Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another Otherworldy Tale -- A response to Rabbi Gellman: I just simply do not buy hocus pocus and what we WISH could be the state of man as what truly is. We WISH life to be a fairy tale where justice, truth, freedom and purpose prevail but is not. The hope that it WILL be I imagine is eternal but realistically that hope is usually dashed. It is dashed because we live in a real world where the attainment of power and wealth are at its core. This has been so nearly eternally since man, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, has been around. These wishful stories that fascism, war, totalitarianism and other injustices will die are only that ... wishes and nothing else.

The men of peace whom you talk about such as Martin Luther King and Ghandi were assassinated. RFK was assassinated. Rabin and Sadat were assassinated. Hitler was replaced by Stalin. Stalin was replaced ultimately with religious fanaticism. Who does the US choose as a leader in these critical times? George W. Bush, intellectually limited wager-of-war-based-on-lies, religious fundamentalist denier of the truth of science and abridger of human rights supreme interested more in his oil buddies, corporate money and revenge than he is in the survival of the human race and life on this planet.

The world today is a MUCH worse and more threatening place then ever in the history of our species. Powers (plural) have the ability to destroy all life on earth forever. More and more nations will probably achieve that dubious nuclear capability distinction. My guess is they are simply, if you will pardon the pun, dying to use it. The US for all its talk of freedom, democracy and justice has been involved in a plethora of wars all over the globe since its history and many, with the exception of WWII, were unnecessary. We have killed hundreds of thousands sometimes necessarily so but sometimes not. War now prevails over peace and religious fundamentalism prevails over rational thought. Lies prevail over truth. Man is a violent, power loving, and corrupt creature whose world is blowing up or drowning and whose fate seems dismal at best. There is no one, absolutely no one, to stop this descent.

I suppose we can look at a half full glass but I do not see it as such. I see life as Hobbs saw it for what I think it is: nasty, brutish and short. There are no saviors, there are no protectors there is only a continual line of men of folly globally who know exactly how to wage war but little of how to sagaciously wage peace. Worse, they couch their reason for violence in irrational religious insanity. If you want a fairy tale protector or ending read a book because that is the only place I think you will get one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Beautiful Barbaro: That beautiful Kentucky Derby horse winner Barbaro was euthanized today ultimately due to his original leg fracture when he tried to run the Preakness last year. It is a sad ending to a magnificent animal.

I have long thought horse and dog racing are cruel and inhumane “sports.” Humans are simply using those beautiful animals for their own pleasure and, of course, big money while stressing the animal's body to Olympian heights. Barbaro’s legs just could not stand the stress of it. It makes me sad. People say why do you care it's just an animal but I truly do believe animals have an intrinsic value and just as much right to a life on this planet as humans do without interrupting their natural life cycle. In a way, I see no difference between humans and animals. We are all animals but endowed with different traits. Yes, our brain makes us cleverer but does that mean we have more worth, for example, than a horse which can certainly run faster or a dog which can hunt better or a bird which can fly? Humans can certainly build better mouse traps but I do not think that entitles us to use and abuse other species and I especially loath animals used by humans for immense profit.

I believe we are all meant to be on this earth and to use whatever our capacities are to survive. I do believe in ultimately letting the earth and nature dictate all of our fates without humans imposing their will and being the determining factor of everything. Barbaro and each human too are beautiful and unique in and of themselves. I believe, their natural life cycle should not be negatively dominated by anyone else. Yes, I agree Barbaro needed to be euthanized because his quality of life was reduced so significantly that leading a life free of pain was simply not an option for him. I do to an extent agree with that for humans as well. I believe endless pain and suffering is not what life is meant to be and humans surely should not contribute to that for any specie. Human sport killed Barbaro. At least I agree with one thing, Barbaro is not suffering anymore.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Little Miss Darkness err Sunshine: Perhaps I am unique. I simply do not for the life of me understand what people think is so wonderful about this film or why it is up for any Academy Award. I simply hated it. It was preposterous, ridiculous, inane, certainly profane and obnoxious. Okay, perhaps it said one should be who one is and persevere despite life's setbacks and with a loving family it will be much easier to get through the rough spots. I'll give it that. I suppose it had a message. Still, the way TO the message was insane.

