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, 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.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't Mess with the Chris's

Is it just me or does it seem like Chris Matthews of MSNBC is a little angry lately. He seem a little mean spirited wanting to draw the McCain female spokesperson out on what she knows about the role of the vice-president and trying to embarrass her. And the incident with the Minnesota congresswoman on anti-American views, that was more legit, but still could been a little more friendly too her. What's wrong Chris, a bad hair week---must be. Your show is still great and I love your books.

To my friend Tim. I sent a humorous video to you this week. Please do not take it personally. It is a fictional news story of how you ruined the 2008 election. It's all in fun :)

Did you guys see Christopher Hitchens talking to Sean Hannity about the death of Jerry Falwell. He is in attack mode, but 99-percent right on his points. I feel a little uncomfortable when he compares a far right spokesman to Jack Abrahmhoff. That's a little childish and dirty Chris. But, on the whole, Hitchens is far more lucid and intelligent and any other guest. Sometimes it seems he is in a William F. Buckley world of his own. I've included this great segment on my "Favorite Internet Sites."
Have a great weekend and keep reading Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and Dennett whenever you can! Skip the Frances Collins please.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"When Athiests Attack" by Sam Harris

Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by Sarah Palin's performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin's speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer who—being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexy—could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones "God and country." If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.
Then came Palin's first television interview with Charles Gibson. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin's luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune—and, above all, upon the "liberal elites" with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.
The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.
Palin's most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn't much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase "Bush doctrine." And I am quite sure that her supporters didn't care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain's advisers. What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.
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"?
It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community"?
Teen pregnancy is a misfortune, plain and simple. At best, it represents bad luck (both for the mother and for the child); at worst, as in the Palins' case, it is a symptom of religious dogmatism. Governor Palin opposes sex education in schools on religious grounds. She has also fought vigorously for a "parental consent law" in the state of Alaska, seeking full parental dominion over the reproductive decisions of minors. We know, therefore, that Palin believes that she should be the one to decide whether her daughter carries her baby to term. Based on her stated position, we know that she would deny her daughter an abortion even if she had been raped. One can be forgiven for doubting whether Bristol Palin had all the advantages of 21st-century family planning—or, indeed, of the 21st century.
We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush's claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a "higher Father" before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy. With the McCain team leading her around like a pet pony between now and Election Day, she can be expected to conceal her religious extremism until it is too late to do anything about it. Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment.

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:
"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"
"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."
"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."
The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Harris is a founder of The Reason Project and author of The New York Times best sellers “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” His Web site is

Hopper Versus King, Pro Life Views a Litmus Test for Intelligence?

There is a very interesting political race for the 18th State Senate in Wisconsin. Randy Hopper, the Republican, and Jessica King, the Democrat. It seems the two are most divided on pro-life/pro-choice, health care and revenue to local municipalities. I know Hopper is 100-percent with the NRA and I'm not sure what King's stance is but I would think more towards the gun control side.

My question is this. Is being pro-life a litmus test for the ability to reason and general use of logic, i.e. intelligence? And, shouldn't we be voting for the most intelligent candidate? Isn't Hopper's inability to reason through matters to become pro-choice a stumbling block that should be noticed by the voters? I believe he sees the world more through a faith-based lense than King's more objective scientific approach. Hopper who has been invited to parties with the Bush's is trying to buy this 18th Distict Senate race. His extremist views regarding gun rights should also open the voters eyes, but are the voters perceptive enough to see what is going on?
I will continue to campaign hard for Jessica on my campaign phone calls and the fact that Hopper is a former boss of mine only confirms my feelings about his character and ego.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quotes from Carl Sagan

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism.
All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.
But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.
I can find in my undergraduate classes, bright students who do not know that the stars rise and set at night, or even that the Sun is a star.
If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits?
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.
It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.
Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out.
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.
We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. When you make the finding yourself - even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light - you'll never forget it.
Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Interesting Writers and Speakers

There is a very good Q and A session with Richard Dawkins at a speech earlier this year from Berkeley, CA.
Many interesting ideas cropped up during Dawkins "God Delusion" tour. He is so good at explaining things in a scientific way. Dawkins also admits that he cannot prove 100-percent that there is not a God. Watch Dawkin's series called: "Enemies of Reason" on Youtube here:
Also, I purchased a new book over the weekend. Deepak Chopra's "The Third Jesus." He writes in a very interesting way and his thoughts cannot be totally discounted. My little experiment---what thoughts of his could be not as easily discounted. When talking about the character of Jesus, he mentions the Golden Rule and how societies and religions have veered away from the simple truths that Jesus may have intended. Chopra's thought patterns may not be entirely logical, but they are certainly worthly of deep study and analysis. Some reviews of the book:
"In this book, Deepak Chopra proposes a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Christianity by replacing the theological version of the holy trinity with the triptych of Jesus as possessing a human, an institutional and a mystical dimension. By emphasizing the mystical dimension and identifying Jesus as a spiritual revolutionary, he invites Christianity to perform yet another miracle in his name- that of transforming the world once again."—Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University
"The hardest thing to see is what is hidden in plain sight. After 20 centuries of doctrine and dogma we have nearly lost sight of the Jesus who was a wandering teacher of mystical truths. In his imaginative reconstruction of the inner meaning of the gospels, Deepak Chopra reminds us of The Third Jesus, the enlightened master of God-consciousness. It will disturb the minds of the orthodox, and delight the spirits of mystics and progressive Christians."—Sam Keen, Philosopher and Author, Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds
"An insightful and clarifying glimpse into the life of one of the most radical spiritual teachers the world has known. Chopra gives us the gift of knowing that we may walk in the enlightened footsteps of our brother, Jesus the Christ."—Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder Agape International Spiritual Center and author of Inspirations of the Heart, 40 Day Mind Fast Soul Feast, A Manifesto of Peace
"In The Third Jesus Deepak Chopra unfolds for us the spirit of Jesus and with a reverence that is at once simple and profound makes his spirit accessible to us in our everyday lives."—Father Paul Keenan, Host, "As You Think," The Catholic Channel/Sirius 159“Distinguishing between the historical Jesus and the Christ of Theology and Philosophy developed over 17 centuries Dr. Chopra captures an intriguing vision of a “Third Jesus,” who, while living on Earth, developed a deep relationship with God. Deepak calls this “God-consciousness.” Dr. Chopra brilliantly uses the sayings of Jesus to demonstrate how his basic mission and ethic of love grew out of his God-consciousness. Through Jesus’ own words and spiritual exercises Deepak beautifully elucidates a beginning, middle and unity pathway for growing in deep God-consciousness to anchor our life on earth and our life after death.”—Rev. Edward J. Ruetz, retired Catholic priest of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend in Indiana

"Dr. Deepak Chopra's analyses and interpretations of the sayings of Jesus, in the form of "Comment," breathe renewed life into those sayings. Chopra's work brings the teachings of Jesus into sharp focus with a marvelous, modern touch of insight from the vantage of both Eastern and Western thought. With the thought of Jesus's model in hand, Chopra provides the reader with a spiritual path of exercises -- a remarkably renewed practice in search of a higher reality, helping to cause a connection between reader and God. The views Chopra imparts are definitely worth the effort to undertake this enlightening journey of reading and practice."—Ben Christensen, Ph.D., Prof. Emeritus Dean of the San Diego School of Christian Studies First United Methodist Church of San Diego, CA
"Jesus has now long since escaped the confines of church, Christianity and even 'religions.' Chopra's book thoughtfully presents a Jesus who is paradoxically both closer to the original and more available to post-modern people than the stained glass version. The book is bound to provoke both admiration and condemnation which, come to think of it, the maverick Galilean rabbi also did."—Harvey Cox, author, When Jesus Came to Harvard, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard
"Chopra’s book The Third Jesus reminds me of the theological work of one of history’s greatest humanitarians and the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer wrote extensively about Jesus and challenged much of the prevailing theology regarding Jesus’ life and ideas. Chopra is Schweitzer’s equal in bringing to light a fresh and profound way to experience the teachings of Jesus."—David T. Ives, Executive Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Quinnipiac University

