Sunday, August 29, 2010

Honey, I Shrunk My Approval Ratings

By Karl Rove

In what will rank as one of the all-time presidential PR disasters, we're now well over half way through what the White House called "the summer of recovery." And what a recovery it's been.

Earlier this month, first-time claims for unemployment hit a nine-month high. The unemployment rate remains at 9.5% and 18.4% of workers are out of a job, can only get part-time work, or have given up looking for a job altogether. Sales of existing homes dropped 27% from June to July, hitting the lowest point since data were first collected in 1999. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index fell to 50.4 in July, continuing a slide that started in February. And the stock market is down 11% from its peak in April.

All of this has helped shatter public confidence in the president. In early May, Mr. Obama's approval on the economy in the YouGov/Polimetrix poll was 42%. By mid-August, it was 35% - a frightening number for Democrats less than 70 days from a midterm election. According to this week's Reuters poll, 72% are "very" worried about jobs and 67% "very concerned" about government spending.

Mr. Obama's credibility is crumbling, and for good reason: He and his people are saying things people don't believe. At the start of his summer of recovery road show, the president flatly asserted that last year's massive stimulus package had "worked." Vice President Joe Biden, not to be outdone, promised monthly job gains of up to 500,000 and insisted that the recovery's pace "continues to increase, not decrease" as stimulus spending was "moving into its highest gear."

It's slightly surreal. "Who are you going to believe," as Groucho Marx once said, "me or your own eyes?"

The administration's claims have collided with reality in other instances as well. Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer - speaking before the 2009 stimulus was approved - said unemployment would top out at 8% by the third quarter of 2009 and decline to less than 7% by the end of 2010. Even the White House now admits that the unemployment rate will stay at or above 9% through 2011.

The White House also frequently asserts that "between 2.3 million and 2.8 million jobs were either saved or created" by the $620 billion in stimulus money spent by June. Set aside the absurdity of the administration inventing the "saved" category and then pretending it can ascertain, with scientific precision, the number of jobs that have been "saved." Since the stimulus passed, 2.6 million Americans have lost their jobs and 1.2 million people have given up even looking for work. 

Mr. Obama and his people also mischaracterize where most stimulus dollars go. Their constant prattle about "shovel ready projects" is an attempt to leave the impression that most goes to bricks and mortar. Not true: Only 3.3% of the $814 billion stimulus went to the Federal Highway Administration for highway and bridge projects.

The administration's misleading statements and obfuscations aren't limited to the economy. On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law's cuts in Medicare won't threaten any senior's health care. These assertions are laughable.

The president's habit of exaggeration and misstatement has infected other Democrats. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, routinely talks about how the recently passed "Stimulus II" spending bill protected the jobs of police and firemen. 

But it didn't. 

Stimulus II consisted of two parts: $10 billion for education and $16 billion for Medicaid. States can't spend Medicaid money for anything but Medicaid, and they can only spend the education money on education, i.e., they can't shuffle state funds around. Language allowing Stimulus II dollars to pay for police and firemen didn't make it out of the Senate. Yet Democratic leaders persist in saying that their latest stimulus has helped keep police and firefighters on the job. The claim is flatly untrue. 

By overselling the stimulus before its passage in 2009 and exaggerating its benefits with layer upon layer of slippery half-truths in 2010, Mr. Obama has made voters angrier. This is not America's summer of recovery; it is a summer of economic discontent that will ensure that Democrats take a pounding in the midterm elections.

About the author:

Mr. Rove, known as "The Architect", is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is the author of "Courage and Consequence"  

Article source here

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Quote of the Day


There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur - the little happiness - until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will rise. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow. - Ardis Whitman, American Author

Crimes Against Liberty

 44th President of the United States Barack H. Obama

An Indictment of President Barack Obama

I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist Professors and structural feminists.  - President Barack Obama
"As Americans we believe that liberty is an inalienable right that is granted to us by God, protected by the Constitution, and upheld by our government. Yet, Barack Obama doesn’t seem to share that view. To him, liberty is a threat to the government’s power and something to be squashed by any means possible, as bestselling author David Limbaugh shows to devastating affect in his new book, Crimes Against Liberty. In his new book  Limbaugh issues a damning indictment of President Barack Obama for encroaching upon and stripping us of our individual and sovereign rights. Laying out his case like he would a criminal complaint, Limbaugh presents the evidence - count-by-count - against Obama. From exploiting the financial crisis for political gain, to restricting our personal freedoms through invasive healthcare and “green” policies, to endangering America with his feckless diplomacy and reckless dismantlement of our national security systems, Limbaugh proves - beyond a reasonable doubt - that Obama is guilty of crimes against liberty. Comprehensive and compelling, this is Limbaugh’s most powerful book yet." - book description on

From the inside flap:

Was This the Hope and Change America Voted For?

