,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Sunday, December 31, 2006


Last Day of 2006 - There is Always Hope

Weird Republicans in Kansas. Think of Oz, as in The Wizard of Oz. This one stood out among the headlines in the Washington Post: "Party Puts Ousted Official In His Opponent's Old Post".

"Statewide, Kline got barely 4 in 10 votes. In Johnson County, the state's most populous county, his loss was more dramatic. That made it especially shocking after the election when Republican precinct leaders in the county chose Kline to finish the final two years of Morrison's term as prosecutor."

"The moment Phill Kline got the nomination, half the room got up and walked out," said Scott Schwab, the county GOP chairman. "It wasn't so much yelling or cussing. They threw up their arms and said, 'What do we do now?' "


When it comes to bad news, for Americans, Iraq takes the top spot. There are other areas in the world where people are suffering -- Darfur and Somalia to name a few -- the scourge of AIDS is spreading in Asia. We have a dominant role in what is happening in Iraq and our soldiers are paying with their lives for Bush's folly. Number of Iraqi deads is staggering as is the cost in financial terms.

Good things happened. On November 7, 2006, President Bush had his comeuppance and lost his smirk. What the Democrats will achieve with the power they have regained is to be seen but, from environmental issues to Iraq, things will not continue to go downhill unchecked as they had since G.W. Bush became president.

"Boogie Nights"

Kate Faithful writes in The Guardian about her search for the best dance floor in London. She found it at the neighborhood kebab shop!

When I jump down from the table and skip on to the street, well after midnight, hunger drives me into a modest-looking kebab shop, Marathon. Fluorescent light, elephant foot in the window, counter down the left wall - reckon you've been there before? Well, Marathon is a one-off: through an archway at the back there's a pair of pensioners playing sax. A bubbling band of pub stragglers eat kebabs and ketchup-slathered chips on tiny wooden tables. Praise be, there's also cider - pounds 2 a can. And then we get up and spin around the tiny space. I've discovered a Twenties speakeasy and I can't help feeling cool. I would never have planned the climax of a seven-day danceathon to take place in the narrow back room of a kebab shop. Now I realise why overpriced, overhyped nightclubs exist - it's so the pretentious attitudes within stay behind their velvet ropes and away from my favourite places. If they gatecrash Marathon it will stop being cool. Anyway, somehow time has jumped to 4am and I haven't even thought to check if my feet hurt.

There Is Always Hope

The year has been mostly good for the people I know. That is something to feel cheerful about. Stay well, be involved. It is a small world, "what happens in other countries affect us".


Saturday, December 30, 2006


End of Saddam Hussein, Not the Mess In Iraq

The execution by hanging of Saddam Hussein caused jubilation among those who suffered during his rule. They have reason to rejoice. What does it mean for Iraq and the Iraqis, the the rest of us, the world ? There is no sign that the sectarian violence raging in Iraq is going to end any time soon. We were in bed with Saddam Hussein when he served our needs, just as we have over the years supported other corrupt, murderous dictators and juntas in different parts of the world. That has not changed; we still have some goons as our friends.

Iraq Coalition Casualties report that as of today 109 American soldiers have died this month in Iraq; the total todate 2998. What has their sacrifices achieved ?

Editorial in the Palm Beach Post (circulation 716,500) says it well. I selected it over items in the giants of the print media.

Dangerous in Death
Saturday, December 30, 2006

By the spring of 2003, the Bush Team had drilled into Americans that it was Saddam Hussein who made Iraq dangerous.

And not just Iraq. President Bush, along with Vice President Dick Cheney, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and others in the Bush administration insisted that Saddam Hussein and his stockpiled weapons of mass destruction made the entire Persian Gulf region - in fact, the entire world - a terribly dangerous place.

The solution was simple. Remove Hussein, remove the danger. It was so obvious and so necessary to America's safety that deposing Hussein was, President Bush indicated, not just his constitutional duty but a moral obligation.

But long before Iraq hanged Hussein, it had become clear that U.S. misconceptions about Hussein and Iraq would prove to be much more dangerous than the man himself.

The idea that Hussein's brutality was all that stood between Iraqis and freedom was naive. Nearly 3,000 U.S. military deaths later, we understand that Hussein's brutality restrained others with intentions and capabilities just as brutal.

Removing Hussein freed innocent, oppressed Iraqis. But it freed other forces as well. And President Bush had no plan to protect innocent Iraqis from sectarian factions who now are violently determined to take Hussein's place.

President Bush also failed to understand that, far from striking a blow in the war on terror, removing Hussein would hand international terrorists a new platform from which to attack Americans and a recruiting tool for their cause.

Philosophers can debate whether Saddam Hussein's execution provides a measure of justice in a country he ruled so unjustly. But the grim, practical question is whether Saddam Hussein's execution will create yet another surge in the bloodbath his removal unleashed.

When President Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, most Americans would not have believed that Saddam Hussein's death would be cause for anything other than celebration. Now, we know that, for Iraq, it will take much more than Hussein's execution to justify a celebration. Today, Americans know a great deal more about what makes Iraq dangerous. It will be time to celebrate when our leaders show that they know what to do about it.


Friday, December 29, 2006


Lieberman, the "Independent" Senator

Expect More Lies

When it comes to the Middle-East, Senator Joseph Lieberman's position is a no brainer. His argument for more troops in Iraq is just like the one President Bush makes and, for good measure, the Senator threw in 9/11 as the president does. It is their cash cow and they are not ready to stop milking it although "the extremists who attacked us on 9/11" had no connection with Iraq. The president is reported to be huddling in Crawford,TX, with his security advisers "to hone a new Iraq strategy". Lieberman gives the clear impression of being part of the orechestration.

Why We Need More Troops In Iraq

I've just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001.


Thursday, December 28, 2006


Gerald Ford's Voice from the Grave

Another Critic of Bush's War

Bob Woodward's piece in the Washington Post reveals surprisingly strong anti-war position held by the late President Ford. He had stipulated that the interview not be published until after his death. Publication in 2004 would have perhaps helped to turn public sentiments against the war earlier. It is doubtful,however, that Bush and his team would have paid any attention to what President Ford said. The signs are clear that President Bush has no intention of ending the war until "victory". What that victory means is to be seen. The overwhelming feeling is that for the Bush Administration it has become a matter of saving face.