"In this book a man shaped by the religions of the East introduces the West to a Jesus we have either lost or have never known. That is itself a stunning concept, but Deepak Chopra is a stunning man. He explores what he calls the 'Christ Consciousness,' which can be identified neither with the Jesus of history nor with the Jesus of the creeds, the doctrines and the dogmas of the ecclesiastical institution. This 'Third Jesus' can be seen only when we move into a new human awareness that will carry us beyond tribe, prejudice and even beyond our religious systems. As a Christian, I welcome his insights into my Jesus and his provocative call to me to enter the 'Christ Consciousness' and thus to become more deeply and completely human."—John Shelby Spong, Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, Author, Jesus for the Non-Religious
"In this intriguing study of the sayings of Jesus, Deepak Chopra gently releases this highly evolved spiritual teacher, light of the world and son of God from the limitations of dogmatic theology. With profound wisdom and clarity Deepak offers the amazing suggestion that the same God-consciousness embodied in the human Jesus is present in all of us individually and collectively. In a spirit of humble knowingness Deepak encourages us to look deep into the mirror of our collective souls and ponder the question Jesus continues to ask “Who do YOU say that I AM ?"—Sister Judian Breitenbach, Catholic order of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Founder of the Sari Asher Namaste’ Center in LaPorte, Indiana
"The book makes God accessible to those who find God distant, troublesome, or both. Chopra rescues Jesus from the confusion of the ever multiplying schools of Biblical criticism. The book shows us how to investigate, in a new way, Jesus--the mysterious man with divine awareness. Chopra resolves contradictions in Jesus' sayings, sharpens our understanding of Jesus' teachings, and guides us in the application of Jesus' teachings. Jesus comes into focus. We gain new expectations of what the spiritual life looks like. The book calls even to those who have lost any sense of God. By following the book's practical applications, they, too, may find the universe meaningful instead of indifferent. This is a book to read, re-read, and incorporate into one's life."—Bonnie Bobzien, MD, Member of board of directors of San Diego School of Christian Studies
"Literate, mainstream Christians will welcome Chopra’s championing before the world, the meaning of their commitment to action, practice, 'ortho-praxis,' following the only absolutely unambiguous demands of Jesus on his followers recorded in the New Testament: serving the poor, loving neighbor and even enemies. It is the most effective response to the Dawkins’ crowd who never even mention the Bishop Robinsons, Martin King, Dietrich Bonhoeffers, Mother Teresas who by their actions, have shown their faith in this Jesus Christ."—Rustum Roy, Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State Emeritus, Professor of Science Technology and Society Emeritus, The Pennsylvania State University

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hate Talk in America

There is some interesting stuff out on the web titled: "The McCain/Palin" mob. The following video reveals a lot about the closed mindedness of extremist right wingers who are zealous and not rational in their views:

The last few days of this campaign it's going to be interesting and you will see more nuts like this show up at Obama rallies. I fear for his safety.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's Campaign Manager, goes head to head with Mr. Ignoramous himself, Sean Hannity:

If you doubt Hannity is a bully, watch this interview:

Here is another person who is very dangerous for the country, Ann Coulter. I have personally interviewed her and find that she comes close to a sociopath on the empathy for the common man scale:

How about this one??

Have you had enough? I certainly have.

Have a good day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I have been watching a lot "Hardball" with Chris Matthews lately. His questions are hard hitting but he is brilliant how he does it in sort of folksy way, like how someone at the barbershop or the watercooler would ask questions. I also have his new book from the library called, "Life is a Campaign." In the book he has some sterling advice for people who want to be winners at life, because, of course, politics is all around us. The book also convinces me that I relate a lot better to liberals than conservatives. Matthew's way of speaking is in a clear voice that is direct, much like the style of the late Tim Russert. After each chapter of the book, he has sayings called "The Bottom Line." The essence of each chapter is siphoned down to one paragraph. One of my favorite chapters so far is the one that warns, "Not Everyone is Going to Like You." He presents some good examples in the book about why this philosophy works at home and at work. There are also examples of how Bill Clinton and more of Matthews' heroes were not stunned and sidelined by their detractors.

Check out "Hardball!!"

btw....Chris had a ball with this one last night, Sarah Palin being booed at a hockey game in Philly!
Have a great day. Enjoy the fall weather :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Our Precious Economy-Have Faith?

Has greed finally got us? Do we deserve the financial crisis we are currently in?

Bin Laden has to be laughing now. The United States starting to implode without him moving a finger. We have got to do something but nobody seems to have any answers. What is a course we can take where we can feel assured that it is the right path to take?

Some of the latest news:

