Sunday, 28 December 2008

When life and love turn strange

Up, Down.

Atong ArjokIt's hard to make that change,
When life and love turn strange
And cold.


     Neil Young, A Man Needs A Maid, Harvest, 1972.

(Wikipedia: Atong Arjok, born October 5th, 1985, is a American-Sudanese model. She was discovered in Los Angeles by L.A. Models. Five foot nine Sudanese model Atong Arjok is one of the top Nubian models to have hit the runway since Alek Wek.)

Who cares? Who knows? Who wants to know? The Good Samaritan? Keep in mind, the Good Samaritan is (just?) a story. As well, once turned, mere communication (mere?) is more-and-more problematic.

Oluchi OnweagbaBut you will wind up
Peeking through her keyhole
Down upon your knees.


     Bob Dylan, She Belongs To Me, Bringing It All Back Home, 1965.

(Wikipedia: Oluchi Onweagba, born August 1, 1980, is a Nigerian model. Reportedly she was discovered selling bread on the streets of Lagos in order to make ends meet.)

Alek WekJoy to the world, the Lord is come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.


     Isaac Watts, The Psalms of Da­vid, 1719.

(Wikipedia: Alek Wek, born 16 April 1977, is a Sudanese Supermodel who appeared on the catwalks at the age of 18 in 1995. She is from the Dinka ethnic group in the Sudan, but in 1991 she and some family members fled to Britain to escape the civil war between the Muslim north and the Christian south of the Sudan. She later moved to the United States.)


Down.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Self Portrait - no sound of water.

Up, Down.

(Course not, Fool! sez Mr. T, too cold out there for water! QED, sez I.)

Moradores ilhados em pleno asfalto
"Moradores ilhados em pleno asfalto," a headline lifted from Jornal do Brasil. Literally, 'Residents are stranded in full asphalt' - 'full asphalt' or 'right in the middle of the asphalt' needs a bit of explanation maybe, 'asfalto' is a quality of civilized parts of the city, as distinguished from the 'morros' / hills, which are favelas / slums, and consequently uncivilized. An interesting corollary of this land-use pattern is that only the poor, living in the favelas, get a view.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas


Well, I wish I was
On some Australian mountain range.
Oh, I wish I was
On some Australian mountain range.
I got no reason to be there, but I
Imagine it would be some kind of change.


Bob Dylan, Outlaw Blues, 1965.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas


What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.


T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922.

Lençóis, Maranhão, DunasLençóis, Maranhão, Dunas
(Fotos de dunas em Lençóis, Maranhão, Brasil.)


ARIEL canta:

Teu pai está a cinco braças.
Dos ossos nasceu coral,
dos olhos, pérolas baças.
Tudo nele é perenal;
mas em algo peregrino
transforma-o o mar de contínuo
O sino das ninfas soa:
Dim, dim, dão!
Escutai como reboa:
Dim, dim, dão!

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong.
Hark! now I hear them: Ding-dong, bell.

Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbios 15:13 O coração alegre aformoseia o rosto; mas pela dor do coração o espírito se abate.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMA-QbDYGhU

Lone Pilgrim

I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay,
And pensively stood by his tomb,
When in a low whisper I heard something say:
How sweetly I sleep here below.

The tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar
And gathering storms may arise,
But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul,
The tears are all wiped from my eyes.

The call of my Master compelled me from home,
No kindred or relative nigh.
I met the contagion and sank to the tomb,
My soul flew to mansions on high.

Go tell my companion and children most dear
To weep not for me now I'm gone.
The same hand that led me through seas most severe
Has kindly assisted me home.


THE WHITE PILGRIM'S GRAVE
Written at Johnsonburg, N. J., 1836 by John Ellis about Joseph Thomas.

I came to the spot where White Pilgrim lay
And pensively stood by his tomb
When, in a low whisper, I heard something say:
"How sweetly I sleep here alone.

"The tempest may howl and the loud thunders roll
And gathering storms may arise;
Yet calm are my feelings, at rest is my soul,
The tears are all wiped from my eyes.

"The cause of my Master impelled me from home,
I bade my companion farewell:
I left my sweet children who for me now mourn,
In far distant regions to dwell.

I wandered an exile and stranger below,
To publish salvation abroad;
The trump of the gospel endeavor to blow,
Inviting poor sinners to God.

"But when among strangers, and far from my home,
No kindred or relative nigh,
I met the contagion and sank in the tomb,
My spirit to mansions on high.

"Go tell my companion and children most dear,
To weep not for Joseph, though gone;
The same hand that led me through scenes dark and drear,
Has kindly conducted me home."

Down.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Perfect Metaphor indeed

Up, Down.

as we get towards the roots of language, begin to talk in terms (however besmirched by the deconstructivists) of 'master narrative' ... all good ... unfortunately for me it mostly fuels my frustration & anger (turned carefully inward y'unnerstan), but it reminded me of Social Imaginary this morning, leaving me briefly hopeful

Ronald McDonald, GluttonyGeorge Bush, Sapatrix, Matrix, Asterix, SapatãoThere is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Sapatão / big shoe, Brasilian slang for 'lesbian'.


Greed grab and Bush's triumphalist national narrative, Jeffrey Simpson, December 19, 2008.

The economic tsunami now battering the world began in the United States, where it has supplied a perfect metaphor for the Bush administration.

Maçã do AmorAmericans have overwhelmingly passed judgment on George Bush, consigning him to the dust heap of awful presidents. But have they passed sufficient judgment on themselves? Americans elected Mr. Bush twice and, even today, amidst the economic ruin of his policies, still seem wedded to the triumphalist national narrative he evoked.

There is much pain in the United States today, but not much humility. Nor is there prudence.

Had prudence been America's guide, the credit-card splurges, the bingo capitalism, the Wall Street greed, the executives' grotesquely inflated payments, the personal and national indebtedness, the fiscal deficits and all the other symptoms of a society living beyond its means that marked the Bush years would never have occurred.

There was a time, back in the 1950s and early 1960s, when Republicans believed in prudence, or at least thought they did. In those years, they stood for a strong defence, anti-communism, small government, low taxes and a balanced budget. Spend what you have, and no more, was a bedrock Republican idea.

Then came the intellectual revolution of Barry Goldwater's rage against the state, social conservatism, Arthur Laffer's curve, and the idea that ever-lower taxes would bring ever-higher revenues, so that budgets could and would be balanced by some miracle that had previously escaped economists and, indeed, previous generations of sound-money, balanced-budget Republicans.

