Monday, December 31, 2007
2007 has been a great and hopeful year for me in many ways. I've been very, very blessed!
And, I wish all of you blessings for the coming year and beyond.
I hear Poodledoc, Jr starting to set off Party Poppers with his cousins while they watch a record 343rd episode of Scrubs since we got here a week ago.
Leaving tomorrow as early as possible. It will be good to get home to 10 degrees, snow, my comfy apartment and Duke, the Standard Poodle. I hope he's shoveled out the driveway.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Another person spoke of how last night they had received three calls from the local county jail. The first two times, they let it ring, since the caller ID told them the call was originating in the jail. They thought it might be a scam. But on the third call, they answered the phone. A woman they did not know was asking them to accept charges on a call. I guess she sounded sincere or they were led to accept the charges. The woman told them she was in jail for bouncing some checks. She asked if they could arrange a call through to her family. Because of the nature of the technology, it would have to be a conference (three way) call. The people had never done this with their phone and after several failed attempts and disconnections, they were able to connect the woman with her son and it sounded like this was just what God needed to have done. It sounded like this was a re-connection to family. Some hope. I felt very moved and hopeful as I heard this story.
The last five minutes were spent coming out of worshipful silence into a short period where we could speak about a person or persons we would like to ask to be held in the Light. After rise of Meeting and after I awoke Poodledoc,Jr from his slumbers, there were refreshments and then they were going to head into the "Second Hour" which is apparently a weekly discussion on a given topic. This week's discussion focused on their Meeting: what happened in 2007 and where they'd like to see things go in 2008. We didn't stay for this part, but it's something that might be interesting for my Meeting to try, although we are a larger Meeting. After saying good byes, I left the stone Meetinghouse feeling calmer than I'd felt in a few days. Thank you, Friends.
Friday, December 28, 2007
And the Lord said to Moses “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one can see my face and live”
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then, I will remove my hand and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen.”
At least…………that’s how it’s speaking to me now, having just read this passage and one possible interpretation (of this passage) in Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell. (The sequel to The Sparrow). So this is a passage I am planning to sit with for a time, since it seems to call me. Perhaps I will gain further insights. I’ll see how it goes.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
I thought back to a time about 20 years ago. Reagan and the US government were funding the Contra "rebels" to overthrow the democratically elected Sandinista government which had overthrown the Somoza dictatorship, which had been supported by the US for many, many years. Not only did Reagan help the Contras (they were terrorists,by the way), but he imposed a trade embargo.
I was a member of a group called Trade for Peace which was importing Nicaraguan goods as an act of civil disobedience to the trade embargo. We brought in stamps, some artwork and--------------coffee. A sympathetic local coffee merchant roasted the coffee beans for us in secret. We imported perhaps $3,000 worth of goods.
One day, US Customs made a raid on one of the members in our group. They searched his house from top to bottom. We're talking dressers, the underwear drawer, etc. They confiscated all those evil postage stamps, the coffee, some oil paintings.
We faced some serious charges. It was scary. It was scary that the government could search our homes. It was absolutely bizarre that they spent much more than $3,000 to "apprehend" us. I called the media. We made the "news". Local columnists called the raid ridiculous, which it was.
Eventually, we came to agreement with the government that the charges would be dropped if we promised not to continue our civil disobedience. A bitter irony was that several members of our group had to meet with the US Customs officer who led the "operation", in his Milwaukee office. There, on the wall, was one of the Nicaraguan paintings he and his agents had confiscated in the raid. Irony.
So, there on the table are the two pounds of coffee. Irony. The times, they are a changin'.................
I listened carefully to the pastor. What I heard in his sermon was the following: you (the congregation) are the sheep, we pastors are the shepherds, we will bring you the Word of God. So you just sit there passively while we protect you from "predators". (huh? Sin? the current administration?) He went on to say that we needed to "look for a Savior". To me, that's fine to do that, if you bring that strength inside, bring God or Christ or whatever you choose to call the deity in your life. If you keep it external, remain passive, remain unconnected, remain sheep on the hillside, then this is dis-empowering, in my opinion. My brother and I talked this over later. He did not hear it the way I did. I'm not saying I'm right and he's wrong or that the pastor is a bad person. Just that from my experience in life, this felt hollow. So, I chose not to take Eucharist. I didn't feel I could connect with God, through that ritual in that place. I watched instead. People looked like they were entranced. Now that could be a positive thing or a negative thing. So I don't pretend to know what they were feeling.
I guess the other thing that always troubles me is that folks in the clergy will talk about Jesus, their church will go on "mission trips" to help people in trouble, but they won't ask the tough questions like why IS there this insane war in Iraq? Why has the Katrina response been so tragically inadequate? Why ARE there terrorists? What could we do to make the world a more peaceful place by LOOKING AT THE UNDERLYING CAUSES. Sigh. I take the stance that Jesus was a radical person who asked the tough questions, lived a powerful life that challenged the people in power, challenged their authority. But asking those sorts of questions might offend some wealthy members of the congregation, then there wouldn't be enough money for the huge multi-million dollar addition, for the "band aid" mission trips. I know, in my heart that people are doing their best. At least I want to believe that there is that in every person. Maybe not. Organized religion does have the capacity to do many good things in this world. But often I see them doing negative things. Or being silent about injustices. Silence is complicity.
I'm not saying that I or the Quakers have all the answers. I don't know if I have ANY of the answers. I do have a lot of questions, however.
Monday, December 24, 2007
In late November, my friend Julia suggested that we alternate sharings of brief writings in the spirit of waiting, of what we noticing during the waiting. Throughout December, we’ve traded days and written short paragraphs about our “noticing” during this Advent season. Noticing things in the natural world, often relating to light and dark, as the nights get longer. Noticing our feelings of waiting. Sharing about the coming day of Christmas, the birth of Christ. Sharing about Solstice. Writing them down. Reading them to each other over the phone. Daily.
This has been enjoyable, soothing and deepening in the Spirit. As a spiritual practice, these readings and sharings have helped keep my focus away from all the commercial noise that rises to a crescendo around Christmas. And, it has helped my focus on two happenings this time of year: Solstice and Christmas. I don’t see these two as incompatible. The coming of the Light. Waiting expectantly for messages from God. And sharing those messages. The sharing has been very connecting.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Apparently they perform the Eucharist. My mom asked me if I "took communion any more now that I'm a Quaker". Interesting question. I said, well, it depends on how it's "presented". This could be another post. Do Quaker's take communion? Hmmmmmm. The short answer is that I see it as a communion with all living things, all the creatures, that have God in them. And all the other parts of creation that aren't living. But still have God in them. Then I feel moved to "take communion". It also feels more meaningful to me if it is presented to me/us as a communion with our community. But community is a big word. For some, it can be an inclusive word. And for some, it can be an exclusive word. So, the Eucharist can be a powerful symbolic ritual, even for me as a Quaker, or it can be a hollow exercise in which we get to eat little pieces of white bread and grape juice and repeat the same old same old. For me, as a Quaker, looking back on my Methodist upbringing, Eucharist and all, digging just a little deeper into the ritual can bring me feelings of connection with the Divine. The stuff behind the ritual. Stuff that got lost, at least for me. Which ultimately led me to become a Quaker. So, we'll see what choice I make on Christmas Eve. Or maybe I need to be open for a nudge from God, make space for God. Sometimes I don't leave room for God at my "spiritual table".
