Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Sammy's House"

Okay, so I lied. I'm postponing my novel excerpt for a few days (to add when I have more time) so I can review the second novel by Al Gore's second daughter, Kristin GORE-geous. In 2004, she published "Sammy's Hill" and this summer comes the sequel, "Sammy's House".

I posted a review of "Sammy's Hill" on Amazon.com three years ago and when I went to the booksigning at the Margaret ("Gone With the Wind") Mitchell Center in Atlanta to listen to her lecture and have her sign the book, I was surprised that she knew about my Amazon review! Apparently, I was the only guy at the time to have posted a review and her friends let her know about my review, because I defended her novel from the literary critics who used the dismissive and derogatory "chick lit" genre to classify her novel (and possibly marginalize it). As a male who served on Capitol Hill, I found a lot I could relate to in her novel, and it was one of the rare laugh-out-loud funny novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I gave it four stars instead of five because of what I thought were a few flaws: the protagonist, Samantha Joyce, was a bit too neurotic and over-analyzed everything; the Charlie character wasn't well developed as he appears at opportune moments throughout the novel; and that it was too short. But that was a good thing, because it left me wanting more! And now, more is here!

Though it is not as funny as the first one, it still packed quite a bit of laugh out loud moments as Samantha Joyce works in the first two years of the new administration. Though Kristin Gore publically denies making any kind of political statement in her novels, it's not hard for a savvy person to pick up on her digs against a Bush-like former president (after serving two disasterous terms as president, he becomes a reality TV star in which he unwittingly is seen as the buffoon) and the character flaws of a Clintonesque President Wye. It's obvious that Vice President Gary is based on her father, with the Second Lady based on her mother. She does a great job "rewriting" the Clinton presidency in this fictional tale of what it's like to work in a beleaguered presidency. Other digs include Senator Bramen, who reminds me of Senator John Kerry, a full of himself politician who can barely contain his animosity for the administration, even though they belong to the same party.

What she continued from the first novel (besides the similarily themed cover art) include the rhyming chapter titles (which I thought was clever the first time and glad to see repeated again), the travails of her Japanese fighting fish (though less focus this time), her roommate, and her romantic ups and downs with Charlie, who is a Washington Post reporter trying to get his first major scoop. Having a romantic storyline between Sammy the White House aide and Charlie the Washington Post reporter did a brilliant job in upping the dramatic tension, as they struggle to find the proper balance between their professional responsibilities and their romantic lives. Added to the mix, is an Ann Coulter-ish gossip reporter with a hatred of the administration; a political blog that seems to post news straight out of the West Wing, prompting suspicions of everyone on who might be the leak; a CNN reporter (think Anderson Cooper) and a ecstasy-addicted actor (I didn't know who she was poking fun of...Matthew McConaughey?) vying for Sammy's attention; a trip to India complete with a spitting camel; and most sweet of all, a White House aide named "Nick." Now, I'm just saying here...I don't know if Kristin knows any Nicks or if she named a character after me (wouldn't that be nice!) in honour of my amazon review, but I like to think that my loyalties to the Gore family would have a spiritual connection. I did introduce myself to her in 2004 as one of her father's interns and I also told her that I didn't know how he got over the loss in 2000, because I still harbored resentment over that electoral theft at that time. But, thanks to "An Inconvenient Truth" and Kristin Gore's novels, I was able to finally let go and accept the reality as it is. Gore may not be president ever, but he was the best Vice President in our nation's history.

The novel is worth reading, but start with the first one if you haven't read that one yet. By the end of "Sammy's House", I was struck by the deeper message of the novel...one that deals with honesty and lies, and how working in Washington can warp you away from your values. When I finished reading, I still wanted more. I would go so far as to say that it's even better than the first one and I hope that she will make it a trilogy. Sammy became less neurotic and much more enjoyable. She is the kind of person I'd love to be friends with and perhaps even date. It'll be interesting to see who'll play Sammy when the film version comes out (in a year or two). I hope it won't be Lindsay Lohan!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Novel Excerpt

Coming soon...I thought it would be cool to devote one day a week in my blog to an excerpt from my novel, Seasons of Silent War, which I'm still trying to find an agent and publisher for. I won't be putting the whole novel up here, but some of the best parts, in chronological order, a sort of chapter by chapter "sneak preview". If you want more, you'll just have to wait until the day when I finally get it published and in bookstores...which I hope will happen before I'm 40.

So...stay tuned. Chapter One is titled "The Realm of Neptune" and will be posted in a day or so.

The poster above represents an old fashioned recruiting poster that always gave me a good kick. In fact, in the novel, I mention that poster which is appropriate, since my novel is about what it means to be a man, especially in dealing with the Navy scandal of the sexual harassment of women and the rampant homophobia. My view is adopted from Martin Luther King Jr's famous quote: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands during times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands during times of challenge and controversy." In the view of the Navy, manhood is determined by how many women you sleep with or how many tattoos you have, or how macho you are in making homophobic remarks. It's an outward showing, but in the end, I think there is nothing "manly" about following orders without question, harassing women, or beating up gay people. That's essentially what my novel tries to say, if you get down to the bear essentials.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How Did I Get So "Cynical"?

Fighting the "Bull" of Wall Street
August 2002, New York City

Yesterday evening, I went to a farewell party for my friend and fellow aspiring writer, Sarina, who is going off to Japan in a week with two of her friends for the JET program (for at least a year). I got to see again some of her other friends whom I've met at previous gatherings over the course of the year, as well as meet some new people, including a young lady who majored in political science and worked on Senator Kerry's presidential campaign (for very low wages). She answered a lot of questions I had, so I guess that rules out any kind of low wage campaign jobs I might love to have. But then again, I was never excited enough about Kerry in the first place to believe he'd ever become president. I was a Dean guy, and now an Obama guy.

Anyhow, I was talking with one person (who works as a reporter for a small newspaper in Vancouver WA) about politics. It was just a conversation between two of us, and as I spoke about some of my ideas, I was shocked to noticed that several people surrounded us, just to hear what I had to say about it. I'm always surprised when people stop to listen to what I have to say, because I rarely get that at work. The only time, it seems, when people actually listen to what I have to say is when I talk politics or religion...which are the two topics you aren't supposed to talk about at social gatherings! It's amazing that I have that ability, but then again, judging by the way their mouths dropped, they seemed shocked by my view of politics in this century. What first shocked them was my view that I'm practically guaranteeing that Hillary Clinton WILL BE the Democratic nominee and that even more audacious, that she WILL BE our next president. I'm basing my opinion on quite a few disturbing developments (read the previous post), but essentially, the establishment class sets the political agenda for this country. The vote is most likely a sham. Sometimes, I wonder if the 2006 elections were just a way to throw us off the suspicions that the elections are rigged. Consider how quickly the Republican party told Senator George Allen of Virginia and the Republican Senator in Montana to concede the election when it was too close to call and recounts were needed. It gave the Democrats a majority in the Senate by one. WHY would the Republican party concede so quickly, when they weren't that way in 2000? It seemed like they were following a set script, a sort of "let the Democrats have this one." While I much prefer Senator James Webb in Virginia, it still seemed odd how quickly Senator Allen conceded defeat when he indicated that he didn't want to.

My eager listeners at the party then asked how I got to be so cynical! Cynical! That's a word I use to describe the likes of Cheney, not myself. When I was an intern in D.C., I remember my roommate Matt Baker had considered himself cynical and I told him that he wasn't, that he was wise about people, had a good discernment, but that didn't make him cynical. I told him to use skeptic instead. That's because cynicism is corrosive and closed to any possibility of goodness. It's defeatist. It's what someone like Cheney would want for all of us. So cynical that we won't trust anyone who comes along. No, I'm not cynical, because every election cycle, I fall in love with a candidate (well, not "actual, literal love", but you get the picture). I pick candidates based on their values and how they express it, their biography, their worldview, and how I feel about them personally. A candidate doesn't have to be perfect, because no human is perfect. That's my biggest frustrations with progressive/liberals who are borderline in their support for Kucinich or Nader if the Democrats go with a more established candidate (a lot of the liberals who support Kucinich don't even seem to like Obama much). I guess I'm more mainstream. I vote for the best candidate who has an actual chance to win. And I don't have to agree 100% to support someone, because that's an outrageous expectation. When did we become so narcissistic about voting?

To answer the reporter's question (no, he wasn't on assignment...but if I show up in the papers next week, I won't be amused), I responded that I lost faith in our government the day the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida in December 2000. To me, that will always be the day our democracy died. We've been living in under an authoritarian and unconstitutional government ever since. I never considered Bush legitimate as president and never will. The election was stolen and stolen for a reason. Cheney and his neo-conservative cabal knew that time was running out on their nefarious plan to set up military garrisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our country couldn't afford to wait another 4-8 years of a Gore presidency, with the rapid increase in China and India's energy needs, so Bush had to be installed as president in 2000 and they knew Jeb Bush could be counted on to do the job (though I bet deep down, if Jeb had known what a disaster his brother would be, he might have not been as helpful in his brother's "victory", so he can one day serve as president instead). Gore's biggest mistake was not focusing on his home state of Tennessee, or even in West Virginia. Had he won either state, he would've become president. But, no...he had to go after the state with more electoral votes (I believe it was 25 for Florida, 11 for Tennessee, and 3 for West Virginia).