Moreover, something else bothered me. The role of the grandfather made me squirm. The fact that he was disgustingly profane and obnoxiously revolting was compounded by what he said in the company of his granddaughter. There was some kind of, I thought, weird incestuous suggestiveness that I was not at all comfortable with. Would anyone be comfortable with a grandfather who got kicked out of his condo, sniffed cocaine and advised his grandson to bed every woman he can, staying in a hotel room with their female child? The kiddy beauty pageant at the end put the child pornographic icing on the cake for me and it did so by trying to be hilarious about it. There is NOTHING funny about a child being placed in a Jean Benet Ramseyish adult sexual role. NOTHING. This film said and did some uncomfortable things and more than once I was tempted to walk out. I didn't but I wish I had. This film disgusted me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A post by Maureen Dowd:

This should be sent to every member of Congress and that den of stupidity the White House. Maureen Dowd is a one-of-a-kind magnificently brilliant editorialist. Her editorial is below.

Daffy Does Doom

Published: January 27, 2007

Dick Durbin went to the floor of the Senate on Thursday night to denounce the vice president as “delusional.”

It was shocking, and Senator Durbin should be ashamed of himself.

Delusional is far too mild a word to describe Dick Cheney. Delusional doesn’t begin to capture the profound, transcendental one-flew-over daftness of the man.

Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.

Only someone with an inspired alienation from reality could, under the guise of exorcising the trauma of Vietnam, replicate the trauma of Vietnam.

You must have a real talent for derangement to stay wrong every step of the way, to remain in complete denial about Iraq’s civil war, to have a total misunderstanding of Arab culture, to be completely oblivious to the American mood and to be absolutely blind to how democracy works.

In a democracy, when you run a campaign that panders to homophobia by attacking gay marriage and then your lesbian daughter writes a book about politics and decides to have a baby with her partner, you cannot tell Wolf Blitzer he’s “out of line” when he gingerly raises the hypocrisy of your position.

Mr. Cheney acts more like a member of the James gang than the Jefferson gang. Asked by Wolf what would happen if the Senate passed a resolution critical of The Surge, Scary Cheney rumbled, “It won’t stop us.”

Such an exercise in democracy, he noted, would be “detrimental from the standpoint of the troops.”

Americans learned an important lesson from Vietnam about supporting the troops even when they did not support the war. From media organizations to Hollywood celebrities and lawmakers on both sides, everyone backs our troops.

It is W. and Vice who learned no lessons from Vietnam, probably because they worked so hard to avoid going. They rush into a war halfway around the world for no reason and with no foresight about the culture or the inevitable insurgency, and then assert that any criticism of their fumbling management of Iraq and Afghanistan is tantamount to criticizing the troops. Quel demagoguery.

“Bottom line,” Vice told Wolf, “is that we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes.” The biggest threat, he said, is that Americans may not “have the stomach for the fight.”

He should stop casting aspersions on the American stomach. We’ve had the stomach for more than 3,000 American deaths in a war sold as a cakewalk.

If W. were not so obsessed with being seen as tough, Mr. Cheney could not influence him with such tripe.

They are perpetually guided by the wrong part of the body. They are consumed by the fear of looking as if they don’t have guts, when they should be compelled by the desire to look as if they have brains.

After offering Congress an olive branch in the State of the Union, the president resumed mindless swaggering. Asked yesterday why he was ratcheting up despite the resolutions, W. replied, “In that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.” (Or preordained it.)

The reality of Iraq, as The Times’s brilliant John Burns described it to Charlie Rose this week, is that a messy endgame could be far worse than Vietnam, leading to “a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that will absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now,” and a “wider conflagration, with all kinds of implications for the world’s flow of oil, for the state of Israel. What happens to King Abdullah in Jordan if there’s complete chaos in the region?”

Mr. Cheney has turned his perversity into foreign policy.

He assumes that the more people think he’s crazy, the saner he must be. In Dr. No’s nutty world-view, anti-Americanism is a compliment. The proof that America is right is that everyone thinks it isn’t.

He sees himself as a prophet in the wilderness because he thinks anyone in the wilderness must be a prophet.

To borrow one of his many dismissive words, it’s hogwash.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tragedy at Lincon/Sudbury Regional High: The violence and death of a student in the safety of his school would have been unthinkable in other eras. The most contraband which I brought to school was gum; the most dangerous weapon a pencil. Profanity and violence directed toward a student or teacher was not even a thought. Something has gone terribly wrong. Hoping to free ourselves from some of the ridiculous societal shackles of the 50's we, I think, reaped what we did not want exactly to sew.

I believe there is a general crudity which exists in this country, illustrated in our culture by the language used, the lack of civility in discourse and, worst of all, in the exhibition of violence without care or concern for the feelings of another. We are exposed to it every day, when we turn on television, watch the evening news, go to the movies, turn on the computer or simply walk into a mall. There is a cacophony of voices screaming at and not listening to each other. Until adults, liberal and conservative alike, learn to treat each other respectfully and to impose upon themselves self censorship, vulgarity and violence will be a way of life so that what happened in Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School will become not the exception but the rule.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Notes on a Scandal -- notable: This was a superb and wonderfully acted film. The entire cast including, of course, Judi Dench (Barbara) and Kate Blanchett (Sheba) gave sterling performances. The film has much to say and there is much to think about. I thought the movie was about loyalty, altruism, friendship, sadness, emptiness and purpose in life. It was about the unexpected and unanticipated outcomes of life. It was about morality and it was about loneliness.

Barbara is an aging, single and devastatingly lonely history teacher who develops an emotional and even sexual attachment to the comparatively youngish, very pretty, newly hired, insecure art teacher, Sheba. Sheba's problematic family life adds to her loneliness. She is married to an older man and has two children who present her with hard-to-manage unanticipated consequential situations. One of her children is a seemingly rather difficult teenage girl and the other is a son with Downs Syndrome.

Wading through her loneliness and difficulties, Sheba commits an immoral act which Barbara inadvertently observes; the stage is set for unforeseen consequences. There is too much in this movie to relate the ensuing events nor would I want to be a spoiler. There are pertinent questions, though, I think a viewer of the movie could keep in mind.

Why do people do what they do? When must we say no to one's impulses? Where is the line we and society draw and is it ever understandable when we cross that line? What is the nature of friendship? Ayn Randian questions always plague me. Are people really altruistic or do we do things because, in the end, we alone need to do them? Does self-interest always prevail and does it doom us? Barbara befriends Sheba and Sheba develops a great misplaced trust. Because of that events unfold and Sheba's world is upended. Barbara, I think, really cares about no one except herself and yet I built up an intense empathy for Barbara whose loneliness literally drips from every pore of her being. Is she evil? Is she completely pathologic as she flits from one receptive flower to the next? Is Barbara's reaction to life understandable? Does Sheba reap what she alone has sewn through her immoral act? Who is the more immoral of the two? What is betrayal and is it ever right? Barbara after all, I think, really does not betray because of a sense of right but because of a jealous sense of wrong that she feels was committed against her.

Personally, although some kinds of altruism, I think, exist, I do believe most people do what it is in their own self interest to do. Barbara did not offer to help Sheba through her difficulties out of an altruistic friendship she offered to help Sheba because she needed and wanted to possess her. Sheba committed an immoral act without thought of consequences to anyone including her family because she, too, needed to do so. The two protagonists were using people to satisfy their own urges and remedy their own disappointments in life.

I do believe we as a society need to create morality and set certain albeit arbitrary standards because, in the end, humans are still primitive beings. Left to our own devices we would do anything we want and a kind of social anarchy would and does often prevail. This film was riveting. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I loath the George W. Bush presidency: The damage he has done is staggering. He and his entire administration are like flypaper. We simply cannot rid ourselves of his ineptitude. I loath him because of his cerebral failure. His policies are a reflection of his lack of intellect. I cannot believe we have a president who is so limited and our government is so powerless, even with a Democratic majority, to rid us of this scourge.

