Thursday, April 12, 2007

some very fine art

hosted my frighteningly talented wife's art opening last night at Cafe Eclectic in Montclair -- one of my favorite places in the world, owned by the generous self-described boy scout Julio. They opened 10 years ago, the same year we moved out to Montclair. And I gave them their router for the free wi-fi (when Julio was thinking of going with one of those paysites).

pix are up all month. go see 'em. or go to her flickr site. and buy one now, before they go out of your price range -- most are 3 figure $....

Friday, March 30, 2007

Muslim and Christian Co-Existence

The WPUNJ Philosophy Club and the Muslim Student Association


Muslim and Christian


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

7-10 PM

Library Auditorium

Moderator and Organizer: Adam Cannon (WPUNJ student)


Joe Devore (historian) Former WPUNJ student

Muhammad el-Filali (historian) Islamic Center of Passiac County

David Greco (theologian) Christian speaker

Tamara Issak (practitioner), WPUNJ Student and MSA leader

Husnain Rajabali (theologian) teacher at the Imam Ali Center

Danny Papa (practitioner) WPUNJ student

This event is made possible by funding from the WPUNJ Alumni Association

Questions? Barbara Andrew – Department of Philosophy

Atrium 275 973 720 3723

Friday, March 02, 2007

I am not sure about this metaphor

but might be worth discussing:
“History is like herpes”, a professor once told me. “It just keeps coming back, reminding us of the initial contact and infuriating us every time it does. But son-of-a-bitch, it’s real. And if you don’t take care of it, and deal with it…well, you know the rest.”
from lowermanhattanite guestposting at the News Blog.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Freeway Blogger

Things are heating up...

U.S. developing contingency plan to bomb Iran: report

Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:42AM EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.

Hersh on CNN here.


February 25, 2007

US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack

SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

Oh, and this:

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime is accused of repressing minority rights and culture

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.

This I like

Virginia Apologizes for Role in Slavery

By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press Writer
3:38 AM PST, February 25, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. -- Meeting on the grounds of the former Confederate Capitol, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously Saturday to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery.

Sponsors of the resolution say they know of no other state that has apologized for slavery, although Missouri lawmakers are considering such a measure. The resolution does not carry the weight of law but sends an important symbolic message, supporters said.

"This session will be remembered for a lot of things, but 20 years hence I suspect one of those things will be the fact that we came together and passed this resolution," said Delegate A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who sponsored it in the House of Delegates.

The resolution passed the House 96-0 and cleared the 40-member Senate on a unanimous voice vote. It does not require Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's approval.

The measure also expressed regret for "the exploitation of Native Americans."

The resolution was introduced as Virginia begins its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, where the first Africans arrived in 1619. Richmond, home to a popular boulevard lined with statues of Confederate heroes, later became another point of arrival for Africans and a slave-trade hub.

The resolution says government-sanctioned slavery "ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding."

In Virginia, black voter turnout was suppressed with a poll tax and literacy tests before those practices were struck down by federal courts, and state leaders responded to federally ordered school desegregation with a "Massive Resistance" movement in the 1950s and early '60s. Some communities created exclusive whites-only schools.

The apology is the latest in a series of strides Virginia has made in overcoming its segregationist past. Virginia was the first state to elect a black governor -- L. Douglas Wilder in 1989 -- and the Legislature took a step toward atoning for Massive Resistance in 2004 by creating a scholarship fund for blacks whose schools were shut down between 1954 and 1964.

Among those voting for the measure was Delegate Frank D. Hargrove, an 80-year-old Republican who infuriated black leaders last month by saying "black citizens should get over" slavery.

After enduring a barrage of criticism, Hargrove successfully co-sponsored a resolution calling on Virginia to celebrate "Juneteenth," a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Coming War with Iran

From the Project for Defense Alternatives, a great site with links to tons of articles on every aspect of the Iran situation: Confronting Iran: Critical perspectives on the current crisis, its origins, and implications

a commenter!

I am sort of ambivalent about this blog these days -- still not sure what to do with it -- so I am not really trying to get readers. But yesterday I had at least one, and this person left a comment! Since that is such a rare treat, I have decided to promote it to a post, with my reply to follow:
Anonymous said...

The wealthy or the monied class will always favor whoever has their best interests at heart. This can be said today, or 100 years ago or 100 years before that. The roaring 20's or the gay 90's weren't wonderful times for all, but mostly for the wealthiest 1% of the population, people like Rockefeller and Carnegie concerned with making money and their own level of comfort; they cared little for their employees.

The same could be true today, most employees do not have the same level of comfort they had even a few years ago. Recently the news, mentioned that life is wonderful if you are the wealthiest 1% of the population.

Certainly our politians today favor big business, workers rights have taken a few steps backwards. We need to think carefully about the coming elections and hope we can find another Adams or a Teddy Roosevelt, someone who isn't afraid to do the unpopular and take a stand against big business. As was true before the Revolution it is once again the "body of the people" who politicians should be listening to.

