Ladies Killed (part 2 of Lady Killers)

As women continue to take their equal role in the world, some who have made the most dramatic strides have been cut down by assassins. These woman have had the audacity to aspire to bigger roles, to step onto the world stage, to lead political parties, to govern countries. Their reward for this effort, in several important cases, was assassination.

Indira Gandhi with the Mahatma. (not her father)

Indira Gandhi was born in India in 1917, the daughter of Prime Minister Jawaahaaral Nehru. She was active in the National Congress Party and served as Prime Minister of India twice, from 1966 to 1977  and from  1980 to 1984.

Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards in retaliation for a military operation meant to remove armed Sikh separatists from the Golden Temple in India.

Benazir Bhuto with Family.

Benazir Bhutto was from an aristocratic Pakistani family. She served as Prime Minister  of Pakistan from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993  to 1996, she studied at Harvard and Oxford.

She was killed when leaving a rally on December 27, 2007. The killer was a 16 year old suicide bomber who was acting on the orders of the Pakistan Taliban.

Anna Politovskaya

Anna Politovskaya was a Russian-American journalist who reported on violence in Chechnya . She was also a political activist and a critic of Vladimir Putin. She wrote a book titled “Putin’s Russia, Life in a Failing Democracy.”

She was killed in the elevator of her Moscow Apartment, it is thought on orders from Putin.

Ironically her murder drew attention to her activities and put them in a spotlight.

So, yes women are now important enough to be assassinated. They have achieved this dubious status of equality with men.

Editor’s Note: Friends, readers, family….send us your comments!

The Lady Killers

We tend to think of assassins as being men. That’s not surprising as men seem to be more interested in that sort of thing. Women are seen as the givers of life, so it seems out of character.

And yet, throughout history, women have been driven to commit murder based on strong motives usually having to do with politics and power.


Charlotte Corday

Charlotte Corday, born in 1768, was from a noble French family. She was associated with the more moderate Girondin Movement during the French Revolution. She believed the famous French revolutionary Jean Paul Marat was turning the revolution on a dangerous path. Using her credentials as a journalist, she obtained entrance to his home and, famously, murdered him while he was in his medicinal bath. Four days later, she was guillotined. She said she had “killed one man to save thousands,” but this turned out not to be the case.


Lucrezia Borgia

Lucrezia Borgia was born in Italy during the Renaissance into the notorious Borgia family which was known as evil, violent and politically corrupt. Anxious to meet the family’s standards, she earned her reputation as a poisoner and disposed of several husbands in this fashion.

Shi Jinqiao avenged her father’s beheading in 1925 after tracking his killer for ten years. Her father had killed a Chinese warlord.

Idola Lopez Riano, nicknamed The Tigress, is said to have killed more than 20 people whom she first seduced during the Basque war of independence from Spain.

Violet Gibson arrest record.

Violet Gibson , an Anglo-Irish aristocrat tried to kill Benito Mussolini twice but failed both times. She spent the rest of her life in a mental asylum.


Squeaky Fromme

More recently and closer to home U.S. President Gerald Ford was targeted by two different female assassins in 1975. The attempts occurred within three weeks of each other. The first was Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme who pointed a semi-automatic pistol at the President in San Francisco and was immediately arrested. Seventeen days later Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at him in Sacramento. She missed.

So much for the “weaker sex” misnomer.

Next time: Women who were assassinated.



EDITORS NOTE:  We hope you are enjoying these posts and we ask you most humbly to let Simone know that you are reading them. Your comments go a long way.

Top 10 at 99*

I was recently asked by a friend to name my 10 favorite things. I am happy to do so. Here is that list in no particular order of preference:

  1. My family, including the newest arrival, a jolly little guy  with a round face who enjoys his life and likes to engage with the world.



  1. Keeping in touch with people; I am always happy when people share their joys, concerns and interests.

  1. Writing my blog which involves picking a topic of interest, researching it, learning more about it, and, yes, sharing my opinion.

  1. Reading stimulating books, learning about facts and events I had not known before.


  1. My home, high on a hill with a panoramic view of San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge and the East Bay, which I appreciate so much.

