Friday, July 24, 2009

So Beautiful It Made Me Cry

Is this a social blog? No. Do I post YouTube stuff here? No. Is this I Can Haz Cheezburger? No. I don't do LOLcats here. But this wedding video was so beautiful it made me cry. What an original and joyous way to start your married life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In Which My Virtual Self and Real Self Meet: Netroots Nation In Second Life - August 13-16, 2009

For the past few months I have been leading a Second Life. SL is an avatar-based virtual world - sort of a 3-D video chat room, if you will - where people with common interests can get together and create a virtual environment, complete with tools for integrating streaming audio, video, chat, IM, some web, and various sorts of social media. I joined because of my friend General JC Christian, who started a progressive group there called Cafe Wellstone, and did a virtual book signing there at Jackson Street Books, but soon found out that there was music in Second Life also. I began doing live gigs there singing and playing keyboards, streaming audio in real time for a real audience that I could see and interact with - albeit with a 7-second delay!

I wrote about my Second Life gigs as the lovely Idella Quandry a little while ago, so I won't belabor them, other than to let you know that I am now doing a regular Thursday night online from 8-10 PST (which, fortunately for me, is Second Life time as well) and that you can tune in on the web as well as in Second Life. I'll put the info to hear it at the bottom of the post.

I love having a platform where I can do the two things that mean so much to me in the same arena - progressive activism and music - and coming up soon I will be doing both with Netroots Nation in Second Life. Netroots Nation, while originally Yearly Kos, has expanded to include many different sorts of online activism and communities, and will be holding its annual conference in Pittsburgh, PA on August 13-16. There will be a Second Life contingent of progressives who will share it with those who can't make it to the event physically.

Of course there will be blogging, and video, and all the other ways people usually communicate these things, but Second Life has a uniquely 'immersive' way of delivering the Netroots Nation experience to make you feel as if you're really a part of the conference. There will be streaming into Second Life of speakers and panels, interviews, videos and workshops - and there will be also special events streaming out of Second Life into the live Netroots Nation. I'm going to have a booth there for this blog, my book and my music, and will also be playing live at some time to be determined later.

Because of blogging and the web, I was able to connect with people all over the world, and write a book about a subject that I deeply believe in - making a case for progressive values. To me this is taking the next logical step in communication - and finding a way to reach 'hearts and minds' with grassroots activism, and share information in a way that would have been unthinkable before the Internet. So I hope I'll be able to connect with you all - maybe at Netroots Nation in Second Life, or maybe you'll catch my live stream. If you do, be sure and let me know - email, comment, Facebook - whatever! I'd love to hear from you.

Tomorrow night - Thursday - Idella plays at Artistic Diversion in Second Life from 8-10 PM PST.

The web address for my streaming server is:

and you can click on the 'Listen' link to hear the stream. Note: it will only be active when I am actually playing, so if you go there when I'm not playing, you won't hear anything.

See you in cyberspace!

Jimmy Carter: Losing His Religion, Keeping His Faith

Jimmy Carter, once again, proves that he knows - and lives - the true meaning of Christianity. A couple of days ago he wrote an article called "Losing My Religion For Equality". The lede is "Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God." In the article, he lays out the reasons that he is severing his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years of membership.

My heart goes out to him. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been. As a former Catholic and present liberal Christian (who is not quite smart enough to be an atheist) I have eschewed any formal denomination, because of the actions of many who call themselves Christians. I am a Christian because I believe the teachings of Jesus show the way to the highest, most moral and sane way to live. I also know that many who call themselves Christian will say that I'm not one. But they're right - hopefully, I'm not the same kind of Christian that they are.

My mother left the Catholic Church in the mid-60s. It was an agonizing decision for her to make, but she made that choice after much painful soul-searching and self-examination, realizing that there were just too many things that the Church demanded that she accept without question, and too many areas of her life that the Church wanted to control that had nothing whatsoever to do with faith, and God. She subsequently joined the Unitarian Universalist fellowship, where she found a spiritual and community home, and is active in UU to this day. After we were suddenly 'non-Catholic' I had no further interest in a church, not even UU, and did not consider any kind of faith until I was a young adult, when I began investigating many other world religions. I came back around to Christianity my own convoluted way, beginning with the Twelve Steps and proceeding to the Sermon on the Mount. I find that having a spiritual life helps me to be the person I would like to be, and helps me to find the strength and peace within that sustains me through whatever trials I go through.

