August 10th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

The fog has softly returned, though it looks like it will lift.   We have been with trying to figure out new names for Bella and Tiger.  Jeff and Jan came up with Click and Clack, and Rhyme and Reason, but I'm not sure that I want them dependent on each other as to name.  They each have their own personality, and are each finding their way within the house.  They still sleep together, but, each hour,  I see more individuality seeping out. 

The following editorial  is in the NY Times today, along with an editorial on how harmful it is to limit our interaction with Cuba, especially now that Castro's health is at risk.  His brother, who will replace him, is a moderate.  I remember about 15 years ago, hearing some poems from Cuba.   The woman who read them to us said it was actually illegal for us to be hearing this wonderful poetry from Cuba, even though these poets were celebrated all over the rest of the world.  Is that nuts, or what?

These are the people who keep us from the artistic realm of Cuba.


Published: August 10, 2006

Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection. Missouri’s new ID rules — and similar ones adopted last year in Indiana and Georgia — are intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver’s licenses. Georgia’s law has been blocked by the courts, and the others should be too.

Even before Missouri passed its new law, it had tougher ID requirements than many states. Voters were required, with limited exceptions, to bring ID with them to the polls, but university ID cards, bank statements mailed to a voter’s address, and similar documents were acceptable. The new law requires a government-issued photo ID, which as many as 200,000 Missourians do not have.

Missourians who have driver’s licenses will have little trouble voting, but many who do not will have to go to considerable trouble to get special ID’s. The supporting documents needed to get these, like birth certificates, often have fees attached, so some Missourians will have to pay to keep voting. It is likely that many people will not jump all of the bureaucratic hurdles to get the special ID, and will become ineligible to vote.

Not coincidentally, groups that are more likely to vote against the Republicans who passed the ID law will be most disadvantaged. Advocates for blacks, the elderly and the disabled say that those groups are less likely than the average Missourian to have driver’s licenses, and most likely to lose their right to vote. In close elections, like the bitterly contested U.S. Senate race now under way in the state, this disenfranchisement could easily make the difference in who wins.

The new law’s supporters say its purpose is to deter fraud. But there is little evidence of “imposter voting,” the sort of fraud that ID laws are aimed at, in Missouri or anywhere else. Groups in Missouri that want to suppress voting have a long history of crying fraud, but investigations by the Justice Department and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, among others, have refuted such claims in the past. If the Legislature really wanted to deter fraud, it would have focused its efforts on absentee ballots, which are a notorious source of election fraud — and are not covered by Missouri’s new ID requirements.

Because of the important constitutional issues these laws raise, courts will have the final say. Federal and state judges have already blocked Georgia’s ID law from taking effect, and although Indiana’s law was upheld earlier this year, that ruling is on appeal. Missouri voting-rights advocates recently filed suit against their state’s law.

Unduly onerous voter ID laws violate equal protection, and when voters have to pay to get the ID’s, they are an illegal poll tax. They are also an insult to democracy, because their goal is to have elections in which eligible voters are turned away.

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Synchronicity -

Jon Carroll hits luggage on the head today which is amazing timing, since it seems we may now all be checking our bags through, all of them, everything.  We will have to board a plane naked, after being searched, just to be sure.   Now that it is possible to smuggle explosives aboard in a liquid, there can be no toothpaste, make-up, or gels carried on board.  It sounds like yesterday was an airport nightmare with some security lines four hours long.

Here is Jon Carroll on the joys of spending money on Tumi luggage.  It is worth it?  It appears not.    Enjoy!  It sounds like it may not be the time to buy luggage, and fly.


Jon Carroll

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jon Carroll

e're going to start with a nice anecdote about Ludwig Wittgenstein, and then we're going to talk about luggage.

Wittgenstein, the philosopher who brooded about "atomic facts," which are just like real facts only smaller, was having a conversation with a student when he said, "The one thing I've never understood is why ancient man believed that the sun revolved around the Earth."

The student replied, "That's obvious; it's because it looks as if the sun revolves around the Earth."

Wittgenstein thought for a moment and then asked, "How would it look if it looked as if the Earth revolved around the sun?"

I take this story to mean that the more obvious something seems, the more closely we should examine it. You may take the story to mean something else. We do know that Wittgenstein was probably not thinking about luggage when he made that remark.

