December 19, 2009 archive

The United States is Evil

Sorry. But it’s true. And hearing Obama talk about exporting American ideals makes me sick.

Original v. Cover — #4 of a Series

As always, this writer thanks wikipedia for the serving as a wonderful font of information, both in general, and more specifically, as a resource for this diary.  Please refer to that site for further detail.

As we approach what is literally the longest night of the year, on Monday, December 21st, we are reminded of the ageless traditions surrounding the Winter Solstice. For many ancient cultures, at least those residing in the Northern Hemisphere, this marked the anticipation of longer days ahead.  The return of increased warmth and sunlight were an absolute necessity to grow the food critical to sustain life.  The Winter Solstice marked the final celebration before that annual eternity during which the question of survival during the months ahead was asked anew.  Those at the time hoped that the provisions already set aside would be sufficient until the earth again reawakened from that long slumber, to again produce that bounty so vital for life to continue.  They were acutely aware that the months of January and April oftentimes brought increased death from starvation.  The Winter Solstice was a time when livestock were typically slaughtered, primarily to preserve precious food stocks.  This was then one of those rare occasions during the year when fresh meat was available.  

Many of us are now fully engaged in the “spirit of the season”, swept away by the merriment of the decorations and bright lights; nonstop gatherings with family and friends; the reassuring, soothing strains of Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas”; appreciating Jimmy Stewart’s performance in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; and the numerous other traditions that mark this time of the year.  For those multitudes, this season provides a welcome annual respite from the usual cares of the world, when we are reminded to focus on that which is “near and dear to us.”  Despite one’s best efforts and intentions, reality all too often falls far short of expectation, to find that ever elusive Holy Grail, the “perfect” holiday season,such as those that play endlessly on television during December 24th and 25th.  

Millions in this country, those teetering on the cusp, are rightly wondering, given present challenges, whether these days will mark the happiest holiday season they will experience for the remainder of their lifetimes.  For them, that temporary departure from reality can serve as a soothing distraction from the dark, threatening clouds that loom so omninously on the horizon.

And then there are the many millions, joined by legions of newcomers, involuntarily conscripted into the growing hoards of those overcome by sheer desperation.  They, too, will search in vain for signs that the seemingly endless period of darkness, which for them began months or years ago, will one day end.  

For those who no longer have a roof over their head and wonder where the they will find their next meal, any chance encounter with the merriment of the season must seem a cruel mockery of their destitute condition.  Our own government, which to varying degrees in the past provided real, meaningful assistance to those in need, has been hijacked by greedy corporate interests, dedicated solely to personal enrichment, heedless of the cost to others. Hard earned tax dollars that were turned over year after year to provide a social safety net, along with borrowed billions, are increasingly diverted into the outstretched hands of those least in need of help.  

Some of us may have become desensitized to the travails suffered by those afflicted by poverty, as portrayed in annual productions of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  Witnessing such woe on the silver screen, television or on the stage is one matter.  Living it is an entirely different proposition.

At this time of the year, we cannot escape the plenitude of happy, upbeat holiday tunes, at stores, on television, or for those unfortunates, just outside their front door.  Speaking of the latter, has anyone else yet become incensed with those who are not satisfied with just elaborate lighting displays, but are seemingly compelled to add outdoor holiday music. played for hours on end, enthusiastically sharing these tinny, annoying renditions with their entire neighborhood?  

Rather than follow that lead, I will provide an alternative, evoking a mood more in keeping with the long night that lies immediately ahead for many, both in a literal sense two days from now, and in a figurative sense, most likely for the next few months, years or longer.  It is in that spirit that the following song is presented this week.

The featured song this week never appeared in the Top 40, however, many will experience instant recognition within two or three bars, if not sooner.

This song has been extensively covered, making the narrowing down of choices this week exceedingly difficult. Despite my previous rule of nor more than four choices, I find it impossible to not add a fifth this week. If I was asked to pick a favorite, at various times, I could quite possibly choose any or all of the five.  I would have to say that if it weren’t for the pioneering work of its original performer, however, the others that have followed would likely not be possible.

This song is rated at #101 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest songs of all time. The guitar solo was designated as the 11th greatest solo of all-time in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos’ Guitar Legends, Issue #46.  The original peformer appeared six times on this list, more than any artist on that list.  This number was recorded in 1968, and was re-released as a single after the death of the composer in 1970. It was the A side on a three-track record, and reached Number 1 in the UK.

