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Paterson Art Walk

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It rained all week in Northern New Jersey. The entire Passaic watershed is saturated and as it drains the Great Falls roars with the swelling volume of racing water as the river makes its way to its ultimate release into the Atlantic. Its a good metaphor for the surging rebirth of Paterson as a revitalized center of commerce and culture.

Long a typical neglected northeastern industrial city in decline, Paterson is experiencing a vibrant transitioning and repurposing of it’s heritage as a manufacturing center thanks in part to The Art Factory.

The Art Factory is an incubator encouraging the formation and growth of the creative arts industry. Tourism and cultural enterprises that attract tourists are critical economic drivers necessary for the rebirth of Paterson.  The Art Factory’s offering of working space for artists and commercial enterprises is a critical initiative seeking to build on The Great Falls Historic District’s recent National Park designation that anchors the city’s hopes for a long awaited revitalization.

 The Art Factory is busy renovating the once dilapidated Dolphin Jute factory space and filling it with the creative energies of up and coming professional artists looking for commercial acceptance of their art.

Memorial Day weekend, The Art Factory’s Art Walk showcased a torrent of local artistic talent. The volume of exhibits compliments the range and scope of quality art that met and exceeded the expectations of the many patrons and enthusiasts eagerly exploring a labyrinth of cavernous exhibition rooms located throughout the century old industrial complex.

Indeed half the fun of The Art Walk is making your way through the multiple floors of exhibition space. The thrill of walking stairwells and darkened brick laden passageways opening into old shop floors flooded with art, bathed in the light of industrial windows framing cityscapes of surrounding street life, wooded hills of Garret Mountain and historic skyline of Paterson. Or descend into the bowels of the old factory’s basement storage areas carved out of granite bedrock bleeding water, showcasing multimedia sculptures divined from the subterranean strata of broken bricks, steel scrap, rubbish bins, wooden pallets, cardboard packaging, dexterous hands and fluid imagination.

One of the great pleasures of The Art Walk is experiencing how the art interacts with industrial space. A virtue of The Art Factory is its mission to repurpose dormant manufacturing space and refill it with the creative energy of artists. A great portion of the art on exhibit in The Art Walk addressed the idea of repurposing, industrial stasis and the human and ecological cost of industrialization.

The idea of repurposing industrial artifacts and disposable waste to portray the human cost of rampant consumerism was intelligently portrayed by conceptual artist Aleksandr Razin and his bold installation Jurassic Park.

Comprised of 4 extensive installations filling a large basement space; The Mosquito, (68’x 20’ x 12’); The Paterson Butterfly (51’x54’x12’), The Grasshopper (35’x45’x13’) and The Fly (54’x55’x20’); Jurassic Park was fully constructed from materials culled from the excessive waste of our throw away consumer society. Each installation appears as though its belongs in the dank basement of an industrial complex.

One piece, The Caterpillar, is a boxed construction of corrugated cardboard enclosing an inner lighted workplace of benches, machines, tools and cabinets. One can look inside the caterpillar through windows or enter the piece from an hidden doorway. From the outside the cardboard construction looks like its about to collapse from flimsy construction materials. A caterpillar suggests transition but once inside the caterpillar I imagine a shift of workers trapped in a dangerous workplace at risk of imminent collapse. Certainly a timely observation given the recent catastrophic collapse of a Bangladesh textile factory killing over 1,000 workers manufacturing high end clothing for some of the leading western fashion brands.

The Mosquito installation was equally unsettling. Inside The Mosquito we find outdated school rooms. We can only surmise how school systems are challenged by obsolete teaching methods and institutional distress. Are schools like a mosquito, sucking the life blood out of society’s young minds? To paraphrase the artist statement, Mr. Razin asserts, the size of the installation suggest extinct dinosaurs and that out of control consumerism and toxic waste is threatening life on earth.”

Another large subterranean installation offers a complex tube structure of air blown inflated denim. A haunting soundtrack of industrial sounds echoes through the room; as sparse lighting casts long shadows of the piece and patrons onto walls of bedrock and weathered brick. The patron assumes the role of a consumer who becomes complicit enablers trapped in the denim web of global trade built on the exploitation of third world textile workers.

