Thursday, February 22, 2007

tuneless chicket shit

I felt very proud suddenly while conversing with myself as I washed the dishes. Ya, you guessed right, I felt proud of myself. For two reasons:
One, that I love singing even though I am a bad singer.
Two, I love adventure even though I am very far from being brave.

I mean, if I were Tracy Chapman, I would just HAVE to love singing, right? It wouldn't be fair otherwise. But I am not Chapman. In case you need proof you should ask anybody who was at Sing Sing (the Karaoke Bar on 81 Ave A New York) around 10 pm last week. And I really mean anyone. If you still doubt my talent, how about this: I sang Papa Don't Preach, Jump and Black Dog in the same tone, volume and pitch! It must have been agonizing for everyone else around me but I loved it and myself to the hilt. So there.

There is a lot of ice outside on the roads of Boston this month. Life still goes on. Women stomp by in high heels and short skirts. Men jog around with their red blue noses and ears. Even oldies breeze by with their walkers. But Sudophish? Oh no. Queen Phish stays in till absolutely necessary. Walks only in the middle of the road so that she doesn't go sliding in the snow. And yesterday was unashamedly grabbing on to a friend's hand while the friend managed her baby's stroller, a back pack and herself. Yes, I am chicken shit. I walk side ways down the stairs, go hysterical when there is a 2 inch slide on the sidewalk, block doors with furniture and keep all lights on when I am home alone (and I am 28). The list of bravery goes on...

But tell me once that you are going river rafting in the Ganges or camping and trekking in the Himalayas. And I'll pack my bags and beam at you. You are taking me, right? Even if you have to roll me down after my 100th hysterical sobbing attacks "I CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN'T"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bush in Iran: Wallerstein

Bush's Headlong Rush Into Iran?"

The French have an expression fuite en avant, which the dictionaries translate as "headlong rush." But the translation loses the real meaning. A fuite en avant is something one does when one is in a losing
situation, and one hopes to salvage it by doing more of the same or worse, thereby creating a situation in which one hopes people will feel they have to support you. Is this what Bush intends to do in Iran?

We know two things about the Bush regime. Its position in Iraq is impossible and is now very widely contested even in the United States. The call for withdrawal grows daily and coming from everywhere. And we know that, since 2001, the neo-cons and Cheney have been
pushing for a military attack on Iran with the objective of regime change. So, this could be the moment.

The United States has sent its fleet into the region, and placed an admiral known for his competence in sea-air attacks in charge. The United States is issuing statements virtually daily about alleged Iranian misdeeds. In short, the United States is saber-rattling. Furthermore, a very large number of people seem to take this very seriously. Three of the
highest-ranking retired United States military have publicly warned against the folly of attacking Iran. So has Zbigniew Brzezinski, who scarcely qualifies as a dove. So have countless politicians and diplomats
from around the world. But Cheney has made it clear that the United States government will do what it pleases, no matter how many the opponents, or who they are.

Will anyone support the United States in such an adventure? Very few indeed. Not the United States Congress, although Bush and Cheney may be counting on the fact that it is harder for the Democrats to oppose
them on Iran than on Iraq. They will have the support of the Israeli government. And they seem to be counting on the support of the Saudis. But this is to misunderstand the Saudi position. The Saudis are of
course concerned to limit Iranian pretensions to hegemony in the region as well as to contain the possibilities of Shia militancy in Sunni-dominated states, and first of all in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis also have made it clear that a military attack on Iran will harm rather than help Saudi political objectives. Saudi active mediation of the Hamas-Fatah dispute in Palestine indicates they are seeking to distance themselves clearly from United States strategy in the Middle East. And in Europe even the British are voicing their distaste for the idea of an
attack on Iran.

So, let us suppose that, despite all this, Bush and Cheney decide to make their headlong rush into war, their fuite en avant to try to salvage their
disastrous situation. What would happen, and why would they do this? What would happen seems clear. An air attack on Iran will not achieve the objective of dismantling the Iranian nuclear program, although it
may damage it. Sending in troops, if the United States could find any to send in, would lead to a very high United States death toll. The Iranian government would be strengthened politically - at home and throughout
the Islamic world. The Russians and the Chinese would de facto support Iran.

And worst of all for the United States, those in Iraq it considers its closest allies would start calling quite vociferously for the United States' immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim
al-Jaafari has already started down this road. Nobody in Iraq, nobody, wants the United States to attack Iran, and nobody emotionally sides with the United States on this question.

Now Cheney is an intelligent politician, and he can see all this, I think. If so, why would he be pushing nonetheless for war? Could we entertain the idea that creating an even greater disaster for the United States seems to him the best option available for achieving his real political objectives?

Cheney (and Bush) know that they will control the United States government only for two more years. After that, they don't know who will be in power, but they have every reason to doubt it will be their clones. The last thing they want is a peaceful transfer of power to anyone who might dismantle what they have constructed and try, even try, to move the United States back to where it was - domestically and
internationally - in the Nixon to Clinton years.

They are looking forward to increasing, not decreasing, internal strife in the United States. They are looking forward to further dismantlement of the civil liberties framework, one that was never perfect but did afford some constraints on governmental power. They are looking forward to further regression in the arena of social rights. They are looking forward to a darker United States in a darker world.

Can anyone stop them? Possibly. There is the now widespread and quite vocal resistance within the armed forces. For the first time in my lifetime, I have seen speculation in the press about a military coup. I
doubt it would occur, but the very speculation shows how extensive are the misgivings. And there is the resistance of the politicians who are essentially for the most part moderate centrists whose major concern
is to keep their elected positions and who blow with their constituents' wind. Will this be enough? It is hard to tell, but we shall see more clearly in the next two to three months.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Good Wife Always Knows Her Place

The boy sent this to me just now: to enjoy its full beauty, click to enlarge.

And I Learnt today that............

In the 15th century, there was a theory in western Europe that witches - often childless women themselves- secretly performed "knot tying" ceremonies at wedding - tying a magical leather cord that would make the newly wedded infertile (similar to what hijras claim to be able to do even now in India).
In the 17th century, it was believed that sterility happens from the "women's disgust or her dullness" while having sex. If she doesn't orgasm, she aint having no babies (this medievel concept would be quite revolutionary for Indian males!)
An innovative Scotsman, James Graham charged 500 guineas a night (about $37,500) for electrotherapy cure for infertility. In his "Temple of Health", men listened to lectures on potency as they sat on chairs that emitted mild electrical shocks. Women, in another room, heard lectures sitting in electric baths or magnetic thrones (just imagine the scene...).
The real understanding of the biology of reproduction came in the early 20th century with greater understandings of, guess what..... gonorrhea. Wives of gonorrhea-infected men were unable to conceive. Infertility, doctors suddenly realized, was biological, could be due to a disease and could be the man's problem.
There is a sperm bank in the US called the Repository for Germinal Choice that prides itself on the "quality" of sperms in offers : only Nobel Prize winners and Olympic Athletes.
In a famous case a couple of years ago, a millionaire couple conceived embryos at an Australian clinic and were then killed in a plane crash before the embryos were implanted. Several women have applied to carry the emryos, hoping that they would become eligible to inherit the fortune the couple left behind!
That's enough fertility news for today.
Oh ya, I also learnt that it is FAAAAAAAAAAAAAR more difficult to make home-made yogurt in this country than back home. Unless you really want to hold a thermometer to the milk before you add the culture , be ready to move the unset yogurt from the radiator to the oven to the fridge all day. And it will probably still end up looking like a yellow-white curdled jelly.

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