February 3rd, 2008

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Good Morning!!

This is a beautiful way to begin your day, with a walk with Joan along the Bob Jones trail.  Hug earth and sky!!

Bob Jones Trail

3 min 25 sec - Nov 29, 2006
Description: A walk along the Bob Jones Trail in San Luis Obispo California

egg stone

Noticing -

The Rural Life

A Track in the Snow

Published: February 3, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, when the snow was at its deepest, I walked up the hill in the middle pasture after chores. By that time in the afternoon, I am often trudging through my thoughts, barely noticing anything around me. Part of the pleasure of chores is that they happen in the same light every day, though the hour changes as the days lengthen and contract. No matter what I’m doing, I am propelled outside by the falling light, which means that I’m often doing chores mid-paragraph. I imagine that the animals are mid-paragraph too, for we are all just going about our business together.

Coming back down the hill, plunging knee-deep through the snow, I stopped. There was the print of a bird’s wings. From their angle and size, I guessed it was a barn owl. I looked across the pasture and saw a squirrel’s track, which ended at the wing-print — no sign of a struggle, just an abrupt vanishing. Going up the hill, I had walked past these marks without even noticing them.

A week later, all the snow had melted, which left me thinking about a question of ephemerality. That wing-print was a solid fact, the remains of a bone-jarring collision between two animals. One life ended there, and another was extended, but the only trace is in my mind. If I had come down the hill in the fog of thought that surrounded me while I was doing the chores, I would never have seen the print of those powerful wings and they would have left no mark in me.

I have grown used to the idea that nearly everything around me in nature happens unobserved and unrecorded. A snowy winter sometimes retains a transcript, but even those are rare. The bills of animal mortality are almost completely invisible otherwise. Who thrives, who dies, there is no accounting at all, only the fact of thriving and dying.

That wing-print allowed me to glimpse the uncompromising discipline of nature. But it will stand in my mind as the model of an almost perfect ephemerality, a vision of life itself. The snow has melted away, taking with it the squirrel’s track and the arc of those wings and my own track up the hill and the burnished spots where the horses rolled in the snow.



warming hut

An argument for Barack Obama -

I voted absentee last week for Barack Obama.  My mind wanted to vote for a woman, but II am still angry about her votes for Iraq and I don't trust her.   I appreciate this look at Barack Obama.  Though long, it is worth reading.   I post a picture of the Warming Hut, one of my many favorite places to go for coffee, a goodie, and a walk.

It is important to remember what a barrier Catholicism was in 1960. People feared the pope would be running the country.

Surely, Barack being half-black is less important than that was at the time.  This country has changed.

Op-Ed Columnist

Ask Not What J.F.K. Can Do for Obama

Published: February 3, 2008

BEFORE John F. Kennedy was a president, a legend, a myth and a poltergeist stalking America’s 2008 campaign, he was an upstart contender seen as a risky bet for the Democratic nomination in 1960.

Kennedy was judged “an ambitious but superficial playboy” by his liberal peers, according to his biographer Robert Dallek. “He never said a word of importance in the Senate, and he never did a thing,” in the authoritative estimation of the Senate’s master, Lyndon Johnson. Adlai Stevenson didn’t much like Kennedy, and neither did Harry Truman, who instead supported Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri.

J. F. K. had few policy prescriptions beyond Democratic boilerplate (a higher minimum wage, “comprehensive housing legislation”). As his speechwriter Richard Goodwin recalled in his riveting 1988 memoir  “Remembering America,” Kennedy’s main task was to prove his political viability. He had to persuade his party that he was not a wealthy dilettante and not “too young, too inexperienced and, above all, too Catholic” to be president.

How did the fairy-tale prince from Camelot vanquish a field of heavyweights led by the longtime liberal warrior Hubert Humphrey? It wasn’t ideas. It certainly wasn’t experience. It wasn’t even the charisma that Kennedy would show off in that fall’s televised duels with Richard Nixon.

Looking back almost 30 years later, Mr. Goodwin summed it up this way: “He had to touch the secret fears and ambivalent longings of the American heart, divine and speak to the desires of a swiftly changing nation — his message grounded on his own intuition of some vague and spreading desire for national renewal.”

In other words, Kennedy needed two things. He needed poetry, and he needed a country with some desire, however vague, for change.

Mr. Goodwin and his fellow speechwriter Ted Sorensen helped with the poetry. Still, the placid America of 1960 was not obviously in the market for change. The outgoing president, Ike, was the most popular incumbent since F. D. R. The suburban boom was as glossy as it is now depicted in the television show “Mad Men.” The Red Panic of the McCarthy years was in temporary remission.

But Kennedy’s intuition was right. America’s boundless self-confidence was being rattled by (as yet) low-grade fevers: the surprise Soviet technological triumph of Sputnik; anti-American riots in even friendly non-Communist countries; the arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. at an all-white restaurant in Atlanta; the inexorable national shift from manufacturing to white-collar jobs. Kennedy bet his campaign on, as he put it, “the single assumption that the American people are uneasy at the present drift in our national course” and “that they have the will and strength to start the United States moving again.”

For all the Barack Obama-J. F. K. comparisons, whether legitimate or over-the-top, what has often been forgotten is that Mr. Obama’s weaknesses resemble Kennedy’s at least as much as his strengths. But to compensate for those shortcomings, he gets an extra benefit that J. F. K. lacked in 1960. There’s nothing vague about the public’s desire for national renewal in 2008, with a reviled incumbent in the White House and only 19 percent of the population finding the country on the right track, according to the last Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. America is screaming for change.

Either of the two Democratic contenders will swing the pendulum. Their marginal policy differences notwithstanding, they are both orthodox liberals. As the party’s voters in 22 states step forward on Tuesday, the overriding question they face, as defined by both contenders, is this: Which brand of change is more likely, in Kennedy’s phrase, to get America moving again?

Lost in the hoopla over the Teddy and Caroline Kennedy show last week was the parallel endorsement of Hillary Clinton by three of Robert Kennedy’s children. In a Los Angeles Times op-ed article, they answered this paramount question as many Clinton supporters do (and as many John Edwards supporters also did). The “loftiest poetry” won’t solve America’s crises, they wrote. Change can be achieved only by a president “willing to engage in a fistfight.”

That both Clintons are capable of fistfighting is beyond doubt, at least on their own behalf in a campaign. But Mrs. Clinton isn’t always a fistfighter when governing. There’s a reason why Robert Kennedy’s children buried the Iraq war in a single clause (and never used the word Iraq) deep in their endorsement. They know that their uncle Teddy, unlike Mrs. Clinton, raised his fists to lead the Senate fight against the Iraq misadventure at the start. They know too that less than six months after “Mission Accomplished,” Senator Kennedy called the war “a fraud” and voted against pouring more money into it. Senator Clinton raised a hand, not a fist, to vote aye.

In what she advertises as 35 years of fighting for Americans, Mrs. Clinton can point to some battles won. But many of them were political campaigns for Bill Clinton: seven even before his 1992 presidential run. The fistfighting required if she is president may also often be political. As Mrs. Clinton herself says, she has been in marathon combat against the Republican attack machine. Its antipathy will be increased exponentially by the co-president who would return to the White House with her on Day One.

It’s legitimate to wonder whether sweeping policy change can be accomplished on that polarized a battlefield. A Clinton presidency may end up a Democratic mirror image of Karl Rove’s truculent style of G.O.P. governance: a 50 percent plus 1 majority. Seven years on, that formula has accomplished little for the country beyond extending and compounding the mistake of invading Iraq. As was illustrated by the long catalog of unfinished business in President Bush’s final State of the Union address, this has not been a presidency that, as Mrs. Clinton said of L. B. J.’s, got things done.

The rap on Mr. Obama remains that he preaches the audacity of Kumbaya. He is all lofty poetry and no action, so obsessed with transcending partisanship that he can be easily rolled. Implicit in this criticism is a false choice — that voters have to choose between his pretty words on one hand and Mrs. Clinton’s combative, wonky incrementalism on the other.

There’s a third possibility, of course: A poetically gifted president might be able to bring about change without relying on fistfighting as his primary modus operandi. Mr. Obama argues that if he can bring some Republicans along, he can achieve changes larger than the microinitiatives that have been a hallmark of Clintonism. He also suggests, in his most explicit policy invocation of J. F. K., that he can enlist the young en masse in a push for change by ramping up national service programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps.

His critics argue back that he is a naïve wuss who will give away the store. They have mocked him for offering to hold health-care negotiations so transparent (and presumably feckless) that they can be broadcast on C-Span. Obama supporters point out that Mrs. Clinton’s behind-closed-doors 1993 health-care task force was a fiasco.

A better argument might be that transparency could help smoke out the special-interest players hiding in Washington’s crevices. You’d never know from Mrs. Clinton’s criticisms of subprime lenders that one of the most notorious, Countrywide, was a client as recently as October of Burson-Marsteller, the public relations giant where her chief strategist, Mark Penn, is the sitting chief executive. Other high-level operatives in her campaign belong to Dewey Square Group, an outfit that just last year provided lobbying services for Countrywide.

The question about Mr. Obama, of course, is whether he is tough enough to stand up to those in Washington who oppose real reform, whether Republicans or special-interest advocates like, say, Mr. Penn. The jury is certainly out, though Mr. Obama has now started to toughen his critique of the Clintons without sounding whiny. By framing that debate as a choice between the future and the past, he is revisiting the J. F. K. playbook against Ike.

What we also know is that, unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama is not hesitant to take on John McCain. He has twice triggered the McCain temper, in spats over ethics reform in 2006 and Mr. McCain’s Baghdad market photo-op last year. In Thursday’s debate, Mr. Obama led an attack on Mr. McCain twice before Mrs. Clinton followed with a wan echo. When Bill Clinton promised that his wife and Mr. McCain’s friendship would ensure a “civilized” campaign, he may have been revealing more than he intended about the perils for Democrats in that matchup.

As Tuesday’s vote looms, all that’s certain is that today’s pollsters and pundits have so far gotten almost everything wrong. Mr. McCain’s campaign had been declared dead. Mrs. Clinton has gone from invincible to near-death to near-invincible again. Mr. Obama was at first not black enough to sweep black votes and then too black to get a sizable white vote in South Carolina.

Richard Goodwin knew in 1960 that all it took was “a single significant failure” by Kennedy or “an act of political daring” by his opponents for his man to lose — especially in the general election, where he faced the vastly more experienced Nixon, the designated heir of a popular president. That’s as good a snapshot as any of where we are right now, while we wait for the voters to decide if they will take what Mrs. Clinton correctly describes as a “leap of faith” and follow another upstart on to a new frontier.

goldsworthy - branch

The columnists are strong today.

I post one of Andy Goldsworthy's creations in the corner today.

I also post Maureen Dowd's column of today.  I have been a bit surprised by the ferocity of Maureen Dowd's attacks on Hillary Clinton this last month.  Somehow I thought she would be one in support of Hillary.  Perhaps her column today gives a little more explanation.

Jim Wallis yesterday spoke of how he attended the State of the Union Address.  He was seated up high and looking down on these people, our legislators, who, we elect to represent us.  He said it was quite a pompous display, my words.   They really do seem to think they are special, that they have some importance above and beyond enforcing the laws of our country.   It is a positive that Obama has only a short experience of that.  Clinton's claim to years of experience, considering what has been happening might not be what she should be proclaiming.   I don't think there is a person in this country in any party who isn't concerned about the mess. 

garden at green gulch

Richard Clarke on the Bush Presidency, horror that it is!

The picture in the corner is of the garden at Green Gulch Zen Center near my home.

It is to balance the very important words of Richard Clarke.   He was a member of the Bush administration, and he sees that Bush continues to use fear based on untruth to fuel his political gain.    Good for those who are speaking out.   We need them even more than we need gardens of serenity.  Both preserve the earth.

Bush Legacy: Setting a Standard in Fear-Mongering
    By Richard A. Clarke
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Friday 01 February 2008

    When I left the Bush administration in 2003, it was clear to me that its strategy for defeating terrorism was leaving our nation more vulnerable and our people in a perilous place. Not only did its policies misappropriate resources, weaken the moral standing of America, and threaten long-standing legal and constitutional provisions, but the president also employed misleading and reckless rhetoric to perpetuate his agenda.

    This week's State of the Union proved nothing has changed.

    Besides overstating successes in Afghanistan, painting a rosy future for Iraq, and touting unfinished domestic objectives, he again used his favorite tactic - fear - as a tool to scare Congress and the American people. On one issue in particular - FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) - the president misconstrued the truth and manipulated the facts.

    Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.

    Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead - even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks - he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light.

    For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.

    I spent most of my career in government fighting to protect this country in order to defend these very rights. And I know every member of Congress - whether Democrat or Republican - holds public office in the same pursuit.

    That is why in 2001, I presented this president with a comprehensive analysis regarding the threat from al-Qaeda. It was obvious to me then - and remains a fateful reality now - that this enemy sought to attack our country. Then, the president ignored the warnings and played down the threats. Ironically, it is the fear from these extremely real threats that the president today uses as a wedge in a vast and partisan political game. This is - and has been - a very reckless way to pursue the very ominous dangers our country faces. And once again, during the current debate over FISA, he continues to place political objectives above the practical steps needed to defeat this threat.

    In these still treacherous times, we can't afford to have a president who leads by manipulating emotions with fear, flaunting the law, or abusing the very inalienable rights endowed to us by the Constitution.

    Though 9/11 changed the prism through which we view surveillance and intelligence, it did not in any way change the effectiveness of FISA to allow us to track and monitor our enemies. FISA has and still works as the most valuable mechanism for monitoring our enemies.

    In order to defeat the violent Islamist extremists who do not believe in human rights, we need not give up the civil liberties, constitutional rights and protections that generations of Americans fought to achieve. We do not need to create Big Brother. With the administration's attempts to erode FISA's legal standing as the exclusive means by which our government can conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil, this is unfortunately the path the president is taking us down.

    So it is no surprise that in one of Bush's last acts of relevance, he once again played the fear card.

    While he has failed in spreading democracy, stemming global terrorism, and leaving the country better off than when he took power, he did achieve one thing: successfully perpetuating fear for political gain.

    Sadly, it may be one of the only achievements of his presidency.

    Richard A. Clarke is the author of "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," and former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council. E-mail him at info@nsnetwork.org
cirque du soleil

A Movement!!

Razorwire posted this morning that this with Barack Obama is no longer about politics.  It is a movement.  Jim Wallis said it yesterday.  This is a movement, a movement of people who care, who want to educate their children, help the poor and elderly, and honor the earth, their home.

This is where we all unite.

I spoke with someone yesterday, a dear friend, who when I spoke of the Super Bowl, thought I was talking about Super Tuesday.  She has no awareness of football.   She thought I did, because I have a husband and two sons.  I said I probably know more about what is going on in the football world than any of the three of them, which isn't to say that I know very much.

The point is this.  Where we all unite right now is in care.  We care about our families and our pets, and we really get that we share the same water, breath and air.  My happiness depends on yours.  Obama may not have everything pinned down and we don't care.  That is not the point.  Lincoln did not run for president planning to free the slaves, but then, it became self-evident that it was time for something to be done.  His cabinet was composed of those who had run against him.  They didn't all agree.  He wasn't a baby, living in the childish world of black and white, where you are either for me or against me.

This country has grown up, and our children might judge us for allowing credit card companies to throw credit cards at them like candy on their first day of college.  What does that teach?  I remember how hard we struggled to get our first credit card after we were married in 1971.  It was a big deal to get a gas card.   Now, we are told to buy, buy, buy, and on credit, no less.   The government is reaching right now to do a bail-out, for those who are rich.   Look who benefits from the government we have right now?   The super-rich!

Schwarzenegger would even take away our teeny-tiny state parks, a miniscule amount of a huge state budget, a budget that is bigger than that of most countries.  Why not sell the parks off and make them private, again for the very rich.   The lesson for the Bush years has been to follow the example of your country and spend, spend, spend what you don't even have.   Borrow, borrow, borrow against your children's future.  How irresponsible is that?

We see how happy people are right now.  How many people are on  anti-depressants?    Of course that could be because of the ads for said anti-depressants.  They themselves are depressing.  The numbers of those who come back from Iraq and commit suicide are too sad to post here right now, and yet what do we see on TV.  Ads for men to "get it up."  Is there nothing else one might be doing or concerned about right now?

  One wonders watching the Bushies if human beings aren't like the elk where one male fights to the top to impregnate all the females.  Of course, now our military contains both males and females, but there still seems to be something about killing off the young that is too ugly to contemplate.  What is that about?

    Instead, I take an image from Cirque du Soleil.   Look at it.   Believe in the magic that hard work can do.

                        Barack Obama in 2008!!

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Weight -

The photo is of an Andy Goldsworthy piece, called "Before the Mirror."

It seems appropriate to present an article in the Chronicle today called, "How can we travel light when we weigh so much more?"  by Steve Knipp.  He talks about the problems of overweight people on airplanes, and the man who weighed 395 pounds, and couldn't close his lap-bar properly at Six Flags and flew out of a roller coaster seat,  and sued and won $2.85 million.

Disneyland is closing "It's a Small World," for most of 2008 while they repair the boats and deepen the water channel.  The average American adult has put on 25 pounds since the attraction opened in 1964, and the boats keep running aground under the weight of heavy passengers.

It might seem funny on this Super Bowl Sunday, a day devoted almost as much to eating as Thanksgiving, and maybe it is a little sad too.

What hides under the weight?
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What a game -

I admit to settling in with nachos to watch the Super Bowl.    I am thrilled the Giants won, and it was edge of the seat exciting until the end.  The advertisers must have been thrilled.  It is great to see the underdog win.  
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I am on the email mailing list for The Popcorn Factory.  The Giants win and I already have an email inviting me to celebrate their victory with popcorn.  I'm sure if the Patriots had won, the heading would be for them.  Pretty funny!!

Here is a Cotswold Garden, a softer way to celebrate.