Saturday, 24 January 2009


Up, Down.

Crazy as a shit-house rat.

Crazy as a bedbug in a whore-house.

So ... just how crazly is a shit-house rat? and why? Ditto for a bedbug?


Thursday, 22 January 2009

Ethanol, Brasil, Slavery ...

Up, Down.

The Kiltegan Fathers, a group of Irish missionaries, sent Brother Tiago to Brazil in 1968. In 1975, the National Conference of Bishops established the Commissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT). Its aim is to improve the lives of field workers by practicing what Father Tiago calls "good religion." "Bad religion," he says, "is the faith preached in the plantation churches, constantly promising the workers a better life in the next world."

Ethanol, Brasil, Father TiagoEthanol, Brasil, Antonio da Silva

A 'Green Tsunami in Brazil, The High Price of Clean, Cheap Ethanol, Clemens Höges.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Let all those who'll do justice and love mercy say Amen, say Amen, and Amen.

Up, Down.

Make it plain, make it plain.

Joseph Lowery, BenedictionGod of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far along the way, Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places our God where we met Thee, lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee. Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand, true to Thee o God and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day. We pray now o Lord for Your blessing upon Thy servant Barack Obama the 44th president of these United States, his family, and his administration. He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national and indeed the global fiscal climate. But because we know You got the whole world in Your hand we pray for not only our nation but for the community of nations. Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills for we know that Lord, You are able and You're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favourtism toward the rich, the elite of these. We thank you for the empowering of Thy servant our 44th President to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed the wind of greed and corruption and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect Your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other. And now Lord in the complex arena of human relations help us to make choices on the side of love not hate, on the side of inclusion not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance. And as we leave this mountain top help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, wherever we seek Your will.

Bless President Barack, first lady Michelle, look over our little angelic Sacha and Melia. We go now to walk together children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know You will not leave us alone, with Your hands of power and Your heart of love.

Help us then now Lord to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. When justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a might stream. Lord in the memory of all the saints who from their labours rest and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask You to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellah will be mellah, when the red man can get ahead man, and when white will embrace what is right.

Let all those who'll do justice and love mercy say Amen [Amen!] say Amen [Amen!] and Amen [Amen!].

Joseph Lowery delivers Inaugural Benediction (YouTube).

Looking Back and Continuing the March for Civil Rights, Rev. Joseph Echols Lowery (Audio Lecture) Tuesday, January 24, 2006.

Martin Luther King Jr. - Letter from Birmingham Jail ($#@!! pdf!) April 16, 1963.

Kenneth Hagood, Dr. King, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Dr. Edward HartKenneth Hagood, Dr. King, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Dr. Edward Hart, April 14, 1961.


Sunday, 18 January 2009

On The Road Again

Up, Down.

I've got a hole
Where my stomach disappeared
Then you ask why I don't live here?
Honey, I gotta think you're really weird.


Friday, 16 January 2009

Business As Usual

Up, Down.

Nixon, George W Bush, Gable2001 Monster's Ball, Marc Forster,
     Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry.
1963 Irma la Douce, Billy Wilder,
     Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine.
1994 Natural Born Killers, Oliver Stone,
     Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis.
1991 Cape Fear, Martin Scorsese,
     Nick Nolte, Robert De Niro, Juliette Lewis.
1998 Wild Things, John McNaughton,
     Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, Bill Murray.
1980 American Gigolo, Paul Schrader,
     Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton.

Obama's Green Team (?)

General James Logan Jones Jr. USMC (Retired).

When he accepted his role in the Obama administration, Gen. Jones was chairman of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, a business-backed think tank that has several Canadian oil companies as supporting members.

Among its lengthy list of proposals aimed at boosting supply and reducing U.S. energy demand, the group warns against aggressive climate change policies that would undermine energy security or impose undue costs on the economy.

General James Logan Jones, National Security Advisor, Barack Obama, Global WarmingGeneral James Logan Jones, National Security Advisor, Barack Obama, Global WarmingGeneral James Logan Jones, National Security Advisor, Barack Obama, Global Warming

TRANSITION AT THE TOP - OBAMA'S GREEN TEAM, Shawn McCarthy, January 16, 2009.

OTTAWA -- After eight years of Republican rule, environmentalists now believe they have a keen ally moving into the White House next week, and Canada's oil sands are high on their list of targets.

But they'll have to deal with General James Jones.

As a monumental battle over energy policy shapes up within the new administration of president-elect Barack Obama, Gen. Jones, a former NATO supreme commander who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, may turn out to be Canada's best ally.

