June 6th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

It's election day and 6-6-6 day.   Excitement fills the air. 

This morning is unusual, because our windows are open, and when the automatic sprinkler system turned on, I heard the crows exclaim.  I realize this event is a morning thrill for them, water squirting up from below instead of falling from above.   A haiku comes.

The Sprinklers turn on.

Crows caw, “Rain from below,”  Sky

opens wings and drinks.  

May joy squirt from below for you today.  May life be so rich that blessings come from all directions and blend in You!!
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Here's Molly, Molly Ivins, that is!

 Flag Burning and Other Dubious Epidemics
    By Molly Ivins
    Creators Syndicate

    Monday 05 June 2006

    Austin, Texas - Thank goodness the Republicans are around to tell me what to worry about. The flag-burning crisis - here in Austin, there's that pall of smoke rising from the west every morning (it's from an area called Tarrytown, where they burn hundreds of flags daily).

    You didn't know hundreds of flags were being burned daily? Actually, you can count on your hand the number of incidents reported over the last five years. For instance, there was one flag burned in 2005 by a drunken teenager and one by a protester in California in 2002. This appalling record of ravishment must be stopped. You're clearly not worried about what matters.

    Gay marriage, now there's a crisis. Well, OK, so there isn't much gay marriage going on here in Texas. None, in fact. First, we made it illegal. Then, we made it unconstitutional. But President Bush is all concerned about it, so I guess we have to alter the U.S. Constitution.

    Gus and Captain Call (of "Lonesome Dove" fame) will be an item - with who knows who waiting in line right after them.

    Also of great concern to Republicans is God Almighty, who, rather to my surprise, has been elected chairman of the Texas Republican Party. That's what they announced at the biannual convention in Fort Worth this week: "He is the chairman of the party." Sheesh, the Democrats couldn't even get Superman.

    Also weighing down the nation with a heavy burden is the estate tax, which the Senate will try to repeal this week. The estate tax applies to around 1% of Americans, and I have yet to find any record of it costing anyone a family farm or business. It affects only very, very, very rich people, of whom you are probably not one. And they don't, actually, need another tax break.

    These are the things we are supposed to be worrying about, and you notice that it frees us of quite a few troubles we might otherwise fret about.

    The war in Iraq? No sweat.

    War with Iran? We're carefree.

    The economy? Hey, did you see that employment report? Well, ignore it.

    Budget out of control, shipwreck ahead? Never mind - Bush doesn't. Worst class divisions since the Gilded Age, rich so much more enormously richer than everybody else, country starting to get creepy? Don't worry, be happy. Torture, massacre, extraordinary rendition, hidden gulag of prisons in foreign countries, Guantanamo and massive violations of international law, American law and the Constitution? Well, you can see why gay marriage is a far greater menace.

    Wipe out for the environment; hundreds of regulations and laws changed to favor those who exploit and damage natural resources; all so common no one is keeping track of them all? Let her rip.

    Global warming? In the first place, it's Al Gore's issue. In the second place, it's a downer. In the third place, who cares if it's too late in a few years?

    Homeland security/war on terror? With the highly excellent disposition of anti-terror funds once more judiciously applied by the Department of Homeland Security, we truly have nothing to worry about. We're ready to stop terrorist attacks in Wyoming, and there are no important cultural sites in New York City, so let's rock.

    Oil crisis? Ha! What oil crisis? You want a $100 rebate you can then give the oil companies? Hey, we're going to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that should see us through ... oh, about nine months.

    Windfall profits? You think the oil companies are ripping us off for windfall profits? Who? ExxonMobil? Why, they would never!

    I believe what we have here is a difference over moral values.

    The Republicans are worried about the flag, gay marriage and the terrible burden of the estate tax on the rich. The rest of us are obviously unnecessarily worried about war, peace, the economy, the environment and civilization. Another reason to vote Republican - they have a shorter list.


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We are the torturers -

I could make an argument that the Bush administration tortures us all with their inhumane and immoral policies, but I will just put this editorial by the NY Times here.  I almost addressed this issue yesterday, as I read so many comments on what they continue to do, but I resisted until today, election day.  Please vote!


Degrading America's Image

Published: June 6, 2006

For more than seven decades, civilized nations have adhered to minimum standards of decent behavior toward prisoners of war — agreed to in the Geneva Conventions. They were respected by 12 presidents and generations of military leaders because they reflected this nation's principles and gave Americans some protection if they were captured in wartime.

It took the Bush administration to make the world doubt Washington's fidelity to the rules. And The Los Angeles Times, reporting yesterday on a dispute over updating the Army rulebook known as the Field Manual, reminded us that there is good reason to worry.

