,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Monday, July 31, 2006


Atrocities in Lebanon and Cloud of Lies

Disinformation Rules

The disinformation war is raging but the images tell a story that no official statements can explain away. Bodies of dead children have an impact that lingers. David Clark in The Guardian: As if we didn't know it already, the conflict in Lebanon shows that truth and war don't mix. All parties to the tragedy of the Middle East resort to disinformation and historical falsification to bolster their case, but rarely has an attempt to rewrite the past occurred so soon after the fact. Israeli ministers and their supporters have justified the bombardment of Lebanon as "a matter of survival". Total war has been declared on Israel, so Israel is entitled to use the methods of total war in self-defence. This would be reasonable if it were true, but it isn't. It's completely false."

Despite Israel's protestations that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties, it is clear that its military strategy is aimed at maximising the suffering of the Lebanese people as a whole. This was declared quite openly on day one of the campaign, when Israel's chief of staff, General Dan Halutz, promised to "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years", and confirmed again yesterday with the horrific slaughter at Qana. The approach is identical to the one taken in similar operations in 1996 and 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin admitted: "The goal of the operation is to get the southern Lebanese population to move northward, hoping that this will tell the Lebanese government something about the refugees, who may get as far north as Beirut." Populations will move like this only if they are in fear of their lives.

The same applies to Gaza, where the pretence at discrimination is even thinner and Palestinian civilians are being subjected to a brutal siege and acts of violence that have no military justification. As in Lebanon, the intention is to force civilians to turn on the militias by inflicting as much pain and suffering as the Israeli government thinks it can get away with. What is this if it is not terrorism? It is certainly a war crime. So let's hear no more hypocritical utterances about the evils of terrorism from Bush and Blair. Not until they are able to speak with genuine moral authority by condemning all forms of illegal violence, irrespective of who commits them.

A New Middle East Quagmire?

One good thing for the Bush Administration is that in recent days attention has shifted from the mess in Iraq. News about recent casualties suffered by U.S. forces didn't receive much attention. Peter Baker writes in the Post about the bombing of Qana and "........ the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials."

Although the United States has urged Israel to use restraint, it has also strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, a position increasingly at odds with allies that see a deadly overreaction. Analysts think that if the war drags on, as appears likely, it could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program and spreading democracy around the world."The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction," said Richard N. Haass, who was President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director. "The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights."

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Condoning Butchery - The Bush/Blair Axis

How will history judge us when the bombs and rockets stop falling, when the shooting ends ? "JERUSALEM, July 30 -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forced to cancel a trip to Beirut Sunday after an Israeli airstrike killed more than 50 people, mostly women and children, in the southern Lebanese town of Qana in the bloodiest attack since the hostilities began between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. But she did not call for an immediate ceasefire."

BEIRUT, July 30 -- In an attack that the Israeli military said was aimed at destroying Hezbollah rocket launchers, Israeli warplanes blasted a group of buildings in a southern Lebanese village Sunday, killing more than 50 people, most of them women and children, according to Lebanese officials and on-scene interviews by Lebanese television reporters.

Coming at a particularly sensitive point in negotiations to end the conflict, the attack on the village threw the painstaking process of building toward an agreement into turmoil. Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would not hold talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice until a ceasefire is called.


Saturday, July 29, 2006


The Eloquent and Deferential Prime Minister

Tony Blair, True Believer ?

It is a wellknown fact that President Bush is incapable of expressing himself without a script. His weakness becomes glaring when Prime Minister Blair speaks standing next to him. But Tony Blair, who hitched himself lock, stock and barrel to the neocons' disastrous war in Iraq, is no longer in a position to redeem himself. He parrotted President Bush about the crisis in Lebanon, that Israel was right in its attacks on Lebanese civilians and destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure, until public opinion at home and abroad forced him to try to persuade President Bush to agree to a prompt cease fire. Apparently, he got rolled over. The joint statement that resulted after his meeting with President Bush in Washington made it clear that Blair failed to change the Bush Administration's position if that was his objective."The resolution would also call for a cessation of hostilities in Lebanon, but Bush and Blair made it clear they were not talking about the kind of immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah being promoted by other world leaders."

Blair has been calling almost from the beginning of the crisis for a multinational force to help police southern Lebanon. U.S. officials -- mindful of the political difficulties the situation is creating for Blair at home -- said the prime minister has been influential in helping to convince the president that the idea makes sense as a way of helping the Lebanese government reestablish authority.

At the news conference yesterday, Blair put little daylight between himself and Bush, casting Hezbollah as the instigator of the crisis and coming to the president's defense -- with a passionate plea to look at the larger stakes -- when Bush was questioned about declining U.S. clout in the world. Blair said the growing violence in the Middle East is not a function of declining U.S. influence but a global movement of Islamic radicals determined to subvert democracy in that region and elsewhere.

Wider Conflict

A report in the BBC mentions threat of a wider conflict:

The agony of Lebanon was, like the carnage in Iraq, part of the birth pains of the New Middle East for the neo-conservative ideologues in Washington. This was Israel's contribution to the war on terror, dealing a blow to a proxy offspring of those "axis of evil" nations, Syria and Iran.

This was Israel's contribution to the war on terror, dealing a blow to a proxy offspring of those "axis of evil" nations, Syria and Iran.
A cease fire would be welcome news but there is no sign that it is going to happen anytime soon. We are again going to see Secretary Rice on center stage in the Middle East as she utters high sounding words. Disarming of Hezbollah is easier said than done. Few believe that it can be achieved. Does not matter. It is the Lebanese people,refugees in their own land, who deserve our support and sympathy.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Floyd Landis - How Would It Play Out ?

Vindication or Disgrace * The Warrior Princess In A Cream Colored Suit

We have become blasé about use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes. The problem is endemic and it is almost taken for granted that the stars in professional sports use them. Yet the news about failed drug test by Floyd Landis caused shock and dismay. His victory in Tour de France made us proud and happy. We rejoiced at his superb recovery after falling behind from 1st place to 11th in the most challenging segment of the race and in his victory.

Then came the shocker about the drug test. Landis appeared at a press conference in Madrid to tell his side of the story. A second test might vindicate him or it might not. Apparently, the tests are not infallible. Among the glut of reports about Floyd Landis I liked Mike Freeman's column in CBS SportsLine.com:

"We know all of this. We know the sport is one test tube away from becoming the WWE and is the dirtiest one of all. We know many cyclists dabble in drugs and violate rules by toiling in technologies designed to create supermen. Only instead of capes, they don yellow jerseys.

But Landis? Wasn't he supposed to be different? Wasn't he the anti-Lance Armstrong? There weren't supposed to be steroid rumors swirling around Landis as there have been around Armstrong. There was not supposed to be a smoking needle, err, gun.

There is a chance a plausible explanation exists for the elevated testosterone levels allegedly discovered in the Landis sample. He might be completely innocent. His second sample could be clean. He could also be the victim of bullied blood work. The French and others have been accused by American cyclists of being sophisticated saboteurs. Armstrong has had numerous run-ins with their various cycling bodies and pernicious French media. The French, we are told, would love to be riggers of the Petri dish. They hate American cyclists so much that when one tests positive for some illicit substance, the moment is treated like Bastille Day.

Please let it be that. Please let it be some legitimate mistake or conspiracy. Because how many more times can our Tour de France champions, or even our NFL and baseball heroes, go through performance enhancing drug scandals before we all become so cynical we don't care if our athletes cheat?

Or have we long passed that point?"

The Gloating Secretary of State

One person who is revelling in the Lebanon crisis is Condoleezza Rice. The news clips show her obvious pleasure at being in the center of action, calling the shots, talking about "enduring" peace, which became "sustainable" peace in the Rome Conference while hapless Lebanese civilians are bearing the brunt of Israel's ceaseless pounding. She is doing what her boss wants but there can be no doubt that Condoleezza Rice is out to make her own place in history. Eugene Robinson in the Post: "Lebanon has now become Condi's war. You can argue whether legal title to the tragic mess in Iraq properly belongs to Rummy or Cheney or to the Decider himself, but as far as Lebanon is concerned, it's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who has stepped front and center to handle the crisis and show the world who's boss."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Lebanon, July 2006 - Guernica, April 1937

Editorial in The Guardian : "It seems astonishing that the world is still watching rather than acting two weeks after the Lebanon war began. After the international embarrassments of the 1990s, in which Europe watched as Sarajevo's civilian population was assaulted from its surrounding hills and the UN failed to intervene to halt genocide in Rwanda, audiences in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, seeing nightly on television the carnage and despoilation of the Lebanon, rightly expect their governments to respond. And yet nothing happens.

The US alliance with Israel has been a fact of international life for decades, but seldom has Washington acted so blatantly in support of the country and with such disregard for the rest of the international community. By blocking diplomatic action, the US has alienated the Arab world even further. And Britain, shamefully, has been a party to this. Washington and London argue that there is no point in calling for an immediate ceasefire because it would only be a temporary solution and what is needed is a sustainable ceasefire. This is an unusual approach to conflict. It is normal to press for a ceasefire and then try to work out peace terms. To demand a workable peace plan for the Israel-Lebanon first is the stuff of dreams. Israel and Lebanon have now been in conflict since 1982: there is no easy solution on offer.
Picasso's Guernica

And Our Soldiers In Iraq

Latest number for total military fatalities: 2570. So far this month 36 soldiers have died in Iraq. Yes, the people who started the war keep saying that the numbers don't mean anything. Can that be true? Surely the numbers mean something to the families....to the friends and neighbors. To them the numbers represent real people whom they had known and loved. But do they question why they died -- not sure that many do. And that is the saving grace for the warmongers. Joshua Partlow writes in the Post about soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division: "Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

As President Bush plans to deploy more troops in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraqi civilians.

But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division -- interviewed over four days on base and on patrols -- say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded.

"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. "You lose a couple friends and it gets hard."


Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Lebanon: The Elusive "Enduring Peace"

Thrust and Parry in Rome

The parties agreed to disagree in the 18-nation Rome meeting to find a solution to the current crisis. People in the war zone can expect their suffering to continue until the super powers find a way to reach "enduring peace" -- a phrase which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice keeps repeating. It has a bite to it and she obviously likes the sound. One can even see a smirk (shadow of G.W. Bush) in her face. "But the participating foreign ministers could not agree on the timing of a cease-fire, with the United States standing by its position that a settlement be in place for an "enduring" peace prior to a cessation of hostilities. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan publicly disagreed at a grim-faced news conference on whether Iran and Syria should be involved in talks, with Annan saying they should, and Rice denouncing the two nations for their role in the region."

After listening to the news conference, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora expressed despair. Saying his country was being "cut to pieces" by Israel, Siniora said: "We really wanted, on the one hand, to really ask the participants to provide humanitarian relief assistance, which is important, and to provide all other assistance. . . . But more, we wanted a cease-fire, an immediate cease-fire."

U.S. officials briefing after the meeting played down disagreements. But others did not. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said that "we agreed upon what we could agree upon, but that does not change the fact that the European Union has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities" while the United States has not.
The Bombing of UNIFIL - Accidental or Deliberate ?

Four members of UNIFIL died yesterday after repeated bombing of the UN base at Lebanon-Israeli border. "The UN general secretary, Kofi Annan, today accused the Israeli military of carrying out a sustained bombing of the UN base on the Lebanon-Israel border that culminated in the killing of four unarmed monitors.Mr Annan said he had suggested to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that they carry out a joint investigation into the events that led to the shelling of the "well-established and well marked" Unifil (UN interim force in Lebanon) post in the town of Khiyam."

According to a detailed timeline of the incident provided by an unidentified UN officer and reported by CNN, the first bomb exploded around 200 metres from the post at 1.20pm (11.20am BST) yesterday.

Unifil observers then telephoned their designated contact with the Israeli military, who assured them the attacks would stop. In the following hours, nine more bombs fell close to the post, each one followed by a call to the Israeli military, the UN officer said.

The main Unifil base in the town of Naqoura lost contact with the post at 7.40pm, seemingly the time when the post received a direct hit.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


The Imperial Presidency - (I Think) "I Am The State"

Signing Statements

Back in January 2006, esteemed journalist Helen Thomas compared the president with Louis XIV of France, credited for saying "L'etat, C'est Moi" (I am the State). The looming battle over signing statements used by the president to demonstrate defiance of legislations highlights his arrogance. Michael Abramowitz in the Post: "A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. "

The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements.

"The president is indicating that he will not either enforce part or the entirety of congressional bills," said ABA president Michael S. Greco, a Massachusetts attorney. "We will be close to a constitutional crisis if this issue, the president's use of signing statements, is left unchecked."

Unconstitutional Loopholes

The Guardian: "The American Bar Association, an independent lawyers' organisation, issued a report on President Bush's prolific use of "signing statements" and found he was using them to create unconstitutional loopholes to laws passed by Congress.

The ABA found that the president used signing statements to make more than 800 challenges to congressional legislation, 200 more than all previous US presidents put together. Signing statements have been issued since the nation's founding but they have traditionally served a ceremonial function, extolling the virtues of the legislation just signed.

Forbes Magazine: "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

It will be interesting to see how this vitally important issue plays out.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Looking Back, Looking Forward - Mossadeq to Ahmedinejad

The United States In A Familiar Role

It was not much of a secret although the details were not public. Israel's actions against Lebanon had the blessing of the Bush Administration. The Guardian (UK) has come out with the details of the "Green Light". "The US is giving Israel a window of a week to inflict maximum damage on Hizbullah before weighing in behind international calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon, according to British, European and Israeli sources. The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels." Blair was fully aware of what was going on. Did Foreign Office Minister Howells go out on a limb ? He shows no sign of backing down from his position which is radically different than that of Tony Blair and Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett.

"It's clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week," a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.

US strategy in allowing Israel this freedom for a limited period has several objectives, one of which is delivering a slap to Iran and Syria, who Washington claims are directing Hizbullah and Hamas militants from behind the scenes.

Blood and Oil-Stained Hands

A dismal scene. In 1953, U.S. and Britain engineered a coup to topple Iran's the then prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and installed a puppet, Reza Shah Pahlavi. Now, 53 years later the same team is involved,with Israel doing most of the dirty work, in toppling the current regime of hardline Shiaites who came into power because of the late Shah's repressive rule under which thousands of Iranians were tortured and killed. The primary reason then was oil. The present policy is based on fear that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. And, of course, the U.S. would love to get its hands on Iran's oil. The kingmakers engaged in geopolitical gamesmanship. The failure of their grand vision in Iraq means nothing.

An Arabic newspaper on the History of the Green Light.

Also see Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and Fareed Zacharia's "Is the war making the world safer for Israel, America and their allies or more dangerous?"

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Lebanon: Britain Takes a Stand, Away From G.W. Bush

Applause, Britain does the right thing

Foreign Minister Kim Howells' statement from Beirut could not be any more clear. It does not matter that Bush Administration remains oblivious to world opinion. It has shown no concern for civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan; it will not intervene to stop the carnage in Lebanon. Despite the close tie between Blair and Bush, Britain took a stand to condemn the utter disregard for suffering of Lebanese civilians.

The Observer/Guardian, July 23, 2006
  • Britain dramatically broke ranks with George Bush last night over the Lebanon crisis, publicly criticising Israel's military tactics and urging America to 'understand' the price being paid by ordinary Lebanese civilians.
  • The remarks, made in Beirut by the Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, were the first public criticism by this country of Israel's military campaign, and placed it at odds with Washington's strong support. The Observer can also reveal that Tony Blair voiced deep concern about the escalating violence during a private telephone conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last week. But sources close to Blair said Olmert had replied that Israel faced a dire security threat from the Hizbollah militia and was determined to do everything necessary to defeat it.
  • Britain's shift came as Israeli tanks and warplanes pounded targets across the border in southern Lebanon yesterday ahead of an imminently expected ground offensive to clear out nearby Hizbollah positions, which have been firing dozens of rockets onto towns and cities inside Israel.
Violation of Humanitarian Law

The BBC: The UN's Jan Egeland has condemned the devastation caused by Israeli air strikes in Beirut, saying it is a violation of humanitarian law.


No Chocolates and Flowers For U.S. Troops In Iraq


Comparison with Vietnam back again! Lessons, what lessons? Cannot be true. It is a piece of leftist, anti-war propaganda. The chocolates and flowers are late in coming. The Iraqis will eventually greet us as liberators after the Iraq they knew ceases to exist. Thomas E. Ricks write in the Post: "In Iraq, Military Forgot Lessons of Vietnam"
Killings Legitimized - ROE

Trust them to find justification for murder of civilians -- Rules of Engagement (ROE). Soldiers facing charges for killing Iraqi civilians are being defended on the ground that their actions were based on ROE. That is how we are going to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis! "Army Lt. Col. John W. McClory found that Spec. Nathan B. Lynn, 21, of South Williamsport, Pa., did nothing wrong in shooting Gani Ahmad Zaben in the post-curfew darkness outside a group of homes on Feb. 15. McClory ruled that Lynn thought the man was armed with an AK-47 and believed he was a threat."

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Bombs for Lebanon With Love From Uncle Sam

The New Barbarians

All of them are not on the Lebanese side of the border.
  • WASHINGTON, July 21 -- The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.
  • The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran'’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.
  • The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel'’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.
The numbers speak.

Yesterday's casualties


Deaths 8

Since outbreak:
Military 66
Civilians 345
Wounded +1000


Military 4
Wounded Civilians 15

Since outbreak:
Military 15
Civilians 19
Wounded 300+

Refugees in Lebanon. The images of faces without names cry out.

An Israeli human rights organization presents a view from the other side.


You, Me, and President Bush: Summer Reading

So Many Books, So Little Time

List of books for summer are out. As usual, a mixed bag. In NPR I found comments by Chris Lehman about Jonathan Ames' favorite --- The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett. I must confess that I am not familiar with Jonathan Ames but Hammett, who lived in San Francisco and served a sentence for his refusal to cooperate with HUAC, is one of my favorites too. Another great author of whodunits from that era is Raymond Chandler. Just finished re-reading The Raymond Chandler Omnibus which contains four of his Philip Marlowe novels. Lady in the Lake, Farewell My Lovely, The Big Sleep, The High Window . Hard to put down.

Nancy Pearl lists "Books That May Make You Skip Work":
Her non-fiction choice is: To Rule the Waves by Arthur Hermann

I am reading E.L. Doctorow's "The March", a Civil War story. 1864 -- General Sherman's march through Georgia after the burning of Atlanta. I like Doctorow and I have an interest in the Civil War. See "Independence Day 2005 and A Stillness At Appomattox"

These are books for us ordinary people. August is around the corner. That is when the president goes to Crawford for his vacation. Do you have any idea of what the president reads? No fiction for him. He is a heavy hitter, constantly educating his mind, or so it would seem according to The Guardian which listed the books he took with him to Crawford last summer. Among them "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M Barry." One wonders. Well, as long as no one asks him about the contents the president is safe.

"The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you the knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination."
--- Elizabeth Hardwick

Friday, July 21, 2006


How to Make An Omlette: The G.W. Bush Way

Bush, the Peacemaker * Bush, the Black Vote Seeker

It was not a secret. At the beginning of the current conflict in Lebanon our president made his position clear about the right side with some platitudes about minimizing civilian casualties in Lebanon. For him the timing couldn't have been better. He probably gloated about the developments -- the opportunity to strike back at a Shiaite militant group backed by arch-enemies Iran and Syria without being directly involved in military action. An example of how to make an omelette without breaking an egg. Michael Abramowitz writes in the Post: "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace". He would....I mean "see a step to peace" in the inferno that is Lebanon. A good return for all the financial and military aid to Israel.
  • When hostilities have broken out in the past, the usual U.S. response has been an immediate and public bout of diplomacy aimed at a cease-fire, in the hopes of ensuring that the crisis would not escalate. This week, however, even in the face of growing international demands, the White House has studiously avoided any hint of impatience with Israel. While making it plain it wants civilian casualties limited, the administration is also content to see the Israelis inflict the maximum damage possible on Hezbollah.
Nomination for Nobel Peace Prize?

Bottom Line: Republicans Need Black Voters

He went there not quite with his hat in his hand but admitted that the Republican Party had neglected black voters. What falling poll numbers will do! Apparently, Karl Rove decided that it was time to repair the damage. After scornfully avoiding appearance at NAACP's annual convention in the past five years, yesterday President Bush read a speech before the gathering. Black voters are not going to shift their allegiance en masse because of the speech but his appearance could sway some of them. The President's support of the Voting Rights Act didn't hurt. The administration's records display an abysmal failure of programs for benefit of people at the lower end of our society, not only African Americans. That is not going to change. The courtship will not last. The Post: "I understand that many African Americans distrust my political party," Bush said at the gathering in Washington. "I want to change the relationship."
  • Bush's remarks met with largely lukewarm applause from the crowd and at one point near the end of his speech, two hecklers threatened to disrupt the address. The president pressed ahead undaunted, though.Bush said the Republican Party wrote off the country's African-American vote for too long and many African-Americans also wrote off the Republican Party. "It's not good for our country," Bush said.
Mid-East War Crimes

"The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has warned that war crimes may have been committed in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. BBC News website World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds examines the issues."

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Destruction of Lebanon

It is a naked demonstration of power. Power of vastly superior military force. Let the pundits argue about "over reaction" and Hezbollah's "miscalculation". It is indisputable that Israel is determined to destroy Lebanon's economy and infrastructure. If hapless civilians get caught in the attacks and die, it is the cost they must pay to be Lebanese or a resident of Lebanon. President Bush made it clear where he stood on the issue; according to him the Israelis are defending themselves. The peace mission by Secretary Rice is not likely to take place until the Israelis have achieved their objective, world opinion be damned. But in the long run are they really going to be safe? For every innocent life they take they create a recruit for extremist Islamic groups. They can be defiant but at the cost of being despised not only in the Middle East but also in much of the civilized world. Misery and suffering being inflicted upon thousands of people are bound to have a long lasting effect that will bode Israel no good. Washington Post: "The United States faces growing tensions with allies over its support of Israel's military campaign to cripple Hezbollah, amid calls for a cease-fire to help with the mounting humanitarian crisis."
  • European allies are particularly alarmed about the disproportionately high civilian death toll in Lebanon. They are also concerned that the U.S. position will increase tensions between the Islamic world and the West by fueling militants, playing into the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and adding to the problems of the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq.
  • The fragile Lebanese government has pleaded for a cease-fire, and France has urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for an end to hostilities, proposing political and security measures. France also has called for "humanitarian corridors" to guarantee safety for civilians fleeing areas under fire.
  • More than 500,000 people -- about one in eight in a country smaller than Connecticut -- have been displaced, according to the Lebanese government.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The Endless Loop - E-Mail between An Israeli and A Lebanese

Henry Kissinger, Former Aider and Abetter of Torture and Murder, Pontificates * India Blocks Bloggers

Gordon Orr in Shlomo, Israel, and Saleem Khoury in Beirut, Lebanon. The BBC deserves praise for publishing them but the e-mail messages between an Israeli and a Lebanese made me despair of any lasting solution to the crisis in the Middle East. Their minds are set; they talk without listening and,unfortunately, there is no leading voice on either side to set the right tone.

Saleem Khoury
  • I do not believe that Israel ever had the intention of fighting Hezbollah. From the first day of their attack, they only wanted to destroy our civilian infrastructure.
  • The fighters of Hezbollah are in the south and Israel hasn't sent a single tank there. Instead they destroy the civilian airport, bridges and power plants. How can they justify that?
  • Lebanon has lost many civilians - children, old people, all trying to escape. In Beirut, we haven't been able to go to work. Life has stopped.
  • Maybe Israel has a special obscure and twisted logic that nobody else understands I do not know how such actions will free their two soldiers.
Gordon Orr
  • I live in Shlomi on the border with Lebanon. I can see a Hezbollah lookout post from my balcony.
  • Shlomi was among the settlements shelled on Wednesday morning. This shelling brought Israeli soldiers to the border area where they were ambushed: seven were killed and two were kidnapped.
  • What option did Israel have? Should we have said: 'Well done Mr Nasrallah, got us this time, we'll do whatever you want' And for what purpose?
  • This was Nasrallah [Hezbollah's chief] trying to improve his standing in the Arab world.
  • It is difficult to believe that the interest of the Lebanese people was in his mind when he gave the order for this.
  • What others call negotiating is really a call to give in blindly to his demands, and that puts my life and the life of every other Israeli at risk.
On and on ad infinitum. In the news this morning: "At least 49 civilians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in Lebanon.At least 12 people died and about 30 were wounded in the southern village of Srifa, near Tyre, where residents said several homes were flattened."
--- BBC

One of Our Elder Statesmen, A Friend of Butchers

Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, who was the architect of our Latin American policy under which thousands of dissidents were killed and tortured in Chile and Argentina, appeared on Newshour to talk about negotiating peace in the Middle East. He had also supported General Suharto's repressive measures against the East Timorese. Kissinger is truly a man without shame and conscience.

Censorship Raises Its Ugly Head in India

BBC 19th July 2006:
"India's burgeoning blogging community is up in arms against a government directive that they say has led to the blocking of their web logs.The country's 153 internet service providers (ISP) have blocked 17 websites since last week on federal government orders. " BBC

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The First Veto by Our President - Crusader Against Evil

Stem Cell Research, Morning After Pill, Women's Right to Choose

The warrior is about to put his money where his mouth is -- ready with his pen to sign the first veto. The issue: Federal funding for stem cell research. It will play well in certain quarters. "But Bush is unwilling to tolerate deviations from his policy restricting federal funding for stem cell research that he set out in his first prime-time television address in August 2001. If all goes as scheduled later this week, he will do something he has avoided for nearly six years: veto a bill."
  • "The president feels he made the right decision, and a principled decision, and he's not going to be swayed by the fact that he may not have the votes on Capitol Hill," said Jay Lefkowitz, a New York lawyer who helped Bush craft his position while a staff member at the White House.
  • By refusing to budge from his position, the president also appears to be reaffirming his bona fides with religious conservatives who make up an important part of his political base, even while he differs with other prominent Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former first lady Nancy Reagan.
Recent reports leave no doubt that the president has supporters among health care workers.

Where Are We Heading?

A sign of the times. Things have come to such a stage in our 'land of the free' that one has to look into religious orientation of doctors and nurses at local hospitals before seeking care. Did healthcare workers always refuse service to those whose needs infringed on their religious beliefs or are such actions resulted from the Bush Administration's overt support for them? I am with those who feel that people with strong religious convictions ought not to choose a field of work in which they are likely to face such decisions. Rob Stein in the Washington Post: "In Chicago, an ambulance driver refused to transport a patient for an abortion. In California, fertility specialists rebuffed a gay woman seeking artificial insemination. In Texas, a pharmacist turned away a rape victim seeking the morning-after pill."

There is more

"Seeking Care, and Refused". Love of God, fear of God, or just inability to accept those who are different?
For Some, There is No Choice
And More

Federally funded "pregnancy resource centers" are incorrectly telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma, a minority congressional report charged yesterday.


Monday, July 17, 2006


Sound Bites, Photo Ops, and Reality

Paul Krugman Exposes the Sham

Paul Krugman's collection of quotations demonstrates the lies and utterly cynical positions held by the president and his supporters. Perhaps they are without memories; for them the past is a blank slate, each day a new day.

March of Folly
Paul Krugman, The New York Times,July 17, 2006

"Since those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it --— and since the cast of characters making pronouncements on the crisis in the Middle East is very much the same as it was three or four years ago -- it seems like a good idea to travel down memory lane. Here'’s what they said and when they said it:
  • "“The greatest thing to come out of [invading Iraq] for the world economy would be $20 a barrel for oil."” Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation (which owns Fox News), February 2003
  • "“Oil Touches Record $78 on Mideast Conflict."” Headline on www.foxnews.com, July 14, 2006
  • "“The administration'’s top budget official estimated today that the cost of a war with Iraq could be in the range of $50 billion to $60 billion,"” saying that "“earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush'’s former chief economic adviser, were too high."” The New York Times, Dec. 31, 2002
  • "“According to C.B.O.'’s estimates, from the time U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, $290 billion has been allocated for activities in Iraq." Additional costs over the 2007-2016 period would total an estimated $202 billion under the first [optimistic] scenario, and $406 billion under the second one."” Congressional Budget Office, July 13, 2006
  • "“Peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There'’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia."” Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense and now president of the World Bank, Feb. 27, 2003
  • "“West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of '‘ethnic cleansing.'’ Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighborhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets."” The Times of London, July 14, 2006
  • "“Earlier this week, I traveled to Baghdad to visit the capital of a free and democratic Iraq."” President Bush, June 17, 2006
  • "“People are doing the same as [in] Saddam'’s time and worse. " These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things."” Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush'’s choice as Iraq'’s first post-Saddam prime minister, November 2005
  • "“Iraq'’s new government has another able leader in Speaker Mashhadani. He rejects the use of violence for political ends. And by agreeing to serve in a prominent role in this new unity government, he'’s demonstrating leadership and courage."” President Bush, May 22, 2006
  • "“Some people say ‘we saw you beheading, kidnappings and killing. In the end we even started kidnapping women who are our honor."’ These acts are not the work of Iraqis. I am sure that he who does this is a Jew and the son of a Jew."” Mahmoud Mashhadani, speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, July 13, 2006
  • "“My fellow citizens, not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq."” President Bush, Dec. 18, 2005
  • "“I think I would answer that by telling you I don'’t think we'’re losing."” Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, when asked whether we'’re winning in Iraq, July 14, 2006
  • "“Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits for the region. Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced."” Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002
  • "“Bush --— The world is coming unglued before his eyes. His naive dreams are a Wilsonian disaster."” Newsweek Conventional Wisdom Watch, July 24, 2006 edition
  • "“'It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation'’s peril."” Senator Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, Dec. 6, 2005
  • "“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now."” Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, on the campaign against Slobodan Milosevic, April 28, 1999

Sunday, July 16, 2006


The Cowboy From Crawford and His Missions Not Accomplished

Smoke and Mirrors, and "Filters"

"Now it is Operation Together Forward! You'll have to give credit to the team that concocts the names for the president's grand illusions. Look behind the sound bite and there is nothing, absolutely nothing. Timely column by Frank Rich, NY Times. A must read.

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You 'Axis of Evil'

AS American foreign policy lies in ruins from Pyongyang to Baghdad to Beirut, its epitaph is already being written in Washington. Last week’s Time cover, “The End of Cowboy Diplomacy,” lays out the conventional wisdom: the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war, upended by chaos in Iraq and the nuclear intransigence of North Korea and Iran, is now officially kaput. In its stead, a sadder but more patient White House, under the sway of Condi Rice, is embracing the fine art of multilateral diplomacy and dumping the “bring ’em on” gun-slinging that got the world into this jam.

The only flaw in this narrative — a big one — is that it understates the administration’s failure by assuming that President Bush actually had a grand, if misguided, vision in the first place. Would that this were so. But in truth this presidency never had a vision for the world. It instead had an idée fixe about one country, Iraq, and in pursuit of that obsession recklessly harnessed American power to gut-driven improvisation and P.R. strategies, not doctrine. This has not changed, even now.

Only if we remember that the core values of this White House are marketing and political expediency, not principle and substance, can we fully grasp its past errors and, more important, decipher the endgame to come. The Bush era has not been defined by big government or small government but by virtual government. Its enduring shrine will be a hollow Department of Homeland Security that finds more potential terrorist targets in Indiana than in New York.

Like his father, George W. Bush always disdained the vision thing. He rode into office on the heels of a boom, preaching minimalist ambitions reminiscent of the 1920’s boom Republicanism of Harding and Coolidge. Mr. Bush’s most fervent missions were to cut taxes, pass a placebo patients’ bill of rights and institute the education program he sold as No Child Left Behind. His agenda was largely exhausted by the time of his fateful Crawford vacation in August 2001, so he talked vaguely of immigration reform and announced a stem-cell research “compromise.” But he failed to seriously lead on either issue, both of which remain subjects of toxic debate today. To appear busy once he returned to Washington after Labor Day, he cooked up a typically alliterative “program” called Communities of Character, a grab bag of “values” initiatives inspired by polling data. That was forgotten after the Qaeda attacks. But the day that changed everything didn’t change the fundamental character of the Bush presidency. The so-called doctrine of pre-emption, a repackaging of the long-held Cheney-Rumsfeld post-cold-war mantra of unilateralism, was just another gaudy float in the propaganda parade ginned up to take America to war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. As the president’s chief of staff then, Andrew Card, famously said of the Iraq war just after Labor Day 2002, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The Bush doctrine was rolled out officially two weeks later, just days after the administration’s brass had fanned out en masse on the Sunday-morning talk shows to warn that Saddam’s smoking gun would soon come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up the single mission of regime change in Iraq with philosophical grandiosity worthy of F.D.R. There was never any serious intention of militarily pre-empting either Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions were as naked then as they are now, or of striking the countries that unlike Iraq were major enablers of Islamic terrorism. Axis of Evil was merely a clever brand name from the same sloganeering folks who gave us '“compassionate conservatism'” and '“a uniter, not a divider'” --— so clever that the wife of a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, sent e-mails around Washington boasting that her husband was the '“Axis of Evil'” author. (Actually, only '“axis'” was his.)

Since then, the administration has fiddled in Iraq while Islamic radicalism has burned brighter and the rest of the Axis of Evil, not to mention Afghanistan and the Middle East, have grown into just the gathering threat that Saddam was not. And there'’s still no policy. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution writes on his foreign-affairs blog, Mr. Bush isn'’t pursuing diplomacy in his post-cowboy phase so much as '“a foreign policy of empty gestures'” consisting of 'strong words here; a soothing telephone call and hasty meetings there.'” The ambition is not to control events but '“to kick the proverbial can down the road '— far enough so the next president can deal with it.'” There is no plan for victory in Iraq, only a wish and a prayer that the apocalypse won'’t arrive before Mr. Bush retires to his ranch.

But for all the administration'’s setbacks, its core belief in P.R. remains unshaken. Or at least its faith in domestic P.R. (It has never cared about the destruction of America'’s image abroad by our countenance of torture.) That marketing imperative, not policy, was once again the driving vision behind the latest Iraq offensive: the joint selling of the killing of Zarqawi, the formation of the new Maliki government, the surprise presidential trip to the Green Zone and the rollout of Operation Together Forward to secure Baghdad more than three years after its liberation from Saddam.

Operation Together Forward is just the latest model of the Axis of Evil gimmick. In his Rose Garden press conference last month, Mr. Bush promised that this juggernaut of crack Iraqi troops and American minders would '“increase the number of checkpoints, enforce a curfew and implement a strict weapons ban across the Iraqi capital.'” It'’s been predictably downhill ever since. After two weeks of bloodshed, Col. Jeffrey Snow of the Army explained that the operation was a success even if the patient, Iraq, was dying, because '“we expected that there would be an increase in the number of attacks.'” Last week, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, allowed that there would be '“adjustments'” to the plan and that the next six months (why is it always six months?) would be critical. Gen. George Casey spoke of tossing more American troops into the Baghdad shooting gallery to stave off disaster.

So what'’s the latest White House strategy to distract from the escalating mayhem? Yet another P.R. scheme, in this case drawn from the playbook of fall 2003, when the president countered news of the growing Iraq insurgency by going around the media '“filter'” to speak to the people through softball interviews with regional media outlets. Thus the past two weeks have brought the spectacle of Mr. Bush yukking it up at Graceland, flattering immigrant workers at a Dunkin'’ Donuts, patronizing a children'’s lemonade stand in Raleigh, N.C., and meeting the press in such comfy settings as an outside-the-filter press conference (in Chicago) and '“Larry King Live.'” The people, surely, are feeling better already about all that nasty business abroad.

Or not. The bounce in the polls that once reliably followed these stunts is no more. As Americans contemplate the tragedy of Iraq, the triumph of Islamic jihadists in '“democracies'” we promoted for the Middle East, and the unimpeded power plays of Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they see reality for what it is. Gone are the days when '“Mission Accomplished'” would fly. Barring a miracle, one legacy of the Bush Iraq-centric foreign policy will be the mess that those who come next will have to clean up.

ANOTHER, equally significant, part of the Bush legacy is already evident throughout Washington, and not confined to foreign policy or the executive branch. Following the president'’s leadership, Congress has also embraced the virtual governance of substituting publicity stunts for substance.

Instead of passing an immigration law, this Congress has entertained us with dueling immigration hearings. Instead of overseeing the war in Iraq or homeland security, its members have held press conferences announcing that they, if not the Pentagon, have at last found Saddam'’s weapons of mass destruction (degraded mustard gas and sarin canisters from the 1980'’s). Instead of promised post-DeLay reforms, the House concocted a sham Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act that won'’t do away with the gifts and junkets politicians rake in from the Abramoffs of K Street. And let'’s not forget all the days devoted to resolutions about same-sex marriage, flag burning, the patriotism of The New York Times and the Pledge of Allegiance.

'“Before long, Congress will be leaving on its summer vacation,'” Bob Schieffer of CBS News said two weeks ago. '“My question is, how will we know they are gone?'” By the calculation of USA Today, the current Congress is on track to spend fewer days in session than the '“do-nothing Congress'” Harry Truman gave hell to in 1948. No wonder its approval rating, for Republicans and Democrats together, is even lower than the president'’s. It'’s not only cowboy diplomacy that'’s dead at this point in the Bush era, but also functioning democracy as we used to know it."

Saturday, July 15, 2006


People of Lebanon and the Cedars of Lebanon

Facing Destruction

The BBC reported that Israeli air strike on a convoy of civilians fleeing from Southern Lebanon killed 13 of them on July 15th. And there went President Bush's message to Israelis for restraint against civilian population. No one believed in his sincerity. American forces have killed more than 40,000 Iraqi civilians in the past 3-1/2 years of war. The current situation in Lebanon and Gaza is such that even with good intentions civilian casualties cannot be avoided, and good intentions are notably absent.
The Lebanese were just beginning to rebuild their lives, society and infrastructure after decades of being in the middle of a war zone. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon (once called Switzerland of the Middle East), was the epicenter of violence that raged between 1975 and 1990. The marks are still visible. Now it is back to ground zero. The Hezbollah remains adamant about their position and so do the Israelis in use of their vastly superior military prowess. Ordinary people die and each death leaves scars, causes ripples. The Hezbollah gains new recruits; the power of Israeli hard-liners grow. Sane voices drown in the clamor for blood and revenge. The recently elected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel has unleashed the full force of Israel's army against Gaza and Beirut. It appears that dead and injured civilians, if they were given any consideration at all, were shrugged off as the cost for retaliation. Scott Wilson in the Post: "JERUSALEM, July 14 -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, elected just months ago on a promise to ease Israel's grip on the occupied Palestinian territories, now is fighting a two-front war on battlefields the Jewish state has occupied and abandoned before in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. The outcome will determine not only the fate of three captured Israeli soldiers and the northern Israeli towns under rocket fire, but also his own goal of defining Israel's permanent borders."

Efforts were underway for reforestation of the famed Cedars of Lebanon. North Lebanon, where the cedar groves are, has also come under air strikes. The fate of the famed trees is as uncertain as that of the Lebanese people.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Insanity Fair - Lebanon, Israel ,Gaza, and A Wound Up Robot

High Civilian Toll

The number will be much higher by the time siege of Beirut by Israelis and the rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah come to a halt. Could take a long time. The various parties involved show no signs of backing off. President Bush, after giving Israel what amounted to full support for their show of force, is now busy trying to broker a peace agreement! While there is no question about America's military supremacy, President Bush has lost the moral authority to act effectively as a peacemaker. His appearance at the press conference at Straslund, Germany, on July 13, gave the overwhelming impression of a wound up robot. "DAMOUR, Lebanon, July 14 -- Israel imposed a blockade on Lebanon by land, sea and air on Thursday, striking the capital's airport twice, cutting off its ports and wrecking bridges and roads in attacks that killed at least 47 people in the last two days, nearly all of them Lebanese civilians. Israel said the radical Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah fired 150 rockets into northern Israel, including two that reached the port city of Haifa. Israeli jets repeatedly crossed over Beirut before dawn Friday. At least two explosions were heard, and antiaircraft fire and flares lit up the night sky."

Excerpts from a report by Anthony Shadid and Scott Wilson, Washington Post:

U.S. Vetoes UN Resolution on Gaza

As expected the United States stood by Israel. "UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution put forward by Qatar on behalf of Arab states that called on Israel to immediately end its two-week military incursion in Gaza. Ten of the council's 15 member-nations voted in favor of the resolution, while the United States cast the sole "no" vote. Four countries abstained -- Britain, Denmark, Peru and Slovakia."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Lieberman Behind the Facade - Brother Jeb and the Liberators

What does he stand for? Whom does he represent?

Senator Lieberman's voting records tell a story. Try as he might to put a spin on them, the senator from Connecticut is not exactly in tune with mainstream Democrats. In "Lieberman's Real Problem" Harold Meyerson mentions "crazy lefty bloggers as the culprits behind the drive to purge Lieberman from Democratic ranks." I make no apology for being one of them and I think that endorsement by David Brooks is reason enough to be suspicious of Senator Lieberman.

Source: New York Times. July 4, 2006
Cuba Democracy Plan

Another flowery name for a nefarious plan to create mischief. $80 million will buy a lot of dirty deals. Cuba is going to be democratized. Leaders of the Miami mafia must be licking their chops and have their bags packed, waiting for Castro to die. A few of them will make a lot of money. The timing is right. It will be good for Brother Jeb. From the BBC:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The Obese and the Rest of Us

Few weeks back a woman friend said I had a hang up about fat people and was unfair in my comments about them. Both of us are thin. Thinking about her comments I had to admit to myself that she was right. I have stopped being critical or, rather, I stop myself from being critical about those who are obese. I no longer contemptuously think that they are responsible for their condition.

Rachel Cooke's article "Is weight the new race" in The Observer (Guardian) is well-written and tries to present a balanced view. "Truly terrible, is the answer. You may think that you know this already, but in order to come even close to grasping a fat person's misery, you should probably take that imagined desperation, and triple it. Then consider your attitude to this unhappy person. Do you pity them? Or do you despise them? If the latter, do you feel able to say so out loud, in public? I bet that you do. These are critical times in the great obesity debate. In the West, all we talk about is our increasing weight, and what we can do to keep it at bay. Emotive words like 'epidemic' and 'time-bomb' are thrown about like so many hand grenades. Open a newspaper, and a story will certainly be there (most recently, it was reported from the British Dietetic Association conference that the risk of fatal disease increases by one per cent for every pound a person is overweight). The seemingly well-established connection between fat and disease has meant - so far - that it has been somehow acceptable to criticise the fat; it's for their own good, after all. But now there are rumblings. The fat and their supporters have had enough of what they regard as discrimination. They are angry, and they are going to fight. They regard their cause as just. They believe that fat is the new race."

  • So is fat the new race? I don't believe that it is, though it could become so in the future. But that's not to say that thinking about it in these terms isn't a useful corrective. If we're allowed to want fat people to lose weight, then they're allowed to want thin people to be kind - or, better still, blind. Best not to forget, then, where we started - with a woman walking down a street, feeling as though she might as well be stark naked.
  • 'I know ... that when a thin person looks at a fat person, the thin person considers the fat person less virtuous than he,' writes Judith Moore in her memoir, Fat Girl. 'The fat person lacks willpower, pride, this wretched attitude, "self-esteem", and does not care about friends and family because if he or she did care about friends and family, he or she would not wander the earth looking like a repulsive sow, rhinoceros, hippo, elephant, general wide-mawed flesh-flopping flabby monster.'
  • Imagine feeling like that. Think before you click your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Cacomorphobia: Fear of fat people

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