Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Sustainable Economics

We have put our good mother through a lot over the past few million years. Ever since we walked out of the great rift the biospheres dominant species has really left a mark. I know that mark is but a tiny spec on the archaeological record of the earth which spans a few billion years but our impact is unmistakable.
 
I guess it started with the invention of hand tools, fire, wheels, shelter construction, water cultivation and agriculture. You can’t forget hunting in packs, weaponry, domestication of animals, speech, art and writing. A consciousness of a portfolio of skills, specialization, division of labor and the ability to discern exchange value within the community birthed a notion of governance. Our social nature was crowned with our ability to transmit craft and knowledge to successive generations, assuring continuity and cohesion with a common history and a well articulated cosmology. Put it all together and I think you got your basic modern Homo sapien.
Oh yeah, we also developed a psychology, an ego, that incorporates the primacy of ourselves and our selfish needs. It rationalizes and guides our interactions with nature, transforming the intention of our labor into a transaction that alters the conditions of the environment. It also serves as indisputable empirical evidence of the master species, elevated above all others as time marks the progress and dominion of the human race.
 
Our dominion has been codified into our sacred literature. Our creation stories and cosmic mission statements expressly state to exercise our dominion over nature, to propagate the species and to be fruitful and multiply. The screaming unencumbered id, left to its own devises, unchecked in the grand supermarket. We human’s have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations and the species continues to be fruitful and multiplying. 
 
We sojourn on, notching the ladder of history with marks of our progression through the ages. Along the way we Cro-Magnons expropriated the Neanderthals and moved into their Mediterranean digs complete with fire pits, burial chambers and the best take on modern art until Picasso came along.
 
I guess that’s the point. Our survival comes at the expense of other creatures and things. I’m no Malthusian, but Tom Friedman’s flat world is getting crowded.    And as we celebrate the 44th Earth Day a midst the greatest die off of species since mankind coronated himself as master and commander of all things earth; it may be time to consider how our dominion is hampering the well being of the lesser flora and fauna kingdoms and what we can do to begin the practice of a more sustainable economics.
 
When I look at Las Vegas, I behold a garish mecca of capitalism on steroids.  I’m overwhelmed by the banality of the the things we so highly esteem. A community venerated and propped up on the foundation of vice, hedonism and the radical pursuit of money. Unbridled development of a crystal neon city constructed in the middle of a desert, recklessly consumes water and energy resources and misdirects human capital to maintain the facade of an unsustainable economy. 
 
Phoenix poses the same paradox. Darling child of the credit boom, Phoenix is a city consuming itself. The rising threat of climate change, blistering heat, dwindling water supplies and raging haboobs would give any urban planner reason to pause. A bustling city of many millions of striving citizens consuming energy, water and human capital built on the unsustainable foundation of excessive consumption and an unrealistic valuation of the capital required to maintain it. 
 
The explosion of fracking natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation is another example of sacrificing long term sustainability for the immediacy of shareholder returns. The Marcellus Deposit has proven reserves that only last a decade. As evidenced by the hyper development occurring in North Dakota,  economies tied to resource extraction are prone to experience classic boom bust cycles. During boom times all is well. But the good times don’t last all that long and communities are left in the wake of the bust cycle to deal with the aftermath. 
 
The Keystone XL Pipeline and the rapid expansion of the LNG extraction industries are being touted as the foundation of American energy independence. But this energy resource extracts a high cost on the land and its natural bounty. It poses significant risk to water aquifers, air quality, wildlife and the storage of waste-water byproducts will present long term remediation challenges to communities for many decades after the last well is capped.
 
Our new found fortune of LNG comes with a significant opportunity cost to develop alternative energy sources as it continues to tether our economic dependence on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Perpetuating this dependence also requires us to expend huge sums of money on the military. The political arrhythmia in the Ukraine and the keen interest of the United States has much to do with the changing political economy of fossil fuels and the protection and accession of markets.
 
Sustainability requires a new approach to the emerging realities of the global political economy. Recognition that competing interests bring important capital to the table, and that all must be recognized and fully valued in the new algorithms of sustainability is the keystone and pipeline of sustainability. The practice of unfettered development is unsustainable. Regulation, arbitration and revitalization cannot be sacrificed at the altar of laissez-faire politics that only serves to widen the wealth gap at tremendous social cost. The politicization of economic policy cannot continue to be beholden to rampant monetization. Sustainability is the creation of long term value for a diverse community of stakeholders. It needs to become our guiding mantra as the global population approaches 8 billion souls. Happy Earth Day.

 

Music Selection:

Risk: fracking, political, water, air, war, opportunity cost, renewal clean energy, climate change

April 22, 2014 Posted by | cities, commodities, community, compliance, corporate social responsibility, ecological, history, politics, psychology, regulatory, sustainability | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bonfires of the Banalities

Sarah PalinWhen the mundane becomes revelatory, when banal pronouncements are considered startling epiphanies, when orchestrated spectacle is considered the apex of statesmanship; a society is fast approaching the finish line in its race to the bottom.

The corrupt leaders of society’s broken institutions remain busy spinning a self serving zeitgeist of denial, sowing gardens of ubiquitous ambivalence.  The liturgy of mass self delusion anoints a polity comfortably numb and safely ensconced in a political paralysis; keeping the Bozos bouncing along on the bus sans wheels, happily enthralled in the reverie of their disillusionment.

Sarah Palin, looking slim and extremely fit slugs down a mega calorie Big Gulp on the CPAC dais. Sarah’s slurp becomes an iconic moment in GOP history, as fawning star struck conservatives believe it to be the symbolism of a new Statue of Liberty.

Morning Joe stuffing handfuls of Captain Crunch into his mouth to tweak the eat healthy nose of liberal manikin Mika, cheers the American driving public for making the 6 mpg Super Duty pickup the best selling truck in the USA.  Morning Joe relishes any opportunity to confirm the resplendent truth of America’s voracious appetite for radical entitlement.

Newly elected Pope Francis closes his first Sunday address by advising visiting pilgrims to “have a good lunch” and the media falls all over itself with adulatory elation.

In a world understood as a branded sound bite, the affirming credo an individual adopts as holy gospel is self serving institutional propaganda that vigilantly defends the status quo.

In such a world, sound bites have become a school of famished piranhas that are devouring the body of rational understanding and the ability to peek beyond the veil of obfuscation.

The messages and symbolism signaled from our leaders and political celebrities is clear, loyal constituents are offered an absolution to remain stuck in the certitude ensuring the perpetuation of failing institutions badly in need of reform.

The CPAC crowd cheers Palin’s clownish moxie as she charges the battlements of Bloomberg’s Nanny State.  Though I wonder if Palin’s salute to Seven Eleven was more of a product placement exercise than astute Kabuki theater; Palin’s masterful pandering played well to the partisans.  She brought down the house and successfully sidestepped the issue of a commercial food chain that is progressively poisoning their customers with unhealthy food due to lax regulatory oversight, harmful food additives and corn fructose syrup infused processed food that is driving an obesity epidemic amongst the poor and minorities residing in the food deserts of America’s cities.

Palin’s showmanship appeals to the growing libertarian streak in the GOP.  Let the market decide is the mantra. The jury is out but when the toxic food chain has killed off enough of the process food industries customers, General Foods will hire a Stanford MBA as a new product manager to design and market better foods for a better world. After all that’s how responsible job creators work.

Mornings Joe’s insistence on his free market right to be a mindless consumer is codified in the divine celestial ledgers of Laissez-faire capitalism.  His fattened bank balance is the sole moral imperative to drive an inefficient gas guzzling truck that poisons the environment with carbon emissions. This is the same mind set that insists on building vacation homes on barrier islands. If a major storm destroys the dwelling so be it. FEMA and private insurance have socialized the risk to preserve the right of these homesteaders to settle on endangered land, tipping into the swelling seas, fueled by a changing climate brought on by excessive carbon emissions from Morning Joe’s Super Duty.

In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre the yearning of citizens to strengthen gun control laws is met by the intransigent commercial interests of gun manufacturers.  In a society bleeding from gun violence the NRA got busy greasing the palms of senators with filthy lucre to encourage diligence to protect 2nd amendment right to market high powered automatic rifles and 30 round magazines that can spray instant death into a room full of 1st graders.

