November 6th, 2006

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Good Morning!!

    I am feeling a bit emotional this morning.  I have a mammogram today, only on the right side, as the left is still too sore, and I know all is fine and all right, and I am nervous about it, and, so, it is.  It is what is true for me right now. 

    Also,  I spoke with the woman who we are considering for our editor.  She is a breast cancer survivor, and was diagnosed in 1996.   She loves the idea of what we are doing, and she needs to see the manuscript to see if she is emotionally ready to deal with the subject.   She is 99% sure she can handle it.  It says something to me about how long the healing takes, and each one of us is different, but it is there for us, I think, forever.  We are changed.  I am changed.

    I feel nervous then on two fronts, mammogram and working more verbally now with the book.  I saw on Saturday that I am unable to say the words of what I went through this year.  I gloss.  I am distancing, and it is okay.   Even saying I was ill, caused my jaw to release, and some of my "Grin and bear it," attitude to let go.  I feel fragile today, like a drop of dew on a summer day, or a tiny white violet in the forest, and I am here, and moving onward in my day.

    Great love and care to all of you!   May life move with ease and simplicity, as it is meant to be, a river to the sea. 

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Stepping in to help -

"Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth - that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too."

- W.H. Murray,
The Story of Everest

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Do It!!

Editorial in the NY Times -

Mind Over Gap

Published: November 6, 2006

This is an editorial about the Long Island Rail Road. But first, a scene from “Bored of the Rings,” the Harvard Lampoon parody of “The Lord of the Rings.”

A band of travelers — hobbits, humans, dwarf, elf, wizard — finds its path into a mountain cavern blocked by an enormous wooden door covered with dwarfish runes. The wizard tries spell after spell to open it, but nothing works. Hope drains as darkness falls. “Suddenly the Wizard sprang to his feet. ‘The knob,’ he cried, and ...”

Now back to the L.I.R.R., whose own version of the door/knob problem has been the dangerous gaps between train doors and station platforms into which people have been slipping and stumbling for years. In August, a woman fell at the Woodside station and was hit by a train and killed, greatly increasing pressure on the railroad to do something.

To hear the L.I.R.R. tell it, the problem was as intractable as any it had ever faced. It couldn’t move or straighten the platforms. They are concrete and impossibly heavy. It didn’t know if gap-spanning devices would work or be affordable.

So officials and lawmakers put their heads together and came up with a classic response: they would conduct a study. In the meantime, they would install cameras and remind riders to “watch the gap.”

And then the L.I.R.R.’s new acting president, Raymond Kenny, had an inspiration: they would move the tracks closer to the platforms.

As it turned out, the railroad has a machine that can do this. It was a triumph of simplicity over inertia, a miracle of modern bureaucracy. And it contains a lesson. All it takes is the application of pressure and the stuffing of sense into the gap between the ears of those whose usual reaction to difficult problems is, “It can’t be done.”

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Sam Harris in Newsweek -

Here is the first page of an article by Sam Harris in Newsweek this week.  I find it amazing to consider that anyone in this country could believe the cosmos was created 6000 years ago.  National Geographic has a wonderful article this month on the relationship between the wing, fin, and limb.   Here is Sam Harris.

By Sam Harris

Nov. 13, 2006 issue - Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of life and the greater antiquity of the Earth, more than half the American population believes that the entire cosmos was created 6,000 years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. Those with the power to elect presidents and congressmen—and many who themselves get elected—believe that dinosaurs lived two by two upon Noah's Ark, that light from distant galaxies was created en route to the Earth and that the first members of our species were fashioned out of dirt and divine breath, in a garden with a talking snake, by the hand of an invisible God.

This is embarrassing. But add to this comedy of false certainties the fact that 44 percent of Americans are confident that Jesus will return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years, and you will glimpse the terrible liability of this sort of thinking. Given the most common interpretation of Biblical prophecy, it is not an exaggeration to say that nearly half the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. It should be clear that this faith-based nihilism provides its adherents with absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilization—economically, environmentally or geopolitically. Some of these people are lunatics, of course, but they are not the lunatic fringe. We are talking about the explicit views of Christian ministers who have congregations numbering in the tens of thousands. These are some of the most influential, politically connected and well-funded people in our society.

