Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wrestling with an Angel

This passage really spoke to me this evening. Sitting on my backporch, enjoying the sun just catching the tops of the trees as it sets, with only the occasional snores of the poodle disturbing the silence.

"You are nourished by real experience far more than by the most precious words from the Bible and other devotional literature. Sitting in devotional silence seems hard. On occasion, silent waiting is like wrestling with an angel (as Jacob did), to wrest a blessing from the angel (not from a book!). On some days, the angel seems to be wrestling something from you: that something is a recognistion and acceptance by you of your own inner beauty and strength.

All the beautiful psalms and other heavenly verses came from a source of inspiration. When we insist on waiting on that Source for oursleves, until we "meet" it, then, at such time, what we feel and say and do comes freshly from that Source. By such first-hand experience, we understand how those heavenly verses came to be written. When we prepare to read them next time, we sit by the Source and understand them better than before."

passage from "A Little Journal of Devotions out of Quaker Worship: An experiment with 104 entries across two thousand miles", by Francis D. Hole and Ellie Schacter. Both authors, I believe, were members of Madison Monthly Meeting. I knew Francis, but not Ellie....

Fun with the Reptiles

I went down to the Orton Fest this afternoon to see Mr Ether play his bass in the Reptile Palace Orchestra. What I like about this group is that they are...............odd. And, they are excellent musicians who are a rock-klezmer fusion band. At least that's what I call 'em. They play great music and have a wildly entertaining stage presence. In fact, they introduced me to klezmer music. I need mention that I grew up Methodist and we had the traditional English and German hymns. Yawn. My grandmother died of boredom singing one of these hymns at her nursing home. Really.

Anyway, Duke Ellington (that's my Standard Poodle) and I arrived a bit late for the start of the set. We sat down for a rest. After a bit, we spotted Mrs Ether doing handwork with some friends. We went over and did some yacking. I saw lots of other friends. The sun was out for the first time in a week or so. I had planned to stay just for the Reptiles and then go home. I enjoyed their set. The band seemed more energetic than in recent memory. So we talked about Mrs Ether's plan of an alternative music festival in an east side park. Other people came and went. Lots of conversation and laughs. That was fun.

After a bit, I went up towards the front to see some other friends. There was an auction going on. My friends were very involved in that. I felt like we were all watching TV. Conversation was pretty much stiffled by the auctioneers. I couldn't make a connection with these friends. Felt like the energy was gone. I felt some sadness about this. So, after a time, Duke and I left and walked home past about a million garage sales. I managed to make it home without buying a book. Impressive.

God the Mosquito

Today in Meeting, God was like a mosquito, buzzing around. Definitely annoying me. Some would say this is not right. You're not supposed say funny or impolite things about God. Irreverant! But that's what was happening. The last time I was in Meeting, there was something that was coming in from God, a message. I was supposed to stand up and speak this message. I couldn't 'decode' what God was saying. I started twitching for a few seconds. Then all was still and I didn't have a clue. At least, that's what I told myself.

Today, God would not let the matter drop! God kept buzzing around inside. Very annoying. Or was that Poodledoc, Jr snoring next to me? No, definitely God. Drat! Alright, alright, what the heck am I supposed to say here, dude? You know what you need to say, was the answer from God. We wrestled for a bit. Back and forth. I resisted. God nudged, then pushed. But I dug in my spiritual heels. Me? Stand up and say what? You know what you need to say! It echoed around my head, down into my toes, out my nose. Still, I resisted. I said, look, God, I'm just not ready today. Really. Silence. Then a far off chuckle. You will be ready. Soon. Then the clerk broke silence and it was over. "Saved" by the bell. So, we'll see what happens next week. The fear is big.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

At the Tattoo Parlor

My son and I, off to get tattoos.
A lark.
A rite of passage.

We strip
and wrap ourselves in clean, white bath towels
from the waist down.

Joining a line
with thousands of men
and boys
trudging forward.

I wonder what to put in my tattoo.
My dog’s name?
Good idea.
A peace sign?
That would be cool.

I lose my son in the surge.
Moment of panic.
I find him talking loudly with some other boys
and begin to worry about the price
of this skin art.

We pass through heavy metal
Sudden wailing, screaming, moaning
crash into our ears.
Ultimate human pain.

The lights go out.
I lose my son.

I want to wake up from this dream
but don’t..

Friday, August 24, 2007

Robert Fisk: Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11

Published: 25 August 2007 in the Independent Online

Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the "raver". Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the "raver" is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a "raver".

His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you're a free journalist, don't you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don't you tell the truth – that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don't you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows – that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what "all the world knows" (that usually is the phrase) – who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the "raver" is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then – the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd – left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.

Usually, I have tried to tell the "truth"; that while there are unanswered questions about 9/11, I am the Middle East correspondent of The Independent, not the conspiracy correspondent; that I have quite enough real plots on my hands in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Iran, the Gulf, etc, to worry about imaginary ones in Manhattan. My final argument – a clincher, in my view – is that the Bush administration has screwed up everything – militarily, politically diplomatically – it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?

Well, I still hold to that view. Any military which can claim – as the Americans did two days ago – that al-Qa'ida is on the run is not capable of carrying out anything on the scale of 9/11. "We disrupted al-Qa'ida, causing them to run," Colonel David Sutherland said of the preposterously code-named "Operation Lightning Hammer" in Iraq's Diyala province. "Their fear of facing our forces proves the terrorists know there is no safe haven for them." And more of the same, all of it untrue.

Within hours, al-Qa'ida attacked Baquba in battalion strength and slaughtered all the local sheikhs who had thrown in their hand with the Americans. It reminds me of Vietnam, the war which George Bush watched from the skies over Texas – which may account for why he this week mixed up the end of the Vietnam war with the genocide in a different country called Cambodia, whose population was eventually rescued by the same Vietnamese whom Mr Bush's more courageous colleagues had been fighting all along.

But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed "research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver" bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard "explosions" in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.
But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose "Islamic" advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the "Fajr" prayer to be included in Atta's letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious "war on terror" which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East. Bush's happily departed adviser Karl Rove once said that "we're an empire now – we create our own reality". True? At least tell us. It would stop people kicking over chairs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

These Gooberheads are driving me crazy!

