Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam's last hours

The Guardian is reporting that Saddam Hussein is going to be hung as soon as this weekend.

Saddam Hussein's execution was imminent last night as senior Iraqi officials finalised details of his hanging and indicated that it would probably take place shortly before dawn this morning. The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, signed the former dictator's death sentence and at a late night meeting with US officials agreed the execution formalities.

River Bend has a strong article on the destruction of Iraq.

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me).

Children of Men

We saw Children of Men last night, it is so depressing and grim. London in 2027 looks like a war zone, with terrorism, police violence and bombs going off everywhere. Women and men are infertile and no more babies are being born. The movie centers around Clive Owen, who promises his ex girlfriend (Julianne Moore), that he would accompany the only pregnant woman to safety.

Here is a review in the Guardian.

What will the end of the world look like? As shabby and nasty as the way it looks here is my guess. This explosively violent future-nightmare thriller, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and adapted from the novel by PD James, has simply the most extraordinary look of any movie around: a stunningly convincing realisation of a Beirut-ised London in the year 2027, in which terrorist bombs have become as dreary and commonplace as cancer.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Death by Sodas!!

Joshua Frank describes how dangerous sodas are. Guess i should try and start giving them up in the New Year!
I heard that they are so toxic that they are given to patients to break down kidney stones.

Drinking one soda a day could cause you to gain 15 pounds a year. Other related health risks include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer and nerve damage.

Fortunately there is a growing movement across the country to ban sodas from schools. Indeed the feisty Killer Coke campaign, which focuses on the company's labor abuses and not Coke's negative health implications, has been successful is banning the product from over 10 major universities in the United States. But it would be wise to not just focus on the company's alleged murders in Colombia, and instead broaden the struggle against the soda industry by pointing out their complicity in the obesity epidemic worldwide

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown RIP

James Brown, the Godfather of soul, died yesterday, at the age of 73.

The funk Mr. Brown introduced in his 1965 hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” was both deeply rooted in Africa and thoroughly American. Songs like “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Cold Sweat,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” and “Hot Pants” found the percussive side of every instrument and meshed sharply syncopated patterns into kinetic polyrhythms that made people dance.

By the late 1960s Mr. Brown’s funk was part of pop, R&B and jazz: in his own hits, in songs by the Temptations and Sly and the Family Stone, and in the music of Miles Davis. It was also creating a sensation in Africa, where it would shape the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, the juju of King Sunny Ade and the mbalax of Youssou N’Dour.

Musicians who left Mr. Brown’s bands would also have a direct role in 1970s and 1980s funk; the saxophonist Maceo Parker, the trombonist Fred Wesley and the bassist Bootsy Collins were part of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, and Mr. Parker also worked with Prince.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Whats wrong with Cinderella

Peggy Orentstein writes in the NYT magazine, about the Princess ideal that young girls are subjected to in American society.

when my own girl makes her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom — something I’m convinced she does largely to torture me — I worry about what playing Little Mermaid is teaching her. I’ve spent much of my career writing about experiences that undermine girls’ well-being, warning parents that a preoccupation with body and beauty (encouraged by films, TV, magazines and, yes, toys) is perilous to their daughters’ mental and physical health. Am I now supposed to shrug and forget all that? If trafficking in stereotypes doesn’t matter at 3, when does it matter? At 6? Eight? Thirteen?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Pursuit of Happyness, The Holiday and Dhoom 2

The holiday movie that I recommend watching is The Pursuit of Happyness and maybe The Holiday.Dhoom 2 i do not recommend.

Pursuit deals with poverty and hardwork and sheer grit that leads Chris Gardner (Will Smith) and his son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Smith) out of poverty in San Francisco in the 1980's. What was interesting was the representation of a father son relationship within the African American community, where the father did not disappear from the scene, but was actively trying to take care of his child. A review of “The Pursuit of Happyness” by Jeanne Aufmuth here

“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” Words of wisdom passed from struggling medical supply salesman Chris Gardner (Smith) to his 5-year old son Christopher (real-life son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith). The sentiment bears heavy meaning considering the hardships facing Gardner as a suddenly single parent endeavoring to break off a piece of the American dream by enrolling in a risky unpaid internship program with high-profile stockbroker Dean Witter.

Salon reviews it here.

This is a movie about the state of not having any money, and about how not having money isn't just a bald economic fact but, particularly if you have children, a spongy specter that expands to fill every minute of your day. "The Pursuit of Happyness" isn't a tract about poverty in America, and perhaps partly because it's a mainstream, big-studio movie (and not a grainy indie with junkies and squalling babies), some critics have already complained that it makes homelessness look too clean, too neat and tidy. (I guess we like our movie poor to be easily identifiable by their dirty clothes.)

The Holiday stars Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black and Jude Law and deals with what happens when one changes homes over the holiday.

See a review here

Iris is in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. Across the globe, Amanda realizes the man she lives with has been unfaithful. Two women who have never met and live 6000 miles apart, find themselves in the exact same place. They meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Iris moves into Amanda's L.A. house in sunny California as Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both women find the last thing either wants or expects: a new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur, mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles.

Iris (Kate Winslet) holds this movie together, it is a light hearted comedy. It is good to go to it with no expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

I did see Dhoom 2 finally and other than it being a slick production with sexy bodies, cool stunts, poor music and a general upbeat feel, it was a disappointment. It lacked a story or any coherence. Bipasha Basu was an Indian girl and then she was suddenly Brazilian. I guess I had no idea what was going on. The chemistry between Hrithik and Aishwarya was strong, more than with any of her other co-stars including Abhishek who seemed to be mumbling through the movie.
Namrata Joshi gives it a kinder review here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nadine Gordimer, No Cold Kitchen

Interesting conflict between Nadine Gordimer and her biographer Ronald Suresh Roberts detailed in the N.Y.T.. His book "No Cold Kitchen", was originally under contract to Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the United States and Bloomsbury in Britain , both houses — which also publish Gordimer — declined to publish it after Gordimer expressed objections to the manuscript and accused Roberts of breach of trust. “We weren’t satisfied with some aspects of the book,” said Jonathan Galassi, the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus, who acquired the book in 1998. “We asked for revisions and we haven’t heard from him.” Instead, Roberts published the book last fall in South Africa with STE, a self-described black empowerment publishing house.

The Gordimer-Roberts dispute is emblematic of the larger political situation in South Africa, highlighting in particular the uncertain role of white anti-apartheid activists now that the African National Congress has become the government. Gordimer, who has been active with the A.N.C. since the ’70s, when it was an illegal organization, may still be lionized abroad, but at home she finds herself criticized from all sides. Some find her too beholden to the A.N.C., while others have accused her of betraying its revolutionary promise by pointing to the government’s shortcomings.

I just finished reached the Pick Up, a wonderful book by Nadine Gordimer. It was about the an illegal from North Africa, working in South Africa. She is steadily becoming one of my favourite authors.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To Do Lists: Give Birth before New Years.

Scary article in N.Y.T. about parents planning to give birth before the new year in order to get a bigger tax break. My Lamaze teacher, mentioned that, but it is horrid to see how mainstream it has became.

In the last 15 years, there has been a huge increase in the number of births that are induced with drugs or come by Caesarean section. In either case, parents or doctors can often schedule a baby’s arrival on a day of their choosing.

Not surprisingly, they tend to avoid weekends and holidays, when doctors have other plans, hospitals are short of staff and the possibility of an unfortunate birthday — Christmas Day, anyone? — looms. During holiday weeks, births have become increasingly crowded into the weekdays surrounding the holiday.

Over this same period — since the early 1990s — the federal government has been steadily increasing the tax breaks for having a child. For parents to claim the full amount of any of these breaks in a given year, a child must simply be born by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. If the baby arrives a few minutes later, the parents are often more than a thousand dollars poorer.

Wake Up, Employers: Working Moms Are Giving Up

Alternet has an article by Courtney E. Martin, on why working moms are leaving the workforce. According to her the fault lies with rigid and inflexible work rules, rather than any Martha Stewart fantasies.

While old guard feminists have been busy pointing fingers at young, frivolous co-eds, ignorant of the legacy they have inherited, they should be placing the blame where it is most deserved: in the boardrooms where inflexible and sometimes even inhumane work/family policy is established and in the government offices where little legislation is ever written to protect working parents.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The true oath

Inspiring story in the outlook about urban educated doctors going into rural areas in India and providing much needed medicare.

These highs and lows are woven into the daily life of a very small number of doctors scattered across the country who've opted to offer cheap, high-quality care to rural populations caught between "quackery and crookery", as Prof Amartya Sen once put it. In settings like Ganiyari, or Sittlingi in rural Tamil Nadu, where doctors Regi George and Lalitha Regi work among adivasis, you see doctors as you may never have done: non-intimidating, empathetic, humbled by their patients' struggle to make a living off the land; maintaining detailed case notes for the hundreds of patients who flock to their clinics.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nicaragua the next tourist destination

seems to be an upcoming tourist destination. Daniel Ortega's recent victory not withstanding. I visited Nicaragua in 1990-91 and loved it, the people were warm and friendly, and i got a lot of practise in speaking Spanish. I hope the tourist influx does not spoil the environment and make the people into husslers for the American dollar.

1282 workers arrested in meatpacking plant raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 43 - December 15, 2006

Special Issue: 1,282 Arrested in Meatpacking Raids

1. Mass Arrests in Six States
2. Singled Out by Skin Color
3. The Investigation
4. The Union's Response
5. Why Now?

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; fax 212-674-9139; INB is also distributed free via email; see below or contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.