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."


Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Defending Freedoms

Slouching Toward the Fourth Year of War in Iraq

Reading Emily Miller's "The Freedoms My Brother Is Defending" I thought of the world of difference between the freedoms that she so eloquently wrote about and our president's view of freedoms. He is said to be a deeply religious man. Maybe so; his actions are that of a cynical, soul-less person.

Here is what my brother, a member of the Army National Guard, told me as he prepared to serve in Iraq this year:

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is who controls the armed forces. Civilian command of the Army is a cornerstone of our democratic system.

My brother told me that he takes his oath to defend the Constitution seriously and that he will fight and die if necessary to honor his commitment. When I asked him if he would be offended if I participated in activities opposing the war, he replied that it was not only my right but my obligation, and the obligation of all civilians opposing this war, to try to change bad policy. "Give us good wars to fight," he said.

While acknowledging that another possible moral option is to refuse to participate in a bad war, my brother chooses to place his oath to the Constitution and his belief in our democratic system at the pinnacle of his moral convictions. That some of us might differ with him is basically irrelevant -- we (most of us) are not faced with his decision.

For the record, he believes that the war on terrorism is necessary to deal with real threats facing the United States. He is not convinced of what Iraq has to do with the matter, which puts him fairly well in the mainstream of American opinion.

So it is terribly upsetting to me to hear that some people despair that there is "no point" to their soldier's death or wounding in the Iraq war. America does not have to be right in order for our soldiers' service to have meaning.

What I find offensive is the idea that we have to "follow through" in order to give their deaths meaning post hoc. It is dreadfully apparent from the Iraq Study Group report that Iraq isn't going to have a democracy in any meaningful time frame. Even if this administration does everything perfectly, the best-case scenario is that we might maintain the barest outlines of order.

Victory being out of the question at this point, the only democracy my brother is fighting for in Iraq is our democracy. The only constitution he is in Iraq fighting to defend is our Constitution. If my brother dies, it will not be for a mistake but rather because of his deeply held belief that the time it takes us as a people to figure out through democratic processes that we are wrong is more important than his own life.

This places upon us an obligation. My brother and other service members living and dead have given us the sacred responsibility to use the democratic means we have at hand to bring judgment to bear on whether any given war is worth our soldiers' lives.

Despite the clear results in last month's elections and the grim conclusions of the Iraq Study Group, we are still hearing intransigent rhetoric and seeing unrealistic posturing from some of our leaders. This is unacceptable.

It's not too late for us to honor the almost 3,000 U.S. service members who have died defending the principles of our democracy. It is morally imperative for us to honor our living service members and to do what is demanded of us by our democracy and by common decency. We have taken a small step by changing some of our leadership in Washington, but now it is upon us to follow through at home and demand accountability from our leaders.

What are you, fellow citizens, willing to do to defend our Constitution? Will you dignify the sacrifices of our soldiers? Will you honor my brother's faith in our system? Will you let my brother or others die to eke out a slightly smaller disaster in Iraq? These are the questions we face in the wake of the Baker-Hamilton report.

My brother is betting his life that you are not going to ask this of him. He has placed his trust in the idea that we will not ask him to die for anything less than the necessary defense of our democracy. Reasonable people may at one time have disagreed about the necessity of the Iraq war, but now that it has become abundantly clear from every quarter that we cannot win, will you be responsible for asking my brother to stay?

My family begs of you: Do not ask this of him. Do not ask this of us. My brother is doing his constitutional duty. Now it is time for us to do ours.

The writer is a member of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of more than 3,100 military families opposed to the war in Iraq.

According to latest report from Iraq Coalition Casualties, we have lost 91 soldiers this month. The figure could reach or exceed 100 in the remaining five days. Take the time to visit Glenn Kutler's narration (25,000 Dead or Wounded) and the accompanying images in Newsweek.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Iraq and the Neocons

"Wosing" The War, A Steve Bell Cartoon

The war in Iraq goes on. Those who began it are loath to end it. The scenario -- their scenario -- has changed many times. The original reason (Saddam's WMD) for the invasion is no longer mentioned. It was mostly smoke and mirrors to justify their action. Death toll keeps mounting and the costs are going out of sight.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” [Source: House Committee on Appropriations Hearing on a Supplemental War Regulation, 3/27/03]

That was 4 days after the invasion began. Mr. Wolfowitz is now running the World Bank, happy to escape questions about what he had said.

Excerpts from "End of the neocon dream" by Paul Reynold, World Affairs Correspondent of the BBC, Dec.21, 2006.

The neo-conservative dream faded in 2006.

Iraq was meant to be the showcase for a New American Century

The ambitions proclaimed when the neo-cons' mission statement "The Project for the New American Century" was declared in 1997 have turned into disappointment and recriminations as the crisis in Iraq has grown.

"The Project for the New American Century" has been reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website. A single employee has been left to wrap things up.

The idea of the "Project" was to project American power and influence around the world.

The 1997 statement (written during the administration of President Bill Clinton) said:

"We seem to have forgotten the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success: a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities."

Among the signatories were many of the senior officials who would later determine policy under President George W Bush - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams and Lewis Libby - as well as thinkers including Francis Fukuyama, Norman Podheretz and Frank Gaffney.

The neo-conservatives were called that because they sought to re-establish what they felt were true conservative values in the Republican Party and the United States.

They wanted to stop what they felt were the isolationist tendencies that had developed under President Clinton, and even under the pragmatic President George Bush senior.

They saw the war in Iraq as their big chance of showing how the "New American Century" might work.

They predicted the development of democratic values in a region lacking in them and, in that way, the removal of any threat to the United States just as the democratisation of Germany and Japan after World War II had transformed Europe and the Pacific.


Since so much was pinned on Iraq, it is inevitable that the problems there should have undermined the whole idea.

"Neo-conservatism has gone for a generation, if in fact it ever returns," says one of the movement's critics, David Rothkopf, currently at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, and a former official in the Clinton administration.

"Their signal enterprise was the invasion of Iraq and their failure to produce results is clear. Precisely the opposite has happened," he says.

"The US use of force has been seen as doing wrong and as inflaming a region that has been less than susceptible to democracy.

"Their plan has fallen on hard times. There were flaws in the conception and horrendously bad execution. The neo-cons have been undone by their own ideas and the incompetence of the Bush administration.

"George Bush is about the last neo-conservative standing, Cheney as well maybe. Bush is not an analytical person so he just adopted the neo-cons' philosophy.

"It fitted into his Manichean, his black and white view of the world. After all, he gave up his dissolute youth and was born again as a new man, so it appealed to his character."


The fading of the dream has led to a falling-out among the neo-conservatives themselves.

In particular, two leading neo-conservatives, Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman, attacked the Bush team in Vanity Fair magazine. Both had been on a Pentagon advisory board. Both had argued for war in Iraq.

In an article called "Neo Culpa", Richard Perle declared that had he known how it would turn out, he would have been against it: "I think now I probably would have said: 'No, let's consider other strategies'."

Kenneth Adelman said: "They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era.

"Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Donald Rumsfeld "fooled me", he said.

He declared of neo-conservatism after Iraq: "It's not going to sell."

Defence and counter-attack

Other neo-conservatives defend their record, arguing strongly that the original idea had an effect, and pressing the point raised by Perle and Adelman that it was the execution of the idea not the idea itself that was wrong.

Gary Schmitt used to be a senior figure at the "New American Century" project. Now he is director of strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and he says the project has come to a natural end.

"When the project started, it was not intended to go forever. That is why we are shutting it down. We would have had to spend too much time raising money for it and it has already done its job.

"We felt at the time that there were flaws in American foreign policy, that it was neo-isolationist. We tried to resurrect a Reaganite policy.

"Our view has been adopted. Even during the Clinton administration we had an effect, with Madeleine Albright [then secretary of state] saying that the United States was 'the indispensable nation'.

"But our ideas have not necessarily dominated. We did not have anyone sitting on Bush's shoulder. So the work now is to see how they are implemented. Obviously it makes life difficult with the specific failure in Iraq, but I do not agree with Richard Perle that we should never have gone in.

"I do argue that the execution should have been better. In fact, I argued in late 2003 that we needed more troops and a proper counter-insurgency policy."

Indeed, not all neo-conservatives have given up all hope in Iraq.

The AEI, which has become the natural home for refugees from the American Project, is promoting an article entitled: "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq".

The article calls not for a withdrawal of US troops but for an increase. President Bush's decision is expected in early January.


22.12.06: Steve Bell on George Bush and Iraq
© Steve Bell 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Christmas Eve Morning in California, 2006

A Long Way from Jamshedpur, India * Radio Days - Bob Fass, Jean Shepherd

"I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it."
-- Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

I grew up in Jamshedpur, known as the Steel Town. Tata Iron & Steel Company's plant was said to be the largest in Asia. Now there are steel plants galore of different sizes, and some are much larger. Things have changed. From all accounts, Jamshedpur is no longer the clean city, with good schools, playgrounds and hospital established by the owners of the steel plant. Good schools are still there but nowadays they are not run by Tisco, and they charge high fees. The town has become a victim of burgeoning population and sprawl.

There are days when the mind travels back to Jamshedpur. Regal Cinema, which used to screen British and American movies in the evening (the matinee and late night shows were for Bombay films -- now known as Bollywood films) and Fakira's famous chanachur stand outside the building. Tisco promoted sports and athletic events. We eagerly awaited Ranji Trophy cricket matches between visiting teams and Bihar which used to be the name of the home state. Later it became part of Jharkhand. Most of the players in the Bihar team were from Jamshedpur.

For some reason, rainy weather makes me think of Jamsedpur....not because it rained a lot when I lived there; in fact, we got much less rain than the big city, Kolkata, 160 miles east. But memories of other things kick in -- making boats out of sheets of newspaper and launching them from the verandah. Didn't take long for them to get soaked and crumple; playing football (soccer) in wet, muddy fields, the soda fountain on Main Road, Sanyal Bros bookstore where I spent many happy hours browsing English language books and magazines. Insignificant but the memories remain alive.

Hard to keep track of all the name changes in India. Among the notables: Bombay became Mumbai, Calcutta became Kolkata, and Madras is now known as Chennai. I remember laughing when I read that the city fathers of Kolkata renamed Harington Street as Ho Chi Minh Sarani. The U.S. Consulate was located there and that was at the height of the Vietnam war.

Remembering Wanda Hickey and Other Sweet Things

It was Richard Avedon's photograph of "Bob Fass and other WBAT staffers" that grabbed my attention as I was leafing through December 4th issue of The New Yorker. I never lived on the east coast and Bob Fass was not a familiar name. The New Yorker continues to be source of pleasure.....often pleasant surprises. Great article "Voice of the Cabal - Bob Fass and the slow fade of countercultural radio" by Marc Fisher. The article is not available on line but there is a mp3 audio clip of Marc Fisher talking about Bob Fass. It can be accessed at The New Yorker: online. Not only that, it mentions another radio personality -- Jean Shepherd.

Now, Shepherd I knew of. Not through radio but the TV series Jean Shepherd's America which ran on PBS. And I read his books. Who can forget the delightful Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories. We all have our nights of memories, if not golden certainly silvery.

Then I thought of the late Scott Beach. He did a stint as dj for the now defunct classical music station KKHI. For a while he manned the graveyard shift and the nights when I had problem sleeping I'd dial KKHI on FM tadio. The selection of music was always good and his deep voice soothing.
Joy and Good Health to all visitors: regulars, occasional, and the accidental

Friday, December 22, 2006


The Seasons: Winter 2006

With the solstice came rain. I am looking out at wet streets and leafless trees. It is winter. Our winter here in the San Francisco Bay area is not harsh -- no snow storms; blizzards are unheard of; daytime termperature rarely falls below 40° F, and even the rains are not very disruptive for those who like outdoor activities. However, three business days before Christmas, the rains could make things difficult for shoppers, and they lengthen commuting time for people going to and returning from work. Traffic reports on the AM radio channel often mention accidents and congestion. Drive with caution.

Rainy afternoon © Musafir, Canon Powershot S3

Fallen Leaves © Musafir, Canon Powershot S3

Winter solitude-
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

--Basho (translated by Robert Haas)


The Murders at Haditha, Iraq

Many atrocities have taken place during the past three and a half years in Iraq, atrocities committed by all sides. They cannot be justified but deaths of civilians -- so called "collateral damage" during military operations are one thing, deliberate killing of civilians by soldiers is another matter. That is what happened at Haditha on November 19, 2005. The rape and murder of 15-year old Abeer Hamza at Mahmudiyah was another shameful incident.