But religion and faith aren't necessarily the same thing. Jimmy Carter's belief in God shows how real faith can express itself in the life of a human being. And sometimes that faith must transcend religion to be true to itself. By leaving the SBC, I believe he became closer to the Prince of Peace - and that's the kind of Christianity to which I aspire.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thanks, Governator - No Taxes for Corps, No CSUN For Sam

I picked up my son last night from a jazz jam session at Cal State Northridge, the college that he was planning on attending, and that the director of the jazz band was helping him get in to.

"How did it go?" I asked him, noticing that his body language was not what it usually was after playing music. He was slumped, silent, as he got into the car.

"Not so good," he replied. Not so good? How could a jam not be good?

"I'm not getting into CSUN," he said. "The director said that the budget cuts had eliminated the place he was getting me into." He was afraid I'd be mad at him. I just hugged him, speechless.

I've been meaning for a while to post about the real-life effects of the implementation of 'conservative values', which is the basic premise of my book The Price of Right. Since the systematic dismantling of the New Deal beginning with Reagan, wages have not kept pace with prices, and the idea that the government is the enemy and Big Business is your friend has replaced the idea of government as a mechanism of the people to "promote the general welfare" of the country as a whole - in other words, to do collectively what is not possible to do individually, such as police, fire departments, defense, national infrastructure. If profit is the only motivator, why provide these things to less-than-profitable markets? This is the whole point of 'insurance' - to pool resources so that all may benefit. (Or does it only work when a company stands to make a profit from it?) But the myth of the invincibility of the 'free market' (which is not at all free or fair) has superseded the idea that we as a nation can meet our own needs. The idea that private is always better and more efficient than public has turned out disastrously for all but those who 'corner the market'. Collective bargaining has been replaced by paternalism and 'hoping for the best'. The balance between public and private has become completely lopsided, and the casualties have been those who can least afford it.

Case in point - in California, the UC system, once the crown jewel of America's higher education - a state which once pledged to make college free and available to all Californians, and succeeded - has now been slashed to the bone by the Governator, along with health and human services, so as not to offend corporations by (Heaven forbid) raising taxes. And the fed refuses to help California, while it bails out private marauders. And the marauders themselves, fat with the largess of the American taxpayer? Ellen Brown says:

Four Wall Street banks, which received $15-25 billion each from the taxpayers, have rejected California's IOUs because the State is supposedly a bad credit risk. The bailed out banks would seem to have a duty to lend a helping hand, but they say they don't want to delay an agreement on further austerity measures. State legislators are not bowing quickly to the pressure, but what is the alternative?

In the latest twist to the California budget saga, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase (which each got $25 billion in bailout money from the taxpayers) and Bank of America (which got $15 billion) have refused California's request for a loan to tide it over until October. Until the State can get things sorted out, it has started paying its creditors in IOUs ("I Owe You's" or promises to pay bearing interest, technically called registered warrants). Its Wall Street creditors, however, have refused to take them. Why? The pot says the kettle is a poor credit risk!

California expects to need to issue only about $13 billion in IOUs through September, and all its Governor has asked for in the way of a loan from the federal government is a guarantee for $6 billion. Total loans, commitments and guarantees to rescue the financial sector and stem the credit crisis have been estimated at $12.8 trillion. But California has not been invited to the banquet. The total sum California needs to balance its budget is $26.3 billion. That is about the same sum given to Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan in bailout money; and it is only about one-tenth the sum given to AIG, a mere insurance company. Corporations evidently trump States and their citizens in the eyes of the powers controlling the purse strings. California has a gross domestic product of $1.7 trillion annually and has been rated the world's eighth largest economy. Its 38.3 million people are one-eighth of the nation's population and a key catalyst for U.S. retail sales. When the California consumer base falters, businesses are shaken nationwide. If AIG and the other Wall Street welfare recipients are too big to fail, California is way too big to fail.

I am sick to death of the idea of "what's good for business is good for America".

Guess what? It's not!

Greed is not good. Greed has put us where we are today. And greed continues to take us down - greed disguised as 'personal responsibility', greed disguised as the 'invisible hand of the free market', greed disguised as the metaphor 'wealth=morality'.

And the Governator is following obediently in Reagan's footsteps; first, destroy California's university system, then prop up the corporations on the backs of the poor and the sick.

St. Ronnie must be so proud of how you're Terminating Cali, Mr. Governator! I'm sure he's smiling down on you from his fluffy cloud in the sky.

Wait - no; it's only gas.