I also told my audience of listeners that I believed 9/11 was an inside job and that was really the outrage of them all. No one wanted to go there. One girl said that her father was into conspiracy theories, but even he believes "the official story." When I asked how it was possible that World Trade Center 7 (which was not hit by any plane) was able to collapse on 9/11, they couldn't answer my question. Nor could they answer the question regarding the lack of the airplane wingspan and tail in the Pentagon attack. All we ever saw was a tiny hole in the building, but not a major plane part. How could a building make a plane disappear? And let's not forget that our government never found out who was behind the Anthrax attacks that occurred in October 2001. The trail led to a government facility in Maryland and supposedly went cold. These unanswered questions are allowed to buried, for what reason? But no one seems to want to go there. One girl asked me how I could believe that our government would do such a thing to it's own people. That's the rub, isn't it? We can't believe our government would do such a thing. Yet, there's documented evidence of our government overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran, Chile, the Philippines, Cuba, and Nicaragua. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was later revealed to be false. So was the sinking of the Maine. And FDR knew that the Japanese were on their way to Pearl Harbour to attack our fleet. If our government can do these to other people and have a record of doing it in the past, why do we continue to believe that our government is made up of good and honorable men? After all, Dick Cheney defended torture as an instrument of government policy by saying that we had to "work the dark side" sometimes, to get what we want.

Then there's also the example of the Germans, who did not believe that their government was exterminating Jewish people in ovens. In fact, American troops had to force German citizens to clean up the concentration camps, removing the bodies and giving them proper burials. How's that for a rude awakening? Since the Nazi regime is considered to be the most evil government in the history of humanity, people often wonder why the German people did nothing. They allowed the horrors to happen. The burning of the Reichstag turned out to be an inside job...yet it was that act of terror that rallied the German people around a man who didn't win the popular vote when he came to power either. Why don't we learn from history? America has produced plenty of psychopaths: Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, the Son of Sam, Jeffrey Dahmer. We also have school shootings, postal workers on rampages, workplace shootings. Why is it so hard to believe that the most powerful government in the world with the most powerful military in the world would not take advantage of the power at their disposal? Especially when our energy needs are depleting the planet and we're forced to compete with China and India, which have 40% of the world's population compared to our 4%? It's time for Americans to realize that we have psychopaths at the helm of our government. It's baffling how people who could have been so wrong in their predictions of Iraq being a cakewalk with chocolate, flowers, and Iraqi oil financing the entire cost of the war and rebuilding, how they could still be running our government instead of locked into padded cells in a psyche ward somewhere, where they belong.

How did I get to be so "cynical"? Nah...how did Americans get to be so naive? Our Founding Fathers set up a system of checks and balances to disperse the power away from a single person. James Madison, if I'm not mistaken, said something like, "if men were angels, we wouldn't need government." But they also knew that government could be corrupt, and many warned that leaders often used war to restrict the freedom of citizens at home and to accumulate more power. They knew from history that democracy is fragile and that power corrupts even the most noble of people. They read about the fall of the Roman Republic. We have the example of the fall of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the 1930s.

I'd love to have a government I could trust again, and one I could support. But the events since December 2000 has turned me against it. They may take my tax money, but they'll never make me fight in their immoral wars. Until the government comes clean about it's history of subverting the peoples of the world through phony conflicts, it does not deserve our support and most especially not our blind obedience. Be wise. That's not cynicism, just good sense. If government officials can't or won't answer questions that make logical sense, why should we continue to buy their bags of bullshit? The events of 9/11 is a prime example. Open your eyes, think logically...the government's story simply does not make sense. World Trade Center 7 is the one they can't explain with logical reasoning...so you know they are lying.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Why a Democrat Will Be Our Next President (And Why We Should Worry)

I watched the CNN/YouTube Debate the other night on YouTube (what a great invention!). I was impressed by the quality of the answers by the candidates, and the questions asked. I laughed at the silly snowman posing a question about the threat of climate change. And I just read an article in which the Republicans are reconsidering participating in the scheduled CNN/YouTube debate next month, proving that they are cowards to not want to face questions by average people. Of course, it could be said that they are worried about a supposed "liberal bias", as Democrats had refused to participate in a Fox News sponsored debate. Since I view the Fox News network as nothing but a Bush-loyal propaganda network, I agree with the Democrats refusal to go on there. They aren't a news channel to take seriously until they get their facts right (and one example of their propaganda agenda is that they had referred to Congressman Mark Foley--you know, the guy who sent sex e-mails to underage male pages--as a Democrat, not his actual Republican Party membership).

Anyhow, in recent articles, I've read that Bush and his propaganda people are already starting to blame Democrats for the war in Iraq, thus why he wants to keep the troops over there until at least Inauguration Day. As Princess Leia would scream out, "it's a trap!" It most certainly is. And it's like he learned from the master, his own father. What did President George Herbert Walker Bush do in the immediate reelection defeat in 1992? He sent American troops to Somalia, leaving the mess to the next president, an untested foreign policy governor of a small, land-locked state. Somalia turned disasterous and who got blamed? That's right...President Clinton, even though it was Bush who got us into the mess in the first place.

That's the thing that scares me most about Iraq. I believe the Republicans are aware enough that they won't win the election in 2008. Their only hope in preventing an all out Democratic dominance for the next 30 years is to allow a Democrat to come in after Bush to clean up his mess, and then come back with a new winning strategy in 2012. They are counting on the well known adage about Americans having a short memory. By 2012, with a President Rodham-Clinton at the helm of an even more inflamed Iraq and raising taxes to pay for the Bush tax cuts, the Republicans are counting on her administration to be unpopular and giving them back control of the White House, possibly to Jeb Bush.

Because of their cynicism and a history of patience to wait out a term or two until they regroup (like during the Carter years to flush out the weak Ford for a stronger Reagan; or during the Clinton years to get Bush junior in government long enough to be presidential), I see them doing the same thing. Democrats have an unfortunate habit of not thinking through the evil motives of the Republican party. There was a cool quote that I read somewhere about how Democrats see politics as a sport in which opposing teams shake hands after the game ends, whereas Republicans see politics as warfare, in which all options are used to annihilate the enemy. How does one compete effectively against that? It's time for Democrats to stop acting weak and playing to the Republican strengths. It's time for Democrats to realize how power-hungry, ruthless, and downright evil the Republican party can be and give them a taste of their own medicine. I mean we're talking about a party in which candidates recently debated the appropriateness of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (an Orwellian euphemism for TORTURE). The moral depravity of the Republican party shows that they cannot be trusted to uphold American values that are embedded in our Constitution. In this century alone, the Republicans have shown their true face: greed, lies, war-mongering, sexual hypocrisy, repressed homosexuality, immorality, obsession with violence, and no compassion for the poor. They don't deserve to remain in political office until they renounce their dark, fascist-leaning impulses.

But that's exactly what we are dealing with. To confront this corrupt administration and party, the Democrats must end the war in Iraq by having the troops withdraw from Iraq BEFORE the January 20, 2009 deadline. This war must be confined to the Bush administration and not be allowed to carry over to the next president, because if it does, the blowhards on the right will start blaming the Democratic president for everything that is going wrong (while at the moment, they are still cheerleading the war, saying that there's all this good going on). The flip flop is something I don't want to see. This is Bush's war of choice, he failed to meet the objectives he set out before the American people (to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction, which did not exist). We must make him own his war. If we succeed in getting the troops home by Inauguration Day, it will be justice served. After all, it was a bit suspicious when the American hostages in Iran were finally released as soon as Reagan was sworn in as president (especially when it turned out later that Reagan had sold weapons to Iran in the mid 1980s). It's payback time. And Bush needs to pay for his war and not be allowed to pass the blame for his incompetent disaster on to another president. Especially since President Hillary Rodham-Clinton will have her hands full trying to turn around the deficits and economy...all while proving that a woman can actually do a better job as president than a man. The Republicans are hoping that they can give her the Iraqi time-bomb and then blame her for everything that has gone wrong. And if that happens, I have a bad feeling that Americans will fall for it. Bush is counting on it, because his whole legacy depends on the outcome of the Iraq war. If he can blame the other party, he will. We must prevent that from happening.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Rest of the Questions from "One" (the Movie)

Continuing from yesterday's entry where I answer ten of the twenty questions posed by the New Agey film "One"...

11) What happens to you after you die?

