Saturday, March 31, 2007

Catalina: the creek

As you walk onto the bluff above the creek,
sounds of moving water greet you

and you smile. How could you not?
Ahead lies change, hidden secrets
most of all coolness.
Soon there will be flowers, birds, butterflies.
Life awaits.

The desert is stark and dry,
conserving that it must but
below you hear a different rhythm.
It is the sound of water
as it forms small waterfalls
and bubbles over rocks and around trees.
Water conserves nothing
as it rushes to its date with destiny
to disappear into the desert sands.

One day you will walk the same trail
and before you reach the bluff,
you will hear a loud, rushing sound.
Those are the times of flood,
when the canyon recreates itself,
when it uproots trees,

when huge boulders are tumbled
and trails are washed away.
In the days of flood,
water respects no boundaries.

Another day you will walk the same trail
but no matter how hard you listen,
only silence lies below.
Those are the days of a few stagnant pools,
of dark wet sand.
But even then, you feel the spirit of the creek
as you walk along its banks.
It is as though the creek bed is pregnant
with its awaiting.

All of nature, of which you are a small part
knows that someday again
the stream will run with its joyous sound
Butterflies will dance along its banks
The creek will once again sing of secret places
of unknown things.
Life awaits.

(All of these photographs are from this week and of the creek where I have been hiking.
They could have been taken on many such desert streams in the Sonoran Desert.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

predator or prey

(If you don't like sad animal stories, best to look at the pictures today and skip the story.
The flowers are to honor a very special dog.)

Although I planned to put up the next blog about the creek where I hike, something happened that changed my mind. Our nearby neighbor came over to ask if we had heard anything this afternoon. We had not. I asked, what happened? And she told us between 1 and 2 PM, something had killed their much loved dog, Cookie-- it was javelina.

For anyone who hasn't lived on the desert, they would not imagine javelina could be deadly to a dog. In Oregon, not on this computer, I have some pictures of them around this house. The link more or less describes what they are for anyone who hasn't heard of them.

Although javelina look like small, wild boars, they are actually 40 to 90 pound rodents-- according to biology. They have tusks and bodies that look like pigs, and those tusks can be quite dangerous. When I see them here, I do take pictures but from a safe distance as I had been told they can rip a person's leg open.

Cookie had been badly injured in an attack a few years ago; but after a high veterinary bill, her family was able to get her healed. This time it's hard to say exactly what happened. Tracks and signs of the battle told the general story. The shocking part is they had actually chased her up onto her own porch to finish her off. We kind of expect that with animals we think of as predators but not ones we think of as prey, but javelina are both.

The shock is, as it always is with sudden death, how fast it happened. The neighbors had been in and out, we were outside replanting flowers. Whenever the attack happened, it was in a span of no more than an hour, and my husband said, from the signs, she was fatally injured very quickly in the fight.

I like dogs and very much liked Cookie. Off and on I have stayed down here alone to write, paint or hike. Cookie startled/scared me a few times by coming over and barking at me for putting my own clothes out on the line. She had decided our yard was also hers to patrol. Dogs are very loyal, and they do their duty even when it costs them their lives.

As long as I am writing a sad blog, and right now I could write nothing else, there was another sad event when we got here although not on the level of Cookie's loss. A packrat had gnawed a hole in the door to the small shed where we store pool chemicals and birdseed blocks. When we arrived here, we saw much of what had been in the room had been torn apart for bedding materials, as well as dragging in prickly pear cactus bits, any kind of food that could be carried. The same neighbors who today lost their dog had put a water trap in there a few weeks ago, drowning the male packrat. My husband, in cleaning out the damage, startled the female; and as you can see from the pictures, she quickly gathered up her young to get them to a safer location.

We will be putting something metal on the bottom of the door to prevent this from happening again, but I felt sad for her having to find a new home. But with my sadness, I again have to face the duality of life. Too many rodents can bring disease into an area. We sometimes have to poison these cute little creatures to keep their numbers down. We don't like to be predators either-- but sometimes we are..

You would think, given that I see loss of life a fair amount with owning livestock, that I'd be hardened to such losses, but I never am. We share this little piece of land with many creatures, snakes, tarantulas, bunnies, quail, many varieties of birds, coyotes, bobcats, javelina, once in awhile even a cougar or bear wanders down out of the nearby mountains. Mostly we live harmoniously, but not always...

Spider woman is the name of this sculpture. She is one of mine and earned her title by one of the times I was cleaning out the little pool. I lifted her up to move her and under her was a tarantula that left in a huff. I put the sculpture back where it had been and apologized. Spider Woman is also part of Navajo mythology.

(All photos from today and this little piece of desert.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Catalina: the desert

The changing moods of the Arizona-Sonora desert surprise those who think of a desert as barren, lifeless or without plants. This was taken Saturday morning looking toward the Catalina Mountains, where on some of the higher reaches snow could still be seen. The evidence of the storm of the day before was through a few clouds it had left behind and the flow in the creek.

To hike the canyon loop trail at Catalina State Park, you often wade the stream that you see in this picture. Sometimes the stream bed is totally dry; but after heavy rains, it can flood, ripping up trees, changing its bed totally, or be easily crossed by wading. Before the 2.3 mile loop trail has been ridden, walked, or run, a hiker will have crossed the stream 5 places.
My favorite trail at Catalina State Park loops across a ridge that extends to about where you see that steep point. There is a bit of a climb to reach this particular sentinel saguaro, which has lived long enough to have seen Apaches, Pimas (sometimes called Akimel O'odhams , Tohono O'odhams (formerly Papago), Yaquis, miners, cattlemen, hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers.

On Saturday, the desert had been brown as we hiked this trail. This tree probably had plant buds but nothing like this. The rain had come and the desert plants know to not wait to utilize what comes along. This tree is a mesquite, and its seeds are edible and provide food for desert dwellers.

One of the most beautiful things about the desert is the lessons it teaches. Life here waits for the rain and when it comes, it wastes no time in utilizing it. When we hiked the trail on Saturday it was still dry looking but by Monday, it had changed and opened up, the butterflies were along the creek floor, the leaves had popped up and the land sang with the new song rain had brought. We should sing our own songs when life gives us the chance.

