Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Writer's Almanac Worth Listening To

This morning, as I was running some errands, I turned on Wisconsin Public Radio in the car. It just so happened that Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac was the first thing I heard. His voice has a velvety quality that is very wise and calming, much like the voice of my late Uncle Charlie.
On the program the poetry of W.S. Merwin was featured. Here is part of the transcript of today's program:
It's the birthday of W.S. Merwin, born in New York City (1927). He was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He began writing his first poems when he was four or five years old. He majored in English at Princeton, then stuck around for an extra year as a graduate student studying Modern Romance languages. Then he left to travel around Europe, and he got a job for the BBC, translating classics from French or Spanish. He has translated poetry for most of his career, including works by Pablo Neruda and Dante. His first book of poetry, A Mask for Janus, came out in 1952.
Merwin lived in England and New York, and then he settled in Hawaii. He lives in Maui with his current wife, Paula, whom he married in a Buddhist ceremony 25 years ago. They live in a small house on the lip of a dormant volcano, where Merwin spends much of his days cultivating rare and endangered palm trees.

He wrote about his wife and his home in Hawaii:

I lie listening to the black hour before dawn
and you are still asleep beside me while
around us the trees full of night lean
hushed in their dream that
bears us up asleep and awake
then I hear drops falling one by one into the sightless leaves.
W.S. Merwin has never made a living in academia teaching poetry. Instead, he lives on $25,000 to $30,000 a year, earning money by doing occasional readings of his poetry, and living off prize money now and then.

You will learn about fascinating characters like Merwin and many others if you listen to Writer's Almanac on Wisconsin Public Radio at 8:50 weekday mornings. For a two-minute program, it is a great investment of your time. Charlie, I'm beginning to more fully appreciate why you liked Wisconsin Public Radio so much.
Here is a poem by John Updike that was heard in 1999 on The Writer's Almanac:
Perfection Wasted
And another regrettable thing about death is the ceasing of your own brand of magic, which took a whole life to develop and market -- the quips, the witticisms, the slant adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears, their tears confused with their diamond earrings, their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat, their response and your performance twinned. The jokes over the phone. The memories packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act. Who will do it again? That's it: no one; imitators and descendants aren't the same.
(This poem took on more meaning after my uncle passed away. )

Monday, September 29, 2008

Garfield is Back and Other Notes

We were afraid Garfield the cat would not come back, but he did---45 hours later after enjoying the freedom of nature. The problem was he missed his food, water and shelter. There goes Maslow's Hierarchy at work again.

We are thankful to Garfield for coming back. Debbie's friend Brenda, who was visiting from Northwest Wisconsin says it was her prayers which brought him back. I think we should give the little guy some credit for having the navigation skills to find his way home.

On other notes....The Milwaukee Brewers are in the playoffs and Ryan and I were there in the right field bleachers to witness history. What a great father/son experience. It sure washed away some of the minor discipline problems we had earlier in the weekend. :)

Also, today I start the first day of 2nd shift at work. Will be a little bit difficult to get used to not seeing the family as much, but I'm excited about taking my own team at work and getting them to be as productive as possible.

On the fitness front, I started the morning off with a 10 mile indoor bike ride in 30 minutes. It will be great to have my 1190 RB machine during the cold winter months. There will be no excuse to not work out. Hope I can pick up the pace, or at least keep that respectable pace. May start some work on the treadmill too.

More science vs. faith talk in my next blog post. See ya.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why Rachel Maddow is Great

I've just discovered Rachel Maddow. She is a fresh new voice and face on MSNBC. MSNBC execs hired her recently to host a show between Keith Olberman's two primetime spots at 7pm and 9pm. Rachel is an excellent example of why we need to encourage diversity in our country. Her opinions are her own, and don't appear to be guided by handlers.
She is a fiercely independent mind(sort of a Chris Hitchens of the left), has a PhD in political science and passionately cares about her country. She is also gay, which should not matter, and in my opinion makes her a more interesting person. She is hands down the most intelligent female voice on television right now, and it is important, because women need more strong voices with strong self-esteem. Watch Rachel, because she is going places. She brings a profound new, Ivy League tinged, point of view to the world. To her opponents she may appear arrogant, but if you look closer, you see a passionate person who wants to use her voice to help the country and not divide it. Go Rachel Go!!
Here is her bio:
Rachel Maddow hosts MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” featuring Maddow’s take on the biggest stories of the day, political and otherwise, including lively debate with guests from all sides of the issues, in-depth analysis and stories no other shows in cable news will cover. Maddow also continues to host “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Air America.
In January of 2008, Maddow was named an MSNBC political analyst; she is a regular panelist on MSNBC’s “Race for the White House with David Gregory” and a frequent contributor on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.” She has been the regular guest host for "Countdown," has filled in for David Gregory on "Race," and has been a regular panelist on MSNBC's 2008 election coverage.
Maddow has worked with Air America Radio since its inception in the spring of 2004. Prior to joining AAR she worked for WRNX in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Northampton, I hope you are proud of her.
BTW....Here is the location for Rachel's podcasts:
If you want to email Rachel, do so at rachel@msnbc.com Write her and tell her how great she is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Richard Dawkins Website Banned in Turkey

It is about time I get back to the central purpose of this blog---to talk about the issue of faith and how it can be understood by those with scientific minds. Would it shock you that Richard Dawkin's website has been banned somewhere in the world? Well, it has happened in the country of Turkey where a populist creationist has played the "I'm insulted" card and is crying censorship. Again the ugly part of faith is raising it's head---the arrogant part, the part that thinks it is always right.

