Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My father sent me this opinion piece from Bob Herbert of the New York Times earlier today. He(my Dad) and I both have problems with George Bush's magical thinking, his failure to reason things out, his charismatic charm with little intelligence to back it up---a very dangerous combination indeed. I remember Dad worrying (or shall we say ruminating) about George Herbert Walker Bush and the possible World War Three that a mentality like that could be capable of.

Here is the opinion piece from Mr. Herbert:

You don’t hear much from him anymore. The last image most of us remember is of the president ducking a pair of size 10s that were hurled at him in Baghdad.
We’re still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel is thrashing the Palestinians in Gaza. And the U.S. economy is about as vibrant as the 0-16 Detroit Lions.
But hardly a peep have we heard from George, the 43rd.
When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.
This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job.
The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?
Exploiting the public’s understandable fears, Mr. Bush made it sound as if Iraq was about to nuke us: “We cannot wait,” he said, “for the final proof — the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”
He then set the blaze that has continued to rage for nearly six years, consuming more than 4,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. (A car bomb over the weekend killed two dozen more Iraqis, many of them religious pilgrims.) The financial cost to the U.S. will eventually reach $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz.
A year into the war Mr. Bush was cracking jokes about it at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association. He displayed a series of photos that showed him searching the Oval Office, peering behind curtains and looking under the furniture. A mock caption had Mr. Bush saying: “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”
And then there’s the Bush economy, another disaster, a trapdoor through which middle-class Americans can plunge toward the bracing experiences normally reserved for the poor and the destitute.
Mr. Bush traveled the country in the early days of his presidency, promoting his tax cut plans as hugely beneficial to small-business people and families of modest means. This was more deceit. The tax cuts would go overwhelmingly to the very rich.
The president would give the wealthy and the powerful virtually everything they wanted. He would throw sand into the regulatory apparatus and help foster the most extreme income disparities since the years leading up to the Great Depression. Once again he was lighting a fire. This time the flames would engulf the economy and, as with Iraq, bring catastrophe.
If the U.S. were a product line, it would be seen now as deeply damaged goods, subject to recall.
There seemed to be no end to Mr. Bush’s talent for destruction. He tried to hand the piggy bank known as Social Security over to the marauders of the financial sector, but saner heads prevailed.
In New Orleans, the president failed to intervene swiftly and decisively to aid the tens of thousands of poor people who were very publicly suffering and, in many cases, dying. He then compounded this colossal failure of leadership by traveling to New Orleans and promising, in a dramatic, floodlit appearance, to spare no effort in rebuilding the flood-torn region and the wrecked lives of the victims.
He went further, vowing to confront the issue of poverty in America “with bold action.”
It was all nonsense, of course. He did nothing of the kind.
The catalog of his transgressions against the nation’s interests — sins of commission and omission — would keep Mr. Bush in a confessional for the rest of his life. Don’t hold your breath. He’s hardly the contrite sort.
He told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “I don’t spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don’t worry about long-term history, either, since I’m not going to be around to read it.”
The president chuckled, thinking — as he did when he made his jokes about the missing weapons of mass destruction — that there was something funny going on.

This sounds like a Keith Olbermann diatribe, full of the critical logical arguments that should all cause us to pause and think----who is George Bush, really?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel Tears into Hamas, Bombs Rain Down

On CNN tonight, they are covering the Israeli/Hamas conflict which seems to be getting worse by the hour. This issue is all the news is covering right now. Diplomacy will be very difficult under these circumstances. Where are the peacemakers when all of this violence is flailing out of control? How will the U.S. step into this? An initial statement by the White House says any chance of Hamas being taken seriously as an organization is decreasing quickly as bombs are continuing to come towards Israel. What will be Barack Obama's statement on this? How cautious will the statement be?

Do the people making war ever stop and think about how this will affect the children? It's a question worth answering. War is more emotional. It has little to do with reason and intellect.
That is why when the fires of war start it is nearly impossible to stop the chaos with reason, because it is deeply integrated into our primitive genetics. Love and peace are more difficult and probably further from the limbic system. (The limbic system is embryologically older than other parts of the brain. It developed to manage 'fight' or 'flight' chemicals and is an evolutionary necessity for reptiles as well as humans. Recent studies of the limbic system of tetrapods have challenged some long-held tenets of forebrain evolution. The common ancestors of reptiles and mammals had a well-developed limbic system in which the basic subdivisions and connections of the amygdalar nuclei were established.)

Hamas engages in magical thinking as evidenced by this statement in Wikipedia:

The slogan of Hamas is "God is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Qur'an its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of God is the loftiest of its wishes." Hamas states that its objective is to support the oppressed and wronged and "to bring about justice and defeat injustice, in word and deed." Hamas believes that "the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (trust) consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day," and as such, the land cannot be negotiated away by any political leader. Hamas' covenant states that "so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences" are "in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement", stating "there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad".

Israel and Hamas cannot reason together largely because of religion. That is truly sad. Saying there is no solution except for Jihad is sad. That leaves little room for the peacemakers. War must become extinct, but unfortunately not in my lifetime. Why does there have to be so much suffering in the world?

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

Mahatma Gandhi

Other notes:

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to have genuinely positive attitude. How about this quote from Mother Theresa?

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

This world can change, but it will take a lot of brave and good people to turn things around.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Simply Fantastic

Check out http://www.livedaily.com/ Hit the LIVE SESSION icon on top and away you go :) The first three artists I sampled were simply fantastic. 3 out of 3, not bad. A lot of good young talent :) Ingrid Michaelson, Matt Costa and Gabe Dixon.....what can I say? Simply fantastic.

Then we find groups like Apollo Sunshine and Calexico(Joey Burns performs a live session). For more developed tastes, it's Tally Hall or Rademacher.

The acoustic mastery of Imaad Wasif and the brilliance of The 88.

There are soft and smooth sounds of Judith Owens and Rachael Yamagata. I have definitely hit the jackpot with this website.

BTW....I played Away in a Manger at Immanuel Trinity last night at the midnight service and it was received very well. Live performances bring out the best in me sometimes. Thinking about playing today at my folks Christmas, will bring the guitar to see what happens. Happy Holidays everyone!

Till next time.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Rick Warren Type Reasoning Refuted

A Novel Response to Rick Warren

One of the interesting developments of the past several years has been what seems to be a more prominent place in American dialogues for the voices of non-believers. Best-selling books on the subject of atheism have emerged from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchins. One of the interesting developments of the past several years has been what seems to be a more prominent place in American dialogues for the voices of non-believers. Best-selling books on the subject of atheism have emerged from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchins. A humorous examination of religious belief was offered up in cinematic format by Bill Maher. All of this has more or less been part of rather uncharacteristically mainstream attention, much to the chagrin of self-labeled culture warriors.
Of course, despite the odd setback, like getting caught having solicitous, extra-marital, homosexual relations with your meth dealer, the evangelical movement is alive and well in America. Exhibit A: Pastor Rick Warren. In a recent video, philosopher Daniel Dennett offers some interesting responses to some of Warren's claims, including the claim that morality and a belief in evolution aren't reconcilable.
But, as he does in his book Breaking the Spell, he also posits some interesting premises of his own. Namely, that religion is a natural phenomenon and that there's something to be learned, something valuable, in understanding how and why it occurs in human culture. Furthermore, he asks us to entertain the idea of teaching all the facts of all religions in public schools.
Personally, I'm a big fan of this idea. It's one that I've brought up for years in discussions about religion in the realm of public education. After all, it's not discussion of religion that I take issue with. In fact, the discussion isn't really about keeping religion out of schools anyway. It's about whether or not we maintain the American tradition, given to us by the genius pairing of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, of not allowing a particular religion to become dominant in state affairs. Teaching religious philosophy and theology generally does not strike me as violating these principles.
However, as Dennett points out, religious leaders have not, so far at least, been very keen on this idea. To me, this is an indication that the discussion is not really about stamping out all discussion of religion, but rather about controlling that discussion and, most specifically, about whose faith becomes dominant in that discussion. Though proponents of teaching Intelligent Design, for example, frequently make a plea to "teach the controversy", it would seem that the global controversy of many competing religious ideologies is something they would rather not examine.

