Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obama should be the next president of the United States because he is the most qualified change agent. Obama is a little young, but also brilliant. If he sometimes seems brainy and professorial, that's OK. We need the leader of the free world to think things through, carefully. We have seen the sorry results of shooting from the hip.
-Washington Times

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Global Warming

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Judgement of John McCain

The choice of John McCain to ask the American people to put a first-term governor of a state with fewer people than Cobb County, Georgia, a heartbeat away from the presidency shows a pretty serious lack of judgement. It also insults the intelligence of American women. In selecting Sarah Palin, he passed over several far more qualified women in his party, including Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. He has selected a running mate with no experience in, and apparently no knowledge of foreign policy, in spite of the fact that his primary case against Barack Obama has been lack of experience in that department. It is becoming quite clear that the vetting process in this selection was practically nonexistent. It is less clear whether he intended (or, more accurately, Karl Rove intended) Ms. Palin to attract Clinton supporters or to shore up the evangelical base.

I personally cannot imagine any Clinton supporter transferring their loyalty, merely on the basis of gender, to a candidate whose views and record on the issues are the polar opposite of those held and fought for by Hillary Clinton. She opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape and incest, a position which puts her at odds with roughly 70% of the American people. She opposes comprehensive sex education, same-sex domestic partner benefits, and gun control legislation. She believes global warming is a completely natural phenomenon, and has an abysmal record on the environment. Her belief in a purely market-driven healthcare system could not possibly contrast more starkly with the views of Senator Clinton, from whom no issue has received as much attention or passion.

So far, the leaders of the evangelical segment of the Republican party are coming out in support of Governor Palin, which seems a bit surprising, in spite of her conservative views. This is a woman who has repeatedly sacrificed her family for her career. She brags of returning to work within days of the births of her children, in one case within one day. Family values? It is painfully clear that if the parties in this situation were reversed these same leaders would be relentlesly attacking the candidate.

The way I see it, the problem with Ms. Palin's decision has nothing to do with her gender. I would question the priorities of any parent, mother or father, who did not feel that having a special needs infant at home, and a pregnant teenaged daughter were sufficient reasons NOT to accept the possibility of assuming the most stressful and time-consuming job in the nation. Both of these children are going to need a tremendous amount of time and support from BOTH of their parents over the coming months and years. Ms. Palin is 44 years old and has plenty of time to realize her political ambitions. She has a very limited window of opportunity, however, to give these two children (not to mention her other children) what they need right now. Furthermore she made this decision knowing full well that it would thrust her daughter into the national spotlight at a very vulnerable time in her life.

I listened to Michelle Obama speak passionately about the gravity with which they had considered the decision to run, the impact they knew it would have on their daughters, and the steps they had taken to make the process as easy as possible for their girls. Perhaps I have missed something, but I have not heard anything remotely similar from the Palins.

We are still waiting for Governor Palin to stand before the media and field their questions. It will be interesting to see how she handles it when she finally does. I, for one, am betting that Sarah Palin will soon go the way of Thomas Eagleton. If not, this election is Barack Obama's to lose.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

American Pride

“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country, because it feels like hope is making a comeback… not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change."

These words of Michelle Obama have received a lot of attention in the media. It is significant that most of the flap over her words has come not from Obama's immediate rival, Hillary Clinton, but from Cindy McCain and other conservatives. This small point highlights a big problem in politics. Pride has become synonymous with patriotism. Patriotism is a word that implies action. Someone who is patriotic not only loves her country but is willing to serve it and fight for it. Pride is a feeling, often a dangerous one. I have heard so many responses to Mrs. Obama's comment along the lines of "I'm ALWAYS proud of my country, no matter what." And therein lies the problem. If you love your country, then you want to see it become the best it can possibly be. That can't happen if pride gets in the way of pointing out the problems we have, the mistakes we have made. Rhetoric and lapel pins apparently have become more important than action.