  1. Listening to classical music especially, Mozart, Chopin, Verdi, Donizeti, Bach but excluding the two Richards, Wagner and  Strauss.

  1. Opera, really a subset of 6 with drama added.

  2. Good television drama like The Durrells in Corfu or A Place to Call Home.

  1. Traveling. Nowadays mostly on TV with Rick Steeves but I am glad that I was able to do so much of it during many years, discovering different places and talking to people about their lives.

  1. Cats. I like their independence, aloofness, soft fur and willingness to be friendly and be petted.

*Editor’s note: Simone turned 99 last Thursday…….

The Triumph of Idleness

In “The Art of Stillness” the author Pico Iyer says:
“In an age of constant movement nothing is more urgent than sitting still”.

Pico Iyer at a Ted Talk

My parents didn’t see it that way. They indoctrinated me with the idea that idleness was to be avoided at all costs, even feared.

To my parents, even reading was a kind of idleness. There was nothing tangible to show for it. So when, as a child, I was alone in my room and became absorbed in a book, my mother would erupt into the room saying, “How can you read in all this mess?”

In those days, there was no talking back. I cleaned up the room and went back to the book. And as I read Pico Iyer’s words I reflected back on the past and found that it still affects me.

To this day I have this feeling that if I am not doing something useful like cleaning or dusting or cooking, I have failed somehow. My upbringing tells me appearances have the upper hand and rambling thoughts should somehow be tamed. Absorbing your surroundings with all your senses is not a valued endeavor.

However, I have learned to overcome these ancient attitudes, and have finally achieved the triumph of idleness

When I go outside and sit in a sunny spot in my very quiet totally private backyard I just look around and admire the colorful flowers, enjoy the sun warming my back, and observe a black and white cat vigorously washing his face. I do usually have a book, but it often sits in my lap and whatever I’m doing, I no longer hear “get to work” in the back of my mind.

I hear the birds and enjoy the peace.

Editor’s note: Simone turns 99 on January 14th….for a lasting gift, comment on this post (or any other one…there are hundreds)

Anchors Away

Judy Woodruff

Over the course of a week, about eight million people (including me) get part of their daily information from The PBS News Hour now presented by Judy Woodruff. This show has an important place in American television journalism.

I welcomed this show when it first appeared in 1976 because of its contrast to what was showing on ABC, CBS and NBC. Their shows were a hodgepodge of events with what seemed an emphasis on unusual happenings in order to keep the viewers’ attention. They were also full of noisy commercials, which sent people to raid the refrigerator, often forgetting to return.

And it’s my understanding that some of the news, even way back then, was actually fake.

In my opinion, The PBS News Hour gave us something much better.

The show started out as the MacNeil-Lehrer Report in September 1976 and from the beginning, it pioneered big changes in TV news. The show was the nation’s first hour- long news program. It was independent from advertisers, so its writers were able to do longer, deeper reporting and the show could exercise its editors’ critical judgements more freely than on the networks.

And from the beginning the PBS announcers seemed more informed and well-read than the “talent” which fronted the network news.

Lehrer and MacNeil

The show did maintain the comfortable two-anchor format. Robert MacNeil reported from New York and Jim Lehrer was based in Washington although they appeared to be sitting side by side (early social distancing?).

Yamiche Alcindor

The two men shaped the program into what it is today, a solid comprehensive overview of what is happening in the world that leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Today’s anchor is Judy Woodruff, a white woman. The reporter covering the white House is Yamiche Alcindor, a black woman, and, waiting in the wings, being groomed to become an anchor is Amna Nawaz, born in the US to Pakistani parents. The wheel has gone full circle from white men to women of color.

Amna Nawaz

Smart, Funny, Honorable…Our guy Alex

Answer: He redefined what it was to be a game-show host.

Question: Who is Alex Trebek!

A few words about Alex Trebek whose passing is a loss to tens of millions of his fans, of which I am one. For 37 years as the host of Jeopardy, he did a remarkably hard job and somehow always made it look easy.

He lowered the temperature of the program by eliminating all the hoopla, the jumping up and down and fake enthusiasm of other game shows. There was nothing superficial or artificial in the show’s choice of topics. They were picked for substance rather than popularity. Trebek and his questions emphasized knowledge and critical thinking. Alex often added his own intelligent comments.

The Canadian-born Trebek elicited interesting facts from the contestants during his interviews between the two parts of the game. The questions also grew in complexity as the show progressed. I was always learning something new. I think he spent time shaping the questions to ensure their quality.

I always felt both entertained and enlightened. I hope that there is a rich quantity of shows in reserve for future programs. I don’t know who will ensure the continuation of Jeopardy but I hope it will maintain its integrity and scholarship.

How were Jeopardy and Alex Trebek special for you? Please use the comments section.

Editor’s note: Jeopardy not-so-trivial trivia…When the inventor of the show, Merv Griffin, sold his company to Coca-Cola in 1986, he collected $250 million.

But Griffin kept the rights to one thing, a little tune we all know too well which is played during Final Jeopardy. It is estimated that the Griffin estate’s earnings from that song are approaching $100 million.

Griffin said he wrote it very quickly as a lullaby for his five-year old son Tony and it was originally titled “A Time for Tony.”

It was retitled “Think” and has been used since 1984, when the Alex Trebek era began.

Beheaded in a French Suburb

Protest in France after beheading of Samuel Paty.

Abdalla Azonov had lived in France since the age of 6 but it was in a segregated Chechen community. He was not a good student and had not assimilated into the larger French society.

We might ask why he carried a large, sharp knife on his person. He also carried religious beliefs deeply embedded in his being. And on October 16th, he beheaded a French school teacher in a suburb of Paris.

As I listened to this on the French news and heard the word “beheaded” my mind went to images of the French Revolution. Tumbrels (two-wheeled open carts) conveyed “criminals ” to the guillotine, for their beheading, among them the French Queen, Marie Antoinette as well as King Louis 16th. It was not only for what they had done but for who they were.


Tumbrels carrying prisoners during French Revolution

And now, on October 16th of 2020 it was Samuel Paty who was beheaded by Abdalla Azonov in a suburb of Paris. Paty had been instructing his students about freedom of speech. In so doing he referred to the Mohammad caricatures which had appeared in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo as examples of the liberties of the French press to ridicule any religious or political topic.

Agonov, was offended by his “blasphemous” remarks and took it upon himself to punish the wrongdoer.

The French State and the French Schools, on the other hand stand for freedom from religion as the foundation of a secular state.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about Charlie Hebdo’s recent republication of those images. The proponents of freedom of expression seem prepared to go the extra mile to underline their position. They have hardened their stance and seem prepared to face the consequences.

This kind of stubbornness does not bode well for a resolution. But I don’t think they are interested in
a resolution as much as in entrenching themselves in their beliefs. The other side, of course, never even
aimed for a solution.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the decapitation “a typical Islamist terrorist attack”, thereby angering Turkish President Erdogan and other Islamic leaders. But it is now understood that Agonov as well as the members of the group that murdered three at a church in Nice, France on October 29th were not members of a political or terrorist group and espoused no political agenda.

The uniquely French conception of “laicity” (secularism) means the French simply won’t accept religious intervention in political matters.

The Islamists on their side, hold fast to their view of fundamental Muslim beliefs. To them, religious wrath is an acceptable way of responding to attacks on their faith.

You cannot see the same landscape standing on a fundametalist platform as you do standing on an secular one. These two positions are irreconcilable. There is no middle ground, no possibility of negotiation.

And so they face each other across a chasm of incomprehension.

I am gazing across that chasm.

If you have an opinion about this, please write me a comment. I’m interested in how you see it.

How Do You Justify Your Existence?

Let’s say you are here in the world for a purpose. You can’t “just be.”

But whose purpose? Some would say “there is a creator who had a reason for creating me.” But what if you don’t believe in a creator? Then what makes you what you are?

If you answer: I am here to procreate, that just postpones the question. Why procreate? So that your descendants can also ask the question “Why am I here?” We are back full circle.

Does everything have to have a purpose? What is the purpose of music, dance or art?

We are all members of a society. Each one of us participates in some function of that society. Often the society works to improve the welfare of its members by helping with jobs, family life or personal development.