(Next blog: the creek)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rose-colored Glasses

Do you look for the good things in wherever you find yourself or dwell on the downside? Can you meld together the positive and the negative and live with both or prefer to gloss over the ugly side of life?

I think some of the ones who have complained about John and Elizabeth Edwards deciding to continue with his campaign for the presidency, after revealing his wife has incurable cancer, are ones who would rather not be reminded that life comes with pluses and minuses. Some believe we create all our own minuses and could live with only pluses, but I am not one of those. I believe the rain falls on the just and unjust and good things come into the lives of bad people and bad things into the lives of good people. We cannot judge someone by whether they have good health and many material blessings nor if they are loaded with tragedies and poor as church mice (whatever that saying is supposed to mean). Life is a mix. Some of it is a crap shoot determined by luck and genetic inheritances with which we had nothing to do. A lot of the quality of our life is shown by how we react when the dark wind blows.

On the drive down, I photographed the beauty but there were mixes of things that I saw, and I have always liked to photograph the other side as well-- the losses and the victories. Sometimes ugliness and beauty are side by side. So before I go onto one of my favorite places in Tucson, which is all natural beauty, I thought I'd share some of the 'other' side of the drive down-- this time from just outside of Earp, California to Casa Grande, Arizona.

Oh and on the Edwards. I think they made the right choice because it was what they wanted to do; and if they had dropped out, it'd have also been the right choice. I see how though, where she has an incurable disease that will kill her, she can either live her life fully for as long as she physically can, or she can wait to die. Her decision was not just for her but also an important life lesson for her children.

We can't control all of what life brings us, but we can control what we make of it-- after we get through crying. Lemons into lemonade or a sour face. It's what we add to the mix.

(Also what happened doesn't mean someone should vote for or against Edwards. That should be decided on his stand on the issues and how well can he govern. Nobody who runs for president gets a bill of health on their spouse or themselves that lasts through the term.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

back in Arizona

On the road again... well not really but just off the road and back in Arizona. The drive from Oregon to Tucson, Arizona, can be done by several routes. The shortest is south through California, across that state from Bakersfield to Needles, then angling across the state of Arizona to Tucson. Most of the drive is monotonous, tiring, hard on the back, and boring. Did I mention monotonous?

I started traveling between these two states when I was 21 and can't even begin to say how many times. Suffice it to say when I began, there was no I-5. Twice it was on a bus, not a trip I'd recommend. Then there was the time coming up when heavily pregnant, with no air conditioning, and in the hottest days of the summer.

The first time down I-5, it was barren, with nothing alongside the freeway. When we drove down last week, agriculture was covering almost all the formerly sagebrush and grass covered ground. This was totally due to water-- canals. Those canals are changing Arizona too and little by little all the previously barren lands are being plowed and planted. I don't know if that is good or not. I heard on one of the talk radio programs (one of the ways to make the miles pass down through California) that the United States is a large exporter of food; so guess it's good-- except I keep thinking where are all the creatures who used to live on these lands? I think the same thing when I am in Tucson as that is also developing and changing so that it's hard to recognize it as the city I first saw 42 years ago.

I usually dread the drive down, put it off until it just can't be put off longer and it's only when I get into Arizona that I feel the love swell up to remind me why the Sonoran Desert spoke to my soul first time I saw it and it has never quit. Why is it that things I love so much, like the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest, have to be over a thousand miles apart?

Every time I come down, I am surprised at the growth. So much of the desert where I have hiked, looked for minerals, picnicked, painted, and savored is disappearing under the wheels of progress. As our population and that of the world expands, I can only be grateful I saw all of this before it was gone. I recognize change is part of life, some of it is very good, but it is also inevitable. Fortunately for me no way can they golf or farm those hills; so some will remain-- unless they start building housing developments and resorts in them...

All of these pictures were taken along the freeways somewhere between Quartzite and Casa Grande at about 70 mph-- no I was not driving-- where at least for now the land is still open and mostly undeveloped. The hills and sky change every mile. Every year there is the time of seeing the first saguaro. I actually saw one in Parker but since it was planted, it didn't count.

I suppose to someone who is conditioned to green and treed slopes, this country might not seem pretty, but to me it's mystical and beautiful. I love seeing the angles of the mountains, the way the purple changes with the light, and the sky overhead that goes from placid to stormy. When I get to the Sonoran Desert, the drive changes from one that I am tolerating to one that I am excited about what I am seeing and feeling.

Then there is the sky. Words don't do justice to describing this constantly changing and expansive sky. The first night here, an Arizona sunset provided the perfect coda to the symphony of sky and mountain that I had been enjoying all day.

(Please take a moment to expand these pictures. Since I was posting so many, I made them small and small doesn't do these hills justice.)

Rogue River Journal

When a friend told me about the book, Rogue River Journal, a winter alone, by John Daniel, without waiting to skim it in a bookstore or checking reviews, I placed an order through Amazon. I knew I would like it

Daniel, an Oregon poet, took advantage of a program allowing writers to live in the southern Oregon wilderness for specified periods of time. His book covers a span of one winter in a small but comfortable cabin on a ridge high above the Rogue River. For four months, he would live, fish, hike, hunt, and write in his journal. He didn't know where his time of solitude would lead him.

Rogue River Journal describes not only what his days were like, but how during this time, he integrated his childhood into his middle age, finding peace with his upbringing as well as his own youthful missteps. His story of his father, the life his parents had led is woven into the experience of solitude.

John Daniel grew up in a time not so different than my own. His writing of the union organizing work his parents did, his father's alcoholism, Daniel's own coming of age during the Vietnam War years were all more engrossing than I expected them to be. I was there for the wilderness experience, and it didn't disappoint.

For his sojourn, he not only wanted to live remote from civilization; but he planned it to not hear another human voice for the entire time. Since the road into the cabin would be blocked by snow and ice, the isolation part was relatively easy to attain. A couple of times, when he was fishing, he did hear people down on the Rogue rafting past, but he avoided them. Most river rafting is done during the warmer months; so generally his companions were wild turkeys, grouse, fish, herons, Canadian geese, the possibility of run-ins with bear or cougar, books he brought along, and his own mind.