Mr. Bush epitomized and practised all these ideas, with the result that he presided over tax cuts that disproportionately favoured the already wealthy, deficits in every fiscal year, more national debt, and wars abroad without revenue at home to pay for them. His answer, after 9/11, included the advice to Americans that they could fight terrorism by going shopping.

As the rich got richer, some got more venal, or at least practised venality on a vast scale. On Wall Street, and beyond, the prevailing attitude was to get rich as quickly as possible, since everybody else was doing it, and tax rates were so low on the wealthy that you really could - and should - keep almost all of what you earned.

The greed grab led to hedge funds, demand for instant returns, cutthroat attitudes and executive compensation of breathtaking size - while the wages of ordinary Americans stagnated. The resulting inequalities were staggering, and the debt loads immense, but entirely in keeping with a trickle-down theory of economics that had implanted itself in Republican theology once prudence and balance were abandoned.

In the Bush narrative, everyone would get ahead in the transcendentally powerful United States, the envy of the world, whose economy could not fail and whose houses and stocks and investments of all kinds would just keep rising. The country could fight two wars without taxing itself to pay for them, and spend at home far more than it earned, and borrow from the Chinese, who depended on the U.S. consumer to buy China's products.

As the debts grew, rather than whistles being blown at the White House and the Federal Reserve, new and increasingly incomprehensible financial devices were invented to bundle debt and sell it to someone else who might, in turn, repackage and sell it, so that the financial services industry increasingly defied transparency and took on the shape of a vast pyramid scheme. But the United States, Mr. Bush kept saying, was the land of freedom and free markets, a light unto the world, even though in most corners of the planet, the country's reputation had darkened under the Bush presidency.

Seldom, if ever, has one president so damaged his country's international profile; and seldom, with the possible exception of Herbert Hoover, has one president's economic policies so damaged his country's domestic capacities. But remember that George Bush merely practised a certain set of policies, and pursued a certain set of approaches, that reflected the intellectual revolutions that had transformed the Republican Party and, because it was the dominant party, transformed the United States into a debtor nation at home and a disliked one abroad.

Having bequeathed such a disaster to the country, the unsuspecting might assume that Republicans would embark on a wholesale self-examination.

Instead, the last election so shrank the party that its core of the elderly and the angry and the devoutly religious now control the intellectual and political leadership. The heirs of Mr. Bush, and of the thinking he practised, are in charge, having learned and forgotten nothing.

The opponents of Mr. Bush, soon to be in charge, must add trillions to the country's existing debts, hoping to begin what must at some point, necessarily, be a return to some semblance of prudence and moderation and limits, or what we might call good old-fashioned, although recently out of fashion, pragmatism.

Down.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Quem canta seus males espanta

Up, Down.

Cornered Mike Baldwin RansomCarla Bruni Michel ComteQuem Canta Seus Males Espanta
Zélia Duncan / Itamar Assumpção


Entro em transe se canto, desgraça vira encanto
Meu coração bate tanto, sinto tremores no corpo
Direto e reto, suando, gemendo, resfolegando
Eu me transformo em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
`as vezes eu choro tanto, já logo quando levanto
Tem dias fico com medo, invoco tudo que é santo
E clamo em italiano ó dio come ti amo
Eu me transmuto em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mão meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
Vivo voando, voando, não passo de louca mansa
Cheia de tesão por dentro, se rola na face o pranto
Deixo que role e pronto, meus males eu mesma espanto
Eu me transbordo em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento
É pelos palcos que vivo, seguindo o meu destino
É tudo desde menina, é muito mais do que isso
É bem maior que aquilo , sereia eis minha sina
Eu me descubro em outras, determinados momentos
Cubro com as mãos meu rosto, sozinha no apartamento


YouTube.

Down.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Justice? Shame on the RCMP. Shame on Canada.

Up, Down, In This Thread.

'Form 3996'

Latest activity at the Braidwood Inquiry, complete transcripts available there - the Mountie goons will testify beginning Monday February 23.

Paul Pritchard's Video, YouTube have made this video hard to reach, probably at the behest of the RCMP, but if you bear with it and create an account you can see it.

B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan LoweB.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General spokesman Stan Lowe

The pictures are of Stan Lowe, mouthpiece for "The Crown." I would rather have had pictures of the four mountie goons but they are being "protected." This Stan Lowe fellow does not look too happy in the last one - knows he is dealing down and dirty maybe, not lying exactly ... dealing in provisional truths. In the first picture you can see his wedding ring, and in the second he looks a bit like a dancer - maybe they have a good life.

Third picture reminds me of Psalm 12: "They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak."

In announcing that no charges will be laid against the RCMP, Crown concludes officers were 'lawfully engaged in their duties.'

Perpetrators:
          Constable Kwesi Millington (with Taser),
          Constable Bill Bentley,
          Constable Gerry Rundel, and
          Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson.

B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General.
Wally Oppal, Attorney-General of BC.
Crown spokesman Stan Lowe
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

Polish Embassy.


Mounties will not be charged in B.C. taser death (text below).
Airport death not caused by tasers, B.C. says (text below).
Letters to the Editor of the Globe:
          David Forbes,
          Christopher Barry,
          Tai Lee,
          Douglas Taylor,
          Dan Fraser, and
          Mynalee Johnstone.

Mountie involved in Taser incident reassigned to Toronto (text below).

Mounties will not be charged in B.C. taser death, Ian Bailey & Caroline Alphonso, December 11, 2008.

VANCOUVER/TORONTO - Four Mounties who used a taser to subdue Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski moments before he died of undisclosed injuries at Vancouver International Airport last year will not face criminal charges for their conduct, B.C.'s criminal justice branch will announce Friday.

CTV News is reporting that the Crown concluded there is insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution in the case, which raised a furious debate over the police use of tasers that still continues.

The Crown's decision caps a far-flung investigation by members of B.C.'s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that took officers as far away as Poland.

Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother, said from her home in Kamloops Thursday night that she had been informed of the Crown's decision by her lawyer, but that she could not comment on the matter before a news conference Friday.

The criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General has convened a media briefing Friday.

Premier Gordon Campbell said Thursday he was not aware of any decision on the matter, but that the whole affair had clearly been gruelling for all parties.

"It's obviously a very serious matter. There are four RCMP officers that I am sure have been wondering about what they did and what the consequences are."

Mr. Campbell, who last year phoned Ms. Cisowski to apologize for what happened to her son, also acknowledged her suffering.

"Unfortunately, the mother never gets to retrieve her son and those are very, very tough things for all of us to think about. What's important is we thoroughly review those and fairly review them to see what exactly the circumstances are."