I cannot provide the information that follows without revealing the identity of the song, which is… Jimi Hendrix’ Voodoo Child.  

The following quotes, in part, reflect the widespread admiration others had for Jimi Hendrix’ trailblazing work.  

As found on wikipedia:

The genesis of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was essentially in “Voodoo Chile”, a long blues jam featuring guest Steve Winwood.[2] On May 3, 1968 (the day after “Voodoo Chile”‘s recording), a crew from ABC filmed the Jimi Hendrix Experience while they played. As Hendrix explained it:

[S]omeone was filming when we started doing [Voodoo Child]. We did that about three times because they wanted to film us in the studio, to make us-“Make it look like you’re recording, boys”-one of them scenes, you know, so, “OK, let’s play this in E, a-one, a-two, a-three,” and then we went into “Voodoo Child”.[3]

On the Band of Gypsys live album Live at the Fillmore East, Hendrix referred to the song as the Black Panthers’ national anthem.

Joe Satriani identified Voodoo Child as his favorite guitar solo, stating:

“It’s just the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded. In fact, the whole song could be considered the holy grail of guitar expression and technique. It is a beacon of humanity.”

And Kenny Wayne Shepherd added the following:

“This is pretty much the guitar anthem of all time. From that amazing opening riff to the way he breaks it down in the middle and gets funky, the whole thing is incredible. There are things Jimi did on the guitar that humans just can’t do. You can try all day, even if you’re playing the right notes, it’s not the same. It definitely seems as if he was coming from a higher place when he played.”

Without further ado, here is but one of many renditions by Hendrix to be found on the web:

The legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn greatly admired Jimi Hendrix, perfoming cover versions of several of Hendrix’ songs. This represents one of Vaughn’s versions of Voodoo Child:

The next three performers are perhaps not as well known, however, I would encourage those reading this article to at least listen to a minute or two of each version, since they each include a unique feature setting it apart from the far more prevalent attempts to emulate Hendrix note for note.

Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen combine to provide a little different twist.  Malmsteen’s gritty vocals add a jagged edge to this song, and the triple lead work toward the end is truly something to behold!

When we think of pedal steel guitar, we might initially imagine a perfomer who is at least fifty or older,complete with the requisite paunch, cowboy hat, and bolo tie, accompanying music whose lyrics pay homage to repossessed pickup trucks, bar fights, unrequited lust, and being so down in one’s luck that his own dog refuses to acknowledge him. Robert Randolph literally destroys every single one of those conceptions. Please check this out, you’ll be glad you did!

Finally, speaking of a relative unknown, at least on a national scale, Geoffrey Castle would seem to fulfill that description. Voodoo Child on the violin?  Since I discovered this version, and sent it on to others, I think the number of views on youtube has doubled, to something like 18 as of this morning. This also rates as another rendition that must truly be seen to be believed!

Please vote for one, two or all five if you feel so inclined. Or add your own favorite rendition, including your reasoning in the comments section.

Enjoy, and a Happy Winter Solstice to all!

Weekend News Digest

Weekend News Digest is an Open Thread

Now with everything except Time U.S. News.  53 Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Climate deal passed amid condemnation, disappointment

by Richard Ingham, AFP

2 hrs 57 mins ago

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – A UN conference on Saturday rammed through a battle plan against climate change forged by US President Barack Obama and other top leaders, sidelining smaller states which lashed the deal as betrayal.

After toxic exchanges, the summit chair forced through a deal using an unusual procedural tool that effectively dropped all obstacles to the new-born Copenhagen Accord. Related article: Climate scientists underwhelmed

UN chief General Ban Ki-moon admitted the agreement had failed to win global consensus and would disappoint many who demanded stronger action against climate change but voiced relief it had not been strangled at birth.

Another piece of bullshit fail from Obama.

Santa Came Early!

Is War Ever “Just”?

We need a different measure of strength

Is there such a thing as a ‘just war’? The problem with that question is that when we answer ‘yes’, we end up in a world where there is ‘just war’–just war as an ultimate solution to every problem, whether it be terrorists, international diplomacy, drugs in our streets or bugs in our gardens. War becomes the default setting for all of our responses. War becomes the measure of manhood and the definer of strength. War constrains our imaginations and limits our intelligence.

