Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will Spirituality Ever Be Serious?

Will American spirituality get serious? Those of us who do regular spiritual practice -- whether it's meditating every day or giving our time to the less fortunate, spending focused time with our kids or going to church each week -- have long been vilified by the cynical press as narcissists, flakes, or worse. In general, this is a cliché born out of fear and ignorance. But let's admit that the insult has some truth to it -- and will take work to rise above.

Let's start with two hard truths. The first is that spirituality makes claims to transformation and transcendence, but is often just a balm. Now, all of us who do a spiritual practice have experienced transformation. In small ways, this happens all the time. Before yoga, you feel angry, tense, and egocentric; after yoga, at least for a little while, you feel open, loving, and generous. In larger ways, it happens once in a while. A particularly inspiring sermon, a deep insight gained on an extended retreat, an ecstasy experienced at a place like Burning Man -- these kinds of things can meaningfully, and more or less permanently, change one's life. What they all have in common is transformation: a growth beyond one's previous limits.

All too often, however, spirituality reinforces rather than transcends conventional limits, boundaries, and notions of the ego. Sandwiched in between manicures and lunch dates, the quickie yoga class becomes just another way to augment and reinforce the self; pop Kabbalah and the Secret promise ways to get what you want more effectively, rather than, say, question whether "what you want" is really aligned with your deepest humanity, and your potential to lessen the suffering of others.

Not that there's anything wrong with manicures, lunch, or things which make the body more beautiful and life more pleasant -- I like all of the above -- but when spirituality is put into the service of pleasure, it is open to the cynical critique that all we're doing when we do breathwork, paint, and light Sabbath candles is making ourselves feel better. It's no different, really, from going to a NASCAR race -- except the racing fan isn't deluding himself that what he's doing is anything more than having a good time.

Second, spirituality often gets a bad rap because it often involves, well, a lot of hoo-hah. Water blessed by a "kabbalistic" rabbi, dubious modalities of energy healing, UFOs -- it's not that all of these are necessarily false, but the way that many spiritual people relate to them is all too credulous. Many of us rush to supernatural explanations for entirely natural phenomena, ascribing all sorts of mind-states and ideas to God or subtle energies or alien intelligences or whatever.

Now, unlike most of the cynics, I've experienced a lot of those mind-states, mystical experiences, and insights that indeed feel heaven-sent. I've had these experiences, and I know how they seem to be. But seems is not is. And when we interpret our experiences incautiously, we're not so different from the fundamentalist who believes she is on a mission from God. We deserve to be called out on this.

What's frustrating for those of us who really do take spirituality seriously is that there's often a lot of good mixed in with the bad. I remember seeing the film What the Bleep Do We Know? with a cynical friend of mine. I was so gratified by some parts of the film, yet so horrified by others. I wanted to say to my friend, "look, just because this crazy idea is crazy, that other idea is really very good. Really!" But of course, the leaps of illogic and messy thinking in the film negated its occasionally brilliant insights. The whole thing was suspect.

But I want to suggest that spirituality, as practiced here in America, can indeed rise out of the twin mucks of messy thinking and self-aggrandizement. Yes, it can be serious. And there are a few basic principles by which it can do so.

First, let's get serious about the worth of spiritual practice, and stop hiding. One of the reasons articles like this one appear on The Huffington Post is our editors' belief -- beginning with our editor in chief -- that spiritual work is part of being a well-rounded person, and that it should be taken as seriously as politics and culture. Just as one's life is incomplete if one never takes the time to appreciate music or art or film, so is it missing something if one lacks a spiritual practice. Let's not hedge about this. Let's be clear that intellectual giants who are spiritual infants are just as deficient in terms of human excellence as people who never exercise, or travel, or read.

And let's be serious about the proposition that learning to open the heart has real-world consequences; that it is possible to become more generous and compassionate toward others, and that it matters to do so. Our society has found ever more elaborate ways to get more stuff. Like religion used to do, spiritual practice offers one of the few counterpoints to the relentless march of desire. And that has political consequences, in the largest sense of the word.

Second, if we are serious about spirituality's worth, then we should be serious about doing it. Whatever your personal growth practice is, from kirtan to karate, pilates to psychodrama, it oughtn't be a hobby. These things work, in ways we can articulate and understand, and they should be respected as sacred -- or at least as important. Sometimes getting serious about spiritual practice means sacrificing other things in order to do it -- other activities, or certain foods, or indulging in gossip or revenge. Sometimes it may just mean ratcheting it up the priority list, fixing it as a regular part of your routine just as religious people prioritize going to church or synagogue. Sometimes it may even mean taking time off to do it; I recently devoted five months to silent meditation retreat, and it was one of the best (and hardest) things I've ever done.

Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to get away for months at a time. But wherever we find ourselves, that is where we begin. "Wherever you're going, there you are," as Jon Kabat-Zinn says. Or, in the words of the Talmudic rabbis, "It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task -- but you are not free to desist from it." If we take our own spiritual practice as seriously as traditionally religious people take theirs, we will help it gain the respect it deserves, not least because the benefits we obtain will be so obvious to ourselves and others.

Third, let's stop running away from the intellect. I believe that spirituality is one of the axes of human excellence. But so is rationality. Yes, Western materialism has been narrow-minded and brutal for hundreds of years. Clearly, the people who wear the suits and live in big houses are not to be trusted naively. But we owe it to ourselves as 21st century people to evaluate claims critically, whether they are made by Big Agri-business or holistic healers, corporations or gurus. Spiritual integrity and intellectual integrity should be allies, not enemies.

Finally, getting serious about spirituality means opening up to the possibility that the self is the object of the practice, not the boss of it. Working on the self means not taking every whim for granted, even if they are spiritual whims, and doing the practice even when you don't feel like doing it. If you're serious, you go to the gym even when you're not in the mood; likewise with meditation, or prayer, or yoga, or any other kind of spiritual or personal growth work. Old-fashioned values like constancy, reliability, and fortitude are invaluable allies. Remember, if it's authentic, it's not about feeling good -- it's about feeling, period. Let's not run to the comfortable, and let's be unafraid of hard work. Some days, spiritual practice feels like the last thing in the world I want to do. Often, those are the most important days to do it.

Admittedly, describing spirituality as hard work, soul-searing, and intellectually rigorous is probably not good marketing. Times are tough: people want to feel better, and there's nothing wrong with that. But each of us individually -- teachers and students, skeptics and true-believers -- has the opportunity to take responsibility for the care of our own soul. And in that work, spiritual people should spirituality the way that religious people treat religion: as serious, important, and worth building a life around. Not only will it get the respect it deserves -- it will be more able to do the most vital work on the planet.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Next Culture War

Published: September 28, 2009

Centuries ago, historians came up with a classic theory to explain the rise and decline of nations. The theory was that great nations start out tough-minded and energetic. Toughness and energy lead to wealth and power. Wealth and power lead to affluence and luxury. Affluence and luxury lead to decadence, corruption and decline.

“Human nature, in no form of it, could ever bear prosperity,” John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, warning against the coming corruption of his country.

Yet despite its amazing wealth, the United States has generally remained immune to this cycle. American living standards surpassed European living standards as early as 1740. But in the U.S., affluence did not lead to indulgence and decline.

That’s because despite the country’s notorious materialism, there has always been a countervailing stream of sound economic values. The early settlers believed in Calvinist restraint. The pioneers volunteered for brutal hardship during their treks out west. Waves of immigrant parents worked hard and practiced self-denial so their children could succeed. Government was limited and did not protect people from the consequences of their actions, thus enforcing discipline and restraint.

When economic values did erode, the ruling establishment tried to restore balance. After the Gilded Age, Theodore Roosevelt (who ventured west to counteract the softness of his upbringing) led a crackdown on financial self-indulgence. The Protestant establishment had many failings, but it was not decadent. The old WASPs were notoriously cheap, sent their children to Spartan boarding schools, and insisted on financial sobriety.

Over the past few years, however, there clearly has been an erosion in the country’s financial values. This erosion has happened at a time when the country’s cultural monitors were busy with other things. They were off fighting a culture war about prayer in schools, “Piss Christ” and the theory of evolution. They were arguing about sex and the separation of church and state, oblivious to the large erosion of economic values happening under their feet.

