Tuesday, August 28, 2007

To Build One America, End the Game

I don't usually find campaign speeches to be very inspiring. But I am energised by the fact that John Edwards is willing to talk about class, wealth and poverty in America. They are not sexy campaign topics on their surface, and it is obvious from the mockery lavished on Edwards by the mainstream media when he talks about these topics that the media corporations are not interested in discussing class in America. But Edwards is talking about it anyway. I think he is counting on the fact that the number of voters in America far out numbers the 1% of wealthy Americans who own 90% of everything. And ordinary working Americans still outnumber the corporate lobbyists. If enough voters get the message change can happen even in Washington DC.

Here is a section of Edwards' speech, "To Build One America, End the Game", delivered on August 23rd, 2007. (You can read the entire speech on his website: http://johnedwards.com)

[The System is] controlled by big corporations, the lobbyists they hire to protect their bottom line and the politicians who curry their favor and carry their water. And it's perpetuated by a media that too often fawns over the establishment, but fails to seriously cover the challenges we face or the solutions being proposed. This is the game of American politics and in this game, the interests of regular Americans don't stand a chance.
Real change starts with being honest -- the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It's rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. It's rigged by the very wealthy to ensure they become even wealthier. At the end of the day, it's rigged by all those who benefit from the established order of things. For them, more of the same means more money and more power. They'll do anything they can to keep things just the way they are -- not for the country, but for themselves.
Politicians who care more about their careers than their constituents go along to get elected. They make easy promises to voters instead of challenging them to take responsibility for our country. And then they compromise even those promises to keep the lobbyists happy and the contributions coming.
Instead of serving the people and the nation, too many play the parlor game of Washington -- trading favors and campaign money, influencing votes and compromising legislation. It's a game that never ends, but every American knows -- it's time to end the game.
And it's time for the Democratic Party -- the party of the people -- to end it.
The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other.
The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent, and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.
It's time to end the game. It's time to tell the big corporations and the lobbyists who have been running things for too long that their time is over. It's time to challenge politicians to put the American people's interests ahead of their own calculated political interests, to look the lobbyists in the eye and just say no.
And it's time for the American people to take responsibility for our government -- for in our democracy it is truly ours. If we have come to mistrust and question it, it is because we were not vigilant against the forces that have taken it from us. That their game has played on for so long is the fault of each of us -- ending the game and returning government of the people to the people is the responsibility of all of us.
But cleaning up Washington isn't enough. If we are going to meet the challenges we face and prevail over them, two principles must guide us -- yes, we must end the Washington game, but we must also think as big as the challenges we face. Our ideas must be bold enough to succeed and our government must be free to enact them without compromising principle or sacrificing results.
One without the other isn't good enough. All the big ideas in the world won't make a difference if they have to go through this broken system that remains controlled by big business and their lobbyists. And if we fix the system, but aren't honest with the American people about the scope of our challenges and what's required of each of us to meet them, then we'll be left with the baby steps and incremental measures that are Washington's poor excuse for progress.
As Bobby Kennedy said, "If we fail to dare, if we do not try, the next generation will harvest the fruit of our indifference; a world we did not want, a world we did not choose, but a world we could have made better by caring more for the results of our labors."
But if we do both -- if we have the courage to offer real change and the determination to change Washington -- then we will be build the One America we dream of, where every man, woman and child is blessed with the same, great opportunity and held to the same, just rules.


I have stood with ordinary Americans at the most difficult times in their lives, when all the power of corporate America was arrayed against them. I have walked into courtrooms alone to face an army of corporate lawyers with all the money in the world. I have walked off the Senate elevator and been besieged by an army of corporate lobbyists. And I have beaten them over and over again.
But let me tell you one thing I have learned from my experience -- you cannot deal with them on their terms. You cannot play by their rules, sit at their table, or give them a seat at yours. They will not give up their power -- you have to take it from them.
We cannot triangulate our way to real change. We cannot compromise our way to real change. But we can lead to real change. And we can start today.
Nearly ten years ago, I made the decision that I would never take a dime from a Washington lobbyist -- I wasn't going to work for them, and I didn't want their money.
Because in the courtroom, when you present your case to the jury, you can offer facts and evidence, you can argue your heart out -- and I have -- but the one thing you can't do, is pay the jury. We call that a bribe. But in Washington when an oil lobbyist gives money to office holders to influence our energy policy, they call it politics. That's exactly what's wrong with this system.
Money flies like lightning between corporations, lobbyists, and politicians. We need full public financing to reform the system once and for all. But we don't need to wait to reform our party. Two weeks ago, I called on all Democrats to reject contributions from federal lobbyists. To tell them -- we know that you give money to influence politicians on behalf of your corporate clients. Well, we're not going to take it anymore. Your money's no good here.
I repeat that challenge today. Let's show America exactly whose side we're on. We can reform our party and truly be the party of the people. And we can expose for all time who the Republicans in Washington are really working for.
There are 60 lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress. The big corporations don't need another president that looks out for them -- they've got all the power they need. I want to be the people's president.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Sometimes an image strikes me
Strikes beyond, beneath, beyond me
Sometimes there lies within me
Strident bellows lie, cry, lie within me