Jonah The Prophet and The Gates of Hell completed a trinity of subterranean social commentary installations. Jonah, a suspended wire piece portrays a figure devoured by a fish. The room’s floor was covered in broken brick. Scattered cubicle panels lined the walls. Here in the lowest level of The Art Factory we have been consumed, entrapped in the prison of industrial monotony.

 The upper floors of the show mostly featured portraiture, photography and small sculptures. An installation on Industrialism portrayed the hard edges of industrial capitalism. An oil painting, Made In China sympathetically portrays a child attached to a sewing machine.  Its a striking depiction of western consumerism complicity in enabling child labor.

With the exception of the basement installations, for the most part politics and social commentary was absent from the Art Walk. The pieces were clearly positioned for sale; and as I said earlier the quality and subject matter of paintings make this art highly marketable. Refreshments, bands and a wedding added an air of festive lightness to the day and set a consumer friendly atmosphere to The Art Walk.

And that’s how it should be. Though I couldn’t discern any major artistic breakthroughs, commercial development and the art of capitalism is the star of this show. Bravo The Art Factory and The Paterson Art Walk. The journey back from economic doldrums has begun in Paterson and The Art Factory and The Art Walk is a big first step in that journey.

Music Selection: Fats Domino, I’m Walkin

risk: urban renewal, small business, tourism, culture

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May 28, 2013 Posted by | art, commerce, culture, manufacturing, Paterson, photo | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Party of Values, Thoroughly Bankrupt

Republican’s fancy themselves to be the party of values.  They profess to love God and country.  They believe themselves to be the real Americans.  They are the absolute definition of righteous patriots.  They see themselves and their families basking in the light of a celestial exceptionalism.  They occupy the center of a universe anointed by the invisible hand of free market capitalism, governed and sanctified by the benevolent love of their heavenly father, Jesus Christ.

Their values are based on a fundamentalist foundation of the King James Bible and the US Constitution as it was originally conceived and authored by the Founding Fathers in 1787.  They are resolute in the belief of the correctness of their interpretation of this hallowed literature and remain adamant in how the instruction of these sacred tomes should be applied and implemented to shape and govern our Federal Republic.

If you question the basic supposition of their position they will tarry your thrust by questioning your love of country and your belief in God.  Those same questions must be asked of them.  The virulent defenders of the cross and crown of liberty consistently undermine the spirit of both. They serve the corporate objectives of church, military and industrial institutions that have formed an unholy alliance to rule and exploit the hearts and minds of an enslaved consumer market that cannot discern the difference between political liberty and a have it your way experience at Burger King.

America’s political ignorance is a poverty exploited by the oligarchs; giving them full sway to control and manipulate the levers of power to secure and advance selfish interests.  They cloth their motives in priestly robes, medal adorned military uniforms, Rotarian flannel suits and Joe “the wannabe” Plumber overalls feigning a martyrdom of being crushed by the menacing liberal elites by standing for the values of free markets, Christianity, class mobility and a military spreading the global march of democracy.

The GOP presidential debates provided some telling political theater of how the party of values advanced the cause of individual liberty and governance informed by moral precepts. In one session a gay officer serving in Iraq asked the candidates “now that DADT has been repealed and gay service personnel can serve in the military would they support  same sex marriage”.  The gay serviceman unselfishly serving his country in a theater of war was roundly booed by the uber patriots sitting in the audience before Rick Santorum piled on and asserted not only would he not sign a same sex marriage bill into law, he would also reinstate DADT.

In another session the question concerning the mandatory requirement to purchase  health care insurance was raised.  The moderator asked a hypothetical question, “if a person failed to purchase insurance and required a life saving procedure who should pay?”  One of the more compassionate conservatives shouted “let him die”.   This was undoubtedly the same guy who condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Another high water mark of GOP moral turpitude occurred when the debate moderator questioned Rick Perry about the State of Texas position as the leader in capital punishment executions.  The audience erupted in cheers.  The United States is home to the worlds largest penal colony with an inmate population that exceeds 2,000,000.   This belies the myth of the United States as the land of the free; particularly for the people of color who account for the largest proportion of the inmate population.  This is good news for the free marketeers as the privatization of prisons is a growth industry.  The profiteers of misery require the judicial apparatus of the states to maintain a prison occupancy rate of 90% to assure profitability for private investors.  The threat to a fair trial has never been more at risk.  This is a business opportunity right up the GOPs free market alley. The devaluation of the rule of law an unfortunate consequence.  The value of money trumps the grace of justice.

