Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) - A Giant Passes Away
Bach and Bergman, Not Bush and Bombs
A grey and wet St. Patrick's Day morning. The weather pundits were right; rain and more rain. Two days before spring solstice, it is unusual weather for us in the San Francisco Bay area. Couldn't escape reading about the president but decided to stay away from him in my blog. He is mentioned but just in passing....in an item about Jessica Simpson, that she dodged an appearance at The White House. I am not familiar with her music but she looked pretty and wholesome in Washington Post. My favorite music: Bach, jazz, and blues. Recently, I watched a movie (Swedish, with sub-titles) that is not only named Saraband, Bach's cello suite is a part of the story and could be heard in the background. Made for Swedish TV, 86-year old Ingmar Bergman returned as director (he was also the author) for this 2005 sequel to his acclaimed 1973 production Scenes From A Marriage. While I wished that the story ended differently, it was a feast. Bergman announced that Saraband was his last appearance as a director. Magnificent.
|Erland Josephson||Johan--Professor Emeritus|
I am listening to Bach's Concerto in C Minor, Allegro, Band III. An old LP titled Two Concertos For Two Harpischords & Orchestra. George Malcolm and Simon Preston conducted by Yehudi Menhuin.
Monday, July 23, 2007
The Tour Guide Returns to Rant Against the War
It is a long way from Calcutta (Kolkata), India, to Perth, West Australia. That is where Pat and her family moved to in 1969. Pat is traveling with a woman friend who lives in Melbourne, Australia. All of us worked together at one time.
JHL and I met them in San Francisco on Sunday and took them to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a warm, sunny afternoon. Sail boats dotted the bay. The bridge, as it often happens, was partially shrouded in fog. A breath-taking sight nevertheless for tourists as well as the natives. And they were there in droves. The walkway was crowded with people. Runners on the walkway reminded me of times when I had done that. Then we drove down to Sausalito for lunch at Paradise Cove. In no time at all the intervening years disappeared.
We plan to make a trip south to Monterey Bay and Carmel before they take off for Toronto.
Returning to the blogosphere after an absence of four days I see that nothing has changed. Majority of Americans are still against continuation of the president's war despite a barrage of warnings about al-Qaeda. The commander-in-chief, of course, is sticking to his position. The good news, if one can call it that, is that so far in July the number of casualties in Iraq -- both civilian and military -- is lower than in previous months. But the month is not over.
And the sanctimonious David Vitter, Republican senator from Louisiana, is back. Argh!
Listening to Blues By Muddy Waters: Track 16 - I Be Bound to Write to You
Second Guitar: Charles Berrry, The Plantation Recordings, The Historical 1941-1942 Library of Congress Field Recordings by Alan Lomax
Friday, July 20, 2007
Defeat for General Musharraf
Many of us have been saying the same thing but Keith Olbermann of MSNBC does it better. His scathing indictment of the president and his cohorts in Countdown should be a must read for all who oppose what they have done in Iraq.
Go to Iraq and fight, Mr. President
It is one of the great, dark, evil lessons, of history.
A country — a government — a military machine — can screw up a war seven ways to Sunday. It can get thousands of its people killed. It can risk the safety of its citizens. It can destroy the fabric of its nation.
But as long as it can identify a scapegoat, it can regain or even gain power.
The Bush administration has opened this Pandora’s Box about Iraq. It has found its scapegoats: Hillary Clinton and us.
The lies and terror tactics with which it deluded this country into war — they had nothing to do with the abomination that Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.
The selection of the wrong war, in the wrong time, in the wrong place — the most disastrous geopolitical tactic since Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914 and destroyed itself in the process — that had nothing to do with the overwhelming crisis Iraq has become. It isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault.
The continuing, relentless, remorseless, corrupt and cynical insistence that this conflict somehow is defeating or containing or just engaging the people who attacked us on 9/11, the total “Alice Through the Looking Glass” quality that ignores that in Iraq, we have made the world safer for al-Qaida — it isn’t Mr. Bush’s fault!
Sen. Clinton has been sent — and someone has leaked to The Associated Press — a letter, sent in reply to hers asking if there exists an actual plan for evacuating U.S. troops from Iraq.
This extraordinary document was written by an undersecretary of defense named Eric Edelman.
“Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq,” Edelman writes, “reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.”
And now Mr. Bush, you have picked out your own Jefferson Davis, your own Dreyfus, your own “profiteer” — your own scapegoat.
Not for the sake of this country.
Not for the sake of Iraq.
Not even for the sake of your own political party.
But for the sake of your own personal place in history.
You have set this government at war against its own people and then blamed those very people when they say, “Enough.”
