Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will Bush Cancel The 2008 Election?

by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis
Published on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 by CommonDreams.org

It is time to think about the “unthinkable.”

The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.

The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don’t know.

But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.

The real question is not how or when they might do it. It’s how, realistically, we can stop them.

In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor’s mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.

In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a hundred different tactics used to steal the 20 electoral votes that gave Bush a second term. More are still surfacing. As a result of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit (in which we are plaintiff and attorney) we have now been informed that 56 of the 88 counties in Ohio violated federal law by destroying election records, thus preventing a definitive historical recount.

As in 2000, a compliant Democrat (John Kerry) allowed the coup to proceed.

For 2008 we expect the list of vote theft maneuvers to escalate yet again. We are already witnessing a coordinated nationwide drive to destroy voter registration organizations and to disenfranchise millions of minority, poor and young voters.

This carefully choreographed campaign is complemented by the widespread use of electronic voting machines. As reported by the Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others, these machines can be easily used to flip an election. They were integral to stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Efforts to make their source codes transparent, or to require a usable paper trail on a federal level, have thus far failed. A discriminatory Voter ID requirement may also serve as the gateway to a national identification card.

Overall, the GOP will have at its command even more weapons of election theft in 2008 than it did in Ohio 2004, which jumped exponentially from Florida 2000. The Rovian GOP is nothing if not tightly organized to do this with ruthless efficiency. Expect everything that was used these past two presidential elections to surface again in 2008 in far more states, with far more efficiency, and many new dirty tricks added in.

But in Ohio 2006, the GOP learned a hard lesson. Its candidate for governor was J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Secretary of State was the essential on-the-ground operative in the theft of Ohio 2004.

When he announced for governor, many Ohioans joked that “Ken Blackwell will never lose an election where he counts the votes.”

But lose he did….along with the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney-General and US Senate.

By our calculations, despite massive grassroots scrutiny, the Republicans stole in excess of 6% of the Ohio vote in 2006. But they still lost.

Why? Because they were so massively unpopular that even a 6% bump couldn’t save them. Outgoing Governor Bob Taft, who pled guilty to four misdemeanors while in office, left town with a 7% approval rating (that’s not a typo). Blackwell entered the last week of the campaign down 30% in some polls.

So while the GOP still had control of the electoral machinery here in 2006, the public tide against them was simply too great to hold back, even through the advanced art and science of modern Rovian election theft.

In traditional electoral terms, that may also be the case in 2008. Should things proceed as they are now, it’s hard to imagine any Republican candidate going into the election within striking distance. The potential variations are many, but the graffiti on the wall is clear.

What’s also clear is that this administration has a deep, profound and uncompromised contempt for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the US Constitution. When George W. Bush went on the record (twice) as saying he has nothing against dictatorship, as long as he can be dictator, it was a clear and present policy statement.

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn’t they?

The groundwork for dismissal of both the legislative and judicial branch has been carefully laid. The litany is well-known, but worth a very partial listing:

The continuation of the drug war, and the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other dictatorial laws prompted by the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, have decimated the Bill of Rights, and shredded the traditional American right to due process of law, freedom from official surveillance, arbitrary violence, and far more.

The current Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, has not backed away from his announcement to Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus. The administration continues to act on the assumption that it can arrest anyone at any time and hold them without notification or trial for as long as it wants.

The establishment of the Homeland Security Agency has given it additional hardware to decimate the basic human rights of our citizenry. Under the guise of dealing with the “immigration problem,” large concentration camps are under construction around the US.

The administration has endorsed and is exercising its “right” to employ torture, contrary to the Eighth Amendment and to a wide range of international treaties, which Gonzales has labeled “quaint.”

With more than 200 “signing statements” the administration acts on its belief that the “unitary executive” trumps the power of the legislative branch in any instance it chooses. This belief has been further enforced with the administration’s use of a wide range of precedent-setting arguments to keep its functionaries from testifying before Congress.

There is much more. In all instances, the 109th Congress—and the public—have rolled over without significant resistance.

Most crucial now are Presidential Directive #51, Executive Orders #13303, #13315, #13350, #13364, #13422, #13438, and more, by which Bush has granted himself an immense arsenal of powers for which the term “dictatorial” is a modest understatement.

The Founders established our government with checks and balances. But executive orders have accumulated important precedent. The Emancipation Proclamation by which Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the South, was issued under the “military necessity” of adding blacks to the Union Army, a step without which the North might not have won the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order #8802 established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Harry Truman’s Executive Order #9981 desegregated the military.

Most to the point, FDR’s Executive Order #9066 ordered the forcible internment of 100,000 people of Japanese descent into the now infamous concentration camps of World War II.

There is also precedent for a president overriding the Supreme Court. In the 1830s Chief Justice John Marshall enshrined the right of the Cherokee Nation to sovereignty over its ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains. But President Andrew Jackson scorned the decision. Some 14,000 native Americans were moved at gunpoint to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 died along the way.

All this will be relevant should Team Bush envision a defeat in the 2008 election and decide to call it off. It’s well established that Richard Nixon—mentor to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney—commissioned the Huston Plan, which detailed how to cancel the 1972 election.

Today we must ask: who would stop this administration from taking dictatorial power in the instance of a “national emergency” such as a terror attack at a nuclear power plant or something similar?

Nothing in the behavior of this Congress indicates that it is capable of significant resistance. Impeachment seems beyond it. Nor does it seem Congress would actually remove Bush if it did put him on trial.

Short of that, Bush clearly does not view anything Congress might do as a meaningful impediment. After all, how many divisions does the Congress command?

The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would almost certainly rubber stamp a Bush coup. If not, like Jackson, he could ignore it as easily as he would ignore Congress.

What does that leave? There is much idle speculation now about what the armed forces would do. We also hear loose talk about “90 million gun owners.”

From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non-cooperation.

But we can certainly assume the mainstream media will give lock-step support to whatever the regime says and does. It’s also a given that those likely to lead the resistance will immediately land in those new prisons being built by Halliburton et. al.

So how do we cope with the harsh realities of such a Bush/Cheney/Rove dictatorial coup?

We may have about a year to prepare. Every possible scenario needs to be discussed in excruciating detail.

For only one thing is certain: denial will do nothing.

HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is at www.solartopia.org, along with SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030. The FITRAKIS FILES are at www.freepress.org (where this article was originally published), along with HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, which Bob and Harvey co-wrote.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

US cat 'predicts patient deaths'

Oscar meows in protest if removed from the room of a dying patient

A US cat that is reportedly able to sense when a nursing home's residents are about to die is baffling doctors.
Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

According to the author of an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-year-old cat has been observed to be correct in 25 cases so far.

Staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.

"He doesn't make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research, told the Associated Press news agency.

Oscar was adopted as a kitten at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre.

The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients.

Although most families are grateful for the warning Oscar seems to provide, some relatives ask that the pet be taken away while they say their last goodbyes to their loved ones.

When put outside the room, Oscar is said to pace up and down meowing in protest.

Thomas Graves, a feline expert from the University of Illinois, told the BBC: "Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick.

"They can sense when the weather will change, they're famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes."

A doctor who treats patients at the home said she believed there was probably a biochemical explanation, rather than the cat being psychic. (and what do you believe?)

from The BBC Online, 7-29-07

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Potter sells out with record figures across the globe

By James Macintyre
Published: 24 July 2007, in The Independent Online

The seventh and final volume of Harry Potter has become the fastest-selling book in history, with 11 million copies sold in three markets within 24 hours, its publishers said yesterday. After its launch on Saturday, the eagerly awaited volume, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, flew off the shelves around the world.

In the UK, Bloomsbury said it sold a record 2.7 million copies in the first 24 hours, the final volume selling 700,000 more than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In the US, meanwhile 8.3 million sales were recorded in the first day, almost 1.5 million more than the previous instalment. It said 400,000 English-language editions of the book sold in Germany in the same period.

Harry Potter mania reached its peak over the weekend as millions queued overnight to get their hands on an early copy of the book, which answers those crucial questions after 10 years of twists and turns: who dies, and does Harry survive?

The book-seller Waterstone's said 250,000 people turned up at midnight on Saturday to queue for their copies. WH Smith said it had sold 15 of the books per second at 400 of its shops since they opened in the middle of the night. Asda said it had sold half of its stock, 250,000 copies, between midnight and 9am on Sunday.

JK Rowling, the author, has received almost exclusively rave reviews for her closely-guarded latest effort, after a relatively mixed reaction to her last six in the series, which sold 325 million worldwide. The Sun described it as "a classic good-versus-evil tale on a par with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy".

It is being released in 93 countries, with a print run of 12 million in the US and more than 2.2 million ordered in advance from the internet retailer Amazon.

Rowling, who gave a midnight reading at the Natural History Museum on Saturday night, said at the weekend: "All the secrets I have been carrying around for so long will be yours, too ... Those who guessed correctly will be vindicated, and those who guessed wrongly will not, I hope, be too disappointed!"

Bloomsbury said yesterday: "We're grateful to all our printers, distributors and retailers worldwide for the most astoundingly successful book launch ever, and to JK Rowling for the most triumphant close to a magnificent series."

Rowling, 41, was said to be worth £545m before latest sales. The author has expressed bemusement that some newspapers in the US released "spoilers" revealing critical elements to the plot. The New York Times reviewed the work before its official release. But this failed to dampen enthusiasm in the US for the latest chapter in Harry Potter's adventures. The president of Scholastic Trade and Book Fairs, Lisa Holden, compared the hysteria to that which greeted the Beatles' first visit to the United States.

She said children and adults had been united by the experience of reading the new volume.

Police in Bangalore seized hundreds of pirated copies of the cover of Deathly Hallows from a printing press and private house.

And Ladbrokes cut its odds on an eighth tale from 16-1 to 10-1 after a surge of bets.

Spell-binding sums

2.7million is the number of copies that the publisher Bloomsbury says it sold in the UK in the first 24 hours,

700,000 more than the previous volume Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Excellent Piece of Literature

Well, my Harry Potter vacation is over! I enjoyed it but will say no more since there are still people reading it. Sorry, Mr Ether! This book is WAY better than the DaVinci Code!

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Harry Potter: The Terror of the Ending"

I'm about one third of the way through the Harry Potter book and of course more and more people (including Mrs Ether's daughter) have reportedly finished the book. I live in a kind of scary place where I might overhear the ending. Even Poodledoc, Jr, 10 chapters ahead of me, is making all sorts of apparently meaningful, dramatic noises and watching me squirm, much to his delight.

I have a friend who snatched a kid's book away from him the other night, read the ending, and called me up threatening to tell me the ending if I didn't mow her grass. It's getting out of hand. I need to hide but have to go to work. Oh, the horror. The horror.

PS. If anyone reveals the ending on this blog. I will have them confunded.I'm serious. Really. Well, sort of......

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Taking a Harry Potter Vacation"

I just picked up my copy of the new, and supposedly final Harry Potter novel. I've had a busy day and finally got around to reading past the William Penn quote on the first page, which is sort of about death and remembrance. I'm in chapter 5 and there's been a lot of death. Looks like the bad guys are winning. Is Dick Cheney a "Death Eater"? Perhaps that will be the surprise ending.

Anyway, my posts may be scarce as I work my way through this vital new piece of fine literature. (cough, cough)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stop the War, Show Some Guts, Herb

Not once in this letter does he say how he voted on the various measures, what part he played in the debate, and what he's going to do about it. Even Feingold says how he voted on these things. What a load of crap! For me, Herb Kohl is what the Democratic party has become. Gutless.
July 20, 2007

Dear Dr.Poodledoc:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the war in Iraq. As you can imagine, on a topic such as this, many people take the time to write to me. Please be aware that I am listening to all Wisconsinites on this critical topic. (no, you are not listening and I'm wasting my time contacting you, ya think?)

The President has misused and abused his authority to go to war in Iraq and failed to adequately plan for the post-war situation. (Really?)

......In late 2006, the President announced his intention to deploy over 20,000 soldiers to Iraq to quell the ongoing violence, most of which were deployed to Baghdad. I heard little in the President's strategy that sounded encouraging. (Really?).........

Over the last few months, the Senate debated several measures that would have directed the President to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq..........
..... Senator Harry Reid removed the defense authorization bill from the floor to be reconsidered later this year, at which point Congress will resume debate on ways to end the war. (talk,talk, talk.........how many more people will die while the poor wittle senators have to stay up all night. Poor babies.)

.......Congress plays a vital role in the ongoing discussion of the war in Iraq, and as the debate continues on ways to end the war, I will keep in mind your strongly held beliefs. (But what's your belief?)


Herb Kohl
U.S. Senator

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter vs Lord Waldemart

For those few detractors out there who feel Harry Potter is just a useless distraction for children, or a time-waster when kids could be reading well-written literature like Terry Pratchett, here's something Harry's doing that Sam Vimes hasn't even thought about:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Feingold: Overcooked Pasta?

by Dave Lindorff

Published on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 by CommonDreams.org

In a diary entry on DailyKos, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), one of the most consistently progressive liberals in the Senate, surrendered to the Democratic Party Establishment, with an embarrassing string of lame and tired excuses for not standing for impeachment of the Bush/Cheney regime.

Feingold, who once took the lead in opposing Bush’s and Cheney’s abuses of power and their undermining of the Constitution with a censure motion filed in the Senate, wrote in the DailyKos diary that while he agreed that Bush and Cheney “may well have” committed “impeachable offenses,” he nonetheless did not support impeachment.

His reasons offered for this bizarre turnabout sounded suspiciously like “talking points” from the Democratic Leadership Council, or from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Feingold says he worries about “The great deal of time multiple impeachment trials would take away from the Congress working on the problems of the country.” But he fails to address what problems Congress is actually working on, or what problems it can even try to work on. The list is embarrassingly short. In fact, aside from the tiny and almost meaningless increase in the federal minimum wage that was passed as kind of “blood money” attached to the $120-billion Iraq War funding bill, there is nothing Congress has done in the last six months. And there is nothing they can do, because Bush can veto anything significant that the Democrats manage to pass, and even if he can’t veto a bill, he can kill it with a signing statement, unless Congress impeaches him for his refusal to enact laws.

Feingold says “the time it would take for the House to consider articles of impeachment, and for the Senate to conduct multiple trials would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to do what it was elected to do - end the war and address some of the other terrible mistakes this Administration has made over the past six and a half years.” Hey Russ! Wasn’t Congress also elected by Americans who wanted to restore respect for the Bill of Rights and the rule of law? Also, remember that the whole Clinton impeachment process took all of four months-not a particularly long time. And again, without impeachment “on the table,” Congress has done nothing to end the war in over six months, and it has not been able to do anything about addressing those “terrible mistakes” of the Bush administration.

Mistakes? We’re talking about crimes here; not mistakes!

Feingold claims to be concerned about the “overuse” of impeachment. That’s rich! Because Republicans clearly misused impeachment to go after President Clinton on a minor issue, Feingold is willing to let Bush and Cheney slip away with crimes that have led to the pointless deaths of almost 4000 Americans and over 600,000 innocent Iraqis? What is this man thinking? He’s comparing Clinton’s lie about a marital infidelity with Bush’s ordering of torture? With his authorizing of kidnappings and secret international gulags? With the elimination of the 700-year-old foundation freedom from illegal incarceration known as habeas corpus? With massive secret illegal spying on Americans?

It’s hard to believe these words are even coming from a man who only a year ago was out front calling for censure of the president by the Senate. If this president and vice president are not prime impeachment bait, Feingold and his colleagues should just vote out a Constitutional Amendment removing the impeachment clause, because it will never be used again.

Feingold tries to duck his leadership responsibility by claiming he has “a specific role to play as a sworn, impartial juror should an impeachment be tried in the Senate.” That, however, is nonsense. In no way does the Constitution state, nor did the Founders ever imagine, that senators in an impeachment trial would be impartial in the way that petit jurors in a criminal trial must be impartial. There is no jury selection process at which biased senators are removed from the trial. All senators, with all their political baggage, are automatically part of the “jury.” And they are understood to be political actors. Some would no doubt be swayed by the arguments made at trial by the House prosecutors at such a trial, if they open their minds, but they are understood to be political animals. Feingold is clearly being disingenuous here.

He has a role to play. As someone who understands the grievous crimes of this administration, Senator Feingold should be pressing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop blocking impeachment. He should be following the honorable and courageous path being paved by California Senator Barbara Boxer, who told the Speaker that “no one can take impeachment off the table,” and who warned that the U.S. is “closer to dictatorship than it has ever been in history.”
One would have thought Feingold would be making the same charge, but something has turned this once honorable and courageous Senator to moral and intellectual mush.

I remember, when Sen. Paul Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash, thinking, “Well, at least we have Russ Feingold.”

That was then. This is now. What would Sen. Wellstone be doing today? Certainly he wouldn’t be ducking his responsibility to stand up in defense of the Constitution as Feingold is doing. He’d probably be traveling the country, giving rousing speeches at impeachment events.

Russ, wake up! You can’t fight Bush and Cheney with bills, and they’ve made it clear you can’t investigate them with committees and subpoenas. These two power-crazed criminals and Constitution wreckers are thumbing their noses at you and all your colleagues on both sides of the aisle. They’re laughing right now at your pathetic cop-out.

There is only one possible avenue of counter-attack against these guys: impeachment.

We who are pushing for impeachment would like to have you on board, fighting for the Constitution with us, as you pledged to do when you took your oath of office, but if you are going to cave and play the cynical and cowardly game of Pelosi and the gang of corrupt leaders of your party, we’ll just have to do it without you.

And you’ll have to face your next election without us.

Dave Lindorff’s most recent book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

Tomorrow, July 18, is Nelson Mandela's birthday. I don't know how old he is going to be. Tomorrow is also my birthday. There, the similarities pretty much end!

I have mixed feelings about my birthday. I mean, I like to celebrate with Poodledoc, Jr over a good meal. But I miss my dad because in 2002 he died on my birthday. I'm not wallowing here, it's just a mixed emotion kind of day for me. I think, though, it gives me a day to quietly celebrate my life and also his life. If he was still alive he'd be 81. He survived polio in high school, but not 50 years of smoking. Sigh.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bubbling Potato Abundance, Part 2

So last night the potatoes tasted wonderful and the beans were fantastic. Poodledoc, Jr and I had a feast. During supper, I remembered and tried to hold in the Light the people in this world who do not have this abundance. On the farm, we give extra to the food bank, which is great. But it seems like a drop in the bucket. I struggle with this and feel a sadness for the people who don't have enough to eat. I guess a small comfort is to realize that I am, along with others, making my own food and not buying as much pre-packaged stuff. And I've learned more about taking care of the land, the soil and that is so prescious.

Apprently, that part of Wisconsin grows a fair bit of tobacco. It puts much-needed cash into the hands of farmers living on the margin. Yesterday, we were sorting part of our HUGE garlic crop in the old tobacco drying shed. It's hard to settle with the fact that significant amounts of tobacco are grown on the surrounding land. A crop that makes people sick, rather than fresh produce that makes people healthy. John, one of the owners of the farm shared his dream of filling the tobacco dryinng sheds with garlic, replacing the tobacco. I've carried that dream in my mind since then. I like the image of reclaiming something good.

I also like the image of the United States converting it's army into an agricultural army, taking the money wasted on weapons and using it instead to help people grow their own food. Many people will scoff at this idea. Does that mean they've given up at some level? I don't think it means they don't care, necessarily. We do the best with what we're given in life. Feeling guilty doesn't get a person anywhere. It doesn't help things to grow. Being mindful of the inequalities in the world and doing at least one small piece to change that is something that matters.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bubbling Potato Abundance

This morning I was out at Zephyr Farm, an organic farm coop that I have enjoyed working with for many years. Today was, among other things, potato harvest. I got to drive the tractor pulling the ancient, rusted but very effective potato digger thing behind, while John and his oldest daughter, Skye did all the hard work of unclogging the potato digger. The machine works like a giant shovel which digs into the ground UNDER the taters, pushing them to the surface but first they must travel on the back part of the potato digger which is a large conveyor belt that transports the spuds up and up while the soil gets shaken off, then drops them into the soft bed of soil behind. Its like they bubble up out of the ground. I can look back over the row and see them, hundreds of red or yellow potatoes, like I'm laying eggs. I took home over 20 pounds. Now some of them are here with me tonight, bubbling in some water. Yum! What abundance and richness. I feel very rich tonight, in spite of my student loan balance! And the best thing is, I can give them away to my friends! Share the wealth!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More on Bootstraps........

Horatio Alger, Jr. (1834-99) was a prolific writer of dime novel stories for boys. From the debut of his first novel, Ragged Dick, in 1867, Alger was instrumental in establishing a new genre of dime novels known as the 'city story.' The genre arose out of the wide-spread urbanization that followed the Civil War and paralleled the rise of industrialism. Alger's stories heroicized the young street urchins living in poverty among large, urban centers such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. With uncommon courage and moral fortitude, Alger's youths struggle against adversity to achieve great wealth and acclaim. These rags to riches stories were enormously popular with the public and flourished in the decades from 1870 to 1890. (hmmm, the idea lives on, and on, and on.......)

Alger's stories continued to be reprinted well after his death.

Was there anything in these books about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? Is this the American Dream? Puuuhhhhllleeeeezzz!

(borrowed from somewhere on the Web. If this offends you, it's not my fault)

Monday, July 9, 2007

FGC Closing Worship Message

At the closing worship Meeting at the FGC Gathering, there were several powerful messages. One woman stood up, said she was a Quaker from the town of River Falls. She described witnessing two parades coming by her house in the past week. One, she said, inspired her. The other caused her great pain.

The first parade consisted of a unit of the local National Guard, marching off to their Iraq deployment. She described how an army truck led the "parade" and towards the end, there was a soldier who appeared to be in "distress". Two of his fellow soldiers were helping him along, encouraging him. An army truck brought up the rear. (at this point in her message, the word "herding" came to mind)

The second parade passed by her house on July 4th. It was a group of Quakers carrying signs against the war. She said it hurt her because she felt it ignored the humanity of the troops that "have to go to Iraq while their families try to hold it together".

I tried to hear her words, that anti-war signs can be very painful and all to the troops and their families. That this war is hard for families and soldiers. I think there's a small grain of truth there. But as the death toll for US troops and Iraqis continues to climb. As the country is devastated with cluster bombs, white phosporous and starvation. It's clear to all but the murderers in our government, that the war must end. The war there (as with every war, really) is founded on lies to make people like Dick Cheney rich. And send millions of innocents to their deaths. And send thousands, millions of soldiers to die for what? A "noble cause"? Makes me so sick...

And what if more and more troops said NO, and stayed home to be with their loved ones? And what if Bush, Cheney and their ilk were impeached and had to actually face the horror they have brought to this world? Yes, her message brought up pain for me, too. However, if a few protest signs cause pain, it's time to look that pain in the face and speak out, act against this war. Can you say "impeachment"?

One F/friend said it simply and well: "I hear how painful this is for her. But the war is just plain wrong!"

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Quote

"We have to step out of this charity model, and as nonprofits, we have to start being involved in the political discourse. Hunger's not about food."

- Robert Egger, anti-hunger activist, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, and recent recipient of the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award. (Source: The Washington Post)

FGC, Home After Some Good Pie

Got home yesterday (Saturday) after some good pie with other Quakers at the Norski (Norske?)Nook. Both my son and I were tired, hot and crabby. Not surprising. We unpacked, ordered a pizza and watched the Cubs, who won 7-1 over the Pirates. Arrr!

What a week. The last workshop was interesting, challenging and fun. We told jokes for about 45 minutes. Then Richard, the leader, talked for a bit. He said that he "did more touching" this time around rather than "calling out people's spiritual gifts". He hoped that was ok. I liked his touch. It felt gentle and healing. Then he proceeded to call out my spiritual gift. It was humbling and a little embarrassing. It was basically that my gifts come from my wound(s) and that I am able to be aware of people's feelings, but have trouble because I tend to "take them on". What he meant is that I need to "have better filters" as he put it, which goes back to my earlier post about how to help/accompany a person on their healing path without taking on, internalizing, their painful feelings. I found it humbling because I'm not sure what to do with his comments and embarrassed because he only "called out" my gifts, mentioned no one elses. And I believe that everyone in that circle has tremendous gifts.

I am trying to hear his comments, not try to figure them out. I am trying to let them "settle", which is a Quaker term that I very much like. It means something like-----when you aren't sure which way to go with some very intense information or a decision, that's ok. Slow down. Let go and let God. Find the good in it and let things bubble to the surface. Don't try to force things. Pay attention to nudges from the Spirit. It was an intense, powerful ending to a week of an intense, powerful workshop. But its always a letdown to come home and do the dirty laundry and be crabby. But I'm human and full of contradictions and confusions. Plus its hot.

Now it's good to be home. Poodledoc, Jr and I are sitting around as the temperature soars. The two dogs are lazing about. Its supposed to hit 97 today. Don't think we'll make the dog park today. Need a quiet day at home. Would like to go see the new Harry Potter movie. But everyone else in town (with the possible exception of Luminiferous Ether) will be there so think I'll stay away from the crowds.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

FGC, Thursday, 8pm

A busy, fun day. The workshop was wonderful as usual. I asked the general question: "How do I (and others) assist someone going through a hard time, or tough decision/life choice type of thing and not take on the weight of the person's pain? And if you do take on their pain, how do you ground that or release that so you don't feel exhausted?" (Two questions, sorry) Many ideas came forth from the group. One woman showed me a grounding exercise I could do. Some people bathe in lemon juice or shower in vinegar. (I am not making this up. These are people I trust and they say it works for them. Who am I to doubt them?) I have not tried these things as yet. Others said that what I could do was accompany the person and not try to "fix things", which is something I have tendency to do. Another person reminded me that I am not the person who's doing the healing, that it's only through the Light of God that healing happens. So, I can be a channel for God/Goddess/Light/Divine energy. I've experienced that in my veterinary work.

I went to a distressing yet fascinating exhibit called "Traces". It's about German-American Internment during WW2. General George Marshall (you know, the guy that cooked up the Marshall Plan) concocted this plan to kidnap German-Americans from America and many Latin American countries, put them into camps here, for use in exchanges with the Germans or Japanese. These humans would be exchanged for "American Nationals" held prisoner by those evil Japanese and German warmongers. People were taken away in the night. A large number of these German-Americans were sent back to Germany, many of them being Jewish. No one will ever know if they were sent to their deaths in the camps there. So this is one of the precedents for keeping the "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo. Possibly until they die, it seems. The US government has imprisoned it's own citizens, other country's citizens and well........pretty much everyone has been "victims" of the US government. The blue prints for Auschwitz are still available. All that would be needed at Gitmo would be gas chambers and a few crematoria. Voila'! The Final Solution appears again. As it has already in so many places since the Second World War and before that. And way before that.

During the Second World War, German prisoners of war worked on my dad's farm in Nebraska, had plenty of food, no fences, other than the ones for pigs and cattle. Some of them even got to eat in restaurants, while the black people could only eat in back if they could eat there at all. Why does this all keep repeating? I'm still struggling with God's plan. How does this fit? I still believe in God but what's the deal?

Then Mrs Ether, Grace Ether and Poodledoc, Jr climbed into her car for a trip to the Franconia Sculpture Gardens, just over the border in Minnesota. Well, we basically got lost, had some fun and frustration but after a quick cell phone chat with Mr Ether, we were able to use our trusty GPS system (aka a Wisconsin road map) to locate the Garden. It was funky, spooky and beautiful. Did I say it was odd? Well it was odd? But it was fun. We were a little late getting back so had to do the drive thru at DQ. Luckily, they were serving Dilly-Foo burgers (that's their new health-conscious tofu burger). Poodledoc, Jr opted for the Dilly-Foo Chili Dog, which he said was simply a "taste treat". Then he and Grace went off swimming and I ran to the Gathering Bookstore for one more "fix". I'm a book junkie. And I'm not recovering.

Feeling good but tired. Tomorrow's the last full day of the Gathering. Then home to Madison. Poodledoc, Jr is really missing his mom and his wonder dog, Lenny. I'm really missing my dog, but looking forward to seeing him and re-arranging my apartment now that my roommate is gone.

And...............the Cubs are only 5 games behind the Brewers. At last my prediction that the Cubs will win the World Series is coming true! (of course, I predict this every year and predictably, the Cubs fold at some point during the season. But I'm a hopeful person. Not delusional. Hopeful!)

FGC, Wednesday night, 10pm

In spite of the general anger and depression about the pardon of poor old “Scooter” Libby, Poodledoc, Jr’s play, “The Neighbor” was a huge success! Based on the picture book, “The Girl Who Outshone the Sun”, the kids had painted wonderful, brightly colored props for the story. Poodledoc Jr. made a boy, who he carried on stage while his friend, Grace Ether paraded her wing-flapping mosquito. Luckily, there weren’t many of the real ones around. Following the performance, Poodledoc, Jr and I visited the DQ and walked the main street of River Falls. Not much to see. Jr’s quest for a book store was in vain. Now to read and sleep.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Independence Day for Libby

by Robert Scheer

Whatever happened to “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” which allows tough-love conservatives to cheerfully sentence petty criminals to incarceration? Suddenly, no prison time for perjury and obstruction of justice is termed by this president to be a “harsh” penalty, because I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby will suffer enough with his reputation “forever damaged.” Poor baby.

We will see just how damaged his reputation is as Libby comes to be celebrated on the right-wing lecture circuit with fees that will easily cover his wrist-slap of a fine. Can agents with the promise of an Ollie-North-style talk show be far behind? Once again, we have an example of politicians championing the slogans of law and order-until the criminal is one of their own, at which point they suddenly become bleeding-heart liberals eager to ease the pain of the misjudged underdog. Blame the victim for Libby’s troubles; it was that outed CIA agent, Valerie Plame, who made him do it. Who told her to be married to a guy who dared to publicly criticize Libby’s boss?

That’s the easiest explanation for President Bush’s commutation of the Libby sentence, but there is an even more odious possible cause for the president cutting loose his friend, the felon, hours after a unanimous appeals court panel ordered Libby to start serving his 30-month sentence. It’s that old chestnut of honor among thieves: They didn’t want Libby to have any incentive to squeal on higher-ups. Libby was never more than the fall guy whose usefulness to the prosecutor was that he was a lower-level scoundrel in a position to turn in his White House superiors.

The obstruction-of-justice and perjury charges of which Libby was convicted do not involve some minor technicality or even a non-crime as alleged by Mitt Romney: “I believe that the circumstances of this case, where the prosecutors knew that there had not been a crime committed, created a setting where a decision of this nature [Bush’s decision] was reasonable.” How odd that a leading Republican presidential candidate doesn’t consider perjury and obstruction of justice to be crimes. But what he probably had in mind was the original focus of the investigation: to determine if government officials had participated in the outing of Plame as a means of discrediting her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had dared to criticize Bush’s now totally discredited reasons for invading Iraq.

Precisely because prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was stonewalled in his investigation by Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice, we have no way of knowing whether that more serious crime was committed. Romney and others who are apologizing for the administration are in the position of accepting the word of a convicted perjurer as to the intent of his conversations with reporters and his insistence that his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, was not involved in his shenanigans.

It is, however, inconceivable, from everything we have learned of Cheney’s operating style, that his chief of staff ever did anything, other than order lunch, without consulting with the vice president. That certainly goes for the nefarious activities that got Libby in trouble with the law in this instance. We do know, from a solid body of published insider memoirs, that Cheney was the key figure within the administration in pushing the Iraq invasion, and that he remains determined to this day to deny that there was any tampering with intelligence data in making his case for war.

We also know that it was Cheney, more than anyone else in the White House inner circle, who sought to counter criticism of the president, and that he was outraged that Wilson had gone public with his criticisms when Cheney and others in the administration continued to knowingly disseminate false information. That was the case concerning the bogus Niger yellow cake uranium acquisition by Iraq which the CIA had dispatched Wilson to investigate and which he, along with others, easily discounted.

Cheney certainly had a motive for wanting to destroy Wilson’s credibility, which was the purpose of those leaked stories suggesting that Wilson-who had previously been honored by President George H.W. Bush for standing up to Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Gulf War-had gone to Niger on a joyful junket, and that his subsequent critique of the administration’s perfidy was politically motivated.

What was politically motivated was the outrageous behavior of the vice president’s chief of staff in the denigration of a dedicated civil servant and the president’s rewarding that convicted liar with a commutation of sentence, effectively ending the pressure on Libby to ‘fess up.

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

FGC, Wednesday Afternoon at 4pm: What kind of animal is Gumby, anyway?

Lots of tired parents today. And tired kids. Poodledoc, Jr and I had one of those "parent-child moments" where crabbiness "takes the wheel". He went off to practice his play with the puppets that the kids put together with Heart of the Beast theater. He's excited about the play, I think. They will perform it tonight in front of the entire Gathering. I think it's early to bed tonight. Tomorrow a swim and we may go to a sculpture "garden" recommended by Mr Ether himself.

The healing workshop was wonderful and intense. Five more people asked to be held in the Light for one thing or another. It was almost equally powerful and healing to be in the circle, sending loving energy to the person in the middle. There was a time in my life when I would have sneered at this, but the feeling of energy moving around the room was palpable and wonderful. The Spirit was doing good work.

The workshop leader, Richard, checked in with me before the workshop, to see how I was doing. He told me he thought I should take an animal or two home to protect me if Duke, my dog wasn't around. So I picked Gumby (what kind of animal is Gumby, anyway?) and Tony the Tiger. Somehow, that felt soothing, funny, but not ridiculous.

I left the workshop feeling light but grounded. My healed foot is getting a lot exercise, but feels great at the moment.

Poodledoc, Jr and I tried to squeeze in a rest, but obviouly it wasn't enough!

At around 5, a few of us folks are meeting with a F/friend who also, apparently, had a wounding this week. He wants us to help "anchor" him. I hope I can be present for him.

FGC, Tuesday, Everything BUT Chili Dogs!

FGC, Tuesday night

So much today. It’s 10:30 and I’m exhausted. Will try to post this on Wednesday, the 4th

Worship for healing this morning.. I shared about a wound that had opened this past Saturday, during the opening Worship. I had been feeling very raw and grumpier than usual. I felt like I couldn’t safely share my hurt with my spiritual community. That was painful. I asked to be held in the Light. I entered the healing circle of folks and sat down in the center. Immediately felt a pleasant coolness surround me. I felt loved. I felt that everything would be ok. People came up and touched me, placed their hands on me, moved energy around and through my body. One person told me my wound is a gift, a spiritual gift. After my “turn” in the center, I returned to the circle feeling that the raw spiritual wounds that were open were starting to heal. My emotions felt balanced. The wound was still there but the pain was remote. I felt energized, hopeful, and good. Richard, the workshop leader, talks of “finding the good” in something or someone. As Quakers say: “That of God in everyone”. I felt like I found this in me today. A total of five individuals, myself included, sat in the center today.

I returned the blue bunny which I borrowed. Didn’t feel blue any more..

I sat at the local arrangements table this afternoon. I got some challenging questions about things like “Where can I find good Wisconsin cheese?” Luckily, my F/friend Rick was standing there and was able to discourse at length on cheese. I now call him the cheese wiz, but the joke’s getting old.

A woman, a healer, attending the workshop stopped me tonight and told me that while I was in the circle, being held in the Light, she had a vision of the yin and yang and how the little dots that are in the yin part and the yang part were moving. She offered that I might meditate on the meaning of all this movement in the yin yang. I thanked her for the gift.

Several of us had an impromptu discussion about the plenary speakers last night. It seemed like people I’d been talking with during the day had strong feelings………..generally it was the greatest thing since sliced bread or they hated it. We talked about what challenges there might be there for us. We talked about feeling judged. We talked about how young the speakers were, how they have much less life experience, although this doesn’t mean their wisdom is diminished. Just that their apparent clarity may not include the contradictions and difficulties life brings us all. I felt like some of the speakers were like salt poured into a raw wound. However, this discussion helped me to see things in a new light, to find the good in the speakers, while acknowledging things I disagreed with or felt uncomfortable about.

That same evening, I attended a workshop on Bayard Rustin by F/friend Steve. There were people there who knew Rustin or had met him. Steve did a fantastic job of facilitating the workshop. Many entertaining and moving stories were told about Bayard Rustin. I learned a lot. At the end, an older Quaker man, who knew Rustin, said he was upset that the “new book”, the Lost Prophet, “wanted to martyr him on two crosses, a gay one and a civil rights one”, and that there was “nothing” in the book about Quakersim. I have read this excellent book and disagreed. Many people were aroused by his comments, it seemed as a half dozen hands shot into the air. I wanted to say something, too but Steve said it best.. He commented that Bayard Rustin lived out his Quakerism. This Friend spoke my mind. Thanks.

Note to Mr Ether: I didn’t have a chili dog, nor did Poodledoc, Jr. However, I DID see the kids eating hotdogs, but that’s not the same thing. Obviously.

Monday, July 2, 2007

FGC Gathering, Monday Evening

Tiring day. Started out with Poodledoc, Jr, hitting the energy wall. He went to his workshop and I ran off to mine. During the opening worship of my workshop, I sent healing energy towards my son. I realized that he was in God's hands at that moment, that things would be ok. It took a load off my shoulders, knowing that God was looking after him.

My workshop was interssting. More on the life of George Fox, particularly his healing work. I sat down in the chair with the little blue stuffed bunny in it, 'cause I was feeling a little blue. I'd forgotten how nice it was to have a stuffed animal, since I abandoned all mine whe I got growed up. Then we broke into small groups to share healing experiences and jokes. When we got back together, we shared jokes and healing experiences. Tomorrow, we're doing a Meeting for worship for healing. I'm interested to do this. Interestingly, I had a pain in the neck at the start of the workshop, since the day had started out a little rough. My neck is where I store tension. Richard, the workshop leader, wanders the room as he and we talk. He stopped right behind me and put his hand gently on the exact spot where my neck felt like a knot. It relaxed. I took the bunny back to my room. It felt good, which may sound strange but it did. Then I took a long, long nap.


Kody Hersh speaking tonight. The man introducing her is very VERY solemn. As if he’s at a funeral. Dressed in black. Very, very odd and uncomfortable inside me. I remember Kody from last year’s Quaker Train. He was (and probably still is!)a very real, loving, unpretentious and joyful person. This fellow sounds like the guy from the Matrix, Morpheus: “What is real, Neo?” I know I sound a bit negative but he is talking so slow and so………….dramatically. Seems surreal to me.

The speaking will come out of silence and then move into open worship, he intones, and takes a seat. A relief to me..

Kody rises and sings a beautiful song. Speaks of transforming ourselves from doing good acts out of obligation to doing it out of a flow of constant service, born of love. There are always humans in need. We can help. We have the choice of compassion and love. Or obligation. Speaks with such clarity, joy and love. I can feel it here, in the last row.

Some of what he said that resonated with me:
So in the Good Samaritan story, do we always see ourselves as the compassionate Samaritan, not the person lying by the side of the road/ When we are in need, wwe are forced to see unexpected spiritual gifts in others.

What gifts can we see in our journeys if we open our eyes?

He talks of how in giving out love, nothing is lost. Much comes to the giver and the receiver. Both.

The second speaker was very challenging to me. I can't even write about her words yet. Maybe later. Now its off to get Poodledoc, Jr and then try to get to bed early. A friend wants a clearness committee on Wednesday to deal with some issues that came up for him today which were very hard and for which he wants loving support and help clarifying. So three or four of us will meet on Wednesday. This Gathering stirs up a lot for many of us. Well, off I go.....

Sunday, July 1, 2007

FGC Gathering, Sunday Evening

Got Poodledoc, Jr out of bed and made it to breakfast-----a minor feat. Then, I dropped him off at the “Justice” group and almost ran across to my workshop “Worship with Attention to Healing and Laughter”. There were about 20 people there, we introduced ourselves and the leader, Richard explained some of what we were going to do, told some stories of George Fox’s “miracles” where he performed healing on different folks over the years. I enjoyed myself, even though my cold is laying me low. As usual, its an interesting collection of people. The leader placed a variety of stuffed animals around the room for our enjoyment. He told us we could take them to our rooms, take them home, whatever. I noted that I had Gumby holding and “I love you” sign behind me plus two of the Seven Dwarves. I’m not sure which ones. Probably Dopey and Grumpy, the way I was feeling.

Had lunch and that was tiring. Waited in line for what seemed like hours. Very noisy. Feeling tired. So I went into the silent dining room. Very refreshing. Went to my room and took a nap. Then Tristan and his friend Alex returned from a rousing game of “Capture the Flag” and woke me up. So we sat around for a couple hours telling jokes and eating “healthy” snacks. We practiced telling tall tales----each trying to outdo the other and make theirs more ridiculous but still believable. It was fun. I felt refreshed. Off to dinner.

Dropped Poodledoc, Jr off at his evening activities. I bought him a cell phone so we could communicate over this larger-than-expected campus. That’s worked fine. What hasn’t worked fine is his strong tendency to play the games included on the phone. So he has been asked not to play the games outside of our room.

Off to a talk by Cecile Nyiramana in the field house. The theme of this Gathering is from the good Samaritan story in Luke………”but who is my neighbor”. Cecile is from Rwanda and works in reconciliation in the wake of the genocide. She started “Women in Dialogue”. Conversations between Tutsi survivors and Hutu “suspects”. Bringing enemies together. The genocide started in 1994. Hutu friends(I believe she is Tutsi) hid her under a bed during the 100 days of genocide while she was pregnant with their first child. During that 100 days, one million people were slaughtered. Men, women and children. Rwanda then. Darfur now. These events seem so over whelming. How can a benevolent God allow this to happen? Is this part of God's plan? How can God help us to halt and heal the genocide? I see God working through Cecile. Her dream is to build a “Village of Healing and Hope”, primarily for the widows and their children from both tribes.. What about hope? What about us? What does God want US to do?

At dinner tonight, I heard my son’s friend say “If global warming get so bad, we’ll all just kill ourselves, right?” I didn’t know how to answer him. Where do we find hope in a scary world? The speech has ended and I feel there is hope. How do I pass on this hope to my son? And others?