January 31st, 2007

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Good Morning!!

I wake easily and alertly from dreams of pruning and fertilizing, and after bowing to all the altars and spiritual places in the house, settle in with the news.  Oh, my!   Perhaps in this place I can ask why Bush is not on the path toward impeachment.  Any other president would be for his violations on wire-tapping.   Why is he allowed to get away with what no other president has been allowed to do?   Is it that we are tired of intrigue or have we given up on monitoring?   I don't know but offer an op-ed opinion piece on the subject.

Op-Ed Contributor

Bush Is Not Above the Law

Anthony Russo

LAST August, a federal judge found that the president of the United States broke the law, committed a serious felony and violated the Constitution. Had the president been an ordinary citizen — someone charged with bank robbery or income tax evasion — the wheels of justice would have immediately begun to turn. The F.B.I. would have conducted an investigation, a United States attorney’s office would have impaneled a grand jury and charges would have been brought.

But under the Bush Justice Department, no F.B.I. agents were ever dispatched to padlock White House files or knock on doors and no federal prosecutors ever opened a case.

The ruling was the result of a suit, in which I am one of the plaintiffs, brought against the National Security Agency by the American Civil Liberties Union. It was a response to revelations by this newspaper in December 2005 that the agency had been monitoring the phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans for more than four years without first obtaining warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In the past, even presidents were not above the law. When the F.B.I. turned up evidence during Watergate that Richard Nixon had obstructed justice by trying to cover up his involvement, a special prosecutor was named and a House committee recommended that the president be impeached.

And when an independent counsel found evidence that President Bill Clinton had committed perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case, the impeachment machinery again cranked into gear, with the spectacle of a Senate trial (which ended in acquittal).

Laws are broken, the federal government investigates, and the individuals involved — even if they’re presidents — are tried and, if found guilty, punished. That is the way it is supposed to work under our system of government. But not this time.

Last Aug. 17, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the United States District Court in Detroit issued her ruling in the A.C.L.U. case. The president, she wrote, had “undisputedly violated” not only the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, but also statutory law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Enacted by a bipartisan Congress in 1978, the FISA statute was a response to revelations that the National Security Agency had conducted warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. To deter future administrations from similar actions, the law made a violation a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

Yet despite this ruling, the Bush Justice Department never opened an F.B.I. investigation, no special prosecutor was named, and there was no talk of impeachment in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Justice Department lawyers argued last June that warrants were not required for what they called the administration’s “terrorist surveillance program” because of the president’s “inherent powers” to order eavesdropping and because of the Congressional authorization to use military force against those responsible for 9/11. But Judge Taylor rejected both arguments, ruling that even presidents must obey statutory law and the Constitution.

On Jan. 17, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales unexpectedly declared that President Bush had ended the program, deciding to again seek warrants in all cases. Exactly what kind of warrants — individual, as is required by the law, or broad-based, which would probably still be illegal — is as yet unknown.

The action may have been designed to forestall a potentially adverse ruling by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati, which had scheduled oral arguments on the case for today. At that hearing, the administration is now expected to argue that the case is moot and should be thrown out — while reserving the right to restart the program at any time.

But that’s a bit like a bank robber coming into court and arguing that, although he has been sticking up banks for the past half-decade, he has agreed to a temporary halt and therefore he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Independent of the A.C.L.U. case, a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. and a special prosecutor should begin immediately. The question that must finally be answered is whether the president is guilty of committing a felony by continuously reauthorizing the warrantless eavesdropping program for the past five years. And if so, what action must be taken?

The issue is not original. Among the charges approved by the House Judiciary Committee when it recommended its articles of impeachment against President Nixon was “illegal wiretaps.” President Nixon, the bill charged, “caused wiretaps to be placed on the telephones of 17 persons without having obtained a court order authorizing the tap, as required by federal law; in violation of Sections 241, 371 and 2510-11 of the Criminal Code.”

Under his program, President Bush could probably be charged with wiretapping not 17 but thousands of people without having obtained a court order authorizing the taps as required by federal law, in violation of FISA.

It is not only the federal court but also many in Congress who believe that a violation of law has taken place. In a hearing on Jan. 18, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said, “For years, this administration has engaged in warrantless wiretapping of Americans contrary to the law.”

His view was shared by the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said of Mr. Bush, “For five years he has been operating an illegal program.”

And Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, noted that much of the public was opposed to the program and that it both hurt the country at home and damaged its image abroad. “The heavy criticism which the president took on the program,” he said, “I think was very harmful in the political process and for the reputation of the country.”

To allow a president to break the law and commit a felony for more than five years without even a formal independent investigation would be the ultimate subversion of the Constitution and the rule of law. As Judge Taylor warned in her decision, “There are no hereditary kings in America.”

James Bamford is the author of two books on the National Security Agency, “The Puzzle Palace” and “Body of Secrets.”

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Winter tomatoes -

It seems there is a place for canned tomatoes.