It is, of course, taboo to criticize a person's religious beliefs. The problem, however, is that much of what people believe in the name of religion is intrinsically divisive, unreasonable and incompatible with genuine morality. One of the worst things about religion is that it tends to separate questions of right and wrong from the living reality of human and animal suffering. Consequently, religious people will devote immense energy to so-called moral problems—such as gay marriage—where no real suffering is at issue, and they will happily contribute to the surplus of human misery if it serves their religious beliefs.

A case in point: embryonic-stem-cell research is one of the most promising developments in the last century of medicine. It could offer therapeutic breakthroughs for every human ailment (for the simple reason that stem cells can become any tissue in the human body), including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, severe burns, etc. In July, President George W. Bush used his first veto to deny federal funding to this research. He did this on the basis of his religious faith. Like millions of other Americans, President Bush believes that "human life starts at the moment of conception." Specifically, he believes that there is a soul in every 3-day-old human embryo, and the interests of one soul—the soul of a little girl with burns over 75 percent of her body, for instance—cannot trump the interests of another soul, even if that soul happens to live inside a petri dish. Here, as ever, religious dogmatism impedes genuine wisdom and compassion.


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Sam Harris continued -

Here is the second half of the article by Sam Harris in Newsweek.

A 3-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. There are, for the sake of comparison, more than 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly. The embryos that are destroyed in stem-cell research do not have brains, or even neurons. Consequently, there is no reason to believe they can suffer their destruction in any way at all. The truth is that President Bush's unjustified religious beliefs about the human soul are, at this very moment, prolonging the scarcely endurable misery of tens of millions of human beings.

Given our status as a superpower, our material wealth and the continuous advancements in our technology, it seems safe to say that the president of the United States has more power and responsibility than any person in history. It is worth noting, therefore, that we have elected a president who seems to imagine that whenever he closes his eyes in the Oval Office—wondering whether to go to war or not to go to war, for instance—his intuitions have been vetted by the Creator of the universe. Speaking to a small group of supporters in 1999, Bush reportedly said, "I believe God wants me to be president." Believing that God has delivered you unto the presidency really seems to entail the belief that you cannot make any catastrophic mistakes while in office. One question we might want to collectively ponder in the future: do we really want to hand the tiller of civilization to a person who thinks this way?


Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for. Consequently, we are living in a world in which millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales. We are living in a world in which millions of Muslims believe that there is nothing better than to be killed in defense of Islam. We are living in a world in which millions of Christians hope to soon be raptured into the stratosphere by Jesus so that they can safely enjoy a sacred genocide that will inaugurate the end of human history. In a world brimming with increasingly destructive technology, our infatuation with religious myths now poses a tremendous danger. And it is not a danger for which more religious faith is a remedy.

Harris is the author of the New York Times best sellers "Letter to a Christian Nation" and "The End of Faith."

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William Rivers Pitt -

The Rat Pack

    By William Rivers Pitt

    Monday 06 November 2006

Blaming George W. Bush for everything that has gone wrong these last years is a lot like blaming Mickey Mouse when Disney screws up.
- Me

    "There is probably some long-standing rule," wrote Hunter S. Thompson, "among writers, journalists and other word-mongers that says: 'When you start stealing from your own work, you're in bad trouble.'" Indeed. It is truly bad form to quote yourself, but I am at a loss to frame this situation without deploying that old line, which I used to throw out as the occupation of Iraq began spiraling into the horrific bloodbath we see on the news every night.

