Sunday, April 30, 2006

Nilufer Gole idols and insults

This discussion was part of the PEN world voices series that i was able to attend yesterday.

Idols and Insults: Writing , Religion and Freedom of Expression
Juan Luis Cebrian editor El Pais, Upmanyu Chatterjee novelist English August, Hans Magnus Enzensberger poet and essayist, Nilufer Gole Turkish sociologist teaching in France, Ayaan Hirsi Ali Dutch M.P., Tariq Ramadan (by video) Professor at Oxford; moderated by Ian Buruma Dutch author.

Cebrian editor of El Pais defines the concept of liberty, for city of people, which is different than city of God, freedom of thinking and disagreeing with others.
1. Universal values are not universal freedoms. Liberty does not belong to one person. Since Sept 11, 2001, and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq criticism and provocation is the duty of writers and journalists. The Danish cartoon controversy is less about the cartoons per se but a reflection of the tension of inequality, persistence of poverty and the use of violence to resolves conflicts. This causes the growth of fanatics. We cannot became fanatics.
2. Respect for international law, treaties and agreements.
3. Conflict between individual and community identity. Democracy is not identity. Pluralism is many democratic identities. The defense of identities has became an obsession currently.

Upmanyu chatterjee was very disappointing, he was articulate, but seemed so set in his ways, so dated. He gave the impression of being boorish and self satisfied. He said criticism should not be hurting others,differentiating between public and private. Criticizing Gods of others religions should not be done. Only when one understands another religion fully can it be criticized. He gave the example of Hussein painting nude Hindu goddess and B.J.P.(India’s Hindu fundamentalist party) asked him why as a Muslim does he insult Hindu gods, and Hussein responded Hinduism is as much mine as it is yours.
Chatterjee then mocked minority rights by stating in typical Hindu fundamentalist fashion, in India, the government bends over backwards to accommodate minorities, that was the end of me listening to this unbearable man. I wonder then, why Indian governments allow riots killing minorites year after year ?

Hans Magnus Enzensberger said it took a long time to achieve freedom of speech. He felt their was a lack of reciprocity, citing that Muslims insulted Jews and Christians all the time, and when the Danish cartoons criticized them they got sensitive bordering on squeamishness. He also said the controversy was exploited politically. But he did feel that writers should be held responsible and accountable for producing hate.

Nilufer Gole, was extremely impressive, she started off by explaining why freedom of expression matters. It describes the world in a critical way. For instance in Turkey freedom of expression is taboo breaking, since it challenges the ideology imposed by state power. It challenges the notion of social norms and public opinions. Bourdieu says sociology is against common sense and state power. Political correctness has introduced new taboos, restricting free expression. For instance in Turkey the genocide of the Armenians is often whitewashed and people who do talk about it are censored (Orhan Pamuk is an example).
She felt right now the conversation was between minorities and majorities in Europe, leading to a new phase of anxiety. For instance progressive intellectuals and post-colonial discourse was popular about ten years ago, but these discourses have all but disappeared, unsettling habits of thinking. This was in keeping with the long process of secularism and democracy. Secularism does not develop in a liner process, so right now there is a revival of religious fundamentalism. Religion is divisive, its restrictive towards womens rights, and issues dealing with abortion and freedom.
The role of secular Europe versus pious America has been challenged by Muslim migrants in Europe. Faith and identity are challenges right now. Islam has turned faith into a collective identity. For instance the word neo-martyrs is from a Shia tradition, veiled students are not traditional but are churning religion into a faith and identity problematic. The encounter of Europe and Islam is one of identity. No one questions a European’s Christian background, but they do question a Europeans’s Islamic background.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was attempting to keep people satisfied and content with their views, she even got a standing ovation from two women in the front. But I felt her arguments were weak and lacked historical clarity and were very politically motivated. She started off by saying Islam should be satire, mocked and provoked. She said if their was censorship a right would be removed. She then challenged the questioning of power and said that it was a progressive intellectual thing speaking to power. But that the very powerless don’t speak at all.

