Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jimmy Carter and The Music of Our Souls

In his book "An Hour Before Daylight", former President Jimmy Carter tells about himself as a young boy growing up in Depression-era Georgia. One day, his compassionate mother brings cool drink to prisoners and young Jimmy is at first fascinated by the thought of seeing real-life prisoners, only to discover their faces were no different than many of the faces of the the boys and men that attended Sunday services at his own church.

Step back, for just a moment, into young Jimmy's world. You'll begin to understand how rhythm and music brought joy and understanding into his world.

We boys were fascinated with criminals and their punishment, and would observe the chained men from a distance, imagining them to be mysterious gangsters and discussing Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, or John Dillinger, who were all very famous and whose exploits we followed closely. [..]

[...] One day, Mama stopped her car near one of the chain gangs. She spoke briefly to the guard, and after a few minutes called me and one of my playmates to the kitchen and had us take a bucketful of lemonade to the guard and then to the chained men. It was quite an adventure being this close to them, and we were somewhat disappointed to find that they resembled the older boys and young men who went to church with our families on Sundays. Most of them were guilty of crimes such as theft that resulted from abject poverty, and most of the folks in Archery felt some sympathy for them as they swung their axes, bush hooks, mattocks, or scythes, not singing a lyrical song, as in the movies, but keeping time to a fundamental rhythm that they hummed or chanted in unison.

[..] The best music came not from prisoners, but from the railroad section gang, a half dozen black men who worked under the supervision of Mr. Watson. He and the workers would leave their homes in the center of Archery and ride to their work site on a little car that they propelled down the track by pumping up and down on both ends of a wooden shaft. After setting their vehicles aside so the trains could go by, the workers would begin the task of methodically checking each wooden crosstie, replacing those that had deteriorated and driving spikes to hold the rail in place. Theirs were the most cherished jobs in the community, and they wore their work clothes with pride - all issued by and bearing the insignia of the Seaboard Airline Railroad. These fortunate men had worked together all their adult lives, and knew that their best sons could someday inherit their jobs. They all attended St. Mark AME Church, near their homes in Archery, and we would recognize them in the choir when we attended services there. It was a pleasure to be near them as they sang and worked in perfect harmony.

Singing and working in perfect harmony is something a rare few of us can say we do with regularity when we go to our job each day. How lucky we are, rich or poor, if we can sing and work in harmony with life.

Song, within the scope of its context to the dance of life, was obviously a very important part of young Jimmy Carter's spiritual development.

It was in the days of prevailing Jim Crow segregation practices, and the Carter family made a point of attending services at St. Mark AME, the African American church in Archery, at least once a year:

As a little boy, I was accustomed to the relatively sedate and time-constrained services of our own congregation at Plains Baptist Church, so our own family's visits to St. Mark were strange experiences. The small white clapboard building was always overflowing with worshipers and would rock with music and with religious spirit far exceeding anything we ever experienced. We knew the words to many of the hymns, but we had to struggle to keep the proper time with the strange, slow rhythms, with syllables often stretched into words, and words into entire verses. Soon, however, we would be rocking back and forth in harmony with the swaying bodies of the beautifully dressed choir behind the altar.

What about music we cannot hear through the ear, but instead in the soul? It can be a struggle to keep time to rhythms we do not understand, but once we allow them to enter and transform us, we can learn to fly.

In one very special and mystical place, I recall rocking back and forth to a rhythm that could not be heard, but could be felt not just by me, but by others around me. I was in the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona with my mother, my father, and my son, who was then about five years old. Designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Chapel appears to rise out of the surrounding red rocks of Sedona. An awesome panorama of buttes, valley and big blue sky are a source of inspiration inviting rest and reflection to all who come to pray.

A serene, quiet, and safe setting, I allowed my son to wander the chapel while my parents and I knelt to pray. [During which time my son blew out one of the devotional candles burning in the chapel, coming to me proudly afterwards to tell me he'd done it and said he'd thought it was 'one of Jesus' birthday candles'.]

The confluence of earth, rock, sky, and spirit cause a powerful vibration within the Chapel that eyes cannot see, ears cannot hear, and my mouth has had difficulty translating to our reality. It caused my soul to sing and my body to move to an alien rhythm. All that I can tell you is that I believe that I experienced just a brief glimpse of another world in those few precious and rare moments, and it was a beautiful knowing - shared with my parents.

I wish I could go back there to that time and place and to that experience. I believe that my own mother is experiencing that bliss now and that I can still reach to her when I pray. I feel that she's not far away for I am mysteriously with her when I hear the hymns and songs we shared and when I enter the deep quiet of either sanctuary or spirit, where the physical is given permission to fall away in return for a simple yet near-miraculous and soul-sustaining abundance.

What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,and what has not entered the human heart, is what God has prepared for those who love him."

- 1 Corinthians 2:9

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Secret

At Best Syndication, Nicole Wilson reviews yesterday's Oprah episode that showcased the DVD/companion book titled The Secret. The trailer for The Secret DVD appears at Nicole's post.
An authorized preview of the Secret is at YouTube.
An authorized second Secret preview is here.

One of the people who likely understands The Secret in a way that many of us may never be capable of understanding is singer/recording artist Christian Andreason, because he has seen life after death. See the Houston Click2/NBC television video below for his amazing story. (YouTube)

Listen to Christian's inspirational song "Born to Fly" at his MySpace page. A new album of songs dedicated to his near-death experience comes out next month. His website is here for all those interested.

What They're Not Telling You About Iraq

It's bad enough we're escalating the violence in Baghdad. There's something they aren't talking about anywhere in the United States mainstream media. There's a whole new war-within-a-war coming to Iraq in the North - precisely Kirkuk.

It's been a long time in coming, but it's coming.

The problems surrounding Kirkuk involve the U.S., the Kurds, and Turkey. The Kurdish leadership in Iraq is split between Jalal Talibani’s PUK and Massoud Barzani’s KDP. [The KDP is the party that was, most curiously, taken on as a client by the K Street lobbyist firm Barbour, Griffith & Rogers just a month after there was $1.4bn in Iraqi oil revenues - cold hard cash - dumped by the US-led occupation authority from an airplane into Kurdish territory.]

Both the PUK and the KDP want the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which lies just outside the Kurdish region, to be part of their domain but they are at loggerheads over whose forces will control the city. Meanwhile Turkey, which has a large Kurdish population, does not want any Kurdish forces to control Kirkuk. It's looking to be quite possible that Turkey will intervene militarily under the guise of helping the ethnic Turkmen of the city. Turkey is also scared that the Kurds might declare an independent state in future, and is trying to put pressure on the U.S. to ensure that this does not happen.

An antagonized and outspoken Turkish AKP(Justice and Development Party) MP named Turan Comez has said that PKK terrorists, using identity cards given to them by the KDP are moving into the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, and bringing heavy weapons with them.

The Iranian influence complicates matters all the more, especially when President Bush refuses to conduct diplomatic relations with Iran. The worried Kurds of East Kurdistan have commented on their gratitude for the recent raid and arrest of Iranian "consulate members" in Arbil because the Iranian influence has made intelligence inroads into the KDP and PUK. (Please tell me why, once again, it's ethical for a K Street lobbyist to be making money by representating the interests of a political party that is one of many forces at war with one another in this horrid civil war in Iraq while our U.S. troops die for the faction-du-jour?)
The recent American arrest of the so-called Iranian consulate members in Arbil, demonstrated that the Iranians are still approaching PUK and KDP leaderships as intelligence interests. From this point of view the American action was very necessary and welcome. Iran has used its flexible approach to Barzani and Talabani after 1992 in order to silence its Kurdish opponents from East Kurdistan.
We must remember that the city of Kirkuk and the immediate region around consists of residents of diverse ethnicity. Rising inter-communal tensions in Kirkuk, exacerbated by recent car bombings and other violence, have now been aggravated further with the unveiling of a plan to relocate thousands of Arab residents.

There are so many forces at play here, and God help us, I do not trust that the Bush administration has the competence, vision, brainpower, or the ideological scope or flexibility to avoid disaster over Kirkuk.

Understanding that which is meant to be

Not always easy...

Understanding that which is meant to be

Some of our goals and dreams come to fruition so easily that it is as if an unseen hand has done much of the work for us. When this happens, we say it must have been meant to be. On the other hand, when dreams and goals require a tremendous amount of effort, we may interpret this to mean that our dream is not meant to be. However, difficulty is not necessarily a sign that our hopes and plans are ill-fated. On the contrary, difficulties and challenges along the path can be important parts of the project's overall meaning.

