Mea Culpa

Pope Francis

                          Pope Francis

Two months ago I was at a dinner party with friends and the talk shifted to the new Pope, Francis. Before I could put the cat back into the bag I spoke derisively about the new Pope, specifically that while there seemed to be a great “image campaign” underway to paint him as gentle and kind, I remained skeptical and would judge him by his policies. I should also add that I was the lone non-christian in the conversation with most of the others being socially progressive Catholics.

Finally grasping that I was being rude, especially given the feelings of a room full of good people, I apologized for my aggression and explained that even though I am a Jew, I am married to a Catholic and been involved in many things Catholic for thirty years. I attend mass from time to time, my daughter attended a Jesuit University and many of my family are Catholic.  Catholic belief and culture are familiar to me and I have a great deal of respect for the moral forces in Catholicism. My derision was an expression of frustration more than anything else.

In 2002 we stayed in Rome for one month not far from the Vatican. It was a regular visiting place and became somewhat familiar. When you sit in church at the Vatican you cannot help but feel conflicted. Vatican5The sheer artistic magnificence of the structures, the museum and setting are inspiring…until you read the history of the Popes or confront the contradiction of opulence with the reality of the lives of impoverished Catholics all around the world.paplhistoryThough there is much more to come, when I read Pope Francis’ words this morning about avoiding dogma over moral issues and remembering that the fundamental role of Christianity is love. Stunning! Make no mistake Pope Francis with those words opened a tectonic shift in the tone of the Catholic Church. He has directly addressed issues of abortion and homosexuality by saying that focusing on those issues to the negation of the greater one of love is a mistake. Those words are simple, revolutionary and courageous.

I applaud him and am happy to eat my own presumption.

“You dirty rat…” I mean Blobfish.

Thanks to Russian diplomacy and the effectiveness of the separation of powers, I can return to what I enjoy most:  posting pictures of fish.  This little fella, or damsel, looks forlorn.  Probably wondering why it cannot keep a cigar lit underwater.  Reminds me of Jimmy Cagney, “You dirty rat”  or a heavy hearted crooner singing, “Nobody knows the troubles I have…”

Blobfish

                                                              Blobfish

The Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) is a deep-sea fish of the family Psychrolutidae. It inhabits the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania.[1]

Blobfish live at depths between 600 and 1,200 m (2,000 and 3,900 ft) where the pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level, which would likely make gas bladders inefficient for maintaining buoyancy.[1] Instead, the flesh of the blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water; this allows the fish to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. Its relative lack of muscle is not a disadvantage as it primarily swallows edible matter that floats in front of it such as deep-ocean crustaceans.[2]

Blobfish are often caught as bycatch in bottom trawling nets. Scientists now fear the blobfish could become an endangered species because of deep-ocean trawling.[3][4]

Peace? Only as good as those with courage to live it.

President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009

Here is a description of the prize taken from the Nobel website.

The Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize is an international prize which is awarded annually by the Norwegian Nobel Committee according to guidelines laid down in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Peace Prize is one of five prizes that have been awarded annually since 1901 under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm for outstanding contributions in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Starting in 1969, a Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has also been awarded.

Whereas the other prizes are awarded by specialist committees based in Sweden, the Peace Prize is awarded by a committee appointed by the Norwegian Storting. According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. The prize includes a medal, a personal diploma, and a large sum of prize money (currently 8 million Swedish crowns).

The Nobel Peace Prize has been called “the world’s most prestigious prize”. With the award to The European Union in 2012, a total of 101 individuals and 24 organizations have been awarded the Peace Prize. The Prize is awarded at a ceremony in the Oslo City Hall on December 10, the date on which Alfred Nobel died.

Creswell Café 9/6/2013

My father bought me my first Hohner Marine Band harmonica for $1.75 in 1968 in a music store by the Bronx Zoo.

HarpI’ve been playing blues harp since that time motivated by Paul Butterfield, and also trying to win the affection of a childhood crush who said she liked harmonica.  (Hello Donna wherever you are.  Thanks for the motivation.)

Last week we were in town looking at two art openings and I was getting pretty antsy to get out of Dodge away from the crowds and drive to Creswell.  Seth and Melissa at Creswell Coffee told me they were having a good local band at the café on Friday night fronted by a talented harmonica player.  I’ve been playing blues harp since I was thirteen and I could feel something special was going to happen.

The café was full to the brim with about sixty people. The band was setting up and checking sound as we arrived.  When a young man did the sound check of his harmonica I sensed something special.  There is an unmistakeable sound of an amplified harmonica in the hands of someone who can make it sing. Less than a half hour later that was confirmed.

HankShreveBand

The band is Hank Shreve (Harmonica, Vocals, Organ), Stan Welsh (Guitar), Bill Shreve (Bass, Vocals), Skip Jones (Keys, Vocals), GT Albright (Drums, Vocals).  They are fun, tight, and great!

The band lead off with a textured jazzy instrumental featuring Hank Shreve on the chromatic harp (a piece by Jazz Guitarist Kenny Burrell) and by the time the song was finished I started writing a list of great harmonica players I’ve heard or seen in person.  On the back of a scratch piece of paper I wrote these names.

