,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Friday, March 31, 2006


Prayers and Patients

Do prayers by well-wishers help sick people? Some of us do not believe in the power of prayer while others do. A study,to be published in the April 4th issue of the American Heart Journal, based on 1800 heart by-pass patients, by the Harvard Medical School confirms "Praying for other people to recover from an illness is ineffective, ......" The study covered " "distant" or "intercessory" prayer". This is not going to deter the believers and rightly so. If they find solace in prayer more power to them.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Jill Carroll * The Lobbying Bill * Diebold,Inc.

A Mixed Bag on a Cloudy Thursday Morning

First the good news. Jill Carroll,the free-lance reporter who was kidnapped on January 7th while on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad, has been freed, unharmed. "I was treated very well. That's important people know that," she said in an interview broadcast by the Iraqi Islamic Party. "They never said they would hit me, never threatened me in any way. I was just happy to be free, and I want to be with my family." Good news indeed.

The Lobbying Bill

After making a lot of noise the Senate produced a mouse---a toothless one at that. The legislation could be further watered down in the House. Democrats proved to be as unwilling as the Republicans to give up the rewards that lobbyists provide. They have become addicts. "On Tuesday, the Senate rejected a bipartisan plan to create an independent investigative office designed to help the Senate's ethics committee enforce lobbying and ethics laws. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), one of the authors of the Democrats' lobbying proposals, voted against the Senate bill in part because it did not contain the office of public integrity."

Remember Diebold,Inc. ?

Diebold, the voting machine manufacturer was mentioned in 2004 for being involved in voting fraud by rigging the machines. This is from Naperville Sun 3/15/06: "Shortly after North Canton Ohio-based Diebold Inc. bought the voting equipment company Global Election Systems Inc., past chairman and CEO Walden O'Dell allegedly told Republican fundraisers he would help Ohio deliver the electoral votes to President Bush in the 2004 election. O'Dell resigned from Diebold in December." Now the attorney general of Florida has subpoenaed Diebold and two other voting machine manufacturers for refusing "to sell equipment to let disabled voters cast ballots without help in Leon County."


The Arms Merchants - Nations that Profit from War and Deaths

One thing leads to another. Reading former President Jimmy Carter's comments about the nuclear deal with India and the dangers of nuclear proliferation made me think of the very lucrative trading in arms and ammunition in which all major nations take part. An Israeli friend,currently in graduate school in the USA, to whom I had forwarded the Washington Post article "Of Israel,Harvard and David Duke" (March 26,2006) commented:
Whether or not one agrees with her view, it is indisputable that the United States ranks No.1 among the nations that do a thriving business selling weapons of war--weapons of death--followed by Britain,Russia,France,China. Israel,Canada and Germany rank among the top ten.

The web site of Federation of American Scientists (FAS) contains a wealth of facts including the following:

The Global Picture

Human Rights


  • Of the active conflicts in 1999, the United States supplied arms or military technology to parties in more than 92% of them --39 out of 42. In over one-third of these conflicts - 18 out of 42 - the United States provided from 10% to 90% of the arms imported by one side of the dispute.
  • Between 1986 and 1995 the United States delivered $42 billion worth of armaments to parties in 45 ongoing conflicts.
  • U.S. arms or U.S. military technology were used by adversaries confronting U.S. soldiers in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Haiti. A significant portion of the $6 billion in covert U.S. arms and training sent to Afghan rebel groups in the 1980s was funneled to right-wing Islamic fundamentalist forces that now use these resources to attack U.S. allies and citizens.
It is not a joke---for those who are not aware, every year our State Department issues a report listing countries that violate human rights! In the latest report it mentioned China among others. China lashed back listing a litany of human rights violations by the United States. And so it goes.


Monday, March 27, 2006


Iraq - Bush, Blair and the Mess they have Wrought

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair continue to justify the rightness of their position. They have no choice. But let us look at the headlines.

"Iraq bombing kills 40, U.S. raid denounced" AP
At least 40 people have been killed by a suicide bomb inside a military base housing US and Iraqi forces near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

"Bush-Blair War Memo Revealed" BBC
"Political storm over Iraq deaths" BBC
"The US military in Iraq is facing growing political pressure over a raid on a Baghdad mosque complex that left about 20 people dead on Sunday evening."



A Bribe by any Other Name Still Stinks

Something happens when an elected member of Congress goes to Washington, and I am not talking about the fabled Jefferson Smith in Frank Capra's classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Mr. Smith (played by the late James Stewart) encountered corruption and fought it. Our present day legislators readily embrace the lobbyists and lap up the rewards. It happens in State houses across the nation too but it is Washington where the action is. So, the news that "Lawmakers may be forced to Detail Contacts, Cash Received", is encouraging. It is a very small step toward cleaning what has been described as legalized bribery that takes place in Washington but we should welcome it.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Looking Out of the Window

A Sunday Morning in March

Back when I belonged to the world of business my employers sent me to a full-day seminar conducted by the time management guru, Alan Lakein. Cannot honestly say that I did not benefit from it. In those days I was a corporate man, and it so happened that my work (in ocean transportation industry) gave me pleasure. Among other topics, Mr. Lakein covered positive procrastination. That was then.

