Carl puts it into perspective

While we are pondering who should be the next leader of the most powerful nation on the planet, I think it is appropriate to put the campaign issues in perspective. So, on the occasion of his birthday November 9, 1934, scientist, author and prescient philosopher, I present Carl Sagan.

His writing and his series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, impacted me in ways that continue to shape who I am and what I believe. His life’s work was exploration and education and while he accomplished so much more than the great majority of us will in our lifetimes, he was gone much too soon.Hopefully, his words will cause you to reflect on what is important and how you define friend, family or neighbor.Peace.

If you don’t have YouTube access here is a version in text.

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Free Speech Taking It On The Chin

It’s been a bad month for free speech and, apparently, some people with very, very sensitive feelings.

The comedian Kathy Griffin, proving that you don’t have to make fun of pedophile priests to be edgy, dissed the semi-mythical figure of Jesus during her acceptance speech at the Emmy awards. Lampooning the disingenuous winners who attribute their success to their deity, Kathy Griffin cracked, “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award, I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. … Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now!”

Reaction to this was swift. The Catholic League condemned her quip as “hate speech” and members of Tennessee’s “Miracle Theater” posted a $90K full-page add in USA Today stating, “Enough is Enough”, referring to the entertainment industry’s supposed anti-Christian bias. You might think that people who were content in their blessings from a personal relationship with the Lord of Heaven, might have taken a more “sticks and stones….” attitude. Well, maybe a backwater professional Christian theater group doesn’t often get the opportunity for that much national attention, do they? I guess they could, if they donated that $ 90,000 to feed children or build a school, or something.

Under pressure from these groups, the TV Academy has opted to cut Griffin’s remarks from the broadcast.

There is a lot that can be said about remark itself. Like how it goes to the very core of comedy, holding up to your face that which is common and revealing it as absurd. That really isn’t important. The important point is that entertainment, satire and public speech should be protected. They are foundational to a free society and the repression of said speech, is the tipping point of a very slippery slope indeed.

Griffin’s response, “I hope I offended some people. Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?” I have a strong suspicion that Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, the cast of Monty Python and Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G), to name a few, would say it is her job to offend people.

But wait, there’s more… “Sally Field’s anti-war remarks were censored by Fox” on and “Why Did Fox Censor Sally Field’s Emmy Speech?” from

A far more troubling incident occurred yesterday when the Senate passed a resolution expressing outrage at a advertisement in the New York Times with the bold heading “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” Where does this outrage come from, a collective guilty conscience? (“How Dare You”, Michael Kinsley,, Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2007) is a liberal lobbying group with millions of members, it has consistently opposed the war and the current administration. Where is the surprise? Why was it more important for the Senate to take time to respond to an advertisement than supposedly finding better ways to improve the lives of Americans? Where is that same commitment to healthcare, to the economy, to education, to the soldiers and veterans that come home damaged?

Is it really so troubling that a group opposed to the war is skeptical of a report which paints a positive picture of our recent actions there? Is it un-American to be unconvinced?

Republican candidate for president, Rudy Giuliani, ripped Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, for not voting to condemn the message. Using a tactic that has become so commonplace in the Bush years, Giuliani condemned Clinton’s skepticism as turning her back on the troops. Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, is probably privy to many more reports on the situation in Iraq than a former Mayor. It would seem more reasonable for Giuliani to ask, “If she’s unconvinced, what am I missing?”

Again, there is a great deal in the content of the messages from Kathy Griffin and that is worth discussing and is incredibly important to the times we live in and our future, but that is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, IF OUR FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS SUPPRESSED.

I was going to finish up with a quote attributed to Voltaire about freedom of speech. You know the one, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your RIGHT to say it.” Unfortunately, the exact wording is hard to pin down and there seems to be a question as to whether he said it or it was a paraphrasing of his personal attitude. It is not found in any of his writings.

Instead, I will wrap with a quote that I know belongs to the magnificent French poet, philosopher and satirist known under the pen-name of Voltaire. “I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O, Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.” (Voltaire / 1694-1778 / Letter to M. Damilaville / May 16, 1767)


What's Mitt got up his sleeve?

Apparently, Mitt Romney is a big fan of last year’s The Prestige In a recent interview on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company Mitt outdid even the great magician’s of the past. He successfully made Senator Larry Craig (R-IDAHO), NOT GAY senator and Mitt Romney supporter, disappear and replaced him with Bill Clinton.

The Pledge: The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object and asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real.