Paul Butterfield

Paul Butterfield

James Cotton

James Cotton

Charlie Musselwhite

Charlie Musselwhite

Sonny Terry

Sonny Terry

Paul Delay

Paul Delay

Curtis Salgado

Curtis Salgado

John Mayall

John Mayall

Jimmy Fadden

Jimmy Fadden

Norton Buffalo

Noon Buffalo

This is just a short list.  I could have included a number of others who are great harmonica players like my cousin Gene Parsons, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen.

By the time the first set was complete I wrote September 6th, 2013, added Hank Shreve, then introduced myself and said, “I’ve heard a lot of great harmonica players in my life and your name belongs on the list” then gave the list to him.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I bought a CD.

You never know when it will hit but when it does you know it and every cell in your body is alive for being around it.  Thanks to the great Hank Shreve Band and to Melissa and Seth for bringing them to me.  Two of the best hours of music I’ve ever experienced, in the small town of Creswell, by a band of local players who humbly and energetically walk on the backs of giants.

Bullet MIc

Blah Blah Blah Credibility, Blah Blah Blah, Humanitarian

Let there be no doubt that American action against Assad in Syria has nothing to do with either humanitarian aid or a moral response to the accused chemical attack.

President Obama and Secretary of State, Kerry continue to make statements about American and International credibility- what ever the hell that means.  They call it a a heinous attack though as yet unproven as to who did it? Can we believe that Assad’s regime, fully aware that the US would unleash its dogs if the so called line in the sand of chemical weapons were used, would be stupid enough to tug on Superman’s cape?

Though it is unlikely we will ever know for sure who committed the attack, I do know that the US and its “friends” will stop at nothing to justify their actions.

At its root, American intervention in in Syria is part of a broader and well worked out strategic plan for the Middle East. By the end of next week the machine of war will have made its obligatory stop in the American Congress and Senate, and soon thereafter the bombs will fly in what the administration calls a “limited and narrowly focused response.”

That is a certifiable load of crap!

That narrow response will be bombing as much of Assad’s infrastructure without killing too many innocents. The ultimate goal being is to depose Assad and install someone less threatening to the “interests” of the United States, France, Israel and the United Kingdom.

In October of 2002 I was driving to Canada from Vermont and listening to the Senate debate the resolution allowing George W. Bush to go to war in Iraq.  It was a long drive, and a longer debate, including a prolonged speech by then senator, Hillary Clinton which detailed all the reaspon s why it was wrong to do so.  But, in the end, Hillary Clinton, as did Seventy-seven other senators and 297 members of congress rolled over to the misguided whims of a President who lied to the American people and took us into a disastrous intervention that has cost thousands of lives and billions (Really) trillions of dollars.  Whle our country wallows in debt unable to advance, maintain, or simply provide for the needs of its citizens, we are finally exiting from Iraq and Afghanistan only to have President Obama despite protesting of the opposite intentions, take us into another war.

Just as in Iraq, no doubt we will soon here the justifying cries for more involvement. “We can’t just stop now that we’ve gone this far.”

I recall president Bush, when confronted with the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, defending his actions by saying, Saddam Hussein is a bad man.”

(One small consolation is that Hillary and her successor John Kerry later lamented their support for the war saying they were mislead.  At least they have their speeches ready for when they back track on Syria)

Kerry, on behalf of his boss, will likely persuade his former colleagues that we need to kill in the name of peace.  When the roll is called I expect the lemmings in Congress to ratify war because this is what they seem to do best.

Enough of my ramblings. A friend of mine sent me a piece addressing Syria. Here are two paragraphs from it.

Welcoming the Vote of the British Parliament while Supporting the Syrian Uprising


Despite the obvious limitations of the UN and of existing international law, it is better that international relations be institutionalized under some form of the rule of law, however deficient that law is, than be dominated by the “law of the jungle” whereby powerful states, the US above all, feel free to decide unilaterally against whom and when to use force. The idea that the rule of law is a straightjacket by which Russia and China can prevent truly humanitarian actions from taking place is predicated on the view that Western military interventions are generally motivated by noble intentions. They are definitely not. Suffice it to note that the two Western military interventions since the end of the Cold War that most blatantly violated international law – Kosovo 1999 and Iraq 2003 – both used humanitarian pretexts as covers for imperial designs and led to catastrophic humanitarian results.

 

The truth is that the forthcoming strikes are only intended as a means to restore the “credibility” of the US and its allies in the face of an alliance of the Syrian, Iranian, and Russian governments that has taken full liberty in escalating the war on the Syrian people despite all US calls for compromise. The strikes are necessary in order to reinstate a US imperial standing that has been much humiliated over the last few years in Iraq, in Afghanistan, by Iran, and even by Israel’s Netanyahu. These strikes will not help the Syrian people: they will increase the destruction and death toll without enabling the Syrians to get rid of their tyrant. They are not intended for this latter goal. In fact, Washington does not want the Syrian people to topple the dictatorship: it wants to force on the Syrian opposition a deal with the bulk of the regime, minus Assad. This is the so-called Yemen solution that President Barack Obama has been actively pursuing since last year, and that Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to promote by cozying up to his Russian counterpart.