Socialized healthcare?

A foreign policy of abasement to our enemies - and hostility to our friends?

Bailouts upon bailouts?

“Stimulus spending” that’s really pork-barrel spending on steroids?

American voters might have been naïve when they went to the polls in 2008, but New York Times bestselling conservative author and columnist  David Limbaugh wasn’t. He warned voters of what would be in store. Now he’s back with more than a warning. A practicing lawyer, he has compiled the most comprehensive and devastating indictment of what is turning out to be the most destructive presidency in American history. 
Folks, don't underestimate his capacity for mischief because you think he's a nice guy. He's harming America affirmatively. - David Limbaugh in an interview with Sean Hannity
Limbaugh charges that this presidency is ambitiously unraveling the Constitution, actively rooting out American traditions and values, and most of all, committing crimes against American liberty. In Limbaugh’s brilliant new book, he documents:
  • Obama’s offenses against the rule of law (including the administration’s blatant pursuit of race-based justice). 
  • Violations of the public trust (including Obama’s Chicago-style bully boy tactics to protect and advance the administration’s cronies). 
  • Abuses against the private sector (including how the Obama administration is removing any limits to federal power).
  • Crimes against good governance (including Obama’s mania for secrecy after getting elected on promises of transparency).
  • Betrayals of the national interest (including the administration’s gagging of honest discussion of the threat of radical Islam)
  • And much, much more
If there was ever a must read - this is it. Crimes Against Liberty is a stunning tour de force - a detailed indictment against a president who is pursuing an agenda at odds with the Constitution and that is even more radical than most people realize.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quote of the Day


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? - Marianne Williamson

The Icarus Syndrome

Icarus by Keith Newstead

In The Icarus Syndrome, Peter Beinart tells a tale as old as the Greeks - a story about the seductions of success. Beinart describes Washington on the eve of three wars - World War I, Vietnam, and Iraq - three moments when American leaders decided they could remake the world in their image. Each time, leading intellectuals declared that history was over, and the spread of democracy was inevitable. Each time, a president held the nation in the palm of his hand. And each time, a war conceived in arrogance brought untold tragedy.

In dazzling color, Beinart portrays three extraordinary generations: the progressives who took America into World War I, led by Woodrow Wilson, the lonely preacher's son who became the closest thing to a political messiah the world had ever seen. The Camelot intellectuals who took America into Vietnam, led by Lyndon Johnson, who lay awake at night after night shaking with fear that his countrymen considered him weak. And George W. Bush and the post-Cold War neoconservatives, the romantic bullies who believed they could bludgeon the Middle East and liberate it at the same time. Like Icarus, each of these generations crafted "wings" - a theory about America's relationship to the world. They flapped carefully at first, but gradually lost their inhibitions until, giddy with success, they flew into the sun.

But every era also brought new leaders and thinkers who found wisdom in pain. They reconciled American optimism - our belief that anything is possible - with the realities of a world that will never fully bend to our will. In their struggles lie the seeds of American renewal today. Based on years of research, The Icarus Syndrome is a provocative and strikingly original account of hubris in the American century - and how we learn from the tragedies that result.

About the book author:

Peter Beinart is associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He is the senior political writer for The Daily Beast and a contributor to Time. Beinart is a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Good Fight. He lives with his family in Washington, DC.

Article source here
Image source here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everyday Heroes


There are no headlines
for everyday heroes
there is no tickertape
no standing ovation

sometimes it's all they can do
to set their feet on the floor
in the morning

they go through their days
the best they know how

no rainbow need arch
through the sky
to inspire them
they have a special courage
shining deep inside

they go through their days
the best they know how

Written by Ted Hibbard

Image credit here

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Point of No Return

 The first fuel is loaded into the reactor building
at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.

On August 21, with Russian help, Iranian engineers began loading fuel into the country's first nuclear power plant , marking a milestone in Teheran's development of what it insists is a peaceful nuclear energy program. According to experts, Iran is now one year away from its first nuclear weapon.

For the Obama administration, the prospect of a nuclearized Iran is dismal to contemplate - it would create major new national-security challenges and crush the president’s dream of ending nuclear proliferation. But the view from Jerusalem is still more dire: a nuclearized Iran represents, among other things, a threat to Israel’s very existence. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides - and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.

By Jeffrey Goldberg 
for The Atlantic September 2010 Issue

It is possible that at some point in the next twelve months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers - programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists - will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

But none of these things - least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran - seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran - possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.) 

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel - regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program - they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.

If a strike does succeed in crippling the Iranian nuclear program, however, Israel, in addition to possibly generating some combination of the various catastrophes outlined above, will have removed from its list of existential worries the immediate specter of nuclear-weaponized, theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism; it may derive for itself the secret thanks (though the public condemnation) of the Middle East’s moderate Arab regimes, all of which fear an Iranian bomb with an intensity that in some instances matches Israel’s; and it will have succeeded in countering, in militant fashion, the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is, not irrelevantly, a prime goal of the enthusiastic counter-proliferator who currently occupies the White House.

I am not engaging in a thought exercise, or a one-man war game, when I discuss the plausibility and potential consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting - forever, as it turned out - Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.

I have been exploring the possibility that such a strike will eventually occur for more than seven years, since my first visit to Tehran, where I attempted to understand both the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East, and especially since March of 2009, when I had an extended discussion about the Iranian nuclear program with Benjamin Netanyahu, hours before he was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister. In the months since then, I have interviewed roughly 40 current and past Israeli decision makers about a military strike, as well as many American and Arab officials. In most of these interviews, I have asked a simple question: what is the percentage chance that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear program in the near future? Not everyone would answer this question, but a consensus emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.) The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability (often understood to be the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device within about three months of deciding to do so). The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state. 

In our conversation before his swearing-in, Netanyahu would not frame the issue in terms of nuclear parity - the Israeli policy of amimut, or opacity, prohibits acknowledging the existence of the country’s nuclear arsenal, which consists of more than 100 weapons, mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (two of which are said by intelligence sources to be currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Instead, he framed the Iranian program as a threat not only to Israel but to all of Western civilization.

“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” he said. “When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the world should start worrying, and that’s what is happening in Iran.” Israel, Netanyahu told me, is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would destroy Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and he fears that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.

Image credit here & here

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Free Cities

Phantom Landscape by Yang Yongliang

"Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal." - Ayn Rand
There are other examples of such successful "experiment". In the late 1970s the Chinese government created so called Special Economic Zones following the vision of Deng Xiaoping. The most successful is without doubt Shenzhen in the Guangdong Province. 

To attract foreign investment, the designated areas were given economic freedom unknown anywhere else in China. This resulted in unprecedented growth and prosperity. 

Deng was often quoted saying that "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white for as long as it catches mice." 

When Hong Kong - the former British colony, was returned to China in 1997, the Chinese continued their "experiment". The world was pessimistic, but the Chinese chose "one country, two systems" and allowed the territory to function economically just as it did before the transfer of sovereignty from the British.

Gradually, as the political climate inn China evolved, the rest of the country relaxed its regulations and permitted the "experiment" to expand to other areas. In 2001 China won the bid for 2008 Olympic Games. The New York Times wrote in July 2001: "The (Olympic) committee's delegates expressed widespread hope that a seven-year buildup to the 2008 Games would accelerate openness in China and facilitate improvement in its record on human rights." What definitely happened during this time was accelerated growth of economy. 

Only few days ago on August 16, we learned that the Chinese economy (GDP) surpassed Japan and is now the second largest economy in the world following the United States. Although the critics claim that this was due to the decline of Japanese economy, the Chinese have to be given the credit. After three decades of spectacular economic growth, China is now the second economic center of gravity in the world. 

All these become possible because of the decision made by the visionary Deng Xiaoping. His ideas could be applied in other countries as well. Newt Gingrich has his own vision for the underprivileged of this world. He believes that such special economic zones could not only deliver prosperity to the people, but also peace to the regions afflicted by war and terrorism. 

By Dominique Allmon ©2010
"Free Cities"

By Newt Gingrich and Ken Hagerty

State-to-state foreign aid can’t stop terrorism. But a new private-sector program could subvert it by creating enclaves of freedom and prosperity.
“Those attacks showed emphatically that ways of doing business rooted in a different era are just not good enough. Americans should not settle for incremental, ad hoc adjustments to a system designed generations ago for a world that no longer exists.”  - The 9/11 Commission Report
Far from defeating terrorism, today’s government-to-government foreign-aid system can actually incite it by propping up corrupt and repressive one-party states. Fortunately, there is a strategy that could subvert global terror by providing hope and opportunity in the Third World - at the expense of corruption and despair.

Free Cities is a new private-sector development paradigm that would allow the United States to offer millions of people in developing countries the same freedom and non-corrupt prosperity that Hong Kong enjoys - without the baggage of colonialism.

Hong Kong was always different from other colonies. It began as a minor trading post, surrounded by empty territory. Over time, more and more people moved there, attracted by opportunity and freedom - just as they were drawn to the United States. In 1984 Hong Kong became a free city under a 50-year agreement between Britain and China. The Chinese government let Hong Kong retain its self-government, all its existing laws, and its free-market economy. Post-colonial Hong Kong has been a spectacular success, energizing and accelerating the transformation of Communist China itself.