A chemical farmer sees a bug in his field, and declares war. Out come the poisons and the sprays, the herbicides and the neurotoxins, dangerous and costly.. Kill the enemy! The result–poison on the vegetables, beneficial insects die, some pests always survive, making the problem worse.

An organic farmer sees a pest, and says, “Hmmn, here’s an interesting piece of information. Something in the system is out of balance. Perhaps some mineral is lacking in the soil, that’s weakening the plants. What can I do to shift the balance, to create conditions that will favor the beneficial bugs that will keep the pests in check?” Result–increased fertility, clean and nutritious vegetables, bright flowers growing among the fields, reduced damage to crops and increased health for farmworkers and consumers.

Our policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan, for decades, has been that of the chemical farmer–kill the enemy, and anything else that might happen to be in the vicinity, including civilians and potential allies, and when resistance develops, apply more of the same, regardless of cost. Then call it a ‘just war’.

Imagine what our policy might be if, instead, we were guided by the maxim of the clever politician Harry Seldon from Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction novel, Foundation. “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”

We might develop a policy more like that of the organic farmer–looking for the underlying forces that create the imbalance, that favor the development of terrorism and anti-U.S. sentiments. We might look for ways to support and favor the elements within Afghani or Iraqi or Iranian society that make for health, resilience, and liberty instead of employing the force that creates a perfect habitat for resentment, hatred, repression and terror. We might have supported and protected our Kurdish and Shiite allies after the first Gulf War instead of abandoning and betraying them. We might support the women’s organizations in Afghanistan who, even under the Taliban, struggled heroically for women’s rights. We might look at the model of Otpor, a student group who successfully overthrew the dictator Miloscevic using nonviolent resistance–with some strategic help and funding from outside. We might support the nonviolent resistance among the Palestinians, pressure the Israelis to lift the stranglehold siege on Gaza, to restrain their use of disproportionate force and to recognize that their true security can only be gained when Palestinians also have peace, security, and a just recognition of their human rights.

I’m deeply disappointed in Obama, because he is intelligent enough to forge such a policy. However, he operates in a country still controlled by a deep assumption–that strength equals force and violence, that a man who is reluctant to use force is less than a man, that a nation who refrains from wholesale slaughter is ‘weak’. I can’t help but think that his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan has less to do with the ‘justness’ of the conflict and more to do with the politics back home–an attempt to placate his right wing detractors and to look strong in their eyes.

In my futuristic novel, “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” my character Maya says, “For five thousand years, men have been goading each other into acts of brutality and stupidity by calling each other cowards.”

Until we confront that assumption, until we challenge our ‘real men’ and real women to embody a different sort of strength–the strength that nurtures, that heals, that uses intelligence and thoughtfulness and diplomacy to solve problems instead of brute force, until the thought of violence becomes abhorrent to us all, we will have no clear yardstick by which to measure any sort of justice.


Something to ponder on a snowy day.

h/t Hecate

cross posted at The Wild Wild Left

Open Water


There’s a NEW Wild Wild Left !!!! Join or this Pony gets It!


Hey, sister & brother-bloggers of DD, and all my beloveds who cross post to WWL, or would like to:

We have created a new soapblox, and joined the ranks of the paying people so that our blog can be faster, better and (ahem) allow new users!

The old blog will remain active until we can migrate all the old content over, so you can still use it, but I would prefer if you just joined the new version, and filled it up with deliciously liberal and progressive missives.

Every step of the way, we need to streamline and connect and get our message out, my friends.

We are now Wild wild left dot com.

Bookmark it, link it, yell it from the hilltops, please!

Sorry if its a pain in the butt to join AGAIN, but I had to. Paul wants to get rid of all the Soapblox light sites he ran for free; and as such didn’t want to waste his time fixing the broken new user code on an obsolete system.

Its a fresh, shiny start!

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Diane Gee

In Which: I Become Amish


Monday, November 09, 2009

House Health Care Bill Tracks FICA Exemption For Religious Objectors

The House version of the health care bill passed Saturday, HR 3962, imposes a 2.5% penalty tax on anyone who fails to obtain acceptable health care coverage. (Internal Revenue Code Sec. 59B(a) [pg. 297 of PDF]). However the bill does provide a “conscience exemption” for members of religious sects whose tenets reject insurance benefits. The exemption in Section 501of the bill [IRC Sec. 59B(c)(5) at pg. 299 of PDF] tracks the exemption from payment of social security and self-employment taxes for members of groups such as the Old Order Amish, described in Section 1402(g) of the Internal Revenue Code. (See prior related posting.)

Of course, this will probably be stripped after reconcilliations (see they can make it worse).

Copenhagen: Feeble, Meaningless, and Shameful Climate Sham


President Obama announced on Friday that negotiations among the the world’s nations had resulted in a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” on climate change.

One administration official, however, acknowledged in remarks to the Associated Press that it was only a first step and not sufficient in itself to head off global warming. Going by other reactions to the deal, that would appear to be an understatement.

The Guardian obtained a leaked draft of the agreement and reported that “it says countries ‘ought’ to limit global warming to 2C, but does not bind them to do so.”

The Toronto Star explains, “It is not binding and it does not set new greenhouse-gas reduction targets. Instead, countries are to set their own emission reduction commitments, which would not be legally binding. Those commitments will be the subject of further negotiation, with the aim of a final deal at next year’s summit in Mexico.”

A Greenpeace representative told The Guardian, “This latest draft is so weak as to be meaningless. It’s more like a G8 communique than the legally binding agreement we need. It doesn’t even include a timeline to give it legal standing or an explicit temperature target. It’s hard to imagine our leaders will try to present this document to the world and keep a straight face.”

A representative of World Development Movement used even stronger language, saying, “This summit has been in complete disarray from start to finish, and now appears to be culminating in a shameful and monumental failure that will condemn millions of people around the world to untold suffering. The leaders of rich countries have refused to lead and instead sought to bribe and bully developing nations to sign up to the equivalent of a death warrant.

Adele Morris, Fellow, Global Economy and Development and Policy Director for Climate and Energy Economics, Global Economy and Development at The Brookings Institution and Kurt Davies, research director at Greenpeace USA, talk to Paul Jay about the Copenhagen “Climate Sham”:

Real News Network – December 19, 2009

Without US commitment Copenhagen breaks down

Unselfish Solutions, Selfish Complications

I have recently been musing over a particular passage of scripture.  The frustration I and many have felt regarding the health care legislation that has stalled in the Congress has led me to wonder if perhaps a solution exists that has never been attempted prior to now.  The power of the blogosphere has provided me a sense of solace and inspiration that comes from rational explanation and insightful commentary, and I cannot overstate my confidence in the visionary souls among us.  It is a temptation to lament and understate our own capacity to bring about change, but quite another one to solicit answers from the passionate, knowing that through collective action, much good can be brought to pass.  It is in the spirit of facilitating dialogue that I write this post, my prayer being that it will find an audience and give rise to subsequent discussion.  

As a bit of needed exposition, St. Paul wrote an epistle to the church in Corinth, a city which had fallen into division and disorder.  The Corinthian church, mirroring the makeup of the city where it existed, had been fraught by immorality and spiritual immaturity.  In a letter whose endearing images and passages are still in wide use today, an age where strict devotion to organized religion is increasingly on the wane, our own skepticism cannot yet overtake the power and thrust of the text itself.  Shortly after outlining a beautiful definition of the concept of selfless love, Paul spends several subsequent chapter, talking about incorporating this degree of unconditional devotion into practice in one’s daily life.        

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially the gift of speaking what God has revealed. When a person speaks in another language, he doesn’t speak to people but to God. No one understands him. His spirit is speaking mysteries.

But when a person speaks what God has revealed, he speaks to people to help them grow, to encourage them, and to comfort them. When a person speaks in another language, he helps himself grow. But when a person speaks what God has revealed, he helps the church grow.

Now I wish that all of you could speak in other languages, but especially that you could prophesy. The person who prophesies is more important than the person who speaks in another language, unless he interprets it so that the church may be built up.

Language is a construct of humanity.  To someone who does not speak a particular tongue, the sounds themselves appear mysterious, impenetrable, and indecipherable.  Moreover, there would be no point to a system of language at all if only one person spoke it.  Language, and indeed, the richness of language depends on the number of people who speak it and whether or not they share their own spiritual gifts with everyone else.  At times, we seem to believe that talking one-on-one with God or with our muse of inspiration is sufficient to undertaking the vast number of challenges which face each and every one of us.  Injustice is rarely ever consigned to one singular person, nor can one individual begin to turn the tide without help from others.      

