29 March 2007


Sam Gets Creative

From my nephew, Sam.

27 March 2007


It's Not Too Loud, So I Guess I'm Not Too Old

Today's poem.

25 March 2007


Zbig on the "War on Terror"

Former national security advisor (to Jimmy Carter) Zbigniew Brzezinski has this to say (in the Washington Post, reg. req.?) about the so-called "War on Terror:"
The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done—a classic self-inflicted wound—is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare—political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."


The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.
Clearly, there's more, and I suggest reading the whole thing.

It's not that Brzezinski has a 1.000 batting average on these things: He was part of the Carter team that screwed up the US response to the Iranian revolution, but he was also part of the Carter team that got the response to Soviet aggression in Europe right, a policy of putting new US missles into Europe that was later implemented by Reagan much to the consternation of phony peaceniks worldwide. Compare with the G. W. Bush team which has done little right in the security arena since the initial invasion of Afghanistan post 9/11.

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Kramer vs. You

No, I don't believe every last word of what Larry Kramer recently wrote, but I do think he's got many interesting ideas about the situation we gay people find ourselves in in this world, at this time. His brush is necessarily broad: If its description isn't particularly accurate to you as an individual in your locale, at this moment, should you be surprised? The larger question is whether he's captured somethings about the context in the USA as a whole, at this instant.

You have to ask yourself in your heart of hearts whether you believe that inequality for people who are gay can be justified in any way shape or form? You have to separate out what you've been told from what you know with your own eyes, with your own heart. You have to be honest about your fears, if that's what they are, but open to the idea that those fears are goundless.

I believe, in my own heart of hearts, that if you honestly partake in those thought experiments, if you ask yourself how you will respond out of love if you find out your co-worker, your friend, your child, your sibling, your parent, your spouse, is not heterosexual, you will know in that same heart of hearts that what Kramer accurately, in my opinion, diagnosed as just plain hatred is just plain wrong. At that point, when given the opportunities, maybe you can do something positive to respond to that hatred, starting with standing up to those who think they can speak hatefully about people who aren't heterosexual without being challenged, without expecting to have their opinions critically examined by those they believe should be tacit allies in oppressing people who are gay.

Is it consistent with a deep and mature sense of human rights that I should be able to be fired for being gay? Is it consistent with a deep and mature sense of human rights that I should have to pay taxes on jointly owned property if my partner of many years should die? That I should not be able to collect pensions or Social Security? Are you so cynical about human nature that you don't believe we can nuture a deep and mature sense of human rights applicable to all people?


We may be, certainly are, flawed creatures, but we have shown at numerous times and places in our history that we can become better in the whole by broadening our perspective about what equality, fairness, and justice entail.

Get with the program.



More AZ Pics

More pictures from my recent trip to Arizona are up at our Flickr site here. For example...

I-17 Rest Area View

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21 March 2007


Larry Kramer's Letter


Why do you hate gay people so much?

Gays are hated. Prove me wrong. Your top general just called us immoral. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is in charge of an estimated 65,000 gay and lesbian troops, some fighting for our country in Iraq. A right-wing political commentator, Ann Coulter, gets away with calling a straight presidential candidate a faggot. Even Garrison Keillor, of all people, is making really tacky jokes about gay parents in his column. This, I guess, does not qualify as hate except that it is so distasteful and dumb, often a first step on the way to hate. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama tried to duck the questions that Pace's bigotry raised, confirming what gay people know: that there is not one candidate running for public office anywhere who dares to come right out, unequivocally, and say decent, supportive things about us.

Gays should not vote for any of them. There is not a candidate or major public figure who would not sell gays down the river. We have seen this time after time, even from supposedly progressive politicians such as President Clinton with his "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military and his support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, it's possible that being shunned by gays will make politicians more popular, but at least we will have our self-respect. To vote for them is to collude with them in their utter disdain for us.

