Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Weird World: man sticks pencil in dick to keep his erection, and then ...

A Serbian man needed emergency surgery after sticking a pencil inside his penis to keep it stiff during sex. Zeljko Tupic, from Belgrade, told doctors he had experienced erectile difficulties in the past. So as he prepared for a night with his new lover, he decided to insert a thin pencil into his penis. Tupic had to cut his sex session short when the pencil shifted and became lodged in his bladder, forcing him to call an ambulance, the daily Kurir reported. Doctor Aleksandar Milosevic from Belgrade's Zvezdara hospital, who succesfully removed the pencil, said: "At first the patient did not tell us what really happened, but x-rays proved the truth. Tupic said he had no idea there were things like Viagra available but agreed that in future he will try pills before he takes any more chances with pencils."

US troops say we should get the hell out of Iraq in 2006

Most Troops Want Swift US Pull-Out from Iraq -- by Demetri Sevastopulo and Edward Alden

Most American troops in Iraq believe that the US should withdraw within the next year, according to the first poll of US military personnel in Iraq.

President George W. Bush, whose overall approval rating fell to a new low of 34 per cent this week, has repeatedly said the US would finish the mission in Iraq. But a Zogby International/Le Moyne College poll found that only 23 per cent of US troops believed that they should stay “as long as they are needed”.

Seventy-two per cent of troops said the US should withdraw within 12 months; 29 per cent said they should pull out immediately.

Meanwhile a CBS News poll recorded another record low for the president this week: only 30 per cent of respondents approved of Mr Bush’s handling of Iraq.

John Zogby, the president of Zogby International, said US commanders in Iraq unofficially approved the poll of 944 respondents, which was conducted before the escalation in violence that followed last week’s bombing of the Golden Mosque.

Bryan Whitman, the deputy Pentagon spokesman, said the poll figures were “certainly not borne out in our recruiting and retention statistics”.

Mr Bush said on Tuesday that the Iraqi people and their leaders must choose between “a free society and evil people who kill innocents”.

“There are some who are trying to sow the seeds of sectarian violence,’’ he said following a meeting with Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, who is withdrawing Italian troops from Iraq this year.

Ninety-three per cent of US troops polled said the removal of weapons of mass destruction was not the main US mission in Iraq. Instead, 68 per cent said the mission was actually the removal of Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president.

Despite the fact that Mr Bush has acknowledged that Iraq played no role in the September 2001 attacks, 85 per cent of troops said the US mission was mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks”, a result that Mr Zogby described as “bewildering”.

While Mr Bush insists that progress is being made in Iraq, US intelligence and military officials frequently acknowledge that a full-scale civil war could erupt.

“I think we should take heart in the leaders who have come forward at this point but we’re also in a very tenuous situation right now,” Gen Michael Maples, the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

“I think that more violence, were it to occur, were it to be stimulated by al-Qaeda in Iraq, would have a very significant impact on the situation in Iraq.” He gave warning that political progress would not necessarily reduce the conflict. “Even moderate Sunni Arab leaders see violence as a complement to their political platforms,” he said.

A separate study on Tuesday from Globespan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 33 of 35 countries polled believe the war in Iraq has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks around the world.

International Desk: booming China has its heart of darkness

The Dark Side of China’s Rise
China’s economic boom has dazzled investors and captivated the world. But beyond the new high-rises and churning factories lie rampant corruption, vast waste, and an elite with little interest in making things better. Forget political reform. China’s future will be decay, not democracy.
By Minxin Pei

The only thing rising faster than China is the hype about China. In January, the People’s Republic’s gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded that of Britain and France, making China the world’s fourth-largest economy. In December, it was announced that China replaced the United States as the world’s largest exporter of technology goods. Many experts predict that the Chinese economy will be second only to the United States by 2020, and possibly surpass it by 2050.

Western investors hail China’s strong economic fundamentals—notably a high savings rate, huge labor pool, and powerful work ethic—and willingly gloss over its imperfections. Businesspeople talk about China’s being simultaneously the world’s greatest manufacturer and its greatest market. Private equity firms are scouring the Middle Kingdom for acquisitions. Chinese Internet companies are fetching dot-com-era prices on the NASDAQ. Some of the world’s leading financial institutions, including Bank of America, Citibank, and HSBC, have bet billions on the country’s financial future by acquiring minority stakes in China’s state-controlled banks, even though many of them are technically insolvent. Not to be left out, every global automobile giant has built or is planning new facilities in China, despite a flooded market and plunging profit margins.

And why shouldn’t they believe the hype? The record of China’s growth over the past two decades has proved pessimists wrong and optimists not optimistic enough. But before we all start learning Chinese and marveling at the accomplishments of the Chinese Communist Party, we might want to pause for a moment. Upon close examination, China’s record loses some of its luster. China’s economic performance since 1979, for example, is actually less impressive than that of its East Asian neighbors, such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, during comparable periods of growth. Its banking system, which costs Beijing about 30 percent of annual GDP in bailouts, is saddled with nonperforming loans and is probably the most fragile in Asia. The comparison with India is especially striking. In six major industrial sectors (ranging from autos to telecom), from 1999 to 2003, Indian companies delivered rates of return on investment that were 80 to 200 percent higher than their Chinese counterparts. The often breathless conventional wisdom on China’s economic reform overlooks major flaws that render many predictions about China’s trajectory misleading, if not downright hazardous.

Behind the glowing headlines are fundamental frailties rooted in the Chinese neo-Leninist state. Unlike Maoism, neo-Leninism blends one-party rule and state control of key sectors of the economy with partial market reforms and an end to self-imposed isolation from the world economy. The Maoist state preached egalitarianism and relied on the loyalty of workers and peasants. The neo-Leninist state practices elitism, draws its support from technocrats, the military, and the police, and co-opts new social elites (professionals and private entrepreneurs) and foreign capital—all vilified under Maoism. Neo-Leninism has rendered the ruling Chinese Communist Party more resilient but has also generated self-destructive forces.

To most Western observers, China’s economic success obscures the predatory characteristics of its neo-Leninist state. But Beijing’s brand of authoritarian politics is spawning a dangerous mix of crony capitalism, rampant corruption, and widening inequality. Dreams that the country’s economic liberalization will someday lead to political reform remain distant. Indeed, if current trends continue, China’s political system is more likely to experience decay than democracy. It’s true that China’s recent economic achievements have given the party a new vibrancy. Yet the very policies that the party adopted to generate high economic growth are compounding the political and social ills that threaten its long-term survival.

Command and Control

After a quarter century of gradual economic reform, has China succeeded in transforming its old command economy into a genuine market economy? Not nearly as well as most people would guess. Although China was one of the earliest socialist economies to begin serious reform, recent data on the country’s regulation, international trade, fiscal policy, and legal structure place China in the bottom third of 127 countries surveyed for economic freedom, below most Eastern European countries, India and Mexico, and all of its East Asian neighbors, save Burma and Vietnam.

The Chinese state remains deeply entrenched in the economy. According to official data for 2003, the state directly accounted for 38 percent of the country’s GDP and employed 85 million people (about one third of the urban workforce). For its part, the formal private sector in urban areas employed only 67 million people. A research report by the financial firm UBS argues that the private sector in China accounts for no more than 30 percent of the economy. These figures are startling even for Asia, where there is a tradition of heavy state involvement in the economy. State-owned enterprises in most Asian countries contribute about 5 percent of GDP. In India, traditionally considered a socialist economy, state-owned firms generate less than 7 percent of GDP.

But China’s tentacles are even more securely wrapped around the economy than these figures suggest. First, Beijing continues to own the bulk of capital. In 2003, the state controlled $1.2 trillion worth of capital stock, or 56 percent of the country’s fixed industrial assets. Second, the state remains, as befits a quintessentially Leninist regime, securely in control of the “commanding heights” of the economy: It is either a monopolist or a dominant player in the most important sectors, including financial services, banking, telecommunications, energy, steel, automobiles, natural resources, and transportation. It protects its monopoly profits in these sectors by blocking private domestic firms and foreign companies from entering the market (although in a few sectors, such as steel, telecom, and automobiles, there is competition among state firms). Third, the government maintains tight control over most investment projects through the power to issue long-term bank credit and grant land-use rights.

China’s business cycle is therefore driven by Beijing. Private-sector firms have very limited access to finance or new markets. The state even dominates many ostensibly deregulated sectors, such as the brewing industry, the retail sector, and textiles. Of the 66 publicly traded retailers in the country, only one is private. There are only 40 private firms among the 1,520 Chinese companies listed on domestic and foreign exchanges.

The Parasitic State

To many observers, Beijing’s tight grip on the Chinese economy means only that its reform process is incomplete. As China continues to open itself, they predict, state control will ease and market forces will clear away inefficient industries and clean up state institutions. The strong belief in gradual but inexorable economic liberalization often has a political corollary: that market forces will eventually produce civil liberties and political pluralism.

