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 American Justice: Any Hope?15 comments
picture24 Nov 2008 @ 10:57
We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men...trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true; but our own little comings and goings are only little more than tree-wavings---many of them not so much.

---John Muir

Sit just to sit. And why not sit? You have to sit sometime, and so you may as well REALLY sit, and be altogether here. Otherwise the mind wanders away from the matter at hand, and away from the present. Even to think through the implications of the present is to avoid the present moment completely.

---Alan Watts

The universe came into being with us together; with us, all things are one.


The illustration is a movie poster for a film that is making its impact felt increasingly through word-of-mouth. Since it may be a bit hard to find here's a synopsis: In a world of six billion people, it only takes one to change your life. Sixty-two-year-old Walter Vale is sleepwalking through his life. Having lost his passion for teaching and writing, he fills the void by unsuccessfully trying to learn to play classical piano. When his college sends him to Manhattan to attend a conference, Walter is surprised to find a young couple has taken up residence in his apartment. Victims of a real estate scam, Tarek, a Syrian man, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, have nowhere else to go. In the first of a series of tests of the heart, Walter reluctantly allows the couple to stay with him. Touched by his kindness, Tarek, a talented musician, insists on teaching the aging academic to play the African drum. The instrument’s exuberant rhythms revitalize Walter’s faltering spirit and open his eyes to a vibrant world of local jazz clubs and Central Park drum circles. As the friendship between the two men deepens, the differences in culture, age and temperament fall away. After being stopped by police in the subway, Tarek is arrested as an undocumented citizen and held for deportation. As his situation turns desperate, Walter finds himself compelled to help his new friend with a passion he thought he had long ago lost. When Tarek’s beautiful mother Mouna arrives unexpectedly in search of her son, the professor’s personal commitment develops into an unlikely romance. And it’s through these new found connections with these virtual strangers that Walter is awakened to a new world and a new life.

As so often happens, particularly on Mondays when I review the weekend papers, most of the computer work I'd planned to do this morning got scrapped by a single item. Then one sidetrack led to another, and soon I was wandering in the woods again. The piece that did it was in The Times of London yesterday, and some editor there I guess had seen it in its complete version in the current edition of Spear’s Wealth Management Survey magazine. It was written by the former "proprietor" of the London Daily Telegraph, who currently resides in a federal prison here in the United States. He's been there for 8 months. I know nothing of the case nor how long his sentence is. Whatever it is, he's appealing it and apparently has had some success.

What he has to say that interests me is about the present legal system here. Of course laws can be changed. Even the Constitution can be changed. But through all that shines a spirit of America that all of us used to be raised to believe in. It has to do with equality before the law. If there are mistakes, OK, we understand that. But if there are injustices, Americans feel their freedom threatened. We respond. Or should. If we don't, or lose track of how we can respond, we begin to sink into the kind of daily despair that has plagued humanity around the world and through time, since our conception.

Let me not preach about the last 8 years---or 16, or 32. Let us simply look at where we are, and the work to do. I know attorneys, and my family boasted some prominent ones. I set about at university to become one---until Dylan Thomas crossed my path. My daughter has such plans in the environmental field. I'm supporting her in this---despite all indications of the futility of working for the EPA. Futility. Ah, there's the rub. When a people allow themselves to believe it is futile to go up against the system---either because that system is invariably right in what it pursues, or because it is hopelessly decadent, we surrender to a prison state. If I am barred from dissent by a privately contracted army, as I have been in an attempt merely to glimpse President Bush in person, I am in a prison state.

Ah, but now I'm preaching. [There are ministers on the other side of the family. :-)] Let me step aside for this gentleman in his jail cell. Then follows an editorial from yesterday's New York Times about Guantanamo.  More >

 George0 comments
picture24 Jun 2008 @ 11:43
If the "black box" flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole damn airplane made out of that stuff?

Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have a "S" in it?

How is it possible to have a civil war?

---only 3 of the unanswered questions of George Carlin (1937-2008)

I saw him in person only once, but it's embarrassing to relate. It was in the mid-60s and he just was starting the kind of stand-up that eventually would develop into rants on a philosophical level. I don't know if it was in Boston or New York, but he was the warm-up for some other act---and I don't remember who that was. But I remember George. His microphone was loud and had reverb on it, like disc jockeys were starting to use---and he had been one himself, so he could do this DJ voice thing really good. He already had elements of words you can't say, and I remember him shooting them off at the end. I don't think there were all 7 yet, but it was so reminiscent of Lenny Bruce that I thought he must be imitating and wouldn't amount to much. Well, it turns out what he was doing was perfecting.