The GOP’s deep investment in the culture of death mirrors a country thoroughly committed to the continued militarization of the economy regardless of its cultural cost.  Republicans eagerly beat the drums of war and use the poetry of destruction  to articulate a cutesy point.  Remember John McCain using the melody of  Barbara Anne to sing, “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”  The neocons ate it up.  The peacemaker may be considered children of God,  but in the GOP the business of war and righteous crusades are divine.

Republicans pledge undying fealty to the Constitution and the rights of citizens.  One would think that this would encourage vocal opposition  to President Obama’s Executive Order to execute suspected combatant citizens without due process in respect  to the right of a trial by a jury of their peers.  Not a single word has been raised against this grievous violation of a basic constitutional protection.  Where are all the freedom loving, constitution waving Teabaggers?  It’s a natural extension of Republican’s refusal to recognize the full civil rights of  citizens.  As in the case of LGBT civil rights, the GOP’s vision of America protects civil liberties only for select citizens they deem worthy.  The rights of the republic’s citizens and the rule of law be damned.

It is in this light that we can understand Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic characterization of Sandra Fluke as a slut.  Dehumanizing a group of people as “the other” or “less then”  because they hold a contrary position is a dangerous sedition that undermines democracy.

Democracies need its citizens to reach an informed consensus to function.  Consensus requires dialog to assimilate disparate views from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.  This presupposes that the participants in the discussion recognize and value the rights of citizenship for all participants in the dialog.  The highest value in a secular democracy is respecting the equal rights of all citizens.  Without this value democracies crumble.  Our democracy is in shambles.

This weekend Rick Santorum sat upon the alter at the Greenwell Baptist Church to accept the endorsement of Pastor Dennis Terry for the upcoming Louisiana primary.   After laying his hands on Santorum to bless his candidacy,  Pastor Terry delivered a sermon that spewed fire and brimstone onto the reprobate head of our secular democracy.  “America” he said “was a Christian Nation ruled by Christ the King.  He said American’s don’t worship Buddha, Allah or any other false Gods.  He said American’s worshiped the God on High, Jesus Christ.  And if they don’t like it they can get out.”  As a Christian I can’t tell you how much I loathe this blatant bigotry.  Jesus was all about inclusion and tolerance and I’m sure he would make short work of this Pharisee.  As an American citizen, I can’t think of a more ignorant and damaging characterization of  America’s promise and the democratic values it professes to uphold.

GOP wunderkind Paul Ryan, yesterday unveiled a budget that assiduously accounts for the price of every tax loop hole, generous corporate welfare allocation and tax reduction for the wealthy while demonstrating a chilling indifference for slashed social programs and its impact on human beings.  Republican’s know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  The party of values is thoroughly bankrupt.

Music Selection:  Sen. John McCain, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Risk: democracy, values, political culture

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, conservatism, culture, faith, gay rights, goverment, Iran, LGBT, McCain, Obama, politics, prayer, religion, republicans, values | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Then They Came For Me

The ones shouting loudest with greatest vehemency for liberty are ironically the proponents of its gravest threat.   Rep. Peter King, the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled hearings on the radicalization of the US Muslim community and its threat to the homeland.  Mr. King said the hearings are the result of a growing concern by law enforcement officials that the US Muslim community has not been cooperative in rooting out the home grown terrorists multiplying within their midst.  In service to liberty’s highest ideals, the ever vigilant Mr. King looks to initiate an assault on the civil liberties of our brother and sister Muslim citizens.

A group calling themselves The Liberty Alliance  are in full support of Mr. King’s ethnic profiling and the grave threat it poses to the civil liberties of all citizens.  Mr. King’s committee hearings will be a resplendent grand standing platform for him to play to the basest prejudices of his constituency and stoke up the fear of American angst already overloaded with a symphony of terrors.  Muslims, like the LGBT community and illegal aliens, labor unions and teachers make convenient scapegoats for the myriad problems confronting the nation.  Mr. King and The Liberty Alliance would like us to believe that labor unions have plundered the wealth of the nation.  Teachers have destroyed the schools.  The poor have bankrupted our federal treasury while the LGBT and foreigners continue to undermine the true American Judeo-Christian culture by defiling the purity of its heritage.