The Washington Post

By Josh White and Sonya Geis
Friday, December 22, 2006; Page A01

Four U.S. Marines were charged with multiple counts of murder yesterday for their alleged roles in the deaths of two dozen civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year. The accusations set up what could be the highest-profile atrocity prosecution to arise from the Iraq war.

In an unusual move, the Marine Corps also charged four officers with crimes related to their alleged failure to investigate and report the Nov. 19, 2005, slayings, which occurred when the Marines conducted a house-to-house sweep and attacked a vehicle after a member of their unit was killed in an ambush.

The separate investigation into how the incident was reported led to dereliction charges against a lieutenant colonel, two captains and a first lieutenant. They are accused of failing to thoroughly investigate and accurately report the slayings to superiors. The lieutenant also faces charges of making a false official statement and obstructing justice, according to the Marine Corps.

See: Sarah Meyer's "The Haditha Doctor and the Media Dissemblers"
Also Civilian Victims in Iraq
Haditha, Iraq, Truth it is Ugly
Haditha - Few Marines and Slaughter of Civilians

Thursday, December 21, 2006


A Bouquet for Dr. Mario Riccio

Piergeorgio Welby

A courageous physician named Mario Riccio made the decision to turn off the life support system and made it possible for Piergeorgio Welby to die as he expressly wanted. Mr. Welby's case received a lot of publicity because of his appeal to disconnect the life support system was rejected last week by an Italian Court.

The action by Dr. Riccio was not an unusual one. There are physicians who make such decisions every day but they do so quietly and not all terminally ill patients who do not wish to live hooked up to respirators and being force-fed are fortunate to be under care of such doctors.

Full report from the BBC:

An Italian doctor has said he has switched off the life support system of a terminally ill man, who lost a legal battle for the right to die.

Dr Mario Riccio, who disconnected the respirator, said he had fulfilled the patient's legal right to refuse treatment. He denied it was euthanasia.

Piergiorgio Welby, 60, was paralysed by muscular dystrophy.

His plea for euthanasia - illegal in mainly Roman Catholic Italy - sparked a landmark court case and fierce debate.

Doctor's argument

"In Italian hospitals therapies are suspended all the time, and this does not lead to any intervention from magistrates or to problems of conscience," Dr Riccio told reporters, following Mr Welby's death late on Wednesday.

"This must not be mistaken for euthanasia. It is a suspension of therapies," he told a news conference in Rome. "Refusing treatment is a right."

Mr Welby had been attached to a respirator for the last six months and a feeding tube to keep him alive.

He had communicated through a computer that read his eye movements.

He had asked his family, his doctors and the courts to be allowed to die as he had suffered for many years from muscular dystrophy and his condition had worsened.

A judge ruled on Saturday that while Mr Welby had the constitutional right to have his life support machine switched off, doctors would be legally obliged to resuscitate him.

Euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide have been legalised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, but remain illegal in much of the rest of the world.

In September, Mr Welby had written to the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano pleading to be allowed to die.

Italy's Health Minister, Livia Turco, has called for new legislation to clarify the legal position on exactly which aggressive measures are licit in order to sustain life in cases like that of Mr Welby, the BBC's David Willey reports from Rome.

The Vatican teaches that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its natural end.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Democrats, Stand Up and Resist the President

It has become obvious that G.W. Bush is not going to deviate from his position on Iraq. It is up to the newly elected Democratic Congress to act and stop him. Measures to cut off funding for the war would be a good beginning. Are the Democrats up to it? So far, few voices have been heard about meaningful measures. All we hear is blather about bipartisanship and cooperation. Face the fact: The President will not take steps toward an early withdrawl. He will have to be forced, kicking and screaming, to do so. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) talked the good talk. As the saying goes "put your money where your mouth is". Do something. Stop the blood loss. Every day our soldiers ( most of them in their twenties) are dying for the hubris of a few megalomaniacs.

The Washington Post

"There hasn't been a change from the president," observed Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the incoming House majority leader. "The president may be trapped in his own policy, sensing, 'If I don't succeed, it will be a huge blot on my record, and so therefore I have no choice but to try to succeed.' "

Hoyer pointedly added: "I don't think the Democratic Congress is going to say, 'Well, that's okay.' "

In another report, Peter Baker of the Washington Post wrote:

"President Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq and said he plans to expand the overall size of the "stressed" U.S. armed forces to meet the challenges of a long-term global struggle against terrorists."

But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed. He confirmed that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted out of concern that it would not help.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


They Continue to Die in Bush's War

No, we have not become inured to the deaths of soldiers in Iraq. More and more Americans are losing faith in the war that President and Bush and his team led us into. They are sick of the wasted lives that Eugene Robinson wrote about in the Post. The message from voters in the midterm elections was unequivocal. The Iraq Study Group's report left no doubt about the mishandling of the war although it failed to suggest a clear guideline for ending it. But the message has not gotten through to the president and the warmongers. They are manoeuvering to justify continuation of the war. The president is not using the phrase "Stay the course" but one gets the impression that he is doing just that.

The death toll has reached 2950 out of of which 61 deaths took place in the first 19 days of December.

The dead in December. The list is incomplete and reflects deaths confirmed by the DOD.

