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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Platitudes, placebos, and promises

Waking up in the middle of the night, I felt a wave of ideas for another blog on politics-- when I was not intending to write another for awhile. I had felt I'd done enough political writing, and I know a lot of people prefer not reading more. In writing about controversial subjects, someone is always going to be offended and who likes doing that?

Watching Bill Maher Friday night, Garry Shandling was discussing how he didn't want to even think about politics anymore as he was so confused. He had gone from following it all to not wanting to see any of it. One might ask what he was doing on a political talk humor program; but if he's confused, maybe that accounts for it. Still he was expressing what a lot of us feel-- including me. We are sick of it and yet...

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

These famous words by Robert Frost say it all. We're not done. We are just begun if we want our country turned back to the right path. It will not be easy to change direction, to get enough people to pay attention when people are so easily distracted by something new and sometimes unbelievably shallow.

My thoughts in the night were about John McCain and his recent suggestion (which evidently Hillary said she'd go along with) that the federal gas tax be suspended for the summer; so Americans can vacation without that tax on top of their fuel costs.

McCain blamed Obama for being an elitist when he disagreed with the idea. Paraphrased, he said Obama just doesn't understand ordinary people and the poor like he does. Oh yes, McCain knows so much about being poor. Do people think about whether that is true or do they only hear the latest 30-second, sound-bite?

In a practical sense, how much help would it be to lift the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents a gallon? How long would the help last even if it seemed good for a week? The oil companies sometimes jack fuel prices up that much overnight. One article says gasoline might eventually go to $10 a gallon [in the NY Sun]. We just think we have seen the limits if where it might end. The oil corporations will charge what they can; and if the gas tax is removed, there is just that much more for them.

Once again, we have Obama being the daddy (which isn't all that popular), as he gets practical and says we need decisions that really help. Will a temporary gas tax removal actually do anything to help with grocery bills and trucking costs? If it's oriented purely to summer, it must be intended to encourage vacation trips. How many poor can afford such trips? Then there is facing the piper when the summer is over. Once again McCain offers placebos and not solutions.

Consider this, before you go Count me in! I want those taxes lifted, for what do federal gasoline taxes pay? They build interstate freeways and fix their worn road surfaces. They plan overpasses and enlarge existing roads. Recently in Oregon, they have been retrofitting a lot of bridges to hopefully withstand the earthquake that is overdue.

Is it McCain's plan (assuming anything he suggests lately is a plan) that this summer all that work will be temporarily suspended (a season in many states when most freeway work is done because of weather)? Or is he talking about taking the money for that planning and work from some other tax pot, possibly borrowing it? You know the answer. Hillary at least has a plan for replacing it-- windfall profits on oil companies. Uh who exactly do you think will eventually pay that?

From what he has been saying since he got the nomination, it's obvious McCain has no money sense, and it's logical he wouldn't. Four years ago the Republicans put down John Kerry as being a kept man. If he was, isn't McCain more so. McCain divorced a disabled wife in order to marry a beautiful, wealthy, younger woman. If Kerry was disgusting to people, should not McCain be more so? Everybody says what a man of character he is. Where are they getting this information?

Putting aside the moral aspect of his marital decisions (because nobody knows he really divorced one wife just because she wasn't perfect anymore nor that he married another because she was rich and gorgeous), doesn't it relate to his policy positions? Being married to an heiress, a woman who supplies all their living costs (as he donates anything he earns), a woman who can give him a private plane to use anytime he needs it, buys his homes, does McCain have any concept of what money even is? He has never needed to know for his own life. He was born into a family of admirals and a well-to-do mother; and other than his time as a POW, he has been privileged his whole life from what I can tell.

So given that, we are supposed to trust this man for the next four years to run the country's economic policy? You might take that risk if you hadn't had eight years of complete economic irresponsibility. Does McCain even understand cause and effect? Never mind. We know the answer to that. The only effect he appears to understand relates to getting the vote however it takes to do it.

Really, no more political posts for awhile (I hope). I have other things I wanted to write about. The coves along the coast and shearing our sheep, aging, but a dream is a dream. Can't deny them or if I did, wouldn't I lose them as the gift that they are? And the next one might actually be a fun dream. :)

The photo at the top is a teaser for the shearing blog to eventually come, but it is also apropos. Christ talked of humans being like sheep. Unlike these sheep, in a pen waiting to be shorn, we have the option of changing our situation-- for now! With the threat to the public educational system, to the media, to our rights as citizens, that window may not stay open forever. This is no time to sleep.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Black and White

Remember the old Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney song, Ebony and Ivory. It sang about how the keys of the piano "live together in perfect harmony" why can't we? Such an idyllic view of what humans operate like-- or more how some would like to think can be. When does it fall apart? When do we start seeing each other as a skin color and not a person? Is it when power comes into play? Perhaps when economics are threatened or we realize there are real cultural differences and they scare us? Marriage? When do the hopeful words that we are all the same dissolve into a puddle of fear and anger?

Three police officers were just found innocent of shooting an unarmed black man full of holes. A black celebrity, on three misdemeanor charges of not filing income tax forms, got three years in federal prison. The last year has been full of such stories-- threatened hangings, beatings. Each time different groups see what happened through different filters and it's as if night to day how they come out interpreting it.

The presidential campaign has brought racial issues smack dab to the front of the bus. A lot of white voters, 19% in some exit polls for Pennsylvania, said they would not vote for a black person for president. That's just those who admit it. Some use the excuse well the blacks are voting on race.

Well if they are, it'd be after many years of voting for whites, years where they never said, I won't vote for a white (because then they would not have been able to vote at all). Little by little people of other skin hues, black, brown, yellow, red, are having options; but it hasn't been that way for long. For generations it has been whites making the rules and people of color having to trust those rules would be fair-- often they weren't. Are some whites now afraid of payback?

Some say they would vote for a black if it was someone who thought like a white. A term that has come to be despised seems to cover when they are saying it would be okay-- when he/she are Uncle Toms. That was the name given to the blacks who helped their white slave owners to keep the others in control. It wasn't so much that the Uncle Tom was a bad person but rather that he had chosen to get power by getting along. Do what the power structure wants. Do not make waves. Do not move to the front of the bus. Don't drink from that water fountain, demand school fairness, or job equality. Some whites think that is the way to power also.

It isn't just with skin color where we have unfairness. McCain reminded us all about how it is for women. When he explained why he didn't vote to allow women to sue for equal pay beyond a limited span of time, he said too many lawsuits. Now the fact that many women might fear suing because they would lose their jobs, might not even know of the disparity until later, that didn't worry him.

McCain went on in his pious tone how women need more training and education. Interesting from a man who doesn't believe in paying for government programs; but putting that aside, the particular issue here was a woman who WAS doing the job of the men. She was doing more than the job of most of the men but she was receiving less pay than the poorest performing man on the job. McCain's platitudes were just that.

Now we come to Barack Obama and his race problem. When he wanted to run for political office, he had to have more diverse experience than he had had. A lot of politicians wouldn't worry about that, but he was in a unique position. He is a half black man (who looks all black) raised by white women for the most part in Hawaii where race isn't like it is here on the mainland. Even his university experience didn't give him diversity given he received his education at Harvard, a very elite, Ivy League school, partially on a scholarship, partly working, and partly with loans. He had not had a typical black experience in this country.

From what I understand, Obama went to Chicago for that experience. He met people for whom right now he's taking flak for even knowing. The attitude of many whites is don't know people who are different than you, who think other ways, who look different. I guess it must be something like the fear of heterosexuals that if you allow homosexual marriage, it'll be catching?

So is that why he should not have gone to an inner-city church that had prison and other programs among the poorest neighborhoods, why he should not have listened to Reverend Wright, a firebrand, with some controversial sermons but no terrorism that is suspected; or have as a neighbor and early supporter William Ayers a weathermen; or a shady businessman, Tony Rezko? (Check out those three links if you are not familiar with these stories as they are being used to indicate a lot of things that the facts don't validate. One thing about the internet is we can check things. Do not count on the media to do it for you. They run with the waves.)

Is the fear of whites that if you even know people who are different, you will be tainted by them. You will do what they do? It doesn't seem to worry people that McCain has actively sought out support from right wing wackos, like Reverend Hagee, (go to the end of that link to see Hagee's quotes), a pastor who believed until it got politically inexpedient that god destroyed New Orleans over homosexuality. (More about John McCain's dangerous friends.) Is this all okay because McCain isn't black?

Without a doubt Obama's pastor was preaching, at least a few times in his thirty years, resentment against America, blaming whites for black problems. Is there any evidence that Obama himself shared those beliefs? In terms of illegality, there is nothing. He has admitted a mistake in allowing an apparent slumlord businessman to help him enlarge his home's lot (where he paid full appraised price) and that's it. A long way from the kinds of things that McCain has in his background, but for McCain that's not worrisome. Why not?

Is the real fear, with people like Rush Limbaugh, that Barack Obama will turn our country over to Arab terrorists? Do they believe because he felt a flag pin was shallow that he therefore must hate America? Do they honestly think he doesn't pledge allegiance to the flag because he didn't do it for the anthem (where most people don't)? That's what is going around this country that he refuses to pledge allegiance because of one photo where McCain and Hillary didn't know or else wanted to play it safe. Do you think the Limbaughs of the world really fall for that stuff or just hope enough voters will?

Obviously, I decided to use these recent ocean photos because they represent black and white along with unharnessed power. As the storm hit the coast, the waves were high, wind blowing, breakers coming from all directions. When the light was just right, the center of those waves would look greenish but overall, the sea was pewter gray, black or white. You would think this was taken with black and white film but it's full color-- the color of an Oregon storm. The ocean sometimes looked metallic.

People of diverse racial backgrounds, other cultures, religions, or genders can work together to build a good world, to create the kind of power that nothing can stand against. They can if they see each other as people. The other options are fighting, fear and all of us ending up in a puddle of mud.

(All telephoto shots of the wave action can be enlarged.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Along the Coast

The early part of this week combined two things that I enjoy-- long time (very long time in this case) friendships and the Oregon Coast. Parapluie, her husband, my husband, and I had arranged to rent a house together.

The house advertised that it overlooked a private cove. Its charm and view fully lived up to its promises and our hopes.

There is something so relaxing about watching tides change, storms come through, having a nice trail to walk down to look for seashells (didn't find any), surf fish (the guys did that), take photographs, paint (Parapluie), enjoy good conversations, food, wine, and the sound of the sea-- most especially in a storm.

My We'Moon calendar for this year had a great quote for April 21st, which seemed very apropos of our time with our friends.

True friends are ones who know the tune of your heart
and hum it back to you, when you have forgotten the words.
Galloway Quena 2006

(Photos of the silver sea and wave action from the storm will be coming soon.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

one more primary *sigh*

Being away for a couple of days (some photos to come), I didn't turn on the news or attempt to find out what happened in Pennsylvania's primary until on my way home. I expected the Clinton win but was disappointed, of course.

From what I understand, it is probable that Hillary Clinton would have won Pennsylvania no matter how she campaigned. She and her people were worried though. Obama's numbers were rising. Out came her tough talk about how she would annihilate (and you know that means nukes as it's the only way you can annihilate a people) any country that attacked Israel or our other friends in the Middle East.

Then came the scare ads using a photo of Osama bin Laden, reminders of the Great Depression, and on and on. More of that 3 AM phone call talk because it has worked before. Basically she played the same game that Bush did to win-- use fear and tag someone as connected to anything that might bring them down. Some say that she learned it from Karl Rove. That would require 'someone' to not remember how the Clintons have won their elections through the years. It's about as likely that Rove learned what worked from them as vice versa.

It is disillusioning to think that Americans are so easily fooled, but Bush's eight years are pretty strong evidence that manipulation isn't that difficult when the fear card is played. I can't count how many times I have gotten emails tying Barack Obama to Marxism, to terrorists, to being a Manchurian candidate (which since that character was a prisoner when he was brainwashed would be more likely John McCain-- no I do not think McCain is one either), a puppet of his pastor, and on and on it has gone. What makes people pass on such garbage? and yes, it is garbage.

