Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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

Here is the opinion piece from Mr. Herbert:

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

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel Tears into Hamas, Bombs Rain Down

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

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

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

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

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

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

Mahatma Gandhi

Other notes:

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Simply Fantastic

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Rick Warren Type Reasoning Refuted

A Novel Response to Rick Warren

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

Obama Will Take the Environment Seriously

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

Even Richard Dawkins Celebrates Christmas

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gena Stringer

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


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

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

Outreach to Rick Warren? You Decide

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

Watch this short clip about proposition 8:


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely, Questions About Faith

Saturday, December 20, 2008

State of the World 2009

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

Here is part of the introduction of the new book:

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

Here is some more information about the book:

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Illinois Politician Embarrasses the Country

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Honoring the Dead Gives Me More Faith in Humanity

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