China calls this remarkable arrangement “One Country, Two Systems.” It provides a model the U.S. can use to seed new outposts of freedom and prosperity around the world.

The U.S. should negotiate a series of bilateral treaties with receptive governments, carving out undeveloped sites the size of Hong Kong. Then a joint venture between the host government and the U.S. would launch brand new Free Cities in these places, with a complete set of American-style freedoms and responsibilities, guaranteed by treaty for 50 years.

Treaty-based Free Cities would entice and attract enterprising people and capital from around the world by offering: self-government; the rule of law; low taxes; reliable prosecution of corruption; freedom of faith, speech, and press; public registration of real property; a merit-based civil service; multi-ethnic meritocracy; zero tariffs; and an American university.

Free Cities would exemplify free-market globalization, rather than the economic exploitation of protectionist colonialism. They would generate millions of jobs where there are none today. And rather than opening another bottomless pit of statist foreign aid, these cities would be self-funding. A Free Cities development strategy would pay its own way by attracting funds from the private sector.

A Free Cities program would also offer a transformational solution to illegal immigration. It is economic desperation that drives millions of illegals into the U.S. and Europe today. Free Cities would offer these people hope and opportunity back home. They would empower enterprising people around the world to self-select and congregate in safety to pursue their dreams of freedom and non-corrupt prosperity.

The Free Cities concept is simple, inexpensive, and revolutionary. It would shift the focus of foreign aid away from the state and toward the private sector. And it would put America on offense in the global war of ideas.

A Free Cities program would appeal directly to the idealism and generosity of the American people. It could stimulate a profound new American engagement with the poor of the world. Rather than just talking about helping poor people, or pouring more aid dollars down the drain, Free Cities would give millions of Americans a long menu of things they could do personally - either philanthropically or for profit - to help admirable and motivated entrepreneurial people build new free societies in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

It is an undeniable truth that way too much state-to-state foreign aid is stolen. Today’s aid system was designed for a different time. It survives primarily because it has been the only game in town. The emergence of a viable alternative development paradigm would enable Congress to institute fundamental reforms.

Free Cities would create a global network of vibrant new free-market economies, allied with the United States and populated by citizens who have concrete stakes in preserving their freedoms and the open global trading system.

And this proposal can generate more than enough political support to be enacted. It will attract:

• People who want to subvert terrorism.
• Companies looking for non-corrupt markets in developing countries.
• Faith communities that need freedom of faith for their overseas missions.
• Expatriate entrepreneurs who would love to make an honest living back home.
• People offended by the waste and corruption of today’s foreign-aid system.
• Friends of freedom everywhere who dream of building free societies.

Free Cities offers a path to purpose for Americans who are looking for inspiring goals they can pursue to make a genuine contribution to a better world.

Article source here 
Image Source here

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jazz Photographer Herman Leonard Dies at 87

Frank Sinatra, NYC, 1956.  
Silver gelatin print by Herman Leonard

Herman Leonard, an internationally renowned photographer whose haunting, noirish images of postwar jazz life became widely known only in the late 1980s, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 87. 

“He was a master of jazz, except his instrument was a camera,” said K. Heather Pinson, the author of "The Jazz Image" - a study of Mr. Leonard’s sublime work.

Spare and stylized, Mr. Leonard’s work captured a world of shadow, silver and smoke: dark interiors, gleaming microphones and, threading through it all, cigarette smoke that leaped and twined as if it were an incarnation of the music itself. 

His visual style was born out of necessity. Where most photographers would illuminate a club’s confines with half a dozen lights, Mr. Leonard could afford only two. The result, with backlighting piercing inky blackness, lends his work the quality of moonlight. 

Herman Leonard's background in photography included a year long apprenticeship in 1947 with the famed portraitist Yousuf Karsh, with whom he gained invaluable experience photographing the likes of Albert Einstein, President Harry S. Truman, and Clark Gable. In 1948, Leonard opened a studio in New York City's Greenwich Village, where he did commercial work for Life, Look, Esquire, Playboy, and Cosmopolitan, and made portraits of movie and theater stars. At night, he haunted the jazz nightclubs using a Speed Graphic press camera to produce portraits of the most famous names of jazz as well as those beloved by jazz insiders. 