This psychologically and intellectually impaired president will simply veto everything the Democrats pass and Democrats won't have the cajones to override immoral vetoes. Whether it's ethics reform, stem cell research or the Iraq debacle he will veto all of Congress's attempt to rectify the horror he has wrought. He is a disgrace. I believe our people got what they wanted especially those so called conservatives of the mid-West and south. Many of them have paid the ultimate price with either their own life or that of their child and other loved ones. Bush is the gift that keeps on giving...and giving and giving and giving.

Because of 9/11 I supported the Iraq war initially because I emphatically thought Iraq possessed WMD's. I thought our government absolutely knew things we did not and would never take us to a huge war based on lies this time. I thought this time our government would make sure to follow military advice.

Sometimes I wonder, what if the US did not act in Iraq and left Hussein and his sons alone? Would he/they then have been in competition with Iran to build a nuclear bomb? That question can never be answered. What we do know now is that the terrorists in the form of Al Quaeda who attacked us on 9/11 and other terrorists from all over the region are certainly in Iraq now. They were not in Iraq under Hussein. Hussein suffered no tyrants except the tyranny of his own regime. It is possible that that regime if left in place would have ensured a terrorist free zone. We will never know.

Further, I also wonder if the Iraq War was not a pretext to ultimately bomb Iran's nuclear capabilities. If so it seems this could not have gone worse. Perhaps Bush didn't care how it went IF he could position our troops in Iraq to provide support for an ultimate air and sea attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

There has been so much death and destruction on all fronts for seemingly absolutely nothing. Certainly Islamic fanatics will not be getting 72 virgins in heaven. What total insanity their cause is. On the other Christian hand certainly, too, Revelations is a story book joke as well. If, however, Bush believes in it then I do not know who is crazier Bush or the Islamic fundamentalists. Maybe it's a tie but the joke certainly is on us.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Good Shepard -- the etiology of the CIA: I think I enjoyed this film more than most. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I am a very political person and think so often about national and international issues. I am constantly trying to figure out which side is really right. It seems each decade I change my mind. Perhaps it is because history and its analyses change from era to era. With the exception of the moral superiority of WWII, US policy becomes, I think, questionable, throughout the cold war era and beyond. Perhaps no one is all right and no one is all wrong. This country has done some nasty things BUT so has every other country. International politics is not soft and cuddly and if one needs a teddy bear I suggest the CIA, FBI, etc. is not for you. This film, I agree, seems not to take a firm stand although it surely does give one pause as to US interrogation techniques. I think one can relate much to contemporary events and arguments against (and for) torture.

The definite flaw, in my opinion, is the aging process of the actors. Angelina Jolie remains twenty something from decade to decade as does Matt Damon as does Tammy Blanchard and others. It was hard to tell the difference between the ages of Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie's and their son. That made it hard to follow and believe.

I did love the performances though and I loved the subject matter despite the film's lack of statement. Perhaps every film does not have to hit one over the head (so to speak) telling us its definitive point of view but rather should spark discussion of, in this case, power politics and its necessary bedfellow -- immorality. How far would one go to protect oneself, one's family or one's country even if it meant that you had to commit an immoral act to do it? That is a good question and I cannot think of a better time in history to ask it. A warning: It is a long film but I did not look at my watch once!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Killing of Innocents: The Iraq war is simply abysmal. The brutality is horrific. I do not blame the Marines for the wanton slaying of innocents. War kills innocents. That is the nature of war. When the Allies bombed Dresden we didn't think oh the poor Germans. We thought this is what has to be done to win a must-win war. When Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground it took the lives of innocents. It won the Civil War for the north.