Four Mounties were summoned to the international arrivals section of the airport after Mr. Dziekanski, 40, who did not speak English, began acting in an erratic manner after wandering for hours in the customs area of the complex. He was supposed to meet his mother, who was sponsoring his move to Canada, but he became confused after a 14-hour flight and 10-hour wait to find her.

Now that charges are not being laid, the officers can testify at an inquiry headed by commissioner Thomas Braidwood into police use of tasers. The RCMP said it wouldn't participate or provide the commission with access to its files until a decision had been made on charges.

The four officers have been under a great deal of pressure awaiting the outcome of the investigation and "are looking forward to getting it behind them," said RCMP Sergeant Mike Ingles, who covers officers in the South Fraser area.

Airport death not caused by tasers, B.C. says, Ian Bailey & Caroline Alphonso, December 13, 2008.

In announcing that no charges will be laid against the RCMP, Crown concludes officers were 'lawfully engaged in their duties.'

VANCOUVER, TORONTO -- The use of a taser did not cause the cardiac arrest that killed Robert Dziekanski during a confrontation with four Mounties at Vancouver International Airport last year, B.C.'s Crown office said yesterday as it ruled out charges against the officers.

"There is a substantial body of independent evidence which supports that the officers in question were lawfully engaged in their duties when they encountered Mr. Dziekanski," Crown spokesman Stan Lowe told a news conference that offered new details about the case.

"The force they used to subdue and restrain him was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances," said Mr. Lowe, noting there was no "substantial likelihood of conviction" for assault, assault with a weapon or manslaughter. "In fact, the available evidence falls markedly short of this standard."

Autopsy results outlined for the first time yesterday suggest various factors could have led to the heart attack that killed the 40-year-old Polish immigrant, including heart disease associated with chronic alcohol abuse, an agitated state of delirium and an inability to breathe while being restrained.

One forensic pathologist on the case noted that what happened to Mr. Dziekanski was "sudden death following restraint," a syndrome that predates the use of tasers. It took officers 30 seconds to restrain and subdue Mr. Dziekanski after he was tasered, and one officer pushed his knee into Mr. Dziekanski's shoulder and neck area during the effort.

The Crown, relying on an investigation by the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that took officers to Poland for four days, noted that Mr. Dziekanski was "in a highly fearful and panicked state, bordering on hysterical" on the morning of Oct. 13, 2007, about his first-ever flight to Canada to join his mother in Kamloops, suggesting that may have contributed to anxiety that prompted the fatal confrontation with officers early on Oct. 14.

The Polish embassy in Ottawa expressed disappointment that no one was held accountable for Mr. Dziekanski's death.

"Reading the [Crown's] statement, it appears that the main reason for Mr. Dziekanski's death was his fear of flying, tiredness and lack of ability to communicate in English. Particularly disconcerting, though factually baseless, are repeated insinuations of alcohol abuse," a statement said.

"Because of the great interest ... in the case we believe that a public inquiry led by an independent court would have been even more transparent and convincing."

The Crown also disclosed yesterday that Mr. Dziekanski was jolted three times in a so-called "probe mode" where wires projected from the weapon apply electrical current, and twice in a "push stun mode" where the device causes localized pain. At one point, the device was not properly operating. The stun gun was used for a total of 31 seconds.

The embassy questioned why the stun gun was used five times, "including twice towards a person who is already lying on the ground convulsing."

For the first time yesterday, the officers were identified by surname as Constables Millington, Bentley, Rundel and Robinson. The Crown office did not respond to requests for their first names. Two of the officers have been reassigned to Eastern Canada. One has other duties. None now use tasers.

One officer has been suspended with pay. Constable Benjamin Robinson has been accused of impaired driving in connection with a traffic accident, while off duty, that killed a 21-year-old man in October. He has not been charged.

Choking back tears, Mr. Dziekanski's mother said yesterday that the Crown was blaming her son. Zofia Cisowski said she is considering civil action.

"It sounds to me like they are looking for any excuses to find a good reason to blame Robert and justify their action," she said.

She said that her son had a drinking problem 20 years ago. "It has nothing to do with what they did [at Vancouver International airport]. ... He wasn't an alcoholic," she said.

Her lawyer, Walter Kosteckyj, said the Crown failed to reveal yesterday that Mr. Dziekanski had an unopened bottle of vodka in his carry-on luggage that he was bringing for his mother's friend.

The Crown said that a contributing factors to Mr. Dziekanski's death was alcohol withdrawal. "Had he wanted to have a drink, he had that on his person for the entire time in his carry-on bag. And no one seems to mention that," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

Taser International welcomed news that its device did not directly cause the cardiac arrest that led to Mr. Dziekanski's death.

"The Crown has overturned the Canadian court of public opinion which for over a year has laid blame on the RCMP officers and the use of a taser device for the unfortunate death of Mr. Dziekanski," said Peter Holran, spokesman for the Arizona-based company.

The case is subject to an investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, a commission of inquiry on police taser use and a planned B.C. Coroner's Inquest.

David Forbes

Medicine Hat, Alta. -- It has been obvious from the start there was no criminal intent in the unfortunate death of Robert Dziekanski. The issue is the use of tasers.

Over and over, these devices are part of an equation that makes people die. Jolt someone with a blast of power to immobilize their muscles, and the heart seems to stop working, especially if the person is in an agitated state. Why can't all law enforcement agencies suspend the use of tasers until someone figures out what is really happening? Too many people have died where there was never a reason for them to die. Robert Dziekanski was just one of them.

Christopher Barry

Toronto -- I have not decided which is more appalling: that an unarmed, unilingual Polish visitor to Canada, lost in a secured area of Vancouver International Airport for hours, is tasered and dies in an encounter with four RCMP officers or, that after months of investigation, the criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General has decided not to press charges against the officers who killed the man, an act that was captured on video for the world to see (Mounties Will Not Be Charged in B.C. Taser Death - Dec. 12).

Tai Lee

Woodbridge, Ont. -- Robert Dziekanski didn't speak English. The Mounties were told this. It appears the officers wanted to get the situation with him under their control as soon as possible, rather than to understand the situation.

Moreover, simple math says that when four Mounties deal with one man, using a taser more than once is obviously unacceptable. My heart goes out to the Dziekanski family.

Douglas Taylor

Edmonton -- I suppose it's only practical the Mounties won't face criminal charges for being such bumbling fools they inadvertently killed someone. But they sure as heck should face some kind of discipline and censure for clearly being incompetent.

Dan Fraser

Toronto -- A valuable lesson has been taught with the death of Robert Dziekanski. Never ever become confused, angry, frustrated or unable to effectively communicate with authorities at the Vancouver International Airport.