As I like to say, death is the ultimate "undiscovered country". Everyone has their theories and people of different religious views love to argue about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. One of the things that I had a hard time accepting since childhood was the Christian concept that only those who accept Jesus as a personal saviour will be granted admission to heaven. It didn't make logical sense to me, because what happened to everyone who lived BEFORE Jesus lived? What happened to all those who never heard about Jesus? And the biggest question of all, why would God judge a person based on how they view an unproveable claim (that Jesus died for the sins of all humanity).

Since my teenage years, I've been fascinated by Near Death Experiences and tend to believe them. The ones I've read about presented a view of heaven that I agree with. And it's this...after we die, we are there. There is no pearly gate with St. Peter checking for your name in a book. You are there (or not there, depending on your spiritual state). Soon after reuniting with your loved ones, you get a life review of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And based on what you've done, and what your soul contract says (that you agreed to before you're born), you judge yourself based on how well (or not well) you accomplished the goals as set out in your contract. To use Hitler as an example...it is documented that he wanted to be an artist and/or an architect. But, in life, he was rejected by art institutes and destiny led him in another direction. Now, can you imagine the hell you'd experience if you had a life review in which you feel the pain of every person you hurt, and then you see in your soul contract that you were supposed to be an artist, not a dictator. Well, how could you redeem yourself after that? You fell so far from the mark. I can't imagine a worse hell than that.

But death is not something to fear. It will be the greatest adventure of our lives when we make that journey...

12) Describe heaven and how to get there.

I'm one of those who believe that heaven is within. We carry a piece of it now. We also have the ability to unleash hell, but we can bring about heaven. Heaven is not a physical place to get to, it's transdimensional. We can only get there through spirit. And I believe that heaven is a perfect place full of love and light. I believe the buildings and trees and flowers...everything has a sparkle to them, a translucent quality in which you can see all colours reflected at once. It'll be more beautiful than anything we see on earth. I also believe that we get our own homes, if we so desire. I know what I want waiting for me...an over the water bamboo bungalow in a "South Pacific" type lagoon, with dolphins swimming around and a golden retriever to welcome me back. And inside the bungalow will be nothing but all the books I hope to read. That's my vision of heaven.

13) What is the meaning of life?

I believe that despite all our distractions and excuses and diversions, ultimately we only have one commission for our life...to love one another unconditionally. It is perhaps the hardest request God could ever make of us, but I believe that because love is the only thing that exists in the spiritual realm, that God had to create an imperfect earth so we could learn what it was like to live without love, and how hard it really is to love unconditionally. That's what truly separates us from God. I know for me personally, I have a hard time loving the likes of Dick Cheney. But God loves him without condition. And in the spiritual realm, he is our spiritual brother, and in a sense, we have failed to keep him on the spiritual track. But really, that's the only meaning of life that matters in the end. We are free to add other meanings, but love is the ultimate and absolute truth of the universe.

14) Describe God.

I now think of God as the ultimate artist. The world is His canvas, His work of art, His masterpiece. Thus why it's offensive that the people who claim to believe so absolutely in Him seek to speed up the destruction of this planet. It's extremely rude to destroy another person's work of art. But in the end, these people will feel foolish at the way they wasted life by judging people who don't share their warped theology when they realize that God truly loves all people equally...including the outcasts that are condemned by fundamentalist religions.

15) What is the greatest quality humans possess?

Adaptability. Just learning about evolution from the hunter/gatherer days through all the inventions over time to where we are now, it's truly amazing. Those who can't adapt, die out. It shows how endurable we are.

16) What is it that prevents people from living to their full potential?

I'm still trying to figure that one out, because I'm one of those people who is in a job that is far below what I'm capable of. I never wanted to be in this situation and wonder how I'm going to get myself out of it. I want to do more, to work where I'm most passionate (politics and human rights!)...so, I'll let you know when I find that one out. If anyone has the secret, please let me know! And soon!!

17) Non-verbally, by motion or gesture only, act out what you believe to be the current condition of the world.

Well, this will be a stretch, but you'll just have to picture me sitting there crying my eyes out. I think the world is crying out in pain right now. I wish I could present a happier picture, but that's what it feels like. We're a long way off from December 31, 1999, when I felt all around me that people were genuinely excited, optimistic, and full of good will for the turn of the millennium. It was such a good vibe, everywhere I went that day and I didn't hear any pessimists talk about Y2K. It was just an exciting time. How did we ever get away from that?

18) What is your one wish for the world?

That they'll know true peace and reject any political or religious leader who seeks to divide humanity to maintain their grip on power. When the people of the planet reject these corrupt leaders, we will show our true power. We have the backing of the spiritual realm behind us. Let's do it!

19) What is wisdom, and how do we gain it?

Socrates said that "wisdom begins in wonder". I don't know a better explanation than that.

20) Are we all One?

My favourite hymn happens to be called "We Are One in the Spirit" and I just love it everytime it's sung in church or at reunion or on retreats. It sums up everything I believe in a nutshell. Besides the melody and lyrics, I think what also appeals to me about this hymn is that I haven't discovered it in any other church but ours, so it makes it uniquely RLDS (Community of Christ). And I'm glad that we can have exclusive claim on something so good...but it would also be nice to share it with the rest of the world. In fact, I can almost envision the people of the world singing it by candlelight or on a mountaintop like that old Coca-Cola commercial about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony (and drink Coca-Cola). We are most definitely one. Don't you ever forget it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Twenty Questions from "One" (the Movie)

Last night, I watched the spiritual film "One", which was a disappointment, mostly because of how it's arranged and that it's a first time film by amateur filmmakers. Which reminds me of another thing that frustrates me about "New Age" people, who rave about any and all films that push the same spiritual message (that we are all one). I didn't like "What the Bleep Do We Know?" either and have my critiques about the film "The Secret" (see an earlier post). Just because they peddle the same spiritual message about the oneness of all doesn't make it a good film. I can find spiritual content in films like "Star Wars", "Contact", "E.T.", and even "Forrest Gump" and prefer it because I'm all about good production values. Don't peddle a shoddy product just because you have a good message.

But, inside the DVD case are the twenty questions the filmmakers asked a group of famous spiritual practitioners (including the "trendy" Deepak Chopra, whom I've never really taken a liking to, and seeing him here only reminds me of what I dislike about him). The filmmakers also ask average people the questions, and they rave about the dredlocked white homeless teen whose answers just blew them away (if he's "spiritually profound" enough to inspire the filmmakers, that's a seriously scary thought because he came across to me as a typical teenager). In fact, what I dislike about the film is that its more like a documentary about making the film. But the questions are interesting and I'd like to offer my answers to their questions.

1) Why is their poverty and suffering in the world?

That's basic "Spirituality 101" question. It shocks me that people are still hung up on that question. My belief is that God created an imperfect world for humans to overcome. It doesn't have to be this way, but sadly, corporate capitalists have managed to con a majority of people into believing that their prosperity reflects their inner quality, and that wealth is a blessing from God that they are more righteous and praying right and all that other crap. It lets people off the hook about actually doing something to eradicate poverty from the planet and makes them feel better about buying the McMansion, the SUV, and the luxury vacations. It does not have to be this way. Bono has the right idea with his campaign to make poverty history.

2) What is the relationship between science and religion?

It doesn't have to be contentious. Science isn't meant to replace religion, but when churches make claims that later turn out to be proven false (i.e. that the earth is the center of the universe), it puts people's faith in jeopardy because they were led to believe the false things. It's remarkable to me how so many Christians reject evolution simply because they've been taught to believe that Adam and Eve are literally true. When I was retaking my Biology course last year, I loved re-reading about evolutionary theory and I have never had a problem with it (thanks to having a scientifically minded father). In fact, as I learned more about evolution, I'm even more in awe of God for creating such a process for our planet. It made me think of God as the Ultimate Artist, with our planet and universe as His canvas. We are like a living work of art, always striving to improve. What's so anti-religious about evolution? The Mormons have it right in their belief about "eternal progression". For who wants to remain the same? Oh, besides the fundamentalists, I mean.

3) Why are so many people depressed?

Are they? My answer is that people are depressed because of a feeling of powerlessness about our world and especially with our nation's economic scheme, which pretends to be Christian but is the furthest thing from it. I believe most of depression is about being off track from where one's spiritual compass indicates they should be. I know for me that I'm not in the job that I went to college for, and if I were to remain in my current job for the rest of my life, I can't imagine a worse hell than that. So, feeling a bit depressed serves as a catalyst to get the heck out of there. It's a reminder that I'm not living the life I was born to live, so I have to search for what I do want. It would be far worse if I remain in my state of frustration, resigned to a mundane and low wage work. There is a current of a spiritual revolution underway and I'm still searching to catch the part of the wave that will take me into my dream life...which is being a part of a movement that actually improves our world. Say no to prozac and ritalin!

4) What are we all afraid of?