Give me your full attention

Simple but not easy
Samples of not what is, but could be
Sometimes a word or phrase disarms me
Strips, tears, bares me

Carlos, Bruce and Francis unite
Strangers all, intimately embraced before me
Your teachers and me...the same
Sometimes our sameness strikes me

Credits: Poem by Jay Larsen
Inspired by "The Art of Reality" by Bruce Wagner, in the Fall 2007 issue of Tricycle Magazine, where in Bruce talks about his teacher Carlos Castaneda, and the article is accompanied by a painting by Francis Picabia, "Geai bleu" (which is displayed above).

Friday, August 24, 2007

The PreGame Show Has Begun

Fox News must have their talking points memo from the White House, because they are acting like war with Iran is a done deal. Just like they did with Iraq in 2002 and 2003.

Some people, like Ray McGovern, say that Rove and Snow are bailing out because they lost the argument about Iran to Dick Cheney.

We cannot afford another war in the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I only meditate...

I only meditate on the toilet
It is hard to be too full of myself
When I am taking a shit

I only meditate when people are watching
Why go to all that effort of maintaining posture
If no one is going to see it

I only meditate when life is hectic
If you can’t maintain attention when life is buzzing
What good is attention?

I only meditate when I am alone
Then I can’t blame others for my distractions
And I have to own them all

I only meditate while watching TV
My inner observer traces the plot lines
And guides me through the ten-thousand channels

I only meditate on holy days
Because there is no reason to waste
Awareness on unholy things

I only meditate on emptiness
Because it is impossible to describe
Yet sounds so profound when I expound

I only meditate on Wednesdays
Hump days are so mundane and boring
The middle of the week needs some holiness

I only meditate while breathing
Because awareness is life
And life is worth living

I only meditate
Credits: Original Poem by Jay Larsen
Original Illustration, Digital Bodhisatva, by Jay Larsen
Awareness of Iamness by The Observer

and just because...

Those comic book writers and artists had to know exactly what they were doing.
Wank on, Captain America! Wank on.

City Bans Billboards

São Paulo: A City Without AdsFrom Adbusters #73, Aug-Sep 2007
"In 2007, the world’s fourth-largest metropolis and Brazil’s most important city, São Paulo, became the first city outside of the communist world to put into effect a radical, near-complete ban on outdoor advertising. "

I think it would be great to be able to walk down the street without having to see all those advertisements. A couple of funny things from the articles, one resident responded that there were entire neighborhoods that he had never seen because they had been completely obscured by billboards, and Clear Channel, the world's largest billboard corporation, tried to block and mock the city's decision by putting up billboards of their own:

“There’s a new movie on all the billboards – what billboards? Outdoor media is culture.”

Culture? Clear Channel Communications, the company that won't let you listen to the Dixie Chicks on the radio thinks their advertising is culture? Vulture maybe. Culture, no.

Maybe some American cities should clean up their environment a bit and ban some of this visual noise pollution.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Impeachment, It's Not Just for Presidents

William Worth Belknap from 1869 to 1876 was the Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant. He was impeached by a unanimous vote of the House of Representatives shortly after he had resigned for allegedly having received money in return for post tradership appointments. In other words he took bribes to put personal interests ahead of national interests.

Alberto Gonzales has lied to Congress and perjured himself trying to cover up the fact that he has been putting personal interests ahead of national interests. The Constitution provides for impeachment for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." And now Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington, and five other prosecutors-turned-representatives have introduced a resolution to conduct an impeachment inquiry.

I hope Congress follows through on this one. Gonzales will resign if Impeachment proceedings are begun, which is just as well. And it will be a wake up call and a warning shot to the Bush Administration that the Constitution is still in effect. If Democrats are willing to take the side of the Constitution and stand up to political pressure.

Unfortunately, that is a big IF.

Global Warming Delivered

Stuart Davis' Clones deliver the goods on global warming in a way that amuses and surprises.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Ren Faire 2007 Pictures 4

We saw people from far lands.
Strange Creatures.
Even a few sad Fairies.
But the Larsen Clan had a grand old time at the Ren Faire.

Ren Faire 2007 Pictures 3

Yes, we took the dogs. Biscuit was there.
And Riki. Washington Ren Faire is one of the few that welcomes pets. Huzzah!

Siona had some plastic surgery done to her ears, with real plastic.

Siona Elf Maiden of the Forest. Very fetching. Many of the warriors were checking her out.

Ren Faire 2007 Pictures 2

Chani mastered the art of archery.
She hit the bullseye.
She defended the relm with sword and shield.
Chani, too cool for words, as always.

Ren Faire 2007 Pictures 1

Chani of Sherwood.
Lady Evelyn.
Courtly Love. There is nothing like kissing a man in a kilt (so I am told).
Siona Greycloak.

Took the family to the Washington Renaissance Faire in Purdy.
Drove across the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Had a great time.
Took lots of pictures.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Sad News Mashup

So which is it? Are we happier than ever or more depressed than ever?

While at the same time the BBC says more people are being diagnosed as depressed than ever before.

Maybe people just don't like telling anonymous pollsters that they are dissatisfied with their life?

Or maybe all those antidepressant prescriptions are working really well? (Despite the fact that Americans pay more for prescriptions than any other county on the planet--Now that's depressing.)

Or maybe the Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post wants to make sure Americans know how we are expected to respond: "Say you are happy damn you or your Corporate Overlords will give you something to really cry about! Oh and by the way, the economy is doing great, pay no attention to the reduction in wages for 80% of Americans or the doubling foreclosure rate in 14 states. You are happy if I say you are happy."

I suspect most people have not taken the half-an-hour of quite time it would take to check in with themselves to see if they are basically satisfied or not. But don't take my word for it, or Rupert Murdoch's, turn off your cell phone and TV and watch the sky for 30 minutes. Then ask yourself if you are happy or not. The answer may surprise you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Apparantly, my one sentence was a question.
My favorite question is "What now?"


If you were only going to post one sentence to your blog, what sentence would it be?

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Cost of Kids

My brother, Ronnie, has been graciously hosting our two kids for a week this summer. He and the girls seem to be having a good time, based on the iPhone pictures I keep getting in my mail box. But poor little brother, who has no kids of his own, was a little overwhelmed by how much everything costs when you add in a few kids.

My girls will be coming home tonight and I will be glad to see them. But I noticed that I did not have to go to the grocery store for the whole time they were gone...

Families who make: Will spend:
More than $74,900 $289,380

$44,500 to $74,900 $197,700

Less than $44,500 $143,790

Where does all that money go? According to Bankrate.com, the breakdown at the middle-tier level looks something like this:
Groceries — $1525 year
Clothing — $606 year
Bigger home — $2900 year
Bigger car — $1250 year
Health care — $300 year
Education — $600 year
Child care — $4300 year (through age 11)
Recreation — $300 year
Additional insurance — $300 year
Gift giving — $330 year
Miscellaneous — $330 year
And no, that doesn't include in-vitro fertilization, which can run $10,000 per cycle and often isn't reimbursed by insurance, or adoption, which can be much more. Nor does it include college, which is currently running about $50,000 for four years at a public university and $125,000 for four years at a private college.

So thanks for taking the kids to the zoo, Ronnie. But do you want to pitch in for the college fund?

Friday, August 10, 2007


Research says the suicide bombers in Iraq are mostly Saudi Arabians. The President says Al Queada and Iran cause all the problems. The Vice President says we should be attacking Iran. But meanwhile we give/sell billions of dollars of new weapons to Saudi Arabia, our great allies who supplied 43% of the suicide bombers in the above study. Iran, who are our sworn enemies, aren't even in the footnotes of the "other" category. Which if math still works the way it did when I was in high school means those dastardly Iranians supplied 0% of the suicide bombers. Because no one in American politics is permitted to stand in the way of a $20 billion dollar arms deal, it makes sense that the politicians will buy the new math. $20 billion is greater than 43% of all suicide bombers. The corporate keepers of Washington DC will not allow their purchased representatives to stand in the way of profits. And we, the public, are expected to swallow the Bush Administration's latest PR product "Iran source of all evil & Saudi Arabia our great ally" like the docile consumers they have trained us to be.

