HOROSCOPE: FITS KARMICALLY, NATURALLY
George W. Bush Birth Chart/D1 July 06, 1946 @ 0726 Hours DST 1. New Haven CT. USA 72W55 / 41N18 Lahiri: -23:06:20
Cancer 14:00 Saturn 03:23 Mercury 16:43 Venus 28:23
Moon 25:36 Jupitor 25:02
10 Saturn/Moon/Rahu Jupiter/Mars
Let's start briefly with a few yogas. Cancer Lagna /Rising Bush's Navamsa
[the Harmonic 9th] Lagna is Scorpio.
* Three planets: Mercury, Venus and Saturn sit in the 2nd house from the Sun causing three variations of Veshi Yoga in the Janma Kundali or D1. [Parashara has given us 16 Varga or Divisional charts to work with. D1 is the Janma Kundali or the Natal Chart.] Please note that description of Yogas are straight from the Jyotish classics
* The Lagna has a total of 32 benefic points or Bindus in Sarva Ashtaka Varga or SAV. Briefly, a house which has over 28 Bindus in SAV is expected to give desired good results and acts as a buffer against evil or afflictions. The higher the SAV the better. A 32 means: Honour and recognition, and awards and gifts. The lagna shows our birth, physical body, indicates how we project ourselves on a public level and determines " the whole structure of our outer manifestation.
* Bush has 35, 38, 25 and 32 Bindus respectively for the 10th, 11th, 12th and the 1st house or Lagna. This feature is essential for a successful life, especially for an outstanding career/public life. The simple theory here is: Earnings [11th house] should exceed efforts/deeds [10th] And one should be able to triumph [Lagna} over fears and [separative] challenges [12th house.]
* Mercury here denotes a native who is sweet-tongued, handsome and capable of fooling others. Note: Mercury is the 22nd Drekkana Lord who can be hostile, obstructing, and generally participates in a person's death as well. In Navamsa or D9 [which means Divisional or Varga 9th chart] Mercury in the 2nd house is fine for oratory and great wealth [the 11th lord of major gain the 2nd house of financial resources], and unearned wealth [gifts etc] At birth he has donated a high 6 out of a maximum of 8 Bindus in his Ashtaka Varga-the Binna Ashtaka Varga or BAV. A 6 by Mercury means success in education and ventures.
* The indications of Yogas get modified by a planet's placement, association and other strengths/energies.
* Venus Veshi Yoga denotes a person who is renowned, respectable, virtuous and intrepid. Note however, that Venus sits on hostile and negating Gandantha Navamsa at birth. A Gandantha planet generally gets its energies liberated and can be very mean. In D9, however, Venus is exalted in the 5th house of fortune. Also she has donated a high 5 Bindus in BAV meaning rise in popularity..
* Saturn Veshi Yoga describes a person who is business- minded, inclined
to cheat others of their wealth and has malice towards his preceptors.
His Saturn sits just outside the first fortunate Pushkara Navamsa [in
Cancer] . As 7th lord in Lagna, Saturn is excellent for career/public
life but as the 8th lord can make a native very aggressive and spiteful.
* In D9 Saturn sits in the 10th house [which is the highest point in a chart and planets placed here serve to raise the native up] with Moon, Jupiter and Mars [also Uranus] This is a very strong feature in the Bush chart. As the 3rd [prowess/energy] and 4th [prestige/masses/the throne] lord, Saturn is excellent in the 10th house.
* Note that Saturn is the 10th lord of the Kala Purusha or Cosmic Man, and for success in any domain of life, his participation is mandatory. Moreover, Saturn has donated a high 5 Bindus at birth. This is excellent as it yields increase in wealth from profession and business.
* Mars can give harsh speech in the 2nd house while giving mega bucks due to his ownership of 5th [from investments] and 10th [thru career] houses. He has donated only 3 Bindus, and Leo, the 2nd house, is low with only 21 bindus indicating mental unrest, lack of peace of mind and can cause a stutter.
* In D9, Mars as the Lagna /Scorpio Lord is placed in the 10th house for powerful self-projection. Vargottama Mars gives awesome power .
* Mars and the Sun as two natural malefics cause a Lagna Papa-Karthari Yoga denoting a person might have criminal tendencies, strong sexual urge and desire to grab the wealth of others.
* Mars and Sun have mutually exchanged 6/10 houses in D9. The Sun as the 10th lord is exalted here. The 2/6/10 houses form the Artha or material wealth Trine in a horoscope. The 2nd indicates what accrues thru one's labour, the 6th struggle and ability overpower adversity and the 10th, the success in career. A mutual exchange connects the two planets strongly.
* Moon and Jupiter in the 3rd house is excellent for power, fame, wealth, with many friends, engaged in virtuous deeds, doing good to others, consistent in love, becomes the chief in the family. The Moon has donated an outstanding 7 bindus as the Lagna lord to 3rd house Virgo of 29 SAV, and Jupiter as the 9th lord of fortune, higher side of the mind, prime values, father has donated 4 bindus.
* The 7 bindus by Moon gives many comforts and wealth but the 4 by Jupiter can cause loss of vitality, ENT problems and mental unrest.
* In D9 they are together in the 10th house [a Kendra] forming a power-packed GajaKeshari Yoga [literally denotes the combined power of Elephant and the Lion] but not hundred percent as Saturn and Mars [two natural malefics] are there with them. Yet this 10th in D9 is a power house as it contains 1,4,5,9 [Kendra/Trikona] lords. Kendras for power and stability, and the Trikonas for fortune and Divine grace. This is awesome power enhanced by the mutual exchange of Mars and Sun as well.
* Eight major Karmajiva/Career Related Yogas [Source: Brihat Jataka] are caused by this hot 10th house. As Mars is the major player here the inclination for fire, weapons, adventure and macho stands out.
* Mars also forms a Bhratruvriddi Yoga [Sarvartha Chinthamani 4/16] denoting fortune thru brothers who will also be very well off.
* Mars, Jupiter/Venus form a Sarira Sukhya Yoga, bestowing longevity, wealth thru alignment with political/corporate powers.
* The loaded 10th house in D9 also form a bunch of Raja Yogas for power, Bharathi Yoga by Venus [fame, religious, bewitching eyes etc]
* Mars also causes Anapha Yoga [ from the Moon] The person is equivalent to a king, healthy, affable, renowned, an orator, capable, given to many material comforts, pleasant in looks and happy
* Illustrious parents [exalted Sun and Venus and strong Moon] and spouse [SatKalatra Yoga etc ], and children are all there.
* However, his next Saturn Return or the seven and half year Sani Erastaka
or Saadhe Sathi/Elara Sani [which darkened the Clinton White House too]
technically begins on Sep 22, 2007 strongly supported by Rahu from his
8th [Maraka] house, and Mercury-Mercury-Rahu Dasa starting Sep 18, 2007.
With Saturn over natal Mars, conjunct the Gandantha Ketu, and opposed
by Rahu can cause a bunch of personal trauma for him. An additional danger
here is that the 2nd house [also a maraka house] is low with 21 SAV [strong
mental unrest, lack of peace of mind] plus Saturn donating only 1 bindu
[major health problems and challenges to well being] Also both Mars and
Rahu [here Saturn being the dispositor for Rahu in Aquarius] have donated
a low 3 bindus each for the 2nd and 8th house respectively. Saturn's contribution
of the [fortunate] single bindu is to the 2nd Kakshaya [a sector, an orb
of 3:45 degrees of a 30 degree sign/house] which he would have passed
by Sep 15, 2007. In D1, Dasa Lord Mercury is the 12th lord [hospitalization,
retirement, confinement, exit from this plane of manifestation etc] and
in D9 he is even worse, being the 8th lord and 11th lord [sickness, hurt,
accidents etc] And Mercury, as we have seen above is the hostile 22nd
Drekkana Lord. In transit, whenever Saturn [occurs every 30 years] and
Mars connect with the Nodes, especially, the north Node Rahu, is mostly
a period of difficulties. Note also the Brigu Bindu/BB transit of Rahu
in the 8th house. BB is when the Lagna Sputa or the Rising Degree- the
14th in Cancer is transferred to the 8th house. The 8th house is said
to be the one we have least control of and features like the 22nd Drekkana,
the 64th Navamsa [counted from Lagna Sputa as well] BB etc justify its
evil. Yet the 8th along with 4th and 12th form the Moksha Trine, the Liberation
of the Soul and is excellent for inner work. The theory here is that inner
work- yoga and meditation helps mitigate or overcome many worldly challenges
and frustrations. By August 2007 Rahu will be in the orb of the BB. In
this essay, we only look the elections but will discuss other indications
as we go along. I will also be taking up charts of a few other US Presidents
with special reference to Kakshaya in Ashtaka Varga or "Digital Astrology"
In passing, we will also look at the references of Nostradamus [Mabus,
Third Anti Christ etc]
* Ketu in the 5th house Scorpio is said to be exalted and Rahu at the other end is also excellent as Rahu gives best results [mostly material success and fame] in the 11th house. Their dispositors, Mars and Venus are also well placed.
* Like Venus, Ketu is also on Gandantha [the last navamsa in Scorpio] a feature that supports religious fanaticism. The 5th denotes children, the rational mind, life-long spirituality, Manthra Siddhi, fortune, luck and creativity, investment/speculation and higher learning. Gandantha Ketu can cause confusion of these good indications here. [As 4/5 houses denote the emotional and rational mind respectively, strong afflictions here can cause much trauma like emotional turbulence, lunacy]
* In D9, Ketu is again in the 5th house with exalted Venus. Venus hooked on the Rahu-Ketu-Axis generally brings deep cravings to the surface. A strong Venus helps but not fully.
* The Bush D1 chart, shows a dreaded Kala Sarpa Yoga/KSY as the 7 major planets from the Sun to Saturn are hemmed in by the Lunar Nodes. Yet, we see that they are moving away from Rahu, [not approaching the Rahu's Mouth as the saying goes] thereby greatly mitigating the ill-effects of the KSY. In both D1 and D9, Rahu is best placed , in the 11th house for fortune, and material success, and that helps
* Lets look at a few of the Malefic Yogas.
* Krura Hatya Yoga/cruel arm [Sambu Hora Prakasha] Formed by Mars and Moon on the same navamsa, this yoga will be discussed in detail in a later essay on Ed Gein, the guy who inspired the movies Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs
* Nissva Yoga [Phala Deepika 6/59] caused by the Sun in D1 gives harsh speech and losses thru bad company
* Dainya Parivarthana Yoga. Formed by the 12 lord exchanging house with 2,3,4,5,7,9,10 or 11th lord leads to wicked nature and persistent trouble from opponents
* Two variations of Krisanga Yoga [Sarvartha Chintamani] formed by Lagna lord in D1 and D9 [Moon and Mars] and aspected by Saturn, causing physical pain and suffering [especially in a Saturn Return]
* Vakchalana Yoga [Sarvartha Chinthamani 3/152] formed a malefic planet owning the 2nd house [speech] or without benefic aspect. The person can have speech defect like a stutter
* Vishaprayoga Yoga [Sarvartha Chinthamani 3/143] Again, and afflicted 2nd house [food, taste] The person vulnerable to toxins accidentally or willfully by others
* Two varieties of Arishta Shisnavyadhi Yoga [Sarvartha Chinthamani]involving Mercury and 6/8 lords. Can cause disease of the reproductive area
* Arista Matibramana Yoga formed by the 6th lord and the 6th house afflicted [by malefics] , Mercury and Moon in Trik Houses or aspected by malefics. The person is susceptible to mental disorder
* The contradictory indications of different yogas and placement have to be understood in the larger matrix of planetary relationships and must never be applied blindly or mechanically. High Astaka Varga, friendly Nakshatra, Drekkana and even the individual degree [all 360 degrees of the zodiac are also symbolized.] For example, Saturn on the 3rd degree in Cancer is called the Degree of Misdirection. Its symbol is "a drinking reveler in fancy costume asleep at a table, the contents of his overturned cup of red wine pouring onto the floor." And denotes "a romantic but erratic nature who leads himself to esteem the follies of the world before wisdom. In his pursuit of happiness he will find nothing but exhaustion, fatigue and emptiness." [The Stars and Your Future: MC Jain]Benefic aspects or association mitigate evil indications. The relevant dashas are vital to experience the results. Since nothing is black or white in Jyotish, the behavioural changes of a person, and timing of events are measured by unfolding dashas/planetary periods and other indicators of which only a very few are discussed in this essay.
* Finally, the Nakshatra/Lunar Mansion indications:
* Bush's Janma Nakshatra [that which the Moon sits at birth] is Chitra, the star of opportunity reflected by the fixed star, Spica. "Chitra people are usually attractive, charismatic and possess dynamic personal charm" [ The Nakshatras: Dennis M. Harness]In the 1st Pada/Quarter [the 27 nakshatras mostly used have a span of 13:20 degrees each and a pada spans/orb 3:20] is said to give 2 daughters and death is caused by a weapon or a quadruped. The downside is the tendency to speak without much thinking and the inability to correct oneself, and a demonic/raksha temperament. [Nakshatra:Constellation Based Predictions- KT Shubhakaran] The primary motivation of Chitra/Sitha is Kama or desire. "A smug, arrogant, self-indulgent nature can also result" The presiding deity is Vishvakarma, the celestial architect who is the master of maya and magic who fashioned the thunderbolts of Indra and the chalice of Soma. The Moon here is also the Lagna Lord.
Note: Kerry's time of birth (which is subject to controvesy) is the closest I could get to
8 Saturn Rx 00:26
Dec 11, 1943 @ 0710 Hours
DST 1. Denver CO USA
104W59 / 39N44
3 Ketu: 16:12
1 Ssorpio 12:00 Sun 25:33
John F. Kerry is a Scorpio Lagna and Libra Navamsa.
* His Birth Star or the Janma Nakshatra is Mrigashirsha which is evenly divided within the constellations of Taurus and Gemini. Called "the searching star" this lunar mansion consists of three faint stars near the head of Orion. Ruled by Mars [his lagna lord too] it basically denotes "the spiritual warrior searching for truth."
* As Kerry's Moon is in Taurus [her exaltation/uchcha sign] "the creative impulse of Venus [who owns Taurus] helps individuals manifest their ideas into material plane" The nakshatra is also good for producing beautiful, intelligent and creative kids and can bring material affluence. Considered to be deva or god-like in nature, Mrigashirsha's primary motivation is moksha or liberation of the soul. The presiding deity is Soma, the Moon god, who "imparts the divine nectar of bliss and enlightenment."
* The Jyotish texts say that Moon here with Mars can cause separation from first wife [due to another woman] and cause danger to mother. And on 1st pada/quarter "He will be famous and intelligent. Will have more daughters. His wife will be beautiful and chaste, gets wealth from her and have political fame. Afflicted eyes or pain in the joints." The shadow side is: the native is often suspicious and prone to wander, and espouses rigid attitudes.
* Kerry and his first wife Julia divorced in 1988 after 18 years marriage and had two daughters. He married Teresa Heinz [who inherited the $760 million Heinz food fortune following the death in a plane crash of her husband of 25 years , Senator John Heinz III] who is five years older than Kerry in 1996
* Kerry was born during a Sani Erastaka, Saturn Rx [retrograde-the apparent backward motion of a planet] just 7 degrees away from the Moon and coming back toward her. But Saturn is his 4th lord of prestige [see Bush chart for more info about houses] and the Moon his 9th lord. In friendly Gemini, the 8th house Saturn gives long life. In fact, there are 3 Purnayu [long life] Yogas formed by Mars, Moon, and Saturn, and a Maha Dirghayu Yoga formed by Saturn, Jupiter and the Sun according to the classic Jataka Parijata.
* In D9/Navamsa Chart, Saturn and Moon are 4/5 and 10th lords. Saturn exalted in Lagna and the Moon in Leo [a house of royalty] the 11th house of major gain, achievement and fulfillment.
* A child born with a Sani Erastaka may suffer from health problems early in life but is said to get stronger as he advances in age. [As the saying in Sinhala goes, such a person will not be killed even if you try to "smash" him on a rock]
* On Sep 6, 2004 Saturn moved to Cancer, Kerry's 9th house of fortune and benign power in D1/ Natal Chart. He has donated 4 bindus to Cancer, lot better than the 2 he has given to Gemini. He is on fortunate PushKara Navamsa /PN thru to Oct 29 but will still be on its orb of influence on Nov 2, the election day
* In D9, Saturn as the 4/5 [prestige, throne and high status] lord is now in the 10th house and over Mercury the 9th lord which is excellent.
* "Officially " Kerry's Saturn Return will end on Aug 8, 2005.
* Lets look at a few more power-yogas.
* Subha-Kartari Yoga formed by Venus and Mercury in D1. The person is eloquent, enjoys good health, handsome appearance, much wealth and fame
* Sumukha Yoga [Sarvartha Chintamani] formed by Jupiter in D1 and Venus in D9, give a happy and attractive face.