I read this comment on a post on Mark Elrod's blog:
"Call me crazy, but perhaps Mrs. Obama was speaking as a Black woman for whom very much of this national-cultural experience has in fact been shameful, and perhaps she’s experiencing pride as a page of history turns with resolve. Of course, I don’t know her, but I can imagine some macro-relief and joy in this awfully significant moment in history when a Black man and a Woman duke it out in hard scrabble politics for a legitimate, mandated prize. It’s new, and perhaps her pride is too." - JRB

Couldn't have said it better myself.

My hope is that we Americans will love our country enough to want to make it the best it can be, work doggedly to bring about the changes that need to be made, and, like Michelle Obama, reserve our pride for those moments in our nation's history that merit pride.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I've added a few elements to my blog: The Cost of War counter, favorite books, websites, and blogs. I will try to update these periodically. First I'll give a few very brief reviews of some of the books I recommend.

Mountains Beyond Mountains
I can't say enough good things about this book, or about Dr. Paul Farmer. What sets him apart from most medical "missionaries" is his incredible compassion for his patients. He is funny, profane, brilliant, and driven. The book primarily involves his work in Haiti, but you can learn more about his organization, Partners in Health at www.pih.org.


Surprised by Joy
I've read every book C.S. Lewis has written, and this one is my favorite. It tells the story of his early life, and his journey from childish belief to atheism to genuine faith. This is the book that made me fall in love with C.S. Lewis.

The Case for Christianity
The Lewis book I recommend most frequently. It was also published under the title Broadcast Talks. This tiny volume can be read in a sitting, and presents an intelligent, logical case for belief in Jesus.

If God is Love
A radical book about universal salvation. You may not agree with the authors, but it will challenge you to think and to live more compassionately. I'm a big fan of Philip Gulley.

The Irresistible Revolution
One of the most challenging books I have read in a long time. Challenging because I cannot disagree with his philosophy, but I am not ready to put it into practice.

The Language of God
Francis Collins led the Human Genome Project. In this book he makes a compelling case for both Darwinian Evolution, and faith in Jesus Christ. DNA is the Language of God. A beautiful case for the coexistence of faith and reason.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Heart Rachmaninov

My two favorite pieces of art music are Rachmaninov's 2nd and 3rd piano concerti. Most people are familiar with the more flashy 3rd because of the movie Shine. In 2001 Russian-born Olga Kern co-won the Van Cliburn with the 3rd concerto. Her performance was a stunning display of power, nuance and an intimate understanding of the piece. Her co-winner was Stanislov Ioudenitch. It was impossible to compare the two, because Ioudenitch's graceful, elegant style was every bit as worthy of the award. I hope to see him play some day. One of the highlights of my life has been seeing Kern play the 2nd Concerto live at TPAC. I miss hearing the Symphony play at TPAC. The Schermerhorn is very elegant, but the entire hall is incredibly live, and every cough, seat shift, and rustle competes with the music.  It is probably fine for Pops performances, but for art music or anything with very soft passages the balance at TPAC was better for me. 
  The first movement of the 2nd concerto begins with chords on the piano that build leading up to the entrance of the theme in the strings. Every time I hear those opening chords I am on the edge of my seat waiting for that gorgeous theme to begin. 5 1/2 minutes in I am once again in breathless anticipation of the reappearance of the opening theme, more powerful this time as the theme takes the form of a march. If you are familiar with pop ballads of the 70s you will recognize the theme in the 2nd movement, and possibly be reminded of a very funny scene in Bridget Jones's Diary. The 3rd movement is powerful, though not as lush and satisfying as the 3rd movement of the 3rd concerto. Both works are too beautiful to describe with words. If you are not familiar with them and have an hour to spare, download all 6 movements on i-tunes and listen to both concerti back to back, starting with the 2nd. I like the Brailowsky recordings, mainly because I am not crazy about the 1st movement of the 2nd concerto on some of the other recordings. Try a search on i-tunes for Brailowsky Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no. 2 (ditto for 3)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8KKn9Is1Wk