Its a grand irony to witness self styled libertarians mobilized into action to attack civil liberties and right to privacy of their fellow citizens.  They clamor for disclosure and transparency with the diabolical refrain,  “if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to be afraid of.” Such seditious thinking undermines the spirit of liberty.  It is a direct assault on a  society governed by laws and its citizens shielded by due process and protected by a Bill of Rights.  These democratic virtues once distinguished America as the shinning  city on a hill.  Now The Liberty Alliance denigrates it with an Orwellian platitude believing civil rights, privacy and due process are covers for terrorist cells that must be dispensed with at all costs.

It is not difficult to divine that  Peter King’s committee will encourage a number of informants to come forward to meet a specified quota for stool pigeonry.   A legion of rats and informants are the armies of despots not agents of democracies.  But these are the same Real American Freedom Fighters who led the charge against American Muslim’s right to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.  Ask them about religious tolerance and the freedom to worship as guaranteed in the US Constitution and they’ll concede the point with the promise to serve Halal meals and build a mosque with extra capacity at Gitmo.

The ones shouting the loudest for liberty do indeed pose the greatest threat to it.  The libertarians who opened the door to 527 llcs have turned Lady Liberty into a common prostitute hiring her out to the highest bidder.  The zealots waving the Constitution with the fervor of a Red Book sprouting Maoist, forms a reactionary vanguard eager to deny the very same sacred civil liberties and rights to fellow citizens in their deranged constitutional republic of unfree and unequal citizens.

Despots and non-democratic societies do not offer or practice universal rights, freedoms and liberties for all its citizens.  Pitting one group against another, scape goating, delineating special classes of people or dual classes of citizenship are hallmarks of repressive societies.  Mr. King’s committee hearing of racial and ethnic profiling divides citizens and denies the constitutional  rights and liberties for Muslims.  This is apartheid.  Gov. Walker’s and Chris Christie’s attack on labor unions and teachers as the source of our economic debasement obfuscates systemic inequities and masks the identities of the perpetrators who plundered the wealth of this nation.  The economic elites are trying to beat the rap by forcing their public elected shills to make the working people of America pay the price for their own victimization.

Peter King’s sons of liberty are complicit agents of enslavement to the power and privilege of corporate oligarchs; hiding behind the billowing smoke of America’s civic strife and brewing internecine struggle.  They are gravely mistaken in believing that they are safely ensconced behind the golden walls of their enclaves the piles of cash allowed them to build to protect themselves  from the seething masses. Mubarak nor Gaddafi’s moat protected strongholds could protect them from the volatile tide of history.

Peter King opening up hearings on radical Islam and its role in creating home grown terrorism is of course just in time for the 2012 election.  It will provide some red meat for rabid Teabaggers screaming for blood.  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other righteous Falangist Crusaders can use the grist of Peter King’s xenophobic fear mill to paint our Mau Mau  loving President and any progressive opponent a Fifth Columnist for the new Caliphate they are working to establish in the last stand of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

You Tube Video:  James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Risk: tolerance, politics, civil liberties, Bill of Rights

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, class, conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, ethnic, faith, gay rights, government, labor unions, LGBT, Muslim, Palin, psychology, race, republicans, social justice, Tea Party, teaching, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kwanzaa 2010

We welcome the arrival of Kwanzaa. People of good will everywhere welcome this opportunity to bring more light into a world shrouded in darkness.  Kwanzaa celebrates community as a vessel to receive and dispense the flow of hope and service required to minister and serve others. It is a wonderful reminder on the importance of community and excellent opportunity to strengthen the bonds of the individual within communities.

The Seven Principles

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

We welcome Kwanzaa and wish its celebrants an enriching and transforming experience.

You Tube Music Video: Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry, Kawaida, Kamali

Risk: holiday, culture, faith

December 26, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, faith | , , , | Leave a comment

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

The suicide of Tyler Clementi was more then a personal tragedy for his family, friends, those that loved him and the greater LGBT community. It was an event that forced America to hold up a mirror to itself and take a long honest look. It provided an opportunity for a nation that professes to uphold cultural tolerance and civil liberties for all its citizens to truthfully search its heart to determine how well America upholds these sacred ideals. I believe America found itself wanting.