Still, where Iraq is concerned there is surely blame to be ascribed and it lies, in my opinion, at the feet of our incompetent absolutely devastating Executive branch with Legislative complicity and all those who allowed a nincompoop to achieve the most important office in the country if not the world. The blame is on him and the blame is on our American public. Even if the elections were stolen, the fact that they were close allowed this debacle to happen. I think the American public asked for it and they got what they asked for. Now we are nearly one half trillion bucks in debt, lives squandered and the saga of the surge will go on. We have allowed this tyranny to proceed because we have been so shortsighted, so incompetent in our scrutiny of our political leaders and so uncaring because, mostly, it did not affect us. Now that we face losing not only the war but our economic well being and our prestige around the world or worse maybe we will realize a leader who takes this country to war must be held to the highest standard of scrutiny no matter which party holds office and a Declaration of War must be obtained as specified in our Constitution. Bombs and bullets do not work anymore. For a change maybe we should try a little geopolitical diplomacy. It would save us a heck of a lot of lives and a fortune in treasure!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sadness and Sadam: I hated the hanging of Hussein. Of course like everyone else I berated myself for feeling a note of uneasiness as they slipped the knot around his neck. I suppose I am uneasy about capital punishment. I personally could not slip the knot, inject the needle, drop the cyanide or do anything else whereby I could perform an execution. I leave that neatly to others. More than even the capital punishment question, though, is to me the more disturbing fact of the numerous overt acts of jubilation upon Hussein's death.

I cannot think of one human being that was more deserving of execution than Adolph Eichmann. However, when it was done I do not recall crowds in the street jumping up and down for joy at even his execution. To me it is because the whole endeavor, the whole rationale behind his execution was so sad and so horrific to the civilized mind that killing him did not produce joy. It produced sadness.

I felt similarly about Hussein. He perhaps was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not a million people and not just the few thousand he was charged with crimes against humanity about. His crimes against humanity were much larger. The whole episode from Hussein's crimes, to his invasions, to his war with Iran, to the two US responses have been hugely gruesome to many many innocents. So it is not joy that I feel at his execution but sadness that our human species is still after millions of years of evolution capable of this kind of brutality. One more man, Hussein, himself was yet another victim in the saga of slaughter. To me there should be no joy in Mudville but a profound and utter sadness that there still exists today men who act as beasts.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Funereal Futility: Those presidential funerals are interminable. They are too long. Dead bodies being shuttled from sea to shining sea over days is too much for me. It is a wonder their wives – not exactly agile – can take the hoopla. One elderly man at Ford’s Capitol vigil actually fainted. I can understand why. It is amazing the likes of Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Kissinger and other elder remnants of the Ford years remained standing. I had a graveside service for both my parents. My rationale was why prolong the agony. Okay, so my parents were not presidents of the United States. I simply hope the remaining living former US presidents remain healthy. Between the funerals of Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and yes James Brown (even though he was just a singer,) I cannot go through another funereal marathon.

A Ford and not a Lincoln: I have a different opinion of former President Gerald R. Ford now than I did before he died. The plethora of eulogies and kind remembrances metamorphosed my opinion. Before his death I thought his pardon of Richard Nixon was wrong, biased and ill conceived. I even thought, perhaps, he and Nixon had a gentleman’s agreement that Ford would assume the presidency and in return not hold Nixon accountable for the dismantling of our democratic process.

Then Ford died. Perhaps my former belief was in error. So many journalists and historians believe that Ford was the right man at the right time. Many believe his pardon spared a Watergate-weary nation from indicting a President for the high crimes he avoided through his resignation. Perhaps this was so. It seems now to me that Ford spared the nation a lot. Most importantly though, too, I liked Ford’s thoughts on feminism, abortion, a woman’s right to choose, and his thoughts today about homosexuality and gay marriage. I liked Betty Ford’s openness. I liked the fact that people seemed to think Ford was an honest man. He really was reminiscent of that old time Republican politics whereby an innate suspicion of government's involvement in the economic and personal lives of the population prevailed. Ford’s funeral was a return for a moment to that old time Republican political religion. Oh, yes, by the way, I also liked that Ford left a few choice uncomplimentary words for George W. Bush's Iraq debacle. Ah, for the good old days when honesty was indeed the best policy.