When everything goes smoothly, we feel blessed by the universe, as if a fleet of angels is guiding and supporting our every move. When things are rough or ambiguous, we sometimes feel that we have been abandoned. And yet, the truth is that we are blessed in both cases. Our angels and guides are always present. They may choose at times to back off and let us figure something out for ourselves, and this is when things seem difficult. But when things are difficult, we learn and grow in specific ways. There is a unique satisfaction that comes to us when we succeed at something that has been a challenge. Our sense of self-reliance expands, and our ability to endure and keep the faith is stronger for having been tested. We learn that we are capable of confronting and overcoming the obstacles in our path, and this empowers us to dream still bigger dreams, knowing that we will not be daunted by the challenges inherent in birthing them.

When we find ourselves facing difficulties with a particular plan or project, the chances are we know already whether we are meant to continue on or let it go. We simply need to look within ourselves for the answer. When an idea is meant to be, it comes back to us time and time again. Then we know we can go forward, no matter what challenges arise, knowing that it is meant to be.

Hear the beautiful song "It Was Meant to Be" by Callaghan at MySpace.

daily om

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"The Secret" Comes to Oprah February 8

ANNOUNCEMENT: From Agape Live!

In 1986, Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith founded the Agape International Spiritual Center, a trans-denominational spiritual community whose doors are open to all seekers in search of authentic spirituality, personal transformation and selfless service to humankind. In his own words, “My aspiration is that every individual who is touched by the vibration of Agape is inspired to cultivate a heart of love as wide as the world.”

Dr. Michael's Oprah Winfrey Show Airdate

On January 31, 2007, the taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show took place featuring Dr. Michael and Secret teachers, Jack Canfield, Lisa Nichols, James Arthur Ray and producer Rhonda Byrnes. [The Secret]

The show will air on Thursday, February 8, 2007.

Check your local listing for channel and times.

After watching the show, please email Oprah to let her know you want more of this type of programming.

Related: David K. Beckwith - Oprah to bring "The Secret" to TV

John Edwards on NPR: Peace in Iraq

John Edwards spoke to Diane Rehm on NPR by phone from Detroit, Michigan this morning for the entire first hour of the Diane Rehm show. He answered many questions from Diane Rehm and interested callers and from listeners who had sent emails.

He said that he believes presidential campaigns should be publicly financed, but in reality, he likely won't be doing that because of the already-made decisions of Democratic competitors in this 2008 presidential race. When asked, he named Senators Clinton and Obama as his primary rivals in this race. In my opinion, this is not exactly earth-shattering news to anyone, considering that all we seem to hear about in the obviously "excluding" mainstream media in recent days is 'Obama-Clinton.' The fact that Senator Edwards is often left off "the list" despite his enormous popularity with real people serves to reinforce a non-myth about mainstream media, which is the twisted reality of "money" being "speech". Which takes me back to the very beginning of this particular paragraph....

Senator Edwards said, as far as popularity polls are concerned, that we tend to see results of the national polls on national television, and these results don't mean a whole lot right now. What matters now is what we see happening in the individual states, such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. When asked, he said he surely wouldn't run as a vice-presidential candidate but he would welcome many leaders who he would felt would deserve to be considered for his vice-president when it came time to choose. When asked, he said he hoped that the country was ready for a female and/or a black president. [Personally, I hope that's true myself.] He stated that he was proud of his professional life as an attorney working for the "little guy" against powerful forces. His life has shown a clear pattern of working for those who are up against sometimes seemingly insurmountable forces, which is why he has shown his genuine care for the working poor of this country - most recently as Director for the Poverty Center at Chapel Hill. His presidential campaign is a natural extension of this pattern in his life's chosen work.

Campaigns and campaign finance in America are every bit as dysfunctional as our current healthcare system. Speaking of which....

Senator Edwards has just presented a new plan for Universal Healthcare, emphasizing that our current healthcare system is currently dysfunctional. There are extraordinary inefficiencies built into the system as it stands today. Senator Edwards believes that his Universal Healthcare plan is transformational. Everyone, from government to business to healthcare provider to the individual, is asked to share responsibility in seeing that every person is covered with healthcare insurance. His new plan creates new and improved efficiencies in the healthcare system - many that don't exist at the present time. Health Markets, non-profit and state-based with support of federal government, will be used as a new competetive bargaining tool in the marketplace; with business, healthcare system, and the individual working with government support to create never-before seen choices for all Americans.

