Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2012

A few cultures find math easy: many cultures have difficulties

Do you think math abilities is genetic? Not quite, apparently.  Do you think that math is just a matter of manipulating numbers? Not quite, apparently.  There are at least four main factors that promote math thinking and abilities:

First factor: There are indications that math aptitude is generated from customs of persistent habit in resolving problems. It appears that doing well in Math is related to engaged attitudes for working hard:  The more persistent and resolved to solve a problem, the longer your attitude to be engaged in what you do, the better you are in math.

For example, people in culture working in rice fields that require constant and hard effort all year round do better in math than other people who just saw, forget the field for a season, and just reap in the proper season.  A rice paddy, the size of a room, is built from the ground up, irrigated frequently at the proper level, and constantly maintained and worked 360 days a years, rain or shine…A rice paddy is literally “blood” and sweat and waking up everyday at 5 am to tend to the paddies: The rice peasant and his family have to tend to the adequate amount of water, varieties of proper rice shoots, cleaning each plant from parasites…If you need good quality and two harvest, you have got to sacrifice blood, sweat, persistence, endurance…The survival in rice planting culture is very delicate, and working hard with resolve is a way of life.

Second factor: Cultures with vocal numbers that are reduced to single syllables do better than culture complicating the utterance of simple numbers with long string of syllables.  Why? Kids of 5 year-old, instead of focusing on manipulating numbers, spend many precious years just memorizing how to say and comprehend verbal numbers. Our short-term memory of a couple of seconds can handle ten syllables, and if the numbers are of single syllable, kids are better at memorizing and recalling strings of 10 numbers in any order they are presented: Digits are fun and no longer a complicated manipulation of transformations from the verbal to the numeric dimensions…

Third factors:  Cultures with logical correspondence between the vocalized numbers and the digits do better than other cultures in math. For example, what eleven (11) has to do with one and ten? Or the French number 93 (quatre vingt threize) has to do with nine tens and three?  Instead of first transforming a complicated vocalized number before figuring out its corresponding digital number, the Cantonese Chinese culture has arranged to say the numbers the way they are written logically.

For example, how would you keep in your short-term memory two numbers such as two hundred and forty-five (245) and seven hundred and twenty-one (721)?  Suppose these two numbers are vocalized as (two hundred four ten and five),  and ( seven hundred two ten and one), which would constitute 10 syllables since each number is of a single syllable, the kids in which culture would have a qualitative edge in manipulating numbers and math?

Adding and subtracting the two numbers are straightforward in Cantonese: The digits are plainly arranged for computation, and you don’t need several mental transformations before you get to the task of adding…

Kids of 3 year-old in a particular culture have more facility with math than kids of over 5 year-old in other cultures, simply because they don’t need to undergo several mental manipulations and having to retrieve from the various working memory data and information stored in verbal forms and complicated shapes…

Culture relying mainly on trading variety of goods end up devising a coded language for transactions, mainly by truncating the verbal numbers and shortening the sentences in transactions:  I guess, lengthy verbal numbers originally adopted in the language are truncated when transacting goods…

Four, kids who are trained to solve all the math problems and exercises after each math chapters, from the easiest to the hardest, in neat and legible handwriting, do better than kids who have no patience of solving but what they consider to be harder than the other problems, and don’t care to sit down and put down on paper how they solved the problem…

This practice of solving all the math problems and exercises has this huge benefit of spending 10,000 hours in math practice-sessions, a requirement to getting top among math professionals…

Curiously, kids and students who excel in math have acquired the habit of focusing entirely on the lesson in class.

Maybe the second and third factors don’t translate well into the abstract domain of mathematics in the long-term, simply because the kids get used to relying very much on their short-term memory and fail to train adequately their working memory for other kinds of intelligence and abilities.  But the first and fourth factors are essential for doing great in math.

Note: This post was inspired from a chapter in “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

Do you smile at a hot loaf of bread offered to you? I’ll tell you what I smile at…

What is this Maslow’s Pyramid?  Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who identified in the 1940’s a simple and easily understandable set of human needs that motivate mankind.  The pyramid is a structured hierarchy of needs starts from basic needs for satisfying physiological needs such as eating, drinking, sleeping… and stepping up to satisfying feeling of security and order, then growing emotional needs to belonging socially (to love and be loved), achieving the yearning to be respected and recognized, and finally working toward self-fulfilment…

And many “professionals” in all kinds of social and psychological fields bought it and programmed us according to this “rational” concept, which lacks the necessary experimentation

There is a book by Paul W. King “Climbing Maslow’s Pyramid: Choosing your own path through life” who is regurgitating this pyramid concept of mankind priority needs and wants.   King starts his pyramid with confidence and self-esteem, the next step in the hierarchy is  sex, love, relationships, and followed by spirituality and meditation, upgrading to appreciation of beauty, form and balance, before reaching the urge for self-fulfilment, of whatever that mean…

If you were offered a hot loaf of bread, would you smile at the gesture?  I am confident if this bread (hot, cold, dry, or moulted…) is extended to a famished kid in Somalia, and the billion kids and adults living on less than one dollar a day, they will display a broad smile, and laugh their heart out for this opportunity to surviving the day…

If you are not in such a dire need for your daily intake of bread, corn flakes, rice… would you smile for a hot loaf, bowl of soup…?

