Saturday, July 29, 2006

Quotable: Mohandas Gandhi

'Poverty is the worst form of violence.'
A friendly reminder from Notes From Underground.

Catch y'all in a couple days.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Remember that story 'bout Nero fiddlin'?

Appears not much has changed in almost 2,000 years. Corrupt "leaders" fiddle around as major crises go unaddressed.

First we have Condi's piano recital:
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - In keeping with her mood and to reflect the world crises she tackles daily, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to play a somber piece of music to her Asian colleagues in Malaysia this week.

The Association of South East Asian Nations has a tradition of ministers performing usually silly skits at a gala dinner, but Rice, an accomplished pianist, said she was more at ease playing a serious, reflective piece, possibly by the composer Brahms.

"It is not a time that is frivolous. It is a serious time. I will play something that is in accordance with my serious mood," said Rice, who had just attended a conference in Rome aimed at helping resolve the Lebanon crisis.

Rice said she would not be comfortable singing show tunes.
Well isn't that special.

That reminds me of the recent G8 summit (props to Manito for jogging the memory):
The other world leaders arrive that evening, and the official summit begins with a lavish feast. The dinner is something out of a Fellini epic, staged at the magnificent Peterhof Palace, built by Peter the Great. The scene is a uniquely Russian mix of historical grandeur, political power and touristy kitsch. The Russians offer a seven-course meal including caviar and beef stroganoff (maybe Chirac has a point), served by waiters wearing powdered wigs. Outside, a bear dressed in a green tutu with pink polka dots performs tricks.
And finally, a little blast from the past to drive the point home.

To riff on something Manito said elsewhere, these scenes do seem like something out of a Monty Python movie or tv series sketch, or perhaps like something straight out of The Onion. As my sense of humor can be pretty warped at times, I'd probably be laughing my head off if the scenes we've been treated to were the work of the Monty Python crew or The Onion staff writers. Since this is reality, I find myself shaking my head instead. Welcome to history as farce, courtesy of the 21st century.


In the midst of the turmoil in which we find ourselves thrown, it is useful to remind ourselves that there are multiple ways to view our individual and collective existence. I always loved a good story as I was growing up, and to this day still enjoy listening to or telling a good yarn as time permits. Heck, I even view the practice of education as a form of oral (and sometimes written) narrative. In the classroom, I am basically a storyteller.

We tell stories, and those stories share our worldview, or dreams, our hopes, our fears; those stories also have an impact by shaping or challenging others' worldviews. Today I'd like to share with y'all an article that says quite a bit about changing the prevailing narratives at what appears to be a major historical turning point: The Great Turning - From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten. This cat is on to something that is simultaneously as old as the hills and cutting edge.

Just to whet the appetite:
For 5,000 years, the ruling class has cultivated, rewarded, and amplified the voices of those storytellers whose stories affirm the righteousness of Empire and deny the higher-order potentials of our nature that would allow us to live with one another in peace and cooperation. There have always been those among us who sense the possibilities of Earth Community, but their stories have been marginalized or silenced by Empire's instruments of intimidation. The stories endlessly repeated by the scribes of Empire become the stories most believed. Stories of more hopeful possibilities go unheard or unheeded and those who discern the truth are unable to identify and support one another in the common cause of truth telling. Fortunately, the new communications technologies are breaking this pattern. As truth-tellers reach a wider audience, the myths of Empire become harder to maintain.

The struggle to define the prevailing cultural stories largely defines contemporary cultural politics in the United States. A far-right alliance of elitist corporate plutocrats and religious theocrats has gained control of the political discourse in the United States not by force of their numbers, which are relatively small, but by controlling the stories by which the prevailing culture defines the pathway to prosperity, security, and meaning. In each instance, the far right's favored versions of these stories affirm the dominator relations of Empire.

The imperial prosperity story says that an eternally growing economy benefits everyone. To grow the economy, we need wealthy people who can invest in enterprises that create jobs. Thus, we must support the wealthy by cutting their taxes and eliminating regulations that create barriers to accumulating wealth. We must also eliminate welfare programs in order to teach the poor the value of working hard at whatever wages the market offers.

The imperial security story tells of a dangerous world, filled with criminals, terrorists, and enemies. The only way to insure our safety is through major expenditures on the military and the police to maintain order by physical force.

The imperial meaning story reinforces the other two, featuring a God who rewards righteousness with wealth and power and mandates that they rule over the poor who justly suffer divine punishment for their sins.

These stories all serve to alienate us from the community of life and deny the positive potentials of our nature, while affirming the legitimacy of economic inequality, the use of physical force to maintain imperial order, and the special righteousness of those in power.

It is not enough, as many in the United States are doing, to debate the details of tax and education policies, budgets, war, and trade agreements in search of a positive political agenda. Nor is it enough to craft slogans with broad mass appeal aimed at winning the next election or policy debate. We must infuse the mainstream culture with stories of Earth Community. As the stories of Empire nurture a culture of domination, the stories of Earth Community nurture a culture of partnership. They affirm the positive potentials of our human nature and show that realizing true prosperity, security, and meaning depends on creating vibrant, caring, interlinked communities that support all persons in realizing their full humanity. Sharing the joyful news of our human possibilities through word and action is perhaps the most important aspect of the Great Work of our time.

Changing the prevailing stories in the United States may be easier to accomplish than we might think. The apparent political divisions notwithstanding, US polling data reveal a startling degree of consensus on key issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong priorities. Supermajorities want to see greater priority given to children, family, community, and a healthy environment. Americans also want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination. These Earth Community values are in fact widely shared by both conservatives and liberals.
Some food for thought.

Understanding what is being done to Lebanon

A graphic that says it all:

Click the pic for a larger image. Props to Eli of Left I. See also Updates on the aggression against Lebanon, Lenin's Tomb, Liberal Catnip, Sirocco and Oui for more coverage and commentary.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Keeping up to date in Lebanon

The situation there is nothing short of a human rights disaster. One of the more thorough roundups via Juan Cole will get you up to speed. One snippet that caught my eye:

On Wednesday,

An Israeli air strike 'hit a truck carrying medical and food supplies donated to Lebanon by the United Arab Emirates, killing its Syrian driver and wounding two others, security sources said. The truck was destroyed just a few kilometres from Lebanon's eastern border with Syria in the town of Anjar. '

A truck full of medical and food supplies?

That was about my reaction: a truck carrying medical and food supplies for civilians? WTF?

Quotable: Hunter S. Thompson

"He knew who I was, at that time, because I had a reputation as a writer. I knew he was part of the Bush dynasty. But he was nothing, he offered nothing, and he promised nothing. He had no humor. He was insignificant in every way and consequently I didn't pay much attention to him. But when he passed out in my bathtub, then I noticed him. I'd been in another room, talking to the bright people. I had to have him taken away."

-Hunter S. Thompson on meeting George W. Bush at his Super Bowl party in Houston in 1974.

Nerdified Link.

Wanker of the day

Howard Dean, followed closely by the Democrats.

For those who need a refresher course, here is a decent description of what the term "semitic" means. Those who throw around the terms "anti-semitic" and "anti-semite" would be well advised to read up a little bit so that they actually know what in the Hell they're talking about. There really is a qualitative difference between an Arab leader criticizing Israel's actions in Lebanon and some skinhead goon who wants to make the Horst Wessel Song our national anthem.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tom Coburn's Verbal Diarrhea Attack

Originally posted by Man Eegee.

Courtesy of the Senate Majority Project
During today’s Senate debate on S. 403, a bill on abortion parental notification laws, former physician and One Who Should Know Better, Sen. Tom Coburn, argued that by distributing condoms in schools, we were rationalizing risky behavior to teenagers. “You know, the moral rationalization is if you make a mistake there’s no consequences. I’ve seen the consequences. Condoms and teenagers work about 50% of the time, if you count all the studies up,” said Coburn (emphasis mine).
If you have a MySpace or Friendster account, I bet this would make a great bulletin to post for all the Oklahoma teens to see. Nothing creates activism like righteous anger, especially when you're the one getting poked in the eye.

While you're at it, here's the contact information for the Senator's offices, to register a complaint:
  • Tulsa
1800 South Baltimore
Suite 800
Tulsa, OK 74119

Phone: 918-581-7651
Fax: 918-581-7195
  • Lawton
711 SW D Avenue
Suite 202
Lawton, OK 73501

Phone: 580-357-9878
Fax: 580-355-3560
  • Oklahoma City:
100 North Broadway
Suite 1820
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Main: 405-231-4941
Fax: 405-231-5051

  • Washington D.C.:
172 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-5754
Fax: 202-224-6008

Remember. They work for you.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Confucius sez: "A picture is worth ten thousand words."

Via Angry Arab News Service.

From the mailbag

A friend of mine emailed this little pop quiz. See how you do. Answers will be in the comments (you're on your honor - though needless to say, I frown on cheating!):
1. Which Middle Eastern country has three times invaded its neighbors?

2. The leader of which Middle Eastern country “bears personal responsibility” for the brutal massacre of civilians buried in mass graves by bulldozers in the 1980s?

3. Which is the only Middle Eastern country that has developed biological, chemical and nuclear weapons?

4. Which Middle Eastern country has violated the most UN resolutions?

5. Which nation is responsible for the following acts of terrorism: assassination of foreign leaders, skyjacking a civilian airliner, shooting down a civilian airliner, bombing cities, markets and apartment buildings?

A quick update

We got back from the Santa Barbara leg of our trip this evening. It was great to have a couple days to ourselves without the kids (love 'em, but every so often a break is good for sanity!).

Managed to get a few photos of the excursion that I really haven't had a chance to spend some time to look through. The place we stayed was quite nice, even if they managed to bungle my MIL's effort to pay for the accomodations (this was supposed to be my wife's belated b-day gift). Long story that involves faxes and such. I will say this: any joint that can't keep track of faxes with personal information sent to it needs to do a serious rethink or risk losing business. That little bit of unpleasantness aside it was a good trip.

It was also quite hot for this time of year - low 90s for official daytime highs seem to be the rule of the day this late July, with no coastal fog or cloudcover during the evening hours. That was downright frigid compared to some of the inland communities such as Solvang which were above the 110 degree mark. We went through quite a bit of water.

Did a lot of walking on or near the main State Street drag. State Street seems a bit more congested now than I recall from a decade ago. There was also plenty of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as a number of street musicians and performers and a few colorful individuals that really made our weekend - my favorite is still the cat with the van that he's decorated with a whole bunch of peace and anti-war slogans that words cannot begin to describe (I'll probably end up posting a picture or two later). Some of the local artists and artisans selling their wares along the beach on Sunday were fun to shoot the breeze with as well.

We noticed that our favorite coffee house, Hot Spot, had closed down around the beginning of the year. Too bad, as that was a great 24-hour hangout that was always such a cool blend of humanity at just about any hour of the day. There are still a few of the indy coffee places left where folks can gather comfortably and chat and perhaps even catch a live musician, but it looks like the Starbucks and Seattle's Best chains have driven most of the indy places out (though the situation there is not as bleak for the indies as it is elsewhere).

It was good to find a flicker of light even during this dark time in human history.