Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Harvesting the Truth

Here is the week's harvest, both the wheat and chaff. Lost in the gleanings was an acerbic voice for brutal honesty.

America... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Hidden in the chaff was the usual smoke:

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said.

Please join me in standing and performing a collective eye-roll.

Uh oh, more chaff. What's wrong with this? Click on the Disclaimer Button on the bottom of the page. Yep, that's right. Now look at this:

The Pentagon maintains that the information on the sites is true and accurate. But in a recent memo, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz insisted that the Web site contractor should only hire journalists who "will not reflect discredit on the U.S. government."

Apparently Mr. Gannon/Guckert isn't the only outlet the Whitehouse has for spreading mis-information under the guise of authentic journalism.

Now this really cranks my tractor. Honesty from a public servant? We can manipulate through fear all day long, but we can't handle the truth.

Speaking of truth, Eric Alterman received this note at The Nation regarding the State of the Union hug between the Iraqi and American women.

The Iraqi woman, identified by Bush as Safia Taleb al-Suhail, is a politician. She was a long-time Iraqi-in-exile and proponent of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, did not live in Iraq at the time of the invasion, and was appointed last year by the US-approved interim government as the Iraqi ambassador to Egypt. I don't have reason to doubt al-Suhail's personal sincerity in that SOTU moment, but nonetheless, her background makes it clear that she is not some average Iraqi whose heart and mind has been won over by the US invasion.

Man, I HATE emotional manipulation. (Unless it's starring Johnny Depp. Then, I'm willing to overlook it.)

Finally, some wheat! Ian Wrisley wrote a great piece featured on All Things Considered on NPR. It's available in audio only. I highly recommend it. Social Security isn't about saving for yourself. It's about the maturation of a society and the care it provides for its elderly. Check it out.

Also worth a look is this: How The Lefty Blogs Can Win The Blogosphere, Revive Their Party, And Save Our Country (And Why They Won't)

I'm not too proud to learn a new trick or two, even if the right thinks I can't handle it. Don't you love being accused of a permanent knee jerk reaction by the people who wrote the book? Me too.

Here's an easy link to use if you want to express yourself to your representatives. I'll be adding it to the sidebar.

Let's pack up the 'ol combine with this from an Altercation reader:

...This week Robert Novak wrote "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is rejecting ***nearly universal advice*** from financial experts that he dramatically should accelerate the decline of the dollar in order to reduce the U.S. international current-account deficit" (emphasis added). Then the New York Times reports that foreign purchases of Treasury securities plunged 75% in December. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Senate is about to fast-track the hideous bankruptcy reform bill. Supporters will tell you that all the bill does is force debtors who can pay at least $6000 of their debt over time into Chapter 13 (as opposed to the "clean break" bankruptcy of Chapter
7). What they don't tell you is that bankruptcy attorneys demand their money up-front, and that Chapter 13 bankruptcies cost more than the bargain rates you see lawyers hawking on late-night TV. One such character in Chicago advertises $500 for a Chapter 7 and $1000 for a Chapter 13 (and that tends to be the bare-bones/no-hitch price). Many debtors won't be able to afford the up-front costs. Add to this the prospect of a dollar collapse -- if the $6000 trigger level isn't tied to inflation, over time many of the debtors not intended to be barred from Chapter 7 will be.

Altercators Beware: Credit card companies have also been laying traps. You probably know that if you are late with a payment the bank that issued the card can jack-up the interest rate, even if you have a "guaranteed fix rate." But did you know that many companies have amended their user agreements so that if you are late with ANY payment (phone bill, repair man) they can do the same thing? If they haven't gotten around to you yet, they will -- they only need to give you 15 days notice. Some have gone as far as to add this language: "We reserve the right to change the terms at any time for any reason."

Live within your harvest, folks. Lean times are coming.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bully Pulpit

Becoming a parent exposed me to myself. Prior to parenthood, I had a self image that was very self involved. It was also hedonistic and regrettably superficial in some aspects. You have to start somewhere.