* Ubhayachari Yoga: formed by Mercury and Venus. The person has a strong physique, equal to a king, capable of shouldering great responsibility, great learning, balanced outlook, wealthy, handsome and blessed with many luxuries.
* Shankha Yoga: Formed by 5/6 lords in mutual kendras. The person is kind-hearted, virtuous, learned, blessed with spouse and children, morally sound, owns land and other assets, long life, fearless and has the authority to discipline or punish
* Lakshmi Yoga: Formed by Mars and Moon. The person is good in looks, virtuous, very wealthy, wide renown and illustrious like king, blessed with spouse and kids
* Vipareetha Vimala Raja Yoga [formed by the 12th lord in 6,8,12. Phala Deepika 6:69] Happy, noble and independent. Good empathy, respectable profession and will be known for good qualities.
* Karmajiva Yoga. There are 8 variations formed by Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury Jupiter, Saturn. They all point to high status in profession.
* Svaveeryadhana Yoga: Formed by Mars and Jupiter . The person will accumulate wealth thru his own efforts
* Akhanda Samrajya Yoga: Formed by one of the lords of 2,9,11 in a Kendra from Moon while Jupiter happens to be the lord of 2,5, or 11th house [Jyotisharnava Navanitam 5:30] The person will have a wide kingdom
* Five major Raja Yogas for power and prestige and wealth by Mars, Sun, Jupiter, Moon
* The mutual exchange of 4/1 houses by Saturn and Venus in D9. The Sun, the 11th lord in the 5th aspected by Moon the 10th lord in the 11th [Note the power of a Full Moon as well], Jupiter the 6th lord causing another Vipareetha Raja Yoga in the 8th, Mars being the 2/7 lord in the 9th, and Mercury the 9th lord in the 10th are all very fortunate and powerful placements.
* Note also that Moon and Saturn also causes a Sunapha Yoga which can confer on a person a status equivalent to a king , immense wealth, wide renown and fulfillment
* A striking feature in Kerry chart is the GajaKeshari Yoga/GKY caused by Moon and Jupiter in Kendras/quadrants. It gets more power as they are also 9/5 Trikona lords. We have the Full Moon in her exaltation sign [with the Lagna Lord] in the 7th house and Jupiter In the 10th house [Leo, the royalty] Both 7/10 houses are essential for glory in public life. Yet it is also made weaker by the aspect of Saturn but not as tainted as that of Bush whose GKYs in both D1 and D9 are tainted by Saturn
* Let's now look at some challenging placements and yogas.
* Mriti Yoga and Kuhu Yoga. Technically both are caused by Saturn [being 3/4 lord in the 8th house also seen by Mercury the 8/11 lord] and Jupiter as 3rd lord in the 8th in D9. They denote major enemy problems, can have no younger siblings, excitable temperament and loss of fortune. However, ill effects are greatly mitigated as Saturn is exalted as a benefic in D9 and, Jupiter as the 5th lord is in the 10th in D1.
* Dushkriti Yoga: Formed by 7th lord if placed in 6,8,12 house. [Phala Deepika 6:64] Says the person will be deprived of or lose spouse, and will be a wanderer, beset with health problems, punished /fined by the ruling power and hated by relatives. This refers to Venus but she also owns 12th house. We have seen her causing Vipareetha Vimala Raja Yoga here. At birth she has donated a high 5 bindus in her BAV. And these two factors are strong enough to mitigate the ill effects.
* We also find [c/f Bush charts] Krisanga, Vishprayoga and Arista Matibhramana Yogas
* While Mars causes an aspectual Raja Yoga with the Sun along 1/7 house axis, its downside [supported by Rx Saturn to a degree] is a possible Hillaja Netradosha Yoga [Sambu Hora Prakasha 14:67] which can lead to severe eye problems.
* Bandhana Yoga. Formed by malefics in Scorpio, in this case The Sun and Rahu. Denotes confinement /imprisonment "underground"
* Just to remind ourselves that these yoga indications have to be understood in the larger matrix of planetary relations, as dashas unfold etc, as explained in Bush charts.
* Finally, Kerry's SAV for the 10,11, 12 and Lagna or the 1st houses are 34,32,25,25. We see that his Lagna also comes up short against the 12th house indicating a low key [and less aggressive] profile during most of the campaign
KN Rao, distinguished astrologer and prolific writer and author says for any significant success in any domain of life, we need the participation of 1. Jupiter and Saturn [the 9 /10 lords of the Kala Purusha or the Fixed Zodiac [counted from Aries to Pisces] which he calls the "double-transit of Jupiter and Saturn", 2. supported by unfolding Dashas /Planetary Periods, 3. Ashtaka Varga, 4 examination of the relevant Varga/Divisional charts, 5. Varshapal/Solar Return and 6. transits and 7. creative synthesis of these factors
1. "Jupiter in transit should be aspecting the Moon, or the 10th
house from the Moon, or Lagna....And Saturn should be aspecting the 10th
lord [in this case] whenever anything important is to happen..."
Says KN Rao in his "Ups and Downs in Career"
In Bush D1 chart: Jupiter has returned to Virgo his 3rd house and joined the Moon, and also aspects the 10th house from the Moon in D9. Saturn aspects the 3rd house, and Mars-the 10th lord, as the day begins and before noon, his Vargottama Mars goes to the 4th house from where he connects with the 10th house, which is fine. The 10th has Rahu, and the Sun "eclipsed" on the 4th house on the Rahu Ketu-Axis which is not good. Some perfidy/treachery is not ruled out
In the Dasamsaha /D10 chart relevant to the career, the Lagna again is Cancer. In his Varshapal Chart for the 58th year [raised for last birthday when the Sun returns to natal degree] the Lagna is Gemini and the 10th lord Jupiter was in the 3rd house Leo. This is fine too as Jupiter sees, the 7, 9,11 houses and connects with the Moon , and Saturn from the Lagna see the 10th lord Jupiter which is very favourable.
2. The Vimsottari Dasa [ here we go down to the Prana Dasa or the 5th level] will be Saturn-Jupiter-Mercury-Jupiter-Saturn. These are 7/8, 6/9 and 3/12 lords in D1, 3/4, 2/5 and 8/11 lord in D9, and 5/6, 4/7, and 1/10 lords from the Moon or Chandra Lagna. We note that Mercury is the 22nd Drekkana Lord/22DL and Saturn is the 64th Navamsa Lord from Lagna Sputa which is the same as 22DL but the orb is narrowed down to 3:20 degrees. All three planets are transiting high SAV houses 32,29,29 and each has donated 5,4,4 respectively; another power point. Only 3 planets Moon, Mars and Jupiter are on fortunate Kakshayas [Bush ends Saturn and begins his Mercury Maha Dasa on May 15, 2006]
3. In Kerry's: transit Jupiter from Virgo his 11th house connects with the natal Moon in Taurus. The 7th house, and also in D9 . Saturn does not connect with the 10th lord in D1 or D9. His Prana Dasa will be Mercury-Mercury-Mars -Rahu-Moon. These are 8/11, 1/6 and 9 lords in D1, 9/12, 2/7 and 10 lord in D9 and 2/5, 7/12 3 lords in Chandra Lagna. All planets are well placed and Rahu especially is nice for success in struggle in the 6th house of enemies. In transit, Mercury will be in Scorpio and Mars in Libra. Mars [like Mercury for Bush] is the 22DL lord for Kerry and also 64th Navamsa lord from the Moon.
4. The Kakshaya transits for Kerry are Moon, Jupiter and Venus [9/5/7] lords in D1 and 10,3/6 and 1/8 lords in D9. The 7 major planets have contributed 28 bindus on this day as opposed 26 bindus for Bush.
5. Mars, the Lagna Lord and 7th lord in D9, comes to Libra in the morning. In D1 to the 12th house of loss but as the 6th lord can cause a Vipareetha or unexpected Raja Yoga. In D9, Mars comes to Lagna with 4/5 lord Saturn in 10 and 10th lord Moon in the 9th which is good.
6. Mercury, the Maha Dasa Lord is on fortunate PushKara Navamsa.
7. In the Varshapal chart , lagna /Taurus and 6th lord Venus is in the 8th house with Mercury aspected by 10th Lord Saturn from the 2nd house. All these are helpful/favourable but not great.
8. The dasa planets have donated 4,2,4 bindus to house SAVs of 25,25,28 much lower than Bush's . But in Kerry's Dasamsa /D10 chart with Libra Lagna, Mars and Mercury 7/9 lords have exchanged houses which is excellent
9. Yet the two charts are evenly matched.
10. Bush can win, but he is heading into a Saturn Return with Mercury dasa beginning in 18 months [we have discussed this in detail]which can darken his White House even before halfway of his second full term.
11. A lot depends on Mars, [the 10th lord of Bush,] who comes to the 4th house and connects with the 10th house which is excellent. Mars also loses the Saturn connection which is not good. Mars is Kerry's Lagna Lord [see 5 above] and 7th lord in D9 and D10 and the 7th lord from the Natal Moon.
12. Mars has no share in the unfolding Dasa for Bush
13. For Kerry, Mars, the pratyantar dasa lord could be the deciding factor and the winning edge on his own Chitra Nakshatra. But his ingress to the 12th house could see Kerry lose.
14. Even if Bush steals the vote , Mars will be fighting for Kerry in courts [being the 6th lord for lawsuits] supported by Rahu and Jupiter's Shookshama or the 4th level dasa Nov 3-10. Mars pratyantar rolls thru Dec 13
15. Bush's Tertiary Progressed 10th lord Mars will be in Virgo his 3rd house with Lagna Lord Moon in the 9th house . Kerry's 10th lord Sun will be in the 4th house with Venus the 7th lord and Moon, the 9th lord all looking up at the 10th house which clearly gives more power.
16 Another point of interest is a research done by two US astrologers
Nick Sutherland and the late Richard Houck [the latter studied Vedic and
authored the pioneering book "Astrology of Death" and also "Digital
Astrology"] inspired by the Indian astrologer and author of "Professions"
Col. AK Gour who says that it is better to have the 5th house with low
SAV as it is the 8th house of sudden breaks, loss, downfall counted from
the 10th house of career and public life. Accordingly, Kerry has 32 and
Bush 29 and Bush scores again here [We say the average SAV for a house
is 28 because the maximum donated by the 7 major planets and the Lagna
is a total of 337]
17 They also say that for success in politics you also a need a strong 11th house [the 11th also denotes the team, friends, associates essential for public life].Here Kerry has 32 and Bush 38. And that you need strong SAV in the 11th house counted from the natal Sun [for dignity and royal/corporate patronage] From Saturn [for elections] and from Mars [for energy to fight the elections] Accordingly, Kerry's score is 32,28,32, as opposed to Bush's 35, 38,25 which is much more powerful. Again, these must not be applied mechanically, but is provided here those interested in astrological research
18. Bush can still win. Just for a fistful of full moons, as explained
above: his challenging Saturn Return/Saadhe Sati . And Kerry has to survive
a major scandal/humiliation during Mercury-Ketu dasa, Jan 06-Mar 07 before
he could shine in his career with Mercury-Venus in the ensuing 2 years.
[end 2602 words]
NERUDA: 'Poet of My People
by Gamini Disanayake in Toronto
(Published in The Island Colombo, Sep 25,2004)
Thirty one years ago, when the CIA sponsored bloody coup forced out the Socialist President Salvador Allende and installed the puppet dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile on Sept. 11, 1973, many Chileans believe the shock of it hastened Pablo Nerudas death 12 days later. Days before he died, Neruda lay bedridden with leukemia as Pinochets soldiers ransacked his home. "The only weapons here," he is said to have told them, "are words." That Pablo Neruda (1904-73) was the greatest poet of the last century is beyond argument in much of South America and the rest of the world. Certainly he ranks with the most prolific (40 plus works): there are sonnets, odes, epics and something greater: "longevity". Three decades after his death (he would have been 100 years old on July 12) he was seen heating up the world again, with his metaphors.
A sensual and sensitive communist, he loved nature as much as he loved, women, music, food and wine, and above all, social justice. In 1971 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature "For a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continents destiny and dreams." He was also an ambassador and a politician who sat in the Senate and became the Communist Partys candidate for the presidency of his country, but only in order to give his constituencys support to Allende.
Neruda, whose real name is Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born on Jul 12, 1904 in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth , was a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, married again.
The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temoco, where he had the good fortune of meeting and, mentored by Chiles first (1945) Nobel Laureate Poet and diplomat who represented Chile in the League of Nations and the UN, Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) who was then the principal of the girls secondary school. When he was sixteen years old, Neruda knocked on her door, handed over his poems, and returned three hours later to receive her judgment that he was "indeed a true poet" . (Mistrals original name was Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. The mystery of childbearing, the sorrow of a tragic love, and a burning desire for justice are recurrent themes of her fluent and lyric verse.)
In fact, at the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily La Manana, among them, his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal Selva Austral under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891) and also to seek anonymity from his family who did not approve his literary work. Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book Crepusculario (Twilight) in 1923. The following year saw the publication Twenty Love Songs and a Song of Despair one of his best-known and most translated.
"I remember you as you were last autumn./You were the grey beret and the tranquil heart./In your eyes the flames of twilight quarreled./And the leaves fell into the water of your soul
Fastened to my arms as clinging vine,/the leaves collected your slow and calm voice./Bonfire of trance in which my thirst burned./Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul...." (From Twenty Love Poems...")
Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago. Between 1927 and 1943, he was the Chilean consul in Burma, Sri Lanka, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Madrid, and Mexico. He wrote the three volumes of Residence on Earth (1933, 1935, 1947) a collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, regarded by many as his masterpiece. It was a visionary work, emerging from the birth of fascism. He also worked on Canto General/General Song (published in 1950) the epic of 250 poems and later expanded to 340, which he himself thought his most important book.
The Spanish Civil War and the murder of his friend Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), affected him strongly and made him join the republican movement, first in Spain and later in France and in 1937 he returned to his native Chile, where he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was marked by social and political matters. His 1937 work Espana en el Corazon had a great impact as it was printed in the middle of the front during the civil war. In 1939 Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration ( helping Spanish refugees by re-settling them in Chile), residing in Paris, and shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico where he rewrote his "Canto General", an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny.
In 1942, Neruda visited Cuba and read for the first time his poem, Canto de amor para Satalingrado, which praised the Red Army fighting in Stalingrad. His daughter Marina, died in the same year in Europe. In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile and in 1945 was elected senator for the mining provinces of Tarapac and Antofogasta, and joined the Communist Party of Chile. He attacked President Gonzalez Videla in print when the government was taken by right-wing extremists and for launching his repressive policy against striking miners in 1947. After living underground he fled to Mexico, traveled to the Soviet Union where he was warmly received, and in other Eastern European countries. Neruda was especially impressed by the vastness of Russia, its birch forests, and rivers. He met author Ilya Ehrenburg (1891-1967) , whose home was said to be full of works by Picasso, and the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), who lived in exile in Moscow. For Neruda, the Soviet Union was a country where libraries, universities, and theatres were open for all. He referred to dogmatic views in Soviet art, but optimistically believed that the views had been condemned. And Nerudas colleagues also read him Boris Pasternaks poems but they did not forget to mention that Pasternak was considered as a political reactionary.
In exile, Neruda produced Canto General (1950). In this work he examined Latin American history from a Marxist point of view, and showed his deep knowledge about the history, geography and politics of the continent: from the heights of Machu Picchu to the abyss of imperialism. The central theme is the struggle for social justice.
"Come up with me, American love./Kiss these secret stones with me./The torrential silver of the Urubamba makes the pollen fly to its golden cup/The hollow of the bindweeds maze the petrified plant, the inflexible garland soar above the silence of these mountain coffers..."
Canto General includes his famous poem "The Heights of Machu Picchu" which was born after he visited the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in 1943. In it Neruda aspires to become the voice of the dead people who once lived in the city.
"I want to know, salt of the roads show me the spoon-architecture, let me scratch at the stamens of stone with a little stick, ascend the rungs of the air up to the void, scrape the innards until I touch mankind."
And here are a few more lines:
"Give me back the slaves you buried!" "Come up brother, and be born with me." "And let my tears flow, hours, days, years through sightless ages, starry Autumn."
While in exile Neruda traveled to Italy where he lived for a while. The 1995 Italian movie "Il Postino/The Postman" was based on a story in which Neruda plays cupid on an island, inspiring love of life, love of poetry, as well as love of justice.. The film uses a great, tiny smattering of love poems from the book Love: Ten Poems by Neruda.
After the victory of anti-Videla forces and the order to arrest the leftist was rescinded, Neruda returned to Chile. In 1953 he was awarded the Stalin Prize. He remained faithful to "el partido". However, Nerudas faith seems to have been deeply shaken in 1956 by Khrushchevs revelation at the Twentieth Party Congress of the crimes committed during the Stalin regime. His collection "Extravagario" (1958) reflects this change. In it Neruda turned to his youth and engages in self-criticism. In the book Isla Negra there is also a long introspective poem about the period called "The Episode".
