Monday, December 31, 2007

Bye Bye to the Beleagured Boar

In about 22 hours, we will be saying goodbye to the Year of the Boar. Like other years, there were events that were positive as well as events that remained a bitter memory; the effects of which were felt in specific regions of the world. This particular year of the Boar however, has left major unresolved issues that would impact on the entire planet and its growing population.

Foremost among this is the unresolved issue of reductions in toxic emissions that closed the year with only an agreement to hold more talks. The United States refuses to commit to specific target reductions as well as to provide the technology for the developing nations to reduce their respective CO2 emissions. The State of California was denied by the US Environmental Protection Agency of its request for a waiver, normally an automatic grant, for the state to set its own standards of toxic emissions for cars and trucks. The State's standards are even greater than those set in Bali, since California's air quality is at dangerous levels. The EPA cited a national strategy of reductions rather than a patchwork of standards set by individual states as a better alternative. California will sue the government for its refusal.

The other unresolved issue is the War in Iraq, a war with no end in sight and no clear victory to claim. Soldiers fighting in that country are increasingly anxious about home. Some were even mandated to extend their tour of duty. This puts the future of these young men in harms way physically and mentally, as in Vietnam. George Bernard Shaw once said "We learn from history that men never learn from history".

The continuous rise in the price of oil, affecting all nations, remains a hurdle for many economies that find difficulty in coping with its inflationary impact and reduces its capability to support social programs. The price increases, logically, should spur development of alternatives; but this is too slow in coming as it gets inadequate support.

Poverty, disease, and hunger that stalk the regions in Asia, Africa, even parts of Europe and the Americas remain unresolved. Eight (8) years into the new Millennium and the world still fails to provide adequate food for its population. Science and technology offer genetically modified substitutes from bio-engineered products, but its safety and fitness for human consumption remains questionable amidst contradicting claims.

The death of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan has placed that region in chaos, impacting on America's war on terror. The tattered foreign policy of the US here would affect its operations in Afghanistan as well. America could find itself fighting in 3 fronts, including Pakistan.

Security of all nations against terrorism cannot be contained since the acquisition of fake documents, or, authentic documents with different names and faces, is still beyond control. Terrorism is an effect, the cause is oppression and inequality. Religious beliefs are merely the medium by which the act of terrorism is carried out. A way of life cannot be destroyed by terrorism, neither can obliteration of the terrorists prevent the rise of new warriors. A global system of equitable distribution of the world's wealth and the right of people to live free and exercise their choice of religion, without suppressing individual choices of faith, is a means of ending terrorism. My only question is why is it called War on Terror? Just like War on Corruption, War on Drugs, War Against Illegals, or War on Environmental Destruction, why is it that nations are so enamored with war. Its good if those that make these declarations are the actual people who go to battle, but its always the young men that get maimed, killed or go nuts that fight. Is it because the economy is dependent on war. The classic military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower asked America to guard against decades ago, has it grown more pervasively? Don't they realize that the words of Benjamin Franklin "There never was a good war, or a bad peace", ring true to this day?

Its good that the Boar goes tonight. If he remains a minute longer, I'm going to roast that fat pig and serve the resulting dish among neighbors and friends for New Year. That will definitely resolve a major issue.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pieces of the Pakistan Puzzle

Piece #1
President Pervez Musharraf- He shot into the global arena after 9/11, providing invaluable assistance to the US and its allies for the war on terror. Vowed to fight terrorism. The only Muslim country under an Authoritarian leader to support the effort. Yet he gave the Taliban leadership permission to resettle in Quetta and entered into peace deals with the extremist tribal bands on the border, while allowing Islamic extremists to go unabated in their propagation of jihad and Sharia law inside Pakistan. He agreed to shift to Democracy but bargained and secured the nod of the US for a "localized" Democracy, a version in which he will retain power. He could not get a confirmation of his election in November from the Supreme Court; declared a state of emergency, replaced the justices with his handpicked people, and got the confirmation. Under US pressure, he relinquished his post as concurrent head of the military but handpicked his successor too. He acceded to a brokered truce by Condoleezza Rice with Benazir Bhutto, allowing her return and dropping corruption charges , and was seen working towards sharing power with her as Prime Minister. Yet he had Bhutto arrested, then placed under house arrest after the bombing in her initial campaign rally. Following this, he continued to ignore requests for additional police vehicles and security arrangements for Bhutto's sorties. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto took place near a military installation.

Questions: Is President Musharraf playing both sides? If so, is it because he does not trust the US to keep him in power as proven time and again in recent history? Now that Pakistan is threatened by various extremist elements running wild plus the rampaging riots courtesy of Bhutto's supporters, can President Musharraf hold on to power?

Piece #2

Benazir Ali Bhutto-
Undoubtedly an intelligent, charismatic and populist political figure and leader with a long history of violent deaths in the family because of politics. Possesses strong grassroots support and is fully committed to a return to meaningful democratic processes for Pakistan. Vowed to uplift the lives of Pakistanis and institute tougher measures against extremists and Al Qaeda in particular; in contrast to Musharraf's coddling of jihadists and purveyors of the ultra conservative Sharia Law. Agreed to share power with the President on the truce brokered by Rice, but contradicts Musharraf's decisions in her speeches. Apparently possesses a weakness for corruption and a lavish lifestyle as against the poverty ridden countrymen she supposedly speaks for.

Questions: Did Benazir Bhutto demand, and eventually secure, a secret agreement from the US about taking full power after winning the election in January as part of the brokered truce? Are the conflicts with Musharraf's actions and decisions in her policy statements a prelude for this purpose? Knowing the dangers she was to be exposed to, were her efforts to unite her party and subsequent sorties meant to seek redemption, more for her countrymen; or for herself, the family's name and status?

Piece #3

The US Involvement -
Uncomfortable with the growing anti-US sentiment in Pakistan affecting its efforts in the war on terror, and the chaotic situation in its political structure; plus the emerging influence of extremists and jihadists in the country, the US sought to balance the hostility by engaging Pakistan's most popular political figure, Benazir Bhutto. Expressing full support for the US efforts, Bhutto's return and outpouring of acceptance by the Pakistanis, allowed her to regain a considerable amount of respectability and influence, and a more positive view of the US as a supporter of Pakistan's development; in addition to creating a sense of renewed power within her grasp. The US saw the power sharing arrangement with Musharraf as the best of both worlds they could get to win the war on terror. The CIA and the Defense department are, ironically, the ones encouraging more participation and involvement for civilian politicians.

Questions: Does the US sense some duplicity in the actions and/or intentions of Musharraf? Was the negotiation with Bhutto meant to check this duplicity? Was Bhutto made the pawn to see the true nature and intent of Musharraf? Did the US fail to see a successful assassination of Bhutto despite knowing the "many enemies" that threatened her life? Is the US prepared for, and capable of, repairing its tattered foreign policy in this region?

Piece #4

Three Versions of the Cause of Death-
The Ministry of Interior, through Minister Hamid Nawaz stated that the assassination was done by Al Qaeda through a militant leader named Baitullah Mehsud, based on obtained transcripts. The attack as reported by Italian News Agency, was planned by Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri in October. However, the cause of death was given last Thursday as bullet wounds from the assassin's gun. By Friday, the declaration was "the impact of shrapnel on her skull" caused the death. Then later on the same day, it was changed to Bhutto banging her head against the metal support of the sunroof in her car as she ducked, that fractured her skull and caused her death.

Questions: Without a message claiming ownership of the assassination, was the Interior Ministry acting too fast in laying blame on Al Qaeda? Are those they named mere fall guys and usual suspects? Was the assassination carried out by "enemies" of Bhutto and laid on the lap of Al Qaeda to divert the investigations away from the real killers? And, is Al Qaeda quietly accepting this act to enhance its influential image to the west and the rest of the Islamic world? Are the three versions of the cause of death a ruse to deflect the investigations and negate other evidence to hide the real perpetrators?

Piece # 5

Nawaz Sharif -
The former Prime Minister and only remaining populist political figure in Pakistan, who was once the most powerful man in the country prior to being deposed by Musharraf; returned in September from Saudi Arabia. He was subsequently deported. The amnesty signed by Musharraf that paved the return of Bhutto did not include Sharif. How he managed to return without arrest was purportedly at the request of his host, Saudi Arabia. The former PM was
spared a jail sentence together with his family, at the request of the Saudis. Sharif has also vowed to oppose President Musharraf's government in the January elections. He has been making attempts to align himself with Bhutto's forces.