Mynalee Johnstone

Saltspring Island, B.C. -- This is absurd. We all saw the video.

Mountie involved in Taser incident reassigned to Toronto, Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun, Friday, December 12, 2008.

The Richmond Mountie who Tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski five times in an altercation at Vancouver International Airport last year has been reassigned to the Toronto West detachment.

Const. Kwesi Millington deployed his Taser five times - the last two in "push stun mode" during the incident on Oct. 14, 2007, according to the Attorney-General's Ministry's Criminal Justice Branch. Dziekanski died shortly after.

Millington had worked at the Richmond RCMP detachment for less than five years before the incident. He did not return The Vancouver Sun's phone calls Friday.

The three other Mounties involved in the Tasering were identified Friday by Crown counsel as Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, who had worked in Richmond for about 10 years, and constables Bentley and Rundel.

Police refused to release the first names of the two constables, who had also worked out of the Richmond detachment for less than five years. Both have been reassigned. Rundel is believed to be in Nanaimo now, and it was not know where Bentley has been transferred.

A message left for Rundel at the Nanaimo detachment was not returned.

Sgt. Tim Shields said the officers' names shouldn't be released because no charges were laid against them.

Meanwhile, Robinson was reassigned to the 2010 Integrated Security Unit, but was suspended with pay after motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson, 21, was fatally struck by a Jeep in Delta.

Delta police said Hutchinson was thrown from his motorcycle after it collided with the Jeep. Robinson faces charges of impaired driving causing death and exceeding .08 blood-alcohol content.

Before moving to Metro Vancouver, Robinson worked for several years in Merritt and Chase. In 2002, he won a provincial bravery award along with two other officers after confronting and arresting a man armed with an axe and a bat at the Adams Lake Indian band office.

Down.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Piracy (?)

Up, Down.

What goes around, comes around ...



A larger narrative emerges from these stories - but you will have to read it all, slowly, to get the savour. A refresher on the tsunami of December 2004 would be helpful, and maybe a Google on Shidane Arone and 'Blackhawk Down' and the first battle of Mogadishu - both events in 1993.

'We consider ourselves heroes' - a Somali pirate speaks, Xan Rice & Abdiqani Hassan, Saturday November 22 2008.

Asad 'Booyah' Abdulahi, 42, describes himself as a pirate boss, capturing ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Here he tells his story.

I am 42 years old and have nine children. I am a boss with boats operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

I finished high school and wanted to go to university but there was no money. So I became a fisherman in Eyl in Puntland like my father, even though I still dreamed of working for a company. That never happened as the Somali government was destroyed [in 1991] and the country became unstable.

At sea foreign fishing vessels often confronted us. Some had no licence, others had permission from the Puntland authorities but did not want us there to compete. They would destroy our boats and force us to flee for our lives.

I started to hijack these fishing boats in 1998. I did not have any special training but was not afraid. For our first captured ship we got $300,000. With the money we bought AK-47s and small speedboats. I don't know exactly how many ships I have captured since then but I think it is about 60. Sometimes when we are going to hijack a ship we face rough winds, and some of us get sick and some die.

We give priority to ships from Europe because we get bigger ransoms. To get their attention we shoot near the ship. If it does not stop we use a rope ladder to get on board. We count the crew and find out their nationalities. After checking the cargo we ask the captain to phone the owner and say that have seized the ship and will keep it until the ransom is paid.

We make friends with the hostages, telling them that we only want money, not to kill them. Sometimes we even eat rice, fish, pasta with them. When the money is delivered to our ship we count the dollars and let the hostages go.

Then our friends come to welcome us back in Eyl and we go to Garowe in Land Cruisers. We split the money. For example, if we get $1.8m, we would send $380,000 to the investment man who gives us cash to fund the missions, and then divide the rest between us.

Our community thinks we are pirates getting illegal money. But we consider ourselves heroes running away from poverty. We don't see the hijacking as a criminal act but as a road tax because we have no central government to control our sea. With foreign warships now on patrol we have difficulties.

But we are getting new boats and weapons. We will not stop until we have a central government that can control our sea.


Photo of Master Corporal Clayton Matchee & Shidane Arone, by Private Kyle Brown.

Photo of Abdul Hassan, "the one who never sleeps," by Veronique de Viguerie.

Prelude to Piracy - The Poor Fishermen of Somalia, 12/04/2008, Horand Knaup.

Firing shots at a luxury cruise ship, taking a super tanker hostage: the papers are full of Somalia's audacious pirates. But the local fishermen grab fewer headlines -- and have a stricken existence.

The outcry, addressed to the United Nations and the international community, was loud and bitter. "Help us solve the problem," said professional fisherman Muhammed Hussein from the coastal city of Marka, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu. "What is happening here is economic terrorism."

Jeylani Shaykh Abdi, another Somali fisherman, added: "They are not just robbing us of our fish. They are ramming our boats and taking our nets -- including the catch."

It wasn't long ago that Somali fisherman were loudly complaining about the poor state of their lives and livelihoods. About 700 ships from other countries, they said, were casting their nets along Somalia's roughly 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) of coastline, using practices that showed little consideration for the fish stocks or local fishermen. None of the trawlers, the Somali fishermen claimed, had a license or an agreement with the government in Mogadishu. Of course, that government has wielded practically no influence over the past 15 years.

The intruders, Hussein and Shaykh Abdi complained, used nets with very small mesh sizes and fished with banned dragnets, and with dynamite in some cases. The foreign fishing boats would ram local fishing vessels, pour boiling water on them and, if they still refused to budge, shoot at them. It was not unusual for the intruders to hire Somali militias to drive away the local fishermen.

That was in 2006. The outcry was loud and clear -- but without any results.

Back then the Somali fishermen were doing badly. Today they are even worse off. Trawlers from faraway places continue to ply the waters off the long coastline, ships from Japan and India, as well as Italy and Spain. The Spanish fishing cutter that pirates hijacked in May and the Thai trawler an Indian warship inadvertently sank in early November provided evidence of just how attractive the Somali fishing grounds are worldwide.

Sardines To Sharks

And for good reason: The coast of Somalia has among the highest concentrations of fish in the world's oceans. Somali fishermen catch a wide variety of seafood -- from tuna to sardines, dorado to perch, shark to lobster -- in their nets. At the turn of the millennium, Somalia was home to about 30,000 professional fishermen, along with 60,000 occasional fishermen.