Establishing a permanent home in the village of Isla Negra, Neruda continued to travel extensively, visiting Cuba in 1960 and the United States in 1966. When Salvador Allende was elected president, he appointed Neruda as Chiles ambassador to France (1970-72). In his book Isla Negra: A Bilingual Edition translated by Alistair Reid (published recently along with Memoirstranslated by Hardie St Martin, and The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems edited by Mark Eisner for Nerudas 100th birth anniversary) "My life," Neruda wrote, "is a long pilgrimage that is always turning on itself, always returning to the woods in the south, to the forest lost in me..." Having started writing at a very early age, he repeatedly said that he produced poems the way the fruit-trees produce fruit.
Memoirs and Isla Negra are both versions of autobiography. The Spanish title of Memoirs is "I confess that I have Lived". What the memoirist remembers, Neruda says, "is not the same thing the poet remembers. He may have lived less, but he photographed much more, and he re-creates for us with special attention to detail." Of course, living and photographing here are both metaphorical.
Neruda is proud to have become the poet of my peoplehis people are Chileans first and last, but he also uses the word American in a capacious wayand he reminds us that workers and peasants know Neruda poems by heart, and that Che Guevara took the Canto General to the Sierra Maestra.
After he ended his affair with the possessive and violently jealous Josie Bliss, he married Maria Hagenaar in 1930, a Dutch woman who couldnt speak Spanish; they separated in 1936. At that time Neruda lived in Paris, where he published a journal with Nancy Cunard the sole inheritor of the famous Cunard shipping company. Her mother disinherited her when she escaped from high society with a black musician. In the 1930s and 1940s Neruda lived with the Argentine partner Delia del Carril, who encouraged Neruda to participate in politics. They married in 1943, but the marriage was not recognised in Chile, and they separated in 1955. In 1966, he married the Chilean singer Matilde Urrutia. She was the inspiration of much of Nerudas later poetry, among others "One Hundred Love Sonnets" (1960)
In Memoirs Neruda gives strong portraits of many writer friends (Vallejo, Lorca, Eluard, Ehrenburg and others) lyrically evokes his southern childhood, moments of sorrow and sympathy for abandoned women, comic tales of travellers mishaps and an awesome account of a journey across the Andes into exile. In it he also mentions Petrach, Gongora, Quevedo, Baudelaire, Pushkin, Dostoevsky and Chekov, and says he wove a memory of Prousts description of Vinteuils sonata into his "Residencia": "His words led me to relive my own life, to recover the hidden sentiments I had almost lost within myself." Neruda was translating Romeo and Juliet into Spanish at more or less the same time as he was writing Memoirs.
"In my poems," he says, "I could not shut the door to the street," and he later writes of his poetry as not being "happy to stay in a room". But this is true of all his poems, "whatever their subject, and whatever their quality, and that is why so many people have loved them," Michael Wood recently wrote reviewing the three works published in honour of Nerudas 100 birth anniversary.
"If I remember anything in my life," [writes Neruda in the end of a poem called "Those Lives" in "Isla Negra"] "it was an afternoon in India, on the banks of a river./They were burning a woman of flesh and bone,/ And I didnt know if what came from the sarcophagus/Was soul or smoke,/ Until there was neither woman nor fire/No coffin nor ash./It was late,/And only the night, water, the river, darkness/Lived on in that death.."
The Island Colombo, Oct 16, 2004
Lanka through the eyes of a Nobel Prize winning poet I
Ceylon: the loneliest and the most luminous time in my life... by Pablo Neruda (From his "Memoirs", translated from the Spanish by Hardie St. Martin in 1977)
- Sent in by Gamini Dissanayake
In 1929, Ceylon, the most beautiful of the worlds large islands, had the same colonial structure as Burma and India. The English had entrenched themselves in their neighborhoods and their clubs, hemmed in by a vast multitude of musicians, potters, weavers, plantation slaves, monks in yellow, and immense gods carved into the stone mountains. Caught between the Englishmen dressed every evening in dinner jackets and the Hindus, I couldnt hope to reach in their fabulous immensity, I had only solitude open to me, and so that time was the loneliest in my life. Yet, I also recall it as the most luminous, as if a lightning flash of extraordinary brightness had stopped at my window to throw light on my destiny inside and out.
I went to live in a small bungalow recently built in the suburb of Wellawatte, near the sea.. It was a sparsely populated area, with the surf breaking on the reefs nearby. The music of the sea swelled into the evening. In the morning, the miracle of this newly washed nature was overwhelming. I joined the fishermen very early. Equipped with long floats, the boats looked like sea spiders. The men pulled out fish of vivid colors, fish like birds from the teeming forest, some with deep blue phosphorescence of intense living velvet, others shaped like prickly balloons that shriveled up into sorry little sacs of thorns.
With horror I watched the massacre of those jewels of the sea. The fish were sold in segments to the poor. The machetes hacked to pieces the God-sent sustenance from the deep, turning it into blood-drenched merchandise.
Strolling up the shore, I would come to the elephants bathing hole. With my dog alongside, I couldnt get lost. Out of the smooth water surged a perfectly still, gray mushroom: soon it turned into serpent, then into an enormous head, and finally into a mountain with tusks.. No other country in the world had, or has even now, so many elephants doing work on its roads. They were an amazing sight, far from any circus or the bars of any zoo, trudging up and down with their loads of timber, like hard-working giant journeymen.
My dog and my mongoose were my sole companions. Fresh from the jungle, the latter grew up at my side, slept in my bed, and ate at my table. No one can imagine the affectionate nature of a mongoose. My little pet was familiar with every minute of my day-to-day life, she tramped all over my papers, and raced after me all day long. She curled up between my shoulder and my head at siesta time and slept there the fitful, electric sleep of wild animals.
My tame mongoose became famous in the neighborhood. The constant battles mongooses wage so courageously against the deadly cobras have earned them a kind of mythological prestige. I believe in this, having often seen them fight these snakes, whom they defeat through agility and because of their thick salt-and-pepper coat of hair, which deceives and confuses the reptiles. The country people believe that , after battling its poisonous enemy, the mongoose goes in search of antidotal herbs.
Anyway, the fame of my mongoose, who accompanied me everyday on my long walks by the seashore, brought all the neighborhood kids to my house one afternoon in an impressive procession. An enormous snake had appeared in the streets, and they had come to ask for Kiria, my celebrated mongoose, whose sure victory they were ready to cheer on. Followed by my admirers -entire bands of Tamils and Singhalese youngsters wearing nothing but loincloths- I led the fight-bound parade, with my mongoose in my arms. The ophidian was the dreaded black polonga, or Russells viper, which has a deadly bite. It was sunning itself in the weeds on top of a white water main, silhouetted like a whip on snow.
My followers dropped behind silently. I followed the pipe and released my mongoose about two meters from the viper. Kiria sniffed danger and crawled toward the serpent. My small friends and I held our breaths. The great battle was about to begin. The snake coiled, raised its head, opened its gullet, and fixed its hypnotic eyes on the small animal. The mongoose kept edging forward. Only a few centimeters from the monsters mouth, however, she realized exactly what was about to happen. Then, with a great leap, she streaked wildly in the opposite direction, leaving serpent and spectators behind, and did not stop until she reached my bedroom. Thats how I lost caste, more than thirty years ago, in the suburb of Wellawatte.
The other day my sister brought me a notebook containing my earliest poems, written in 1918 and 1919. Reading them over, I had to smile at their childish and adolescent melancholy, that literary sense of solitude given off by all my youthful work. The young writer cannot write without that shudder of loneliness, even when it is only imaginary, any more than the mature writer will be able to produce anything without a flavor of human companionship, of society.
I learned what true loneliness was, in those days and years in Wellawatte. During all that time, I slept on a field cot like a soldier, an explorer. All I had for company were a table and two chairs, my work, my dog, my mongoose, and the "boy" who did the housework and returned to his village at night. This man was not, properly speaking, a companion; his status as an Oriental servant forced him to be quieter than a shadow. His name was or still is , Bhrampy. There was no need to give him any orders, since he always had everything ready: my meal on the table, my freshly ironed clothes, the bottle of whiskey on the verandah. He seemed to have forgotten how to speak. The only thing he knew how to do was smile, with equine teeth.
Solitude, in this case, was not a formula for building up a writing mood but something as hard as a prison wall; you could smash your head against the wall and nobody came, no matter how you screamed or wept. Across the blue air, across the yellow sand, past the primordial forest, past the vipers and elephants, I realized, there were hundreds, thousands of human beings who worked and sang by the waterside, who lit fires and molded pitchers; and passionate women also, sleeping naked on thin mats, under the light of the immense stars.
But how was I to get close to that throbbing world without being looked upon as an enemy? Step by step, I became familiar with the island. One night I crossed all the dark neighborhoods of Colombo to attend a gala dinner. From a darkened house came the voice of a boy or a woman singing. I had the rickshaw stop. At the humble door, I was overwhelmed by a strong scent, Ceylons unmistakable odor: a mixture of jasmine, sweat, coconut oil, frangipani, and magnolia. Dark faces, which blended in with the color and the odor of the night, invited me in. I sat down quietly on a mat, while the mysterious human voice that had made me stop sang on in the dark; the voice of a boy or a woman, tremulous and sobbing, rose to an unbelievable pitch, was suddenly cut off, and sank so low it became as dark as the shadows, clinging to fragrance of the frangipani , looping itself in arabesques and suddenly dropping with all its crystalline weight , as if its highest jet had touched the sky, only to spill back quickly in among the jasmines.
I stayed there a long while, caught in the magic spell of the drums and fascinated by the voice, and then I went on my way, drunk with the enigma of an emotion I cant describe, of a rhythm whose mystery issued from the whole earth. An earth filled with music and wrapped in fragrance and shadows. The English were already seated at the table, dressed in black and white.
"Forgive me. I stopped along the way to listen to some music," I told them They, who had lived in Ceylon for twenty-five years, reacted with elegant disbelief. Music? The natives had Musicians? No one had known about it. This was news to them. This terrible gap between the British masters and the vast world of Asians was never closed. And it ensured an inhuman isolation, a total ignorance of the values and the life of the Asians.
There were exceptions within this narrow colonialism, I found out later. Suddenly an Englishman from the Service Club would go off the deep end about some Indian beauty. He was immediately fired and cut off like a leper by his countrymen. Something else happened at about this time: the colonists ordered the burning of a Singhalese peasants hut, to rout him out in order to expropriate his land. The Englishman ordered to burn the hut to the ground was a modest official named Leonard Woolf. He refused and was dismissed from his post. Shipped back to England, he wrote one of the best books ever published about the Orient: "A Village in the Jungle". A masterpiece true both to life and to literature, it was virtually eclipsed by the fame of his wife, none other than Virginia Wool, the great subjective novelist of world renown. Little by little the impenetrable crust began to crack open and I struck up a few good friendships. At the same time, I discovered the younger generation, steeped in colonialist culture, who talked only about the books just out in England.
I found out the that pianist, photographer, critic, and cinematographer Lionel Wendt was the central figure of a cultural life torn between the death rattles of the Empire and a human appraisal of the untapped values of Ceylon. Lionel Wendt, who owned an extensive library and received all the latest books from England, got into the extravagant and generous habit of every week sending to my house, which was a good distance from the city, a cyclist loaded down with a sack of books. Thus, for some time, I read kilometers of English novels, among them the first edition of "Lady Chatterleys Lover", published privately in Florence. Lawrences works impressed me because of their poetic quality and a certain vital magnetism focused on the hidden relationships between human beings. However, it soon became clear to me that, for all his genius, he was frustrated by his passion for instructing the reader, like so many other great English writers. D.H. Lawrence sets up a course in sexual education that has almost nothing to do with what we learn spontaneously from love and life. He ended up boring me stiff, but this did not lessen my admiration for his tortured mystico-sexual search, all the more painful because it was useless.
One of the things I remember from my Ceylon days is a great elephant
hunt. The elephants had grown much too numerous in one district, where
they made constant raids, damaging houses and farmlands. For over a month,
all along the banks of a wide river, the peasants had gradually rounded
up the wild herds-with grass fires, bonfires and tom-toms- and driven
them back toward one spot in the jungle. Night and day, the fires and
the noise excited the huge beasts, drifting now like a slow river toward
the northwestern part of the island. On this particular day, the kraal
was all set. A stockade penned off a part of the forest. I saw how the
first elephant went in through a narrow passage and sensed itself trapped.
It was too late. Hundreds more followed into this dead-end passage. Almost
five hundred strong, the immense herd of elephants could neither advance
nor retrace their steps. The most powerful males charged the palisades,
trying to knock them down, but innumerable spears surged up on the other
side and halted them. Then they regrouped in the center of the enclosure,
determined to protect the females and the young. Their organizations and
their protectiveness made them a touching sight. They let out an anguished
call, a kind of neigh or trumpet blast, and in their despair uprooted
the weakest trees. Suddenly the tamers went in, mounted on two huge trained
elephants. The domesticated pair acted like common policemen. They took
their places on either side of the captive animal, pummeled him with their
trunks, and helped reduce him to immobility. Next, with thick ropes, the
hunters secured one of his hind legs to a strong tree. One by one, the
creatures were rendered helpless in this same way. The captive elephant
turns down his food for a good many days. But the hunters know his weakness.
They let the animals fast awhile and then bring them the sprouts and tender
stalks of their favorite plants, those they would forage for on their
long forest treks when they were still free to roam at will. At last,
the elephant breaks down and eats. He has been tamed and begins to learn
his heavy chores.. [2225 words] (Next: Life in Colombo. Sent in by Gamini
Lanka through Nerudas eyes
From Pablo Nerudas Memoirs
(Part One of this article appeared last Saturday)
In Colombo there seemed to be no visible symptoms of revolution. Its political climate was different from Indias. Everything was engulfed by an oppressive calm. The country supplied England with the finest tea in the world.
The country was split into sectors, or compartments. The English, who occupied the tip of the pyramid and lived in large residences with gardens, were followed by a middle class much like that in South American countries. They were and may still be called Burghers and were descendants of the former Boers, the Dutch settlers of South Africa exiled to Ceylon during the colonial war of the last century.
Below them was the Buddhist and Moslem population of Ceylon, which numbered many millions. And still further down, making up the worst- paid working ranks, and also running into the millions, were Indian immigrants, all from the southern part of that country; they spoke Tamil and professed the Hindu religion.
In the so-called "polite society," which paraded its finest clothes and jewels in Colombos exclusive clubs, two famous snobs competed for leadership. One was a phony French nobleman, Count de Mauny, who led a group of devotees. The other was an elegant and devil-may-care Pole, my friend Winzer, who dominated the few fashionable salons there were. This man was extremely witty, quite cynical, and a source of knowledge about everything in the world. He had a strange profession -"preserver of the cultural and archaeological treasure"- and going along with him on one of his official expeditions was an eye-opening experience to me.
Excavations had brought to light two magnificent cities the jungle had swallowed up: Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Pillars and corridors gleamed once again in the brilliant Singhalese sun. Naturally, everything that could be shipped was carefully packed and went on its way to the British Museum in London.
My friend Winzer was pretty good at his work. He went to remote monasteries and, to the enormous satisfaction of the Buddhist monks, he loaded the official van with marvelous stone sculptures, thousands of years old, that would end up in Englands museums. The look of contentment on the faces of the saffron-garbed monks was something to see, when Winzer would leave them some painted-up celluloid Buddhist images, made in Japan, as replacements for their antiques. They would look them over with reverent eyes and set them up on the same altars from which the jasper and granite statues had smiled for centuries.
My friend Winzer was an excellent product of the Empire; that is an elegant short-change artist.
Something came to throw a cloud over those days literally burned away by the sun. Without warning, my Burmese love, the tempestuous Josie Bliss, pitched camp in front of my house. She had come all the way from her far-off country. Believing that rice was not grown anywhere except in Rangoon, she arrived with a sack of it on her back, with our favorite Paul Robeson records, and a long, rolled-up mat. She spent all her time posted at the front door, looking out for anyone who came to visit me, and she would pounce on them and insult them. I can see her now, consumed by overwhelming jealousy, threatening to burn down my house, and attacking a sweet Eurasian girl who had come to pay a call.
The colonial police considered her uncontrollable behavior a focus of disruption in the quiet street, and I was warned that she would be thrown out of the country if I didnt take her in. I felt wretched for days, racked between the tenderness her unhappy love stirred in me and the terror I had of her. I didnt dare let her set foot in my house. She was a love-smitten terrorist, capable of anything.
One day, at last, she made up her mind to go away. She begged me to go with her to the ship. When it was time to weigh anchor and I had to go ashore, she wrenched away from the passengers around her, and seized by a gust of grief and love, she covered my face with kisses and bathed me with her tears. She kissed my arms, my suit, in a kind of ritual, and suddenly slipped down to my shoes, before I could stop her. When she stood up again, the chalk of my white shoes was smeared like flour all over her face. I couldnt ask her to give up her trip, to leave the ship with me instead of going away forever. My better judgment prevented me from doing that, but my heart received a great scar which is still part of me. That unrestrained grief, those terrible tears rolling down her chalky face, are still fresh in my memory.
