,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Haditha, Iraq - The Truth, It is Ugly

Initial reports about the massacre of civilians in Haditha were disturbing. There was a sense that something horrible took place there on November 19, 2005. Now it has been officially confirmed that some members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, went on a rampage and shot 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and children. Yes, the perpetrators must answer for what they did but trial and punishment of the offenders will not erase the shameful episode, and they will not heal the sorrow and anger of the Iraqis. Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa), who was among those who demanded a release of report of the enquiry, had mentioned attempts to coverup. Coverup at this point is no longer an issue. An editorial in the Post calls for full accountability.

TIME Magazine has the most detailed report,datelined May 28th, about the massacre. "But one morning last November, some members of Kilo Company apparently didn't attempt to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Instead, they seem to have gone on the worst rampage by U.S. service members in the Iraq war, killing as many as 24 civilians in cold blood. The details of what happened in Haditha were first disclosed in March by TIME's Tim McGirk and Aparisim Ghosh, and their reporting prompted the military to launch an inquiry into the civilian deaths. The darkest suspicions about the killings were confirmed last week, when members of Congress who were briefed on the two ongoing military investigations disclosed that at least some members of a Marine unit may soon be charged in connection with the deaths of the Iraqis--and that the charges may include murder, which carries the death penalty. "This was a small number of Marines who fired directly on civilians and killed them," said Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and former Marine who was briefed two weeks ago by Marine Corps officials. "This is going to be an ugly story."


Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Tony Blair follows his Master's Voice

Two More British Soldiers died in Iraq

Death toll for British soldiers reached 113 in the war against Iraq started by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. "Lieutenant Tom Mildinhall, 26, and Lance Corporal Paul Farrelly, 27, from the Queen's Dragoon Guards, (Welsh Cavalry) died on patrol in Basra on Sunday."

It is ironic that Britain's Tony Blair is described by some as Bush's poodle. An eloquent speaker and intellectually far above the American president, Blair decided to throw in his lot with George W. Bush. And, like President Bush, Tony Blair is paying a price for his role in the misadventure. Interesting to think about how history will judge them. A report in the Post stated that Tony Blair substantially revised a speech he gave on May 26th to appease his friend (master?) G.W. Bush. "LONDON, May 29 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair caved in to White House pressure by sharpening language on Iran and softening it on global warming in a speech he delivered Friday at Georgetown University, according to a British press report Sunday that Blair's office immediately denied."

  • According to the Sunday Telegraph, Blair made "significant" last-minute changes to his major foreign policy address and "objections by President George W. Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations." An official at Blair's 10 Downing Street office, speaking on condition of anonymity as is standard practice here, said it was "categorically untrue that any White House objective played any part" in the speech.
  • Blair is frequently criticized in Britain for his close relationship with Bush, who is extremely unpopular among Britons. The prime minister is particularly faulted for his alliance with Bush in the Iraq war. Critics have complained that Blair seems too eager to please Bush in what many here view as a lopsided relationship that has benefited Bush far more than Britain.


Monday, May 29, 2006


Memorial Day 2006 - The Third Year of War Against Iraq

The Cost in Human Terms - Bare Facts

American Soldiers
Dead in May : 60
Total since the war began March 20, 2003: 2,464
Injured: 8,344
Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties

Robbie Glen Light, 21, Army Corporal, May 01, 2006
Robert L. Moscillo, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 01, 2006
Christopher M. Eckhardt, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 03, 2006
Benjamin T. Zieske, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 03, 2006
Joseph E. Proctor, 38, Army National Guard Sergeant, May 03, 2006
Brian S. Letendre, 27, Marine Reserve Captain, May 03, 2006
Bryan L. Quinton, 24, Army Specialist, May 04, 2006
Gavin B. Reinke, 32, Army Staff Sergeant, May 04, 2006
Stephen R. Bixler, 20, Marine Corporal, May 04, 2006
Elisha R. Parker, 21, Marine Sergeant, May 04, 2006
Alva L. Gaylord, 25, Army Private, May 05, 2006
Carlos N. Saenz, 46, Army Sergeant, May 05, 2006
Teodoro Torres, 29, Army 1st Sergeant, May 05, 2006
Nathan J. Vacho, 29, Army Sergeant, May 05, 2006
Dale James Kelly Jr., 48, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, May 06, 2006
David Michael Veverka, 25, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, May 06, 2006
Leon Deraps, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, May 06, 2006
Matthew J. Fenton, 24, Marine Sergeant, May 06, 2006
Cory L. Palmer, 21, Marine Corporal, May 06, 2006
Emmanuel L. Legaspi, 38, Army Staff Sergeant, May 07, 2006
Gregory A. Wagner, 35, Army Staff Sergeant, May 08, 2006
Aaron P. Latimer, 26, Army Specialist, May 09, 2006
Alessandro Carbonaro, 28, Marine Sergeant, May 10, 2006
Armer N. Burkart, 26, Army Specialist, May 11, 2006
Eric D. Clark, 22, Army Specialist, May 11, 2006
Stephen P. Snowberger III, 18, Army Private, May 11, 2006
Jason K. Burnett, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, May 11, 2006
David J. GramesSanchez, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, May 11, 2006
Michael L. Licalzi, 24, Marine 2nd Lieutenant, May 11, 2006
Steve Vahaviolos, 21, Marine Corporal, May 11, 2006
Brandon L. Teeters, 21, Army Specialist, May 12, 2006
Adam C. Conboy, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 12, 2006
Ron Gebur, 23, Army National Guard Specialist, May 13, 2006
Richard Z. James, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, May 13, 2006
John W. Engeman, 45, Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, May 14, 2006
Jamie D. Weeks, 47, Army Chief Warrant Officer 5, May 14, 2006
Robert H. West, 37, Army Master Sergeant, May 14, 2006
Matthew W. Worrel, 34, Army Major, May 14, 2006
Shane Mahaffee, 36, Army Reserve Captain, May 14, 2006
Jose S. Marin Dominguez Jr., 22, Marine Lance Corporal, May 14, 2006
Hatak Yuka Keyu M. Yearby, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 14, 2006
Grant Allen Dampier, 25, Army Private 1st Class, May 15, 2006
Marion Flint Jr., 29, Army Staff Sergeant, May 15, 2006
Santiago M. Halsel, 32, Army Staff Sergeant, May 16, 2006
Lonnie Calvin Allen Jr., 26, Army Sergeant, May 18, 2006
Nicholas Cournoyer, 25, Army Private 1st Class, May 18, 2006
Daniel E. Holland, 43, Army Lieutenant Colonel, May 18, 2006
Robert Seidel III, 23, Army Lieutenant, May 18, 2006
William B. Fulks, 23, Marine Corporal, May 18, 2006
Benito A. Ramirez, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, May 21, 2006
David Christoff Jr., 25, Marine Sergeant, May 22, 2006
William J. Leusink, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 22, 2006
Michael L. Hermanson, 21, Army National Guard Specialist, May 23, 2006
Steven Freund, 20, Marine Private, May 23, 2006
Robert G. Posivio III, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, May 23, 2006
Doug DiCenzo, 30, Army Captain, May 25, 2006
Caleb Lufkin, 23, Army Private 1st Class, May 25, 2006
Adam Lucas, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, May 26, 2006


Iraqi civilians
Dead 37,813 (Min.) 42,180 (Max.)

Source: Iraq Body Count

The Bush Administration went through many spins to justify the war. The current version is that we are there to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqis.

Haditha - A Coverup ?

Congressman John Murtha (D, PA), a former marine, continues to speak out about the killing of civilians that took place in Haditha, Iraq. "A powerful member of Congress alleged yesterday that there has been a conscious effort by Marine commanders to cover up the facts of a November incident in which rampaging Marines allegedly killed 24 Iraqi civilians."
  • "There has to have been a coverup of this thing," Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, charged in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "No question about it."


Sunday, May 28, 2006


Bush Resurrects Ghost of Cold War * A Walk in Baghdad by the Bay

Fear is the Key - How to turn the miserable poll ratings
* The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

The desperation shows. Earlier in the year, the president tried a series of speeches to justify his war and they fell with a thud. So he tried a new tack, compared the elusive Islamic terrorists with the evil Communists of Cold War era. Would he get a rise out of it ? "WEST POINT, N.Y., May 27 -- President Bush, likening the war against Islamic radicals to the Cold War threat of communism, told U.S. Military Academy graduates on Saturday that America's safety depends on an aggressive push for democracy, especially in the Middle East."

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

It was Herb Caen, late columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle, who described his beloved City as Baghdad By the Bay. Yesterday, a few of us drove to San Francisco to celebrate a friend's birthday. It was a beautiful spring day. The bay sparklingly blue; the Golden Gate Bridge clearly visible. We watched massive container ships heading for the Port of Oakland and hundreds of pleasure boats that dotted the bay. We had brunch at Green's, Fort Mason Center, and then walked to Coit Tower (built in 1933) on Telegraph Hill. After looking at the murals about old California, we walked down to Filbert and saw the famous parrots. It was my first time and I was impressed.