Here is the article:

Richard Dawkins website banned in Turkey

By Jessica Salter Last Updated: 10:59AM BST 19 Sep 2008
Adnan Oktar complained that Mr Dawkins, a fierce critic of creationism and intelligent design, had insulted him in comments made on forums and blogs.
Istanbul's second criminal court of peace has now forbidden internet users to access the site because it "violated" Mr Oktar.
Mr Oktar's press assistant, Seda Aral, said: "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people. We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion. There was a line and the limit has been passed. We have used all the legal means to stop this site. We asked them to remove the comments but they did not."
Mr Oktar is a household name in Turkey after publishing hundreds of books, pamphlets and DVDs to contest Darwin's theory of evolution.
Mr Oktar complained that he and his creationist book Atlas of Creation had been defamed by comments made by Mr Dawkins on the site.
Mr Dawkins had written on his site: "I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content."
It is illegal to criticise either Ataturk or Turkishness in Turkey.
However Mr Oktar failed to ban Mr Dawkins' book The God Delusion, which claims religious scripture is unreliable, after a Turkish court rejected his claims that it insulted religion.
But Mr Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, has been successful in persuading courts to ban other websites that he claims are libellous.
In August 2007 a court to blocked access to WordPress.com and last April it banned Google Groups after both were complained about by Mr Oktar.
Last year a court banned users to access YouTube after Greek and Turkish people were been trading video insults and attracting coverage in the Turkish press.

I've got some advice for Mr. Oktar. Banning people you disagree with doesn't work in the long run, especially if your opponent is 100 times smarter than you.

On to the Sam Harris front. Sam has gotten some interesting press lately. He has written a fierce four page letter on why Sarah Palin's rediculous world view should shock more Americans. Harris points to her magical thinking being a very scary thing for the country:

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan." When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that "God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you"?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues." Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds." Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?

Harris goes on to defend "elitism" in politics, and wonders when it became a bad word. Harris believes that the average American voter wants an everyday person, just like them when it comes to electing public officials. He also says that Sarah Palin's ignorance is "guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth."

It is true, a person can be judged by how they have lived their life. Palin has left 44 years of evidence of her poor choices. Those choices need to be explored and exposed one by one. She is truly a dangerous choice for the country and the world. Why don't more people see this. John McCain made an awful choice, a choice that would be highly dangerous for the country. If McCain expires in office, heaven help us.

On the Daniel Dennett front, Daniel gave an inspiring talk on September 11th at the Frank Fraser Potter Memorial Lecture. The local paper was impressed:

Dennett said humanity is the only animal that will die for an abstract idea. He said humanity has fought and died for such things as Islam, Christianity, communism, democracy, justice and freedom. He believes we are the only species able to formulate a higher purpose beyond the determination of our “genetic imperative.” This is what makes humanity the most romantic of animals, for we have the imagination to create all kinds of poetic dreams. The documented history of humanity is the story of the creation and disappearance of countless religions and ideas. Where a bird might see a night sky, our ancestors saw magic in a multicolored universe. And within this multicolored cosmos we were able to maintain and pass on old memes and impose them on the next generation, perpetuating a society, culture and civilization.
What makes humanity even more splendid is its quest for truth. From out of this convoluted and contradicting mass of ideas entangled in our traditions and cultural heritage, our reason was the light that led our cultural evolution. Humanity created science and empirical knowledge, a tool of comprehending and judging the memes that determine our lives. We have turned our cultural tools upon themselves, and in the process of sorting out our knowledge, we have created wonders. We have learned how to heal the sick and devised ways to leave the atmosphere of the Earth in rocket-propelled ships.
Dennett exaggerated our uniqueness and our rational self-determination, but his modern telling of the creation story of humankind was artistry. For Dennett, a godless world is not devoid of the magical grandeur of the old beliefs. We give our own meaning to our lives. The things we find important arise out of things that once had no meaning. We continue to adjust to new situations in which we find ourselves. And in the massive, silent space which is the universe we can take comfort with each other as we reason it out.

Is this idea of memes related to CG Jung's architypes? Very interesting. If you are interested in Dennett, check out the DVD "The Four Horsemen." It is a facinating discussion of athiesm by Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. Here is the link to see it free on the net:


Isn't internet video great?? It is a lot better than TV!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Favorite Music

I was able to put some favorite music of mine on the internet for free. I put one hundred songs from a wide variety of artists on the web at: www.playlist.com/jaifamusic I recommend it for anyone. Music is a good way to communicate, and by posting your own playlist on your blog, friends can instantly get in touch with what you are currently listening to. My brother Will should do that on his blog. How about you Bill Cooney? This is a challenge for everyone to put their favorite tunes on the web.

Other notes: My sister in law Iris likes a group called Code Pink. They are certainly interesting----and that is putting it mildly. Here is their address:


Today while making calls for the Democratic Party I talked with some very interesting people. Some McCain fans were not too happy I was calling. I also got a call from Linda from http://www.moveon.org/ wanting me to pound the pavement for Barack. I said I was already making calls.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dragonboats and Other Notes

It was fun competing in the 2008 Dragonboat races on the Fox River Saturday. Even though our team finished in the bottom half of the pack, the team building, general excitement and social bonding were well worth it. There were three four-boat races during the day and the last race was our best, where we finished .26 seconds ahead of the third place boat. We were quite proud to end on a good note. Our other two races were 3rd and 4th places. The team pictured is not us, but the winning team from Racine which broke a Dragonboat record of one minute and 14 seconds Saturday morning.

It was also great to get a visit from my father at the races. We had a great conversation and tasty lunch. Dad isn't able to get away much because he is caring from my ill 77 year-old mother. Thanks Dad for taking the time to visit and taking the time for yourself too. We are all hoping Mom gets steadily better. No cause has been found yet for her mysterious nausea. She's been through two surgeries and the doctors are still somewhat baffled. It's humbling to think that medical science does not have all the answers. We're thinking about you Mom.