Questions: Did Sharif's avoidance of jail terms for himself and his family via the Saudi request include a strong "suggestion" from the US to the Saudis? Is his return and apparent acceptance by Musharraf's government hinged on the same "request and suggestion"? Will Sharif become the standard bearer of Bhutto's party and eventually be Prime Minister? Is this the counter-request of Musharraf to his perceived intentions of Bhutto? Is he Musharraf's secret candidate or is he the secret candidate of the US? If he is some interest group's secret candidate, could that interest group have complicity in the murder of Benazir Bhutto?

Now, you put the pieces together and you will see the picture. Of course, this is purely conjecture on my part, especially the questions for each piece of the puzzle, but the facts of each piece are accurate. I simply put myself in the shoes of each puzzle piece. You can ask your own questions too after reading the piece facts, the picture may still come out the same. Same dog, different collar.


Sources: CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Newsweek

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Brawling at the Bethlehem Birthplace

Religious intolerance has taken on a new dimension. The old "Catholics versus Protestants" is passe', while the more current "Muslims versus Christians" has taken a back seat. Today, it is "Christians against Christians" featuring the Greek Orthodox priests bashing heads with the Armenian priests.

This humiliating development took place in one of the most revered sites of Christendom, at the Church of the Nativity believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. "Jesus Christ!" The embarrassment is enough to send the Lord back to his Mother's womb!

Imagine the agents of God bashing each other with broomsticks and pelting one another with stones from the Church itself. The desecration of the Church where the manger was located, with acts of violence and behavior one sees only in football matches pitting Liverpool against the rest of the world, is enough to raise the Pope's blood pressure up to heaven. On top of this, this rampage takes place during the Christmas Season where the message is Peace, Hope, Love, and Understanding!

The Church of the Nativity is jointly run by the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic authorities. Following the completion of the Catholic rites, The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolics were cleaning their specified sections for their respective Christmas celebrations in January. The sprucing up turned violent when some of the Orthodox faithful trespassed into the Armenian property line, sparking the fistfights akin to a barroom brawl in old western films. The cause of this unholy episode is so stupid it makes it hilarious!

The absence of any tinge of understanding or tolerance was appalling. The sudden burst of violence launched through a vicious attack, was met with equal intensity by the other side. Police had to be called in to separate the warring factions of the Montagues and the Capulets of the Church. The fierce fight should be documented and broadcast through the Animal Planet channel because of its proximity to animal behavior when its territory is threatened by encroachment.

Its hard to comprehend a stupidity of this magnitude. Were they fighting in the name of God? Should they now start walling their property lines? Why fight over small property when Heaven is such a big place? If Christianity is preparing for eternity with God, why are they feuding over prime real estate? Does this have more value? Fine lessons they're teaching, by way of examples made famous by Mike Tyson. Did anyone's ear get bitten by the way?

These priests sure have the balls for a fistfight. I wonder if they would have the balls to face their congregations with this shame. Perhaps all priests should be castrated, lets see if they'd still have the balls for anything violent such as this, including child molestation and rape!


Friday, December 28, 2007

Schoff's Silly Stinking Story of the Season

What possible explanation could there be for getting stuck in your home's septic tank on Christmas Eve? What sort of perversion is this?

Well, Robert Schoff's story is that he was trying to find the clog, lost his balance, and got wedged into the opening. Seventy seven years old, 5'5", weighing 135 pounds, Schoff was screaming inside the septic tank with his legs up in the air. About an hour later, his wife Toni walked by the window and saw his legs flailing away, but couldn't pull him out. She had to call 911 and two Polk County Sheriff's deputies pulled old Robert out.

Trying to find a clog in the tank on Christmas Eve? Could that be the real story? Is he an obsessive-compulsive person? Here are other possibilities, take your pick:

a) He was smoking a cigar (Against doctor's orders) and hiding it from his wife.

b) He was trying to commit suicide by flushing himself in the septic tank.

c) He was practicing how to enter chimneys so he could surprise his wife and/or neighbors.

d) He wanted to recall his earlier life when it was full of shit.

e) He could no longer take his wife's cooking and wanted to get sick to avoid eating it.

f) He was practicing a headstand to show off to relatives during the holidays.

g) He was conducting experiments on bio-gas to save on utility bills.

h) He thought a crock of gold was the same as a crock of shit.

i) He was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Whatever it was, this certainly was a stinking Christmas for Robert, Toni and the two Sheriff's Deputies. I would agree that life can be shitty at times, but you don't have to get yourself stuck in it!