Bruce and Carlin (and we shouldn't forget Lord Buckley) still were called comedians, but they created their own stuff rather than employ joke writers whose work they'd memorize and deliver. That was hard enough to do and we still love that kind of comedy. How could Henny Youngman remember all those one-liners? George Carlin could have been one of those guys. He was great at making funny faces for instance. But it wasn't enough for him...and I'm not sure humorist really captures what these people do either. He made us ponder things...and now that the show is over, and there'll be no more "Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?", maybe we'll have to come up with some answers.  More >

 Barack Obama: Rock Church, Rock33 comments
picture20 Mar 2008 @ 10:13
Chen-Lang approached Shih-Tou and asked: "What is the idea of Bodhidharma's coming from the West?"
"Ask the post over there," Shih-Tou said.
"I don't understand," said Chen-Lang.
"Neither do I," said Shih-Tou.
Suddenly Chen-Lang saw the truth.

---Zen saying

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. There's the answer.

---Gertrude Stein

Let Him be only that He is and as He is, and make Him no otherwise. Seek no further in Him but subtlety of wit.

---The Cloud Of Unknowing

The photo shows the soundboard and interior of the Trinity United Church of Christ on the south side of Chicago. It appears at a blog entry by audio engineer Matt Satorius from last September. [link] More about the church can be found at its website [link] .

The response to Barack Obama's speech on Race In America has been all over the place. I thought the response would be almost as interesting and profound about us as the oration was about him. I needed some time to observe it and feel things settle inside my own being.

Nothing really confused me about the speech. I loved it. Some people know my own personal background with integration goes back to childhood---and I don't know why. My family didn't promote it particularly...and my mother discouraged relationships even with people who didn't have blue eyes, for Christ's sake! (I know some people from various races have blue eyes, but she didn't.) Once jazz entered my picture in the form of Benny Goodman's Sextet Session in 1947 or so, I knew integrated music was magnificent in every way---and represented democracy too.

I hadn't rushed right out to investigate Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons. I didn't need to. The man's name is Jeremiah, and I've read that book in the Bible. I grew into manhood hearing Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael. I lived on Chicago's South Side during the summer of 1961, and trained for Freedom Rides. I knew there were streets there that, if I crossed over and walked on the other side, I could encounter Black Muslims who might insist I get back where I "belong." I'm not shocked by black rage and understand where it comes from. I understand white rage too, and resentment from any group that senses preference granted to another. But I like integration better, and celebration of differences.

My own experience of Chicago clouded my impression of what Mr. Obama's church might be like. I pictured something old and dark and maybe run down. I had heard yesterday that many professional African-Americans are members, but I figured even if the congregation was upscale it still probably was a humble facility. This morning I finally visited the website. The joke's on me.

Americans know what black worship is like. Everybody's at least seen The Blues Brothers I hope. It's a jumpin' joyous business! A preacher in there is a jazz solo to me. The guy takes off and goes. If he honks on that tenor, falls down on his back, still blowin' with his feet kicking in the air, that's the way it's done sometimes. And if you're into that way of expression, you know white players and red players and yellow players all do it too. And when it's done, everybody's let off steam---and hopefully nobody got hurt.  More >

 Full Frontal Feminism12 comments
picture11 Jan 2008 @ 10:07
A man met a lad weeping. "What do you weep for?" he asked.
"I am weeping for my sins," said the lad.
"You must have little to do," said the man.
The next day they met again. Once more the lad was weeping. "Why do you weep now?" asked the man.
"I am weeping because I have nothing to eat," said the lad.
"I thought it would come to that," said the man.

---Robert Louis Stevenson

If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it's a waste of time looking for him further.

---Mohandas K. Gandhi

Drinking his morning tea
the monk is at peace.


The picture is of author Jessica Valenti and her book of last year which was written especially for young women of college age. The image illustrates an interview with her at Salon [link] .

I've been trying to think how I got interested in civil rights. I know it was all the way back in early childhood, even though there was no "movement" to speak of then nor was my normal white family particularly involved in politics or social problems. What I think did it was a Walt Disney movie from 1946, which would have put me in 1st grade. Anything Walt made was OK, even though Mom worried about the scary parts in every one. To this day my worst fears can be traced to Snow White running and lost in the forest, or the disappearance of Bambi's mother, or especially the transformation of Lampwick into a mule in Pinocchio---all done with animated shadows...and sound. Neverthless, as a family we saw everything that came out, and so it was with a film called Song Of The South.