He stocked up supplies, had planted a winter garden in advance, had a radio phone that enabled him to call out once a week to let his wife know he was safe. He had arranged the exact time in advance; so she would not answer the phone and his own voice would be on the answering machine. He also arranged to turn that phone on at a certain time each week enabling her to call if she had an emergency. Otherwise, he was dependent on what he had the forethought to bring-- books to inspire him, fishing, hiking, and total solitude.

When I read something like this, I like to mark passages meaningful to me, I looked through those for a few quotes to give others a flavor of his writing and thinking-- so many topics, so many ideas, some humorous, some the kinds of things to encourage the reader to do a little of their own digging-- whether experiencing solitude or not.

"It's entirely plausible, according to two Zen masters, that I'm already enlightened. (I'm just the type who wouldn't know it.) I've decided to try out this theory, to live as though I already know everything I need to know. If it pans out, it's revolutionary. It means there's nothing I have to break through to. I'm already there."

This next one is from Thoreau on the desirability of melancholy. "There is a certain fertile sadness which I would not avoid, but rather earnestly seek. It is positively joyful to me. It saves my life from being trivial. My life flows with a deeper current..."

Daniel took that thought further to a personal observation: "Depression is barren, denying as it does all feelings other than hopelessness. Joy is unitary, a single intense pitch with small modulations, and unsustainable in any case. Melancholy is a mix of feelings, a melange shaded strongly with sadness but containing happiness too, even glints of joy. It accepts and reflects the wholeness of living, even as it laments one's errors and limitations."

If you are a writer, a lover of nature, or someone who has struggled to come to terms with your own heritage, consider checking his book out of a library or buying it as I did. I don't think it will disappoint.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sowing Wild Oats

There is an old saying-- sow your wild oats when you are young. The implication is if you do it then, you will get it out of your system preparing you to then settle into a sedate, productive adult life. It is part of why our culture has been more forgiving of youthful transgressions but less so as people get older.

Generally, I think wild oats are thought to be things like partying, getting drunk, maybe loose sex, and general irresponsible behavior. If you want to party your heart out, do it young (when you have lousy judgment) and then as you age, you will be happier. That's the theory anyway. Since I never tried it out, I can't say for sure whether it works.

I have no regrets that I didn't sow those kind of wild oats as a young woman. I didn't desire it then and still don't. That could change at say 80 but hasn't at 63. There is, however, a wildness I do have regrets about not having more of-- wild- erness.

Although I have camped a lot, live where most would consider it to be on the edge of the wild, I have always wanted to experience more of that. When my children were little, a series of films came out about a family going into the wilderness and making a home for themselves. That was my fantasy back then. Not my children's fantasies, of course, although they can see more value in it now that they have little ones of their own.

I still have a lot of books on how to make a life in the wilderness, wilderness skills, homesteading, and building your own house. I experimented with some of it with things like having milk goats-- didn't work so well given nobody in the family was willing to drink the milk. Once I helped build a chicken house and that was rewarding, had a flock of chickens until my parents' dogs killed most of them on a rampage. (Their dogs were cock-a-poos, but it doesn't take much to kill a chicken)

Where it comes to even backpacking into the wilderness for camping trips, there are a lot of things that can go wrong; and these days, I am more prone to sample wilderness through my reading material (review of one such book will be next blog). I have a feeling it's probably something to experience next lifetime (if there is a next) as by my age living in the wilderness is less and less feasible-- although you never know.

I realize my idea of the wild is a fantasy that ignores a lot of reality, but it's still lingering there in the back of my mind along with the ending of The Virginian by Owen Wister where the hero takes his new bride on (to me) the most romantic honeymoon possible-- horse packing into the wilderness. Probably an experience best lived in imagination and through the pages of books.

(Photograph Bear Creek Falls, Hamilton, Montana.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The military-industrial complex and 1984

Before he left the presidency, Dwight Eisenhower warned of something he saw as a risk ahead. "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." He said a lot of other very wise things that obviously are no longer the belief of either party of today-- despite some of their claims.

My husband was listening to NPR as he was treating the sheep for parasites and giving the lambs their shots. He heard a man speaking about private military companies, about the secret power such groups have under the mis-named Patriot Act. It truly is scary and when I began to research online about the book coming out about it, it got more scary.

Interview with Jeremy Skahill about his new book-- Blackwater. The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

There are a lot more articles on this group online and well worth reading because this is where we are. We already have a huge private military group with power to do whatever they need overseas and how long before it's also here-- if it isn't already. It is being run by people who call themselves Christians but operate as fascists. If this isn't scary, I don't know the meaning of that word. Worse is that a lot of Americans probably think great-- then their sons and daughters don't have to go overseas, then they will be safe. They think the same thing when they realize they have lost most of the Bill of Rights, but it's okay because they are safe...

A friend and I had a lengthy conversation [okay argument] last night about the two main political parties. His belief is neither will ever change anything important. He said both are the same, just slight variations to let us think we voted for somebody. It's easy to believe that when you look at the suggestions democrats are putting out for Iraq. In '08 will we have a real choice that means a real change? If a real choice was out there, would the powers that are in control now let that voice be heard for long?

One big difference now that never was true before are things like YouTube as well as blogging. YouTube lets everyone see a presidential speech or the latest discussion on a myriad of issues. An ordinary person can write a blog and let their voice be heard, but then what? Is it already too late to undo some of what has been done? I am not saying it is, but asking the question.

YouTube has a couple of cute ads showing the power of this communication tool and how easy it is for bloggers, all across this world, to get these things out. Instead of massive advertising budgets, all a candidate or group need to cover are production costs.

The downside, for the viewer, is you can't be sure who put them out. You can't know that a speech hasn't been edited. Buyer beware is the best advice. The upside is they can deal with issues that matter (or just be funny).

One of the YouTubes is of Edwards (likewise, a good example of how they went after Gore and Kerry). It's silly but definitely funny. That particular video is NOT a reason to vote against someone. It's a good reason to laugh.

The second is a different type and about something a lot more serious. This 1984 inspired ad is warning against the existing establishment. The ad is well done, scary and something to be thought about seriously. The implication is you vote for Obama to avoid being controlled by the establishment, but how do we really know who controls him already? The video represents a warning and speaks to us all doing our part. One person can make a difference if enough of them come together.