© claudesplace.com

Judy Irving made a great film, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (2003), and it is available on video. Recommend the article by Robin Clifford and Judy Clifford about the making of the film.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Haditha - A Few Marines and Slaughter of Civilians

Haditha, Iraq, November 19, 2005

It was not the only incident in which unarmed, innocent civilians were killed but it could not be covered up because of the scale of the massacre and witnesses who came forward. Although findings of the investigation have not been not yet been released by the Pentagon, reports leave no doubt that deliberate killing of Iraqi civilians did take place in Haditha. The action of a few marines will leave a blot on the corps. Ellen Knickmeyer in the Post: "BAGHDAD, May 26 -- Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing."

  • Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " Fahmi said. "But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."
  • The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on Nov. 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha this week and U.S. investigators said in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif's house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates.

"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, Meditation XVII, No man is an island.


Friday, May 26, 2006


Gallery of Rogues

Lay, Skillings, Ebbers, Kozlowski, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan et al.

Another trial of corporate fraudsters ended with guilty verdicts. Except for the families of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skillings no one will shed tears for them.

There are more, many more. John Schoen's article in MSNBC sums it up well. "“The imbalance between the incentive to cheat and the cost for cheating were so great that you got away with scandals,” he said. “That balance is closer (today), but it doesn’t mean we'’re going to eliminate scandal.” In one mushrooming current scandal, federal authorities are investigating stock options granted to top executives at several companies to determine whether those options were backdated to increase the value of those options."

A few other big names who were found guilty of corporate fraud.

Bernard Ebbers, Worldcom Corp.
Dennis Kozlowski, Tyco International
Sanjay Kumar, Computer Associates

Giants of banking and brokerage industries penalized for helping Enron to manipulate earnings:

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce,

JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Settlement negotiations continuing with:

Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
Barclays P.L.C.
Toronto-Dominion Bank
Royal Bank of Canada
Deutsche Bank AG
Royal Bank of Scotland Group P.L.C.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


On the Road to 2008 - The Hillary and Bill Show

"The Elephant in the Room"

It came as no suprise that Hillary Clinton gave an almost hour-long speech about energy policy at the National Press Club on May 25th and did so with impressive command of the subject. David Broder's column in The Washington Post covered her speech and more. He brought up the the state of relationship that exists between Bill and Hillary Clinton. "The two sides of Hillary Rodham Clinton -- the opposites that make her potential presidential candidacy such a gamble -- came into sharp focus Tuesday morning at the National Press Club. For the better part of an hour, the senator from New York held forth in a disquisition on energy policy that was as overwhelming in its detail as it was ambitious in its reach. " Broder concluded his column with ".........the elephant in the room went unmentioned."
As contenders for the presidential race in 2008 are making themselves known, Hillary Clinton is at the head of the pack among the Democrats. Politics is all about cutting deals, compromising. The question is how far right Mrs Clinton would go to make her candidacy viable. There are issues other than energy policy that matter to rank and file Democrats. The current trend is ominous. There is a rush among Democratic leadership to adopt distatsteful Republicans policies to court voters.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The Neocons - Failure has not made them humble

The disaster that is Iraq * In Afghanistan, More "Collateral damage"

Paul Wolfowitz moved away to a cushy job as chief of the World Bank but most of the other architects of the failed policy about Iraq are still around. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, the president and his aides continue to try to justify taking the nation to war. They go through contortions to make their point but humility is a word they don't know the meaning of. Harold Meyerson writes in the Post: "The sharpest irony was their stunning indifference to the need for civic order. When the Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, said that the occupation would require many hundreds of thousands of troops to establish and maintain the peace, he was publicly rebuked by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, the administration's foremost neocon, and quickly put out to pasture. When the first U.S. official to take charge in post-invasion-Iraq, Jay Garner, called for a massive effort to train Iraq's police and restore order, he was summarily dismissed. When looting far more widespread than anything the United States had ever known swept Iraq's cities after Hussein's fall, Don Rumsfeld shrugged and said, "Stuff happens" -- a two-word death sentence for the possibility of a livable Iraq."

Deaths of Innocent Civilians

Claims and counterclaims about dead Afghans are not going to bring them back. Neither will demand for investigation by President Karzai going to put a stop to such incidents. "Afghan President Hamid Karzai is to summon the head of US-led coalition forces for a "full explanation" of a raid officials say killed 16 civilians. "

The numbers of civilian casualties keep climbing both in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is quite clear that we don't give a damn. So what if a few civilians die in our military actions against the evil doers. Women and children among the dead....too bad. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. President Bush is carrying on a mission to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan and they ought to be happy. Instead, the Iraqis and Afghans are complaining about dead civilians. Ungrateful lot.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Evangelical Christian Democrats !

A Page out of Karl Rove's Game Plan

Votes, votes, we need votes. If that requires kneeling down and speaking in tongues, so be it. A sign of the times or just old-fashioned politics of expediency ? It is becoming obvious that Democratic leaders have decided to turn right. Where then is the difference between them and the Republicans? Just when the tide against the pious hypocrites was turning the Democrats decided to drape themselves in scriptures like those who sit across the aisle. It made me sick to read The New Temptation of Democrats, Ruth Marcus' column in the Post. "When mega-pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church opened last year in its new Houston home, the city's former professional basketball arena, a most unlikely guest was on hand for the celebration: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a minister's son who chairs the House Democrats' Faith Working Group, headed to Dallas a few months later to worship with Bishop T.D. Jakes, an African American Pentecostal minister who's been called "the next Billy Graham."

  • This month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- yes, that would be the Howard Dean who dismissed Republicans last year as "pretty much a white, Christian Party" -- went on Pat Robertson's "700 Club," asserting that Democrats "have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community." Randy Brinson, founder of Redeem the Vote (think Rock the Vote meets Jesus), met last week with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
  • Democrats these days are a party on a mission that might sound impossible: to persuade evangelical Christian voters to consider converting -- to the Democratic Party.

So, it comes down to a cynical courtship of evangelical Christian voters. If that is the path my party is going to follow to defeat the Republicans I shall not be proud of being a Democrat.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Eurovision 2006 - The Finns Rocked the World

Euphoria in Finland * A Mother Grieves in Iraq

The Finnish hard rock group Lordi, named after the lead singer, caused a sensation at the Eurovision Song Festival in Athens, Greece. The mask-wearing heavy metal band won the top prize.

©Eurovision TV - http://www.eurovision.tv

As expected, there were comments about satan worship and such weird stuff. One can discount them. Lordi and his group make music....music that is not quite my cup of tea but I am glad for the Finns and Lordi. The competition was fierce and they deserve their place in the sun.
Mothers and Sons. There are many parents here in America and in Iraq who worry about their sons in the combat zone. Some will not come home. Ellen Knickmeyer's article, An Iraqi Mother's Most Dreaded Mission, is a must read. It depicts the anxiety and the suffering of all parents. "Searching for missing loved ones has become a common mission -- especially for Sunni families -- in Baghdad in recent months as sectarian violence has surged. Fahdriya and family members agreed to let a reporter accompany them for parts of their search. Other events were recounted in interviews."

Listening to: Gothic Voices, Sequences and hymns by Abbess Hildegarde of Bingen (1170)
Emma Kirkby directed by Christopher Page
Hyperion CDA66039

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Distant Thunder - Fury on the Right

G.W. Bush and Conservatives * Saudi Arabia and "Unbelievers"

When all is said and done what are the conservative Republicans going to do about their dissatisfaction with President Bush and his policies? The honeymoon lasted a long time but seems to be over. Richard Viguerie writes about Bush's Base Betrayal. Bush and his handlers are doing what they have always done. Principle has nothing to do with it. It is to be seen whether the Republicans will, at the end, forgive Bush and come to the aid of the party. "Republicans were desperate to retake the White House, conservatives were desperate to get the Clinton liberals out and there was no direct heir to Reagan running for president. So most conservatives supported Bush as the strongest candidate -- some enthusiastically and some, like me, reluctantly. After the disastrous presidency of his father, our support for the son was a triumph of hope over experience."

The Wahabi Kingdom Tries a Makeover of Text Books

It does not matter what the Saudis do---how backward the country is about women's rights and its treatment of those who do not practise Wahabism---it has vast reserves of oil and it enjoys a cozy relationship with the president and his father, former President George H.W. Bush. The Clinton Administration,too, did its best to remain friendly with the Saudis. Nina Shea in the Post: "Saudi Arabia's public schools have long been cited for demonizing the West as well as Christians, Jews and other "unbelievers." But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis -- that was all supposed to change."