Other notes: I have been listening a lot to Susan Werner's "Gospel Truth" CD lately. My friend Mike T. was at a songwriting camp last year and Susan got to listen to some of his songs, including a song called "Contact." (which is also a great novel by Carl Sagan by the way) This review of the 2007 "Gospel Truth" by Nick Williams of Chicago perfectly illustrates my point of view about the CD:

Amazing. The Gospel Truth sings her view of religion and faith to the new world. It carries with it affirmations, doubt, and truth through down-to-earth music and beautifully moving, though never artificial or preachy, lyrics. The beauty of Susan's songwriting is that the tunes all seem effortless, but at the same time articulate with sharp wit and often stunning honesty. It was great to hear the folksy sound again on this album, so fans of her earlier work will not be disappointed - if you listen across the board to all her albums, it blows one's mind that one person can write so proficiently and brilliantly in as many styles. Gospel Truth, in my opinion, comes at a time when the entire country would do well to hear it. Never before have I so enthusiastically gifted an album to spread the word and music. Favorites on the album are Our Father (the new revised version), Forgiveness, and of course Probably Not. The songs pull no punches, and cover all their bases. Buy it if you're a believer. Buy it if you're a non-believer. Buy it if you're a thinker. Buy it for someone you love. Buy it for a music lover. Buy it and send it to your senator or congressman. Buy it and listen, even if you've never heard her before - you'll be hooked.

BTW---Susan also has a great song about Barack Obama, semi comical, but insightful on youtube. Check it out here:


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calls for Obama Continue

Boy, it is humbling making these calls. I'm continuing my calls for the Democratic Party and for Barack Obama's campaign for president. So far, I've been told "None of your beezwax," "I ain't votin' for no Muslim," or "I don't believe in Democrats," and the famous "click!!"

In someways I feel like a telemarketer, and in some ways a kind educator for the democratic process. My most memorable calls so far have been with an 85 year-old man who is angry with the way nurses are treated by their employers and the long hours they have to work. He told me that nurses are taken advantage of because of their compassion for their fellow man. I also talked with a 27 year old Iraq war veteran who is not convinced Barack is the right choice because he is leery of anti war politicians and is skeptical about how Obama is going to pay for all the social programs he is promising.

I think this experience of making calls for Obama very enlightening. I'm surprised at how many people who are totally set in their opinions and don't want to talk about it. I guess it is kind of taboo also to talk openly about politics in our society. That's too bad, because a lot of good ideas get shut down that way. It is definitely not socially acceptable to talk about politics or religion in public. More highlights from my calls are coming up in a later blog entry.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brilliant and Beautiful EE Cummings

One of the brightest poets ever to walk the Earth was no doubt EE Cummings. Here are some of his insightful quotes:

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

“The earth laughs in flowers.”

“Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star...”

“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me) / it's always ourselves we find in the sea”

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

“Unless you love someone, nothing else makes any sense.”

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

And yes(even though Richard Dawkins would protest greatly) faith can inspire great poetry:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Other notes:
Right now I'm listening to Josh Calhoun, a brilliant guitarist/singersongwriter from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Check out http://cdbaby.com/cd/jcalhoun Joshua has a unique voice that cries to be heard. What brilliant undetected talent. Also stopped on CDBaby to listen to Dorothy Zerbe. She is also very much worth sampling. Good ones are great. Some tracks are just average. Also listened to Pierce Pettis, Tim Grimm and Townes Van Zandt this morning with my cup of Cranberry Cream coffee. Nice peaceful Sunday morning. Wishing you peace at your home this morning too :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Glen Campbell Strong at 72

When I was a child growing up in the Fox Valley I remember my parents listening to a good variety of music. Classical was perhaps their #1 music of choice, but right in the midst of the 60's their choices were very interesting. Is was not Sinatra or Elvis, but it was The Association, The Mamas and the Papas, Cat Stevens, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Glen Campbell. "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman" were great and timeless tunes.

Well, Glen is out with another album. "Meet Glen Campbell" is a neat mix of songs from other great musical artists from Jackson Browne and Paul Westerberg to The Velvet Underground. Listen to Glen on Acoustic Cafe here:

I think you will be surprised at how fresh sounding a guy in his 70's can be. He truly loves his music.

Other notes:

This week I will be going to see a musician by the name of Paul Otteson. I will review the concert soon on my blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Speech I Wrote for John Kerry in 2004

If I were John Kerry's speech writer for his election night victory speech in 2004, this is what it would look like. (I wrote this in early 2004 before I found out Kerry lost the election. It was a heavy blow when Kerry lost. I was depressed for a couple of days after Bush was declared the winner. 2004 was also a time when I had more faith in God)