It’s a comforting thought. Yet these optimistic visions tend to ignore the neo-Leninist regime’s desperate need for unfettered access to economic spoils. Few authoritarian regimes can maintain power through coercion alone. Most mix coercion with patronage to secure support from key constituencies, such as the bureaucracy, the military, and business interests. In other words, an authoritarian regime imperils its capacity for political control if it embraces full economic liberalization. Most authoritarian regimes know that much, and none better than Beijing.

Today, Beijing oversees a vast patronage system that secures the loyalty of supporters and allocates privileges to favored groups. The party appoints 81 percent of the chief executives of state-owned enterprises and 56 percent of all senior corporate executives. The corporate reforms implemented since the late 1990s—designed to turn wholly state-owned firms into shareholding companies—haven’t made a dent in patronage. In large- and medium-sized state enterprises (ostensibly converted into shareholding companies, some of which are even traded on overseas stock markets), the Communist Party secretaries and the chairmen of the board were the same person about half the time. In 70 percent of the 6,275 large- and medium-sized state enterprises classified as “corporatized” as of 2001, the members of the party committee were members of the board of directors. All told, 5.3 million party officials—about 8 percent of its total membership and 16 percent of its urban members—held executive positions in state enterprises in 2003, the last year for which figures were available.

An incestuous relationship between the state and major industries can doom developing countries, and China is more susceptible than most. The combination of authoritarian rule and the state’s economic dominance has bred a virulent form of crony capitalism, as the ruling elites convert their political power into economic wealth and privilege at the expense of equity and efficiency. The state’s economic dominance preserves systemic economic inefficiency as scarce resources are funneled to local elites and bureaucratic constituencies. The World Bank estimates that, between 1991 and 2000, almost a third of investment decisions in China were misguided. The Chinese central bank’s research shows that politically directed lending was responsible for 60 percent of bad bank loans in 2001–02. The problem persists today. Chinese economic planners revealed in early 2006 that 11 major capital-intensive manufacturing industries were overproducing. For example, the country’s steel industry, the world’s largest, has 116 million tons (or about 30 percent) of excess capacity.

State enterprises are also miserably unprofitable. In 2003, a boom year, their median rate of return on assets was a measly 1.5 percent. More than 35 percent of state enterprises lose money and 1 in 6 has more debts than assets. China is the only country in history to have simultaneously achieved record economic growth and a record number of nonperforming bank loans.

Party membership and business acumen do not often go together. Because of the party’s fixation with high growth, government officials are rewarded for delivering, or appearing to deliver, precisely that. This incentive structure fuels a massive misallocation of capital to “image projects” (such as new factories, luxury shopping malls, recreational facilities, and unnecessary infrastructure) that burnish local officials’ records and strengthen their chances of promotion. The results of these mistakes—gleaming office complexes, industrial parks, landscaped highways, and public squares—tend to impress Western visitors, who view them as further proof of China’s economic prowess.

The Chinese economy is not merely inefficient; it has also fallen victim to crony capitalism with Chinese characteristics—the marriage between unchecked power and illicit wealth. And corruption is worst where the hand of the state is strongest. The most corrupt sectors in China, such as power generation, tobacco, banking, financial services, and infrastructure, are all state-controlled monopolies. None of that is unprecedented, of course. Tycoons in Russia, after all, have looted the state’s natural resources. China, at least, boasts genuine private entrepreneurs who have built prosperous companies. But China’s politically connected tycoons have cashed in on China’s real estate boom; nearly half of Forbes’ list of the 100 richest individuals in China in 2004 were real estate developers.

Various indicators, pieced together from official sources, suggest endemic graft within the state. The number of “large-sum cases” (those involving monetary amounts greater than $6,000) nearly doubled between 1992 and 2002, indicating that more wealth is being looted by corrupt officials. The rot appears to be spreading up the ranks, as more and more senior officials have been ensnared. The number of officials at the county level and above prosecuted by the government rose from 1,386 in 1992 to 2,925 in 2002.

An optimist might believe that these figures reveal stronger enforcement rather than metastasizing corruption, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Dishonest officials today face little risk of serious punishment. On average, 140,000 party officials and members were caught in corruption scandals each year in the 1990s, and 5.6 percent of these were criminally prosecuted. In 2004, 170,850 party officials and members were implicated, but only 4,915 (or 2.9 percent) were subject to criminal prosecution. The culture of official impunity is thriving in China.

What’s worse, corruption is now assuming forms normally associated with regime decay. Corruption involving large numbers of officials used to be rare. Now it’s rampant. Regional data suggest that large-scale corruption rings account for 30 to 60 percent of all the cases of graft uncovered by authorities. In some of the worst instances, entire provincial, municipal, and county governments were found to be tainted. In Heilongjiang Province, a corruption scandal involved more than 400 local officials, including the former governor, the former organizational chief of the party’s provincial committee, a vice governor, the chief prosecutor, the president of the provincial high court, and eight of the province’s 13 party bosses. According to official reports, in Shenyang (the capital of Liaoning Province), Fuzhou (the capital of Fujian Province), and more than 30 other counties and prefectures, groups of senior local officials, including party chiefs and mayors, have been on the payroll of organized gangs involved in murder, extortion, gambling, and prostitution.

As ominous as the corruption itself is what these scandals are beginning to reveal about the government’s legitimacy. In their confessions, corrupt officials often blame their misdeeds on a loss of faith in communism. There is anecdotal evidence that senior party officials have taken to consulting fortune-tellers about their political careers. The ruling elite in China, it appears, is drifting and insecure. Fearful about what the future may hold, some officials do not want to wait even a few years to turn their power into wealth. In 2002, almost 20 percent of the officials prosecuted for bribery and nearly 30 percent of those punished for abuse of power were younger than 35. In Henan Province in 2003, 43 percent of local party bosses caught up in corruption were between 40 and 50 years old (as compared with 32 percent older than 50). China has seen its future leaders, and a disproportionate number of them are on the take.

The Two Chinas

With elites cashing in quickly, ordinary Chinese are falling behind. Estimates from various sources, including the World Bank and the Chinese government, suggest that income inequality has increased at least 50 percent since the late 1970s, making China one of the most unequal societies in Asia. A recent study reports that less than 1 percent of Chinese households control more than 60 percent of the country’s wealth (by comparison, 5 percent of the households in the United States own 60 percent of the wealth). Rising inequality, to be sure, is not unusual in countries moving toward a market economy, but China’s neo-Leninist system, warped incentives, and elitist policies have amplified the trend.

A generation ago, the offspring of the ruling elite took up positions in the government or military; today, they go into business. The social ramifications of their self-dealing are particularly evident in real estate, where peasants regularly earn less than 5 percent of the value of their land while developers pocket 60 percent, with the remainder going into local government coffers. Privatization, too, offers insiders a chance to hit it rich by gobbling up state assets on the cheap. A recent study showed that 60 percent of privatized state enterprises were sold to their managers. As a result, 30 percent of all private-firm owners are now party members.

Meanwhile, basic services and good governance for ordinary Chinese are falling further behind. According to the World Bank, China’s governance ranks in the bottom half of all the countries in the world. China underinvests in crucial social services, especially education and public health. Government expenditures on education fell nearly 20 percent as a share of total education spending in the 1990s. In rural areas, home of China’s poorest citizens, 78 percent of the education budget must be raised from peasants through local taxation and fees, while Beijing provides only 1 percent of the funding for rural education.

In public health, the consequences of misspending are even more severe. Government money, which accounted for 36 percent of all health expenditures in the 1980s, plunged to less than 15 percent by 2000. China has hospitals and equipment, and its per capita spending is higher than comparable developing countries. But these resources are among the most unequally distributed in the world. The World Health Organization rated the fairness of the Chinese healthcare system below all countries except Brazil and Burma. According to China’s own Ministry of Health, two thirds of the population lacks any type of health insurance, and about half of the sick do not seek professional medical treatment at all.

Democracy Delayed

Rapid economic growth has not yet produced China’s much-anticipated political pluralism. Perhaps, some observers speculate, China is still too poor to afford democracy. But with a per capita income of nearly $1,500 ($4,500 if you consider people’s purchasing power), China is richer than many poor democracies. It’s not poverty that is holding up democracy; it’s a neo-Leninist state and the crony capitalism it fosters.

In part, democracy itself has been a victim of the country’s economic expansion. However flawed and mismanaged, the country’s rapid growth has bolstered Beijing’s legitimacy and reduced pressure on its ruling elites to liberalize. Democratic transitions in developing countries are often triggered by economic crises blamed on the incompetence and mismanagement of the ancien régime. China hasn’t experienced that crisis yet. Meanwhile, the riches available to the ruling class tend to drown any movement for democratic reform from within the elite. Political power has become more valuable because it can be converted into wealth and privilege unimaginable in the past. At the moment, China’s economic growth is having a perverse effect on democratization: It makes the ruling elite even more reluctant to part with power.