Editorial Notebook

Growing the Winter Tomato

Published: January 31, 2007

Imagine a poem that is perfect in shape but refuses to say anything. And yet it sells well because it is the only kind of poem available for more than half the year, and people insist on reading poetry, even out of season. That is the winter tomato. In redness and roundness it says “tomato,” in every way except the one that matters: flavor.

Earlier this month, the federal Agriculture Department put an exception into its rules to let a tomato called the UglyRipe be shipped out of state. Those rules say a tomato must be at least 2 9/32 inches and no more than 2 25/32 inches in diameter. The UglyRipe doesn’t meet those specs — it’s ribbed at the top and not uniform in shape. It is also reputed to taste very much like a tomato.

Perhaps the real virtue of the UglyRipe’s “ugliness,” which is nothing compared with the deformed beauty of true heirloom tomatoes, is that it helps us see how strange the uniformity of regular winter tomatoes really is. For a backyard grower, taste is everything. But in commercial production, taste is an abstraction. It is what’s left after all the other criteria for a good commercial tomato have been met: disease resistance, regular shape, consistent ripening, the ability to withstand picking and packing and shipping, a long shelf life. Taste is too subjective, according to the Florida Tomato Committee, to judge tomatoes by.

The UglyRipe may be a better tomato. After all, its growers have selected for better taste, not perfect shape. But one thing that would certainly make the UglyRipe a better tomato is a different way of growing it. Santa Sweets produces organic UglyRipes, but they are few and hard to find. It now grows its conventional tomatoes without using agricultural chemicals that carry reproductive risks — but it still uses methyl bromide, a powerful, ozone-depleting pesticide, to fumigate the soil in which conventional UglyRipes grow.

Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, the use of methyl bromide was supposed to be phased out completely by January 2005. But for the past few years, the Bush administration has claimed an exemption for “critical uses,” one of which is growing winter tomatoes in Florida. We used to consider it a luxury to eat fruits and vegetables out of season. But what we eat out of season has been machined to withstand the rigors of the supply chain and produced in ways that only our ignorance can sustain. The truth is that there is no luxury — nor critical use — in it. Even an ugly, better-tasting winter tomato isn’t worth the price.

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This bill must pass -

I wonder sometimes why people think it is worth doing what is illegal to elect their candidate, but here is a bill that may help alleviate some of that.


Honesty in Elections

Published: January 31, 2007

On Election Day last fall in Maryland, fliers were handed out in black neighborhoods with the heading “Democratic Sample Ballot” and photos of black Democratic leaders — and boxes checked off beside the names of the Republican candidates for senator and governor. They were a blatant attempt to fool black voters into thinking the Republican candidates were endorsed by black Democrats. In Orange County, Calif., 14,000 Latino voters got letters in Spanish saying it was a crime for immigrants to vote in a federal election. It didn’t say that immigrants who are citizens have the right to vote.

Dirty tricks like these turn up every election season, in large part because they are so rarely punished. But two Democratic senators, Barack Obama of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York, are introducing a bill today that would make deceiving or intimidating voters a federal crime with substantial penalties.

The bill aims at some of the most commonly used deceptive political tactics. It makes it a crime to knowingly tell voters the wrong day for an election. There have been numerous reports of organized efforts to use telephones, leaflets or posters to tell voters, especially in minority areas, not to vote on Election Day because voting has been postponed.

The bill would also criminalize making false claims to voters about who has endorsed a candidate, or wrongly telling people — like immigrants who are registered voters in Orange County — that they cannot vote.

Along with defining these crimes and providing penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment, the bill would require the Justice Department to counteract deceptive election information that has been put out, and to report to Congress after each election on what deceptive practices occurred and what the Justice Department did about them.

The bill would also allow individuals to go to court to stop deceptive practices while they are happening. That is important, given how uninterested the current Justice Department has proved to be in cracking down on election-season dirty tricks.

The bill is careful to avoid infringing on First Amendment rights, and that is the right course. But in steering clear of regulating speech, it is not clear how effective the measure would be in addressing one of the worst dirty tricks of last fall’s election: a particular kind of deceptive “robocall” that was used against Democratic Congressional candidates. These calls, paid for by the Republicans, sounded as if they had come from the Democrat; when a recipient hung up, the call was repeated over and over. The intent was clearly to annoy the recipients so they would not vote for the Democrat.

While there are already laws that can be used against this sort of deceptive telephone harassment, a more specific bill aimed directly at these calls is needed. But the bill being introduced today is an important step toward making elections more honest and fair. There is no reason it should not be passed by Congress unanimously.

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An ad to turn it off -

There is an article in the Chronicle today on which is better, the Super Bowl game or the ads.  It goes through various years rating the commercials and games.  It would seem in reading the article that neither are worthwhile and Sunday will be a great day for a walk.  On the other hand, you might miss a half-time "incident."   Of course anything of titilating interest will be repeated ad nauseum.   We live in times where anything canned cannot be missed.