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA gave an impassioned speech at the same CPAC conference pointing to “the Washington elites” and “liberal media” as the root of all evil.  States LaPierre, …gun control advocates “insult [us], they denigrate, and they call us ‘crazy’ for holding fast to [our opposition to gun control]. In their distorted view of the world, they’re smarter than we are; they’re special; they’re more worthy than we are; they know better than we do,” he said. “The liberal media can keep hating on me, but I’m still standing.”

How the CPAC attendees and the three million members of the NRA can fail to see the irony in Mr. LaPierre’s condemnation of “Washington elites” escapes me.  To be sure, like many CPAC attendees, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA are fully integrated with the elites of Washington.  In point of fact many are on the NRA payroll.  His pernicious attack on a free press belies his unquestioned fealty to the constitution.

Which brings us back to Pope Francis.  He is hailed as a much needed change in a scandal ridden Vatican.  The global prevalence of sexual abuse by clergymen and the institutional protection of predatory pedophiles continues to trouble the church.   Money laundering and other untoward financial transactions conducted by the Vatican Bank is another explosive issue that continues to fester.  The rising voices of women and LGBT communicants seeking reforms to fully enfranchise them as equal citizens in the church are liturgical and theological issues that will continue to be repressed. These questions beg an urgent response from the ossified paternal hierarchy that resists transparency and fails to transcend practices that sacrifices the faith in service to the institutional religion.

Yes the monied pilgrims that made their way to Rome will enjoy the day and most surely find a wholesome meal to eat. What will sate today’s pilgrims and sustain the future generations will be to sit at an inclusive communion table to richly feast on the bread of truth. Throw the institutional banalities into the ovens to stoke the fires capable of baking a rich wholesomeness into the glorious bread of life.

Music Video: Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized

Risk: political, religious, psychological, cultural

March 19, 2013 Posted by | conservatism, faith, gay rights, LGBT, Palin, psychology, religion, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

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

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

A Better Way (3): Vote Green Party

It was the summer of 75.  I was going into my sophomore year in college.  I just switched my major from business to political science and I was standing in front of a shopping mall on the outskirts of Boston getting signatures to secure ballot status in the State of Massachusetts for the Social Workers Party (SWP) Presidential candidate Peter Camejo.  That afternoon as I dodged shopping carts, roller skating kids and big finned cars spewing black emissions from leaded fueled V8’s,  I secured over 300 signatures from fellow citizens in support of a ballot listing for a socialist candidate for president.  I did so by engaging my fellow citizens in an appeal to their democratic sentiments.  I explained to each person who stopped to listen that their signature was an authorization to grant ballot status for the candidate.  Signing the petition was not an endorsement of the candidate or his views or an indication that they would vote for him.  The petition solely conferred ballot status to the candidate so that his views may be represented in the democratic market of ideas and voted on.  Most people readily if not eagerly signed the petition.  All felt it was critical that all opinions needed to be heard.  For many it was a passionate defense of the democratic process and a celebration of their commitment to the ideals of a democratic republic.  I doubt weather today’s voters would be so approachable.  The ability to listen with an open mind or being amenable to signing a petition to grant ballot status for a socialist candidate is rapidly disappearing from America’s political culture.  Pluralism is under attack.  It is being hunted down and eradicated like a species of animal unfit to live in a democratic landscape meticulously manicured by the Glenn Beck’s and Rush Limbaugh’s of the world.    Times have certainly changed.

In the interest of transparency and in the spirit of full disclosure I feel the need to admit that I have always been a registered independent voter ever since I was eligible to vote.  At the age of 54, I have been an active voter for 36 years and during that time I have rarely missed an opportunity to exercise my right and fulfill my responsibility as a fully enfranchised citizen in a democratic republic.

Like those who signed my petition back in 75 I consider it a privilege and duty to participate in the electoral process.  I always believed that free and open elections were a distinguishing characteristic of  America.  I consider voting a bedrock right that must be exercised to assure that democracy endures.   The US Constitution and The Bill of Rights remain the surest guarantor of our democratic freedoms and can only be defended by celebrating our enfranchisement through the consistent practice of voting.