"[T]here's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] is the one obstacle to a democratic and friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran [would be] over. It's another neo-con delusion, but still it informs White House thinking. And what do we do if just the opposite happens — a strike on Iran unifies Iranians behind the regime? An administration official told me it's not even a consideration. "IRGC IED's are a casus belli for this administration. There will be an attack on Iran."

- Former CIA officer Robert Baer explains the administration’s reasoning for an attack on Iran. (Source: Time)

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Quaker Story: Our Day in the German Gestapo

One question for me as a Quaker and a human being is: how do I respond to the new Gestapo of the Bush Regime? Could these men in the story below have done more? Should they have done more? I read that there were something like 44 Quakers in Germany in 1933, when Hitler came to power. Over the course of the next several years, 28 left, but 63 joined. Even though the numbers are small, there's something hopeful about that. Most of these Quakers hid Jews in safety.

How does God want ME to speak truth to power? Raucous marches? Street theater? Letters to Congress? Voting? Meeting for Worship? All of the above? Should these men have marched in and demanded an end to the ever-increasing violence against the Jews? I struggle with this as I reflect on what constitutes action or non-action. Often I feel like I'm not doing enough. Sometimes I feel that sitting in Meeting for Worship isn't "doing enough". But Meeting for Worship helps me connect with the Spirit, which is a powerful act by itself. What comes next, after that connection, sometimes becomes more clear after Meeting.


And now, the story:

Sixty-two years ago, three Quakers, Rufus Jones, George Walton, and Robert Yarnall, representatives of the American Friends Service Committee, traveled to Germany in response to the Day of Broken Glass. On November 10, 1938, Jews in Germany were attacked, beaten, arrested, and their businesses and synagogues vandalized and burned. The shattered glass gave its name to the event.

Quakers, having carried out extensive relief work in Germany following World War I, decided to send the three-man delegation to Berlin to determine what might be done to meet the needs of those who were attacked. The three arrived and were greeted by a newspaper article written by Josef Goebbels, propaganda minister, who referred to them sarcastically as "three wise men."

After arriving in Berlin, it became apparent the three Quakers would have to discuss with the Gestapo whatever relief work they proposed to carry out. Through the good offices of the American consul general in Berlin, an interview was arranged, and the three Quakers proceeded to Gestapo Headquarters. They were received by what Rufus Jones described as two hard-faced men.

A Quaker statement had been drawn up and translated into German. Among other things it stated, "We do not ask who is to blame for the trouble which may exist or what has produced the bad situation. Our task is to support and save life and to suffer with those who are suffering."

The Gestapo representatives took the statement to share with their Chief Heydrich, later known as the Hangman of Czechoslovakia. During the period the two were absent from the room, the three Quaker representatives bowed their heads and held a silent meeting-probably the only Quaker meeting ever held in Gestapo headquarters.

When the Gestapo men returned, they indicated the Quakers would be allowed to bring relief to those who were suffering. The Quakers asked for this decision in writing, but the Gestapo men refused, saying the organization never gave anything in writing. "What will be the evidence?" the Quakers asked.

"Every word spoken in this room has been recorded, and the decision will be in the records," said the Gestapo men.

"We were glad then that we had kept the period of hush and quiet and had uttered no words for the record!" the Quakers reported later.

The Gestapo representatives indicated every police station in Germany would receive word that Quakers had been given full permission to investigate the sufferings of Jews and to bring relief as they saw necessary. It is unlikely the message was ever sent, but in other respects the promise made seemed to be kept, and the door was opened for some relief.

Perhaps the memory of past favors extended to the German people by Quakers had helped. Although the encounter clearly didn't change the Gestapo men's hearts or the course of history, Rufus Jones remarked that the men seemed to reflect a softer visage at the end of the meeting. They "shook our hands with good-bye wishes and with a touch of gentleness."

Researched and written by Jack Sutters, AFSC Archivist

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sometimes it takes a rainy day......

It's been raining for a couple of days. It's about 60 degrees. More rain on the way. Lots more. The Yahara River across the street is high, but I've lived here long enough now that I can say, "I've seen it higher". But today is a good rest day for me. I keep thinking of the Cris Williamson song with the line: "Sometimes it takes a rainy day, just to let you know, everything's gonna be........alright". That's how I feel today. Lot's of personal demons reared their ugly heads in the past week. The sleepover last night was fun, but I was tired this morning. So, I took a nap. Then up to read some more of the Kingsolver food book. Made some banana bread while listening to Simply Folk. In a while, I'll make some pesto and corn from the farm, plus a small salad, mostly from the farm. Hopefully, I can get Duke the Standard Poodle walked in between rain showers. But it's been a quiet day. Reconnecting with Spirit. Sometimes it takes a rainy day and some banana bread. I've needed this.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

“An Attempt to Deceive Americans Into Yet Another War”

by John Nichols
Published on Thursday, August 16, 2007 by The Nation

Dennis Kucinich may not be a front runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But the congressman from Cleveland has succeeded in distinguishing himself from the other contenders when it comes to speaking those truths that are self-evident.

And in an era of mass delusion and denial on the party of leaders in both major political parties, stating the obvious can be a radical act.

Such is the case with Kucinich appropriate answer to the latest move by the Bush-Cheney administration to ramp up hostilities with Iran. That move — the unprecedented attempt to label Iran’s 125,000-strong Republican Guard as a “specially designated global terrorist” group — is, as the congressman says “nothing more than an attempt to deceive Americans into yet another war — this time with Iran.”

No one who has paid even the slightest attention to the Bush-Cheney administration’s approach to Middle East affairs can doubt that Kucinich is right. Yet, his is a lonely voice of clarity amid the din of Democratic obfuscation that aids and abets this White House’s worst instincts.

“The belligerent Bush Administration is using this pending designation to convince the American public into accepting that a war with Iran is inevitable,” argues Kucinich.

“This designation will set the stage for more chaos in the region because it undercuts all of our diplomatic efforts,” he adds. Explaining that, “This new label provides further evidence for Iran’s leaders that there is no point to engage in diplomatic talks with the United States if our actions point directly to regime change.”