By '46, Disney was experimenting with live action and much less animation interspersed. Song Of The South is about a little boy, played by Bobby Driscoll, who lives on a big plantation in the South, although I don't remember that it was exactly slavery times. At any rate, he wanders one day into the area where his father's black workers live and meets a man known as Uncle Remus, played by James Baskett. The whole situation is a setup for Remus to tell the kid 3 of the stories about Brer Rabbit, collected in the writings of Joel Chandler Harris. Of course we shift to cartoons then, but it's the only animation I remember...except for the bluebirds when Uncle Remus sings the Oscar-winning song from the film Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

OK, if you're wincing at some thoughts of stereotype here, you're not alone. In the 1960s, the NAACP protested to Disney about the movie...and it was withdrawn. The song and the Brer Rabbit sequences still can be found here and there, but apparently the full movie only can be purchased in Japan. A friend of mine found a couple of copies of video from there up in Canada, and smuggled them in. As a result, I can report I've seen Song Of The South fairly recently---and had the chance to share it with my kids. What impressed me as a child was the racial interaction in the movie, how Remus and the boy came to love each other, and the social repercussions their relationship eventually produced. But isn't this strange---that the very movie I credit with developing an interest in me in the civil rights of American citizens, and people around the world, is banned as being prejudicial?

Well leaving all that aside, what happened back in first grade is I became open to friendships with people of other races and nationalities. At the same time we were beginning to learn folk songs in music class at school. My uncle, who was essentially a farmer and a United Brethren, got me started in stamp collecting. The whole world and its peoples were opening up to me and I loved it. But I was made aware of problems. A black school friend named Ronnie followed me home one day, and Mom gave me a talk about different people staying and playing with their own "kind." I didn't like that, and so a year or 2 later I went home with another black kid named Morris. When we got to Metallic Avenue, I saw there was no street there at all. In fact, 10 feet in front of the house, which had no door on it by the way, there was a tall wire fence...and 10 feet beyond that were the tracks of our town's major railway, the Erie. I guess I was pretty scared, and I went home.  More >

 Blackwater, Blackwater Run Down Through The Land, Part 215 comments
picture7 Nov 2007 @ 21:08
A cricket chirps and is silent.
The guttering lamp sinks and flairs up again.
Outside the window evening rain is heard.
It is the banana plant that speaks of it first.

---Po Chu-I

Only in solitude do we find ourselves.

---Miguel De Unamuno

It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free.

---Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

In the photo another American dignitary (in this case Paul Bremer) enjoys real freedom out in the world.

I had thought the Blackwater story would just fade away like all the others. There didn't seem to be anything different about it than countless other news items about the degradation of the American soul in these years of Bush administration. The private security firm, with rightwing and evangelical roots and bucks, did just what the Rove textbook tells the Bushies to do when under scrutiny: loom bigger than they are! If Congress or the press wants to talk to you, blow them off fast with how important the work is you're doing for the American people...and you just don't have time for this nonsense. Out came the announcements that Blackwater not only provides a private army for your convenience...but a private CIA too. Total Intelligence Solutions---and we do mean TOTAL. [link] What more can a good boy with an inherited fortune do? He's done it by the Book---both Rove's and Jesus'.

But type "Blackwater" in Google News Search right now, and see what comes up. Well over a month later the story lives on. Finally something has brought the press alive. This no-bid contract has captured it all. It's at the black heart of how things are done now. And Americans are ashamed and outraged...and the media knows it...and it's about time! Will anything actually get done? The status quo tumbles over itself to keep things humming along as if normal. Kucinich introduces impeachment of Cheney on the House floor yesterday, and it took the administrators an hour to quiet things down and shuffle the motion off to committee---where they hope it will disappear. [link] But it wasn't easy. People wanted to debate. People wanted to talk. No no, was the answer, Congress is too busy with really important business to become bogged down in this petty political maneuvering. But everyone knows now such remarks from the administrators are laughable and desperate. No one can keep the lid on the corruption forever.

I write and post stuff at 4 different sites on the Net...and sometimes more, and when I sent out and put up Part 1 about Blackwater, back in September, comments started to show up at 2 of the locations. And they haven't stopped. At Blogspot the people now are launched into discussion about "pure" democracy, and what a republic is, town meetings and whether the Internet can save or advance Freedom of Speech. When this happens at a blog it can be very difficult to join in. At really big ones you can find hundreds of comments, often involving give and take among a few participants that goes on for days. It's hard for a newcomer to sort out...and usually such threads just die because there's too much scrolling, you can't find that comment you wanted to reference, and nothing's ever going to get done about it anyway. But it's wonderful to me when people let loose and express themselves somewhere! So I decided this time to start a Part 2 about Blackwater...and all the topic involves. That includes torture and waterboarding, which Mukasey says he can't discuss because he hasn't been "briefed," and the President backs him up. That includes secrecy and looting the treasury. It includes everything.

If you're looking for the energy to get started on a comment or a reply, you can't do better than Keith Olbermann's talk Monday night about viewing the Presidency as Criminal Conspiracy. Not since Tom Paine, folks!  More >

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