I am not sure but in the end, humans seem to be easily emotionally impacted and frightened; and those who seek power know this. I don't think it's just our country. It's an attitude in human nature. Jesus didn't compare humans to sheep as a compliment.

Only time will tell what happens. It might well be Hillary who gets the nomination in the end simply because she is willing to do anything to get it. If Obama was likewise willing to use any tactics to win, then in the end, there would be no hope the American people could win-- assuming Americans have the character and fortitude themselves to deserve a strong, good leader. After eight years of people supporting and voting for George Bush, that's still up for debate.

This thing may not be settled by the states and take until August and the convention before it's over. Some are saying Hillary wants McCain to win in November if she can't get the nomination. That would enable her to run again in 4 years. She sure hasn't been speaking out against McCain, has she? Which appears to indicate she doesn't figure she will have to run against him. Given his stand on issues, if nothing else, how could she prefer him to Obama where it comes to things like selecting judges?

It would be rather ironic if she did in the end get the nomination and then have to do an about face and run against McCain. Although, being two-faced obviously isn't a problem...

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Prince of Egypt Soundtrack

Because yesterday was Passover, it seems this is a good place to insert a post that I wrote last fall but didn't use at the time.

Sometimes I find something (music, movie, food, etc.) that I like instantly. Other times, I am suspicious for whatever reason, sample it for awhile, get to know more about it and finally come to find it is well-liked. This was the case with the animated film, Prince of Egypt.

Religious films start me off with some reserve built in. They are usually trying to sell something-- their faith. If I don't buy that idea, why watch them. Still, I would see bits of The Prince of Egypt on HBO and each time think-- not bad... or hmmmm I'd like to see more. For anyone not familiar with it, it's the animated story of the Exodus. Moses's voice is Val Kilmer and Ramses Ralph Fiennes.

The animated film is, of course, a dramatization of a great event that may or may not be historic but certainly is mythic. It is grand, a story of following what you believe is true, about the potential power of god's intervention into man's affairs, of friendship, love, stubbornness, unbridled ego, growth of character, and of never underestimating your own value.

I liked the movie so much that I kept watching it every time it was on HBO. Finally I bought it but about then realized the bigger draw had been the soundtrack. The music was soaring and always left me feeling good. I read some reviews and purchased the soundtrack that had actually been used in the film (with four extra songs).

For a time like ours, where there seem so many upsetting things going on, music can be a comfort. One of my favorite songs from the movie is Through Heaven's Eyes:

"A single thread in a tapestry though its color brightly shine Can never see its purpose In the pattern of the grand design."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And exactly what is this???

For me, it's not possible to complain about less than an inch of snow the last part of April. Well it would be. I definitely heard the sheep and cows complaining Saturday and Sunday morning. Where went our pasture?! And my cats-- how do I get across that to my scratching post? The fact that it was a scant 3/4" was no consolation.

How can I complain though when I have heard all winter and even into the spring of so much worse weather elsewhere. Storms that came in unexpectedly and caused much grief. Or other places, sometimes not even that far apart, with not enough moisture and already suffering disastrous grass fires.

It's very odd how the weather is and whether you lay it to our planet getting a bit overall warmer and thereby impacting wind patterns and ocean currents, you do have to think something is going on.

We get freezes sometimes up until the middle of May where I live in Oregon's Coast Range. Many is the industrious gardener who planted annuals the first of May and had to do it all again the end of the month, but even that's not typical. Snow toward the end of April, well this is pretty much the first time I have seen it here.

So we got some snow. Big deal. Now I will admit I was ready for spring to turn into summer as you can see by the poor, woebegone chaise lounge. The tulip didn't want a cap of snow, the pine was ready to dump pollen not be dumped upon-- although that's not bad for allergy sufferers.

Can I blame this on the full moon? I blame pretty much everything else on it, why not...

Friday, April 18, 2008

An elitist is what?

In this campaign, one of the differences has been in how Barack Obama has gone beyond suggested solutions to opening discussions into the source from where these problems have arisen. This can be risky, and he hasn't always gone there by choice.

After the issue exploded, Obama spoke on deep racial divisions and differences. The whole episode showed white Americans, if they cared, some of the thinking in the inner cities. Many of these things are the sorts politicians generally exploit rather than try to discuss and heal. If they discuss them, they do in short sound bites treating people as though they are incapable of understanding anything complex.

There was a book awhile back about what has gone wrong in Kansas. I didn't read it but read excerpts about what has led to its reversion (due to religion) to not teaching science where it comes to creation. This kind of response from small town Americans could have been written anywhere across the nation as people have often voted against their own economic interests based on things they feel are bigger (insert your own answer for what that would be). Rural, economically depressed Pennsylvania was the most recent source when Obama was asked what was the problem for him in getting votes there and he tried to explore the question honestly. What a mistake in politics.

Obama said that their anger (more acceptable word than bitterness) at government programs, which too often seem to hurt them more than help them, can cause them to rely on what they feel they can trust (guns and religion) and distrust what they don't know (people not like themselves and change). He didn't make it a racial issue but clearly it could be. As he said, he didn't phrase it well, but he's not wrong in the dialogue he was trying to get started. He has never promised solutions to everything but rather discussions and people working together to find those answers.

Hillary Clinton jumped onto the Republican bandwagon so fast that it is beginning to look like they are mailing her talking points. She praised Pennsylvania small town people-- no bitterness there that she's ever seen. Her family is just like them and they are patriotic, loving and go to church regularly just because they love it so much (don't ask if she goes too). She called him an elitist who doesn't understand these good people like she does (try not to start laughing). She compared him to those elites Al Gore and John Kerry-- which given his background is kind of amazing, but hey...., it worked before.

Clinton went on to discuss how she herself is no elitist as she headed for a pub to slam a shot of hard stuff and chug a beer while reminiscing on how much she loves duck hunting. The media barely had to ask McCain to jump on the pile as his buddy Hillary (for now) had done his work for him. If she can't win, it's obvious who she would prefer be the next president.