The practice of self examination is not one of America’s strong points. We are much more comfortable living a life of convenient denial. The military practice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) codified the plausible deniability of institutional ambivalence. It sequestered the need to act to address a nagging injustice. It held the truth hostage so as not to suffer the consequences of an inconvenient truth. It revealed a country in deep state of denial refusing to shatter the myths and the untruths it believed about itself. It pandered to the ugly fears and violent temperament of intolerant zealots that unleashed waves of hateful vindictiveness against the marginalized and most vulnerable. A lie in service to a myth creates and perpetuates a culture of delusion. It allows all citizens to hold tight to our national deceptions, celebrating broken ideals with the untruth of meaningless flags.

America took an important step this weekend with the repeal of DADT. The personal truth of who we are as individuals is now aligned with open and truthful institutions. This landmark legislation corrected a legislative injustice by addressing an institutional discrimination. America must be a place where civil rights for all citizens lies beyond compromise. That is the easy part. Now the hearts of American’s must change and learn to accept the justice that the repeal of DADT upholds.

God apportions equal amount of love to all his children. All are accepted, none denied the grace of light God asks us to walk into. All are fully enfranchised citizens in God Kingdom. The Perpetual Potentate governs over all in perfect justice. The People of the Way are called to be upright citizens in the City of Light. Citizenship requires the beloved “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

God is a radical affirmation of self, free to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit as we have been called. We are called to speak our truth to the power of earthy principalities as we are called to be the truth in the living power of God. Our freedom compels us to “Go Tell it on the Mountain”.

The earthly principalities may have lost the exquisite melodies of Tyler Clementi’s music; but the earthly silence is a resounding reminder to weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance. Tyler’s violin may now lie entombed in its case; but it continues to implore us to sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation, and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love. The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will forever resonate from the highest peaks of joyous affirmation to the lowest valleys of pedestrian dread. The melody of his life will always be with us. This Advent we sojourn to the mountain to sing the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life. We pray with expectant hope that those refusing to listen and those most needing to hear will open deaf ears and join the earthly chorus of all the beloved singing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

absolution is sweet
vindication better
affirmation divine

Selah

Peace and prayers to all the beloved,

You Tube Music Video: Mahalia Jackson, Go Tell It On The Mountain!

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December 20, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, culture, faith, gay rights, institutional, LGBT, politics, social justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaking Visions of a New World Order

Every once a while an event happens that shifts the prevailing scheme of things. Julian Assange’s dump and release of US State Department cables (CableGate) for global distribution on WikiLeaks is such an event. It radically alters existing convention and the public’s general perception of normalcy, acceptability and protocol.  It brings into question the motives and interests of nations and their leaders. It squarely plops an 800 pound gorilla on the sofa in everyone’s living room and provokes questions that naggingly insist answers.   Asking leaders about duplicity, conflicts of interest, distortions, fabrications, fibs and outright lies all done in the national interest.  It is how a new Weltanschauung is cast and forged to conform to the needs a new world order.  The sun has set on the American Century.  Blessedly, America’s days as a self righteous post Cold War marauding superpower are coming to a close.  The WikiLeaks disclosures gives us some insights into the thinking and banter world leaders engage as they move the Chess pieces across the board on the great global game  of new world order.

There are moral considerations and ethical arguments to be made on each side of Mr. Assange’s incendiary action.  CableGate raises complex multidimensional issues of national security, informed citizenry, the protection of information, its public disclosure and citizens right to know.  The natural tension between  the simultaneous need for confidentiality and transparency is a reality of our complex and interconnected world.  The management of these issues have escalated to become a preeminent dilemma of our time.  This raises significant  challenges to democratic societies and the governance structures of both public and private institutions.  It threatens institutional sustainability and undermines institutional capability to function in highly interdependent stakeholder ecosystems.  The risk of seeking pathways to safely navigate the virtual minefields of a digitized global world is great and continues to grow.

The most impassioned issue raised by CableGate is the ethical violation of stolen property.  The cables were not Mr. Assange’s property and what gives him the right to publish and violate diplomats right to confidentiality and privacy? His actions could endanger diplomatic relationships, compromise government initiatives or derail delicate negotiations.  Do governments have a right to privacy?  If so, what information needs to be classified as secret and confidential?  If all documents are secret then the designation is meaningless and government nothing more then a ruthless leviathan lording over a clueless citizenry.

Another critical question CableGate raises is who is served by the publication of these cables? Certainly American citizens in whose interest the State Department purportedly acts benefits from the added transparency.  US citizens must admit there is a certain level of comfort in being able to track the satchel of an Afghanistan Vice President stuffed $52 million of taxpayers money through the U.A.E. Customs.

Detractors of CableGate assert that the leaks are a danger to America and its citizens.  If so why is the public aggrieved and who exactly is the “aggrieved public”?  Soldiers and servicemen fighting in Afghanistan?  Does State Department Cables provide tactical and strategic information on troop deployments?  Highly doubtful.  More likely it is the special interests enriching themselves at the public troughs by cutting deals to shamelessly engorge themselves as insidious war profiteers.  Better to ask why our country has placed our young servicemen and woman at risk in wars that makes little sense and accomplishes nothing.

Another set of critical questions CableGate raises are “Do citizens have a right to truth?  Is access to information meaningful?  Does the information help citizens of democratic societies understand the actions and motivations of their government?  Why do diplomats pursue certain course of action and who is profiting from the course of action pursued?  These are critical tenants citizens require to make informed decisions in a democratic society and CableGate certainly supports the notion of information empowerment for citizens.

Arguing the contrary one must ask “is it better to be mislead and be lied too in the name of propriety and protocol then to be victimized by the truth?  I’ll take conviction in a court of truth and pray for a life sentence every time.

If you believe that the public can’t handle the truth or needs protection from it; imagine yourself living near a nuclear power plant and it was leaking radiation into your drinking water.  Would you like to know about it?  What if disclosure led to wide spread panic?  I believe that truth and transparency always serves to discover and determine the best course of action to pursue.

CableGate has also shed damaging light on the power exercised by private corporations and the commercial control and open access and free availability of information.  Amazon’s cloud computing service had no silver lining for WikiLeaks.  After the WikiLeak dump it shut down access to the cables due to the unacceptable risk posed by denial of service attacks mounted by computer hackers.   This was followed by PayPal’s closure of WikiLeaks donation solicitation account.  Was PayPal’s motive purely patriotic?  Where they just pissed at WikiLeaks or were they at risk of  aiding and abetting a subversive organization that risked prosecution under certain provisions of  THE USA PATRIOT ACT?

Academic freedom also seems to have taken a blow due to CableGate.  This weekend, Columbia University warned its students not to download or distribute WikiLeak cables because it may affect future employment opportunities with the State Department. Government employees were also warned not to read or access the cables because they had no security clearance to do so.  If they were caught accessing the leaked cables it could cost them their jobs.  Even though the cables are published in great detail everyday by newspapers throughout the world, government employees must be careful not to notice for risk of losing their employment.  This is truly a Kafkaesque dilemma for some, a divine comedy for others and a growing political drama for everyone.

I’m still not sure that Cablegate is what it purports to be.  As the old saying goes and the cables affirm nothing is ever as it seems.  I find it  most improbable that a Private First Class sitting at a PC in Baghdad could download the Iraq War Logs and throw a great superpower into a first class crisis of the new world order.  I liken the leaks  to the past practice  of “special unnamed high placed sources” leaking inside information to the liberal mainstream media outlets.  Its done to float trial balloons about new government directions.  They do it to test the waters of public sentiment to new ideas, or change in policy course or  potentially damaging information to see how the public reacts.  Not one to be of a conspiratorial mindset, I perceive CableGate in this light.  As expected the public reaction thus far  has elevated our collective sense of outrage to a heightened level of ambivalence.

In many respects Iraq War Logs supports the construction of a new narrative about an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The revelations of wastefulness, corruption and back room deal making with a full caste of sordid characters reinforces  the public perception about the uselessness of these wasteful and expensive misadventures.  The cables may prove to be the documentary evidence  of  America’s Waterloo and CableGate  may be seen by future generations as the  historical high watermark of an expired global empire.

As the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs helped to prepare the public psyche for an exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; CableGate helps construct a narrative surrounding the need to “cut off the head of the snake in Iran”.  These cables implicate Arab States in a desire to undermine the apostate Persians and abrogates Israeli culpability as the driving force behind an attack on Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the cables psychological warfare.  I don’t doubt for a second that atomic weapons in the hands of Iran is a dangerous development that needs to be mitigated.  That does not mean that we should employ bombers to destroy Iranian nuclear processing facilities.  This would only create an environmental disaster and political crisis  that further destabilizes the region.  It would secure the enmity of new generations of Muslims and no doubt stoke the escalation of the Crusade against Islam.

