Monday, October 30, 2006

Who needs Taxes

Over and over we keep hearing that the Reagan administration lowered taxes and miraculously, rather like Jesus with the fish and loaves, the actual revenue increased. So when little Bush cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, everyone waited for manna to fall from heaven.

The Bush-lites didn't let the fact that they had entered into an expensive war change their plans. They didn't let the rising deficit change their plans. They still had the temporary fix of the miracle credit card to play; and they could increasingly send off pork to quell any unease in their people while they waited for the multiplying. They have currently worked the debt to such a level that their children's children won't pay it off while they wait.

What about that miracle Reagan plan? In reality while he did decrease the rate on the highest income earners, he also cut a lot of what had been tax deductions-- things like deducting the interest you paid on consumer loans. That used to be something the average citizen could deduct come tax time. I knew about that well because suddenly my family lost it and it hurt. We had a lot of consumer debt in those days.

Then after Reagan's tax cut, along came big Bush's time as president. Big Bush faced reality. He was a man who had done that a lot given he was in a war and actually did fight. He was a man who had earned his way up the rung politically, run a lot of bureaus and understood budgets. He knew that what Reagan had promised was, as he had earlier called it, voodoo economics; and so he bit the bullet and raised taxes to straighten the mess out. He paid the ultimate price: Tell the American people the truth and you are out of office.

Now here we are years later, many tax cuts later, while there is talk of more tax cuts, and a growing budget deficit which nobody currently working in the administration has any interest in cutting. After all there is pork to satisfy. There is a war to fight without causing the American people to feel the pinch from it.

So the magic credit card keeps being extended. The idea of actually paying for what you are doing is used as a threat to most frighten Americans about those yucky Democrats who might call an end to the party. Besides that, Democrats are wimps who won't fight for their rights or anybody else's. Meanie, high spending Democrats have no guts for going to war, like Republicans have, they will raise your taxes (does wimpy Democrat and toughie, increase-tax Democrat seem to go together in your head?).

The Republicans have their arguments down pat. Why should anyone have to pay taxes goes the argument? You can manage your money better than we can is a favorite phrase to get people to not think that maybe that war, their freeways, their police and fire departments, border protection, their military, the care for the truly indigent and disabled, the elderly, not to mention just paying the interest on that rising debt... all of those things might just cost money.

Well who should worry. Just vote out anyone who suggests you can't have it all and remember the magic credit card!

I was thinking for this subject that a picture of a moose was most suitable. It is a reminder that without tax revenue, there would be no Yellowstone National Park where we could all see and photograph animals such as this moose. It also represents the third party that Theodore Roosevelt once tried to start. I don't actually think anybody in the current government-- on either side-- truly is ready to bite any bullets and tell the American people the truth about paying the piper. Maybe it's time to get a real third party and revive that old Bull Moose Party, ya think?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stem Cell Controversy

Politics and morality. To use those two words together could be considered an oxymoron, but the subject here is not whether politics are moral. They aren't. Politics is a technique of governance that in itself is not moral or immoral but can be either. This subject is about the role religions and individual concepts of morality are playing in the current political debate over stem cell research.

As an aside, I understand science has learned stem cells may be harvested from adult humans and some believe prove to be as valuable as those from an embryo (some also disagree with this). But for now the most effective way to do such research is with unused embryos which would otherwise be destroyed.

Into this simmering cauldron, Michael J. Fox, the actor, dove headfirst when he allowed his Parkinson's Disease symptoms to be fully shown in a video for a political ad urging voters to choose a senator who favors stem cell research. To me, his doing so was humble and brave especially in a culture such as ours where it's considered virtuous to hide differences so as not to make someone else uncomfortable.

To the members of the far right, Fox's appearance amounted to a challenge-- especially right before an election. At first it appeared to just be Rush Limbaugh putting his big foot in his equally big mouth. Limbaugh (ego on loan from who knows where) began by saying he thought Fox was faking his symptoms. When he was informed Fox had been seen other places in an equal state, and for him to film scenes for his show, it takes a lot of time and patience waiting for when he can get control of the spasms, Rush decided this was all the fault of the wicked Democrats who used Fox.

So to those of LImbaugh's mindset, Michael J. Fox not only has a physical disability but must also not have the intellectual capacity to decide this for himself. Hannity on his talk radio program joined the chorus, bringing in guests to validate the accusations against Fox and the Democrats for daring to make visible a severe disability. Fox's appearance gave a reality to a disease that some might have considered abstractly until then.

This bunch on the far right don't care about what they are doing to others. They have a spin agenda, and they follow it without mercy. Mercy is for church and pious talk.

First, I have some preset opinions on this topic. Nobody in this country is advocating creating embryos for research. The debate is over using those which are already created and frozen. They are ones that will never be used to impregnate a woman. If not used for research, they will either be destroyed or frozen forever. There could be as many as 400,000 of them.

Nobody forces those parents to donate the embryos for research; and, yes, they will be destroyed when the stem cells are harvested. If someone really doesn't like the idea of embryos being killed, if they see this as being murder, maybe they need to be working to stop such techniques that help childless couples get pregnant.

There is no talk of that; instead, it's about the embryo having a soul. For the purposes of this debate, what if life did begin at conception? What then would be the superior moral choice-- that the souls be kept on ice forever? Frozen is better than freed to go back to heaven-- if you think that way?

This summer, the spinmeisters used emotion to create a hundred baby photo-op for Bush as he signed his veto of stem cell research. The pretence was that those few could be all 400,000 frozen embryos. Not only do not all potential parents want someone else raising their genetic child, but some of those embryos are too old to be successfully implanted now. The fact it might help someone else live, who has already been born, is nothing to the kind of people where winning is everything.

I did some research on this topic. I already knew the spin from the right regarding it's being murder. I found this from a site which attempts to explain the debate from both sides:

"The human body contains 220 different types of cells. In 1998, researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore MD found a way of harvesting stem cells from embryos and maintaining their growth in the lab. Stem cells are a type of primitive cell. Scientists have found ways of developing these stem cells into most types of human cells, such as blood, brain, heart tissue, nerve cells, bones, etc. Researchers are confident that they will lead to treatments to many diseases: bone loss, broken bones, brain damage due to oxygen starvation, severe burns, cancer (some forms), diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, heart disease, hepatitis, incomplete bladder control, Huntington's, leukemia, lupus, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, and stroke! The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research estimates stem cell research shows promise to develop cures and/or new treatments for 100 million Americans who currently suffer from a wide variety of diseases and disorders."

I would like to ask a question-- if you watched the video Michael Fox made for Claire McCaskill in Missouri, and you saw in it what Hannity and Limbaugh did, I would like you to explain where your head and heart are? It's beyond me to understand.

I believe this argument is not over using embryos that will be destroyed anyway or frozen for eternity but rather about religious hypocrisy, and I am not sure why any Republican anywhere is not throwing up over it. (Please spare me a litany of the dumb things Democrats do. I won't defend them but this issue is about stem cell research and the Michael Fox ad.) If you haven't seen it, please click on that link. It might open your eyes if you follow it up with the pomposity of Hannity and Limbaugh. What a team those two make!

I do understand in the future the stem cells may be with adult humans, but it won't solve the problem of what you do with embryos that are already created. Is being permanently frozen anyone's idea of mercy?

If you believe in things like stem cell research, consider your vote carefully this November. The next Supreme Court Justice could well be chosen in the next two years; and if so, the vote you make in November could impact many such 'moral' choices which come not from science or even logic but some kind of religious piety that doesn't value life already here as much as that which 'might' be.

