Thursday, December 26, 2013

What is in a name?

“What is in a name?” Yes, indeed what IS in a name? I do not know what is in a name, but what is in a last name, is of importance for many. A last name can be a source of pride. History determines what your last name depicts to others who hear it for the first time. In India last names give away your caste, religion and region your ancestors were from. My late Grandfather must have had the same thoughts and that must have the reason he changed all his three sons last names from Singh to Amitabh. He believed that the last name of Hindu Kshatriya Rajput’s (warriors and kings) was being attached to non-Rajput’s as the caste system was antiquated when he had his 3 sons. The last name Singh, is also used by many castes such as the Yadav’s, Jat’s, Brahmins, Scheduled and Vaishya castes without any significance to the warrior or king status or ties.

In the year 1699 the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Rai changed his name to Guru Gobind Singh because his belief was that name affects the human nature. Guru Gobind Singh witnessed the Rajput Kings were quite brave and possessed royalty like tigers. Singh literally means Lion (derived from the Sanskrit "Simha")- but it was bestowed to the Sikh men, as a title of royalty and kingship - reminding a Sikh that every Sikh male is a king in his own right (accompanied with other symbols such as the Turban - which as well as many other purposes, is a crown in many traditions). This reminds a Sikh that they should behave like a king, but not forgetting to treat everyone else as equals at their own level. 

Coming back to my maiden last name, Amitabh, I believe my grandfather wanted to establish a new era of Rajput’s that could be traced back to him. A clan that could be easily distinguished from the rest of the Singh’s, hence he came up with Amitabh. Amitabh means Unlimited; One with boundless splendor; Boundless luster. He also changed the last name of some of his brother’s children to Amitabh. From the original 5 Amitabh clan there are now 20 plus Amitabh’s who are my Uncles, Aunts and cousins.

Call it fate or coincidence, but I got married to a Sikh and took on his last name, Singh. The very last name that my Grandfather had changed for his generations to come, came back to me. My husband often teases me that I did not take on his last name, but just took on the last name of my grandfather. People from India, who knew the history of last names, used to look at me funny before marriage when I told them that my last name was Amitabh. They did not know the history behind it and to tell you the truth, neither did I. Most of them had never heard of anyone with a last name of Amitabh. After marriage I go by Shweta Amitabh Singh, and a lot of people who know about the history of middle names and last names look at me as though I am playing a prank on them.

Recently, I got in touch with my second cousins and I had a “aha” light bulb moment. I realized that there were only about 20 or so of us in the world, we were unique, we were connected by blood, and our last name was a boon of my grandfather. My name provides me with a true source of pride in my heritage.  Shweta means fair one (fair complexion) or lovely, Amitabh means Unlimited; One with boundless splendor; Boundless luster, and Singh means Lion; brave, also for me Singh connects me to my Hindu Kshatriya Rajput roots, which is part of my history. What is in a name, one might ask? For me my name symbolizes my proud history, my future and describes me perfectly as Shweta Amitabh Singh.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fruit cutting provokes lifechanging attitute in woman

Making up for a week’s worth of bad dietary choices for meals I cut up 2 plums, an apple, a banana, 2 cuties and an orange with a plastic knife (we all know how easy it is to cut with a plastic knife, don’t we now). Guilt free - I throw the scraps and peels in the new “Compostable” bin at work, as I drink tea out of my ceramic red and white polka dot cup I feel proud of my “Save Mother Earth” tactics . Guilt ridden - I throw away the plastic knife and reach out for yet another paper towel to dry my hands on and fish for a plastic fork in the cutlery drawer (which I know I will throw away after my fruit is over). Why do I have the feeling that for every green step forward I gravitate two steps backwards? Not being able to make a dent in the land fills with my garbage is an upsetting thought. Nevertheless, I’ll survive.

I think to myself, why do I use the plastic cutlery even when using it turns me into a guilt ridden scum of the earth? I’ve promised myself for months now (threatening myself) to buy a set of utensils to warm up my food at work. Why don’t I just do it for once and for all and be done with it already? What’s stopping me? I dig deeper and do some self analysis. The word strikes me like a lightning bolt. I have an “aha” moment. The word is “Convenience”. After all isn’t it easier to use a paper cup (or worse, a Styrofoam cup) and throw it away when you are done. Do you really want to wash the plate and utensils after your lunch (especially if you are Indian and are having Indian food , still don’t get it – haldi/turmeric power stains is the fear. Ever tried getting those out and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Hmmm so that makes my convenience more important than my concern for our environment. I now know that this is the bad ugly truth about me. That’s the reason I gravitate two steps backwards, after all one definition of gravitate is: “To be attracted by or as if by an irresistible force”. That irresistible force is my convenience.