I think most people are afraid of being alone and isolated. Again, this is symptomatic of our economic scheme, which peddles selfishness as the highest quality to have, so we can get rich and live the life we wish to live. It promotes the zero sum game...which means we gain at someone else's expense, so people who are part of the rat race think nothing of backstabbing co-workers in their quest for promotions in the ladder towards the coveted CEO, where they can finally cash out. But as Enron teaches us, that's a morally bankrupt pursuit. No wonder why so many people are lonely, despite having all the gadgets to keep in touch with one another. We don't trust others because we see people as obstacles to our piece of the capitalist pie and think nothing of elbowing our way to the biggest cut. Selfishness breeds loneliness; selflessness builds community.

5) When is war justified?

I subscribe to the Just War theory, which states that war is always a last resort when diplomacy fails; that it is a defensive act against an aggressor (and make no mistake, we are the aggressor in the Iraq War); it seeks to minimize the damage to civilians; only military and government officials/structures are targeted; and the war ends immediately when the stated objective is accomplished. Since Bush had said on May 1, 2003 "Mission Accomplished", why are we still there? Besides, his shifting rationales for why we went to war proves that this war is unjust. Any war that begins with a lie is not just and can never be just. And I think it's in America's spiritual contract (dating back to the Declaration of Independence) that we will only win just wars. It has proven true thus far. Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea were unjust wars and have been costly failures. When are we ever gonna learn?

6) How would God want us to respond to aggression and terrorism?

When I was in college, I had hoped to graduate in the Honors program, which included a dissertation that would have to be defended and then the actual paper itself would be bound...but it was a struggle just to get through school, so I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do. I had planned to write my dissertation on how minority groups use violence against countries that operate out of their jurisdiction. For instance, after 9/11, Americans fear of terrorism was a little misplaced...especially when Bush wanted us to believe that terrorists hate our freedoms and that's why they commit acts of terror against us. However, who ever heard of a terrorist attack in Sweden or New Zealand? Those citizens aren't any less free than we are. In fact, their quality of life is a lot better than ours...yet terrorists aren't attacking those governments. Why not? Because those governments don't have military operations all over the world. My dissertation would have focused on examples like the French in regards to Algeria, Great Britain and the IRA, and the U.S. and Vietnam.

But that's a round about way of not actually answering the question...so let me just say that God would want us to find creative and nonviolent ways of solving those issues. When 9/11 happened, I saw it as "Columbine times a thousand", which is another way of saying that terrorism is a larger scale of what happens in school shootings. Its a result of an unequal and oppressive status quo, a lack of compassion, and a lashing out. It's a cry for help. If our country did a Marshall Plan and a Peace Corps type of work in the Middle East, we would have solved the terrorist problem. No one grows up in this world wanting to be a suicide bomber. Only a person in complete desperation would do such a thing, in order to cause the hurt in others so people can understand and share in the hurt. That's why it's a cry for help. When we ignore their hurt, we are actually inviting their pain to come into our lives when we don't have a say in it. So, it's better to be preventive than reactive. Unfortunately, our society is entirely too reactive while ignoring the preventive measures that would be less costly and less painful than dealing with the aftermath.

7) How does one obtain true peace?

By meditation or prayer. The calmness within really does wonders for the outside environment, even if it's chaotic. Without having peace within, we can't really have peace in our world. Once one achieves peace within, he or she can bring that calm serenity out into the world. And people do pick up on other people's states of being. In my last job, I knew one new guy was bad news from the start. He was a drama magnet and always had his chaotic family life intrude upon him at work. I was consistently shocked how a day wouldn't go by without some family drama causing problems at work. It was so radically different from my own life, which is pretty calm and tranquil. It tells me that some people are addicted to the drama, but it doesn't have to be that way. So, I don't believe that guy is alone in his chaotic life. If he can't have peace at home, how could he bring peace at work, or into the larger world? He was a very difficult person to work with because of that.

8) What does it mean to live in the present moment?

This is one I have trouble with, because I'm all over the map. I can simulataneously reminisce about a past experience, focus on a future goal, and go about my daily work by being in the present...but that's probably why I have a hard time hearing that soft inner voice that guides me towards my path. At times when I'm truly in the present moment, I do get guidance on how to act, what to say to someone, or what choice I should make. I wish it happens more often, so that's something I should work on...but I do agree that we should strive to focus only on the present moment. It's very disciplined, but rewarding...because that's where true insights come from.

9) What is our greatest distraction?

I would say without a doubt money. The pursuit of it, the accumulation of it, the materialism it brings about, the arguments about it...all of it is a major distraction from what's truly important in life. And because we're caught up in the money game, we're afraid of loss, thus why we truly can't change our government because no one wants to rise up and storm the White House gates to forceably remove those people from power. A people's coup couldn't happen in the U.S. the way it did in Eastern Europe in 1989, yet that event shows how powerful people could be if they rise up together to remove the abusers from power. We're so afraid of losing our jobs, of not being able to pay our mortgage or bills, to make a ripple. And our government is counting on that fact to keep us docile and compliant.

10) Is current religion serving its purpose?

It depends on the religion. For my church, I would say yes, though it could do more. Other religions serve the capitalist state and keeps its followers in line, which is far from what Jesus wanted for us. So, it's hard to say. Some religions are greater than others. But all of them do serve a purpose in the follower's life. While I might not be LDS or Scientologist or Jehovah's Witness or fundamentalist, I recognize that those religions have value in the members who belong to those faith groups. It's not for any of us to say what religion is right for another person. We have to trust that people are where they need to be, and if they are not, they generally do seek changes in their lives.

And with that, I'll continue questions #11 through 20 in tomorrow's entry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

If I Could Talk With George...

...Here's what I would say:

Listen, George...um, you don't mind if I call you George, do you? Because if I call you "Dubya", I might have a slip of the tongue and it'd come out "Dumbya", and I don't want to disrespect you. And honestly, I don't respect you enough to call you "Mr. President", because let's face it...you aren't my president. Not only did I not vote for you, but I don't believe you authentically won either the 2000 or the 2004 election. Of course, I can't prove that you committed fraud, but let's just say that there is a record kept in heaven of what is the truth behind every event that occurs on our planet. Now, you say that you're a believer in all that, so aren't you just a tad bit worried that you are running up a karmic debt faster than the actual national debt you've racked up?

So, as long as we're being honest here, I just want to say a few things.

First, I'm sorry that you had an emotionally cold mother and detached father who seemed more interested in his international political career than being there for you when your sister died and when you wanted to play catch with your old man. I truly understand your plight, so I have with me a gift for you: the DVD of "Field of Dreams." Now, it might be a little too "metaphysical" for you, but I think even you might tear up at the ending when Kevin Costner asks a younger version of his father if he wanted to play a game of catch. No guy can keep his eyes dry after that line! Besides, it looks like you need a good cry. No one's gonna think you're weak if you just let it out. Well, except for Ann Coulter, but come on...she's really a transgendered man who was formerly a Nazi SS agent.

Second, I heard you loud and clear when you said in 1999 that you never wanted to be president, that it was never your dream in life. Man, was that a truthful statement or what? I mean your whole administration shows just how much you did not want to be president. You really managed to make a complete disaster of your office and our country and world, all because you were given a job that you didn't want. And in the 2004 debates, you kept repeating how much "hard work" it was to be president. It was like you were begging the Americans to vote for the other guy...but they didn't (or, at least, the computer voting machines didn't). So, you're stuck, digging an even deeper hole than where we were in 2004. I feel your pain.

Third, I know that you were wired for the debates and receiving answers from someone (was it Dick Cheney, the same man whose lap you sat on when facing the super scary 9/11 Commission? Or was it Karl Rove, who secretly nurses a crush on you. Oh come on, you've got to have noticed by now, the way he whispers in your ear all the time). You didn't care enough about the issues to do your homework. You had to have assistance to help you debate a mealy mouthed liberal flip flopper like John Kerry. You weren't confident enough in your own abilities to think quickly and speak extemporaneously on random questions. I understand that. It's all "hard work" you didn't bargain for when your peeps stole the 2000 election.

Fourth point is actually a question. In an Iowa debate in 1999, you had said that Jesus was your favourite political philosopher because he had "changed your heart". What I'm curious to know is: (1) What specifically made Jesus "political"?; (2) What specifically made Jesus a "philosopher"?; and (3) What evidence can you show to prove that Jesus did indeed "change your heart"? The reason I ask is because in an interview with Tucker Carlson, he had asked you about your thoughts on Karla Faye Tucker, the woman you had executed despite Christian leaders asking for a stay of execution. You remember your response? You spoke in a scaredy little voice, mocking her plea: "Please, don't kill me!" Based on that display, how is it that Jesus changed your heart? I understand that you were an alcoholic business failure up until your 40th birthday when your wife gave the ultimatum that it was either the booze or her...but given all that we've seen with your lies, love of war and demonizing people who disagree with you, I fail to see any evidence of Christ in your life. In fact, if it were illegal to be a Christian, there would not be enough evidence to convict you as being guilty of Christianity. Here's what I think the real reason for your answer to that question. You couldn't say that your true favourite political philosopher was either Machiavelli or Leo Strauss, so you went with the one designed to win over the evangelical vote because they are so hungry to hear a politician speak about Jesus that they will swallow every shallow platitude without a deeper analysis of how your life reflects that belief. In other words, you lied about even that to score political points and it worked, even though it is a lie you will one day answer to Jesus someday (and hopefully Karla Faye Tucker will be standing right next to him when you meet your maker and His only begotten son).