As my children grow, I can admit to myself that I'm not a "baby" mom. All aspects of baby parenting terrified me; the complete 24/7 litany of: it never lets up, it's never clean enough, there is no more Jet left, sleep is a mirage, towering Mt. "Wash Me", slide a paying job in there somehow, dimly register the clang of the glass ceiling, "How many children do you have? Three? Well. I see..."

Terrified of missing something, making a parental misstep, I overcompensated. Looking one direction, I could miss something else. It takes only a moment's distraction to drop the juggled balls. My kids grew up in as protected an environment as I could make. Three kids in 2 and 3/4 years is an incredible feat of navigation. I did it, but it's hard to move around in the world with three little ones. So we didn't go a lot of places. We hung out at home. A lot. I resented not even being able to get out to the grocery. Once you load up two car seats and a toddler into the cart, there's not much room for food. My husband added shopping to his list of chores, all which seemed to involve the outside world. My world was smaller and much, much stickier.

Fortunately, children grow. Babies no more, I am buoyed by my children's discoveries, prizes, transgressions and catastrophes. We bob on a sea of learning. In my "Mom Element" at last, this middle-years Mom revels, teaches and travels with ease. I look at my earlier versions-of-self fondly, but with no desire to step backwards. My future is beside me, and my legacies are unbound upon the world, determined to the quest. I cannot get my mind around what the world would be like without my husband and our kids.

Yet everyday, my country is more determined to destroy families.

There are 54 million people in Iraq. Over half of them are under the age of 15. Of the over 100,000 civilians dead in this war, then, over half of them are children. We are killing children. The children are our enemy. And we are defeating them.

"I'll tell you why I voted for George Bush," a friend of mine said. "I voted for George Bush because he had the courage to do what Al Gore and John Kerry would never have done."

I've been thinking about that one.

Osama Bin Laden is still alive. Sadam Hussein is still alive. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is still alive. Baghdad, Mosul and Fallujah are burning. But my government has the courage to kill children or their parents. And I'm supposed to be impressed.

That's an unfair assessment, of course. A lot of young soldiers have died, too. A lot of weekend soldiers are maimed for life. A lot of our kids went into the military only to get a college education and are now shattered in soul by what they had to do to other bodies.

A lot of adult civilians have been blasted out of their homes and their neighborhoods and their cars. More and more every day. According to U.N. Development Fund for Women, 15 percent of wartime casualties in World War I were civilians. In World War II, 65 percent were civilians. By the mid '90s, over 75 percent of wartime casualties were civilians.

In Iraq, for every dead U.S. soldier, there are 14 other deaths, 93 percent of them are civilian. But those things happen in war, the story says. It's all for a greater good, we have to remember. It's all to free them. It's all being done to spread "liberty."

From where I stand, the only question now is who or what will free us from the 21st century's new definition of bravery. Who will free us from the notion that killing children or their civilian parents takes courage? -- Sister Joan Chittitser

Iraq's children are front-lining their third war in 20 years. A war with Iran in the 1980's (lasting 8 years) and the Gulf War in 1991 greatly damaged Iraq's infrastructure.They also suffered greatly under 12 years of UN imposed sanctions. More children (500,000) died in Iraq during the sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima.

According to UNICEF, half the population of Iraq is under age 18. Many of these children are highly vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. One in four children under five years of age is chronically malnourished. One in eight children dies before reaching their fifth birthday. Schools are marginalized. Due to fighting and structural damage, only 60% of the children have access to schools that are operational and the vaccination program is barely patched back together. The cold pipeline for transporting vaccines was destroyed and the country's vaccines were ruined.

In my little world, that would mean that three of my twins pre-school classmates would be dead. Six would be starving. Perhaps 14 out of 24 would be making it to the school, but few would be girls. Disease could lay the whole venture flat.

I understand that Saddam was a bad man. But based on our behavior, God will not see our side.

... We don't tally the children we kill for the same reason monsters don't buy mirrors: That's how they go through life thinking they're angels.

We've snuffed out innocent lives in numbers that insurgents and terrorists could only dream of. But we avert our eyes. We bury our heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to our moral cowardice, thus pulling off the amazing feat of being ostriches and chickens all at once. We owe this marvel of ornithology to the inexorable fragility of human illusions. To quote James Carroll, "we avert our eyes because the war is a moral abyss. If we dare to look, as Nietzsche said, the abyss stares back." George Bush, the philosopher, has updated Berkeley's riddle: Do Iraqi children scream when the bombs fall if there is no one in the White House to hear them? -- Bernard Chazelle

The White House's dance with Iran is following the same bull in the china shop techniques we employed prior to starting this war on Iraq and Iraq's children. North Korea has decided the best way to play with Bush is to be able to blow up some of our kids as well as some of theirs. We have rattled the bars on the cages of the "axis of evil". They have watched our war and are getting ready. When they bring it to us, our children are fair game.

I look into my children's faces and I think of the protected environment I made for them as babies to keep them safe. I can't do that for them anymore.

One thing I can do is raise my voice against the madness of this war on children.

The other is to beg God's forgiveness. President Bush doesn't seem to feel it's necessary.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A Little Joy, a Little Peace and a Whole Lotta Light

Everybody has a love song. Sometimes it's an "our song". A wedding song, a first kiss song, a song that cements the fireworks. Sometimes its a song remembering lost love, missed chances, an if only lament.

My husband and I have an "our song". When we hear it, where ever we are, we dance. It's a connection of our before to our after; it holds the promise for our yet to be. It's special because of the currents, the love eddy under our surfaces.

Our song is special to us, but it's the relationship packaging that makes it so. There are wonderful songs of love and heartache out there that pass by unnoticed for the most part; our personal cosmic event didn't coincide with them. Trick of fate, perhaps.

I have a few songs though, that to me are the greatest love songs ever written. When I hear them, I have to stop and listen to them because I find them so compelling. They reach me in my core, in the place where I feel most real. They make be glad to be whole of mind and able to cherish the gift that loving somebody is.

I get so lost, sometimes days pass
and this emptiness fills my heart.

When I want to run away I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are.

All my instincts, they return

and the grand facade,
so soon will burn without a noise,
without my pride

I reach out from the inside.

In your eyes

The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes.

I don't like to see so much pain.

So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away.
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival.
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.

And all my instincts, they return

and the grand facade,
so soon will burn without a noise,
without my pride

I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes.

The promise of the gift of returned love, the end of looking for it, the completion of an individual puzzle. It's beautiful. Peter Gabriel crafted a masterpiece. John Hiatt's song of the finding, appreciating and aging with the love of your life is wonderful as well.

Well I never went to college, babe
I did not have the luck
Rolled out of Indiana in the back of a pickup truck
With no education higher
Than the street of my hometown
I went lookin' for a fire
Just to burn it all down

You've got a real fine love
You've got a real fine love
One I am unworthy of
You've got a real fine love, baby

I thought I had a line on something

Maybe no one else could say
And they couldn't find it in their hearts
To just get out of my way
Then out of nowhere, and from nothing
You came into my life
I'd seen an angel or two before
But I'd never asked one to be my wife

Well you can sprinkle all your teardrops

Across the evening sky
But you cannot hide the twinkle
Of starlight in your eye
Well I left my map way back there, baby
I don't know where we are
But I'm gonna pull my pony up
And hitch my wagon to your star

You've got a real fine love
You've got a real fine love
One I am unworthy of
You've got a real fine love, baby

Well now the babies are all sleeping

And the twilight's givin' in
She looks like you, he looks like her
And we all look like him
Well maybe it's just the little thing
The way I feel tonight
A little joy
A little peace
And a whole lotta light

Love one another, friends.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Just Say NO!

I just read the most astonishing essay; I'm absolutely blown away.

There is so much anger amongst the Dems right now, but even worse, such a catastrophic sense of disorganization. Who do we have? How can we adapt ourselves? How can we appeal to the moral crowd? How can we get our message out in a media tipping further right as we speak? It's as if we're stumbling around in a sealed box, desperate to find the door before the gas begins.

Well, guess what? We're being played.

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the 'new' language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you: Every single day. The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating. -- Mel Giles

You see, when we accepted that so called "moral mandate", we were ducking a blow. Because Dems, as liberals, embrace tolerance. This means that while we disagree with conservatives, we are tolerant of their opinion and support their right to have it. What happened to us is simple. While we were busy believing that building up everybody is the best way to achieve forward progress, they got busy building up a scary caricature of what liberals were and frightening a lot of formerly non-political people with it. They rode that horse hard.

Faith is a personal journey. At 42, I'm ready to ask questions; I'm actively seeking answers. My quest is not based on any formal religious training, nor is it based on a specific doctrine. I search as a Christian, but if I find God in Chaos Theory, I still find God.

This is why I find this whole "moral mandate" so appalling and ultimately, unacceptable. This is not moral, it's manipulation. This is not a mandate, this is greed and power lust. Politics are inherently amoral and consistently immoral.

Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned --the press corps can tell you that.) See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. (To him.) Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy.)

And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the
other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy. -- Mel Giles

Over and over in the last election cycle, I read outraged blogs. What about the facts... they're ignoring the facts... the fact is...

It was bewildering. The situation couldn't possibly last, surely people understood what was at stake, who we were, what was real and what was smoke. The days after the election were a lesson in rage. We leached it from every pore, expressed it in creative and far flung ways. We apologized to the world.

Then we started talking about how we needed to change ourselves to fit the new mold, be more like them, more acceptable, more obedient to the moral mandate.

How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple: First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring that its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.

Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and the gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it's better than the abuse.
-- Mel Giles

I am a Democrat. I am liberal. I accept that people are different from me. I am not threatened by their difference. I want my world to grow based on the richness of diversity. I know that the brain is an incredible instrument and we need every one of them. I accept that my planet requires my stewardship. I am responsible for the weak and the broken; I will care and raise them up. I am a Democrat. I am one of many.

And I am through ducking.

We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying. Because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.

Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser. -- Mel Giles

There is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with tolerance, reform, support and protection.


These are the liberal acts God wishes from us. Not to slander, not to lie, not denying the poor, or denigrating the different. Tolerance, reform, support and protection for others and for my earth are mine to give. I am steadfast, and I WILL GIVE THEM.

I don't need your permission.

Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works.) Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But, we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazed, too liberal, naïve, amoral, "loose," irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.

Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education. And they
don't even know they are being hit. -- Mel Giles

We must turn our backs on the bullies, and stand firm for our core beliefs. They are rock solid; they are ancient. It is right to raise up, it is right to encourage, it is right to correct wrongs, it is right to accept, protect and nurture. To do anything else is wrong on every level.

The funny thing about it? If we stand up and remain steadfast, our strength becomes ten, hundred, thousand fold. With that strength, comes respect and interest. With respect and interest, leadership grows. With leadership comes more people to the cause. More people begets more strength, and the circle of strength continues to grow.

I am a Democrat. I am one of many.

Are you with me?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Across the Great Divide

I'm a transplanted mid-westerner. When I have a chance to head north, the woods are the woods of my childhood, the verbal intonations the sounds of my teens and twenties. When I get a chance to have a couple two-tree beers wit my Wisconsin friends, we have a good time fer cripes sake. Ja, dat's fer sure.

However, I've lived in Florida for 15 years now. I no longer fear the unusual spiky plants harboring enormous insects that I encounter on my farm, nor the plentiful snakes in numerous varieties. I've seen alligators cross the highway near my home, and skied the lakes where they live, hunt, and raise their young. My truce with the woods of my adulthood is one of mature, accepting unease. My children will feel as out of place in the woods of my childhood as I feel in theirs. Yet, we are one flesh, one family; we are also five diverse minds.

Writing in Wisconsin lingo brought a smile to my face. I have history to go with that slang. Florida is such a melting pot that no such definitive lingo exists, but expressions like "y'all" in place of "you guys", "good to go" replacing alright or appropriate, and "bless his heart", by which I mean there are boxes of rocks out there that have it going on over my subject, have crept into my daily speech. I have 12-year neighbors who are Tennessee transplants and the best neighbors I have ever had, friends who are Florida natives and die-hard NASCAR fans who vote Democratic, and co-workers from Mexico working here on green cards. I have friends transplanted from New York and Massachusetts, here as long or longer than myself, and a myriad of acquaintances who speak with a myriad of accents. Other than ribbing the New Yorker over the atrocity of the Bills over the years, I try to make it a point not to presume anything about any of these people. I haven't lived in their previous communities, I don't know the ins and outs.

Fifteen years into it, I do have opinions about my new(er) piece of America. Here's a list, by no means complete, of the things I love about where I live.

Fish. Really fresh ocean fish, in amazing varieties and subtlety of flavors. Also fresh seafood. You have not lived until you have grilled fresh oysters on the grill, carted them in and shucked them on your kitchen table, dressed them up in the toppings of your choice and sent them down the hatch. 'Cuse me, I'm drooling.

Manners galore. Please, Thank-you, Yes M'am, No Sir. Heavenly. Even the toll takers are nice. My friend who works in Gary, Indiana once told me of a toll taker to whom she handed the correct change for toll, and simply told her, "here's the correct change. The toll taker's response to her? "Well f**king duh!" That's just rude. Funny, but rude.

Year round boating. My husband proposed to me on our little boat, on a lake in Florida, in FEBRUARY. Beats shoveling.

Sharp wit. Regardless of origin, Americans are smart asses. You have no idea how comforting that is.

Good writing. I discovered the joys of southern writers; I am drunk with their prose.

Produce. My God in Heaven, thank you for this bounty that will excise the plethora of fried cheese I consumed in Wisconsin. It's all good, all the time. Especially the peaches. Oh, and the tomatoes and strawberries. And the jalapenos and Vidalia onions. And the peaches. Especially the peaches. Amen.

Hard work. I am surrounded by people who walk the walk. When I first arrived in Florida, in the course of trying to land my first job, I'm ashamed to say I told the interviewer I brought an outstanding mid-western work ethic to the table. She was not amused by the implications. Needless to say, I remained unemployed for a bit longer thanks to that gaffe.

I'm hardly the first "Yankee" to tear down I-75 ready to teach these ignorant southerners all about the proper way to do things. Problem is, they have things pretty well managed, are not really impressed with arrogance and lack of tact, and if you could please refrain from using the F-word in front of their Mothers, they'd really appreciate it. Where does all that assumptive superiority come from? Surely it can't simply be the Civil War. One hundred and forty odd years later, the stereotypes run deep and malignant.

I've received many e-mails denigrating southern dwellers as stupid, toothless, racist, uncultured in-breeders. I'm sad to say that most of these emails originated from old friends up north who have never lived in the south. This really bothers me. These same people would never send an email denigrating someone because of skin color. So why do the stereotypes against southerners seem acceptable?

Stereotype is not a particularly pleasant word. A stereotype is a fixed idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong.

Yep, that's pretty negative stuff. Do I wish to be considered less able or intelligent because I'm female? Of course not. Are my children going to be sub-standard citizens because they are growing up in the south? Of course not. Are they going to be toothless, stupid and marry each other? Of course not.

Perpetuating the southern myth is fool hardy. What is really being wrought is worse. As long as we, as Dems, embrace this so called Red State=South / Blue State=North baloney we are allowing ourselves to be manipulated and weakened. Our nation is purple, and we need to build toward that if we want to see real change in this country. To be liberal we must practice tolerance, and here is where we need to start.

I'll leave you with this thought:

Lord, who may have a resting-place in your tent, a living-place on your holy hill? He who goes on his way uprightly, doing righteousness, and saying what is true in his heart; Whose tongue is not false, who does no evil to his friend, and does not take away the good name of his neighbor -- PSALMS 15:1-3, Basic English Bible

Y'all come back now, ya hear?