Nowadays I find myself spending a lot of time looking out of the window. Cars and people passing by are objects that do not always register, just blurs. My mind travels, often to the past. There are times when I think of the present and the future. I do not dwell upon unpleasant experiences. I cannot totally escape the harsh reality of what is happening in the world. I am affected by the use of force to dominate and control those who are weaker, by the suffering of people in different corners of the world and by the arrogant certitude of the adherents of different faiths. Simple,everyday things give me pleasure: Flowers,trees,walks and runs through the woods, drives through backroads, couples holding hands,children playing,the dip of the rod when a fish bites,smell of a soup simmering on the stove,sipping red wine,the sound of music.

A few days back a frail, old Chinese lady stopped in front of my yard. I had seen her before--she lives in the neighborhood and a younger woman accompanies her. She looked at my flowers and started walking in from the sidewalk. She probably wanted a closer look. Her companion grabbed her hand and steered her away. I went out, cut a few daffodils and freesias, and gave them to her. Her face lit up. She said something in Chinese. I didn't understand what she said but there was no need. When I told my friend JHL about it she said "It probably made her day and your day too". Yes, it did.

The late Emily Dickinson wrote about "A bobolink for a chorister". There is no bobolink around but cannot think of a better substitute than Janet Baker singing Bach arias.

A star looks down at me
And says: "Here I and you
Stand,each in our degree:
What do you mean to do--
Mean to do?"

I say: "For all I know
Wait,and let Time go by
Till my change come."--"Just so,"
The star says: "So mean I--
So mean I."
---Thomas Hardy "Waiting Both"

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Impeachment - Rumbles in New England

The lies,the lies. They can no longer be brushed off. Yes, the heretofore unthinkable subject--calls for impeachment of President Bush--is being heard more and more. And what is surprising is that it is being voiced not only in liberal bastions like Massachusetts and Vermont. I do not believe that the process will actually reach the stage when the president will have to appear at impeachment hearings. Nevertheless, it is a heartening sign of how growing number of Americans feel about the president and his actions during the past five years. "HOLYOKE, Mass. -- To drive through the mill towns and curling country roads here is to journey into New England's impeachment belt. Three of this state's 10 House members have called for the investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush."


Friday, March 24, 2006


Fools and the President

Reading one of the much-quoted Bushisms one wonders who he was talking about. You, me, all of us? "There's an old saying in Tennessee --- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee--- that says, fool me once, shame on--— shame on you. Fool me-- you can't get fooled again." —President George W. Bush, Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002" Whenever the president is without a script and teleprompter he is likely to utter strange, tortuous mumbo jumbo. There are hundreds of examples. The signs are clear,however, that he is failing to fool us again. His exhortations are falling on deaf ears. He has been tuned out by all but his core supporters and even some of them are unhappy because they feel that he has not done enough for them!

"Is Anyone Listening?"
We are seeing a new Bush. Scratch the suface and you'll find the old Bush.
Richard Wolffe and Holly Baily in Newsweek: " The banner hanging over President George W. Bush read united to victory. But as Republicans listened to Bush slog through his familiar pep talk at a $2,500-a-head fund-raiser last Thursday night, the party faithful knew they were anything but united."


Thursday, March 23, 2006


Holocaust Revisited

André Schwarz-Bart's "The Last Of The Just"

Last year I wrote about the Holocaust when the world remembered Auschwitz and the unprecedented acts of barbarism committed against the Jews in Europe during Hitler's Third Reich. This year I failed to mention it. There are people who deny that the Holocaust occurred. I am not one of them.

I recently did what many other booklovers do. In the absence of something new to read we go back to old favorites. I pulled out a book from my meager collection and re-read it. A work of fiction, but fiction with Holocaust in the background contains historical facts.

Le Dernier des Justes by André Schwarz-Bart appeared in print in French in 1959. It was translated by Stephen Becker and published in 1960 as "Last Of The Just" by Atheneum House. "André Schwarz-Bart, a French Jew of Polish descent, was born in Metz in 1924. Fifteen years later the Germans arrested his parents and shipped them to one of the extermination camps. Mr. Schwarz-Bart joined the Resistance, was arrested, escaped and rejoined the Maquis. Last of the Just, his first book, won the Prix de Goncourt, France's most important literary award."

"Yes, at times one's heart could break in sorrow. But often too,preferably in the evening,I can't help thinking that Ernie Levy,dead six million times,is still alive somewhere. I don't know where.....Yesterday,as I stood in the street trembling in despair, rooted to the spot,a drop of pity fell from above upon my face. But there was no breeze in the air,no cloud in the sky.....There was only a presence."

Great writing. The copy I have is a somewhat battered Bantam paperback, published October 1961.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Condoms, No. Abstinence, Prayers and Cold Showers

Thomas Edsall writes in Washington Post that "Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds have flowed to groups that support President Bush's agenda on abortion and other social issues." The president and his administration make no secret of their support of "faith-based" organizations, so the news that funding for them has taken a quantum leap should cause no surprise. It is part of a pattern. The goal is to politicize religious organizations. It paid dividends for the Republicans during the election of 2004 when pulpits were used to sermonize against candidates who supported women's right to choose. They are continuing to pursue the theme, empowered by money pouring in from our taxes.