*1. Mass Arrests in Six States

On Dec. 12, some 1,000 US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) agents carried out simultaneous dawn
raids at six meat processing plants in six states and arrested
a total of 1,282 immigrant workers, most of them Latin
American. (AP 12/12/06, 12/14/06; ICE News Release
12/13/06) The raids took place on a day celebrated by
Mexican Catholics as a day of action honoring the Virgin of
Guadalupe. Many of the arrested workers had attended an
early Mass before their shifts to celebrate the day. (Rocky
Mountain News (Denver) 12/13/06)

The sweep, which ICE dubbed "Operation Wagon Train,"
targeted plants owned by Swift & Co. in Greeley, Colorado;
Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah;
Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. Five of
the six raided facilities are unionized; only the one in Hyrum
is not. (AP 12/12/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06)

ICE promoted the raids as a crackdown on identity theft,
alleging that workers had used the stolen identities of US
citizens and lawful residents to get jobs at Swift. Yet all
1,282 workers arrested were charged with administrative
immigration violations, and only 65 were also charged with
criminal violations including illegal re-entry after
deportation, identity theft or forgery. ICE declined to say
how many workers faced charges specifically relating to
identity theft. (Denver Post 12/14/06; ICE News Release
12/13/06) The arrested workers were from Mexico,
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan,
Ethiopia and other countries of origin which had not yet been
identified as ICE was still processing the detained workers.
The investigation is ongoing. (ICE News Release 12/13/06)

No civil or criminal charges have been filed against Swift or
any current employees. Swift had been participating since
1997 in the Basic Pilot worker authorization program, under
which businesses check the legal work status of new
employees against government databases. Swift said it
believes the raids "violate the agreements associated with the
company's participation over the past 10 years in the federal
government's Basic Pilot worker authorization program and
raise serious questions as to the government's possible
violation of individual workers' civil rights." (AP 12/12/06;
ICE News Release 12/13/06)

Swift & Company, founded in 1855, is the third largest fresh
meat processor in the US, behind Tyson Foods and Cargill
Meat Solutions, with sales of $9 billion a year. Once the
meat-processing business of agriculture giant ConAgra,
Swift is now indirectly owned through various holding
companies. (AP 12/12/06)

In Grand Island, Nebraska, Police Chief Steve Lamken
refused to allow his personnel to take part in the sweep.
"This is our community," Lamken said. "When this is all
over, we're still here taking care of our community. And if
I have a significant part of my population that's fearful and
won't call us, then that's not good for our community."
(Rocky Mountain News 12/13/06)

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had reviewed
evidence beforehand, believed the Dec. 12 operation was
supposed to take place on Dec. 11, but speculated that ICE
officials put the operation off a day after learning that
Japanese officials were touring the Greeley plant on Dec. 11.
The foreign officials were there to review Swift's response
to having recently shipped beef to Japan without proper
documentation. (RMN 12/13/06)

*2. Singled Out by Skin Color

"Maria," an employee at the Hyrum plant who is a US-born
citizen, said she was singled out for questioning along with
other brown-skinned Latinos during the raid, while people
with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue
bracelets to indicate they were legal workers. "I was in the
line because of the color of my skin," she said. (Salt Lake
Tribune 12/13/06) Attorneys who spoke with witnesses to the
raid in Minnesota were also told that white workers who said
they were US citizens were directed away immediately,
while people with brown skin who said they were US
citizens were required to prove it. (Message from Minnesota
immigration attorneys 12/13/06, posted on Detention Watch
Network list)

Confianza, an association of Hispanic ministers, said in a
statement: "[i]t is deplorable that Americans who happen to
have brown skin and work at Swift were also 'rounded up
with the idea to sort it out later,' as one local community
leader described the situation." (RMN 12/13/06)

*3. The Investigation

In a federal investigation that began in February of this year,
ICE claims to have uncovered large numbers of unauthorized
immigrants who may have used the Social Security numbers
of lawful US citizens or residents to get jobs at Swift. "We
have been investigating a large identity theft scheme that has
victimized many US citizens and lawful residents," ICE
spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said at the plant in Greeley.
"The significance is that we're serious about work site
enforcement and that those who steal identities of US citizens
will not escape enforcement," ICE chief Julie L. Myers told
reporters in Washington. (AP 12/12/06)

Sam Rovit, chief executive of Swift, said the company learned of the ICE investigation in March, when ICE subpoenaed information on all the employees working at Swift's Marshalltown plant. But Rovit said the company was "rebuffed repeatedly" in its offers to cooperate. "We have complied with every law that is out there on the books," Rovit said in an interview. (New York Times 12/13/06; RMN 12/13/06) "Current law limits an employer's ability to scrutinize the background and identity of new hires, and--as Swift learned first-hand--employers can, in fact, be punished for probing too deeply into applicants' backgrounds," the company said in a statement. In 2000, the Justice Department's Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration- Related Employment Practices filed a complaint against Swift, alleging that the company's Worthington, Minnesota plant engaged in a "pattern and practice" of discrimination by more heavily scrutinizing the documents of job applicants of were believed to look or sound "foreign." The department sought civil damages of $2.5 million. After two years, Swift settled the claim for about $200,000. (AP 12/12/06)

"At no time did the government, with us, try to communicate
the nature of their concerns," said Sean McHugh, Swift vice
president of investor relations. "We tried to reach out to
them and say, 'Look, if you're concerned, if you're trying
to identify or remove or arrest criminals, let us know and
we'll bring them to you.'" In September, the agency granted
Swift a meeting, "but details were few and far between,"
McHugh said. "By mid-November, ICE informed us they
intended, with or without our cooperation, to effectively shut
down six of our plants," McHugh said. (RMN 12/13/06)
Swift then fought unsuccessfully in a Texas court for a
preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement action.
(RMN 12/14/06) "The company ... did attempt to stop us
from doing these raids by going to court," said Chertoff.

Swift also conducted its own probe of suspect employees,
and more than 400 were fired, quit or fled, said Chertoff.
"We don't know where those 400 workers are," Chertoff
complained. (Denver Post 12/14/06) "We do wish they
would have talked to us before deciding to terminate those
individuals," ICE chief Myers said at a news conference.
"We regretted they took that action."

Swift said ICE gave the company the go-ahead to question
workers' documentation. "At no time has anyone from ICE
told any Swift official that they cannot take action against
employees who Swift determines, on its own, are
unauthorized," ICE Investigations Director Marcy Forman
wrote to company attorneys in an October letter supplied by
Swift. "We started interviewing people and said, 'Are you
really who you say you are?'" said Don Wiseman, general
counsel at Swift. "A whole bunch of them said, 'No, I'm
really not' and they voluntarily quit." Swift sent others to the
Social Security office to get letters verifying their status.
"Most of those people didn't come back, either," Wiseman
said. (RMN 12/14/06)

Myers and Chertoff said Swift generally cooperated in the
months leading up to raids. "We asked the company not to
reveal we were coming in advance," Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff said. (RMN 12/14/06)

*4. The Union's Response

On Dec. 13, officials of the United Food and Commercial
Workers Union (UFCW), which represents workers at five
of the six raided plants, filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in Denver's US District Court, asserting that ICE had
violated the constitutional rights of the workers it detained.
The union sought to have the workers released or be able to
communicate with its attorneys. US District Judge John Kane
ordered ICE to respond by Dec. 18. (Denver Post 12/14/06)
The filing claims that those arrested are being denied access
to lawyers and that their whereabouts are unknown. (AP
12/14/06) "Our members are on buses and we don't know
where they are," said UFCW spokesperson Jill Cashen.
"Children have been left stranded. Parents have not been
given the opportunities to make arrangements. We are
struggling to reunite families." (Chicago Tribune 12/13/06)

"Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in
riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the work force,"
said Mark Lauritsen, director of a UFCW division.
Lauritsen, in a statement, described Swift workers as
"innocent victims in an immigration system that has been
hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an
exploitable work force." The union said it has advised all the
detained workers to exercise their right to have an attorney
and to remain silent until they confer with legal counsel.
(RMN 12/13/06)

*5. Why Now?

Labor analyst David Bacon said that with the latest raids,
"the administration is sending a message to employers, and
especially to unions: Support its program for immigration
reform, or face a new wave of raids." Bacon noted that in
the period leading up to the passage of the 1986 immigration
law (which included an amnesty), immigration agents used
high-profile workplace raids "to produce public support for
the employer sanctions provision later written into the 1986
immigration law." ("Justice Deported," David Bacon, The
American Prospect (web edition) 12/14/06)

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Dec.
13 that the raids were "a way of emphasizing the fact that
getting this issue of comprehensive immigration reform right
is ultimately going to save everybody a big headache."
Chertoff said the government hopes the Swift operation will
spur Congress to act on a comprehensive strategy for
immigration reform that includes a temporary-worker
program and safeguards against the use of forged or stolen
identities. Chertoff also said he hoped the raids would "be a
deterrent to illegal workers, [and] cause them to say that,
you know, this happened in Swift, it could easily happen
somewhere else,' Chertoff said. "In fact, I'm pretty much
going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these
cases." (Denver Post 12/14/06)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A pregnancy journal

Getting pregnant and then being pregnant has been an incredible journey. I have read and learnt a lot, visited quite a few doctors and now a midwife. I want to share what I have learnt, so that it can help other women challenge the norm and look within, for their own wisdom to come to the fore.

Getting pregnant was not as easy as I had expected. It was hard work to figure out when in my cycle I was fertile and then doing something about it. I read Toni Weschler’s wonderful book, Taking Charge of your Fertility. This book deals with natural birth control and pregnancy achievement. I learnt about checking cervical fluid, taking my temperature every morning and then recording the thermal shift that occurred to show that ovulation had happened. Also checking the cervical position that changes to a high, open and soft position to indicate fertility. I also bought a kit that you pee on in the morning and it tells you when you are about to be most fertile.
There is a great website called, where you can enter all the information and it presents it in a graph format, that allows charting your cycle.