Robert L. Love Jr., 28, Army Staff Sergeant, Dec 01, 2006
Keith E. Fiscus, 26, Army Sergeant, Dec 02, 2006
Bryan T. McDonough, 22, Army Specialist, Dec 02, 2006
Corey J. Rystad, 20, Army Specialist, Dec 02, 2006
Jesse D. Tillery, 19, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 02, 2006
Kermit O. Evans, 31, Air Force Captain, Dec 03, 2006
Troy D. Cooper, 21, Army Private, Dec 03, 2006
Shawn L. English, 35, Army Captain, Dec 03, 2006
Billy B. Farris, 20, Army Corporal, Dec 03, 2006
Kenneth W. Haines, 25, Army Specialist, Dec 03, 2006
Joseph Trane McCloud, 39, Marine Major, Dec 03, 2006
Joshua C. Sticklen, 24, Marine Corporal, Dec 03, 2006
Dustin M. Adkins, 22, Army Specialist, Dec 04, 2006
Jay R. Gauthreaux, 26, Army Sergeant, Dec 04, 2006
Ross A. McGinnis, 19, Army Private, Dec 04, 2006
Albert M. Nelson, 31, Army Private 1st Class, Dec 04, 2006
Roger A. Suarez-Gonzalez, 21, Army Private 1st Class, Dec 04, 2006
Nicholas D. Turcotte, 23, Army National Guard Specialist, Dec 04, 2006
Thomas P. Echols, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 04, 2006
Christopher A. Anderson, 24, Navy Hospitalman, Dec 04, 2006
Jordan W. Hess, 26, Army Specialist, Dec 05, 2006
Marco L. Miller, 36, Army Specialist, Dec 05, 2006
Jesse J.J. Castro, 22, Army Sergeant, Dec 06, 2006
Nicholas R. Gibbs, 25, Army Specialist, Dec 06, 2006
Jason Huffman, 32, Army Specialist, Dec 06, 2006
Travis C. Krege, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Dec 06, 2006
Joshua B. Madden, 21, Army Sergeant, Dec 06, 2006
Yari Mokri, 26, Army Specialist, Dec 06, 2006
Travis L. Patriquin, 32, Army Captain, Dec 06, 2006
Vincent J. Pomante III, 22, Army Specialist, Dec 06, 2006
Yevgeniy Ryndych, 24, Army Sergeant, Dec 06, 2006
Dustin J. Libby, 22, Marine Corporal, Dec 06, 2006
Megan M. McClung, 34, Marine Major, Dec 06, 2006
Cody G. Watson, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 06, 2006
Kristofer R. Ciraso, 26, Army Staff Sergeant, Dec 07, 2006
Micah S. Gifford, 27, Army Specialist, Dec 07, 2006
Henry W. Linck, 23, Army Staff Sergeant, Dec 07, 2006
Brent E. Beeler, 22, Marine Reserve Lance Corporal, Dec 07, 2006
Nathan M. Krissoff, 25, Marine 1st Lieutenant, Dec 09, 2006
Philip C. Ford, 21, Army Specialist, Dec 10, 2006
Brennan C. Gibson, 26, Army Sergeant, Dec 10, 2006
Shawn M. Murphy, 24, Army Private 1st Class, Dec 10, 2006
Nicholas P. Steinbacher, 22, Army Specialist, Dec 10, 2006
Thomas W. Clemons, 37, Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, Dec 10, 2006
Budd M. Cote, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 11, 2006
Matthew V. Dillon, 25, Marine Corporal, Dec 11, 2006
Brian P. McAnulty, 39, Marine Master Sergeant, Dec 11, 2006
Clinton J. Miller, 23, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 11, 2006
Gloria D. Davis, 47, Army Major, Dec 12, 2006
Brent W. Dunkleberger, 29, Army Sergeant, Dec 12, 2006
Theodore A. Spatol, 59, Army Staff Sergeant, Dec 14, 2006
Matt Clark, 22, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 14, 2006
Luke Yepsen, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, Dec 14, 2006
Paul Balint Jr., 22, Army Private 1st Class, Dec 15, 2006
Nick Palmer, 19, Marine Not reported yet, Dec 16, 2006

Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties. Follow the link to Glen Kutler's audio report in Newsweek.

Eugene Robinson in Washington Post

Here's an idea: Let's send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."

I don't know about you, but that strikes me as a terrible idea, arguably the worst imaginable "way forward" in Iraq. So of course this seems to be where George W. Bush is headed.

Don't assign any real significance to the fact that the president has decided to wait until the new year before announcing his next step in Iraq, because if history is any guide, all of this photo-op "consultation" he's doing is just for show -- to convince us, or maybe to convince himself, that he has an open mind. The Decider doesn't have the capacity for indecision.

"War hath no fury like a noncombatant.
--C.E. Montague

Monday, December 18, 2006


The Good Soldier Spoke Out

Colin Powell * The 4th Circuit Court in Virginia

The man who stood a good chance of being elected president if he had decided to run in 2000, spoke about the mess in Iraq. After serving four humiliating years, when he was mostly a figurehead used by the neocon clique in the Bush Administration, General Powell left quietly to nurse his wounds. Finally, during his appearance on CBS' Face the Nation (Sunday, December 17), he was strongly critical of the "new strategy" being considered to deal with Iraq. Does his voice still carry weight? After his dog and pony show at the UN to sell the war he does not have much credibility left. True that he was snookered like majority of the Americans were but he was no ordinary American. He remained silent too long after the lies and deceptions used by the Bush Administration came to light.

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the United States is losing what he described as a "civil war" in Iraq and that he is not persuaded that an increase in U.S. troops there would reverse the situation. Instead, he called for a new strategy that would relinquish responsibility for Iraqi security to the government in Baghdad sooner rather than later, with a U.S. drawdown to begin by the middle of next year.

Powell's comments broke his long public silence on the issue and placed him at odds with the administration. President Bush is considering options for a new military strategy -- among them a "surge" of 15,000 to 30,000 troops added to the current 140,000 in Iraq, to secure Baghdad and to accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others have proposed; or a redirection of the U.S. military away from the insurgency to focus mainly on hunting al-Qaeda terrorists, as the nation's top military leaders proposed last week in a meeting with the president.

Bad News for Conservatives

The ripple effects of midterm elections continue. The conservatives' success in filling up court appointments with agenda driven judges could be coming to an end. The Washington Post's report about the 4th Circuit Court is good news for the rest of us.

A growing list of vacancies on the federal appeals court in Richmond is heightening concern among Republicans that one of the nation's most conservative and influential courts could soon come under moderate or even liberal control, Republicans and legal scholars say.

A number of prominent Republican appointees have left or announced plans to leave the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has played a key role in terrorism cases and has long been known for forceful conservative rulings and judicial personalities.

Republican concerns also are fueled by the pending Democratic takeover of Congress, as several of President Bush's 4th Circuit nominees were already bottled up in the Senate when Republicans ran it. From the GOP's perspective, the situation now will worsen.

The 4th Circuit's rulings affect everyone who lives, works or owns a business in the area, which encompasses Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas. The court's influence also has been widely felt nationally, and the emerging battle over it is part of a broader struggle for control of the federal judiciary.