Dexter Gordon by Herman Leonard
Royal Roost, New York City, 1947

These extraordinary photographs document an explosive time in the history of jazz. Musicians were traveling not only with the Big Bands throughout the United States but also through Europe. Charlie "Bird" Parker and Dizzy Gillespie - both subjects of Leonard's photographs - were just beginning to collaborate and meld their "modernist" jazz styles together, creating what would become Bop. Leonard photographed them all: Charlie Parker in the midst of one of his madcap performances on the saxophone, taken a few years before his untimely death; a radiant Lena Horne; Stan Getz at Birdland; Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, at the Downbeat Club; Dinah Washington, at the mike at the Newport Jazz Festival; Louis Armstrong and his horn; and many others.

Leonard's reputation is well established. In 1988, his jazz photographs were first shown in London with great success. Since then, Leonard has had over 85 exhibitions worldwide. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has honored him by requesting his entire collection for their permanent archives of musical history. In 1996, President Bill Clinton requested a collection of Herman's work to present to the King of Thailand, an avid jazz musician, as an official gift from the United States government. In addition, Leonard has produced two books: "The Eye of Jazz" and "Jazz Memories", a personal photographic diary of his early career.

Article source here & here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Gay Bar to Open Next to the Planned Islamic Cultural Center in New York

Amid the growing controversy and disgust about the planned Islamic Cultural Center in New York which is better known as the Ground Zero mosque, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld decided to open a gay bar next to the mosque. He postulates that the bar should be regarded as a bridge between the Western and the Islamic gay men. Here is what Greg wrote in his blog The Daily Gut:

"So, the Muslim investors championing the construction of the new mosque near Ground Zero claim it's all about strengthening the relationship between the Muslim and non-Muslim world. 

As an American, I believe they have every right to build the mosque - after all, if they buy the land and they follow the law - who can stop them?

Which is, why, in the spirit of outreach, I've decided to do the same thing.

I'm announcing tonight, that I am planning to build and open the first gay bar that caters not only to the west, but also Islamic gay men. To best express my sincere desire for dialogue, the bar will be situated next to the mosque Park 51, in an available commercial space.

This is not a joke. I've already spoken to a number of investors, who have pledged their support in this bipartisan bid for understanding and tolerance.

As you know, the Muslim faith doesn't look kindly upon homosexuality, which is why I'm building this bar. It is an effort to break down barriers and reduce deadly homophobia in the Islamic world.

The goal, however, is not simply to open a typical gay bar, but one friendly to men of Islamic faith. An entire floor, for example, will feature non-alcoholic drinks, since booze is forbidden by the faith. The bar will be open all day and night, to accommodate men who would rather keep their sexuality under wraps - but still want to dance.

Bottom line: I hope that the mosque owners will be as open to the bar, as I am to the new mosque. After all, the belief driving them to open up their center near Ground Zero, is no different than mine.

My place, however, will have better music." - Greg Gutfeld

This is a serious business opportunity. For investment information, please contact Greg at

 Article source here

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Desiring Peace - A Meditation on Dag Hammarskjöld

 Dag Hammarskjöld

By Roger Lipsey

When Dag Hammarskjöld, second secretary-general of the United Nations (1953-61), reached New York City from his native Sweden to take up his duties, he was an object of discreet curiosity. Little known beyond elite diplomatic circles, a passably handsome bachelor in his late forties, now called to the world’s most prominent diplomatic post, he experimented in the early months with communications large and small. Among the smallest: while furnishing his apartment on the Upper East Side, he agreed to a house call by a journalist who specialized in interior decoration. The decor was spare, in the best Scandinavian taste. The journalist must have searched high and low for something juicy to write and, failing that, recorded a comment by Hammarskjöld that has a long echo: “Monastic, isn’t it?”

This can be said of his life. There must be ground rules, though I have no idea where to find them written down, governing how to interpret the force of desire in a highly dedicated life - how to understand it as an evolving, contributing energy rather than a fixed Caliban growling from the forest floor of oneself. The first rule must be not to put too much emphasis on erotic desire. While it is surely true that no one, including Mr. Hammarskjöld, skips untouched past the need for sexual intimacy, monastic temperaments struggle to “place” it in their inner economy rather than let it run loose. Another rule must be to recognize desire at different levels, so different that a separate word is needed at each level: monastic temperaments, when true to their calling, are striving temperaments that instinctively need to move on, to refine, to purify and focus. And the best of them know that one can’t leave desire behind: it comes right along and asks to be part of things. Because Hammarskjöld was a religious man with the custom in later years of recording poetically conceived prayers in his private journal, we should expect to encounter the desire best called wish - wish for the good, wish for guidance and willing obedience, wish for depth of contact with the One whom he addressed in prayer. Because he was relentlessly aware of his inner life, we can expect to find him struggling like all others to live by his ideals despite counter-currents. And because in his life’s work he was a peacemaker, often negotiating with the world’s most driven and self-assured leaders, his deep desire for peace met many immoveable or scarcely moveable objects.