So, Obama is an elitist... or is he? It would depend on what the meaning of "IS" ... is. If an elitist is someone who believes because of the class or family from which they have come, they are entitled to rule (dictionary definition); then the question was being asked about the wrong candidates-- although there is nobody who would run for the presidency who wouldn't qualify as an elitist. They have to believe they are superior to others to even try for the job.

Hillary Clinton emphasizes again and again that she is entitled to rule because of who her husband is and what she and he have done in the past for our country. She makes sure everybody know she's tough enough. Her latest such macho entry was in the recent debate where she said anytime a country in the Middle East is attacked, we should go in to defend them, attacking their attacker. Again what did John McCain even have to say although he already had espoused the worldwide police job that he presented as our duty-- even gave it a name (which I won't repeat as I hope it doesn't catch on anywhere but in these two neo-con politicians).

As for elitism of the financial sort, both Hillary Clinton and John McCain have that covered. She hasn't lived in anything but a mansion in a long time and neither has he. McCain's credentials to be a ruling elite come not only from ruling class father and grandfather (admirals) but also has a mother and wife of wealth. His wife's family fortune jump started his political career. He has more money than either Clinton or Obama.

So in terms of understanding the ruling elite, why weren't these two asked about themselves? It's because I don't think that is the definition of elite that was meant by the accusation. I think it's a different meaning the accusers have in mind. It is that of a person who is highly educated, a scholar, an orator, possibly bilingual. This kind of elite refers to someone who will willingly discuss tough problems and not choose one syllable words to do it.

When fascism tries to take over a country, it promotes religion and patriotism. It ridicules scientists and intellectuals. As fascism grows in strength, it eventually kills or imprisons the intellectuals by setting them apart as a risk to the country, as being elites who deserve to be killed or imprisoned. Look at history to see if what I am saying is true.

When they go after Obama as being an elitist, it's because he's an intellectual as it sure isn't due to his family's fortune. It's part of an overall view from that part of the right that is ready to dismantle our public school system, make it harder for ordinary families to send their teen-agers to college, and who seek control over who gets advanced degrees or runs the government.

It appears to me that the McCain/Clinton Siamese twins are trying to convince voters that intellectuals are the elites, the ones who cannot be trusted. Being educated, speaking well is a threat. A person who looks at the deeper problems in our country, who discusses what is going on with our small towns, THAT person is THE threat.

Especially for McCain, who thinks Bush has done a good job on the economy and right now on the war, he doesn't see the country needing someone who can understand the nuances of a serious problem. Serious problems only need yes or no answers. We have seen how well that has worked the last 7 years with another leader who also has had absolutely no respect for intellectual solutions or the people who offer them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Last night, I have to admit that I did not watch the Pennsylvania debate on ABC because by now I have decided who I support based on issues and character, but I did read the analysis. It does not surprise me that Hillary was declared the winner. She is good at debating. So how does that make someone a good president?

What I had not expected was having questions submitted to the mainstream media (supposedly) by the likes of right wing extremist and supposed news person Sean Hannity. What I had not expected was that it would be over half tabloid journalism with no questions on the issues; but then it has been years since I watched network news. If I had been watching these characters, perhaps I'd not have been surprised.

Analysis regarding the debate was good from Andrew Sullivan on Daily Dish. He felt that Obama did poorly. Here's one of his comments--

"Stephanopoulos was schooled in Morris-Rove politics. Under the tutelage of Hillary Clinton and James Carville. I repeat the obvious:

"No questions on the environment, none on terror, none on interrogation, none on torture, none on education, none on spending, none on healthcare, none on Iran ... but four separate questions in the first hour about a lapel-pin, Bitter-gate, Wright-gate and Ayers. I'm all for keeping candidates on their toes. But this was ridiculous. And now we have affirmative action? Again, it's not illegitimate as such - but the only reason it is asked is to try and trip these people up and make Gibson and Stephanopoulos look smart."

It did not surprise me that the mainstream media would ask question geared to make Obama look bad and ignore some of the things that might make Hillary squirm-- like the recent revelation that in the 90s, during the Clinton administration, she said who cares about small town southerners, which might not be a big deal except her making such a big deal out of Obama trying to explain his problem with getting through to small town Pennsylvanians.

As the debate last night evidently clearly indicated and I have said, the media wants it to be Hillary and McCain. So they go after anything that might scare voters. Why does something like a lapel pin even matter?

I will be writing more about the subject of what do they mean by elitism, coming next. The question I have now is why does the media want it to be McCain and Clinton in November? I don't know if they see it as a better for their news, whether it's their desire to keep the status quo, not see someone come in who will really change things, or if they are under orders. Despite all the talk that the media is left wing, they are owned by right wingers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obama Everywhere

I saw this on Nobody Asked who got it from... well, you get the idea. It is fun, light, good music, promoting small towns in Pennsylvania as well as someone whom I believe will be good for this country if he gets elected.

Although it doesn't look likely at the moment, I would love to see Obama win the Pennsylvania primary; but if he doesn't, wouldn't it be great if those small towns, that the media is so sure won't vote for him, showed everybody that they aren't who the press has been saying they are. I heard the governor of Pennsylvania saying they wouldn't vote for a black man. What a thing to say. And using the word bitter is worse???

Spread it around. Obama Everywhere, Man.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Painting Arizona

(All paintings by Diane Widler Wenzel. Click on to enlarge.)

When I first met Diane (who comments here as Parapluie and has the blog Umbrella Watercolors), she was dating (later married) a friend of my husband. She and I were both interested in art and were taking art classes at Portland State. It was her major but my area of interest as I was an education major.

In 1965, when the guys, fishing buddies of a few years, made plans to go to graduate school, they both chose University of Arizona. We drove south together, saw the Grand Canyon for the first time, and explored the West-- on a graduate school budget. Diane saw subjects for paintings everywhere.

Since the four of us lived at the same apartment complex, week-ends would often find us out on the desert walking up small draws, looking for interesting rocks, hiking trails, and everywhere she went she saw subjects for watercolors, acrylics and oils. One trip up to the White Mountains for Easter led to the painting to the left.

Out of each of the drives or hikes came more paintings. The Patagonia and San Rafael Valley area (still one of my favorite places in Arizona) led to the one on the right.

