Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hillsdale produces an Obama Move-on ad

As we've seen, this year's election offers elections within elections. The Republicans want Republicans to register as Democrats so they can vote for Democrats who will be easier for Republicans to defeat.

Are you still with me?

Anyway, here comes another election-year election. The voting for a Barack Obama Move-on political ad. Here is a Hillsdale-produced ad, written and co-produced by neighbor Ellen Currey-Wilson. See how many of your friends and neighbors you recognize in it. Ellen says that many of its "stars" are Wilson High School students.

You'll be asked to vote for it. Don't take that vote lightly. If it wins, it could influence hundreds of thousands of voters — one way or the other.

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Friday, April 25, 2008


For some time now I’ve been searching for a word on this side of outright obscenity to describe the Bush administration.

No single word captures it: not aloof, arrogant, deceitful, self-serving, hypocritical, self-righteous, corrupt, secretive, insensitive or inhumane.

What word to capture Abu Ghraib, torture, waterboarding, wire-tappings, renditions, lies, ineptitude, tax cuts for the wealthy, war profiteering, cronyism, posturing, stonewalling and fear mongering?

Then yesterday I think I found the word. Or to be exact, it was handed to me by a most unlikely source.

Here it is in context in a New York Times story:

NEW ORLEANS — Senator John McCain took direct aim at the Bush administration on Thursday as he stood in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and declared that “never again will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled.”

The Bush presidency in its entirety, not just in its callous mishandling of Katrina, has been, in a single word, a “disgrace.”

Gerald Ford proclaimed on the day Richard Nixon left office that “our long national nightmare” had ended.

To assure us that the disgrace of Bush-Cheney will end next January, McCain, Clinton and Obama should agree that this administration has been a disgrace — to the nation, to its people, to humanity, and, yes, to the planet.

I know it is likely too much to hope for, but to help the healing, those who voted for George W. Bush, starting with McCain, could begin with an apology.

In apologizing, McCain might see the wisdom in abandoning his own major positions, which so far mimic those of the Bush administration.

McCain, who so aptly spoke of disgrace in New Orleans, should see that his own stances are no less disgraceful.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The One and the Many

For reasons too convoluted to go into, tonight I have been enmeshed in the concept of “the one and the many.”

It’s a philosophical concept and a theological one. In fact my experience with it tonight arose in the context of our Quaker meeting.

To get a broader picture of “the one and the many,” Google it.

I commend the concept to you when you speak (or write) to others. What you say is heard by others all of whom are, like you, part of a single whole consisting of the many.

In that sense, when you speak, the many are speaking as well. Strangely, you are speaking back to yourself through the many. Try to hear yourself that way. You will be more careful about what you say.

The one IS the many, and the many are the one.

Quakers speak of that of God, the one, in each and all of us. Together we and God in us all, as one, are the many.

I like to see myself as a community-nurturer. Communities are also “the one and the many.” So are “towns” and “cities,” or communities OF communities. The one and the many are one — and still many, and still one, like a cat chasing its tail.

I’ve written before that I have an aversion to the word “God” because it is one word, and a label at that. "God" is "un-Godlike."

God is all words and all things — everything — the many.

To isolate God with a one-word label, makes God “the other” and keeps us from being at one with God — and with ourselves.

I believe the word “God” (in its many forms) is a huge problem for religions.

It is also the reason I worship in silence.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blogging during TV Turn-off week

In response to a post earlier in the week, "ALT" asks whether I should be blogging and whether blog readers should be reading during TV Turn-off Week, which includes being "screen free."

Good question.

Since the computer replaced the typewriter, which replaced the pen, the keyboard/screen has become the dominant writing/publishing tool. So what I am doing, as I gaze at this screen, is writing.

This is not Writing/publishing-Turn-off Week. Nor should it be Reading-Turn-off Week.

The problem isn't screens per se. It's how we use them, and, yes, how MUCH we use them. If I had been fixated on this screen all day, I might have a problem, although many jobs are "screen-centered."

Cut out screens for a week and you lose your job.

My former livelihood as a journalist was screen-dependent, but no longer, ever since I became semi-retired. Still, the screen has its allure. I've taken steps to control my use of it.

Literally steps.

Since starting the 10,000-steps program recently, I've extracted myself from my screen-perch. My pedometer calls me the way the computer once did. The little step-counter clipped to my belt tells me that I'm actually averaging 12,000 steps or six miles of walking a day.

I have no idea whether I could do that after an eight-hour, five-days-a-week job, but it seems entirely possible. I find that with normal walking and then a planned one-hour walk (early in the morning, at lunch, in the evening), I can hit my 10,000-steps goal. Where to find that one hour?

That's where TV-Turnoff comes in — not just this week but every week.

(Sodden after-thought: you can have it ALL — if you insist — by buying a treadmill and putting a TV in front of it.)

As for writing, researching and staying informed, I'll keep using this little tool they call a computer.

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Gore for president; Obama or Clinton for veep

Before the Democratic primary leg-gnawing hobbles any hope of Democrats taking the White House, how about changing the Obama/Clinton contest into a race for the vice-presidency?

As for the presidency, do what is historically and poetically just — nominate Al Gore, the one leader willing to speak "inconvenient truth" to the American people.

Besides, he has proven he can be elected president.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day meets TV Turn-off Week

Earth Day, today, falls during TV-Turnoff Week, which lasts through Saturday. The conjunction of the two is occasion to reflect on how television, the public’s most used source of consumer messages and journalistic information, affects the Earth.

Consider this “starter” list of ten ways TV impacts the environment:

1. With the average American watching roughly 7 hours of TV a day, television sucks up lives that could be put to use working to improve the environment.

2. Because most television is in the business of stimulating consumption, it contributes to the depletion of the Earth’s resources.

3. Television sells its time to highest bidders, and the highest bidders are often corporations that exploit the environment and “green wash” their commercial messages.

4. Even public television (once known as “non-commercial” television) has sold out to these corporate interests. Precious few programs address the environmental crisis, and none that I know of do it in an on-going, systematic way. (I’d love to be proven wrong on this. Nominees?)
5. Television appeals to emotion and not the intellect. Issues of importance, like the survival of the planet, are often ignored as being too difficult to explain.

6. TV networks and cable and broadcast outlets are owned by fewer and fewer media conglomerates. Through overlapping directorates and industry lobbying, they collude to put their own commercial interests (ie. profits) above environmental issues.

7. Television’s alluring fantasy programming distracts the public from “real world” issues, like the degradation of the environment.

8. Through stereotyping, television panders to “enemy making,” which contributes to environmentally destructive wars and conflicts.

9. Major media conglomerates are also major military contractors whose very weapons are environmentally destructive.

10. By fear mongering through its violent programming and through news that exaggerates crime, TV isolates adults and children within their homes, segregating from the outdoors, nature and the environment. See "Mean World Syndrome."

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Monday, April 21, 2008


I spent much of Saturday afternoon drawing our ceilings and walls.

No, not drawing on, but drawing.

I’m in a drawing class and this week’s assignment is to use color pencils to draw a corner of a room.

To get the contrasts right, I also spent much of the afternoon squinting at the ceiling and walls. It’s a common artist’s technique. The broad outlines, contrasts and intensities of the scene become more apparent by squinting.

Squinting prevents the artist from becoming lost in and confused by details. (Try squinting at my drawing posted here.)

So it was that evening, as eleven of us sat down for our Passover Seder, (my wife is Jewish; I am a Quaker), I found myself “squinting” at the Passover story about tyranny, oppression and freedom.

And then there was God’s retribution on the Egyptians. “Why,” someone asked, “would a just God punish even innocent Egyptians?” (Death to the first born, plagues, frogs, hailstorms, locust, turning the Nile to blood etc.)

“It’s part of the mystery,” someone else said, rather lamely I felt.

Time to squint, I thought. Squint at the story, squint at the ritual, squint at history, squint at religion, squint at humanity.

What do you see? A God cast in a role that is all too human. The need for tradition, for an enduring, powerful story even if it no longer quite fits our needs for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation

Squint to see the celebration of freedom. Squint at the symbolic foods, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs etc.

And when Christmas rolls around, squint at the commercialism, squint at the Wise Men and the virgin birth. Squint to find meaning, not in the details, shaped and reshaped by time, but in the broad sweep of belief and human need.

In these times, if we are to understand religion, we must squint, or we will be forced to wink — or be struck blind.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy TV-Turnoff Week!

This from the on-line newsletter of Rieke Elementary School's PTA:


Click. Click. Click. That's the sound of televisions and other screens being turned off in our neighborhoods for Screen Free Week!

Reasons for turning off the screens:

1. Obesity: television watching is basically a sedentary activity, which is frequently accompanied by mindless snacking, which leads to obesity.

2. Advertising: TV programming, even "educational" programming, exists to sell you stuff.

3. Violence: the entertainment industry's criteria for what level of violence is appropriate for what age group has changed radically in the last 30 years. Youth, who are exposed to TV and video game violence increasingly accept the use of violence to solve problems.

4. Brain Development: TV is a passive activity, and there is some evidence that watching too much TV, or even any, at an early age, permanently alters the brain, thus shortening attention spans.

5. Imagination: TV and screens hinder the development of imagination. The absence of images requires a child to use his or her imagination to create the image. The greater a child's imagination is, the greater his or her ability to understand abstract concepts and develop imaginative solutions later in life.

6. Time: television and computer games can take up an enormous amount of a child's time. American children watch nearly three hours of TV everyday, time they might have spent playing with friends, reading, exercising, or creating.

So, turn off the TV, DVDs, video games, and computers (except for looking up something for reference, or for homework), and find different things to do! Enjoy the extra time you will have, and have a great week!

For more, visit TV-Turnoff. org

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Visualizing billions

Brother-in-law Eric Moskowitz, who teaches math in New Zealand, has added THIS to the discussion about John Paulson, the hedge fund manager, and his 2007 $3.7 billion (with a "b") pay.

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