This, sir, is your war.
Sen. Clinton has reinforced enemy propaganda? Made it impossible for you to get your ego-driven, blood-steeped win in Iraq?
Then take it into your own hands, Mr. Bush.
Go to Baghdad now and fulfill, finally, your military service obligations.
Go there and fight, your war. Yourself.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Alarms and Diversions: They are coming, they are coming
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Passages: July 2007
Colin Nutley's House of Angels (Änglagård,1992, also known as Englegård)
British film director Colin Nutley, married to the Swedish actress Helena Bergstrom, has made a number of movies with Bergstrom in the leading role. I felt a little sad when "House of Angels" ended. It is a 'feel good' movie and the story takes place in summer.
Swedish with English sub-titles. Check it out.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The Dehumanizing War
--The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson,Gordonsville,Virginia,1864
NY Times July 13, 2007
- There is no question that the group is one of the most dangerous in Iraq. But Mr. Bush’s critics argue that he has overstated the Qaeda connection in an attempt to exploit the same kinds of post-Sept. 11 emotions that helped him win support for the invasion in the first place.
- Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not exist before the Sept. 11 attacks. The Sunni group thrived as a magnet for recruiting and a force for violence largely because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which brought an American occupying force of more than 100,000 troops to the heart of the Middle East, and led to a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
- The American military and American intelligence agencies characterize Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a ruthless, mostly foreign-led group that is responsible for a disproportionately large share of the suicide car bomb attacks that have stoked sectarian violence. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander in Iraq, said in an interview that he considered the group to be “the principal short-term threat to Iraq.”
- But while American intelligence agencies have pointed to links between leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the top leadership of the broader Qaeda group, the militant group is in many respects an Iraqi phenomenon. They believe the membership of the group is overwhelmingly Iraqi. Its financing is derived largely indigenously from kidnappings and other criminal activities. And many of its most ardent foes are close at home, namely the Shiite militias and the Iranians who are deemed to support them.
- “The president wants to play on Al Qaeda because he thinks Americans understand the threat Al Qaeda poses,” said Bruce Riedel, an expert at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and a former C.I.A. official. “But I don’t think he demonstrates that fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq precludes Al Qaeda from attacking America here tomorrow. Al Qaeda, both in Iraq and globally, thrives on the American occupation.”
The 'Third Constituency'
The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness - The Nation
Over the past several months The Nation interviewed fifty combat veterans of the Iraq War from around the United States in an effort to investigate the effects of the four-year-old occupation on average Iraqi civilians. These combat veterans, some of whom bear deep emotional and physical scars, and many of whom have come to oppose the occupation, gave vivid, on-the-record accounts. They described a brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts.
Their stories, recorded and typed into thousands of pages of transcripts, reveal disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq. Dozens of those interviewed witnessed Iraqi civilians, including children, dying from American firepower. Some participated in such killings; others treated or investigated civilian casualties after the fact. Many also heard such stories, in detail, from members of their unit. The soldiers, sailors and marines emphasized that not all troops took part in indiscriminate killings. Many said that these acts were perpetrated by a minority. But they nevertheless described such acts as common and said they often go unreported--and almost always go unpunished.
Terrifying house raids; random checkpoint shootings; speeding convoys that wipe out anyone in their path. Interviews with 50 US war veterans back from Iraq reveal the terrible daily brutality they inflicted on innocent civilians. A unique investigation by Chris Hedges and Laila al-Arian - The Guardian
"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."
In June 2003 Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejía's unit was pressed by a furious crowd in Ramadi. Sergeant Mejía, 31, a National Guardsman from Miami, served for six months beginning in April 2003 with the 1-124 Infantry Battalion, Fifty-Third Infantry Brigade. His squad opened fire on an Iraqi youth holding a grenade, riddling his body with bullets. Sergeant Mejía checked his clip afterward and calculated that he had personally fired eleven rounds into the young man.
"The frustration that resulted from our inability to get back at those who were attacking us led to tactics that seemed designed simply to punish the local population that was supporting them," Sergeant Mejía said.
We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photographs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.
"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.
"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.
The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The Pinstriped, Gucci Clad Thugs of Bush White House
Confederacy of Goons
Los Angeles Times 7/11/07
- WASHINGTON — President Bush's first surgeon general testified Tuesday that his speeches were censored to match administration political positions and that he was prevented from giving the public accurate scientific information on issues such as stem cell research and teen pregnancy prevention.
- "Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried," Dr. Richard H. Carmona, who was surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, told a congressional committee. "The job of surgeon general is to be the doctor of the nation — not the doctor of a political party."