The right to vote was hard won.  It was the a fruit of liberty watered with the blood of revolutionaries.  It was the full promise of liberation made to former slaves wrested from the peace won from drinking a long draft of wine pressed from the grapes of wrath.  Women right to vote was finally won well after the century mark of our republic finally securing true universal suffrage for all citizens.  When I vote I believe myself to be honoring the hard fought and dearly won suffrage victory of those who went before.  I scratch my head at learning that Meg Whitman only recently realized that healthy democratic societies requires its citizens to participate in the electoral process.  The growing preponderance of retired multi-millionaire businesspeople running for office is a curious development.  This new breed of politician comes before the electorate speaking about the poverty of the systems political values.  Emboldened with a perverse freedom from want these candidates approach politics as the next step in an enterprising career move.  Flush with cash channeled from their personal version of the American dream they testify to the sanctity of laissez-faire democracy and  are willing to use a portion of their treasure to keep hope alive for a very very select few.

During my 36 year voting career in national, state and local elections I usually vote for third party candidates.  I do this because I believe that the duopoly of our political system does not provide sufficient options for a differentiated choice between the two ruling parties.  I vote for progressive  third parties because I believe it important that we break the stranglehold of the two party system.  A precondition to breaking the control of the duopoly is to alter the political psychology of American voters.  This takes education, enhanced transparency and the visibility and honest engagement of third party candidates, not their demonization.    I try to vote for the person over party and I have voted for a Republican or two over the years.  If a third party candidate is not running for office I more then likely vote Democrat because I believe them to be a closer match to the political interests of my social position and political aspirations.

The expansion of choice, the delineation of positions, the articulation of differing visions and approaches to problems are important to the health of a democratic society.  The people who signed my petition for SWP ballot status knew and respected the importance that all voices need to be heard.  Some as I recall even expressed a dislike for socialism but voiced a love of democracy.  By signing the petition they demonstrated their commitment to cherished democratic ideals was greater then their political prejudices; believing that all voices needed to be heard and fairly judged by an open and free electorate.

The deep abiding respect for Americas democratic culture is in dire jeopardy.  The sickening video of a Rand Paul supporter stomping on a woman carrying a banner in support of his opponent has become an iconic symbol of American politics.  Last week, unlicensed security personnel for Sarah Palin’s handpicked Alaska Senate Candidate Joe Miller, handcuffed and forcibly restrained a reporter who dared to ask Mr. Miller a question.  These incidents are being played out against a backdrop of virulent attack advertisements playing in continuous loop on all media channels.  The unending stream of personal attacks demonizes the candidates that feature fantastic claims framed by blatant lies in service to a narrow ideology that protects the power and privilege of special interests.

Or consider the surreal parade of “I Am You” candidates.  These non-professional politicians speaking the hard truths political correctness refuses to utter, make comical faux pas that reveal damning personal virtues like witchcraft, Nazi affectations, knuckleheadism, opportunism and scoundrelism.  This off putting political theater erodes our faith and confidence in democratic process.

One can imagine the enemies of democracy gleefully advancing the careers of the political cretins presenting themselves as viable candidates.  These dangerous Fifth Columnists actually endanger democracy.  They are so off putting that the electorate will revile from the choices, like in Nevada which allows the voter to pull the lever for none of the above.  In fact an insidious Republican PAC is running ads aimed at Latino voters in the Southwest.  The ads advise Latinos to boycott the election and vacate the right to vote because the Democratic Party has abandoned them.  The advertisement concludes that not voting is the best way to send a message to the Democrats.

One also needs to evaluate and consider the big money moving into the campaign on behalf of  the two major parties.  The source of “big money” is big moneyed interests.  The Supreme Court decision of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission has unleashed a tsunami of corporate money into the electoral process.  The money is buying favor from our elected representatives.  Lots of this money is flowing into the campaigns of Tea Party backed candidates who are running under the well worn moniker of Republicanism, exposing the sham masquerade of their avowed independence.

Big money is instilling fear and favor into politicians of the established parties.  Donkeys and Elephants are eager to avoid the scorpion sting of big money finance vehicles and are just as eager to mainline the addictive smack of big money contributions.  One can argue this has degraded and devalued the significance of our vote but I am here to assert that the value of our vote has never been greater.

