March 9th, 2006

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Good Morning -

The sun is out, and Mandu insisted on sleeping on me this morning, thus, keeping me in bed longer that I would ordinarily allow or choose. There I reflected on all of this. I let myself feel. I felt like bandages were unwrapping from my head. Steve commented on Tuesday how the fountain in the meditation garden looks like a brain. Well, of course, and it has water splurting out the top. How symbolic it is of refreshment and change. The brain changes during meditation, and chemo certainly allows a place to meditate and reflect. I have had a rest.

I felt this morning how this all happened so quickly, one blast after another, until the final diagnosis of metastasized cancer. Who could take that in? I didn't understand, and so some tears fell this morning, as I felt how it was to go from feeling I would live forever to would I live very long at all. Would I see my family on the East Coast? What happened? It has been quite a journey.

I moved my hands over my eye sockets this morning. I enjoyed the shape and expanse. I thanked my veins for all they have been through. There is scar tissue there now. They are grateful to rest. I am grateful for life and rest. I am grateful to be here.

Thank you!
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checking in -

I felt called to Rodeo Beach today. The wind is blowing and it is icy cold. It was bitter cold at Rodeo, but I held onto my wool hat, with my sun hat over it, and trudged along until I found a sheltered place in the rocks. The beach at Rodeo is formed of tiny, colorful rocks, not sand, and I sat running them through my fingers. The tide was low, and the clouds offshore were in a line, like held hands.

Amazingly, I thought I heard a helicopter, and I thought to myself, "How funny! When I'm in a building, I hear machine sounds as Tibetan chimes and bells, and now, I am in nature and I hear a helicopter." I kept looking up and all I saw were gulls. Then, a military jet shot across the sky, and a helicopter bobbed along behind. Ah, Hah! It is hard to escape.

Vicki sent me a book yesterday called "The Last Cheater's Waltz, Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest." It is by Ellen Meloy. She describes the beauty of the southwest, while contrasting it with all that has been done to it, and imposed upon it. One minute I am wanting to move there tomorrow. The next I worry about the residual pollution. She visits the White Sands Missile Range and Los Alamos. I learn how quickly the plants came back after the bombing of Hiroshima. Their roots were deep. I am comforted by that. My roots are deep too. I like to doodle daisies, and now, my doodled daisies have deep, round roots.

Ellen, like me, wants to believe that life was always peaceful in Anasazi country, but evidence of conflict between tribes has been found, and, yet, when she finds a yellow rock on her property and fears it is radioactive, it turns out to be a piece of asphalt from the road. The yellow is from the no passing line.

I camped with Vicki in the mountains of the southwest. We drove a long way into the mountains, past a ghost town, and I sat outside in the night feeling the loneliness of no one else around,and there wasn't for miles and miles. I welcomed the planes flying overhead. I was happy to know there were people up in the sky, enjoying themselves, even if they were asleep. The planes were company, like bees on a sunny day, when they are absorbed in the flowers, rather than me.

At Rodeo, are the remains of a defense system. Now, it is a park, and yet, a military jet streaks overhead. I am done with chemo, and yet, I still interact with modern medicine and machines. I scheduled a mammogram today. It seems all this began over six months ago. How can it be?

The rock by which I sat was waved with white, just like the jumping waves. I watched the gulls and wondered how long each one lives.

I came home to feast on an organic salad of greens, yellow zucchini, tomato, avocado, and chicken all tossed in a thick blue cheese dressing.

There was a time when I wanted to be only nature, just sit in the desert like the sand or a rock. Now, I see I am a mix of all, accepting all. I am change.
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I said it was cold -

Forecasters with the National Weather Service said today that as much as an inch of snow could fall on Twin Peaks as a cold storm moves in tonight and Friday morning. The landmark hills are a mere 920 feet above sea level.

Accumulations could be substantial in the highest reaches of the Bay Area, the forecasters said. As much as 6 inches could fall on Mount Hamilton (elevation 4,213 feet), Mount Diablo (3,849 feet) and other local hills, the weather service said.

A snow advisory will be in effect from 9 p.m. tonight to 4 p.m. Friday for areas with elevations of 1,000 feet and higher, thanks to a storm system coming down from the Gulf of Alaska that is teaming up with cold air flowing down from Canada.

Wow!! Time to light the fire! Winter is still here. My hat is quite in style.
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Our two California senators are on the ball, and our bay area representatives, but our governor is in his usual hiding position, trying to have it all ways. The Terminator hides. What a surprise!