I take issue only with the word "always" in comment.

The remarkable thing about the revolution was that -- even if the wealthy were took longer than Samuel Adams to embrace the revolutionary cause -- many of the patriots were among the wealthiest of the colonists. There were few wealthier than Washington and Hancock but they both supported the revolution. Hard to believe, but in this instance they were truly motivated by ideals -- not the pursuit of wealth.

Now, maybe they were particularly exceptional individuals, these So-Called Founding Fathers (SCFF), but they also created and inhabited an environment where ideas and ideals mattered. I think that is what we need right now -- more than a TR or Samuel Adams to save us. We all -- "the body of the people" as the commenter says -- need to work on creating a political and cultural environment where serious discussion of issues is encouraged and demanded even.

With that in mind I link here to the latest from Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, a sharp-eyed and ruthless critic. He sometimes goes for the easy Menckenesque barb rather than deep analysis, but there are few sharper pens out there these days. A taste:
If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion. Or how about this: If the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.

This leads me to link to an old post of a brilliant speech by Al Gore on the state of our democracy and public discourse. It begins:
I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.

Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.

The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."

Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason."
Finally, there has been a debate about liberals should approach religion in the current political environment. As usual, Digby seems to present the clearest case:
I have no problem with politicians using religious rhetoric to inform voters of their own personal views, but when appeals to positive virtues become exclusively associated with religious values we end up aiding and abetting a whole host of conservative appeals to authority in the process. We must value reason itself, and employ it liberally and respectfully or we are going to find that the epistemic relativism that the right's been so successful with in recent years will have some very unpleasant consequences.

This nation is not going to be prosperous and successful in the future if we fail to properly emphasize the idea that reason is intrinsic to democracy. And we certainly are not going to be able to deal with the complicated challenges we face, like the rise of militant fundamentalism, nuclear proliferation or global warming unless we agree that people who do not subscribe to religion can be trustworthy and that science, analysis and knowledge form as much of a legitimate basis for human progress as religion. The right demagogues these things for the express purpose of advancing their authoritarian agenda and I don't think it's wise for Democrats to allow a new class of "religious strategists" to further empower them in some ill-conceived crusade to gain votes from the least likely people in the nation to vote for them.

If the Democratic party doesn't stand for freedom and equality and the basic rational premise of the constitution then nobody does. The Republicans sold that out when they made their bed with Jerry Falwell, even though they pretended for years that they were the keepers of the flame. I'd hate to see the Democrats capitulate to the same socially regressive forces and empower the opposition in the process.

The religious and secular left have the chance together to make both reasoned and moral arguments for social justice, civil liberties and civil rights based upon our shared liberal values. Our rational and idealistic worldviews are not in tension. There is no purpose to all this pandering to the right except perhap to give a few new strategists an opportunity create a divide where none exists so they might exploit their positions as professional mediators.

Beware the insider religio-political industrial complex. It dishonestly foments this fight with bogus statistics and bad advice. Democrats are making a big mistake if they listen to them. Their political ambition is tragically weakening the one thing that keeps the nation together and keeps the right from hurtling completely out of control --- the US Constitution and a respect for the clear-eyed reason that inspired it. Democracy is not faith based and religion isn't democratic. People need to be reminded of the difference not encouraged to see them as the same thing.

Troop morale

I have never understood how words spoken here in the USA could have an effect on "troop morale" in the greatest military in the history of the universe (just as I cannot understand how these same words can "embolden the enemy" as if the people attacking American forces in Iraq sit around worrying and feeling bad until someone in the US says something critical of Bush, at which point they jump up and plant an IED or shoot down a helicopter).

This comes from "a troop":
Pundits and politicians seem both greatly concerned and badly informed about troop morale. As a troop myself, I thought I'd start a dialogue of the 10 best and 10 worst things for my morale. I hope others will chime in with their nominations.

Ten worst:

1. Getting blown up
2. Buddies getting blown up
3. Re-securing a town we secured year before last
4. 'Taps'
5. The 'catch and release' detainee program
6. Colostomy bags
7. Civilian young men who won't look me in the eye when I'm in uniform
8. Any scene from any shopping mall anywhere in America
9. Editorials pointing out that casualties are 'light by historical standards'
10. Lies

Ten best:

1. Iraqis willing to fight for their country
2. Good sergeants
3. Clean, dry socks and t-shirts
4. Cigarettes and Chi without body armor
5. The USO at the DFW airport
6. Meeting an Iraqi leader from my last tour who's still alive
7. "Nothing significant to report"
8. Sleep & KBR macadamia nut cookies (tie)
9. Dead generals (this one is hypothetical, at least for the last six years, but Ridgeway said "it's good for the troops' morale to see a dead general every once in a while.")
10. Truth

Conspicuous by its absence is any speech by any politician, except those that fall in category 10. Hope this helps.