After next week's historic presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., he will be the new president's national security adviser, and has sent clear signals that he considers energy security to be a key part of his mandate.

The fate of Canada's carbon-heavy oil sands projects hangs on the outcome of the fight over U.S. energy policy and climate change, which pits the "hawks," pushing for tough new standards to cut greenhouse gas emissions, against the "pragmatists," urging a go-slow approach to ensure nothing undermines the economy or energy security.

Gen. Jones, as it turns out, delivered a message to closed-door meeting of business and government elites in Banff this fall that was music to the ears of his Alberta hosts.

Energy security is a critical and growing concern for American national security, Gen. Jones said in his keynote speech to an audience that included Americans and Mexicans, as well as Canadians.

His message in Banff this fall dovetails with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pitch to the new administration for a continental climate change agreement that reflects the need for energy security and growing oil sands production.

When he accepted his role in the Obama administration, Gen. Jones was chairman of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, a business-backed think tank that has several Canadian oil companies as supporting members.

Among its lengthy list of proposals aimed at boosting supply and reducing U.S. energy demand, the group warns against aggressive climate change policies that would undermine energy security or impose undue costs on the economy.

And it advocates that the United States look to Canada and Mexico as strategic partners in providing growing sources of crude oil as it attempts to reduce its reliance on Middle East supplies.

Soon after his inauguration, Mr. Obama will travel to Ottawa to visit with Mr. Harper, his first foreign visit as president. The Prime Minister will make similar arguments to those put forward by Gen. Jones - that Canada is a critical source of secure energy and that the two countries need to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without hamstringing either the economy or Alberta's oil industry.

But while Gen. Jones and Mr. Harper will be urging caution in Mr. Obama's right ear, the new president will be getting a very different message from environmentalists in his left.

Mr. Obama has promised aggressive action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by boosting low-carbon sources of energy, improving energy efficiency and adopting national emissions standards that could penalize high-carbon sources like oil sands projects.

He has loaded his cabinet with advocates of action, including former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner in a new post as adviser for energy and climate change, and his energy secretary Stephen Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has urged adoption of national emission caps.

But Gen. Jones and several economic advisers are expected to urge caution in moving ahead with costly regulations that could weaken an already fragile economy or interfere with the country's energy security agenda.

Included in that group is Lawrence Summers, Mr. Obama's top economic adviser, who clashed with Ms. Browner over environmental rules when he served as former president Bill Clinton's treasury secretary.

Gen. Jones's Institute for 21st Century Energy is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has provided one avenue for Canadian oil companies to use to help counter the opposition in the United States to oil sands development. At the same time, Canada's Ambassador Michael Wilson and Alberta's representative Gary Mar have aggressively lobbied senior members of the U.S. Congress and senior advisers surrounding Mr. Obama.

Alberta is spending $2-billion to develop the means of sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide underground, and the federal government is expected to unveil new incentives in its upcoming budget.

At confirmation hearings this week, Ms. Browner, Mr. Chu and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson vowed to move quickly on climate legislation, in some cases granting states the right to impose their own standards.

This week, a group of Canadian and American environmental groups wrote to the president-elect and key members of his cabinet, urging them to resist Ottawa's push to grant "a pass" to the oil sands in meeting greenhouse gas emission targets.

Congress is expected to tackle climate change legislation in the first half of this year, after Mr. Obama's stimulus package and a broader energy bill, says Liz Barratt-Brown, a senior attorney at Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, whose group was a signatory to the letter.

She expects the new president to rebuff any Canadian effort to water down emission targets to protect the oil sands.

"This is a president who instinctively gets how serious the climate change threat is," Ms. Barratt-Brown said.

Even some business groups are pressing for climate legislation that could force oil companies to spend on costly emission reductions programs, far beyond what the Alberta or federal government are requiring. Yesterday in Washington, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership issued a call for action that would include tough emission targets - including on imported oil - and low-carbon fuel standards that environmentalists insist would disadvantage the oil sands.

The USCAP includes blue-chip companies like General Electric Co. and Dow Chemical Co., and even heavy emitters like utility giant Duke Power Co. and oil major ConocoPhillips Co.



CAROL BROWNER Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Former EPA administrator under president Bill Clinton supported U.S. signing on to Kyoto Protocol, and was active in environmental groups backing a national cap-and-trade system.

STEVEN CHU Energy Secretary. Former head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, he directed research on renewable energy. A staunch advocate of national greenhouse gas emissions standards.

LISA JACKSON Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency. New Jersey state environmental administrator, chairwoman of the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which established a cap-and-trade system among northeastern power utilities.