The Grand Tetons in Wyoming might seem like an odd photograph to choose to illustrate this subject, but when I think about the issue of stem cell research, I think of those who are suffering with crippling diseases, like Michael J. Fox. I believe we all want so much for there to be cures that allow these people to lead a good life. So this picture is for inspiration, for beauty and for hope. The emphasis should not be the ugliness of the political debate but instead the hope for a brighter future for those who right now do not know hope.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is the sky falling?

"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles."
John Adams in letter to Thomas Jefferson 1816

The question of whether there is a natural law would be considered heresy to some. There are those who see God as one who tosses aside such rules on what amounts to whims. Pat Robertson prays to reverse a hurricane's path and it does. Others think a hurricane hit New Orleans because of abortion or homosexuality. If someone reasons that way, can you have a real debate about global warming?

If you look at climate from a geologic or prehistoric view, and assume there are laws of nature, the given is: Change will come. Plants that lived somewhere our whole lifetime have no guarantee they will continue. It's humans who want to think we can alter or stop change. Actually, we can; but in small ways that impact local areas. We can cut down all the forest in a region that doesn't readily grow new, and voila create a desert. We know we can to some degree alter air or water quality.

When you start discussing global warming, those who don't want any change in regulations or the government even being involved, begin with-- hey don't worry, the earth will always be here. So true, but that's not why we worry. We worry that we won't, or that a lot less of us will be able to sustain life.

The question should be a non-political one (of course, it isn't). Scientifically, are we heading into global warming on an epic scale or just a cycle that will soon reverse?

To put it more simply-- Is this Henny-penny screaming the sky is falling? Or is it "The Grasshopper and the Ant"? Are some preaching panic when there is no reason or are we humans taking our pleasures and not preparing for what is to come?

If we are facing massive climate change, was what humans have done a factor in it? Or is it just what happens? Can we change the situation if we try? Well we won't know that as we aren't trying. But are we at least preparing?

Many scientists, who do believe in global warming say that the one for sure thing is that the oceans will rise. The question being debated is how much? Seacoast towns better be thinking about this-- not that most could do much about it. Big cities like New York could right now be figuring where to build dikes as they have in the Netherlands. Except in the United States, dike-making appears to be less than state of the art.

The fisheries are changing but is that over-fishing or warming? Off the coast of Oregon there are fewer fish as the 'dead zones' expand. Salmon and steelhead aren't coming back up the streams in the numbers they once did. The ocean water is warmer (I can personally testify to this given I can wade in it and not numb my feet).

The seasons have been warmer than usual where I live in the Pacific Northwest. When I was a girl the summers were like this last one, but the winters were much colder, and my father remembered the Columbia River freezing over solid enough to drive cars on it. That certainly hasn't happened in my lifetime. Does that prove anything? Seasonal swings have been part of life on earth all along, and our entire recorded history is a short one.

One thing to make clear-- "global warming" is about climactic change. There would be places that would be warmer, but others could have an ice age descend on them.

If there is an approaching climactic catastrophe, would our government or anybody else's tell ordinary citizens about it? Not likely given they try to hide anything they think might cause panic. Are they studying it? Maybe. Are there any relocation plans in place in case they are required? Silly question given the experience of Katrina where everybody knew something like it was definitely coming, and this one is just a 'maybe.'

Personally, and maybe surprisingly to some, I don't believe Bush did wrong to refuse to sign Kyoto. Not because such an idea was a bad one; but was that treaty intended to limit emissions around the world? It was aimed at the developed nations and didn't deal with places like India and China, who are pouring out pollution. If there had been serious United Nations concern about greenhouse gases being behind the global warming, the standards would have to be worldwide.

To add to it, if the United Nations was taking climate change and the health of the earth seriously, shouldn't there be some kind of concerted effort to help Brazil stop razing the Amazon which has been a major part of oxygen balance for the world. That would require the rest of the world cooperating by sending money to help Brazil find new industries enabling them to give up their own money-maker. That has not happened and the cutting down of the Amazon continues unabated.

So what can we do? Maybe nothing. I think we should demand our government seriously study and have plans in the works on how to protect our major coastal cities. Regardless of whether emissions are factors in global warming, limiting them definitely relates to healthier air quality.

I'd like to think governments around the world were considering how they would handle a need to shift populations. In our country, Bush and Republicans aren't going to do any of that. Bush goes back and forth whether he even thinks it's a problem. Part of his constituency is convinced Christ will come again first. Republicans generally fight any increase in air quality standards on industry based on its cost. Like cockpit doors were too expensive to make solid up until 9/11 showed what expensive was.

These pictures are from a month I spent in Massachusetts. They represent the two sides of this coin. The first one is of Rockport, the second the shoreline on Cape Ann.

Rockport represents the bigger picture. Fisheries receive some of the first alerts on ocean changes. They will also be the communities submerged if the seas rise.

In the picture of Cape Ann, that air you see is not fog but smog. Until that month, I had no idea that the East Coast suffered so much pollution in the summer, but the people there said it came up from inland states like Ohio. The air was heavy with it the entire time I was there. Although I will say that kind of sky made for some interesting photographs, I doubt it was particularly healthy to breathe.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Environment regs to rags

When I used to listen to right wing talk radio, before I decided I'd lose my mind if I kept checking such radically different ways of thinking, their mantra tended to be that nobody would deliberately pollute the earth, and there was no need for environmental regulations because who wants to foul their own nest (not those exact words but close enough).

Are those who say such things serious? Do they truly not realize that by necessity, as well as sometimes greed, the dollar rules business? Or do they hope their listeners will not know? Have they never seen the desolate areas around mining towns, never heard how many cases of cancer there are among the children in some of the places where the environment was only seen in terms of dollar signs?

Fear of lawsuits slows some down from deliberately sickening their workers; but if the fines or lawsuit penalties aren't high enough, it won't do the job. Think back to when Chevrolet knew they had a gasoline tank placed where it could burn up the vehicle in an accident. They made the economic decision that a few small lawsuits were better than paying re-engineering costs. That lasted until a family was horribly burned and the lawsuit's verdict high enough to convince them otherwise.

Businesses are not in the business of being benevolent. They are in the business of making money and must compete with other countries around the world who have no environmental regulations. Most will add environmental protections into their costs only if government mandates it. You know which party would mandate that and which will not; so you can decide which you personally want. Remember though, what we mistakenly protect today can be changed tomorrow but not the other way around.

Yes, there are some people who are benevolent by nature and would not deliberately run a mine with faulty safety just to make money, but the reason government began to regulate such is that those kind weren't in the majority. Without an overseer, many companies would pour asbestos into the environment and figure a few sick children was not a big deal.

Since the Republican right came into power... okay there are two Republican rights. One is the financial side and the other the religious. The religious would not work to cut back environmental regulations. They are too busy limiting sex on cable televisions, protesting Janet Jackson's breast, stopping a woman from getting an abortion, blocking stem cell research, and preventing a gay couple, who have lived together 10 years and have kids, from being able to have a legal marriage. They have a lot on their plate and adding to it environment is just one too many issues.

It's up to the economic right wing of the Republican party to fight to remove environmental regulations. Bush ran for office with the determination to do what he has done in terms of cutting regulations and making it easier for business to avoid costly lawsuits even when they did something damaging. The people on the far right see environmentalists as wackos.

Unfortunately they have not been totally wrong. Who can deny some dumb things have been done supposedly to save the environment?