Evidence of this shift in values is all around. Some of the signs are seemingly innocuous. States around the country began sponsoring lotteries: government-approved gambling that extracts its largest toll from the poor. Executives and hedge fund managers began bragging about compensation packages that would have been considered shameful a few decades before. Chain restaurants went into supersize mode, offering gigantic portions that would have been considered socially unacceptable to an earlier generation.

Other signs are bigger. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, in the three decades between 1950 and 1980, personal consumption was remarkably stable, amounting to about 62 percent of G.D.P. In the next three decades, it shot upward, reaching 70 percent of G.D.P. in 2008.

During this period, debt exploded. In 1960, Americans’ personal debt amounted to about 55 percent of national income. By 2007, Americans’ personal debt had surged to 133 percent of national income.

Over the past few months, those debt levels have begun to come down. But that doesn’t mean we’ve re-established standards of personal restraint. We’ve simply shifted from private debt to public debt. By 2019, federal debt will amount to an amazing 83 percent of G.D.P. (before counting the costs of health reform and everything else). By that year, interest payments alone on the federal debt will cost $803 billion.

These may seem like dry numbers, mostly of concern to budget wonks. But these numbers are the outward sign of a values shift. If there is to be a correction, it will require a moral and cultural movement.

Our current cultural politics are organized by the obsolete culture war, which has put secular liberals on one side and religious conservatives on the other. But the slide in economic morality afflicted Red and Blue America equally.

If there is to be a movement to restore economic values, it will have to cut across the current taxonomies. Its goal will be to make the U.S. again a producer economy, not a consumer economy. It will champion a return to financial self-restraint, large and small.

It will have to take on what you might call the lobbyist ethos — the righteous conviction held by everybody from AARP to the agribusinesses that their groups are entitled to every possible appropriation, regardless of the larger public cost. It will have to take on the self-indulgent popular demand for low taxes and high spending.

A crusade for economic self-restraint would have to rearrange the current alliances and embrace policies like energy taxes and spending cuts that are now deemed politically impossible. But this sort of moral revival is what the country actually needs.

Scots crime 'lowest in 30 years'

There were drops in violent crime, sexual offences and vandalism

Do stats tell the whole story?

Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in almost 30 years, official statistics have revealed.

Official figures showed the total number of crime reported to police forces fell to 377,433 in 2008-09.

Violent crimes, sexual offences and vandalism fell, while theft and fraud increased slightly.

Ministers welcomed the figure, but Labour said it was only a 2% drop on the previous year and claimed ministers were losing the war on crime.

The report, from Scotland's chief statistician, showed the overall crime rate was the lowest since 1980.

All eight police forces recorded a drop, ranging from a marginal fall in the Northern area and Lothian and Borders to an 11% decrease in Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the figures - but warned against complacency over crime.

He said: "For the second year in a row, crime in Scotland is down to the lowest level in nearly 30 years. With record numbers of police officers tackling crime and serving our communities, this government is working to make Scotland safer and stronger."

There were a total of 12,612 violent crimes in 2008-09, a 2% drop on the previous year, while sexual crimes fell by 3%, from 6,552 to 6,331.

Within the indecency group, recorded cases of rape and attempted rape fell by 9% to 963.

But Scottish Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said Scotland was not making enough progress on tackling crime.

"The SNP soft-touch agenda on crime and justice isn't working when we see only a 2% drop in Scotland in crime - a very small decrease indeed, whereas in England and Wales we've seen a 5% drop," he said.

'Conservative policy'

The Conservatives' Gavin Brown urged ministers to move away from their presumption against jail terms of six months or less, while saying his party could claim credit for the drop in crime.

"These figures are moving in the right direction," he said, adding: "The government's main policy for justice was to put 1,000 extra police on the beat - pushed by the Scottish Conservatives.

"Without that, who knows what would have happened with these stats."

Elsewhere, the figures showed "crimes of dishonesty" increased slightly to stand at 167,812 cases - the first rise for a decade.

Recorded cases of vandalism, including fire-raising and malicious mischief, decreased by 7% to a total of 109,430.

And other recorded crimes, including drug offences, crimes against public justice and offensive weapons offences, decreased marginally to a total of 81,248.

The clear-up rate for all recorded crimes in 2008-09 was 49% - the highest in 20 years - compared with 48% the previous year, while the clear-up rate for non-sexual violent crimes increased from 62% to 64%.

But crimes of indecency were less likely to be solved, with a drop of 4% to 68% in the clear-up rate.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Susan Boyle again

This is lovely the way someone put photos with the sound

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Riding through September

What a September it has been thus far. I had another good ride Friday.

This will give you a hand, Gordon: The Browns and Obamas kiss and make up

These photos certainly do not make it look like Obama and Brown are having problems communicating. Is the strain between the Browns and Obamas all media hype! I think so.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Memo From Edinburgh

When Doing the Scottish Thing Backfires

Published: September 24, 2009

EDINBURGH — The news the other day wafted poisonously along the tartan and whiskey shops that dominate the tourist-attracting Royal Mile here. One of Scotland’s best-known brands, Harris Tweed Hebrides, had decided to “de-Scottishify” the image of the brand, one of its executives had told the newspapers, so as not to alienate American consumers angry about the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, left, has defended before Parliament his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, saying that humanity “is viewed as a defining characteristic” of Scotland.

The next day, the company’s chief executive, Ian Angus Mackenzie, hastily backtracked, dismissing the idea as “daft.” But the uneasiness did not go away. Scots are very touchy these days about the decision to free the bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, and very worried about their international reputation.

Mr. Megrahi, the only person ever convicted in connection with the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, was freed from prison on compassionate grounds in August, having served less than a third of his 27-year sentence. Ill with terminal prostate cancer, he is now in intensive care at a hospital in Tripoli, his lawyer said. But the debate over his release rages on.

Indeed, there has been a great deal of talk about conspiracies and backdoor deals between Britain and Libya over Mr. Megrahi’s case. Britain wants to have better relations — both politically and financially — with Libya, and it is clear that the Megrahi issue came up repeatedly in discussions. As a condition of improved cooperation, Britain had to withdraw its demand to get Mr. Megrahi’s name removed as an exception when it negotiated a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

But the conspiracy theories ignore the parochial nature of Scottish politics, and also the political agenda of Alex Salmond, the leader of the governing Scottish National Party. Relations between Mr. Salmond and Gordon Brown, the British Labour prime minister, are said to be particularly frosty, and the last thing Mr. Salmond wants to do is appear to be taking orders from London.

He has enough troubles at home. In the Scottish Parliament, the justice committee is to conduct an inquiry into how the decision was reached, putting the nationalists on the defensive.

The National Party, which has a plurality but not a majority in Parliament and so clings to power tenuously, is at heart a single-issue organization: it believes that Scotland should be independent from Britain. As a result, its critics say, the party badly wants to prove itself, but has ended up looking foolish in the highest-profile decision of its governing time.

“They are desperate to be players on the international stage,” said Richard Baker, a member of the Scottish Parliament who is justice spokesman for the Labour Party here. “But there’s a huge arrogance within the S.N.P. in claiming that they speak for Scotland.”

The Scottish government hopes to hold a referendum on independence later this year, but such a referendum would have little chance of passing. Even some people who believe Mr. Megrahi was unfairly imprisoned and deserved to be free are annoyed at the way the government handled his release.

This may not be the most opportune moment for independence, either. Scotland, which always prided itself on its prudence, has been proved financially vulnerable in the recession. Its largest bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, had to be bailed out by the British government last year. The government — along with Britain’s — is also facing the prospect of having to make severe cuts in public services.

Although it means little to outsiders, particularly families of the victims of Flight 103, the Scottish government insists that there is a huge distinction between releasing Mr. Megrahi under the prisoner transfer agreement — which London may have tacitly supported had it happened, but which Scotland refused to allow — and releasing him on compassionate grounds, an extremely Scottish move.