Lavish government spending on law and order helps to ensure that power-sharing won’t be necessary in the near future. Since the Tiananmen Square tragedy, the party has invested billions in beefing up the paramilitary police force (the People’s Armed Police) that has been deployed in suppressing internal unrest. To counter the threat posed by the information revolution, and especially the Internet, the Chinese government has blended technological savvy with regulatory might. The Chinese “Internet police,” officially known as the Ministry of Public Security’s Internet and Security Supervision Bureau, is reportedly more than 30,000 strong. Its Beijing branch proudly claimed that, in 2002, it participated in a multi-agency exercise to see whether the government could rid the Internet of “harmful content” within 48 hours of the onset of an emergency. (During the exercise, all “harmful content” was removed in 19 hours.) The party’s refined strategy of “selective repression” targets only those who openly challenge its authority while leaving the general public alone. China is one of the few authoritarian states where homosexuality and cross-dressing are permitted, but political dissent is not. Domestic opposition groups and individuals who might challenge the party’s authority are left isolated and powerless.

The emerging social elite, by contrast, is co-opted and coddled. The party showers the urban intelligentsia, professionals, and private entrepreneurs with economic perks, professional honors, and political access. For example, nationwide, 145,000 designated experts, or about 8 percent of senior professionals, received “special government stipends” (monthly salary supplements) in 2004; tens of thousands of former college professors have been recruited into the party and promoted to senior government positions. At least for now, the party’s charm campaign is working: The social groups that are normally the forces of democratization have been politically neutralized.

China’s neo-Leninist regime has formidable resources—but much more serious defects. State-directed investment, made to secure the political loyalty of key constituencies and advance personal careers, will prevent China from realizing its economic potential. The corruption of the state will likely deepen. The deterioration of the public health infrastructure and education systems will generate social tensions and mass alienation, thus eroding the party’s base of support and increasing its vulnerability to the economic or political shocks that will inevitably come.

China has already paid a heavy price for the flaws of its political system and the corruption it has spawned. Its new leaders, though aware of the depth of the decay, are taking only modest steps to correct it. For the moment, China’s strong economic fundamentals and the boundless energy of its people have concealed and offset its poor governance, but they will carry China only so far. Someday soon, we will know whether such a flawed system can pass a stress test: a severe economic shock, political upheaval, a public health crisis, or an ecological catastrophe. China may be rising, but no one really knows whether it can fly.

(Minxin Pei is senior associate and director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author of China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy.)

Mom, daughter and the Beatles

Now I Need a Place to Hide Away – by ANN HOOD

IT is difficult to hide from the Beatles. After all these years they are still regularly in the news. Their songs play on oldies stations, countdowns and best-ofs. There is always some Beatles anniversary: the first No. 1 song, the first time in the United States, a birthday, an anniversary, a milestone, a Broadway show.

But hide from the Beatles I must. Or, in some cases, escape. One day in the grocery store, when "Eight Days a Week" came on, I had to leave my cartful of food and run out. Stepping into an elevator that's blasting a peppy Muzak version of "Hey Jude" is enough to send me home to bed.

Of course it wasn't always this way. I used to love everything about the Beatles. As a child I memorized their birthdays, their tragic life stories, the words to all of their songs. I collected Beatles trading cards in bubble gum packs and wore a charm bracelet of dangling Beatles' heads and guitars.

For days my cousin Debbie and I argued over whether "Penny Lane" and its flip side, "Strawberry Fields Forever," had been worth waiting for. I struggled to understand "Sergeant Pepper"; I marveled over the brilliance of the White Album.

My cousins and I used to play Beatle wives. We all wanted to be married to Paul, but John was O.K. too. None of us wanted Ringo. Or even worse, George.

It was too easy to love Paul. Those bedroom eyes. That mop of hair. Classically cute. When I was 8, I asked my mother if she thought I might someday marry Paul McCartney.

"Well, honey," she said, taking a long drag on her Pall Mall. "Somebody will. Maybe it'll be you."

In fifth grade, in a diary in which I mostly wrote, It is so boring here, or simply, Bored, only one entry stands out: I just heard on the radio that Paul got married. Oh, please, God, don't let it be true.

It was true, and I mourned for far too long.

Of course by the time I was in high school, I understood my folly. John was the best Beatle: sarcastic, funny, interesting looking. That long thin nose. Those round wire-rimmed glasses. By then I didn't want to be anybody's wife. But I did want a boy like John, someone who spoke his mind, got into trouble, swore a lot and wrote poetry.

WHEN I did get married and then had children, it was Beatles' songs I sang to them at night. As one of the youngest of 24 cousins, I had never held an infant or baby-sat. I didn't know any lullabies, so I sang Sam and Grace to sleep with "I Will" and "P.S. I Love You." Eventually Sam fell in love with Broadway musicals and abandoned the Beatles.

But not Grace. She embraced them with all the fervor that I had. Her taste was quirky, mature.

"What's the song where the man is standing, holding his head?" she asked, frowning, and before long I had unearthed my old "Help!" album, and the two of us were singing, "Here I stand, head in hand."

For Grace's fourth Christmas, Santa brought her all of the Beatles' movies on video, a photo book of their career and "The Beatles 1" tape. Before long, playing "Eight Days a Week" as loud as possible became our anthem. Even Sam sang along and admitted that it was arguably the best song ever written.

Best of all about my daughter the Beatles fan was that by the time she was 5, she already had fallen for John. Paul's traditional good looks did not win her over. Instead she liked John's nasally voice, his dark side. After watching the biopic "Downbeat," she said Stu was her favorite. But since he was dead, she would settle for John. Once I overheard her arguing with a first-grade boy who didn't believe that there had been another Beatle.

"There were two other Beatles," Grace told him, disgusted. "Stu and Pete Best." She rolled her eyes and stomped off in her glittery shoes.

Sometimes, before she fell asleep, she would make me tell her stories about John's mother dying, how the band met in Liverpool and how when Paul wrote the tune for "Yesterday," he sang the words "scrambled eggs" to it.

After I would drop Sam off at school and continue with Grace to her kindergarten, she'd have me play one of her Beatles tapes. She would sing along the whole way there: "Scrambled eggs, all my troubles seemed so far away."

On the day George Harrison died, Grace acted as if she had lost a friend, walking sad and teary-eyed around the house, shaking her head in disbelief. She asked if we could play just Beatles music all day, and we did. That night we watched a retrospective on George. Feeling guilty, I confessed that he was the one none of us wanted to marry.

"George?" Grace said, stunned. "But he's great."

Five months later, on a beautiful April morning, Grace and I took Sam to school, then got in the car and sang along with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" while we drove. Before she left, she asked me to cue the tape so that as soon as she got back in the car that afternoon, she could hear "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" right from the beginning. That was the last time we listened to our Beatles together.

The next day Grace spiked a fever and died from a virulent form of strep. Briefly, as she lay in the I.C.U., the nurses told us to bring in some of her favorite music. My husband ran out to his car and grabbed "1" from the tape deck. Then he put it in the hospital's tape deck, and we climbed on the bed with our daughter and sang her "Love Me Do." Despite the tubes and machines struggling to keep her alive, Grace smiled at us as we sang to her.

At her memorial service 8-year-old Sam, wearing a bright red bow tie, stood in front of the hundreds of people there and sang "Eight Days a Week" loud enough for his sister, wherever she had gone, to hear him.

That evening I gathered all of my Beatles music — the dusty albums, the tapes that littered the floor of my car, the CD's that filled our stereo — and put them in a box with Grace's copies of the Beatles' movies. I could not pause over any of them.

Instead I threw them in carelessly and fast, knowing that the sight of those black-and-white faces on "Revolver," or the dizzying colors of "Sergeant Pepper," or even the cartoon drawings from "Yellow Submarine," the very things that had made me so happy a week earlier, were now too painful even to glimpse. As parents do, I had shared my passions with my children. And when it came to the Beatles, Grace had seized my passion and made it her own. But with her death, that passion was turned upside-down, and rather than bring joy, the Beatles haunted me.

I couldn't bear to hear even the opening chords of "Yesterday" or a cover of "Michelle." In the car I started listening only to talk radio to avoid a Beatles song catching me by surprise and touching off another round of sobbing.

I TRIED to shield myself from the Beatles altogether — their music, images, conversations about them — but it's hard, if not impossible. How, for example, am I supposed to ask Sam not to pick out their music slowly during his guitar lessons?

Back in the 60's, in my aunt's family room with the knotty-pine walls and Zenith TV, with my female cousins all around me, our hair straight and long, our bangs in our eyes, the air thick with our parents' cigarette smoke and the harmonies of the Beatles, I believed there was no love greater than mine for Paul McCartney.

Sometimes now, alone, I find myself singing softly. "And when at last I find you, your song will fill the air," I sing to Grace, imagining her blue eyes shining behind her own little wire-rimmed glasses, her feet tapping in time. "Love you whenever we're together, love you when we're apart." It was once my favorite love song, silent now in its White Album cover in my basement.

How foolish I was to have fallen so easily for Paul while overlooking John and George, to have believed that everything I could ever want was right there in that family room of my childhood: cousins, TV, my favorite music. But mostly I feel foolish for believing that my time with my daughter would never end.

Or perhaps that is love: a leap of faith, a belief in the impossible, the ability to believe that a little girl in a small town in Rhode Island would grow up to marry Paul McCartney. Or for a grieving woman to believe that a mother's love is so strong that the child she lost can still hear her singing a lullaby.

(Ann Hood's most recent book is a collection of short stories, "An Ornithologist's Guide to Life." She lives in Providence, R.I.)

JESUS NATION SEX REBEL, mini-chapter 8


Eve decided the tight black dress was appropriate, even though she was not wearing a bra. I’ll wear it with a conservative hat -- this gray one with the jaunty red smudge. She went to her computer and uploaded her profile. She blushed at how it skirted suggestively around the subject of sex. Funny how sexual discussions were verboten among Females in the United States Under God. She had never shared sexual problems with her friends, for instance. Nothing could land you faster in front of a Patriot Board. That’s why she was the sole possessor of a secret that she hugged to her breast like a child. Perhaps her biggest secret ever: the deeply hidden truth of a huge lack in her life.

Come to think of it, this lack was the thing that had driven her into three years of celibacy. It was a lack because it made her feel unequal to men. When she first met men, she had felt some power over them, because so many of them wanted her: oh, that delicious feeling that first flooded into her when she left her father’s house at the approved age of twenty-one and entered her own job and her own little rented room in the city. As a recognized beauty, she had freely exercised the power this gave her over men, attracting them and rejecting them by the dozens. Today a Single Female who behaved like that would be earmarked for prison. But when she got married, the secret lack began to poison her life, and a feeling of inequality -- to her husband, to all men -- took over. Seeing men again would bang this lack right back in her face, and bring on that feeling of inequality. Why should she pay that price?

She had no choice really. That price had to be paid, because she was a female. When she got to be forty -- only five years away -- she would automatically be reclassified as a Spinster: those over-forty Females who, because they could not be relied upon to bear children anymore, were forbidden to consort with men in any way, and only allowed one female friend, also a Spinster; those discarded Females who, if they were lucky, ended up taking care of elderly female widowed Beloveds, or else died unattended in Spinster loneliness. If they didn’t commit suicide first, as many did. Did she want to be a spinster and become a candidate for suicide?

No. It was unfair, this burden put upon women, but that’s how it was in Jesusland: you had to choose between men and loneliness. And she had chosen to face men again. Thus she would be forced to face her lack again, and how it made her feel unequal. She lowered her head and prayed for God’s mercy, now that she was to become a prey to men in the game of love -- or rather, the unfair fight of love.

Then she clicked “send” on her computer.

Bookplanet: famous women journalists

The Lionesses: Review of JOURNALISTAS: 100 Years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists, edited by Eleanor Mills with Kira Cochrane.

I worked for many years as an investigative reporter in Washington, digging into all manner of government grubbiness for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. In this trench-coated, gumshoe world, I only occasionally encountered other women among the journalists poring over documents in obscure federal agencies or pounding on the closed doors of K Street, the capital's famous corridor of lobbyists. By long tradition, this was men's turf. It was telling that one of my colleagues once anonymously described me in a published profile as having "balls like cast-iron cantaloupes."

More women have since flooded into journalism, including its investigative and top editing ranks. Still, according to several recent studies, our presence lags on the mastheads, opinion pages and front pages of premier publications.

Into the breach comes "Journalistas," an anthology that bills itself as the best writing by women journalists over the past 100 years. I first picked up the volume with annoyance - I hated the title and still do. It sounds silly and is redolent of all sorts of dopey words for female journalists, including one of my least favorites, editrix. And I'm not a fan of anthologies. Reading them is often like feasting on a meal of hors d'oeuvres. Such collections tend to dilute the narrative drive that makes much journalism compelling in the first place. And the idea of isolating "the best writing" from women journalists seemed dutiful, something aimed for Women's History Month rather than a comfy couch on a cold day. Would this "greatest of" collection, limited to women, match up when read against the work of such lions as Joseph Mitchell or A. J. Liebling? And I have never been fully persuaded that women do really speak and write in an entirely different voice from men, so the idea of segregating them in a book did not thrill me.

But most of the pieces collected by Eleanor Mills (an editor at The Sunday Times of London) and Kira Cochrane (a novelist and former journalist) are so marvelous that I quickly cast aside my doubts. Their choice of writers, including Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag and Mary McCarthy, as well as a number of British writers who were less familiar to me, is superb. The book is divided into subject areas, and I was glad, in these times, to see the authors boldly put war first - before home and family.

The brightest jewel is Martha Gellhorn's utterly chilling account of Dachau in the earliest days of the liberation in 1945. Gellhorn's writing is emblematic of many of the fine articles in this volume - striking in its spare style, full of moral authority, but utterly lacking any surplus emotion or distracting detail. Perhaps the British roots of the anthologists led them to a preference for journalistic crispness in the English style. It serves their readers extremely well.

Born in 1908, Gellhorn had a long and prolific career; she started writing for The New Republic in her late teens and moved to Paris in her 20's to work for United Press. She covered the Spanish Civil War, Vietnam and conflicts in Central America, but produced some of her most memorable work about World War II. Before the world was familiar with the monstrous pictures and full dimensions of the Holocaust, Gellhorn was its witness. In a dispatch called "The Face of War," she wrote of Dachau: "We have all seen a great deal now; we have seen too many wars and too much violent dying; we have seen hospitals, bloody and messy as butcher shops; we have seen the dead like bundles lying on all the roads of half the earth. But nowhere was there anything like this. Nothing about war was ever as insanely wicked as these starved and outraged, naked, nameless dead."

Even in work from the 1930's, the voices in "Journalistas" are surprisingly contemporary. Maddy Vegtel, writing in Vogue, describes becoming a mother for the first time at 40 in words that could have been published yesterday. Daring to cite late motherhood's possible advantages at a time when having a baby at that age was almost unthinkable, she writes: "It is hardly likely that after the baby is born she'll decide that what she really is cut out for is to run an artificial flower shop or that she needs a complete change of husband, which may eventually lead to the child having, besides a father and mother, a couple of stepmothers and stepfathers as well, and cause general emotional upset."

A profile by Erica Jong of the Clintons' fascinating, fraught marriage published in The Nation in 1996 is positively prescient. Jong saw the inevitability of a Monica Lewinsky , at a time when the young and eager intern was still far from Kenneth Starr's net. This Hillary, the simmering wife forced into the background during her husband's re-election campaign, has been so overtaken by Senator Hillary that Jong's perceptive portrait should be required reading for anyone evaluating whether Hillary is presidential timber. Jong captures her unquestionable smarts but also her penchant for striking bargains to acquire power. No one reading this piece could be surprised by Senator Clinton's multisided utterances on Iraq policy or the steely discipline that helped get her elected.

It is hard to fault an anthology that brings the reader bounty from the likes of Nellie Bly, writing about Bellevue in 1888; Pauline Kael, the celebrated New Yorker film critic, whose 1987 review of "Fatal Attraction" is reprinted here; and Zelda Fitzgerald, writing in McCall's magazine in 1925 about "What Became of the Flappers." The book also features one of Sontag's final essays, "Regarding the Torture of Others," published in The New York Times Magazine in 2004 after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal unfolded.

And how do you begin to choose among the brilliant possibilities in the oeuvre of Joan Didion , a writer at the very vanguard of the New Journalism? (The editors selected a 1961 Vogue essay, "On Self-Respect," and a profile of Georgia O'Keeffe from Didion's 1979 essay collection, "The White Album.") Another fine and recent article included is Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel-and-Dimed," about the working poor, which echoes the work of the female social realists of the first half of the century. Originally published in Harper's Magazine in 1999, it inspired her terrific book of the same name.

I could have done without some of the more dated polemics, including one from 1917 by the anarchist revolutionary Emma Goldman, opposing World War I. There are also some gaping omissions, most notably Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem," the stellar essay originally published in The New Yorker that made the term "banality of evil" part of the modern world's psyche and that should be reread annually. In the book's foreword, Mills explains that she and Cochrane excluded Arendt because she wrote mostly in German - a poor excuse.

Carol Gilligan, the psychologist and gender expert, has said that women are less predisposed to judge, and while this could be seen as moral relativism, she argues it's more a recognition of the intricacies of real-world situations. Most of the writers in "Journalistas" do have a special eye for intricacies, but they are also full of brave judgments and passion for political life in all its dimensions. Mills gets it right when she puts forward a simple justification for this book: "This is not just a women's collection; it reflects the great dilemmas and struggles of humanity in the last century from an often new point of view."

(Jill Abramson is managing editor of The New York Times.)

Deep Thoughts: animals and us

Speciesism: a beastly concept
Why it is morally right to use animals to our ends -- by Josie Appleton

The battle over the new Oxford animal research lab hangs on the question of whether it is morally right to use animals to our ends. On Saturday two demos will take to the streets: one in support of the lab, arguing that animal testing is necessary to save human lives; the other arguing that animal lives are as valuable as our own. In recent years, the animal rights camp has claimed the moral high ground, asserting that it is mere 'speciesism' to prioritise human ends over those of mice, cats or primates.

Animal rights activist Peter Singer defines speciesism as 'a prejudice or attitude of bias towards the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species' (1). Advocates argue that fighting speciesism is an extension of struggles for human equality: just as we once dehumanised others on the basis of their race or sex, so apparently we now think animals are below us. The argument goes that speciesism, racism and sexism are all examples of 'exclusionary attitudes'. In The Political Animal: The Conquest of Speciesism , Richard Ryder notes that Aristotle thought that animals 'exist for the sake of men' while also looking down on slaves and women (2). No coincidence, says Ryder. According to Ryder, either you are a caring person who recognises the value of other beings, or you are selfish and care only for yourself. He cites 'evidence of a link between caring for humans and caring for animals': one study found that opponents of animal rights tended to be male, anti-abortion, have 'prejudice against homosexuals' and 'exhibited racial prejudice'; another study of US students concluded that 'those students who favour animal experimentation tend to be male, masculine in outlook, conservative and less empathetic' (3).

When this argument was first made in the early 1970s it was considered crackpot and insulting. America had recently allowed black citizens the vote; national liberation struggles were setting the world alight; women were burning their bras. Human equality was the priority: nobody was much concerned with improving the conditions of gorillas in the West African jungle. Now the notion of speciesism has gained respectability and kudos, filtering into a variety of professions.

One social worker, David B Wolf, argues that his colleagues need to reflect on their speciesist attitudes: he notes that the current aim of social work is 'to enhance human wellbeing and help meet the basic human needs of all people', and suggests instead that 'the issue of speciesism should be incorporated as a basic element of the profession' (4). An article by a Swedish educationalist critiqued the 'oppressive human-animal domination structures' in schools, and deconstructed the speciesism implicit in school textbooks and choices of school trips - she calls for these prejudices to be replaced by 'compassion and respect for "the other", in the broadest sense of the word' (5). A cultural studies professor suggests a 'non-speciesist vision' for reading literature and the arts. Just as historians might read history from the point of the oppressed, he suggests that 'The visual arts must be viewed so as to interpret the role of the animals which crouch in the corners of the frame or stare from the owners' lap.' (6)

The term speciesism hasn't yet entered the popular vocabulary, perhaps partly because it is such a mouthful. But the assumption behind the term - that it is wrong to prioritise humans over animals - has become mainstream. Animal experimentation today has few defenders: at the new Oxford animal lab contractors hide their faces behind balaclavas, and few from the government or scientific community will speak out in its defence. The government backs the lab with funding and security but not with political or moral arguments. Indeed the UK government's draft Animal Welfare Bill sends the opposite political message: the new regulations require pet owners to respect their pets' rights to privacy and provide them with adequate 'stimulation', an bans animal 'mutilation' such as tail-docking and fish-dyeing. Our everyday relationships with animals are being called into question. The US Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) advises schools against keeping pets because this apparently places children's educational needs above the welfare of animals - if they must, 'animal handling should be supervised and kept to a minimum, the animals' needs must remain paramount' (7).

Of course, in practice most of us are speciesist: we eat animals but not humans; we buy pets and keep them locked up in cages; we support animal experimentation in order to save human lives. But increasingly these distinctions lack moral justification. It's time we developed a more human-centred morality, to provide our practical judgements with intellectual support.

Human and animal equality

Animal rights activists get the relationship between human and animal equality completely skewed. In actual fact, the idea of the brotherhood of mankind was founded on the basis of uniquely human features. In the Enlightenment, when the notion of human equality was hammered out, it was argued that we should treat one another as equals because we were all rational, self-conscious beings. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that we have to respect other human beings because they are self-willing : they are conscious of their existence, so you cannot merely treat them as a means to your end. By contrast, says Kant, 'Animals are not self-conscious and are there merely as a means to an end. That end is man' (8). It is because animals are not ends for themselves that humans can treat them as a means to our ends.

The flowering of human consciousness went hand-in-hand with a growing distinction from animals. It is when humans lived in cramped and degraded circumstances that they have felt the most commonality with the beasts. In ancient Egypt, cats and dogs were mummified because they were believed to have an afterlife, and Egyptian Gods had animal heads. Premodern societies often had animal totems, and they saw animals and humans as intertwined through reincarnation. Animals were attributed with agency: some societies tried animals in court, and prayed to fish to return to the rivers. The sense of fellowship with animals corresponded to societies subject to the whims of nature. These circumstances didn't foster brotherly love. Some tribes called themselves 'the humans', the implication being that outsiders were not fully human and could be killed with impunity (though it might be forbidden to kill a pig for food).

With Ancient Greece, when humanity began to develop a fuller sense of itself and its abilities, animals began to be cast out of the picture. Greek Gods are all human - though they sometimes disguise themselves as animals, as in the myth of Leda and the swan. Human-animal hybrids remained in the form of satyrs and mermaids, but crucially these had human heads and arms and so retained the locus of personality. Theorists of ethics and the good life, such as Aristotle, generally argued that animals lacked reason and so could not be granted justice.

Christianity developed a broader notion of human equality, and a clearer distinction between humans and animals. We are all made in the image of God, says the Bible, even women and slaves, and we are all deserving of equal respect. Christianity respected no holy animals, a point made in the Bible where Jesus casts the swine into the sea. But Christianity understood humanity's distinctness from nature as a gift from God. 'I have given you all things', says God: 'Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you.'

The Enlightenment philosophers increasingly located the source of human distinction in mankind itself, writing excited essays about the innate 'dignity of man' and humanity's capacity for self-development. While fish worshipping corresponded to a feeble control over nature, so this notion of human uniqueness corresponded to a society that was developing science, technology and industry. Our 'dominion' over nature came to be seen not as a gift from God but as the product of our own hands.

Defining humans down

Those who argue that human beings and animals are equal, devalue humanity. As animal rights academic Paola Cavalieri notes, new notions of animal rights are the result of changing definitions of humans, with a shift from 'high-sounding claims about our rationality and moral capacity' to 'work on a much more accessible level' (9). The ability to feel pain is the definition of moral worth suggested by Peter Singer (who calls it sentience) and Richard Ryder (who calls it painience). Human beings' superior mental abilities are apparently of no moral consequence: Singer talks about humans' 'self-awareness, and the ability to plan for the future and have meaningful relationships with others', but argues that they are 'not relevant to the question of inflicting pain - since pain is pain' (10). Here commonality with other human beings (and animals) is based on our central nervous systems. We are all part of a 'community of pain', says Ryder. Singer suggests that a human life is worth (a bit) more than an animal's, because we have a slightly higher level of sentience. We should therefore treat sentient animals as we would a mentally handicapped human being.

Others take a behavioural psychological approach. Primate studies have found that they form relationships among members of the group; that they have some kind of memory of events; that they can use twigs and rocks as tools and have different 'tool cultures' for different groups; that they can communicate with one another and can learn basic signs to communicate with humans. Here the question of moral value is decided in a laboratory or in field tests, weighed on the basis of cognitive and awareness skills. Humans come out better than chimps, but it is a quantitative rather than qualitative difference. '[Chimpanzees] clearly have some kind of self-concept', writes primatologist Jane Goodall. 'The line dividing "man" from "beast" has become increasingly blurred' (11).

Finally, others take DNA as their measure of moral value. Studies have shown that we share some 98.4 per cent of our DNA with chimpanzees, and an even greater proportion of our genes. When recent research showed that humans shared a closer evolutionary relationship with chimps than previously thought, calls started for chimps to be removed from the pan genus and welcomed into homo . Many drew the assumption that shared DNA made chimpanzees into moral agents. 'Could a chimp ever be charged with murder?', asked the UK Daily Mail (12).

It seems that we no longer know what it means to be a member of the human club, but have a feeling that it cannot be much. These different definitions of moral worth are entirely arbitrary. Why should a shared gene mean that people are of equal value or that we should respect them? If some historically isolated groups had a notably different DNA should we treat them differently? Why does the possession of basic memory mean that we should respect chimps? The drive behind these arguments is not their logical coherence, but the desire to knock humans off their pedestal. Observations on the sophistication of primate behaviour are punctuated with pokes at human beings: 'Who are we to say that the suffering of a human being is more terrible than the suffering of a nonhuman being, or that it matters more?' asks Jane Goodall in a piece about chimp behaviour (13). 'Why is human arrogance so pervasive and where does it come from?', asked Roger and Deborah Fouts in a chapter on primate language use (14).

The notion of humanity here is based on humility. For Richard Ryder this is a generic capacity for caring, the feminine antithesis to dominating machismo. Surely the Jains would be the most humane of us all, as they walk around apologising to ants and plants if they step on them? But what kind of model of man is that? This is the compassion of subservience: we regret causing other beings pain because we feel that we are not worthy. Genuine compassion, by contrast, is based on a fellowship of feeling: 'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind', wrote the sixteenth-century poet John Donne. Humility is no basis on which to build commonality between human beings, who properly face each other eye to eye as upright equals.

How humans are different

Human beings are not just a variation on chimps. What is at question is not awareness of our world, but consciousness . Humans are the only beings that are an object for themselves: that not only exist but know that they exist; that don't just act, but reflect on their activity. 'Man makes himself', is the title of a book on human history by archaeologist V Gordon Childe (15). He notes that biological evolution selects characteristics that will be useful for a particular environment - a tough hide for protection, fast running to escape predators, or sharp claws with which to kill. Human beings have virtually no useful biological adaptations: we are slow, naked and thin-skinned. Instead we consciously fashion our own adaptations, from clothes to cars to weapons. Rather than being a product of evolutionary improvement, we improve ourselves.

This is not a question of degree: it is a question of kind. Over time evolution has produced increasingly complex species, which have a greater control over and awareness of their environment - from bacteria to plants to reptiles to primates. Evolution is the equivalent of a plane speeding up on a runway, and then with the emergence of humans it takes off and operates according to completely different laws. Whatever chimps' and gorillas' genetic similarity to humans, they are primarily creatures of evolution. A chimp community from two million years ago would be completely indistinguishable to one today.

The human line separated from chimpanzees around seven million years ago, but it was only with the emergence of modern humans some 50,000 years ago that we notice a qualitative leap. In the intervening period there was a host of different hominid species, many of which died out. Our evolutionary line was marked by an increasingly upright stance, a growth in brain size, and a reduction in robustness of the jaw and teeth. Our hominid ancestors had developed basic tools - mainly hand-held 'choppers' - and they probably knew how to use fire and buried their dead, but they were sluggish. With anatomically modern humans there is an explosion in the sophistication of tools, including fish hooks, specialised cutters, spears, bows and arrows, lamps. There is also complex culture such as art, jewellery and religious rituals, which suggest humans trying to explain their world to themselves and to exert control over it. Within a few thousand years, humans had spread from Africa to Siberia, Australia and the Americas, showing that they were the universal animal that could adapt itself to each and every clime.

Who knows what the key ingredient was that allowed human beings to take off. Some scientists suggest that it was a refinement in the vocal tract, allowing a greater range of sounds for speech. Certainly consciousness is intrinsically social: we only become aware of ourselves as individuals by seeing ourselves in the eyes of others; we only have inner thoughts through the common symbols of language. As Kenan Malik has argued, if we were mere individuals 'we would possess sensations and experiences, but we could never interpret those sensations or experiences, or make them meaningful' (16).

In the development of humans, there was a weakening of biological adaptation and an increasing reliance on culture. We became upright, leaving our hands free; our hands lost their adaptations for swinging (chimps) or bounding (gorillas) and became primarily for manipulation of tools; our mouths lost their adaptations for tearing food (such as tough tongues and lips, heavy jaws, large teeth) and became sensitive and versatile for speech. The hand and the mouth are the key human organs. Aristotle called the hand the 'organ of organs' because of its versatility. Thomas Aquinas looked down on the 'horns and claws' and 'toughness of hide and quantity of hair or feathers' in animals: 'Such things do not suit the nature of manÖ. Instead of these, he has reason and hands whereby he can make himself arms and clothes, and other necessities of life, of infinite variety'. Reason, Aquinas said, was 'capable of conceiving of an infinite number of things' so it was fitting that the hand had the 'power of devising for itself an infinite number of instruments' (17).

Some suggest that we have been in denial about the moral implications of Darwinism for the past 150 years. Richard Ryder argues: 'Thanks to Darwin, many of the huge and self-proclaimed differences between humans and animals were revealed to be no more than arrogant delusions. Surely, if we are all related through evolution we should also be related morally.' (18). In fact, the opposite is true. First, knowledge of Darwinism shows just how much we have managed to break free of the process of natural selection that holds every other living creature in its yoke. Second, in finding that we evolved rather than were created by God, perhaps we truly became our own gods. After all, what kind of species manages to find out the secret of its own origins?

Crossing the species barrier

In purely practical terms, modern society is more distinguished from animals than ever before: we live more than ever in conditions of our own creation, immune from natural pressures of hunger and cold. Yet there is a curious dissonance between practical reality and consciousness. Whereas in the past human beings' practical mastery went hand-in-hand with an expanding consciousness, now the two have come apart. While practical mastery continues apace, it lacks the moral foundations to justify it. As a result, we are effectively living in two worlds: one composed of the things we do, and one of the things we can justify. Behind this lies doubt about the point to human existence. EO Wilson's 1978 book On Human Nature argued: 'We have no particular place to go. The species lacks any goal external to its own biological nature'. Wilson perceptively noted how such 'evolutionary ethics' were a fill-in for 'the seemingly fatal deterioration of the myths of traditional religion and its secular equivalents' (19). It was a loss of faith in our ability to make our own history that encouraged the view that we are just a bundle of nerves and DNA.

Some humans are now trying to cross the species barrier, seeking again a kinship with animals. Indeed such is the real content of many of the primate experiments with chimps and gorillas. Jane Goodall in Gombe National Park was less observing chimps from outside than trying to become one with them, empathising with their courtships and fights and injuries. She writes: 'She was too tired after their long, hot journey to set to on the delicious food, as her daughters didÖ. The leader of the patrol, hearing the sudden sound, stopped and stared ahead'. Goodall's manuscripts are peppered with 'as ifs' and 'as thoughs', as she projects human dramas and tragedies on to her subjects. Other primate researchers took chimps into their homes and treated them like human children. Two couples - Roger and Deborah Fouts and Beatrice and Allan Gardener - lived with chimps and taught them to use basic sign language. They gave them presents on their birthday and 'candy trees' at Christmas, behaving more as parents and kids than researcher and subject.

This blurring of the boundaries between animals and humans means a loss of moral sense, and a disgust at humanity. We can see this dramatically in Grizzly Man , a new film about a man who went to live with grizzly bears in the far reaches of Alaska. Tim Treadwell filmed his life with the bears for 13 years, less observing or admiring them than wanting to be like them. 'I love these animals!' he repeatedly cried (they all had names like 'Mr Chocolate'). He sought to face up to them on their terms, earning their 'respect' and refusing to carry weapons. One of his friends observed: 'He wanted to become like a bear, to mutate into a wild animal, connect so deeply that he was no longer human.' Behind this lay his contempt for the human world. The narrator noted: 'Treadwell speaks of the human world as something foreign. Wild primordial nature is where he felt truly at home.' Treadwell was able to feel compassion for a bee ('I love that bee!') but saw human visitors to the area as foreign intruders. Of course, Treadwell's is an extreme example - but perhaps he was only living out the theory of human-animal equality. By turning theory into practical reality we can see its depravity.

We are in a paradoxical situation today, of using our capacity for consciousness and creativity to devalue that consciousness and creativity. Scientists use their ability to analyse DNA to prove that we are little more than chimps. Philosophers use their reasoning powers and the accumulated knowledge of human history to try to prove that humans have no special ethical value. Artists use their creativity to represent human experience as akin to that of animals - with British artist Damien Hirst using flies or animals in formaldehyde to explore human experiences of love and death.

There are severe consequences of holding human life so cheap. For a start, it is demoralising, drumming home the notion that our lives are futile. There are practical implications too. Animal research has produced key medical breakthroughs, from insulin to heart transplants to vaccines. Many of us would now be dead were it not for these discoveries. Now that animal rights concerns hold back research, this will mean needless human deaths in the future. Meanwhile, in wildlife sanctuaries in the developing world the welfare of chimps or tigers is placed above that of local villagers. The biologist Jonathan Marks sums up the crude calculations he heard from a colleague: 'A British professor thinks there are too many Asians and not enough orangutans.' (20).

Towards a human-centred morality

It is only a human-centred morality that can provide for fertile and equal relationships among human beings. We should relate to each other and respect one another as conscious, rational beings, rather than as DNA databases or collections of nerve endings. Attempts to find equality between humans and animals are founded in a loss of moral compass, and a disgust at humanity. As such, they are antithetical to historic attempts to fight for human equality. Moreover, it is our sense of humans as a common family that means that we can treat those who lack full agency and rationality - such as disabled people and children - with love and respect. These humans live in a network of relationships, and are loved and valued by those around them.

None of this means that we should be nasty to or disinterested in animals. Wanton torture is wrong, though less because of the pain it causes to the animal than because it reflects badly upon the torturer. The same level of animal pain, existing for a clear purpose in a slaughterhouse or a science lab, would be entirely justified. A proper relationship to animals consists in using them in a controlled, conscious manner - for the varied ends of the butcher, the nature photographer, the poet, the scientist, or the pet-owner. These relationships with animals are founded on our different aims and values, and as such are moral. A human-centred approach could mean spending hours in the wild studying animals, or painting and admiring them - but seeing them through a human eye rather than trying to escape our humanity.

What is at question is the position from which we see the world. Taking a bear-centred perspective makes no more sense than a DNA-centred perspective. Humans are the measure of all things: morality starts with us.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Weird World: man forced to marry goat because he fucked it

A Sudanese man has been forced to marry a goat after he was caught having sex with the animal. The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders. They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars, nearly £40, to Mr Alifi. "We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said. Mr Alifi told the Juba Post newspaper that he heard a loud noise around midnight and immediately rushed outside to find Mr Tombe with his goat. "When I asked him: "What are you doing there?", he fell off the back of the goat, so I captured and tied him up." Mr Alifi then called elders to decide how to deal with the case. "They said I should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for my goat because he used it as his wife.”

US Diary: Our business elite will sell America to line their own pockets

1. When Americans No Longer Own America -- by Thom Hartmann

The Dubai Ports World deal is waking Americans up to a painful reality: So-called "conservatives" and "flat world" globalists have bankrupted our nation for their own bag of silver, and in the process are selling off America.

Through a combination of the "Fast Track" authority pushed for by Reagan and GHW Bush, sweetheart trade deals involving "most favored nation status" for dictatorships like China, and Clinton pushing us into NAFTA and the WTO (via GATT), we've abandoned the principles of tariff-based trade that built American industry and kept us strong for over 200 years.

The old concept was that if there was a dollar's worth of labor in a pair of shoes made in the USA, and somebody wanted to import shoes from China where there may only be ten cents worth of labor in those shoes, we'd level the playing field for labor by putting a 90-cent import tariff on each pair of shoes. Companies could choose to make their products here or overseas, but the ultimate cost of labor would be the same.

Then came the flat-worlders, led by misguided true believers and promoted by multinational corporations. Do away with those tariffs, they said, because they "restrain trade." Let everything in, and tax nothing. The result has been an explosion of cheap goods coming into our nation, and the loss of millions of good manufacturing jobs and thousands of manufacturing companies. Entire industry sectors have been wiped out.

These policies have kneecapped the American middle class. Our nation's largest employer has gone from being the unionized General Motors to the poverty-wages Wal-Mart. Americans have gone from having a net savings rate around 10 percent in the 1970s to a minus .5 percent in 2005 - meaning that they're going into debt or selling off their assets just to maintain their lifestyle.

At the same time, federal policy has been to do the same thing at a national level. Because our so-called "free trade" policies have left us with an over $700 billion annual trade deficit, other countries are sitting on huge piles of the dollars we gave them to buy their stuff (via Wal-Mart and other "low cost" retailers). But we no longer manufacture anything they want to buy with those dollars.

So instead of buying our manufactured goods, they are doing what we used to do with Third World nations - they are buying us, the USA, chunk by chunk. In particular, they want to buy things in America that will continue to produce profits, and then to take those profits overseas where they're invested to make other nations strong. The "things" they're buying are, by and large, corporations, utilities, and natural resources.

Back in the pre-Reagan days, American companies made profits that were distributed among Americans. They used their profits to build more factories, or diversify into other businesses. The profits stayed in America.

Today, foreigners awash with our consumer dollars are on a two-decades-long buying spree. The UK's BP bought Amoco for $48 billion - now Amoco's profits go to England. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless, so their profits go to Germany, which is where most of the profits from Random House, Allied Signal, Chrysler, Doubleday, Cyprus Amax's US Coal Mining Operations, GTE/Sylvania, and Westinghouse's Power Generation profits go as well. Ralston Purina's profits go to Switzerland, along with Gerber's; TransAmerica's profits go to The Netherlands, while John Hancock Insurance's profits go to Canada. Even American Bankers Insurance Group is owned now by Fortis AG in Belgium.

Foreign companies are buying up our water systems, our power generating systems, our mines, and our few remaining factories. All because "flat world" so-called "free trade" policies have turned us from a nation of wealthy producers into a nation of indebted consumers, leaving the world awash in dollars that are most easily used to buy off big chunks of America. As notes, US Government statistics indicate the following percentages of foreign ownership of American industry:
· Sound recording industries - 97%
· Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage - 79%
· Motion picture and sound recording industries - 75%
· Metal ore mining - 65%
· Motion picture and video industries - 64%
· Wineries and distilleries - 64%
· Database, directory, and other publishers - 63%
· Book publishers - 63%
· Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product - 62%
· Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment - 57%
· Rubber product - 53%
· Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing - 53%
· Plastics and rubber products manufacturing - 52%
· Plastics product - 51%
· Other insurance related activities - 51%
· Boiler, tank, and shipping container - 50%
· Glass and glass product - 48%
· Coal mining - 48%
· Sugar and confectionery product - 48%
· Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying - 47%
· Advertising and related services - 41%
· Pharmaceutical and medicine - 40%
· Clay, refractory, and other nonmetallic mineral products - 40%
· Securities brokerage - 38%
· Other general purpose machinery - 37%
· Audio and video equipment mfg and reproducing magnetic and optical media - 36%
· Support activities for mining - 36%
· Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet preparation - 32%
· Chemical manufacturing - 30%
· Industrial machinery - 30%
· Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities - 30%
· Other food - 29%
· Motor vehicles and parts - 29%
· Machinery manufacturing - 28%
· Other electrical equipment and component - 28%
· Securities and commodity exchanges and other financial investment activities - 27%
· Architectural, engineering, and related services - 26%
· Credit card issuing and other consumer credit - 26%
· Petroleum refineries (including integrated) - 25%
· Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments - 25%
· Petroleum and coal products manufacturing - 25%
· Transportation equipment manufacturing - 25%
· Commercial and service industry machinery - 25%
· Basic chemical - 24%
· Investment banking and securities dealing - 24%
· Semiconductor and other electronic component - 23%
· Paint, coating, and adhesive - 22%
· Printing and related support activities - 21%
· Chemical product and preparation - 20%
· Iron, steel mills, and steel products - 20%
· Agriculture, construction, and mining machinery - 20%
· Publishing industries - 20%
· Medical equipment and supplies - 20%

Thus it shouldn't surprise us that the cons have sold off our ports as well, and will defend it to the bitter end. They truly believe that a "New World Order" with multinational corporations in charge instead of sovereign governments will be the answer to the problem of world instability. And therefore they must do away with quaint things like unions, a healthy middle class, and, ultimately, democracy.

The "security" implications of turning our ports over to the UAE are just the latest nail in what the cons hope will be the coffin of American democracy and the American middle class. Today's conservatives believe in rule by inherited wealth and an internationalist corporate elite, and things like a politically aroused citizenry and a healthy democracy are pesky distractions.

Everything today is driven by profits for multinationals, supported by the lawmaking power of the WTO. Thus, parts for our missiles are now made in China, a country that last year threatened us with nuclear weapons. Our oil comes from a country that birthed a Wahabist movement that ultimately led to 14 Saudi citizens flying jetliners into the World Trade buildings and the Pentagon. Germans now own the Chrysler auto assembly lines that turned out tanks to use against Germany in WWII. And the price of labor in America is being held down by over ten million illegal workers, a situation that was impossible twenty-five years ago when unions were the first bulwark against dilution of the American labor force.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, "He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation…" he just as easily could have been writing of the World Trade Organization, which now has the legal authority to force the United States to overturn laws passed at both local, state, and federal levels with dictates devised by tribunals made up of representatives of multinational corporations. If Dubai loses in the American Congress, their next stop will almost certainly be the WTO.

As Simon Romero and Heather Timmons noted in The New York Times on 24 February 2006, "the international shipping business has evolved in recent years to include many more containers with consumer goods, in addition to old-fashioned bulk commodities, and that has helped lift profit margins to 30 percent, from the single digits. These smartly managed foreign operators now manage about 80 percent of port terminals in the United States."

And those 30 percent profits from American port operations now going to Great Britain will probably soon go to the United Arab Emirates, a nation with tight interconnections to both the Bush administration and the Bush family.

Ultimately, it's not about security -- it's about money. In the multinational corporatocracy's "flat world," money trumps the national good, community concerns, labor interests, and the environment. NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO tribunals can - and regularly do - strike down local and national laws. Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" are replaced by Antonin Scalia's "Rights of Corporate Persons."

Profits even trump the desire for good enough port security to avoid disasters that may lead to war. After all, as Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times on January 30, 1991, quoting a local in Saudi Arabia: "War is good for business."

(Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author of over a dozen books and the host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm ET daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio His most recent books are " What Would Jefferson Do? " and Ultimate Sacrifice.)

2. Graduates versus Oligarchs -- by Paul Krugman

Ben Bernanke's maiden Congressional testimony as chairman of the Federal Reserve was, everyone agrees, superb. He didn't put a foot wrong on monetary or fiscal policy.

But Mr. Bernanke did stumble at one point. Responding to a question from Representative Barney Frank about income inequality, he declared that "the most important factor" in rising inequality "is the rising skill premium, the increased return to education."

That's a fundamental misreading of what's happening to American society. What we're seeing isn't the rise of a fairly broad class of knowledge workers. Instead, we're seeing the rise of a narrow oligarchy: income and wealth are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

I think of Mr. Bernanke's position, which one hears all the time, as the 80-20 fallacy. It's the notion that the winners in our increasingly unequal society are a fairly large group - that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don't have these skills.

The truth is quite different. Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains. The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.

So who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Why would someone as smart and well informed as Mr. Bernanke get the nature of growing inequality wrong? Because the fallacy he fell into tends to dominate polite discussion about income trends, not because it's true, but because it's comforting. The notion that it's all about returns to education suggests that nobody is to blame for rising inequality, that it's just a case of supply and demand at work. And it also suggests that the way to mitigate inequality is to improve our educational system - and better education is a value to which just about every politician in America pays at least lip service.

The idea that we have a rising oligarchy is much more disturbing. It suggests that the growth of inequality may have as much to do with power relations as it does with market forces. Unfortunately, that's the real story.

Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I'm with Alan Greenspan, who - surprisingly, given his libertarian roots - has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to "democratic society."

It may take some time before we muster the political will to counter that threat. But the first step toward doing something about inequality is to abandon the 80-20 fallacy. It's time to face up to the fact that rising inequality is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.

3. Ike Saw It Coming -- by Bob Herbert

Early in the documentary film "Why We Fight," Wilton Sekzer, a retired New York City police officer whose son was killed in the World Trade Center attack, describes his personal feelings in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11.

"Somebody had to pay for this," he says. "Somebody had to pay for 9/11. ... I wanna see their bodies stacked up for what they did. For taking my son."

Lost in the agony of his grief, Mr. Sekzer wanted revenge. He wanted the government to go after the bad guys, and when the government said the bad guys were in Iraq, he didn't argue.

For most of his life Mr. Sekzer was a patriot straight out of central casting. His view was always "If the bugle calls, you go." When he was 21 he was a gunner on a helicopter in Vietnam. He didn't question his country's motives. He was more than willing to place his trust in the leadership of the nation he loved.

"Why We Fight," a thoughtful, first-rate movie directed by Eugene Jarecki, is largely about how misplaced that trust has become. The central figure in the film is not Mr. Jarecki, but Dwight Eisenhower, the Republican president who had been the supreme Allied commander in Europe in World War II, and who famously warned us at the end of his second term about the profound danger inherent in the rise of the military-industrial complex.

Ike warned us, but we didn't listen. That's the theme the movie explores.

Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to a national television and radio audience in January 1961. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience," he said. He recognized that this development was essential to the defense of the nation. But he warned that "we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications."

"The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist," he said. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes." It was as if this president, who understood war as well or better than any American who ever lived, were somehow able to peer into the future and see the tail of the military-industrial complex wagging the dog of American life, with inevitably disastrous consequences.

The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming. "His words have unfortunately come true," says Senator John McCain in the film. "He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country."

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs. "Before long," said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, "the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy."

In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history, the military-industrial complex (with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as chairman and C.E.O., respectively) took its eye off the real enemy in Afghanistan and launched the pointless but far more remunerative war in Iraq.

If you want to get a chill, just consider the tragic chaos in present-day Iraq (seven G.I.'s were killed on the day I went to see "Why We Fight") and then listen to Susan Eisenhower in the film recalling a quotation attributed to her grandfather: "God help this country when somebody sits at this desk who doesn't know as much about the military as I do."

The military-industrial complex has become so pervasive that it is now, as one of the figures in the movie notes, all but invisible. Its missions and priorities are poorly understood by most Americans, and frequently counter to their interests.

Near the end of the movie, Mr. Sekzer, the New York cop who lost his son on Sept. 11, describes his reaction to President Bush's belated acknowledgment that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved" in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"What the hell did we go in there for?" Mr. Sekzer asks.

Unable to hide his bitterness, he says: "The government exploited my feelings of patriotism, of a deep desire for revenge for what happened to my son. But I was so insane with wanting to get even, I was willing to believe anything."

Family planning and abortion are our best weapons against terror

The Pill is Mightier Than the Sword – by Martha Campbell and Malcolm Potts

The Bush administration intends to cut the modest funding the United States gives to international family planning by almost one-fifth. For those of us who are interested in looking 15 to 20 years ahead, this is the dumbest action possible.

The Sept. 11 commission report is explicit: "a large, steadily increasing population of young men without any reasonable expectation of suitable or steady employment [is] a sure prescription for social turbulence." Every day on TV, we can see that it is predominantly young men who join extremist groups, burn embassies and plant roadside bombs. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Syria, the mean age of the population is between 18 and 19; in the United States, it is over 35. Both liberal sociologists and hard-nosed CIA analysts recognize a link between a high birthrate, a high proportion of young men in the population and the possibility of violence and terrorism.

Just as smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer, so a high proportion of young men in the population compared with older men is a national risk factor for violence. Not everyone who smokes dies of cancer, but many do; not all nations with a high ratio of younger to older men spawn terrorists, but many do. Young men in a sexually conservative society who have no jobs and cannot marry are easy recruits for any extreme political or fanatical religious teaching.

Consider the case of the Black September terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Even Yasser Arafat felt compelled to try to rein in this group of young fanatics, and he did so in an unusual but highly effective way. The PLO offered Black September members who married Palestinian women a flat in Beirut with a television and a refrigerator, together with $5,000 when they had their first child. Black September was never violent again.

For more than 30 years, there has been bipartisan congressional support for international family planning, and voluntary family planning has achieved a great deal. In 1960, South Korean women had six children, the population was growing more rapidly than the economy, and the country was as poor as contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. Without the support the United States gave to Korean family planning in the 1960s and 1970s, Korea might not have the two-child family and 15 times the average per-capita income of African countries it enjoys today.

It is commonly thought that poor and illiterate people want many children. Those of us who have worked in family planning for decades know this isn't true. As Korea, Thailand, Brazil and many other countries demonstrate, wherever modern methods of contraception have been made realistically available, the birth rate has fallen -- often rapidly. Where fertility remains high, careful surveys always show a significant unmet need for family planning. We have spent our professional lives in international family planning because we know family planning saves mothers' lives, and we know that in the developing world, babies born less than two years apart are more likely to die. We see abortions increasing in the Philippines where contraception is difficult to get, but decreasing in some parts of the former Soviet Union, where access to family planning is improving. Most fundamentally, no woman can be free until she can decide when to have a child.

But having said all of this, it might seem naive to suggest that family planning could help forestall the next generation of terrorists, were it not for a silent revolution occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the 1980s, Iranian economists, like their Korean counterparts 20 years earlier, saw that the population was growing faster than the economy. The Quran supports family planning, and the theocracy agreed to make all methods of contraception easily available. In 15 years, average family size plummeted from more than five children to two. A more sober, cautious population of smaller families is replacing the body of radical students. The West may not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons, but in a generation's time Iran is likely to be more stable than Pakistan, which already has the atomic bomb.

Iran had the resources to build contraceptive factories and to carry family planning into the most remote villages. The poorer countries around the world need exactly the external support that President Bush is axing. It is difficult and costly to make modern urban society invulnerable to terrorist attacks, but relatively easy and extremely low cost to help those who wish to have smaller families. For international family planning (before Bush cut it), each American gave the cost of one hamburger per year -- about $436 million total.

Prescott Bush, the president's grandfather in Connecticut, lost his first election for the Senate in 1950 because he had the courage to support Planned Parenthood. As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, George H. W. Bush believed family planning was the key to solving the "great questions of peace, prosperity and individual rights that face the world." Laura Bush has supported family planning in Texas and Mexico. Sadly, the first president Bush sacrificed common sense to ideology in order to become Reagan's running mate. The second president Bush should take this opportunity to re-establish U.S. leadership in international family planning.

(Martha Campbell and Malcolm Potts are on the faculty of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.)

When Bush wants to come and speak in your country, where the hell do you put him where he won't get heckled, protested, spat on or pied-in-the-face?

Bush in India: Just Not Welcome -- by Arundhati Roy

On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and curiouser.

For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare . So now we're into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.

Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?

Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.

So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

We really would prefer that he didn't.

It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.

(Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author of 'The God of Small Things' and 'The Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire' , lives in New Delhi, India.)