02 December 2013

Imagine: Religion as Social Reform - Reza Aslan, Iran, and Religious Faith

Reza Aslan

La Paloma, Uruguay
So, the holiday season is upon us. It always sneaks up on me, here in the Southern Hemisphere, where springtime is awakening into summertime. It doesn’t help that I live in a summer resort town, where the bigger issue is the launch of the holiday season that will rain a deluge of beachgoers onto the usually solitary sands of the lovely, if rather windy, shores of La Paloma. Plus, the Catholicism that infuses Latin American culture is not nearly as ubiquitous in Uruguay, and this country’s clearly defined separation of church and state also tempers the Christmas holiday atmosphere. Besides, not since childhood has Christmas been a holiday that I can get into, anyway, given my distain for the crass commercialization and hyper-consumerism that surrounds it in the States. Well, that, plus I am an atheist who feels a bit hypocritical celebrating something I don’t believe in, although I can dig the idea of celebrating family togetherness and the joy that so many other people get out of the whole thing for their own sakes. Oh, but there’s so much more emotional baggage involved in my attitude toward Christmastime, including memories of that one really difficult Christmas that preceded my mother’s death from breast cancer by about a month, all those years ago...

08 September 2013

From "I have a dream" to "I will seek authorization for the use of force"

From "I have a dream" to "I will seek authorization for the use of force," the final week of August 2013 was an intense one.

"I have a dream"

We had the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington reminding us of how far our nation has and hasn't come in achieving race equality, putting us in a self-reflective mood and highlighting the conflict between those who climbed up and, as a part of the establishment, are now standing on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroic civil rights advocates versus those who see such leaders as sellouts rather than as examples of the movement's successes.

Fifty years is not much time, in the grand scope of things; yet, because of the increasingly accelerated speed of change in modern society, it constitutes a huge generational gap in which the synergy of King's life and work has become subtly diluted.

11 July 2013

Eward Snowden Strange Love, or How I Haven't Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bumb

This Snowden NSA leak saga is doing strange things to me.

For starters, it has me obsessed. This real-time spy thriller has me scanning through the Internets, searching for the latest news and looking for any and all information about this snowy-white computer whiz kid that I can dig up. I want to know everything.

Freedom of information

I want to know more details about Snowden's life, like when he switched from believing that whistle blowers were traitors to believing that they are heroes.

I want to know the details of his military service, along with what Snowden's opinion might be about the fact that the US Army is declining to release his records. Would he condemn the government's refusal to reveal the truth, or would he applaud the government's respect for his right to privacy?

I want to know why the initial sensational reports by both The Guardian and The Washington Post about the PRISM Internet surveillance program had gotten the details of the NSA's access to information wrong, erring, of course, on the side of sensationalism.

11 June 2013

Secrecy, Scandals, and Snowden

This is a bit contrary to the usual progressive stance on the latest NSA data collection revelations. Although I believe that the legal system that is in place might very well be infringing on our Fourth-Amendment rights, I don't see a major scandal here. Rather, I see an opportunity highlight the danger of excessive secrecy.

Back in September 2008, after giving birth to by book, No Stranger To Strange Lands, had sadly come to an end, I felt like the only way to rid myself of a sense of post-partum depression was to keep writing, indulging myself in writing an undisciplined screed titled Secrecy, Democracy,and Fascism: Lessons From History. Having been watching a lot of episodes of House, the theme was to discover the disease that was manifesting itself as through the unfortunate symptom of runaway conspiracy theories and, I was arguing, unwarranted distrust of the government. "Mis-diagnosing the disease, "I wrote, "can be as bad or worse than just ignoring it." I was deeply troubled by such issues as Karl Rove's plan to politicize the judiciary and create one-party rule, Dick Cheney's penchant for secrecy and his abuse of power in lashing out against Joe Wilson for outing the administration's flawed argument for going to war in Iraq, and George Bush's excessive use of signing statements, and I decided to take a look at what critical terms Like "tyranny" and "fascism" that were being bandied about really meant — what it was that our failing democracy was becoming. The issue of secrecy seemed to me to be one of the greatest forces eroding at democracy, which depends upon informed citizens to function properly. Secrecy also erodes trust, and a crisis in trust can turn into an earthquake, catastrophically tearing apart the foundation of democracy.

23 April 2013

Richie Haven's Magic Lives On

Sad news: Richie Havens died yesterday, 22 April, 2013. I am so glad to have had a chance to see him perform. I can truly say that Richie Havens touched my life deeply with his passion and beauty. Here is an article I wrote about the experience, which was about a month before Jamie and I flew to Buenos Aires to begin our South America adventure.

Richie Havens Magic
March 2009
Valdosta, Georgia, USA

Richie Havens performed along with an accompanist on guitar at the Suwannee Springfest back in March 2009, and I was lucky enough to get to see him. What a beautiful, shining example of a Wonderful Human Being he is! Jamie and I were standing together down in the amphitheater, and a good friend came and enjoyed the show with us, and then another beautiful friend found us, too. The whole incident was about peace and love and compassion, and was truly a moving experience.

24 March 2013

Overcoming Inertia

Note: This article was written a few weeks ago, but due to some engrossing assignments, I didn’t have time to clean it up and post it until now. So please accept my apologies for lagging a bit behind in the national conversation. I feel that the main ideas discussed are important, despite this. Thanks to all my readers, Julie

Pre-script: So this commentary is not so out of the loop after all: 
US Aids Honduran Police Despite Death Squad Fears

A report published 30 January 2013 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that during fiscal years 2008 through 2011, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Aid spent $97 million of the allocated $350 million in support of the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), a spinoff of the 2007 Mérida Initiative that was aimed at fighting drug crime in Mexico and Central America. The funds were funneled through four foreign assistance accounts into programs to “strengthen law enforcement and maritime interdiction capabilities, support capacity building and training programs, and deter and detect border criminal activity,” according to the GAO.

25 January 2013

Thoughts on World events, Sources of Anger, and the Coming Out of the Progressive Agenda

World events

World events over the past two months since my last post have been riveting. The elections came and went, and then, just as I foretold, Israel attacked Gaza, only ceasing when Obama, trying hard to pull off his pivot to Asia, sent Clinton to babysit. Egypt’s newly elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, shone in the international spotlight for his role in brokering the peace, only to set off violent conflict in his own country by letting his success go to his head and decreeing himself above the law. Though he backed off, the polarized nation continues to struggle with the significance of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood having come to power after the revolutionary uprising was sparked by the liberal opposition.

I had also been moved to write about Greece, and indeed, the situation there has only become more tense. Fallout from the Lagarde List scandal combines with austerity measures, pay cuts, and tax increases to force regular Greek citizens to carry heavy burdens for the corruption and ineptitude of their leaders. Add to the mix the growing influence of the neo-Nazi paramilitary Golden Dawn and their ability to crush freedom of expression in the birthplace of democracy, and the situation warrants even more attention from those who see that Greece’s fate is not isolated from the fate of other democracies of the world.

And so the world struggles forward, with conflicts and difficulties that seem, at the moment, to be heading away from rather than toward resolution...

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