,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Friday, October 31, 2008


Win One for Turner Campbell of Fort Collins, CO.


Voters, Do the Right Thing

"The will of the mass of the people must prevail."
Alcuin (735-804),in a letter to Charlemagne

An 11-Year Old and His Classmates
Desperately Seeking Kitchen Sink

One does not have to be a pundit to sense desperation of the McCain-Palin team. It has thrown everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at Barack Obama. To its frustration, the tactics have not worked in halting Obama's lead. Four days before the election, if you believe the polls the race is over and all we need is the fat lady to come out and sing. But the polls don't tell the whole story, and then there is the kitchen sink. Rest assured that the masters of dirty tricks will keep trying.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Twittering Outside 'Twitter'

Odds and Ends

Cold gray morning. Dense fog outside. It is the season of falling leaves; root vegetables; hot soup.

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
-- Elizabeth Lawrence

Turning Leaves

Telegraph Hill Area, San Francisco

Angel's Trumpet

Parrots of Telegraph Hill
© Arundhati Bhowmick

Angels Trumpet


The Angels Trumpet (Brugmansia) flowers are reported to be toxic and to have hallucinogenic properties.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The October Surprise ?

Bullies Looking for Another War

This could be what McCain and the neocons were waiting for. Opening of another front in the volatile Middle East and then emphasize "experience" and "national security" in the hope that vulnerable voters will switch to the Republican ticket? Nine days before the election, they had no other cards in the deck.

Is it going to work? After what we learned about the Bush Administration's cooked up war against Iraq it would be unthinkable that the American public would fall for another con game. But for the McCain-Palin team it is the answer to their prayers. If some more of our young men and women lose their lives in the phony war they will say they died for a good cause -- to keep Republicans in office. Sickening.

BBC News 26 October 2008

Syria has said American troops carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people - if the claims are true then this will be the first military incursion by the US into Syrian territory from Iraq.

But its timing is curious, coming right at the end of the Bush administration's period of office and at a moment when many of America's European allies - like Britain and France - are trying to broaden their ties with Damascus.

Whatever the local military factors involved in this US operation, it would be unthinkable to imagine that an incursion into Syria would not require a policy decision at a high-level.

The movement of insurgents and foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq has long been a bone of contention between Damascus and Washington.

The US argument has always been that the Syrians are not doing enough to control the border. The Syrians have always countered that they are unfairly being blamed for turmoil inside Iraq that is not of their making.

Quite apart from their differences over Iraq, Washington sees Syria as unhelpful in Lebanon and as far too friendly with Iran.

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


Saturday, October 25, 2008


God of the Republicans


Has He Forsaken Them ? * Sexual Politics

The Bible thumpers are in panic. Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian reported on October 21st about her visit to Colorado Springs, CO.
A sorry lot with tunnel vision. Their America -- the Judeo-Christian America is changing and there is nothing they can do about it. We are truly in a melting pot. This America is for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, tree worshippers, and....for Muslims. This America is for the devout and for atheists; it is for straights and for homosexuals; it is for the whites and for people of color -- black, brown, yellow.

"Fasting and prayer", that is real desperation. How many of them will actually follow Pastor Holt's call for fasting is open to questions. But one can rest assured that they are praying. The Pentecostals are good in praying against satanic influence. To them Obama is a representative of satan. Sarah Palin has already gone through a blessing to protect her from witchcraft. John McCain might benefit from one. One gets the feeling that Republicans have been deserted by the god they claimed to have on their side. Makes me think of Mel Calman's cartoon (see below).

© Mel Calman - My God

An Angry Old Man and His Sidekick

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post, not a lefty columnist by any standard, has written about a taboo subject. Did her sexuality have anything do with the selection of Sarah Palin for the vice presidential slot by John McCain ? Parker's column in the Post makes no bones about it. If the author was a man the reaction would have been loud and strong. When you see all the banners/buttons that mention "hot chick" at her campaign stops, you can't help wondering if Ms Parker's column has some truth in it.

Before the waves from reports about the Palin family's shopping spree subsided, news about her high paid traveling hair dresser/makeover artist became public. McCain campaign issued a statement that her clothes would be donated or auctioned for charity. Some kicking and screaming is inevitable. The Republicans still don't have a feel for the real world of working people. McCain's pet Joe the Plumber is too busy enjoying the media's attention to say anything about this. $150,000 would have been enough for him to get started on owning a plumbing business.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Dubaya's Last Laugh


Or The Midget's Revenge * Colin Powell's Atonement

Doing what he does best. The mean-spirited, hubristic president whose approval rating is currently between low and mid 20's range, is all set to add another dastardly act to his dismal record before he returns to Crawford to chop wood. "Compassionate conservative" -- yes, think of Attila the Hun. He has 3 months and 4 days left in office and we haven't seen the end of his gifts for special interest groups.

The Last Mischief (Editorial,NY Times, Oct 18, 2008)

All presidents indulge in end-of-the-term environmental rule-making, partly to tie up bureaucratic loose ends but mainly to lock in policies that their successor will be hard pressed to reverse.

President Bill Clinton’s midnight regulations were mostly good, including a rule protecting 60 million acres of national forests from road-building and most commercial development. Not surprisingly, most of President Bush’s proposals are not.

Exhibit A is a set of six resource management plans covering 11 million acres of federal land in Utah. They would open millions of acres to oil and gas drilling and off-road vehicles, risking priceless cultural artifacts and some of the most breathtaking open spaces in America. The plans, each more than 1,000 pages, were dumped on an unsuspecting public in the last few weeks by the Bureau of Land Management.

The bureau claims that it wasn’t trying to pull a fast one and that drafts were available months ago. But the final documents are what count. The public now has only a few short weeks to register objections before the secretary of the interior makes them final.

Why the rush? The agency says it had to wrap things up before it ran out of planning money. What we are really seeing, though, is the last gasp of the Cheney drill-now, drill-everywhere energy strategy; one last favor to the oil and gas drillers and the off-road vehicle enthusiasts before a more conservation-minded president (both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have far better records than Mr. Bush) comes to town.

Are Republicans going to express opposition to this? That would be the day. They never see a drilling site they do not love.

General Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama was not unexpected; reports began to appear last week that he was likely to do so. For the McCain campaign and Republicans, it is a blow.

Despite being shabbily treated by the cabal of neocons in the White House, he faithfully served President Bush. Perhaps the low point in his career was when he was duped into appearing before the UN to sell Bush's war. But the good soldier remained silent. Unlike some others, he has yet to write a tell all book. His public support of Obama is, perhaps, atonement for his failure to act when he was part of the Bush administration. And it is a kick in the face of the Republican Party.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Dignitas - Back in the News


The Right to Die * Daniel James

Live with dignity, die with dignity

In December 2006, I wrote about 67-year old British physician Anne Turner who was suffering from "progressive and incurable degenerative disease called supranuclear palsy" (BBC), and decided to end her life with assistance from Dignitas.

On September 12, 2008, 23-year old Daniel James of Worcester, UK, died at Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK. British authorities are investigating this case and Daniel's parents said: "...................................that their son had tried 'several' times to kill himself before he 'gained his wish'.

  • Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics and a retired GP, said the public may react differently to the idea of a young man with paralysis killing himself to an older person with a terminal illness such as cancer but from an ethical point of view the cases are similar.
  • "Firstly it depends how you define a terminal condition," he said.
  • "This young man had a condition which would eventually lead to his death and the timing of his death would be related to the level of medical intervention he had to keep him alive."
  • He said that people do not usually expect people who are so young to want to kill themselves.
  • "At that age, one would want to know if he was depressed and if that was adequately assessed and treated because that would be a very high probability for a young person, after an accident, becoming aware of how limited their life is."
  • But Dr Nicholson added that from an ethical point of view he could not see much difference between the case of Daniel and an older person with a terminal, provided they were of "sound mind".