Don't any of you wonder why heterosexuals treat gays so brutally year after year after year, as your people take away our manhood, our womanhood, our personhood? Why, even as we die you don't leave us alone. What we can leave our surviving lovers is taxed far more punitively than what you leave your (legal) surviving spouses. Why do you do this? My lover will be unable to afford to live in the house we have made for each other over our lifetime together. This does not happen to you. Taxation without representation is what led to the Revolutionary War. Gay people have paid all the taxes you have. But you have equality, and we don't.

And there's no sign that this situation will change anytime soon. President Bush will leave a legacy of hate for us that will take many decades to cleanse. He has packed virtually every court and every civil service position in the land with people who don't like us. So, even with the most tolerant of new presidents, gays will be unable to break free from this yoke of hate. Courts rule against gays with hateful regularity. And of course the Supreme Court is not going to give us our equality, and in the end, it is from the Supreme Court that such equality must come. If all of this is not hate, I do not know what hate is.

Our feeble gay movement confines most of its demands to marriage. But political candidates are not talking about—and we are not demanding that they talk about—equality. My lover and I don't want to get married just yet, but we sure want to be equal.

You must know that gays get beaten up all the time, all over the world. If someone beats you up because of who you are—your race or ethnic origin—that is considered a hate crime. But in most states, gays are not included in hate crime measures, and Congress has refused to include us in a federal act.

Homosexuality is a punishable crime in a zillion countries, as is any activism on behalf of it. Punishable means prison. Punishable means death. The U.S. government refused our requests that it protest after gay teenagers were hanged in Iran, but it protests many other foreign cruelties. Who cares if a faggot dies? Parts of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. are joining with the Nigerian archbishop, who believes gays should be put in prison. Episcopalians! Whoever thought we'd have to worry about Episcopalians?

Well, whoever thought we'd have to worry about Florida? A young gay man was just killed in Florida because of his sexual orientation. I get reports of gays slain in our country every week. Few of them make news. Fewer are prosecuted. Do you consider it acceptable that 20,000 Christian youths make an annual pilgrimage to San Francisco to pray for gay souls? This is not free speech. This is another version of hate. It is all one world of gay-hate. It always was.

Gays do not realize that the more we become visible, the more we come out of the closet, the more we are hated. Don't those of you straights who claim not to hate us have a responsibility to denounce the hate? Why is it socially acceptable to joke about "girlie men" or to discriminate against us legally with "constitutional" amendments banning gay marriage? Because we cannot marry, we can pass on only a fraction of our estates, we do not have equal parenting rights and we cannot live with a foreigner we love who does not have government permission to stay in this country. These are the equal protections that the Bill of Rights proclaims for all?

Why do you hate us so much that you will not permit us to legally love? I am almost 72, and I have been hated all my life, and I don't see much change coming.

I think your hate is evil.

What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.

And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.

You may say you don't hate us, but the people you vote for do, so what's the difference? Our own country's democratic process declares us to be unequal. Which means, in a democracy, that our enemy is you. You treat us like crumbs. You hate us. And sadly, we let you.

(Original here at the L. A. Times.)




The text on the southward semicircle reads:
A sundial is a living object. It needs no winding and is driven by no weight. It has something to say, and it says it. It speaks about time, never ceasing to recall the flight of time, its tragedy and irreversability for men. The thoughts arise of the earth, of the end of everything, of eternity, of the world beyond..... Rene R. J. Rohr

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Where Ya Been?

U.S. and Arizona Flags

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11 March 2007


Edison Explained (Kinda Sorta)

From this article (reg. req.) on Thomas Edison in today's New York Times:
One occasion when Edison cast off the expectations of others in his middle age was when he met Henry Stanley, of “Dr. Livingston, I presume” fame, and Stanley’s wife, who had come to visit him at his laboratory in West Orange, N.J. Edison provided a demonstration of the phonograph, which Stanley had never heard before. Stanley asked, in a low voice and slow cadence, “Mr. Edison, if it were possible for you to hear the voice of any man whose name is known in the history of the world, whose voice would you prefer to hear?”

“Napoleon’s,” replied Edison without hesitation.

“No, no,” Stanley said piously, “I should like to hear the voice of our Savior.”