There is a company called Tumi, which makes high-end baggage. When I say high end, I mean $895 for the Generation 4 FXT ballistic long-wheeled garment bag. The word ballistics means the science or study of the motion of projectiles, as bullets, shells or bombs -- ballistic means of or pertaining to ballistics. It also means bouncing, so I suppose you could say those long wheels -- are the wheels really long? Wouldn't that interfere with the roundness so important in wheels? -- bounce when they go over rough pavement, exactly like every other garment bag.

More colloquially, "going ballistic" means "exploding," which is not a quality one values in a suitcase. So the suspicion is that Tumi selected the word "ballistic" because it sounded sexy. Or something. This is a company that makes $235 tote bags, so anything is possible.

Every Tumi suitcase comes with "the exclusive Tumi Tracer Worldwide Product Recovery Program." If you sign up for the program, you get a "20-digit Tracer registration number." It's interesting. A billion billion can be expressed as a 1 followed by 18 zeros. So the Tumi database can handle somewhat more than a billion billion suitcases. It's a very far-sighted company, because it would take a million elves a million years to make a billion billion suitcases -- I made that up. On the other hand, Tumi made up the ballistic suitcase, so we're even so far.

I am lucky enough to know someone with the means to purchase Tumi products. This person travels a great deal, so she was intrigued by the notion of the exclusive Tracer number. Lost luggage can be a nightmare, but of course a high-end company would not let its customers kill time in a dismal Reykjavik hotel while their evening wear was rotting at a tertiary airport in Ireland.

In due time, my friend got her card with her exclusive 20-digit tracer number. It came with a letter. Here is the relevant paragraph: "In the unfortunate event that your Tracer-registered bag is stolen or lost, we ask that you not call Tumi to report your loss. The Tracer program does not locate lost bags, but it does help reunite customers with their bags once they are found and called into our system. If your bag is found, we will contact you immediately with the information you need to get your bag back."

So the Tracer does not in fact trace bags. The 20-digit number acts in the same way as the rather more prosaic name-and-address tag that all fliers are required to have on their luggage. If you lose your bag, and if someone finds it, and if that someone is public-spirited and not a felon, then he can call Tumi, which will in turn call you. Or he could call you. That might be the easier way.

And note that Tumi does not want to hear about your lost luggage, nor does it volunteer to facilitate in its recovery. It has other things to do. It wants to hear only from the finders of luggage. We all want to hear from finders of luggage; that's the fun part. It's those whiny luggage losers who are difficult to deal with.

So we have to ask, as Wittgenstein might, what would a Tumi bag look like without a Tumi Tracer Worldwide Product Recovery Program? It would look exactly like a Tumi bag with the Tumi Tracer Worldwide Product Recovery Program, which would in turn look exactly like the suitcase you have in your closet except without the fancy top-stitching.

I do not mean to pick on Tumi -- well, I do mean to pick on Tumi, but I realize it might be unfair of me. There are many commercial depredations out there, and Tracer programs that don't trace anything are by no means the most egregious examples. Still, it's nice to know that the well-heeled have to put up with the same marketing wiggle-waggles as the rest of us.

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thought full -

This quote comes today.  I set intention for this with the book that Jane and I are continuing, each morning,  to mold.  I believe it is "a ship of thought, deeply freighted with truth and beauty."    May it be so!

"The books that help you most are those which make you think the most.  A great book that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth and beauty."

Theodore Parker
1810-1860 - Minister.
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Haircut, and the value of words -

I had my first haircut yesterday, out on the deck, with Jeff and Jan supervising Steve.  I was told I was starting to look "scruffy."  I took it as a compliment, as having no hair for six months, I did not think scruffiness was a possibility for me.   A 1/4 inch offering of fluff is now a gift to the birds.  I still have another 1/4 inch of fluff, and then, I'll be back to more normal hair, but when you only have an inch to work with, you can't cut off too much.  It is odd, because at first it seemed to be doubling overnight, and it probably was.  Doubling little is easy, but now, it is a bit slower, and yet, as I say, I was scruffy, and now, I am again quite "neat."  I love my first haircut. 

The New Yorker has a wonderful cartoon this week.  Two politcians are leaving  the steps of the Capitol building with these words, "Of course, it would be a different story entirely if we could extract crude oil from stem cells."