The group, based in Zurich, has caught the headlines as people with chronic diseases from around the world travel to Switzerland to ask for its help in committing suicide.

Dignitas was founded in 1998 by Swiss lawyer, Ludwig Minelli, who runs it as a non-profit organisation.

It takes advantage of Switzerland's liberal laws on assisted suicide, which suggest that a person can only be prosecuted if they are acting out of self-interest.

Legal basis

The law on suicide actually states:

"Whoever lures someone into suicide or provides assistance to commit suicide out of a self-interested motivation will, on completion of the suicide, be punished with up to five years' imprisonment".

Dignitas interprets this to mean that anyone who assists suicide altruistically cannot be punished.

Its specialist staff all work as volunteers to ensure there can be no conflict of interest.

Here in the United States, too, there is strong opposition to allowing terminally ill people the right to assisted suicide. The enlightened citizens of Oregon passed a legislation in 1997 that made this option legal. There are enough safeguards built into the law to prevent any abuse. In January, 2006, the Oregon law survived Bush administration's attempt to overturn it (Gonzalez vs. Oregon, 04-623) .

If you are not a resident of Oregon and wish to avoid being hooked up to a life support system in case of terminal illness, be sure to execute an Advance Directive. The form can be downloaded, free, from Caring Connections. AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) is another source. Execution of the form will not mean assistance in dying; what it will do is to prevent being kept alive by hi-tech medical aids, quality of life be damned.

Efforts to pass ballot measure based on the Oregon law were defeated, twice, in California. Proponents of the measure were not able to fight the blizzard of ads put up by the Catholic Church, the American Medical Association, orthodox Jews, and evangelical Christian organizations.

Photo credit: The Pew Forum
  • "Going forward, it is hard to know if and when another state or states will join Oregon. The only thing certain is that the debate over what is and is not an appropriate course of action when it comes to end-of-life decisions will continue for a long time to come." The Pew Forum

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

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Playing the Race Card for All It Is Worth

McCain-Palin Team Catering to the Worst in America

"Violence in the voice is often only the death rattle of reason in the throat."
--John Frederick Boyes

Call them nuts, loonies, fanatics, extremists, white supremacists, what you will. The fact is that they exist in all societies. Here in America there is no dearth of them. Normally, they remain on the fringe; their rants and raves do not receive much attention. But now, with the presidential election 23 days away, the lunatic fringe is being assiduously courted by Republican nominee John McCain and his vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin. It is Palin, as McCain's attack dog, who is making most of the rabble-rousing speeches.

While they deny that their objective is to incite violence that is exactly what they are doing with their outright lies and distortion of truth. And because the Democratic contender is black, their veiled messages of hatred is resonating with bigots in America.

At this point, their dirty campaign appears to be not making much headway. However, there is always the unknown, unquantifiable number of voters to whom the color of Obama's skin overrides everything else. So the race is far from locked up despite the polls that show Obama ahead. And in worst case scenario, an unbalanced person in the mob could very well try something drastic. Let us hope that the Secret Service will prevent any such calamity from taking place. We have had enough of political assassinations. Are McCain and Palin aware of the impact, and possible consequences, of their hate mongering? You betcha.


Friday, October 10, 2008


McCain-Palin In A Malicious Gyre

"Bigotry is the sacred disease" - Heraclitus 535-475 BC * Autumn Morning

Forget about the high road. As the countdown to November 4th inexorably draws closer, desperation of the McCain-Palin team becomes evident. Both of them out to demonstrate how to butcher truth and serve red meat to howling mobs. Race, color, threat of terrorism -- they are going for broke. Reportedly devout Christians both, do they ever pause to think WWJD ?

This election will prove whether American voters can be manipulated by lies or are able to base their decisions on real issues facing us and the world. These are troubled times.

The Youth Vote

By all accounts the the number of newly registered voters is huge. Majority of young voters are supportive of Obama. They can make a difference.

Crisp, bright autumn morning with a hint of chill in the air. Makes you think of sweaters and hot soup.

Listening to: Le Voyage De Sahar (ECM Records)

Anouar Brahem - oud
Francois Couturier - piano
Jean-Louis Matinier - accordion


Morning chill fades plants,
Autumn cycles in for its

ephemeral stop.

--Ginny Loeffler, Lone Tree


Sunday, October 05, 2008


Sarah Palin Didn't Blink, She Winked

Some Like it Cute * Palin and Medicare Program * McCain. the Mud Wrestler

She winked, shrugged, dodged the questions and, yet, some people thought that she more than made up for her interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric which exposed her lack of knowledge about today's world. Comments that she was "like a wound up doll" very aptly described Sarah Palin on Thursday evening. Cute and perky maybe, but it is not a cheerleader's position that she is aiming for .

Her supporters, who loved her mention of remarks by late President Reagan, didn't have a clue that Reagan was talking about his opposition to the Medicare program. Many of them will howl like stuck pigs if they are deprived of the benefits. Maybe the Kenyan bishop who exorcised witches during blessing of Sarah Palin will be invited to pray for them.

If Palin, and the handlers who coached her for the debate, knew what Reagan was talking about then one can assume that they think that the program is another entitlement that should be done away with.

See Raising the White Flag of Surrender -- to Medicare

McCain, Beware of Witch Doctors

"No holds barred"? You can say that again. 29 days before November 4th, John McCain is demonstrating what down and dirty means. He is going to outdo the Swift Boaters; show that he can wrestle in the mud.

Are the voters going to be swayed by the dirty tricks? One never knows. If they do, we could have the first cute and perky woman vice president. McCain would be well-advised to get some voodoo for himself to ward off prayers of Palin's witch doctor.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Autumn of Discontent

Rich Gets Richer

Great weather. There is no cause to rejoice about anything else. The bailout bill, packed with pork to appease special interest groups, cleared Congress with a good margin ( 263-171).

An example:

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- There can't have been a more ridiculous bit of legal fluff in recent memory. Yet there it is, in plain view, as part of the much-ballyhooed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that's been passed by the U.S. Senate. Namely, Section 503 -- "Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for children." The toy arrow provision, also dubbed the "William Tell amendment," was jointly introduced by Oregon's two U.S. senators: Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Gordon Smith, a Republican.

It's hard to know which is more depressing: The fact that this provision found its way into the "urgently needed legislation" at all, or the fact that the U.S. tax code is littered with this kind of stuff.

Those who opposed the bailout found themselves between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" with dire predictions about loss of jobs, retirement benefits, and credit squeeze if the rescue package was not approved. The Bush administration, which allowed the free-marketers to run amuck without any oversight -- one of the reasons for the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage finance sector -- shamelessly promoted bailout for corporate America. It was Saddam Hussein's WMD redux.

Passage of the bill didn't do anything for financial markets today.

The First Walk in Autumn


mellow autumn days
the sun hides a stash of gold
from the thieving clouds

© Beatrice V

One can hike up to the top Black Mountain (2800') from Monte Bello Open Space Preserve off Page Mill Road. Fairly easy to do. The other option is to take Rhus Ridge off Moody Road, Los Altos Hills, and, after a steep, almost a mile-long climb, follow the Black Mountain trail to the top, almost 10 miles round-trip from the parking lot. Arduous.

Last week JHL and I walked on the Black Mountain trail but not all the way to the top. We stopped for a picnic lunch, then went down to Adobe Creek (dry) and hiked back up Ewing Hill to Black Mountain Trail to return to the parking lot.

The leaves have not turned yet. In this area good displays of fall colors are not very common. It would be November before we see them.

Picnic in a dappled grove

© Musafir

Looking west

© Musafir

Clematis (Pipestem) I© Musafir

Clematis (Pipestem) II

© Musafir

Clematis (Pipestem) III
© Musafir

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