Once the long awaited pregnancy happened, I started looking for a doctor that I could trust. Eight and half months later, I think I might have found someone! The two South Asian doctors that I visited, were very interested in my business. Apparently pregnancy is big business and doctors get paid $15,000 per patient. Usually the more complications and interventions earn the doctors more money. Also they are very scared of being sued, so they like a lot of testing done on patients. I am going to be over 35 at the time of giving birth, so my first doctor recommended genetic counseling, followed by C.V.S, Blood tests and Amniocentesis. I did not do either C.V.S. or Aminocentesis due to their invasiveness. The doctors were also against pregnant women, reading books. For me if a doctor tells me not to read about my condition, it makes me wonder what information the doctor is trying to conceal. Power is knowledge and the more knowledge one has, the more one can challenge wrong diagnosis and unnecessary interventions.

Naomi Wolf’s book Misconceptions was an eye opener about the American medical establishment, and how powerless pregnant women are made to feel by doctors and nurses in a hospital setting.

Ina May Gaskin’s book, Guide to Childbirth, was how I wanted my child to be born. She is a community midwife that has set up a farm, in Southern Tennessee, where women give birth vaginally. Birth is seen as ecstatic and strengthening. The women know that it is better to keep their senses alive if they are to experience the true wisdom and power that labor and birth have to offer.

“Birthing is so integral with life-so common-that choices surrounding it often get relegated to chance. We tend to go along with what everyone else is doing, assuming that must be for the best. Living in a technological society we tend to think that the best of everything is the most expensive kind available. This is generally true, whether we are taking about cell phones, cameras, cars or computers. When it comes to birth, it ain’t necessarily so.”

But my search continued I was in India during my second trimester and visited a doctor. She was OK. But after, I heard she had given an acquaintance an epistomy that required a long recovery time, i was not so keen. I visited a fancy hospital “the cradle” that looked like a five star hotel but lacked what I was looking for, which was a natural approach to childbirth. In Delhi, I found a book by Diane Smith, Birthing with Dignity. This book was a handbook for training community level midwives (Dais) and health workers, published by Jagori. Diane Smith is a midwife based in Canada. Smith talks about her experience.

“Talking with these women (Indian) about childbirth was an energizing initiation into my presentation of “natural childbirth”, a unique perspective that had emerged from the women’s movement in North America. In the course of the interaction I recognized that women want the opportunity to birth in peace, with the comfort of their traditional cultural wisdom, and be respected for their power in giving birth. It was also obvious that ..times are changing and medical institutions and professionals are beginning to assume superiority over traditional wisdom, the work of the Dai, and a women’s innate ability to give birth naturally.”

I know their can be a lot of problems during pregnancy, like a cervix that does not close, requiring a stitch to keep the baby in, or placenta previa or gestational diabetes or repeated miscarriages or just not being able to get pregnant, a.k.a. undiagnosed infertility. And I highly recommend medical interventions that can help resolve those issues. Also women without partners or lesbians and gays that want children, I would wish for all for them to take advantage of the best of medical treatments, like I.U.I or I.V.F or surrogate pregnancy or adoptions, to be able to give birth if they really want too. In my own case, if I need interventions, like pain medications or emergency c-section I am open to it as along as I, feel that it is necessary for having a healthy baby.

Ann Tyler’s book, Digging to America, is an interesting novel about Americans adopting Korean babies.

At the seventh month I asked my Ob-gyn if I should be taking Lamaze classes. She was dismissive and said it was a waste of money, since insurance did not cover it, and all her patients came asking her the same three questions. Doctor will you put me on an I.V., Yes of course she responded. Also the doctor would give her patients an enema before giving birth, so that they would not be embarrassed when shit came instead of the baby, and put eye drops into the baby's eyes to protect against infections within a mother's birth canal.

I decided to take a hospital visit to see what the maternity ward was like. At the visit we first visited a birthing center on the 11th floor, that was homely, comfortable with a double bed, large chairs for the family to sit on. And a Jacuzzi that made me want to jump right in. The birthing center was where, women that did not want pain medications like epidurals could give birth. There were only a couple of doctors and midwives who believed in the birthing center births. I took the list home and realized it was still not too late. We also saw the 12th floor which had the triage, where you first went and a nurse checked to see if you were dilated enough. If you were not you are sent home, if you are, you go to a labor and delivery room, after giving birth you go to a post-partum room to recover. There is a nursery where the mothers can send their newborns if they want to rest.

I called some of the midwives and doctors from the list of the birthing center and went and visited them. I decided on a practise that had a doctor and midwife. The midwife delivers in the birthing center. She asked me to take enriched Lamaze classes. I found the four classes quite useful, with a lot of information on what actually happens in the hospital, how to determine if it is time to go to the hospital, natural pain control, moving around during labor and breathing through contractions.

The goal of Lamaze is to remove the fear, tension and pain around childbirth. The idea is to use Psychophroplaxis as an aid to pain relief instead of medications.

1. Relax
2. Knowledge
3. Imagery
4. Postition
5. Concentration
6. Massage
7. Focal point
8. Breathing
9. Meditation

A baby is ready to come out between the 38th and 42nd week of pregnancy. You need to go to the hospital when you have five contractions, lasting for a minute, within an hour.

Lamaze institute for normal birth advocates the followers practices

1. Labor begins on its own
2. Freedom of movement throughout labor
3. Continuous labor support
4. No routine interventions
5. Non-supine (e.g. Upright or side-lying) positions for birth
6. No separation of mother and baby after birth

There are four stages of labor

Early Labor which can last for a few days to a few hours. The woman is relatively comfortable. Dilation is 3-4 centimeters. Pinkish vaginal discharge increases. Its best to stay home at this stage. Once the contractions became stronger so that you cannot talk yourself through them use relaxation and breathing exercises.

Active Labor contractions continue to became longer and stronger, until they are 3 minutes apart and last a minute or more. Time from two to six hours, cervix effaces and dilates to about 8 centimeters. Women get serious and focused.

Transition the cervix finishes dilating and begins to transition from opening to pushing. The phase lasts an hour with contractions powerful and efficient.

Birth or pushing- the baby makes its way down through the pelvis and the birth canal. This stage can last from 15 min to several hours. Most women get an urge to bear down. The urge to push gets stronger as the baby descends. Just before the baby is born you may feel a burning, stinging stretching sensation at the vaginal opening. A sign that you are almost there.

Signs of Labor

1.water breaks, you need to call the care provider and let them know the time, amount, color and odor. It should be clear, with no odor. A smell is not good.
2. Bloody show
3. Mucous plug

Not so obvious signs are low backache, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive heat, excessive cold, nesting

Natural methods of inducing labor

1. Castor oil 2 tablespoons. It works as a laxative to get the systems going.
2. Acupressure- massage therapists know where on the foot they can massage so labor can be started.
3. Nipple stimulation
4. Sex

I will keep adding to this information as soon as I learn more. I hope it is helpful to all those that are pregnant or plan to became pregnant soon.

Sex Lit

Interesting article in Alternet about the proliferation of literature about strippers and colleges teaching Porn studies.

In this latter-day phase of stripper chic, academics such as Barton churn out doctoral dissertations about peep shows and shimmering poles. Middle-class 20-something smarties write memoirs about ditching drone jobs in cafes and offices for "the penis gallery," to quote prep-school grad Cody, whose Pussy Ranch blog led to a six-figure advance for Candy Girl, and who is now a millionaire screenwriter working on a project with Steven Spielberg. Ex-ballerina Barton toyed with but finally tossed the idea of "doing participant observation' by stripping, herself: "I had a 'good' body," reflects the author, who teaches at Kentucky's hilariously named but perfectly ordinary Morehead State. Married hipster Cody confides: "I desperately wanted to be a stripper."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wine and Yoga anyone?

The NYT has an article on Yoga retreats combining wine drinking as part of them. I don't think it works for me, but i guess as long as people are moderate in drinking it is ok.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

knowing the enemy: the anthropology of insurgency

George Packer has written an interesting article in the New Yorker on the role of social scientists to help redefine the war on terror.

David Kilcullen, an Australian who has a doctorate in political anthropology from the University of New South Wales, wrote on the Darul Islam conflict, a Muslim insurgency movement in Indonesia during the 1950's and 1960's. During his study he saw similar behavior and similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian separatist insurgency in East Timor. He felt the problem was not Islam but human social networks and the way that they operate. People get pulled into insurgency through friends, family and associates.

Kilcullen noted after watching Bin Laden tapes, that Bin Laden was creating an implicit association between himself and the Democratic party, for he believed that Bush’s strategy on the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. “Al Qaeda’s core leadership had became a propaganda hub. If Bin laden didnt have access to global media, satellite communications, and the internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave.”

Countering counterinsurgency requires rethinking the current thinking about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency”. Knowing the turf, which includes the people, topography, economy, history and culture of the area is essential.Also there is a need to “disaggregate insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai and Malay border, so they are not included onto the global jihad map.

Influencing perceptions is what wins or loses war these days. The international information environment is critical to the success of America’s mission. Montgomery McFate is an anthropologist and is helping the defense department understand the importance of a cultural knowledge.

She wrote in the Joint force Quarterly, “once the Sunni Bathists lost their prestigious jobs, were humiliated in the conflict, and got frozen out through Bathification, the tribal network became the backbone of the insurgency. The tribal insurgency is a direct result of our misunderstanding of Iraqi culture.” Also the U.S. lost their information battle because they focused on broadcast media, but this was not so useful as most Iraqi’s got their news from rumors in coffee shops.

A counter insurgency strategy according to Kilcullen consists of a resistance to the message, co-opt or assist people that have a counter message, and consider supporting or creating rival organizations. The key according to him is providing a social context for individuals to chose ways other than jihad.

The frightening development in this article is the inclusion of academics like anthropologists into serving the interests of the military. Cultural knowledge is crucial to understand the dynamics of how people and societies function. But to use that knowledge against the same people, that have trusted the anthropologist and given them information about themselves is unethical.