And the fifth and final point I wanted to say to you is that I know about your smirk and that eyebrow twitch. It's your body's betrayal of your lying mouth. You make it so easy to know when you're telling a lie, because I just have to watch your face betray your mouth. Every time you smirk, it means you're saying a huge whopper that you can't believe people are swallowing. You think you're able to con the masses, but your face betrays you. That smirk is a dead giveaway. And your eyebrow twitch is designed to make what you are saying more believable, but it's also a dead giveaway. It's hard for you to emote sincerely because you don't believe what you're saying. Your fraudulent, immature mind betrays your true intentions. True, you have die hard true believers who no doubt would go Monica Lewinsky on you if you asked them to (I'll even name a few: Condoleeza Rice, Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers, and Rush Limbaugh), but I think most people have caught on to you. That's why you consistently poll below the 30% approval mark.

You say you don't care about how people perceive you because when the historians have their say, we'll all be dead. That statement also betrays you. A sincere Christian would never say such a thing. That's because authentic spiritual people know how history will be written. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that the long arm of the universe bends towards justice. He knew that he wouldn't live to see the day when our society would be racially integrated, but he knew that it would happen some day. He also knew that people who make a lonely and controversial stand for righteousness will one day be glorified as visionary. You think that will be the case with you, but nothing you've done in life has been righteous. You avoided Vietnam, even though you supported the war (Clinton was against the war and avoided it; Gore was against the war yet went to it; but you supported a war you didn't want to fight), then you ditched the National Guard when they wanted a flight physical (because you had "coke" in your system). You bankrupted three companies but came out with millions. You fought dirty against your opponents Ann Richards, John McCain, Al Gore, and John Kerry. You ignored terrorist warnings and allowed 9/11 to happen so you could get your war in Iraq. You lied about your reasons for going to war. You horribly bungled it. You ignored warnings about the levys in New Orleans and then waited 5 days to respond, after seeing a specially made DVD (instead of watching on Fox as it was happening). I mean, you really managed to make a huge mess of things and you think history is going to vindicate you in the end?

Let me put it to you mano a mano...the best thing you can do, George, short of hara kiri, is to resign, apologize to the nation (a blubbering farewell address to the nation might score a few political points), and disappear into obscurity. A few photos of you in the fetal position sucking on your thumb at the feet of Laura might help a nation and world forgive you and feel sorry for you. After all, you never wanted to be president. That evil man Dick Cheney made you do it. It's all his fault! All you ever wanted to do was play baseball with your dad and be able to run to your mommy when you got a boo-boo. I get that. The world gets that. All we're waiting for is a confession and resignation. Then you can be that person you were meant to be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Pioneer Day!

Today in Utah, they celebrate Pioneer Day, which is about as big, if not a bigger holiday than Independence Day, complete with fireworks to celebrate the day the LDS Pioneers arrived in Salt Lake valley and Brigham Young announced that "this is the right place!" As my friend Matt Baker says, ever since then the Mormons have mistaken that for a political statement and have voted Republican. Either that or they are confused by their hymn "Choose the Right" (which we don't have in our church, so it's probably my favourite Mormon hymn).

I don't really celebrate Pioneer Day (because that's not my heritage), but now that I live in Oregon, I am fascinated by those pioneers who moved from the known and developed world and ventured across this continent of ours, facing the wrath of native populations, disease, homesickness, and other struggles to develop civilization that we take for granted. Where would we be without these pioneers leading the way? In a modern day sense, I am a lot like them in that I have moved back and forth across this continent of ours, though it's expensive and a pain in the ass with all the stuff I have. I still have most of my things in Atlanta to move across the country, but with gas prices being as high as they are, I can't really afford to do it this year as I had hoped.

But, today, in honour of the all the pioneers, from the Mormons to those who continued on to Oregon and California territories, I thank them for their adventurous spirit and hard work taming the wilderness, which we benefit from today. It's also with a bit of remorse for the native populations who lived in these areas and have a rightful claim on the land. Sometimes, even I get frustrated with our obsession with property ownership and using houses as a money making scheme, which drives up costs out of reach for people like me to afford my own home. But, this is beautiful country, so it's hard to say that progress is wrong. Evolution is all about adapting or dying out...and unfortunately, rigid tribal systems the world over have a hard time "competing" against our rapid progress-oriented world. We are simply here now, hopefully not to make a mess of things for future generations to enjoy...so they can go on celebrating Pioneer Day.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Meeting Indigos and Learning to Fire the Grid

Yesterday, I decided to attend a meeting of fellow "Indigos" after wavering back and forth about whether or not I really wanted to attend. I'm glad I decided to attend, because I was able to receive a message I was meant to receive.

First of all, for those who don't know about Indigos, it is a New Agey name for the current generation of children who are supposed to change our world by turning it on it's head through their less than patience manner and refusal to obey the established order. This generation is supposedly psychic and spiritually advanced, and we'd do well to heed them. Indigos supposedly started out as a trickle...with a small minority in the Baby Boomer generation and a little bit more in Generation X, and still a bit more in Generation Y. But after that, it's supposedly 70% of the young generation now populating our schools. The group that teachers and society wants to lazily diagnose as being ADD and thus put on ritalin rather than dealt with directly.

I'm slightly skeptical on the whole Indigo thing. I find it hard to believe that 70% or more of the younger generation supposedly have high psychic ability, or that having psychic ability makes one an Indigo. I don't really have psychic ability, but I've always had a problem with authority, whether religious, military, or governmental. I trust myself to govern more fairly than those in authority positions. I'm impatient with the relative slowness of change in the spiritual sense of the word, frustrated by people's willingness to be unthinking sheep in following the herd instead of thinking boldly about why such beliefs deserve our unquestioned obedience. From descriptions I've read about Indigos, I found myself feeling very much like one. But I'm not psychic.

While this group was interesting, and I might add that I was most likely the youngest one there, out of ten or so people, it also reminded me about the frustrations I have about the whole "New Age movement." People are almost too accepting of any idea that others propose or claim in a way that seems very dangerously naive. For instance, one guy kept saying that the biggest problem where religion went wrong was naming whatever they feared as "evil." When he said that there was no evil, others around me nodded their heads as though this was a truism. I couldn't believe it. Of course there is evil. Hitler was evil. Torture and killing is evil. To deny that evil exists is dangerous and inaccurate. What they mean to say is that when fighting or standing up to evil, one must be careful not to return evil with evil (as Bush has done in his war against "the evildoers"), because we'll lose our souls in the process. But, this is the problem I see with liberal minded people and why we keep losing against conservatives in religion and politics. We allow evil to happen because we don't believe it exists (why else could Bush not be impeached for his war crimes while Clinton was impeached for his sexual immorality?).

One thing I did learn in this meeting was that July 17th was a day that psychics and light-workers devoted the same hour of that day to "Fire the Grid." What that means is that our planet's energy system is being sucked into very negative spaces (not "evil", mind you!) and people on this planet needed to take advantage of the universal energy field on that significant date to capture and rechannel it by focusing on positive affirmations in an attempt to "re-boot" planet Earth's energy so it can move in the right direction (which I'm hoping means the impeachment and removal from office of the Bush regime). It sounds like a whole bunch of mumble jumble, but we'll see. I'm open minded to consider the possibilities that this group might be good for me as I seek to make corrective changes in my own life, to go in the direction I'm meant to go in (working as a low wage slave for an unappreciative organization with spiritually immoral ethical practices is simply not what this Indigo boy was born to accomplish in this lifetime!). We'll see what happens in the coming month.

One thing that does alarm me is that others in the group share my sense of foreboding about the months of August and September being months that are prime targets for a terrorist attack that would dwarf 9/11 in a last ditch effort for Bush/Cheney to regain the support of blindly loyal Americans who are starting to awaken from their slumber over the fiasco in Iraq. If they want to retain power and possibly extend their reign of terror beyond January 20, 2009, a well timed and targeted terrorist attack just might be the ticket to get Americans to rally around their faltering administration for one more war...this time against Iran. That's my big worry anyhow. And it doesn't help when Michael Chertoff of the Homeland Security Department is claiming that his bowels are telling him such an attack is imminent and Bush and Rice are telling the media and Congress to wait until September before passing judgment on the effectiveness of the surge. As they say in the "Star Wars" films..."I have a bad feeling about this." We've seen time and again how this administration knows marketing techniques, using the month of September for a media blitzkrieg to unleash the new b.s. product they are selling. Whatever happens in the next couple months, I hope and pray that Americans won't be conned into complacency and obedience again. We must remain awake and prepare to face the home grown evil that cares not one whit about human life.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Farewell to Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner

Tammy Faye Bakker...I mean, Messner, has left our realm for the uncertain one that awaits her on Friday. Though she was known and mocked for her heavy makeup, false eyelashes, and Betty Boopish voice/personality, she is a true American Icon (for better or for worse). Americans, it's been observed, love a good comeback story, and none are as fascinating as the rise and fall and rise again of Tammy Faye.