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Spain Spurns Santa

Its a 3 to 1 fight in Spain pitting the Catholic version of gift givers, the Three Kings, against America's red suited jolly gift giving fat man Santa Claus. This ignoble confrontation is being induced by cultural and religious traditions, when in fact, it is all about getting a bigger share of the consumer market for the expected brisk Christmas shopping and gift giving practices.

La Despensa, a local boutique is leading the call to remove Santa from the psyche of Spanish consumers. It has plastered posters in the city with slogans like "Down with the Red Fat Capitalist!" It has also issued a manifesto with statements saying that "Reindeer don't fly, Camels do walk, Enough already with the fraud!" The boutique is believed to have been behind the staged protest at the Finnish Embassy targeting a Scandinavian factory. Protesters carried placards that read "We're with the Kings, Down with Santa!" They see the effect of Santa as an example of the dark side of Globalization.

The Three Kings, Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthazar, brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus on the feast of the Epiphany held on the 6th of January. Unfortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that the story of these 3 gentlemen is nothing but legend; together with the star they followed, Archbishop Dr. Rowan Williams says that stars just don't behave that way. The "Kings" therefore need a lot of help from the Spaniards.

This "battle" is childish and unnecessary. Marketers using Santa want to cash in on the season's spending spree. The La Despensa and their adherents want to do the same, but they are using "cultural imperialism" to rally buyers to their stores and their products. Both sides are capitalists, is there any difference if they are local or foreign? Capitalism knows no nationalism nor loyalty other than greed and profit. This is their religion and their culture. This battle is simply a case of marketing war brought on by the desire for larger market shares, sales volume and profit. The poor Spanish citizens drawn to this silly encounter for either side will be the biggest loser.

Santa typifies American society, loud and obese. The 3 kings in their respective costumes look so third world and outdated. Why not dress the Kings (it is unclear if they were Kings at all) in red suits too or some other modern day color with updated designs. Or sell robot transformers of the 3 men that can turn into a camel looking fighting machine! Better yet, make them warrior kings of the desert.

These unthinking and unfeeling capitalists are desecrating the spirit of the season with their outstanding display of avarice and efforts to perpetuate dissent, anger and hate. This is the season of Hope, Love and Understanding, and these unscrupulous manipulators are obsessed only with making a fast buck using nationalistic nonsense, religious intolerance, and cultural cop outs.

What a shame, and they are supposed to be Catholics. Come to think of it, its the most successful religion ever sold and their book is an all time best seller. No wonder.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Holidays from Heaven

Chet Fitch died in October at age 88. Yet he got permission from God to sneak back to Earth so he could send handwritten Christmas Greeting Cards to his friends, giving his return address as "Heaven". His parting shot read: "I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas".

This man sure does have a sense of humor and perhaps a large treasure chest of practical joke ideas. Friends who received the cards were both amazed and amused. The card showed him square dancing with his wife Jessie, who also passed away in 1995. His daughter described it as "sweet and funny, just like him", while an old friend fondly remarked "You little stinker".

This joke was 20 years in the making. Mr. Fitch planned it with his barber Patty Dean, 57, in 1987. Dean told the Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper that Fitch wanted to play one last prank on people after his death. One week before he died, he told Patty Dean the cards could probably be sent this year.

The concept gives you an idea of the kind of person Mr. Fitch was, and one can imagine the fun-filled life he must have led. The prank was probably meant to have his friends accept his passing, view their own journey into the afterlife as fun, and be remembered for the friendship he has enjoyed with those he considered he could count on in this life. The joke pulled by Mr. Fitch was laden with thoughtfulness and warmth.

The idea opens up a whole new horizon for one's exit from this world. I myself was toying with the idea sometime back about being set upright in my wake with the right hand extended to receive a handshake, and the left hand raised to receive a high five. Or, a photo of myself dressed like Marlon Brando in The Godfather covering the window of the coffin, and upon removing the picture, I would be lying inside with one eye opened as in a winking posture.