Now that I know the truth about myself I also know that good intentions are not enough, good intentions are just as bad as bad intentions if you don’t act of them. Take a moment to reflect and think back to times when you wanted to do good but did not take action against it. Reflect on moments that you wanted to step in to help but did not due to various excuses we all make up in our heads. Reflect on how you felt when things went wrong although you knew deep inside your heart and soul that only if you had over-looked your convenience, stepped out of your comfort zone and put those good intentions into action the results could have been better.

I vow to make a conscious effort to step out of my norms which are convenient for me and to try to make a difference every day. This sounds cliché even to my ears but Mother Earth is calling out to us for a little bit of consideration of how we have been treating her (for our own convenience) and asking for help. She is asking us to make changes to our lifestyle so that she can sustain “us” safely.

Now, what that said - back to attacking my fruit!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Can Torture Be Justified?

A time bomb is ticking somewhere in the United States and the CIA has a terrorist in custody who might have some vital information about the whereabouts of the bomb. What would you do? Wait for hundreds of innocent lives to be lost senselessly, or try to get information about the bomb from the terrorist? Would you choose fighting for the human rights of the terrorist versus fighting to save lives of innocent people? To torture or not to torture has long been a controversial topic. Torture has come into the spotlight even more recently due to the release of the torture memos by the Obama administration. Torturing terrorists whom are obviously guilty and holding back crucial information that could help save innocent lives should be made legal. Make no mistake I do not advocate torture for every criminal or even the accused terrorist but for terrorists that are proven high ranking officials of groups such as al-Qaeda. Also the criteria should be that the terrorists are believed to hold valuable information that would help protect innocent lives and/or aid with the capture of other terrorists.

The recently released “torture memos” particularly the one on Abu Zubaydah lists ten techniques that were used on the detainees. These ten methods were used by the CIA on a handful of high profile al-Qaeda members. Those methods were 1) Attention grasp 2) Walling, 3) Facial hold, 4) Facial slap (insult slap), 5) Cramped confinement, 6) Wall standing, 7) Stress positions, 8) Sleep deprivation, 9) Insects placed in a confinement box, 10) Waterboarding (ByBee). These methods read out loud may seem, barbaric or inhumane but the way they were conducted was anything but barbaric. To further prove my point let’s go through each of these methods in detail.

The attention getting methods used were the - Attention Grasp, Facial Hold, and Facial Slap. The Attention Grasp was done by using both hands on either side of the collar to grasp the detainee and pulling them towards the interrogator. Facial Hold was done by holding the detainee with both palms under the chin, fingers far from the eyes; as to not inflict any damage to the eyes. Facial Slap was used by the Interrogator to slap the detainees face with fingers slightly apart as to not inflict damage that would result in bone damage. The goal was not to inflict physical pain that was severe or long lasting instead, the purpose of the facial slap was to induce shock, surprise, and or humiliation. The goal of these methods was to get the individuals attention and shock the senses.

Various methods were used to induce muscle fatigue such as - Cramped Confinement, Wall Standing and Stress Positions. Cramped confinement involved the placement of the individual in a confined space, the dimensions of which would restrict the individual's movement. There were two spaces that were used, a large space and a smaller space. For the large space the detainee could move, sit and stand and was not left there for more than 18 hours, whereas for the smaller space, movement was further restricted to one position and was not used for more than two hours. Wall Standing was done by making the detainee stand about four to five feet from a wall, with his arms stretched out in front of him, with his fingers resting on the wall. Two stress positions were used, 1) sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front with arms raised above the head; and (2) kneeling on the floor while leaning back at a 45 degree angle. These positions are not designed to produce the pain associated with contortions or twisting of the body rather, they were designed to produce the physical discomfort associated with muscle fatigue.

Other methods used were “Walling, Sleep Deprivation, Insect and Waterboarding”. A fake flexible wall was specially created for the Walling method with sound effects. The idea of the flexible wall was to create a sound that would make the impact seem far worse than the injury that might result from the action. Special attention was paid to minimize injury by supporting the head and neck with a rolled hood or towel that protected the upper body. Sleep Deprivation was used to reduce the individual's ability to think on his feet and, through the discomfort associated with the lack of sleep. The goal was to motivate the detainee to cooperate. Effects were noted to generally remit after one or two nights of uninterrupted sleep. The Insect technique was to be used on Abu Zubaydah since he had a mortal fear of insects. He was to be placed in a box with a harmless insect such as caterpillar and told that the sting of the insect was fatal. This method was proposed and permission taken to use this technique but was not used. Waterboarding perhaps the most controversial of the torture techniques was done by the detainee being placed in a reclined position, where the upper body would be towards the ground, and then a cloth would be placed in the nasal passage and mouth, and water was poured on it. The goal was to stimulate the feeling of drowning and was not used for more than 40 seconds. Only three individuals were waterboarded, all of them al-Qaeda leaders concealing information about active terrorist plots. No one has been waterboarded since 2003.