The Saudis might mount a PR blitz to polish up their image but don't expect meaningful reform.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Saturday Morning Fish Fry

Midterm Elections * Liberal Christians

Is Bush dragging the GOP down ? The much sought-after presidential coattail has lost its appeal for many GOP incumbents fighting to retain their seats. "VIRGINIA BEACH, May 19 -- When some of the country's top political handicappers drew up their charts of vulnerable House incumbents at the beginning of this year, Rep. Thelma D. Drake (R-Va.) was not among them. Now she is."
Encouraging. If only the Democrats don't get carried away by the polls and lose a sense of balance. When it comes to grandstanding, the Democratic leadership isn't much different than those on the other side of the aisle.

Christianity in America - Emergence of Religious Liberals

According to a report in the Post, liberals in the Christian community are making their presence felt. The conservative Christians found a champion in the White House. The president cynically courted them and together they subdued Christians who felt uncomfortable with what was taking place. "Long overshadowed by the Christian right, religious liberals across a wide swath of denominations are engaged today in their most intensive bout of political organizing and alliance-building since the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s, according to scholars, politicians and clergy members."

The winds, they are changing.


Friday, May 19, 2006


Fractured Friday - Slaughterhouse Iraq

2454 and Counting * John Murtha * Homeless Veterans

50 more soldiers have died in Iraq so far in the month of May; The total is 2454. Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties.

What happened in Haditha,Iraq, on November 19,2005 ? Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) stated in a report that innocent women and children were killed in "cold blood" by marines. A criminal investigation is continuing. "WASHINGTON -- Military officials said Thursday that a criminal investigation into a firefight in western Iraq that left at least 15 civilians dead is not complete, but they did not dispute a congressman's charges that the attack by Marines was far worse than originally reported."

Plight of the Veterans

From a report by Daniel Trotta in Reuters-Alertnet
  • On any given night the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps 200 to 250 of them, and more go uncounted. They are among nearly 200,000 homeless veterans in America, largely from the Vietnam War.
  • Advocates say the number of homeless veterans is certain to grow, just as it did in the years following the Vietnam and Gulf wars, as a consequence of the stresses of war and inadequate job training.
  • Homeless veterans have remained in the shadows of the national debate about Iraq, although the issue may gain traction from the film "When I Came Home," which won an award the month for best New York-made documentary at the city's Tribeca Film Festival.
  • The documentary tells the story of Iraq war veteran Herold Noel as he lived in his car. It will get a screening in June at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
  • U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, a California Democrat, calls it a "national disgrace" that homelessness among veterans has not been solved and held an informal hearing on Thursday to highlight the issue.


Thursday, May 18, 2006


On the Road to 2008 - Brother Jeb and 'Value Voters'

Jeb Bush * John McCain * Hillary Clinton
* Italy's Romano Prodi

George Will writes in the Post about the emergence of a new phrase in political campaigns. "Who Isn't A Value Voter". Just like moral values, which the GOP adopted, value voters is hollow and Will rightly takes it apart. "This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots."

  • On Sunday a Los Angeles Times article on the possibility of a presidential run by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reported: "The Family Research Council, an influential evangelical activist group, has invited Gov. Bush to appear at a fall conference of 'values voters.' " On Monday the Wall Street Journal quoted a pastor who is president of a Texas-based organization, Vision America, that mobilizes conservative pastors: "Values voters see their vote as a sacred trust." The phrase "values voters," which has become ubiquitous, subtracts from social comity by suggesting that one group has cornered the market on moral seriousness.
  • Last Saturday, when John McCain delivered the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, he was said to be reaching out to values voters. Hillary Clinton, speaking recently at the annual U.S. Chamber of Commerce convention, scolded "kids," by which she evidently meant young adults, for thinking "work is a four-letter word." She was said to be courting values voters. If so, those voters must value slapdash rhetorical nonsense as well as work.
Sacred trust, my foot. But we are going to hear and read more about value voters. Apparently, politicians and their handlers think there is capital to be made from them. Shame on the media for being ready and available to publicize such claptrap.
Romano Prodi does the Right Thing

As expected, newly elected Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy came out against the occupation of Iraq. "Another U.S. ally in the war in Iraq distanced itself from the U.S.- led effort today when Italy's new prime minister, Romano Prodi, called the invasion and occupation a "grave error" and said he would propose a withdrawal of Italian troops."
  • "We consider the war in Iraq and the occupation of the country a grave error," Prodi told the upper house of Parliament, wire services reported. "It has not resolved, but complicated the situation of security." Italy has about 3,000 troops in Iraq in peacekeeping roles. They are already due to be withdrawn in groups before the end of the year. Prodi did not set forth a timetable for withdrawal and it was unclear whether he would speed up the departure."


Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The Pure, Chaste Youth of Saudi Arabia

Not to be led astray by pictures of women in newspapers
* Midterm elections and Democrats

It would be funny if it were not for the seriousness with which such edicts by the monarch are taken by the people of Saudi Arabia. They have no choice. Obey or be punished, and punishment could be severe."In recent months, newspapers have published pictures of women — always wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf — to illustrate stories with increasing regularity. Usually the stories have had to do with women's issues. The papers have also started publishing a range of views on causes that are not generally accepted in Saudi Arabia — such as women having the right to drive and vote."

  • RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - King Abdullah has told Saudi editors to stop publishing pictures of women as they could make young men go astray, newspapers reported Tuesday.
  • The king told editors on Monday night that publishing a woman's picture for the world to see was inappropriate.
  • "The youth are driven by emotion ... and sometimes they can be lead astray. So, please, try to cut down on this," he said.
Led astray by looking at pictures of women wearing headscarf.....and no doubt the rest of their bodies properly covered ! Pity the youth of Saudi Arabia. Raed, the Iraqi blogger would say "Ya Habibi".
Democrats - Success or failure, what lies ahead ?

That is the heart of the matter. A headline in the Post reads "Confidence in GOP is at new low in poll". Heartening news indeed but what does it portend for Democrats ? "The second warning for Democrats is that their improved prospects for November appear driven primarily by dissatisfaction with Republicans rather than by positive impressions of their own party. Congressional Democrats are rating only slightly more favorably than congressional Republicans, and 52 percent of those surveyed said the Democrats have not offered a sharp contrast to Bush and the Republicans."

There is no question that the Republicans are vulnerable. Among other things they have lost the American public's support for the war. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll 59% of those contacted felt it was a "Mistake"; 40% "It was the right thing"; and 1% had no opinion. There is clamor but not a single Democratic leader has emerged to offer clear and different alternatives about the war; health care; education; tax cuts; and women's right to choose. To their shame, they are playing politics. There is crying need for a man or woman to rise above the herd.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


President Bush Straddled the Fence on Immigration

Illegal Immigrants * Hitech, National Guards and t
he Elusive Trouts

I was not among those who watched the telecast of the president's speech. Read the transcript. To no one's surprise he tried to appease people on both sides of this contentious issue and failed. Among other things he talked about the end of catch and release. "For many years, the government did not have enough space in our detention facilities to hold them while the legal process unfolded. So most were released back into our society and asked to return for a court date. When the date arrived, the vast majority did not show up. This practice, called "catch and release," is unacceptable. And we will end it." And he threw in a human interest item about a soldier named Guadalupe Denogean who served in Iraq.
Good try at making no enemies.
Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman "With the Senate set to debate the largest overhaul of immigration laws in decades, Bush did not specifically address what many Republican lawmakers consider the most politically explosive and intractable issue confronting the country: what to do with most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States today."

Would it sell in Peoria ?
Dan Balz "Bush sought to reassure both sides with his speech last night, and in doing so he attempted to define the middle ground in a debate where consensus has been difficult. By ordering National Guard troops to the border, he was determined to show conservatives and House Republicans his belief that border security is a prerequisite to any legislative solution. But on the most contentious issue before Congress, Bush came closer to the approach now on the Senate floor, saying he favors a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants while rejecting either mass deportation or automatic amnesty for those now here illegally."


Monday, May 15, 2006


GOP - The Senate and the House

"Widening Gyre"

What goes up must come down. A rift developing between Republican senators and leaders of the House. It was sort of inevitable. Falling support and what it means for mid-term elections have them scrambling in different directions. The Post: "From immigration policy to energy to emergency spending, House Republican leaders are publicly breaking rank with their counterparts in the Senate, fearing that Senate efforts at compromise are jeopardizing the party's standing with conservative voters."