In Scotland, opinion polls show a mixed reaction to the Megrahi release. A BBC poll found the majority were opposed to the decision. But polls in local newspapers found heavy majorities applauding it, and in an Internet poll conducted by the Firm, a magazine for lawyers, judges and others in the legal profession, some 69 percent of responders said they supported the release.

And, as a complicating factor, many Scots — including influential members of the legal establishment — feel that Mr. Megrahi was unjustly convicted and should never have been imprisoned in the first place.

Among them are Robert Black, the lawyer who helped broker the deal to hold the Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands rather than in Scotland; and Hans Kochler, the United Nations observer at the trial, who called the guilty verdict “inconsistent” and “arbitrary,” and has been a harsh critic of Scottish justice.

Mr. Megrahi has always maintained his innocence. His first appeal failed, but an influential group called the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission then referred his case back for another appeal, saying that it believed he “may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.”

Mr. Megrahi dropped the appeal in August, a tactic that he thought would help his chances of being released early, his lawyer said. But he has begun publishing on the Internet the legal arguments he had planned to use, as a way toward establishing his innocence.

In the Scottish Parliament, Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s justice secretary, defended his decision to release Mr. Megrahi on compassionate grounds, saying that humanity “is viewed as a defining characteristic” of Scotland.

In fact, releasing terminally ill prisoners is fairly standard practice in Scotland. Since 1997, 31 prisoners, including Mr. Megrahi, have applied for compassionate release. Twenty-four have had their applications granted; the remaining seven did not meet the medical criteria, in which, generally, the prisoner is deemed likely to die within three months.

“Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available,” Mr. MacAskill told Parliament. “Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.”

On the Royal Mile, Gordon Nicolson, who owns a kiltmaking shop, said that Mr. MacAskill’s efforts had backfired.

“They’re trying to show that Scotland can be politically independent,” he said. “But if this is the kind of decision they make, this calls into question Scotland’s ability to make good decisions.”

This is a huge mistake for the Scottish Tweed industry! HUGE!


No 10 'frantic' over Obama talks

The two leaders met in July, during the presidential election campaign

White House officials rejected repeated requests from Britain for a formal meeting between President Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, it has emerged.

The prime minister's team were "frantic" after being unable to secure the talks at the UN summit in New York, a diplomatic source has told the BBC.

However, the president held private meetings with the leaders of Japan, China and Russia.

Downing Street said reports of a snub were "completely without foundation".

A spokesman said the men had had a "wide-ranging discussion following last night's climate change dinner".

It has emerged this was a few minutes of conversation in a kitchen at the United Nations.
Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd
White House

The spokesman went on to say the prime minister and president would co-chair an "important" meeting on Thursday on Pakistan, and would have further meetings at the G20 later this week.

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Brown wanted a similar event to the substantial meetings President Obama held with the leaders of Japan, China and Russia.

But the White House rejected that Mr Brown had been given a lower priority than other leaders.

A spokesman said: "Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd.

"We would add that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship, they speak regularly on a range of the most difficult challenges facing our two nations and meet frequently."

The spokesman pointed to "the tight and extensive work our countries carry out together to address common challenges across the globe" as evidence of the closeness of the relationship.

The row comes after Mr Obama described the Lockerbie bomber's release as a "mistake".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009



Guardian, UK - Gordon Brown lurched from being hailed as a global statesman to intense embarrassment, after it emerged US President Barack Obama had turned down no fewer than five requests from Downing Street to hold a bilateral meeting at the United Nations in New York or at the G20 summit starting in Pittsburgh today. The prime minister, eager to portray himself as a leading player on the international stage in America, was also forced to play down suggestions from inside his own party that he might step down early, either due to ill health or deteriorating eyesight. There have been tensions between the White House and No 10 for weeks over Brown's handling of the Scottish government's decision to release the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Brown's efforts to secure a prestigious primetime slot for his keynote speech at the general assembly in New York were also thwarted when the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, delivered a 100-minute speech to the UN, massively running over Brown's 15 minute slot.

-Guardian, UK

Gadhafi slams Security Council in 1st UN visit

Associated Press Writer
Updated: September 23, 2009

In his first U.N. appearance, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi issued a slashing attack on the Security Council and chastised the world body on Wednesday for failing to intervene or prevent some 65 wars since the U.N. was founded in 1945.

Gadhafi called for reform of the council - abolishing the veto power of the five permanent members - or expanding the body with additional member states to make it more representative.

"It should not be called the Security Council, it should be called the "terror council," he said.

The veto-wielding Security Council powers - the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia - treat smaller countries as "second class, despised" nations, Gadhafi said.

"Now, brothers, there is no respect for the United Nations, no regard for the General Assembly," Gadhafi said.

His speech followed President Barack Obama's first General Assembly address, but not before a recess of some 15 minutes was called by the Libyan president of the General Assembly so diplomats could be take new seats.

The U.S. Mission was represented by two low- to mid-ranking diplomats. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice departed before Gadhafi ascended the podium.

After waiting for the room to settled, Gadhafi rose and swept his robe over him and strode to the stage, using the handrail on his way up. He wore a shiny black pin in the shape of Africa pinned over his heart, on his brown and tan Bedouin robes.

Gadhafi laid the yellow folder in front of him and opened some of the handwritten pages as he received scattered applause.

The chamber was half-empty as Gadhafi gave his first speech and held a copy of the U.N. Charter in his hands, each with a large, shiny ring. For a moment, it seemed he lost his place in his speech while he sorted through the pages of his yellow folder.

He appeared to be speaking without a text, looking at a set of notes before him on handwritten pages. He was not reading from the TelePrompTer.

Gadhafi welcomed Obama as the leader of the host nation for U.N. Headquarters, and hailed Obama's maiden U.N. General Assembly speech.

He railed against the "inequality" of U.N. member states, quoting from a copy of the U.N. Charter that calls for equality of nations, and then noting that five nations hold veto power on the Security Council and can block actions contrary to their interests: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Speaking rapid-fire Arabic, Gadhafi said the use of military power was contrary to the spirit of the U.N., unless such actions are sanctioned by the United Nations.

Since the world body was founded in 1945, Gadhafi said it had failed to prevent or intervene in dozens of wars around the world.

"But 65 aggressive wars took place without any collective action by the United Nations to prevent them, Gadhafi said.

Gadhafi was dressed in flowing brown robe, and a black beret that he patted at times. As he listened to speeches before he took the stage, aides huddled around him; he kept his glasses, a red handkerchief and a rumpled yellow folder in front of him on the desk.

There was a commotion in the room as President Barack Obama appeared. Gadhafi lightly applauded with others then listened raptly with the earpiece held to his left ear.

Gadhafi, introduced as the "king of kings" by his countryman and assembly president Ali Treki, remained in his seat for long after the introduction.

Associated Press writer John Heilprin contributed to this report.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

US calms row over bomber release

The release of Megrahi caused outrage among some Americans

The US government has said it does not want to punish Scotland for releasing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.

The US state department told the BBC's Newsnight Scotland it was "looking to move on" from the row.

Megrahi, who is terminally ill, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds last month.

The release of the only man convicted of the 1988 airliner bombing, sparked outrage in the US.

Many of the 270 victims of the atrocity were from the US.

Before the release of Megrahi, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said it would be "absolutely wrong" to allow Megrahi to return to Libya.

She phoned the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to tell him so.

The administration of US president Obama has now said there will be no "tit for tat" retaliation against Scotland.

State department spokesman Ian Kelly described America and Scotland as "very close allies".

He accepted Mr MacAskill's "right to do what he did" and promised continued co-operation with Scotland.

An aide to First Minister Alex Salmond said the statement was "very welcome" recognition of the strong relationship between the two countries.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

World Peace Day


Whether world peace is achievable or not depends on what exactly we mean by it.

The utopian ideal of conflict-free interaction between all humans (or even all sentient beings) seems quite improbable to achieve, most basically because of the wide ranges of behaviour and personal circumstances there exist. Some people, acting in some manner, in some circumstances, are likely to get into a conflict over one thing or another. Indeed, the case can be made that if we did not conflict in any way with others, we would either be totally independent from them (rendering the issue moot) or we would have none of the individuality that makes us human.

Most interpretations of the concept are not so extreme, however. For one thing, there are many kinds of conflicts. If we only include armed conflicts, world peace may simply entail the resolution of all minor conflicts through nonviolent means (and possibly, the strong guarantee that this will always remain so�whatever is required for that). If, on the other hand, we interpret world peace as the total absence of things like trade conflicts or border disputes, achieving it becomes quite a bit more difficult.

Even if world peace (in whatever sense it is taken) is unachievable, this doesn't imply that striving for it is not a worthy (personal) goal. In this sense (and others), it is much like perfection.

Some historians identify a long-term trend where nation-states stop fighting and become united. For example, old Europe with wars culminating in World War I and World War II, compared with the European Union; warring Chinese states compared with the modern Chinese nation. Some historians theorize that the world will eventually follow this pattern as well.

Dr. Frank Laubach, an American missionary to the Philippines in 1935 saw poverty, injustice and illiteracy as impediments to world peace. He developed the "Each One Teach One" literacy program which taught about 60 million people to read in their own language.

World peace is often claimed to be the inevitable result of some political ideology. Thus, communist thinkers such as Leon Trotsky assumed that the world revolution would lead to a communist world peace, and neoliberal thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama assumed that the rise of Western democracy will inevitably lead to the "end of history".

Debut album from Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle set to top charts

Sep 19 2009

SUSAN BOYLE'S debut album is the bookies' favourite to top the charts in both Britain and America.

The 48-year-old spinster wowed fans at the final of America's Got Talent when she sang her new single, a cover of the Rolling Stones classic Wild Horses.

The performance, which was pre-recorded before a live audience on Wednesday night, drew a standing ovation.

Ladbrokes now reckon her album, I Dreamed A Dream, is an odds-on 2-5 shot to top the charts both here and in America when it is released in November.

The bookies are also offering 2-1 that she'll beat this year's X Factor winner to the coveted Christmas No1 spot.

Ladbrokes spokesman Robin Hutchison said: "SuBo is a singing sensation and her army of fans are bound to get her to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Pre-orders of the album have already overtaken The Beatles, so we are taking no chances."

He also said Susan could be the first act in many years to seriously challenge the X Factor winner for the Christmas No1, adding: "She could be more popular than turkey and stuffing."

Latest betting has the X Factor winner at 1-3 to top the festive charts, with Michael Jackson at 15-1, Robbie Williams at 20-1 and The Beatles at 25-1.

Riding to Send Alice Ward to India

I rode my mare, Twig 8 miles with a group of runners on foot yesterday and had a wonderful day. Alice to India - The Rev to Panama

Hurlbut Church's Paul Womack and friends ran from Chautauqua to Panama (NY) on Sept. 19. You can still make a pledge and support Alice Ward's Mission of Peace trip to India.

Please send donations to:

Alice Ward MOP Fund
C/O Hurlbut Community Church
PO Box 33
Chautauqua NY 14722

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Megrahi: I'll persuade Scots I'm not guilty

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi: ‘I will do everything in my power to persuade the public of my innocence’.

Published Date: 19 September 2009
By Gerri Peev
SCOTLAND'S Lord Advocate and relatives of the Lockerbie bombing victims have condemned the "media campaign" by Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to prove his innocence.
Megrahi, who was convicted of the atrocity which claimed 270 lives, released more than 300 page of evidence yesterday in a bid to clear his name.

He was freed on compassionate grounds after doctors gave him three months to live, but his decision to abandon his appeal fuelled controversy.

Yesterday, Megrahi insisted he still wanted to prove his innocence in the eyes of Scots.

"I will do everything in my power to persuade the public, in particular the Scottish public, of my innocence. I have returned to Tripoli with my unjust conviction still in place," he said.

"As a result of the abandonment of my appeal, I have been deprived of the opportunity to clear my name through the formal appeal process. I have vowed to continue my attempts to clear my name."

The release of the papers will be seen as an act of revenge on the Scottish legal system, and its top officer yesterday retaliated.

The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, said she deplored his attempt to challenge his conviction by "selective publication of his view of the evidence in the media".

"The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court," said Ms Angiolini.

"Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an appeal court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge."

She said the Crown had been "ready, willing and able" to argue the case for his conviction in the appeal Megrahi had dropped.

"As he and his legal team have made clear, the decision to discontinue the appeal proceedings was taken voluntarily by Mr Megrahi himself," she said.

"He now seeks to retry his case in the media and criticise the evidence against him."

American relatives of the victims also condemned the move.

Rosemary Wolfe, president of Justice for Pan Am 103 group, said: "If he wanted to prove his innocence he should have kept his appeal going. It's almost as if he thinks that if he says it long enough, it will become true."

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said:

"He remains, in the eyes of Scottish justice, the murderer of 270 people. The release of these files does not change that fact."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it supported the conviction and had released as much relevant information as possible.

But lawyers for Megrahi, Taylor & Kelly, set out more than 300 pages of evidence on the website,, which they claim showed the judgment reached was unreasonable and based on insufficient evidence.

The papers were based on arguments presented to the appeal court between April and May this year, before the appeal was abandoned.

Lawyers argued there was a failure to pinpoint the date he was meant to have bought clothes from a Maltese shop that were later found in the suitcase containing the bomb.

The dossier also questions the evidence for the bomb being planted at Luqa airport in Malta, and argues there was no motive for Libya to carry out the attack.

Doubts are also cast on the way in which identification evidence was obtained from the Maltese shopkeeper.

More documents are expected to be issued in the weeks ahead.


VICTIMS of IRA violence last night expressed disbelief at the revelation that a senior Northern Ireland police officer had been sent to Tripoli to train Libyan police.

Unionist politicians were also incensed.

William Frazer of victims' group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives said:

"Here we have the police out training the people who trained the IRA and supplied the weapons to murder their colleagues, it's just unbelievable."

With Libya facing demands for compensation for relatives of IRA victims, some members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board said they were stunned. But the board later said it had backed the three-week trip by a superintendent in January this year and that board and Stormont Assembly member Ian Paisley jnr (right) had approved it.

Mr Paisley was chairman of the board's human resources committee when the request came in last December.

A board spokesman said because it was not due to meet again until February this year, procedure was followed and the secondment to Libya approved by Mr Paisley and two other board members. It was then rubber-stamped by Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward.

They should have seen this coming...

Law chief 'deplores' bomber claim

Scotland's most senior prosecutor has condemned a fresh move by the Lockerbie bomber to protest his innocence.

Hundreds of pages of documents relating to an appeal by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi against his conviction for the 1988 bombing have been put on a new website.

But Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini said Megrahi had abandoned his appeal before his release on compassionate grounds.

She said she deplored his actions and a court was the only appropriate forum for determining guilt or innocence.

She also criticised Libyan Megrahi's attempt to challenge his conviction though "selective publication of his view of the evidence in the media".

Scottish public

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was released from prison in Scotland in August and returned to Libya.

Before his release, he had been planning a second appeal against his conviction for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people.

Publishing details of his abandoned appeal, he said: "I will do everything in my power to persuade the public, and in particular the Scottish public, of my innocence."

However, Ms Angiolini, who is responsible for prosecutions in Scotland, said: "The only appropriate forum for the determination of guilt or innocence is the criminal court.

"Mr Megrahi was convicted unanimously by three senior judges following trial and his conviction was upheld unanimously by five judges, in an Appeal Court presided over by the Lord Justice General, Scotland's most senior judge.

"Mr Megrahi remains convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in UK history."

She said the Crown had been "ready, willing and able" to argue the case for his conviction in the appeal which Megrahi had abandoned.

"As he and his legal team have made clear, the decision to discontinue the appeal proceedings was taken voluntarily by Mr Megrahi himself," she said.

"Having done so, he now seeks to retry his case in the media and criticise the evidence against him."
The SCCRC considered that failure to disclose this information, of itself, may have resulted in a miscarriage of justice
Megrahi documnets

Megrahi was serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years after being convicted in 2001.

His release by Scotland`s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill triggered an international controversy, sparking outrage among the relatives of US victims.

But there has been a long-running campaign, supported by some British relatives of victims, to have his conviction overturned.

