December 28th, 2003

Collateral Improvement


"Erat abhinc viginti annis hodie,
Centurio Piper catervam canere docebat."
( It was 20 years ago today Sargent Pepper taught the band to play.)
(thanks to alicia bay laurel)


Hi folks and a soon-to-be Happy New Year 2004 to you all,

I hope Santa was good to you (and is also willing to make your credit card payments for the next 6 months - ho ho!).


Olive the Other Reindeer . . . . Were Girls!

My good mate, Margret RoadKnight, sent this update regarding last week's reference to 'Olive, the other reindeer':

" According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl. We??? should've known (said SHE!). ONLY women would be able to drag a fat-arse man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost. ...... "

How many innocent people are worth killing to catch one Saddam?

Laws are not there merely to punish the 'evil doers' but to protect the INNOCENT. Just because someone believes someone else is a criminal doesn't justify vigilant behaviour - by neighbood gang, or by foreign country.

Even if things are better for the Iraqi people now, does that justify breaking international laws and deceiving and lying to your Country and the World to achieve that goal? If it does, then what are laws for? And which ones will be ignored next time in order to achieve other 'noble goals'?

How many innocent people are worth killing to catch one Saddam? Or does the argument go: we have to kill some innocent people now so that he won't be able to kill a lot more later?

Are good things happening in Iraq now that Saddam is gone? Probably. Obviously.
Are those good things the REAL reason the US is in Iraq? No. They're what the government, if they were honest and consistent, probably really ought to call, in military speak: 'Collateral Improvement'.


"We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."
Thomas Jefferson

Selective Memory and a Dishonest Doctrine
THE Toronto Star
Dec. 21, 2003

All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal. An indictment of Saddam's atrocities would include not only his slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially, his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in 1991. At the time, Washington and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression," reported Alan Cowell in the New York Times. Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam. With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and Washington's reaction overlooked that support. Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally - a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff." The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages: It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening before our eyes.For example, the Bush administration's original reason for going to war in Iraq was to save the world from a tyrant developing weapons of mass destruction and cultivating links to terror. Nobody believes that now, not even Bush's speechwriters. The new reason is that we invaded Iraq to establish a democracy there and, in fact, to democratize the whole Middle East. Sometimes, the repetition of this democracy-building posture reaches the level of rapturous acclaim. Last month, for example, David Ignatius, the Washington Post commentator, described the invasion of Iraq as "the most idealistic war in modern times" - fought solely to bring democracy to Iraq and the region.Ignatius was particularly impressed with Paul Wolfowitz, "the Bush administration's idealist in chief," whom he described as a genuine intellectual who "bleeds for (the Arab world's) oppression and dreams of liberating it." Maybe that helps explain Wolfowitz's career - like his strong support for Suharto in Indonesia, one of the last century's worst mass murderers and aggressors, when Wolfowitz was ambassador to that country under Ronald Reagan.As the State Department official responsible for Asian affairs under Reagan, Wolfowitz oversaw support for the murderous dictators Chun of South Korea and Marcos of the Philippines.All this is irrelevant because of the convenient doctrine of change of course. So, yes, Wolfowitz's heart bleeds for the victims of oppression - and if the record shows the opposite, it's just that boring old stuff that we want to forget about.One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.Wolfowitz denounced the Turkish military for failing to intervene to overturn the decision. Turkey was listening to its people, not taking orders from Crawford, Texas, or Washington, D.C.The most recent chapter is Wolfowitz's "Determination and Findings" on bidding for lavish reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Excluded are countries where the government dared to take the same position as the vast majority of the population.Wolfowitz's alleged grounds are "security interests," which are non-existent, though the visceral hatred of democracy is hard to miss - along with the fact that Halliburton and Bechtel corporations will be free to "compete" with the vibrant democracy of Uzbekistan and the Solomon Islands, but not with leading industrial societies. What's revealing and important to the future is that Washington's display of contempt for democracy went side by side with a chorus of adulation about its yearning for democracy. To be able to carry that off is an impressive achievement, hard to mimic even in a totalitarian state. Iraqis have some insight into this process of conquerors and conquered. The British created Iraq for their own interests. When they ran that part of the world, they discussed how to set up what they called Arab facades - weak, pliable governments, parliamentary if possible, so long as the British effectively ruled. Who would expect that the United States would ever permit an independent Iraqi government to exist? Especially now that Washington has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there, in the heart of the world's greatest oil-producing region, and has imposed an economic regime that no sovereign country would accept, putting the country's fate in the hands of Western corporations. Throughout history, even the harshest and most shameful measures are regularly accompanied by professions of noble intent - and rhetoric about bestowing freedom and independence. An honest look would only generalize Thomas Jefferson's observation on the world situation of his day: "We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."
Political activist and author Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (thanks to Maireid Sullivan)
Saddam's Capture Bodes Ill for Bush's Re-election
by William Pfaff
Contrary to what many are saying, Saddam Hussein's capture is a negative omen for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign and points toward continuing disorder and resistance in Iraq.

