Monday, November 17, 2008

Thomas Paine

Thomas Edison stated:
"I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic."

Thomas Paine-

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and row brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.

The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.

These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

Christopher Hitchens wrote, "The noblest verdict on Paine is that he wanted the French Revolution to be more temperate and humane, and the American Revolution (by abolishing slavery and being decent to the Indians) to be more thoroughgoing and profound." Thomas Paine, in a letter to George Washington wrote, “A share in two revolutions is living to some purpose." Paine had a hand in both revolutions and he thought the American revolution did not go far enough in its fight against slavery. To his critics he stated, "Let them call me rebel." Thomas Paine is certainly the father of secular progressives not only in America but in much of the world.

A human has no property in another human.

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Thomas Paine died in New York in 1809. The body of Thomas Paine does not rest in America, England or France. It was lost at sea and it seems just as well for a person such as Paine.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vide Cor Meum

Vide Cor Meum (From "Hannibal") - Patrick Cassidy

The lyrics are from Dante's La Vita Nuova:

And thinking of her
Sweet sleep overcame me

I am your master
See your heart
And of this burning heart
Your heart
Obediently eats.
Weeping, I saw him then depart from me.

Joy is converted
To bitterest tears

I am in peace
My heart
I am in peace
See my heart

Dante to me is speaking about life, love and death. Difficult to separate them. They are interconnected. To live is to love but love in its clarity and finality is death. To love is to die and live at the same time. Dante swings and rocks the soul to sleep between the bitterness and the ecstasy of life. Sweet sleep. Death. I am in peace. Letting go. Desire is but a flame in the darkness of oblivion that will be put out. It is a resignation not to despair or to confusion but to the clarity of human fraility and the courage to rest in its inevitable fate. A passion for life must include a resolute acceptance of death. The past a dream, the future a hope, this moment is life.

The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves.

The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.

Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.

-Walt Whitman

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stoic Chaos

The stoic and chaotic skepticism of Tupac Shakur:

We probably in Hell already, our dumb asses not knowin it
Everybody kissin ass to go to heaven ain't going
Put my soul on it...

The preacher want me buried- why? Cause I know he a liar
Have you ever seen a crackhead, that's eternal fire
Why you got these kids minds, thinkin that they evil
while the preacher been getting richer you say honor God's people
Should we cry, when the Pope die, my request
We should cry if they cried when we buried Malcolm X
Mama tell me am I wrong, is God just another cop
waitin to beat my ass if I don't go pop?
Memories of a past time, givin up cash
to the leaders, knowin damn well, it ain't gonna feed us

It's hard enough to live now, in these times of greed
They say Jesus is a kind man, well he should understand
times in this crime land, my Thug nation
Do whatchu gotta do but know you gotta change
Try to find a way to make it out the game
I leave this and hope God can see my heart is pure
Is heaven just another door? I leave this here
I leave this and hope God see my heart is pure
Is heaven just another door?

Heed- from out the bible I read
See the meek shall inherit the earth
But the strong will lead...

What's the game
Lost souls
Who controls our brain?
Who can I blame?
The world seems strange at times
Somewhat insane
I'm hoping we can change with time
I'm living blinded

mercy is for the weak when I speak I scream
afraid to sleep I am having crazy dreams
vivid pictures of my enemies and family times
God forgive me cause it's wrong but I plan to die
need to take me in heaven and understand I was a g
did the best I could, raised in insanity
or send me to hell cause I ain't beggin' for my life
ain't nothing worse than this cursed ass hopeless life

Homies died in my arms, with his brains hangin, fucked up!
I had to tell him it was alright, and that's a lie
and he knew it when he shook and died, my God

They got me starin at the world through my rearview
Go on baby scream to God, he can't hear you

I was born an inmate, waitin to escape the prison
Went to church but don't understand it, they underhanded
God gave me these commandments, the world is scandalous

Dear Lord if ya hear me, tell me why
Little girl like LaTasha, had to die
She never got to see the bullet, just heard the shot
Her little body couldn't take it, it shook and dropped
And when I saw it on the news I see a busta killin 'Tasha
Now I'm screamin fuck the world ***

What is potent about Tupac is his possession of a keen perspective that is a fusion of defiance and courage mixed with skepticism and desperation at what he must face. He has no choice but to go there so to speak. His soul and his intellect are both strong enough to go there but the question is-is it strong enough to live there and stay there. Can one breathe in the abyss? His quest for truth could be explained by Nietzsche, "Not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, does the enlightened man dislike to wade into its waters." Tupac did not shrink back or hesitate to go to the dirty deep waters of truth and he despised the shallow waters where the babies wallowed in wishful thinking. Henry David Thoreau stated that most men live lives of quiet desperation. Tupac lived a life of loud desperation.

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Obama Brand

United States

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled -- Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

Barack Obama- Nov. 4, 2008

"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me that no association has ever meant more to me than that."