Fishing was never a thriving business in Somalia. Somalis are not enthusiastic fish eaters, and the bulk of their catch was traditionally exported. But today there is little left of what was already a relatively small and unprofitable industry. Fish processing, especially for export, has ceased to exist. There is no reliable transportation and there are no longer any functioning refrigeration facilities in the country, nor are there any ships left that could dock in Mogadishu.

Somali fishermen have another problem: toxic waste. Initially dumped on land, toxic waste was increasingly dumped at sea after the collapse of the regime of former President Siad Barre in 1991. Because the country has no coast guard, for the past 20 years the Somali coastline has had no protection against European ships dumping waste at sea. Although hard evidence was rare, there have been periodic and mysterious incidents. In early 2002, tens of thousands of dead fish washed ashore at Merca, south of Mogadishu. The causes remain unclear.

In the spring of 2004, fishermen spotted two large containers floating in the water near Bosaso. Whether they were deliberately tossed overboard or accidentally fell of a container ship in rough seas is unclear. The Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which also reached the African coast, unearthed dozens of containers of toxic waste and deposited the waste along the Somali coast. According to a United Nations report, many coastal residents suffered "acute respiratory infections, heavy coughing, bleeding gums and mouth, abdominal haemorrhages, unusual skin rashes, and even death."

Experts and environmentalists have long been aware of the problem. In 2006, a team of specialists sent to the region to investigate discovered nine toxic waste sites along 700 kilometers (435 miles) of coastline in southern Somalia.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said last October that the UN has "reliable information that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline."

An Excuse for the Pirates

In Mombasa, Kenya, pirate expert Andrew Mwangura complains "that toxic waste has been dumped in Somalia for a long time," and that the international community is looking on and "doing nothing about it," thereby giving the pirates "a convenient excuse to legitimize their actions."

The words of UN Envoy Ould-Abdallah were confirmed only a few days later, when leaking containers of toxic waste were washed ashore in Harardhere, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Mogadishu. Animals in the area contracted unusual diseases, and coastal residents suffered coughing and vomiting attacks. The lack of scruples displayed by foreigners using Somali waters to dump their toxic waste is not all that surprising: proper waste disposal in Europe costs about 400 times as much as illegal dumping in Somalia.

The extent of ocean dumping of toxic waste is just as poorly documented as the claims of adverse effects on fish populations off the coast. Speculation abounds, and yet there are no reliable studies from the last 20 years. The fact is, however, that Somali fishermen, for various reasons, have been catching fewer and fewer fish in their nets for years.

While the fishermen complained quietly, the members of another profession -- the pirate trade -- have been quick to claim the plight of the fishermen as their own. The Somali pirates have repeatedly argued that they were forced into piracy by the demise of fishing and the practice of dumping toxic waste at sea. But the truth is that only a small fraction of traditional fishermen have switched to piracy. When the recently hijacked supertanker Sirius Star dropped anchor off Harardhere, former army General Mohamed Nureh Abdulle told the BBC that the hijackers were unknown, and that they had not attempted to establish contact with the coastal population. Elsewhere along the coast, it is often unknown men -- not former local fishermen -- who are guarding the ships and waiting for ransom money.

Attractive Piracy

Nevertheless, toxic waste and illegal foreign fishing are convenient arguments for the pirates. "The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas," said Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirate group that is still waiting for its ransom for the MV Faina, a Ukrainian vessel carrying tanks and military hardware.

Pirate life is attractive. The profits are immense, even though the men carrying out the hijackings keep only about 30 percent of the ransom money. Of the remainder, 20 percent goes to the bosses, 30 percent is paid in bribes to government officials and 20 percent is set aside for future actions.

The pirates are quick to accept losses. Even though a number of pirates are now in prison in Paris, in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and in Bosaso, Somalia's main port, and although the international community has sent a small armada of warships to Somalia, the hijackers are getting more and more audacious, targeting supertankers and ships transporting weapons, luxury yachts and chemical tankers.

In what was apparently a coordinated effort, on Tuesday night they attempted to attack five ships simultaneously in waters east of Somalia. A short time earlier, they had attacked the luxury cruise ship MS Nautica, with more than 1,000 passengers on board.

None of the attacks succeeded -- but this will not deter the pirates. Bosaso, Eyl and Hobyo, which, until recently, were miserably poor fishing towns, are barely recognizable today. Small mansions are popping up by the dozen, new restaurants are opening their doors, giant weddings are all the rage and the imports of four-wheel-drive SUVs are booming. Clan affiliation, long one of the key impediments to development in Somalia, is suddenly irrelevant. With ransom money pouring into coastal towns, former differences are fading into the background.

Everyone profits from the sudden influx of cash: construction firms, gas stations, restaurants and outfits specializing in providing food for the hostages. Even the government of Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region appears to be in on the take. "Presumably, all key political figures in Somalia are profiting from piracy," says Roger Middleton, an analyst with the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London.

Only one professional group is getting nothing from the boom along the coast: Somali fishermen.

Danish Navy Rescues Suspected Pirates, Alan Cowell, December 5, 2008.

LONDON -- A Danish warship on patrol to thwart piracy in the Gulf of Aden ended up rescuing seven of its presumed prey when its crew found suspected Somali pirates adrift this week with a broken motor on their speedboat, the Danish Navy said on Friday.

Danish sailors brought the hungry, thirsty Somalis on board their own ship, a naval official said. Then they sank the speedboat.

The incident highlighted the challenges facing a small international flotilla patrolling vast expanses of ocean where pirates have struck with increasing audacity, hijacking vessels including a Ukrainian freighter laden with armaments and a supertanker carrying an estimated $100 million of crude oil.

Earlier this week, pirates chased and shot at an American cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by the international warships, officials told The Associated Press.

The Danish warship, a combat support vessel called the HDMS Absalon, picked up the seven men about 90 miles off the coast of Yemen on Wednesday after a maritime patrol aircraft spotted them signaling in distress, said Lt. Cmdr. Jesper Lynge, a Danish Navy spokesman, in a telephone interview from Copenhagen.

But when Danish special forces from the Absalon went alongside the stricken speed-boat, they found rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles -- familiar pirate weapons -- which they confiscated.

“Their ship had been without propulsion for several days,” he said. “They were hungry and thirsty. We had them checked out by our doctor. We gave them blankets, food and water.”

But they did not arrest them.

“We had a situation where these guys were shipwrecked persons,” Lieutenant Commander Lynge said. “But we haven’t caught them in an act of piracy, and what their main purpose was -- your guess is as good as mine.”

The Danish crew handed them over early Friday to the Yemen coast guard, he said.

The Absalon, with a crew of 100, was deployed in the Gulf of Aden last September as part of an international effort to curb piracy.

