Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tony Bennett Is a Real Man

Found this at Fark, which led me to
[Tony Bennett & K.D. Lang]


Singing legend TONY BENNETT insists he will always be addicted to women, even though he enjoyed sharing a kiss with SIR ELTON JOHN. The I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO legend, famed for his womanising during the 1960s and 1970s, refused to go any further with John - but still remembers the experience fondly. He says, "Elton John kissed me full on the mouth at a benefit. I liked it. "Elton wants to change me, but I love women. I adore women."
11/11/2006 14:49

It takes a real man to know who he is enough to say he liked kissing another man. Too bad there aren't more men who are that secure with their masculinity.

Politics and the English Language

While browsing some of the social bookmarking sites, I found a link to George Orwell's classic essay, Politics and the English Language. I'm guessing that most high school students or college freshman had to read this, but it's worth another look.

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

Read the rest of this fine essay.

Dead Can Dance - The Carnival Is Over

Driven by a strange desire . . .

The Carnival Is Over

The storm clouds gathering,
Moved silently along the dusty boulevard.
Where flowers turning crane their fragile necks
So they can in turn
Reach up and kiss the sky.

They are driven by a strange desire
Unseen by the human eye
Someone is calling.

I remember when you held my hand
In the park we would play when the circus came to town.
Look! over here.

The circus gathering
Moved silently along the rainswept boulevard.
The procession moved on the shouting is over
The fabulous freaks are leaving town.

They are driven by a strange desire
Unseen by the human eye.
The carnival is over.

We sat and watched
As the moon rose again
For the very first time.

Depression Self-Test

Just out of curiosity, I took this online test for depression. This is a fairly serious test, though certainly not to be considered a diagnosis. My scores are in line with where I thought they'd be considering recent events in my life, so that's cool.

DisorderYour Score
Major Depression:Slight
Bipolar Disorder:Slight
Seasonal Affective Disorder:Slight
Postpartum Depression:N/A
Take the Depression Test

This is the one the seems most likely, along with seasonal affective disorder (which is not an issue in Tucson):


Dysthymia, or dysthymic disorder, is a clinical diagnosis of moderate, persistent depression. Sufferers do not routinely experience the extremes of major depression, but the duration can be much longer. Dysthymia does not often inhibit normal activities.

The depression experienced in dysthymia sufferers tends appear almost as a personality trait. They tend to be self-critical and negative, with low self-esteem. Many dysthymics are unable to recall the last time they felt happy. According to UCSF an estimated 6% of the population will experience dysthymic disorder in their lifetimes.

Symptoms of Dysthymia

  • Long-term depression, sadness, anxiety
  • Fatigue, difficulty falling asleep or waking and not being able to fall back asleep
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Low self-esteem, guilt, or negative thinking; self-critical
  • Depression seems part of one's personality, gloomy, no joy
  • Unable to remember last time one was happy, confident, or inspired
  • Unexpected weight loss or gain, eating problems
  • Symptoms present for over two years

Differences by Gender

Dysthymia in Women

Women are diagnosed with dysthymic disorder at two to three times the rate as men. This increased incidence may be a result of hormonal fluctuation from the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. Experts have also suggested that stresses unique to women may be the cause. These stresses include work/home responsibilities, lower wages, single-motherhood, and caring for aging parents. Women in stable marriages have the lowest rates of depression.

Dysthymia in Men

Depressive symptoms often manifest themselves as irritability, anger, and low motivation in men. Men are better able than women to hide their symptoms and are less likely to seek diagnosis and treatment.

Dysthymia by Age Group

Dysthymic disorder is increasingly recognized in children and teens. Girls and boys experience depressive symptoms at equal rates prior to adolescence, at which point the rate increases for girls. Note that for children and teenagers, dysthymic symptoms must be present for one year rather than two.

Dysthymia in the elderly is common, especially after the loss of one's husband or wife or the onset of health problems. The same treatments prescribed for younger people are often effective, however.

Collective Soul - The World I Know

I like this song.

"The World I Know"

Has our conscience shown?
Has the sweet breeze blown?
Has all the kindness gone?
Hope still lingers on.
I drink myself of newfound pity
Sitting alone in New York City
And I don't know why.

Are we listening?
Hymns of offering.
Have we eyes to see?
Love is gathering.
All the words that I've been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one.

So I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below.
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down.
'Cause it's the world I know.
It's the world I know.

Pema Chodron on Barriers vs. Boundaries

I think that I have been given faulty information on what constitutes good boundaries over the years, so it's refreshing to read Pema Chodron's take on it. Too often, "having good boundaries" is about closing oneself off to alternate or conflicting information. Chodron sees this as setting up barriers rather than having healthy boundaries.


Pema Chödrön Transforming Confusion into Wisdom
City Retreat | Berkeley Shambhala Center
Fall 1999

Let me address this question of: What's the difference between dissolving the barriers and setting good boundaries?