Cebrian made a significant point when he said who decides what is common sense? Is it common sense to invade Iraq and implant democracy? Democracy is a contract between people. He said where power lies is a complex issue.

Nilufer Gole spoke about the idea of publicness. She said that democracy is performative not discursive any longer. The idea of icons and idols are important in communication. For instance the cartoons circulated much quicker than Salman Rushdie’s book would have. But the problem with that is that it gets simplified into caricatures or stereotypes. Habermas said that publicness increases proximity and therefore causes greater accidents.
Internal debates within Europe get challenged by people who have multiple identities. Europe can proceed in these directions.
1. The idea of common cultural values
2. Defend western values
3. Create a new space that defends values, and translates and interprets values people in between, beyond stereotypical images
4.Aesthetics- faulty fundamentalism promotes bad art.

Nilufer and Cebrian challenged Ayaan’s idea of a common space and equal exchange in secular Europe, by giving the example of Italy that has a secular state but the catholic church has a lot of power.

Tariq Ramadan gave a repetitive talk on video, since he had been denied a visa by the US government. It seemed to be quite politically motivated to be conciliatory but was not saying anything too significantly new.

amy goodman interviews scott horton on democracy now

Democracy Now!, Apr. 15, 2006

Iraqi CBS Cameraman Released After 1 Year Imprisonment by U.S. Forces

We turn now to Iraq. Violence and kidnappings continue to wrack the country and the dangers posed towards reporters covering the war are greater than ever. When Western journalists like Jill Carroll are taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents they appropriately receive international media attention, condemnation from across the globe and worldwide calls for their release.

But when Iraqi journalists are detained by US forces the story is a very different one.

Just consider the case of CBS cameraman Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein. In April 2005, he was shot in the hip by an American sniper while filming the wreckage of a car bomb in Mosul. US troops then detained him, claiming he had tested positive for explosive residue and that images in his camera linked him to the insurgents.

He was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib for more than a year without due process.

Abdul Ameer was released just last week after an Iraqi criminal court acquitted him of collaborating with insurgents, citing a lack of evidence. No charges were made public until the trial itself.

The case is not an isolated one. The Committee to Protect Journalists documented seven cases in 2005 alone in which U.S. forces detained Iraqi journalists for many weeks or months without charge or due process.

Scott Horton, a New York attorney who recently returned from Baghdad where he was working on Abdul Ameer's case. Horton is Chairman of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined in our Firehouse studio by Scott Horton. He is a New York attorney who just returned from three weeks in Baghdad, where he was working on Abdul Ameer's case. Scott Horton is chair of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association. Welcome to Democracy Now!

SCOTT HORTON: Good to see you.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you went to the gates of Abu Ghraib to free the CBS cameraman?

SCOTT HORTON: I did, yes. After the decision of the Iraqi court was handed down acquitting him, actually finding there was not a shred of evidence supporting the charges that were brought against him, they ordered his release. But he was still carried in manacles back to Abu Ghraib, because his release depended upon the U.S. forces. Fortunately, in this case, they acted very quickly, and within about a day, he was released.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it helped that you were there, that CBS was involved with this, as well, to get him out?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, I was told by a number of Iraqi lawyers and some of the judges that that made a critical difference.

AMY GOODMAN: He was held for a year?

SCOTT HORTON: That's correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened the day he was shot by the U.S. forces and taken to prison.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, he was shot, and I think the immediate assumption was it was a mistaken shooting, that, you know, the sniper was aiming for or targeting perhaps another sniper or a gunman or something like that at the scene, and mistakenly hit this cameraman.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, he had just raced to the scene of this car bomb?

SCOTT HORTON: That's right. After he had gotten a tip from an A.F.P. reporter –

AMY GOODMAN: Agence France-Presse.

SCOTT HORTON: Exactly, that the event had occurred, and he got there about 30 minutes after the incident, and it's just as he picked up his camera and started to film that he was shot. Within about 48 hours, there were announcements made, basically saying, ‘It was a mistake. We're very sorry about this. He is being treated and will be released shortly.’

