Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, March 31, 2008


Georges Bizet’s first opera, Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers), though not as popular as his opera Carmen, it still is performed around the world.

It is a French opera with a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. Bizet wrote the work when he was 25 and it was first performed in 1863 at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris in 1863. Pearl Fishers is set in an exotic location and has several beautiful arias, duets and ensembles.

Most memorable is the first act duet between Zuriga and Nadir, Au fond du temple saint, considered one of the most beautiful and popular duets in operatic literature. The Opera takes place in Ceylon, which is now Sri Lanka and is in 3 acts.

This recording from features the incomparable Jussi Björling, who, if Waterford Crystal could sing, would sound like him, and the wonderful Robert Merrill, whom I had the privilege of seeing perform with the Metropolitan Opera as Monsieur Germont in "La Traviata."

This duet is my favorite, and I hope you will fall in love with it too.

Close your eyes and let their voices lift your hearts...

Friday, March 28, 2008


In March 2007, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor published a brief story about how Rev. Jeremiah Wright had been uninvited from delivering the invocation before Barack Obama's official presidential announcement.

Wright responded by writing the following letter:

March 11, 2007
Jodi Kantor
The New York Times
9 West 43rd Street
New York,New York 10036-3959

Dear Jodi:

Thank you for engaging in one of the biggest misrepresentations of the truth I have ever seen in sixty-five years. You sat and shared with me for two hours. You told me you were doing a "Spiritual Biography" of Senator Barack Obama. For two hours, I shared with you how I thought he was the most principled individual in public service that I have ever met.

For two hours, I talked with you about how idealistic he was. For two hours I shared with you what a genuine human being he was. I told you how incredible he was as a man who was an African American in public service, and as a man who refused to announce his candidacy for President until Carol Moseley Braun indicated one way or the other whether or not she was going to run.

I told you what a dreamer he was. I told you how idealistic he was. We talked about how refreshing it would be for someone who knew about Islam to be in the Oval Office. Your own question to me was, Didn't I think it would be incredible to have somebody in the Oval Office who not only knew about Muslims, but had living and breathing Muslims in his own family? I told you how important it would be to have a man who not only knew the difference between Shiites and Sunnis prior to 9/11/01 in the Oval Office, but also how important it would be to have a man who knew what Sufism was; a man who understood that there were different branches of Judaism; a man who knew the difference between Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews and Reformed Jews; and a man who was a devout Christian, but who did not prejudge others because they believed something other than what he believed.

I talked about how rare it was to meet a man whose Christianity was not just "in word only." I talked about Barack being a person who lived his faith and did not argue his faith. I talked about Barack as a person who did not draw doctrinal lines in the sand nor consign other people to hell if they did not believe what he believed.

Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack's spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that. When I told you, using one of your own Jewish stories from the Hebrew Bible as to how God asked Moses, "What is that in your hand?," that Barack was like that when I met him. Barack had it "in his hand." Barack had in his grasp a uniqueness in terms of his spiritual development that one is hard put to find in the 21st century, and you did not print that.

As I was just starting to say a moment ago, Jodi, out of two hours of conversation I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack's taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed "sound byte" and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.

I have never been exposed to that kind of duplicitous behavior before, and I want to write you publicly to let you know that I do not approve of it and will not be party to any further smearing of the name, the reputation, the integrity or the character of perhaps this nation's first (and maybe even only) honest candidate offering himself for public service as the person to occupy the Oval Office.

Your editor is a sensationalist. For you to even mention that makes me doubt your credibility, and I am looking forward to see how you are going to butcher what else I had to say concerning Senator Obama's "Spiritual Biography." Our Conference Minister, the Reverend Jane Fisler Hoffman, a white woman who belongs to a Black church that Hannity of "Hannity and Colmes" is trying to trash, set the record straight for you in terms of who I am and in terms of who we are as the church to which Barack has belonged for over twenty years.

The president of our denomination, the Reverend John Thomas, has offered to try to help you clarify in your confused head what Trinity Church is even though you spent the entire weekend with us setting me up to interview me for what turned out to be a smear of the Senator; and yet The New York Times continues to roll on making the truth what it wants to be the truth. I do not remember reading in your article that Barack had apologized for listening to that bad information and bad advice. Did I miss it? Or did your editor cut it out? Either way, you do not have to worry about hearing anything else from me for you to edit or "spin" because you are more interested in journalism than in truth.

Forgive me for having a momentary lapse. I forgot that The New York Times was leading the bandwagon in trumpeting why it is we should have gone into an illegal war. The New York Times became George Bush and the Republican Party's national "blog." The New York Times played a role in the outing of Valerie Plame. I do not know why I thought The New York Times had actually repented and was going to exhibit a different kind of behavior.

Maybe it was my faith in the Jewish Holy Day of Roshashana. Maybe it was my being caught up in the euphoria of the Season of Lent; but whatever it is or was, I was sadly mistaken. There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times. You should do well with that paper, Jodi. You looked me straight in my face and told me a lie!