I never heard about her until the scandal in 1987 with the PTL ministry she ran with her then-husband Jimmy which featured a Christian-themed amusement park along the lines of Disney World, complete with condo timeshares that turned out to be a money making fraud. While suckering evangelicals into sending money for their ministry, the Bakkers were living it up Hollywood style in a huge mansion, and most shocking of all...an AIR CONDITIONED DOG HOUSE!!! I remember that outrage the most, because my mother pointed out to me that some people in Thailand are of the view that pets in an American household live better than they do. That's a pretty sad and disturbing view on so many levels.

Anyhow, at a time when I was struggling with the hypocritical Christian youth ministers I dealt with as a teenager, I was pleased to see Christian hypocrites fall from the disgrace of their own greed and the fraud they committed against their own sincere followers who probably donated way more money than they could afford, for some hope that it would come back to them fourfold (as many charlatans promise those who donate money to them). Prosperity theology is very damaging and deceptive, yet so many people fall for it, based on their own greed and lust for wealth. All they end up doing is help these phony Christian leaders live a lavish lifestyle. I've felt for a long time that Jesus obligates us to help those less fortunate than ourselves, not those who are more fortunate! But like a lot of things in our society, charlatans can find a way to work their pyramid schemes into any facet of society. Suckers are there to be fleeced.

I remember in 1989 when Tammy Faye Bakker sang on the courthouse steps after her husband was convicted and given a 45 year prison sentence (considered severe by many people, but not enough for my tastes, though I've changed my view over time to agree that it was severe). She sang horribly off key, "On Christ the solid rock I stand..." (or whatever that hymn is called). She kind of ruined it for me. Now, whenever I hear that song (which isn't often, thank God), I can't help but think of Tammy singing it on the courthouse steps, in full makeup and eyelash glory like a bad Betty Boop impersonation. Nightmares! Oh, it still gives me nightmares.

But an amazing thing happened to her in the years since. A redemption story, like we love in our great nation. She seemed to be less judgmental, more accepting of others who are outcasts, even embracing the community of people who were most likely to be in her camp to begin with (key word being CAMP). That's right. I'm talking about her status as a gay icon...following in the footsteps of Cher, Bette Midler, and Barbra Streisand. They seem to love campy schtick. Must be the makeup and personality. I don't really get camp, unless it involves tents and mosquitos, but if she could be embraced by that community, then perhaps she's not in the same vein as the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world.

I've seen her in interviews and can't help but think that she's not a monster or a charlatan. She grew and changed. Tragedy humbled her. Money might have corrupted her in the 1980s, but in the aftermath, she became about as likeable as Dolly Parton (who I think is very likeable). So, of course, I hope she is in the loving embrace of God and Jesus in heaven (where Falwell is hopefully not...at least not until his hypocrisy and judgmentalism are burned away in the other place). The verdict is still out on her former husband Jimmy, but I think she represents what's possible in American society. The ability to change and become better, with the forgiveness and support of the American people. Her son carries on her legacy by his ministry to the outcasts in Atlanta (I wanted to attend his church while I lived there, but never got around to it...probably because I was "scared" of the punk types who attend his services).

So, farewell Tammy Faye. You added a bit of needed colour to the American evanglical landscape. Though Jan Crouch strives to carry on in your likeness (what with the big hair, heavy makeup, false eyelashes, and big boobs), you were a true American icon with the classic redemption story. I hope you rest in peace with the good Lord above.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Another Republican Hypocrite Exposed!

Last week, Senator Vitter, a Republican in the Religious Right mode of moralizing family values as a voting issue, was exposed as having been on the D.C. Madam's call list. He admitted in a press conference that he did seek out the services of a call girl to engage in...well, let's just say that it wasn't Tiddly-winks they were playing. With his wife at his side, he made his confession. The news reported that during the 1998 debate on impeachment over Clinton's sexual affair with an intern, Vitter's wife was asked if she would forgive her husband (like Hillary had done) if he did such a thing. Her response was alarming. She had said that she would be more like Lorena Bobbitt and hinted that she would chop his most precious body part off. Yikes! And yet, Vitter still engaged in adultery...even paying for the transgression! All while professing family values and voting to impeach Clinton for lying about his sexual affair. Um...of course Clinton lied about his affair. When has an adulterer ever not lied about it at first? And the lie is somewhat understandable, even if it is still wrong. Yet, a lie to save face and protect loved ones is different than a lie to con Americans into supporting a devastating war, is it not? Why do conservatives get hung up on lies about sex, but not lies about war and violence? It goes to the very heart of the divide between liberals and conservatives. Conservatives are quesy about sexuality and love instead of guns and violence. They have it backwards.

But, its all a ruse. Republicans are every bit as sexual as Democrats, perhaps even moreso. They can't help being hypocrites though, for as long as they tie themselves to the claim of being pro-family values, they can't be honest with themselves if they find themselves in bed with a high priced call girl...or as in the case with that one Republican, Jack Ryan, who was running for the Illinois senate seat in 2004, who forced his actress wife Jeri Ryan (who played Seven of Nine on one of the "Star Trek" shows) to indulge his sex club fantasies in Paris. They still claim to higher morality, despite hypocrisy after hypocrisy exposed. The most notable chain of sexual hypocrisy occured in 1998 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich vowed to make that year's mid-term election a referendum on Clinton's adultery. After the election when he resigned, he was exposed to have engaged in adultery with his secretary. Congressman Bob Livingstone was next, and was set to become the next Speaker until the news revealed his having had an adulterous affair. Congressman Dennis Hastert was the next Republican to be revealed as an adulterer but became the Speaker until his party finally got swept from power last year due in part to the sexual hypocrises of televangelists and the Republican Party overlooking a Republican Congressman's sexually explicit emails to underage male pages.

I mean, how many scandals does it take to convince Americans that Republicans have no right to claim sexual morality. To do so is hypocrisy. And its a fraud. Why does it happen so often? I think I have an understanding why. When I was in the Navy, a Chief Petty Officer and a Naval Lieutenant both said to me that I had no right to serve in the military because "liberals don't follow the rules." A year and a half after both men said that to me, they both went to Captain's Mast for breaking Navy rules against fraternization and sexual harassment (with women of different ranks than them). When I heard the news, I couldn't help but feel vindicated. And when I got my honorable discharge and good conduct medal in 1996, I can honestly say that I did follow the rules. What's so hard about following the rules? It wasn't the rules I objected to...but the attitude. Had a superior ordered me to torture someone or kill another person, I'm sure that I'd have difficulty obeying, but it fascinates me that it is conservatives who have a hard time following the rules they set up, especially on sexuality issues. Thus, every time one of them is exposed, I don't feel bad for them or their families. They deserve what they get. I think exposure is justified, because Jesus had done so himself. When the men accused the woman of adultery and were about to stone her to death, Jesus stood up for her and asked them what right they have to judge. He knew that they were just as guilty as she was, yet they wanted to make her pay while they put on a pious act like they were free of guilt. That's the greater sin.

It reminds me of one of my friends. When we first met, we had discussed many number of issues. I learned just how conservative he was. On one issue we had discussed, he believed that a man and woman cohabitating outside of marriage was not only wrong, but a sin. I didn't believe it was. I saw it as a personal choice issue. I've had friends who've done that and I never passed judgment on their decision to do so. That was their business, not mine. Yet, when my friend found the love of his life, he moved in with her after a month or two of dating. They co-habitated for six months before marriage. Whenever I brought this up with his previous view, instead of saying that he changed his mind, he got mad. He told me later that he still believes co-habitation is a sin and if someday his children do that, he would tell them that it was a sin. I was shocked. Why is it not okay for anyone else to co-habitate, but for yourself, you can do it? He didn't like my questioning on that and accused me of holding him to a higher standard than I held other people. I told him that I hold everyone to the standard they claim to hold, but even then, no standard is held to the highest level that I hold myself. I hate hypocrisy more than anything else, so I'm not going to tell people how to live their lives, especially if I'm doing whatever it is I'm condemning. So, yes, if a friend tells me he believes something is a sin and I see him doing just that, I'll call him up on it. I wouldn't be a good friend if I let him slide on the values he claims to hold. He might not like it, but someone has to keep friends honest. If he hadn't made such moral pronouncements, it wouldn't even be an issue.

