Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My New year's Resolution

My New years resolution this year will not be to drop ten pounds or learn to play the drums. Actually this year I'm vowing to go Green. Not that I have not tried before, but I'm gonna take it a little further. Here are some steps to go Green and help fight global warming:

1. Use an Eco- shower head. They have great ones at target.

2. Use only compact florescent light bulbs.

3. Recycle all things that can be recycled

4. Turn off the lights when out of the room.

5. Drive less, Bike, Buss, and take the train more.

6. Call your energy company as ask them to switch your power to green energy - most companies will do this.

7. By natural cleaning supplies - like seventh generation

8, Use paper that has already been made of recycled materials

9. Unplug cords when not charging things - such as cell phones.

10. Make your facebook green - their is an application for this!

Of course there are other things: writing our elected officials, signing petitions, making phone calls, and if we have the money buying a hybrid or electric car. I can't yet afford a Hybrid so that's out for this year's resolution. But we will see if I can make the rest!

Let's all make 2009 a year of real change with regard to our relationship with the environment.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Green Party gives Obama advice on the environment

The Green Party of the United States has issued an environmental reform press release asking the Obama administration to make decisive change toward green policies.

Check it out:

The Green party can be overly ideological, but they do good and important work.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Norad Tracks Santa: Santa arrives in St. Louis

This is a fun holiday tradtion, something to share with the kids in your family for sure!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Choice Is Ours Now

Melissa Etheridge offers some great insight here. It appears, from what she says, that Rick Warren is no Jerry Fallwell or Ted Haggard. He at least seems to have some respect for his fellow human beings who happen to be gay.

And her cries for peace are particularly moving. We could refuse to dialog with the Rick Warrens of the world, but where would that get us? We could write him off, ignore him and those who think like him, but how we would progress?

I'm impressed with what Ms. Etherige says here. If we really want to change the world, we better be willing to open up to those who oppose us, rather than write them off.
This does not mean that Obama made a good choice in picking Warren to lead the prayer on Jan. 20th, I don't think that was a wise or thoughtful choice, but it is to say that Rick Warren must be engaged with not merely ingored or dismissed.

About Obama's Inauguration
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren is worse than we thought!

If Obama really is the "fierce advocate of gay and lesbian rights" that he claims he is, then he ought to rescind his invitation of Pastor Warren.

We know already that Warren opposes gay marriage and equates it with pedophilia and incest, but apparently "unrepentant gays" are not permitted to attend his church! And that is not even the worst of it! Watch the video and you'll see what I mean:

Christmas: Pagan, Secular, and Christian all in one.

Every year we are told that Christmas is too commercial. With respect to society at large this is probably correct. We are told that the holiday is overly sappy and sentimental: it can be.

Despite these valid criticisms, I remain a fan of Christmas. Each of us has a choice as to how we celebrate this holiday. We can - with effort - avoid the commercialism, and we can choose to celebrate the love of close friends and family without being either sappy or overly - read: falsely - sentimental. There is, however, another criticism that I think should be answered.

Every year we hear devout Christians explain that too many pagan and/or secular elements have crept into the holiday and that the birth of Jesus is forgotten.

The problem is that Christmas was originally modeled on a pagan celebration. Christmas has not ever been an exclusively Christian holiday, but mostly a pagan celebration of life and love which was at one point joined with the Christian religion.

And in the west today Christmas is a cultural event, not merely a religious festival. Christmas has both sacred - both Christian and pagan - and secular elements. We may choose not to celebrate any of these, or some of these, or all of these. But whichever we choose, our choice might be better informed if we know the truth about the history and origins of the holiday.

The following documentary by the history channel is a great summary and analysis of the Christmas holiday:

Also, there was an excellent Op-ed piece on this blending of traditions that make up Christmas just a couple days ago:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Christmas book review

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (Signet Classics) The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is really a fine children's book. Like any good children's literature, it is equally enjoyable for adults. Placing Santa Claus firmly in the pagan world of fairies, woodland spirits, and other such folktale powers, Baum reminds us that Santa - despite the relation to the Christian St. Nick - is clearly an embodiment of the pagan celebration of joy, light, and life that is and has always been a massive part of Christmas.

The book presents a very admirable Santa Claus and is highly original. Most interesting, Baum's Santa Claus is a champion of children because they are helpless and particularly poor children because they are in need. This is why Santa gives away toys for free, to ease the hard burdens of life on the little ones. I find this a healthy antidote to the CEO-like Santa we see in contemporary films, who runs a factory with assembly lines, and probably denies the Elves workman's comp and health insurance! Baum's Santa is a true champion of the downtrodden. A Folk-hero, who is no mere giver of trinkets, but a champion of social justice, an enemy of exploitation, and a hardened ally of the poor and suffering.

The only reason I can't give this book 5 stars is that it is infused with the early 20th century fascinating with fairies, which comes off today as rather odd. And the book has numerous odd elements. Even worse, Baum does not use the reindeer names we know so well, but odd names like "Flossie" and "Glossie." AND THEY DON'T EVEN FLY!!!

Still, I recommend this book for the Holidays. Should I ever have children, I will one day read it to them!

View all my reviews.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush makes last minute move to prevent abortion

Before leaving us - which can't come soon enough - Bush has decided to sign into law a "Right of Conscience act." This act will give health care workers the legal right to refuse to assist or perform abortions.

Even worse, this act will allow pharmacists who don't believe in birth control to refuse to give it out! Worse yet, people whose religious beliefs cause them to oppose things like blood transfusions will not be compelled to allow them to happen!!

There can be, under this law, no stopping people from this. This is really pernicious . . .Hopefully the incoming Obama administration can quickly overturn it!

I understand and respect people who are pro-life. But this bill is an attempt to undermine the legal status of abortion, popular opinion and serious debate be damned.

And there are other problems with this Law, as Rachel Maddow explains:

See the full story here:

There is a petition you can sign to let the incoming Obama team know that you want this overturned:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama defends picking Pastor Warren ... and his defense seems right!!

Here Obama defends his pick of Pastor Warren:

I think what Obama says makes a lot of sense. He's not advocating Warren's views. He is trying to establish unity and dialog; he is trying to be "everyone's president."

I think my earlier post about this reflected a knee-jerk liberal bias on my part. I'm now back to my "guarded optimism" about Obama.

Nevertheless, I'm still wary of some of Obama's choices and picks. But time will tell how this all plays out.

The Merits of Conservatism.

I am an economic and social liberal. I am pro same-sex marriage, pro-choice, pro welfare state, support strong personal and political actions to combat global warming, and I am even a vegetarian since I don't want to support the cruelty and barbarity of factory farming.

Naturally then I oppose the conservatives when they champion the right-wing agenda. But since it is Christmas-time and I am constantly reminded in song and greeting card of peace, joy, and unity. I thought I would here state what I take to be right about the conservative ideology. I think Conservatives have the following correct:

* Strong families and good values are key to a healthy society
* In some cases private enterprise and free markets are positive factors in society
* Personal responsibility and accountability need to be insisted upon
* In some respects, less government is best.

Let me clarify, when they argue that family values preclude gay marriage and condemn teen mothers, I vehemently disagree. When they fight for less regulation on the market I dissent. When they think personal responsibility means the abolition of social service and demand that people "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" I protest. When they think less government means the privatization of social security and the crippling of funding to public programs and services I set myself dead against them.

However, there are some legitimate positions and values in the conservative world view. I think that we liberals could gain much by realizing that. By not condescending conservatives and trying to find the common ground with which we can begin a constructive dialog with them.

If we give up, if we cannot reach across the ideological divide to work with each other, I fear greatly for the future!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rick Warren, Obama Invocation Choice, Causing First Real Rift With Progressives

I find this story very disturbing. Not that Rick Warren is a villain - far from it. But an Evangelical pastor leading the invocation??!!! I give up. Obama is just a right-leaning centrist Democrat . .. or at least that is how he appears to plan to govern.

All the progressive rhetoric is gone. Is this "change we can believe in"? Surrounding himself with hawks, Washington insiders, some of Bush's people, and evangelical pastors?! What is this?!!! This is not what I voted for.
About Barack Obama
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

How Green is Obama's Green Team?

An interesting and nuanced look at Obama's statements on energy and his energy team from The Nation

As the article correctly notes, Obama's position on global warming is far better than what we have seen so far, but not yet good enough. Nevertheless, his picks - particularly Chu - give us cause for guarded optimism.

We will see improvement for sure under Obama's administration. But if we are to see the amount of improvement that is required, then we must all work hard to make the new President and his people know exactly what has to be done.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Best Film Adapation of A Christmas Carol

The N. Y. Times has picked the 1951 British version of A Christmas Carol as the best film Adaptation. This has always been my view as well. Alastair Sim is just remarkable as Scrooge, no one could do it better!

Check out the Link and you will see a good case made for the superiority of this particular adaptation of the story:

There are of course many other marvelous versions. Anybody have a different pick for best version?

Also see my previous post for my pick of the best animated version of Carol, this one also has Alastair Sim as Scrooge.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Iraqi journalist shows us how history will remember Bush.

When the journalist hurled his shoes at Bush in Iraq, I could not help but think: How will Georgie W be remembered by history?

The answer is obvious. A failure, an idiot, a criminal of war, the American president who lied his country into a foolish invasion, implemented torture, suspended habeas corpus . .. I could keep going on but my post would be far too long listing the horrors, bumblings, atrocities, and uncountable number of scandals that crowd the tale of this appalling administration.

There really should be no debate on the fact that the Bush administration is a moral, political, and practical failure. But the question is, how do we best express it? In wondering how to say this myself, I stumbled upon a summary of the "Bush Legacy" by Keith Olbermann.

I think Olbermann pretty much captures it, so I'll let him sum up the Bush legacy for me:

Is this what Bush meant when he said we'd be greeted as liberators?!

This has already been all over the internet, but I thought I'd post it too.

Bush did say that the people of Iraq would throw flowers at us. Well . .. . . they threw something:

For the whole story:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Obama Administration: Progressive, Centrist, or Right Leaning?

Is the President-elect, centrist? leftist? or a fairly hawkish right-leaning centrist?

Though personnel is not necessarily policy, personnel is a strong indicator of it most of the time. With that in mind, let us turn to Obama's latest pick.

President Elect Obama has picked one Shaun Donovan to be his secretary of housing and urban development.

Here is a basic Profile of Mr. Donovan:

He is well respected and appears to have done excellent work on housing in New York. This appears to be another good pick.

Obama's picks on energy impressed me - see my earlier posts about it - which is good as his picks on the economy have caused me some skepticism and his picks on national security have been even worse. But the pick of Donovan seems a good one, and together with the earlier pick of Melody Barnes for Domestic Policy, my optimism about "Obamanomics" is increasing.

Here is the announcement of the pick from Obama's office today:

With Obama it is becoming more and more clear that we likely have a Center-right incoming administration with regard to foreign policy, a center-left economic policy, and a fairly progressive attitude on the environment, education, health care, and . . . perhaps social welfare and housing.

All and all we have the makings of a good presidency . . . albeit one that is undoubtedly going to be flawed and far from perfect.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A victory for working people!

Check this out from Crooks and liars:

it appears that those workers in Chicago fighting Republic and Bank of America have actually accomplished something of a triumph.

Is it enough of a "victory"? And is it a sign of better things to come? Check out the link and you be the judge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day

Today is the 60th Anniversay of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

The original declaration can be found here:

Remember that the principle behind Democratic governments is that the only legitimate function of government, the reason it exists and the way it remains a valid government, is to promote, protect, and ensure all it's peoples' basic human rights.

This view of government was not always accepted. It is a result of the radical thinking of the 17th and 18th century philosophers who invented the very concept of human rights and abandoned the older idea that the primary function of government was to enforce order and keep everyone in their proper place.

It's also worth reflection that we have not only rights to life, liberty, propety, and security - so called negative rights -, but also rights to a basic standard of health care, education, standard of living, and equal opportunity.

Let us take this Human Rights day to remember the rights we do have - that only emerged after centuries of struggle - but also to remember what we still need to work for.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


The crisis in Illinois brought on by the greed of Republic and Bank of America goes on. Kudos to Obama and to the Illinois government for supporting the workers who were laid off without severance pay or proper notice.

some refer to our American system of rabid free-market capitalism as "fundamental human rights." Well, here it is for you, the fundamental human right of blue collar workers to be spat on and mistreated:

Obama Meets with Al Gore

This is rather good news. I'm very skeptical about Obama's foreign policy, which is not dramatically different than anything we've seen before and I am also worried about some of his economic picks - although I'm more hopeful on the economy.