I stand before you today humbled by the task ahead--the task for helping to unify the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. While the Statue of Liberty weeps over the recent sad fear created by war and terrorism, hope remains in the hearts of all who fight and die for our freedom. I pledge to you to fight with every ounce of my integrity and being for the American people. Because America needs to stand tall in the world andbe respected by every peace-loving country, my administration will work hard to build more alliances with the countries of Europe and other great nations, to codify a strength of will of all free lands that will solidify security for our children, our children's children and many generations to come. We will revive the power of the United Nations to be strong in the eyes of all, not just a scapegoat for the extreme right. I believe strongly in multi-lateralism, not unilateralism.
In his inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln set in motion his plan to bring the states together into a more perfect union. He said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in--to bind up the nation's wounds."
Lincoln's words ring true today. As one, we must stand up to terrorism, stand up to poverty, stand up to disease, stand up to those who want to destroy our environment in the name of progress, stand up to corporate criminals, stand up to those who scoff at freedom and don't appreciate the sacrifice of our veterans who served valiantly and who are now serving valiantly in Iraq and elsewhere around the world.
We must teach our children that they don't have to live in fear--that they can prosper in our public education system. We can build our public schools to be the best in the world, with the best locally-based standards. There should be no fears of future Columbines. We are confident in the phrase, "Children First."
There will be no barriers to the achievement of our young students in America.
As captain of this great and proud ship called the USA, I see some rough waters ahead but nothing that the great strength and character of America cannot overcome. Helping me to navigate these waters will be John Edwards; a vice president who shares a vision of perseverance and staying the course. He too is not afraid of the storm because he believes, like I do, in the hearts of the people. We will strive to be a beacon of hope for the world's downtrodden, to help the less fortunate, to let them know in the deepest recesses of their hearts that HELP IS ON THE WAY. We can be an America created for all people, black and white, rich and poor, young and old, gay and straight, Democrats and Republicans. Our differences should not divide us. It's our differences that make us strong.
Borrowing a line from Dickens, yes, it's the best of times and the worst of times...but, HELP IS ON THE WAY. An America with so many opportunities, so many strong traditions, so many experts in so many fields, including health, the military and education. We are a nation filled with people whose souls are yearning for the American dream....and many who have achieved it. But, there is also an America where hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost to Mexico, China and other distant lands where workers there work for substandard wages in substandard conditions. Corporation presidents are raking in the millions while the workers lose their health plans. This is not the America I dream of. It is time we say "enough is enough." We need to start treating our workers the way they deserve to be treated.
The following was written about George Washington in the Saturday Evening Post many years following his presidency.
"Whether in the wilderness or the battlefield, in the council chambers or in the halls of Congress, whether in jeopardy of armed foe or of treacherous colleagues, the more overwhelming the odds against him, the higher rose his courage, the more flexible became his will, the more complete became his mastery over himself and those about him. Adversity only stiffened his resolution. Danger only increased his coolness or heightened his resourcefulness, and the joy of the battle gave strength and steadiness to his performance."
I pledge to you this kind of leadership based on an undying love for the greatest country this world has ever known. GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

9-11 Coverage Hard to Watch

Watching all the 9-11 coverage today remembering what happened seven years ago is hard to watch. I watched the History Channel with my son Ryan today. It helped us talk about terrorism and the irrational belief systems that sustain fanatical behavior. The scenes of the towers falling were almost too much to soak in again. How could Bin Laden live with himself after being responsible for all of these deaths. When he watches specials like these, is he moved at all by the death and desperation, the families hurting, the sons losing mothers and fathers? What kind of irrational belief system or magical thinking by Bin Laden leads him to be cocky about it and boastful? The truth is that Bin Laden is just as human as any one of us and something has led his mind down this stupid path.

If only we could scientifically discover what leads to this kind of thinking, that you have to kill thousands of people(mostly innocent people) to make your point. I don't get it. Mr. Bin Laden please try to explain it to us. To call you evil is too big a compliment, it would fuel your ego. The truth is that you just as human as we are and have taken the wrong path, simply the wrong path. The truth is that you are tragically stupid.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama and the Palin Effect by Deepak Chopra

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:--Small town values -- a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.--Ignorance of world affairs -- a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.--Family values -- a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be heeded.--Rigid stands on guns and abortion -- a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.--Patriotism -- the usual fallback in a failed war.--"Reform" -- an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness.Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

(Thanks to my friend Kate for sharing this interesting article.)

Lipstick on a Pig

The GOP is choosing to act offended because of a comment shown out of context by the McCain campaign. Obama uses a saying that has been repeated by many politicians saying Obama called his opponent a pig. Here is an article from the LA Times today:

When is it OK to talk about lipstick on pigs? It depends.
Sen. Barack Obama is being lambasted for his statement about Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin's policies not being about change but "just calling the same thing something different."
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," Obama said during a town-hall style event in Virginia on Tuesday night.
As you probably recall, Palin got applause at the Republican National Convention when she said that the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom (meaning herself) is that the latter wears lipstick. I think there are a few other differences, but I won't go into that here.
Now McCain's camp is acting outraged, outraged! It is accusing Obama of talking about Palin, calling Barack's comment "offensive and disgraceful" and saying Obama owes Palin an apology. This war hero and his self-described pit bull are so sensitive!Meanwhile, McCain may have conveniently forgotten (hey, the dude's, like, really old) that he once used the same analogy in a 2007 Chicago Tribune article about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's healthcare plan. And I didn't hear anything about Hillary demanding an apology.
"I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," McCain is quoted as saying about Clinton's proposal.

"Hardball" with Chris Matthews this afternoon is having a field day talking about the nuances od such a comment. McCain has used it in an attack ad. That is below the belt. Matthews is doing a good job of getting to the bottom of the GOP BS.

Here is what the Obama people say about this cloud of nonsense being produced by the right:

Barack Obama said Republican John McCain's outrage was "phoney", a diversion from debating real issues.
The controversy began on Tuesday after Mr Obama said his rival was advocating change while pursuing the politics of the current Bush administration.
Mr McCain's campaign accused him of smearing running mate Sarah Palin.
Mrs Palin joked last week that lipstick was all that separated a "hockey mom" and a pitbull.
'Made-up' controversy
Mr Obama made the remark during a rally in Virginia where he accused the McCain campaign of trying suddenly to adopt the promise of change - a platform he himself has been running on for months.
Drawing a link between the Republican senator for Arizona and President George W Bush, he suggested change would be impossible for Mr McCain to achieve.
Responses to "lippygate" range from the trenchant to the sympathetic but over over over academic.
"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough."
Mrs Palin, a self-described "hockey mom", made her joke about lipstick during a speech at the Republican National Convention last Wednesday.
Soon after Mr Obama's comments, McCain aides produced an election campaign ad referring to "sexism in American life", and accusing the Illinois senator of "smearing" Mrs Palin, governor of Alaska.
And there was speculation that Mr Obama might apologise, but he took a more aggressive line, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington.
He dismissed the "made-up controversy" on Wednesday - defending his remark as an "innocent expression".
Mr Obama said his comments had been taken out of context.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Anne LaMott is an Interesting Person

Tonight I spent some time not before a real TV, but Youtube on the laptop. It's often a much better alternative to being fed something on TV. You can look up something yourself instead. Tonight, it was a one hour interview with Anne Lamott(author of "Bird by Bird" and a number of other books). It was very interesting how her voice patterns and way of expressing herself is similar to my sister-in-law Iris. Wow, it was amazing. Sometimes it seemed like I was listening to Iris's expressions and sense of humor. LaMott is a Christian(who like my friend Tim) turned to God to help her from severe alcohol abuse.