Do these methods really seem barbaric and inhumane? David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey who write for Wall Street Journal beg to differ. Rivkin and Casey state “Far from "green lighting" torture -- or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees -- the memos detail the actual techniques used and the many measures taken to ensure that interrogations did not cause severe pain or degradation”(Rivkin). In other words both the authors do not agree with critics that the torture methods were meant to cause long term mental or physical distress and the ways in which it was conducted was in fact humane.Doctors and physicians on hand were empowered to stop it at any time and the methods were researched first in order to make sure that there was no long- term physical or physiological damage. The methods were timed and the people on who there were done on were examined for any previous physiological problems. To top it all the interrogators had to tell their subjects they were not going to be killed. (ByBee)
The methods used by the CIA have been banned by the Obama administration. The approved interrogation methods are listed in the “Army Field Manual”. Those methods are: Good cop, bad cop (known in the US as Mutt and Jeff) , Rapid-Fire Questioning, We Know All , Ego Up, Ego Down, Emotional Fear-Up and Silence (Buschschluter). The Good Cop, bad cop approach is when two cops take opposing views, the detainee starts creating a rapport with one of the cops. Rapid-Fire Questioning is when the detainee is asked a series of questions with no time to think in between their answers. We Know All, is when the interrogator pretends to know the answer, this methods uses reverse psychology on the detainee. Ego Up is used by flattering the acts of detainee in order for them to admit to their crimes. Ego Down is the opposite of Ego Up when the detainee’s actions are attacked in hope for the detainee to reveal his motives to defend his actions. Emotional Fear Up is when a “pre-existing fear is identified, linking its elimination to co-operation on part of the detainee”, and finally the Silent technique, where the interrogator stares at the detainee with a smirk on his face.

Methods mentioned in the Army Field Manuals seem a bit elementary for proven high ranking terrorists who have been trained to play mind games with the CIA. Outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden stated in his farewell news conference, "You can't say it didn't work. It worked. "The Abu Zubaydahs, the Khaled Sheikh Mohammeds, I just can't conceive of any other way, given their character, given their commitment to what it is they do."(Buschschluter). It should be noted that these are not ordinary criminals but proven terrorists who would do anything to keep information that could save innocent Americans. They have been trained to die in the name of their mission and will stop at nothing to see their mission come through. Another thing to take note of is that the Army Field Manuals were created for the Army on ground, on the battle field for suspected terrorists not proven terrorists of high ranking. Once the suspected terrorists were identified as high risk they were passed on to the CIA for further interrogation. These were a handful of high risk terrorists versus the large number that the on-ground army personnel interrogate. In these circumstances how could the CIA use the methods that are mentioned in the Field Manuals, as the circumstances were not on-ground and the detainees were not suspected terrorists but proven high ranking terrorists? “Rear Admiral Don Guter, who served as the US Navy's judge advocate general from 2000 to 2002, states "the golden rule is that if we would not want a technique applied to our service members, we don't apply it to the detainees"(Buschschluter). In other words Guter believes that we should treat the people we capture in war like we would like our war captives to be treated. I agree with Admiral Don Guter to a certain degree that the US should treat detainees in a manner that we would like the US captives to be treated by the terrorists. In a perfect world Guter’s philosophy would work, but as we all know we do not live in a perfect world. Do the Al-Qaida and other terrorists groups apply techniques that are fair? Was the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl justified? I do not believe in the “an eye for an eye”, approach and am not justifying my views based on that rule, rather I am trying to put across that there cannot be a blanket approach for interrogation for high ranking proven terrorists in a ticking time bomb scenario.

The US government is not perfect and without its flaws, but then if you think about it which government in the world is perfect? With great power comes great responsibilities and with great responsibility there comes the only too human problem of error. People who run the government are humans after all with our best interest in mind. I’m personally not a big fan of former Vice President Dick Cheney, but in defense of the methods used by the CIA he has requested the Obama administration to release what he calls the “effectiveness memos”. According to Cheney the “effectiveness memos” has documented information that the CIA got out of the terrorists and how it helped in saving innocent American lives and resulted in the capture of other terrorists. Dick Cheney on defended the CIA methods mentioned, that he would like to show the American people that what was done in their name helped keep them safe (Knapton). Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution and author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror has some reservations. He says the idea that CIA agents should be subjected to the same set of rules as the military will not work in the long term. "There's a legitimate argument that the CIA should have more leeway than the army. The CIA deals with a tiny number of detainees, which by definition are the most dangerous ones," he says. "The army field manual comes nowhere near the legal line of what you can do in an interrogation and therefore ties the hands of CIA interrogators unnecessarily."(Buschschluter). I am in agreement with Buschschluter that since the CIA deals with detainees that are some of the most wanted people in the world their hands should not be tied down by the army field manuals that have been probably used on them already.