I had almost finished writing the first part of "Residence on Earth". But my work was progressing very slowly. Distance and a deep silence separated me from my world, and I could not bring myself to enter wholeheartedly the alien world around me.
Things that happened in my life, which was suspended in a vacuum, were brought together in my book as if they were natural events: "Closer to lifes blood than to ink." I tried to purify my style, but relied more on a wild melancholy. I insisted on truth and effective rhetoric (because they are the ingredients for the bread of poetry) in a bitter style that worked systematically toward my own destruction. The style is not only the man. It is also everything around him, and if the very air he breathes does not enter into the poem, the poem is dead: dead because it has not had a chance to breathe.
I have never read with so much pleasure or so voluminously as I did in that suburb of Colombo where I lived all alone for so long. From time to time I would return to Rimbaud, Quevedo or Proust. "Swanns Way" made me experience all over again the torments, the loves and jealousies of my adolescence. And I realized that in the phrase from Vinteuils sonata, a musical phrase Proust referred to as "aerial and fragrant," one savors not only the most exquisite description of sensuous sound but also a desperate measure of passion itself.
My problem, in those solitary surroundings, was to find this music so that I might listen to it. With the help of my friend the musician and musicologist, we pursued the matter until we learned that Prousts Venteuil was probably a combination of Schubert and Wagner and Saint-Saens and Faure and dIndy and Cesar Franck. My shamefully skimpy musical curriculum had omitted all those composers. Their works were boxes that were missing, or sealed to me. My ear could never recognize any but the most obvious melodies and, even then, with difficulty.
Making further headway in the investigation, more literary than musical, I finally got hold of a three-record album of Cesar Francks Sonata for Piano and Violin. No doubt about it, Vinteuils phrase was there. There was absolutely no room for doubt.
For me its attraction had been purely literary. In his sharp-sighted narrative about a dying society he loved and hated, Proust, the greatest exponent of poetic realism, lingered with passionate indulgence over many works of art, paintings and cathedrals, actresses and books. But although his insight illuminated whatever it touched, he often went back to the enchantment of his sonata and its renascent phrase with an intensity that he probably did not give to any other descriptive passages. His words led me to relive my own life, to recover the hidden sentiments I had almost lost within myself in my long absence. I wanted to see in that musical phrase Prousts magical narrative and I was swept away on musics wings.
The phrase loses itself in the depths of shadows, falling in pitch, prolonging, enhancing its agony. It appears to build up in anguish like a Gothic structure, volutes repeated on and on, swayed by the rhythm that lifts a slender spire endlessly upward.
The element born of pain looks for a triumphal way out that, in its rise, , will not deny its origin transmuted by sadness. It curls seemingly into a melancholy spiral, while the dark notes of the piano accompany time and again the death and renascence of the sound. The heart-rending intimacy of the piano repeats, time and again, the serpentine birth, until love and pain come together in death and victory.
There could be no doubt for me that this was the phrase and this the sonata.
Savage darkness came down like a fist on my house lost among the coconut trees of Wellawatte, but each night the sonata lived with me, leading me on, welling around me, filling me with its everlasting sadness, its victorious melancholy.
Until now, the critics who have scrutinized my work have not detected this secret influence I am confessing here. For I wrote a large part of "Residence on Earth" there, in Wellawatte. Although my poetry is not "fragrant or aerial" but sadly earth-bound, I think those qualities, so often clad in mourning, have something to do with my deep feelings for this music that lived within me.
Years later, back in Chile once more, I met the big three of Chilean music-young, gathered together at a party. It was 1932, I believe, in Marta Brunets home. Claudio Arrau was chatting in a corner with Domingo Santa Cruz and Armando Carvajal. I sauntered over, but they hardly spared me a glance. They went on talking imperturbably about music and composers. So I tried to show of a little, bringing up that sonata, the only one I knew. They looked at me with a distracted air and spoke down on me. "Cesar Franck? Why Cesar Franck? Verdi is what you should get to know." And they went on with their conversation, burying me under my own ignorance, from which I still havent been able to escape.
Solitude in Colombo was not only dull but indolent. I had a few friends on the street where I lived. Girls of various colorings visited my campaign cot, leaving no record but the lightning spasm of the flesh. My body was a lonely bonfire burning night and day on that tropical coast. One friend , Patsy, showed up frequently with some of her friends, dusky and golden, girls of Boer, English, Dravidian blood. They went to bed with me sportingly, asking for nothing in return.
One of them told me all about her visits to the "chummeries." Thats what they called the bungalows where young Englishmen, clerks in shops and firms, lived together in groups to save on money and food. Without a trace of cynicism of her voice, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, the girl told me that she had once had sex with fourteen of them.
"And why did you do it?" I asked her. "They were having a party one night and I was alone with them. They turned on a gramophone, I danced a few steps with each of them, and as we danced wed lose our way into one bedroom or another. That way, everyone was happy."
She was not a prostitute. No, she was just another product of colonialism, a candid and generous fruit of its tree. Her story impressed me, and from then on, I had a soft spot for her in my heart.
My solitary bungalow was far from any urban development. When I rented it, I tried to find out where the toilet was; I couldnt see it anywhere. Actually, it was nowhere near the shower, it was at the back of the house. I inspected it with curiosity. It was a wooden box with a hole in the middle, very much like the artifact I had known as a child in the Chilean countryside. But our toilets were set over a deep well or over running water. Here the receptacle was a simple metal pail under the round hole.
The pail was clean every morning, but I had no idea how its contents disappeared. One morning I rose earlier than usual, and I was amazed when I saw what had been happening.
Into the back of the house, walking like a dusky statue, came the most beautiful woman I had yet seen in Ceylon, a Tamil of the pariah caste. She was wearing a red-and-gold sari of the cheapest kind of cloth. She had heavy bangles on her bare ankles. Two tiny red dots glittered on either side of her nose. They must have been ordinary glass, but on her they were rubies.
She walked solemnly toward the latrine, without so much as a side glance at me, not bothering to acknowledge my existence, and vanished with the disgusting receptacle on her head, moving away with the steps of a goddess.
She was so lovely that, regardless of her humble job, I couldnt get her off my mind. Like a shy jungle animal she belonged to another kind of existence, a different world. I called to her, but it was no use. After that, I sometimes put a gift in her path, a piece of silk or some fruit. She would go past without hearing or looking. That ignoble routine had been transformed by her dark beauty into the dutiful ceremony of an indifferent queen.
One morning, I decided to go all the way. I got a strong grip on her wrist and stared into her eyes. There was no language I could talk with her. Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and was soon naked in my bed. Her wrist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thousand -year-old sculptures from the south of India. It was the coming together of man and statue. She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated.
I hardly believed it when I read the cable. The Minister of Foreign Relations was notifying me of my new appointment. I would end my term as consul in Colombo and go on to carry out the same function in Singapore and Batavia. This raised me from the first circle of poverty into the second. In Colombo I had the right to retain (if it was taken in) the sum of $166.66. Now, as consul in two colonies at once, I could retain (if it was taken in) twice $166.66; namely, the sum of $332.32 (if it was taken in). This meant that, for the present anyway, I would stop sleeping on a field cot. My material aspirations were not too high.
But what was I going to do with Kiria, my mongoose? Give her to the impudent neighborhood kids, who no longer believed in her power against serpents? I wouldnt dream of it. They would neglect her; they would not let her eat at the table, as she was used to with me. Set her loose in the forest to revert to her primitive state? Never. She had doubtless lost her defensive instincts and the birds of prey would devour her in an unguarded moment. But how could I take her with me? Such a singular passenger would never be allowed on board ship.
So I decided to have Bhrampy, my Singhalese "boy," make the trip with me. It was a millionaires luxury, and it was also madness; we were going to countries-Malaya, Indonesia- whose languages Bhrampy couldnt speak a word of. The mongoose, on the other hand, could ravel incognito in a basket on deck. Bhrampy knew her as well as I did. Customs was a problem, but crafty Bhrampy would be sure to get around it. And thats how, with sadness, joy, and the mongoose, we left the island of Ceylon, headed for another, unknown world."
And heres a poem: "Burial in the East" from Nerudas "Residence on Earth 1 (1925-1931)" translated by Angel Flores, originally published in 1946.
I work at night, surrounded by city, by fishermen, and potters, and corpses
burned with fruit and saffron, wrapped in scarlet muslin: underneath my
balcony these terrible dead go by sounding their chains and copper flutes,
strident and soft, and lugubrious they blow mid the color of heavy poisonous
flowers and shouts of ashen-colored dancers, the mounting monotony of
drums and smoke from logs that burn and smell. For once they reach the
turn in the road, near the turbid river, their hearts, stopping or quickening,
roll down burning, leg and foot aflame. Tremulous the ashes fall upon
the water, and float like a bunch of calcinated flowers, or like an extinguished
fire left by travelers so powerful they burned something over the black
waters and devoured a vanished food, a potent liquor. [2810 words. Sent
in by Gamini Dissanayake]
Haiti: Crimes of Aristide
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
The Island - Sep 15 & 22, 2004
As Toronto was getting ready to witness a free public display of over 1,000 Buddhist Relics of Siddhartha Gautama and many other Buddhist masters, at the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in the weekend of Sept 11/12 (a two-day stop over during a world tour), and the donations were to go toward the 152-metre Maitreya Buddha project in UP, northern India, LTTE supporters were seen distributing flyers and posting posters announcing the Pongu Thamil (uprising) at Queens Park (the legislative assembly premises) on Sept 25.
Going into the online edition of The Island, I see a news item about our first batch of peacekeepers, 750 military personnel, all set to leave for Haiti.
I am sure some of our guys will enjoy the 1988 movie "The Serpent and the Rainbow" but the reality of Haiti is much more shocking. As Sri Lanka was called Pearl of the Orient, Haiti was the Pearl of the Antilles, a French colony during the 18th century. Like Ceylon , it was formerly Saint Domingue. Like Ceylon, it was one of the most profitable colonies in the world. Haiti was born in ruins after a 13-year civil war against the French colonial masters. Half a million slaves, led by Toussaint Louverture and later Jean-Jacques Dessalines, overpowered Napoleons military might in the only successful slave revolution in history.
Independence in 1804 was a triumph for black self-emancipation and a fatal blow to slavery around the world. Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering the island in 1492. It was named Hispaniola and claimed as Spanish colony. France captured the western part of the island in 1664 and established the colony of Saint-Domingue. When Spain recognised this claim in 1697 with the Treaty of Rijswijk, the island was divided into French and a Spanish (Santo Domingo) parts. Then began the Negro resistance in 1791 which culminated in Saint Domingue becoming independentde factoin 1804.
In November 1803 the former slaves won what proved to be the wars final battle, and on Jan 1, 1804 declared the independent republic of Haiti. It was Latin Americas first independent country and the only nation ever born of a slave revolt. The Haitian Revolution, Laurent Dubois wrote, was a dramatic challenge to the world as it then was. Slavery was at the heart of the thriving system of merchant capitalism that was profiting Europe, devastating Africa, and propelling the rapid expansion of the Americas. Independent Haiti had few friends.
Virtually, all the worlds powers sided with France against the self-proclaimed Black Republic, which declared itself a haven not only for runaway slaves but also for indigenous people from the rest of the Americas. (The true natives of Haiti had succumbed to infectious diseases and Spanish slavery well before the arrival of the French.) Hemmed in by slave colonies, Haiti had only one non-colonised neighbour, the slave-holding United States, which refused to recognise its independence.
Haitis leaders were desperate for recognition, since the islands only source of revenue was sugar, coffee, cotton and other tropical produce it had to sell. In 1825, under the threat of another French invasion and the restoration of slavery, Haitian officials signed an agreement which would prove the beginning of the end of any hope of autonomy. The French king agreed to recognise Haitis independence only if the new republic paid France an indemnity of 150 million francs and reduced its import and export taxes by half.
The debt that Haiti recognised was incurred by the slaves when they deprived the French owners not only of land and property but of their human property. The impact of the debt repayments which continued until after World War II, was devastating.
In the words of the Haitian anthropologist Jean Price-Mars, the incompetence and frivolity of its leaders had turned a country whose revenues and outflows had been balanced up to then into a nation burdened with debt and trapped in financial obligations that could never be satisfied. And the abolitionist Victor Schoelcher argued: Imposing an indemnity on the victorious slaves was equivalent to making them pay with money that which they had already paid with their blood.
When the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell decided to deliver his celebrated oration documenting the awesome details of Iraqs weapons of mass of destruction (which, in fact, soon turned out to be weapons of mass disappearance or weapons of mass deceit) he made sure that he would not address the UN General Assembly against the background of Picassos Guernica.
Guernica, or course, is Picassos celebrated protest in paint against superpower terrorism. The mural was hidden from sight on General Powells orders, wrote the veteran Jamaican journalist John Maxwell, as he documented the compelling reasons for a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, to keep the world safe from terrorism. The world considered the dive-bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica (by Fascist German and Italian dive-bombers) an atrocity. Unfortunately for us, the world did not know of another Guernica, in Haiti, nearly 20 years earlier, when American dive-bombers obliterated peasants, men and women armed with machetes fighting for the freedom of their country. The artificial instabilities of the 19th century in Latin America had their real genesis in the Monroe Doctrine, which decreed that countries in the Americas, except those controlled by the European powers, were subject to US hegemony.
France was so rattled by the success of the Haitian revolution that it sold off for a pittance, the Louisiana territories to the United States, more than doubling the size of that country. (By a treaty signed on April 30, 1803, the United States purchased from France the Louisiana Territory, more than 2 million square kilometres of land extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. The price was 60 million francs, about $ 15 million.)
The US continued to do what it could do to strangle Haiti, Noam Chomsky wrote in the Z magazine (the website is Znet) on March 9, 2004, even supporting Frances insistence that Haiti pay a huge indemnity for the crime of liberating itself, a burden it has never escapedand France, of course, dismisses with elegant disdain Haitis request, recently under Aristide, that it at least repay the indemnity, forgetting the responsibilities that a civilized society would accept. This criminal burden was faithfully honoured by the Haitians, though it caused them untold grief and added privation. With much of their wealth exported to France, there was nothing left to develop Haiti. The Americans lent money to help them repay the French. Finally, the accumulated debt became impossible to pay and the American marines stepped in under President Wilsons orders.
The first US Marine General Caperton, was a diplomat, wrote John Maxwell. He was able to set up a puppet regime of collaborators and secured a legal basis for the occupation in the Haitian-American Treaty of 1915. His successor General Littleton Waller was different, who declared that the Haitians were niggers in spite of the thin varnish of education and refinement. Down in their hearts they were just the same happy, idle, irresponsible people we know of.
Not surprisingly, Wallers regime provoked resistance, mainly led by a man called Charlemagne Peralte. The puppet government had been forced to agree to changing the constitution to allow foreigners to own land and American capital poured in, destroying forests to plant coffee and citrus. The US next introduced forced labour, under an old Haitian law which commanded the people to give an occasional free day to build the country. In the American regime, the corvee was transformed into something indistinguishable from slavery. Charlemagne Peralte was murdered by American troops in what now be called a targeted assassination. His people were bombed and otherwise massacred.
US military forces withdrew in 1934 having supervised puppet presidents. The last one of them, Stenio Joseph Vincent remained president when the US forces left. Vincent took advantage of the comparative national stability to gain absolute power. He brutally repressed his opposition, censored the press and governed largely to benefit himself and a coterie of merchants and corrupt military officers. Under US pressure he handed power to Elie Lescot in 1941 whose power resided in a clique that ruled with the tacit support of the army. In 1946 the US forced him to step down and a military junta took over.
Haiti was safe for American democracy. One of those who made it so was American Marine General Smedley Butler, who, after he retired, externalised some guilt feelings. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American Republics for the benefits of Wall Street.
The record of racketeering is long. General Butler said I suspected I was just part of racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of military profession, I never had thoughts of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed orders of higher-ups... This, as we all know, is typical in the military service. Butler compared himself unfavourably to Al Capone. He said his official racketeering made Capone look a rookie. A main feature of the US foreign policy is, of course, Your land, our resources which means, We must be allowed to exploit your wealth and resources as much as we like. (At grass roots level, dont be surprised if Monsanto tells you, for example, it owns all the kohomba trees in your plot.)
To make a long story short, once again, the US occupied Haiti from 19151934, ruthlessly crushing a nationalist revolt, tying the Haitian currency directly to the dollar, and making the military a powerful, independent institution. Only President Dumarsais Estime, elected in 1946 and who showed a genuine concern for the welfare of the people but was ousted by the army in 1950 represented a black nationalist leadership.