For me personally doing art has been more of a grace note to my life-- sometimes a frustration. It's something I like to do, see subjects I want to paint, photograph a lot, think someday, sketch, and sometimes do paint on location, but I have never felt as gifted at it as I would like; so it comes and goes how frequently I paint.

Diane is a painter who will always paint. I would use the term professional painter because all of her work is for sale (except what I own), but painting as she does it is more of a calling than a job. I am not sure there is a good word to describe that sort of painter but will think about it.

(She gifted us with this painting when we were still in Arizona. Primal Sea. It can hang vertically or horizontally, each saying something different.)

Her paintings, which are throughout both my Tucson house and here, always inspire me. It's not just the colorful, vibrant energy they add to any room, but also how they are not just of a place's physical elements but its spirit.

I have many of her paintings (two which she painted of me) and enjoy them all. That is the only problem with her work. I like to switch my paintings around, change what is hanging to create new moods, but when I look at this one or that of hers, I think how can I not see it when I walk into a room; so she limits my shifting her work to the storage attic. And then there is an added problem. When I see something new that she has done, that I would really like to have, where can I hang it?

I am not the only one with that addiction problem when one gets started collecting her paintings. My daughter-in-law said she was visiting a neighbor and recognized Diane's work on her wall. The woman said it wasn't all and showed her how many were elsewhere in the house.

My blog is intended to be about ideas and inspiration, and I can't think of anything that illustrates that better than the paintings of Diane Widler Wenzel. The link below is to a blog she created to show the work she did on her most recent trip to Arizona with her husband. The locations to park their motor coach were chosen for his fishing with the intention she would paint. If you have ever seen the scenery she was surrounded by, you will be amazed at what she was able to see when she went beyond its physical elements to its soul. Maybe that's my title for her type of painting. She is a soul painter.

So whether you visit her new blog to see the work from her March trip (and be sure you follow the site to the end for the last paintings painted from memory after she returned home), read her regular blog, or contact her to buy a painting for your own wall, I believe it will enrich your view of art and nature.

The photograph of Diane painting is from 1999 on a visit to our Tucson house. Many of her paintings are plein air which means painted on location. Click on any of the above paintings to enlarge.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Earth Changes

Being in the Southwestern United States is always a good reminder of the fragility of cultures and how what might seem like cultural advances, intended to keep the people safe from earth changes, don't always work out. The above petroglyph was probably created by the Hohokam peoples. Does the spiral tell us something about their spiritual beliefs?

This slide was taken in 1974 of Casa Grande, south of Phoenix and north of Tucson. They believe this building was one of several Hohokam religious structures (Pueblo Grande is in Phoenix area) while the people lived in small villages around it and also farther off like in Phoenix and Tucson. A system of canals diverted water from the rivers to their crops.

Hohokam villages and writings on rocks are everywhere. They are all that is left to tell the story as the people disappeared and pretty abruptly or so it appears from all evidence left behind.

A mystery remains today why they left and where they went. The assumption is they became overpopulated for what the region could support. Along with cliff dwellers farther north, during a severe and extended drought, the people were forced to move or change their lifestyle severely.

All evidence to date indicates that change is a constant where it comes to earth. Mankind, as well as all other creatures, adapt or die. How much real impact do humans have on the global climate? Humans can turn what once was a jungle into a desert or what was a desert into a parking lot. We can make air such that you cannot breathe it, water that you cannot drink, but is man's imprint the major factor where it comes to climate change? Carbon dating tells scientists that climate change has been here all along-- sometimes catastrophic changes. The why is harder to determine.

Volcanoes, man-made air pollution, forest fires, ozone layers, and how about throwing in the sun as another variable? Did you think the sun sits up there the same year after year, only varying its impact as the earth rotates? If so, not so. The sun also has cycles. These have been measured for the last 250 years to evaluate their impact on the earth. There are many interesting articles on this but here's one from Russian News and Information Agency, NOVOSTI: "New Cycle of Solar Activity." or this one from Wikipedia called "Solar Variations."

Metaphysicians and some followers have talked for a long time about polar shifts. If you do a search on the subject, you will find many articles that blame them for things like Atlantis's destruction. They predict it coming again to radically change earth's environment. It might sound like woo-woo talk until you read that NASA is also looking into polar shifts of the sun-- but it is known it has happened on earth also in the past. What impact would such an earthly shift have upon human life assuming it happens again? "NASA Claims Polar Shift [for Sun] Due in 2012."

Watching a program on volcanoes was informative also because science can figure out how a given volcano, like say Mount Rainier east of Seattle, has erupted in the past, just as they knew how Mount St. Helens had, but St. Helens surprised everybody in how it erupted in 1980. Volcanologists cannot predict when one will erupt-- just if it will again.

And don't even get started on supervolcanos. like Yellowstone. If something like its caldera erupts (unlikely in the next few thousand years but probably inevitable eventually), not only does it wreak destruction all around it (in the case of Yellowstone most of the western United States) but would so catastrophically impact climate that it might leave only a few thousand people alive to start the process of repopulating the earth all over again. It's happened before.

Earth is full of so many mysteries that it's no wonder people turned to religion or spiritual rituals to try to appease the gods or find some form of control. Even today, for some, who believe in science in every other aspect of their life, they expect God will intervene and protect them-- unless they think he's punishing them for what somebody else did. New Age religions teach that concentrated, human directed energy can change anything.

My own theory on it is-- I don't know. I present the above links for those who think things like climate change can be solved with a hybrid car or a different light bulb. Science can't even agree whether things are warming up or cooling off-- despite Al Gore's frequent use of the term global warming.

There are things we can and should do as global communities, but I think all of us should have back-up plans on a personal level. Be flexible. Be alert. Watch for real changes, not just natural variables. Don't get panicked by every news report as tomorrow a new one will come along. Basically-- Think globally! Act locally!

At one time, in what is called today the Pacific Ring of Fire, volcanoes would erupt without any warning beyond it happening. The people who lived in these regions had no more choice than to run as far and fast as they could go, taking only what they could carry, or stay and die. When the ash blocked out the sky, superstition was their only recourse.