Does it really matter if a three-toed squirrel, with a black spot on his tail, finds his pasture plowed up given there are lots of four-toed squirrels, with white spots, in the next valley? Environmentalists have used the canary in the mine example way too many times and have they forgotten they supposedly believe in evolution? What did they think that meant?

So the Bush administration took a few goofy decisions by environmentalists as an excuse to bash one regulation after another-- whether there is solid science behind them or not. After all science is part of the evil trio anyway (lawyers, scientists and teachers). Science has too many facts involved in it, takes too much time to study to see if it is factual, and gets in the way of effectively using emotion.

So regulations are bad. Clean air now can be reinterpreted to mean dirtier air. Every time the Bushites say something, you have to look to see what was really going on. This year he even had western state governors (some in red states) down on him for wanting to open up logging areas that had been closed due to lack of profitability for the government and because it was no longer legal for raw logs to be exported overseas for processing from forest service lands.

If it costs more to build roads into a logging cut than the logs produce in profit, should the government be doing this? Was selling off the national parks to concessionaires a good plan for long lasting stewardship of those lands? It goes on and on.

There are many links on all of this but they are either from the right spinning how good the Bush administration is as a custodian of nature and how many dumb things the environmenalists have done. Or you find the environmentalist links who list one travesty after another that his administration has done to damage our air, what we eat, and our natural world. So if you are interested in checking for yourself, you will have a lot to dig through and I don't think on this subject anyone is really neutral. We live on this earth and the consequences can be dire for the ones who are wrong on what it takes to keep us living here.

These photos are all of Opal Creek in Oregon which is an environmentalist success story. Today it is a pristine, old growth forest. The stream is clear, cold and emerald green due to the minerals in the area. A trail skirts alongside it enabling the hiker to get down to the water as well as enjoy the views.

Opal Creek was at one time a mining camp. The buildings remain from that as well as much of the equipment with a few people living up there year round. Logging interests wanted to log the whole area. What could that hurt? After all, trees grow back and what real difference does an old one make to the world? The issue to them was dollars, not beauty. They'd most likely have left a few trees along the creek.

Fortunately there were a group of people who valued Opal Creek for its soul restoring properties and its beauty, not just its oxygen generation-- although that's not bad either and fought to preserve it from the logging interests. They raised funds, they brought it to the public's attention, and eventually they got through a bill to protect it.

Now this was before Bush's time, but what we are really talking here is a political movement-- two of them. One is where only money matters. The other is that some things are worth more than money. In this case, the second group won; and Opal Creek will remain what it has always been, a beautiful place to go and recenter your soul.

There was a great statement on the subject of money in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp. Charlie had won a ticket to meet Willie Wonka but the boy knows his family is poverty stricken. He feels he should sell it. His old grandfather, who has nothing to gain from the boy going on the tour and who would profit from more money in the house, says (paraphrased)-- Charlie, money is always around. You can always get more of it, but a tour through that factory, it's a once in a lifetime experience. That is what is rare.

I wish more people in that economic right part of the Republican party could see places like Opal Creek and realize some things are worth more than money. Dollars come and go, but Opal Creek remains as a soul restoring place. If you get to Oregon, check it out for yourself.

Next blog will be on the subject of global warming.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spinning the Message

Dictionary definition of spinmeister - a public relations person who tries to forestall negative publicity by publicizing a favorable interpretation of the words or actions of a company, political party, or famous person.

Spin happens all the time about everything you hear, but I think many Americans aren't aware of all the places they are receiving bombardment. For instance, you receive Republican emails that are forwards. They are jokes making fun of Democrats (or some other group who is not 'you') for being wimps, cowards or maybe even traitors. The word traitor is thrown around a lot by the right when anyone finds fault with the current elected head of our nation.

(Insert: Bush is not our king, he is not the nation. Yes, he has taken on and been handed king-like powers that eliminate habeas corpus for those he alone deems to be traitors, but he is still an elected official who will be out of office finally in two years. Hey Republicans, when you relish how Bush has amassed power, how he can run roughshod over the rights of others when he deems it necessary in the name of security, consider this-- Hillary likes the idea of that kind of power. Are you that sure she won't be elected president or someone you equally dislike?)

Okay, I got diverted but anyway on the spin emails, the jokes are intended to be humorous. Don't take it so serious. Except they apply to issues that are not funny. These emails are spun out so quickly after the Bush administration makes some kind of statement that you have to think it's all part of their public relations department.

Along with these will be essays that validate the administration position by someone who often (if you do some research) said no such thing. Lies are apparently okay in the fight for... hmmmm... What is the fight about these days? Certainly not freedom from fear given that is the stock and trade of Republicans. Be afraid very afraid and only we can keep you safe.

If you get one of these emails, just remember if you pass it on, you have become part of the spin machine, and you have no idea who that spinmeister really is. Power often is not in the hands of those out front.

When John Kerry was running for president, we were bombarded by emails about Jane Fonda being a traitor. What?! She was in Iraq sitting on a big gun? No, this was all about what she did years ago, something she has long admitted was not done right, but happened during a divisive time in our culture. You might wonder what the connection could be to the issues facing the United States today; but to the right, the very name Fonda works as a spin; and although she had no connection to John Kerry's run for the presidency, the spin implied there was. Who knows he might have appointed her Secretary of State... Hatred for her was spun up as a way to gain and maintain power. Truth wasn't part of it. Spin knows no morality. It's a technique of politics.

Now, more than any time I have known, people can assure themselves they are right and hear only information that fits their political viewpoint. If you want to believe Iraq is going well, that any negative numbers are just put out by the Democrats, for that matter that any attacks right now are intended only to increase the Democrats chance to win because everybody knows terrorists and Democrats are in bed together, then listen to Fox and Rush Limbaugh. Both will tell you exactly what the Bush administration wants said.

Lately, it seems whenever I hear people from the right appearing on talk programs, their words are all about spin. I listened to an editor from Wall Street Journal (which has become a very political paper if it wasn't all along) and couldn't believe the spin that came out with every issue. If it didn't fit his machine dictates, he would switch the topic to something that did. In other words, don't answer the question, simply change what it was.

Real issues are not easily spun; so spinning machines are all about distraction and keeping away from real issues. Right now Bush and his spinmeisters are frantically throwing out fear talk and cowardice accusations. I know, Bush didn't use the word coward. He said the Democrats will cut and run because they don't favor staying the course anywhere. What kind of people cut and run in life? Everybody knew what he was really saying. Democrats, like me, must be cowards because we disagree with what he has and is doing.

Bush is looking for the sound bite that will hit the evening news and resonate with his base to keep them thinking how superior, brave and tough they are, and how weak anybody is who disagrees. If his spin works, people vote Republican in November as a patriotic and brave way of not only fighting back at terrorists but supporting our troops.

Never mind that the battle in Iraq did not start out about the terrorists and never mind that this is the same bunch that sent men and women to war not fully equipped, who are using a back door draft with the National Guard because they cannot admit how many real troops would be required for winning in Iraq. Never mind facts because spin isn't based around facts.

How can we be aware of spin when we hear it? Well if all the Bush people suddenly are using the same phrase, that is a tipoff.

Sometimes spin is hard to recognize. The Bush administration has sent (not sure if they did after the information became public) to small television stations prepackaged videos for their evening news as though it was news and factual which it could be but it also could be suds with no substance. Their only concern was that it suited their agenda. If you missed reading about this when it became known, an article worth reading on the topic-- White House news forgeries widespread. There are more out there for those interested in doing a search. The stations might know this is propaganda, but do the viewers?