Payola or Patronage by Federal Government ?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Put the Aviator's Suit on, Mr. President

Just get the flight suit ready for another appearance. That should have more impact than dark suits. Continue to speak the truth---as you see it. The real truth? Who gives a damn. What the nation needs are more "Bring 'em on" and "Smoke 'em out" speeches. The polls? You don't pay any attention to them anyway. Perhaps Karl Rove does. Three years of upbeat White House assessments about Iraq that turned out to be premature, incomplete or plain wrong are complicating President Bush's efforts to restore public faith in the military operation and his presidency, according to pollsters and Republican lawmakers and strategists. The last two weeks have provided a snapshot of White House optimism that skeptics contend is at odds with the facts on the ground in Iraq.



How to turn peaceful Iraqis into bomb throwing Insurgents

One way is to kill 15 innocent civilians to avenge the death of one marine. BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Residents gave new details Monday about the shootings of civilians in a western Iraqi town, where the U.S. military is investigating allegations of potential misconduct by American troops last November. The residents said troops entered homes and shot and killed 15 members of two families, including a 3-year-old girl, after a roadside bomb killed a U.S. Marine.

"Collateral damage" is a term that has been grossly abused to describe deaths of civilians. But this was not death from the sky. The civilians were shot at close range.

Monday, March 20, 2006


First Day of Spring 2006

Cold and overcast morning. The weather man said "chances of showers". Could happen. The signs of spring,however, are everywhere. The days will turn brighter and warmer, and then the heat of the sun will turn the lush green meadows brown. The seasons, they are wonderful.

Cherry Blossoms

© finfish,stock.xchng

Cherry Tree in Spring

© slonecker,stock.xchng

For winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
---Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
Atalanta in Calydon (1865)


Have Bible, Will Vote

Piety and Politics * Reform, What Reform?

Christian zealots and venal politicians working together to continue their Taliban-like activities. Will the mid-term elections mean more pro-active position against women's right to choose and gay rights; promotion of intelligent design; pressure on educational institutions to allow prayer and teaching of Christianity; abstinence only sex education; ban on contraceptive drugs, and so on? Members of the moral values gang,who apparently remained chaste until they got married or,like our president, engaged in youthful indiscretions but emerged with clean slates when they became Born Again Christians,want the rest of us to follow them. Their hypocrisy is monumental.

From the BBC: Prominent leaders from the Christian right have warned Republicans they must do more to advance conservative values ahead of the US mid-term elections.
  • Their message to Congress, controlled by Republicans, is "must do better".
  • Support from about a quarter of Americans who describe themselves as evangelicals was a factor in President George W Bush's two election victories.
  • The Republicans will need to keep them onboard if they are to retain control of Congress in November.

Death of Reform

Business as Usual. The much ballyhooed reform in Congress has succumbed to the power of the lobbyists. Lawmakers have retreated from their position. Some of Washington's top lobbyists say that they expect to find ways around congressional efforts to impose new restrictions on lobbyists' dealings with lawmakers in the wake of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, and that any limits will barely put a dent in the billions of dollars spent to influence legislation.


Neanderthals on the March

Have you heard of HIMMA? It spells out as "Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization And Affordability Act". Whew, a mouthful! This bill---a payback to the insurance industry---is being piloted through the senate by Mike Enzi, R-Wy. If passed, HIMMA would destroy State Mental Health Protection. In addition, mindful of the clout of the Christian Right, Senator Enzi has included provision to strip women's rights to obtain birth control pills and contraceptives (Contraceptive Equity Protection) under State laws.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Three Years After the Bombs Fell

A Father in America writes about his son * An Iraqi Woman writes about her country

In the plethora of reports about the invasion of Iraq what stands out is that the situation is murky. All is going well and it is just a matter of perseverance and time according to Donald Rumsfeld, while a report in The Observer/Guardian describes a mess, bleak and hopeless. Are the Iraqis better off three years after we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom? Riverbend,the Iraqi woman blogger wrote on March 18th: "I don’t think anyone imagined three years ago that things could be quite this bad today. The last few weeks have been ridden with tension. I’m so tired of it all- we’re all tired. Three years and the electricity is worse than ever. The security situation has gone from bad to worse. The country feels like it’s on the brink of chaos once more- but a pre-planned, pre-fabricated chaos being led by religious militias and zealots." The former Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (he was our man) spoke of a civil war raging. "Iraq is in the middle of civil war, the country's former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi has told the BBC. He said Iraq had not got to the point of no return, but if it fell apart sectarianism would spread abroad. The UK and US have repeatedly denied Iraq is facing a civil war, but Mr Allawi suggested there was no other way to describe the sectarian violence."

"A War Through A Father's Eyes"

Reading Henry Barry Holt's account of his feelings about his son who served in Iraq and returned home, made me think of other parents who have gone through such experience and of those whose sons and daughters are still out there. Then there are those in whose hearts there is ache and emptiness because their loved ones have given their lives. I do not belong to any of the above categories. I opposed the war before the first bomb fell in Baghdad. With all the facts that are now known about taking the nation war, my position has solidified against the war. In that sense, those who believe in it are strengthened by their conviction. It helps them through the long, sleepless nights. May all the soldiers return home soon.