In 1957, Dr Francois Duvalier won a controversial election with backing from the military, the Dominican military next door and the US government. Known as Papa Doc , he used the Creole language, the Vodun religion (voodoo) and Black Nationalism to identify himself with the Haitian peasant, and gained US support with his anti-communist pronouncements. He declared himself President-for-Life in 1964 and used his paramilitary death squads Tonton Macoutes to bulldoze any opposition.
Jean Claude Duvalier became president at his fathers death in 1971. Known as Baby Doc he too claimed to represent the black majority, expanded a corrupt system that siphoned foreign aid dollars into the pockets of family and friends, and continued the by then familiar repression. For three decades the Duvalier dictators ruled with the blessings of the US. Under their rule, Haiti became a byword for repression, but a convenient source for cheap labour for US offshore manufacturers.
Finally, in February 1986, the army, the rich, and the US State Department could no longer be counted on to support his governments violent responses to accelerating national protests, and the Duvaliers fled. In fact, he was whisked away by the Americans to avert a full-scale revolution, the Haitian military swiftly filled the void, (as Haitians in the diaspora considered returning to a free Haiti), and business continued as usual.
A milestone in Haitis history came in March 1987 when the government loosened its grip long enough for voters to adopt a new, progressive constitution. The document outlawed death penalty, made Creole an official language (along with French) and erased anti-Vodun laws. A determined civilian electoral council then became Haitis moral leader for eight months, allowing civilians to organise elections. But the process was crushed amidst massacres of voters on election day. Since then leaders have come and gone. In Sept 1988 General Avril ousted the army officers then in power, and the Haitian revolution was back to square one.
Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard professor has been actively involved in public health work in Haiti since 1983. He has been watching the tragedy as it unfolded. Duvaliers fled in 1986. A first attempt at democratic elections in 1987 writes Dr. Farmer, led to massacres at polling stations. An army general declared himself in charge. In September 1988, the mayor of Port-au-Princea former military officer paid a gang to set fire to a Catholic church as mass was being held. It was packed with people, 12 of whom died. (Like Salvadores Archbishop Oscar Romero, and our own Fr. Mike Rodrigo, who was gunned down while conducting mass in Buttala.) At the altar was Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the nemesis of the dictatorship and the army.
Aristide was a proponent of liberation theology, with its injunction that the Church proclaim a preferential option for the poor, but liberation theology had its adversaries: members of Reagans brains trust, meeting in 1980, declared it less Christian than Communist. US policy, they said must begin to counter (not react against)... the liberation theology clergy.
Aristedes elevation from slum priest to presidential candidate took place against a background of right-wing death squads and threatened military coups. "He rose quickly in the eyes of Haitians, but his stock plummeted in the US".
The New York Times which relies heavily on informants who can speak English or French, had few kind words for him. "Hes a cross between the Ayatollah and Fidel" and one Haitian businessman was quoted as saying, If it comes to a choice between the ultra-left and the ultra-right, Iam ready for an alliance with the ultra-right. Haitians knew, however, that Aristede would win any democratic election, and on Dec 16, 1990, he got 67 per cent of the vote in a field of 12 candidates. No run-off was required.
"The only question in the mind of anybody who knows a little history should have been," said Noam Chomsky in 1994, "how is the US going to get rid of Aristide? The disaster became even worse in the first seven months of Aristides office. There were some really amazing developments... He was able to reduce corruption extensively, and to trim a highly bloated state bureaucracy. He won a lot of international praise for this, even from international lending agencies, which were offering him loans and preferential terms because they liked what he was doing... Furthermore, he cut back on drug trafficking. The flow of refugees to the US virtually stopped.
Atrocities were reduced to way below what they had been or would become. There was a considerable degree of popular engagement [participatory democracy] in what was going on, although the contradictions were already beginning to show up, and there were constraints on what he could do
The US might not have been able to prevent Aristedes landslide victory. But there was plenty they could do to undermine him. The most effective method, adopted by the first Bush administration was to fund both the opposition-their poor showing at the polls was no reason, it appears, to cut off aid to them- and the military. "Declassified records now make it clear, " wrote Dr. Farmer, " that the CIA and other US groups helped to create and fund a paramilitary group called FRAPH, which rose to prominence after a military coup that ousted Aristede in Sept 1991. Thousands of civilians were killed and hundreds of thousands fled overseas or across the border into the Dominican Republic. For the next three years, Haiti was run by military-civilian juntas as ruthless as the Duvaliers."
"In response to the coup, the Organization of American States declared an embargo of Haiti, the US joined it, but with obvious reluctance. The Bush administration focused attention on Aristides alleged atrocities and undemocratic activities, downplaying the major atrocities which took place right after the coup. The media went along with Bushs line, of course. While people were getting slaughtered in the streets of Port-au-Prince [[Haitis capital] , the media concentrated on alleged human rights abuses under the Aristide government."
"Meanwhile the US, which is known to be able to exert pressure when it feels like it, found no way to influence anyone else to observe the embargo, including the Dominican Republic next door. The whole thing was mostly a farce. Pretty soon Marc Bazin, the US candidate, a former World Bank official who only 14 percent of the vote, was in power as the prime minister in 1992 with the ruling generals behind him..." After 1991 it was simply matter of seeing what kind of finessing was needed to ensure that Haitis popularly elected government did not come back into office.
Meanwhile, the terror and atrocities increased. The popular organizations were getting decimated. Although the so-called embargo was still in place, US trade continued and , in fact, went up by 50 percent under Clinton. Haiti, a starving island, was exporting food to the US- about 35 times as much under Clinton as it did under Bush. "Baseballs were coming along nicely. They were produced in US-owned factories where the women who made them got 10 cents an hour-if they met their quota. Since meeting the quota was virtually impossible, they actually made something like 5 cents an hour.
Softballs from Haiti were advertised in the US as being unusually good because they were hand-dipped into some chemical that made them hang together properly.
The ads didnt mention that the chemical women-hand-dipped the balls into was toxic and that, as a result, the women did not last very long at that work."
In his exile Aristide was asked to make concessions to the military junta. This might sound weird but was perfectly understandable. The Aristide government had entirely the wrong base of support. The US had tried for a long time to get him to "broaden his government in the interests of democracy." That meant throw out the two-thirds of the population that voted for him and bring in what are called "moderate" elements of the business community -the local owners or managers of those textile and baseball-producing plants, and those who were linked up with US agribusiness.
When they are not in power, its not democratic. As things got worse the UN Security Council authorized member states to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure of Haitis military leadership and to restore Haitis constitutionally elected government to power. The US, under Bill Clinton, took the lead in forming a multinational force to carry out the mandate of the UN by means of military intervention and deposed the usurper General Cedres in 1994 and restored Aristede to power. Then, seven weeks after Aristedes return, Republicans took control of the Congress, and influential Republicans have worked ever since to block aid to Haiti or burden it with preconditions.
The aid coming through official channels was never very substantial, "says Dr. Farmer, "the US gave Haiti, per capita one tenth of what it distributed in Kosovo. It is true that, as former US ambassadors and the Bush administration have recently claimed, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Haiti -but not to the elected government. A great deal of it went to the anti-Aristide opposition. A lot also went to pay for the UN occupation, and Halliburton support services. There was little effort to rebuild schools, the healthcare infrastructure, roads, ports, telecommunications or airports.
During his few months in office, Aristede, in part because of the abolition of the Haitian army [Aristede disbanded the army in 1995] , became in 1996, the first elected civilian to see another civilian -Rene Preval- succeed him as president of Latin Americas oldest republic. In Nov 2000, Aristede was again elected by a landslide. But problems had already arisen. In the local and parliamentary elections in May, eight parliamentary seats were disputed and when the political opposition cried foul, the US froze international aid.
The Inter-American Development Bank, [IDB] for example, had approved four loans, for health, education, drinking water and road improvement. Haitian and American sources had confirmed to Dr Palmer that the US asked the bank to block the loans until the electoral disputes had been worked out. Since seven of senators in question resigned in 2001, and the others term expired shortly thereafter, that should have been the end of the aid freeze, yet it continued throughout Aristedes tenure. "The State Department later claimed that the freeze was decided on by a consensus of the members of the Organization of American States in something called the Declaration of Quebec City. writes Dr. Farmer. "The declaration is dated Apr 22, 2001, and the letter from the US representative asking that the loans not be disbursed was dated Apr 8.
To quote the conclusion of one of the few journalists to find this scandal worthy of inquiry, it would seem that the effort became concerted after it was made." J
ohn Maxwell, puts it more strongly, "........ .People are starving to death in Haiti, thousands are dying of AIDS. Thousands of children and adults are dead, dying , or unable to function in any adequate sense because of polluted drinking water, lack of food, and AIDS. The situation is dire, and it has been for years -long before Aristede. The High Panjandrums of the USA, France, Canada and the UN know all that and have known it for years..."
International financial institutions engaged in discriminatory and probably illegal practices towards Haiti. According to the London-based Haiti Support Group , " Haitis debt to international financial institutions and foreign governments has grown from $ 302 million in 1980 to over $ 1.134 billion today. About 40 per cent of this debt stems from loans to the brutal Duvalier dictators, who invested precious little of it in the country. This is known as odious debt because it was used to oppress the people, and, according to international law, this debt need not be repaid.." Yet in order to meet the renewed demands of the IDB, the cash-strapped Haitian government was required to pay ever-expanding arrears on its debts, many of them linked to loans paid out to the Duvalier dictatorship and to the military regimes that ruled Haiti with great brutality from 1986-1990. In Jul 2003, Haiti sent more than 90 per cent of all its foreign reserves to Washington to pay off these arrears. "As of Apr 2004 ," says Dr. Farmer, " less than $ 4 million of the four blocked loans -which totaled $ 146 million- has reached inspite of many assurances from the IDB"
On the night of Feb 28 this year, the Haitian President Jean -Bertrand Aristede was forced from power. He claimed he had been kidnapped and didnt know where he was being taken until, at the end of 20-hour flight, he was told that he and his wife would be landing in a French military base in the middle of Africa. He found himself in the Central African Republic.
(To be continued next Wednesday)
Midweek Review - The Island Colombo, Oct 06 2004
Haiti: "Curse of the 21" - III
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
In this series of articles on Haiti, the writer examines the fate of a poor nation torn between the will of its masses and the economic and geopolitical interests of the world powers. Part II appeared on September 02.
Colin Powells parents were from Jamaica, although he was born in the US. "Everybody in Jamaica owes his or her freedom in part, to the Haitian revolution, and every black American owes a similar debt. The US itself owes nearly half its territory to the Haitian Revolution. It is Mr. Powells perceived failure to take up the black mans burden that enraged Harry Belafonte, another Jamaican-American, who disparaged him in derogatory terms.
Powell was mentored by another immigrant, a second generation Italian named Frank Carlucci, who was Secretary of Defense in the Regan Administration and is now the Chairman of the notorious Carlye Group, a giant investment firm in which the Bush family has interest.
In April, Colin Powell celebrated his 67th birthday in Port-au-Prince. Mr. Powell was there, he said, to "demonstrate [US] support for Haiti and to help the leadership of Haiti make a new beginning and to build a future of hope for the Haitian people
"Mr Powell was last in Haiti in 1994," wrote John Maxwell, "to negotiate a soft landing for American troops. At that time Mr.Powell was sure of the integrity of an agreement he had made with General Raoul Cedras, the tyrant then in charge.
Powell said he trusted the "soldiers honour" of Cedras. As it proved, Cedras soldiers honour was purely a figure of speech. One hopes that Mr. Powell will have better luck this time with Gerard Latortue [Haitis Prime Minister of the interim government] and his ninja tortues [tortue means turtle], some of whom are convicted torturers and mass murderers. Mr Powell said he and Mr Latortue spoke about a truth and reconciliation commission and Mr. Latortue even invoked the names of Tutu and Mandela, but gave no further indication that he was serious about the proposal.
Mr Powell said, "I also said to the Prime Minister that I will be working hard to reintegrate Haiti into the CARICOM community in the months ahead. I assured the prime minister that all the issues that he has mentioned to you today, the United States will be providing him full support"
Regarding the call for an inquiry into the circumstances of Aristedes departure, Mr Powell said: I dont think any purpose would be served by such an inquiry, but the facts are well known. On that evening, the situation was deteriorating rapidly in the country, especially in Port-au-Prince. We were on the verge of bloodbath, and President Aristede found himself in great danger. He got in touch with our ambassador, and arrangements were made at his request for him to depart the country and now I think it is important for all of us to focus on what the Haitian people need."
In an interview with Haitis Radio Metropole, Mr. Powell said. " I think we succeeded in preventing a great loss of life by President Aristedes resignation and by the introduction of multinational forces
If Mr Powells we means what it seems to, it would appear that President Aristede was not involved in the transfer of power on Feb 29
When the host, Rothchild Francois Jr, a Haitian stringer for the Voice of America asked, "Secretary Powell, politically, this government is facing a problem with CARICOM. You know, CARICOM doesnt want to recognize this government, so what do you think about that and how will the US help this governbment to obtain recognition from CARICOM?"
Colin Powell: "I will be working with CARICOM and the individual nations of CARICOM to let them come to the realization that this government now here is legitimate and represents the desire of the Hatian people. And I hope that over the next couple of months that CARICOM will change its position and welcome Haiti fully into the CARICOM consensus"
Murderers, torturers, rapists and other depraved hooligans now walk the streets of Haiti free, dispensing justice to their enemies according to the news agencies. They are, says Mr La tortue, not criminals but freedom fighters, but for the former President Aristede, character assassination is what he deserves at the hands of Colin Powell.
"His [Aristedes] failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarization and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today", said Colin Powell weeks before the coup, "his own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people in Haiti."
In Oct 1994, under President Bill Clinton, the US military intervened and restored Aristede to power, with a little over a year of his term left to run. Although authorized by the UN, the restoration was basically a US operation. Of this says Noam Chomsky, " ...Also effectively suppressed [in the media] were the crucial conditions that Clinton imposed for Aristedes return: that he adopt the programme of the defeated US candidate in the 1990 elections, Marc Bazin, a former World Bank official who received 14 percent of the vote."
As democracy was thereby restored, the World Bank announced, "The renovated state must focus on an economic strategy centered on the energy and initiative of Civil Society, especially the private sector, both national and foreign. That has the merit of honesty." The Haitian Civil Society includes the tiny rich elite and US corporations, but not the vast majority of the population, the peasants and slum dwellers who had committed the grave sin of organizing to elect their own president.
World Bank officers explained that the neo-liberal programme would benefit the more open, enlightened, business class and foreign investors, but assured us that the programme was not going to hurt the poor to the extent it has in other countries subjected to structural adjustment, because the Haitian poor already lacked minimal protection from proper economic policy, such as subsidies for basic goods. Aristedes Minister in charge of rural development and agrarian reform was not notified of the plans to be imposed on this largely peasant society, to be returned by Americas good wishes to the track from which it veered briefly after the regrettable democratic election in 1990."
"All of this made Aristide even more unacceptable from the US point of view, and we tried to undermine him through what were called -naturally- democracy-enhancing programs. The US which had never cared at all about centralization of power in Haiti when its own favoured dictators were in charge, all of a sudden, began setting up alternative institutions that aimed at undermining executive power, supposedly in the interests of greater democracy. A number of these alleged human rights and labour groups became governing authorities after the coup, which came on Sep 30, 1991.
They, led by some former FRAPH leaders and others, are clearly back now in the centre stage.
Haitis social extremes are glaringly visible and statistically shocking. It has more millionaires per head than any Latin American or Caribbean nation-over 10,000 Haitians out of population of 8 million live in unabashed luxury. Yet, this is also the poorest country in the Americas, with an annual per person income of around $ 250. By all social indicators, it sits at the very bottom of the league. About 80 percent of the rural Haitian population lives in poverty. Far from improving, the poverty situation has been worsening over the past decade, concomitant with a rate of decline in per capita GNP of 5.2 percent a year over the 1985-95 period.
"The staggering level of poverty in Haiti is associated with a profile of social indicators that is also shocking. Life expectancy is only 57 years compared to the Latin American average of 69. Less than half the population is illiterate. Only about one child in five of secondary school age actually attends secondary school. Health conditions are similarly poor, vaccination coverage for children is only about 25 percent. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population is living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty...", says The World Bank: "Challenges of Poverty Reduction".
While the Blacks have been the majority [95 per cent of the population], descendants of the mixed-race minority freed by the colonialists [a small sector of lighter-skinned Haitians or Mulatto and European comprise 5 percent of the population] dominated commerce and political power from the outset. Gradually a gulf developed between the urban French-speaking elite and the great mass of Creole-speaking poor, working their peasant small holdings. That gulf continues to widen, though many small farmers have abandoned their eroded mountainside plots to swell the ranks of urban inhabitants.
In hurricane-prone Haiti [as we witnessed the major disaster in May devouring more than 2000 human lives] lavalas is the name given to the devastating flash floods which run down the eroded hills, washing away everything in their path. It was also the name chosen by Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, [affectionately called Titid] for his electoral coalition in 1990. He was greeted as a Messiah by the poor, as a dangerous subversive by the rich. After only eight months in power, the military stepped in once more and put an end to the short lived participatory democracy.
