RIP Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba sings “When I’ve Passed On” at Bern’s Salonger. Obit here.

The same YouTube user has several other videos of Makeba worth checking out.  Then there’s her trademark “Click Song”  from Dutch TV 1979 and an energetic “Pata pata” from the same Holland 1979 performance (both with low sound volume but worth watching). The Click Song from 1966 at Bern’s Salonger in Sweden. More versions of Pata Pata: this black and white video of “Pata Pata” with the 60′s “Afro” outfits on the backup singers, or a color video “Pata, Pata” in Japan with purple/pink costumes we haven’t seen since the 60′s.  Here she is with Paul Simon with a very tight  “Under African Skies” (I love this one) in a night concert in Spain c. 1990 (with some great language clicks at the end) and again with Paul Simon “Under African Skies” at the daylight African Graceland concert.

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Prop 8 Protests

gay-marriage-ban-two-votesProtests over Proposition 8 are starting to take shape for November 15, 2008.

If you want to demonstrate, here is a partial state by state listing of events being organized. Here is a less complete and apparently older list which seems to include other protests spread over various days.


Here is the background to the issue:
On November 4, the voters of California voted “yes” to Proposition 8, which added a provision to the California Constitution that says: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

All the legal ramifications have yet to be sorted out. For instance, does that dissolve marriages already in existence or when one partner has a sex change? Whatever, the 18,000 same-sex couples and their families in California are not pleased.

Let me add that this law in no way affects my life in any way.  So why should I care if someone else gets married if that’s what they really want? So I’m adding my voice to the internet buzz and giving a little link-love to the cause.


Here‘s a troubling report from Lansing, MIchigan. Last weekend a church was attacked on Sunday morning during a service by a group claiming to be gay. In the photo you can see they have pink scarves over their faces and are carrying bats and sticks.


On Chicago’s South Side, “You got a check comin.’”

I get all my best rumors from McDonald’s on the South Side of Chicago. Today I was drinking my coffee while at the table on the other side of the tray return area came the following conversation from a group of African Americans:

“I’m a Republican.”
“You shoulda voted Democrat, you’d have a check comin’.”
(The Republican leaves.)
“Whether he’s Republican or Democrat, he’s got a check comin’.”

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Troubled about the status of women in America? Sign the petition.

women-count-logoWomen Count is a non-profit political group committed to giving women a voice in the political process. They have a petition for you to sign. They are calling for the new president to create, within the first 100 days, a presidential commission on women similar to the one President Kennedy commissioned in 1961.



• As the economy became the single most critical issue in the election, the role that women play in our economic structure has never been clearer. Women are the backbone of the nation’s workforce and control 70 percent of its buying power.

• The candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, while inspiring women and girls around the country to imagine what can be, exposed extreme gender bias in the media and throughout our culture.

• Women, who make up 56 percent of the voting population, were targeted as never before as the critical bloc that would determine the outcome of the election.

In 1961, as the nation grappled with the issue of women in the workplace, President John Kennedy convened the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. Kennedy recognized the moment was right.

That was 47 years ago, and it’s time to do it again. As in 1961, women are at the forefront of our political discourse – and we are committed to keeping them there.

A record number of women are seeking ways to participate more fully in all aspects of American life, politics and policymaking. A Presidential Commission on Women is the right vehicle to initiate a national conversation on the future of women. If Not Now, When?

Status of American women falls short–very short

So the United States must be number one in the world for just about everything, right?   Not when it comes to the status of women.

The 2008 Women’s Index Rank is a composite score based on educational, economic, poitical, and health status factors like maternal mortality and life expectancy.  According to the index, the United States ranks number 22 out of the 43 more developed countries (right behind Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Greece, Slovania, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia).

The U.S. also has the dubious distinction of paying women 63 cents for every dollar a man makes. Compare this to 81% for Sweden or 67% for Croatia. And in the United States only 17% of seats in national government are held by women. Compare this with Portugal (28%), Iceland (33%), the Netherlands (39%), and Sweden (47%).

If we can’t hold our own against Europe, then maybe at least American women are better off than Arab women? Maybe a little. The ratio of estimated female to male earned income is Bahrain 34%, Egypt 23%, Iran 39%,  Jordan 31%, and Kuwait 35%. When it comes to participation of women in national government, it’s Bahrain 3%, Egypt 2%, Iran 4%, Iraq 26%, Jordan 6%, and Kuwait 2%.

Hey wait a minute. In Iraq 26% of the legislators are female? And here in the U.S. only 17%?

Maybe we ought to find out how those Iraqis are running their government and have them come over here and help us.

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Will the “historical” candidate have a “historical” cabinet?

no-girls-sign-200pxLast night I turned on the television long enough to hear McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech.  And of course between speeches the pundits had a little time to fill.  “A historic candidate”, they said about Obama.  Changing channels, “…historic…”  Changing channels again, “..historic…”.  Well, at least they all agree.

Today the pundits are asking who will be on the staff of the executive branch. Good question. Currently the the United States ranks 69th in the world with regard to women in government.

Surely the new president who says he wants to unite people will have an inclusive staff? Doesn’t look like it. Obama’s people say there “aren’t enough qualified women” and call the idea “stupid”.

After the last Democratic Primary was over and it was clear Senator Clinton was not going to get the Democratic nomination, myself, and a small group of Clinton supporters met with Senator McCain.I personally explained to Senator McCain that women comprise well over half of the population, yet you will not see a single picture of a woman on paper currency. Women are underrepresented in every branch of government and there has never been a female president or vice president. I personally asked Senator McCain to choose a woman for the Vice Presidential slot and to increase the number of women in the cabinet and on the Supreme Court. Senator McCain listened respectfully to my request. Little did I know then that he heard me and the millions of women of this country who have gone unrepresented in the Executive branch of government for far too long.

When I made similar requests of the Obama campaign, I was laughed at by the canvassers outside my home, told there weren’t enough qualified women by a member of his Finance Committee, and asked by a member of a policy committee why I was making such a stupid request.

But that’s just the finance and policy staff, right? Obama himself really stands for fairness, doesn’t he?  Maybe not.

Obama’s female staffers, on average, make just 83 cents to the dollar his male staffers make.

Ooops.  And it looks like Vice President Elect Biden’s pay practices are even worse. Despite the fact that Biden employs 27 women and only 14 men, very few of the women and men share common titles.  The one job where there is overlap is staff assistants.  These are traditionally entry level low-wage jobs in congressional offices.

So how do Biden’s salaries stack up?

The average male staff assistant in Biden’s office (based on the most recent salary figures) made $39,162 in the time period.

The average woman in that position made $21,323.

McCain’s promise:

By the end of my first term, I promise you will see a dramatic increase in the presence of women in every part of the government. You have my word on it.


For those of us who don’t have a trust fund, this could be a looooong four years.
(Thanks to Madamab at The Confluence)

History, if faced with courage, need not be lived again

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.

This is part of a larger, more well known poem, Maya Angelou‘s “The rock cries out to us today.” The themes of hope, change, self-determination, and new beginnings, are of course cyclical in American politics.

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An electoral map to color while watching election returns

Waiting for the election results can be tedious.  And how to keep track of those pesky electoral votes as the states are called.  Here is a little electoral map with plenty of space for doodles.  You can color the states in as they turn red or blue.  If you prefer jpeg format, for importing to a Word document or whatever, a slightly higher resolution is here.

Me?  The weather is perfect for a little stroll by the lake.


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Voting early and often in Chicago

They say politics in this town has been cleaned up a lot, but I this is the day I always feel closest to those who have passed on. Are they still with us today and out there voting somewhere? election-2008-poll-cropped
Yup. This is the place all right.
Spanish and ….Korean?

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Islamic sayings: زِدْنِى عِلْمًۭا Enrich me with Knowledge

Comments John Emerson on a thread over at Language Hat:

I have two favorite Koranic (or Hadith) quotations: “The ink of scholars is more precious than the blood of the martyrs’ and ‘Seek wisdom, even as far as China”.

I have managed to dig up the Arabic for both sayings, as well as a little background.

Seek wisdom, even as far as China

The China quotation I have heard before. It’s not in the Koran though.  It appears to be a “weak” hadith, that is, the chain of transmission or rememberers back to the life of the Prophet is not as reliable. Some more notes on authenticity here.

Even though this is a very common saying, the Arabic for it is hard to come by. A transliteration is given like this:

Utlub il ‘ilma wa law fis-Sin.

or in L33t or Arabic text language:

Utlub al 3ilm wa law bil Seen

And here it is in Chinese as wallpaper (the internet kind, not the interior decorating kind).

Finally a Turkish website gives us this bit of Arabic in its sidebar:

But “kana”? I don’t see that quoted anywhere else on the internet. So in Arabic it should be:

ﺍﻃﻠﺐ ﻋﻠﻢ ﻮ  ﻟﻭ ﻓﻲ ﺍﻟﺼﻴﻦ

That spelling gives 39,600 Google hits, so I think it’s a winner.

The saying even has a secret sufi meaning:

There is another significance to the allusion of China in this context. In his book, “The Sufis” Idries Shah says that, “Seek knowledge, even as far as China” is a traditional Sufi slogan which has a hidden meaning. According to Shah “China” is the code word for mind concentration, one of the Sufi practices that is an essential prerequisite to Sufi development. In Arabic the word “China” is SYN which decodes to form a word: QN. And this word represents, in Arabic, the concept of “scrutinizing, observing”, and is therefore taken as a symbol of concentration.

The ink of scholars is more precious than the blood of the martyrs

The Arabic for this saying is a little easier to come by. You can take your pick.

مداد حبر العالم أقدس من دم الشهيد


مداد حبر العالم أفضل من دم الشهيد

The first choice yields 62 google hits; the second choice yields 434 hits. So  by popular acclaim it’s

مداد حبر العالم أفضل من دم الشهيد

Although this hadith is very widely quoted as well, it appears to have even less authority than the China one.

Some other sayings about knowledge

This a bit creepy and attributed to Jesus (Isa) on an Iranian website . According to Imam Jafar, the sixth Imam

Isa [a] said, ‘I saw a stone on which was written, “Turn me over”, so I turned it over. Written on the other side was “Whoever does not act by what he knows will be doomed by seeking what he does not know, and his own knowledge will be turned against him.”

For anyone who is intrigued by this type of philosophy and wants more about this imam, check out this Shia group in England that is waiting for the coming of the Mahdi, the hidden Imam.

Then there’s this one.  I forget where I found it, but it’s not attributed to anyone.

The wealth that we have is not ours until we have spent it.

Sort of reminds me of the Arab notion about “having” years. Why don’t Americans say how old they are, I was asked. Years are something you have.

“Oh, Lord, Enrich me with Knowledge”

Finally, here’s one that’s actually from the Koran (three different translations):

فَتَعَٰلَى ٱللَّهُ ٱلْمَلِكُ ٱلْحَقُّ ۗ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِٱلْقُرْءَانِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَىٰٓ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُۥ ۖ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًۭا

YUSUFALI: High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth! Be not in haste with the Qur’an before its revelation to thee is completed, but say, “O my Lord! advance me in knowledge.”
PICKTHAL: Then exalted be Allah, the True King! And hasten not (O Muhammad) with the Qur’an ere its revelation hath been perfected unto thee, and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.
SHAKIR: Supremely exalted is therefore Allah, the King, the Truth, and do not make haste with the Quran before its revelation is made complete to you and say: O my Lord ! increase me in knowledge.

Koranic commentary often notes that “knowledge” is usually regarded as religious knowledge, although in the case of the China saying, most say it refers to generalized knowledge as well, like the manufacture of paper that came from China.

For anyone who want more Arabic sayings, Wikiquote has an entry devoted to them.


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