How many kids recall eating, drinking, pissing, shitting, feeling that cold…? They don’t recall these basic needs.  Why?  They felt “secure” that the family, extended family, and restricted community will cover these basic needs.  The kids in a secured environment can recall how secured they felt that their basic wants and needs will be satisfied.

Even if you are in a boarding school and rarely see you parents, you still don’t recall eating, drinking… The institution was meant to satisfying the basic needs, but you may recall the instances you felt insecure and scared.

An orphan not cared for, kids displaced from their known communities, forcefully detached from their families…do recall these rare occasions when they were offered a hot loaf of bread, a candy, a bar of chocolate…and do recall the face of the benevolent “intruder” into their harsh life…

If you were offered a hot loaf of bread, would you smile at the gesture?  Maybe not.  If you were lost, you certainly will smile to a friendly face you come to cross.  If you were freezing outside, you will smile to someone who offers you a warm and clean bed.  If you had no bath for weeks, you will smile to the opportunity of dipping in a jacuzzi, having your cloth washed and dried…

First come security for survival: mainly, finding the group, the community ready to shelter your “insecurities” and all the other needs follows…

How can you acquire any self-confidence if the basic need for security is lacking?  Anyone who claims: “I made it all by myself, all by my self-effort and determination…” is a veteran liar.  Without your community, there is no chance you could have survived your first days, year first month, your first year…

What is this “self-fulfilment”? If you managed to accumulated enough money for your retirement period and can afford not to cater for your daily chores, because billion people are still slaving to maintain your comfort zone, what kinds of activities do you think may fulfil your various satisfaction?  Would you be able to survive a day without thinking of the multitude aching and laboring for your”self-fulfilment”?

Don’t you feel that tackling your daily chores like sweeping your home, doing your dishes, washing your cloths..,.when you can afford to pay someone else, are opportunities to enjoying what you were forced to do before “self-fulfilment”? Doing what the free starts doing when slaves should be doing… 

Do you believe that you are unable to appreciate beauty, forms…until all the other lower necessities are satisfied? Do you think mankind survive sequentially or because he can process many needs and wants in many parallel ways, and negotiate his survival at every single moment…?

I have two basic beefs with this kind of structure:

First, “rational” systems that are not fully substantiated are far more dangerous in consequences than systems based on hunches…

Second, this pyramid is not standing right and is wrong…

For example, Freedom is an abstract concept, until your phrase it into “How many choices are you willing to handle, and reflect upon the every aspect of daily living chores and future aspiration and passions…”  For example, if your passion is for a particular school teaching system, and the State government intentionally impose severe hurdles into instituting your teaching method, would you feel your freedom has been abridged? If the State facilitate the practice of your passion in your particular school system, would you demonstrate with others who have other passions that the same political system prohibit?

Note 1:  Paul W. King was born in India to British parents and is studying at the University of Alberta (Canada).  Paul is a professional photographer and a speaker and coaches in giving talks and presentations.

The “Mathew Effect”: The eligibility selection date.  Is it “the one who has gets more, and who has none shall be taken away…” system?

The selection process in many States for particular sport games and other disciplines are age-skewered.  For example, in Canada, the “eligibility” cut-off date for hockey is January 1st. Consequently, if you were born in January or February, you were lucky to have a full year advantage over the ones who were born in December or November:  You are one year bigger, stronger, more experienced, more mature, more trained than the remaining contenders.

The other advantage in “what month you were born” is that hockey fields are not available in every town and require special investment and maintenance, so that only the selected players will enjoy the opportunities of frequent training, scheduled games, constant monitoring… If you were born in December and were selected then, most probably you had something that the more fortunate players of a year older lacked in talent, skills, or negotiating intelligence…

In the US, baseball selection date is first of August.  The selected players for junior leagues who were born on August are double those born in July…In England, selection date for National Junior soccer teams is first of September.  Selected players born in September are double the number of those born in August.  In Czechoslovakia, selection date for soccer teams was January 1st, and you know by now how many talented generations were wasted who happened to be born in December.

The best and more talented players are not picked according to astrology: They were very lucky to be born at particular advantageous dates for specific sport games: A full year advantage, when every month count when you are 10 year-old! As you are selected, the player gets all the other advantages such as best coaches, better fields, scheduled training sessions, actual real games against opposing teams, grants…

More importantly, as you are selected, you have the greatest of opportunity of marking the 10,000 hours in practice sessions that are necessary to propel you as top in your field, such as sport, music, computer programming, singing, dancing, fashion designer, designer in any field….

This “Matthew Effect” is translated into a “self-fulfilling prophesy” where “You start with a false definition in the beginning that evokes new behaviors which make the original false concept true” (Robert Merton)

I have this hypothesis: The selected individuals who made it against the odds of date of birth will out-best the favored ones later on, simply because they had this “extra edge” in other characteristics. What could be the other factors? This question should be answered by further research, such as other types of intelligence, negotiating talents, fitting in, grabbing opportunities, more endurance, more persistence…

Note: Post inspired from a chapter in the “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell

Part 3. An excursion with French-speaking African authors (Francophone authors)

Is the African Francophone literature considered an integral part of French literature?  Many French authors disagree that African and former colonial country authors can be considered as forming the characteristics of French mentality or philosophy… Most famous African authors are generally twined to other French authors, like “The African Voltaire”, “The African Victor Hugo, Proust…”

Alain Mabanckou, an author from the Congo Brazzaville or (Rep. of Congo), and who published “Writers and birds of migration” claims that Francophone literature are encouraged for its “utilitarian angle” to counter the current pervasive English domination, and is denied esthetic autonomy… As a kid, Arthur Rimbaud must have been a black author to Alain:  his father read only Rimbaud. One of Rimbaud’s poems “Bad Blood” reads:

Yes, my eyes are shut to your light.  I am a beast and a nigger. But I can be saved.  You are (the colonial Europeans) false niggers. You are maniacal, ferocious, and stingy niggers. Merchant, you are a nigger.  Judge, you are a nigger. Military officer, an old itching wound, you are a nigger.  You all have drunk from a non-taxed liquor, manufactured by Satan…”

Alain described his meeting with many African Francophone authors.  In the two previous posts, I related the meetings with

1. Ahmadou Kourouna (Ivory Coast): “Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation),

2. Sony Labou Tansi (Congo Brazzaville or Rep.of Congo): “La vie et demi” (The life and a half),

3. Sami Tchak from Togo: “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman”, and ”The Malian Al Capone”

4. Laye Camara (1928-80) from Guinea:  “L’ Enfant Noir” (The Black kid).

This post recounts the meetings of Alain Mabanckou with late author Jean-Marie Adiaffi (Ivory Coast).

“I met Adiaffi in the 90’s at the University Paris 12.  Two comedians were to recite a few pf my poems.  Adiaffi took to the podium and said: “I hate microphone” and set it aside and delivered his talk.  At the refectory, I told Adiaffi if he would consider writing a preface for my new book of poems “The Legend of errance”.

Adiaffi almost choked on the chicken leg he was eating and replied in anger: “Prefaces are serious matters and written to acclaimed and recognized author. Beside that, you have got to know that get paid for prefaces…It is not because I had a couple of glasses of wine that you think you can abuse of me…” I was very upset with this highly arrogant African author and left the room without turning back.

A year later, we met again at Ivry-sur Seine at the residence of my friend author Paul Dakeyo. Adiaffi looked me up and said: “Another author from the Congo…I consider there are too many of them in this field.  Possibly it is because the authors from the Congo have the River and the Sea…” and he laughed.  Adiaffi discovered my newly published collection of poems on the table and turned red with anger. He said: “You asked Pius Ngandu Nkashama to preface your book, when it was I who was to do it?  Where is my copy?” I gave him the one on the table and he demanded: “Erase Dakeyo and sign my name instead…”

Adiaffi asked me to accompany him to Paris. As we stepped out of the metro, Adiaffi saw a tall black young girl in tight jeans and loudly said to me: “Have you noticed her behind? She must be from Ivory Coast”.  The girl turned around and said: “I don’t know you. How did you guess that I am from Ivory Coast?”

Adiaffi was besides himself and the girl insisted: “The only book of an African author that I have read was “The Little Prince of Belleville” by Calix of Beyala…” Adiaffi cut her off: “Are you sure you are from Ivory Coast…?”  The girl said: “My mother is French…”  Adiaffi said: “Surely your father must have read my books…” The girl was smiling and leaving.  Adiaffi ran after her and commanded her to follow him.

