Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Obama invokes the memory of Wellstone in Minneapolis

I've been waiting for this. Today at a rally with 20,000 people in Minneapolis, presidential candidate Barack Obama reminded us of a great leader who came before- the late Senator Paul Wellstone.

Every time Obama refers to the 2002 vote on war with Iraq, I think of Wellstone. In the face of a difficult campaign and facing the possible end of his senatorial career, Wellstone went to the floor of the U.S. Senate and spoke strongly- you could even say, "with conviction"- against the war in Iraq. Thinking that this could be his last stand in the Senate, Wellstone thanked his staff for always standing by him.

After that speech, Wellstone's poll numbers went up. Unfortunately, we all know what happened just a few weeks later, when America lost one of its great progressive leaders in a tragic plane crash.

But when one falls, others pick up the torch and keep marching. Enter Barack Obama...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Picture of the Day

Buddhist monks march for freedom in Yangon, Burma.
Namu Amida Bhutsu.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Biblical quote of the week

Matthew 6: 1, 5-6

"Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven...

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Abolition rising: Gabon abolishes the death penalty

On average, three countries per year around the world abolish capital punishment. Last week Gabon, Africa, announced that it is ending the death penalty, which it hasn't used in twenty years.

Gabon joins numerous abolitionist African countries, including Angola, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa.

In the United States, we often fall in the trap of looking down on these countries, but don't be fooled. In some ways, they are more advanced than we are.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The NFL and my crisis of conscience

I have been a fan of the National Football League for 28 years. My first football memory is watching the 1979 NFC Championship game when the Los Angeles Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9-0, when I was six years old. For all 28 years, I have been a fan of and had my heart broken by the Philadelphia Eagles, following in the footsteps of my grandfather.

But today, as the Patriot and Chargers battle it out on national television in one of this week's premier matchups, I'm prepared to divorce myself from the NFL. It wasn't Michael Vick and the dog-fighting or Pacman Jones and his audition to join the Cincinnati Bengals or even the revelation that the Patriots cheated last week against the Jets, hitting at the integrity of the game and implying that they may have been cheating for some time and finally got caught.

My end of days with the NFL is a result of the violence and, to be more specific, the incredible harm that the violence of the game inflicts on the players.

The suicide last year of former Eagle Andre Waters has played on my conscious. If you did not hear the story, Waters killed himself at the age of 44. A neuropathologist at the University of Pittsburgh received permission from Waters' family to study the retired safety's brain, and what he found surely impacted many retired players around the country.

According to the doc, Waters' brain was in the condition of an 85-year-old in early-stage Alzheimer's. The doc concluded that Waters' brain damage was a result of the many hits he took during his career.

Although tragic, that event alone was not enough to pull me away from football. But then the off-season story about shoddy treatment of former players who have health issues hit the news.
The players are starting to demand more help from the multi-billion dollar league for serious injuries that have left many of them in constant pain and unable to work, but also unable to get assistance from the pension and disability fund that is set up to help them.

On June 26, a group of critics, led by former coach and player Mike Ditka, will appear before a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee to look into charges that the pension fund, administered by the league and union, is improperly denying benefits to the former stars who sacrificed their long-term health to help make the NFL the nation's most popular and profitable sport.

The NFL is ringing up the cash like they're printing money. There is no reason for former players to be treated this way.

Then I saw a talk at Dickinson College with Jackson Katz, the filmmaker who created Tough Guise, a documentary about gender images in the pop culture.

Then Mike Everett of the Buffalo Bills suffered "catastrophic damage" to his spinal cord in Week 1.

And it all came home.

These young men are killing themselves and creating a future filled with pain and surgery after surgery so that I can be entertained. Granted, they're also doing it for the loot, but the loot would not be there if millions of us weren't watching.

So that's it. I'm done. Will I never watch another game as long as I live? I really can't say that. In fact, tonight when NBC Nightly News promoed Football Night in America, my four-year-old daughter, who has her own Eagles jersey, said excitedly, "It's football night, Daddy!" I'll probably watch another game sometime, probably this season.

But I will say this. I will not go out of my way to watch games, and the NFL is not getting another dime from me. No jerseys, no t-shirts, no tickets. I can no longer in good conscience support the slow destruction of other human beings for my own entertainment.

New blog, same blogger, new attitude

For more than a year, I blogged in starts and stops over at Nasty Little Man. It was fun, and I regret that I couldn't keep up with it.

But I also realized something. The vitriol in the public discourse today is caustic to a point that we are losing our civility. The realm of opinion making is dominated by liars and bullies. And I looked at some of my own posts at NLM with a certain level of embarassment.

So today is a new day in this blogger's career. Today I'm launching Kinder Gentler Nation. This blog will be dedicated to many of the same issues to which NLM was devoted, particularly social justice, but my intent is to present these issues in a way that examines them with a level of seriousness that does not resort to insults.

That doesn't mean that no one gets criticized here. They will. But it will be constructive....I hope. Wish me luck.