It is interesting how she vacillates from one topic to another and many of her ideas(like Iris's) are so unique!

Musically---I have checked out a CD by the late Townes Van Zandt. He is the inspiration for much of Lyle Lovett's music. Lovett was once quoted as saying that when he looks at himself in the mirror, he sees Van Zandt. That is a bit spooky but kind of cool at the same time. I tried the song "Flyin Shoes" tonight on the Martin DXM and it was fun to try to adapt it to the style I want to play it.
Well, I guess it's time to read some Hitchens....over and out.

Environmental Crisis, Let's Worry About Earth Before Heaven

As I am typing my blog entry this afternoon, I am listening the brilliant Al Gore talking to Charlie Rose about his film "An Inconvenient Truth." Very eye opening stuff. Talks about the problems of the environment and the business and political interests who are actively trying to prevent "any progress whatsoever." In the interview, Gore mentions a book by James Lovelock called "The Revenge of Gaia." Gore admits it's much stronger medicine than his film and book on the same topic.

Here is one review of the book on Amazon:

It's common knowledge that our planet's in trouble. The number of books and articles testifying to this condition are almost beyond counting. Lovelock himself acknowledges that there will be dismay at the appearance of "another book on global warming". Lovelock's approach, however, is a departure from the other offerings on this topic. Having postulated the Earth as an organic whole, he can address the problem as a physician. There will be diagnosis and analysis of symptoms. There will also be some suggested therapy. Like many medicines, his prescriptions will be unpalatable to many. Lovelock diagnoses the Earth as suffering from a fever. Its atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are rising. The infecting agent is a complex organism that has emerged only recently in Earth's history, although it spread rapidly. It's Homo sapiens - ourselves. Humans have usurped woods and prairies, cutting down forests and turning rangeland into farms for our sustainance. Although we declare these transformations are necessary to our survival, the changes have fatally disrupted the Earth's fine balance among land, sea and air. To Lovelock, that balance is a natural system. He's named the system "Gaia" from ancient Greek mythology. Although the "Gaia" concept has its critics, from doubtful to severe, Lovelock has convinced most scientists that the interaction of many elements must be viewed as tightly integrated. What affects one part will surely influence another - or many. And the effect is incalcuable. In this case the effect appears to be terminal. Which means if "Gaia" dies, the living things on this world will go with it. That means us. Gaia's revenge will be to exterminate her affliction. Lovelock's aim is to protect Gaia. To achieve this, he prescribes some drastic and serious doses while dismissing other, competing, cures as inadequate or lacking effectiveness. Some, indeed, will worsen the condition. What is most difficult to impart to the antigen causing the infection is the rapidity with which the terminal crisis may arise. Temperature rise may seem to be progressing at a leisurely pace. "Collapse" doesn't appear imminent today according to some forecasters. They are wrong. Past history suggests catastrophic change has occurred before and is likely to happen again. The result was the mass extinction of much life - the upcoming one will be as bad or worse. The rate discharge of our carbon by-products is increasing and the result is sure to be more severe, Lovelock says. Because the chief element in humanity's infecting their home is carbon compounds, particularly carbon dioxide, Lovelock insists on applying the therapy of nuclear energy to replace the various carbon dioxide-generating facilities now in place. Even more drastic is his suggestion that farm land be abandoned to return to its primordial state. The food human farms produce can be produced by high-tech chemical firms with minimal transition. It's somewhat cheering that Lovelock hasn't given up on our future. He makes frequent references to his wife, Sandy, and their lifestyle. He recounts his shift from Wiltshire to Devon, dodging developers along the way. His "little patch of England" sounds idyllic. They're above the level the sea will reach when the Greenland Ice Cap dissolves into the North Atlantic. Storm waves will not lash his land, although wind and rainfall may be discomfiting. Yet, he recognises his special luck in living where he does. He wants the rest of the world to do at least as well. To that end, he endorses nuclear power vigorously, particularly since it will lead to the environmental panacea of Tokamak fusion. How the developing nations will pay for their share of this energy miracle is left unaddressed. He also embraces the idea of aerosols to be sprayed into the upper atmosphere to act as a reflective surface to sunlight. What that will do to forests and other plants is unclear. It's a paper proposal that can only be proven on a planetary scale. Finally, in the scariest of his scenarios, he admits that since most of the therapeutic methods of inhibiting the infection Gaia suffers from will come from the developed nations, there will have to be an enforcement body to make it all happen. Given the types of leaders these nations have recently elevated to "leadership" that's a daunting prospect. Lovelock's analysis of the severity of the problem is dramatic, but hardly overblown. Our planet is under serious threat, and it's due to us. We must implement serious cures and quickly to forestall the inevitable. Once the carbon content of what we breathe reaches the critical level, there will be only some tough microbes able to sustain themselves. They will hardly be reading either this review or Lovelock's book. Nor will you or your children.

Another review which is more critical:

This is my first Lovelock book. I firmly believe in the dangers of climate change. On the downside I found it to be eccentric, lose with facts, not well researched for other points of view (or intentionally ignoring them), preachy and somewhat insular. His arguments pro-nuclear sound good but he never mentions some of the strong counter-arguments (ie. we would need a new Yucca mountain every year if the entire world was powered by nuclear, and no, burying nuclear waste in Lovelocks backyard to heat his home is not a viable option for a bunch of reasons - and an array of other counter-arguments). His argument that organic food can not feed the world is incorrect (all of China was organic until not long ago, many studies show this, the world doesn't need American style industry-ag to feed itself). His core message is sound: we are in more trouble and urgent action is needed. Also the idea that the world is healthier cold, and heat is a sign of stress, is interesting. His distaste for wind power because it destroys the countryside? The desire to return to 1840 when things were a garden of eden? There were many times I cringed "but.. but.." - Lovelock once again proves to be controversial but at the same time there are some brilliant ideas and insights that make it worth the time to read. mentions another book by James Lovelock called "The Revenge of Gaia," another hard hitting warning book on the environment.

