Sunday, February 24, 2008

U.S politics (summarized)

A little boy goes to his dad and asks, "What are Politics?"
Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way:

1. I'm head of the family, so call me the President.

2. Your mother is the administrator of the money, so we call her
the Government.

3. We're here to take care of your needs, so we'll call you the

4. The nanny, we'll consider her the Working Class.

5. And your baby brother, we'll call him the Future. Now, think
about that and see if it makes sense."

So, the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has
said. Later that night, he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to
check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his diaper. So, the
little boy goes to his parent's room and finds his mother asleep. Not
wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked,
he looks in the peephole and finds his father in bed with the Nanny. He
gives up and goes back to bed.

The next morning, the little boy says to the father, "Dad, I think
I understand the concept of politics now."

The father says, "Good, son, tell me in your own words what you
think politics is all about."

The little boy replies, "The President is screwing the Working
Class, while the Government is sound asleep. The People are being ignored
and the Future is in deep shit."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tibetan refugees walking home

Yet again a remarkable email came to me through the digital ether. This time from a man whose life is marked by dedication and principles. I had the great fortune of meeting Tenzin Tsundue in 2006 while I was in India. His unwavering commitment, his enthusiasm, and his striking sense of humor all stand out vividly in my memory.

Tenzin Tsundue la has sent me information about a significant historical event in the making. Instead of summarizing it for you, I have pasted the letter below. Please follow the links to inform yourself more and be sure and tell others.

Tenzin Tsundue's Letter

Dear Friend,

The time has come for me to go to Tibet again. Last time when I went to Tibet in 1997 - after my graduation - I was arrested by the Chinese authorities, beaten up, interrogated, starved and finally thrown out of Tibet after keeping me in their jails for three months in Lhasa and Ngari. I walked to Tibet, on my own, alone, across the Himalayan Mountains from the Ladakh.

Eleven years later, I am walking to Tibet again; this time too, without permission. I am returning home; why should I bother about papers from Chinese colonial regime who have not only occupied Tibet, but also is running a military rule there; making our people in Tibet live in tyranny and brutal suppression day after day, everyday for fifty years.

The Year 2008 is a huge opportunity for the Tibet movement to present the injustices the Tibetans have been subjected to, when China is going to attract international media attention. I am taking part in the return march from Dharamsala to Tibet, that is being organized as a part of the "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement", a united effort put together by five major Tibetan NGOs: Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet (an association of former political prisoners), National Democratic Party of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, India.

The march will start on 10 March 2008, from Dharamsala, the capital of Tibetan exiles and will pass through Delhi and then head towards Tibet. Walking for six months, we might reach the Tibet border around the time China opens the Beijing 2008 Olympics (August 14-25). Presently it's too early to approximate at which border point we would be crossing; Tibet and India share a border that runs 4,075 Km along the length of the Himalayas. We might choose any point, or even multiple points. We'll see the situation.

I know there had been similar attempts in the past, but this is 2008, and I have seen the organizers working extra hard with strategic planning, taking care of every minute detail, and the best thing is that we have all the NGOs working unitedly for the common goal. This unity is our strength! I do not know where we would end up, that's why I am giving away the little collection of books (my only possession in life) to a library at is being setup in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala. My friends: Lobsang and Nyingje (who served in the Indian army as part of the Tibetan battalion) are also giving away their personal belongings; committing themselves for the march.

Of course the Indian police will do their duty; the Chinese army at the Tibet border would be overtly enthusiastic. Since we are leading a peaceful march, with absolute commitment to non-violence, I do not think anyone - either from Indian authority or Chinese - would impose themselves on us. Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March, even if they did try to stop us, we are not stopping. For how many days can they jail us for just walking peacefully? And why should the Indian government stop Tibetan refugees voluntarily returning home on foot?

In the past I have climbed buildings to shout for freedom, thrown myself at the Chinese embassy gate in New Delhi, spent months in jails, got beaten up police, fought court cases, but I never lost the dignity of the struggle: my believe in Non-violence. The March to Tibet will be non-violent; it is a sadhana, a spiritual tribute to the truth and justice that we are fighting for. This is our Long March to freedom.

And on our journey home, we will cook and camp in tents on the roadside, there will be the marchers and the support marchers, the kitchen team, logistics, media and the medical team. There will be dancing and singing, and theatre and film shows on the road as we take this long journey home.