Saturday, March 18, 2006


Looking For A War - Preemption Redux

What are they to do! In the absence of terrorists from one of the evil nations (take your pick: Iran,N.Korea,Cuba,Venezuela) the groundwork is being laid for preemptive strikes based on assumptions and secrets known only to a selected few. It is the prelude to Iraq all over again. This time it might be more difficult but the warriors---deskbound almost without exception--- are busy working at it. "This morning's news that President Bush is reasserting his doctrine of preemptive war is a bit of a surprise because, well, I think most people thought the Bush Doctrine was dead.How can Bush still argue for attacking another country based on his suspicions about their intentions -- when the first time he tried it, his public case turned out to be so utterly specious?" (Washington Post, March 16,2006). Great cartoon by Tom Toles.

March 17, 2006


Friday, March 17, 2006


Bach and Bergman, Not Bush and Bombs

A grey and wet St. Patrick's Day morning. The weather pundits were right; rain and more rain. Two days before spring solstice, it is unusual weather for us in the San Francisco Bay area. Couldn't escape reading about the president but decided to stay away from him in my blog. He is mentioned but just in passing....in an item about Jessica Simpson, that she dodged an appearance at The White House. I am not familiar with her music but she looked pretty and wholesome in Washington Post. My favorite music: Bach, jazz, and blues. Recently, I watched a movie (Swedish, with sub-titles) that is not only named Saraband, Bach's cello suite is a part of the story and could be heard in the background. Made for Swedish TV, 86-year old Ingmar Bergman returned as director (he was also the author) for this 2005 sequel to his acclaimed 1973 production Scenes From A Marriage. While I wished that the story ended differently, it was a feast. Bergman announced that Saraband was his last appearance as a director. Magnificent.

Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann in Saraband - © Sony Pictures Classics

Julia Dufvenius and Börje Ahlsted - © Sony Pictures Classics

Ingmar Bergman © Sony Pictures Classics

Liv Ullmann Marianne--Lawyer
Erland Josephson Johan--Professor Emeritus
Borje Ahlstedt Henrik--Professor
Julia Dufvenius Karin--Cellist

I am listening to Bach's Concerto in C Minor, Allegro, Band III. An old LP titled Two Concertos For Two Harpischords & Orchestra. George Malcolm and Simon Preston conducted by Yehudi Menhuin.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Bush, the Warrior Who Has Lost His Audience

What a difference three years make. The bluster has not completely disappeared but cracks have begun to appear in the facade of our warrior president.

Three reports point out the president's loss of ground and his so far unsuccessful efforts to reclaim it.

"More rallies, no sale" David Broder in The Washington Post: On the third anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush once again finds himself trying to rally American public opinion to support that costly venture. The series of speeches that began this week comes against a background of deepening skepticism on the part of voters about the effort that began in March 2003 with a lightning strike against Saddam Hussein's forces.
  • A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, taken just as Bush began this latest oratorical push, found 57 percent of those surveyed said it was a mistake to start the war and 60 percent believe the struggle for democracy and order in that country is going badly. Only 1 voter in 3 believes Bush has a clear plan for winning or ending the war.

"Can Bush rally US Public?" Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor: "Preemption was the name of the game in President Bush's first-term foreign policy: Undo Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before he harms the United States. Now, with the three-year mark for the start of the Iraq war coming this Sunday, Mr. Bush has launched another preemptive campaign - to answer the war's critics before the media flood of anniversary coverage."
"The Other Face of Bush", Matt Frei BBC News:"The man who gave the world jitters with his "let's go it alone", "you're either with us or against us", "smoke 'em out!" rhetoric and who peppered his speeches with words like pre-emption, evil and axis has turned out to be a soft-centred, fuzzy-lipped moderate who cannot stop talking about globalisation, inter-dependence, nation building and the UN."

"Yes, Mr Bush in his second term is the nice guy! The rank and file of his own party are now the nasties. Last week's row over the Dubai ports deal was a case in point."



Operation Swarmer: Air Strikes Near Samarra, Iraq

Let us hope that Operation Swarmer would succeed in curbing insurgency and the cycle of violence raging in Iraq. For civilians in the area it is a time of terror and anxiety. Deaths of innocent civilians are unavoidable. They receive very little attention. The term collateral damage has ceased to be meaningful. Think of the hapless men, women and children caught in the maelstrom. "U.S. and Iraqi forces today launched a sizeable helicopter and ground attack on a suspected insurgent stronghold northeast of Samarra, the city where a mosque bombing last month triggered a wave of deadly sectarian violence across the country, the U.S. military said. More than 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops, more than 200 tactical vehicles and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation, dubbed "Operation Swarmer," according to a statement released by the U.S. military command in Baghdad."


Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Russ Feingold's Call for Censure of President Bush

Spineless Democrats * Mullahs and Reverends * NCCC Program Facing the Axe, the Bush Axe
Will the Democrats ever recover from being gun shy about 9/11 and the president's exploitation of it ? Senator Feingold's speech on March 13th, calling for a resolution to censure President Bush has caused turmoil in and outside the Beltway. The Democrats sat on their hands. "Many Democrats, while sympathetic to Feingold's maneuver, appeared to be distancing themselves from his resolution yesterday, wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics."

Excerpts from the speech by Senator Feingold (D-Wis):
  • "The President authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program. It is up to this body to reaffirm the rule of law by condemning the President's actions."
  • All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President's conduct was wrong.

Mad Mullahs ....and Reverends

No dispute about the fact that there are fanatics among the muslims. Fanatics exist among followers of all religions. There are times when one gets the feeling that perhaps Islam generates more fanatics than other faiths. Christianity has its share of them. When Rev. Pat Robertson called muslims "crazed fanatics" he conveniently forgot about himself. If anyone deserves to be in a padded cell it is Rev. Robertson. Pitiful, his efforts to draw attention to himself. The only way he can do so is by issuing outrageous statements. "Outspoken US Christian evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson has accused Muslims of planning world domination, and said some were "satanic". On his live television programme, The 700 Club, he said radical Islamists were inspired by "demonic power". A US religious liberty watchdog called the comments "grossly irresponsible".

NCCC, The Axe Man Cometh

"This week, the House Appropriations Committee is submitting its priorities for the 2007 budget. The Republican members, who have supported the NCCC for years, might pause over the program’s grave and recall all of the speeches they gave after 9/11 extolling the virtues of national service. “These are good kids from around the country who are dedicating time to help America,” President Bush said of the program he is now trying to end. Now it’s up to the rest of us to dedicate some time to trying to save it."


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Bush Juggernaut Caught In Quagmire

The Mess in Iraq * Retired Justice O'Connor speaks out about "those who strong-arm judiciary"

Veni Vidi Vici (I came,I saw,I conquered). That was the message sent to Rome by Julius Caesar in 47 BC after he defeated the army of Pharnaces. Our warrior president,flush after the army walked into Baghdad and toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein, put on an aviator's suit and crowed in front of a banner reading "Mission Accomplished". That was on May 2, 2003. Three years after the president's victory speech, 2270 soldiers have lost their lives (at the end of April 2003 the figure was 139, today it is 2309). The mission remains far from being accomplished. Iraq is a mess, largely due to faulty planning for civilian rule after removal of Saddam Hussein. The president not only failed to install a handpicked regime, the much vaunted election resulted in emergence of Shiites with close ties to Iran which was not in his game plan. The neocon scenario for post-war Iraq is in shambles. Iraq is no longer secular; mullahs are in power. The end of sectarian violence is nowhere in sight. Americans are questioning the direction of the war and the president's handling of it. Billions of dollars pouring into Iraq have meant immense profits for some favored contractors and corrupt Iraqi officials without much effect on rebuilding of the infrastructure. The president is on record that he does not pay any attention to polls. Right, and Karl Rove is an alien from outer space! War, war, the president needs another war. Time to democratize Iran and liberate the Iranians? "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind. And again, I wish it wasn't true, but it is true."
---President Bush on NBC's 'Meet the Press' - Sunday, February 8, 2004; 12:03 PM

No wonder that the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll reflects the president's failure to persuade the American people to support him. "The latest results show only 36% of those polled saying they "approve" of the way Bush is handling his job. Bush's previous low was 37%, set last November." No matter what he says to lessen the negative impact, the president is no longer able to convince people. Republican lawmakers faced with mid-term elections are staying away from hanging on to his coattails. The Democrats,too, are paying a price for being without a clear message and for their failure to oppose the war. Opportunity to change the imbalance in Congress exists. If the Democrats cannot win back enough seats to make a difference then they might as well give up.
Sandra Day O'Connor on attacks against the courts by Republicans

No, not a wacky liberal but retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed her concern about attacks by Republicans against the courts for liberal bias. Addressing a meeting of corporate lawyers at Georgetown University on March 9th, Ms O'Connor said: "We must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary." She pointed to autocracies in the developing world and former Communist countries as lessons on where interference with the judiciary might lead. "It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Nominated by late President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor became the 102nd justice and first female member of the Supreme Court.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Iraqi 'Dead Poets' Society' - Shattered Dreams

It was on March 20, 2003, that the first missiles fell on Baghdad. Almost three years have elapsed since the beginning of Operation of Iraqi Freedom. "Three Years On" is the title of an article in the Sunday Observer (Guardian), UK, in which eight persons affected by the war express their feelings. The poet; the journalist's widow; the politician; the Iraqi mother; the civil servant; the British soldier; the American mother; and the US veteran. Visit the Guardian website and spend a few minutes to read what they said. Here is the poet:

'My mission was to try and rehumanise our society'
Abdullah al-Baghdadi, 41, a poet, lives in the Karrada district of Baghdad

McCain Lines Up for 2008

After his appearance and spirited expression of support for the president at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference being held at Memphis,TN, Senator John McCain left no doubt that he would be a contender in 2008. His words indicated that on foreign policy issues he would act no differently than G.W. Bush. Political expediency or does McCain really feel that way? The Arizona senator was full-throated in his support for Bush on Iraq, Iran and even the now-defunct Dubai seaports deal. In doing so, he continued to establish his bona fides as the Republican most likely to defend and extend the president's controversial foreign policy record. At the same time, McCain delivered a stern condemnation of fiscal profligacy and corruption in Washington that was rooted in his reputation as an advocate of change and an antagonist of pork-barrel spending.