This is a book worth reading I think. I think the book makes conservatives very angry.

Here's another fascinating book. I checked out "Why Orwell Matters", a 2002 concoction of Christopher Hitchens. It is such an interesting title, I couldn't resist. Hitchens is very difficult to read(as my brother Will will attest to) but can be infinitely rewarding. He is a true literary genius. I'll let you know what I think. Lately, I also finished "Mellowing" by Dr. Darold Treffert. I plan to put in a review of that sometime this month.

Monday, September 8, 2008

MSNBC Being Bullied?

There is some criticism from those on the right who feel "offended" by members of the MSNBC election coverage team. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann have been taken off the election anchor desk and will not host any of the presidential debates, because some are criticizing MSNBC as having a left-wing conspiracy through non-objective reporting. What's the answer? Hire a boring guy, David Gregory, to take their place to passify the rich right wingers, who may be connected to advertisers. What ever you do, don't step on the toes of advertisers. They are always right. If he were alive today, Edward R. Murrow would be quick to point out that it all boils down to money and not honest journalism. That's truly sad. I have had similar experiences in the media. While covering Al Gore in Fond du Lac in 2000, I was called on the carpet by my conservative boss for offending advertisers. My fellow commentator, a political science professor, apparently went too far in his criticism of Republican foreign policy. I as an objective journalist was supposed to reign in his intelligence so as to make the broadcast sufficiently boring as to not offend anyone. There's leadership, right? Olbermann and Matthews as it turns out still get to keep their talk shows and the owner is down playing that there was any significant change. Sounds like the GM was just trying to pacify the conservative advertisers.
Here is today's article about the "apparent move."
MSNBC said Monday that it will replace the team of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann as anchors of its live political coverage for the rest of the presidential campaign season.
David Gregory, NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, will be the primary host of coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates coming up over the next two months, as well as election night, said Phil Griffin, MSNBC’s president.
The decision was first reported in Monday’s editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Matthews, the host of “Hardball,” and Olbermann, the host of “Countdown,” will remain “front and center” during those events, Griffin said. He said reports by other news organizations had mischaracterized the decision as a demotion of the network’s two highest-rated stars.
“ ‘Hardball’ and ‘Countdown’ are at the center of the growth of MSNBC and the success we’re having,” Griffin said, who called the network’s ratings gains over the past year “a great success story.”
Network denies conservative pressureMSNBC remains the third-rated cable news network, but in the past year, its rating have risen sharply along with Olbermann’s emergence as a critic of the Bush administration and, more recently, the presidential campaign of Sen.
John McCain, R-Ariz.
Critics, especially Republicans and conservative media commentators, accused the network itself — including NBC News’ anchors and reporters — of tilting left.
(Msnbc.com, a joint venture of NBC News and Microsoft Corp., is the online outlet for MSNBC programming and provided live streaming video of the network’s convention coverage.)
In a statement, Brent Bozell, president of the Media Resource Center, a conservative media watchdog group that has criticized MSNBC for what it calls the network’s bias against Republicans, said: “Arch-liberal MSNBC has finally pulled the plug on the horrendous anchor tandem of Olbermann and Matthews. It’s a good move, but it’s about time.”
Griffin disputed that Matthews and Olbermann were reassigned in response to pressure from Republican operatives or conservative commentators. “They’re wrong,” he said.
Olbermann ‘very uncomfortable’ during GOP conventionGriffin said Matthews and Olbermann agreed with the decision to change their roles, characterizing it as a shift that had been envisioned from the beginning.
“We agreed months ago to re-evaluate after every major event” of the campaign season, Griffin said.
“They couldn’t speak what I like them to do on their shows. They couldn’t speak openly and authentically,” he said. “For the most part, it worked, but I think ... Keith felt very uncomfortable after the 9/11 tribute.”
D uring the Republican National Convention last week, Olbermann, in his role as news anchor, criticized the Republican Party for airing a video tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We would be rightly eviscerated at all quarters, perhaps by the Republican Party itself, for exploiting the memories of the dead and, perhaps, even for trying to evoke that pain again,” Olbermann said.
Matthews also has come in for criticism for his enthusiasm for McCain’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and for comments that supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said were biased against women.
After Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago, Matthews, serving as a news anchor, noted that his critics had accused him of openly supporting Obama and said, “To hell with my critics.”
Griffin said that rather than pull his stars back, he wanted to lift the “restraint” imposed by their roles as straight news anchors. “I want them to be totally comfortable,” he said.
Adding Gregory to the mix as “the man in the middle” will allow the network to “take the best of MSNBC and NBC News,” he said. “MSNBC and NBC News have a great success story.”

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Faith in Music

I have tremendous faith in the positive power of music. Good music many times gets me through a hard day. The man to your left is John Gorka who has a big bariton voice and a kind heart that shows through his magnificent music. Here are some CD's I like and why:

"Pure John Gorka"

(John Gorka)

There are certain songs you hear in life and there are others that live in your song. Many of these songs have lived in my soul and have helped me become a stronger person. "Houses in the Fields" is a very compassionate song about the family farmer and his toils. "Silence" is a nice philosophical piece about the meaning of silence and how that plays in relationships. "I Saw a Stranger" has a very contemplative feel and echoes feelings many people have. "Italian Girls" is a smart and somewhat sarcastic song. It is wistful and darkly comical. Pretty good collection but he could have picked a few more good ones like "Over There" and "Wisdom." How about "Old Futures Gone?" Very talented musician. I have seen him live at the Grand Opera House in Oshkosh. Very good on stage :)