In the Far East,China’s growth as a world super power and ascending rival to US dominance makes for compelling reading.  Here its no surprise that cables assess a strengthening China, its growing nationalism and military readiness.  Reading these cables against the backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s complicity in helping North Korea ship nuclear materials to Iran and the changing sentiment in the US concerning the largest note holder of government bonds may prove to  carry grave consequences for harmonious US/China relations.   The cable revealing China’s ambivalence toward its North Korean surrogate state is laid bare as long as it can secure preferred trade agreements with a unified Korea.

The revelations offered by Pakistan’s leaders about support for the Taliban and a growing concern about the safety of their nuclear arsenals raised the possibility of a US military move to quarantine or neutralize Pakistani weapon systems.  Though so far India seems to come off unscathed by the cables it must be heartening for India’s leaders to know that its budding friendship with the US may encourage a move to disarm the nuclear capability of its northern antagonist and the worlds sole Islamic atomic state.

These WikiLeaks offer up a brand new narrative for an emerging new world order.  The damaging realization of the spillage of confidential proprietary discussions and dialogs between world governments and the mishandling of those documents diminishes the stature of US federalism.  The undermining of federalism and its suitability as a governance structure for the new millennium foreshadows the growing antagonism of global corporate entities like Google and the nationalistic government of the People’s Republic of China augers an era of  conflict between statism and corporatism.

CableGate is a deliberate attempt to have institutions open up with greater transparency and construct a democratic narrative that force governments to change.  Mr. Assange’s  avowed goal is to, “allow governments and institutions to become more transparent or force them to become more opaque”  Depending on the what side of the fence your sitting on, openness and transparency benefits the public interest.  The struggle for democracy requires the open access and the free flow of information.

In the digital age denial of free, open and equal access to information is tantamount to fascism.  Withheld, it will encourage people to rise up demanding the means to pursue conscious enlightenment.  This may spur political activism that demands institutional accountability,  and the practice of democratic governance based on constitutional principles.  Failing that once free citizens will be forced to accept the meager lies and obfuscations of leaders and power elites whose self interest is the sole interest of government.

So as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to plug the leaks in a failing dike system, we cannot content ourselves to live with our heads buried in the sand,  filling our minds with reality TV reruns of Jack Ass Three and Bristol Palin bustin a move on Dance Fever.  I’ve heard it said that the best way to influence the future is to invent it.  Mr. Assange has given us a world of insights and a basic tool set to start constructing a foundation for a new world order.

You Tube Music Video: REM, End of the World As We Know It

Risk: diplomacy, international relations, governance

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Cablegate, corporate governance, corruption, culture, democracy, ethics, government, institutional, Iraq War Logs, legal, nuclear, peace, politics, psychology, reputational risk, terrorism, values, war, WikiLeaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triumph of the Willfulness

This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit,  Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture.  Seems  Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art.  Here’s the link:

Gay Portraiture Exhibit  at Smithsonian.

Smithsonian Hide and Seek Website.

Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction  that promotes censorship  in service to state sponsored propaganda.   From my perspective that is not  the issue at stake here; but  if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”.  Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.

Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.

Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous.  Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad.  The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of  Christian denominations.   Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels.  That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.

File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.

Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems

You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man

Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia

December 2, 2010 Posted by | art, Christianity, culture, democracy, LGBT, Muslim, photo, poetry, politics, psychology, secularism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Season of Light: Hanukkah

Hanukkah reminds us to bear faithful witness to the miracle of hope. The lamp burned for eight days on oil sufficient for one. Yahweh is the author of all hope.  Its light will never be extinguished as long as we remain mindful to tend the candles and trim the wicks by vigilantly guarding against cynicism, pessimism and  hopelessness.  Hanukkah commands us to stand firm in resolute faith.  Celebrate Hanukkah, meditate and rejoice in the light of hope. Darkness is banished. Yahweh is forever faithful.

Thanks be to God.

