February 18th, 2008


Noticing -

My mother died three years ago today, so it is an especially delicate and precious day for me, as are they all, of course, but this one has extra ripples, and so I may pause and eddy a bit.

A friend is visiting her young nephew who is in the process of being toilet trained.  He likes to have her watch him pee and poop.  We forget perhaps what an accomplishment that is, that control, and letting go of something that is part of us.

I am again feeling the clutter around me, and planning to go through and cleanse and release.  Realizing I do that every morning and throughout the day is a happy consideration.  I couldn't survive any other way, so today, is a release day for me. 

I look out on gray, and all seems asleep.  It is a vacation day for many, including Steve.  I am going to try to remember to walk down at 11:00 to watch the bicycles speed by on their journey from Sausalito to Santa Rosa.   It is President's Day, a day to celebrate two that were excellent, and hope this next one will excel in the same way, and that the nation will allow it to be so.

Peace and Love and Inner Light.

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a little bit of politics -

Here is Jon Carroll with an important announcement:

Jon Carroll

Monday, February 18, 2008

Let's talk about police states. That's always fun. We do not currently have a police state in the United States, in my view (although others may, and do, differ), but we have a tendency. We have an urge. I believe that the urge to adopt a police state can be cured, perhaps through re-education camps and prayer.

The imperial presidency of G.W. Bush has long claimed the authority to do pretty much anything it wants, usually in the name of national security. It has also claimed the authority not to tell anybody what it's doing, also in the name of national security. When you have a government that can do anything and not tell its citizens about it, you have a police state.

Fortunately, what Georgie wants Georgie does not always get. Even his very own hand-picked Supreme Court has disagreed with him about his right to hold people in detention at Guantanamo for just about ever without access to counsel and with no guarantee of a speedy, or indeed a pokey, trial. And some other people conspired to tell the Bushies that outing a CIA agent because her husband wrote something mean in the New York Times was just not kosher, although that word was never used.

That case gave us two great R-rated political names, "Scooter" Libby and Valerie Plame. If those names had been used in a Washington novel, the author would have been mocked. Reality is so cool.

But the heart of the police state push has always been the Protect America Act, which includes the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. FISA is designed to sneak around the federal requirement that the government obtain a court order before it wiretaps someone. This onerous burden of actually proving something to a person not in the White House inner circle was considered an obstacle to the war on terror. In other words, the Constitution was standing in the way of protecting the Constitution.

You may think you have nothing to hide. You may think that the government will bug only the bad people. As residents of many, many police states can tell you, the government's definition of what constitutes a bad person shifts constantly and always expands. You can be wiretapped just because you were in the wrong place in the wrong time. Hell, you could be arrested for it. It's happened within this decade, right here in the USA.

Now, the wiretaps are something of a joke. They produce far more pages of transcript than anyone can read. If the people on the phone happen to be talking in a foreign language, then it's even worse, because the government is reluctant to hire people who speak foreign languages. Gay Arabic speakers - sorry, goodbye, we only want heterosexuals to stop the terrorists. The greatest protector of our freedoms has always been governmental incompetence.

Recently, the Protect America Act came up for renewal, with an additional little bonbon included. Certain telecommunications companies that had followed government orders by wiretapping allegedly suspicious people even before the act was passed the first time (in other words, they acted illegally) would be granted immunity from prosecution for doing illegal things.

Some congressional Democrats, awakened from their years of slumber and/or impotent fist-shaking, didn't like the immunity provision. There followed a whole lot of legislative juju, but in the end the Senate did what the administration wanted (McCain voting for the president; Feinstein voting for; Boxer voting against; Obama voting against; Clinton unable to make time in her busy schedule), and the House voted against the administration, causing the Protect America Act to lapse and immunity not to be offered.

(The reasons the House voted down the proposal are complicated - very conservative Republicans joined very liberal Democrats for procedural reasons that, well, that's another column, and not one I will write.)

Oh, the president was furious. "Somewhere in the world terrorists are planning new attacks on our country." Probably so, although it's not clear that wiretapping Americans is going to help in uncovering them - and it's entirely clear that offering telecoms immunity will do nothing one way or the other about any plotting terrorists.

It's not as if the government has been ordered to stop wiretapping. It went on before the Protect America Act - there is some evidence that, if the wiretaps in place had been properly translated and interpreted, 9/11 might have been averted - and the wiretaps currently in place can remain there for another year, and then, unless Congress caves (always possible), the administration would have to go back to the boring old court-approval thing.

"Judge, somewhere in the world terrorists are planning new attacks on this country."

"Good enough for me. Where do I sign?"

Nevertheless, the defeat is a small step away from a police state, and a small step toward making gigantic corporations accountable for their actions. Now, about those banks ...

I'm sorry, there's a little static on this line. Did you say "bomb" or "bond"? Just curious.

We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride. To be dominated by me is not as bad for humankind as to be dominated by jon carroll.

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cloning -

I do not understand why cloned food introduced into our food supply is even an issue.   Doesn't it require as much to raise a cloned cow as a regular one, and why take all the risks, but it seems it is here.  I had thought it would be relatively easy to avoid, but it sounds like milk will be pumped from cloned cows, and cans of minestrone soup might already be there.  It is another inspiration to notice everything we buy, look carefully at what we ingest, and cook from scratch. 

It is to stay aware, just as when we lived in the wild, and learn to balance our adrenaline pump with alertness and time to sit, reflect, and stare.
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politics - I can't stay away -


 Where's the Substance?
    By Scott Galindez
    t r u t h o u t | Perspective

    Monday 18 February 2008

    Madison, Wisconsin - Many pundits and the Clinton campaign keep asking where the substance is to Obama's campaign. There's a simple answer: in his plans.

    It's true that his stump speeches are full of soaring oratory and do not satisfy policy wonks, but do a simple search of his web site and you will find substance. He also regularly gives policy speeches packed with specifics.

    For example, on Saturday in Wisconsin, Senator Obama laid out his plan for revitalizing the Community College System.

    Obama proposes to make tuition at a community college completely free for most Americans by creating a new "American Opportunity Tax Credit." He explained, "This fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is free. The credit will be available to families at the time of enrollment by using the prior year's tax data to deliver the credit at the time the tuition is due. Recipients of this credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of public service a year, either during the school year or over the summer months."

    The senator also proposed creating a so-called "Community College Partnership" that would assess the role of community colleges and help to tailor their services to the needs of students and industry.

    Senator Obama also laid out his plan for the economy in a speech to workers at a General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Wednesday.

    In that speech, Obama said he would offer direct relief to victims of the mortgage crisis, and would also offer a tax credit to low- and middle-income taxpayers that will help them meet their mortgage obligations.

    His job creation program focuses on infrastructure and "green energy jobs." He proposes spending $210 billion over ten years to create jobs in these sectors and retrain workers to transition to these opportunities.

    Another proposal affecting workers would be in the area of retirement accounts. He would mandate employers to place a small percentage of salaries into a retirement savings account. Under his plan, the federal government would match the funds set aside.

    For working parents who split time between earning a living and caring for their kids, Obama proposes expanding the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 a year, and he proposes doubling spending on quality after-school programs. He also would expand the "Family Medical Leave Act" to include more businesses and millions more workers, and would require every employer to provide seven paid days of medical leave a year.

    On health care, the major difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are mandates. Both would set up a similar system that individuals could buy into. Clinton would mandate that everyone must buy in. Obama would only require that children be covered; he cited the situation in Massachusetts,where some people are being fined for not buying into a plan that they think they can't afford. Obama says he is committed to universal health care, but doesn't want to put an "unfair burden on individuals while we work to get there."

    On Iraq, Obama has pledged to getting all US combat troops out in 16 months. Clinton will not set a date. Neither candidate would remove all troops; both believe a small force will be necessary to protect the embassy, and to protect Iraqis who have assisted our soldiers. Many antiwar activists oppose both Clinton's and Obama's plans, saying they don't go far enough, fast enough.

    This article is not intended to be an endorsement of Obama on the issues. The real differences between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are very small. Senator Clinton also would invest in "Green Jobs;" she has a national service plan, and would provide similar tax credits. The corporate media are doing the country a disservice by echoing unfair charges that Obama's campaign is all about speeches and has no substance.

   Scott Galindez is Truthout's Washington, DC Bureau Chief.

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from the Merton Institute today -

Thomas Merton:

Brilliant and gorgeous day, bright sun, breeze making all the leaves and high brown grasses shine. Singing of the wind in the cedars. Exultant day in which even a puddle in the pig lot shines like precious silver.

Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself and, if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. For it is the unaccepted self that stands in my way and will continue to do so as long as it is not accepted. When it has been accepted--it is my own stepping stone to what is above me. Because this is the way man has been made by God. Original sin was the effort to surpass oneself by being "like God"--i.e. unlike oneself. But our God-likeness begins at home. We must first become like ourselves and stop living "beside ourselves."

Thomas Merton. A Search for Solitude. Edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996): 220-221

Thought for the Day

My vocation and task in this world is to keep alive all that is usefully individual and personal to me, to be a "contemplative" in the full sense and to share it with others, to remain as a witness of the nobility of the private person and his primacy over the group.

A Search for Solitude: 221

ashes and snow - wings


Enjoyment of life is not the presence of something outside ourselves; it is the absence of something within ourselves. Gloom is a state of inner blockage of your True Self; enjoyment is its release. Just as a balloon rises to greater heights by discarding weights, so do we ascend as we toss out negativities.

Vernon Howard
From Psycho-Pictography



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Living in Bangalore -

I am reading The Economist, when I see an attractive ad.  Windmills of Your Mind it says, truly exceptional apartment homes.  The photo is of a table on a deck and looks into an expansive, tasteful kitchen area.  I rarely am invited into ads, but this one - Windmills of the Mind, after all - I enter and learn that the apartment is 5,924 square feet.  There is no price, but it is in Whitefield, Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. 

It says Total Environment in a way that looks very environmental.  There is a logo between the two words with a blue slash, and then, two green swirls, and an inclusive looking orange cap.   Advertising.  It is what I wrote about today in my morning musing which seemed to be a bit of a rant, and so it is.  Entertainment every way.

If you are thinking of moving to Bangalore, check it out:   http://www.windmillsofyourmind.in/#

What a peaceful sway!   Of course, the pictures of construction show a different picture than the finished product with book shelves lined with books.   How old-fashioned.  I would expect everything to be on-line.
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Tour of California -

We walked down to the junction to see the bicycles swirl past.  What I didn't expect was the support staff.   Bicycles may be environmentally correct, but a bicycle race is not.  There were CHP's trucks and motorcycles, all running.  There were support trucks, and vans, innumerable cars with bicycles atop, photo motorcycles, VIP cars, and more CHP's.  It was amazing, and then, a tight, little cluster whirled past and it was thrilling and fun.  We stood on the little bridge by the Dipsea so had a good view, though next year I would probably go up on Mount Tam and go more panoramic, but this way we were as close as we could get., without being part of the pack   Bicycle racing here, though, is certainly not what it is in France.  We had plenty of space to look around and enjoy the view, and then, a lovely walk back.
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and anger has its place -

Anger can be used to motivate and create action when injustice is intolerable and I, also, take these words of Emerson to heart.

"For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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from Stephanie's blog -

I take this from Stephanie's blog at:  http://survivingtheworkday.blogspot.com/

Her most recent postings are at: http://survivingtheworkday.com/

Friday, September 28, 2007

Do You Have Your Period?

That's the question a freshman was asked by a security guard at her high school. She was carrying a purse, which violated the No Bags rule at the high school (having her period would have explained the purse supposedly). It seems security guards asking The Question may have been routine at this school.

The small Sullivan County school has been in an uproar for the last week. Girls have worn tampons on their clothes in protest, and purses made out of tampon boxes. Some boys wore maxi-pads stuck to their shirts in support.

After hearing that someone might have been suspended for the protest, freshman Hannah Lindquist, 14, went to talk to Worden [the principal]. She wore her protest necklace, an OB tampon box on a piece of yarn. She said Worden confiscated it, talked to her about the code of conduct and

the backpack rule — and told her she was now "part of the problem."

Stephanie adds: "I'm pretty sure your problem, Principal Worden, is not this kid (who is exhibiting all sorts of problem solving abilities)."

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public vs. private -

This is an excerpt from an article in The Economist on e-government.

    "The hard lesson for government is that citizens will adopt technology when it is both optional and beneficial to them, but resist it strenuously when it is compulsory, no matter how sensible it may seem.  To take another example, if users of public transport in London were told that in future all their trips would be logged by the authorities, they would revolt. But offered lower fares if they use an Oyster card, issued by a branch of government called Transport for London, they have few objections.  Nor do they seem to mind much that the same body photographs their car every time they visit central London on a working day to enforce the capital's congestion charge.

    Oddly, people seem to mind even less about how much information the private sector holds about them.  Supermarket loyalty cards record all their purchases, however revealing, and search engines note everything they have been looking for on the internet. People who would strongly resist giving any personal information to the government are quite happy for Google to know that they have been searching for "hot Asian babes". 

    And on the article goes.  We are an odd group indeed, we people, and perhaps that is why we are so fun, funny, and unique.
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Purpose -

I'm going through "stuff" today, and reading Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth.  I heartily recommend both.

"Hide not your talents, they for use were made.

    What's a sundial in the shade?"

             Benjamin Franklin

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The day comes to a close, the third anniversary of my mother's death.   She died in CT.   We all gathered here that evening and there was a thunder and lightning storm, and we sat in the dark and talked about my mother, "Grama Boop", and felt how much she was loved.  We cried and laughed.   We flew out the next day.

I look on-line for an appropriate poem.  I realize the sadness is not sharp this evening.  I feel her here in many forms.  I have come to know more about death through her passing, and the passing of Mitchell.  I become more and more comfortable with it, accepting, perhaps even welcoming, when my time comes.

All Return Again

It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not
die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again.
Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals
and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the
window, sound and well, in some new strange disguise. Jesus is not
dead; he is very well alive; nor John, nor Paul, nor Mahomet, nor
Aristotle; at times we believe we have seen them all, and could
easily tell the names under which they go.

Ralph Waldo Emerson