Here is an opportunity to join a historic non-violent freedom struggle, a people's effort to win freedom for a country that remains subjugated even in 2008. I request you to join us, support us in whatever ways possible. We need people to know about it, so spread the word. You can walk with us, as we walk for six months, maybe you can join us for a day along the path, even one hour, or for a week, months as a supporter. Schools, colleges and even whole town can walk with us. We need volunteers, media people, writers, photographers, bloggers can help us. We need nurses, cooks, technicians and your prayers.

Ever since the march was announced on 4th January 2008, Tibetans have been talking about it; it's a major discussion in the refugee camps. Recently the organizers launched the entry form. And I heard people are slowly getting themselves registered. You too can register your volunteer online. For more information please visit:

For enquiries email the coordinators: Lobsang yeshi or sherab woser

Join us.

Tenzin Tsundue

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

a letter from Obama

I received an interesting email from a friend the other day. The state of the press being what it is in this country, the "key issues" for any given election are fed to us instead of decided by us. Below is the email explaining how my friend wanted to know about candidates' positions on something that the press has deemed unworthy of attention. Following that is a letter he received from Barack Obama's campaign offices. Enjoy!

email from Michael

Hi, I know some people have made up there minds on who's who for the final race. But a month ago I was looking at the U.S primaries and thought, "Yes, the War is a very important issue with thousands on all sides dying. Yes, the fact so many Americans are without health insurance is embarrassing and a human right. Yes the economy is bad, the middle class is disappearing, homelessness is higher than ever, etc. But just out of curiosity, what are the Democratic candidates' positions on the arts and culture?"

A creative culture is a competitive culture which means it is a economically strong culture. I thought about JFK's speech talking about Robert Frost. I went on to think, "Hey, a culture that is supportive of its artists is a healthy society, not just based on consumption, but on re-investing in its society. Being in the EU I see this all the time first hand."

So I wrote the Democratic candidates: no one responded. So I sent it again. Then this email arrived today. So, I am sending it along below. Often we think about just one issue. However a society is multifaceted; everything is intertwined. Here's some info for the curious. Admittedly no candidate is perfect. But hey, here's something regarding our fields. Some of its vague. But funding the NEA? Thats just crazy talk! Health care for artists, that's also crazy! : )

Please pass it onto anyone that's in the creative areas of production. Well, have to go paint. Friendly Greetings, Michael

Letter from Senator Barack Obama's Campaign Headquarters

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting us in support of the arts. Senator Obama is a champion for arts and culture. He knows that our nation's creativity has filled the world's libraries, museums, recital halls, movie houses, and marketplaces with works of genius. The arts embody the American spirit of self-definition. As the author of two best-selling books - Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope - Barack Obama uniquely appreciates the role and value of creative expression.

That's why he will reinvest in Arts Education. To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children's creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education. Unfortunately, many school districts are cutting instructional time for art and music education.

Barack believes that the arts should be a central part of effective teaching and learning. The Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts recently said, "The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society." To support greater arts education, Obama will:

Expand Public/Private Partnerships Between Schools and Arts Organizations: Barack Obama will increase resources for the U.S. Department of Education's Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination Grants, which develop public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations. Obama will also engage the foundation and corporate community to increase support for public/private partnerships.

Create an Artist Corps: Barack Obama supports the creation of an "Artists Corps" of young artists trained to work in low-income schools and their communities. Studies in Chicago have demonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

Publicly Champion the Importance of Arts Education: As president, Barack Obama will use the bully pulpit and the example he will set in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America. Not only is arts education indispensable for success in a rapidly changing, high skill, information economy, but studies show that arts education raises test scores in other subject areas as well.

Support Increased Funding for the NEA: Over the last 15 years, government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been slashed from $175 million annually in 1992 to $125 million today. Barack Obama supports increased funding for the NEA, the support of which enriches schools and neighborhoods all across the nation and helps to promote the economic development of countless communities.

Promote Cultural Diplomacy: American artists, performers and thinkers representing our values and ideals can inspire people both at home and all over the world. Through efforts like that of the United States Information Agency, America's cultural leaders were deployed around the world during the Cold War as artistic ambassadors and helped win the war of ideas by demonstrating to the world the promise of America. Artists can be utilized again to help us win the war of ideas against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, our resources for cultural diplomacy are at their lowest level in a decade. Barack Obama will work to reverse this trend and improve and expand public-private partnerships to expand cultural and arts exchanges throughout the world.