Jain Festival

Great photographs of a Jain festival in South India.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Isabel Allende on Augusto Pinochet

Isabel Allende writes in the Independent about the death of Augusto Pinochet of Chile. It seems she was related to him as well as Salvator Allende.

Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus's speech after recieving the Nobel Prize.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Albers & Moholy-Nagy

The whitney has an exhibit of two modernist graphic artists Josef Albers and Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Albers works was focussed on the interactions of colors with each other. Moholy-Nagy used geometric shapes like circles and lines intersecting with each other, and the colors that were created. Both artists were part of the Bauhaus School in Germany.

The Tate Modern hosted this exhibit before the whitney. This article talks about the exhibit.

Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy were two of the greatest pioneers of modernism in the twentieth century. This exhibition focuses on their individual accomplishments as well as the parallels in their work and examines their groundbreaking development of abstract art beginning in the early 1920s. Though their paths only overlapped for the five years between 1923 and 1928 when both were teaching at the Bauhaus, their artistic practice was informed by similar concerns, including an emphasis on material properties, the subversion of traditional boundaries between media and high and applied art, and a probing into the status of the work of art in an age of mass production. The artworks on view, including painting, sculpture, photography, film, and design objects, highlight each artist's most important and innovative work

Moholy-Nagy successfully sued for breach of contract in Chicago at the New Bauhaus School and used the money to open a new school, the Institute of Design, with a more overt industrial orientation.the Institute of Design. His holistic approach to education and belief in the transforming power of technology continued - with John Cage teaching music and university professors lecturing on maths and physics as part of the design curriculum. But the Bauhaus insistence on breaking down barriers between disciplines seemed doomed to fail in America. Architecture remained centred firmly on Mies's Illinois Institute of Technology, while Moholy's much smaller Institute of Design became synonymous with an experimental approach to photography which stemmed directly from Moholy's own preoccupation with light.

The ethos was experiment, experiment, experiment," says Barbara Crane, an acclaimed alumna of the school who now works with digital imagery. "Rather than aiming for the perfect shot, you developed your ideas through a series of images, with all your mistakes and accidents becoming part of the work."

Their is a book to go with the exhibit.

The beautifully illustrated book highlights the contrasts and correspondences in the lives and work of two of Modernism’s greatest innovators, Josef Albers (1888–1976) and László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1947). Beginning in the 1930s, Albers and Moholy-Nagy each developed a rigorously abstract language that condensed art to its visual fundamentals: line, color, texture, light, and form. This language experienced a creative explosion during their Bauhaus years, when both artists moved freely between media and disciplines. Essays by leading scholars follow the artists’ separate paths through to their emigration to the United States, where each continued to push tirelessly the conventions of artistic practice—Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and then at Yale University, and Moholy-Nagy in Chicago at the New Bauhaus School and the Institute of Design. As highly influential teachers, Albers and Moholy-Nagy became important catalysts for the transmission of Modernist ideas from Europe to America.

Info on the Whitney Exhibit
More here

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Kiki Smith A Gathering 1980-2005

Kiki Smith A Gathering 1980-2005

I visited the Kiki Smith’s exhibits at the Whitney Museum, and was excited by her originality and her interaction with the human form, more often the female form and its various manifestations.

“Best known for her descriptions of the human form-both in anatomical fragments and in full figure-she is a remarkable innovator in sculpture, printmaking and drawing...she uses the body as a metaphor, drawing upon science, faith and folklore to consider our strengths and frailties”
She uses diverse materials like Nepalese handmade paper, paper mache, glass, terra-cotta, plaster, wax or bronze.

The first image, is the All Souls exhibit. The numerous images of the fetus reminds me of lots of ultra sounds drawn and celebrates the birth of the human baby.
All Souls
1. 1988
screen print on handmade Thai tissue paper
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Riva Castleman Endowment Fund, 2003
Smith has always been concerned with the human body, and among her earliest preoccupations were the subjects of birth and death. Many of her first pieces are composed of multiple components in varied configurations. For All Souls, Smith screen printed numerous copies of a fetus image that she found in a Japanese anatomy book. The individual sheets are glued together to form a curtain of delicate paper that hangs, unframed, on the wall. While often interpreted as referencing the anti-feminist and anti-abortion backlashes of the late 1980s, this work also has a more metaphorical meaning for the artist, who notes that every individual must undergo the process of being born. The title alludes to All Souls' Day, a Catholic feast day celebrated on November 2, when the faithful pray for the souls of the dead who have not yet fully atoned for their sins.

Next to All Souls are science experiment like jars with gothic handwriting with labels like Semen, Urine, Blood, Pus and Vomit. It connects to all souls as being the source of creating the baby.

Haber Arts describes it below.

In fact, the work that one sees first contains nothing but air. Twelve large, empty water bottles look as if they should hold specimens from an antique laboratory. A later room indeed arranges objects from throughout her career in what she calls a cabinet of wonders. Here only the Gothic lettering on each bottle identifies its contents with what a certain film character calls his "precious bodily fluids," from semen and blood to pus and vomit. The curator, Siri Engberg of the Walker Arts Center, identifies some as life sustaining and some as disease bearing. Like the implicit calendar of months, however, they suggest not a division but a continuous cycle between the body and the world—and they do nothing to make it sound pretty.

At first, the frankness reflects literal studies of anatomy. She worked on an emergency medical team and saw her sister die of AIDS. Bronze casts represent the male and female uro-genital system, another confluence of waste and generation. Before long, though, her approach to the body turns on the transformation between object and image. Human hair and sheep wool join in a Dowry Cloth. A wall of small, thin aluminum plates represents torn and beaten skin.

Dowry cloth made by Human hair and sheep wool created a textural element to the exhibit.

Another interesting bronze sculpture was a flock of birds that had been preserved. It seemed they were sitting on an electrical pole. Each bird was uniquely different, but they looked the same if you saw it from a distance.

1. 1998
Collection of the American Contemporary Art Foundation Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President
Images of animals, particularly birds, have appeared in Smith's work since 1992. In many of these pieces she examines the relationship between humans and animals as seen through scientific study, religion, and literature. Birds have often served as symbols in art, representing such intangibles as the Holy Spirit, freedom, love, and enlightenment. Flock comprises more than two hundred bronze reliefs, which she traced from preserved bird specimens at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Although their arrangement on the wall is random, the more or less orderly rows of tightly bound bodies remind us that human manipulation, rather than the natural instincts of the birds themselves, assembled this particular flock. By making animal sculptures that are equal in importance to her human representations, Smith creates her own system of classification that rejects the idea of a hierarchical order among living organisms.

Her work was had a handmade quality, but also metaphorical as the images of birds and the jars of human wastes. Her placements of objects next to each other was interesting, for instance the womb was a bronze shaped cavity that opened like a box, next to a rib cage. The sculpture Rapture (2001) depicts a woman emerging from the belly of a wolf, alludes to the narrative of rebirth and the story of “the little red riding hood”. Her multi layered objects and study of the female form was novel and fresh.

See an interview with the artist.

NPR has a multimedia exhibit of her work

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Orhan Pamuk & Salman Rushdie

Here is Orhan Pamuk’s speech while accepting the Nobel Prize for literature.

Salman Rushdie was on Charlie Rose last night. His book, Shalimar the clown is out in paperback, so he was discussing it. He writes about Kashmir, because it is like a paradise that has been lost. When he visited their in 1987, he met folk theater people. His book was inspired by their lives. His book deals with universal themes, like a love triangle, death, and a murder. Kashmir was a place where different cultures and religions learnt to get along, similar to what Bosnia and the Middle East used to be like. India is a great success story for religious tolerance, but Kashmir has been caught in the crossfire between Indian Army, Pakistan Army and the jihadists.

He grew up with a secular upbringing, with not much need for religion in his life.

When asked if Islam needed to go through more debate.

He responded and said that it was already happening but not vocally enough. The modernizing movement is happening often outside Muslim majority countries. Women were leading the way, by challenging the interpretations of the mullahs.

He thought he was improving as a writer. He was hoping for clarity in his writing more and more. In the past he had tried to be clever with language, but was no realizing that simplicity is the hardest thing. To tell a gripping story, the writer needs to write about what they feel most connected with. He writes about India, and then, he brings in themes of love, violence and revenge. He said young writers measure themselves in comparison with other great writers, but the older he gets he feels writing is more about who he is.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

words of wisdom

Though countless stars illumine the night
And the moon brightly ornaments the earth,
Only the sun provides light for the day
And gives meaning to the terms "east" and "west."

The man who accomplishes completely
One single act
Excels all sentient beings.
The moon when full illumines the earth ­
The multitude of stars have not this power.

~ Nagarjuna

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Glenn Beck

CNN has been going downhill for some time now, but this seems to prove it can go no lower. It's new Headline News host Glenn Beck, has threatened Muslims with concentration camps.

Fair has given examples below.

Flirting With Fascism on CNN Headline News
Host Glenn Beck threatens Muslims with concentration camps


The New York Times (12/4/06), profiling new CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, called him "brash" and "opinionated," with an "unfiltered approach." The conservative talk-radio host-turned-cable news announcer, the paper reported, "take[s] credit for saying what others are feeling but are afraid to say."

The Times mentioned one of the things Beck has said recently, to newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim: "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." But as press critic Eric Alterman pointed out (Altercation, 12/4/06), as offensive as that question is, it doesn't begin to suggest the poisonousness of Beck's rhetoric about Muslims.