This came up in some of the discussion groups, and this question also comes up —you won't be surprised— in many of the places where I do this teaching. I've given this some thought —and I've heard a lot of other people's views on this too, so I've been educated by other people's thinking on this. Currently, this is my answer, and I'm sure it's a work in process.

I feel that setting boundaries, good boundaries —the intention of that— is to allow for communication to happen. And, barriers are shutting down communication.

To set good boundaries takes a lot of courage. And you have to be going through this process of acknowledging your pain, and also what triggers you, and acknowledging how much you can handle and how much you can't handle. Theres already a lot of courage that's gone on in coming to the place of setting boundaries. But, the intention is to make communication clearer.


A barrier is this turning away and staying stuck. There's ignorance involved in barriers. Maybe that's one of the main ingredients of the ego and the self-centeredness, or the barriers, cocoon— however you say it— is ignorance: not really looking at what's going on.
When we set a clear boundary, we are clear within ourselves on where we stand. We can hear conflicting information, opposing points of view, and not feel threatened or shaken. We feel centered.

But many of us confuse clear boundaries with setting up barriers, with just saying, "This is what I believe, so leave me alone." This position is closed to new information, new perspectives, or to the natural flow of change. If feels safe because it protects the ego from having to risk exposure to a different way of being.

But if we are truly centered in what we know and believe, we do not feel threatened by alternate views. We may even be open to hearing what others think with the stance that maybe there is something to learn.

I have found myself setting up barriers in some parts of life, and I have struggled with others who confuse barriers for clear boundaries. While I try to maintain an open mind, there are still things my ego doesn't want to hear. And this is why I meditate, so that I can see those moments when my ego is feeling threatened while they are happening instead of allowing myself to get defensive and fall into barrier creation.

Buddhist Audio Chants Available Online

Over at one of the Buddhist Zaadz pods, there is an incredibly useful post featuring links to audio of Buddhist chants that we can use in our practice or simply listen to and feel much better for having done so.

Here are a few of the links, the rest are at the pod.

• The Buddhist Society of Western Australia Chanting Book (MP3 Files)
Mp3 07 KB Text of Pali Chanting - with English translations.
Mp3 1_chanting.mp3 2.4 MB 1. Dedication of Offerings. (NB: large file)
Mp3 2_chanting.mp3 600 KB 2. Preliminary Homage.
Mp3 3_chanting.mp3 750 KB 3. Recollection of the Buddha.
Mp3 4_chanting.mp3 620 KB 4. Recollection of the Dhamma.
Mp3 5_chanting.mp3 1.4 MB

5. Recollection of the Sangha.

Mp3 6_chanting.mp3 3.5 MB 6. The Metta Sutta: The Buddha's Words on Loving-kindness.
Mp3 7_chanting.mp3 5.1 MB

7. The Refuges and Precepts. (NB: large file size)

• Magnetic Buddha Dharma Chanting - Pali/English (MP3 Files)
Mp3 01_mbdc.mp3 1,643 KB 1. Homage.
Mp3 02_mbdc.mp3 2,264 KB 2. The Three Refuges.
Mp3 03_mbdc.mp3 4,321 KB 3. The Three Jewels.
Mp3 04_mbdc.mp3 3,195 KB 4. Revering the Buddha.
Mp3 05_mbdc.mp3 3,891 KB 5. Revering the Triple Gem.
Mp3 06_mbdc.mp3 3,076 KB 6. Loving-Kindness.
Mp3 07_mbdc.mp3 3,810 KB 7. Spreading Loving-Kindness.
Mp3 08_mbdc.mp3 3,866 KB 8. Verses of Protection.
Mp3 09_mbdc.mp3 4,884 KB 9. The Five Recollections.
Mp3 10_mbdc.mp3 3,465 KB 10. The Ten Perfections.
Mp3 11_mbdc.mp3 5,786 KB 11. Good Wishes.
Mp3 12_mbdc.mp3 1,492 KB 12. Dedication of Merit.
• Vietnamese Chanting - Sino-Vietnamese (MP3 Files)
Mp3 vietchant01.mp3 2.921 KB The Early Morning Great Bell Verse. (NB: large file size)
Mp3 vietchant02.mp3 4.067 KB The Prayer for Harmony and Peace. (NB: large file size)
• Pureland Chanting - Chinese (MP3 Files)
Mp3 Namo Amituofo.mp3 281 KB Chant of Amitabha Buddha: Namo Amituofo!
Mp3 Namo Amitabha .mp3 5,075 KB Namo Amitabha. (NB: large file size)
• Chanting Om Mani Padme Hum - Chinese (MP3 Files)
Mp3 OmManiPadeHum .mp3 2,017 KB Om Mani Padme Hum
Mp3 OmManiPadeHum.mp3 21,355 KB Om Mani Padme Hum. (NB: very large file size)
Chanting of Nichiren Buddhism (MP3 Files)
Mp3 nam_myoho.mp3 2.201 KB Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
Mp3 nichiren_gong.mp3 3.224 KB Nam Myoho Renge Kyo/recitation 2nd/16th chap. Lotus Sutra

» Text of the Nichiren Chanting.