Some today have turned to science as their protective religion, but where science can observe, note what happened before, suggest possible reasons, predict variables, it has not yet found a way, if it ever will, to control earth's natural cycles.

Even today, sometimes in a catastrophic situation, the best solution could still be the one the Hohokam appear to have decided upon. Leave or change the entire way they lived. Big impressive ruins like Casa Grande or small ones up at Romero, petroglyphs scratched into rocks, all serve to remind humans that change is a basic in life. This isn't about fear. It's about flexibility, learning to trust instincts -- developing instincts if someone has gotten too removed from them, using commonsense, and sometimes being willing to run for it.

In looking for a slide of Casa Grande that I could scan, I came across some of me with my kids back in 1974 and couldn't resist including one as it shows the scale of Casa Grande, but earth change also-- mine. Like wow, where did those 34 years go?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

If you are a fan of Oprah's book club or have watched the online workshop with her and Eckhart Tolle, you might have already read 'A New Earth' by Tolle. I had received notice of the workshop from someone who forwards me spiritually interesting material. To be honest, I dismissed it because a few years ago I had been told I should read his earlier book, The Power of Now, bought it, but just couldn't make myself stay with it after about 70 pages.

When I was in Tucson, along came someone else, a person I regard as a spiritual mentor, saying the same thing about A New Earth and how important he felt this book was. Okay, twice and now I had to at least learn more.

I watched online the first of Oprah and Tolle's workshops, felt it had value, but am not really that fond of sitting for an hour and a half to watch something like that. They talked about enough things I already believed were important to decide I would take a look at the book.

After I skimmed a bit of A New Earth, I knew I would eventually read it, but wouldn't have the time for awhile; so waited to purchase it until I found it at Costco for under $8. Last week I began reading... got about 70 pages into it and wondered where I had put my highlighters.

It had been a long time since I had highlighted passages from any book, and so it took some digging to find one that wasn't dried up. Unfortunately the only working one was green. Green tends to bleed through to the other side, but I wanted to highlight the major ideas of this book, as it turned out-- extensively.

I think A New Earth is one of the most important and hopeful books I have read recently. It is difficult to write about it though as there is so much to say; so where do I start? It's about our ego, consciousness, living in the now, being, collective egos, pain-bodies, how we feed our pain-body, how our pain-body is connected to and strengthens our ego when it's our consciousness we need to be strong, and finally how to live in a way that gives peace, joy and enthusiasm.

Tolle says in the beginning that if someone isn't ready for this book, its words will be meaningless. I think that was where I was several years ago when I started to read The Power of Now. This time I was ready and feel that some of what he writes I have already been seeing for myself. His book reinforced so much of what I believe and gives me ideas for working on the parts that aren't working for me right now.

I believe it is time of change. It is a time where humans are ready to find a new way to be. His book is a spiritual tool to help us to get there, but there are many other ways. His has many good quotes from Christian and Eastern thinking, stories which taught these truths but from a time where less people were prepared to understand and apply them.

If you are ready for this book and read it all (it is only about 300 pages), you will find it's the story of the Cosmos and our place in it, the source of creation, of universe, mystery, and spiritual purpose. It takes us from the start of our lives to the end, from formlessness to form and back again, from doing to being. It identifies what ego is (false sense of self) with ideas on how to live in consciousness (true sense of self).

I wish I had the gift of laying out all I feel this book teaches. Writing about it so briefly here might make it sound complex, but it really isn't. I think it takes reading it, following the thinking, passage by passage, to grasp the message. If enough people do apply these ideas to their lives, it will lead to a new earth. Reading any book is only a beginning. Applying it is a lifetime.

The photos are all from this April on the farm. Flowers are small things. Contemplating them is often one of the times we most can just be. Tolle begins his book writing about the first flower. It seems flowers best illustrate what I believe he is trying to help us to see.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

McCain is the wrong man

The last two blogs were really about poverty-- its roots and some of its results. What one thinks should be done-- or not-- often carries over to their political philosophy. Most of us are aware our country is facing many serious problems-- immigration, war, infrastructure crumbling, trade issues, possible recession or worse, global climate change, environmental protection, social issues, energy costs and potential shortages, etc. Who best can handle these problems? I have written about the Democratic candidates and now here's my take on the Republican choice.

Where do I start with Senator John McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States? Simple statement says it all-- He's the wrong man at the wrong time! Then comes why I believe that to be so. How about starting with Frank Rich's column in the New York Times for April 6th-- [Tet happened and No One Cared].

Obviously I would disagree with almost all of John McCain's stands on issues-- assuming he stays with what he's said recently which given what he did on tax cuts is no given-- straight talk express, my foot. McCain, indicating what kind of judges he would choose, supported the nomination in 1987 of the conservative extremist Robert Bork. Some Republicans say McCain is too moderate, too middle of the road for them. Is that some kind of trick?

McCain brags about his stubbornness as if it's a virtue. After doing some research on McCain, who I really knew very little about before this, I realize that when he hugs up to Bush, it's probably because he recognizes a kindred soul. That thought should send shivers down our spines because it looks like they are indeed kindred souls. [Who is John McCain?]

He's a war hero, right? Except there is a lot more to that story, parts the mainstream media doesn't reveal or talk about. What the heck ever happened to genuine journalism? Where did it go? Oops, it's easy to go off on a tangent regarding our press, but here's what I found on the record about [McCain's military service.]

Are there things in McCain's past that might make him subject to control by neocons who can use things only they know to pressure him to do what they want? [More about who John McCain is... the kind of story the mainstream media leaves for independent newspapers to explore]

So what about today? Just how good is his judgment now? Frank Rich dealt with a very immediate McCain judgment call. Exactly how much does he understand about Iraq? Is it really all about patriotism or is it his own ego he's trying to protect and the media is helping him. Here is another look at that-- [McCain gets facts wrong again].

For anyone remotely considering voting for him as a viable choice in November, I hope you will take time to read these links; then do some of your own research. I don't generally use so many links, but this is one of those times where it'd take a book to explore why this man is a disastrous choice right now. To me, what is scarier is how the press is totally giving him a wash. I think they are because of those five years as a POW where he suffered terribly and acted nobly. The press admires him, seeing him as a genuine hero, and therefore don't explore any other parts of his past or present. What in his character would make him a good president? Is his being principled as a prisoner of war enough reason to vote for him to run the United States?