The desire that faces complex, resistant structures such as the UN itself or the nations of the world - structures requiring insight, method, and management - isn’t sensual. It’s cool, even if heated in expression when heat is needed. It is searching, perspicacious, exploratory; it probes and pokes; it questions; it stacks realities together in novel ways through creative imagination and takes them apart again to check their fit. It looks for lines of connection between what is and what could be - what could be better, more just and fruitful. And it engages directly when the time comes: “Every hour eye to eye,” Hammarskjöld once wrote in his journal. Is this desire at work? There can be no doubt of that. It is desire channeled and focused, desire serving well beyond itself and its own flickers of need. Work toward peace is risky and difficult, and in Hammarskjöld’s practice a rigorous discipline. During a crisis he faced as secretary-general, he reported this to a friend:

One of the lasting experiences from the last months and weeks is that, with our so-called rising civilization, we do in no way see a decline in the art of lying. The modern media of communication, the modern entanglement of interests all over the world, have opened the door to a paradise for those who fight with words representing mala fide assumptions, false presentations, invidious comments, outright slander - and so on. If I were Hieronymus Bosch, I could paint a beautiful triptych in the colors of Hell and in celebration of this new great Harlot. But why be bitter.

The outer form of Dag Hammarskjöld’s immensely accomplished life was visible to all: within little more than a year after taking office, he was recognized by world leaders and diplomatic colleagues as a perfectly remarkable champion of the UN agenda and values. Owing to his practical wisdom, resourcefulness, and discretion, adversaries trusted him to hear their unedited views and uncover what­ever common ground could be found between them. Through personal negotiation with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China at a time when that country had not yet been admitted to UN membership, he demonstrated a capacity to solve completely puzzling problems. “Let Dag do it,” became the solution of last resort, reliable when enough of the Great Powers (permanent members of the Security Council) lined up behind him. His diplomatic improvisations - for example, shuttle diplomacy in the Near East, and UN-flagged peacekeeping forces - became norms that continue in use today. He anticipated the rapid decolonization of Africa and the needs of its new nations, and died in an air crash while attempting to stop an outbreak of war in the newly independent Congo. His person, his voice were the United Nations in that era; his thinking, though muted now, still echoes in the corridors of what he called with some intimacy “this house,” the perennially beautiful riverside home of the UN in midtown Manhattan. At a gathering in the fall of 1953, he said, “Our purpose is peace, nothing but peace.” This too sends a long echo.

Had he accomplished all this and no more, Hammarskjöld would be an illustrious figure in the history of the Cold War and of the UN. But he was much more, and it is this that makes him important for our time.

There is a new question working its way through American thought and attitudes, not prominently at the national level but unmistakably at the level of communities, institutes, projects, and broadly recognized needs. The question is effectively expressed by the opening lines of the mission statement of Garrison Institute, a cultural center on the lower Hudson River:

Garrison Institute applies the transformative power of contemplation to today's pressing social and environmental concerns, helping build a more compassionate, resilient future. We envision and work to build a future in which contemplative ideas and methods are increasingly mainstream, and are applied at scale to create the conditions for positive, systemic social and environmental change.

This is programmatic language, in­tended to inform rather than move, but it publicly summarizes values and intentions that privately guided Hammarskjöld’s approach to himself and to public service a half-century ago. And because he found his way brilliantly, he is one to whom we can look both for large ideas and for sand - for the grit of working things through. “Blood, grime, sweat, earth,” he once asked in his journal, “where are these in your world of will? Everywhere - the ground from which the flame ascends straight upwards.” By his Schopenhauer-like phrase, “world of will,” he must have meant the world one tries to shape, the world desired and sought.

Dag Hammarskjöld lived two lives. The first was what he called “this enormously exposed and published life” as secretary-general of the United Nations. The second was intensely private, nonetheless surmised by a very few friends who understood that they could speak with him about certain things - for example, an Indian couple, close students of Vedanta, could count on him to join their conversation as one who belonged in it. Only after his death, with the publication in 1964 of his journal, under the title Markings, did it become clear in the English-speaking world (and a year earlier in Scandinavia) that Hammarskjöld had been a religious seeker for whom certain source texts - the Gospels, Psalms, Meister Eckhart, Thomas à Kempis, the early Chinese classics - provided steady inspiration and guidance. It is true that on rare occasions during the UN years he would say or do things that were self-evidently rooted in an otherwise undisclosed point of view. For example, in a public talk in the fall of 1953, enlarging on a thought from the Tao Te Ching, he said, “We cannot mould the world as masters of a material thing. Columbus did not reach the East Indies. But we can influence the development of the world from within as a spiritual thing.” But those occasions were infrequent and scarcely anyone, so to speak, took him up on it.