House votes to dump state food safety laws
Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Washington -- The House approved a bill Wednesday night that would wipe out state laws on safety labeling of food, overriding tough rules passed by California voters two decades ago that require food producers to warn consumers about cancer-causing ingredients.

The vote was a victory for the food industry, which has lobbied for years for national standards for food labeling and contributed millions of dollars to lawmakers' campaigns. But consumer groups and state regulators warned that the bill would undo more than 200 state laws, including California's landmark Proposition 65, that protect public health.

"The purpose of this legislation is to keep the public from knowing about the harm they may be exposed to in food," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, a chief critic of the measure.

Several critics argued that the bill was rushed through the House without complete hearings as a favor to a specific industry -- at the same time that members are talking about the evils of lobbying and proposing stricter ethical rules.

Under the bill, any state that wanted to keep its own tougher standards for food labeling would have to ask for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which has been criticized by food safety groups as slow to issue consumer warnings.

The measure was approved after a debate in which House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco accused the Republican majority of "shredding the food safety net that we have built in this country."

The measure passed 283 to 139, with the support of many Democrats. The Bay Area's 12 Democratic members opposed the bill, while Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, supported it. The legislation faces a tougher battle in the more evenly divided Senate, and there are signs of growing opposition to the measure.

California's two Democratic senators are threatening to block the bill from coming to the Senate floor. A group of 39 state attorneys general, including many Republicans, has warned of the consequences of the measure. State food and drug regulators and agricultural officials also are urging the Senate to reject the bill.

A major target of the legislation is Prop. 65, which was approved by two-thirds of California voters in 1986 and requires labeling of substances that may cause cancer or birth defects. The law has inspired other states to follow suit with their own rules on food labeling that are more stringent than federal standards.

Critics say the laws have added costs for food manufacturers and distributors, who must comply with different rules in different states. The industry's backers claim the different warning labels confuse consumers.

"There is no reason nor is there any excuse to allow regulatory inconsistency to drive up costs and keep some consumers in the dark on matters that may affect their health," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

But California officials said the new legislation would reverse the gains made through Prop. 65. Many companies, fearing the warning labels, have changed their food to meet the state's tougher standards. Bottled water companies have cut arsenic levels, and bakers have taken potassium bromate, a potential carcinogen, out of many breads, doughnuts and other bakery goods.

"We've had a lot of success in getting them to reformulate," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Opponents of the bill complained that it was rushed to the House floor without a public hearing, where state regulators and food safety advocates could have testified against it.

"That is the job of Congress, to hold hearings, to introduce facts, to listen to debate," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who co-sponsored the bill but opposed it on the floor, saying it needed a thorough public debate. "I am wondering right now what the food industry is afraid of. Why are they trying to ram this piece of legislation through the House?"

Critics of the measure also have been frustrated that California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill despite being urged to do so by Waxman and Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, early last month.

"Your silence on this legislation is inexplicable," Waxman wrote in a letter to the governor. "It not only rolls back essential existing laws, but it takes away your ability, and the ability of the California Legislature, to respond to future public health issues."

A spokeswoman for the governor said Schwarzenegger may still jump into the debate.

"The office is reviewing it," said spokeswoman Margita Thompson. "Once the determination is made if the governor should weigh in and how, we will."

The vote Wednesday was a sign of the tremendous power of the food industry in Congress. Corporations and trade groups that joined the National Uniformity for Food Coalition, which backed the bill, have contributed more than $3 million to members in the 2005-06 election cycle and $31 million since 1998, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The industry also has many top lobbyists pushing the bill, including White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's brother, Brad Card, who represents the Food Products Association.

A leading fundraiser for the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., has also been lobbying on the bill. Matt Keelen, a Republican consultant whose fundraising firm raised more than $315,000 in political action committee donations for Rogers in 2001, is now a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, which has led the charge for the measure.

"The food industry wants to take the states out of the picture because they can't control them," said Andy Igrejas of the National Environmental Trust, which opposes the bill. "This is how they do it. They make campaign contributions, and they hire people close to members of Congress."

But Rogers denied there was a backroom deal with the food industry. He said supporters of the bill simply believe federal standards work better than state standards on food safety.

"A chicken grown in Louisiana is going to end up on a plate in Michigan. Peas grown in Florida are going to end up in Louisiana," Rogers said. "This is an interstate matter."