Over and over people like Chris Matthews, others on the mainstream media cable stations refer to McCain as a straight-shooter when his history shows he has been anything but. The press likes him and only briefly refer to that temper which he himself said even as a child was so vicious that he would literally pass out from his rages. The press ignores his mistakes and act as though he's so wise, that of course, he couldn't have misunderstood who the Shiites or Sunnis are. Real journalists would be heading their article-- He doesn't care who they are!

Finally here is an excellent analysis by Frank Schaeffer. The first book I read by him was written during his (and my) fundamentalist Christian years. He wrote one of the few of that kind of book that I kept as my life and philosophy changed, 'Addicted to Mediocrity' on creativity and spirituality. Oops, I am getting distracted again. Here is the link to Schaeffer's recent article in Huffington on McCain-- [Sometimes honor is wrong] on why McCain is the wrong choice for president at this critical time in the history of the United States.

And they tell us that it's taking a risk to elect Senator Barack Obama president???

Sunday, April 06, 2008

How can this be?

Saturday morning I was awakened earlier than I wanted from a dream. My heart was racing. It wasn't really a nightmare, I didn't think. Yet there was no denying the racing heart. It took some putting the dream together to realize what had happened. The dream had combined together things I have been reading, thinking, experiencing, with a fictional event-- except how fictional was it?

The end of the dream, the place I awoke, was realizing that a group which I thought had been working to help inner city children and schools was in reality working to plant terrorism in the minds of these young people. In the dream I might have felt so upset because I was sending money for their work, but it's no group that I am supporting in my waking hours-- or am I? I think it came out of something I had heard Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher but couldn't believe until I did some online research.

Inner City Schools failing to graduate too many students. I'd use a curse right here but this is supposed to be a PG or even G rated blog; so I won't, but what the heck is that all about?

We are fighting a war in Iraq supposedly against terrorism in a country that never attacked us, wasn't training terrorists (although it might be now), putting billions into that effort as well as sending troops around the world to fight terrorism, and yet in our inner cities, we are not graduating even half of the students? Our educational system, which is us, is failing with all but 30% in some cities as 70% drop out. And you wonder what did the 30% learn?

What kind of job can anyone get without a high school diploma or even some advanced training? Think about that for a minute while considering something else that went along with my dream. What breeds the kind of people who are willing to blow themselves up for a religious or political goal. Could it be when you have 70% of the kids in Detroit's inner city, where they are not getting a high school degree, they have no real job future, that you are breeding potential terrorists in your own backyard?

It amazes me how people can think that other people's children are other people's problem. One of the things Obama (and I am sure Hillary also) is saying is that we have to do better on education and start with the little ones before school age, start with their parents if they don't know how to read; then in high school be sure if they don't have a chance to really go onto college that they get trade skills.

And the answer is not teaching them how to pass a test designed by somebody else to make money for themselves and supposedly leave no child behind. Well plenty are being left behind obviously.

When Obama was in Medford, my daughter said one of the things that impressed her most in his speech was when he said all children are our children.

If you are selfish. If you only care about your own life. If you blame the parents of dropouts for what is happening (which might be partly true but what good does a blame game do?) If you don't see it that all children are your concern, then what about terrorists? What about suicide bombers? Are they your concern? What has kept that from happening here? I think mostly it hasn't because our young people have had hope for something more in their lives than exploding their bodies. Yes, it might be they turned to crime, sold drugs, but they haven't blown themselves up-- yet. If we keep ignoring what has gone wrong in inner city schools, that might not last.

We know throwing money at problems doesn't cure them but neither does looking the other way and hoping it will go away. It might be that some of the answer is in private charter schools, if public schools simply can't do the job (although why can't they?) but no voucher or charter school will help our nation if it still leaves behind that 70%.

And here is where my dream comes in. If you think that it should be done by individual groups, by somebody else, what else might they be teaching those kids-- your kids?

(These photos are of a wild turkey in our yard Saturday morning. I always like seeing a flock of them, or even a loner like this one come strolling through the yard, but the photos made me think of something else. They were proposed by Benjamin Franklin to be our national bird instead of the bald eagle (who some don't respect very much for its negative traits.)

So I thought a bit about what traits turkeys have. They gather in flocks when there are enough. Males fight off other males. They are prey species not predators-- although they are opportunists. So what was it about them that led Franklin to see them as a good national bird? When I think of what I observe about them-- panic easily, run off without knowing where they are going, no ability to plan for the future, easy pickings for hunters or predators-- well I have to hope we in this nation aren't symbolized by the turkey...)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Food Insecurity

When I was growing up, there was not a lot of money. I wore hand-me-down clothes and was glad to get them. A vacation was taken driving as fast as you could to have minimal nights on the road and ideally grandma came along to pay for the few motels. I remember once after my family walked into a restaurant, they saw the prices on the menu, and we all walked back out.

My experiences back then weren't unusual for a lot of families. There were small things that were fun, like a car that liked going for Sunday drives and couldn't pass a Dairy Queen without going in for a strawberry sundae-- my favorite. Through those years of father being out of work because the union voted to strike or once was laid off because we were going through a recession and people weren't buying as much of what his job produced, I never knew food insecurity-- nor was there a time we had to go to food banks. There might not have been luxury meals, but there was always enough food to be full at night.

When you look at the rising price of gasoline, heating costs, health insurance, utilities, and how food has gone up up up, Sunday drives are probably a thing of the past for many families; but what has been surprising to me is that food is a problem for too many people. This is not talking about starvation but rather struggling to put enough on the table to keep their children's stomachs full. School lunches used to help but have you looked at what a school provides these days. It's corporations who send it in and it's fast food and not a lot of it-- carbs and minimal on anything else.

When I first started hearing about food insufficiency, I thought no way. I understood in the world there are places where people don't have enough food, but here we have food stamps. The more I learned, the more I see why it's happening as this article depicts with working class families suffering insufficient food in Missoula.

Check out this link: Food Insecurity and hunger statistics by state.