War really is Peace.
Love is Hate.
We have always been at war with Eurasia.
Swallow at your own risk.
They don't call him Big Brother for nothing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Monkey See, Monkey Doo Doo

My Zen Calendar presented me with the following this morning:

Yan-shan once asked Chung how one can see into one's own self-nature.
Chung replied: "It is like a cage with six windows, and inside is a monkey. When someone calls 'Monkey! Monkey!' at the east window, the monkey answers. Same thing happens at all the other windows."
"Very instructive," said Yang-shan. "But what happens if the monkey is asleep?"
At that, Chung junped down from his straw seat and toll Yang-shan's arm, dancing and saying: "O Monkey! O Monkey! My interview with you is finished!"

More metaphors for the self. More attempts to understand who we are with story, allusion, misdirection, fantasy, imagery, comparison, poetic phrases, frantic pointing and gesturing, and the occasional poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Behind each metaphor are actual perceptions. And behind each perception is an awareness that perceives. A watcher. An observer. An Iamness.

But what if your monkey is asleep? What if your monkey acts like a little tyrant, insisting that he is you and he is in charge because he is the monkey king and you are just a worthless turd?What if your monkey is screeching so loudly you can't hear the subtle music that arises silently out of vast field of awareness? What if your monkey is flinging so much poo onto the windows that you can't see the world clearly any more? What if your monkey stinks so badly that you cannot think clearly for even the moment that would be required to sink into the calm quiet of awareness?

You could kill your monkey. You could capture it and chain it to a wall. You could train your monkey to do tricks and dance while you turn the crank handle on your hurdy gurdy life. But you will still have a monkey after all that. Pushing and fighting with your monkey just gives it power. That is how your monkey got so out of control to begin with.

Or you can make friends with your monkey. Let it know you hear it when it screeches. Clap with appreciation when the monkey does a trick. Laugh when the monkey tells a joke. Then the monkey will grow calm and there will be moments of natural silence. And you and your monkey can gaze out the windows and marvel that the whole world arises out of awareness.

Credits: My Monkey drew those pictures.
My Monkey wrote those words.
My Awareness watched with equal measures of interest, gentle humor, and non-attachment.
You and Your Monkey can go fling poo.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What Do We Know? Not Ourselves.

An article on Live Science tells us that scientists think that human beings don't have a solid understanding of how their own brains and consciousness work:

"So when it comes to our actions, consciousness really just skims the surface. Most of what drives what we do is embedded in neural networks not readily accessible by conscious thought, said Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University.
“The intuitive everyday idea about the sense of self and its control over behavior is as incorrect as the idea that the earth is flat,” Morsella agreed. Although we think of ourselves as independent agents, we’re not. Everything we do is influenced by unconscious processes and our environment, he added. "

The article also compares the workings of the brain to a Wi-Fi Network. I remember when our brains were IBM Mainframes, or clocks. We don't really have good metaphors for ourselves either.

Buddha was telling us about the illusory nature of the self 2500 years ago. So it is not surprising that scientists are finally looping back around to discover that we know a lot about the world but almost nothing about ourselves.

Personally, I think human consciousness is like a Blog. Most of the content is shaped by systems and templates created by mysterious subconscious servers arranged in googleplexes. And our eyes are like an iPhone, only less expensive. And our ears are like Bluetooth headsets, but easier to connect to that damn iPhone. And our memories are like MP3 players, but they don't have a true random setting and keep repeating the same old tracks from the 80s. I can feel it, coming in the air tonight. Oh Lord. I think this metaphor is like a mysterious tiki god with burning red eyes surfing on the surface of consciousness with a PDA. Sometimes a PDA is just a PDA, but cigars are never just cigars Tiki Man. Well, if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand. I've seen your face before my friend, But I don't know if you know who I am.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wedding Bells

My Dad got married today. I wish Claire and Carol every happiness in their life together.

But I think my girls were probably the prettiest of the wedding bells in attendance.

Thanks to my brother Ronnie and his iPhone for the pictures.