The documents published by Megrahi relate to the grounds of appeal which were argued at the appeal court in Edinburgh between April 28 and May 19.

They set out some of the reasons why the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the case to the Appeal Court, along with additional arguments.

These include the way in which identification evidence was obtained from a Maltese shopkeeper, Tony Gauci.

They also include what the defence papers describe as "significant failures" by the Crown to disclose information about the identification evidence and about Mr Gauci.

Mr Gauci picked out Megrahi as the man who bought clothes later found in the suitcase that contained the bomb.

The third set of appeal grounds also relate - according to the documents - to undisclosed information for which the UK Government had sought public interest immunity from disclosure.

"The SCCRC considered that failure to disclose this information, of itself, may have resulted in a miscarriage of justice and this was one of the reasons for referring the case back to the Appeal Court," said the documents.

No, It’s Not About Race

Published: September 17, 2009

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I go running several times a week. My favorite route, because it’s so flat, is from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol and back. I was there last Saturday and found myself plodding through tens of thousands of anti-government “tea party” protesters.

They were carrying “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, “End the Fed” placards and signs condemning big government, Barack Obama, socialist health care and various elite institutions.

Then, as I got to where the Smithsonian museums start, I came across another rally, the Black Family Reunion Celebration. Several thousand people had gathered to celebrate African-American culture. I noticed that the mostly white tea party protesters were mingling in with the mostly black family reunion celebrants. The tea party people were buying lunch from the family reunion food stands. They had joined the audience of a rap concert.

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.

And yet we live in a nation in which some people see every conflict through the prism of race. So over the past few days, many people, from Jimmy Carter on down, have argued that the hostility to President Obama is driven by racism. Some have argued that tea party slogans like “I Want My Country Back” are code words for white supremacy. Others say incivility on Capitol Hill is magnified by Obama’s dark skin.

Well, I don’t have a machine for peering into the souls of Obama’s critics, so I can’t measure how much racism is in there. But my impression is that race is largely beside the point. There are other, equally important strains in American history that are far more germane to the current conflicts.

For example, for generations schoolchildren studied the long debate between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. Hamiltonians stood for urbanism, industrialism and federal power. Jeffersonians were suspicious of urban elites and financial concentration and believed in small-town virtues and limited government. Jefferson advocated “a wise and frugal government” that will keep people from hurting each other, but will otherwise leave them free and “shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

Jefferson’s philosophy inspired Andrew Jackson, who led a movement of plain people against the cosmopolitan elites. Jackson dismantled the Second Bank of the United States because he feared the fusion of federal and financial power.

This populist tendency continued through the centuries. Sometimes it took right-wing forms, sometimes left-wing ones. Sometimes it was agrarian. Sometimes it was more union-oriented. Often it was extreme, conspiratorial and rude.

The populist tendency has always used the same sort of rhetoric: for the ordinary people and against the fat cats and the educated class; for the small towns and against the financial centers.

And it has always had the same morality, which the historian Michael Kazin has called producerism. The idea is that free labor is the essence of Americanism. Hard-working ordinary people, who create wealth in material ways, are the moral backbone of the country. In this free, capitalist nation, people should be held responsible for their own output. Money should not be redistributed to those who do not work, and it should not be sucked off by condescending, manipulative elites.

Barack Obama leads a government of the highly educated. His movement includes urban politicians, academics, Hollywood donors and information-age professionals. In his first few months, he has fused federal power with Wall Street, the auto industry, the health care industries and the energy sector.

Given all of this, it was guaranteed that he would spark a populist backlash, regardless of his skin color. And it was guaranteed that this backlash would be ill mannered, conspiratorial and over the top — since these movements always are, whether they were led by Huey Long, Father Coughlin or anybody else.

What we’re seeing is the latest iteration of that populist tendency and the militant progressive reaction to it. We now have a populist news media that exaggerates the importance of the Van Jones and Acorn stories to prove the elites are decadent and un-American, and we have a progressive news media that exaggerates stories like the Joe Wilson shout and the opposition to the Obama schools speech to show that small-town folks are dumb wackos.

“One could argue that this country is on the verge of a crisis of legitimacy,” the economic blogger Arnold Kling writes. “The progressive elite is starting to dismiss rural white America as illegitimate, and vice versa.”

It’s not race. It’s another type of conflict, equally deep and old.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 18, 2009, on page A31 of the New York edition.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do social networking on line or get lost in the dust...

Sorry this was made for a wider screen. Click twice on the screen and it will thrust you back to Youtube and you can watch it better!

Facebook has in 5 months become my main media! Wow I thought a year ago it was for 14 year olds! I also use Scotster.

Susan Boyle on American TV

This is a little rough but you can see how well she sang!


Guardian - Learning a musical instrument at school improves children's behaviour, memory and intelligence, a government-commissioned study has found. Professor Susan Hallam, of the Institute of Education, University of London, analysed scores of researchers' studies on the benefits of music to children. She found researchers had discovered that learning to play an instrument enlarges the left side of the brain. This leads musically-trained pupils to remember almost a fifth more information. . .The government hopes to double the number of children, aged seven to 11, who are given a chance to learn an instrument for free by 2011. The government says that now over half of primary-aged children - 1m - learn an instrument. A study contrasting the impact of music lessons with that of drama classes found music lessons, over time, increased pupils' IQ by seven points, compared to 4.3 points for drama lessons.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gaddafi Not Invited to Obama UN Reception


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host their first international reception for world leaders later this month, in connection with the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Politics Daily has learned that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has not been invited because of the hero's welcome Gaddafi gave the convicted Pan Am Lockerbie bomber when he returned home to Libya after being released from a Scottish
prison.The Obama reception will be Sept. 23 in New York, as the president makes
his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly and spends several days at the UN.

By coincidence, the United States in September takes its turn holding the rotating presidency of the 15-member UN Security Council. A Libyan is the president of the UN General Assembly, and Libya is also taking a turn as one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Besides speaking before the General Assembly, Obama will chair a Security Council summit meeting on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament, host a lunch for leaders of sub-Saharan African nations, and chair a meeting with countries contributing police and troops to UN peacekeeping operations.

In addition, Obama and the first lady will host the traditional U.S. welcome party for the heads of state converging in Manhattan for the opening of a new session.

Gaddafi is among a small group of world leaders -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is another -- not invited to the Obama party. "We can decide who we want to entertain and who we don't," a source close to the situation told me.

The Gaddafi snub, I was told, is directly related to Libya giving a hero's welcome last month to Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, 189 of them U.S. citizens.

Al-Megrahi left a Scottish prison after Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill ordered him released from his 27-years-to-life sentence on "compassionate grounds," which is allowed under Scottish law. Al-Megrahi has prostate cancer, and on Aug. 10 was given three months to live.

While relations with the Lybyan leader had been improving, a new strain emerged in the wake of the high-profile welcome al-Megrahi received on Aug. 20. The U.S. and Britain had asked Gaddafi that al-Megrahi's homecoming be without fanfare.

Gaddafi may have been hoping to open a new chapter in U.S-Libya relations, as he just marked the 40th anniversary of the September, 1969 military coup that installed him in power. Last July, Obama and Gaddafi were in Italy for a G8 summit -- Gaddafi there in his role as the president of the African Union -- and Obama shook his hand, a small but symbolic action.

A gesture likely not to be repeated.

Obama and Gaddafi on Sept. 23, both address the UN General Assembly, with Gaddafi following Obama. U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, at a breakfast with reporters last Friday sponsored by the Christan Science Monitor, said Obama will not be taking part in any kind of hand-off.

Rice also said that Gaddafi has given up on what had been a plan to pitch a tent on the grounds of a Libyan residence in New Jersey and instead will stay in Manhattan.

This about says it all.

Here is a little song celebrating our position at #37 in the world in healthcare.

