Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Join the Fight to Amend Chula Vista's Urban Core Speciific Plan, Thursday, April 26

Maybe you're interested in preserving the small-town look and feel of northwest Chula Vista, California. Maybe you couldn't care less. If you ever while away a frustrated hour on the congested freeways of San Diego's South County, you'll realize its development has already outgrown its infrastructure. But those elected to public office in the locality don't seem to want the party to end.

The City of Chula Vista’s proposed Urban Core Specific Plan allows 7,100 new condos and apartments, 1 million additional square feet of retail space, 1.3 million square feet of new office space, and 1.3 million new square feet of hotels and motels, all to be built in northwest Chula Vista.

Whether or not that happens depends on the outcome of a meeting at Chula Vista City Council Chambers on Fourth and F streets, Chula Vista, on Thursday, April 26, 2007, 6 p.m. At this meeting the City Council will make a decision on the Urban Core Specific Plan.

The UCSP rezones large parts of northwest Chula Vista (including historic downtown Third Avenue) to much higher densities than anything in Chula Vista now.

If you can attend the meeting at Chula Vista City Council Chambers on Fourth and F streets, Chula Vista, California, tell the Council to adopt the ten changes to the UCSP recommended by the activists of the local grassroots organization Crossroads II.

Crossroads II’s Requested Modifications to Urban Core Specific Plan (Sept. 2006 Draft)

Land Use and Development Regulations

1. Redraw boundaries of subdistrict V-2 so as to encompass the entire frontage of Third Avenue from E St. to G St.

2. Do not incorporate Development Exception Provisions newly recommended by staff for inclusion in UCSP.

3. Eliminate ability to increase building height by 5 feet.

4. In order to be consistent with the Cummings Initiative, remove all R-1 and R-2 zoned areas from the UCSP.

5. Lower maximum allowable height in subdistrict C-1 from 60 ft. (5 stories) to 45 feet (3 stories), in order to be compatible with adjacent 1- and 2-story single family homes.

6. Revise parking requirements to make them the same as required by the CV Muni Code, which is one and one-half space for each studio or one-bedroom unit; 2 spaces for each two- or three-bedroom unit.

Public Realm

7. Revise streetscape Fig. 8-22 and all text in the UCSP for H St. between Third Ave. and Broadway to require a 15 ft. front yard setback.


8. Require all new projects and exterior renovations fronting on Third Avenue between E and G Streets, regardless of size, to go to the RAC and CVRC for discretionary design review approval, with the right to appeal to the Redevelopment Agency.

9. Require the Executive Director of the CVRC when he/she makes an administrative decision to approve a project or to amend the Specific Plan without a public hearing, to notify property owners within 1000 feet and all persons who have requested such notices. The required notice shall explain where the recipient can obtain information about the project and shall explain the appeal procedures. No fees shall be charged to appeal an Administrative decision made without a public hearing.

10. Require that RAC members be notified in a timely fashion of all applications for an Urban Core Development Permit, regardless of size.

As always, if you have any questions contact Crossroads II at www.crossroads2.org

Monday, April 16, 2007

Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who rescued the Chrysler Corporation from its death throes?

Had Enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, “Stay the course.”

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies.

Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don’t need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, “Lee, you’re 82 years old. Leave the rage to the young people.” I’d love to — as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I’m going to speak up because it’s my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I’ll tell you how I see it, and it’s not pretty, but at least it’s real. I’m hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don’t vote because they don’t trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn’t agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that’s a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don’t tell me it’s all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That’s an intellectually lazy argument, and it’s part of the reason we’re in this stew. We’re not just a nation of factions. We’re a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader

I’ve never been Commander in Chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I’ve figured out nine points — not ten (I don’t want people accusing me of thinking I’m Moses). I call them the “Nine Cs of Leadership.” They’re not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let’s be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It’s up to us to choose wisely.

So, here’s my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the “Yes, sir” crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. “I just scan the headlines,” he says. Am I hearing this right? He’s the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.” Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he’s ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn’t put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he’s right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don’t care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn’t listen to the polls. Yeah, that’s what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 per cent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a “thumping” on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn’t listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There’s a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President — the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. “The President was serene,” Joe recalled. “He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. ‘President,’ I finally said, ‘how can you be so sure when you don’t yet know all the facts?’“ Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe’s shoulder. “My instincts,” he said. “My instincts.” Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, “President, your instincts aren’t good enough.” Joe Biden sure didn’t think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn’t.