Thus why I hate the moralizing and hypocritical Republican party. The more Republican politicians that get exposed for their lies and sexual immorality, the better. It's time for Americans to wake up and realize that politicians have no right to legislate morality, and also to know that often the people who speak most about morality have the most to hide. Psychologists call it overcompensating, others call it hypocrisy. And lest we forget, Jesus seemed to hate hypocrisy more than any other transgression. It's not difficult to understand why. Hypocrites want to hold other people to a higher standard than they hold themselves, which is wrong. We should always hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold other people. And most important of all, we shouldn't crucify people for the sins we are guilty of, because someday, it will come back like a boomerang. No one likes hypocrites. What a shame the Republican party is full of them. I anxiously await whatever fruits Larry Flynt's crusade to expose more of them bears. May such exposure lead to a complete electoral wipeout of the most sanctimonious and pseudo-religious political party that ever slithered on the American scene. I'd love to be able to say, good riddance Repugs. Back to the cess pool where you belong, to feed on pond scum. America can do without your phony religious values postering.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Chicago's Cloud Gate

That's my reflection...but somehow, the photo lab flipped the negatives when saving it to the disk.

The cosmic egg

Chicago's Cloud Gate

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Earth Gets Its Own "Council of Elders"

I read on www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/07/18/2612/ about a group being formed made up of some of the most innovative and popular leaders around the world, to be called "Elders" as they seek to inspire and solve some of the most difficult issues facing our planet today.

Here's a partial list: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland), Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Yunnus (known as "the Banker to the Poor" for his founding of the Grameen Bank), and Aung San Suu Kyi (currently under house arrest in Burma/Myanmar)...to name but a few. I don't have the whole list, but I think the Dalai Lama, Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel should also be included in this impressive group.

When I read the article, I had a feeling that there is a spiritual force at work in our world. We can't see it, but we can feel that something is brewing in the undercurrents. There is a force at play in our world as we seem to come to a head over a multitude of issues facing the very real challenge of sustaining life on our planet. It could very well be a planetary emergency, an S.O.S. distress call from the spiritual realm to our material realm.

In my diverse readings on near death experiences, psychic's descriptions of heaven, and spiritual texts of various religious paths, one idea that has captured me the most is the idea of a "Council of Elders" that exists in the heavenly realm. This "council" is made up of the most spiritually advanced/evolved souls in the universe. And it is this council that we supposedly face when we get our post-life review and again when we make "the contract" to future plans in the next lifetime on earth. These beings help us see more clearly what we need to work on as we continue to strive towards spiritual perfection. It's an idea that has captured my imagination, and I've even seen glimpses of the concept in films like "The Matrix Reloaded" (in Zion, you'll see a table with 12 people facing the group of humans as they discuss their plans, concerns and ideas regarding the war against the machines).

The earth does indeed need a group of elder statesmen of various nations to work together to show the inhabitants of this planet that we must work together to solve the problems of poverty, disease, nationalism, war, greed, and environmental sustainability. Future unborn souls are counting on us to give them a world worth growing up in. One of the most brilliant things God has done for us, is to give us inspiring leaders to call us to our better selves. Unfortunately, too many are deceived by nationalistic pride and arrogance, religious bigotry, and other issues that divide us from one another. As Jesus warned, we can see the false prophets by the fruits of their actions. The world is simply too small to continue in the petty regional and factional conflicts. It is my deepest hope that the earth's Council of Elders will be effective in inspiring people around the world to ignore the voices of the right, which always seeks to keep people divided and fighting each other, and reach out to others even if they are different from us. I am one who wants this planet to be around for another billion years, able to sustain human life (without starting over again at the very beginning).

What's even most interesting is that this group of elders was announced on Nelson Mandela's 89th birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday, Nelson! Viva, Mandela, Viva!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama

On Monday night, I needed a spiritual uplift, so I decided to go see the film "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama" at the Cinema 21 in NW Portland. This follows my trend of seeing more and more documentaries in theaters. I thought of waiting until this is on DVD (or maybe it is already?), but I really needed a spiritual uplift this week and I consider the Dalai Lama to be the premier prophet of God in our lifetime. I'm still baffled how my fundamentalist Christian co-worker back in 2001 could ever use the word "evil" and "Satanic" to describe the Dalai Lama. My heart just lifts when I hear him speak and laugh. He, like Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyii, and even Lady Diana Spencer (better known as the Princess of Wales), always lifted me up in inspirational ways. That's something that neither Pat Robertson nor Jerry Falwell had the ability to do (then again, those two are capitalists pretending to be religious).

The Dalai Lama has such a cool laugh. As I watched him speak, often with a mischievious sense of humour, I couldn't help but think of who he reminded me of: YODA from the "Star Wars" universe! Perhaps that's where George Lucas got his inspiration (and not from an LDS prophet--Benson?--as was widely rumoured at BYU).

The documentary itself was very interesting. I'm glad that it gave a brief history lesson on the whole "Lama system" of Tibet. I haven't seen the film "Kundun" in several years, so I forget the details. But it was interesting that as a young man, the Dalai Lama was almost tricked by Chairman Mao into making agreements when the Communists overtook Tibet and claimed it as part of their country. At first, he thought the Chinese would help modernize Tibet and allow their culture to remain and flourish. But when Mao had told him that religion was bad and to be outlawed, the Dalai Lama, in his wisdom saw just who he was dealing with and began his crusade around the world to gain support for his mountainous country. Unfortunately, the world allowed China to do what it wills, and thus the atrocities in now turning Tibet into a sort of touristy gimmick, much like the state of Florida. But as I watched, I couldn't help but think of how our country had acted similiar to the Chinese communists. We annihilated a spiritual people who lived on this land for centuries before the Europeans arrived. We annexed Hawai'i at point of the gun. How are we any different?

But through the difficulties, I'm amazed how happy and funny the Dalai Lama is. That he has retained his impish sense of humour is fantastic. He's one person I'd love to meet. And I missed my chance when he was in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2000. One guy from my church who graciously allowed me to stay in his house after I had to move out of the BYU-leased apartments and another church member's place. I should've went with him to the mall to see the Dalai Lama, but I thought it would be crowded and I wouldn't see anything. Turns out, the guy ended up shaking the Dalai Lama's hand and he bragged endlessly about it, probably to make me feel bad about not going. Well, it worked. I missed out my chance. But, I always enjoy hearing about other people's experience being in the Dalai Lama's presence and the testimony about his awareness, as though he could sense where to turn his attention to individuals in the crowd who most need the spiritual touch. That is the mark of a true spiritual leader. And when he speaks of the Chinese, it's never out of anger or spite. He realizes what a huge spiritual deficit they are suffering, the godless communists. They might've turned Tibet into a sleazy version of Las Vegas, but they'll never rob him of his soul or connection to the divine source.

In the documentary, I forget what all the ten questions are, but they were interesting. The most fascinating observation was the documentarian's first question...in which he said that he saw even among the poorest in India, a kind of happiness that he rarely saw in western societies among the rich. He had asked the Dalai Lama about that and the answer was profound but one I've felt is true for a long time (and the reason why we were destined to lose in Iraq). When you have a lot of possessions, you fear it's loss, and once you experience the loss, you feel sorrow and anger. But if you have nothing to lose, then you have everything to gain. Something like that. It's an idea that's in the Book of Mormon...why waging war with poor people is not only immoral, but foolish. A person with a lot to lose fighting against a person with nothing to lose...who wins? The answer is obvious, yet we in the industrialized west keep falling for it. When are we gonna change?

I left the theater feeling spiritually uplifted. I'm glad I went. To this day, I'll never understand how fundamentalist Christians (who follow Dobson, Falwell, Robertson, et al) can consider the Dalai Lama evil. If he is evil, then they don't know what evil is...and that is the true terror. People who cannot recognize evil are capable of committing some of the worst atrocities. No wonder why our country has been sliding faster and faster down the slippery slope of tyranny and oppression. We need more Dalai Lamas in our world to counterbalance the negative forces of those capitalist preachers pretending to be best buddies to Jesus. Our capitalist class has more in common with the communist leaders of China than they are willing to admit. Both groups see the destruction of authentic spiritual culture as the price of materialistic progress. And we're all poorer for it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An Interesting Dream

A few nights ago, I had an interesting dream that I actually thought was real and when I woke up and realized it was only a dream, I was disappointed because it was so cool.

I was walking with my dad in some city that looked like a movie set. Somehow, we came across George Herbert Walker Bush. I kept feeling a need to talk to him, but I had to work up my courage, especially with my father there with me. My dad isn't outspoken and would shy away from any confrontation, but I can't resist a good unleashing of my mind on people who need awareness. So, I approached the honorable George Herbert Walker Bush, and somehow, the secret service agents didn't try to take me away. I started nice enough, with pleasantries. I actually liked him as president and thought he was better than Reagan. Then, I start ripping on his son and questioning his parenting abilities by giving the world such a dysfunctional person to lead our nation out of spite for his defeat in 1992. He was shocked, but even in his shocked state of my verbal lashing out at him, he still wanted to give me a gift. I can't remember what the gift was, but it was a small token of a presidential souvenir. I remember being touched by his gift and felt guilty about criticizing his son so harshly.