"We're Number 37"

Come one, Come all
Down to the hall
Were gonna make noise
Were gonna bust balls
Were gonna disrupt
Were gonna jump in the fray
I got a list of all the things that were supposed to say
Were gonna get real rowdy
Have a barrel of fun
But were the USA so by the way be sure to bring a gun
And buddy

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
And were so proud to say
We got old people crying at the pharmacy
Pay your deductible
This aint the land of the f-f-f-free Grandma
Were Number 37
Were the USA

People of the town come on down
And if you got a crazy rumor you can spread it around
I kind of like my insurance and I like my health
The other 47 million can go treat themselves
To some prayer in chapel
Fold your hands and pray
Because we are a Christian nation and that is the Christian way
And brother

Were Number 37
Were the USA
The big Number 37
And were so proud to say
Were #1 one in tanks
Were #1 in planes
Were #1 in war with #2 for brains
Were Number 37
Were the USA

I drew a Hitler mustache on the president
Yea! Aint that neat
My brother had a hernia operation last year
And now hes living out on the street

Were Number 37
Were the USA
The big Number 37
And we want to keep it that way
Be sure to bring the kids
All of the boys and girls
Because the #1 health care system in the world.

Is inFrance???

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
And we got something to say
We pay more for less
40% in fact
Lets bite some fingers off
Shout at the handicapped
Cause buddy
Were Number 37
Were the USA

Were Number 37
Were the USA
Were Number 37
Were the USA

© Paul Hipp 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Susan Boyle album defies accepted consumer laws

September 15, 8:27 PMNewark Pop Culture ExaminerJeff Luppino-Esposito

Susan Boyle showing off her skills on Britain's Got Talent

When you find yourself acknowledging that Susan Boyle served up a solid cover of the Rolling Stones' classic 'Wild Horses' you know something is off. Yes, Boyle, the old woman in the shoe from Britain's Got Talent who, as Columbia records puts it ever so tersely, "was plucked from obscurity" after her show stopping performance of 'I Dreamed a Dream'. After you recover from your state of disarray, grooving along to Boyle's crooning vocals pouring out from your laptop speakers in some inappropriate location thanks to the power of wifi, you come to realize that you're not alone. And this-- this scares you.

In a Columbia records press release today, the label announced that pre-orders of Susan Boyle's new album 'I Dreamed a Dream' due out November 24 have "topped Jay-Z, Whitney Houston, and even The Beatles' remastered CDs, making Boyle #1 on the's best-sellers list."

This scares you even more.

But today we must not let our internal pretentious artist get the better of us and merely be disgusted by this apparent travesty. On the contrary now is the time to take a step back, pick up a wooden baseball bat, and shatter everything we ever thought was inherently true about consumer patterns.

Ostensibly the quantitative success of this album seems appropriate when considering the tens of millions of views that her Britain's Got Talent YouTube video has garnered, but then again, there is one key factor that doesn't make sense. Time.

Boyle's big debut occurred on April 11, 2009 -- yes, this is the longest 15 minutes of fame known to man. Most chalked up the uncontrollable outpouring of love for the affectionately nicknamed SuBo as a spur of the moment thing that follows the basic process of consumer thought-- 1.) 'look at that old ugly woman, she can't be talented!' 2.) 'wait, she is talented' 3.) 'bring on the pendulum effect!'

Yet at step 4 things go wrong. Of course, step 4 is 'realize that our love for this cultural phenomenon has been taken to an unreasonable extreme and go back to loving externally attractive/obviously talented people'. Somehow this has failed. The love continues to pour in as will the dollars.

Say what you will about the artistic integrity of Susan Boyle's upcoming album, say that it will be terrible, say that she is overrated, say that you still think she's just an unattractive old chick, but take that extra second and muse over the fact that your fellow man apparently disagrees. For an extended period of time.
Jeff Luppino-Esposito is the Founder of the pop culture website

Mull of kintyre

Mull of kintyre

Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of kintyre
Far have I traveled and much have I seen
Dark distant mountains with valleys of green.
Vast painted deserts the sunsets on fire
As he carries me home to the mull of kintyre.

Mull of kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of kintyre

Sweep through the heather like deer in the glen
Carry me back to the days I knew then.
Nights when we sang like a heavenly choir
Of the life and the time of the mull of kintyre.

Mull of kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of kintyre

Smiles in the sunshine
And tears in the rain
Still take me back to where my memories remain
Flickering embers growing higher and higher
As they carry me back to the mull of kintyre

Mull of kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of kintyre

Mull of kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
My desire is always to be here
Oh mull of kintyre

Paul McCartney wrote this with Denny Laine, his band mate in Wings. The song is a tribute an island in Scotland where Paul and his wife Linda had a farm. The Mull of Kintyre island is known for its beautiful scenery and tranquil atmosphere. After a difficult breakup with The Beatles, McCartney went there to avoid a nervous breakdown.
In Britain it was the best-selling single of the '70s, selling in excess of 2 million copies, which was more than any Beatles record.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dougie Is so Awesome

Dougie MacLean is one of Scotland's most successful, respected and popular musicians.
Singer-Songwriter, Composer and 'magical' Performer, he is also a fine guitarist and fiddle player.
From his home base in Butterstone near Dunkeld in the beautiful Tay Valley in Perthshire Scotland, MacLean tours the world with his unique blend of lyrical, 'roots based' songwriting and instrumental composition. His moving song Caledonia and melody The Gael (used in The Last of the Mohicans) have been recorded by hundreds of artists and enjoyed by millions worldwide.
Buy CDs, DVDs, songbooks etc as well as Mp3 downloads direct from the artist's own site!

"...a Scottish phenomenon...with his exquisite guitar style, expressive voice and honest performance, his songs conjure up remarkably vivid imagery of our world"
(The Performing Songwriter, USA)

Port claims to be first centre of Christianity in Scotland

Published Date: 14 September 2009
By Tim Cornwell
Arts Correspondent
A VILLAGE on the south-west coast of Scotland is reasserting its claim to be the country's forgotten first centre of Christianianity in a debate in the Scottish Parliament this week.
St Columba is traditionally seen as the founding figure of Scottish Christianity with the abbey he founded at Iona.

But Whithorn, a small but scenic Wigtownshire village, is touting for the tourist trade and its place in Scottish history.

It claims recent archaeological
finds stand up the traditional story that St Ninian, dubbed the "first Scottish bishop", was active 150 years earlier.

South of Scotland MSP Alasdair Morgan's motion, up for debate on Wednesday and already backed by 18 MSPs, calls on Whithorn to be recognised as Scotland's "earliest known centre of Christianity ... largely forgotten by a modern generation".

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev William Hewitt, along with religious, Scottish history and archaeological experts, are expected to watch the debate. The Whithorn Trust business manager, Janet Butterworth, said the motion avoided the claim that St Ninian was Scotland's first saint.

Mr Morgan's motion says Whithorn has "produced archaeological artefacts of immense historical significance."

Supporters point to the Latinus stone, discovered there more than a century ago, and now dated to the mid-fifthth century, allegedly the earliest Scottish Christian artefact.

Mr Morgan's motion states that "while in ancient times Ninian was Scotland's premier saint... the historical significance of Whithorn and Ninian's story is largely forgotten by a modern generation".

Recognising Whithorn "as Scotland's cradle of Christianity will bring economic benefit to a depressed area... for the benefit of its present-day inhabitants" .

Historians in the past have fiercely championed Iona's role. Iona is described as the "cradle of Christianity" on the websites of Historic Scotland and Christian group the Iona Community.


THE Irish monk St Columba landed at Iona in AD563, founding the abbey that made it a place of pilgrimage and spirituality for centuries.

Tradition has it that St Ninian established his church at Whithorn in 397. It too became a pilgrims' destination.

But the story of the man known as the "apostle to the Southern picts" does not appear in the historical record until 300 years later, in the writings of the Northumbrian monk Bede, in 731. St Columba's story is far better documented, while historians say almost nothing is certain about St Ninian's life or teachings.

Putting a new spin on vandalism as guerrilla knitters weave havoc

Published Date: 14 September 2009
HERE'S a good yarn from Inverness. A pair of "guerrilla knitters" have covered landmarks around the city in bright red wool.
Now giant pompoms hang from lampposts, crocheted spider webs have been strung across alleyways and tombstones in the city's ancient graveyard adorned with cosies.

Organisers hope the fun-filled scheme, also called "yarnbombing", will entice visitors and shoppers to the city centre.

The project, which used 45 miles of red wool, has been set up to transform Inverness city centre as part of a £300,000 taxpayer-funded project.

The installation, organised by Inverness Old Town Art (Iota),

forms part of a project to celebrate the regeneration of the city's Old Town.

Annie Marrs and Jennifer Cantwell are the two artists behind the art group's latest scheme in Inverness.

Previous projects include Inverness in Pants, when large papier-mache briefs were strung up across the city's Church Street.

The pair spent three months knitting the woolly street furniture and insist the public money is going to good use.

Ms Marrs said: "The idea is to create something which is quite feminine, tactile and craft-based and bring it into a concreted, brick world.

"We deliberately chose to use blood red and the idea is that we are connecting spaces like an arterial line through the town.

"Our work is about love and bringing a nurturing feeling back to the city."

The artists began their prank at 5:30am last Monday and were granted permission from the city's Old High Church to place the woollen decorations on the historic tombstones.

However, critics have branded the scheme a waste of taxpayers' money claiming the cash could have been better spent on improving local services.

But a spokesperson for Iota said: "Focusing on costs of events may mean the actual social and promotional benefits to the area and arts community are overlooked."

There has been mixed reaction to the woollen stunt.

Mary Scanlon, the Conservative Highlands MSP, was less than impressed. She said: "I am far from convinced that giant pompoms are the best way to promote the city. Art is meant to be challenging, but I do think it is disrespectful to cover gravestones in wool."

However, Claire Barnes, 20, a receptionist at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in Church Street insisted they had made a positive impact on the city centre.

She said: "I think the red balls look really attractive, they brighten up the place."


THE 21st century has seen a resurgence of knitting.

Celebrities including Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Cameron Diaz and Russell Crowe have all been seen knitting and have helped to popularise the revival of the craft.

The internet has also created a thriving online knitting community allowing knitters to connect, share interests and learn from each other.

Blogging and tweeting have also helped fuel the development of an international knitting community.


Susan is a Goddess
By Beth Maxwell Boyle

What a joy to get a wee taste of the CD Susan Boyle will be releasing November 23, 2009. Susan Boyle's version of the Rolling Stones classic "Wild Horses" has been leaked as a teaser. It is remarkable and very fresh. The choice of it as a song for Susan Boyle to sing was brilliant. Her delivery is flawless. There is something sort of Kate Bush in her delivery. I am blown away. The piano accompaniment is dreamy. If this is truly a sign of what we have to expect from her upcoming album I Dreamed a Dream, it will be nothing short of monumental. Susan Boyle is expected to appear this week on US TV as part of the finale of America's Got Talent. OK I have only listened to it 10 times in a row!! Please go have a listen! I can't wait for this CD!

Wild Horses as Susan Sings it!

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am
You know I can't just let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild horses couldn't drag me away

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you've decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild horses, couldn't drag me away

I know I dreampt you a sin and a lie
And I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Fate has been served and tears must be cried
So let's do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild horses, Couldn't drag me away

The original Stones version was from the 1970 ‘Sticky Fingers’ album.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Susan Boyle's American dream becomes reality

Published Date: 14 September 2009
SUSAN Boyle, the Scot who became an unlikely international celebrity after her appearance on a reality television show, has arrived in the US to build on her new-found fame.
Five months after her appearance on ITV's Britain's Got Talent, the singer from West Lothian has finally ventured across the Atlantic to meet some of her most devoted fans.

With her debut album due out in two months, the 48-year-old is embarking on the first stages of a promotional tour. If the reception she received at Los Angeles over the weekend is any indication, she looks set for success.

Hundreds of well-wishers and members of media crowded around the singer, nicknamed SuBo, as she arrived at LAX Airport late on Saturday evening.

A pair of bodyguards helped her through the crowd as she blew kisses to her fans, who chanted 'Susan! Susan!'. One young woman managed to break through the security cordon to hug her idol.

Later this week, Boyle, from Blackburn, will perform before a live television audience of millions on the final of America's Got Talent.

Although the church volunteer has given an interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show from her home in Scotland, the America's Got Talent date will mark the first time she has performed live in the US.

The programme regularly attracts about 12 million viewers, and is seen as a crucial way of maintaining Boyle's profile.

Although it is not due to be released until 23 November on Simon Cowell's SyCo label, her album, I Dreamed A Dream, is expected to sell millions of copies. Already, it is the fourth best selling album on Amazon's US website. In the UK, it is 46th.

It is believed that on America's Got Talent, Boyle will sing a cover of Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones. Along with the title track from Les Miserables, and other showtunes, it will be one of the songs on her album.

Boyle shot to fame almost immediately after her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent in April. Her performance became a viral sensation, and has been viewed more than 100 million times on the video sharing website, YouTube.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And Now for the Hard News...

For truly amazing updates see this site

Susan Boyle to star on US talent show

Boyle to star on US talent show

Published Date: 12 September 2009
BRITAIN'S Got Talent runner-up Susan Boyle is taking her act to the United States, it has been revealed.
The Scottish sensation will make her US TV debut on the season finale of America's Got Talent, according to a person close to the series.

The source spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Boyle, 48, from Blackburn, West Lothian, surprised viewers of with her soaring rendition of I Dreamed a Dream.

But she was taken aback by her sudden fame, which she has said hit her like a "giant demolition ball".

She was hospitalised for exhaustion after the British show.

The two-part finale of the US talent show airs on 14 and 16 September.

Brown 'raised release of bomber during Obama call'

Brown 'raised release of bomber during Obama call'

Published Date: 12 September 2009
By Craig Woodhouse
GORDON Brown raised the issue of the Lockerbie bomber's release during his phone call with Barack Obama, despite it originally being left out of Downing Street's summary of the leaders' conversation.
Mr Brown and the US president spent 40 minutes on the phone on Thursday. The Prime Minister's spokesman said it was a "really productive call".

Downing Street's original summary focused on discussions about the forthcoming G20 summit in Pittsburgh and the situation in Afghanistan but made no mention of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's release, while a White House statement said Mr Obama expressed his "disappointment" at the decision to free the bomber.

No 10 later confirmed that the leaders "exchanged views" on Megrahi's release but said the remarks about Lockerbie had not been included in their summary of the phone call because it was not appropriate for them to brief on what Mr Obama had said during the conversation.

Yesterday the Prime Minister's spokesman said it had actually been Mr Brown who had raised the issue, though it was only a "very small part" of the call.


Tiger Eye Prayer Beads

Tiger's eye (also called Tigers eye or Tiger eye) is a chatoyant gemstone that is usually a metamorphic rock that is yellow- to red-brown, with a silky luster. A member of the quartz group, it is a classic example of pseudomorphous replacement by silica of fibrous crocidolite (blue asbestos). An incompletely silicified blue variant is called Hawk's eye.

One decade Prayer bead set in Tiger Eye and Bronze. The beads are 10mm. The Cross is two inches long.
by Beth Maxwell Boyle


Friday, September 11, 2009

Megrahi release: Obama hits out at Brown

Published Date: 11 September 2009
By Tom Peterkin
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama last night expressed his "disappointment" at the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber during a 40-minute phone call with Gordon Brown.
In their first direct discussions on the matter, the two leaders "exchanged views" on the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Brown made it clear the decision had been a matter for the Scottish Government.

Following their conversation, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "The president expressed his disappointment over the Scottish Executive's decision to release convicted Pan Am 103 bomber al-Megrahi back to Libya."

When Megrahi returned to a hero's welcome in Libya last month, Mr Obama described the decision by the Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, acting in his quasi-judicial role, to grant the bomber compassionate release as a "mistake".

But last night was the first time that he has expressed his disapproval to the Prime Minister in person.

Although it was a Scottish decision to free Megrahi, Mr Brown has come under fire for failing to indicate whether or not he supported the move.

The controversy has also been fanned by suggestions that the man, convicted of killing the 270 victims of Pan Am flight 103 when it exploded over Lockerbie, was a pawn in trade negotiations between the UK and Libya.