Speaking about researching and getting information from credible sources on the use of interrogation methods, could anyone be more credible and reasonable that Clifford D. May? If you haven’t heard about him, you will in the future. May is the President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism created immediately following the 9/11 attacks on the United States. He is also the Chairman of the Policy Committee of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), an international, non-partisan organization based in Washington D.C. comprised of leading members of the national security community (FDD). On his blog May states that the definition of torture is complex and a simple legal definition is “it shocks the senses”, he goes on further to state that if we follow this definition of torture then the cutting off of Daniel Pearls head on Television shocked the senses, children being brainwashed against the US and being sent on suicide missions shock the senses, people choosing to jump off the world trade center knowing they would die rather than get burnt to death, that shocks the senses, Abu Zabaydah being waterboarded for forty seconds, as a result giving information that leads to the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, master mind of 9/11, and then going back to dinner and TV – that does anything but shock the senses (May).

I have been called a “right hand extremist”, due to my views on torture, and trust me when I say that I am not even remotely close to that genre of thinking. The constitution gives me the right of “freedom of speech” and I am just practicing my right. Why should I then be considered a “right hand extremist”, if in my view I feel that in order to save innocent life’s any measures needed should be used? The problem that most people have against making torture legal is that it would lead to abuse of power by the government. My argument is that our government has done it, does it, and will continue to use it in varying degrees, so why not make it legal under a ticking time bomb scenario only, that too for the proven terrorist. By doing this we will be able to ask for greater accountability and transparency from our government rather than finding out about actions our government has engaged in years after it has been committed. No government is perfect and I would like to believe that our government has our best interest at hand and that they would do anything possible to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. Would we choose to fight for the human rights of a proven terrorist or save the lives of 2742 people who died senselessly? Which of the two evils would we choose? How would we feel if we were to find out that September 11, could be avoided and all that the CIA had to do was to use any methods possible to get the information out of a terrorist in captivity?

Works Cited
Bybee, Jay S. Memorandum for John Rizzo Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency “Interrogation of al-Qaeda Operative”. Washington, DC. 1 Aug. 2002. 26 Apr. 2009
Buschschluter, Vanessa. “The Obama approach to interrogation”. BBC News. 29 Jan. 2009. 28 Apr. 2009. <>

(FDD) Foundation of Defense of Democracies. “ Clifford D. May”. 1 Jan. 2008. 26 Apr. 2009 <>

Knapton, Sarah. “Dick Cheney calls for release of CIA waterboarding success memos”. Telegraph. 21 Apr. 2009. 28 Apr. 2009. <>

Krisko, Kinga. Can Torture Ever Be Justified?. Accuracy in Media. 13 Nov. 2004. 20 Apr. 2009. <>

May, Cliff. May: Fantasy torture interview on 'Daily Show'. Scripps News. 29 May, 2009. 24 Apr. 2009. <>

Rivkin, David B. Casey, Lee A. “The Memos Prove We Didn't Torture”. Wall Street Journal.
20 Apr. 2009. 24 Apr. 2009. <>

Stein, Sam. “Bush Torture Memos Released by Obama: See The Complete Documents”. The Huffington Post. 16 Apr. 2009. 1 May, 2009. <>

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Civil Disobedience - Thoreau and King on Tim De Christopher

Civil Disobedience simply put is described in the oxford dictionary as “the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes, as a political protest”, but does this simple definition do justice to the complex philosophy of civil disobedience? On December 2008, Tim De Christopher, a student of economics at the University of Utah recently made headlines when he posed as a bidder at a government auction to disrupt the sale of “150,000 acres of wilderness” that was being auctioned to oil and gas companies. Christopher stated that” his false bids on oil and gas parcels were acts of civil disobedience against the exploitation of public sites” (Goodman). What responses would he evoke from famous authors like Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. whose writings on civil disobedience are world famous? Thoreau and King would have been on agreement on many concepts if they had the opportunity to be born in the same era. To state two main concepts they would be in agreement of – one, a person should consult his/her conscience before taking out an action they consider unjust and two, while disobeying the law one should be ready to face the consequences. They both would have been pleased with the student from Utah as they believed in acting on what one considers morally right rather than go along with an unjust law. The student in Utah acted on what he thought was right. He disrupted the bidding process which ultimately resulted in twenty two thousand acres of land not being sold to oil companies. King and Thoreau both would have been very proud of the student in Utah.

Christopher justified his act of false bidding as something that needed to be done to protect the public land that would otherwise be auctioned off to oil and gas companies. Out of the 150,000 acres, 110,000 acres consisted of land near Arches and Canyon lands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Nine Mile Canyon (Lance). Some might ask “So what is the big deal if oil and gas companies get hold of the land and started to drill for oil?” The answer to that might be given in three parts, drilling for oil would add to global warming, it is unjust and wrong of the government to sell public land around national parks, and it destroys the natural beauty of the American terrain. These are moral issues that Americans stand divided against. Some believe that humans have speeded up the process of global warming while there are some who don’t believe in global warming at all. “I was looking at the consequences of acting and not acting,” De Christopher said. “I chose that going to prison was a better outcome than letting this destruction continue.” (McFall). De Christopher said he believes “the morality of his actions supersedes the charges”. His lawyer’s Patrick Shea and Ron Yengich said they plan to use this as an argument in their case, known as “the lesser of two evils defense.” De Christopher said his actions exposed the government bidding process as unjust.

De Christopher now faces two felonies, if charged he faces a combination of 10 years in prison and $750,000. The Obama administration nullified the auction. The parcels that De Christopher had purchased were under the parcels that were nullified. The bases of the nullification were that BLM (Bureau of Land Management) had not followed all the rules and that the sale was illegal and unjust. What comes as a surprise is that even after De Christopher managed to raise $45,000 for the first payment BLM did not accept it due to the nullification of the auction; nevertheless the charges were still maintained against him. He rightly states his surprise in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now – “I saw that really as an official ruling that what I was standing against was something illegal and unjust, and so I was surprised that they still wanted to prosecute me for my opposition to that unjust procedure”(Goodman).

Americans stood divided in 1848 as well when Henry David Thoreau was put into jail for refusal of paying poll taxes. His “Civil Disobedience” inspired many across the world. He believed that the Mexican war and slavery was unjust and did not want to be part of the injustice by paying taxes. “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why does every man have a conscience, then?” he asked in “Civil Disobedience” (Thoreau 301). He went on to ask his audience “what was the purpose of every man having a conscience?” The purpose that every man has a conscience was to decide for themselves what they thought as just or unjust and to act on behalf on that conscience versus obey the laws blindly. “Unjust laws exist”, stated Thoreau and what can citizens do to change that he asked “shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” (Thoreau 306).He brought to attention the different scenarios that most citizens would contemplate when asked the question of how to deal with injustice. When men were faced with such a dilemma Thoreau believed that, most men would be content to wait till a majority stood up for an injustice rather than question the injustice single handedly. People are scared to stand up against the law and face the repercussions i.e. to be arrested and face injustice personally. Imploring people to not be scared of the repercussions and stand up to unjust laws he stated that if standing up for injustice means you have to stand against the government then it is justified. “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machinery of government, let it go….…; but if it is of a nature that requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say break the law” (Thoreau 306). Christopher clearly acted on what he thought was an unjust procedure. On the terms mentioned and discussed as above would Christopher’s act of civil disobedience qualify in Thoreau’s opinions? Absolutely.

What about one of the most famous civil rights leaders of our times, Martin Luther King, why would he give Christopher a thumb up? To come to the answer we have to first analyze King’s approach to Civil Disobedience. What better way than to analyze his response to the letter that was written by “Eight White Clergymen”, when he was in jail in Birmingham. King believed that it was the right of every American to stand up for an injustice even if did not affect your immediate community and that an injustice to any American was an injustice to all Americas. On being called an outsider when protesting in Birmingham King stated “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 194). Just like King, Christopher believed in “Direct Action” when he realized that negotiation was not working. King believed that direct action was required to highlight an issue when negotiation had failed. The seriousness of the issue would be noticed by practicing direct action and this he stated ever so eloquently, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue”(King 195). Christopher seems to be inspired by direct action and that’s what he deemed as appropriate action to stop oil and gas companies from bidding for public land. King goes on to define the difference between unjust law and just law. He answers the question of “When it is okay to break some laws while still obeying other laws?” (King 197). His answer states that it is okay to break the law when “an unjust law is out of harmony with the moral law”. King gave importance to being a moral human rather than follow a law that was immoral and “degrades human personality” (King 197). He regarded the moral law in the same vein as “the law of God”, not a man made law.

Christopher admitted that he realized what had to be done to disrupt the bidding process. He realized that the implications of his actions would mean going against the law and possible jail time, nevertheless he was willing to accept the repercussions of his direct action. To draw a parallelism between Christopher’s action and King’s letter would be most appropriate at this point. King stated “One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly ….. , and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law”(King 198). In his letter, King advocates the need to respect the law even while disagreeing with it, and accepting the consequences. By accepting the consequences a greater awareness would be brought to the people and the law would be respected at the same time. In my opinion, this is like killing two birds with one stone. King believed that by practicing direct action it would bring to the community’s attention the tension that lied beneath and had to come to the top. I like to relate it to the fat in milk, for example we all know that there is fat in milk but to prove it we have to boil the milk and subject it to heat in order for the fat to float on top.

Although King would be in agreement with Christopher’s direct action, he might not be impressed with the fact that Christopher worked by himself and not in a group. The four steps/criteria in Kings Non-violence campaign were not entirely met by Christopher since he did not follow the necessary steps but jumped straight into direct action. Kings four basic criteria’s for a non-violent campaign to be launched on an issue was “(1) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices were alive, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification, and (4) direct action” (King 194). Although Christopher’s actions had a hint of some of the basic steps involved, his actions were not well thought out. He mentions that he was not sure where exactly the land was that he was bidding for. It was after the false bidding that he found out that some of the land he won was around the same parameters of national parks. While Christopher’s motives are not in question his unorganized planning is. King mobilized the youth to stand up against segregation by launched the non-violent campaign. His campaign was well thought out and well planned in advance. Facts of an injustice were collected and then analyzed to determine if the injustice in fact did exist, after which a negotiation was set up with the involved parties. If the negotiation did not reap the fruits it deserved then the campaigners were trained in self purification to determine if they were ready to undergo physical abuse. The last stage was the stage of direct action, physically protesting in a peaceful manner without any retaliation. King’s preparation strategies as compared to Christopher’s action would be doing injustice to King’s campaign of non-violent. Had King being alive when Christopher decided to act on what he considered as an injustice he would have asked him to show his passion of the cause by identifying the four stages which Christopher clearly would not be able to do justice to.

Christopher’s action did bring a great awareness to the immoral auction of public land to oil and gas companies which is commendable, but on the other hand the impact could have been bigger if he would have taken the time to really learn about the issues, the land that was being sold, and how better to engage his fellow campaigners of the cause. Who is to say that if he had a well thought of plan he would have not been in the current situation he is in, fighting the system against the two felonies he has been charged with. However, let’s look at the positive aspect of De Christopher’s current ordeal who is to say that “this too shall pass” for him and all charges against him would be dismissed. Who is to say that the youth of today shall unite against unjust laws inspired by Christopher’s action and his name would go down in history, after all, all great leaders of Civil Disobedience have been to jail from Martin Luther King Jr, to Thoreau, from Mahatma Gandhi to Socrates. Christopher believed that inaction was like taking part in an act of injustice and he took action to show that he was not part of that injustice; this is a feather in his cap.

Works Cited
Associated Press. “Student is charged with obstructing Utah land auction.” Los Angeles Times (2009): April 2, 2009 <,0,380776.story?track=rss>

Goodman, Amy. “Utah Student Who Prevented Bush Admin Sell-Off of Public Land Charged for Disrupting Auction.” Democracy Now. (2009) April 6, 2009. <>

King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: Elements of Argument, 2009

Lance, Jennifer. “College Student Faces Felony Charges for Disrupting Auction of Public Land.” Planet Thoughts. (2009): April 5,2009 <>

McFall, Michael. “DeChristopher indicted.” The Daily Utah Chronicle. (2009): April 5,2009

Thoreau, Henry David. “Civil Disobedience”: Elements of Argument, 2009

Is Nuclear Energy Our Lifeline or Should We Just Say No?

Nuclear energy – what is your first reaction when you hear those words as a lay person who has no idea what nuclear energy is? Most of us probably have images of a nuclear attack such as Pearl Harbor or Hiroshima, (although those were nuclear weapons that were used and not nuclear energy) or tragedies in nuclear power plants such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Those are the images that pop up in my conscience when I heard the term and started to read the articles that were assigned in our English 101C class, but when I had finished reading the articles my mind opened up to new possibilities and changed my perception of nuclear energy. The topic of Nuclear Energy has stirred up quite a controversy between scientists and the “greens”, some who oppose nuclear energy as an option for clean fuel technology versus those who are pro-nuclear energy.

James Lovelock, an environmentalist and scientist whose “electron capture detector, proved to be an important development in the study of environmental awareness” (Lovelock 1) has published many scientific papers and even inventions that have been adopted by NASA. Lovelock with his innumerable impressive credentials in his article, “Our Nuclear Lifeline” states that nuclear energy is the answer we are looking to save the world from global warming. In “Just Say No “published on Soapbox, Steven Cohen, who is “executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and director of its Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs” (, writes based on his option on how dangerous Nuclear energy could be.

Lovelock brings to attention that “nuclear energy is safe and inexpensive and can be bought by countries that are stable versus oil, coal and natural gas which are unsafe. The carbon emissions produced by oil, coal and natural gases are of a highly polluting nature and are bought from unstable countries” (Lovelock 4). Lovelock shuns sources of energy such as wind farms, solar energy, and energy generated from “waves and tidal currents”, proposed by Europe as inefficient, he states “Wind farms are monstrously inefficient and still need fossil-fuel back-up for the three days in four when the wind doesn’t blow. Solar energy is a ridiculous dream for northern Europe. Energy on a large scale from waves and tidal currents are far off” (Lovelock 6). He further strengthens his points by stating that nuclear power is safer than gas, and the radiation that is emitted by nuclear energy is in no way harmful to humans in fact he argues that “Radiation is part of our natural environment and we can live with it” (Lovelock 6); Humans are exposed to more radio activity by chest X-rays and by sleeping next to another human. “The radiation bombarding us goes up 10 percent when we sleep next to another human…X-rays account for 14 percent…”(Lovelock 6). In other words Lovelock brings to attention that everyday mundane activities like drinking coffee and spending a day at the beach exposes us to radio activity radiation hence we should not be worried about the energy that is omitted by generation of nuclear energy.