• Pali Buddhist Chanting - Thai Style (MP3 Files)
From Wat Luang Phor Sodh Dhammakayaram, Thailand. Chanting Leader: Phra Bhavana Visutthikhun, abbot.
Mp3 Namo3refuges.mp3 201 KB Namo tassa and The Three Refuges.
Mp3 Dhammachakka.mp3 2,139 KB Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (The Buddha's First Sermon).

• Buddhist Mantras (WAV Format Files)
WAV omm.wav 92 KB Mantra: OM MANI PADME HUM (Tibetan Buddhist)
WAV amtb8.wav 882 KB Name of Amitabha Buddha: NAMO AMITABHA (Pure Land)
WAV gelug_chant.wav 55 KB Chanting by Tibetan monks in the Gelugpa tradition.

Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Duino Elegies have always been my favorites from the work of Rilke. During the writing of this sequence, he suffered from depression, yet the poems are ecstatic and, for the most part, amazingly hopeful. It was during this same period that he wrote The Sonnets to Orpheus, another important collection.

The Ninth Elegy

Why, if it could begin as laurel, and be spent so,
this space of Being, a little darker than all
the surrounding green, with little waves at the edge
of every leaf (like a breeze’s smile) - : why then
have to be human – and shunning destiny
long for destiny?....

Oh, not because happiness exists,
that over-hasty profit from imminent loss,
not out of curiosity, or to practice the heart,
which could exist in the laurel......
But because being here is much, and because all
that’s here seems to need us, the ephemeral, that
strangely concerns us. We: the most ephemeral. Once,
for each thing, only once. Once, and no more. And we too,
once. Never again. But this
once, to have been, though only once,
to have been an earthly thing – seems irrevocable.

And so we keep pushing on, and trying to achieve it,
trying to contain it in our simple hands,
in the overflowing gaze and the speechless heart.
Trying to become it. Whom to give it to? We would
hold on to it for ever....Ah, what, alas, do we
take into that other dimension? Not the gazing which we
slowly learned here, and nothing that happened. Nothing.
Suffering then. Above all, then, the difficulty,
the long experience of love, then – what is
wholly unsayable. But later,
among the stars, what use is it: it is better unsayable.
Since the traveller does not bring a handful of earth
from mountain-slope to valley, unsayable to others, but only
a word that was won, pure, a yellow and blue
gentian. Are we here, perhaps, for saying: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, jug, fruit-tree, window –
at most: column, tower......but for saying, realise,
oh, for a saying such as the things themselves would never
have profoundly said. Is not the secret intent
of this discreet Earth to draw lovers on,
so that each and every thing is delight within their feeling?
Threshold: what is it for two
lovers to be wearing their own threshold of the ancient door
a little, they too, after the many before them,
and before those to come......., simple.

Here is the age of the sayable: here is its home.
Speak, and be witness. More than ever
the things of experience are falling away, since
what ousts and replaces them is an act with no image.
An act, under a crust that will split, as soon as
the business within outgrows it, and limit itself differently.
Between the hammers, our heart
lives on, as the tongue
between the teeth, that
in spite of them, keeps praising.

Praise the world to the Angel, not the unsayable: you
can’t impress him with glories of feeling: in the universe,
where he feels more deeply, you are a novice. So show
him a simple thing, fashioned in age after age,
that lives close to hand and in sight.
Tell him things. He’ll be more amazed: as you were,
beside the rope-maker in Rome, or the potter beside the Nile.
Show him how happy things can be, how guiltless and ours,
how even the cry of grief decides on pure form,
serves as a thing, or dies into a thing: transient,
they look to us for deliverance, we, the most transient of all.
Will us to change them completely, in our invisible hearts,
into – oh, endlessly, into us! Whoever, in the end, we are.

Earth, is it not this that you want: to rise
invisibly in us? – Is that not your dream,
to be invisible, one day? – Earth! Invisible!
What is your urgent command if not transformation?
Earth, beloved, I will. O, believe me, you need
no more Spring-times to win me: only one,
ah, one, is already more than my blood can stand.
Namelessly, I have been truly yours, from the first.
You were always right, and your most sacred inspiration
is that familiar Death.
See I live. On what? Neither childhood nor future
grows less......Excess of being
wells up in my heart.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Karl Rove on the Mid-Term Elections and Why the Dems Should Be Concerned

The GOP lost a lot of ground this week, much of it in response to the Iraq War and the scandals that have swirled around the GOP in the last two years. Even so, as Karl Rove points out to Time, the margin of loss was slim.