Delivering the response that should be coming from New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama and especially from Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he isn’t campaigning for president, Kucinich argued that, “Our nation is better served by demanding sensible and responsible diplomatic foreign policy initiatives from the Bush Administration.”

Kucinich, who has proposed impeaching Vice President Cheney for continually prodding the country toward an unnecessary war with Iran, may not get the political credit he deserves for calling out this administration. But history will recognize him as the man who sounded the alarm when the Bush administration moved America closer to the brink of disaster.

John Nichols’ new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.’”

History Repeating? The Old Iran-Contra Death Squad Gang

Published on Friday, August 17, 2007 by The Guardian/UK

by John Pilger
I walked with Roberto Navarrete into the national stadium in Santiago, Chile. With the southern winter’s wind skating down from the Andes, it was empty and ghostly. Little had changed, he said: the chicken wire, the broken seats, the tunnel to the changing rooms from which the screams echoed. We stopped at a large number 28. “This is where I was, facing the scoreboard. This is where I was called to be tortured.”

Thousands of “the detained and the disappeared” were imprisoned in the stadium following the Washington-backed coup by General Pinochet against the democracy of Salvador Allende on September 11 1973. For the majority people of Latin America, the abandonados, the infamy and historical lesson of the first “9/11″ have never been forgotten. “In the Allende years, we had a hope the human spirit would triumph,” said Roberto. “But in Latin America those believing they are born to rule behave with such brutality to defend their rights, their property, their hold over society that they approach true fascism. People who are well-dressed, whose houses are full of food, bang pots in the streets in protest as though they don’t have anything. This is what we had in Chile 36 years ago. This is what we see in Venezuela today. It is as if Chávez is Allende. It is so evocative for me.”

In making my film The War on Democracy, I sought the help of Chileans like Roberto and his family, and Sara de Witt, who courageously returned with me to the torture chambers at Villa Grimaldi, which she somehow survived. Together with other Latin Americans who knew the tyrannies, they bear witness to the pattern and meaning of the propaganda and lies now aimed at undermining another epic bid to renew both democracy and freedom on the continent.

The disinformation that helped destroy Allende and give rise to Pinochet’s horrors worked the same in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had the temerity to implement modest, popular reforms. In both countries, the CIA funded the leading opposition media, although they need not have bothered. In Nicaragua, the fake martyrdom of La Prensa became a cause for North America’s leading liberal journalists, who seriously debated whether a poverty-stricken country of 3 million peasants posed a “threat” to the United States. Ronald Reagan agreed and declared a state of emergency to combat the monster at the gates. In Britain, whose Thatcher government “absolutely endorsed” US policy, the standard censorship by omission applied. In examining 500 articles that dealt with Nicaragua in the early 1980s, the historian Mark Curtis found an almost universal suppression of the achievements of the Sandinista government - “remarkable by any standards” - in favour of the falsehood of “the threat of a communist takeover”.

The similarities in the campaign against the phenomenal rise of popular democratic movements today are striking. Aimed principally at Venezuela, especially Chávez, the virulence of the attacks suggests that something exciting is taking place; and it is. Thousands of poor Venezuelans are seeing a doctor for the first time in their lives, having their children immunised and drinking clean water. New universities have opened their doors to the poor, breaking the privilege of competitive institutions effectively controlled by a “middle class” in a country where there is no middle. In barrio La Línea, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day’s school. “I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers,” she said. One night in barrio La Vega, in a bare room beneath a single lightbulb, I watched Mavis Mendez, aged 94, learn to write her own name for the first time.

More than 25,000 communal councils have been set up in parallel to the old, corrupt local bureaucracies. Many are spectacles of raw grassroots democracy. Spokespeople are elected, yet all decisions, ideas and spending have to be approved by a community assembly. In towns long controlled by oligarchs and their servile media, this explosion of popular power has begun to change lives in the way Beatrice described.

It is this new confidence of Venezuela’s “invisible people” that has so inflamed those who live in suburbs called country club. Behind their walls and dogs, they remind me of white South Africans. Venezuela’s wild west media is mostly theirs; 80% of broadcasting and almost all the 118 newspaper companies are privately owned. Until recently one television shock jock liked to call Chávez, who is mixed race, a “monkey”. Front pages depict the president as Hitler, or as Stalin (the connection being that both like babies). Among broadcasters crying censorship loudest are those bankrolled by the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA in spirit if not name. “We had a deadly weapon, the media,” said an admiral who was one of the coup plotters in 2002. The TV station, RCTV, never prosecuted for its part in the attempt to overthrow the elected government, lost only its terrestrial licence and is still broadcasting on satellite and cable.

Yet, as in Nicaragua, the “treatment” of RCTV is a cause celebre for those in Britain and the US affronted by the sheer audacity and popularity of Chávez, whom they smear as “power crazed” and a “tyrant”. That he is the authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed. Even the description of him as a “radical socialist”, usually in the pejorative, wilfully ignores the fact that he is a nationalist and social democrat, a label many in Britain’s Labour party were once proud to wear.

In Washington, the old Iran-Contra death squad gang, back in power under Bush, fear the economic bridges Chávez is building in the region, such as the use of Venezuela’s oil revenue to end IMF slavery. That he maintains a neoliberal economy, described by the American Banker as “the envy of the banking world” is seldom raised as valid criticism of his limited reforms. These days, of course, any true reforms are exotic. And as liberal elites under Blair and Bush fail to defend their own basic liberties, they watch the very concept of democracy as a liberal preserve challenged on a continent about which Richard Nixon once said “people don’t give a shit”. However much they play the man, Chávez, their arrogance cannot accept that the seed of Rousseau’s idea of direct popular sovereignty may have been planted among the poorest, yet again, and “the hope of the human spirit”, of which Roberto spoke in the stadium, has returned.

· The War on Democracy, directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger, will be shown on ITV on Monday at 11pm.

John Pilger has been a war correspondent, film-maker and author, and has twice won British journalism’s highest award, that of Journalist of the Year. He has also been named International Reporter of the Year, and won the United Nations Association Peace Prize and Gold Medal. For his broadcasting, he has won France’s Reporter Sans Frontieres, and television academy awards in the United States and Britain. He holds the prestigous Sophie Award for “thirty years of exposing deception and improving human rights”.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cubs in August, Part 2

I don't generally listen to sports radio. I mean, sometimes it's moderately entertaining to listen to a couple guys yelling at each other about curveballs, but I can pick up a Three Stooges dvd anytime. However, tonight I accidentally turned on some sports radio that follows all Cub games on the Chicago station, WGN, that carries them. Here's the deal. The Cubs won 12-4, they are only a half game out of first place! True, they haven't been playing well (no,I won't use the word "suck" since some of my loyal readers find this objectionable). Anyway, Cub fan after Cub fan would call into this show and moan about some "REASON" the Cubs are a lost cause. It's like they can't deal with success. They can't deal with the team being a half game out of first place. From the weary, broken down voices, I know that they, like me, have had our hopes crushed in August. So I know where they're coming from. I really do.

Then the manager, Lou Piniella, in his first year as the Cub's manager said, "Even though we've sucked in the past two weeks, I think it's great we're only a half game out of first". I admit I get little flutters of hope in my heart when I hear Lou say this, but then I remember: he's only been here for a half-season. He's still an optimist. But isn't that what being a Cub fan is all about? Being optimistic in the face of obviously impending disaster?

It's the middle of August. I think there's still hope.

Monday, August 13, 2007


My son reached sleepover age a couple of years ago. For a variety of reasons, mostly because I never had enough space, Poodledoc, Jr's mother had the honor of hosting them at her house. I used to chuckle smuggly to myself about this. TOO BAD I can't host the sleepover, I'd say to her. (I am SO witty) Can I help it if I live in a phone booth?

However, since the recent departure of my roommate, I now have enough space-----for a SLEEPOVER!!!! OH, NO! Two (or more) adolescent boys at MY house. Where will they sleep? Ah, tent in the backyard? (um, don't really have a backyard) Garage? (gotta do something about that wasp problem) Basement storage room (hey, at least it's cool)? Back porch off my room? (NOT!) My son's room? (Bingo!!!) How many adolescent boys can you fit in one small room? A frightening thought. Sort of like how many adolescent boys does it take to change a light bulb: Answer--Only one, but it'll take him just a minute.....

Well, it will be an adventure, I'm sure. I always laugh at those parents out there (and you know who you are!) who expect their child to be functional the day after a sleepover. I'm not one of THOSE parents!!! But I do know this, I won't be functional. Good NIGHT, boys......

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Why coyotes?

Introduction to Native American Tricksters

by K. L. Nichols

In the Native American oral tradition, the vulgar but sacred Trickster assumes many forms. He can be Old-Man Coyote among the Crow tribes, Raven in northwestern Indian lore, or, more generically, "The Tricky One" (such as Wakdjunkaga among the Winnebago or Manabozho among the Menomini), to mention just a few of his manifestations.

As will be suggested by the tales below, Trickster alternately scandalizes, disgusts, amuses, disrupts, chastises, and humiliates (or is humiliated by) the animal-like proto-people of pre-history, yet he is also a creative force transforming their world, sometimes in bizarre and outrageous ways, with his instinctive energies and cunning. Eternally scavenging for food, he represents the most basic instincts, but in other narratives, he is also the father of the Indian people and a potent conductor of spiritual forces in the form of sacred dreams.

Here is a short summary of a Nez Perce tale of Coyote as Creator-father, as told by Terri J. Andrews.

Coyote and the Monster
A long, long time ago, people did not yet inhabit the earth. A monster walked upon the land, eating all the animals--except Coyote. Coyote was angry that his friends were gone. He climbed the tallest mountain and attached himself to the top. Coyote called upon the monster, challenging it to try to eat him. The monster sucked in the air, hoping to pull in Coyote with its powerful breath, but the ropes were too strong. The monster tried many other ways to blow Coyote off the mountain, but it was no use.
Realizing that Coyote was sly and clever, the monster thought of a new plan. It would befriend Coyote and invite him to stay in its home. Before the visit began, Coyote said that he wanted to visit his friends and asked if he could enter the monster's stomach to see them. The monster allowed this, and Coyote cut out its heart and set fire to its insides. His friends were freed.
Then Coyote decided to make a new animal. He flung pieces of the monster in the four directions; wherever the pieces landed, a new tribe of Indians emerged. He ran out of body parts before he could create a new human animal on the site where the monster had lain. He used the monster's blood, which was still on his hands, to create the Nez Percé, who would be strong and good.

Both a creator of order out of chaos and a destroyer of order which represses creative energies, an animal being and a spiritual force, Coyote is contradictory and ambiguous, as can be seen in Barre Toelken's description of the Navajo conception of Coyote: "There is no possible distinction between Ma'i, the animal we recognize as a coyote in the fields, and Ma'i, the personification of Coyote power in all coyotes, and Ma'i, the character (trickster, creator, and buffoon) in legends and tales, and Mai, the symbolic character of disorder in the myths. Ma'i is not a composite but a complex; a Navajo would see no reason to distinguish separate aspects" (quoted from "Ma'i Joldloshi: Legendary Styles and Navajo Myth" in American Folk Legend, 1971).

Whatever else he may be, Trickster is also a SURVIVOR who uses his wits and instincts to adapt to the changing times. He still appears in many guises in modern Native American literature, sometimes as the trickster outwitting the whites or as the shaman-artist in Gerald Vizenor's post-modern hybrid world of native lore and contemporary technology

Don't Apologize for Your Passion

It was great going to Quaker Meeting this morning. True, there were a lot of messages, which I sometimes find disruptive to my silence. Well, its not MY silence. I guess God had a lot to say this morning and I'll leave it at that. For that is what I've come to understand about this morning. I don't control the messages. Sure, I'm human, I have reactions that are sometimes, ahem, un-Quakerly. There, I confess! But it's God's deal, not mine.

But I had a different kind of reaction to a member who spoke after Meeting had risen, the time when "almost messages" are shared. This man spoke with great emotion about the horrendous rise in poverty in Dane County, where we live. He asked the Quaker Meeting to take a greater role in helping to counter this accelerating slide of our people into poverty. At the end he said, "I apologize for my passion", and sat down. I was moved and challenged by his message. I was also disturbed by his apology. It's one thing, I suppose, to apologize for being boastful. It's quite another thing to apologize for being passionate about something. After we'd adjourned for social time, I approached this F/friend and told him he did NOT need to apologize for his passion. He laughed, and, I think, appreciated my remark. We have to encourage each other to speak or act our passions. In a creative, growthful, sometimes challenging way.

I see this "apology" often in myself or others. We close our passions off from only our closest friends. I find myself wanting to apologize for showing emotion. I see other's do it, too. A person might be an excellent and passionate writer. Or speaker. Or computer geek. or knitter. or scientist. or speaker. or artist. or cook. The list is endless.

Yes, it's good to be humble. But apologize for being passionate? I do NOT think so!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

coyote poem #3

Got home from the party and wandered out onto the porch with my laptop.
Coyote was sitting in the ugly white and yellow metal chair, reading one of my Buddhist books (upside down), and picking with one claw at one of the chair's many rust patches.
So, you’re a Buddhist, now, eh? I asked him, slightly annoyed.
Maybe, he replied, eyes closed in deep meditation, it seemed.
Maybe I’m a spiritual chameleon, he added, with a wink.

Hey, coyote, I have a question about love?
Really? he said., raising one eyebrow

Lay it on me, kiddo!

I was wondering, coyote, how far can love travel?

That’s easy,
Said coyote.

Love, travels as far as you want
But only after some practice, he added.

Like, if you loved this ugly chair, you'd paint it.

Coyote, it's a CHAIR? How the hell am I supposed to love a chair? That's not what I was talking about and YOU KNOW IT!

Gotta start somewhere, he said.

Tacky Housewarming Gift Contest: Results?

A fun party tonight. Lots of really nice folks. The competition for tacky gifts was pretty stiff. One of the neighbors gave the hostess a tombstone that had the word "Father" carved into it. They apparently found it in their backyard. Another neighbor gave her all the toxic lawn chemicals, now banned, that the previous owners had left in his house. They had "Agent Orange" among these bottles and cans. Then there was the singing Chihuahua and the Sax Playing Santa. Lots of odd underwear-related gifts. Then, last but not least, the sex toys. Blush, blush. There were only a couple of these.

My tacky gifts didn't win in any of the formal tacky categories. I did, however, win the "freestyle" competition. My prize was a lint brush. Life is good.

The Cubs in August

I’m a Cub fan. It’s August. Flashback. I was 13 in 1969. The Cubs led the New York Mets by 10 games in August. It looked good for the Cubs. They might win their first pennant since 1945. But, as every Cub fan knows, they collapsed; the Mets caught up and went on to win the World Series. The agony of that summer has stayed with me all these years. August. I’ve tried to do therapy on this. My therapist just laughs. He hates baseball.

So now it’s August again. The 1969 collapse has been repeated over the years, although in less dramatic fashion. Today, the Cubs are a half game behind the Brewers in their division. The Brewers have pretty much sucked for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the Cubs have pretty much sucked for the last couple of weeks, too, so they haven’t been able to catch them. Earlier this week, the Cubs lost all three games in Houston, scoring a total of three runs. Cub fans everywhere felt the pain. The curse. Waking up at night in cold sweats. Increasing the Zoloft. All to ward off what has been inevitable for Cub fans over the years: the August crash..

Then the Cubs went to Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies. The Cub bats came alive in the first game, scoring ten runs and winning easily. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Cub fans all over the nation. But even a 10 to 0 lead is no sure thing for the Cubs. But they held on to win, 10 to 2. Then last night, they beat the Rockies 6 to 2. Cub fans started to feel a pulse. Maybe there won’t be an August collapse. Or a September collapse. But we know the Cubs are able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory any time.

One small dose of comfort this season for Cub fans: the Philadelphia Phillies lost game number 10,000, which gives them the most losses of any team in baseball. My heart goes out to all Phillies fans. I feel your pain.

In Search of a Tacky Housewarming Gift

A friend from work is having a house-warming party this evening. “Admission” to the party is a tacky house-warming gift. The tackiest gift gets a prize, according to the invitation. I wasn’t sure what I’d bring. I thought of the cow jigsaw puzzle in my basement storage room. The one I’d been carrying around for 11 years. It’s circular. It’s Holstein cows (you know, the black and white ones). It’s printed on both sides. It has 800 pieces. I’ve never opened it. This seemed like a golden opportunity to get rid of the damn thing.

Until this morning’s visit to some neighborhood garage sales. I made quite a haul of tackiness. First, there was the “miniature Americana” pots and pans set. Consists of a 5 inch long rack with little golden hooks to hang the little copper kettles and pans. Only 25 cents. Then there was the book “Uppity Women of the Middle Ages”. Got that for free. And of course, the 6 inch high snow person, with vest, made out of yarn, wrapped around three Styrofoam spheres. Ah, but saving the worst for last, for only 25 cents, a small conch shell with spikes, that hangs from a little brass stand with a hook. Inside the shell are little pink roses, with little pink beads and all tied up with little pink ribbons.

I’ll save the cow puzzle for another purpose. And I know JUST the person for “Uppity Women of the Middle Ages”.. I think the hanging shell will take the prize, whatever it is.. Tune in tomorrow for results!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

That Good Old Farm Bill

"Maybe uninsured American children who can’t get adequate health care could masquerade as cotton plants or cornstalks. Then the farm bill would shower them with money and care."

- New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. (Source: The New York Times)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Earlier this eveing I was out at Zephyr Farm, our cooperative,organic, farm. The land is owned by dear friends. John, Robin and Sue, about 55 acres. We plant 1-2 acres.

This evening was very life-giving for me. I've been reflecting on how energizing it was. We've had a lot of rain here, after drought conditions, and so there was a window of opportunity to harvest before more rain tonight. I felt tired, and considered not going, but I'm glad I did.

A bunch of dear folks were there when I arrived. We all took on various tasks. I harvested some sweet corn. It seemed that everywhere I looked were plump ears. Too many to pick. Overwhelming abundance. Others harvest cucumbers, beans, basil and trellised tomatoes.

The plants seemed happy about the rain. They responded with incredible growth. The two Border Collies arrived, Kip the Elder and his "sister", Bella, the irrepressible Border Collie puppy. They were closely followed by Robin and her two daughters. There was a lot of friendly chatter and silliness. We were all happy like the plants. We were all growing. I felt like the caring and the fun I was experiencing was like a deep soaking rain. When I left, my Spirit felt refresshed.

On the way home, I was reflecting on the natural cycles I'm learned to experience at Zephyr farm. The resident Zehperites welcome the chance to share these cycles with people of all levels of experience. Thinking of the last year I recall the carrot harvest, in the fall. My son and his friends pitchforking the sweet roots out of the ground, making a pile of "weird-looking" carrots. I recall planting the garlic, so it could "sleep" through the winter, going out in the snow to cover the garlic bed with straw. Spring came and there's the praire burn. A cleansing after a long winter. I missed this one with my broken foot. I missed the planting for the same reason. Now it's tending the plants, nurturing them and harvesting the gifts they give us. Now its sweet corn, beens, cukes. In a few weeks, it will be tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Then squash and pumpkins. And the harvest continues. Then it gets chilly, the first frost and cleanup, getting ready for winter. And during winter, I sip tea and imagine what's happening in the frozen soil and enjoy the bounty that is canned and frozen. Gifts from God, all of it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

I've started reading the above-named book by Barbara Kingsolver, recommended to me by my good friend Luminiferous Ether. The book chronicles how Kingsolver, her husband and two children lived for a year entirely on food either grown locally or grown themselves. I'm only in the second chapter, but I've already been challenged and rather stunned. And, she's such a gifted writer, able to craft the book, rather than write some "self-help manual", which it is not!

Here's an excerpt from the book, contributed by Steven Hopp, Ms Kingsolver's partner:

Oily Food

Americans put almost as much fossil fuel into our regrigerators as our cars. We're consiming about 400 gallons of oil a year per citizen-----about 17% of our nation's energy use---for agriculture, a close second to our vehicular use. Tractors, combines, harvesters, irrigation, sprayers, tillers, balers, and other equipment all use petroleum. Even bigger gas guzzlers on the farm are not the machines, but so-called inputs. Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides use oil and natural gas as their starting materials, and in thier manufacturing. More than a quarter of all farming energy goes into synthetic fertilizers.

But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one-fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion's share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing and regrigeration. Energy caories consumed by production, packaging, and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food.

A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it. More palatable options are available. If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal)composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That's not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Soldier's Declaration

I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it.

I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this war, upon which I entered as a war of defense and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow-soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.

I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust.

I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.

On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

Siegfried L. Sassoon, July 1917

coyote poem #2

After the big rain
I was walking by the park
when I heard the voice of coyote.
Come over here, he whispered, I have something to show you.
I strolled into the park.
Coyote was leaning against a tree
With a broad smile on his hairy face.

There’s a doorway here
to the spirit world
over here by the lake.
Come quickly before it closes!.

I followed him down the muddy banks to Lake Monona.
The hair on the back of my neck stood up
but I wasn’t afraid.
I noticed coyote’s fur made a ridge along his back, too.

Sit, he commanded, and I found a damp rock.
Trees overhead a cathedral.
Tthought I heard voices, but wasn’t sure.
Felt cradled. Safe. Totally, magically alive.

The Northern Lights danced.
How odd to see them, here, in the summer,
I thought.
A swarm of fireflies circled my head.
Felt dizzy. (coyote was chuckling softly).

They formed into the shape of an alter
No cross, just a peace sign.

All as one
the fireflies shot skyward, rockets
sounding a sonic boom.
They disappeared
among the sky Lights.

By this time
Coyote was gone
So I couldn’t ask him
What it all meant.

I was left with lots of questions
lots of answers.

'How could I ever forget that flash'

I wanted to share this poem from Sojourners Online. It's in remembrance of Hiroshima Day, this Monday, August 6. I'm listening to Bush and his criminals toss around the ideas of "nuking", say, Iran. This is their clever way of making the public, the slumbering public, desensitized to the term. Making the idea of using nuclear weapons, well, somethow 'OK'. These guys would like, I feel, to use these ultimate "weapons of mass destruction". I feel that the use of nuclear weapons is much more likely now, than perhaps in my entire life. The Bush gang already has used white phosphorous and cluster bombs on civilian populations among their long list of horrors, so what's the next step for the Christofascist crooks?

The author, Mitsuyoshi Toge, born in Hiroshima in 1917, was a Catholic and a poet. He was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city on August 6, 1945, when he was 24 years old. Toge died at age 36. His firsthand experience of the bomb, his passion for peace, and his realistic insight into the event made him a leading poet in Hiroshima. This poem is from Hiroshima-Nagasaki: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction (1978).

How could I ever forget that flash of light!
In a moment, thirty thousand people ceased to be,
The cries of fifty thousand killed
At the bottom of crushing darkness;

Through yellow smoke whirling into light,
Buildings split, bridges collapsed,
Crowded trams burnt as they rolled about
Hiroshima, all full of boundless heaps of embers.
Soon after, skin dangling like rags;
With hands on breasts;
Treading upon the broken brains;
Wearing shreds of burn cloth round their loins;
There came numberless lines of the naked,
all crying.
Bodies on the parade ground, scattered like
jumbled stone images of Jizo;
Crowds in piles by the river banks,
loaded upon rafts fastened to the shore,
Turned by and by into corpses
under the scorching sun;
in the midst of flame
tossing against the evening sky,
Round about the street where mother and
brother were trapped alive under the fallen house
The fire-flood shifted on.
On beds of filth along the Armory floor,
Heaps, and God knew who they were?
Heaps of schoolgirls lying in refuse
Pot-bellied, one-eyed, with half their skin peeled
off bald.
The sun shone, and nothing moved
But the buzzing flies in the metal basins
Reeking with stagnant ordure.
How can I forget that stillness
Prevailing over the city of three hundred thousands?
Amidst that calm,
How can I forget the entreaties
Of departed wife and child
Through their orbs of eyes,
Cutting through our minds and souls?

Life is Hard

"I know people looking in from the outside will ask why someone like me keeps working so hard. But a few million doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe in the ’70s, a few million bucks meant ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ or Richie Rich living in a big house with a butler. But not anymore."

HAL STEGER, a Silicon Valley millionaire.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

coyote poem #1

Tap, tap, tap

Claws on the wood floor.

More tapping.


I look up from my book.

It’s coyote.

Long time no see, I say, a bit of sarcasm creeping into my voice.

He says: you sees me when you are ready to sees me!

I brought you some ying to go with your yang,

Or is it some yang to go with your ying?

And does it really matter?

I open my mouth to respond.

Tap, tap--------------gone.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Russia claims North Pole: Santa said to be “pissed off”.

Putin asserts his nation's ownership of 460,000 square miles of Arctic territory - and its huge reserves of oil and gas – plus: Santa’s Workshop

By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor, The Independent Online
Published: 03 August 2007

Russia has taken a giant leap for the Kremlin by planting its flag on the ocean floor under the North Pole in a politically charged symbolic gesture to claim the rights to the sea bed which could be rich in oil and gas. However, Western political leaders feel this is a smokescreen for the real motive: A hostile takeover of Santa Claus, Inc and his vast array of ‘workshops’. Santa himself, did not return my repeated phone calls. However, a source inside Santa’s workshop, who spoke with me on a condition of anonymity, told me that Santa’s view of the whole “charade” is that the “so-called superpowers are after my stealth sled technology.” This technology, allows Santa to circle the globe, undetected by sleeping boys and girls and slide down chimneys, even though he’s a “bit thick around the middle”.

In a dramatic technical feat testing international law, the Russians dispatched two mini-submarines 2.5 miles to the ocean floor in what is believed to be the first expedition of its kind. True, the Russian’s didn’t go around the world in one night, leaving presents for all the good boys and girls, but it is still kind of dramatic.

The expedition raised the hackles of Russia's neighbours, who also have their eye on the vast mineral deposits that could lie under the Arctic area, in addition to the massive Santa’s Workshop production area They consider the Russian move as a brazen land grab. "This is our Santa Claus. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'We're claiming Santa," said Peter MacKay, Canada's Foreign Minister.

Russia has fired the first diplomatic shot in a really cold war. The new oil rush makes sense to Russia’s neighbours. They don’t like it much but see a far more nefarious scheme afoot which began with the planting of the flag. “They hate us because we believe in Santa Claus,” said President Bush. “But the American people love Santa and as your president, we will answer the call to protect Santa and his industrial complex from the new Russian menace!”

Russia claims that the Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain range crossing the polar region, is actually the true location of Santa’s Workshop. The UN has rejected Moscow's 2001 claim regarding the location of Santa’s Workshop, calling it “poppycock”.

A brains trust of 135 Russian scientists, led by a 68-year-old personal envoy of President Vladimir Putin, the explorer Artur Chilingarov, plan to meet with Santa in the coming weeks to discuss the workshops, mutual cooperation, and of course, oil.
But yesterday's scientific achievement of dropping a titanium capsule containing the Russian flag on to the seabed could not conceal the political advantage gained by Mr Putin. Once again, he has demonstrated to the West Russia's determination to “have Santa”, as Mr Putin put it, through an interpreter, who looked surprisingly like an elf.

The news of the mission's success dominated Russian television yesterday. Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's spokesman, said the President considered it "very important to put Kris Kringle back into the Kremlin”.

The Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said: “It’s obvious that President Bush has been a very, very bad boy. So naturally, Santa would want to be part of the ascendance of the New Russia. I guess he will get a lump of coal at the White House. Perhaps several dump trucks full. I said he’s been a bad boy”

During Rose a Garden press conference this morning, President Bush fired back:
“I am a close friend with President Pootin but I am STILL the Decider. Now, after we turn Iraq and Afghanistan into flourishin’ democracies, looks like we might need to liberate Santa and Mrs Claus. And let’s not forget the elves. I say, bring ‘em on. I like elves”.

Predictably, the Democratic candidates criticized Mr Bush’s statements. Hillary Clinton scoffed and told reporters that she “didn’t believe in Santa”.

Barack Obama, in a 45 minute speech to a huge throng of largely Democratic children at Macy’s told the eager multitude that he “believed in Santa and if their parents voted for him they’d all get some extra-nice presents”. He added that he wouldn’t be afraid to use force if necessary to “keep our Santa”. He told the kids that he had a new book on Santa due out next week!

John Edwards response: “We need to put the Christ back in Christmas!”

Well, there you have it. Remember, it’s not about the oil. It’s about Santa!!!

Obama talks tough.........

Excuse me, but wasn't this the guy who wanted to talk with "our" enemies and come to some understanding or did I get that all wrong?

(italics are mine)

By JEFF ZELENY, THE New York Times
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — Senator Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States should shift its military focus away from the Iraq war to a broader fight against Islamic extremism, vowing to dispatch American forces to eradicate terrorist camps in Pakistan if that nation failed to take such action.

Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, said he would order strikes on Al Qaeda targets and withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid if the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, did not blunt a resurging Taliban presence in the country’s tribal areas. This, he said, is the “right battlefield” to make the United States safer.

“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act,” Mr. Obama said, “we will.” (yes, Mr Obama, I'm SURE that will help!)

In the second major foreign policy address of his campaign, Mr. Obama outlined a series of proposals to fight global terrorism, including a plan to send at least 7,000 soldiers and special forces troops to Afghanistan, in addition to the roughly 22,000 troops there now. At the same time, he said, he would also increase nonmilitary aid to the country by $1 billion to improve economic opportunities there.(I'm sure the drug/warlords and their "factions" can use the money....I hear the opium trade is sagging a bit....)

Mr. Obama is seeking to establish his foreign policy credentials after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and other rivals have questioned whether he has the military and diplomatic experience to lead the nation in wartime. He delivered a strong rebuke of the administration’s Iraq strategy but said the blame went far beyond President Bush.(I think Hillary called him a 'sissy')

“Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the president the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day,” Mr. Obama said. “With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the wrong battlefield (Mr Obama, is there ever a 'right' battlefield?), with no appreciation of how many enemies we would create and no plan for how to get out.”

Mr. Obama, who was not in Congress at the time of the war authorization vote in 2002 (wow, that's handy!), is working to persuade Democratic voters that he would not hesitate to use military force to protect the United States. (why does it always seem to sink to proving you are tough and willing to use force?)

