Monday, January 31, 2005

poor man's speedball

Beer + caffeine = "Drunk -- but not in a stupor"

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Eric Maisel's new book will help you unleash your creativity

Eric Maisel's latest book is Coaching the Artist Within, set to be published in February, available for pre-ordering at now. If it's as good as his previous books, this one will be worth reading, too. Here's the publisher's description:
Coaching the Artist Within contains a dozen simple lessons. Eric Maisel, a leading creativity coach, writes each one with a novelist's flair, as a narrative complete with examples, exercises, and questions to help readers explore and reflect on underlying issues that may be keeping them from pursuing their urge to create. Topics include committing, planning and doing, generating mental energy, achieving a centered presence, becoming an anxiety expert, upholding your dream, and maintaining a creative life. Maisel has worked extensively with creative people - poets, filmmakers, novelists, dancers - and he revisits some of them in coaching sessions in San Francisco, Paris, London, and New York. Typical are the rock musician who wants to pursue a solo career and the screenwriter anxious to become a poet. Their examples both entertain and instruct, outlining how to discover one's personal muse - and the motivation to keep creating.

Maisel's web site is worth checking out, too.

Friday, January 28, 2005

AWOL yesterday for a variety of reasons. But, I'm back in the saddle again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Keeping up with Social Security news coverage

The Center for Economic Policy and Research is doing a great job of summarizing and analyzing ongoing news coverage of the Bush push to gut Social Security. CEPR also collects this coverage in a free weekly email newsletter, the Social Security Reporting Review. Subscribe to it, and CEPR's other fine email newswletters here, including: the weekly ERR (Economic Reporting Review) in which Dean Baker of CEPR evaluates the economic reporting in the New York Times and Washington Post; Mark Weisbrot's weekly column; and Data Bytes (Economic Data Analysis) in which CEPR economists analyze the latest releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on unemployment and prices, and from the Commerce Department on GDP (gross domestic product).

[cross-posted from Minding Everybody's Business, the blog that looks "behind the Business pages"]

R.I.P. Thomas Crapper

Turns out he didn't invent the eponymous bathroom waste-removal device as legend claims, but Crapper, who died on this date in 1910, is remembered as a fine salesman of plumbing products. Al Tompkins has the details in his Morning Meeting column today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

telephonitis on a global (village) scale

The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

John Perry Barlow tells a heart-warming techno-tale about how Internet telephone technology makes the global village a more intimate place.

More communication is a good thing, but I still have my doubts. Even in a best-case scenario as Barlow describes, don't we still wind up in front of our computer screens, talking into the aether, isolated?

Monday, January 24, 2005

escape from the universe

It's going to take something stronger than alcohol or opiate or entheogen, judging from physicist Michio Kaku's fascinating speculations:
....the death of the entire universe seems inescapable. So on some day in the far future, the last star will cease to shine, and the universe will be littered with nuclear debris, dead neutron stars and black holes. Intelligent civilisations, like homeless people in rags huddled next to dying campfires, will gather around the last flickering embers of black holes emitting a faint Hawking radiation.

....Although the concept of leaving our dying universe to enter another seems utterly mad, there is no law of physics forbidding entering a parallel universe. Einstein's general relativity theory allows for the existence of "wormholes" or gateways connecting parallel universes, sometimes called "Einstein-Rosen bridges." it all to find out how to find out what's at the other end of the wormhole before you try to use it to escape: Escape from the universe by Michio Kaku, Prospect, February 2005 issue

Sunday, January 23, 2005

the age of the meaningless close-up

Lillian Gish

What is undeniable and increasingly unavoidable is that plastic surgery is altering one of the greatest landscapes in cinema: the human face. Jean Renoir loved the close-ups of the silent era, because of what he believed they revealed "about the inward life of the idealized woman." But close-ups also reveal the outward life of the idealized woman and as such can also betray the ideal. The great silent auteur D. W. Griffith didn't invent the close-up, but he perfected the technique and in doing so gave us the gift of faces like those of Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Griffith seemed to know that, and in a 1918 film he softened the edges in the close-ups of Gish because the star, then in her early 20's, was considered old for one of his heroines.

The great Hollywood studios were built on stars and the cults of beauty and youth that rose around them. It's worth noting that the rise of the classical studio star system parallels the increased acceptance and use of the close-up, which was not a popular technique until after the mid-teens. (As Griffith put it, "the feet can't act.") At least one critic has argued that DVD and video have fostered another boom in close-ups, but such real and extended shots seem rare in contemporary Hollywood. Not only because few filmmakers fix on an image for more than a few seconds, but also because many famous faces cannot withstand such detailed attention. These faces suggest that the digital avatars so beloved by cinematic technocrats will be able to replace the human actor more easily than some of us imagined. it all: One Word for What's Happening to Actors' Faces Today: Plastics by Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 23 January 2005

antiwar movement in transition

[photo: Freeway Blogger]

For opponents of President Bush, who took to the streets on Thursday to protest his inauguration, the war in Iraq presents the greatest political and moral failing of his administration.

Yet despite their momentary visibility last week, antiwar activists are searching for fresh ways to take advantage of the war's unpopularity with the American people, roughly half of whom, polls say, consider the occupation of Iraq to be a costly mistake.

"We're at a difficult phase," concedes Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a women's peace group. "It was easier to mobilize people before the war. Now, many people have fallen into thinking that we can't just cut and run."

....This sense that only the president can end the war is partly a problem of the antiwar movement's own making. Activists bet the farm on defeating him in November, on the premise that the quickest way out of Iraq was to get Bush out of the White House.

But John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, threw a monkey wrench into these plans by not calling for immediate withdrawal or even opposing the war outright -- even though, in the spring of last year, polls showed that nearly half of the Democratic voters not only opposed the war but favored immediate withdrawal.

Kerry argued that he could prosecute the war more effectively than Bush, which opponents of the war took to mean a quicker exit.

But Kerry's approach essentially removed the antiwar agenda from the election campaign, robbing war opponents of a great deal of valuable buzz.

"The elections stole everyone's last ounce of energy," says Gene Buskin, co-convener of U.S. Labor Against the War, the leading union antiwar group. "In the end, Kerry wasn't able to ignite opposition to the war," and the election proved to be a missed opportunity.