Obama Will Take the Environment Seriously

Clean Air Act Anniversary
By Hank Kalet, December 15, 2008
Forty-five years ago this week, Congress enacted the first Clean Air Act, and after eight long years, we will soon have a President who takes the environment seriously.
Climate change is an international problem that will require an international effort to reverse decades of damage.
That is the lesson of the Clean Air Act, first enacted 45 years ago and updated several times since.
The original clean-air efforts were modest, directing states to develop clean-air criteria and offering grants to state governments to create air-pollution controls. The efforts, however, allowed for the creation of 50 different standards.
A 1967 law, the Air Quality Act, created a set of national criteria but not a broad national standard. Instead, a patchwork of regional regulations was put in place – an approach that former U.S. Rep. Paul G. Rogers (D-Fla.) said “was a notable failure.”
Pollution doesn’t stop at state borders or national borders.
That’s why we have to work with other nations on the issue and create international targets that all nations will have to meet and standards that all nations will have to abide by.
The 1997 Kyoto treaty, imperfect as it was, offered that. Ratified by more than 140 nations but not the United States, it required reducing emissions to pre-1990 levels by controlling emissions at the source and developing renewable energy sources.
The Bush administration, in refusing to sign the Kyoto treaty nearly four years ago, said it would have hurt American economic competitiveness, offering a rationale for doing nothing that the business community has have offered each time new environmental rules have been placed on the table.
Since then, numerous studies have shown that the threat of climate change is accelerating.
Fortunately, President-elect Barack Obama has made clear his commitment to address climate change.
His reported choice for Energy Secretary, Nobel Prize-winner Steven Chu, has devoted his career to alternative energies.
His reported choice to head the EPA, Lisa Jackson, aggressively took on polluters as head of the New Jersey environmental agency.
And by tapping Carol Browner, who headed the EPA for Bill Clinton, as head of U.S. climate change policy, Obama left no doubt that the United States is about to join the world community in taking on this global challenge.
It’s about time.
Hank Kalet is online editor for the Princeton Packet newspaper group. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Even Richard Dawkins Celebrates Christmas

Scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted he does celebrate Christmas - and enjoys singing traditional Christmas carols each festive season.
The writer and evolutionary biologist told singer Jarvis Cocker that he happily wishes everyone a Merry Christmas - and used to have a tree when his daughter was younger.
Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, was interviewed by Sheffield born Cocker when he stepped in as a Christmas guest editor on Radio Four's Today programme.
'I am perfectly happy on Christmas day to say Merry Christmas to everybody,' Dawkins said. 'I might sing Christmas carols - once I was privileged to be invited to Kings College, Cambridge, for their Christmas carols and loved it.
'I actually love most of the genuine Christmas carols. I can't bear Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and you might think from that that I was religious, that I can't bear the ones that make no mention of religion. But I just think they are dreadful tunes and even more dreadful words. I like the traditional Christmas carols.'
Cocker, the former frontman for Britpop band Pulp, said he was also a fan of Christmas traditions.
'I am the same in a way,' he told Dawkins. 'I really like the kind of peripheral things about Christmas. I like the smell of tangerines and the smell of the tree and to pull crackers.'
Dawkins said his family had a typical Christmas celebration each year like so many others.
'We are not kill joys, we are not scrooges,' he said. 'We give each other presents and when my daughter was a bit younger we would have a tree. We don't now.
'We go to my sister's house for Christmas lunch which is a lovely big family occasion. Everybody thoroughly enjoys it. No church of course.
Dawkins, who pulled a cracker with Cocker on Tuesday's Today programme, said he drew the line at dressing up as Father Christmas.
And he said even as a child his questioning mind made him unpopular with other parents.
'My very first Christmas, maybe my second Christmas, there was a man called Sam who apparently dressed up as Father Christmas,' he said. 'All the children loved it, all completely fooled by Father Christmas being there.
'Eventually he said: 'Ho ho ho, it's time for me to go,' back to Greenland or wherever he comes from, so he left. Then I, the youngest of all of them, said: 'Sam's gone' and completely gave the game away to all the other children.'

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gena Stringer

I discovered a new singer on the internet on youtube station. Her name is Gena Stringer.


Her original stuff is interesting. Sort of Judy Collins like or Joni Mitchellish.

Check it out. I know you would like this Mike T.

Outreach to Rick Warren? You Decide

This is a very scary video from Rick Warren. It shows how shallow he really is. I believe Barack Obama made a bad choice when he asked Warren to deliver the prayer at the inauguration.

Watch this short clip about proposition 8:


What did you think? I'm sorry to say it, but he is arrogant and somewhat dangerous. Why shouldn't gays be able to get married? What makes him more moral than gays? Marriage is between a man and a woman? Isn't that closed minded to say that just because it is tradition means it should be forever?

"We should let 2-percent of the population change something that has been around for thousands of years?" Yes, Rick. It's time for some true compassion. Have you ever had gay friends? Do you know of their struggles and how they go against the grain of society even though their biology tells them differently?

I'm alittle confused over Obama's inclusive rhetoric and his apparent lack of judgement in choosing who he associates with.

On the link above, you can send a letter to Obama's transition team saying how you disagree with his choice:

Dear President-Elect Obama and members of the Obama-Biden transition team:

I am deeply disappointed in your team's decision to choose Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration in January. Pastor Warren is an outspoken opponent of gay and lesbian equality. Through his public support for California's Proposition 8, he sent a clear message that he believes loving, committed, gay and lesbian couples are second-class citizens in America.President-Elect Obama states that he "disagrees" with Pastor Warren on gay rights issues but that Pastor Warren's selection is a matter of "outreach." I couldn't disagree more. Equality for gay and lesbian Americans is not a simple matter of disagreement; it is a fundamental human and civil rights issue and not something to be glossed over and ignored. I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision and choose a faith leader who supports equality for all Americans to deliver the invocation at this historic inauguration.

Sincerely, Questions About Faith

Saturday, December 20, 2008

State of the World 2009

In the mail today, I received the "2009 State of the World" report from the Worldwatch Institute. In very precise terms they lay out the case for saving the world's environment. If we don't have a dramatic reduction in emissions by the year 2050, they say it's pretty much over for our grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. We need more attempts like Kyoto(this coming year in Copenhagen) to try to get it right.

Here is part of the introduction of the new book:

The year 2009 will be pivotal for the Earth's climate. Scientists have warned that we have only a few years to reverse the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and help avoid abrupt and catastrophic climate change. The world community has agreed to negotiate a new climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. Early that same year, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. President. The United States, one of the world's largest producers of greenhouse gases, will have its best chance to provide global leadership by passing national climate legislation and constructively engaging with the international community to forge a new consensus on halting emissions.

Here is some more information about the book:

State of the World 2009 is far more than a book. It will be part of a two-year campaign to mobilize the world to combat climate change, focusing special attention on the Copenhagen climate agreement and working closely with Worldwatch's partners around the globe-particularly the key countries of China, India, and the United States. Target constituencies include legislators, business and finance leaders, the media, the development community, and the young people whose lives will be most affected by climate change. We plan to integrate the existing Worldwatch Web site with State of the World 2009 to create an online platform that will present more ideas than the book alone can carry. And we will encourage an active, ongoing dialogue about climate solutions that involves everyone from prime ministers and CEOs to citizens concerned about their children's futures.About the State of the World Series
About the State of the World Series
Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World, has educated a broad audience of students, journalists, policymakers, and concerned citizens about trends in sustainable development for a quarter century. The book has been published in 36 languages, and over the years it has authoritatively assessed issues ranging from population, energy, and agriculture to materials use, health, and trade policy. Topics are covered from a global perspective, with an emphasis on innovation and problem-solving. State of the World is recognized as a classic of environmental literature, having attracted luminaries from Kofi Annan to Mikhail Gorbachev to write forewords for the book. News media, policymakers, and NGOs worldwide cite the book for its cutting-edge analysis, reliability, and careful documentation of its arguments, all marshaled to speed the global transition to a sustainable world.
For more information, or to share ideas or comments about the project, please send an email to climateproject@worldwatch.org.

Let's take the lead and do something now before it is too late! Check out their website at www.worldwatch.org

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois Politician Embarrasses the Country

It's too bad that we have so many embarrassing mistakes from US politicians. The Illinois governor and the play to play charges are very embarrassing, and proves the old point that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why does Chicago have such a horrible reputation for dirty politics? Now of course, the media, especially Fox News is asking "What did Barack Obama know?" The Republicans would love to throw egg on Obama's face anyway they can.

All these dirty politics give Americans even less faith in their leaders, and of course we may deserve the leaders we vote for. Let's be aware of all the shenanigans going on and get rid of the clowns before they cause so much embarrassment. Here is a recent article on this top story:

The words on the recording sound as if they were uttered by a mob boss. Instead, the feds say, it is the governor of Illinois speaking.
The Senate seat "is a (expletive) valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing," Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Nov. 3, according to a conversation intercepted by the FBI.
Federal prosecutors Tuesday accused the 51-year-old Blagojevich of plotting to enrich himself by selling Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat for cash or a lucrative job for himself. In excerpts released by prosecutors, Blagojevich snarls profanities, makes threats and demands and allegedly concocts a rich variety of schemes for profiting from his appointment of a new senator.
"I want to make money," he declares, according to court papers. Blagojevich allegedly had a salary in mind: $250,000 to $300,00 a year. (He earns $177,412 a year.)
Even in this city inured to political chicanery — three other governors have gone to prison in the past 35 years, and numerous officeholders from Chicago have been convicted for graft — the latest charges were stunning. And not just for the vulgarity, but for the naked greed, the recklessness and the self-delusion they suggest.
What is mystifying is why Blagojevich spoke so openly and so brazenly. He knew the feds were looking into his administration for the past three years for alleged hiring fraud; one of his top fundraisers has been convicted, another is awaiting trial. He even warned some associates not to use the phone because "everybody's listening ... You hear me?"
Blagojevich also is no neophyte. He was baptized in the nitty gritty of Chicago Machine politics and confirmed in back-room bargaining and big money deals. He spent years climbing the ladder, first as a state representative, then a congressman and finally governor. He was boosted to power by his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, a veteran Democratic ward boss and longtime stalwart of the once mighty Machine. The two became estranged in recent years.
And yet, in conversations recorded from late October to last week, Blagojevich seemed almost oblivious as he vented his frustrations about being "stuck" as governor, complained of "struggling" financially, and allegedly talked of using the Senate appointment to land a high-paying job in the private sector, or even an ambassadorship or a Cabinet post.
"It's about greed," said Don Rose, a longtime political strategist in Chicago. "He's got to be completely off his rocker to be talking like that at a time when he knows the feds are looking at him. ... He's out there like he's talking to his wife in bed."
He added: "I think this is beyond ordinary sanity. We're talking about something clinical here. This is beyond logic. It's beyond greed as we know it."
He also scoffed at the notion that Blagojevich had any chance of obtaining a post in Obama's Cabinet.
"I consider myself a student of corruption, but I've never heard of this kind of thing going on," Rose said. "The way he's talking about it is lunacy. ... `Maybe they'll make me secretary of health and human services.' Who's going to hire this guy?"
Paul Green, a political scientist at Roosevelt University, said: "If you're under so much scrutiny by an unbelievably dedicated U.S. attorney's office, why would you risk it all? This is a case less about politics and more about social psychology. ... A hard-nosed Illinois politician wouldn't even dream of doing this, considering the situation."
One of the most intriguing aspects of the story was that Blagojevich was elected as Mr. Clean, promising to clean up state government. His predecessor, Republican Gov. George Ryan, is behind bars for graft.
Blagojevich "had everything going for him," Green said. "He could have been the Serbian Obama. He was young, handsome, articulate."
In court papers, prosecutors said Blagojevich also tried to strong-arm political contributions in exchange for jobs and contracts, and tried to use his authority to get editorial writers from the Chicago Tribune who criticized him fired.
He also discussed getting his wife, Patti, who has been in the real estate business, on corporate boards where she could earn up to $150,000 a year.
Some of the most shocking conversations came in the days before and after Obama's victory, when Blagojevich seemed intent on capitalizing on his role in choosing the president-elect's successor in the Senate.
According to court papers, on Nov. 3, the day before the election, Blagojevich talked with someone identified only as Deputy Governor A about the Senate seat, and said: "If ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it" — that is, make himself senator.
That same day, he talked tough, and said he intended to "drive a hard bargain" to get what he wants.

Hopefully Americans will learn something by reflecting seriously on the dirty actions of this governor who remains under arrest today.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Honoring the Dead Gives Me More Faith in Humanity

I had a chance to attend a funeral of a man this week who I didn't even know. William was a war veteran who was credited with saving lives. He was a musician and a great family man. I didn't know of him until Monday. His brothers and sisters talked about him, the stories about him playing Santa Claus, and the truth being revealed when someone saw "daddy's hand." I have to admit I shed a tear during the family speeches about their father. Right after these impassioned talks, it was my turn to play "I Can Only Imagine" up in the balcony(let the force of Koren Arisian be with me!) It was hard to make it through the song, but it was one of my best performances I think. Kris, the church organist, turned around after the performance and mouthed the words, "That was absolutely beautiful!" Compliments like that can last a long time. Time to hit the nursing home circuit or play the bar scene very soon. Stay tuned.
Whenever I have questions about faith, I turn to music and I find a great wealth of beauty and truth for my life and the lives of others. Long live Jeff and the Martin DXM!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is for Giving

I love the name "Thanksgiving" because the word is made up of "thanks" and "giving." These are two very imporant words. What I experienced more of yesterday was the giving part of the word.

At Immanuel Trinity we volunteered to help deliver meals, and serve Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of disadvantaged people in the Fox Valley. What a great feeling one gets from pure giving. My wife Debbie and son Ryan also helped and it was a great experience for them as well. If I have faith in anything, it is in the marvelous potential of the human heart. Good hearts were seen all over the place.

I also got to show off my modest guitar playing. I played a two sets including a total of 15 songs, once in awhile telling the folks what I am thankful for. It was an exhilarating experience.

The set was as follows:

  1. I Can Only Imagine
  2. The Boxer
  3. Blue Divide
  4. Fire and Rain
  5. The Kite Song
  6. Beyond Belief*
  7. The Whippoorwill
  8. Heavenly Day
  9. Arrowhead
  10. The Courier
  11. Texas Blues
  12. Old Tennessee
  13. The Island
  14. Last Fare of the Day
  15. Lawrence, Kansas

"Beyond Belief" is a song I wrote, for my wife Debbie, about her generous nature and how lucky I am to have her by my side.

I feel I gave of myself completely, and that is the best and most unique feeling in the world :)

p.s. Have been listening to Yusuf Islam lately. He is a very interesting person with some great messages for all of us. I would urge you to listen to this man, who is a devout Muslim(formerly Cat Stevens.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creationism is Silly and False Teachers Spread Irrationality

by Richard Dawkins

The Rome-deniers, let's imagine, are a well-organised group of nutters, implacably convinced that the Roman empire never existed. The Latin language, for all its rich literature and its romance language grandchildren, is a Victorian fabrication. The Rome-deniers are, no doubt, harmless wingnuts, more harmless than the Holocaust-deniers whom they resemble. Smile and be tolerant. But your tolerance might wear thin if you are a scholar and teacher of Roman history or literature. And what if Rome-deniers manage to infiltrate the teaching staff of an otherwise reputable school, and energetically promote their inanities to a susceptible new generation? A normally tolerant person could be forgiven for wanting to see those teachers fired. Well, that's approximately where I stand with respect to the clique of Genesis creationists who have moved in on Emmanuel College, Gateshead. What they deny is the unassailable evidence for biological evolution. The present head of the school, Nigel McQuoid, with his predecessor John Burn, wrote the following: "We agree that [schools] should teach evolution as a theory and faith position... Clearly also schools should teach the creation theory as literally depicted in Genesis. Both creation and evolution provide ways of explaining the past that are beyond direct scientific examination and verification. Ultimately, both creation and evolution are faith positions." The vice-principal, head of science, senior assessment coordinator and maths teacher, have all said something similar. Creation as literally depicted in Genesis is indeed supported by faith (and needs to be, since it is not supported by anything else, certainly not the Pope, nor the Roman or Anglican hierarchies). Evolution, on the other hand, is supported by evidence. Any science teacher who denies that the world is billions (or even millions!) of years old is teaching children a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood. These men disgrace the honourable profession of teacher. By comparison, real teachers, teachers who respect truth and evidence whether in science or history, have so much more to offer. Today's children are blessed with the opportunity to open their minds to the shattering wonder of their own existence, the nature of life and its remarkable provenance in a yet more remarkable universe. Teachers who help to open young minds perform a duty which is as near sacred as I will admit. Ignorant, closed-minded, false teachers who stand in their way come as close as I can reckon to committing true sacrilege.

Even Christmas Parties are Suffering These Days

(from Workforce Week Magazine)

Across the U.S., companies are canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes to cut costs, or in some cases just to blend in with the rest of a world that’s too worried about money to feel like a party. The trend is having a ripple effect on caterers and event coordinators. This year, the Grinch may not have stolen Christmas, but he definitely took the Christmas party.Across the nation, companies are canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes to cut costs, or in some cases just to blend in with the rest of a world that’s too worried about money to feel like a party. The trend is having a ripple effect on caterers and event coordinators who say that calls canceling parties have spiked in the past few weeks.
Two annual holiday-party surveys back up anecdotal evidence that a record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year—more even than in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist bombings—while others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve or how many people they invite.
In its survey of 100 companies, outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that 23 percent of companies elected not to host a holiday party this year, compared with only 10 percent in 2007. New York executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop found in its survey of 108 firms that 19 percent will forgo a party this year, the highest percentage in the poll’s 20-year history.
And in a separate study of more than 1,200 executives by Towers Perrin, 58 percent of all organizations polled acknowledge they are somewhat or very likely to scale back this year’s holiday party and other employee events to save money.
“People are scared,” Battalia CEO Dale Winston said. “We do this survey because it’s a way of calibrating the mood of the country, and we’re just not in a celebratory mood.”
Investment banks and financial institutions rocked by the mortgage industry crisis were some of the first to cancel celebrations, including Barclays and Morgan Stanley.
Barclays will sponsor parties for employees’ children at several locations internationally, but it canceled other celebrations. Company executives issued a memo to employees stating that given the upheaval in the financial industry and in light of its Lehman Brothers acquisition, “it is not appropriate for us to do anything that might be seen as inappropriate by any of our stakeholders.”Publishing, news and entertainment companies dealing with tanking revenues and earnings have put the kibosh on once-lavish celebrations, including Viacom, ABC News and Hearst.
Holiday parties at Viacom were the stuff of legend, but this year, the media conglomerate that owns cable TV networks MTV, VH1, BET and CMT canceled all year-end festivities. Instead, employees will get two extra paid vacation days between December 22 and January 1. Kelly McAndrew, a Viacom corporate communications vice president, wouldn’t discuss whether trading parties for time off will save the company money. McAndrew said only, “This is what we think is right for our company at this time.”
The celebratory downsizing doesn’t end with finance and media companies. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, hit with a triple whammy of credit, energy and auto industry woes, put the brakes on the year-end party it normally hosts for 2,000 St. Louis corporate headquarters employees and their spouses on a weekend night at a downtown hotel. After 200 corporate staff members were laid off in late October, having a party just didn’t seem right, said Ned Maniscalco, an Enterprise spokesman.
Adidas Group also canceled annual holiday parties at multiple locations internationally as part of broader cost-cutting measures that include a hiring freeze and less business travel. The Germany-based global sportswear giant did its partying earlier in the year, with a picnic for 1,000 employees and their families June 7 to kick off the Euro 2008 soccer championship and a two-day, all- expense-paid trip to the Summer Olympics in Beijing for 1,000 Chinese employees, said Anne Putz, a corporate spokeswoman.
As companies rein in party spending, it’s affecting caterers, hotels and event planners at what is typically the biggest party season of the year. At Tavern on the Green, the historic restaurant and banquet facility in New York’s Central Park, clients are postponing, cutting out luxuries such as seafood displays, or canceling altogether, including one longtime client that canceled a party for 1,000. In years past, the facility would have been booked solid for December. This year, “We have some holes we’d love to fill,” said spokeswoman Shelley Clark.
Even companies that aren’t in bad shape are forgoing extravagant affairs. Nobody wants to be the next American International Group, which was excoriated for sending executives to an opulent spa retreat days after receiving a federal bailout.
“If the company is laying off people, celebrating in some over-the-top way would be insane,” said John Challenger, CEO at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It’s appropriate, however, to bring employees together in some fashion to thank them for their hard work and long hours, he said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Pictures from my Life

Stephen's Group Home

The Group Home Neighborhood

Beautiful Tree in our Neighborhood

Stephen's Thanksgiving on Sunday

The Family
For more family pictures, go to stephensautismjournal.blogspot.com

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jeff's Hilarious Top Ten List

Top Ten Skits on SNL that Would've Won Palin the Election
  1. Doing affirmations with Al Franken's Stuart Smalley
  2. A heated argument with the Church Lady
  3. A loose associations contest with Emily Letella
  4. Getting constant and unending noogies from Bill Murray
  5. Wearing a conehead with John McCain and singing in French
  6. Trying to Imitate Belushi in a rendition of "Samurai Republican."
  7. Singing White Skinhead Christmas with Bing Crosby
  8. Having pizza and getting drunk with Father Sarducci
  9. Playing bad acoustic guitar with Adam Sandler
  10. Seen "palling around" with Wild and Crazy Martin and Aykroid

Colbert's Own Brand of Mental Illness Unleashed

NEW YORK (AP) — The permanently suit-clad Stephen Colbert has traded in his pinstripes for a cardigan sweater, red turtleneck and furry boots.
Following the tradition of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, Colbert hosts his own holiday special in "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All." The hour-long special airs Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on Comedy Central, and will on Tuesday be released as a DVD, complete with a Yule log of burning books.
Clearly in the Christmas spirit, at the first mention of old holiday specials, Colbert launches into renditions of Williams' "Little Altar Boy" and Crosby and David Bowie's "Little Drummer Boy."
The latter was the inspiration for a duet between Colbert and Willie Nelson, who appears — in one of the more bizarre numbers — as a tiny wise man in a miniature nativity scene.
"This is just some good fun to watch during your eggnog-induced dementia," Colbert joked in an interview Wednesday.
The special finds Colbert far from his "Colbert Report" set in an obviously made-for-TV room of a mountain cabin dressed for Christmas. Hanging by the fireplace are two stockings, one labeled "Stephen," the other "Colbert."
While he's snowed in and a bear lurks outside, Colbert is visited by Nelson, Toby Keith, Jon Stewart, John Legend, Feist and Elvis Costello to sing Christmas songs that were penned by "Daily Show" executive producer David Javerbaum and composed by Adam Schlesinger.
"I had a clear, clear command to everyone involved: 'No cynicism,'" said Colbert. "We're not mocking Christmas specials. We're doing MY Christmas special. And that was the aesthetic we tried to bring into it. Like, we're really doing this. I want people to see this every year."
The special was originally planned for last Christmas but was delayed a year when Colbert became swamped during his brief run for president in the South Carolina primary. Instead, the special was taped mostly over a three-week period in August.
The 44-year-old comedian, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children, is a practicing Catholic who has taught Sunday school at his church. The special concludes on a positive note, with Colbert and Costello singing that "there are much worse things" than believing in Christmas.
Costume pieces from the special are being auctioned to benefit Feeding America, and a percentage of the DVD proceeds will also go to the charity.
Conservative pundits, of course, were the basis of Colbert's character — and there is some allusion to the "war on Christmas" that various commentators have waged in recent years.
But while Colbert still remains in character, the special is ultimately mostly free of politics. During the nonstop campaign, Colbert looked forward to the special like a "gift box," completely removed from the election.
"See, no politics," said Colbert proudly, as if proving his versatility.
Though fodder from the campaign was a boon to "The Report," Colbert says he feels greater freedom now that the election is over.
"I've actually had a better time than I've had in a long time," he said about the last few weeks. "I was strapped to someone else's galloping horse. There was no escaping how fast the news was changing. We were completely in a responsive comedy."
But there is nothing reactive about the unique "A Colbert Christmas."
"I'm so proud that we made something that is sincerely strange," said Colbert, "but also strangely sincere."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Keith Olbermann, Deepak Chopra and Jesus

Watch this Keith Olbermann. It's a very passionate speech. He's not afraid to criticize America, and the direction she should be going in.


In other notes:

I'm reading a book by Deepak Chopra called "The Third Jesus." The argument is that Jesus the man was misintepreted and that his message has been twisted since his time. Chopra argues that what Jesus called all of us to do would be radical, and most have not followed through except for a handful like Gandhi, MLK, etc. He asked us to love our enemies, which is too abstract for us to understand. Gandhi proclaimed passive resistance and non violence, closer to what I think Christ was saying. Easy to preach this stuff, almost impossible to live by.

I highly recommend this book for almost everyone. My lay minister Tim and I plan to discuss the book tonight at our restaurant we call "The Greek Place." Next time you stop at a book store, glance at the introduction, you may be surprised at how bright Chopra is. The jury is still out to whether he truly respects science though. He would be a GREAT guest on "Point of Inquiry." Will, what do you think of Chopra?

Good Night and Good Luck

I just received an excellent link (originally from Nancy D.) to what I think is Keith Olbermann's best soliloquy yet. He is talking about California's vote to deligitimize gay marriage (or Proposition 8.) The act amends the state constitution and specifies that a marriage must be between a man and a woman. To watch this clip is the hear the passion of Edward R. Murrow all over again and to see first hand the power of morality journalism can engender:

Hope you enjoyed the clip. Let's have faith that the people will decide the right answer. My mother also sent an excellent article by Leonard Pitts on the same subject which shall be shown in its entirety right here:

Some blacks forgot sting of discrimination

Sometimes, progress carries an asterisk.
That's as good a summary as any of a sad irony from last week's historic election. You will recall one of the major storylines of that day was the fact that, in helping make Barack Obama the nation's first black president, African Americans struck a blow against a history that has taught us all too well how it feels to be demeaned and denied. Unfortunately, while they were striking that blow, some black folks chose to demean and deny someone else.
Last week, you see, California voters passed an initiative denying recognition to same-sex marriages. This overturned an earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court legalizing those unions. The vote was hardly a surprise; surely there is nothing in politics easier than to rouse a majority of voters against the ''threat'' of gay people being treated like people.
But African Americans were crucial to the passage of the bill, supporting it by a margin of better than two to one. To anyone familiar with the deep strain of social conservatism that runs through the black electorate, this is not surprising either. It is, however, starkly disappointing. Moreover, it leaves me wondering for the umpteenth time how people who have known so much of oppression can turn around and oppress.
Yes, I know. I can hear some black folk yelling at me from here, wanting me to know it's not the same, what gays have gone through and what black people did, wanting me to know they acted from sound principles and strong values. It is justification and rationalization, and I've heard it all before. I wish they would explain to me how they can, with a straight face, use arguments against gay people that were first tested and perfected against us.
When, for instance, they use an obscure passage from the Bible to claim God has ordained the mistreatment of gays, don't they hear an echo of white people using that Bible to claim God ordained the mistreatment of blacks?
When they rail against homosexuality as ''unnatural,'' don't they remember when that word was used to describe abolition, interracial marriage and school integration?
When they say they'd have no trouble with gay people if they would just stop ''flaunting'' their sexuality, doesn't it bring to mind all those good ol' boys who said they had no problem with ''Nigras'' so long as they stayed in their place?
No, the black experience and the gay experience are not equivalent. Gay people were not the victims of mass kidnap or mass enslavement.
No war was required to strike the shackles from their limbs.
But that's not the same as saying blacks and gays have nothing in common. On the contrary, gay people, like black people, know what it's like to be left out, lied about, scapegoated, discriminated against, held up, beat down, denied a job, a loan or a life. And, too, they know how it feels to sit there and watch other people vote upon your very humanity, just as if those other people had a right. So beg pardon, but black people should know better. I feel the same when Jews are racist, or gays anti-Semitic. Those who bear scars from intolerance should be the last to practice it.
Sadly, we are sometimes the first. That tells you something about how seductive a thing intolerance is, how difficult it can be to resist the serpent whisper that says it's OK to ridicule and marginalize those people over there because they look funny, or talk funny, worship funny or love funny. So in the end, we struggle with the same imperative as from ages ago: to overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. But if last week's vote taught us nothing else, it taught us that persistence plus faith equals change.
And we shall overcome.

It's time to get out the guitar and sing "We Shall Overcome" loudly and clearly. the fight isn't over yet. Intolerance is still alive and well.

Have a good weekend everyone. Get ready for the ride of our lives with Barack at the helm.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Greg Mars Hits the Blogosphere

A man who I would count as one of my top ten friends in life has written a new blog. I highly recommend the new blog from Greg Mars. His writing is fresh, incisive and insightful and he has a very unique perspective on life---not to mention a great sense of humor. Greg is one of the few people who could make me laugh until I cried. Greg worked with me in the radio business in Amery many years ago. He had a show called "The Mars Cafe"--a very well respected show with faithful listeners(including my brother in law Craig) We had show called "Sportschat" where we had a lot of fun--and that is an understatement. Favorite memories--doing the radio show from a barber's chair, seeing how much gum Greg could chew and still do the weather, broadcasting from my house and having to pause because my wife was mowing the lawn in the background, and oh yeah...Greg having fun playing a tape over and over of me swallowing a fly while doing baseball play by play. That was quite a blooper. :) Greg's creativity is boundless and I'm sure it will be reflected in his blog. Welcome to the blogosphere Greg, and I heartily recommend my blog friends to take in the Mars Cafe experience on tattletalegray.blogspot.com. It's worth your while. I promise you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting Ready to Give Thanks

As I prepare for my guitar playing at Immanuel Trinity Church on Thanksgiving I am coming up with a song list. I plan to also talk about what I'm thankful for, interspersing my comments between the songs.

  1. Heavenly Day(thankful for just being on Earth)

  2. The Beauty of the Rain(thankful for the beauty of reflection)

  3. Dove and the Waterline

  4. I Can See Clearly Now(thankful for the ability to think postively in a world full of obstacles)

  5. New Year's Day(thankful for seeing things in a brand new way and for new beginnings)

  6. Beyond Belief(thankful for my lifetime companion Debbie)

  7. Reunion Hill

  8. Grocer's Broom(thankful for hard work and restful days deserved)

  9. Over There(thankful for the miracle of children)

  10. I Had Something(thankful for the gift of spiritual yearning)

  11. The Ballad of Mary Magdalene

  12. Northbound 35

  13. Gray Green(thankful for the gift of being new parents and beholding this new child)

  14. Blue Divide

  15. Ain't No Sunshine(thankful for the companionship in marriage)

  16. Take Me Home(thankful for the peace of rustic roads)

  17. Texas Blues

  18. So Says the Whippoorwill(thankful for freedom)

  19. Lighthouse Light(thankful to that light in our souls that leads us home)

  20. This Little Light of Mine

  21. The Storms are on the Ocean

  22. Houses in the Fields (thankful for the dedication of the nation's farmers and their respect and connection to the land)

  23. Love is Our Cross to Bear(thankful for love)

  24. Ponies

  25. She's All There is to Me (thankful for the love of Debbie)

  26. I Can Only Imagine (thankful for imagination and love)

  27. I Saw My Youth Today

  28. Waiting for the Storm

  29. Arrowhead(thankful to those young men who fight and die for freedom)

  30. The Kite Song

  31. TV Light

  32. The Boxer

  33. Lawrence, Kansas(thankful to the farmers who work so hard---to Donnie and Bev)

  34. State of the Union(thankful for the courage it takes to beat a drug habit--to Tim)

  35. This Land is Your Land(thankful for the USA)

  36. The Island

  37. On a Sea of Fleur-De-Lis

  38. Senor

  39. Old Tennessee

  40. Peace Will Come(thankful for peace that comes being bathed in perfect love)

From this songlist, I will be choosing the songs I will be singing at Thanksgiving. It will be a great experience to be able to share my music and the songs I love. I look forward to meeting a lot of wonderful people and in giving what I can. It could be the most meaningful Thanksgiving of all.

The true joy in life is giving and I am learning this at a late age, but I think it is never too late.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles

We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Persistent Myth about Secular Humanism

by Bill Cooney

Someone recently wrote to me that he didn't buy "all that secular humanist crap" I was finding myself interested in. Fair enough. But did this person venture into anything specific? As a matter of fact, he did. He wrote that secular humanists hold all philosophies and world views to be equally valid and that he disagreed strongly with this precept. The implication was clear: secular humanists possess no powers of discernment. I was surprised such an educated and intelligent person would resort to invoking so shallow a myth as to compel me to wonder what he really understood about humanism at all.Still, this was not the first time I had heard this criticism of secular humanist philosophy. I consider myself a humanist, and in no way do I subscribe to the notion that all world views have substantially equivalent validity. People who hold this view of humanists are incorrectly extrapolating from the principle that no one world view explains everything that all world views are therefore equally valid. To be more precise about what humanism does in fact avow: all world views are fallible. That is to say they are subject to - in the secular sphere - critical and rational analysis. Opposing world views are no doubt possessed of varying degrees of enlightenment, which deems them, by definition, to be of varying degrees of value.Something else this particular myth seems based upon is the notion that humanism is as rigidly dogmatic as any religion. While there are a number of stated principles humanists aspire to, it is much more accurate to characterize humanism as a method for reasoning and achieving understanding. It is not a compendium of dos and don'ts or intractable beliefs; it is a foundation for skeptical analysis and inquiry based upon rational examination. Secular humanists question the veracity of claims to possess knowledge about that which does not suffer rational examination well.Much criticism of humanism comes from the religiously inclined because of its expressed resistance to explain the world in supernatural terms. To many, the very idea of not deferring to a specific deity in constructing its ideological platform is offensive. What we humanists can't understand is why this would offend anyone. We are not offended by the choice of others to believe in a god, but to quote from Paul Kurts' Affirmations of Humanism, A Statement of Principles: "We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence . . . and to look outside nature for salvation."More often than not, criticism of secular humanists as undiscriminating purveyors of "anything-goes" intellectualism is a naked attempt to malign us, our intellects, and our principles. We, as much as anyone, welcome criticism so long as it is not offered as disparaging rhetoric.

Thanks Bill great post. Check out his blog on my favorites list.

BTW....a movie recommendation:

Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park", "Blue Velvet") gives a scintillating performance in "Damaged Care," the true story of Dr. Linda peeno, a woman pushed to the edge, risking her career and family to punish the ruthless companies who valued profit over human life. Trained as a doctor, Linda in medicine for a family life but after learning that a new type of medical insurance was treat in the rich at the expense of the poor for greater profits, she went all out, using her experience to testify on behalf of patients suing the insurers. The task seemed impossible. The risks too great. But if it only takes one man to build a multi-million dollar corporation, then it only takes one woman to bring it back down.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Heroes and Villains

My son Ryan brought home an assignment that led to an interesting father/son discussion the other day. Who are your heroes and villains? It got me thinking and Ryan too. Here is the quick list I came up with:

Heroes: MLK, JFK, RFK, Edward R. Murrow, Christopher Reeve, Mike Severson, Barack Obama, Mario Cuomo, Gandhi, John Gorka, Paul Wellstone, Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, Leo Buscaglia, Carl Sagan, Dan Rather, Al Franken, Wayne Dyer, Albert Einstein, Chris Matthews, my mother, father, sister, Uncle Charlie and Will and Iris.

Villains: Joseph McCarthy, Hitler, Stalin, dicators of Iran and North Korea, Sarah Palin, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Gacy, Barry Bonds, Paris Hilton, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Osama Bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, and last but not least---Ann Coulter.

Try your own heroes and villains list. You may be astounded at what you may find.

Speaking of villains, I wonder if Sarah Palin will give the presidency a shot in 2012. Another vast embarrassment for our country if she does I'm afraid.
As Leo Buscaglia would have said---love your neighbor as yourself. Didn't someone else say that too?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Music Inspirational Thoughts and More

I think I will call Mike Tollifson today. He is the man who first inspired me to play guitar.

I am very impressed to be playing my very first "gig." It is at the Thanksgiving dinner served by Immanuel Trinity Church. I will play for about an hour after delivering meals to shut in's earlier in the day. This will be a great new way to spend the holidays. Debbie and possibly son Ryan will be going over to help as well. I have 40 songs I will be chosing from and I'm excited about what reaction I may get from people at church.

This morning I am doing youtube surfing and finding some fascinating new artists which include:
Caroline Herring, Mark Geary, Laura Kemp, Emily Kurn, Peter Mayer, Jud Caswell, Ron Fetner, Terrence Martin, Stephen Hunter and a band called Bread and Roses. I also took some of the morning going through what the best songs will be for Thanksgiving. Well, the Highlander Grogg coffee tastes great and I'm ready for another day. After calling Mike and Craig today I will call Tim about going bowling today. (hope to hit 150)

Hope your weekend is full of warmth and love and caring. Even on a cool cloudy day in the 30's in Wisconsin, I plan to have a great day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Hope

This is a great day to be alive. To watch Barack Obama speak at Grant Park in Chicago, was to watch history in the making. Obama has the power to get people dreaming again and to take away some of the apathy that so many have nowadays. To watch that gleam of hope in Barack's eyes, to feel that he really believes what he is saying. It makes me think anything is possible. To think that the downtrodden in our society have a voice, to think that this nation has new hope, of the type never seen before. To see people dancing in the streets of Kenya, to see the tears in Oprah's and Jesse Jackson's eyes. To see that moment, to be a witness to the true face of hope, that is a truly meaningful experience.

We have many challenges as Americans, but we now have one more reason to hope----thanks to Barack Obama.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Palin's Pure Stupidity" by Christopher Hitchens

In an election that has been fought on an astoundingly low cultural and intellectual level, with both candidates pretending that tax cuts can go like peaches and cream with the staggering new levels of federal deficit, and paltry charges being traded in petty ways, and with Joe the Plumber becoming the emblematic stupidity of the campaign, it didn't seem possible that things could go any lower or get any dumber. But they did last Friday, when, at a speech in Pittsburgh, Gov. Sarah Palin denounced wasteful expenditure on fruit-fly research, adding for good xenophobic and anti-elitist measure that some of this research took place "in Paris, France" and winding up with a folksy "I kid you not."

It was in 1933 that Thomas Hunt Morgan won a Nobel Prize for showing that genes are passed on by way of chromosomes. The experimental creature that he employed in the making of this great discovery was the Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly. Scientists of various sorts continue to find it a very useful resource, since it can be easily and plentifully "cultured" in a laboratory, has a very short generation time, and displays a great variety of mutation. This makes it useful in studying disease, and since Gov. Palin was in Pittsburgh to talk about her signature "issue" of disability and special needs, she might even have had some researcher tell her that there is a Drosophila-based center for research into autism at the University of North Carolina. The fruit fly can also be a menace to American agriculture, so any financing of research into its habits and mutations is money well-spent. It's especially ridiculous and unfortunate that the governor chose to make such a fool of herself in Pittsburgh, a great city that remade itself after the decline of coal and steel into a center of high-tech medical research.

In this case, it could be argued, Palin was not just being a fool in her own right but was following a demagogic lead set by the man who appointed her as his running mate. Sen. John McCain has made repeated use of an anti-waste and anti-pork ad (several times repeated and elaborated in his increasingly witless speeches) in which the expenditure of $3 million to study the DNA of grizzly bears in Montana was derided as "unbelievable." As an excellent article in the Feb. 8, 2008, Scientific American pointed out, there is no way to enforce the Endangered Species Act without getting some sort of estimate of numbers, and the best way of tracking and tracing the elusive grizzly is by setting up barbed-wire hair-snagging stations that painlessly take samples from the bears as they lumber by and then running the DNA samples through a laboratory. The cost is almost trivial compared with the importance of understanding this species, and I dare say the project will yield results in the measurement of other animal populations as well, but all McCain could do was be flippant and say that he wondered whether it was a "paternity" or "criminal" issue that the Fish and Wildlife Service was investigating. (Perhaps those really are the only things that he associates in his mind with DNA.)

With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man's philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things, but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of "teaching the argument," as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now. This would make DNA or any other kind of research pointless, whether conducted in Paris or not. Projects such as sequencing the DNA of the flu virus, the better to inoculate against it, would not need to be funded. We could all expire happily in the name of God. Gov. Palin also says that she doesn't think humans are responsible for global warming; again, one would like to ask her whether, like some of her co-religionists, she is a "premillenial dispensationalist"—in other words, someone who believes that there is no point in protecting and preserving the natural world, since the end of days will soon be upon us.
Videos taken in the Assembly of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, which she used to attend, show her nodding as a preacher says that Alaska will be "one of the refuge states in the Last Days." For the uninitiated, this is a reference to a crackpot belief, widely held among those who brood on the "End Times," that some parts of the world will end at different times from others, and Alaska will be a big draw as the heavens darken on account of its wide open spaces. An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive). High points, also available on YouTube, show her being "anointed" by an African bishop who claims to cast out witches. The term used in the trade for this hysterical superstitious nonsense is "spiritual warfare," in which true Christian soldiers are trained to fight demons. Palin has spoken at "spiritual warfare" events as recently as June. And only last week the chiller from Wasilla spoke of "prayer warriors" in a radio interview with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who said that he and his lovely wife, Shirley, had convened a prayer meeting to beseech that "God's perfect will be done on Nov. 4."
This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Well it's my birthday weekend and Debbie and I are having a good day together along with the minor inconveniences of getting a 13 year-old to listen to us with respect. Tonight it is out for Chinese at my favorite place in town, then Rocky Road ice cream and cake with present opening tonight. (Gee I feel like a kid again, even though I'm 49).

Tomorrow it's a trip to visit my parents in Winnebago County. I told Mom not to fix anything or worry about another cake, that ordering out pizza is just fine. I've requested that I would like to go to a guitar store and look around for my birthday sometime. Tonight I read in church too(closet Christian, yeah we knew it all along.) Had to get some tips from friend Tim on how to read and what to say. I think I'm ready.

Tomorrow we visit Stephen at the group home. I look forward to seeing my son on my birthday and to have the whole family together. Rumor is that I will get a 48-pack of guitar picks from Stephen. The togetherness is definitely the best present though.
Other notes:
If you haven't checked out this website, please do. It is the Youngturks. The commentator is kind of like Bill Maher, telling us exactly what he thinks whether we want to hear it or not!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Faith in Jackson Browne

Ever since I was a young teen, I have marveled at the talent of Jackson Browne. This week, I got a CD from the library called "Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic Volume 2"

It is such an intimate and marvelous way of capturing this pop/folk icon in concert.

Here is one review of the CD:

On his new CD Solo Acoustic 2, Jackson Browne has produced another intimate, classy collection of "unplugged" material from throughout his career. As with Vol. 1, it's just Browne and his guitar (or sometimes piano), a setting that seems to highlight the lyrics more strongly, prompting a greater appreciation of the songwriter as a poet. I'm impressed that his vocals have remained so pure and true after all the years, and what minor trembling or breathless moments occur just add character to the performances. Vol. 2 has a somewhat more obscure songlist - many of the more "famous" Browne tunes already having appeared on Vol. 1 - but they're still a well chosen set of tunes. Most of them converted really nicely to the acoustic mode, particularly "The Night Inside Me" and a movingly beautiful "Sky Blue And Black." A few songs, particularly "In The Shape of a Heart," fall a bit flat without the band. Seven cuts have brief spoken introductions by the artist. Most are pretty uninformative and completely off the cuff, and include a lot of shout-outs from the live audience. Fortunately (also like Vol.1), the spoken bits are separately indexed so they can be skipped. I will be listening to the CD many more times, but I won't need to hear the intros ever again.

I think he hit it on the head. We get a great snapshot of the singer/songwriter and his poetic best. Like a fine wine, Jackson Browne keeps on getting better with age.

Here is another favorable review:

Jackson Browne's second installment of "Solo Acoustic", shows an introspective and revealing side of Browne. Not just music, there is a self-biography and story-telling approach to the songs, much like Harry Chapin used to do in the 70's that endeared him to millions worldwide. There is no backing full piece band behind him: just Browne, his guitar/piano and the small intimate audience. It's a `here is what i am really like' performance that is made to be heard from beginning to end, and will not lend itself well to IPODs. Even the songs that Browne selects from his vast catalog are personal, close to the vest songs that don't need much embellishment for a listener to understand that they are more than just words and music. It's also not some kind of unplugged retread of his hits either: it's an intimate recital that you could only get from small venue atmosphere. It opens up, perhaps, a new genre of recordings: personal presentations with the artist speaking ad-lib about the songs, life, loves and disappointments. It differentiates itself from other uplugged cds in this way. The songs are mostly culled from his latest studio release: 2002's "The Naked Ride Home" (4 songs); "Somebody's Baby" from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack; "From Everyman" and from "Looking East". With the exception of 3 or 4 songs, the body of the work will be largely unknown except to Browne fans who know his entire catalog. For me, this made the music even more evocative, since it's just not something you sing along to in the car, it's a bonding between listener and artist: something only a privileged few in music can pull off. Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, deservedly so, and not just for his music, but for the impact he's made on it, and the humanitarian events he has been famous in contributing to.

Yes, one gets the feeling of intimacy when listening to Jackson Browne.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mike's Story Teaches Us a Lesson

My friend Mike from West Virginia says that one of the basis's of his faith is to always be reminded that anyone important to us can be gone at any time. He says it is always important to hold the ones important to you close to your heart because you never know when the time will come when it is the last time you talk to them. It's at that point that you would pay substantial amounts of money just to have a few minutes more with them to say the things we need to say. Unfortunately, it's not our choice when those times arrive, making life that much more bittersweet. The lession: Say the things you want to say now before it is too late. So this post is dedicated to Mike, who loves his sister Randi with all of his heart. Randi passed away over the weekend at the age of 40 leaving a beautiful 2 year-old girl behind. What possible rationale could have God had to make this happen? A troubling question indeed.
Instead of eating himself up with anger, my friend Mike has chosen to remember all the good times with his sister, all the guitar songs they would sing together, all the smiles they have shared. Whe he looks into his niece's eyes, he sees a lot of Randi. He is in that state of mourning right now that is close to denial but soon there will be acceptance that she has passed on from this world. Mike's Christian faith helps him accept this somehow. I hope that I am as strong as Mike when something like this confronts me. Mike I wish you the most love and hope that is possible in this situation. Hang in there.
Here is Mike's note to me which came into my e-mail inbox late last night:
My 40 year old Sister died today from complications from a serious intestinal disorder.
She has been to 5 hospitals and 10 ER visits in less than the past 30 days.
She had surgery about 5 years ago, and was scheduled-after an ER visit to Johns Hopkins for a procedure, then to be followed by another surgery. That was scheduled for Nov. 4th-procedure. None of the other hospitals could do anything but prescribe pain medications.
Her body could stand no more of the pain.
She could not eat.
She was incontinent.
It was a nightmare.
She leaves behind her beautiful 2 year and 8 month old daughter that my parents and I have been caring for, and will raise her. She adored her daughter, and her daughter loved her Mommy very much. They were very simpatico.
Be happy that you had Uncle Charlie for 73 years. You are more fortunate than you know.

A very traumatized brother of a wonderful young deceased Sister, Daughter, and Mother.

With my injured fingers, I went into her bedroom-where she passed, and played her favorites: my original-she had me play for so many people and parties, JT-"Secret 'O Life",
I Want To Hold Your Hand-she sang that very well at 5,6, 7 years old, and a family favorite,
Joy To The World. I later went back and sang a capella: "Workin' At The Car Wash Blues", which she always used to ask for last. I can't conceive-yet-that she won't be singing it with me anymore. I will teach her daughter, and if she wants, she can sing it when she gets older.
I wept after I read Mike's letter this morning. Mike's news should serve as a reminder that our time(each day we are alive) is infinitely precious. Let's say the things and do the things we really want to do today, and not put it off for tomorrow.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Remembering Two Giants in My Life

Today would have been my Uncle Charlie's 73rd birthday. I have talked on this blog about Charlie before. Charlie was a kind and intelligent man who achieved his PhD in his mid-50's. He always cared about my welfare and the welfare of each of his family members. He was modest and when he gave a gift of golf clubs to my son Ryan several years ago didn't want anyone to know, even Ryan. We had a long talk about the benefits of golf one Tuesday night. His father and my grandfather Charlie was an avid golfer into his late 70's, and had golfed his age many times.

Perhaps Charlie's downfall is that he wore his heart on his sleeve. He was sensitive to comments made in the family realm and at work sometimes. Perhaps overly sensitive. He was very empathetic to people who were bullied, those who were the black sheep in life. Not everyone in my family knew the real Charlie, but I believe I did. In our many conversations I got to know his true moral character and deeply sympathetic humanism. My mother often calls me Charlie by mistake,(and so did Grandma Jane sometimes) and that is the biggest compliment in the world. And if I wear my heart on my sleeve, I hope it is to show an empathy that will teach lessons to others. In our conversations we talked about the courage it takes to be "totally oneself" in this world. Charlie told me that he was very proud of how I never gave up in the broadcasting industry even though the politics was constantly in my way. He told me he was so proud of how I never gave up and was able to get back on my feet after a job layoff of personal crisis. Charlie said he was deeply moved by the number and quality of the good comments I got from letters of recommendation from community leaders(over 4 dozen of them) after I was laid off of my job as News Director in Fond du Lac. He empathized with my journey because in many ways it was most like his own. I found Charlie to be very approachable and he was the kind of guy that would help somebody if their vehicle broke down on a busy road. He had great passion for politics and the direction this country was headed in. He was a strong backer of Dennis Kucinich and I'm sure would have backed Obama strongly in the presidential race if he would have lived long enough to find out who the Democratic nominee was to be. Charlie was a lot like me. But there were differences. I am married and he never married(and there is speculation that he may have been bisexual, but never pernicious because of the respect he earned). My father says he had a propensity towards paranoia which hurt him in his personal and professional life. I would say earning a PhD pretty much dispells any myths that he may have been intellectually unable to set and follow through with work goals if the desire was there. Charlie had many wide ranging interests and perhaps that kept him from being 100-percent focussed(somewhat similar to me).

When I tried to ask my brother Will whether Charlie was mentally ill, he dodged the question like any good attorney would. Will and I will have to talk about that more sometime because I see him as a supportive and compassionate brother who would want to elucidate. I would also like to talk to my sister about Charlie sometime, but so far the opportunity has not presented itself. Will and Sarah will be backers of mine in the long run and we need to have more of these important conversations. I love and care about them very much. I will also have to talk to Iris sometime about why Charlie once said she was a kind of soulmate of his. Very interesting, have to probe that one!

Perhaps to Charlie's surprise, nobody talked too much about him when he was not around, but perhaps that wasn't good because our true feelings and compassion toward the goodness and decency of man maybe never got articulated the way it should have. Those are my feelings and I stand by them.

In other notes: Senator Paul Wellstone died six years ago today in a plane crash in northern Minnesota. He is another hero of mine. Here is a tribute to Wellstone on youtube:


Paul David Wellstone (July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002) was a two-term U.S. Senator from the U.S. state of Minnesota and member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is affiliated with the national Democratic Party. Before being elected to the Senate in 1990, he was a professor of political science at Carleton College. Wellstone was a progressive and a leading spokesman for the progressive wing of the national Democratic Party. He served in the Senate from 1991 until his death in a plane crash on 25 October 2002, 11 days before he was to stand in the midterm US senate election. His wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, also died in the crash. They had two other grown children, David and Mark, who now co-chair the Wellstone Action nonprofit group.

Paul Wellstone was born in Washington D.C to Ukrainia-Jewis immigrants, Leon and Minnie Wellstone, and raised in Arlington, Virginia. Originally, his family name was Wexelstein, but his father changed the name to Wellstone in the 1930s when he encountered virulent anti-semitism. He attended Yorktown High Schoo in Arlington. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil (UNC) on a wrestling scholarship, graduating with a degree in political science in three years and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was an Atlantic Coast Conference champion in his scholarship sport.
Wellstone married in 1963. In 1965 he earned his B.A. in Political Science; William Keech and Joel Schwartz served as his thesis advisers. Four years later he was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science. Wellstone's 1969 doctoral dissertation at UNC was "Black Militants in the Ghetto: Why They Believe in Violence." Upon earning his Ph.D., Wellstone accepted a job as a Professor of Political Science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he taught until his election to the Senate in 1990.
During the 1970s, he became involved in community organizing, working with the working poor and other politically disenfranchised communities. The first organization he founded was the Organization for a Better Rice County, a group consisting mainly of single parents on welfare, which he organized to advocate for public housing, affordable health care, improved public education, free school lunches, and a publicly-funded day care center. During this same period, he also began organizing with union members, farmers, and liberal activists. Later, he would use these connections in his bid for the Senate.
In the early 1970s, the trustees of Carleton College considered firing him, and actually did fire him for a short time, but his students held a sit-in that resulted in him getting his job back and becoming the youngest professor at Carleton to ever get tenure.[citation needed]

Political career
In 1982, he ran for state auditor, but lost to Arne Carlson. In 1988, he was the Minnesota campaign manager for Jesse Jackson's Presidential campaign.
In 1990, Wellstone ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Rudy Boschwitz, beginning the race as a serious underdog. He narrowly won the election, after being outspent by a 7-to-1 margin. Wellstone played off of his underdog image by airing a number of quirky, humorous advertisements created by political consultant Bill Hillsman including "Fast Paul" and "Looking for Rudy", a pastiche of the 1989 Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me.. Boschwitz was also hurt by a letter his supporters wrote, on campaign stationery, to members of the Minnesota Jewish community days before the election, accusing Wellstone of being a "bad Jew" for marrying a Gentile and not raising his children in the Jewish faith. (Boschwitz, like Wellstone, is Jewish.) Wellstone's reply, widely broadcast on Minnesota television, was, "He has a problem with Christians, then." Boschwitz was the only incumbent U.S. senator to lose re-election that year.

Wellstone's distinctive campaign bus
Wellstone defeated Boschwitz again for re-election in 1996. During that campaign, Boschwitz ran ads accusing Wellstone of being "embarrassingly liberal" and calling him "Senator Welfare". Boschwitz accused Wellstone of supporting flag burning, a move that some believe possibly backfired. Prior to that accusation, Boschwitz had significantly outspent Wellstone on campaign advertising and the race was closely contended, but Wellstone went on to beat Boschwitz by a nine-point margin in a three way race (Dean Barkley received 7%).
Wellstone's upset victory in 1990 and subsequent re-election in 1996 was also credited to a massive grassroots campaign, which inspired college students, poor people and minorities to get involved in politics for the very first time. In 1990, the number of young people involved in the campaign was so notable that shortly after the election, Walter Mondale told Wellstone that "the kids won it for you." Wellstone also spent a large portion of his Senate career working with the Hmong American community in Minnesota, an immigrant community that had not traditionally been involved in American politics. Wellstone also spent a great deal of his Senate career cultivating the veterans community - he served on the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs[4], and successfully campaigned for atomic veterans to receive compensation from the federal government[5] and for increased spending on health care for veterans [6].
In 2002, Wellstone campaigned for re-election to a third term (despite an earlier campaign pledge to only serve two terms) against Republican Norm Coleman, the two-term mayor of St. Paul, formerly a Democrat who had chaired Wellstone's 1996 re-election campaign. Earlier that year he announced he had a mild form of multiple sclerosis, causing the limp he had believed was an old wrestling injury.
Wellstone was in a line of left-of-center or progressive senators of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). The first three, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Walter Mondale, were all prominent in the national Democratic Party. Shortly after joining the Senate, South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings approached Wellstone and told him, "You remind me of Hubert Humphrey. You talk too much."

Policy views
Wellstone was known for his work for peace, the environment, labor, and health care; he also joined his wife Sheila to support the rights of victims of domestic violence. He made the issue of mental illness a central focus in his career.He was a solid supporter of increased immigration in the U.S. He opposed the first Gulf War in 1991 and, in the months before his death, spoke out against the government's threats to go to war with Iraq again. He was strongly supported by groups such as Americans for Democratic Action, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, and People for the American Way.
In 1996 (facing a bitter re-election fight against Boschwitz), he voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and also excluded gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered married couples from receiving equal treatment under federal immigration, tax, welfare, Social Security and inheritance legislation.[8] His vote angered many of his long-time supporters in the LGBT community, and it didn't help his cause when he explained that he voted because he didn't believe in re-defining marriage. However, he later asked his supporters to educate him on the issue and by 2001, when he wrote his autobiography, Conscience of a Liberal, Wellstone admitted that he had made a mistake. After voting against the congressional authorization for the war in Iraq on October 11, 2002, in the midst of a tight election, Wellstone is said to have told his wife, "I just cost myself the election."
In the 2002 campaign, the Green Party ran a candidate against Wellstone. Some Greens opposed this move. The party's 2000 Vice-Presidential nominee, Winona LaDuke, described Wellstone as "a champion of the vast majority of our issues".[9] The Green Party's decision to oppose Wellstone was criticized by some progressives.[10]
Wellstone was the author of the 'Wellstone Amendment' added to the McCain-Feingold Bill for Campaign Finance Reform, in what came to be known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The law, including the Wellstone Amendment, was challenged as unconstitutional by groups and individuals including the California State Democratic Party, the National Rifle Association, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), the Senate Majority Whip, with critics agreeing on both sides of the political spectrum.[11] On December 10, 2003, the Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the key provisions of McCain-Feingold, including the Wellstone Amendment; the vote on the court was 5 to 4. Wellstone saw McCain-Feingold's protection of "advocacy" groups as a "loophole" allowing "special interests" to run last-minute election ads. (Since corporate and union money was already banished in the bill, Wellstone was presumably worried mainly about money from rich individuals.) Wellstone pushed an amendment to extend McCain-Feingold's ban on last-minute ads to nonprofits like "the NRA, the Sierra Club, the Christian Coalition, and others." Under the Wellstone Amendment, these organizations could only advertise using money raised under strict "hard money" limits—no more than $5,000 per individual.