Free people deserve more then a choice between the lesser of two evils.  If we value our democracy we must not squander our votes on candidates whose interests are antithetical to our own.  The Green Party offers a vision and solutions that are not beholden to the special interests that have a stranglehold over our political institutions and economic system. The political pornography polluting our airways is clogging the arteries of our body politic.  America can no longer suffer the paralysis of government engendered by extreme partisanship or the promulgation of  fear promoted by intractable power elites.  America is in desperate need for a cure the lesser of two evils cannot provide.  The greater or lesser evil can only be avoided by voting for a progressive candidate not bought or controlled by those who continue to thrive off the misery of our broken system.   The back and forth swing  of a pendulum that oscillates between the radical conservatism of the Republicans and the ineffectual liberalism of the Democrats united in service to a common master needs to come to a blessed end.  America can break with this cycle.  A vote for Green is a vote for the sustainable future of  a more democratic and just America.

The Ten Key Values of the Greens

Social Justice
Community-Based Economics
Nonviolence
Decentralisation
Future Focus/Sustainability
Feminism
Personal and Global Responsibility
Respect for Diversity
Grassroots Democracy
Ecological Wisdom

You Tube Music Video:

Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, This Land Is Your Land

Part 1: Tea Party Fundamentalism

Part 2: Damnation of the Democrats

Risk: democracy, elections

November 1, 2010 Posted by | conservatism, culture, democracy, democrats, elections, ethnic, government, Palin, politics, psychology, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Day

That day has arrived again.  In a very real sense it is a day that has never left us.  We remember our incomprehension of how benign jetliners could transform into vehicles of mass murder.  We remember our astounded shock as we witnessed the compelling images of those trapped above the gaping mortal wounds of the WTC Towers cascade downward after a decisive leap of death.  We remember the indomitable Towers crumbing into broiling clouds of toxic dust rumbling through the canyons of Wall Street engulfing the spires of Bankers Trust and Trinity’s dark steeple.  We remember the confusion of the civic turmoil that erupted throughout the besieged city and the depths of terror that rang our soul from an unseen force of wanton power and ambivalent devastation.  We remember the heroic bravery of first responders who gave the last full measure of their devotion in service to others.  And we remember our shared egregious grief, the broken hearts and the traumatized families whose sense of loss will never fully dissipate.

For nine years we have weaved the bits of steel from the wreckage of that day into our national DNA.  9/11 has truly transfigured our nation and its people to a depth that we find difficult to comprehend or understand.  We have entered two wars, ceded civil liberties and fed the beast of fear a diet of suspicion, mistrust and agonizing vulnerability.   We have let this fear express itself as an emotional response that quickly acts to salve immediate pain with force of will then allow a more deliberate and considered course of action that fully expresses the resolve, fortitude and ideals of a free people.

We believe that the terrorists attacked us because they fear us.  They  fear a nation and a people that cherish freedom and prize liberty for all.  The cornerstone of those liberties are the freedom to think, express, associate and worship according to the dictates of ones own conscience.  No authority or government institution will abridge those freedoms nor compel any individual to associate, act, think or worship in a manner antithetical to their personal beliefs or values. Tyrants, despots and authoritarian governments compel belief and extract tribute of action by demanding conformity to ideology and submission to self serving authority. They idealize the use of force foregoing dialog and negotiation as a way to convey ideas and forge consensus.

The tool of terror is the way of tyrants.  Terror compels the terrorized to acquiesce and submit to wanton authority at odds with personal liberty and freedom. Is not Pastor Terry Jones, “Burn a Quran Day” nothing more then a form of terror aimed at Muslims, a maligned and vulnerable minority?  Why do many believe it is perfectly suitable to ascribe the status as “less then” for Muslims seeking to build the Park51 Mosque on the grounds that their religious affiliation excludes them from building a house of worship too close to the hallowed ground of the WTC?  Prohibiting the rights of a people because of their religion is a Taliban like mindset that all lovers of freedom should abhor. The propagation of the belief  that the construction of the Park51 Mosque is a monument intended to commemorate the martyrdom of  terrorists is a vile lie and a pernicious attempt to advance a reactionary political agenda.