John McCain concession speech on Barack Obama

Post Election Leaks

Palin did not know which countries were part of NAFTA.

It had to be explained to Palin that Africa was a continent, not a country

She was angry at staffers over the Gibson and Couric interviews, yet she previously refused staff requests to prepare for the interviews.

Palin went "rogue" by attacking Obama for his loose "association" with Ayers, before the McCain camp had a plan of attack.

Source: Fox News, Daily Kos

The following from Newsweek:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied. Michelle Obama was shaken by the vituperative crowds and the hot rhetoric from the GOP candidates. "Why would they try to make people hate us?" Michelle asked a top campaign aide.

On the Sunday night before the last debate, McCain's core group of advisers—Steve Schmidt, Rick Davis, adman Fred Davis, strategist Greg Strimple, pollster Bill McInturff and strategy director Sarah Simmons—met to decide whether to tell McCain that the race was effectively over, that he no longer had a chance to win. The consensus in the room was no, not yet, not while he still had "a pulse."

Palin launched her attack on Obama's association with William Ayers, the former Weather Underground bomber, before the campaign had finalized a plan to raise the issue. McCain's advisers were working on a strategy that they hoped to unveil the following week, but McCain had not signed off on it, and top adviser Mark Salter was resisting.

Obama was never inclined to choose Sen. Hillary Clinton as his running mate, not so much because she had been his sometime bitter rival on the campaign trail, but because of her husband. Still, as Hillary's name came up in veep discussions, and Obama's advisers gave all the reasons why she should be kept off the ticket, Obama would stop and ask, "Are we sure?" He needed to be convinced one more time that the Clintons would do more harm than good. McCain, on the other hand, was relieved to face Sen. Joe Biden as the veep choice, and not Hillary Clinton, whom the McCain camp had truly feared.

McCain was dumbfounded when Congressman John Lewis, a civil-rights hero, issued a press release comparing the GOP nominee with former Alabama governor George Wallace, a segregationist infamous for stirring racial fears. McCain had devoted a chapter to Lewis in one of his books, "Why Courage Matters," and had so admired Lewis that he had once taken his children to meet him.

On the night she officially lost the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a long and friendly phone conversation with McCain. Clinton was actually on better terms with McCain than she was with Obama. Clinton and McCain had downed shots together on Senate junkets; they regarded each other as grizzled veterans of the political wars and shared a certain disdain for Obama as flashy and callow.

The debates unnerved both candidates. When he was preparing for them during the Democratic primaries, Obama was recorded saying, "I don't consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, 'You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.' So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Obama

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Struggle for Progress

Obama will not be the answer to every problem with race relations in America but the response from the older generation of African-Americans is very moving and should make people appreciate the long struggle of the Civil Rights movement and the progress of Obama on the national stage. I hope even party loyal Republicans can appreciate this.

This man could not help his emotions as he watched on television Obama accepting the Democratic nomination, Times Square, August 28th.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Shield of Skepticism

It has been said as a rule that those selling the advice often profit more than those buying the advice. This can be applied to financial advisors but all you have to do is go to the televangelist church parking lots and see the preachers expensive cars versus the flocks vehicles. The poor giving to the rich for misleading advice is part of society. When it comes to prosperity tv preachers, get rich schemes and books, or those in positions of self proclaimed authority this is often the case and it is why the shield of skepticism and doubt combined with the sword of reason and free inquiry are the weapons to fight off this lazy numb servitude to the superfluous and sophomoric pushers of false status. Who benefits? The saying goes, “it all depends on whose ox is being gored.”

The advice of authority or those who claim authority usually benefits those in authority. Obey my law, pay me, give me, trust me, and somehow all this servitude will benefit you. The divine right of kings, the pope is always right, the teacher never makes mistakes and other platitudes based on titles are empty without the respect of reason and common sense. The shield of skepticism is of more value than the shield of faith because one gives you the protection against charlatans, con artists, demagogues and authoritarians of all stripes and the other makes you more likely to become a victim of the former and succumb to these vultures who feast on the naive and the gullible. In a world such as ours skepticism is a virtue and faith is a vice.

Christianity seems to have lost its claim to universal truth when it has limited itself to only a specific time and a specific place in America. Can you imagine any of these American preachers being transported to Auschwitz in 1942?? Or how about the killing fields of Rwanda in 1994? One realizes how irrevelant and limited the christian american message really is. Charlatans and political power lead the way to the frugal and passive Jesus of Nazareth? If Christianity is credible it should be above time and culture not dependent on it.

God wants you rich. Your best life now. Steps to success. These platitudes are limited to geography, time and culture and are not grand or true enough to survive the reality of the whole human experience. This american christianity is not universal in time or place. It does not deserve the respect of reason nor does it pass the test of justice.