Spinning didn't work so well with Hurricane Katrina because as the spin machine was telling us how much the Bush-lites were on top of all of this, we saw images of him looking befuddled (happens anytime he's not prepackaged), saying great job to the FEMA director, which would have meant Bush was also doing a great job.

Except there were those photos of the disaster, of people waiting for help that wasn't coming. If the Bush people had their way, they'd block such actual footage from happening again. Their spin will keep people happy and who needs to know the truth. That works best when it's from a foreign country; but given how the word traiter is being stretched, it might be someday here too.

This link is an article on how the Bush administration blatantly hired thinkers like Armstrong Williams to spin their take on the No Child Left Behind. Not just him but many such are seduced or paid to spread the doctrine that suits the administration.

When you hear a person like Rush Limbaugh completely defend whatever Bush does, do you ever wonder if he thinks for himself or waits for his talking points on any breaking news? If you don't consider this possibility, you are not being aware of spin. Rush never has guests.. that is except Dennis Hastert right after the Foley scandal or Dick Cheney whenever he needs to get out his side of an issue. What does that tell you about Limbaugh's program?

One of the things that might be making this country seem so divided is the difference in where we get our information. For instance, if you want to only hear Bush is doing well as president, that Iraq is successful and a new light is dawning in the Middle East (no it's not dependable electricity yet), that if there was any responsibility for what went wrong on 9/11, it's Clinton's, that you can have benefits with tax cuts and a war, that deficits don't matter, just stick to watching Fox News and certain talk radio spin machines, and you can feel content with how it's going and mad at the other side for lying about the 'truth.' More than any other time, we can control our personal news sources to a comfort zone for what we want to believe.

Although most reporters and journalists are said to be Democrats, most stations are owned by Republicans. I can't say for sure where Rupert Murdoch fits. He owns Fox entertainment which sells sex and salacious programming; then turns around and condemns it on his Fox News. Is that what you call covering all bases, drumming up business, or schizophrenic? I am still trying to decide..

When you get one of these emails intended to panic you into believing say the ACLU wants to remove crosses from military cemeteries, please do a search online for more information and check them out with Snopes who will give you facts you can consider along with that email.

Yes, I only hit on the Republicans because it's how I see it right now. I think this time is worse and more blatant than any I have known for how information is twisted, but if you want to write one on the left sending out the same emails, comment freely. Of course. I won't believe you because I know MSNBC and Keith Olbermann wouldn't lie to me!

The Tucson desert picture was chosen because it's a cactus wren nest in a cholla-- a neat contradiction between the softness and nurturing of a mother and babies with the nasty threat of the spines. This bird has built her nest in the safest place she knows. The nest is secure for her young to grow, but she can't stay there. She has to go out to find food for those babies.

What it says to me is, even in a confusing and frustrating time such as this, we can build our own secure nest; but we can't totally stay there. We have to be aware and look through all information with discrimination. Not everything out there is true or nourishing.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Education from the Inside

Before I posted my last blog, I asked a friend of mine, who teaches in the public school system in a big city, to read what I had written and give me her opinion. She is on the front lines of actually trying to educate our future generations; and being a substitute teacher, she sees a variety of schools. What she wrote seemed valuable to share, and she agreed to let me post it as a blog. It's anonymous, which is good as I think it could as well be written by teachers anywhere across this country.


You make some valid points. The most poignant to me, being the schools left to 'raise' children these days. In the effort to give our children a 'better' life than we had in generations before, we have done a disservice to the new generations of children and now young adults. We have raised a few generations now of young people that have never been taught to accept responsiblility for their behavior.

They have never been allowed to lose, all kids get trophies.. all kids get to play equal time on teams, even if they have NO or little talent. They were promoted on in school to save their self esteem, only to be lost now with no real education because they were not held back when they needed the time to mature and really master skills at the beginning of their school career.

If you really want NO child left behind, then abolish the practice of 'moving them through the grades' when they have not mastered grade abilities! It is no wonder we have so many people depressed and on anti-depressants these days; they never learned to cope with failure or defeat growing up. They never were allowed to feel bad and learn to work through those bad times and feelings. But bad times and feelings ARE part of being human.. It is no wonder to me, that we have shootings in the schools, that children snap, they have never learned coping skills needed in life.

Yes, more and more people want out of the public school system for private schools.. where there ARE strict expectations/rules/ values/uniforms and where you toe the line or you are OUT. We need more structure like THAT in our public schools.

School is as you say, a child's 'job' not a place to be entertained! We need to teach our children they are AMERICANS,....not Hispanic or Islamic or Asian Americans... but Americans, to take a page from Theodore Roosevelt. He warned that our strength is in the diverse peoples that become a AMERICANS. We need to quit putting 'political' agendas from the far right or the far left in our schools.

Children 'know' less, and yet the educational system asks more and more from it's educators. Educators have little time to actually transmit educational material. Teachers are too busy disciplining, or trying to, with little or no cooperation from the parents in most cases. Parents are in denial that their children are in anyway at fault or they themselves for that matter.

Most parents cannot control their own children at home, yet expect to send them to school, and have ONE adult, take on a room of 22 to 30 children of the same age, and that adult, that teacher, is supposed to control all of them at once. This is to be done, all without damaging anyone's self esteem, showing nurturing interest and kindness to each 'individual' student.

Educators are then expected to teach ALL the diverse cultures to these students, teach them to respect others things and personal space, that it is wrong to damage school property, and to cheat, and find ways to reach the growing numbers of Spanish speaking students, so they are NOT left behind. Finally we may find a little time to actually teach the curriculum.

When I went to school, we were held responsible for our work.. our behavior our dress our actions to others. If we slipped on any... we took a bad grade, and for what discipline we got in school...(and I was Never in a school that used corporal punishment) it was 100 times worse when we got home. We learned what we did or failed to do mattered, that there was a price to pay, just as there is in life!

This country is doomed if we don't save and strengthen our public school system. Jefferson's words are words of democracy can stand, with an unedcuated electorate. I can see the edges decaying already. Public schools used to help us 'define' ourselves, our values as Americans, now it is so watered down and diluted with pleasing every special interest and culture group, we are losing our IDENTITY as Americans.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Educational wisdom from Jefferson

In scanning and trying to get some organization to a stack of my photographs, I came across the one above. Some years ago, I had photographed it in a small, historic museum in Kaycee Wyoming, (real cowboy country, hometown of Chris LeDoux, not far from where the Wild Bunch had their Hole in the Wall hideout). At the time, I was taken with the words. I still am today.

If you find it difficult to read, click on it to enlarge it. If it's still not clear or you don't get images, it says: "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." Thomas Jefferson.

For those today who are convinced public schools are no longer important, who don't trust the people, and yet want to take from them the educational system that has helped make this country what it has been, for those who don't think education was something our government originally saw as important, please reread the above.

In the elections about to be held there is one party in this country who believes in less taxes and favors vouchers that would benefit private religious schools at the expense of the public system. These people generally call themselves Republicans.

If you are one who values the public school system, who wants it made stronger, not weaker, you need to carefully look at which party will get you where Thomas Jefferson said we need to go.

I don't disagree that some liberals have made a mockery of the public education system by trying to mandate their moral agenda and filling the hours up with that instead of the teaching of basics-- some conservatives would do the same thing today-- different agenda, of course.

Some months back, I read Mary Lou's blog (linked to the side as Life after Nexcom) with a test showing what an eighth grade education used to mean when my parents would have been children. It was mind boggling. In the first eight years, students used to be taught what they are lucky now to get as freshmen in college.Why is this happening? Is it the fault of the public schools or is it our culture, the expectations of our children to be constantly entertained, and the need for teachers to play nursemaids?

Back when I was in school (the dark ages), teachers taught morality by example and classroom expectations. Class time was for reading, writing, science, geography, mathematics, history and if you were going onto college more of them all. Still not bad for bedrock criteria. In a nation where we see things so differently in terms of morality, I believe it's enough if we succeed in teaching not to shoot or beat each other up and no sex in the halls. Given the way a lot of parents don't seem to teach such things at home, that will stir up enough parental angst.

I believe strongly in the public education system in this country. It's very frustrating to see those, who themselves benefited from it, but today would destroy it if they could. We need to support teachers, work toward improved methods of teaching, encourage schools to hold the line on real values like not cheating, solving problems without violence, treating others with respect. Don't destroy the system that got us to where we have been.

Bush started a program that he milked for much publicity called No Child Left Behind. I guess it's definitely served to benefit his brother Neil, who according to the Kos has made a tidy profit from it (this is the same Bush who was involved in the savings and loan scandals). Just in case you think Kos is prejudiced-- No Bush left behind from Business Week . This is all so typical of the Bush administration who talk one way and do another.

Americans need to stay alert because our country is being sold out for the almighty dollar by those who claim to have high standards but in reality only value the buck. They are not only stripping our environment but our educational system of tax resources, demanding tests that accomplish nothing; and if they have their way a system of vouchers to take my tax dollars from public education and hand it over to private schools who may be teaching things that are contradictory to everything I would believe are part of being an educated and informed citizen.

If there are problems, the solution is fixing the system, not breaking it.

(Oh and one more thing, call me an old fogy, I now favor simple uniforms for school kids. This should not be a federal issue but rather local, but it just makes sense to me given some parents let their youngsters head to school with everything showing; and then wonder why the students can't keep their minds on their studies. I didn't used to think uniforms were good-- back when parents had standards that cooperated with the school systems, back when kids had to wear neat, clean and properly covering clothing to school-- back in the dark ages (and there was no more money then than there is today). Children need to understand when they head to school, it's not primarily about socializing but it is going to their job. They are there to learn. Maybe it takes uniforms to impress this on them.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wave Action

Pretend you are sitting above a cove along the Oregon Coast. You can hear gulls and sea birds crying in the distance. The sound of waves crashes against huge rocks. You draw the salty air deep into your nostrils and let yourself feel the surge of energy from the sea. It surrounds you with the sweetness and regeneration of life

The quotes that follow are ones I have stuck above my desk to read when I most need to remind myself what is important. They each came to me different ways, from blogs, books, friends, to my own search for inspiration.

Each of these wave images can be enlarged if you want to spend an extra moment and think on some of the words.

"What would it be like if you lived each day, each breath, as a work of art in progress. Imagine that you are a masterpiece unfolding each second of every day, a work of art taking form with every breath."
Thomas Crum

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Anais Nin

"Feel your feelings. Stand out in the rain naked and let the rain wash your soul."
email from a friend

"Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a winged bird that cannot fly."
Langston Hughes

"Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken! Take heed-- do not squander your life." Evening Gatha from the Great Mountain Zen Center

"If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it."
Annie Proulx

"Dreams are ncessary to life."
Anais Nin

"Om Namaha Shivaya"
which I got from a friend, who told me the meaning basically meant surrendering to god. I have since read that there are other possible translations but that one suits me as well as any.

"The power of God is within me, the grace of God surrounds me."
from the same friend

And then there another which I don't need to have written down. I used to carry it on a small piece of paper that became very tattered as it went everywhere with me. Now I carry the words in my heart.

"Let my love like sunlight surround you and yet give you illuminated freedom."

(These words and pictures from Whale Cove and taken on my birthday have been a bit of a break from the political which will resume next blog, but I believe we always need to keep the big picture in mind. Be alert to what is important in the world but on a personal level, live a life that is true to our souls. It fits one more quote-- Think Globally; Act Locally. And that starts inside our own hearts.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ideas from Parapluie

When I began this political series, I invited any readers who had thoughts or opinions, agreeing with or differing from mine, to email me a possible blog. Parapluie and I are friends, and she hadn't written this for that purpose but rather was just writing her ideas to me. I asked if I could publish it for others to read, and she agreed. So what follows is from Parapluie:


Going back to the recent history behind our war in Afghanistan and Iraq will reveal all the ways that have not worked yet. World War II concluded with the Europeans carving up of the Middle East into countries that are not yet governable and peaceable. Neither totalitarian governments or democracy has worked yet.
The United States present involvement is a sink hole. Winning a war will not work. Winning will not empower our enemies. They will be humiliated and needing terror all the more. We are not ending terror with war. Terrorists have always existed where people feel they are powerless.

So the problem is to give people in Middle Eastern countries the feeling of power. OK we have given them a chance to vote but is it really giving them power over what is happening in their lives? NO!!!. Why? The enemy has propaganda that is stronger than placing a ballot in the ballot box. Our problem is how to educate the world to believe in their own power and worth.

Education can start in the smallest grass roots communities here in the United States. The Evangelical Church movement towards home schooling is a step away from victory on the world front. I don't care if these home schooled children get social interaction and have social skills among their like minded families. What the world needs now is education that will make each child aware of their own individual self-worth with the feeling of power coming from their own individual background. They need to know how to solve problems in groups of diverse backgrounds. Respect for oneself and others and learning to work together can only be learned in mixed classrooms where the teacher respects the students.

A little seed of hope that I enjoy is Public Broadcasting Channel 28, The Learner Channel. The taped workshops are presented "in the pursuit of excellence in teaching." I like seeing the teachers step down from a totalitarian pedestal and how they become partners in learning with their students. I like how they encourage students to bring their own background to class to help the group solve problems together. And how individual children can suggest courses of investigative problem solving. The thread of investigative learning is present in all subjects whether they are studying statistics, writing, the visual arts or physics or biology.

This learning begins as early as the first grade and builds as the children mature! They are all learning to think in every learning discipline. It is wonderful watching the children express their understanding of concepts to peers and adults. Especially encouraging are the classrooms in underprivileged neighborhoods where the diversity is great and the children are not used to being listened to. There is evidence of these children opening up and beginning to express their views - the true beginning of being self impowered and readiness for democracy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Politics of Iraq and Terrorism

One of the political issues with the war and terrorism has been the spin that both sides jump to put onto anything that happens. A recent example is what Ted Turner said at some speech. What got spun out was an implication that he didn't know whose side he was on-- terrorists or the West.

If you get what he really said, not the spin, he was asked how he saw the Iraqi war and what was his attitude toward it. He said he felt it has been pressed so quickly with the statement-- you are with us or against us!

Unlike how the right immediately spun, he was not saying he wasn't sure if he was on the side of terrorists but that he wasn't sure if he had favored the war and had wanted time to consider it and yet no such time was granted.

His words were deliberately twisted to make him sound crazy by Fox news... I use the word news loosely. For some people the only news they get is Fox and the right wing talk radio people like Rush Limbaugh. Although if all you get at night is a quick spin from the day, with quotes taken out of context, you aren't in much better shape.

So how do we decide? Basically we have to read whole speeches, look at statistics, and realize they can be manipulated, and get many different opinions to get any concept of what might be done next. Is there a solution? To Bush there is only one, but are there other possibilities without being a traitor to this country as some are so quick to accuse?

Suppose we did make a mistake as many (excluding Bush and Cheney) increasingly believe or maybe it wasn't a mistake and our government deliberately misled us but whatever the case what can we do now? Do we have options?

Politically, it's likely true that if we leave, the Arab world will say we lost. They think we lost anyway. Staying in Iraq, through what increasingly looks like a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites (with al Quaida thrown into the mix to keep both stirred up), is not going to end the terrorism war elsewhere no matter what happens.

If we totally subdued that country, killed off all of those who don't want us there, got electricity restored, etc etc. we still would have Muslim terrorists around the world attacking us and any other western nation. Their vendetta against the western world is not going away because their goal is total victory. Can the United States or any other nation give people like bin Laden and his ilk that? There is no detente possible with them. You don't negotiate with killers and that is what they have become whatever their original motives.

To discuss what we do next in Iraq, we have to separate terrorism from that war as they were never connected in the beginning. The argument that we must fight them there to avoid fighting them here is not only stupid but cruel. The question instead should be are we helping the Iraqi people right now? Are we hurting them? No one can say for sure, but as many as one hundred thousand innocent civilians may have been killed and the numbers could be higher. Those citizens didn't sign up for this but were simply born in a place that has turned very violent. The next question is are we helping our own soldiers and our country by what we are doing there?

If the answer to these questions indicates we should get out, we should be big enough people to admit a mistake and move on that knowledge. We could still give military aid to the side we would rather see win in the Iraqi civil war... although that won't make us more friends with either side and those who think it would are ignoring history. It's like a stranger stepping between a battling husband and wife. He often ends up being attacked by both.

Do you correct a mistake by perpetuating it into eternity or by admitting it and stopping the losing behavior? Maybe if we did pull our troops out of Iraq, we could put more energy into the real battle which is against radical terrorism spiraling out of the Middle East and attacking the world. Some of that could be done (and for that matter is right now) through good police investigations, effective espionage, and the military brought in to fight pinpoint battles with hopefully minimal loss of civilians on either side.

We might also apply pressure on our supposed allies in the Arab world to see that their oil money, which is fueling the current wars, is re-channeled into better lives for the people who supply much of the fodder for suicide bombings. This is not just about education, as most of the 9/11 bombers were educated, but it's what kind of education. There have to be real jobs in countries where they have tremendous wealth but, as with Saudi Arabia, all the wealth channels into a few families leaving 40% of the Saudis unemployed. That is asking for something bad to arise in any nation.

So what can ordinary Americans do right now about this? My obvious suggestion is vote democrat this time even if you never have before. That way there is at least a chance for a reassessment.

Bush was quoted in the new Woodward book that even if only Laura and his dog supported him, he wouldn't let us leave Iraq. That was an interesting comment considering it means he wouldn't care what the military thought either. We know from what the generals have said that he didn't care earlier when they said they needed more troops on the ground, and it was denied for political reasons. The Bush-lites were evidently pretty sure Americans were all for this war if it didn't personally cost them anything and its debt was being pushed onto future generations.

Bush can't admit he is wrong because it would mean he sent a lot of people, on both sides, to their deaths for nothing (and worse for him that his father had been right). We Americans should not accept his solutions as ours. We have to be responsible and find out for ourselves what is right, and then have the courage to do it.

(The Absaroka Mountains in Montana are impressive. To imagine getting across them is intimidating as it's wilderness with grizzlies and cougar to add to the rugged terrain. But in doing anything difficult, it has to be one step at a time. You start at the trailhead and begin walking. I think our situation with the world and terrorism is that way. We have to begin somewhere, but we equally need to be sure we are not walking the wrong way.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Cost of War

Wars generally are started by men in suits for political reasons and then fought and strategized by men in uniforms-- unless those who started it continue to micromanage it for their original political purposes. Although many said we learned our lesson in Vietnam, with not letting suits do the strategizing, it seems we didn't. To avoid running up more of a debt, to avoid a draft, and maybe to hide the true cost from the American people, it has been suits who have determined a lot of what has gotten us to where we are today in Iraq.

Constantly we are told we must support the people in uniform. What the suits really mean is we must support their political agenda and they use the loyalty of the soldiers to achieve that goal. Going back in history, it's easier to see that the real reasons behind wars are often not clear until many years later.

In the case of Iraq, people with Bush's mentality and emotional make-up can't or won't reevaluate any part of it. His people constantly say if we leave now it will make all of the loss of life to date meaningless. So the only way is forward (whatever forward now means) and Americans and Iraqis must accept more loss of life both from the military and civilians.

President Bush says if we cut and run (orderly withdrawal doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary) it will appear like what we did after our Lebanon Embassy and Marine barracks were bombed in 1983 under Reagan (he actually doesn't mention this one nor do his minions because it doesn't make their party look good); then there is how we pulled out instead of getting revenge in Somalia after the horrible death of some of our troops in 1993 under Clinton's watch (this has become very popular with the foxies to discuss and is way too complicated to go into the whys of here-- but is worth doing internet research for anyone interested); and finally how we didn't avenge the October 12, 2000 bombing of the Cole which could be either Clinton or Bush (less discussion on this one for obvious reasons; but if Clinton had started a war over it right before the election, can you imagine the screaming! Republicans had already accused him of wag the dog every time he tried to get bin Laden).

Iraq was supposed to be a quick victory and it would have been... if the political decision hadn't been that we must stay to occupy, and if the political decision wasn't wanting to determine who should govern there when we do leave. With an occupation, it has become a growing military and political nightmare as Iraq has slipped into a civil war, something the Bush administration has been slow to admit even when they are told so by their own experts-- suits and uniforms.

Our reasons for going there were supposed to be about weapons of mass destruction, nukes in Iraq. Oops! Not true although some diehards cannot admit this and continue to hold out that they have to be there somewhere. What was interesting about this reason, if it was so, is why did they tell the military to secure the oil administration first and not get to the weapon storage areas until well after they had been looted-- which means the Iraqis underground fighters got whatever had been left there.

For those who finally realized the WMD in Iraq were the remanants of earlier actions and not a possible risk to the rest of the world, the reason became liberating the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator. That works to a point given the man was brutal, but most of his worst deeds occurred years ago when he was our ally, and how many innocents have been killed there since we invaded? Oh well. Currently it appears to be about planting a flowering garden for democracy in the Middle East as a beacon to all other Muslim nations for what is possible.

It does appear to be a beacon, by our own government reports, but one for terrorists, something it was not before the war. Hussein and bin Laden had nothing in common except hatred of the United States, but Hussein was badly weakened after Desert Storm and had no ability to go to war with anyone. Being a secular leader, he didn't want bin Laden anywhere near him.

Some think 9/11 is why we attacked Iraq. That's what Bush used as his excuse-- convoluted as it is; but from what I have read, the plans were in the works from the day Bush took office. They were just waiting for a good enough excuse to get the American people to buy in on it.

They did manage to hit Afghanistan first, where bin Laden actually was, but didn't finish the job; and it's pretty clear for some reason backed off on getting bin Laden. Could that be because they wanted him out there as a bad guy to get Americans to accept the Iraqi war?

Here are a few questions to consider:

Was Bush's real reason for the Iraqi war a desire to consolidate his and the Republican party's power? After all, in a war, you can accuse anyone who disagrees with you of not being a patriot. In a war, you can take away certain people's rights and the majority don't argue because it's to make them safer, right?

Was his desire to conquer Iraq related to his father's decision not to do so, and a need to show him that he was the stronger man?

In Bush's ignorance of the Iraqi culture, did he really have no idea what forces he would unleash and wasn't about to ask his more knowledgeable father, given the rivalry he felt?

Did the people behind him think they could secure an oil source and didn't have a clue of the problems they were about to face doing it? (Some think that's why Bush Sr. sent troops into Somalia-- securing a huge oil field for friendly interests.)

Today Iraq not only draws terrorists to fight the foreign occupiers (to them, that's us in case you are a Fox News viewer), but it is also a poster for their enrollment elsewhere. It has distracted our money and resources from finishing the job in Afghanistan where we might have had a chance to actually accomplish something-- although the Soviet Union didn't find that such an easy job even in the years when it had one of the most formidable armies in the world (opinion of a former military man).

The problem, with wars in countries like Iraq or any of the nations that have little military might, is they fight guerilla style, like the Native Americans did here when they were being conquered by a much larger force. The Arabs have an advantage the Native Americans didn't-- money and resources to buy weapons as they need them. They are also reinforced by a religious belief that encourages their martyrdom in the name of their holy cause.

To make it worse, what we have done in Iraq has strengthened the belief of many that the western world doesn't care about them. Would statements such as Bush makes regularly-- we want to fight them there; so we don't have to fight them here-- make you think he cared about you if it was in your homeland?

(The war memorial above is in Lincoln City, Oregon. As in many small towns across the United States, it is a list of the names of those who gave their all in a war for this country. I stop at such memorials often because I think it's good for us, who didn't pay that price, to not forget what wars are really about.

Beside it, an old woman my age or a bit older, sat and read. I didn't ask if she knew one of those names, but she could have been a wife, sister or mother. Respecting her privacy, I would not think of posting a photograph of her, but her shadow is an added reminder that although wars are often begun for political reasons, they are paid for in someone's blood.)

Part II coming in next blog!

Monday, October 09, 2006


Might as well start out with one of the toughest issues that challenges the belief we have had about who we in the United States are: Do we torture? Should we torture?

Oh I know the spiel from the right-- What would you do if your grandchild was held prisoner and you could torture someone to find out where? How do you know we do use torture? Has it really been any tougher than a fraternity initiation? Those hypothetical questions, the ones that avoid real issues and pop up so people don't have to face real questions.

Here's a real question: Is torture okay with you? Or maybe-- how many of those who were tortured were guilty of anything? Or does torturing matter as long as you are kept safe? Will it only matter if someday there is a knock is at your own door?

President Bush has evidently won the right to keep torturing whoever he chooses. So much for McCain making a big deal out of his limiting the president. Limited him how? They left it whatever Bush decided was okay was okay. How is that different than what was? Was their whole protestation a farce to get publicity before rolling over?

With the justification of protecting us, the Geneva Conventions have been turned into whatever this president decides is okay. We already know what he has thought was okay-- beatings, sexual humiliation, water-boarding, hypothermia, stretched positions (used to call that the rack), threatened rape if not actual rape. Some died under these tortures. Under that criteria, seems odd they would try Saddam Hussein.

Personally I suspect Bush needed something said that would condone what he has already done. Maybe his concern was avoiding future trials of his own people. I wonder how he would like having his men or perhaps himself put on trial but no evidence given because if you gave evidence, it might alert the enemy to your true plans.

How does someone like Bilal Hussein, a cameraman photographing the Iraq war, defend himself when he's arrested but with no list of charges, no names of accusers, but just thrown into prison, possibly tortured to get him to admit to something-- anything.

Whether we like thinking about any of this or not, we have personal responsibility for our own acquiescence in whatever they do. So was it okay with to torture men like Abdul Ameer Hussein or Maher Arar who later the government released and admitted were innocent? Oops. Accidents happen when you are trying to keep the American people safe.

What if such torture ends up saving nobody's life anywhere? Still okay? How do we find out if the torturing was useful? Are we content to take the word of the Bush administration because we think that absolves us of personal responsibility?

Ignorance is no excuse in the law, and I don't think it is in moral issues either-- not when it's purposeful ignorance.

I believe the Geneva Conventions were agreed upon in the same way many years before a convention of people got together to write down specifically what Jesus taught and who he was. Not new information but simply deciding it was time to write it down.

The people writing the Conventions weren't gathering new information either. They were consolidating human opinion on how to treat others in a war situation-- something this administration has declared us to be fighting. The idea was the so-called civilized world (not one man alone) would decide what was appropriate to do to prisoners.

After the horror of the Holocaust, I think the world wanted to never again let one nation ride roughshod over others without accountability from the whole community. What they wrote down then was an agreement on what was civilized.

Germans, as a people, had a stain on their reputation that lasted many years after what happened under the Nazi party. Was it enough that they as individuals didn't know, or were they guilty of looking the other way and not wanting to see?

Some people in my country don't seem to care what someone else does if they are told it will keep their families safe. Others disagree with torture, but will they see that disagreeing means they have to vote out their own congressmen who voted to allow torture-- whatever party he was in.

And about torture itself, it's not just that it doesn't work. It's not just that people who are tortured will confess to anything. It's not just that it's inhumane to sexually and physically abuse another person for your own ends-- whatever they are. It's about who we are, not just who they are.

"This is a spooky time in history. It’s one thing for tyrannical regimes like the old Soviet Union and Communist China to bulldoze the very idea of human rights and human decency by engaging in such atrocities as detention without trial, torture and other forms of state terror. It’s something else completely when the United States, the greatest symbol of liberty that the world has ever known, begins to head down that hellish road. " by Bob Herbert-- September 25, 2006 New York Times

So just exactly who are we? Do we torture or do we say no to it at the polls in November?

The people who have been tortured all around the world by many nations are generally anonymous-- some guilty of something, some innocent. To reflect their faceless fate, there could be no photograph for this topic.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Who is she to write about politics?

At one time I was the real deal-- the proverbial soccer mom-- until my kids grew up. Now my grandkids are beginning to play soccer; so maybe it's soccer grandma. It will come as no shock to any regular readers that I am a registered democrat who regularly votes. In 2004, my family donated money to the Democratic party for the first time ever to any political party hoping to keep Bush from a second term.

Once upon a time I voted for the man rather than the party. That was in those days before one party got a lock on power. I am one of those who likes gridlock where neither party can shove through their own agenda but instead must work together. I'd be happy if a third party became viable. I am not sure that is possible given the lock the two-party system seems to have on power. Well it was two-party, not sure right now what it is-- nor am I certain what Republicans or Democ
rats stand for given the way money has so corrupted our system.

In terms of expertise, I have no degree in political science, nor am I a lawyer... Nope, no MBA either. I majored in education when I was in college-- way way back. I don't watch network television to get my news, and don't regularly watch cable TV either. I read newspapers (with conservative and liberal bents), political books, go to websites where politics are analyzed. Frequently I peek in at World Net Daily, a conservative, Christian online newspaper, to see their take on things and always take time to add my view to their poll results. I worry the most when I am with the majority on a question-- which does happen once in a great while.

From the time I was a little girl, the 'why' of things mattered to me. I was and am one of those always questioning-- leaving my friends to ask why be so analytical or say you're looking too deep. I can't argue with them, but it's how I am. It might go with the territory of writing and art. In art my interest has always been in sculpting or painting people. I am curious at the reasons behind things. That is both a gift and a curse.