"Overall it's the fact that despite the huge firefighting efforts of central banks worldwide we still haven't seen any thawing of interbank lending that is going to be causing the most concern now," said Matt Buckled, a dealer at CMC Markets in London.
The late burst of selling Thursday on Wall Street sent the Dow Jones industrials down to 8,579, crashing through the 9,000 level for the first time in five years and wiping out $872 billion of investment value.
As bad as the day was, even worse was the cumulative effect of a historic run of declines: The Dow suffered a triple-digit loss for the sixth day in a row, a first, and the average dropped for the seventh day in a row, a losing streak not seen since 2002.
"Right now the market is just panicked," said David Whys, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "Nobody wants to take on any risk. Everybody just wants to get their money and put it under the mattress."
Thursday's sell-off on Wall Street took place one year to the day after the Dow closed at its record high of 14,164. Since that day, frozen credit, record foreclosures, cascading job losses and outright fear have seized the market and sapped 39 percent of its value.
Paper losses for the year add up to an staggering $8.3 trillion, according to preliminary figures measured by the Dow Jones Wiltshire 5000 Composite Index, which tracks 5,000 U.S.-based companies representing almost all stocks traded in America.
It was the second straight day that Wall Street was rocked by a final-hour sell-off, but this one was particularly shocking.
Most of the day was relatively calm, and the trading floor was quieter than usual because of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Wall Street awoke to news the federal government was brandishing a new weapon against the financial crisis — considering seeking an equity stake in major U.S. banks in order to stabilize them.
But that step appeared to be as ineffectual as the others Washington has rolled out in recent weeks, including a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, a coordinated interest rate cut by central banks around the world and direct lending by the Federal Reserve to private companies to provide them with short-term cash.
Acquiring a stake in the banks would be yet another startling intervention by the government in the free market, but economists said Bush was left with little choice because of the credit markets, where tight lending has choked off the everyday cash that is the lifeblood of the economy.
"In normal times, this would be out of the question, but in the present dire situation, I think the government should be employing all the powers that it can," said Sung Won Shone, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands.
Wall Street has been teetering on the brink of panic for a month now, vulnerable to any bad news. Thursday's sell-off was triggered when a major credit rating agency put General Motors Corp. and its finance affiliate under review to determine whether it should be downgraded.
Stock in GM, one of the 30 components of the Dow Jones industrials, lost 31 percent of its value and closed at $4.76 — its lowest level since the Korean War began more than a half century ago.
For the Dow, it has been nothing short of a free fall:
—The average is down 2,338 points, or 21 percent, in the last four weeks, since the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy escalated a long-running credit crunch into a full-fledged crisis.

Here is another article about artificial help from the IMF:

IMF promises swift assistance to troubled countries

By Sean O’Grady, Economics EditorFriday, 10 October 2008

The IMF has promised to deliver swift assistance to countries grappling with severe economic difficulties. The Managing Director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said yesterday that the IMF Board had approved the use of the funds Emergency Funding Mechanism, which means that funds can be delivered within two weeks, bypassing the usual, more protracted procedures.
“The doors of the fire house are open” said an IMF source. Mr Strauss-Kahn said: “we are ready to answer any demand by countries facing problems”. He warned that the world was “on the cusp of a global recession” and pointed out that “100 per cent” of world economic growth in 2009 would be accounted for by developing and merging economies, as the advanced nations stagnate.
The IMF chief refused to be drawn on which countries might be the first to apply for such a facility, but said that both developed and developing nations would be expected to make sue of it. The Icelandic government, probably the lost high profile sovereign victim of the financial crisis, has thus far indicated that it is not seeking IMF assistance.
On the dangers facing the global economy, Mr Strauss-Kahn said that losses to the worlds financial system as a result of sub prime and other problem lending was $1.4 trillion, and stressed the importance of national and international organisations encouraging and in some cases funding the recapitalisation of major financial institutions: “there is no way to have a way out of the situation that we are in without enough recapitalisation of the financial institutions.” Mr Strauss Kahn also said that “we need to look further at fair value accounting” adding to chorus of calls for a move away form “marking to market” unsaleable mortgage backed securities at fires sale prices.
The dangers posed by the credit crunch to the world’s poorest nations were stressed by World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Mr Zoellick said that they faced a “triple jeopardy” from “food, fuel, and finance”: “We must look beyond the financial rescue to the human rescue. The poorest cannot be asked dot pay the biggest price. For the poor, the costs of crisis can be life long”.

What kind of intervention will this take. Right now, it looks like the 700-billion dollar plan must be extended and may not be enough. It will take more than sharp SNL skits to get us through this one. We must sober up and forge our way out, one step at a time. Good solid reasoning and maybe a little faith(I admit) will get us through this one. Hang on, we are in for a bit of a roller coaster ride. In these times of trouble, it's time for our very best Amercan character to shine.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin Says Obama Hangs Out with Terrorists

Well, now she is truly getting desperate. Sarah Palin has inferred that Obama's character is deeply flawed because he apparently hangs out with people like William Ayers, who allegedly had terroristic tendencies. Truth is that Ayers was just on the same board of directors as Obama and the two rarely speak. The smear tactic is used by Palin and McCain as a desparate attempt to smear his reputation however they can. I hope the American people see through this stuff.
Campaiging for America's Presidential election continues with Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, making a claim that Democrat Barack Obama is friendly with a terrorist. The comment referred to William Ayers, a founding member of the radical 1960s group, the Weathermen, that committed bombings on the Pentagon and the Capitol, and who supported Obama's first run for public office in 1995.Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports with a month until election day, Governor Palin has accused Senator Obama of "palling around with terrorists". It is in a reference to Vietnam era radical, William Ayers, who has since served on a community board with Barack Obama in Chicago. Barack Obama calls the Republican attack a "smear" and he's urging voters not to be distracted. "His campaign has announced that they plan to and I quote turn the page, on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching swift boat style attacks on me," he said. Barack Obama has denounced Mr Ayers' radical views.
Sarah Palin do all you want, it's just more terrific material for Tina Fay on Saturday night live.
The following is from Washington Post fact checker site. Some good reasoning here I think!
There has been a sudden spate of blog items and newspaper articles, mainly in the British press, linking Barack Obama to a former member of the radical Weather Underground Organization that claimed responsibility for a dozen bombings between 1970 and 1974. The former Weatherman, William Ayers, now holds the position of distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Although never convicted of any crime, he told the New York Times in September 2001, "I don't regret setting bombs...I feel we didn't do enough."
Both Obama and Ayers were members of the board of an anti-poverty group, the Woods Fund of Chicago, between 1999 and 2002. In addition, Ayers contributed $200 to Obama's re-election fund to the Illinois State Senate in April 2001, as reported here. They lived within a few blocks of each other in the trendy Hyde Park section of Chicago, and moved in the same liberal-progressive circles.
Is there anything here that raises questions about Obama's judgment or is this just another example of guilt by association?

The Facts
The first article in the mainstream press linking Obama to Ayers appeared in the London Daily Mail on February 2. It was written by Peter Hitchens, the right-wing brother of the left-wing firebrand turned Iraq war supporter, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens cited the Ayers connection to bolster his argument that Obama is "far more radical than he would like us to know."
The Hitchens piece was followed by a Bloomberg article last week pointing to the Ayers connection as support for Hillary Clinton's contention that Obama might not be able to withstand the "Republican attack machine." Larry Johnson, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA and the State Department,
predicted that the Republicans would seize on the Ayers case, and other Chicago relationships, to "bludgeon Obama's presidential aspirations into the dust."
The London Sunday Times joined the chorus this weekend by reporting that Republicans were "out to crush Barack by painting him as a leftwinger with dubious support".
The only hard facts that have come out so far are the $200 contribution by Ayers to the Obama re-election fund, and their joint membership of the eight-person Woods Fund Board. Ayers did not respond to e-mails and telephone calls requesting clarification of the relationship. Obama spokesman Bill Burton noted in a statement that Ayers was a professor of education at the University of Illinois and a former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and continued:
Senator Obama strongly condemns the violent actions of the Weathermen group, as he does all acts of violence. But he was an eight-year-old child when Ayers and the Weathermen were active, and any attempt to connect Obama with events of almost forty years ago is ridiculous.
In the short term, the person who has most to gain by speculation about Obama's acquaintance with a former terrorist is Hillary Clinton. The former First Lady likes to present herself as "tested and vetted" after years of exposure to Republican attacks, in contrast to Obama, a relative newcomer to hardscrabble presidential politics. Such arguments resonate with Johnson, the counterterrorism expert, who told me that he is a Clinton supporter, although not involved with the campaign.
But the Obama-Ayers link is a tenuous one. As Newsday pointed out, Clinton has her own, also tenuous, Weatherman connection. Her husband commuted the sentences of a couple of convicted Weather Underground members, Susan Rosenberg and Linda Sue Evans, shortly before leaving office in January 2001. Which is worse: pardoning a convicted terrorist or accepting a campaign contribution from a former Weatherman who was never convicted?
Whatever his past, Ayers is now a respected member of the Chicago intelligentsia, and still a member of the Woods Fund Board. The president of the Woods Fund, Deborah Harrington, said he had been selected for the board because of his solid academic credentials and "passion for social justice."
"This whole connection is a stretch," Harrington told me. "Barack was very well known in Chicago, and a highly respected legislator. It would be difficult to find people round here who never volunteered or contributed money to one of his campaigns."

The Pinocchio Test
The question is not whether a connection can be established between Barack Obama and a former member of the Weathermen, but whether it has any significance for the 2008 presidential campaign. Could Bill Ayers become a political embarrassment for Obama? Let me know what you think.
Very objective assessment I would say, thanks to the people at the Washington Post.