The Republican get-out-the-vote program Rove helped invent precluded even deeper losses, he says. "People were talking 35, 40 or more and it didn't happen," he said. "There were a number of elections which were supposed to be close and ended up not being close."

The Republican National Committee has been pointing out that a small shift in votes would have made a big difference. A shift of 77,611 votes would have given Republicans control of the House, according to Bush's political team. And a shift of 2,847 votes in Montana, or 7,217 votes in Virginia, or 41,537 votes in Missouri would have given a Republicans control of the Senate. In addition, the party has calculated that the winner received 51 percent or less in 35 contests, and that 23 races were decided by two percentage points or fewer, 18 races were decided by fewer than 5,000 votes, 15 races were decided by fewer than 4,000 votes, 10 races were decided by fewer than 3,000 votes, eight were decided by fewer than 2,000 votes and five races were decided by fewer than 1,000 votes.

Rove loves his facts and figures, and the Democrats should pay attention to what he has to say here. No matter how much the Dems want to think otherwise, this was mostly an election motivated by voting against one party rather voting for the other party. And it was not the mandate some progressives are claiming -- it was close election. In other words, the Dems have their work cut out for them if they want to hold onto the seats they just won.

They have two years to convince the American people that they can do a better job than the GOP has done for the last 12 years. And during those two years, the Bush administration will try to undermine them and spin them and flat out lie about them to convince the electorate that they made a grave mistake in voting out the Republicans.

The spin has already begun in the blogosphere, with the wingnuts proclaiming all sorts of end-times scenarios now that the Dems are in power.

Michelle Malkin laments, The impeachment drumbeat begins.
Little Green Footballs claims, IBD: Conyers "In the Pocket of Islamists"
Right Wing News asks, Q&A Friday #53: Should Conservatives Let Democrats Impeach Bush?
Red State call the Dems win A victory for Iran

And that's just a few of the bigger wingnut blogs. Never mind that both Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean have said the Dems have no intention of impeaching Bush. The wingnuts have never let a little thing like the truth get in the way of their of their rants.

So the progressives have their work cut out for them. They need to show strong leadership (which is why we will not pull out of Iraq, but we will draw down the occupation force) and that they have a solid agenda that supports the lower and middle class American (raising the minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans, reducing drug costs in the Medicare drug program, and so on).

But they must also show that they can make Bush accountable to the people again and restore some of our civil rights without letting the right spin it that they are being soft on terrorism. There will be hearings on Halliburton and the other companies getting rich in Iraq. There will be hearings on Abu Ghraib. But there will not be impeachment hearings.

Two years is not much time to rebuild a party's reputation. But that's all they have, so they better do it well and do it cleanly.

Michael Hedges - Because It's There

Michael Hedges playing a harp guitar -- pretty damn impressive.

Satire: Veep Unlikely to Be Axed, Insiders Say

From the fertile and deranged mind (originally posted on Wednesday) of Andy Borowitz:
Cheney Reminds Bush He Has Pictures of Him Naked
Veep Unlikely to Be Axed, Insiders Say

Minutes after President George W. Bush announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly confronted Mr. Bush in the Oval Office and said to his boss, "If you're thinking of firing me, remember, I have those naked pictures of you and that goat."

The precise meaning of the vice president's comment, which has been the source of much speculation inside the Beltway in the last twenty-four hours, remains unclear, but White House aides said that it indicated "a high level of anxiety" on the part Mr. Cheney about his future in the Bush administration.

"The president told [former FEMA chief] Michael Brown that he was doing 'a heckuva job' right before he was axed, and just last week, he said the same thing about Rumsfeld and Cheney," one aide said. "I think that's what made the vice president mention those pictures of him and that goat."

While Mr. Cheney's future in the Bush administration was said to be shaky in recent weeks, reports that the vice president possesses naked pictures of Mr. Bush make his departure "unlikely," insiders say.

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) said that she had "no comment" about the possibility that that Mr. Cheney in fact possesses naked pictures of President Bush with a goat, but added, "If he does, it would certainly explain how he's lasted in the job this long."

Elsewhere, Sen. George Allen (R-Va) said that the recount in the Virginia senate race could last until Christmas, "or as I like to call it, Hanukah."

Online Cliff's Notes at LitSum

If you need to know the plot or the meaning of a piece of literature, Litsum is the place to go.
Welcome to Litsum, a totally new alternative for free literature summaries! If you are looking for free book summaries or book notes, Litsum has more free literature summaries than any other site. Our literature study guides include full chapter summaries and analysis, topics for discussion, quotes, style, themes and character analysis. Litsum is not only the largest free literature summary website online, but we strive to be the best.

Browse our study guides by title below or view all by title or view all by author.

I took a look at their analysis of a Sylvia Plath poem and found it decent enough for a freshman lit class, which means it provides the basics. Not a bad resource if you need to know the plot of a book or poem and don't have time to read it, but you're not likely to pass an upper division class with this stuff.

Sogyal Rinpoche on Compassion

Today's Rigpa Glimpse of the Day is on compassion:
Evoking the power of compassion in us is not always easy. I find myself that the simplest ways are the best and the most direct. Every day, life gives us innumerable chances to open our hearts, if we can only take them. An old woman passes you with a sad and lonely face and two heavy plastic bags full of shopping she can hardly carry. Switch on a television, and there on the news is a mother in Beirut kneeling above the body of her murdered son, or an old grandmother in Moscow pointing to the thin soup that is her only food. . . .

Any one of these sights could open the eyes of your heart to the fact of vast suffering in the world. Let it. Don’t waste the love and grief it arouses. In the moment you feel compassion welling up in you, don’t brush it aside, don’t shrug it off and try quickly to return to “normal,” don’t be afraid of your feeling or be embarrassed by it, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted from it. Be vulnerable: Use that quick, bright uprush of compassion—focus on it, go deep into your heart and meditate on it, develop it, enhance and deepen it. By doing this you will realize how blind you have been to suffering.

All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in spontaneous and immeasurable compassion.
Good heart advice to take into the day ahead.

Post-Election Humor, Part Deux

Here is some of what's been floating around the blogosphere.

Stephen Colbert's election night meltdown.

Howard Dean on the Daily Show.

Craig Ferguson's tribute to Donald Rumsfeld.

And here are some jokes from the late night comics:
"What a day for the Democrats. They've won the House of Representatives, they are poised to take the Senate as well, Donald Rumsfeld has resigned, and this just in, Dick Cheney came out as gay." --Jon Stewart

"Even though the Republican lost big on Tuesday, they've been busy all day in Washington. They’ve been spending all day packing up their bribe money." –David Letterman

"Dennis Hastert is no longer Speaker of the House. Don't worry about Dennis. He's going to be the new before-guy for Jenny Craig." –David Letterman

"The new Speaker of the House is Nancy Pelosi. She had lunch today with President Bush, but the lunch honestly did not go well. She would not pass him anything he asked for." –David Letterman

"There were many reports of problems with the voting machines yesterday, especially with touch-screen voting machines. In fact, in Congressman Mark Foley's district, some of the machines were touched inappropriately." --Conan O'Brien

"If the results hold up, George Allen will no longer be able to put the word senator in front of his name. He'll have to go back to his old title, 'Imperial wizard.' He was just two racial slurs away from winning." --Jay Leno

"Big, big win for the Democrats. Senator Hillary Clinton's overwhelming victory has fueled speculation that she will run for president in 2008. In other words, there was some good news for Republicans." --Conan O'Brien

"You know what really gets me, Democrats didn't even win this thing, the Republicans lost it. They ran away from the president. 'Hey, the ship's in trouble, quick, let's drown the captain!' We were this close to Jesus coming back. And you Republicans that turned your back on the president are going to wander in the desert for the next two years. Literally, someone's going to have to replace those troops in Iraq." --Stephen Colbert

Dan Rather, providing election an analysis on The Daily Show:
"She ran away with it like a hobo with a sweet potato pie." --on Hillary Clinton's Senate victory
There's more at the site.

Cosmic Support?

This was yesterday's Daily Om, which makes me question some assumptions of the New Age community:
Cosmic Support
The Universe's Plan For You

The path that speeds us toward our dreams can be a challenging and complex one, so it's easy to get bogged down in confusion and insecurities. We often hesitate at the start of that path, questioning our purpose or our capabilities. Yet we should be moving forward joyously, eager to discover what destiny has in store for us. The universe has plans for us that eclipse anything we have dreamed of thus far. Though we must work diligently to fulfill our potential and to accomplish our individual missions, the universe is aware of both the quests we chose before birth and the goals we have formulated in adulthood. If we accept that it us watching over us and believe that it will facilitate our eventual success, the universe will provide us with the assistance and opportunities that enable us to make significant progress on our journeys of ambition.

Nothing happens without a purpose. Whether we attract success or repel it depends on our willingness to stay open to a wide range of possibilities and to embrace concepts like synchronicity. The universe is always ready to care for our needs, but we must not write off its loving attention as mere circumstance or chance. Likewise, we must endeavor to ensure that our egos do not become a barrier that prevents us from recognizing that even perceived mistakes and strife can be profound lessons that smooth the progress of personal evolution. When we understand that we only need to enthusiastically try our best to realize our objectives, the universe will take care of the details, propelling us forward in its unstoppable current. We may not always immediately understand the significance of certain experiences, but our trust will help us choose wisely at each crossroads.

The universe wants to see you accomplish your goals. No matter how long you've dallied or hesitated, it will always be there to put its plan for you in motion at the first sign of your faith. You can make the most of this aid by acquiescing to it rather than fighting it-nurture your dreams but do not attempt to micromanage every detail along the way. The universe will provide you with guidance and, if you heed that guidance, you will find your formerly stressful quest for success will become a journey of great joy.
I'm not sure that I buy that the universe is looking out for me and wants me to succeed, but I do tend to think that if I can align my life with the evolutionary flow of my life in the universe, then I am likely to be successful as long as I can stay in the alignment. To think that the universe gives a damn about me smacks of magical thinking -- a pre-rational attempt to feel safe in an unpredictable world.

This Daily Om also raises the rather common New Age idea that we choose our lives before birth -- that assumes reincarnation and the continuity of the self from one lifetime to the next. This feels wrong to me in every possible way.

I'd be curious to know what others think about this idea. Do you think we have continuity of the self from one lifetime to the next, with different outer manifestations, and that we choose our lives and lessons before hand?

Speedlinking 11/10/06

Morning image is the Beauty of Fall:

Happy Friday!

~ From T-Nation: On-The-Go Nutrition.
~ The Skinny on Low-Carb: Eat More Vegetables. Excellent advice, as long as you get the needed protein to fuel weight loss.
~ Diabetes Kills 3.16M a Year Worldwide -- the article also has two ways to beat type-II diabetes.
~ More on diabetes: Lifestyle changes shown to cut risk of diabetes. Just in case you've been in a coma for the last ten years.
~ More diabetes related news: High blood sugar levels add to heart, stroke deaths.
~ Comprehensive Model Is First To Map Protein Folding At Atomic Level. Geek stuff, but very cool.

~ Negative Ads and Adaptation. Maybe the negative political ads failed this time around because of saturation that produced adaptation.
~ Space-Time Metaphors In Nonlinguistic Contexts. A follow-up on the first article, which generated good discussion.
~ What Makes Us Stick To Our Bad Habits? "Because, says a University of Alberta researcher, we aren't getting at the underlying reasons of why we persist in bad habits or risky behavior."
~ The neuroscience of speaking in tongues -- an article on the recent NYT article.
~ Reclaiming Your Spiritual Power -- 10 ways to lift yourself up when a spiritual leader lets you down. By Valerie Reiss at

~ Witch doctors in America. A look at the glossolalia -- "speaking in tongues" -- article from the New York Times.
~ Chew on This: Pre-Humans Enjoyed Extensive Menu.
~ Interview with Agnes Meyer-Brandis, installation artist.
~ The Nation's John Nichols: Measuring the Mandate.
~ Lauren Sandler at Salon looks at how evangelicals have Lost faith in the GOP. They voted in large numbers again (up 1% from 2004), but they didn't vote a straight GOP ticket this time.
~ It’s the War, Stupid—And the Youth Vote, And Angry Indies, And . . . . A congressional-elections expert explains why the Democrats' big election win doesn't necessarily add up to a nationwide shift to the left.

~ "Light" cigarette marketing snuffed out in Canada. Wonder if the US will ever get out from under the thumb of the tobacco industry.
~ The resurgence of the $2 bill.
~ Money Matters: A look at spending in this election cycle.
~ The Value of a New York Dollar (And why it’s worth only 76.2 cents).
~ GM To Unveil A New Electric Car.
~ Transit for Livable Communities.
~ Redefining Success: A New Approach to Business at Integrative Spirituality.

Live: The Dophin's Cry

The Distance to Here is still my favorite Live album.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Outing Gay Conservatives [Updated]

While talking about gay Republicans on Larry King Live, Bill Maher outed Ken Mehlman, chairman of the RNC. As reported by Huffington Post, CNN later edited out that piece of the discussion when they replayed the interview.

There are a lot of issues here.

1) Why did CNN edit that out? If Maher can't back it up, then it's his ass on the line, not CNN's. And whether he can back it up or not, it makes for morning water cooler talk, which is not something Larry King can often claim with his boring interviews.

[UPDATE: CNN has ordered YouTube to take down the original clip of Maher's comments. John at AmericaBlog received a letter from YouTube to that effect, a cease-and-desist letter. He has also posted the revised transcript from CNN of the interview, which retracts more than the Mehlman statement. HuffPo still has the video up. As usual, the cover-up is worse than the original offense.]

2) Why the hell does Maher feel it is his duty to out gay Republicans? I can see the hypocrisy angle of the GOP being pretty much militantly anti-gay and wanting to make them pay for that, but it feels petty and mean-spirited to do it that way.

3) So maybe Mehlman is gay, so what? Who the hell cares? I don't. I don't dislike him any more because he likes men -- I dislike him because he is a Republican who wants everyone else on the planet to believe what he believes, no matter how little proof there is for anything he believes. He's a narrow-minded little twit -- and that has nothing to do with who he sleeps with.