We stopped at a bookstore and Adiaffi bought the girl two of his books “Identity card” and Silence, we are developing”.  Adiaffi said: “Read them and write to me at this address…I know you are from the Agni tribe and you will learn some of the Agni culture when you visit Abidjean…You should visit my museum…”

Adiaffi turned to me and resumed: “See? This girl has never been comfortable with her African roots…”

Alain Mabanckou mentioned many African and “colored” Francophone authors such as the authors in north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tuninis): Yahyia Belaski, Anouar Benmalek, Kateb Yacine, Mahmoud Mammeri, Rachid Mimouni, Mohammed Dib, Kebir Amin, Salim Bachi, Asia Djebbar, Edouard Glissant, Maryse Conde, Emmanuel Dongala…

Like Yambo Ouologuen “Le Livre de violence (The book of violence)”, Ahmadou Kourouma ”Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation).

The authors who emulated the novel of “The black kids” are: “Climbie” by Bernard Dadie, “Kocumbo, the black student” by Ake Loba, and “Ambiguous adventure” by Cheikh Hamidou Kane, and the contemporary “All this blue, Ma” by Gaston Paul Effa.

Like Sony Labou Tansi (Cameroun) “La vie et demi” (The life and a half), Arenas Reinaldo (Cuba): “Trois tristes ” (Three sad tigers), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba) ” Pere tranquille” (Father Cool), Sami Tchak (Togo) “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman”, and ”The Malian Al Capone”

Like James Baldwin (USA) “The room of Giovanni”, Gary Victor (Haiti) “13 vaudou novellas”,  “At the angel of parallel streets”

Note: Alain Mabanckou is born in the Rep. of Congo (a Francophone State) in 1966.  He is professor of Francophone literature in UCLA.  He published “Broken Glass”, “Black Bazar”, letter to Jimmy (James Baldwin)”, and “Tomorrow I’ll be 20″…

The “Jamaican syndrome”: Discrimination against your own types?

In Jamaica and the Antilles islands, slaves were brought in from Africa to cultivate sugar cane fields.  Harvesting sugar canes is different from picking cotton in south USA: You need the proper industries to process the sugar canes in the fields, and thus, you need to train slaves to maintain and run the factories

In Jamaica, a British colony, the lighter-shade former slaves, from successive breeding with the whiter people, acquired the same rights in society before the darker-shade former slaves, and they were very prized among the members of the same family.

There are far more dangerous and insidious discrimination among the “colored” people in Jamaica. The Jamaican sociologist Fernando Henriques wrote:

“The most lightly colored will be favored at the expense of the other members in a family. In adolescence, and until marriage, the darker members will be kept out of the way when friends of the “fairer” members are being entertained.

The fair child is regarded as raising the “color of the family” (by a notch toward white), and nothing must be put in the way of his/her success… A fair person will try to sever social relations he may have with the darker relatives…The darker members of the “Negro family” will encourage the efforts of a very fair relative to “pass” for white.

The practices of intra-family relations lay the foundation for the public manifestation of color prejudices…”

Malcolm Gladwell, in “Outliers“, recounts the story of his aunt.

Malcolm’s aunt was on a train to meet her darker colored daughter and she fell in love with a lighter-colored gentleman. As she stepped out of the train, the aunt passed her daughter without saluting or acknowledging her.

After many violent riots in Jamaica in 1835, the British Empire started extending grants for higher education in England to the brilliant students of colored emancipated slaves.  The aunt of Gladwell was among the recipients of these grants.

As the concept goes: “If a progeny of young colored children is brought forth, these are emancipated…”

Part 2. An excursion with French-speaking African authors

(Francophone authors)

Alain Mabanckou, an author from the Congo Brazzaville or (Rep. of Congo), published “Writers and birds of migration”.  Alain described his meeting with many African Francophone authors.  In the previous I related the meetings with Ahmadou Kourouna (Ivory Coast) and Sony Labou Tansi (Congo Brazzaville or Rep.of Congo).

Here are another set of samples of the stories:

On Sami Tchak from Togo. “I discuss literature mostly with Sami Tchak from Togo. Sami is not prone to any consensus and I can always count on Sami to let me discover unknown authors. We are in constant connection and we spend time discussing the many dimensions of the imaginary: Bringing in fresh air.

Sami would grab any book left on a bench in any public park, read it all, for the entire day, sitting on the bench: Tchak reads everything!

Sami published “Place des fetes” (Fiesta square, 2001), a iconoclastic work of contemporary Sub-Sahara literature. Sami says: “A writer is above all a reader. We have too many half-cooked literate intellectuals

Tchak has spent long periods in Latin America and evoked themes of sexuality, prostitution…themes not usually covered in African literatures.  For example, Sami’s book “The Malian Al Capone” is about little people, tormented in their customs and traditions, these mobile Africans, mobile in their heart, faith, lightness of being, happiness, exaggeration, clownish behaviors…How colonial Europe is coming to term in viewing Africa and Africans, this resisting Black continent, this ancient breath of traditional waves.