Cohen on the other hand, attacks the environmentalists with his observation of how dangerous and complicated detoxifying nuclear waste is and how we should not waste our time and effort on a so called solution. He starts his article by stating/attacking “…nuclear power is the new green-energy option being embraced by environmentalists.” (Cohen 1). He states that in order to reduce carbon emissions we cannot subject the world to a greater risk - a potential attack by terrorists on a nuclear plant, the risk of a nuclear power plant mal-functioning and hurting the environment and people. Cohen refers to a statement releasing by John Deutch and Ernest Moniz, two MIT professors, called “The Future of Nuclear Power”, in which they advocate for nuclear power as a “…viable alternative…”(Cohen 1). Cohen writes that he is all for reducing carbon emissions but does not consider that nuclear energy is the answer. To persuade his audience he instills in us the emotional appeal to safety, by stating the dangers of nuclear energy. He brings to attention the incidents of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and asks the question “Do we really want to see what happens if a terrorist attacks a nuclear power plant?”(Cohen 1). He argues his points against nuclear energy in well organized paragraphs in his article. Cohen mentions that nuclear energy is dangerous and complicated, which leads us into the problems of detoxifying the waste and the politics involved in hosting the nuclear plants. He elaborates the complications of detoxifying the waste “that remains toxic for thousands of years” (Cohen 1). Cohen brings forward the political issue of how no city wants to host a Nuclear Power plant or nuclear waste repository.

Digging deep into the articles some points were crystal clear on both sides while some were not so clear. It almost seems like the two authors are in conversation with each other. Lovelock refers to the greens throughout his article, and Cohen refers to the environmentalists. Cohen brings up the issue of the nuclear waste being “…toxic for thousands of years.” (Cohen 1), to which Lovelock responds “It does indeed take a long time to decay but the radioactivity of some of its waste is lost within a few years, rather than the hundreds of thousands of year claimed by the Greens” (Lovelock 8). The discrepancy between both the authors statement is huge in regards to the number of years it takes for the nuclear waste to remain toxic, Cohen insists its thousands of years while Lovelock mentions it’s just a few years. Lovelock and Cohen both agree on the fact that money is not an issue for nuclear energy. Lovelock implies that the use of nuclear energy has a larger return on investment and gives more bang for the money as compared to other sources of energy throughout his article and Cohen states “Money is not an issue” (Cohen 2) and goes on further to explain how “under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act” (Cohen 1) money has been collected. As for the storage and detoxification of nuclear waste, Cohen states that “no power plant can be made risk-free” (Cohen 2). Cohen mentions the differences of a local crash and the effects of the immense damage that might be caused by a power plant, he does not provide the reader with any factual evidence to back up his claim but simply states “Just ask the people who survived Chernobyl” (Cohen 2). Lovelock tackles the issue by explaining the process of handling nuclear waste he states that nuclear waste is handled with care and stored safely, it is simple and lacks complication, and “Greens who fight nuclear energy on these grounds are not being sensible” (Lovelock 8). In other words nuclear waste is something that is tangible and the disposal is handled with care and is safe. The emission caused by burning of fossil fuel is not tangible and out of our control once it goes out into the atmosphere. Cohen asks the question “Do we really want to see what happens if a terrorist attacks a nuclear power plant?”(Cohen 1), to which Lovelock replies “Tests have shown that no aircraft could penetrate the concrete cladding of a modern reactor” (Lovelock 9). Basically Lovelock refutes Cohen’s fear that a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant would have any implications as the power plants are built to withstand an attack.

Cohen and Lovelock write about the Chernobyl incidents but Cohen fails to mention that it was human error or what exactly took place at Chernobyl he simply states that it was due to “obvious problems” (Cohen 1) what are the obvious problems, he fails to address. Searching for the evidence that Cohen brings forward was not an easy task, reason being that there was no factual evidence; he states that an error at a nuclear power plant can be fatal and he backs his statement with “Just ask the people who survived Chernobyl” (Cohen 2). Lovelock cleared my doubts on using Nuclear energy by providing information on the Chernobyl incident by bringing to attention that it was due to a human error that the reactor blew up, also the fact that “no evidence have been found of birth defects with the exception of one”(Lovelock 6). Lovelock uses lots of factual evidence and does not base his article on emotional appeals such as Cohen does in his article. In Lovelock’s article there are a lot of facts that can be verified like his statistics on the different means by which energy is created, coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear. Among the many things he mentions his article covers the effectiveness and limitations of wind farms, solar energy, waves and tidal currents, not to mention the table that shows how different countries are using nuclear energy. Cohen on the other hand does not use facts that can be verified rather he plays on our emotions to feel safe. He asks a lot of questions that play up the fear in our minds such as if we want to see what would happen if there is a terror attack on a nuclear power plant. The individual patterns remain the same for each of the articles – one based on appeals and the other on factual evidences that can be checked.

