Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One should ask what made Hamas use rockets. Did the Israeli embargo on food and essentials, including fuel and medicines, have anything to do with it? Is the scale of retaliation justified ?
Monday, December 29, 2008
Ask them, which leaf of the tree
Will be next to go !
--Soseki (translated by Harold Henderson)
Sunday, December 28, 2008
The Murky World of War Against Terror
When the definitive history of the “war on terror “ is written, the complicity of European countries in America’s more extreme enterprises will be one of the sadder chapters. Illegal detention, “extraordinary rendition”, torture and perhaps even murder will headline the charges brought against nations that, until the Twin Towers fell, would have sworn they knew better.
The fact that major powers led by the United States took part in extraordinary rendition and torture is no longer secret. Yet, the full details are not known; probably will never be known except to those who were involved in planning and execution. LeCarré's fictional work delves into the background of the cruel, amoral characters -- the true believers -- who take part in horrendous acts to make the world safe from terrorists. Or that is what they say. In his book, LeCarré masterfully spun together plots and counter plots that could leave some readers with a sense of revulsion about the spooks and their world.
"We have met the enemy and he is us."
Friday, December 26, 2008
The Bush Doctrine and Viagra
Excerpts from the Washington Post:
The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.
Four blue pills. Viagra.
"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.
In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the officials say, the agency's operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos, the officials said.
"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people -- whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours. Like other field officers interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity when describing tactics and operations that are largely classified.
Animated cartoon by Ann Telnaes, Washington Post
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Christmas Eve 2008
The number of people filing for unemployment hit a 26-year high last week, as the deepening recession forced more employers to cut jobs.
Haven't come across any chanterelles yet but on my walks through the woods I see that a lot of wild mushrooms are beginning to emerge. Last year, too, chanterelles were late because of the dry weather.
Pulgas Water Temple
Pulgas Water Temple
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Winter Solstice 2008
Shortest day of the year.
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York;
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."
--Wm. Shakespeare in Richard the Third
But the human spirit remains indomitable. This phase,too, will pass.
In the winter the days are short and the Sun in low in the sky. The graphic above shows the Sun's path through the sky on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. This is the day when the Sun is the lowest in the southern sky.
During the short winter days the Sun does not rise exactly in the east, but instead rises just south of east and it sets south of west.Each day after the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21st, the Sun's path becomes a little higher in the southern sky. The Sun also begins to rise closer to the east and set closer to the west until we reach the day when it rises exactly east and sets exactly west. This day is called the equinox. In the spring we have the Spring Equinox about March 21st. There is also a Fall Equinox on September 21st.
--Univ. of Montana
The Barbaric Side of Islam
The BBC reported:
- Public anger at the recent stoning of a 13-year-old girl in Somalia shows the growing resentment towards radical Islamists who have gained control of much of the south and centre of the country.
- Insurgents from the militant group al-Shabab are seen as authoritarian and unaccountable - unlike the Islamists who were in control of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2006.
- Asha Ibrahim Dhuhulow was stoned to death for adultery in the southern port city of Kismayo, which was taken control by al-Shabab and its allies in August.
But real barbarism begins when no one can any longer judge or know that what he does is barbaric.”
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Credit Card Sharks Facing New Rules
The proposed new rules are intended to regulate some of the abusive practices. The rules make one thing clear. The credit card industry and its lobbyists in Washington DC no longer have the legislators in their pockets. It took time. At long last our elected representatives in Congress realized that the wind had shifted. To survive, they could not go on blatantly serving special interest groups as they did in the past. The industry stopped fighting the consumer friendly rules when it faced the fact that it was no longer "business as usual." The major credit card companies still continue to bait gullible consumers by mailing pre-printed checks with monthly statements.
End of "K" Street as we knew it? Far from it. But a step in the right direction.
When the federal government approves new rules banning "unfair and deceptive" practices today by credit card companies, it will hand a victory to consumer groups who have long complained of lax oversight of the $970 billion industry.Even with all its lobbying power, the credit card industry was not able to beat back the most sweeping overhaul in decades. Financial companies and trade groups argue that regulators are overreacting to problems in ways that will limit the availability of credit to customers.
