Archive for July, 2010

Yes, for your regular Tuesday afternoon music therapy we bring you the rock-solid Johnny Rivers. He never was quite a super rock star, but just one of those talented, working-slug singers who shaped American pop music in the early sixties with the “go go” sound. He was good enough that Bob Dylan gave him props in his mighy fine autobiography Chronicles.

I much prefer Johnny’s later hippie-period stuff like “Summer Rain,” probably because I remember so vividly and sentimentally that summer when everybody kept on playing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band.” But my fave of Mr. Johnny will always be “Poor Side of Town.” Great song and great lyrics that still speak to the small town in me.

(For Jack Lockhart, a mighty fine and pure guitarist and absent friend, R.I.P.)

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Hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, who in his July letter to investors, noted: “Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

(Quote taken from NY Times columnist Tom Friedman)

(In the Getty News photo: As sea levels rise, coastal erosion will become an increasingly important problem. Islands, such as Sarichef Island in Alaska, are already experiencing the effects. The rising temperatures have caused a reduction in sea ice and thawing of permafrost, the thick sheet of ice below the surface, along the coast, leaving shorelines more vulnerable. This home on Sarichef island was destroyed by beach erosion in 2006. Sarichef residents face eventual evacuation. )

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Philanthropist Arnold Fisher has been the best friend that vets of Iraq and Afghanistan ever had. “Fisher Houses” near military hospitals provide very nice and convenient places for families whose wounded warriors are hospitalized or in rehab.
Fisher, as noted in this article, is also so low-key that for him to lash out this forcefully about all the absentees at this event speaks volumes.
The neglect of wounded veterans over the years has been a far cry from the heady, patriotic days before and for a long time after the invasion of Iraq.
Remember all those “Support Our Troops” stickers you saw on virtually ever passing vehicle?
Where’d they go?
Dare I ask where yours is now?
A donation to the Fisher House is a far better show of support than a feel-good car sticker anyway.

by Leslie H. Gelb
(From the Daily Beast blog)
It was inauguration day for the nation’s most modern facility for the treatment of active-duty soldiers and veterans suffering from brain injuries and psychological disorders—5,000 of them with families on hand. At the podium in Bethesda, Maryland, stood Arnold Fisher, the chief fundraiser for this precious center that may need to care for hundreds of thousands of victims, searching in vain for one White House official, one Cabinet officer, one member of the Joint Chiefs, one senator. He found none. And he asked again and again, “Where are they?”

“You are injured,” Fisher said. “We are all here. Where are they?”

Where were they? President Obama was in meetings and having a hamburger lunch with Russian President Medvedev. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also at these meetings, though not at the hamburger shop in Virginia. Michelle Obama, who has made caring for military families one of her top priorities, couldn’t make it; she was said to have given her final “no” at the last minute. She was accompanying Mrs. Medvedev on a visit to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in D.C., where they watched a dance performance. Vice President Joe Biden also met with Russians and with Israelis. Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent his deputy William Lynn III. All four Joint Chiefs sent their deputies. General Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, couldn’t make it. Not one among the legions of pro- and antiwar hooting senators could find the time. Only two members of the House of Representatives found their way to the ceremony.

But there was Fisher at the podium. A corporal in the Korean War, Fisher is now a successful real-estate developer, builder, and philanthropist. He avoids confrontation and the limelight, but he could not suppress his dismay about the absences that inaugural day. “Here we are in the nation’s capital, the seat of our government, the very people who decide your fate, the people who send you out to protect our freedoms. And yet, where are they?” he asked the attendees. “And while we appreciate that much of our military leadership is present, our government should be behind this effort,” he continued. “I know these are difficult times. I read newspapers. I see the news. And still, where are they? They call you out. You are injured. We are all here. Where are they?” According to a Rand study in 2008, approximately 300,000 soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, and 360,000 soldiers report having sustained a traumatic brain injury. The same study found that of the soldiers who seek treatment, only slightly more than half receive minimally adequate care. Rand is not Chicken Little and does not cry “the sky is falling,” unless it is. It has been over two years since that study was released, and the Army has just recorded its highest suicide rate on record, 32 during the month of June.