Such gags would allow one to be remembered by one's grandchildren for a long, long time! There's plenty of time for preparations as I am not about to leave soon, I hope. It would be fun to send cards too for Halloween, or for All Saints Day, and on the birthday of each of the grandchildren during the year.

Trouble is, I don't have a single grandchild to speak of yet, not even in the pipeline!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa, the Saint of the Season

Like all parents in Christendom, we play Santa Claus to our kids, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, and all other relatives within the inner family circle. We even go to great lengths to conceal our gifts from the recipients and deceive young children that Santa Claus is real. Does the generous act of giving and intent to make our loved ones happy, make us a Saint?

Not really. But seeing the joy in the eyes of the receivers of our presents provides a warmth and loving experience shared within the circle; that would build stronger emotional and personal bonds made memorable by the fullness of each moment. Memories that would be carried on to periods of difficulty for us to recall, and prod us to keep going. To move us to continue hoping. To strengthen our resolve that love remains steadfast.

Being Santa is not only about generosity, but it symbolizes love, hope, and understanding. The Santa icon we have all been familiar with is largely based on Saint Nicholas, born in 280 AD in what is referred to as modern day Turkey. He is credited with giving away all his wealth and was widely known to help the underprivileged. He was tagged as the protector of sailors and children.

The name Santa Claus evolved from St. Nicholas' Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas, a shortened name for Sint Nikolaas. In 1809, Washington Irving popularized stories of Sinter Klaas and referred to him as the patron saint of New York in his book The History of New York. Other figures of gift givers appeared like Kris Kringle or Christkind, meaning Christ Child in Switzerland and Germany. Jultomtem, in Scandinavia, was a jolly elf thought to deliver gifts on a sleigh drawn by goats. Father Christmas in England was responsible for delivering holiday treats to fill children's stockings, while Pere Noel in France was believed to be the one filling children's shoes with Christmas goodies. In Russia, Babouschka, an elderly woman who is believed to have deliberately given the 3 wise men the wrong directions to Bethlehem, became remorseful but couldn't locate the men to undo the damage. She continues to give gifts to children in the hope that one of them is the Baby Jesus. La Befana, in Italy, is a kindly witch who flies in a broomstick to chimneys in Italian homes to give toys to lucky children.

There is a model for everyone. So, wherever you are in the world, Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones. Be happy, be generous, give love, hope and understanding!

As for me, I am facing a long line of godchildren intent on extracting their Christmas gifts plus pocket money for their mall sojourns later. Well, there goes my new car and HDTV! Oh well, the feeling is great anyway... Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho...ooooh, ooh, oh my aching back! Foolish goat! Why did the reindeer go on leave anyway?


Monday, December 24, 2007

Feeling Fat and Fed-up

This Christmas Season, the long awaited celebrations make many people salivate for the holiday dishes that are the centerpiece of the Midnight Dinner or "Noche Buena". Food items such as Chinese ham, Edam cheese, fruit salads in various recipe concoctions, roast pork, beef delicacies, and all such meaty delights are in everyone's radar of good eats for the period. Before the culminating midnight dinner approaches however, this solemn occasion celebrated with one's inner family circle and dear loved ones becomes a necessary ritual that is too much to bear. The week before Christmas Eve is full of social occasions such as office parties, client's parties, reunions with former officemates and friends, reunions with classmates, long lost relatives get-togethers, community celebrations with neighbors, etc; that one gets the feeling of being fattened for the feast itself and fed up with the events.

The loading of sweets, salt laced foods, meat, and other sources of bad cholesterol is enough to send one to the hospital. People have always gained weight during the Christmas Holidays, and those who are already overweight throw all restraint out the window. Many are beyond their normal poundage in terms of body mass but are in denial. Some blind themselves into believing that they are just healthy or on the chubby side, not fat nor overfed or obese.

Parents who overfeed their kids are the loudest in terms of denial. These kids would have problems with diabetes, hypertension, or even osteoarthritis, but parents say they will eventually reach their normal weight when they get older. They then let their kids loose in the kitchen or the heavily laden dining table for the Christmas Eve dinner to the detriment of the child's future.