On his August 10 radio show, distributed by Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks, Beck told listeners, "The world is on the brink of World War III," then issued this warning:

All you Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time and have not been marching in the streets and have not been saying, 'Hey, you know what? There are good Muslims and bad Muslims. We need to be the first ones in the recruitment office lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head.' I'm telling you, with God as my witness... human beings are not strong enough, unfortunately, to restrain themselves from putting up razor wire and putting you on one side of it. When things�when people become hungry, when people see that their way of life is on the edge of being over, they will put razor wire up and just based on the way you look or just based on your religion, they will round you up. Is that wrong? Oh my gosh, it is Nazi, World War II wrong, but society has proved it time and time again: It will happen.

On September 5, Beck took the same message to his CNN Headline News audience, declaring, "In 10 years, Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." He explained:

Since 9/11, Americans have gotten so fed up with the "yes, but" Muslims. The "yes, but" Muslims are the ones who show up on talkshows and in the media and say, "Yes, terrorism is bad, but"�and then they go through a list of reasons on why we should try and sympathize with people who fly planes into buildings.... If, God forbid, there's another attack, we won't have anymore patience for the "yes, buts." The Muslim community better find a spokesman who isn't a "yes, but" Muslim. They shouldn't even understand the word "but," because if they don't, when things heat up, the profiling will only get worse, and the razor wire will be coming.

Beck went on to say:

You want the profiling to stop? Then, here's an idea. Stop murdering innocent people. Stop excusing the people who do. You do that for a while, and I guarantee you won't have any more problems at the airports. Stop blowing stuff up and the world just might be your oyster. Otherwise, it's going to be like that movie, The Siege. You remember that movie? The Muslims will see the West through razor wire if things don't change.

He concluded:

Look, I'm not saying all Arabs and Muslims are anti-American. Far from it. We should get to know these people and embrace the good Muslims, and eliminate the bad ones. Here's what I don't know. I don't know if the Muslim community will ever step to the plate like the Japanese-American community did during World War II. You know, it was absolutely disgraceful how we rounded innocent people up then and, sadly, history has a way of repeating itself no matter how grotesque that history might be. The Muslim community can prevent this if they act now.

When Beck is talking about "razor wire," he's talking about concentration camps�in the original sense of the word, places where masses of people are imprisoned "just based on the way you look or just based on your religion." Despite his (perfectly accurate) observation that such camps are "Nazi, World War II wrong," comparable to the "absolutely disgraceful" wartime interment of Japanese-Americans, Beck is clearly using the threat of such camps to coerce Muslims into behavior he approves of, like volunteering "to shoot the bad Muslims in the head."

Since the overwhelming majority of U.S. Muslims are neither "murdering innocent people" nor "excusing the people who do," there's really nothing that they can do to avert Beck's threat that "the razor wire will be coming." And Beck is explicit that there's nothing non-Muslims can do to avoid locking Muslims up en masse.

The New York Times, in its profile about Beck, refers to his criticism of the animated film Happy Feet, but fails to mention that he uses his Headline News slot to issue threats that he himself compares to Nazi behavior. For the Times, CNN's decision to give Beck a TV show is a "success," because he "has increased the ratings in his 7 p.m. time period 60 percent among all viewers, and 84 percent among viewers aged 25 to 54."

The Times article quoted CNN executive Kenneth Jautz as saying that the network did not take Beck's politics into account when it hired him. "We did not set out to have anyone from any particular view fronting these shows," he said. In fact, CNN hired Beck knowing that the host's repertoire included hateful attacks--the Hurricane Katrina refugees seen on TV and the father of a terrorism victim were both "scumbags" (, 5/17/04, 9/9/05)--as well as a disturbing preoccupation with violence: Beck has told his listeners that he was praying for a gruesome death for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (3/6/03), and that he was fantasizing about strangling filmmaker Michael Moore to death (5/17/05). As FAIR predicted (FAIR Action Alert, 1/18/06), Beck has not changed his repellent tune simply because he's been hired by a major media outlet.

Contrary to Beck's suggestion, there are things that the people of the U.S. can do to avoid repeating the "grotesque" history of Japanese-American internment. One of these things is to take people seriously when they start threatening people with concentration camps�rather than looking the other way because of their ratings "success."

ACTION: Please contact CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein and urge him to condemn Glenn Beck's chilling threats against Muslims.

CNN/U.S. President
Jonathan Klein
Phone: 404-827-1500

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Little Hotties Barbies & Bratz

Margaret Talbot, has a fascinating article, in the New Yorker, on the Barbie doll and her close competitor with 40% of market share the Bratz doll.

Bratz dolls have large heads and skinny bodies; their almond shaped eyes are tilted upwards at the edges and adorned with thick crescents of eye shadow, and their lips are lush and pillowy, glossed to a candy apple sheen and rimed with dark lip liner. They look like pole dancers on their way to work at a gentleman’s club. Unlike Barbie, they can stand unassisted.

Bratz dolls feed and play upon this culture’s obsession with girls being sassy (euphemism for sexy) and therefore discarding traditional toys at a younger age. The dolls tend to look ethnically indeterminate with names to match like Nevra, Kiana, Jade and Yasmin.

M.G.A or Micro Games of America is run by an Iranian immigrant, Isaac Larian, and he owns the Bratz doll copyright. He thinks that Barbies represent a “mommy figure” and young girls don’t particularly want to play with their mommies. His company wants to hold on to the six to twelve year old market, by playing up the celebrity and diva aspect of the dolls.

“Bratz are not merely dolls but ‘fashion icons’ that look to the runways and what kids wear in and out of school for inspiration.”

Mattel introduced My Scene Barbie, which kept Barbie’s basic dimensions, but had bigger eyes, plumper, shinier lips and hotter clothes. This was to corner some of the market that the Bratz dolls had been taking over.

There are other dolls that do not play with the “sassy” theme so much, like the historical dolls from American Girl, and Groovy Girls

The class divide is clear, American Girl dolls sold at American Girl Place are expensive, innocent looking and old fashioned, appealing to well off white parents willing to spend whatever it takes to prolong their daughter’s childhood. Bratz and My Scene Barbie are catering to the world’s version of gangsta chic.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oprah and burnout

I happened to hear Oprah today, and she was interviewing women in their 40's, who had through suffering reached a level of transformation. The first was Ellen Burstyn, followed by Sheryl Crow and then Dana Buchanan. Ellen, an actress, had faced poverty, and abusive relationships, patterns she kept repeating until she meditated and with the help of therapy changed her mindset. Sheryl Crow, a musician, was about to get married to Lance Armstrong (a cycling champion), but things did not work out, and they broke up and two weeks later, she realized she had breast cancer. She saw this as an opportunity to wake up. Dana Buchanan a fashion designer, had she thought a perfect life, until she had a daughter who was learning disabled. She kept up the facade of being a perfect career woman, perfect mother, perfect wife, until she suffered a panic attack, that made her feel that she was dying. This was her opportunity to find her true self.

All the women spoke about the roles that society imposed on them, and they had come to believe that, this was who they truly were. They had spent their childhood hating themselves, and giving all they had to the men in their lives. In their 40's things had changed, life happened, and they realized they had to take action to change their reactive patterns and learn to love and honor themselves. They had to empower themselves and realize, as Oprah said, she was more her true self than anytime before.

I also read the article on burnout in the New York Magazine This article was quite a contrast to the Oprah show, which emphasized self transformation, to working till you have no more to give and often can no longer function. Or maybe it was connected, maybe burn out was a cry for help, that life had to be changed to be able to live and function in this world. The author said that people like Bill Clinton do not suffer from burn out, because they love what they are doing.

People who are suffering from burnout tend to describe the sensation in metaphors of emptiness—they’re a dry teapot over a high flame, a drained battery that can no longer hold its charge.

Sometimes people in New York work, because I think they do not know what else to do with their time. The concept of hobbies or leisure to recharge does not exist. Bankers and Lawyers, work 60 hours a week, while their children are taken care of by nannies. I guess once you get into the rat race it is hard to get out, you need to pay the mortgage, the insurance, the kid's school fees, clothes, shoes...... But I wonder what sustains this constant busyness, I doubt its fantastically satisfying to be dealing with other people’s money or suing people. What about happiness, contentment and satisfaction.

big sugar: sweet, white and deadly

Here is a review of a documentary I saw on the role of Sugar through history. The living conditions of the slaves used to work the plantations in the 18th century Caribbean, and the Haitians used now in the big plantations seemed hauntingly similar. Sugar is heavily subsized in the U.S. and the whole junk food industry is composed of sugars.

Big Sugar explores the dark history and modern power of the world's reigning sugar cartels. Using dramatic reenactments, it reveals how sugar was at the heart of slavery in the West Indies in the 18th century, while showing how present-day consumers are slaves to a sugar-based diet. A lost chapter of Canadian history is discovered, illustrating how 18th century sugar lobbyists in England used blackmail and bribes to determine the fate of Canada.

Toronto writer Lisa Codrington visits Barbados to investigate her family's connection to the Codrington plantation, where the ruthless slave master was also a sexual predator. Meanwhile, writer Carl Hiaasen tackles present-day slave masters. He describes how American sugar magnates in Florida, like the Fanjul family, wield enormous political influence through donations reaching $450,000 to both the Republican Party and the Democrats.

A shantytown on the Central Romano plantation in the Dominican Republic. Going undercover, Big Sugar witnesses the appalling working conditions on plantations in the Dominican Republic, where Haitian cane cutters live like slaves. Workers who live on Central Romano, a Fanjul-owned plantation, go hungry while working 12-hour days to earn $2 (US). In a dramatic confrontation, Jose Pepe Fanjul is taken to task about his company’s unethical labour practices in the Dominican Republic.
The earliest protests against the sugar planters were spearheaded in 1785 by Thomas Clarkson, a Cambridge University student who mobilized the Quakers to end slavery in the British Empire. Clarkson and his pioneering human rights activists invented lobbying techniques that are commonplace today: political posters, logos, petitions and boycotts.