Presidential aspirations
Shortly after his re-election to the Senate in 1996, Wellstone began contemplating a run for his party's nomination for President of the United States in 2000.
As the first stage in his nascent pseudocampaign, he embarked upon a cross-country speaking and listening tour that he dubbed "the Children's Tour" in May 1997. This tour, which took him to rural areas of Mississippi and Appalachia and the inner cities of Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore, was intended to retrace the steps taken by Senator Robert F. Kennedy during a similar tour in 1966, in order to showcase the fact that conditions had not improved, as well as to test his message.
The following year, 1998, Wellstone began to more openly investigate the possibility of running. He formed an exploratory committee that paid for his travels to Iowa and New Hampshire, homes of the two first contests of the nomination process, to speak before organized labor and local Democrats. (His catchphrase from these speeches, "I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party," would later be incorporated into the 2004 stump speech of Governor Howard Dean.) He also met privately with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, allegedly to determine which of them would challenge Vice President Al Gore from the left in 2000.
During this time, a college student named Paul Hogarth designed and put up Wellstone2000.com, a website intended to drum up grassroots support for Wellstone's candidacy. By the time it completed its two-year run, the site had led to the recruitment of nearly 700 official members into the Draft Wellstone movement, had sold hundreds of "Wellstone 2000" political buttons, and had led to the formation of "Students for Wellstone" clubs on campuses across the country.
Then, on January 9, 1999, Wellstone called a press conference in the Minnesota capitol building. Rather than announcing his candidacy, as had been expected, he instead declared that he would not be a candidate. His explanation was that his old wrestling injury (in reality, it would some time later be diagnosed as multiple sclerosis) prevented him from mustering the stamina necessary for a national campaign. Later that year, he would endorse the candidacy of former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, the only Democrat to run against Gore.

Gulf War
Senator Wellstone voted against authorizing the use of force before the Gulf War on January 12, 1991 (the vote was 52–47 in favor).[5] He also voted against the use of force before the Iraq War on October 11, 2002 (the vote was 77–23 in favor).[6] Wellstone was one of only eleven senators to vote against both the 1991 and 2002 resolutions. The others were also all Democratic senators: Akaka-HI, Bingaman-NM, Byrd-WV, Conrad-ND, Inoyue-HI, Kennedy-MA, Leahy-VT, Levin-MI, Mikulski-MD, and Sarbanes-MD.

Other key military action votes
Wellstone supported requests for military action by President Clinton, including Operation Restore Hope in Somalia (1992), Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti (1994), Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995), Operation Desert Fox in Iraq (1998) and Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia (1999). On July 1, 1994, during the 100-day Rwandan Genocide from April 6 to mid-July 1994, Wellstone authored an amendment to the 1995 defense appropriations bill. The amendment expressed the sense of the Congress regarding the genocide in Rwanda and the need to expedite assistance in protecting populations at risk in that country but did not authorize military or peacekeeping aid.

On October 25, 2002, Wellstone died, along with seven others, in a plane crash in northern Minnesota, at approximately 10:22 a.m. He was 58. The other victims were his wife, Sheila; one of his three children, Marcia; the two pilots, his driver, Will McLaughlin, and campaign staffers Tom Lapic and Mary McEvoy. The plane was en route to Eveleth, where Wellstone was to attend the funeral of Martin Rukavina, a steelworker whose son Tom Rukavina serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Wellstone decided to go to the funeral instead of a rally and fundraiser in Minneapolis attended by Mondale and fellow Senator Ted Kennedy. He was to debate Norm Coleman in Duluth, Minnesota that same night.

Wellstone Burial Plot, Minneapolis, MN.
The Beechcraft King Air A100 plane crashed into dense forest about two miles from the Eveleth airport, while operating under instrument flight rules. The charter plane Wellstone was traveling in had no flight data recorders. Both pilots tested negative for drug or alcohol use. Icing, though widely reported on in following days, was considered and eventually rejected as a significant factor in the crash. The Board judged that while cloud cover might have prevented the flight crew from seeing the airport, icing did not affect the airplane's performance during the descent.[14]
The NTSB later determined that the likely cause of the accident was the failure of both the pilot and copilot to maintain a safe minimum airspeed, leading to a stall from which they could not recover.
Michael L. Guess, the First Officer, was characterized in the NTSB report as being "below average" in proficiency.[15] Significant discrepancies were also found in pilot Richard Conry's flight logs in the course of the post-accident investigation. [16] He also had a well-known tendency to allow copilots to take over all functions of the aircraft as if they were the sole pilot during flights. After the crash, three copilots told of occasions in which they had to take control of the aircraft away from Conry. After one of those incidents, only three days before the crash, the copilot had urged Conry to retire[17]. A few months before the crash, Conry told another pilot, Timothy M. Cooney, a childhood friend, that he had difficulty piloting and landing King Airs[18]. The copilot Guess was cited by coworkers as having to be consistently reminded to keep his hand on the throttle and maintain airspeed during approaches[16].
The final two radar readings detected the airplane traveling at or just below its predicted stall speed given conditions at the time of the accident[16].
The timing and circumstances surrounding the crash, along with inconsistent statements made by public safety officials and crash investigators, led to speculation that a government conspiracy was behind the crash. University of Minnesota Duluth philosophy professor Jim Fetzer wrote several articles and a book alleging that the crash had been engineered by the Bush administration.[19][20]

[edit] Aftermath
Wellstone's death came just 11 days before his potential re-election in a crucial race to maintain Democratic control of the Senate. Campaigning was halted by all sides. Minnesota law required that his name be struck from the ballot, to be replaced by a candidate chosen by the party. The replacement candidate was former Vice President Walter Mondale, who accepted the nomination and later lost the election to Republican Norm Coleman.
The 20,000-capacity memorial service for Wellstone and the other victims of the crash was held in Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota and was broadcast live on national TV. Many high profile politicians attended the memorial, including former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Trent Lott, and Governor Tommy Thompson. The White House offered to send Vice-President Dick Cheney to the service, but the Wellstone family declined.[21] After Rick Kahn began urging that the crowd should win the election for Wellstone and that Republicans should stop their opposition to the Senate seat, Senator Lott and Governor Jesse Ventura, were booed (Lott and Ventura ultimately walked out); Later in the service, Wellstone's personal eulogy was delivered by Senator Tom Harkin, another notable Democrat and Wellstone's close friend in the Senate, who urged those present to "stand up for Paul" in the election.
The event was criticized for its tone. Governor Ventura, who had the option to pick a replacement senator to serve out the remainder of Wellstone's term through January 2003, went so far as to declare he would solicit résumés for the senatorial position from everyone except Democrats. On the other hand, the pre-election outrage swirling around Wellstone's memorial was condemned by Democrats, like radio personality Al Franken, who was at the memorial and claimed that the outrage was overblown in order to damage the Democratic candidate running as Wellstone's replacement.
Don Hazen, executive editor of Alternet, wrote of Wellstone's passing, "Progressives across the land are in shock as the person many think of as the conscience of the Senate is gone."[22]
On November 4, the day before Election Day, Ventura appointed state planning commissioner Dean Barkley, founder and chair of the Minnesota Independence Party, to complete the remaining two months of Wellstone's Senate term; he had run against Wellstone in 1996.

[edit] Legacy

Paul Wellstone markerwith stones.
Wellstone is survived by his sons David and Mark and six grandchildren. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations has created the AFL-CIO Senator Paul Wellstone Award for supporters of the rights of labor unions. Presidential candidate Howard Dean and California state senator John Burton both received the first award in January 2003. In 2004, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill dedicated the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Memorial Garden as a tribute to the couple, both graduates of the university.
Near the site of his plane crash, a memorial to the Wellstones was dedicated on September 25, 2005. His distinctive green bus was present, as well as hundreds of supporters and loved ones. The Senator and his wife were laid to rest at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, the same cemetery in which Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey is interred. A memorial sculpture near Lake Calhoun marks their gravesites. Visitors sometimes follow the Jewish custom[7] of placing small stones on the boulder marking the family plot or on the individual markers. His legacy continues as Wellstone Action, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that trains citizens and potential candidates with a progressive agendum.[23][24][25][26]
In 2007, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter joined with David Wellstone to push Congress to pass legislation regarding mental health insurance.[27] Wellstone and Carter worked to pass the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act" which requires equal coverage of mental and physical illnesses when policies include both types of coverage; both testified before a House subcommittee regarding the bill in July 2007.[27] David said of his father, "Although he was passionate on many issues, there was not another issue that surpassed this in terms of his passion."[27] Because Paul Wellstone's brother had suffered from mental illness, Wellstone had fought for changes in mental health and insurance laws when he reached the Senate.[27]
On March 5, 2008 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 by a vote of 268-148. It was sponsored by Representative Patrick J. Kennedy (D- Rhode Island), who is a recovering alcoholic and Representative Jim Ramstad, (R-Minnesota), also a recovering alcoholic. The narrower Senate bill S. 558, passed earlier, was introduced by Kennedy's father, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Pete Domenici, (R-New Mexico), and Mike Enzi.