According to a front-page story in The Washington Post on Sunday, senior military officers are finally coming around to the seriousness and pervasiveness of these psychological disorders. “Senior commanders have reached a turning point. After nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq,” the Post story says, “they are beginning to recognize age-old legacies of the battlefield—once known as shellshock or battle fatigue—as combat wounds, not signs of weakness.” Tellingly, the Post story never mentions the new facility built to treat these problems. Is it possible the generals did not even know about it? Equally tellingly, the Post story relates that the generals who have seen the light about battlefield shock have not convinced their military’s medical brethren.

The victims of battle shock and their families in attendance that day, June 24, needed no convincing. And without doubt, they were surprised—no, stunned—by the truancies. The absences certainly stunned members of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the group that raised the $65 million for the facility. This group also funded and built another notable and unique facility, the Center for the Intrepid, in San Antonio, Texas. It was dedicated in 2007 to amputees and burn victims. A related group, the Fisher House Foundation, has funded and constructed some 45 houses around the United States and abroad that enable families of military personnel receiving treatment to stay by the sides of their loved ones. (Last year, Obama donated $250,000 of his Nobel Prize money to the Fisher House Foundation. It was his largest donation from his Nobel largesse.) Top officials from the George W. Bush administration had attended that 2007 opening. So did Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton, who each donated to the center and were there to bless its opening.

There was also little media attention to the opening, and only Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, it seems, noted the event and Fisher’s plaintive “Where are they?” question. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told me this story, and I sought an appointment with Fisher. He relented and saw me last week in his office, which was festooned with patriotic memorabilia, including the framed honorary sergeant-major stripes he had been given for his work on behalf of veterans. “This is duty, not charity,” said Fisher. I got him to talk about the “Where are they?” speech, but he really wanted to talk about “Where are they now?”

The center is now entirely the responsibility of both the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, the former for the active-duty personnel and the latter for the vets. Fisher and the Intrepid group raised all the money privately from thousands of Americans and got the center constructed privately as well. Every dollar went to the facility; nothing for the group. The Intrepid people brooked no government interference in procurement or construction. They just got the job done. And then… they turned over the keys to the government.

The center is ready for operations. It lacks an opening date. The Pentagon has appointed a director who is slated to serve less than a year before retirement—and is therefore an odd choice to establish such a complicated operation. There has been minimal communication between Fisher’s organization and the Defense Department and Veterans Administration. And so throughout our conversation, Fisher asked aloud, once again, “Where are they now?”

If I were back at The New York Times, I would call the top officials of these government agencies and put this very question to them. Their answer would likely be—“Everything is on track.” Maybe it is even true, though their absence on June 24 does not augur well. At any rate, rather than conclude this story with official assurances to me over the telephone, I prefer to give those responsible—the Pentagon, the Veterans Administration, and indeed the White House itself—the opportunity they deserve to explain in public why they could not find a half hour on that June 24 day to attend the inaugural, and to answer Fisher’s more pressing question—“Where are they now?” in readying the trauma center to render our duty to those who rendered more than theirs.

P.S. Perhaps even the media might tear itself away from endless stories about oily pelicans in the Gulf and contestants in the November elections—and spare some time and space for the brain and trauma center in Bethesda.

Correction: There was one omission on Leslie Gelb’s piece on the opening of the new brain trauma facility for soldiers and vets he is most eager to fix. Arnold Fisher, the chief fundraiser for the facility, told Gelb about the “incredibly helpful” role talk show host Don Imus played in raising millions for the new facility. And before the opening ceremonies began on June 24, Imus did his show and related interviews from the facility. The piece was about what happened at the event and after; nonetheless, Gelb would like to acknowledge Mr. Imus’s critical contributions.

Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official, is author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (HarperCollins 2009), a book that shows how to think about and use power in the 21st century. He is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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That would be John Wesley, the little 5 foot 1 inch Brit whose shadow loomed and still looms like a giant of a saint.

‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. . . .

You cannot be holy except as you are engaged in making the world a better place. You do not become healthy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world’s hurting ones.”

—– John Wesley, Preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1739

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(Photo by Ann Smithwick, Schoolhouse Gallery)

As one who reads and appreciates all kinds of poetry, I return sometimes to the easy ones we learned early on in school, like this classic in which a tree is seen as a nurturing woman, from Joyce Kilmer–he who was killed in what was billed as “the war to end all wars.” I had forgotten he was a casualty of war.

Little did they know during World War I how bloody the 20th century would be, with war after war after war.

War is hell, on warriors and their loved ones too. Pray today for the loved ones of those still being killed and maimed for life in America’s two, seemingly endless wars. And praise God from whom all blessings, like trees, flow.

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

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It is no wonder that the church has intuitively avoided these psalms [of lament]. They lead us into dangerous acknowledgment of how life really is. They cause us to think unthinkable thoughts and utter unutterable words. Perhaps worst, they lead us away from the comfortable religious claims of ‘modernity’ in which everything is managed and controlled. In our modern experience, but probably also in every successful and affluent culture, it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the darkness, in spite of us. The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life comes from nowhere else.

From Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms.

BRUEGGEMANN: A reader friendly Old Testament scholar

One of the highlights of my time in seminary was discovering the books, lectures, sermons and theology of theologian Walter Brueggemann.
I go back occasionally and read one of my favorite books on the Psalms, which is Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary. I just read it again this week and, once again, was impressed with Brueggemann’s endless insights into the Psalms with all their joy and rage, praise and lament, sweet talk and bitterness, and occasional outburst of anger at God. How often in my hospital ministry do I hear someone who is suffering or watching a loved one suffer say, “I know we’re not supposed to be angry at God but . . . ”

As if the Bible is not loaded with people angry at God, especially in a lot of those dark and very dark lament psalms. You can be mad as hell at your parent but still love him or her unconditionally. (See Psalm 22, which Jesus referenced from the cross.”

Brueggemann’s book frames the 150 Psalms into three very broad and general categories according to seasons of life with orientation, disorientation and new orientation.

He writes in the introduction this:

a) “Human life consists in satisfied seasons of well-being that evoke gratitude for the constancy of blessing. Matching this we will consider ‘psalms of orientation,’ which in a variety of ways articulate the joy, delight, goodness, coherence, and reliability of God, God’s creation, God’s governing law.

b) “Human life consists in anguished seasons of hurt, alienation, suffering, and death. These evoke rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred. Matching this, we will consider ‘psalms of disorientation,’ poems and speech-forms that match the season in its ragged, painful disarray. This speech, the lament, has a recognizable shape that permits the extravagance, hyperbole, and abrasiveness needed for the experience.

c) “Human life consists in turns of surprise when we are overwhelmed with the new gifts of God, when joy breaks through the despair. Where there has been only darkness, there is light. Corresponding to this surprise of the gospel, we will consider “psalms of orientation,’ which speak boldly about a new gift from God, a fresh intrusion that makes all things new. These psalms affirm a sovereign God who puts humankind in a new situation. In this way, it is proposed that psalm forms correspond to seasons of human life and bring these seasons to speech. The move of the seasons is transformational and not developmental; that is, the move is never obvious, easy, or ‘natural.’ It is always in pain and surprise, and in each age it is thinkable that a different move might have been made.”

The book has a lot of sophisticated and scholarly theology, with lots of footnotes, but the beauty of Brueggemann’s work is that much of his stuff is so readable for the lay person who wants learn more about the messages of the Bible. Brueggemann’s work focuses on the Old Testament, but he connects the O.T. to the gospels in powerful ways. Can’t recommend his stuff enough.

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Austin has all the world fame now because of the great music and recreation and its world-class university and sports and resident celebs like Sandra Bullock and that pretty-boy actor Matthew McC-something that I can’t spell, and the institution that is Willie Nelson, and the funky, laid-back vibe (“Help Keep Austin Weird” is the local bumper sticker there).
San Antone is famous for the Alamo and the Spurs and best of all, the fun and laid-back River Walk.
Houston’s famous for its oppressive heat in summer and humidity (Santone’s River Walk is brutal in August too when the temp’s up), but it’s truly a diverse and international city of people living in tolerance because they’re all stuck in the same endless traffic jam.
Dallas is largely clean and nice and very liveable and very low cost-of-living and terrific suburbs, and has pretty much anything you want. It’s got great restaurants and underrated night life, especially if you have more money than God, and those who hang out at the hippest of clubs and eateries in town never know when they’ll bump into actor George Clooney or Charlize Theron, one of many celebs with lots of Dallas friends and connections who slip into town occasionally. (Dallas is actually very movie industry friendly and a lot of stuff gets filmed at a studio here. But you’ll still spot a lot more celebs in Austin any day.)
But Fort Worth remains one of the best-kept secrets in the nation–the greatest little city around. It’s still full of old-time, genuine cowboys and characters and independent cusses around the Stock Yards. It’s got very interesting, grand, oldtime Texas-and Western-style hotels. Lots of barbecue and steak joints. (Not a vegetarian-friendly town). It’s got high arts, low-brow arts, the world’s biggest (and funnest) honky-tonk (Billy Bob’s), bars where they still have chickenwire around the band stands to protect the musicians from flying bottles of Shiner Bock. Great zoo and botanical garden and parks, TCU is a classy university and invented “smash mouth” college football, and major league baseball (high riding Texas Rangers) and Six Flags and Cowboys Stadium are all a stone’s throw away. It has an always surprisingly good newspaper for us incurable news junkies–and the Star-Telegram’s sports writer and local ESPN radio character Randy Galloway personifies the very spirit of Texas and Fort Worth in particular. And a terrific, laid-back downtown that is walker friendly, as noted in this article below. Fort Worth is the escape hatch for those of us in Dallas who sometimes feel the urge to escape the highbrow, buttoned-down Dallas attitude.
Only Dallas could have given the world Nieman Marcus.
Only Fort Worth could have given the world Billy Bob’s.

ESPN To Occupy Fort Worth During Super Bowl Reporting

ESPN announced Wednesday that Fort Worth will be the hub for its coverage during Super Bowl XLV. City leaders helped seal the deal by confirming lodging for crews, security for Sundance Square and ample space for the influx of visitors.

But ESPN producers said what really enticed them was what they saw during a visit that is missing from many other Texas cities: Foot traffic.

“It sort of has a small town feel about it,” said ESPN senior producer Stephanie Druley. “It’s also very convenient. Everything for all of our employees is here, and we bring a lot of people. In most cases we’ll be able to walk wherever we go, which is really great.”

ESPN will broadcast nationally from Sundance Square. The stages for radio and television shows will fill a parking lot next to the large Chisholm Trail mural downtown. A camera will be placed in the fifth-floor window of a neighboring building, making the Fort Worth skyline and the Tarrant County Courthouse visible.

ESPN The Magazine will also host its flashy NEXT party in Fort Worth that weekend. A venue will be announced later in the year.

Nearby, the Fort Worth Stock Show will be in full swing. And with the space and foot traffic, producers plan to have plenty of fans active behind their sets.

Nearby businesses are already bracing for the economic impact.

“I think it’s … going to be insanely packed,” said Mike Gardner, who works at the Jamba Juice that will be in the heart of the activities. “Even on the lunch rush there’s tons of people coming in.”

City planners are heralding the immediate economic impact. In March, state comptroller Susan Combs announced the state would set aside $31.2 million from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund to cover public safety costs attributed to the Super Bowl.

One month earlier, the Super Bowl Host Committee had a California-based market research group perform a study to find the amount of money the big game may bring to the region. They estimate North Texas could see $611 million from that weekend alone.

With ESPN announcing its occupancy of Fort Worth, Cowtown stands a better chance at taking a bigger chunk of that money. City planners also say the price of international exposure on television is close to priceless.

“Oh, that’s immeasurable,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Thornton. “And, quite frankly, we’re chasing that as much as anything.”

But Thornton and other city leaders were adamant that their pitch didn’t attack Dallas or neighboring cities; Mayor Mike Moncrief said Fort Worth promoted what it had to offer, and ESPN responded.

“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to get accomplished,” he said. “We worked our fannies off, we got the job done and we’ll deliver the goods. But not at anyone else’s expense; but as a complement to what everyone else is doing.”

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