Today's move by Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision and the National Credit Union Administration is the first of what could be many attempts to further regulate the industry, as several members of Congress plan to codify the Fed's regulations next year and perhaps pass even more stringent rules. It also represents a significant shift in the thinking of the regulatory agencies, which still are run by Republican appointees. Analysts note that regulators have stepped back from an emphasis on educating customers about what they should do, primarily through disclosures, in favor of telling companies and customers what they can and cannot do."
It just shows how the world has changed," said Brian Gardner, who follows financial regulation issues for the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.
"Eighteen months ago the Fed was focused on disclosure and transparency, and now they're coming out with a prescriptive, rules-based guidance. It's a whole different world."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Obama Courts Evangelicals
What next ?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Seasons: Fall 2008
Walks through Woods * Haikus
The winter solstice begins eight days from now, on the morning of December 21. Here in the San Francisco Bay area we are in a cold snap. Weather forecast is for showers the next four days. There were signs that it rained last night. The morning is sunny; the sky is blue. So far the rainfall is just about 50% of the normal level. Long way to go before we catch up. If we don't, then the chances of severe drought and all related problems become very alarming.
Walks through the forests are very enjoyable though. Haven't come across chanterelles but found some oyster mushrooms. When I think back, in 2007, too, the rains came late and the first chanterelles emerged in December; it was not a very bountiful season.
Looking down at Horse Shoe Lake
Horse Shoe Lake at Skyline Ridge
Ring-necked Ducks on Horse Shoe Lake
Picnic table above Horse Shoe Lake
deliciously as joggers
pound asphalt bike trail
Source: Crisp Autumn Haiku
And from a poem by Coleridge:
Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772-1834, Fragment 3
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Assisted Suicide - Britain's Sky TV Takes a Bold Step
- A documentary that appears to show the moment when a man dies after going through with an assisted suicide was strongly criticised yesterday by anti-euthanasia campaigners and a television watchdog.
- The film, which is being screened on the Sky Real Lives channel tonight, seems to show the moment when 59-year-old Craig Ewert, who had motor neurone disease, died. It is believed this would be the first time the instant of the a person's death in an assisted suicide has been shown on British television.
- Both the documentary maker, Oscar winner John Zaritsky, and Sky insisted that the film, Right to Die? - which is being shown at 9pm - is an important contribution to a vital debate.
- Ewert, a retired university professor from Harrogate, Yorkshire, travelled to Dignitas, the organisation in Zurich that helps people to die, because he did not want to spend the rest of his days in a "living tomb".
Monday, December 08, 2008
Bloody Hands - The Decider and his Groupie
"We do not torture"
--President Bush (White House Press Release Nov 7,2005)
"The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured.
--Secretary of State Rice (Press Release USINFO.STATE.GOV - Dec.5, 2005).
See video clips: Matt Lauer, MSNBC, interviewing the president on Sept.12, 2006. and Helen Thomas at White House Press Meeting April 24, 2008.
And so it goes.
Recommended reading: Naomi Klein's The True Purpose of Torture
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Call Him Flexible
| The Houston Chronicle Dec. 2, 2008|
President-elect Barack Obama has quietly shelved a proposal to slap oil and natural gas companies with a new windfall profits tax.
An aide for the transition team acknowledged the policy shift Tuesday, after a small-business group discovered the proposal — touted throughout much of the campaign — had been dropped from the incoming administration’s Web site.
“President-elect Obama announced the policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel,” the aide said. “They are below that now and expected to stay below that.”
There were signs that Obama would not press for an early withdrawal from Iraq of which he talked during the campaign. Now, that key appointments in defense (Gates to continue) and State Department have been filled, we can forget the campaign rhetoric. Disappointing.
International Herald Tribune Dec.2, 2008
The uncertainties facing the incoming administration may have prompted Obama, in introducing his national security team Monday, to signal greater flexibility in his plans to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.
Obama reaffirmed that goal, but also emphasized his willingness to consider options put forth by the military.
"I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders," he said at a news conference in which he also named Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as his choice for secretary of state and said that he would keep Robert Gates as defense secretary.
No longer a candidate, Obama has been calibrating his troop-withdrawal statements to leave room to maneuver, as some senior military officers are wary of moving too quickly. Meanwhile, he wants to send more forces to Afghanistan.