That was the dream. If I ever met the elder Bush, I don't think I'd lash out at him for his son, for I'm sure that when he thinks deeply about what his son has done in the world, he is very pained by his son's disasterous presidency. The elder Bush is no dummy. And he knows the truth about his son that he's tried to cover up all W's life...what with the cocaine conviction, the DUIs, the AWOL, the alcoholism, the sadism, the lack of curiosity, the short attention span, the loneliness. A parent can see that some children are beyond saving. I'm certain the elder Bush is fully aware of his son's major dysfunctions. I'm sure he commiserates with Jeb, whom everyone saw as the rightful heir to the Bush Dynasty. The pain must be very deep...especially when the elder Bush meets with his Saudi oil buddies in the Royal family and they share with him the view of Arabs in the Middle East on how much they hate his son. How does that feel to have your good, rich Arab friends hate your namesake and first born?

But, don't fret too much, George. At least your son will boost your administration in the history books. Your son has redeemed your decision in 1991 not to continue on to Baghdad. Future historians will use your famous quote in the book "A World Transformed" that was published in 1998 in which you had foreseen that invading Iraq would have been a huge disaster. If only your son had listened to you. Perhaps you weren't a great parent, but you were by far a better president than your son. But, I think you should go ahead and apologize to the entire world for dropping baby George on his head, and explain that's why he is the way he is. And please...don't put Jeb on the V.P. slot for Mitt Romney's campaign. I can live with a President Romney, but not if I fear that he'll be conveniently assassinated so your other son can sneak into the presidency the back way. Your brand is broken. Too bad Barbara didn't get an abortion way back when. We wouldn't be in this mess now if she had.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What Happened?!?

What can I say about John McCain, who I selected for my "Nonconformist of the Year" in 2000 for his straight talk express, the most exciting campaign that year, and a person who had a reputation for brutal honesty, a refreshing breath of fresh air in an era of political sound bites and canned speeches that are about as exciting as the Bush twins on a sober day. Sometimes I wonder how our country would be had he been the Republican nominee for president instead of the Bush fiasco. Probably a whole lot better.

When I was a Gore intern, I had an interesting encounter with him. One young lady who worked in the office had told me to come over to her desk and tell her if the Vice President's Ceremonial Office in the U.S. Capitol was in use. When I walked over, I found myself face to face with the famous Senator. I immediately smiled and perhaps even laughed, causing him to smile. I was speechless. I didn't expect to find him in our office. After he left, the staff members asked me what that was all about. They even questioned my loyalty to Gore. After all, McCain had promised voters that he would "beat Al Gore like a drum" in the fall. I couldn't really explain it. Though Gore was my primary loyalty (more than Clinton, of course), I admired John McCain. Plus, we have the Navy bond. He was cool. Not afraid of his past (like Bush is). He owns up to his flaws. His reputation for honesty had made him unpopular in the Senate among his fellow Senators. Yet, out of all the politicians on the Hill, I had learned that he had the highest staff loyalty of any Senator. So, despite his reputation for a temper, he retained staff members for years. What was it about him? Honestly, had the 2000 election been between Gore vs. McCain, I would have been happy with either outcome, though there were some things I had a problem with (McCain was the only candidate who threatened "rogue state rollback", which turns out to have been co-opted by the Bush regime after promising a more humble foreign policy than Clinton).

So what the hell happened?!? He drank the Kool-Aid. He sold his soul to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. After the lies they spread about him having an illegitimate daughter with a black prostitute (they adopted a Bangladeshi orphan whom they had brought over for a cleft lip operation) and allegations of mental instability, affairs, and tempers. If someone is going to try to destroy you with lies (that would be Karl Rove's doing), why on earth would you join sides with them? That's the worst kind of sell out in the world. And look at all the good it has done him. His campaign is hemorrhaging staff members faster than passengers on the Titanic. His fundraising through the Internet in 2000 set the model for future campaigns by Howard Dean and now Barack Obama. Now, he's struggling to keep up with the likes of Giuliani and Romney. He should be the front runner, but he's even losing ground to a man who had earlier endorsed him (Senator Fred Thompson, who's still debating about whether to jump into the ring). Then there's the age issue. He'd be the oldest president elected if some "miracle" occurred. But it ain't gonna happen. His time is past. He has lost his vision. He's running towards failed Bush policies when Republicans who care about their future careers are tripping over themselves to get as far away from Bush as they can. That's not a good way to be remembered by history. Selling your soul for a chance to win the Republican primary through the evangelical vote (especially after insulting their leaders in 2000) was a bad idea. He's no longer the "straight talker" but a craven politician who will do anything to win, even sell his soul to the person who cut him at the knees in 2000.

It's tragic to see such a great man follow down the foolish path of disasterous policies in the hopes that he'll be named the rightful successor. But maybe we are seeing his true face after all these years of pretending to be a maverick, bluntly honest politician who shoots straight and not beholden to various interest groups. So, McCain...give it up. Your faltering campaign is what you get for betraying your "principles". And tragically, you let someone like GWB screw you over twice. That makes you unfit to lead our nation out of disasterous policies.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bastille My Beating Heart

In honour of the French Revolution, which is celebrated dans le monde francophonie today, I'd like to call on Americans to support the principles of both the American and French Revolutions, in which the people rose up against the corrupt power that ignored the wishes of the people. While our Independence Day holiday is celebrated in anniversary of the passing of the Declaration of Independence, a written letter of grievances against King George III of England, the French national holiday (Bastille Day) is celebrated in memory of the day the Bastille Prison was stormed by the people, which ultimately lead to the beheading of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (who never said the famous words attributed to her: "let them eat cake!"). While it seems odd to Americans, perhaps, that the French would make a holiday around the storming of a prison, I'm in awe of that. To me, it represents a more activist form of revolution. The people rose up and tore down what was seen as an unjust place that held unjustly imprisoned people. When are Americans going to rise up against our tyrannical government? When are we going to storm Guantanamo Bay and demand its closure and rightful return to the people of Cuba? When are we going to impeach Cheney, vote guilty, remove him from office, have him face an International War Crimes Tribunal, found guilty, then execute him for treason against the U.S. Constitution? I want to see more French Revolutionary spirit in our society. While I'm against the death penalty in most cases, I do believe it is the only just punishment for people who are in positions of power and abuse that power to the point where lives are lost or ruined. By abusing the power entrusted by the people, these abusers should pay the ultimate cost of that betrayal. In this instance, the death penalty would operate as a true deterrent against others who aspire to corrupt leadership (the death penalty is not an effective deterrent against people who murder in the heat of passion, unfortunately). And yes, such an execution should be shown on TV and the Internet the world over. It would show the people of the world that justice exists in America, because people are having serious doubts about that.

Along with my inflamed passions against the government, I'm just giddy with the news that Cindy Sheehan (the woman who was my selection for Nonconformist of the Year 2005 for standing up to Bush outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas that fateful August two years ago) is now threatening Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that if she does not begin formal impeachment hearings against Bush and Cheney, Sheehan will run against her as an independent in the most liberal voting district in the country. If Pelosi isn't running scared, she should be. The reason is because there are a lot of conservatives, who might not like Sheehan, yet the prospect of the House Speaker losing her position after merely two years might be enough to entice them to support Sheehan (who, if she wins, would most likely not be given any leadership positions in the next Congress). That would be a stunning defeat, and well deserved. I like Pelosi, but I'm baffled why she put impeachment off the table. There's no real logical explanation for it. As one editorial stated, impeaching the president and vice president would be a huge boon to her and the Democrats. She would become the first female president if those two are removed from office. And that's why I think she ruled it out (Because Hillary has pressured her into a deal). Hillary wants to be the first female president in history and nothing and no one will stop her ambitions. Okay, so if that's the case, then just go after Cheney. Bush without Cheney would be a far more acceptable (and impotent) president in his remaining time in office. I can live with that scenario.

The other news of the week was the government releasing a report that al Qaeda has regained its strength from before 9/11 levels and are planning a major attack on America soon. When I heard this news, I felt a renewed chill of the burning of the Reichstag. Considering how much Bushco. benefitted from 9/11, I'm worried that another terrorist attack will be the end of our republic (google "NSPD 51" and see what comes up...it's Bush's plan to become dictator in the aftermath of a high casualty disaster). But we've been given scare warnings so many times since 9/11, I think it has lost its effective "distraction tactic" to the point where Bush has no choice but to allow such an attack to occur so that Americans can once again rally around his faltering administration. Besides, he wants to wage war in Iran and probably stay in office past January 2009. With reports that Cheney had built a secret bunker somewhere, it makes me wonder what these nefarious individuals are plotting. All I can say is, if a terrorist attack does occur in America this year, one that dwarfs 9/11, I hope that Americans will hold the administration responsible for failing to protect America (even if these two are the culprits or co-conspirators in the attacks), and forcing the removal of Bush and Cheney from the White House (at gunpoint, if need be). These scoundrels must be removed from office by any means necessary. I hate to go Malcolm X on you, but I'm fed up. And the spirit of the French Revolution lives on. Long live liberty, fraternity, and equality! Vive la revolution!