"My Better Self"

(Dar Williams)

This is the Dar William's Masterpiece! Dar explores different musical directions in this CD, and it is SO refreshing. The lyrics are powerful on most songs and the melodies inventive and creative. I like "So Close to My Heart" and "Echos" the best. "I'll miss you till I Meet You" is very poignant. It expresses feelings many of us have about the meaning of our lives and the important relationships that make up the bricks and mortar of our souls. Pink Floyd remake was OK. Anything by Floyd reminds me of all the people in college who did too many drugs and had oversized egos. Her collaboration with Ani DeFranco seems a little odd. The rest of the CD is a total gem. "Empire" is interesting as she veers into the political arena. This also appears like the most talented group of musicians she has ever played with, a marked improvement over earlier CD's. This is a vast improvement over her early works. GREAT JOB! Thanks Dar for proving to me that you are just as good as Richard Shindell and John Gorka.

"Seven Swans"

(Sufjan Stevens)

Different But Very Very Good :) This guy is going to become big someday. I agree with this reviewer: "The songs on "Seven Swans", with a folksy bucholic feeling that runs through most of them, tell of spiritual tales. They tell of love that transcends the body and age. Sufjan can appeal equally to the Christian person as to the one who practices Zen Buddhism. And that is something few songwriters can accomplish. Keep an eye on Sufjan for years to come." I have fun tooling around with "To Be Alone with You" on the guitar, such a simple but infectious melody. "SEVEN SWANS" is not over orchestrated like "Michigan" and "Illinois" seem to be. Good song to OK song ratio is about 85 percent on this one and about 45-50 percent on the the aforementioned CD's. "SEVEN SWANS" is a great way to get introduced to the subtle musical power and overall genius of Sufjan. Sufjan has all his own style and is not afraid to tell us who he is. VERY CREATIVE...HE TRULY FORGES HIS OWN MUSICAL PATH. CANNOT WAIT FOR HIS CD CALLED "WISCONSIN."

"If I Cound Tell You"


Sublime---A choir of electronically treated voices chanting ethereally over gentle rhythms and Native American flute, followed by the flamenco-tinged minor drama of "The Flame Within." is an impressive way to start this CD, Yanni's best work ever I think. This work is a total triumph, an intense work that exemplifies Yanni's ability to soar musically and spiritually. As a writer of fiction, I love to use his music as background music as I work. It helps my creativity. It's also great music to take along on a walk with a Nano.


(Richard Shindell)

New Sound But Better :) It took me about five or six listenings to begin to let the beauty of this CD sink in. This recording, like "Somewhere in Patterson" takes awhile to rub off on you, and when it does you are hooked for good. What an eloquent style and sensitive collection of songs. Best tracks are "Fenario," "Hazel's House" and "Big Muddy." The instrumentation is great. The album also seems to be a bit more political, which is OK, as long as he doesn't hang his hat on politics like Jackson Browne started to do. The only criticism I have, and it is minor, is that Lucy Kapansky should be used more for back up vocals. They have a unique vocal chemistry that cannot be replaced.

"Somewhere Near Paterson"

(Richard Shindell)

"Confessions" and "My Love Will Follow You" are the strongest tracks. There is also the poignant "You Stay Here," about survival and family, and "Transit." Shindell has a knack for crafting haunting and compelling stories and music. This is a very gifted singer/songwriter. "Lately I've been thinking, something has to give....I left the doors ajar, sitting here in this rocking chair waiting for the storm." Powerful. I cannot believe I'm just discovering his music now. I just received this CD and have been playing it over and over in the car, feeling more enriched after each listening experience. I've ordered his live CD "Courier" which I understand is even better! I look forward to seeing him in concert some day soon too. The lyrics are very meaningful and not like the tripe we see in commercial music nowadays. The excellent music enhances the lyrics, taking them to another level. There is almost a blunt honesty in his music that shines through very graciously. As one reviewer said, this is "great music to listen to on a summer night in the car with the windows open." Congrats on an excellent recording Mr. Shindell :) Your music is a true treasure.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

On the Campaign Trail for Obama

This weekend I will be starting phone calls for the best presidential candidate so far in my lifetime, Barack Obama. My friends are telling me to get ready for negative responses(as I am reaching out to many undecideds out there) and hearing things like "F-you you communist," or "You're a naive liberal," "or Obama is all flashy talk and no action," or "he's promising everything except the kitchen sink and will tax us to kingdom kum." etc. etc. etc.

Like a good salesman, I should be ready for rejection. But, no matter what they say on the phone----this will not distract me from my goal---to get Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the Whitehouse where they belong! Obama is also for the right to bear arms. He is for this right, which is backed by many radical right wingers. Of course there are my friends Mike and Tim who believe in that right too and they are very good quality human beings. I'm just concerned that Barack may be subtly sucked into the vortex of the right on this one. I would hate to see BO speaking at an NRA convention. His life may be in danger there.

I wonder how my neighbors will react. I have on my call list Ralph, who like my late Grandfather Jack, seems to be fairly apolitical(also like my wife) but who is basically a decent human being and a friend to most he meets. How about Leroy, who was a WW2 vet? Is he a McCain man or is there room for some influencing him? Interesting questions to ponder, and it will prove to be an interesting experience.