Sunday, December 17, 2006


Piergiorgio Welby - Italian Court Rejects His Plea

See update: A Bouquet for Dr. Mario Riccio

A defeat for proponents of euthanasia. "The judge said that the case fell outside of his jurisdiction, saying politicians needed to address a 'gap' in the law." It is unlikely that Italian legislators would succeed in remedying the gap any time soon. Mr. Welby will have to endure living a life hooked up to high-tech gadgetry -- life that, for him, has ceased to be meaningful.

Here in America we are far from making the choice of death with dignity available to all who desire such an option. Oregon is the only state in the union where a terminally ill person has the right seek physician assistance in dying. The enlightened voters of Oregon made that possible in the face of opposition from religious organizations and the Federal Government. Oregon's Death With Dignity Act survived a few rounds in the U.S. Supreme Court. The shift in balance of power following the mid-term elections will make it difficult for Congress to meddle with the law.

Residents of other states do not have the option of physician assistance in dying but they can take steps to avoid being kept alive against their wish by executing an Advance Directive and Do Not Resuscitate Orders, also known as Living Will. The form is available from Caring Connections. Another source is American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The web sites contain detailed information about the law in all states of the union.

From the BBC: "Mr Welby is confined to bed, is fed through a tube and speaks through a computer that reads his eye movements."

Mr Welby's case has been backed by pro-euthanasia campaigners in Italy's parliament.

Marco Capatto of Italy's Radical Party, a coalition partner in Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government, said his group would continue to campaign on Mr Welby's behalf.

"We're determined to support his plea to stop the torture he is suffering," the Reuters news agency reported him as saying.

But conservatives backed the decision.

Rocco Buttiglione, a devout Catholic and part of the centre-right opposition, told Reuters: "No-one can order to kill."

Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left government is divided over the issue. His coalition includes Catholics as well as socialists, who have come out strongly in favour of Mr Welby's right to refuse treatment.

Euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide have been legalised in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, but remain illegal in much of the rest of the world.

Recommended reading:

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


Listening to: Bach Cantatas
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
Performer: Peter Kooy, Barbara Schlick, Howard Crook
Orchestra: Collegium Vocale Ghent (Orchestre)
EMI Records

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Reid and Hastert - Birds of a Feather

Venality Continues But Levin Ready to Investigate War & Counterterrorism

The shameless politicians did their behind the scene wheeling and dealing for their pet projects. As the 109th Congress came to an end, the new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and the former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) lived up to their records.

Jeffrey Birnbaum in the Post:

In the wee hours of the morning Dec. 7, Senate negotiators rejected a Medicare measure pushed by outgoing House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) that would have meant big revenues for an insurance company in Hastert's home state. But a day later, the $100 million proposal was alive and well, paired with a plan for a major Nevada land swap backed by Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the incoming Senate majority leader.

The leaders' dealmaking went on behind the scenes during the final, frenetic hours of the 109th Congress. Hastert's provision, which would give certain Medicare beneficiaries additional time to change their health-care coverage, and Reid's plan, which involves more than 900 square miles of federal land, were included in a massive tax and trade measure approved by Congress shortly before its final adjournment early last Saturday morning.

The good news is that Carl Levin (D-Mich), who will be taking over chairman of the Armed Services Committee has announced that he will issue subpoenas and hold hearings. "The emerging plans to grill administration officials on the conduct of the war are part of a pledge for more aggressive congressional oversight on issues such as prewar intelligence, prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the government's use of warrantless wiretaps."

Among the most eager incoming chairmen is Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), a lawyer with a professor's demeanor and a prosecutor's doggedness. As head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin, 72, will be his party's point man on the Iraq war and on the Democrats' call to begin withdrawing troops in the coming months.

Levin said he also plans inquiries into "documentation of waste and fraud and abuse in the contracting areas" of the military. Aggressive oversight "is not just a budget issue," he said, but at some point "becomes a significant moral issue." In the House, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), another leading advocate of a phased withdrawal, has vowed to use his Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship to investigate the Iraq war, holding "two hearings a day for the first three or four months . . . to find out exactly what happened and who's been responsible for these mistakes."

Friday, December 15, 2006


The Looming Spectre of Cheney the Tie Breaker

Friday Morning Charivari

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson's medical condition threw an unexpected spanner in the works. To the consternation of Democrats and glee -- subdued, but certainly glee -- of Republicans there are uncertainties about his recovery. In the worst case scenario for Democrats, a Republican would be appointed by Mike Rounds, South Dakota's Republican Governor, thus removing their one vote majority and Vice President Cheney would be back to act as tie breaker. The vice president has been keeping a low profile after November 7th. The ISG report did not give him joy either.

  • If Johnson's or any other Democrat's seat switches to the GOP after the new Senate is underway, however, even Cheney's tie-breaking powers could leave Republicans facing a difficult-to-impossible battle to seize control. Barring an agreement to the contrary, Democrats could filibuster efforts to reorganize the chamber and proceed to assume committee chairmanships.

It is an uneasy time. If I were a praying man I'd be lighting candles for Senator Johnson.

The much anticipated ISG report landed with a thud but the president and those who are against an early withdrawl from Iraq found wiggle room. They are manoeuvring to continue, albeit with some cosmetic changes. The President is hooked to the war. The war and his macho talk made him popular back in 2003. He is unable to accept the fact that people no longer believe in the war or in him. Tom Toles' cartoon in the March 17th issue of the Washington Post is as true today as it was then.

March 17, 2006

Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker :


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Holocaust - Denying It Will Not Erase the Facts

Walmart * Euthanasia Back in the News

Insanity fair. Holocaust deniers gathered in Teheran to take part in a conference. Saw a picture of Ahmadinejad embracing a bearded Jew! The Holocaust happened. There is overwhelming evidence to support that a systematic slaughter of Jews took place during Hitler's Third Reich. Those who question it have blinders on.

The animosity between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East is understandable. Israel's role in dealing with Palestinians cannot be condoned, neither can its operation against the Hezbollah in Lebanon that resulted in deaths of a thousand or more civilians. After years of using its vastly superior military force Israel has failed to have any noticeable impact on the will of the Palestinians. True, they live amidst rubbles and their economy is in shambles. Yet the suicide bombers keep coming. All that has nothing to do with the Holocaust. It was a dark chapter in history when many nations aware of what was going on in Germany looked the other way. The Vatican was among those who remained silent. Some of the very people who argue that the Holocaust did not take place also believe in Armageddon and extra-terrestrials landing in flying saucers.