    It is what it is, and I can live with the shame, because it's undeniably true. Mr. Bush is not running the show, and I can't think of a better way to say it. We saw this on 9/11, when he sat there like a pithed frog as the citizens he was supposed to protect and defend died in fire and dust in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We saw this when Dick Cheney chaperoned him during the 9/11 Commission's interview of him. Neither man was under oath, but Dick was there anyway, because George can't be trusted to manage anything on his own. We saw this after Katrina, and we have seen it every day for three years of this Iraq war. It has become, by now, axiomatic: water is wet, sky is up there, and George W. Bush might as well be animate furniture for all the actual governing he does. Water him twice a week, turn him towards the light, and he'll be fine ... but for the love of God, don't expect leadership or vision from the man. We're dealing with a sock puppet in a three-thousand dollar suit, no more, no less.

    The actual culprits are, of course, well known. Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are the real ideological muscle behind this administration, with Paul Wolfowitz playing the role of Rasputin. Rice has some input, and Rove calls the shots. Water is wet, sky is up there, and that's the deal.

    But what of the others, the smart boys in the back room whose white papers and dreams of empire fueled the mayhem and slaughter that has marked our passage through these years? These are the ones most people never hear about, the speechwriters and think tankers, the ones who grind the grist and make the arguments, the ones who truly craft policy. There are lots of them, and they are as much a part of the story as Dick and Don and Condi and Karl.

    Usually, these folks get to operate behind the scenes. Today, however, the curtain has been rolled back and the smart boys have been exposed. David Rose has popped off with an astonishing Vanity Fair article titled "Neo Culpa." In it, the fellows who helped to design and implement the radical foreign policy catastrophe we currently endure, to a man, remove themselves from blame for all this and throw George W. Bush under the bus.

    Ken Adelman, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney and Richard Perle have spent many years waiting for the opportunity to road-test their wild ideas about how to deal with the world, and with the installation of the Bush administration, they finally got their big chance. Now that the wheels are coming off, however, they are trying to pretend that none of this has anything to do with them.

    It is, in a way, uproariously funny reading. Some quotes from Rose's Vanity Fair piece:

    "I just presumed," saith Adelman, "that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional. There's no seriousness here, these are not serious people. If he had been serious, the president would have realized that those three are each directly responsible for the disaster of Iraq."

    "Ask yourself," saith Ledeen, "who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura (Bush), Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."

    "(Bush) doesn't in fact seem to be a man of principle," saith Gaffney, "who's steadfastly pursuing what he thinks is the right course. He talks about it, but the policy doesn't track with the rhetoric, and that's what creates the incoherence that causes us problems around the world and at home. It also creates the sense that you can take him on with impunity."

    "The decisions did not get made that should have been," saith Perle. "They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly. At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible."

    For the record, Ken Adelman served the Bush administration as an assistant to Don Rumsfeld, and was also a Reagan administration official. Michael Ledeen is fellow at the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute, and has served in the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council. Frank Gaffney is another hardcore think tanker who has worked with The Committee on the Present Danger and the Center for Security Policy. During the Reagan administration, Gaffney was an aide to Richard Perle, who was serving as Assistant Secretary of Defense. Perle is also a think tanker who served the Bush administration as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. Each, in his own way, has worked to bend American policy around the needs and desires of the hard-liners within the government of Israel.

    These are the four horseman of this neo-conservative apocalypse, and almost everything that has happened in the last several years can be laid directly at their feet. Compare and contrast, if you will, their statements in the Vanity Fair piece to their words from just a few years ago.

    "I believe," said Adelman in a February 2002 Washington Post editorial, "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps."

    "Change - above all violent change," wrote Ledeen not too long ago, "is the essence of human history. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically. It is time once again to export the democratic revolution." Ominously, Ledeen is also the spiritual leader for those who think total war in the Middle East is the way to go. "The time for diplomacy is at an end," he wrote in April of 2003. "It is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free Lebanon."

    "I believe," said Gaffney two months before the Iraq invasion, "that when you find, as you will I hope shortly, that the Iraqi people welcome the end of this horrible regime, even if it comes at some further expense to themselves, knowing as they do that the alternative is more of the horror that they've lived under for the past two or three decades. You'll see, I think, an outpouring of appreciation for their liberation that will make what we saw in Afghanistan recently pale by comparison."

    "A year from now," said Perle, "I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush." Perle also noted once that, "If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

    Pretty much says it all right there. But we also have this: a slide-show presentation by Perle's Defense Policy Board to the decision-makers within this administration titled "Grand Strategy for the Middle East." The final slide of the presentation described "Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot (and) Egypt as the prize."

    Gaffney and Perle were also centrally involved in the policy formulations that came out of the Project for the New American Century, or PNAC. The blueprint for this administration's Middle East policies can be found in the seminal PNAC white paper, published in 2000, titled Rebuilding America's Defenses. Other notable members of PNAC include Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, Donald Kagan and Lewis "Recently Indicted" Libby.

    In the aftermath of the conviction of Saddam Hussein, and the trumpeting of the menace to the world he supposedly presented, it is worthwhile to note what PNAC had to say about the man at the turn of the century. "Indeed," reads page 14 of the document, "the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

    Got that? Hussein didn't matter. It was about carving out a permanent military presence in Iraq, the ultimate purpose of which would be to knock off every other regime in the region, friend and foe alike. Adelman, Ledeen, Gaffney and Perle husbanded these concepts all the way into the White House and the Pentagon, and now that their plans have been exposed as being horribly flawed, they are desperate to cut and run from their own undeniable responsibility.

    "Huge mistakes were made," said Perle in the Vanity Fair piece, "and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."

    Reading this, there can be but one unavoidable conclusion to make: these men, ultimately, are nothing more or less than the worst form of coward to be found in this country. They talk tough about global domination while sending other people's children off to die, and then run like rabbits when the scab is ripped off their festering ideology. That they said all those ridiculous things before and during the occupation is bad enough. That they have now attempted to blame it all on Bush, while denying their own culpability, is nauseating beyond words.

    The best bit of all, perhaps, came after Rose's article hit the wires. A National Review "symposium" published on Sunday morning sprayed heated outrage from these four men over the fact that their thoughts about Bush and Iraq were made public. Each was apparently shocked - shocked! - that they might actually have to stand by their words.

    "Concerned that anything I might say could be used to influence the public debate on Iraq just prior to Tuesday's election," said Perle on Sunday, "I had been promised that my remarks would not be published before the election. I should have known better than to trust the editors at Vanity Fair who lied to me and to others who spoke with Mr. Rose. Moreover, in condensing and characterizing my views for their own partisan political purposes, they have distorted my opinion about the situation in Iraq and what I believe to be in the best interest of our country. I believe the president is now doing what he can to help the Iraqis get to the point where we can honorably leave. We are on the right path."

    These rats are trying to scramble off the sinking ship they helped put to sea, but don't you dare take anything they have to say about it, anything they ever said about it, at face value. They lack the courage of their earlier convictions, and flee even the chance to repent. They are neither here nor there, but nowhere. They are a vapid void where morality and simple integrity have not, and never will, find purchase.

    If only the folks in the White House and Pentagon had known this a few years ago. They could have taken the words of Phaedrus to heart - "A coward boasting of his courage may deceive strangers, but he is a laughing-stock to those who know him." - and saved us all a great deal of death and sorrow.

    William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.

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To be a stone -



Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.


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Afternoon news -

I learn today that you should not use your cruise control on wet or slushy roads, only dry ones. Otherwise, you might hydroplane, which probably would not be fun. 

Here is Garrison Keillor, suggesting who might want to retire.


The Retiring Type? Not Me
    Garrison Keillor
    The Salt
Lake Tribune

    Saturday 04 November 2006

    It took me an hour to turn the clocks back an hour, coordinating all watches and digital alarm clocks and oven clock and kitchen clock and car clocks to Central Standard Time, during which a man starts to question the entire concept of promptitude, meetings, appointments, etc., which leads to thoughts of retirement, the End of the Trail, Old Paint, the part of your life when it doesn't matter so much if it's 9:30 or 10:05, or even if it's Tuesday or Saturday, when you drift along as most mammals do, eating when hungry, sleeping when sleepy and meeting whomever you meet whenever you meet them.