Anyway, I'll go to the Methodist church with Poodledoc, Jr on Christmas Eve and then go to Quaker Meeting the next weekend. I've been to the Chattanooga Friends Meeting once before and enjoyed it a great deal. I'm sure it will be ..........interesting....
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2007 by The Bangor Daily News (Maine)
.....I share this after waking up to hear the Congress, including many Democrats, passed the spending bill, with a 70 billion "Christmas present" attached for the WARS in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this isn't naughty, I don't know what is......
Merry Christmas. Sorry for writing to you this way - you know in such a public forum - but there’s less than a week now before your big ride and we’re in need.
By the way, I love that reindeer alternative energy thing; imagine what you would’ve spent on gas this year!
That reminds me, about Congress, those folks deserve nothing but coal. But please don’t fill their stockings with it. Even though the icebergs up your way keep shrinking; you give those people coal and they’ll just burn it. Maybe if you put little windmills or compact florescent bulbs in their stockings they would get the hint.
By the way Santa, you knew Congress when they were little and you know who’s naughty and who’s nice and I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but couldn’t you tell when they sat on your lap as kids that they had one story for you and another story for everybody else?
Actually, I think they got the wrong message in those days. And now our government uses that same “sit on my lap and tell me what you want” routine with the oil, drug, insurance, banking, mercenary and military industrial machines!
Never mind, back to my list. The first item is rather unoriginal. “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”
World peace probably topped a lot of lists over the years. I used to think that you never brought it because it’s too big for you to carry.
But now it seems more like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” when Ebenezer Scrooge asks the ghost of Jacob Marley for some small comfort to help him cope with the whole haunted thing, and Marley replies, “I have none to give. Comfort comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.”
Maybe peace on Earth doesn’t come from other regions, Santa. But if you really do know naughty from nice maybe you would prefer to give it to other kinds of men - people who could love each other - even love their enemies. Maybe you would prefer people who put humanity above profit.
Alas, I wish I could promise that we would keep the peace if you gave it to us, but I can’t. So let’s see what’s next.
Santa, our state colleges need help. The Christian Science Monitor reports that funding to our state colleges has been slashed so significantly that some schools have increased tuition by more than a third of what it cost just eight years ago. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education states that the single largest determining factor for a college education now - above intellectual ability - is money.
Over the last two decades the ratio of grants to loans for higher education has flipped. Our society used to fund 80 percent of the cost of higher education for our kids; now we cover 20 percent. And I won’t ask you to divert war funds; I finally get your whole peace thing.
But look, Exxon Mobil Corp. reports something besides the cost of a kid’s education that has gone up about a third: their profits. So here’s an idea.
Santa, may we please have a 10 percent tax on oil company profits and a law that precludes them from passing that tax onto us. And please designate all that money for our state colleges. (I might suggest starting with the universities of Maine and Southern Maine, and other really cold states where folks suffer miserably from soaring oil profits). In just three months of 2006, such a tax on Exxon alone would have given our colleges $9 billion. And Exxon would still have kept $81 billion!
Oh Santa, there are a whole bunch of ways that we could reverse the Dickensian reality our country has been free-falling into these last few years. Look how simply this oil tax could help our kids.
Unfortunately, this letter’s too short to list all the creative ways we could tackle our problems. So Santa, maybe you could just remind us how much we need to love each other, and treat each other fairly? Then like Scrooge and Marley learned - the greed of a few won’t ruin the lives of the many.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth, Maine is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.”
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Published on Monday, December 17, 2007 by The Boulder Daily Camera (Colorado)
I thought this was an interesting article from Common Dreams, although I must disagree with her first sentence......
No teacher wants to tell her students that their president is a liar and a criminal. And yet, our president is a liar and a criminal. As a teacher, should I tell children the truth, and act to uphold our Constitution and Bill of Rights?
I am charged to do just that through the legally binding state and local professional educator standard, requiring me to model the democratic ideal. My failure to do so could be grounds for my dismissal. But here’s the catch: doing so could also be grounds for my dismissal! What’s a conscientious teacher to do? Seize the teachable moment! Model the democratic ideal of participatory democracy by writing a guest opinion, a right all citizens have, thanks to the First Amendment. Kids, listen up. Here’s the truth.
This president has led us into a disastrous war through lies and deceit. It is a “high crime and misdemeanor” to lead a country into war through lies and deceit. Everyone agrees that students should have consequences when caught lying or cheating on tests. Teachers would get fired if caught lying or cheating on professional documents. Should we let the president get away with lying and cheating the American people?
Everyone agrees that children need to be protected from parents who abuse or neglect them. All teachers are legally required to report even suspected abuse or neglect. Failure to do so could even land any teacher in jail! What’s a nurturing teacher to do? Report abuse!
This president’s conduct abuses the democracy we all hold dear and the protections of civil liberties afforded us in the Constitution. He has jailed American citizens without giving them their constitutional rights to a lawyer and fair trial. He has allowed methods of torture that violate international standards. His actions neglect our standing in the world as a nation of peace that protects democratic values and civil rights. Should the president get away with abusing our Constitution and neglecting our democratic values?
We expect teachers to treat all students in an equitable manner. In fact, teachers are required to provide “equal learning opportunities” for all and be fair and equitable in upholding policies. Blatantly under-serving any student or ignoring any policy would put a teacher’s future employment into jeopardy. Furthermore, it’s against the law. What’s a professional educator to do? Expose and repair inequities!
This president claims that not all legislation needs to be enforced equally. With his signing statements, he decides what laws he wants to ignore. This undermines our constitutional system of checks and balances, which protects us from dictatorship. Should this president get away with ignoring the law and treating legislation inequitably?
Students who willfully and repeatedly break school rules are bound by the consequences of their actions, and may be suspended or expelled from school. It is my duty as a professional educator who is responsible for the safety and well-being of my students to report and deal appropriately with bullies on the school grounds. What’s a patriotic teacher and American citizen to do? Should I turn a blind eye to the felonious crimes of President Bush and ignore our Constitution, or support every effort to impeach this president who has repeatedly violated our precious Constitution?
Our Founding Fathers were clear that impeachment was not to be used frivolously or for any personal vendetta. Impeachment is reserved for the most serious high crimes and misdemeanors. Although impeachment should be rare, it must be used if a president breaks the law. Our founders believed impeachment was so important, they made sure it is referred to six times in our Constitution.
The lies and crimes of this president directly affect the matters of our city. Federal housing funding for Housing Authority buildings, federal grants, school funding and other sources of federal funding are dwindling while billions are wasted in a failed war that has not made us safer and is ruining our country. As this president spends billions more on his failed war, it directly affects our city’s ability to function.
We in Boulder love our country, cherish our Constitution and honor the democracy it has nurtured. We value our freedom and our right and duty to defend it. Should we tell our children the truth, that we have a president who is a liar and a criminal, or wait until our grandchildren ask why we did nothing to stop him? To take impeachment “off the table” is like tabling our Constitution.
Wendy R. Rochman, M.Ed., has been teaching in Boulder Valley School District for more than two decades. Wendy dedicates this article to the thousands of students she has taught over the years, and their right to live in a functioning democracy that stands by its ideals.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Who are these parents that want more homework? There's a very real part of me that wants to say something un-Quakerly,but I'll refrain here in my blog (big sigh of relief). I just tell my poodle who thinks it's ridiculous, all this homework. But this from an animal that sniffs poop. Anyway, he's a good listener.
The answer is of course: most members of the Bush Administration. To my knowledge, none of these ballplayers, whatever their crimes, has ever authorized illegal wiretapping, started an illegal war, engaged in "harsh interrogation" like waterboarding (let alone, torture), performed illegal rendition to secret prisons, or stole an election. Now that the Mitchell Commission has done this very thorough piece of work, I'd like to see Congress give them a new job: investigating the Bush administration, naming names, putting together a report on impeachment.
Don't get me wrong----if the athletes took drugs that were illegal, there need to be consequences for sure. But isn't it only a game? And isn't our government supposed to be "of the people, by the people and for the people"?
At the far edge
gleaming in the winter sun.
Calling to me.
I wanted to come close to the swans.
Perhaps I could walk out on the ice
but it looked too thin
So I was scared.
Stayed on the shore.
And walked away.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Saturday, November 23rd from 6am to 6:30am at the Rio Stop-n-Go;
Sunday, November 24th from 2-3 at the Randolph Seed and Weed;
Tuesday, November 26th from 6-10 at the Dickeyville Grotto;
Thursday, November 28th from noon to 1pm at Circus World in Barraboo;
Friday, November 29th 2pm to 3pm at the House on the Rock
and wrapping things up on Saturday, November 30th at the Ames Mortuary in Mt Vernon, from 4-5pm
I see Ms Ether has had a powerful effect on Representative Baldwin. Deomcracy in action.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
No one is allowed to get it second-hand by accepting ready-made creed. Furthermore, the discovery points a path and demands a journey and gives you the power to make the journey"
Elise Boulding, 1954
I put this quote up to share about the Quaker faith, not in any way to dismiss much older spiritual traditions. There are many spiritual paths to follow. Learning to be a Quaker is just one of them.....
Friday, November 16, 2007
The Roanoke Times
By Leslie Taylor
November 14, 2007
Pundits, sociologists and self-proclaimed experts have long lamented the plight of black America -- the deterioration of the black family, the proliferation of drugs and crime, the negative influences of rap music on young black people.
Their strong suggestion that black America is approaching, if not already in, crisis was fueled by facts and figures this week. A Brookings Institution study concluded that the American Dream is eluding black Americans at a far greater rate than whites.
The think tank's findings are startling:
A majority of blacks born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s grew up to have less income than their parents. Only 31 percent have family income greater than their parents, compared to 68 percent of white children in the same income bracket.
Almost half of black children whose parents were solidly middle class, are among the lowest fifth of the nation's wage earners, compared to 16 percent of white children.
Fifty-four percent of black children born to poor parents stay poor, compared to 31 percent of white children.
The lack of income growth for black men, combined with low marriage rates in the black population, has had a negative impact on trends in family income for black families.
Disparities continue to widen the gap, with blacks faring poorly. We might expect a call to action to follow, a battle cry for black parents to step up to their responsibilities.
But that would be knee-jerk, as would assuming that black parents are failing to encourage their children to do better than they have.
Such studies trouble Terry Kershaw, associate professor of sociology at Virginia Tech.
They "reinforce the notion that black folks are deficient," he said. "It gives the impression that black folks are their own worst enemies.
"It's very easy to blame the victims. But we have to be careful of the impact the larger society has on these people's lives. We'd be letting America off the hook by putting the blame on parents."
Or put more succinctly, we cannot ignore the fact that race still matters.
Comedian Bill Cosby has been blasted for his jarring truth-telling in his book "Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors" where he tackles the plight of the black family, black on black violence, parental responsibility and other issues.
But he raises ugly truths that must be acknowledged if black people are to overcome institutional racism.
Where is the revolution, he asks? Where is the outrage that 70 percent of black babies are born to single mothers? Or that one out of three homeless people is black? Or that blacks -- 12 percent of the nation's population -- make up 44 percent of the prison population?
Black people "must realize that the revolution is in their apartment now," he told "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert last month. "The revolution is in their house, their neighborhood. They can fight strongly, clearly, the systemic and institutional racism."
Or they can sit back and watch study findings continue to chronicle their decline.
The Brookings Institution, Cosby and plenty of other individuals and organizations have laid bare the facts. Now is the time to figure out why these troubling trends are happening and begin meaningful work to turn them around
Sunday, November 11, 2007
When I stopped by last night, I managed to be a "fly on the wall" for a few minutes and I watched him moving about the room, creating things with his hands and connecting with others, making new friends. So watching that, I feel that Spirit was there in the room as the kids were bustling about, making cake, making candles, making friends. This looked and felt very spiritual to me. All this creating and connecting. And a retreat from his "regular world". A place to build some trust with other kids coming from a Quaker place in terms of some shared values. And shared hope, I think, too.
We talked some about it in the car on the way home and he really enjoyed his new (and old) friends. He wants to go to the next NYM Quaker retreat in the spring in the Twin Cities. To see his friends. I pray that God continues to guide him on his journeys.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Poodledoc, Jr looked a bit glum sitting in the little room in the Meetinghouse we call "The Sun Room" as I left. I think he was maybe feeling a bit shy. I plan to go back this evening, AFTER the football crowd has had a chance to clear out, to see how he's doing. I think he'll be fine and have fun once some of his friends like Isaac and Sparkly Sea Cow arrive.
It's interesting that he continues to maintain he's not a Quaker, just an Associate Member (of Madison Monthly Meeting). But, I've seen him identify himself as a Quaker in things he's written for school. I'm always curious about his spiritual development. Personally, I'm not particularly interested in whether he decides to be a Quaker. But this is a place, I think, where he can explore spirituality. We'll see. We have some great talks about faith, God, fate and other aspects of spirituality, so I guess I'm really more concerned that he's thinking about spiritual stuff, rather than what he calls himself.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Anita Esterday, a waitress at the Maid-Rite diner in Iowa, on news reports that Hillary Clinton failed to leave her a tip.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Since George Bush wouldn't invite me to dinner, I got to see the sights of the city instead. We went to several wonderful restaurants which were undoubtedly better than White House food!
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be an astronaut (true confession) so my friend took me to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to look at what astronauts have done and are still doing. All those teeny tiny space capsules. Going into space in the Apollo moon capsule would be like spending 10 days in my station wagon. Yuck! Got to touch a piece of the moon. Went to "Space Station 3-D" at the IMAX in the museum which showed life on the International Space Station. Then I realized I still wanted to be an astronaut but I know there's already been a veterinarian in space and he got to go twice. So much for that idea! Looked in on the "Spies in the Sky" exhibit, which details the many "creative" ways space and airplanes have been used to spy. I think it took about 5 years after the Wright Brothers 1903 flight for the airplane to become a tool of war. One part of the exhibit showed various aerial spy photos and there were three pictures, framed 1-2-3. The first photo showed a satellite view of Iran's nuclear reactor and production facility. The second showed the World Trade Center just BEFORE 9/11. The next and last photo showed the World Trade Center 5 days after the attack. I found it curious that the three photos should be grouped like that. I'm SURE it was an accident.
Then we visited the National Conservatory with hundreds of lovely plants. Someone, incredibly, had constructed various DC monuments out of twigs and then varnished them (see above photo)
Visited the Jefferson Memorial. In this city, you could spend days visiting monuments. But I really liked the Jefferson Memorial, once the mob of middle school kids had flowed, screaming and shouting, down the steps past us.
I attended my friend's Quaker Meeting which felt very welcoming to me!
Then hung out at Dupont Circle trying to look cool (yeah right!)
It was a fun trip!
Thursday, November 1, 2007
MADISON, Wis. - A middle school teacher is protesting the federal No Child Left Behind law by refusing to administer a standardized test to his eighth-grade students.
David Wasserman, a middle school teacher in Madison, began his protest Tuesday. Instead of giving students the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam, he sat in the teacher’s lounge, leaving his colleagues to oversee the test.
He said he has moral objections to the federal law, President Bush’s signature education policy. The state test is used to measure whether schools are meeting annual benchmarks under the law. Schools that do not meet goals can face sanctions.
Like many teachers, Wasserman said he believes the test is a poor way to measure student progress, takes up too much class time and is used unfairly to punish schools. So after years of growing frustration, he said he decided to be a “conscientious objector” this year.
Wasserman said he originally planned to resume his protest on Thursday, the second day of testing, and through four more days of testing next week. But he said Wednesday he would likely back off and give the test after Superintendent Art Rainwater told a teacher’s union official that Wasserman could be fired if the protest continued.
“I can’t jeopardize health insurance for my family,” said Wasserman, 36. “I want to still hold by my morals, which I feel very strongly about. But I have a family to think about.”
In a statement released to The Associated Press on Wednesday evening, Rainwater noted the district was required by state law to fulfill the federal requirement.
“It is part of every teacher’s duty to administer the test,” he said. “Any failure to fulfill this required duty would be considered insubordination and subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”
Robert Schaeffer, a spokesman for FairTest, a national group that opposes the overuse of standardized tests, said he was unaware of any other teachers who have refused to administer tests to protest No Child Left Behind. Other teachers have boycotted high-stakes state tests used for graduation or promotion, he said.
“It is an act of moral courage, and it certainly helps call attention to the widespread misuse of standardized testing,” he said. “The natural bureaucratic reaction is always to threaten people with severe sanctions. That’s why people have to have the moral fiber to put themselves at risk.”
Wasserman, who has taught in the district for six years, said he is being treated unfairly because his colleagues at Sennett Middle School could administer the test without him.
© Copyright 2007 Associated Press
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Being good Americans, the Poodle and I actually left for an hour to do some shopping. When we returned, a scene of mass destruction greeted us. Pumpkin pieces were scattered over the sidewalk as far as the eye could see. At first I thought it was a horrible case of "wrong place, wrong time". But I soon noticed that some of the pumpkins, to my horror, showed signs of torture (pumpkin pie recipes littered the scene). The bowl of candy was empty, tossed to one side. I wondered, where were the flying monkeys all this time?
The question was soon answered when we entered my apartment. All 20 of the Flying Monkeys were curled up asleep in their beds. They must be that new breed of Flying Monkey---the Democratic Congressional breed. True, they had the majority in the house, but they were asleep while high crimes and misdemeanors were occurring on my very own front steps.
Sitting by the pool. Cognitive dissonance. this place costs $73 per night. The average Nicaraguan makes $300 per year.
rode up to Leon, Nicaragua the other day. Cost 10 cents for a 3 hour ride. On a flatcar with real people. Don't know their politics. Looks like life is hard for them. But lots of happiness. One older man engages me in conversation. He speaks no English. I speak just a touch of Spanish. We talk baseball. A common denominator. He tells me of the Nicaraguan baseball players who've gone on to play in the U.S. Major Leagues. He tells me he has four wives.
In Leon, I visited the remains of the dictator Somoza's prison. It's 9am and the tiny roofless cells are ovens. I sit in one and meditate on the scratches various prisoners have left on the wall. There is a chapel here, in the prison, in this Christian country. Someone has torn the cross out of the wall.
Across the street is a park which was a mass grave for Somoza's National Guardsmen. A man sprays weed killer here. Across the street, the "last stand" building, where the National Guardsmen refused to come out and surrender to the Sandinista's. The walls are pocked with bullet holes. Uncountable. The Sandinista militia finally gave up waiting, pumped gasoline into the building and torched it. Can you be a self-proclaimed "Christian Revolutionary" and burn people alive?
Back at the Hotel Mercedes the next morning, Bill and Carol have caught their plane. I sit on the bed, its so cold I can almost see my breath. The Mickey Mouse Club is on the cable TV. I'm afraid to go outside. It's been a couple weeks of fear and a couple weeks of love and a couple weeks of God. Something's happened to me and I'm not sure what that something is. I finally leave and walk over to Norm's house (friend from Madison, who's letting me stay there for a week while I wander around). I walked around Managua for a week. I saw God in a lot of places. God didn't answer when I asked how people could appropriate him/her to justify horrible acts of violence and why didn't God put a stop to this?"
On this Halloween, age 51, I still don't have a clear answer to that question of whether God is benevolent and loves us or a punishing God who really doesn't like us all that much. I have moments of clarity. Experiences of God as love. God as Creator. Times, many times, that I feel God's presence. Then I watch the horrors perpetrated in the world and I feel the confusion again. Like I felt as I shivered in the Hotel Mercedes 20 years ago. Afraid to leave the room. But I do leave the room. Faith in God? I think so. Or is it faith in humanity. I feel God's presence in every living thing. So faith in God draws me out. Today, I feel that I will always have questions about God like I've written here. And that's ok. Faith and hope keep me going. Especially since I'm a Cub fan.
Published on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 by Reuters
WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich on Tuesday mockingly questioned President George W. Bush’s mental health for saying Iran’s nuclear ambitions might trigger World War III.
“I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health,” Kucinich, a quirky, long-shot candidate in the race for his party’s presidential nomination in the November, 2008 election. “There’s something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact.”
Kucinich spoke to the editorial board of The Philadelphia Inquirer ahead of a Democratic debate in Philadelphia.
Bush told a news conference two weeks ago: “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”
Kucinich, a member of the U.S. Congress from Ohio, has tried in the past to convince his colleagues to impeach both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, to no avail.
He told The Inquirer he did not believe his remarks about Bush’s mental stability were irresponsible.
“You cannot be a president of the United States who’s wanton in his expression of violence,” Kucinich said. “There’s a lot of people who need care. He might be one of them. If there isn’t something wrong with him, then there’s something wrong with us. This, to me, is a very serious question.”
© Reuters 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Mr Bush backed up his plan with strong accusations: “Bob has repeatedly and aggressively walked his dog in the park off leash, refused to use hand signals on his bike, kept his nuclear powered lights on all night and put in some very tacky flower beds. He is a danger and must be stopped”.
Sources in the administration, who asked not to be identified, have disclosed that Bush authorized a secret raid by Navy Seals deep into Bob’s basement. They found some kind of white powder in a box and a big white machine that swishes around for a while after the white powder goes in right next to a machine which dries the uranium powder, obviously a centrifuge for producing weapons-grade uranium. “A nightmare”, said the source.
Another source revealed a Bush administration plan to bomb selected targets on Bob’s property including his garage, the outdoor lights, the tacky flower beds and a bunker buster bomb for the uranium enriching facility in the basement. Another target on the list was the kitchen. “No more omelet’s for Bob”, the source remarked with a chuckle. The bathrooms were removed from the target list because “that would make a mess”, according to another source.
Reached for comment in Latvia, where she was doing something, Condi Rice added that Bob “is known for his anti-Israel stance”. He’s been overheard referring to the Israeli government as “poo poo heads”. “The Bomb in his hands could mean the destruction of Israel”, Dr Rice stated.
Bob has been given 48 hours to respond, but so far hasn’t answered the phone, which worries intelligence officials for some reason.
“Remember, said Mr Bush, “It’s not nukear weapons that kill people, it’s people with nukear weapons that kill people. That’s why Bob must be stopped. Now”.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Published on Sunday, October 21, 2007 by The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
I used to feel bad about mindless consumerism but not any more. The green movement has come to my rescue. With every purchase, I can now enjoy the warm glow of helping develop environmentally sound practices.
There’s my new briefcase, for example. It is shiny and luxurious and its purchase has allowed me to throw my old one into the bin. But there’s no eco-guilt for me.
According to the manufacturer, the leather in my briefcase was stained using “extracts of bark and seeds collected from renewable sources in the forests of Africa and India”. The work was all done by “traditional artisans”, all of them using “sustainable practices” in the “old saddler tradition”. There’s not a lot of detail on the leather but, based on the tone of the pamphlet, I’m pretty sure the cows would have been volunteers.
I feel I now deserve some sort of medal just for handing over my credit card.
I’m not alone in falling for this sort of sales pitch. People are always looking for an excuse to consume more and the latest excuse - bizarrely - is environmentalism.
Let’s call it “greensumerism”. Forget the simple mantra of “less is more”; with the help of the green movement you can now indulge in a frenzy of consumerism, with each luxury purchase excused by the idea that you are helping the development of the “green” sector.
People will ditch a perfectly good car in order to import the latest hybrid eco-model and expect to be praised for their sensitivity. Magazines like Vogue Living are now full of these luxurious holiday houses - temples to excess and over-consumption - which the owners claim as their personal contribution to sustainability. Rest of article here
What a lovely day for making cider. We went out to the farm of some Friends from our Quaker Meeting. Lots of sunshine, kids, finger-food, tractor rides, apples and gallons and gallons of cider! Here's Poodledoc, Jr turning the crank on the ancient but efficient cider press. Yum! I didn't even mind that I got lost on the way home!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
We had arrived late the night before. Flying into a jungle. Yes, there’s a city of a million there, but the jungle is always present. The smell of rich soil and water hanging in the air.
The long ride in the truck. Shadowy figures in bus stops. Tired. Fell asleep on the porch. Woke up in another world. I’d come here with a delegation of Witness for Peace, a faith-based organization that sent people into the war zones to witness the contra war. The contra was the army backed by the Reagan administration. Their “job” was to overthrow the evil “Marxist” government of the Sandinistas. They murdered a lot of people.
They were terrorists trying to destroy a democratically elected government that Reagan and his thugs did not like.
As I ate my plantain, I read that there had been a major crash in the US stock markets. It didn’t seem real to me. All I knew was I was here, I was safe, I had food and everything felt new. The USA, my world, seemed far away. Irrelevant. When I heard the bullets and mortars made in my country ripping up the night a couple days later, the USA didn’t seem so irrelevant. I felt shame at what my country was doing. But instead of being totally surrounded by violence, I felt an incredible amount of love from the people we met. I didn’t know if I could be so loving, so forgiving. That was a challenge. Perhaps the biggest one among many.
What I didn’t know was that as we rode out into the war zone the next day, I would accidentally step back on the road of faith. Not even the contra could destroy faith.
And I still believe that, although some days it’s hard. I step off the path. But God guides me back on. Again and again. Infinite patience. God must find me amusing, at times! And maybe stepping back on the road of faith in Nicaragua was no accident……..
Friday, October 19, 2007
- Stephen Colbert, in a guest column in Sunday's New York Times. Colbert then announced his candidacy for the president of the United States on his Tuesday show. (Source: The New York Times)
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Duke, my Standard Poodle friend
lay on my bed in fear
eyes wide open.
I cradle him gently
ear softly on his furry chest.
that warm dog smell.
Listening to air
surging in and out.
I hear the racing heart.
I listen to the fear.
It mirrors mine,
Although thunderstorms are not
among my fears.
After a time
breathing and heartbeat slow.
We are both calm.
New born Holstein calf
alone in a bed of fresh straw
Fresh from the uterine ocean...
My 5 year old son
with no words spoken
lies down in the straw by the calf
arms stretched around the neck of the frightened bovine child.
The trembling stops.
My son has no fear of fear.
That comes later.
I hope not.
I was taught to fear the fear.
How do I unlearn that?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
A favorite poem of mine. I enjoy when a variety of people read poetry. I feel that publicly, the majority ofAmericans ignore poetry. However, privately, many more people have a poem or poems that they save to read again and again. So this is for the "private" poetry lovers. And the public ones,as well!
Monday, October 15, 2007
Published on Monday, October 15, 2007 by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Earlier this summer, 40 families in North St. Louis began receiving weekly deliveries of fresh produce - direct from Missouri farms. In an area that many grocery stores have left, access to fresh, tasty fruits and vegetables is a godsend. And during the weeks of harvest abundance, locally grown produce has made its way to the neighborhood’s farmers’ market and food bank.
Residents say the box full of good vegetables, delivered through Gateway Greening’s City Seeds project, has carried them through the next week. Farmers selling the produce are gaining valuable experience in serving new markets and are enthusiastically planning next year’s production.
In central and northern rural Missouri, residents have been saving money by banding together and ordering food in bulk through the Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s food cooperative program. But in the last decade, higher-quality, lower fat pork products produced by members’ friends and neighbors have become a staple. Food cooperative members have gotten better food, and Missouri farmers successfully have marketed the “whole” pig, not just the restaurant-desired loin.
Stories such as these have been repeated hundreds of times across the United States. In each case, they have required committed citizens, knowledgeable non-profit organizations and - first and foremost - funding from the USDA’s Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Programs.
First authorized by Congress in the 1996 Farm Bill, this program has provided grants to help cities, towns and rural counties to do something simple and uniquely American: develop their own solutions to local food, nutrition and agricultural problems.
But there’s a problem: In its rush to pass a new and exceedingly complex farm bill, the House did not provide any funding for the community food projects, which receives a mere $5 million annually. Should the program also be neglected by the Senate, which is working on its version of the farm bill, it would mean the end of a program that is based on an up-by-the-bootstraps approach to community problem-solving.
The House’s action is counter-productive and flies in the face of current health data and national trends. A nation that is eating itself to death - more than 60 percent of us are overweight or obese - should not take money away from one of the few federal programs that is promoting healthy eating. Nor does it make any sense for a nation that is re-discovering the wonders and value of eating locally to ignore a program that has found new and exciting ways to connect local farmers with low-income communities for the benefit of both.
Besides the programs in our area, loss of funds for the community food projects would mean the disappearance of the Lower East Side Girls Club of New York, which has taught healthy eating to thousands of lower income city girls. Lack of funding also would kill projects such as the one on the Tohono O’odham Tribe’s reservation in Arizona, where local innovation has seeded the revival of traditional Native American crops that are necessary to stemming the diabetes epidemic now running rampant through Native American communities.
In its House version, the new farm bill all but certainly would eliminate funding for the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture programs that encourage urban residents and new immigrants with limited resources to grow and market their own food.
Large-scale, institutional farm bill programs - food stamps, to name a very important one - are essential to keep millions of Americans from going hungry. But in an era of multi-billion-dollar federal programs administered by cumbersome bureaucracies from the top down, it is unusual and heartening to find programs that spend relatively little money and encourage local people to find their own solutions to problems.
These small-scale food projects nurture community-based problem-solving that may one day end hunger. We urge readers to reach out to their U.S. senators and let them know how important these projects are to our region and our country.
Sisters Bridget Kelly Ries and Margaret Kelly produced and starred in the television series “Twice Baked,” which featured local and seasonal foods. They also are co-hosts of “Food Talk with the Kelly Twins,” KTRS Radio
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Mr Bass read a story about "blue boy", a kind of envirnmental prophet who is ignored by people engaging in gluttony. I realized how the "have-nots" in our country want to be like the "haves"; they want to have the power to possess something, so they are driven to consume cheap plastic junk, because at least they are consuming. They "have" someTHING. So this perpetuates a "trickle down" to people who have even less and work so all of us can have something. Anything. To consume. At the expense of our earth, our environment. His story was as much about environmental tragedy as it was about the greed that leads to that tragedy. It was a captivating story and a very painful story. Today I've been trying to come to terms with It. But I feel so tired. On the verge of tears.
Then Terry Tempest Williams rose to speak. She talked about how in parts of Utah, there is a growing monster of oil and natural gas towers. The water table is dropping so fast that people will have to leave that area because there's not enough water. The harm to the earth leads to harm to the humans (and all living things). She spoke of the epidemic of meth addiction in this part of the west.
She told a story of a recent experience. She got pulled over for speeding. Unbeknownst to her, she was driving on an expired license. She was handcuffed and taken to the county jail. For a variety of reasons, she decided to spend a night in the jail with the other women inmates. Virtually all of them were addicted to meth, had husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands, etc working on the oil and gas rigs. Life was so out of balance that they were taking speed to try to get by in a world in which they were barely surviving. Some of the women were there with 2, 4 and 8 year sentences. They were overflow from the state prison (can't remember which state this was, sorry). Williams said they rarely are allowed visitors, get no drug addiction counseling or medical help to get off the meth. Damage to the earth brings damage to the inhabitants. Blowback. More trickle down. From secret prisons in Romania, to Guantanamo to the county jail. Humans no longer treated as humans.
When the two were done talking. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. Only a few questions. Mercifully. I felt like I needed to go mourn. Something is dying and some thing has died. One woman asked the big question: What can we do about this, each one of us?
Mr Bass replied that he was hopeful that now that there was a Democratic majority in Congress, things were changing. I was as repulsed by his naivette as I was moved by his story.
Ms Williams said several things. She said we have to realize, as more and more folks are, that this environmental crisis is not a bi-partisan issue. She urged people to put aside their differences because this is much bigger than those differences. She shared how a coalition of diverse groups: environmentalists, ranchers, and yes, even the NRA had lobbied the governor to change some horrible environmental plans. Her other comment was to eat local.
I recalled that one of the introductory speakers (there were three..........which I found a bit trying) was Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, whose boss has been talking of selling water to some of the parched western states. I don't know if she stayed to listen to the speakers, but I know some of Aldo Leopold's family were there and you felt his influence in the room. Palpable.
I feel so sad today. But a strange vision keeps popping into my head. The Lorax, which is the Dr Seuss environmental book. Blue boy in Mr Bass's story reminds me of the Lorax. I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
- Ahmed Kadhim Hussein, an Iraqi policeman, describing the shooting deaths by private military contractors of two Christian women on their way home from work. (Source: The Washington Post)
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Take the case of Blackwater, the "security firm" of mercenaries that were just asked to leave Iraq. Let's say they did leave, all 180,000 of the little warriors. That's more people than the US military.
So, where will they go? Afghanistan? Iran? Saudi Arabia? (just kidding!) The streets of Washington, DC. This administration has done just about everything criminal that you can do. Blackwater, a ready made secret police force. I find it a bit scary. Elections, who needs 'em?
Monday, October 8, 2007
How this came about was a couple of weeks ago my friend Ed Ether (a rabid Green Bay Packer football fan, sorry about the loss last night, by the way) was talking about how he liked that the Packers are owned by a group of people, like a trust, instead of one egomaniacal billionaire. So it came to me tonight, what if myself, Ed and several of our millionaire friends pooled our resources. Then the Cubs could be ours! We could sit in the bleachers! Enjoy the agony and the ecstasy! Eat Frosty Malts! For me, it's a dream come true. Ed, whaddya say?
But I've been feeling tired, like I have not been listening to that internal guide, which for me is the Spirit (which I also call God). People have different guides, but that's there business, not mine. I'm only saying what's true for me.
I'm thinking that for the last four weeks I've been working with the Young Friends, which I like very much. I always find it fun, hunbling and inspirational. But I haven't been to Meeting for Worship for that time. I have actively made time to listen for the Spirit's voice. And that has worked.
But missing Meeting, a group experience of listening for God is different than sitting by the lake watching the sun set. One is not better than the other, the individual and corporate experiences I have as a Quaker are different. Connected, but different.
So, this next First Day I will be in Meeting for Worship, listening.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Total number of books?
I'm not sure. I have a serious book addiction and even though I "recycle" my old books at the used bookstore, the library keeps growing.........and growing. 250?
Last book read?
The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean Carroll. Excellent explanation of how evolution works at the level of genes. Closes all those "gaps in the fossil record". Evolution is no longer a theory.
Last book bought?
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
Five meaningful books?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky (sorry about the spelling)
The Great War for Civilization, by Robert Fisk
When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron
Some others that I found meaningful and or just plain enjoyed!:
Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck (I own a Black Standard Poodle so this was a must read)
Maus One and Maus Two by Art Spiegelman
All the Harry Potter books
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Any poetry by Sharon Olds or Mary Oliver
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Campbell
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Milio
Going After Cacciato, by Tim O'Brien (a soldier decides to leave Vietnam and walk to Paris, his platoon goes after him. Fiction or non-fiction?)
The Things They Carried, also by Tim O'Brien based on his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam.Very poetic book that blends reality with fantasy with some unforgettable images and characters. Creates a story that speaks against war in a way I've never experienced as does Cacciato.
The Pat Barker Trilogy; The Ghost Road, The Eye in the Door, and Regeneration
She's writing historical fiction about World War One so uses real people and events. Includes World War One poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Raises many issues and extremely well-written. Again, these books speak against war in unique ways and I've learned some lessons from them.
I think I'll stop here........I love books and reading and reading about other people's books!
On the way home two things happened. I was listening, briefly, to grown men calling in to the post-game show, showing a variety of emotions. Yes, in fact these men were showing emotion. One comment penetrated deep. A caller asked "Based on what I've seen today, why should I keep watching this team?" A valid question.
Then, my cell phone rang and it was my friend Ed Ether, wondering how I was doing with this new pain in my life. He and his wife, Ms Ether, were wondering if they needed to do some kind of intervention. I thanked Ed, said no, and finished my drive home haunted by the caller's question. Why DO I keep watching this team that has failed to win a World Series since my grandmother was in her late teens (that would be 1908).
Today it came to me. Yes, the Cubs season is over. Soon the Lake Michigan winds will grow colder. Wrigley Field will be covered with snow and ice. But in February, something will happen in Florida. Spring training. The new little Cubs (and the old ones) will leave their den and migrate north to Chicago where they will rise like a phoenix. Resurrection. Happens every year. New hope. My prediction-----and you read it hear first, folks----is that the Cubs WILL win the World Series next year. Let's make it an even century, guys. Hey, anyone can have a bad century now and then. Baseball is not a religion, but it does have resurrection.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Harry Potter snuck up on me.
In 1999, I'd yet to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when a South Carolina librarian reported that parents were seeking to remove the book from school libraries and classroom. Naturally, I was curious as to what was behind this attempt to censor a popular children's book that, by all reports, was encouraging even reluctant readers to settle in for hours of reading.
Then came the deluge - literally hundreds of challenges to J.K. Rowling's epic fantasy about a young wizard's fight against the ultimate evil. Since the beginning of the millennium, the Harry Potter books have been among the most frequently challenged books in libraries and schools in this country.
The reasons given for keeping the book from young readers generally center around witchcraft - but other complaints focus on the series' theme about challenging adult authority: "the books contain lying and smart-aleck retorts to adults," "the books will lead children to hatred and rebellion," "the books are telling children over and over again that lying, cheating, and stealing are not only acceptable, but that they're cool and cute."
Too often, these challenges were successful in removing the Harry Potter books from school classrooms, libraries, and reading lists. Finally, in 2003, a student in Cedarville, Ark., filed a federal lawsuit challenging her school district's restrictions on the Harry Potter series - and succeeded in winning First Amendment protection for young Harry. Even so, the campaign to keep the Harry Potter series out of the hands of children continues, led most recently by a Gwinnett County, Ga., mother who believes the series is an "evil" attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion. She wants to replace the books with others that promote a Judeo-Christian world view, like the "Left Behind" series.
I believe, in fact, that what some parents and adults find most threatening about the Potter series is what engages young minds and fires the imagination of young people- Rowling's willingness to deal with the truth that adults in children's lives can sometimes be unthinking, authoritarian, and even evil. The best books always have raised questions about the status quo - and are the most threatening to censors who want to control what young persons read and think about. Like the tyrannical Defense Against Dark Arts Professor Dolores Umbridge, who insisted on providing a "risk-free" education to the young wizards at Hogwarts, they would limit education and information to facts so incontestable that they arouse no controversy at any level, thereby leaving young people unequipped to think about and address larger questions about the nature of our society.
It's been wonderful to see how Harry has brought an entire generation of young people back to reading - back to grappling with allegories, stories, and ideas. So I contemplate the series' conclusion with some sadness, even as I know that we'll be dealing with Harry Potter for a long, long time, due to the books' quality and unstinting popularity. Similar to literature like Of Mice and Men, Catcher in the Rye, Huck Finn, and The Color Purple, Harry will always find a way into the censor's crosshairs. I hope that Harry's popularity will continue to focus a light on censorship. Bringing attention to the workings of censorship, in my opinion, provides the best defense against it.
Judith Krug is the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). The OIF sponsors Banned Books Week, September 29 - October 6, an annual celebration for the Freedom to Read. Observed the last week of September since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take the precious democratic freedom to read for granted.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Today is Poodledoc, Jr's 13th birthday! He arrived a month early, via a planned C-section. The first view of him was a little leg being pulled out of his mother's incision by the surgeon at about 9:15 AM. Quckly, the nurses cleaned him up, wrapped him snug as a bug and I got to hold him for the first time and show him to his mom, who was still awake, althought the rest of her body was "asleep". His mom lost a lot of blood which was scary. I was ushered from the recovery room by one of the nurse-midwives to a room, where I called all sorts of people to give them the good news. I couldn't stop holding him until finally the nurses came to take him for some "food". His mom had a tough time due to the blood loss from her placenta previa (that's where the placenta implants over the cervix, "blocking the exit",hebce the C-section. So getting him out was perilous. Luckily, she survived, although it was a close thing. Later, I took Tristan over intensive care to nurse for the first time.
I wondered what he'd be like. Now, he's a lot bigger, can beat me in arm wrestling (well, almost), loves to read, play with dogs, draw and paint, play Dungeons and Dragons, camp and does a lot of laughing. So today we'll celebrate. But I try to remember that every day with him is a celebration. Even the tough days. I love you, Tristan!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -- Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
High Flight, a poem by John Gillespie McGee, Jr. (1922 - 1941). An American/British fighter pilot, he flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at age 19 on December 11, 1941, during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick, Lincolnshire. The poem was written on the back of a letter to his parents which stated, "I am enclosing a verse I wrote the other day. It started at 30,000 feet, and was finished soon after I landed."
Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Published on Monday, September 24, 2007 by The Boston Globe
So Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is forbidden by the United States to visit Ground Zero. Iran’s president is to address the United Nations tomorrow, and while in New York, he had hoped to go to the World Trade Center site, as so many visitors do. New York authorities, together with the US State Department, said no. The prohibition was seconded by Hillary Clinton - she called the idea “unacceptable” - and by Rudy Giuliani, who blasted Ahmadinejad for his “threats against America and Israel.”
What else might have happened here? Ahmadinejad is notorious for having denied the Holocaust, threatened Israel, and demonized America. He is also the elected president of a nation that stands, together with the United States, on the edge of an abyss. Does this action move us back from that edge, or closer to it?
No one can visit the World Trade Center site, even as construction daily transforms it, without a vivid sense of the staggering tragedy that took place there. Indeed, the event transcends mundane boundaries, even including old conflicts. In the days after Sep. 11, 2001, one of the first nations to express compassion for American pain was Iran. Then-President Mohammed Khatami, in an interview with CNN, sent, as he said, “deepest condolences to the nation of America and . . . sorrow for the tragic event of September 11. What occurred was a disaster . . . the ugliest form of terrorism ever seen.”
The scorched acreage at what was quickly dubbed “Ground Zero” was, at first, a wound inflicted on the human family. All over the globe, especially through that constantly rebroadcast television footage, people experienced what had happened in New York as happening to them. One fact long gone down the memory hole is that, when the United States launched its military campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tehran was supportive. The old enmity had been transcended, precisely, by the hurt that Iranians, too, felt after Sept. 11. “I would also like to add,” Khatami told CNN that fall, “that the Americans were not the only ones who suffered.” In that suffering, most of the world was united.
Ahmadinejad is no Khatami, but the United States has steadily treated Iran as if it is only an enemy. Today’s rebuff to the current president is of a piece with a long history of omni-political denigration aimed at Tehran. After all, it was when the reform-minded Khatami was Iran’s leader that George W. Bush, in 2002, hung that nation on the “Axis of Evil.” Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University, scheduled for today, has generated fierce controversy, but even when it was Khatami visiting Harvard a year ago, then-Governor Mitt Romney ordered state authorities to have nothing to do with protecting his security.
The extremist Ahmadinejad rode to power on Iranian reactions to the steady insult from America. This new insult reinforces him at home, just as moderate, relatively pro-Western opposition forces are jelling there. (One week ago, Ahmadinejad’s chief rival, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was elected speaker of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that oversees Iran’s Supreme Leader.)
It was George W. Bush who transformed Ground Zero from a site toward which the world looked with empathy for American pain into a hypernationalistic symbol of a singularly American victimhood. Sept. 11, 2001, became our wound alone, and New York’s ravaged precinct became a restricted preserve, as global sympathy for the United States curdled into fear of it.
What if, instead of shunting Ahmadinejad aside as one unworthy to enter the sanctuary of our national trauma, we Americans had said, “Yes - stand here with us. Look at what threatens the universal future if we do not find other ways to relate to each other than with contempt. Relive that horrible September morning with us, when the rank evil of terrorism showed itself with such clarity that the human family, decidedly including the Iranian nation, stood together against it. Let solidarity be the meaning of this place.”
If Americans, across the political divide, are still too traumatized by what Ground Zero memorializes to contemplate such a stance, it is because Osama bin Laden’s crime remains unadjudicated. Bin Laden still at large, releasing videos, inspiring legions, is the living emblem of American paralysis.
Here is George Bush’s most grievous failure: Instead of enabling his nation to reckon with the blow of Sept. 11, and move on from it, he has worsened that anguish immeasurably. Yes, Ground Zero is a holy place, but Bush is the one who desecrates it
Sunday, September 23, 2007
But Steve Earle was against it all the way, right? Now, if only Congress would do the same......
Country music has thrived for years as the soundtrack to redneck America, supplying the Republican heartlands with a diet of knee-jerk jingoism that has included flag-waving anthems supporting the war on terror.
But as the US death toll rises in Iraq and public patience with the conflict - and with George W. Bush - diminishes, many anti-war songs are emerging from Nashville, Tennessee, home of the genre.
No one has moved further than Toby Keith and Darryl Worley, two of the biggest names in country music.
In 2002, Keith had a huge hit with Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, which includes the lyric: “You’ll be sorry that you messed with the US of A, ’cause we’ll put a boot in your ass - it’s the American Way.”
Worley’s Have You Forgotten in 2003 justified the Iraq invasion as a response to the September 11 attacks. The military liked it so much he was presented with a flag that had flown over the Pentagon.
Now Keith says he is a lifelong Democrat and has claimed he never supported the war, while Worley has had a hit with I Just Came Back from a War, about a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Tim McGraw - the biggest contemporary country star - has a hit single with If You’re Reading This, about a dead soldier’s last letter home, and the Dixie Chicks, boycotted in 2003 after lead singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London: “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas,” won five Grammy Awards this year.
The changing tone reflects a growing skepticism in heartlands that have disproportionately contributed the young soldiers who have been fighting and dying.Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said: “Popular music is reflecting the culture, as it always does.”
Keith’s switch, however, has angered conservative country fans and anti-war activists alike. Jon Iwanski, a blogger in Chicago, said Keith had “damaged his credibility”, while opponents of the war accused the singer of opportunism
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Published: 17 September 2007
2,000-year-old Sumerian cities torn apart and plundered by robbers. The very walls of the mighty Ur of the Chaldees cracking under the strain of massive troop movements, the privatisation of looting as landlords buy up the remaining sites of ancient Mesopotamia to strip them of their artefacts and wealth. The near total destruction of Iraq's historic past – the very cradle of human civilisation – has emerged as one of the most shameful symbols of our disastrous occupation.
Evidence amassed by archaeologists shows that even those Iraqis who trained as archaeological workers in Saddam Hussein's regime are now using their knowledge to join the looters in digging through the ancient cities, destroying thousands of priceless jars, bottles and other artefacts in their search for gold and other treasures.
In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, armies of looters moved in on the desert cities of southern Iraq and at least 13 Iraqi museums were plundered. Today, almost every archaeological site in southern Iraq is under the control of looters.
In a long and devastating appraisal to be published in December, Lebanese archaeologist Joanne Farchakh says that armies of looters have not spared "one metre of these Sumerian capitals that have been buried under the sand for thousands of years.
"They systematically destroyed the remains of this civilisation in their tireless search for sellable artefacts: ancient cities, covering an estimated surface area of 20 square kilometres, which – if properly excavated – could have provided extensive new information concerning the development of the human race.
"Humankind is losing its past for a cuneiform tablet or a sculpture or piece of jewellery that the dealer buys and pays for in cash in a country devastated by war. Humankind is losing its history for the pleasure of private collectors living safely in their luxurious houses and ordering specific objects for their collection."
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