Some of this might be people have forgotten the ways families used to get food or those networks are broken. I remember as a child going to someone local for eggs and milk. Nowadays those sources aren't available or when they are, they cost more than the grocery store, which is generally the case with farmer's markets. I love them where the grower can sell direct to the consumer. They are fun places to buy fresh produce with better quality, but they are no place to shop if you are short on funds because at least in my area, their costs are higher than at the supermarket.

On our farm, we produce beef and lamb which are cheaper than the store, but we don't have the legal right to sell small amounts to anyone. We sell a quarter or half of the animal itself and work through the local kill, hang, cut, and wrap company which is one of the few still operating in this area. I just hope they can stay open. The whole process though requires a relatively sophisticated customer, who has a freezer and enough money to buy a lot of meat at one time. When we looked into donating a beef to our local food bank, they had no way to deal with anything but canned and processed goods. That might change.

Where it comes to food stamps, I would guess, based on knowing working poor, that some have too much pride to accept help; some barely over qualify. Many families are one accident or illness away from these kinds of problems. Some children live in homes where the parents or parent don't have the wisdom or concern to make sure their children are healthily fed.

It appears that real programs to help such families, those who are stretched to their limits just to pay for rent, gasoline, medical care or insurance, and utilities, are food banks-- created and funded by individuals. The government in power doesn't believe in government subsidy programs for anybody but the wealthy-- like say oil companies or financial institutions. Even if we get a change of political philosophies in control, these kinds of problems won't be solved instantly and the problem is right now for families.

Many self-titled conservatives believe ordinary people would have all they need if they work hard enough. They should do some research, but they won't because they don't want to know. It might cause them to be uncomfortable with their expensive, gladiator war and keeping their own tax cuts.

The immediate point to this is, for those who care and are financially able, research how and then donate to good food banks-- ones with wholesome food, no religious strings attached, and with a good ratio of giving to costs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Barack in Corvallis

This week-end our son mentioned an anecdote about Barack Obama from when he campaigned in Oregon last week. My husband and I had missed hearing him speak because we were traveling home, but our daughter and her family were able to see him in Medford (and it was her 6 and 9 year old kids who most wanted to be sure they did).

When our son and his family were at the farm this week-end, we all (okay not the four year old and 6 month old) sat around talking politics, I asked my son if he thought it would be okay for me to share the story in this blog. It's a small moment, nobody fainted, nothing ground shaking; but it is a more accurate piece of who Obama is than what the media loves to spin out.

Amongst the many negative stories working their way out of the wormwood (like how Obama is secretly a Muslim terrorist), I have read how the press doesn't like him as much as McCain because Obama can't shoot the breeze with them. They relate how he stands stiffly aloof unlike McCain who hosts barbecues (which I have to wonder how any reporter can pretend to be unbiased when he is being entertained by the candidate as if a friend; but then who thought our press was unbiased).

Monday my son got back to me that not only was it okay to relate what happened, but also there were some photos and a transcript. I was glad because it shows what Obama is like when nobody is writing it down to report or so he'd have had every reason to expect. (His being willing to bowl this week, when he was lousy at it and never had, is another example of a real person, who is not on a pedestal in his own mind. The press, at least Chris Matthews on Hardball, put him down for the bowling, saying stick to things he does well like basketball, but I saw it as positively illustrative of his character.)

Anyway, back to this story-- Barack Obama and his entourage of press, secret service, and aides were driving down the state from one campaign event to the next. Friday afternoon for pizza, they arranged to stop (unannounced to the general public) in Corvallis. My son didn't hear about it in time to be there himself, but the following is what one person wrote down about his meal-time encounter with a presidential candidate.

Background: Emmet and David are friends (both from Ireland), and Barack, well you know who Barack is.

Transcript by David:

"Just to establish the historical record I wanted to document the following. I feel like I should send this to some worldwide paper like the New York Times or The Kerryman.

American Dream Pizza on Friday afternoon
(March 21, 2008)

Emmet to Barack: How’re ya?

(20 or 30 Minutes later)

David to Barack: I just got my citizenship and I can’t wait to vote for you.

Barack: Where are you from?.......Ireland

David: Yeah Ireland

Barack: You have a friend here**

David: Yeah Emmet, I called him to tell him you were here.

Barack: Did you come here to study?

David: No I came here when I was 21, right after school.

Barack: So how did you pick Oregon, were you in a bar and threw a dart at the map?

David: Something like that, in fact I spun the map around to make it even more random.

Barack: Well good luck to you.

David: You too.

** means he remembered Emmet
Me: I liked the story, not just because it shows Obama's sense of humor but for another reason. He is running for president, important person, right? Yet when he talked to David, he was interested in who he was. He could have been expected to have responded to David's comment, that he was supporting him, with something about himself, but instead Barack was curious about David and had even remembered Emmet.

Curiosity is one of the traits Bush has never displayed, and, to me, it is one of his character flaws as a leader and even as a human being. Sense of humor, interest in people, curiosity are among the many character qualities that I see in Barack Obama and among the qualities that make him a good leader.

(Emmet's eyes are the ones you see in the above photo from that lunch stop. Photo and transcript used with permission.)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Worthy Reading

Because I think so many people have their minds made up on political candidates right now, I haven't written about Hillary Clinton's blatant lies lifting her experience level whatever way she can including claiming having been under sniper fire in Bosnia. I figured those who like her will grasp at her claiming it as a misspeak due to sleep deprivation (never mind she claimed she would be the sharp one at 3 AM; never mind that she included this story over a three month span in various speeches); and those who don't will call it what it was, a lie. Lack of genuine character has always been my objection to her as president. Having experienced almost eight years of a president with no clue what character might be, despite all his religious talk, I sure have not wanted more of that.

There have been many good articles about Hillary's character recently and probably if someone wants to continue liking her, if having a woman as president is a priority to them, they have skipped them. Pieces by writers like Peggy Noonan are still easy to find if someone is wanting to do so. This one, for me, however is the best because it goes beyond her lie to the deeper Bosnian story. So like her or not, please read the following link with an open mind; and if you have not voted in a primary yet, think about it long and hard before you do.