Our earthly existence is a basically selfish, self-centered one.  What drives our economy and feeds our desire for riches is a sense of private ownership.  We would go so far as to copyright our own thoughts if we thought others might use them without permission or if there was money to be made in selling them to others.  I, me, and mine are the search engine keywords that drives capitalism, but they are utterly incompatible with one’s spiritual life.  Imagine if we all believed that our own innovations were to be used for the benefit of all, rather than for the benefit of a privileged few.  Indeed, if we spoke what God has revealed to us and translated it into the common vernacular rather than insisting it be phrased in a different language that locks out others from understanding, how many problems could be solved!      

Far too many people are covetous of what has been granted them by God and in so doing, they fail to understand that spiritual gifts are given to benefit all of us.  If one’s spiritual gift is that of forming a new language of a new social movement, how much richer would that language of reform be if everyone spoke the same tongue, not just the inner circle.  Ego has no part in the metaphorical church of which each of us is a part.  I have seen far too many movements and far too many groups established for altruistic means collapse under the weight of division caused by elitism or by covetousness.  If one is blessed by the gift of far-sighted analysis, don’t lock it away from sight!  Explain it to us, since which that which was granted you may have come from your brain, but it is God who gave you the ability to think it.

The members of the Corinthian church were using the gift of language for their own benefit, to make themselves feel better about themselves.  Clearly, the problem stemmed from the fact that there were too many foreign language speakers in the gathering and not enough translators.  This runs contrary to the health and growth of any established group.  Our greatest aim is to treat others in the same way we wish they would treat us and if we are granted talent in other areas, well and good.  But our talents are worthless if they merely lift us up and lock others out.  Humility isn’t merely a virtue we are to follow for its own sake for some sort of aesthetic rationale—it is a moral guidepost that points us towards a healthy society.  Lest we forget, it isn’t all about us.  It was never all about us.  It never will be all about us.    

In this circumstance, we have the answer.  We have always had the answer.  The answer, of course, is complicated by a day to day existence which runs contrary to that which we need for health and peace of mind.  Isolating ourselves from the madcap pace and twisted expectations of the world is no solution.  Any worthy challenge seems daunting at face value.  I have said this before and I will say it once more.  We must get our own selves and our own house in order before we can ever expect to reverse course. One cannot begin to love anyone else until he or she loves himself or herself.  By this I do not mean romantic love or narcissistic obsession, but rather a genuine point at which we make peace with our own failings, our own shortcomings, and our own flaws.  Until we do this, ego will drive us and with it a lust for individual achievement will follow close behind.  Those two things give rise to the inevitable hierarchies and unfair systems which are the antithesis of equality and social evolution.  The only requirement in life is love.  Everything else, as the saying goes, is just commentary.                

This Week In Health and Fitness

Welcome to this weeks Health and Fitness.

First cancer genome sequences reveal how mutations lead to disease

The pattern of mutations in cancer could eventually be used to tailor treatments to particular patients

Scientists have reconstructed the biological history of two types of cancer in a genetic tour de force that promises to transform medical treatment of the disease.

The feat, a world first, lays bare every genetic mutation the patients have acquired over their lifetimes that eventually caused healthy cells in their bodies to turn into tumours.

The procedure gives doctors a profound insight into the biological causes of a patient’s cancer and marks a major milestone in progress towards personalised anticancer therapies and strategies to prevent the disease.

“This is a really fundamental moment in the history of cancer research. We have never seen cancer revealed in this way before,” said Mike Stratton, a co-leader of the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge.

This is a stunning breakthrough in understanding how cancer mutates, treating it and, perhaps one day, cure it.

Turkana, in his essay at the Left Coaster, provides more information and further discussion in understanding the importance of this monumental break through.

Huge Medical Breakthrough: Cancer Genome Sequenced

As is now custom, I’ll try to include the more interesting and pertinent articles that will help the community awareness of their health and bodies. This essay will not be posted anywhere else due to constraints on my time and in January it will be coming to you from Paris, Fr. for awhile. Please feel free to make suggestions for improvement and ask questions, I’ll answer as best I can.

Sitting Bull Was Right (HBO’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee)


Historical revisionists of American Indian history portray indigenous people being as violent as white Europeans were before they arrived on this continent and after settlement. Consequently, HBO’s “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” was no exception in the scene with Sitting Bull and Col Nelson Miles on the Buffalo Robe, as Miles justified the genocide he was committing as “You were as violent as we are, we’re doing the same thing to you that you did to them (paraphrasing).”

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