Friday, December 30, 2005

Apollo's absence

I often feel that there is more to music than I understand. I have learned to play piano but there is a sadness, and a beauty, and an ease missing from my efforts.

For instance, I am currently working on lyrics about an episode in Woody Guthrie's life that starts like this:

The Sea Porpoise had a purpose
in 1944
To ship 3000 men
to go and fight the war.

And Hitler tried to halt them
half-way across the sea
But on the deck there stood
Cisco and Woody

and as a song I think it's going OK. An OK song for a compelling storyline.

But there is an ease, and a beauty, and a sorrow somehow missing and instead of satisfaction from the effort I wind up feeling inadequate. What is it that some people understand about music that I am missing? How is it that some people seem to come from nowhere and trail masterpieces in their wake?

I wish I knew.

Bright Eyes is a band that fits the bill in this regard for me. Here are two of their songs at IFILM:

Bowl of Oranges

At the bottom of everything

They make it look so easy.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Over the rainbow

Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
A bright lucky penny.
Puppy dog tails and children's laughter.
Brown paper packages tied up with string.
A field full of flowers.

None of these things come to mind when reviewing the news coming out of Iraq:

Candies and nuts
Extreme chaos

But, like the president, I feel today like imagining everything is going super-duper.

Is that a bluebird of happiness I see?
As soon as I eat my sugar-plum I'm going to follow it over that rainbow to a pot of gold.

Tomorrow I expect to be back to normal, so please don't tell me about all the bad times I'm missin'.

The president, I expect, will still be searching for the candy man that can on the little train that can.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bible study

In an interview that Kurt Vonnegut did recently on PBS's Now, something quite obvious about the Bible was pointed out which I'd like to share.

Conservative Christians, you'll remember, have recently fought to get the ten commandments into America's courtrooms without success. It is interesting to note, however, that the ten commandments are in old-testament Moses domain and not new-testament Jesus domain.

That should be a bit embarrassing shouldn't it?

Kurt Vonnegut suggests that CCs switch their crusade to installing the 8 beatitudes, as a point of integrity, which are squarely in new-testament Sermon on the Mount domain. Here they are:

Blessed are the poor in spirit:
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the meek:
For they shall possess the land.

Blessed are they that mourn:
For they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice:
For they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful:
For they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the clean of heart:
For they shall see God.

Blessed are the peace-makers:
For they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice's sake:
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I, like Vonnegut, would enjoy seeing "Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom and "Blessed are the peace-makers" in the Oval Office.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Good gracious

I am going to paraphrase a series of questions Plato asked millennia ago. Please answer them honestly to yourself and see where that leads you.

1. Do you believe that God exists?
2. Do you believe that God is good?
3. Can anything good be harmful?
4. Can something that is not harmful harm?
5. Can something that does no harm be evil?
6. Can something which does no evil be the cause of anything evil?
7. Is God the cause of all things, or of those that are good?

8. Is torture harmful? Is it good?
9. Is war harmful? Is it good?
10. Is cutting food aid to the poor harmful? Is it good?
11. Is Bush harmful? Is he good?

If you have Christian values and you are honest with yourself I don't see how you can answer the second part of question 11 with a "yes" and that is why Bush-backing Christians confuse me.

I believe that many of them are willfully lying to themselves because the alternative is to believe their "revolution" and coalition-building has been corrupted. I don't blame them because that took years of planning and effort and I know pride is often stronger than reason.

To be Christian, though, is to believe that Truth itself is a gift from God and one must wonder why it is that president Bush cannot keep his nefarious deeds secret. I will leave you Bush-backing Christians with a biblical reflection:

Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6)
The Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17).
To know the Truth is to be free (John 8:31-32).

Can you handle the Truth about Bush?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

On credibility

President Bush is the most prolific liar ever to occupy the Oval Office, so it surprises me that network viewsmen continue to give the Bush administration wide platitude when he claims to have briefed Capital Hill leaders about his wiretapping and that they all approved.

The truth of the matter can be easily viewed on-line in a hand-written letter published by Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Thanks to Josh Marshall

Why does the mainstream press allow frequent demonstrable lies to be repeated in American's faces?

Isn't the vigor with which our enlisted men fight directly proportional to the perceived honor of that which they defend?

Hasn't president Bush defended torture (extraordinary renditions), secret prisons (CIA black sites), and warrantless invasions of privacy while lecturing the rest of the world about the necessity for democracy in the Middle East?

Shouldn't we be more careful with our honor/security?

My guess is that president Bush avoided the law to get what he wanted because what he wanted had nothing to do with national security but partisan politics. Yes, I am speaking of a Nixonian enemies list.

My strong feeling is that to be a democrat is to respect Justice, and to fail to challenge the president on his blatant law-breaking is to be something other than a democrat.

Here is what the nations best Constitutional authority and Dean of the Senate has to say on the matter: No president is above the law

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Scaredy cats

I don't wish to alarm you, but two days ago my cat sneezed.

Today, I sneezed.

This means there may now be a feline flu virus to be scared of.

Call the UN!

Call the CDC!

Get the ducktape.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Plodosophy (a plodding attempt at philosophy)

I thought it would be fun to think philosophically for a moment about immortality.

If one has never been happy, meaning too that one has never experienced sadness, then could you possibly explain to that person what being happy felt like.

If one has never lived, meaning too that one has never experienced death, then could you possibly explain to that person what being alive felt like.

Many people take it for granted that there is a God and that He is immortal.

It seems to stand to reason that God cannot possibly understand what it is like to be alive, or furthermore to die.

Therefore, it would seem that compassion for human suffering is the best that God can do.

I find that interesting. God can never really understand us.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Philosophical warfare

One site that I like to visit is Ask Philosophers, a place where you can pose a question and it is answered by philosophers.

Recently a visitor to the site asked, "How do the philosophers justify war, if they ever do? I ask this question because even the Prophets have fought wars, for their religion. So, how can mortals remain aloof from it?"

The answer is useful when wishing to determine if, for instance, the war in Iraq is Just or not (at least in the view of a philosopher):

Is genocide sanctified?

Here is the most interesting thing that I learned in the article:

Lithuania’s department of defense, for example, actually plans and develops tactics of non-violent resistance. It successfully used non-violent tactics in winning its independence from the Soviet Union (as did Poland). Denmark, too, knowing it could not resist Nazi invaders with conventional warfare, opted for various forms of non-violent resistance during...

That's pretty cool and leads me to believe that if all people could practice non-violent resistance Justly then there would never be a useful conquest, except in terms of geographical expansion.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Heil Bushie

Prescott Bush was a financial supporter of Adolph Hitler, and so much so that on October 20, 1942, the U.S. government ordered the seizure of Nazi German banking operations in New York City that were being conducted by Prescott Bush.

While I try not to hold the grandson responsible for the sins of the grandfather, I do find myself wondering if the Bush family approves of fascism from stem to stern.

Bush defends spying in U.S.

Even Bush dead-enders ought to have trouble supporting such overtly cowardly behavior in their president. At least, that is, the ones that feel the Constitution is more than a "goddamn piece of paper".

I'm tired of being ashamed of my president and all I want for Christmas are impeachment proceedings.

ADDENDUM: This video from CNN on the subject is too good to miss. While I doubt that Bill Frist will follow the honest promptings of his soul, with pieces like this perhaps enough US Congressmen can be shamed into doing their jobs (that is, to reclaim their power of checks and balances from a wanna-be dictator).

I also wonder who follows uncontitutional orders like this and why we aren't educating our security/military people better.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Unrelenting pursuit of torture

Publicly the Bush administration is "compromising" with John McCain to put a stop to the torturing of detainees in US custody.

Behind the scenes the Bush administration is unrelenting in its pursuit of legalized torture:

Turn of the screw

If we "The US doesn't torture" as president Bush insists, then why do we need a legal framework that makes it OK?

If the Bible can be believed, when a nation acts without respect for Justice the land start to yield less bounty, the oceans produce less fish, and every task becomes delayed by bickering.

If the Bible can be believed I'd say we are headed for a precipitous decline.

Leave Iraq

Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania took a courageous stand on Thursday, November 17, 2005 and called for US troop withdrawal from the war in Iraq which "is not going as advertised".

Out now

Democrats clearly decided that partisan attacks on Veterans Day from the president were the last straw. It is about time democrat leadership articulates that the president has no plan in Iraq and therefore there is no course to stay.

The president said himself that victory is exit strategy. Well? Stubborn denial is not a winning strategy for Iraq. Partisan politics is not a winning strategy for Iraq. Question avoidance is not a winning strategy for Iraq. Cronyism is not a winning strategy for Iraq.

One should also note that the return on patience is a loss when invested with incompetence.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bible study

It appears to me that when people read their Bibles they get enamored by nuance rather than enlightened by the obvious.

The Wisdom of Solomon predicts that fear leads to wailing and gnashing of teeth. Think about that for a moment and then study this picture of Dick Cheney.

Isn't it obvious that he is a teeth gnasher harried by portentous specters?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Little cat feet

Fascism, they say, arrives on little cat feet. I have, of late, been hearing the pitter-patter of little cat feet.

Repressive freedom

Torturing credibility

I would like to be known as one who minced no words and was unambiguously critical of torture.

The torturing of detainees in our care is a shame and a stain on my honor as an American citizen. It is a disgrace to this nation and our great Constitution and to everything our ancestors fought for. The only reason we are torturing today is because we have cowards in high office and cowards to follow their lead.

I was pleased to see that the editors of the Minneapolis Star Tribune came out powerfully against torture and I should think they can take pride in that:

American's Shameful Shift on Torture

Many of our citizens thought they'd left torture behind them when they landed on America's shores. They were wrong. It is my hope that they are not wrong long. It is also my hope they are soon reminded of why they came by our actions now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nowhere man

As the president unveils his newest new plan for turning the corner in Iraq (formerly known as declare victory and leave) I am reminded of The Beatles:

He's a real nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere Man, please listen,
You don't know what you're missing,
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command.

He's as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere Man can you see me at all?
Nowhere Man, don't worry,
Take your time, don't hurry,
Leave it all till somebody else
lends you a hand.
Doesn't have a point of view,
Knows not where he's going to,
Isn't he a bit like you and me?

Nowhere Man, please listen,
You don't know what you're missing,
Nowhere Man, the world is at your command.

He's a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Is our president learning?

When we were to attack Iraq sensible people warned terrorism would increase. It has.

When we were to attack Iraq sensible people warned it would develop into a quagmire. It has.

When we were to attack Iraq sensible people warned Iraq's Shiites would naturally assume power in a democracy and then align themselves with Iran. They did and they have.

Ever since this disaster got started flight-deck bravado has ruled over reason and partisan politics have trumped national priorities.

But if Jim Lobe is right, reason is making a comeback in Washington

Realists Tighten Grip

Since I define a stupid person as one that does not change their opinion to reflect known facts, and since I am convinced that George W. Bush falls into this category, I am left to assume that 41 is providing guidance to 43.

Are to we expect James Baker soon?

Don't forget Poland

In a revelation that surprises few it turns out that the Eastern European countries hosting the CIA's illegal detention facilities are Poland and Romania.

Story Here

Why would Poland, especially, start down that slope after the lesson of Auschwitz?

Have Americans forgotten it is the pride of the "greatest generation" to have had a hand in stopping concentration camps?

Foot Quotes

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"

Charles Darwin