartoons are cartoons. That might be beyond the capacity of religious fanatics to comprehend, but giving in to them would be no different than surrendering to demands by hostage taking terrorists.
, UK, reported: More newspapers across Europe today reprinted the 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have sparked protests across the Middle East - although most refrained from publishing them on their websites
The fanatics exist not only among Muslims. Here in the United States, Christian fundamentalists probably salivate at the thought of wielding such power over the rest of us. It has not come to that....yet.*****
House Republicans - Second Thoughts About Reform
Business as usual. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". That explains the Republican lawmakers now in the process of electing a new majority leader to replace the scandal-plagued Tom DeLay. Roy Blunt
(MO), who was DeLay's deputy, is the frontrunner. Blunt's wife and daughter are reported to be lobbyists ! "Just two weeks after House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pledged to pass far-reaching changes to the rules of lobbying on Capitol Hill, House Republican members pushed back hard against those proposals yesterday, charging that their leaders are overreacting to a growing corruption scandal
Insanity Fair -
"Poor, Elderly and Students to Feel Pinch
The same lawmakers passed largely symbolic budget cuts
without touching the president's tax cuts. "The House yesterday narrowly approved a contentious budget-cutting package that would save nearly $40 billion over five years by imposing substantial changes on programs including Medicaid, welfare, child support and student lending
"Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is -- oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!" (Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll)
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Panic in Google Land
What goes up must come down
There is certainly some anxiety, if not panic among those holding GOOG
. Those who bought the stock early after it was launched in August 2004 have made enormous gains and have nothing to cry about except that its meteoric rise might not continue. David Vise in the Washington Post
: "Google quarterly profit nearly doubled Tuesday, but fell well below analysts' high expectations, leading to steep losses in its stock price in early after-hours trading, perhaps demonstrating that even Google stock can't defy gravity forever