Some parents even declare that they "were larger at the child's current age, but look how slim I am now". If she was talking about living for a long time, I'd say "yes, that's slim!" A friend asks, "My son is 9 years old, weighs 188 pounds, but he's not obese, right?" How do you respond to that? Lie? I don't. I simply ask questions like: Do you still buy his clothes from the kids section? Can his shoes fit me? How many seats does he pay for when he takes a bus? Has someone ever refused to be seated near him?

Others forcefully say about their fat kids, " he's very athletic!" I ask, " What sport, Sumo wrestling?" There are those who simply want you to agree by saying " Isn't my 11 year old daughter cute?" I think to myself " Yes, if you like to see a bologna with feet!". Then I gaze at a boy with a nanny feeding him two huge platefuls of dishes and I ask, "is this Timmy, the 6 year old I last saw 5 years ago?". "Your godson," replies the mother. "Doesn't he remind you of a movie character?", she adds. I say, "Yes, definitely! He used to look like the young Anakin of Star Wars. Now he's more like Jabba the Hutt!".

I don't know if these parents can be considered neglectful or plain ignorant. In the US, there are attempts to consider obesity a crime of parental neglect and the child could be removed from the parents. I am regarded simply as being funny or joking around by these parents but there is nothing hilarious about the condition of these children who are pampered, overfed, and over indulged. Their parents love them so much its killing them! Walking away from such gatherings and seeing the frail, hungry, emaciated kids in the streets triggers a rage within me about the inequality and unfairness of such a system, together with attitudes that breed such stark contrasts in society. John Kenneth Gailbrath said " If we cannot help the many who are poor, we cannot save the few who are rich".

As far as I can see, the rich have started killing themselves already.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Arnold's Air Agenda

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger-R is on the warpath. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has slammed the state's authorization to raise targets of CO2 emissions reduction for vehicles. Viewed as a potential model for a nationwide effort to reduce greenhouse gases, the landmark initiative seeks to set its own standards as its contribution towards environmental protection. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson echoed the federal government reasoning that " the Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules. I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone".

Governor Schwarzenegger is unconvinced. Claiming the Federal government has no standards, and denying their right under the Clean Air Act to set their own; California, together with 16 other states will sue the government to reverse the decision. California needed only a waiver, which was automatic over the past decades, in recognition of its struggle with air pollution.

As a matter of crony policy, Bush wants to protect his Republican financiers from unnecessary research and development and additional manufacturing costs. This will diminish their campaign contributions for the 2008 elections! At a period when they are about to pack their bags from the White House, they want to contribute to the protection of automakers, not the environment. This is consistent with the Bush Administration's record on the environment, stop, stall, and stonewall. The Bush gang's motto is "going greedy, not going green".

Just recently, Governor Arnold was all praises for Bush during the latter's visit and "concern" for the state during the wildfires from Simi Valley to San Diego. Now, he's all fired up threatening to sue. Or he may opt to charge the EPA as he did with the wildfire, straight to the source just like Conan the Barbarian. As far as the White House is concerned, Arnold may don his Terminator persona and pound the White House into submission. Who do they think they're dealing with here, Mickey Mouse?

There is no telling what Arnold will undertake to give California what it needs. It may even lead him to change party affiliations. His wife comes from a Democrat clan, so its not far fetched. However, recalling all those super action hero roles, one is left to imagine the amount of "persuasion and power" that Mr. Schwarzenegger can employ in this new struggle. No doubt what he is doing will be good for California and perhaps the entire United States if it becomes the model of CO2 emissions reduction standards. Even the world will be looking to benefit from it.

Can he still do it? His body has been in too many battles, in films. Politically, not much, but he is considered an intellectual lightweight. Knowing what he's got intellectually and the current state of his body... ahhh..... I can't make...errrr.... a definite.....ah...statement. A picture is worth more than a thousand words. I'll give one : AAAAAAAARRRRRRGHHH! You can have the rest of the 999 words.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Controversies

I don't want to sound like a grinch and spoil people's celebration of the solemnity of the season, but an item from England triggered this nagging urge in me to reiterate what has been an unresolved issue between me and dyed-in-the-wool Catholics since my High School days.

The piece of news I refer to involves the Archbishop of Canterbury , Dr. Rowan Williams, who dismissed the story of the Three Wise Men as Nothing but legend, in a recent interview. He added that it was only in Matthew where this was mentioned, and nothing was said about their number nor their origin; except to say that they were from outside of Rome. No mention was also made of their titles as Kings.

The Archbishop went further to say that the concept of these men allegedly following a moving star that directed them to Bethlehem is a tall story. Stars just don't behave that way! Talk about embellishments and imagination from the Biblical authors, they certainly know how to pull a fast one. Does the age of the biblical post make it true and infallible? The Bible was written some 200 years after the death of Christ, with stories traveling through generations of time and therefore subject to enhancements.

Back in High School, I was enrolled in an exclusive boy's school run by Dominican priests. Having an inquisitive mind and a penchant for arguing, I was referred to as the "heretic" by the priests who gave classes in Religion by the time I was in second year. This was a dangerous tag since it marked me for the entire 4 year course and I never got a grade higher than C for any Religion subject. The subject title itself was my initial question during my First Year. Why was the subject called Religion when we were studying only Catholicism? How about taking up other Religions?

The priests also spoke of bigotry and prejudice as evil, and admonished us to avoid these. When I ask "...Father, when you said that the Roman Catholic Religion is the one true religion, isn't that bigotry?". Their answer, out of the classroom and 3 days suspension.

But what nearly got me expelled in Third Year was this Christmas Story that the school principal himself was giving. It was about the birth of Jesus. I had nothing against the story or legends that surround it, except one: "How can one be a Virgin and a Mother at the same time? Isn't it a state of being one or the other? (Laughter from classmates, then angry, trembling, and quivering voice of the principal) "What kind of Catholic are you? How can you ask that question?"

He probably wanted to castrate me but he restrained himself, stormed out of the class and most likely took his hypertension medication. I got a full month's suspension, out of the High School Varsity Basketball Team, disallowed to join the Christmas communion and dinner, among others.

One other truth is that Jesus was not born in December. This was a deft political move on the part of Constantine implemented during the Council Of Nicea; to integrate the Christian and Pagan festivities so as not to antagonize either group. Even the Catholic masses being celebrated on Sundays was based on the Roman God Ra, the sun god, thus making pagans and Christians worship their gods on the same day. Ingenious! Pope Boniface was the one who pegged the date on the 25th of December if I'm not mistaken.

December can be extremely cold in the West Bank. So how can the shepherds be on the top of the mountain during this time to see the legendary star and the birth of the Messiah? Jesus was likelier to have been born in April as some scholarly accounts place it. In December, the shepherds would be with their sheep, yes, but most probably sleeping with them or doing what they would do to their wives if they were at home! Its soooo cold! Joseph, the surrogate father of Jesus, was hardly written about. What happened in his life? How did he cope with this event that has attained global proportions? Why wasn't he around during the crucifixion? I am left to wonder whether or not Joseph was a eunuch!

Suffice it to say that for every class reunion we have, which takes place every 10 years or so, I am still referred to as the "Heretic".


Friday, December 21, 2007

Turning from Treacherous Treaties

After enduring 150 years of broken promises, lies, deception, and neglect - to the point where they felt that the government simply wanted them to vaporize and vanish once and for all - the descendants of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, and have set up a country of their own.

The Lakota Country, according to longtime indian rights activist Russel Means encompasses parts of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. According to Means, they will issue their own passports and driver's licenses. They have invited people covered by the territory they mapped out to join them with offers of tax freedom for as long as they renounce US citizenship.

Russel Means is a lifelong indigenous rights and constitutional rights activist, actor, author and artist with a very colorful history. Considered one of the most magnetic speakers of our time, he has spoken in all major universities in the US and UK, done lecture tours in Switzerland, South Korea and Japan, and his most famous speech "For America to Live, Europe Must Die" has been included in America's top 100 speeches.

Means declared that the withdrawal is legal, citing Article 6 of the Constitution which states that Treaties are the supreme law of the land. He said that their move was bolstered further by the laws on treaties passed at the Vienna Convention and put into effect by the United States and the rest of the international community in 1980. "The treaties with the US are worthless words on worthless paper. We are within our legal rights to be free and independent", Means said.

