Tuesday, July 22, 2014

IRAQI CITY OF MOSUL CLEANSED OF CHRISTIANS

Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.

“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.

The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.
....

Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has shrunk rapidly in the years since US-led forces pushed Saddam Hussein from power. Before 2003 the city’s Christians numbered some 60,000 people, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June this year, Mr Sako told AFP.
The United States is complicit in the destruction of the earliest Christian communities in the history of Christianity in Iraq as a result of sanctions and the invasion of the country.  As well, the US is complicit in the rise to power of IS (Islamic State) radical fundamentalists in northern Iraq.
The 1987 census gave 1.4 million Iraqi Christians out of a then population, probably, of 19 million. By 2003 the Christians were estimated at 800,000, with over half a million having emigrated during the years of harsh US/ UN sanctions, or having not been able to afford to have children. The US military occupation of Iraq gave Christianity a bad name and Iraqi Christians were most unfairly targeted as somehow American clients. Over half of the remaining Christians were said to have left by 2008, leaving about 300,000 or so. Now it appears that the remaining 300,000 are being ethnically cleansed in the north of Iraq, where most Christians had lived.
Wars always produce unintended consequences, but the mindless rush to invade Iraq on the basis of lies and deception resulted in the destruction of Iraqi society, along with most of its institutions. We see the results in the violence in Iraq today.  How ironic that the cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein, protected Christians in Iraq, even as the violent intervention by the US enabled the rise of cruel and violent Islamic fundamentalists who completed the destruction of the Christian communities.

Republicans and right-wingers can rave on from now till kingdom come blaming President Obama for the chaos in Iraq, but the facts of history show that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of  Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush and their enablers in Congress, including, I'm sad to say, Democrats in both houses.

Friday, July 18, 2014

BROOKLYN FLEA MARKET



The flea market was attractive and well worth a visit and included food and drink booths for those who were hungry and thirsty. We walked from the subway station down Lafayette Ave, a pretty part of the borough with elegant old houses, which I'm sure cost the earth.

My granddaughter likes vintage clothing. She bought a dress at the market and souvenirs for her family and friends. The dress looked homemade, but very nicely done. If it was vintage, it was recent, because the style was of today. The photo shows Ashlynn trying to decide.

My daughter bought souvenirs, too, and one or two pieces of inexpensive jewelry for herself.

Since I no longer do souvenirs, I purchased only an inexpensive foldable sun hat to go with my collection of foldable sun hats, all of which I forget at home when I travel, thus leading me to buy yet another foldable sun hat.

 
My favorite item that I didn't buy was the pink elephant, a nostalgic reminder (for other people) of boozy wild and reckless nights.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ROSES!


During our visit to New York City, we visited the New York Botanical Gardens.  The roses in the rose garden were past their prime, but I photographed one cluster that was still beautiful. My daughter walked around the garden with pen and paper noting the names of the varieties she liked, I suppose with a view to future planting.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

LATE AGAIN, ALAS


Our new rector at St John's Episcopal Church, Fr Doug, will be serving two congregations, ours in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgan City, Louisiana.  Since the two churches are around 30 miles apart, Fr Doug will not be presiding at Sunday services at both churches but will rather be present in each church every other Sunday.  On the Sundays when Fr Doug is not with us, we will have Morning Prayer with a lay member of the congregation leading the service.

In order to touch base with both church communities each weekend, Fr Doug will try out a 5:00 PM Eucharistic service on the Saturdays preceding the Sunday he will be serving at our sister church, an arrangement which I hope will work out for my own selfish reason, since I'm not a morning person, and I'm rather habitually late for the 10:30 morning service. 

Yesterday, I attended the first Saturday service, and you'd think I'd be able to arrive on time, right?  Ah, but you'd be wrong.  Since I returned from New York City last Wednesday evening, I was so happy to be home, that I had not left the house until I was ready to go to church yesterday.  Before I left for my trip, I removed my set of keys from my purse, because it is rather heavy, and I forgot to put the keys back in place.  After I reached my car, I realized I had no key to get in the car, nor did I have a key to get back in the house.