Selah

You Tube Video: Lich’vod Hachanukkah -Chaim Nachman Bialik – Chanukah song

Risk: pessimism, cynicism, hopelessness

December 1, 2010 Posted by | culture, faith, holiday, seasons | , , , | Leave a comment

Sense of Gratitude

For this years Thanksgiving, I have decided to focus on developing a sense of gratitude. The world is full of real bad stuff happening to too many people and its easy to let the darkness of our times cast long shadows of resentment, anger and ill will over our outlook on life. So today as I travel to a relatives home to gather for our national day of thankfulness I choose to leave resentments at home and cultivate a sense of gratitude.

I’m grateful for my eyes. My sight allows me to perceive the million graces The Almighty abundantly confers upon the inhabitants of the good earth each and every day. My eyes help me to discover the pressing needs of others and respond to it. My eyes help me to discern light from darkness, distinguish the forest from the trees and eschew pedestrian views to behold a beautiful vista. My eyes are a pathway to my soul moving me to contemplate the good, forsake the bad and move against evil in service to truth.

I’m grateful for my ears. The grace of hearing permits me to listen. My ears alert me to the cries of my brothers and sisters and enables me to understand our shared human condition. My ears tune my spirit to the chords of exquisite music and the natural symphonies of Mother Earth’s angelic chorus of singing birds, heaving oceans, the majestic pause of silent mountains and the fleeting rush of the swelling wind are all divine voices singing the joyful hymns of life.

I’m thankful for my sense of smell. Graciously my nose breathes in the inviting aroma of a lovingly prepared home cooked meal, the wholesome scent of baking bread wafting from the door of the corner bakery, a briny snort from the boundless sea, the rich compost of the deep woods after a soft summer rain, the bouquet of an infants hair and the perfume of a lovers embrace.

I give thanks for my ability to touch. Hands engaged in productive work and gainful employment is a blessing absent from too many Thanksgiving Day tables this year. We yearn to connect and the sense of touch invites our ability to feel. Feeling is the father of empathy and the mother of compassion. Caring for our animal friends we live in communion with all sentient beings.  As we touch one another and allow others to touch us; the hardest of hearts is softened, the most grievous wounds are healed to liberate the sensual yearnings dwelling in the deepest recesses of ourselves. Feeling allows us to become fully present, fully aware and fully alive in the celebration of what it means to be fully human.

I’m thankful for my sense of taste. As Sinatra croons “from the brim to the dregs” the wine of our lives may not all taste good but it all flows clear and true. Sample, savor and learn. Taste and see the glories of the Lord’s banquet so abundantly placed before us. The bitter herbs, the sweet cakes, the leisure repast, the fortifying meal and unrequited hunger is the daily bread of being human.  Pause to consider those that are lining up for the tenth Thanksgiving Day meal in Afghanistan and Iraq and pray that the awful rations of war fed to our young soldiers be supplanted with the good manna of peace.

Perhaps we loose our sense of gratitude because expectations of ourselves and others always seems to come up short of the mark. Imperfection is our most endearing quality. It informs our ability to forgive transgressions, form bonds of friendship and unconditionally love each other. I remain grateful for the sense of my imperfection as I overlook your imperfections and remain ever hopeful that you  will extend your hand to help me over come mine.

Happy Thanksgiving.

You Tube Video: Jean Ritchie, Shady Grove

risk: resentment, gratitude, peace, metal health,

November 25, 2010 Posted by | armed services, community, culture, faith, family, life, psychology, recession, seasons, Spirituality, war | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaky Reactors, Cyber Terror and Police States

This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot

A few interesting  news items recently passed without much notice.  Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be  brought offline due to operational failures.  The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down.  The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City.  The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire.  Both reactors  are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.

These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities.  These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service.  When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years.   As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators.  Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors.  As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.

Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water.  Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption.  I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.

The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern.  The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement.  At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York.  It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS  revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market.  The state of  New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money.  It was kind of like socialism for investors.

While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change.  The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.

China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal.  The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race.  The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration.  To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of  land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured.   Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.

The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure.  The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of  a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic.  Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations.   The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state  guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.

The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game.  The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer.  Self deluded uber patriots act more  like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the   security of either Israel or the United States.  A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of  humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City.  Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation.  The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities.  If these bleak scenarios come to pass,  Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session.  The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.

You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets

Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties

 

November 22, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, democracy, disaster planning, ecological, energy, environment, government, military, nuclear, regulatory, risk management | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment