Saturday, June 30, 2007

FGC Gathering, Saturday night

Exhausted. Drove 7 hours today. Had to pickup Poodledoc, Jr at camp, then cross the state. Glad to be here. Seeing lots of old friends. Perusing the bookstore. Always a dangerous place for me since books and chocolate are my remaining addictions. Now its time to hit the hay. Tomorrow is the opening worship and then workshops start.

Oh, and I'm getting a cold. What fun!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Off to the Quaker Gathering Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning its off to Friends General Conference, the yearly gathering of The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). There will be about 1600 Quakers descending on University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The vast majority of these, including myself come from the "un-programmed" branch of the Quaker tree. That is, we have no pastor or priest, no liturgy, no singing. We sit and worship in silence. If God gives us a message, we may,if we choose, stand and share our "ministry". Otherwise, all is silent. This feels good to me. But at these gatherings (this is my third year in a row) there is a powerful feeling of the Spirit. I come away feeling renewed spiritually. And I have a lot of fun! Quakers do talk! And laugh! And sing! My workshop which I'll attend is called "Worship with Attention to Healing and Laughter". This is the first year Poodledoc, Jr is going. He's working with other kids to build some huge puppets for the show Wednesday night. If my computer cooperates, I'll write more on this blog about the Gathering in the coming week. Now I'm done packing, I read about the Cubs who've just won 7th straight and I have a long day of driving. I have to go pick up Poodledoc, Jr at his first "away from home" camp, then drive for five more hours. Sounds like an adventure to me!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rethinking Patriotism

by Lucinda Marshall
Published on Sunday, June 24, 2007 by

Several months ago when I wrote an essay questioning the appropriateness of military air shows as a form of community-sponsored family entertainment, I received a number of responses. The gist of most of the letters was that the military defends our freedom and without it, I could not write these words. Indeed, I was told that to criticize militarism is unpatriotic and how dare I impugn the honor and integrity of those who serve in the armed forces defending the American way of life.

But what precisely is this American way of life that our military purportedly defends? We live in the richest country in the world, yet unlike other developed countries that have universal health care, tens of millions of people in this country do not have health insurance and our medical care system comes in dead last behind comparable countries. Millions of children go to bed hungry every night and our educational system is leaving far too many children behind. The standard of living of all but the rich has fallen and people are losing their homes. Our energy use and wastefulness is a toxic disgrace.

In the name of all this, we squander trillions of dollars to send our troops to fight a war that was justified by lies. In Iraq we have killed an uncountable number of innocent people and so destroyed the infrastructure of the country that millions of children are starving to death and one in eight children will die before their fifth birthday. Going to school or feeding one’s family is all but impossible and millions have now become refugees living in unspeakable conditions. The result of all this is that violence continues to escalate, more and more people hate our country and the world is a far more dangerous place. And when all is said and done, we bring our wounded warriors home to the squalid conditions of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

To defend a government that claims these actions in the name of “democracy” is hardly patriotic. At best, it might be construed as nationalism. As George Orwell once put it, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Indeed in the aftermath of the atrocities that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, in a scene that seemed scripted by Orwell himself, American flags started to appear everywhere–on cars, lapels and babies’ bottoms. That defecating on the flag to which we pledge allegiance could be construed as patriotism should surely have given us pause to wonder if perhaps the true meaning of patriotism has been hijacked.

Clearly what was conveniently forgotten in this unquestioning, reflexive flag-waving is that dissent in the face of tyranny is the ultimate act of patriotism, it is in fact how this country was founded. We Americans are long overdue for a very serious discussion of just what it is that we are defending, which by any definition is a far cry from democracy or freedom.

There is no excuse for putting the interests of our way of life over that of any other country or people and in doing so we only harm ourselves. Too continue to misconstrue militarism as defensible in the name of patriotism is bankrupting our country and imperiling the planet, its resources and all of its citizens. If we continue along this path, there will, in the end, be nothing left to defend.

As July 4th approaches, it may well be time to consider whether patriotism and the defense of national borders is in fact an outmoded concept. Instead of Independence Day, perhaps it is time to declare an Interdependence Day and to pledge allegiance as global citizens, to build our strength by nurturing our resources rather than plundering them, by nurturing all of the world’s citizens, especially the young. Most of all, it is time to pledge to end the wanton destruction of the planet and the politics of hatred and greed that divide us.

Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network, Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad including, Counterpunch, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Countercurrents, Z Magazine , Common Dreams, In These Times and Information Clearinghouse. She also blogs at WIMN Online and writes a monthly column for the Louisville Eccentric Observer, where this piece originally appeared. For this piece, she is indebted to her son Josh for pointing her towards the Orwell quote.

Robert Fisk: How can Blair possibly be given this job?

Here is a politician who has failed in everything he has ever tried to do in the Middle East
Published: 23 June 2007 in The Independent

I suppose that astonishment is not the word for it. Stupefaction comes to mind. I simply could not believe my ears in Beirut when a phone call told me that Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara was going to create "Palestine". I checked the date - no, it was not 1 April - but I remain overwhelmed that this vain, deceitful man, this proven liar, a trumped-up lawyer who has the blood of thousands of Arab men, women and children on his hands is really contemplating being "our" Middle East envoy.

Can this really be true? I had always assumed that Balfour, Sykes and Picot were the epitome of Middle Eastern hubris. But Blair? That this ex-prime minister, this man who took his country into the sands of Iraq, should actually believe that he has a role in the region - he whose own preposterous envoy, Lord Levy, made so many secret trips there to absolutely no avail - is now going to sully his hands (and, I fear, our lives) in the world's last colonial war is simply overwhelming.

Of course, he'll be in touch with Mahmoud Abbas, will try to marginalise Hamas, will talk endlessly about "moderates"; and we'll have to listen to him pontificating about morality, how he's absolutely and completely confident that he's doing the right thing (and this, remember, is the same man who postponed a ceasefire in Lebanon last year in order to share George Bush's ridiculous hope of an Israeli victory over Hizbollah) in bringing peace to the Middle East...

Not once - ever - has he apologised. Not once has he said he was sorry for what he did in our name. Yet Lord Blair actually believes - in what must be a record act of self-indulgence for a man who cooked up the fake evidence of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" - that he can do good in the Middle East.

For here is a man who is totally discredited in the region - a politician who has signally failed in everything he ever tried to do in the Middle East - now believing that he is the right man to lead the Quartet to patch up "Palestine".

In the hunt for quislings to do our bidding - ie accept even less of Mandate Palestine than Arafat would stomach - I suppose Blair has his uses. His unique blend of ruthlessness and dishonesty will no doubt go down quite well with our local Arab dictators.

And I have a suspicion - always assuming this extraordinary story is not untrue - that Blair will be able to tour around Damascus, even Tehran, in his hunt for "peace", thus paving the way for an American exit strategy in Iraq. But "Palestine"?

The Palestinians held elections - real, copper-bottomed ones, the democratic variety - and Hamas won. But Blair will presumably not be able to talk to Hamas. He'll need to talk only to Abbas's flunkies, to negotiate with an administration described so accurately this week by my old colleague Rami Khoury as a "government of the imagination".