The question for Americans to answer is do we want a huge, mercenary, military complex that is outside the government-- no matter which party or president is in office? Do we want a brain-washed populace? I don't even like to think what the answer to that might be.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


It has been interesting to look at how much media coverage the outing of a covert CIA agent received. Up until her hearing, where she declared under oath and Senator Henry Waxman opened the hearing by declaring she was covert, we have been told she wasn't covert. She was just classified... and that makes it okay that Cheney, Bush and Rove decided to ruin her cover. Except now there are declarative words-- under oath-- that she had made trips overseas within the last 5 years that were secret. She was, by the law, covert.

Oh yes, Victoria Toensing, who (as deputy assistant to the attorney general in 1982) helped write a law legally deciding who was covert, testified next that Plame was not. Toensing said she had not asked the CIA or Plame about her status (because she is more of an expert than the CIA-- plus from other things she's written she thinks they are major goof ups). She knew this based on her own intent-- nobody is covert who doesn't live overseas under a secret identity. Living here and traveling overseas to spy does not qualify. So if any enemies want to know who is a spy, they can now be sure nobody is spying who isn't living overseas.

One might reasonably ask why the Reagan administration wanted to limit the definition of being covert to living overseas (if they did), but if you actually read the law, it defines covert as anyone has been engaged in secret work overseas. That means, to my un-legal mind, that the little Bush attack dog, who obviously hopes for some bones for what she has been doing, was trying to parse out the truth and get her owners slack for assuming they didn't out an actual agent. Could she be trying to pad her retirement by more lucrative jobs in her senior years (which from what she looks like are coming soon)?

So, back to the issue, let's see what did these loyal, patriotic leaders accomplish by outing Valerie Plame? In the minds of those who believe only what the flakes at Fox say, it gave them reassurance that everything the Bush people had done was okay.

Can you imagine the uproar if it had been the Clinton administration who had done this to a CIA agent? Accusations at Fox would have flown out that it was treason, that those doing it wanted to destroy our intelligence network because they hate spies. There would have been talk of impeachment-- with good reason. There should be now. A year ago, I never thought Bush or Cheney should be impeached but that's because who had any idea how low they had actually sunk, how little real concern they had for this country. What kind of damage can they continue to do while they are in power? Impeachment might slow down their destruction although maybe not.

Nobody who loves this country would do what these men did. Patriots would put the good of the nation ahead of their own partisan or personal egos, but that isn't what happened. They either didn't bother to find out about her status or knew if they didn't find out, they had an out-- in case anybody even cared.

There was nobody who has cared for the years after this happened-- except the legal system and it wasn't about what happened but only about lies to the courts and FBI agents. Because of Republican control of the House and Senate until 2006, this like so much else, has been ignored. This was Plame's first chance to testify as to her status and responsibilities. (In case you didn't hear about it, she was investigating weapons proliferation... minor issue in these days of terrorists, right?)

It's amazing. This is the party that loves our country most and yet nobody in it wanted to find out what Valerie Plame actually did. Republicans didn't care that someone deliberately outed her in either revenge or a cover-up because it was their own party. It was their power. These so-called patriots were willing to shove it under the rug, not care that along with Plame, anybody working at her dummy company was also outed, that years of investigations might have been endangered, not to mention the agents working over there. What kind of people are Cheney, Bush and Rove? Whose side are they actually on?

And back to that original question about how much coverage did all this receive? Not much from what I have seen. The media liked the story of a leading general who said homosexuality was immoral and the one about US Attorneys being fired, which even if Bush was trying to bury cases or punish those who had prosecuted Republicans, even then, Bush had the legal authority to fire... legal if not moral.

I have even read a few from the main media that said with derogatory disgust-- the reason the Plame case stayed alive was because of bloggers. How revolting. You mean a free media like blogging, where anybody can write what they choose (if they don't mind a few death threats) that it's the only place people were concerned with what our federal government might be up to? Amazing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Issues matter

In a time where there is no election, some might feel there has been too much politics in this blog. Even I think that. It's not like I enjoy writing about what has been going on. It's not fun to think about such negative things, but I feel, like it or not, this is the time where our two next presidential candidates could be chosen-- a year before the first primary vote.

Media is playing a primary role in all of this. When people know hardly anything about many of these potential candidates, it's a constant drumbeat-- Who would you vote for if the election was today? And the answers roll off our tongues. Oh yeah, I'd vote for that one. By the time the primaries begin, it might be over with no real discussion of issues but based instead on posturing.

Today the candidates are more concerned with avoiding a misstep then giving real opinions on issues. We saw this with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when asked about whether homosexuality is immoral. They first sidestepped answering. When their non-answers stirred up anger from their bases, both had to come back and say-- no, we don't believe it's immoral.

What has added to my concern is the United States attorney story. Who even totally understood how that system worked until this latest scandal? Of the eight attorneys who were fired, it looks more and more suspicious if you take the time to look at each attorney.

The Nevada one was let go supposedly because he hadn't prosecuted obscenity cases sufficiently. His republican senator, who is furious over the dismissal, said the attorney had successfully gone after organized crime and other high level cases, but obscenity mattered more to somebody high up-- if that's the reason. The senator said the attorney had never been told of this complaint until he was let go. Reputations have been ruined and do we really know why.

Then you find out Harriet Meiers, (or Karl Rove depending on the day and the news source) wanted all 93 to be fired but not when Bush was re-elected. Remember these are his appointees to start. No, it was going to be right after the Patriot Act no longer gave Congress oversight on who was appointed to replace them. In other words, unlike normal presidential appointees, these would have received no vetting, no peer group review, not even their states senator's opinion, nobody except the president and his staff, who could appoint them for any reason (and we know how competent Bush appointees have been everywhere).

This is another one we owe to a Congress who didn't bother to read for all of the Patriot Act before they signed off on it-- very similar to the Iraqi war with how they gave over their authority. The Patriot Act has mostly served to concentrate more power in the Executive Branch, no big surprise considering Cheney's history of wanting exactly that.

The attorney replacements, who might have as their sole qualification being loyal to the Republican party, the Bush administration, or high level donors, are then in line for appointments to being judges. They are the ones who decide which cases get prosecuted (or not), and they are directly reflective of the president's opinions on these issues. Does he think obscenity is more important than organized crime? Well, it's obscenity that will be gone after and organized crime can flourish.

I read a poll the other day that moral character mattered more to most voters than issues when they chose a candidate. How does someone decide that a man running for office is moral? Many thought Bush was because he didn't have sex with interns. The kind of morality that some consider of concern is only sexual-- hence the emphasis on banning abortions, gay marriage, obscenity, prostitution, and no (or limited) concern about greed, corruption, fraud or, you know, the issues Christ actually talked about.

Right now, people need to find out, not just how well their candidates speak, not just how powerful looking they are when they pose for the camera, but what exactly have these people done, how good is their judgement, and most importantly what is their stand on the issues that will impact the voter's life. Do NOT trust the media on either side to provide this, go digging for yourself!

What the media did in 2000 with how they avoided dealing with the obvious flaws in GW Bush and pointed up every silly, meaningless (like did he hire someone to teach him how to dress) missteps by Gore, shows they are not what right wing would like to claim. They are a shallow, impressed-by-the-pose bunch, favoring the guy who seems like the most fun, looking for the 30-second soundbite, and have no real interests in deep issues. And this is true whichever side we are on.

To have issues matter, we need to know what we personally believe. Which issues matter to us? What do we want to see done? What are our priorities for these things? Issues (like tax laws, borders, environment, health care, infrastructure maintenance, relations with other nations, trade, enforcement of laws, judges, criminal and sexual laws, drug enforcement, gun control, education, etc.) might not evoke the emotion of moral judgements, but they matter now more than ever. We need to support candidates committed to our beliefs-- especially if that person happens to be a third tier candidate. The groups who want to corrupt our system will be supporting their guys. We can count on that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eight US Attorneys

It has taken awhile before I think I finally 'get it' regarding what happened in the firing of those United States federal attorneys. The spin is always out there and figuring out what really has gone on always takes awhile-- if you even can.

United States Attorneys are political appointees. When a new president comes in, quite often they all will be asked to resign; so the president can put his party's people into power. This might seem bad but in reality there is a political agenda for which people are voting when they elect presidents.

Yes, they are there to prosecute criminals, but the choice of crimes they go after will be impacted by the beliefs of their party. Prostitution became a big issue to Ashcroft as soon as he got in (big sting to nail prostitutes while he should have been more concerned with potential terrorists) when it'd been nothing to Reno. Likewise Oregon's right to die with dignity mattered to a Bush administration and had not to the Clinton people. When you think issues don't matter, keep in mind where it comes to what the government goes after, they very much do.

The Attorney General's office, however, is supposed to represent the entire country. A good one, even though a political appointee, will do just that. When Robert Kennedy was appointed Attorney General under JFK's administration, it probably seemed he'd be a rubber stamp for his brother; but in reality he was strong-willed and argued for what he felt was right. So you could have a man like Alberto Gonzales, who would be owing much to George Bush; but still speak his mind, have his own opinions.

You could, but that man would not be Gonzales. He has been a toady for Bush who whatever his boss wanted was right and he'd write an opinion finding some justification for it. He knew why he was there. He agreed torture was fine, ignoring Geneva Conventions was fine, getting rid of Habeas Corpus was fine, prisons with no charges was fine. George Bush wants it, Gonzales delivers. He has never been our United States Attorney General. He has always been Bush's man in ways by which neither the government nor the people of the United States have been served.

If Bush had fired all US attorneys when he got in, it would not have been bad for the system-- given the system we have. What he did instead was let them know they could keep their job if they followed what he wanted. Now if that was involving laws about things like abortion, national security, prostitution, drugs, or a myriad of other criminal or questionable moral choices, we could say that the people voted Bush in and they are stuck with his viewpoint.

But that wasn't all the pressure brought to bear. It was in at least one case a demand-- bring charges of voter fraud against a democratic candidate right before the November elections. There was no concern whether there had actually been voter fraud. What was needed was the taint. The accusation is that when that attorney refused, he was put on the short list to losing his job. Another of the attorneys on that list had successfully prosecuted Duke Cunningham-- a Republican.

In the eight, there might be some who were incompetent, maybe even all. To find out is why it's good we have a Democratic leadership in Congress as there can now be investigations. If Republicans were in charge, this would have been buried. It is better for the country that the information comes out.

If these are all men and women who simply didn't do the partisan bidding of the White House, then the next question is-- what did the ones do that didn't get fired? It causes a total lack of faith in the system when you see it used in a way that is only intended to get Republicans off when they do wrong and bring charges oriented purely toward getting other Republicans elected. Can you smell corruption! Probably not if you are a right wing Republican.

As an aside, some say Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience to be president. He should have been in the Senate longer, should have been in Washington longer. Why? To corrupt him like the rest? I am beginning to think lack of experience in the DC political elite system is a virtue... and don't bother to say that described Bush. Besides being totally incompetent and only succeeding in anything through his family connections, Bush was always in the system-- just hadn't been elected in Washington. Those he appointed were part of a very long standing bunch. Maybe Obama is what they are scared of-- both parties.

Monday, March 12, 2007

If you say it often enough

(Before I begin, for the few right wingers who are left reading this blog, I am not going to deny Democrats have done this also. This is about events of last week and the people currently leading this charge are prominent right wing Republicans with many Republicans going along for the ride.)

If you say something often enough, does the lie become more powerful than the truth? If when you are questioned about facts you constantly switch back to your own spiel, will people forget the question?

To Republicans, the Scooter Libby trial and verdict of guilty was a miscarriage of justice. They are livid over anybody making a big thing over him lying to the FBI and Grand Jury about something that was not illegal-- if she wasn't covert. Their talking heads and newspapers are already demanding a full pardon for Libby.

The facts are harder to come by than the rhetoric on either side. The question of whether Valerie Plame was covert, which would have led to outing her being treason as well as a felony, is not fully answerable and maybe can't be proven. Part of the problem is covert officers set up phony jobs; they deny what they are doing to everybody. Republicans are saying everyone knew she was undercover. Well her own mother said she hadn't known. Her best friend said she never knew. Neighbors thought she was just a nice quiet mother of twins. But never mind that, talking heads say it was common knowledge and if you say it often enough...

From what I can determine, Plame had not gone on an undercover assignment since her twins were born. Would she have gone back into undercover work once they were in school? Well she won't be now, that's a given since she was outed-- as well as anyone else working for the shell company that was a CIA front. The book Plame has written about her life as a CIA operative is being gone over by the CIA to decide if it's safe to let it be printed given it might reveal classified information. If they clear the book, it might answer some of the questions; but if they don't, it will also.

What Cheney wanted, and there is no one denying this, was to muddy the waters. He didn't look good backing information that later was claimed to be false. Since Joe Wilson was the guy causing him grief, Cheney apparently used Libby as his tool to swift boat both Wilsons. Then distract from what had been said, what was done, by using other accusations. He certainly didn't want anyone able to prove the Bush administration, or one part of it, had known for a fact Saddam was not trying to get a nuclear weapon and knew it before Bush's State of the Union speech where Bush claimed this to be a known fact. So attack Wilson by saying he was a shill for his CIA wife.

Because of that obstruction of justice (for which Libby was just found guilty), this trial was not about the whole possible sequence of events, about possible deliberate lies to get a country into war. The trial was about Libby-- whether he deliberately lied to protect his boss if not the presidency. The accusation of what he was trying to cover up was not minor. It would have been basically treasonous if one arm of the government deliberately misled the country into war.

The general facts appear to have been that Valerie Plame recommended her husband had the qualifications to go to Africa and discern whether yellow cake, for making nuclear weapons, was being sought by Iraqis. Probably coincidentally, the following day the Vice President's office sent to the CIA a request for information on whether Iraqis were actually buying nuclear bomb materials in Africa. The Vice President did not request Wilson or anyone go. He just asked the question. The CIA apparently decided to send Joe Wilson to find out. So the White House can honestly say they didn't send him but did the query from the Vice President's office send him? That's where the two sides differ.

If Wilson had reported back that Saddam had indeed been trying to buy yellow cake, the Cheney people would have had no complaints. There are those who say he did say that, and it led to the false State of the Union speech. That is not what Wilson said after Bush's State of the Union. The trouble for the White House began when Wilson began making speeches saying he had seen no evidence in Africa to indicate the Iraqis had been trying to buy the yellow cake. It made Cheney look bad, and Cheney goes after anybody who makes him look bad. His target became Valerie Plame-- out her and make her look like the sole architect of Wilson's Africa trip. Turn the Wilsons into bad guys. This worked for a lot of Republicans who pretty much believe anything Cheney says.

The right wing says a lie is not a big deal (of course, he didn't lie, just had a bad memory) because it wasn't about something illegal to begin with. Well, it would be if she was covert. It would be if the real issue was about lying our country into a war. If the real issue was about hiding any facts that didn't fit the conclusion the Bush administration had already decided on, if the Cheney team was doing any of that, it was far more than in what order someone was told about Valerie Plame.

The possibility of it being treason, of it being an impeachable offense, is why it matters; and this is what Fitzgerald (who is by the way Republican) said after the trial. This was actually a successful obstruction of justice-- if it was obfuscating a situation to protect the leadership from possible criminal charges or articles of impeachment. None of that could be proven because of Libby lying. He took the fall but probably will get a pardon in the end. Would Bush dare not pardon him? Libby probably knows way too much to take that risk.

On Hard Ball, one of the Libby jurors said she hoped he'd get a pardon because he's a nice guy. A lot of people don't want him going to prison because they see him as a nice guy. I think the jurors who wanted him to be pardoned need to think a little bit about what he might have really been trying to hide-- as well as the cost that a lot of people have paid for that deception. Do nice guys do things like that?

The fact is that it's not just about whether Libby lied before a Grand Jury. Yes, that matters. Ask Bill Clinton about when he lied about an act that was not only not illegal but sent nobody off to die in a war. But one of the talking heads on Hard Ball said that it was okay to impeach Clinton because he admitted he lied. So, to the Right, if you are going to lie, keep on keeping on.

One point about Libby's terrible memory is he was supposed to be a high ranking aide, who was at the top of decision making in the Bush White House, but he didn't have to have a memory for anything. How does that work?

The reason it matters is this: Was at least one part of the Bush administration trying to get us into a war? That is what Fitzgerald hoped to uncover but was unable to do so due to Libby's poor memory or deliberate subterfuge. Did we go to war in Iraq with the leadership knowing the main justification they held over Americans was always a lie? That's where impeachment talk could take on real meaning.

Maybe Bush actually didn't know about this (then again maybe he did). But if this was all Cheney, perhaps it wasn't just trying to hide what he had done from the country but also from his boss. Bush had given him so much power, so much trust. Did he give him too much? Perhaps Cheney feared losing his influence in the Bush White House. IF that was true, then he might have sent out Libby to muddy the waters (ie swift boat). He wanted people's eyes off the real ball, off the issues. If Libby had told the truth to the Grand Jury and the FBI, he would not be in trouble now, but would Cheney be the one in bigger trouble?

If you say a lie often enough, a lot of people forget what it started out to be about.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

On Ghosts

Watching the DVD, Hollywoodland, was interesting but also a bit depressing. I was 15 when the papers told us George Reeves, who had played the television Superman, had shot himself to death in his Hollywood home. I was not a big fan of the show but did know who that was. I remember it seemed surprising to me that a big star would commit suicide. At the time, to me, anybody who had had a television series had to be a big star.

The movie, starring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, and Ben Affleck, goes into the complicated facts about Reeves' life and death, bringing up various theories for what happened from possible murderers and motives to it being a suicide as it was officially declared.

One of the nice things about the Internet is when you finish a film or book, you can go to a search engine for more information. Although Hollywoodland was not about ghosts, I was curious if there had been any ghost stories connected to Reeves. Often when there appear to be hauntings, they are connected to someone who died violently or didn't accept their death for whatever reason. A person who was a suicide would be prime for this, but so would someone who was murdered and had acquired the false reputation of being a suicide. Anyway, I found this link which was rather interesting-- George Reeves' ghost .