That the US and France undermined Aristede is not a fringe option. The Carribean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union have called for a formal investigation into his removal. "Most people around the world believe that Aristedes departure was at best facilitated, at worst coerced by the US and France. " said Gayle Smith, a member of the National Security Council staff under Clinton.
Why such animus towards Haitis leader?
Taking up the question of the historic French debt, Aristede declared that France extorted this money from Haiti by force and... should give it back to us so that we can build primary schools, primary healthcare, water systems and roads. He did the maths, adding in, interest and adjusting for inflation, to calculate that France owes Haiti $ 21,685,135,571.48. This figure was scoffed at by some of the French, who saw the whole affair a farce mounted by their disgruntled former subjects. Others felt insulted or angered when the point was pressed in diplomatic and legal circles.
Still, Aristede kept up the pressure. Writes Dr Paul Farmer, "The figure of $21 billion was repeated again and again. The number 21 appeared all over the place in Haiti, along with the word restitution. On January 1 this year, during the bicentennial celebrations, Aristede announced he would replace a 21-gun salute with a list of 21 things that had been done in spite of the embargo, and that would be done when restitution was made. The crowd went wild. The French press by and large dismissed his comments as silly, despite the legal merits of the case. Many Haitians saw Aristede [small, short-sighted man who just turned 51] as a modern Toussaint lOuverture, the slave leader who successfully led the revolution], a comparison that Aristede did not discourage.
"Toussaint was undone by foreign powers," Madison Smartt Bell wrote in Harpers magazine in January, "and Aristede also had suffered plenty of vexation from outside interference."
Opinion in Haiti is almost referred to as polarised in the US press, but his isnt true in every sense. Elections and polls, even recent ones, show that the poor majority still support Aristede. Its the middle classes and the traditional political elites who dont want him.
It would be convenient for the traditional Haitian elites and their allies abroad if Aristede, who has been forced to preside over unimaginable penury, had been abandoned by his own people. But Gallup polls in 2002, the results of which were never disseminated, showed that, despite his faults, he was Haitis most popular and trusted politician. So what is to be done about the people who, to the horror of the (US) Republican right, keep voting for him?
The prot`E9g`E9s of Jesse Helms have had more say in Aristedes fate than Haitian electorate. Although US officials stated initially that he had been taken to the country of his choice at the end of February, Aristedes claim that he had no idea where he was going seems more plausible. He had never been to the Cental African Republic (which is subject to French military and economic interests) before. A BBC story in March 2003 reported that the capital Bangui, was one of the worlds most dangerous cities, and the US advises its citizens not to travel to that country. The US embassy there was closed two years ago.
On the tarmac , Aristede thanked the Africans for their hospitality, and then said: I declare in overthrowing me they have uprooted the trunk of the tree of peace, but it will grow back because the roots are [still there].
(Part IV next week)
Midweek Review - The Island Colombo, Oct 13, 2004
Haiti: Crimes of Aristide - IV
The Bush administration appears to have put two men in charge of Latin American diplomacy, and theyve been at it for a long time. As the special presidential envoy to the western hemisphere Otto Reich is the top US diplomat in the region, even though he has never survived a House or Senate hearing. He was given the post by Bush during a Congressional recess. In the 1990s Reich was a lobbyist for industry (one beneficiary of his work: Lockheed Martin, who have been selling fighter planes to Chile); before that he had a long record of government service
During the civil war in Nicaragua, according to William Finnegan in a New Yorker magazine profile, Reich headed a Contra-support program that operated out of an outfit called the Office of Public Diplomacy. The office arranged speeches and recommended books to school libraries, but also leaked false stories to the press- that for instance, the Sandinista government was receiving Soviet MiG fighters, or was involved in drug trafficking...The office employed army psychological-warfare specialists, and worked closely with Lt-Colonel Oliver North, at the National Security Council
During the course of Iran-Contra investigation, the US comptroller general concluded that Reichs office had engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities. But by then Reich had been named US ambassador to Venezuela, where he laid the groundwork for future efforts to destabilize President Chavez. Not all this activity is covert: less than a year ago, Reich was on record welcoming a coup against Chavez, and urging the State Department and opinion makers to support the new government. The only problem was that the Venezuelan majority failed to fall into step, and Chavez remained.
Recently, the Bush administration sent Roger Noriega to Haiti towork out the crisis. Not everyone knew who he was: Noriegas career has been spent in the shadows of Congressional committees. For the better part of a decade, he worked for Helms and his allies, and its no secret he has had Aristide in his sights for years. US Haiti policy is determined by a small number of people who were prominent in either Reagans or George W. Bushs cabinets. Most are back in government today after an eight-year vacation in conservative think tanks or lobbying firms.
Elliot Abrams, convicted of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings, serves on the National Security Council. Regans national security adviser John Poindexter until recently headed the Pentagons new counter-terrorism unit. John Negroponte, former ambassador to Honduras, is now ambassador to the UN. Jeanne Kirkpatrick is on the board of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a body which has been actively supporting the opposition in Haiti, an arm of the National Endowment for Democracy [NED] Dr. Farmer wrote that his sources suggested that it backed the demobilized army personnel who provided the oppositions muscle at the beginning of the year in Haiti, though it denied it.
The players on the Haitian side fall into one of two categories: first, Haitis business elite, including those who own the media, and then the former military and paramilitaries-the people who were involved in the 1991-4 coup. Some have been in jail since then for murder, drug trafficking and crimes against humanity. Today every single one of them is out
Among those released by the rebels is the former general Prosper Avril, a leader of the notorious Presidential Guard under both Duvaliers. Avril seized power in Sep 1988, and was deposed in Mar 1990. A US District Court found that his regime engaged in a systematic pattern of egregious human rights abuses. It also found him personally responsible for enough torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment to award six of his victims a total of $41 million in compensation. The victims included opposition politicians, union leaders, scholars, even a doctor trying to practise community medicine. Avrils repression was not subtle: Three torture victims were paraded on national television with their faces grotesquely swollen, their limbs bruised and their clothing covered with blood. He suspended 37 articles of the constitution, and declared a state of siege.
The US started protecting Avril shortly after the 1994 restitution of Aristide. In November that year, the then secretary of state, Warren Christopher, relayed to the US ambassador intelligence reports that the Red Star Organization, under Avrils leadership, was planning a harassment and assassination campaign directed at... Aristede supporters. This information was not passed on to the Haitian authorities. In December, the Haitian police, acting on their own information, sought to arrest Avril at his home. Immediately after the police arrived, US soldiers turned up and tried to dissuade them from making the arrest. By the time they got in, Avril had fled to the neighbouring residence of the Columbian ambassador. Police searching Avrils house found military uniforms, illegal police radios and a cache of weapons.
"Avril escaped to Israel but later returned to Haiti, where his international and potential military support deterred further attempts to arrest him. He found a political party, which has never fielded candidates in an election but was invited by the IRI to participate in developing an opposition to Aristide. In May 2001, after US troops had withdrawn from Haiti, the police finally seized the opportunity to execute Avrils arrest warrant. The successful arrest was greeted with applause by the vast majority of Haitians and by human rights and justice groups in Haiti, the US, and Europe. Amnesty International asserted that the arrest could mark a step forward by the Hatiian justice system in its struggle against impunity. The gravity of the human rights violations committed during General Avrils period in power, from his 1988 coup detat to his departure in March 1990 cannot, AI said, be ignored. Frances Committee to Prosecute Duvalier concluded that the general must be tried On Dec 9, 2003 the magistrate investigating the Piatre Massacre in 1990, when several peasants lost their lives, formerly charged Avril with responsibility. He was in prison awaiting the end of the pre-trial proceedings when he was freed on Mar 2, 2004 - a few days after Aristide was deposed.
Guy Philippe, the rebel leader received training , during the last coup, at a US military facility in Ecuador. When the Army was demobilized [by Aristede in 1995] Philippe was incorporated into the new police force, serving as police chief in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas, and in the second city, Cap-Haitien. During his tenure, the UN International Civilian Mission learned, dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, most of them by police under the command of Phillepes deputy. The US embassy has also implicated Philippe in drug smuggling during his police career.
Crimes commited in large part by ex-military policemen, are often pinned on Aristide, even though he sought to prevent coup-happy human rights abusers from ending up in these posts. Wrote Dr. Farmer.
Philippe fled Haiti in October 2000, when the authorities discovered him plotting a coup with a clique of fellow police chiefs. Since then, the Haitian government has accused him of masterminding terrorist attacks in July and December 2001 as well as lethal hit- and- run raids against police stations on Haitis central plateau [Over the last two years four of Dr Farmers ambulances have been stolen, and members of his medical staff have been held hostage]. Weeks after Aristide was forced out, Phillipes men bragged to the US press that they had executed Aristede supporters in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince, and many have indeed been reported missing.
Im the chief, the military chief. The country is in my hands said Philippe on Mar 2, which triggered the following response from Oscar Arias, the Noble Peace laureate and former president of Costa Rica. Nothing could more clearly prove why Haiti does not need an army than the boasting of rebel leader Guy Philippe last week in Port-au-Prince..The Haitian army was abolished nine years ago during a period of democratic transition, precisely to prevent the country from falling back into the hands of military men. Phillippe told the Associated Press that he would use his new powers to arrest Haitis prime minister, Yvon Neptune, and proceeded to lead a mob in an attack on Neptunes house. Phillipe has been quoted as saying that the man he most admires is Pinochet.
Guy Philippe is the rebel leader who is challenging the interim government of President Boniface Alexandre, that army be restored with 10 years back pay
Louis-Jodel Chamblain was a sergeant in the Haitian army until 1989 or 90. He reappeared on the scene in 1993 as the second in command of the FRAPH. (Emmanuel Toto" Constant, its leader is now living as a free man in Queens, New York) Among the FRAPHs victims was Guy Malary, the justice minister, ambushed and machine-gunned with his body guard and a driver. In September 1995, Chamblain was one of seven senior military and FRAPH leaders convicted in absentia and sentenced to forced labour for life for their involvement in the September 1993 execution of Antoine Izmery, a well-known pro-democracy activist. In late 1994 or early Chamblain went into voluntary exile in the Dominican Republic.
He gave himself up [just before a World Bank aid meeting] and was acquitted on August 16.
As for the traditional political elite US-born Andre Apaid, known in the US press as the leader of the civil society movement to oust Aristede is the founder of a TV station and owner of a garment manufacturing firm (A subsidiary of Alpha Industries) that was prominently featured in news reports about Disneys sweatshop suppliers. Aristede relentless push to raise the minimum wage above 72 gourdes a day (about $ 1.50) cut into the massive profits of the offshore assembly industry. The US Congress has proposed building new garment factories in Haiti and encouraging American companies to contract out more sweatshop labour-good news for Apaid.
At the other end of the social spectrum from Apaid are the chimeres, the groups described in the foreign press as armed gangs working for the Aristede government. But who are the chimeres? Residents of Haitis slums, long excluded from civil society, they were indeed chimeras, Madison Bell wrote.Ill fortune left them as unrealized shadows... These were the people Aristede had originally been out to salvage.
The salvage operation came to an end last month as rebels continued to take cities. "I work in these cities" writes Dr Farmer, "and I saw the rebels modus operandi. They came in, shot the police-who usually numbered no more than two or three- and left. Only a similarly counterforce could have stopped them. The beleaguered [Aristede] government appealed for help in the Security Council, but this was delayed by the Bush administration-delayed long enough for the government to fall or pushed out"
On June 1, Brazil became the leader of the 3600 member peacekeeping force formerly led by US. As the UN peacekeepers moved in US pulled out all its 1,900 troops.
The UN Security Council in April authorized a peacekeeping force of up to 5,700 troops and as many as 1,622 civilian police to stay in Haiti for six months.. In May, Chile had approved 650 troops and Argentina 500 for the UN mission.
On Sep 1 the Brazilian -led UN peacekeeping force in Haiti said it did not have enough troops to deal with a renewed conflict. "The UN should at this moment, have more than 6,000 [UN has authorized 6,700]" said the Brazilian spokesman.
On July 19, the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti [IJDH] released a 19-page report: "Human Rights Violations in Haiti: Feb-May 2004, and on July 26, the IJDH issued an update paying particular attention to the direct human rights violations by the so-called Interim Government of Haiti. Another report by the Haiti Accompaniment Project, corroborates and reinforces the findings of the IJDH. The reports are published at: haitiaction.net.
Briefly the various reports disclose that the interim government and its criminal satraps and accomplices have begun a second wave of repression against the political majority in Haiti-the Fanmi Lavalas [Family Lavalas] the movement supporting President Aristede.
The IJDH report documents in grisly detail the horror that is Haiti now. It corroborates earlier reports about massacres immediately following the overthrow of President Aristede
"The Director of the State Hospital Morgue in Port-au-Prince reported that the morgue had disposed over 1000 bodies in the month of March alone.. Although some of these may have died of natural causes, in a normal month the morgue disposes of 100 cadavers. The Director said that many of the 1000 disposed bodies arrived with hands tied behind the back and bullet holes in the back of the head.
"The Catholic Churchs Justice and Peace Commission reported finding 300 cadavers in the street in February and March, most with bullet holes, and estimated that the total number4 of killings could be as high as 500.
Lavalas supporters as prominent as Mayors and Haitis best known folklorist have been summarily arrested without charge. In the case of folklorist Anne Auguste, even her 6-year old granddaughter was brutally taken into custody when the 69- year old woman was arrested at midnight some weeks ago. The child has since been released.
The IJDH report includes photographs in colour of mutilated bodies piled in the morgue on May 20, after another massacre, pictures of other victims, including one beheaded by his murderers. Among other victims of the repression are two Lavalas activists rounded up and killed at night by a detachment of US marines in Belair-one of Haitis largest slums and a stronghold of the Lavalas.
The repression is no respecter of age, sex , or condition. Young and old are murdered, women and children are shot or beaten or otherwise abused.
Victims families report that hundreds of less prominent Lavalas supporters have been arrested throughout the country, often in violation of several constitutional provisions. These reports cannot be confirmed, however, because the prison authorities do not allow independent human rights groups full access to the prisons and prison records. Preliminary investigations do indicate that significant numbers of supporters of the Constitutional government are incarcerated without a warrant or judicial order in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, and Gonaives. In addition, there have been persistent reports of police conducting large, seeping arrest operations in poor neighbourhoods that are considered Lavalas strongholds. The police claim that the arrestees are common criminals, but as there no warrants or subsequent judicial action, it is impossible to confirm this claim."
"The reports can tell only of those cases about which informants will speak. Very many declined to speak because of fear of reprisals and many others were unreachable because they are hiding from terrorists. Radio stations are shut down, journalists, professors and members of parliament arrested and there is no news about these activities in the corporate press either in the US or elsewhere.
It is impossible for the facts not to be known to the UN or the US, but as in the case of Sudan, they seem to be waiting for the horrors to age, like good wine, before they can contemplate action
At this moment eight million Haitians are languishing under the rule of killers, torturers and face-choppers. Many are hiding as was the Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune who gave himself up as few weeks ago, rather than be murdered as fleeing felon. Some are in exile as are the President of Haiti, his wife and children [in South Africa], with their human and political rights torn from them by gangsters and terrorists." Wrote John Maxwell
"The so-called civilized world, like the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is about to delicately draw up its skirts and pass by on the other side, leaving 8 million human beings to languish and die, all because their ancestors 200 years ago decided to make concrete the idea that every human being should have the same rights as every other.
The Haitian Revolution was the only one of three great revolutions of the 18th century which implemented all of The Rights of Man. They have been the price ever since. As the cynics say -No good deed ever goes unpunished.
"The Hatians have managed to survive in the face of the most long-lasting and purposeful genocidal campaign in history. They suffered because they helped Bolivar, because they were bold enough to offer soldiers to help Lincoln free American slaves, because they understood the indivisibility of freedom and liberty. [Venezuelan-born liberator Simon Bolivar: 1783-1830, organized and led military forces to free northern parts of South America from Spanish rule]
"They suffer because they repudiated and defeated slavery. Had they been Europeans, their valour and nobility would be celebrated in song and story, in legend and myth." For the West, even today, it is more voodoo than courage and struggle.
When Haiti helped Bolivar -alone and friendless- she gave him all the arms, money and support she could. She asked only one thing of him- that in freeing Latin America he should also free its slaves
As John Maxwell says, "We have the power to move the conscience of the world, of humanity. We have the power to make a big difference to the lives of the Haitian people and of the oppressed all over the world. We dont have to do anything spectacular. All we need to do is to try to keep the attention of our neighbours and rest of the world focused, on the reality of Haiti. And we need to keep on doing it." (end)
The Year of Doc Film?