A message for Just Us is not justice. It is solipsism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Volunteer of Fear vs. a Volunteer of Hope

McCain/Palin Volunteer...

from the AP:

A McCain campaign volunteer made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in what she had said was a politically inspired attack, police said Friday.
Ashley Todd, 20-year-old college student from College Station, Texas, admitted Friday that the story was false, said Maurita Bryant, the assistant chief of the police department's investigations division. Todd was charged with making a false report to police, and Bryant said police doubted her story from the start.

Todd initially told investigators she was attempting to use a bank branch ATM on Wednesday night when a 6-foot-4 black man approached her from behind, put a knife blade to her throat and demanded money.

The McCain Campaign initially tried to profit from this lie and this outright racial divisive stunt. Pathetic and disturbing. Palin has become a demagogue for the religious right and other limited factions. Demagogue:
a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.

Compare that to the grassroots campaign of Obama that has volunteers such as Charles who is motivated by hope...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mark Twain vs. Sarah Palin

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

-Mark Twain

Couric: In preparing for this conversation, a lot of our viewers … and Internet users wanted to know why you did not get a passport until last year. And they wondered if that indicated a lack of interest and curiosity in the world.

Palin: I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world.

No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture. The way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world.

Couric: And when it comes to establishing your worldview, I was curious: what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?

Palin: I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media.

Couric: But, like, what ones specifically? I'm curious.

Palin: All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where, it's kind of suggested and it seems like, 'Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C. may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.***

You mean the great diverse and historic city of Wasilla?? The capital meth of Alaska? That is the microcosm of America? If she thinks only wealthy people travel she is mistaken. And if she did learn so much from reading why can't she name any of the material she reads? If you are going to make reading a substitute for experience it would be a good thing to actually read something of value. I do not think Palin is curious or even cares that much about international relations. And that lack of intellectual engagement or curiosity is not a good thing when trying to govern a country that is involved heavily around the world.

This is the prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness that comes with vegetating in one little corner of the earth as Mark Twain stated...

"Real" America?

Comic sanity takes a shot at political insane discourse. "Real" America and "Real" Virginia?

Wasilla: meth capital of Alaska... small town values are characterized by things like higher drug use, teenage pregnancy, and secessionist fringe groups.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

American Diversity

Colin Powell has showed his intellectual vigor and he has the mental fortitude to understand that the world is not simplistic and plain but complex and that there are many different realities that are not limited to one human experience. He realizes the history and diversity of America. Joe-six pack or Joe the plumber are not the only type of American. John McCain and Sarah Palin represent the bridge to nowhere and Barack Obama represents the bridge to the 21st century. Will America be grand, inclusive, and sophisticated or small, petty, and narrow? This election will give one an idea of the progress and direction on this point...

"Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel particularly strong about this because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay, was of a mother at Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone, and it gave his awards - Purple Heart, Bronze Star - showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death, he was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the head stone, it didn't have a Christian cross. It didn't have a Star of David. It has a crescent and star of the Islamic faith.

And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was fourteen years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he could serve his country and he gave his life."

-Colin Powell

Colin Powell Gets It

Colin Powell hits the mark straight on with a voice of reason and credibility.

Palin and her limited and narrow idea of America continues...

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, pro-America areas of this great nation."
-Sarah Palin

This Joe-six pack and Joe the plumber populism is cover for this shallow and narrow view that Obama is other and different and that Palin is the ultimate American. Palin does not understand the history or the diversity of America and continues to campaign by making America smaller and petty instead of inclusive and grand.

Colin Powell gets it...

The Houston Chronicle:

Perhaps the worst mistake McCain made in his campaign for the White House was the choice of the inexperienced and inflammatory Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

The Miami Herald:

A turning point came during the Republican convention, when he chose a long-shot for a running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, out of an apparent need to appease the right wing of the party. For all of her rhetorical skills on the campaign trail -- particularly in the attack mode -- Gov. Palin appears to know little about the issues and simply is not qualified to be commander in chief.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Decadence of American Conservatism

In the birth of the American experiment there grew two roots. One root is the secular enlightment that was nurtured by Paine, Jefferson, and Franklin types and the other root is the puritan instinct that the Christian fundamentalists nurtured. These two roots have battled for the soil and the ability to grow to fruition in the same pot. They have been bumping clumsly into one another and making entwining compromises along the way.

Modern conservatism with its relatively recent success in politics has grown a taste for power and this power is easily corrupting the movement. It has become a form concerned with power rather than with the actual individual lives of its members. It is more interested in the spoils of power than the purity and principle of its own people. Indeed an interesting dichotomy has been developing in conservative households. Homes that have a taste for liberalism in entertainment, education, music, and in the daily choices of the family. A liberalism with its children and a high divorce rate among evangelical unions is common place. The quest for consumerism and money is as strong as any secular Gordon Gecko. It seems liberalism in every arena except in the political one and this points to a quest for self- indulgent power not for individual integrity.

This is a sign of a decadent corrupt movement. One that goes to church on Sunday morning and then watches their favorite violent and sexual television show in the afternoon. One that commits fornication at night and then attacks sex education in the day. One that advocates for a fetus but sexually abuses a child and covers it up with bribes. One that commits adultery in the dark and then attacks gay marriage in the open. You would think that with the high divorce rate in conservative households they would be much more interested in reforming their own homes than outwardly attacking other peoples choices. But self-righteousness and humble self -examination are not able to coexist easily.

History seems to indicate that religion is corrupted by state and government power and vice versa. Christianity seemed to be at its highest point in purity when it was persecuted and alienated. When the Emperor Constantine infused the church with money and power it is plain to see the corrupting impact it had on the church and its hierarchy. Once the church lost its vision to change and reach people on the inside through persuasion and integrity and switched its emphasis to political power and influence to change people on the outside through force and bullying it became a decadent form and a bastard child of its actual foundation.

The New Testament Jesus seemed more concerned with judging those inside his flock than those outside. His target was not Pilate or Roman politicians but rather the spiritual leaders of his day. If Jesus of Nazareth entered the American scene it seems rather obvious that his targets would be greedy television preachers and sexually abusive priests than the likes of Obama or the Democratic party. His mission seemed more keen on changing peoples hearts than a political grab for power in Rome. To get really technical the historical Jesus, a bearded man who originated from Palestine, spoke Aramaic, and whose appearance would resemble very few people in the American South would ironically be a liability to the modern conservative politician on image alone. The irony itself is proof of its shallowness and decadence. It has lost its claim to universal truth when it has limited itself to only a specific time and a specific place in America.

Modern American conservatism has become so superficial and xenophobic that they would judge the historical Jesus as an outsider, "not like us", other, different, and perhaps a secret terrorist. The obvious truth is that the Palin rallies in Columbus Ohio in 2008 are very far away from Palestine 2,000 years ago. A modern American chrisitan is altogether a different creature than the original faithful in ancient Palestine. This is a rather straight point but the fact that these people who claim to know and represent this Jesus cannot even think on this is a sign of the bankruptcy and intellectual dishonesty of this unexamined movement. It lacks "metacognition" the ability to think about itself in context and instead relys on the narrow limitations of its immediate surroudings. The decadence of American conservatism is that it has traded away its internal integrity for a play at power to force a standard of living on others that it fails to uphold in its own homes and congregations. It resembles not the historical Jesus or the New Testament version but a Jesus that is somehow an english speaking American that revels in power politics and money making schemes. Charlatans and political power lead the way to the frugal and passive Nazarene? One of the ironies of the Bush political system and use of the religious right is that its master mind is an agnostic by the name of Karl Rove.

The hypocrisy is there to see but there is also another injustice. The murder of wisdom for the sake of the appearance of morality. So much wisdom is censored in the cause of this puritan instinct that aims to hide from human reality and break the mirrors that reflect ugly truths. To the christianist the mirrors are the enemy not the actual moral failings in the dark. Tupac Shakur was attacked for his raw music and language and he stated, "You censor me you censor the lessons I learned." He once told a person who confronted him about his harsh lyrics that when the community starts to clean up the ghetto he will start to clean up his language. Until then he was going to hold up the mirror and not suppress the injustice and ugliness that went on in the daily lives of people. Tupac despised Victorian polite society that had no problem doing the deed but dare not say it in public.

Hiding human frailty in the dark is corrupting because it censors lessons and wisdom and opens the door to more hypocrisy and ignorance in the day light. If American conservatism has the courage to expose itself in the light and risk political power for doing so it might be able to make its way back to the road of credibility. Until then the politics and the money reign supreme in the movement and the pursuit of bigger church memberships and the political will to power will override personal and private integrity as the priority.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hitchens "Vote Obama"

Christopher Hitchens comes out for Obama:

McCain lacks the character and temperament to be president. And Palin is simply a disgrace.

"The most insulting thing that a politician can do is to compel you to ask yourself: "What does he take me for?" Precisely this question is provoked by the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin. I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to her just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party's right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama's position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.

It therefore seems to me that the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and that both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated, along with any senators, congressmen, and governors who endorse them.

I used to call myself a single-issue voter on the essential question of defending civilization against its terrorist enemies and their totalitarian protectors, and on that issue I hope I can continue to expose and oppose any ambiguity. Obama is greatly overrated in my opinion, but the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience. With McCain, the 'experience' is subject to sharply diminishing returns, as is the rest of him, and with Palin the very word itself is a sick joke. One only wishes that the election could be over now and a proper and dignified verdict rendered, so as to spare democracy and civility the degradation to which they look like being subjected in the remaining days of a low, dishonest campaign."
-Christopher Hitchens

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sophomoric Palinism

Palinites have derided Barack Obama's middle name. They have talked about him being Arab. They have said he is a Muslim and have associated Obama with being other, different, not like us, and not quite American. The Palinites who chant "USA" have a very small idea of what it is to be American...One should ask them what they think being American is? Is it being of a certain sect or religion? Is it being part of a certain ethnic group? Is it having a name like John or Sarah? Does one have to stay in a small town and not travel? Does one have to be considered a joe-six pack?Is the creed of America limited to being a small town white-christianist who does not like introspection or world cultures?

When one thinks of the views and writings of Jefferson and Paine, the thoughtfulness and courage of Lincoln, the civil rights giants from MLK to Malcolm X, and the diversity of thought and experiences in American society through the centuries I highly doubt Sarah Palin and her faction have a claim to it in totality. The immigrant experience is much closer to American history and tradition than being an isolationist who represents a faction that scorns and fears the life of others they deem different from them. Being American is about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. Period. Any type of person, culture, religion, or names for that matter can and have been a part of the American experience.

America is an idea based on the pillars of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and that is the only thing that makes one American. So next time you hear the chants USA coming from the Palinites think of the broad and diverse history of immigrants that came to this country and the African slaves who were forced across the ocean, and the many different names and cultures that have lived and died and suffered for the American ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We are all immigrants:

Becker wrote,

“The last thing man can admit to himself is that his life-ways are arbitrary: this is one of the reasons that people often show derisive glee and scorn over the ‘strange’ customs of other lands—it is a defense against the awareness that his own way of life may be just as fundamentally contrived as any other. One culture is always a potential menace to another because it is a living example that life can go on heroically without a value framework totally alien to one’s own.”
I think Becker's observation is quite relevant to the Palin mob mentality that chants USA and spews out hate toward Obama's perceived otherness as if they represented what it is to be American absolutely. It is a reaction and a defense formed from their own insecurities and weak egos. Palinism, racism and xenophobia is against the spirit and the letter of the Constitution of the United States. Sadly these factions are a part of US history but in the context of the US Constitution and American diversity it is anti-american in its spirit and perspective. Palinism is intellectually bankrupt, dishonorable, and lacks the credibility to lead America into the new century in the era of global interconnectedness.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why Obama Matters

"In politics, timing matters. And the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events... The legacy(of division) is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.
Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us."

-Andrew Sullivan

"As for Senator Obama: He has exhibited throughout a “first-class temperament,” pace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s famous comment about FDR. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books...
Obama has in him the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for."

-Christopher Buckley

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Goethe vs. the Palin Mob

"Hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture. A person hears only what they understand."

"The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes. Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise. "





"The crucial skill, scientists are now saying, is the ability to think about your own thinking, or metacognition, as it is known. Unless people vigilantly reflect on how they are making an important decision, they won't be able to properly use their instincts, or know when their gut should be ignored. Indeed, according to this emerging new vision of decision-making, the best predictor of good judgment isn't intuition or experience or intelligence. Rather, it's the willingness to engage in introspection, to cultivate what Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, calls "the art of self-overhearing...

Given the distinct talents of these different types of thought - the brain is like a Swiss army knife, stuffed full of tools - scientists argue that it's imperative for powerful decision-makers to constantly reflect on their own thought process. The best decisions occur when people take the time to study their decision-making process, and not just the decision itself. In other words, don't simply focus on the alternatives - reflect on how those alternatives are being considered. The end result is decisions that are more likely to be made in the right frame of mind.

One of the best ways for a president to maintain control of the decision-making process is to surround himself with advisers willing to criticize his decisions. "Psychologists spend a lot of time focusing on individual abilities," says Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia. "But what's even more important is the type of environment that's set up around a president. A leader who encourages a diversity of viewpoints" - and Haidt argues that presidents should fill the cabinet with advisers from both parties - "is going to make much more effective decisions."

That's also the moral of "Team of Rivals," the best-selling history of the Lincoln presidency by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She argues that it was Lincoln's ability to deal with conflicting points of view - he filled his cabinet with rival politicians with different ideologies - that made him such a remarkable president and leader. Before making a decision, Lincoln insisted on vigorous debate and discussion. Although several members of the cabinet initially assumed that Lincoln was weak-willed and indecisive, they eventually realized that his ability to tolerate dissent was an enormous asset. As Secretary of State William Seward said, 'The president is the best of us.'

Unfortunately, some scientists worry that the act of running for president discourages politicians from developing these metacognitive skills. On the campaign trail, a confession of doubt or admission of error is often instant fodder for an attack ad; equivocation has become a faux pas. As a result, politicians tend to lapse into the easy language of certainty."

-Jonah Lehrer

The Rubicon

"How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the icy Alps and in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the Little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress, grief in her face, her white hair streaming from her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare she stood before him, and sighing said:

'Where further do you march? Where do you take my standards, warriors? If lawfully you come, if as citizens, this far only is allowed.'
Then trembling struck the leader's limbs; his hair grew stiff and weakness checked his progress, holding his feet at the river's edge. At last he speaks:

'O Thunderer, surveying great Rome's walls from the Tarpeian Rock --
'O Phrygian house gods of Iulus, clan and mysteries of Quirinus who was carried off to heaven --
'O Jupiter of Latium, seated in lofty Alba and hearths of Vesta --
'O Rome, equal to the highest deity, favor my plans.

Not with impious weapons do I pursue you. Here am I, Caesar, conqueror of land and sea, your own soldier, everywhere, now, too, if I am permitted. The man who makes me your enemy -- it is he who be the guilty one.'
Then he broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Caesar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia's forbidden fields he took his stand and said:

'Here I abandon peace and desecrated law.
Fortune, it is you I follow.
Farewell to treaties.
From now on war is our judge.'
Hail, Caesar: We who are about to die salute you."

-Marcus Lucanus

"The die is cast."-Julius Caesar

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"That One"

The dehumanization of Obama by McCain/Palin is pathetic and potentially dangerous. It puts country last. Their attempt to make him into a celeb cartoon terrorist is a poison to intelligence and civility in can only hope that one month of this remains...

At a McCain rally on Monday, television stations caught audio of a crowd member calling Obama a "terrorist," while Dana Milbank reported that "one Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, 'Sit down, boy.'" Also on Monday, at a Palin rally, one member of the audience yelled, "Kill him!"

The Secret Service is following up on media reports today that someone in the crowd at a McCain/Palin event suggested killing Barack Obama, according to Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley. The shout of "kill him" followed a Sarah Palin rant...
(Huffington Post)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Not big enough for the moment

With the personal attacks on Obama becoming the main theme now for McCain and Palin the conservative writer Peggy Noonan on MSNBC stated, "It's not big enough for the moment." They are not talking about the issues that will impact the new century but rather focus on the smallness of prejudice against Barack Obama. They are not big enough for the moment and I hope the American people do not miss the moment with the politics of distraction and ignorance.

"I'm of two minds about how to deal with the McCain campaign's further descent into ugliness. Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance...It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has "credibility," we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm...In any case, this is rather rich coming from Palin, who is married to a man who belonged to a political party--the Alaskan Independence Party--that wanted to secede from the union...some of the nuttiness that passes for godliness in Palin's religious life... what a desperate empty embarrassment the McCain campaign has become."
-Joe Klein, Time

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Elitism on Fox News?

Laura Ingraham the conservative Fox News and radio broadcaster has attacked Obama several times as being elitist. This behind the scenes video of her show on Fox makes one question who the actual elitist is...

Palin Pride and Prejudice

Palin using gender and racial undercurrents to divide America for political gain...

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain's ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.

"This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America," she said. "We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism."

At a rally in California, Gov. Sarah Palin offered up a rather shallow argument for supporting the Republican ticket. "There's a place in Hell reserved for women who don't support other women," the Alaska Governor said.

Palin is no position to know what being American is in absolute terms. There is so much diversity in America to imply that she has a corner on that market is beyond reason and runs into prejudice and propaganda. Dividing Americans on gender and race is what she is doing to get her and McCain into power. It is pathetic and if they win on this type of platform it will be a disgrace to this country. How does Palin see America? No diversity? A perfect history with no slavery? America is not limited to a white christianist who lives in a small town. Only her perspective and experience is American? Look at the history of America where some of the main founders like Jefferson, Madison, Paine and Franklin were agnostic or diest. Is Palin aware of this? Are they not American to not believe and think like Palin? Jefferson and Adams traveled much in their lives, France included...should they be disqualified for that?
Thomas Paine the soldier scribe of America would not be accepted by the narrow faction that Palin represents neither Jefferson, Franklin, or Madison. None of these founders were christianists or isolationists and they were well traveled around the globe. Palin cannot relate to the present diversity of America nor its actual past.

This "I am America and you are not" is shallow and should not be respected even in the dirty game of politics.

This is the kind of prejudice that Obama has to contend with in this election...

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, conservative columnist Peggy Noonan said that the "populist" tactics being deployed by Sarah Palin was "not helpful to the country" and painted her candidacy as built on class warfare.

"She is a natural," said Noonan, "But I will tell you, I feel increased concern about... what she thinks of as populism, as her populist approach. There are two ways, you know, her stuff about, 'I'm main street, you are the elite, I'm Joe six-pack.' She actually says 'I'm the Joe six-pack candidate.' This has me thinking, gosh, would Lincoln say 'I represent the backwoods type?'Would FDR say, 'the New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun, vote for me?' There's something weird about it. But there is also something, for me, concerning. Populism as a tactic is justified often in politics. 'I need this program, the people want it.' Populism as a strategy, 'we're the good guys, you're the bad guys,' is not good. And if that's the road they are going, that's not a good road to be on. It is not helpful to the country."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Last One Left

When Primo Levi was in Auschwitz and suffering daily under Nazi brutality he felt less than human and could think of nothing but food and survival. He was losing his spirit and strength. One day there was an uprising on one side of the camp. Most of the uprising was put down and one man was brought before the camp to be hung before all as an example. This man chose to fight instead of hope for rescue or live for another day in the Nazi camp. The prisoners were brought before the man and his place of excecution. They all bowed their heads in silence and could hardly look on this man who seemed from another world.

This rebel stood before them and shouted out, "Comrades, I am the last one left!" This man exuded an energy of life force that shamed the others. He was telling them in their silence and bowed heads that when they hang him who will fill the void of the lions...only the sheep remain. Primo Levi commented that this man's words were surreal and strange to the camp. His force, his will and words had given them a moment of light and life in an ocean of death and darkness. The Nazi's proceeded to hang the man and his body wreathed and struggled till the end. When there was no more life there were still the words ringing in Primo Levi's ears, "Comrades, I am the last one left!"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Band's Visit

The characters reach out to each other in lue of their circumstances and alienation.

"Not sad. Not happy...tons of loneliness."

A quiet sound of connection in an immense indifferent universe. A blend of tragedy, comedy, solitude and the acceptance of emptiness. The human response to nihilism and desperation...expression, art, music.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Courage of Carthage

What is amazing about Hannibal of Carthage is the will and innovation it took to carry out the logistics of uniting various tribes in Europe and bringing goods, weapons, elephants, and men from North Africa to Europe and to move this spectacle across mainland Europe and over the Alps into Italy itself.
The Romans thought Hannibal would never be able to attack Rome directly with the Alps protecting their back but Hannibal overcame these obstacles with force of will and genius. An army that went through the trials and tests of this journey was more than ready and hardened to face the Roman army in Italy.
When his men were at the foot of the towering peaks of the Alps the Roman historian Livy writes of Hannibal's speech,

" aim to conquer: how can you feel that anything, however hard, however dangerous, can make you hesitate?...steel your hearts to march forward."

It is believed Hannibal took 45,000 men up the Alps and 37 elephants. By the time his army was in Italy he had lost up to 20,000 men and most of his elephants...but even after this Hannibal's hardened army faced larger Roman armies and defeated them in battle. In one of the most lethal battles in history Hannibal's men slaughtered up to 50,000 Romans in the battle of Cannae. One day of casualties that equal the many years of American casualties for the whole Vietnam War.

"We have nothing left in the world but what we can win with our swords. Timidity and cowardice are for men who can safety at their backs-who can retreat without molestation along some easy road and find refuge in the familiar fields of their native land; but they are not for you: you must be brave; for you there is no middle way between victory or death-put all hope of it from you, and either conquer, or, should fortune hesitate to favour you, meet death in battle rather than in flight.
Think on these things; carry them printed on your minds and hearts. Then-I repeat-success is already yours. God has given to man no sharper spur to victory than contempt of death."

-Hannibal Barca (Livy)

Monday, September 29, 2008


Historians talk about the influence of cities through history not just nations or borders. Babylon, Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Jerusalem, Paris, London, New York and so forth. Cities have a special importance. Dubai is a city that at this point in time is rising to influence on a global scale.

Scenes from Dubai...

Contra Palinism

Here are excerpts from an editorial from Roger Cohen that carries insight into this anti-international Palinism. Palinism versus global connectedness.

"Exceptionalism has taken an ugly twist of late. It's become the angry refuge of the America that wants to deny the real state of the world.

From an inspirational notion, however flawed in execution, that has buttressed the global spread of liberty, American exceptionalism has morphed into the fortress of those who see themselves threatened by "one-worlders" and who believe it's more important to know how to dress moose than find Mumbai.

That's Palinism, a philosophy delivered without a passport and with a view (on a clear day) of Russia.

Behind Palinism lies anger. It's been growing as America's relative decline has become more manifest in stagnant or falling incomes, imploding markets, massive debt, and rising new centers of wealth and power from Shanghai to Dubai.

The damn-the-world, God-chose-us rage of that America has sharpened as U.S. exceptionalism has become harder to square with the 21st-century world's interconnectedness. How exceptional can you be when every major problem you face, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to gas prices, requires joint action?

To persist with a philosophy grounded in America's separateness rather than its connectedness would be devastating at a time when the country faces two wars, a financial collapse unseen since 1929, commodity inflation, a huge transfer of resources to the Middle East, and the imperative to develop new sources of energy.
Enough is enough.

The basic shift from the Cold War to the New World is from MAD (mutual assured destruction) to MAC (mutual assured connectedness.)
Which brings us to the first debate Friday between Obama and McCain on foreign policy. It will pit the former's universalism against the latter's exceptionalism.