The Danish actions followed another incident last month in which an Indian Navy warship sank what officials called a pirate “mother ship,” but later described by its owner as a hijacked Thai fishing trawler.

Negotiations are under way to free the Ukrainian freighter, the Faina, captured more than two months ago.

Last Sunday, Andrew Mwangura, who as head of a Kenyan maritime association has helped mediate the situation, said the Somali pirates who seized the Ukrainian vessel had agreed on a ransom with the ship’s owners. He would not reveal the figure, but he said that the only thing left was to figure out how to get the money to the pirates and hand over the ship.

The hijacked supertanker, the Sirius Star, is anchored a few miles off the coast of Somalia, near the town of Xarardheere. Its cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude is worth about $100 million; the ship itself is worth more than $100 million. There are 25 crew members aboard. The pirates who seized it have been reported by news agencies to have demanded between $15 million and $25 million for its release.

Life is sweet in piracy capital of the world, Xan Rice & Abdiqani Hassan, Wednesday November 19 2008.

Dhows rest on a white sand beach in front of a few dozen ramshackle homes. A creek cuts inland, traced by a dirt road that runs to a craggy fishing settlement two miles away. Until recently Eyl was a remote and rundown Somali fishing outpost of 7,000 people. Now, thanks to some spectacular ocean catches, it is a booming mini-town, awash with dollars and heavily armed young men, and boasting a new notoriety: piracy capital of the world.

At least 12 foreign ships are being held hostage in the waters off Eyl in the Nugal region, 300 miles south of Africa's Horn, including a Ukrainian vessel loaded with 33 tanks and ammunition that was hijacked last month.

They are being closely watched by hundreds of pirates aboard boats equipped with satellite phones and GPS devices. Hundreds more gunmen provide backup on shore, where they incessantly chew the narcotic leaf qat and dream of sharing in the huge ransoms that can run into millions of pounds.

In a war-ravaged country where life is cheap and hope is rare, each successful hijack brings more young men into the village to seek their fortune at sea.

"Even secondary school students are stopping their education to go to Eyl because they see how their friends have made a lot of money," Abdulqaadir Muuse Yusuf, deputy fisheries minister for the Puntland region, said yesterday.

The entire village now depends on the criminal economy. Hastily built hotels provide basic lodging for the pirates, new restaurants serve meals and send food to the ships, while traders provide fuel for the skiffs flitting between the captured vessels.

The pirate kingpins who commute from the regional capital, Garowe, 100 miles west, in new 4x4 vehicles splash their money around. When a ransom is received the gunmen involved in hijacking the particular ship join in the splurge, much to the pleasure of long-time residents. Jaama Salah, a trader, said that a bunch of qat can sell for $65 (£44), compared with $15 in other towns. Asli Faarah, a tea vendor, said: "When the pirates have money I can easily increase my price to $3 for a cup."

Somalis in the diaspora - especially in Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the UK - finance the pirate gangs and keep a large chunk of the ransom money, estimated at more than £20m this year alone, far more than Puntland's annual budget. But the gangs of gunmen sometimes split hundreds of thousands of pounds between them.

In the region's bigger towns, such as Garowe and Bosasso on the Gulf of Aden coast, a successful hijack is often celebrated with a meal and qat-chewing session at an expensive hotel.

One successful pirate based in Garowe, Abshir Salad, said: "First we look to buy a nice house and car. Then we buy guns and other weapons. The rest of the money we use to relax."

The pirates appear to have little fear of arrest by the weak administration, who many suspect of involvement in the trade. By spreading the money to local officials, chiefs, relatives and friends, the pirates have created strong logistical and intelligence networks, and avoided the clan-based fighting that affects so much of the rest of the country.

And though few believe the pirates when they claim to be eco-warriors or marines defending Somali waters from foreign exploitation, their daring and wealth has earned them respect. It has become something of a tradition for successful pirates to take additional wives, marrying them in lavish ceremonies.

Naimo, 21, from Garowe, said she had attended a wedding last month of the sort "I had never seen before".

"It's true that girls are interested in marrying pirates because they have a lot of money. Ordinary men cannot afford weddings like this," she said.

Pirates seize vessel off Somalia, BBC, Sunday, 22 February 2009.

Pirates in the Gulf of Aden have seized a Greek-owned cargo ship. The BBC's Jonah Fisher, on board a UK warship 100km (60 miles) away, said the captain of the MV Saldanha radioed that pirates had boarded his ship. The Saldanha is now heading to Somalia under pirate command after the UK navy's HMS Northumberland judged it was beyond its remit to pursue the ship. The warship is part of an EU task force patrolling the waters off the unstable Horn of Africa to deter pirate attacks. But when the captain of the Saldanha made contact with HMS Northumberland, he told the ship that pirates had warned the British warship to stay away. Trying to retake captured ships is not what the EU's anti-piracy task force does, our correspondent reports from on board the UK vessel. After sending a helicopter up to take a closer look, the frustrated commander of HMS Northumberland had to accept there was nothing more his men could do.

Rising tide

The MV Saldanha was reportedly sailing under a Maltese flag when it was hijacked. The Greek merchant marine ministry confirmed the Saldanha was seized, adding that the ship was manned by a 22-strong crew, Reuters news agency reported. The ministry said the ship was loaded with coal and was heading to Slovenia, Reuters said. Pirates from Somalia target merchant ships sailing through the busy Gulf of Aden, which connects Europe and Asia. Greek ships have found themselves in the pirates' sights before, with a ship carrying salt to Kenya seized off Somali waters in September 2008. The MV Genius and all of its 19 crew were released in November.

The International Maritime Bureau has issued a warning to shipping recently, saying that the risk from piracy off the coast of Somalia was rising again, after the number of pirate seizures dropped off at the end of last year. The bureau's reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur says six ships were attacked last week, but all managed to escape. The bureau blamed the heightened risk on more favourable weather and the temptation for pirates to target more ships for ransom, after recently releasing a number of hijacked vessels.

What goes around, comes around ...

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Sunday, 30 November 2008

mindful

Up, Down.

THE MINDFUL CANDIDATE

Seeing Barack Obama's historic campaign in a Buddhist light, Nash Siamwalla


Barack Obama, Nash SiamwallaBarack Obama himself stressed throughout his campaign that he himself was not perfect and that he expected to make mistakes as president. This is a fundamental understanding of human nature and of dhamma.

It is my belief that Barack Obama's successful presidential campaign, which was based on the concept of "change we can believe in," and its underlying message are synonymous with Buddhist self-transformation. In Buddhism, people who are transformed become selfless and dedicated to serving others. This is what many people felt when they watched the broadcast of Obama giving his somber, determined victory speech in Chicago on election night.

Something in the back of our minds said that we were witnessing history, and that we seemed to have arrived at the dawn of another chapter in a more principled humanity. In the candidate himself, there is a powerful lesson that we can learn from. It is not just for politicians who dream of running a successful campaign and a landslide victory; the lesson is equally valuable for the rest of us. It would be ideal, though, if the world's politicians could learn the underlying message that Obama delivers, and the values that drove him and shaped his character.

As we now know, the global following of Obama's campaign was unprecedented. The American press attributed it to their country's position as the leader of the consumer economy: whatever America decides, the repercussions will be felt by the world. This is straightforward enough, but Lord Buddha also taught that every being and phenomenon in this world is interconnected, hence the need for us to always have good will and act accordingly towards one another for continuous peaceful co-existence.

But in addition to that, a Buddhist view offers another explanation for the Obama phenomenon; it was not merely the result of economic dependence on America. For those who believe that what are important in this world are power and money, we beg you to consider the following facts and think again, as there are more profound things that Obama offers.

Barack Obama, Michelle LaVaughn RobinsonLet's first admit, there was something about Obama that we were drawn to, and it was not just his charisma or his inspired oratory. What was it?

Mindful candidates always stand out

Looking at Obama's historic campaign, what strikes us most is how consistently mindful this candidate has been. By mindfulness, Buddhism refers to the ability to be totally aware of the nature of things as they are, in the present moment, without pre-formed judgment or emotional partiality.

Obama, as we saw, was always able to remain calm and composed in any situation. He was always mindful of his thoughts, his words and his deeds. He never showed hate or anger. The only time he allowed himself to show his human side is only when he talked passionately about the well-being of his family.

Even when the political process got heated with the opponent's campaign throwing aggressive comments at him, Obama refused to retaliate in a similar manner. Repeatedly, he made it clear he would not take, in his own words, "the low road."

Mindfulness leads to clean politics

By being constantly mindful, Obama was able to look at issues objectively. The result is a proof that human beings feel more comfortable with objectivity than with mud-slinging, name-calling politics. For example, Obama preferred to refer to the current problems as resulting from "failed policies" rather than "failed individuals."

This brings to mind a Christian saying, "Hate the sin but love the sinner." Buddhism has a similar teaching which encourages us to address the mental defilements as separate, conquerable entities from beings, who, in fact, suffer from unknowingly harbouring such defilements.

Obama also went out of his way to show his constant respect for fellow human beings, even when he has been the target of disappointing or harmful words and actions by some of them. In other words, we know that he values forgiveness and unity because he actually practices them.

Accepting the congratulatory phone call from McCain, Obama was able to say, "I need your help. You are such a great leader in many areas." Obama also praised McCain for waging such a tough campaign, and he did not lie: McCain did deliver a tough campaign, which probably forced Obama to try harder to sharpen his own thinking.

McCain must have felt exactly the same. McCain's sincere, heartfelt and gracious concession speech on election night, despite more than a year of gruelling campaigning as a political foe, is a testament to how Obama's mindful leadership and humility won over McCain's tough, war-veteran heart.

Obama's values in a Buddhist perspective

Obama was able to achieve this formidable feat simply because he believed in the virtues and capability of every human. How could a politician achieve such an ethical outcome?

From a Buddhist point of view, it is because Obama has a firm grasp on the fundamentals of dhamma, the nature of things, as well as karma, the law of cause and effect of action. Obama himself stressed throughout his campaign that he himself was not perfect and that he expected to make mistakes as president. This is a fundamental understanding of human nature and of dhamma.

And how did he plan to address this common-man drawback? In Obama's own words: by being humble and listening to advice and criticism of others. Humility is another admirable trait of this mindful candidate, stemming from his encompassing awareness of how things are.

For example, in his victory speech, Obama appeared somber rather than self-satisfied, arrogant and triumphalist. He told the hyped-up Democrat crowd that they should accept this victory humbly, especially so because he simply followed the footsteps of one great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

That reference to Lincoln alone is enough to make people realise that what really matters is the shared humanitarian values and not antagonistic divisions along party lines.

Another important aspect we can learn from Obama's campaign is how he could inspire people. He could easily have taken advantage of the poor condition of the US economy to rev up the negative emotions of the crowd towards the current US administration, but he refused to do so.

Instead, he inspired people to sacrifice themselves, to do more together and for each other so that they all would be lifted out of this troubled time together, Democrats or otherwise. This is the understanding of the law of karma. Everything in life is related to what we do now in the present moment. Lamenting and blaming each other for things past would not help us out of current suffering.

The American press also gave Obama lavish praise regarding his steadfast refusal to run a "negative campaign" against his opponents, even sometimes at his own cost. Lesson learned: mindful leaders who set their minds solely on the benefits of the people sacrifice themselves and bravely sustain the low blows while continuing to hold on firmly, never losing sight of their original purpose.

Obama's call is not just idealistic, but an earnest call for action. By performing good deeds, good karma, together for society, Obama believes that good effects would naturally follow.

What breeds mindful leaders?

How could a relatively young presidential candidate have so much wisdom on life? A wisdom, we may add, that is usually associated with respected old sages. Looking at his formative years through a Buddhist lens, we understand why.

Despite growing up with a loving family, Obama has experienced hardship at first hand. There were times when his mother had to rely on food stamps to feed the family. Obama himself recalled in a voice stirred with emotion how she had to spend the last few months of her life studying health insurance forms to make sure her medical expenses were covered. This is why the young Obama is so driven to provide affordable healthcare to all.

Hardship, or, in Buddhist terms, suffering, apparently drove Obama to strive to work hard in all areas for the underprivileged. He apparently turned down offers from prestigious law firms and to go into politics because he wanted to work for the benefit of others rather than for himself.

In Buddhism, understanding suffering is the first requirement towards acquiring wisdom. Having goodwill to all and living life to serve others mindfully is integral to Buddhist Enlightenment. In Thailand, HM the King exemplifies such virtues. Elsewhere, Mahatma Gandhi gives us the example.

Want to be like Obama? It's not beyond our human capacity. To be able to achieve this level of maha sati, Great Mindfulness, Buddhism prescribes vipassana practice with a detailed step-by-step guidance for anyone who cares to learn.

Mindful leaders are transformational leaders

Academically, Obama's type of leadership is known as transformational leadership. It is when the leader and followers inspire each other to rise to a higher moral level by sacrificing themselves for society, for a cause higher than themselves.

In practice, transformational leaders are mindful people who transform themselves before going on to transform the life of others. By being constantly mindful, research shows that transformational leaders function better than other leadership models in time of change or crisis.

The author had the privilege of being at Harvard Law School at the same time as Barack Obama, although Obama was a year ahead and we were in different programmes. We might have occupied adjacent cubicles in the library or even taken the same international law classes together. Certainly, we went through similar "suffering" for a period of time.

Gruelling study aside, the author also recalled how classes were cancelled as students staged sit-in protests, demanding that a tenure position be given to an African-American female faculty. It was a cause Obama was known to support.

Although we do not have evidence if Obama indeed had some mindfulness training at Harvard Law, we do know that mindfulness meditation is now a regular fixture at the school. The initial workshop was so successful it has grown into a full-fledged programme called Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative, aiming, among others, to train people to listen mindfully to others, which is doubtlessly the required basis of successful negotiations.

If a predominantly Christian country can incorporate this Buddhist wisdom into its top law school's curriculum and in effect producing great leaders, so can we. Yes, we can. (Sorry, couldn't resist it!)

Wakeup call for world leaders

It may seem incredible that a person with such a humble beginning as Obama could have made it this far. Yet, when looking through the lens of Buddhism, it should not come as a surprise. This is a mindful and humble candidate with a deep understanding of dhamma running a thoughtful and honourable campaign, encouraging people to be selfless and join forces to create good karma for the purpose of lifting others out of suffering.

It is precisely because of this that people all over the world were drawn to this campaign. It is not only about the economy, but also because the human mind responds naturally to inspiring virtue. The world cannot have enough of transformational leaders.

Mindfulness, non-aggression, the understanding of true nature of things, recognition of the Buddha-nature in every human and tangible, action-based selflessness for the benefit of others, the campaign could not have been more Zen-like than this.

As a Buddhist country, we should be happy to see mindfulness in action on a global scale, and Obama's embodiment of Buddhist values should be a wakeup call to us. A mindful candidate can surely achieve great things for society.

This, inevitably, brings us to ask ourselves if this kind of clean, honourable campaign and mindful, selfless and focussed politician who enters politics to serve others is too much to ask for in a traditional Buddhist country like ours.

Where and how should we start? How about some wise words from Obama himself as quoted in Time magazine, "We need to start over," he said, "speak gently, listen carefully, find solutions and keep our words."

Mindful advice is always context-free. Surely, Obama's insightful advice can be applied everywhere and anywhere, not just to the current American political and economical mess. The answer depends on how soon we could say, "Yes, we can!"

Barack Obama, Nash SiamwallaTo make sure we reach that day sooner than later, perhaps it would help to at least mindfully refrain ourselves from the usual politics of, "No, we can't!"

The author is currently writing a dissertation on the role of mindfulness in transformational leadership development. Questions, comments and recommendations are welcome at Zen Sense .


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Saturday, 29 November 2008

O cheiro de pescoço encostado

Up, Down.

I thought I could forget a mistaken love
Going out, getting a haircut, writing letters
I imagined that time would be enough
That never again when night fell
Would come the face, the weight of shoulders
The smell of an embraced neck

I beleived that I could endure certain miseries, lying down alone
I didn't see that love was mixed into the machinery of the soul
And comes from behind, sneaks up even when we are sleeping

Sleeping

I thought that love would accept being abandoned
But later I saw that it is wrapped around our ankles
Muttering softly but enough to be heard
Even under the rain

Under the rain, under the rain ...

Eu pensei que pudesse esquecer um amor errado
Indo embora de casa, cortando o cabelo, escrevendo cartas
Eu sonhei que o tempo bastaria
Que nunca mais quando fosse noite
Viria o rosto, o volume dos ombros
O cheiro de pescoço encostado

Acreditei em poder suportar certas misérias, deitada sozinha
Não percebi que o amor estava confundido às ferragens da alma
Ele vem atrás, ele vem atrás até quando estamos dormindo

Dormindo

Eu pensei que ele aceitasse ser abandonado
Mas percebi que fica enroscado nos tornozelos da gente
Rosnando baixinho para ser ouvido até mesmo
Até mesmo debaixo de chuva

Debaixo de chuva, debaixo de chuva ...


música - Fernanda Porto, letra - Eduardo Ruiz

Amor errado, Fernanda Porto.

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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Otis Redding: Sittin' at the Dock of the Bay

Up, Down.

Sittin' at the Dock of the Bay (YouTube).

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the 'Frisco bay
'Cause I had nothing to live for
And look like nothin's gonna come my way

So I'm just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

Look like nothing's gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can't do what them people tell me to do
So I guess I'll remain the same, yes

Sittin' here resting my bones
And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I'm just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time


recorded just a few days before his death - another Pisgah moment

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

não tem medo de ser feliz

Up, Down.

não tem medo de ser feliz não

(don't be afraid to be happy, not afraid to be happy)

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Sunday, 16 November 2008

World Gone Wrong

Up, Down.

technology to wipe out truth is now available. not everybody can afford it but it's available. when the cost comes down look out! there wont be songs like these anymore. factually there aren't any now.

     Bob Dylan, World Gone Wrong liner notes.

Sometimes it is clearer to me than it is at others, just how unreal are my fantasies of Pisgah and of Abishag - which comprise most of my life as it now runs. When the world became too full of loss, too hurtful, too painful, I indulged more and more in simply plausible realities. This was coupled, not through any plan but maybe just to increase the odds of the plausibility paying off, with being kinder, with following more closely the dictum to give when asked, and with watching for symmetries of the Golden Rule. Indeed, these symmetries turn out to be numerous :-)

(Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Mateo 5:42 Dá a quem te pede e não voltes as costas ao que deseja que lhe emprestes.)


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Wednesday, 12 November 2008

If

Up, Down.

Victory Speech, Chicago, November 5, 2008.

Hello Chicago!

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states; we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain. Sen McCain fought long and hard in this campaign, and he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him, I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice-president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House. And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, I know that my debt to them is beyond measure. To my sister Maia my sister Ama all my other brothers and sisters Thank you so much for all the support that you hae given me, I am grateful for that.

To my campaign manager, David Plouffe; the unsung hero of this campaign who built the best political campaign I think in the history of the United States of America, to my chief strategist, David Axelrod; who's been with me every step of the way, to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics — you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to — it belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington — it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 $10 and $20 to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; it drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election, I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for their child's college education. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even in one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. Above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter can not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you. Without a new spirit of

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation — as one people.

Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House — a party founded on the values of self-reliance, and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, "We are not enemies, but friends ... Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." And, to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world — our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight, we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America — that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma and a preacher from Atlanta who told the people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves: If our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Down.