For lifestyle, I am unorthodox in my spiritual beliefs, am a rural living and animal loving woman, who has raised two kids who are currently raising three of their own. I come from a union family where most everybody was Democrat. Even then politics was a hotly discussed topic not only from my parents, but at most family gatherings. My own children grew up hearing political debates in their home, being encouraged to vote as soon as they were legally able. We don't agree on all issues and still carry on those spirited discussions.

Until the Bush people got into power, I would have called myself a moderate. My political positions, while firm, are not those of one side or the other. It irks me when some say a modera
te is washy-washy. It's no such thing. A moderate is actually an independent thinker. Because the party they generally vote for believes one way or the other won't make them do likewise. To me a moderate is one who chooses positions based on their personal life and beliefs-- not what someone else tells them they should support.

As two short examples of what being moderate means for me (would be different for others)-- I am for the death penalty in certain types of crimes, but also for choice in early abortions. I am not for free choice through the entire length of a pregnancy. I am a gun owner who has a concealed weapon permit and very strongly supports right to bear arms but don't think ordinary citizens should be allowed to own machine guns or assault rifles.

Naturally over the next month I will be writing more about my political opinions. I believe that just because we inherited a wonderful place to live, doesn't mean it'll always stay that way. We have to stand up for what we believe, sometimes sacrifice and stay alert that the values we hold dearest are not sucked away by those who only value power.

Sometimes in seeking power, people lose track of where they're heading, what they have sold to get it. Sometimes a country can do the same thing. I believe to stay grounded in world like ours takes constant reassessing. In any nation, there are always those ready to tell us what to think if we haven't taken the time to figure it out for ourselves.

When I tried to think of a photograph to illustrate who I believe I am but in a broader sense what I believe my country stands for, one choice became obvious. It was taken 8 years ago on the Metolius River in Central Oregon. My children were taken to this place from infancy, and the day the above picture was taken I had the opportunity to be there with my first grandchild. This photograph represents a continuity of love for nature and the beauty of life in a country that I will always cherish.

Incidentally, I was born 63 years ago today. I was fortunate enough to be born to parents who wanted me, who taught solid values by the example of their lives. When I was a toddler, they moved us to a farm where my brother was born. There wasn't ever a lot of money, but they taught
us through the way they lived that money wasn't as important as other things.

They have both passed to the other side now, but I am grateful and thank them for the start they gave me, for all they added to my life. The continuity of life is one of its wonders.

(This last picture shows my roots as well as anything could. That's my brother and me cooling off in a cattle watering tank.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Who is Bush?

I would like to start with something positive about our current President Bush, but I haven't come up with anything yet. Let me see if I can as I write.

On a personal level, I don't know who the man is. He claims he's a cowboy, others call him that, but is he? He was born to a wealthy, very political, blue-blood family. He was raised in the oil country of Texas and back East. When he debated Ann Richards for governor of Texas, he had no drawl. He acquired it, I guess, about the time he acquired a ranch as a way to present himself as a cowboy-- you know the kind with no horses or cows but who wears boots, drives around in a pick-up, cuts down brush that likely doesn't need cutting, the wantabe cowboy type. Maybe his handlers saw the image worked for Ronald Reagan, who happened to be the real deal.

Image is everything in the political world and what really lies behind it often is not of interest to anyone. Image is to make the rest of us feel good.

Much as I might like to, I can't say Bush is stupid or evil; nor on the other side can I say he's good or intelligent. All I know about him as a person is through mannerisms, his policy decisions, and speeches which are mostly written for him by others. Not knowing much about his personality other than mannerisms and hearsay, it's difficult to make assessments as to character. Not to mention when you dislike someone's policies as much as I do his, it's hard to separate the man out from his actions.

Whether it's Bush or those behind him, somebody in that administration is ruthless. Is that how he defines being powerful? Running for office, he didn't mind using character assassination to gain power. He is the man who has not only condoned torture but fights to continue to have the right to do it without having to prove a need or whether it has even worked. Is this a wantabe he-man type without understanding what real power is all about?

Does Bush understand his various policy positions or is there someone telling him what to think? Does it happen in the same way as when he tells reporters he doesn't need to read the newspapers because someone tells him what they say? Does he choose books to read that are part of our past history because someone doesn't want to confuse him with current books about the real problems we are facing?

For that matter if he really read 60 books already this year, not to mention all of those hours of exercising, how does he get his job done? Has anybody here, retired or not, had time to read 60 books in 9 months as he claimed he had done in one interview? Does this end up being busy work to keep him occupied-- so he doesn't get in the way of the important things being done by the big people? Or were those Cliff Notes he read? Is it more of the image of what he'd like to think he was but doesn't want to go to the work of really being? I can't say that's true. Can't say it's not, but it does make me wonder.

Being a good politician is important to get in office, but what kind of a leader has he been once he got there? For that matter regarding those who see him as such a shrewd politician, remember some also have seen him also as a good businessman. We know he failed in his oil business (during what was admittedly a hard time for oil) and instead made his money through becoming a governor and being in a position to increase the worth and his personal percentage of that sports franchise through a stadium the government helped build. All these opportunities came through family connections. I guess government pork projects are okay when you profit from them.

As for his military career, this gung ho to send our troops into war, who makes himself sound like he's such a tough guy, avoided going to combat himself by pulling family strings. Many avoided combat back then, but the difference is he now acts as though he did go to war. On that aircraft carrier (a carefully staged event), he strode around like the war hero president from the movie Independence Day. Is this like the wantabe cowboy? A wantabe war hero? All without having to do anything real to acquire it-- just the image.

When we ourselves have avoided war, an introspective person wouldn't even want to bring up their military service. But Bush would be the last person to say he was introspective or that he knows why he does much of anything. He just feels it's right, or does someone else tell him what is? Who really knows.

Since he got into office, where he speaks and who gets to hear him in person has been carefully monitored-- almost always crowds that agree with his stance, partisan groups. He can say all he wants about uniting our country, but he has gone out of his way from the start to be the president to a limited sector.

Not long after he was elected the first time, he flew into Oregon to survey fire damage. He came as the president of this nation, and spoke at the local fairgrounds. My kids live nearby and wanted their children to see their president. My kids are professionals, good citizens, and work in civic groups but that wasn't good enough. To get a ticket to hear the president, you had to be on the Republican list.

Since he was elected, he has been traveling around the country constantly. It's not for town hall meetings. It's not to speak to the citizens of this nation-- except through sound bites for the evening news. His purpose has always been to raise money for his party and himself.

Because Bush is not up for election again, some might see this whole piece on him was pointless, but it's his party who is. It is him who is out all the time gathering money for Republicans to win this November. He knows if they do, he can continue on his reckless path because Republicans, whether they call themselves moderates or not, fall in lockstep with the Bush agenda--- more coming regarding that and the recent torture bill.

The only way to stop Bush, if you do not respect where he's taking this country, is stop the Republicans come November.

When I tried to decide what kind of photograph could I use to illustrate this blog, I was stymied. An empty suit, a mask, the invisible man? Maybe a garbage dump for his attitude toward the environment. I finally decided the ruins at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, would say what is going on best.

Chaco was a spiritual and maybe even government center for the Anasazi people who built proud cities and developed quite a culture-- for awhile. Something went wrong in their environment and maybe their culture which forced them to abandon this site and head south. These empty holes should remind us to take nothing for granted in terms of what we believe we have. Bush is not a man to worry his head about such things which is why the rest of us better.