Saturday, March 11, 2006


Death of Tom Fox, A Man of Peace

I read the report about Tom Fox, the peace activist from Clear Brook, Virginia, found dead in Iraq with a deep sense of sorrow. Didn't know the man, never met him. But the news struck me with the same intensity as if it were a friend who died. The fate of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll is unknown. According to Newsweek,there are 46 hostages, including 15 Americans, unaccounted for. We question the violence raging in different parts of the world,we rail against the unjust war in Iraq, weep for the dead,but most of us are powerless to do much to prevent them. Selfless people like Tom who knowingly face danger to help the distressed and do what they can to bring peace are very special. The excerpts are from a piece "Why Are We Here", written by Tom Fox the day before he was abducted and published in CPTNet (Christian Peacemaker Teams) on December 2, 2005.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Gale Norton Departs Under Taint of Abramoff Scandal

An unabashed champion of unrestricted drilling for oil and downsizing of national parks,Secretary Norton, in her letter of resignation to President Bush, stated: ""Now I feel it is time for me to leave this mountain you gave me to climb, catch my breath, then set my sights on new goals to achieve in the private sector,........." It is a matter of time before she lands in a high-paying position as a lobbyist in the energy industry or as a consultant for it. Good riddance. People are waking up. Policies, domestic and foreign, of the Bush administration are no longer considered sacrosanct. For the president, Secretary Norton was the ideal person at DOI, always ready to expand drilling rights and move toward privatization of our national parks. While it would be naive to expect drastic changes in the way the Bush administration operates, the pace of the destructive anti-environment policies could slow down.


"The Emperor Has No Clothes"

How sweet it is! It took a while but finally there are unmistakable signs that more and more Americans are beginning to see through the haze created by President Bush and his cohorts. The hollow man is no longer able to talk his way out. The Republicans are running scared. It is not time to break out the champagne.....not yet. The Democrats still paying for their abject surrender to fear of being branded unpatriotic and support of the president's war and the Patriot Act. They lack a message and a strong voice to be heard above the clamor. The Bush administration is not going to roll over. Expect to hear more about the danger from Iran, from Venezuela, from Cuba, and the ever-present terrorists lurking around corner. The American people can no longer be exhorted to respond to the call to back the president on Iraq. The president and his Strangelovian Veep desperately need a red herring...a bogey. They will try hard to create one.
  • When President Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove mapped out plans for a political comeback in 2006, this was nowhere on the script. Suddenly, the collapse of a port-management deal neither even knew about a month ago has devastated the White House and raised questions about its ability to lead even fellow Republicans.
  • "He has no political capital," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. "Slowly but surely it's been unraveling. There's been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the -- I don't want to call it disloyalty -- the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress."
It feels good to be proven right. From an Associated Press release this morning:
  • More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.
  • Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq--- the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


All We Need Is Additional $91 Billion


The wonderful people who have been so successful in giving Iraqis freedom and democratizing Iraq, are asking for another $91 billion to complete the job. Most likely they will get it too. "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that despite a surge in sectarian violence in Iraq, the process of creating a stable government is proceeding satisfactorily. "Satisfactorily" is a matter of opinion. One gathers that majority of Iraqis do not agree. Not only that--this is what our ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said: "The US ambassador to Baghdad conceded yesterday that the Iraq invasion had opened a Pandora's box of sectarian conflicts which could lead to a regional war and the rise of religious extremists who "would make Taliban Afghanistan look like child's play".

"Zalmay Khalilzad broke with the Bush administration's generally upbeat orthodoxy to present a stark profile of a volatile situation in danger of sliding into chaos."

  • An opinion poll published by the Washington Post and ABC News yesterday suggested that most Americans agreed with Mr Khalilzad - with 80% saying civil war in Iraq was likely, and more than a third that it was very likely. More than half thought the US should start withdrawing its troops, although only one in six wanted all troops to be withdrawn immediately.

Iran Next on the List to be Democratized?

Drum beat getting louder for attacking Iran.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Conservatives Bash Bush At Cato

It was startling to read Dana Milbank's report in the Post about a conservative forum at the Cato Institute. It is questionable whether the tremors of discontent are going to turn into an upheaval. Nevertheless, comments by Bruce Bartlett and Andrew Sullivan make it clear that among some conservatives the disillusionment with G.W. Bush is more than just skin-deep. They sounded almost like....lefties!

A few excerpts:

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Looking For A Theme - "Bring on the noise, bring on da funk"

For lawmakers facing mid-term elections, the Oscar winning song "It's hard out here for a pimp" might resonate. What they wear might be different but some politicians, Republican and Democrat, have a lot in common with pimps. The Democrats have so far failed to capitalize on the woes facing Republicans. With all that is known about the GOP and the Bush administration, the prospects for Democrats in the mid-term elections look far from encouraging. After quickly falling in line to support the decision to go to war and rubber-stamp the Patriot Act, they lack the voice to condemn the abuses and failures of the administration. Their statements fail to stir people. They are making noise but it lacks a beat. The president's popularity rating down to 34% and Republican lawmakers up for reelection are shying away from hanging on to his coattail. And the Democrats are reported to be working on a legislative manifesto! "News about GOP political corruption, inept hurricane response and chaos in Iraq has lifted Democrats' hopes of winning control of Congress this fall. But seizing the opportunity has not been easy, as they found when they tried to unveil an agenda of their own." Enough to make the morning cup taste sour.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Seasons: Spring Rains

Poems by Soen Nakagawa and other Zen Masters
Last night the sky opened up. Woke up a few times to the sound of hard rain. From the look of the clouds, there is more on the way.

©Ian Britton, http://www.freefoto.com/

Spring approaches
the Pacific Ocean
will be my sitting mat

Sound of mountain
sound of ocean
everywhere spring rain

---Soen Nakagawa (1907-1984)

Sitting quietly, doing nothing
Spring Comes, and the grass grows by itself

---Zenrin Kushu

I Always think of Konan in March
Partridges chirp among the scented blossoms.

The long night,
The sound of the water
Says what I think

Source: The World of Zen by Nancy Wilson Ross

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Bobbsey Twins for God - Tony Blair and G.W. Bush

Onward Christian Soldiers
Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker: "After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “"God put me here”" to deal with the war on terror. The President'’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that "“he is the man", the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose." And in England, Prime Minister Tony Blair said during a televised chat show on March 4th: "........that God and history will eventually judge his decision to go to war with Iraq, and says his decision, like much of his policymaking, was underpinned by his Christian faith." "Mr Blair made the remarks in an appearance on Parkinson ........., in which he spoke of the struggle with his conscience to do the right thing because people's lives are at stake." We don't know how God will judge Mr. Blair but, with all the facts that are now public about the lies and deception that went into the decision to go war, history is not likely to be kind.

The toll in human terms as of March 3rd
U.S. Soldiers 2300
UK Soldiers 103
Iraqi civilians - Minimum : 28636 Maximum 32270.
Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties and Iraq Body Count

Faith-based Foreign Policy

George Bush is the darling of the so called Christian right, the evangelicals who consider themselves to be the chosen ones, waiting for the second coming when they will ascend to heaven. In President Bush,a BAC, they have a champion who is mindful of their clout and does everything he can to please them. From anti-abortion measures, sex education, to school prayers, and public display of Ten Commandments, the president is a zealous advocate. Now our foreign policy is being influenced by evangelical Christians. The world has reason to worry about this modern day crusader. He has almost four more years. Howard LaFranchi writes in The Christian Science Monitor: When President Bush recently used a public forum to announce his support for a more robust international intervention in Sudan's Darfur region - catching even some of his senior aides off guard - it was yet another milestone for the rising interest of Christian evangelicals in US foreign policy. In just a few years, conservative Christian churches and organizations have broadened their political activism from a near-exclusive domestic focus to an emphasis on foreign issues.

Enquiry Begins About Coverup of Pat Tillman's Death

The army has announced that a criminal investigation will be conducted about the death of one-time NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in a friendly fire incident. Originally, the army had reported that Tillman died in enemy action. Tillman's family had reasons to question that and pushed for facts.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


The Seasons, Oscar Awards And all that Jazz

Cold morning---cold for us here in the San Francisco Peninsula. Temp. 50°F (about 10°C). Going to be cloudy but no showers expected until tonight. Yesterday, we had snow on the foothills. Unusual for us and it never fails to cause comments and excitement. The powdery snow does not last too long. Had a lot of rain last March. If the weather pundits are right, this year too we have wet days ahead of us before the onset of spring---16 days from now.

“"In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurge of nature.”"
----Edna O'Brien

“"Spring too, very soon!
They are setting the scene for it--plum tree and moon”
(Haru mo ya keshiki totonou tsuki ume)"
---Basho (1643-1694), translated by Harold Henderson

My yard looks colorful. It is a pleasure to see the daffodils, irises and freesias. The freesias are fragrant. Sweetpea vines climbing higher and higher and the branches of gingko trees sprouting new leaves. Unmistakable signs that spring is around the corner. Hiking through Yorkshire Dales (UK) a few years back I came across a nursery that displayed a sign "Sweetpeas are now ready for planting". It was late May! The sweetpeas in my yard had almost finished blooming when I left on my trip.

Sunday is Oscar night. I have not seen all the movies nominated for awards and so I shall refrain from picking winners. Among the ones I watched, Truman and Brokeback Mountain are sure to bag some awards. Also liked Good Night and Good Luck and The Constant Gardener. Have not seen any of the five films nominated for the best foreign movie award. Paradise Now, an entry from Palestine and described as a political thriller, has caused some controversy. The French entry Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas) is an antiwar film; the story is about soldiers of World War I who observed truce and got together on a Christmas eve.


Friday, March 03, 2006


Ghost of Katrina Resurfaces

Covering Your Ass, Passing the Blame, etc.
The ghost of Katrina continues to haunt the president. "Was the president misinformed, misspoken or misleading?" Now we know why the president applauded FEMA's former chief Michael Brown. Being fully aware of his own role--total lack of comprehension and unresponsiveness to the briefing (caught on video) about the impending disaster--the president played the hand that was available and hoped that it would all blow away. The beleaguered White House staff is doing contortions to explain the ten words "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." As to misspeaking, nothing new about that. He has been misspeaking ever since he emerged in the political arena. In hindsight Michael Brown, who became the butt of jokes and was castigated in the media, turned out to be not such a dumb cluck after all.
Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).
---Lewis Carroll [Charles Lutwidge Dodgson] (1832–1898), British author, mathematician, clergyman. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ch. II, Macmillan (1865).