Can the United States extol religious bigotry by celebrating intolerance?  Do we applaud compelled fealty and submission by profaning Holy Books and sacraments of religions and faith traditions that are not our own?   Do we deny the full and equal rights of a group of citizens that are somehow deemed less then or not fully enfranchised to enjoy and exercise the protections of a full palate of constitutional freedoms?  The United States cannot allow itself to sink into the morass of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion.  It runs counter to the central ideals of a democratic republic and the very essence of what distinguishes the United States from the forces of terror that seek to destroy it.

Creating national emblems of  fetishistic icons to express our grief  is not the correct response to the 9/11 attacks.    Chunks of steel from the downed towers, bits of damaged flags or falsely ascribing a sanctity to a two block radius around the WTC site turns grief into a fetish that will forever enslave the will and endlessly torment the soul.  This nation cannot cling to its illness, it must restore and strengthen its democratic character by building alters to liberty through the practice of tolerance by jealously guarding and joyously celebrating civil liberties for all.

Let the burning of the Quran be an indictment of ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance.  Let the building of the Park51 Mosque be a monument to the strength and hope of a free people that proclaims America as a light to all nations.

Our prayers for peace, restoration and life affirming abundance to all affected by 9/11 remain steadfast.

Selah

You Tube Music Video:  Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings

Risk: democracy

September 11, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, Civil Rights, democracy, Muslim, politics, psychology, Quran, religion, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosh Hashanah 2010

Today the High Holy Days begin with the observance of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah.   Rosh Hashanah 2010, marks the 5771 year on the Jewish Calendar.  Rosh Hashanah , The Day of Awe, is a day of awakening.  The Shofar is sounded to rouse those from a sleep of spiritual and moral ambivalence calling all to a season of personal introspection and examination.  The new year provides an opportunity to identify character flaws, meditate on the impact of our actions, make amends and take corrective steps that honors affirmative relationships and breeds transformative growth.

The High Holy Days will conclude in ten days with the observance of Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. The culmination of a period of deep examination and action, Yom Kippur offers all a clean slate to begin again.  Opportunities to start anew are truly a divine grace that should be eagerly embraced with intentional gratitude.  An opportunity to make amends with those we have injured, forge news bonds of trust, restore integrity and stand upright and unstained in the presence of God is a miraculous grace.

Year 5772 will not arrive for some currently present to mark this years Rosh Hashanah.  Indeed some of us will not see tomorrows sunrise.  The day of transfiguration has come.  We must examine ourselves to discover what must heal.  We must engage our neighbors to understand what rifts must be repaired.  We must open our eyes to banish the darkness of self serving pursuits.  Doing so will allow us to stand in the restorative light of God’s unconditional love.  It is up to each of us to take the needed action to reinvigorate, restore and set things right.  Lift up your ears and hear the piercing peal of the Shofar.  This Day of Awe calls to us.

Shalom

You tube music video:  The Klezmatics Araber Tants

Risk: opportunity, restoration

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Bible, faith, heal, holiday, life, psychology, religion, seasons | , , | Leave a comment

Toward A New Iconoclasm

Its good to be the King.  When King James ruled England at the dawn of the 17th Century he authored a doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings.  He likened his position as “little Gods on Earth”, who were chosen by Divine Providence to rule and to make the rules.

The current incarnation of King James, in the form of Lebron James also assumes the form of a Little God.  Since the announcement of his free agency status, His Highness has captured the imagination of sports fans, entertainment moguls, broadcast network executives, local businessmen, political leaders and product marketing pros keen to see how the hottest entertainment property in sports maximizes its value by casting his bread upon the waters of free market capitalism.

This marketing juggernaut held the hopes of major metropolitan areas hostage to the idea that King James may anoint their humble cities by moving his throne to one of  their majestic sports palaces.  The hope is that King James and supporting cast will bring an NBA crown to the impoverished masses starved to eat the championship crumbs that fall from His Highness’s banquet table.  It is believed that the Court of King James will establish a home court dynasty, erecting the preeminent Kingdom that will rule over all the lesser fiefdoms of the NBA.