Saddam's ignominious circumstances when he surrendered - hiding in a hole in the ground when he wasn't living in a shed heaped with dirty clothes, eggshells and unwashed pans, with a refrigerator stocked with candy bars and soft drinks - made it clear to all that the resistance to the American occupation was not being commanded from there. So it is wishful thinking to expect his capture alone to slow or end the violence. It may spur the resistance.

As long as the Shiite majority thought there was a remote possibility that he could return to power, and with him the Baath party apparatus whose remnants survive throughout the country, they had reason to stay on good relations with the American occupation authority hunting him down.

With Saddam gone, the Shiite authorities are free to express their real ambition: power in a new Iraq proportionate to their majority in the population. (more)


The Nobel Lecture Given by The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2003, Shirin Ebadi, from Iran
Oslo, Norway
December 10, 2003
by Shirin Ebadi

In the name of the God of Creation and Wisdom,

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Honourable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel extremely honoured that today my voice is reaching the people of the world from this distinguished venue. This great honour has been bestowed upon me by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. I salute the spirit of Alfred Nobel and hail all true followers of his path.

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a woman from Iran, a Muslim country in the Middle East.

Undoubtedly, my selection will be an inspiration to the masses of women who are striving to realize their rights, not only in Iran but throughout the region - rights taken away from them through the passage of history. This selection will make women in Iran, and much further afield, believe in themselves. Women constitute half of the population of every country. To disregard women and bar them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life would in fact be tantamount to depriving the entire population of every society of half its capability. The patriarchal culture and the discrimination against women, particularly in the Islamic countries, cannot continue for ever.

Honourable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee!

As you are aware, the honour and blessing of this prize will have a positive and far-reaching impact on the humanitarian and genuine endeavours of the people of Iran and the region. The magnitude of this blessing will embrace every freedom-loving and peace-seeking individual, whether they are women or men.

I thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for this honour that has been bestowed upon me and for the blessing of this honour for the peace-loving people of my country.

Today coincides with the 55th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a declaration which begins with the recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, as the guarantor of freedom, justice and peace. And it promises a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of expression and opinion, and be safeguarded and protected against fear and poverty.

Unfortunately, however, this year's report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as in the previous years, spells out the rise of a disaster which distances mankind from the idealistic world of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2002, almost 1.2 billion human beings lived in glaring poverty, earning less than one dollar a day. Over 50 countries were caught up in war or natural disasters. AIDS has so far claimed the lives of 22 million individuals, and turned 13 million children into orphans.

At the same time, in the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 57/219, of 18 December 2002, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1456, of 20 January 2003, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2003/68, of 25 April 2003, set out and underline that all states must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights and humanitarian law. However, regulations restricting human rights and basic freedoms, special bodies and extraordinary courts, which make fair adjudication difficult and at times impossible, have been justified and given legitimacy under the cloak of the war on terrorism.

The concerns of human rights' advocates increase when they observe that international human rights laws are breached not only by their recognized opponents under the pretext of cultural relativity, but that these principles are also violated in Western democracies, in other words countries which were themselves among the initial codifiers of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is in this framework that, for months, hundreds of individuals who were arrested in the course of military conflicts have been imprisoned in Guantanamo, without the benefit of the rights stipulated under the international Geneva conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Moreover, a question which millions of citizens in the international civil society have been asking themselves for the past few years, particularly in recent months, and continue to ask, is this: why is it that some decisions and resolutions of the UN Security Council are binding, while some other resolutions of the council have no binding force? Why is it that in the past 35 years, dozens of UN resolutions concerning the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the state of Israel have not been implemented promptly, yet, in the past 12 years, the state and people of Iraq, once on the recommendation of the Security Council, and the second time, in spite of UN Security Council opposition, were subjected to attack, military assault, economic sanctions, and, ultimately, military occupation??

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to say a little about my country, region, culture and faith.

I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2500 years ago that "... he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it. And [he] promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all". The Charter of Cyrus The Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights.

I am a Muslim. In the Koran the Prophet of Islam has been cited as saying: "Thou shalt believe in thine faith and I in my religion". That same divine book sees the mission of all prophets as that of inviting all human beings to uphold justice. Since the advent of Islam, too, Iran's civilization and culture has become imbued and infused with humanitarianism, respect for the life, belief and faith of others, propagation of tolerance and compromise and avoidance of violence, bloodshed and war. The luminaries of Iranian literature, in particular our Gnostic literature, from Hafiz, Mowlavi [better known in the West as Rumi] and Attar to Saadi, Sanaei, Naser Khosrow and Nezami, are emissaries of this humanitarian culture. Their message manifests itself in this poem by Saadi:

The sons of Adam are limbs of one another Having been created of one essence. When the calamity of time afflicts one limb The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

The people of Iran have been battling against consecutive conflicts between tradition and modernity for over 100 years. By resorting to ancient traditions, some have tried and are trying to see the world through the eyes of their predecessors and to deal with the problems and difficulties of the existing world by virtue of the values of the ancients. But, many others, while respecting their historical and cultural past and their religion and faith, seek to go forth in step with world developments and not lag behind the caravan of civilization, development and progress. The people of Iran, particularly in the recent years, have shown that they deem participation in public affairs to be their right, and that they want to be masters of their own destiny.