Where is Grandpère when I need him?  Gone fishing, so I had to find the extra set of keys to the house in the secret hiding place, which involved getting on my knees in damp mulch and fishing around till I found them, with the result that I was late to the first Saturday Eucharist and retained my reputation for tardiness, alas.  Better next time?  I hope so.

Friday, July 11, 2014

CITIZEN M HOTEL IN NEW YORK CITY


The lobby with bookshelves for the use of guests at CitizenM Hotel on W 50th St in NYC. We loved staying at the hotel. The location is convenient, right in the heart of Midtown activity, with two nearby subway stations. The staff is welcoming, friendly, and helpful. Though the rooms are small, the efficient arrangement of comfortable furnishings is such that we did not feel crowded. The shower is wonderfully spacious, with a rain shower head and another removable shower head. The excellent and reasonably priced food buffets are a big plus, as well as the warm and welcoming atmosphere the hotel lobby, which made us feel that we were in a real home away from home.


 Below is a photo from the top of the Empire State Building during the rains from Hurricane Arthur, the worst of which missed New York City.
 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

HOUSE OF CARDS (SPOILER ALERT CONT.)


Whoa again!  The American version of House of Cards is a mind-bender.  Having finished watching Season 1, Episode 17, I find myself cheering the evil villain, Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), and viewing the reporter, Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), who only wants to know the truth and reveal the ugliness, as an annoyance.  Spacey's direct addresses to the audience, confiding in us and revealing what's in his mind, draw us into sympathy with his character and make us complicit in his misdeeds.

Night before last, I watched two episodes right before going to bed.  The stories were so intense, and I was so keyed up that I tossed and turned and didn't fall asleep until 3:00 AM.  Hereafter, I will watch the series during the day and try to take them with more than one grain of salt.  The script, direction, and acting are so excellently done that I completely suspend disbelief, enter fully into the reality of the drama, and wind down rather slowly afterward.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BOBBY JINDAL - DICTATOR OF LOUISIANA

Igniting new controversy, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday he is ordering Louisiana out of the Common Core tests as part of a series of moves to drop the new academic standards after the Legislature refused to do so.

“We need to start this process over,” Jindal told reporters.

But state Superintendent of Education John White, who Jindal pushed for the job, took the unusual step of publicly charging that the governor is wrong on the law and that Common Core plans will continue for the 2014-15 school year.
Though I'm not a great fan of Common Core, what Jindal is about is disallowing intrusion by the feds in schools in Louisiana and allowing instructions in creationism, a 10,000 year young earth, and humans walking with dinosaurs in science classes because of pressure Christian fundamentalists including the likes of Tony Perkins and his Focus on the Family tribe. Also, students in some of the junk charter schools that the state supports with tuition vouchers will never pass the tests, but Jindal does not want anyone to know.

I hope his latest maneuver to throw out the tests without the approval of the State Superintendent of Education, John White, whom he appointed to great fanfare, and Chas Roemer, president of BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education), is illegal. I hope he does something illegal that has consequences, because Jindal is a virtual dictator, since even the usually supine state legislature would not vote to throw out Common Core, and he's determined to act on his own.

He's living a fantasy if he thinks he will be the candidate of the Republican Party, but, in the meantime, he is destroying the state. Since John White is defying Jindal at the moment, I would not be surprised if Jindal fired him.

Jindal is under great pressure from fundamentalist Christians like Tony Perkins and his gang. He graduated with a degree in biology from Brown University and was a Rhodes Scholar. Presumably, he knows the science, but he operates from pure personal lust to be president or, at the very least, vice-president of the US.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

HOUSE OF CARDS (SPOILER ALERT!)


Whoa! I've watched all the episodes of Season 1 of the American version of House of Cards, the fictional series based on operations of the US government in Washington DC produced by Netflix. Kevin Spacey, as Francis Underwood (D-SC), majority whip in the US House of Representatives, is da bomb. Makes ya feel raght proud of yoah democracy, don't it? I'm late to the party, but I'm, hooked, though after watching some of the episodes, I felt I needed a shower. Does our government really function so slimily and crookedly up there in DC? I hope the series presents an exaggerated view of evil in the operations in our nation's capital, but I'm not certain.