We have skills we can use on behalf of this community. Here is a purpose we can reflect on. Is this society better off than when you entered it? If you can say “I leave this world in a little better shape than when I arrived,” perhaps that is justification enough for your existence.


How To Blog

Editors note: Today, we are republishing a previous blog post, but Simone has also provided us with some new remarks on the subject so we’ll lead with those….

The actual process of writing is interesting because you don’t know exactly where you will end up.

The simple act of writing by hand stimulates the brain and thoughts start spilling out. All you need to do is to arrange them in a coherent manner so that others can make sense of them.

And writing a blog is not like writing a story. In fact it is much easier since you don’t have to respond to an interior voice which keeps saying “and then what happened?”

Since you are not restricted by events, your mind can ramble like a wanderer in an attic with a collection of strange objects. You need to arrange them in some pattern, and suddenly you have a new reality.


The original blog post (with new pictures):

It used to be that you could only write an “opinion piece” if you were a regular contributor to a newspaper and had your own column. Social media now allows anyone to write what they want anywhere, anytime. Short thoughts can be tweeted: (“You know who’s” favorite medium). Daily events and pictures can be shared on Facebook. and more ambitious writers can start a blog.

Not Simone

Why would anybody want to write a blog? The comparison I can think of is not a very elegant one, but here it is: You have something sticking in your mind that wants out.
So you end up writing something like a school essay on a topic of your own choosing.

In the act of putting down your thoughts, something of your personality will inevitably emerge and you have to be scrupulously honest because readers will detect any insincerity or posturing. For instance, if you really hate “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” just say so! But at the same time, you are not in the business of writing about yourself and you need to safeguard your privacy, so no nakedness! There are good reasons why clothes were invented. Keep “confessions” for your diary.

You also have to remember that you are not writing a novel, so advice like “Show, don’t tell” does not apply to a blog. You do have to tell a story to keep your readers wanting to know more. There are no restrictions on what you can write about. I was asked once: Why don’t you write about advice? So I wrote a blog about why I don’t give advice.

When writing or editing yourself, simple, concrete everyday words are more potent than abstract ones or circumlocutions. But if only an esoteric word can adequately describe your thought, then use it. Some readers will know it too; others will guess or look it up. Avoid empty calorie words like awesome or terrific. Their meaning has evaporated from overuse. Uncouple often paired words. Shun all cliches. They add nothing to your work.

And finally, you need to enjoy writing your blog. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The Right To Blasphemy

It has been 5 years since the deadly attack by militant Islamists on the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which, along with an attack at a Kosher supermarket left 17 people dead.

The two attackers

Al-Qaeda took responsibility for the attack. The two brothers who conducted the attacks were deeply offended by the magazine’s publishing caricatures of the prophet Mohammed which had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Eight days ago, a new trial opened in Paris to serve as an attempted closure to the events. With the main perpetrators dead, the Court will focus instead on those who provided aid to the attackers. It will also include a formal tribute to the employees of the magazine who were killed.

Cariane Rey survived the attack and testified at the new trial.

Charlie Hebdo, has continued to publish and at the start of the trial republished the same photos that were the subject of the original attack.

In response to the attack, four days after it occurred, two million people in Paris and four million throughout France gathered in a rally of national unity. The country is now remembering one of the worst chapters in its modern history. Demonstrations and unrest in the wake of the attacks left over a hundred people dead.

Demonstration in Paris after the shootings.

In France the right to poke fun at religion is sacrosanct and the right to “blasphemy” is protected.As early as the 18th century, aristocrats and the royal family were objects of satire. Challenging the powers that be is almost an obligation.

The Muslim faith (along with all the other religions by the way) is totally at odds with religious faith being ridiculed. Insult any of them and conflict is likely to ensue. The type and degree of conflict varies dramatically among the religions.

Security will be tight at the new trial. Some of the suspects are in hiding and could not be found. They will be tried in absentia; all the accused will be wearing masks. Charlie Hebdo’s magazine staff concluded their announcement of the trial with the words:

We do not forget
We will always continue to speak, to write, to draw.