  • The breach in congressional leadership has been especially stark in the past two weeks. As the Senate returns to the immigration issue this week, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said House Republicans will not agree to any plan granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship that does not require them first to return to their home countries. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposed $100 rebate for gasoline as "insulting" and "stupid." And House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared a Senate-passed, $109 billion bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane relief and a bevy of home-state pet projects "dead on arrival."
  • Hastert even parted company with Frist (R-Tenn.) last week on President Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to head the CIA. Hastert asserted, "I don't think a military guy should be head of CIA, frankly," even as Frist called him "the ideal man for the job."
If the Democrats can keep their heads and make the best of the situation there is a strong chance of seeing a reversal of fortunes. In politics six months is a very long time. Consider how far the president's rating has dropped in the past six months. Don't blow it, Democrats.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction; while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
---W.B. Yeats

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Mother's Day 2006 and the Veterans of Iraq War

A Day to Celebrate Women * Veterans tell their Stories

Mother's Day is not only for mothers. It is for all women---to be celebrated, to be praised, to be remembered.
In Their Own Words,The Washington Post contains a great item---comments of 100 veterans who served in Iraq. They tell their stories--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Read them; think about those who are still out there; rejoice about those who returned whole. And don't forget the more than 30,000 Iraqi civilians who have died since President Bush began his war on March 20, 2003.

  • How can you describe what that was like? Who would understand it?
  • Nobody. So Reuter keeps his mouth shut. His army uniform is packed in a box in the garage. He hasn't looked at it in months. Instead, he kisses his baby boy every night. He gets on with his life, because that's what everyone else is doing.
  • At home in Newnan, Ga., there is no war.
  • "It doesn't cross their minds," Reuter said. "To them, everything is fine."


Saturday, May 13, 2006


Bush's 'Turd Blossom' - Is Indictment Imminent ?

Rove unraveling ? * The Fog around Kyle Foggo of CIA

While not much can be found in mainstream media, the blogosphere is going wild with reports that the indictment of Karl Rove is about to take place. 'Turd Blossom' is reported to be one of the pet names the president used for his trusted aide Karl Rove. Made sense. If Rove is indicted he will be busy consulting attorneys and preparing a defense; his services will no longer be available to the president. Did Rove's recent re-assignment result from anticipation of the indictment ? Rove has appeared before the grand jury convened for the Valerie Plame investigation being conducted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Think of the possibilities---what if Rove testifies that he was asked by the president to smear Ambassador Joseph Wilson and leak his wife's name (Valerie Plame worked for the CIA as an undercover officer).

The White House staffers must feel as though they are under siege. The shells keep coming and hitting where it hurts. Do they ever think about the arrogance and the contempt with which they treated anyone who questioned the administration's policies or lack thereof ? The members of God's Own Party must have displeased the almighty with their hypocrisy and excesses. Prayer breakfasts are not going to help them.
It was no less a person than Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, former executive director of the CIA, allegedly involved in a corruption enquiry, whose office and home were searched by Federal agents on May 12th. It would be interesting to follow the enquiry. It might net a few more big fish.
  • Officials inside CIA headquarters saw agents hauling away items from Foggo's seventh-floor suite, and neighbors outside his rented house in the Oakdale Park section of Vienna said officers, some wearing plastic gloves, placed materials in vans parked at the front and rear of the split-level brick home.
  • Aside from well-publicized espionage cases, veteran intelligence officers said they could not recall another time when FBI agents picked through offices at the CIA's Langley headquarters.

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall" (English proverb)

Friday, May 12, 2006


The Water Falls at Big Basin State Park, California

Berry Creek Falls * Golden Cascade Falls * Silver Falls

Spring is the time to visit the water falls at Big Basin State Park. During winter months the trails get too muddy and impassable at points because of damaged foot bridges, mud slides, and fallen trees. Once the rains and the storms are over work begins to repair the trails. JHL and I went there a few days back and saw trail crews working hard. But the Skyline to Sea Trail to Berry Creek Falls was open, and so was the mile-long trail from Berry Creek to Golden Cascade and Silver Falls.

The Sunset Trail from Silver Falls makes it possible to do a loop instead of returning via Skyline to Sea Trail. The total distance for the loop--Park Headquarters to Berry Creek and returning via Sunset Trail is about 11.5 miles. There is a sign in the park that alerts visitors that it is a strenuous hike and time required is 6 hours.

Berry Creek Falls

Golden Cascade Falls

Silver Falls

It was just the right time when Joanne and I did the hike. Sunny but not too warm, and the falls were at their best. Took us a little under 5 hours to do the loop. Although we had done it a few years back it was a rewarding experience to see Berry Creek Falls when it came into view as we turned a corner. Worth the time and effort. We sat on a bench facing the water falls and had a picnic lunch: chicken-apple sausage; potatoes and onions roasted with sage, rosemary and garlic; steamed spears of asparagus rolled in a vinaigrette dressing; an Australian wine (Penfolds Shiraz-Mouvedre); coffee, strawberries, and home made pound cake. All felt right with the world.

