February 27th, 2006

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Good Morning!

It is still raining. It rained all through the night, and I enjoyed the most beautiful dreams. In one dream, we were renting a house in Mexico, and I walked out to the ocean and there was a ring of rocks in which to swim. The water was incredibly warm, and Mandu swam with me, and, we were like sea otters. Then, I put him on the rocks and he went back to the house while I swam in the wider ocean. The water was so warm. When I went back inside, my mother was there. I had thought I was supposed to pick her up, but she was there, lively as could be, saying she had found a ride. What a lovely dream to awaken from and then, hear the rain.

My breast still has an area of redness and soreness, so I am open to whatever the day brings. I understand that I have to let go of my anxiously created need for an exact schedule for this. I know, one day, this part of my life will complete. For today, I see the surgeon and get my blood taken, and hope all of that ensures the last chemo treatment is tomorrow, but, if not, then, so it is. A beautiful day to All!
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why not me -

A friend brings up an interesting point this morning. She writes of someone who says, "Why not me?" rather than, "Why me?" when something like this happens. It does switch it, doesn't it? Why not me?

I sit with that, even as I am feeling a bit sad this morning. I realize where I stumble is in having to be with the unknowing. If I knew I had chemo tomorrow, I could dread it, and not, be thrilled, but I would know my response. Today, I am with this unknowing of maybe some freedom, or maybe not. I know that indecision is the worst of tortures, and I also know that if I can stay with now, right now, and let all of this go, all is fine for me now, in this moment. I am looking out on trees, a few tastes of fog, soft rain. All is fine. I set intention to release into that spaciousness today. There is nothing I can really do about all of this, other than to receive your visualization, and my own, and enter the space of "Is that so?"

Steve will leave for Finland on Wednesday. He was in New York last week. Jane is in New York this week. Perhaps there is some sadness at the perceived limitation of my world, and I know that "wherever we go, there we are." My world is vast, if I let myself feel it, vast within and without, so, once again, I set intention to live in spaciousness today.

I realize now I am receiving an invitation. My tears are invited out by friends, a flock. If it were sunny today, my tears might feel lonely, out of place, but today, they are part of a flock, a flock of gray.
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A David Whyte Poem -

THE WELL OF GRIEF

    by David Whyte


Those who will not slip beneath
    the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
    to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
    the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
    the small round coins
       thrown by those who wished for something else. 
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Paul Krugman today!

Graduates versus Oligarchs
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 27 February 2006

Ben Bernanke's maiden Congressional testimony as chairman of the Federal Reserve was, everyone agrees, superb. He didn't put a foot wrong on monetary or fiscal policy.

But Mr. Bernanke did stumble at one point. Responding to a question from Representative Barney Frank about income inequality, he declared that "the most important factor" in rising inequality "is the rising skill premium, the increased return to education."

That's a fundamental misreading of what's happening to American society. What we're seeing isn't the rise of a fairly broad class of knowledge workers. Instead, we're seeing the rise of a narrow oligarchy: income and wealth are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

I think of Mr. Bernanke's position, which one hears all the time, as the 80-20 fallacy. It's the notion that the winners in our increasingly unequal society are a fairly large group - that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don't have these skills.

The truth is quite different. Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains. The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.

So who are the winners from rising inequality? It's not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?," gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn't a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year.

Why would someone as smart and well informed as Mr. Bernanke get the nature of growing inequality wrong? Because the fallacy he fell into tends to dominate polite discussion about income trends, not because it's true, but because it's comforting. The notion that it's all about returns to education suggests that nobody is to blame for rising inequality, that it's just a case of supply and demand at work. And it also suggests that the way to mitigate inequality is to improve our educational system - and better education is a value to which just about every politician in America pays at least lip service.

The idea that we have a rising oligarchy is much more disturbing. It suggests that the growth of inequality may have as much to do with power relations as it does with market forces. Unfortunately, that's the real story.

Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I'm with Alan Greenspan, who - surprisingly, given his libertarian roots - has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to "democratic society."

It may take some time before we muster the political will to counter that threat. But the first step toward doing something about inequality is to abandon the 80-20 fallacy. It's time to face up to the fact that rising inequality is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.

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A Joke!!

BREAKFAST AT THE WHITE HOUSE



Dick Cheney and George W. Bush were having breakfast at the White House.

The attractive waitress asks Cheney what he would like, and he replies, "I'd like a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit."



"And what can I get for you, Mr. President?"

George W. replies with his trademark wink and slight grin, "How about a quickie this morning?"

"Why, Mr. President!" the waitress exclaims "How rude! You're starting to act like Mr. Clinton, and you've only been in your second term of office for a year! ''


As the waitress storms away, Cheney leans over to Bush and whispers...

"It's pronounced 'quiche'."
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Why Not Me?

I couldn't let it go this morning, so used it for a poem.

 

Why Not Me?

 

we often ask, why me,

but if we say why me to everything,

where is our facet of the diamond

our chance to climb steep slopes

and slide back down -

why not me -

Give me every experience,

every chance to place my axe,

to anchor my boots. 

I rise to see

sunrise after sunrise,

and descend to bring

sunset

to rest

like a fire,

banked for the night,

in me.  

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Blogs - Malcolm Gladwell

Jeff calls me this morning to inform me that Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink" and "Tipping Point," now has a blog. He reverses his position on health care today. That is the great thing about a blog. You can go back and forth. You can check out his blog personally, but I thought this little piece was succinct and clear.


Malcolm Gladwell:

Why have I changed my mind? Some of my reasons are in the piece on moral hazard I wrote for the New Yorker last summer.

http://www.gladwell.com/2005/2005_08_29_a_hazard.html

The bigger reason is simply that I woke up one day and realized what much smarter people than me (Adam Gopnik) realized a long time ago, which is that the idea of employer-based health care is just plain stupid--and only our familiarity with it and sheer inertia prevent us from rising up in rebellion. I always try to think of a suitable analogy and fail. The closest I can come is to imagine if we had employer-based subways in New York. You could ride the subway if you had a job. But if you lost your job, you would either have to walk or pay a prohibitively expensive subway surcharge. Of course, if you lost your job you would need the subway more than ever, because you couldn't afford taxis and you would need to travel around looking for work. Right? In any case, what logical connection is there between employment and transporation? If you can answer that question, you can solve the riddle of the U.S. health care system. And maybe I'll change my mind back.
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Looking back -

On October 19, 2005, I learn that the doctors have decided there will be no more surgery. My treatment will consist of chemo, radiation, and hormones. I am elated that I won't have another surgery, and I realize the reality of chemo had not sunk in. I wrote this.

My heart runs down my cheeks,
liquid love,
like cygnets following their mother
in the wake
of the stream.
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It's never too late -

This is the first page of an article from the New York Times today.

In California, New Kind of Commune for Elderly


Article Tools Sponsored By
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
Published: February 27, 2006

DAVIS, Calif., Feb. 23 — They are unlikely revolutionaries. Bearing walkers and canes, a veritable Merck Manual of ailments among them, the 12 old friends — average age 80 — looked as though they should have been sitting down to a game of Scrabble, not pioneering a new kind of commune.

Opting for old age on their own terms, they were starting a new chapter in their lives as residents of Glacier Circle, the country's first self-planned housing development for the elderly — a community they had conceived and designed themselves, right down to its purple gutters.

Over the past five years, the residents of Glacier Circle have found and bought land together, hired an architect together, ironed out insurance together, lobbied for a zoning change together and existentially probed togetherness together.

"Here you get to pick your family instead of being born into it," said Peggy Northup-Dawson, 79, a retired family therapist and mother of six who is legally blind. "We recognized that when you're physically closer to each other, you pay more attention, look in on each other. The idea was to share care."

The four couples, two widows and two who are now living solo live in eight individual town houses, grouped around an iner courtyard. Still under construction is the "common house" with a living room and a large kitchen and dining room for communal dinners; upstairs is a studio apartment they will rent at below market value to a skilled nurse who will provide additional care. It is their own self-styled, potluck utopia.

"It's an acknowledgment that intimacy doesn't happen by chance," said John Jungerman, 84, a retired nuclear physicist and one of several Ph.D.'s in the group, who is perpetually clad in purple socks and sandals.

"At first John said, 'I'm not old enough,' " his wife, Nancy, said of the commune. "I said, 'You're 80 years old. How old do you have to be?' "

There are about a dozen co-operative housing developments for the elderly in development, from Santa Fe, N.M., to St. Petersburg, Fla., a fledgling movement to communally address "the challenge of aging non-institutionally," said Charles Durett, an architect in Nevada City, Calif., who imported the concept he named co-housing — people buying homes in a community they plan and run together — from Denmark in the late 1960's.

Though communal housing for the elderly is new, intergenerational communities have been around since 1991, when the first opened in this politically progressive university town. There are now 82 across the country.

In Abingdon, Va., residents are beginning to move into ElderSpirit, a development founded by a 76-year-old former nun, Dene Peterson. The community of 37, 10 years in the making, includes a "spirit house" for ecumenical prayer and meditation.

"I just thought there had to be a better way for older people to live," said Ms. Peterson, who formed a nonprofit development corporation with three other former Glenmary sisters, a Catholic order, and knit together a variety of private and governmental funds (16 of the 29 units are subsidized affordable housing).

Ms. Peterson says she was haunted and inspired by her work with elderly public housing residents in Chicago in the 1960's.

"The elderly were dying," she recalled, "and they were anonymous."

With millions of baby boomers moving toward retirement, gerontologists and developers are looking to communal housing for the elderly with growing interest, building on a generation's mythology that already includes communes and college dormitories.

In co-operative housing, said Janice Blanchard, a gerontologist and housing consultant in Denver, "the social consciousness of the 1960's can get re-expressed." Baby boomers, she predicted, "are going to want to recreate the peak experience of their lives. Whether a commune or a college dorm, the common denominator was community."

Rich Morrison, 79, a retired psychologist from Sacramento State University and the sole single man at Glacier Circle, only recently gave up his hobby, swimming the major rapids of the Colorado River. "Emotionally, there's no reason why I can't continue to grow until I'm 100, if I'm lucky," he said.

Mr. Morrison is once widowed and twice divorced. Like others in the group who have struggled through every loss, from a child's suicide to the death of a spouse, he speaks about now being able to make "heart choices," hard won.


And the article goes on. Food for thought!
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From Jane in New York!!

Today, Jane and I speak  at 1:00 my time and 4:00 hers. She is in the midst of the Search Engine Conference. I will present her poem from our writing time, and then, in the next posting, mine. We feel they connect, and we feel the joy and wonder of living in such an incredible world where all this can take place.

Jane's words, sent by Blackberry:


A thousand people
Who spend millions on one word
Never tell a poet
Words are cheap.


I didn't title this one but it could be:
Search Engine Conference.

Even though I've been involved with this search engine stuff for a while now, it has been so clear this time the relationship between my writing and my work....how much of search engine work is about finding exactly the right word for the audience. I don't think I would have made this connection today even without your morning poem...and Steve's feedback that the fairies and the gnomes stuck out at the end but somehow passed unnoticed when they came earlier in the poem!


I had said to Jane this morning that Steve's words allowed me to feel how delicate and finely arched this poetry path.  I became more clear on what we create, and how we lead, and follow, through silence, pause, and sound. 

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My Writing Time Poem -

Writing Time

Jane is at a conference.
She doesn’t have pen or paper,
but she has a Blackberry,
and she is going to write a very short poem.

I smile at the image of Jane
bent over her Blackberrry,
sweet, little thumbs
typing in words
as they spring from the vine
of her brain.

Shortbread cookies
with raspberry thumb prints,
pop to mind,
as joy warms in my mouth
like summer sun,

even though it is February,
and the marsh is flooded,
and the birds stand
on long legs
with water to their knees,
and survey
yet another great feast.
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Poem by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.

Crohn's Disease

by

Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.



There are those who wake

in the same body every morning.

Ankles and knees moving briskly, unaware.

Belly, painless and unnoticed.

The breath the same,

as full, as sweet,

as when they laid down last night.



I awaken every morning and wonder

What body I am in today?

What moves freely? What aches?

How clearly will the right eye see?

The left?

What will obey? What rebel?



Uncertainty is aliveness,

and aliveness,

grace.



© Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.



“Crohn’s Disease” is reprinted by permission of the author from Wounded Healers: A Book of Poems by People Who Have Had Cancer and Those Who Love Them edited by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. (Wounded Healer Press, 1994).
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Checking in -

The rain and wind continue.

Well, the surgeon was appalled when she saw my breast, and blames a good deal of the problem on the woman who did the "procedure." All that was needed was a needle check to see if there was an infection. Now, the skin is infected. Anyway, the surgeon has now prescribed two antibiotics, since the other one did nothing, and wants to see me in a week. (I first typed "see her." I have been thinking of myself in the third person today. Too much being around medical people, I think.) She says no chemo tomorrow. Of course, the chemo world has to agree, and there was no one there high enough to say for sure, but the oncology nurse I spoke to couldn't imagine getting Taxol when I already have an infection, so I think the whole procedure is now delayed a week. Part of me is disappointed, and another part is so exhausted that I know this is the best thing. I need some more time to heal before I go back in again. So, it seems there will be no last day celebration of the end of chemo tomorrow, and not even too raucous of a celebration of the week break, since antibiotics mean no alcohol. This is the strangest of journeys, and I am just grateful for a place to rest.

Though we still have power tonight, the candles are lit, just in case. The lights are flickering. It is one of those nights. Enjoy!!
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chocolate -

Chocolate Linked to Lower Blood Pressure
By CARLA K. JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Monday, February 27, 2006


(02-27) 18:50 PST CHICAGO, (AP) --


Leave it to the Dutch to help demonstrate the health benefits of chocolate. A study of older men in The Netherlands, known for its luscious chocolate, indicated those who ate the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death.

The researchers say, however, it's too early to conclude it was chocolate that led to better health. The men who ate more cocoa products could have shared other qualities that made them healthier. Experts also point out that eating too much chocolate can make you fat — a risk for both heart disease and high blood pressure.

"It's way too early to make recommendations about whether people should eat more cocoa or chocolate," said Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at Wageningen University in The Netherlands, who co-authored the study.

Still, the Dutch study, supported by grants from the Netherlands Prevention Foundation, appears to be the largest so far to document a health effect for cocoa beans. And it confirms findings of smaller, shorter-term studies that also linked chocolate with lower blood pressure.

The findings, published in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, are based on data collected for more than a decade on Dutch men who were ages 65 and older in 1985. The long-running Zutphen Elderly Study has been used by other researchers to look for risk factors for chronic disease.

This time, researchers examined the eating habits of 470 healthy men who were not taking blood pressure medicine. The men who ate the most products made from cocoa beans — including cocoa drinks, chocolate bars and chocolate pudding — had lower blood pressure and a 50 percent lower risk of death.

The men ate the equivalent of about 10 grams of chocolate a day.

Cocoa beans contain flavanols, which are thought to increase nitric oxide in the blood and improve the function of blood vessels.

"This is a very important article providing epidemiological support for what many researchers have been observing in experimental models," said Cesar Fraga of the University of California Davis, who does similar research but was not involved in the new study.

Buijsse noted the men eating the most cocoa products were not heavier or bigger eaters than the men who ate less cocoa.

Could the study results apply to women?

"Our study consisted of elderly men," Buijsse said. "If you look at the other interventional studies, you see the same effects in men and women, younger people and older people. It may be the findings are generalizable to women, but you never know."
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Jon Carroll on Iraq -

Jon Carroll

Friday, February 24, 2006


So many things are left intentionally vague. The Bush administration does not place much importance on revealing its plans to the public, or in modifying those plans if people object to them. It is possible that the two are linked -- the less the people know about the plans, the less they can object to them. I could point out that many of these plans are costly, and the burden of that cost is being borne by the American people, who therefore have a right to know at some level of granularity (to use the current vogue word) how that money is spent -- but I assume that argument was rejected quite some time ago. Probably the Justice Department wrote a memo about it, and why it's not really true and thus easy to ignore.

One of the vague things: What are our plans in Iraq? Are we getting out soon, or not so soon, or not at all? Under what conditions would this withdrawal happen? What events or series of events are we waiting for? Various administration officials have pledged a swift return of the troops. Indeed, they began promising that in 2003, and look, no drawdown.

So the thing to do would be to look at the administration's actions rather than listen to its words. Maybe by examining the nature of the infrastructure the military is building, we might get a hint of its plans.

That is what journalist Tom Engelhardt did in his blog TomDispatch.com. He collected the strikingly few media reports on the so-called "super-bases" that the United States is building in Iraq. Their size and cost indicates more clearly than anything what our real plans are: We're there to stay, friends, whatever election-year rhetoric you may be hearing.

Here's an excerpt from Engelhardt's posting: "For the first time, we have actual descriptions of a couple of the 'super-bases' built in Iraq in the last two and a half years and, despite being written by reporters under Pentagon information restrictions, they are sobering. Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post paid a visit to Balad Air Base, the largest American base in the country, 68 kilometers north of Baghdad and 'smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq.' In a piece entitled Biggest Base in Iraq Has Small-Town Feel, Ricks paints a striking portrait.

"The base is sizable enough to have its own 'neighborhoods' including 'KBR-land' (in honor of the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the base- construction work in Iraq); 'CJSOTF' ('home to a special operations unit,' the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, surrounded by 'especially high walls' and so secretive that even the base Army public affairs chief has never been inside); and a junkyard for bombed out Army Humvees. There is as well a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Popeye's, 'an ersatz Starbucks,' a 24-hour Burger King, two post exchanges where TVs, iPods, and the like can be purchased, four mess halls, a hospital, a strictly enforced on-base speed limit of 10 MPH, a huge airstrip, 250 aircraft (helicopters and predator drones included), air-traffic pile-ups of a sort you would see over Chicago's O'Hare airport, and 'a miniature golf course, which mimics a battlefield with its baby sandbags, little Jersey barriers, strands of concertina wire and, down at the end of the course, what appears to be a tiny detainee cage. ...'

"There are at least four such 'super-bases' in Iraq, none of which have anything to do with 'withdrawal' from that country. Quite the contrary, these bases are being constructed as little American islands of eternal order in an anarchic sea."

This means that, even if the current government of Iraq were to unanimously ask the United States forces to leave, they wouldn't. They might withdraw patrols in certain trouble spots. But they're in for the long haul, just as they are in Germany and Cuba and other nations with semiautonomous "little Americas" within their borders.

How much will all this cost? We don't know because nobody will admit it's even happening. Presumably somewhere deep in the Pentagon lies a cost estimate, but I wouldn't even be too sure of that. This is the administration that had no plans for running Iraq after the conquest; it may not really have any plans for the permanent occupation. KBR keeps building Pizza Huts, and who could be against pizza for our boys and girls in uniform?

These things have their own momentum. Suppose the Democrats were to retake Congress this year, would the base building stop? Nope. Suppose a Democrat were elected president in 2008, would the base building stop? My guess is no. The map of the world has been changed, again, by a conqueror.