The House passed an amendment late Wednesday allowing states, including California, to continue to issue warnings about the heath effects of mercury in fish and shellfish.

But the House defeated an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, that would have let states keep laws that warn consumers about exposure to substances that could cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive health problems or allergic reactions associated with sulfites.

The House also rejected a proposal to allow states to label meat that has been treated with carbon monoxide. The gas is used to keep meat looking a healthy red or pink for longer, but consumer groups say it allows stores to sell potentially dangerous meat that has already spoiled.
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South Dakota anyone?


Thursday, March 9, 2006

As you may have heard, South Dakota has just passed a law outlawing all abortions except when the life of the mother is at stake. A woman's right to choose has been restricted to sofa cushions and strollers. Many people have suggested that those who oppose the South Dakota law boycott South Dakota, but how would you go about that? Not buy products made in South Dakota? It's awful hard to tell where your grain comes from. Not visit South Dakota? You weren't planning to anyway, right? So: pretty pointless.

Another way to get the job done would be to move to South Dakota. Cultural ornament Jack Mingo (who was helped in his scheming by Erin Barrett) describes the situation: "Fewer than 400,000 people (in South Dakota) voted in 2004. We can assume that not all of them are boneheads. After all, only about 60 percent -- 232,545 -- voted for GWB. 149,225 voted for Kerry. A recent senatorial race was lost by the Democrats by only about 500 votes. If we could convince a mere 90,000 of the Californians, New Yorkers and other Blue Staters who have long been grousing about overcrowding and high living costs to move there, we could make a huge impact on national politics."

Well, yes it would. On the other hand: It's South Dakota. It's very quiet, and there are some cool caves in the Black Hills and several monuments to Lewis and Clark and many forward-thinking people -- it's the state that elected Tom Daschle, after all. But it gets mighty darn cold in the winter, fusion cuisine has not really caught on there yet, and you'd be far away from your close friends and your beloved granddaughter, should you have a beloved granddaughter.

Well, there goes another good idea.

But wait! Jack Mingo has done research; Jack Mingo has a solution. He has a four-point plan. Using facts gathered from Minnesota Public Radio (Minnesota abuts South Dakota on the east and has some interest in the politics there), he outlines his fiendish plan. The quotes are from MPR; the ideas are from his brain:

1. You don't have to move to South Dakota to register. You just have to vacation there long enough to have a temporary address at a campground, motel or RV park. "In Hanson County, population 3100, more than 800 RV'ers are registered. Most have never stayed in South Dakota for more than a few weeks."

2. You don't have to be in the state when the vote takes place. "In South Dakota about 70 percent of the RV'ers registered to vote have requested absentee ballots."

3. It's legal. The law was deliberately written to make "RV voters" possible. It's a law apparently designed to help the Republicans, but we can make it blow up in their faces.

4. The tactic I'm suggesting is already being used on a smaller scale by the Republicans. In Minnehaha County, says County Auditor Sue Roust, "there's a slight Democratic edge in registration. Whereas with the RV'ers, it's Republicans 46 percent, Democrats 27 percent."

Added benefit: In the Alameda County district where I live, Barbara Lee is going to win every time she runs. My vote will not make a difference. Sometimes I've thought: Gosh, wouldn't it be great to cast a vote that actually means something, other than a hearty "job well done" for dear old Barbara.

This plan also might be a way of getting around the Electoral College. As a Californian, my vote in a presidential election means less than a vote by someone in South Dakota. But if I and 89,999 like-minded Californians -- not a large number compared with the state's estimated population of 37 million -- could become voting residents of South Dakota, zip, a red state becomes a blue state.

(If California becomes "in play" again for Democrats, we could switch back. I mean, it's probably against the spirit of the law, but then, the South Dakota abortion ban runs counter to several Supreme Court decisions. In terms of moral appropriateness, the bar seems to be set currently at "not illegal." And we meet that test.)

Now, South Dakota might very well become alarmed at the influx of Krugman-quoting, feijoada-eating, hug-giving Californians, and the Legislature might pass a law revoking the RV voter law. Well, then it would lose all the RV voters, and the balance would be restored, and we would have done our work without casting a single vote.

It'd take some work, but think of this: If we were successful, girls in South Dakota would no longer be required to ruin their lives because of one bad decision they made when they were 16. That would be a thing.