As the days get warmer the flow of water will slow down. By mid-June the falls will lose their charm and warm temperature will make the hike more demanding. Time to visit is now.


Thursday, May 11, 2006


On the Road to 2008 - Hillary Clinton

John McCain * Further Loss of Support for Bush

Vote for Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination in 2008 ? Yes, I would but not because I think highly of her. The current stable of Republican candidates is pitiful. John McCain, the man I respected once has become just another politician, adept at expediency. McCain has been castigated by George Will for his position on campaign financing. In my book that is a plus for McCain. Among the Democrats there is Hillary Clinton, the enigma. Can she be trusted ? I have my doubts. Richard Cohen explores the Clinton candidacy in Who are You Hillary ? "But politics is not just about money -- not quite yet, anyway -- if only because ideology and principles are not yet "products." That being the case (I hope), then Hillary Clinton's vast lead in fundraising -- she now has more than $20 million in the bank -- will be offset by growing questions about her principles and ideology. In other words, who is this woman who wants to be the next president of the United States? Is she the wife of Bill Clinton, who we were once led to believe was more liberal than he was, or is she actually far more conservative? The answer, at the moment, is something I cannot provide."

How bad can it get for El Jefe ? The president's approval rating is continuing to slide and he is taking the Republican Congress down with him. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving lot. They are being deserted by their core support groups. "Bush and Congress have suffered a decline in support from almost every part of the conservative coalition over the past year, a trend that has accelerated with alarming implications for Bush's governing strategy."


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Pelosi on a High Horse

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi * The Fishing President * Death With Dignity and the Brits

One of the things I detest about Republican lawmakers is the stridency with which they pursue their agenda. They bloviate.....a lot. Now the House Minority Leader, our own Nancy Pelosi from California, is acting like one of them. The Democrats are far from reaching the position that would allow them to pursue investigation of the Bush administration's various abuses. Perhaps there is sufficient ground to launch investigations. But for Pelosi to mouth off about investigations and hint about impeachment of the president is foolhardy.....a bad case of Washingtonitis. Dan Balz in the Post: "These centrist Democrats argued that voters are more receptive to the Democrats because of Bush's mistakes in Iraq. But they warned against calls to launch investigations into past administration decisions if Democrats gain control of the House or Senate in the November elections. Instead, they said, Democrats should concentrate on charting alternative policies for fighting terrorism and succeeding in Iraq." I am far from a "centrist" Democrat but I agree with them in this instance.


Reading Dan Froomkin's column : "Would Bush Rather Be Fishing?" made me think of a bumper sticker that I see on pickup trucks near fishing holes---A bad day fishing is better than a good day working. "Is it possible that President Bush doesn't really enjoy his job? "Asked by a German tabloid to name the most wonderful moment of his presidency, Bush on Friday said it came while he was on vacation, fishing on his private lake." A joke or a reflection of his innermost self in an unguarded moment ? A Freudian slip.


Our friends across the Atlantic are considering a bill to allow assistance in dying for terminally ill patients. Baroness Mary Warnock in The Guardian, May 7th: "Considering that all men are mortal, we are curiously unwilling to acknowledge that death, our inevitable fate, should not always be postponed. The Romans recognised that suicide was sometimes not only an admirable but a rational end to life. I think they were right and that there are situations of suffering where to kill oneself is the most reasonable and the most desirable course to take. But committing suicide is difficult, especially if one is ill and under constant surveillance. And though suicide is not illegal, as the law stands, one cannot ask help from anyone else, because assisting suicide is a criminal offence. On Friday, Lord Joffe's bill to permit assisted dying for the terminally ill is to receive its second reading in the House of Lords. It is a bill of limited scope, allowing doctors to provide patients with the means to commit suicide, but only those who ask repeatedly for help to die, who are competent to make their own decisions and who are suffering acutely in the terminal stage of an incurable illness."

The bill appears to be identical to the one that the voters of Oregon passed in 1997, and which has, so far, survived repeated attacks against it by the Bush Administration. It is unfortunate that bigots in America are receiving support of the government to deny physician assistance in dying to terminally ill people who wish to elect that option, and the Bush Administration is prepared to ignore State's rights to appease its core support groups.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Blogroll Me!