“Well,” explained Edison, “You know, I like a hustler.”
The article's author's biography on Edison is coming out this week. Hopefully both Gates and Jobs will read.

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10 March 2007


Why I <Heart> Covey's Seven Habits?

Over on my MySpace page, Jimmi Swift asked me why I was a fan of Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Actually, when I listed the book on my favorites, I said it had changed my life, and Jimmi asked how.

When I read Seven Habits, I had been out of grad school and teaching for a few years, and we had recently bought our first home. I was always behind: I just had a hard time keeping up with what I had to do for home, for work. I was overwhelmed by life.

Seven Habits helped me imagine that my life didn't have to be like that. That I could successfully identify what I wanted to get done and prioritize when I would do them. Until then, I just used a Day Runner with appointments in it. The idea of weekly planning–which is still a regular activity for me almost ten years later–may have been the key. Just setting some time aside to scope out what the week would be like, to at least make an attempt at arranging it, instead of letting things come as they may.

I also liked the larger framework of the seven habits themselves: (1) Be proactive; (2) Start with the end in mind; (3) Put first things first; (4) Think win-win; (5) Seek to understand, then to be understood; (6) Synergize; and (7) Sharpen the saw (physical, mental, social, spiritual). To be honest, I had never imagined these concepts previously. It helps me be as a college professor, someone who's supposed to have a positive impact on the lives of younger people, to be more directed along those lines. Honestly, I had never heard the word "proactive" at the time.

I did one of the Franklin-Covey training sessions a few years after that. At that time, what they taught was a mixed-marriage from the Franklin-Covey merger. Not only did you get Covey weekly planning and attitudes (and platitudes) that focus on one's roles in life and one's mission statement, you also got the Franklin Quest daily planning and daily prioritizing (PDTL: Prioritized Daily Task List) built on one's values and goals. There's a tension between the two frameworks, between Covey and Smith, and while I really liked the F-C software I used on my Palm at the time, I think I played it to the limit without going to another one of their N-hundred-dollar seminars. Hey, I like activities like that, but wasn't sure that was what I needed. I read several of Covey and team's other books in the meantime.

When I upgraded to the Treo 650 for my PDA, the F-C planning software I'd been using on my Palm wouldn't make the transition, so I went without planning software for close to a year. It was disastrous. Not only did I make less progress towards longer-term and bigger goals, I lost touch with lots of day-to-day responsibilities. I eneded up kloodging together F-C system behavior with memos on my Treo, but it never really worked.

Most recently, I've been trying to do the Getting Things Done system by David Allen. It's much more focused on taking care of things at the lowest level, with the idea that the higher-level things will sort themselves out better when you're not constantly trying to keep details from falling through the cracks. So far, it's working. My inbox stays empty, I stay pretty much on top of my ToDo list items, and I still take time to think about what it is I'm trying to do on a weekly basis. Unlike, the Covey system, Allen says do it on Friday afternoon, since nothing else is getting done at work then. That's cool, because I use time that might not get used as productively at work, and I get back the hour or so of weekly planning I used to give up on Sunday mornings for other things. Like blogging.

And as far as task management systems, I'm using Llamagraphic's Life Balance for my PDA based tasks. I also keep a ToDo folder in my mail.

Covey's systems and framework have lots to offer in the larger areas of how to be a good person, and that's not something to sniff at. But for now, I'm using other tools and another framework for time-management. But I don't think I'd've ever gotten here
–in terms of accomplishment, but more importantly in terms of taking care of myself and others and just being somewhat responsible–without having read Covey's book.

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01 March 2007


Warning: Excessive Cuteness

Mack's niece in Seattle, who already had four-or-so year old twin boys, just had twin girls last week.



Area Homosexual Orders Hot Dog at Hooters, Is Serenaded with "Weiner Man" by Hooters Girls

As our waitress told Mack, "Never, ever, order a hot dog at Hooters," after the Hooters Girls had sung "Weiner Man" to him.

Yesterday was his birthday, and I was taking him out for dinner tonight. He wanted wings.


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