Studying the “The Nuclear Generation Game” (Lovelock 7) chart and realizing that USA is at the bottom of the list of countries that are already developing Nuclear plants rings a bell in my head, if USA does not act right now then we will lose the competitive edge just like how we lost out on the development of producing energy efficient cars to countries in Asia. The chart lists the different countries of the world and the percentage of nuclear electricity generation in the year 2003, and also the numbers of reactors that are currently operable versus the reactors under construction. The nuclear waste that will be produced will emit zero carbon emission and the waste is minimal and also tangible that can be handled well to not harm living things versus carbon emissions that are not tangible and cannot be stored.

There is one fact that is disturbing - there is currently no technology that can completely detoxify the nuclear waste produced by Nuclear power plants. Cohen argues a good point on why the United States should not promote nuclear energy when they have not developed a method to detoxify nuclear waste. He advocates for channeling our focus on research that will provide other methods of energy without the carbon emissions. Although he admits that something must be done he does not propose a way out of the carbon emission population that we are. His points and even his article seem to lose the essence due to his conclusion and lack of factual evidence. To back up his article he should have given other alternative methods of clean energy rather that rebut Nuclear energy and argue why the other methods would be better rather that just conclude that something had to be done. The disappointment in his article is that he does not propose a method or even hint at one. Lovelock on the other hand answers all the questions that Cohen brings up in his article and I am compelled to lean towards nuclear energy and Lovelocks article as my favorite of the two.

As a lay person who had no idea of what Nuclear energy was, I can now deduce my own opinion after reading numerous articles about the topic. From all the methods that have been brought into focus Nuclear energy seems like a clean and safe way to save our environment for further damage. But methods have to be developed to detoxify the waste that is produced as a result. Also the government will have to take responsibility on the protection on these plants and access granted as well. Nuclear energy seems to the one energy source that is clean, efficient, attainable, and one that can keep up with our energy demands versus solar and wind technologies that cannot meet our energy demands. The only drawback is that there is no technology to detoxify the waste. I am all for Nuclear energy if - and I reiterate – if our scientists can develop a method to detoxify the waste.

Works Cited
Cohen, Steven. “Just Say No.” Grist (2006): 3. 2 Feb. 2009

Cohen, Steven. Victor, Jacob. “Congestion Pricing saves more than it Costs.” (2007): 3. 2 Feb. 2009. <>
Comby, Bruno. “Detailed biography of James Lovelock.” 2 Feb. 2009

Lovelock, James. “Our Nuclear Lifeline.” Mar. 2005: 9.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My wish

My wish in my next birth would be to live life backwards.

I would enter life as an old crumpled old woman with nothing but despair and old age in and a withered old body in an old age home. In a few years I would get kicked out of the Old age home for being fit and healthy.

I’ll live of my social security and retirement checks. Travel, be with my kids, and enjoy all the hobbies and creative aspects of my being.

In another few years I’d be in the prime of my career where I would have done it all. Working in a career of my choice, making loads of money – (or at least the most I have even made in my life).

Then I’d go back to college, party, drink, study and have fun, yeah……..teenage hood would be great – I’d do all the confused rebellious things typical of teenagers.

Followed by childhood and toddler hood where I can throw as many tantrums I care for – no tension of studies or any responsibility but to hug and kiss my parents to make them feel special.

Being a baby would be awesome, where all my needs will be catered to – all I have to do is cry as loud as I can – man that would be life.

And the last part of my life will be a womb floating in Spa like conditions where all I have to do is to be. Finally I’d die as some ones org---, is a moment of ecstasy without anyone mourning for me or even feeling my loss.

Now that is what I call life.

Unfortunately this is not possible – so let’s live today and make the most of it. Today will be tomorrow soon. Let your motto be not to have any regrets for tomorrow by making your today beautiful today. It’s now or never……………


Monday, November 12, 2007

People treat you the way you let them

People treat you the way you let them treat you.

Treat people the way you would like to be treated.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to let the irritating, mean (or etc) things that your friends or family do slip by without you letting the person know how you really feel about the issue. Once it becomes a habit it is harder to break that habit, also your frustration grows to a boiling point and you explode. You have to train people to treat you the way you want to be treated. This can be done by putting your foot down when something demeaning has been done to you and make it clear that you will not tolerate it. By being quiet – “YES”, you will avoid a sticky situation for that moment but a pattern will be set and the same things will be done to you again and again.

If you make yourself clear the first time around it sends a clear message across to the person that I refuse to be treated that way and people tend to not repeat it and take you for granted. So my new mantra is not to let anyone walk all over me. Being too nice in today’s day and age is not a done thing. Don’t be mean to anyone be nice but when the niceness becomes too out of hand and you notice people walking all over you put your foot own and refuse to let people treat you that way – after all People treat you the way you let them it’s up to you on how you want to be treated.