These are all fair issues, so to make up my own mind, I did a little more digging. Mehlman is single, so he has no family that will get burned in exploring this issue with him as a test case. And he has been targeted as gay for several years.

But Mehlman has evaded the gay question without issuing a denial. Again, from Huffington Post:

But what about RNC chairman Ken Mehlman? His sexual orientation has been the subject of speculation by gay rights advocates for several years and has been discussed on progressive radio talk shows. Mainstream reporters have never asked Mehlman if he is gay but Eric Resnick, a journalist for a gay publication in Cleveland, chased Mehlman down at a GOP fund-raising dinner in Akron. Resnick told Mehlman that he had been outed on blogs and talk radio and he wondered how he justified being gay and pushing an anti-gay agenda. Mehlman was non-responsive. Resnick persisted and finally asked Mehlman if he was gay.

"You have asked a question no one should have to answer," Mehlman responded.

The delicately chosen words annoyed Resnick and John Aravosis of Americablog. According to Aravosis, Mehlman, who is in his early 40s and unmarried, gave a "non-answer, answer."

"He's at the top of his profession in a conservative political party," Aravosis told me last year. "If he's not gay, why wouldn't he react the same way every straight guy does when someone asks them if they are gay? They sort of energetically tell you hell no they're not gay. Mehlman says nothing. Seems like he would want everyone in his party to know he's not gay. Maybe he's a closeted heterosexual."

Maybe you don't even defend being straight as though being gay is a horrible thing, but you simply say, "No, I am not gay."

If it was any other person, I'd say it's nobody's business if he is gay or not. But it's Ken Mehlman, chair of the RNC, a man who has been openly hostile to gay rights. He has said as much.

According to Mehlman and other conservative commentators, George Bush’s victory in 2004, along with GOP gains in the House and Senate, were based a successful two-pronged strategy: (1) emphasizing the need for strong leadership to counter the threat of terrorism, and (2) mobilizing millions of evangelical Christians and other culturally conservative voters upset about gay marriage, abortion, and other threats to traditional values. By aggressively pursuing the war on terrorism and by enacting policies such as a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage and additional restrictions on abortion, these conservatives now believe that President Bush and the Republican Congress can solidify the party’s newly expanded base and ensure GOP control of Congress and the White House for years to come.
Emphasis added.

So, if Mehlman can build election strategies around hating gays and lesbians and taking away their right to equal status under the Constitution, then maybe he has made himself fair game for the media -- and maybe outing him is within the rules of combat.

And then another voice in my head says that just because he is gay (if he is) does not mean he must support gay rights. Assuming he is a Christian, it may be abhorrent to him to be gay. He may pray ever day to be straight (good luck with that).

But Mehlman hasn't gotten himself into the mess that evangelical preacher Ted Haggard got mixed up in. The hypocritical preacher was outed by his gay male prostitute, Mike Jones. One of the main reasons Jones gave for outing Haggard after three years of well-paying sex was Haggard's support for anti-gay rights issues:
Mike Jones, a male escort from Denver, tells The Advocate he revealed his “sexual business relationship” with evangelical leader Ted Haggard to expose the hypocrisy in Haggard’s support for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. But he says he doesn’t wish the prominent pastor, who resigned on November 2, any ill will.
When a man does one thing in private and another in public, and he is a highly visible spokesperson, he opens himself to be outed -- at least, that's the rationale.

Part of me -- the part that likes to see idiots taken down a notch or two and likes to see hypocrisy exposed -- thinks this is all well and good. Let the outings commence.

But part of me feels that this is sinking to level of the opposition. In most instances, like Haggard's, much harm will come of the outing. And in the final analysis, it's no one's business what anyone does in the privacy of their own home -- or hotel room, or whatever.

If I want to claim that stance -- the right to privacy -- then I can't violate it simply because the other side is a bunch of hypocrites. If I want to oppose the conservative position on gay rights, then it will be on the merit of the arguments, not own exposing some of those in the other camp as gay or lesbian.

In that sense, I think what Jones and Maher did was wrong.

Harper's Index for October

I love silly factoids and statistics, so I've always enjoyed Harper's Index.

Harper's Index for October 2006

Portion of U.S. banking assets in 1996 that were controlled by the ten largest U.S. banks: 1/4 [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (Washington)]

Portion today: 1/2 [Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (Washington)]

Average salary package last year among all full-time employees of Goldman Sachs, including support staff: $521,000 [Goldman, Sachs & Co. (N.Y.C.)]

Chances of a recession in 2007, according to a chief economist of Merrill Lynch: 2 in 5 [David Rosenberg, Merrill Lynch (N.Y.C.)]

Number of the last six years that fine-art prices have outperformed the S&P 500: 5 [Mei Moses All Art Index (N.Y.C.)]

Percentage change since 1999 in the number of consumer complaints about harassment by U.S. debt-collection agencies: +564 [Federal Trade Commission (Washington)]

Number of Americans whose past-due accounts the IRS will turn over to private debt collectors by 2008: 350,000 [Internal Revenue Service (Washington)]

Portion of the IRS's staff of estate-tax auditors that the government plans to eliminate this year: 2/5 [National Treasury Employees Union (Washington)]

Salary of the White House's new Director for Lessons Learned: $106,641 [The White House (Washington)]

Factor by which the jobless rate among veterans under 25 of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars exceeds the U.S. average: 3 [Bureau of Labor Statistics (Washington)]

Percentage change since 2004 in the number of Army recruits admitted despite records of “serious criminal misconduct”: +54 [U.S. Army Recruiting Command (Fort Knox, Ky.)]

Estimated total number of people killed in Middle East wars since 1945: 1,640,000 [International Peace Research Institute (Oslo)/Harper's research]

Rank of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, respectively, among Lebanon's top employers: 1, 2 [Hilal Khashan, American University of Beirut]

Days beforehand that Deep Purple had to cancel the July 27 Lebanon date on its “Rapture of the Deep” tour: 4 [Thames Talent Ltd. (Westport, Conn.)]

Hours after the start of its war against Hezbollah that Israel's army chief sold $32,000 of his stock holdings: 3 [Maariv (Tel Aviv)]

Percentage of Americans in July who said the U.S. had “a responsibility to try to resolve” the Israeli-Arab conflict: 33 [New York Times‒CBS News Polls (N.Y.C.)]

Percentage of Americans who think that the president has “a lot” of control over the price of gasoline: 63 [New York Times‒CBS News Polls (N.Y.C.)]

Number of the 66 U.S. senators favoring the anti-flag-burning amendment in June who signed up as its named sponsors: 59 [Congressional Record (Washington)]

Minimum amount of USDA farm subsidies since 2000 that have been paid out to people who do not farm: $1,300,000,000 [Washington Post (Washington)]

Minimum value of “small business” contracts given out by the U.S. last year that went to Fortune 500 firms: $1,200,000,000 [Eagle Eye Publishers, Inc. (Fairfax, Va.)]

Percentage of funds used to get Pennsylvania's Green Party Senate candidate on the ballot that came from right-wingers: 100 [Federal Election Commission (Washington)/Paul Kiel, (N.Y.C.)]

Number of U.S. coal-burning plants on which construction has begun or been completed since 2005: 153 [National Energy Technology Laboratory (Pittsburgh)]

Energy, in megawatt hours, saved over thirty-five years by a bicycle rider who does not drive a car: 109 [Karl T. Ulrich, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)]

Portion of these savings that will be used up over the extra years the biker will live: 9/10 [Karl T. Ulrich, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)]

Percentage change since 1990 in the number of elderly Americans: +16 [U.S. Census Bureau]

Percentage change in Nevada: +106 [U.S. Census Bureau]

Chances that a U.S. retiree says that he or she was forced to stop working earlier than planned: 2 in 5 [McKinsey & Company (N.Y.C.)]

Estimated chance, according to new fossil research, that a Tyrannosaurus rex lived to full maturity: 1 in 50 [Gregory M. Erickson, Florida State University (Tallahassee)]

Ratio of the estimated number of tigers living in the wild to the number living as U.S. pets: 1:1 [World Wildlife Fund (Washington)/The Humane Society of the United States (Washington)]

Estimated amount that a farmed tiger could fetch if sold for parts, according to an Indian free-market think tank: $120,000 [Liberty Institute (New Delhi)]

Amount the Alaska Zoo paid last year to build a treadmill for its 8,000-pound elephant: $150,000 [Alaska Zoo (Anchorage)]

Number of times the elephant has used the treadmill so far: 0 [Alaska Zoo (Anchorage)]

Factor by which the number of attacks on U.S. forest rangers last year exceeded the number in 1995: 14 [Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Washington)]

Estimated amount that tourism will add to Rwanda's economy next year: $26,000,000 [Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (Kigali)]

Number of “genocide sites” that the country has opened up to visitors: 35 [Andrea Dooley, California College of the Arts (San Francisco)]

Estimated number of minutes of cocoa picking required to make a treat-sized Hershey chocolate bar: 1 [Harper's research]

Estimated number of people worldwide who die each year from too much sun: 60,000 [World Health Organization (Geneva)]

Percentage of tea drunk in America that is served iced: 85 [Tea Association of the USA (N.Y.C.)]

Percentage of volunteers in a four-year psychedelic-mushroom study who said they experienced “strong or extreme fear”: 31 [Roland Griffiths, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore)]

Percentage who described the experience as “among the five most meaningful” in their lives: 67