Sincerely and respectfully yours,
Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.,
Senior PastorTrinity United Church of Christ

Sunday, March 23, 2008

For the Union Dead, Robert Lowell

Each time I visit Boston Common, I make sure I stop at Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. This graceful, dignified bas-relief honors the sacrifices of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army organized in a Northern state.

The story of the 54th Regiment and Shaw was depicted in the 1989 film "Glory," starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington.

I remember this today, Easter Sunday, a time to reflect on death and renewal. And as I think about these issues and what we are facing in this important election, I recall this poem by Robert Lowell:

For the Union Dead

"Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam."

The old South Boston Aquarium stands

in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are


The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.

The airy tanks are dry.

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;

my hand tingled

to burst the bubbles

drifting from the noses of the crowded, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sigh still

for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom

of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,

I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,

yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting

as they cropped up tons of mush and grass

to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic

sand piles in the heart of Boston.

A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders

braces the tingling Statehouse, shaking

over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw

and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry

on St. Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief,

propped by a plank splint against the garage's


Two months after marching through Boston,

half of the regiment was dead;

at the dedication,

William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes


Their monument sticks like a fishbone

in the city's throat.

Its Colonel is as lean

as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,

a greyhound's gentle tautness;

he seems to wince at pleasure,

and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man's lovely,

peculiar power to choose life and die--

when he leads his black soldiers to death,

he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens

the old white churches hold their air

of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags

quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier

grow slimmer and younger each year--

wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets

and muse through their sideburns.

Shaw's father wanted no monument

except the ditch,

where his son's body was thrown

and lost with his "niggers."

The ditch is nearer.

There are no statues for the last war here;

on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph

shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the "Rock of Ages"

that survived the blast. Space is nearer.

When I crouch to my television set,

the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like


Colonel Shaw

is riding on his bubble,

he waits for the blessed break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,

giant finned cars nose forward like fish;

a savage servility

slides by on grease.

--Robert Lowell

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Mickey Edwards, long time friend of Vice President Cheney, instructs Cheney on the Constitution, the separation of powers, and vice presidential arrogance:

Dick Cheney’s Error
It’s Government by the People
Mickey Edwards, 3/22/08
Washington Post

For at least six years, as I've become increasingly frustrated by the Bush administration's repeated betrayal of constitutional -- and conservative -- principles, I have defended Vice President Cheney, a man I've known for decades and with whom I served and made common cause in Congress. No longer.

I do not blame Dick Cheney for George W. Bush's transgressions; the president needs no prompting to wrap himself in the cloak of a modern-day king. Nor do I believe that the vice president so enthusiastically supports the Iraq war out of a loyalty to the oil industry that his former employer serves. By all accounts, Cheney's belief in "the military option" and the principle of president-as-decider predates his affiliation with Halliburton.

What, then, is the straw that causes me to finally consign a man I served with in the House Republican leadership to the category of "those about whom we should be greatly concerned"?

It is Cheney's all-too-revealing conversation this week with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz. On Wednesday, reminded of the public's disapproval of the war in Iraq, now five years old, the vice president shrugged off that fact (and thus, the people themselves) with a one-word answer: "So?"

"So," Mr. Vice President?

Policy, Cheney went on to say, should not be tailored to fit fluctuations in the public attitudes. If there is one thing public attitudes have not been doing, however, it is fluctuating: Resistance to the Bush administration's Iraq policy has been widespread, entrenched and consistent. Whether public opinion is right or wrong, it is not to be cavalierly dismissed.


Cheney told Raddatz that American war policy should not be affected by the views of the people. But that is precisely whose views should matter: It is the people who should decide whether the nation shall go to war. That is not a radical, or liberal, or unpatriotic idea. It is the very heart of America's constitutional system.

In Europe, before America's founding, there were rulers and their subjects. The Founders decided that in the United States there would be not subjects but citizens. Rulers tell their subjects what to do, but citizens tell their government what to do.

If Dick Cheney believes, as he obviously does, that the war in Iraq is vital to American interests, it is his job, and that of President Bush, to make the case with sufficient proof to win the necessary public support.

That is the difference between a strong president (one who leads) and a strong presidency (one in which ultimate power resides in the hands of a single person). Bush is officially America's "head of state," but he is not the head of government; he is the head of one branch of our government, and it's not the branch that decides on war and peace.

When the vice president dismisses public opposition to war with a simple "So?" he violates the single most important element in the American system of government: Here, the people rule.

Mickey Edwards, a lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993. He is the author of "Reclaiming Conservatism."


Friday, March 21, 2008


Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online is being sarcastic when he writes this:

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama Helpfully Clarifies That His Grandmother Is a "Typical White Person"
Philadelphia this morning, Barack Obama confronted the remains of the Jeremiah Wright brushfire, the smoldering embers of this anecdote of his grandmother using racial stereotypes that made him cringe... and promptly spilled gasoline on those embers.