I'm going to try to make this simple. On the Democratic side you have a guy whose campaign has been based on the Internet, who believes America may have something to learn from other countries (like universal health care), and who's unafraid in 2008 to say he's a "proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world."

On the Republican side, you have a guy who, in 2008, is just discovering the Net and Google and whose number two is a woman who got a passport last year and believes she understands Russia because Alaska is closer to Siberia than Alabama.

A new century demands new thinking. "

Rome L.A.

It has been said that Rome is like Los Angeles with historic ruins. Here the statue of Giordano Bruno (the hooded friar philosopher) is surrounded by modern consumerism. The Renaissance meets modern advertising.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The McCain Problem

"Above all, the John McCain I covered in 1999-2000 was -- he said -- convinced that two factors were undermining the interests of the United States: its cultural wars, causing political gridlock in Washington and civic discontent across the land; and the unbending agenda of the right-wing of the Republican party that, in his view, had been captured by the Christian conservative movement and bore disproportionate responsibility for the poisonous state of American politics."
-Carl Bernstein

The internal culture wars in American politics are weakening the American experience at home and abroad. Palin represents McCains willingness to go the way of Karl Rove and leave his Maverick brand in shatters.

Remember what McCain said about the same people who identify with Palin? He stated,

"Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican...political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. The political tactics of division and slander are not our values, they are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country. Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right. We are the party of Ronald Reagan, not Pat Robertson. We are the party of Theodore Roosevelt, not the party of special interests.We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, not of Bob Jones...we will be a party as big as the country we serve."

The Palin pick is a direct contradiction to the McCain of those days. Instead of a party as big as the country it is as small as the faction it serves.

"Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory.
Obviously these are very serious challenges and constraints. In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true."

-Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International

Matt Damon expressed his deep concerns about the Palin pick that more people are coming to grips with...

"She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.”

-David Brooks

The Palin Problem

The Republicans and Palin make fun of cosmopolitan yet when America has such reach into the world it would not be a bad thing to have leaders who have a deep understanding in various areas on the globe. At least an interest. What is troubling about Palin is her disinterest in foreign affairs and her snide remarks about people who care about global experience as if being globally aware is unamerican. Running on ignorance as a virtue can only be a political ploy not a serious reason to be a leader. Palin represents a very specific identity group(conservative christianist)that prides itself in being certain on everything with no need for evidence and has a very small definition on what it means to be American... her leadership would be limited to that faction. But even in that faction Palin is below the standard because there are christianists who at least show an interest and a working knowledge in international relations. In the age of globalization Palin would be a problem not just for the world but for America itself.

The Katie Couric interview is very revealing. Saturday Night Live did its job in responding to the interview with art imitating life.

Kathleen Parker, a conservative writer for the National Review, stated, "Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there’s not much content there...If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."

Palin claims she understands the world by reading not by traveling or when pressed by Katie Couric what she reads to supplement her lack of experience she is not able to reference one source...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Giordano Bruno

"Giordano was born five years after Copernicus died. He had bequeathed an intoxicating idea to the generation that was to follow him. We hear a lot in our own day about the expanding universe. The thought of the Infinity of the Universe was one of the great stimulating ideas of the Renaissance... He suffered a cruel death and achieved a unique martyr's fame. He has become the Church's most difficult alibi. She can explain away the case of Galileo with suave condescension. Bruno sticks in her throat."

-Dr. John Kessler

The Catholic Church condemned this Renaissance thinker and in 1600 burned him alive. Still the Church does not fully own up to its reactionary brutality against the philosopher friar more valuable than a hundred of their popes who have at times been small, greedy, and impotent representatives of the Nazarene they claim to serve. Before he was taken to his place of execution the jailers stopped his tongue with a leather gag and set him on a mule. Today Giordano Bruno's statue faces the Vatican and his passion for knowledge and intellectual fortitude should not be forgotten in the flames at the hands of an insecure institution. He was against the small world of the Catholic hierarchy and for the great expansive universe. He stood up to a stale and stagnant order that no longer served human progress but only its earthly king.

"I fought, and that's a lot. I thought I could win ... but nature and luck curbed my endeavour. But it's already something that I took up the struggle, because I see that victory is in the hands of Fate. In me was what was possible and what no future century will be able to deny to me: what a winner could give from his own; that I did not fear death, that I did not submit, my face firm, to anyone of my breed; that I preferred courageous death to pavid life."

- Giordano Bruno

Friday, September 26, 2008

Out of Africa

Scientists have traced the path of human migrations through DNA and the human ancestry process started in East Africa. Africa is our common geographic origin.

"Almost all our DNA-99.9 percent of the three billion letters, or nucleotides, that make up the human genome-is the same from person to person."
-Scientific American

"There is no race. What we see from the standpoint of genetics is geographical gradients. There are no sharp differences between Europeans and Asians. From Ireland to Japan, there is no sharp boundary where something has changed completely."