Big Sugar includes dramatizations to illustrate slavery in the 18th century. Juxtaposed against this historical backdrop is a tale of today’s battle against the obesity crisis and that crisis’ key suspect—sugar. Interviewing top nutritionists and food industry watchdogs, Big Sugar discovers the dangers of fructose and sugar-laden soft drinks. Vested interests collided at the 2004 Geneva Summit on obesity. A panel of the world’s top nutritionists was asked to determine a safe level of sugar in the human diet. Their report, "9-16", called for a diet restricted to 10% sugar. Angry sugar lobbyists and delegates from the Bush administration sprung to action in an astonishing power play.

Despite this setback, activists still challenge big sugar. The spirit of Thomas Clarkson lives on in heroes like Nicholas Dodds, a Grade 8 student who successfully campaigned to ban soft drinks from vending machines in Ontario elementary schools. Big Sugar captures the resolve of a generation unwilling to become modern-day slaves to a harmful diet full of sugar.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sanjay Dutt is not a terrorist

I am glad that the Bombay courts have acquitted Indian actor Sanjay Dutt of terrorism charges under T.A.D.A (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act 1987). This act was similar to the U.S.’s patriot act. T.A.D.A. was enforced for many years in India, often framing innocent Sikhs, Muslims, People from the North East and anyone challenging the India State.

Here is some background on the judgement and the actor in the outlook here and here

Sanjay Dutt gets a dream judgment — all charges dropped under TADA and convicted only under Indian Arms Act, for which he would face a maximum of three years in prison, out of which he has already served 16 months.

Judge P D Kode of the TADA court announced, "During my reasoning I have not found him (Sanjay Dutt) to be a terrorist," there was a collective sense of justice having been finally delivered.

The judge went on to say, "Considering matters in his confession and also taking into account certain admissions from other evidence, I accept the stand of Sanjay of acquiring and possessing weapons for self-defence."

Here is more information on the TADA act

Commonly known as TADA, the act was the first and only legislative effort by the Union government to define and counter terrorist activities. It was formulated in the back drop of growing terrorist violence in Punjab which had its violent effects in other parts of the country too, including capital New Delhi. The Act, which was criticised on various counts by human rights organisations and political parties was permitted to lapse in May 1995 though cases initiated while it was in force continue to hold legal validity.

I wonder if Sanjay Dutt, was a poor Muslim, would he still have been acquitted. The difference between the punishment Mohammad Afzal is getting and Sanjay Dutt not getting is interesting to observe.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Royale and Babel

I saw Casino Royale on Thanksgiving, and did not like it much, but according to the people that I saw it with, it was a new Bond for a changed world. Here is a review that called it pure testosterone pleasure.

The verdict is in: the deliciously brooding Daniel Craig is an edgy and eclectic James Bond, deftly grabbing the reins from perennial uber-Bond Sean Connery.

No gimmicky nuclear warheads, extreme heli-skiing or Pierce Brosnan’s namby-pambies; this 007 is all business – hungry, raw and irrefutably willing to lay it down for queen and country.

This go around James is tackling the money man for the world’s most notorious terrorists. Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is a criminal mastermind with an unquenchable thirst for hard currency. A series of explosive events lead Bond and the creepy Le Chiffre to face off in a high-rollers poker showdown at the luxurious Casino Royale in posh Montenegro.

Aiding Bond in his quest to vanquish evil is gorgeous Treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a brainy beauty who will shape Bond’s heart and his future with calculated charm.

The action kicks off with a kinetic chase sequence during which Bond acrobatically pursues a mad suicide bomber through the industrialized construction of Madagascar to the Nambutu Embassy, leaping tall buildings in single bound and wielding his weapon with dexterous masculinity. From Africa to Lake Como, Prague to the Bahamas the beat is positively heart-pounding.

Craig is a glove fit for the iconic M16 agent, darker and more fallible than his predecessors as originally penned by Ian Fleming in 1953. Charismatic and resourceful, the pugilist-faced, sculpted-bodied Craig goes from swimwear to tuxedo to a bullet between the eyes with sultry versatility.

Craig’s chemistry with Green is intriguing, more playful than sexy. The real sparks fly between Craig and Judi Dench, who reprises her role as 007’s steely superior M. Their anxious exchanges are razor sharp, verbal foreplay at its most fluid. Dench is gifted with screenplay writer Paul Haggis’ plum lines, a clever volley of bloody cheek and high-minded rebukes.

Body count is high courtesy of Bond’s overdeveloped trigger finger and overextend ego; the sexual liaisons kept at a minimum in order to fully develop 007’s fundamental penchant for women as disposable pleasures rather than meaningful pursuits. In the film’s only serious misstep James and Vesper turn to a tenuous love affair that ends tragically and feels insincere and meticulously manufactured.

But Craig is so thoroughly badass, so sociopathically tenacious that his every move is box-office gold. “Casino” is pure testosterone pleasure.

The other movie we saw was Babel, which I thought was better than Casino Royale.
See reviews here and here.

It is in the same genre of Traffic and Crash, where a number of stories are interwoven. We move from Morocco, to San Diego and from Mexico to Japan. I felt the segments based in Morocco and the Mexico-U.S, border were strong and showed how quickly people are turned into terrorists and illegal aliens. The Japanese segment was strange and disjointed to the rest of the narrative. Babel left one thinking of how people are percieved, and who has power and who the powerless are.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

In the Land of the Taliban

The undefeated why the taliban have returned, by Elizabeth Rubin

Elizabeth Rubin has written a detailed analysis in the New York Times magazine on the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Her thesis is that Pakistan is responsible for the rebirth of the Taliban.

The reasons are

1. The Durand Line, the boundary drawn by the British in 1893 to separate the Pashtun tribes who were revolting against the British. Afghanistan has never recognized this arbitrary line. Pakistan wants it recognized in return for stability in Afghanistan.

2. Musharraf needs to appease the religious parties to extend his power. He bought them off, by giving them control of the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and let them use the Taliban.

3. Pakistan wants Afghanistan to remain it’s client state, and not pursue as Karzai is doing, business dealings and security with India and the U.S

Living without fear

Living without fear

I went for a wonderful lecture at the Sivananda Center, titled Living without Fear. It was taught by Gauri Devi.

Changes cause fear. It is what we do, not what we say. Action has magic. The world is our challenge. Mediation leads to contentment and that spreads happiness and honesty.

Fear is a negativity that we need to counter with its opposite which is courage.
We need to use our breath in every situation, it helps to calm the nerves.
When we mediate we exercise concentration. This enables us to thin out thoughts, leading to one thought. The goal is to have less and less wandering thoughts.

Yoga is the place where there are no thoughts. It is a chance to let go of the ego. The ego is the identification of who we are. We need to go beyond the limitations of our life and reach the stage of Brahman or complete bliss.

When we are fearful we need to go back to the affirmation that we are more than the limiting experience of fear. And instead see the emotion as a natural flow of life, and cultivate courage.
Fear is illusionary, it is created by preconceived expectations. To challenge this emotion we need to understand its origin and causes.

Some of the causes are
1. Ignorance- when we separate from what we truly are, we feel isolated and a sense of separation. Happiness is the ability to reconnect with our own true nature.

2. Attachment- can come in many forms, some of which are attachment to the physical body and to identify with material objects. This leads to a fear that when our body ages and our money reduces, we are lesser human beings.

Methods to reduce fear
1. Breath
2. Practise Pradyapradana- This concept is based on positive thinking, where we recognize the mental quality of feeling fearful. But we do not identify with it, instead replace it with the quality of detachment. So we ignore the feelings associated with fear and move away from it as a thought wave. We practise awareness, recognition, ignoring and then replacing it by a positive quality like courage.

Mind is composed of Vritis and Samskaras. Vritis are thought waves and Samskaras are when Vritis became an action, or a habit. We have to realize we are not bound by either Vritis or Samskaras, its important to experience life and not deny ourselves experiences.

How to detach from the world?

This can be done by unconditional love. Love for the sake of loving.

3. Feelings of inferiority arise when one has a lack of self reliance or self confidence. As people we are always judging others as better or worst than us. But this range of judgement is all illusionary.

The only way to rid fear is self realization. When we realize that every challenge is an opportunity to grow divine. Difficulties on the path are opportunities to realize what all remains to be learnt. Challenges are disintegration of our perceived realities. Once we live through it, we are forced to shift ourselves and recognize our spiritual dimensions, which is truly our essence.

Types of Fear

this is a heightened imaginary fear between now and the future. This is an irrational fear that is often not based on a frightening situation. It is derived from the Greek word for fear. It causes nervousness, stupid reactions, lack of right thinking and is a waste of energy. To reduce phobias we can develop a strong will power, and mediate on Atman.

Inferiority is the flip side of superiority
Arrogance is the flip of timidity.
All four emotions are based on a high sense of ego.

Questions to ask ourselves
how am I evolving as a person?
How will I bring up my child sensitively.

1. Encourage courage as a reality for your child. Try not to instill fears in children. Be fearless yourself and set an example for your child to follow.

2. Read stories like the Mahabharat where the characters have qualities like courage, truthfulness and purity.

3. Instill trust in them, so that they recognize the wholeness of the world.

4. Minds of children are elastic and malleable, read the Gita to them.

5. The destiny of children is in the hands of intelligent mothers.

Methods to eradicate fear

1. As you think so you became. Pradyapradana Bhavana use this technique to transform the power of thoughts.

2. Feel the presence of God. Feel the all pervading presence, cultivate awareness, solitude, internal experiences and devotion to God irradiates all fears.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Eqbal Ahmad Terrorism Theirs and Ours

Here is an article by Eqbal Ahmad, titled Terrorism their and ours.

Terrorism: Theirs and Ours
By Eqbal Ahmad
(A Presentation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, October 12, 1998)

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish underground in Palestine was described as “TERRORIST.” Then new things happened.

