I'll be one of many co-hosts for this exciting (and surprisingly affordable!) event for David Segal, a progressive up-and-comer running for Congress in Rhode Island. All your favorite SoCal bloggers will be there (and me, too). Why not join us?
Let's get this one out of the way first: Why is Sarah Palin upset about anything that happens in New York City? She’s already made it clear that she doesn’t consider New York part of the “real America.” So why does she care what happens there?
Sensitivity question #1
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was not a religious believer. He was assassinated by a fanatical follower of Orthodox Judaism. Yet the Orthodox Religious Council and Rabbinate is located less than two blocks from the site of his assassination. Should it be moved - out of sensitivity for his widow’s feelings, and those of his supporters?
Sensitivity question #2
Two people died when Christian extremist Eric Rudolph bombed the Olympic Centennial Park. One of them was Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman who suffered a fatal heart attack. He was presumably not a Christian. Nevertheless, a church called the Baptist Tabernacle is located immediately next to the park. When should it receive its notice of eviction?
Out of sight, out of mind
The so-called “mosque” is actually planned as a community center - which prompted Al Franken to speak of "Muslim point guards" in its gym. It would include a prayer room, which is supposedly part of the problem. But Muslims pray anywhere.
How far away must Muslims be in order to perform the act of prayer? What if they only pray inwardly? Would a Muslim community center be permissible if no prayer was conducted?
Airports are sacred, too
There are interfaith prayer rooms or chapels in all major US airports. Should we station armed guards at the door to make sure they're not used by Muslims?
Such a deal
I worked in the World Trade Center neighborhood for years. Friends of mine died there. So I remember the Burlington Coat Factory that once occupied the planned site of this so-called “mosque.” Occasionally you could find a good deal, but frankly most of their merchandise was crap. Would it be permissible for Muslims to open a store that sold mostly crappy clothing, instead of a community center?
Hear me out: The old Jewish guys on Seventh Avenue could sell wholesale merchandise to the moderate Muslims downtown, who could then sell it retail. If my grandfather the tailor were still alive he could mend the clothes. The whole thing could be a beautiful interfaith experience.
But I still wouldn't wear those ugly overcoats they used to sell. You know the ones I mean, the brown ones with the fake-fur collars? Ech.
The “Reverend” Franklin Graham says that Barack Obama carries the “seed of Islam” because his father was a Muslim. But Obama's father was an atheist. For how many generations does this “seed” and its presumed curse survive? Should we forbid people descended from Muslims from congregating near the World Trade Center?
A few more questions for Reverend Graham: Are you suggesting that "Muslims" like Obama who convert to Christianity aren't real Christians? That they're not equal to born Christians like yourself in the eyes of the Lord? If so, where does that leave the twelve disciples?
And a last question for the Reverend: Why did it only take one generation for Billy Graham's "seed" of basic courtesy and tact to disappear so completely?
The Anti-Defamation League was formed after World War II on one of the most inspiring of premises: The Jewish people, who had suffered the most massive and horrifying act of institutionalized hate in history, would create an organizationto fight discrimination - not only against themselves, but on behalf of all victims of prejudice. Once it would have responded to this controversy by bringing people together to address the survivors' pain and overcome bias. Now it opposes the building of this “mosque” near the World Trade Center, a position that's premised on the collective guilt of the world's billion Muslims.
Will there be a memorial service to mourn the beautiful thing the ADL once was?
For “moderates” and the news media who keep this controversy alive: When can we start talking about the economy again? Or the climate? Or the war in Afghanistan, which on last report is still killing people?
The last question is for “moderate” liberals like Howard Dean who think the community center’s founders should “compromise” and move somewhere else:
If you guys had been in politics in 1955, would you have suggested that Rosa Parks “compromise” by sitting in the middle of the bus?
“(S)egregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority … (S)egregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? …An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”
--Martin Luther King, Letter From a Birmingham Jail
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Haiku or not? In the strictest definition, clearly not. It's not even close to the 7-5-7 syllable structure that makes the haiku form so compact and elegant. (I think people sometimes admire haiku for the same reason they admire microchip design: Look how much you can put it such a little space!)
Seger's lyric is closer to the five-line tanka form. Since tanka are generally concerned with love or mortality, the Seger lyric is a good candidate (except for the syllable counts, which are way off). And the entire lyric to the song from which this comes, "Night Moves," would be a chōka , if anything. It's way too long for any other Japanese form. (The reader will presumably remember the song, with its "I used her, she used me, and neither one cared/we were getting our share" challenge to feminist critiques of male exploitation.)
That said, a seasonal reference is customary in the haiku form, and Seeger delivers. It might be argued that he also provides a kireji, or "word which cuts." Kireji often express wonder, and he uses that word explicitly. Kireji can also be in the form of a question, like a Jeopardy answer.
Parts of this lyric could almost qualify as a Zen death poem, or as a premonition of death:
Woke last night to the sound of thunder.
How far off? I sat and wondered.
That could be a meditation on the nature of mortal existence.
Ain't it funny how the night moves
With Autumn closin' in … ?
That really does sound like a death poem. Would Bob Seger write something like that? He put out a pro-Vietnam-War (and anti-peacenik) song called "Ballad of the Yellow Berets" when he was a kid. But we all mellow with time.
Hey, am I kidding about all this? Sure. But that lyric from "Night Moves" really is beautiful and well-written (as opposed to, say, that other line about the young woman in question having "points of her own/way up firm and high." That's just icky, especially coming from a thirty-something rocker reminiscing about teen sex.)