There are many within the political ranks of the Democratic party who'd love for Senator Edwards to say that no one's taxes will ever have to go up to have a real and meaningful universal healthcare plan, but that simply is not true. "Honesty is so important in today's world," said Senator Edwards, and he stated he would not lie to the American people about what it would take to make this plan work. People are tired of small and meaningless steps that amount to little. They are ready for transformation in the way we approach the healthcare system.

A pointedly skeptical email question came in to the radio show, basically saying that the citizen-emailer was tired of "gimme programs" and that they were not personally willing to see their tax dollars going toward the proposed universal healthcare plan. Senator Edwards said that he believes we have a moral responsibility to help poorer Americans to help themselves, creating a cycle of independence vs. the old cycle of dependence that was an unfortunate result of past 'wars on Poverty'. Many of the working poor have been up against tremendous barriers in their lives. Senator Edwards believes in restoring hope, dignity and self-reliance to the poor who are willing to help themselves by being willing to work. Personally, I recall hearing the amazing Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying that God created us all to be different, not so that we should be alienated from one another, but that we should know our need of one another, that ultimately there can be no such thing as "the totally self sufficient." In fact, being totally self-sufficient is "subhuman" according to Archbishop Tutu.

Americans aren't sub-human - it just isn't who we are or what we're about. I know my friends and neighbors. I know my community.

We're better than that.

In October 2002, Senator Edwards voted for the Iraq War Resolution. Today he is sorry for that vote. A caller asked Senator Edwards: People who disseminated the false information, the false intelligence - should they be held responsible? In his reply, Senator Edwards accepted his responsibility - for his vote. The information provided to him and to the Intelligence Committee was wrong. The trusted opinions he was hearing, at the time, directly from from members who'd worked in the Clinton administration were verifying exactly what the intelligence community was saying. Those trusted opinions contributed to his vote back in 2002, which he fully takes responsibility for today - and which he now believes was wrong.

To stabilize the Iraqi nation, a President Edwards would redeploy 40,000 combat troops and while many of those troops would likely come home, some may be required to help support the NATO effort in Afghanistan. He averred that we need Iran and Syria directly involved in diplomatic discussions in order to stop the potential spread of civil war over the borders of Iraq, and he added that, as President, you always have to prepare for the worst. As president, he would enable any necessary prescence in the Persian Gulf. He stressed the importance of political reconciliation regarding oil revenues as a route to stabilizing the Iraqi national government. Through the rule of law, a centralized government would be be enabled to share oil revenue among all of the population. If this were to happen and if the motives were transparent and trustworthy, Sunnis would buy into a stable government in Iraq because they would have something material [ie: oil revenue] to gain from it. Over time, a removal of our military presence is going to be very important. Senator Edwards said that we'll need to intensify our training of Iraqi troops, and that we must work with Prime Minister Maliki and the Sunnis in Iraq for political reconciliation with the majority Shia political elements. It's the only route to peace in Iraq. On a personal note, I thought about 'Peace in Iraq' and that we should begin saying that more often.

Senator Edwards believes that there should be more humanitarian aid going directly to people in the Palestinian territory [not to Hamas - but to the people]. Israel should make steps to reduce the numbers of now-existing checkpoints and focus on reaching a settlement with the Palestinian people.

Diane Rehm asked: How do we fight a war against terror? Senator Edwards stated that a leader can't be bellicose in his or her rhetoric. He also expressed disappointment that the United States, in recent years, had lost quite a bit of its once-strong reputation as a stabilizing force - a great moral force for good in the world. We've fallen short in places like Sudan/Darfur - where we have recognized a genocide but have taken no serious steps to stop it. There has been insufficient government leadership on HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Abu Ghraib incident hurt our reputation tremendously. He stated we needed more serious effort to use intelligence against terrorist activities - more smart and more aggressive intelligence efforts not only in Iraq, but around the world. When we know nations like Iran and North Korea are pursuing nuclear weaponry, we would hope that the world would rally around US to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons. [Senator Edwards didn't mention this, but look at what French president Jacques Chirac said just this week about Iran - underplaying the geopolitical consequences of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It was surely no rally cry around our country's leadership.] In order for that to happen, for other nations to begin to rally around our ideas again, we must be respected as a force for good. A President who will engage on more of these moral issues will be necessary before we see any changes in the world. It seems to me that a new President - a President Edwards - would strongly forward a spirit that is a far more true representation of the good will of the people of this nation.

A last comment:

'Peace in Iraq' - how often have you heard any other prominent leaders daring to mention peace in Iraq in any serious manner? We should be saying that more often. Our words have great power. Senator Edwards has been incredibly effective in inspiring others in this way. I believe that he's a man of great vision.

If we envision peace, we will have peace. If we envision fear and death, so shall it be.

Which vision do you choose?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Anti-War Song by Richard Thompson

'Dad's Gonna Kill Me
['Dad," Thompson explains to audiences, is grunt-speak for "Baghdad," much as " 'Nam" once meant "Vietnam." The new song will be released on Thompson's next CD, Sweet Warrior, due in May. -Slate]

It's a great tune. These are some of the lyrics as best as I can hear them:

Out in the desert there's a soldier lying dead
Vultures pecking the eyes out of his head
Another day that could have been me there instead
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

'Dad's gonna kill me
'Dad's gonna kill me

You hit the booby trap and you're in pieces
With every bullet your risk increases
Old Ali Baba, he's a different species
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

'Dad's gonna kill me
'Dad's gonna kill me.......


I got a wife, a kid, another on the way
I might get back home if I can live through today
Before I came out here I never used to pray
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

'Dad's gonna kill me

'Dad's in a bad mood
'Dad's got the blues
It's someone else's mess that I didn't choose
At least we're winning on the Fox evening news
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here
'Dad's gonna kill me


Who's that stranger walking in my dreams?
Who's that stranger who's cast a shadow 'cross my heart?
Who's that stranger do I dare speak his name?
Must be old death a'walkin'
Must be old death a'walkin'

'Dad's gonna kill me
'Dad's gonna kill me

A set of muzzle monkeys standing in a row
Standing waiting for that sandbox to blow
Sitting targets in the wild west show
Nobody loves me here
Nobody loves me here

'Dad's gonna kill me...


- From a new anti-Iraq war song by Richard Thompson
Beeswing Music

Note: Go to this NPR site to hear a live version of Shenandoah by RT, one of my favorites.

And my ultimate favorite by RT is Beeswing.

On the HIV/AIDS Battlefront

Iranian Scientists Boasting New Herbal-Based Med for HIV/AIDS
Ron Brynaert is reporting at Raw Story that scientists in Iran are claiming to have found an herbal-based medication with no known side effects called 'IMOD' that they say will help to control the AIDS virus and increase immunity in patients who have tested HIV positive.

Opinion: AIDS burden worsens and the silence lingers by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Eight years ago, I wrote this: "The silence, the absence of voices raised in fear, raised in warning, raised in alarm -- raised -- is deafening." [..] Eight years later, the silence is still loud and the numbers are worse. Blacks now account for nearly half of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and contract AIDS at a rate 10 times that of whites. Sixty-four percent of all American women living with HIV/AIDS are black. AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women 25 to 34 years old. [..] And eight years later, Gaye's advice still haunts. Because while poverty plays a role in those ghastly numbers, while access to healthcare and lack of information are factors, who can deny that the main reason for this plague is the silence, the closed-mouth social conservatism, the priggish moral rectitude, of a people still ill at ease discussing sexuality, homosexuality, drug use and other realities. Instead, we mouth piety, prayers and platitudes while the world burns down around us.

Halt of trials a setback in AIDS fight

Researchers said last week that they had shuttered two trials of a microbicidal compound because preliminary data found that women using it were contracting HIV, which causes AIDS, at a higher rate than those not using it. [..] The halt was a setback for Conrad, a Virginia health-research group supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which hoped to market the compound. [..] It's the second time in recent years that a microbicide appeared to increase the risk of HIV infection rather than retard it.