Time for Europe to comprehend this “Black Soul” through a trip to the “heart of darkness”, undertaken by the main character, a magazine white reporter, Rene. Rene’s weight of errance and the stubbornness for an illicit desire.

Tchak make it his responsibility to first visit the locations of his novel, and study the social structure so to present slices of the society.  Tchak is subjugated by the novels “The man without qualities” by Robert Musil (Austria), “Three sad tigers”, and “Father Tranquille”

On Laye Camara (1928-80) from Guinea. Laye was sent to exile by dictator Sekou Toure. The first book of Camara “The Black kid” was published in 1953 and became an instant cult book, and Laye was considered the most independent minded author, and perpetually felt the “freshest” to all African generations.

It is an “initiating book”, and later, many African authors wrote their versions of the Black kid in recounting their early years. For example,  “Climbie” by Bernard Dadie, “Kocumbo, the black student” by Ake Loba, and “Ambiguous adventure” by Cheikh Hamidou Kane.  The contemporary African authors who emulated the Black kid are: “All this blue, Ma” by Gaston Paul Effa.

The preface of the Black kid contained a poem “To my mother” that is memorized and recited by almost all school children, a vibrant homage to African women, and sang by African musicians.

Laye said: “I was thinking of myself, and as I wrote the book, I realized that I was painting a portion of my High-Guinea birthplace.”  There is a serenity in Laye as he considers the Future of Africa, the book decodes a society, we enter the universe of the humble person, culture of courtesy, exchange, and dignity: Feeling happy to be African, and celebrating life… 

Alain Mabanckou mentioned many African and “colored” Francophone authors such as the authors in north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tuninis): Yahyia Belaski, Anouar Benmalek, Kateb Yacine, Mahmoud Mammeri, Rachid Mimouni, Mohammed Dib, Kebir Amin, Salim Bachi, Asia Djebbar, Edouard Glissant, Maryse Conde, Emmanuel Dongala…

Like Yambo Ouologuen “Le Livre de violence (The book of violence)“, Ahmadou Kourouma “Les soleils des independance” (Suns of Independence), “En attendant le vote des betes sauvage” (Waiting for the vote of the beasts), and “Allah n’est pas oblige” (Allah has no obligation).

Like Sony Labou Tansi (Cameroun) “La vie et demi” (The life and a half), Arenas Reinaldo (Cuba): Trois tristes tigres (Three sad tigers), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Cuba) ” Pere tranquille” (Father Cool), Sami Tchak (Togo) “Place des fetes” (Festivities square), “Hermina, daughter of Mexico”, “Infidel woman“, and “The Malian Al Capone”

Like James Baldwin (USA) “The room of Giovanni”, Gary Victor (Haiti) “13 vaudou novellas”,  “At the angel of parallel streets”

Note: Alain Mabanckou is born in the Rep. of Congo (a Francophone State) in 1966.  He is professor of Francophone literature in UCLA.  He published “Broken Glass”, “Black Bazar”, letter to Jimmy (James Baldwin)”, and “Tomorrow I’ll be 20″…

 What Eucalyptus trees have to do with: Zionist Israel, songs, and Lebanon? Why Eucalyptus is spreading strong antagonistic emotions?
There is this singer, the Belgian Lara Fabian, born from an Italian mother, who had sung  Khourshat Haecalyptus (Eucalyptus Forest) in May 25, 2008, and in Hebrew, at the Concert for the 60 Years of Israel, at Trocadero in Paris. Lara sang in March 2010 at the “Cercle Ben Gurion” in Brussels (Belgium)
The lyrics of the song  “The Eucalyptus forest” was written by Zionist Naamat Shimer who describes her parents settlement in Tabaraya (Tiberiad in North of Palestine) in 1917 in the Palestinian towns of Samakh and Em Nounat.  The original inhabitants of these two towns, as in  hundreds other Palestinian villages, were murdered and displaced by act of random violence and planned genocide from their lands by the nascent Israel State in 1948.

Arafat Kewan wrote (and posted on Samah’s wall): “Naamat’s immigrant parents contributed with the surrounding Kibuts in planting Eucalyptus trees on a hill. This song is representative of Zionism implantation in Palestine and how her parents fought to keep this forest, and how this forest is a symbol of the “new peace”…

The problem is that Lara Fabian is invited to sing in Casino of Lebanon this Feb 14-15, 2012, and Lebanese youth are very upset that the government is acting nonchalantly on issues related to national pride, particularly that the government own a large share in the Casino. Another singer, Armin Van Buren was programmed to sing in Lebanon after performing in Eilat (Israel) and the Youth demonstrated in front of the concert hall. Many other foreign “artists” violated the feeling of the Lebanese who are still being threatened by the successive Israel pre-emptive wars…

 The Lebanese youth sent Lara Fabian this letter:
“Beirut, January 15, 2012
Dear Ms Lara Fabian, Greetings from Beirut.
You have declared your full support of Israel. You have sung on its 60th “anniversary,” which means 60 (by now 64) years of ethnic cleansing, house demolitions, apartheid, colonial settlements, and denial of the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees (including about 400,000 thousand in Lebanon alone) to go home.
You have sung a Zionist song in Hebrew, and declared your “love” for Israel when you finished singing it (in Paris, Trocadero, May 25, 2008).
While you were celebrating Israel’s “anniversary,” leading international artists and cultural figures of the caliber of Augusto Boal, Mahmoud Darwish, Judith Butler, Andre Brink, Nigel Kennedy, among many others, signed a statement titled “No reason to celebrate!”
The statement appeared in the International Herald Tribune on 8 May 2008 and said: “There is no reason to celebrate! Israel at 60 is a State that is still denying Palestinian refugee their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are “non-Jews.”
Israel is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support.
Israel is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination. In short, celebrating “Israel at 60” is tantamount to dancing on Palestinian graves to the haunting tune of lingering dispossession and multi-faceted injustice.”
More recently, heeding the virtually consensus-supported Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel, tens of artists and musicians have declared their unwillingness to play in Israel just as they had done with apartheid South Africa.
Tel Aviv is increasingly being viewed today as Sun City was in the 1980s. Roger Waters, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Natasha Atlas, Gil-Scott Heron, The Pixies, Gorillaz, Klaxons, Vanessa Paradis, Snoop Dogg, are some of many who took a moral stand and refused to allow their art and names to be used to whitewash Israel’s violations of human rights.
You, Lara Fabian, on the contrary, chose, time and again, to entertain apartheid, crime, and occupation in Israel and to further vow your “love” for it. For that, and in line with our right to freedom of expression in Lebanon, we pledge to boycott your event in “Casino du Liban” on Feb 14-15.
We will call on all the Lebanese and Palestinians in Lebanon to boycott your shows.  We will urge our Algerian and Moroccan brothers and sisters to do the same.
Singing for love and peace on Valentine’s Day contradicts your unequivocal support for apartheid and colonization. Our country, Lebanon, is, to this very day, subject to daily Israeli infringement on its sovereignty. Tens of thousands of Lebanese have been murdered thanks to Israeli bombardment and shelling since its inception (“independence”!) in 1948.
Furthermore, millions of cluster bomblets are still implanted in the south of Lebanon, causing the daily death and injury of peasants and children.
Lara Fabian, the message of love should not be smeared with blood. Boycott Israel; be on the right side of history! Campaign to Boycott Supporters of “Israel” in Lebanon” End of letter.” End of letter
This habit of claiming “art for art sake” is no longer receivable. Artists, way before politicians, are to be in the front line against apartheid, discrimination, and genocide-minded policies, anywhere in the world.
I am wondering, why the early Jewish immigrants had to bring eucalyptus trees to Palestine?  Did they think Palestine is in tropical region of Africa and Burma and that malaria was the main health nemesis?  If so, why Zionism has lied to world community claiming that they were returning “Home”, if they were so ignorant of Palestine? Does Lara Fabian carries quinine pills in her handbag as she lands in Israel, or she heads straight to “her forest” to chew on a few eucalyptus leaves?
Note 1: Lara has cancelled her show in Lebanon after the campaign opposing her presence.  A few “pro-Israelis” in Lebanon are weeping…
Note 2: Song on

Is indefinite detention Constitutional by any stretch of the imagination? Why detainees in Guantanamo prison camp not a priority  in Presidential campaign?  Is indefinite detention evil?  Like in the Guantanamo prison camp?

Shouldn’t Presidential contenders in the US give more priorities to the “Unconstitutional” activities done during the Bush reign and that are still going on with Obama?  Like indefinite detention in Guantanamo prison and the pursuing of drone attacks that are killing more civilians than the listed targeted “terrorists” in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia…?

This Wednesday will mark the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the US Guantanamo prison camp (located in Cuba).  In September 2006, the U.S. Congress passed the Military Commissions Act (MCA) which, among other things, not only authorized the detention of accused Terrorist suspects without a trial, but even explicitly denied all Guantanamo detainees the right of habeas corpus: the Constitutionally mandated procedure to allow prisoners, at least one opportunity to convince a court that they are being wrongfully held.

Habeas hearings are a much lower form of protection than a full trial: the government need not convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty, but rather merely present some credible evidence to justify the imprisonment. But the MCA denied even habeas rights to detainees.

Glenn Greenwald published this lengthy article “The evil of indefinite detention and those wanting to de-prioritize it”.  I  split this long article into two distinct posts, and this is on the indefinite detention case. Greenwald wrote (with slight editing and arrangement):

“Lakhdar Boumediene,  a camp’s former prisoner, sent an Op-Ed to the The New York Times.  Lakhdar recounts the gross injustice of his due-process-free detention, which lasted seven years. It was clear from the start that the accusations against this Bosnian citizen — who at the time of the 9/11 attack was the Red Crescent Society’s director of humanitarian aid for Bosnian children — were false.  Indeed, a high court in Bosnia investigated and cleared him of American charges of Terrorism. But U.S. forces nonetheless abducted him, tied him up, shipped him to Guantanamo, and kept him there for seven years with no trial.

Once the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2008 decision bearing Boumediene’s name, ruled that this habeas-denying provision of the MCA was unconstitutional, and that Guantanamo detainees were entitled to habeas corpus review, was the U.S. government finally required to show its evidence against Boumediene in an actual court.

A Bush appointed federal judge ruled that there was no credible evidence to support the accusations against him, and he was finally released in May, 2009.

(1) Since the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, dozens of Guantanamo detainees like Boumediene were finally able to have a federal court review whether there was any credible evidence against them, and the vast majority have won their cases on the ground that there was no such evidence.  At one point, 75% of Guantanamo detainees prevailed, though the percentage is now somewhat lower. Had the Military Commissions Act been upheld as constitutional, Boumediene — and dozens of other innocent, now-released Guantanamo detainees — would undoubtedly still be indefinitely imprisoned.

If those who voted for the MCA had their way,  (including all GOP Senators except Lincoln Chafee along with 12 Democrats such as Jay Rockefeller, Debbie Stabenow, Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, and current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar) Boumediene and dozens of other innocent detainees would still be wrongly imprisoned. The irony is that he Democrats had 46 Senators at the time and could have filibustered but did not.

Indeed, even many Democrats who voted against the bill anointed John McCain as their negotiator and were prepared to vote for the MCA until the very last weekend when some unrelated changes were made without their input and they were offended on that procedural ground. As Boumediene’s Op-Ed reflects, acting to empower the President to imprison people indefinitely with no charges is one of the most pernicious and dangerous steps a government can take, and yet the U.S. Congress in 2006 did exactly that.

(2) The Boumediene Supreme Court decision was a 5-4 vote; thus, four Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold the constitutionality of imprisoning human beings indefinitely, possibly for life, without even the minimal protections of a habeas hearing. Had Anthony Kennedy voted with his conservative colleagues, not only would Boumediene and dozens of others still be wrongly imprisoned, but the power which the U.S. has long taught its citizens is the defining hallmark of tyranny — the power to imprison without due process — would have been fully enshrined under American law.

(3) Post-Boumediene, indefinite detention remains a staple of Obama policy. The Obama DOJ has repeatedly argued that the Boumediene ruling should Not apply to Bagram (prison in Afghanistan), where — the Obama administration insists — it has the power to imprison people with no due process, not even a habeas hearing!

The Obama DOJ has succeeded in having that power enshrined. Obama has proposed a law to vest him with powers of “prolonged detention” to allow Terrorist suspects to be imprisoned with no trials. His plan for closing Guantanamo entailed the mere re-location of its indefinite detention system to U.S. soil, where dozens of detainees, at least, would continue to be imprisoned with no trial.

The President just signed into law the NDAA which contains — as the ACLU put it — “a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision,” meaning — as Human Rights Watch interpret — that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” Those held at Guantanamo will continue to receive at least a habeas hearing, but those held in other American War on Terror prisons will not.

(4) As we head into Election Year, there is an increasingly common, bizarre and self-evidently repellent tactic being employed by some Democratic partisans against those of us who insist that issues like indefinite detention (along with ongoing killing of civilians in the Muslim world) merit high priority. The argument is that to place emphasis on such issues is to harm President Obama (because he’s responsible for indefinite detention, substantial civilian deaths, and war-risking aggression) while helping competing candidates (such as Gary Johnson or Ron Paul) who vehemently oppose such policies.

So goes this reasoning, to demand that issues like indefinite detention andcivilian deaths be prioritized in assessing the presidential race is to subordinate the importance of other issues such as abortion, gay equality, and domestic civil rights enforcement on which Obama and the Democrats are better. Many of these commentators strongly imply, or now even outright state, that only white males are willing to argue for such a prioritization scheme because the de-prioritized issues do not affect them.

There are numerous glaring flaws with this divisive tactic. For one, it relies on a full-scale, deliberate distortion of the argument being made: Demanding that issues like indefinite detention, civilian deaths and aggressive war be given high priority in the presidential race does not remotely advocate the de-prioritization of any other issues. For another, many women and ethnic and racial minorities – as well as gay Americans — are making similar arguments about the need for these issues to receive substantial attention in the election.

More important, it’s irrational in the extreme to argue that self-interest or “privilege” would cause someone to want to prioritize issues like indefinite detention and civilian casualties given that the civil liberties and anti-war advocates being so accused are extremely unlikely themselves to be affected by the abuses they protest.

It isn’t white males being indefinitely detained, rendered, and having their houses and cars exploded with drones — the victims of those policies are people like Boumediene, or Gulet Mohamed, or Jose Padilla, or Awal Gul, or Sami al-Haj, or Binyam Mohamed, or Afghan villagers, or Pakistani families, or Yemeni teenagers.

When you spend the vast bulk of your time working against the injustices imposed almost exclusively on minorities and the marginalized — as anyone who works on these war and civil liberties issues by definition does — it’s reprehensible for someone to deploy these sorts of accusatory tactics, all in service of the shallow goal of partisan loyalty enforcement. Those who were actually driven primarily by privileged self-interest would want to de-prioritize these issues in a presidential campaign, not insist on their vital importance.

And that is this real point here: what’s so warped about those who employ this tactic for partisan ends is how easily it could be used against them, rather than by them. All of the authors of the three accusatory examples linked above (Carpentier, Pollitt, and Matthews) — as well as most of those Democrats who have now sunk to explicitly arguing that such matters are unimportant — are white and non-Muslim. To apply their degraded rhetoric to them, one could easily say:

Of course they don’t consider indefinite detention, invasions and occupations, and civilian slaughter to be disqualifying in a President or even meriting substantial attention in the presidential election — of course they will demand that everyone faithfully support a President who continues to do these things aggressively — because, as non-Muslims, they’re not the ones who will be imprisoned for years with no trial or have their children blown to bits by a U.S. drone or air strike, so what do they care?

I don’t employ or endorse that wretched reasoning, but those who do — such as the authors of the above-linked accusations — should have it applied to them and their own political priorities; they deserve to reap what they are sowing.

Note: The NYT has published an Op-Ed from another released, innocent Guantanamo detainee, Murat Kurnaz, that is just as harrowing and moving. It isn’t the people who are demanding these injustices receive high priority who have to answer charges of race-and-privilege-based self-interest and indifference; if anyone should answer those scurrilous charges, it’s those insisting that these abuses are not disqualifying and can and should be de-prioritized in the 2012 election.

Simply dying of old age in ROSETO (Pennsylvania): Health is rooted in community life-style?

In the 1950’s, as the US citizens were dying like flies from heart attacks, blood pressure…and cancer way before reaching 50 of age, a rumor spread in the medical community that people in the town of Roseto(Pennsylvania) were simply dying of old age, and even males didn’t suffer any major heart problems before the age of 65.

A team of physicians from Oklahoma decided to investigate this health mystery: They converged for two summers and in extended holidays to Roseto, and set their headquarter in the municipal main room, along with all their medical testing equipments…

The first factor that comes to mind is: “Hum…Most probably it is the diet custom of this “healthy” community? Maybe this unorthodox community is still attached to the diet of their original town of Roseto in Italy?”  This Italian community of 1,200 inhabitants, with many industries, have immigrated less than a century ago, with successive waves, joining their relatives in the town of Bangor (Pennsylvania) where they exploited and worked in the nearby quarry, as they did in Italy. 

After a thorough blood and other physical tests and inquiry of most of the community members, the team of doctors discovered that the people had reverted to the “normal” US diet habits.  Actually, their energy was mostly generated from the over 40% in fat in their metabolic system.  Worse, they smoked and drank as the good normal Americans!

The next question was: “Hum…may be it is in the gene…let us go to Italy and bring samples…”  The medical team from Oklahoma visited a few other Italian communities in the USA, originating from Roseto (Italy).  Surprise.  The other Italian communities death trends were as bad as the average US communities.

The third factor to investigate was: “Hum…maybe it is the environment around Roseto that aiding this community into exacerbating longevity trend…?”  The medical team investigated the neighboring communities around Roseto, like Bangor and the vicinities.  Total failure. The surrounding communities were dying like flies before the age of 55.

The medical team had to fall back and study the community life-style.  This community had 22 public organizations, they spent an enormous amount of time chatting with community members they met on the streets, they contributed in gardening the neighborhood lots, in engaging into community cooking, and throwing plenty of celebration occasions to getting together.

Worse, the well-to-do families were prohibited to flaunt their wealth status, and they had to contribute more to the community facilities and standard of living.  There was no joblessness, and available work were found for the so many able bodies…

Health must be rooted in community life-style, aiding one another, establishing community facilities, and keeping anxiety, depression, and the concept of “you are on your own” at bay…

Yes, it takes a community to caring for children, for the aged, for the handicapped, for the needy…

Note:  Post inspired by a chapter in “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell




January 2012

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