Still, Seger's a hell of a songwriter - "Get Out of Denver" is terrific, for example, and so's "Turn the Page." He doesn't get enough respect for his craft, and it's possible he never will.
Don't Fear the Boomers. Despite the scaremongers' attempts to incite generational war, people born between 1946 and 1964 are not going to destroy Social Security. The Baby Boom cohort isn't going to be a crippling financial burden for Generation X, Generation Y, Generation XYY, or any other generation. It may be true that their descendants will be forced to listen to their greatest hits until the sun goes supernova (more cowbell, please!), but economically there's nothing to worry about.
Since I'm one of the dreaded boomers myself I guess I can't be considered objective, so don't take my word for it. Ask an actuary.
Harry C. Ballantyne's biography demonstrates that he's the nation's leading expert in forecasting Social Security trends. His career includes eighteen years as the Chief Actuary for the Social Security Administration (under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton) and a degree in Physics - but no time whatsoever as the bass player for Jethro Tull. Actuarial certification is extremely hard to receive, and those guys know their stuff. (I know because when I was a young Boomer and numbers guy, my boss offered to finance my actuarial training. But I had small children at home, you gotta take a lot of really hard exams, yada yada yada ... you know how flightly these boomers are.)
What does Harry C. Ballantyne says about all the generational fear being whipped up today? A new report released yesterday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), co-authored by Ballantyne with EPI President Lawrence Mishel and economist Monique Morrissey, explains: "Social Security is running a surplus of $77 billion this year and amassing a trust fund large enough to last through the peak retirement years of the Baby Boomers." Well, excuse me while I kiss the sky ...
"Though modest changes will be needed to put Social Security in Balance over the 75-year planning period," the report adds, "the projected shortfall is less than 1% of Gross Domestic Product." Got that? Military expenditure is 4.7% of GDP. The Bush tax cuts can be reasonably be estimated (based on these figures) to have been at least 2% of GDP. Senescent boomers playing In-a-Gadda-Da-Vidaon old Stratocasters? Less than 1% ... and, as the report observes, only "modest changes will be needed to put Social Security in balance."
No less a personage than Alan Greenspan (who probably refers to Boomers as "those young whippersnappers") led the Commission that pretty much fixed the generational problem during the Reagan years, when Ballantyne first became Chief Actuary. That's why we only need minor tweaks today.
Sure, Social Security spending will increase from 4.8% or GDP to 6.1% in 2035. But since Social Security is forbidden from taking money from taxpayer revenues, all the Deficit Commission andAmericaSpeaks propaganda about those figures is only meant to confuse and manipulate. Here's the bottom line: Those numbers don't contribute to the Federal deficit. That's the main point of the EPI paper, which is entitled "Social Security and the Federal Deficit: Not Cause and Effect."
As for the canard that Social Security is "going broke" - it's not. If changes aren't made, it will run out of assets (trust funds, etc.) in approximately 2037 and would have to cut benefits by 22%. We need to prevent that, but let's put the "going broke" rhetoric in perspective: A lot of jobless Americans today would be thrilled to receive 78% of the income they had before the Great Recession. Anyone who can say that Social Security is "going broke" is lying, or else they ain't never been "really broke." (Or both; the two aren't mutually exclusive.)
So what went wrong? The EPI report explains the real reason for the shortfall (as detailed by Ballantyne and his actuaries back in the 1990's): It's "mostly the result of higher disability take-up, slower wage growth, a growing share of earnings above the taxable earnings cap, and a growing share of compensation going toward health insurance and other untaxed benefits."
Got that? That almost sounds like a four-point plan for fixing Social Security: Improve overall health and occupational safety. Boost wages and employment. Raise the earnings cap (which isn't adjusted for wage inflation). And do more to control runaway health care costs. What isn'tnecessary is to ship all the boomers off to Antarctica on wooden ships, as desirable some might find that option.
(Speaking of which: These findings won't reduce inter-generational snark like this from blogger Duncan Black, aka Atrios, who remarked upon seeing people older than himself at a gig featuring contemporary bands Arcade Fire and Spoon: "(G)ood for old people who don't live in an endless nostalgia loop. Life goes on after The Eagles reunions end." Whose reunions does he go to - Flock of Seagulls?)
The worker-to-retiree ratio isn't worse than projected, despite increases in life expectancy, thanks to a growing workforce. That growth is driven largely by increasing numbers of working women and (sorry, Tom Tancredo) immigrants. As for revenue, the EPI paper explains that this "modest shortfall" can be addressed by either raising tax rates or raising the cap on earnings. The latter is preferable because, as the paper says, "the lion's share of increases in both earnings and life expectancy (emphasis mine) has gone to those at the top of the income distribution."
There's more in the paper, including a firm rebuttal to some of the misstatements emerging from the Deficit Commission. But the key takeaways are this: Social Security does not contribute to the deficit (which is why the entire AmericaSpeaks exercise was deceptive), and Boomers are not the problem they're made out to be. That's really all there is to say on the subject, except to Duncan Black, to whom I would add:
"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in your hair ..."
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I've always been haunted by the Byrds version of this song, but this arrangement seems more suited to the material. It's a poem (sometimes called "Girl of Hiroshima") by Turkish activist Nâzım Hikmet set in the voice of a 7-year-old bombing victim, which Pete Seeger and Jeannette Turner joined to a melody by MIT grad student James Waters.
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