Five cities planned coronation ceremonies for King James but only one city would be able to taste the bread of champions his rule would surely bring to his new kingdom.  That would leave four other cities wanting; condemning them to suffer the hunger of unfulfilled championship dreams they believe only King James can bring to their metropolis.  King James commanded an hour of air time on ESPN to make his royal decree that he would accept Miami’s urgent petition and join The Heat.   King James’ former kingdom, Cleveland suffered the worst of it.  The abdication of their beloved King has shocked this secondary market hamlet into a deep examination of self worth, prompting the fear of deepening economic malaise and a self loathing brought to the surface by the painful rejection by their home town deity.

In a broader sense we should all learn from Cleveland’s experience.  The connection between a human commodity and its consumer is always a tenuous and short lived relationship.  If the consumer can afford the price,  a human commodity will bestow its attention with fealty and reciprocated affection.  America is a highly developed market of  culture consumers.  We invest a great amount of economic and  psychological capital into relationships with media stars, entertainment products and sports heroes.  We confer a royal status upon them.  Our veneration is measured in dollars spent and emotional capital invested.  We believe them to be sacred icons.  Our gleeful consumption of these identity product brands contort and warp our souls.  We begin to believe that they are part of us and construct an existential fantasy that these product brands are actually connected to us.  The sex appeal of Lady GaGa’s consumer fetishism, the nobility of  Sarah Palin’s political opportunism and the dominating machismo of LeBron James supra athleticism are powerful branding conventions.   This radical branding, the brainchild of  handlers and marketing professionals is solely employed to maximize brand value and to move the goods of Me Inc. into the heads and hands of frenzied consumers desperate for an existential connection with something greater then themselves.  The fickleness of consumer capitalism is wholly agnostic.  It never really loves you back.  As a matter of fact it doesn’t love you at all.  Its a cold calculated manufactured creature designed to suggest that its sore purpose in life is to return the love that its user abundantly confers to it. Yet it lasts only until the money runs out.  Its pimp requires these deft street walkers to move on to a new corner where the tricks are more plentiful and bucks much greener.  Ironically free agency begets another type of slavery.  The free agent is shackled to the ball and chain of transactional capitalism.  The soul of the person becomes indistinguishable from that of a soulless corporate entity.  This coalesces perfectly with the Supreme Courts decision to confer the same rights and privileges to corporate entities to finance political candidates.  More and more creeping corporatism is rationalized throughout the body politic as the real bodies and persona’s of persons morph into corporate entities.

The disease is growing too.  In the 3D digital age we deepen these faux connections to our heroes with homey Tweets, real time TMZ coverage, and a befriended status on Facebook.  We get full access to the royal court.  A total submersion within the gone viral digital version of our hero’s carefully constructed virtual world.  We are knighted by the King’s courtesans and receive special discount coupons redeemable at our icon of choice company store.   This special befriended status is good as gold as long as the balance on our credit card doesn’t exceed it limit.

A few years ago Bishop Mark Beckwith delivered a homily on the meaning of icons.   Bishop Beckwith stated that icons were intended to be a prayer aid.  A type of tool constructed of transparent materials so light can filter through them.  This light would reveal an immutable truth  conveyed by the icons subject.  It would remind the prayerful person to emulate the qualities of the figure depicted in the icon.   But that purpose changed and icons came to be understood as objects of  veneration that are endowed with special powers.  Kings and Czars commissioned their finest artisans to create beautiful iconic objects depicting the monarch in communion with saints or apostles to reinforce the idea that divine providence has anointed them to rule the realm.  The common folk and the peasantry would prostrate themselves before the venerated object as the very real presence of a divine sovereign and dutifully pray to it.  A radical transformation occurred and we venerated the object and not the meaning the object was meant to convey.

Thirteen Hundred years ago in Byzantine Constantinople, iconoclasts rose up to smash the graven images of icons within their places of worship.  The icons became venerated objects of debilitating dogma used to control and manipulate people.  We  need to destroy the icons that manipulate and control us.  We must claim back our lives and begin to live more richly and freely by understanding ourselves not as a consumer of things but as a participating person fully engaged in a life that affirms self and service to others.

You Tube Music: Def Jam Icon : Redman vs. Ludacris

Risk; consumer capitalism, alienation, hero worship

 

 

July 11, 2010 Posted by | branding, commodities, culture, marketing, product, psychology, reputation, sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment