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Cosmic Connection: One Night Only

Sky over Bangkok, Thailand

Sky over Bangkok, Thailand

There’s a beautiful sight in the night sky tonight–and it’s for one night only. I saw it on my way home tonight: the crescent moon with two bright stars near it’s tips. It is a rare alignment of Jupiter and Venus–and the new moon.

In a spectacular one-night stand, Venus and Jupiter combined with the crescent moon to form a rare celestial triple play tonight.

The three brightest orbs in the night sky competed for attention in a cosmic combination that won’t be seen again until 2052.

If it’s a clear night where you live, why not go out and take a look. It’s well worth the effort, believe me.

If you can’t see it because your skies are cloudy, the BBC has posted a series of photos here.

This is an open thread. Be good to each other.

Update: Below is a view of the sky over the central artery in Boston, MA.


Party to the Battle of Terrorism

“There but for fortune go you and I, you and I.”

To live in peace, to be with family and friends, to love, to laugh, to enjoy life — to have a life that helps us escape from the dreary misery of boring existence — to connect with something larger than ourselves, whether it be belief in God, religious worship, service to others, community that bonds us together — this is what most people want from life. To create, to express, to dream, to wish for something beautiful. To share with others, to not feel alone in this world — this is also what spiritual servants do to lift up their congregants.

What gives people the right to kill innocents? Not the right, what gives them the impetus? The hatred? The passion to justify extreme violence meant to send a message of fear to the world? After sixty years, in September, 2008, India and Pakistan took a big step toward peace in signing an accord about their trade routes called the Indus Waters Treaty. Then on the very same day of the Mumbai attacks, India and Pakistan signed a “joint anti-terrorism mechanism.” Is this why terrorists attacked Mumbai’s affluent and popular spots?

There was initial speculation that the murder of the young Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, at the Chabad house in the Colaba district might have been a random act. It seemed obvious to me that once again Jews were a target, the center was deliberately attacked as a statement against Israel. This was confirmed by the captured terrorist, Kasab, who initially pleaded for his own life after being disturbed at the sight of his dead comrade in crime. That chickenshit plea disgusts me.

Israel’s foreign minister challenges the world in her statement, quoted here from the NY Times:

In a news conference broadcast Friday on Israeli radio, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister said: “We know that the targets there that were sought out by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets as well as targets that are perceived as Western targets — American and British.”

She added: “We need to understand that there’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked. And it doesn’t matter if it’s happened in India or somewhere else. We have here radical Islamic elements who do not accept either our existence or the values of the Western world. And only when incidents of this sort occur is it suddenly understood from conversations with leaders from around the entire world that we are actually party to the same battle. (bolding mine)

After planning and plotting, hijacking a boat, scouting out their targets in advance, donning police uniforms after murdering their wearers, killing whomever they pleased at the CST train station, then at the Oberion, the Taj Mahal Hotel, and local cafe, it is becoming clear that this was a well-planned attack. Perhaps it’s my love of the gentle, generous demeanor of the Indian people, the way my ears perceive the melodious tones of their accents, or their sensual love roots in the Khama Sutra, or the attack on the world’s largest Democracy. The hotel workers were repeatedly cited as heroes, placing themselves in the line of fire to save hotel guests. They were, afterall, only paid workers, but their dignity shone through.

The innocents the US kills in this battle of terrorism to counter those who killed us. The tribal warfare, the retaliations, enslavement of women, of children, even the anger and resentments, the self-otherness of those who cannot tolerate people different than themselves. The self-righteousness of people who fail to see beyond themselves. Frankly, I’m just sick of it.

Tenets of Buddhism posit that even anger is a form of violence. I’m even tired of complaining about politicians, businesses, governments, systems, and sects that screw others for their own gain. I’m just sick of fighting about anything. Perhaps, it’s just the holidays and families gathering together, attempting in their big or small ways to get along and put their screwed up history of interactions behind them. Perhaps, it’s me resolving to reclaim my dignity and honor that of others.

“I’m tired of fighting, tired of fighting, fighting for a lost cause.”

(Please note: my computer charger broke, I’m out of town and have to go out with my host, mom. I won’t be able to monitor comments, as I have little battery left until Wed. However, I felt like I had to post this, before my computer went down. Please talk amongst yourselves and be good to each other. I’ll read your comments when I return at around 8:30 ET. Thank you for reading! P.S. Oh, and remember to listen to the mood music, which is part of the post. XO, LBNYC)

2008: January to November 4th

IMG_0649I know it’s way too early to be thinking about New Year’s so I’m not going to look to 2009 yet.  I will, however, take a relatively brief look back on the emotions of the year.  That’s what I have to do in order to move past it. Forgiveness is not a personal tenet of my faith.  Forgetfulness only applies to innocuous things like class assignments. I never forget a slight and when the time comes, I will always return it.  So, backwards for a minute.

January 2008: Hillary…Bill’s wife! When did she run for things? She doesn’t look like a monster. Kind of pretty actually. And smart. Where has she been hiding that brain? I must have been looking at Bill or something because I would not have missed that brain if I’d been paying attention.

February: Hillary…way more qualified than the rest of them.  Barack Obama…that’s an interesting name.  What hole did he crawl out of and can he go back?  Shut up, John Edwards with your stupid haircut. What is wrong with CNN? You have been my number one source of new coverage. What are you doing, man? Hillary didn’t say that! Or that. Leave Bill alone. What the hell?! (Stood in the rain for 2 hours to see the Big Dawg. Then had to wait standing for 2 hours more. Never regretted it.)

March:  Go, Texas, Rhode Island, and Ohio. So goes Ohio, so goes the nation! …Right?

For everyone here in Ohio and across America who’s ever been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for everyone who has stumbled but stood right back up, and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you.

April: Why won’t that stupid bitch quit?  Because she isn’t stupid. Oh my god, what the hell? What parallel reality is this? He is not the nominee.  Am I sleepwalking?  Democrats, say something! Bill and Hillary Clinton are not racists. Who keeps bringing up Monica? And, no, random Obot at a college campus, Chelsea doesn’t have to answer your questions. Oh, and Pennsylvania, you make my life. *high-five* That is a what a landslide looks like! Tell ’em, Ed.

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So, Can She Start Now?

Madame Secretary
Madame Secretary

President-Elect Barack Obama has finally named Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State today. I am thrilled, but nervous, since I expect the press to react like this for the next four years, and she will face many challenges in her new position, including – perhaps – other members of Barack Obama’s Administration. 

What I’m wondering is, since Obama has been acting as co-President, can Hillary now act as co-Secretary of State with Condoleezza Rice? Because quite frankly, Dr. Rice has been an unmitigated disaster.

Just think about the history of this woman’s tenure in the Bush Administration. On 9/11, she was the National Security Adviser. She admitted in Congressional Hearings that she had seen the August PDB entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” She had taken no action whatsoever on terrorism either before or after this briefing, and on the day itself, she was scheduled to give a talk on missile defense and Russia. The idiocy of wasting time on this billion-dollar Reaganite boondoggle, when they had so much information on terrorism in their hands, is truly mindboggling. The Bushian excuses for missing the significance of the chatter and the foreign intel and the PDB were pathetic; Rice actually called the PDB a “historical document,” which was utterly laughable.

And as for the Secretary of State position, Rice has been all but invisible. Colin Powell was a strong Secretary of State, until he ruined his credibility with the cartoon drawings and vial of flour at the United Nations. After that, Bush should have appointed a person with impeccable credentials and experience; someone who could help erase the taint of the Iraq WMD lies from the SOS position. But who does Bush choose? A loyalist, a crony, the woman who failed to prevent the attacks of September 11, 2001. As a New Yorker, I was shocked and disgusted by this appointment. I knew then that Bush had taken the principle of “failing upward” to a new extreme.

The one time Dr. Rice actually tried to do something – that last-minute effort to hold a Middle East peace conference – she failed miserably. And that missile defense shield, which Rice is so fond of promoting? Well, that’s not working out too well. Who could have predicted that if America planted missiles 100 miles from Russia in Poland, it would be interpreted as an act of aggression? Oh yes – EVERYONE WITH 1/10TH OF A BRAIN.

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Obama, yada-yada-yada

The Domestic and The Foreign Presidents

The Domestic and The Foreign Presidents

So, Obama introduces his foreign policy team this morning and the New York Times wastes no time spinning it as “Obama is the boss of Hill”.  Sure.  Whatever.

Campaigning is not the same as governing, guys.  And Obama’s campaign was the type that would make most employees run for cover: bullying, autocratic, arrogant, misogynistic and cheating.  It’s a good way to get to the top, if that’s your only goal.  But it’s quite a different story when you get there.  The Bully Boss leads to quite a bit of turnover, which tends to not look so good.  And we have seen what 8 years of autocratic rule can do to a government.  So, the NYTimes can kiss our asses on the new narrative.  If Obama is as smart as everyone says he is, he will not lord it over anyone.  He won’t be lording it over Hillary in any case.  She serves at the pleasure of the American people and Barack Obama better never forget it.

From the article on the announcement comes former 2 term preseident Bill Clinton’s recommendation of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State:

As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be Secretary of State and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud.

She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America’s image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities.

She has already earned the respect of foreign leaders and diplomats through her work to promote human rights and the empowerment of women through access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. And Americans know, from her leadership in the Senate on national security, that she will always put the security, values and the interests of our people first.

In her service to the people of New York and our nation, Hillary has demonstrated the knowledge, passion, resilience, and capacity to learn that our country needs at this critical time. She loves being a Senator from New York, but as she has in all the thirty-seven years I’ve known her, she answered the call to serve. I commend President-Elect Obama for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served.

Very Classy, Bill.   Now, with Biden’s help, Hillary should hit the ground running.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

gary-larson-the-far-sideIs everybody recovered from their turkey tryptophan induced trance state?  Ready to get back to the business of critiquing the fun and follies of the nation’s political morass?  Good!  Let’s get started.

There are a couple of articles recently that give us some insight into what might have happened in that meeting that Obama and Hillary had in DiFi’s parlor last June.  In For Biden, No Portfolio but the Role of a Counselor, Biden will have less responsibility than Al Gore had.  Gore had a portfolio on the environment and restructuring government.  Biden’s responsibility seems to have been reduced to enquiring on the health of the president every morning.  He will be a valued “counselor”, er, provided the Oval Office is able to work him into the schedule to council. The good news is that Michelle Obama and Jill Biden really hit it off so I think they can look forward to Thursday night pinocle games where Joe can slip some counseling in between rounds of Budweiser and 7-layer nacho dip.

The other is about Hillary herself.  In Clinton is Said to Accept Offer of Secretary of State, there is a very telling passage that suggests why it took so long for Hillary to actually sign on:

“Hillary Clinton will always be seen as her own person,” said Mickey Kantor, a longtime friend who served as commerce secretary in her husband’s administration. “But you know, Hillary Clinton’s a terrific lawyer. She knows how to represent a client, and she’s good at it. And I don’t have any doubt in my mind that she’ll be a team player.”

In this case, her client is herself.  And what did her client want?  Autonomy.

Two advisers to Mrs. Clinton said she was concerned about establishing her role in the administration before agreeing to the job. She wanted assurances that she would have direct access to Mr. Obama and not need to go through a national security adviser, they said. And she wanted the authority to pick her own staff at the State Department.

The media will paint the sticking point in the negotiations as concerning Bill Clinton’s foreign commitments and the donors to his library.  But Bill would have had to do this anyway if he had been the First Dude.  We will all soon find out that there’s no THERE there.  No, what we’ve got here is Joe Biden falling on his sword and Hillary Clinton getting pretty much what she wants except for the title of President.  You can bet your sweet ass that with Madeline Albright, Wes Clark and other experienced foreign policy people in her corner, coupled with the assurance that she’ll be able to run the State Department (no doubt signed in Obama’s blood), that she will be one of the most powerful Secretaries of State we have seen in recent history.  I envision something like a wonky Maggie Thatcher with a “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth” style.

So, let’s imagine what happened in DiFi’s study, shall we?  Hillary, feeling her cheerio’s, takes command of the situation.  She let’s him know before he offers that she’s not interested in being a trusted counselor as VP.  Nope.  Don’t even ask.  She let’s him know what her real interests are.  Maybe she even holds a bargaining chip on the convention.  She knows the numbers.  She *could* actually challenge him in Denver.  It would be messy.  She might even win it.  These things don’t need to be said.  At least not out loud.  I suspect the fix was in back then on the Secretary of State position.  Joe Biden might have been a more natural choice but he didn’t get enough delegates to issue demands.  So, Hillary and Biden switch places.

Post election, the Faustian bargain Obama made to get Clinton’s support is becoming a reality.  It is time to pay the piper and the piper is going to extract some concessions.  She could remain in the Senate.  She might be low on the totem poll but she’s got lots of new friends there and her speeches will still get covered and she *will* make an impact on legislation.  His appointment of Tom Daschle to HHS doesn’t phase her in the least.  Or she could take what’s behind door number two.  But she’s going to do it *her* way.  And now, given the current condition of foreign policy, she will be a lot more visible than just the Senator from NY.  While Obama is fumbling around in the White House, trying to keep the economy from falling apart, she’ll be jetting around the world, overachieving again.  Bwahahahahahahahhhh!

Hmmm, I wonder what concessions she got from Reid to leave?  Does she get a say in her own successor?  And what of the newest rumors that it could be Bill?  Whoo!  Wouldn’t that be a fricking coup?  Unlikely, but entertaining nonetheless.  Can you imagine how that would go?  The uber alpha dog in the Senate?  Nahhh, I’m betting that Hillary held out for a woman to replace her.  Governor Patterson says he doesn’t feel obligated to appoint a woman to replace Clinton.  I disagree- STRONGLY.  Women are a paltry 17% of the Senate and loss of even one of them sets us back significantly.  If you feel likewise, now is the time to send Patterson a message.

Go, Hill, Go!

Update: Thanks to all of you for your kind words after the news of the sudden death of my cousin yesterday.  It really does make a difference.