Progressives have rightly been critical of several recent statements from the president elect and many of his cabinet picks

I have, however, been optimistic about the incoming President and his administration on two fronts: Health Care reform and Global Warming.

I've blogged previously and will again on Obama's health care plans, but here I will say a word about Obama on Global Warming.

Today Al Gore met with Barack Obama in Chicago for about 45 minutes, and the two men declared themselves in "fundamental agreement" about the reality of global warming and what must be done to combat it.

Given the Bush administration's massive neglect of and even outright hostility to combating global warming, and given Gore's incredible efforts to wake people up to this global catastrophe, this is a good sign.

In addition, Obama's rhetoric in announcing himself as an ally of those who wish to solve the climate crisis and vowing "green jobs" is very encouraging.

I voted for Obama for three reasons: 1) his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, 2) his passion for health care reform, and 3) his positions on the environment. So far, and despite his centrist and hawkish cabinet picks, he gives me solid hope that he will make significant strides in the areas that earned him my vote.

Note: For those out there who might still be doubtful about the reality of global warming and/or the human contribution to it, please familiarize yourself with the basic science:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Greg Maddux Retires

The game of baseball says goodbye to the career of one of its greatest players today. But not only that. Greg Maddux is a rare player who displays the values of hard work, integrity, and team solidarity.

You are truly Great Greg! See you in Cooperstown in 5 years!

Addition to Previous Post: The Perils of taking the Bible literally

Though The Bible is full of genuine moral insight, moving stories, powerful descriptions of the human condition, and a moving spirituality, we know it also contains human folly and foible. Parts of The Bible condone slavery, genocide, sexism, you name it, like any text of the ancient world. As it is extremely relevant to my previous post, I thought I'd expand on this insight a little here by providing an informative video on the topic.

This video is of a talk by an author who tried to live an entire year taking all The Bible completely literally. The obvious absurdities are brought out with great humor. But he also has positive things to say about The Bible:

The basic point is simple: Taking The Bible literally is absurd. God did not write the Good Book and only a willing blindness prevents anyone from seeing that. However, The Bible can be seen quite productively as the record of spiritual insights and religious experiences of the ancient men and women who wrote it and of whom its tales tell. This latter reading is, I would argue, every bit as religious and profound as the first - indeed, I think it is far more so.

I highly recommend the actual book. The New York Times book review of it can be found here:

Newsweek makes a religous case IN FAVOR OF gay marriages!!!!

Newsweek has really done a marvelous job here. This cover story makes the case that the central Biblical notion of love should have religious people coming down in favor of gay marriages! Great job Newsweek! Ultimately the article is correct. In the words of St. Paul, "the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." Ultimately the one prohibition in Leviticus against homosexuality - which is in a chapter that also prohibits garments of blended fabrics and shrimp cocktail - and the one or two passages in St. Paul - who also thought the end of the world would come in his life-time, and that women should veil their heads and could not have short haircuts! - do not guide the religious person. Rather it is love, love for our neighbor and respect for their love for each other, that should guide our attitude on this and other issues. For the whole story go to:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grassroots Healthcare Reform

It looks more and more promising that, with regard to health care at least, the incoming Obama administration is going to be looking to and utilizing grassroots reform. This from the Washington Post is very encouraging:

Obama on Meet the Press

Check out President Elect Obama on Meet the Press. Obama lays out his entire economic and job creation plan and mentions some new administration picks:

Obama makes it pretty clear what he intends to do as President. If you want to know how he plans to govern then this interview is a must view. Of course things may not - at least in some ways surely will not - go as he plans, but this is one of the clearest statements yet of what he does hope to accomplish.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is MSNBC the new Fox News?

Jon Stewart presents MSNBC as the left's version of Fox News. Well, for the most part he does so. Note that Stewart does commend Rachel Maddow as "even tempered and balanced" and he remarks that MSNBC's "token conservative" Joe Scarbourough is more than a "token" but "has his own show" - Stewart might also have noted the frequent use of Pat Buchannan as an MSNBC commentator. Stewart knows therefore that MSBNC is not quite Fox News.

Still, a very witty and thought-provoking comparison:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rachel makes Obama's Security team sound a little better ... but scepticism still remains.

Here Rachel Maddow breaks down the National Security team pretty carefully. She gives some of the best aspects of it and yet voices some concern. A good discussion with Madelene Albright makes a pro-Obama team case:

Our Awful health care system attacks.

I just learned that the monthly premium on my health insurance is going to be raised by $25 dollars per month. And the other day, when I took my girlfriend to the E.R, I saw more of our health care horror. Because she was a "workman's comp" case they ordered an X-ray. The Doctor actually directly said that if she were paying out of pocket or with insurance he would not order the X-ray as it would cost too much!!!!!

This is the risk you run for having a privatized health insurance. If we had a single payer system, do you think the government would be capable of raising our taxes $25 dollars a month?! Do you think that people would be denied basic tests like an X-ray because it was too pricey?! Does this happen in Canada, England, or France????!!!!!

At least if the government is in charge of Health care and does such a thing, we have the power to vote them out of office. We cannot do that with the CEOs of these private companies. When you privatize you don't put resources in the hands of kindly people with our interests at heart; rather, you put resources in the hands of unaccountable despots. Despots who care only about making profit and cannot be removed from power by our vote.

If you doubt that privatization results in this kind of tyranny, do a little history of the fire department. Research what it was like in this country when the firefighting industry was privatized. Then, once you have done that, go sit in an ER, go battle your insurance company to pay for your surgery or your prescriptions, and finally have them raise your rates . . . . JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN!!!!

There are those who celebrate our health-care system as "free" and representing "fundamental human rights". I do not choose to recognize being the victim of robbery, fraud and deceit as cause for rejoicing and celebration. If that is freedom, I think I'll pass.

This is not "free-enterprise;" it is a despotic health-care fascism. The idea that one's health is a commodity to be left in the hand of private companies and robber barons, is an atrocity. This is an affront to justice, morality, and basic human decency

Enough talking! It's time for more than health care reform, it is time for a new system. Time for a National Health Plan. Enough of this grotesque, absurd, and inhuman violation of our basic right to health care coverage!!!

Obama's Security picks . ..... Predictable?

Barack Obama today shared with us his picks for his security team. See the video for the details

A Rather Predictable list of your standard Democratic centrists and Washington insiders, most of whom we already knew about.

By now this should not - and probably does not - surprise any of us. It is, however, worth a a careful analysis. It still remains unclear how the Obama administration will govern this country.

We are here again seeing the same thing in Obama Picks that we have seen since the election, and indeed before the election with the pick of Joe Biden as V. P. Essentially what we have here are center-right, status quo, Washington insiders. We will no doubt hear the same criticism we heard with the economic team picks: How is this change? How is this what the country needs? And we will here a long list of the errors and flaws of those picked. This is predictable, and probably contains some truth - although, there are some progressive picks Obama has made

A friend of mine has already blogged about this very predictable and understandable debate:

Indeed one of our greatest public intellectuals, Noam Chomsky has spelled the case against the Obama picks out in great detail:

Chomsky focuses on personnel and not policy. But perhaps personnel is policy? Perhaps not. Obama's policies still sound progressive and he has publicly claimed that he has hired the best minds, not to reinforce the old centrist policies, but to implement his new progressive policies. Such things have happened before, F.D.R used Washington insiders to implement progressive policies. So it's possible, then again, we may being seeing a standard centrist or even center-right government.

So once again we are left wondering, will policy or personnel rule the day? Will Obama get these people to work for change? Or will we just have, as Noam Chomsky has predicted, "Standard Centrist Policy."

Personally I'm not sure what will happen. I like the picks in some respects, and am skeptical in others, I see what both critics and defenders say. They both have good points.

Despite my scepticism that Hilary is too hawkish and won't work well with Obama, I am now cautiously enthusiastic about Hilary: I think she may very well turn out to be a fine Secretary of State! This is a woman with world-wide connections, and deep insight into world affairs, and a strong agenda for women's right, economic justice and health care.

I guess at this point I am left in suspense: I do no know what Obama will do. And that is, I suspect, the state most of us our in: hope remains, but scepticism lingers.