So wish me luck on this road less traveled, always the most valuable and scenic route.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Do You Want Goldie Hawn for VP? More Palin Criticism

Here are some criticisms of Sarah Palin from http://www.moveon.org/
These are very interesting:

1 Palin recently said that the war in Iraq is "God's task." She's even admitted she hasn't thought about the war much—just last year she was quoted saying, "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."
2 Palin has actively sought the support of the fringe Alaska Independence Party. Six months ago, Palin told members of the group—who advocate for a vote on secession from the union—to "keep up the good work" and "wished the party luck on what she called its 'inspiring convention.'"
3 Palin wants to teach creationism in public schools. She hasn't made clear whether she thinks evolution is a fact.
4 Palin doesn't believe that humans contribute to global warming. Speaking about climate change, she said, "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being manmade."
5 Palin has close ties to Big Oil. Her inauguration was even sponsored by BP.
6 Palin is extremely anti-choice. She doesn't even support abortion in the case of rape or incest.
7 Palin opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. She's said she will only support abstinence-only approaches.
8 As mayor, Palin tried to ban books from the library. Palin asked the library how she might go about banning books because some had inappropriate language in them—shocking the librarian, Mary Ellen Baker. According to Time, "news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor."
9 She DID support the Bridge to Nowhere (before she opposed it). Palin claimed that she said "thanks, but no thanks" to the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. But in 2006, Palin supported the project repeatedly, saying that Alaska should take advantage of earmarks "while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."
10 The plain fact of the matter is that Sarah Palin did a bang-up job delivering a Karl Rove-style political attack speech last night. That makes her a skilled politician but it doesn't make her views any more palatable for voters. Americans don't really want another far-right, anti-science ideologue in the White House.
Amen brother, Amen.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Some Good Books

"Reason to Believe" by Mario Cuomo

If you want to be witness to a very active and functional liberal mind, it's Cuomo's writings you should explore. Cuomo lays out several well thought-out arguments against the 1990's republicans, and successfully argues, I think, for the need to strengthen the democratic party, in order to get back to the democratic principles that made this country great!
Cuomo has excellent speaking skills and this is reflected in his marvelous writing.

"There is a Spiritual Solution for Every Problem" by Dr. Wayne Dyer

Take what you need and throw the rest out. Say what you want about Dyer. He has some good insights. The spiritual side cannot be ignored, even though the scientists have a heck of a time trying to define it. I like the quotes from writers and philosophers he interjects into his talks. You may be a bit taken aback when he talks about the "vibrations" ... low vibrations represent spiritual atmosphere's we should try to avoid, sort along the lowest common denominator of Maslow's hierarchy, and higher vibrations are a pseudo-scientific way to grasp what the scientific definition of high level spirituality might be. Kind of hard to understand, but I know what he is grasping at, trying to define spirituality in a scientific way when there are simply not the words. (Sam Harris is now attempting some ground breaking scientific studies on spirituality) Dyer is one of a kind and his basic message is that the spiritual world should not be lost in such a materialistic, science based. Dyer is not afraid to talk about this stuff even though some may think he sounds very crazy, flightly if you will, in his attempts to articulate all these heady thoughts.

"Homegrown Democrat" by Garrison Keillor

This sums up much of what I feel about this book, which I listened to as an audio book in the car. "Worried and angry, he(GK) warns against the threat to our democracy as the heartland virtues and civil compact he grew up with, given color in stories from his life, give way to a walled, gated, class-separated state." Sure there is anger and emotion here, but it's done with a lot of class. I found "Homegrown Democrat" extremely refreshing. Garrison Keillor strikes me as very perceptive about the world around him and in touch with forces in the poltical world which are positive and which are especially pernicious. The argument could be made that he takes shots at the GOP, and that he could have been equally critical of his own party. He sees more hope growing out of a party supporting the people from the ground up than the party of corporate America. Looking at some of the reviews most critical of this book on Amazon.com , one would think that the spirit of Joseph McCarthy is still alive and well. A reoccurring theme is a call for Keillor to go back to Lake Wobegon where you belong, and go back to being that silly storyteller that tickled our ribs so consistently and so effectively. Unfortunately for those on the wrong side, this is Keillor's serious side and when it hits too close to home, those who are overly zealous about such issues as right to bear arms, the death penalty, abortion, flag burning, the war, etc. get rubbed the wrong way and they don't like it. It was funny that many of the most critical of Keillor said he was "mean spirited." It doesn't take much intelligence to figure out that where this guy is coming from is love, love of country, love of democracy, love of purity, love of innocence in the young artist, and so on. I believe one of the underlying messages is Keillor's angst over this country losing its innocence. I think he is very sad about this. To say he is not knowledgable about the world is way out in right field. Some have even called him a socialist. I think idealist is a lot closer to the truth. Also among the most severe critics are the "I earned my money and I can do what the hell I want to with it" crowd. They hate Keillor for wanting good services even if taxes are at a high level. At many points in the book, I believe that Keillor is exaggerating to make a point or using sarcasm. Those on the far right don't get this complex guy and would just assume this wombat is some loser intellectual who has lost touch with reality. One of the critics, Kevin Willis, is so harsh, maybe Ann Coulter used his name as an alias. If one takes a good look at the subject matter Keillor gently weaves in this masterpiece, one realizes he is more than an author. He is more like an artist painting his most unique and inspiring vision of what America can be. He has a lot to say, and no he is not a "political hack." Someone suggested that we read Al Franken to be far more enlightened about reality. Frankly, Al Franken is mental midget compared to Garrison Keillor. One gets the feeling that Garrison is a person who wears his heart on his sleeve, but feels so strongly about politics and some of the wrong directions this country is going in, he is compelled to speak out, and to call a spaid a spaid. Life is too short to beat around the bush, as I am learning as I approach age 49 years of age. I cannot understand this barrage of hate of Keillor from the far right. There is a lot of misunderstanding in this world, including the misunderstanding of this gentle genius from Minnesota.

p.s. Favorite Keillor quotes from the book: "In September, I was writing big throughts in my journal: 'Death is the price we pay at the most wonderful show there is. There are no free tickets. Being fully alive is the only true success; to not love is a form of destruction.' "George Bush is trying to give that country, where taxes are cut and services are stripped and the schools go to a four-day week and the local library depends on bake sales and user fees and police and fire are outsourced to a company that provides those services and soon 10-20 million Americans realize they are living in the rye at the edge of the cliff. This helps cut labor costs on the plantation. The field hands line up for work and Mr. George offers them 25 cents an hour and a cold potato for lunch."