December 4th, 2007

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Good Morning!

Jane's power was off this morning, since we had a little rain, and so we just talked.   She might have written with a pen and paper but talking sufficed today, and so I sat looking out at the trees and the fog as it reached in to embrace.

She liked my poem from yesterday on the De Young, but couldn't tell if I liked the De Young or not.   Well, perhaps that is the point.  I don't know.  I walk out each time so relieved to be outside with the trees and the clouds and the sky.  I see nature differently, and more appreciatively, after being in the De Young, so then, I question the value of "art," or maybe that is the value, and yet, I know that where Golden Gate Park is built was once sand dune.  It all is manipulation, art, creation, so I don't know exactly what I feel.  I do feel discombobulated. 

We both agree that the areas in the museum are too narrow.  It is not spread open like the new MOMA in New York.  I find it a bit claustrophobic, I realize now, and I suppose the idea is to let us feel we are entering a cave, cave paintings, cave art.   I just know how happy I am each time to get out, and even there, I wonder why some of the outside sculptures are caged.  

I also find it a little too "cute" the way it angles in and out, and I still sit under, looking up at the tower, feeling the Death Star looms.

We talked about poets and I brought up Ellen Bass.  I love this poem of hers and repeat it because I think we should kiss life and love this fully each and every day.

Gate C22

At gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he'd just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she'd been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching--
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn't look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after--if she beat you or left you or
you're lonely now--you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman's middle-aged body,
her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

    - Ellen Bass

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the cost of war -

I believe we are aware of it each day, the cost of this war in Iraq and what it means to this country as nothing is maintained and our schools, roads, social responsibility and health care go down-hill.

Bob Herbert says it well today.

Op-Ed Contributor

Now and Forever

Published: December 4, 2007

Most of the time we pretend it’s not there: The staggering financial cost of the war in Iraq, which continues to soar, unchecked, like a rocket headed toward the moon and beyond.

Incredibly, that estimate may have been low.

A report prepared for the Democratic majority on the Joint Economic Committee of the House and Senate warns that without a significant change of course in Iraq, the long-term cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could head into the vicinity of $3.5 trillion. The vast majority of those expenses would be for Iraq.

Priorities don’t get much more twisted. A country that can’t find the money to provide health coverage for its children, or to rebuild the city of New Orleans, or to create a first-class public school system, is flushing whole generations worth of cash into the bottomless pit of a failed and endless war.

“The No. 1 reason that the war in Iraq should end,” said Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the joint committee, “is the loss of life that is occurring without accomplishing any of the goals that even President Bush put forward.”

But “right below that,” he said, is the need to stop squandering incredible amounts of money that could be put to better use — helping to “make people’s lives better” — here at home. That colossal and continuing waste, he said, “should cause anxiety in anyone who cares about the future of this country. I know it causes me anxiety.”

President Bush’s formal funding requests for Iraq have already exceeded $600 billion. In addition to that, the report offers estimates of the war’s “hidden costs” from its beginning to 2017: the long-term costs of treating the wounded and disabled; interest and other costs associated with borrowing to finance the war; the money needed to repair or replace military equipment; the increased costs of military recruitment and retention; and such difficult to gauge but very real costs as the loss of productivity from those who have been killed or wounded.

What matters more than the precision of these estimates (Republicans are not happy with them) is the undeniable fact that the costs associated with the Iraq war are huge and carry with them enormous societal consequences.

Far from seeking a halt to the war, the Bush administration has been considering a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq that would last for many years, if not decades. There has been very little public discussion and no thorough analysis of the overall implications of such a policy.

What is indisputable, however, is that everything associated with the Iraq war has cost vastly more than the administration’s absurdly sunny forecasts. The direct appropriations are already roughly 10 times the amount of the administration’s original estimates of the entire cost of the war.

Senator Schumer and other Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee have been trying (not very successfully, so far) to get other policy makers and the public at large to focus on the sheer insanity of pumping hundreds of billions — if not trillions — of public dollars into a failed venture with no end even remotely in view.

There are myriad better ways to use the many millions of dollars that the U.S. spends on Iraq every day. Two important long-term investments that come to mind — and that would put large numbers of Americans to work — are the development of a serious strategy for achieving energy independence over the next several years and the creation of a large-scale program for rebuilding the aging American infrastructure.

To get to those, or any number of other important initiatives, the country’s leaders will have to somehow get past their bizarre reluctance to end this debilitating war.

I asked Senator Schumer how soon he thought U.S. forces should leave Iraq. He said: “You start withdrawing in three months and be out in a year. In my view, there would be a small force left — 10,000 or 15,000 — to deal with any Al Qaeda camps that might be set up. But that’s it.”

His words were echoed in another context by Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat (and also a member of the Joint Economic Committee), who said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “it’s not in the strategic interest of the United States” to have a long-term military presence in Iraq.

Youngsters who were just starting high school when the U.S. invaded Iraq are in college now. Their children, yet unborn, will be called on to fork over tax money to continue paying for the war.

Seriously. How long do we want this madness to last?

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Support the steps -

Bush and his administration have now been exposed for all to see.   Let's show them they are done, finished, kaput.

Editorial in the NY Times.

Bringing an Energy Bill Home

Published: December 4, 2007

Congress is now within reach of a breakthrough energy bill that would reduce both America’s dependence on foreign oil and its emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. House passage later this week is virtually certain. Senate approval depends on whether the majority leader, Harry Reid, and the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, can corral a half-dozen votes among moderate Republicans to resist a threatened filibuster.

Success would earn them the gratitude of a country that badly needs a rational energy strategy.

The bill’s centerpiece, negotiated over the weekend by House leaders, is the first meaningful increase in fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, including S.U.V.’s, in more than 30 years. The provision would raise average fuel economy standards from 25 miles per gallon today to 35 miles per gallon in 2020. It would eventually save about 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, one-half of current imports from the Persian Gulf.

A similar provision was approved by the Senate last summer. That the House has now accepted it is a tribute to the persistence of Ed Markey of Massachusetts, an unrelenting champion of fuel efficiency; the negotiating skills of Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker; and a statesmanlike willingness to compromise on the part of John Dingell, the powerful Michigan Democrat who realized that it was no longer plausible to defend all of Detroit’s demands in the face of $90 a barrel oil.

The bill includes several other important provisions. One calls for a big increase in the production and distribution of advanced forms of ethanol from sources other than corn. With strong environmental safeguards, this provision could reduce both oil consumption and greenhouse gases.

Another critical provision — the renewable electricity standard — would require utilities to generate 15 percent of their power by 2020 from a combination of improved efficiency and renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

This is the most vulnerable part of the bill. Senator Pete Domenici, an influential Republican voice on energy issues, is vowing to fight it, even though he has voted for similar provisions before and his own state of New Mexico has embarked on an aggressive renewable electricity program.

The White House is also opposed and has hinted that President Bush would veto the entire bill if the renewable electricity provision survives. Torpedoing this bill would make it harder to address the problem of global warming, while leaving this country ever more dependent on foreign oil. Mr. Bush and Mr. Domenici should not stand in the way.