“The terrorists are at war with us,” he said. “The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real.” (hmmmm, maybe there's more a threat from Christian extremists?)

The speech offered a broader glimpse into Mr. Obama’s world view. If elected, he said, he would seek out an Islamic audience in the first 100 days of his administration to “redefine our struggle” and open “America Houses” across the Islamic world to improve a tarnished image of the United States. (I'm sure bombing 'high value' targets will make a lot of Islamic friends around the world....)

While Mr. Obama often emphasizes his biography — he is the only candidate who spent part of his childhood living abroad — he did not dwell on his background during his 35-minute speech, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (how ironic, Woodrow Wilson was one of the most rascist presidents we've ever had....). He presented himself as a figure who could restore the country’s credibility in the world, which he said had eroded since an initial outpouring of good will after terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001.

“What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power,” Mr. Obama said. “A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us.”

Mr. Obama has tapped into a broad network of support from the grass roots and the Democratic establishment (gag!) to raise more money than any other candidate in either party, but he has struggled to compete with Mrs. Clinton in national polls and with former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards, as well as others in the Democratic field, have questioned his experience.

Last week, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama engaged in a dispute over whether they would agree to meet with hostile rulers without preconditions. Mr. Obama said he would, while Mrs. Clinton said she would not, a distinction that Mr. Obama seized upon again Wednesday in an effort to show that he is a candidate of change.

“It’s time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action,” he said. “It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom — that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward, and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear.” (oh, and then if they turn out to be 'extremists', which generally means they don't do what the USA wants, you find some 'high value' targets in their countries?)

Phil Singer, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said the campaign had no response to Mr. Obama’s speech.

In his address, Mr. Obama also renewed his call to double the amount of foreign aid to $50 billion by 2012 and to provide $2 billion to fight the influence of Islamic religious schools, or madrasas, which he said “have filled young minds with messages of hate.”(Huh?)

“We know we are not who they say we are,” Mr. Obama said. “America is at war with terrorists who killed people on our soil. We are not at war with Islam.” (oh, right, just Islamic "extremists", that blurry line again......didn't Bush use exactly this same phrase?)

Me cynical? Nawwwwwhhhh!

Representative Baldwin Joins Impeachment Call

by John Nichols

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, wants to see the House impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. She also wants to investigate whether similar action should be taken against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

And she is not alone on either front.

The fifth-term congresswoman from south-central Wisconsin formally signed on this morning as a co-sponsor of House Resolution 333, the proposal by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, to begin impeachment proceedings against the vice president. Baldwin is the 16th member of the House to agree to co-sponsor the resolution, and she is the fourth member of the House Judiciary Committee to do so.

Baldwin also signed on to a resolution sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., calling on the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Gonzales should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. She is the 20th co-sponsor of that measure.

Despite the rising levels of support for both resolutions in recent weeks, impeachment is not just around the corner. The House has 435 members, half of whom would have to vote for impeachment in order to formally sanction the vice president. Even to get to a point where a full House vote might be a live prospect, the Judiciary Committee would have to take up the matter.

The committee has 40 members, and its chairman, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has been resistant to bringing up impeachment since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared last year that impeachment would be “off the table” in the new Congress.

In recent weeks, however, impeachment has moved back on to the table.

Kucinich introduced his articles of impeachment against Cheney in late April, saying at the time that he was doing so because “the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and Congress about an alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive us about the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. And he openly lied to the American people and has publicly threatened aggression against Iran.”

Initially, only a handful of members agreed to co-sponsor the measure. But as frustration with the Bush-Cheney administration has grown, so too have the numbers of those determining that some action must be taken to hold the administration to account.

House members have expressed a number of reasons for backing impeachment of Cheney, including anger over allegations that the vice president took the lead in manipulating intelligence regarding Iraq, promoted illegal spying on Americans and defended the use of torture. Cheney’s recent attempt to avoid scrutiny by claiming that the office of the vice president was not part of the executive branch added fuel to the fire. And then there was President Bush’s decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s former chief of staff and co-conspirator in moves to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for exposing the deceptions that led to war.

Baldwin made no secret of her frustration with Bush and Cheney when she referred to the commuting of Libby’s sentence as “a perversion of justice.”

“The president told the American public that he would hold anyone in his administration involved in the Valerie Plame leak case accountable and now he is doing just the opposite. Time and again, this president’s utter disregard for the rule of law proves him unworthy of the people’s trust and the office he holds,” said Baldwin, who is an attorney. “This decision is a shameful display of the cronyism and corruption that are disgraceful hallmarks of this Bush administration.”

Last week, when she voted with a majority of the House Judiciary Committee to issue contempt citations for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, following their refusal to comply with subpoenas issued in the U.S. attorney investigation, Baldwin declared: “It is the duty of the Congress - a co-equal branch of government - to serve as an effective check on possible abuses by the executive branch.”

House Resolution 333 focuses on a number of these issues and an additional concern of Kucinich and Baldwin: the vice president’s frequent suggestions that the U.S. might attack Iran.

“This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of executive power,” says Kucinich, who with Baldwin and the other co-sponsors of the impeachment resolution have been consistent foes of the war in Iraq.

The notion that Congress needs to restrain executive power appears to be gaining popularity.

According to recent polling by the American Research Group, 54 percent of Americans want Cheney impeached. Among Democrats, that number rises to 76 percent. A majority of self-described independents back action to hold the vice president to account, as do 17 percent of Republicans.

Local activists rallied on July 4 to call on Baldwin to support impeachment of Cheney, and have delivered petitions bearing thousands of signatures supporting the initiative to her office.

Baldwin is the first member of the Wisconsin congressional delegation to sign on as a co-sponsor of the resolutions to impeach Cheney and Gonzales. But others are feeling the heat. Impeachment activists have targeted Democratic and Republican House members with petitions, office visits and protests.

Today, in Washington, Kucinich accepted petitions bearing the names of more than 100,000 Americans calling on Congress to open impeachment hearings with regard to the vice president.

Published on Friday, August 3, 2007 by The Capital Times (Wisconsin)