Leadership is all about managing change — whether you’re leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I’m not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I’m talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don’t know if it’s denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it’s painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn’t cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we’ve stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths — for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he’s tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I’m talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn’t courage. Tough talk isn’t courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn’t mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you’re a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can’t even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you’ve got to have CONVICTION — a fire in your belly. You’ve got to have passion. You’ve got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President — four hundred and counting. He’d rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It’s no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That’s eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that’s not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I’m not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It’s the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That’s my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn’t look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don’t go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? You’ve got to know what you’re doing. More important than that, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let’s see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we’ve got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we’ve run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that’s just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can’t be a leader if you don’t have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham’s rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford’s zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, “Remember, Lee, the only thing you’ve got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don’t know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you’ll never make it.” George Bush doesn’t have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know — they’ll welcome us as liberators no child left behind heck of a job Brownie mission accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, “I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world — and I like it here.”

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On Sept. 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It’s all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn’t safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be OK, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush’s moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he’d regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq — a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn’t listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn’t scare the crap out of you, I don’t know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here’s where we stand. We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: “Where have all the leaders gone?” Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when “the Big Three” referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen — and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I’ve had the privilege of living through some of America’s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises — the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let’s tell ‘em all we’ve had enough.

Iacocca, Lee and Catherine Whitney. Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

New York: Scribner, 2007. ISBN 1-416-53247-1.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Everything is on the Line for Chula Vista's General Plan Protection Initiative

More than 20,000 residents of Chula Vista, California, have signed the GPPI initiative that would require any developer who wants to build higher than 84 feet (in an area outside of those areas permitted or exempted by the General Plan) to seek and obtain voter approval.

The initiative would also limit the building height of 10 additional parcels in the Third Avenue Village area to 45 feet.

The County Registrar has validated the initiative for the ballot. But city officials continue to ignore the will of the people by pushing through their Urban Core Specific Plan (UCSP) forward on April 26 while delaying a vote on the initiative until June, 2008.

Your help is needed to convince the City Council to either adopt the GPPI or call a prompt election to resolve this issue prior to approval of the UCSP. Here is how you can weigh in:

Attend the Chula Vista Council Meeting on Tuesday, April 17, at 6 p.m.

Sign a speaker’s slip and urge the council :

  • to either immediately adopt the changes called for by the GPPI or
  • to call a prompt election.
If you can’t attend, please express your views

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ask your senator to vote for stem cell research

The United States Senate is set to vote to reauthorize funding for stem cell research for essential, new stem cell lines not included in the President’s original moratorium on funding. Please take the time to encourage your senator to vote for this important bill [S. 5 and S. 997 Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research]. Without it, little progress can be made with the few authorized stem cell lines.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research holds great promise. Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research could transform the lives of millions of Americans, restoring them to health.

This is not mere speculation. In animal studies, cells derived from ESC lines have produced dramatic results. For example, neurons derived from animal ESC lines have restored motor function in paralyzed rats. Human ESC has been used to produce insulin-secreting cells and cardiovascular precursor cells, which could result in treatments for diabetes and heart disease.

There are many spare embryos available from IVF procedures. In vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures produce thousands of unused and unwanted embryos each year. Best estimates are that there are about 400,000 spare embryos. Although not all of these spare embryos are suitable for research and many may not be donated, even if only one tenth of them are used for research, this would vastly increase the number of available stem cell lines.

The spare embryos available from IVF procedures cannot develop into adult humans. Opponents of ESC research claim that it results in the destruction of a potential human being. However, by definition, spare embryos will never be implanted in a uterus and, therefore, cannot possibly develop into adult humans. If they are not used for ESC research, they will simply be discarded.

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 3) expressly provides that embryos may be used for research only if it is "determined that the embryos would never be implanted in a woman and would otherwise be discarded."

It is misleading to characterize an embryo as a potential human when the possibility of its developing into a human is zero.
The possibility of alternative sources for stem cells does not imply we should not utilize a proven source.

The argument that we do not need ESC because of so-called alternative sources of stem cells not only assumes that there are practical alt ernatives — which, as indicated, has not been demonstrated — but also rests on the false premise that having another possible source for stem cells means we should not use the proven source for stem cells, namely ESC. To the contrary, we should use all available means to advance research in this area, including ESC.

Significantly, virtually all scientists support this conclusion, including the scientist who has helped generate stem cells from amniotic fluid, Dr. Anthony Atala. In addition, the Director of NIH, Elias Zerhouni, recently testified before the Senate that the Senate should remove President Bush’s restrictions on funding of ESC research.
ESC research enjoys wide public support.

The overwhelming majority of Americans supports federal funding of ESC research. Surveys indicate that 60 to 70 per cent of the public support federal funding, whereas only 20 per cent of Americans support the current policy.

Policy Recommendation
The Center for Inquiry and its sustainers strongly recommends Senate passage of the Stem cell Enhancement Act of 2007 and it urges President Bush to sign this act into law when it reaches his desk. Life-saving research has been delayed long enough. Using cells for research to potentially save lives is better than allowing them to fall into disuse and eventually being discarded.

What’s At Stake?
— Embryonic stem cell research holds great promise: In animal studies, cells derived from embryonic stem cell lines have produced dramatic results. For example, neurons derived from embryonic stem cell lines have restored motor function in paralyzed rats.
— All research to date indicates that adult stem cells are less therapeutically useful than embryonic stem cells: For example, they cannot multiply as well as embryonic stem cells and do not possess the same capacity to differentiate into all types of tissue. In short, if we want effective therapies, adult stem cells are not sufficient – we need to use embryonic stem cells.

— The only impediment to federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is the position of some that the embryo is the equivalent of a human person. This position is based largely on religious belief: There is no scientific basis for treating the embryo as the equivalent of a human person. The embryo does not have the capacities and properties associated with humans, such as rationality, consciousness and the ability to have sensations. Although religious beliefs must be respected, they cannot be allowed to dictate public policy.

Center for Inquiry, Washington DC, 621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003 T: (202) 546-2331 F: (202) 546-2334 Web: www.cfidc.org

Sunday, April 08, 2007

International food regulators to meet in Delhi

Statesman News Service

NEW DELHI — A global perspective on food regulation with the specific objective of building a common ground for Indian food companies and service providers will be sought at an international summit on food regulatory, here next week as experts from leading international food regulatory bodies, such as the FAO, the CODEX Alimentarius Commission and the European Commission, discuss several key issues that are globally emerging and relevant for the food sector.

The April
10-11 summit, being organized by the FAO in association with the Confederation of the Indian Industry (CII) is expected to be unique platform that would provide an excellent opportunity to all policymakers and stakeholders involved in the food sector to assess globally emerging regulations and their likely impact on the Indian food sector and India’s participation in global food trade. It will also help such participants to understand and appraise sector specific issues related to food safety regulations and quality.

The Indian food industry ~ both primary and processed ~ is poised for a rapid growth. With India having the potential to become a reliable outsourcing partner in the food sector, the sector is estimated to be worth more than $200 billion and is expected to grow to $310 billion by 2015. The food sector also contributes to a major part of the retail basket, which is growing at a hefty nine per cent.

Based on the deliberations of the summit, CII intends to develop an action plan for defining the guiding principles and the road map for standard setting and implementation thereof for the Food sector. CII is hopeful that the deliberations of the summit will go a long way in assisting various agencies towards harmonization.

Participants at the summit include the chief, Food Quality and Standards Service, Food and Nutrition Division, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN.

Sat__'s 13-point program for weight loss

1. Do not go on a diet. Diets always fail.

2. Discover the foods that make you want to eat more and stop eating them.

(a) Foods with added sugar will make you hungry. Avoid them.
(b) White bread, white potatoes should be avoided. Eat carrots, yams, and sweet potatoes instead.
(c) Complete the rest of this list by discovering what makes you want to eat and eat.

3. When you eat, chew your foods until the solids are liquids before you swallow them. If you are not used to doing this, it can take some forming of new eating habits, but this is easy.

4. Never eat after 6 p.m.

5. Pink grapefruits accelerate the weight loss process.

6. Walk briskly at least 30 minutes per day: the more uphill slopes, the better. Adding some light workout with weights will speed things up and make you feel good.

7. Never have food or drink with high fructose corn syrup in it. In fact, best avoid as many corn-based additives as you can.

8. If you want something sweet, have fruit. If you want to sweeten something, use stevia.

9. Don¹t worry about the amount of fat you eat but make most of the good fats, such as cold-pressed virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, cold-pressed canola oil.

10. Eat when you are hungry. If you are not hungry, don¹t eat.

11. Don¹t eat while watching TV.

12. Green tea helps burn off fat.

13. Find the rest of the rules that work for you.

Friday, April 06, 2007

“Ability is what you are capable of doing.

Motivation determines what you do.

Attitude determines how well you do it.”

─ Lou Holtz

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Humanists split with New Atheists over religious differences
By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press

BOSTON — Atheists are under attack these days for being too militant, for not just disbelieving in religious faith but for trying to eradicate it. And who’s leveling these accusations? Other atheists, it turns out.

Among the millions of Americans who don’t believe God exists, there’s a split between people such as Greg Epstein, who holds the partially endowed post of humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and so-called “New Atheists.”

Epstein and other humanists feel their movement is on the verge of explosive growth, but are concerned it will be dragged down by what they see as the militancy of New Atheism.

The most pre-eminent New Atheists include best-selling authors Richard Dawkins, who has called the God of the Old Testament “a psychotic delinquent,” and Sam Harris, who foresees global catastrophe unless faith is renounced. They say religious belief is so harmful it must be defeated and replaced by science and reason.

Epstein calls them “atheist fundamentalists.” He sees them as rigid in their dogma, and as intolerant as some of the faith leaders with whom atheists share the most obvious differences.

Next month, as Harvard celebrates the 30th anniversary of its humanist chaplaincy — part of the school’s chaplaincy corps — Epstein will use the occasion to provide a counterpoint to the New Atheists.

“Humanism is not about erasing religion,” he said. “It’s an embracing philosophy.”

In general, humanism rejects supernaturalism, while stressing principles such as dignity of the individual, equality and social justice. If there’s no God to help humanity, it holds, people better do the work.

The celebration of a “New Humanism” will emphasize inclusion and diversity within the movement, and will include Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist E.O. Wilson, a humanist who has made well-chronicled efforts to team with evangelical Christians to fight global warming.

Part of the New Humanism, Wilson said, is “an invitation to a common search for morally based action in areas agreement can be reached in.”

The tone of the New Atheists will only alienate important faith groups whose help is needed to solve the world’s problems, Wilson said.

“I would suggest possibly that while there is use in the critiques by Dawkins and Harris, that they’ve overdone it,” he said.

Harris, author of “Letter to a Christian Nation,” sees the disagreement as overblown. He thinks there’s room for multiple arguments in the debate between scientific rationalism and religious dogmatism. “I don’t think everyone needs to take as uncompromising a stance as I have against faith,” he said.

But, he added, an intellectual intolerance of people who strongly believe things on bad evidence is just “basic human sanity.”

“We do not jail people for being stupid, but we do stop listening to them after a while,” he said in e-mailed comments.

Harris also rejected the term “atheist fundamentalist,” calling it “a silly play upon words.” He noted that, when it comes to the ancient Greek gods, everyone is an atheist and no one is asked to justify that to pagans who want to believe in Zeus.

“Likewise with the God of Abraham,” he said. “There is nothing ‘fundamentalist’ about finding the claims of religious demagogues implausible.”

Some of the participants in Harvard’s celebration of its humanist chaplaincy have no problem with the New Atheists’ tone.

Harvard psychologist and author Steven Pinker said the forcefulness of their criticism is standard in scientific and political debate, and “far milder than what we accept in book and movie reviews.”

“It’s only the sense that religion deserves special respect — the exact taboo that Dawkins and Harris are arguing against — that people feel that those guys are being meanies when applying ordinary standards of evaluation to religion,” Pinker said in e-mailed comments.

Dawkins did not respond to requests for comment. He has questioned whether teaching children they could go to hell is worse in the long term than sexually abusing them, and compares the evidence of God to evidence for unicorns, fairies and a “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” His attempt to win converts is clear in “The God Delusion,” when he writes of his hope that “religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”

A 2006 Baylor University survey estimates about 15 million atheists in the United States.

Not all nonbelievers identify as humanists or atheists, with some calling themselves agnostics, freethinkers or skeptics. But humanists see the potential for unifying the groups under their banner, creating a large, powerful minority that can’t be ignored or disdained by mainstream political and social thinkers.

Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition of America, sees a growing public acceptance of people who don’t believe in God, pointing to California U.S. Rep. Pete Stark’s statement this month that he doesn’t believe in a supreme being. Stark is the first congressman to acknowledge being an atheist.

As more prominent people such as Stark publicly acknowledge they don’t believe in God, “I think it will make it more palatable,” Brown said.

But Epstein worries the attacks on religion by the New Atheists will keep converts away.

“The philosophy of the future is not going to be one that tries to erase its enemies,” he said. “The future is going to be people coming together from what motivates them.”

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A discussion of church and state

Come discuss the history of the Mt. Soledad Easter Cross, the controversy surrounding it, and religion's place in the US government.

Mt. Soledad Natural Park, at sunrise on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2007