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto (Published in The Island, Colombo, Sep 08,2004)
First it was the books, a bagful of them, including best sellers like Richard A. Clarkes "Against All Enemies" [alleging President Bush was so preoccupied with Iraq both before and after the 9/11/2001 that he failed to effectively confront threats from al-Qaeda], Ron Suskinds "The Price of Loyalty" [in collaboration with former Treasury Secretary Paul ONeill], Kevin Phillips "American Dynasty" , Noam Chomskys "Hegemony or Survival" subtitled "Americas Quest for Global Dominance", John W. Deans "Worse Than Watergate", Joseph C. Wilsons "The Politics of Truth", David Corn of the Nation magazines "The Lies of George W.Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception," Michael Moores "Dude, Wheres My Country?", Lewis H. Laphams [Editor of Harpers magazine ] "Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and Stifling of Democracy", and others by Paul Begala, Michael John Dobbins, Gore Vidal, New York Times columnist and Princeton University Professor Paul Krugman and many more.
The list is legion, according to Jeff Zaleski, editor in chief of "Publishers Weekly" who recently told "USA Today" that "In 25 years of publishing, Ive never seen anything like this, in terms of volume and energy of books attacking a sitting president in an election year."
Another two-thumbs-up book "Perfectly Legal"  by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporter for the New York Times, David Cay Johnston about which presidential candidate Ralph Nader made these comments "...Johnston demonstrates with clear, cool, and motivating prose how the very rich need only to pay their tax lawyers to make you pay for their massive illicit wealth-individual and corporate- which is impoverishing our countrys necessities and swelling its deficits. This is a book that will either shame us or prod us into taking back our tax system as if fairness, productivity, and authentic patriotism matter."
And just last Thursday [Aug 26] the US Census Bureau reported that the ranks of the poor and those without health insurance grew in 2003 for the third straight year.
Two books: "A Matter of Character" and "Thank You President Bush" praising the president were scheduled to be released in time for the Republican Party Convention which began on Monday in New York.
As the US presidential campaign is getting hotter and meaner [like never before]John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee was planning the next round of things to do with the reports of two Pentagon investigations on Abu Ghraib in his hands. President Bush last week said he did not believe Senator John Kerry lied about his war record, but not willing to condemn the TV commercial paid for by a group of war veterans alleging that Mr. Kerry earned his war medals dishonestly, a 68-minute documentary movie by Paul Alexander " Brothers in Arms" subtitled "The Story of the Crew of Patrol Craft Fast 94" opened in New York on Friday, [also on DVD next week]
The film offers interviews with the five survivors [the sixth died last year] from the East, Midwest and Southern US, and covering the ethnic bases: African-American, Polish, Portuguese and white Protestant- the perfect mix for demographers dream team. They patrolled the Mekong Delta in early 1969 on the "94" and their leader was young John Kerry. . Their tales are so consistent, their emotions palpably real and they speak in respectful, even grateful tones of Mr. Kerrys leadership skills and personal courage. While the close-knit community of hawkish intellectuals, often called the neoconservatives [including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol] who built the case for the invasion of Iraq have largely stood their ground, a recent article by Francis Fukuyama [author of "The End of History" and one of the most influential thinkers associated with the movement, ] in "The National Interest" has upset the applecart. In it he has attacked the neocon arguments in support of the war in Iraq, including their belief in building a democracy there and their assessment of the threat from Islamic radicalism. But Fukuyama said he has not given up on neocon principles: a belief in the universal aspiration for democracy and the use of American power to spread democracy in the world.
There was also [among others] the documentary play Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom" which considers the plight of some of the British detainees at the prison established for suspected terrorists at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. First produced in London by the Tricycle Theatre,the play opened last Thursday night in New York. Inspired by Franz Kafkas "The Trial" "the play exerts an icy visceral charge that is never achieved by flashier agitprop satire like Tim Robbins Bush-bashing "Embedded."
Another documentary film "Bushs Brain" released last Friday in New York and Los Angeles depicts Mr Karl Rove, as the ultimate practitioner of ruthless, dirty politics. Adapted from the book "Bushs Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W.Bush Presidential" by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater, the film is directed by Joseph Mealey and Michael Paradies Shoob. Earlier, we had another remarkable documentary "Outfoxed" by Robert Greenwald, shedding light on the fact that FOX News channel is not only right-wing, but actually nothing more than a propaganda tool of the Bush White House.
And that brings us to the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 911" the years most controversial and successful documentary movie, along with the feature Mel Gibsons "The Passion of the Christ" [Another film "Jesus"  by Bill Bright, according to some missionary organizations [New York Times Feb 8, 2004] is the most powerful tool they have had at their disposal for the last couple of decades. "Jesus" earned just $4 million, but Campus Crusade for Christ credits it with saving 176 million souls!.] As for Michael Moore [his earlier films were "Roger and Me" and "Bowling for Columbine"] and Mel Gibson, it came as no surprise when Andrew Sullivan in a commentary in "Time" magazine wrote "Gibson and Moore -two sides of the same coin? Absolutely. Both movies are corrosive of the possibility of real debate and reason in our culture."
It is one thing to criticize Michael Moores methods or challenge his facts, but to accuse him of corroding the possibility of real debate, is simply moronic.
It is precisely because the debate has been so thoroughly corroded by the mainstream media that Fahrenheit 911 is being so gratefully received by millions and posted the highest box office earnings [over $ 125 million in the first month for a documentary work] and justified the award Palme dor, for the best film at Cannes voted unanimously.
The film begins on the election night in 2000. A moving footage of black members of Congress, mostly women, blocked in their efforts to protest cases of black disenfranchisement during the 2000 presidential election. [Bob Herbert and Paul Krugman, both New York Times op-ed columnists have recently expressed deep concern over FBI intimidating the crucial and decisive black voters in Florida, and the use of electronic voting machines of questionable reliability]
Then theres the unforgettable footage of Bush , after being informed that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, sitting in a Florida classroom for seven minutes [collecting his thoughts, may be] while school children read a story about a pet goat. This footage which has been available on the Internet for years but never shown in the networks was "just as interesting as the footage of Saddam Husseins mouth being examined after his capture which the networks never tired of running."
Moore questions the way the Bush administration has used 9/11 to justify the "war on terror" and asks what that war is really about , starting with the fact it is being fought largely by poor people, while rich, private interests benefit.
Moore follows army recruiters into depressed areas, where recruiting prospects are hot; almost everyone already has a friend or relative in Iraq.
He then tries to get congressmen to sign up their children for war, and finds no takers, even though it was Congress that voted to go to war.
One scene shows Bush addressing a dinner of rich supporters calling them "the haves and have-mores." Bush smirks: "Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." The films bill of particulars against Mr. Bush can be found in many of the recently published books mentioned above, and is unapologetically polemical. [Just before it was released in North America the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] TV re-ran a powerful investigative episode in its "The 5th Estate" series on the cozy relationship between Bush and Bin Laden families.] Fahrenheit 911 is also the best film Mr.Moore has made so far, a powerful and passionate expression of "outraged patriotism, leavened with humour and freighted with sorrow".
Mr. Moore is a prodigious talker and a wily showman, but he is also a good listener and when he visits his hometown, Flint in Michigan to speak to the mother of a marine killed in Iraq, the film "achieves an eloquence that its most determined critics will have a hard time dismissing." Faced with a subject he clearly detests, but forced to make a movie that makes his audience understand why, Michael Moore  has produced his most confident, coherent and compelling work.
In a brilliant essay on the film, New York based John Berger comments: "Fahrenheit 911 is astounding. Not so much as a film-although it is cunning and moving-but as an event.... What makes it an event is the fact that it is an effective and independent intervention into immediate world politics. Today, it is rare for an artist to succeed in making such an intervention, and in interrupting the prepared, prevaricating statements of politicians. Its immediate aim is to make it less likely that President Bush will be re-elected in November...
"Its a movie that speaks of obstinate faraway desires in a period of disillusion. A movie that tells jokes while the band plays apocalypse. A movie in which millions of Americans recognize themselves and the precise ways in which they are being cheated. A movie about surprises, mostly bad, some good, being discussed together. Fahrenheit 911 reminds the spectator that when courage is shared, one can fight against the odds...
"There is something else which is astounding. The aim of Fahrenheit 911 is to stop Bush fixing the next election as he fixed the last. Its focus is on the totally unjustified war in Iraq. Yet its conclusion is larger than either of these issues. It declares that a political economy which creates colossally increasing wealth surrounded by disastrously increasing poverty, needs - in order to survive- a continual war with some invented foreign enemy to maintain its own internal order and security. It requires ceaseless war..."
By the way, the title was inspired by Ray Bradburys short novel [and the 1996 film] Fahrenheit 451, about a futuristic civilization that bans writing.
And the man [John Grierson the first commissioner of Canadas National Film Board, and who co-wrote with Basil Wright "Song of Ceylon" for The Ceylon Tea Marketing Board, UK 1934] who coined the term documentary, believed it to be mainly a vehicle for propaganda. And he meant that in the good way. Like what cinema does best: [ Fahrenheit 911 and The Passion of the Christ, for example] arouse emotion, question beliefs and provoke debate.
The recent box office success of other documentaries like "The Corporation"- the corporation that behaves just like a psychopath,
Super-Size Me" feeding on Mac Donald fast foods, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" and also "The Control Room" about how Al-Jazeera works, by Jehane Noujaim, gives us the feeling that we are in the midst of a documentary explosion. Apparently, it is no longer the nondescript in the basement. Apparently we can handle the truth.
It could be escape fatigue. As mainstream movies have become more effects-driven and divorced from reality, we are craving for something that has some connection with life] as its lived outside the theatre. To borrow a phrase from Kenneth Tynan [1927-1980] "... For any theatre to sanely flourish, there has to be an umbilical connection between what is happening on the stage and what is happening in the world outside" Documentaries also feature real people. The Macmillan International Film Encyclopaedia describes the documentary as "a factual film depicting actual events and real people." In fact, this is what gives its power
"Since documentary usually has a "serious" purpose [to argue, persuade] and a social function [to educate people], the point-of-view of the individual film-maker is seen subservient to the social purpose.............
" Political film-making has traditionally relied on the documentary mode, posing itself in opposition to the Hollywood system of production and to the stereotypical forms of Hollywood cinema.
"Documentary films can be made cheaply and quickly, apparently without interference, and are seen as presenting the truth in opposition to the lies of Hollywood." [But as we all know, Disney, which owns Miramax, at first refused to allow the company to release Fahrenheit 911]
"In this argument, the film becomes the instrument of political struggle, which is captured through realist images which present the world as it really is, rather than as constructed in the process if film-making..." [ From "The Cinema Book" edited by Pam Cook.]
Thanks to DVD more and more docs are available to more and more viewers. Here are a few of the greats.
* "Nanook Of The North" [Robert Flaherty, USA, 1922] The first documentary box-office smash. Flahertys riveting account of a near-extinct Inuit/Eskimo life-style remained the standard by which non-fiction film-making was measured for decades.
* * "The Movies Begin: A Treasury Of Early Cinema, 1894-1913. This invaluable collection chronicles the pull between artifice and actuality as they charge out of the gate. The pioneering fictions of Edison, Melies and Edwin S. Porter, and the life-seizing efforts of the Lumiere brothers,Robert W. Paul and the first newsreels
* * "Man With The Movie Camera" [Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929] One of the most innovative and non-fiction movies ever made. "At once propaganda for the socialist republic, a hymn to the worker, a chronicle of a modern city and, especially, a celebration of the world-building possibilities of motion pictures." The camera swoops through city streets attached to automobiles and trolleys, dangles from girders and peers down concrete canyons, and captures a revolutionized Soviet citizenry in the full flush of optimism * Triumph Of The Will"
* [Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1935] Commissioned by Joseph Goebbels, Leni Riefenstahls record of Adolph Hitlers 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg remains one of the most controversial, essential and influential exercises in political documentary ever made.
* * "Dont Look Back" [DA Pennebaker, USA 1967] In 1965, a 24-year-old Bob Dylan toured England with a small camera crew recording his every move. The result is " a seminal instance of American verite,, the most intimate portrait of this enigmatic genius/sourpuss ever sketched. A monumentally influential pop music movie, and a fascinating story of a reluctant celebrity." * "Woodstock" [Michael Wadleigh, USA, 1970] At once a terrifically effective concert film, a generations love letter to itself and the product of a brilliantly groundbreaking multi media cross-merchandising campaign, Woodstock coneys the excitement as well as scale and sheer discomfort of the event, and one remains struck by the idealism of it all
* * "Hearts And Minds" [Peter Davis, USA, 1974] This was the "Fahrenheit 911" of its day, an impassioned, angry and unapologetically partisan polemic against American involvement in Vietnam. A more sober and measured work than Moores, Peter Davis movie told the story of the wars impact on the North Vietnamese, and it told the story of the wars impact on America itself. Like Moore, Davis was a liberal patriot describing a national tragedy. Like Moore, he was called both hero and traitor.
* * "The Fog Of War" [Errol Morris, USA, 2003] "In the year since its release, Errol Morris portrait of the former American Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara has been interpreted as a shameless apologia for a mass murderer, a sly deconstruction of a politicians armour and a chilling lesson in history repeating itself."
* But thats what makes it so remarkable: This movie is as open to interpretation as history itself. The fog isnt just generated by war, its blown by historys every breath.
He’s the man!
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
(Published in The Island, Colombo Sep 04, 2004)
In the award-winning 1995 movie Il Postino (The Postman: based on a true story during Pablo Neruda’s exile in Italy in 1952/53) Mario, the postman, tells Neruda that poetry does not belong those who write it but to those who need it. Hugo Chavez (50), Venezuela’s charismatic president who decisively won the recall referendum (August 15) was telling his people during his campaign that "Oil is not only for a minority, so that minority could get rich. It needs to be redistributed." And just before his re-election the price of crude had reached a record high US, $ 48.5 a barrel with Venezuelan oil (the 5th largest oil exporter in the world) fetching around $ 37 a barrel, and the country enjoying $ 7 billion windfall this year. It is apparent that what’s going on in Venezuela is a radical experiment in popular democracy. After his election in 1998, Chavez won overwhelming support in a referendum on his proposal to write a new constitution. An assembly was elected to draft the new constitution which includes strong protection for women’s rights and a ban on privatizing the nation’s oil. Copies of the easy-to-read constitution are sold on the streets.
But the ban on oil privatization has angered Washington—as has Chavez’s strong critique of America’s trade and development policies. The US depends on Venezuela’s oil and thus wants control over it.
(Closer home, we too have gone through all this. Some of us still remember the wrath Srimavo Bandaranaike incurred for her so-called rebellious adjective "the Rapacious West" after she nationalized the oil companies. So has Saddam Hussein)
Chavez has been a leading force among a growing group of developing countries that rejects (to put it mildly) the "Washington consensus" for concentrating too much power in corporations and eroding the sovereignty of nations. "We are creating an alternative model to globalization," he says, noting that the developing world’s struggle began with revolutionary leaders—particularly his hero, Simon Bolivar—200 years ago.
For many among the 70 per cent of Venezuela’s 25 million people who are poor, Chavez is a leader who is finally paying attention to their needs after generations of political neglect. In fact, his strength is through popular participation or pueblo protagonico -the people as protagonists, as validated by 58.25 per cent of the voters this month. International observers including Jimmy Carter Center and the former US President Mr. Carter himself, confirmed "There is a clear difference in favour of the government of President Chavez."
Chavez who comes from humble roots as the child of black and Indian parents was a former paratrooper who rose from poverty to power. He was elected to presidency in 1998, and then won the re-election in a landslide that underscored Venezuelans’ anger at the old political order. It is not surprising the well-to-do hate Chavez, who in the past five years, has made an aggressive assault against their long-entrenched privileges. For decades, they effectively ruled Venezuela, maintaining close ties with U.S. corporate interests and siphoning off billions of dollars in revenue from the state-owned oil company to support their lavish lifestyles.
The elite owns all the private TV stations, which seem to run nothing but reports on Hollywood celebrities and the tyranny of Chavez. Even CNN picks up its Venezuelan footage from these stations, which explains why almost everything North Americans learn about Venezuela is negative. (A few months ago even a Globe and Mail editorial, titled "The obstinate Chavez," suggested he should learn a lesson from the coup in Haiti, and posed the question: Doesn’t Hugo Chavez watch CNN?)
Chavez survived a coup in April 2002 in which an armed faction led by the local chamber of commerce stormed the presidential palace and took him prisoner but he regained power in 48 hours after hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets demanding his return.
A crucial moment in Mr. Chavez presidency came 18 months ago when in the middle of a grave political unrest and a national strike, he took a stronger hold of the national oil company, Pdvsa, by firing 18,000 antigovernemnt managers in a move that many analysts believed would kill the company. To everyone’s surprise Pdvsa today is producing 2.6 million barrels a day, and has quickly turned itself around to bankroll what Mr. Chavez grandly calls his Bolivarian revolution, named for the 19th century Latin American political visionary Simon Bolivar.
Critics charge that Chavez’s antipoverty plans are piecemeal and politically motivated but officials in the Chavez administration counter that they are channeling huge amounts of money toward a social experiment in social democracy to liberate the poor.