New WHO Chief fails to stand up for people living with AIDS

Approximately 108,000 of 500,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand depend on GPO-VIR, the generic version of the first-line anti-retroviral therapy produced by the Government Pharmaceutical Organization. According to the Thai government, an estimated 20,000 of these patients have developed resistance to the drug, and are in need of Kaletra. [..] “AHF is alarmed by Dr. Chan’s comments regarding Thailand’s move to increase access to lifesaving AIDS medications for its citizens in need. It is clear that, despite the WHO’s mission to attain the highest possible level of health for all people, the health of people living with HIV in Thailand is not among Dr. Chan’s priorities,” said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s President. “Thailand’s move to issue a compulsory license for Kaletra will likely lower the price of this lifesaving drug to nearly half of its current cost and will mean the difference between life and de ath for thousands of Thai citizens in need. The comments made by Dr. Chan serve only to undermine Thailand’s efforts to protect the health of its people and it is appalling that in her position she would choose to advocate for multinational corporate interests over the interests of people living with HIV/AIDS in the developing world. AHF seeks immediate clarification from the Director General on her position regarding Thailand’s efforts to protect the health of its citizens.”

Seattle area sees drug-resistant HIV

SEATTLE -- A hard-to-treat strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been found in four gay men in Washington's King County, and authorities fear it could spread to more. [..] There is no evidence that the troublesome strain of HIV is spreading rapidly, but its appearance underscores the need for renewed emphasis on safe sex practices, said officials in the Seattle-King County Public Health Department.

How to Talk to Others About Ending Poverty

If we care about ending poverty and if we agree that Senator John Edwards has the best plan to end poverty as we know it within 30 years, we may ask ourselves:

How do we talk about John Edwards' ideas on the issue of Poverty to our friends and neighbors?

To help you, I have broken down a speech made last fall at the University of Buffalo/Amherst campus by Senator Edwards, before he had announced his candidacy for POTUS-08 and while he was still running the Center on Poverty at Chapel Hill, NC. He gave the keynote speech at a Symposium on Poverty in Western New York.

*I apologize in advance for a few blurry parts. The film was troublesome, but most of the video is very clear.


Points to Make:

Ending poverty is a great moral cause.

Millions of people wake up each morning worrying about feeding and clothing their children. They wake up each day worrying about having a decent place to live. They worry about affording healthcare.

We're better than this.

America cares about this issue.

What we choose to do about 37 million people who live in poverty says something about who we are.

The world will see America's true and decent character when they see us acting to eliminate poverty here and around the world. It sets a great example.

After Hurricane Katrina, the government was a mess in its response. America was not. Americans volunteered and made huge contributions to help the victims.

A huge hunger exists in America to feel good about our country, to engage in a cause that is bigger than ourselves.

The will of the American people is not what is missing. National leadership has been the missing element; the hurdle we can't seem to get over when it comes to finding ways to end poverty.

Iraq: What can be salvaged from U.S. engagement?

In a Washington Post piece by Lynne Duke, a comment is made that, despite obvious blunders in Iraq, most leaders hope that "the ship doesn't have to go down." Zbigniew Brzezinski had opposed Bush's doctrine of preemption and assessed that the war policy was one that "was propelled forward by mendacity." After having been asked this week if he felt vindicated by what we now know was a major mistake in Iraq, he replied,
"If vindication was accompanied by a sense that America is likely to undo the damage they have done and can dis-embarrass itself of the tragic involvement, then my answer would be yes."
Lynne Duke reminds us, in a way thatconcerns me deeply, that Mr. Brzezinski, who was former national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, "scarcely believes such course corrections will happen."

For those who aren't sure where the McCain Doctine will lead America, Mr. Brzezinski makes it very clear. He's an extremely wise man. Listen to him:
Despite the broad sea change in opinion among the political and policy class, Brzezinski's sense of vindication has its limits, he says, because "I have the feeling that the president's team is hellbent on digging itself in more deeply and if it does not succeed in Iraq some of its wilder policymakers seem to be eager to enlarge the scope of the war to Iran."

"I'm saddened," he said, "because I think it's doing terrible harm to America. But more than being sad, which is an emotion, I'm worried."

Ms. Duke points out that the debate now centers on what can be salvaged from the U.S. engagement in Iraq. There are some people quoted in Ms. Duke's article who seem disgusted by the pseudo-moral audacity of politicians in D.C. who have never admitted how wrong they have been all along, yet now cozy up to some of those, like Mr. Brzezinski, whose intuition had been right from the beginning and say things like 'Oh, I was with you all along.' If you ask me, these are the kinds of leaders that we need to kick out of their elected positions because, given this critical time in our nation's history, they're as dishonest and as dangerous as the day is long.