- Early in the administration, when the issue of federal funding for stem cell research arose, Carmona said, he felt he could play an educational role by discussing the latest scientific research. Instead, he said, he was told to "stand down" because the White House already had made a decision to limit stem cell studies. He said administration appointees who reviewed his speech texts deleted references to stem cells.
- Carmona's remarks were the latest in a series of complaints from government scientists about what they say are administration efforts to control — and sometimes distort — scientific evidence in order to support policy decisions.
It never fails. Every time they get caught in a sexual scandal Republican politicians immediately turn to god and seek forgiveness. It must be getting tiring for the almighty. God is said to be 'all forgiving' but surely can see through blatant hypocrisy. One gets the impression that the deeply religious politicians might know what sin is but they don't have a clue about the difference between right and wrong.
Adam Nossiter in NY Times 7/11/07:
- NEW ORLEANS, July 10 — From the beginning of his political career 16 years ago, Senator David Vitter has been known for efforts to plant himself on the moral high ground, challenging the ethics of other Louisiana politicians, decrying same-sex marriage and depicting himself as a clean-as-a-whistle champion of family values.
- “I’m a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history,” Mr. Vitter, a 46-year-old Republican, wrote in a letter last year to The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans daily.
- That self-created image, a political winner here since 1991, when Mr. Vitter joined the Louisiana House, took a tumble Monday with the disclosure that his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington.
"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in a statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way." (Jake Tapper - ABC News)
“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”
----Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 4 (1865).
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Old Khayyám and I
Wonder how he got away with it. In today's world of Islamic fundos there would be a fatwa on his head. Perhaps the fact that he was a renowned astronomer and mathematician, in the good graces of the ruler (Vizier), protected him from their wrath. Or maybe there were enlightened mullahs in Persia, if such a thing was possible.
"Alike for those who for today prepare,
And those that after some tomorrow stare,
A Muezzin from the tower of darkness cries,
'Fools! Your reward is neither here nor there'. "
--Second Version, 1868
Edward FitzGerald (31 March June 1883), the superb translator of the Rubaiyat, was reported to be a dour man who lived the life of an ascetic.
Looking west toward the coast
Time for wild flowers is past but we saw some sticky monkeys, patches of clarkias and a place where there were a few penstemmons.
©Musafir July 9, 2007
Picnic by the lake
We had penne and shrimps in a tomato, garlic, basil sauce; rosemary flavored ciabatta from Grace Bakery; large slices of tomato drizzled with olive oil, salt and julienned basil (the juice from the tomato mixes with the oil and makes a great sauce to dip the bread); and fresh figs baked with just a small amount of honey and lavender sprigs -- a little cream can be added at the end for richness (I had it for dessert somewhere in Provence and my efforts come pretty close to the taste I remember). All washed down with a sauvignon blanc, followed by JHL's strong dark roast coffee from Peets. It cannot get any better.
We then continued on down to Lambert Creek. It is a one-way trail and we had to exert ourselves to walk back up to the Ridge Trail on the return leg. Hiking poles helped.
There are times when old Khayyám reappears, and the picnic by the lake yesterday was one of those.
"Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough
A flask of wine, a book of verse--and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness
And wilderness is paradise enow."
-- First Version, 1859
Well, the birds did the singing.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Morning News: Impeachment and DHS
- CRAWFORD, Tex., July 8 -- Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan said Sunday that she plans to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unless Pelosi introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.
- Sheehan's deadline, July 23, is the same day she and her supporters are to arrive in Washington after a 13-day caravan and walking tour departing from the group's war protest site near Bush's Crawford ranch.
The same people responsible for botched up handling of relief work after Katrina are back in the news.
- The Bush administration has failed to fill roughly a quarter of the top leadership posts at the Department of Homeland Security, creating a "gaping hole" in the nation's preparedness for a terrorist attack or other threat, according to a congressional report to be released today.
- As of May 1, Homeland Security had 138 vacancies among its top 575 positions, with the greatest voids reported in its policy, legal and intelligence sections, as well as in immigration agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard. The vacant slots include presidential, senior executive and other high-level appointments, according to the report by the majority staff of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The report about DHS reminded me of a poem by Marvin Bell that appeared in The New Yorker, June 4th issue. Knew that I had put it aside; I found it. Worth reading and thinking about.
Two owls have perched at the property line,
and a scraping on the porch means the postman
is wiping his shoes before continuing
across the yards, three homes worth' worth of catalogues
and ads, and the occasional letter, all cradled
in the crook of one elbow. I'll be getting an offer
of money, a map to riches, a new future
that has come out of the blue. Today I finger
each envelope before opening, and I admit
I feel for wires and beads of plastic explosive
amid the saliva. The daily rags speak
of a dirty bomb. The government tells me live
in a wooden house with a hurricane lamp,
a gas mask, and flares, while it arms
an impervious underground temple from which
it can map the surface, choose a site
anywhere on the globe, and call down the rain."
-- Marvin Bell
Poets.Org Re: Marvin Bell - "He is a long time member of the faculty of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he is the Flannery O'Connor Professor of Letters. In March 2000 he was selected to be Iowa's first Poet Laureate."
Saturday, July 07, 2007
I'm listening to Mosaic Records' excellent remastered issue of The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis. The boxed set (No.1367) was ordered from Mosaic Records, Santa Monica, CA, around 1984, not long after Michael Cuscuna and Charlie Lourie launched the admirable venture.
What brought this about? Simple. A friend lent me the video of Scorsese's The Blues - Piano Blues directed by Clint Eastwood. Watched it last night and thought about some of the albums by artists who appeared or were talked about in the documentary.
Currently on the turntable: Solitude, Side IV, Track 3. Sweet sound.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Dying for the Commander in Chief
"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind." (President Bush, Meet the Press, MSNBC News Feb.8,2004)
30 year old Army Sergeant David B. Parson died in Iraq on July 6, 2003, the first year of the war. The death toll then was 208. Now, in the 5th year of the president's war 13 American soldiers lost their lives in the first five days of July. The total as of July 5th: 3592 and climbing. Source: iCasualties.org
The president goes on selling his war. The smirk is no longer visible but he continues to play the "fear" card. In his July 4th speech the president compared the war in Iraq with the War of Independence!
- MARTINSBURG, W.Va., July 4 -- President Bush warned Wednesday that the Iraq war "will require more patience, more courage and more sacrifice," as he appealed to a war-weary public for time and sought to link today's conflict to the storied battles that gave birth to the nation.
- In an Independence Day address before members of the National Guard and their families, the president again painted a dire portrait of the consequences of pulling out of Iraq, asserting as he has before that "terrorists and extremists" would try to strike inside the United States. - Washington Post
- "I have carefully studied the Iraq situation, and believe we cannot continue asking our troops to sacrifice indefinitely while the Iraqi government is not making measurable progress to move its country forward," Domenici said. "I do not support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq or a reduction in funding for our troops. But I do support a new strategy that will move our troops out of combat operations and on the path to coming home."
"Domenici's defection is the latest from a growing number of senior Senate Republicans who have decided to oppose the White House's preferred plan of waiting for a mid-September progress report on the effectiveness of Bush's "surge" plan of boosting the U.S. deployment in Iraq this year by tens of thousands of troops.
Rather than wait for that report, to be drafted by the administration, Domenici and other senior Republicans have called for a change in course this summer in advance of the coming legislative fight this month in the Senate on the authorization bill for the Pentagon.
"I am unwilling to continue our current strategy," Domenici said flatly, blaming the Iraqi government for its inability to get its internal administration in order.
Early last week Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the leading Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a rebuke to the White House with a more than 5,000-word address on the Senate floor declaring that the surge was not working and that the "current path" on Iraq was not acceptable. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, applauded Lugar's speech and said he would offer his own amendments calling for a change in policy during the defense authorization debate next week.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Scooter Libby, Bill Clinton, and Republicans
The president's decision was not a real surprise. He was under tremendous pressure. Now that his presidency is more or less finished in terms of significant achievements, he does not have much to lose from the reaction to his decision. On the other hand, it made the conservatives happy. Above all, it made the vice president happy.
But going back to Bill Clinton, was it envy that drove the Republicans? Possible. There is plenty of unfulfilled fantasies behind their holier than thou facade.
"The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth."
----Albert Camus, Winner of 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature)
Uneasy summer for G.W. Bush
Bush is fixated on Iraq, according to friends and advisers. One former aide went to see him recently to discuss various matters, only to find Bush turning the conversation back to Iraq again and again. He recognizes that his presidency hinges on whether Iraq can be turned around in 18 months. "Nothing matters except the war," said one person close to Bush. "That's all that matters. The whole thing rides on that."
And yet Bush does not come across like a man lamenting his plight. In public and in private, according to intimates, he exhibits an inexorable upbeat energy that defies the political storms. Even when he convenes philosophical discussions with scholars, he avoids second-guessing his actions. He still acts as if he were master of the universe, even if the rest of Washington no longer sees him that way.
Soon the president will take off for his vacation. No doubt his aides are putting together the tomes that he will take with him for reading in Crawford. No light reading for our intellectual president. He has hidden depths. The summer reading list of G.W. Bush never fails to amuse.