JAMES L. JONES National Security Adviser. Former NATO supreme commander, Marine Corps four-star general, CEO of business-backed Institute for 21st Century Energy, which backed offshore drilling and energy trade with Canada and Mexico and opposed aggressive emission caps.

HILLARY CLINTON Secretary of State. Former first lady and senator, who supported Senate legislation for national emissions standards, but insisted foreign countries must also embrace standards. At confirmation hearing said climate change and energy security are joint challenges.

ROBERT GATES Defence Secretary, served as President George W. Bush's defence secretary. Department is world's largest consumer of fuel, and was prohibited in 2007 energy bill from buying unconventional, high-carbon fuel as secure alternative to imports. Many see it applying to oil sands.



LAWRENCE SUMMERS Director of the National Economic Council. Former Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Opposed the Kyoto accord, is a backer of a carbon tax, rather than the cap-and-trade system proposed by most of the Obama team.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER Treasury Secretary. Former head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (part of the U.S. central bank), participated in bailout of financial institutions last fall. Lobbied heavily by businesses who say new carbon emission caps would hurt weakened economy.


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

damned bureaucrats!

Up, Down.

Barack Obama, Spiderman, SpideyAtong ArjokThinking about the relationships between administration & religious vision. On the administrative, let's just call it 'bureaucratic' side there is: the Vatican; the Bahá’í Universal House of Justice: supreme administrative body of the Bahá’í faith (and sole recipient of infallible divind guidance) as well as The Bahá’í International Community and so forth; the Episcopal General Convention; the General Council Office of the United Church of Canada; indeed, the whole diocese / bishop / parish / vestry / congregation hierarchy. I don't know enough about Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu etc. structures to comment - a Buddhist friend of mine tells me it is the same there at least.

All of this fol-de-rol compared (and contrasted) with whatever it is that transpires between the diety and the believer, be it in a formal worship service or private 'prayer.'

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
     Cassius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii.

We could discuss which of Bahai or United Church of Canada is the 'younger.' They are both relative teenagers in the religion biz. And both are driven by their bureaucracies. Sad ... that is, when I run my mind back over recent epiphanies around The Good Samaritan and concrete human networks, augmented by Ivan Illich's thoughts on the subject.

None of this having much to do with Barack Obama actually, beyond the obvious, but Rex Murphy's rantings seem to fit in:

The incredible shrinking Obama, Rex Murphy, September 20, 2008.
He's not God, but he's America, Rex Murphy, December 27, 2008.
Obamamania: Pass the defibrillator, Rex Murphy, January 3, 2009.

The incredible shrinking Obama, Rex Murphy, September 20, 2008.

How's Barack Obama's narrative going?

Journalists used to tell stories, now they plumb narratives. Narrative is a pretentious borrowing from the abstraction-clotted world of academic criticism, where texts are interrogated, authors are dead and high-toned fatuousness is king. I'll see your postmodern and raise you a meta.

Mr. Obama's campaign, however, has renewed narrative's trendy fizz. It is the very Perrier water (or is it San Pellegrino now?) of the better campaign reportage. Take no hike up Pundit Mountain without it. From the moment, the Obama surge took forceful shape, everyone - reporters, the scholars of blogland, the partisan howler monkeys of cable-news cage matches - has chattered on about Mr. Obama's narrative.

Trouble is, most of the story of the campaign isn't so much coming from the candidate himself as it is created by all those who, most in worshipful terms, have talked, written and reported on or about him. The Obama campaign is one great text generator, the grand fable of his fans.

In one sense, this is not surprising. He has a quicksilver quality. Even after two autobiographies, Mr. Obama remains something of a floating, uncrowded presence. His story (and he is so impressively self-aware as to have made the most acute comment on it) is temptingly open-ended, very much a page to be written on. He himself has written, most memorably: "I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views."

That is as bold a statement as it is an insightful one. Bold, because it is a remarkable confession from a presidential hopeful. Insightful, because it matches the facts. There are not many personalities so fluid or vague on which an attempt to "project" a storyline would take hold. Imagine, for example, projecting a "rewrite" of Donald Rumsfeld. There's too much of Mr. Rumsfeld already there to offer hospitality to new material.

Mr. Obama, however, has a kind of welcoming emptiness. Eager acolyte or stern observer, both find it difficult not to add, or project, the most flattering, even jubilant, fill-ins. The Obama candidacy, in its rocket-blast phase when he outsoared Hillary Clinton, drained the dictionaries of every superlative. The great "O" had them swooning in the stands. Why?

True, Oprah had passed her potent wand over him, but even the afternoon regent of a thousand therapies has stays on her sorcery. Mainly, his was very much a candidacy constructed by those who were drawn to him. If there was any meaning to that fortune-cookie poeticism that "we are the ones we have been waiting for," it was that his campaign was a feedback loop. People saw what they came to see. Mr. Obama was the slate; the crowds brought their own chalk.

This is the nature of Mr. Obama's particular kind of charisma. People project their best wishes on him, they fill in the blank of a very attractive and plausible outline. His is not, emphatically, a charisma of deeds. For what has he done, save run for president? He is an accommodating vessel - cool, smart, biracial and "unfinished." This is the Gatsby quality of him that others have noted. Like Gatsby, he is a receptacle of others' glamorous invention.

People see in him, or wish to see, the last great ideal of the American polity fulfilled, a final and full racial accommodation. That should he be elected president, America will have achieved, by his singular persona, the perfect emblematic demonstration of having exorcised at last the great stain of its racially riven origins.

Mr. Obama's charisma is, in this sense, external, something extended to the candidate. And it follows that that which is given may equally be taken away. The sparkle has, in fact, dimmed. He travels now in a lower orbit, closer to Earth - which is to say, he grows more mundane. The great word "hope" sounds less frequently now. He picks a running mate thick with the dust and rancour of many long years in Washington.

His acceptance speech in the Olympic-style stadium could not gather the inspirational energy of his earlier arias. Of late, the flash supernova of U.S. politics is seen "competing" with a second-on-the-ticket female governor of a remote state. There's more than a gap between the "audacity of hope" and "lipstick on a pig." The mouth that spoke the first phrase should not be capable of the second.

He has shrunk into a combative partisan. He crowds his own screen, leaves less space for projection. Others are not writing his narrative now - he's inscribing his own.

A candidacy that leached so much of its energy and drive from the imagination of others, Gatsby-like, is shedding its gift. The narrative stage is over. It's all tactics from here on in.

He's not God, but he's America, Rex Murphy, December 27, 2008.

Time magazine has genuflected to the obvious and named Barack Obama its person of the year. Which is a good thing. Time can be spotty in its choices, either gruesomely correct - as when it named the Planet (incense to the Gaia crowd) - or unwholesomely sycophantic - when it stuck You (that's you, smart reader) on the cover.

Seeing Mr. Obama, I thought: Could have been worse. I guess the chaise longue will have to wait for a quieter time. But, this year, the magazine couldn't have gone anywhere else. A fair portion of the American press may have jettisoned every pretense of standard reporting on Mr. Obama, hardly to be distinguished in the tone of commentary from preteen girls "Oh-my-God-ing" in the presence of the latest boy band.

Time has gushed with the best of them. In November, in yet another cover story on The One, it rated Mr. Obama above the sons of kings and even, oh my, above Christ himself: "Some princes are born in palaces. Some are born in mangers. But a few are born in the imagination, out of scraps of history and hope ..."

I shed a tear on reading that. Brought back the molasses knobs of my youth, great glucose bombs that would fell a moose with their sheer sweetness. Yet, the excesses of Time, and the distinct strain of pure idolatry that has infested great swaths of the North American press, don't change the consideration that Barack Obama was the story of 2008.

He swiped the Democratic nomination from the Clintons, who, until Mr. Obama appeared on the scene, had that trinket so much in their possession that the contest for the top spot was marked down purely as a ritual. It was Hillary's, and that was all there was to it. And then from out of the murky backwaters of Chicago politics came a little-known black politician with the exotic name of Barack Hussein Obama, who glided with balletic insouciance past the shark's teeth, muscle and cunning of Clinton Inc.

He should be person of the year, of the decade, just for that. But it might also be useful to hold in mind, while the hymns to The One as he approaches inauguration day increase in volume and fervour, that that's all he's done. His Senate record is an empty suitcase. His national achievement is - outside the nomination - precisely nil. Sarah Palin's résumé is objectively much more substantial.

Hillary was right when she jibed that Mr. Obama was just one speech - the address he gave to the Democratic convention that loosed John Kerry on the American electorate. Off the platform, he's a great "um-er" and "ah-er" who stumbles with a sentence in a manner that hails to mind the image of George Bush on one of the latter's many desperate safaris to link a cowering subject to its about-to-be mauled predicate.

If Mr. Obama were a standard politician, the empty résumé would have done him in. But this is precisely the point about Mr. Obama, that he has blasted free of that category. Recall that string of losses he endured toward the end of the eternal primary campaign. Hillary was beating him state after state after state. And yet it hardly seemed to matter. Any other politician would have worn that serial trouncing like a wound. Mr. Obama walked on stage after each successive loss as though he'd just woken up from a comforting nap. The composure he sometimes displays, as many have noted, is almost unearthly: He possesses a centred confidence so strong that it almost deflects reality.

The Obama persona confounds politics as we have known it for at least a generation. His person summons the wish that politics be better. There was not a little intuitive genius in founding his campaign on the most frequently abused concept in politics: hope. That there is a profound desire for improvement in the conduct of public life in America is too obvious to need statement. (The same is true in our country. Oh lord, how true.)

On some days, U.S. politics appears to be a frightful compound of graft, mismanagement, incompetence, cronyism, sexual misconduct, mediocrity, avarice and feral partisanship. The people who love America fear for her, not from apprehension over her enemies, but from despair over her putative leaders.

Barack Obama, by some gift of personality, sent out a flash of inspiration that called the exiled strain of idealism back into U.S. politics. It was not so much that he made politics exciting as that he gave some warrant for the thought it could be worthy.

He is not Lincoln. He is not, despite Time's saccharine innuendo, better than the guy from the manger. But he's the one who's given the process of politics a second chance in our time. Person of the year. Easily.

Obamamania: Pass the defibrillator, Rex Murphy, January 3, 2009.

'It is now 16 or 17 years since I saw the Queen of France ... and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision."

That's Edmund Burke reflecting on the fate of Marie Antoinette. He was, as we should say today, a fan. "I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in; glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendour, and joy."

The prose has a touch of that Chris Matthews "thrill up my leg" quality, although of course infinitely more refined than anything produced to date, either above or below, the host of Hardball's knee: "I thought 10,000 swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone ..."

Prophetic Burke. He was right about the age of chivalry. But the age of powdered encomium, what we would call the "puff piece," is still very much with us.

Celebrity reportage, witlessness in full genuflection to tackiness, has exploded the meanings of flattery and self-abasement. Entertainment reporters, as they deliriously regard themselves, are high-paid oxymorons. They all but lick the shoes of those they cover, and even that exemption is, I'm fairly confident, not total.

Till very recently, the worship of celebrities was more or less confined to high-gloss, low-IQ entertainment magazines and their TV equivalents. But with the advent of Barack Obama - and I should insist, not at his prompting - it has done a worrisome crossover. In the year blessedly past, we had a column in the San Francisco Chronicle that makes even Burke's ode seem hesitant, ambiguous even.

The columnist wrote, gasped, thrilled, vibrated that Mr. Obama was "... that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health-care plans ... but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve." Rhapsody is too timid a word.

Mr. Obama, the column reveals, is a Lightworker, a new-age messianic superpresence. The heading over this prostration, er, column was: "Is Obama an enlightened being?" Call Steven Spielberg. E.T. is back.

There have been other descriptions of Mr. Obama during the primaries and the election that have been almost as dementedly ardent.

Normally, the press stands apart from mass adulation. Not so with Mr. Obama. A recent report in The Washington Post read like a mash note from a teenager. The article had a picture of the Lightworker, shirtless, and commented: "... he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions." I beg to differ. Pass the defibrillator, now.

The reporter/disciple was, however, just warming up. Next he galloped off into territory left unexplored even in chicklit: "The sun glinted off chiselled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games."

If this guy gives up the politics beat, there are a hundred massage parlours out there thirsty for this kind of copy. This is The Washington Post, remember. Has the financial crisis tipped the collective media mind into entertainment reporting mode?

Very little of this, I repeat, is Mr. Obama's fault. (Although that famous line of his on winning the nomination as "the moment when the rise of the seas began to slow and the planet began to heal" was an unhappy toe-dip into the waters of absurd self-inflation.) But if the mainstream press offers "the sun glinted off chiselled pectorals," let's stop calling it news. This is Baywatch punditry.

Not worth a mention? On the contrary. There swirls around the figure or persona of Mr. Obama a set of expectations radically disconnected from rationality. He cannot possibly match the fantasies he inspires in some. It's worth wondering whether eight years of equal but opposite irrationality - the hysterically negative coverage of George W. Bush - has produced its own counter-response. Or whether that strand of new-age therapeutics, the Dr. Phil/Oprah "self-realization" claptrap, has warped U.S. politics into a kind of abysmal "healing workshop." That would certainly account for some Americans thinking they've elected a Lightworker rather than a president.

The press should be trimming these fantasies, not constructing them. But it's easier to sigh than to analyze. So on inauguration day, don't be surprised if you read a story that begins (alas, poor Burke) ... "and surely never lighted on this orb, which he hardly seemed to touch ..."