The series is well-written with many quotable lines, most not suitable for polite conversation.  I'm way behind the curve in watching, but it's great to discover a show that's so good and to know I have more episodes to watch.  I can't recommend the series highly enough, if you've the stomach for it. I had no idea what I was missing, as the American version of the series is brilliant.  

Kevin Spacey is amazing as Frank Underwood, and he's well-matched with Robin Wright, who holds her own in her role as his wife, Claire. One critic compared her to Lady Macbeth.  At first, I thought I'd find Spacey's asides to the audience annoying, but I love them.  Shakespeare!  Frank and Claire are the ultimate power couple, and I wondered early on if they would stop at murder if they could get away with it.  Soon enough I had my answer.  Francis is the do-it-yourself Godfather.  No mess or blood.  A clean kill.  I confess, I'm somewhat embarrassed to be mesmerized by a show that portrays the ruthlessness and cynicism of insiders in our government.

The first season ends with Underwood in deep water facing the difficult task of making his way to the surface and rising above.  If you've watched, you know, and, if you haven't watched and intend to, I hope you're not reading this.  You can't say I didn't warn you.  And please, no spoilers for Season 2.

Monday, June 16, 2014

WHAT SHOULD THE US DO ABOUT IRAQ?

Dexter Filkins in a blog post in The New Yorker:
For many months, the Obama and Maliki governments talked about keeping a residual force of American troops in Iraq, which would act largely to train Iraq’s Army and to provide intelligence against Sunni insurgents. (It would almost certainly have been barred from fighting.) Those were important reasons to stay, but the most important went largely unstated: it was to continue to act as a restraint on Maliki’s sectarian impulses, at least until the Iraqi political system was strong enough to contain him on its own. The negotiations between Obama and Maliki fell apart, in no small measure because of a lack of engagement by the White House. Today,many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now Iraq. Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and theywould become your partners.” President Obama wanted the Americans to come home, and Maliki didn’t particularly want them to stay.
My comment in response to the post:
Dexter, years ago, I read your brilliant articles in the New York Times when you covered the Battle of Fallujah,  and I sent you emails commending you for your courage and honesty in reporting on the battle.  You answered my emails and we corresponded for a while.  I know you know Iraq far better than I do and that you came to care for the welfare of the Iraqi people while you reported from their war-torn country.

Still, I am shocked and surprised that you blame Obama's "disengagement" from Iraq for part of the killing and chaos we see today.  The president inherited a papered-over chaotic mess.  The Bush/Cheney administration wrecked the country, and there was no way Obama could have fixed the situation.  You'd have to make the case for me that a few hundred or even a few thousand US military left in the country would have made a difference.

You say:

Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and they would become your partners.”

Why would you take these words at face-value?  Maliki wanted us out, and we wanted out, so a very strong case would have had to be made to both sides to keep our military there.  Now it's all gone bad, and Maliki wants us back.  As others have already said, Iraq is three countries which were grouped into one geographical mass by foreign powers, and the movement now is strongly toward break-up.  I fail to understand how a small group of American military could make a difference, and I fail to see how the Obama administration is to blame.

When we send arms to Syria, we are not sure whom we are arming, nor are we certain where the arms will end up.  The same will be true in Iraq, and we end up arming opposing forces in both countries.

I wondered where the war-mongering neo-cons, who are now nipping at Obama's heels, got their talking points, and I thought it was pure made-up let's-get Obama-at-any-cost talk because an election approaches, but, to my great disappointment, I see one answer in this blog post, alas.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A STUDENT'S PLEA

A student shows up at the end of a young professor's office hours.  She hurriedly glances up and down the hall, closes his door, and kneels pleadingly in front of his chair.

"Professor, I need to pass this exam," she says, "I would do anything in order to pass the course."  She leans closer to him, flips back her hair, and gazes meaningfully into his eyes. "I mean," she whispers, "I would do anything . . . . " 

He returns her gaze, "Anything?"

"Anything."

His voice softens, "Anything?"

"Anything," she repeats again.

His voice turns to a whisper. "Would you . . .  study?"

(Thanks or blame to Paul A.)