Mr Obama and Mr Brown spoke by telephone to discuss preparations for a Group of 20 economic summit to be held in Pittsburgh later this month and also discussed the economic situation.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister admitted Lockerbie had been mentioned during the conversation.

The spokesman said: "It did come up, and the Prime Minister made it clear that it was a matter for the Scottish Government."

The spokesman declined to say whether Mr Obama or Mr Brown had raised the matter, but claimed that the call between the two men was "warm and substantive".

The release of Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal cancer, outraged the relatives of American victims of the atrocity, who are convinced that the former Libyan intelligence agent is guilty of the worst mass murder in British legal history.

Mr Obama's displeasure has led to speculation that Britain's handling of the case and its involvement in trade discussions with Libya could harm the "special relationship" between the UK and the United States.

Mr Brown's spokesman denied that was the case.

"The two leaders concluded that the special relationship was as strong as ever and that there continued to be good co-operation across the full global agenda," the No 10 spokesman said.

Earlier yesterday it emerged that the UK Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, will be questioned over the Megrahi's release by the Commons justice committee.

The cross-party group of MPs will question Mr Straw on the decision not to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement between the UK and Libya.

Last night the American relatives said they were "very pleased" that Mr Obama had made his feelings clear to Mr Brown and claimed that the special relationship was now under severe stress.

A backlash against the UK and Scotland has been seen across the US ever since Mr MacAskill took the decision to send Megrahi home.

The sight of Scottish saltires flying as Megrahi landed in Tripoli in front of cheering crowds was especially embarrassing to the UK and Scottish governments.

The Scottish Government has always insisted that the decision to release the bomber was the right one given that medical advice suggested Megrahi had just three months to live.

The American families have always said that his release went against an agreement struck between the US and Britain that said he should serve his entire life sentence in Scotland.

"I think the (US] administration's feeling is one of more than disappointment," said Frank Duggan, the Washington-based lawyer, who is president of Victims of Pan Am 103.

"I think the administration is really angry.

"People have been asking me 'what does this mean for the special relationship?' Well, I think it is in tatters."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Scotland's Gem, CAIRNGORM

CAIRNGORM , a yellow or
brown variety of quartz, named from Cairngorm or Cairngorum; one of the peaks of the Grampian Mountains in Banffshire, Scotland . According to Mr E . H . Cunningham-Craig, the mineral occurs in crystals lining cavities in highly-inclined veins of a fine-grained granite running through the coarser granite of the main mass: Shallow pits were formerly dug in the kaolinized granite for sake of the cairngorm andthe mineral was also 'found as pebbles in the bed of the river Avon .

Cairngorm is a favourite ornamental stone in Scotland, being set in the lids of snuff-mulls, in the handles of dirks and in brooches for Highland costume . A rich sherry-yellow colour is much esteemed . Quartz of yellow, and brown colour is often known in trade as " false topaz," or simply " topaz." Such quartz is found at many localities in Brazil, Russia and Spain . Much of the yellow quartz used in jewellery is said to be " burnt amethyst "; that is, it was originally amethystine quartz, the colour of which has been modified by heat (see AMETHYST) . Yellow quartz is sometimes known as citrine;. when the quartz presents a pale brown tint it is called " smoky quartz "; and when the brown is so deep that the stone appears almost black it is termed morion . The brown colour has been referred to. the presence of titanium .

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What is Christian mysticism?

To many modern Christians, words like "meditation," "mystic," and "mysticism" bring to mind Eastern religions, not Christianity. Certainly Eastern religions are known for their mysticism; however, mysticism is not only a vital part of the Christian heritage as well, but it is actually the core of Christian spirituality. Mysticism simply means the spirituality of the direct experience of God. It is the adventure of "the wild things of God." he direct experience of God is a kind of knowing, which goes beyond intellectual understanding. It is not a matter of "belief." It is marked by love and joy, but it is not "emotional experience." In many ways, it is better described by what it is not. To describe what it is, we must use metaphors—the marriage of the soul to Christ, the death of the "old man" and birth of the "new man," being the "body of Christ."

Jesus proclaimed "I and the Father are one," (Jn. 10.30) showing the world what the union of God and man can be. Christian mysticism is about nothing else but this transforming union.

Christ is the sole end of Christian mysticism. Whereas all Christians have Christ, call on Christ, and can (or should) know Christ, the goal for the Christian mystic is to become Christ—to become as fully permeated with God as Christ is, thus becoming like him, fully human, and by the grace of God, also fully divine. In Christian teaching this doctrine is known by various names—theosis, divinization, deification, and transforming union.

A common misconception about mysticism is that it's about "mystical experiences," and there are many volumes on such experiences in religious literature. But true mysticism is not focussed on "experiences" (which come and go) but with the lasting experience of God, leading to the transformation of the believer into union with God.
A very, very, very short mystical apologetic.

To know God directly shows that mysticism is different from any passive or legalistic kind of Christianity. It means:
That while we honor the Scriptures, we want to know God directly, not just through Scripture.
While we respect our heritage of teachings about God, we want to know God directly, not through doctrines and teachings.
While we gather in communal worship, we want to know God directly, not just through the Church.

Some readers may find this unsettling. Maybe you believe it doesn't apply to you, because you "know" that your church is purer and more correct than others. Even if that were true, is it a substitute for knowing God directly? Or, you might also feel that trusting the Bible alone gives you knowledge of God directly from the Source. But it was written by mystics, listening to God speaking his Word in their hearts. Is it possible for you to read it directly, without the conceptions of your language, time, culture, and personal history? Are you sure you wouldn't understand it very differently if you were reading it, say, in third-century Damascus?

The religion we call "Christianity" changes, but God is eternal. Mystical faith wants to know this unchanging God to whom Christianity leads us, the One behind the beliefs and the words, the One whom beliefs and words cannot describe. We want to follow Jesus' example more closely, and go beyond the religion about Jesus, and take the religion of Jesus: the knowledge of the Father and unconditional love he had, and urged us to have.
What is a mystic?

I believe that everyone who wants to love unconditionally is a mystic. All children are born mystics, and if you were once a child, you were once a mystic. Christian mysticism is following the example of Christ as he followed the Father. And mysticism is not by any means restricted to Christianity: the Bible says, “everyone who loves is begotten of God, and knows God.” (1 Jn. 4.7) God speaks in various ways, in every time and every place to "whosoever will." Other pages on this site treat non-Christian mysticism.

Mystics range the gamut of walks of life, from intellectual priests such as Frs. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Matthew Fox, to laywomen like Bernadette Roberts and Katherine Nelson. The mystic way is old, but timeless—it is alive, and ever-new for each one who chooses it. It may be inviting you to begin this adventure of divine transformation and discovery.
A very, very, very short history of mysticism

The term mysticism derives from The Mystical Theology, a tiny treatise written by the greatest Christian writer of the sixth century, Dionysius the Areopagite, a.k.a. Pseudo-Dionysius or St. Denys [the Areopagite]. But Dionysius is in no way the "founder" of Christian mysticism. That honor belongs to none but Jesus the Christ himself. But there was mysticism long before Jesus was born. God "strolled in the Garden" with man (Heb. 'adam). Jacob saw heaven opened. God spoke to Joseph through dreams. Moses communed with God on Sinai. David lost himself in dancing for the Lord.

But when Jesus declared "I and the Father are one," (Jn. 10.30) he proclaimed in himself the union of God and humankind, and he offers it to all who follow him (he gave the power to become sons of God to all who believe. (Jn. 1.12).

From there, the mystic heart is seen in the letters of the apostles: Paul reached the divinized state of losing his "self": I no longer live, but Christ lives in me! (Gal. 2.20) James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no variation nor shadow of turning. (Jas. 1.17) Peter proclaimed that Christ even descended to hell to liberate imprisoned souls, (1 Pet. 3.19) and John understood the most sublime truth of God's essence: God is Love! (1 Jn. 4.8,16). This is only the beginning. Every century has been influenced by Christian mystics—from apostles and martyrs, Church Fathers and Desert Mothers, to monks and nuns of religious orders, to the lay mystics—men and women and boys and girls in every century, in every denomination, in every walk of life.

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