Had religion been merely words for him, there would be little need to take notice; but it was more. It was a Way, fully developed, just what we mean today when we speak of spiritual paths. It imposed a personal discipline, exacted a price, opened inner landscapes of mind, heart, and body, commanded a certain quality of relationship with others - and provided resources to go on. That he walked his Way alone had certain advantages, notably self-reliance. A sangha or spiritual community is, among other things, cozy; he had none, though in his work at the UN his immediate associates were men and women of great merit whom he greatly appreciated, and he had friends - few of them close, many of them distinguished - among writers, artists, and theater people. His inner life was, as he once wrote, strictly “a negotiation between himself and God.” This had certain disadvantages. Above all it contributed to recurrent, consuming loneliness that he struggled to accept as a destined feature of his individual Way. True, his sense of spiritual companionship extended with immediacy far into the past and into other cultures; he knew how to read; the thoughts and language even of authors remote in time lived fully in him, as if spoken just today. For example, reading in Arthur Waley’s classic book, The Way and Its Power, Hammarskjöld picked out and brought into a public talk a passage about a band of peacemakers in ancient China, which reflected his own weary perseverance at the time:

Constantly rebuffed but never discouraged, they went round from state to state helping people to settle their differences, arguing against wanton attack and pleading for the suppression of arms, that the age in which they lived might be saved from its state of continual war. To this end they interviewed princes and lectured the common people, nowhere meeting with any great success, but obstinately persisting in their task, till kings and commoners alike grew weary of listening to them. Yet undeterred they continued to force themselves on people’s attention.

This was his activity; his commitment to peacemaking and global welfare was of just this kind. But what inner vision, what discipline, what solace sustained him? What did he know of the “transformative power of contemplation” and how did he apply it to “today’s … pressing concerns?”

A reporter from the internal newsletter of the United Nations Secretariat rather diffidently approached Hammarskjöld in January 1958 to interview him. As published in Secretariat News for February 14th of that year, their exchange was wide-ranging. Just at the end, a question so compelled Hammarskjöld’s interest that he returned to it a few days later in a personal letter to a Swedish friend:

Reporter: One last question, Mr. Hammarskjöld: What, in your opinion, are the main qualities that an international official should possess?

DH: Well, that is a difficult question to answer straight away. You should give me a little while to think about it. First off, however, I would say that a heightened awareness combined with an inner quiet are among these qualities. Also, a certain humility, which helps you to see things through the other person’s eye, to reconstruct his case, without losing yourself, without being a chameleon.

A little later, Hammarskjöld wrote as follows to his friend:

The other day I was forced by a journalist to try to formulate my views on the main requirements of somebody who wishes to contribute to the development of peace and reason. I found no better formulation than this: “He must push his awareness to the utmost limit without losing his inner quiet, he must be able to see with the eyes of the others from within their personality without losing his own.”

There are five invisible realities here: inner quiet, awareness pushed to the limit, a certain humility, permitting one to see from the other’s point of view, without losing oneself. To speak of this integrated movement of awareness and kinship as “mindfulness” - a term Hammarskjöld may have encountered but to my knowledge didn’t use - is to miss its singularity. Better to think of it as something Hammarskjöld advised, something he had mastered or very nearly, something very good. The two passages make clear that Hammarskjöld approached the diplomatic day, the day of the peace­maker, as an exercise in awareness and contact, and did so without calling attention to his approach.

“The international civil servant,” he once said, “must keep himself under the strictest observation.” By the time he became secretary-general, he had been following this practice for many years, and if it had professional benefits - clarity about one’s motives, words, and perspectives - those benefits have to be viewed as secondary to the central need served by what he called “conscious self-scrutiny.” Within the many cross-currents, desires, and hesitations of his own person, he had long ago gone in search of himself. He was one who could not live, perhaps literally, without self-knowledge. Among the resources and methods he collected as a young man and progressively refined in later years, self-observation was key. It opened him to himself, and therefore to others; he learned to interpret himself, and therefore others; he learned to be dreadfully honest with himself - and therefore to forgive others. The sound of his self-observation, as recorded in Markings, is sometimes nearly unbearable: dry, severe, accurate. We can take just one from the UN years as typifying many others:

Do you still need to evoke memories of a self-imposed humiliation in order to extinguish a smoldering self-admiration?

To be pure in heart means, among other things, to have freed yourself from all such half-measures: from a tone of voice which places you in the limelight, a furtive acceptance of some desire of the flesh which ignores the desire of the spirit, a self-righteous reaction to others in their moments of weakness.
Look at yourself in that mirror when you wish to be praised - or to judge.  Do so without despairing.

That mirror was one resource; there were others. He had discovered the value - and sheer existence - of stillness and silence through two unlike sources: the northern Swedish wilderness (he was a skilled mountaineer) and close reading of Meister Eckhart, the medieval preacher and mystic “from whom God hid nothing.” The beauty and silence of remote Lapland stunned him into a sense of reality here and now; it was a lesson he never forgot. The grandeur, mystery, and precision of Meister Eckhart’s explorations of inner experience at the far reaches of perception stunned him no less. Writing in 1956 about an Eckhart sermon he had been rereading, Hammarskjöld concluded:

“Of the Eternal Birth” - to me, this now says everything there is to be said about what I have learned and have still to learn.

“The soul that would experience this birth must detach herself from all outward things: within herself completely at one with herself. . . . You must have an exalted mind and a burning heart in which, nevertheless, reign silence and stillness.”

And he knew how to pray. Lutheran, raised in the Church of Sweden among active and even activist Christians, personally introduced as an adolescent to Albert Schweitzer and a member of the audience that first heard Schweitzer develop his principle of “Reverence for Life,” he drew away from the formal church during his university studies but in time found his way back, not to the church as such but to the substance of Christian faith. To know how to pray is not a small thing; that opening upward, its willingness to be nothing, yet to speak, in relation to the One whom he invariably addressed as “Thou,” endowed Hammarskjöld with breadth of understanding and inner poise. He did not live only in relation to Nations, Powers, Dominions. Insofar as any modern person can, he lived also in relation to what he described late in life as “Someone or Something” that had called him, and to whose call he had answered, “Yes.” We can only allude here to the core of inner peace conferred on him by his religious life. Soon after accepting the post of secretary-general, he wrote in his journal:

Maturity: among other things, a new lack of self-consciousness - the kind you can only attain when you have become entirely indifferent to yourself through an absolute assent to your fate.

He who has placed himself in God’s hand stands free vis-à-vis men: he is entirely at his ease with them, because he has granted them the right to judge.

If he was one of the chosen in his suffering, in the life of self-sacrifice and utterly dedicated service he led, he was also one of the chosen in the solace he received. Markings records what can only be called mystical experiences of great depth and beauty, often as glimpses of what he named “the unheard-of,” more rarely as exquisite dreams noted down sometime later. There must have been some relation between the nearly relentless pace and tension of his life as secretary-general and the tranquility that entered him in private times. On some weekends, free of urgencies, he would host dinners with companions who could equal him in conversation, listen to recorded music, hike in the woods of Putnam and Dutchess  counties, think about things—and turn to the intimacy of his journal, where he elaborated prayers and recorded clarities and questions. We would know nothing of his mystical experience, had he not chosen to tell us.

- a contact with reality, light and intense like the touch of a loved hand: a union in self-surrender without self-destruction, where the heart is lucid and the mind loving. In sun and wind, how near and how remote. How different from what the knowing ones call mysticism.

This article offers only a taste of a most complex life and achievement. Does Dag Hammarskjöld foreshadow a new statesmanship - the very thing needed, or something much like it, to perceive and manage the almost absurdly difficult issues of our time? If so, may it occur in his manner: understated, discreet, modest, relying on the intrinsic charisma of truth and decency rather than personal enchantment, resourceful in exploring alternatives, firm in action. He was the first person Western by birth, education, and basic conviction to discover within hard political processes the need for what we are likely today to call enlightened mind; the first to convert high teachings into daily practice at the level of world affairs; and the first, through his posthumously published journal, to lay bare his own struggles as a sample of what might, after all, be possible.

He was surprisingly relaxed about the future - at least sometimes. At a journalists’ luncheon in the spring of 1958, celebrating his election to a second term as secretary-general, he made some extended remarks, including the following:

I cannot belong to or join those who believe in our movement toward catastrophe. I believe in growth, a growth to which we have a responsibility to add our few fractions of an inch. [This] is not the facile faith of generations before us, who thought that everything was arranged for the best in the best of worlds…. It is in a sense a much harder belief—the belief and faith that the future will be all right because there will always be enough people to fight for a decent future.

Speaking in this way, he was the Hammarskjöld the public knew: clear-minded, realistic yet forward-looking, inspiring without showiness. In his journal, where we can know something of his inner life, he recognized the price that he himself paid, and that others might need to pay who desire effective roles in achieving that decent future. He wrote there:

Each day the first day: each day a life.

Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being to receive, to carry, and give back. It must be held out empty - for the past must only be reflected in its polish, its shape, its capacity.

Also of interest


Article source here
Image source here - Roger Lipsey’s web site exploring Hammarskjöld’s political wisdom, with links to other online resources.