610 WIP host Angelo Cataldi asked Obama about his Tuesday morning speech on race at the National Constitution Center in which he referenced his own white grandmother and her prejudice. Obama told Cataldi that "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know (pause) there's a reaction in her that doesn't go away and it comes out in the wrong way."

The grandmother reference from the speech, as you'll recall:

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

You know, typical.--Jim Geraghty


You don't believe we have grandmothers or aunts or uncles or even parents who harbor these feelings?

First let me state that I am white.

My first grandmother-in-law, a hard-working, devout Catholic from Cincinnati Ohio, and a fine, loving woman, used to caution my ex-husband when he was just a child not to put pennies in his mouth because " don't know if a nigger would have touched them."

My own step-mother, now deceased, who, to my knowledge, harbored no ill will toward any race, once told me of a black woman she worked with, and how "...she was pretty for a Negro woman." And on other occasions spoke of her friendships at work with Negro women, and "...was surprised at how clean they were."

A good friend of mine, a lawyer, was born and raised and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. When he was showing off his lovely city to me, he told me that he would take me to NB 1, and NB 2. I had no idea what he meant, and when I asked him he explained. There are two large thoroughfares in Louisville, Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard and Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) Boulevard, and he refers to both of them as "Nigger Boulevard One," and "Nigger Boulevard Two." And one of his favorite stories he often repeated was the one about an uncle who used to belong to a golf club and would like to chase the black kids who worked there up into the trees, and when he did, he roared laughing and called them "squirrel niggers."

When I was a young woman and started my first job at a company in downtown Boston, I worked for the head of one of the departments. I remember overhearing him instruct one of his supervisors to get "some of them"--meaning black clerical workers, and sit them up front, where the elevator doors opened up into the company's main working area. Why? Someone from the EEO was coming, and he wanted to make sure "some of them" were placed in a conspicuous area so it looked like the company employed a racial mixture. There were three black women employed at the time in an office of over 200. In a city that had a large population of "some of them."

There are more stories, but these are the ones I remember most clearly.

How many time have I heard my white friends or family claim that black people smell different? How many times have I heard that "they're lazy, they're criminally prone, they reproduce like rabbits with a different father for each child? They're inferior."

Enough times to know, Mr. Geraghty, that this is TYPICAL. Don't pretend this isn't true.

We have a problem in this country with being honest about racial issues--ON BOTH SIDES.

Senator Obama tried to open up a discussion, and all you, Mr. Geraghty, contribute is sarcasm and more divisiveness.

You disgust me.


Fewer Voters Identify as Republicans

Democrats Now Have the Advantage in "Swing" States
March 20, 2008

The balance of party identification in the American electorate now favors the Democratic Party by a decidedly larger margin than in either of the two previous presidential election cycles.

In 5,566 interviews with registered voters conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press during the first two months of 2008, 36% identify themselves as Democrats, and just 27% as Republicans.

The share of voters who call themselves Republicans has declined by six points since 2004, and represents, on an annualized basis, the lowest percentage of self-identified Republican voters in 16 years of polling by the Center.

The Democratic Party has also built a substantial edge among independent voters. Of the 37% who claim no party identification, 15% lean Democratic, 10% lean Republican, and 12% have no leaning either way.

By comparison, in 2004 about equal numbers of independents leaned toward both parties. When "leaners" are combined with partisans, however, the Democratic Party now holds a 14-point advantage among voters nationwide (51% Dem/lean-Dem to 37% Rep/lean-Rep), up from a three-point advantage four years ago.

Despite these trends, the proportion of voters who identify with the Democratic Party outright has not increased in recent years. Currently, 36% say they think of themselves as a Democrat, virtually unchanged from 2004 (35%) and 2000 (35%). Instead, as the proportion of self-identified Republicans has decreased, the percentage of independents has grown substantially, from 32% in 2004 to 37% today.

The rest of the analysis is here.
After almost 8 years of an incompetent Republican administration, the American people are looking elsewhere for leadership.
Meanwhile, Bush's approval ratings are at an all time low:

With far more Americans identifying themselves as Democrats than Republicans, President Bush’s job rating has hit a new low, according to the latest FOX News poll.
Three in 10 Americans (30 percent) now approve of the job Bush is doing as the nation’s leader, with 6 in 10 disapproving.
While disapproval of the president has been higher (for example, 61 percent in both July and March of 2007), his approval rating has never sunk this low before.
Majorities in every major sub-group except Republicans, conservatives and born-again Christians give a negative rating to Bush’s performance in the White House. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans (65 percent) approve of Bush.
Click here for full results. (pdf)
This bad news for Bush comes at a time when the gap between those identifying themselves as Democrats and those identifying as Republicans has reached 13 percentage points (43 percent versus 30 percent), which is the largest difference ever measured in a FOX News poll.
Bush has been a disaster for the Republican party. At one point, his administration led all three branches of government and a majority of Americans supported him.
Instead of laying out a vision for America, domestically and internationally, and staying in Afghanistan to fight the people who attacked us on September 11, he dragged this country into a catastrophic war in Iraq, and the only economic feather in his cap is his lowering of the tax rate on wealthy people.
The Republicans have only themselves to blame for marching behind this failed presidency and making excuses for a man who has squandered the good will and loyalty Americans had for him at the beginning of his term.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Full article by John Dean here.