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The Real Iraq and The President's Iraq

George Will, in his column Rhetoric of Unreality, quoted Lawrence Kaplan (New Republic):"With U.S reconstruction aid running out, Iraq's infrastructure, never fully restored to begin with, decays by the hour. . . . The level of corruption that pervades Iraq's ministerial orbit . . . would have made South Vietnam's kleptocrats blush. . . . Corruption has helped drive every public service measure -- electricity, potable water, heating oil -- down below its prewar norm." Is this the Iraq that President Bush talks about? There is a disconnect somewhere. The president's Iraq is a make-believe world created to justify his misadventure. He talks about freedom and democracy for the Iraqis but in reality the Iraqis are facing rule of the mullahs who are using Taleban-like methods. Even under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was secular in every sense of the word.
  • Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in the Wall Street Journal, reports that Shiite militias "have broken up coed picnics, executed barbers [for the sin of shaving beards] and liquor store owners, instituted their own courts, and posted religious guards in front of girls' schools to ensure Iranian-style dress." Iraq's other indispensable man, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, says that unless the government can protect religious sites, "the believers will."
Our soldiers are dying and getting maimed, and we are spending our money for this!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Dirge of February - The Killing Fields in Iraq

The Named and the Nameless
"Dear America, When Will This Cruel War Be Over?", The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson,Gordonsville,Virginia,1864. "At times I feel like I am a thousand years old---that is what this cruel war has done to me." Regardless of how they feel about the reason for the war in Iraq---just and necessary or a war for the grand plans and hubris of a few---there are many households in America in which the war is forever present because they have family members serving in the armed forces in Iraq. They must feel as Emma Simpson did back in 1864 about the civil war. They want the war to be over and soldiers to return home. Many more Iraqis have lost their lives, the majority of them hapless civilians who got caught in this action by the super powers. The Iraqi civilians deserve our sympathy just as much as our soldiers do.
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
---John Donne

Garrison C. Avery, 23, Army 1st Lieutenant, Feb 01, 2006
Marlon A. Bustamante, 25, Army Specialist, Feb 01, 2006
Anthony Chad Owens, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 01, 2006
Caesar S. Viglienzone, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 01, 2006
Sean T. Cardelli, 20, Marine Private 1st Class, Feb 01, 2006
Simon T. Cox Jr., 30, Army 1st Lieutenant, Feb 02, 2006
Walter B. Howard II, 35, Army Specialist, Feb 02, 2006
Scott A. Messer, 26, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 02, 2006
Lance S. Cornett, 33, Army Sergeant 1st Class, Feb 03, 2006
Jesse M. Zamora, 22, Army Specialist, Feb 03, 2006
Roberto L. Martinez Salazar, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 04, 2006
Jeremiah J. Boehmer, 22, Army Sergeant, Feb 05, 2006
William S. Hayes III, 23, Army Specialist, Feb 05, 2006
Sergio A. Mercedes Saez, 23, Army Specialist, Feb 05, 2006
Christopher R. Morningstar, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 05, 2006
Patrick W. Herried, 29, Army Specialist, Feb 06, 2006
Orville Gerena, 21, Marine Corporal, Feb 06, 2006
David S. Parr, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 06, 2006
Brandon S. Schuck, 21, Marine Corporal, Feb 06, 2006
Jacob D. "Jake" Spann, 21, Marine Private 1st Class, Feb 06, 2006
Allen D. Kokesh Jr., 21, Army National Guard Specialist, Feb 07, 2006
Steven L. Phillips, 27, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 07, 2006
Javier Chavez Jr., 19, Marine Private 1st Class, Feb 09, 2006
Ross A. Smith, 21, Marine Corporal, Feb 09, 2006
Felipe J. Garcia Villareal, 26, Army Specialist, Feb 12, 2006
Andrew J. Kemple, 23, Army Corporal, Feb 12, 2006
Nicholas Wilson, 25, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class, Feb 12, 2006
Matthew Ron Barnes, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 14, 2006
Michael S. Probst, 26, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 14, 2006
Rusty L. Washam, 21, Marine Corporal, Feb 14, 2006
Anthony R. Garcia, 48, Army Captain, Feb 17, 2006
Amos C. Edwards Jr., 41, Army National Guard Sergeant 1st Class, Feb 17, 2006
Charles E. Matheny IV, 23, Army Sergeant, Feb 18, 2006
Matthew D. Conley, 21, Marine Corporal, Feb 18, 2006
Jessie Davila, 29, Army National Guard Sergeant, Feb 20, 2006
Daniel J. Kuhlmeier, 30, Dept. of the Air Force Civilian, Feb 20, 2006
Jay T. Collado, 31, Marine Staff Sergeant, Feb 20, 2006
Almar L. Fitzgerald, 23, Marine 2nd Lieutenant, Feb 21, 2006
Gregson G. Gourley, 38, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 22, 2006
Curtis T. Howard II, 32, Army Staff Sergeant, Feb 22, 2006
Rickey E. Jones, 21, Army Sergeant, Feb 22, 2006
Christopher L. Marion, 20, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 22, 2006
Gordon F. Misner II, 23, Army Sergeant, Feb 22, 2006
Allan A. Morr, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 22, 2006
Thomas J. Wilwerth, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 22, 2006
Dimitri Muscat, 21, Army Not reported yet, Feb 24, 2006
Joshua Francis Powers, 0, Army Private 1st Class, Feb 25, 2006
Adam J. VanAlstine, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Feb 25, 2006
Clay Farr, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 26, 2006
Joshua Pearce, 21, Army Specialist, Feb 26, 2006
Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties

Names of five dead soldiers yet to be released by the DOD.
Jill Carroll, Update
According to an AP report in the Post, she is being held by Islamic Army, the same insurgent group that released two French hostages in 2004 after keeping them captive for four months.

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