How this move will play out in the future is uncertain. It would be a wise move to have the issue discussed in debates during the election campaign, specially among the Democrats. The annexation of Indian lands "have made the once proud tribes mere facsimiles of white people", Means said. Life expectancy for men is the shortest in the world at 44 years old, teen suicides are 150% above the US norm, and infant mortality is 5 times higher than the US average. These numbers are attributable to loss of hope, lost opportunities, depression, and a long history of abuse and oppression from the US government.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and those "Honorable" men in the US Congress came out with a Declaration of genocide against Turkey last November for the massacre of Armenians prior to WW 1; what do they think this issue with the Lakota indians are, a mere oversight? After 150 years? The tribes have been deprived to the point of starvation for long periods. As I mentioned in a previous post, perhaps the US Authorities were experimenting to see if starvation would make the Indian tribes turn white.

The blacks, latinos, and asians have had a better deal than America's own indigenous people. This is perhaps because these 3 ethnic groups adapted to the American way of living such as junk food, drugs, pollution,environmental degradation, wasteful consumption, consumer orientation, sex, violence, guns, etc. The Indian tribes were one with nature, they respected the environment and kept it in balance. An entire culture with enormous knowledge and sound practices that could lead us to a better way of harnessing nature's resources has been wiped out because of the age old greed of the white man for the fast buck and the huge profit. Massacre and genocide was a mere method to "clear the wilderness". Americans need not look elsewhere in the world for what its foreign policy makers do to the smaller countries of the planet. Right in their own backyard, they can see its oldest laboratory for oppression and genocide!

I am with Russel Means. I would like to see his country, may not be much, but its theirs. I will find a way to support their cause. However, what I foresee is an army of FBI men swooping down on their territory demanding that they surrender or die. Should this transpire and Russel and his tribe are vanquished, this will not be the end of it. There will always be those who will toil for it, fight for it, suffer for it. If need be, die for it. That is the power of truth.

To Russel Means and the future of Lakota Country, I return the phrase: Mitaku Oyasin (We are all related).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rice Returns to Reconcile

"There has been progress made here. One reason that I am more hopeful being here today, at the end of 2007, more than a year or so ago, is that these improvements do show that Iraqis can count on a future with this Democracy, a future in which violence is not necessarily a way of life. But its going to take a really large effort by these political leaders to push forward" -- Condoleezza Rice

Progress? How many American soldiers have been maimed, mutilated and killed by suicide bombers and booby traps? How many Iraqis have been blasted to bits? How many have perished in this Democratic FORM of government that America insists Iraq and the rest of the world should adopt? Oh, I get it. They want the Iraqis to be like America, go shopping at Christmastime and have someone shoot them down in broad daylight to become famous!

Improvements? Representative Ted Poe, Republican has likened Iraq to the wild west! Improvements in what? For Halliburton and its surrogates ( Kellog Brown & Root) to take full control of Iraq and do as they please with anyone they fancy? Like the gang rape of Jaime Leigh Jones by its American personnel, who happens to be married to an American soldier? Without any trace of guilt, they took pleasure on someone whose husband is committed to die for what America pursues as defense for its way of life. The rapists are part of those that American soldiers are there to defend, and the gratitude he gets is that they take turns abusing his wife? This is what he will die for? The ignominy of this act is a reflection of the conceit of Halliburton that permeates its entire organization. Corporate America has become so blatant in its abuse that it no longer distinguishes anyone, even the wives of its own soldiers.These people have no respect nor sense of patriotism, only a sense for profit, and unwavering adherence to avarice!

Rice goes on to say that reconciliation will take a lot of effort from political leaders. What leaders? These are mostly US and Halliburton dummies! Efforts to improve peace so Halliburton can continue its pillage and plunder? Come on.

Forget reconciliation! End that stupid war, send the soldiers home, and let Iraq take care of their country! They are big and old enough to handle their concerns, its not like it was a country of half wits before the war. America's entry only made it worse. That canard about saving the citizens from Saddam was just a ploy. The war was for Halliburton and the backers of Bush and Company!

The Iraqis should be very wary. Condoleezza Rice does not just make requests, she makes sure its backed up and something should happen...especially now that Bush's term will end and the Democrats are favored to get into position. Rice comes with talk of reconciliation as "a gift of peace" to all Iraqis. Beware. As the greek seer Laocoon said during the Trojan War, "beware the Greeks bearing gifts". Rice is certainly no Greek, but what she says is Greek to me.

To remind Iraqis about Rice, here's a link to a post I did last November 6. I'm sure its the Christmas carol Condoleezza is singing on this trip.