Hopefully Obama Will Not Shift His Strategy toward Playing Dumb

Senator Obama's smart speech on race is true to his campaign theme of "change," for he is departing from the contemporary, Republican-created norm of Forrest Gump presidential politics. Do Americans really want the dumbest candidate answering the phone at three o'clock in the morning? Of course not.

While the correlation between Presidents' successfully leading the nation and their intelligence cannot be easily measured, University of California psychologist Dean Keith Simonton has examined this question in his study "Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations for 42 U.S. Chief Executives" (partially available online).

Using complex statistical and analytical tools, Professor Simonton has estimated the IQs of all our presidents. For example, for the last sixteen presidents he estimated (and I have rounded his figures) the following IQs: Wilson (155), Harding (140), Coolidge (142), Hoover (142), F. Roosevelt (151), Truman (140), Eisenhower (145), Kennedy (160), L. Johnson (141), Nixon (143), Ford (140), Carter (157), Reagan (142), G. H. W. Bush (143), Clinton (159), and G. W. Bush (139). With the exception of LBJ, the Democrats have provided the country with much higher wattage than the Republicans. But clearly, none of these men are stupid.

Let's hope that Senator Obama continues to be willing to publicly perform at his intelligence level. Perhaps he will trust voters to realize that the key criterion to serve in the highest office should not be which candidate is the person with whom you would most enjoy having a beer. To the contrary, presidents should not be encouraging C students to continue to earn Cs so they can become president. Presidents should be telling all Americans that we can do better - which is one of the core points in Obama's message.

Anti-intellectual Republican presidents have led this nation into a new age of unreason, as former Vice President Al Gore argued in The Assault on Reason (2007) and more recently, Susan Jacoby has reported in The Age of Unreason (2008). As Senator Obama campaigns, he can truly change America by simply refusing to play dumb. That strategy, if Obama continues it, may turn out to be not only courageous but also wise, for it is very possible that, after so many years, Americans are tired of having their innate intelligence insulted by their presidential candidates.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


This is in answer to the two comments by Patrick and j_g left on the post below this one:

I'm sorry you both have such violent feelings about this. It seems Senator Obama brings out the best and the worst in people.

I disagree with what you have said, Patrick and JG. And I do so because as many others have pointed out, and what you and other conservatives disregard or willfully ignore, is the fact that many white pastors have spoken against America.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell, along with Pat Robertson, two men who had and have a great deal of influence over millions of Christians in this country, have preached unAmerican sermons to their flocks, and even blamed Americans for the attacks of 9/11. Both of these men have been esteemed by President Bush and his Christian Right followers.

Of course, you'll say that President Bush didn't sit in Falwell's or Robertson's church for twenty years. True. But President Bush and his Christian Right followers approved and embraced what they have preached. Bush and his Christian Right followers never separated themselves from Falwell and Robertson and their toxic anti-American sermons.

President Bush even declared a national day of mourning when Falwell, who blamed Americans for 9/11, died.

Falwell was instrumental in galvanizing millions of American evangelicals into an intolerant, sectarian and authoritarian political movement. Gays, women, secularists, civil-libertarians and other groups who did not fit into Falwell's plan to construct 'One Nation Under God' were demonized on a regular basis and blamed for any catastrophe that happened to the US, natural or man-made. It was God's punishment to all Americans, Falwell and Robertson preached, because this diverse group of AMERICANS did not conform to their brand of Christianity.

And now we have another Republican running for president, John Sidney McCain, II, who felt “proud” to have Pastor John Hagee’s endorsement--another anti-American bigot who called the Catholic Church “the great Whore.” After some pressure, Senator McCain, said he rejected Hagee’s intemperate views and distanced himself—after McCain saw the potential damage it could do to his campaign.

Here are some of Pastor Hagee’s quotes:

On Hurricane Katrina: “All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that… I believe that Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.”

On the Catholic Church: “Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews.”

On women: “Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

Now I'll talk about the Reverend Francis Schaeffer, a good friend of and visitor to the Ford and Reagan White House. This Right Wing Funadamentalist Christian preacher, according to his own son who served with him (and has since rejected this brand of Christianity), preached the overthrow of the United States Government, otherwise known as treason, if it did not conform to his brand of Christianity:

“If there is a legitimate reason for the use of force [against the US government]... then at a certain point force is justifiable.”

(Imagine if Jeremiah Wright had spoken those words!)

Wright said “God damn America,” because of past injustices this country committed against Americans with black skin. He didn’t advocate the overthrow of its government. There’s a world of difference between saying “Damn you, America, for what you have done!” and “I’m going to destroy you, America, for what you have done!” The first example is a cry of frustration, (Wright) the second is a threat to do harm. (Schaeffer)

But I’ll let Pastor Schaeffer’s son speak for himself:

“Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent [sic] destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.”

Patrick, you say I’m full of shit for seeing this as a racial.

Can you tell me why Senator Obama has been so severely criticized for what his pastor has preached and why you and others like you have not been able to see a parallel to the toxic, hate-filled, anti-American preaching of Right Wing, white fundamentalist pastors like Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, and Schaeffer and many, many others?

These men have declaimed and called down imprecations on America for its sins. And they have been vile toward our fellow gay Americans; they have been mean-spirited toward our fellow Americans who had the misfortune to be living on the Gulf Coast during Hurrican Katrina, they have insulted and condemned our fellow Catholic Americans, and worst of all they have blamed our fellow Americans for the tragedy of September 11.

It is clear to me that some people are willing to ignore the fiery, anti-American and intolerant rhetoric white Christians pastors deliver on Sundays in their churches and on various Christian TV programs, but these same people are too willing to be shocked at the very same rhetoric coming from a black pastor.

I have heard over the last twenty years people dismiss some of Falwell's, Robertson's, Hagee's, and other crackpots, divisive, hate-filled rantings by saying, “Oh well, that’s just Pat, or Jerry, or John being weird again. “

But these same people, who dismiss these loony preachers when what they say is embarrassing or just plain nuts, want Senator Obama to be crucified for belonging to a church where his pastor criticizes and rails against America’s sins and says things that are loony or just plain nuts.

These same people are happy to denounce Senator Obama because his pastor has done exactly what politically connected Right Wing Fundamentalist preachers have done and still do every Sunday.

The only difference between the Fundamenalist Christian pastors and Senator Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is the color of their skin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

OBAMA'S SPEECH, March 18, 2008

By John Nichols, The Nation:
Barack Obama could have responded to the controversy that has been ginned up with regard to comments made by his former pastor with a safe and predictable speech. The politically "smart" strategy -- counseled by some Obama allies -- would have been to have the Democratic presidential contender focus on concerns about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.'s critique of U.S. foreign policy and then distance himself from any offending sentiments.
But Obama did not do the politically "smart" thing.
He did the right thing. And that is why his campaign will weather this storm.
The Illinois senator recognized that the media-driven dialogue about sermons delivered by Wright had little to do with the content of the pastor's words and everything to do with the color of the pastor's -- and the candidate's -- skin.
So Obama seized the opportunity to open up a dialogue about the role of race in America, turning a political challenge into what the late Paul Wellstone referred to as "a teaching moment."

At the most basic level, Obama did what the media has failed to do. He presented Wright and Wright's comments on U.S. domestic and foreign policies in context: the context of the African-American religious experience, the context of the candidate's connection to the church and, above all, the context of this country's unresolved experience of what Obama correctly refers to as "the original sin" of the American experiment -- human bondage -- and its legacy.
The speech was masterful in this regard. Obama took the time to explore questions that rarely if ever get a fair hearing in American politics. He avoided cheap theatrics, such as an blunt rejection of Wright as an individual or a spiritual leader. "Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed," the senator acknowledged.
"But," Obama added, "the truth is that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS."
The was not merely gracious, it was instructive. Indeed, it was an essential component of the "teaching moment" – the part that made the rest of what
Obama was saying more real and credible.
The other part of what made this particular "teaching moment" so successful was the candidate's recognition that it was not merely his task to open up a deeper discussion. He also had to challenge his listeners.
Obama issued that challenge in what was the essential section of what may well be the essential speech of the 2008 campaign -- and, if Obama succeeds, of the presidential campaigns of the future.
"Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well," the senator told the crowd in Philadelphia and the millions who tuned in via radio, television and the internet.
After too many campaigns diverted into the void of Willie Horton smears and Swift-Boat charges, Barack Obama called American politics to a higher ground:
"For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle--as we did in the OJ trial--or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy.
Not this time. "



For an excellent take on this issue, see Glenn Greenwald's post:

And this from Frank Schaeffer, son of Religious Right preacher, Francis Schaeffer, who advocated the overthrow of the United States Government--in other words, treason--but nevertheless was a friend and guest of Presidents Ford and Reagan.

There is a mountain of hypocrisy on the Right. If anyone on the Right had the intellectual curiosity to delve into what their religious leaders, Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, and Shaeffer have preached against the American people, they would see themselves as the hypocrites they are. Instead, the Right Wing Noise Machine continues to rail against Senator Obama's pastor, self-righteously labeling him anti-American.

They ought to look within their own churches, and what their pastors have said, and see the anti-American sermons being preached there.


Here is Shelby Steele's article where he calls Senator Obama a "bargainer" and demeans Obama's accomplishments:

"The novelty of Barack Obama is more his cross-racial appeal than his talent. Jesse Jackson displayed considerable political talent in his presidential runs back in the 1980s. But there was a distinct limit to his white support. Mr. Obama's broad appeal to whites makes him the first plausible black presidential candidate in American history. And it was Mr. Obama's genius to understand this. Though he likes to claim that his race was a liability to be overcome, he also surely knew that his race could give him just the edge he needed -- an edge that would never be available to a white, not even a white woman.

How to turn one's blackness to advantage?

The answer is that one "bargains." Bargaining is a mask that blacks can wear in the American mainstream, one that enables them to put whites at their ease. This mask diffuses the anxiety that goes along with being white in a multiracial society. Bargainers make the subliminal promise to whites not to shame them with America's history of racism, on the condition that they will not hold the bargainer's race against him. And whites love this bargain -- and feel affection for the bargainer -- because it gives them racial innocence in a society where whites live under constant threat of being stigmatized as racist. So the bargainer presents himself as an opportunity for whites to experience racial innocence."

The rest of this opinion piece of a liberal Afro-American by an conservative Afro-American is here:

What kind of bargaining did you make, Mr. Steele? Both you and Senator Obama are smart, attractive, knowledgeable men, and yet you posit that Senator Obama has arrived at this point in history through white guilt and the mask Obama wears is"bargaining?

The are many, many talented and distinguished historians, Mr. Steele. A lot of them are conservatives. How is it that you've received the plaudits and attention and esteem over many others? Bargaining or white guilt?

Steele claims Obama has attained his ascendency through taking advantage of his blackness, and implies that Senator Obama has accomplished very little:

"And he has failed to say how he would actually be a "unifier." By the evidence of his slight political record (130 "present" votes in the Illinois state legislature, little achievement in the U.S. Senate) Barack Obama stacks up as something of a mediocrity. None of this matters much."

But I and others have covered this tiresome misrepresentation:

And then Steele sniffs and dismisses Obama " something of a mediocrity."

A man who served as the head of Harvard's Law Review (the first Afro-American to do so), who graduated from Harvard magna cum laude, (mediocrity? What planet is Steele from where one of our most prestigious institutes of higher learning hands out a graduate degree, magna cum laude, to mediocrities--this is where the piece becomes a hatchet job--that was unworthy of Steele.) Senator Obama has written--not ghost written, as many other presidential hopefuls have--two books, and who has, in his short time in the Senate, sponsored much legislation and has taken his campaign from being a somewhat Quixotic run for the presidency to a real and present danger to the well financed and politcally connected campaign of Senator Hillary Clinton. A year ago very few Americans knew who he was, and now he is ahead, in some polls, of Senator John McCain.

The most malicious part of this essay is where he calls out Senator Obama for belonging to Jeremiah Wright's church:

"...for 20 years -- in an Afrocentric, black nationalist church in which his own mother, not to mention other whites, could never feel comfortable. His pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a challenger who goes far past Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in his anti-American outrage ("God damn America").

How does one "transcend" race in this church? The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred."

Steele acknowledges the "rhetorical hatred and real hatred" of this Afro-American pastor, but I'm curious as to what his reaction was when the most famous white pastor, who had a following of hundred of thousands in the US, blamed Americans for 9/11, called the Reverend Billy Graham a "servant of Satan," and denigrated homosexuals in the most vile of terms--blaming them for all of America's ills.

I wonder if Mr. Steele remained silent over the rantings and ravings of the idiotic, divisive white pastor, Jerry Falwell (NOTE: Like Mr. Steele, the late Pastor Falwell, was afterall, a conservative Republican), and his enabler, Pat Robertson. Mr. Steele is certainly quick to point out how dangerous it is for this country to look to Senator Obama for leadership because he has belonged to Pastor Wright's church for 20 years. Pastors Falwell and Robertson were good, good friends of the Bush Administration, even to the point of Mr. Robertson's being an advisor to it. But Mr. Steele's hypocrisy allows him to be shocked by Obama's friendship with Pastor Wright. Nowhere in this article does he make mention of the same sort of behavior by the white Republican pastors. This is hypocrisy of the first magnitude.

I wonder if Mr. Steele ever asked how the conservative whites (or blacks) who listened to Pastors Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, and Schaeffer could transcend their hateful, inflammatory sermons and blatherings? Who could sit year after year in their churches and listen to their hate-speeches and bigotry against fellow Americans and not internalize that hatred?

Steele chalks up all of Senator Obama's successes to the yearning of whites to be rid of their guilt over the shame of slavery--to be on the right side of destiny. And that Senator Obama's success has been through his manipulation of this white guilt.
No sir, I don't see it that way. I see Senator Obama's successes as a result of people looking at the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

There will be many more thousands of words written over the phenomenon of Senator Obama's ascendency to the highest reaches of American political life, but I don't think I'll read anything as small minded, sneering, and hypocritial as this piece is.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I'm taking a break from the low art of politics and refreshing my heart with some gorgeous Bellini music and the high art of opera.