Remember, our goal, at the end of the day, is peace and stability in the region with America seen as a good faith partner, because only then will our national security interests be well served.

John Edwards Offers America His Honesty

John Edwards appeared on NBC's Meet the Press this morning and faced tough questioning from Tim Russert about Senator Edwards' vote for the Iraq war and Edwards' subsequent comments supporting that vote in 2004. I asked myself if I would have the courage to confront actions and statements I had made years ago, knowing that I was sorry for ever having made them, having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Senator Edwards did not articulate this, but I got the impression that, between the shocking and excruciatingly disappointing 2004 electoral loss and the simultaneous life-threatening illness of his wife Elizabeth, Edwards was dropped out of the cloud of the stifling Kerry04 campaign to the ground of bitter realities, the darkest of which he, his children Cate, Jack, Emma Claire, and especially his wife Elizabeth had yet to face.

You don't get much more of a shock than when you find out your beloved partner in life has a health condition that threatens life as you've comfortably come to know it. Combine that with a slap-in-the-face loss of a closer-than-close Presidential election. I can understand how John Edwards came through this a changed man in many ways. Most of us have been turned around by experiences in our own lives. Why shouldn't we expect that Senator Edwards is any different then we are? Thankfully for us, he's willing to look people like Tim Russert in the eye (knowing that it's America he's looking in the eye) and tell all of us just how wrong he thinks it was.

I hope Americans "get" this. I think we Americans are apt to forgive those who are willing to take these tough confrontations head-on and those who are willing to reveal themselves, convincingly, as the human beings that they are. When you combine that with everything else I heard from Senator Edwards this morning about all the issues that matter here and now in 2007, I saw a leader that Americans, if they did not already know Senator Edwards, were invited to get to know in a way that revealed to them a man of outstanding character, vision, and honesty.

John Edwards at DNC Winter Meeting

*This one's for Fred

Mags thinks John Edwards has got "what it takes"

Ezra Klein Interviews John Edwards

Edwards On Iran
TAP talks to John Edwards about America's foreign policy challenges in the Middle East. By Ezra Klein

Before the interview officially begins, John Edwards asks for time to lay out "where he is" on Iran and then extends an offer to Mr. Klein to ask anything he'd like to ask. This is important because Senator Edwards has been the center of a discussion about the position he may have held after concerned internet readers saw Ron's Raw Story report, which reiterated some of the statements from the Senator's appearance at the recently-held Herzliya conference. A chief concern among the netroots was Senator Edwards' statement about keeping the military option "on the table" on the Iran issue.

Here is an excerpt that I think will be effective in helping concerned netroots citizens to understand where Senator Edwards is on the issue:
EDWARDS: I think the reason people react the way they do -- I understand it, because, when George Bush uses this kind of language, it means something very different for most people. I mean when he uses this kind of language "options are on the table," he does it in a very threatening kind of way -- with a country that he's not engaging with or making any serious diplomatic proposals to. I mean I think that he's just dead wrong about that.

KLEIN: So we should, first step, talk to Iran, try to open up negotiations?

EDWARDS: Correct

KLEIN: Do it, if necessary, bilaterally?

EDWARDS: Absolutely
I can scarcely believe that a 2008 Democratic candidate has to so carefully defend his position on Iran because the public is so jumpy after six years under a Bush near-dictatorship - incompetent and increasingly unpopular - but in reality, it has come to just that.

John Edwards is trying to assure us that he will not support Bush's sabre-rattling, nor will he support Bush's determined tactics of "no diplomacy with Syria and Iran."

This is a case of good internet reporting and follow-up by Ron, by Ezra, by all concerned netroots participants who cared enough to ask for clarity, and especially Senator Edwards, who cared enough to get out there and offer that clarification.

Imagine Universal Healthcare

Imagine Having Universal Healthcare Coverage

Each American citizen is a fragile human being who is susceptible to illness, disease, and accidental injury. Unlike broken automobiles or washing machines, we are complex psychological and spiritual entities. Navigating through our nation's complicated health care system, we are often made to feel like cogs in an ever-moving wheel that will likely run us over if we stop to ask too many questions. Millions of needy citizens have avoided seeking health care for serious illnesses, most of which could have been prevented with routine check-ups, all because they fear that they couldn't afford to pay. Too many Americans have filed for bankruptcy as a direct result of overwhelming medical bills that could not be paid.

A new federally mandated health care rule called the Deficit Reduction Act has created barriers to health care for children, the elderly and disabled. In the state of Colorado, anyone applying for Medicaid must now provide either a passport or a birth certificate and driver's license or state-issued photo identification card in order to receive health care under Medicaid. Consider the ludicrous notion of a baby needing a photo ID to be treated for a life-threatening infection or an elderly person in a nursing home who suffers from Alzheimer's disease having to produce a drivers' license (when he hasn't been able to drive for years). Imagine a sick person going without medication because she had to pay the phone bill instead. Then think about the caring healthcare providers who would treat the indigent and receive no reimbursement from the federal government for doing so. Our states will be losing millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements. How can we call this "progress"?

When he signed the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) last February with each state having the option of enacting its own version, President Bush said it would "tighten loopholes that allowed people to game the system by transferring assets to their children so they can qualify for Medicaid benefits." The "gamers" he spoke of are actually your middle class parents and grandparents who may have resorted to hiding hard-earned assets for which they worked hard all their lives in order to qualify for Medicaid. Today, they may altogether avoid going into nursing home care that they need because of new restrictions that strip them of not only their economic assets, but worse - their hope and dignity.

What a depressing society we are becoming when you think about the fact that all our elderly population can call their own as they go into a nursing home is their prepaid funeral fund. Is that something we look forward to as we get older? Americans respect their elderly relatives too much to see them enter their last days in such an uncaring public environment. We must call for a change in America's healthcare policy. Instead of making life easier for senior citizens, the government will now more closely scrutinize senior citizens' financial affairs and deny Medicaid benefits to anyone with more than $500,000 of equity in a home. (While the Republicans seek to end the estate tax which shelters and rewards the mega-rich.)

There have been few recommended federal healthcare plans that have been all-inclusive in the scope of coverage provided for citizens. When Americans consider a political leader's healthcare plan and they hear that it will not include coverage for every American, the first thing a citizen will worry about is that they will be one of the people who is going to be left behind. Today, nearly 46 million Americans have no healthcare insurance at all because they don’t have a job or they’re one of the working poor whose boss doesn’t help carry the heavy burden of health insurance costs. Young adults have found themselves left behind. Americans between the ages of 19 and 29 are the largest and fastest growing segment of the U.S. population lacking health insurance, according to a report released this week. Their group makes up 40 percent of the 6 million people who've joined the ranks of the uninsured from 2000 to 2004, some by uninformed choice and some by circumstances beyond their control. Either way, we know there is a better plan out there that would include all Americans and simplify their healthcare choices.

Provided by the federal government, a new healthcare plan could help to supplement incomes and result in a better-organized healthcare system, facilitating the delivery of care at excellent quality and lower costs. It would relieve businesses of one of their biggest economic burdens. It would relieve citizens of worry and anxiety about the high costs of unexpected illnesses and accidental injuries.

It's time to ignite a new healthcare reform movement to cover all Americans. The entire system can be reshaped to focus on disease prevention and possibly include coverage for alternative forms of health practices. It is possible to promote clinical excellence, reduce inefficiency, cover all Americans, and pay less than we do today for coverage. A more caring and creative environment with education that includes training for alternative healthcare treatments might interest and encourage more young Americans to go into the healthcare field. Today, U.S. hospitals have 118,000 vacancies for registered nurses. The federal government predicts the accelerating shortfall of nurses in the United States will swell to more than 800,000 by 2020. It shouldn't be that way, and we could find incentives to recruit new nurses and strengthen nursing programs right here in America rather than taking nurses away from third world countries where they are so desperately needed.

Imagine scrapping the current system that is currently based on cold profiteering and reducing a human being to something that is only material. Imagine starting with a federal healthcare plan that reflects the values of generosity, respect, gratitude, and true caring for all Americans within our economy, from infancy to the twilight years. Why should it be so hard to imagine that kind of progress? If we care for our families and fellow Americans, why not ask for a system that sees us as fully human rather than as lifeless units of profit potential? Profit should never triumph over public need. Let's think about healthcare reform and tell our representatives that we support a change.

Politics, Universal Healthcare