This conflict is observed not merely in Iran, but also in many Muslim states. Some Muslims, under the pretext that democracy and human rights are not compatible with Islamic teachings and the traditional structure of Islamic societies, have justified despotic governments, and continue to do so. In fact, it is not so easy to rule over a people who are aware of their rights, using traditional, patriarchal and paternalistic methods.

Islam is a religion whose first sermon to the Prophet begins with the word "Recite!" The Koran swears by the pen and what it writes. Such a sermon and message cannot be in conflict with awareness, knowledge, wisdom, freedom of opinion and expression and cultural pluralism.

The discriminatory plight of women in Islamic states, too, whether in the sphere of civil law or in the realm of social, political and cultural justice, has its roots in the patriarchal and male-dominated culture prevailing in these societies, not in Islam. This culture does not tolerate freedom and democracy, just as it does not believe in the equal rights of men and women, and the liberation of women from male domination (fathers, husbands, brothers ...), because it would threaten the historical and traditional position of the rulers and guardians of that culture.

One has to say to those who have mooted the idea of a clash of civilizations, or prescribed war and military intervention for this region, and resorted to social, cultural, economic and political sluggishness of the South in a bid to justify their actions and opinions, that if you consider international human rights laws, including the nations' right to determine their own destinies, to be universal, and if you believe in the priority and superiority of parliamentary democracy over other political systems, then you cannot think only of your own security and comfort, selfishly and contemptuously. A quest for new means and ideas to enable the countries of the South, too, to enjoy human rights and democracy, while maintaining their political independence and territorial integrity of their respective countries, must be given top priority by the United Nations in respect of future developments and international relations.

The decision by the Nobel Peace Committee to award the 2003 prize to me, as the first Iranian and the first woman from a Muslim country, inspires me and millions of Iranians and nationals of Islamic states with the hope that our efforts, endeavours and struggles toward the realization of human rights and the establishment of democracy in our respective countries enjoy the support, backing and solidarity of international civil society. This prize belongs to the people of Iran. It belongs to the people of the Islamic states, and the people of the South for establishing human rights and democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In the introduction to my speech, I spoke of human rights as a guarantor of freedom, justice and peace. If human rights fail to be manifested in codified laws or put into effect by states, then, as rendered in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human beings will be left with no choice other than staging a "rebellion against tyranny and oppression". A human being divested of all dignity, a human being deprived of human rights, a human being gripped by starvation, a human being beaten by famine, war and illness, a humiliated human being and a plundered human being is not in any position or state to recover the rights he or she has lost.

If the 21st century wishes to free itself from the cycle of violence, acts of terror and war, and avoid repetition of the experience of the 20th century - that most disaster-ridden century of humankind, there is no other way except by understanding and putting into practice every human right for all mankind, irrespective of race, gender, faith, nationality or social status.

In anticipation of that day.

With much gratitude, Shirin Ebadi.

Copyright © 2003, The Nobel Foundation



Here's another nice veal marsala variation I made over the holidays.


I like this dish because the sweetness of the marsala gravy, with just hint of kaffir lime leaf, is echoed wonderfully in the sweet potatoes and the ginger, contrasted with the crunchiness of the beans and almonds. The veal, drenched in gravy, against the bright oranges and greens of the sweet potato and beans also make a colourful presentation.

Thin pounded veal slices, cut in small pieces
flour, for dredging
Marsala wine
olive oil
shallots, finely sliced
1/2 red chili, finely chopped
1 kaffir lime leaf, very finely slivered
salt & pepper
1/2 lime, and fresh coriander, finely chopped, for garnish

Dredge veal slices in flour. Shake off excess. Heat the olive oil until smoking.
Fry the shallots and the red chili until the shallots are almost crisp. Remove to absorbant paper.
In the same pan, brown veal on both sides, until cooked through. Remove veal and set aside. Scrap bits from the pan. Add as much Marsala as you want (between half cup to a cup or more), some salt and pepper and the kaffir lime leaf. Stir well and return the veal and the shallots to the pan and simmer until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened into a nice gravy. (Add more marsala if necessary and further reduce). Check seasoning.

3 sweet potatoes
piece of finely chopped fresh ginger
salt & freshly ground pepper

Peel the potatoes, cut into small pieces and boil until soft. Drain, add some butter, salt and pepper, and the ginger. Keep warm.

fresh green beans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
salt and freshly ground pepper

Pinch off the stems of the beans and wash well. Steam in a little water with the pot covered. Do not overcook - keep them crisp. Remove from the heat, drain the water and refresh in some cold water. Drain and add the butter, the almonds and the salt and pepper.


Such Singing in the Wild Branches


It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves -
then I saw him clutching the limb
in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness -
and that's when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree -
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing -
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky - all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last

for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then - open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

~ Mary Oliver ~