As with the Reeves' home, there is a house on the way into a nearby town that rumor says is haunted. I don't know anything about the potential story for why it might be, but I do know nobody lives there for long. It's a lovely, stately, older home; sits out in the country with pastures and trees surrounding it. People move in, several have torn out all the inside walls in remodeling, but pretty soon it's up for sale again.

I have never personally seen a ghost although I did see an apparition once which I cannot explain. Abruptly awakened in the middle of the night by the phone ringing, I reached for it at the same time I turned on the light. Something brown seemed to dart across the top of my field of view and disappear quickly from sight. It was not a form like a person but rather vaguely like a spiritual shape. It didn't appear particularly large, no defining features, and was very fast. My husband later told me he felt it was some kind of eye phenomena which might well be, but I had never seen anything like it before nor since. What it felt like to me was something that didn't want to be seen.

Because I have personally known many people who have seen what they believed were ghosts, very definite figures, some of people they had known, but in other cases a human shape but definitely not one of flesh and blood, I believe something is there, but what is more difficult to decide.

Some say the appearances of ghosts are energy phenomena, like spirit imprints left behind from what occurred there. That could explain battlefields, but I know those who have seen relatives and not where anything particularly was connected to their deaths. I have also been told of where spirit beings interacted with the one meeting up with them-- sometimes in funny ways but other times threateningly.

Besides seances, there are churches, such as the Spiritualist Church, who regularly invite spirits to their services. According to a friend of mine, who belonged to such a group, the spirits come and show their presence by making sounds, playing a musical instrument or raising something up-- just whatever it takes to make their presences known. Although I haven't seen that as particularly wrong to do, I also have not seen a purpose in doing it. I have had no desire to be in such a group. Nor would I ask someone from the 'other' side to answer questions for me.

A few years back, an acquaintance of mine told me this story. She managed a restaurant that was in an older Southern Arizona building. The building had several ghosts, and she, among others, regularly saw them. Eventually one became a problem, began misbehaving in mischievous but also distracting ways; so one night several of them got together and had an exorcism of the building, asking the spirit, who if I remember right appeared as an old woman, to leave. They felt it was successful ; but she said that night when she got home to her significant other, she sprinkled salt around their bed to make sure that the spirit wouldn't come there and haunt them next.

For me whether there are ghosts or not is one of those mysteries of life that I am content to leave a mystery. If ghosts are real, I would feel sorry for those spirits who might feel unwilling or unable to go on. I have thought sometimes perhaps they are those who do not have spiritual connections, be they spirit guides, angels, friends or ancestors, on the other side to show them the way.

One of my feelings about old age is, if we haven't done it before, it's a time to connect ourselves to what we believe spiritually, be open to what comes to us through dreams or intuitions, increase our sensitivity and awareness to what might be 'over' there. When our body dies, it's either all done for us, or there is a new adventure awaiting-- one for which we can have prepared our souls for the transition.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


This has been my week to watch some dvds as my husband was off on a business trip. I chose what amount to 'chick flicks' for me. They were ones that interest me, but I figured he'd not enjoy. I will write about the other one next blog but this one was the one I enjoyed most--
A few months back, I saw Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. My fascination with the writer, Truman Capote, is hard to explain although he certainly did inspire many of his contemporaries to find him intriguing-- some to despise him. He had a terrific wit, determination to be who he was whether it suited anybody else or not, used his humor viciously, used his humor to make friends, wasn't particularly loyal to those friends, was insightful and a very creative writer. He might be considered the father, in a literary sense, of what we have come to know as docudramas.

He lived the creative life to the hilt from the successes to the depression that often comes along with creative work. His books have been made into films, he knew everyone who was important in his era, he had fame and wealth, success in his chosen field, but it is questionable if he ever really knew happiness-- certainly it was fleeting if he did.

Capote had a damaged childhood that scarred him in ways which nobody with 'normal' childhoods can probably grasp. Being very different looking, which he enhanced, added to that in terms of how society saw him; and yet he didn't care. He was who he was and delighted in his uniqueness.

The film Infamous has been the second one made in two years about Capote and his writing of the book, In Cold Blood. Both movies are similar for the general time period they cover. Capote got more critical acclaim, but for me Infamous was the one that I will watch more than once. For me it captured more of the passion of the creative spirit and brought out the dichotomy of life.

One man can be raised with a damaged childhood and become a world famous writer. Another man can be raised with a damaged childhood and brutally murder four innocent people. Explaining how that can be won't be done in a single movie, but the exploration of the fact it happens is certainly worth time to ponder.

In 1959, Truman Capote and Harper Lee went to a small town in Kansas to interview the townspeople and find out how those people had been impacted by having their friends, a whole family, murdered in a brutal fashion. His coming there was a collision of cultures, him from s0-called high society, and these plain folks, many of whom had probably never ventured far from where they were born. His uniqueness led to it taking some time before they trusted him enough to tell him their feelings.

There were a lot of illuminating scenes in this film; but for me, one that said it all was a short one. Capote and Lee were interviewing an old rancher. The three of them stood out on the grasslands. The cowboy said what a good manager of his land the murdered man had been, how he had gone to church, done all that could be expected of anyone, and not just done it because it looked good but really took it all into himself. To see a family like that so brutally murdered disrupted his own view of life. He said it made him see that we have no real control over our lives. We think we have control, and then a big wind comes along and knocks us off our feet, we get cancer, see a woman we want who isn't ours, or some violence happens to us, and we realize we have no control at all.

The cast was impeccable with Toby Jones as Capote, Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Capote's childhood friend), Daniel Craig as Perry Smith (one of the murderers), Jeff Daniels as Sheriff Alvin Dewey, and a lot of other recognizeable stars playing the celebrities of their time. As Daniel Craig portrayed Smith, it wouldn't be hard to see how Capote could have really fallen in love with him which this film suggests was what happened.

Although the film, Capote, was good, and it got a lot more acclaim when it came out; for me, Infamous was far better for its ability to make me think about life, of the good and bad in people. It moved within two worlds and gave the viewer a slice of both to take away.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Women and Politics

It is easy to forget how recently women had no right to vote. Imagine that the year when my mother was born, 1912, was the first year women in the state of Oregon were allowed to vote. The federal government would not recognize that right as a whole until 1920 when the United States, along with a movement that was sweeping the world, gave full voting rights to women.

Some states had given the vote to their women earlier. Wyoming is the most famous for what it said when it was considering coming into the Union. They had permitted their women to vote from 1869, but the United States government didn't want women having that right-- might be catching, dontcha know. Heck, women might even get the idea to run for the presidency... Nah, that's too far out!

Wyoming, the land of macho cowboys and tough men, had long before realized the power of women, valued their wisdom, and obviously had men strong enough in themselves to not fear strong woman. They said, "we will remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without our women." In 1890, they came in with them, women's right to vote intact. It would be thirty more years before the country as a whole granted suffrage to all women through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

It is not like the United States was alone in not permitting women to have the vote or run for office. The first place to grant women the vote was Pitcairn Islands in 1838. Until that time, women everywhere could be governed but had no voice in who was governing them. That is still true in Saudi Arabia (our supposed moderate friend), which currently is one of the few Arab states not permitting women to vote. If the Muslim extremists gain in power in other nations, more women could lose that right.

Yet with this history of only in my mother's generation having had that voice granted them, with so many having sacrificed and fought to gain that vote, there are women today who find politics too boring to be informed or simply don't consider it feminine to be interested in political topics-- not women bloggers in my experience, but women to whom I talk. Now why would this be?

The women who don't want to know about political happenings are women I respect in so many ways. They are involved with life, active in their families, but the word politics turns them off. If I ask what do you think about this candidate or that issue, they change the subject to something more enjoyable to them. When they tell me it's boring to discuss it, I want to remind them that was the argument men used to keep them from getting the vote-- women aren't temperamentally suited for deciding on important things.

Politics impact every thing we do from working conditions, sexual laws, education, our very air to breathe or water to drink, what taxes we pay, who do we help, what laws govern our health care, and even whether we send our offspring off to war. How can it be boring to be informed as to what are the right things to be done.

Yes, in a lot of ways, we are all tired of politics right now, but experts are saying our candidates for the '08 presidential race will be decided before the first primaries. So when we say we don't like our choices, could it be we didn't start caring early enough? We are a representative government which means we don't get to vote on individual issues but rather for men and women who believe as we do about those issues.

To be clear, this is not about whether someone likes to argue political issues with others. Not all men or women enjoy those kinds of heated discussions, but it's whether as citizens we know what's going on, understand what our government has been doing, inform ourselves about candidates for office, understand the world situations in which we are involved, support candidates who are in agreement with us, and finally and most importantly use that hard-won vote responsibly.

I wonder if the answer to why too many women have felt it wasn't womanly to be politically savvy comes down to this. It's those who lost out on stopping them from voting but would keep women thinking they should not bother their cute, little heads with such complicated subjects-- just vote how I tell you, dear. It's the last gasp of the ones who still would like to keep women from being real factors in the laws and rules that govern their lives. If we believe it's not feminine, we will stay out of it and let men run it. And that has worked so well...

(The photo is last week on this farm-- cute, sweet sheep-- and represents what we are when we allow someone else to run our lives-- man or woman.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Jesus Tomb

Well, I watched the Discovery show tonight on Jesus's tomb. It was a tomb of a Jesus and his family. The debate is whether it's that Jesus. I found it interesting as I do any archaeology. Today's technology has moved the process of investigative archaeology a long way from Indiana Jones and yet a lot of it was still-- instinct, gut feeling, and go for it.

The evaluation after the program was in several parts. 'Regular' archaeologists didn't approve of the program because what they saw was 'gunfighter' archaeology (done by a journalist and film maker) which means it didn't follow rules; but then that tomb has been there since 1980 and nobody else apparently wanted to investigate it.

The theologians didn't like it because it fouled up doctrine-- bodily resurrection or nothing! They also disapproved of re-enactments which they felt would confuse people into thinking they really happened that way. That is amazing to me as I think people are pretty sophisticated by now but then who knows.

My own feeling, as someone who considers herself a Christian even if a very non-traditional one, is that whether there are actual bones of Jesus the Christ or not, it won't change my beliefs. For me, the program was reaffirming, as almost any historic or scientific look at Jesus is for the reality that he existed, taught, and was crucified. Heretic that I am, I have never cared whether there was a virgin birth, and don't care if there was a bodily resurrection.

For me, I think it's about a personal spiritual experience-- not dogma. I have never felt my getting a bodily resurrection was important; but if it happens, I guess it's okay depending on which stage of my body (or maybe which lifetime) I got back. Even the Bible indicates that the heavenly body won't be like the earthly one. A small but significant difference to some, who believe in heaven, is no sex unless you are Muslim or Mormon (pardon me theologians, as this is not researched-- just off the top of my head).

I will admit, there has always been one thing that bothered me with the Bible story. If Jesus was God and was bodily resurrected as Jesus the man, did that mean he was trapped in a human body until such time as the earth is redone after the end of time? Can He shed it then?

It had always seemed to me that Jesus being stuck with a human body, given all its limitations and frailties, would have been a greater sacrifice than dying on the cross. He was after all, an entity who could appear and disappear at will from before his birth, during his lifetime, and afterward. Yes, I know, my viewpoint is not doctrinally pure but then any regular reader here already knows that.

Generally speaking the Christian religion has had a bit of a battle with science through history; so I doubt this film will do much to switch anyone's opinion. If you watched it, what did you think? Was it the tomb of the Jesus and his family? Should more research be done on this or would it cause too much spiritual damage to too many people? Does it matter?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Thanks for the Memories

A friend gave me this link, and I thought it's something we all need to keep in mind. This little slide show is history. It is facts. Facts are the only effective tool against the swift boating of our political process. Please don't stop part way through, because you already know much of it, because the punchline is key.

Some wonder why parts of the world have no respect for us and often even hate us. I've heard it claimed it's our wealth. I don't think it's that simple. We have so often been unwilling to be responsible regarding our own history nor have we owned up to our mistakes. It's our hubris.