The highest form of the performing arts is opera, where there is a convergence of great symphonic music, set design (Marc Chagall designed sets and costumes for the opera), ballet, and the most extraordinary of all, the human voice.

Here is a clip from what was called the Concert of the Century, (I believe it was recorded in the early 1980s) featuring Dame Joan Sutherland, soprano, Marilyn Horne, mezzo soprano, and Lucianno Pavarotti, tenor. They're singing the trio from the first act of Vincenzo Bellini's sublime bel canto opera, "Norma."


Friday, March 14, 2008



"The pastor of my church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who recently preached his last sermon and is in the process of retiring, has touched off a firestorm over the last few days. He's drawn attention as the result of some inflammatory and appalling remarks he made about our country, our politics, and my political opponents.

Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Because these particular statements by Rev. Wright are so contrary to my own life and beliefs, a number of people have legitimately raised questions about the nature of my relationship with Rev. Wright and my membership in the church. Let me therefore provide some context.

As I have written about in my books, I first joined Trinity United Church of Christ nearly twenty years ago. I knew Rev. Wright as someone who served this nation with honor as a United States Marine, as a respected biblical scholar, and as someone who taught or lectured at seminaries across the country, from Union Theological Seminary to the University of Chicago. He also led a diverse congregation that was and still is a pillar of the South Side and the entire city of Chicago. It's a congregation that does not merely preach social justice but acts it out each day, through ministries ranging from housing the homeless to reaching out to those with HIV/AIDS.

Most importantly, Rev. Wright preached the gospel of Jesus, a gospel on which I base my life. In other words, he has never been my political advisor; he's been my pastor. And the sermons I heard him preach always related to our obligation to love God and one another, to work on behalf of the poor, and to seek justice at every turn.

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.
With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States."

Source: The Huffington Post

Thursday, March 13, 2008


(Click on comic for larger image.)

With the aid of Florida lawmakers, Allen Hayes, and Ronda Storms, Ben Stein is putting his money where his anti-science beliefs are and making a documentary--it will out in April.

The purpose of the documentary will be to sell Florida lawmakers on just how bad their new teaching standards are that include the word evolution.

Stein's buddy, Allen Hayes, had this to say:

"I want a balanced policy. I want students taught how to think, not what to think," Hayes says. "There are problems with evolution. Have you ever seen a half-monkey, half human?"

Good luck, Ben Stein, to you and your idiotic, anti-evolution ninnies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Barack Obama triumphed in a racially divided Mississippi primary today by winning about 90% of black votes and a third of white voters.

He also won last week's Texas caucuses, scoring more state delegates overall than primary-winner Hillary Clinton.

Mississippi awards 33 delegates and Texas 193 in their respective state races. •

Obama has beaten Clinton in contests across the South—South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana—all states where black voters made a strong show in his favor.

Mississippi exit polls showed that nearly half of voters were black, a fifth were independent, and one in 10 Republican.

Mississippi is the last contest before Pennsylvania's whopping 188-delegate primary next month.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


"A Pentagon-sponsored study of captured Iraqi intelligence archives has been unable to find a single operational link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaeda network, reports the McClatchy newspapers.

The study will be released this week and is expected to refuel debate over the US justification for invading Iraq. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once described evidence for links between the two as "bulletproof." • Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell also cited several links—which turned out to be based on misinterpreted or bogus intelligence—in a key 2003 speech to the UN to build support for the invasion. The study exhaustively trawled through 600,000 Iraqi documents captured by the US. The finding were sifted through a lengthy process of declassification before they could be shared with Congress. The

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime's archives found no documents indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report. He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn't due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday."


Of course, this isn't new. Here's the report in the Washington Post in 2004:

"The Iraq Connection Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed
By Walter Pincus and Dana MilbankWashington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, June 17, 2004; Page A01

The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.

"Along with the contention that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top administration officials have often asserted that there were extensive ties between Hussein's government and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network; earlier this year, Cheney said evidence of a link was "overwhelming."


As recently as Monday, Cheney said in a speech that Hussein "had long-established ties with al Qaeda."

Senator Barack Obama warned against going to war in Iraq. He showed exceptionally good judgment, while Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were either willfully uninformed, or just plain lying.

This report proves that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and the lot of them lied to the American people to gain support to go to war in Iraq.

Why these people have not been impeached is still a mystery to me.

This country got its knickers in a twist over Bill Clinton's famous "I did not have sex with that woman," and yet accepts the fact that BushCo. lied to get Congress and the American people to accept his illegal and immoral war.

Bush is a criminal far worse than Clinton.

The American people are dupes of the first order for being taken in by the lies of Bush, Cheney, et al.

And the US media are even worse. They are supposed to be a check on this sort of unchecked power and use of propaganda.

BushCo. and the American media failed the American people.