The Americans are talking - and here I am quoting the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack - about an envoy who can work "with the Palestinians in the Palestinian system" to develop institutions for a "well-governed state". Oh yes, I can see how that would appeal to Lord Blair. He likes well-governed states, lots of "terror laws", plenty of security - though I'm still a bit puzzled about what the "Palestinian system" is meant to be.

It was James Wolfensohn who was originally "our" Middle East envoy, a former World Bank president who left in frustration because he could neither reconstruct Gaza nor work with a "peace process" that was being eroded with every new Jewish settlement and every Qassam rocket fired into Israel. Does Blair think he can do better? What honeyed words will we hear?

I bet he doesn't mention the Israeli wall which is taking so much extra land from the Palestinians. It will be a "security barrier" or a "fence" (like the famous Berlin "fence" which was actually called a "security barrier" by those generous East German Vopo cops of the time).

There will be appeals for restraint "on all sides", endless calls for "moderation", none at all for justice (which is all the people of the Middle East have been pleading for over the past 100 years).

And Israel likes Lord Blair. Indeed, Blair's slippery use of language is likely to appeal to Ehud Olmert, whose government continues to take Arab land for Jews and Jews only as he waits to discover a Palestinian with whom he can "negotiate", Mahmoud Abbas now having the prestige of a rabbit after his forces were crushed in Gaza.

Which of "Palestine"'s two prime ministers will Blair talk to? Why, the one with a collar and tie, of course, who works for Mr Abbas, who will demand more "security", tougher laws, less democracy.

I have never been able to figure out why the Middle East draws the Balfours and the Sykeses and the Blairs into its maw. Once, our favourite trouble-shooter was James Baker - who worked for George W's father until the Israelis got tired of him - and before that we had a whole list of UN Secretary Generals who visited the region, frowned and warned of serious consequences if peace did not soon come.

I recall another man with Blair's pomposity, a certain Kurt Waldheim, who - no longer the UN's boss - actually believed he could be an "envoy" for peace in the Middle East, despite his little wartime career as an intelligence officer for the Wehrmacht's Army Group "E".

His visits - especially to the late King Hussein - came to nothing, of course. But Waldheim's ability to draw a curtain over his wartime past does have one thing in common with Blair. For Waldheim steadfastly, pointedly, repeatedly, refused to acknowledge - ever - that he had ever done anything wrong. Now who does that remind you of?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Paid Canvasses? Why Not Get a Paper Route?

For the umpteenth time in recent weeks, I welcomed yet another canvasser to my door. The names seem endless: Environmental Wisconsin, Environmental Decade, WISPRG, Democrats for Change (that's a funny,isn't it?). They all want one thing from me and my neighbors: money. I tell them I'm with them, that I write/call congress people, do lots of different kinds of political activism. Then it comes down to selling me something. Usually its a newsletter or something that will tell me what I already know. I asked the most recent pair: Why are you canvassing here, in my neighborhood where virtually all my neighbors are extremely left and progressive and all that, with a few exceptions. They smiled and bid me farewell. As I reflected about it over the next couple days, I had one of those "aha" moments. They canvas us "believers" because we live in what is regarded as an "affluent" neighborhood with "progressive" values. So they are not looking to change hearts and minds, they are looking for us to write big numbers in our checkbooks so they, the canvassers, can get paid. It's self perpetuating. And I don't feel it is very effective. They preach to the choir 'cause the choir is committed and they are expected to fill the offerig plate.

I was briefly part of the paid canvas of the Nuclear Freeze (boy, that dates me, huh?) and remember the training and how they taught us to "encourage" or "persuade" people to dig deeper and give more. The vast majority of that money went to pay for the canvas itself, not for any political work.

So if people want to deliver their newsletter to my door and have me pay for it, why don't the just call it what it is: a paper route!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gandhi and the Quakers

WHEN THE BRITISH Cabinet Mission went out to India to try to settle the Indian question on the spot, there were two or three interesting Quaker Meetings. Each of them was attended by members of the British Cabinet Mission, by prominent Indian Nationals, including the sister of Pandit Nehru, and by leading Moslems, including Sir Hassan Suhrawardy. Mahatma Gandhi attended the second.

Mr. Gandhi, at his evening prayers, spoke highly of the calm atmosphere which prevailed there. "I greatly admire the silent prayers," he said, "We must devote part of our time to such prayers. They afford peace of mind."

He also said: "Emptying the mind of all conscious processes of thought and filling it with the spirit of God unmanifest brings one ineffable peace, and attunes the soul with the Infinite."-- William H. Sessions, 1952.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Welcome to ‘Palestine’

by Robert Fisk

Published on Saturday, June 16, 2007 by The Independent/UK

(worth the read although it is a bit long, it's still the usual succinct Fisk prose.....)

How troublesome the Muslims of the Middle East are. First, we demand that the Palestinians embrace democracy and then they elect the wrong party - Hamas - and then Hamas wins a mini-civil war and presides over the Gaza Strip. And we Westerners still want to negotiate with the discredited President, Mahmoud Abbas. Today “Palestine” - and let’s keep those quotation marks in place - has two prime ministers. Welcome to the Middle East.

Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn’t like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.

No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of “Palestine” still left to negotiate over ?

And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the “moderate” (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word “occupation”, who always referred to Israeli “redeployment” rather than “withdrawal”, a “leader” we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn’t vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas’s bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas’s Fatah and the rotten nature of the “Palestinian Authority”.

I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer “Palestine” EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?

All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our “war on terror” in the wastelands of Helmand province).

We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.

We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair’s recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a “statesman” by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose “democracy” is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the “war on terror”.

Yes, and we love King Abdullah’s unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn’t like The Independent’s coverage of what he quaintly calls “the Middle East”. If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the “Middle East” would be to control.

For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?

It’s easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that’s what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn’t President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn’t in control of Iran (even if he doesn’t actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).

If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don’t behave like us civilised Westerners.

So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don’t deserve our sacrifice and our love.

How do we deal with a coup d’├ętat by an elected government?

Cindy Sheehan Turns 50: You're Invited!

Cindy would like to invite everyone to her 50th
Birthday Party and Camp Casey final celebration the
weekend of July 6 to 8 at Camp Casey in Crawford, Tx.


And now, from the "You MUST be Joking Department...

Blair in line for UN role as Middle East envoy By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 21 June 2007 in The Independent

I almost choked on my dinner when I read this little gem. Isn't this a bit like the wolf knocking on the last house standing and saying to the three little pigs that he'd like to come in for the "dinner process"???

The White House revealed yesterday that Tony Blair and George Bush have discussed the outgoing Prime Minister taking on a UN role as Middle East envoy.

A spokesman for the US President said the two leaders had considered the possibility of Mr Blair acting as a peace envoy role for the Middle East Quartet, comprising the US, the UN, Russia and the European Union.

The position has been vacant since the former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn quit the post in April last year. It would give Mr Blair a central role in efforts to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians. (with Mr Blair in the post, it would still be vacant!)

A Israeli government spokeswoman said: "Officials in the prime minister's office are aware of this idea and Prime Minister Olmert is very supportive of [Mr] Blair and of his continuing involvement in the Middle East and the peace process." (and he'll say that as long as the American government pours money into Israel, no questions asked)

The prospect of Mr Blair playing a role in the Middle East after the debacle over the Iraq was greeted with disbelief by some anti-war Labour MPs. It may also dismay Gordon Brown, who is seeking to make progress in the Middle East after Mr Blair goes, and shift the emphasis in the campaign against terrorism to a battle for "hearts and minds".

(hearts and minds? huh? don't any of these clowns read history? do they read at all? The only idea dumber than this would be to have George W Bush become the UN envoy to the Middle East. Well, maybe Cheney WOULD be a dumber idea.....)

Happy Solstice! Happy Feet!

I've been enjoying the day. I finally got rid of that cast I'd been wearing around for four months. I went out to buy some really good shoes I could fit my new orthotics into. It's a marvelous feeling, being back in shoes. And I'm remembering and feeling tremendously blessed by friends and famlily who walked my dog, gave me rides, helped me rent a car, loaned me a car and just generally kept my spirits up. What a blessing! This is a happy day! Thanks to everyone!!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Laura: Give Cash for George's Birthday!

CNN | June 18, 2007 09:42 PM

Birthdays are a time for celebrating and -- if you are a politician -- raising money.

With President Bush's birthday a little over two weeks away, first lady Laura Bush is soliciting $61 donations from supporters of the Republican National Committee.
"Why $61?, a CNN reporter asked. "Oh, that's his IQ," the First Lady giggled. "I'm just so proud! He's the smartest person in his administration!"

As Will Rogers Put It......

The taxpayers are sending Congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it except they keep coming back!

From John Woolman.....

May we look upon our Treasures, and the furniture of our Houses, and the Garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these possessions or not.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Little Boy lost

by William Blake

Father, father, where are you going
O do not walk so fast.
Speak father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost,

The night was dark no father was there
The child was wet with dew,
The mire was deep, & the child did weep
And away the vapour flew.

missing my Dad...........think I'll take the poodle for a walk.......feeling sad....but not stuck in "the mire" anymore............

Father's Day: Happy and Sad

I've had a nice Father's Day. Went to a Quaker picnic with my son. He and I both have casts on our left feet. Mine's due to come off this week, since the three stress fractures are healed. His is for a sprain, and he'll wear it for a week. Like father, like son. It was a fun day. My son ate a brownie and some strawberry shortcake. I made a feeble attempt to get him to eat some "real" food! You know, being a dad. I don't know if he did, but he seems to be growing anyway.

Watching the Cubs today. They are losing to the Padres, 9-1. I was reflecting how I used to watch these games with my dad. It was a place where we could hang out, the baseball world, Wrigley Field. Watching the Cubs struggle was part of our lives together. I miss him today, not just because of baseball. He died 5 years ago on my birthday. He had emphysema from being a life-long smoker. But I feel there's a lot more we could have shared. I also wish he and my son, Poodledoc, Jr, would have had more time together. Of course, we had some tough times, disagreeing a lot on politics, mostly. But that seems so trivial now. Not what we needed to be talking about.

But I'm really missing him today. At his funeral, I sat at the traditional post-funeral luncheon in Springfield, NE, at the Methodist Church, amongst his surviving high school classmates. Out of 15, there were 8 present. They showed me a framed class of 1944 photo. They told me that when one of them would die, the program from the funeral/memorial service would be put into a pocket on the back of the frame. They asked me for the program. I handed it over, even though they all had copies. It was some kind of ritual, I think. The son handing over the father's honor, or something like that.

Later, there was a lot of laughter. I felt very at home with these people. They grew up with my dad and loved him. I asked them for some remembrances of my dad. One of his classmates said: "I've never seen ANYONE throw a baseball that far".

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mysticism and Mental Illness: A Quaker Book Review

Book Review written by Poodledoc:

Dancing with God Through the Storm: Mysticism and Mental Illness
by Jennifer Elam

When a person has a profound, life-changing psychological experience, sometimes there is confusion as to whether this is a mystical happening or the person is “crazy”, as though what happened is a manifestation of mental illness. How do we, as Friends, support the individual, help them to become clear about the distinction between something wondrous and something that may be pathological in nature. And, in terms of support, does it really matter what we “label” the experience?

Jennifer Elam, a Quaker psychologist, explores the differences (and similarities) between mysticism and mental illness in this book through interviews with over 100 individuals, mostly Quaker, who shared their very moving personal experiences.

As you might imagine, these experiences varied quite a bit. For some, there was a diagnosis of mental illness and the person struggled through hard times, but eventually reached clarity on the spiritual aspect of the experience. Often this struggling occurred alone. For others, their Meetings were very nurturing as the individuals explored these difficult things. Often, with loving support, the individuals were able to share their experiences with the Meeting without fear of being labeled “crazy”. There is a stigma about both mental illness and mystical experiences in our society, and that stigma, unfortunately, carries over to Quaker Meeting. As one of the interviewees put it: “Some see it as a reaction to stress, saying, “You need to take care of yourself.” Others see it as a spiritual experience, saying, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

Ms Elam makes a distinction about what she regards as mental illness and what she regards as spiritual experience. She contends that there is a small area of overlap. However, pathology and mysticism appear very distinct in most of the people interviewed here. She shares many of the stories of her subjects, in their own words, and talks about how these issues are part of the individual’s life journey. For example, Elam suggests that depression is not “bad” or a “breakdown”, but part of a transformation in our lives. While she does not minimize how difficult and painful depression can be, she opens up new ways of seeing the experience. She has a gift of being able to help the reader place these experiences in the context of their life. Or, for those accompanying people on this kind of journey, the same wisdom can be useful as well. And, she discusses how to determine if it is safe to share these experiences with specific people.

There are several things I enjoyed about the book. Although she provides her definitions of mysticism and a mental illness, this book is a query for us to make a personal decision about what may be two sides of the same coin.. I enjoyed reading about the wide variety of experiences people had as they “wrestled with God”, as the author puts it, and about how these experiences inform our lives. And how do we, as a Meeting, stay open to member’s experiences, messages, and struggles in these areas, without being fearful and placing a label to keep the person, and their experience(s), at a distance?

In closing, here’s a story from one of the other interviewees:

“When I was eight or nine, I had a profound experience. It was very important and real, but I have not shared it until now. I was scared it would be ridiculed.
My dog was ill. I wanted it tended, but it was too late. It had to be put to sleep. As a youngster, I was quite upset that I hadn’t been able to stop the dog’s death. I went into the woods, cried, and then fell asleep. Later, an enormous light awakened me; it illuminated the woods and comforted me. I did not hear voices as such, but there was a knowing: ‘You are loved. All will be well.’
I had to walk fifteen minutes to get home. As I walked, remembering the light, feeling the knowing, I resolved to help the rejected and neglected people of the world.
It has taken until now, at age 65, for me to share these valuable experiences in my life.”

Had this person felt safe to share her story earlier, who knows how many others it would have inspired?

Sometimes the Light comes from the darkest places in our lives. This book explores how we can share these experiences to become spiritually stronger and in the process, bring gifts to our community, making it more loving and spiritually accepting.

Idiot Liberals Strike Again

by Laura Flanders
Published on Thursday, June 14, 2007 by The Nation

When will Democratic leaders stop dissing their base? David Obey is making a habit of it.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin veteran, who heads up the House Appropriations Committee called anti-war workers, “idiot liberals” for calling for a cut off in funds for Bush’s Iraq disaster. This week, Obey told advocates for youth to grow up and stop complaining about the millions of dollars his committee intends to shovel to deadly, discredited abstinence-only programs.

House Democrats will likely vote today to increase abstinence-only miseducation programs to $140 million, a larger increase than any put forward in the last three years of the Republican Congress. Obey told NPR it’s all about pragmatism: the Appropriations Bill faces a veto threat from the President, and House Democrats need all the support they can get from Republicans. And there are quid pro quos: to secure a proposed $27 million increase for the family planning program Title X anti-choicers need to be bought off with $27 million for deadly abstinence.

“It’s about people acting like adults and realizing that you can’t just hold your breath until you get your own way,” Obey told Morning Edition June 14th.

But that $27 million increase represents just a ten percent growth in the budget for Title X; it’s a 30 percent increase for abstinence only. Besides, most sane Americans were expecting the purportedly pro-choice Democratic majority to cut off funding for this boondoggle not increase it.

Anyone who read Michael Reynolds’ excellent piece on the Abstinence Gluttons knows the myriad ways in which these censorship programs stink. As a congressionally mandated report recently concluded, they’re bad health policy, bad fiscal policy, and should be ended. As Reynolds’ documented in depth, federal funding of “abstinence” also gifts billions of dollars to GOP partisans who not only mess with young minds but also campaign against Democrats and progressive priorities.

As James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth told the Air Americans last week, the GOP gravy train was bad enough. “Now it’s switched tracks and became a Democratic train. Obey can now stand tall and say that he is now one of the biggest funders of the Radical Right in America.”

It’d be bad enough if it were just Obey, but progressive caucus members including Nita Lowey and Barbara Lee who sit on both the Appropriations and the Health and Human Services subcommittee (also chaired by Obey) that put forward this proposal are complicit. Democrats enjoy a 37:29 majority on Appropriations. What they push moves. The battle goes to the Senate next, where the 15:14 split on appropriations is much tighter. Speaking of senators, Hillary Clinton is talking up a storm on the campaign trail about her support for Title X. So far she’s remained mum about millions more for sex-miseducation.

“We are not your pawns,” youth activists told House Democrats on the eve of the Committee’s vote. Wagoner has some glum young progressive organizers in his office to explain the Democratic majority to. Said Wagoner “as an activist you expect to fight this in a conservative republican congress, but I can’t tell you how infuriated, how angry I feel, having witnessed Democratic allies sell us out.”

Thus Wagoner and his team join the anti-war activists. Bravo Democrats you’re swelling the ranks of pissed-off, enraged, “liberal idiots.”

Laura Flanders is the author of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians, out now from The Penguin Press.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Christian Business Directory, Part 2

Well, in today's installment, I just want to start out by saying that I've taken my dog to the Christian dog kennel (their Bible verse: "A righteous man shall care for his animals.....Proverbs 12:10) I thought they did a great job of taking care of my dog Duke. I did notice, though, that when he got back from there, he tried to walk on water and almost drowned.

Then there were the Christian attorneys. I counted eight. One ad caught my eye. It said one of their areas of practice was "Religious Liberty/Free Speech". Don't we already have that? Good bible passage, though: "it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice.....wise men who understood the times...." Esther 1:13, 14. Could they be talking about Alberto Gonzales here? Certainly not Congress. Definitely not the Democrats. And very definitely not Joe Lieberman!

And then there's the Natural Beef business, where their cattle are "Gently raised in peaceful Quaker Valley pastures." But he said unto them. " I have meat to eat that ye know not of" John 4:32. What? Is he sneaking a Big Mac every once in a while?

Then there's the Christian chiropractors. One's Bible passage says "He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God." Luke 13:13. Hmmmm. Well, I have to admit, I thought this Bible verse was a bit odd for this guy. He's a chiropractor for Christ's sake!!!

I enjoyed the one that said "Afraid of the Dentist?", read Mark 5:36 and call....
So I whipped out my handy Bible and looked it's where Jesus says: "do not be afraid, simply have faith". But personally, regarding the dentist, I preferred Mark 5:34......"Jesus said to her 'daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, free from your affliction." Why GO to the dentist when you can avoid it altogether?

Anyway, I looked for a listing of Christian Veterinarians. I found none. We are all going to hell. Good luck and good night.

I Wish I had HBO for This---Who Cares About the Soprano's?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
Vanessa Redgrave Combines Lifelong Devotion to Acting and Political Involvement in New HBO Film “The Fever”

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

(borrrowed, ahem, from the Democracy Now website. You can hear or read the entire interview by going to the site. Guess I'll have to wait for the dvd......this is a partial transcript of the interview. When Redgrave recites her lines (below) it made me stop breathing while I was can listen to her, too, by going to the archive section of the Democracy Now website....still gives me goosebumps.....)

AMY GOODMAN: Global inequality. Most people are aware the world is a place of haves and have-nots. Billions live in abject poverty. Well, a new movie asks the question: what is our moral responsibility for the state of the world? The Fever is the story of a woman who traveled to an impoverished, war-torn country. She is overcome by an illness which eventually leads her to reflect on the privilege of the western world in comparison to the poverty, violence, and injustice that exists elsewhere. The film stars world-renowned actress Vanessa Redgrave.

VANESSA REDGRAVE: The people who have a little determine a little, and the people who have a lot determine a lot, and the people who have nothing, determine nothing. And the workers obey the instructions of the money. Money tells some of them to grow rice and transport it to places where children are starving, and it tells others to sew costumes and repair violins. And each day there is an amazing moment before the day starts, before the market opens, before the bidding begins. There's a moment of confusion. The money is silent. It hasn't yet spoken. Its decisions are withheld, poised, perched.

AMY GOODMAN: Vanessa Redgrave, an excerpt of The Fever. It’s based on the play by Wally Shaun and directed by Carlo Nero, Vanessa Redgrave’s son. Its co-stars include Angelina Jolie and Michael Moore. The Fever debuts tonight on HBO at 9:30 p.m. EST.

By Lieberman’s Logic, the US May Have to Bomb Itself

Published on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 by (as we continue our "Let's Pick on Joe Lieberman Week festivities...)

by Robert Naiman

Mount Lieberman erupted again on Sunday, perhaps doing the bidding of the “war, not negotiation” faction of the Administration grouped around Vice President Cheney’s office. “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Lieberman said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation,” the New York Times reported.

The immediate goal of the Cheney/Lieberman faction is not to launch war in Iran. That’s their ultimate goal, but they know that they don’t have the strength right now to bring about this goal immediately. Their immediate strategy is to undermine the negotiations with Iran and box the U.S. government into a corner where - from their point of view - war will be inevitable. They are also trying to threaten that if the U.S. doesn’t attack Iran, Israel will do it, as if Israel could or would undertake such an attack without approval from the United States.

Lieberman claimed there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Iranians were training Iraqis to use explosives, but, as is usual for these claims, he didn’t provide any. The Times article noted that “American officials concede that they are unable to prove that senior Iranian officials are behind the smuggling.”

But suppose that Lieberman’s claim were true. Would that justify - legally, morally, politically - U.S. airstrikes on Iran? Only on Planet Cheney/Lieberman. Would it be in the interest of the majority of Americans to launch airstrikes on Iran? Absolutely not.

To absorb the full force of how criminally insane Lieberman’s statement was, suppose we adopted the following proposition:

“The United States should launch airstrikes against any country which is supplying weapons or other support to insurgents in Iraq.”

Who would we have to bomb?

Of course we would have to bomb Syria. There’s no question that Syria could be doing more to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the Syrian-Iraqi border. They could, for example, construct a 20-foot high electrified fence along the entire border, with a shark-infested moat. Since they aren’t doing this, we’d have to bomb them. But we would also have to bomb Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who could also be doing more to stop the flow of fighters and money from their territory to Sunni insurgents.

But, to be fully consistent, we couldn’t stop there. We would also have to bomb the United States.

As the Times reported the same day:

“American commanders are turning to another strategy that they acknowledge is fraught with risk: arming Sunni Arab groups that have promised to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda who have been their allies in the past.”

Those weapons could have other uses, the Times reported:

“But critics of the strategy, including some American officers, say it could amount to the Americans’ arming both sides in a future civil war. The United States has spent more than $15 billion in building up Iraq’s army and police force, whose manpower of 350,000 is heavily Shiite. With an American troop drawdown increasingly likely in the next year, and little sign of a political accommodation between Shiite and Sunni politicians in Baghdad, the critics say, there is a risk that any weapons given to Sunni groups will eventually be used against Shiites. There is also the possibility the weapons could be used against the Americans themselves.”

So: if we arm Sunni insurgents, as we are apparently doing, and those weapons are used to attack American troops, as they apparently might be, would we have to bomb ourselves in retaliation?

Of course, there is a way to make sense of this. You have to cast aside the silly notion that this is about logic or evidence or morality or international law. You have to see this as a question of raw power. We’re the most powerful country in the world, and what we say goes, and that’s all there is to it, and if anyone challenges us, we have to smash them.

There’s no question that this way of thinking still has wide appeal in the United States, inside Washington and out. You can find it on Mount Lieberman or right-wing talk radio any time you want.

But here’s the problem, even casting morality, logic, evidence, and international law aside: that’s the kind of thinking that led to the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place. That’s the kind of thinking that got more than 3500 U.S. soldiers killed and more than 25,000 wounded. Our way or the highway. It’s not just wrong. It’s not in the interest of the majority of Americans. One thing is certain: that way of thinking will not get us out of Iraq.

Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst and National Coordinator at Just Foreign Policy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

‘President’ Lieberman: A Cautionary Tale

by Robert Scheer
Published on Wednesday, June 13, 2007 by

What if Al Gore had won the 2000 presidential election but died in office? Would President Joe Lieberman have been worse than George W. Bush? His recent actions suggest that he could have descended even lower in his illogical and immoral responses to the tragedy of 9/11. Although now an independent, Lieberman provides a cautionary tale for folks who talk of backing “any Democrat” who can win.

At a time when even President Bush has recognized the need for negotiations with Iran in order to stabilize Iraq, where disciples of Tehran’s ayatollahs have risen to power, thanks to the U.S. occupation he fervently supports, Lieberman urges war with Iran. “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” he told CBS on Sunday, “and to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran.”.......

......Having fallen for the Iranian plot to gain control over Iraq, Lieberman now seeks to undo the damage by invading Iran. He is apparently unaware of public warnings that key Shiite leaders in Iraq would take up arms again in support of their co-religionists across the border. Indeed, the Iranian arms being smuggled into Iraq that Lieberman complains about are going to the Shiite militias dominating America’s surrogate government in Baghdad.

Bush seems to grasp this reality, which is why the United States is now negotiating with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, leaving Lieberman to play the role of a hawkish critic of an administration he apparently feels has lost its enthusiasm for yet another disastrous invasion. This is a man whom leading Democrats, including Bill Clinton, supported in his primary campaign against an intelligent Democrat who sought to end the Iraq nightmare.

But, as those “any Democrat is better” apologists will likely argue, Lieberman, as president, would have conducted the occupation in a more measured manner, sensitive to civil liberties and other enlightened concerns. That conceit was also smashed on Monday, when Lieberman voted against holding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales accountable for sabotaging the federal judiciary. At a time when Arlen Specter and six other Republicans voted to advance a no-confidence vote, Lieberman supported the attorney general, who may well be remembered most for his consistent support of torture.

No surprise there, given Lieberman’s previous apologies for this administration’s assault on the rule of law. Indeed, even after the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib, Lieberman was able to find a bright spot, noting that “those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, never apologized.”

Great. So we are now to be comforted by exceeding the standard set by Osama bin Laden. Lieberman also failed to acknowledge in his statement that the perpetrators of 9/11 had nothing whatsoever to do with Iraq before the invasion. The same can be said for Iran—but that does not quiet Lieberman’s cry for wider war.

Robert Scheer is editor of and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle

A world without oil

Scientists challenge major review of global reserves and warn that supplies will start to run out in four years' time
By Daniel Howden
Published: 14 June 2007,
Another cheery article from the Independent

Scientists have criticised a major review of the world's remaining oil reserves, warning that the end of oil is coming sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit.

BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, published yesterday, appears to show that the world still has enough "proven" reserves to provide 40 years of consumption at current rates. The assessment, based on officially reported figures, has once again pushed back the estimate of when the world will run dry.

However, scientists led by the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, say that global production of oil is set to peak in the next four years before entering a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way that we live our lives.

According to "peak oil" theory our consumption of oil will catch, then outstrip our discovery of new reserves and we will begin to deplete known reserves.

Colin Campbell, the head of the depletion centre, said: "It's quite a simple theory and one that any beer drinker understands. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it's gone."

Dr Campbell, is a former chief geologist and vice-president at a string of oil majors including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and ChevronTexaco. He explains that the peak of regular oil - the cheap and easy to extract stuff - has already come and gone in 2005. Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says.

This scenario is flatly denied by BP, whose chief economist Peter Davies has dismissed the arguments of "peak oil" theorists.

"We don't believe there is an absolute resource constraint. When peak oil comes, it is just as likely to come from consumption peaking, perhaps because of climate change policies as from production peaking."

In recent years the once-considerable gap between demand and supply has narrowed. Last year that gap all but disappeared. The consequences of a shortfall would be immense. If consumption begins to exceed production by even the smallest amount, the price of oil could soar above $100 a barrel. A global recession would follow.

Jeremy Leggert, like Dr Campbell, is a geologist-turned conservationist whose book Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis brought "peak oil" theory to a wider audience. He compares industry and government reluctance to face up to the impending end of oil, to climate change denial.

"It reminds me of the way no one would listen for years to scientists warning about global warming," he says. "We were predicting things pretty much exactly as they have played out. Then as now we were wondering what it would take to get people to listen."

In 1999, Britain's oil reserves in the North Sea peaked, but for two years after this became apparent, Mr Leggert claims, it was heresy for anyone in official circles to say so. "Not meeting demand is not an option. In fact, it is an act of treason," he says.

One thing most oil analysts agree on is that depletion of oil fields follows a predictable bell curve. This has not changed since the Shell geologist M King Hubbert made a mathematical model in 1956 to predict what would happen to US petroleum production. The Hubbert Curveshows that at the beginning production from any oil field rises sharply, then reaches a plateau before falling into a terminal decline. His prediction that US production would peak in 1969 was ridiculed by those who claimed it could increase indefinitely. In the event it peaked in 1970 and has been in decline ever since.

In the 1970s Chris Skrebowski was a long-term planner for BP. Today he edits the Petroleum Review and is one of a growing number of industry insiders converting to peak theory. "I was extremely sceptical to start with," he now admits. "We have enough capacity coming online for the next two-and-a-half years. After that the situation deteriorates."

What no one, not even BP, disagrees with is that demand is surging. The rapid growth of China and India matched with the developed world's dependence on oil, mean that a lot more oil will have to come from somewhere. BP's review shows that world demand for oil has grown faster in the past five years than in the second half of the 1990s. Today we consume an average of 85 million barrels daily. According to the most conservative estimates from the International Energy Agency that figure will rise to 113 million barrels by 2030.

Two-thirds of the world's oil reserves lie in the Middle East and increasing demand will have to be met with massive increases in supply from this region.

BP's Statistical Review is the most widely used estimate of world oil reserves but as Dr Campbell points out it is only a summary of highly political estimates supplied by governments and oil companies.

As Dr Campbell explains: "When I was the boss of an oil company I would never tell the truth. It's not part of the game."

A survey of the four countries with the biggest reported reserves - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait - reveals major concerns. In Kuwait last year, a journalist found documents suggesting the country's real reserves were half of what was reported. Iran this year became the first major oil producer to introduce oil rationing - an indication of the administration's view on which way oil reserves are going.

Sadad al-Huseini knows more about Saudi Arabia's oil reserves than perhaps anyone else. He retired as chief executive of the kingdom's oil corporation two years ago, and his view on how much Saudi production can be increased is sobering. "The problem is that you go from 79 million barrels a day in 2002 to 84.5 million in 2004. You're leaping by two to three million [barrels a day]" each year, he told The New York Times. "That's like a whole new Saudi Arabia every couple of years. It can't be done indefinitely."

The importance of black gold

* A reduction of as little as 10 to 15 per cent could cripple oil-dependent industrial economies. In the 1970s, a reduction of just 5 per cent caused a price increase of more than 400 per cent.

* Most farming equipment is either built in oil-powered plants or uses diesel as fuel. Nearly all pesticides and many fertilisers are made from oil.

* Most plastics, used in everything from computers and mobile phones to pipelines, clothing and carpets, are made from oil-based substances.

* Manufacturing requires huge amounts of fossil fuels. The construction of a single car in the US requires, on average, at least 20 barrels of oil.

* Most renewable energy equipment requires large amounts of oil to produce.

* Metal production - particularly aluminium - cosmetics, hair dye, ink and many common painkillers all rely on oil.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Veterinarians in the Second Grade

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Ms Grindrod's classroom to talk with the kids in her kindergarten class about being a veterinarian. I always love doing it. The kids are into it. Animals are cool! And the teachers are into it. Which is really cool. I liked that Ms Grindrod got the kids all involved. We had a good time!

Today I was invited to Ms Jackson's second grade class at Lapham. She had worked with her class to learn about important things like animal overpopulation, what veterinarians do, what pet ownership is really all about, puppy mills, etc. The kids even made their own "vet bags" which they all proudly displayed. The teacher had prepared a veterinary examination sheet which frankly rivaled what we actually use in Vet School.(I took the exam sheet back to the show to some of my vet friends at the School and they were impressed) And even more impressively to me, the kids had raised almost $600 for the Dane County Humane Society. The kids got a tour and a chance to hand over the donations they'd collected. Ms Jackson had the kids hand over the money as individuals, so they would get individual credit, which I thought was cool.

They asked a lot of good questions. I passed around some items of interest that I'd collected from Dick, my boss at the Vet School. I had a lot of fun.

And most importantly, what I realized after visiting these two classrooms, is that teachers like these will NOT ALLOW a child to BE left behind. They impressed me by the way they passionately challenge their students. Teachers that do that change lives. For the better.

The hateful little hollow man in the oval office doesn't get this. He never will. But more and more people do. These visits have given me some hope.

Monday, June 11, 2007

NCLB 2.0: Can the Federal Government EVER Do Anything Rght for Eduction?

No Child Left Behind Lowers The Bar on School Reform
by Bruce Fuller
Published on Monday, June 11, 2007 by The San Francisco Chronicle

President Bush seems a bit frantic as he campaigns for swift renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act, eager to salvage a late-inning win on the domestic policy front. He recently dropped into a Harlem charter school by helicopter, urging the Congress to pass No Child 2.0, no questions asked. Bush’s education secretary, Margaret Spellings, pitched pithy remedies on a satirical news show. Washington simply needs “to expect more of our kids,” Spellings said to the incredulous host, Jon Stewart.

But despite the Bush administration’s orchestrated theatrics, the bipartisan coalition that crafted the original No Child law in 2001 is splintering badly, an unsettling development for those who count on Washington to help equalize educational opportunity in America. The first real test comes this month when Sen. Edward Kennedy — Bush’s odd bedfellow on both education and immigration reform — intends to rally his congressional committee to move forward No Child’s 1,100-page bundle of centralized school reforms. But sharp criticism is growing louder and from unexpected corners.

Speaking before thousands of cheering teachers in Washington last month, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., agreed that federal activism is required to boost the schools, “but not the kind of accountability that the NCLB law has imposed. The tests have become the curriculum instead of the other way around.”

Former President Bill Clinton then sharpened the attack on No Child’s holy grail — standardized testing — speaking to the nation’s local school boards in San Francisco. “You don’t need to test every child, every year,” he said. A nationwide poll out late last month revealed that just more than two-thirds of all parents with school-age children believe that No Child should be rewritten or simply killed by the Congress.

Still, Bush insists that “the No Child Left Behind Act is working,” as he proclaimed during his New York visit, running counter to the evidence.

Federal officials track children’s learning curves in reading and math in each of three grade levels. Since No Child was approved, just one of these six trend lines has inched upward: fourth-grade math. The other five plots have gone flat or simply fallen. Progress in narrowing achievement gaps also has stalled, after closing markedly in the 1990s.

California students continue to inch upward within elementary schools. But Sacramento officials — feeling enormous and unrealistic pressure to move all pupils toward proficiency under No Child — tinker with state tests. After the state’s third-grade scores failed to rise, test designers were nudged to make the questions a bit easier.

The aging Democratic bulls, including Kennedy and House Education Committee chair, U.S. Rep. George Miller of Martinez, risk perpetuating a costly and disappointing schools policy if they jump at the chance to cut a deal with Bush while failing to confront No Child’s deep flaws.

Some testing experts, for instance, support Mr. Clinton’s alternative.

Yearly exams given to every student are not essential in gauging how schools or student subgroups are performing over time. Federal monitoring of achievement gaps should continue, but it doesn’t necessitate the huge chunks of time spent on test preparation that No Child now requires. Most surreal, No Child has pushed many states to lower, not raise, the bar that defines whether students test at “proficient” levels, given Washington’s wishful mandate for universal proficiency.

Many states in response have simply lowered the hurdle that defines proficient student achievement. Texas claims that 79 percent of its fourth-graders are proficient readers; in California, where the bar is set higher, just 46 percent of all students are deemed proficient. In turn, Washington declares more schools as failing, because smaller shares of pupils clear the bar in states like California that set high standards.

States are adapting to Byzantine mandates from Washington. But governors and state school officials also game the system to create the illusion of rising achievement. So, its important to fix No Child in ways that retain a forceful yet surgical federal role. We certainly need a single benchmark for tracking student achievement over time.

Another monumental challenge facing the Congress is how to help states attract able and motivating teachers to work in flagging schools. But irrationality prevails again in No Child. Washington only credits schools for lifting students over the proficiency bar. This penalizes poor children — and those who teach them — who have much farther to climb to clear the hurdle than kids in better-off communities. Inner-city teachers quickly see their schools being slammed for being guilty on one count: trying to serve poor children.

Congressional Democrats may opt this summer for a middle ground, legislating a new effort to recruit and reward high-quality teachers while slowing down to judiciously work through the weaknesses of the larger No Child law. Such teacher legislation could finance crisp incentives to attract and retain the best teachers in urban schools. What’s key for congressional Democrats is to avoid cutting an expedient deal with Bush. Instead, the Congress might first pass bipartisan legislation to enrich the teacher workforce, then move carefully to shape a federal role that truly lifts the schools.

Bruce Fuller, a sociologist at UC Berkeley, recently published “Standardized Childhood,” (Stanford University Press, February 2007).

Christian Business Directory, Part 1

While watching my son do his karate class, I saw some copies of the Christian Business Directory in a nearby rack. A sign said, "Free, take one". So, curious, I did. I decided sharing it with blog world might be amusing. I want to say up front that I do not mean to demean Christians that are trying to live in a Christ-like manner. And there may be many of those in this book. I am making fun of the people who CALL themselves Christians, but do hatefull things to gays, call for "just" wars, preach hatred and racism, blow up abortion clinics...........well, you get the picture.

So with that disclaimer aside, let's take a look! Opening the book I came across an ad which read "Would you be interested in a product that rewards you for attending Church?" Intrigued I read on. The ad told me that GuideOne Insurance has that product. They include both auto and homeowners policies , with "additional benefits to help protect active church attenders", such as:

---benefits that help cover tithing

---Double the medical payments for church-related losses (what does this mean?)

And my personal favorite: Special discounts for nonsmokers, nondrinkers and pastors....

Next, I found myself drawn to the "Church not as Usual: Saturday Night Alive" page. According to the ad, this church has a healing school, concerts, Inspirational teaching and a "cappuccino bar". "I'll have a communion Latte' to go, please!" Wonder if they have free WiFi?

Then there were the Christian septic pumpers. Ahh, the possibilities. How WOULD Jesus pump out a septic tank? Many of the ads have their own Bible passages. The septic people didn't, much to my disappointment! (If anyone has any bible passages that might be useful to the septic people, I'd love to hear them. Thanks) Well, if I've offended anyone, I am sorry. Please pray for me.

Coming in Part 2: Christian Attorney's!!!!!!

Of the People, by the People, for the People.....

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Majority Democrats in the Senate are forcing their Republican colleagues on the record about whether embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should keep his job. (ahhh, they are so.......brave?)

No one is predicting that a symbolic resolution expressing no confidence in Gonzales will survive even the test vote>(huh? What's with this test vote thingy?) Monday. Most Republicans are likely to vote no, dismissing the whole exercise as a ploy to embarrass President Bush.

At a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, the last stop on a weeklong visit to Europe, the president reaffirmed his support for Gonzales, a longtime friend and legal adviser.

"They can have their votes of no-confidence but it's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government," Bush said Monday. "This process has been drug out a long time. ... It's political."

If Congress was doing its job, Bush and Cheney would have been impeached long ago and Gonzales would be working for someone else. But Congress, both Democrats and Republicans are busy with "test votes" and "advisory votes". Nothing like sticking your necks out And since when did it become Bush's government? And they call it democracy.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Music Review: The Motor Primitives

I just enjoyed and energetic set of music by the Motor Primitives down at Madison's Annual Lakefront festival. I really wasn't sure just what to expect, having heard one tinny track on my computer. All I'd heard was that their bass player could really rock.

The band looked like it wss having a lot of fun. The female lead singer was good, had the perfect voice for some of the songs, but got covered up by the intruments on others. Sound mixing issue? The guy on keyboards looked like he was having fun. The drummer was very capable.

The bass player was awesome. Nice hat. Never missed a beat. Excellent. (Can You say "eggamuffin"? Of course you can!) Sorry, private musician-type joke.

All in all, I highly recommend that you see this band.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Top Democrats Discuss Faith (but Not Impeachment, of course)

by Mike Dorning
The Chicago Tribune 6-05-2007

Three leading Democratic presidential candidates on Monday offered a glimpse of the role that religion plays in their private and political lives, from the faith that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said helped her endure the humiliation of her husband's public infidelity to the model that Sen. Barack Obama said he finds in Lincoln's presidency for reconciling war and Christian faith.

Clinton described taking solace in prayer and her religious convictions as she continued in her marriage with President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"I am very grateful that I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought," she said.

The New York senator addressed the affair -- which she rarely discusses -- at the prompting of CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien, host of a forum on faith, values and poverty featuring Clinton, Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"I'm not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith," Clinton said. "I take my faith very seriously."

The forum, aired on CNN and sponsored by Sojourners/Call to Renewal, an evangelical Christian organization that emphasizes progressive social causes, was intended to provide voters a greater insight into the values that inform presidential candidates. It also offered each of the three candidates an opportunity to show a more personal side. The candidates were interviewed separately in 15-minute segments.

Monday's forum comes as the Democratic candidates have been more actively courting religious voters than in the past. In the last presidential election, President Bush forged a strong connection with conservative evangelicals and Catholics while Democratic nominee John Kerry rarely spoke of his Roman Catholic faith and was caught in a controversy with his church's hierarchy over abortion rights.

This year, some of the Democratic candidates have built campaign operations to reach out to religious voters. Obama, a member of the United Church of Christ, and Edwards, a Southern Baptist, have unveiled Web sites devoted to faith and moral values. Clinton, a Methodist, plans to do the same.

Edwards, who has proposed an ambitious set of anti-poverty programs that he says would eliminate poverty in 30 years, portrayed the plight of the poor as a stark test of religious convictions.

"It is the great moral issue of our time," Edwards said. Later, he added, "Whatever happens in this presidential campaign, as long as I am living and breathing, I will be out there fighting with everything I have to help the poor in this country."

Obama, when asked whether "God is on the side" of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, turned to Lincoln's admonition that even in a war for just causes a nation must be wary of acting unjustly. (so his faith values say there IS such a thing as a just war....)

Obama called the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, "evil" acts but, without naming Bush, clearly criticized the president's frequent characterizations of the U.S. struggles in the Middle East as a war against evildoers. (but did he mention impeachment??)

"The danger of using good versus evil in the context of war is it may lead us to be not as critical as we should be about our own actions," said Obama. He cited prisoner abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib that "all of us should be ashamed for" and the "unjust" detention without charges at Guantanamo.

There were also personal questions. The audience of religious leaders gasped when O'Brien asked Edwards to name his "biggest sin," a question he fended off by noting "I sin every day. We are all sinners."

(Isn't keeping impeachment off the table a sin, Senator, like maybe one of the biggest? If you believe in sin, that is?)

Language Taken Hostage

"They have taken language hostage. We wanted numbers but this is bureaubabble. ... It is not real in any language. We are looking for accountable language and numbers. I might be a rock star but I can count."

- Bono, denouncing G-8 leaders for a lack of timelines and other substantive details in their recent pledge to fight AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. (Source: Reuters)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Vet School Being a Bit………Pretentious?

Saturday, June 16 is the big multi-class reunion event sponsored by the School of Veterinary Medicine, here in Madison. As an alum, I kind of felt like I should go, but hadn't really articulated my distaste until a friend, who works in the Vet School asked me if I was going. No, I said.

Why, she asked? I said its $58 a person----- plus I don’t have a date, I added! She laughed at my feeble atttempt at humor and told me that my class, the class of ’96, was particularly underrepresented. I said it's $58 per person for hors d'ouveres and a number of "special presentations" (ie, endless speeches). The "gala" is taking place at The Edgewater which is a swanky hotel and restaurant here in Madison. I asked her if there were any low expense or free events planned. Nope, she said. I feel this would attract more alums than a pretentious “dinner”. Plus, we’re not getting any real entertainment for our $58. No Jerry Seinfeld. No Motor Primitives (famous local band). Not even an Elvis impersonator. Now I would much rather hang out at the Memorial Union with my friends and classmates, swapping stories, laughing (and crying), catching up. You know, being real! Knowing my classmates, I think most of them would enjoy the same.

A big reason the Vet School is holding this gala is to raise money for the Susan Hyland Fund. I think the money is going to be used for scholarships for vet students. A worthy cause. I have no quarrel with that. Dr Hyland did a lot for the school, so I don't really have a problem with that, either. However, I do feel angry that the Vet school is putting so much effort and money into this when they seem un-interested in building up the so-called “indigent fund”. This is a fund that has been available for clients whose pet needs a $400 MRI or an expensive surgery, or a simple consultation with a highly qualified specialist, but can’t afford it. In the words of the Chief of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital: “we haven’t done much with that fund for a long time". Why not? When I spoke with the school’s fund raising person about the fund, she listened politely, but acted like I had a bad case of head lice. Clearly what I was asking was not to be found in her job description.

But instead we’re being asked to spend a lot of money, get dressed up (always difficult for a fashion-challenged person such as myself), then sit at little round tables talking with people we don't know very well. My friend reminded me that the reunion is taking place on Father’s Day weekend, which she thought might explain the low attendance. Fathers Day? I think hanging out with Poodledoc, Jr will be more real. It will certainly be more fun. And..........he won’t care if I get dressed up!

Weather: The New House of Horrors

Is it just me or is the weather becoming part of the entertainment world? Yeah, I remember talking about the weather and all that, still a "fabric" of discussion. No, I don't mean that.

I'm talking about things like the Weather Channel. Computer weather maps and forecasting. All those pretty weather maps and the pretty people that point at things and read the teleprompter. All the Live Channel 4 Super Doppler Storm Team Weather Lab stuff. Sounds impressive. Weather is cool. Weather is hip. Weather is scary. We can't control it. It's like Godzilla!!! Run for your basements.

But then it becomes ingrained in our psyche's as a fear. So for instance today, my son was going to stay after school to do some homework, but they sent all the kids home early because of the POSSIBILITY of severe thunderstorms. Same thing happens in winter. Oh my God, we're supposed to get hammered tonight. On the bus today, I heard someone talking about the wind getting up to 100 miles per hour. Funny how the velocity creeps up during the day. I'm all for accurate predicting of weather and that, but it feels like it's gotten way out of hand. Instead of helping, it sends people into a panic. Just what we need: more fear. As if all those color coded "alerts" aren't enough......

Of course, if my windows blow out tonight, I'll be eating these words........

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Holy Cow! Cubs Win!

Well, the Chicago Cubs finally won after losing 6 (or was it 8) games in a row, all in the most pathetic ways possible.

And during the game, none of the players got into fist fights.

No umpires had dirt kicked on their shiny shoes.

No hats were thrown. At least not by players or managers.

There are 110 games left.

A World Championship is still within their grasp.

As Gandalf said, "There's always hope". Gandalf must have been a Cub fan.

Venezuela and the Media: Fact and Fiction

by Robert W. McChesney & Mark Weisbrot
Published on Friday, June 1, 2007 by

To read and view the U.S. news media over the past week, there is an episode of grand tyranny unfolding, one repugnant to all who cherish democratic freedoms. The Venezuelan government under “strongman” Hugo Chavez refused to renew the 20-year broadcast license for RCTV, because that medium had the temerity to be critical of his regime. It is a familiar story.

And in this case it is wrong.
Regrettably, the US media coverage of Venezuela’s RCTV controversy says more about the deficiencies of our own news media that it does about Venezuela. It demonstrates again, as with the invasion of Iraq, how our news media are far too willing to carry water for Washington than to ascertain and report the truth of the matter.

Here are some of the facts and some of the context that the media have omitted or buried:

1. All nations license radio and TV stations because the airwaves can only accommodate a small number of broadcasters, far fewer than the number who would like to have the privilege to broadcast. In democratic nations the license is given for a specific term, subject to renewal. In the United States it is eight years; in Venezuela it is 20 years.

2. Venezuela is a constitutional republic. Chavez has won landslide victories that would be the envy of almost any elected leader in the world, in internationally monitored elections.

3. The vast majority of Venezuela’s media are not only in private hands, they are constitutionally protected, uncensored, and dominated by the opposition. RCTV’s owners can expand their cable and satellite programming, or take their capital and launch a print empire forthwith. Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own.

Now consider the specific facts of RCTV as it applied to have its broadcast license renewed.

The media here report that President Chavez “accuses RCTV of having supported a coup” against him. This is a common means of distorting the news: a fact is reported as accusation, and then attributed to a source that the press has done everything to discredit. In fact, RCTV - along with other broadcast news outlets - played such a leading role in the April 2002 military coup against Venezuela’s democratically elected government, that it is often described as “the world’s first media coup.”

In the prelude to the coup, RCTV helped mobilize people to the streets against the government, and used false reporting to justify the coup. One of their most infamous and effective falsifications was to mix footage of pro-Chavez people firing pistols from an overpass in Caracas with gory scenes of demonstrators being shot and killed. This created the impression that the pro-Chavez gunmen actually shot these people, when in fact the victims were nowhere near them. These falsified but horrifying images were repeated incessantly, and served as a major justification for the coup.

RCTV then banned any pro-government reporting during the coup. When Chavez returned to office, this too was blacked out of the news. Later the same year, RCTV once again made all-day-long appeals to Venezuelans to help topple the government during a crippling national oil strike.

If RCTV were broadcasting in the United States, its license would have been revoked years ago. In fact its owners would likely have been tried for criminal offenses, including treason.

RCTV’s broadcast frequency has been turned over to a new national public access channel that promises to provide programming from thousands of independent producers. It is an effort to let millions of Venezuelans who have never had a viable chance to participate in the media do so, without government censorship.

The Bush Administration opposes the Chavez government for reasons that have nothing to do with democracy, or else there would be a long list of governments for us to subvert or overthrow before it would get close to targeting Venezuela. Regrettably, our press coverage has done little to shed light on that subject.

Our news media should learn the lesson of Iraq and regard our own government’s claims with the same skepticism they properly apply to foreign leaders. Then Americans might begin to get a more accurate picture of the world, and be able to effectively participate in our foreign policy.

Robert W. McChesney is a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. (