By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described, by 1944-45, as “freedom fighters.” At least two Israeli Prime Ministers, including Menachem Begin, have actually, you can find in the books and posters with their pictures, saying “Terrorists, Reward This Much.” The highest reward I have noted so far was 100,000 British pounds on the head of Menachem Begin, the terrorist.

Then from 1969 to 1990 the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organization, occupied the center stage as the terrorist organization. Yasir Arafat has been described repeatedly by the great sage of American journalism, William Safire of the New York Times, as the “Chief of Terrorism.” That’s Yasir Arafat.

Now, on September 29, 1998, I was rather amused to notice a picture of Yasir Arafat to the right of President Bill Clinton. To his left is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netan­yahu. Clinton is looking towards Arafat and Arafat is looking literally like a meek mouse. Just a few years earlier he used to appear with this very menacing look around him, with a gun appearing menacing from his belt. You remember those pictures, and you remember the next one.

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan received a group of bearded men. These bearded men I was writing about in those days in The New Yorker, actually did. They were very ferocious-looking bearded men with turbans looking like they came from another century. President Reagan received them in the White House. After receiving them he spoke to the press. He pointed towards them, I’m sure some of you will recall that moment, and said, “These are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers”. These were the Afghan Mujahiddin. They were at the time, guns in hand, battling the Evil Empire. They were the moral equivalent of our founding fathers!

In August 1998, another American President ordered missile strikes from the American navy based in the Indian Ocean to kill Osama Bin Laden and his men in the camps in Afghanistan. I do not wish to embarrass you with the reminder that Mr. Bin Laden, whom fifteen American missiles were fired to hit in Afghanistan, was only a few years ago the moral equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson! He got angry over the fact that he has been demoted from ‘Moral Equivalent’ of your ‘Founding Fathers’. So he is taking out his anger in different ways. I’ll come back to that subject more seriously in a moment.

You see, why I have recalled all these stories is to point out to you that the matter of terrorism is rather complicated. Terrorists change. The terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today. This is a serious matter of the constantly changing world of images in which we have to keep our heads straight to know what is terrorism and what is not. But more importantly, to know what causes it, and how to stop it.

The next point about our terrorism is that posture of inconsistency necessarily evades definition. If you are not going to be consistent, you’re not going to define. I have examined at least twenty official documents on terrorism. Not one defines the word. All of them explain it, express it emotively, polemically, to arouse our emotions rather than exercise our intelligence. I give you only one example, which is representative. October 25, 1984. George Shultz, then Secretary of State of the U.S., is speaking at the New York Park Avenue Synagogue. It’s a long speech on terrorism. In the State Department Bulletin of seven single-spaced pages, there is not a single definition of terrorism. What we get is the following:

Definition number one: “Terrorism is a modern barbarism that we call terrorism.”

Definition number two is even more brilliant: “Terrorism is a form of political violence.” Aren’t you surprised? It is a form of political violence, says George Shultz, Secretary of State of the U.S.

Number three: “Terrorism is a threat to Western civilization.”

Number four: “Terrorism is a menace to Western moral values.”

Did you notice, does it tell you anything other than arouse your emotions? This is typical. They don’t define terrorism because definitions involve a commitment to analysis, comprehension and adherence to some norms of consistency. That’s the second characteristic of the official literature on terrorism.

The third characteristic is that the absence of definition does not prevent officials from being globalistic. We may not define terrorism, but it is a menace to the moral values of Western civilization. It is a menace also to mankind. It’s a menace to good order. Therefore, you must stamp it out worldwide. Our reach has to be global. You need a global reach to kill it. Anti-terrorist policies therefore have to be global. Same speech of George Shultz: “There is no question about our ability to use force where and when it is needed to counter terrorism.” There is no geographical limit. On a single day the missiles hit Afghanistan and Sudan. Those two countries are 2,300 miles apart, and they were hit by missiles belonging to a country roughly 8,000 miles away. Reach is global.

A fourth characteristic: claims of power are not only globalist they are also omniscient. We know where they are; therefore we know where to hit. We have the means to know. We have the instruments of knowledge. We are omniscient. Shultz: “We know the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters, and as we look around, we have no trouble telling one from the other.”

Only Osama Bin Laden doesn’t know that he was an ally one day and an enemy another. That’s very confusing for Osama Bin Laden. I’ll come back to his story towards the end. It’s a real story.

Five. The official approach eschews causation. You don’t look at causes of anybody becoming terrorist. Cause? What cause? They ask us to be looking, to be sympathetic to these people.

Another example. The New York Times, December 18, 1985, reported that the foreign minister of Yugoslavia, you remember the days when there was a Yugoslavia, requested the Secretary of State of the U.S. to consider the causes of Palestinian terrorism. The Secretary of State, George Shultz, and I am quoting from the New York Times, “went a bit red in the face. He pounded the table and told the visiting foreign minister, there is no connection with any cause. Period.” Why look for causes?

Number six. The moral revulsion that we must feel against terrorism is selective. We are to feel the terror of those groups, which are officially disapproved. We are to applaud the terror of those groups of whom officials do approve. Hence, President Reagan, “I am a contra.” He actually said that. We know the contras of Nicaragua were anything, by any definition, but terrorists. The media, to move away from the officials, heed the dominant view of terrorism.

The dominant approach also excludes from consideration, more importantly to me, the terror of friendly governments. To that question I will return because it excused among others the terror of Pinochet (who killed one of my closest friends) and Orlando Letelier; and it excused the terror of Zia ul-Haq, who killed many of my friends in Pakistan. All I want to tell you is that according to my ignorant calculations, the ratio of people killed by the state terror of Zia ul-Haq, Pino­chet, Argentinian, Brazilian, Indonesian type, versus the killing of the PLO and other terrorist types is literally, conservatively, one to one hundred thousand. That’s the ratio.

History unfortunately recognizes and accords visibility to power and not to weakness. Therefore, visibility has been accorded historically to dominant groups. In our time, the time that began with this day, Columbus Day.

The time that begins with Columbus Day is a time of extraordinary unrecorded holocausts. Great civilizations have been wiped out. The Mayas, the Incas, the Aztecs, the American Indians, the Canadian Indians were all wiped out. Their voices have not been heard, even to this day fully. Now they are beginning to be heard, but not fully. They are heard, yes, but only when the dominant power suffers, only when resistance has a semblance of costing, of exacting a price. When a Custer is killed or when a Gordon is besieged. That’s when you know that they were Indians fighting, Arabs fighting and dying.

My last point of this section – U.S. policy in the Cold War period has sponsored terrorist regimes one after another. Somoza, Batista, all kinds of tyrants have been America’s friends. You know that. There was a reason for that. I or you are not guilty. Nicaragua, contra. Afghanistan, mujahiddin. El Salvador, etc.

Now the second side. You’ve suffered enough. So suffer more.

There ain’t much good on the other side either. You shouldn’t imagine that I have come to praise the other side. But keep the balance in mind. Keep the imbalance in mind and first ask ourselves, What is terrorism?

Our first job should be to define the damn thing, name it, give it a description of some kind, other than “moral equivalent of founding fathers” or “a moral outrage to Western civilization”. I will stay with you with Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “Terror is an intense, overpowering fear.” He uses terrorizing, terrorism, “the use of terrorizing methods of governing or resisting a government.” This simple definition has one great virtue, that of fairness. It’s fair. It focuses on the use of coercive violence, violence that is used illegally, extra-constitutionally, to coerce. And this definition is correct because it treats terror for what it is, whether the government or private people commit it.

Have you noticed something? Motivation is left out of it. We’re not talking about whether the cause is just or unjust. We’re talking about consensus, consent, absence of consent, legality, absence of legality, constitutionality, absence of constitutionality. Why do we keep motives out? Because motives differ. Motives differ and make no difference.

I have identified in my work five types of terrorism.

First, state terrorism. Second, religious terrorism; terrorism inspired by religion, Catholics killing Protestants, Sunnis killing Shiites, Shiites killing Sunnis, God, religion, sacred terror, you can call it if you wish. State, church. Crime. Mafia. All kinds of crimes commit terror. There is pathology. You’re pathological. You’re sick. You want the attention of the whole world. You’ve got to kill a president. You will. You terrorize. You hold up a bus. Fifth, there is political terror of the private group; be they Indian, Vietnamese, Algerian, Palestinian, Baader-Meinhof, the Red Brigade. Political terror of the private group. Oppositional terror.

Keep these five in mind. Keep in mind one more thing. Sometimes these five can converge on each other. You start with protest terror. You go crazy. You become pathological. You continue. They converge. State terror can take the form of private terror. For example, we’re all familiar with the death squads in Latin America or in Pakistan. Government has employed private people to kill its opponents. It’s not quite official. It’s privatized. Convergence. Or the political terrorist who goes crazy and becomes pathological. Or the criminal who joins politics. In Afghanistan, in Central America, the CIA employed in its covert operations drug pushers. Drugs and guns often go together. Smuggling of all things often go together.

Of the five types of terror, the focus is on only one, the least important in terms of cost to human lives and human property [Political Terror of those who want to be heard]. The highest cost is state terror. The second highest cost is religious terror, although in the twentieth century religious terror has, relatively speaking, declined. If you are looking historically, massive costs. The next highest cost is crime. Next highest, pathology. A Rand Corporation study by Brian Jenkins, for a ten-year period up to 1988, showed 50% of terror was committed without any political cause at all. No politics. Simply crime and pathology.

So the focus is on only one, the political terrorist, the PLO, the Bin Laden, whoever you want to take. Why do they do it? What makes the terrorist tick?

I would like to knock them out quickly to you. First, the need to be heard. Imagine, we are dealing with a minority group, the political, private terrorist. First, the need to be heard. Normally, and there are exceptions, there is an effort to be heard, to get your grievances heard by people. They’re not hearing it. A minority acts. The majority applauds.