At issue is Directive 2310 on the treatment and questioning of prisoners, an annex to the Field Manual. It has long contained a reference to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which covers all prisoners, whether they meet the common definition of prisoners of war or are the sort of prisoners the administration classifies as "unlawful enemy combatants," like suspected members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Article 3 prohibits the use of torture and other overt acts of violence. But Mr. Bush's civilian lawyers removed it from the military rulebook over the objections of diplomats and military lawyers. Mr. Bush has said he does not condone torture, but he has also said he would decide for himself when to follow the ban on torture imposed by Congress last year. Removing the Geneva Conventions from Army regulations gives the world more cause for doubt.

Article 3 also prohibits "outrages on personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." (Remember the hooded man, the pyramids of naked prisoners?) The Pentagon says the new rules require humane treatment, but that is not much comfort, since the Bush team has shown that it does not define humane treatment the way most people do.

There are other aspects of Article 3 that this administration probably finds inconvenient, like its requirement that governments holding prisoners subject them to actual courts "affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." The hearings at Guantánamo Bay hardly meet that description.

It defies belief that this administration is still clinging to its benighted policies on prisoners after the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the killings at American camps in Afghanistan and the world's fresh outrage over what appears to have been the massacre of Iraqi men, women and children in the village of Haditha.

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And there is this!

Pay attention.  These people don't let up.   That the Bush administration continues to give tax breaks to the wealthy while increasing spending is unfathomable.   Bush shows us clearly he has never had to balance his own personal budget, or he would understand the money has to come from somewhere, and most of the country is being squeezed while the wealthy expand.   Again, I present an editorial from the NY Times.  I guess election day brings out the rant in me. 


The Estate Tax, Back on the Agenda

Published: June 6, 2006

Still giddy over the passage last month of a $70 billion income tax cut for affluent Americans, Senate Republicans are hoping this week to go further, and gut the federal estate tax. And they'll probably try to accomplish this gift to the super-rich under the guise of compromise.

Their fondest wish would be to permanently repeal the tax. But planning, during a time of war, to give away nearly $1 trillion over 10 years may look too radical even for this crowd. So the senators are also considering a so-called middle-of-the-road approach. Sponsored by Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, the "compromise" would drastically raise the thresholds at which the estate tax kicks in, while slashing the estate tax rate. Together, those changes would cut taxes for the wealthiest families by $652 billion between 2012 and 2021, the first full decade of the proposed cut. Because the government would need to borrow to make up for that lost revenue, the tax cut would also cost all taxpayers some $175 billion in higher interest payments.

And for what? Fully 71 percent of the additional benefits would go to people who stand to inherit more than $10 million. Almost all of the rest would apply to estates worth more than $5 million.

There is no economic justification for doing this, any more than any tax cut can be justified when the economy is growing and the government is running a big deficit, as is now the case. The notion that small businesses and family farms are unfairly targeted by the estate tax is nonsense.

There is no moral justification for cutting estate taxes. Much of the wealth taxed after death has never been taxed because profits on stocks, bonds, real estate, artwork — you name it — are not taxed until an asset is sold. Obviously, people with big estates never got around to selling their assets.

And yet, some multimillionaires, and their Congressional supporters, have the gall to say that the wealthy should not be "penalized." Estate taxes imposed after one's death are no more of a penalty than income taxes withheld from paychecks.

Any senator who votes for this bill — or to end an expected filibuster — does not care about the budget deficit or tax fairness, no matter what he or she may say to the contrary.

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Verlyn on nature - no good or evil there.

The Rural Life

After the Plague

Published: June 6, 2006

On the ground was a young woodchuck. It lay on its back, feet spread evenly as if for dissection, fur still lustrous, bright curving teeth. There was also a profound hole at the base of its neck and a collar of blood. Behind me in a birch tree stood the vulture that had flushed when I came around the corner. It seemed to be trying to stand on one leg with its wings raised, tipping side to side almost the way a vulture does in flight. Sometimes it nearly lost its balance. A pair of crows complained from a higher branch. I had nothing to add.

What was interesting wasn't the dead woodchuck. It would have eaten my beans later this summer. What was interesting was seeing the vulture come out of its column of flight and make a long, curving landing behind the barn. I knew there was something dead in the grass only because of the vulture's hunching presence. Death to me is still a curiosity, even after all this time here. To the vulture it is simply a way of getting a living.

There was nothing mournful in any of this, and cruelty isn't really a word worth using when talking about nature. The death of that woodchuck seemed surprisingly economical, considering what was happening on the rest of the place. The forest tent caterpillars — who knows how many of them? — have made their way up into the canopy of the trees, and they have simply erased May. Where there were young leaves there are now nearly empty branches. The roses are bare, and so are the blueberries. So is the paper-bark maple. The walk down to the barn is littered with precisely scissored leaf fragments, like a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be assembled. A strange light makes its way down through the trees — not spring, not summer. I can't quite capture the mood the light causes because I've never seen its kind before.

And yet some plants have gone untouched — the hydrangeas and a striped-bark maple. Perhaps there's something unpalatable in their leaves, just as there seems to be something unpalatable in the caterpillars themselves. Nothing wants to eat them or to bother them in any way. Their destruction lies in their own numbers, I suppose. I heard the electric fence snapping clear across the pasture the other night, grounding itself on a fallen tree limb, I thought. But no. The caterpillars had crawled up a neutral brace wire at the fence corner, so many caterpillars that the current leaped from the hot wire into the gob of them, sparking.


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New Government Seal!!

Official Announcement:

The government today announced that it is changing its emblem from an Eagle to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually being screwed.

Damn, it just doesn't get more accurate than that!

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July Shambhala Sun!

The July Shambhala Sun is well worth buying.  They now have a web-site so you can check them out at www.shambhalasun.com.

The article that first caught my eye was the one by Zen Teacher John Tarrant, titled "5 Reasons to Get Cancer."   Ah, hah!!  How could I resist?

I like where he begins:

1.  The kindness of mortals.  If I don't expect them to be rushed or distracted or impatient or narrowly self-interested, in other words, if I am not rushed, etc. myself, almost every interaction emerges slowly and is deeply felt - the way athletes describe a big game, when time slows down and vision widens.

    "When the koan appeared, I took it as a response to the biopsy results. (He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.)  The diagnosis seemed all right at the time I got it, but I observed that the small consulting room became large, time slowed down, and everyone's eyes grew big.  That room became a ship hanging in space, a ship I still visit if I wish, and sometimes do.  That moment was the last moment when I hadn't quite absorbed the news, when I didn't quite have cancer yet.  Afterwards the thing that struck me was the feeling of nakedness with people, of falling into their eyes and swimming in the spaces there.  In the end, this intimacy seemed to be more significant than the news about cancer - the response to a very interesting call."

Unlike Tarrant, I'm not sure that I have yet absorbed that I had cancer, but I do know that sense of time slowing down, and eyes being huge, and swimming there.

He speaks of being attracted to archways when he was first diagnosed.  I felt the same.  I knew I was walking through a curved doorway, an arch, the place of full support.   He speaks of being awake.   Yes!    He ends with a fifth koan.

5.  Cancer can be funny, like anything else.  This is better than the alternative.

Yes, it is!  I think my smile is huge, an arch, the door I've walked through.  
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quote by bell hooks -

"We know from Buddhism that if we look for an end we will despair and not sustain our efforts.  But if we see it as a continual process of awakening, we can go forward."

- bell hooks

Perhaps that is why the end of cancer treatment is often a shock, as we are dropped into some anticipation of an ending, and, instead  find we must pick ourselves up from the water slide out of which we've been dropped, shake our heads to clear, and slowly begin to swim. 
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Windows and spiders -

Today I decide I need to wash some  windows, which means disrupting some webs.   I do whisk the webs away, but leave the spiders alone to build again, and they are already at it.  I look up spider in my animal medicine cards.  As we might expect, the spider represents weaving.   "Spider wove the web that brought humans the first picture of the alphabet.  The letters were part of the angles of her web."  "Spider's body is made like the number eight, consisting of two lobe-like parts connected at the waist, and eight legs.  Spider is the symbol for the infinite possibilities of creation."   Creation is happening all around me.  I see now the window webs as dimensions.  I step into creation and spin with my friends. 
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Poetic Gratification -

Tonight, a lovely warm night, I went to a poetry reading.  I knew three of the readers, and one taught both of my sons in third grade.   We hadn't seen each other in years, and she recognized me and she looks just the same, and she loved my hair.  She had absolutely no idea I had been through chemo and radiation.  I was told it would be six months on the hair, and it fell out on December 7th.  Tomorrow is June 7th.  I "pass" now for a "normal" person.  I am thrilled.

And the poetry - oh, my - it was stunning.   When someone stands up and reads from their heart what they have agonized over and composed, well, it really is something.   There are poetry readings all over the bay area.  Attend some.  There was no one there tonight who was not a husband or friend of the readers.  That seems sad to me, that so few of us heard such incredible creativity, heart and soul.  It was an incredible night.   And on top of that, the moon is shining.  It's more than half.

I haven't turned on the news for election results.  I am savoring the crooning of words in my head.   Some were funny.  Some were formed.   All were important.  I enjoyed a wonderful sharing feast.   Also, truffles were passed and we all took one.  The introducer said it would sweeten our experience.  It was sweet enough without the truffle, and who could turn down a truffle.  Not I.   Sleep tight.   Sweet dreams and dancing, lunar light.