It is time for a change.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008



Obama gains more supers
Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2008 4:55 PM by Domenico Montanaro

From NBC’s Domenico Montanaro

Obama gained two more superdelegates today --
NV State Party Vice Chairwoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).

This brings the delegate total to: Obama 1,581-Clinton 1,481
Superdelegates: Clinton 254-Obama 215

NBC Hard Count: Obama 1,366-Clinton 1,227

There are 21 delegates unallocated, including 10 in Texas, 9 in Colorado, 1 in Hawaii and 1 Abroad.

Here's the March 4th breakdown:TX: Clinton 92-91 (+1 for Clinton, with 10 delegates from the caucuses still unallocated)OH: Clinton 75-66 (+9 for Clinton)RI: Clinton 13-8 (+5 for Clinton)VT: Obama 9-6 (+3 for Obama)

This gives Clinton a +12 net delegate gain out of March 4th and could be trimmed slightly because of those TX caucuses delegates still to be allocated.

UPDATE from the Obama campaign:

Our projections show the most likely outcome of yesterday's elections will be that Hillary Clinton gained 187 delegates, and we gained 183.

That's a net gain of 4 delegates out of more than 370 delegates available from all the states that voted.

For comparison, that's less than half our net gain of 9 delegates from the District of Columbia alone. It's also less than our net gain of 8 from Nebraska, or 12 from Washington State. And it's considerably less than our net gain of 33 delegates from Georgia.

The task for the Clinton campaign yesterday was clear. In order to have a plausible path to the nomination, they needed to score huge delegate victories and cut into our lead.

They failed.

It's clear, though, that Senator Clinton wants to continue an increasingly desperate, increasingly negative -- and increasingly expensive -- campaign to tear us down.

That's her decision. But it's not stopping John McCain, who clinched the Republican nomination last night, from going on the offensive. He's already made news attacking Barack, and that will only become more frequent in the coming days.

Right now, it's essential for every single supporter of Barack Obama to step up and help fight this two-front battle. In the face of attacks from Hillary Clinton and John McCain, we need to be ready to take them on.

Out of the last 15 primaries, Hillary Clinton has won 3.


Is that momentum?

No. It isn't. There's more to go.

This is for Senator Obama:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


"We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically. It's obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it—they don't have the stomach for it," he [Limbaugh] said.

There it is, friends. The conservatives' political discourse, and its chief promoter of slime.

This is precisely what Senator Obama wants to change.

But Limbaugh and his Repugnant ilk want to keep things dirty and loathsome.

I understand. Afterall, Rush is the warthog of radio talk hosts, and we all know what sort of filth hogs like to wallow in.

Additional comments by Limbaugh:

During the February 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Laura Ingraham interviewed Rush Limbaugh, who said, referring to a photograph of Sen. Barack Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing that was recently posted on the Drudge Report, that Obama "look[ed] like Ayman [al-]Zawahiri," Osama bin Laden's chief collaborator.

On the January 7 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh falsely asserted that if "you look at" the legislative record of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), "you won't find a Senate bill with his name on it."
In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Obama was the primary sponsor of a bill in the 109th Congress (S.2125) to "promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo," which was signed into law by President Bush on December 22, 2006.
In addition, Obama was a key co-sponsor of the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (S.2590), also of the 109th Congress. In a statement while signing the bill into law on September 26, 2006, Bush recognized Obama as a sponsor of the legislation, saying: "I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois."
From 2006 elections:
Parkinson's disease has become the latest battleground in the American midterm elections, with the rightwing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh locked in an unseemly wrangle with the actor and Parkinson's sufferer Michael J Fox.
Limbaugh was forced to apologise to the actor after he accused Fox of exaggerating the symptoms of his illness in an election television advert. "He's either off his medication or acting. He is an actor after all," Limbaugh said in his broadcast on Monday.
Hours later the talkshow host was forced to retract. "I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong," he said.
And this comment by Limbaugh during the Clinton years. It illustrates the kind of malevolence he loves and, apparently, his followers enjoy. Imagine going after a 12-year old girl's looks on national teevee and humiliating her in front of millions of people. What a guy.
"Everyone knows the Clintons have a cat. Socks is the White House cat. But did you know there is a White House dog?" And he puts up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea Clinton is 12 years old. (1993)
And finally, the putative Republican nominee in all his tough-guy, hero glory, picking on a young girl and ridculing her in front of an audience. What a guy!:
"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."
Sen. John McCain, speaking to a Republican dinner, June 1998.
What is it with Republicans and Chelsea Clinton?

Saturday, March 1, 2008


photo by Jason Butler, Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, Mass.

Lions are just overgrown pussycats.

Two guys, Ace Berg and John Rendall, raised a lion cub whom they named Christian, but sadly he got too big for them to take care of, so they decided to release him in Kenya, to live as a wild lion. In this footage, a year has passed and it looks like Christian's adapted to living with a pride of lions when his old friends come back to visit him. Watch closely and you can see the look of pure disbelief that dawns on his muzzle - it's awesome.