President Chavez’s constitutional reforms have allowed the state control of the oil company and direct part of the earnings to social programs. As a result, 12 million Venezuelans today, from small children to adults are enrolled in some kind of educational program, up from 9 million at the start of Mr. Chavez’s government.
This year, the government is spending more than $ 4.5 billion, almost 20 percent of its budget, on education, which is equal to 6.1 percent of the GDP, about twice the percentage of last year.
Much of the money comes from Pdvsa. Recently $1.7 billion from Pdvsa’s $5 billion capitalization budget has been allocated to finance social programs. About $600 million is being spent on education and health care programs, another $ 600 million to agriculture and $500 million to build homes and highway and to finance other infrastructure projects. Another $2 billion in revenues is forming a development fund to pay for other grand projects like a hydroelectric plant, a state airline, power stations and sugar industry plants.
For the people of the teeming barrios of the cities, the government’s approach is a welcome change. In the Gramoven neighbourhood (in Caracas), for example, the construction of a clinic, a multiuse sports complex, a meeting hall, a shoe factory, housing and the country’s largest subsidized market on a 56-acre plot is seen as nothing short of miraculous, reported the New York Times (August 14).
In its editorial comment this week (August 20–26), The Guardian Weekly said: "It was, surely a victory for democracy in Venezuela of the kind for which George Bush is striving throughout the world—and this in America’s own backyard.... With a clear majority in his favour, Mr Chavez resisted the temptation to lambast the opposition which has been trying for years to undermine him by fair means and foul: instead he acknowledged their good faith and called for national reconciliation. In a gloomy world, this was good news coming out of Caracas..."
And for the US government, his message was " Let’s hope that this victory permits the government of the US to respect the government and people of Venezuela..."
Modern history has demonstrated quite forcefully and clearly that radical experiments in popular democracy, especially in Latin America have been viewed as ‘rotten apples’ [in the barrel] and, as defiance or challenge to the Monroe Doctrine.
As Noam Chomsky commented in March ("How
America determines friends and foes" Toronto Star, March 14) "Outrage
over defiance is deeply ingrained in the U.S. history..."
Is Venus hell?
Notes from the universe by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
Sunday, 13 April 2003
On June 7/8 (depending where you were looking from) was the rare astronomical phenomenon, the transit of Venus. [For astrologers any planet is in transit when it moves from one sign to another or, a planet's passage through the zodiac]. The Transit of Venus occurs when the orbits of Venus, Earth and the Sun put them into alignment along the same plane.
A Retrograde [the apparent backward motion of planet] Venus's subtle crossing of the Sun has occurred for thousands of years but it was first reported in the West in 1639. Since that year it was visible again in 1761, 1769, 1874 and 1882. The next one would be around June 6, 2012. After that more than a century will pass before the next transits in 2117 and 2125. We see a predictable pattern of two occurring in an eight-year period, followed by 105 1/2 years later and another eight years after that. After an additional 121 1/2 years, the pattern repeats.
The paired eight-year sightings occur because a Venusian year equals 224.7 Earth days, making 13 Venusian years equal to eight Earth years. The 1882 transit inspired an international effort to use the event to answer the most pressing scientific question of the day: What is the exact distance between the Sun and Earth?
By bouncing radar signals off the Sun and Venus and using spacecraft measurements, scientists in the 1960s calculated that the average Sun-to-Earth distance is 92,955,859 miles or 149,597,954 kilometres- a measure called the astronomical unit. For centuries, scientists had realized that if they could determine that number, they could use the formulas of the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler to calculate the size of the solar system and the exact distances between the planets. And using the transits of Venus to calculate the astronomical unit was the best way to do it.
The surface temperature of Venus is 400 Celsius and most of the landscape is covered with lava. Never rains, but eternally overcast and the clouds are made of sulphuric acid. Recently, the Washington Post reported U.S. planetary scientist David Grinspoon saying "Fire and brimstone: Venus is hell"
Dr. Grinspoon is a leading advocate for the thesis that Venus' battery-acid clouds might very well support microbial life -like the 'extremophile' earth micro-organisms that thrive near volcano outflows.
Scientists generally accept that Venus had large, warm liquid water oceans for at least several hundred million years. At some point, however, the oceans heated up and eventually boiled away. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch, geobiologist of University of Texas at El Paso says if micro-organisms were present they would have begun migrating to the clouds at this stage.
Grinspoon's view is that probably the clouds were not so acidic at first. It would have been a gradual transition, the kind life handles best. But astrobiologist Chris McKay of NASA argues that both Grinspoon and Schulze-Makuch have made the mistake of "basing their speculations on the properties of individual organisms." Instead, he says "you need a community of organisms-because individual organisms cannot live in isolation." "Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge" That was a line from the New York Times' editorial of May 26 when the paper publicly acknowledged errors in its reporting on Iraq.
The confession looked less an apology and more an attempt to cover journalistic humiliation. Commenting on it Dr Megan Boler, an associate professor in Theory and Policy Studies at University of Toronto, to the Toronto Star recently, "While one wants to celebrate the historically momentous occasion of the "newspaper of record" admitting its lack of rigour and careful scrutiny of sources, for many this 'apology' feels empty and hollow. Too little. Too late.
Too many people dead. Too many hungry. "Too many orphans and too many mass graves. Too much ink wasted and airtime purchased to ensure the Bush administration's horrific and never justified invasion of Iraq...
"For those of us who have questioned the coverage all along, who are part of that unpatriotic 'minority' who questioned the invasion of Iraq and even Afghanistan, who read international and independent news, we are left with the haunting sense of living in a twilight zone..."
"The New York Times and dozens of other media under-reported the millions of anti-war protesters in the U.S. and internationally who took to the streets month after month to oppose this invasion. In fact NPR (National Public Radio ) and NY Times corrected their numbers on the count of war protesters in 2002.
Meanwhile, they did correctly report President George Bush stating that he doesn't attend to these protesters because that would be like basing "public policy on a focus group".
"Where is the wool coming from, and exactly whose eyes is it being pulled over? To blame reporters for poor reporting is misleading. More important is to identify the less visible editorial and production-and even stockholders'-influence on when, how and what gets reported.
"What really tipped the balance, and will
we ever know? How can one not suspect that the prison abuse scandal, the
call for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired, and Bush's plummeting public favour
aren't reason for the Times to jockey into a new political liaison? "What
goes on behind the media's closed doors, where the media is embed with
the highest military officials, which newspapers are in whose pockets-these
stories apparently not 'sensational' enough for our public eyes to see.
Sunday, 13 April 2003
A life committed to social change
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
When Gunadasa brought his block-buster Kampana show to Toronto on a freezing wintry evening in 1997, the majority Sinhala audience was surprised by the presence of an unusually large number of young Thamil fans. When I mentioned this to him during the interval he said: " I am so happy . This is one of my unforgettable moments"
True to his words he dedicated the final song to his Thamil Brothers and Sisters. Fittingly, it was Uthuru Koney Numba Hinahey Nadaraja Malliye [Nadaraja, my little brother you are smiling from the Northern point]. Gunadasa first rendered this song in 1972. [The lyrics were written by a university sophomore... Vakista] .
That this song was a wake up call to all Sri Lankans was demonstrably proved a million times by the tragic events which unfolded over the next 30 years, our darkest decades since Independence.
The next evening Gunadasa dutifully accepted an invitation by the Shanthi Peace Group (Sinhala and Thamil Peace Activists in Toronto) to a discussion.
The Thamil members wanted to know the reasons for his solid commitment for social change. "My father was a plantation worker at Baddegama' he said "We lived in the 'Line' . He was an activist who helped organize meetings for the left leaders like N. M. Perera, S.A. Wickramasinghe, Colvin R De Silva.
I grew up in this milieu" The bond between him and the audience immediately turned to genuine adoration when young Gajan walked up to him saying " Gunadasa Aiyya.
I was born in Point Pedru, the Uthuru Koney" and hugged him. It was in true solidarity and brotherhood. And he sang for us Sabanda Api Kandu Novemu Unun Paraya Nagena... Let us not be like those mountains that vie to raise above one another. but strive to be like the cool streams that flow to merge with one great river.
It was this wonderful life long honest commitment that inspired millions of us to believe and stand for peace, justice and ethnic harmony. His songs were like cascades of light that grew in intensity Mawathe Geethaya, Piya Satahan, Kampana to Irabatu Tharuwa and gave us faith, and insights to the reality around us . Lyrics for most of his early songs were by Lucien Bulathsinhala, his colleague at SLBC and, most of his later ones were powered by Ratna Sri Wijesinghe.
His songs also gave a voice to the voiceless and the marginalized. Bimbarak Senaga for example, is about the ravage of the land [the "homesteads" of the Wellassa farmers] by the multi-nationals or as our first executive president JR said "the robber-barons".
Karagala Ga Ga Enna is an "ode" to the barber, and Seethala Nimney to a liitle girl on a tea plantation urging her to jump over the barbed wire fence to liberate herself from certain systemic slavery, Sinhala Sindu Kiyana is about the Sinhala girl who married a Thamil Police Officer for love and went to Jaffna to live with her husband during the conflict. Kalladi Palama laments the disappearance [caused by the ethnic conflict ] of those singing and dancing Thamil youth.
Gunadasa's pervasive influence inspired a whole generation of artists, Karunaratne Divulgane, Deepika Priyadarshini, Jayatillaka Bandara, the late Malini Bulathsinhala and lyric writers like Sunil Ariyaratne, Mahinda Chandrasekara, (Ma Totin Ena-Saroja/Talayam) Rev: Konwevey Ariyaratne (Virajini) John Hiddle/Wickramapala Palliyamulla (Nanda Malini's Uthurin Nagi Ena Ganga), Dhammika Ganganatha Dissanayake to name a few.
May be even groups like Oli Oviyangal (Paintings in Sound) a bunch of Thamil and Sinhala musicians living in Dortmund , Germany whose album Sanhadigal or Messages is also a powerful message for social change.
Gunadasa once told me that he was just doing what Frantz Fanon urged: that an artist's task is "to crystallize the mass consciousness" May his gentle "soul" attain Nirvana!
Saturday Magazine -
The Island, Colombo, Aug 21,2004
What powers Ethiopian runners is not ‘clear’
by Gamini Dissanayake in Toronto
At Seoul, the Canadian Ben Johnson won the gold in the 100 metres only to be stripped of the title by testing positive to anabolic steroid stanozolol. Charlie Francis, the ostracized Canadian coach of Ben Johnson and four others headed by Victor Conte Jr- the owner of BALCO Laboratories in California- mapped a program of coaching, weight training and pharmacology [in Nov 2000] which they christened "Project World Record" They gathered in a room that featured a wall poster quoting Albert Einstein: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." To make a long story short, its clients, 27 athletes, who were given performance-enhancing drugs including top dogs like Tim Montgomery and his partner Marion Jones [who won 5 medals in Sydney] her ex-husband the shot putter CJ Hunter, Chryste Gaines, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Kelli White. It was Kelli’ who turned whistle-blower following her admission. She also accepted a two-year-ban from US Anti Doping Agency. And every athlete -save one, hammer thrower Melissa Price- has tested positive for THG. One of its ingredients was called "clear" a chemical substance. It was only in the summer of 2003 that Don Catlin, chief of the Olympic drug-testing laboratory at UCLA [University of California at Los Angeles] identified the substance and gave it a scientific name-tetrahydrogestrinone or THG- and status as banned drug. Let us see how it seemed to have worked on Tim Montgomery for example. One of his nick-names was Tiny Tim.
When he joined the Project World Record he was 5- foot-9, 148 pounds and ranked number 8. But the transformation was immediate. The Project’s program helped him gain 28 pounds and led to an 80-pound increase on the bench-press work-out over an eight-week period. The plan included a complex nutritional program using legal supplements such as ZMA, a zinc-magnesium combination. He is also alleged to have used THG, according to an Internal Revenue Service [IRS] agent’s memorandum. True, Montgomery always had been fast. He came first and second at the 1996 and 2000 games. But they were for running in preliminary heats of the 400-metre relay. But he boasted that he would break Maurice Greene’s world record.
At the world indoor championships in 2001, Tim was placed second in the 60-metres in a career-best 6.46 seconds. That summer, he lowered his personal best in the 100 metres from 9.92 seconds to 9.84 seconds. At the world outdoor championships he ran second in 9.85 seconds. On Sep 14, 2002 he set the 100 metre-record in Paris with a blazing time of 9.78 seconds. Montgomery, testified before a San Francisco grand-jury probing BALCO last year. In Mexico City on May 22 he finished sixth in the 100 metres with a time of 10.24 seconds and declined to talk to the reporters.
US authorities were soft on performance-enhancing drugs at major games. Now, US Anti Doping Agency seems hell-bent on tracking down the abusers. It even prompted an editorial comment in the New York Times [June 1] " Our own sense is that authorities are on the right track in broadening the kinds of evidence they are willing to consider beyond the traditional urine tests for prohibited drugs. The sad fact is that the cheaters who use banned substances have gotten good at outwitting the testers by using masking agents or designing new drugs that are undetectable [like THG] by current testing protocols"
As most of us have known for years, that’s not new. When Ben Johnson was stripped, a female Olympian told the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation], "Almost all of them [athletes] take banned drugs. Only the unlucky ones get caught" The widely used performance drug has been the human growth hormone.
Teff Vs THG
Asked by an American reporter at the National Track and Field Championships held in Addis Ababa last month as why the starter held a flag aloft and yelled "Go!" to most events, the legendary Haile Gebraselassie — a two time men’s Olympic champion at 10,000 metres- — smiled back with the reply "We don’t need a starter’s gun... Guns are only for fighting"
What then powers these Ethiopian athletes, who come from one of the four poorest countries in the world [Ethiopia’s per capita income is a measly $ 110 ] to awesome performances at the long distance running events at the Olympics and other major international events? At Sydney games Ethiopia’s small team of 26 runners returned home with 8 medals, including four golds.
At the world cross-country championships in March, Ethiopia routed its opposition by winning 14 out of 18 available medals. On May 31st at FBK games in Hengelo [Netherlands] Kenenisa Bekele  set the 5000-metre world record, breaking the previous mark of 12:39:26 set by Haile Gebraselassie. Bekele finished in 12:37:35. Needless to say the former was Bekele’s idol. This takes us back to some sweet moments of glory.
Gebresellassie’s own success has become contagious inspiring other runners just as his athletic forbears once motivated him.
Abebe Bikila won Ethiopia’s and Africa’s first Olympic gold medal when he triumphed in the marathon as he ran barefoot through Rome at the 1960 Olympics. Bikila won the marathon again at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and his countryman, Mamo Wolde, won the event at the 1968 games in Mexico City. Gebrasellasie listened to the radio as Miruts Yifter won the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at the Moscow Games in 1980. When Gebrasellasie and Tulu won the men’s and women’s 10,000 metres at the 2000 Games in Sydney, a teenager named Kenenisa Bekele watched them on television. And last summer, he defeated his idol, Gebrasellasie, to win the 10,000 metres at the world track championships in Paris.
To discuss what powers the Ethiopians, let us look at a few major factors. Ethiopia’s population is about 66 million but has developed only about 60 elite runners, compared with several hundred Kenyans, according to experts. While Kenyans continue to dominate individual marathons in places like New York City, Boston and in other European countries, the Ethiopians have begun winning more team medals at the Olympics and at world track championships.
The Ethiopian Olympic Committee receives US$ 35,000 a year from the government, and in an Olympic year, corporate sponsorships can push the budget to $230,000. In comparison, the US Olympic Committee’s annual budget is $ 125 million. Running is a national pastime in Ethiopia. Its high altitude -Addis Ababa sits at 7,300 feet- helps to increase oxygen-carrying capacity. Also the Ethiopian diet consists heavily of teff - a grain as tiny as our Kurakkan - which is rich in easily assimilated protein and has more iron, calcium and potassium than wheat.
Ali, my Ethiopian buddy who is a pharmacist says "Like you guys eat rice ain the morning, noon and night in Sri Lanka, we eat teff for all meals back home." And he continues " That is why even prolonged famines can’t kill us."
Another factor that powers the Ethiopian runners is the determination to beat poverty. A life of deprivation and a willingness to endure suffering seem to play a role in accepting and completing the exhaustive training for elite distance running. "As a boy," recalls Gebrasellasie, "I ran to and from school and spent up to three hours on sojourns to gather water during the dry season." Turinesh Dibaba and her sister Ejigayehu are two Olympic contenders.
Last summer in Paris, Turinesh Dibaba at 17 became the youngest track athlete to win a world championship, winning the gold in the 5000-metres. That win earned her $ 60,000 in prize money. Meselech Melkamu  is another Olympic hopeful. She is the women’s world junior cross-country champion.
Champions like Haile Gebrasellasie are very much involved in community service and appear to have a strong sense of social responsibility. They participate in HIV/AIDS awareness programs, invest in schools and business enterprises and even affect the way the roles of women are perceived.