The Palestinians, for example, the superterrorists of our time, were dispossessed in 1948. From 1948 to 1968 they went to every court in the world. They knocked at every door in the world. They were told that they became dispossessed because some radio told them to go away - an Arab radio, which was a lie. Nobody was listening to the truth. Finally, they invented a new form of terror, literally their invention: the airplane hijacking. Between 1968 and 1975 they pulled the world up by its ears. They dragged us out and said, Listen, Listen. We listened. We still haven’t done them justice, but at least we all know. Even the Israelis acknowledge. Remember Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, saying in 1970, ‘There are no Palestinians.’ They do not exist. They damn well exist now. We are cheating them at Oslo. At least there are some people to cheat now. We can’t just push them out. The need to be heard is essential. One motivation there.

Mix of anger and helplessness produces an urge to strike out. You are angry. You are feeling helpless. You want retribution. You want to wreak retributive justice. The experience of violence by a stronger party has historically turned victims into terrorists. Battered children are known to become abusive parents and violent adults. You know that. That’s what happens to peoples and nations. When they are battered, they hit back. State terror very often breeds collective terror.

Do you recall the fact that the Jews were never terrorists? By and large Jews were not known to commit terror except during and after the Holocaust. Most studies show that the majority of members of the worst terrorist groups in Israel or in Palestine, the Stern and the Irgun gangs, were people who were immigrants from the most anti-Semitic countries of Eastern Europe and Germany. Similarly, the young Shiites of Lebanon or the Palestinians from the refugee camps are battered people. They become very violent. The ghettos are violent internally. They become violent externally when there is a clear, identifiable external target, an enemy where you can say, ‘Yes, this one did it to me’. Then they can strike back.

Example is a bad thing. Example spreads. There was a highly publicized Beirut hijacking of the TWA plane. After that hijacking, there were hijacking attempts at nine different American airports. Pathological groups or individuals modeling on the others. Even more serious are examples set by governments. When governments engage in terror, they set very large examples. When they engage in supporting terror, they engage in other sets of examples.

Absence of revolutionary ideology is central to victim terrorism. Revolutionaries do not commit unthinking terror. Those of you who are familiar with revolutionary theory know the debates, the disputes, the quarrels, the fights within revolutionary groups of Europe, the fight between anarchists and Marxists, for example. But the Marxists have always argued that revolutionary terror, if ever engaged in, must be sociologically and psychologically selective. Don’t hijack a plane. Don’t hold hostages. Don’t kill children, for God’s sake. Have you recalled also that the great revolutions, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Algerian, the Cuban, never engaged in hijacking type of terrorism? They did engage in terrorism, but it was highly selective, highly sociological, still deplorable, but there was an organized, highly limited, selective character to it. So absence of revolutionary ideology that begins more or less in the post-World War II period has been central to this phenomenon.

My final question is - These conditions have existed for a long time. But why then this flurry of private political terrorism? Why now so much of it and so visible? The answer is modern technology. You have a cause. You can communicate it through radio and television. They will all come swarming if you have taken an aircraft and are holding 150 Americans hostage. They will all hear your cause. You have a modern weapon through which you can shoot a mile away. They can’t reach you. And you have the modern means of communicating. When you put together the cause, the instrument of coercion and the instrument of communication, politics is made. A new kind of politics becomes possible.

To this challenge rulers from one country after another have been responding with traditional methods. The traditional method of shooting it out, whether it’s missiles or some other means. The Israelis are very proud of it. The Americans are very proud of it. The French became very proud of it. Now the Pakistanis are very proud of it. The Pakistanis say, ‘Our commandos are the best.’ Frankly, it won’t work. A central problem of our time, political minds, rooted in the past, and modern times, producing new realities. Therefore in conclusion, what is my recommendation to America?

Quickly. First, avoid extremes of double standards. If you’re going to practice double standards, you will be paid with double standards. Don’t use it. Don’t condone Israeli terror, Pakistani terror, Nicaraguan terror, El Salvadoran terror, on the one hand, and then complain about Afghan terror or Palestinian terror. It doesn’t work. Try to be even-handed. A superpower cannot promote terror in one place and reasonably expect to discourage terrorism in another place. It won’t work in this shrunken world.

Do not condone the terror of your allies. Condemn them. Fight them. Punish them. Please eschew, avoid covert operations and low-intensity warfare. These are breeding grounds of terror and drugs. Violence and drugs are bred there. The structure of covert operations, I’ve made a film about it, which has been very popular in Europe, called Dealing with the Demon. I have shown that wherever covert operations have been, there has been the central drug problem. That has been also the center of the drug trade. Because the structure of covert operations, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Central America, is very hospitable to drug trade. Avoid it. Give it up. It doesn’t help.

Please focus on causes and help ameliorate causes. Try to look at causes and solve problems. Do not concentrate on military solutions. Do not seek military solutions. Terrorism is a political problem. Seek political solutions. Diplomacy works.

Take the example of the last attack on Bin Laden. You don’t know what you’re attacking. They say they know, but they don’t know. They were trying to kill Qadaffi. They killed his four-year-old daughter. The poor baby hadn’t done anything. Qadaffi is still alive. They tried to kill Saddam Hussein. They killed Laila Bin Attar, a prominent artist, an innocent woman. They tried to kill Bin Laden and his men. Not one but twenty-five other people died. They tried to destroy a chemical factory in Sudan. Now they are admitting that they destroyed an innocent factory, one-half of the production of medicine in Sudan has been destroyed, not a chemical factory. You don’t know. You think you know.

Four of your missiles fell in Pakistan. One was slightly damaged. Two were totally damaged. One was totally intact. For ten years the American government has kept an embargo on Pakistan because Pakistan is trying, stupidly, to build nuclear weapons and missiles. So we have a technology embargo on my country. One of the missiles was intact. What do you think a Pakistani official told the Washington Post? He said it was a gift from Allah. We wanted U.S. technology. Now we have got the technology, and our scientists are examining this missile very carefully. It fell into the wrong hands. So don’t do that. Look for political solutions. Do not look for military solutions. They cause more problems than they solve.

Please help reinforce, strengthen the framework of international law. There was a criminal court in Rome. Why didn’t they go to it first to get their warrant against Bin Laden, if they have some evidence? Get a warrant, then go after him. Internationally. Enforce the U.N. Enforce the International Court of Justice, this unilateralism makes us look very stupid and them relatively smaller.


The question here is that I mentioned that I would go somewhat into the story of Bin Laden, the Saudi in Afghanistan and didn’t do so, could I go into some detail? The point about Bin Laden would be roughly the same as the point between Sheikh Abdul Rahman, who was accused and convicted of encouraging the blowing up of the World Trade Center in New York City. The New Yorker did a long story on him. It’s the same as that of Aimal Kansi, the Pakistani Baluch who was also convicted of the murder of two CIA agents. Let me see if I can be very short on this. Jihad, which has been translated a thousand times as “holy war,” is not quite just that. Jihad is an Arabic word that means, “to struggle.” It could be struggle by violence or struggle by non-violent means. There are two forms, the small jihad and the big jihad. The small jihad involves violence. The big jihad involves the struggles with self. Those are the concepts. The reason I mention it is that in Islamic history, jihad as an international violent phenomenon had disappeared in the last four hundred years, for all practical purposes. It was revived suddenly with American help in the 1980s. When the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator of Pakistan, which borders on Afghanistan, saw an opportunity and launched a jihad there against godless communism. The U.S. saw a God-sent opportunity to mobilize one billion Muslims against what Reagan called the Evil Empire. Money started pouring in. CIA agents starting going all over the Muslim world recruiting people to fight in the great jihad. Bin Laden was one of the early prize recruits. He was not only an Arab. He was also a Saudi. He was not only a Saudi. He was also a multimillionaire, willing to put his own money into the matter. Bin Laden went around recruiting people for the jihad against communism.

I first met him in 1986. He was recommended to me by an American official of whom I do not know whether he was or was not an agent. I was talking to him and said, ‘Who are the Arabs here who would be very interesting?’ By here I meant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said, ‘You must meet Osama.’ I went to see Osama. There he was, rich, bringing in recruits from Algeria, from Sudan, from Egypt, just like Sheikh Abdul Rahman. This fellow was an ally. He remained an ally. He turns at a particular moment. In 1990 the U.S. goes into Saudi Arabia with forces. Saudi Arabia is the holy place of Muslims, Mecca and Medina. There had never been foreign troops there. In 1990, during the Gulf War, they went in, in the name of helping Saudi Arabia defeat Saddam Hussein. Osama Bin Laden remained quiet. Saddam was defeated, but the American troops stayed on in the land of the kaba (the sacred site of Islam in Mecca), foreign troops. He wrote letter after letter saying, Why are you here? Get out! You came to help but you have stayed on. Finally he started a jihad against the other occupiers. His mission is to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia. His earlier mission was to get Russian troops out of Afghanistan. See what I was saying earlier about covert operations?

A second point to be made about him is these are tribal people, people who are really tribal. Being a millionaire doesn’t matter. Their code of ethics is tribal. The tribal code of ethics consists of two words: loyalty and revenge. You are my friend. You keep your word. I am loyal to you. You break your word, I go on my path of revenge. For him, America has broken its word. The loyal friend has betrayed. The one to whom you swore blood loyalty has betrayed you. They’re going to go for you. They’re going to do a lot more.

These are the chickens of the Afghanistan war coming home to roost. This is why I said to stop covert operations. There is a price attached to those that the American people cannot calculate and Kissinger type of people do not know, don’t have the history to know.

Eqbal Ahmad, Professor Emeritus of International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, also served as a managing editor of the quarterly Race and Class. A prolific writer, his articles and essays have been published in The Nation, Dawn (Pakistan), among several other journals throughout the world. He died in 1999.
Courtesy: University of Colorado

Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life