Facts - The Camps


Did Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hints about nuclear weapons have anything to do with Teheran's tirade against Israel? Now he is trying to wiggle out of what he said but the fact that Israel has nuclear capability is not a secret. Think of Iran and Israel lobbing nukes at each other and there you have the scenario for end of the world as we know it.

While on the subject of Armageddon, Walmart is in the news because of a series of video games based on the Left Behind series. Trust Walmart not to miss an opportunity for making money while the fervor lasts.

From Campaign to Defend the Constitution

What's Wal-Mart promoting this holiday season? The religious right's extreme ideology.

Just in time for Christmas, the religious right has released a violent video game in which born-again Christians aim to convert or kill those who don't adhere to their extreme ideology. Disturbingly, the game's apparent attempts at religious indoctrination are aimed at children and focus on violent, divisive, and hateful scenarios. While the religious right apparently has no problem pushing the product this holiday season, America's #1 video game seller should know better.

The Euthanasia Debate - Two Items from BBC

An Italian court has adjourned to decide whether to allow a terminally ill man to die, in a landmark case.

The man, Piergiorgio Welby, has muscular dystrophy and is paralysed. He wants doctors to be allowed to turn off his artificial respirator.

The high-profile case has sparked fierce debate in mostly-Roman Catholic Italy, where euthanasia is illegal and the Church forbids it.

The judge is expected to deliver her verdict within a week.

Church of England

A Christian medical body says holding back treatment to allow ill newborn babies to die - when treatment would be "a burden" - is not euthanasia.

The Christian Medical Fellowship was responding to a report in the Observer.

That said the Church of England believed withholding treatment from some seriously disabled newborns may be right "in some circumstances".

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has been seeking submissions into critical care in foetal and neonatal medicine.

It told the BBC it has received over 100 submissions from interested organisations into the controversial issue.

Its report will be published on Thursday looking at the ethical, social and legal issues which may arise when making decisions surrounding treating extremely premature babies.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Chile's Terrible Past and Iraq's Violent Present

The years when General Pinochet and the junta ruled Chile cannot be wiped out. His death could mean the end of bitterness for some of the survivors. For those who lost their friends and family members -- the ones who "disappeared" -- it is not that easy. We learn now that Augusto Pinochet was not only a despot but also a thief. He stashed away millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts.

The United States played a shameful role in aiding and abetting Pinochet because the architects of American foreign policy lead by Henry Kissinger saw Pinochet and others like him as bulwarks against communism in Latin America. Pamela Constable in Washington Post:

But when Pinochet spoke of the need to "extirpate" communism from Chilean soil, it sent chills down my spine. As victims emerged from secret prisons, we learned what that verb really meant: fingernails pulled out, electric shocks applied to genitals, mock-rape by dogs. To this day, I remember the faces and the voices of weeping men, ashamed to confide the terrible things that had been done to them.

Among those who mourned his passing was Margaret Thatcher, Britain's former prime minister. An editorial in The Guardian commented:

"The "sadness" of Margaret Thatcher, grateful for the Chilean's help to Britain during the Falklands war, also reflected her feeling for an authoritarian rightwinger and anti-communist on a continent where military juntas were then commonplace. It would be fascinating too to hear from Henry Kissinger, architect of Washington's realpolitik calculations about policing its "backyard".

How grand it sounds: Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those who coined the phrase probably patted themselves on the back. Three and half years later they face a quite different scenario. The situation has become nightmarish both for Iraqis and those who sold us the war in 2003. We who opposed the war have reason to feel vindicated -- vindicated but not elated. The costs in human and financial terms are staggering. Jon Cohen's report in today's Post reads: "Poll: 7 of 10 Americans Disapprove of Handling of Iraq War".


Negative assessments of the war in Iraq -- the central issue in last month's midterm election -- continue to hold down President Bush's job approval ratings and could cast a pall on the final two years of his presidency.

In a new Post-ABC News poll, seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq -- the highest percentage since the March 2003 invasion. Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting.

While both gauges on the war have been negative since late 2004, Bush's approval rating on Iraq has deteriorated further since early October, likely weakened by recent high-profile criticisms of the administration's Iraq policy.

The bleak appraisals of the war include the release last week of the much-anticipated report from the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan government advisory panel, which described conditions in Iraq as "grave and deteriorating."

With evident public skepticism about the situation in Iraq, the war remains the president's biggest challenge and the heaviest drag on his overall approval rating.

In this poll, 36 percent approve of how Bush is handling his job, which is the second lowest percentage in Post-ABC polls since Bush took office in 2001; 62 percent disapprove.

And as has been true throughout this year, the intensity of sentiment runs starkly against the president: Those who strongly disapprove of Bush's job performance outnumber those who strongly approve by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.


Monday, December 11, 2006


Our Heroes, Ourselves - Reality and PR

Selling of Wars and Creation of Myths * End of an Evil Man

Soldiers in battle risk their lives and perform acts of bravery. That is fact. On the flip side there are the exploiters who take part in exaggerating or creating myths about actions that didn't take place or, if they did, they were not what was made out to be. Recently, we had accounts in the media about Jessica Lynch's capture and rescue hyped up beyond any semblance of reality. Then there was the tragic case of Pat Tillman who was mistakenly shot by American soldiers in a so called friendly fire incident. Until the details trickled out, he was reported to have died bravely fighting enemy attackers in Afghanistan.

Flags of our Fathers might not win Clint Eastwood many admirers but he and Steven Spielberg (producer) deserve praise for their courage to expose the sham behind the fabled flag at Iwo Jima. The details are nauseating. The people who staged the show at Iwo Jima might not be around but there are others like them who continue to do what was done at Iwo Jima. Their job is to sanitize and glorify wars. They hide or airbrush the ugly side, create a false, technicolor image for the public. Often, the mainstream media unquestioningly runs with the pap.

Neal Ascherson in The Guardian, UK

Flags of our Fathers, the new film directed by Clint Eastwood and produced by Steven Spielberg, is about how a human deed can become an artefact, shrinking its actors into irrelevance. Over the next 20 years, the flag raising on Iwo Jima morphed into a stream of representations, each vaster and more alienating than the last.

The first repeat happened on the same day. Some officer down below wanted the flag for himself, so a new, bigger one was sent up. Six other Marines wrestled it into position, and as they did so, AP photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped them in a photograph that - marvellously composed by pure luck - went round the world and became, for Americans, the iconic picture of the Second World War.

Three of Rosenthal's flag raisers were killed in the next few days. The other three were brought home, to be used as hero figures leading a gigantic, States-wide campaign for war bonds. Soon they were putting on their helmets and carbines to scale papier-mache models of Mount Suribachi, planting Old Glory on the summit for the enjoyment of 50,000 ecstatic patriots.

By now the photograph had been on every front page. It hung on the office walls of senators and in the living rooms of millions of Americans. It generated paintings, models, postage stamps. It was no longer about six men but about collective heroism, patriotism, the cult of sacrifice. Details of the original moment began to peel away. It was written that the Marines had climbed the mountain under fire, fighting every inch of the way. One of the dead Marines was confused with another, who had not been at the flag raising, and when the three survivors protested, they were told to shut up. (The photograph shows only their backs, not their faces.) The image began to matter more than the individuals. An epic war movie, Sands of Iwo Jima, was made with John Wayne in 1949. Finally, in 1954, a colossal statuary group - 100 tons of bronze, each figure 30 feet high - was raised in Washington as the memorial of the United States Marine Corps. The three survivors were invited to the unveiling but the names of the flag raisers are not on the plinth. This was a monument to the power and triumph of a nation, not to them.

Flags of our Fathers belongs to the tradition of great American war movies. But in striking ways it turns away from that tradition and marks its limits. Clint Eastwood has used all the technical genius of Spielberg, his producer. And yet, as an old man, he looks down on war with a sovereign anger and pity. That feeling has always been lurking. 'I guess we all died a little in that damned war,' he says in The Outlaw Josie Wales. He sees that the genre of Vietnam movies - all concerned with what happens to Americans, but not to their adversaries - has run out of time. And so, astonishingly, his companion film - Letters from Iwo Jima - is about the Japanese experience in that fight, which cost nearly 7,000 American lives but killed almost all the 22,000 Japanese defenders. The film, which opens on 20 December in America, has already been named Best Picture of 2006 by the critics at the National Board of Review. (It will be released in the UK on 23 February.) Another departure is Eastwood's rebellion against the notion of heroes. In a time when any soldier in action is termed a 'hero' this was a sturdy line to take.

Yes, there are heroes. Then there are callous, boorish soldiers. A felllow blogger (www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com) referred me to an item on YouTube. The video clip made me think of apes, not soldiers.

Anti-war films

Anti-war fiction

Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006)

Count me among the gleeful. The headline in The Guardian reads "Glee and Grief as man who brought 'Spanish Inqusition to Chile' dies at 91". Good riddance. He was an evil man, a brutish dictator who came to power with help from the United States under President Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Too bad that he died without answering for his misdeeds -- the torture and murder of thousands of dissidents. In a just world Henry Kissinger should be on the dock answering charges for his role in the coup against late Salvador Allende, legitimately elected president of Chile.


Sunday, December 10, 2006


Where are you Abe Lincoln ? Lobbyists Rule

Power of Lobbyists * Military Families

The tentacles of lobbyists reach deep into our system of government. From FDA to Congress and the NIH, legislations related to products and services that affect all Americans are often guided and shaped by lobbyists and elected representatives on the take. Democrats are not untainted although in recent years it was the Republicans who blatantly served special interest groups. They make a mockery of what President Lincoln said at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863: "........and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

The Post has two items about the power of special interest groups.

Dairy Industry Crushed Innovator Who Bested Price-Control System

In the summer of 2003, shoppers in Southern California began getting a break on the price of milk.

A maverick dairyman named Hein Hettinga started bottling his own milk and selling it for as much as 20 cents a gallon less than the competition, exercising his right to work outside the rigid system that has controlled U.S. milk production for almost 70 years. Soon the effects were rippling through the state, helping to hold down retail prices at supermarkets and warehouse stores.

That was when a coalition of giant milk companies and dairies, along with their congressional allies, decided to crush Hettinga's initiative. For three years, the milk lobby spent millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions and made deals with lawmakers, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

NIH Scientist Pleads Guilty in accepting $285,000 from Pfizer

A senior government scientist who was a focus of a congressional probe into conflicts of interest in medical research admitted in federal court yesterday that he improperly failed to disclose payments of $285,000 he received as a consultant for the pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer Inc.

Pearson "Trey" Sunderland III, who was chief of the Geriatric Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, pleaded guilty in Baltimore to a misdemeanor charge of violating conflict-of-interest rules.

There are many of us who hold strong position for or against the war in Iraq. How do the families of soldiers feel? They are the ones whose voices have more power than the rest. While Christian Davenport and Joshua Partlow's report in the Post covers only a few such families, it confirms that a divide exists. Opposition to the war has gained strength among military families but the oppposition is far from the level of sentiments in the waning days of Vietnam war.

Nancy Hecker hasn't read the Iraq Study Group's report. She doesn't need to. She knows her son, Army Maj. William F. Hecker III, died at 37 for a just cause, no matter what the antiwar crowd thinks.

If she "can stand firm in support of our country and the mission, is it too much to ask the rest of the country to do so as well?" she asked.

Beverly Fabri also doesn't need the report to help her make up her mind on Iraq. "We are not going to win this war," she said. "And we shouldn't have gotten involved with it in the first place."

Almost three years after her 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry, was killed, she said: "I'm beginning to feel like he just died in vain, I really am."

As the country debates what's next for Iraq, many family members who have lost loved ones in the war are torn about what should happen and how the legacy of those who have died there will be affected.

When the war began nearly four years ago, there was virtually unanimous support for it among military families. But as the country's belief in it has deteriorated, cracks have also begun to show among those who were its staunchest backers. And now, as the death toll mounts, many are struggling to reconcile bad news that seems to keep getting worse with the mission their loved ones believed in and died fighting for.

Sunday morning music

Johann Sebastian Bach Organ Work Selection
Toccata and Fugue
Performer: Hans Otto, Helmuth Rilling, Jorgen Ernst Hansen, Knud Vad
Audio CD (April 16, 1995)
Denon Records

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