I hope I don't sound sour.  I am feeling a great deal of excitement and delight  as the birds awake, and I wonder what spontaneity will bring me today.   Happy work and play, and may they seam as one!!
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Changing times -

In 1985 Steve and I attended the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.  It was a celebratory business weekend and we were each given a pewter mug hung on a leather strap to wear around our neck.   The idea was that hands were free and drink was always at hand.  One was set for the weekend with a personalized holder of drinks, preferably alcoholic ones.  I suppose it saved on glasses.   I have the two mugs here today, one for Steve and one for me.  They are engraved with our names, so I don't feel good about giving them away.  I'm not quite sure what to do with them.  Perhaps I could use them as vases.   They have a medieval look and that may be the idea that one cannot be far from a drink of ale or mead.  They also have a sleek, modern look so I suppose they will go back on the shelf, though not as far back into the dust as before.  For now, they sit here, reminders of the past.

I wonder now if the past always seems more child-like, more innocent.   Somehow, as I look back,  I sense innocence in those days.

I wonder how it will be to look back on now, the days of a movie like China Blue, days where we need to consider each purchase and where it comes from and its repercussions.   Are these days innocent too? 

 May your memories be gentle and frolic like seals in the bay.   Our perceptions are ours to choose and maybe it is to hold them in a wider gaze, where the earth is a marble of green and blue.
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Charlotte Selver -

I am with words of Charlotte Selver this morning.

            People who don't love the moment are always trying to achieve something,
                                    but when one is on the way, every moment is 'it'.

            There is something in us, deep in us, which knows. 

                   So the question would be:
                         is there a state possible in which we can be
                               without watching and without judging .....

                You are already created and you are beautifully created.

       However, you can live so that the creation which you are is unrecognizable, and one doesn't know who you are ... and you don't know who you are, because you are so full of habits, and what other people have told you.

       So what we have to do now is bring you into a state of curiosity and deep interest for what gradually may emerge out of the sum of many conditionings.

                                The important thing is that we have to give up doing.

I read the above words from a book, a journal called Every moment is a moment.

I sit, curious about meeting the world new, not as I think it should be, but as it is without habit and preconception.

What opens in me now?  

What answers in you?

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Books on Charlotte -

As I continue to read from Every moment is a moment, I realize you may want your own copy of this book.   It is meant to be a journal in which you write, but it is very beautiful and I keep my copy open as to space.

You can check it out at http://www.sensoryawareness.org/

I'm not sure why it doesn't come up so you can click on it, but it is at www.sensoryawareness.org.  
You need to scroll down to order the book.  You will pass my tribute poem to Charlotte.

I offer another quote to entice you to purchase this book for yourself, along with Waking Up.   I quote rather liberally from both, but I can't give you the wonderful photos from the journal.  They, too, are a gift.

Charlotte -

    Is it possible that we could feel more deeply and fully
       what we happen to do at the moment,
          and allow our fuller contact with it?
    So that not the past and not the future
    and not the anger about what happened two minutes ago
    or ten years ago stands in our way and holds us back -
          but we are all there for what is now. 

    Life does not flow in any particular way.
    But in the moment that I can accept
    that it doesn't flow always the way I want,
    I can allow gradually, a little more
    the possibility, to meet it as it is.
    Then, perhaps, through this allowing,
    conditions change.

          Take your time ....

                Sometimes very little makes a great difference.

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Permission to grieve -

I spoke with a good friend today who lost her mother recently.  She is depressed and can't seem to "move on," and yet, why should she?  She lost her mother.  That hurts.  It is painful.  Ouch!  Ouch!  Ouch!

When my mother died, and I would do my errands and struggle with how to answer the numerous "how are you's" flipped around without any desire to know, I thought of marketing a black armband that people could wear when they were sad.  People used to wear black for a year or longer after someone died. That was a minimum.  Now, we are expected to pick up after a week and begin again.

Someone at the Sensory Awareness workshop spoke of how as his heart opened, it hurt.  Most of us have been raised to walk away from heart-break.  Perhaps we can give it permission.  I have some quotes I place here periodically around grieving.  I'll see if I can find them again.   We can give ourselves permission to grieve.
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Planning ahead -

I go to my Documents planning to create a new folder and file for Permission to Breathe.   When I do it, I am informed I already have a folder, and sure enough there it is under Books.  I remember when my mother died how much I wanted an armband to let people know I was fragile.  I must have created a folder then, and then, forgotten it when I got sick.  Now, again, I begin.

If you have any thoughts on grieving and giving permission, let me know!!

I remember when Chris's fish died.  I took him to school as it was a CTBS testing day but he wouldn't get out of the car.  When I spoke with his teacher, she said to let him go home and grieve.  There would be no greater gift for him, and so, today, if you need to cry, or sit alone or with another, please do.  Honor your feelings without apology.   Grieve!
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Molly Ivins -

I am sad to read that Molly Ivins died today at the age of 62.   She fought a hard fight with cancer and kept writing the columns to inspire and motivate the rest of us.  I feel very sad about her death.  I think I am fighting off a flu.  I am achy and not so perky right now, so am soon to bed.   I am sorry to hear of Molly Ivin's passing, and perhaps for her it is good to be at rest.