There is also an extremely important comment in "The Talk of the Town."  Bush it seems has shortened the word Democratic to Democrat.   It seems like a small change, but listen to Bush's words.  "Nothing threatens our hard-won reforms and economic prosperity more than a Democrat victory this November."   "The difference is clear: if you want the government in your pocket, vote Democrat." 

According to the article, "a Google search for "Democratic Party" yields around forty million hits.  "Democrat Party" fetches fewer than two million."

It is a way to slur, deride, and express contempt, to insinuate the party is no longer Democratic.  We know the Republicans win with their use of language.  George Lakoff speaks eloquently on this.

My brother has long said that if G.W. was called by his rightful name, "Junior," he would not have been elected president.  They gave him a strong-sounding handle, but let's call baby George what he is.  George Junior, and let's spit on his crib.   Oh, that is not nice, but I do struggle with equinimity as regards Junior.  Perhaps, calling him by his true name will help me out.   Bush is a Junior, and it is time for all of us to look firmly at who he is,  and how the Repubs - ooh, I like that - those who return to the pub - use language.

For me, now, it is the "Repub Party," with Junior as a wasted guest.  

I continue with the article.

    It seems the use of "Democrat Party" began partly with Newt Gingrich, "the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control," and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz, the Johnny Appleseed of such linguistic innovations as "death tax" for estate tax and "personal accounts" for Social Security privatization.  Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of "Democrat" with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherants of the - how you say? - Democratic Party.  "Those two letters actually do matter," Luntz said the other day.  He added that he recently finished writing a book - it's entitled "Words That Work" - and has been diligently going through the galley proofs taking out the hundreds of "ics" that his copy editor, one of those partisan Dems, had stuck in."

We have to stay alert.  It is the Democratic Party, and George is a Junior Bush.   Don't forget it.   Words count!!   Words matter!!    "In the beginning was the word."   Listen to the sound, and vibrate.  It is why "naming" is so important.   Feel proudly your own roots, and speak deeply of your crown.   There will be no rudeness of intent, purpose, or tone. 

The "Repub Party" is going where it deserves, sloshing like warm beer,  absorbed in the sawdust, lining their ground.  
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Release -

I am so angry at the Republicans not honoring the full Democratic name, that I send this letter to the New Yorker.  I have had enough!! 

I suggest we shorten the name of the party in power to the “Repub Party,” and we lengthen the name of their leader from G.W. to Junior.     After all, he loved the pubs, and maybe a visit back would save us all. 

Okay, I am again relaxed.  I've released.   Now,  on, more deeply, silently, and reverently, with my day.  

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thoughts -

I had lunch with a friend who leaves for London on Monday, and, then, travels on to Russia.  She is concerned about the alerts and warnings.  I said it is probably a very safe time to fly.   It is sad to see Bush using this as a way to defend his takeover, and, so it is.   One would think it was the US and not the UK that uncovered the "plot."

I come across this quote today -

"It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."

Virginia Woolf
A Room of One's Own

May we all have time and space to dream.
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tonight -

I seem to be struggling with considering sleep tonight.  I feel our vulnerability.  We all are vulnerable.  We love, and people die.   We love, and we have to allow each person to find their own strength.  It isn't always easy, and, yet,  within it all is such beauty.   Tiger and Bella are up with me.  They wait for me to go to sleep, and so, I will, and I feel very fragile tonight.  I love this world so, and I find it hard sometimes to consider all the pain, and, without that, how would we know the intensity of bliss and joy?   We have to keep weaving those ribbons of love, creating the basket that comes when we are clear on form.  
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kittens -

Perhaps it is something about the kittens that is allowing me to feel my vulnerability.  I watch them and am amazed at how well they do with life.  I watch them respond.  Being so close to their natural rhythm is touching something in me.   I feel like crying this evening, and with no reason, really.  I feel such joy and love in life, even as I consider those who feel they need to blow up an airplane for a cause.  I try and hold it all in my being without anger, fear, or judgment, and what I feel is vulnerable and fragile, and maybe that is okay, since it is what is true.  We are fragile beings, and yet, we survive.  Perhaps, that truly is the miracle.  That such fragility continues to survive. 
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Poem by Julia Kasdorf -

My mother didn't teach exactly like this, and yet, the lesson was the same.

What I Learned From My Mother

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

by Julia Kasdorf