But then, very disturbingly, about five or six days later, suddenly reports began to circulate, not in Iraq, but in Washington, D.C., amongst Pentagon correspondents for CNN and other major networks, FOX News, as well, quoting unnamed, unidentified official Pentagon spokesmen, saying that the Pentagon had extremely disturbing evidence that this man was a terrorist. And specifically, they said that he had on his videotape camera four separate incidents involving attacks on U.S. forces, where there was clear evidence of prior knowledge, that he was there before the attack itself actually occurred, filming.

Of course, when the trial came, we discovered that this was a lie. No other way to put it. We got the tape. We examined it. In fact, the tape helped exonerate him, because it corresponded exactly to his account of what had happened and directly contradicted all the claims that had been put forth by or on behalf of the U.S. forces.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it's very interesting, I was at a Reuters seminar session with journalists and with the former spokesperson of the U.S. military forces in Iraq, asking questions about journalists killed and detained, and as we spoke last week, he said, “Well, there is no journalist who is held now,” but, in fact, he was being held, the CBS cameraman, at that time. When did you have him released?

SCOTT HORTON: He was released last Thursday.

AMY GOODMAN: So he was in Abu Ghraib for the whole time, for the year?

SCOTT HORTON: He was in Camp Bucca for the first several weeks, and then he was moved to Abu Ghraib, and I think it’s important to note while he was in Abu Ghraib, he was subject to very vigorous interrogation sessions, going 18 to 20 hours, usually beginning at 2:00 in the morning. And there was an attempt made to break him, to get him to make or sign confessions that he was a terrorist, and at the end of one of these interrogation sessions, he was told, “We don't accept what you're saying, and we're going to put you in solitary confinement forever, until you break and sign a statement confessing to being a terrorist.” He was held, in fact, for two days in solitary confinement, which is completely illegal.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, we watched a lot, for example, about Jill Carroll, as we should have, as every detained person we should pay attention to, but I don't remember seeing reports on CBS about their own cameraman.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, there was one report right at the beginning, and there were a couple of reports that were carried in CBS's internal weblog, but I think you're right, of course, it didn't get the level of dramatic attention that Jill Carroll's story got.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, compare it to Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Monitor, if CBS argues that, you know, you don't cover yourself. I mean, they were extremely aggressive about putting out there constantly information about Jill Carroll, to make sure she was in the eye of the international media, which would protect her.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, of course, one difference, Amy, is that people had some information about Jill Carroll, and there was effectively an information barricade surrounding Abdul Ameer. So CBS tried over and over again to get information about his case, to learn what was happening to him, and they were completely shut off. So there was nothing to report, really.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this is emblematic of how Iraqi journalists are dealt with?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, I think that this is the case, I'd say, in two ways, really. Jill Carroll is the unusual case of an expatriate journalist who is actually out there working in the field. For the most part, the situation in Iraq is simply too dangerous for expatriates to deploy them to forward positions and cover things. So they are mostly in fortified, highly secure locations, and they travel out with security guards to do an interview a couple of times a week, but that's it. It is local-hire Iraqi journalists who are really on the front line of the conflict, covering the most dangerous situations, and, you know, we have had 80 journalists killed so far. I think the C.P.J. count is a little bit lower, because of the methodology they use, but these are Iraqi journalists who had been killed, and the wounded, likewise, are largely Iraqi or other Middle Eastern journalists.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Scott Horton, chair of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association, who represented the CBS cameraman who was just released this past week. Now, you lived in the Red Zone?

SCOTT HORTON: I lived in the Red Zone, that's right.

AMY GOODMAN: That's outside the Green Zone.

SCOTT HORTON: Absolutely correct.

AMY GOODMAN: What is it like to be there for three weeks?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, I was on Haifa Street, which is not a safe place. In fact, it's been the site of battles for some time. And I would say, just to start with, it's difficult to sleep there. I don't understand how the locals do it. I mean, you hear helicopters cruising overhead every morning between 3:00 and 5:00 constantly. Gunfire bursts, bombs, and so forth. It's very disturbing.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you go to the home of Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein?

SCOTT HORTON: I did not go to his home, but I did deliver him to his family members.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it affect them, losing him for a year?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, they were distraught by the entire situation. I think they felt that he had been targeted, he had been shot, and he had been imprisoned, because he was a journalist, and there was, I think, a lot of resentment about that.

AMY GOODMAN: What did he say when you went up to the gates of Abu Ghraib?

SCOTT HORTON: Well I, of course, interviewed him at some length before we had the trial, and he was – I think he was distraught about the situation. He didn't understand it. I mean, he really did not understand why U.S. forces had captured him, why they had imprisoned him, why he was being interrogated. It didn't make any sense to him whatsoever, and, he just clung to the truth and gave a correct, objective account of what happened, and I think that worked out very well for him at the end.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about Abu Ghraib for a minute and the latest news of – I think we're up to general six, who has called for the ouster of Donald Rumsfeld.

SCOTT HORTON: Well, that would be general six in the current series, of course, because if you think back to the first breaking of the Abu Ghraib scandal and the issuance of the Fay-Jones report, you’ll note there were quite a number of generals who called for Rumsfeld's resignation at that time. There is clearly a very careful drumbeat of retired flag officers. This is something that's completely unprecedented.

AMY GOODMAN: What about responsibility at Abu Ghraib? When we last talked, we were talking about the chain of command. What has happened to the man who was sent to Abu Ghraib to -- what? -- Gitmo-ize it, to make it like Guantanamo, General Miller, General Sanchez?

SCOTT HORTON: Well, Geoffrey Miller is the man who was sent to Abu Ghraib to Gitmo-ize it, and we know that Lieutenant General Mark Schmidt did an investigation of what he did, not at Abu Ghraib, but at Guantanamo, and recommended that he be disciplined. But that decision was overridden higher up in the Pentagon. Then, as a result of demands from the Senate Armed Services Committee, an Inspector General's investigation into that entire process was undertaken. The Inspector General's report is going to be issued very shortly, and it, again, supports the decision to exonerate Major General Miller. I have had some opportunity to look at it, and I will have some opinions to express on it when it's released, but I would say it doesn't inspire confidence in the independence and work of the Inspector General.

But I think most importantly here, the Pentagon has said that Major General Miller will be retiring, and members of the Armed Services Committee have said, “Not so fast.” They put a hold on his retirement. That never happens, and it suggests, again, the level of concern about what's happened and about lack of accountability of senior officers for what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are they saying they won't let him retire?

SCOTT HORTON: Because when he retires, he will be able to retire with his rank and his pension and benefits, and Major General Miller, of course, has invoked the Fifth Amendment in criminal proceedings already, which is unprecedented, really, and I think is something that appalled a number of other flag officers. He's escaped any punishment for what went on, although he seems to be quite at the center of it, and there is, I think, a very strong sense that this is not correct.

AMY GOODMAN: So the only one who has been punished at this point is -- what? -- formerly Brigadier General Janice Karpinski? The highest up?

SCOTT HORTON: That’s correct. She was not punished on account of what happened at Abu Ghraib, though. She was punished for something else in her background, so, really, in terms of court-martials, we're talking about NCO's.

AMY GOODMAN: Non-commissioned officers.

SCOTT HORTON: Exactly, non-commissioned officers. We do have a couple of other officers who will be subjected to court-martials or are in the process right now, like Lieutenant Colonel Jordan, but at the flag officer level, there has been a really astounding failure to act and hold to account.

AMY GOODMAN: And the lawsuit that was brought against Rumsfeld in Belgium by U.S. attorneys, were you involved with that?

SCOTT HORTON: I was not involved in that, but I think it's in Germany that you're thinking of. That was a criminal complaint that was brought against Rumsfeld in Germany, and the German prosecutors concluded that it was too early, that, in fact, it was too early to say that the criminal process would not play itself out in the United States. So the door was quite clearly left open for a future prosecution.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Scott Horton, I want to thank you very much for being with us, chair of the International Law Committee at the New York Bar Association, just back from three weeks in Iraq, where he went to Abu Ghraib to free a CBS cameraman who had been held there by U.S. forces for a year. Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein is now free.

David Grossman & Gioconda Belli

PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature: Faith and Reason

David Grossman & Gioconda Belli

I was lucky enough this Saturday to get too two of the talks, that have been taking place since April 25th in New York, as part of the PEN world voices. Also saw Charlie Rose, who had guest host Salman Rushdie interviewing David Grossman, from Israel and Gioconda Belli from Nicaragua. Below is a summary of Grossman and Gioconda’s ideas.

Grossman spoke about being obsessed with history earlier, but in the last ten years has moved away to topics that have no space in society, like intimacy. This was a way for him to deal or struggle with the politics of the Middle East.

Gioconda spoke about the social pressure to write political novels. This was a way for people to see themselves reflected in collective struggles. But she felt the need to expand from this testimonial sort of writing to expand her literature.

D.G. did not believe in surrealism, fabulist or magic realism, he was suspicious of it. He felt it did not explain real human conditions, and created a virtual (unreal) reality.

G.B. is currently involved in the electoral process in Nicaragua, attempting to shift the system from a two party to a multi party system. She supports a leftist candidate senor Levitas.
She felt the Sandinista revolutions long term impact on Nicaragua was a professional army, a basis for democracy and a sense among the people that they had rights. Nicaragua is different from other banana republics in the region, since it does not have the soul of a banana republic.

D.G. felt writers should be built in outsiders of the system. He feels Israel should withdraw from all terorrites of the west bank, this will help reduce the suspicion Palestinians and Israelis have of each other. He felt it would be better if America was a lesser friend of Israel, that would ensure that the whole agenda of the middle east would not be dictated by them. Grossman’s ideas are not fashionable in Israeli society, so when people attempt to marginalize him and exile him from significance, he does not surrender, but challenges the manipulations of the army and the state to express his voice, through his words.

G.B. Americas relationship with Nicaragua is a lack of recognition. America is so afraid that Daniel Ortega of F.S.L.N. (Frente Sandinista de Liberation Nacional) will win the elections, that the America ambassador finances right wing parties. This makes America and the right wing parties, less credible to the people.
The causes of left leaning parties winning elections in South America was the failure of neo-liberalism and the spread of privatization, that weakened the state. So the people who depend on the state were insecure and afraid. And in their search for a stronger state, they voted left wing parties that promise more from the state.
Gioconda Belli’s writing comes from a profound instinct to express herself as a woman, to represent different aspects of her sensuality. Even in a war woman are sexy, loving and having integral experiences. Bringing out the human dimension is seminal for her.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


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jump like that

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basket ball action

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closeup of the art

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artist at west 4th

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this sign is upside down

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this mother-in-law looks fierce before biting into a kulfi

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if you mess with me...

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mik time

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three boys

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young hipster concept of covering the hair

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hanky, patka and turban


At different ages Sikh wear different head gear.
4-10 years hankerchief on the juri
11-15 years patka, a cloth with 4 ties on 4 sides. That is wrapped around the juri and covers all the hair.
16-the rest of your life safa Turban with a fifty. Fifty is a cloth that is first tied on the forehead to hold the safa in place. Posted by Picasa

babies and food a womans lot?

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cool like that

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grandmothers too

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we love food esp samosas and pakoras

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wanna jalebi

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pushing baby sister

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all men serving all women a nice change!

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enjoying a cuppa tea

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drinks section at the sikh day parade


At the Sikh parade, after the marches free food is served to all. This is the Sikh concept of Langar, which means to serve food to others regardless of who they are. I remember in Delhi, my grandmother used to have a langar and we (the kids) used to serve the food to all who came. The feeling that one gets from serving other's food is hard to replicate or describe in words. Posted by Picasa

bring the troops home now

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Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life