    People my age are retiring one after the other, which scares the bejeebers out of me. It's like when I sat in Toni McNaron's Milton class wrestling with the first question of the final exam, which was about "Lycidas," which I had not actually read, so it was difficult for me to discuss how the form of the poem was integral to its meaning - difficult, but not impossible, by any means - and suddenly two women stood up and walked to the front of the room and turned in their tests. Done! Finished! And me still trying to get traction!

    It is tempting, the thought of escaping from these clocks and learning to savor ordinary life at a mammalian pace. It's November, the squirrels are fat, the frost glitters on the grass in the morning. Stunning fall days with a high blue sky over a landscape of grays and browns.

    A retired gent could stroll around and gaze on this and inhale the air and slip into the grocery to select a caramel apple from the big display next to the pumpkin cakes. The soup of the day in the cafe is creamed corn. That would taste good.

    I could volunteer at school. The fifth-graders are in the midst of a unit on manners, learning how to say "Please pass the salt" and what to do with your napkin during a meal. (Put it on your lap, please.) Next week they will write letters to their pen pals in Denmark. I could help with that.

    And it would keep me out of the senior citizen center, where a nutritionist is scheduled to talk about the importance of diet and exercise, after which everybody will tuck into a lunch of meatballs and gravy, mashed potatoes, brown-sugared carrots, buttered rolls and apple crisp. No thanks.

    The Current Occupant, who is two years and three months away from retirement, was quoted last week as saying, "They can say what they want about me, but at least I know who I am, and I know who my friends are."

    A pathetic admission of defeat for one who has owned all three branches of government for the past six years - did he seek power so that he could attain self-knowledge? If so, the price is too high. The beloved country endures a government that merges blithering corruption with murderous incompetence.

    Congress, which once spent an entire year investigating a married man's attempt to cover up an illicit act of oral sex, has shown no curiosity whatsoever about a war that the administration elected to wage that has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands and led our own people to commit war crimes and squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and degenerated into civil war.

    The contrast is deafening. Republicans haven't tolerated much dissent in their ranks, the voice of conscience has not been welcome, and now the herd finds itself on the wrong side of the river. It's discouraging seeing so many people go so wrong all at once. It makes you question the idea that each of us has unlimited potential for good.

    Washington is a city where a bill to relax air-pollution standards would be called the Clean Air Act and a bill to protect government officials from war-crimes prosecution would be called the Military Commissions Act, and so a man's statement that he knows who he is and who his friends are needs to be taken as meaning the opposite, a cry for help.

    You come to office as a uniter and you wind up doing the opposite. You stand for American values and you wind up defending torture and waste of resources. Knowing who you are is a minimal adult requirement, and you don't get there by being an object of attention. Retirement is recommended. The sooner the better.

    Garrison Keillor can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

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A big smile -

This comes tonight from Jan, who made the quilt for me.

    When I read your blog now, I think

            "You feel safe to have emotions now.
                        You are a survivor."

This feels so good to me I had to share it.  It is true.  There is a security now that I have made it through, and can relax, and be human again, and rant and rave, and laugh and play.  It is fun to know and feel.  

I am in the process of writing a letter to Marin magazine, protesting a publication that appears for free in my mailbox because of extensive, expensive advertising, and then, suggests we not vote for our beloved Lynn Woolsey who has represented us well for years.   The magazine then celebrates someone who lives in Tiburon, and for a surprise buys his wife a  $17.2 million dollar house, and, then, completely furnishes it, even as to her favorite clothes from Neiman Marcus.  In my opinion, there is something wrong with this picture.   My feistiness is back.

Enjoy the moon.  Even in its later rising and shrinking state, it has emotions to share.