The antiwar movement has been slow to recover after Bush's victory, but with the run-up to elections in Iraq throwing the spotlight on the dire condition of the U.S. position on the ground, opponents of the war see fresh opportunities for dissent in the coming months.

With the achievement of Bush's goals for the war apparently growing more elusive, critics see fresh opportunities for antiwar agitation. Protesters are gearing up for major action on March 19, the second anniversary of the war.

....antiwar leaders are quietly accepting that opposition to the Iraq war is taking a different, and probably less fervent form from the mother of all antiwar movements, the opposition to the Vietnam War, which reached its peak in the early 1970s.

"The war is controversial, but it isn't touching people as much as Vietnam," says James Lafferty, director of the National Lawyers Guild's Los Angeles office. "There's no draft, and people haven't realized the cost to the U.S. economy yet," he adds.

The absence of a nationwide draft has undercut resistance to the Iraq war. But there may be other reasons for Americans' relative apathy.

Maybe this war is so obviously a mistake that an antiwar movement is redundant. Maybe many people who oppose the war are thinking to themselves: This war can't go on much longer, it is unsustainable, even many Republicans say the war is a cruel folly -- so why protest against it?

Under the circumstances, maybe Americans who might otherwise take to the streets are concluding that it is simply bad manners to jeer at Bush from the sidelines, shouting "Out now!" when the limits of U.S. military power are daily being so dramatically exposed in Iraq....

Maybe the antiwar movement has outlived its usefulness because it has already won the argument over Iraq. it all: Antiwar activists fail to press their cause
Discontent on Iraq lacks white-hot heat of the Vietnam era
by G. Pascal Zachary, San Francisco Chronicle, 23 January 2005

Saturday, January 22, 2005

"Can democracy be nurtured by destroying cities, by bombing, by driving people from their homes?"

. . . asks Howard Zinn, in Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home, an essay worth reading.

Friday, January 21, 2005


Sewer plant manager Doug employs predator to preempt pigeon poop problem.

[cross-posted from "every Doug has his day"]

Warning: journalism is bad for your health

According to Beijing Today:
Checks of 1,182 reporters in Beijing conducted by the Chinese Physician's Association on Sunday showed that only 28, or 2.4% of them, were healthy.

Stomach problems were the most common ailments of the tested journalists, all of whom were under 60 years old.

Results of the checks point the finger for the reporters' poor health at occupational stress. Among the people examined, 84.2% said they sufferd from chronic exhaustion, 72.1% complained of high work pressure, 62% said they did not get regular sleep, half had bad eyesight and nearly the same number were in chronic pain.

However, over 60% of them admitted it was the first time they had undergone a full-body physical test.

The 659 female journalists checked fared poorly. More than 290 suffered breast disease and over 30% had gynecological conditions, mostly the result of high pressure, nervous tension and unbalanced living patterns. The majority of the women were unaware of their health problems before the examinations.

Liang Wannian, vice director general of the Beijing Health Bureau advised all local journalists to regularly receive health examinations and build personal "health archives."

Reporters should also pay attention to their psychological health, get regular exercise, avoid foods hard to dist, minimize smoking and drinking and take vacations when they felt overwhelmed by work, Liang said.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

US soldiers ordered to serve as apololgists for the Bush Administration's failed Iraq war strategy

We've seen the spectacle of US soldiers telling their unofficial Iraq stories through blogs - now they're receiving media training to make sure they stay on the same page when they talk to the media, according to a story in Editor & Publisher:
As the U.S. military approaches nearly two years in the Iraq conflict, media training for soldiers going into the war zone has been stepped up, becoming mandatory for Army troops since October, E&P has learned.

"Talking point" cards for military personnel, meanwhile, are being updated regularly as the war progresses -- often as much as once a week -- to keep up with the conflict's changing issues and the proximity of embedded reporters. Among the current talking points: "We are a values-based, people-focused team that strives to uphold the dignity and respect of all."

Soldiers preparing for deployment in hostile or critical areas have received some kind of media training in handling press inquiries since as far back as the first Persian Gulf War, according to several military press officers. Such training has also included pocket cards with suggested talking points for the combatants, which advise them how best to promote the military operation and avoid awkward or confrontational interviews.

....The media training consists of one or two hours of briefings by public-affairs specialists from the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md. In the past, such training was provided only to those Army units who requested it, according to Sgt. Don Dees, an Army spokesman based at the Baghdad press center. But, since October, it has become a mandatory requirement for all deploying Army troops.

"The Army just recently made it a common soldier task; it is one of the requirements they go through," Dees said. "It is in our best interest to provide them that training."

While the Marine Corps has made such training a requirement for years, it has taken on more importance in recent months as well. "There is more heightened awareness with this particular conflict," Capt. Landis told E&P, referring to the Iraq operation. "It has taken a higher priority."

During training, soldiers are urged to speak with the press as a way of promoting the positive elements of the operation, but not to lie or speak about issues with which they are not familiar. it all, including the specific talking-points they are being ordered to deliver: Media Training Now Required for Iraq-Bound Soldiers by Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, 18 January 2005

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wangs in the State Department

"People are still using Wangs in the State Department. Not that there's anything wrong with Wangs ..." --Condoleeza Rice

The first computer I used was a Wang word processor, at Miller Freeman Publications in San Francisco, on staff for World Mining and World Coal, two monthly magazines, 1982. We had a special room - with an inner-sanctum feel - with a couple of Wang workstations wired up to a minicomputer.

Monday, January 17, 2005

straight talk

Today's Boston Globe:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy said yesterday that President Bush's Iraq policy is "ridiculous" and disputed Bush's statement that the 2004 reelection validated the war. Iraq is ''Bush's Vietnam," Kennedy said.

i have a dream

As published in Counterpunch, 17 January 2005:
Where Lip Service is Not an Option
Martin Luther King and the Christian Left

by Greg Moses

All religions, said Simone de Beauvoir, have "embarrassing flexibility on a basis of rigid concepts." Practitioners and believers who swear to core principles find themselves fighting each other from opposite extremes of the political spectrum.

At the time she said it, in the second chapter of The Second Sex, Beauvoir had three great religions in mind: Christianity, Marxism, and Psychoanalysis. In each case there were right wingers and left wingers then, and in each case there are right and left wingers still.

Today, as we blow out 76 candles to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., I am thinking that in a nation where 79 percent of the people believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, there is no good reason not to imagine the possibility of a revived and renewed Christian left.

My thoughts today are drawn to fresh reflections on the New Year's day activism of Chicago trainees for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), who challenged a toy store on the question of marketing violent video games. The activists are training to go to places like Hebron, Colombia, Iraq, and Grassy Narrows, Ontario, where epidemics of violence rip through bodies and forests alike.

But the CPT action is less than half of what's on my mind this morning. I'm more concerned about what happens in a country that is 80 percent Christian when left activists refuse to pay attention to the Christian left, simply because it is Christian. In terms of hardball shrewdness, if nothing else, a leftist rejection of the Christian left in America is a certified guarantee of defeat.

As King once warned bourgeois America that we must not be afraid to say that Du Bois was a Communist, so we might warn the American left: we must not be afraid to remember that King was a Christian.

Paco Michelson, a CPT trainee from Huntington, Indiana, tells me by telephone that he has played "all the games" that he was protesting against on New Year's Day. He was the one who pretended to play video games upon a coffin, as activists read the names of Americans and Iraqis killed in war.

"I still think the games are fun," says Michelson. But as a matter of social conscience, he also thinks it would be better if these killing games, rated M for Mature and singled out for violent content, were not sold as toys.

Michelson understands how the image of Christian inspectors is bound to make folks wary. What CPT did in Chicago, taking things off shelves, looks a lot like censorship. But on this birthday of King, our great national icon of nonviolence, we have to demand an answer to the question: so what are we doing about our cultural addictions to violence? especially as the consequences of that sickness are so clearly played out in the body counts of Iraq?

"It's a conflicting issue for Americans, our addiction to violence," says Michelson. "I don't think it's a very popular thing to think about." He wrote the CPT press release that claimed a "direct connection between ongoing violence in the Middle East and the impact of violent toys on children."

Amy Knickrehm served as emcee for the street theater, orchestrating readers who called off the names of people killed: three Iraqis for every American. Knickrehm explains that the ratio of Iraqi to American casualties of war is actually closer to a hundred to one, but the group wanted to cover the names of Illinois natives killed, and if they had read 100 Iraqi names each time, it would have been a very long day.

Although Knickrehm has many friends who play the video games, and although she sees no effects that the games have on her friends, she thinks that keeping the more violent games away from kids is something that her friends would support.

Seven years ago, Knickrehm joined one of the peace churches, the Church of the Brethren, partly because she kept seeing the red baseball caps on the heads of Brethren activists at Chicago street actions. For peace churches such as The Brethren, Anabaptists, Mennonites, or Quakers, a commitment to pacifism goes back to the time of Menno Simons (1536-1561) for whom the Mennonites are named. But that is another story.

What's crucial for today, King's birthday, is a reminder to the American left that there are some Christians who have been persistently organized against war for more than 400 years, and they have often been as isolated as they were two weeks ago when they asked a toy store to stop selling war games to children.

When the living King talks about nonviolence, he has a radical and comprehensive vision about a global way of life. For King, the education of our children is seamlessly connected to the violence of our war zones. Toy stores are socially and morally intertwined with Falluja and Hebron. And King often expresses that vision in the language of his Christian faith.

Today, on his birthday, as we survey the eighty percent of Americans who subscribe to Christian concepts, the left cannot afford to ignore those who have never just paid lip service to King.

Greg Moses is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime's Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at:

Saturday, January 15, 2005

"a frozen, orange world shrouded in a methane-rich haze"

Huygens probe (photo: Reuters)

Data sent back by the Huygens space probe from the Saturnian moon Titan show a frozen, orange world shrouded in a methane-rich haze with dark ice rocks dotting a riverbed-like surface the consistency of wet sand, scientists said on Saturday. ....One reading from an instrument protruding from the front of the saucer-shaped craft to gauge how deeply it penetrated upon impact suggested that the moon's surface was the consistency of wet sand or clay. "We think this is a material which may have a thin crust, followed by a region of relatively uniform consistency," John Zarnecki, the scientist in charge of experiments on Titan's surface said at a televised news conference from the control center in Germany. Zarnecki said one of his colleagues had suggested another analogy: creme brulee.

Fun to read a description like that in the news instead of a science fiction story. "Gold-orange surface." I love it.

Friday, January 14, 2005


Sparks fly when city council member Doug advocates letting homeowners do their own electrical wiring.

[cross-posted from, where "every Doug has his day"]

Biblical support for conscientious objection

Conscientious objection rests on the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian heritage, argues Laura Duhan Kaplan in a Tikkun article, Rabbinic Concepts and Contemporary Conscientious Objection:
The building blocks of the discussion on conscientious objection are found in Deuteronomy 20, which presents rules for the ethical conduct of war, including draft exemptions, peace negotiations, treatment of noncombatants, and environmental preservation. The narrative that frames the Book of Deuteronomy recounts Moses the Lawgiver instructing the assembled Israelites on the laws of warfare shortly before their invading army enters the land of Canaan, an invasion dated approximately 1200 bce by archeologists. Some critical Biblical scholars date Deuteronomy to the seventh century bce during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. They read II Kings 22-23 as suggesting that King Josiah hired a scribe to describe his program of religious reform as if it were the original law of Moses, and then staged an important archeological "discovery" of a pseudo-ancient scroll. Whether we read Deuteronomy as Moses' words or as Josiah's, it is likely that these laws are not meant to be theoretical or metaphorical, but are to govern the actual conduct of national military campaigns.

Deuteronomy 20:5-8 focuses on exemptions from military service. Discussions by traditionally oriented Jewish scholars attempt first to determine which principles guide the exemptions and then when the exemptions apply.

Kaplan's article is worth reading in full, a welcome correctio to the notion promulgated by some fundamentalist Christians that God backs the US war in Iraq thus opposition to the war is ungodly, although Kaplan's article more directly addresses Israel's refuseniks.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian]

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Andy Borowitz gets it right in his column today:
Just hours after confirming that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was over, President George W. Bush leveled his harshest charge ever at Saddam Hussein, accusing the former Iraqi dictator of “knowingly telling the truth” about not possessing WMD in the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

“After years of lying about his weapons, Saddam Hussein willfully decided to tell the truth about them,” Mr. Bush said. “His treachery knows no bounds.” it all: Bush Accuses Saddam of Telling Truth: Evildoer Knowingly Came Clean on WMD’s, President Charges

It would be hilarious if so many people weren't dying and suffering in Bush's misguided war on Iraq.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

the compassion center

We have a story today about helping the homeless -- not in South Asia, but here at home. It's about a church in Bloomington, Illinois that decided to build a center for the homeless before it built a new sanctuary for itself. An energetic pastor led the way, which required an unusual church, union, business, and government coalition. it all: The Compassion Center, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian]


Shop owner Doug surprises burglar with 12-gauge shotgun and a voice like a drill sergeant.

[cross-posted from]

feral cities

Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power. Such cities have been routinely imagined in apocalyptic movies and in certain science-fiction genres, where they are often portrayed as gigantic versions of T. S. Eliot’s Rat’s Alley. Yet this city would still be globally connected. It would possess at least a modicum of commercial linkages, and some of its inhabitants would have access to the world’s most modern communication and computing technologies. It would, in effect, be a feral city. it all: Feral Cities by Richard Norton. Worth reading, but too bad that Norton, in setting up a system to rate the health of cities as they degenerate toward feral status, doesn't consider deomocratic government a critical marker. A chewing-gum free Singapore is to be preferred over a messier place with a free press, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A former co-author on the project attacks the just-published The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C.A. Tripp, unfolding a tale of alleged plagiarism and editorial intrigue:
Simon & Schuster was in a terrible bind. Should it scrap Tripp's tainted first chapter and thereby cripple the book, or should it repeat its embarrassing Goodwin history by knowingly printing stolen words? In the end, the publisher did both: Tripp's version of "What Stuff!" was scrapped in favor of a rewrite and the book still contained borrowed words.

"IF YOU DON'T STOP MAKING A STINK about Tripp's book, I'm going to expose you as an enormous homophobe," Larry Kramer telephoned me to say last October. "For the sake of humanity, please, gays need a role model." I replied that the book was so bad, it would backfire on the homosexual movement when reviewers and readers caught on to the fabrications, contradictions, and general nuttiness of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. it all: Broken Promises, Plagiarism, Misused Evidence and the New Gay Lincoln Book Published by the Free Press, by Philip Nobile, History News Network, 10 January 2005

today's question

Why are There No Fundraisers for the Iraqi Dead? asks Terry Jones in a column originally published in The Guardian:

I am bewildered by the world reaction to the tsunami tragedy. Why are newspapers, television and politicians making such a fuss? Why has the British public forked out more than £100m to help the survivors, and why is Tony Blair now promising "hundreds of millions of pounds"? Why has Australia pledged £435m and Germany £360m? And why has Mr Bush pledged £187m?

Of course it's wonderful to see the human race rallying to the aid of disaster victims, but it's the inconsistency that has me foxed. Nobody is making this sort of fuss about all the people killed in Iraq, and yet it's a human catastrophe of comparable dimensions.

According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq, the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale of the carnage.

I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Falluja, breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory.

Nor are Blair and Bush falling over each other to show they recognize the scale of the disaster in Iraq. On the contrary, they have been doing their best to conceal the numbers killed.

When the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated the figure of 100,000 killed in Iraq and published their findings in one of the world's leading scientific journals, the Lancet, Downing Street questioned their methodology, saying "the researchers used an extrapolation technique, which they considered inappropriate, rather than a detailed body count". Of course "a detailed body count" is the one thing the US military will not allow anyone to do.

What is so odd is the way in which so much of the media has fallen into line, downplaying the only authoritative estimate of casualties in Iraq with the same unanimity with which they have impressed upon us the death toll of the tsunami.

One of the authors of the forenamed report, Dr Gilbert Burnham, said: "Our data have been back and forth between many reviewers at the Lancet and here in the school, so we have the scientific strength to say what we have said with great certainty."

So, are deaths caused by bombs and gunfire less worthy of our pity than deaths caused by a giant wave? Or are Iraqi lives less worth counting than Indonesian, Thai, Indian and Swedish?

Why aren't our TV companies and newspapers running fundraisers to help Iraqis whose lives have been wrecked by the invasion? Why aren't they screaming with outrage at the man-made tsunami that we have created in the Middle East? It truly is baffling.

Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python. His book Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror is published this month by the Nation

intelligent design

Bruce Prescott, sounding intelligent over at Mainstream Baptist:
I happen to believe that an 'Intelligence' (God) created the universe and that it is 'well designed' (good). That, however, is a conclusion drawn by faith. It has nothing to do with the political wedge issue concocted by right-wing Christians in an attempt to force public schools to teach their brand of religion as science.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian]

Monday, January 10, 2005

finding God in Washington D.C.

Gingrich Finds God in Washington but Post journalist has to settle for Gingrich interview.


(photo: Iowa State)

Gardener Doug says lady bugs have been stinking up the joint for the past couple of months.

[cross-posted from DougDay]

Progressive Christian Bloggers Network:
Welcome folks to the Progressive Christian Blogger Network - a home for a more progressive Christianity rooted in biblical faith. We are a very loose network of like-minded bloggers who share a common Christian ethos and a common blog-roll.

This is a very open and loose network - no theological creeds or doctrinal statements, no dues or obligation, representing a diversity of traditions of historic Christianity. But if you identify with a more progressive Christianity, rooted in a politics of Jesus and of the cross, or if you increasingly find your self, as a Christian, to be a "resident alien" living in country that thinks its God's gift to the world, you probably know who you are, you probably blog about these things, and perhaps some good could come from networking together.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian]

Sunday, January 09, 2005

headline of the day

Rats Show Off Language skills

The headline merits the superlative even after learning that the article is not about neocon talking heads on the Tube defending the Bush Administration's torture policies.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

headline of the day

Firm Says It Collected Brains Ethically $1,500 a pop.

Still trying to come to terms with the news that Brad and Jen are breaking up after 7 years.

doing God's work

David Dyson has been doing God's work for decades. Pastor of the landmark Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Dyson worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, toiled as an organizer in the labor movement for years, and later co-founded the National Labor Committee in Support of Democracy and Human Rights in Central America, a group of 20 national unions working for peace and trade union rights in war-torn Central America.

Dyson argues that if we are going to build a progressive religious base, we need to organize at the congregational (grassroots) level instead of adopting a top-heavy, celebrity clergy model. He knows, as he told me, that "this is hard old-fashioned work...But if the work continues the way it is going, we will once again cede the field to the right...Sorry to be so ornery about this but as a pastor, and a former organizer, I feel rather passionate" about the changes progressives need to make. it all: Rev. Dyson's Organizing Wisdom, The Nation, 7 January 2005; includes link to recent speech by Rev. Dyson.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement]

March 19 anti-war demonstration to support the troops & their families

Families of some U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq plan a strong protest to mark the second anniversary of the invasion. The group 'Military Families Speak Out' will hold a demonstration in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in the United States March 19. it all:U.S. Military Families Bring Help by Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist from Anchorage, Alaska who has spent 7 of the last 12 months reporting from inside occupied Iraq. Read Jamail's devastating article on the devastation in Iraq at, too.

Jamail asks an important question:
What I wonder is, will I be writing a piece next January still called, "Iraq: The Devastation," in which these last terrible months of 2004 (of which the first half of the year was but a foreshadowing) will prove in their turn but a predictive taste of horrors to come? And what then of 2006 and 2007?

Friday, January 07, 2005

urban gorilla

Through the use of posters, stencils, stickers and apparel, we aim to rally skateboarders and artists alike to "Reclaim The Streets!"

... read it all: The Urban Guerilla Projekt - An Explanation, at the always-interesting Wooster Collective.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 368:
Well, what it is--is? what's "is"?--is that King Kong, or some creature closely allied, squatting down, evidently just, taking a shit, right in the street! and everything! a-and being ignored, by truckload after truckload of Russian enlisted men in pisscutter caps and dazed smiles, grinding right on by--"Hey!" Slothrop wants to shout, "hey lookit that giant ape? or whatever it is. You guys? Hey . . ." But he doesn't, luckily. On closer inspection, the crouching monster turns out to be the Reichstag building, shelled out, airbrushed, fire-brushed powdery black on all blastward curves and projections, chalked over its hard-echoing carbon insides with Cyrillic initials, and many names of comrades killed in May.

Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?, The New York Times Book Review
28 October 1984, pp. 1, 40-41:
There is a long folk history of this figure, the Badass. He is usually male, and while sometimes earning the quizzical tolerance of women, is almost universally admired by men for two basic virtues: he Is Bad, and he is Big. Bad meaning not morally evil, necessarily, more like able to work mischief on a large scale. What is important here is the amplifying of scale, the multiplication of effect.

[cross-posted from, "juxtaposing contemporary texts with passages from the works of Thomas Pynchon, following links between our world and his art"]

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Mark Prescott, Mainstream Baptist:
Mark my words -- the day this administration re-institutes a compulsory draft that could force my children to serve in its unjust, pre-emptive war in Iraq, will be the day that I begin devoting every free, waking moment to some form of peaceful, civil disobedience.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"]

why does religon news coverage leave so much to be desired?

Not enough experienced religion reporters. That's the simple answer from Julia Duin in her article, Help Wanted on the Religion Beat, today at Poynter Online.

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"]

"we are all torturers now"

Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzales himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Americans began torturing prisoners, and they have never really stopped. However much these words have about them the ring of accusation, they must by now be accepted as fact. From Red Cross reports, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's inquiry, James R. Schlesinger's Pentagon-sanctioned commission and other government and independent investigations, we have in our possession hundreds of accounts of "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment - to use a phrase of the Red Cross - "tantamount to torture."

....what we are unlikely to hear, given the balance of votes in the Senate, are many voices making the obvious argument that with this record, Mr. Gonzales is unfit to serve as attorney general. So let me make it: Mr. Gonzales is unfit because the slow river of litigation is certain to bring before the next attorney general a raft of torture cases that challenge the very policies that he personally helped devise and put into practice. He is unfit because, while the attorney general is charged with upholding the law, the documents show that as White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales, in the matter of torture, helped his client to concoct strategies to circumvent it. And he is unfit, finally, because he has rightly become the symbol of the United States' fateful departure from a body of settled international law and human rights practice for which the country claims to stand. it all: We Are All Torturers Now by Mark Danner in today's New York Times
You know how bad the situation is when the president's choice for attorney general has to formally pledge not to support torture anymore. it all: Don't Torture Yourself (That's His Job) by Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times

Watching the Gonzales confirmation hearings this morning, it seems clear the man still believes that torture is the American way, when the President wants it that way.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

How to thrive in 2005, part 2

by Doug Millison for

In response to my column yesterday, How to thrive in 2005, my partner Tom Foremski comments:
I'm very optimisitic that professional journalistic practices will now become more widely known and practiced because of blogging and bloggers. And I predict that the term blogging will lose much meaning. In the same way that the "new economy" turned out to be the "economy," blogging is journalism and it is subject to the same rules that define the quality of journalism. But there will be much confusion in the meantime ;-)

Can't disagree with that, but . . .

I like the term "citizen journalists" and agree that this term, as well as "blogger," is likely to fade. "Journalist" will continue to serve, adding another layer of meaning as this new publishing medium - the so-called "blogosphere" (ugly word) - becomes familiar terrain.

Whatever you call them, the challenge for these people, as they come online to tell their stories and share their opinions, will be to adopt best journalistic practices, honestly and with integrity, and not imitate the mainstream journalists, in the business and general reader press, who have degraded the profession by passing along government and business propaganda without questioning, investigating, and putting it in context.

It will be very interesting to watch major publishing and broadcast organizations continue to respond and adapt to the blog movement. These organizations have already become, in my opinion, so involved in the strategies of their corporate owners that it is often difficult to find honest reporting in their products.

Adopting the trappings of the feisty, independent blogosphere may help mainstream publishers and broadcasters win back some of the trust they've lost in recent years, initially at least, but I fear that these organizations will use the blog format as just another vehicle to continue disseminating the products of their compromised journalistic approach.

The field seems open for honest journalists - whether they come from traditional settings or from the ranks of bloggers - to use the Web to report stories that the mainstream press (technology, business, or general reader) ignores, and to correct the misconceptions and deceptions of the mainstream press.

Nowhere will this have more impact than in Silicon Valley.

We've already seen the effect of bloggers making an end run around corporate PR organizations to report news of new products and technologies, personnel moves, mergers and acquisitions, criminal investigations and other legal actions. This activity will continue to increase.

Companies (and their public relations contractors) must assume that, sooner rather than later, everybody in Silicon Valley (I refer to both the strict geographic and less literal meanings of that appellation) is going to know, more or less, everything about what they are doing.

What was once whispered (if it didn't make it into print, and if it was really interesting it usually did) around Silicon Valley water coolers is now published - by bloggers, then picked up by the technology business and general reader press if the story warrants such coverage.

What does that kind of exposure do to a corporate communications program?

Politicians and government policy makers have discovered that, over time, cover-ups and deception and efforts to mislead the public generally don't work.

Can Silicon Valley executives maintain control through more robust enforcement of confidentiality agreements and employment contracts? Among a worker population increasingly made up of part-timers, independent contractors, and outsourced employees thousands of miles away from corporate HQ? Can they keep a lid on news, bad and good, at least for the next few weeks, quarters, over the life of a multi-year CEO contract?

I don't think so.

The trick will be to adopt communications strategies that take for granted full disclosure of bad news as well as good, and that finds in the emerging network of "citizen journalists" an opportunity to build trust and thus win respect and loyalty from customers and other business partners.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How to thrive in 2005

My latest column:

I was going to write a column about trends to expect in 2005, then decided not to bother. If you haven't already read at least one column predicting what's hot in 2005, chances are you're not looking to read one.

Without sounding too world-weary I hope, may I gently suggest that in 2005 we're all going to struggle with the same set of challenges this year that we've faced every January: threats to survival (think tsunami if you live in view of the ocean, terrorist strikes and war no matter where you live, and a range of horrors that can happen anywhere) and everything else.

Closer to our Silicon Valley home, by now we all know that blogs are the next big thing, online shopping and advertising are booming, traditional media are under pressure, and competition in technology business is fiercer than ever. These trends, with facts and figures to support them, have dominated technology business news so far this week and the weeks since before I went on holiday...and have done so for years.

I just re-read an article I wrote in 1999, The Journalist of the Future, and was pleasantly surprised to see how, despite a headline that just begged to be ridiculed as soon as it was published, I managed to get a few things right.

Online shopping and advertising were booming back then - according virtually every technology business publication, as judged within the context of then-current expectations. Since that time, a small pie has gotten a lot larger.

I also asked, "In a Matt Drudge world where anybody can publish a Web page and disseminate information by e-mail, where journalists join lawyers and politicians as the professionals least trusted by the public, do we even need professional journalists anymore?"

In the world of overheated blogger expectations, that question has been answered with a resounding Yes.

Professional journalists are beginning to see the light, too, with an avant-garde boldly coming out in favor of long as bloggers follow professional journalistic practices and ethics.

A kind of "damn the contradictions, full speed ahead" approach, if you stop to think about it.

Battle-hardened and cynical as I was back in '99, even I didn't expect that professional journalists could fall any lower in public opinion. Media coverage of the recent U.S. Presidential campaign, election, and vote count aftermath disabused me of that notion.

But, I did forsee the current discussion regarding the blogosphere's encroachment on mainstream media turf:
To the extent that non-professional Internet publishers fail to gain this trust, by proving themselves reliable over time, they will remain marginalized, mere bits and bubbles in the Internet's digital flood. They will pose no threat to professional journalists.

To the extent that non-professionals acquire the skills and follow the processes that distinguish reliable, professional journalists and publications, the non-professionals will tend to become in many ways indistinguishable from professional journalists. The emergence of trusted Web-based publications created by people without formal training as journalists but who have acquired solid journalistic tools and skills illustrates this convergence.

One can't miss observation is that in 2005 corporations, governments, other institutions, and individuals will find ways to use the Web as they use the rest of the media: to transmit propaganda to their target audiences, earn profits, and otherwise implement their agendas.

Still up in the air: will the new wave of "citizen journalists" now flogging their blogs avoid the pitfalls that eroded trust in their professional predecessors?

Clue: the biggest pitfall is unquestioning acceptance of propaganda from leaders and authorities (including company executives and even alpha bloggers) and the subsequent repetition of said propaganda without sufficient research and reporting to put it in proper perspective or to correct any mistakes or untruths it might contain.

That's what put professional journalists in a position to be ridiculed and scorned by bloggers.

That's what threatens to put bloggers (or "citizen journalists" or whatever you want to call them) in the same position today, if they continue to pass along unsubstantiated rumors, misinformation, and paid marketing pitches without disclosing them as such.

The alternative? We can use our newfound power to truthfully tell the stories we want to tell, whether they be about politics, or the arts, or about how to survive the vicissitudes of moving forward one day at a time in Silicon Valley dealing with the tools, personalities, and organizations that set the boundaries for our professional lives. If we have to transmit propaganda - face it, that's what most of us do in our day jobs, whether we write anything online or not - we can be honest and call it what it is.

I was pleased to see the progress we've made in living out some of the promise I wrote about in 1999.

Here's hoping I'll feel the same a year from now when I look back at this column.


Alaska Doug feels a sense of kinship with the tsunami victims because he's been there.

[cross-posted from, where "every Doug has his day"]

man with a plan

How many people should we be willing to kill to implement James P. Johnson's utopia (scroll down to video link)? (re-blogged from William Gibson)

an open letter to Alberto R. Gonzales

January 4, 2005

Hon. Alberto R. Gonzales
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Judge Gonzales:

We, the undersigned religious leaders, greet your nomination to be Attorney General of the United States with grave concern.

As a self-professed evangelical Christian, you surely know that all people are created in the image of God. You see it as a moral imperative to treat each human being with reverence and dignity. We invite you to affirm with us that we are all are made in the image of God – every human being. We invite you to acknowledge that no legal category created by mere mortals can revoke that status. You understand that torture – the deliberate effort to undermine human dignity – is a grave sin and affront to God. You would not deny that the systemic use of torture on prisoners at Abu Ghraib was fundamentally immoral, as is the deliberate rendering of any detainee to authorities likely to commit torture.

We urge you to declare that any attempt to undermine international standards on torture, renditions, or habeas corpus is not only wrong but sinful. We are concerned that as White House counsel you have shown a troubling disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of suspected "enemy combatants," and for the adverse consequences your decisions have had at home and abroad.

How could you have written a series of legal memos that disrespected international law and invited these abuses? How could you have justified the use of torture and disavowed protections for prisoners of war? How could you have referred to the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “obsolete.” We fear that your legal judgments have paved the way to torture and abuse.

We therefore call upon you

• To denounce the use of torture under any circumstances;

• To affirm, with the Supreme Court, that it is unconstitutional to imprison anyone designated as an "enemy combatant" for months without access to lawyers or the right to challenge their detentions in court;

• To affirm the binding legality of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war;

• And to reject the practice of "extraordinary rendition," at home and abroad, by which terrorist suspects are sent to countries that practice torture for interrogation.

We believe, as you do, that the United States must be an example of moral leadership in the world community. However, the events at Abu Ghraib have gravely compromised America's moral authority. We ask that you commit yourself as Attorney General to repairing that damage by articulating and enforcing legal policies that reject the use of torture, embrace and advance standards of international law, and honor the dignity of all of God's creation.

With prayers for wisdom and grace,
Over 225 Religious Leaders to more info, opportunity to donate, signers:
Church Folks for a Better America

(image: Freeway Blogger)

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"]

not one red cent!

Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Red Cent Day" in America.

On "Not One Red Cent Day" those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending.

During "Not One Red Cent Day" please don't spend money, and don't use your credit card. Not one red cent for gasoline. Not one red cent for necessities or for impulse purchases. Nor toll/cab/bus or train ride money exchanges. Not one red cent for anything for 24 hours.

On "Not One Red Cent Day," please boycott Walmart, KMart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter).

For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it.

"Not One Red Cent Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.

"Not One Red Cent Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan -- a way to come home.

There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Red Cent Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed.

For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one red cent, to remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people. it all: Not One Red Cent!

Not all religious leaders have refrained from speaking out against the war (see the United Church of Christ and Sojourners, for example; the Pope objected, too), but it's time for people to stand up and stop the war. (Thanks, David, for passing this along.)

Monday, January 03, 2005

"God himself became a little hobbit"

“If and when we forge the ring of artificial immortality, it will be the greatest disaster since the fall [of man],” said Kreeft.

Since we cannot destroy the knowledge we have of this technology, we must destroy our ignorance of morality and humility, he said.

“Our culture is extremely amoral,” said Kreeft. “We must become hobbits. The hobbits are wise and happy because they know and love their limits. God himself became a little hobbit, not a great lord, when he became one of us.”
-Peter Kreeft, author of The Philosophy of Tolkien Tolkien’s writing has religious ring by Frederica Saylor, Science & Theology News

top 10 war profiteers of 2004

2. BearingPoint
3. Bechtel
4. BKSH & Associates
5. CACI and Titan
6. Custer Battles
7. Halliburton
8. Lockheed Martin
9. Loral Satellite
10. Qualcomm
....gory details: War Profiteers: The Center for Corporate Policy's Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 105:
Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw masterial to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. Best of all, mass death's a stimulus to just ordinary folks, little fellows, to try 'n' grab a pice of that pie while they're still here to gobble it up. The true war is a celebration of markets.

[cross-posted from, "juxtaposing contemporary texts with passages from the works of Thomas Pynchon, following links between our world and his art"]

signs of life?

The primary goal of these craft was to look for signs of surface water in Martian history. We seek water intensely because we are water. As far as we know, alien life will also be water-based. Of course, "as far as we know" isn't very far, and that's why we explore. Though Mars today is too cold and its atmosphere too thin to support surface water (underground may be a different story), the planet sports what look like primordial riverbeds and lake beds. But we need ground truth: Rocks don't lie. Their chemistry and detailed textures reveal the story.

Opportunity hit the first real pay dirt of the mission. That convenient outcrop right where it landed turned out to be largely made up of finely layered, sulfur-rich salt deposits, apparently the remnants of an evaporated sea. This tells us that Meridiani was once soaking wet, and that Mars once had all the requirements for life as we know it.

It also tells us that we must go back to Mars with equipment to look for fossils or chemical signs of past Martian life. (The next launch is set for 2009.) Before Opportunity, such a search would have seemed far-fetched; now it is not only reasonable but obligatory. The payoff would be cosmic perspective on our own evolutionary history. If Mars was wet but never "alive," then perhaps the conditions we believe to be necessary for life are not sufficient. In that case, dumb luck might have played a larger role in our existence than we like to think, and the universe might be a lonely place indeed for inhabited worlds like ours. it all: Gifts From the Gods of Space, by David Grinspoon, Los Angeles Times; [image: The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight]

where is the anti-war movement?

It's not in the news - not mainstream, at least - and not very visible in the activism-related parts of the blogosphere I've been cruising recently.

Looking for a parade, I guess. What, if anything, stops me from making a sign and taking it out there in public somewhere? (One rationalization: I'd be preaching to the choir here in this liberal-progressive stronghold.)

A small first step: asking the question here, and hoping it gets picked up elsewhere...and answered.

scholars say religion & science need each other

Despite the perceived truths science may provide, scientists must work with theologians to address the essential questions about the universe, said George Ellis at the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting....The loss of religious faith and decline in attendance at churches and synagogues is due to the widespread belief that science expresses truth while religion does not, said Ellis....“There is no scientific experiment to tell us what is good and what is evil,” he said.

Science cannot provide values, “but the great world religions have a common core of ethical values that can be used to provide guidance on practical issues in science,” Ellis explained. “Science is powerful in its domain, but that domain is strictly limited.”

Religious scholars play a crucial role in the quest to account for truth because they help balance scientific fundamentalism with more humanist views, said Ellis, and can help provide answers about aesthetics, metaphysics and the meaning of life. it all: Don’t ask whether, ask why: Religion and science must work together to answer life’s bigger questions, by Thomas Jay Oord, Science & Theology News

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"]

no "Christian nation"

This year, I resolve to stop remaining silent whenever I hear Christians talk about our country being a "Christian Nation." Nations can't be Christian. Genuine faith requires an individual, voluntary, personal commitment.
-Dr. Bruce Prescott, Mainstream Baptist

[cross-posted from Compassionate Christian, "news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"]


Three words, says plastics plant Doug: up in flames.

[cross-posted from DougDay where "every Doug has has day"]

Sunday, January 02, 2005

wanted: tidal wave of human love

....We know that our individual efforts to send money, sacred and important though they are, cannot come close to reaching the level of the tens of billions of dollars that will be needed to help the millions of people who have lost homes, work, and everything the own or with which they could make a living. Only a full-scale governmental effort on the part of all the countries of the world, and most particularly the wealthy countries, could make much of an impact at this level of financial need. So it is particularly distressing to find once again that those of us who live in the U.S. have to witness our own country giving a pathetically small amount of money (at the moment I’m writing this, more money is going to be spent for the celebration of President Bush’s second inaugural than is being sent to SouthEast Asia to repair and rebuild). The hundreds of billions of dollars being sunk into a war against Sunnis in Iraq is monies that could have been spent on providing the kind of advanced warning systems, and solid construction of buildings, that might have dramatically limited the damage and deaths caused by this terrible storm. Once again, the unequal distribution of wealth on the planet plays out dramatically in the poorest and most defenseless being those most hurt.

So when I was asked last night, during a guest appearance on an ABC radio call-in show, “Where was God During the Tsunami?”, my first response was to say, as I’ve said about God during the Holocaust, “Isn’t this an attempt to avoid the more pressing question of “Where was humanity? Why have we been so unwilling to take serious responsibility for the well-being of others on the planet?”

....Two weeks ago the United Nations issued a report detailing the deaths of more than 29,000 children every single day as a result of avoidable diseases and malnutrition. Over ten million children a year!! The difference between the almost non-existent coverage of this on-going human-created disaster and the huge focus on the terrible tsunami-generated suffering in South East Asia reveals some deep and ugly truths about our collective self-deceptions. Imagine if every single day there were headlines in every newspaper in the world and every television show saying: "29,000 children died yesterday from preventable diseases and malnutrition" and then the rest of the stories alternated between detailed personal accounts of families where this devastation was taking place, and side bar features detailing what was happening in advanced industrial countries, like this: "all this suffering was happening while the wealthiest people in the world enjoyed excesses of food, worried about how to lose weight because they eat too much, spent monies trying to convince farmers not to grow too much food for fear that doing so would drive down prices, and were cutting the taxes of their wealthiest rather than seeking to redistribute their excess millions of dollars of personal income." If the story were told that way every day, the goodness of human beings would rebel quickly against these social systems that made all this suffering possible, suffering far far far far far in excess of all the suffering caused by tsunamis and other natural disasters.

....One reason that social change seems so unrealistic is because not only these news people but almost everyone else has been taught that others are only motivated by narrow material self-interest. Yet when we watch the response of the people of the world to this tragedy we see just the opposite—a huge outpouring of generosity. Millions of people are making contributions, and billions are showing signs of caring. And it is this way whenever we face a situation in which the official media lets down its normal “cynical realism” and tells us that it’s o.k. to show our caring side.

Those who despair are mistaken--the goodness of humanity is always just a few inches from the surface, on the verge of being released. One reason why Right-wing Christian churches have been so successful is that they give people a spiritual context within which to let out their caring sides without worrying that they will face cynical put-downs from others around them. One task for progressives interested in social change is to find the best way to facilitate that process in a progressive context, but that will require a new sensitivity to a spiritual framework that validates and supports that spirit of generosity within most people.

Yet in the rest of our lives, few of us are ever encouraged to show caring beyond our small circles of friends and families, and if we are urged to show caring, it is only for the victims of some kind of natural disaster, but not for the kinds of problems we could actually deal with through collective restructuring of the world's economic and political arrangements--because that would threaten the interests of the powerful. They are all too glad to divert our attention to the disasters that can't be changed, and to channeling our anger into anger at God instead of anger at our social system. it all: Where Was God in The Tsunami? And where has humanity been? by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun, 31 December 2004

[cross-posted from compassionate christian,"news & commentary of the loving & liberal Christian movement"; image: a perfect world]

another happy neocon new year?

When Mr. Rumsfeld told Specialist Thomas Wilson in Kuwait that the only reason the troops lacked armor was "a matter of production and capability," he was lying. it all: Washington's New Year War Cry: Party On! by Frank Rich, New York Times, 2 January 2005

[cross-posted from neoconservadroid, "android warriors of the right"]


Doug's prayers answered.

[cross-posted from where "every Doug has his day"]

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year 2005

Rain storms blowing through the Bay Area since yesterday, but a double rainbow arched across the sky when I woke up this morning: from the living room window I could see the rainbows stretching across Mount Tamalpais south to the northern tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Too old to believe in rainbow magic? I'm taking it as a good sign for the new year all the same.

UPDATE: Maybe it means you'll be eating a lot of ice cream, says Tim.

...cross-posted from, ("juxtaposing contemporary texts with passages from the works of Thomas Pynchon, following links between our world and his art"):
One of those sad little Parisian-sounding tunes in 3/4:

Love never goes away,
Never completely dies,
Always some souvenir
Takes us by sad surprise.

You went away from me,
One rose was left behind--
Pressed in my Book of Hours,
This is the rose I find. . . .

Though it's another year,
Though it's another me,
Under the rose is a drying tear,
Under my linden tree. . . .

Love never goes away,
Not if it's really true,
It can return, by night, by day,
Tender and green and new
As the leaves from a linden tree, love,
that I left with you.
[Gravity's Rainbow, pp. 289-290]

a linden tree

....cross-posted from DougDay, ("for Dougs everywhere"):

Doctor Doug addresses life style resolutions for the new year.