Attract Foreign Talent: The flipside to promoting American arts and culture abroad is welcoming members of the foreign arts community to America. Opening America's doors to students and professional artists provides the kind of two-way cultural understanding that can break down the barriers that feed hatred and fear. As America tightened visa restrictions after 9/11, the world's most talented students and artists, who used to come here, went elsewhere. Barack Obama will streamline the visa process to return America to its rightful place as the world's top destination for artists and art students.

Provide Health Care to Artists: Finding affordable health coverage has often been one of the most vexing obstacles for artists and those in the creative community. Since many artists work independently or have nontraditional employment relationships, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach. Barack Obama's plan will provide all Americans with quality, affordable health care.

His plan includes the creation of a new public program that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees. His plan also creates a National Health Insurance Exchange to reform the private insurance market and allow Americans to enroll in participating private plans, which would have to provide comprehensive benefits, issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums. For those who still cannot afford coverage, the government will provide a subsidy. His health plan will lower costs for the typical American family by up to $2,500 per year.

Ensure Tax Fairness for Artists: Barack Obama supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Act amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of their work, rather than just the costs of the materials, when they make charitable contributions.

Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate hearing from you.

What's the latest on the hunt for Al-Qaeda?

Don't Panic...your war questions answered


President Bush delivered the annual State of the Union address last week.

Though he didn't announce much in the way of policy initiatives – no new funding to stop teenagers from fornicating (2004) or initiatives to power vehicles with something called "switchgrass" (2006) – this year's SOTU was notable for several reasons.

First, it was Bush's final State of the Union. Next year, the SOTU will be delivered by a woman or man who will almost certainly be able to pronounce the word nuclear. Take a moment to savor that thought.

Secondly, the word "evil" appeared only once. Last year and in 2006, the e-word showed up twice. In 2003 he said it four times. In 2002 – a record five times. I guess his speech writer is finally convinced he sounds like a hillbilly Superfriend when he says it.

The most interesting part of Bush's speech, to me, was the comeback of al-Qaeda.

He A.Q.'d 10 times, up from one utterance in 2007.

Does saying "al-Qaeda" 10 times mean Bush was reasserting the importance of battling Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the part of the world in which al-Qaeda incubated and hatched the 9/11 attacks?

Does saying "al-Qaeda" 10 times mean a tacit acknowledgement by Bush that the invasion of Iraq was a catastrophic diversion from the real war on Islamic extremist terrorists?

No. And no.

It turns out nine of the 10 references in Bush's speech were to al-Qaeda in Iraq, a somewhat amorphous group of terrorists who a) did not exist before the U.S. invasion and b) did not declare an association with the al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden until 2004.

Using the name al-Qaeda in reference to Iraq is part of this White House's rhetorical effort designed to associate the invasion of Iraq with the 9/11 attacks, even though the two had nothing to do with one another. Iraq = al-Qaeda = 9/11, therefore Iraq = 9/11.

So how's the fight against al-Qaeda going – both the Iraq version and the 9/11 version?

Good and bad.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a significantly reduced threat from two years ago. Iraq's Sunni Arab population grew sick of its presence. Starting in late 2006, Sunni Arab tribal leaders began to team with one another and Americans to deny al-Qaeda in Iraq safe havens from which it was catalyzing a Sunni vs. Shi'a civil war in Iraq. The so-called troop surge of 2007, combined with the U.S. Army's much improved anti-insurgency tactics, have also helped. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is not eliminated, but it is weaker now than it has been since its birth in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Unfortunately, military success in Iraq has not been matched by political process.

The war against the other al-Qaeda, the one that attacked us on 9/11, isn't going so well.

In 2002, the United States pulled elite military and manhunting units out of Afghanistan for use in Iraq. Since then, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have grown stronger each year – launching more attacks, killing more people and operating over a growing area, which now includes much of neighboring Pakistan.

Two reports released last week, one by the Afghanistan Study Group, the other by the Atlantic Council of the United States, warned that Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a failed state. Taliban and al-Qaeda forces thrive in such conditions. Violence was up 27 percent in Afghanistan last year – even more so in the areas where American forces are concentrated.

Al-Qaeda's top two guys, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain at large. On the run for more than six years, both still manage to regularly issue messages to their followers. Last year, for the first time since 2004, bin Laden even appeared in a video. It wasn't as inspirational as say, 2 Girls 1 Cup, but his videotaped perseverance is a reminder of how badly the Bush White House lost its focus in the fight against terrorism. Al-Qaeda is growing. We're losing the fight.