Kudlow:”… Mr. Craig’s one of your Senate leaders. I believe he was your Idaho state chairman. What is your comment on the Craig problem, sir?”

Gov. Romney: “…Very disappointing. He’s no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine. ”

The Turn: The magician takes the ordinary and makes it do something extraordinary.

Kudlow: “…Mr. Craig was forced to deny having sex with pages. Isn’t this the sort of thing that reminds us all of the Mark Foley (R-FL) episode last fall, before the elections, that was devastating to the Republicans?”

Gov. Romney: “Yeah, I think it reminds us of Mark Foley and Bill Clinton. I think it reminds us of the fact that people who are elected to public office continue to disappoint…”

Now you’re looking for the secret.. but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.
That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call The Prestige.

KUDLOW: Governor, if there were a President Romney, and you heard this, and your staff briefed you on some of the past allegations and charges, and there seems to be something of a cover-up, a silence on this with regard to Craig, would you not call for him to resign from the Senate?

Gov. ROMNEY: If–you know, I don’t know the circumstances right now of his setting, and so I really can’t call–make that call without having reviewed it, Larry. I will review that, and we’ll give you a call on that. I certainly felt that Bill Clinton shouldn’t have stayed in office. But you know, with regards to this setting, why, we’ll take a close look at it.

KUDLOW: Actually, on that Clinton point, you threw Clinton in with the Craig episode and the Mark Foley episode. Could you just expand a little bit on that for us, sir?

Gov. ROMNEY: I’m not sure I need to. I think we’ve all heard the story about Bill Clinton and the fact that he let us down in his personal conduct with a–with a White House intern. And that strikes me as another one of these extraordinary acts of falling short of what America would expect of elected officials, particularly one who should be held to a higher standard.

You really have to stand up and applaud the guy. A member of his party, with a history of allegations that include public fellatio, cocaine use and sex with male teenage congressional pages, is accused of soliciting gay sex in an airport bathroom (AGAIN!) and he turns it to a discussion of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. He even gets the interviewer to head down that road with him. Brilliant!

Transcript of Mitt Romney on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company


How do you save the world?

I was recently forwarded Bill Gates’ speech from the Harvard Commencement from a friend.

This friend and I have a friendly back and forth about Mr Gates. I, as a consultant and systems developer, have a great disdain for Microsoft products and predatory business practices. My friend, as a researcher in the field of public health, has great respect for Mr. Gates since his foundation picked up the funding for Johns Hopkins to continue the work of the excellent nutrition research she participated in for more than a decade in Nepal.

I have to admit, this was a great speech and I will grant her that Bill Gates has, after many years of predatory business practices that have made his extremely mediocre product ubiquitous and garnered him a fat butt-load of cash, grown into a force for positive change to be reckoned with.

He did have one particularly salient point, I thought. The marketing of the “Tragedy Du Jour” does distract us from the protracted, less sexy, problems that don’t go away and confront a much greater portion of the world population.

Recently, I came in contact with a group of people putting a great deal of effort into raising money and awareness for a pretty rare disease that took the life of a peer. This was an understandable response to tragic loss and it demonstrates the esteem in which this individual was held. I did, however, step back and consider why put such care and energy into a disease that takes the lives of less than 300 people a year when there are other problems equally deserving of those resources that could help many more people.

I think we respond very well with a great deal of caring and sacrifice to problems that are immediate and important, like a Hurricane, a Tsunami, or a Bridge Collapse. It is in the interstices of these that most of us are cast adrift, waiting for the evening news to bring us our next cause.

I’m going to try to make my giving more considered and consistent, now that I think of it.


Bush quotes relating to religion

I don’t know which disturbs me more, that so much of his understanding of the world is based on mythology or that much of the time he makes no sense at all.

The word according to Dubya: 50 religious insights from George Bush Collected from: Dubya Speak

Most Frightening: “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did. ” Sharm el-Sheikh August 2003

Most Obtuse: “I don’t think you order suiciders to kill innocent men, women, and children if you’re a religious person. ” Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, Jul. 14, 2004


Like Jon Stewart without the funny…

Saw this today on DailyKos which has been getting lots of great press lately, thanks to Bill O’reilly being such a loud-mouth jerk.

Lots of good points in a very straightforward format. I think that’s what we need more of, without the visceral talking heads putting on a show. People like O’reilly
and Hannity and Colmes really do nothing for the discourse.
I think it’s great, give a listen: